Half Marathon Des Sables Fuerteventura 2017 Summary

The inaugural Half Marathon des Sables Fuerteventura has just taken place!

Unlike the legendary bigger brother, the race, as the name suggests, is half the distance of the Moroccan counterpart and as such provides a great opportunity for novices to test themselves over multiple days or, it allows experienced runners to race faster and harder.

300 runners toed the line of the first edition, the only thing known before the start of the race that they would need to cover 120km’s over 3-days. Like the bigger brother, the race route was kept secret till just before the race and of course, runners are required to be self-sufficient – only bivouac and water is provided.

A 7km walk to bivouac 1 followed kit-check thus allowing a phase of ‘adaptation’ before the racing kicked-in. It was an opportunity to check apparel, shoes, gaiters and make sure the pack was sitting and fitting well to the body. Of course, all this should have been dialed in before the race!

A few hundred meters from the ocean, bivouac 1 was an oasis of calm. A final full meal, a night under the stars and the arrival of dawn would see the start of stage 1.

Stage 1 25.5km starting at Playa Las Coloradas and finishing at La Pared Isthmus.

It was a hot day, a really hot day of stifling and oppressive sun.

Deep blue ocean, orange rocks and cliffs were contrasted by black volcanic slopes – a trademark of the Canary Islands – as the runners ran the opening miles to Cp1. As one would expect, a long sandy beach followed leading to a technical path and dune decent to Cp2. The final 3 miles were classic Fuerteventura terrain; sand, stony plateaus and dunes to the bivouac.

Local runner, Yeray Duran was no doubt a pre-race favourite and he didn’t disappoint on day 1 running with Alejandro Fraguela Breijo. The duo pushed hard from the off but Peru’s Remigio Huaman, who completed the Moroccan race earlier in the year, kept an ever-watchful eye. Duran suffered in the heat placing 3rd and Fraguela Breijo took victory almost 5 minutes clear of the Peruvian. Timings were 2:23, 2:28:09 and 2:30:46 respectively.

“Tomorrow is the long stage,” said Huaman post-race. “I need to keep in contention from the start, watch my food, watch my liquid. I like to run easier early and then speed up!”

For the ladies, the UK’s Anna-Marie Watson who just week’s earlier placed top-10 at the UTMB had a great first day. She clinched a solid victory of almost 20 minutes ahead of Yolanda Fernandez Del Campo. Kristina Schou from Denmark was 3rd, their times 3:04:03, 3:23:46 and 3:31:51.

Watson post-race discussed how the first ascent was tough and how the temperatures were high. This is coming from a lady who has placed 2rd overall at the Marathon des Sables Morocco in 2015.

“The sand dune before Cp2 was dreadful,” Watson continued. “I had to compose myself and push on. Tomorrow is the long day and that is my preference so I will rest, recover, eat and prepare.”

Stage 2 66.5km starting Aguas Verdes and finishing at La Pared Isthmus.

A straight north-south stage of oueds, dirt roads, single-track, dunes and ridges was made unbearable by oppressive heat but the stunning ocean provided company and contrast to the glow of orange. After Cp3, the race crossed the pretty village of Pajara and as the day unfolded volcanoes and the ocean would provide relaxing views to a challenging day. Due to a rock slide, the final miles of the route changed thus saving the runners a little over 3km.

As promised, Remigio Huaman used his ultra-running skills and desert running skills honed in Morocco earlier in the year to stamp his mark on the men’s race. He followed his strategy with a steady start but he upped the pace as early as 8km in the 66.5km stage leaving Hernandez Curbelo and Fraguela Breijo struggling. At Cp2 the gap was 8 minutes and at Cp3 it was 13 minutes. As the finish line came, the gap had opened to 30 minutes – an unbeatable lead going into the final day. Hernandez Curbelo improved his strategy and placed 2nd and Fraguela Breijo placed 3rd. For Duran, it was a bad day and he slipped in the day’s ranking to 5th and out of the top 3 after a time penalty for taking an IV drip due to dehydration.

For the ladies’ it came as no surprise that Anna-Marie Watson used her long-distance skills to school the opposition. With each mile, she pulled away and finally finished with a 14-minute lead over Kristina Shou. Yolanda Fernandez Del Campo placed 3rd.

“I had no strategy but to run on feel and listen to my body,” Watson said. “I ran my race not worrying about the competition. It was a great stage, I loved the cliffs underneath the camp and the sun set was incredible.”

Ranking

  1. Remigio Huaman overall 9:03:08
  2. Jonathan Hernandez overall 9:59:59
  3. Fraguela Breijo 10:18:30 
  1. Anna-Marie Watson overall 11:32:22
  2. Kristina Shou overall 12:14:13
  3. Yolanda Fernandez Del Campo overall 12:38:22

 

Stage 3 21.1km starting Tuineje and concluding at Las Playitas

At 10am start at the heart of the island unleashed the runners into the heat of the day and a maximum time of 6 hours to complete the stage. Solidified lava was the terrain of the opening miles followed by dirt roads and the village of Gran Tarajal. Mountains followed with some great climbing and descending before single-track brought the runners home.

Three days, three days racing… There was no easing back or victory lap for the final stage, Remigio Huaman pushed from the front and not only consolidated his lead but extended it averaging over 13.15km per hour for the stage.

“For me, the Half MDS is relatively easy as I am fortunate that I can run quickly,” said Huaman. “I am able to get the stages over, even the long one, quickly. I can eat, rest and recover. However, many of the other runners spend so much time on their feet, they walk long distances, suffer from the heat and suffer from hunger, they are the heroes as are all the staff!”

Duran kept the home crowd happy with 2nd place on the stage and Juan Jose Rodrigues Garcia placed 3rd on the stage ahead of 2nd overall, Jonathan Hernandez Curbelo, the times 1:35:49 for Huaman, 1:39 for Duran and 1:40:30 for Rodriguez Garcia.

Anna-Marie Watson eased off the gas for the last day knowing that victory was secure. This opened a doorway for the Spanish runner Yolanda Fernandez Del Campo to seize an emotional final stage victory in 2:14:03. Watson finished in 2:19:04 and 2nd placed lady overall, Kristina Shou confirmed her consistency with 3rd in 2:20:52.

“My dream started many years ago, 17 actually when I heard of the MDS,” said Watson post-race. “In 2015, I placed 2nd at MDS and in just a few shorts years things have progressed, what a dream!”

As with all multi-day races, the journey of the front-runners is only a very small story of the race. The true race happens behind. Runners fight fatigue, heat, exhaustion and demons just to finish. France’s Mathilde Male sums it up well:

“I am happy the race is over, but I am sad it is coming to an end… My best memory will definitely be the arrival of the long-stage, at around 1am. Staff were cheering and I was with my race partner Christelle, it was magic.”

OVERALL TIMES

  1. Remigio Huaman 10:38:57
  2. Jonathan Hernandez Curbelo 11:41:37
  3. Alejandro Fraguela Breijo 12:05:42

 

  1. Anna-Marie Watson 13:51:26
  2. Kristina Shou 14:35:05
  3. Yolanda Fernandez Del Campo 14:52:25

 

Full results HERE

 

Images ©Cimbaly/ Valentin Campagnie / Marta Bacardit

Ultra Pirineu 2017 Summary and Images – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Baga, the home of Ultra Pirineu is located in Catalonia; it may come as no surprise that the Catalans take support to the next level – Ultra running to Spain is like football to the UK.

110km in length, with 6800m of positive gain, the race takes place in the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park. The profile, a little like a jagged sawtooth blade that includes several key peaks, the highest coming very early in the race with just 14km covered at Niu, 2500m high. Comprised of primarily trail, it’s a tough and challenging race that has often been made considerably more challenging due to inclement weather! Not this year though, the sun gods were kind and shined throughout the race as clouds rolled in and out.

Established in 1983, the Cadi-Moixero Natural Park is the hub for the racing and it stretches more than 30km over the mountain ranges of Serra de Moixero and Serra del Cadi; both part of the Pre-Pyrenees.

The narrow streets of Baga and an enclosed medieval square form an incredible start arena.

Immediately it’s hand-on-knees and straight into the first and highest climb of the day. It’s a dangerous mountain to start a race with. The effort and commitment just to get to the top requires a 100% effort, and this is all coming in the opening hours of a very long day on an exceptionally tough course. Finally breaking the tree line, the rugged terrain reveals itself and the first peak, with refuge, finally will come into sight. In the men’s race, Cristofer Clemente dictated the early pace followed by Zaid Ait Malek, Pablo Villa, Luis Alberto Hernando and Dmitry Mityaev. Maite Maiora started the day as she would continue, from the front followed by Nuria Picas who won UTMB just 3-weeks ago.

Dropping down, a short climb at 28km, ‘Serrat’ leads to another long descent and an aid at ‘Bellver.’ A third of the race completed, a long and relentless series of climbing takes place over the following 25km’s through ‘Cortals’ and ‘Aguilo’ to the 2nd highest point of the race at 2300m, Pass de Gassolans. Clemente had now built up a lead but Pablo Villa was within 5-minutes and looking strong. Hernando though was looking tired and laboured. Maiora was still leading the ladies race and continued to smile while Picas pursued and Ekaterina Mityaeva was in 3rd place.

The race is all about economy of effort for those at the front of the race, it’s about effort management to sustain the energy to the line and hopefully victory. At 70km covered, the race may well be considered to be downhill to the finish in Baga, but no, the race has a series of false flats with a couple of brutal cardiac moments that arrive at 86km and 96km; the latter a technical ascent of 1000m to Sant Jordi at 1500m altitude. Clemente despite his small lead dropped from the race after twisting his ankle on multiple occasions. This opened the door for Villa and he seized it taking the biggest victory of his running career. Behind Hernando was struggling and Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz moved into a podium position pursued by the Russian Mityaev. But behind, Jordi Gamito was looking strong – it was going to be close! At the line Mityaev produced a stunning 2nd and Dunand-Pallz was 3rd. Hernado would finish 6th behind Gamito and Ivan Champs Puga but he would still retain the overall title for the SKY ULTRA 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series.

For the ladies’ Maiora produced a stunning victory on what has been a remarkable year, she has been consistently strong over all distances. Last weekend she took the overall title for the Sky Extreme Migu Run Skyrunner World Series and just three weeks time at Limone, she may well be the combined champion too? Picas showed incredible recovery from UTMB to place 2nd in front of her home Catalan crowd. Mityaeva placed 3rd after another solid year in the Skyrunning ranks. Ragna Debats was crowned 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series champion for the Sky Ultra discipline.

  1. Pablo Villa 12:30:19
  2. Dmitry Mityaev 12:33:46
  3. Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz 12:44:15

 

  1. Maite Maiora 14:22:19
  2. Nuria Picas 14:41:45
  3. Ekaterina Mityaeva 15:41:17

https://livetrail.net

Sky Ultra 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Champions

  • Ragna Debats
  • Luis Alberto Hernando

Race website HERE

Results HERE

Seminal UTMB 2017 – The Ladies Race

Nuri Picas running to the podium in Tromso earlier I’m 2017

The 2017 UTMB was billed as the ‘best ever’ and as the weather finally improves in and around Chamonix, life returns to normal for everyone and we all have an opportunity to step back and look how important this years race actually was.

I think it may well be a seminal edition and for many reasons.

I wrote about the men HERE.

The ladies race turned out to be far more unpredictable than the men’s with many of the pre-race favourites either having bad days and going slower than expected or dropping through illness or injury. This opened the doorway for an interesting top-10 and several unexpected names.

The TOP 10 Ladies

NO1

Nuria Picas 25:46:43 – Came into the race not a dark horse but with a question mark. Nobody doubted the ability of this lady, she has proven time and time again that she is a dominant force in mountain running over any distance. She dominated the UTWT rankings and has placed 2nd twice at UTMB. However, in the latter part of 2015 and pretty much throughout 2016 she was missing from racing. It appeared to me that a really tough calendar and race dominance had taken its toll. 2017 has been quiet and just recently I watched her race in Tromso at the Tromso SkyRace and she placed on the podium. It still left me with a question mark though on UTMB – would she have the endurance for 25-hours of running?Nuria set the pace in the ladies race and produced a dominant performance. She built a huge gap during the night and day and it was only in the latter 20% that the race took its toll forcing her to slow. The margin she had built up so important! At the end, this margin was reduced to less than 5-minutes! Nuria is back and like many long-term fans of the sport, Nuria’s victory is a welcome one. A seminal moment.

NO2

Andrea Huser 25:49:18 – Andrea races and races. She has a physical and mental strength un-matched. A race can start badly but she has the tenacity to push on and this year’s UTMB is no different. She started down the ranking, pushed on and with over half of the race covered took control and moved to 3rd and then second. She hunted Nuria Picas down as she slowed, almost a re-run of 2016 when she hunted Caroline Chaverot down. For two years running, 2nd at UTMB.

NO3

Christelle Bard 26:39:03 – Signifies the excitement and unpredictable nature of 100-miles. Although she has had success at CCC and TDS in past year’s, Bard was not really on my radar for a top-10. My fault, I should have done more research. Experience counts though and a steady start paid dividends as she slowly but surely moved through the field. In the final 80km’s or so she moved through the field from 10th to an eventual podium slot. A seminal year for this lady!

NO4

Kaori Niwa 27:31:39 – Was not a surprise after placing 8th last-year. The 100-mile distance is all about consistency and perseverance and this is how this lady excelled. As the distance and weather conditions took its toll, Niwa pushed on and reaped the rewards. A seminal year for this lady!

NO5

Kellie Emmerson 28:13:06 – Australian Emmerson was a surprise top-10 who I think (?) was running her first 100. She is proficient over the 100km distance and maybe the most significant indicator coming into the 2017 UTMB was her 4th at Tarawera earlier this year. Her race was well executed with patience and consistency and her 100km pace kicked in the latter stages to go past St Laurent.

NO6

Alissa St Laurent 28:13:43 – Had a tough race but persevered to finally have a strong and consistent race to place 6th. She certainly slowed as the race progressed and I am sure she will be frustrated with losing that 5th place in the closing stages.

NO7

Anna-Marie Watson 28:37:16 – What a breakthrough performance for Anne-Marie, last year we had Jasmin Paris from the UK in the top-10 and this year I was expecting Beth Pascall to step up to the mark but this was all surpassed by Watson. Her progress through the sport has been quite the surprise, go back to 2008 and she placed 124th lady at CCC – cut to the 2017 UTMB and she was 7th. Wow! That is some progress and the indicators are there, from 2015 she has a string of victories and top ranked places, 2nd at the 2015 MDS, 1st Cotswold Way Challenge, 1st at Cappadocia Ultra and most recently 1st at Gran Trail Courmayeur – a seminal performance.

NO8

Amy Sproston 28:44:08 – Has a running history the length of my arm and a string of notable runs, highlights coming over many varying distances. She has been top-10 at UTMB before – 8th in 2012. Notably she has also had great results at Western States, 2nd in 2016. So, matching her 2012 position is no surprise, it looks like she paced herself well with a slow first half and then making up ground in the second half. Notably, the USA’s top female finisher!

NO9

Mariya Nikolova 29:04:16 – This Bulgarian lady was 16th at UTMB in 2015 in almost 33-hours. 2017 is breakthrough year for her and her time of 29 hours a significant improvement even when one considers the shorter course.

NO10 

Robyn Bruins 29:41:11 – So, the Australian ladies have a seminal year, just like the USA men. Bruin placed 10th and in doing so arguably has one of the best results of her career. She is known in the Southern Hemisphere, but in Europe, no, she is a newbie. This result will no doubt kickstart a renaissance not only in her own running but the running of Emmerson who placed 5th.

NOTABLES:

Pre-race favourite and I think many pundits odds-on for victory, Caroline Chaverot, had a tough race and dropped at midway. Chaverot, like Picas in her hey-day has been unstoppable with many races and a recent victory at Hardrock 100 may well have just taken its toll. It could be a seminal UTMB for this French lady as she decides her plans and calendar moving forward.

As often happens, many of the pre-race favourites had a tough night, day and night at the 2017 UTMB.

Magdalena Boulet, 5th last year had a bad day, Juliette Blanchett 4th last-year dropped early, long distance specialist Emelie Lecomte dropped at Courmayer, Fernanda Maciel withdrew with eye problems from the wind, snow and rain and Stephanie Violett (formerly Howe) battled on for a finish but was not in the top-10 as I and many others expected.

So, a seminal year without doubt.

Tromso SkyRace 2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

Now in its fourth edition, the race has grown as one of the pinnacle races of Skyrunning. It’s not a race any runner can undertake. The course is 57km in length and a whopping 4600m of vertical gain – but this is only a small part of the story. Featuring two peaks, the Tromso SkyRace is by any standards – extreme! The Hamperokken ridge which is a key feature of the race is at the midpoint of the race and features an exposed, technical and at time knife edged arête that will require even the most experienced Skyrunner to use four-points of contact to traverse the ridge and its summit. Followed by snow fields, challenging terrain and a steep climb – this race is the ultimate challenge.

Read the full report and story HERE

You can view images from the race HERE

Tromso SkyRace® 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The 4th edition of the Tromsø SkyRace®, the second race in the new 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series in the Extreme category took place today in Tromso, Norway.

The brainchild of Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, you just know it’s going to be possibly one of the toughest races out there. What it lacks in high-altitude it makes up for with relentless tough climbs, technical terrain, exposed ridges, snow and downright toughness.

“It was crazy, but it was awesome! Certainly, one of the most difficult races in the world!”

Hundreds of runners departed from the new (2016) start and finish outside The Edge Hotel, Tromso. It must be noted, that this new start and finish adds 8km’s onto the 2014/2015 route.

The route takes in 2 mountain summits: Tromsdalstind (1.238m) and Hamperokken (1.404m) – the route very much looks like a figure eight and Tromsdalstind must be run twice; out and back! Covering approximately 56km with 4600m of elevation gain, this is not an easy race!

The race requires a level of skill, devotion and commitment that not every runner has – it is pure Skyrunning!

Skyrunner® World Series Extreme champion and Tromso winner Jon Albon once again dominated this course with a solid performance that left a world-class field chasing.

“The Hamperokken ridge is difficult. In contrast to last year, we seemed to go over the ridge more, I guess this was due to the dry conditions?” Albon said post-race. “This route was technically more challenging and slower. You need both hands on many occasions. It’s such a great race!”

Yading SkyRace winner and Royal Gran Paradiso champion, Bhim Gurung from Nepal put up a great fight for Albon. The duo much stronger than the rest of the competition. The technical nature of Tromso suits Albon and his obstacle racing background, whereas for Gurung it’s a new challenge. Something he learnt last year when he won the iconic Trofeo Kima in 2016 with a course record.

Albon crossed the line in 7:01:01 and Gurung 7:08:58 – it was that close! We then had to wait 20-minutes before France’s Michel Lanne placed 3rd. He had been at the front of the race all day and he went on to say afterwards, “Wow, what a race. This is why I love Skyrunning! I didn’t have the legs today but I ran this race on my mind. The views, the landscape, the terrain is just so amazing. I am looking forward to a return to Skyrunning – I hope to go to Glen Coe!”

Lavaredo winner Fabien Antolinos placed 4th and Reynaud Gael 5th, their times 7:32:06 and 7:32:46 to Lanne’s 7:27:26.

The ladies race was dictated by pre-race favourite, Maite Maiora who is having an incredible year. She arrived at Hamperokken ridge in 1st. Looking relaxed and composed but without doubt focused on the technical terrain.

Over the final half of the course Maite extended her lead and victory was never in doubt.

Ragna Debats followed looking good and Nuria Picas was in 3rd.On the descent, Picas passed Debats who was having some stomach issues. The first three ladies all close within 10-minutes. Maiora though was too strong and maintained a lead at the front and she went on to take victory in a new course record 8:21:21.

Debats rallied behind and her stomach issues improved allowing her to once again pass Picas. She was pushing Maiora but it wasn’t enough, she finished 2nd in 8:24:43 (also under the old course record) just over 4-minutes behind Maiora – a great battle! Picas rounded out the podium in 8:39:17 with Malene Bikken Haukoy and Maija Oravamaki placing 5th.

One thing is for sure, Kilian and Emelie have created something quite special in Tromso, it has set the stage for the Salomon Glencoe Skyline and the conclusion of the Skyrunner® Extreme Series a race that both Kilian and Emelie will participate in. The ‘Extreme’ series may not be for everyone but Skyrunner’s can dream to achieve the skill level and fitness required to take part in the ultimate mountain running experience.

IMAGES from the Skyrunning World Championships 2016

VERTICAL KILOMETER

For the short and steep specialists, the BUFF® EPIC TRAIL VK is 2.8 km long with 1,030m positive climb. The average incline is 30.7% and reaches a mean 50.4% at the steepest point. It is capped at 250.

SKY

The rugged BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 42KM is a point-to-point race with 3,200m positive vertical climb. Again, a highly challenging extremely technical race with a nine-hour time limit capped at 500 runners.

ULTRA

The BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 105KM, with a grueling 8,000m elevation gain and a maximum gradient of 56%, is as tough as they come. Strict qualification standards were enforced for participants, which were capped at 250.

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Skyrunning World Championships 2016 ULTRA – Images and Summary

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Luis Alberto Hernando and Caroline Chaverot were crowned 2016 Skyrunning World Champions for the ULTRA distance at the BUFF® Epic Trail Aigüestortes.

The BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 105KM, has a grueling 8,000m elevation gain and a maximum gradient of 56%, it is as tough as they come! Strict qualification standards were enforced for participants and the field was capped at 250.

It may come as no surprise that runners from all over the world arrived in Spain to take part and in total, over a stunning weekend of races, 35 countries were represented.

The Vall de Boí in the Spanish Pyrenees is without doubt a stunning location for a race; beautiful but tough. Ladies champion, Caroline Chaverot said post race, “The course is incredibly tough, particularly the last 42km. It’s one of the toughest races I have ever done! I felt good during the race but I did have some stomach issues which I need to resolve for the future. I am relatively new to Skyrunning but in 2017 I would like to devote more time to the series.”

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Luis Alberto Hernando (Sp) very much dominated the men’s race, at times he ran with Andy Symonds and at one stage he pulled away only for Andy to catch him back up. Luis then pulled away again! Andy said, “It was touch and go, the first time I caught back up but when he pulled away again I had to make a choice, risk keeping up and potentially blowing up or running to feel? I did the latter!”.

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Luis crossed the finish line to the applause of a home crowd in 12:53:42. Andy Symonds (UK) placed 2nd 30-minutes later and looked ecstatic with he result in a time of 13:25:40. Taking the bronze medal, Javier Dominguez, again for Spain flew his home flag proud of his 13:38:04.

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Caroline Chaverot (Fr) dominated the ladies race as she has done in so many races in the last 12-18 months. Powering up the climbs, she was an unstoppable force. The only downside to her performance was her downhill ability, something she says she need to improve on. Her time of 14:41:07 gave her victory by over 1-hour and a top-10 place overall. To clarify her performance, her time was 25-minutes faster than the previous course record, now held by Luis Alberto Hernando.

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Eva Moreda Gabaldon (Sp) took silver medal in15:50:01 and the UK’s Jasmin Paris took the bronze medal 15:58:15. Jasmin in particular turned a few heads, this was her first Skyrunning race but UK running fans know only too well her ability, in particular, her recent Bob Graham Round record.

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