Salomon SkyRun, South Africa – The opportunity of a lifetime

Salomon Skyrun 2012

What a race eh… it’s a race that has been on the radar of many a runner for years. Established 16-years ago, the Salomon SkyRun has often been perceived as a race just for South Africans, however, that is all about to change…

‘2014 is going to be a great year for the race. This year we will elevate the race to a new level with a strong International contingent to take part’ says Michael de Haast, race director for the Salomon SkyRun.

SkyRun 2014 on White

This will be the 17th edition of the race and it has a great history. Created by a group of guys who were ex Special Forces, one day they decided they would visit a friend… he just happened to be 125km away… they undertook the journey on foot!

‘Looking back, it almost sounds a little like how Ironman started… I wonder if beer was involved?’ said Michael, ‘Created in ‘95’, they called it the Sky Walk and in ‘97’ the race started officially on the same route. I have made some slight changes since. We use to finish at Tiffindel Ski Resort. Now we finish at the War Trail Country Club as the ski resort closed 4-years ago.’

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Taking place in the southwest corner of Lesotho, the Witteberg mountain range is part of the Drakensberg range. The route has high elevation with an average of around 2700m. On the ridges, runners are always at altitude, it has no paths, and therefore everyone needs to make his or her own trail. It makes this challenge unique.

Drakensberg will ring true for so many at the moment, Ryan Sandes recently completed the Drak Traverse, however, this course takes place in a different region. ‘The Drakensberg is a massive range of mountains,’ explains Michael, ‘this race is on the Eastern Cape side essentially where the Drakensberg ends.’

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Lady Grey provides a backdrop to the race start. ‘It’s a beautiful and quaint town. Very small, picturesque and it’s a great place. It does offer some logistical issues though as hundreds of runners arrive looking for accommodation. One of the advantages of our elite athlete package!’ Michael says.

A severe course with extreme logistics, the race is at a maximum with 300-athletes. Two races are on offer, the 60km ‘Lite’ and the 100km SkyRun. ‘Safety is paramount and we need to manage the athletes on the mountain, for example, a winner can take 12-hours but the last person may take 36-hours. The course is remote and difficult, we can’t just drive in; everything is done by foot. It’s complicated but we are very experienced. We split the numbers as 200 for the full race and 100 for the ‘Lite’.’

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The trail is very tough, technical and harsh. The 2013 edition had very tough-conditions and for the first time in its history the race had to be cut short for safety reasons, so, this is no easy undertaking. ‘The weather can change at a drop. You can have 3-seasons in one day. At altitude, weather is a factor and it can’t be underestimated.’

The race is self-supported (particularly water) and runners need to navigate. GPS units are allowed and a GPX file is provided by the race organization, however, as Michael de Haast says, ‘some local knowledge and good map and compass skills often will have an advantage over any GPS user. Preparation is key and for those who want to win, a little homework will go a long way.’

Salomon Skyrun 2012

The highest point of the course is Avoca Peak at just under 2800m. All the race peaks have British naming. The settlers settled in the Lady Grey district with British ancestry in1820, hence the names and history.

The course has over 1000m of climbing in the first 10k to The Tower, following a ridgeline to Olympus and CP2. The key is not to loose height. Snowdon at 30k offers the first feeding option where water is available. The route climbs again and you climb to Avoca, the highest point. From Avoca, the course is beautiful. It has iconic landmarks, the famous Dragon’s Back, a 2m wide ridge, which you run on, and you have vertical drop offs on either side… insane running! It really is incredible. Coming into Balloch, CP6, this provides an access points for spectators; it’s just over halfway. Climbing out of the valley, participants go up a steep ascent of 700m only to drop down once again into another valley. The Lite race finishes at the Country Club but the 100km entrants must go out for another 40km loop. After CP7 you climb the Bridle Pass; it’s a tough climb and the locals use it for getting cattle over the mountain. The terrain is tough but the views are incredible. Looking out over the Eastern Cape with approx 75km covered, a path becomes more defined and then at CP8 you turn back and return to the finish. From CP9 you have a severe descent that will test each and every participant to the line. It’s a tough race that should not be undertaken lightly!

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‘It’s an emotional journey SkyRun.’

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Ryan Sandes holds the course record in a time of 12:36 and the race has had great competion from AJ Calitz and Iain Don Wauchope. In 2014, the race are offering $10,000 for the first runner to break 12-hours. This is a record that may well go this year… ‘We would love to give the money away. With the International field we are lining up, we think the record may well go should the conditions be favorable.’

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An International field will race and currently Nick Clark (Altra) and Gary Robbins (Salomon) are confirmed. Nick Clark is an experienced mountain runner who has placed well at Western States and Hardrock 100. He also competed in the Grand Slam of ultra in 2013. Gary Robbins has a strong adventure racing background and is the current course record holder for Hurt 100. More runners will be added, and in total, the race will have 4-male and 2-female international athletes.

The opportunity to race and have the experience of a lifetime is not going to be reserved just for elite international athletes. For the first time, the Salomon SkyRun will open its doors offering 14-16 international runners from any racing background the opportunity to join the ultimate racing experience.

Michael de Haast explains:

We are offering a once in a lifetime experience to international runners for the package price of £999. Runners will need to arrange their own flight/travel to arrive in South Africa on the 20th November in Bloemfontein. Transfers will be arranged to Lady Grey for 3-nights including race entry. 

On Monday 24th November, this select-group will then participate in a workshop with the elite international runners, this will include Nick Clark, Gary Robbins and Ryan Sandes plus others as and when confirmed.

November 25th everyone will transfer to a Moketsi Game Lodge for 2-nights that will include full board.

To finish the trip off, we will then all transfer back to Bloemfontein and onward travel with 2-nights in Cape Town.

The elite athletes will be present for the entire race package offering an opportunity never offered before. (Ryan Sandes will be an exception who will be at the race and the clinic but will not be at the game lodge.)

This is an opportunity that will be available only to a select few. The combination of the race, the elite international package and an opportunity to relax and enjoy South Africa to the full is just incredible.

If you are interested, please complete the form below:

 

Ian Corless had an opportunity to speak with Nick Clark and gather his thoughts on his current racing and the opportunity that the Salomon SkyRun will provide.

Interview with NICK CLARK (Altra)

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IC - Nick, you are becoming regular interviewee…

NC - Yes I am, it’s great to be back

IC - A great Grand Slam in 2013 and the TCC earlier this year, things are rolling along nicely. You have just raced UTMF in Japan.

NC - Japan was fantastic. A great trip, the race was good for 70-miles and then not so good for the last 30…

(Laughter)

IC - Was that when the tough climb started?

NC - I had been fuelling really well. I got to mile-70 and had some soup and it turned my stomach. I basically couldn’t eat for the remainder of the race and yes, that coincided with that brutal climb. Good to get around the mountain, I had points when I wasn’t sure if I would!

IC - What was the racing experience like out in Japan? Is it very different to Europe and the US?

NC - The racing was incredible. The level of detail that went into this race was mind blowing. They must have had over 1000 volunteers…

IC - Wow!

NC - Yeah, it was like UTMB. The course was marked every 20m or so. Incredible. Every detail was, as you would expect from the Japanese. It was meticulous, a really great and well-organized event

IC - Impressive. I spoke to Mike Foote (The North Face) recently, he had a great race…

NC - Yep, he sure did!

IC - You ran with him for quite a while. He said the course was interesting as it combined so many elements. It didn’t suit anyone style? Road, trail and climbing; did it suit you?

NC - Funny, I think they achieved what UROC have been trying to do for 3-4 years. They wanted a course that didn’t cater for any strength but I personally feel they favoured road guys. The Japan course had good stretches of road, that’s fine, I don’t mind that. You get in a rhythm, click off the miles and then you’d do 10-miles of road and then you would be in the mountains and it would take 4-hours to do 12-miles… crazy. We must have had 4-5 miles of rope sections that gives you an idea of how steep it was in places. A real mixed bag and I think that worked well. No particular style was favoured.

IC - Sounds like a course that would really suit you?

NC - Yes, I work on my speed, I don’t mind road and I love the mountains, so, yes, I was in great shape and I thought the podium was a distinct possibility. I was running with Foote and he made the podium. I’d like another crack at it I think…

NC - Well, lets talk up about South Africa and the Salomon SkyRun, which takes place in November. Michael de Haast was telling us all about this race, it’s in its 17th year. This race is tough, gnarly and I guess it’s just getting on peoples radars… funny, this race is going to be quite a contrast to UTMF. No markers, navigation, tough and a 100km long. What are your thoughts?

IC - It’s going to be amazing. I have never been to Africa so that will be awesome. I’m looking to experience the country and then thrown into the mountains is going to be fantastic. You know the navigation will be interesting. I don’t usually use a GPS but I can use one here so that will be essential I think with little or no time to prepare. I will need to try to get on a level playing field. I have no issues with map and compass either so it’s a great challenge. I am thrilled.

IC - This race is navigation, you come from the UK where fell running and navigation events are normal. However, I would imagine this is not something you experience in the US? So, do you feel comfortable with this?

NC - Yes I do. You are correct; navigation in the US is not required for an average race. You run, drink beer and have a burger…

IC - You make it sound great!

NC - It is once your done! I do lots of navigational stuff in the off-season in Colorado so it comes natural and I feel good with that. I can hone my map and compass skills and I feel comfortable. I think for this race though I will have a GPS. Having said that, you still need to take the correct line.

IC - I think back a few years when you came to the UK and you did the Bob Graham Round.

NC - Oh yes, the BGR!

IC - When you did the BGR you had guides, did you get involved in any navigation?

NC – No, not really, the year I did it, 3-years ago I think. It was December 21st, shortest day of the year…

IC - Perfect timing!

NC - Oh yeah, perfect timing! You don’t get much daylight in the UK in winter anyway…

IC - And didn’t we have bad snow?

NC - Yes, thick snow in places but it all depended on the terrain. Conditions were atrocious. Probably 3-4 foot snow in places. It was up to my chest at times. It was cold, wet and miserable. A great experience but I pulled the plug as it was become too extreme. I had been severely cold for ages; I couldn’t feel my feet. I had someone with me all the time but on the ridges and open places it was extreme. You couldn’t see 3-5 feet at times so the help of others was essential. It is what makes it so unique. You put your head down and go for it.

IC - Sounds like perfect preparation for the SkyRun! I’m sure you are aware that the 2013 edition of the race was the worse conditions they ever had. It was the first time in the 16-year history that they cancelled mid-race. Visibility was zero, runners were hypothermic… I can see the BGR being a great prep. The race takes place in the SW corner in the Witteberg Mountains, Ryan Sandes holds the CR in just over 12:30. Michael the RD is putting up a $10,000 prize purse for anyone who can break 12 –hours

NC - I didn’t get that memo! Wow, that is definitely worth going for. Very motivating. I think I am going to have to do more research.

IC - When I spoke to Michael, he did say that GPS units are allowed and they would provide a GPX track. The hitch is, the track is 4-5 years old. It’s valid of course but the local guys… AJ Calitz, Iain Don Wauchope (maybe Ryan Sandes) they will know a few shortcuts, so, a little pre race map time will be required.

NC - Yes, you are correct. Locals will have an advantage but I will just do what I can. Importantly I think I will make sure I am on someone’s heels who knows the way.

IC - A good tactic!

NC - Yes, oh yes and then we can have a 5k race at the end.

IC - The race description says… grading is difficult to extreme, depending on temperatures it may be very extreme. Expect 13-36 hours to complete. A massive difference! The field isn’t huge, just 250-people, one of the advantages that we have this year is along with yourself we do have other International Elite runners joining. Gary Robbins from Canada will join us and we will add 4-more. I guess one big bonus is that this trip is open to 14 to 16 runners to join us. What aspects of this are you looking forward to?

NC - Listening to all that I just think wow, once in a lifetime deal. For me it is about soaking it all up and experiencing everything to the full. I’ve never been on a reserve, the mountains will be incredible and the whole experience sounds immense.

IC - Do you know the area Nick or will this be an open eye experience.

NC - I know the Drakensberg Mountains but I know little else to be honest; that is what makes this trip so attractive. I think it what will appeal to everyone.

IC - Gary Robbins will join us, he was out in Japan with you but he had an injury. You guys have gone head-to-head before; you know each other well? Gary has a strong adventure racing background that will work well in SA!

NC - Oh yeah, for sure!

IC - Do you think looking at yourself you will be at a disadvantage? I know you have Western States coming up so I guess you will focus on SkyRun after.

NC - WSER is in June. I will get that out of the way, I am on a training block for that at the moment after a 2-week rest block post UTMF. I actually go to Gary’s race in August, the Squamish 50 in British Columbia. I have other projects planned that will definitely work well for November. I will be in the mountains doing off trail routes, so all will be good. I plan to be out in remote terrain so this will be perfect for South Africa.

IC - It’s an exciting prospect. Pretty sure we will catch up after WSER and it will be great to discuss how you prepare for SkyRun and if you work out how to use a GPS…

(Laughter)

NC - Thanks, a pleasure to chat and thanks for the support. I turned 40-today, so Western will be my first ‘masters’ race.

end

Credits:

Images – ©Trautman/Nikon/Lexar

Images – ©Kolesky/ Nikon/ Lexar

or iancorless.com

Race Website – HERE

RYAN SANDES – Drakensberg Traverse Interview #DrakTraverse

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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel embarked on the ultimate Drakensberg adventure – the Drakensberg Grand Traverse.

Spanning parts of the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces of South Africa, as well as the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the unmarked route has broken many an adventurer.     Griesel and Cobus van Zyl set the previous Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT) record, of 60 hours 29 mins.

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©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

 

Fighting the elements and the terrain, Sandes and Griesel brokee the existing record by an incredible 18 hours to complete the traverse in 41 hours and 49 minutes on 25 March 2014. (Intro by Kelly Burke fluxcom.co.za)

I had the opportunity to catch up with Ryan just hours after his finish to discuss the epic adventure and ground breaking run.

Images ©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

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IC I bet you are a little tired?

 

RS Just a little Ian, I’m deprived of sleep but I have been catching up. I ‘m really pleased with how the DrakTraverse went. It was an awesome experience and adventure.

 

IC This attempt has been followed worldwide, 2-years in the planning, can you give us an insight into what this has meant. In particular Ryno, he held the previous record.

 

RS The Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains) they are the biggest mountain range in South Africa. They are iconic for any mountain sport. The thing with them is that they are extremely remote and very difficult to get too. The Drakensberg Traverse is a journey from one side to the other.  Starting in the north, we finish in the south. Along the way you have six peaks to traverse and several checkpoints. You have to self-navigate and be self-sufficient. There are no proper trails, so basically you have to make your own route. The terrain is brutal. We did plenty of recces over the final 6-months to decide on the best route and that takes a great deal of effort. Ryno has grown up in these mountains and he knows them really well. For me it was important that I came and understood the mountains and the terrain. I wanted to spend as much time as possible here to figure out what the terrain is about. It was an emotional experience to cross the finish line; it has been a dream for both of us. To see it all come together is great.

 

IC The previous record of 60:29:30 as you said was the first time anyone had approached this with a ‘faster’ approach and of course Ryno was involved in this. Ryno and Cobus put the record at a new benchmark; however you guys have smashed that! You ran instead of hiking, you had minimal sleep, you travelled very light, the record now stands at 41:29, is that a solid record or do you think ‘we’ could go quicker?

 

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©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS I’m sure it would be possible to go a couple of hours quicker, however, everything would need to align. We did the best that we could and we had brilliant weather conditions. We were very lucky. I’m not going to look back and say we could have done this, or could have done that. We are both really happy. So many factors come into play with a record like this, you can get really fast runners that on paper should do really well but with this course so many factors come into play, luck being part of it! I’m amazed at how un-runnable the route is. Certain sections you can run quite quickly but mostly the terrain is brutal and unforgiving. I looked at this as an adventure as much as anything, it’s nice to have the time but the journey was the most important thing. The concept of starting in one place and finishing in another place and completing the traverse is what matters.

 

IC Some of the photographs (Kelvin Trautman) that have been publicized are stunning; they really show the terrain and the beauty. I also know The African Attachment were filming, when can we see some footage of the journey?

 

RS We will have some footage available early next week I think? Everyone will work hard to get this done ASAP. I think the actual video of the whole project will be coming out in 6-weeks or so.

Video Here

 http://www.redbull.com/en/adventure/stories/1331642891250/footrace-across-the-dragons-back

IC That’s cool, boy, they have a few long days and nights ahead.

 

RS For sure!

 

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©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC An early image showed you going down the chain ladders traversing a sheer rock face. The terrain is crazy as you have said, how beat up are you both?

 

RS We did the chain ladders at night. I don’t enjoy heights so I was please to do them in the dark. On the recces we did them in the day and I ‘froze-up’ a little. The terrain is tough but I don’t feel too bad. My feet are pretty battered and they are sore but generally all is good. I have a few hotspots, my toes are swollen, my ankles are sore but that is all down to the unforgiving nature of the terrain. You are constantly running on sharp rocks or boulder hopping. The camber is difficult and that is continually hard. I think we both came out pretty well when all is considered. I would always prefer physically tired over mentally tired. The sleep deprivation was very tough. I struggled both mornings with a lack of sleep and I had the sleep monsters.

 

IC Ryno has a strong adventure racing background so he is used to 6+ days on the edge. Did he push you?

 

RS I think we complimented each other very well. I was nervous beforehand that Ryno wouldn’t let me sleep but we both decided on a power nap of 30-mins at the same time. But I couldn’t sleep. I was cold. I tossed and turned. We had no sleeping bags because we wanted to travel so light… that frustrated me. Later we managed sleep after 2-hours more running. Just 10-mins. It’s so cold that you can’t sleep any longer. A powernap is quite incredible. It was a new experience but that is what I wanted… I wanted a new challenge, something that would push me mentally and physically. I got what I asked for! Funny, during the night I could hear helicopters and I could see reflections in the water but it was just my imagination.

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC The high point was 3482m at Thabana Ntlenyana, was this also the toughest part of the course?

 

RS For me it wasn’t the toughest part for me. We had many peaks to climb; some of the harder sections are in the final section. Smaller peaks but you are going up and down. The second last climb is just a vertical rock face that lasts 800m or so, it was fine in training but extremely tough during the event after 190 km. In general I really enjoyed the course and the severity. I tried to take in as much as I could. We were so lucky with weather, no rain at all! I’m at the finish now in a hotel and thunderstorm is raging…

 

IC Without a doubt, on that terrain in those conditions, rain alone could cause serious problems. You both traveled extremely light. You both had just Salomon S-Lab vests. Can you give us an insight into what you did carry?

 

RS For sure, the idea for us was about going fast and light. We wore shorts, t-shirt and visor. Obviously shoes and socks and we carried 2-jackets each. I find that 2-jackets are warmer when it gets really cold. My hands can get cold so I had 2-sets of gloves, a thin pair and a waterproof pair. We had a space blanket (bivvy style) between us… a large one that we could both get inside and keep warm if required. I am sure Transgrancanaria guys will be happy about that…!

 

IC You had to get that one in?

 

(Laughter)

 

RS I also had a first aid kit, sun cream but mostly we had food. It probably accounted for 80%. We had to be fully self-supported so we carried everything and took water from streams. I had some bars, chomps, a few gels, peanuts and some Red Bull shots. I think I took too much sweet stuff; I couldn’t face it in the latter stages.

 

IC That is often the case in longer events; the longer the event and the more you crave savory food. Did you purify the water?

 

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©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS We just drank from the streams. We chose flowing water. We were really high up so it’s fresh. You can get cattle so I suppose it was a calculated risk. If it’s flowing you are usually ok.

 

IC 204km in a time of 41hrs 49mins; is it the hardest thing you have ever done?

 

RS Mentally it was tough. Pushing through the sleep monsters I found difficult. Personally it is one of the biggest things I have ever done. I am surprised how good I feel less than 24-hours later… I don’t think it has kicked in yet. I am not sure the traverse and our achievement has kicked in. It was really challenging at times but it was so new for me that I just continually enjoyed it. I embraced every moment; it was a great 2-days in the mountains.

 

IC You tweaked your ankle in the first 2-hours. After your injury issues from 2013, how much did this stress you?

 

RS Yes that was the most worrying moment. Ironically, I fell in the first hour and gashed my hand and then 2-hours later I did my ankle. It was a worrying time and it played on my mind. I became nervous. That is the main thing about that terrain and particularly at night; if anything goes wrong you can be in serious problems. I ran scared for a couple of hours but I settled. My ankle feels good today so that is reassuring. I need a few days with my feet up and then hopefully back to training.

 

IC I’m impressed that you want to start training again so quickly! This event was about 2 of you. How important was it having Ryno along; he has a great knowledge and experience of this region?

 

RS For sure, Ryno was instrumental in this journey. I couldn’t have done this without him. His knowledge of the mountains and the effort he has put in is extremely special. To share the Traverse with him has been incredible. Ryno has been over this route for 7-8 years. He has done the Traverse 3 or 4 times now. He has even tried it in winter with half the course covered in snow. We formed a special bond. I am really grateful. We fulfilled a dream.

 

IC Recovery is paramount but in 30-days or so you will be lining up at UTMF in Japan.

 

RS Jeez, it’s that soon…

 

(Laughter)

 

IC I was thinking exactly the same Ryan; it’s not far away. You’ve had a great start to 2014 with Transgrancanaria and now the DrakTraverse, is UTMF a good idea coming so soon?

 

RS I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I need to listen to my body, recover and then slowly come back. I am not going to get any fitter. It’s just about getting fresh and recovered. I will have some fatigue in my legs but I will be okay I think, I will hold back. I did the same after Transgrancanaria, I only had 3-weeks between that race and the Traverse. That worked well but I listened, the second recovery week I felt flat so I had more rest. I am really looking forward to Japan and the opportunity to run Mt Fuji is great. Then I will think about Western States.

 

IC Western States is the next big thing. You are going to want to improve on 2nd but you will be a marked man!

 

RS Yes for sure but WSER is a stacked race. Anyone in the top-20 can win. It’s an iconic race and a great vibe.

 

IC Great… feet up and start the recovery. Really appreciate you finding the time to speak so soon after the event. Many congratulations to you, Ryno and all the team.

 

RS Anytime, thank you so much for all the support and for everything that you do for the sport.

INTERVIEW NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH

HERE

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Links:

Ryan Sandes HERE

Ryno Griesel HERE

Red Bull HERE

Salomon HERE

 

©Video content,  The African Attachment HERE

©Photography, Kelvin Trautman HERE

 

 

Race Report – The North Face Transgrancanaria 2014

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

“The Canary Islands Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing announces Ryan Sandes as winner of The North Face Transgrancanaria 2014. The arguments explained by the South African runner has been accepted by the arbitral team and the disqualification has been corrected.”

Excitement on the trails almost faded into insignificance on the morning of Sunday Mar 2nd as a press release was released claiming that Julien Chorier would be crowned 2014 Transgrancanaria champion and that Ryan Sandes would be disqualified for a failure to comply with mandatory kit as specified in the race rules.

A couple of hours of frantic activity followed and eventually a resolution found! The incidence arose due to a misunderstanding in regard to a space blanket, which was translated into the word, ‘cover’ by the local race official. Ryan understood cover to mean jacket and produced the item from his pack. The official noted this as a noncompliance of race rules and of course the rest is now history. Discussions will go on in regard to this situation, certainly, errors were made. A simple discussion with Ryan and officials prior to any statement would most certainly have been preferable in contrast to the media frenzy that preceded the awards ceremony.

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ultimately, Ryan was crowned champion and Timothy Olson summed up everyone’s sentiment post the decision, ‘I’m really pleased to hear this. Great decision. Ryan is a great athlete and true professional. He’s a great ambassador.’

The Race

Transgrancanaria 2014 ©iancorless.com

Transgrancanaria 2014 ©iancorless.com

The 2014 Transgrancanaria was always going to be a great race, tough 125km technical course with vertical gain and loss to make the most seasoned trail runner squirm in pain. Add to the course a top-quality men’s and ladies field and we had the makings of a classic.

Pre race we had a couple of notable drops from the line-up, Nathalie Mauclair was expected to be a real presence in the ladies race but she decided her form was not where she needed it to be. Julia Bottger also dropped with a niggling leg injury. In the men’s race, Jez Bragg withdrew before making the journey to Gran Canaria due to a cold, in contrast, Jez’s TNF teammate, Mike Wolfe arrived in Gran Canaria only to come down with flu like symptoms in the days before the race. Miguel Heras’s injury problems continued and he too unfortunately didn’t make the race

Starting at midnight in Agaete, runners would endure tough, technical terrain and relentless climbing before arriving at the finish in Faro de Maspalomas in an expected winning time of 14-hours. At the toll of midnight, runners disappeared into the night. Conditions in comparison to the 2013 edition of the race were good; light rain, some mist and blustery winds caused little problems. Ryan Sandes and Sebastien Chaigneau ran smart races in the early stages allowing time to get in the flow. Ryan in particular showed incredible maturity and patience and gave a master class in how to work your way up through the field and finish in the top slot. For nearly half of the race, Ryan was just on the edges of the top-10, British runner Casey Morgan said post race, ‘He really knew what he was doing and he looked so relaxed and calm. For sure, he was running within himself and I was just waiting for him to take off.’ Take off he did, just after the 70km mark Ryan was lying in 4th-place and in contrast to the 3 –runners in front of him, he looked relaxed and on a mission. Moving up in to 3rd and then 2nd, Ryan finally took the lead with just under 20km to go. Pushing from the front, Ryan couldn’t be complacent… Julien Chorier and Timothy Olson were pursuing. At the line, Ryan had opened up a 9-minute margin confirming that not only is he one of the best ultra distance runners in the world but also that patience is a precious commodity in any race.

Sebastien Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau had looked like a potential winner early in the race. He was the defending champion after all and he knows the trails well. Like Ryan, Seb had paced himself well early in the race and then took over the lead. Running relaxed but with focus, Seb traded blows with Arnaud Julia (Buff) and local runner, Yeray Duran (Yeray placed 5th at CCC in 2013) was arguably a revelation and surprise of the day, despite his 3rd place at the 2013 edition of Transgrancanaria, against such strong competition in 2014, I personally thought he would finish lower down the top-10.

However, Seb dropped with dehydration and Arnaud dropped having run too hard in the early stages of the race. This allowed the two main protagonists and pre race favourites, Julien Chorier and Timothy Olson to take control of the race.

Arnaud Julia Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

 Timothy ran a smart race and respected the terrain and the competition. Taking over the lead at just over halfway, Timothy battled with Julien until Ryan passed them both. Post race, Timothy was very happy with his race, ‘It beat me up; I like that, that’s why I do them. It was a beautiful and technical course. It’s a race I will do it again’.

Timothy Olson Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier impressed me at the 2013 Ronda dels Cims and without doubt was a potential favourite for the top title here on the island of Gran Canaria. Meticulous in preparation, Julien would bring a clever strategy to the race and having run the whole race in or around the top-5, one just wondered ‘when’ he would make his move. With Timothy out in front, the stage had looked set for an American win, however, a charging Ryan Sandes changed that and when Timothy faltered in the latter stage, Julien pounced to take 2nd place just 2.5mins ahead of the American.

Julien Chorier Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

It was Ryan Sandes day. After a troubled 2013, 2014 is certainly looking to be a great year for the South African. In just two weeks he will attempt an FKT in South Africa and then attention will focus on the Holy Grail of ultra; Western States.

Nuria Picas & Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas & Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

*Notable mention to Brit, Casey Morgan who ran an incredible race for 10th overall

Ladies

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas came into Transgrancanaria as a pre race favourite and the Catalan did not disappoint. Starting slowly over the first 10km she took the lead ahead of Francesca Canepa and then never looked back. Pre race Nuria had said how important it would be to have reserves for the latter stages; however, Nuria didn’t need to worry. Her consistency of effort was superb. Without doubt, Nuria’s 2nd place at the 2013 TNFUTMB has provided incredible confidence in how to run long and technical trail.

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

With Nathalie Mauclair and Julia Bottger out of the race, in reality, 2nd place and 3rd place was always going to be a battle between Francesca Canepa and Fernanda Maciel.

Fernanda Maciel Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Fernanda looked to have 2nd place sewn up and post race, she told me, ‘I was told I had a 30-45 minute lead over Francesca and I think I became a little complacent. In the latter stages of the race the terrain became easier and more runnable which played into Francesca’s hands. We arrived at the last feed station together and Francesca didn’t stop.’

Needing to eat and hydrate may very well have cost Fernanda 2nd on the podium, we will never know, certainly missing the last feed was not an option!

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©Iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©Iancorless.com

Francesca had an incredible 2013 dominating long distance racing, however, she found the trail on Gran Canaria a little too technical for her style of running. For much of the day she ran in 3rd place but in the latter stages, Francesca found some extra energy, closed the gap on Fernanda and managed to take 2nd place by just under 3-minutes.

Attention will now turn to UTMF in Japan; many of the runners at Transgrancanaria will be present to do battle once again on very different terrain. I wonder, who will come out on top?

RESULTS

Ryan Sandes Salomon/Red Bull : 14:27:42

Julien Chorier  Hoka One One/ Compressport “14:36:28

Timothy Olson The North Face : 14:39:03

Yeray Duran : 15:06:54

Antoine Guillon WAA : 15:17:30

Sondre Amdahl : 15:28:35

Javier Dominguez Vibram : 15:46:06

Cyril Cointre WAA : 15:47:08

Dylan Bowman Peral Izumi : 15:59:13

Casey Morgan Salomon 16:00:31

Nuria Picas Buff : 16:44:55

Francesca Canepa Montura : 17:29:18

Fernanda Maciel 17:31:57

Ildko Wermescher Mammut :18:50:45

Uxue Fraile Vibram 19:21:00

Nerea Martinez Salomon 19:21:00

Magdalena Ostrowska-Dolegowska : 20:27:02

Ester Alves : 23:03:10

Laureda Tirepied : 23:10:44

Helen Allison : 23:40:48

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel to attempt ‘DGT’ – Drakensberg Grand Traverse

Fresh from an incredible victory at Transgrancanaria, Ryan Sandes will attempt the 220km Drakensberg Grand Traverse with Ryno Griesel.

The Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT) is a 220km route, traversed from the north to the south of the Drakensberg mountain range in South Africa. Unmarked, the route is extremely difficult and technical and spans parts of the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal province as well as the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Gavin and Lauri Raubenheimer first made the traverse in 1999 in a time of 105-hours 39-mins. With only 3-official records and 15-failed attempts, the DGT is a serious undertaking. Ryno Griesel and Cobus Van Zyl were the last to set a record in 2010 shattering the 1999 time. Griesel and Van Zyl set a new benchmark, 60-hours 29-min and 30-secs.

ryno-griesel ©kelvintrautman

ryno-griesel ©kelvintrautman

Ryno Griesel will return to the DGT in 2014, this time with Ryan Sandes,  “I am really excited to be running the Drakensberg Grand Traverse with Ryno, it’s going to be one of the biggest adventures of my life,” says Ryan. “The route is extremely challenging and the slow nature of the terrain makes the Traverse that much harder. I always want to see how far I can push my own boundaries and for me this is going to be the ultimate test.”

 

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

“It will be an all or nothing attempt” Ryan commented after winning the 125km Transgrancanaria. Scheduled for the last week of March, this record attempt will come just 2-weeks after the Transgrancaria. It’s a testament to Ryan’s level of fitness and dedication to the sport he loves.

“It will either be a great training run or a mistake,” explained Ryan “I feel really good and although Transgrancanaria was a hard effort, I feel confident I will be in good shape for the DGT. You have to remember, the DGT trail is very hard and technical, so it is not all about running, it’s about hiking and covering ground efficiently.”

The run will be completely self-sufficient with no support, pacers or crews. Sandes and Griesel must carry all they need; however, they are allowed to use a GPS to aid navigation.

Griesel commented on redbull.com that over recent years the record has moved from hiking to faster and lighter hiking. Griesel and Sandes are the first to approach the DGT from a purely run perspective; sleep will be a rare commodity and thus it brings many elements of self-awareness. Fatigue, tiredness and navigating while still trying to cover ground quickly and efficiently will mean both are tested to the full!

Griesel and Sandes can be followed on www.redbull.co.za/draktraverse

The website will plot their live GPS location onto an online map.

Links:

  • Ryan Sandes – http://ryansandes.com
  • Ryno Griesel – http://www.rynogriesel.co.za
  • Red Bull – http://www.redbull.com/za/en
  • Salomon – http://www.salomon.com/sg/activity/trail-running.html

The North Face® Transgrancanaria® race day images

Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas were crowned 2014 champions of the The North Face® Transgrancanaria®

Ryan Sandes (Salomon) won the 2014 edition in 14 hours and 27 minutes  covering a total distance of 125km. Julien Chorier (Hoka One One/ Compressport) and the current two-time champion of the Western States 100; Timothy Olson (The Noth Face), came second and third with respectively.

Núria Picas (Buff), excelled amongst the female competition with a time of 16 hours and 44 minutes, followed by the Italian  Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) with 17 hours and 29 minutes and Fernanda Maciel (The North Face) came third just two minutes later.

A detailed race report will follow.

IMAGES of an exciting day of action:

All images ©iancorless.com : all rights reserved

The North Face® Transgrancanaria 2014 pre race and press conference images

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau ©iancorless.com

Tension builds ahead of the 2014 The North Face® Transgrancanaria with runners arriving from all over the world to take part in the second race of the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour).

You can read an in depth race preview HERE

Important news from the last couple of days are key withdrawals from the ladies race; firstly Julia Bottger has decided that recent racing and training stress has left a niggling leg injury a disaster waiting to happen and so therefore has made the wise and cautious decision not to start. Nathalie Mauclair was without doubt a potential winner of this years race and unfortunately she too has withdrawn  saying that she too has a niggling leg injury and that she doesn’t feel ready.

In the men’s race, Miguel Heras once again has picked up an injury in the build up to the race and his problematic injury issues continue. Will he be ready for Marathon des Sables?

The 125km The North Face® Transgrancanaria  starts at midnight on Friday and images and updates will be provided on this website, Talk Ultra Facebook and @talkultra on Twitter as and when possible.

Thursday evening saw a presentation of some of the key athletes in this years race.

Nuria Picas ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas ©iancorless.com

 

The North Face® Transgrancanaria® 2014 Preview

Transgrancanaria2

The 2014 Transgrancanaria is just over a week away and for the first time the race will be part of the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) and the newly formed Spanish Ultra Cup.

Arguably the five races that make up the Transgrancanaria weekend (Transgrancanaria  (125 kilometers), Advanced (82), Marathon (44), Starter (30) and Promo (17.4). Promo aims to gain the attention of new runners to participate in ultra trail races.) Will see some of the first big showdowns, certainly at an elite level, of 2014.

The level of competition assembled for the main event, the 125km Transgrancanaria is extremely impressive. Starting in Agaete runners will endure some tough and technical terrain to arrive at the finish in Faro de Maspalomas.

This race will provide us with a great insight into some of the early season form of some of the best in the world! So, who is racing?

MEN

Sebastien Chaigneau ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau (The North Face) returns to defend his 2013 crown and after also being victorious at Hardrock 100 in the same year he will most definitely have a target on his back as ‘one-to-watch’. Hardrock certainly took plenty of energy out of Seb, when he attempted TNFUTMB just weeks later he dropped early saying he had nothing left. I am sure he will be focused and ready to take the Transgrancanaria on with 100% commitment.

Scott Jurek ©iancorless.com

Scott Jurek ©iancorless.com

Scott Jurek (Brooks) paced Seb Chaigneau at Hardrock 100 and it’s great to see that this legend of ultra running will toe the line for his first ever race in Spain. Scott needs no introduction. He has been quiet in recent years with writing his book and promotion, however, he recently returned to Leadville to race over the 100-mile distance and on a recent trip to the UK he told me, his years of competitive running are coming to a close but he still has some objectives and bucket list races he wants to tick off! European racing is very different to western States, Badwater and Spartathlon, however, Scott loves a challenge and I for one am going to be really interested to see how he stacks up against sold competition. Listen to Scott Jurek on Talk Ultra HERE

Timothy Olson ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson (The North Face) had a great 2013 and he understands European racing and courses. His experiences at Transvulcania La Palma and TNFUTMB will put him in a great place to not only understand the demands that the Transgrancanaria course will bring but also how to race it. This is still early season for Timothy and although I am sure he will be fit and raring to go, I don’t expect him to be at 100%. He has been putting in the training and regular runs up Mount Wilson will put him in a great place. Just the other day Timothy did 5k of vertical in 7-miles in 1:19:30 and then followed this with 24-miles and more vertical. Like Seb Chaigneau, Timothy has a date at Hardrock 100 later this year and I am sure his focus and emphasis will be placed on the big showdown. His recent 8th place at Sean O’Brien 50-mile (an hour slower than Dylan Bowman) shows that Timothy is biding his time and easing his way into 2014. Listen to Timothy Olson on Talk Ultra HERE

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes (Salomon) had a troubled 2013, ironically, I remember discussing his 2013 plans in Gran Canaria this time last year. At the time he chose to step down from the 125km race and run the 82km Advanced race, which he won. However, things did not go well afterwards, he got injured ahead of Western States which forced him to miss out and improve on his second place of 2012 and then later in the year he arrived at Leadville looking in fine form. Unfortunately midway through the race things took a bad turn forcing him to drop with back problems. Ryan did win Patagonian International Marathon 63km and place 9th at San Francisco 50 in December. So, with batteries recharged and plenty of running in the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa, Ryan I am sure will be looking for a solid start to the year so that he can build and look ahead to a potential overall victory at Western States. Listen Ryan Sandes on Talk Ultra HERE

Dylan Bowman ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman (Pearl Izumi) was all ready to go at TNFUTMB in 2013 but his plans flew out of the window with an unfortunate slip in training in the days leading up to the big race. Recovery was paramount in the second half of 2013 but Dylan looked objectively from the outside and turned this period into an opportunity to grow. Taking on a new run coach Dylan has progressed and for sure will be looking to make an impact in Europe during 2014 with a whole series of top races lined up against high quality fields. Gaining 5th place at San Francisco 50 behind a speedy and in form Rob Krar was a great sign and his recent victory at the Sean O’Brien 50-mile in 6:23:17 ahead of Mike Aish and Mike Wolfe bodes really well for his current form and his chances on the island of Gran Canaria. Listen to Dylan Bowman on Talk Ultra HERE

Julien Chorier

Julien Chorier

Julien Chorier (Hoka One One) gave a master class of distance running at the Andorra Ultra Trail, Ronda dels Cims in 2013. Not only did he break the course record but each and every step of the way he looked calm, collected and in control. Following this up, Julien raced at TNFUTMB and I have to say based on his Ronda performance I tipped him as a hot favourite. However in the race he was fighting the sleep demons, despite this he still paced highly. He is meticulous in preparation and leaves nothing to chance. A previous winner of Hardrock 100, Julien will also return in 2014 what is already looking like a highlight’ race of 2014. A recent move from Salomon to Hoka One One is very interesting and I am really keen to see how Julien’s form is this early in the year.

Jez Bragg ©iancorless.com

Jez Bragg ©iancorless.com

Jez Bragg (The North Face) returned to main stream racing at the 2013 TNFUTMB having devoted pretty much the previous 12-months to his Te Araroa expedition. An expedition that he always knew would deplete him in ways he had never been depleted before. His 10th place (male) and 11th place overall was a rewarding run and most certainly confirmed that Jez was back. His recent performance and top-10 placing at HK100 again confirms that Jez will be going into 2014 with a full race schedule planned out and highlight being Western States 100. Transgrancanaria will provide a course that will suit Jez’s style of running; expect him to start steady and move his way up as the distance progresses. Listen Jez Bragg after Te Araroa HERE

Mike Wolfe & Mike Foote ©iancorless.com

Mike Wolfe & Mike Foote ©iancorless.com

Mike Wolfe (The North Face) placed 3rd at the recent Sean O’Brien 50-miler; a great sign. Mike would be the first to admit that he has had a troubled time since the 2012 Transvulcania La Palma. He struggled to find form but his FKT on the John Muir Trail with Hal Koerner in 2013 put Mike back on track. A slight blimp was trying to run TNFUTMB too quickly after the JMT but Mike had the sense to drop early and avoid causing any injuries and his decision was confirmed with a 6th place at San Francisco 50 in December. Mike always races hard and loves to perform, definitely one to watch! Listen to Mike Wolfe on Talk Ultra HERE

Jason Schlarb

Jason Schlarb

Jason Schlarb (Altra) took out the win at Run Rabbit Run in 2013 and in addition to a win at Pocatello 50 had top-3 places at Speedgoat 50, San Juan Solstice 50 and Leona Divide. The Transgrancanaria course is somewhat different to the above but Jason has great speed and endurance that will hopefully work well on this testing 125km course.

Miguel Heras ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras (Salomon) heads up the ‘local’ talent and like many of the above names has struggled with injury in recent years. Miguel’s 2nd place at TNFUTMB was a great moment for the fans but more importantly, Miguel. He needed that result. He followed this with 3rd place behind Luis Alberto Hernando at Cavalls del Vent. Looking back at ‘13’ one could say Miguel didn’t race many times, however, he did have 6-victories, a 2nd place and a 3rd. not bad eh! If Miguel is in top form, he is a potential winner of the 125km race; no doubt!

The quality of the men’s field really is quite impressive and in no particular order here are the other names to watch…

  • Arnaud Julia – 2nd at Transgrancanaria in 2009 & 2010 but more importantly the winner of the 2013 TDS.
  • Jorge Maravilla – recent win at Bandera 100k in 8:02:27 shows current great form.
  • Antoine Guillon – 8th at TNFUTMB in 2011 and 2nd at TDS in 2013.
  • Casey Morgan – top Brit mountain/ fell runner.
  • Christophe Le Saux – 16th at Transgrancanaria in 2013 and recent top placing at HK100.
  • Cyril Cointre – 8th at Transgrancanaria in 2013, 9th at UTMF 2013 and 11th recently at HK100.
  • Fulvio Dapit – 4th at Ice Trail Tarentaise in 2013.
  • Pascal Blanc – 3rd at Diagonale des Fous 2013 and 13th at HK100 in 2014.

LADIES

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) triumphant after a stunning win at HK100 in January must arrive in Gran Canaria as a hot favourite. At 125km it is probably till just a little too short for this long distance specialist, however, it has plenty of climbing and technical terrain, this will suit Francesca down to the ground. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this stunning lady… she never stops to amaze me! Her racing calendar is brutal and her powers of recovery are miraculous. Francesca’s victories at Ronda dels Cims, Eiger Ultra Trail and Tor des Geants in 2013 were stand out results, however, these results were interspersed with top results at Ice Trail Tarentaise, UROC, Speedgoat 50 and so on. Needless to say, Francesca is a hot tip! Listen to Francesca Canepa after Ronda dels Cims on Talk Ultra HERE

Nathalie Mauclair ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair (Endurance 72) burst onto the ultra running scene at Transvulcania La Palma in 2013 with 4th place and never stopped. She became IAU World Trail Champion, won TDS and then crowned out an incredible year with victory at Diagonale des Fous. Nathalie’s combination of speed and endurance is a lethal combination and every lady at Transgrancanaria should most definitely place a target on this ladies back.

Nuria Picas ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas (Buff) has performed at the highest level in Skyrunning for years, her 2012 was a master class in mountain running. A change of tack in 2013 saw Nuria prepare meticulously for TNFUTMB (her first 100-miler) and this paid off with 2nd overall behind a storming Rory Bosio. Following TNFUTMB with repeat victories at Cavalls del Vent and Courses des Templiers showed that despite running long, Nuria did not loose speed. Meticulous in training and racing, Nuria will have her ‘A’ game in Gran Canaria and will need utmost respect from the female competition.

Nerea Martinez ©iancorless.com

Nerea Martinez ©iancorless.com

Nerea Martinez (Salomon) recently raced at HK100 and placed 5th overall; shows she has early season form. Like Francesca Canepa, Nerea loves long and tough races. One glimpse at her 2013 result sheet confirms this, her 2nd at Tor des Geants was a standout performance, however, in addition to this Nerea had 4-victories. One of which was the outright win at the 2013 Transgrancanaria. Amongst this level of competition I don’t see Nerea regaining the top slot but she will be pushing and looking for one of the ladies above to falter.

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel (The North face) always has a busy calendar; her recent victory at the Everest Trail Race will without doubt put her in a great place for this race. All that climbing at altitude has to be a great boost. Fernanda’s stumbling block will be speed, particularly in comparison to Nuria and Nathalie. Listen to Fernanda in Episode 48 of Talk Ultra HERE

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Bottger (Salomon) has just returned from 2nd overall at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and is currently in Gran Canaria for a training camp. Like Nerea and Francesca, Julia loves tough, long and technical courses. A consistent performer at Diagonale des Fous and Tor des Geants, Julia’s climbing and endurance will be a great advantage over this 125km course. Listen to Julia Bottger on Talk Ultra HERE

Uxue Fraile (Adidas Trail Running) has had a great couple of years placing 5th at Transvulcania La Palma in 2012 and then returning in 2013 to place 3rd. In addition, Uxue placed 5th at the 2012 Cavalls del Vent and then returned in 2013 to place 2nd overall behind Nuria Picas. Maybe not an out and out favourite for Transgrancanaria but on her day, she has the potential to pull something special out of the bag and place top-3.

One to watch:

Karine Sanson – 6th at Transvulcania La Palma 2013 and 8th at Ice Trail Tarentaise.

As you can see, the 125km Transgrancanaria is without doubt going to be a very exciting race. However, a race within a race will be contested with points up for grabs for the Spanish Ultra Cup.

Follow the race on facebook.com/talkultra and on twitter @talkultra

Pre race interviews, images and writing will be uploaded to this website (www.iancorless.com) in advance of, during and post the race.

An addition, we must also remember the other races that will take place over the weekend. Last year the 82km Advanced race had a great battle with Ryan Sandes and Philipp Reiter. Philipp returns this year looking to move up one step! He will have some great competition from Zaid Ait Malek.

Here are the Advanced participants:

National:

  • Chelis Valle Gallego
  • David Mundina Gil
  • Felipe Artigue
  • Gaizka Barañano Urquijo
  • Gerard Morales Ramírez
  • Juan Antonio Ruiz García (Juanan)
  • Juan María Jimenez Llorens
  • Pau Bartoló Roca
  • Pedro Bianco
  • Vicente Parra
  • Zaid Ait Malek
  • Ana Bustamante
  • Djanina Freitag
  • Elena Calvillo
  • Judit Franch Pons
  • Leire Aguirrezabala.
  • Lucía Pasamar Marquez

International:

  • Philip Reiter
  • Tim Ellis

Canary:

  • Cristofer Clemente Mora
  • Dani Santana García
  • Evaristo Almeida
  • Jesús Falcón Macías
  • Jose David Lutzardo Barroso
  • Jose israel Fernández Cáceres.
  • Jose Manuel León Medina
  • Francisco rodríguez Martín
  • Miguel Espino
  • Mari Carmen García Santana.
  • Yurena Castrillo Simón

Participants in the Marathon distance are as follows:

International:

  • Michael Kabicher
  • Anna Eriksmo
  • Lúcia Franco
  • Marie Sammons
  • Nina Ingvarsson

National:

  • Zigor Iturrieta
  • Nuria Domínguez
  • Silvia Sos
  • Sonia Escuriola

Canary:

  • Dario Dorta
  • David reyes Lorenzo
  • Franscisco Rodríguez de Paz
  • Majid Belouati
  • Óliver Perera
  • Samuel Ortega Hernández
  • Leticia Rodríguez Navarro
  • Sandra Moreno Santiago
  • Yaiza Herrera

The North Face Endurance Challenge, San Francisco, 50-mile Championships Preview (Men)

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50

My head hurts… it’s December, what happened to the ‘off-season’. Not only do we no longer have an off-season but The North Face have arguably assembled one of the most competitive fields in the 2013 season. Way back in April I was writing about the ‘race of the year’. Of course, it was Transvulcania La Palma. This was followed by another ‘race of the year’, Western States. I then followed this with another race of the year, Zegama and so on… you get the picture! Ultra running and mountain running is booming and as such, we are all seeing the benefits, not only from a watching and a following perspective but also from a racer perspective. It is now possible to have several peaks in one year and TNF may very well have hit on a winning formula with such a competitive race in December.  It’s late enough in the season to have recovered from recent previous efforts, such as UROC or Run Rabbit Run and equally far enough away from ‘key’ races in 2014 to allow for adequate RnR.

Okay, deep breath… here we go.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras returns after winning the race in 2012. His time of 5:33 in lousy conditions confirmed his ability if any was needed. Having said that, Miguel is used to rough-n-tough weather and as such, may very well have excelled in the conditions over his US contemporaries. Also the 2012 race did have issues over course marking which did lead to several runners going astray. I take nothing away from Miguel, he is a class act and although 2013 has been a difficult season for him, his second place at TNFUTMB proves that he is back. He followed this with a quality performance at Cavalls del Vent so without doubt he is a contender for the win. However, this field is stacked.

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones is back racing and embracing the trails after a quiet start to 2013 and some escape in the mountains. In addition, Dakota became an ‘RD’ in 2013 which primarily caused him to miss TNFUTMB and refocus on UROC. That refocus nearly worked and certainly with 5-miles to go at UROC he looked as though he had the race in the bag. However, Rob Krar pulled something out of the bag and relegated Dakota to second that day. In fine form, Dakota departed for Japan to repeat his 2012 win at Hasetsune Cup, however, disaster struck and he had a tough day and a dnf. Without doubt, Dakota will be recovered and focused on winning at San Francisco. He will be looking for a repeat performance similar to San Juan Solstice 50m when he broke Matt Carpentar’s record.

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday will bring his speed to this race and along with Cameron Clayton and maybe, Max King. They will be out at the front pushing the pace. Sage has had a mixed 2013 in the sense that he has occasionally pushed and failed below his own demanding standards. His great runs at Tarawera, Transvulcania La Palma and Lake Sonoma may well fall into insignificance in Sage’s own mind as I feel he may well dwell on his performances at Sierre-Zinal and UROC. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big Sage fan. He has all the ability to go out and win San Fran but I just wonder what effect recent performances will have on his confidence. In real terms, caution may well prove a huge bonus allowing him to hold back early on and keep his powder dry for the final 30% were he can use all that natural speed and ability. Unfortunately Sage has Flu – will not start

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will be feeling somewhat inspired and motivated coming into San Fran after his 3rd place at UROC behind Rob Krar and Dakota Jones. Cameron was 3rd at this race last year and although he has had a full season, you can’t rule him out from pulling something special out of the bag for that $10,000 prize. His 2013 season has been fulfilled with top placing’s at Transvulcania and Lake Sonoma, however, he has had a few below par performances which I think ultimately were more due to a niggling foot and other health issues. All looks good now though.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar, wow, what can we say about Rob that hasn’t already been said. Arguably, one of ‘THE’ ultra runners of the year after his rim-to-rim exploits, Western States run (his first 100) and then his incredible win at UROC. He raced just the other weekend at JFK50 and dropped leaving question marks in his own mind. However, the ‘drop’ may very well have just saved his legs and without doubt, don’t be surprised if he is on top of the podium at the end of the weekends festivities.

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson repeated his victory at Western States, always the sign of a true champion when you can go back to a race and do it again…! He raced at Tarawera and made the podium, he just missed the podium at Transvulcania and dug real deep at TNFUTMB. Surprisingly after such a tough TNFUTMB he then raced Run Rabbit Run on what must have been a tired body. He certainly has an autopilot but I can’t help but think this race will be all about fulfilling sponsorship requirements and showing face. Having said that, showing face will probably still result in a top-10 and should he get his race face on, don’t be surprised if Timmy gets a podium place.

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes has had ‘one of those years’ that he will be keen to get over! I was with Ryan in Gran Canaria in March, he was all fired up for an exciting season ahead and then injury hit forcing him to miss Western States. Healed, Ryan returned to Leadville in the hope of repeating his 2011 victory, however, injury reappeared. He has tackled some personal projects in South Africa and recently raced in Patagonia. Ryan will be looking to finish 2013 on a high and may just well go under the radar after a quiet year.

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King has not had a repeat of his 2012 season. Winner of the 2012 JFK and UROC, Max was an unstoppable rollercoaster and along with sage Canaday was just on fire. In 2013 he had planned to mix things up and race at different distances and represent the USA in multiple disciplines, it didn’t go to plan and he has been plagued with an ankle problem. If he is recovered and inform, Max will be up at the helm with Cameron and Sage dropping fast minute miles an looking to be the last man standing at the end.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols placed 5th last year and will come to this race confident after a great 2013 season racing in the Skyrunning calendar. In particular, he has plenty of speed uphill and has improved his down hill speed. 2013 may well just be the year that he moves a couple of places higher on the podium.

Francois D'Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene was last years 2nd place, approximately 13-mins behind his Salomon teammate, Miguel Heras. Francois has raced less in 2013 due to the pressures of owning a vineyard, however, when he has raced, he has been in top form. His was 2nd at Ice-Trail Tarentaise behind Kilian Jornet, he was joint winner at Mont-Blanc Marathon 80k Ultra with Michel Lanne and his recent dominance at the super tough Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale de Fous) means that his presence at San Fran surely means he is a podium contender. *Update “Finally my season ends sooner than expected …since my fall in Death Valley tuesday with a shock in the ribs I hope but I have finally abdicate … So I would support the team tomorrow.”

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne is another consistent performer who may well do very well at this race. He had a great run with teammate Francois D’Haene at Mont-Blanc but then picked up an injury. In addition, he has also become a dad! December may well prove to be a great time of year; his life will have settled a little, he will be over his injury and without doubt he will be excited to race in the US.

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

My final hot tip for a podium place goes to Dylan Bowman. Dylan had a great Western States and turned up at TNFUTMB in the form of his life but had a freak training accident, which caused him to miss the race. He has a new coach and he is going to be looking to release some of that UTMB frustration.

So who else… it seems crazy that I am not writing about the names below in more depth. But I have previewed above who I think may well take out the top-3 slots

  • Mike Wolfe – was 11th last year and set an incredible FKT this year with Hal he could win this race!.
  • Adam Campbell – 4th last year and I may regret not adding him above?
  • Mike Foote – great 2013 UTMB but been quiet recently.
  • Hal Koerner – Think he will be on TNF duty.
  • Karl Meltzer – Karl says he has no chance in such a fast and ‘short’ field. If it were a 100-miles he would be listed above.
  • Matt Flaherty – another who should maybe be above but he was 2nd at JFK just a week ago, maybe a little tired?.
  • Mike Wardian – anything can happen…. Mike is an unpredictable phenomenon.
  • David Riddle – may or may not race with injury?
  • Gary Gellin – 9th last year.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – 5th at UROC and I may regret not adding him above too.
  • Rickey Gates – mixed 2013 but always a contender.
  • Jorge Maravilla - top 20 in 2012.
  • Martin Gaffuri  – great season on the Skyrunning calendar.
  • And finally, Greg Vollet who continues to amaze and surprise every time he races.

So, there you have it. A super stacked crazy race to end the year, the top-3 are any bodies guess. I have tried to provide a little insight but just don’t be surprised if we see a completely unexpected performance and a surprise win.

Ladies preview HERE.

Leadville 100 – Men’s Race Summary

Did you read the script for the 2013 men’s Leadville 100? It went something like this…

2011 winner, Ryan Sandes would return fired up for victory after missing Western States due to injury. Ryan, the outright favorite would be pushed by Ultra legend, Scott Jurek. Scott after a few years away from competitive running would return to the 100-mile distance and push for the win. Mike Aish, fast man from New Zealand would learn lessons from his 2012 blow up and contend for the podium. A race within the race would continue with Grand Slam leaders, Ian Sharman and Nick Clark would push each other to the limits racing the third 100 in seven weeks but due to added fatigue would not contend for the podium!

So how did I think the race would pan out? Well, I thought Aish would take the lead relatively early on. Using his natural speed he would gain a gap and then spend much of the first half of the race looking behind him…  Ryan Sandes and Scott Jurek would match each other stride for stride all the way to Hope Pass and then the race would start. They would pick up pacers and then Sandes would slowly move away, catch Aish, move past and then Jurek would pursue. In the process Aish would blow but not enough to stop the race. With Jurek in second place, Sharman and Clark would now pursue. They would both catch Aish and Clark would move away and reduce some of his time gap on Sharman and thus making the final race in the ‘Slam’ a really exciting nail biter. The podium would be Sandes, Jurek and Clark.

Well, you may as well rip that script up. The race is done and what a race. What initially appeared to be a race with very few surprises up at the front end, it actually turned into a really exciting nail biter and it just goes to show that the 100-mile distance and in particular, those that race the distance can never be counted on for being predictable.

The Race

With a 0400 start, the early pace was steady. However, at May Queen, mile 13.5 a lone Ian Sharman was in the lead by just under two minutes with all the main contenders chasing. Wasn’t Sharman supposed to be a little tired? This was his third 100n in seven weeks… either he knew something that we didn’t or he was on a suicide mission.

At mile 22 ‘Powerline’ we got back on script with Mike Aish taking the lead. He was alone and out in front. That’s more like it. We are back on prediction and this race is settling nicely.

Behind Aish the chasers had fragmented a little but we had no big surprises, well, no big surprises other than Scott Jurek was a little further back than expected, but with less than 25% of the race done, this was surely the experience of a master of his craft keeping calm.

Aish continued to push and at Twin Lakes he was 10 minutes inside Matt Carpenter’s CR split. Okay, we started to ask the question, how much had Aish learnt from his blow up in 2012 and were we about to witness and incredible performance? When second place arrived, Aish had an eighteen-minute lead. Wow, this was getting exciting.

It was early days but at 40-miles of the Leadville course covered and Aish having a commanding lead of approximately twenty minutes over Sandes, Sharman, Clark, Jurek, Catalano and so on, a counter move was going to need to come or Aish was going to need to slow.

At Hopeless Pass, mile 44.5 signs of fatigue started to show on Aish. Sandes, Clark and Sharman had closed to within fifteen minutes. The big news here came from Scott Jurek; he was thirty-four mins down on Aish and although in sixth place was obviously struggling. The pre race script was starting to be rewritten.

Winfield and the 50-mile turn point. A key moment in the race and an opportunity for runners to collect pacers. Of course, the other big advantage here is that you get an opportunity to look at the gaps between runners and also how they look. Sharman arrived in second place and had closed to within eleven minutes of Aish. Clark arrived five minutes after Sharman and the news came that Ryan Sandes was dropping from the race. He was in severe hip and back pain and took the wise choice to retire. It was a sad moment for Ryan, his 2012 season was incredible and 2013 has been plagued by problems. Ryan sent me a message; “I have had some bad luck the last few months. Never nice to DNF but was hobbling with my back …. Getting old;) thanks for all.” Of course, Ryan will be back and his decision to drop without doubt is the best long-term decision.

Scott Jurek was now in fifth place and just under thirty minutes behind Sharman. Were we going to witness a classic Jurek comeback?

Returning through Hopeless AS at mile 55.5, Sharman had closed to within six minutes of Aish. Was it really possible that Sharman and Clark racing the third 100 in seven weeks would contend the top slot at Leadville?

At mile 60, Aish and Sharman were together, Clark was third and Jurek was fourth fifty-five minutes back. The 2013 Leadville 100 was turning into an epic race and of course, we had the race within the race for the Grand Slam.

Returning to Half Pipe at mile 70, Sharman had taken the lead, Clark was second 16.5 minutes in arrears and Aish was third and obviously paying for his early efforts. We know had a scenario that in all reality, I had not anticipated. Of course Sharman and Clark had every possibility of winning Leadville but not during the Grand Slam with tired bodies. Would we really see these two battle it out?

At Half Pipe, Aish rested for fourteen minutes. Yes, fourteen minutes. I suppose the luxury of his time gap of Jurek allowed for this and the pace of Sharman and Clark made him realize he was fighting for third.

With twenty miles to go, Clark was just under seventeen minutes behind Sharman. It was all to play for… twenty miles is a long with eighty miles in tired legs.

May Queen, mile 86,5 and Clark had closed a little, the gap was just under fifteen minutes. Armed with the news, Sharman dug deep pushed, he later said on twitter, “Thank you everyone for all the messages. Overwhelmed by the responses about ‪#‎LT100. Hurt like hell at the end.”

At the finish, a victorious Ian Sharman crossed the line in 16:30. He had opened up his gap on Nick Clark by thirty-three minutes. Mike Aish most definitely had learnt from his 2012 experience and held on for third.

It was an incredible race and I need to give huge credit to Bryon Powell and the iRunFar team for providing the step-by-step action via twitter.

I wouldn’t normally write such a detailed account about a race that I had not attended, but the action that unfolded in Leadville may well turn out to be one of those iconic races we all remember. To see two runners, Sharman and Clark, perform at such a high level when so far into the Grand Slam is inspirational. In addition, it also provides a lesson for us all. A 100-miles is a long way, anything can happen and no matter how we think a race may unfold, every now and again, the book gets thrown out of the window and we are treated to an inspiring and iconic race. In addition, Mike Aish also showed that taking a break to recoup and recharge is no bad thing, his fourteen-minute break did him no harm and he still made the podium.

Many congratulations to all.

Attention now turns to final race in the Grand Slam, Wasatch. It will only take Ian Sharman to have a so, so day and for Nick to be flying… exciting!

I will be catching up with Nick for the next episode of Talk Ultra so make sure you check out Episode 42 out on Friday 23rd August.

What is the Grand Slam?

The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning award is recognition for those who complete four of the oldest 100 mile trail runs in the U.S. The “Slam” consists of officially finishing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run all in the same year. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Award was established in 1986, when Tom Green was the first finisher.

Results:

MEN

  1. Ian Sharman 16:30 (4th fastest time)
  2. Nick Clark 17:06
  3. Mike Aish 18:28
  4. Kyle Pietari 18:37
  5. Andrew Catalano 18:43
  6. Timo Meyer 19:04
  7. Eric Sullivan 19:17
  8. Scott Jurek 19:21
  9. Bob Africa 19:38
  10. Javier Montero 19:45

LADIES

  1. Ashley Arnold 20:25
  2. Saheen Sattar 22:42
  3. Keila Merino 22:47
  4. Katrin Silva 23:16
  5. Becca Hall 23:43
  6. Kara Henry 23:50
  7. Abby Mcqueeney Menamonte 24:06
  8. Maddy Hribar 24:24
  9. Nicole Struder 24:25
  10. Maggie Nelson 24:37

Leadville 100 2013 Race Preview

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Leadville 100 kicks off at 0400 on Saturday morning and although the field may not be ‘stacked’, what it does have is the return of Ryan Sandes, the 2011 winner and the return of ultra running legend, Scott Jurek.

If you had doubts about how exciting this race may be, take a read of what Scott Jurek said in my re race interview, “You bet! I am here to do whatever it takes to run my best time and ideally win this race. I have put in the training. I am mentally prepared. My goal is to win…”

So, there you have it. If nobody else turned up to race, a Sandes/ Jurek smack down would be an interesting prospect by any body’s standards.

The Leadville 100 course is a 50-mile out and back all undertaken at high altitude with Hope Pass being the highest point on the course. When a race is almost 2-miles above sea level, the one thing you need to be sure of is the ability to run and race at altitude. Pacers are allowed and importantly they are allowed to ‘mule’ for the runner, a homage to the old mining days.

So, how will this race unfold?

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Ryan Sandes is without doubt the number one favorite. After placing second at Western States last year, he was without doubt very excited at returning in 2013 and attempting to go one place higher. However, a sprained ankle in the build up ruled him out and he had no option to rest and recover. He refocused and placed his emphasis on Leadville. Ryan, like his teammate, Julien Chorier, does not do race after race. He focuses, prepares and turns up with the ‘A’ game switched on. Ryan is here to win Leadville and without doubt he is the hot tip for the race.

Image taken from scottjurek.com ©scottjurek

Image taken from scottjurek.com ©scottjurek

Scott Jurek has been away from competitive running for a few years. Many of us thought that his writing, love and promotion of vegetarian food and his work with Chris McDougall would keep him away from running competitively and therefore a new chapter in his life had started. Apparently not! For sure, he is in the latter years of his racing career and for many of us we had no real idea what his intentions would be. However in my pre race interview with him he made it apparently clear, he is here to race and win! Awesome. We are all excited to have Scott back on a 100-mile start line and it sounds as though Ryan and all the other contenders have a ‘race on’ with a legend of the sport. I can’t wait! To clarify, Scott can in this race, no doubt! Interview with Scott Jurek here

Ian Sharman training in La Palma ©iancorless.com

Ian Sharman training in La Palma ©iancorless.com

We have a race within a race at Leadville as Nick Clark and Ian Sharman line up for the third 100-miler in the four race ‘Grand Slam’. Now of course, if Nick or Ian were fresh, you would include them as potential winners of this race, particularly Nick who is used to the high altitude. Both of these guys are without doubt podium potential, of course, they are going to be little jaded and therefore this removes them from the top slot. However, you never know… it only needs other contenders to have a mediocre or bad day and Nick or Ian to have a great day.

Mike Aish ran Leadville in 2012 and was without doubt a dark horse. He was very clear pre race that he would run up front and see what happened. He warned it could go either way, victory or blow up. As it happened, he blew up! One year on he is wiser and older. He has changed his training and done more miles.

Michael Arnstein has ‘Sharmanesque’ speed on the flatter and faster courses. Leadville is a race suits him, he has experience with Leadville, eighth in 2012 and his best performance came in 2011 with fourth.  He will need to be in great shape and in fine form to make the podium.

Mike Le Roux ran the Grand Slam last year and that puts him in a good place for this year. With just one race to concentrate on, he will be able to focus and race fresh. He placed third at Vermont 100 last year and as mentioned, this was part of the ‘slam’, so he is what it takes to most definitely get in the top ten and if all goes well, claw at the podium.

Nick Pedatella is also racing the Grand Slam but is some way behind Nick and Ian. His 23rd at Vermont and 28th at Western States are solid performances, but with two 100’s in the legs, the third can only be a little more jaded. Having said that, he will probably place in the top twenty.

Other names to watch:

Timo Meyer was sixth at Tarawera earlier in 2013, Craig Howie placed top ten at Leadville in 2012 and Andrew Catalano placed sixth in 2012.

Leadville is the biggest ultra in the US and therefore with no qualification criteria, the 1200 start list can throw up a few surprises.

The ladies race is wide open. In many respects, like the men’s race we have a few clear favorites but then the front-end competition drops off quite quickly. Tina Lewis, the 2012 champion is undecided if she will run. She has had a foot injury and only yesterday she posted on social media, “Alright, I have about 30 minutes to make the call – Pikes Peak Marathon or Leadville 100!!! Leaning towards being a dreamer, hopeful and taking chances!!” I don’t need to tell you, Leadville and Pikes Peak are a world apart and this is not a great sign for Tina’s mental approach, so, if she decides to run her performance is unpredictable. However, she is the defending champ and therefore the nod goes in Tina’s direction.

*update on Tina – “I am healthy and rested just not perfectly trained for the distance. Don’t we do this because we love it and Leadville is in my heart. I can just go out and try my best, right? I will aim to be smart and stop if my foot hurts.”

Denise Bourassa placed eighth at the 2013 Western States and therefore she is my hot tip for the win. She has had consistently good performances and the only question mark may come if WSER has left Denise a little jaded.

Ashley Arnold placed third at Leadville in 2010 and so therefore she is a tip for the top of the podium. She has all the experience required to run well.

Who else? Well, to be honest, it is wide open. One or two names shine out as contenders for the top ten but as stated, in a field of 1200 I think we will see many ladies names that we have not seen before.

LINKS:

Leadville 100 website HERE

Athlete Tracking HERE