The launch of RUNNING BEYOND book has required me to do several interviews recently and some of my words and images have appeared in print. The most current edition of Outdoor Fitness has a large s…
The launch of RUNNING BEYOND book has required me to do several interviews recently and some of my words and images have appeared in print. The most current edition of Outdoor Fitness has a large spread and RUNning Magazine in Portugal has a spread.
In the coming week or so, the UK’s Like The Wind will also have a multi-page feature on RUNNING BEYOND book showing several images over 10-pages.
Several week’s ago, my good friends at Marathon Talk Podcast, Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, did me the great honour of having me as a guest on their show. I have to say, these two guys are vey much the reason that Talk Ultra Podcast started and I am ever thankful to both of them and the support.
Tom: This week’s guest has been a longtime friend of Martin and myself and a longtime friend of Marathon Talk – for six and a half years now so for probably something like four years, he’s edited the audio for Marathon Talk and probably saves mine or Martin’s blushes on more than one occasion, edited out the odd rude word perhaps in there and during that time he’s also built up the amazing Talk Ultra podcast which, has gone from strength to strength to strength and he is an absolute go to for ultra-running. He is as many would say, living the dream of making his passion his career and doing a really good job of it. He’s just bringing out a book, Running Beyond, which we’ll talk about in detail. Welcome Ian.
Ian Corless: Hey Tom, thanks for having me! Feels a little weird being on this end of the microphone.
Tom: It’s been far too long getting you on the show and it’s nice to have the excuse of you having released your book Running Beyond – Epic Ultra Trail and Skyrunning Races. Foreword, nonetheless, by Kilian Jornet.
Ian Corless: Yes.
Tom: Tell us about the book. Before we go back and talk about this whole crazy journey you’ve been on over the last four, five, six years, tell us about the book.
Ian Corless: The book came about I suppose in a way by accident. It’s quite funny because Martin (co-host of Marathon Talk) said to me years ago, “Mate, you should do a book, you should do a book, you’ve got all these photographs you should do a book” and I did do a self-published book. But the problem with a self-published book is that you just can’t get the price of the book competitive. It just becomes ridiculous once you go to a hardback and color etc. The cost is just prohibitive. So I did a very small print run which was really for me, friends, family and a few people bought it and I used it as a giveaway to clients or potential clients and from that perspective it was a great vehicle. But then about two and a half years ago, I got approached by a publisher and they said, “We love what you do, we follow your website, we follow your photography and we think the time is right for a book”. Of course, it was music to my ears because normally you have to go hunting for a publishing contract and there they were contacting me. That was an amazing foot into the door.
The process then was deciding what that book should be and of course, because the publisher wanted to go in a certain direction, I had to adhere to some of the things that they wanted so it had to be commercially viable. They wanted it to be a coffee-table book, they wanted it to be big and utilize the photography that I had done but also it needed to incorporate my experiences going from race to race. Over the last five years six years, I’ve traveled extensively to races all over the world and basically the book is about that but it’s not an A to Z of races. It doesn’t start at A and it doesn’t finish at Z and it certainly is not a book about ‘the’ best races in the world – it’s the races that I’ve been to and experienced and, in my opinion, of what has grown my photography and my writing within the ultra-running trail and mountain world.
Tom: That’s quite an exciting thing, isn’t it? I listen to that and I think, “That’s really exciting I can’t wait to see it.” I went through a kind of process like that with a coffee table book a couple of years ago for park run, although I had no content in there of my own. I was just helping the guys do stuff but I think the guys did it really well. But for that to be your own book and your own content you must be really excited.
Ian Corless: Yes, I’ve got copies at home and it’s quite funny because the first hardback copy arrived about two months ago and you know what? I’ve not looked at it.
Tom: [laughs] You do know they spelled your name wrong on the cover, don’t you?
Ian: [laughs] I’ll be having a word with the publisher if that’s the case! I say I’ve not looked through it, I have. I’ve flipped through it. But it’s a massive chunk of my life and to actually sit down and flick through it page-by-page almost intimidates me because I won’t look at the positives, I’ll look at the negatives [laughs], and I’ll think, “Maybe I should have put that photo in” or, “Why didn’t I do this?” or, “Why didn’t I do that?” And so in a way it’s frightened me to actually sit down and look at the book now that it’s done. Because there’s nothing that I can do about it, I have to assume that myself and the publisher did a good job and now it’s left to people, yourself and the audience who are going to get it and let them decide whether we did a good job.
Tom: You have got some rave reviews. We’ll talk about your journey in a second. We talked before we started recording about you having a huge level of respect in the ultra-running community now as a really great journalist. On your website and the promotion for this book, you’ve got Nikki Kimball, US ultra-runner saying, “Ian Corless continues to be one of the planet’s foremost journalist in the sport of ultra-marathon”. Check that out.
Ian: It’s awesome to hear that type of thing. It’s flattering and we’re talking now five six years down the line and I know one of the questions you’re going to ask me is probably how did it happen and in a way I don’t know [laughs].
Tom: Mike Wolf, “If you know Ian, it comes as no surprise… he is the most motivated, talented and insightful photographer, journalists out there.” This is amazing stuff, how did you get… so we tried to get Kilian Jornet on the show a couple of times, we’ve never managed it. He is one of those few athletes that has truly transcended their sport and in a good way just does whatever he wants. I’ve got Summits of My Life t-shirts and I’m a fan of Kilian Jornet. He has moved up to that level of being just himself. But here you are with him writing the foreword for the book?
Tom: He’s written some really kind words, “Ian’s photographs can tell you the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race.” Tell us a little bit about Kilian, how you managed to get that for a start but also what your experiences are with him as a person and what’s he like?
Ian: I first met Kilian in 2012 at Transvulcania. That was probably the key phase of how everything started for me, when things really started to take off and I began to realize that there was an opportunity for me to convert what I was doing into a business. Prior to that, I was a photographer and always have been a photographer but I was a commercial photographer shooting advertising, food, room sets, people, all those types of things. Talk Ultra, a little bit like yourselves with Marathon Talk, came out of passion and an interest in the sport. I was competing in sports as you guys did cycling, ironman, and running. I was doing this thing that was an enhancement of my life and something that took up a massive chunk of my life but when you’re doing something you love it’s never quite work, it’s never quite hard. You always bounce it off with the fun and the bonuses.
So 2012 I was invited to Transvulcania and it was a skyrunning race and Skyrunning held its conference and it was about how the sport was going to change. They invited the world’s best runners to the race, of which Kilian was one of them and he went on to place second I believe in that race behind Dakota Jones. Of course I met him and that was the first time we chatted but it was very much like meeting somebody famous and they hold you at a distance because you’re a journalist and they’re a famous runner and that was the scenario.
Tom: He is to ultra-running what Kelly Slater is to surfing or Michael Jordan is to basketball. He is the greatest of all time. I don’t think many people would disagree with that?
Ian: No. He has elevated the sport to a completely different level. He is within the very minute world of ultra-running and trail running, he is global superstar and I’m not saying that everybody on the street would know him, but certainly people who are interested in sport will know of Kilian Jornet and in recent years because he’s extended what he’s done to more extreme adventures and recently he’s just come back from Everest.
All those things click together in him being a megastar but also that brings a lot of pressures and he does get mobbed. The equivalent is imagining walking down the high street and David Beckham comes walking out in Manchester or Liverpool… He would be mobbed and Kilian is the same, particularly in Spain. He is a little bit defensive at times but over the years, because we’ve seen each other at a great deal of races, we became friends. I have that relationship with him… I don’t phone him up every week though, you know what I mean…
Tom: Ever since he got a restraining order…
Ian: Ha! Exactly, ever since he got a restraining order but if I see him we talk, we chat, we sometimes have dinner, we’ve been out for a drink. If you’re going to write a book you might as well have the best runner in the world write the foreword. I sent him an email and I said, “Look, feel free to say no, because I appreciate you get asked a lot of times for this type of thing” but he replied back and said, “Absolutely, no problem. I’ll do it”. It’s fantastic to have Kilian’s name on the cover of the book.
Tom: It’s a lovely photo that you’ve got, the black and white portrait of him looking down. It’s stunning. Let’s go back to the beginning. You knew Martin for a long time before you knew me.
Tom: At first I was editing Marathon Talk around the stuff I did and then we joined forces with you to launch Talk Ultra. Then in time, you took over the editing of Marathon Talk and you still do that to this day… I do visualize you editing in something like rusty twin prop plane over some snowy peaks. You haven’t done this your whole life though?
Tom: …it was a kind of a career transition. You’ve already mentioned still life photography, photographing whatever it is – a bunch of grapes in a bowl? You’ve made that transition, amazing transition. What was the inspiration or motivation for that? When, why did that happen?
Ian: It’s quite simple actually. It’s 2008. This is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s about one of those moments in my life where everything changed. Everything. In summary, without going into too much detail but I’m more than happy to go into detail if you want to, I lost my job, I got divorced, my dad died of cancer and I said, “That’s it. I’m never doing anything again that I don’t want to do”.
Tom: How old were you then in 2008?
Ian: I’m 50 this year [laughs].
Tom: Okay. What’s that, eight years ago. So you were roughly 42?
Ian: Yes. So I made this decision. That’s it, I’m never going to do anything that I don’t want to do again.
Tom: What were those things? What were you doing that you didn’t want to do?
Ian: I think it wasn’t so much things that I didn’t want to do. It was I appreciated life and I’d appreciated that I had made some real gaffs in my life. I’d made financial mistakes; I’d got obsessed in sport – I am very OCD. When I’m doing something, I’m doing it. I guess that’s why I’ve made what I’m doing now successful because I can put blinkers on and I can work 20 hours a day. That is actually what’s needed to be done in the job that I’m doing at the moment. Sleep can be a luxury. But my obsessive-compulsiveness to sport, and that was participating, I’d really ruined my marriage. I had the foresight to be able to look back and think, “You’re bit of an idiot because you were never making a living from sport. You enjoyed it, you loved it and you’ve ruined a marriage because of it!” At the time my son was 12, he was old enough to understand what was going on and old enough to have some independence. But the impact on him and the impact on me was pretty bad. I missed home terribly… Plus, in 2008 also, I decided to run eight marathons in eight days, I don’t know if you remember?
Tom: When you’re under masses of pressure and stress, that sounds like a really good thing to do; not!
Ian: No. The thing was that the eight marathons in eight days was planned the year before and it was to coincide with me doing my last ironman, which I did in Klagenfurt and I think Martin was there for that. I think Martin raced Klagenfurt 2008? I did my last Ironman then I was going to run eight marathons in eight days and the plan was to run the Cotswold path all the way from the Gloucestershire to the Thames barrier. Then on the eighth day I ran on the marathon.
A little bit like Martin’s South West Coast path jaunt, my dad was going to support me and he was going to be in a mobile home. In the months, two to three months before this venture was going to start, my dad said, “I’ve got cancer”. I went through this whole process of “No, I’m going to cancel, I’m going to do this, I’m going to that” and he said, “No. You carry on. You do this for me”.
I remember distinctly, it’s quite a nice story in a way, it was the third day of the 8-marathons and I was finishing in Henley-on-Thames. That night was the night that my dad was going to hospital in Liverpool to have this major cancer operation. I finished my marathon, I had a car waiting for me. I drove up to my dad’s. I took him to hospital, waited during the night while he had the cancer operation, found out that the operation had gone well. I got back in the car, drove to Henley and then ran the marathon the next day. I remember running that marathon and not remembering it. I was an emotional wreck to be honest.
I had also a lot of things going through my mind about, “This is ridiculous. Your dad is potentially dying and you’re running in a marathon”. How could I justify that? So, there was all those things and to cut a long story short, you come out of the end of all this and you’re just not the same person. My marriage very quickly fell apart, my dad got a different form of cancer which eventually killed him about four or five months later, and I lost my job in October. I started 2009 basically with no home, no marriage, my dad had gone. I had a blank canvas and so I started with the priming coat and built what I am doing now from scratch.
Tom: It’s amazing. Huge! Wow… from that point to this point, it’s hugely inspirational because you did start from scratch.
Tom: Because there’ll be people listening to this thinking, “I want to make changes. I want to do things. How do you do it?” We all look at people, we can look at your website, iancorless.com and see loads of success and inspirational content, whatever it is, but actually those first few steps are the most important by a million miles and people never really shout about those, share those. People aren’t aware of them so no one really knows where to start. Where did you start? Take me back to beginning of 2009.
Ian: For two years it was rubbish.
Ian: It really was because I had no money. My mom had spent her whole life with my father and then suddenly she was alone and vulnerable. I spent four months living with my mom because she needed the support. Then there came a point where I thought I had to say, “You know what mom, I’ve got to move out because this is not helping you” and also it wasn’t helping me. For four months, five months I was in a bit of a no man’s land. I was trying to get work as a photographer. I had clients, previous clients and I was getting some work but it was peaks and troughs. Sometimes you were busy, sometimes you weren’t. At the same time, sport was an escape. Of course, I got talking with you guys, with Marathon Talk, and I was helping provide you with some interviews in those early stages. I remember setting up an interview with Scott Jurek and what have you.
Tom: Yes, I remember this, I think it was Scott Jurek or it might have been Ryan Hall that you set up first. It was one of our early really good ones where you said to me, “Why don’t you interview such and such?” and I said, “Well we don’t know him?” and you said, “Have you asked?” and I went, “No. Of course not, I’ve not asked them, what a ridiculous suggestion”.
I think you asked them and they said yes! Again, it wasn’t that you were some huge well-known star, which you are now. It was actually just you were brave and bold enough to just ask people. Which a lot of it I was too scared to do. They won’t even reply to my email I thought… You had that ability to just to make things happen?
Ian: Yes, I guess so. I look back or I try and think back why did I think that would happen? I don’t know, maybe I understood the community. I don’t know?
Tom: People put barriers up there don’t they? And you didn’t seem to see those barriers. Even me I consider myself as a relatively barrier-free kind of guy but I even found just asking them to be ridiculous.
Ian: Yes. I asked them and they said yes and then eventually I said to you guys, “You know what? I think the time is now right for an ultra-running podcast, because there’s obviously demand for this!” Then I came up with this crazy concept of doing a show that’s ridiculously long and everybody told me it was a really bad idea, it would never work but actually it has been the ‘USP’ of the show. Thank God I didn’t try and do it every week, because otherwise I’d be at a mental home or an institution [laughs]. It’s bad enough trying to get a show out every two weeks because of the amount of content that I’m trying to put in it.
Tom: I don’t know how you do that?
Ian: My audience run long and so if they’ve got a show that’s three hours, four hours long they take it on their runs, and that was always my idea. I think, if I look back, that was definitely one of the really key things with the podcast, it was making it a long show because the other podcasts that existed were normally 45-minutes to an hour. You can listen to it those shows on the bus, listen to it on the train whereas I produce this show that was long, something to listen to while running long! I think that was one of the key factors of its success.
The podcast was like Marathon Talk. It was something that I was doing outside of everything else and I was still trying to make a living. But once you start contacting these people and interviewing them, you start to realize there is another world out here. As I said, I went to Transvulcania in 2012 at the invite of Skyrunning and I realized then when I was there because of my background as a photographer, because of what I was doing with the podcast – nobody else was doing this. It was that real brainwave moment! If I write, I podcast and I photograph this world, I am completely unique.
That was the moment that I then put everything together and went headfirst into creating what I’ve now created. It was hard and it was slow and it was steady. Once you’ve done one thing good then something else good then people start to ask more and invite more or request more.
I’ve always been very respectful of the runners. It’s really easy to be a fan. A classic example is Kilian. When you see him it would be so easy to go and run over to him and say, “Hi Kilian, how are you?” because he’s Kilian. I don’t do that. If he walks into a room, I’ll wave and I’ll let him come to me. I think that’s the way that I’ve always treated the runners. I just try and treat them as ordinary people.
I also have been very, very careful in what I write and what I say and how I interview them. You’ll know that you often hear things that are not repeatable because you’re having a private conversation. I’ve seen it happen where a private conversation has ended up in print or ended up in a blog or something. That is the moment that your career is over. Once you betray that trust that you’ve built up, then your career is over. So I’ve always respected that, I’ve always respected their private space and that in turn comes back a hundred fold.
I can be at a race and I’ll be having breakfast and for example, let’s say Sage Canaday walks past and he’ll say, “We’re going for a run, do you want to come?”
“Yes, okay.” That’s a really crazy thing to do because you only last about three minutes if you go for a run with Sage. But I think that’s the important thing, that although I’m a photographer and a journalist and I’m writing and communicating about the world that they are in, I’ve broken down a barrier in that yes I’m doing that but I’m also approachable, I’m friendly, and I’m somebody that they don’t mind having around, which isn’t always the case with journalists.
Tom: In that time period, fast forward now to the end of 2016 and you’re making a successful career out of something you love. First of all, that’s not always a good thing. To make your passion your career isn’t always as rosy as it sounds and sometimes people end up… and clearly that’s not the case with you but sometimes people end up no longer liking something they loved because it’s become a job and not fun. I’m interested in your thoughts on that and I’m also interested in your thoughts, without going into too many details and confidential stuff whatever it is, interested in as a business, how that is made up? Because I know having done Marathon Talk for a long time, at best, it’s made a tiny, tiny amount of money at worst it’s cost us a load and most of the time it just about breaks even in terms of costs. It’s not some golden ticket to living in Beverly Hills. You have to do it for passion. What is the business component of your business?
Ian: I learned very early on, once you’ve hit rock bottom you don’t go buy a car, you don’t go buy another house. You keep expenses at minimum and you have fingers in fires.
Tom: Fires or pies?
Ian: Fires or pies, whichever way.
Ian: Is it pies? Fingers in pies, okay?
Tom: Either way [laughs].
Ian: Either way, I’m sure the audience understand. So I’ve never relied on any one particular source of income. I’ve tried to make sure that I’m doing a couple of things to cover the bills if need be. I guess this is one of the reasons why I still edit Marathon Talk. Sometimes I think to myself, “I’ve got so much on and I’ve got to edit Marathon Talk” but then again I remember when I needed Marathon Talk and so I’m reluctant to give things up. Martin said to me recently, “Mate, you need to learn to say no” [laughs], but it’s very, very difficult to say no.
Tom: Slightly rich coming from Yelling!
Ian: Yes, exactly. But you’ll appreciate this and I think most people listening out there appreciate. If you go to the office at nine o’clock and leave at five o’clock and that’s your only obligation and you get your cheque at the end of the month that’s fine, but I don’t. I’m my own boss, bank holidays they don’t exist, weekends they don’t exist. It’s all time that you work and build and like you’ve said, that is one of the negatives. It’s very, very difficult for me to take time away, to take time off because I’m always thinking and when you have a website that is about the sport that happens and changes daily, it’s like having this animal that needs feeding and you have to feed it all the time. You can’t go missing for a week and not post or write something because news has happened.
One the advantages of the world that we live in is thank goodness for the internet, Wi-Fi and mobile phones – you can actually be anywhere in the world and do the job that I do. I don’t know whether I’m answering your question in the correct way but it’s about commitment, it’s about controlling to a certain extent how you start a day and end a day. That start and that end has to be really flexible with no fixed start and no fixed end and you need to fill the time.
Tom: And mixing up podcasting, coaching, speaking, training camps, publications, race coverage…
Ian: Yes, you have to have many different things. Talk Ultra is free for the audience just as Marathon Talk is. I don’t have any sponsors for Talk Ultra and I think it’s fair to say that directly from Talk Ultra, I don’t think I’ve earned anything. But Talk Ultra is a vehicle and we had this conversation years ago about the potential to make a living from a podcast, and I think it is possible but I’d have to devote myself 100% to the podcast and I’ve always had this philosophy with the podcast that I don’t want adverts and jingles. Because I think, from a listening point of view, what would I want to listen to? I wouldn’t want a jingle every 15 minutes, because it would be like turning the TV on and watching the film on ITV and then the commercials come on. I hate it. I don’t want that for the podcast, and although I’ve had conversations with sponsors in the past or potential sponsors, that would’ve been what would have had to have happen, so I didn’t do it. That maybe is a mistake, I don’t know but Talk Ultra has become a vehicle for what I do and it’s an outlet, and it keeps me in the environment that I need to be in not only with the runners, but with the community and the audience, and that’s invaluable. That connects me with everything else I do so when I go to a race, I can get content for the podcast at a race. I can provide a service to a race in the sense that I can give them exposure. That’s all into connecting with the business side of photography and writing.
Tom: It’s amazing. We’ve had various partners on the show on Marathon Talk, and in various things I’ve done we’ve had various shows and sometimes you do think, “I’m not enjoying this component of what I do now because of x, y, or z”. Actually the more you can stay true to your principles the better… I would argue though that you will always struggle to commercialize a five-hour podcast.
Tom: But commercializing isn’t your primary goal. Your primary goal is to do something you really love, you really enjoy, that people you respect really love and really enjoy what you do, and then turn that into a career as opposed to the former.
Ian: I think about moments in the podcast and you said this to Martin some time ago, but I think it was a significant episode of yours. Maybe the 300th, or the 250th, or something. I remember you saying to Martin, “You know what? I’m really, really proud of what we’ve got because even if the show stopped tomorrow, we have documented an era of sport that is there for lifetime.”
I think about some of the things that I’ve got. I interviewed Kilian when he set the fastest known time to the summit of the Matterhorn – I interviewed him the day after. I think about that interview and I think, “That is gold.” That is a pure piece of gold that can be listened to at any point. I interviewed Scott Jurek and his wife, Jenny for over an hour after they set the record on the Appalachian Trail last year. I think to myself, an hour of getting into the mind of Scott, you can’t put a price on that type of thing and I think that’s why the show works. If an interview takes 90 minutes, it takes 90 minutes. Of course, I might edit it down but the point is you can go so deep and get so much information in that time that you can’t get that anywhere, and I think that’s one of the advantages of Talk Ultra, and I think that’s why the audience like it.
Tom: I’m absolutely sure you’re right. It’s so rare to get good quality, in-depth content about people. So much of what we do now is snippets, and 30 seconds here, and as much as I love BBC and so on, it’s very rare you get in-depth with one person, and maybe on multiple occasions. Some of my proudest moments, the things I can share is the interview with Chris Chataway, or Martin’s show with Sammy Wanjiru, people who aren’t with us anymore. In that form, that’s documented not only just for a lifetime but forever, that’s out there digitally as in-depth stuff. When you look at that whole journey you’ve been on in for the last six, seven years, what are some of the highlights? Tell me about a couple of the moments… When you look back, there must have been some moments where you just had to pinch yourself and say, “I can’t quite believe I’m stood here doing this.”
Ian: To be honest, and this is going to sound quite corny but it happens almost every month and sometimes it happens every week. I never take what I do for granted and I look at the amount of time that I’ve spent on the road in one year, and the places that I’ve been. This is going to sound like name-dropping and I guess it is name-dropping but this year alone, I’ll have been to Costa Rica rainforest, the Sahara, Nepal, to Everest, South Africa, Australia, and I just think… you said at the beginning of the show that you’re living the dream, and yes. I’m sorry, but I do actually think that sometimes I am living the dream. But it’s not easy and there’s a big price to pay for that. I’m in a relationship and that makes a relationship very, very hard when you spend so much time on the road.
But key moments, I remember 2012, when all this started. There’s a mountain race in Italy called, Trofeo Kima, it’s one of the ultimate races. It takes place at high altitude, 3,000 meters, the course is ice, glaciers, rocks, via Ferrata. It’s just the most extreme race. I turned up at this race and I thought, “How on earth am I going to cover this race?” It’s 50 odd kilometers. Kilian can win the race in six and a half hours. How am I going to get around? They said, “Here’s a helicopter” and basically I just leapfrogged the course in a helicopter. The helicopter couldn’t land so we had to hover above the mountains and I had to climb out of this helicopter while it’s hovering, and then I’d have to run on the course, take photographs, run back, get on the helicopter, move to the next place. That was a real pinch moment. Marathon des Sables with Sir Ranulph Fiennes – daily going in to see him in the morning, seeing him at night, and chatting to the real James Bond. Ranulph Fiennes is the real James Bond. The guy is incredible. Here he is, one of the oldest competitors ever to complete Marathon des Sables, and of course Kilian. Kilian is an easy, a very, very easy name to drop but he is a legend. I’ve been at some of those key moments when he’s created a piece of history. He didn’t invite me to Everest though which was a bit disappointing.
Tom: Rude, I’d call it.
Tom: Downright offensive.
Ian: [laughs] I don’t think I would have lasted very long at six, 7,000 meters with Kilian.
Tom: Yes, keep up with those cameras on your back.
Ian: Yes. It’s very difficult to pick races and people. There’s a race in South Africa called, the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun, and it takes place in one of these remote places on the Namibian border. The race actually crosses the Orange river, goes into Namibia. It’s one of the oldest places on the planet, the landscape is amazing. You spend a night in the middle of nowhere in a tent, looking up at the amazing South African skies and you think, “Wow. I’m actually here working.” It’s just moments like that. Like I said, I never take anything for granted. Tomorrow, I go to Italy and I’ll be on Lake Garda, and I’ll be working in the mountains behind Lake Garda, and that almost becomes just an ordinary weekend. But I still get on the mountain, and I look down, and I look at the lake and I think, “Look at this, this is my office. This is today’s office. This is amazing”.
Tom: A really interesting thought about hobbies. He says picking himself up… but an interesting observation of mine from running is that we separate the rest of running from ultra-running, the ultra-running seems to have done, in my opinion a really, really great job. A bit like cycling, of positioning itself as an aspiration or the aspiration is to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, build friendships, be outside and it’s seen as enjoyable for its own sake, for the fact of doing it whereas the rest of running has got so fixated on times and have you done a marathon? And what’s your PB? It forgot, in my opinion, the rest of running forgot about the nicer things. Running is almost unique, I would say, in that you ask most runners if they enjoy running, most of them will say, “No” and they’ll come out with, “Well, I can eat cake at the weekend” or something, whatever it is. They don’t really enjoy it, whereas ultra-runners, it seems to me, have got it right and they are actually in the moment. For example, we’re talking about what are your best experiences are and they are amazing, bucket list experiences that actually anybody can do. Most of these races anybody can endure, anybody can take part and anybody can have the same experience.
Ian: You are exactly right. The sport is changing slightly, you know the FKT, fastest known time is becoming more and more popular, but it’s still taking place in the stunning location in an amazing environment. An FKT is about a runner setting something against a clock in a place and it’s the place that actually is really significant. Just this last weekend, a runner called Jim Walmsley set a new record in the Grand Canyon, running the rim-to -rim but also doing the rim-to-rim-to-rim, which is out and back. The Grand Canyon as a location is a stunning place and the speed that he ran is just absolutely phenomenal, but it was him in his environment testing himself and the point is that with an FKT, an FKT is personal. You can have your own FKT, your own fastest known time and that is great! As somebody who was competitive in terms of competitive with myself, not necessarily competitive within the sense of being elite but I always tried to do my best and a few years ago I started to get chronic knee problems and that has seriously impacted on what I can do. So FKT’s and personal journeys are great. I get asked all the time, “Ian, do you miss racing?” and I say, “No.” because I’m in the domain, I’m with the runners, I’m at races, and yes all right I’m not racing myself, but I’m still getting a fix. I can still be on the mountain, within the landscape – I just do things now at my pace, at my distance because the two are connected.
If I get a day free before a race or a day free after the race I can go out on the race course and experience what the runners are going to experience in the race, but in my own time and then I can come back and talk to them and say, “I went up today and I did the vertical kilometer and came back down.” And they don’t ask, “Oh, what time did you do?”, they’ll just go, “Oh, cool, so you managed to find some time to get up there, yes the mountain’s stunning, isn’t it brilliant?” That’s the type of scenario that that we’re in. I think it started to get clouded a little bit with some prize money that’s coming in, and of course UTMB last year, we had the first EPO case which has raised alarm bells and then we’ve got the craziness of people like Rob Young. Underneath it all, Rob is a person and why did he think he was going to get away with it? You actually have to think, what was the reason he made that really bad decision? With the amount of scrutiny he was going to get… he wasn’t even a good liar. Why would you try and run a sub-three marathon when you’re running three thousand miles?
Tom: Unfortunately, I think a lot of these things slide, they start out with the best intentions, they get carried away and then they just bend things a little bit because actually it’s a good outcome… Raising money for charity or whatever it is and actually the mind’s very clever in saying, “Well, that’s all right, you’re doing that for the right reasons” and then once you’re on that slope you just get tangled up and it runs away with you, doesn’t it?
Ian: It’s like Lance.
Ian: Lance, still to this day didn’t do anything wrong. That’s his viewpoint. He didn’t do anything wrong, because everybody else was doing it. And he still believes that.
Tom: And I understand that, I don’t agree with it, but I understand that and I think I think sometimes we don’t understand how people’s minds work, how things change over time, how motivations can blur things up and it’s crazy…
Tom: A bit of a cheesy question but I think a really interesting question. If you were, let’s take you back 30 years or 20 years and you’re 20 or 30 years old and you’re in the absolute shape of your life, fighting fit, but you know what you know now, so you know all the races you’ve been to, you’ve seen them firsthand, if you could be in the form of your life just once and go to one race and absolutely smash it to pieces, where would you go?
Ian: That’s a really tough one. Can I give you two answers?
Tom: You can give me two answers.
Ian: Okay. From an ultra-running perspective there would be an obvious choice because you would go where you would have the biggest audience so that would be something like UTMB, because that’s the big showcase. If you won UTMB then you’d get all the plaudits and the slap on the back and equally something like Western States. It’s a much smaller race, but it’s completely respected in the community.
Tom: Comrades if we’re going on the road?
Ian: Comrades if you’re on the road equally. Mountain UTMB, trail Western States, road Comrades. If you could have your day and be up there and fighting with a chance for the podium one of those three races would be incredible. But if I could just go to a race and just have an absolutely fantastic time and feel brilliant, I’d probably choose a multi-stage race, like marathon Des Sables or Everest Trail Race because what I love about those races from a working point of view and from a running point of view is that they are journeys. I love to be in this place where they have a start point and a finish point and the way that you move through that landscape is by foot. Most of the time all the modern gizmos are gone because you’re self-sufficient, so your phone won’t work and it’s pointless carrying it, because it’s just weight, you’re eating around campfires, there’s no TV, there’s no music, there’s nothing and it’s primal.
When I work on those races you come out of those races and you think, “That was just a transformative process”. I often interview runners who’ve gone through that for the first time and it’s changed their lives, they are not the same people who went in the race when they come out. They’re different, and it often changes what they do and for a lot of people it can be that point where it was for me in 2008, they come out of the desert or the mountains and they say, “You know what? I’m going to change my job and I’m going to find a way to give myself either more time or more money or whatever it is, but allow myself the freedom to do more of this, more adventures, more exploration”.
Tom: You’re talking about life changing and so on, some of your guests have changed my life. You interviewed Barry Murray in a really fascinating interview and we ended up getting Barry on our show and then Barry ended up working with me for a year, helping me with my nutrition and lifestyle stuff. There’s actually, selfishly, there’s things that come out of the stuff we do that actually helps us. Have there been examples, cases with the people you’ve met and interviewed who they’ve really moved your life into another direction as well?
Ian: Yes, I think there’s people that have inspired me in racing and the top-end runners inspire me all the time, but it’s really the mid-packers and the back of the packers that are the true inspiration because you know, Scott Jurek or Karl Meltzer or Emily Forsberg or whoever it is, they’ve got that natural innate ability that makes them a supreme being and then what they do with that talent is they nurture it and they train it and they become better but the natural ability is there. What I’m always amazed at is when I go to a race and I see the back of the packer and I look at them and I think, “Why are you doing this race?” Because even if it’s a good race for them, they are going to suffer but they actually embrace the journey, they embrace the process and I always tell a story about Marathon des Sables to provide perspective. There’s a British guy called Tobias Mews who I think you know, Tom? He was the highest placed Britain until I think James Cracknell beat him…
Tom: 12th place or almost there I think.
Ian: Yes, I think up until that point Tobias had been around about 18th or 19th. I went to a talk where Tobias was speaking with his best friend. They were both in the army or should I say they were both ex-military and they’d both worked in the same regiment. Tobias stood up and he said, “I just want to tell you a story about the perspective of the Marathon des Sables.” He said, “I finished the whole race in around about 22 hours for the whole race. Whereas my friend here did just the long day in 36 hours.”
Just the long day in 36-hours and his finishing time was something like 60 hours, almost three times longer than Tobias!
It’s that perspective that I see every single time I go to a race. The front people are the front people, they’re fast, they’re gifted, they’re talented, they’ll have the highs and the lows but it’s all the ones at the back who are putting one foot in front of the other. I think if you can take that motto into whatever you do daily… There’s always going to be somebody better than you but you have to keep going forward, you have to keep pushing, you have to keep putting the commitment in and if you don’t put the commitment in then it’s a DNF and you don’t finish. That’s the same whether it’s work, family, relationships, whatever. So I don’t think there’s any one significant person, although there are many interviews that have really changed me but I think as a global thing, it’s the experience of what people go through to achieve their own personal goals – I think that’s the most inspirational thing.
Tom: Finally, of course, I can’t let you go without asking you a question. You’ve edited and listened to this show every week for the last four years or something like that, so you know it intimately. Let’s cut straight to the chase – six months, perfect training on the track, one mile… how fast?
Ian: Can I have somebody else’s knees?
Tom: Somebody else’s knees, yes.
Ian: I knew this question was coming and I didn’t think about the answer.
Tom: Have you done any timed run in the last year?
Tom: No? Okay. Nothing to go off?
Ian: My last marathon was Paris three years ago and I ran 2:53. So that’s what?
Tom: 6min 30s pace?
Ian: Yes, it’s about that… I’d say I’d probably be lucky to get a 5:30!
Tom: That would put you with Rich Castro, Frank Shorter, Kirk Parsley, Simon Weir etc. I think that sounds about right, you happy with that 5:30?
Ian: Yes, I think so. It does hurt me a little bit because I know that you hit five minutes. I’m tempted to say 4:59 [laughs]. I think I’d be pushing the boat out for a 4:59.
Tom: Well, I haven’t got your knees, my knees work. It’s the difference.
Ian: I should try with Kilian’s knees shouldn’t I?
Tom: Absolutely! Look, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking, thank you for sharing your amazing story or inspirational story. Apologies that it’s taken so long but it was worth the wait and I can’t wait to get my copy of the book, Running Beyond.
Ian: Yes, I’m sure there’s some non-signed copies out there as well if you want one.😉
Many thanks to Tom Williams and Marathon Talk Podcast for allowing me to transcribe the interview for my website. RUNNING BEYOND book is available worldwide HERE
“Ian has been there to witness the stories. He knows the sport, he practices it and he has been involved in many different aspects, all of which provides him with a great overview. He has the strength and character to work many hours, even practicing his own ultra with cameras in order to capture the emotions and the passion from inside the sport. Ian has immense enthusiasm, and his commitment to following a race knows no bounds.”
“Ian’s photographs convey the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race. We are able to feel what the runners have felt, and it is the closest you will get without being there yourself. It is a great journey, and one that you are able to follow yourself in Running Beyond.” – Kilian Jornet
As a final note, I need to give a huge thanks to my soul mate Niandi Carmont who has been a rock since 2009 and supported me on my journey in the world of trail, mountain and the ultra world – without her support and continued support this journey would not be possible. Thanks!
Episode 124 of Talk Ultra is all about the Everest Trail Race with a selection of audio from 5 participants – Andreja Sterle Podobonik, Casey Morgan, Jennifer Hill, Tom Arnold and John Percy. We bring you news from the ultra world and Niandi Carmont co-hosts
We are in La Palma and bring you the audio from our apartment right on the Transvulcania route. So, apologies if you can hear the sea in the background and if we sound like we are recording in public toilet….
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK many thanks for all the great comments and support. It’s been great to get so many messages on social media. For those interested, we are planning a RUNNING BEYOND event in the UK in London. The venue is tbc but the dates will be Friday March 3rd to Sunday March 5th. We will have Running Beyond Book on sale and of course it will be possible to get it signed. We will have an exhibition of images from the book printed large in a gallery but this will also be a three day event on all things ultra, trail or mountain running. We will have guest speakers, films, a photography workshop and this will all be in conjunction with Like The Wind Magazine and Run Ultra. Watch this space!
100k Worlds in Spain
- Hideaki Yamauchi 6:18
- Bongmusa Mthembu 6:24
- Patrick Reagan 6:35
- Kirstin Bull 7:34
- Nikola Sustic 7:36
- Jo Zakrezewski 7:41
- Jim Walmsley 5:21:29 smashed Max King’s by 13 min! For perspective – Walmsley’s year now included nine wins in 10 starts, six course records, and two giant FKTs in the Grand Canyon.
- Anthony Kunkel 5:52
- Mike Owen 5:56
- Leah Frost 6:23
- Caroline Boller 6:32
- Megan DiGregorio 7:02
2017 Skyrunner World Series Announced and new Vertical World Circuit HERE
Miguel Capo Soler
Andreja Sterle Podobonik
00:36:54 INTERVIEWS FROM EVEREST TRAIL RACE
- Andreja Sterle Podobonik
- Casey Morgan
- Jennifer Hill
- Tom Arnold
- John Percy
UP & COMING RACES
Our next show will be a christmas special and we will bring you our four favourite interviews from 2016, so, if you have a preference or a favourite, let us know on our Facebook page.
Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss
Website – talkultra.com
2017 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES
A day to travelling and I have arrived in La Palma, the home of Transvulcania. It’s apt that I should be in the place where Skyrunning transformed itself in 2012. What has followed has been an epic journey and the sport has changed with the passing of each year.
As 2016 comes to a close, the announcement of the 2017 calendar once again brings new races, new changes – we are in for a seriously exciting year in the SKY!
The Skyrunner® World Series will consist of the Sky Classic category with eleven races, the new Extreme Series, introduced earlier this year, now with four races, and the Ultra Series with eight.
May 2 Yading Skyrun, 30 km, China
May 28 *Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri, 42 km, Spain
June 18 Livigno SkyMarathon®, Italy
June 24 Olympus Marathon, Greece
July 8 Buff Epic Trail 42KM, Spain
July 22 Dolomites SkyRace, 22 km, Canazei, Italy
July 30 SkyRace Comapedrosa, 21 km, Andorra
August 26 *Matterhorn Ultraks «46K», Zermatt, Switzerland
September 2 The Rut 25K, Montana, USA
September 16 Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace, 29km, Kinlochleven, UK
October14 *Skyrunning Extreme – 23 km, Limone sul Garda, Italy
July 16 Royal Gran Paradiso, 53 km, Ceresole Reale, Italy
August 5 *Tromsø SkyRace®, 53 km, Tromsø, Norway
September 17 Salomon Glen Coe Skyline, 55 km, Kinlochleven, UK
August 26 Matterhorn Ultraks «X-K», Zermatt, Switzerland – TBC subject to course
May 13 Transvulcania Ultramarathon, 75 km, La Palma, Canaries, Spain
June 3 Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, 55 km, Madeira, Portugal
June 9 Scenic Trail 113K, Lugano, Switzerland
July 8 *High Trail Vanoise, 68 km, Val d’Isère, France
August 12 Devil’s Ridge Ultra 80K, Gobi Desert, China – TBC
September 3 The Rut 50K, Montana, USA
September 16 Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra, 100 km, Kinlochleven, UK
September 23 Ultra Pirineu, 110 km, Bagà, Spain
(*Extra 20% points)
Lauri van Houten provides the details for The 2017 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES
The ranking will be based on the five best results in the Sky Classic Series, two in the Extreme and three in the Ultra Series. The end of season bonus pool will rise to a total of € 60,000.
Who is the best all-round skyrunner? Based on the five best results in the three categories: one Ultra, one or two Extreme and two or three Sky Classic, a € 10,000 prize will be awarded to a men’s and women’s Overall Champion.
To accommodate the greater number of races, an extra 20 % points will be awarded in certain races on an annual rotation basis as follows: Sky Classic, three; Extreme, one; Ultra one.
Notably, the Vertical Kilometer® will no longer be a part of the World Series but conduct its very own circuit. Details will follow soon.
Maximum number of results taken into account
Computing of overall ranking
- Compete in at least one race in each category
- Maximum 5 results counted as follows:
– 4 between Classic and Extreme with at least 1 of each
– 1 Ultra
About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.
The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, featured 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.
2017 will be bigger and better, join us in the SKY!
iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:
Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about the ROCLITE by inov-8. Every time I do a shoe review, I always get at least one email from someone asking, ‘Any news on Roclite’s from inov-8?’
Well for all those that have asked, you are now blessed with three new ROCLITE models:
The 290 with 4mm drop
The 305 with 8mm drop
The 325 with 8mm drop.
It’s a ROCLITE party!
The ROCLITE has been around for 10-years and was, is a firm favourite for the hardcore inov-8 fans, so, the inclusion of three new models for 2017 is certainly going to make many people happy. The ROCLITE was first launched in 2006 and has had many variations and adaptations over the years.
For most people reading a review like this, they will be drawn to the 290 or 305 as they are conventional run shoes. The 325 is a boot and therefore will appeal to a very different client, or should I say, a very different use.
The 290 is 4mm drop and the 305 8mm drop. I had expected to be able to say that the characteristics of both shoes are the same, the only difference coming in drop/ cushioning. However, that is not the case!
The ROCLITE 305 and 325 initial review
Lets start with the 305 8mm drop shoe first as this for me is a great all around shoe and will appeal to many users. The characteristics of the 305 actually transfer directly to the 325 boot and the comments below are relevant for both.
The 305 is a slightly heavier shoe with a little more cushioning than the 290 (if you didn’t know, the number in inov-8 shoe names refers to weight in like-for-like sizes, usually a UK8.5). It has an integrated gusseted tongue that is actually sewn into the shoe and therefore almost makes the shoe feel slipper like. The same applies for the 325 boot. This is a real winner in terms of holding the foot secure, firm and importantly it’s going to keep debris out!
On the rear of the shoe on the outside is a huge ‘X’ in plastic that is sewn onto the upper – this adds support and theory will provide a more secure foot placement and reduce the ability to roll an ankle.
The lacing is firm and secure and pulls in on web loops called ADAPTERWEB. In conjunction with the sewn in tongue if really does provide a secure and firm fit and hold of the foot.
The words ‘POWERFLOW’ on the rear refer to the cushioning and shock absorption.
The ROCLITE has a META-SHANK and rock plate which is a great addition for keeping the rugged, sharp and gnarly stuff from penetrating through the sole and providing discomfort or bruising while running.
The front of the shoe has a toe cap that has been rubberised that will protect with any collisions of debris on the trail.
The outsole is made from three different sticky rubber densities and has a 6mm lug that is designed to excel on trail that is rocky and technical in either the wet or dry. The outsole will handle some mud but other inov-8 shoes would do a better job of handling the wet, sloppy and slippery stuff. However, as is often the case these days, we are looking for a one stop shop when it comes to a running shoe and the ROCLITE may well set in the place nicely?
In the first 1/3 of the outsole is META-FLEX – this allows the shoe to bend in just the right place allowing for an excellent propulsive phase when running. Sounds like jargon but it does work!
Slipping the shoe on feels really smooth and although this is not a seamless upper, it feels like it. It’s one of the most comfy shoes I have used in a long time. However, the shoe does maybe feel a little small? I use UK9.5 in all my shoes, without exception and I always use UK9.5 in inov-8. All three of the ROCLITES (less so with the 290) but certainly the 305 and 325 make ne think I may require a 1/2 size larger. This may well be from the sewn in tongue and plush fit? I need to head out on the trails a little more to provide a definitive answer on this. Please remember this is a first impression article.
The toe box has room but certainly feels more of a ‘precision’ fit than say the TRAIL TALON or X-CLAW. Again, as mentioned above I may need a 1/2 size larger and that would certainly impact on how the toe box feels. However, the ROCLITE range certainly feels as though hey re designed to provide a detailed, responsive and controlled ride on the trail with a mire secure and precious hold so that fast moving on more technical trail has precision.
The heel box is plush, secure and holds the foot firm. In the 325 boot I have noticed a little additional pressure/ tension on my right achilles with the way the back of the boot drops down and is cut away. I will feed back on this more with additional testing. Again, I also refer back to the point that the 305 and 325 may well be a 1/2 size too small and this would impact greatly on this fell/ comfort.
I think the 305 is going to please so many runners who have been looking for a shoe that can handle a multitude of terrain in a plush, secure and comfortable shoe. This shoe is slipper like! Initial thoughts is that the ROCLITE is sizing a 1/2 size too small, so, if purchasing online keep this in mind. The toe box is not as wide as the Trail Talon or X-Claw so if you need or prefer a shoe that allows the toes to splay, you may want to try the ROCLITE on to see if they will work for you. The 325 boot is certainly a great addition for me and will suit those people who want to spend big days on the trail say fast packing or hiking but don’t want the weight or lack of feel from a heavy walking boot. The 325 feels just like the 305 shoe and even has an 8mm drop, the only difference comes with support around the ankle. I will feedback on this article after full testing for the 305 and 325.
The ROCLITE 290 initial review
The 290 has 4mm drop and less cushioning than the 305 and therefore will suit a more efficient runner who runs with a mid to forefoot strike. It would also work hand-in-hand with the 305 as a shoe for faster or shorter session. I for example will quite happily run in the 290 for up to 90-minutes and if I know I will run longer I will use the 305. This is all down to personal taste and how much or how little you want to feel the ground.
I had expected the 290 to have all the same characteristics as the 305 but no, it has a conventional tongue – why? I don’t get this… I am completely biased with gusseted and sewn in tongues as it just makes sense. I have tested countless shoes and one thing is guaranteed, a gusseted tongue offers better feel, more comfort, a secure hold of the foot and in addition debris is kept out. So why would inov-8 add such a great feature to the 305 and the 325 boot and not to the 290? Having said all this, the 290 is comfortable and the padded tongue causes no issues but they are not as plush as the 305!
The upper, the lacing and the toe box carries over all the characteristics from the 8mm drop 305 and 325. The only difference coming with the ‘X-LOCK’ support at the rear of the shoe. In the 305 and 325 it’s a definite ‘X’ for the 290 it’s erm… well, it’s erm… a line! Apparently it’s ‘Y-LOCK. Because the 290 is 4mm drop and with less cushioning, the runner who uses this shoe will be more efficient and therefore the need for the ‘X’ is not required but the ‘Y’ still adds some support.
The outsole is the same as the 305 and 325 just different colours and is made of three different compounds all with a 6mm lug and yes the META-FLEX is present to allow an excellent propulsive phase and a META-SHANK rock plate is present.
The 290 has many of the characteristics of the 305 and 325 and quite simply is a shoe that is lighter, more flexible and less cushioned for faster/ shorter runs for an efficient runner. The outsole is the same, the upper is almost the same but incorporates the ‘Y’ Lock instead of the ‘X’ lock and all these elements make sense to me. If you look at the inov-8 shoe range, these characteristics are reflected across the board. However, I am at a loss as to why the 290 does not have the gusseted tongue sewn in? Don’t get me wrong, the 290 is still comfortable but give me the 305 any day… I am a little biased too as 8mm drop will always be my ‘go-to!’
The three ROCLITES are going to appeal to many, many people as a great all round shoe for trail running and I can see many owners having two pairs. For the runners it may well be a pair of 290’s for fast training and short racing and the 305 for long days out either racing or training. By contrast (I fit into this scenario) the 305 and 325 make a great double. The 305 for long runs or races and the 325 for days out walking, hiking and/ or fast-packing. All the shoes are neutral and be careful on sizing, you may well need a 1/2 size larger?
A full in-depth review will follow after each shoe has been tested for over at least 100-miles.
On August 30th 2016, Adam Campbell was attempting a big traverse that had never been completed in a single push before in Rogers Pass, BC. Adam was accompanied by two partners, Nick Elson and Dakota Jones. They were fairly early on in the journey, going up relatively moderate terrain (class 3/4). Adam followed Nick and Dakota up a route matching their steps and actions, Adam pulled on a rock that the previous two climbers had used. This giant rock came loose, broke and away and Adam fell. He tumbled backwards, summersaulting and rag dolling over 200 feet (70-80 meters) down a serious of ledges and sharp rocks.
Adam ended up breaking his back, several vertebrae, breaking his hip, breaking his ankle, damaging his wrists, shoulders and knees and had severe lacerations across my body. His helmet was shattered and has cracks across all of it, It still has blood and hair caked into it. Without it he would have suffered severe head trauma, instead, he just had stitches and a mild concussion.
Adam is alive, not paralyzed and is here to tell his story.
All images ©adamcampbell
Ian: Adam I’m pleased to say is on the road to recovery after a horrendous accident several months ago, and he’s here to talk to me about the incident and maybe about some lessons that we can all learn from spending time in the mountains. Adam, first of all, it’s a great pleasure for you to be here, and I put the emphasis on ‘here!’
Adam: Yes, that’s entirely true. And first of all thanks, it’s great to chat to you, it’s been a while. But I’m really, really lucky, I came very close to having a very different outcome which could have meant paralysis or very, very close to death as well, so I am very lucky to be here speaking to you in the literal sense.
Ian: Yes, absolutely. This is the sort of interview that I don’t want to do, but I’m pleased that you’re here for me to do it. There’s a slight irony in that but you know what I mean.
Adam: For sure, but at the same time, I think it’s important to have these conversations because there are lessons learned and I think after an accident, to a certain degree, I’m a bit of a survivor now and I think talking about it now, analysing it, is really important for my recovery and also hopefully help some other people avoid some of the things that I could have done differently perhaps to avoid ending up in the situation I did.
Ian: It was an awkward one for me because I didn’t know whether to reach out to you and ask you for an interview, because we know each other but that doesn’t really mean a lot in a situation like this because it can be a very fragile thing to talk about, and I sort of, was a little bit plus or minus in the way that I worded the email to you. I’m really pleased to say that you came back because you realize that there are lessons to be learnt for everybody. Let me go back a little bit because if I remember rightly I think the last time that we did an interview together was when you got hit by lightning at Hard Rock.
Adam: Yes, the Hard Rock incident was definitely the first major mountain incident that I had, that one luckily there was no lasting repercussions. Aaron who I was with at the time, he was my pacer at Hard Rock, he came out and visited me in hospital a couple of months ago and I saw him at the weekend. We’re still, really, really good friends and that incident was a little bit different than this one because the outcome was fine, so maybe I don’t analyse it as much, because I walked away from it.
Ian: I think there was an element of, although many of us realized the seriousness of the incident, there was a real comedy element to it and I don’t wish to undermine what happened but it almost became folklore, “Oh, Adam Campbell got hit by lightning”, and of course when Hard Rock came around this year everybody was commenting, “I wonder who’ll get hit by lightning?”, or, “I wonder if there’ll be that sort of incident.” It’s good to see humour in things, but also we do need to be aware of the real life dangers, and we’ll come onto real life dangers but I just wonder, before we talk in depth about your incident, before you went to the mountains on this trip, and I know that you’ve always respected the mountains and the environment but do you think in hindsight you respected them enough?
Adam: Yes, I’d say I would because I have a few friends who had some very, very serious accidents in the mountains and they include losing their life in there, so I think I do have a real respect for it, but I think sometimes you understand the power of the mountain, and the unpredictable nature of them, but I think you understand that in an intellectual level but until you actually experience it in a real tangible way, I’m not sure if the lessons strike quite as deeply, if that makes sense.
I’ve done quite a lot of avalanche courses and, you spend a lot of time talking about these things and reading up on internet sites. If you’re just reading about them and analysing them from a distance they don’t strike you in quite the same way, I don’t think. Although, I’d say, I respected them on a theoretical level, there’s times I’ve been scared up there because you do understand the risk. I think it’s when you’ve actually seen the powers and unpredictable nature of mountains, it’s very hard to fully, fully respect them.
Ian: That makes sense, complete sense. Let’s first of all just provide a little bit of perspective but I think it’s good to just give a little summary. You were going climbing with Nick Elson and Dakota Jones, and you were going to… well, you were on a single push before Rogers Pass in British Columbia. Just give us an insight into what type of climbing terrain this is. What was the purpose of the day out?
Adam: We were tackling something call the Horseshoe Traverse, which in essence, you’re covering 14 different peaks in Rogers Pass. Rogers Pass is a really beautiful area in Canada and it’s basically the birthplace of mountaineering in Canada, so it’s got a lot of history to it, although Canadian history is not nearly as old as it is in a lot of other places, it’s still a very wild and rugged place with very few people that actually visit it, despite it being somewhat touristy. The specific terrain that we are moving over though is 4th to 5th class terrain, so nothing extremely wild, so we were looking to solo everything.
We did have a couple of ropes with us if we had to repel off some of the backside of mountains as we were down coming, or if the conditions changes drastically on us, but we were looking to solo everything. There was nothing in there that was really at our limit, it was something that was well within our capability of doing. Nobody had done this traverse in a single push before, previous parties had done it, but only a handful of people had done it, and it had taken three or four days, so maybe our initial arrogance was looking to do it in a day but looking at the terrain and the distance and the vertical gain, we figured it was possible to do it in under 24 hours but it was going to be pretty close to that 24-hour mark.
It does involve glacier crossings and some rather complex terrain which slows you down quite a bit.
Ian: To give perspective to this, bearing in mind my audience are runners not climbers, but admittedly heavily influence by Skyrunning and by the adventures of runners like Kilian Jornet, where running ventures into this new area, this sport, that is called Alpine Running. Where does what you were doing fit into this? Was it a run with some climbing, or was it very much climbing with some running?
Adam: It was very much climbing with some running. It was more of a mountaineering outing than anything else.
Ian: Okay, so from a perspective of our audience, you needed to be a competent climber, rather than a competent runner.
Adam: Yes, absolutely yes. There’s a trail that approaches the first peak, and there’s a trail that get you home at the end, so in the 24 hours, or however long it’s going to take us, we probably would have been on trail for all of half an hour.
Ian: Right, okay, okay.
Adam: Very much climbing yes, and I’m not sure how much the audience know about Nick Elson, for instance, but Nick Elson is an incredibly competent mountaineer. He just broke the long-standing Teton Grand Traverse record, which is owned by Rolando Garibotti which is the best known alpinists in Patagonia, and he’s not very, very well-known outside of North America but I would argue that he’s probably the best person in North America at the moment, he’s light and fast, mountain objectives.
He’s incredibly fast, he beat Mike Foote at the Squamish 50 last year by quite a bit which instantly means you’re a very, very competent runner. He finished second at the mountain marathon in Alaska, basically going the same time as Kilian went last year on that course so to give you an idea of his competence level, and he’s also an assistant rock guide, and is a very, very good rock climber. He’s done a lot of things in the coast mountains, he just doesn’t advertise himself at all. Obviously, Dakota needs to introduction with his resume for the audience here.
Ian: Adam if you can be objective on this is, how much does your experience and Dakota’s experience in the mountains as mountaineers compare to say, somebody like Nick or Kilian? I’m just trying to draw a parallel, so the audience can understand your abilities.
Adam: Yes, I know for sure. Dakota, I believe has climbed for quite a long time since he was a teenager. Where he lives in Colorado, very mountainous type of terrain. I think he’s got quite a good history of mountaineering. I did mountaineering for probably the last five years at a pretty decent level, but not Nick and Dakota’s level – they have been doing it their whole lives. I have been moving more and more towards doing these mountain objectives. I was fortunate this summer to get out quite a bit with some of the top guys in the world really. Will Gadd for example, who is one of the best ice climbers in the world. I’ve had some really, really good mentors. Definitely, I would say of the party of three, I was the weak link for sure.
Ian: In terms of what you were doing here, obviously, it was challenging and that’s part of the reason why you’re doing it, and that’s part of the attraction. But in advance of going into it I’m sure the three of you sat down, talked about it. Talked about the speed that you needed to go. Talked about the ability level. Talked about where the difficult sections would be. Did you feel calm, controlled, and relaxed by what lay ahead?
Adam: Absolutely, yes. There’s no single part of it that was outside of our comfort zone. I’ve done several parts of the route myself in individual blocks. I just never linked them together before. I proposed the route to Nick Elson originally. Nick was super keen on it, because he enjoys doing these sorts of big pushes. It’s a challenge. No single part of it is difficult. It’s just linking it all together and try do it fast is where you can add complexity that way. Dakota just happened to be around that weekend, he was spending some time at the Canadian Rockies. When we found that out, we invited him along and he was super keen to come.
Ian: You mentioned earlier about faster and light. Obviously, what you were doing here was going to be a fast and light exercise, because if you’re going to cover that amount of ground, that amount of climbing, you can’t be pulled down and dragged down by lots of equipment. You need to be moving at a pace that will allow you to cover the distance within the safe time. How do you decide how light to go on something like this? What does light look like to the audience?
Adam: We are fortunate that we have some of the top end gear, and top end gear often can be really light. We looked at the route and what the objective dangers are, and what the terrain is like. It’s fortunate that we have got guide books for these things, so you can read what the guide books say. I know a lot of people who live in that area, so I could get some information from them. I’ve actually had some other friends who’ve attempted this traverse before and so we can get some route data from them. I also had done sections of it earlier this year, so I had some first-hand information as well. It gives you a sense of what you need.
From there, we met up in the camp grounds the night before the race. Sorry, not the race… the effort. We just put our gear out and had a look. What we had was crampons – a really lightweight aluminium crampon which just attach on our running shoes for the glacier crossings. We had two sections of 30-meter rope. Our rope was more like a rappel cord. It’s just six millimetres, really lightweight. I was using the Petzl glacier rope. We split that up between two runners. We had a few pieces of gear with us, so just a couple of knots in hand.
In case we had to build a belay anchor or a rappel anchor from, and then we had a couple of slings as well so that we get through over rocks the same thing if we had to do an emergency escape. I also had a small emergency bivy sack with me, which is basically like this baseline kit, but it’s an inflated baseline kit. We each had lamps because of how long we’d be out, and then a light windbreaker, a down jacket because Canadian Rockies can get cold especially at the summit and the weather can roll through. A set of gloves. I don’t think any of us had pants with us, like long pants. But basically from there is more or less what you’d be required to use like UTMB.
We had a little bit of water, a little bit of food, but really not that much. We had enough to stay comfortable while you’re moving, but it would’ve gone uncomfortable to stop moving for a night.
Ian: Yes, and this is the point that I was going to come on to is the great thing about fast and light, is light is great when you’re moving fast. It’s not so great when you’re not moving fast, and you’re going to be able to tell us about what not moving was like.
Adam: For sure. I think there’s a saying in mountaineering that light and fast means “cold, tired, and hungry.”
Ian: [laughs] Yes. I think there’s a real lesson to learn here, because fast and light has become a buzz word. The skyrunning film that came out was called fast and light. I think it’s important. I always try and do a job of making people aware of actually what fast and light means. For you top guys, when you’re moving fast, it’s not really an issue. The problem is that if you fall, if you twist an ankle, if something happens and the weather turns and then you’re stuck. This is when there is a real problem with this type of manoeuvring, but you’re going to be able to provide a perspective of that later on. Let’s cut to the chase.
Let’s talk about the incident… Basically, Nick and Dakota had moved through a section of rock and you were following. There’d been no issues as they moved through, but as you moved through and grabbed hold of a section that had been perfectly safe for the previous two, it moved and came lose, and basically…
…you take over and tell us what happened.
Adam: Yes. I just want to just take one quick set back. The one other part with the light and fast is you want to make sure that you have got the weather. We’re fortunate now with all the forecasting that we have. We made sure that we had a perfect weather window to do this attempt in. We made sure that we had at least 48-hours of good weather predicted, which sort of, adds in element of safety. That means that you can go light and fast, because the weather can change but at least that was one thing that we did account for.
You do have to plan very carefully, because as you say you have very little room for error if things do go wrong. Light and fast also means having just the right equipment for the terrain and route that you’re looking to do.
Ok, back to the incident now. We were probably three and a half hours into the run, and we’re moving up towards the fourth peek on the route. We’re moving in fourth class terrains with the big court side blocks of rock. The rock in that area is normally quite solid. All the rock in the Rockies is quite good, but the rock in Rogers Pass is normally very, very solid court side blocks.
Nick and Dakota were just ahead of me, and I was rushing a little bit to move quickly. Often, you’ll check the rock to make sure that everything is stable as you’re going, but if you’re moving quickly and you’re seeing other people go through a zone, I basically pulled on this block which is maybe the size of a small refrigerator. I felt the rock start to move, and I heard it crack. At that point I knew in some way what was going to happen. As a note, we were all wearing helmets as well, because when you’re scrambling like that with people above you, you need a helmet.
The rock just pulled out on me, and I tumbled backwards down a series of ledges about 200 feet, so 70 to 80 meters. I just basically bounced and rag doll down a series of ledges. I was conscious the whole time, which was quite scary. I still have pretty vivid flashbacks of that happening. I ended up face down. I actually remember slowing down at one point. I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I’m alive. I can’t believe I’m alive.” and then starting to fall again, and then I’m like, “Oh crap, I’m dead.” It was probably saltier language than that. I ended up face down at the base of the rock edge, and all I could see was this pool of blood underneath me. But I was like, “Oh my God I’m alive.” I rolled myself over onto my back and waited for Nick and Dakota to come down.
I can’t imagine what they were thinking right now. I’m sure they thought they were coming down to a body. But I was conscious the whole time, and yes, it was quite a horrible feeling. As I was laying there, I did a self-assessment, when I knew something was okay because I was able to push myself up onto my back, which in retrospect may not be the smartest thing to do, but you’re not really thinking that clearly at the time. I knew that I had broken my pelvis. I could feel it, and I knew I had broken my ankle, but I didn’t know what kind of internal damage I had, and I knew that there was a lot of blood around me.
Nick and Dakota came down, ran down probably within minutes of this happening. They just have to make their way down the same terrain, and when they got there, I had a locator beacon on me and reach beacon. I had it in my pack, and I also had a cell phone on me, and so I told them where the beacon was on my back pack, and they simply pressed the SOS button on that. We noticed the previous peak there was cellular service. Nick was able to run up to the previous peak with my cell phone, and was able to call Search and Rescue from there.
Dakota stayed with me and made sure I stayed calm. He took out my jacket and my emergency space blanket, and put that on me because I was starting to go in a bit of shock at this point and sort of going in and out of consciousness, and trying to stay with it, but at the same time knowing that I was in a lot of trouble. I knew that I needed help to come quickly because you never know what kind of internal damage is going on. Luckily, Search and Rescue were actually doing a training mission in the area, so within half an hour, a rescue helicopter flown by and had located us.
But then they had to fly back in to Revelstoke to go get a pilot who can longline people in, because not all pilots can longline rescuers in. They had to fly back to town which is 80 Kilometres away, get the new pilot, fly back, set the staging area. They did another flyby to assess where we were. Luckily the terrain that we were in wasn’t so technical that they could longline a rescuer in.
I remember lying there, watching this helicopter, at the base of the glacier, as they were prepping, and I just lay there, staring at the rotor of the plane just there at the helicopter hoping to see it move because I remember they were going to come and get me. Because of where the wind blows off the glacier, they had to do two flybys, to drop the rescuers off, and then from there, they package you, or they bundle you, make sure that your spine is stable, so they put you on a spinal board. Then they flew me out, and then they flew Nick and Dakota home afterwards.
I was flown to this, it’s like a visitor centre in Rogers Pass, and from there, there was an ambulance crew waiting for me, and they worked on me for over an hour stabilizing me, and making sure that my vitals were in place before getting me in a helicopter and flying me an hour to the main hospital, to the trauma centre, where I was able to get into surgery that night, which is quite lucky.
Ian: Wow, you’ve sort of described that with such clarity. I need to clarify here that this is only eight or nine weeks ago. It’s almost giving me goose bumps just listening to you describe it, because I’ve got the images that go with it even though I wasn’t there. It’s quite traumatic to listen to. Do you feel in a way a little bit separated from it, although, you’re fully aware of everything that went on, and your body showing the impact of what went on. But do you feel as almost an out of body experience, because you’re describing it as though you’re looking on?
Adam: Yes, I know, for sure. It definitely was. I think because if you’re going in and out of consciousness at the time, it’s mostly just the shock and blood loss. Yes, perhaps there was a little bit of out of body experience going on for sure. But at the time I was very aware of what was going on, and I was trying to stay calm the whole time, again, you know how important it is to stay calm in those situations. I think Nick and Dakota were incredible. I really couldn’t have had two better people because neither of them panicked, which is the last thing that you want in those situations. Dakota just stayed there, holding my hand, sort of stroking me or just doing whatever I needed to just to get some comfort.
I believe that when I was lying there, if I would move a little bit, I would scream on pain. But I don’t really remember that so vividly, what I do remember is the feeling of falling and this feeling of the rocks breaking against, or just say I get these flashbacks and the sound of the sound of the rocks cracking. I have a really, really vivid image of as I was stumbling, because I was stumbling backwards, like seeing the mountain range turned upside down, and thinking how strange it was to see this range upside down. Just how horrific that was.
I do remember at one-point thinking, “I’m dead, this is it. I’m gone.” But at the same time just accepting that, that was my reality. Which sounds maybe kind of morbid, but that was like I’m dead, this is it.
Ian: I guess at that point when you’re falling, we’ve all been there to really varying extents. Even if it’s just tripping over a curb on the way to the shops. You certainly go in slow motion, don’t you? You see the fall coming, you see the pavement or whatever it is getting closer, and that instantaneous thing just seems to become handfuls of seconds rather than the fraction of second that it actually is, and you do get that opportunity to sort of say “Oh, this is going to hurt.” Or in your case, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.”
The reality of when you got to hospital was, you ended up breaking your back, you had several vertebrae broke, you broke your hip, you broke your ankle, you damaged your wrists, shoulders and knees, you had lacerations all over your body, and you went on to say that had you not been wearing a helmet, then you probably would’ve been toast, you probably wouldn’t have been here because of head trauma.
It is amazing that it is only eight or nine weeks ago because I think myself, and so many other people when we heard of this, well, the instant thoughts were, will you walk again? I’m sure that must have been going through your mind.
Adam: Hell, absolutely. I completely did. I remember being in hospital waiting to go into surgery and wondering this. It’s quite terrifying going into surgery even though, I knew I was around very confident doctors and surgeons. It’s a scary feeling not knowing what’s going to happen to me when I got out of there. Originally they told me I have punctured a lung as well, which didn’t turn out to be true. But yes, you just don’t know what is going to happen.
My girlfriend is a doctor and she’s from the town where I was flown to, and so her mother was actually the first person to come see me in hospital. She’s called Laura, so Laura who was working in Calgary at the time, got on a flight straight out there and she actually was able to run up to me right before I went to surgery, which is quite moving to have that. When I came out of surgery my mom had flown out as well.
You’re just lying there, in quite a lot of pain and also in this really heavily drugged state because the ambulance people put me on Ketamine, which is quite a powerful narcotic.
I remember the feeling of being in a helicopter and sort of this strange drugged state and this tremendous amount of pain, and then waking up in the hospital corridors being told I was going into surgery, people asking me all these questions, you don’t really know if you can answer. It’s just, it’s so like so much sensory overload really at that point. Yes, not knowing what was going to happen to me for the rest of my life, and then not knowing… Yes, it’s quite powerful.
Ian: Yes. You had eight hours of surgery, you had pins put in your body and then unfortunately some complications arose after the operation with your digestive system basically shutting down and you had to have ongoing treatment for bowel problems, etc. That lasted 10 days and you said in your email that this was almost one of the worst bits because your body started deteriorating, you started to lose muscle mass.
Adam: I broke my T8 to T11. That’s fine so they put pins in there, I broke my iliac crest, so the top of my hipbone sheared right off and then as they said that I had open lacerations which are actually the biggest concern to them because of infection. There’s rock fall in there, but it was down to the bone across all my hip. Which is pretty horrible and the other parts of me were sore but they weren’t as critical.
The one thing that I found after the fact, there is actually two anaesthesiologists who were working at the hospital and one of them thought that all they would work on is my hip to start and then they would come back and do my spine at a later date because it wasn’t critical. The second anaesthesiologist was like no, this person is young and healthy so we’re just going to do both now, he can handle eight hours of surgery.
Because otherwise I would have sat there in the hospital with a broken back for several days until they got back to operate on it and I understand that dilemma is a doctor because you know this is an emergency trauma centre and they likely have somebody else come in and so how much time and resources to put into helping one person. I’m really fortunate. I found out that after the fact is as always, angels are around the hospital looking out for you and giving you all this special care, so in a lot of ways I got lucky like that. I ended up having, it’s called a “stomach ileus” which means your stomach shuts down.
That was just horrific, horrific pain. I had never experienced anything like that. The rest of me was pinned, so it was more or less stable at that point. But all my haemoglobin dropped in my body and so they also swelled up to probably like three times my normal size because your body is not able to process in the fluid. I was just sitting in this hospital room and the person across the hall from me he’d been hit by a semi-truck. The other person right beside me had been in a helicopter crash.
Ian: Oh Jeez.
Adam: – Yep, we were pretty messed up.
Ian: Sounds like a hospital ward for Vietnam or something.
Adam: Yes, it certainly is. I mean, the trauma centres really are something else.
Adam: I end up going almost 10 days without eating any food and I lost a ton of muscle mass during that time and just really had to feed in a huge way. But the same time I had swelled up quite bad, this is a bit of a funny state because I was like jello but I was losing my body. I was just cannibalizing through the whole process which is pretty wild. Then I was finally allowed to start eating it made me violently ill after 10-days because I ate too much right off the bat, so I ended up having to reintroduce food very slowly back into my system.
Ian: At what point did they allow you to leave the hospital and go home?
Adam: I left the hospital two weeks later but ended up staying for a few days in this town Kamloops for a couple of days then. It was quite amazing actually. The one thing I need to say is, despite this being a horrific accident, my family is spread out around the world, my father lives in Nigeria, my brother lives in Thailand and they flew out to come see me. My mother and my father are estranged like they haven’t really spoken much in the last 10 to 15 years. Because of that they were brought together, by the end of the trip they were going out for dinners together and talking and were hugging. That was very powerful and my girlfriend and I were able to connect in this like incredibly special way.
It’s quite incredible how trauma and tragedy can actually bring people very close together. I also have a lot of my friends from Vancouver who drove six hours to come see me. Which was also incredibly special to have these people come. Even my boss from work, happened to be in Kamloops, he came and saw me in the hospital. You have this really strong community of people around you which was really, really help get the recovery process.
Ian: It’s so good to be able to see those positives out of something that is potentially so negative. You have mentioned in other places about how that process has been, something that you’ve been able to look on. It’s something that you can be really thankful for, there’s a real positive to come out of something so bad. Also, it’s made you made you face maybe your position within the world and within your life and look at your own vulnerabilities?
Adam: Absolutely. It also just made me question a lot of other my approach to things because as athletes we can also all be very selfish with our time and maybe not spend an extra bit of time calling family here. Just some day to day life, you kind of pretend you get too busy to do it. But it’s not, it’s just a bit of an excuse and you realize how important family is in those circumstances and even friends too. But how you just taking a few extra seconds to call somebody can make a really, really big difference in their life. What really struck home for me is, one of the person who was hit by a truck beside me, the entire time I was there never had a single visitor.
I just couldn’t imagine how lonely that would be and how terrified I would have been if I didn’t have that love and support around me. It really, really adds to the healing process.
Adam: For sure
Ian: Well I mean, we’re speaking now, as I said it’s 8 or 9 weeks after the incident and you know, I’m happily, happily, say I’m amazed at the speed of your recovery and I know when I say recovery it’s an ongoing process but you’ve said or your doctors have said that they believe that your recovery will be a complete one. Is that still the situation Adam? Does it look as though everything is going to be really, really good?
Adam: Yes. It does. It seems to be. I mean, yesterday I went ski trailing for the first time which I can’t believe… I already been back up the mountain. My girlfriend and I went out and did a few laps up in the Rockies and we had some deep powder smell which is incredible. Obviously, my ankle still gives me a lot of grief, I have a lot of soft tissue damage in there and still have some bone fragments there, my hip is incredibly tight, like I’ve got a lot of limited range of motion and if I do too much in a day my body does let me know but I was water running within a two and a half weeks…
Ian: No way.
Adam: Yes. By water running I was like moving slowly in the water but it was slowly starting to come back and just doing anything to get my range in motion back. Doing yoga, doing some strength training and like, physio multiple times a week. The one thing I’m really lucky at is my work has been really understanding and I haven’t had any real pressure to come back to work. I am going back eventually, I’m doing a little bit of work for them but I’ve had the opportunity to really just put all my energy into recovering and into a physio, which I think in those first few months really is critical to your long-term recovery.
Adam: I saw my surgeons on the weekend, they gave the green light to start skiing and climbing and going for hikes. I can’t run yet because my ankle still super wonky and my hip is still a little too sore but once those settle down I hope to be able to start jogging again a little bit. Within the next maybe month or so. Which will be amazing and I never would have expected any of this happened so quickly.
Ian: Talk me through this mind process, because I’m fascinated by this. It’s traumatic incident and yes, you’re super thankful that you’re here and you’re alive and so, therefore, you’re going to embrace life. Of course, you are. But that first time that you maybe go for that longer walk or that first time you strap on the skis or that first time you look at the rock face. There’s going to be all sorts of stuff going through your head.
Are you just going to be stubborn and respect that the mountain as you’ve always done but think to yourself no life goes on or is there a real element of inner fear that you’re shielding from me and maybe everybody else but really, it’s there?
Adam: No, of course, there’s a lot of different fears. One, there’s fear to what my ultimate movements going to be like, I don’t know if I am ever going to feel fluid on a run again. Am I ever going to feel smooth and fast? There is fear that… the one thing that really strikes home is that when you have these accidents it doesn’t just impact you it impacts a lot of other people; will I be stressing them too much if I do decide to go climbing again. I don’t know what my comfort level is going to be at. The first time I get to anything with a little bit of exposure, how am I going to feel? Am I going to panic and not want to be there? I don’t know those things yet.
Back to your first question, yes. I remember the first time I had left the hospital, although I was still admitted, stepping aside and feeling the cold breeze rush across my body, I started crying because it felt so good to finally be back outside just feeling the cold wind on my skin. The first few steps I took, I remember the first time I walked, I walked about 10 meters and then the next time, and this was all in hospital with a walker, and then the next time it was 50 meters and then it was can I walk and do a lap of the ward? Then can I do two laps of the ward? Until you set these small little process goals for yourself and you break it down to little chunks and you’re just happy with any little victory you get.
Obviously, there’s going to be setbacks. When I first came back, I was walking a little bit and then the doctors thought that I might have another injury in my foot which basically means, more or less the metatarsal of your foot might be broken and that this can be very, very serious with long-term repercussions. I was told I had to be non-weight-bearing again. All of a sudden I’d gone from walking two kilometres to being back in a wheelchair and mentally struggling with that quite a bit but you also just have to accept the process of what comes. You can’t set too many expectations.
I’ve not once put expectations on myself as to what my recovery should be or what it should look like because it’s very individual and the doctors don’t know. It’s a best guess on their effort based on past experiences but my body’s different from other people. My mind is different. At the same time, also, I just didn’t want the pressure of saying, “I have to be able to run a 5K by January,” and not do it and be disappointed. There’s no purpose in my recovery process. It’s very day-to-day. Some days I wake up and I feel quite good and loose and other days I wake up and I feel like I’m getting hit by a truck because I did too much the previous day or I slept funny the night before, I had a beer too many the night before.
Ian: Enjoy those beers.
Adam: Yes, for sure.
Ian: Obviously, the last nine weeks have given you a real opportunity to look at so many different things but I guess one of the things that you really look back at and analyse was that day or what was going to be a day in the mountains. I’m sure you’ve gone over everything and analysed what you were doing and maybe tried to reassure yourself that what you were doing was correct. What’s the outcome been of that looking back? Are you happy and content that you three guys did all the right things?
Adam: No, definitely not because something happened. I did something wrong. I don’t really believe that bad luck necessarily happens in the mountains. One, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous environment so you’ve obviously taken luck out of the equation in that sense. Something that I probably did wrong at the time was, when we were rushing, we’re going fast, but there’s a difference between moving fast and efficiently and rushing and because Nick and Dakota were ahead of me, I was probably rushing a little bit. Just because they went through somewhere safely doesn’t mean you get to. In retrospect, I probably should’ve tested the rock first, that I pulled on.
The other thing, too, is when you’re moving through that terrain unroped, you don’t really want to be pulling on blocks. You more want to be pushing down on things because if you’re pushing down on things, they’re not going to move. If you’re pulling up, when you’re rock-climbing, roped up, you’re pulling on holds and things. If you are secured to the wall, it’s less likely to be risky.
That’s probably the biggest thing. Don’t rush. The way that you move in the terrain can be very, very significant so I was probably using incorrect technique in that kind of, blocky terrain, but in terms of what we did with the rescue itself, that can have a slight element of luck in that, we had cell service but we also had just enough equipment to keep me comfortable. Like having the emergency space blanket was incredible, having a light down jacket to put on made a huge difference, having the right partners. That can really come into it. If either one of them had panicked, I probably would’ve panicked a little bit as well but going to the mountain with people that you really, really trust and have the experience, Nick and Dakota have a lot of experience, so I was lucky to have those two guys with me.
Ian: I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations with Nick and Dakota. What impact has this accident had on them? I did see Dakota very quickly after this incident because he came over to the ‘Rut’ but it wasn’t appropriate to have a chat with him about this incident because he was racing and I didn’t want to affect his thought process, his mind, but I’m sure that both he and Nick have been really shook up by this. Dakota wrote an article on iRunFar and I quote a section, “I don’t think I was scarred from Adam’s accident. Not like him certainly, and not very badly in an emotional way either. But that accident really drove home the seriousness of what a lot of us do on a regular basis, often without considering the possibilities. In that event I was given a very visceral demonstration of what can happen in the mountains. A single misstep, a tiny poor judgement, or simply bad luck, and all of a sudden you’re in a crumpled, bloody heap with the dust of rockfall settling around you. It’s very real, and it’s scary.” article link here
Adam: Definitely. I think they both understand that it’s dangerous moving in that terrain. I’ve had regular contact with Nick and Dakota. They’ve both gone back into the mountain since then and they’ve both gone climbing since then. I don’t see how this doesn’t have impact you in some way. Dakota just went and did a rope safety course for mountain rescue so clearly he was impacted, realizing either it was the limitations of what his knowledge base was or he just, I’m just saying that, the more skills that you have to help, the more likely you are to be able to help in the situation.
Having that wilderness first aid course or any kind of first aid course, just when you’re going out and doing these big objectives is a valuable thing to have. Nick had a bit more experience because he’s done The Apprentice Rock Guide, you’re trained to be an alpine guide at that point. That comes with quite a lot of mountain rescue training and theoretical knowledge but the difference between that and seeing one of your friends actively falling down the side of a mountain. It’d be very traumatic to watch that happen and to think that you’re coming up on a body. I think it would definitely make you think twice in a lot of situations or just reinforce how dangerous those environments can be.
Ian: I’m not going to ask the question of what the future holds because as you’ve said, there’s no point in setting a target for a 5K run. That will happen in its own due course and we just have to hope that all the stepping stones are in the right place. As you say every now and again, there’s going to be a step backwards but the direction is forwards and obviously, myself and the whole community wish you the very best with this Adam. I mean, it’s an amazing story and I’m just glad that you’re here to be able to tell it.
Adam: Yes, thanks so much for the interview and I hope a few people have picked up one or two little tips from this but I guess the biggest takeaway is mountains are dangerous. Going for any little trail run in the woods can be dangerous. We have the ability to move very, very fast as runners into the wilderness and we’re often alone all It only takes is a broken ankle by stepping on the wrong thing then all of a sudden you have a very, very horrible walk home. Especially when you’re going for trail runs. It’s one thing to be lightning fast but make sure that you have just enough gear to survive and bring you home because those things can make a difference. Look at Dave Mackey, for instance…
Ian: I was going to come on to Dave.
Adam: He was going out for an evening run and his life changed on that evening run and in a very, very profound way. He got unlucky in the way that his injury happened. I’d been lucky in that the bones that I’d broke are ones that are basically non-weight-bearing. If I’d fallen a centimetre in a different direction, my outcome could’ve been very different and I’m aware that, there’s not anything that I did special. Knowing it’s in the way that I fell, I broke my back but I didn’t damage my spine in a serious way. I did to a certain degree because I still had some tingling in my feet and hands and things but that should, in theory, go away over time.
These things can happen when you’re outside in the mountains or even just heading out in the woods. An ounce of prevention, an ounce of caution is always a smart thing for sure, really having as emergency blanket with you, having a little bivy sack, having a cell phone, having a light jacket. Even in the middle of summer, if you could go into shock, having a jacket on can save your life. These things, they’re so light these days that we’re able to carry a lot of stuff with us.
Ian: These days, there is no real reason not to carry some of this stuff because it is so light, and as you say, we’ve got all the technology, it’s never been easier to carry this stuff. We have all these amazing packs that fit our body, we have down jackets that way grams, we have windproof, waterproofs, we’ve got spot trackers, in-reach trackers, mobile phones. The technology is really, really there.
Adam: I received thousands and thousands of messages, I actually received so many messages that I had to stop going on social media because I just needed to take a big step back from it all, and just focus on myself, and recover for a bit. It was incredibly empowering, and you I just felt the love from everybody, but at the same time, to open your email and just have thousands of messages every time from people is a little overwhelming at that point what with everything I had going on. But it shows you incredible level of support that we have in our little community of people here, which is so touching.
The other thing, in the last two months I’ve actually had two friends or acquaintances die in mountain accidents, and that also really, really struck home, it shows how vulnerable we are. One of them was skiing and the other person was climbing in the Himalayas. It was just very, very touching, and I actually went to one of the funerals and being there and hearing the stories of everybody around this person was very moving. When you know somebody in one context in their life, for example, I knew this girl in a climbing sense, but then you forget just how much depth people have to their life, and how rich they are.
It was a real reminder that everybody has an incredible story, and it’s worth taking time to get to know people because you never know what you can find out from them. There’s always so much complexity to people.
“Over the past few months this amazing woman has been my rock, she has shown me that true beauty, love and joy can be found in even the most trying of circumstances. That spirit defines her.
She was by my side from the moment I went into surgery and has been there every step from there on forward.
In that time we have laughed, cried, struggled and shared the most incredible journey together, a journey that keeps on getting better and better.
She is the most incredible partner. She is loving, caring, compassionate, adventurous, athletic, curious, smart, passionate, fun and incredibly beautiful and, soon enough, I am proud to announce that I will get to call her my wife. Last week she said “yes” and agreed to share her life with me.
We are beyond thrilled and I am so incredibly lucky, she makes me better in every way.” – Adam Campbell
My recent trip to Nepal for the 2016 Everest Trail Race provided an opportunity for me to try out some new kit items. I do plan to write a full article on the kit I used and provide an overview for those who plan to either run a similar multi-day race or maybe go trekking.
One thing that is key for any multi-day journey, trekking or racing is weight and functionality. You really do have to be brutal with your choices. Luxuries, in general, are a no, no as they just add weight.
Nepal in November provides some real contrasts which can really test kit choices. Days are sunny, warm (at times hot) and shorts and a t-shirt work great. However, as soon as the sun disappears, the temperatures drop dramatically. Depending on what altitude you are at and how exposed you are, those temperatures will continue to drop and exposed locations will drop well below -10.
I am all for layering my clothing and to provide some perspective, here is my kit list for the duration of the Everest Trail Race.
You will see from the above, I was keeping things light and functional. 3.2kg of apparel for 7-days and that included my sleeping bag. In addition to the above apparel and sleeping bag I had an Aarn pack, Aarn front photo pockets, 2 x Canon 5D cameras and 3 lenses: 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200. The camera equipment weighs a great deal. More on that in my next post when I summarise all the above kit.
One piece of kit was a stand out though. The inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ top.
Merino wool for me is essential as a base layer when working in cold climates. I make sure I have long leggings, socks, gloves and top all made from Merino.
- Less odour
- Quick drying
- Warmth when wet
So, when I first looked at the inov-8 product I was really impressed as it offered some key features that I had not seen on other Merino products:
- Thumb loops
- Hand mitts
The downside being that as a base layer top, it was a little heavier than the competition. However, the competition didn’t have the ‘extras’ that made the inov-8 attractive. To cut a long story short, I decided to go with the additional weight and put the product through its paces in Nepal.
If I wanted to be truly lightweight and despite the odourless qualities of Merino, potentially a little smelly, I could have gone with just one base layer. I didn’t! I took two tops. I had a simple reasoning and logic for this. I would wear one during the day and the other at night.
Unlike other products that are available, the inov-8 is not a form fitting product. Thank goodness! I hate feeling squeezed into my clothing. The AT/C MERINO LSZ is loose and not baggy and provides a snug and reassuringly comfortable warmth. The real selling points of this product are:
Hood – The hood adds great warmth, fits snuggly and if you zip up the 1/2 zip to the top you are left with a really warm base layer that works exceptionally well in the early morning before the sun rises. At the end of the day after the sun disappears and at night when inside a sleeping bag and you want additional warmth and the options to stop drafts going down your neck.
Hand Mitts – The cuff of the sleeve has a thumb hole as seen on many base layer products and what this provides is almost a half glove with no fingers. However, inov-8 have added an extra layer of fabric and by folding this back and over the fingers, it provides a simple hand mitt. Again this worked exceptionally well for early morning or late evening chills or when sleeping to keep extremities warm.
At the end of the day, the inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ is a base layer, there isn’t a great deal to write. However, this product impressed so much I was keen to give the product a nod. The addition of Superfine 18.5 micron Australian Merino wool delivers fantastic next-to-skin feel and fit, the hood and 1/2 zip is a great feature and the hand mitts is the type of simple innovation that I love.
This product is a winner.
As we are entering into the cold, dark, inclement months, an inov-8 AT/C MERINO LSZ would make a great addition to any kit list.
Product information at inov-8 HERE
Earlier this year, off the back of a stunning run at Lake Sonoma, Jim Walmsley said he was going to go to Western States, his first 100, and not only win it but potentially set a new course record. It was quite the statement and of course it turned heads. What followed was one of those golden days on the trail when Jim looked to float over the course. With every step he creeped under the old Western States course record. A new record looked almost certain until disaster struck…
I caught up with Jim just a week after the 2016 Western States and delved into his mind about maybe one of the most memorable runs of the year.
IAN: I’m joined by Jim Walmsley after an incredible, memorable, inspiring, heart-wrenching, everything Western States. How do you feel Jim? Do you feel good?
Jim Walmsley: Right now? or during the race?
IAN: No, now that you’ve had an opportunity to recover.
Jim Walmsley: Now is going good. I started shuffling again. I called just my shuffle recovery. It’s what I try doing until my legs start coming back to me a little bit, I have started that process things are good. Yes.
IAN: Yes. Okay, before Western States, a lot of people particularly over in Europe and in the UK won’t have really known who you are. You were definitely a dark horse. People in the sport like myself who look at names and follow trends were looking at you. In all honesty some of the claims that you made prior to Western States, were very bold.
I love it when somebody comes into a race and they say, “You know what, I’m going to go hard, I’m going to go for the course record and that’s it.” And deep down you think brilliant, absolutely brilliant I hope he does it. But the reality is, he’s possibly going to crash and burn. Up until about 92 miles it looked like you were just going to make probably one of the most memorable Western States ever. First of all, what gave you the confidence to be so bold with your predictions?
Jim Walmsley: First and foremost, it was my training; it had been going so well. I did a big 50-mile race in April and I ended up getting a course record at Lake Sonoma 50 mile. A lot of big guys have run that in the past. Basically, I felt like I’d only built off of that. As far as confidence wise I knew I was more fit than I ever have been at least in my ultra-career.
I could feel in my training runs that faster paces were feeling more comfortable. I thought I would surrounded myself with a good team to go on a Western States and go knock that out. I guess the other thing with it being my first hundred, it’s one of those things that everybody has got to make that jump from whether it be 50 mile or 100K up to a 100-mile distance. That’s the next benchmark of distance up. I mean, everybody’s got to do it, some people do great with it, some people don’t but I think my journey had been ready to make that jump.
IAN: If we look back at your results and really from my perspective looking at your results they only really go back one year. Back to say May 2015 where you ran Don’t Fence Me In Trail 30K, and then you did Speedgoat, and then you won JFK, 3rd at Moab, 5th at Lake Sonoma, 1st at Black Out Night Run 13K, then Flagstaff Extreme Pine.
There’s a whole list of other races but for me when I was looking at the race there was a couple of significant results. JFK 50 miler you won that in 2014, 2015 Bandera 100K and then of course that Lake Sonoma run in April. You look and you think, “Wow. This guy is fast.” But like you’ve just said, fast at 50 miles and then coming to the 100-mile distance is a big difference. How did you prepare yourself physically for the unknown?
Jim Walmsley: I start knocking out the most miles I’ve ever tried before Lake Sonoma, I did my first 140 mile weeks not sure what that is in kilometres.
IAN: It’s a long way, 200+K.
Jim Walmsley: Okay. Yes. It’s 200K thereabout, and then from Lake Sonoma up to Western States my big training block ended up being back-to-back 140 mile weeks, followed by 120 and a 100, and then I went into my taper for two weeks. The first 120-mile week I did all in single runs. Probably the point where I knew I was feeling really good was when I was climbing and running really good at the Grand Canyon. I have a loop I do in Grand Canyon. I go down Bradenton it’s about seven to nine miles of mostly downhill and then you come back up South Kaibab, it’s about a seven mile up hill and then you finish on a four-mile flat kind of finish so it’s about a 21-mile loop.
That went really well, but then the next day I did a big workout on or just by Pace in Arizona. That was 30 mile run with 8,000 feet of vert up and down. That was huge back-to-back days, even at the end of that week I still did a long run with a bunch of the marathoners in town. I think this one might have been the one that I ran with Andrew Lemoncello, he’s a Scottish guy that lives in Flagstaff. I think we came through in like 2:01 for 20 miles but we went out in the first half and maybe like 65 mins. We were really cooking on the second half, kind of finish that big long run that week end was super huge. That was one of the main things too is that long run in my training it has just became comfortable to start running those 20 miles in about 2 hours. Things were really clicking.
IAN: I mean 120, 140 mile weeks that is huge. How do you maximize your recovery from those types of training sessions? Is that something that you’ve built upon year-on-year or have you just suddenly pushed the envelope and find that you can adapt to it?
Jim Walmsley: In high school I ran 90 miles a week for the last two years, I was a big mileage kid when I was young. But then I look around even less than that in college. I had won 1500 oriented coach. It’s been the first time where I felt comfortable to try to add on more miles and experiment with that. The only main thing I really did to try to help out with recovery, I started trying to take just calories and proteins stuff right immediately after races. I just have a little recovery shake after a run. That’s all I really added in after Lake Sonoma for the most part it’s just kind of being a bit lucky of staying healthy because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
IAN: The recovery side of things seem to be working well. Is there anything else that you did in terms of nutrition? Anything that you’ve found out that works well for you or if you are just eating the normal healthy balanced diet?
Jim Walmsley: I mean, that is the only thing that I have changed recently. The other thing is I don’t eat meat but it’s not dietary reasons, it’s just a whole bunch of reasons of why I don’t necessarily want to support a lot of those bigger companies in the industry here in the US. I don’t eat meat for good and for bad but I don’t worry about making up that protein deficit. A lot of people think that I need to make it up somehow. I just eat whatever, I mean I do eat a lot! I eat a ton of junk food. I kind of joke that the amount of junk food I do eat and processed sugar actually gives me just a super rock solid stomach on race day. I’m taking a bunch of gels and a bunch of processed sugar on race day and I eat a lot of that pretty regularly. It almost helps me with having a more solid stomach on race day.
IAN: Okay, you’re very much booking the trends of the moment of low GI and low sugar and going paleo. You’re old school?
Jim Walmsley: Yes, I guess I am?
IAN: Okay, let’s talk about the race, Western States. You were very bold with your pre-race predictions and that puts a big target on your back. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this, but I think a lot of the favourites for the race, respected the fact that you said what you were going to do. You did sort of say that you would try and take it easy early on. That didn’t really seem to happen. Sage Canaday and David Laney and yourself were pushing right from the start. Did you feel comfortable with that?
Jim Walmsley: Yes. I did feel comfortable with it. I was probably 30 something place at the first climb. I was trying to just slow down, walk and almost even stop a lot on the first climb out of Squaw Valley, to try to basically get some of the other favourites to get rolling and kind of run their own race. I mean I could see them and they were looking back a lot.
It was just one of those things where I felt it was almost pointless to slow down more and more and more, because I was either going to run their race, or my game plan would be to try to go off a feel and start running some splits. Those splits that we initially had started with the course record splits. Can’t understand how those felt, if they felt easy, if they felt hard and kind of base things off the feel from that.
IAN: Yes. I mean, it’s unusual in ultra-running for somebody to come into a race with an idea of splits with a real intention of breaking the record. Course records tend to come because it just turns out to be one of those days, when everything clicks and everything aligns and then course records happen.
You’re almost bringing into this marathon running perspective we’re it’s easier and more consistent to run the minute mile pace, because the terrain is more uniform, more predictable, whereas here, Western States. You’ve got elevation, you’ve got trail, you’ve got heat, you’ve got so many variables, but yet you seem to be very well planned and very well controlled that’s quite unusual.
Jim Walmsley: Well, how I did it was… I’ve never ran a marathon, but it’s a little different than just splits. Between each aid station I had average pace that I needed to hit, for that section. It was very course dependent and terrain dependent. I figured things were at least close enough, when you’re going four mile splits.
If you’re going up a hill, it’s okay to lose some time on that. That’s how I based it off, then it kind of ended up being where I was just able to taking chunks and chunk off of those average splits that I already had.
IAN: Now, the other thing that you seem to be taking in your stride and I loved the retro shirt look…. The heat! You’d obviously come into this race acclimatized to the heat. Was that something that you’d really concentrated on?
Jim Walmsley: I’m originally from Phoenix Arizona. I live in Flagstaff, which is about two and a half miles north. I have lived in flagstaff for the last year. But before that, I lived in Colorado, California and Montana. A little cooler, but as far as heat, I know I can handle it. I know I can run really well in it. But the main question was whether I can handle running in the heat all day, during the middle of the day. WSER was going to be the first big test. Being from Phoenix there’s a lot of people that have their little tricks and tips to stay a little bit cooler on their arms. I kind of pick up on those, just kind of keeping your wrists cool, always staying wet. I wore a hat and sunglasses the whole time.
Jim Walmsley: I think both of those contribute to a perception that it’s a little cooler. I try to keep my shoulders covered with the crop top shirt I had, rather than going on with singlet with skinnier shoulder bands. The shirt in general was kind of it held water better, the holes helped ventilation and then, it also helped with sun protection. Yes. You’re just trying to find different elements of what’s making you hotter and trying to mitigate those, and then always staying wet. If you see a creek lie down in the creek, it’s worth that time.
IAN: Yes. You went out to WSER for a running camp, is that correct?
Jim Walmsley: Yes, it is.
IAN: Was that a double edged sword? Or it was an opportunity to be on a training camp, an opportunity to go and heat acclimatise and also to get some training in?
Jim Walmsley: It was really nice weather, as opposed to anything uncomfortable. I wasn’t getting out on the actual Western States trails. It was more run in the Tahoe Rim Trail and a couple trails more in the Flume trail and stuff, but I hadn’t really spent time like that out in Tahoe. It’s just this wonderful beautiful place that was really awesome to do for sure.
I really enjoyed working with John Fitzgerald and Stan Myers, now at the mountain post running camp. The initial debate was whether I go back to Flagstaff for two weeks and then come back, or whether I stay out there… I had a couple friends that were supposed to do the Broken Arrow race in between those two weeks, and they ended up both dropping out, or scratching and not doing it.
But, I had made plans to just stay out there and kind of stuck with trying to stay out there. After that, I think next year I would really like to stay in Flagstaff, stay where I can get some bigger climbing consistently, because I just know that all the different runs where I live. I can just really dial it in on what I want to focus on most.
IAN: Yes, I see the logic in being in Flagstaff and then it’s easy to go down to Phoenix. I guess.
Jim Walmsley: Yes. Phoenix or if you want to get in a big running day the Tetons. I like heat training in the canyon because it gets pretty high and then also it has a similar reflection of the heat down there off of the rocks. The rocks really release a lot of heat out of them and make it feel a lot hotter than what it might– the ambient temperature might be.
IAN: Yes. Let’s go back to the race. By the time you got to half way, you had around about 20 minutes under the course record. Everybody was getting super excited and of course it was that 50:50 scenario. Is this going to be the most incredible run? Or at any point is he going to blow up and it certainly didn’t look like you were going to blow up? You were keeping yourself cool, like you said you put in plenty of water on yourself. You were submerging yourself in the rivers and water whenever you possibly could. You did almost end up going for a bit of a long swim… Do you want to just touch on what happened there? I mean, that was what, mile 70 something?
Jim Walmsley: It was mile 78, 79. I heard that Rob Crow last year swam across and that was the fastest most efficient way to cross the river. I started holding on to the rope and paddling with one arm and then, before I knew it, I gave it a couple swim strokes to get across. And then, before I knew it like I looked the rope was right there on my left and then it was 7 to 8 feet away and I couldn’t reach it. It became basically me against the river. You have this life vest on which is great that keeps your float but at the same time, it’s a big old kite in the current and it really pulls you downstream.
I think actually Rob totally ran passed the life vest which might help swimming if he did swim. I’ll definitely keep my hand on the rope next year. I basically started to get swept downstream. Eventually, I had to try to basically figure out how I can get some floating on some rocks.
Then there was that boat that came out and they posted a video online. I guess that boat wasn’t part of the race at all. It was a spectator and they weren’t supposed to be down there. They had different separate safety boats that they weren’t worried about it in this situation. But at the same time, people’s reactions were dramatic at the time. But probably the biggest thing from that is the one bottle… I had two bottles when I got in the river and I filled one at the aid station on the bank before the river and that’s the one that ended up floating off down the river. I didn’t have any water going up from the river up to Green Gate which is only a 1.8 mile climb out but it’s really exposed in the sun and then it is a steep climb and just not having something to drink there, was a little rough and I just took my time… I think that’s the one split that I did lose I think a minute or two.
IAN: Yes. I was going to say, I think probably by the time you were in America River you had to run about 30, 32 minutes under the course record. By the time you got a Green Gate you’d probably given away about five or six minutes but I guess that was with the swim as well.
Jim Walmsley: Yes, part of us just maintaining composure. You just need to maintain composure and make sure that you don’t over exert if something like that does happen. It’s all just relaxing, take your time it’s not a big deal. I think at that point course record starts really playing more and more of a factor and almost working out where I have time.
IAN: Was your plan to have that big buffer of say 30 minutes or 20 minutes? Whatever it might have been so that you could slow down… because you anticipated slowing down, because one of the things that I always think of in these scenarios is you actually only need to beat the old record by one second. You don’t need 30 minutes. Where you just having an amazing day?
Jim Walmsley: No. I don’t think any of that was pre-planned at all. If you told me that I was going to be even 20 minutes up on the course record at any time. I think I would have had a laugh… that would be a pretty good day. I remember seeing my crew ready to the station and just going like I’m trying to slow down but I’m trying to run comfortable and this is just comfortable… I know I’m running too fast based on time and stuff but at the same time I feel like I’m running easy and I’m running comfortable. I was just trying to go with that.
IAN: I remember speaking to Ian Sharman when he had that amazing run on Rocky Racoon, Timmy Olson re Western States, Rob Krar re Western States, Kilian Jornet with this countless records. I’ve often said there is one day for every runner where everything aligns and it becomes the perfect run. Sharman has gone back to the Rocky Racoon and never found the same day and the same form that he had when he did that blistering 100-mile time. I just wonder for you, was this that day? Was this that time when everything was aligned apart from the 92-mile void of going off course? We’ll come into that. But do you think now looking back that it was just the most incredible day?
Jim Walmsley: It definitely was an incredible day. Whether I’m going to be able to replicate this next year or in the future, I’m not sure? I think I have to approach it as why shouldn’t I be able to? But that was one of the first things of reflecting on the race is just, I don’t know if I’ll ever have… because so many little things have to go right. In nutrition, your stomach there is so many just unknown valuables. I didn’t step and twist an ankle or anything. I don’t know if I will ever have as good of a chance as that to break the course record again.
At the same time, I was able to take away a lot of experience, a lot of tips from the course. I know I’m going to be planning to go out there probably for a week earlier in the year to very much scout the course and make sure I’m getting everything on detail right about what I want to do for 2017. I think I can meticulously attack it next year. It will be interesting. I don’t know about trying to get another half hour up on the record though…
IAN: [laughs] I mean, sometimes you can’t plan these things. I think the thing is you went into this race saying that you’re going for the course record. The fact that you got 30 minutes under the course record is significant and it shows that your form, shows your ability is there. You said sometimes you can’t account for certain things that happen on race day… so tell us about the disaster.
Tell us about going off course and I know obviously you didn’t realize that you’d gone off course, otherwise you’d have turned around pretty damn quickly. But what was the point where you realized, “Shit, I’ve gone the wrong way.” Then was it panic, distress? What happened?
Jim Walmsley: It was probably three and a half miles after Bar Aid station that I really had the sinking feeling that I missed the turn. I ended up probably going on another three-quarter of a mile to the actual highway because at that point I could see it. I could see a hill and I’m on such an obvious dirt road at the time. I was like maybe this section is just much less marked than most the other course but things started to not make sense and that sinking feeling started getting in my stomach. I think it started with missing this turn off – it’s this huge wide like 20 to 25-foot dirt road that two cars can totally pass on and then you go up this little tiny trail to the left. I was told it was about three miles past the aid station. In reality, I think it was about two and a quarter or two and a half. That’s about three to four minutes’ difference, probably closer to four minutes’ difference?
I just wasn’t looking for the left at that moment! I remember seeing three miles and going, “Crap, the turn should be right here”. Then after that I’m like, “All right. I haven’t seen a flag in a little while”. I thought, I’m going to give it another half mile and just look for flags. I wasn’t seeing any flags, at that point that was the three-and-a-half-mile mark of “oh crap, this might not be good”. But at the same time I was able to see were the road I was on connects with the high way that I’m supposed to get to. I was just like trust it, hopefully it works out, it might not, but hopefully it works out. I wasn’t able to convince myself to turn around yet. It’s a really hard thing to do when you’re having that day.
I think when I got to the road and I stop and I look down the road. There’s a bunch of cars parked on that road that you can see as you’re approaching it too. There’s a ton of cars up here maybe there is an aid station? But I think it’s a recreation area where a bunch of just random cars parked. Yes. It was when I really popped out on the road that I just had this demoralizing feeling of I had missed something. I wouldn’t tell you what the trail was marked when I went passed it, because obviously I didn’t see it. Initially, people were saying that flags might have gotten pulled, from what I’ve heard flags weren’t pulled. The 2nd and 3rd runner made the turn…?
Jim Walmsley: Both of them made the turn with the same flagging that was there… but I missed the turn. But at the same time I’ve also seen heard other things… some guy posted that he remarked it? He was running back to Brown Bar Aid Station. He saw Andrew Miller and he knew that it was going to be Andrew Miller’s day, sort of thing. It was one of those things that chronologically doesn’t make tons of sense. It was really odd; I just don’t know… All I can say is that I had my head down and was just trying to crank away. I think I was still running under nine minute miles at that point. I was moving really well. Yes, I can’t explain why I missed that turn necessarily other than; I don’t think I was looking for it yet.
IAN: When you back tracked and when back to the turn point you obviously would have seen the marking of the direction you should have gone. Was the marking good then when you managed to re-navigate yourself back?
Jim Walmsley: Yes. They re-flagged everything and they made it extremely obvious and well-marked by the time I got back there and saw it for the first time.
IAN: Right. Is that because they knew you had gone off-course?
Jim Walmsley: Yes. They just exaggerated the left hand turn a lot more because I ended up going of course. Basically, everyone else had it very, very, well marked by the time they hit that.
IAN: Right. By the time you got back to that point, how much time had you lost?
Jim Walmsley: I don’t know… probably one of my biggest regrets about it is I really felt the competitive side of me really quit when I came out on Highway 49. I wished I had more fire and hunger in me. I wish I had hit highway 49 and just turned around, and said, “I’m not letting this ruining my day”, I wish I had attacked it a lot more. The information I had at the time was that I was only 12 minutes up. I was only 15 minutes under course record. In reality I was still about 25 to 30 minutes up on the course record, almost a full hour ahead of second place. Hearing that now – that part really sucks of just how missed informed I was. Having everybody… or should I say, thinking that everybody was so close, and then knowing that I went off the trail by a mile and a half or two miles.
That really crushed me, just crushed my spirits. My reality at the time was, I’m not winning, I’m not getting a course record, this whole sinking feeling. I just need to take a break really quick, try to get your composure again and refocus. At that point I was just not doing good. I was out of calories completely, it just became a negative, I thought I’m going to just walk it back to the next aid station. Between some of the medical staff, and the two photographers that found me on highway 49, I’m actually friends with them. They just encouraged me to start walking back. At the time I’m not a hundred percent sure I would have made that decision by myself. But in retrospect I’m really glad I did. As far as competing for top three or top 10. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for at the time.
IAN: It’s interesting, I can’t imagine the frustration.
Jim Walmsley: It was just wasn’t important to me of how things were going, how things went. Yes. I ended up winning two of the golden races, or golden ticket races, to get in the Western States. To race in the Western States is not a big — I don’t view it as a big deal, obviously it is. I feel very capable of racing back in next year. Top 10 in that stuff just — It was more.
IAN: You wanted to win?
Jim Walmsley: I definitely wanted to win.
IAN: Yes. You wanted to win.
Jim Walmsley: Those spirits were crushed.
IAN: Yes. Once the win wasn’t there I guess it was a case of second is not good enough, third is not good enough…
Jim Walmsley: A little bit, but I don’t know, I was in the lead for so long it’s just… I guess maybe at the time second, third wasn’t enough, but I don’t know, it become just making it more manageable, or whatever… I don’t know?
IAN: I had to look at your river splits. It seems as though from that point where you started to back track that you hardly run a step. I was looking at it and I was trying analyse it. Of course, you’ve gone in many ways explaining to what your thought process was. It’s easy for me for me from the outside looking in and thinking why didn’t you just run and chase down? You had that 30-minute buffer, or maybe 25 minutes’ buffer.
Jim Walmsley: Yes. The information I had was 15 minutes.
IAN: Was it just mentally so demoralizing for you that you just couldn’t get yourself back onto your game, or was it other factors? Yes, mentally you’ve been crushed, but also you were lacking the energy. Maybe you had burned yourself out a little bit? I’m just trying to get an insight into the mind of what it was like at that point.
Jim Walmsley: Yes. I would say mentally I was crushed. But then between taking a little bit of a break and mentally not focussed, somewhere I was just not wanting it any more. My muscles and body started really wanting to be done. Just the walking and trying to jog after that was extremely difficult. After that moment and realizing that everything slipped away. Yes. I definitely did bonk after that. I think if that didn’t happen I absolutely don’t think I would have bonked. But it’s one of those things… I think the mental thing had to happen first, and then my body soon followed that… it was just extremely hard to rally.
When I got back to my crew and stuff, they could see I was just completely demoralized. They were totally okay with just walking it in with me. That just became my game plan. At that point it became about the silver buckle more than anything. Not being out there for the longest period time it just became just one step at a time, and we’ll just get to the finish and we’ll take those positives.
IAN: You got the buckle, and that’s super important.
Jim Walmsley: I think this also goes back to in retrospect of ”Now I think about the race”. That is one of my bigger regrets of it. I wish I did react better mentally, and then I did go and actually try to still race again. I do regret that a bit.
IAN: What I’m interested in here is the duality of you as a person, because I think pre-race a rookie 100-mile runner saying, “I’m going to go to Western States and I’m going to go for the course record.” Of course people in the community look and think, “Who’s this guy? Gees, who’s he to say this?” But then what I’ve witnessed afterwards, and what I’m witnessing now in this interview is an incredible humility, an incredible respect, there’s no bitterness. You’re not actually bitter, you’re not questioning course marking. You’re questioning you not noticing the course marking, but you’re not blaming anybody. You’re only blaming yourself I think that’s absolutely fantastic.
I think that would really warm you to the audience. Have you thought in depth about that process of how you’ve handled pre-race and post-race?
Jim Walmsley: Well, I totally get how pre-race it rubs people the wrong way, but just pre-race and post-race I feel like I’m honest guy and I’ll tell you my goals and what I think I can do pretty blatantly. Pre-race too I would also say it’s a mental approach of trying to convince myself that I can do it. It’s also mental tricks with myself of, “I can do this.” Saying that out loud, saying that publicly does set up for a lot of scrutiny, but at the same time I think that goes so far as far as mentally how you’re going to be in the race and making you tougher to stick to that.
Post-race, I would like to think that I’m just being me and being honest. I don’t think getting bitter about things is going to make anything better or positive. At the end of the day, it was an amazing run. It was an amazing experience. It was a great adventure. I finished my first hundred. There are so many positives to still take away from that day. As an athlete, I think two things are important as well, one, short term memory loss. You get to forget about it and move on as far as bad things that happen like that especially in running. That’s part of our sport. I think most people can relate to making a wrong turn at one time or another.
IAN: For sure. They just don’t make it 92 miles into Western States when looking to set the course record. [laughs]
Jim Walmsley: It’s pretty tough when that happens for sure, yes. The other thing too about being a more competitive athlete is I think you have to focus and build off of the positives rather than beat yourself up about the negatives. I don’t think it’s beneficial for you to dwell on the mistakes. I think it’s beneficial to say, “Look, you did this really well.” One of the biggest things that I am extremely happy about that I think I can take forward into a lot more races is just how well I did in that heat. I think I surprised myself a little bit with that. It was almost 30 degrees warmer than 2012 when Tim Olsen ran his course record.
Yes, little things like that are huge just building off of those and it’s all a process. It’s a learning process, but it’s something that I want to make a career. Yes, it’s going to building off of this to hopefully running even better next year.
IAN: The next question is you had 93 miles of really good running where you were functioning the way that you wanted to in your first hundred-mile race. It was a complete learning curve, and it was an incredible learning curve. You were almost… it was almost a textbook run. Is there anything that you’ve learned that will improve your running for next year? Other than a recce of the course and making sure you know where to turn is. But physically, if you’ve done 120, 140 mile weeks, you can’t really add anymore volume? Will there be more speed work? How will you reflect on this and improve, or maybe you don’t need to improve, what you just need is another repeat performance like this year?
Jim Walmsley: Yes, you’re spot on with that. The biggest thing is going to be able to try to at least replicate what I was able to do in my training next year. With those 140 mile weeks, one of the weeks was 22,500 feet of vert. One thing personally, I think I can do a bit more consistently is getting out to that Grand Canyon and run in it maybe twice a week instead of just once a week. It’s huge to be able to do those long, long down hills. I know it’s something I’m very interested in. I’ve done it once, and it completely punted me on this day. We called it double tapping South Kaibab. South Kaibab is the steepest trail in the Grand Canyon, and basically FKTs go through South Kaibab because it’s just shorter, but it’s steeper.
My friend and I we went down it, up it, and then one more time down it, and up it. It ended up being over 11,000-foot vert day in less than 30 miles. It was just a massive, massive day. I think that was much earlier in the year, but I think focusing days like that. You can only train as hard as you can recover, and it’s a lot about mitigating stress in other parts to your life so that you can recover better on the running stress. Yes, I think a really important part of this year was that I was able to do longer tempo runs that I haven’t been doing since I’ve gotten into ultras in the last 2 years.
I am doing these long runs with a lot of the marathoners in town. If some of these guys they’re like, “Hey, I got this workout today, anybody want to hop in?” I just say like, “Yes, I’ll do that with you.” They’re not planned workouts, but hopping in with guys that are doing sessions works out. That’s been really beneficial as well in getting that foot speed going. That’s where like I’m running these splits and I’m trying to slow down, but look I’m efficient and I don’t feel like I’m over exerting. I think that’s how those things happen. It’s just foot speed wise, I was so prepared almost where things were just butter smooth and I was able to chip away at it a couple of minutes you’d split.
IAN: It was an incredible run, and it was an inspiring run. You have the Ultra community just sitting there aghast at the performance. The question is now, where do you go from here? Obviously a priority will be getting qualification for Western States next year. I quite like the way that you said that’s not really an issue. That’s that confidence side of you that I really like. You’ll prepare yourself, you’ll choose your race, you’ll get your slot, and I’m convinced you will be at Western States next year. Now, with this run, people have got an eye on you. I’m sure races are sending you some invites to attend their races. Where do you go from here? What’s lined up for the rest of 2016?
Jim Walmsley: Well, I was just really hoping that I would nail a hundred miles out of a hundred miles, or 100.2 out of 100.2 miles at Western States, because one of the biggest things is I do want to travel on. I do want to take opportunities to do all these great races across the world but the way that things went this year and my own personality and just realizing what I can do at Western States, 2017 is totally going to be about… at least giving it one more shot of having that perfect day. Maybe things fall apart again and I need to step back and maybe I’ll revisit it in a couple of years but it’s going to definitely build towards that. Right now, I’m trying to stay pretty disciplined and not put on too many races on my plate.
It’s extremely easy to do that. I don’t want to fall into the trap that a great deal of runners fall into. No matter what happens, because sometimes its injury, sometimes it’s over-training syndrome, but people are stereo-typing that all the elites are getting into this over-training syndrome. I don’t think that’s quite accurate. I think if you do look at the marathon world, their training is so much harder for so much longer.
You just don’t see that topic come up in that side of the sport. This year though, I kind of have a little bit of a gap right now, what I’m going to be racing. I’m taking advantage of it. I’m taking some really good down time. I’m going to try to get little things that had been bothering me for the last six months fixed and be hopefully healthy.
I’m going to try holding out until JFK to do another big race, but at the same time my plan for this year is to try to do a really big block of training in the fall and try to pull out a JFK North Face San Francisco Double. They are two weeks apart, they’re both 50 Milers which JFK being first in November and then the North Face 50 in San Francisco being the first weekend in December. I would like to try doing that double and seeing how that goes.
IAN: Okay, big difference in prize money between those two races.
Jim Walmsley: Yes. Yes, a little bit.
IAN: You’re not tempted by the Run Rabbit Run 100 for the prize money?
Jim Walmsley: I definitely am. I’ve been talking to the race director and it was even something on my radar before this. Run Rabbit Run this year though hinders that block of training and this is the biggest reason not to do it this year… I guess what I’m saying is I want to do the double, I want to try to win both.
To get in the fitness required to be competitive and to recover so fast and then to run again, you’re talking a couple months of big mileage, hard running training to get ready for JFK where it’s not going to dig you in that big of a hole that it takes weeks and weeks to get out of that sort of thing but I want to be able to recover quick and then be able to race in two weeks.
That’s the biggest reason not to do Run Rabbit Run. The other thing I guess is what’s maybe keeping me from falling down that slippery slope is I’m kind of hoping a contract works out soon but we’ll see.
IAN: How’s that process going? I’m assuming that with you saying that there’s been some interest.
Jim Walmsley: Yes. Things are really positive. There’s definitely interest which more than that I ended up getting an agent because when I’m contacting these companies, it’s more in ultra-world. It’s kind of a weird thing because athletes are a lot of times trying to contact companies to ask for sponsorship, ask for this and that. A lot of times what I found out is I’m getting connected with the wrong people or people too low on the totem pole to really make decisions.
They’re like, “Look, we just have to wait until the end of the year” sort of thing. I ended up getting an agent after the race. The best part about that is that he’s able to work with people much higher up that if they want a contract done, they’ll get a contract done now instead of waiting until the end of the year when most people are renewing their contracts and stuff.
IAN: Well, it’s an exciting time. Certainly, the ultra-community is going to be very interested to see what happens over the coming months and year right up to Western States 2017. I just want to thank you so much for giving us an hour of your time and talking in depth about what has been quite an inspirational Western States.
Post Western States, Jim went on to set a Rim-to-Rim record in the Grand Canyon and a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim record, smashing the previous record set by Rob Krar to a new level of 5:55:20 – 26-minutes faster than Krar’s 6:21:47. As Jim eluded to in my interview, his main objective for the end of the season was the ‘double’ at JFK50 and San Francisco 50. Just last weekend, the first race took place. Jim ran the JFK50 and smashed the old course record setting a new time of 5:21:28. The stars are aligning for Jim Walmsley, San Francisco and a potential huge pay day awaits… Is Jim Walmsley the next big thing in the ultra world?
Who doesn’t love a ‘sexy’ run shoe? I suppose it does pose the question, ‘Can a run shoe be sexy?’ For me, the answer is yes! Just as it was when I used to ride racing bikes – my bikes were always sexy, it was compulsory!
So, the new incarnation from SCOTT hit all the boxes, rung all the bells and well and truly gave my eyes a woo hoo when I first clapped eyes on them in May 2016.
I have to be clear here, I was involved and worked with the SCOTT elite athletes in La Palma photographing the new apparel and shoes to be launched later this year and early in 2017.
The SUPERTRAC RC shoe is arguably the racing flagship for the brand that has been known for years for making darn fine excellent bikes. Well, ever since 2012, SCOTT have also been making darn fine run shoes, it’s just taken a while to get the message out. The Kinabalu Supertrac is still one of my favourite shoes. So good was the shoe, it beat many others in my test HERE.
The new SUPERTRAC RC has in all honesty little connection to the beefy 8mm drop trail shoe as listed above, however, it does carry over some of the traits.
Noticeable points are:
- Seamless upper and overlays
- Form fitting performance tongue
- Reinforced toe cap
- Radilal ‘360’ traction
- EVA cushioning
The RC looks completely different to the Kinabalu Supertrac and the back/yellow ‘RC’ colour combination reflects the ‘RC’ range from the road bike and mountain bike range. I like that, I like that connection. It very clearly states, ‘This is the best of what we offer!’
For the Supertrac RC the stats are as follows:
- 5mm drop
- Forefoot cushioning height : 17.5mm
- Heel cushioning height : 22.5mm
- Cushioning : AeroFoam + (same as Supertrac inline)
- Weight : 270g in US9 men with insole in (some brands weight them without insoles)
- Outsole : Outdoor Industry award winning 360° geometry made in wet rubber compound.
The Supertrac RC is not the lightest shoe but it does have plenty of cushioning and protection with 17.5/22.5mm of AeroFoam.
At 5mm drop, the shoe is certainly designed for an efficient mid to forefoot striker in contrast to the 8mm drop Kinabalu Supertrac that most definitely is a more ‘forgiving’ shoe.
Ultimately though, the RC is all about the ‘new’ grip that has been tweaked and tweaked through 2016 with feedback both in training and racing from athletes such as Andy Symonds, Jo Meek, Marco De Gasperi, Ruth Croft and the SCOTT team manager, Martin Gaffuri. The 360° geometry made in wet rubber compound is a real, real winner! The outsole is made for racing and training on trails where rock (wet or dry) is in abundance. The outsole though has less depth to the lug than say the Kinabalu Supertrac and so therefore grip is not as secure in mud.
Initially I was disappointed that the tongue was not gusseted. A gusseted tongue is becoming normal now on many shoes and for me just makes sense. The RC does though have a form fitting tongue and it does hold the foot nice and firm.
Seamless upper is a winner, in theory it should mean that you have no possibility for blisters or abrasion from any seams. I did have a slight issue with rubbing on one of my toes where the shoe bends in the propulsive face, however, I do think that it is due to the test shoe being slightly too big. I will know more with testing.
Cushioning for me was a surprise and I have to say I was surprised by the relatively hard feel of the shoe. I had expected a more plush ride but that may well come with more runs. It’s still early days in the test and the is just an initial first impression.
Heal box is snug and really does hold the foot secure. The toe box is really well protected and therefore ideal for rocky, technical and mountain runs. The lacing is very secure and does compensate for the lack of the gusseted tongue, however, I am really surprised SCOTT didn’t include a ‘lace locker‘ to store excess lace as they do on many of their other shoes. It’s just a little elastic that weighs nothing but is ideal for keeping loose lace ends out of the way… maybe it will be added to the shoes for when they go on sale in 2017?
This is a first impression review and without doubt, I think we are going to see the Supertrac RC appear on many trails and mountains in 2017. Lets face it, you’ll have no problem noticing them…! The combination of grip, good looks, cushioning and seamless upper is going to make the RC a winner. I will come back with a full and detailed review after another month of trail and mountain abuse.
Scott Supertrac RC HERE
Episode 123 of Talk Ultra and this weeks show is a special, one off edition with Adam Campbell
On August 30th 2016, Adam Campbell was attempting a big traverse that had never been completed in a single push before in Rogers Pass, BC. Adam was accompanied by two partners, Nick Elson and Dakota Jones. They were fairly early on in the journey, going up relatively moderate terrain (class 3/4). Adam followed Nick and Dakota up a route matching their steps and actions, Adam pulled on a rock that the previous two climbers had used. This giant rock came loose, broke and away and Adam fell. He tumbled backwards, summersaulting and rag dolling over 200 feet (70-80 meters) down a serious of ledges and sharp rocks.
Adam ended up breaking his back, several vertebrae, breaking his hip, breaking his ankle, damaging his wrists, shoulders and knees and had severe lacerations across my body. His helmet was shattered and has cracks across all of it, It still has blood and hair caked into it. Without it he would have suffered severe head trauma, instead, he just had stitches and a mild concussion.
Adam is alive, not paralyzed and here to tell his story.
INTERVIEW WITH ADAM CAMPBELL
UP & COMING RACES
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
- Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website
- Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | November 19, 2016 | website
- Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website
- Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | November 26, 2016 | website
Region of Murcia
Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss
Website – talkultra.com