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 GRRENWOOD 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

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.

Julia Boettger prepares for the Salomon SkyRun

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger loves and excels at long and hard races. Raid de la Reunion, Tor des Geants and epic solo journeys ‘just for fun’ show all of us what a multi-talented ultra runner she is.

In 2014, Julia started the season placing 2nd at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and what followed was a series of top quality results that reached a peak with an outright victory at Andorra Ultra Trail – Ronda dels Cims.

In just one week, Julia will toe the line at the Salomon SkyRun in South Africa. I caught up with Julia to find out how she feels and how the preparation has gone.

 *****

How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

I had a great season with mixture of racing and running my own projects. The last successful race I did was the Transalpine Run which was unusual for me but we I had fun. It made a change to all the long distance runs I did during the summer.

 

How’s training going – have you done anything specific for SA?

Well for the moment I am doing a lot of long runs in the mountains. It has been hard to keep up motivation for training, as this season has been very long. However, I always really enjoy being out in the mountains all day. I have had to keep in mind to speed up or to do more elevation so that it is specific for the SkyRun.

Maybe you have been brushing up on your navigation and looking at some maps?

I already run most of the time with maps and on new trails etc. So I’m not too bad with navigation or orientation. But I think in a race it will be different.

Are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

Yes. South Africa is a completely different country, which I do not know at all. Weather, landmarks etc. will be completely different from my local terrain: the Alps.

The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

Not yet. I will speak to my friend Stephan Repke who did the race two times and I will ask him about race specifics and the course. 

Michael De Haast has put up a great price purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

I just learned about this incentive … but no – this run will be a big adventure for me and the goal is to get to the finish line and to survive. If I can do it in a course record (which I don’t think so) it will be fantastic.

Have you been to SA before?

No. It will be my first time. I am looking forward to new experiences. People, landscape, and animals – everything will be different, new!

South Africa is one of the places I have always wanted to explore and to learn about. To run in nature, to experience the original freestyle trail running of the Salomon SkyRun will be inspiring. I like to challenge myself on long distance courses and the SkyRun will be definitely be a different kind of ultra distance challenge. But beside the race I am glad to have the opportunity to meet local people and to spend some time with them.

Lion King aims for the Sky – AJ Calitz

Image ©redbull

Image ©redbull

 AJ Calitz lines up for the high-intensity Red Bull LionHeart event and just one week later will toe the line at the ultra-distance Salomon SkyRun.The two races will require a particular change in gears particularly as Calitz is attempting to stand on the podium at both events. 

Two years ago Calitz set the pace at the inaugural Red Bull LionHeart, a 4, 4-kilometre duel from the base of Cape Town’s Lion’s Head peak to the top and back down again. Rather than a mass start, the race pits runners against each other in a head-to-head duel. Contenders run again and again, knocking out rivals on their climb up the ranks. Last year Calitz defended his title and beat Thabang Madiba by a mere 11 seconds to claim his second LionHeart title – and setting a new course record (26:46) at the same time.

Calitz has been training on Lion’s Head in preparation for this year’s event, which takes place on Saturday 15 November. When asked how he aims to pull back more seconds from his previous record runs, Calitz replies, “It is always possible to go faster; I am a lot faster on the downs this year”. 

He finds the stretch of jeep track to be the hardest section of the course. “Coming down from the top is quite a rush!” he adds.

Calitz is back for the third time. Aside from defending his crown, he is attracted to the race because of its man-on-man heat setup. “Whoever is prepared to hurt the most will win,” he says.

AJ Calitz at Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz at Zegama-Aizkorri

A week later Calitz transitions physically – and mentally – from the fast-paced action of LionHeart to the 100-kilometre mountain race, Salomon SkyRun. He has been out in the Witteberg mountains, familiarising himself with the route and the terrain.

“Yes, it helps a lot to be familiar with the course; route knowledge is 60% of the race at this event. To be fair, with racing at altitude and living at sea level I have to manage my expectations.”

Last year the race was cut short due to bad weather. Howling wind, torrential ice-rain and fog brought dangerous conditions to the mountains and Calitz, who was chasing race leader Iain Don-Wauchope, was nearly hypothermic and he withdrew from the race. He learned from this experience.

“Last year was rough,” he says of his first experience at SkyRun. “I learned that I should start slower because it is a long day out. Also, I have to focus on navigation, pacing and nutrition from the start.”

Links:

Red Bull LionHeart website (www.redbulllionheart.com).

The Salomon SkyRun (www.skyrun.co.za) starts before sunrise on Saturday, 22 November 2014 from the town of Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape.  The most up-to-date content during the race will appear on the event organiser’s Facebook page (Pure Adventures).

Nick Clark counts down to Salomon SkyRun

Nick Clark

Nick Clark is one of the most respected 100-mile runners in the world. He is known for being tough and getting the job done! Born in the UK he moved to the US way back and started notching up a list of stunning ultra results that dates back to 2006.

He placed 4th at Western States and won Wasatch 100 in 2010. In 2011, ‘Clarky’ did an impressive double of placing 3rd at Western States and then 3rd at Hardrock 100 just 2-weeks later.

For many though, Nick elevated his profile in 2013 when he went head-to-head with Ian Sharman in the Grand Slam of ultra running. In an epic battle, the two US based Brits traded blows in one of the most exciting moments in our sport. Sharman came out on top but only just… Clark has often joked that after he won the last race, Wasatch he was the Grand Slam record holder in 2013 until Sharman finished. It takes some doing just completing four 100-mile races but to place 6th at Western States, 3rd at Vermont, 2nd at Leadville and then win Wasatch blows my mind!

Clark started 2014 with The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, his first multi-day race… he went on to say it was one of the toughest races he has done. At UTMF he placed 10th and recently he placed 5th at Run Rabbit Run. The only blip this year came at Western States when he toughed out a 47th place… a real bad day at the office!

And now the Salomon SkyRun in South Africa looms. I caught up with Nick to find out about his expectation are for what will be a tough day out in the Drakensberg mountains.

How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

Up and down, I guess. I had a terrible run at Western States this year – I think I was burned out on the race – then came back and had a much better run at the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September, filling me with a good level of confidence for the SkyRun.

How’s training going; have you been training specifically for South Africa?

As noted above, I’m just looking to get into the mountains and to get into remote, steep terrain with some navigational elements thrown in. Off trail and steep is the mantra.

Maybe you have been brushing up on your navigation and looking at some maps?

I’m forever looking at maps dreaming up fun routes in the mountains. It is for this reason that I’m so excited about Sky Run.

Are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

Absolutely not. It adds a unique and seriously fun, in my opinion, element to racing in the mountains.

The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

Not in depth, but I will. I plan to be as prepared as I possibly can be for this event.

A strong local contingent will be toeing the line… Iain Don Wauchope, AJ Calitz and so on… do you know much about them?

No, but thanks for the heads up. I’ll seek these guys out and assuming I can keep up, probably slot in behind for much of the course. Working together with friends in the mountains is one of the best parts about hitting remote routes.

Michael De Haast has put up a great price purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

Ask me halfway through the route. I have no idea how stout that time really is. If I’m on schedule through halfway and feeling strong, then I’ll definitely be motivated to go after it. If not, then I’ll just continue to enjoy the primary reason for being in South Africa: enjoying a new mountain range and culture.

Have you been to SA before?

First time. I am seriously excited. I’m really looking forward to connecting with the South African running community, eating some local delicacies, and getting stuck into those Witteberg Mountains.

The South Africa Sky Run provides a truly unique opportunity to race in a remote and scenic mountain location. For me the best part about the event is the navigational aspect. Having no markers to follow means that I’ll need to be in tune with the topography and hyper-conscious of my location in relation to that topography. In my experience, the navigational piece really helps to connect with the particular location I am traveling through, which in turn adds a level of appreciation for the terrain that you just don’t get if you’re racing head down through a landscape. I look forward to bringing home a beautiful mental picture of the Witteberg Mountains to share with friends and family.

 

The Salomon SkyRun takes place on November 22nd and you can view the official website HERE.

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 Terrain:

The Salomon SkyRun is true mountain running with a variety of terrain from hiking paths that lead you up to the tower, some jeep track is a welcome relief from the majority of the terrain which is on the mountain side as this is a self-supported and self-navigation the route choice is very much in the hands of the individual competitors. Once you have left the town of Lady Grey behind the beauty and remoteness of these mountains soon engulfs you and it is not uncommon to run for the entire race without seeing much civilization around you except those involved in the race.

The fauna and flora is incredible and there are over 650 plant and 80 animal species know to habitat the mountains of the Witteberg.

Ian Corless: El fotógrafo de Skyrunning

corredordemontana.com

I am very honoured and flattered to be interviewed by corredordemontana.com in an article titled  – Ian Corless: El fotógrafo de Skyrunning.

You can read the full interview in Spanish HERE

For my English speaking friends and followers. Here is a transcript in English.

*****

Tells us about how you got involved with Skyrunning reporting

I was invited to Transvulcania La Palma in 2012. The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) invited media specialists from all over the world to witness what turned out to be a turning point for Skyrunning. It was a key moment. World-class athletes travelled from all over the world and in doing so created what turned out to be a classic race. It elevated Skyrunning to a new level and certainly placed Transvulcania on the ‘to do’ list of many runners.

 

How long have you been at it now?

I started to work with the ISF as a media partner after Transvulcania in 2012. I went to Zegama-Aizkorri and then followed this by attending many (but not all) Skyrunner® World Series events in 2012. In 2013 I attended most races on the calendar. As you know, the Skyrunner® World Series is made up of five races in each of the categories – VK, SKY and ULTRA. In 2014 I continued this format working on pretty much the whole calendar with the exception of the two races in the USA.

 

What exactly do you do? Does it take up all your time or do you combine your Skyrunning photography with other jobs? 

I work freelance in the world of ultra, mountain and trail running. I work on many other projects and not just Skyrunning. For example in 2014 I worked on The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, Marathon des Sables in Morocco and this month I go to Nepal for Everest Trail Race and then South Africa for the Salomon SkyRun. I have a very busy calendar and at my last count, I will have worked on thirty-one races in 2014. Depending on what my clients require will very much depend on what services I provide, however, it usually consists of writing and photography to help promote a race and provide feedback for the ultra, trail and mountain running community worldwide. In addition to all this, I have my podcast, Talk Ultra which is available every two weeks for free on iTunes and via my website.

 

Your opinion of the state of Skyrunning in 2014 and how things might develop next season

Skyrunning has grown incredibly over the past few years. We have all witnessed the boom! The vision of Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti is certainly coming to fruition. They had a vision of what Skyrunning may be… risks taken in 2012 at Transvulcania have paid off. However, many forget that Skyrunning dates back to 1989 when Giacometti first ascended the Monte Rosa. I most definitely believe they were ahead of the time. We are all just catching up… I also believe that Kilian Jornet has been an incredible vehicle for the sport, His rise and dominance has coincided with the growth in Skyrunning.

You will notice that the 2015 Skyrunning calendar has recently been announced and we see some changes. In addition the Skyrunner® World Series we now have the Continental Series. This shows how the sport is growing and how the ISF needs to appeal to a worldwide audience. It’s very exciting.

 

Any amazing anecdotes to tell from last season?

I am very fortunate to spend a great deal of time working with, photographing and talking to some of the best athletes in the world. I truly feel blessed. I have so many great memories and moments. If I had to pick one surreal moment, I think back to Matterhorn Ultraks. Kilian Jornet didn’t run the race but decided to take photographs and support his Salomon teammates. I had climbed just over 1000m vertical to get to a location that would allow me to photograph runners as they came to me with the Matterhorn in the background. I waited for hours, photographed all the front-runners and I was about to make my way down the long descent to make my way to the finish when I received a text from Kilian asking:

‘Are you making your way down?’

I replied, ‘yes!’

‘I will wait for you,’ Kilian said.

I added my cameras to my large pack (it weighs about 10-12kg) and then I made my way to the long and technical descent. After 10-minutes or so, I saw Kilian waiting. We then ran all the way down to the finish… it was ridiculous. I was following the best mountain runner and definitely the best downhill runner in the world with a huge pack and trying to keep up. However, Kilian was extremely kind and ran well within himself. I however was at my limit! But to follow and see his ability first hand was a highlight of the year.

 

Do you plan to be present at all ISF race events next season?

The calendar for 2015 is larger as we now have the World Series and the Continental Series, so, it will not be possible to attend all events. However, I will hopefully attending as many as possible and following the series as it unfolds.

 

How do the logistics work out when you travel to new race locations & have to discover where you need to be for your photos?

It is all about preparation. I usually arrive at a race venue two days before the race. I do my research. I look at maps, talk to staff and race officials and then I plan where I want to be to capture the best images. Longer races are easier as they allow me more flexibility. By contrast, a race like Limone Extreme is just over 2-hours from start to the first finisher, so you need to be 100% prepared. A real plus is that I am able to fulfill my passions for the sport in photography, words and podcasting but also get some exercise. I usually have to climb or hike to many of the locations I work from. Occasionally we are spoilt with a helicopter but that does not happen very often! Trofeo Kima is a perfect example where myself and other photographers/ cameramen are transported all over the course by helicopter. Kima or me is still a favourite race, it is so extreme and visually stunning.

 

Do you always find the right place to get decent pictures at races? Does it ever not quite work out?

Yes, I always ensure that I am in the correct place. That is my job. However, I may not always get ‘the’ image I want. It is what is so great about our sport and what I do. Nothing is guaranteed and I work on adrenaline to help me maximize my potential.

 

Tell us about your unfortunate “incident” at the Transvulcania 2014.

2014 has been an interesting year with a couple of incidents that I hope don’t happen again…

In May at Transvulcania La Palma I had photographed the race start and then I was making my way to the mountains to a location I had found to photograph the front-runners. On the coastal road I felt my car twitch and then I lost control. I veered to the right and lost control. A huge concrete block stopped me going over the edge. I was not going too fast but the car was completely written off. I jumped out of the car with no personal damage. I was so lucky! My first priority was that I needed to get to the mountains…

Later in the year I had a second incident. I was in Barcelona transferring to go to a race in Catalonia. I was at a restaurant and I had ALL my camera equipment and computer stolen. It was horrendous as you can imagine. My whole life in my bag: gone! It was a pretty tough two weeks that followed and my insurance only covered two thirds of the cost of all the stolen items. However, I managed to replace everything.

******

FROST – KIMBALL – GASH : The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica 2015

TCC Ladies 2015

The 2015 multi-day The Coastal Challenge gets underway in less than 3-months. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose in preparation for the journey down to the coast to Quepos and the 11th edition of the “TCC.”

After a stellar line-up for the 10th edition, Rodrigo Carazo and the TCC team have once again excelled in providing a top quality elite line up making TCC arguably one of the ‘must-do’ multiple day stage races in the world.

Come race day, elite runners will toe the line in Quepos with everyday runners, with one purpose in mind, to embrace an ultimate challenge in the remarkable Talamancas.

Unlike other multi day races, the TCC is supported. Each day camp is moved ahead and awaits the runner’s arrival at the finish. Running light and fast, runners are able to keep equipment to a minimum and as such, racing is extremely competitive. The 2015 edition of the race is proving to be extremely exciting, particularly when one looks at the line up of runners.

Heading up the ladies field is a trio of hot talent that will without doubt make the race one to remember.

KIMBALL – FROST – GASH

NIKKI KIMBALL

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

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

Nikki Kimball is a legend of female ultra running. A multiple winner of the iconic Western States her palmares are longer than my arm… just this year, Nikki won Run Rabbit Run 100 and the 29th Marathon des Sables. Nikki’s presence in Costa Rica is a defining moment for the TCC. It is a confirmation of the credibility of the race and Nikki’s years of experience will be something to embrace, not only for the other runners but all those involved in the experience.

‘I loved MDS and am excited to add TCC to my stage racing experience.  I’ve run MDS, Transrockies (3 times), Jungle Marathon and each was very special in its own way.  Each experience will help me in my preparation for TCC.  Transrockies, like TCC, transported runner gear and set up their tents, which gives me a sense of racing daily with the speed allowed by running without gear.  The Jungle Marathon exposed me to rain forest and the accompanying heat and humidity.  And MDS gives me a more recent experience of racing in extreme conditions against great competition. I absolutely loved, though occasionally hated, each event. As for direct comparison with MDS, a few points are obvious: I will be exchanging dry oppressive heat, for humid oppressive heat; varied types of sandy surfaces for wet and rocky footing; desert vistas for close forests and ocean views; and nearly full self sufficiency for the relative luxury of camps with food and sleeping supplies I do not need to carry.  I recommend MDS very highly to fellow runners, and believe I will finish TCC similarly impressed.’

Running without a pack and all the weight, do you think it will be a fast race?

‘I actually love the challenge of carrying my entire kit for MDS, but am looking forward to the freedom from gear that TCC will give. Yes, the running is much faster without a heavy pack, and TCC will be very fast in places.  Hopefully the technical elements will slow the pace down a bit, as I run more on strength, endurance and technical skill than speed.  This is particularly true in the winter when nearly all my training is done on skis.  I think anyone peaking her running training for TCC will be running quickly.’

How excited are you to race in Costa Rica?

‘As we said growing up in Vermont, I’m wicked psyched!  Seriously, running has given me access to parts of the world I would never otherwise see.  And I’ve run in Mexico and South America, but never run between the two.  I feel I gain so much from playing with other languages, exploring other cultures and environments, and bonding with runners throughout the world.  I cannot wait, not only to run in Costa Rica, but to spend a few days before the event picking up a few more Spanish phrases, meeting local people and splashing in the water while knowing that my friends at home are playing on top of a much colder form of water.’

You will be racing against Anna Frost and Samantha Gash amongst others…. does this excite you?

‘I do not know Samantha, but I very much look forward to meeting her.  And, like anyone who has spent time with Anna, I absolutely adore her.  I love racing with/against anyone, and Anna is certainly a great talent.  But more than that, she is a fantastic person with a depth of character that far exceeds her running achievements. I get to hang with Anna for a week, and that is always great.  For that matter, every stage and ultra race I’ve been in (and over 16 years there have been many) attracts great people.  From volunteers to elite athletes to less experienced racers looking to see what’s possible, the people of this sport keep me doing it.  I’m excited by the top end competition and just as excited to hear stories from TCC participants I have yet to meet.’

 

ANNA FROST

Anna Frost Skyrunning World Championships 2014 - Chamonix

Anna Frost Skyrunning World Championships 2014 – Chamonix

Anna Frost arrived in Costa Rica for the 10th edition but unfortunately couldn’t race due to an injury set back which was really disappointing for the New Zealander. However, Costa Rica was a cathartic process… Frosty followed up her TCC experience with victory and a course record at Transvulcania La Palma, Speedgoat 50k and Bear 100.

‘I gained so much energy and pleasure out of just being in Costa Rica that I came home almost injury free. I cant wait to get back to explore further and see all of the course. The atmosphere is so much fun, great food, wonderful campsites, beautiful beaches and rain forests and HOT weather! IM SO EXCITED!’

The Coastal Challenge is a supported multi-day race and therefore allows runners to run fast and free. Looking at the quality of the ladies field, I asked Frosty about the 2015 race and if she expected it to be fast?

‘There are a lot of fast trails and dirt roads, long flat beach sections and smooth trails. But in between that there is hard, steep, trail-less, muddy, rain forest covered dirt, spiders, noises? and more to keep the challenge high. But luckily the race has many aid stations so you don’t need to carry too much which means you can move as fast as possible through all of that!’

Nikki Kimball has won MDS and WSER and Sam Gash has just run for 1-month all over South Africa, two real solid runners. How excited are you to test yourself over the multi-day format against these ladies?

‘It will be fantastic to share this race with them. They are both super strong girls and also great friends, so it is going to be so much FUN!’

You ran your first 100-miler recently, do you think that will be a benefit in Costa Rica?

‘Definitely. With each race I undertake I am beginning to understand more about myself, my limits, and what challenges me. This process allows me new ways to overcome obstacles. It will be good to put what I have learnt in practice.’

‘Visiting Costa Rica again. The people and places we see along the way are wonderful! And being able to share that with all the other runners in the Coastal Challenge is so awesome!’

 

SAMANTHA GASH

Samanha Gash ©samanthagash

Samanha Gash ©samanthagash

Samantha Gash is the youngest lady to ever complete ‘The Four Deserts’ and was one of the featured runners in the film, ‘The Desert Runners.’ Just last week, Sam has completed an epic journey…

‘Oh boy I have just been on an adventure of a lifetime, one that took me close to 2 years to prepare for. I ran with Mimi Anderson from the UK and side-by-side we ran an ultra every day for 32-days through some pretty challenging terrain. Our run focused on supporting a South African based initiative, so it was pretty special to run through some incredibly remote & rural locations.’

‘It was great preparation for Costa Rica in the sense that a multi day format suits me. However my run along South Africa was an expedition not a race, so the pace was very different. It’s been less than a week since I’ve finished the biggest physical & mental challenge of my life so I’m looking forward to letting both recover for the month of November. Come December I will evaluate how my body is going & hopefully begin to train for the Coastal Challenge. Once I start training again I will need to put my legs through some serious speed work.’

Kimball and Frost need no introduction. Are you looking forward to racing them? 

‘Geez these ladies are of a different caliber to me and I predict they will place at the top of field outright. I’ve met Anna a couple of times so I’m looking forward to catching up again & meeting Nikki too. Just to race with them both will be an absolute pleasure; they have had incredible years. Great to see Anna dominate in her first 100-miler; I had no doubt she would also excel over that distance.’ 

I recently watched ‘The Desert Runners’ again and I must say I love the film and the experiences that you all had, how significant was that process for you?  

‘When I did the 4 deserts it was my first experience to ultra running. I fondly look back on that year (2010) as it started my passion into a sport & lifestyle I never really knew existed. What I love about multi stage racing is the relationships you develop with other competitors & volunteers over the duration. Of course there are moments when you are intensely racing but then there are other moments where you are relaxed and are enjoying banter with people you’ve just met. Some of the closest people in my life are people I’ve met in these types of races. I also like the build up you can have over the days. I tend to start a touch more conservatively to let my body adapt and then work into the longer stages.’ 

You have been fortunate to travel with racing. Costa Rica will be a new experience for you, are you excited?

‘The setting for the race looks spectacular and Rodrigo seems like a top-notch race director. I am also drawn to the race because it offers variety in terrain – mountains, river crossing, single track, rock and glorious beaches.’

Would you like to join these incredible ladies in Costa Rica?

Entries are open in the UK HERE

or HERE for outside the UK.

Links

Official race website HERE and Facebook HERE

You can view images from previous editions HERE

And race day reports from 2014 and 2013 HERE

Philipp Reiter prepares for the Salomon SkyRun

Philipp Reiter ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter ©iancorless.comHow have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

 Philipp Retier has had a quite 2014 due to a problematic foot injury. The season started well with a multi day adventure at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and the iconic, Transvulcania. In June, running ground to a halt after running 100-miles in the charity D-Day celebrations in Normandy. Philipp is back on track now and I caught up with him as he prepares for the Salomon SkyRun in South Africa.

How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

Unfortunately I have been injured for the whole summer from a community running event on the flat asphalt road and was not really able to run. I could not think about racing. To stay fit I was cycling quite a lot around my home town – MTB, road bike and cross-bike.
As you can imagine, it was very disappointing for me, but it is great to have a big (running) perspective now at the end of November with the Salomon SkyRun.

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Do you have any targets between now and your trip to SA?

My studies at the university started in the beginning of October, so I have enough work trying to fit everything in my day; so no races are planned in preparation. I still feel more familiar to cycling than to running at the moment which I have to change in the next weeks.

How’s training going – have you done anything specific for SA?

I have already asked a few participants about the terrain and climate at the SkyRun and figured out that the weather is changing pretty fast – hot and very dry in the valleys, freezing cold and stormy on the ridges. For the cold I can prepare at home and for the hot maybe a few sauna-sessions should be good! As the terrain is very rocky and rough I will run more off-trail at home.

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Maybe you have been brushing up on your navigation and looking at some maps?

Yes, indeed! I was asked to scout routes for a trailrunning stage race here in Germany, so I have done quite a lot of map work trying to find the best, fastest and most beautiful spots. I mainly run around with a map in my hands which could be similar in South Africa…

 

Are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

Should I? It is totally new for me not to “just” follow the marks in a race but that makes it more interesting. Then it’s not only fast legs and stong lungs to be in a good position but also your brain has to work much more! I am only a bit worried as I have no experience using the compass for navigation or a mobile GPS-device apart from my watch.

The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

No, not really. I have only watched some videos from the last editions and they made the course and the race look quite tough. It’s not the heat or the cold alone that make me worried but the extreme fast changes of both. So the backpack will be more heavy than in a “normal” race as it’s quite a lot of stuff to carry…

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

A strong local contingent will be toeing the line… Iain Don Wauchope, AJ Calitz and so on… do you know much about them?

Yes, I have heared that they are really strong and apart form their fitness they are very familiar to the race route, the climate and the terrain. They know exactly where to find water, how to climb the barbed wired fences,… So, I will just thry to follow them.

Michael De Haast has put up a great price purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

Aaagh, that is a good question. I have read that it’s $10.000 for the first runner who goes under 12 hours! But I guess that is almost impossible and I know that my teammate Ryan Sandes, who is an excellent runner especially in that type of terrain, needed about 12:30h last year. So I am not sure if someone can beat that. It would be a great boost for my student wallet though.

Have you been to SA before?

No, unfortunately not. But one of my climbing friends was there last year for bouldering and he was so excited that he will come back next year. He showed me some pictures – just stunning!

What are you most looking forward to?

The huge untouched landscape, some wild animals you can only see in the zoo at home (giraffes, lions, elephants,…), get to know the SA culture and how it’s connected to the European colony many years ago. Eat the famous steaks. Go running on the table mountain and explore Cape Town – quite a few things to do… maybe I will need to stay?

“The Salomon SkyRun is something completely new. I have been running in the jungle of Costa Rica, the Rocky Mountains in the USA, scrambled in the French Alps and raced on dry Spain islands but it’s was all marked. I never had to care about choosing the best and fastest way, run with a map in my hands and think about not missing the next well to fill up my water bottles. To perform good in this SA adventure I will not only need power in my legs, strong lungs and mental force but also navigation skills and the ability to read the terrain to choose the best way. It’s much more about tactics and planning! – I can’t wait!” Philipp Reiter

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless