Tom Evans – Zero to 100

It was incredible. The preparation. The event. The course. The journey.

The process. The outcome.

I knew I always wanted to challenge myself over 100 miles…I just never expected it to be in this incredible race. I was privileged to have qualified to race so to have a Race Crew and Filming Crew follow my journey over the race to an unexpected end was amazing.

I had the immense pleasure to meet Tom at Marathon des Sables, he was a complete unknown who on day-1 of the race, rocked the apple cart and the Moroccan dominance of the race. Myself, the rest of the media and all the runner’s in the race were asking the question, “Who is Tom Evans?”

By the end of the MDS, we had an answer. He placed 3rd and in the process, the ultra-running world welcomed a new star in the sport. He was without a sponsor and still a captain in the army.

Post MDS, we discussed opportunities and how Tom could achieve his goals. I was fortunate that Tom decided to join me on my annual Lanzarote Training Camp. He joined us as a coach and ambassador.

It was easy to see Tom’s ability. Few on the camp could keep up with him and those that could went on to race well at the following Marathon des Sables. In particular, Gemma Game who made the podium.

Following our camp, Tom joined me in Costa Rica for The Coastal Challenge. I was keen to see him race once again over multiple days and this time without being in a self-sufficient manner. I arrange the elite field and I was determined to give Tom and the rest, a hard race. Hayden Hawks, Timothy Olson and Marcus Scotney amongst others toed the line.

Tom arrived to race and it was clear from the off, he had an agenda. He had researched the race, looked at the stages, checked the times and not only did he have ambitions to win the race, but also set a new course record. Hayden and Tom raced head-to-head day-after-day but victory and the CR was never in doubt, Tom dominated.

It was time to set the goals higher and work to higher objectives. Tom represented his country and placed 3rd at the world championships. He dipped his toe in skyrunning races going head-to-head with skyrunning world champion, Jon Albon. But all along, the big goal was CCC part of the UTMB races.

Just prior to CCC, Tom signed a deal with Red Bull. I was fortunate to join Tom at his family home in the UK and document his training.

At CCC, running the perfect race, Tom closed on the lead in the latter stages of the race, forged ahead and won the biggest race of his life. A sponsorship deal with adidas Terrex followed and the dream of Western States started to fall in to place.

Zero to 100 tells the story of Tom’s inaugural 100-mile race, the iconic Western States in the USA. To place in the top-10 here would have been an incredible result, but Tom went on to place 3rd and in the process run under 15-hours. He trained in Ethiopia to prepare and you can listen to the whole process in episode 174 of Talk Ultra listed below.

ZERO TO 100

Process not Outcome

Tom has always discussed his thoughts on training and racing and one element that always runs true is ‘Process not Outcome.’ His ability to focus on the prize, dedicate himself to the task and take running to a higher and higher level is all down to his dedication and professional approach.

In 2020, Tom will target new races, new goals and new experiences. One thing is for sure, after victory at Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand early in the year, Tom is in the perfect place to fulfil his dreams. I would expect no less…!

2020 calendar subject to change based around Covid-19

Over the past couple of years, I have documented Tom’s progress via my podcast, Talk Ultra, you can listen to the episodes below:

Tom Evans and the 2017 Marathon des Sables HERE

Episode 133 Podcast, Marathon des Sables HERE

Episode 152 Podcast, The Coastal Challenge HERE

Episode 174 Podcast, Western States HERE

__________

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Transgrancanaria 2020 Race Summary

Pau Capell and Pablo Villa won the Transgracanaria HG Classic 2020 after reaching the finish-line in Faro de Maspalomas in the same time of 13:04:10 after an exciting battle of 128km.

Kaytlyn Gerbin, after placing 2nd in 2019, become the champion in women’s category breaking the course record for travelling from the north to south after starting Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Starting at 2300 hrs on Friday March 6th, it soon became clear that an epic night and day of racing lay ahead with Chinese runners, Fuzhao Xiang and Peiquan You leading the way.

However, behind the duo, 2nd in 2019, Kaytlyn Gerbin was running a measured race following past Transgrancanaria winner, Azara Garcia who had taken the race by the horns.

For the men, 2nd at Western States in 2019, Jared Hazen and Pau Capell followed with Pablo Villa not far behind.

Teror was the first marker and it was soon clear that an epic night of racing lay ahead.

The arrival of dawn at the iconic Roque Nublo was a key indicator of how the 2020 race would play out with Villa arriving ahead of Capell leading by a slender margin. 

For the women, Garcia lead Gerbin but it was clear to see that the writing was on the wall and Gerbin would soon make a more and take the lead. Xiang followed in 3rd.

With a marathon distance to go, anything could happen and while Gerbin took control of the women’s race, Villa and Capell ran side-by-side, each testing the other with attempts to break the other. At 15km to go, the deadlock remained.

“In the race we gave everything and we tried to win…But we could not raise more battle and in the final km’s we agreed to enter together!” – Pablo Villa

They crossed the line in 13:04, some 20-minutes slower than the 2019 time recored by Capell. Dylan Bowman had a great edition of the race moving up the field to take the final podium place, a great result after a difficult time away from the sport with injury. The UK’s Harry Jones placed 4th.

Gerbin moved up one place from 2019 and secured a supreme victory with a course record, a fantastic result especially when one considers she won the 6-day, 230km multi-stage The Coastal Challenge just 3-weeks ago.

Garcia having fought from the front faded in the latter stages of the race and although at one point her 2nd place looked safe, a determined Xiang closed the gap and then passed her creating an epic battle. The Chinese runner was too strong, she finished 2nd ahead of the Spaniard. 

Women

1. Kaytlyn Gerbin. 15:14:39

2. Fuzhao Xiang. 15:25:40

3. Azara García. 15:31:36

 

Men

1. Pablo Villa. 13:04:10

1. Pau Capell. 13:04:10

3. Dylan Bowman. 13:40:28

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The Coastal Challenge 2020 #TCC2020

The 2020 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ is upon us! Six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain, 9413m of vertical descent – TCC is more than a challenge!

Hugging the coastline of the tropical Pacific, TCC is the ultimate multi-day experience that weaves in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country.

The terrain is ever-changing from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Runners will cross rivers, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long and relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.

The Race:

Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent

Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent

Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent

Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent

Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent

Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent

Total 230.5km – Vertical 9543m/ Descent 9413m

Stage 1

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

Stage 2 

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

Stage 3

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

Stage 4

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

Stage 5

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

Stage 6

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

THE 2020 ELITE LINE UP

Katlyn Gerbin

Kaytlyn joins the line-up of the 2020 TCC with an extremely solid and consistent resume, known in Canada and the USA for a string of top performances, it was a podium place (2nd) at Transgrancanaria that introduced her to worldwide attention. Winner of the Pine to Palm 100 in 2016, Kaytlyn has mixed races distances for the last 3-years, excelling at 50km and 100km with victories at Gorge Waterfalls and Sun Mountain amongst others. In 2017 she won Cascade Crest 100 but her calling cards are 4th place and 2nd place at the 2017 and 2018 Western States.

Manuela Vilaseca 

Is a last-minute entry to the race but that is no problem for the experienced ultra-trail and mountain runner. In November, she once again made the podium at the Everest Trail Race. She has two top-10 finishes at UTMB and a high-ranking in the UTWT. Born in Brazil, Manuela will embrace the Pura Vida approach of The Coastal Challenge.

Abelone Lyng

Hailing from Scandinavia, Abe has gained a reputation in just 4-years for tenacity in ultra-trail races. She recently won the 230km Ice Ultra in the Arctic wilderness and placed 4th overall. TCC no doubt will give this cold weather expert some new challenges but Abe embraces a challenge!

Rebecca Ferry

Becks, as she is known to her friends, has gained a reputation in recent years for achieving great results, be that Everest Trail Race or on the UK trails setting course records. She comes to the TCC with excellent experience of multi-day racing and is a prime contender for the podium.

Brittany Peterson and Kelly Wolfe were due to race and both have sustained injuries preventing participation in the 2020 race. Brittany however will still join us in Costa Rica.

MEN

Cody Lind

Cody has been racing for some years, but may well have only come on your radar after 2017 with a very committed foray in the Skyrunning circuit – He placed 8th at Tromso in 2017 and then followed the SWS circuit racing on iconic courses throughout the world. Recently he raced them Rut in the USA and came away with victory. Cody manages to mix speed and technical ability, it’s a perfect mix for the trails in Costa Rica.

Andy Symonds 

Andy is one of the UK’s greatest mountain runners. He has traditions in fell running and has mixed Skyrunning and ultra-running throughout a long and successful career. He recently placed 5th at UTMB after 3 attempts. He has raced Marathon des Sables and placed in the top-10 but Andy will always be considered a mountain specialist. He has won Lavaredo, placed 3rd at Marathon Mont Blanc, 5th at Transgrancanaria and has represented his country at many World Championships. The technical and demanding trails of Costa Rica with plenty of climbing and descending provide Andy a perfect playground.

Mauricio Mendez

Mauricio is a rising star from Mexico who is currently an Xterra World Champion. He joins TCC as somewhat as a dark horse but no doubt he will be the hope of the locals. He started running because of his Father and in his own words, is a dreamer!

Julien Chorier unfortunately, took a fall in training and sustained a fracture and therefore is unable top race in the 2020 edition of the race. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can join TCC2021. Jordi Gamito should have toed the line at the 2019 TCC but injury prevented his participation and once again, while training in Africa over Christmas, he has sustained a knee injury which unfortunately will keep him away from the race.

The 2020 TCC starts in February as runners from all over the world will assemble in San Jose before transferring to the coast for stage 1 of the race starting on Saturday 8th. Year-on-year, the TCC has grown to be one of ‘the’ most iconic multi-day races. 

#TCC2020
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Episode 181 – Gordy Ainsleigh, Kilian Jornet and Timothy Olson

Episode 181 of Talk Ultra brings you three interviews from the Talk Ultra back catalogue to launch the new show, ’theINTERVIEWS.’ We go back to 2012 and 2013 of Talk Ultra and we have interviews with Gordy Ainsleigh, Kilian Jornet and Timothy Olson.
 
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*****

the INTERVIEWS

 
00:05:10 Gordy Ainsleigh
In 1974 Gordy Ainsleigh was the first to run the Western States Endurance Run in under twenty-four hours. Ainsleigh had finished the Western States (WSER) in 71 and 72 on horseback, but in 73 his new horse was pulled with lameness at the 29-mile checkpoint. With the inspiration and encouragement of Drucilla Barner, the first woman to win the Tevis Cup and Secretary of the Western States Trail Foundation, Gordy, in 1974,  joined the horses of the Western States Trail Ride to see if he could complete the course on foot in under twenty-four hours. Twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes later Gordy arrived in Auburn, proving that a runner could indeed, travel the 100 miles in one day. History was made…!
First recorded in February, 2012.
*****
01:06:20 Kilian Jornet
It’s the day after the Matterhorn Ultraks and just four days after Kilian Jornet’s successful attempt on the Matterhorn Summit record attempt from Cervinia. It has been quite a few days for this iconic mountain and although Kilian has excelled on both occasions, we all know, the mountain is still the boss.
Kilian arrives with Emelie Forsberg looking relaxed and fresh after a late breakfast. I congratulate him (and Emelie) once again on topping the podium at the Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks race and ask him how he feels, ‘I am a little tired but feel good. I was certainly tired in the race but I didn’t push too hard. I just did what I needed to do to win the race’.
Our conversation turns the TNF UTMB and we discuss how the race will unfold for the men and women. Kilian and Emelie are animated at the prospect of Julien Chorier, Miguel Heras, Anton Krupicka and the other contenders going head-to-head. Emelie gets excited at the thought of Nuria Picas in the ladies race, it’s her first 100-mile race and of course Emelie knows the Catalan well. We could talk all day but eventually I settle down with Kilian in a quiet corner and we discuss the Matterhorn.
First recorded in September 2013.
*****
01:43:16 Timothy Olson
 
Timothy Olson had won the 39th annual Western States 100 race in the record time of 14:46:44, trimming the course record of 15:07:04, set by Geoff Roes two years earlier, by over twenty minutes. In this interview, we found out about the demons of Tim’s life, drugs, alcohol and a road to ruin. Ultra-running quite literally saved his life… It still stands as one of my all-time favourite Talk Ultra interviews. 
First recorded in 2012.
 
Show Length 02:39:17
*****
Information for the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
*****
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
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*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
 
 
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*****
 
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*****
 
 
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adidas Terrex and the 2019 UTMB Series of Races

I was recently in Chamonix for the UTMB series of events. I have to be honest, I have avoided Chamonix at the end of August for the last few years… The whole UTMB extravaganza just feels too overwhelming, there is no escape. So, I have chose to either have a holiday or work on smaller races.

This year I was asked by adidas to work on the event, documenting the experience of their Terrex Team as they prepared to tackle all of the events the UTMB offer, the exception coming with the crazy long PTL.

Working for a brand brings a whole new perspective and experience to an event like UTMB. Instead of chasing multiple runners over multiple locations, my priority would be to follow the favourites within each of the respective races – OCC, CCC and TDS. The UTMB would also be raced and followed by the whole Terrex Team but due to a prior commitment, I would skip the big loop around France, Italy and Switzerland.

UTMB needs no introduction, the series of races have arguably become a flagship for the sport. As UTMB has grown, so has the demand for people to race and for media to cover the event. This brings a whole set of challenges, especially for media. As a brand, adidas were required to pay a fee to allow myself and the film crew access to certain areas of the race, for example aid stations and finish line, and thus we could capture certain required images and also have the license to use them. UTMB provide live coverage of the event and it must be said, they do an incredible job using a helicopter, runners and mountain bikes to cover much of all the race routes. It is quite an incredible logistical problem and in addition, they provide live commentary with an ever-changing group of people providing on the spot analysis of the race. You can pretty much follow every race, start to finish live.

adidas and the UTMB

The team arrived in Chamonix one week before the UTMB main event and I arrived on the Monday. This meant the YCC started Tuesday, TDS Wednesday, OCC Thursday, CCC and UTMB starting Friday. You can do the math, that means long days, early starts, late nights and little sleep.

As a team, adidas had rented one huge chalet that would host the whole team, the hashtag #oneteam being a very important motto and ethos not only during race week but it is a hashtag that the team is using to bring the whole Terrex ethos together. It is very much ‘all for one, one for all!’ The chalet had two chefs who provided meals for the entire team and in so doing, dietary needs could be looked after and the need to try to find a restaurant in Chamonix was removed.

A team physio, Dave, was literally ‘hands-on’ everyday from morning to evening to keep the whole team in top condition. In the words of Team Manager, Robert, ‘without his immense treatments, day and night, someone like Luis may well have not raced!’

I am fortunate, after years covering races, I was well acquainted with much of the team; Luis Alberto Hernando, Sheila Aviles, Dmitry Mityaev, Ekaterina Mityaeva, Tom Evans and so many more. This always makes my job easier as to work closely with athletes, particularly in race week, there has to be trust and respect.

I was working alongside the adidas film crew who have been working on the Terrex brand for some time. A great group of guys who know how to work hard, laugh hard and find the time for a beer at the end of the day, no matter how long it may be. Big shout for Rapha, Andy, Patrick, Yannick and then man stuck to an editing stool, Bene. We had a separate chalet as the hours we work are not ideal when athletes are trying to sleep. Meal times were a family affair though and the athlete house was our hub for the week starting with an 0800 breakfast as and when applicable.

Behind the scenes is always fascinating. Looking at apparel, shoes and new development it was clear to see that adidas’ commitment to trail and mountain running is huge. They had specifically designed waterproof jackets and trousers for the team that complied with UTMB rules while still being light and packing small.

Athletes such as Yngvild Kaspersen and Tom Evans (Yngvild 2nd at Pikes Peak and Tom 3rd at Western States) were flown into Chamonix to be part of #oneteam even though they would not race. It was clear that adidas’ commitment to bringing everyone together is a high priority.

A signing in the UTMB expo allowed fans to get close, chat and get a signed photo from Tom, Luis, Holly and Sheila. The buzz was incredible.

Post the signings, we took Tom in to the mountains for a photo shoot. The most ransom moment of the whole week… A couple just married saw Tom, recognized him and then came for a wedding photo! The groom was running UTMB.

Over the course of the week, racers and non-racers would each continually give up their time to crew, support, follow and cheer on the team. A prime example being Ekaterina crewing for Dmitry during TDS to a stunning 2nd place. Two days later, Ekaterina would run UTMB and place 4th while Dmitry crewed her.

Filming and photographing brings its own challenges of long drives, big hikes and a relentless pace that leaves one drained and exhausted by the end but high on emotion. It’s always a tough call on who to follow? Many of the races had more than one adidas runner participating but from a story and media perspective, we would have to make decisions in advance. The TDS for example, our emphasis was on Dmitry. For CCC, Luis Alberto Hernando was our primary story. Needless to say, it’s incredible when it all comes together, Dmitry placed 2nd and Luis won CCC. To be able to see the journey unfold at close quarters and tell the story is quite special.

While we raced around with cameras, the remaining crew would chase around providing aid and support. Tom Evan’s quite rightly said, ‘I have raced and won CCC, I have also crewed on big races – I know how hard and tiring crewing is.’

But despite the long hours, the short nights and the relentless fatigue, nobody complained. On the contrary. As the week went on and the results came in, everyone was becoming hyped by the experience and results. It was infectious.

But nothing is perfect. Racing is fickle. While racing went well for Dmitry and Luis for example, others had a tough time. It’s here when the #oneteam ethos kicks in. We are all human, sometimes we are ahead and all is going well, other times, things don’t click, for whatever reason. As an athlete, that can be very hard. It takes months to prepare for an event and then on the day, for it not to come together as expected can be hugely disappointing. As one runner said, ‘I have let the team down…’ But the response was unequivocal, ‘You have let no one down!’

Sheila Aviles had stomach issues in OCC, Timothy Olson struggled at UTMB and finally had to withdraw and all along, the support from adidas and the team was 100%. 

Holly Page made a last minute decision to run CCC, battled through the first half of the race with terrible stomach problems only to come out of the other side and then race strongly over the latter stages for her first 100km finish. It was a story echoed throughout the whole week, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Being ‘In the arena’ to quote Roosevelt is what the sport of trail and mountain running is all about, ‘ The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.’

Roosevelt in his quote sums up all adidas stand for with the Terrex Team.

A Day at UTMB – Following Luis Alberto Hernando at CCC

Our day started with an early alarm, a quick breakfast and a drive to Courmayeur – the plan to climb to Refuge Bertone and capture early content with Mont Blanc providing a stunning backdrop.

Plans hit a problem from the off with a long wait to get through the Mont Blanc tunnel. Once in Courmayeur it was gps time to navigate a route to the trail head. This was a constant theme of the whole week… Great gps software and gpx route are essential – we could plan to meet the runners as much as possible during a race.

We started our climb later than we would have liked but we pushed the pace – not that easy with a 15kg camera bag! Once there, the weather was perfect, the scenery magical and we knew we were going to get some great content. 

For Luis, we were aware we could capture him on the descent, chase after him and then capture him again after he had visited the aid station.

I positioned myself on the descent knowing that I would get a dynamic shot as Luis dropped in front of me taking a left turn with Mont Blanc behind him.

As Luis approached, disaster struck. A ‘runner’ who was spectating ran ahead of him ruining all my ‘pre’ shots. As I shouted for them to get out of the way, they then stopped directly ahead of me, right in the middle of my shot. I had to compromise… shit happens!

I then raced after Luis on the descent and then got to my second spot. This time all was good with clear shots and I then ran with him capturing more content before he raced off around the mountain.

Being early in the day, we decided to wait and capture the other adidas runners who were participating as the time gaps at this stage would not be too great. Later, it would be impossible if Luis ran the race we anticipated! Abi Hall, Macy were looking good but Holly Page was struggling with a bad stomach.

Dropping bag to the car via the twisty descent, we now had a 2-hour drive to Champex Lac. Luis was motoring and now in the lead. Race projections said he would arrive at 1425. Our navigator said we would arrive 1410.

Once again we used gps software to find an access point pre Champex Lac that would allow us to capture content on steep forest trails. Luis arrived like clockwork powering up the climb using poles to keep the momentum.

At Champex Lac he ran the footpath and roads around the lake allowing more opportunities before we went off-piste on a dirt road allowing for one last shot before we would then lose him only to re-connect at Trient.

Trient provided a shot before the aid station and then we drove out of Switzerland and back in to France before capturing Luis on the climb of the Col des Montets – our last opportunity before his arrival at the finish.

Now Luis was motoring and opening up a gap on the 2nd place.

At the finish, myself and Patrick (film crew) waited for Luis in the press area while the remaining adidas team watched the huge screens in the square.

Finally, Luis achieved his coveted UTMB victory. It was an emotional finish. His wife, Nieves, greeted him with open arms. The Terrex team mobbed him as soon as they could… A post-race drug test delaying that process for some time!

Back at the chalet it was time to download the day’s work and release the content.

#ONETEAM

There is no ‘I’ in team and that was personified during this intense UTMB experience. We all had roles but flexibility is key. Athletes became crew, office workers became car drivers and everyone became a supporter both in a physical and mental capacity. 

It was a real pleasure to be immersed with a brand and follow closely the whole process that make a race and team come together. Certainly, the UTMB and Chamonix experience made team bonds stronger.

On a personal note, to leave on Saturday am while the UTMB was underway was hard, especially with Ekaterina running. I have witnessed her growth in skyrunning over the last year’s and then to see her rise to 4th at UTMB not only made me really proud but also a little jealous and envious that I wasn’t available to capture that journey in images…. Next time!

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adidas Terrex Agravic Boa Shoe Review

adidas have been making Terrex shoes for years and Luis Alberto Hernando has been flying the adidas flag for most of them. It’s fair to say, that a runner such as Luis always gave the Terrex brand credibility.

However, I always felt he was a lonely figure fighting the big brands and teams from Salomon, The North Face, La Sportiva, Scott and so on!

Well, that is all changing. adidas with the Terrex brand are moving in to the trail world in a big way. Certainly Dmitry Mityaev and Ekaterina Mityaeva were the start of that process. Then Timothy Olson. Now, with the closing of 2018 and the start of 2019, Tom Evans, Holly Page, Sheila Avilés and many more are joining the line-up.

Listen to Tom Evans talk about his 3rd place at Western States HERE

 

I witnessed adidas’ plans at the recent Infinite Trails (here) in Austria and here did I not only get to see and try the new apparel, I also got to see some of the new shoes.

One of those shoes being the Terrex Agravic Boa. I was intrigued with this shoe as my initial test/ use of a previous adidas Boa shoe left me somewhat unconvinced.

I spent time at the Boa® stand (at the Infinite Trails expo), discussed the development of the Boa system and got a hands-on- feel of the Agravic. The development was marked but I couldn’t try the shoe as sizes were limited. Gladly that was rectified when Boa sent me a pair in the post.

First off, I love the look of the shoe is stealth black. This broken by a  camouflage black/grey/white section before the stark white of the shoes Boost cushioning. The black colour comes from a special dye process (see below) that is more ecologically sound.

They are light shoes with a wide toe box, reinforced toe protection and then a complex series of overlays that give the shoe structure which is all pulled together by the Boa® lacing system.

A notable feature is the shoes sock liner. This is arguably the most immediately comfortable shoes I have slipped on. One could easily use these shoes without socks the liner is so good. It is completely seamless so the risk to rubbing/ abrasion is greatly reduced. This also extends to the heal – a firm hold without rubbing is a winner.

Cushioning comes from adidas Boost technology and one can feel adidas’ road pedigree in these shoes. The cushioning is plush and responsive with 15mm at the front and 22mm at the rear. This gives an unusual 7mm drop. I say unusual as 6mm or 8mm is ‘standard’ in shoe drop across all brands.

The outsole is the amazing Continental rubber. The tread is by no means aggressive and this is certainly a trail shoe designed for fast running on non-muddy trails. But on hardpack trail and rocks, wet or  dry, the grip is excellent. I must add here that in my cycling days, Continental were always my tires of choice!

Specs:

  • Sock-like construction hugs the foot
  • Weight: 285 g (size UK 8.5)
  • Midsole drop: 7 mm (heel 22 mm / forefoot 15 mm)
  • Product colour: Core Black / Cloud White / Active Red
  • Regular fit
  • Boa® Closure System for micro-adjustment and secure and consistent hold
  • Abrasion-resistant textile upper
  • Continental™ Rubber outsole for extraordinary traction in wet and dry conditions
  • Responsive Boost midsole; Moulded sockliner

IN USE

These shoes are wonderfully comfortable. They feel so good as soon as you slip them on and this all comes from the sock liner. There is an immediate notable feel that the toe box is wide and spacious allowing for good toe splay. So, if you need wide trail shoes, add the Agravic to your check-out list.

My previous adidas Terrex shoes left me undecided or should I say, unconvinced by the Boa closure system. Have to say, the Terrex Agravic Boa® has changed that. The Boa® works great here and that is for two reasons:

  1. The adidas shoe is a much better fit and therefore this makes the work of the Boa® so much easier.
  2. The overlays that add structure are well placed and designed allowing the Boa® to pull tight, hold the foot and keep it secure.

I am experienced with the Boa® system, it has been the ‘go to’ on cycling shoes for years and my first experience with run shoes was way back in 2008, I think?

There will always be an argument that laces are easier, and yes, laces do a great job and it’s hard to argue against the tried and tested method. But the Boa® here has me hooked. Speed both on and off is great. Quite simply slide the shoe on, push ‘in’ the Boa button and turn. The laces pull tight and continue to pull tight until you stop. To loosen, pull the Boa® button and voila, the laces release immediately.

I had problems before getting a firm hold on my foot. Not here. The shoes have three lace points on left and three lace points on the right. As you tighten, they pull in. I really like my foot to be held well, especially on technical terrain and here in this Terrex Agravic Boa® I am very happy.

Toe box is roomy, but not too roomy. They are very comfortable upfront and the toe protection is adequate with a good bumper.

Boost cushioning is popular the world over and here one can really feel the plush comfort from adidas’ technology. The cushioning is in two sections : the camouflage section and the white section. I have to say, these are the most ‘road like’ trail shoes I have run in. On hard trail they just bounce along giving a great feel for the ground. It may come as no surprise, road miles are super comfy and I’d have no hesitation to run a road training session or race in these. The outsole may not thank me though!

The outsole by Continental is superb offering great grip and feel, wet or dry, on hard trails and rocks. The outsole is not aggressive though, so forget mud!

SUMMARY

The Terrex Agravic Boa® is a really great trail shoe for those looking for great comfort, cushioning, 7mm drop and a roomy toe box. It’s the type of shoe you can slip on and spend all day in without ever thinking about foot comfort.

Stand out features :

  • The sock liner – darn it is so comfortable.
  • The Continental outsole.
  • The Boost cushioning.
  • The shoe design, particularly in the overlays that hold the foot.
  • And yes, the Boa® system really shines here. For me, it’s a turning point (pun intended) that convinces me that I would happily use these shoes and this system on a regular basis. My laces never came lose. Adjusting on the go was quick and fast – faster than any other lacing system. But importantly my foot was held secure and tight when I needed it.

The shoe is for everyday trail running and happily takes road too. It’s not a shoe for mud, but that is obvious when one looks at the outsole.

This is a great adidas shoe and I am in no doubt that shoe has benefited from feedback from the ‘elite’ adidas Terrex team. It’s an exciting time to see what else adidas have in the line-up for 2019 and 2020.

adidas TERREX HERE

Terrex Agravic Boa HERE

BOA® HERE

adidas Terrex Agravic Boa information:

  • Boa® Fit System adjusts on the go. Sock construction keeps feet snug and comfortable.
  • Boost cushioning for mountain ready energy. All-day comfort on the fastest trails.
  • Continental™ Rubber outsole takes hold, even in wet conditions.
  • Dope dye colouring process saves at least 10 litres of water per product. Dope Dye is a coloring process which uses an innovative twist in manufacturing to conserve water and energy. By injecting color directly into raw materials, the Dope Dye process substantially reduces the eco-footprint of manufacturing, saving at least 10 liters of water for every pair of Dope Dye shoes made. The fibers and filaments are fully impregnated with pigment at the very beginning of the manufacturing process. Starting form a deep black raw material means there is no need to dye the product: less water, fewer chemicals and less energy are needed.

Episode 174 – Tom Evans and Brittany Peterson

Episode 174 of Talk Ultra is here and it is a Western States special. We talk in-depth with 2nd placed lady, Brittany Peterson. We also talk with Tom Evans, who placed 3rd, he also co-hosts the show.
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Speedgoat has just finished on ‘The Longtrail” with Belz (his crewman from the AT) and will be back on the next show to tell us about it.
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NEWS
  • MONT BLANC MARATHON

Ruth Croft did it again ahead of Silvia Rampazzo and Eli Anne Dvergsdal 4:34, 4:37 and 4:38. For the men, Davide Magninibeat Nadir Maguet and Bartlomiej Przedwojewski, 3:47, 3:54 and 3:56.

 

  • MONT BLANC 90KM

Xavier Thevenard ran 11:04 to beat Patrick Bringer 11:31 and Germain Grangier 11:37. For the women, Katie Schide beat Martina Valmassoi and Maryline Nakache, 13:04, 13:23 and 13:46.

 

  • LAVAREDO

Kathrin Götz, Audrey Tanguy and Francesca Petto placed 1,2,3 in times of 14:59, 15:24 and 15:34. Tim Tollefson took the male win in 12:18 ahead of Jia-Sheng Shen 12:31 and Sam McCutcheon 12:47.

 

  • WESTERN STATES

Jim Walmsley set the bar to a new high beating his 2018 CR to set 14:09 – wow! Jared Hazen was 2nd and Tom Evans 3rd, all three under the magic 15-hours, 14:26 for Hazen and 14:59:44 for Evans. Clare Gallagher beat Brittany Peterson and Kaci Lickteig, 17:23, 17:34 and 17:55 – all super-fast times!

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BRITTANY PETERSON 01:27:49
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  • INFINITE TRAILS HERE
  • MONTE ROSA HERE
  • INOV-8 TRAILROC 280 SHOE REVEW HERE
  • DON’T MISS OUT ON EPISODE 173 HERE
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02:24 close
02:26:37
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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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UP & COMING RACES go to https://marathons.ahotu.com

adidas Infinite Trails 2019 World Championships – Summary and Images

As events go, adidas Infinite Trails has set a new benchmark. I think it’s fair to say that the weekend of activity put together in Austria has elevated trail running to a whole new event. Imagine the best trail running race in the world, then add a three day running festival full of talks, workshops and demos. Then add the most incredible and seamless organization I have witnessed and to add the icing on the cake, Austria, the Austrian amphitheater of mountains and the event location of Bad Hofgastein – you have the makings of what will become an iconic event, mark my words.

Quite simply, adidas have stepped up their game in trail/ off road running. The TERREX brand has existed for some time, but the impact on the trail running community has been minimal. Even with the presence of Luis Alberto Hernando who has been flying the adidas flag for many years.

Dmitry Mityaev and Ekaterina Mityaeva have added to Luis’ trail prowess in recent years, particularly in skyrunning. But in 2018 something changed (probably earlier) as adidas signed many new athletes to the team – Timothy Olson, Yngvild Kaspersen, Tom Evans, Holly Page and Sheila Avilés to name but a few. This was clearly a statement from adidas, ‘we are coming!’

And coming to the trail world they are, Infinite Trails World Championships proved this.

Firstly, the event. The concept is simple but also unique. Teams of three come together, they can be all male, all female or mixed. On the Thursday at 6pm all runners run a mountain prologue – this year it was a 15km event with almost 1000m of vertical gain. The time for each team member is recorded and the team times are all added together. This creates a start time for ‘race day’ with the fastest team going first and then all other teams start based on their respective times to the fastest. It’s a chasing start and an algorithm is used to work out the order.

Race day is Saturday and kicks off at 0400 with loop 1. The race is made of 3 loops and each has its own challenges and distances. Loop 1 25km, loop 2 60km and loop 3 39km. But distance only tells part of the story. The trails and mountains in this area are truly beautiful, magnificent and yes, brutal. At times technical, each loop also has much vertical gain and descent. Without doubt, loop 2 is the highlight, not only visually but in severity.

One runner takes on loop 1, one loop 2 and one loop 3. The objective is to finish each loop as fast as possible, pass on to the next member of the team and then after the final loop 3 is completed, all three team members run a final 700m loop around the town of Bad Hofgastein, the fastest are World Champions.

But the weekend is not only about racing. This event is all about community, a coming together of like minded people in a stunning location and all enjoying some trail love.

As one runner said to me, ‘We have the stars of the sport here like Luis, Timmy and Jasmin, but we are all made to feel like rockstars.’

And that was the theme of the weekend. Most certainly the three person team format brings a whole new dynamic, but it was the events around the weekend that made me feel like I was at a ‘Glastonbury’ for running. There was an athlete panel talk, talks on Mindfulness, and nutrition. You could test run Terrex shoes. It was possible to create your own ‘tie died’ Terrex T shirt. Yoga classes were available and on the Friday before the race there was a brunch were all food and drink was provided free.

Race day needless to say was a full on day, with runners, staff and the village pretty much on standby for 24 hours.

Austria, like much of Europe was blessed with a heatwave that gave blue skies, perfect visibility but intense heat.

Runners on loop 1 were blessed with a 4am start, for all of them, they were done before the heat of the day really kicked in.

Loop 2 was a visual masterpiece of stunning views, relentless climbing and descending and some truly challenging technical terrain. Combined with the heat, loop 2 was brutal. Luis Alberto and Amy Hall lead the way for their respective teams and neither found it easy, so you can only imagine the carnage and pain behind. The 2019 Infinite Trails will be remembered for loop 2.

Each loop had its own cut off time. If a runner failed to arrive before the cut off, the next runner could leave but of course, they would be out of the ranking. For loop 2, this was 1900 hours and as the clock chimed, the severity of the second loop was obvious with many loop 3 runners leaving before the arrival on their 2nd team mate.

The atmosphere at the finish was electric with one of the most impressive start/ finish lines I have witnessed. Due to the nature of the event and the constant arrival and departure of runners, there was always a big crowd. As night came, it felt more like a rave than a race. Music screamed out, panels were illuminated and a constant light show welcomed the runners all the way through to the 1am cut off, remarkably the last team arrived just 20-seconds inside the closing of the race.

Of course, World Campions were crowned and the dream teams of Dmitry Mityaev, Luis Alberto Hernando and Timothy Olson were the male champions. Yngvild Kaspersen, Ekaterina Mityaeva and Jasmin Nunige were the female champions.

But as was said previously, everyone was made to feel a champion in an event that really marks a new era for trail running. In 2019, 200 teams toed the line, in years to come, I can see those numbers increase significantly and of course, the dream scenario would be to see teams come together from other brands. Imagine it if Salomon, The North Face, Scott, Nike, La Sportiva, inov-8 and so on, assembled teams of three to see, who are the Infinite Trails World Champions.

I for one cannot wait to see this concept grow and certainly, adidas with the Terrex brand will now be making significant impact in the trail running world. A true sign of this is shown at Western States.

While the whole Terrex team celebrated and embraced Austria, the UK’s Tom Evans toed the line of the iconic WSER in Squaw valley, USA. A new year signing to adidas, this was Tom’s first hundred miler. He crushed it, not only running under the iconic 15-hour mark put placing 3rd overall, a truly remarkable result.

If you love running, if you love trail, if you love the community of off-road running, then the Infinite Trails is for you. I cannot encourage you enough, get a team together, travel out to Austria and experience something truly special in 2020.

Race website HERE

Race Facebook HERE

FULL IMAGE GALLERY TO BE UPLOADED HERE

Disclaimer: I was employed to be an official photographer of the 2019 Infinite Trails. I was not employed as a journalist and I was not employed to write this article. The words are my own and my own thoughts of a truly great weekend. 

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Marathon des Sables 2019 #MDS #MDS2019 – Stage 3 37.1km

It was a warmer night in camp and the winds that had increased during the afternoon made for a comfortable night in bivouac. The tough stage 2 had left a real positive mood in camp, ‘If we can complete day-2, we stand a good chance of completing this MDS!’ seemed to be the general consensus. Many had loved the tough day, embracing the dunes. Others had found it a struggle. It is the MDS, so, it is to be expected. Of course, the day took its toll and for some, the 34th edition of the MDS ended.

Day 3 at 37.1km in comparison to day-2 would be an ‘easy’ day. Little tough terrain with lots of hard packed ground, stones and some soft sand and dunes. It turned out to be a hot day though, maybe the hottest day so far.

For the first 10km it was hard packed ground and the pace at the front was hard and fast with Rachid El Morabity dictating the the tempo with Julien Chorier – an unusual tactic the MDS champ. Behind a group of 10 followed including lead lady, Ragna Debats.

At 8km. a section of dunes lasted 3km to cp1 and then dunes followed  to 16km. Rachid continued to push the pace and now his brother, Mohamed was closing the gap to join them. For the women, Ragna was in a race on her own, to be honest, she is pushing the men and overall top-10 classification.

Aziza Raji continued to chase Ragna as in all the previous day’s, but she just does not have the pace. Today, Gemma Game finally found her stride and started to look at home in the desert running ahead of the chasing women that included Meghan Hicks.

The push from cp2 the finish offered a little of everything in regards to terrain, the heat probably the most troublesome issue. The old village of Taouz provided a stunning and varied backdrop along with the Kfiroun.

As on day-1, Rachid finally put the foot down to gain a slender lead over Mohamed and Abdelaziz Baghazza who finished just seconds apart in 2nd and 3rd.

Ragna once again finished almost 30-minutes ahead of the 2nd women, Aziza, but notably Gemma closed to within a handful of minutes for 3rd.

Tomorrow is the feared long-day! The battle will be very interesting for the 2nd and 3rd women’s podium – can Gemma push ahead of the Moroccan? It would now take a disaster for Ragna to lose this race.

Rachid normally secures his victory on the long-day and one has to assume this will be his plan tomorrow. He will run steady early on and then push making the others follow his relentless pace. The top-3 are close though, anything can happen!

Results

1. Ragna DEBATS 3:35:54
2. Aziza RAJI 4:03:37
3. Gemma GAME 4:11:56

Male:
1. Rachid EL MORABITY 2:58:45
2. Mohamed EL MORABITY 3:00:01
3. Abdelaziz BAGHAZZA 3:00:06

Dog:
1. Cactus the MDS dog 🐕

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Marathon des Sables 2019 #MDS #MDS2019 – Stage 2 32.5km

The mood in camp was one of happiness with day-1 completed, however, the thought of day-2 terrified most. For many year’s, Merzouga Dunes (the highest in Morocco) have often been used for the charity stage as a way to finish the race. In 2016, the dunes were used on stage 1, a sandstorm hit and it was carnage. So, the dunes demand respect.

This year, stage 2 would have the runners leave bivouac and have a relatively easy first 13km that would involve rocky plateau, small dunettes and pass through the village of Tisserdimine.

From cp1, the runners would enter the dunes and then stay there for another 13km – that is a long and tough journey, for anyone, even the best. So, it was with some anxiety that runners awoke to day-2.

The plus side coming that after the dunes, it was an easy and flat run in to the finish.

Ragna Debats after winning stage 1 looked happy in bivouac. Using a liquid only strategy for calories had no impact on day-1 and her enthusiasm for day-2 did not waver. ‘I hd a good day-1, rested well and I am now ready for day-2.’

 

 

Ragna departed with the leading men and over the early km’s was ahead of the Desert King, Rachid El Morabity. Her stride long, her form perfect and her posture with the pack, excellent. She was flying leaving all the other women in her wake. She once again obliterated the stage crossing the line in 3:14:22 and giving her 10th overall on the stage – wow!

Aziza Raji who placed 2nd on day-1 once again had a good day looking strong on home terrain. She finished 3rd in 4:05:32.

It was past MDS winner, Megan Hicks, who ran better today moving up the field to finish 2nd in 3:59:00 – a remarkable 45-minutes behind Ragna! Notably, Gemma Game who made the podium last-year had a much better day-2 and finished 4th ahead of Lauren Woodwiss.

The men’s race had many protagonists taking on the reigns of the race from the front, including Julien Chorier, Robert Merile, Abdelkader El Mouaziz, Robert Pope and so many more… But the experienced, Mohamed and Rachid El Morabity hung back allowing the first 13km to pass without incident. As the dunes arrived, the brothers unleashed ‘dune power’ and the rest of the men just had to suffer and follow in their desert prowess.

Mohamed and Rachid ran together and at the line, today, it was the younger brother Mohamed who crossed first, 6-seconds ahead of the MDS master. Their times, 2:52:30 and 2:52:36.

Behind, it was survival, with many of the early protagonists suffering in the terrain and heat.  Abdelkader El Mouaziz finished 3rd ahead of Antonio Alongi and Robert Mrile, their times 2:56:14, 3:01:14 and 3:04:02.

For the other 800 + runners it was a day of survival. But the MDS is all about taking on the challenge and finding the strength to push on. Each and every person out there is an inspiration, but look at Faris from the USA with a prosthetic – he personifies the courage of the MDS.

Results Day-2

Mohamed El Morabity

Rachid El Morabity

Abdelkader El Mouaziz

 

Ragna Debats

Megan Hicks

Aziz Raji

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