High Trail Vanoise 2017 Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series continued at a pace today with the High Trail Vanoise – 70km in length and 5400m of vertical gain.

Starting and concluding at the iconic ski resort of Val d’Isere, this race marks back to the early days of Skyrunning mixing fast trails, technical trails, snow, ice and altitude. The course has many key features with highlight coming at Grande Motte (3500m) and then a rollercoaster of climbs and descents that finally culminates with Aiguille Pers (2800m) before dropping down to the Col I’seran before the final push to the line.

Departing under darkness at 0400, it was very apparent that a warm and hot day lay ahead. The early hours were always chilly ones, especially as the runners climbed from the start to Grande Motte at 3500m+ in the first 17.5km. In the early stages, a small group of runners pushed the pace lead by Luis Alberto Hernando, Dimitry Mityaev and Aurelien Dunand Pallaz – the trio arrived at the summit with just 90-seconds between them. In the ladies race, Megan Kimmel arrived first and Ragna Debats followed just 4-minutes later with Mimmi Kotka another 1-minute back. It was all too close to call!

From the summit of Grande Motte, the arrival of sunlight facilitated the long fast descent past Lac de Tignes all the way to La Daille at approximately 34km. By now the runners were spread out all over the course but the front of the race saw Hernando, Dunand Pallaz and Mityaev arrive together and it stayed that way up the steep climb.  Megan Kimmel had a 2-minute slender lead over Debats who looked strong and fight for 3rd was between Kotka and the USA’s Hillary Allen.

A 4km climb to Lac Sassier was followed with a rollercoaster descent to Le Fornet at 46km, Hernando had opened up a 2-minute gap on Dunand Pallaz and Mityaev was 11-minutes back. Kimmel also opened the gap over Debats – would 7-minutes be enough?

Now the action was really unfolding and arguably, the next section of the course from Le Fornet to Aiguille Pers via Tete Cema was going to be instrumental as this section climbed for 10km with an altitude gain of 1400m +/-.

From the summit a fast descent to the iconic Col I’seran was followed by a short climb with technical sections before passing through a tunnel through the mountains which was followed by a fast drop to the line and finish in Val d’Isere.

Hernando here put the hammer down and slowly but surely stretched the elastic and took a strong victory in 8:17:05 smashing the old course record. Dunand Pallaz followed in 8:31:04 and Mityaev sealed the last podium place in 8:43:10.

Kimmel’s victory never looked in doubt in the final stages and her 9:46:05 to Debats 9:52:10 showed how close the ladies race was. The battle for 3rd was also close with Kotka and Allen both struggling with fatigue in the latter stages – Kotka held on with 10:30:21 to Allen’s 10:33:52.

Notably, the High Trail Vanoise was the Skyrunning European Championships and Luis Albert Hernad and Ragna Debats were crowned 2017 Champions.

Full results HERE

Attention now turns to Italy to the Gran Paradiso race, the first ‘extreme’ race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.

All images ©iancorless.com

 

 

Face de Bellevarde VK 2017 Race Summary and Images – 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit

Starting at 1600 hours, runners departed on timed intervals of 1-minute for the Face de Bellvarde, VK, part of the 2017 Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit. Temperatures were relatively cool after a morning of sun and cloud cover removed any strong and direct heat thus making conditions excellent for a hard effort.

Last years winner Gachet, was never going to have an easy run and strong threats came from Remi Bonnet, finally returning from injury. Pre-race favourite William Bon Mardion also pushed hard with a hope for victory. Gachet held on though, crossing the line in 33:57 to Bonnet’s 34:41 – a convincing victory. Bon Mardion 3rd in 35:19.

In the ladies race, it was all change with a couple of pre-race favourites not starting. This opened the doorway for France’s Jessica Pardin who took a convincing victory over Marianna Jagercikova, 43:08 to 43:43 respectively.

VK specialist Stephanie Jimenez placed 3rd but said she had struggled with the altitude, her time 44:57.

Full results are available HERE

Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit information HERE

Next race on the calendar – VERTICAL CABANERA – SPAIN HERE

Hardrock 100 2017 Preview

As races go, the Hardrock 100 has anticipation and attention way beyond its relatively diminutive size – less than 150 runners will toe the line in 2017! However, as those who have run the race confirm, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and the Hardrock 100 route is something to embrace. If proof were needed, Kilian Jornet has run and won the race three times and he will be back again in 2017. For Kilian, the course is tough, beautiful, offers a challenge but maybe more importantly, it’s low-key. He can turn up, walk around, race and have little of the media and fan frenzy he would get in Europe, irrespective of the size of the race. Kilian’s Salomon teammate Anna Frost also confirms that this area of the USA is something pretty darn special – so much so she currently calls Durango her home.

It’s a high altitude race, with much of the race taking place above 3000m and the high point coming around 4200m. In total, the runners climb and over 10.000m whilst covering 100 challenging miles.

Last year, Anna Frost topped the ladies podium and Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet were the joint male winners, all three therefore are guaranteed an entry for 2017 and all three have confirmed participation but Anna Frost is still unsure if she will toe the line – more on that later.

It’s a constant frustration for me that we never see a fully stacked field at Hardrock. Don’t get me wrong, there is always plenty of class up at the front but it often feels that the winner will come from a small and select group of 4 or 5 runners. I think we all know that so many top elite runners would love to toe the line but the Hardrock lottery is against them – I guess it does add some charm and anticipation to the race.

MEN

I don’t think we will see Kilian Jornet hold hands this year but I do anticipate he will spend much of the race in the company of 1 or 2 runners until beyond the midway point – it’s a big day out for Kilian in an awesome place and he enjoys the company. Of course, he may be enticed by setting a super fast time? If he does, then we can expect him to hit the front alone maybe somewhere around half-way, if not, he may take the race by the horns in the final quarter. Whatever he decides, Kilian will win barring an accident.

Jason Schlarb has dined out on crossing the line at the 2016 Hardrock for one year and who can blame him. He has done something that so few can do, keep up with the Catalan. Earlier this year Jason raced The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with a solid run and then he recently placed just inside the top-10 at Transvulcania. For the last month or so he’s been in the San Juans preparing and it’s fair to assume he will be ready for battle.

Read HERE

Listen HERE and HERE

Iker Karrera is an interesting addition to the 2017 line-up and after being a ‘one-to-watch’ at so many races in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, I can’t help but feel Iker’s been a little awol for the last 18-months and that leaves a question mark. Iker on his day is one of the best there is, especially at long distance races with loads of vert – he won Tor des Geants in 2013 for example. If he has the form that provided him with 2nd at UTMB in 2014 then we have an interesting race on our hands.

Karl Meltzer has won Hardrock five times and he’s back. He will be the first to admit he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Kilian but Speedgoat is a fox. He appears to have recovered well post his Appalachian Trail FKT and he’s been sensible by not rushing things. He won Zane Grey 50 which prompted me and Speedgoat to confirm, ‘there is life in the old dog yet!’ If he’s feeling good, he has the long game to put on a great race and few can keep up with Speedgoat’s hiking pace – an essential skill for Hardrock. The AT HERE

Mike Foote is another mystery for this years race. Not that I or you have to question who he is, the question is more about his form? Ever since he did his FKT project with Mike Wolfe, Foote seems to have raced a little on the back burner. Having said that, mountain races are his thing and he has a long list of impressive results at UTMB and he has been 2nd at Hardrock. He will start slow and then move up making up places and time in the final third.

Nick Pedatella was 4th at Hardrock in 2012 but I know little of his current form. Experience alone and a top-5 performance in the past makes him someone to make a note of.

Adam Campbell was 3rd at Hardrock in 2015 and 2014. As many of you will know, Adam was wiped out of 2016 with a near death accident. Read HERE. No pressure on Adam in 2017 and I’ll make no guesses or predictions, to see Adam toe the line will be a wonderful sight and one that he and many of us thought would not happen. Read HERE

Mr Hardrock, Joe Grant, is back again! The lottery gods love Joe and Joe loves Hardrock. He placed 2nd in 2012 and in many respects, that podium place set Joe up for the runner who he is today. I say runner, but I feel Joe goes beyond the tag of ultra-runner and I see him more of an adventurer. He’s taken on some huge challenges over the years, examples coming with the Iditarod, his Colorado 14ers FKT and expeditions via bike. Pretty sure Joe will treat Hardrock as another awesome adventure in the mountains and if things go well, we can see him in or around the top-5.

Other names to watch to be in and around the top-10 are: Mike Wardian, Coury brothers (Jamil and Nick), Grant Guise and Scott Jaime.

LADIES

Anna Frost has won the race the last 2-years and who would want to bet against her? Frosty when in form is unstoppable and when she is not in form, she can often dig deeper than any other runner I know. I was with Frosty in Costa Rica (Read HERE) and spending much time chatting – I was well aware that she was switching into a new phase of her life. At Zegama-Aizkorri she participated but was way off the top-10 and at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira she dropped. All things considered, I think Frosty’s prep for this years Hardrock is behind where she would like it to be and therefore she has three choices: 1. She will run because she loves the course and wants to irrespective of placing. 2. She will think that she can win it and be mentally prepared for the pain that will be required or 3. She’s over it and can’t get herself set up for the physical and mental challenge it will bring. Of course, the only descent thing to do was ask Frosty… “I’m doing Hardrock! It’s been a mental and physical battle this year but one I am winning right now. Definitely not on competitive form but I am doing HR because I love it! ….I’ll get it done! It deserves that.” So. it looks like it’s no1.

Caroline Chaverot is probably putting the fear of god in the ladies’ competition. In 2016 this French lady was unstoppable and for me was the stand out runner, male or female, in 2016. The depth of here ability incredible, her range (long or short) her skill (fast or mountainous) was unmatched. 2017 kicked off with a rough patch and an early withdrawal from Transgrancanaria, what followed was some quiet time away and then boom, she was back with victory at Maxi-Race Annecy and most recently, Lavaredo. Her victory at UTMB last year sets her up perfectly for Hardrock and I think she will win the race.

Nathalie Mauclair, also from France, can’t be ruled out of the podium places but her recent form seems a little below recent years. She was 2nd at Marathon des Sables earlier this year. Her record at Diagonale des Fous, champion in 2013 and 2014, is the best indicator of success in the San Juans.

The wild card goes to local girl, Hannah Green who has been training her butt off and is super strong and young. She may lack experience but has heart and if she can hold on and manage herself she could do it and be up on the podium. (Hot tip from Frosty)

Three time winner Darcy Piceu (formerly Africa) gave Frosty a battle in 2015 with a really strong run – Frosty triumphed with a late surge. Missing the race last year, it’s fair to assume that Darcy will be fired up for a great run. She has the experience, no question, not sure she has the speed of an in form Frost, Chaverot or Mauclair.

Darla Askew is the last prime contender for a win and podium – she’s placed 2nd before and that is backed up with two 3rd places.

Ones to watch – Jamie Frink, Betsy Kalmeyer, Tina Ure and Rachel Bucklin.

High Trail Vanoise Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series arrives in Val d’Isere, France this wwekens for the High Trail Vanoise and the Face de Bellevarde VK (VK World Circuit) kicks off the action at 1600 on Friday when runners will climb this classic downhill ski route all the way to the summit.

Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi, held the record of 34:51 set on this course many years ago last year Xavier Gachet broke it! This year, Nejc Kuhar will be looking to set a new benchmark along with Marco Moletto. 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 Hannes Perkmann, William Bon Mardion and Marc Faccinhelli will push all the way to the summit.

For the ladies, Francesca Rossi ultimately may be the one to beat! Ekaterina Mityaev and Stephanie Jimenez will be putting on a hard-fought battle along with Corinne Favre and Jennifer Fiechter, but can they beat Laura Orgue’s time of 40:52?

High Trail Vanoise is the main event of the weekend – Ice, snow, glaciers, high altitude, the High Trail Vanoise course has it all. Crossing the iconic Col D’Iseran at 2764m is merely just a taster, at 67km in length, runners will climb and descend many 1000’s of meters with a total vertical gain of 5400m – the high point of the course is the impressive Grande Motte at 3653m.

Luis Alberto Hernando heads up the men’s field, he recently became IAU World Trail Running champion for a 2nd year in a row – Luis has excelled in Val d’Isere in recent years and he is without doubt the one to beat!

Nicolas Martin won the race last-year and apparently, HTV is a priority race for 2017. It’s going to be interesting to see Luis and Nicolas go head-to-head, a little like a few years ago when Francois d’Haene and Luis raced each other – that day Francois won.

Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz recently lead the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira but was pipped to the line by Skyrunner Extreme Champion Jon Albon, we can expect Aurelien to figure at the front of the race along with 3rd place at USM, Dmitry Mityaev who is having a strong year in the world series, he also knows HTV well having podium last year.

Remigio Huaman, Andre Jonsson, Daniel Garcia Gomez, Jan Bartas, Nuno Silva and Scott Hawker head up the competition for the front of the race but it’s a stacked field and we can’t rule any of the runners below making an impression on what is a very tough race – patience pays dividends!

Xavier Teixido, Alexey Kurochkin, Artem Rostovstev, Clement Ripoll, Marc Puig, Francesc Sole Duocastella, Lars Olaf Haaheim and Nicola Alfieri.

Megan Kimmel fresh from victory in Chamonix will be looking to for maximum points in France, her form is great now, she recently beat Transvulcania champion Ida Nilsson by over 10-minutes! Local French lady Anne-Lise Rousset may well have other thoughts though, she won the race last year with a dominant performance and she knows this course well – it will be a tough race! Travelling from the USA, Kristina Pattison will be looking to repeat her performance from last year and hopefully better it.

Ekaterina Mityaeva is moving un from the ‘classic’ distance in 2017 and has already showed some great results, particularly at USM recently. HTV will be a tough challenge but the podium is there for the taking. Nuria Dominguez, Manikala Rai, Eva Maria Moreda and Ildiko Wermescher are all names to watch.

But the greatest threat for the podium will come from Ragna Debats who recently won with a new CR in Greece, Francesca Canepa who took victory at the tough Scenic 113k, the USA’s Hillary Allen who won USM and Gemma Arenas who was the world series champion in 2016 – it’s going to be quite a battle!

TOM EVANS – Marathon des Sables #MDS 2017 Part One

Captain Tom Evans, placed third at the 2017 Marathon Des Sables in April, it was a complete surprise. Prior to the race, it’s fair to say, Tom had well and truly kept himself under the radar, a skill no doubt honed whilst in the army. British runners have a long history with the MDS and finally, we have one on the male podium!

I caught up with Tom post MDS to find out a little more about his remarkable story.

Ian: Who’s Tom Evans and tell me how this all came about?

Tom: It’s a very surreal experience. I went out with a few small ambitions. My main goal was to go out unknown and see what I could do. There was no pressure on my running so I could just focus on myself, focus on the race. There were no expectations which I think it’s safe to say I managed to achieve. Absolutely no one had any idea who I was on day one.

Ian: [laughs] Well, you achieved that completely. I remember, on day one, I was scooting around the dunes in a jeep, trying to find the runners because you were ahead of schedule. I saw this shadow in the distance. I told my driver to stop. I’m running through the dunes. Then, you come past me. I look and I think, “Who is this? I don’t know who this is.” Then behind was Rachid and Mohamed, the duo were working together, a little like they do in cycling taking turns to set the pace.

They were holding you at 100, maybe 200-meters which they did to the end of stage one but we’ll come on to the actual race and how it panned out later. I called you Captain, you’re obviously in the army. You were out with a whole bunch of soldiers and Walking with the Wounded. You had Duncan Slater out there with you. Just from that perspective, with your performance, Walking with the Wounded, Duncan Slater – it has been an epic Marathon Des Sables, hasn’t it?

Tom: Yes, it’s been amazing. The support that the whole team has received, not just from Walking with the Wounded and serving members of the British Armed Forces, but from so many across the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky this year; the Walking with the Wounded team had raised a lot of money. Like you say, the likes of Duncan Slater for the first double amputee to complete the race – amazing.

Then also we had Oscar who’s 16 years old, he competed with his father. Everyone helps during the race. That was very encouraging throughout. But then also, everyone back home really got behind the team which then led to the successes that Walking with the Wounded had in the race.

Ian: Let’s go back because there’s got to be a starting point. Let’s start with you and your running and then the MDS prep. To prepare for Marathon Des Sables and be non-Moroccan and do well, it normally requires all sorts of specific types of training, whether that is being really anal about kit, working out what type of food you’re going to eat, heat adaptation, how you handle dehydration, and all those things. I’d like to talk to you about that. But first, when did you start running?

Tom: My sister was a good athlete at school. I got slightly jealous of her so I decided that signing up to the Athletics Club was a good idea. That was when I was 13. I raced on the track all throughout school – anything from 70, 100 meters to 5k on the track. I realized that I was a decent, good English runner so I just got pulled in to the cross-country teams. Since being in the army, I’ve had an incredibly busy career and running took a back seat.

However, during 2015, I was based at a posting in Kenya for 10-months. I was lucky and spent a week training at the high-altitude training centre which really got me focused again on my running. Getting back to the UK, I carried on as much as I could but with work commitments, it’s always been difficult to be able to plan out a couple of months in advance of which races I wanted to do.

I’ve always been keen on my fitness and played as much sport as I can. But my running has only been specific for the last six months. I was squeezing everything in as much as I could – my preparations have been fairly rushed. I still see myself as relatively untrained…

Ian: I’ve got a feeling that there’s a lot of runners around the world saying to themselves, “If Tom’s really untrained, what’s going to happen?”

Tom: I think I have to find my distance and to find my passion, for now ultra-trail, that’s where I’ll stick. Hopefully, specific training will then lead on to more great results.

Ian: Like I said, you were a complete unknown but there was a great deal of conversations at MDS about you being a 2;18 marathon runner, aiming for an England vest, wanting to run at the Olympics – what is the truth in that story though? What are the aspirations outside? What you’d like to achieve in ultra and trail? What is your marathon time? What are your objectives, maybe in terms of a GB or an Olympian vest?

Tom: I think for the time being, I’m really going to focus on ultras. Certainly, the next 18-months. It’s always been my ambition to race in the Olympics. My marathon is currently at 2:20, but that was a while ago. I’m hoping with the experience that I’m going to gain in the next 6, 12 and 18-months, that my running will really start to improve. For the moment, I’m doing it because I love the sport.

It’s more than running, It’s the whole community, the preparation. It’s being self-sufficient throughout the race and then also, mixing with the other competitors. It’s a very competitive sport but on the start line, you’re mixing with other people from all over the world – Rachid and Mohamed for example. It’s just that relationship that you can forge over a week-long period which really draws me into ultras, especially multi-day.

Having said that, my ultra-running experience is so limited and I’m sure a lot of the followers will be fairly surprised to read that the MDS was my first multi-day race, so it was completely uncharted territory for me. The long stage of MDS was the farthest I’d ever run by 12-kilometers, ity was all so new.

Ian: Wow.

Tom: It’s just such a huge learning project. I’m so new to that. I’ve got so much to learn and will just be learning as much and as much as I can in the sport.

Ian: Yes, okay. I’m getting a sense that maybe the multi-day type experience is where you will place an emphasis but obviously single-day ultras are also going to figure. Being in the army and the way that Marathon des Sables is organised, is the race just like another army training exercise – Is it just like another military campaign?

Tom: There are certain similarities, I think that’s why Marathon des Sables attracts a great deal of serving and ex-military personnel not only from the UK but also from all across the world. It’s self-sufficient element is classic military and replicates doing something hard – be it a long insertion march or similar, plus you must carry weight. Post the run, it’s about getting yourself back into your tent and then starting to look after yourself, looking after your body, doing all of that, the basic administrations, sorting out your feet, stretching, making sure you’re fully hydrated again, getting your nutrition on – classic army!

This is what really draws everyone closer together, you’re going through that together. You are living in a confined space in a tent with 7 other people and the camaraderie that’s built up over a very short period of time is very similar to the military, which I think is absolutely amazing.

Ian: The process of working out how you were going to spend the week in the desert in terms of your kit selection, your food choices, were they just extensions of what you’ve experienced as a soldier or did you specifically pool information and speak to people to find out what type of equipment to use? It can be a daunting task when you think about this whole self-sufficiency thing and the fact that you’ve got to carry everything that you need. The only thing that you’re being given is water and a shelter for the night and it’s all basic.

Join Tom Evans, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl on our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote – information HERE.

Tom: Yes, I spent a bit of time speaking to lots of people. I was lucky enough to be around for the MDS Expo in London which was excellent. That was my springboard to start my research really – the kit, the foods, the heat training and the hydration strategy that I was going to implement during the race.

I spent a great deal of time testing different kit, my room at home now is full with different backpacks and different pairs of shorts and socks – it can be expensive!

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: It’s important to be specific, my needs are different to others in the race. For example, I completed the whole race quicker than say someone takes to do just the long stage. That is significant! The demands on ones feet, clothing, time on legs, nutrition and so on can’t be underestimated.

Ian: Absolutely.

Tom: It’s very different. It’s a very, very different experience. I started day one with six and a half kilo pack exactly. I had a few comforts, had a nice a nice warm jacket, a good sleeping bag but no roll mat, my food reserves were weighed out and light weight and I probably didn’t carry as many calories as I would have liked and no stove, all my food was cold. But having said that, because I ended up getting in  early during the days, I was able to warm my water up naturally in the sun. It can be a very daunting process, ask a 100-people they’d probably tell you 100 different answers.

It’s important to find out what works for you, what’s comfortable but also assess the race and your goals. Most will walk far more than they anticipate, I was lucky, I ran pretty much the whole race but it’s a very different story once you move out of the top 10%.

Ian: Yes. I’m impressed for a first-timer with the fact that you got your pack down to 6.5kg, that obviously must mean that you weren’t eating much more than two and a half thousand calories per day. You said that you’d been quite a big guy over 80 kgs, I don’t know what you’re racing weight is now, you’ve lost weight so need less calories. Andy Symonds from the UK, he was looking for top-10 and he achieved that but he did say to me that as the week went on, he was just permanently hungry and he wasn’t getting enough calories to function as he wanted.

He could run but he didn’t have the energy to run the pace that he wanted to run. How did you manage that and how did you sustain the pace? Is there anything that you had done pre-race that taught your body to use fat as a fuel?

Tom: I ended up doing a lot of my training early in the mornings before breakfast because I was incredibly busy at work. If I could get 1-2 hours in the morning, it meant that I had more time during the day. I’d have a good meal the previous evening but then 10 hours later, eight hours later I’d be running on an empty stomach, it just got my body used using my fat stores and supply the energy I needed.

During the race you’ve got to make sure you have the right nutrients, the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet. I’ve got a good friend back home who owns a small supplement company, OG Supplements, who spent a lot of times of going through my diet plan, just looking at the ingredients – I had the right amount of nutrients in my diet.

On the shorter days I would eat 2,300 calories and then on the marathon days, 2,700, and on the long day, 3,100. Lets be clear, you are going to be in a calorie deficit throughout the week but I think it’s being able to space those meal plans out that works. A sizable breakfast in the morning and then throughout the day, every time I got to the checkpoint, I was taking calories on just to try and maintain a level of energy within my body. You need some good calories quickly when you finish, you need to start the repair process asap.

You must make sure that you look after yourself as soon as possible – going back to being serving officer in the British Army, certainly with the Welsh Guard, that is a key lesson that I learned going through my training, it has become second nature.

Ian: I think certainly being in the Army is a huge advantage. It’s that admin, it’s that protocol, it’s that discipline. I often think of a story that a soldier told me of why you make your bed in the morning and you can probably elaborate on this far better than I can but it’s that process of starting the day and having that discipline.

Tom: Yes it is! You can look at it in the short term with the same analogy as making the bed in the morning: Start the day as you mean to go on, exactly the same; start of the week, start of the month. You’ve got to be able to take on that attitude in everything you do. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it properly!”

A lot of people say, “Oh, you were very lucky that you get the chances to do these things.” Funny how people who work hard become lucky! Without hard work, none of this is possible. You must delve into the depth of everything and you’ve got to try and cover all bases, looking into to every possible eventuality. I’m a huge believer of visualization and setting goals – short-term, midterm, and long-term.

That brings it much closer to home and making my dreams a reality rather than something that, “Oh, this might be quite nice to do.” It’s the mentality that I use when I go into anything – work, home, training or racing.

Ian: You mentioned about training in the morning and training fasted and the fact that you have a busy working life. What would a typical training week for you look like in the build-up to Marathon Des Sables?

Tom: I have been lucky enough to be training with a group of guys who are training for London Marathon, all guys planning on running a sub 2:20. The majority of my mileage was high-quality miles. I was of the mind-set that I needed to run quality miles. However, when you’re training for ultras, you are doing longer distances, one needs to be specific. If I tried and maintain the same tempo and the same effort in longer sessions I would crumble – all about balance.

I would average 90-miles per week and then in the month before Marathon des Sables, I added two weeks at 120 miles, which was by far the longest that I’d run. My runs would be a real mixture of longer runs, typically back-to-back. I would do a tempo long run on a Saturday and then a slow long run on the Sunday. During the week I’d be on the track once. I woukd join sessions: 4x 8-minutes 10k pace for example, really focusing on speed work and the power. I really think it helped my form for Marathon des Sables.

A lot of the race is about speed and about strength – if racing at the front. If you imagine going over the dunes, the quicker that you’re able to get off the dune, the less chance there is for gravity to work against you and the sand to hold you back. I needed to perform at a high level, day-in and day-out. I did a lot of work with my heart rate monitor and I’ve spent time in the lab looking at my VO2 and my lactate threshold.

My training was based on a marathon training program. I have a coach at Lewes Athletics Club and we mixed everything together to try to work it around my schedule at work – it worked well!

In the second part of the interview, we bring you Tom’s thoughts about the race and how his 2017 Marathon des Sables unfolded.

Jim Walmsley and Lighting the Fire – Western States 2017

Ryan looked at me and asked, “You going for sub-14?” It was a gut check moment where I realized I needed to commit to myself on what my goals were for the day. So, I said “Yeah Baby!” and Ryan pulled back and let me go.”

So, guess what, Jim Walmsley didn’t win Western States. Yes. Who’d have thought it? Well actually, I think a great deal of people thought he wouldn’t win but the pre-race Western States PR machine got rolling and before I knew it and ultra-fans around the world knew it, Jim had got the Cougar and the buckle and the race was over.

Thing was, the race hadn’t even started!

Don’t get me wrong, Jim inspired the ultra-running audience in 2016 with some great racing, stunning FKT’s and an almost fairy tale Western States. Yes, it was an almost fairy tale because as we now all know, he went of course whilst in the lead and then walked it in way off the top-10. 

It was a day of what might have been. 

I interviewed Jim post Western States and you can listen to the audio HERE and read the interview HERE. I like Jim, I like someone who really believes in their ability. Is it arrogance, yes, I think it is. But I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe now that Jim’s arrogance was designed to upset anyone – on the contrary, I think Jim desired to be liked.

Post the 2016 Western States it came as no surprise that the ball started to roll and as expected, Jim got a sponsor (Hoka One One) received invites and gained plenty of air time. It was going to happen, it’s the way the world is. However, in and amongst all this buzz, Andrew Miller, the guy who won Western States was almost forgotten. I tried to interview him but he didn’t reply… his victory was so unexpected that Salomon (who he is sponsored by) who had a photographer following the other Salomon runners had not planned to follow the young gun up front who took victory. Andrew’s victory was remarkable and yes, he was the youngest ever champ! I neglected the story as so many others did because the media and buzz was about Jim. 

Cut to 2017 and Jim was back with more great form, fast running and FKT’s. He stuck his neck out early on and said that a ’14’ at Western States was his target and that is what he’d do! 

No keeping the powder dry, no reservations, no question marks – it was clear cut, “I will run 14 -hours.”

We heard it so many times that everyone started to believe it and as the 2017 Western States approached, like I said earlier on, it almost felt that the Cougar and the buckle had been awarded.

I’ll hold my hands up, I said Jim would win but I also clearly stated that I felt that the person to beat Jim on race day was Jim. Running too fast, too hard, not respecting the conditions and not respecting the competition would be the downfall of Jim and it was.

In my opinion, Jim ran a very poorly judged race. He learnt nothing from 2016 and the mistakes made and he went and repeated them. I believe that the PR machine had snowballed so much that maybe Jim had lost perspective?

You see racing is not the same as an FKT. Racing is about being first across the line and that doesn’t need to be a fast time, it just needs to be faster than everyone else.

Everything was against Jim? 

He talked his race up with a level of transparency that the ultra-community embraced. They loved his goals and strategy. In the week before the race a film was released that delved into why Jim runs and how it was an escape from inner demons. We all love an inner-demon story and let’s face it, ultra-running is full of troubled souls. As a community, we could all relate to this story and how the redemptive powers of a long run heals us.

Video here

Jim was on a pedestal and while some would want to see him stumble and fall, the majority were rooting for him – they wanted him to have the moment that was ‘snatched’ away from him in 2016.

On analysis though, Jim losing the Western States in 2016 wasn’t because he went of course, it was because (in my opinion) he ran too fast and too hard and he blew-up. The signs were there with his swim at the Rucky Chucky, his navigation error was no doubt due to a lack of concentration with fatigue.

So, cut to 2017 with 8 of last year’s top-10 returning and some serious new competition, Jim would have to run smart to win. I said pre-race, “I personally think Jim should try and win the race and forget CR’s, especially with the snow. If he does that, I think he will win. However, the only person that is going to beat Jim in my opinion is Jim himself by racing too hard and too fast looking for that time.” 

I went on to say, “The surprises, although not surprises to trail running fans may well come from outside last year’s top-10. Ryan Sandes is back and he’s addicted after placing 2nd in 2012. I don’t think he can beat Walmsley in a toe-for-toe run but if his form and fitness is good, the podium is a possibility. For me though, Alex Nichols and Jonas Buud are the ones to potentially upset the apple cart in what is essentially a runner’s race. Both guys excel at running fast and Nichols gets the nod for handling the vert and snow.”

Listen to the pre-race chat (and post-race chat) from experienced old hands like Ian Sharman, Jeff Browning and so on. They knew it was going to be a day of grinding out a finish. Ryan Sandes has been 2nd at Western States, he knew what was in store, he’s won Leadville, won Transgrancanaria and he is known from coming from behind to take control in the latter third to clinch victory. Alex Nichols, new to the 100-mile distance but with a Run Rabbit Run victory under his belt, all these runners respected what was ahead.

Did Jim respect what was ahead?

Ryan looked at me and asked, “You going for sub-14?” It was a gut check moment where I realized I needed to commit to myself on what my goals were for the day. So, I said “Yeah Baby!” and Ryan pulled back and let me go.”

Credit @mykehphoto Instagram

Jim will be applauded for that commitment, but what was that commitment based on, was it the snow he was running on at the time that was sapping everyone’s strength and causing them to hold back? 

At the top of the escarpment he already had 7-minutes on the competition, a lead that he would extend beyond 30-minutes.

“…but then immediately you get into the high country. What ended up happening is that it was icy, rugged and lots of falling, and pretty slow. I came through the 16-mile split like one minute off the year before, but I was way more efficient in 2016.”

Quote from runnersworld.com interview here.

But all the early efforts would come back to haunt him as the heat of the canyons started to punish an already tired body. The pace Jim had decided to run would give him a course record (note I don’t say victory) but it wasn’t sustainable. He dropped at mile 78. Whereas Sandes and the competition ran smart races and let’s look at the finish times, victory came with a time of 16:19:37, Alex Nichols 2nd in 16:48:23 and Mark Hammond 16:52:57. 

Compare to 2016 when Andrew Miller won in 15:39:36 or Rob Krar’s 2015 time of 14:48:59. As Western States veteran Ian Sharman said, ‘That was the toughest Western States I have ever run.” If perspective were needed, he’s done 8 and finished in the top-10 every time.

It certainly appeared Jim had all the signs and either ignored them believing his own pre-race PR or when he fully realized it was too late…

“I really wanted to slow down and try to maintain a more comfortable, easy pace and take care of myself really well. I would try to take a little more time through aid stations to slow down that rhythm, but I was still clicking good splits. Usually that’s a good thing and nice, but it ended up being the downfall. Not being able to slow down meant I was just overheating. Around Devil’s Thumb [mile 48] things got warm. Michigan Bluff [mile 55] is a hot climb. I was pretty beat up by the time I got to the top of Michigan Bluff.”

Quote from runnersworld.com interview here.

Jim is a great runner. He will win Western States, I am sure of it. But for now, he is a great 100km ‘ish’ runner, he has the results and FKT’s to prove it. However, at the 100-mile distance, thus far, he’s yet to prove he can run the pace he wants for that final 30 or so miles. As Speedgoat Karl Meltzer always says, “The race only begins here!”

If Jim had run slower, could he have won the race? 

I am aware I am going to open myself up for some criticism here but let’s face it, EVERYONE was talking about Jim pre-Western states – post race, it’s all gone a little quiet.

I personally feel somewhat a fraud writing another article about Jim when really, I should be writing about Ryan Sandes and how he has slowly but surely persevered to win the race he has always wanted to win – it has not been an easy journey. The rise of Alex Nichols, arguably one of the most talented runners out there – he’s excelled in Europe, topped podiums in Skyrunning and now has clinched two 100-mile victories. Believe me, the USA has a potential UTMB champion in Alex as he has already laid down the platform with victories at Mont-Blanc 80km. And let’s not forget the ladies, look what happened in that race with a surprise victory from Cat Bradley and how the ‘sure’ podium potential of Magda, Kaci and Steph didn’t pan out the way we expected – Magda placed 2nd and Kaci and Steph fought the ultra-demons for a hard-fought finishes way below their pre-race expectations.

This isn’t an anti-Jim post. It’s a post to generate some debate and analysis on many aspects our sport, not only Jim’s Western States performance.

Placing a runner on a pedestal can only mean that a fall will come, is that fair to that runner? I wonder in retrospect if Jim now thinks all the pre-race PR was a good thing? I also wonder, will Jim race a different way in the future?  

We’ve seen it before with Zach Miller, Hayden Hawks and yes Tim Freriks who have, ‘Gone big or gone home!’ Tim pulled it off at Transvulcania with a stunning win, Zach and Hayden have pulled it off too but by equal measure, but they have also failed. Is the failure part just an occupational risk? You know, ‘you win some, you lose some!’

Jim is an exciting racer and Western States certainly gained some additional PR in 2017 with a fireball on the start line. But as the fireball said post-race, “Sometimes when you’re not careful trying to set off fireworks you light yourself on fire.” 

I love Jim’s style, his enthusiasm and transparency and in the weeks and months to come, Jim will do much self-analysis. He’s surrounded by supporters and they are dedicated to the cause, they don’t want him to run any other way, they want him to go big or to go home!

Jim ran beyond his limits and found his own. He laid this all out for everyone to see and in defeat he has been saluted and humbled. 

A new chapter begins.

Credits:

@mykehphoto Instagram and runnersworld.com interview here.

Shooting in the Sky

I recently wrote an article about why I switched from using Canon to Sony (here). Writing about equipment can be a little boring, after all it is just a tool that I use to do my job. However, it was my switch to Sony that prompted me to write as I felt I had finally had something to write about.

On the back of this, I was approached by Sony to write an article.

“It’s a fast course and one that compromises a photographer’s ability to not only make several points during the race, but also to reach those points. A highlight of the race coming at 3000m. I’m lucky, today I have a helicopter and it departs at 0715 – the race start coming at 0800.”

 

“My bag is packed and I’m soon on the road. I meet the mountain rescue team and before we know it, the helicopter is hovering at the summit as the team and I climb out.”

 

If you are interested, it’s called SHOOTING IN THE SKY and you can read the full post HERE.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoe Review

It has been a long time since I did a run in Adidas shoes. When I did a great deal of road running, Adidas was one of my go-to brands but when I headed to the trails and mountains, I defected to other brands such inov-8, Salomon, TNF and so on.

I’d heard lots about the ‘Boost’ technology and was keen to try it. I was a little sceptical about this (what looks like polystyrene balls) Boost technology would withstand the battering that trail brings, but hey, Luis Alberto Hernando has done well with them huh?

The TERREX SKYCHASER is not the lightest shoe on the market, not by a long way at well over 300g for my UK9.5. However, I was pleased that the shoes were ‘true-to-size,’ I the past I had always found Adidas sized small.

The fit is definitely narrow, but not very narrow, in the toe box area and there is plenty of protection with a really great toe bumper for protection – invaluable on rocky terrain. The lacing is  via a narrow cord that is pulled tight from the top and then an adjustable stopper retains the tension – it’s very similar to what one sees on Salomon shoes. The excess cord can be stored under a small elastic loop towards the bottom of the lacing section.

The upper has the classic Adidas ‘three-stripes’ on the sides and these also act as the lace-loops from which one pulls the lacing tight. This holds the foot in place and keeps it secure.

The tongue is attached to the upper (my preferred method) as this not only reduces what debris can enter the shoe but also it allows the foot to be held more secure and it also increases comfort. Iv’e said it before and I will say it again, this is the way it should be for all run shoes in my opinion.

The shoes cushioning comes from ‘Boost’ technology and it’s reassuringly cushioned without being spongy. You can see that the insole has a chunk of orange and blue added, this is Adidas’s ‘Pro Moderator’ technology that adds medial and lateral support with additional stability in the midsole. I run in ‘neutral’ shoes and I was worried that these additions would spoil my experience of the shoes – it didn’t! For sure, it provided me with a different feel on the trail and mountains but what I did like was the reassurance it provided when the going got tough – the shoes felt rock solid.

The upper is breathable but most definitely resilient. The Terrex Skyxchaser could  definitely be a lighter shoe with a different upper, however, Adidas have obviously decided that this shoe is for tough outings – they don’t want the upper falling apart and in testing, I have to say it’s extremely durable and resistant to abrasion. You’ll also notice the upper has a darker orange colour, this is welding which also adds the increased support of the shoe.

As a cyclist and triathlete, I always chose Continental tyres but this is the first shoe I have used with the legendary German rubber as an outsole – I was impressed! Yes, the outsole didn’t disappoint and the compound provided great grip on dry and wet trail and rocks, it was excellent. The grip profile would make the Terrex Skychaser a great ‘all-rounder’ allowing cushioning and comfort on some road, hard-packed trails and should conditions become wet, the Continual runner really does its job. The profile can handle mud but should conditions become very sloppy, the outsole profile and lug depth is not aggressive enough to provide the grip that say an inov-8 Mudclaw would provide – that comes as no surprise and is not a criticism.

IN USE

Heading out on the road for my first run, I was struck by how the shoe felt on unforgiving tarmac. The Terrex Skychaser gave me a plush ride with the Continental outsole doing a great job on the hard stuff.

I had purposely chosen routes that involved a multitude of terrain to test the Terrex Skychaser and with Skyrunning courses to hand, this is where I have used these shoes for the last few months – from steep grass banks, hard and dry single-track, scree slopes, boulders, fire-trail, some snow and ice and river sections with slick rock.

In a nutshell the Terrex Skychaser handled all this extremely well with the highlights of the shoe coming with excellent cushioning without a loss of feel from the ground beneath my feet, excellent and reassured grip from the Continental outsole and a snug plush feel from the sock-like fit.

A 6mm drop worked well, for me, my sweet spot is 8mm as I find this to be preferable when I am on my feet for longer. With 4mm and 8mm now being many peoples choices, 6mm sits well as a compromise.

Like I said, I prefer neutral shoes and although this shoe has plenty of ‘extras’ to control my foot, I never found that I was being over controlled, something that I could in a La Sportiva shoe – read HERE.

Cushioning is good without losing feel, 23.5 at the rear and 17.5 at the front makes them ideally suited for a runner who needs some additional protection or who prefers a plush ride.

The overall fit of the shoe is narrow and when the trails are technical and you need reassurance that is a positive. However, if you need a wider toe-box, this is probably not the shoe for you.

It wasn’t an all-singing and all-dancing story. I found the heel box just wouldn’t hold my heel in. When climbing, my heel constantly was coming out of the shoe – a real irritant and a recipe for disaster in regard to performance and the increased risk of blisters. In a conventionally laced shoe, I would have re-laced my shoes and I would have almost certainly used a ‘lace-lock’ method (here) at the top of the lacing to secure my foot. You can’t do this with the Adidas as it does not have two eye-holes at the top and… This brings me to my second issue – the ‘speed-lacing!’ I know many love it and when it works it works, however, with the Terrex Skychaser I just couldn’t adjust the lacing so my foot felt comfortable with the correct tension and adjustment in the places that I needed it. I would that I had to tighten the lacing so much to retain my heel in the shoe that after 15-20 minutes my foot was aching on the in-step due the tension and pressure on the foot. I also found that lower down where my foot bends, I had effectively reduced the width of the shoe and therefore I was getting some pain and discomfort around my toes and metatarsals. I took the shoes off, loosened the laces and then put he shoes back on trying to leave the lower loop lose and wide, the middle lace-loops tight but not too tight and then the top two loops tight and secure – I sort of got to to work but it all felt compromised.

CONCLUSION

Loads of positives on this shoe but ultimately for me, it’s not a shoe I would use. I say this with regret as I loved the grip, the durability, the overall comfort but the heel box and the lacing made using the shoe a compromise. Because of the heel box, consider trying a half size smaller – it may do the trick? However, you may well find the shoe is then too narrow in the toe box.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoes

Olympus Marathon 2017 Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Olympus Marathon 2017 Summary

It’s not every day that you get to run with the gods, but nearly 1000 runners toed the line to participate in the 2017 Olympus Marathon, the next race in the Migu Skyrunner® World Series. 

The course is tough and beautiful with two directions, up and down. The first half of the race climbs from just 3m above sea level in the sacred city of Dion and the runners climb to 2700m and the impressive Mt. Olympus. Will they be a sacrifice to Zeus? From here, the race drops down and the runners retrace history and myth and finish in Litochoro.

 The race was very much controlled by two outstanding Skyrnunner’s, Aritz Egea and Ragna Debats. Egea just last weekend placed 2nd behind Tadei Pivk at the Livigno SkyMarathon, here he led from the front setting a blistering pace. Victory was never in doubt and this was confirmed when he crossed the line with a new course record 4:24:26.

 “I am feeling very good this year, I think it’s maybe the best form I have ever had. Last year I wasn’t motivated… Sometimes you need a break and I am now reaping the rewards.”

 Previous course record holder, Jessed Hernandez was 2nd in 4:43:12 and a late surge placed Kiril Nikolov 3rd ahead of local favourite and one of the pre-race favourites, Dimitrios Theodorakakos, their times 4:44:32 and 4:46:13.

 For Debats, a very full racing calendar is pushing this lady to the limits but she is handling the strain well. Under the intense heat of a Greek sky she lead the race from the front and took victory with a new course record 5:18:20.

“It was a good day, I am very happy with the victory. I will need to make sure I plan some rest but I am feeling good.”

 Laura Sola de Miguel ran in 2nd place for the whole day and this was her finishing position almost 10-minutes behind Debats in 5:32:05. Glykeria Tziatzia had run in 3rd for the duration of the race and looked strong and confident, however, in the closing miles the heat and strain of the day took over and her pace dropped allowing Hillary Allen to pass and take the final podium place in 5:37:13. A heartbroken Tziatzia crossed the line in 5:46:04 – a name to watch for the future! 

It was a long, hot and tough day for all, when crossing the line the fatigue and dehydration from a tough race was clear to see. The consensus confirmed an incredible course – beautiful and brutal!

A break in the Migu Skyrunner World Series next weekend will see the action continue in Spain and France, with the Buff Epic Trail and High Trail Vanoise.

 

Olympus Marathon 2017 Preview – 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Olympus Marathon Preview – 2107 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Reaching for the SKY turns to Greece and the Olympus marathon, the 3rd race in the 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Coming just one week after the Livigno SkyMarathon, this 44km course with 3200m of vertical gain will be a hard-fought battle for victory and valuable SWS points. Reaching a high-point of 2780m, the race is a real challenge.

Starting at just 3m above sea level at Dion, a renowned archaeological site, the incredible Mount Olympus provides a stunning backdrop. Reaching 2780m, the route climbs with mountain views to the surrounding higher peaks. Passing below the ‘Throne of Zeus’ the route goes through the Mount Olympus National Park and comes close to Olympos Orgs. The route is classic Skyrunning, starting low, getting high and then returning low.

Course records stand at 5:21:36 for the ladies, set by Stevie Kremer and 4:33:37 by Jessed Hernandez.

Aritz Egea heads-up the male race after placing 2nd in Livigno SkyMarathon behind Tadei Pivk just last weekend. He is without doubt in great form. Strong competition will come from his teammate Hassan Ait Chaou and Kiril Nikolov. Dimitrios Theodorakakos won the 2016 edition of the race and although he is on the start list, we are unsure if he will run, therefore, keep an eye on Julien Martinez De Estibariz, Aleksandr Ivan, Babiano Marconi, Franco Sold, Artem Rostovstev, Alexey Kurochkin, Roberto Sancho and Oscar Carrasco.

Ultra SkyMarathon Champion Hillary Allen, heads up the ladies’ race but she will be in for a battle from Ragna Debats, Aitziber Ibarbia and the UK’s Holly Page. Laura Sola, Paloma Lobera and Eugenia Miro are also racing and are likely to contend the top-5.

Action starts in the early hours of Saturday June 24th and you can follow on this website and via Skyrunning Facebook and twitter.