Four races in the stunning location of Sardinia, UTSS is a remarkable outdoor event in the breathtaking landscape of the Supramonte of Baunei, considered one of the very few wilderness in Europe and the entire Mediterranean basin.
Relentless technical terrain, hard climbs and descents and the stunning aquamarine of the sea and secluded beaches make this a really unique event.
“It is one of the hardest and most technical races I have ever run and the beauty is just amazing… A truly special race!” – Franco Colle, winner of the 100km event.
Sea, woods, rock, limestone, single-track, soft-sand and wild remote beauty, the opportunity to run on the paths of the shepherds, the true custodians of this harsh and wild territory. Hidden coves and caves, wooden bridges and stunning wildlife – a truly remarkable playground.
UTSS has four distances, covering all abilities: 20km, 30km, 43km and the brutal 100km that allow all to run on the mule tracks overlooking the cliffs, built by the charcoal burners in the 19th century. The races are founded on tradition that are designed to show the best of Sardinia, be that traditional huts or stunning rocks that look like faces, almost taken from the set of an Indiana Jones movie.
The 100km race was dominated by Franco Colle and Giuditta Turini who started strong and held on to early leads to run solo, throughout the day and in to the night to set remarkable times of 12:35:11 and 15:15:09 respectively.
For the 43km race, UTMB champion and course recorder holder, Pau Capell was always going to be the ‘one to watch’ and early in the race he bided his time before making a move and taking the lead which he held on to till the finish, crossing the line in 4:51:38.
For the women, Martina Valmassoi took an early lead and looked strong in the first 25% of the race. However, Frederico Zucello passed Martina and continued to pull away with a 6:16:39 victory.
Luca Cagnati and Davide Cheraz traded blows continuously in the 30km race and it could have gone either way, but it was Luca who pipped the line crossing in 2:52:14 to Davide’s 2:52:21. Marie Paturel scored a strong win for the women in 3:45:29.
The shortest race of the weekend, the 20km was won by Roberto Poletti and Corinna Ghirardi 2:15:08 and 2:33:07 respectively.
The 2019 Ultra Mirage El Djerid 100k #UMED is over and what an epic 3rd edition of the race! Pre-race favourites, Rachid El Morabity and Bouchra Lundgren Eriksen were crowned the champions.
Three editions and three courses, the 2018 and 2019 courses similar but as race director, Amir Ben Gacem said pre-race, the 2019 route would be harder due to more soft-sand in key sections. The route was harder and this was confirmed by all alumni.
100km desert based in Tozeur, Tunisia, North Africa brought runners from all over the world to experience something very special in a unique environment. The start and finish at the Star Wars film set made famous as Luke Skywalker’s home – Mos Espa.
The 1st edition had just 60 runners from 12 countries, for 2018, these numbers escalated to over 100 and a remarkable 20+ countries for 2018 and now 168 toed the line in 2019.
Soft-sand, small dunes, rocks, dried river beds and multiple oasis, participants had 20-hours to finish the race with very specific deadlines to reach each of the checkpoints which will be between 15-20km apart. Starting at 0700, the race concluded at 0300 with a drop-out rate of 30%.
On paper, the 2019 editions of the race, despite a harder route, looked like it may have the bonus of cooler temperatures… Not so, race day proved to be a scorcher with temperatures hitting 40+ degrees causing problems for runners who baked in the intense heat – the checkpoints were too far away for such intense heat!
The early stages of the race were dictated by Evgenii Glyva who set a ridiculous pace considering the distance ahead.
Tunisian runner, Mosbah Lagha pursued at a distance and quite sensibly, any runner who was hoping to be around at the finish line decided to stay around Rachid El Morabity, the 2018 champion.
Chefia Hendaoui who placed 3rd last year, from the gun, left the top women trailing behind. For over 10km, she actually ran ahead of Rachid finally succumbing and joining the top contenders of Elisabet Barnes, Bouchra Lundgren Eriksen, Oksana Riabova and more.
After Cp1, Rachid trailed the duo upfront by over 10-minutes. It was enough for him to decide to react and what a reaction. The desert king closed the distance in no time and with another change of gear pulled away at a ridiculous pace. It took less than 10km for the gap to extend to almost 30-minutes.
The question would be, could Rachid hold this pace? In 2018 he crumbled with 20km to go and fought fatigue and dehydration to take victory, but in the process he collapsed in the arms of RD Amir and ended up on IV drips.
This year he was prepared. I have seen Rachid run all over the world and here he impressed me like no other time – cool, calm, controlled and metronomic. Somehow, on a more difficult course he ran a new CR crossing the line 8:21:39.
Behind the Moroccan, it was carnage as the heat and course took its toll. But early protagonist Mosbah Lagha from Tunisia flew the home flag and battled hard to hold on for 2nd in 10:17:02 ahead of another Moroccan, Rachid Aamimi El Armani who crossed the line in 11:18:21.
For the women, 2018 champion Elisabet Barnes was feeling strong and after cp1 and pushed the pace.
Bouchra Lundgren Eriksen was having none of it though and marked the move eventually taking the lead. Bouchra pulled away, an error going off course gave Elisabet the lead once again but Bouchra quickly hunted her down and regained control.
After cp2, the heat and soft-sand took its toll with many drop-outs including the 2018 1st and 2nd place runners, Elisabet and Sondre Amdahl.
Bouchra was now taking control of the front of the race and last year’s 2nd place, Oriane Dujardin kept her in contact until the final 25% when Bouchra pulled away to take victory in 11:20:54.
Oriane was a clear 2nd in 12:02:23 and Judith Havers from Germany placed 3rd in 13:24:06.
The story of the day though was intense heat, a tough and relentless course and dehydration. As in any race, nothing is guaranteed. Rachid’s performance was spectacular, the CR may well last for some time!
ABANDONS / DNF: 51
New record : Rachid El Morabity
1. Rachid Elmorabity🇲🇦08:21:39
2. Mosbah Lagha 🇹🇳10:17:02
3. Rachid Aamimi El Amrani 🇲🇦11:18:21
1. Bouchra Lundgren Eriksen🇩🇰11:20:54
2. Oriane Dujardin🇫🇷12:02:23
3. Judith Havers🇩🇪13:24:06
You can obtain more specific information from the race website, HERE
The 2019 Ultra Mirage El Djerid 100k #UMED rolls closer. Now in its 3rd edition, this 100km desert race based in Tozeur, Tunisia, North Africa brings 300 runners from all over the world to experience something very special in a unique environment.
The 1st edition had just 60 runners from 12 countries, for 2018, these numbers escalated to over 150 and a remarkable 20+ countries for 2018 and now 300 will toe the line.
A single-stage race that takes runners across a wide diversity of terrain, the start is at Mos Espa, famous as a movie set and tourist attraction as it was the home of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie. The film set still exists and provides all involved a great opportunity for a photo before or after the race!
Soft sand, small dunes, rocks, dried river beds and multiple oasis, participants have 20-hours to finish the race with very specific deadlines to reach each of the checkpoints which will be between 15-20km apart. Starting at 0700, the race concludes at 0300.
Offering 4 ITRA points and equal prize money for the top female and male athletes, the 2019 edition of UMED looks set to be a great race: #1 EUR 3000, #2 EUR 1500, #3 EUR 500.
2018 Champions, Rachid El Morabity and Elisabet Barnes return to defend their crowns, can they beat the course records? Mohamed El Morabity has a faster time from 2017, (08:48:11) but the race route was very different! Elisabet Barnes set the 2018 record, 10:12:12. However, the 2019 route does have approximately 20% course change, and in the words of Race Director, Amir Ben Gacem:
“From cp3 at 50km is identical to last year: straight long lines in the desert. The first part will be the same for the first 20km across Chott el Gharsa. But between 20km and 50km we are probably changing the route to skip the road section in favour of plain desert. It will be more difficult as there will be no shade at all except at check points, and there will be more soft sand.”
Rachid is the outright favourite and little more needs to be said, he is the desert king. Rachid’s brother, Mohamed, will also return. The duo, both desert specialists, encountered difficult races in 2018 – the intense heat challenging them. Rachid collapsed at the finish line with dehydration and exhaustion, his brother making the podium after a very difficult final 20km. As desert experts, Rachid a multiple champion at Marathon des Sables, Mohamed equally a desert expert, but often in the shadow of his older brother, they are without doubt favorites for the 2019 title.
Sondre Amdahl from Norway will also return after making the podium in 2018 and nearly upstaging the desert king, Rachid. The final 10km really was a spectacular battle as they traded run stride and cadence to be champion. Sondre has raced at Marathon des Sables where he placed in the top 10. Certainly, the single-stage format and 100km distance will suit him as he proved last-year, however, he has been injured recently and therefore his form may well be below his own exacting standards.
Christophe Le Saux, France, also toes the line. He is a long distance expert, has a great history with MDS and he loves the desert. The men’s race will be interesting in 2019!
The UK’s Ben Whitfield will not be a name you know, but mark my words, you will after the 2019 UMED!
Two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes, will head up the women’s race and after placing 4th overall, setting a CR in 2018, she is without doubt the favorite. A solid June and July saw Elisabet clock some great training miles which she has tried to maintain throughout August.
Bouchra Lundgren Eriksen will push Elisabet for the victory, a very accomplished marathon runner and podium finisher at MDS, she may well be the one person who challenges the MDS Queen, Elisabet, for victory.
Oriane Dujardin placed 2nd in 2018 and ran a solid and consistent race. With more experience and one year of training, she will once again contend the podium.
Rebecca Ferry has experience in multi-day racing and ultra-running, particularly at the 100km distance. She recently ran CCC and DNF’d, however, she has kept her powder dry since. If she has a good day, she will definitely contend the podium.
Chefia Hendaoui is the female Tunisian hope and she made the podium in 2018 – can she place higher?
As in any race, nothing is guaranteed. As the distance takes its toll, the soft-sand wears the runners down and the heat exhausts, anything can happen. Stay tuned for the action as it unfolds in Tunisia. No doubt, some names will shine that are not mentioned here.
One thing is for sure, the desert, Tunisia and the UMED organisation will provide a special experience for all.
Runners will start to arrive in Tunisia from Thursday 28th and transfer to Tozeur. Friday is registration and briefing and then the action starts Saturday, 0700.
You can obtain more specific information from the race website, HERE
It was touch and go some 30+ years ago, when at art college, should I work in the film industry, or, should I work on still photography I thought?
I was a huge film buff, still am. I consume movies at an alarming rate, especially when in travel. There have been times over the past three decades when I wondered had I made the right decision?
Deep down, I knew I had, especially when I managed to merge my love for sport with photography and writing.
It was running and working on races that introduced me to Leon Clarance, a successful film producer. We hit it off and I was fortunate to photograph Leon at races such as Marathon des Sables and Everest Trail Race. We often discussed film and he knew I was a film fan.
A conversation over a beer one day and I told Leon, that one day, I’d love to shoot a film. It was a casual throw away conversation as we discussed each other’s work.
Well, Ross Clarke, the director of The Bird Catcher, produced by Ross, Leon and Lisa G Black, noticed one of my images of Leon from a race. He liked the look and style of the imagery and this opened the door to work on The Bird Catcher.
Leon Clarance on set in Norway.
The Bird Catcher is a truly amazing story with a stunning cast:
Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, August Diehl, Laura Birn, Arthur Hakalahti, Jakob Cedergren and Johannes Bah Kuhnke amongst others.
Sarah-Sofie Boussnina – A rising star who gained recognition for ‘The Bridge’ TV series and Knightfall, Black Lake and recently Mary Magdalene.
August Diehl on set in Norway. August is primarily known for playing Dieter Hellstrom in Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds.’
Directed by Ross Clarke (Skid Row, Heroes & Demons, Dermaphoria) the movie tells the story of a young woman (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) in Norway who flees the Nazi roundup and conceals her identity whilst working on an occupied farm.
Inspired by harrowing true events. This gripping new thriller uncovers a hidden slice of World War II history that is as shocking as it is inspiring. Norway, 1942. During her attempt to flee Nazi persecution, 14-year-old Jewish girl Esther finds herself alone and forced to conceal her identity on a Nazi sympathiser farm. Forced to make a series of choices, her actions shift the paths of those around her. From collaboration to resistance, the population’s reaction to their Nazi conquerors was not always clear-cut.
Director – Ross Clarke
Jon Christian Rosenlund was the DOP (Director of Photography) who has worked on movies such as, The Wave, Thousand Times Good Night, The Kings Choice and so many more! He is a true master of his craft and to see him in action with a dedicated crew was a pleasure. He has a wonderful vision and his lighting approach – stunning.
Director of Photography – Jon Christian Rosenlund – On set at The Farm in Norway.
I was commissioned for two shoots, both on location in Norway, at different time points so as to capture still imagery that would best illustrate the story.
In principal, I had two briefs:
1. Capture still imagery of the movie – the scenes, the actors, the locations and help tell a visual story.
2. Capture behind the scene moments that tell the story of how a film is made.
A TYPICAL DAY
Movies are long, arduous and harsh. Especially when working in Norway with sub zero temperatures, snow and ice. Film sets are very controlled and costly. Therefore, everyone has a role and each day is planned to precision and a storyboard rules the day with a set of objectives.
Lighting, camera angles and planning is done in advance of the movie so that that film crew can work ahead of the DOP and have scenes ready for ‘action’ asap.
Actors, make-up, wardrobe, props and so on, equally are all planned in minute detail.
Controlling the running of everything are the producers and director. The director controls the film’s content and creative style and the producers make sure the film is on time and on budget – I simplify the roles. Both producer and director work well in advance of any film with script, writing, planning, financing and so on. Post the film process, attention then turns to editing and releasing the film.
Jon Are Uhnger
Jon Are Uhnger (1st AD) each morning would assemble all crew and brief them with a ‘UNIT CALL’ of the day’s schedule.
This is ‘The Bible’ for each day and specifies everything that is needed for the day – for example Day 30 below:
Starts with a 13:30 call and a 22:45 finish.
It specifies shooting scenes, allowed time, set description, required people, what actors and so on. It needs to be managed down to the minute and there is a constant level of pressure for all involved.
WORKING ON A MOVIE
I was told that the lowest of the low on a film set is the stills shooter. So, I was a little nervous being a rookie on a film set. However, Leon reassured me that Ross and Jon were cool guys.
And they were. A complete and utter pleasure to work with.
Noise, distraction, being in the wrong place at the wrong time are all things, amongst others, that will make you very unpopular on a film. It’s very much a case of don’t be seen and don’t be heard.
Usually, a stills photographer will move in after a scene has been successfully filmed and capture stills by re-creating key moments. The main reason for this is complicated but in summary:
1. Cameras make a noise when you take a photo.
2. You can be a distraction if moving whilst filming.
Gladly I had recently converted from using Canon cameras to Sony. The Sony cameras are mirrorless and key for the film industry, have a ‘silent’ mode. This proved to be crucial and in advance of the movie, I had already expanded and planned my equipment with the intention of shooting whilst they filmed. This was in someway, looking back, a risky decision. However, I was committed that shooting ‘live’ would give me the best imagery.
Day 1 I was really nervous as we went straight into a very intense scene with German soldiers, Sarah-Sofie Boussnina pulling a sledge and the arrival of a motorbike. I treated it, looking back, like a race. I planned my angles, shot live and caught the action as it happened. I was in my element. Buzzing would be an underestimation.
Post the filming, I moved in for a couple of close-ups while the crew re-set for the next scene and I then captured images of the crew working and setting up.
This process was repeated throughout the day as we all worked to the day’s schedule. At all times I was conscious of the films camera angle, the lens focal length, the story, the emotion and looking to capture what would be the essence of the film.
I can honestly say, I have been very fortunate to work on amazing photography projects in my career, and now, looking back, The Bird Catcher is without doubt one of the highlights. It was challenging, stressful, rewarding, eye opening and just the most remarkable journey.
At the end of day 1, I was editing photos. I had that buzz of excitement knowing I had captured some really strong imagery that really reflected what I had seen being filmed. Ross and Jon looked over my shoulder and then asked to look… I am sure I stopped breathing for a short while. Were they not happy?
I opened the images and scrolled through, one-by-one!
‘When did you take these images?’ Jon enquired.
’I shot most of them while you were filming,’ I replied.
’Not possible,’ he said. ‘You can’t shoot when we are… But these images are stunning!’
I could have fainted. I explained about my camera, shooting silent and wanting to capture in ‘real’ time.
Jon replied, ‘I want to see that camera…’
From that moment on, I was respected on set. Given the space I needed and allowed to shoot with relative autonomy. Once or twice I pushed the boundaries, trying to get the best shot and I was warned accordingly. But the results were the secret, Jon, Ross and the team could see the difference.
Over the shooting days we had multiple locations, challenging scenes, different light and the whole process was a whirlwind of adrenaline. I may have been working, but it felt like I was in a movie living out a dream.
There was an intensity on set. The story of The Bird Catcher is one that should be told and some scenes, quite literally had the crew in tears. Each scene, I thought to myself, I cannot wait to see this movie. At the end of each day we would see dailies, but they are just jigsaw pieces.
It has been over 2 years since working in Norway and the content I produced could not be shown… The Bird Catcher finally has a UK release on October 4th and now I can tell my story.
I urge you to see this movie!
Cinema is a wonderful medium. Working behind the scenes has not burst the bubble or shattered my illusions, on the contrary, it has enhanced my experience.
I made new friends in Norway and I witnessed a film crew working as one to tell the story of The Bird Catcher, because, the story needs to be told!
Sarah-Sofie Boussnina and Arthur Hakalahti are without doubt, the stars and they have already gained worldwide recognition for their skills as actors, The Bird Catcher will only enhance that.
Ross, Leon and Lisa have produced something very special and Jon has given it all a wonderful sumptuous and at times harrowing look. It’s a piece of art.
I hate to single out people as a film is all about everyone coming together and working to one objective, the initial reviews confirm that they all did a great job.
The backdrop produces stunning winter images of coastal Norway near the Swedish border. The snow-frosted forests and idyllic countryside provide a nice juxtaposition to the suspense and fear the characters experience. The audience provided several audible gasps through every twist and turn in the plot. – Edhat.com
Kilian Jornet returns to Nepal, little news is available of what Kilian plans but the Nepalese/ south side will most likely be the Catalan’s objective.
In my in-depth interview with Kilian (HERE) he eluded to the frustrations of media attention and how in the future, he may well go on projects and expeditions and only provide information of the undertaking after the event. Well, it looks like such a project is now underway.
Laura Font Sentís who has represented Kilian for many years via the Barcelona-based Lymbus agency confirmed to Canadian Running Magazine:
“Kilian will spend some time in the Himalayas with his family and he will take advantage to explore the terrain. If he does any relevant activity he will communicate after he has completed it.”
Everest will receive a dozen attempts this season after the monsoons – after a lull of 8 to 9 years.
According to the Department of Tourism, the last time Everest was climbed in the autumn season was in 2010, when American Eric Larsen achieved the feat.
“It’s difficult to climb Everest during the autumn because of post-monsoon and fresh snow,” said Rameshwor Niroula
I had wondered if Kilian would try to resurrect the project of Ueli Steck before his death in 2017? Confirmation has been received that Kilian does have permission to climb Lhotse but in what capacity and for what purpose is unknown – could it be a speed record or to resurrect Steck’s project?
“Steck died on 30 April 2017 while acclimatizing for an attempt of the Hornbein route on the West Ridge of Everest without supplemental oxygen. This route had been climbed only a few times, the last of which was in 1991. His plan was to climb the Hornbein Couloir to the summit, then proceed with a traverse to the peak of Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain. This combination had not been achieved.”
François Lebeau and Jon Glassberg are with Kilian and this would suggest that they will document the project…? Again, this is speculation but one would assume Kilian will undertake any project with a small team and move fast and light, as one would expect!
The Himalayan Times have confirmed much activity for Autumn and I quote;
‘….besides, Spanish climber Kilian Jornet would also attempt to climb Mt Everest after leading a three-member team on Mt Lhotse in the autumn season, Murari Sharma, Managing Director at Everest Pariwar Treks informed.’
Sources said that there would be two teams on Mt Everest this season, also taken from The Himalayan Times:
“Jornet will be using a single permit while others would share another Everest climbing permit. Renowned photographers including Francois Lebeau and Jon Glassberg will be documenting their climbs on Mt Everest.”
It was another year of rugged, relentless and remote on the Superior Hiking Trail as runners gathered on the North Shore of Lake Superior to take on the challenge of running 100-miles in a point-to-point race concluding at the Lutsen Mountains.
There are no guarantees over 100-miles and pre-race favourites, Mallory Richard and Micheal Borst can confirm, that no matter how great ones condition can be, the curve balls of long distance running can make one truly appreciate the good times.
The due both started at a blistering pace as early morning sun bathed the North Shore. Michael extending a short lead over the other male favourite, Mick Jurynec. At Split Rock (10-miles) Michael just had a 30-second lead whereas Mallory was already opening time gaps that extended well into minutes.
Over 400 images will be uploaded by Monday 9th September
At Mt. Trudee, Michael had lost the lead to Mick Jurynec y 5-minutes and this pattern continued all the way to Sugarloaf aid station where Michael would finally drop allowing Mick to leave a masterclass of 100-mile running on the SHT and cross the line in 20:15:55 for a stunning 1st place – just rewards after placing 2nd in 2018. Benjamin Drexler and Joe Laue placed 2nd and 3rd, 21:34:51 and 22:35:00
Mallory by contrast looked unstoppable throughout the day, she continually extended her lead, looked fresh and smiled her way around the course. But as darkness came and a torrential rain storm hit, Mallory started to fade. She would eventually drop at Cramer Road opening the doorway for a hotly contested podium between Kelly Teeselink and April Anselmo.
It was Kelly who finally took 2019 honours y lees than 4-minutes from April, the duo completing in 25:23:19 and 26:19:01 respectively. Tina Koplinski rounded out the podium in 28:18:22.
A long day, a long night and another long day of struggle and strife made up the 2019 Superior 100. Overall, conditions were good. Saturday was dry and humid, the evening rainstorm a welcome opportunity to cool down for some… But rain makes the SHT slick, slippery and muddy. Some achieved their goals, others failed to complete the challenge that they had set themselves. There was no failure though… just undone business. Superior 100 is more than than a race, it’s an experience. It’s a low-key traditional race experience – a family! The father is John Storkamp, the mother, his wife Cheri. It’s a special race and if the 100 is too far, a 50-mile and classic marathon distance takes place on the same course and concludes at the same venue – the latter two starting on Saturday am.
It is September and once again I am back in the USA with my Minnesota family. I was going to write a preview of the 2019 edition and decided that I would re-post my experience of first coming to Superior, Minnesota and meeting the family…
The 2019 edition will doubt be another awesome experience with female course record holder and 2018 champion, Mallory Richard returning to race. The 2019 male Champion, Neal Collick, this year will join the race but as a volunteer. Therefore, the two favorites to go head-to-head are Michael Borst and Mick Jurynec. For either of them to come close to Collick’s sub 19-hour run will be truly impressive!
SUPERIOR 100, USA
And so it began. It was my first time in Minnesota and in all honesty, I knew very little about this area and more importantly, I was somewhat ignorant about the proximity to Canada. You see, too much information can lead to disappointment and more importantly, it can cloud judgement. I like to be a canvas, primed and ready but without the stroke of a brush. Like any painting, I like to lay down a base, build up the layers and finish it off with a frame. The end result may well be a masterpiece but in the early stages, who knows?
Off the bat, Kurt Decker, my host and on-hand guide whilst on my voyage of discovery was a welcoming and bubbling knowledge of local running. Decker has been involved in running for 20+ years and is currently working as a manager at Minneapolis run store, Twin Cities Running Company. ‘Dude, it’s so great to have you join us,’ he wasn’t ruffled or angry at my extensive 3-hour delay at passport control. ‘You are going to stay with my family and we have a ‘RV’ all lined up for you to make your stay easy and provide you with some privacy.’
‘You are going to love this race Dude, Superior 100 is a real tough race and we are so happy to have you come and see it for yourself.’ Decker was enthusiastic; no, he was passionate, he overflowed with running enthusiasm.
Running brings people together, together in a way like no other; it crosses boundaries, crosses countries and binds like a harmonious family. I’d been in Minneapolis for just over an hour and I already knew that I was going to love this place.
Aaron Ehlers is a young guy with a family, new to ultra he has a fire within. Last year he bailed (did not finish) at Superior and this year he was going back; unfinished business. More miles, more focus and an understanding of what’s required to complete 100-miles. On the roads to Duluth we chewed the fat. He knows the sport of ultra, ‘I just want to learn, soak up the sport and become better. Even my wife Mary, has found the passion. At Superior she will run her first 50-miler.’ A new friend, Aaron feels like an old friend. A bond made in sport but ultimately a great guy to hang with. Selfless and giving, Aaron is a true Minnesota guy.
Two black spiral earrings, Mohican haircut, black t-shirt with a huge artistic print and cargo shorts, John Storkamp looks like a rock star. He greets me with a hug and the shake of hands, ‘It’s great to have you here man.’ Storkamp is the RD for the Superior 100, a runner himself; he has a resume that deserves respect. Modest in approach, he welcomes each and every runner as they arrive for packet pickup (collecting race numbers). ‘Welcome to the Superior 100, the rugged, the most relentless and remote 100 miler in the USA now let me hear you howl like a wolf.’
The response is loud and spine chilling. Without wishing to bore everyone, Storkamp provides a brief history of the race, the journey of 100-miles along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). ‘This race follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior, a ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s gnarly, tough, rutted and many of you won’t finish.’
Storkamp has a twinkle in his eye, the challenge he and his wife Cheri provide is tough, the runners know it. But they want everyone to achieve and as he says, not all of them will, however, they need to be on the journey with a chance of completing and if they make the finish or not, lives will be changed. Storkamp knows the enormity of the task and the responsibility he has. Like a father, the runners are his children; if possible he will nurture them to the line.
You can’t run without aid stations and volunteers. It just can’t happen. Those who are passionate about the sport often pay back with a volunteer stint at an aid station, marking the course or manning road crossings. After all, we are all runners’ right? Imagine working an aid for 16 consecutive years; Mum, Dad, Son and Daughter. A family enterprise! The selfless task of helping others and asking nothing in return, that’s the Immerfall family. An inspiration to all and believe it or not, they are not runners. They just want to give and have pleasure in the act. In 2014, Storkamp welcomed them into the Superior 100 hall of fame. An award that stirred emotions, many shed a tear when the award was given, a standing ovation somehow feeling inadequate.
Arguably the happiest runner and most grateful runner I have ever witnessed, Kevin Langton illuminated the trails as he ran the race. ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ Running with a smile and grin, whenever he passed he repeated, ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ You’ve got to love this sport. Despite the difficulty, despite the fatigue, despite sore legs and being mentally tired, Langton’s smile never slipped, the positivity never wavered. Oberg, 93-miles, Langton’s family welcomed him with a hug and high fives, ‘let’s get this done’ he said.
Kevin Langton – Superior 100
Bridesmaid at Superior 100 twice before, in 2011 and 2010, Adam Schwarz-Lowe really wanted a win at Superior, would 2014 be the one? A sub 20-hour running at the iconic Western States earlier in the year showed the form was good. On the trails of the ‘SHT’ Schwarz-Lowe bided his time and eventually made his move with three quarters of the race covered. Buckle in hand the victory was his.
Adam Schwarz Lowe
Only one man and one lady can top the podium. So why run? Superior 100 provided many answers to this question; the race provided a collective gathering of many individual passions that came together to create one wonderful whole. Each runner, from first to last; a welcome warrior who achieved greatness on the trails of Minnesota and the SHT. Storkamp told them all the experience would change them, it did, I am sure of it. It not only changed them, it changed me… And once again I am back for my annual pilgrimage to Minnesota, Superior 100 the jagged Sawtooth Mountains that run parallel to Lake Superior.
In a spectacular downpour that hit the village of Serina, near Bergamo, Italy, spirits were high as the six medals at stake for the Ultra at the 2019 Skyrunning European Championships were awarded to dominant Spanish podiums today at the Maga Ultra SkyMarathon.
Lauri van Houten, ISF, reports on the action from Maga Ultra SkyMarathon
The strong world-class field pushed the pace, smashing the standing records, with the top 13 men and 6 women finishing under the previous time.
The men’s gold medallist, Italian Cristian Minoggio, closed in 6h37’26” slicing an incredible 1h06’ off the previous record. “I still can’t believe it. Until I have the medal in my hand, I won’t believe it,” commented an ecstatic Minoggio. “It was a splendid race, a course I felt in my heart from the first to the last step. Now all I can do is repeat this performance at Veia!”
The silver went to Spain’s Manuel Merillas, who initially led the race, but was overtaken after the first summit halfway through the race by Minoggio. “I didn’t expect such a technical and demanding course, especially on the downhill. I loved it and congratulate Cristian who took the win.”
Bronze medallist, Italian Daniel Jung, held a steady fourth throughout until third man, Sweden’s André Jonsson had to pull out after 45 km, leaving Jung in third. “I’m very satisfied,” said Jung. “It was a really tough race and spectacular at the same time with a very high level of competition. I hoped to do well, and a medal is the best way to celebrate!”
The women’s podium, all-Spanish, had Ester Casajuana up front from the gun. “The race was as beautiful as it was hard. I pushed from the first to the last meter and I’m really happy with this medal and also because two other Spaniards, two friends, won the other medals!” She finished in 8h19’11”, almost an hour faster than the standing record. The silver went to Sandra Sevillano and the bronze, Silvia Puigarnau. In second until km 30, last year’s winner, Italian Cecilia Pedroni had to settle for fourth, despite knocking 35’ off her own record time.
Today’s Ultra discipline was disputed at the Maga Ultra SkyMarathon, a tough 50 km course with a gruelling 5,000m vertical climb across four mountains topping out at 2,512m altitude. In true skyrunning style, it features stretches with fixed ropes and exposed ridges. 15 nations participated in the race which counted 149 participants.
Race organiser, Davide Scolari, commented, “We’re very proud to have held the first event of the Skyrunning European Championships. We’d like to thank all the athletes, volunteers and sponsors for their enormous support, and we’re thrilled to have had such an important international field.”
Some 150 athletes representing official teams from 19 countries will fight for the 27 medals at stake in the Championships: Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Hungary, Italy, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.
Titles and medals
Individual, national and combined titles are at stake awarding 27 medals. Today’s Ultra awarded six individual medals to the top three men and women finishers from Europe, while the national and combined titles must wait for the conclusion of all three disciplines on September 7.
The National titles are based on the best four results scored by Official National Team members in each race, counting at least one per gender. After today’s Ultra, the country ranking has Spain in the lead with 336 points; Italy 318; Czech Republic 246; Portugal 198; Austria 146.
The Combined title is based on the best results of the top three men and women in the Vertical and Sky races. WADA anti-doping tests will be carried out at the finals where the Vertical and Sky categories will be celebrated on Thursday, September 5 and Saturday, September 7 in Piedmont, Italy at the Veia SkyRace® in a spectacular amphitheater surrounded by the Swiss 4,000m mountains.
I was recently in Chamonix for the UTMB series of events. I have to be honest, I have avoided Chamonix at the end of August for the last few years… The whole UTMB extravaganza just feels too overwhelming, there is no escape. So, I have chose to either have a holiday or work on smaller races.
This year I was asked by adidas to work on the event, documenting the experience of their Terrex Team as they prepared to tackle all of the events the UTMB offer, the exception coming with the crazy long PTL.
Working for a brand brings a whole new perspective and experience to an event like UTMB. Instead of chasing multiple runners over multiple locations, my priority would be to follow the favourites within each of the respective races – OCC, CCC and TDS. The UTMB would also be raced and followed by the whole Terrex Team but due to a prior commitment, I would skip the big loop around France, Italy and Switzerland.
UTMB needs no introduction, the series of races have arguably become a flagship for the sport. As UTMB has grown, so has the demand for people to race and for media to cover the event. This brings a whole set of challenges, especially for media. As a brand, adidas were required to pay a fee to allow myself and the film crew access to certain areas of the race, for example aid stations and finish line, and thus we could capture certain required images and also have the license to use them. UTMB provide live coverage of the event and it must be said, they do an incredible job using a helicopter, runners and mountain bikes to cover much of all the race routes. It is quite an incredible logistical problem and in addition, they provide live commentary with an ever-changing group of people providing on the spot analysis of the race. You can pretty much follow every race, start to finish live.
adidas and the UTMB
The team arrived in Chamonix one week before the UTMB main event and I arrived on the Monday. This meant the YCC started Tuesday, TDS Wednesday, OCC Thursday, CCC and UTMB starting Friday. You can do the math, that means long days, early starts, late nights and little sleep.
As a team, adidas had rented one huge chalet that would host the whole team, the hashtag #oneteam being a very important motto and ethos not only during race week but it is a hashtag that the team is using to bring the whole Terrex ethos together. It is very much ‘all for one, one for all!’ The chalet had two chefs who provided meals for the entire team and in so doing, dietary needs could be looked after and the need to try to find a restaurant in Chamonix was removed.
A team physio, Dave, was literally ‘hands-on’ everyday from morning to evening to keep the whole team in top condition. In the words of Team Manager, Robert, ‘without his immense treatments, day and night, someone like Luis may well have not raced!’
I am fortunate, after years covering races, I was well acquainted with much of the team; Luis Alberto Hernando, Sheila Aviles, Dmitry Mityaev, Ekaterina Mityaeva, Tom Evans and so many more. This always makes my job easier as to work closely with athletes, particularly in race week, there has to be trust and respect.
I was working alongside the adidas film crew who have been working on the Terrex brand for some time. A great group of guys who know how to work hard, laugh hard and find the time for a beer at the end of the day, no matter how long it may be. Big shout for Rapha, Andy, Patrick, Yannick and then man stuck to an editing stool, Bene. We had a separate chalet as the hours we work are not ideal when athletes are trying to sleep. Meal times were a family affair though and the athlete house was our hub for the week starting with an 0800 breakfast as and when applicable.
Behind the scenes is always fascinating. Looking at apparel, shoes and new development it was clear to see that adidas’ commitment to trail and mountain running is huge. They had specifically designed waterproof jackets and trousers for the team that complied with UTMB rules while still being light and packing small.
Athletes such as Yngvild Kaspersen and Tom Evans (Yngvild 2nd at Pikes Peak and Tom 3rd at Western States) were flown into Chamonix to be part of #oneteam even though they would not race. It was clear that adidas’ commitment to bringing everyone together is a high priority.
A signing in the UTMB expo allowed fans to get close, chat and get a signed photo from Tom, Luis, Holly and Sheila. The buzz was incredible.
Post the signings, we took Tom in to the mountains for a photo shoot. The most ransom moment of the whole week… A couple just married saw Tom, recognized him and then came for a wedding photo! The groom was running UTMB.
Over the course of the week, racers and non-racers would each continually give up their time to crew, support, follow and cheer on the team. A prime example being Ekaterina crewing for Dmitry during TDS to a stunning 2nd place. Two days later, Ekaterina would run UTMB and place 4th while Dmitry crewed her.
Filming and photographing brings its own challenges of long drives, big hikes and a relentless pace that leaves one drained and exhausted by the end but high on emotion. It’s always a tough call on who to follow? Many of the races had more than one adidas runner participating but from a story and media perspective, we would have to make decisions in advance. The TDS for example, our emphasis was on Dmitry. For CCC, Luis Alberto Hernando was our primary story. Needless to say, it’s incredible when it all comes together, Dmitry placed 2nd and Luis won CCC. To be able to see the journey unfold at close quarters and tell the story is quite special.
While we raced around with cameras, the remaining crew would chase around providing aid and support. Tom Evan’s quite rightly said, ‘I have raced and won CCC, I have also crewed on big races – I know how hard and tiring crewing is.’
But despite the long hours, the short nights and the relentless fatigue, nobody complained. On the contrary. As the week went on and the results came in, everyone was becoming hyped by the experience and results. It was infectious.
But nothing is perfect. Racing is fickle. While racing went well for Dmitry and Luis for example, others had a tough time. It’s here when the #oneteam ethos kicks in. We are all human, sometimes we are ahead and all is going well, other times, things don’t click, for whatever reason. As an athlete, that can be very hard. It takes months to prepare for an event and then on the day, for it not to come together as expected can be hugely disappointing. As one runner said, ‘I have let the team down…’ But the response was unequivocal, ‘You have let no one down!’
Sheila Aviles had stomach issues in OCC, Timothy Olson struggled at UTMB and finally had to withdraw and all along, the support from adidas and the team was 100%.
Holly Page made a last minute decision to run CCC, battled through the first half of the race with terrible stomach problems only to come out of the other side and then race strongly over the latter stages for her first 100km finish. It was a story echoed throughout the whole week, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Being ‘In the arena’ to quote Roosevelt is what the sport of trail and mountain running is all about, ‘ The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.’
Roosevelt in his quote sums up all adidas stand for with the Terrex Team.
A Day at UTMB – Following Luis Alberto Hernando at CCC
Our day started with an early alarm, a quick breakfast and a drive to Courmayeur – the plan to climb to Refuge Bertone and capture early content with Mont Blanc providing a stunning backdrop.
Plans hit a problem from the off with a long wait to get through the Mont Blanc tunnel. Once in Courmayeur it was gps time to navigate a route to the trail head. This was a constant theme of the whole week… Great gps software and gpx route are essential – we could plan to meet the runners as much as possible during a race.
We started our climb later than we would have liked but we pushed the pace – not that easy with a 15kg camera bag! Once there, the weather was perfect, the scenery magical and we knew we were going to get some great content.
For Luis, we were aware we could capture him on the descent, chase after him and then capture him again after he had visited the aid station.
I positioned myself on the descent knowing that I would get a dynamic shot as Luis dropped in front of me taking a left turn with Mont Blanc behind him.
As Luis approached, disaster struck. A ‘runner’ who was spectating ran ahead of him ruining all my ‘pre’ shots. As I shouted for them to get out of the way, they then stopped directly ahead of me, right in the middle of my shot. I had to compromise… shit happens!
I then raced after Luis on the descent and then got to my second spot. This time all was good with clear shots and I then ran with him capturing more content before he raced off around the mountain.
Being early in the day, we decided to wait and capture the other adidas runners who were participating as the time gaps at this stage would not be too great. Later, it would be impossible if Luis ran the race we anticipated! Abi Hall, Macy were looking good but Holly Page was struggling with a bad stomach.
Dropping bag to the car via the twisty descent, we now had a 2-hour drive to Champex Lac. Luis was motoring and now in the lead. Race projections said he would arrive at 1425. Our navigator said we would arrive 1410.
Once again we used gps software to find an access point pre Champex Lac that would allow us to capture content on steep forest trails. Luis arrived like clockwork powering up the climb using poles to keep the momentum.
At Champex Lac he ran the footpath and roads around the lake allowing more opportunities before we went off-piste on a dirt road allowing for one last shot before we would then lose him only to re-connect at Trient.
Trient provided a shot before the aid station and then we drove out of Switzerland and back in to France before capturing Luis on the climb of the Col des Montets – our last opportunity before his arrival at the finish.
Now Luis was motoring and opening up a gap on the 2nd place.
At the finish, myself and Patrick (film crew) waited for Luis in the press area while the remaining adidas team watched the huge screens in the square.
Finally, Luis achieved his coveted UTMB victory. It was an emotional finish. His wife, Nieves, greeted him with open arms. The Terrex team mobbed him as soon as they could… A post-race drug test delaying that process for some time!
Back at the chalet it was time to download the day’s work and release the content.
There is no ‘I’ in team and that was personified during this intense UTMB experience. We all had roles but flexibility is key. Athletes became crew, office workers became car drivers and everyone became a supporter both in a physical and mental capacity.
It was a real pleasure to be immersed with a brand and follow closely the whole process that make a race and team come together. Certainly, the UTMB and Chamonix experience made team bonds stronger.
On a personal note, to leave on Saturday am while the UTMB was underway was hard, especially with Ekaterina running. I have witnessed her growth in skyrunning over the last year’s and then to see her rise to 4th at UTMB not only made me really proud but also a little jealous and envious that I wasn’t available to capture that journey in images…. Next time!
Let’s get one thing clear, multi-day racing is simple, it is often over complicated and this creates too many questions and too much confusion.
Let’s hark back to Patrick Bauer’s pioneering days and simplify the process, just like he did. Over the years I have interviewed and chatted with many runners in bivouac and after racing who have done just that, they had applied simple logic and worked out what would work for them.
Yes, they had taken advice, looked at websites, processed information but importantly they had found out what worked for them. They realized early on that they were an individual and as such, they needed a personal approach to multi-day racing and not a generic one. Not all multi-day races are the same, some are completely self-sufficient, some are semi self-sufficient and others are supported where all you need is transported for you.
When you break a race down, particularly a self-sufficient race, key things are really important:
Must fit and be comfortable when loaded. Have enough room (but not too much) for all your equipment and provide easy access to fluid. You must also make sure that your race number is visible as per race rules. Think about additional pockets, such as a waist belt for snacks.
Lightweight, packs small and warm enough. I would always recommend a sleeping bag and jacket as it offers more flexibility, reduced weight and reduced pack size. Popular sleeping bags year-on-year are PHD, Yeti and OMM. Read HERE on how to choose a sleeping bag.
You just need what you will run in. However, a spare pair of socks is often commonplace and many runners have one or all of the following: a warm base layer, a lightweight down jacket or waist coat, buff and maybe long lightweight pants. Remember, you have to carry everything, so, it’s all about getting the pack as close to minimum weight. At MDS that is 6.5kg plus water.
It’s optional but a good nights sleep is important and usually those who do not take one wish they had. It provides comfort and importantly an insulating layer between you and the ground. Two options exist – inflatable and roll out solid foam. The choice is yours. The inflatable ones offer more comfort, more flexibility in packing but with poor admin, you do run the risk of a puncture. I’ve used inflatable for many years with no issue. A solid foam Matt will last the week with no risks of problems but they roll large and need to sit outside the pack.
Shoes and Gaiters
Shoes (more below) are personal, just make sure they have a good fit, appropriate drop for your needs and suit your run/walk style with enough durability for you. I say ‘you’ because someone like Rachid El Morabity can complete the whole of MDS race in say 21-hours whereas most people won’t even do just the long day in that time – his shoe shoe choice will and can be very different to what most of us need!