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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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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Marathon des Sables 2019 #MDS #MDS2019 – Stage 1 32.2km

The 34th edition of the iconic Marathon des Sables got underway today. A race of 32.2km heading south through the mixed and wonderful terrain that Morocco has to offer.

As per usual, camp was full of nerves and tension after a somewhat cold night left some runners wishing they had packed more clothes. Breakfasts were cooked, bags were packed and the pre-race anticipation was tangible.

The race was underway at 0900 after Patrick Bauer, the race creator, provided his usual morning briefing two the assembled runners who totalled more than 800.

With the buzz of the helicopter and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, the race was unleashed.

In MDS terms, day-1 was considered an ‘easy’ day – a nice introduction to the Sahara. The wind was almost non-existent the heat gradually built throughout the day as the 800+ had to cross mini dunes, soft sand and rocky plateaus.

It may come as no surprise that the El Morabity brothers of Rachid and Mohamed dictated the day, pushing ahead together. It was only in the closing km or so, that Rachid, the six times champion forged ahead to win in 2:19:00 exactly, 1min 28secs quicker than his brother. Abdelaziz Baghazza arrived 90-seconds later to round out the day’s podium.

The ladies race was dominated by IAU World Trail Champion and Skyrunning World Champion, Ragna Debats, running hers first ‘MDS!’ Ragna is a past winner of The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, also a multi-stage race but importantly, not self-sufficient! Today she ran like an experienced multi-day runner, her pack causing her little issues. Her time of 2:42:24 quite incredible providing a top-20 place overall.

Moroccan Aziz Kaji will have made the home crowd happy placing 2nd in 3:07:58 and in the 3rd, the Queen of ‘MDS,’ Laurence Klein from France who has won the race on many occasions in past years.

It is only day-1 but the race is already taking shape. Day-2 at 32.5km is already obtaining much talk as it include 13km’s of the infamous Merzouga Dunes, the highest and the most challenging dunes in Morocco.

Results Top 3:

  1. Rachid El Morabity 2:19:00
  2. Mohamed El Morabity 2:20:28
  3. Abdelaziz Baghazza 2:22:58

 

  1. Ragna Debats 2:42:24
  2. Aziz Raji 3:07:58
  3. Laurence Klein 3:12:56

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 6

The 2019 The Coastal Challenge today came to an end on the stunning beaches of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.

Pere Aurell and Ida Nilsson are the champions after a masterclass of multi-day running. The duo ran amazing races and Ida obliterated the 2018 record of Ragna Debats and in the process set 4 female stage records and placed 2nd overall. Holly Page set two stage records also.

The 22km final day is a stunning day, starting and finishing on Bahia Drake, the loop is like a mini Coastal Challenge all compressed into one stage. Waterfalls, rainforest, plantations, dusty fire trail, water crossings, beaches, coves and the stunning Pacific as a backdrop as the runners make the way to the finish.

The dynamic of the day was the staggered start for the top-6 after the mass start at 0700.

They were released as follows:

6. Ragna Debats 07:01:00

5. Holly Page 07:03:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:06:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:10:00

2. Ida Nillson 07:15:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:21:00

 

The race was on between Jorge and Marcus and in the early stages, Jorge opened a gap on the technical trail. However, as soon as the trail became more runnable, Marcus unleashed his natural fast pace and secured his 3rd overall on GC.

After a tough stage 5, Pere was keen to make sure he won the 2019 TCC and by the waterfall, he had caught Ida for the 6-minute time gap. He then ran to the line and secured his victory ahead of the incredible Ida, who placed 2nd overall and dominated the women’s race.

Ida won 4-stage CR bonus’ worth $250 each and $2500 for a new CR – That is $3500 for her week in Costa Rica.

Holly Page was the first to cross the line holding off the top-5 runners and catching all those before her – in the process she set a new stage CR and in addition to her female CR on stage 4, she netted $500. On timing, Pere was the stage winner just missing Tom Evans 2018 stage-6 record. Marcus was 2nd and Holly 3rd.

The finish-line was full of emotion as an epic journey has come to an end. The 2019 TCC will go down in history for the incredible performances of all the runners, but the truly inspiring story his how the top-3 women placed in the top-6 overall, with Ida 2nd on the podium – truly epic!

For now though, it’s all about Pere and Ida celebrating victory. This evening, the awards will take place on the beach with a roaring camp fire. 2020 will see the 16th edition of the race and I am sure we can expect another spectacular race.

PURA VIDA

Stage Results:

  1. Pere Aurell 2:00:00
  2. Marcus Scotney 2:06:32
  3. Holly Page 2:07:04
  4. Ida Nilsson 2:08:12
  5. Sebastian Jones 2:13:55

Overall standings, male/ female after 6-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03
  3. Jorge Paniagua 24:17:21
  1. Ida Nilsson 23:36:03
  2. Holly Page 24:50:38
  3. Ragna Debats 26:16:06

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsen 23:36:03
  3. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2018

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 5

It was the longest day of the 2018 The Coastal Challenge and what a day! At 49km, it was only 2km more than day 3 but coming at this stage in the race, it is always a tough one.

 Runners departed camp via bus for a short bus ride to the Sierpe river and then a ferry across to the other side with the arrival of daylight. At 6:15am, they were released.

Much of todays race is very runnable on wide gravel roads and much of that chat pre-stage was that it was ideal for Ida and Marcus. It’s great if you can run, but for many it’s a tough day. Technical forest sections break up the distance and then at 2/3rd of the race covered, the runners turn right on a loop around the peninsula, running through forest trails before finally dropping to the beach and taking a small boat from one side to the other. Once across the estuary, it is 9km’s to the line with the final sections on the beach to the stunning Drake Bay, a Unesco Heritage Site

It was a day of drama, with the main podium contenders all running close together to checkpoint. Notably, Jorge was running side-by-side with Pere at the head of the race. Ida chased and then Marcus. Just before the right turn for the loop around the peninsula, Pere made his move and pulled away from Jorge.

Behind, Ida chased and Marcus was looking strong and gaining time.

Holly Page was some way back but looking relaxed and comfortable in the intense heat.

At the peninsula. Pere was first in the boat and crossed with no sign of any other runners. Jorge and Ida arrived together and shared a boat. Minutes later, Marcus arrived. It was all going to come down to the final 9-km’s!

What happened next, could not have been predicted. Pere struggled with exhaustion, the heat and sickness from a restless night before. He was reduced to a walk. Ida on the other hand went from strength-to-strength.

Ida left Jorge, pursued Pere, passed him and once again won the stage outright obliterating the previous female stage CR set by Ester Alves by almost 45-minutes – it was an incredible performance.

Marcus bided his time. Closed on Jorge and the duo fought an epic battle to the line. Marcus was 2nd just over 30-seconds ahead of the Costa Rican runner.

Pere finally arrived 20-minutes after Ida – he looked broken!

With the final stage tomorrow, an epic battle will unfold between Jorge and Marcus for the final podium spot on GC. Also, Pere and Ida have a potential fight. Pere has a lead of 17-minutes, one would normally say that is more than enough. However, after today, anything can happen…!

Holly Page finished 2nd woman and Ragna Debats lost time in the closing miles due to a navigation error, however, she did finish 3rd on the stage.

Tomorrow’s stage is a loop of Drake Bay – it’s a stunning day that manages to encompass all the previous 5 days in one loop. The top 6-runners will depart after the main group.

The starting times will be:

Mass start 07:30:00

6. Ragna Debats 07:31:00

5. Holly Page 07:33:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:36:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:40:00

2. Ida Nilsson 07:45:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:51:00

Overall standings, male/ female after 5-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:22
  2. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30
  3. Jorge Paniagua 22:00:49
  1. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  2. Holly Page 22:43:34
  3. Ragna Debats 23:54:00

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  3. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2018

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 4

Day 4 from Coronado to Palma Sur is a unique day – starting at sea level, the route climbs to just under 1000m in 10km and then stays high with a rollercoaster of hills dropping to just over 600m at 25km and then climbing again to 900m at 30km. From here, the runners drop like stones, all the way to the finish line in Palma Sur with 37.1km covered.

Pere Aurell once again showed incredible strength and recovery powers. From the start he pulled away from the competition and powered all the way to the line for another stage victory and a securing of his overall GC classification.

Behind Pere, the day started pretty much as one would have expected with Ida Nilsson, Jorge Paniagua, Marcus Scotney and Holly Page all following and all within seconds of each other at CP1. It was clear here, that Ragna Debats, the 2018 champion and course record holder was not having a good day. She trailed the front of the race and complained of sore legs.

As the miles passed, Jorge and Holly ran strong races. The duo pushed at the front and at the line, Jorge had managed to pull away a 5-minute gap on the British runner who won the stage for the women’s category and broke Ragna’s 2018 stage CR – the women’s race this year is proving spectacular.

Ida finished 2nd woman and 4th on the stage just 3-minutes behind Holly – she is way ahead in the overall women’s ranking and now 2nd overall on GC after Marcus had a bad day!

Stage 4 proved to be a tough day both for Ragna and Marcus. Ragna complained of tired legs and ran to the line trying to conserve energy for the two days ahead. Marcus though was trying to hold on the 2nd overall – a bad nights sleep and some stomach issues unfortunately impacted on him greatly and he lost far too much time allowing Ida to move to 2nd overall on GC. Marcus is now 3rd with Jorge less than 6-minutes behind. The fight for the podium is still on!

Tomorrow’s stage is 49km from Sierpe to Drake Bay (it is the longest stage of the race) and the early stages are very runnable – this will play into the hands of Ida and Marcus – will they have the strength?

  1. Pere Aurell 4:13:25
  2. Jorge Paniagua 4:20:51
  3. Jose Fabio Madrigal 4:50:29 
  1. Holly Page 4:25:04 (3rd on stage)
  2. Ida Nilsson 4:28:42 (4th on stage)
  3. Ragna Debats 4:55:09 (6th on stage)

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 16:04:50
  2. Ida Nilsen 16:42:31
  3. Marcus Scotney 17:07:24

Full results at www.webscorer.com

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