The diversity and the beauty of the Djerid makes it a major attraction for tourists from all around the world. In particular, its connection with the movie industry. The race starts at the location of Luke Skywalker’s home in the original Star Wars movie (more HERE).
A single stage race that takes runners across a wide diversity of terrains, ranging from soft sand, small dunes, rocks, dried river beds and oasis. Runners will have 20 hours to finish the race with very specific deadlines to reach each of the five checkpoints which will be between 15-20km apart. Starting at 0700 on Saturday September 29th, the race concludes at 0300 on Sunday September 30th.
Offering 4 ITRA points and equal price money for the top female and male athletes, the 2018 edition of UMED looks set to be a great race.
Heading up the male field are the El Morabity brothers, Rachid and Mohamed. They need no introduction to any runner or fan interested in desert running. Rachid is the king of the desert having won the iconic Marathon des Sables multiple times. He recently won Marathon des Sables Peru and once again retained victory at the 2018 MDS in Morocco. He is the key favourite for victory at UMED.
However, Rachid’s brother, Mohamed, won the 2017 edition of UMED and therefore has experience and knowledge under his built. Mohamed has been learning the desert craft from his elder brother and we will certainly see the duo battle for the 2018 win.
Sondre Amdahl from Norway will also take part. He has raced at Marathon des Sables Morocco where he placed in the top-10. Certainly, the single-stage format and 100km distance will suit the Norwegian who specializes in long-distance races. However, Sondre would be the first to admit, he would like some mountains and elevation gain on the course to allow him a chance of victory… No doubt it will be an exciting race.
Two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes, will head up the women’s race. Elisabet has a had a quiet 2018 after relentless racing in 2016 and 2017. With time to rest, re-build and plan ahead, UMED will see the specialist desert runner return to racing. The 100km distance and flat course is definitely something that Elisabet will relish, don’t be surprised if she impacts on the male GC.
The competition will be very aggressive so make sure you tune in and connect to social media to follow the action as it unfolds.
Runners will start to arrive in Tunisia from Thursday 27th with many runners arriving in Tozeur on Friday 28th.
You can obtain more specific information from the race website, HERE
Running a desert or multi-day race? Why not join our 2019 Multi Day Training Camp in Lanzarote taking place January 17th to 24th. More information HERE
For the first time in a long, long time. I had a holiday! Those who follow what I do would arguably say, that I am always on holiday as I am constantly travelling to photograph running races all over the world. However, I can honestly say that in the last six years, I have not been away without working. Admittedly, on one or two trips, work has maybe only been 20-30% of the actual trip. It’s still a holiday but the work element is there.
This August I booked a trip to Morocco, I put my email on auto-reply, I downloaded a couple of books on my Kindle app and I went way with the pure intention to do no work for a good 14-days.
As a photographer, you may be thinking or asking, but did you take a camera?
The answer is quite simply, yes!
When you do what I do in, day-in and day-out, it’s almost impossible to travel without a camera. I often consider a camera just an ‘essential’ item for what I do every day, be that a holiday or not.
The key thing with taking a camera on holiday is that I can take images for the pleasure of it. No brief, no deadlines, no clients – I can shoot what I want and when I want.
I started to post 10-12 B&W images a day whilst travelling, normally on my Instagram and on Facebook. What was interesting was the amount of feedback and direct messages I received. I guess most people know me as a sports/ running photographer, so, suddenly a series of gritty B&W street photographs appear, and it makes people curios.
So, I decided to write a brief post to answer the questions that was asked.
Street and people photography are something that I love. It’s raw, visceral, gritty and when done well should transport the viewer to the place and immerse them.
“Travelling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home. One looks, one listens, one is roused by enthusiasm by the most dreadful things…” – Elias Canetti
Now there are many forms of street photography. And just to draw a comparison, I photographed in Nepal for many years, the street shots I have done there are very different to what I did in Morocco.
To clarify, I could photograph in Nepal the way I photographed in Morocco but not vice versa. The reason being, the people and the culture. The Nepali people love having their photographs taken, you can walk up to them, stick a camera in their face and take a shot. You can even ask them to move or look into a certain place. So, although it’s real, there can be an ‘element’ of set-up, however, I rarely go down that route.
In Morocco, the people are very different. They do not like having their photograph taken. Don’t agree with me? Take a camera in to the Souk in Marrakech and start pointing your camera at people – you will soon realise that it is not an option. Now of course, there are exceptions. Occasionally it is possible to do a ‘posed’ shot and I have found that my experience with 30-year’s in the business lets me know when that is an option.
Below, there are over 300-images captured in Marrakech and the coastal resort of Essaouira, I would say that approximately 10-12 images were taken with the subject knowing I was taking the photo and they didn’t mind.
The remainder of the images were taken with the subject not knowing that I was taking photographs.
Sony A7RIII with Sony/Zeiss T Sonnar* 35mm F2.8
If you look like a photographer, you will stick out and the people will already be wary of you. For street work and when travelling this way, I carry one camera and one lens.
I use a Sony A7RIII (approx £3200) which is a full-frame digital camera which produces a whopping image size of 42.4MP, when shooting in RAW, that file is over 80MP. I have found a large file allows me options to crop in to the image and still retain a high quality/ high resolution file. The camera is mirrorless and therefore considerably smaller than a DSLR, it also has Image Stabilization built into the body; super handy in low-light. The camera can also shoot at 10fps, at times, this can be super important for capturing that all-important moment.
I use a prime lens, the 35mm F2.8 – The Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 which is a Sony/ Zeiss lens. The optics are incredible, focus is fast and superb and F2.8 it is pin-sharp. There are several reasons why this lens is perfect for street work:
At 35mm, it is wide, but no so wide that you can’t take portraits. I would say that for most Pro photographers, a 35mm prime has replaced the traditional 50mm prime.
The lens has a lens hood which is flush to the front element keeping the lens neat.
Its size is extremely small.
Quality is off the scale, but it is not cheap, approx £850.
That is, it. I don’t use anything else. I don’t carry a camera bag and I have no accessories. The only two additional items I carry is a spare battery and spare SD cards.
This camera set up is also my favourite set up when running and photographing. The main reason being is that the camera and lens are light, the quality is the best you can get, and I can carry the camera in my hand while running. I broke up my time in Marrakech and Essaouira with a 2-day trip to climb Toubkal, the highest mountain in the Atlas range. Here are some of the shots from that trip:
Back to the streets…
I have learnt over time to view the scene with a 35mm eye. Basically, I can look at a scene/ scenario and view the scene with the viewpoint and angle of the camera. This is essential in Morocco.
Many of the shots I took, I would say 80% (with the exception of the Toubkal shots) were taken with me NOT looking into the camera. The moment you raise your camera to your eye, people stop, look, put their hands up and on many occasions will say, ‘no photo, no photo!’
The below is a classic example of the subject posing for the shot.
This shot I was looking through the camera, but the subject didn’t know I was taking the photo.
This shot I was looking through the camera.
This shot was composed and planned but the subject didn’t know.
This is why Nepal and Morocco are so different.
To shoot, I would survey a scene, view the angles and decide on the shot and then walk past with my camera at mid-chest height. With experience, I understand the field of view the camera sees and I capture the scene.
Now of course, this sounds easy.
One has to consider focus and how one gets the ‘key’ element in the frame in focus.
One also has to consider exposure.
One has to consider if it is possible to make one or two attempts at a shot.
The above is actually what brings adrenaline into shooting in this way. One also has to accept that you will have a high failure rate, certainly early on. Failure rate becomes less with more experience.
There are no hard rules in capturing images when working a scene. The place, the people and the location will often decide what approach you need to take. The comparisons between Nepal and Morocco provide a perfect example.
The key is to enjoy the process, have fun and learn by taking many, many shots.
The long day! It’s the day that makes the Marathon des Sables and it is the one most feared by the runners. The 86.4km’s of stage 4 are classic MDS and yes, they are beautiful km’s combining many of the elements that make the Sahara and Morocco so unique. However, soft sand and dunes are not the friend of the long distance runner, particularly when trying to cover distance as quickly as possible.
It was an epic day!
Intense heat during the day with strong winds as sunset came and then a very cold night making most runners wear down jackets to keep warm – it was a tough day for all, Rachid finished in 8:12:05 for the men and Magda 10:29:58 for the women. As I write this, 27-hours have elapsed and runners are still out on the course trying to finish ahead of the 35-hour cut off.
Camp life is key to the MDS – being self-sufficient, carrying everything you need, the only provisions are rationed water and a bivouac (tent) shared with 7 others.
The day started at 08:30 for the masses and 11:30 for the top 50.
Rachid El Morabity and Natalia Sedykh as expected dictated the pace at the front. Rachid consolidating his lead and showing the rest of the elite men who is the boss! It’s quite simple, when it comes to the desert, Rachid is the king. He glides over the terrain, almost floating – he is beautiful to watch. He dictated the day and won with a 20+-minute margin.
For the ladies, Natalia was always going to push and see if she could claw back the 1-hour penalty time and regain the overall lead. By CP1 she had 3-minutes, by CP2 Magda was catching the Russian and then after CP4 it was all over… Natalia broke with the pressure and was forced to ease up eventually finishing 6th on the stage.
For the men, Rachid’s brother, Mohamed, followed in the footsteps of teacher and once again placed 2nd, 8:33:52 to Rachid’s 8:12:05. France’s Merile Robert excelled finishing 3rd 8:43:35 and Lithuanian Gediminas Grinius finishing 4th. The ever-present Abdelkader El Mouaziz had a tough day finishing 5th in 9:19:09.
Magdalena Boulet from the USA showed her strength at long distances and dominated the stage running a clever race firstly behind Natalia and then passing her and running strong all the way to the line in 10:29:58.
With Natalia’s explosion, it was all to fight for for the ladies podium and Bouchra Eriksen once again showed real consistency finishing 3rd ahead of the UK’s Gemma Game, their times 11:22:36 and 11:29:00 respectively. The UK’s Anna Marie Watson had a bad day with stomach issues and finished 9th. This opened the door for The USA’s Emily Kratz and Jacqueline Mariash to finish 4th and 5th in 12:08:49 and 12:24:15.
With the marathon stage tomorrow, the podium looks set with Rachid and Magda the 2018 Marathon des Sables champions.
The long day though is really so much more than discussing the elites who seem to run with ease over the harsh terrain. The day is about all the runners, the mid-packers, the slow, the runner out of their comfort zone, the runner looking for a lifetime achievement, the runner looking for adventure, the runner with a mid-life crisis – the long day changes people and it changes me as I experience their journeys. The lows of a withdrawal at a CP or the highs of a hard fought finish.
THIS IS THE MDS!
It brings a tear to me eye as I document the journey from early in the day, through the night and into a 2nd day.
I have heard ultra runners say that the MDS is easy. It is not! Trust me, it is not… The cut-off times are generous but ask yourself, running or walking, would you like to be out there for 35-hours?
I am honoured to document this race and I salute all those who tried this year and failed. It is not a failure… trust me! You put yourself on the start line and risked a great deal. You will be back.
For those who fought sleep deprivation, hunger, blisters, the cold, the heat, tired aching muscles and so much more – congratulations. You have achieved something quite incredible this long day. With ‘just’ a marathon to go. The 2018 MDS is on paper, ‘in the bag!’
One could be forgiven in thinking that today, the two fastest runners in the 2018 Marathon des Sables, Rachid El Morabity and Natalia Sedykh had an easier day… They both won again, for Rachid that is two stage victories and for Natalia it is 3 out of 3. But the winning margin was just a handful of minutes for the duo. I think they are saving something for tomorrow’s long day of 86.2km.
Today’s stage by MDS standards was an epic one that combined a multitude of terrain. Soft sand, dunes, gorges, stoney climbs, exposed ridges, the technical climb and descent of Jebel El Oftal and then an easy and relatively flat fast run in to the finish.
Rachid and Natalia dictated the day but Mohamed El Morabity and Magdalena Boulet was never far behind. It was a controlled day. In the end, Rachid finished the 31.6km in 2:36:20. Mohamed followed just over 1-minute later in 2:37:32 and then ever present Abdelkader El Mouaziz was 3rd in 2:40:43. Peru’s Remigio Huaman had a good day today with 4th ahead of Aziz El Akad.
Despite the 1-hour time penalty, Russia’s Natalia Sedykh continues to push at the front. Today she finished 1st again just over 5-minutes ahead of Magdalena, 3:28:27 to 3:33:45. Magdalena leads the race overall but Natalia claws back the 1-hour time penalty little by little. I can’t help but think we may see an all out effort on the long day to bring things equal. It could be a risky strategy but what has Natalia to lose? Bouchra Eriksen once again was 3rd ahead of the UK’s Anna Marie Watson and Gemma Game who placed 4th and 5th respectively.
Despite some strong winds and sand storms in the night, day 3 of the MDS was calm with little wind, clear skies and relentless heat. It’s amazing to watch runners of all abilities fight their demons, particularly on the climb of the Jebel – it brings out some serious inner strength.
The key now is recovery. The long stage of the MDS is tomorrow and they have 35h to complete the 86.2km distance. Bodies and minds are now tired – everyone will need to dig deep!
Episode 128 of Talk Ultra is here and what a show… we speak in-depth with the incredible Michael Wardian after his record breaking World Marathon Challenge. We speak to star in the making, Hayden Hawks and Niandi Carmont brings us her first female ‘one-to-one’ interviews with Pushpa Chandra. We have the news, chat, gossip and of course Speedgoat co-hosts.
New Year and Talk Ultra needs your help!
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!
Many thanks to our January Patrons
Rene Hess, Daniel Weston, Dan Masters, Kerstin Palmer, Sarah Cameron, Neil Catley, Sam Wilkes, Melissa Bodeau, Lindsay Hamoudi, Aaron Aaker, Simon Darmody, Philippe Lascar, Rohan Aurora, Mathew Melksham, Brian Wolfkamp, Thomas Mueller, Mark Moromisato, Jamie Oliver, Rand Haley, Ron van Liempd, Mike Hewison, Steve Milne and Rupert Hitzenberger.
It was our 2017 Lanzarote Training camp and I have to say what a huge success it was. We had 40-clients who came from as far afield as Canada to take part in our 7-days of fun. It really was special and so great to get so much awesome feedback. I will post a link to images and audio feedback in our show notes.
We had some inspiring people attend and in future shows we will have audio following some of the incredible stories. To kick it off and following on from my discussion with Niandi in our last show. Niandi brings you the very first of female ‘one-to-one’ interviews with Pushpa Chandra.
00:27:30 INTERVIEW with Pushpa Chandra
World Marathon Challenge
Well, the big news is Mike Wardian ran 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. Wow. He ran 2:54 in Antarctica, 2:45 in South America, 2:42 in North America, 2:37 in Europe, 2:45 in Africa, 2:49 in Asia, and 2:45 in Australia. In the process he set a new world record average time of 2:45.
01:22:54 INTERVIEW with Michael Wardian
Women’s winner, Chile’s Silvana Camelio ran 4:14 in Antarctica, 3:45 in South America, 3:58 in North America, 4:08 in Europe, 4:10 in Africa, 4:34 in Asia), and 4:37 in Australia. The last result almost gave away her overall victory but she held on by just 6-minutes That 4:37 in Australia left her just six minutes ahead of China’s Guoping Xie.
Carol Morgan blasted around the tough course in 109-hours 54-minutes – unbelievably, 43-hours quicker than the previous ladies best.
In the men’s race it looked to be a battle between two previous winners, Pavel Paloncy and Eugeni Rosello Sole but Tom Hollins came from behind and clinched victory in 99-hours 25-minutes. Tom won the 2016 edition of The Challenger, the Spines ‘fun run’ race! We hope to have an interview with Tom in the next show.
The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica has a super stacked field with Chema Martinez, Tom Owens, Sondre Amdahl, Jason Schlarb and so many more in the men’s race.
For the ladies we have to previous champions, Veronica Bravo and Ester Alves heading up strong competition from Elisabet Barnes and Anna Cometi.
In the US it’s the Sean O’Brien 100k.
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK
This week I will be in Amsterdam on Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th for a Trails in Motion event and Running Beyond book signing with Mud Sweat and Trails
We are going to have Running Beyond Event which will take place 3, 4 and 5th March in London, plans are progressing for that… watch this space.
I will be also going to Sofia in Bulgaria on the 17th, 18th and 19th March for a trail, mountain and Skyrunning expo
Shane Ohly and Ourea Events have pioneered the growth of trail, mountain and navigation events within the UK in the last couple of years. It’s a boom time and as we all gain more knowledge and experience, the more we demand from an event… this may be increasingly difficulty to provide; longer distances, mountain marathon style navigation or maybe a combination of the two. It’s not easy to come up with a new concept!
Enter the inaugural Berghaus Trail Chase.
It’s a great concept and one that stems from Ohly’s multiday experience. However, we are not all supreme navigators! Importantly, we may not want to navigate but are looking for a concept and a style of racing that not only provides a new stimulus but also a new experience.
New for 2015!
FRIDAY NIGHT – BEST OF SHAFF – BEER, FILMS & FOOD
The Event Centre opens from 1800 on Friday evening. Please join us on Friday evening when we will be serving food, showing a program of the Best of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) and serving beer. Hot Meals and tickets for the Best of ShAFF need to be booked in advance via SI Entries. Beer and cake are for sale on Friday night and do not need to be booked in advance.
Three spectacular courses located in the North York Moors National Park provide the setting for ‘the chase.’ Starting on Saturday, runners are transported from the event centre to their respective starts for the adventure to begin. Using a colour-coded format pioneered in skiing, Ohly offers three fully way marked courses: long course as one would expect is black, middle course will be red and the shortest course will be blue.
A choice of three, waymarked, marshalled and colour coded courses for novice to experienced runners alike:
Blue = 16km Day 1 / 14km Day 2 / 30km Total
Red = 27km Day 1 / 19km Day 2 / 46km Total
Black = 37km Day 1 / 21km Day 2 / 58km Total
Starting simultaneously, all three courses, black, red and blue will converge at the same overnight campsite at the end of the first day. The only difference for runners will be the distance covered. Day-1 camp will provide a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with an emphasis on an opportunity to relax, have fun and share stories of the adventure day-1 provided. A large marquee will be available providing music, bar and food… sounds great!
Sunday is when the real excitement begins and the true ‘chase’ commences. Runners will depart in the order they finished on day-1. The objective? Front-runners will try to hold the lead and respective places while behind a battle royal will commence as you CHASE the runner in front. It’s simple, catch a runner, you gain a place!
A real head-to-head race will develop and tactics will come into play. Go out too hard and you may blow up… go out to easy and you will possibly loose places. The Berghaus Trail Chase brings an innovative format to trail running and one that not only provides a new incentive and experience to each and every runner, but also really does put the fun back into racing.
Many of you will be familiar with the mountain Aconcagua, primarily because of Kilian Jornet and his recent record set in December. Well recently Karl Egloff, 33 from Ecuador has broke Kilian Jornet’s record with a time of 11:52 (57-minutes quicker than Kilian) I like many others wondered, who is Karl Egloff?
I caught up with Karl just days after his impressive record on Aconcagua. I discussed in-depth his background, home life, sporting background and how he may now be considered a speed-climbing phenomenon.
This week we bring you part one of this two-part interview
KE: I’m so happy I just came back a couple of days ago from Argentina, I feel good and I’m happy, there are a lot of things going around right now and I’m happy to talk to you guys.
IC: It’s great to have you here and I really do appreciate you finding the time to talk to us. Before we talk to you about Aconcagua, a lot of people all around the world are saying who is Karl? Who is he? What his background? I said that you are 33 and you were born in Ecuador. Your father was a mounting guide if I’m correct?
KE: Yes he is and yes, I’m 33. I was born here in Quito, its very high here actually 2000+ metres. My mother was half Ecuadorian half Swiss, she met my father during studies and they made the decision to move to Ecuador and make their lives here, we three kids where all born here. My father is a mountain guide and he took me to the mountains at a very early age. He even took me as a baby in a large backpack.
I went up to the huts of our big mountains here in Ecuador and if he was climbing with a client up to around 1000 metres, I would go too… I got a in the mountains pretty young and as soon as I could talk I would just discuss mountains about mountaineering. My mother was not very happy about that, she was always telling me not to choose the mountain guide career; she was a little bit worried about it. She said it’s very difficult to be at home and to have a family, its difficult because it has the seasons. She was always telling me about other professions, but it’s kind of impossible being a son of a mountain guide. I had homework about beautiful mountains all over the world and I was always asking so much he used to say please Karl stop asking me.
When I was 15 I got the chance for the first time to climb with him the first glacier here in Ecuador. My father told me, “when you are 15 I will take you because you are at an age where you can realise what you’re doing.” Finally when I did it I was standing up on the summit and he said,
“Son, you have really a lot of energy so I think you should help me with guiding from now on.”
I guess that when things really started for me, I was guiding with him almost every weekend up to 6000 ft.
Unfortunately my mother died when I was 17, so us three kids decided to go study, I went to Switzerland. I was living in Zurich for around 8-years and during my studies I went up to the mountains every time I could; to snowboard, to go jogging and to go trekking.
I finally returned to Ecuador at 26-years old, I actually tried to be a professional football player because here in Ecuador you grow up with football, it’s much more of ‘the’ sport it’s like in the UK. Football is a religion. .
IC: Before you tell me about your football, let’s go back a little bit and talk about your father being a mountain guide and the way that you were brought up, your story is so similar to Kilian Jornet. His father worked in the mountains, his father and his family lived at a refuge, and really from babies they were just born and bred on the mountains, and of course it’s that lifestyle, that permanent lifestyle that adapts you to be maybe an athlete that not only performs exceptionally well in many sports but particular high altitude sports.
KE: I read Kilian’s book and when I was reading it, it seemed like I was reading my story and especially regarding the altitude he was at, I was living at the 2400 metres and we used to go up with my father into the mountains and down into the valley, While reading I found a similarity when Kilian said he used to go out at night without the lights and sit with the nature. I did those things with my father too. I was with nature a great deal. I was always following the paths of different animals and I constantly asked many questions to my father.
When I got bored and the clients were tired I would go to my father at night and ask, “Why isn’t the sun up already/” I was impatient but he told me,
“It’s dangerous on the mountains and you can die up there.”
I would say no, no everything is ok…
When I got older my father used to give me some slack. I could go up to the summit or climb the path for the next days trek. I had already climbed the mountains. My father would just followed me with binoculars and show me whether to go, to the left or right with his hands. So yes pretty similar as Kilian.
IC: Yeah very similar. And of course Kilian a little bit like yourself didn’t start out as a trail runner or an alpinist, he started out in ski mountaineering and skiing and you were just telling us that football was a passion for you.
KE: Yes, definitely. Football is like a religion in Ecuador, you do nothing else but soccer at school, everyone is asking for the teams. No other sport exists. So actually for me the way I feel free is to do sports; it’s like a drug That is why I used to do my homework quickly so in the afternoon I had enough time to organise another soccer game or another competition at home and so yes definitely football for me became everything. When my mother asked me what I want to do when I leave school I said, ‘I want to be a professional football player,’ and she said forget it, sports won’t get you anywhere.
My coaches said have the energy and the talent, but my mother being from South America was very conservative. Before she died she said I don’t care what you do just don’t become a mountain guide or a sportsman, now here I am, 10-years later and I am both. I tried really hard to please my mother, so I started academics. I started in Switzerland, I tried to work in other places too but I was never happy, this is the most important thing; you must follow your happiness! When I returned back to Ecuador I really had to have a year off before starting a new business and starting my new tourism agency and in those days I started to go biking.
I used my bike to go to and from the gym. There is a very funny story where a guy said to me, ‘I heard you have a lot of energy Karl, would you like to join me as a bike partner in the most important mountain bike race in Ecuador?’ I said, yes but I didn’t have any experience in competing on the bike, I lacked the technique. He just said, ‘Don’t worry come with us.’
So eventually I went with him to the mountain bike race and when I waited on the start I asked him about all the cyclists who looked so professional? His reply was so funny, ‘Professionals? Yes, this is the most important race here in Ecuador and all the international professional mountain bike racers are here.’
I was too eager but I had a great race. After a sponsor came and said, ‘Karl we want to sponsor you.’ It was great news, it was my first race and I felt under qualified but they told me not to worry and come to the office on Monday!
IC: Wow perfect, that’s nice!
KE: Yeah it was, I was 26 and I said ok, So I started to train and train and train and after 2 years I started to travel with the national team to different competitions and to championships and then finally I qualified for the world cup in 2011 in Italy as the first Columbian mountain biker. A year later I qualified for the next world cup in France and then I got invited to the professional team. I started actually to be a good biker…
IC: So it was a really exciting time to just test yourself in sport but while this was going on while you were involved in mountain biking were you still mountain guiding?
KE: I was yes, exactly. I started in 2007 at my first agency and then 5-years later I started my own company. Biking was also a big part of my life, I was really happy with biking but there is a point where it costs a lot of money, you have to go for International championships and you need to live somewhere else. So we had a family decision, we sat down and discussed my options. I was 31-years old, which is relatively old in mountain biking, so I decided to quit!
IC: It’s interesting that you say at the age of 31 there’s no future for you in biking, you were obviously very good at it and carried over fitness and strength from trekking and as a tour leader. 31 is quite young to think that there’s no possible future. Do you think back now with your running success and think you made the wrong decision?
KE: Yes of course, I think the main point here is that we live in a very conservative country were sports is not a future, you don’t grow up here with your parents saying yeah go play tennis… become professional and so on. I was criticised by my family, they said sports would not get me anywhere. I had an opportunity to work for a Swiss mountain guide company and they gave me the chance to work as a mountain guide in Kilimanjaro and a few other places. It was a great opportunity, I was getting a salary but they wanted me to focus on the job so I could manage all business here in Ecuador.
IC: So it was a career decision, a business decision and family ties to the mountain. I guess it didn’t really feel like you were giving up sport but just changing disciplines.
KE: Exactly, I was always jogging I was always training but I never competed as I never saw it as a competition. Nobody thought about running here before but now it’s the second biggest sport after football. In 2012 I quit the biking and focused on the job and in 2013 really focused on guiding and a lot of doors opened for me. I was in Nepal and other countries and I was earning for the first time in my life. For me it was like, oh finally I have money I can get a car and grow up with the company; this is why I slowed down but I never stopped completely.
IC: Cool so let me come to Kilimanjaro. That is when I first became aware of your name and funnily even though you broke kilian’s record on Kilimanjaro it still didn’t really get much recognition. It was reported in several places but it didn’t get worldwide exposure, it was a bit under the radar. But I can see now knowing your history why you would make an attempt on Kilimanjaro. With your background is the seven summits now on your mind?
KE: Exactly it all started in 2012. My friend Nicolas who is now part of my team asked me to’ rabbit’ him up to a summit; actually one of the highest mountains we have here in Ecuador. It is almost the same altitude as Kilimanjaro. We were stood in the car park and he said to me, let’s go for the record! It’s funny, I had never run on the mountain and he said that’s why I have brought you here to help me on the mountain and make you faster. I wondered if I was fast enough or if I was any good? When I reached the summit I realised I had broke the record by 25-minutes. On the way down I met Nicola and I said I was sorry for leaving him behind but he just laughed and said, ‘Don’t worry, this was the only way I could get you to realise how good you are at this.’
I continued down and broke the world record and it became big news here in Ecuador. A lot of people criticised as they said the mountain was dangerous and that people can die on the mountain. But I am a mountain guide so I know how dangerous it is.
Tune in next week for part two.
How does Karl prove and verify his records?
Read about Karl’s Kilimanjaro record and read how he managed to knock 57-minutes off Kilian Jornet’s Aconcagua record.
As one season comes to an end the planning of a new season starts and today we are pleased to announce the calendar for the Skyrunner® World Series and Continental Championships 2015.
In less than three years, Skyrunning has grown to a new level and today, the announcement of the 2015 calendar signifies a significant expansion of the sport and it truly becomes a world series with the addition of the Continental Championships.
It is a very exciting time and in conjunction with the growth of the National Series, it has never been a better time to be a Skyrunner…
Lauri van Houten, executive director for the ISF today provided the details of the new series and lists the full calendar for 2015.
The big news for 2015 is that the Series goes global – more races, more places and, now, the chance to count an extra race in the ranking. The successful 5 SKY/5 ULTRA/ 5 VK formula stays where three results out of five are scored, but now you can choose a fourth race from the Continental Championships of your choice.
Twenty-seven races in nine countries stretch across five continents. Africa, Australia and China make their first appearance together with the rugged mountains north of the Arctic Circle in Norway.
New Skyrunner® National Series will be announced throughout the year, so skyrunning closer to home becomes a tangible reality in: Africa, North & South America, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Oceania, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Spain.
Benefits in the Series and Championships include 1,700 race slots, 450 free entries, 250 accommodation and 80 travel slots. The Series final $ 25,000 is redistributed and additional prizes – not just for the winners – are on the way.
We are proud to reconfirm and thank our our partners Salomon, Active Patch 4U, Compressport, Scott Sports, inov-8, Arc’teryx and La Sportiva for their support and look forward to announcing new ones for 2015.
2015 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES & CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
IMPORTANT please note re scoring:
Points will be available in 3 Skyrunner® World Series races + 1Continental Championship race for each discipline.
2015 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES
July 19 – Dolomites SkyRace® – 22 km, Canazei – Italy
August 22 – Matterhorn Ultraks 46K – Zermatt – Switzerland
September 5 – The Rut 25K – Montana – USA
October 4 – Suunto Lantau 2 Peaks – 21 km, Hong Kong – China
October 18 – Skyrunning Extreme – 23 km, Limone Sul Garda – Italy
May 9 – Transvulcania Ultramarathon – 75 km, La Palma – Spain
June 27 – Mont Blanc 80K – Chamonix – France
August 2 – Tromsø SkyRace® – 45 km, Tromso – Norway
September 6 – The Rut 50K – Montana – USA
September 19 – Ultra Pirineu – 103 km, Bagà – Spain
July 10 – Kilomètre Vertical Face De Bellevarde, Val D’Isère – France
July 17 – Dolomites Vertical Kilometer®, Canazei – Italy
August 1 – Tromsø Vertical Kilometer®, Tromso – Norway
September 4 – Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer®, Montana – USA
October 16 – Vertical Kilometer® Crèste de la Mugheira, Limone Sul Garda – Italy
May 17 – SKY Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42 km, Zegama – Spain
July 12 – ULTRA Ice-Trail Tarentaise – 65 km, Val d’Isère – France
June 26 – VERTICAL KM Vertical, Chamonix – France
July 18 – SKY Ti DoDo Trail – 25 km, Black River Gorges – Mauritius
July 18 – ULTRA Xtreme DoDo Trail – 50 km, Le Morne – Mauritius
February 7 – SKY Sai Kung – 26 km- Hong Kong – China
February 7 – ULTRA Sai Kung – 50 km, Hong Kong – China
July 19 – ULTRA Power of Four Trail – 50 km, Aspen – Colorado
October 3 – SKY Flagstaff SkyRace® – 39 km, Flagstaff – Arizona
October 4 – VERTICAL Flagstaff Vertical Kilometer®, Flagstaff – Arizona
11 April – ULTRA Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon®– 75 km – Australia
12 April – SKY Buffalo Stampede SkyMarathon® – 41 km – Australia
SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES PRIZES
US $25,000 will be awarded to each Series M/F champion.
Hardrock 100 is a small key race for a select few. However, in its history, Hardrock has always become a highly anticipated race that often plays out like a great boxing match reminiscent of the days of Jake La Motta or Casius Clay.
I am pretty sure you remember the Hardrock draw all those months ago. Name after name was drawn from the hat and for once we had a line-up that was not only going to illuminate the high altitude mountains of Silverton but also potentially (despite its size) was possibly going to be ‘the’ race of the year!
That’s a bold statement considering we have already seen the Hernando and Jornet smack down in La Palma, the Krar master class at WSER, a return to form of Anton Krupicka at Lavaredo and the Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix. Oh yes, Hardrock 100 has whetted the appetite of every ultra running aficionado worldwide, but why?
With no disrespect to every other participant in the race, the draw and inclusion of Kilian Jornet has transformed the 2014 edition into arguably the most highly anticipated edition of the race ever. You see, Kilian has ‘that’ list, and that list is almost full. It’s ticked off, ruled out, almost complete but one race has eluded him. A race that he would have run years ago had the lottery been kind. As it happens, the luck of the drawer has finally come through and KJ will get his chance. Hardrock 100 is not just any race though and although we are all eagerly awaiting a legendary performance, it’s no foregone conclusion that Kilian will dominate this race. It’s a course that must be learnt, respected and absorbed. Kilian will come to the race probably with the least running ever in preparation for a 100-mile race. Walking off ski’s and on to the Transvulcania La Palma course was almost a textbook start to Kilian’s running season. However, after a repeat win at Zegama-Aizkorri he threw in a curve ball and departed for Alaska for another successful ‘Summit’ record. Just days later in Chamonix, Kilian wins the Skyrunning World Championships VK and SKY races and then hops on a plane for Colorado with just 7-days to go before the main event. KJ’s preparation is far removed from his competitors but after all, we are talking about Kilian Jornet and I for one would not want to bet against him! Word is that Frosty will be pacing sections of the race and I would assume, Kilian will have additional help from Ricky Gates? However, at this stage I don’t know who that will be. Kilian’s’ race may well come apart if he goes for the course record, pushes out at the front alone and then makes a navigation error. It’s easily done and many repeat Hardrock runners have gone on record to say that the race has several key moments that can make or break a successful Hardrock, so, Kilian will need to be wary of this. In contrast, if Kilian just wants to win the race, a likely scenario will be that he keeps himself in contention at the front of the race, probably keeping close to Dakota Jones and then making a break in the latter stages. It’s anyone’s guess and I for one can’t wait to see how this plays out. It is going to be epic!
Dakota Jones has been 2nd and 3rd at Hardrock in previous years. Without doubt, Dakota knows the course and will be fired up for this years race, particularly after a below par Transvulcania La Palma. It would be fair to say that in any other year, Dakota would be a hot favourite for the win but the competition at Hardrock this year is stellar. So, Dakota becomes just another hot contender in a remarkable field. However, I do believe that Dakota hasn’t run his best race yet on this course and therefore his odds for victory are high.
Seb Chaigneau has been on the course for a few weeks now and has covered every inch of it with Hardrock ever present, Joe Grant. Seb ran an incredible race in 2013 setting the 2nd fastest time with 24:25. Paced by Scott Jurek, Seb will repeat the 2013 winning formula and hopefully everything will align once again. 2014 has not been a good year so far with DNF’s at UTMF and Transgrancanaria, but Seb has a great outlook on running and an ability to re-build and re focus.
Did I say this race was stacked? 2011 Hardrock champion, Julien Chorier is returning and he will bring meticulous preparation and planning to the mix. Julien’s 2013 Ronda dels Cims performance was a stunning master class of grinding it out for hour-on-hour with 100% focus. Just an element of that commitment and Julien will push all the other contenders to the line and don’t be surprised if he passes them. His 2013 6th place at TNFUTMB doesn’t quite do Julien’s talent justice, I remember post race he just said he was constantly fighting the sleep demons. A solid Transgrancanaria in 2014 where he placed 2nd to Ryan Sandes adds a confidence boost to the impressive Frenchman’s palmares.
Timothy Olson rounds out the ‘hot’ contenders for the win and considering WSER happened just days ago, Timmy’s absence puts his Hardrock expectations in perspective. I have to say that I am just a little worried (in the nicest way) by Timmy’s eagerness to train. He has an immense ability to nail preparation and peak for 1-race as his 2012 and 2013 WSER performances confirm. But, and this is a big but, I have almost seen his love for running impact on great performances in some key races. I think I witnessed this in La Palma this year. Timmy just loves the trails out there, loves the mountains and that enthusiasm saw ‘big’ training days pretty much all the way to the main event which made Timmy, in my opinion, look just a little flat and tired during the race! I may be wrong. I hope Timmy pulls off the reigns, allows some recovery before Hardrock and should he toe the line with a taper similar to the examples set at WSER we are in for one major showdown. One thing is for sure, the longer the race goes on, the better Timmy will get.
Joe Grant loves this race! It epitomizes for him what is great about our sport… long tough days in the mountains. Last year things did not go to plan but his best time of just over 25-hours is still up there in the all time best list which he set in 2012. In this field, Joe will need a great day and arguably a performance of his life to win. However, a podium place is not out of reach. Joe is a modern day adventurer who mixes up what he does in a constant pursuit to set new boundaries. His Iditarod and Alaska White performances set Joe apart from the competition and in the long run, may well give him and edge. If recovered from Lavaredo Ultra Trail, expect Anton Krupicka on pacing duty.
Jared Campbell won’t win the race but he’s been there and done it on tough courses. He’s completed Hardrock multiple times, (8 I think) and he is a 2-times finisher of Barkley. He actually won the race this year in some tough and gnarly conditions.
Ones to watch:
Adam Campbell – Had a great run at UTMF a couple of years ago and then had some tough times. Difficult to say how Adam will go on this tough course but he does have a great pacer in Gary Robbins.
Jeff Browning – one Hardrock finish 33:18
Stuart Air – Stu won’t win and in reality will not be close to the podium but it’s great to see a Brit work through the ranks and be given the opportunity of a lifetime. Stu is no slouch and the longer and harder the course, the better he becomes. Hardrock will suit him down to the ground providing he has adjusted to the altitude.
Tsyuoshi Kaburaki – needs know introduction, RD for UTMF and consistent UTMB performer.
Nick Coury – top-10 at Hardrock in the past
Ty Draney – Like Jared Campbell, Ty loves big days in the mountains. He’s had success at Hardrock in the past but top-10 would be a good performance.
After that stellar men’s line up, the ladies race of just 18-entrants looks far too formulaic (if a tough 100-miler can be) with two ladies leading the charge for overall victory, Diana Finkel and Darcy Piceu (Africa).
Darcy Africa with Nicky Kimball and Frosty, Transvulcania 2012.
Darcy Piceu has won this race the last 2-times with 2-great performances, however, it has almost been at the faltering of Diana Finkel that has opened the gateway for Darcy to take over the lead and charge on for the finish. Darcy has already run 5-races in 2014 and come away with -4-victories and a 4th place, so, the form looks good! Having run on or around 29-hours previously, it’s fair to assume that Darcy will be looking to repeat that time this year which will set her up for another potential victory. In the past 4-years, Darcy has been Miss Consistent – 30:14 in 2010, 29:46 in 2011, 29:09 in 2012 and 29:54 last year!
Diana Finkel has been the stand out lady on the Hardrock course in recent years. In 2009, Diana ran 27:18 and that is some way quicker than Darcy and many of the men who will toe the line have run! Her most recent victory was 2011 when running 29:27 and in all honesty, 2012 and 2013 looked to be set for repeat performances but medical issues have plagued Diana’s performances. On her day, Diana will win this race, so, let’s hope the medical gods are on her side this year! Diana looks to have good form with a recent win at Jemez Mountain 50m (where Anton Krupicka won) and 3rd at Zane Grey 50.
Ones to watch:
Sarah McCloskey – 4th at Hardrock 2013 and winner of Wasatch 100 and 2nd at Bear 100-miler.
Betsy Kalmeyer – 14 Hardrock finishes and 5th last year.
Betsy Nye – 12 Hardrock finishes and 3rd last year. Best performance in 2014 was 5th at Marin Ultra Challenge 50m.
The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 100.5 miles in length, plus 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet. The race is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA.
The run starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado and travels through the towns of Telluride, Ouray, and the ghost town of Sherman, crossing thirteen major passes in the 12,000′ to 13,000′ range. Entrants must travel above 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of elevation a total of 13 times, with the highest point on the course being the 14,048′ summit of Handies Peak. The race has been held in early July of each year beginning in 1992, except for 1995 (too much snow) and 2002 (nearby forest fires). Each year’s race is run in the opposite direction of the previous year’s event (2008 was run in the clockwise direction, 2009 will be counter-clockwise). In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners are required to “kiss the Hardrock”, a picture of a ram’s head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.
This course offers a graduate level challenge for endurance runs. The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival and wilderness navigation skills are as important in this event as your endurance.
It was never going to be easy. Making an arduous journey never is, however, the Drakensberg Traverse has a history and in the opening minutes of this 30-minute visual candy, we are introduced to that history, not only in words but mages.
Ryan and Ryno explain the process of how they met at the Salomon SkyRun years earlier and how a seed was planted, a seed that would grow and blossom into the Drak Traverse.
It’s in the early section of the film that we are treated to an explanation of the challenge through an array of images accompanied by short interviews
Gavin & Lawrie Raubenheimer pioneered the trail in 1999 (104hrs 39min) and established a benchmark (and route) that must include the 6-peaks under self-sufficiency. Previous record holder, Stijn Laenen excitedly discusses the ‘Drak’ and how difficult a speed attempt will be. But ultimately, one of the most important characters is Cobus Van Zyl, a large man with a deep authorative voice. Cobus held the current record which he set with Ryno, but he shows no jealousy, no hint of contempt; in actual fact it is the contrary. Cobus actually becomes involved in the whole process, helping recce the route, plan logistics and during the attempt, Cobus is the ‘pin’ back at HQ following the tracker.
Ryan speaks softly and shows vulnerability throughout the whole film. He may well be a superstar with a list of palmarès to confirm his ascendance in the sport in such a short space of time. However, we see none of that in this film… no previous glories, no back slapping… in actual fact, the back slapping comes from Ryno who almost places Ryan on too high a pedestal.
‘I felt super vulnerable, out of my depth and out of my comfort zone’
Ryan tells us in the middle section of the movie where we are introduced to the extremities that the Drakensberg can throw at anyone. On the third day of a fast-pack attempt; Ryno, Cobus and Ryan are confronted by extreme weather and Ryan pulls the plug amongst snow-covered fields. One has to remember, Ryan is new to running, let alone extreme running and it becomes very clear in these moments, that although Ryan may very well be the vehicle of the film, this attempt would not be possible without the knowledge and experience of Ryno and Cobus. Ryan has no façade, he has no bravado, and he tells it like it is…
‘If things go wrong, I don’t think I’d be capable of looking after myself.’
Footage of the actual record completes the final third of the film and for me; the process of reducing 41hours 49mins of record-breaking time into approximately 11-12 minutes is where the true miracle happens. I know only too well as a photographer how protective I can become of images and moments. Dean Leslie and the crew at The African Attachment work wonders. It’s like a wonderfully crafted piece of music that actually takes instruments away, rather than adding, to make the whole piece larger, greater and more memorable. Switching for arial vistas and close ups; the story is told in a series of bold moments that encompass key moments during the traverse.
‘If I am not ready now, I never will be’
Ryan rushes to prepare in the final moments before the midnight start. At the stroke of 12, they depart into the night. Climbing metal ladders running through the night, head torches are replaced by the arrival of the sun.
Back at base, Cobus and Cindy Van Zyl follow Ryan and Ryno; they monitor each step via trackers.
‘You realize how quickly things can go wrong, how vulnerable they are… if you need to escape, it’s at least 6-hours hard hiking!’
Exhausted by the heat, Ryan and Ryno reach Cleft Peak at 08:39 and run on. Dreaming of milkshakes they become dehydrated and face the demons of trying to refuel at night at Giant’s Pass.
‘If you don’t get your nutrition right you will fail and you will simply stop’
Tired, exhausted and lacking concentration they move on into the night. Trying to sleep is almost impossible. The dawn of a new day shows us the impact of the terrain, the beauty, the magic and the splendor of the traverse. Here words aren’t required and the mix of visual and music takes us to a new level. This is more than a running movie. It’s art.
‘It’s about doing things that make you happy and doing it because you want to.’
Bushman’s Neck Border Post 5:49pm with 205km’s covered, Ryan and Ryno approach a Red Bull arch. It’s the first glimmer of the real world and the brand that made this attempt possible. No crowds, no razzamatazz, just a few friends and family…
‘Just a short run in the Drakensberg Mountains,’ Ryan says to camera.
As the film closes, quite rightly, respect is given to the history of the Drakensberg Traverse via visual snaps:
Cobus & Ryno
Andrew Porter (successful solo attempt and record)
Stijn & Andrew
Gavin & Lawrie
Travailen is not your usual showboating movie about running. It’s a honest piece. It shows vulnerabilities and how we overcome them. Egos and reputations are dismissed into a collective gathering of skill and experience. It’s a spiritual journey that I am sure will live on within each of those involved.
As a movie it is a visual feast handled with great skill by Dean Leslie and the team at the African Attachment. The blending and fading of subtle music provides a wonderful and balanced atmospheric to the pain and struggle of Ryan and Ryno. For such a tough challenge, the movie is a calm and tranquil homage to a very tough, rugged and gnarly mountain range. The characters involved, maybe it’s the South African accents, blend with the nature providing a wonderful silky smooth experience.
Runner or not, Travailen holds joys and pleasure for all. The film previewed on May 29th at The Labia, Cape Town. The film will be available for public release, however, the date has not yet been made available. I will update as and when appropriate.
READ MY DRAK TRAVERSE INTERVIEW WITH RYAN SANDES HERE
Thanks and credits:
I’d like to thank Ryan Sandes, Ryno Griesel, Kelly Burke, Dean Leslie, Greg Fell, Red Bull and The African Attachment for the opportunity to see an advance copy of Travailen.
The visually epic tale of Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s Drakensberg Grand Traverse record.
At midnight on Monday, March 24 2014, trail runners Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel set off into the darkness from Witsieshoek car park. Their goal: to complete the 210 kilometreDrakensberg Grand Traverse – the mother of all Drakensberg hikes – faster than anyone had before.
To rightfully claim the title they had to travel on foot, carrying all their own gear without receiving any form of support along the way. It was just them against the mountain elements. Against the clock.
Travailen is the thrillingly visual tale of their attempt. Dean Leslie, Director for Travailen, gives us some insight into the toughest assignment the The African Attachment have ever taken on.