About talkultra

Ian is a photographer, writer, reviewer and blogger at iancorless.com. Ian is currently travelling the world capturing stories from some of the most iconic ultras on the planet. Ian is also creative director and host of an ultra running podcast called Talk Ultra. The show is available every 2 weeks 'for free' on iTunes and talkultra.com.

Everest Trail Race 2022 Summary

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The Everest Trail Race (ETR) finally was all systems go after an extended break due to the Coronavirus situation. Needless to say, the return was welcome, not only by ETR staff but all the runner’s, many who had postponed entries for 12 or even 24-months.

Nepal is a magical place and to be back in the magic was special.

ETR organisation had not been dormant between 2020 and 2022, the opposite. With the ever expansio of gravel roads leading toward Lukla, it was important to return ETR to more isolated and raw trails, so, in comparison to pre-2020, the 2022 race would be a new experience, particularly over stages one to four with stages five and six remaining roughly the same to 2019.

Camp 1 at Dhap ©iancorless

THE RACE

  • Stage 1 : 23.08km with 1551m+/ 1012m-
  • Stage 2 : 30.30km with 2365m+/ 3115m-
  • Stage 3 : 28.23km with 2028m+/ 2799m-
  • Stage 4 : 27.40km with 2170m+/ 1515m-
  • Stage 5 : 31.80km with 2850m+/ 1650m-
  • Stage 6 : 29km with 1770m+/ 2802m-
Amazing views to start the race ©iancorless

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

ARRIVAL IN KATHMANDU

Travel is coordinated so all participants meet in Istanbul for an onward red-eye flight through the night to arrive in Kathmandu mid morning. During the Covid period, Kathamandu has not stood still either. There have been major improvements to the airport and what was a very painful arrival and immigration procedure is now considerably less painful if you have the relevant documents, photos and cash to pay for an entry visa.

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Airport welcome ©iancorless

Everyone is welcomed at the airport with a traditional garland and then it’s transfer time to the hotel which will be home for the next two days. For those who have not been to Kathmandu before, the driving is always somewhat of a shock. Organised chaos is the easiest way to explain it.

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Arrival at Hotel Shanker, a calm and hidden oasis in noise and craziness of Kathmandu is welcome. Everyone is greeted and then it’s straight into initial race admin before relaxation time after long travel.

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PRE-RACE

Monkey Temple ©iancorless

Day 1 morning is a group excursion to the Monkey Temple and Patan. The Monkey Temple for 2022 was considerably busier than other years due to timing of an important religious festival. It was rammed with people but that only added to the atmosphere.

A time to pray ©iancorless

Of course, it’s always an eye-opener to experience a place like this. No matter how many times you visit, there is always something new and of course, it’s a popular place for beggars who hope to monetise the charity of the visitors.

Nepal always provides a reality check ©iancorless

From the Monkey Temple to historical Patan. *Patan, also known as ‘Lalitpur’, the city of artisans, lies 5 km southeast of Kathmandu, and is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who have preserved such ancient techniques as the repoussé  and lost wax process used to produce exquisite sculptures. The city retains much of the old charm with its narrow streets, brick houses and multitude of well-preserved Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries (vihars) and monuments. (*https://ntb.gov.np/patan).

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The buildings, the winding streets, the noise and colour – always special. But for many, the people are what is interesting… So many characters full of life, history and colour.

Local colour ©iancorless

After a morning of relaxation and sightseeing, late afternoon is taken up with pre-race admin checks, number collection, medical checks and onwards to the evenings welcome dinner and race briefing.

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TRAVEL TO CAMP 1

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Travel to camp 1 in Dhap is via bus and it’s a long and lengthy journey of 8 to 12-hours.

Of course regular stops break up the journey and there is an opportunity to see local colour and character on the way, one of the real benefits of travel via road in comparison to taking internal flights.

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Arrival at camp 1 eventually comes. Camp is set up in advance and the glow of lights and yellow tents suddenly makes the whole experience come to life. Now, the ETR finally begins and everyone spends a first night in a tent.

Camp 1 Dhap ©iancorless

THE RACE

Great views to start the race ©iancorless

STAGE 1

A first night under the stars and by Nepal standards in November, it was a relatively mild despite the layer of frost on all the tents and on the ground.

Participants were undecided if it had been cold or not, basically this came down to how good and warm their sleeping bags were. If a runner felt cold last night, the omens are not good for how well they will sleep in the coming days.

Warm sweet tea is a great way to start a day, especially while relaxing in a sleeping bag. But despite that luxury, breakfast called and the need to add layers and absorb calories for the day ahead was an immediate priority.

The sun came and with it warmth. The glow of head torches replaced, bags were packed and racing apparel was made ready.

Rationed water, gels and bars were provided and at the stroke of 0830 the runner’s departed for Stage 1 of the 2022 Everest Trail Race.

Local musicians at the start ©iancorless

At 23.08km with 1551m+/ 1012m- the day was expected to be completed quickly by the front-runners. Miguel Heras did not disappoint crossing the line at exactly 1100am, behind, the 2019 ETR Suman Kulung finished just a couple of minutes later with the 2018 ETR champion, Jordi Gamito, finishing 3rd off the pace.

Suman Kulung ©iancorless

Miguel explained how he had made a silly mistake immediately after Cp2 whilst eating at not concentrating, he missed a marker and went off course. The mistake cost him first place and many minutes… He chased, caught Suman, and still obtained victory; a great run. However, he did say, “There are 5-days to go, anything can happen!”

For the women, Silvina Perez ran a strong stage ahead of Nepali, Ang Furba Sherpa. Ester Alves from Portugal finished 3rd ahead of pre-race favourite, Caroline Turner, who summed her day up with a simple summary, “The altitude and the last climb kicked my ass!”

It was a successful day-1 with all participants completing the course before 1700hrs.

Silvina Perez ©iancorless

STAGE 2

It was a cold night at 3500m. The wind and cloud adding to the chilly temperatures. For those who have raced light, today is the day that they understand the importance of layers and a warm sleeping bag. A lack of sleep with a tired body is not pleasant, even warm tea and a hot breakfast could not lighten the mood of some. After day-1, based on finish times, ETR operates two starts for stage, 0700 and 0800, thus allowing slower competitors additional time to complete the stage.

A cold night ©iancorless

The day started with a 500m climb to the summit of Pikey Peak at 4041m. From here a twisting and technical descent to Jase Bhanjyang (3510m) and the Lamjura Pass towards Langate Peak and onward to Pungmuche and Thumptencholing. From 20.5km another climb to 24.5km, and then a tough finish with a long climb, descent and then a final short climb to the camp at Rinmo.

The climb to Pikey Peak ©iancorless

Everyone was unanimous, it was a seriously tough day and although we missed a peak due to landslide, it added distance, many recording between 34-36km.

Miguel Heras ©iancorless

The race at the front was intense and today, with so much altitude and added distance, Nepali Suman had the advantage over Miguel Hera, Jordi Gamito once again placing 3rd.

Purwha Lhamu Sherpa ©iancorless

For the women, it was a similar story with Nepali, Purwha Lhamu Sherpa having the advantage over Sivina Perez.

The impact of the day will no doubt be seen in stage 3, when the runners tackle 28.23km with 2028m+/ 2799m-

Many are already discussing the drop of over 2000m from 3855m at km7.5, to 1625m at km23. A tough day!

Himalayan Vista from Pikey Peak ©iancorless

STAGE 3

Nothing better than starting a 30km day with a 1200m climb to just under 4000m through forest trails. The downside, depending on viewpoint and preferences, was the 2700m of descent that followed via steep, technical, challenging and rocky trails. And then just when you think it’s all over, you finish the day with 500m of vert followed by another short decent to camp. It was a tough day!

Miguel Heras ©iancorless

The action started early with Miguel Heras and Sumun Kulung setting a harsh pace up the first climb, they were inseparable. Event the relentless descent could not break them. It was at the last checkpoint, with approximately 5km to go, 500m of vert, that Miguel put the hammer down and opened up an 11min gap over the Nepali. Quite incredible.

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Once again, Jordi Gamito, the 2018 ETR champion, seemed happy to settle for the third spot – the duo ahead are at the moment, untouchable.

Blai Llopis Aulet ©iancorless

Purwha Lhamu Sherpa certainly has settled in to women’s race and once again took victory. Ester Alves, equally has found her comfort on the Nepal trails and today relished the relentless downhill trails to finish second. Day 1 victor, Silvina Perez, finished third.

Ester Alves ©iancorless

Mood in the camp was positive after the stage, these trails are quiet and remote. It was only in the final 5km, the climb to Kharikola, that it was possible to see homes and locals working the fields.

STAGE 4

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KhariKola has been the stage 3 camp, day 4 start for many years. However, for 2022, the ETR no longer camped at the monastery but a little lower down in an isolated spot. Temperatures were mild for the night, just dipping below zero. So, runner’s were refreshed for the start of day 4 with a good nights sleep.

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Today is the day the race enters the main trekking routes as Lukla approaches and the end of the day, Phakding.

However, unlike previous years, a new route was developed to avoid the ongoing dirt road development that is impacting on this area greatly.

Miguel and Suman ©iancorless

A tough 1000m climb kicked off the day to Karila at 3080m and then technical rocky trails to the lowest point of the day, Surke at 2300m. From here, a climb to Chaurikara (2621m) a steep descent and then a steep climb to Segma at 2742m. The ETR is now on new trails on the opposite side of the river all the way to the Phakding finish.

Once again it was the Miguel and Suman show at the front, the duo running together, again at a relentless pace. With the longest and arguably the toughest day of the race tomorrow, they crossed the line together, just a 1-second apart, no doubt saving some reserves.

Jordi Gamito finished third, quite a long way behind the leading two, his overall position is safe and he is no doubt just running a smart race now.

Caroline Turner ©iancorless

The women’s race was different today, with all three women running extremely close together, separated by just minutes. Today, the glory went to Ester Alves who gets better with each day, In the final km’s, Silvina Perez caught a fading Purwha Lhamu Sherpa  to place second.

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STAGE 5

Stage 5, the highlight of the ETR. Today is the day the runners pass through Namche Bazaar and head up higher in the direction of the big peaks.

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With much of the day above 3800m, it’s a brute, but the compensation is the magnificent backdrop of Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse and the stunning and iconic Ama Dablam.

Tyangboche ©iancorless

Starting in Phakding, it’s up, up and up to Namche and then onwards to Syangboche at 3760m. From here, a descent to Kumjung and then a climb to Mong La, 3973m. Phortse and a stunning single-track trail to Pangboche with amazing views is the cream on the Himalayan cake as the route travels at 4000m. Finally a descent to Debuche, 3741m, and then the climb to the finish at Tyangboche at 3875m.

Ama Dablam ©iancorless

The day held no surprises with Miguel and Suman running together and at tge line it was red-line effort from the Spaniard to take the stage win. Jordi Gamito once again placing third.

A tough day… ©iancorless

Purwha Lhamu Sherpa for the women took the stage with a truly gritty performance. With one ankle heavily taped and carrying an injury, she still managed a stellar performance, the altitude no doubt being an advantage. Ester Alves finished second, exhausted, expressing, “One of the hardest things I have ever done!’ Once again, Silvina Perez placed 3rd.

Depa ©iancorless

STAGE 6

Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam ©iancorless

The final stage back to Lukla. At 29km with 1770m+/ 2802m- it is by no means and easy day or chilled day and that was reflected in Miguel and Suman pushing hard all the way to the line finishing well under 3-hours and in course record for the stage. Miguel Heras was the 2022 ETR champion.

Miguel leading Suman with an iconic backdrop ©iancorless

For the rest of the participants, the day was one of victory, the finish line providing the completion of an epic journey. The top women and a group of others, decided to enjoy the day and they all finished together.

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Lukla provided an end to the 2022 ETR and the mood was high. For many, the experience had been a tough one. The altitude, climbing and descending providing a much harder and more challenging experience than other multi-day adventures.

“MDS is a walk in the park in comparison to the ETR. MDS may well be self-sufficient, but the terrain here is so much harder, add the altitude and cold nights, the challenge is considerably harder.”

One of the many bridges ©iancorless

Now attention turn to 2023 and the next edition of the ETR. It really is one of the ‘must-do’ races not only for the challenge but for the immersive beauty and experience that Nepal brings.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

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The Coastal Challenge #TCC2023 Preview

Countdown to the 2023 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ begins and today, we announce the elite line-up that will travel to Costa Rica to experience six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain.

The ultimate Costa Rican multi-day adventure hugs the coastline of the tropical Pacific, weaving in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country. An ever-changing terrain challenges each participant, from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. River crossings, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long and relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.

TOP WOMEN

UTMB 2022 champion Katie Schide (The North Face) is no stranger to the challenges of distance or terrain. In recent years she has shot to fame with a string of high profile results with victories at Mont Blanc 90km, Val d’Aran by UTMB, MIUT 85km and of course, the most recent, UTMB. With results that date back to 2025, Katie is the ‘one-to-watch’ at TCC 2023.

“I’m very excited to explore Costa Rica on foot, to share a big week with so many other runners, and to challenge myself in a new place!”

Swedish athlete, Mimmi Kotka (La Sportiva) is excited to leave a cold and wintry Scandinavia to join the TCC line up. Victory at CCC in 2016 made Mimmi a star and since that start, she has topped the podium at Gran Trail Courmayer, Marathon du Mont Blanc, TDS, MIUT and recently, Lavaredo.

“Costa Rica is one of my bucket list destinations and the possibility to go there and run a stage race at the same time; a perfect combo! I have never done a multi stage race and this is also something that excites me. New experience, a new place and a new race format.”

Tomomi Bitoh joined the TCC line-up in 2022 but unfortunately contracted Coronavirus in the days before the race started. Once clear, she did join the race for a couple of stage but there and then, the Japanese athlete confirmed she would toe the line in 2023.

“I was able to run through the very beautiful ocean at TCC2022 but I only experienced a small part of the route. I’ll be running through it again this year, enjoying the scenery and appreciating the full point-to-point journey that TCC brings.”

TOP MEN

Peter van der Zon (Hoka) is no stranger to Costa Rica or TCC. He toed the line in 2022 and placed 2nd to an inform Hayden Hawks. With experience and now an understanding of the route, the conditions and what it takes to win, Peter will no doubt be returning looking for the top spot come Drake Bay and the conclusion of the 2023 race. He has recently placed 7th at Mozart 100 and won Istria by UTMB.

“I am looking forward to going back to TCC, the racing was hard but it felt like a big family adventure and of course i want to try to be number one this time. But seeing the competition I am up against, that will not be easy!”

Didrik Hermansen (Hoka) has been an ever-present on the ultra scene dating back to 2010. A breakthrough performance with victory at Lavaredo in 2015 paved a way to victory at Transgrancanaria and a 2nd place at Western States. Didrik is known for his fast pace and for sure will be one-to-watch at the start line in Quepos.

“Costa Rica looks so amazing. I have never run in that area and be able to combine running in a beautiful terrain over several days at new locations seems awesome. I will run the World Championships in Thailand this November, the climate will quite similar so that will be a good benchmark what to do and what to use come February 2023.”

Dani Jung (Scarpa) in recent years has gained attention due to a string of high profile results, victory at Raid de la Reunion and 4th at Hardrock 100. But Dani has been ticking of impressive results for many years, particularly in the skyrunning calendar with races such as Mega Ultraskymarathon, Hamperokken Skyrace, Royal Ultra Sky Marathon and USM.  The distance of TCC will not intimidate this Italian, however, a multi-day format is very different to one long race.

Sebastian Krogvig (Dynafit) heads up a Norwegian double act with Didrik. The duo will also be racing at the World Championships in Chiang Mai, so, as Didrik mentioned, they will both get an invaluable ‘heads-up’ on racing in heat and humidity ahead of TCC in February 2023. Sebastian had a breakthrough season in 2021 with 3rd at Lavaredo and victory at TDS during UTMB week. Recently he placed 2nd at Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB.

“I heard about TCC many years ago, I think first from the book “Running beyond” by you! TCC has always grabbed my attention, February is early in the year, so, there are not many races. For me, it will be a challenge, I’m usually home skiing in Norwegian winter and in 2023 I will be in an excotic race in the Jungle – it’s exciting! The landscapes and nature looks spectacular! The trails look challenging and fun, a perfect mix of racing and adventure.”

THE RACE

  • Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent
  • Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent
  • Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent
  • Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent
  • Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent
  • Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent

Total 230.5km

Vertical 9543m

Descent 9413m

Stage 1

It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because of the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality, it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.

Stage 2

From here on in, it is an early breakfast, around 0400, the race starts with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.

Stage 3

It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular.

Stage 4

It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a roller coaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rain forest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the line and the finish at 37.1km.

Stage 5

The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.

Stage 6

The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!

“The Coastal Challenge was lucky to continue through the pandemic, of course we had restricted fields with 2022 signifying a return to normal. TCC is a unique race and one that we are passionate about. We created this race to show of Costa Rica and this beautiful coastline. The race travels in and out of the stunning coastal mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.”

Rodrigo Carazo, RD

*****

#tcc2023

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Episode 232 – Petter Engdahl Special

Episode 232 of Talk Ultra is a Petter Engdahl Special. After making the podium of OCC in 2021, Petter focussed his attention on the 2022 CCC – He won in a course record time. And now he has followed up with a dream victory at Transvulcania by UTMB. We talk in-depth about his training and preparation for these two incredible performances.

Petter victorious at CCC – adidas TERREX Team ©iancorless
Petter leading Miguel Heras in the early section of Transvulcania by UTMB – adidas TERREX Team©iancorless

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And use good old word mouth. 

Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein. We are also on Spotify too. 

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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patreon at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage. 

Link on Anchor – https://anchor.fm/theinterviews-talkultra/episodes/Episode-2—Petter-Engdahl-Special-e1pvj2u

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Episode 231 – Tom Evans and Shane Ohly

Episode 231 of Talk Ultra has a chat with Tom Evans after his 3rd place at UTMB. Shane Ohly tells us about ‘Classic Rock’ and Speedgoat co-hosts and tells us about his UTMB.

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

Goal Setting for a Multi-Day Here

Pirin Extreme HERE

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Hoka Tecton X Here

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Tom Evans pre-UTMB interview HERE

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Share us on Facebook – Talk Ultra FB HERE   

Tweet us on Twitter – Talk Ultra on Twitter HERE   

Instagram – HERE   

Listen on Anchor HERE

And use good old word mouth.   

Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein. We are also on Spotify too.   Our web page at www.iancorless.com has all our links and back catalogue.   Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patreon at www.patreon.com/talkultra 

Spotify HERE   

ITunes HERE   

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE

Android HERE 

or via a web player HERE   

Website – talkultra.com

Goal Setting for a MULTI-DAY Adventure or RACE

Before you start a multi-day, be that a race or a personal challenge, one thing is for sure, NOW is the time to set a goal and focus, fine-tune everything, including training, so that you can be at the start in the best shape possible.

First and foremost, have a complete understanding of the task ahead and set a goal or target. This is key not only in the physical adaptations that are required, but also the mental adaptations. There is a huge difference in doing something supported and in doing something self-sufficient. Marathon des Sables a prime example, understand the nature of the event and set a realistic but challenging goal.

MDS is an extreme event that takes place in the Sahara. The nature of the event is self-management both physically and mentally to endure the challenge, survive and reach the finish line. The weather (heat) is one of those challenges and surviving the weather is integral to the nature of the event. As is the ‘self-sufficient’ nature. Other than rationed water and a bivouac, be prepared to endure and complete this event with no outside assistance. Of course, help is at hand, but that help is and should be a safety element that is required in emergency. Equally, if undertaking a solo multi-day experience, do the research, plan routes, look at back-up options, can you re-supply with food, is water available?

Plan and prepare.

TRAINING

We are all unique and individual. Some of us are faster, some are mentally tough, some have a capacity to go for hours and hours and even days and yes, some runners combine all those elements.

Therefore, a multi-day training plan must be used as a template and framework to provide a structure for you, the individual, to achieve your goal.

Be sensible and adjust training plans so that they fit your ability, aspirations, training history and time available.

Think about when you place rest days, when you do long runs and when you work on hills and faster running. A training plan is like a jigsaw puzzle and managing the pieces and adding them together sensibly is how you make a successful and complete picture.

Any training plan is designed to progressively build strength, endurance, and confidence with gradual load increases. Rest is an important element of any training plan, so, rest with the same intensity that you train. Ultimately, you have decided to undertake this adventure, so, enjoy the process and make it fun.

Be specific. Make sure the training terrain, as much as possible, simulates your target event.

Always focus on the goal. Training plans for me start with the goal date and I then count back in time to a start point. That start point for you may well be before the 12-weeks but once you start the plan, focus on the target, and always make every session is as specific to the goal as possible.

For example, if participating in Marathon des Sables, you already know some key and important information:

  1. It will be hot.
  2. You will need to deal with hard and rocky plateaus, but you will also need to deal
    with soft sand and dunes.
  3. You will be on rationed food/ calories.
  4. You will only be supplied water to drink, and this is *rationed. In extreme weather such as the October 2021 edition, water rations were increased.
  5. Everything (not the tent) will be carried in a pack, on day 1 this will be at a minimum weight of *8kg. (*Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg but you must carry 1.5 liters of water which equates to 1.5kg.)
  6. You will sleep in an open tent, on the floor using a mat and sleeping bag.
  7. The long day comes on day 4 after approximately 90-100km of running, so, you
    need to be able to run for consecutive days and manage your pace and effort.
  8. The long day is (typically) between 70 and 90km and you have one full day, one night and most of the next day to complete it.
  9. After the ‘rest day’ is a marathon.
  10. You can complete the race by covering just 3km’s per hour.
  11. In 2019, the MDS was won by Rachid El Morabity and Ragna Debats in 18:31:24 and 22:33:36 respectively. The last runner was Ka Chun Chan from China in 69:29:16. For perspective, Rachid could have run the race nearly four times in 69:29! We are all individual.
     

Key elements each runner needs for a multi-day like MDS.

  1. You need to be mentally tough.
  2. Physically strong to endure multiple days of back-to-back exercise.
  3. Strong enough to carry a loaded pack and still move at a good pace.
  4. Adapted to function on restricted calories and food choices.
  5. Able to drink only water.
  6. Adapted to perform and function in heat.
  7. You need to be able to walk.
  8. You need to be able to handle un-planned situations.
  9. Have A, B and C goals.
  10. Be self-sufficient.

Multi-day racing and multi-day adventures are unique and particularly self-sufficient ones when you must carry all you need for the duration of the event. In a race, you will carry clothing, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, essential items and food for the duration of the event. At MDS minimum weight is 6.5kg plus water. Just as you prepare physically and mentally, also be meticulous with equipment and food preparation. You ideally need your pack to be 6.5kg and no more… Additional weight is additional stress.

If fastpacking, you may possibly be as above, but you will need to carry your own tent and you will need to re-supply with water en-route either using natural water supplies or utilizing retail outlets.

Be specific and understand the demands of the event you are undertaking and plan accordingly.
 

WHAT SHOULD A TRAINING PLAN LOOK LIKE?

All plans need to be progressive and geared towards the end goal of a multi-day like Marathon des Sables or a fast-packing adventure.

Remember, we are all individual, so while a generic plan may provide a guide and structure from which to work from, it’s important to adapt and tweak to individual needs. For example, the training plan for someone who is trying to be top 100 at a race will vary greatly to someone who hopes to complete and not compete.

Each week will typically have one or two rest days.

A simple strength training structure that can be done at home or in a gym.

Hill sessions and speed sessions (tempo/ intervals/ fartlek) have a place in any training plan, but the quantity and duration will depend on what type of runner you are and what your aspirations are.

Long sessions are essential and most certainly, an element of back-to-back sessions will help adapt the mind and body for the challenge ahead. However, injury risk goes up with any block like this, so, it needs to be placed carefully with adequate rest and recovery.

Learn to walk. There is a huge difference walking with purpose and pace to ‘just’ walking. Except for the top runners, walking is an integral element to a successful completion of a multi-day race or adventure. Many only realise during the event. Get walking dialed in training.

Do some specific work with a pack and weight BUT be careful as it is easy to get injured.

Think of training as blocks of 4-weeks, build for 3-weeks and then rest/ take it easier on the 4th. An example could be as below.

The final phase of a training plan should taper to allow you to be strong and fresh when the start comes, typically this 2 or 3-weeks long. This a perfect time to add specific race adaptations such as heat training, preparing for humidity, preparing for a cold environment and of course fine-tuning equipment and packing.

CONCLUSION

Multi-day running or racing is exciting and adds many more elements to think about than ‘just’ running. Taking time to plan training and working to a goal is a worthwhile and constructive – it gives you something to aim for!

Further reading:

  • MDS 2021 Summary HERE
    The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day HERE
  • Fuelling for a Multi-Day HERE
  • How to find your Running Shoe size and fit HERE
  • Sleeping Bag for an Adventure HERE
    Ten Top Tips for Multi-Day HERE
  • Top Tips to better Multi-Day Running HERE
  • Multi-Day Running in a Rainforest HERE
  • Fastpacking – A Guide HERE
  • Fastpacking Light – HERE
  • Fastpacking and Camping in Winter HERE
  • Fastpacking in Nepal HERE
  • Poles for Running and Walking HERE
  • Sleeping bags – PHD, Sea to Summit and Rab HERE


Recommended Races:

  • Marathon des Sables, Morocco (self-sufficient)
  • The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (supported)
  • Everest Trail Race, Nepal (semi self-sufficient)

JOIN OUR MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP IN JANUARY – INFO HERE

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Pirin Extreme 2022

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Exposed ridges, technical terrain, high altitude, and stunning views, the Pirin Extreme needs to be experienced.

Oihana Azkorbebeitia on her way to victory ©iancorless

Bulgaria may well not be on your radar as a location for a stunning skyrunning race, but trust me, it should be. The hub for the Pirin Extreme is Bansko, approximately 2-hours from Sofia.

Extreme by name and extreme in reality ©iancorless
Pirin National Park ©iancorless

Located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, it is a gateway to numerous ski and snowboard slopes which in summer become stunning running and hiking routes. Craggy and rocky alpine landscape, the Pirin National Park, a Unesco Heritage Site, is known for the high-altitude Vihren Peak which is a key marker in the Pirin Extreme race.

Exposed and technical ridges ©iancorless

Organised by XCoSports, the Pirin Ultra weekend is an action-packed weekend of three races: the brutal 160km (11000m+) the 66km (4200m+) ultra and the 38km extreme.

Down climbing and roped sections ©iancorless

Extreme by name and extreme in reality, the Pirin Extreme truly is a spectacular race that personifies what skyrunning is.

Hands on action ©iancorless

Starting in Bansko, the route travels around the Pirin National Park taking in Duninoto Kuche, Banski Suhodol, Kutelo, Koncheto, Vihren (2914m), Malka Todorka, Todorka, and then forest and road trails complete the return to Bansko, a total of 3300m of vertical gain.

Film by Julen Elzora ©

The heart of the race is a key section of open exposed ridges and technical trail from Duninoto Kuche all the way to Vihren summit; a section that is approximately 4-miles long (6.5km) but for the mind and body, feels considerably longer.

Sky high ©iancorless
Exposure ©iancorless
On the edge action ©iancorless

The ridges require 100% concentration, a fall here will not end well! Scrambling, down climbing, rope sections, via feratta, the route always has everything and, a stunning backdrop to accompany the runners.

View the Image Gallery

Hold tight ©iancorless
Get steep, get high ©iancorless
No shortage of vertical ©iancorless

The 2022 edition was won by Christian Mathys and Oihana Azkorbebeitia, 4:49:28 and 5:50:29 respectively. Nicholas Molina and Anders Inarra completed the men’s podium (4:54:52 and 4:57:33) and Sandra Sevillano and Maite Maiora (5:55:21 and 5:58:07) completing the women’s podium. With an allocated 14-hours to complete the race, for many, the 38km race was a long and arduous day in the mountains.

You work hard for the finish ©iancorless

Pirin Ultra Facebook Page HERE

As one edition of the Pirin Ultra concludes, the team already look ahead to 2023 and registrations are open via basecamp.tours HERE

An epic playground ©iancorless

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Hoka Tecton X Shoe Review

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Here I am again, writing about and reviewing ‘another’ Hoka shoe!

It’s kinda weird and I will hold my hands up and admit, Hoka have really got me interested in their shoes again. It all started with the Torrent 2 – a shoe that I absolutely love, it is one of my ‘go to’ shoes and I am now on my fifth pair.

The Torrent 2 tempted me to the Zinal, and yes, I love the Zinal.

And now, the Tecton X.

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There is a pattern here and I admit, I am still not a fan of ‘too’ much cushioning and ‘too’ much stack height, BUT, the Torrent, Zinal and now the Tecton X firmly sit at what is now the more ‘normal’ end of cushioned shoes.

Image ©Hoka

The Tecton X has two carbon fibre plates that run parallel in the shoe (see photo above) designed to propel and push through the propulsive phase. I must admit, up to now, I have not been impressed with shoes I have tested that contain a carbon (or similar) plate. The exception being the Scarpa Goldengate Kima which is superb.

Ultimately, the addition of a plate, and I don’t mean rock plate, but carbon or similar has just added too much weight and stiffness, resulting in a lackluster and boring run.

The Tecton X is most certainly addressing this with two thin strips in contrast to one, or two, larger plates as often used in other shoes.

THE SHOE

X in the outsole for the Tecton X ©iancorless

On first impressions, the Tecton X has the impression of a Torrent 2 and Zinal merged together. This for me is a good thing!

Neutral with a 5mm drop, the Tecton X ticks the boxes. Drop on the Torrent 2 and Zinal is also 5mm. I make the cushioning 28mm front and 33mm at the rear. NOTE – The women’s shoe is 27/31mm with 4mm drop.

S, V and C ©iancorless

Once again, I am confused with the scribble on the side of the shoe:

  • S36.26
  • V701
  • C003

C’mon Hoka, what does this ‘really’ mean. S = Spring. V= Volume and C? The C is the version of carbon plate, so, in the Tecton X that is 003. In other models, the Zinal for example, the stats were: S32x19|V490|W242 (w being the weight.)

Here in the Tecton X we have: S36x26|V701|C003

Volume at 701cm³ made up of 2 different materials. ©iancorless

Spring measurement is, ‘Curvature of the shoe, measuring how high the heel and toe are off the ground.’ Basically, it is the ‘rocker’ effect. So, for the Tecton X, this means 36mm and 26mm. Don’t get confused here with drop, this does not mean a 10mm drop! But what does it ‘really’ mean?

Volume relates to the total amount of foam (cm³) in the midsole. So here in the Tecton X there is 701, considerably more than the Zinal at 490 and the Torrent 2 at 395.

I wrote in my Zinal review:

“One would assume that the higher the volume number, the more cushioned or plush the shoe would be, but that is not the case. Here in the ZINAL, the shoe has a lower profile keeping you, the runner, closer to the ground and the cushioning is firmer to provide a more efficient and speedier propulsion in the transition phase. When I wrote about the Torrent 2, the thing I liked and others liked was a firmer ride; less Hoka like, by that I mean less plush and bouncy. Here in the ZINAL that is taken one step farther and the ride is firmer. So, it’s fair to assume that plush ride Hoka fans will find the ZINAL less appealing. Whereas, by contrast, runners who prefer a more conventional shoe who have wanted to try Hoka, will find the ZINAL appealing.”

So, what does that mean for the Tecton X and the 701-volume figure?

Like the Torrent 2 and Zinal, the Tecton X uses dual-density PROFLY cushioning; Hoka blend soft and responsive foams to provide cushioning and excellent energy return. With the addition of the carbon fibre and increased volume (701) the Tecton X is ‘in theory’ faster and more responsive. It is!

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The upper is mesh, extremely comfortable and breathable.

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There is a protective toe rand which works well, it’s simple and not over engineered.

With a sock like fit, the Tecton X has great foot hold and comfort.

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Lacing is via 7 eyelets and the optional 8th eyelet should you require to lock lace or similar. Hoka call this Ghillie lacing, and I had to look it up? “The trend on this shoe, Ghillie Ties. At its origin, Ghillies referred to specially designed shoes used in Irish dance, notable for their soft and supple build featuring crisscross laces across the top of the foot for flexible movement. Now, Ghillies is a laces trend sweeping across the US.”

Vibram Litebase ©iancorless

Like the Zinal, Tecton X uses Vibram Megagrip Litebase with 4mm lugs. Note, there is no outsole in the middle of the shoe. The outsole is zonal, front, and rear – this helps reduce weight.

The Tecton X is lower profile, keeping the runner lower to the ground with firmer cushioning and a more responsive ride.

IN USE

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Fit is great and the sock like fit gives a secure hold of the foot without the need to lock lace. Fit is true to size, I am EU44/ UK9.5 and these fit perfect. Just like my Torrent 2 and Zinal. However, the fit or feel is not the same… The Tecton X fits like the Zinal around the bridge of the foot and the toe box is wider, a 3.5 on a scale of 1-5, 1 being narrow and 5 being wide.

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I was surprised how cushioned the shoe felt just standing and in comparison, to the Zinal, they felt higher off the ground. Despite the two carbon strips, flex behind the metatarsals was ok, obviously not bendy, and flexible, but certainly acceptable, especially in comparison to other shoes with inserts.

Weight for my EU44/ UK9.5 was a crazy 269g – light for a shoe like this.

The rocker is definitely noticeable and maybe more so due to the carbon plates. It’s a pleasant feel and certainly you can see, even just by walking, how the rocker combined with the plates will propel you forward.

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Heel box is plush and secure.

I have thrown a mixture of terrain at the Tecton X, road, gravel path, single-track, forest trail littered with tree roots, rocks, and many obstacles. I have also run in wet and dry conditions.

On the road, the shoe performs well, and I was happy with the feel for the ground. Although this shoe has more volume it has great responsiveness and cushioning. The cushioning is not bouncy/ marshmallow like, it’s just cushioned… Do you know what I mean?

Gravel trail and all good. With more miles, I could feel the shoe getting better and I was allowing myself to notice how the propulsive phase of the shoe was helping me move forward. If I increased the pace and cadence, this propulsion increased – a benefit of the carbon!

I will say now, this is without doubt the best trail shoe with carbon inserts I have tried.

The shoe feels like a normal shoe. So, although the carbon is there, I am not thinking it is there. A problem with all the other shoes I have tested. Too much weight, too much stiffness, no feel for the ground, lacking life – these points do not apply with the Tecton X – a huge plus.

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Running downhill, I intentionally struck with the heel and there was a very definite compression in the cushioning and return in energy. Switching to mid or forefoot and once you get the rocker rolling you forward and the carbon propelling you, the benefits of the Tecton X are noticeable. I am not sure I have the fitness to maximise this, but it is noticeable.

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There is great comfort in the shoe. You feel protected and cushioned without losing a feel for what is happening around you and the combination of dual foam in the Profly, along with the carbon offers responsiveness and protection. I was surprised that the Tecton X felt this good.

On single track I felt confident and happy that the shoe would do the job and it’s only when I moved into some thicker mud that the 4mm lugs on the outsole started to lose grip – no surprises with such a modest outsole. The Vibram Litaebase Megagrip was excellent on dry rock and most wet rock. It did struggle a little when the rock had a nice white or green layer of extra trouble to confuse and irritate the outsole, but in fairness, many shoes struggle to grip here. However, as much I like this Vibram Megagrip I am perplexed that Hoka decide NOT to put the Litebase the full length of the shoe. I know it is to safe weight, but, when on trail, running on rocks, standing on tree routes, traversing gravel or whatever, the middle of the outsole is often a key contact point, we can’t always use the heel or forefoot. I noticed this especially on tree roots when I am pretty much always using the middle of the outsole and of course, I had minimum traction with the Tecton X – it makes no sense to me! It’s the same for the Zinal, maybe I am asking too much of this type of shoe and I should accept that it should be used on more groomed trail and technical trail is for another shoe, like the Torrent 2 that has a full and more aggressive outsole.

There are many similarities to the Zinal here and if I was to explain it in simple terms, the Tecton X is a beefed-up version of the Zinal with carbon inserts. The noticeable difference would be in the structure of the Profly and the volume difference in that cushioning. The additional stack height of the Tecton X is compensated for with a wide footprint (90mm at the rear and 112mm at the front) and this helps balance the shoe, particularly on more technical trail. The cushioning is not soft and squidgy but is protective and this works well on trail. There is always a risk of roll and additional stress in a shoe with more stack but the Tecton X does a great job of reducing this; it’s not perfect though.

A comfortable shoe, with excellent protection and comfort, however, for me, the lower stack height, structure and full out outsole of the Torrent 2 wins out. The Torrent 2 has better grip, greater control on technical trail and a more ‘connected’ feeling for the ground. But having said that, I’d have no issues lacing up a Tecton X any day and I do. I find the mix and balance between the Torrent, Zinal and Tecton perfect. Although they are three separate shoes, they feel connected.

The Tecton X comes in to its own USP when on less technical and groomed trail. For example, flowing single-track with less obstacles, gravel roads and so on. Here the shoe starts to gain from increased cadence and that helps the carbon propel you forward, the more you run, the more you a propelled forward. A great shoe for say Western States (or similar)? It’s lightweight too, Hoka do this so well. Comparing to the horrendous inov-8 Trailfly G300 which weighs over 100g more per shoe for equal size. It’s fair to say that with a high price, the carbon technology and the Vibram Litebase, the Tecton X is more of a ‘special’ shoe and for many, maybe a shoe for race day. But it easily could be an everyday shoe due to its comfort and protection, it is even a great road-to-trail shoe, but I am not sure how long the Litebase outsole would last on the road? The upper is very breathable and certainly helps reduce overheating, downside, they may run a little too cool in winter. 

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CONCLUSION

Tecton X for me, is the first trail shoe with carbon inserts that I have really enjoyed running in. The shoe offers protection, comfort, stability and great propulsion/ speed in a very good-looking shoe. It’s pricey (£175+/-) but currently, all shoes are increasing in price and if it has ‘new’ technology such as carbon, the price goes up. It’s a shoe for trail that is less technical and without doubt, it has the potential to be faster than other shoes. If you run in Hoka Speedgoat, the Tecton X would be a great shoe to place alongside and alternate: Use the Speedgoat for more technical and challenging trail and the Tecton X for faster/ groomed trail.

For me though, the Tecton X has just too much stack height, an equal problem with the Speedgoat. It’s a me thing and that is okay. Therefore the Torrent 2 wins out for me, Torrent 2 is also great value at £115.

So, while the Tecton X / Speedgoat combination would be ideal for a true Hoka user, for me, I would go Torrent 2 / Zinal (£140.) I just wish Hoka would put the Vibram Megagrip (as on the Speedgoat) on the Torrent 2.

Finally, The Tecton X is a great shoe and certainly a great addition to a shoe rotation for those specific runs when speed, comfort and extra propulsion is required. Recommended.

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Rab Mythic Ultra 180 v Sea to Summit SP1 v PHD Minimus K – Which Sleeping Bag for Summer Adventures?

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Choosing a sleeping bag for an adventure can be tedious, especially when the costs are so high. Never fear, this article will answer all the questions you may have re a sleeping bag for a multi-day desert/summer adventure or similar.

First and foremost I recommend you read THIS in-depth article on ‘How to Choose a Sleeping Bag for an Adventure.’

In this article, I will look at three down filled sleeping bags:

Rab Mythic Ultra 180

Sea to Summit SP1

PHD Minimus K

SP1 v Mythic Ultra 180 v Minimus K ©iancorless

WHY DOWN?

Down as a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic fill. In simple terms, a down bag can achieve the same warmth (or be warmer) than a synthetic bag for less weight. A key consideration when weight is crucial.

Is down warmer? If synthetic insulation was the same weight as the down, down nearly always will be warmer. Down traps warm air, while synthetic fibers pack densely to reduce heat loss. Both offer great warmth, especially when you use high quality products.

Is down always best? No, not always. Down cannot get wet. If it does, the feathers clump together, and all insulating power is lost. Synthetic retains heat, even when wet. So, if you are using a sleeping bag in a wet and humid environment, synthetic will probably be the best choice… BUT, many brands now do hydrophobic down which is treated to be efficient in wet conditions.

Size is extremely important in any adventure and quite simply down compresses considerably more than synthetic.

Cost is always a key consideration and typically, down will be more expensive than synthetic.

SLEEPING BAG KEY QUESTIONS

First and foremost, consider several key things before choosing a bag.

  • Where are you going?
  • Will it be dry and what are the risks of rain?
  • Do I sleep cold or warm?
  • Am I tall or small (sleeping bag length is crucial for comfort)?
  • Do I have wide shoulders?
  • Do I need a zip, if so, half zip or full zip?
  • How light does it need to be?
  • What temperatures can I expect at night?

Quite simply, a sleeping bag needs to be as light as possible without compromising the above if you are carrying it.

Also consider that it is often a wise choice to choose a sleeping bag that has less warmth and lower weight if you are also carrying top/ bottom base layers and a down jacket. These clothing items can be used to layer and add warmth.

Layering adds warmth

WEIGHTS AND PRICE

Rab Mythic Ultra 180 retails at £550.00 and weighs 400g (900 fill down)

Sea to Summit SP1 Retails at £260.00 and weighs 350g (850 fill down)

PHD Minimus K Retails at £484.00 and weighs 330g (this bag has no zip but has 1000 fill down)

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Rab

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The Mythic Ultra utilizes breakthrough technology with TILT (Thermo Ionic Lining) which in simple terms works a little like a space blanket offering exceptional warmth. The down is hydrophobic treated and therefore can be used in wet/ damp conditions. It is offered in regular and long. It has a ⅛ zip by YKK on the left, an excellent hood with baffles and is provided with a dry bag and a drawstring storage bag.

Storage bag ©iancorless
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Sea To Summit

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The SP1 is tiny and provided in a zipper storage bag and a small compression sack is provided. Using ‘ultra-dry’ 850 fill down, the bag has excellent water repellent property and warmth. It has a YKK zipper, available in regular and long with excellent hood and baffles.

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PHD

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PHD are unique in that they make all the products in their factory in the UK. Therefore, it is possible to purchase any bag ‘off-the-shelf’ as a standard product OR you can order and have a product custom made. For example, you can specify, no zip, half zip or full zip. You can ask for wider shoulders, longer length, warmer toe box and so on. All of this comes at a price, so if bespoke is for you, PHD is the place to go. You can see options HERE.

The Minimus bag has a Drishell outer, no zip, standard length, standard width and 900 fill. Should you require the bag a different length, the price varies, short is no extra charge, long adds 8% and extra-long adds 14%. Equally, if you require extra width, slim is no extra charge, wide is plus 11% and extra-wide adds 20%. Need a zip? Short is £25 extra and full is £41.00 extra.

Quite simply, PHD are the Tesla of the sleeping bag world. Great comfort, weight and warmth. It has a mesh bag for storage and comes with a nylon stuff sack*

*stuff sack replaced with dry bag.

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HOW THEY COMPARE

First and foremost, weight is a key consideration, and these three bags are so close in weight, it is hard to say one is better than the other. The Sea to Summit wins though, a full 100g lighter than the PHD.

On my scales:

Rab 397g Rab has a tiny eighth zip.

Sea to Summit 344g *Sea to Summit a half zip.

PHD 445g **The PHD has a full-length zip.

When one considers the PHD has a full zip, the weight is impressive. A full zip offers more flexibility and on a hot night, the bag can be used more like a blanket. Not an option with the other two.

Size can be as crucial as weight and the Sea to Summit is a standout packing to an incredibly small size with the compression sack provided – 38g.

The Rab is supplied with a dry bag and I should point out it would be possible to use a smaller bag and compress the Mythic Ultra 180 smaller – 34g

For the PHD I used a generic 4L dry bag – 31g

It’s worth noting though, often when fast packing, it’s better not to store the sleeping bag in a storage bag as it makes for an odd, sausage like shape that does not utilise the space available.

WARMTH

Remember, a sleeping mat is an essential accessory not only for comfort but warmth. I recommend a Sea to Summit ultra light.

The three bags are very similar in weight, fill and design. However, each brand describes their bags warmth differently. The Comfort Rating indicates the minimum temperature where an individual can sleep in a relaxed position and get a good night’s sleep.

Rab – Sleep limit 0 deg

Sea to Summit – 9 deg comfort

PHD – 5 deg typical.

Based on the above if we take Rab 0 deg minimum rating, Sea to Summits 9 deg comfort and PHD’s 5 deg typical rating, it’s fair to assume that all are good for around 5 deg as a good sleeping temperature. In theory, the Sea to Summit should be the one that ‘may’ struggle at 5 deg but that is not the reality after testing. It is a warm bag and certainly trades blows the Rab and PHD. All three perform exceptionally well at 5 degrees or above.

The Limit of Comfort Rating is the temperature range where an individual sleeping in a curled position and fighting against the cold can still sleep through the night – 0 degrees would apply here. I had several summer nights with temperatures dropping and all three bags performed exceptionally well with the addition of Merino top and bottom layers, a pair of socks and the use of a Buff or hat.

COMFORT and FEEL

All three bags win out on feel and comfort. Each have their own attributes. The PHD wins on full comfort as it has a full zip. The Rab though has the best hood of all three bags and a superb baffle to keep out drafts. The SP1 has a half zip, good hood and no baffle.

All are silky smooth to the touch and comfortable.

The Rab with black outer, silver logos and silver TILT lining feels and looks premium. Equally, the SP1 has a superb look of grey/ yellow and excellent logos/ branding. The PHD is a no fuss bag. If the other too are Tesla and Porsche, the PHD is a Land Rover but you know it will get the job done.

VALUE FOR MONEY

These are three excellent sleeping bags offering the best option in their class. Quite simply, you cannot go wrong with any of them. They have all been used and tested in similar environments, conditions and temperatures whilst camping. However, when looking at weight, pack size, warmth and price, we have a clear winner.

The standout is the Sea to Summit SP1 which offers an unbeatable package of low-weight, small packing size, incredible warmth, and a low price. It is half the price of the competition and does not compromise on any features. It’s a winner. More info HERE.

The Rab is a great bag, which offers a little more warmth, larger pack size and just a fraction more weight. The black colour is a plus for me and the hood/ baffles are the best of the three. The zip is of no real use and for me I would prefer either no zip to save on weight or prefer the additional weight and half a zip that offers more practical use. The treated down offers incredible flexibility and certainly if I planned on using one bag for different conditions and environments, the Mythic Ultra 180 would be a great choice. More info HERE.

PHD are always a winner, and they make incredible products. But ‘off-the-shelf’ it’s difficult to justify the cost in comparison to the excellent Sea to Summit SP1. However, long, tall, short, wide, large, small, zip or no zip, PHD will make a bag just for you and it will be perfect. That comes at a price though and it will be arguably, the best sleeping bag you have ever had. More info HERE

The winner – Sea to Summit SP1.

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Other to consider: Nordisk (was Yeti) Passion One

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The ICEBUG XPERIENCE

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I had a weekend off and although I attended a race, this time it was as a client/ runner and not photographer, of course, I did take a camera….

I had been told about ICEBUG XPERIENCE multiple times by my partner Abelone and her friend, Karin. They both get excited about running, exploring and adventures almost continuously, this time though it was different… The talk was all about fun, no pressure, great camping, food, organization and an all-inclusive experience that was for all, any ability and pretty much any age!

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So, I had to find out more.

Located in Bohuslän, Sweden. The Icebug Experience West Coast Trail is all based around Ramsvik Stugby & Camping on Ramsvikslandet which is the hub for the weekend. Here there is a restaurant, cabins, camping and fixed spaces for motorhomes or caravans. Located on Sotefjorden and surrounded by water, it’s the perfect location for a weekend.

THE EVENT

“The whole purpose of Icebug Experience Bohuslän is to show that a race can be so much more than a race.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

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Quite simply, Icebug have created an event that starts before the start line and goes on long after the finish line. As the name suggests, it is an ‘Xperience’ and one that I only wish I could experience more often.

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Consisting of three days, Icebug Xperience offers 3 routes that can be undertaken as a run, a run/ walk or a walk. Start times are 0900, 0915 and 1100 respectively.

While a medal (wooden) is rewarded for completion at the end, the event is much more about experience and memories than results.

Day 1 – 22km 455m+

Day 2 – 30km 603m+

Day 3 – 25.6km 435m+

Start line and finish line is different each day, however, day 1 starts at the race hub and day 3 concludes at the same place, offering an excellent 360-deg journey exploring the very unique surroundings and trails this area has to offer.

Transport is included as part of the race, be this by coach or boat. It’s all seamless, perfectly organized and works with military precession.

Route marking was superb ©iancorless

Route marking is some of the best I have witnessed with a plethora of red/white Icebug tape strewn throughout the trails no more than 20m apart.

Each day when you cross the line you are rewarded with beverages and a stunning locally sourced vegetarian lunchbox that was exceptional.

KIDS

Crab fishing ©iancorless

One key element that makes this event a standout is the kids club. I cannot express how excellent this is. Starting everyday 15-minutes before race departure (either race start or travel departure) a full 3-day itinerary is available to keep little ones happy while parents run.

Who doesn’t like catching crabs? ©iancorless

Look at the schedule below:

The start and the end will be at Ramsvik camping every day at the playground. There will be nine adults responsible for the Kids Camp group, who will split into four groups during some activities. Beside the lunch, the children will also be served fruit and beverages in the morning and afternoon and an ice cream surprise!

The Kids Camp will take place from early morning to 17.00, or until you pick them up upon arrival to Ramsvik.

FRIDAY 2/9 – Excursion Day at Ramsvikslandet

08:30 Welcome to Icebug Xperience-Kidscamp at Ramsvik camping: Get to know each other on the beach in the morning.

09:30 4km/3km/1,5km walk from Ramsvik to Tångevik. Back at Ramsvik beach we will have our lunch over the open fire.

14:00 Back at Ramsvik, opportunity to play beach soccer, beach volleyball and crab fishing.

17:00 Kids Camp close for today.

From 17:00 Kids Camp dinner with parents (for the children staying at Ramsvik).

SATURDAY 3/9 – Nordens Ark day

06:45 Welcome to a new day at Kids Camp, sign in at Ramsvik camping. Drop-in until 09:00.

09:30 Bus transport to the famous zoo Nordens Ark.

11:45 Lunch at the Zoo.

14:30 The bus leave Nordens Ark, back to Ramsvik for further activities at the beach.

17:00 Kids Camp close for today.

From 17:00 Kids Camp dinner with parents (for the children staying at Ramsvik).

SUNDAY 4/9 – Sailing and Kids Race day

07:30 Welcome to a new day at Kids Camp, sign in at Ramsvik camping.

09:30 We take the Zita boat from Ramsvik to Hunnebo/Sotefjorden yacht club. Our leaders are very experienced with teaching children how to sail! If your child has sailed before they will sail in an Optimist on their own. If not, they will sail in slightly bigger boats with a sailing instructor. Your child needs to have swimming skills to sail in the Optimist/boats with instructor. The smaller kids with no swimming skills can try an inflatable boat close to the shore. Please send me an e-mail if your child will not sail/take a ride in the inflatable boat. For those not sailing we will have activities on the pier. Life jacket is off course mandatory. If the weather doesn’t allow sailing, we will stay on land with other activities.

11:30 Lunch at Sotefjorden yacht club

13:00 Leaving Sotefjorden yacht club back to Ramsvik and get ready for the Kids Race!

14:00 Kids Race (1,7K same distance for all kids)

Kids race, 1.7km ©iancorless

15:00 Medal ceremony

16:00 End of Kids camp for this year

It’s hard to express the insight, thought and attention to detail that Icebug and the team have put together to create such an amazing child experience that keeps everyone happy. It’s often so hard to find time for parents to run when they have children, especially run together. Here, the Icebug Experience breaks new ground and creates a template that I only wish more events would copy.

INCLUSIVITY

Age, gender or ability – everyone welcome ©iancorless

In a time when there is much talk of making events more inclusive and increasing female participation, Icebug once again break new ground.

Not racing is almost encouraged, this I love. Take the time, enjoy the terrain, enjoy the experience and if you wish run, if you’d like to mix it up, walk and run. If either of those are too much, just walk.

It wasn’t only about running… ©iancorless

The weekend was very much a bonding exercise where it was easy to see how work colleagues had tempted co-workers to join them. Running clubs had put teams and groups together and most notably, the presence of women runners was extremely high.

Post-race I checked, the weekend had more female participants than men.

Think about it, why?

I think the answer is clear to see…

Age was not limiter. Speed was not important. What shall we do about the kids(?) was taken away.

Trust me, more events need to be like this.

Bonding on the trails ©iancorless

THE XPERIENCE

I was a client for the Icebug Xperience, I wasn’t working as a photographer, I wasn’t given a free place to help PR. I signed up and soaked up the event.

Our home from home ©iancorless

Arriving Thursday night, we pitched our tent, a nice large three-man Nordisk that would act as our base for the weekend. For reasons of comfort and ease, Abelone and I signed up for the food package which offered buffet breakfast (superb) and dinner. A superb lunch was provided as part of the race.

Yoga on the beach ©iancorless

Kids club was approximately 50-euros per day (+/-) and while I appreciate that this may prove costly for some, it was worth every penny. To see the kids’ bond, play and have the most amazing time put a smile on everyones face. In all honesty, I was tempted to sign up for the kid’s club and miss out on the running, the schedule was so good.

Great location ©iancorless

Ramsvik Stugby & Camping was the perfect hub for the weekend located 2.5-hours’ drive from Oslo or roughly 2-hours from Gothenburg. It offers something for all in a hard-to-beat archipelago idyll on the West Coast.

Our weather was wall-to-wall sunshine with warm temperatures, yes, we couldn’t have had it better, especially with the location. The was maybe even more important for the children who played on the beach, went fishing, sailed and had a day at the zoo. But trust me, many an adult jumped into the water post-run to cool off and soak in the atmosphere.

Event village had an Icebug shop and shoe test possibilities ©iancorless

The key to any successful weekend is great organisation and the Icebug Xperience excelled. Everything was like clockwork which made everything so calm and relaxing. There was no worry if a bus would turn up, will the ferry be there? What about breakfast? Where do I drop my child? Everything was clearly communicated, and all happened at the times specified.

The routes offered a great challenge and were superbly marked with a distance marker every 2km’s and either 2 or 3 aid stations.

Day 1 started at Ramsvik race village and ended in the picturesque village of Hunnebostrand.

Day 2 started at Bohus-Malmön and the finish line was at Kungshamn. An interesting route that was split starting with 10km, a ferry (timing stopped) and then a 20km course to the finish and then a bus or boat back to Ramsvik.

Day 3 started in Smögen and concluded at the race village in Ramsvik, a special day that lets you fully experience the Ramsvik rocks.

Race start on day 1 ©iancorless

Three special days that follow the ocean: old fisherman’s villages, heaths, canyons, and a huge amount of red-colored granite rocks. Three stages – three different Xperiences.

CONCLUSION

Icebug Xperience ©iancorless

The process and the journey are what provides the memories for me, and while I fully appreciate racing a clock and others has its place, weekends like Icebug Xperience bring a whole new level of full absorption, not only for the runner but for the family. Nobody is left out here, everyone is looked after, everyone has their own experience and then it all comes together towards the end of the day to share the experience over dinner and whilst hanging out in your chosen accommodation.

New friends, new xperiences ©iancorless

There is much to learn from what happens here in Sweden.

The number of female participants. The planning and structure to look after children. The inclusivity of providing an experience for everyone irrespective of age, ability, or gender.

Congratulations Icebug on producing something very special.

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UTMB 2022 with the adidas TERREX #oneteam

©iancorless

I am decompressing.

In the last 4-days I have had around 10-hours broken sleep. That is the reality of working on multiple events during UTMB week.

It all started though the week before, arriving in Chamonix on Thursday to join the adidas TERREX team for a full 10-day UTMB extravaganza. It was my 3rd time at UTMB with the TERREX team so I was under no illusion of what was ahead – amazing friends, quality time with athletes and crew and once the TDS got underway, little sleep.

On the trails with adidas TERREX team ©iancorless

It’s a privilege and honor to work the TERREX team, I have seen them grow and grow in the sport and the ethos of #oneteam personifies what goes on before, during and after every event. Just look at the finish line footage of Emily Hawgood crossing the line to take 6th place at UTMB. The whole team was waiting, they surrounded her and unplanned, went into a frenzied bounce fest to celebrate not only an incredible run but an incredible team effort. No other pro-team does this and it’s noted by all the other media… The TERREX team are doing something very special.

You may well say I am biased. And I am not going to deny that I have a professional and working relationship with the brand. However, this is a choice. Working with the team management, the media crew and the athletes is a dream come true and one that is immensely rewarding.

adidas had once again rented multiple chalets and one huge chalet would act as a base for meeting up and all meals. The chalet had three 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. Physios were literally ‘hands-on’ every day from morning and Charlie and Robert managed the day-to-day team plans.

My emphasis pre-racing was to recorded Season 2 of ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ and provide some photo content.

Ruth Croft decided to not race at UTMB after winning Western States ©iancorless
Luis Alberto Hernando ©iancorless

The shows:

Toni McCann ©iancorless

TONI MCCANN

Holly Page ©iancorless

HOLLY PAGE

Yngvild Kaspersen ©iancorless

YNGVILD KASPERSEN

Taylor Nowlin ©iancorless

TAYLOR NOWLIN

Tom Evans ©iancorless

TOM EVANS

UTMB WEEK

UTMB week may well be what you, the fan or follower sees. But as in all these scenarios, the reality for UTMB 2022 started at the conclusion of UTMB 2021. It’s a 12-month process of building and planning.

This time last year, Tom Evans missed UTMB and instead underwent surgery not knowing if he would be able to run professionally again. However, he there and then set the goal to target UTMB 2022 as a main goal and target. He would put all the processes in place to make that happen. And oh my word, look what happened… He completed the podium with an outstanding and awe-inspiring 3rd place.

But with all the highs, the TERREX team also has lows.

Hugo Deck ©iancorless

TDS did not go to plan, 4-athletes hovered around the podium for much of the race only have dreams taken away. That is racing. There are no guarantees.

Janosch Kowalczyk ©iancorless
Cordis Hall ©iancorless

Sabrina Stanley, after meticulously planning and preparing for UTMB had her dream shattered even before the start of UTMB with a positive Covid test. There are no words to help here, just the unity and backing of oneteam.

Robbie Simpson ©iancorless

Down but not out, the team rallied, and OCC turned out to be a stunning race with Sheila Aviles taking victory and Robbie Simpson making the podium.

Sheila Aviles ©iancorless
Toni McCann ©iancorless

Toni Mccann placing 5, Martin Dematteis placing 10th and Kim Schreiber, Jeshurun Small, Dioni Gorla, Deborah Marti and Anna Hahner all having solid runs. The team was back on track.

Martin Dematteis ©iancorless

CCC was up next and it’s fair to say that myself, and the whole TERREX team were quietly confident that Petter Engdahl could produce something. Little did we know then that the Swede who lives in Norway would light the fire of the UTMB.

Petter Engdahl ©iancorless

He blazed a trail that made the competition look on in awe as he not only won the race but set a course record. Abby Hall from the USA once again had a stellar run placing 3.

Stephen Kersch ©iancorless
Taylor Nowlin ©iancorless

Remigio Huaman, Stephen Kersch, Taylor Nowlin and Yngvild Kaspersen all brought the three stripes home and, on each occasion, the team was waiting with hugs and applause.

It’s a stressful week for adidas TERREX staff ©iancorless

The big dance, UTMB would conclude the week. The 171km loop through France, Italy, Switzerland and concluding in France has 10,000m of vertical gain, rugged terrain, variable weather and is arguably, the most competitive ultra of the year. This year, the event was off-the-scale with over 2700 participants and goodness knows how many fans and spectators.

Pablo, Tom and Luis ©iancorless

The event is now huge! The TERREX team had Pablo Villa, Luis Alberto Hernando, Tom Evans, Emily Hawgood toeing the line and sadly, the omission of Sabrina Stanley due to Covid. It’s with noting here that a listen to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ with Tom Evans provides a great insight not only to the event, but how to prepare for it is a ‘must’ listen. The race, despite a quality line-up was always going to be about Jim Walmsley and Kilian Jornet and for much of the race, this was the story. Jim had the lead, lost it to Kilian and and in-form Mathieu Blanchard. Kilian put the hammer down for the win against Mathieu and behind as Jim faded Tom Evans put his plan in action. He left Zach Miller who he had traded run steps with for many an hour and hunted Jim.

Tom coming in to Trient ©iancorless

With Jim caught, Toms head went down, all the processes were put in place and the Brit placed 3rd in the greater ultra in the world! Tears were shed by all… It’s difficult to put into words the emotions of the finish. Tom walked in, somewhat mind-blown about what he was about to achieve, he held hands together, covered his face and then stood stock still and saluted the world. Job done! The TERREX team were in pieces with emotion.

Emily Hawgood ©iancorless

Hours later, Emily Hawgood arrived at Col de Montes, the TERREX team lining the climb to give her one last big push to the finish. Eventually the finish came and a 6th place. Surrounded by her team, the worlds media were amazed at the unity of the TERREX team as they celebrated en-mass the success of one of their own.

#oneteam ©iancorless

This is the oneteam ethos, victories may be individual, but they are not possible without what goes on behind the scenes. 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.

Once again, it was a real pleasure to be immersed with the adidas TERREX brand and follow closely the whole process that makes a race and team come together. We use the word family and without a doubt, the TERREX team is family. We are all #unitedbysummits

I spent much of the week with Stefan Durst but a huge thanks to Pfefferminzmich – Rapha, Andy, Yannick, Vinz and Christian.

I have the best job in the world!

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