Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia 2020 Preview

Coronavirus has pretty much wiped out the 2020 racing calendar, but in recent weeks, we have seen the emergence of some events, albeit in a new format with measures in place to help reduce the risk of infection.

Scandinavia has had multiple events, we have witnessed events in France, Switzerland and even the USA.

So, it’s a great relief to see the 2020 Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia (UTS) taking place with very strict protocols and an ‘invitation’ only 50km, 100km and 165km.

Michael Jones of Apex Running Co is a runner himself, so, he has understood the need and desire to race, but also abide by government guidelines and provide a safe race – a thankless task one may think!

The 50km has a 14-hour cut-off, the 100km 33-hours and the 165km a whopping 50-hour limit. Needless to say, 3 very tough events in a tough and challenging part of the world.

Paul Tierney

The 165km event will see 10 women and 30-men toe the line with the Wainwrights record holder, Paul Tierney heading up the field. Most participants are UK based, but the event does have entries from Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Philippines, France and Hungary.

The 100km event has 9 women listed, headed up by fell and mountain running legend Nicky Spinks. Harry Jones is the stand out name in the men’s field of 22-runners.

Georgia Tindley

The 50km event has a very interesting line-up with Georgia Tindley, Carla Molinaro and Kasia Osipowicz the leading names amongst a field of 14 women. Damian Hall fresh from setting a record on The Pennine Way heads up the men’s field of 22.

Kasia at Snowdon Skyline

UTS Facebook HERE

UTS Instagram HERE

UTS Twitter HERE

The events, are designed to bring Alpine style racing to the UK on a scale of the UTMB. Each of the three events are extremely challenging and bring 3300, 6700 and a whopping 10,000m+ of vertical gain for the respective 50/100 and 165km distances.

Originating in 2018, the 50 and 100-mile races were an instant success and with huge demanding, three races are now on offer providing a distance and challenge that all can undertake. But as Jones’ says, ‘Beautiful beyond belief. Savage beyond reason.’

The UTS 165 is the stand-out and flagship event offering a stunningly brutal and beautiful tour of the Snowdonia National Park. Starting in Capel Curig, the route takes in the most notable peaks of north Wales.

UTS 100 has technical trails, epic views and is a highlight tour of north Wales.

Arguably, the UTS 50 is an entry level race but still requires respect for the challenges that Wales and its mountains can bring.

Route information is available here and relevant GPX downloads are available.

Race director, Michael Jones of Apex Running

 

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Salomon Rondane 100 Race Summary – 2020

‘We want as many runners as possible to enjoy Norwegian wilderness and Norwegian mountains.’

All images copyright iancorless.com - all rights reserved.

Established in 1962, the Rondane National Park is the oldest national park in Norway. Covering 963 square km’s, the park contains ten peaks above 2000m, the highest peak being Rondeslottet at 2178m.

Folldal, an old mining village, is the hub for the race with the start and finishing taking place in the same location.

Race day started at 0500 and it was clear from the clear skies that a beautiful day lay ahead for the runners. Maybe too good some would say… 

Although a chill penetrated the early morning air, the arrival of the sun and the early miles warmed the runners up quickly and by the 10-mile point, the format of the racing that would come started to take shape.

Pre-race favourite, Sebastian Krogvig did not hold back early on, opening up a 12-minute lead over the hot favourite, Paul Ogier with 10-miles covered.

For the women, Molly Bazilchuk eased herself in to the day, allowing the early miles to save energy and settle, knowing that a big day lay ahead. She was shadowed by Katrine Andersen.

By 0900, with 4-hours covered, the day was already hot and with a long and tough race ahead, the early miles were best taken easy. With five key aid stations, Nygruva, Dørålseter, Straumbu, Breijøseter and Grimsbu, an ability to be self-sufficient for long periods is an essential characteristic of this race.

A land full of reindeer, mining heritage and traces from the last ice-age, Rondane  provides an opportunity to experience 2000m summits that are very unique and it contast to Jotunheimen, completely different both in look and feel.

At Nygruva, Sebastian was well ahead of the predicted pace and although there had been much talk of 20-hours winning the race, based on the first aid station, sub 16 looked possible. Paul Ogier, running his first 100-mile race had recced all but 5km of the 100 route and with that experience, he paced himself allowing Sebastian to run his own race. Behind, Marius Stengle-Håkonsen, Elvind E Gjøystdal, Staffan Bengtsson, Vegard Triseth and Samuel Fredriksson chased.

Molly, was now taking hold of the women´s race and making her way through the men´s race as was Liv Richter.

Marius Stengle-Håkonsen

Dørålglupen, a wonderful gully of rocks was a significant marker in the race and now Sebastian and Molly were showing there strength. By the aid station Dørålster, Sebastian had opened a lead of over 45-minutes on Paul.

Molly pushing up Dørålglupen

Molly was more metronimic, steady and slowly stretching the elastic over the competition. Liv equally looked relaxed using her poles to climb and descend. Inger Aarberg was looking strong, Katrine Anderson looked to paying a price for the early pace with Molly and Kari Forbrigd, Gro Siljan Hjuske and Inger Haugland looked ready for the long fight ahead.

At all times, the landscape was rewarding the runners with spectacular views. Nestles between rolling mountains, the green landscape was broken with single-track, gravel roads and lakes. The intense blue sky contrasting nicely.

Straumbu was a significant aid point and for many, the key aid before the night section with drop bags available. Sebastian arrived but it was clear that all was not well. Post-race he would confirm that his legs had never felt better, but he had somehow managed to get his electrolyte blance wrong… Sitting in a chair, his heart raced. On medical advice, he withdrew from the race.

Paul Ogier now took the reigns at the front. He looked relaxed leaving the aid station and as he climbed through the forest with the golden sun leaving the day, he looked set for Rondane victory. Marius Stengle-Håkonsen pursued, as did Staffan Bengtsson and Elvind E Gjøystdal.

But Molly was looking increasingly strong with the passing of time and it was clear that the predicted overall podium slot was in contention. Behind, Liv and Inger were having a close battle.

Night is always tough. The leaving of one day, the body naturally craves sleep and rest, for the 100 runner, night time is something to be endured, pushed through and the welcome of a new day brings new life. Luckily, Norwegian nights are not as long as in other places!

Paul and Molly would not welcome the new light on the course, they would both finish their runs in darkness, 20:59:23 and 22:39:07 respectively. Marius would split them in 2nd place overall in 21:42:29. For Molly, it was a 3rd overall placing; an incredible run.

Staffan Bengtsson rounded out the male podium in 24:00:02, placing 4th overall.

Liv fought hard for her 2nd place in 25:26:27…. So hard, she collapsed at the finish and was taken to hospital with a potential stress fracture or kidney issues. It was later confirmd to be kidney issues brought on by a hot day, dehydration and well, running 100-miles! Inger Aaberg completed the women´s podium in 27:33:42.

Coronavirus has stopped racing globally, the impact has been huge. But here, in Norway, a relatively low-key race brought a fierce battle over a truly incredible and beautiful course. 

How beautiful? Well, in some respects, the story of one participant sums it up. He unfortunately took a tumble on the rocks and broke his ankle. After receiving medical attention, he waited for a helicopter rescue and cheered on the runners. Due to demands on the five helicopters that cover the area, he had a long wait… Finally, when back in Folldal, race director Erik Haugland, apologised for the delay. The response was clear, ´Don´t be silly… If you are going to break an ankle, I did it in a perfect place. The scenery was incredible, the waether glorious and I got to cheer on the competitors. I will be back next year!´

Full results are available at racetracker.no

VIEW THE RACE IMAGES HERE

IMAGES CAN BE PURCHASED HERE

Top 5 Male and Female:

  1. Paul Ogier
  2. Marius Stengle-Håkonsen
  3. Staffan Bengtsson
  4. Elvind  E Gjøystdal
  5. Sanuel Fredriksson

 

  1. Molly Bazilchuk
  2. Liv Richter
  3. Inger Aaberg
  4. Kari Forbrigd
  5. Gro Siljan Hjuske

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Episode 188 – Zach Bitter 100-mile Treadmill WR Special

Episode 188 – A Zach Bitter special all about his 100-mile treadmill world record (tbc) established on May 16 2020.
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ZACH BITTER SPECIAL

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

Virtual running is not new.  

Virtual sport is not new.

But today, as the world is gripped in lockdown, virtual running is taking off like never before. 

Runner’s World, way back in 2015 asked the question, ‘Are Virtual Runs the Future of Racing?’ In an article by Alison Wade.

‘Virtual Racing is not a new concept. Postal races—in which competitors mail in their times to be compared with others—began decades ago. But advances in technology have improved runnersexperience of events from their own treadmills, and as the sport has grown, so has interest in this alternate way of racing.’

The joy of virtual is quite simple, you participate wherever you can, when you can and in many scenarios, in any capacity. It shows us that our need to belong, to be part of something is very strong, even if we are doing the sport alone and virtually.

‘Remote entrants received a downloadable bib, finishers certificate, and the races official swag…’

Some races reach capacity, London Marathon would be a good example. Virtual can allow someone to run a route at the same time as an official race on a virtual course using an app that simulates the course.

To be honest, many of us now have some form of tracking device, be that a watch, phone or additional gadget. Many subscribe to an app on their phone, be that on Android or Mac that allows us daily to update a training session. Strava being an obvious one but so many others exist.

Technology used to be something that was feared, but now it is embraced. 

Regina Jackson of ‘Will Run for Bling’ created in 2013, said to Alison Wade, ‘Many of those who run our races have busy lives and are attracted to the fact that they have nine days to complete each race. Others are drawn in by the fact that they can break up the run into shorter segments and still get credit for completing the race.’

But times are changing…

As races throughout the world are being cancelled or postponed, race directors have been looking for opportunities to retain their market, inspire the audience and still provide engagement. Equally, runners or sports people who desire an event and community have pursued alternatives. Interaction, that sense of belonging and the need to participate a driving force.

So, the transition has been seamless, and, in some scenarios, it has exploded to a level that one would have struggled to comprehend just 4-months ago.

A prime example being the recently started (May 1st) ‘The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000km’which allows participants to travel across Tennessee (virtually) from may 1st to August 31st. Quite simply, you have 4-months to cover the distance by any means and daily you upload your distance (even if it is a zero) and via an interactive map, your dot is moved along the route.

The above is brought to us by Gary Cantrell aka Lazarus Lake of the famous Barkley Marathons and Bigs Backyard Ultra. Now, Laz is like the Pied Piper, people love him and love his crazy ideas. However, I don’t think even he could have anticipated that a 1000km virtual run would explode like it has. As they say on the sign-up page, ‘To complete, the race will require only a hair over 5 miles per day…  and those who want a little extra on their plate, you can do the out and back version – 2,000 kilometers!

The numbers are phenomenal, $60 entry fee and currently over 17,569 participants. There is a charity element too for ‘Feeding America/ Tennessee’ – the donation page is showing a current revenue of $96,533. And now, there is even a ‘Doggie Run Across TN for Animal Shelters’ with a sign up of $30.

Depending on viewpoint, for now, virtual races and challenges are filling a gap that many of us are missing as we are forced to social distance and lockdown. As restrictions ease, and life starts to return to some normality, I can’t help but think an element of virtual will exist at a greater level than before January 2020.

As one runner has told me, ‘I race for the atmosphere, being around hundreds with a similar passion and then testing myself at the same time and on the same course as everyone else. I like the meet up before and the post-run gathering. It’s more than running, it is community. So, racing is really important for me and many others. However, the virtual world has opened my eyes to a new way of training. I love the fact that maybe I can run across Tennessee in 4-months and the great thing is, should I get an opportunity to race, I can use that mileage too for the virtual challenge.’

One thing is for sure, in the ultra-running world, a challenge is a challenge, be that real or virtual. Recent months and weeks have shown us that imagination is the only limiting factor.

In Spain, friends Kilian Jornet, Pau Capell and Tofol Castanyer created an indoor challenge. Fueled by the lockdown that did not allow them to run outside, with the help of Albert Jorquera, Jordi Saragossa and Maria Fainé, they created ‘YoCorroEnCasa’ translated to IRunAtHome. With just a week of planning, they brought over 7400 people together, all running ‘in the home’ and in the process they raised €82,940 for charity – they did not take a euro. I followed their example and did the same in the UK on April 18th with IRunAtHome raising £20,000 for charity.

Taking inspiration from Lazarus Lake, Dave Proctor (who holds the 100-mile treadmill world record) took the ‘Backyard Ultra’ format and made it into a virtual event using technology such as Zoom and YouTube to bring runners together, from all over the world, to run 4.1667 miles every hour, on the hour. Over 2000 signed up. The challenge was to see who would be, the last man or woman standing in the ‘Quarantine Backyard Ultra.’ After 2+ days, ultra-running legend, Michael Wardian emerged victorious with 262.5-miles beating Radek Brunner. Notably, Michael ran outdoors using a loop of road around his house, whereas Radek ran on a treadmill. 

Listen to a podcast interview with Michael Wardian HERE

 Salomon runner, Ryan Sandes was locked down in South Africa, but that did not stop him. Taking on a personal challenge, he ran 100-miles in and around his house is 26-hours and 27-minutes. Article here.

And on May 16th, 100-mile world record holder, Zach Bitter, will look to set the 100-mile WR on a treadmill with a virtual run that will be streamed live for the full duration of approximately 12-hours. He encourages people to join him on their own treadmills and experience the journey.

 Racing will return. The trails (and even roads), the scenery, the landscape, the mountains and fresh air will bring us back to start lines. The need to share a journey and experience, to test one’s self in real time is something that is primal. The need for physical interaction, before, during and after a race is something, we all need. 

It’s unclear when virtual racing made the leap online to a mass audience. Some race directors say it evolved from runners requests many years ago to participate in physical races from afar. Regardless of the original origin, this year, virtual racing has exploded in popularity.

Virtual is here to stay and no doubt, at a far greater level than when this year began.

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References: Active.com here Runners World here New York Times here The Washington Post here

‘UNBREAKABLE’ – The Western States 100

I was fortunate to interview JB and Jennifer Benna early on in the life of Talk Ultra, you can listen to the episode 26 HERE

UNBREAKABLE for many ‘is’ the iconic Western States movie as it documented a golden age of the race (2010) featuring Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet and Hal Koerner who had won the race twice.

‘Unbreakable: The Western States 100’ follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain.

Thanks to JB and Jennifer

“UNBREAKABLE, The Western States 100,”

has been made available for free.

The Western States Endurance Run, known commonly as the Western States 100, is a 100-mile long (161 km) ultramarathon that takes place on trails in California’s Sierra Nevada annually, on the last weekend of June. The race starts at the base of the Squaw Valley ski resort and finishes at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California. Runners climb a cumulative total of 18000 feet (5500 m) and descend a total of 23000 feet (7000 m) on mountain trails before reaching the finish. Because of the length of the race, the race begins at 5:00 A.M. and continues through the day and into the night. Runners finishing before the 30 hour overall time limit for the race receive a bronze belt buckle, while runners finishing in under 24 hours receive a silver belt buckle. – via wikipedia.

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Episode 180 – Christmas Show with Speedgoat Karl, Zach Bitter and Beth Pascall

Episode 180 of Talk Ultra brings you our Christmas Show and three in-depth chats with Speedgoat Karl all about 100’s. Setting a 100-mile WR with Zach Bitter and an incredible 2019 with Beth Pascall.
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00:01:28 SPEEDGOAT KARL talks about winning 42 100-mile races.
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01:14:00 ZACH BITTER discusses his amazing 100-mile world record.
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02:14:00 BETH PASCALL talk about her amazing 2019 running Western States, UTMB and victory at Ultra Trail Capetown.
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Watch ‘WRATH‘ featuring Damian Hall and Beth Pascall HERE
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03:00:00
Share us on Facebook – Talk Ultra FB https://www.facebook.com/talkultra/
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And use good old word mouth.
Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein.
Our web page at www.iancorless.com has all our links and back catalogue.
Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
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THE LONG RUN – Running Long, but how long?

We all run long, but the length of a long run can really vary depending on many factors such as age, fitness, race and training history, targets, objectives and available time. I get asked and read, time and time again, the question, ‘How long should I run?’

‘What session you doing?’ 

‘Long run today,’ the answer.

But, what is a long run and how long should a long run be?

Before that question can be answered, one needs to understand why one is running long and for what purpose. Typically this will be a long-term event that is planned in the diary that may or may not be a race.

Having a date to work too is a great starting place as it provides a deadline point. This helps focus the mind and plan the time accordingly.

Ask yourself, what your objectives are? For example, there is a difference between competing and completing?

What distance is the event? (What is the time limit, what are intermediate cut-off times?)

If you are used to running 5k and 10k events, a long run for you may well be 75-90 minutes? If you are a marathon runner, your long run may be 3 to 3.5-hours. If you are running an ultra, this is where it gets tricky.

Why do we run long?

In summary, we put an emphasis on 3 key points: 

  • Mental Strength
  • Muscular and physical adaptation 
  • Efficiency to use fat as a fuel

Mental Strength:

If you have never run for more than 1 hour in training, then 3 hours on your feet just feels like a really long time, so, you need to adapt mentally for the challenge ahead and you need to be strong to get the job done. This time on feet, needs to be appropriate to the challenge one has planned.

Muscular and Physical Adaptation:

Muscle soreness will come for everyone, however, we can train to reduce the impact or delay the process by progressively running longer in training. With recovery periods, we allow our muscles to adapt to the stress and they become stronger. Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is not pleasant and it something that can really be painful in the 24/ 48 and 72 hour period after hard/ ;long training or racing. By running long in training we adapt to delay or reduce the DOMS.

Efficiency to use fat as a fuel:

Our bodies can only store so much carbohydrate and once those stores are used up we have only two options left: top them up or slow down and maybe even stop if they have got very low. As an endurance athlete we need to tap into our almost unlimited fat stores. We do this by teaching our body to use fat as a fuel during the long run. The more efficient you become at this, the longer you can run and the longer you can maintain a pace. Ultimately it means the whole race/training experience will be better and more enjoyable.

The Long Run

Running longer requires running slower, especially if we are going to switch fat burning on. It requires a pace that one can maintain for hours and hours and yes, that pace can be walking. The long run/ walk is specific to you and nobody else!

Running hard and faster has its place and yes, top elite runner can and will incorporate faster paces within a long run to adapt. But be specific and think of your objectives and what you are trying to achieve.

Be specific with terrain. No point for training for a 50-mile trail race with loads of vertical and technical trail and then run all sessions on the road.

Runners get stressed and worried by mileage, pace, miles per minute and so on. Relax. Think of your long run in terms of time, not distance. Particularly important if running off-road.

To help provide perspective, 3-hours on the road you may well allow one to cover 20-miles, but on the trails or in the mountains, one may only cover 12-miles.

Slow down! 

A common mistake is that we make our long run too fast and our faster runs not fast enough. We therefore end up one paced. Make longer sessions slow and make hard sessions hard. If in doubt, use RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion. Quite simply, when running long and easy you should have a perceived effort of breathing calmly and being able to talk. If running hard, you should have a perceived effort of difficulty, shortness of breath, discomfort and an inability to hold a conversation.

The big question, how long should the long run be?

Short distance runners often run ‘over distance’ in training. For example, a 10k runner may run a long slow half marathon to build endurance. A half marathon runner may run a long and slow steady 16-20 miles in preparation for a fast race.

This all falls apart when we go to the marathon and beyond. How often have you heard in marathon training that the long run should be 21/22 miles or 3-hours 30-minutes in preparation for a race. But these generic terms do not take in to account the individual. Think of Kipchoge, if he did long runs at 3.5 hours, even running slow (7 min miles for him,) he would cover over 30-miles!

Long runs and adapting for an endurance run such as an ultra comes from not one run but a combination of all runs. It’s about your accumulative run history. They all add up to make you an endurance machine. So, typically, if you are running longer than a marathon, you will have been running for some time. 

First and foremost, consistency is key and long runs should be progressive and based on ability and experience. A long run should test you but not break you. 

What do I mean by progressive?

Let’s use a 12-week scenario based on a runner who can currently run 2-hours in a long run. I am not looking at base training here, but the specifics of a long run and how to make the long run longer. I’m a big fan of building over 3-weeks and recovering for 1-week.

Example:

Month 1

  • Week 1 – Sunday 2:30 hours
  • Week 2 – Sunday 2:45 hours
  • Week 3 – Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 4 – 2 hours

Month 2

  • Week 1 – Sunday 2:45 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:20 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours

Month 3

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours

The above scenario provides a structured example on how to build up from running 2 hours comfortably to 4 hours. But remember the above scenario is 12-weeks of running with over 37-hours of running, just in the long runs!. That is huge and a great place to start for any endurance challenge.

But my race is 50-miles, can I run the distance?

As mentioned above, it’s not wise or sensible to run too long in anyone session. But the 12-week plan above on a 3/1 scenario shows you how it’s possible to build time and confidence. As you gain more experience you can look at doing back-to-back sessions and plan long training weekends all as part of a long term plan (see below.) Ultimately though, running too long in terms of distance or time is something that should be very carefully planned. You will always here about runners who can do 200-mile weeks or 50-mile training runs; they are exceptions and not the norm. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and don’t feel inadequate, we are all individuals and this is maybe the most important aspect. 

Example:

Month 1

  • Week 1 – Saturday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
  • Week 2 – Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 90 mins/ Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 4:30 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 3:00 hours

Month 2

  • Week 1 – Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 3:45 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2 hours / Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours

Month 3

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 6:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours

Running or walking long is a voyage of discovery and you need to balance long-distance with adequate recovery.

Listen to your body.

Training should be about preparing you to tackle the challenge, but it will never FULLY prepare you. There’s always going to be a bit of extra and a bit of unknown on the day of the event, but surely that’s why you’ve entered?

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Planning A Running Year

As a racing season comes to an end it is time to look back over your achievements and yes, your failures over the last 12 months.

What went right, what didn’t go right? It is a question we should all ask ourselves.

  • What were my strengths?
  • What were my weaknesses?

Once you know the answers to the above, you have an idea of what to do over the winter months to make the following year a better one, not only in racing but training.

Planning is key. You need to periodize training so that you get the most from it.

  • Do you lack endurance?
  • Do you lack strength?
  • Do you lack speed?
  • Do you lack an ability to run on technical terrain?
  • Can you climb well?
  • Are you mentally strong?

The above list can go on and on.

Certain key elements should be present in any training plan and by answering questions similar to those above, you will start to understand what you need to do.

Winter has often been thought upon as time to do ‘base’ miles. These were long and steady miles with many hours building endurance. It is easy to fall in a trap and do too much of this. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, instead do what you need to do. Ultra-runners often have loads of endurance, after all, they race long distances all year. But with all that endurance, they can lack some strength and speed.

You need to look at yourself and ask, ‘What do I need to do?’

Decide on objectives for the following year and yes, you can even decide on plans for the year after too. Sometimes our long-term goals are so big or challenging that we need longer than a year to prepare!

Decide on A, B and C races, please remember that you can have multiple A goals, you just need to make sure that you can train, race and recover. The best thing to do here is to get a planner that shows the whole year and then add objectives marking them A, B and C – you will soon see if your targets are achievable. This is an invalidly process and actually takes very little time.

A target needs blocks of training and depending on the A-Race, that block will vary in length based on the challenge and the experience of the individual. A classic marathon plan may be 12-16 weeks, whereas for 100-miles you may work on 28-weeks.

In our scenario, we are saying that our A race is a 100-mile race, 28 weeks away.

Yes, its a long way off but dont be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time. Key races have a habit of sneaking up on you.

Go through the questions again.

If this is your first 100, training will be very different to someone who is running there 20th for example. Endurance may well be a primary target, whereas the experienced 100 runner will have endurance but may well want to go quicker?

100-miles is a long way so *base training and getting the miles in is key. We have allocated 8 weeks for this in the plan below. Hours of easy miles progressively building up to a C race (marathon or 50k). It is always good to have a goal and a target to aim for. The C race is a training race and will have no taper, you would race through it as a training long run.

*A traditional pyramid training plan starts with base and then typically adds speed as an event comes closer. However, we are ultra-runners and it is important to be specific. High intensity training creates a lot of fatigue and this is why I am a huge fan of reversing the pyramid and getting speed work done during the winter so that the training plan that leads into an A race is specific to the demands of the race.

So, if you are an experienced ultra-runner looking to improve with years of running and loads of endurance, think about making weeks 1-8 speed based with a fast marathon as a C (or maybe even A) race objective at the end of this block.

When you enter your racing season this will be in the build phase so its a good idea to place a B race objective that will allow you to progress to the A goal or multiple A goals.

As you come to the end of the build phase, you should be in form and race fit. What you want to do now is fine tune that form, tweak it and hold it for the A race. If you are cramming long runs in or looking for speed, its too late. You basically misjudged the planning or started training too late.

Maintaining what fitness, you have is also about being specific to the A target. 

   1    Is your 100-mile target race on groomed trail with little elevation gain?

   2    Is it an out-and-out mountain race with gnarly terrain and plenty of elevation gain?

Its important to be specific now, the two races above require very different approaches. This is something that you will have understood in January (or earlier in the year) when you looked back at last year, looked ahead to this year and understood your strengths and weaknesses so that you could plan accordingly.

       Scenario 1 requires running, good form and leg speed.

       Scenario 2 requires hiking, climbing, leg strength and plenty of endurance.

You cant perform well at every event and this is why A, B and C races are important. Yes, I know the elite runners manage to race several key races a year but look at the training and look at the planning. We have all seen top runners turn up at early season races and place just inside or outside the top-10.

– Francois D’Haene

Francois dHaene always provides a good examples of how to:

 

       Build

       Peak

       Win

       Recover

       Build

       Peak

       Win

       Recover

       Build

       Peak

       Win

       Recover

 

In 1 racing year, Francois won 3 x 100-mile races.

That is an incredible skill and for sure as racing becomes more aggressive, faster and more brutal, this training approach is going to become far more important for those who want to race to their own potential and maybe more importantly race year-on-year. We have all witnessed the damage that racing and training too much can do at an elite level runner. Listen to my podcast with Geoff Roes HERE as he provides a great insight into potential problems. 

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Ask questions such as:

   1    Do I race every weekend?

   2    Do I rest?

   3    Do I allow easy and recovery weeks?

   4    Do I cross train?

   5    Do I sleep well?

   6    How is my nutrition?

   7    Am I constantly tired?

   8    Do I feel alive and full of beans?

   9    Hows my resting heart rate?

   10  Is my pace good?

   11  Hows my strength?

   12  Hows my recovery?

   13  Do I have a plan?

   14  Have I structured my plan to an A race?

The above questions are a starting point. Read through the list and add your own questions to appraise what type of runner you are. It may well be that running for you is an escape and social thing, you may be happy to race week in and week out and you are not worried about gaining a PB or improving; if that is you, great. Id still say planning some RnR is a good thing to avoid burn out.

If you are someone looking to perform and improve, you need to be more self-critical. Plan your training and periodize your training so that you are able to (hopefully) predict good form on 1 or multiple A race days in a year. This is not easy.

Carefully plan races in terms of importance,Abeing the most important. Also make the races progressive and in line with your A race. For example, if your A race is a 100-mile race, a C race may be a marathon, a B race may be a 50K or 100K and then the Ais the big step of 100-miles.

Remember you can only hold form for a limited length of time and if you want to peak, you need to make sure that this planning stage is done early so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. Its all about steppingstones.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the training blocks you are planning:

       Are you laying base training?

       Building fitness?

       Maintaining fitness?

       Racing?

A training block with 2 x A races (the 2nd race being 100-miles) may look like this:

Base Training Phase

Week 1 – Base or Speed

Week 2 – Base or Speed

Week 3 – Base or Speed

Week 4 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 5 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 6 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 7 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 8 – Base with C Race probably a marathon.

 

Build Training Phase

Week 9 – Build

Week 10 – Build

Week 11 – Build maybe a C Race just as a long run?

Week 12 – Build

Week 13 – Build

Week 14 – Build with B Race 50K.

 

Maintain

Week 15 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 16 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 17 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 18 – Maintain/ Taper with A Race

 

Recovery

Week 19 – Recovery

Week 20 – Recovery easing back into Build.

 

Build

Week 21 – Build

Week 22 – Build

Week 23 – Build

Week 24 – Build

Week 25 – Build

Week 26 – Build

Week 27 – Taper

Week 28 – Taper and A Race (this scenario 100-miles)

 

Recover, Recover and Recover.

This article is not a hard and fast plan, its a guide for you to go away, look at your targets having assessed past targets and hopefully it makes you think about future objectives so that you can plan for a successful, injury free year of running and racing.

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*article first published in 2016 and has been updated.

Superior 100 2019 – Summary and Images

It was another year of rugged, relentless and remote on the Superior Hiking Trail as runners gathered on the North Shore of Lake Superior to take on the challenge of running 100-miles in a point-to-point race concluding at the Lutsen Mountains.

There are no guarantees over 100-miles and pre-race favourites, Mallory Richard and Micheal Borst can confirm, that no matter how great ones condition can be, the curve balls of long distance running can make one truly appreciate the good times.

The due both started at a blistering pace as early morning sun bathed the North Shore. Michael extending a short lead over the other male favourite, Mick Jurynec. At Split Rock (10-miles) Michael just had a 30-second lead whereas Mallory was already opening time gaps that extended well into minutes.

Full Image Gallery HERE

       Over 400 images will be uploaded by Monday 9th September

At Mt. Trudee, Michael had lost the lead to Mick Jurynec y 5-minutes and this pattern continued all the way to Sugarloaf aid station where Michael would finally drop allowing Mick to leave a masterclass of 100-mile running on the SHT and cross the line in 20:15:55 for a stunning 1st place – just rewards after placing 2nd in 2018. Benjamin Drexler and Joe Laue placed 2nd and 3rd, 21:34:51 and 22:35:00

Mallory by contrast looked unstoppable throughout the day, she continually extended her lead, looked fresh and smiled her way around the course. But as darkness came and a torrential rain storm hit, Mallory started to fade. She would eventually drop at Cramer Road opening the doorway for a hotly contested podium between Kelly Teeselink and April Anselmo.

It was Kelly who finally took 2019 honours y lees than 4-minutes from April, the duo completing in 25:23:19 and 26:19:01 respectively. Tina Koplinski rounded out the podium in 28:18:22.

Full Image Gallery HERE

     Over 400 images will be uploaded by Monday 9th September

Full results at ultralive.net

A long day, a long night and another long day of struggle and strife made up the 2019 Superior 100. Overall, conditions were good. Saturday was dry and humid, the evening rainstorm a welcome opportunity to cool down for some… But rain makes the SHT slick, slippery and muddy. Some achieved their goals, others failed to complete the challenge that they had set themselves. There was no failure though… just undone business. Superior 100 is more than than a race, it’s an experience. It’s a low-key traditional race experience – a family! The father is John Storkamp, the mother, his wife Cheri. It’s a special race and if the 100 is too far, a 50-mile and classic marathon distance takes place on the same course and concludes at the same venue – the latter two starting on Saturday am.

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Superior 100 2019 – Preview

It is September and once again I am back in the USA with my Minnesota family. I was going to write a preview of the 2019 edition and decided that I would re-post my experience of first coming to Superior, Minnesota and meeting the family…

The 2019 edition will doubt be another awesome experience with female course record holder and 2018 champion, Mallory Richard returning to race. The 2019 male Champion, Neal Collick, this year will join the race but as a volunteer. Therefore, the two favorites to go head-to-head are Michael Borst and Mick Jurynec. For either of them to come close to Collick’s sub 19-hour run will be truly impressive!

SUPERIOR 100, USA

And so it began. It was my first time in Minnesota and in all honesty, I knew very little about this area and more importantly, I was somewhat ignorant about the proximity to Canada. You see, too much information can lead to disappointment and more importantly, it can cloud judgement. I like to be a canvas, primed and ready but without the stroke of a brush. Like any painting, I like to lay down a base, build up the layers and finish it off with a frame. The end result may well be a masterpiece but in the early stages, who knows?

Off the bat, Kurt Decker, my host and on-hand guide whilst on my voyage of discovery was a welcoming and bubbling knowledge of local running. Decker has been involved in running for 20+ years and is currently working as a manager at Minneapolis run store, Twin Cities Running Company. ‘Dude, it’s so great to have you join us,’ he wasn’t ruffled or angry at my extensive 3-hour delay at passport control. ‘You are going to stay with my family and we have a ‘RV’ all lined up for you to make your stay easy and provide you with some privacy.’

‘You are going to love this race Dude, Superior 100 is a real tough race and we are so happy to have you come and see it for yourself.’ Decker was enthusiastic; no, he was passionate, he overflowed with running enthusiasm.

Running brings people together, together in a way like no other; it crosses boundaries, crosses countries and binds like a harmonious family. I’d been in Minneapolis for just over an hour and I already knew that I was going to love this place.

Aaron Ehlers is a young guy with a family, new to ultra he has a fire within. Last year he bailed (did not finish) at Superior and this year he was going back; unfinished business. More miles, more focus and an understanding of what’s required to complete 100-miles. On the roads to Duluth we chewed the fat. He knows the sport of ultra, ‘I just want to learn, soak up the sport and become better. Even my wife Mary, has found the passion. At Superior she will run her first 50-miler.’ A new friend, Aaron feels like an old friend. A bond made in sport but ultimately a great guy to hang with. Selfless and giving, Aaron is a true Minnesota guy.

Two black spiral earrings, Mohican haircut, black t-shirt with a huge artistic print and cargo shorts, John Storkamp looks like a rock star. He greets me with a hug and the shake of hands, ‘It’s great to have you here man.’ Storkamp is the RD for the Superior 100, a runner himself; he has a resume that deserves respect. Modest in approach, he welcomes each and every runner as they arrive for packet pickup (collecting race numbers). ‘Welcome to the Superior 100, the rugged, the most relentless and remote 100 miler in the USA now let me hear you howl like a wolf.’ 

The response is loud and spine chilling. Without wishing to bore everyone, Storkamp provides a brief history of the race, the journey of 100-miles along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). ‘This race follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior, a ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s gnarly, tough, rutted and many of you won’t finish.’ 

Storkamp has a twinkle in his eye, the challenge he and his wife Cheri provide is tough, the runners know it. But they want everyone to achieve and as he says, not all of them will, however, they need to be on the journey with a chance of completing and if they make the finish or not, lives will be changed. Storkamp knows the enormity of the task and the responsibility he has. Like a father, the runners are his children; if possible he will nurture them to the line.

You can’t run without aid stations and volunteers. It just can’t happen. Those who are passionate about the sport often pay back with a volunteer stint at an aid station, marking the course or manning road crossings. After all, we are all runners’ right? Imagine working an aid for 16 consecutive years; Mum, Dad, Son and Daughter. A family enterprise! The selfless task of helping others and asking nothing in return, that’s the Immerfall family. An inspiration to all and believe it or not, they are not runners. They just want to give and have pleasure in the act. In 2014, Storkamp welcomed them into the Superior 100 hall of fame. An award that stirred emotions, many shed a tear when the award was given, a standing ovation somehow feeling inadequate.

Arguably the happiest runner and most grateful runner I have ever witnessed, Kevin Langton illuminated the trails as he ran the race. ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ Running with a smile and grin, whenever he passed he repeated, ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ You’ve got to love this sport. Despite the difficulty, despite the fatigue, despite sore legs and being mentally tired, Langton’s smile never slipped, the positivity never wavered. Oberg, 93-miles, Langton’s family welcomed him with a hug and high fives, ‘let’s get this done’ he said.

Kevin Langton – Superior 100

Bridesmaid at Superior 100 twice before, in 2011 and 2010, Adam Schwarz-Lowe really wanted a win at Superior, would 2014 be the one? A sub 20-hour running at the iconic Western States earlier in the year showed the form was good. On the trails of the ‘SHT’ Schwarz-Lowe bided his time and eventually made his move with three quarters of the race covered. Buckle in hand the victory was his.

Adam Schwarz Lowe

Only one man and one lady can top the podium. So why run? Superior 100 provided many answers to this question; the race provided a collective gathering of many individual passions that came together to create one wonderful whole. Each runner, from first to last; a welcome warrior who achieved greatness on the trails of Minnesota and the SHT. Storkamp told them all the experience would change them, it did, I am sure of it. It not only changed them, it changed me… And once again I am back for my annual pilgrimage to Minnesota, Superior 100 the jagged Sawtooth Mountains that run parallel to Lake Superior.

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