Gary Robbins prepares for the Salomon SKYRUN, South Africa

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Gary Robbins has an incredible story… like all Canadians he played Hockey, his first race ‘off the couch’ was a 10-miler but in his late teens the lure of a good party and soft white snow saw him become a ski bum.

Like many, he had a cathartic moment. A moment when you look in, shake yourself up and decide that you need to get a grip. Gary travelled and travelled extensively. It was the millennium and those magic numbers, ‘2000’ provided a stimulus for many, not just Gary.

The process of finding fitness and health was a gradual one. When back home in Banff the partying continued but it was now on a back burner. Running became a normal activity and the mountains provided an incentive for adventure.

2002 ultimately was a key year, Adventure Racing was booming and  Gary had seen the EcoChallenge. What followed was a journey into the unknown and Gary raced with his team the Raid the North Extreme, Mind Over Matter Adventure Racing and the booming Primal Quest.

In 2008 a shift to purely running came and for many, this is the Gary Robbins we all know. His history and story around Hurt 100 makes incredible reading and listening. In 2010, Gary tackled Hurt and not only won the race in 20-hours 12-minutes but broke a Geoff Roes course record… that doesn’t happen very often!

What followed is possibly one of the greatest comebacks in sport. Whilst out training  with Geoff Roes and Max King, Gary broke his leg on the Hurt 100 course. At first he thought it was no big deal, however, what followed was a period of his life that may well have seen Gary never run again.

But mile by mile, Gary eased his way back into the sport with help of fellow ultra runner, Luke Nelson. In 2013, Gary went full circle and returned to Hurt 100, a place of so much glory and so much pain. He had a point to prove and prove it he did. He won the race and a little like Roy Hobbs in the the film, ‘The Natural’ Gary had his moment once again. A moment he followed up in 2014 with a repeat victory.

Hurt 100 holds a special place in Gary’s heart and it is his experiences in Adventure Racing, triumphing over the 100-mile distance, his incredible comeback that will now see him toe the line at the Salomon SKYRUN in South Africa.

SkyRun 2014 on White

IC: How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

GR: From a racing perspective I built out my year to attempt to peak for The Salomon SkyRun and as such I’ve had an unusually low mileage summer of running. I raced the Cascade Crest 100 miler on August 23rd. It wasn’t my best day, especially after a sleep deprived week of race directing my own Squamish 50 just six days prior. I ended up sitting in an aid station just 30 miles in for over twenty minutes after walking for the hour prior. It wasn’t pretty. I stuck with it though and had a great second half rally in which I managed to climb my way back up to finish 3rd overall. Seth Swanson (2nd WS100) took the win in a CR time.

IC:  Do you have any targets between now and your trip to SA?

GR: My target is a big month of training and to show up in peak fitness and injury free. I will be racing Rocky Man Brazil on November 8th though, before flying straight to South Africa.’RMB’ is a relay event in which teams compete by Nationality. It’ll be the first time a Canadian team has competed at Rocky Man and I’m quite excited with the team we’ve built. For me it’ll be a 35km mountain run along with a team based outrigger canoe paddle. The team if five members and the disciplines include surfing, skate board half pipe, SUP, mountain bike, men’s run, women’s run and a team outrigger canoe and team run stage.

IC: How has training gone, you are a busy race director yourself?

GR: It was quite the summer of race directing to be honest. I now oversee twelve races and it’s certainly kept me on my toes. I had a very successful first seven months of training, followed by a few months of non-structured training with lower overall mileage. I’ve just now started bumping up the distance again with a successful three day circumnavigation of the 150km long Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier. That capped off a 110 mile week and thankfully all systems seem to be a go right now.

IC: Navigation is a key component of the Salomon SKYRUN have you been looking at some maps of the Drakensberg?

GR: I unfortunately have not, and navigating was never my strong suit in adventure racing. I hope to work this in in October.

IC: You have a great adventure racing background, are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

GR: Thus far no, I’ll just follow the route Ryan Sandes did for the course record…!

IC: The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

GR: I struggle to look past the next event on my calendar and typically work through one event at a time, as such I haven’t been able to put much focus on my SkyRun research just yet. I direct my final trail race of the year this Saturday and following that it’s 100% focus on South Africa.

IC: A strong local contingent will be toeing the line… Iain Don Wauchope, AJ Calitz and so on… do you know much about them?

GR: I do not know much about these runners personally, but what I do know is that South Africans in general are incredible tough and talented runners. There’s no doubt in my mind that South Africans could very literally run away from the rest of us on race day. Home field advantage is certainly a reality over any terrain in which flagging isn’t utilised.

IC: Michael De Haast (race director) has put up a great prize purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

GR: I think it’s great that Michael has been able to put up such a prize purse. Personally I’ve never targeted an event due to a prize purse and am more driven by the aesthetic of a race. Prize purse or not, I can’t wait to run in South Africa! My wife will be joining me for two out of the three weeks that I’ll be in South Africa and we’ve been looking forward to this trip together all year long!

IC: This trip will provide two great opportunities – travel and racing!

GR: In terms of the race itself, I’m really excited to do a slightly non-conventional and more challenging form of a trail race. It seems more akin to an adventure run and I do love me a good adventure run. From a travel perspective, I’m stoked to run in a completely new country, while Linda and I are both really looking forward to taking in a safari while we’re there. Her face also tends to light up real bright when she says the words “dinosaur footprints,” which we hope to check out at some point as well.

The Salomon SKYRUN takes place on 20th-23rd of November and an exclusive package is available for those who may like to join us for the trip of a lifetime. Info HERE

‘I really like what the Salomon SkyRun is as an event, an honest to goodness bad ass mountain race. A lot of races out there like to brand themselves as such, but the Salomon SkyRun appears to be fully legit in this regard.’ Gary says as a parting shot, ‘I think few places in the world would embrace and even sanction an event such as this and I believe that offers great insight into the people, both behind the scenes and those lining up to tackle the race itself. This won’t be easy, as is evidenced by Ryan Sandes course record of almost twelve and a half hours.’

Having said all that, there’s an undeniable element of intrigue that emanates from everything surrounding the Salomon SkyRun.

You can listen to interviews with Gary Robbins below:

Episode 54 of Talk Ultra – Gary Robbins once again returned to the tough and gnarly Hurt 100 and came away with another victory, in this weeks show he tells us all about it and his plans for 2014. HK100 took place just a couple of weeks ago and young Australian sensation, Vlad Ixel placed 3rd overall in a top quality field, we interviewed him about his running and what the future hold. Talk Training as ‘Hint’s n Tips for running from Speedgoat himsel, the News, a Blog, Up and Coming races.. another great show in store!

Episode 29 – has come back man Gary Robbins telling us what it’s like to return from 2 years of injury to not only win Hurt 100 but to set a new CR. Jez Bragg tells us about completing ‘The Long Pathway, Te Araroa’ in New Zealand. Joe Grant says goodbye and heads off to the Iditarod. Colourful Catra Corbett tells us about drugs, alcohol, running, tattoos, clothes and Truman. In addition to all that, we also have… phew; Talk Training about the long run, ‘A year in the life off…, part 3 of our Marathon des Sables special, A Meltzer Moment, Up & Coming races and of course the News.

SkyRun 2014 on White

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