SkyGames – Spanish Pyrenees

I am pleased to say that I am just doing my last minute prep and packing before heading out to the Pyrenees at the invite of Skyrunning partner Arc’teryx.

Arc’teryx will be present with a media camp where international journalists will get to know the company, the skyrunning partnership and to learn about and test the Endorphin line together with team athletes:  Adam Campbell (Canada), Murray Strain and Tessa Hill (Great Britain), Didier Zago (France) and Nicola Golinelli (Italy).

For the people of Ribargorza Románica a dream comes true as runners from across the world converge on the small towns dotted around this remote and relatively unknown area of the Spanish Pyrenees hosting the 2012 SkyGames®.

This evening, a turnout of 1,500 spectators is expected at the opening ceremony which will pay homage to the 19 countries participating with a parade of flags representing each nation. The organisers, OCI Sport, intend to get the events off with a bang by concluding the evening with a fireworks display spsotlighting the Romanic Church of Taüll, a World Heritage site and the surrounding mountains.

Forty medals, 14 world titles and 40,000 euros prize money are at stake in the skyrunners’ “high altitude Olympics”.   1,300 athletes will compete in the six disciplines held between June 30 and July 8, climaxing with theSkyMarathon, compulsory for the combined title.  Certainly, the super-strong Spanish team looks set to take the lion’s share of the medals, headed by reigning Skyrunner® World Series champions, Luis Alberto Hernandez and Oihana Kortazar and past world champion, Agustí Roc, as well as Mireia Mirò competing in the Vertical Kilometer.

Adam Campbell testing the Arc'teryx Endorphin lineAmong the other nations participating are France with past skyrunning world champion Corinne Favre and Didier ZagoNicola Golinelli from Italy;Zhanna Vokueva, Russia, Adam Campbell, Canada; Alex Nichols, USA;Murray Strain and Tessa Hill, Great Britain; Adel Ojeda from Venezuela; together with teams from Andorra, Bolivia, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Marocco, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and Switzerland.

Joan Peralada, President of the Association for Ribagorza Románica Development, commented;  “For two years, the residents have worked with determination to ensure the success of the event, amassing 300 volunteers and a 50-strong team of professionals to manage the races.  After a bleak winter where the ski facilities were closed and jobs lost, the SkyGames® have filled 7,000 hotel rooms creating a much-needed economic boost for the area and it’s future development.”

The six SkyGames® disciplines making up the mammoth event are:SkySpeed, 100 metres vertical climb with a 45% incline; Vertical Kilometer, the universally popular formula, here a mere 3.5 km with a 30% incline; SkyBike – a duathlon combining mtb and skyrunning to 2,000m altitude; SkyRaid – a multi-discipline team relay; the 21 km SkyRace with 1,350m vertical climb, reserved for runners aged 16-21.  The events conclude with an epic SkyMarathon reaching 3,100m altitude – valid for the combined points title.

The event is sanctioned by FEDME, the Spanish Federation for Mountain Sports.

Follow the events on twitter and Facebook and see for details.

RESULTS for Vertical K

Ladies race was won by Oihana Kortaza and the mens race was won by Augusti Roc

The Long Trail – Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball rocks!

For sure, this girl has a no messing attitude. I remember her saying to me at Zegama just after she had placed 3rd lady at Transvulcania La Palma, my legs hurt but I am gonna ‘kick ass’. Love it!

Nikki has just run another Western States and placed 5th but in August she has a new project… ‘The Long Trail’

Nikki will plan to run 273 miles of extreme terrain in 4 days.


In an age where obesity is the #1 killer in America, THE LONG TRAIL, a one-hour HD co-production of Bozeman-based Fours Five Productions and MontanaPBS, will present the inspirational story of Montana resident and top-ranked endurance athlete Nikki Kimball’s quest to run Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail in just four days. What drives her to attempt such an incredible feat? The film will follow Nikki’s journey from its beginning—training and racing in the mountains near her home in Montana—to her actual record attempt in Vermont next summer. Breaking the Long Trail record is a jewel among endurance runners. From France to Brazil, Nikki’s traveled the world competing as a member of the United States 100k and Mountain Running Teams. She’s won the Western States 100 Mile three times and holds the course record for the Bridger Ridge Run. Her race resume puts her among the greatest distance runners of our generation. But the Long Trail breaks runners. Our film will show how Nikki survives this incredible ordeal, in her quest to push the limits of what people consider possible both physically and psychologically.

Throughout the film interviews with today’s leading evolutionary biologists, including David Carrier, featured in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and Bernd Heinrich, author of Why We Run, will explain the science and history behind Nikki’s incredible undertaking. For Nikki, this well-publicized run on America’s first long distance hiking trail is more than a chance to inspire people to be active and spend time outdoors, it’s her way of encouraging women and girls to take an equal place for themselves in professional sports. THE LONG TRAIL will utilize a mix of Steadicam, DSLR, POV, and ultra high-speed cameras to give this film a riveting, exciting aesthetic of Nikki’s inspiring adventure. In addition to providing an inside look into contemporary running culture, this film will give viewers a new perspective on the endurance of the human body and spirit, and informing us all us, regardless of our sex, of our true potential and inspiring us to reach it.

Who is Nikki Kimball (as if you didn’t know) – in her own words…

I grew up a few miles from the Long Trail, just south of its heavily wooded, often muddy course from Brandon Gap to Sherburn Pass. In early memories, I am standing with my parents atop Killington Peak, jumping into Little Rock Pond after a long hike with friends, rappelling off Deer Leap during summer camp. In high school I ran, skied, and snowshoed on the Long Trail and its extensive network of side trails. From these early experiences grew a life-long passion for endurance off-road sports. While in college in the early 90’s, I heard that some men from the U.S. Ski Team set a record for the fastest completion of the Long Trail. At the time I skied decently, but did not run fast, nor had I ever run longer than three hours. I did not know how long the trip took them, or even if what I had heard was true. Still the thought intrigued me. But mostly, the intriguing thought remained buried, a dormant seed, for nearly two decades.

Since leaving Vermont for further school and work, I’ve continued running, skiing, and snowshoeing. My resume includes eleven national championship titles and membership on thirteen national teams across three different sports. I ran in Asia, helping the U.S. Ultramarathon Team win gold. I ran in South Africa in a team effort to raise tens of thousands of dollars for orphans of HIV/AIDS. I competed in Europe and South America, on roads, alpine trails, and in jungles. I chose graduate school in physical therapy, a career which allows me to help injured athletes return to their sports, their passions. As a physical therapist, I worked in London, New York, and Montana. Now the Long Trail is calling me home. The seed planted so long ago began to sprout in the fall of 2010 when I proposed to my sponsor, The North Face, that they finance a planned September 2011 attempt the break the fastest know time record for an end-to-end trek of the Long Trail. By the following August all was ready. A teammate would join me for the attempt. We had trained all year for the run. Plans were solid. Nothing would stop us. Hurricane Irene was not in the plan.

During the final weekend of August 2011, Irene dumped 15 inches in parts of Vermont. 2000 miles away, I watched videos of wreckage. I called home (my parents and brother still live in Vermont) frequently. My friends and family were safe and healthy. Vermont’s landscape and infrastructure were not safe and healthy, however. The state closed over 260 roads, many miles of which were completely washed away. People lost businesses and homes. Images of iconic covered bridges floating roughly down violently swollen rivers lead feature stories on national news. As I watched and read news of the destruction, I cried. I cried over the loss of landmarks which play key roles in my memory. I cried for those who lost homes, family businesses, and jobs. And I cried because I lost my chance to complete the project that was the focus of an entire year of training and preparation. And then I cried because I felt guilty about mourning my loss, while others lost so much more.

So I decided to continue with my plan, delaying the attempt for a year until the summer of 2012.  I want to help Vermont recover.  Most roads are open.  Crews cleared out the most obvious destruction.  Hurricane Irene is an interesting memory for most people not directly affected by its wrath.  Big donations of money and volunteer muscle power have slowed.  Trails, back roads, and other property remain badly damaged.  I love Vermont.  I still call it home, as it was my first home.  I love the Long Trail where I learned to run technical trails.  I want now, more than ever, to eclipse the 4 day, 12 hour, and 46 minute record set by Jonathan Basham in 2009.  And though that record important to me, it leads me to a much more important goal.  I hope to generate at least $10,000 for the repair and maintenance of the Long Trail and its network of beautiful side trails.

Western States 2012

A smack down was predicted and a smack down happened.

The 2012 Western States will go down in history as a most remarkable race.

Firstly, we had the initial disappointment of a no show by Kilian Jornet. Please don’t get me wrong; his decision to pull out after the sudden death of his friend and ski mountain partner, Stephane Brosse was completely understandable considering the proximity to the race. However, not to have Kilian toe the line did mean that the main contender for the title would not be mixing it up at the front.

This though did not dent what was a class male field. In many respects it was a who’s who of current ultra running…. Having said that it did also miss two other key protagonists, current Western States record holder, Geoff Roes and Anton Krupicka. Roes has had a recent spell of poor performances and was lined up to run Hardrock but has decoded to go back to the drawing board and re build over the coming months. Krupicka has been out of racing for over a year after a series of problems, he too had targeted Hardrock but has now delayed his comeback saying that he hopes to be on the Leadville start line.

So, pre race who was in with a shout at taking the win. From a Talk Ultra poll the outright public favorite was Ryan Sandes, closely followed by last years second place, Mike Wolfe. I could completely understand tipping Wolfeman, a great competitor, plenty of speed, good in the mountains and I guess with no Kilian he was potentially lined up to move one place forward and take the win. Ryan Sandes ‘Sandman’ as he affectionately is known of course is super talented… just a few weeks earlier he had won The North Face 100 in Australia, He had won Leadville in 2011 and of course his record in multistage races was without question. However, despite that win at Leadville, this was his first race against a stacked field. How would he fair?

Timothy Olson was my pre race favorite. This is a super talented runner who has found a new lease of life. He has a great story… almost a film script. An ex drug addict turned ultra runner. You couldn’t make the story up! My other tip was ‘warrior’ Nick Clark. Nick did a great double last year placing 3rd at Western States and then two weeks later getting 3rd place at Hardrock. Other contenders included Jez Bragg, 3rd and 4th previously, could he move up. Dave Mackey, 2011 ultra runner of the year, super quick and last years 8th place Ian Sharman, Dave Riddle, Mike Wardian and I could go on…

The ladies race was equally stacked but contenders seemed to be much tighter. Last years winner, Ellie Greenwood was coming from a 2nd place at Comrades just three week earlier. Nobody doubted Ellie’s ability, the question was the damage that a super hard Comrades may have had on her body and what effects this would have over 100 miles. Lizzy Hawker was returning from injury but over this distance and terrain she is unstoppable. Kami Semick was also returning from injury, she had purposely missed Comrades to prepare for Western States. The ever present Nikki Kimball was firing on all cylinders again in 2012 and after a couple of great runs at Transvulcania and Zegama, she too could put pressure on at the front. Meghan Arbogast, Krissy Moehl, Rory Bosio, Aliza Lapierre and a whole host of others would be in contention.

Key elements for 2012 would be a lack of snow and a return to the ‘proper’ course. In addition to this, it turned out that temperatures on race day would be uncharacteristically chilly. Many of the runners complained about the cold over the first 30-40 miles. But of course these cooler temperatures are really advantageous over the 100-mile distance when trying to manage hydration, food and pacing. Not necessarily good weather but fast weather…

As expected, the men’s race was quick with Wolfe and Olson dictating the early pace with Clark, Bowman, Sandes, Mackey and Sharman all in contention. Sandes in particular seemed to be running a smart ace holding back in about 6th place and controlling his effort.

In the ladies race, Hawker ran hard and put 14 minutes into Greenwood who was chasing. Greenwood didn’t seem too worried though, she had commented at around the 30-mile mark that she was happy with her pace and this was a 100-mile race… wise words!

What happened over the 100 miles of Western States will go down in history. Olson pushed at the front as Sandes moved up through the field. Clark went through a bad patch but rallied to move up into 3rd place while Wolfe who had either been in 1st or 2nd place for much of the race faded and moved back… Mackey moved to 4th closely followed by Sharman and this made the top 5 men. But what was key was how Olson and Sandes pushed each other… Olson finally moving away and boy how did he move away. He crossed the finish line in 14:46 knocking nearly 20 mins of Roes previous course record! As a testament to both Sandes and Olson, the pace that they had made during the event also gave Sandes the second fastest time ever with a 15:03 just dipping under Roes CR time. Mackey who placed 4th also broke Kaburaki’s masters course record with a time of 15:53:36.

Image by Bryon Powell

In the ladies race, just after Devils Thumb Greenwood had suddenly pulled back 12 mins on Hawker and was just 2 mins behind. Then she was 14 mins ahead. Not only did she completely annihilate the women’s field she started to wipe out the men’s field ‘chicking’ some top quality runners. The question marks on if Greenwood would be recovered from Comrades now seemed crazy. She became the Terminator, focused on one goal, the finish line. When she entered the stadium at the finish she had blown Ann Trason’s long-standing Western States record out of the atmosphere by some 50 minutes setting a time of 16:47:19. Arguably creating one of the most outstanding ultra running performances ever. It’s too early to call her the ‘new’ Ann Trason and to be honest it would be unfair to do so. Ultra Running now is a much bigger sport than when Ann ran, the fields are more competitive, the competition is greater and to dominate as Greenwood did at Comrades and then Western States for me puts her on a pedestal so high that it is going to take someone remarkable to come and knock her off it. In addition to this, Greenwood is the most smiley, happy and generous of runners. She has it all.

Image by Bryon Powell

Greenwoods performance was also followed by some other wonderful female performances from Rory Bosio proving that she is no ‘fluke’ at Western States. She has placed 4th and 5th in the past and now placing 2nd with 18:08:06 (1h 20m behind Greenwood), Aliza Lapiere who placed 6th last year now placed 3rd with 18:18:29, Krissy Moehl ran a smart race and moved through the field to 4th in 18:29:15 and Nikki Kimball proving that her form is good 5th with 18:3:39. Lizzy Hawker fought hard after a fast start and one can only assume that her injury meant thet she wasn’t quite in fighting form for Western states but one can’t help but think that this will just be the start for her, she came in 6th with 18:31:39.

When all is said and done, 2012 was the year that records tumbled. Olson set a new benchmark for the men’s race and Greenwood set a record that will stand the test of time. So much so, I think only she could beat it!

One key feature of the race was the weather. No snow, great trail conditions and cool temperatures all came together to make 2012 a fast year. This doesn’t happen often. So, these records may very well be around for some time and if they do I don’t think anyone will be disappointed. In Olson and Greenwood we have two worthy winners who have illuminated the ultra world with two remarkable performances.

Talk Ultra will be interviewing Ellie Greenwood on Tuesday 26th June and Nick Clark 27th/28th June for the next edition of the show. Of course, Ian Sharman will also be discussing the ‘news’ and giving us an insight into his 5th place. The next episode will be released on Friday 29th June so please tune in

Lakeland Trail Weekend

Fancy a weekend of trail running in the English Lakes?

Join a group of 24 like minded people for fun on the trails. Geared for all abilities and certainly a great opportunity for those new to trail running to take part in the confidence that you will have company and support for the whole weekend.

This will be an informative and fun weekend with group meals and a talk/ film planned for the Saturday evening.

Dates for arrival are Friday 21st September with departure Sunday 23rd September.

Based in Grasmere, we will be staying at Thornley How hostel and we will take over the ‘whole’ premises.  We will have ample facilities for parking and if travelling by train, Windermere station is not far away.

Price per person is £125 pp and includes 2 nights accommodation, breakfast & dinner for both days and guides for the whole weekend.

More details and booking HERE

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Gordy Ainsleigh and Western States

Image by Hough Boy

Seems appropriate that with Western States just literally days away that maybe we all should remind ourselves how this race started…

August 3rd 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh was the first to run the course of the Western States Endurance Run. At the time, the trail was used only by horses participating in the 24-hour Western States Trail Ride. When his horse went lame prior to the race, Ainsleigh decided he would run the torturous 100 miles (160 km) of mountain trail. This was the beginning of the Western States Endurance Run.

Listen to the Talk Ultra interview here:

Gordy Ainsleigh

Seb Chaigneau ‘Get Ready’ episode 3

The North Face athlete, Sébastien Chaigneau explains you how to prepare to run by night.

Some good tips in this film and certainly wise advice about being attentive of sleep patterns and not disrupting your ‘normal’ training.

Seb is being interviewed for Talk Ultra later in June for an early July edition.

Kilian will not race Western States

Press Release

It is with great sadness that we have learnt the death of Stéphane Brosse, in the middle of his challenge, ‘the grande traversée’ that he was sharing with Kilian.
Both loved the mountains, and knew each other for a long time sharing the same respect for one another.
‘La grande traversée’ was a project they had set up together, a challenge up to their passion and talent.
It is on the last part, just before going downhill, that the ridge they were on collapsed, taking stéphane within this spilling.
Kilian remained helpless whilst waiting for the rescue team.
All our thoughts go to Stéphane’s family in those difficult times.
We wish a lot of strength to Kilian to overcome this tragedy.
As Kilian wishes to stay with Stéphane’s family to support them, he will not be present at the Western State 100.

The Salomon Team

Anna Frost (Frosty) writes an excellent blog post here of her last time with Kilian and Stephane as they embarked on this tragic journey.

Stephane Brosse – breaking news

News has just come in that Stephane Brosse has fallen to a his death while attempting to cross Mont Blanc with Kilian Jornet.

Details are not clear of this tragedy at this moment. This is taken from Endurancemag:

Stéphane Brosse died today from a 600 meter fall after a snow cornice broke on aiguille d’Argentière. He was attempting the crossing of the Mont-Blanc massif with Kilian Jornet. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.

Kilian has only recently provided detail of his new long term project “Summits of my Life’ and this crossing is part of that project.

Taken from Kilians Facebook page, this post was made 11 hours ago:

They had a well earned night and start again at 6 a.m to finish their way to Champex village.
Expected timing:

  • start from Couvercle hut at 6 a.m
  • Top of les Courtes at 8 a.m
  • down the Nord-Est des Courtes at 9ish
  • up to the Y couloir at Argentière needle, summit around 11 a.m
  • Down Barbey couloir + 1 h
  • Fenetre de Saleina et val D’Arpette+ 2 heures
  • Arriving at Chalet du CAF by the lac in Champex 1 or 2 p.m.

Taken from the Millet website, here is an outline of Stephanes career:



Winner of the Pierra-Menta : 2001, 2005 and 2006

Winner of the Patrouille des Glaciers : 2004 and 2006

Winner at Trofeo Mezzalama : 2005

World champion in individual 2002

World champion in relay 2004

World champion in team 2006


Mont Blanc in ski (Chamonix – Mont Blanc – Chamonix) in 5 ¼ hours in 2003

Chamonix – Zermatt (church to church) in 21:11 hours

Crossing of Belledone by the summits (Chamrousse – Col du Lucheron) in 16:40 hours in 2010

Steep slope:

Opening of the Crossing of the Diots, Aravis 2008

Chain Devoluy range 2009

Chain Armet range 2009

1st ski descent without belay of the Nant Blanc (Aiguille Verte) Mont Blanc range in 2009

Our thoughts go out to Stephane’s family, friends, Kilian Jornet and the related community on this very sad day.

UPDATE 18:23 17th June GMT

Press release by Kilian –
“We regret that during the attempted crossing of Mont Blanc and Stéphane Brosse Kilian took place this morning Stéphane lost their lives due to an unfortunate accident. Kilian is physically well, and in these difficult times, is devoting all his energies to support the family of Stephane and friends. In the coming days will be issued an official statement. Thank you for your understanding and support right now. Kilian team”