Ultra Pirineu 2015 Race Images and Summary


Nuria Picas was looking to defend her ‘home’ crown in a race that she has won for the last 4-years. Luis Alberto Hernando, champion in 2013 and 2014 was returning looking to make it a triple but more importantly the Skyrunner® World Series title for the ultra distance was at stake. Add to the mix Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, the last time the duo raced here in Baga was 2012. Kilian won that year ahead of Anton Krupicka and Dakota Jones, Emelie placed 3rd behind Nuria Picas and Anna Frost.


Starting at 0700 in the center of Baga, one has a full appreciation of how important running has become in Spain and I guess more importantly here in Catalonia. Kilian and Nuria are as important if not more important than football stars here in this part of the world. Autographs, photographs, shaking hands, pats on the back and the noise; wow the noise is incredible! Yes, they are the ‘Messi’ of the running world in these parts.


The day was always going to be one full of drama and battles. We had a race within a race and as such one had to keep an eye not only on who was running in the top-3 but also who was running in the top overall rankings. Coming into Ultra Pirineu Franco Colle was 1st in SWS rankings followed by Cristofer Clemente in 2nd and Luis Alberto Hernando in 3rd. It was all up for grabs. For the ladies the battle was relatively straight forward; if Emelie won the race she would be SWS champion. If Mira Rai won the race, she would become champion.



From the gun Emelie made her intentions clear and took hold of the race from the front and it stayed that way for the whole 110km. Although the story changed a little behind the dominant Emelie, the writing was on the wall; Mira Rai would place 2nd and Nuria Picas would place 3rd. At times Mira looked to close the gap and then it would extend whereas Nuria looked resigned to a solid 3rd place.



The men’s race was a little more unpredictable! I say unpredictable but in all honesty, did we (I) ever think anyone other than Kilian Jornet would win the race? I know I shouldn’t say that; anything can happen in 110km but barring an accident or some unforeseen problem, I really didn’t see any other scenario playing out.


In the early stages Jessed Hernandez, Miguel Heras and Zaid Ait Malek accompanied the Catalan over the undulating terrain. Kilian always looked relaxed and in control. The protagonists changed at the front of the race, Miguel and Zaid would take a turn to pace and all the time Kilian would run in 2nd keeping his powder dry. The elastic finally snapped with Zaid and Kilian taking the front and opening up a gap over Miguel.


Behind the lead trio a battle was unfolding. Franco Colle SWS leader coming into the race dropped with sickness; his 2015 SWS chances over! Cristofer Clemente was running in 4th and Luis Alberto Hernando clearly tired from his 2nd place efforts at UTMB just 3-weeks earlier was running in and around the top-10 battling to win the SWS title.


Miguel didn’t give in though, he found some internal strength with 85km’s covered and closed the gap to then take over the lead with Kilian as Zaid faded. Over the final km’s, Kilian put his foot on the gas on one of the final climbs and quickly opened up a 6-minute gap over Miguel. The writing was on the wall, Kilian would win the 2015 Ultra Pirineu and he would be welcomed by a home crowd like a long lost son.


Behind the drama unfolded, Zaid refused to give in. He once again caught Miguel and this time pulled away and never looked back. He finished 2nd and produced one of the most impressive display finish line antics I have witnessed. Miguel took the final podium place and then attention turned to the SWS ranking.


Cristofer Clemente finished 4th and Luis Alberto Hernando had to finish in the top-15 to take the SWS crown; he did it! It has been quite a year for Luis. A series of high ranking victories and podium places, 2nd at UTMB, Skyrunning European Champion and now the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series Champion. Bravo!

Attention now turns to Limone Extreme for the respective SWS titles in VK and SKY.


  1. Kilian Jornet 12:03:27
  2. Zaid Ait Malek 12:12:23
  3. Miguel Heras 12:20:35
  1. Emelie Forsberg 13:39:33
  2. Mira Rai 13:43:49
  3. Nuria Picas 14:13:01

Skyrunner World Series Champions 2015

Emelie Forsberg and Luis Alberto Hernando


Full race results HERE

Episode 95 – Scott and Jenny Jurek #AT Appalachian Trail Special


Episode 95 of Talk Ultra is a completely different show. We are devoting the episode to Scott Jurek and his wife Jenny. Scott Jurek completed the Appalachian Trail on July 12th covering the 2189-miles in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. It was a journey of incredible highs and lows, not only for Scott but also for Jenny. In this show we hear from both Scott and Jenny and and provide an insight into what it’s like to run and crew for such an epic and awesome journey… enjoy!

Show links:

Website – talkultra.com
Here is a blow-by-blow account of Scott’s incredible journey in words and pictures of his record breaking Appalachian Trail FKT (HERE)

©iancorless.com.Scott Jurek

A creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person’s career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill, or workmanship.

Scott Jurek called it his masterpiece and rightly so. We can all now look back at his incredible 2200 mile journey along the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine and acknowledge what he has achieved. Jennifer Pharr Davis had set the benchmark in 2011 in a time of  46 days 11 hours and 20 minutes for a supported thru hike. The speed hike record, unsupported is held by Mathew Kirk in a time of 58 days 9 hours and 40 minutes.

Scott Jurek completed the AT on July 12th 2015 in a time of:

46 days 8 hours 7 minutes

Undertaking the AT is a serious business. The demands that are placed on all involved are huge, you only need to ask Karl Meltzer what is required and he will tell you. It’s a beast and one that mustn’t be rushed in to. (Listen Karl’s in-depth chat on Scott and the AT on Ep90 HERE of Talk Ultra)

Months if not years of preparation go into a record so it came as a surprise when Scott Jurek announced on May 27th:

Embarking on a big adventure tomorrow, something I’ve always wanted to do. The time is now!

What has followed is an incredible journey. I encourage you to read my post HERE before continuing on.

What is the AT?

*The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km)[a] long, though the precise length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The path is maintained by 31 trail clubs and multiple partnerships, and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms.

The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Others have managed to perform a “round-trip” of the trail where they thru-hike from one end to the other and then turn around to thru-hike the trail the other way, otherwise known as a “yo-yo.” Many books, memoirs, web sites and fan organizations are dedicated to these pursuits.

An unofficial extension known as the International Appalachian Trail continues north into Canada and to the end of the range, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean. Other unofficial extensions head south into Florida, creating what is known as the Eastern Continental Trail.

The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail form what is known as the Triple Crown of long–distance hiking in the United States.*

                         *content ©wikipedia

Below is a bow-by-blow account of Scott’s AT record as posted on his Facebook page in words and images. I don’t need to say more. What Scott has achieved is quite incredible. Bravo!


May 28th

Image ©luisescobar

Appalachian Trail Day 1 in the books! Departed Springer Mountain at 5:56am EDT, arrived at Unicoi Gap, 13:16:42 elapsed time. 52.9 miles, 11,400′ ascent and 12,100′ descent. Lots of fog and a little light rain early, then sun and mega humidity. Finding my groove and feeling good. Patience is key; it’s a long way to Maine! Hoping to have live tracking tomorrow.

May 29th

May 29th

Appalachian Trail Day 2 check! Departed Unicoi Gap at 5:49am EDT, arrived at Rock Gap, at 7:14pm EDT, 13:25:28. 53.0 miles, 12,942′ ascent and 12,230′ descent.

May 30th

May 30th

Going into the sunset hours tonight. After lots of rain today and a stiff dose of North Carolina Gnarl—aka long climbs and burly descents— this sunset on Bushnell Knob, 3,697′ is a welcome relief. 8:30pm, 48 miles in and 4 more to go!

May 31st

Image ©luisescobar

Appalachian Trail Day 4: Service was limited in Smokies and another long day on the trail. These mountains are making me earn it! Departed Yellow Creek Gap at 5:49am EDT, arrived at Newfound Gap, at 9:20pm EDT, 15:29:22. 48.5 miles (Garmin had 50.6), 13,694′ ascent and 11,702′ descent. Entered another state, Tennessee and did 40 miles in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Had rough 4 hours midday and was so sleepy. It’s been hard sleeping at night due to fatigue in the legs. Took a 20-minute nap near Spence Field Shelter and came back to life. Got up the observatory tower for 360-degree views of the Smokies. Very impressed with the mountains here!

June 1st

Image ©luisescobar

Appalachian Trail Day 5 update: Started the day with old and new friends at Newfound Gap at 6:49am EDT, arrived at Lemon Gap at 11:04pm EDT, 16:15:59. 52.7 miles, 11,627′ ascent and 11,702′ descent. Enjoyed seeing the rest of the Smokies and got a good dose of thunderstorms well into the night. No cell reception from Lemon Gap, hence the delay. Hoping I can end a little earlier tonight to catch up on some sleep!

June 2nd and 3rd

Appalachian Trail Days 6 & 7: Got my first real shower today instead of sponge baths at the van all week. Covered over 300 miles in 6 days, the most I have ever done in a week and feeling some effects. Monday morning departed Lemon Gap at 5:53am EDT, arrived at Devil Fork Gap, at 10:07pm EDT, 16:14:28, 49.4 miles, 11,958′ ascent and 12,103′ descent. Last night my left quad developed a severe strain due to compensating for my right patella femoral joint (kneecap) that became irritated coming down from the Smokies. Today I walked into Erwin, TN from Devil Fork Gap, 33.1 miles. Staying positive and need to get the quad back in order over the next two days. Otherwise I’m enjoying being out on the trail and meeting more thru hikers. I got to spread a little trail magic today to “No Poles” who needed a new pair of shoes and I had an extra pair of Brooks RunningCascadias. Onward!

June 4th

Appalachian Trail Day 8 update: Yesterday was National Running Day and I found it ironic that I couldn’t run. Hope you all ran some miles for me! I had a good time on the trail, started in Erwin, TN at River Rd/Unaka Springs Rd 6:15am EDT, ascent 10,019′, descent 6414′, 37 miles to Carvers Gap at 9:27pm. 15:12:48 my knee and quad are slowly starting to rebound, it was good to have more ascent than descent. Today is a lot of downhill so we’ll see how everything holds up.

Photo from last night’s sunset on Roan Mountain, the 5th highest point on the AT. I didn’t know that several of the highest peaks are in the South!

June 5th

June 5th

Appalachian Trail Day 9 update: Yesterday morning leaving Carvers Gap had some of the best views I’ve seen so far from several open balds, a really beautiful section. Departed at 6:16am, ascent 7568′, descent 10,485′, arrived at Dennis Cove Rd at 8:22pm, 38.8 miles total 14:06:52

June 6th

June 6th

Appalachian Trail Day 10 update: Crossing a state border is always a thrill as it marks definitive progress. Stoked to make it to Virginia! Departed Dennis Cove Rd at 6:13am, ascent 10,088′, descent 10,495′, arrived in Damascus,10:07pm, 50.3 miles, 15:54:15. Huge thank you to The Duck House for putting us up last night and to the locals who joined me for some miles today and gave Jenny the morning off. No wonder they call this the “friendliest town on the AT!”

June 7th

June 7th

They say a picture is a thousand words. El Venado and The Jurker are back!

June 9th

Appalachian Trail Day 14: This is Jenny Jurek checking in for Scott. He wanted me to post an update for him since he hasn’t had cell service the last 3 nights. Day 11 Damascus to Fox Creek, over the high point of Virginia, Mt Rogers, and saw the wild ponies at Massie Gap, 41.4 miles. Day 12 Fox Creek to VA 625, 51.8 miles. Day 13 VA 625 to Dismal Falls got to run with Clark Zealand in the morning and stopped by the party at the falls in the evening, 48.4 miles. Day 14, today he has two 20+ mile unsupported sections and we should be in Roanoke tomorrow where he can hopefully post another update.

Yes, I’m trying to fatten him up so we do appreciate all the vegan treats people have been bringing him. Thank you! PS if you ever see me in a McDonalds parking lot it’s because they have free Wi-Fi!

June 11th

Appalachian Trail Day 16: Good morning from Roanoke! Started up to McAfee Knob today with a great group of locals and the Fleet Feet Sports Roanoke crew, thank you! Day 14 started at Dismal Falls and ended on a rocky and technical route to VA 613 Mountain Lake Rd, 51.6 miles. Day 15 was a hot/humid morning with a fun scramble off of Dragons Tooth and cooler temps to end at VA 311, 46 miles. Knee is feeling good and I am enjoying Virginia so far!

June 13th

June 13th

Milestones: Came upon these on the trail as I was making my way to Highway US 60 in the dark, finishing another hot and humid 50-mile day. Hard to believe we are over 800 miles into this 2,189-mile journey!

June 15th

June 15th

Appalachian Trail Day 20: Started the morning run with an old friend at mile 905.8 in Shenandoah National Park. Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer has attempted to break the AT record twice and will give it one more go next year. Super psyched to share some miles and catch up with this guy who knows a thing or two about the trail ahead.

June 16th

Image ©luisescobar

Appalachian Trail Day 17 crossed the longest footbridge on the AT over the James River and ended at US 60, 50.4 miles.

Day 18 lots of climbing up to Bald Knob, The Priest and Three Ridges and took a swim in the Tye River during the heat of the day, finished at Humpback Gap, 47.5 miles.

Day 19 entered my second National Park and welcomed the smoother footing through Shenandoah to Skyline 66.7, 51.9 miles.

Day 20 welcomed a nice breeze and my second mama bear sighting with two cubs on the trail, finished at Hogwallow Gap, 54.2 miles. Today is a new day!

Day 21: Three weeks! A quick recap of the last few days: Day 16 started at VA 311 and rolled into Jennings Creek, 48 miles.

June 17th

Live from I70 footbridge, mile 1035 of the Appalachian Trail. Hard to believe if I headed west I’d be home in Boulder/Denver. Feels good to be hitting familiar latitudes!

June 18th

Completed the four state challenge yesterday: Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in a day. Made it to PA in the daylight and finished a 49 mile day after 54 and 57 mile days. First time in a while that I’ve finished before dark, feels so good! Maryland was a little training gym for the rocks of Pennsylvania!

June 19th

June 19th

This happened yesterday: HALFWAY!

June 22nd

Appalachian Trail Day 21 started at Hogwallow Gap in Shenandoah National Park and ended at a road construction site at Keys Gap, 57.1 miles.

Day 22 Rickey Gates joined the team for two days on his way to Mount Washington Hill Climb; it’s always nice to see another familiar face. I completed the four state challenge (VA, WV, MD, PA) and met a lot of great folks including a big group from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, finished in light rain at Old PA 16, 49.5 miles.

Day 23 crossed the official halfway point and ended at the ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, 54.7 miles.

Day 24 so many great people all day kept me going to Greenpoint School Rd, 59.7 miles.

Day 25 ran through Hurricane Bill into the night over some rocky terrain to Hawk Mountain Rd, 52.3. My buddy Russell brought me Thai food from NYC and Vegan Treats delivered two boxes of out of these world desserts, which made everything better.

Today, I slept in! Ran with Glen Redpath, Nathan Echols and a bunch of locals all day and cut it short at Wind Gap to catch up on sleep, 45.5 miles.

Day 26: Happy Summer Solstice! It’s an AT tradition to hike naked today but my fear of ticks got the better of me. Good night!

June 23rd

June 23rd

Appalachian Trail Day 27 started at Wind Gap, entered the state of New Jersey, took a nap, and finished way past my bedtime at High Point State Park, 58.3 miles.

Day 28: I startled a large black bear this morning and then came upon “Mama Bear” and her 3 kids “Strongman” and “Little Butt” (5 year old twins) and “Spicy Guy” age 11. They thru-hiked from Springer Mt to Harpers Ferry last year and this year are completing the second half to Katahdin completely self supported. Trail tough kids, built to last!

June 24th

June 24th

Appalachian Trail Day 29: Just ran over the lowest point of elevation on the entire AT, the Bear Mountain Zoo at 124′ (38m), right before crossing over the Hudson River. Kinda gives a new meaning to one of my favorite album’s opening lyric “New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.”

Amazing to be back in the Empire State, thanks for the love! Can somebody please bring me a vegan cinnamon roll from Peace Food Cafe?

June 25th

June 25th

Throwback Thursday to Day 4 of the Appalachian Trail running across Fontana Dam, TN with the love of my life. Without her this journey would be impossible. She is my lifeline and makes sure this ship keeps heading north. Jenny inspires me to keep putting one foot in front of the other when it seems impossible. Hard to believe how far we’ve come, Day 30 today! This one is for you babe!

June 26th

June 26th

Appalachian Trail Day 30: Almost through Connecticut and onto Massachusetts tomorrow!

June 27th

Sunset from unnamed pond. The last two days in Connecticut and Massachusetts I’ve been noticing the subtle transitions to New England and the Northeast. Good night from Bear Mountain Road, MA!

June 28th

June 28th

Appalachian Trail Day 33: A storm greeted me last night and sent me off this morning at the top of Mt Greylock (3491′) the highest point in Massachusetts. Strong winds blew several trees down on the trail and I saw a large porcupine under one of them. Hoping this weather doesn’t hang around too long as I head into Vermont, or as the local hikers say, “Vermud.”

June 29th

Happy Monday Morning! Everyday on the trail I eat at least one smoothie or shake, as it’s an efficient way to down calories and protein. Here is one of my favorite summer recipes, Avocado Key Lime Pie. Since this one is more like a dessert, I prefer to eat it in a bowl! So Delicious Dairy Free is having a Celebrity Shake Off and if my recipe receives the most votes they will donate $25,000 to my charity of choice Every Mother Counts. Please help support this amazing organization that helps make pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers around the world. Vote today!

June 30th

June 30th

July 1st

July 1st

Appalachian Trail Day 36: It’s been the rainiest June in Vermont in 130 years so it’s only fitting that my last few miles were in a torrential downpour. Yesterday was a rough one but I was pumped to cross my second to last state line this morning. Hello New Hampshire!

July 3rd

July 3rd

Appalachian Trail Day 38: Twenty-minute predawn cat nap after an epic all-nighter from NH 25A to Galehead Hut in the White Mountains, 48.4 miles. Surreal traveling over granite mountains under a waning moon. Good times with Timmy O’Neill, Andrew Drummond and former AT FKT record holder Andrew Thompson who joined us for some miles and imparted his sage wisdom. Huge thank you to the guys who found us on the trail bearing gifts of avocado maki and vegan pizza!

July 4th

Rise and shine!

July 5th

July 5th

Appalachian Trail Day 39: Perfect temps and views from the Northern Presidential Traverse on Independence Day, I’ve been looking forward to this section and it did not disappoint. Happy 4th, everyone!

July 6th

July 6th

Appalachian Trail Day 40: Coming to you live from the magic hour in MAINE!!!

July 8th

Appalachian Trail Day 43: 2000 miles down, 189.2 to go. Getting closer!

8th July

July 9th

Appalachian Trail Day 44: Kennebec River crossing this morning with my buddy Topher Gaylord. Reminded me of being a kid again! HUGE thank you to Adventure Bound John and Mandy for making this possible.

July 9th

July 12th

Appalachian Trail Day 46: My first view of Katahdin today, hard to put into words.

July 12

July 12th – Part 2

Appalachian Trail Day 46.5: Yes, this is happening.

July 12 pt2


Scott Finish



Follow Scott Jurek on Facebook HERE

Website HERE

Purchase his book HERE

You can read all about  the AT HERE

Ultra Pirineu 2015 Race Preview


The Skyrunner® World Series for 2015 for the Ultra distance draws to a close in Spain at the Ultra Pirineu. It’s amazing how time flies; it only seems weeks ago that I was writing about Transvulcania.

Taking place on September 201th, Ultra Pirineu follows on from the RUT and as such, it will be an exciting race.

Runners will assemble in the Cade Moixero National Park to do battle over a very challenging race. The 110km race is the main event and the one that gains the most attention. With 6800m of vertical gain it’s a race that will push each and every Skyrunners’ legs and lungs to the limit.


Luis Alberto Hernando, Skyrunning World and European Champion for the ultra distance will be looking to repeat his victory from 2014. Would you want to bet against him? Luis has been on fire in 2015 with victories at Transvulcania and Ice Trail Tarentaise. Add to this podium finishes at Tromso SkyRace and UTMB and for sure Luis will be a hot favourite for victory.


However, a certain Kilian Jornet running on home ground may well scupper Luis’s plans. Kilian has had a quitter year in 2015 as he has concentrated on his Alpinrunning projects but that did not stop repeating his 2014 victory at Hardrock 100 and in the process he now holds the course record for both directions.

“I am very excited about competing at home again as this was the very first race I competed in. There is an incredible level of competition this year, so a show is guaranteed.” – Kilian Jornet

And Kilian has hit the nail on the head, rising star of the sport Manuel Merillas (winner in 2011) will run. Manuel is still looking for the big win but a string of high placing and podium finishes will almost certainly guarantee that he is pushing the pace with the rest at the front.


Franco Colle just the other weekend won the RUT in the USA and has now decided to miss Tor des Geants to content the podium on Spain. Currently Franco leads the Skyrunner World ~Series for the ultra distance and he will bo looking to gain maximum points and the bonus that come with it to secure the overall position in the ranking, it won’t be an easy task!


Cristofer Clemente was 2nd at the RUT also and now lies 2nd on the ranking for the SWS. He did have some question marks over if he would race here in Spain due to the proximity of the USA race, however, I can’t help but think he will give the race a go and he will see what happens. At 110km it’s a long tough race for this late in the season.

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

UTMB duo, Miguel Heras and Tofol Castanyer both had troubled races this year on the big loop of Chamonix and so they will no doubt be looking to put the record straight here. As we all know, on their day they are 2 of the best ultra mountain runners in the world. They also both have a great history with this race.



Ricky Lightfoot has once again had another incredible 2015 mixing up his race distances and experiences with diverse races races such as Ultra Skymarathon Madeira, DoDo Trail in Mauritius and of course his local fell races in the UK.  *may not race due to illness, me missed the Lakes Sky Ultra?

Jessed Hernandez placed 3rd in 2014 and he will be looking to move up 1 or 2 places in 2015 but the odds may well be stacked against him with such a quality line-up. Yeray Duran, Philipp Reiter and Miguel Caballero will also contend the top 5 but there are more runners than places; who will come out on top?


Nuria Picas has made a home at Ultra Pirineu, it’s ‘her’ race and 2015 will be the 5th time she will toe the line looking for another victory. Her recent blip at UTMB will soon be behind her and she will no doubt looking to put the record straight on home ground. We can all think back to that epic battle between Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg and Nuria Picas in 2012.

“I am delighted to see that world renowned international athletes are once again coming here, it’s a race that deserves consideration.” – Nuria Picas



Emelie Forsberg ran her very first 80km race at Ultra Pirineu (then called Cavalls del Vent) in 2012. She placed 3rd! What has followed has been an incredible rise in the sport of Skyrunning. While Nuria pursued the UTWT, Emelie has gone on to dominate Skyrunning races worldwide, the 2015 edition of Ultra Pirineu will once again see these two dominant and inspiring ladies once again go head-to-head. It’s an exciting prospect.


Nepalese sensation Mira Rai will also race. Her victory at the Mont-Blanc 80km turned heads and I think it’s fair to say that the 110km distance will suit her running style.


Anna Comet has been a revelation in 2015 and has consistently placed on the podium. Like Nuria, Anna is placing a great emphasis on Ultra Pirineu as she considers it a home race. The ‘home’ advantage really motivates and Anna’s recent non-racing will almost certainly mean that she will be fresh for an epic battle.

Ester Alves, Julia Boetger, Gemma Arenas and Roser Espanol will also be looking to mix it up at the front of the race. Ester in particular has seemed unstoppable in 2015 after going from one race to the next.

You can follow the stories through words and images on this website, via Twitter @talkultra, on Instagram @iancorlessphotography and on Facebook at facebook.com/iancorlessphotography.

In addition, the official Skyrunning Facebook page (here) and Twitter @skyrunning_com will have regular updates and news.



A new MAGBOOK hits the shelves in the UK today called THE RUNNER. It wall also be available at: http://www.magbooks.com

Please support the magazine with a purchase in-store or online

I have several photos and features in the magazine, primarily one on the Marathon des Sables (10-pages) where I look at the impact of the race on the FACES of 3 runners including 2015 MDS ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes.

Spread 1

I also have a 10-page feature on THE GREAT LAKELAND 3 DAY.

Spread 1

Finally, they did a little feature on yours truly. ‘IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.’

ianProfile_The Runner

The RUT 2015 Race Preview


A stunning weekend of Skyrunning takes place this weekend at the aptly named ski resort, Big Sky in Montana.

Yes, it’s time to get in a RUT with the RUT series of races.

The Skyrunner® World Series 2015 continues at a pace with VK, SKY and ULTRA events taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

As you can imagine, with 3 races on over, a high quality world-class field will come together in Montana to do battle in earth and sky.

Friday’s Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer® has Laura Orgue and new sensation, Rémi Bonnet heading up the ladies’ and male fields on what will provide an epic Skyrunning battle as runners climb 1000m as fast possible.

Laura will have strong competition from Oihana Kortazar, rising star Yngvild Pedersen and the ever-present and persistent Maite Maiora.


For the men, Max King fresh from a podium place at Ultravasen will need all his whit’s about him to hold off fast running from Ricky Gates, Xavier and Ferran Teixido and David Magnani.

In the Sky race (25k) which will take place on Saturday, we have the ‘A” Team of ladies. Emelie Forsberg fresh from victory at the ground-breaking Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in the UK will be looking to hold off Hardrock 100 winner and recent Nolan’s 14 FKT record breaker, Anna ‘Frosty Frost.


But it is no 2 lady race, in actual fact, this 25km race has one of the finest ladies’ fields ever assembled with Laura Orgue, Maite Maiora, Oihana Kortazar, Stevie Kremer, Kasie Enman, Megan Kimmel, Yngvild Pedersen and Eva Maria Moreda; wow! That is one seriously stacked ladies’ field and one that is heavily biased towards Salomon. They may very well take a 1,2,3 on the podium?


Would you like to pick a winner?

Megan Kimmel has been on fire recently despite a minor blip at Matterhorn Ultraks, Stevie Kremer as ever is a strong contender for the podium and Laura Orgue can climb like demon. I think the overall victory may well potentially come from one of these ladies, but who know? It’s wide open and that is great. Expect dome real Skyrunning fireworks.

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

In the 25km men’s race, Tadei Pivk, Tom Owens, Joe Gray and Marco De Gasperi head up a quality field and they will be looking to fight off strong competition from Ferran Teixido, Xavier Texeido, Sintu Yives and Jessed Hernandez. I’m going to stick my neck out and hope that Brit and fell running exponent Tom Owens takes out the win but Tadei has been a strong and dominant force over the Sky distance in 2015 and Joe Gray has been on fire lately..


Sunday proposes a 3000m+ Ultra over 50km’s and believe it or not, we may well see Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg do the ‘double’ and follow up Saturday’s 25km event with the Ultra. Hence why I didn’t pick them for the podium. In all honesty, Frosty and Emelie are currently better suited to the 50km event and if I were them, I’d keep my powder dry on Saturday and save it for an all explosive firework in the 50km.

In 2014, Emelie won this event ahead of Kasie Enman and Frosty placed 3rd. I think we can anticipate a similar result but with Frosty moving up 1 place and the final podium place being taken by the Mont-Blanc 80k 3rd place, Hillary Allen. We obviously can expect Ashley Erba and Kristina Pattison to disagree with this and without doubt they will be looking to shake up the podium.


The men’s race is a little wide open but Italian Franco Colle may well be the favourite after a strong result at Mont-Blanc 80km and his recent run at Tromso Skyrace. Timothy Parr will contest the podium as will Josh Arthur and Luke Nelson. Not sure if Seth Swanson is going to run but after 2nd at Western States and 4th at UTMB (just last weekend) who would put it past him rocking up and winning this one?

It’s a big weekend of running in Montana and if anyone ever asked the question, ‘is Skyrunning on the up in the USA?’ – the answer is a definite yes! 1800 runners in total will participate in the RUT’s weekend of activities and of course a winner could come from anywhere! Expect some shocks, some surprises and maybe we will see a new star of Skyrunning shine?

The VK, SKY and ULTRA races also appear in the Skyrunner® US Series and points will be available for this series handled and co-ordinated by Ian Sharman.

It’s going to be an amazing weekend of running.

You can follow the stories through words and images on this website, via Twitter @talkultra, on Instagram @iancorlessphotography and on Facebook at facebook.com/iancorlessphotography.

In addition, the official Skyrunning Facebook page (here) and Twitter @skyrunning_com will have regular updates and news.

*Note – Ricky Lightfoot, Dakota Jones, Michel Lanne and others were listed to run but as I understand it, they ill not start.

Lakes Sky Ultra 2015 Race Preview


Skyrunning UK is booming. Already this year we have had the V3K, Peaks Skyrace and the recent ground breaking Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.

Attention now turns to the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra.

A Lakeland course that offers elevated ridgelines, breathtaking exposure, fast travel on technical mountain terrain and some classic Lakeland scrambling. Race directors Charlie Sproson and Andrew Burton say, ‘Fell running on additives. This is Skyrunning™.’

Race date is September 12th and race entries close on September 6th, so you have time to gain a last minute entry in what will be a very special race.

It’s a race route that follows on quite nicely from the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in that the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra has plenty of vertical grind (4300m+), grade 3 scrambling, knife edge arêtes and all over 50km’s of challenging terrain.


It’s not a race for the feint hearted and this is reflected by the start list.


Starting on the streets of Ambleside, arguably one of the most important town in the English Lakes, runners will run this challenging course via a fully way marked route.

Who is running?


Eirik Haugsness has been racing the Skyrunner® World Series for several years and he is the 2014 champion of the Tromso Skyrace. His presence in the English lakes is an exciting prospect as he will attempt to do battle against local talent.


Ricky Lightfoot needs no introduction to Skyrunning and fell running aficionados and without doubt he is a favourite for overall victory on what for him is home soil. Ricky has already had a string of top performances in 2015, can he add the LSU to the list?


Es Tressider recently raced the Glen Coe Skyline and ran much of the day in 2nd place. Unfortunately, Es faded in the latter stages of the race and missed the podium. Es’s experience in the mountains is quite incredible and if recovered, we can certainly expect him to mix it up at the front of the race.


Damian Hall in 2015 has raced The Spine, The Dragons Back Race and just finished 32nd at UTMB (2nd Brit). LSU only comes 2 weeks after the Mont-Blanc monster so Damian may well be a little tired; we can’t rule him out though!

Ben Bardsley is an experienced fell runner and ski mountaineer. In the past he has raced at classic Skyrunning races such as Zegama-Aizkorri. Ben’s current form is a little unknown but he’s one to watch for sure.

Chris Stirling has had excellent performances at the Langdale Horseshoe, Three Shires, Great Lakes Race and has preparing for LSU for several months. His presence almost certainly will be felt at the front of the race.


In the ladies’ race, V3K winner and 3rd placed lady at Glen Coe Skyline, Sarah Ridgway makes an appearance and if recovered we can expect her to contest the podium once again.


But Beth Pascall comes to the race with a set of solid results. She has placed 2nd at Lakeland 100, won The Spine, placed 2nd The Dragons Back Race and for me is the most likely lady to top the podium on the 12th September.

Shiri Leventhal has placed on the podium of multi-day races in the 4 Desert Series and in 2013 was 2nd lady at the Everest Trail Race. This course will provide a test to Shiri but it’s one that she can rise too!


Finally, Victoria Mousley is another hot contender for the top of the podium. Her experience on courses such as The Three Peaks, Tour of Pendle and Scaffell Pike Marathon will set her up nicely for a great run at LSU.

Race details can be viewed here:  HERE

Course map here: HERE

RACE ENTRY HERE (open till September 6th)



Skyrunning UK at http://www.skyrunninguk.com


Tromsö VK 2015 – Race images and summary


Tromsö, Norway was shrouded in mist and low cloud today. Ironic considering that the previous days had glorious sunshine and blue skies. At 3pm, leaving the sea of the Ersfjord fjord runners faced a vertical climb of 1.044m reaching the top of Store Blåmann; the first VK in Tromsö.

It’s a technical course that mixes many different terrain types to make this an ultimate challenge for the VK specialist and novice. 117 runners made it to the top having crossed several sections on large rocks, boulders, scrambling sections and snow.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-3844From the beginning of the race, a small group of strong athletes pushed at the front with local, Stian Angermund pushing ahead of Pascal Egli and Remi Bonnet. Slovenian Nejk Kuhar and the Norwegian Thorbjorn Ludvigsen chased hard but were loosing ground at the mid point. Angermund obviously wanted victory on home soil and sealed the top podium slot with a strong finish in a remarkable 35:20. Remi Bonnet moved up into 2nd an Pascal Egli completed the podium.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-4109Yngvild Kaspersen from Tromsö followed up a great run at Dolomites SkyRace and pushed race director Emelie Forsberg all the way to the line. But Forsberg managed to win (43:41) by just 1 second after a sprint on the last rocky section before the summit. Maite Maiora took the final podium place.

Tromsö and race directors, Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg pulled out all the stops to make this VK a very special occasion. It was like a group of friends assembling and undertaking a fun day of running in a very casual and informal way. But the planning and experience was well established ahead of the race and all went smoothly. Kilian post race said:

“Everyone was very positive and happy and I am really pleased we had no issues. It was a success!”

Many of the runners will now rest and look to do ‘the double’ and get ready for Sunday’s events; The Hamperokken SkyRace, part of the for the Ultra SkyRunner® World Series  and the Tromsdalstind SkyRace of 21km. Both races will start at 10am.


1. Stian Hovind-Angermund 35:20
2. Remi Bonnet 35:42
3. Pascal Egli 36:05

1.   Emelie Forsberg 43:41
2.   Yngvild Kaspersen 43:42
3.   Maite Maiora 45:10

Results clasificación 

Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 2015 Race Preview #ITT2015


©iancorless.comIMG_0945The stunning alpine village of Val d’Isère is the official home of the next two races in the Skyrunner® calendar, the Ice Trail Tarentaise which is the Skyrunning Continental Championship for the Ultra distance and the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer the first VK in the Skyrunner® World Series.

Val d’Isere is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel; it is affectionately known as the ‘Le Trois Vallees’. The Ice Trail Tarentaise (ITT) starts and concludes in this beautiful mountain retreat.

The ITT has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte.’ In just a couple of years, the race has gained a reputation for being one of the most ‘extreme’ races in the Skyrunner® calendar, it is a race not to be taken lightly!


Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386m, ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not everyone will see the finishing tape. The ITT is very true to the heritage of Skyrunning and it harks back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when ISF President, Marino Giacometti pioneered a new form of Alpinism.


Who is running?



ITT has always had a high quality field assemble and 2015 is no different. Luis Alberto Hernando heads up the men’s field after his recent victory at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and placing 2nd at the IAU World Trail Championships. Luis ran ITT last year but pulled out whilst in 2nd place. I am convinced that we won’t see that happen this year and for me, Luis is the hot favourite for victory. He is without doubt in his element on tough courses (with snow) between the 50-100km distance.


Manuel Merillas is a rising star in Skyrunning and had an incredible 2014. He placed 5th at ITT in 2014, which will most definitely provide him with a great deal of experience coming into the 2015 edition. The recent Transvulcania Ultramarathon did not go well for Manuel; he looked primed for the podium in the first half of the race but then struggled in the latter stages to finish outside the top 10. He showed amazing powers of recovery by bouncing back just 1 week later at Zegama-Aizkorri and placing 2nd. One to watch!


Fabien Antolinus had a great race in 2014 and placed 2nd behind Francois d’Haene. He does however seem to blow hot and cold and can be a little unpredictable. For sure, he has all the skills and talent required to perform at the highest level. He may well be a podium contender but I don’t see him toppling Luis.


Pablo Villa shot to our attention in 2014 when he had a great run at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Shifting sponsors (now Salomon) he backed that performance up with 8th at the 2015 edition of the race. Pablo is a top 10 contender and should he have a great day, the top 5 may well be a possibility.


Fulvio Dapit has all the potential to make the podium at ITT. On his day, he is a superb mountain runner and he excels when the terrain is ‘challenging.’ He placed 4th at ITT in the last edition. Recently though he had a tough performance at Lavaredo, however, he did pull out and that may well have saved his ITT performance.

French champion (2013), Sebastien Spehler had victories at TTN and 6000D in 2014. His recent form is a little unknown but he may well make the top 10?

Benoit Cori placed 13th at the IAU World Trail Championships and won Templiers in 2014. The ITT course is far removed from both those courses but Benoit obviously has speed.

Marcin Swierc is another runner who will make his presence felt in the top 10. He placed 8th at Mont-Blanc Marathon and 9th at Templiers and 4th at the recent Mont-Blanc 80km. So it is clear to see that he has speed and strength. ITT adds other aspects and his final result will very much depend on how he can handle snow, ice and additional technical running.

Christophe Perillat is not a runner I know a great deal about. However, he did place 2nd at the 2014 CCC. So with that in mind, he is no slouch in the mountains.


Cyril Cointre may well start the race? I need to have this confirmed. If he does, he will be a contender at the front of the race. He races extensively, some may say too much but despite this, he always pulls out the results. Recently he finished ahead of Anton Krupicka at Transgrancanaria.

Franco Colle knows how to run in the mountains; look at his results at Tor des Geants. The ITT terrain will suit him but will it be too short and too fast? He certainly performed exceptionally well at Mont-Blanc 80k when he placed 2nd behind Alex Nichols.

Several other names on the start sheet jump out at me:


Zigor Iturrieta has been there and done it in racing. I was last at a race with him in Nepal when he ran Everest Trail Race (he placed 3rd) and he always manages to pull out the stops for strong consistent results.


Pavel Paloncy is a renowned adventure racer, 2-x winner of the UK’s Spine Race and recently raced The Dragons Back and would have placed well overall had it not been for a bad fall on day 1. Pavel is a strong and gritty runner. I do wonder though if this race may be too short and too fast for Pavel?


Stuart Air from the UK has run well at ITT before and top 10 would be a great result.

Ones to watch:

Daniel Garcia, Jessed Hernandez, Robert Niewland, Pawel Dybek,




Emelie Forsberg has won ITT 2 x and I have no reason to doubt or question that she will do it again. It’s a course she loves, the terrain suits her and she has great memories. Last weekend she won and set a new course record in Alaska at Mount Marathon. It was 50-minute race but just today (Tuesday) she said her legs are tired! I think they will be okay for the weekend. Her performance and victory (off ski’s) at Transvulcania Ultramarathon in 2015 confirms that Emelie is the one to beat!


Anna Comet Pascua is on fire at the moment. I witnessed Anna win Everest Trail Race at the end of 2014 and she said then that she planned to race the Skyrunning circuit in 2015. A podium place at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and then a follow up podium behind Mira Rai at Mont-Blanc 80km confirms that Anna is doing something right. Just as in La Palma, I don’t think Anna has the race to beat Emelie but anything can happen?


It will not be an easy ride for Emelie and Maud Gobert will make sure of that. Maud placed 2nd at ITT in 2014 and although she races lees now than in the past, on her day she can still make her presence felt.

Anne Lise Rousset placed 4th at the IAU World Championships and although she has great potential for top 5 or maybe even the podium, I don’t see her coming close to Emelie on a course like this.

Magdalena Laczack however may well prove to be the dark horse of the race and is my top tip for 2nd place and should Emelie falter, Magdalena could possibly take the victory? Her 3rd place behind Emelie and Frosty at the Skyrunning World Championships (80km) in Chamonix confirms this.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1160368

Nuria Dominguez is an ever present on the Skyrunning circuit and always gets the job done. She has placed top 10 at Transgrancanaria, Zegama-Aizkorri, Dolomites SkyRace, Trans D’Havet, Limone Extreme and so on. Top 5 is a distinct possibility and most certainly a podium contender on a good day!

Beth Cardelli is one of the strongest runners in the Southern Hemisphere and won one of the shorter races at ITT in 2013. Climbing and long distance running is her forte and I am sure if she is making the journey from Australia she will be fired up for a great run. Recently she placed 4th at Mt Difficulty and 3rd at Buffalo Stampede when Landie Greyling topped the podium.


Ester Alves seems to be running everything at the moment. I would say ‘too much’ for her to have any potential for the podium at ITT but she may well make the top 5 and top 10 should be guaranteed if all goes well. Recently she placed 2nd behind Stevie Kremer at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira.

Ones to watch:

Ragna Debats, Frederica Boifava, Anna Strakova, Sarah Vieuielle and Virginie Govignon.


The Ice Trail Tarentaise weekend is also renowned for the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer, which was reintroduced in 2014.

The course is a tough one, which may include snow although this looks unlikely after recent high temperatures throughout Europe. This race may well prove to be very exciting, as Francois Gonon will run after his recent excellent CR on the vertical slopes in Chamonix.

Ones to watch:


  • Francois Gonon
  • Nejc Kuhar
  • Marco Moletto
  • Ferran Teixido
  • Xavier Teixido
  • William Bon Mardion
  • Eirik Haugsness
  • Remi Bonnet



  • Laura Orgue
  • Stephanie Jimenez
  • Emelie Forsberg (tbc)
  • Azara Garcia
  • Therese Sjursen
  • Erika Forni
  • Serena Vittori
  • Ekaterina Mityaev
  • Zhana Vokueva

Follow the racing in images and words on this website, on Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography on Twitter @talkultra and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

Race Tweets will come to you via @skyrunning_com and on the Skyrunning Facebook page.

How is your Posture? Part Trois – Marc Laithwaite

Image ©www.mbmyoskeletal.com

                                              Image ©www.mbmyoskeletal.com

Okay, so we’re now onto part 3 of the series and this week we are looking at exercises to correct anterior tilt of the pelvis, which creates the lordosis posture. If you’ve not yet read the last 2 week’s posts, you should read them first. Pt1 HERE and Pt2 HERE.

Why are these exercises important?

Anterior tilt occurs becuase specific muscles may be weak, tight or you simply don’t know how to activate / use them properly. The exercises will therefore strengthen, stretch or activate control of those muscles. By doing this, you will be more aware of correct posture / pelvic position and you will be better able to maintain correct posture / pelvic position during exercise and daily life.

What are the limitations of these exercises?

Don’t presume that by doing these exercises, you will automatically hold perfect posture whilst you are training and racing. The exercises will make it possible to CONTROL your posture, but you must consciously make it happen when you are exercising. I’ve seen many swimmers and runners completing endless drills in the pool or on the track, presuming it will impact on their performance. The reality is that they become awesome at performing the drills and it seems to make no difference to the actual stroke or running stride. The same applies to these exercises, you have to make the transfer happen in a practical setting. Drills and exercises are pointless unless you try to implement them when you actually exercising.

How do I implement them when exercising?

Simple, when running you should always try to run in a pelvic neutral position. The first step is being aware that you’re NOT in a neutral position, then you should be able to use your stomach muscles to rotate the pelvis into the correct position. It might help to do the same cycling, some simple posterior rotation mid ride can prevent hip flexors tightening too much.

What about open water swimming? How many of you get a bad back swimming in a wetsuit? Simple explanation, the stomach muscles are not strong enough and your lower back arches too much (bit like doing a BAD plank exercise and sagging in the middle). Couple this with the fact that a wetsuit gives you buoyant legs and a high head and your body is in a ‘U’ shape position in the water. You need to contract your abdominals and lift your stomach (GOOD plank) to straighten you out and get a level position in the water. The big issue is going from this position in a wetsuit to a complete opposition position leaning forwards on your aero bars, a postural nightmare.

Stop banging on, what are the exercises….

These are the simple exercises which should be done every day without fail. We thought the bext way to show you would be a little youtube video.

NEXT WEEK, we’ll look at the stitch and breathing issues. We’ll also have a look at some of those cramping issues and suggestions to stop calf cramps when swimming etc.

Please pardon by pelvic tilting, it’s not the best viewing. IF YOU FIND THE VIDEO TOO SMALL, click on the YouTube icon, bottom right hand of the video player, it’ll open in YouTube. HERE

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

How is your Posture? Part Deux – Marc Laithwaite

©copyright .iancorless.com._1120617

So last week we introduced the subject of ‘lordosis’ or ‘anterior pelvic tilt’ and how it impacts upon runners and triathletes. In the blog I stated that from my experience, athletes with lordosis or anterior tilt are at high risk of suffering the following injuries or problems:

  1. Lower back pain (pretty much always a link between lower back pain and anterior tilt of the pelvis).
  2. Constant tightness in the hamstrings (certainly can’t touch your toes!).
  3. Possible pain or tightness in the front of the hip/groin area.
  4. Potential cramp or spasm in the quads (front of your thighs), more common running downhill.
  5. Running ‘stitch’ (bearing in mind that a stitch is a word used to describe and pain in the abdominal region when running!!).
  6. Problems breathing (can’t breathe deep and have to breathe rapid and shallow), sometimes but not always coupled with stitch.
  7. For triathletes, these problems are worse when running after cycling (when running immediately after cycling your hamstrings are tight, get quad cramps and breathing difficulties or stitches).

The aim of today’s blog is to explain the potential reason why each of the above happen, linked to lordosis posture.

Some basic things to understand:

In last week’s blog we discussed that the pelvis can tilt forwards or backwards, dictated by which muscles are pulling and in which direction. The 4 muscle groups we discussed were:

1. Core abdominals
2. Lower back
3. Hamstrings (rear of thigh – including glutes)
4. Hip flexors (front of thigh / hip)

when you have lordosis posture we said that the hamstrings and hip flexors are tight, as are the lower back muscles. The core abdominals are generally weak.

Why are muscles tight?

It’s important to understand why muscles are tight, as there is more than just one reason. If you stretch a muscle and make it longer, you will inevitably make it tighter. It’s simple to understand, imagine a muscle is like an elastic band. Pull the elastic band and lengthen it, it gets tighter. However, muscles can become tight because then are shortened, NOT lengthened. Initially this doesn’t make sense, think about the elasatic band, if you stop pulling it and allow it to shorten, then it relaxes. Generally muscles will get tighter when stretched and lengthened and relax when shortened, but not in every case.

Shorter and tighter

Imagine if you put your leg in a plaster cast for 6 months with your knee bent at 90 degrees. When you bend your knee, this shortens the hamstring. When the day finally arrives to have the cast cut off, it’s unlikely that you will be able to straighten your leg. The reason for this is that the hamstring muscle has spent so long in a shortened position, it’s now stuck at that length! Here’s the critical thing, if muscles spend a long time in a shortened position, they eventually get used to that length and it becomes relatively permanent. The irony is that they were initially shortened, which made them relax. They got used to that shortened position, adjusted in length and eventually that makes them feel tight!!


Let’s simplify this, some muscles get ‘stretched’ which makes them feel tight and some muscles get ‘shortened’ which makes them feel tight. It just anterior-pelvic-tiltdepends on whether you lengthen it (stretch it) or shorten it (and leave it shortened for a long period of time). Check out our image which we used last week, here’s what happens to our 4 muscle groups:

1. Hamstrings get pulled upwards (stretched) and this makes them feel tight.
2. The hip flexors are shortened and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
3. The lower back muscles shorten and over time they adjust in length (feel tight)
4. The abdominals are stretched (you won’t feel this like stretched hamstrings)

Why am I getting the symptoms you’ve written above?

Ok, so at the start of this blog I listed the possible symptoms of lordosis. I think the 4 points directly above explain the reason for lower back pain, tight hamstrings and tightness in the front of the hip / groin area. Let’s just take a closer look at the lower back pain. How does the lower back pain feel? Does it feel tight (like a tight hamstring) or is it more of a sharp, disabling ‘spasm’?

Spasm or cramp?

We’re going off into weird territory now, but this is a really worthwhile discussion. When a muscle contracts very sharply (often painfully), we refer to this as a ‘spasm’ or sometimes we call it a ‘cramp’. They may sound different to you, but we tend to use the words interchangeably for the same thing, largely because we’re confused and really don’t fully understand what’s going on.

When people get cramp in running races, generally they are in a state of fatigue and often they blame a lack of salts. It’s unlikely that loss of salt is causing cramp, but that’s a whole scientific discussion we’re not going to have in this blog. Back to the point, when people are knackered, they start to cramp. Whether it’s 22 miles into the marathon, 95 miles into a bike ride, it happens when you’re tired, ran out of fuel, feel dehydrated and generally in an all round bad state.

Here’s an interesting question then, why do people sometimes get cramp in their feet whilst they sleeping? How vigorous is your sleeping? Do you need to be waking at regular intervals to take on board electrolyte drinks? If you’re a triathlete, you may well have suffered from calves cramping during the swim, especially in open water. How dehydrated and fatigued can you really be during the early stages of a triathlon swim? That doesn’t make sense at all.

Geeks will love this…

I’m not pretending to give you the definitive answer to this question, but here is an opinion and some ideas. At this point let’s introduce the subject of ‘stretch receptors’ and the ‘stretch reflex’. You have receptors in your muscles and they detect how much and how quickly a muscle is stretching. If they believe a muscle to be stretching too much and too quickly, they trigger a contraction to protect the muscle. The best example of this (you will all have experienced the action of the stretch receptors), is running along happily and suddenly going over on your ankle. As you roll your ankle, the muscles on the outside of your lower leg contract and pull the foot back into position. You hobble for the next few steps, before realising that you got away with it and the ankle is still in one piece. What happened in that split second was not a conscious decision, you didn’t note that you had rolled your ankle or think about trying to correct it, the whole episode ‘just happened’, it was a contraction triggered by the stretch receptors.

What’s this got to do with cramp (or spasm for that matter)

When cycling, your hip flexors are in a shortened position (if your thigh is close to your stomach, hip flexors are shortened. The more aero, the more they’re shortened). Sometimes if i’ve been riding my bike for several hours, when i unclip, step off and stand upright, i get a ‘spasm’ in my hip flexors. I usually ‘crunch forwards’ immediately and then in goes. The likely cause of that small hip flexor spasm is the fact that the muscle has been working in a very short position for several hours. Over that time, the stretch receptors become accustomed to that shortened length. At the end of the ride I suddenly stand up vertical and the hip flexors lengthen dramatically. The stretch receptors are confused, causing a panic response which is a sudden sharp contraction (my little spasm) and it’s done to try and stop me lengthening the hip flexors too much or to quickly.

I’ve had this response before. My saddle height was too high which meant that I cycled with my toes pointing down slightly (posh term is planter felxtion, you can have that one for the next pub quiz). As my toes pointed down slightly, the calf was in a shortened position until the end of the bike ride. When I jumped off and started to run, the calf was suddenly lengthened and my stretch receptors (who had become comfortable with the shortened position during the bike) were alarmed by this sudden change, so reacted the only way they knew how, they initiated a sharp contraction (my calves cramped). It’s worth pointing out that most triathletes will cycle with a slightly ‘toes down’ position, so this problem is common.

Another example, a slightly shorter friend of mine, who is often referenced in this blog did the Ironman triathlon a few years ago. During the swim his calf kept ‘cramping’ and when he got out of the swim onto dry land, it cramped severely to the point where he could not walk! If fact, the cramp was so severe, he coudn’t run the marathon later in the race (to be fair, he probably wouldn’t have been able to run it under any circumstances). During open water swimming, the toes are pointed (it’s that plantar flextion thingy again), this means the calf is in a shortened and relaxed position. It’s probable that the stretch receptors become comfortable to that shortened position and perhaps become a little confused with this sorter length. When the calf is suddenly lengthened or sometimes when it isnt’t legnthened at all, this confusion in muscle length means that the stretch receptors trigger a sudden contraction. Sometimes the contraction is so strong, it can tear the calf muscle (or any other muscle), this is why severe ‘cramp’ as people often refer to it as, can lead to pain for several days.

How is this linked to the subject of lordosis?

In the original list of symptoms, we listed hip flexor cramps and quadricep cramps. Anterior tilt causes shortening of the hip flexors and the spasm I mentioned above, when I get off my bike is caused by lordosis / anterior tilt. In terms of quad cramps, one of the 4 quadricep muscles acts as a hip flexor. It’s called Rectus Femoris and if it’s tight, it tilts the pelvis forwards. In fact, there’s a strong research link between Rectus Femoris and back problems. If you have an enterior tilt of the pelvis (e.g. running after cycling) the Rectus Femoris muscle is in a shortened position. Running downhill encourages an anterior tilt of the pelvis and I’ve spoken to several people who in triathlon events, have suffered ‘cramp’ in the quads, in particular running downhill. It generally involves both legs completely locking.

Here’s the thing. All of the above scenarios are relatively common and advice tends to favour ‘salts and electrolytes’ to prevent the ‘cramp’. There is a real case of cramp or spasm caused by fatigue and dehydration, such as the 22 miles point in a marathon, but that’s not the simple answer. If you take the common example of cramping calves in open water swimming, there’s no way on earth that’s caused by fatigue or salt loss, all of the above can be explain by unnatural shortening of muscles and confusion of the muscle spindles and nervous system, resulting in a sudden contraction.

Okay, I haven’t touched on the stitch or breathing issues. I’d not anticipated on rambling so much. I could get 4 weeks out of this, it’s turning out better than expected. Next week we’ll talk about corrective exercises and ways to stop these problems. The following weeks, we’ll look specifically at breathing issues and the dreaded ‘stitch’.

If you suffer from calves cramping during swimming, hip spasms getting off the bike during long rides, quads cramping or any of the above, then reply and let us know with a single line. We can then tailor next weel’s exercises to the reponses and problems you have.

If you found this blog useful or interesting, we’d really appreciate a share, re-post or retweet on social media.

Until next week, stay relaxed.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo