LAKES SKY ULTRA – new race for 2015

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Skyrunning UK is pleased to announce a new race for 2015, the LAKES SKY ULTRA™. A 50km+/- course with 4300m+/- ascent that includes soaring ridgelines, rock scrambling and a course that will test the most experienced competitor. Starting and concluding in the iconic Lakeland village, Ambleside: the LAKES SKY ULTRA will look to bring a European feel and ambiance to Skyrunning in the UK.

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Created by Charlie Sproson (Mountain Run) and Andrew Burton, the LAKES SKY ULTRA™ will follow on from the recently announced Glen Coe Skyline in providing competitors from the UK and overseas with an opportunity to test themselves on a course that harks back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when ISF President, Marino Giacometti went fast and light to the summit of Monte Rosa.

We may lack altitude in the UK but we have a strong history and heritage founded in the traditions of fell and mountain running. The LAKES SKY ULTRA™ will combine a series of graded scrambles: 0.5 at Swirral Edge, grade 1 at Striding Edge and grade 3 at Pinnacle Ridge to offer a unique racing experience but it is not for the feint hearted…

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“We have so much great scenery and courses in the UK; we certainly have exposure and technical terrain. We have a sense of high mountains even though we lack altitude. Throw in British weather and our course will be a challenge. No question. We are offering an opportunity to explore from a different perspective.”

Andrew and Charlie have had some great days out planning routes and have therefore created a course with added spice. It will be a test and the route will inspire those who like a challenge. They have pulled together something quite special. Soaring ridgelines in the sky… Skyrunning!”

“We have some very technical parts on this course but we also have plenty of simple running. The route has three graded scrambles so foot and hand placements are going to be important. We have elements of not just running but hands-on rock fun to be had!”

In year one the LAKES SKY ULTRA™ will only have 100-places available and this race will require a certain type of runner. Participants will need to provide a list of past experience when applying. Just being an ultra runner won’t cut it. Charlie and Andrew quite clearly state, “We need scrambling and rock climbing experience. However, we are planning a mountain skills course in August to help those interested to gain experience… but this will not guarantee race entry!”

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Safety is key in any race, however, Skyrunning races of this style are designed to challenge… so, although Charlie and Andrew are looking at safety, a course of this nature does bring risk and ultimately, that is part of the attraction; hence the vetting procedure. “If a runner is asking, ‘I wonder if I have the correct experience?’ they probably don’t!” says Andrew.

Charlie Sproson on a recce day. Image ©steveashworth MovieiT

Charlie Sproson on a recce day. Image ©steveashworth MovieiT

The LAKES SKY ULTRA ™ course is designed to have an element of danger, however, no compromises are being made in regard to the safety of everyone.

“We will have manned checkpoints at high level sections of the course, electronic checkpoints and a cut-off at Patterdale.” Charlie explains. “We will also have evacuation routes should they be required due to danger or injury. An appointed safety officer, Joe Faulkner from Nav4 will look at the course and will provide safety without taking away the excitement… for example, on the grade 3 scramble we may have a fixed rope? Many of these elements are yet to be decided but we are looking at all aspects.”

 

Make a date in your diary, 12th September 2015.

The LAKES SKY ULTRA™ is coming.

http://www.lakesskyultra.uk/

Email Charlie Sproson: charlie@lakesskyultra.uk

“The Helvellyn range is one of the most iconic massifs in the Lake District. The combination of this spectacular mountain and a series of scrambles make the LAKES SKY ULTRA™ route a real highlight within the UK. We have fantastic edge running from Riggindale Straights to Kirkstone pass with some amazing scenery. You can look over Ambleside from Red Screes… this course has it all. Mountain scenery, splashed with lakes and technical terrain make this a True Mountain™ experience.”

The race will start and finish in Ambleside and Skyrunning UK sincerely hope over time that the race will mimic some of the experiences that have been encountered in some of the top European races. Think Zegama-Aizkorri or the Dolomites Sky Race. A town center race start and finish includes everyone: families, shops, restaurants, tourists, supporters and of course the race can interact with everyday life. It’s going to be incredible to bring this experience to an iconic Lakeland town. We want people with cowbells, whistles and cheering. A carnival of Skyrunning!

Images all ©MovieiT

Tromsö Skyrace, soul skyrunning between the sea and the sky

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The second edition of the Tromsö Skyrace to be held the first weekend of August in northern Norway was presented today. This year’s event will include a vertical kilometre race but will still keep the essence of the first edition: technical routes for lovers of skyrunning and a family atmosphere.

There will be a Skyrace, 45 km and 4,600m climb and a Miniskyrace, 21km and 1,600m D+. In addition, a new circuit has been added: a Vertical Skyrace of 2’6km and 1,044m D+. All of them are ‘very technical circuits designed for experienced runners who enjoy the wilderness’ declared athletes Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet who, once again, will be ambassadors of the event. This year the Skyrace and the Vertical Kilometre will score towards the Skyrunner® World Series, and some of the best athletes in the world will take part in it.

After the excellent reception last year, in which inscriptions were sold out within hours, the number of runners has been increased by 600 -200 per race- but not too many to crowd the race with runners, and always with the mountains taking centre stage.

Like last year, athletes will enjoy a route with the Norwegian fjords in the background as well as wild paths, technical trails and glaciers. A unique landscape in a race that remains very respectful of the environment and very familiar. The bond between the sea and the mountains, with participants from all over the world. Last year there were up to 25 nationalities present, and this number is expected to increase this year.

The event will have two star athletes: world champions Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet, who are very excited about this second edition ‘we are looking forward to returning to share those circuits, at a very special time when it never gets dark.’

Emelie and Kilian are actively involved in the Tromsö Skyrace by helping out the organizers, designing the circuit and in a rather curious and original way: by cooking cinnamon pastries for all participants. Emelie explained: ‘We want this to be a race where all runners feel looked after. Last year I had a great time cooking and sharing moments with the participants. The race is growing but we still want to maintain this spirit.’

Nature is the most important thing in the Tromsö Skyrace and, therefore, the environment is taken care of by marking the circuits with biodegradable tape, setting up the checkpoints in shelters and crossroads and avoiding paper notices.

Registration for this event, which is the dream of every Skyrunner, is now open.

The event will take place on July 31st, 1st and 2nd August 2015 and will be part of the Skyrunner World Series.

Registration for 600 places opens today and the event hopes to be as successful as last year.

A technical route in a unique setting with Norwegian fjords.

Images copyright Jordi Saragossa

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Salomon S-Lab HYBRID Jacket M and HYBRID Pants M review

Kasie ©salomonrunning

Kasie Enman ©salomonrunning

Just imagine it, you go to a car dealer looking to purchase a new car. You have set yourself a budget. You know what you want and you have narrowed your search down. 

Walking through the door, you see the car you want and in the colour you had selected. It ticks all the boxes, it’s your dream car and most importantly it’s the price you can afford and maybe more importantly, it’s what you can afford.

Just behind ‘your’ car is the new version… more streamlined, go faster stripes, a little more minimalist and certainly faster. It’s almost double the price! But you want it. No matter how much sense and logic says you have the ‘ideal’ car in front of you, at the price you can afford and in the colour you want. The ‘go-faster’ model behind keeps pulling you ever closer…

Welcome to the Salomon S-Lab range.

Let’s be clear right from the off. If you are looking for a budget jacket and/or trousers for trail and mountain running then the HYBRID M Jacket and trousers are not for you.

These two products are the Ferrari, the Stella Artois, or the Caviar of the running apparel world.

Ultra light, form functioning and with an attention to detail that is seldom seen, the HYBRID products are seriously impressive products.

I can see you are already tempted. So, if I need to provide any additional clarification or just to ensure that your bank manager doesn’t sue me for unfair persuasion, the HYBRID Jacket M has a RRP of £220 and the HYBRID Pant M has a RRP of £170. Yes folks, that is £390 of apparel porn.

Still tempted? Read on.

 HYBRID JACKET M

Jacket 1

Okay, joking aside, Salomon and more importantly the S-Lab range are all about travelling light and fast on technical, mountainous and challenging terrain and as such, the products they design are 100% committed to making that process as easy as possible. No compromises! So, price point to a certain extent is irrelevant. If you want the best technology, the lightest products and functional kit that does the job… the price will be what it will be and you just take out your credit card and commit. The question ultimately is, is it worth it?

This is a difficult one because affordability is very different for each and every individual. For example, I know many people who would reluctantly pay £2.50 for a coffee but wouldn’t flinch at paying £220 for the HYBRID Jacket M.

Breathability – Freedom of Movement – Ventilation

Jacket 4

Three serious buzz words when we look at any garment that needs to protect us from tough and challenging elements. The jacket is ridiculously light at just 120g. On first look, I really questioned if this would provide 100% waterproof protection. It does to an extent! (More on that later) Using ‘Motion Fit Technology’ the jacket is tailored like a fine Saville Row suit to provide non abrasive comfort around the neck and shoulders with unrestricted movement and more importantly ones arms don’t feel restrained.

The jacket has a ¾ front zip, glued seams and has ‘Advancedskin Shield,’ reflective panels and two seriously impressive breakthrough details that I haven’t witnessed on any product before. (Let me know if anyone else has?)

  1. Quick stash waist – this is an ingenious idea. So ingenious that I thought to myself, ‘I wonder why nobody hasn’t thought of this before.’ Basically, below the ¾ zip you have a large stretch band that goes around your waist. Initially I thought this was to stop the jacket riding up… no! This works as a ‘retainer’ when the jacket is not required. So imagine, conditions are changeable; one minute it’s raining, one minute it’s not. It’s cold, it’s hot and the need for protection is constantly changing. This system allows you to take off and put on the jacket without actually removing the jacket completely. You basically remove your arms and slide the excess fabric to your waist and then ‘store’ in the elasticated fabric band that sits around your waist. Ingenious.
  2. In the hood is a headband like product that sits around your head and therefore holds the hood in place and stops the hood moving and causing any annoying hassle. Again, so simple it’s ingenious.

Jacket 3

In all other aspects, the HYBRID Jacket M would appear just like any other jacket until you wear it. The key features then become apparent:

  • Ultra lightweight
  • Form fitting
  • Functional
  • No pockets
  • Ventilated armpits
  • And dare I say, ‘special.’

But this may not be the jacket for you?

Salomon may well not agree with me here but I have to say it like it is. This really is an awesome product and innovative but I can’t help feel that it is for shorter races, faster runners or faster runners doing longer distances.

I am no racehorse, if I were doing a tough mountain 100-miler say UTMB. I would not be finishing in 20-hours like Francois d’Haene, in reality it would be the opposite. I’d be getting full value for money and be out on the course for 30+ hours (I think). So, should bad weather come in and lets say a worse case scenario of torrential rain, snow, blizzards and zero temperatures I personally don’t feel that the HYBRID would provide me (or maybe similar runners) with enough protection. This is not questioning its waterproofing, the jacket is waterproof BUT only in key places. Also I need to state here, I am not sure if this jacket would comply with ‘mandatory’ specifications?

Jacket 2To clarify; the jacket is waterproof on the chest, hood, upper arms, shoulders and upper back. The remaining areas; under arms, under the armpit and lower back use a lightweight fabric. These fabric areas obviously reduce weight but do mean that the whole jacket is not 100%. So, if you are in gusty winds in bad weather, rain will gain access.

*So you see the dilemma. If you are moving quick and retaining core temperature, the HYBRID Jacket M will be ideal allowing adequate protection in a lightweight, breathable and seriously functional product. But if your pace drops, you have extended walking and your core temperature starts to drop, this jacket may well not be the best for you… something a little heavier, a little more robust and 100% waterproof may well be the better product.

See the BONATTI HERE

Salomon are very clear on this, they say:

“Ultra light jacket integrating water-proof panels for foul weather, and innovative quick stash waist, a stretch panel around the waist that enables you to remove and store your jacket without stopping.”

Fit is streamlined and as one would expect, excess fabric is at a minimum. For reference, I have a medium product and the jacket fits snuggly (I am 40” chest) with enough room to wear the S-Lab 1L or 3L vest underneath the jacket. Again, this is a real plus! If the jacket is stored around your waist, you can constantly add and remove your jacket as conditions change without adding or removing your race vest.

In conclusion, the HYBRID Jacket M is an awesome piece of apparel. It’s expensive, innovative and in my opinion has a very specific use. The jacket is light enough and small enough that it can be taken on every run as a ‘just in case’ product but its real use comes when racing and racing fast… it’s all about function, speed and providing adequate protection and freedom of movement. If you have the legs and lungs to go with this jacket, you won’t be disappointed.

 

HYBRID PANT M

Trouser 1It may come as no surprise that many of the comments above relate to the HYBRID Pant M too. Like the jacket, the pants weigh in at a ridiculous 120g. They fold up and compress into something similar in size to an orange and so therefore take up little to no room in any pack and to be honest, with the minimal weight you wouldn’t even know you had them with you. So, as mentioned with the HYBRID Jacket M, these pants could be added to your pack for every run and would provide a great emergency cover.

Trouser 2Like the jacket, the pants are not 100% waterproof but where waterproof panels are added, the rain and wind resistance is excellent. Arguably the pants are two halves; waterproof and wind resistant front and lightweight fabric to the rear except round the calf/ ankle area where the waterproof fabric extends around.

Trouser 3

A long zip that almost extends to the knee allows the pants to removed or added without removing shoes and elastic at the ankle keeps them nice and tight. The waistband is lightweight, breathable and has stretch with an adjustable cord.

Trouser 4I have a medium product and they fit close (maybe a little too close for me) but I need to clarify, I have big legs and large calf muscles. I am not boasting, just stating a fact. For most ‘normal’ people, these pants will fit really well. I am 31/32” waist with an inside leg of 31” and the medium is ideal (despite my huge legs).

Trousers 4

Running in the pants is a joy. They are so light that you don’t really notice them. The stretch panels allow plenty of unrestricted movement and the ‘Motion Fit’ ensures that no excess fabric gets in the way.

I personally feel these pants suit the racer who needs some protection when still moving fast. If you are in a long race and moving slow, I personally don’t feel these pants would provide the necessary protection or warmth for really long periods in challenging conditions. This is particularly apparent on the rear of the pants. For example, should wind and rain be coming from behind, the trousers have no waterproof panels to protect. Again, Salomon does not hide away from this fact. They are offering a product that clearly states what you get:

“S-lab hybrid includes a waterproof membrane on the front, with wind protection on the back for cold, wet weather training. Stretch panels ensure comfort and motion fit specific to running.”

As I stated above* and I repeat, “So you see the dilemma. If you are moving quick and retaining core temperature, the HYBRID Pant M will be ideal allowing adequate protection in a lightweight, breathable and seriously functional product. But if your pace drops, you have extended walking and your core temperature starts to drop, these pants may well not be the best for you… something a little heavier, a little more robust and 100% waterproof may well be the better product.”

See the BONATTI HERE

In conclusion, having spoken to and spent a great deal of time around many runners, wearing pants when racing is a no, no! It’s funny really, I often hear the phrase, “If I am wearing pants then my race is over.” I understand that but as we have seen on so many occasions, when conditions go tits up (as they often do) a functional and protective layer is essential. Salomon provides a very specific product that fulfils a need for many a runner and/or racer but that product comes at a price.

Summary

The HYBRID Jacket and pant M are two seriously impressive products with loads of innovation. They are light, pack small and are a dream to wear and use. Although anyone can wear them, I do feel that the products suit a particular type of runner. However, having said that, if you have the money, want a lightweight jacket and pants to take on every run, these two beauties are absolutely ideal for that. Ultimately though, you have to ask the question, do I want to pay £390 for that option? Personally, I would still need a more substantial jacket and trousers for big mountain days and products that are 100% waterproof (See the BONATTI HERE). I welcome the HYBRID products to my wardrobe but they do not replace other items. They are an addition and a really welcome addition.

 

CHECK OUT THE SALOMON S-LAB RANGE HERE

Salomon Logo

MSIG Sai Kung 50 Skyrunning Asian Championships race report

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.23.52Hong Kong is certainly full of surprises and the MSIG Sai Kung Skyrunning race was no exception, with results going against the odds and also against form.

Certainly the most significant surprise for a visitor to Hong Kong is the presence of hills and forests. Actually the towering, high-rise, tightly packed urbanised area, full of flashing neon and determined taxi drivers, that is synonymous with Hong Kong represents a tiny fraction of the area that Hong Kong covers. Forty five minutes drive out of the city is the Sai Kung Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.24.30Country Park, the venue for today’s race: a seemingly vast area thickly covered with vegetation made up of extremely steep hills tumbling down to beaches and the sea. It was on these hills that 2000m of vertical ascent was packed into 28km on extremely steep and in some places technical trails.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.24.20The race was scheduled to start at 7am and the sun rose on a grey overcast and thankfully cool morning for the four races taking place over 13km, 24km, 28km and 50km.

The first to set off were the 28km and 50km races.

In the shorter distance, the men’s favourite was considered to be Marco de Gasperi, but with athletes such as Tom Owens, and Martin Gaffuri lining up with him, it was never likely to be a cake-walk. In the 50km the same was true: whilst Yan Long Fei was considered to be the favourite by many, Samir Tamang, David Byrne, Luke Nelson and Blake Hose plus others were never going to give in easily.Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.24.00

For the women, Elisa Desco and Stephanie Jiminez were considered the pre-race favourites for the 28km race, whilst in the 50km Kasie Enman, Wyan Chow Pui Yan, Dong Li and Mira Rai were the ones to watch.

The race

The start of the 28km and 50km races happened at the same time and involved a very fast downhill road section, before the first climb started towards the trails that would make up the majority of the races.

Samir Tamang from Nepal in the 50km race

Samir Tamang from Nepal in the 50km race

Perched just above the third check point before the two races split at around 22km, we were getting snatches of news. Especially about the race leaders who we were hearing were having some problems staying on the course. Before we caught sight of the runners we knew that 28km pre-race favourite de Gasperi has taken a wrong turn and lost time on two Japanese runners who had taken the lead.

By the time the runners reached us, we could see that de Gasperi’s mistake had indeed cost him and the Japanese pair of Dai Matsumoto and Kondo Yoshihito were in control with only around 6km left to go.

Dai Matsumoto in the 28km race

Dai Matsumoto in the 28km race

Indeed from that point to the end, the positions remained the same, with Dai winning in 2:49:23, Kendo second in 2:51:41seconds and a disappointed de Gasperi in third in 2:54:32, who rued taking a wrong turn. He said after the race “I made a mistake by missing the course and I realized it until I saw Dai, the Japanese runner coming in front of me running down the hill. I probably wasted 4 minutes until I found the right way. If time can turn back, I would do everything to avoid the mistake.”

In the men’s 50km race Nepalese runner Samir Tamang won 4:58:40. After the race he said ‘Such an honor to become the champion, but I didn’t finish the course within my estimated time. I have been to Hong Kong once before for a 100k race and this is my first 50k in HK. It marked a good start of the year in 2015!’ Tamang was followed in by Yan Long Fei from China in 5:11:50 ‘I chose to follow some of the strong runners as usual and I guess I followed the wrong person this time. I realized there were two people ahead of me at the very last bit of the race and that was too late for me to overpass them both. I enjoyed the race overall especially the view at the hilltop.’ The final spot on the podium was taken by Spanish runner Cristofer Clemente in 5:15:07.

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Elisa Desco on her way to victory in the women’s 28km race

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Stephanie Jiminez in the 28km Skyrun

For the women, the 28km race went with the predictions, with Elisa Desco narrowly beating Stephanie Jiminez in 3:41:02. Desco said afterwards ‘The course is very challenging for me because there were lots of up hills and down hills. Unlike those in Italy, we usually climb up one main mountain. I’m not used to the hilly terrain and it makes the course very technical to me.’ Finishing the trio was Japanese runner Kanako Hasegawa in 3:56:25.

In the women’s 50km race, it was Mira Rai from Nepal who backed up a win in the HK50 with a completely dominant performance, elegantly skipping up the brutal climbs and down the technical descents to win in 5:39:31 over an hour ahead of China’s Dong Li in second and Kasie Enman in third.

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Mira Rai winning the women’s 50km race

For complete results click here.

The responses

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.26.13 Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 18.26.21Whilst there were a few runners who went off course which caused frustration, the general feeling was that the race was a great way for many to start the year. The route was technical and exciting with many of the more experienced runners saying that it was a ‘true’ Skyrunning race.

As a part of the new way that the Skyrunning series will be decided, there were valuable points scored for some today and for others it was a chance to bounce back from lacklustre ends to 2014 or injury.

Whatever the racer’s take on the Sai Kung 50, it was a great way to see a different side to Hong Kong and a superb way to ensure that Asia has an even stronger place on the world trail running map.

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Race director Michael Maddess and Marco de Gasperi discuss the race after the action has finished

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Luke Nelson

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MSIG Sai Kung 50 & Skyrunning Asian Championships: pre-race interviews

Hong Kong is certainly a place of contrasts. A pre-breakfast run along the waterfront this morning saw the whole city shrouded in a thick, yellow smog which softened the outlines of the masses of skyscrapers and high-rise apartment blocks. People bustle along the pavements whilst taxis and buses fill every meter of the chaotic roads. Even the water between the mainland and the island is crammed with boats of all sizes ferrying people or freight around seemingly 24 hours a day. Not really a promising place for a Skyrunning race then…

But an hour out of the city and Sai Kung is a leafy, charming place with a vibrant sea port and – more importantly perhaps – towering forest covered hills rising from the sea shore to the sky. Suddenly the potential for a challenging Skyrunning race and the Asian Championships is revealed.

Just after lunch Simon had a chance to catch up with a few of the elite athletes looking to make an impact on this race early in the season:

Tom Owens

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.12.27After a ruptured ankle tendon in 2013, Tom was actually happy with how he raced in 2013 and enjoyed including some long races that the surgically repaired ankle dealt with without a problem. When I asked Tom why he chose to race the Sai Kung race, he said that he had already planned on taking some time off in February to go on a warm weather training camp, to get away from the freezing temperatures that he has been enduring in Scotland all winter. As soon as the opportunity to race in Hong Kong came up, Tom changed his plans to be here.

Tom also said that after a winter of cyclo-cross and cross country racing, he thought that tactically, getting a Skyrunning race under his belt early in the season would give him an advantage later in the year.

Simon asked Tom about how cyclo-cross has played a part in his training and Tom admitted that although he really enjoys it, he is technically not as strong as he’d like to be having only taken up the sport in the last couple of years. But Tom thinks that it has given him a physical and psychological edge that he needed after his surgery.

Martin Gaffuri

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.12.45Martin is a French resident although he is soon moving to Switzerland for work, so coming to Hong Kong for a race is a great opportunity to escape the snow and run in relatively warm conditions.

The Sai Kung race also represents a chance for Martin to return to the sport he loves after a hiatus in 2014. He feels that his best result last year was in Tarawera, but around racing the 80km World Champs in Chamonix, where he came 17th, Martin lost motivation for his running and took time off, only really returning to the sport towards the end of the season with a tilt at the Rut where he took a tumble off the trail.

With his new full-time job about to start, Martin is looking forward to having some structure, aiming for more quality over quantity. This makes the 28km race in Sai Kung a perfect chance to test his legs on a relatively shorter course.

Elisa Desco

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.13.31Elisa told Simon that this is her first season Skyrunning. In fact until last year she had not raced more than 20km. She said that Zegama was a fantastic new experience for her and that, along with her brilliant run at the World Championships in Chamonix, have surprised her and given her added motivation to train and race.

Looking ahead Elisa is racing the shorter Skyrunning series in 2015 and then thinks that she might start to consider tackling some longer races. But for now she thinks that her speed on relative short distances – her road marathon debut was a very impressive 2:36 – will mean that she can compete with the best of them on the trails in the hills.

Marco De Gasperi

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 22.13.18On reflection Marco believes that he may have been over-trained in 2014. He told Simon that for a few crucial months in the middle of the year he felt very tired and weak. Thankfully now he has fully recovered and has trained consistently – ensuring that he isn’t over-training – so that he is ready for the Sai Kung event, which Marco sees as a significant race and a great way to start the Skyrunning season.

Sat in Sai Kung town in a cafe today, Marco looked remarkably relaxed and told Simon that whilst he is wary of the other elite athletes on the start line tomorrow, he is also not stressed and is looking forward to the trails.

Marco has an eye on races beyond the Sai Kung event. He wants to be in best possible share to race Zegama later in the year and he knows that he needs to measure out his efforts so that he can get the best from himself at the right moments.

The action starts at 7am in Hong Kong and Simon will be on the course following events. You can keep up-to-speed on twitter and check back for a race report soon.

MSIG Sai Kung 50 Skyrunning Continental Championships – Race Preview

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Skyrunning goes global! Normally we would be previewing the first race in the Skyrunner® World Series in April with the prospect of Transvulcania or Zegama-Aizkorri looming around the corner. Not in 2015! More races, more places and now, the chance to count an extra race in the ranking.

The successful 5/5/5 formula (VK, Sky and Ultra) stays where three results from five count but now you must include a fourth race from the Continental Championships. Step in the MSIG Sai Kung 50 in Hong Kong.

3+1Taking place on February 7th, Michael Maddess from Action Asia has assembled a high quality field that will do battle on the trails of Sai Kung after starting in Pak Tam Chung Picnic Garden. Rest assured, this race will be no picnic!

A ranking race this early in the Skyrunning season is extremely significant when one is looking to contest the Skyrunner® World Series. Early points provide a great platform on which to build a season and this is reflected with the presence of Marco De Gasperi, Elisa Desco, Kasie Enman, Tom Owens, Fulvio Dapit, Stephanie Jiminez, Alesandra Carlini, Vlad Ixel, Samir Temang, Luke Nelson, Blake Hose, Dong Li, Yan Long Fei, Mira Rai and so many more.

Two races are on offer

28km SKYRACE and the 50km ULTRA SKYMARATHON.

The SKYRACE has 1954m of vertical gain and 1941m of loss and a maximum elevation of 408m. The ULTRA SKYMARATHON has 2810m of elevation gain ad 2781m of elevation loss. Race director, Michael Maddess says,

This 50km course is tough & we believe one of the toughest 50km course in Hong Kong yet one of the most spectacular beautiful courses in Asia.”

Winning times in 2014 for the 50km event were 4:51:05 for Rudy Gilman (USA) and 6:00:59 for Cassie Scallon (USA).

PREVIEW

When a race field contains past champions, world champions and a plethora of rising talent, we know the action in Hong Kong is going to be incredible.

MEN

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Yan Long Fei (50km) just the other weekend won Hong Kong 100 in 9:52. A 2:15 marathon runner, Yan must be an outright favourite for racing here at Sai Kung. Providing he has recovered? It’s a justifiable question mark.

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Marco de Gasperi (28km) needs no introduction to anyone. When in form he is an unstoppable force on any mountain course. A long time sparring partner for Kilian Jornet, Marco’s presence in Hong Kong is extremely exciting and he will be a hot favourite. Marco had a mixed 2014 with injury niggles and we sincerely hope he has been able to get fit and healthy over winter.

Vlad Ixel (50km) also ran at Hong Kong 100 but twisted an ankle just before the race; this hampered any possibility to contest the front of the race. Vlad is a fast runner who is slowly but surely making his presence felt in all the races he runs. In 2014 he spent time in Europe, which opened his eyes to the challenges that European racing brings. He will be focused on the podium at Sai Kung.

Blake Hose (50km) surprised everyone at the Skyrunning World Championships in the middle of 2014 when he placed 6th overall. In actual fact, the whole Australian Skyrunning team was a revelation. Eager to impress, Blake will look at Sai Kung as an incredible opportunity and I know that he has plans to spend time in Europe in 2015; watch out!

©iancorless.com.IMG_6959Transvulcania14Luke Nelson (50km) loves the mountains and excels at the 100-mile distance. He has been a regular at Transvulcania and has placed consistently well at Speedgoat 50k. Over the winter he has had an expended period in Patagonia, so it’s fair to assume that Luke will be in great shape.

©iancorless.com_Nepal2014_7-1046Samir Tamang (50km) placed 2nd at the TDS (UTMB sister race) and I was fortunate to watch him race day-in and day-out at the Everest Trail Race in November. He’s a super talented athlete who loves the mountains. He will be a fierce competitor at Sai Kung and don’t be surprised if he contests the podium looking for the top spot. 

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Fulvio Dapit (50km) is a regular in races all over the world. A Skyrunner in the purest form, Fulvio has experience and endurance that will play into his hands on a tough course here in Hong Kong.

David Byrne (50km)

What excites me most about racing in Hong Kong is the opportunity to test myself against top class athletes on a course that’s steep and technical. I’ve heard a lot of great things about trail running in Hong Kong and the awesome running culture there, so to experience it first hand will be special.”

David is a fast man! A 29-minute 10k confirms this. Explosive speed and strength is not always a guarantee for success on tough, mountainous and technical courses, however, David has won the Six Foot Track back in Australia. One to watch!

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens (28km)

“I’m very excited about racing in Hong Kong, especially in Sai kung, where the trails look great. It will be nice to get some warmer weather (it’s been very wet and dark in Scotland) and kick start the 2015 Skyrunning campaign with an early season race.”

Tom is one of the UK’s top fell, mountain and Skyrunners. In previous years he has excelled, in particular, 2012 and 2014. Unfortunately 2013 was a troubled year with injury but Tom is back. When in form, he can push Kilian Jornet all the way to the line and although Sai Kung comes early in the year, Tom is fit and therefore has great potential for top honours.

Martin Gaffuri (28km) moved up the ISF rankings in 2013 with a series of strong and consistent performances. However, 2014 was a troubled year. Early success at Tarawera and a good run at the Skyrunning World Championships were never really followed up with stellar performances of the previous year. With some time away from the sport and racing, it will be interesting to see if Martin has recharged his batteries for the 2015 season.

Ones to watch – Male

  • Marco Sturm
  • Mohamad Affindi Nudin
  • Chou Pin Chi
  • Dai Matsumoto
  • You Peigui

LADIES

©iancorless.com_IMG_1042Zegama14Elisa Desco (28km) is the current Skyrunning World Champion and along with a string of high profile performances in 2014 is without doubt a hot favourite for victory in Hong Kong. However, Elisa will not have things her own way!

©iancorless.com-0556Kima2014_Kasie Enman (50km)

I am excited to kick off the 2015 Skyrunning Season with the MSIG Sai Kung 50.  I finished up my 2014 racing season mid-September with a 2nd place overall ranking in the Skyrunning Ultra Series, then took a couple months of down time in my training and racing to recuperate and enjoy time with my family at home in Vermont (Northeast USA, near the Canadian border).  I am excited to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong to see the trails and meet the trail runners here.  It will be my first time visiting and running in Asia.”

Kasie deciding to race this early in the season can only mean one thing, early season points and the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Skyrunner® World Series. Kasie had a great 2014 running strong at Zegama-Aizkorri, Speedgoat 50k and taking victory at Trofeo Kima.

Wyan Chow Pui Yan (50km) won the recent HK100 and therefore like Long Yan Fei and Dong Li, powers of recovery will be tested. Ryan has recently quit the police force to be a full time trainer and therefore allow her more time for recovery and racing. It’s an interesting and exciting prospect to see how she performs against some of the worlds best Skyrunners.

Dong Li (50km) also heads up the local talent and placed 2nd at the HK100 in 12:39 just two weeks ago. Sai Kung coming so close to HK100 will almost certainly leave Dong Li feeling a little jaded and therefore racing some of the top female Skyrunners in the world may well push her to her limits. But the talent is there for all to see.

©iancorless.com-0303Kima2014_Alesandra Carlini (50km) placed 2nd at Sai Kung in 2014 and followed up her performance with a string of top performances. Considering Allesandra lives on the Italian coast, her ability in the mountains is seriously impressive as we witnessed at Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima. Arguably a stronger field is assembled for 2015, however, Allesandra has the potential to contest the podium.

Mira Rai (50km) from Nepal is a previous winner of HK50 and placed 2nd at Lantau 50. All great credentials for a top performance here in Sai Kung.

Lucy Bartholomew (50km)

“Don’t think about it as one big chunk of a run. For me I break it down into checkpoints and make it into achievable amounts! It’s never going to be easy but the key is to find happiness in the toughness of it because when you get to the top it’s worth it!”

Lucy is the junior Skyrunning World Champion and so therefore Sai Kung will be a steep learning curve for the young Australian. Coached by Emelie Forsberg, Lucy is a rising star in the sport.

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Stephanie Jiminez (28km) is a last minute entry to the race and is always a force to be reckoned with. Consistently strong on VK courses and SKY distances races, Stephanie can push the pace and the competition to the edge.

Ones to watch – Female

  • Hsiao Shiang Chong
  • Ho JoChun
  • Shiho Iwadate

All the action starts in the early hours of Saturday February 7th.

You can follow our reports and stories on this website.

 Facebook and on Twitter @talkultra

Race website HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Skyrunning Twitter feed @skyrunning_com

Skyrunning Facebook page HERE

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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

SCOTT Trail Rocket 2.0 (2015) Shoe Review

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Following on from the extremely successful and popular T2 Kinabalu (review HERE and ladies review HERE) Scott have produced an out and out trail running race shoe aptly named the Trail Rocket. The original Trail Rocket (Feb 2014) when released gained plenty of initial praise. I praised them! However, it soon became apparent that the sole had some serious issues. The black nodules as seen on the image below literally would just come off. For me, my shoes did last a while before I had issues, however, some runners had problems within 50-miles.

Scott Trail Rocket Sole

The new 2015 shoe has addressed this issue and the sole is now far more resilient and long lasting.

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The orange section of the sole is now a moulded compound and the grip is not ‘added’ as in the previous model. So if you have used the Trail Rocket in the past, like them but refused to go near them again because of longevity issues, don’t worry, Scott have addressed this!

If mud is your thing the Trail Rocket is not for you. The Trail Rocket 2.0 is for fast running on hard pack trails, rocks, gravel and so on. They can withstand a little mud but not too much. They perform well on wet ground but the compound used in the orange section of the sole is relatively hard and on occasion I have felt the shoe slip. It’s only a minor slip but nonetheless it does make you take a breath and then you question what will grip be like later in the run?

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Following the trend for low drop shoes, the Trail Rocket 2.0 has a 5mm heel to toe drop in comparison to the 11mm drop of the T2 Kinabalu. The T2 Kinabalu is still a favourite shoe of mine even though it has an 11mm drop. This is mostly due to the ‘rocker’ sole which makes the shoe feel lower than it actually is. You can see one of the 2015 T2 Kinabalu 3.0 colour ways below.

Scott T2 Kinabalu 2015

Scott T2 Kinabalu 2015

The upper of the Trail Rocket 2.0 is very breathable with a slightly narrow toe box (precision) and a snug heel compartment that provides a solid and secure fit. Toe protection is okay but not great.

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Sizing is true to size, however, if you are going without socks you may want to check what works for you. Lacing is solid and depending on your preferred lacing method the shoe holds firm to the foot and is extremely comfortable.

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The laces provide a real secure and tight hold and once tied they hold firm and don’t come loose. An elastic bungee (Lace Locker) holds and retains any  excess lace.It’s a really practical solution that was missing on the original Trail Rocket. It’s a simplistic solution to a problem that exists for all runners unless you use Salomon!

 

The Trail Rocket 2.0 is lightweight and versatile and designed for maximum performance for racing and fast training. The minimalistic design in combination with the eRide™ Technology promotes an efficient, natural and fast running style.

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Arguably, the eRide™ (rocker) may not required for this model of shoe as a 5mm drop will almost certainly mean that your run form should already be good and mid to forefoot landing is normal. However, should you be transitioning to lower drop shoe (say from 8mm) the eRide™ will help guide you on your way.

eRide

As you would expect, the shoes weigh in at a light 260g (UK9) which is obviously due to the minimalist design and Aerofoam.

Aerofoam

Forefoot cushioning is 17.5 and rear cushioning 22.5 providing a shoe that still provides good cushioning and protection. How far can you run in them? Well it very much depends on your form, adaptation and technique. Without doubt I think we will see many efficient runners covering 100-miles in this shoe, however, for many the Trail Rocket 2.0 will be ideally suited for fast running on trail races up to 50-miles.

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The Trail Rocket 2.0 has a ‘Rock-Protection-Plate’ too reduce any impact from obstacles on the ground and cushioning is good. I have had few issues with ‘feeling’ the ground beneath me.

Slipping the shoe on you have that confirmed comfort feeling inherited from the T2 Kinabalu, so, it’s fair to say that if you are a fan of its beefier brother you are going to like the Trail Rocket.

Overall comfort is great and you zip along feeling very light and fast. The shoe has great flexibility. They encourage you to move quicker, lighter and faster with increased cadence.

A real bonus is how good the shoe feels on road and/ or tarmac. Many of us need to transition to trail either by connecting roads or maybe you need to access trail with a jog to and from home? The Trail Rocket handles this well. It’s too early to say in testing what impact this will have on the wear and longevity of the sole.

The Trail Rocket is definitely a shoe for faster training sessions. Certainly if you are new to ultra racing or looking to complete rather than compete, the Trail Rocket may not be the shoe for you.

I really like the Trail Rocket. I enjoyed the first incarnation and had the sole not let me down I would have continued to use them. SCOTT may have an uphill battle convincing previous Trail Rocket owners back… that would be a shame! The 2015 edition of the shoe is exactly as before but now the shoe has a sole that can keep pace with your running.

Read about eRide HERE

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Read about Aerofoam HERE

Pros

  1. Light.
  2. Low drop (5mm).
  3. Breathable.
  4. Great lacing and ‘Lace Locker’.
  5. eRide and Aeroform and buzz words but they work.

Cons

  1. Maybe too light for some runners.
  2. Potentially too narrow in the toe box, so, if you like roomy shoes make sure you try these first.
  3. Previous model sole had real issues so runners are going to need to be convinced.

Specs:

  • Drop 5mm
  • Upper – mesh with synthetic overlays
  • Lower – eva/ rubber

Scott Running website HERE

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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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inov-8 launch Race Ultra 270 for 2015

©iancorless.com_RaceUltra270-7533The release of the Race Ultra 290 in 2014 (review here) showed inov-8’s intentions to appeal to the ever-expanding ultra market that run on mixed terrain for a very long time. The shoe ticked many boxes and soon became a favourite for many a runner. In particular, the ‘290’ fulfilled the one shoe does all scenario quite well. It was happy on the road, happy on hard trail and rock and adequate when the trail got muddy… admittedly, not when very muddy! It was cushioned, had that ‘sweet’ drop of 8mm and a wide toe box.

The perfect shoe?

It was certainly a shoe that many touted as perfect but what about that new breed of runner that loves a lighter and lower drop shoe?

Your prayers are answered.

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Building on the success of its ISPO award-winning RACE ULTRA 290, inov-8 will launch in Spring 2015 a lighter version of the ‘290’ to give long-distance athletes an even faster weapon in their shoe armory; the Race Ultra 270.

Weighing in at just 270g (hence the name), the Race Ultra 270 is 20g lighter than the 8mm drop Race Ultra 290 and has a drop of 4mm (1-arrow.)

Designed to bring the runner closer to the terrain the 270 will provide increased levels of proprioception while not losing cushioning.

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Grip will remain the same as the ‘290’ and is very much designed to accommodate road, hard trail, rocks and light mud with a mixture of soft and hard rubber. It has a flatter outsole ensuring a stable ride even when hours in the shoe increase and fatigue sets in.

Like the ‘290,’ the ‘270’ will also incorporate the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a RACE ULTRA GAITER you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.

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On first looks, inov-8 are taking a successful shoe (the 290), replicating it and making it appealing for those who require a lighter shoe, a little less cushioning and importantly, a lower drop. The two prototype colour ways look really impressive and in particular we really like the look of the men’s colour. Four colours will be available, two for men and two for ladies.

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The shoe is flexible (you can fold it in half) and has a ‘Meta-Shank’ that aligns with ones individual metatarsals. This Meta-Shank helps provide energy without loosing impact protection. Lightweight, the combination of good lacing, a gusseted tongue and a wide toe box (standard fit) all combine together to make the ‘270’ a real ‘one to look at’ for those looking for a door-to-trail shoe.

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Door-to-trail is a buzzword at the moment and brands such as Salomon, The North Face and others are looking to capture this market. inov-8 with two offerings at 8mm and 4mm drop will certainly cover the bases and provide two important options. Importantly, it will also allow a nice stepping-stone for those looking to drop from 8mm to 4mm.

Initial feedback from a couple of runs confirms that if you liked the ‘290’ then you are going to like the ‘270.’ In use they certainly feel lighter, a little more responsive and most importantly comfortable. Due to the standard fit (wide at the front) you may want to try your normal shoe size and a half size smaller to make sure you have the correct fitting shoe.

A full review of the Race Ultra 270 (men’s and ladies) will follow in February 2015. We now need to go and rack up some miles in them… Niandi says, ‘Les nouveaux bébés de Inov8.’ I think that means she is excited to try them out!

Suggested retail price: £110 (110 UK pounds)

Contact inov-8 HERE

Contact HERE