Emotions of 2012

What a year! what a year indeed… it is the last day of 2012 and like so many others I wanted to sit down, reflect on what has happened and put a post together documenting some of the special moments of 2012. But as I looked back, so many sprung to mind… many moments I witnessed through social media such as Facebook and Twitter and others I witnessed first hand. So I have decided to select key moments that I witnessed personally, however, before I do that I do want to give a ‘nod’ to some key moments that I didn’t witness first hand…

Australian Pat Farmer finally made it to the South Pole after starting at the North Pole (view here). Pat is a multiple world record holder for endurance running. He has run around Australia and across North America twice.

Salomon launched the Sense. A shoe that created a stir and a buzz that could only be compared to the same sort of buzz around an iPhone, iPad or equally another key moment of 2012, the Suunto Ambit.

Ryan Sandes arguably one of the best ultra performers in 2012 started of his year in style with a win at the Vibram 100km in Hong Kong.


Micah True passed way from heart related issues while out running in Mexico. The ultra community bonded together as initially he was lost for days causing Scott Jurek and Chris McDougall (Micah was made famous in the book ‘Born to Run‘) to travel to Mexico and aid the search for him.

Jez Bragg won the Fellsman race for the 3rd time in preparation for his attempt on winning the UTMB. Unfortunately Jez was plagued throughout 2012 with stomach issues. We are pleased to say that he now seems to have rectified these issues and is currently blazing a trail on ‘The Long Pathway‘ in New Zealand.

Kilian Jornet announced his new project ‘Summits of my Life‘. A long term project that will take four years, during which he will travel to the greatest mountain ranges in the world attempting to climb some of the most breathtaking peaks and come back down again as fast as he can. Unfortunately on the first project, the crossing of Mont Blanc, the project was struck with disaster as Kilian’s ski guide and partner for the project, Stéphane Brosse fell to his death. Kilian devestated by the incident spent time with Stéphane’s family and withdrew from Western States.


The big dance, Western States did not disappoint with two incredible performances and two course records. Timothy Olson beat Geoff Roes record with an incredible performance made all the sweeter when you hear his incredible life story… (listen to our interview on Talk Ultra) Ellie Greenwood confirmed herself as possibly the greatest female ultra runner of the moment breaking Ann Trason‘s long standing (considered by many unbeatable) course record.

Ellie greenwood

Dakota Jones after a storming win at Transvulcania La Palma went to Hardrock 100 as the one to beat… as it happened, Hal Koerner took the win with Joe Grant in second place.

Speedgoat 50K raised the question about trail, course markings and when and when you should not deviate from a course… ultimately our one and only Speedgoat made a decision that relegated Kilian Jornet from the top of the podium and replaced him with his team mate Rickey Gates. It all got a little crazy and of course RD’s will now make sure they specify the ‘rules’ when putting a race briefing together.

UTMB – It rained, it snowed, the cloud came in, the course got shortened and Lizzy Hawker won her fifth UTMB albeit NOT the UTMB as it was not a full course, so, Lizzy will be back! Francois d’Haene however was very pleased with his win over the shortened course.

Just a week after the UTMB, Francesca Canepa from the Vibram Team turned up at the super tough and long Tor des Geants and won it… amazing considering just 7 days before she was second behind Lizzy Hawker.

Lance Armstrong… need I say more!

Mike Morton had an incredible 2012 with a stunning performance at Badwater 135 just missing the CR by 75 seconds. In addition to this, Mike ran and won may 100’s all around the 13 hour mark. However his performance of the year came in Poland at the 24 hour Championships. Running 277.54 kms he dislodged Scott Jurek as the Amercan holder and set a new benchmark.

Kilian Jornet went back to his ‘Summits‘ project and set a second record on Mont Blanc. This time crossing from Italy (Courmayer) to France (Chamonix) in 8hrs 40min. Article here


Fresh from a record attempt over Mont Blanc, Kilian Jornet went to Mt Kinabalu Climbathon in Borneo as part of the Skyrunning calendar, won and became World Champion…. again! Of course this race had some controversy as it didn’t go to the summit. Another outstanding performance was that of Emelie Forsberg, she won the ladies race and in doing so confirmed herself as one of the most talented and dominant females of 2012. Kilian now warmed up went over to Reunion Island and took on the tough ‘Raid de la Reunion‘. He made it look easy and he even had time to do interviews at the feed stations during the race… without doubt, Kilian is one of the most talented and gifted athletes in the world.


Max King and Ellie Greenwood blazed a trail and set records (once again) at JFK 50… oh, did I mention Max’s run at UROC and did I mention Karl Meltzer and Lizzy Hawker winning at Run Rabbit Run… of course, what about Miguel Heras and Emelie Forsberg at San Francisco 50Darn it…. so many great moments…. what about Lizzy Hawker at Spartathlon, second overall and a new female record.

So finally Skyrunning announce the new calendar for 2013 and the big news is a simpler format, the inclusion of a 100 mile race and a season final in America at the Ultra Race of Champions. Without doubt (I am biased) Skyrunning was a game changer in 2012 and the new calendar has already created great excitement for the coming year…


Believe me, the above list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure I will look back and think… ooh, what about this and what about that… I could go on.

But now here is my pick of personal moments from a great year. Rest assured, I am picking one month; one moment!


Talk Ultra was launched and thank goodness the format of an ultra running podcast that was more than just interviews was accepted. Taking the risk to do a ‘long show’ seemed to pay off and the loyal followers and support has been fantastic. I can’t thank you all enough for the growth of the podcast and 2013 will see it grow!



For the 7th year running I went out to Club La Santa on Lanzarote and had another incredible week training in the sun with friends and clients. It has become a fixture in my year and never fails to disappoint. 2013 will see us arrive on the Canary Island once again for more fun in the sun.



A race fixture on my calendar for several years, the EcoTrail de Paris came around once again and I went out to Paris with Niandi for another great weekend of running and spending time in our favourite city. As it turned out we both had terrible races and DNF’d at the same time… you can always learn something!



I was fortunate enough to be invited over to Turkey to take part in and report on the inaugural Iznik Ultra. I had only been to Turkey once before, many many years before and that was to the South. So I  was very excited to spend time in Istanbul with Niandi and then head down to Iznik. The race was superb offering a selection of race distances over a varied course. Both Niandi and myself took part in the 60k event. I was pleased to come away with a win and Niandi made the podium in 2nd place in the ladies race.



May signified a change in my year and very much set a format for what was to come… I was invited to the Transvulcania La Palma on the island of La Palma. Skyrunning had assembled one of the most competitive fields in ultra you will ever see or witness. It turned out to be a who’s who of ultra running. The whole experience is a memory I will never forget… training on the trails pre and post race with the best in the world, witnessing the race were Dakota Jones ran an incredible course record for the win and were Frosty (Anna Frost) set and smashed the old course record in what was to be one of the best performances of the year. This was followed with the conference ‘Less Cloud, More Sky‘ providing the ultra community an opportunity to help establish a direction for the sport in the future. We all then packed up and moved to mainland Spain for ‘Zegama‘ but that’s another story…



Zegama arrived and the heat and sun of La Palma was replaced with rain and mud. Lots of mud. Kilian Jornet just 7 days earlier had collapsed on the finish line at Transvulcania La Palma with exhaustion. At Zegama he showed his recovery powers and showed everyone in the race how to run in the cold, wet and mud. Oihana Kortazar took out the win for the ladies ahead of Nuria Picas who was slowly becoming ‘runner of the year’.

Nuria Picas - Zegama

Nuria Picas – Zegama


The Pyrenees and an invitation from ARC’TERYX to go and test out the new clothing range called ‘Endorphin‘ on the Skyrunning Ribargoza VK course. Great friends, great memories and some stunning scenery.

Arcteryx - Pyrenees


Wow – Trofeo Kima and one of the most impressive run courses I have ever seen. I was told by Lauri Van Houten before the event that this course would blow my mind. Little did I expect what lay ahead… 6 hours being flown around via helicopter on the most stunning and awe inspiring run terrain I have ever witnessed. Kilian Jornet won the mens race and Nuria Picas won the ladies race. A stunning stunning race that signifies everything that Skyrunning is. Want to enter…? Don’t hold your breath. This race happens only every other year and typically only has about 125 places available.

Kilian 4


Berga in September, the weather breaks and Cavalls del Vent turns into a race of survival. Despite runners struggling with hypothermia the race produced a classic. The mens race was competitive seeing Kilian Jornet once again taking the win but this time ahead of Tony Krupicka finally finding some form after over 18 months out of the sport due to injury. Finishing off the podium was Dakota Jones. The ladies race produced the race of the year for me… so often in the longer distance races we see an outright winner crossing the line with 10’s of minutes to spare… not here! Nuria Picas, Frosty and Emelie Forsberg pushed each other right to the line with Nuria taking the win on home ground.



Southern France in the town of Millau. The temperatures dropped and I slowly froze myself following the La Course des Templiers, the final in the Skyrunning calendar. I will remember this race for the incredible win by Nuria Picas ahead of a sprinting Emelie Forsberg who put Lizzy Hawker into third place. In addition to this, Kilian Jornet and Nuria Picas were crowned World Champions. Incredible performers in an incredible series of races.



The quiet town of Begeggi on the Italian coast and the Berg Trail. I had an invite from Salomon Carnifast to follow and photograph the race to help promote the first edition of the race. The race was being attended by mountain running legend, Marco de Gasperi. In the weeks before the race I contacted Stevie Kremer who had moved from America to Italy earlier in the year. We had met at Sierre-Zinal where Marco de Gasperi won the race and Stevie placed second. Marco unfortunately went of course in the Berg Trail and therefore spoiled any chances of a win. Stevie however showed her class winning the ladies race convincingly and placed top 10 in the overall. A name to watch for the future…



After a stunning year of following races, reporting and photographing I finally took some time out and headed back to the island of La Palma with my partner Niandi to play on the Transvulcania La Palma course. Two weeks of perfect weather and stunning trails provided the perfect end to a stunning year. It was great to spend that time on the trails in our own space and in our own time. Running when we could, hiking when we couldn’t run and walking when no other option was left… the latter half of the year was plagued by knee issues for me and although they havent gone, my time on the Transvulcania course with Niandi was a real highlight in an incredible year!


I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the support I have received in 2012. From race organisers, athletes, team managers, brand managers and all those connected to the sport I love. In particular I would like to thank Niandi for her patience. I also need to give a special mention to Lauri Van Houten and Marino Giacometti from Skyrunning for the trust they placed in me for 2012 and the continued trust for 2013.

It has been an awesome year and 2013 is already looking like another year of moments, emotions and memories.

Sincere thanks to all of you

The Coastal Challenge – Costa Rica

Web Page Cropped 23

Pura Vida = Pure Life.

While embracing the spirit of adventure, discovery and camaraderie, The Coastal Challenge will afford you the opportunity to compete at your highest level against an international field in one of the longest, toughest and most memorable running events you will ever experience.

Our events bring together a community of like-minded runners, travelers, and adventure seekers, providing an opportunity to create life-long memories and lasting friendships one challenging adventure at a time.

For nearly a decade we have welcomed runners who embrace new challenges, tough terrain and a deeper connection with new cultures while on a journey of discovery.


You will have many opportunities to visit small pueblos, sand swept coastal towns and remote mountain villages. Brushing up on your Spanish might embolden you to strike up a conversation and interact with the local culture. You might also find yourself enjoying traditional Costa Rican dishes and stepping back in time to simpler, more tranquillo (tranquil) approach to life.

The course is set along Costa Rica‘s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country. You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat. Although simple in concept, the race will prove to be extremely difficult in terms of distance, terrain and the tropical climate. The heat and sun will take their toll and you may be severely tested at times. All that said, if you enjoy long distance running or multi-sport competitions, the Coastal Challenge will prove to be the most affordable, hassle free and personally rewarding event you can mark on your 2013 race calendar.


Race Facts:
Event Dates: February 2 – February 9, 2013
Race Dates: February 3 – February 8, 2013
Length of Race: 6 Days
Distance: 225-250 Kilometers
Location: The course is set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline but weaves at times into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of the country. You’ll finish near the border of Panama in a serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat.
Terrain: jungle and rainforest trails, mountain trail and single track across ridgelines, highlands and coastal ranges; beaches, rocky outcroppings and reefs, river and estuary crossings, and ends in Corcovado National Park, one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world as well as a Unesco World Heritage site. Much, much more. It really defies description!

Watch a video HERE on Vimeo

Web Page Cropped 3


Expedition Run, Team Expedition Run & Adventure Run

Runners from all over the world will compete against each other in one of the most challenging and visually stunning trail running events on the planet. The course will take competitors on an unforgettable journey through dramatic and varied terrain.

Although simple in concept, the race will prove to be extremely difficult in terms of distance, terrain and the tropical climate. The heat and sun will take their toll and you may be severely tested at times.

It’s the diversity you will find astounding!

Total course elevation gain of more than 34,000 feet.




Race Registration available HERE

Official Website HERE

The Runner

I was posting on Facebook about two incredible films that are currently available for ‘download’ to your laptop or home computer. The first is a new film called ‘A Fine Line‘ and is the first film that will document Kilian Jornet‘s ‘Summits of my Life‘ project (available here).


The other is ‘Unbreakable‘, JB Benna’s inspirational film about Western States (available here). I guess it’s a movie that many of you will have seen but it’s ‘download’ release is a great opportunity to have it with you for viewing when travelling.


The release of the two above films prompted me to look back and think on one of my favourite run movies of all time. ‘The Runner‘.

the runner

Journeyfilm’s THE RUNNER follows Extreme UltraRunner David Horton through the desert sun, the high snowbound mountain passes, the pain, the emotion, and his revelation. Join him as he runs more than 40 miles per day for 66 consecutive days in an attempt to set the speed record on the 2,700 mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

I interviewed David Horton on Episode 4 of Talk Ultra so if you haven’t listened, check it out. He is an inspirational character in the ultra world. Available in iTunes HERE

Director and former PCT thru-hiker JB Benna follows Horton’s journey and discovers who he really is. Learn about UltraRunning, the PCT, and the history of this amazing person through interviews with today’s best endurance athletes, his family, and David himself.

A great adventure, a movie that makes you laugh, and a movie that makes you cry.

What drives David to such extreme challenges?

What does it take to become THE RUNNER?

Trans D’Havet 2013

Trans D'Havet


  • 50 miles of the Piccole Dolomiti – edition two July 27, 2013
  • Ultra 80 km 5500 mD+ – ISF Ultra SkyMarathon® European Championship 2013
  • Marathon 40 km 2500 mD+
  • Grand Raid Zero Invitational 110 km 10,000 mD+
  • Montefalcone Downhill Race 8 km 1,200 mD-
Image courtesy of Trans D'Havet

Image courtesy of Trans D’Havet

After the successful first edition in 2012, with great participation and positive comments, thanks to the efforts of the organisation, the Trans d’Havet comes into the 2013 season with a second edition confirming the structure of the event but also offering interesting news.

The trail runs along the western pre-alps of Vicenza, in the italian Veneto region. The course starts from Piovene Rocchette, through mount Summano, mount Novegno, mount Alba, the 52 galleries roads of the Pasubio, the Sengio Alto group, Carega group, the group of Tre Croci, the top of mount Marana, ending with the descent to Valdagno, with a total length of 80 km and an elevation gain of 5500 m. There is also a minor race, which will start from mid-course (pian delle Fugazze), for a total of 40 km and 2500 m of elevation gain.

Image courtesy of Trans D'Havet

Image courtesy of Trans D’Havet

The course crosses the territory of two regions and eleven municipalities: Piovene Rocchette (Vi), Santorso (Vi), Schio (Vi), Posina (Vi), Valli del Pasubio (Vi), Vallarsa (Tn), Ala (Tn), Selva di Progno (Vr), Crespadoro (Vi), Recoaro (Vi), Valdagno (Vi).

The course of the main race, with its logical design of a great crossing of the Piccole Dolomiti, is fully confirmed. The 80 km and 5500 meters of elevation gain, rich in history and natural beauty, with some very technical stretches, will see the start of the best athletes to compete for the title of ISF Ultra SkyMarathon® European Champion 2013. Top athletes and teams are these days planning the 2013 season, and many have already expressed their intention to be there.

Image courtesy of Trans D'Havet

Image courtesy of Trans D’Havet

Trans d’Havet however won’t be only an elite race, but also a great voyage and a challenge to everyone so that they may test the limits. Therefore the time limits of 23 hours for the Ultra and 14 hours for the Marathon will remain unchanged and intermediate time limits accordingly given.

For 2013 there are also two new side events planned: the zero edition invitational of a Grand Raid for two athletes teams, in total self sufficiency, on a course of about 110 km and 10,000 m of elevation gain, which extends the classical one, and an only descent sprint Montefalcone Downhill Race, about 8 km and 1200 meters of elevation loss, to be held the next day from the top of Montefalcone down to Recoaro Terme.

Image courtesy of Trans D'Havet

Image courtesy of Trans D’Havet

The inclusion of the Trans d’Havet in the wider program of the European Skyrunning® Championship, which begins the weekend before in Canazei with the ISF Vertical Kilometer® and SkyRace® European Championship, will be an opportunity for athletes for a stay in Recoaro Terme during the week in between.

Check out the Skyrunning website – HERE


From Monday 22 to Thursday 25 July 2013

  • Recoaro Terme
  • Athletes hospitality

Friday 26 July 2013

  • Piovene Rocchette
  • 17.00 Start Grand Raid

Saturday 27 July 2013

  • Piovene Rocchette
  • 01.00 am start Ultra
  • Pian delle Fugazze
  • 9.00 am start Marathon
  • Valdagno, historical
  • 10.00 estimated winner finish Ultra
  • 13.00 estimated winner finish Marathon
  • 17.00 estimated first finish competitors Grand Raid
  • 18.00 awards ceremony
  • 24.00 hours arrival of last competitors

Sunday, July 28, 2013

  • Recoaro Terme, Downhill Race
  • 10.30 am start downhill race
  • 13.00 awards ceremony Downhill Race and Grand Raid

Organization: Ultrabericus Team a.s.d.

Collaboration: Associazione Nazionale Alpini of Vicenza, the Italian Red Cross, National Corps Mountain Rescue

The event is made possible by:

– The contribution of Montura and Alpstation;

– The cooperation of Vicenzaè.org and Visitrecoaro.it.

 All about www.transdhavet.it

Ian Corless will be reporting from the race live via Twitter and Facebook in addition to providing written articles and photography – iancorless.com

Transvulcania La Palma – A Guide


Transvulcania Map


Mountains, volcanoes, beaches, forests, a tropical rainforest, tiny villages and breathtaking views. La Palma is the jewel in the ‘Canaries’ crown. Many consider it to be the most beautiful idyllic Canary Island, un-spoilt by tourism and ideal for rest, peace and quiet. It is a treasure for the walker, hiker or runner. Considering the islands size (50km x 25km) it has many surprisingly different areas of natural beauty. It has a perfect all year round climate, not too hot in the summer and pleasantly warm in the winter.

La Palma

La Palma lies 200km from the coast of Morocco and is approximately 3500km from the UK. Just north of the ‘Tropic of Cancer’. The island attracts many a stargazer and budding astronomer for the incredible display by the stars at night.


Not dependent on tourism the island attracts a very different client to those you may find on Gran Canaria or Tenerife. You won’t find ‘English Pub’ or ‘English Food served here thank goodness. It is un-spoilt, traditional and a haven for those seeking a true Spanish feel. Natural beauty, dramatic vistas and 100’s of km’s of trails are available to explore via the marked ‘GR’ or ‘LP’ routes. Of course the famous GR route is the 131 that makes up the route for the Transvulcania La Palma… more on that later!


How big is the island? Well, in a nutshell, not very big… at just 50km long and 25km wide. The population is only 86, 528 (dated 2008).

La Palma is dominated by the Caldera, the massive erosion crater often (incorrectly) thought of as a volcano, it has steep sloping sides both inside and out.


The south-west part of the Caldera has collapsed and been eroded away leaving a ravine that runs deep right down to the sea at Tazacorte and the start point for the Transvulcania La Palma race.


The southeast and north of the island has a coastline that drops steeply down to the sea making access to the coast very difficult. Many areas are only reachable by sea.

The central ridge (cumbre) makes up the central and southern parts that extend from the Caldera in the north to the southern point of the island and divides the island into two.


Often called ‘La Isla Bonita’ it is a green island with many trees, including tree heather, the tall Canary Pine and cultivated citrus, avocado, chestnut, almond and banana trees at lower altitudes. Characterized by steep cliffs, volcanic rock, bays, black sand and cactus. Of course one thing you will see everywhere are many, many banana plantations.

A volcanic island, the last eruption was in 1971 at the Teneguía volcano.

The GR 131


The GR 131 was created from the logical joining of two large mountain routes in La Palma: The Volcano Route and the route of The Crests of the Taburiente Crater.


To make a logical route, the GR131 was extended at both ends to the sea. It is possible to start at sea level from the Fuencaliente lighthouse climb upward and upward to the Caldera Taburiente Crest. Run around the crest to Roque de Los Muchachos and then drop down and then descend to Tazacorte Port. In its origins, this path connected the localities furthest away from each other, as it climbed a radial path to the current GR131 and followed it to the radial downwards path to the destination. It has also been the main path for the herding of goats from the summit to the coast.

Route Description

In providing a route description of the GR131 I am looking at it from the eyes of a runner in relation to the Transvulcania La Palma. Please keep this mind if you are reading this from the perspective of a walker or hiker.


Starting at the Fuencaliente Lighthouse at sea level the first section includes two key volcanoes, San Antonio and Teneguía. As mentioned previously, Teneguía last erupted in 1971. The first miles are tough going and most certainly on race day with some 1500+ runners a struggle. The path is often narrow with loose black sand or rocks. Patience will be required.


From Los Canarios you enter the dense pine forests which offer a stark contrast to the opening miles. Underfoot terrain now mixes black lava sand, pine needles and rocks. Running is much easier than the opening miles and you will find an opportunity to stretch your legs.


Climbing up the trees eventually start to subside and you emerge in the ‘Route of the Volcanoes’. This path crosses the southern ridge of the island, where most of the volcanoes are lined up (less than 200,000 years old). Among others, the following volcanoes can be seen from the path: Birigoyo Peak, Nambroque Peak, San Juan or Hoyo Negro Volcano (eruption in 1949), Duraznero Volcano, Las Deseadas, El Charco Mountain (active in 1712), Martín Volcano (eruption in 1646), Pelada Mountain, El Fuego Mountain and the Crater of Los Arreboles. It is an incredible route, sometimes very runnable, at other times hard work due to the increasing steepness of the path and loose deep lava sand.


The final sections of the volcano route offer good fast running to El Pilar. In the Transvulcania La Palma this place offers an important marker. An important feed station and also the finish point for the shorter race provided by the race organizers.


Leaving El Pilar, the race route (GR 131) heads north for the crest of La Cumbre Nueva using a forest trail that goes beyond the port of El Reventón (1350 m). Initially you will find this section providing some of the easiest running you will have had so far… the gradients are easier and underfoot one has less obstacles.


Of course it soon comes to an end, the path climbs the successive and increasingly high peaks, running along the very edge of the Taburiente Crater.


The Taburiente Crater rim is an incredible natural wonder offering technical running terrain, constant changes in elevation and some of the most incredible views you will ever see. Depending on the weather systems you will either have clear blue skies and the ability to look out into the distance for miles or a thick blanket like layer of cloud that will be below you literally making you feel they you are Skyrunning. Incredible. One thing that La Palma is famous for is the micro climate. You will almost certainly while running the race have several different types of weather, particularly if the cloud layer appears. You can be hot with the sun beating down on you and then a little chilly as you run through the cloud. It is what makes it so interesting.




From the Rock of Los Muchachos (2436 m) the highest point of the course, the route drops down to the sea at the Port of Tazacorte. Beware! You may be thinking to yourself as you climb up and up for hours and hours that you have a wonderful long descent to the finish. You do but it is steep, technical and punishes your legs. Easy running sections are followed by tough, technical, rocky and gnarly terrain.


Crossing a main road at El Time you then have a couple of very steep road sections before the final drop down the stunning (and technical) zig-zag path to Tazacorte Port.

No warm up, from Tazacorte you go up for 18k

No warm up, from Tazacorte you go up for 18k

The GR131 stops here but the Transvulcania La Plama organizers have a sting in the tail… the final miles take you back up to the town of Los Llanos De Aridane where a rapturous welcome awaits. Believe me, you will have earned it!

Training Information

The Transvulcania La Palma is an incredible race on a stunning course. At 83km’s it is a real challenge. Dakota Jones won the 2012 edition of the race in an incredible 6:59:07. Believe me that time is fast… very fast! Take a step back and in real terms look at adding a minimum of 3 hours to Dakota’s time and keep an eye on the cut-off times. Of course I am speaking in general terms here.

The terrain underfoot falls into one of these categories: black lava sand, rocky lava sand, hard rocky lava, pine forests, tough gnarly rocks and a very small section of road. The terrain eats the grip on your shoes and I therefore would recommend a trail shoe with cushioning and grip. For example; Salomon Speedcross, Salomon Slab Softground, Scott eRide Grip2, Sportiva Raptor or similar… you get the drift! You always have exceptions to rules and for example Kilian Jornet (3rd 2012) and Andy Symonds (2nd 2012) used the lightweight Salomon Sense for the 2012 race. In general terms though, the average runner will need grip and cushioning to the ease the harshness of the terrain.


The ability to handle technical terrain while maintaining a good pace is essential. This will come extremely important on the flatter sections and the long descent from Roque de Los Muchachos. If you can’t make up time here than you are most definitely in for a long day out.


From the start at the lighthouse and until you reach the highest point of the course at 2436m you are arguably always going up. It ultimately all comes down to economy of effort and having a strategy and or ability that will allow you to make the summit with enough left to get to the finish. What should you do?


  • Run with a short stride looking ahead constantly
  • Practice walking fast, uphill with your hands on your knees
  • Incorporate some long day hikes on hilly terrain
  • Run/ hike on loose sand uphill for long periods of time (a quarry would be good)
  • Run on hard packed trail for your speedier/ faster workouts
  • Find some gnarly, rocky terrain and practice running on it. Build up a confidence to move over it as quickly as possible
  • Add some strength and core work to your training if this is a weak area for you

In many respects, the Transvulcania La Palma is like any other trail or mountain race but it does have a combination of elements that make this a very tough course. Respect it. Without doubt it is one of the most beautiful I have experienced.

Practical Information

La Palma is a small island. The race starts at the southern most tip and finishes almost half way up the island on the west. Therefore your hotel decision for the race may very well depend on many factors such as:

  • Are you with family?
  • Are you staying just for the race?
  • Do you plan to stay on?

If travelling with family you may very well be better basing yourself at Los Llanos de Aridane as this is a town with shops, cafes and other facilities or at Tazacorte Port.


Tazacorte Port has a beach, restaurants and cafes. Of course this will mean as a participant you will need to arrange for transport and/or an overnight stop at the race start for the race day. Please note the race starts very early!

If travelling just for the race weekend I would seriously consider looking at the options provided by the race organization at www.transvulcania.com They will have accommodation and travel packages that will provide you with all that you need.


If you plan to stay in La Palma after the race my recommendation would be to base yourself in or around Los Llanos and then use this as a start point from which you can then travel from.

Hire Car

A hire car is essential and they are very affordable. La Palma is serviced by all the main providers at the airport; Avis, Hertz and Europcar. Cicar is a local hire company available here. Book in advance for the best deal.


Flights to La Palma can be a little tricky. If in doubt, fly to Tenerife and then book one of the many connections that are available. Again, the race organizers are providing packages and practical information to facilitate this at www.transvulcania.com. Thomson have just started a direct flight from Manchester to La Palma.


La Palma boasts year round good weather. In May it will be hot but not excessive. Travel light and cool and always ensure that you have a warm layer and/or windproof just in case.

Los Llanos de Aridane

Los Llanos is the largest and busiest town on the west side of La Palma with a population of just over 20,000. There are many modern buildings. It has a traffic-free centre and the surrounding side streets still retain their old character. Plaza de Espana is the hub of the town and a good place to have a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.


You can see images of Los Llanos here: https://iancorless.org/photography/los-llanos-la-palma/


Tazacorte is situated on the west side of the island and claims to be the warmest place on the island. It is divided into 2 villages.

Puerto de Tazacorte is on the coast and has a long promenade, a fishing harbour, a black sand beach and an area with boulevard, bars and (fish) restaurants. Tazacorte pueblo (village) as about 1km above the coast and is the main center with the town hall, post office, shops and supermarket.


Market day : https://iancorless.org/photography/la-palma-tazacorte-market-day/

Recce, blogs and Images


In December 2012 I spent two weeks running, hiking, jogging, walking and crawling over the Transvulcania La Palma course. My blog posts are available on iancorless.org and my images are filed in a logical order, starting at the lighthouse at Fuencaliente, moving through the route of the volcanoes, El Pilar, Cumbre Vueva and then Tazacorte as days here:


Route of the Volcanoeshttps://iancorless.org/photography/la-palma-the-route-of-the-volcanoes/

El Pilarhttps://iancorless.org/photography/la-palma-el-pilar/

Cumbre Nuevahttps://iancorless.org/photography/roque-de-los-muchachos-la-palma/


Blog Posts:



La Palma has been a revelation. I have now had the opportunity to see the island and the Transvulcania la Palma from two perspectives. In May I followed the race as a journalist/ photographer and got to see one of the most competitive races of the year unfold before my eyes.

In December I returned for a holiday, to spend time on the trails in some warm winter sun.

The people, the places, the food, the hospitality and the multitude of trails make La Palma the most perfect location for the enthusiastic runner or hiker. I have focused this post on the GR131 and the Transvulcania La Palma but trails are everywhere. From my base in the Caldera de Taburiente just outside Los Llanos de Aridane I also discovered and explored so many other incredible trails such as this circular route:

December in La Palma offered great weather allowing me to escape the winter grey and gloom of the UK to run in shorts and T-shirts on some of the most incredible terrain with the most stunning views.

I should point out that I did only explore the southwest corner of the island. I have been told, repeatedly, by friends that the island has so much more to offer.

La Palma and its network of trail may very well become a regular slot in my calendar moving forward…

I would like to thank Lourdes Plasencia, Julio Carbera Rocha, Lauri Van Houten, Marino Giacometti, Transvulcania La Palma and Skyrunning for all the help and support.

Finally, many thanks to Niandi for making the trails so enjoyable.

Skyrunning 2013

Marino Giacometti, ISF President, after the 2012 retrospect in the feature, “Looking back. Moving forward”, we publish an extract from a recent interview in two parts by the Spanish website, www.carreraspormontana.com on the near and long term future of skyrunning.

Part I

Marino Giacometti. © ISF

Why did you change the SWS format for the next season?

The format in 2012 was already new.  The Trials system was abolished and the Ultras were introduced but the Main Races and a combined title remained.  Already in July at the Annual General Assembly, the new formula for 2013 was in place with a view to separating the distances and to have a clean and simple ranking system.  2012 was a year of transition between the two formats which proved problematical with the ranking and some of the new ultra distances races, but in many aspects, was extremely positive with the participation of some of the world’s top ultra athletes who hadn’t yet had a taste of skrunning and their positive feedback on the skyrunning concept – tough, technical races at altitude – thus re-affirming our heritage.

2013 was the final evolution into three separate categories and the abolition of the combined title and compulsory races. The different distances attract specialists from each discipline – there aren’t many runners like Kilian that excel in all three!  Skyrunning is about racing vertical, short, medium and long distances…at altitude of course.

One of the novelties is the first 100-mile race. Why now?

On embracing the Ultra concept, it was a natural evolution.  The demand is out there too and we listen to what the runners want.  We had been considering the Ultras for some time and were observing their development. After many mountaineering expeditions and speed records in the Himalayas and in South America, including in winter, I have a pretty good idea where sport finishes and survival begins… Running at night, cold and rain, is not only sport, but adventure and survival.

A Federation must always put the safety of the athletes above all else and I admit I had some apprehension in including the 100-miler although I got the support of the federation’s members to go ahead as well as the support of the Ronda dels Cims organisers.  Sports and mountain federations have a moral obligation to work with organisers and athletes for safety, preparation, equipment and guidelines.  We intend to lead this cause with the direct collaboration of organisers and athletes, pooling our resources for an optimum result.  On our side we offer 20 years of experience (having created and organised 80 races worldwide at high altitude and co-ordinated ten years of the World Series).

Will we see more 100milers in SWS in the future?

Probably yes.  We are examining some options for 2014.  Within the SWS we want to keep a balance with the long and ultra long distances. Throughout the season, an athlete can do many Sky or 50 km races, but of course can’t compete at top level in more than two or three longer distance races a year. We’re working on a world ranking (of the most representative races) covering 20 ultra, 20 sky and 10 vertical to list the world’s top athletes.

Marino Giacometti. © ISF

What’s your opinion about the launch of the ultramarathon series this year?

First I need to go back to explain our heritage – which lies generally in marathon distance races, but at high altitude which makes a huge difference.  Don’t forget that mountains are measured by their vertical climb, not distance (as Kilian Jornet points out – counting hours and vertical climb, not distance). Our first race in 1992, from Courmayeur to the summit of Mont Blanc was 54 km but with 3,900m of positive vertical climb – half of which above 2,000m altitude!

The races we organised in Nepal, Tibet, Kenya, Mexico and America, were marathon distance, but at high altitude between 4,000 and 5,2000 metres. That means 5 hours for the winners and 12 hours for a normal runner.  We also organised a 24 hour ascent race in Val d’Isère and, in 2002, the week-long crossing of the Alps from Courmayeur to Cortina…

Now back to this year – twenty years on. For some time we had been receiving requests to include Ultra distance races and, apart from the Kima Trophy (50 km), which we created in 1994, we immediately embraced the Transvulcania Ultramarathon (83 km) as it so perfectly embodied the skyrunning concept.  The other three races proved problematical, due to a different approach by the organisers and seriously bad weather.   The Ultra Series was a learning experience and has given us the tools to move forward and to create organisers’ and participants’ guidelines for the future.  With the support of the athletes, we are convinced we’re on the right path and consequently were confident to include the first 100-miler next year.

Earlier, you spoke about the 100 mile race. Why did you introduce it now?

On embracing the Ultra concept, it was a natural evolution.  The demand is out there too and we listen to what the runners want.  We had been considering the Ultras for some time and were observing their development. After many mountaineering expeditions and speed records in the Himalayas and in South America, including in winter, I have a pretty good idea where sport finishes and survival begins… Running at night, cold and rain, is not only sport, but adventure and survival. A Federation must always put the safety of the athletes above all else and I admit I had some apprehension in including the 100-miler although I got the support of the federation’s members to go ahead as well as the support of the Ronda dels Cims organisers.  Sports and mountain federations have a moral obligation to work with organisers and athletes for safety, preparation, equipment and guidelines.  We intend to lead this cause with the direct collaboration of organisers and athletes, pooling our resources for an optimum result.  On our side we offer 20 years’ experience after creating and organising 80 races worldwide at high altitude and co-ordinating the World Series for ten years.

Will we see more 100 milers in the SWS in the future?

Probably yes.  We are examining some options for 2014.  Within the SWS we want to keep a balance with the long and ultra long distances. Throughout the season, an athlete can do many Sky or 50 km races, but of course can’t compete at top level in more than two or three longer distance races a year. We’re working on a world ranking (of the most representative races) covering 20 ultra, 20 sky and 10 vertical to list the world’s top athletes.

Part II

What are the major challenges the ISF is facing in the near future?

The ISF is the only international running federation operating at high altitude in the mountains. Our main objective is to offer a concrete point of reference for athletes and organisers, to develop the sport with our members and future members with national circuits.  In other words, to grow the sport on an international level together with the principal players:  the runners,organisers and industry.

A major challenge is represented in growing the sport globally. In a sport that takes place in the mountains, it’s difficult to find a balance between growing the number of participants while capping races for safety and ecological reasons.  It’s clearly not a spectator sport and therefore can’t compete with the big league sports and mainstream media.  The federation doesn’t receive public funds like many other similar organisations, which partially limits the scope, but we believe with the backing of the runners, organisers and industry we can go far.

In growing the sport we must turn to the industry and a growing number of companies are investing in this new sector, lead by Salomon and The North Face in Europe. Companies with a traditional sports background are breaking out into outdoor and trail, such as Adidas, Asics, New Balance… The industry must invest in their testimonals and ambassadors to enable runners to become professionals …..

We aim to keep skyrunning open to investors in all areas, races, teams, individuals, because only with investment right across the board can the sport grow.

What is the role of the Athletes Commission?

A number of top international athletes volunteered and were elected to stand on the Athletes Commission, which this year has finally become fully active.  Their role is invaluable in the development and strategy of the sport, their consultation on a number of issues (including those pertinent to the Board or Management Committee) and generally to represent a voice for runners. This important role reflects the ISF philosophy where the athlete is central to its development.

Year after year, there are more races outside Europe, especially in the US. Do you think there’s more interest in the SWS there?

The participation of many top American ultra runners this year (Dakota Jones, Anton Krupicka, Rickey Gates, Joe Grant, Nick Clarke and Ian Sharman, Mike Wolfe, Geoff Roes, Joe Grant, Alex Nichols, Nikki Kimball, Darcy Africa) and WMRA world champions, like Marco De Gasperi, Max King, Kasie Enman and Stevie Kremer competed in SWS races on both sides of the Atlantic is proof enough.

At the Seminar held in May on La Palma, for a new generation of American runners, the skyrunning concept was a revelation and the outcome was a desire for steeper, more technical races in the US. In the next couple of years I’m confident you will start seeing this kind of race modelled on the skyrunning concept, rather that the typical runnable trail/no switchback cutting formula we have seen up to now.

Forestry permits are an important reason for this in the US, but from 1993-1998 we conceived and organized many races at 4,000m altitude in Colorado, with the relevant permits of course.  (Practically all the races take place in national parks or protected areas across the world and, working with sensitive race directors and following the proper guidelines, don’t represent a threat to the environment).   It all depends how you go about it.

The choice of the 2013 Ultra Series final in Vail, was an open door on our part and on the part of European runners to share the concept on US soil.  American team managers will now begin to support their runners to attend events in Europe and further afield and Europeans will do likewise.

How is the ISF working towards making skyrunning an Olympic sport?

On our foundation in 2008 we started off basing our Statues on those of the Olympic Charter with a view of following that road.  After a meeting with the IOC Committee in July 2011 and subsequent meetings with consultants and athletes alike, there is no question that skyrunning will continue to carry out the sport in the mountains, for us, the only conceivable arena.

Possibly the short steep vertical distances and the skyscraper races could fit into an Olympic format, but whatever the case, as things stand, 50 member countries are required and 2020/24 would be the earliest opportunity. Our heritage is the mountains and we have enough conviction and support to carry on developing the sport right there.

We suggested to the IOC to stage an “Outdoor Olympic Games”, similar to the Winter Olympics.  The idea was well accepted, but until there is more money in this area, it will remain nothing more than a dream for many…and possibly a nightmare for others.

What are your aims for the next SWS?

The continued affirmation of the Skyrunner® World Series as a point of reference for global outdoor running, our first 100-miler, the new races, the pleasure of repeating successful quality events.   Next year the participation and ranking of teams will have a special focus and we look forward to the participation of the world’s top runners and all those who aspire to skyrunning at the highest levels, to measure their performance or just to see Kilian running with ease, where they are struggling.  More emotion, more inspiration!

Episode 25 Talk Ultra


Episode 25 – MERRY CHRISTMAS. A super stacked festive show with some incredible stars of 2012. Our show includes interviews with Ellie Greenwood, Timoth Olson, Western States RD Craig Thornley, Ryan Sandes and Lizzy Hawker. We announce the winners of ‘A Year inthe life of…’. Talk Training is about heart rate training and Karl, Ian Sharman and myself review the year. Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for making 2012 a great year!

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com


Merry Christmas everybody and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your fantastic support in 2012. The Talk Ultra community is nothing without all of you.

Here is to a fantastic 2013 !

00:00:00 Intro and hold your breath….. a Christmas jingle from Ian

00:02:40 Show start

00:11:40 Ellie Greenwood talks about an incredible 2012 season and what lies in store for 2013

00:32:50 Back to the show

00:38:30 Craig Thornley is the new RD for Western States. He takes the reigns in 2013 and in our interview we discuss the iconic 100 miler

01:05:58 Back to the show.

01:09:36 Timothy Olson discusses setting that CR at Western States and how life has had to adapt to the birth of his first child.

01:28:25 Ryan Sandes tells us about a superb 2012 and how he has become one of the premier ultra runners in the world.

01:48:20 ‘A Year in the life of….’ we announce the winners!

01:51:30 A quick chat with the female winner – A Year in the life of…

01:56:20 A quick chat with the male winner – A Year in the life of…

02:02:00 News

02:22:40 Blog – Joe Grant – Alpine Works

02:23:50 Talk Training with Marc Laithwaite – Hear Rate Training

02:51:12 An interview with Lizzy Hawker… Lizzy needs no introduction. In 2012 she won UTMB for the 5th time, won Run Rabbit Run and then set a CR at Spartathlon, all within a few weeks. We discuss her career and what makes her tick.

03:19:28 A Meltzer Moment with Speedgoat Karl

03:21:40 Up and Coming Races

03:22:55 Close


Salomon Sense Ultra

The long awaited ‘Sense Ultra‘ has arrived. THANK YOU Santa……

As many of you will know, the ‘Sense‘ has become the shoe of choice for those who are wanting to run on trail with a minimalist and responsive shoe. However, we can’t all be as efficient as Kilian Jornet or Andy Symonds.

The Sense Ultra offers a little more but holds true to all the elements that have made the ‘sense’ so popular.

The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Racing is one of the lightest trail shoes ever made. It is heavier than the Sense but has added strengthening of the sole for longer and harder races.

It has the new lacing system: Quicklace this reduces the weight of Sense.
Dynamic Traction:  allows the Salomon S lab Sense  optimum grip in all conditions. It wasdeveloped by Solomon with the greatest athletes without any compromise. It has different grip and texture which has been designed to optimize grip when it is necessary.
EndoFit: has an inner liner to the shoe designed for positioning the foot optimally.
Drop: a low 4mm drop to provide a natural contact and feel with the ground.
OS TENDON: Thanks to this system inserted in the sole of the S lab intermediare sense, there is a natural flow with excellent energy return.
Profeet Film: is a protection film that will protect your foot area from angular or sharp objects that are on the trail. The Sense offers maximum protection despite its lightness.
Weight: 240g in 8.5 U.S.

When you lift up the box you think wait a minute… they forgot the shoes! Not so. These ‘runners’ are super light.

The lacing system as with all Salomon in reassuring and holds the foot firm.

The addition of the internal ‘Endofit’ makes the shoe more comfortable than you would ever imagine. They can be a little tight to get on at first and you may initially think; uh oh, wrong size. But once your foot is it is snug and supremely comfortable. The most comfortable shoe I have ever worn.

I am not a small guy and the therefore I always felt the original ‘Sense‘ was maybe just a little too minimal for me… certainly on longer runs! not so with the ‘Ultra’. The additional cushioning is immediately apparent.

The sole has grip but nothing like the ‘SLab Softground‘ or ‘Speedcross‘. The shoe is therefore certainly more suited to road and hard pack (or rocky) trail. If your running in soft ground they perform perfectly but if you are a great deal of mud the added grip of the Soft Ground or Speedcross may be a better choice.

In use they are a dream to wear. On the roads they are light, responsive and provide that feel that I have had with traditional racing flats. The bonus with the ‘Sense Ultra’ is the hold of the foot. The speed lacing and Endofit provide supreme comfort. On the trails this becomes even more apparent as the foot moves from left to right with changes in terrain.

It’s early days in testing but this shoe will not be of my feet for a while… they are so comfortable I would even be tempted to use them as slippers.

Now then, I need to go run…..

As a foot note, (no pun intended) Spring/ Summer 2013 will see a new Sense model – ‘Mantra

I saw this shoe earlier this year at Cavalls del Vent. A couple of the Salomon runners tested the shoe (Emelie Forsberg and Philipp Reiter) By all accounts a great edition to the range but too early to provide some detailed feedback.

The Mantra will be an everyday trainer in the same mold as the Sense and Sense Ultra. It’s a door-to-trail hybrid. With it’s 16mm heel and 10mm front (6mm drop as opposed to 4mm) and 260 grams weight, it looks to be a featherweight trainer without requiring the user to go to a 4mm drop shoe. Salomon has been heavily delving into exactly how different heel-to-toe drops effect actual stride speed which has resulted in their “Natural Motion Construction.”  A lower heel drop supports a mid-foot or forefoot strike that in turn better enables muscles, instead of joints, to absorb shock. Ultimately, their argument is this builds greater balance and overall running efficiency. More to follow….

Sense Mantra

Sense Mantra

Pico de la Nieve – La Palma

Today, Niandi and myself ran some of the same trail that we ran last week. Unlike our previous day way had no cloud cover so we ran and hiked in glorious sunshine, blue skies and with crystal clear views. Starting at the Roque de Los Muchachos at 22426m we ran the rim in an anti-clockwise direction taking in Fuenta Nueva, Los Andenes, Pico La Cruz, Pico de Piedrallana and Pico de La Nieve at 2239m.

It’s a stunning technical run over hard and rocky terrain. You are constantly going up and then down….

Every now and again moments happen on the trail. Here is one of those moments capturing the Transvulcania La Palma course running off into the distance and the islands of Tenerife and Gomera in the background. Magical !

Niandi at Pico de La Nieve 2239m

Niandi at Pico de La Nieve 2239m

Images of Roque de Los Muchacos and this route are available  HERE

Caldera de Taburiente – La Palma


An easy day should surely be followed with a longer day right? Good! Niandi and myself did follow the ‘Los Llanos‘ experience with a wonderful 7 hours on the trails of the LP13 in the National Park of the Caldera de Taburiente. What a day!

I had read about the PRLP13 being a super hard hike (Here) and how we could take a Taxi to Los Brecitos…. nonsense! If you are going to do it, then do it! That’s all part of the fun.



We started the trail at 0900 in the valley and had decided on an anti-clockwise direction going through the Barranco de las Angustias ravine which is all about boulder and rock hopping, crossing the river multiple times and some scrambling. It’s mostly slow going and if you are not technically proficient you do need to take care. (NOTE: If you plan to do this you must check that no heavy rain has happened in the previous 24/48 hours or more importantly that any is due for your own excursion. The water level rises very quickly).

Niandi is not the best at this really technical stuff but she embraced it, smiled and bounced from rock to rock when she could. Hats off to her… she very rarely says ‘I can’t’. She takes a breath and gets on with it; respect!



As we have grown to accept with La Palma the terrain changes constantly. Running through the ravine we would then climb and drop back down. Sometime we could run, others we would scramble. I loved it. It would make a great race route but only for the proficient… moving over this terrain at any speed requires real skill.


Finally arriving at the end of the ravine a dam was in front of us. The water here changed colour to incredible oranges from iron discolouration. We moved to the left and moved onwards and upwards finally joining incredible single track. We had gone from rocky ravines to pine forests.


The Roque de Idafe like some huge rock finger pointing to the sky in front of us. We now started to climb up and up. Although this was running terrain the gradient means sometimes you jog, sometimes you hike, No worries. All part of the fun.



Niandi loved this section of the LP13. It was beautiful and inspirational. The sune had now moved up high into the sky and warmed our backs. We finally arrived at our turning point at the end of the valley. Here is a Tourist information centre and campsite. From here you can go on several different routes. Some are out and backs, others circular routes.



We had a picnic lunch and then followed the signs to Los Brecitos. We now had the opportunity to pretty much run and power hike this whole section. Narrow single track made soft and bouncy by fallen pine needles… a carpet like feel under our feet. Niandi smiled and bounced her way down the trail. Such a contrast to the way out down the ravine. It is what makes running here in La Palma so special.



From Los Brecitos we had a small section of road and then we dropped back down the trail to our start point in the valley.

You don’t measure these runs via distance. It means nothing. To be honest we are not even running much of the time. It’s about time on feet and experiences and today was one of those days on the trail that you don’t forget.

You can see a selection of images HERE

In the evening we went and had Cerveza, Pizza and then sat outside at Cafe Eden being entertained by a local band playing Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones and so on… we both could get used to this!