Taming the Dragon – 2017 Dragons Back Race Preview

Jim Mann – The Berghaus Dragons Back Race

Travelling from the North of Wales to the South via the ‘Dragons Back’ – the 2017 edition of the Berghaus Dragons Back Race looks set to have all the makings of a classic. A gigantic 315km route awaits the runners as they make the journey over multiple days. 

Day 1 in its own right is a tough day in the mountains as the best of Wales provides a stunning backdrop and stage setter for the race. In past editions, the opening day has proved too much for many… will 2017 be the same? It’s expected that 30% of those who start will not begin day 2 – a frightening statistic! 

Jim Mann, winner of the 2015 edition of the race has decided to return and defend his crown. After a tough 2016, Jim has recently returned to form after in ‘Winter Round’ record breaking run. Mann completed the Charlie Ramsay Round, the Paddy Buckley Round and the Bob Graham Round all within 1-month and set a new benchmark for the triple. 

British ultra-running pioneer Jez Bragg toed the line in 2015 but was forced to withdraw through illness, no doubt he will look to put the record straight in 2017. However, Cape Wrath 2016 champion Marcus Scotney will want to make sure he continues a winning streak of Ourea Events multi-day success with a strong performance.

Nickademus Hollon from the USA is well known in the ultra-world but may well fly under the radar of the UK based runners. Hollon was the youngest runner to complete the infamous Barkley and has placed 2nd at the Tor des Geants. He loves a challenge and although the UK mountains may well be new to him, we can anticipate a strong performance.

Alistair Hubbard and Neil Talbot may very well be the other prime contenders to take top honors on this journey through Wales. Hubbard has won the expert category on the Great Lakeland 3-Day – a great build up race to the Welsh multi-day adventure.

With the absence of Jasmin Paris, the ladies’ race is open but many are tipping Carol Morgan as a potential favorite. Her recent victory at The Spine is a standout result and it confirms that she can keep pushing even when tiredness and sleep deprivation are prevalent.

Sabrina Verjee is a regular Ourea Event competitor and participated in the 2015 Dragons Back Race where she placed 14th overall. It’s fair to say that Verjee has improved since then and she recently won the Great Lakeland 3-Day.

Italian Emanuela Marzotto came to running late in life and has made up for lost time with a sting of back-to-back performances in the world’s biggest ultras and multi-day races. Her experience in the Marathon des Sables was no doubt instrumental in her success in winning the 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra. Without doubt, she will have her hands full racing against Morgan and Varjee in Wales. 

A final nod goes to Canada’s Emily Compton who is a complete unknown on UK soil but she has accumulated a string of top-10 results dating back to 2012. Notable markers being 3rd at Vulcano Ultra Trail in 2013 and 5th at Yakima Skyline Rim 50k in 2016.

Action begins on May 20th when runners will arrive in Wales ahead of the May 21st start.

You can follow the daily action via this website in words and images and on Twitter – @talkultra and on Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Anna Frost – The Times They Are a- Changin’

 Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly ageing

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

Cause the times they are a-changing

– Bob Dylan

Anna Frost is arguably one of the most famous mountain runners in the world. Striking good looks, a huge smile, an insatiable addiction for fun and an ability not to take herself too seriously has made her the no1 all over the world – from a runner and fan perspective.

Recently she returned to Costa Rica and ‘put the record straight’ by finally winning The Coastal Challenge at her third attempt. In year one she was unable to start due to doctors’ orders. In year two she was forced to retire due to injury on the penultimate stage whilst in the lead. In 2017 though she nailed it by winning five-stages and cruising the sixth and final stage knowing the job was done!

It had been an emotional ride and one that was clear for all to see as she sobbed on the shoulder of race director Rodrigo Carazo on the finishing line of the final stage.

“Wow, that has been some ride and I am pleased to put the record straight. I love everything about The Coastal Challenge. The organization is amazing, the place is fabulous, the layout of the course is so challenging and rewarding. Contrast that against the communal environment of camp and you have just the perfect race. For me, will I come back? – absolutely! Will I race again? Probably not – but volunteering, helping at aid stations and marking the course appeals.”

Frosty, as she likes to be known is at a new point in her career if you hadn’t guessed. The turmoil, stress, back-to-back travel and the pressure to perform has taken its toll. “It’s a great problem to have and I have been very fortunate. But there are so many places and events to go to – I can’t do them all and in the past I tried. I am now very careful and I listen to my body. My health is far more valuable than trail running.”

A balanced approach has taken time to learn. Of course, Frosty has made some huge mistakes on the way but that is how one progresses, develops, learns and now with experience, the lady from New Zealand seems to tick along nicely. No doubt helped by her long-term relationships with Braz who Frosty has now developed a series of camps and adventures with.

Relaxed, philosophical, balanced – these are not the words I would have used to describe Frosty when I first met her in 2012 on the island of La Palma. She is still the same force, still the same glowing and open personality but then she wanted it all and of course she had it. Her run at Transvulcania in that edition was legendary and it elevated her onto the world stage.

“Social media placed a great deal of pressure on me and I relate that to my downfall if you can call it that? I didn’t respond well to trail running all of a sudden. I ran trail because I loved it and then suddenly I was ‘professional’ with eyes on me. When it became ‘a thing,’ I wasn’t prepared for it. The pressure got too much an I went to a dark hole. Now though, there is no pressure!”

Community, the spirit of running and running on trail is what this lady bought into and that is what she wants moving forward.

“I want to be part of the community and not separated from it with a ‘professional’ tag. This week in Costa Rica I have watched people race, challenge themselves, learn on the trail and they have got the job done – that is so awesome!”

Trail running is booming and female participation in the sport is growing and growing. Frosty has been clear to emphasize that a woman can be a runner and feminine, after all, she has her own clothing line with sponsor, Salomon.

“Clothing is a lot more feminine now with a great deal of bright colours, we have skirts, dresses and all sorts of products that are specific to make us feel great on the trail. Let’s face it, running is an accessible sport – you just need shoes and an outfit and you can join in, let’s embrace that!”

Despite a feminine side, Frosty doesn’t see herself as a woman, at least not when she is running.

“When I am on the start line, I am just there – a human. Obviously, I know that I am racing the women but I never think I am a girl therefore I can’t run up hill fast, or that I can’t compete with the men – I just race and I race whoever I am near, male or female.”

Maturity comes with age but it also comes as boxes are ticked and life becomes more settled. Frosty has a man in her life and a transition is taking place.

“We met at Hardrock – a Hardrock love affair! The last couple of years of coming home to someone has been very settling. I have always searched for home. It would be New Zealand in winter after months on the road but when I met Braz, I was home! That was very satisfying, very fulfilling and I now feel like I can do anything.”

A new outlook on running, a man, home, the patter of tiny feet may well be the next thing in the ultra, trail and mountain world?

“I have dreamed of being a mum since I was 13-years old. With my travel and work a child has not been an option, but now, my mind is shifting focus. I have Hardrock 100 again this year and a few other races and events, but yes, in the close future it’s something that I will put an emphasis on. Nothing is guaranteed though. I would be privileged and lucky to make my own little baby. However, if not, I sponsor a charity called ‘Children of Uganda’ – if I can’t have my own child, I will help other children in the world that are so much in need.”

Inspiration takes many forms. You may well know Frosty as ‘the runner,’ but think outside the box, step back and see the person. A person who has inspired so many by climbing mountains, running fast over trails but I can’t help but think her best work is to come. Be it her own child or someone else’s, Frosty will lead by example. She will blaze a new trail and I can only hope you follow – we all need to be inspired and I can’t think of any other lady in the sport who can do the job better.

Many thanks to Niandi Carmont who produced an extended interview with Frosty in Costa Rica post the 2017 edition of the race. You can listen HERE.

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Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Registration Day

It’s hot… I know it’s the Sahara but today has been hot!

After a day of travel, some 1200 runners arrived in bivouac yesterday and settled to a first night in the Sahara. A meal, some admin and it was an early night. The winds increased with darkness and the general comment in camp the following morning was, “Wow, it got cold last night!”

It caused some last minute anxiety as today is bag drop day and therefore after registration all runners are wearing and carrying everything they need for the week. I could see a few warm layers being taken from cases and added to packs… they can always be thrown away later!

Today is a long day as everyone just wants to run. However, all admin procedures must be undertaken at specified time slots.

Firstly luggage is left and it will not be seen till after the race. Passport and identity is checked and then an overview of medical forms. Packs are weighed for a minimum 6.5kg and in some scenarios checked for mandatory kit. A Spot tracker is added to the runners packs, numbers are collected, timing chips activated and that’s it. The process takes about 2-hours in the heat of the day.

Bivouac is spread over a large area and in each tent, which hold 8-people there is carnage as last minute planning takes place.

As the evening approaches, the last full meal is provided. On waking, self-sufficiency takes over and the runners will start, well and truly, the 32nd edition of Marathon des Sables.

Day 1 is 30.03km with a 10-hour cut-off time.

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The 2017 32nd Marathon des Sables Preview #MDS

The 32nd MARATHON DES SABLES draws near and as usual, we take a look at several of the main contenders who will toe the line looking to place on the podium of this iconic race. We look at some of the impressive statistics and we preview at the route the runners will need to cover.

Since 1986, over 20,000 participants have raced at the Marathon des Sables and over 1200 are registered for 2017. Of the 52 Nationalities represented, the British are the largest contingent followed by the French.

2017 ROUTE SUMMARY

The 32nd edition will cover 250km in five timed stages and one compulsory charity stage. Daily distances will vary from 30km to 90km. The only provision to runners is rationed water and a bivouac each night which must be shared with seven other runners. The race requires self-sufficiency and everything a runner needs must be carried for the duration of the race.

Day 1 – A relatively flat stage with small dunes, lots of sand and a slight climb to the finish. It’s a day when many runners go too fast. Tip: Ease into the race.

Day 2 – Will be a tough stage that is long with a great deal of sand. You will climb a gorge and run down a very steep descent. Tip: Tough day, keep focused, watch your pace and keep hydrated.

Day 3 – A climb starts the day and it is followed by rollercoaster terrain taking runners up and down. One section is very steep with technical passages. If that wasn’t enough, this stage contains the first ‘real’ dunes of the 32nd edition. Tip: One foot in-front of the other and remember the big day is tomorrow.

Day 4 – The long one: a feared and formidable stage. A lot of sand and some pitfalls for the feet. Two start times: 8.15 a.m. for most people and 11.15 a.m. for the first 50 men and the first 5 women. It’s a day of much sand and difficult terrain underfoot – be careful not to fall! Two passages through small gorges, a climb up a djebel, a roller coaster through the sand, and a technical descent add to a tough day. Tip: Watch out for the heat and manage the night carefully! Get your head in the right place.

Day 5 – Two start times: 7 a.m. for the majority and 8.30 a.m. for the first 200 runners. Dunes at the start and then no major difficulties, however, be prepared for a hot stretch over a long plateau… Tip: If you finished the long day, the race is in the bag. Smile!

Day 6 – Compulsory charity stage.

 

THE TOP MEN AND WOMEN

Rachid El Morabity returns and is without doubt, once again, the host favorite for male victory. Russian Natalia Sedyh, who won the race in 2016 has decided not to return in 2017 and this leaves the door open for 2015 MDS champion Elisabet Barnes but it will be no easy run – 2017 is arguably one of the strongest female line-ups the race has seen.

THE WOMEN RACE

Nathalie Mauclair placed 2nd in 2016 and Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd, with Natalya not returning, could victory go to one of these very strong ladies? Of course, yes! They both now know the race better, they will have adjusted their training and equipment and will arrive prepared. Nathalie has won Diagonale des Fous twice and has been trail World Champion twice – this combination of speed and endurance is just what is required in the Sahara.

Fernanda Maciel, like Nathalie, is a powerhouse on trails. A regular competitor on the UTWT she brings incredible experience to the race and a tenacity to push to the line.

Elisabet Barnes won MDS in 2015 and what has followed is a string of world-class performances in multi-day races all over the world – Australia, South Africa, Costa Rica, USA and so on. Elisabet loves the Sahara and this year has stepped up her training and prepared meticulously for the 32nd edition.

Emilie Lecomte will run MDS for the first time in 2017 but last year, pipped Elisabet Barnes to victory at the Grand To Grand in the USA. Emilie is a specialist in long races and the multi-day format suits her. She still holds the FKT for the GR20 in Corsica and like Nathalie has won the Diagonale des Fous.

 

Ester Alves from Portugal won The Coastal Challenge in 2016 and this year placed 3rd. Like the ladies’ above she is a fierce competitor and although this is her first foray into the Sahara, I have a feeling we will see her contend for the top 5, if not the podium.

Our women’s top ten to watch:

Aziza Raji is the Moroccan hope. She won the race in 2008 and 2009 but the speed of the race has increased and she is unlikely to contend with the other top elites.

Lizzie Wraith from the UK is a strong runner who will be under the radar here in the Sahara – watch out, she may surprise many people! Lizzie made the podium at the UK’s tough, Dragons Back Race.

Mélanie Rousset is attempting MDS for the first time but has a string of top-10 results at Diagonale des Fous and UTMB.

Nahila Hernandez San Juan from Mexico placed 8th at MDS in 2009 and was 5th at Badwater 135 in 2013.

Marie Eve Trudel a newcomer to ultra but placed 4th at the Grand To Grand in 2015.

Amy Costa winner of the Badwater 135 in 2013.

Kerri Kanuga 6th at Badwater in 2016.

THE MEN RACE

Rachid El Morabity, Samir Akhdar, Aziz El Akad and Abdelkader El Mouaziz are the strong men on this 32nd MARATHON DES SABLES. Rachid has won the race in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – do you want to bet against him?

Samir Akhdar is a MDS regular but his best result came in 2015 when he placed 4th. In 2017, he has the potential for 2nd or 3rd. Equally, Aliza El Akad although he is getting on in years, his seven completions at MDS and all within the top-5 would suggest he will continue that consistency.

This year the race does not have Chema Martinez from Spain or Danny Kendall from the UK. Therefore, the great European hope comes with a trio of Brits.

Andy Symonds is a world-class runner who has made the podium all over the world in iconic ultras. Although this is his first MDS he has the running skill to be up there! It all depends if he has adapted to the pack and the additional weight.

Nathan Montague is coming to the race with clear intentions to do well and ideally be the first Brit and hopefully that highest placed Brit ever. He’s a fast runner with some impressive times for 50km and 100km.

Damian Hall has been top-20 at UTMB and placed on the podium at The Spine. He raced in Costa Rica in 2016 with an excellent performance against a world-class field. Like Andy, Damian is on a MDS learning curve but he has the potential to do well.

Moroccans may well provide the competition for the other Moroccans. Abdelkader El Mouaziz is a 2:06 marathon runner and has won London Marathon in 1999 and 2001. He may well be slower now with the passing of the years but class is permanent. His highest placing at MDS is 2nd – one to watch!

Miguel Capo Soler was 3rd at MDS in 2013 and is the most experienced non-Moroccan who will potentially contend the top-10 placing. In recent years, he has run at The Coastal Challenge and Everest Trail Race.

Our men’s top ten to watch:

Mustapha Ait Amar finished MDS 13-times and was 12th in 2012.

Andrew Fargus placed 11th at MDS in 2013.

Luca Papi is a novice MDS runner but brings a wealth of experience.

Marco Olmo is a legend of ultra-trail and MDS – he will not contend the podium but he will be up around the top-20. Not bad for a 68-year old!

Notable mentions for blind runner Didier Benguigu who aged 67 will participate in his 13th MDS.

Also, Duncan Slater from the UK who lost both legs during a mission in Afghanistan. He did not complete in 2016 due to medical complications – he’s back this year for the medal!

Finally…

1216 runners will toe the line and the youngest male is Oscar Daglish from the UK who is just 16-years old. He will be running with his father who has already completed MDS.

The youngest female is Emily Rolfe, also from the UK. Emily will also run with her father.

Claude Leonardi from France is the oldest male runner. The 32nd edition will be his 5th time on the race, not bad for 80-years old!

Edda Hanna Bauer got into sport late, she ran her first marathon and 60. Now aged 72 she has made up for it clocking up 26 marathons and 63 ultra-marathons.

Crazy Statistics of the MDS

“The logistics are a big headache and we organize every detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that must be set up and dismantled every day. We need to be self-sufficient in energy, food, water and fuel. As one of my friends says, ‘Let’s expect the worst because the best will never surprise us!’ We also benefit from the infallible support of the Royal Moroccan Army, which makes available about 25 6WD military trucks to transport all of our equipment.” – Patrick Bauer

You must see Marathon des Sables t appreciate the size and scale of the event. It’s like the largest moving circus you will ever see and it’s impressive to witness.

Following statistics provided by the Marathon des Sables office:

▪      150 volunteers to supervise the race,

▪      450 general support staff,

▪      120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,

▪      300 Berber and Saharan tents,

▪      120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,

▪      2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,

▪      8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,

▪      30 buses,

▪      4 dromedaries,

▪      1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,

▪      5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,

▪      72 medical staff,

▪      2.3kms of Elastoplast,

▪      12,200 compresses,

▪      6,000 painkillers,

▪      150 liters of disinfectant,

▪      1 editing bus,

▪      5 cameras,

▪      1 satellite image station,

▪      10 satellite telephones,

▪      30 computers, fax and internet,

▪      20,000 competitors since 1986

▪      3 runners aged 10-20, 108 aged 20-30, 314 aged 30-40, 491 aged 40-50, 299 aged 50-60, 66 aged 60-70 and 13 aged 70-80 years.

▪      14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,

▪      15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!

30 Years of the MDS

1986 – Michel GALLIEZ (FRANCE) – Christiane PLUMERE (FRANCE)

1987 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)

1988 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)

1989 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Marie-Claude BATTISTELLI (FRANCE)

1990 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Claire GARNIER (FRANCE)

1991 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)

1992 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)

1993 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Irina PETROVNA (RUSSIA)

1994 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Valentina LIAKHOVA (RUSSIA)

1995 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Béatrice REYMANN (FRANCE)

1996 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Anke MOLKENTHIN (GERMANY)

1997 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)

1998 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)

1999 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Lisa SMITH (USA)

2000 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Pascale MARTIN (FRANCE)

2001 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Franca FIACCONI (ITALY)

2002 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)

2003 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Magali JUVENAL (FRANCE)

2004 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)

2005 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUX)

2006 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Géraldine COURDESSE (FRANCE)

2007 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2008 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2009 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2010 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Monica AGUILERA (SPAIN)

2011 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2012 – Salameh AL AQRA (JORDAN) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2013 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Meghan HICKS (USA)

2014 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Nikki KIMBALL (USA)

2015 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Elisabet BARNES (SWE)

2016 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Natalya SEDYH (RUSSIA)

A brief history of the MDS:

1984: At 28 years of age, Patrick Bauer decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come into contact with a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg and containing water and food, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days. It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

1986: The creation of the first MDS in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which has today become a must among the major adventure sport meets. The creation of a non-mechanical competition in the Moroccan sands offers adventure runners a wealth of new prospects.

1987: Creation of the MDS logo: the face of a runner covered by a keffiyeh, the eyes protected by a pair of sunglasses and the pipette from the runner’s water container clenched between the teeth.

1989: 170 competitors take the start of the race.

1991: The gulf drama puts the MDS at a disadvantage and the financial partners withdraw. Fortunately, some runners answer the call. For these competitors, the true victory lies in meeting athletes from different backgrounds and their communion in the desert around the same goal. Sport proves once again that it can bring people together and create bonds.

1992: One and the same regulation for everyone. This year sees the establishing of unexpected draconian tests, to ensure that each participant properly transports all his or her gear from one end of the course to the other. A 30-point charter is drawn up.

First participation by the Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal

1994: Arrival of the Doc Trotters at the event.

1995: 10th anniversary. Since the start, over 1,500 men and women have left their footprint and their passion in the desert. Installation of water-pump for the inhabitants of the village of Ighef n’rifi (South of Er-Rachidia) – an idea by competitor Gilles Flamant and backed by Rolland Barthes and Patrick Bauer. Its success is to be repeated again and again

1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.

1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.

1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.

2000: Internet appears in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.

2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.

2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.

2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.

2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There is a total of 146 retirements ultimately, which equates to double that of the previous record… Race management decides to shorten the long leg by over 10km given how tired the runners seem.

2008: The Solidarité MDS association is created. The aim: to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco. 

2009: MDS is disrupted by flooding and the 1st and 6th stages are not able to take place. To avoid the flood zones, the organization is obliged to improvise new legs on a day-to-day basis. In this way, the edition goes down in legend for its 3rd leg, which is the longest ever contested: 92km of sand, loose stones and rocks… The leg even sees the retirement of Lahcen Ahansal… At the prize giving the 2 winners admit to having competed in their hardest MDS. However, it was also the shortest: 202km.

2010: For its 25th edition, the number of participations reaches a record high of 1,013 participants. It is to be the longest MARATHON DES SABLES. It spans 250 kilometers with a course considered by former entrants to be the most difficult ever organized.

2012: A dramatic turn of events on the longest leg as the then leader in the overall standing, Rachid El Morabity (MAR) injures himself one kilometer from the finish. Medical examinations reveal a serious muscular lesion in the quadriceps. After over five years on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra secures the title.

2013: 1,027 competitors on the start line make this a new participation record. New feature: a final “Charity” stage sponsored by UNICEF and traversing the Merzouga dunes round off the race. Sports wise, Mohamad Ahansal and Megan Hicks are the champions of the 231.5km event. On a human level, all the finishers pull off their crazy bet.

2014: 2011 winner, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity (MAR) wins the overall ranking and takes Mohamad Ahansal’s crown. In the women’s category, another American stamps her mark, Nikki Kimball. The French revelation is one Michaël Gras, 22 years of age, 8th overall and top Frenchman. A major athletics star, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj lines up to take the start of Saturday’s Unicef Charity leg.

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Please remember, communications in the Sahara will be sporadic and we will upload content as and when possible.

High Trail Vanoise Ultra and Face de Bellevarde VK 2016 Race Preview – Skyrunner® World Series


Skyrunning and the 2016 Skyrunner World Series arrives in France this weekend for an action packed double bill of VK and ULTRA. On Friday, the Face de Bellevarde VK kicks off in Val D’Isere to take on the steep slopes that lead to the summit way up in the sky.
Marco De Gasperi, Skyrunning legend has the record of 34:51 set on this course many years ago and this year, up and coming rising star, Remi Bonnet will be looking to set a new benchmark. The young runner won’t have it all his own way though, Ferran Teixido, current leader in the SWS rankings will be looking for a strong performance and the ever present, Urban Zemmer will push the young gun all the way to the summit. Marco Moletto, Hannes Perkman, William Bon Mardion and Pascal Egli will make up the main contenders in an impressive field.
For the ladies, Christelle Dewalle is the current SWS leader and ultimately the one to beat! Elisa Desco, Emily Collinge and Serena Vittori will push the French lady hard but can they beat Laura Orgue’s time of 40:52?
In both races, an incentive is on offer. Should a male or female break the old course records they will receive a cash prize of 2000 euros. If the runner is French, the opportunity to have a new BMW car is available for one year!


High Trail Vanoise is the main event of the weekend and it harks back to the golden days of when Giacometti, Brunod and climbed Monte Rosa and paved the way for this modern phenomenon called Skyrunning. Ice, snow, glaciers, altitude, the High Trail Vanoise has it all. Crossing the iconic Col D’Iseran at 2764m is merely just a taster, the high point of the course is the impressive Grande Motte at 3653m. It’s a tough race, 67km in length, runners will climb (and descend) 5400m to reach the finish line.


Cristofer Clemente heads up there men’s field after an impressive top 10 at Transvulcania and victory at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. Nicolas Martin, Nuno Silva, Jan Bartas, Dimity Mityaev and the ever-present Fulvio Dapit will look to take top honours and maximum SWS points.


Gemma Arenas fresh from victory in Madeira will be looking to consolidate maximum points and set herself up for a good chance of winning the 2016 SWS. Local French lady Anne-Lise Rousset may well have other thoughts though! Anna Comet has been fighting injury issues but a finish in Madeira and some quality RnR will hopefully set her up for a strong run in France. Travelling from the USA, Kristina Pattison will be looking to repeat her top 10 performance from Madeira and work her way up the rankings ahead of the RUT in the USA.


Just as in the VK, prize money is on offer and the respective winners can expect 3000 euros or French runners will receive 1000 euro and a BMW for a year.
Alpina Watches, sponsored of the SWS will also offer a male and female watch for the Alpina Smart Time.

600 runners will take part in a stunning weekend of high intensity action.


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

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, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:

Social Media Logos

Facebook/iancorlessphotography
Twitter (@talkultra)
Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) 

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

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Twitter @skyrunning_com
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Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 Preview

CapeWrathUltralogoThe Cape Wrath Ultra™ brought to you by Ourea Events, the team who revived the Dragon’s Back Race are in the countdown days to a once in a lifetime multi-day journey that will test mind and body over 8-days weaving a 400km journey through the Highlands of Scotland.

Starting at Fort William on May 22nd, the race will take runners on an incredible journey in a magnificent and remote part of the world that will culminate in the most northwesterly point of the British Isles, Cape Wrath on May 29th.

Cape Wrath Ultra website HERE

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Stunning scenery, remote wilderness, beautiful lochs, glens, towering mountains and the crashing ocean, the Cape Wrath Ultra™ is arguably one of the most stunning multi-day journeys in the world.

A supported expedition, equipment for the competitor’s will be transported day-by-day, tented accommodation and meals will be provided.

In a nutshell, 400km (250-miles) over and through the Scottish Highlands will be the ultimate test for the runners as they navigate via map and compass (GPS are allowed with GPX routes provided by Ourea Events) over 8-days over multiple distances with a variety of terrain and elevation gain. Shane Ohly, race director for the race says:

“The route is not marked in any way and participants must use the event map and/or GPS device to follow the prescribed route. As organisers, we (and friends, family, members of the public and landowners) will be tracking participants in real time using the satellite trackers. We expect participants to stay within 200m of our advised route at all times. In practical terms, for the majority of the time this is very easy as our route generally follows the only path or track on the ground: it is the only logical way. At other times, where there is no visible path on the ground, you will have flexibility to range within 200m of the route so that you should feel little pressure to follow our route precisely at all times and can enjoy the incredible wilderness experience to the full.”

   

Image © Ben Winston

Image © Ben Winston

Day 1: 23 miles 500m ascent

Day 1 starts with a short ferry trip across Loch Linnhe sea loch onto the shore opposite Fort William. The running opens with a straight-forward warm up on a lovely road, headed South! But this is the key to accessing the remote western sea-board of Scotland, and on this day-end, the famous sights of Glenfinnan.

Day 2: 35 miles 1,800m ascent

From the very start of Day 2 the route ascends into remote territory, and clips the end of Scotland’s two longest dead-ends roads, both at remote sea loch heads. Even when you reach the overnight, you will be far, far away from civilization.

Day 3: 42 miles 2,400m ascent

This day is likely to be the hardest – though it is not the longest. It departs from the edge of Knoydart, passes through the large mountain and glen groups of Kintail, and reaches the wide strath’s (flat glens with big rivers) characteristic of Wester Ross. The Falls of Glomach are the most voluminous waterfalls in the Highlands.

Day 4: 22 miles 1,400m ascent

On this Day 4 you will experience the mountains at their loftiest – all around you, with high rocky passes, and rough underfoot in the latter third. It is one of the only days where you will not be close to the sea.

Day 5: 27 miles 1,400m ascent

Despite the previous days of remote territory, climbing up out of Kinlochewe on Day 5 will not prepare you for the qualities of what lies ahead. Fisherfield’s mountains will steadily reveal themselves to you! And then you will work through great isolated mountain glens, eventually overnighting just short of the port of Ullapool.

Day 6: 45 miles 1,400m ascent

This day escalates into some very remote and rough high ground, but is preceded by significant distances on double-tracks in the glens, and through prime Salmon-fishing country. Day 6 is the longest day, but for all those that have made it this far, this day will unlikely defeat you. (Inchnadamph is the highest overnight camp, at 80m, and one of the few that are noticeably not near sea level).

Day 7: 38 miles 1,600m ascent

One of the longer days, Day 7 gives a great contrast of moor, mountain, and deep inaccessible sea lochs. Eas a Chual Aluinn is the highest waterfall in the UK. At the end of this day is a rare section of road for this journey – but you will remember it as a road that is taking you somewhere amazing, due to the achingly beautiful seaward views.

Day 8: 16 miles 700m ascent

This is the day that takes you along the glorious beach of Sandwood Bay, to The Atlantic Sea proper and on to Cape Wrath and the Lighthouse, the most north-westerly point in the UK: A day to savor. It’s a deliberately shorter day. After finishing here, there will be a gradual minibus and ferry evacuation back to civilization in the village of Durness, 15 miles away, and a fitting sea loch coastal symmetry with the start, 8 days earlier. Once based in Durness, we hope that you have time to visit the beautiful beach just below the campsite, and nearby Smoo cave. In the evening, it’s time to celebrate, and in the morning, time to climb onto coaches and wave goodbye to the far north of Scotland.

©shaneohly

©shaneohly

Like the Dragon’s Back Race, the Cape Wrath Ultra™ is designed to provide a challenge for experienced runners. The Dragon’s Back Race has gained a reputation for its severity and drop out rate, although the Cape Wrath Ultra™ is a first edition, participants can expect an event of equal difficulty, especially when one considers the additional days and additional length of 100km.

Cape Wrath Ultra™ has gained worldwide interest with runners travelling to the UK from as far as Australia, Netherlands, South Africa, America, Sweden, Italy, Germany and more. An entry list is available to view HERE

Runners will travel to Scotland this coming Friday and arrive at Fort William in readiness to register on Saturday morning.

Racing starts on Sunday May 22nd and it will be possible to follow via live tracking HERE.

Daily images and reports will be posted on this website and all relevant social media channels as and when communications allow – we are in a remote part of the world!

Social Media Logos

Instagram @iancorlessphotography HERE

Twitter @talkultra HERE

Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography HERE

Many thanks to Ourea Events for the support

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Transvulcania 2016 #VK Results and Images – Skyrunner® World Series

Saul Padua and Emmie Collinge are 2016 Binter Vertical Kilometer Transvulcania champions in the first VK race in the 2016 Skyrunner World Series.  Saul Padua fulfilled his pre race top billing and was crowned winner of the Binter Vertical Kilometer Transvulcania. The Colombian runner, the last to leave and the fastest to reach the finish, kicked off the race with a fast pace and held that all the way to the finish. At 7.6km this is a long VK that requires a different run technique and style to many other races in the category.
Emmie Collinge from the UK shone ahead of the rest of the ladies and beat the course record. A disciple of Marco De Gasperi, Emmie splits her time between the UK and Italy.

Bernard Dematteis still holds the male CR 48 minutes and 43 seconds. Padua’s time placed him with the third fastest time in the history of the race, just ahead of Kilian Jornet. 
Second runner was the Czech Ondrej Fejfar who also ran under 50 minutes. Andorran Ferran Teixido completed the podium. 
Emmie Collinge exceeded all expectations setting a new record of  57:56 lowering the record of Elisa Desco, previously 59 minutes and 43 seconds set two years ago.
Christel Dewall, a VK specialist, holds the world record for the distance but could not beat the power of Collinge. Vanessa Ortega placed 3rd. 
18 different nationalities, a melting pot of countries, took part in the 3rd edition of the race with over 130 runners taking part.

1. Saúl Padua
2. Ondrej Fejfar
3. Ferran Teixido Martí-Ventoso
1. Emmie Collinge (Récord de la prueba)
2. Christel Dewalle
3. Vanesa Ortega
Official times to follow

*****

The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is brought to you with a new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA.

SkyMan SA is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.

The well-established, Sky, Ultra and Vertical format is joined by the Extreme Series presented by Alpina Watches, which more than ever expresses the true spirit of Skyrunning defined not only by distance, but vertical climb and technical difficulty.

Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the

Skyrunner® World Series Follow on

Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Twitter @talkultra

Instagram @iancorlessphotography

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

Facebook.com/skyrunning

Twitter @skyrunning_com

Instagram @skyrunning

Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2016 Preview – Skyrunner® World Series

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The island of La Palma one more prepares for the biggest weekend of the year:

Transvulcania!

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The Skyrunner® World Series 2016 kicked off just last weekend in China with the Yading SkyRun, now, it’s the big start for the European calendar and what a start. Transvulcania has become one of THE races to do. It’s reputation for stunning organisation, the majestic and beautiful trails of ‘La Isla Bonita’ and yes, a world-class field that that sets the bar.

Over the years, since 2012, the race distance has always been a point of conjecture. Now though, many of us are happy to say the races sits somewhere between 73-75km, which is approximately 46-miles that includes 3000+m of vertical gain.

It is a stunning race and one that is completely logical for a runner’s perspective. The point-to-point journey from sea to summit and back to sea personifies Skyrunning. The trails, although not overly technical, are some of the best trails to run on – they are stunning!

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Starting at Fuencaliente lighthouse, runners basically climb for 50km (with a drop down to El Pilar) to the caldera and the impressive Roques de los Muchachos. Many have considered this huge and impressive cauldron to be a Volcano, it is not, it is actually a large water erosion crater.

The trails, the landscape and the stunning vistas are beyond impressive. Depending on weather systems, an inversion can take place and therefore the runners run ‘above the clouds.’

Since 2012, the race has been transformed, directly attributable to Skyrunning, the ISF and the vision of Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten. 2016 once again steps up the reputation of the race with a stunning line up, yes, to coin a phrase, the field is stacked!

MEN

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Luis Alberto Hernando is the two time defending champion and returns in 2016. His performance in 2015 was off the scale and his course record was beyond impressive. Lies really has become a star of the sport but yet still remains a relatively low key character despite being a Skyrunning World and European Champion and having placed on the podium at UTMB. Luis is without doubt the outright favourite, he knows the course like the back of his hand. He became a father in 2015 and clearly stated that he would race less in 2016 to place an emphasis, that can only mean one thing, the races he does do he will be fired up for and at 100%.

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Sage Canaday has been close but no cigar many times on the island of La Palma. His achilles heel in comparison to the pure Skyrunners is his descending ability and unfortunately for Sage, Transvulcania drops from the high point of the course right down to the sea (2400m) in one 18km drop that not only requires 100% attention but great skill. Therefore, Sage has always employed the tactic of run hard from the start, build a buffer and then hopefully hold on. On the podium twice before, Sage missed 2015 and now he is back – can he topple Luis?

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Andy Symonds for me is the one who has all the potential to not only make the podium but push Luis all the way to the one and possibly pass him. Andy was there in 2012 when Dakota Jones took top honors ahead of Kilian Jornet. It signified a break through for Andy and what followed was disaster and series of issues and problems. He finally made a comeback in 2015 and he gained some notable success especially at Mont Blanc 80km, ELS2900 and most recently at Transgrancanaria. A move from Salomon to Scott has rejuvenated Andy and he has a new enthusiasm for the sport, he is back and I think Andy can win.

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Miguel Heras is an enigma, at times inspirational and at other times frustrating, His injury woes are a continual saga and it is just impossible to predict if he will run well or not. All I can say is, if he is on form he will be up there and he has every chance of contesting the podium as he did at Ultra Pirineu in 2015. However, the odds are increasingly stacked against him with such a young and talented field, but this is Miguel Heras – you cannot rule him out!

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Ricky Lightfoot like Andy Symonds has all the potential to win Transvulcania. Just last weekend he placed 2nd at the Three Peaks in the UK sandwiched between two fellow Salomon teammates. Ricky works full time, has a family and therefore often has to fit races in at last minute and occasionally he has to cancel at last minute. He can run with the best as he proved at the IAU World Trail Championships and his fell running background sets him up perfectly for anything technical.

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Cristofer Clemente placed 7th in 2015 but went on to have a very sold 2015 Skyrunning season. He’s a quiet guy who sits below the radar and therefore is often able to surprise. His 2nd place at The Rut was arguably his best performance of 2015 and although he is maybe not always a podium contender, he is consistent if nothing else – exactly what you need for the Skyrunner World Series.

Adam Campbell is somewhat a surprise entry; I didn’t see that one coming. Since his stunning Hardrock performances, Adam took a lower profile and took to skis and ski mountaineering – no bad thing, Kilian and many others have been doing that for years. Adam’s last experience at Transvulcania in 2013 was a character building lesson in persistence and survival. His finish despite huge problems earned him respect. He has the race skills and speed for Transvulcania and if he finds his run legs, he will be a contender.

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Mike Murphy is a fellow Canadian of Adam Campbell and although you will not see his name mentioned or talked about in any previews, take note, he is one to watch! Mike is one of the gutsiest and committed athletes I know. He doesn’t race much but when he does it is at 110%. We discussed his participation at Transvulcania in 2015 and I know he has been preparing for this showdown.

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Zaid Ait Malek is a runner who embraces life and the trails. He loves life and he loves running. Even though he won Matterhorn Ultraks in 2014 one could arguably say his best performance was placing 2nd to Kilian Jornet at Ultra Pirineu in 2015. Zaid does have a habit of blowing hot and cold though. I hope he has a good race in La Palma.

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Stephan Hugenschmidt placed 5th in 2014 and the stage was set for stardom, what followed, didn’t actually follow the script that many had written. Despite a win at the TransAlpine and other wins in smaller races, the ‘big’ victory didn’t follow which leaves a huge question mark for Transvulcania 2016. My gut feeling says that we will see him top-5 again!

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Fulvio Dapit loves to run and run regularly, the distance of Transvulcania will suit him as will the technical aspects – he is a pure Skyrunner. On his day, we can really expect him to contend the top-5, however, he is prone to stomach issues which can often ruin his racing.

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Gerard Morales like his Buff team mates of Zaid and Pau has the potential to be top-10 but may just lack the additional oomph and speed to penetrate the top-5.

Pau Bartolo won TCC in 2014 and although on his day we can expect him around the top-10, I don’t see him making any inroads on the top-5.

Sylvain Court leaves a huge question mark for me? He was the winner of the IAU World Trail Championships on home ground in Annecy. Was it home advantage a purple patch? I don’t know, I really don’t. However, the trails around Annecy need respect and Sylvain did beat a tired Luis Alberto Hernando that day – what do you think?

Nicolas Martin however placed 3rd at CCC, 2nd at Templiers and was 7th in Annecy at the IAU World Trail Championships and that balance of results elevates him to a potentially higher overall placing at Transvulcania over Sylvain.

Chris Vargo had a tough 2015 but prior to this had excellent 2013 and 2014 seasons. The hard packed single-track that Transvulcania offers will suit Chris, however, the black soft sand, technical trails around the Caldera and the 18km drop to the sea may suit him less?

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Vajin Armstrong is a top class runner from the Southern Hemisphere who has all the potential to be top-10 and if he has a good day, he may come close to 5th but I don’t see the podium as a possibility.

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Vlad Ixel has raced Transvulcania before and was forced to withdraw as his shoes fella apart…. at the time of dropping, he was in and around the top-10 and looking good. Based in Hong Kong he ha regularly has a string of top quality results and like Vajin Armstrong I see him in the top-10.

Benoit Cori is a two times winner of Templiers and a recent winner of the SainteLyon night race. Two of Frances biggest races outside of the UTMB. Although Benoit can obviously run, I don’t see him beating the like of Luis, Andy, Ricky, Miguel, Sage and Zaid on a cause such as this – I may be wrong?

Ones to watch:

Julien Codert has placed 6th at Transvulcania previously.

Yeray Duran is from the Canaries and will be fired up for this race.

Aurelian Collet another French runner who like running French races.

Ion Azpiroz

Florian Reichert – been training on the island and looks fired up for a good race.

Marcin Swierc

Marco Ranchi

Nuno Silva

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and finally a huge nod of the hat for Bruno Brunod who is along with Marino Giacometti, the father of Skyrunning. In recent years he has run and raced the Tor des Geants. I for one will be interested to see how the legend performs on these wonderful trails.

 

LADIES

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Anna Frost heads up the ladies’ race and I have to say, if ‘Frosty’ is on form she will win the race. No disrespect to the other ladies but Frosty knows and loves this course, holds the course record and when in beast mode; is unstoppable. But will she be 100% fit? Her ability to climb hard, descend fast is un-matched by any other lady in the field with the exception of Mira Rai. Frosty missed the race last year with injury but won Hardrock 100, a race she will go back to this year.

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Mira Rai just placed 2nd at the Three Peaks in the UK. A clear sign of pure class… fell running is far removed from what she is used to. Mira’s story is an inspirational one and along with Jo Meek, I believe that Mira has all the potential to contest the top of the podium. Mira in my opinion will get the edge over Jo due to her technical ability – the 18km descent is going to be a crucial element of the race.

Jo Meek TCC2014 ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek TCC2014 ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek had some tough times with injury but she returned in late 2015 placing 2nd at Everest Trail Race and then 8th at TNF50. I would say in both of those races she was on the comeback trail and although Transvulcania will throw some significant obstacles at her, I do believe her natural fast speed will be a huge advantage. I can’t help think that Jo will adopt a Sage Canaday approach, pushing hard in the early stages when she can run looking to build a time buffer and then when the trails get gnarly, she will do her best to consolidate. A bonus for Jo is the final push from Tazacorte to the finish. If in contention, Jo will have the speed to close out the race.

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Ida Nilsson is my dark horse for the race and top tip for the podium. I can hear you all say now, Ida who? Believe me and trust me, barring injury or problems, Ida will be contesting the podium.

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Anna Comet finished 2nd at Transvulcania last year and had a great year of Skyrunning. I think it’s fair to say that Anna may well have raced too much in 2015. I think she learnt that lesson and will race less in 2016. The podium is there for the taking and I have no reason not to see Anna top-5.

Alicia Shay falls a little in the Jo Meek category. She is a fast runner who is looking to find her trail feet. Transvulcania offers a good mix and does allow the ‘runner’ to perform as Sage Canaday has shown. Alicia will be looking to follow in Sage’s footsteps but I do think she is in for a European learning curve. I see Jo and Alicia leading the race early on, what happens from the Caldera to the sea with all come down to bravery and adaptation.

Uxue Fraile will start steady and work her way through the field. She knows how to race this course and races tactically. It’s one of caution. She allows the other ladies to race hard and then detonate and then she does what she does best, close with great skill and consistency and picks up the pieces for a top-5. Her 2015 was stunning with a win UTMF and 2nd at UTMB. I do believe though that Transvulcania is not long enough or hard enough for Uxue to win.

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Christel Dewalle is the known un-known if that makes sense. A VK specialist, Christel has had good results in many ultras and her inclusion into Transvulcania is an interesting one. My gut reaction tells me that we may well see a surprise.

Gemma Arenas is a runner who may well drift under the radar but her 4th place at Ultra Pirineu confirms her ability.

Magdalena Laczak was 5th last year and went on to improve throughout 2015. In many respects she is a dark horse.

 

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-7699Hillary Allen may well be the hottest property from the USA in regard to Skyrunning. She may not be the fastest of the American ladies but she can handle and embraces the technical trail. Hillary proved this at Mont Blanc 80km and on home soil at The Rut.

Anne-Lise Rousset placed 5th in 2014 and she has the potential to place in a similar position in 2016. Considering the competition, she would need a stunning run (or others to have a bad run) to make the top-3.

Jodee Adams-Moore will be between top-5 and top-10 based on previous form but she does have the potential for a break through performance. Had Transvulcania not contained the Caldera and the 18km drop to Tazacorte, I would rate Jodee’s chances higher.

Kristina Pattison was 6th at Mont Blanc 80km and Transvulcania in 2015 and therefore along with Hillary Allen, is the best prospect for an American breaking the top-5.

Ones to watch:

Manu Vilaseca

Zoe Salt

Gabriela Sanchez Cabezas

Adrian Vargas

Juliette Benedicto

 *****

The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is brought to you with a new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA.

SkyMan SA is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.
The well-established, Sky, Ultra and Vertical format is joined by the Extreme Series presented by Alpina Watches, which more than ever expresses the true spirit of Skyrunning defined not only by distance, but vertical climb and technical difficulty.

Skyrunner® World Series is supported by Migu Xempower, Alpina Watches, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the

Skyrunner® World Series Follow on

Facebook HERE 

Twitter (@talkultra) HERE 

Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) HERE

LOGO_SKYRUNNER_WORLD_SERIES_horizontal

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

Facebook.com/skyrunning

Twitter @skyrunning_com

Instagram @skyrunning

The Coastal Challenge 2016 Race Preview

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The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica celebrates it’s 12th year with an incredible line up once again!

The 2016 edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica gets underway on February 14th, yes, valentines day! It’s appropriate, most people fall in love with Costa Rica. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose in preparation for the journey down to the coast and the 12th edition.

“Reaching the 12th edition is humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly. We are happy and grateful to have made it this far.” – Rodrigo Carazo

Rodrigo Carazo has pulled together an incredible line-up for the race and without doubt it will arguably be one of the most competitive multi stage races of 2016 with the 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes heading up the ladies field and 2015 champion and course record holder, Iain Don-Wauchope returning after his incredible 2015 performance and course record.

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“Twelve years of exploring, adventuring and discovering Costa Rica and the beginning of a bright new era to come!” Rodrigo Carazo

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RD – Rodrigo

Elite runners will toe the line in Quepos with everyday runners, they will all have one purpose in mind, to embrace the tough and technical challenge that lies ahead of them and enjoy every moment.

Known locally as the Rainforest Run, the TCC is a 236km stage race over 6-days that weaves in and out of a lush and tropical Pacific coastline. The Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country – provide not only a stunning backdrop but also many of the tough and technical challenges that the runners will face on a day-to-day basis

Steve Diederich (HERE) the UK agent for the TCC had this to say:

 “A backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet, The Coastal Challenge has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras.”

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Beaches that last km after km are interspersed with dirt tracks, mountain paths, dense jungle, ridges, water crossings, open plains and highland; Costa Rica is bursting with variety. In addition, add 40deg temperature and high humidity, the TCC is no easy challenge.

TCC is a supported race and each day camp is moved ahead of the runners. Running light and fast, equipment is kept to a minimum and as such, racing is extremely competitive. The 2016 edition of the race is proving to be extremely exciting, particularly when one looks at the line up of runners.

 

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2016 will see an incredible line up of runners and in the men’s Chema Martinez (José Manuel (“Chema”) Martínez Fernández) brings super fast 10,000m and maybe more importantly, marathon running speed to the TCC. A 2:08 marathon runner, Chema cut his multi-day teeth at Marathon des Sables in 2015 and TCC will allow him to run fast without the weight of a pack.

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Carlos Sa has run at the TCC before but made a huge navigational error on day 1 which ruined any chance of overall success. A runner who inspires through inspiration, Carlos has a varied list of results with highlights coming with 1st place at Badwater 135, 4th at the Marathon des Sables and a string of top-10 places in races all over the world, including UTMB.

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Miguel Capo Soler has placed 3rd at Marathon des Sables (2013) and shows great pedigree in multi-day and single day running. TheTCC will suit his running style but he will need to watch out for all the local ‘Tico’ talent: Ashur Youseffi, Roiny Villegas and Frederico Pacheco.

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A surprise package may well come from Brit, Damian Hall. The other runners in the race will almost certainly not know Damian but recent success at the UK’s Dragon Back Race, The Spine and last year a top-50 result at UTMB means that he will certainly be in contention in the top-5.

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Finally returning champ, Iain Don-Wauchope from South Africa impressed everyone in 2015 with how he made what is a very tough course look (relatively) easy.  This year he has said in advance that training has been sporadic and that he has suffered with some over training issues. What’s important is, he is back.

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The ladies race has less depth than in previous years and defending champion, Veronica Bravo is taking a year away from the race. However, two ladies will battle on this course. Ester Alves from Portugal had an impressive 2015 with a very full calendar, maybe too full! High quality and world-class performances were sometimes followed with less impressive performances due to fatigue. A former road cyclist, her transition to trail came in 2014. Top performances are 8th at UTMB, 6th at Transgrancanaria and 7th at Transvulcania.

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Elisabet Barnes is a lady on fire at the moment, particularly in multi-day racing. Her 2015 victory at Marathon des Sables (she won every stage) was followed up with a repeat performance in Oman. Having just completed a multi-day training camp in Lanzarote (here), Elisabet went into the heat chamber to prepare for Costa Rica’s humidity. It’s going to be exciting to see Elisabet race this TCC course. Recent sonship with Raidlight and a full calendar of multi-day racing in 2016 will see Elisabet race at MDS, Richtersveld Wildrun, Big Red Run and Grand to Grand.

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“This race will bring a whole new experience. I expect it to be more technical than what I am used to and I know from the heat chamber sessions I have done that the humidity will make it very tough. I am really looking forward to the challenge though and to visiting Costa Rica for the first time” – Elisabet Barnes

Racing starts on Sunday very early and I will be posting daily reports and images on this website as and when internet connection allows.

You can view the race route below.

Follow the race on Twitter @talkultra on Instagram @iancorlessphotography and on Facebook facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

#TCC2016

Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise 2015 Race Preview #ITT2015

 

©iancorless.comIMG_0945The stunning alpine village of Val d’Isère is the official home of the next two races in the Skyrunner® calendar, the Ice Trail Tarentaise which is the Skyrunning Continental Championship for the Ultra distance and the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer the first VK in the Skyrunner® World Series.

Val d’Isere is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel; it is affectionately known as the ‘Le Trois Vallees’. The Ice Trail Tarentaise (ITT) starts and concludes in this beautiful mountain retreat.

The ITT has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte.’ In just a couple of years, the race has gained a reputation for being one of the most ‘extreme’ races in the Skyrunner® calendar, it is a race not to be taken lightly!

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Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386m, ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not everyone will see the finishing tape. The ITT is very true to the heritage of Skyrunning and it harks back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when ISF President, Marino Giacometti pioneered a new form of Alpinism.

 

Who is running?

Men

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ITT has always had a high quality field assemble and 2015 is no different. Luis Alberto Hernando heads up the men’s field after his recent victory at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and placing 2nd at the IAU World Trail Championships. Luis ran ITT last year but pulled out whilst in 2nd place. I am convinced that we won’t see that happen this year and for me, Luis is the hot favourite for victory. He is without doubt in his element on tough courses (with snow) between the 50-100km distance.

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Manuel Merillas is a rising star in Skyrunning and had an incredible 2014. He placed 5th at ITT in 2014, which will most definitely provide him with a great deal of experience coming into the 2015 edition. The recent Transvulcania Ultramarathon did not go well for Manuel; he looked primed for the podium in the first half of the race but then struggled in the latter stages to finish outside the top 10. He showed amazing powers of recovery by bouncing back just 1 week later at Zegama-Aizkorri and placing 2nd. One to watch!

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Fabien Antolinus had a great race in 2014 and placed 2nd behind Francois d’Haene. He does however seem to blow hot and cold and can be a little unpredictable. For sure, he has all the skills and talent required to perform at the highest level. He may well be a podium contender but I don’t see him toppling Luis.

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Pablo Villa shot to our attention in 2014 when he had a great run at Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Shifting sponsors (now Salomon) he backed that performance up with 8th at the 2015 edition of the race. Pablo is a top 10 contender and should he have a great day, the top 5 may well be a possibility.

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Fulvio Dapit has all the potential to make the podium at ITT. On his day, he is a superb mountain runner and he excels when the terrain is ‘challenging.’ He placed 4th at ITT in the last edition. Recently though he had a tough performance at Lavaredo, however, he did pull out and that may well have saved his ITT performance.

French champion (2013), Sebastien Spehler had victories at TTN and 6000D in 2014. His recent form is a little unknown but he may well make the top 10?

Benoit Cori placed 13th at the IAU World Trail Championships and won Templiers in 2014. The ITT course is far removed from both those courses but Benoit obviously has speed.

Marcin Swierc is another runner who will make his presence felt in the top 10. He placed 8th at Mont-Blanc Marathon and 9th at Templiers and 4th at the recent Mont-Blanc 80km. So it is clear to see that he has speed and strength. ITT adds other aspects and his final result will very much depend on how he can handle snow, ice and additional technical running.

Christophe Perillat is not a runner I know a great deal about. However, he did place 2nd at the 2014 CCC. So with that in mind, he is no slouch in the mountains.

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Cyril Cointre may well start the race? I need to have this confirmed. If he does, he will be a contender at the front of the race. He races extensively, some may say too much but despite this, he always pulls out the results. Recently he finished ahead of Anton Krupicka at Transgrancanaria.

Franco Colle knows how to run in the mountains; look at his results at Tor des Geants. The ITT terrain will suit him but will it be too short and too fast? He certainly performed exceptionally well at Mont-Blanc 80k when he placed 2nd behind Alex Nichols.

Several other names on the start sheet jump out at me:

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Zigor Iturrieta has been there and done it in racing. I was last at a race with him in Nepal when he ran Everest Trail Race (he placed 3rd) and he always manages to pull out the stops for strong consistent results.

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Pavel Paloncy is a renowned adventure racer, 2-x winner of the UK’s Spine Race and recently raced The Dragons Back and would have placed well overall had it not been for a bad fall on day 1. Pavel is a strong and gritty runner. I do wonder though if this race may be too short and too fast for Pavel?

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Stuart Air from the UK has run well at ITT before and top 10 would be a great result.

Ones to watch:

Daniel Garcia, Jessed Hernandez, Robert Niewland, Pawel Dybek,

 

Ladies

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Emelie Forsberg has won ITT 2 x and I have no reason to doubt or question that she will do it again. It’s a course she loves, the terrain suits her and she has great memories. Last weekend she won and set a new course record in Alaska at Mount Marathon. It was 50-minute race but just today (Tuesday) she said her legs are tired! I think they will be okay for the weekend. Her performance and victory (off ski’s) at Transvulcania Ultramarathon in 2015 confirms that Emelie is the one to beat!

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Anna Comet Pascua is on fire at the moment. I witnessed Anna win Everest Trail Race at the end of 2014 and she said then that she planned to race the Skyrunning circuit in 2015. A podium place at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and then a follow up podium behind Mira Rai at Mont-Blanc 80km confirms that Anna is doing something right. Just as in La Palma, I don’t think Anna has the race to beat Emelie but anything can happen?

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It will not be an easy ride for Emelie and Maud Gobert will make sure of that. Maud placed 2nd at ITT in 2014 and although she races lees now than in the past, on her day she can still make her presence felt.

Anne Lise Rousset placed 4th at the IAU World Championships and although she has great potential for top 5 or maybe even the podium, I don’t see her coming close to Emelie on a course like this.

Magdalena Laczack however may well prove to be the dark horse of the race and is my top tip for 2nd place and should Emelie falter, Magdalena could possibly take the victory? Her 3rd place behind Emelie and Frosty at the Skyrunning World Championships (80km) in Chamonix confirms this.

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Nuria Dominguez is an ever present on the Skyrunning circuit and always gets the job done. She has placed top 10 at Transgrancanaria, Zegama-Aizkorri, Dolomites SkyRace, Trans D’Havet, Limone Extreme and so on. Top 5 is a distinct possibility and most certainly a podium contender on a good day!

Beth Cardelli is one of the strongest runners in the Southern Hemisphere and won one of the shorter races at ITT in 2013. Climbing and long distance running is her forte and I am sure if she is making the journey from Australia she will be fired up for a great run. Recently she placed 4th at Mt Difficulty and 3rd at Buffalo Stampede when Landie Greyling topped the podium.

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Ester Alves seems to be running everything at the moment. I would say ‘too much’ for her to have any potential for the podium at ITT but she may well make the top 5 and top 10 should be guaranteed if all goes well. Recently she placed 2nd behind Stevie Kremer at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira.

Ones to watch:

Ragna Debats, Frederica Boifava, Anna Strakova, Sarah Vieuielle and Virginie Govignon.

*****

The Ice Trail Tarentaise weekend is also renowned for the Bellevarde Vertical Kilometer, which was reintroduced in 2014.

The course is a tough one, which may include snow although this looks unlikely after recent high temperatures throughout Europe. This race may well prove to be very exciting, as Francois Gonon will run after his recent excellent CR on the vertical slopes in Chamonix.

Ones to watch:

Men

  • Francois Gonon
  • Nejc Kuhar
  • Marco Moletto
  • Ferran Teixido
  • Xavier Teixido
  • William Bon Mardion
  • Eirik Haugsness
  • Remi Bonnet

 

Ladies

  • Laura Orgue
  • Stephanie Jimenez
  • Emelie Forsberg (tbc)
  • Azara Garcia
  • Therese Sjursen
  • Erika Forni
  • Serena Vittori
  • Ekaterina Mityaev
  • Zhana Vokueva

Follow the racing in images and words on this website, on Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography on Twitter @talkultra and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

Race Tweets will come to you via @skyrunning_com and on the Skyrunning Facebook page.