Ultra Mirage El Djerid 100km 2019 Race Preview – Fierce Mind’s Edition

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.

Tozeur is the main city of the Djerid, known for its stunning surroundings it has a mixture of rocky mountains, valleys, salt lakes and desert dunes. The Ultra Mirage© El Djerid (UMED) is the first 100km Ultra Trail taking place in the stunning Tunisian Sahara desert.

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.”

MEN

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!

WOMEN

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

Kilian Jornet in Nepal – Autumn 2019

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.”

                       Article reference HERE

Whatever the project, it’s great to see Kilian fulfil his dreams and personal ambitions once again in Nepal. We wish good weather and a safe time on the mountains.

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Superior 100 2019 – Summary and Images

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.

Full Image Gallery HERE

       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.

Full Image Gallery HERE

     Over 400 images will be uploaded by Monday 9th September

Full results at ultralive.net

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.

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Superior 100 2019 – Preview

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.

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Maga Ultra SkyMarathon 2019 – ISF European Skyrunning Championships

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.”

View the full Image Gallery HERE

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.

The race

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.

View the full Image Gallery HERE

2019 Skyrunning European Championship medallists

Men
Gold: Cristian Minoggio (ITA) – 6h37’26

Silver: Manuel Merillas (ESP) – 6h52’03”

Bronze: Daniel Jung (ITA) – 7h0252″

Women
Gold: Ester Casajuana (ESP) – 8h19’11”

Silver:  Sandra Sevillano (ESP) – 8h33’35”

Bronze: Silvia Puigarnau (ESP) 8h41’11”

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adidas Terrex and the 2019 UTMB Series of Races

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.

#ONETEAM

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!

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