SALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

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A new year and new products! Nothing is more eagerly awaited than a new offering from Salomon and today I take a look at two new race vests from the French brand, the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

Race vests have become the norm in racing now and it’s east to see why. When the product works (and some don’t) they fit like a piece of clothing, they don’t move, they cause no chaffing and they provide easy and immediate access to everything you need while still pushing the pace. I honestly don’t know who first came up with the ‘vest’ concept, what I do know is I always remember Kilian Jornet finishing and winning UTMB and holding his vest above his head!

Salomon vests and the S-LAB ADV SKIN HYDRO 12 SET can be seen in long distance races all over the world. Tweaked from one model to the next and the current incarnation has moved away from using a bladder to front mounted soft flasks. With a huge capacity, it’s often considered as one of the most ideal packs to hold all mandatory kit for a long distance race. The pack is lighter and utilises all the key features that one needs including that snug form fitting hold on the body. However, 12L capacity is not needed for shorter and faster races.

Enter the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

It’s unusual in a review that I would review two packs at once, however, these two packs are so similar that a separate review is not necessary. So, I am reviewing the SENSE ULTRA SET and I will note comments and changes as appropriate for the SENSE SET.

So what is the difference? Simple: weight and capacity. The SENSE ULTRA SET has a 3L capacity and weighs a  110g. The SENSE SET has a capacity of 1L and weighs 90g. I am pleased to say that my two test packs are different colours, the 3L is black and the 1L is red. That’s going to make things easier.

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Both packs are identical at the front and differ at the back. This is where capacity is removed or added, so, let’s look at the front first.

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This is a really sweet pack! The layout is great, comfort is awesome and the capacity is ideal for any run when mandatory kit is minimal.

Key features:

Two 500ml soft flasks in two stretch pockets.

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Two dump pockets (open ended but elasticated at the top) at the bottom of the soft flasks

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Two zipper pockets (on each side) with large capacity made from a stretch fabric.

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Open ended stretch pocket on the left shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Zipper pocket on the right shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Adjustable fitting system (left to right) with three upper and lower settings.

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Whistle.

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In Use

I have the M/L fit and it’s quite simply the most comfortable pack I have ever worn. The pack hugs the body, it does not rub and importantly under the armpits and around the neck area the cut is wide to avoid any nasty rubbing.

The soft flasks sit on the chest and do not bounce. You can drink from the bottles without removing them when required, however, I haven’t been able to do that running. I need to stop, lean over, bite the bottle, take a drink and then push on…  Soft flasks and tight fitting stretch pockets make for a tricky combination. The soft flasks and the way they fit on the body are perfect, but trying to add a full bottle back to the pocket can be tricky. With practice it does get easier and a tip is to blow back into the bottle once you have taken a drink. This inflates the bottle and makes it more rigid. I personally have always preferred bottles over bladders and soft flasks and Salomon’s positioning make this combination the best I have tested.

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The upper zipper pocket will fit a phone or a gps device. I personally use and old style waterproof phone when racing and that fits perfectly. However, on training runs I have taken an iPhone 5 in a waterproof casing. So, capacity is ideal. The pocket is tight and stretchy and therefore whatever you put in is held tight with no bounce, another plus!

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On the opposite side the open ended stretch pocket is also large enough to hold a phone but is ideally suited for maybe food items or a music player.

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The two open ended dump pockets on either side of the pack below the bottles are large enough to hold multiple gels and bars and/ or items such as gloves, hat, buff or anything similar. To give you an idea of capacity, I could fit a beanie and gloves in one side and four/ five gels or bars on the other side. Ultimately it means you have plenty of room for energy when racing. Access is dead easy. Just put your hand in and pull the items out.

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The two zipper pockets are the secret weapon on both packs. I am amazed at how spacious these pockets are. Depending on the race you are doing and also dependant on your own personal preferences; the zipper pockets will actually hold a taped seam waterproof jacket in one side and taped seam waterproof trousers in the other side!

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Salomon provided me the  S-LAB HYBRID JACKET and S-LAB HYBRID PANTS (both medium) to test (review to follow later) and these items folded up and fitted in both packs perfectly.

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Considering the SENSE SET pack is only 1L capacity, this is remarkable. Lets just look at the facts, you can fit in:

  • Jacket
  • Trousers
  • Phone
  • 1L of fluid
  • 4-10 bars or gels
  • Hat and gloves
  • and then other extras such as Mp3, space blanket or other small items.

The SENSE ULTRA SET adds extra capacity at the rear in the form of two pockets. The SENSE SET is just a highly breathable and lightweight pack with no extras.

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A ‘kangaroo pocket’ on the on the lower third of the rear of the pack provides an easy access open ended pocket that can be added to or taken from whilst moving. The pocket is quite small and would take a windproof jacket or food items.

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The mesh back panel is actually two layers and makes an open ended deep pocket that can actually be accessed without removing the pack. It’s surprisingly roomy and should you decide not to add a jacket and trousers to the zipper pockets, this pocket can hold both items. Yes, it’s that roomy!

When running, it was easy to reach over, place my hand in the pocket and pull out my jacket. Of course, it was easier to do this if I stopped BUT this vest is very much designed about moving fast and light. It’s a performance product and as such, should you have the need to be quick… this product will allow you that comfort!

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I have reviewed many products and last year I reviewed the stripped down inov-8 race vest (review here). This for me was a great product. I loved the feel of it, I loved the capacity and I loved its usability when running. For me though, Salomon have upped the game with the SENSE ULTRA SET and the SENSE SET and produced two sublime products that are a joy to wear and use.

Considering the minimal differences between the two vests, I would almost certainly recommend that the SENSE ULTRA SET is the ideal purchase. From Salomon’s perspective, it almost feels an indulgence to have a 1L and 3L version. The added cost and added capacity of the 3L makes far more long term sense for me and lets face it, if you are running really long races, you will probably have the 12L product (or similar) anyway.

On a final note, I am seriously impressed with the capacity of both packs. The SENSE SET at 1L holds a ridiculous amount of kit for something so minimal that I question if 1L capacity is correct? The SENSE ULTRA SET wouldn’t hold all the required items for a race like UTMB but it wouldn’t come far off if you were keeping items to a minimum. That said, the SENSE ULTRA SET makes a perfect and ideal pack for racing any distance (even 100-miles) when all you need is some liquid, food, jacket, trousers, hat, gloves, space blanket, phone and a few other small items. It’s arguably the perfect pack!

Pros:

  1. Soft flasks are a dream
  2. Capacity on the front of both packs is incredible
  3. Zipper pocket is great for valuable items
  4. Open ended dump pockets great for items that you need all the time – food, hat, gloves and so on.
  5. Zipper pockets have amazing capacity
  6. You could wear the products against your skin
  7. On the SENSE ULTRA SET the rear capacity is superb and a real eye opener
  8. Weight is amazing
  9. Price is good £100 for SENSE ULTRA SET and £85 for SENSE SET

Cons:

  1. Soft flasks can be tricky to get back in the open ended pockets
  2. I am not sure how the pack would fit for lady users. The bottles would potentially sit in just the wrong place?
  3. The ‘kangaroo’ pocket on the SENSE ULTRA SET is small
  4. These are lightweight products and durability ‘may’ be an issue?

Conclusion:

I love these two packs. They actually make wearing a pack a pleasure rather than a chore and that is a real bonus. Capacity is quite mind blowing in both products and the SENSE ULTRA SET makes the most logical purchase choice as it provides more usage options. I actually found it difficult to come up with ‘cons’ for these packs they are that good!

Check out Salomon HERE

 

Salomon LogoSALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET

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Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set weighs in at 110g and is designed to carry the bare essentials in absolute comfort with a 3L capacity.

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • Back compartment
  • Kangaroo pocket
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

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Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Set weighs in at under 100g and is designed to carry 1L of the absolute bare essentials.

 

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

Hernando, Jones and Olson for Transvulcania La Palma 2015

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It’s only January and already the world of Skyrunning is hotting up with the announcement that 2014 Transvulcania La Palma champion and Skyrunning Ultra Distance World Champion, Luis Alberto Hernando will return to the island to defend his crown.

Luis Alberto Hernando had an incredible 2014 and his return to Transvulcania is eagerly anticipated. A true champion, the tough and challenging course is one that he relishes, however, Luis will not have things his own way!

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Salomon Running new signing, Dakota Jones won the race in 2012 and he is back once again to test himself. Dakota raced in 2014 but had a disappointing race (his words) placing 10th. With a new team and definite plan to race theSkyrunner® World Series and Skyrunner® Continental Series, I think it is fair to say that the American will push Luis all the way to the line.

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Timothy Olson loves the trails on the island of La Palma. In the past couple of years he has made the island his families home as he prepares meticulously for the race. Timothy is very clear, a podium place is a main objective. He came close in 2013 with 4th place and last year he placed 8th.

More athletes will be announced in the coming weeks and months as we all anticipate the 2015 Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma.

 Check out the Skyrunner® World Series calander HERE

Check out the Skyrunner®  Continental Series 2015 HERE

Check out Skyrunning HERE

Transvulcania La Palma website HERE

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG (Soft Ground) Review

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I test a great deal of shoes and these days rarely do I get a shoe that I really don’t like. All the brands learn from each other and I guess ‘borrow’ ideas to help develop their own shoes and so therefore the playing field starts to even out. In the old days I would test a ‘neutral’ shoe, decide if I liked it, look at the grip or lack of and then review it. However, we are spoilt for choice these days… 12mm drop, 8mm drop, 6mm drop, 4mm drop, 0 drop and then road grip, road-to-trail, trail, dry trail, wet trail, soft ground, fell and so on. Jeez it can be exhausting and that is from a reviewing point of view. I’m pleased to say, that as a reviewer I get provided all my shoes and so if I don’t like a pair, it’s no big deal. However, had I spent a £100+ on a pair I’d feel a little perturbed to find out that I didn’t like them. So, I take reviewing shoes seriously! After all, what I write may well influence you to spend your hard earned bucks. I always try to remain impartial, inevitably though some personal thoughts and preferences will come in and when they do, I usually try to be very clear when making those points. I wrote an article a while ago and it may be wise to read it (HERE) before reading on.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8111So, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG (soft ground) do I like them? Yes, I love them!

I picked up this particular pair of shoes in the middle of 2014 and I have run on road (not too much) trail, hard trail, soft trail, rocks, snow, ice, mud, bog, fell and downright disgusting ploughed farm fields of mud and they have performed in most scenarios remarkably well.

I know Kilian wears Sense (not the ultra) as does many of the Salomon racing team and yes, it’s easy to be convinced that the shoes are great because they wear them. But genuinely, for me, the Sense Ultra really is the dog’s bolx. 

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Why?

As with all the Sense shoes, Salomon use a fitting system within the shoe called ‘*Endofit’ It’s a sock-liner that holds the foot in place providing THE most comfortable fitting shoe on the market. (My opinion, obviously.) So, if you haven’t tried a Sense shoe on before, don’t order online, as you may well need to play around with sizing to find your ideal fit. Get the correct fit and the shoes are a dream to wear. Many say that the toe box is too narrow but I actually haven’t found that. Yes, they may be narrower than some shoes on that market but not as narrow as others, so again, try this out for you.

*Endoft – an internal fit sleeve designed to hug the foot in exactly the right places and improve feedback and foot wrapping.

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Once your foot enters the shoe it’s like a custom made glove. You really notice it when you move to a shoe without Endofit. This is something I do a great deal when testing so that I understand the pros and cons of respective shoes. The SG has Salomon’s unique lacing system and the ‘garage’ to stow any excess lace when tied. I have yet to find a person who doesn’t love this lacing system.

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The ‘Ultra’ version of the Sense has more cushioning than the normal ‘Sense’ and therefore it is designed for longer running. However, I think for most people, the Ultra version offers the ideal cushioning irrespective of racing distance. Of course I give a fair amount of personal preference here, so please keep this in mind if you really like the ‘feel’ of the ground as the normal ‘Sense’ may well be for you?

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The ‘SG’ part of the Sense 3 Ultra SG refers to ‘soft ground’ and it basically takes the Salomon Speedcross, strips it down into a racing shoe that is lighter, provides more feel of the ground and ultimately makes it a faster shoe. I don’t agree 100% here, so, you will have to read on…

The shoes pros and cons

Lets start with the ‘SG’ part, as ultimately this is the ‘USP’ of the Sense 3 Ultra SG. It’s an aggressive sole shoe that as one would expect provides grip on multiple types of terrain. For me, the shoe excels on any trail that is dry with a loose surface. Mud is also easily dealt with if not too sloppy. BUT if you get on really muddy trails and very wet slippery grass/ fell the SG does not perform as well as other shoes. So yes, this is a criticism. However, I very much see the Sense 3 Ultra SG as a ‘go-to’ trail shoe when I need something that works well on a multitude of surfaces in one run. If I wanted a shoe for an out and out muddy fell run then I would choose the inov-8 X-Talon 212 (or similar.)

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The ‘Contagrip’ sole compound is relatively hard wearing and non-marking. I have used my test pair for 6-months and they show significant wear but I have been hard on them. I have not used them purely on soft ground. For example, my daily trail run always includes 2-3 miles of road/ tarmac and that really can impact on any shoe over time but the SG has handled that well. On dry trail and rock the SG are great but when rocks, tarmac or road get wet, grip can be compromised. On VK (vertical kilometre) courses they have been excellent, for example the Chamonix VK that twists and turns on dry and rocky trail. However, on a grass VK such as the Dolomites, grip was compromised.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8116Endofit is awesome and for me provides the most reassuring, secure and comfortable fitting shoe on the market. The toe box may be a little narrow for many runners but I had no issues and I usually prefer more room.

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Toe protection is good from a reinforced toe box. The rear of the shoe is snug, comfortable and if you have the correct size shoe, you have no slipping or movement. Lacing is legendary and the lace garage is perfect.

4mm drop does mean you need to be an efficient runner with a mid to forefoot strike, so, if you are hitting the ground with your heal first, this is not the shoe for you. Feel for the ground is excellent and cushioning is great for such a light and responsive shoe. The ‘Profeel Film’ provides protection from sharp and/ or irregular objects so hours in the SG are not a problem. The shoes are neutral with no support, so if you like a little arch support (Salomon Speedcross) or you are prone to Plantar Fasciitis the SG is probably not for you. 

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Conclusion

The Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG is a great shoe. It’s not perfect though. If I were looking for an out and out soft ground shoe then ironically the ‘SG’ would not be it. But if I wanted a shoe for daily training or racing that handled a multitude of different surfaces then the SG would always be my shoe of choice (and is.) When I travel, and I travel a great deal, the Sense 3 Ultra SG is always in my bag.

So is this shoe for you? Well, only you can answer that question. But if you are looking for a shoe that can:

  • Handle a multitude of mixed terrain.
  • Has low drop.
  • Supreme foot hold.
  • Good cushioning.
  • Excellent lacing,

Then the ‘SG’ should be a shoe you consider.

If you want a shoe for running ‘just’ on soft ground, then no, ironically the SG is not the best shoe for you.

You will already know this but any product in the Salomon S-LAB range is not cheap. But I do really feel that in the Sense Ultra you get what you pay for, a high-end shoe that if it were a car, it would be a Ferrari.

Finally, no one shoe will ever do all things well. Want to run road? Get a road shoe. Want to run road and trail? Get a ‘City Trail’ shoe. Want to run on the fells in thick mud? Get a fell running shoe. Want a shoe that manages to mix all of the above (admittedly, not too much road) then the Sense 3 SG (or the new Sense 4) is going to be a tough shoe to beat.

In March 2015 the new incarnation of the Sense SG will be released, the Sense 4. Here is a sneak preview:

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG 

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG is new for 2015 and will be available in the UK from March (tbc.)

  • The sole has deeper lugs and the sole compound has been adjusted.
  • The already brilliant Endofit has been tweaked to avoid less debris entering the shoe.
  • Additional room in the toe box.
  • Additional mid-foot support.
  • A new upper will provide a better fit using Sensifit and additional width has been added to the toe box.
  • Fit will apparently be even better than the Sense 3.

Specifications for the new Sense 4

WEIGHT 264 g  (SIZE UK 8.5)

 

UPPER

Quick drying breathable mesh

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

 

SOLE CONSTRUCTION 

Mud & Snow non-marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

 

CHASSIS

Profeel Film

 

MIDSOLE

Dual density EVA

Moulded EVA

 

SOCKLINER

Die cut EVA

 

MID SOLE HEIGHT

13mm/9mm – 4mm drop

Check out Salomon S-LAB HERE

Salomon Logo

 

Anna Frost and Samantha Gash : 2-weeks and counting #TCC2015

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The Coastal Challenge 2015 (#TCC2015) is point-to-point race starting in Quepos and finishing in the stunning Drakes Bay close to the border of Panama. The 230km route weaves in and out of the Talamancas (a coastal mountain range in the south west corner of the country) providing a true multi terrain experience.

Participants are required to balance the distance, severity of the terrain and a tropical climate to reach the finish line. Jungle, rainforest trails, mountain trail, single track across ridge lines, highlands and coastal ranges lead into pristine beaches, rocky outcroppings, reefs, river valleys, river and estuary crossings to provide an ultimate journey.

I caught up with two of the male contenders for overall victory in the 2015 edition just the other day:  Joe Grant and Speedgoat Karl Meltzer (read HERE.) Today we have a catch up with Anna ‘Frosty Frost and Samantha Gash.

Anna Frost - Salomon

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You have been back home in the Southern Hemisphere over the Christmas period, what have you been doing to prepare for TCC?

Well, it only seems like yesterday the 2014 race season finished. So I have been having a break and catching up with family and friends after a long race season away from home. It has been a wonderful hot summer so I have naturally been getting used to the heat and enjoying some beach runs and swims! It is a perfect time to be in the mountains on overnight adventures so I have taken the opportunity to get some long days back to back. 

You managed to experience the TCC race in 2014 without racing, how beneficial has that been in preparation for the 2015 race?

 I learnt a lot about the course and was able to see the challenges without putting myself through them. Although nothing really prepares you like the experience itself. I hadn’t expected such long beach sections so I have been making the most of living beside the beach and doing most of my runs there. 

Your mum is joining you out in TCC. That’s going to be quite special. Are you planning making this a holiday race?

Yes, my mum is joining me which will be fabulous to be able to share this part of my life with her. Stages races are so social and exciting everyday so for spectators to get involved is really nice for everyone. I got my travel blood from my parents so she is definitely looking forward to seeing somewhere new and in a new way through my race. (Im not sure what you mean by a holiday race) I am not fully back into race mode or training hard as I have a long season ahead, but this race will most definitely give me a good base to kick start the year.   

Any tips for all those taking part?

Drink lots of water, anytime you go past water submerge yourself to fully cool down, drink some replacement fluids afterwards and even in the morning and then drink some more water. It is so hot there…we are all going to need it. 

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

Samantha Gash

Sam Gash

You have been back home after South Africa, what have you been doing to prepare for TCC?

I spent Christmas and New Years in New Zealand with my partner and fellow ultra running friends. It was only my second overseas trip in four years that didn’t revolve around a race! We spent everyday outside, running some incredible trails and hiking hard up some mountains. Although it wasn’t planned to be so, it was great training for TCC. 

You had a wonderful no racing multi day experience in South Africa. Great preparation for TCC but have you recovered?

To be honest I wouldn’t say I have recovered 100% yet. I get more tired after a run and mentally my mind isn’t yet committed to doing long runs for the purpose of training. It would be easier to be hard on yourself for feeling weaker whilst climbing hills and weary after a 20km run, but it is to be expected after what we experienced – both from a running and preparation perspective.

You have multi day racing dialled. What for you are the secrets of racing/ running day after day?

Be strategic in how you attack each stage. I personally like to think of the entire race as an arch as opposed to separate stages. There will be times where you may choose to run more conservatively to complete the entire arch. Nutrition and how you choose to recover between the stages is also important. So, I will aim to get some rest after each days run in addition to a good nights sleep. 

Any other tips for all those taking part?

Have fun, look around and get to know the other competitors. These are the things you will probably remember more than how you placed. 

Sam Gash2

The 2015 #TCC2015 starts on January 31st and finishes on February 7th. Daily reports and images will be available on this website and you can follow Facebook and Twitter#TCC2015

The Coastal Challenge Facebook page is HERE and the race website is HERE

Route book and profiles available on PDF Here

Top images of Anna Frost – ©paulpetch.co.nz

Jordi Saragossa ‘Through the Lens’ on RUNULTRA

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In this modern day era of trail, mountain and ultra running, the need for information via Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums has become essential for the growth of our sport.

Photography, now more than ever is essential in providing an immediate connection with an audience. Of course, as a photographer this not only something I know about but is also something that I am extremely passionate about.

For years I have travelled the world documenting the action and on many an occasion I have been joined by Catalan photographer, Jordi Saragossa.

Jordi is someone who I respect immensely. Now in his late 20’s, Jordi has progressed through the running photography ranks in the last 4-years and has been employed by Salomon Running to document stories of their athletes in action.

I caught up with Jordi; as the 2014 season closed to find out just what it is like to live a life ‘Through the Lens.’

Read the full article HERE

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READ THE FULL STORY HERE on RUN ULTRA

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Episode 77 – Greenwood, King, Grant, Maughan

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Episode 77 of Talk Ultra – It’s our Christmas Special. Ian and Speedgoat Karl Meltzer discuss 2014 and some of our highlights.

We have in depth interviews with Ellie Greenwood, Max King, Joe Grant and .Grant Maughan.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to joining you on your ultra journeys in 2015. – Ian & Karl

YOU CAN READ A REVIEW OF 2014 HERE

In the show we mentioned Kilian Jornet’s attempt at a FKT on Aconcagua. Kilian did it! You can read all about his Summit of My Life HERE

Here is a preview of the 2015 The Coastal Challenge – Men HERE, Ladies HERE

 

Links:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/talkultra/Episode_77_-_Greenwood_King_Grant_Maughan.mp3

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

TALK ULTRA is now os STITCHER check it out HERE

Stitcher

Ultra Running, Mountain, Trail and Skyrunning Review 2014

2014

Did that just happen?

Another year draws to a close and with it many races, many experiences and many highlights. I don’t need to tell you but our niche sport is progressing at an alarming rate: more runners, more races and more standout experiences, what a year!

It is no easy task being at the top of your game in our sport anymore. Competition is high at every race and past scenarios where a runner could return to a ‘fave’ race year-after-year and win it are long gone! I don’t think we will ever see a Scott Jurek or Ann Trason dominate the sport as they did in their times.

Runners at the top of the game now need to be specific, peak for races; recover and then re peak if they want to perform. The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) and the UTWT add to the complexity of the race calendar by adding a ‘series’ element to proceedings. The need to be at your best for a series requires planning, commitment, dedication and patience. It’s way to easy to burn out… a good year, maybe two good years and then boom, gone! We have seen this happen time-and-time again. Ask Geoff Roes, ask Anna Frost, Tony Krupicka and so on. The need to balance racing and recovery is now more than ever a key component of the ultra runners weaponry and so therefore when I review a year, I do it with a sense of hesitation.

For sure, I am going to write about several runners who have excelled, who have repeatedly blown my mind with stunning performances and against all logic have recovered, come back and won again. So as I write this, please keep in mind the above. A long ultra running life must come with balance.

Also, the following summary and notes are my highlights of 2014 so I welcome your thoughts and feedback..

2014 in summary

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Jo Meek followed on 2nd place lady in the 2013 Marathon des Sables (2013) with a course record performance in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Showing meticulous preparation and dedication, Jo just gave us all a glimpse of what was about to come!

 

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Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas laid out a stall at Transgrancanaria and put on two consummate displays of ultra running prowess. Nuria lead from the front showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals whereas Ryan played the waiting game and moved through the field slowly but surely to grasp the race by the scruff of the neck in the latter stages and take a superb victory.

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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel did the DrakTraverse and in doing so they showed us that big projects in the mountains are just as exciting as racing. FKT’s love them or hate them are here to stay and I for one love the concept. Ultimately it gets back to why we all run. Ryan and Ryno with considerable help of Red Bull really put South Africa on the map and the fellas at The African Attachment produced a great film called Trevelyan to document the record.

UTMF (Ultra Trail Mt Fuji) confirmed that Nuria Picas was going to be the lady to beat in 2014. Nuria’s strength, powers of recovery and ability to push beyond the norm elevated her to a new level. Equally, Francois d’Haene showed us that he had recovered from Raid de la Reunion in 2013 and when it came to 100-miles in mountainous terrain he would be the man to beat.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball arrived in Morocco and for the 2nd year running put an American on the top of the ladies podium and in doing so she confirmed her status as one of the best female ultra runners in the world.

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I mentioned Anna Frost above and after 12+ months in an ultra wilderness the ever smiling lady from New Zealand returned to the volcanic island of La Palma and produced not only one of the best comebacks in our sport but in the process set a new course record for the Transvulcania La Palma course.

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As Frosty made that comeback, up the trail in La Palma, Luis Alberto Hernando was having one of the best races of his life as he went toe-to-toe with Kilian Jornet. He pulled it off! He beat Kilian and in doing so he achieved something that so few have done. His emotions on the line in Los Llanos provided a special moment in the sport.

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Zegama-Aizkorri had all the excitement and buzz of previous years and Kilian started a winning streak that placed his career on an all time high. By comparison, Pocket Rocket, Stevie Kremer took top honours confirming that her 2013 results were no flook (never in question) and that a repeat performance for the Skyrunning World Series was on the cards

Ellie Greenwood did it… she won Comrades and achieved the ultimate tick for her own bucket list but inspired so many Brits, Canadians and Americans in the process. It was quite a run and one that Ellie will take to the grave as a defining moment of her running. Jo Meek followed up victory in January’s The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with 5th in South Africa; the ultra community looked on and asked the question: who is Jo Meek?

Kilian Jornet obliterates the record for Denali in Summits of my Life (11:48) – nuff said!

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Luis Alberto Hernando bolstered by his Transvulcania performance laid it all on the line in Chamonix for the Skyrunning World Champions in the 80Km Ultra event. Collapsing on the finish line not only had Luis achieved a lifelong dream but he had relegated the almost unbeatable Francois d’Haene into 2nd place. Emelie Forsberg won the ladies race against Anna Frost and Kilian Jornet proved what an incredible athlete he is by working his craft in the VK and SKY race just days after setting a new Summits of my Life record on Denali. Elisa Desco became ladies SKY world champion in a highly competitive and exciting race and Laura Orgue confirmed her outright climbing ability and was crowned VK world champion.

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Steve Birkinshaw produced the ultimate FKT and broke a long-standing record for the Wainwrights (518km) in the English Lakes. Summiting 214 tops with an elevation gain/loss of 36,000m Steve set a new record of 6-days and 13-hours.

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Ice Trail Tarentaise in the stunning resort of Val D’Isere allowed Francois d’Haene to once again excel in the snowy and cold mountains of this tough, technical and amazing Skyrunning course. Running head-to-head with Luis Alberto Hernando (again) with less than 20km’s to go, Francois moved ahead and took top honours. Emelie Forsberg took a back-to-back victory at the race and confirmed that her ability at the 80km distance was unmatched.

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Hardrock 100 will go down in the history books as one of THE runs of all time. It was the most stacked field ever, it was a who’s who of ultra running and the prospect of Kilian Jornet finally getting an opportunity to test himself on what many consider to be the ultimate course was just way too exciting. Like a script from a screenplay, Kilian bided his time, pulled away, hung out waiting for Julien Chorier and then by his estimations ‘wasted’ 55-minutes in aid stations and still smashed the record. KJ’s victory guarantees an entry for next year when the course is run the opposite way; I wonder… could we see Kilian set two CR’s?

Western States was all about Rob Krar doing his thing and coming back for a repeat victory (14:53:22). This quiet unassuming man let his legs do the talking and produced what was the start of a trio of 100-mile successes. Max King in his first 100-miler set a blistering pace early on and eventually placed 5th… more on him later! Stephanie Howe was crowned ladies champion in 18:01:42.

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The Skyrunning Dolomites Skyrace was remarkable for two reasons. Laura Orgue progressed from a VK specialist to a SKY victor and remarkably Kilian Jornet, just 7-days after Hardrock ran the VK on Friday (placing top-10) and then won the SKY race on Sunday against the best in the world; ridiculous.

Sierre-Zinal, the epic mountain race in Switzerland was finally won by Pocket Rocket herself, Stevie Kremer after placing top-3 on two previous attempts. It was a defining moment for the little lady from Crested Butte and post race she said if she could only win one race, Sierre-Zinal would be it. A pattern is forming… yes, those two words: Kilian Jornet. Yes, he did it again!

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Trofeo Kima (Italy) only happens every 2-years and is arguably the jewel in the Skyrunning crown. It’s a kick-ass race of epic proportions and if I could only ever cover one race as a photographer, Kima would be it. Combining running, climbing, descending, chains, ropes, ladders and vertical drops it is a course that is made for Kilian Jornet. Needless to say the Catalan won and in doing so, he set a new course record. Emelie Forsberg look set to take the ladies crown but a lapse of concentration mid race took Emelie of course and loose approximately 1-hour. Despite chasing like a demon, Emelie could not pull back the time on ladies winner, Kasie Enman.

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The British Ultra Trail Championships crowned Jo Meek and Kim Collison as respective champions in two exciting races on the Lakeland 50 course.

Iker Karrera and Nura Picas won Buff Epic Trail in ‘testing’ conditions.

UTMB provided confirmation that Rory Bosio is one of the best female mountain runners in the world. Her 2013 course record performance was epic but as we all know, to come back and win again confirms the accolades. Nuria Picas placed 2nd and gets a nod here as her list of performances and results (on the UTWT) are off the scale. If anyone questioned who is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world at the moment – Francois d’Haene backed up his incredible UTMF performance with an outstanding UTMB run against a stellar field.

Rob Krar backed up victory at WSER with a stunning Leadville 100 victory and set the stage for a repeat ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ award.

Run Rabbit Run came pretty close after Leadville and to my surprise we saw Rob Krar toe the line. I was a little surprised. Rob has always been one of the more savvy runners on the circuit in that he peaks, recovers, trains and then re peaks. For Rob to run 100-miles so soon after Leadville was a surprise! Maybe the big prize bucks were a motivating factor? Anyway, what do I know… he took the win and the bucks! Nikki Kimball followed up 5th at WSER with the biggest payday victory of her career and she shed a few tears to show how much it meant.

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Skyrunning Limone Extreme confirmed Stevie Kremer as Skyrunner® Word Series Champion for the 2nd consecutive year but the big news came via Kilian Jornet. His victory in the VK confirmed him as Skyrunner® World Series Champion in all 3 Skyrunning disciplines – VK, SKY and ULTRA. If any of us needed confirmation of the Catalans all around ability, this was it!

Ultra Pirineu (Cavalls del Vent in the past) had Nuria Picas and Luis Alberto Hernando take top honours – unstoppable!

USA’s The Rut set the benchmark for Skyrunning in the USA with universal accolades about the course. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg took top honours and respective Skyrunner® World Series titles.

Raid de la Reunion became the Francois d’Haene show. He followed up his 2013 victory with a repeat consummate performance. Dare I say, ‘he makes 100-miles in the mountains look easy!’ Nathalie Mauclair also produced a quality back-to-back victory and along with great runs on the UTWT circuit set herself firmly at the top of the best female ultra runners in the world.

Doha finally became the venue for the 100km world championships and Ellie Greenwood backed up an incredible Comrades victory and placed herself on top of the world with a stunning performance. Big shout here too for the British ladies, Joasia Zakrzewski and Jo Meek who both placed in the top-5 ad took home team gold. Max King showed amazing depth of ability, speed and performance in taking the male victory ahead of some of the fastest men in the world.

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Iain Don Wauchope smashes the Salomon SkyRun record in South Africa and Landie Greyling tops the ladies podium.

Rounding out the year, Sage Canaday and Magdalena Boulet took top honours at San Francisco 50.

Phew…

Wait a minute! Kilian Jornet gets the last word. As I write this Mr Jornet is attempting another summit, Aconcagua. Only appropriate that we should end a year on a real high… Just below 7000m to be exact.

Get involved:

I am going to have missed races, missed performances and no doubt you will remind me of what they are. I welcome that. I’d love you all to comment (below) on what 2014 has meant to you and what/ who in your opinion deserves a tip of the hat.

MY 2014 AWARDS

  • Male ultra runner of the yearFRANCOIS D”HAENE (Rob Krar came close)
  • Female ultra runner of the yearNURIA PICAS
  • Best male performanceKILIAN JORNET for Hardrock 100
  • Best female performanceANNA FROST for Transvulcania La Palma and ELLIE GREENWOOD at Comrades
  • Best single stage raceTROFEO KIMA
  • Best multi day raceEVEREST TRAIL RACE
  • Best FKTSTEVE BIRKINSHAW, The Wainwrights
  • Biggest surprises of 2014ZACH MILLER and the rise of JO MEEK. The AUSSIES at the Skyrunning World Championships.
  • Stand out athlete of the year – KILIAN JORNET
  • Best cinematography – The African Attachment and Seb Montaz
  • Best film – Dejame Vivir

Anything else worthy of a mention?

Personal message:

On a personal note, 2014 has been an incredible year! I have travelled the world and in the process I have attended and worked on 31-races. From the humidity of Costa Rica, to the heat of the Sahara and the cold of the Himalayas, my job has afforded me the privilege to watch, observe and photograph the best runners in the world work their craft.

 

I am eternally grateful to each and every race, race director and of course I must give huge thanks to Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti from the ISF for the continued support and opportunities they have afforded me in allowing me the opportunity to work on and cover the Skyrunner® World Series.

 

I must also give a huge thanks to every single person who listens to my podcast, Talk Ultra, reads this website and ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ my respective Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I am eternally thankful.

 

Now roll on 2015 and lets do it all again!

SALMON SKYRUN package for International runners 2015

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Embrace an opportunity to not only take part in one of South Africa’s toughest races but also be privy to a VIP package that will allow you to experience the journey of a lifetime.

Following on from a successful inaugural experience in 2014, Salomon SkyRun are now offering a very exclusive package for 15 very lucky individuals in 2015.

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The Salomon SkyRun is a true mountain running experience on an unmarked course in the stunning Witteberg Mountains just off the southwest corner of Lesotho. Offering a variety of tough and challenging terrain, SkyRun is a self-supported and self-navigation journey of 100-kms.

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Leaving the town of Lady Grey behind, the beauty and remoteness engulfs each and every runner. It is not uncommon to run for the entire race without seeing much civilization around you except those involved in the race.

BIG NEWS a $10,000 prize purse is available for the first male to go under 12-hours or the first lady to go sub 14-hours 30-minutes.

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View race images HERE

To experience first hand the journey of SkyRun, listen to Episode 75 of Talk Ultra HERE. It is a special show that discusses in detail the route, the experiences of South Africa and has in-depth chat with Gary Robbins who placed second in the men’s race. The show also has interviews with ladies first and second place, Landie Greyling and Julia Boettger. In addition the show brings sounds of SA and interviews the race directors, Adrian Saffy and Michael de Haast.

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An evening in Lady Grey post race allows some rest and recovery before the 3-hour transfer journey to the stunning Moketsi Game Ranch.

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Moketsi is a jewel. A five star resort offering luxury accommodation on a full board basis.

 

Moketsi provides an opportunity to experience wildlife on a personal level that is seldom scene or experienced. Go on safari in custom made Land Rover vehicles, drink a ‘sundowner’ as the sun departs the day and if you are lucky, experience the reserve ‘on foot’ under the guidance of the Ranch Manager, Gustav.

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The Ranch covers some 6,000 hectares (65 km²) of beautiful grassland plains and contrasting mountain landscapes in a unique and comfortable setting for an exclusive and private experience. It may even be possible to run up Moketsi mountain… can you set an FKT?

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Moketsi has a large variety of game with four of the Big Five (including Lion, Rhino, Buffalo and Leopard). The varied landscape, range of animals, birdlife and luxurious accommodation make for a true outdoor experience.

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Leaving the quiet seclusion on Moketsi Game Ranch, a 90-minute transfer to Bloemfontein and an internal flight to Cape Town will awaken the senses to the bustle of South Africa’s second largest city. Hooking up with the local run scene, you will climb Lion Head, run up and down Table Mountain.

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By contrast you will relax on the wine route visiting vineyards, watch the penguins at Boulders Colony and chill in Hout Bay with some quality seafood.

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 The Salomon SkyRun International Package is a once in a lifetime experience that is available at an incredible price.

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Package (excludes flights to South Africa)

£975.00 (€1250 or $1750)

Only 15-places are available for this incredible experience distributed as 5 to the USA/Canada, 5 to Germany and 5 to UK/ Europe.

Package includes:

  • Transfer from Bloemfontein to Lady Grey
  • Race entry
  • 2 nights pre race lady grey bed and breakfast one night post race
  • 2 nights Moketsi Game Ranch fully inclusive
  • Flight from Bloemfontein to Cape Town
  • 3 nights in Cape Town bed and breakfast all transfers and transport

The trip starts from Bloemfontein with a transfer to Lady Grey on Thursday 19th Nov and finishes with departure from Cape Town on Nov 28th.

Please note that all arrivals must be in Bloemfontein on Thursday 19th November 2014 by 3pm.

Included:

  • All meals as specified in Package (note race entry includes a meal at race briefing and a meal at finish line as well as Breakfast/ Brunch before prize giving)
  • All transfers in aircon Vehicles and domestic airfares as stipulated in package
  • Area Permit to traverse Conservancy
  • All accommodation is per person on a sharing basis as applicable. Single supplement applies.

Excluded:

All meals not stipulated in package

All beverages except at Game Lodge

International flights: into and departing South Africa – arrival Bloemfontein, departure Cape Town.

How to book:

To book a place a non-refundable 25% deposit secures your place. Full balance is due, on or before 1st August 2015. Please specify your booking country.

PACKAGE PLACES ARE AVAILABLE FROM DEC 8th 2014

Kilian Jornet – Aconcagua – Summits of my Life

Image copyright ©kilianj ©summitsofmylife

Image copyright ©kilianj ©summitsofmylife

“Winning isn’t about finishing in first place. It isn’t about beating the others. It’s about overcoming yourself. Overcoming your body, your limitations and your fears…. To find out whether we can overcome our fears, that the tape we smash when we cross the line isn’t only the one the volunteers are holding but also the one we have set in our minds? Isn’t victory being able to push our bodies and minds to their limits and in doing so discovering that they have led us to find ourselves anew and to create new dreams?” – Kilian Jornet, RUN or DIE

 

December always provides me with a little more spare time (not much) but certainly more time than the past 10-months when I have been on the road, travelling from race-to-race, recording images, writing stories and podcasting on the weekly and monthly action of mountain and ultra running.

I like to look back, soak in my experiences and one-by-one highlight key moments.

Although I plan to do this in the coming weeks, Kilian Jornet’s imminent ‘Summit’ attempt on Aconcagua has made jump ship and write a post about the Catalan himself.

What a year Kilian has had…

In a face-to-face interview in Zermatt earlier this year, I remember asking, “I think it’s topical we are speaking mid season. I believe the Kilian Jornet today is a different person to 1-year ago. For me, you seem to be in perfect shape. I don’t think I have seen you so fit and strong. Would you agree?”

As one would expect, Kilian looked away from me a little embarrassed by such a direct question that basically said, ‘you are the best!’

However, he replied with a smile and a twinkle in his eye that confirmed my thoughts, “This year I feel really well. I don’t know why? I started the season in Colorado in the winter doing plenty of high altitude meters. I was great in the ski season. It was my best season in regard to my condition. I was not tired after skiing so it was a big bonus. I have raced the same number of races but I seem to be recovering so much better. I am climbing more meters and doing fewer kilometers.”

I smile at his honesty and his genuine analysis of his form. You see 2014 has been the most impressive year not only in Kilian’s short life but arguably the most impressive in relation to any sportsperson.

We can argue all day about the pros and cons of distance, speed, difficulty and complexity of Kilian’s year but look at the simple facts:

  • Denali – Summit record (11-hours 40-minutes)
  • Hardrock 100 course record
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Vertical Kilometer
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Sky distance
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Ultra distance

Is Kilian THE most rounded athlete? I am biased but I like to think impartial and I have to say, with all things considered, yes! VK to 100-miles, Ski mountaineering and climbing. The Catalan is off the scale.

We have heard the stories of how Kilian says in RUN or DIE, “I enjoyed a normal childhood… I have never been one for being shut inside and was lucky that my parents lived in a refuge, which my father managed, 6500-feet above sea level.”

Kilian may well consider his childhood as normal, for him it was, but many would agree that right from aged two he was being nurtured step-by-step to be the perfect outdoor person.

“By the age of 3 I had already climbed Tossa Plana, Perafita and La Muga. By the age of 6 I had completed four Aneto summits and at the age of 10 I crossed the Pyrenees in 42-days.”

It’s an inspiring and intimidating thought process. At 10 years old I was a naive and inexperienced kid, in contrast Kilian was already on a path of greatness. It may not be a path that was pre determined, however, as we look back we can see that Kilian has not stumbled on this ability, this career, this destiny. With the passing of each year, he has created a legacy and should Kilian stop now at the age of 27, his list of records, results and palmares would quite happily last him to the end of his days.

“I have lost count of the weeks I have spent away from home, of the countries I have visited and the beds I have slept in. I began to compete 10-years ago and it has been 10-years of seeking to relive again-and-again the emotions and sensations that take me to the peak of ecstasy and make me live life at a pace more suited to a rock-and-roll musician.”

December is here and as runners all over the world slip into recovery and hibernation in preparation for the new-year, Kilian departs for the Andes and his attempt to set a record on Aconcagua.

In 2000 Brunod, Pelissier and Meraldi climbed from Plaza de Mulas in 3-hours 40-minutes to the summit and Carlos Sa did 15:42 from National Park Horcones. Two records, I wondered which Kilian would go for?

“I will go from the entrance and I will try to achieve both records. Also, Emelie Forsberg will try a female record too,” Replied Kilian to my question. “Aconcagua is easier than the Matterhorn. It’s rocky but not steep. Altitude is the big issue. You can get sick and have problems so the challenge is different. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the western and southern hemisphere at just under 7000m.”

The first attempt to reach the summit of Aconcagua by a European was made in 1883 by a party led by the German geologist and explorer Paul Güssfeldt. Bribing porters with the story of treasure on the mountain, he approached the mountain via the Rio Volcan, making two attempts on the peak by the north-west ridge and reaching an altitude of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft). The route that he prospected is now the normal route up the mountain.

The first recorded ascent was in 1897 by a British expedition led by Edward FitzGerald. The summit was reached by the Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on January 14 and by two other expedition members a few days later.

The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Tyler Armstrong of California. He was nine years old when he reached the summit on December 24, 2013. The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis, who reached the summit on November 26, 2007 when he was 87 years old.

See Kilian Jornet on the UK’s Channel 4 News

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Pushing boundaries is what Kilian does. It is his DNA and as an appreciation and acknowledgement for his contribution to our sport, Kilian was voted: ‘Peoples’ Choice Adventurer of the Year’ by National Geographic.

As the coming days unfold, Kilian will test himself once again. He will push his own boundaries and he will ask questions of himself and those around him. To document the journey, Seb Montaz will once again record the action as it unfolds. We get to see the Catalan’s endeavors and achievements through the brilliance of Seb’s eyes. Believe me, as a photographer I not only appreciate the craft of a man at the pinnacle of sports imagery but also as climber and sportsman himself. Remember, Seb is on the mountain, often side-by-side with Kilian, matching his strides, following his movements and in doing so he captures moments that we can look on and savor. We are able to experience the brilliance of two pioneers.

We will see less of Kilian in 2015. A return trip to Hardrock 100 is almost certainly on the cards. After all, why wouldn’t he want both course records? But ultimately, Kilian will focus on Everest and the ultimate challenge that this mountain will provide.

“It’s completely different, it’s very high, 9000m. It’s very long and this is the biggest problem, to go all this way without oxygen and fast. The route is technical. I will start on the north face to prepare. It’s quiet so I will have no problems with people. I will need to prepare. I will go in spring, autumn and maybe the following spring. As per usual with all mountains, any attempt will be weather dependent. I expect to have several attempts.”

I am unsure what Kilian will do in the future… I think maybe even Kilian is unsure?

Aconcagua is a priority for now and then focus will shift to Everest; the big peak in the Himalayas.

Everest will dominate the mind of the Catalan. It will consume him and with meticulous preparation and he will conjure a plan… a plan that will take him to the top of the world!

Credits 'RUN or Die by Kilian Jornet, Wikipedia and Seb Montaz

 *****

Follow Kilian and his team in the Andes @kilianj @sebastienmontaz @summitsofmylife

Summits of my Life HERE

Kilian Jornet HERE

My interviews with Kilian:

The Human Carabiner – HERE

The Matterhorn Summit – HERE

You can also listen to Kilian Jornet on Talk Ultra podcast HERE

UPDATES

all content ©summitsofmylife

Dec 19th – 1:56pm

Today is the day!!! Kilian is right now trying to be the fastest person to climb up and down the Aconcagua!!! C’mon Kilian, you can make it!!! Gooo!!!‪#‎SoML‬

Dec 19th – 2:27pm

NEWS FROM ACONCAGUA: Kilian was not able to reach the summit on his attempt due to strong wind. He could reach up to 6.500m but 90km/h winds made the attempt completely impossible and he had to turn back. In Kilian’s words “I will try again soon” ‪#‎SoMLAConcagua‬

December 20th

“I consider this failed attempt like a big training in altitude” said to me kilian after running and climbing from Horcones ( 2950m) to 6200 m and back ( about 14h) with crazy 90km/h wind in his face.
Emelie and Kilian will be stronger for the next attempt!

December 21st

When things do not go as expected, you go fast back at the start point and you try it again (soon ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬

December 23rd

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Aconcagua 2nd Round!
Kilian is on his way trying to achieve another dream!!
You can see the long road to the Summit! Go Kilian!!!
We’ll Keep you posted! ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬

December 23rd 

Kilian passed Plaza de Mulas, Aconcagua’s Base Camp at 4.300m. He is feeling well because weather is good and not too windy. Let’s push him up to the summit!!! GOOOOO KILIAN!!!

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December 23rd 

BREAKING NEWS: Kilian reached the summit of Aconcagua and is back to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp. He feels well but still 25 more Km to go. Enjoy it and goooo!!! ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬

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Salomon SkyRun 2014 – Race Day Images

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The Witteberg is a South African mountain range just off the south-west corner of Lesotho. The range, which rises to 2408 metres, stretches for about 60km from Lundin’s Nek in the east to Lady Grey in the west. The range lends its name to the Witteberg Series, the uppermost fossiliferous sequence of the Cape System of sedimentary rocks in South Africa. The race starts in the town of Lady Grey which is famous for its annual Nativity Play and its quaint houses and incredible scenery. Discover the wonder of Balloch cave along the route with it bushman art and idyllic setting nestled between some of the highest peaks in the Witteberg.

The Witteberg range is one of the most picturesque places in South Africa with some distinctive peaks like Avoca and Halston Peaks dominating the skyline.

The Salomon SkyRun and SkyRun Lite are unique in that they are truly self-supported and self-navigational races, where athletes tackle the remote terrain of the Witteberg Mountain range with a Map a Compass or GPS unit and a back pack containing all there food, water and compulsory equipment that will enable them to survive in this harsh environment, while operating at an average height of between 2200-2500 meters above sea level.

The trail starts in Lady Grey and the first 65km of the route is the same for both races, after the compulsory stop and medical check at Balloch are the Skyrunners allowed to continue while the Lite runners have completed their journey. The route climbs sharply out of Lady Grey to the first check point at the Tower; this is about a 12km run and is a combination of hiking trails and mountain running. As you climb the trail to the tower the majestic landscape unfolds in front of you and it now feels as if you are on top of Africa. Following the fence line you make your way along the ridge line to the second check point which is at Olympus, this is another 10km and the terrain is now devoid of paths and trails and athletes must decide which is the best route to the check point. After Olympus the athletes can pick up a small trail that will lead them to Snowden which is check point 3 another 11km or so, there is a natural spring just past Snowden where you can fill up your water bladders (does depend on how much rain has fallen so not always guaranteed a lot of water) before making your way to Avoca Peak the highest point (2756m) on the race. The climb up Avoca peak is challenging as the gradient is steep and the terrain is rough especially after good summer rain. From Avoca the route takes you over the “Dragonback” a ridge line that is about 3 meters wide with steep descends on either side, a fantastic formation of rock that is a feature of the race and a spectacular viewing point on a clear day. The route flattens out for a while as you move towards CP6 at Skidor which is again a leg of about 10km. At Skidor you descend into the valley down a technical descend before picking up the river that will lead you to the compulsory stop at Balloch Cave having now covered about 65km of the race.

Once Athletes have done their medical and been give the all clear by the doctor, it upwards and onwards as they take on the challenge of Balloch Wall a climb with a vertical ascent of over 500m in just 3km and back down the other side on the way to CP 8 at Edgehill Farm. Most athletes will now be operating in the dark as night fall will have replaced the harsh African sun. Navigating through the Bridal Pass from EdgeHill to the turn is tricky with a lot of athletes losing a lot of time trying to find the correct entrance into the pass that will lead them onto the ridgeline again. The Bridal pass has now been included as a waypoint on the route to assist athletes in negotiating the pass. A steady climb up the Pass will take you onto the ridgeline and to the check point at the Turn. From here you will double back toward the Wartrail Country Club via Halston Peak which is the last check point on the route. The climb down from Halston’s is technical and is made more difficult by the fact that you are very fatigued at this stage but buoyed by the fact that you are now heading to the finish at Wartrail Country Club.

RESULTS *to be updated

  1. Iain Don Wauchope 12:08:15 – new course record
  2. Gary Robbins 13:46
  3. Jock Green 14:12

 

  1. Landie Greyling 16:14
  2. Julia Boettger 19:53
  3. Sue Chapman 23:33

Ladies results to follow.

More images to follow.