It was incredible. The preparation. The event. The course. The journey.
The process. The outcome.
I knew I always wanted to challenge myself over 100 miles…I just never expected it to be in this incredible race. I was privileged to have qualified to race so to have a Race Crew and Filming Crew follow my journey over the race to an unexpected end was amazing.
I had the immense pleasure to meet Tom at Marathon des Sables, he was a complete unknown who on day-1 of the race, rocked the apple cart and the Moroccan dominance of the race. Myself, the rest of the media and all the runner’s in the race were asking the question, “Who is Tom Evans?”
By the end of the MDS, we had an answer. He placed 3rd and in the process, the ultra-running world welcomed a new star in the sport. He was without a sponsor and still a captain in the army.
Post MDS, we discussed opportunities and how Tom could achieve his goals. I was fortunate that Tom decided to join me on my annual Lanzarote Training Camp. He joined us as a coach and ambassador.
It was easy to see Tom’s ability. Few on the camp could keep up with him and those that could went on to race well at the following Marathon des Sables. In particular, Gemma Game who made the podium.
Following our camp, Tom joined me in Costa Rica for The Coastal Challenge. I was keen to see him race once again over multiple days and this time without being in a self-sufficient manner. I arrange the elite field and I was determined to give Tom and the rest, a hard race. Hayden Hawks, Timothy Olson and Marcus Scotney amongst others toed the line.
Tom arrived to race and it was clear from the off, he had an agenda. He had researched the race, looked at the stages, checked the times and not only did he have ambitions to win the race, but also set a new course record. Hayden and Tom raced head-to-head day-after-day but victory and the CR was never in doubt, Tom dominated.
It was time to set the goals higher and work to higher objectives. Tom represented his country and placed 3rd at the world championships. He dipped his toe in skyrunning races going head-to-head with skyrunning world champion, Jon Albon. But all along, the big goal was CCC part of the UTMB races.
Just prior to CCC, Tom signed a deal with Red Bull. I was fortunate to join Tom at his family home in the UK and document his training.
At CCC, running the perfect race, Tom closed on the lead in the latter stages of the race, forged ahead and won the biggest race of his life. A sponsorship deal with adidas Terrex followed and the dream of Western States started to fall in to place.
Zero to 100 tells the story of Tom’s inaugural 100-mile race, the iconic Western States in the USA. To place in the top-10 here would have been an incredible result, but Tom went on to place 3rd and in the process run under 15-hours. He trained in Ethiopia to prepare and you can listen to the whole process in episode 174 of Talk Ultra listed below.
ZERO TO 100
Process not Outcome
Tom has always discussed his thoughts on training and racing and one element that always runs true is ‘Process not Outcome.’ His ability to focus on the prize, dedicate himself to the task and take running to a higher and higher level is all down to his dedication and professional approach.
In 2020, Tom will target new races, new goals and new experiences. One thing is for sure, after victory at Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand early in the year, Tom is in the perfect place to fulfil his dreams. I would expect no less…!
2020 calendar subject to change based around Covid-19
Over the past couple of years, I have documented Tom’s progress via my podcast, Talk Ultra, you can listen to the episodes below:
The 2018 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ is upon us! Six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain, 9413m of vertical descent – TCC is more than a challenge!
Over the years, TCC has grown in stature with an ‘A’ list of elite runners from all over the world. The 2017 edition was won by Salomon International Athletes – Anna Frost and Tom Owens. For 2018, the race steps up a notch with arguably the greatest ever male field assembled for a multi-stage race.
The 2018 edition lists a who’s who of elite runners.
Michael Wardian, a past winner and yours record holder returns. The unstoppable Chema Martinez from Spain returns once again looking for that top spot. Rising GB star, Tom Evans heads for his first rainforest experience after planing 3rd at MDS in 2017. Add to this, the legendary and iconic Timothy Olson, Drgagons Back and Cape Wrath winner, Marcus Scotney and the USA’s rising star and fast-man, Hayden Hawks – needless to say, the rainforest of the Talamancas may be ablaze after these guys have forged a path through its stunning trails.
For the ladies’ Ester Alves returns, a past champion, Ester has just placed 2nd at the Everest Trail Race in Nepal. She will be joined by the Dutch mountain goat and fast lady, Ragna Debats. Our top three female contenders should have been rounded out by Elisabet Barnes but unfortunately, illness has taken its toll and she will not make the start in Quepos.
“Due to several occurrences of cold and flu in the last few months I have had to reevaluate my upcoming race schedule. I have raced nine demanding multi-stage races in the last two years and my body is telling me to back off a bit. I plan to come back stronger and one thing is guaranteed, I will be back at TCC2019 – It is a race I love!”
– Elisabet Barnes
Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent
Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent
Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent
Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent
Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent
Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent
Hugging the coastline of the tropical Pacific, TCC is the ultimate multi-day experience that weaves in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of Central America.
The terrain is ever-changing from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Runners will cross rivers, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.
It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because the the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution – mark my words! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality – it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.
From here on in, it is early breakfast. Around 0400 runners wake and the race starts with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.
It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to the sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular. Pura Vida.
It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a rollercoaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rainforest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the road and the finish at 37.1km.
The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.
The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!
THE RUNNERS – MALE
Michael Wardian has won the race and set a course record. He knows the lay of the land and if anyone knows how to race hard, day-after-day, it is Mike. You can never bet against him and he always comes ‘to race!’ There is no sandbagging, no pretenses, just a full-on let’s race and let the best man win!
Hayden Hawks burst on the scene in recent years blazing a trail of fast running. He is one of the new breed of trail runner who is moving from the road/ track to the trails. That natural speed is making trail racing faster and faster. Hayden won CCC in 2017 – a huge win. He loves to train with big weeks and TCC will feel like a ‘training week’ but just a whole lot faster… he is a favourite for the win!
Timothy Olson needs no introduction. This man blasted Western States to a whole new level and was the man to beat at any race. A tough 2016 started to overturn in 2017 with a slow but calculated return to form. One of the nicest guys out there, Timothy will bring his love for all things to TCC and will inspire with his feet and his heart. On his day, this guy could rip the legs off the competition.
Tom Evans burst on the scene in 2017 placing 3rd at Marathon des Sables. He played the Moroccans at their own game and had them worried. Interestingly, Michael Wardian also placed 3rd some years ago… Tom placed 4th at the Eiger Ultra and CCC and recently has earned a slot on the GB Squad for the World Trail Championships in May. He is fast and can run technical trails, he has the multi-day format nailed – it is going to be awesome!
Marcus Scotney has represented GB and has won ‘The Challenger’ at the UK’s Spine race, won the Cape Wrath Ultra and most recently, The Dragons Back Race – both of which are gnarly UK multi-stage races. Marcus has all the skills for a great race at TCC, the biggest question may well come with heat adaptation from a cold UK?
Finally, Chema Martinez is slowly but surely become Mr. TCC. He has raced many times and played 2nd year-on-year. Will 2018 be the year when he tips the scales in his favour? Who knows, one thing is for sure, he will race hard every day.
THE RUNNERS – FEMALE
Ester Alves has won the race before and last year placed 3rd. Recently, she placed 2nd at the Everest Trail Race in Nepal. Ester brings experience and excellent mountain/ technical running to TCC and as such, will always be a favourite for the win.
Ragna Debats in recent years has been a revelation mixing fast running (IAU World Trail Champs) with Skyrunning. On paper, Ragna is a hot favourite for victory in Costa Rica. The combination of speed and technical ability may well give her a supreme edge over the competition.
Inge Nijkamp placed 11th at Marathon des Sables and although she won’t appreciate me highlighting her name here, she will be one to watch. Her form, in her own words, “Is not what it should be,’ but, she has the ability and skill to certainly edge onto the podium should all go well.
Of course, we can not rule out the local talent who, over the years, has made the race exhilarating and exciting. We will update this report with a review of both the male and female talent once the race list has been confirmed.
Tom Evans placed 3rd at the 2017 Marathon des Sables, the highest ever placing by a British male. His result was a complete surprise. He arrived on the start line an unknown, by the end of day one he was a dark horse turning the heads of journalists and runners.
It was no one day wonder. Evans matched the Moroccans stride-for-stride and pushed them all the way to the end. His result was a breakthrough performance!
Not happy to become a multi-day specialist, Evans has since tested himself in mountain races, the Eiger Ultra 101km and the CCC – in both races he placed 4th. With a road marathon coming up, Evans now looks ahead to 2018 and a multi-day training camp in Lanzarote (HERE) where he will coach and run, quickly followed by the 2018 The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.
I caught up with Evans and fired of ten quick-fire questions.
Images from the 2017 TCC with Anna Frost, Anna Comet, Ester Alves, Jason Schlarb, Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes, Chema Martinez, Tom Owens and many more.
You placed 3rd at MDS this year, quite a result, what has the following months been like for you?
It’s been pretty crazy since that surprise result at MdS. This year, I wanted to find out more about my running and really learn what my strengths and weaknesses are. I raced in the Eiger 101km and the CCC. Both went really well considering 95% of my training is done in and around London. I have been juggling my military career with my new-found love of running.
How did you train for MDS and what top 3 tips worked that you can pass on?
My training for MdS was pretty limited as I was away with the Welsh Guards in the build-up to the race. I managed to get a week long trip to Lanzarote to focus on the race and get some quality miles in my legs. My top 3 tips are:
Train how you race. Train with the kit and food you are going to use.
Heat acclimatisation is so important. It can be done anywhere hot eg Bikram yoga!
Stay injury free. If you start developing a niggle, get it sorted ASAP! Better to turn up less fit but injury free.
You have followed MDS with mountain races, the Eiger and CCC, is this to broaden your skill set – what is the attraction?
Yes. I wanted to develop my running skills in all different environments. I love being in the mountains and discovering new places. The mountain races have really pushed me outside my comfort zone. I think to be a top quality ultra-runner you have to be a well-rounded athlete. I have learnt so much in the mountains that I will use in the rest of my career.
Technical trails, climbing and challenging terrain will be in abundance in Costa Rica, is that one of the attractions of the race?
I have always wanted to go to Costa Rica. I love traveling and I also love running so thought that this was a perfect opportunity. I am really looking forward to the varied terrain in the race and pushing myself to the limit.
What else attracts you to TCC?
TCC is an iconic race that attracts a great crowd. I have loved spending time getting to know lots of different athletes in the past 6 months. I love that everyone has come from a different background and all have such different stories to tell.
Heat and humidity in Costa Rica is brutal, very different to MDS and other races you have done – how will you prepare?
I am going to be doing lots of my winter training at St Marys University who have got one of the best chambers in the country. This will help me to understand the effect of humidity and heat on my body. I am also going to Lanzarote for the Pre-MdS training camp. This will give me a great opportunity to do some heat training in great company.
You are not self-sufficient at TCC so you can run free – is that an appeal or do you like self-sufficiency?
I am really looking forward to being able to run free and use the aid stations. I have heard great things about what is on offer at the aid stations, especially fruit, which is far more appealing to another energy gel! Having said that, I do like all the preparation for the self-sufficiency races. I am a bit of a sports science nerd and like doing all the research before the races.
Any races before TCC?
Yes, I am in my final block of training for Frankfurt Marathon. I am using this to focus on my speed and efficiency before going back to the longer distances. There are a couple of great UK races in December and January that I will probably look to use for training. I will also be racing the XC season, I think the fast training is really important, even for ultra-runners. I don’t want to race too much though, I want to make sure that I am fit and injury free on the start line in Costa Rica so I can give it my all.
What does the future hold beyond Costa Rica?
There are a couple of big races that I am targeting for 2018. The first being the World Trail Championships in Penyagolosa in May. After that, I am going to be focussing on fast 100k races, with ambitions to race in the 100km World Championships in September. I will also be doing a couple of UTWT and Skyrunning races, but haven’t fully worked out which ones. There are so many amazing races all over the world but I don’t want to race too much too soon!
And finally, Michael Wardian from the USA has won TCC and placed 3rd at MDS – he is back in 2018, is the battle on?
Michael is a fantastic athlete and one of my inspirations to get into running. It will be a honour to be on the start line with him in Costa Rica. I am really looking forward to the journey and I guess we will have to wait and see what happens!
The 2018 edition of TCC is already looking like a stunning race. Two-time MDS champion Elisabet Barnes will return to Costa Rica and the UK’s Marcus Scotney who won the Cape Wrath Ultra and the Dragons Back Race has his first TCC experience ahead of him. – read HERE.
TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.
You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE
Jason Schlarb is ‘the man!’ – Let’s face it, anyone who can go head-to-head with ‘KJ’ and finish alongside him at Hardrock 100 is doing something right. Jason just placed 3rd at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and while we downed one or three ‘Imperials’ we discussed what 2017 has in store.
On February 18th, Hayden Hawks will toe the line of Moab’s Red Hot 50k. If I was a betting man, I’d be having a punt and naming Hawks as the victor. Yes, this guy is on fire – he proved it in December when he pushed Zach Miller all the way to the line at San Francisco 50. Zach took the day and the $10.000 prize purse but the duo both went under the old course record, as Hawks says, “I broke the course record by over 10 minutes and did everything that I possibly could today but Zach just had a little more than me.”
But who is this 25-year old from Utah? In 2016 he burst on the scene with victory at Speedgoat 50K, sponsorship with Hoka One One followed and victory at Capstone 50K in November laid the foundations for that very memorable head-to-head with Miller.
“I am excited to get going this year. To be honest with you, right now, I’m ready to race and I’m just getting anxious, I want to race so bad and I want to travel so bad but for now I need to get a good base in training and then I’m going to go out there and be ready to go…!”
Read the full and in-depth interview with Hayden Hawks on IRUN4ULTRA HERE
The results for the 2017 UTMB were announced on January 12th 2017 at 10.00 (Paris time) and what a draw! The list of persons registered and runners files can be viewed at http://www.ultratrailmb.com, all those entered will be confirmed by email.
Those runners lucky in the draw then have a period of 14 days, January 12th to 25th 2017, to definitively finalise their registration by paying, by credit-card, the balance of the registration price and sending in all the required supporting documents.
It’s a big day for many, dreams are made and broken with the opening of an email.
From a global perspective, a look at the elite start list provides an opportunity to whet ones appetite and imagine the race that will unfold for the UTMB and the races that also that happen in and around the main event, the CCC, TDS and OCC.
In 2016, many considered that the line up in the UTMB was the best ever, well, 2017 may have topped it?
The Top Men for 2017
Francois D’haene – Two time UTMB winner and countless other 100 victories.
Gediminas Grinius – 2nd at UTMB in 2016.
Julien Chorier – 8th at UTMB in 2016 but super solid at the distance.
Miguel Heras – Looking for 2013 form when he placed 2nd.
Luis Alberto Hernando – Hw wants this! 2nd in 2015.
Xavier Thevenard – Champ in 2013 and 2015 the winner of ‘all’ UTMB races – CCC, TDS and OCC.
Tofol Castanyer – 2nd in 2014.
Pau Capell – TDS winner stepping up to the big dance.
Yeray Duran – Stepping up but 2nd at TDS in 2016.
Diego Pazoz – Mont-Blanc 80km winner – an intersting prospect!
Andy Symonds – Tried in 2016 but pulled out, he has a big race in him.
Carlos Sa – 8th in 2014 and an ever-present.
Kim Collison – Arguably the UK’s best hope for a top result.
Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB in 2015.
Didrik Hermansen – 2nd at Western States in 2016 and winner at Transgrancanaria
And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:
Tim Tollefson – 3rd at UTMB last year
Andrew Miller – Western States winner 2016
Sage Canaday – Unfinished business at UTMB
Jeff Browning – 2016 double with 3rd and 4th at Western States and Hardrock
Dylan Bowman – 4th at Lake Sonoma in 2016
David Laney – Placed 3rd and 4th at UTMB
Jim Walmsley – Unstoppable in 2016, UTMB is going to be a seriously exciting outing for him and us!
But it doesn’t stop there, there other names to consider, the list goes on!
The Top Women for 2017
Caroline Chaverot – Defending champ and un-stoppable in 2016.
Nuria Picas – 2nd twice, she wants the top slot.
Andrea Huser – Relentless, races week-in and week-out, 2nd in 2016.
Emelie Lecomte – Tor des Geants champ.
Beth Pascall – Lakeland 100 winner and course record could excel on this big loop.
Sophie Grant – Has had two top UTMB placings.
Gemma Arenas – Excelled in the Skyrunning ranks in 2016, Ultra SWS champ.
Juliette Blanchet – 4th last year.
And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:
Kaci Lickteig – Western States champ, Bear 100 champ and ultra-runner of the year – exciting!
Magdalena Boulet – 5th at UTMB last year.
Stephanie Howe – Western States 2014 champ who looks to be back after 2016 full of injury. Previously 8th at UTMB.
Sally McRae – 11th at the 2016 Western States.
Meredith Edwards – 2nd at TDS.
Aliza Lapierre – Solid performer recently raced MDS in 2015 4th at Western States.
Ones to watch:
Kaori Niwa, Christina Bes, Laia Diez, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St Laurent and many more…
CCC and TDS has always felt like a side show to the UTMB but Zach Miller in many ways changed all that with a show boat victory and we are now seeing the CCC as real stepping stone to UTMB with a highly competitive field.
Notably for 2016, Megan Kimmel, Hilary Allen, Nathalie Mauclair, Maite Maiora and Anna Comet amongst others will go head-to-head in the ladies’ race.
For the men, the prospect of what Hayden Hawks is exciting, especially when one considers Tom Owens and Ryan Sandes will toe the line. Add to the mix Erik Clavery, Ludovic Pommeret, Jorge Maravilla, Ben Duffus, Michael Borst, Marcin Swierc and Aurelien Collet and you have a very exciting race.
TDS will see Rory Bosio head up a quality ladies’ field that includes Lucy Bartholomew and, Dong Li and Lizzie Wraith. For the men, Paul Giblin and Michel Lanne are followed by Samir Tamang, Arnaud Lejeune and many more.
The 2017 UTMB week of races, look set to be a very exciting prospect.
This is Episode 118 of Talk Ultra and this week is going to be a short and sharp show… it’s all about the UTMB races and Trofeo Kima. We have interviews with Jo Meek who placed 2nd lady at the CCC and Damian Hall who placed 19th in the UTMB and recently completed a ‘FKT’ on the South West Coast Path in the UK. This weeks show is co hosted by Albert Jorquera.
Firstly, this show is being recorded in the USA on the day of the RUT VK and so therefore we are somewhat pressed for time… joining me is a co-host is my good buddy and fellow Skyrunning hack, Albert Jorquera.
If you haven’t guessed, Albert is from Spain!
Karl is on the AT as many of you will know, Speedboat has passed halfway on the AT. He really is doing great, racking up some daily mileage and as you can guess is going through some real highs and lows. We are posting 7-day updates on my website so please check out the links on the show notes. I need to give out a bog thanks to Red Bull who hooked us up with Eric, Karl’s chief crew and I had a chat with him on day 19.
Albert, what do you reckon, 2100 miles in under 50 days, trying to average somewhere between 45-50 miles a day?
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK well I have a first copy in my hand and I have to say I am somewhat pleased and happy. It’s taken a couple of years and at times it never felt quite real. The book in my hand confirms it is real and Spanish, German, Italian and UK versions will be available in the coming months. I believe Spain is first (September) Italy is October and the UK November. I don’t have a date on the German edition yet! – HERE
TROFEO KIMA HERE
Bhim Gurung 6:10 new CR
Marco De Gasperi 6:12
Leo Viret 6:15
Emelie Forsberg 7:49
Ruth Croft 8:02
Emanuela Brizio 8:21
Xavier Thévenard (France) won the 55k OCC race with 5:28 on the clock. Marathon des Sables sensation Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) was second, 15 minutes back. Mercedes Arcos (Spain) cruised to the front of the women’s field in 6:54.
Michel Lanne (France) in 12:10, five minutes ahead of Ruy Ueda (Japan). Mimmi Kotka (Sweden) gained the women’s victory in 13:42, 27 minutes better than second-place Jo Meek (U.K.).
INTERVIEW with JO MEEK
Pau Capell (Spain), Yeray Duran (Spain), and Franco Colle (Italy) filled the men’s podium with 14:45, 15:14, and 15:32 finish times, respectively. Delphine Avenier (France) led the women with an 18:46 winning time with Meredith Edwards (U.S.) took second 13 minutes back.
The 2016 edition of the UTMB will take place this August, for 13-years the race has made a rendezvous in the endurance capital of the world, Chamonix!
In preparation for the 2016 edition, the organisation have just announced the elite level competitors that will compete, head-to-head, with 7500 runners over the four races – CCC, OCC, TDS and UTMB.
The main event, the UTMB, is a 170km journey that takes in 3 countries with a total elevation gain of 10,000m. A time limit of 47 hours is provided to give the 2300 runners an opportunity to complete the journey.
Now in anyones book, that is a quality ladies line-up. The most notable name missing is of course Nuria Picas. I have highlighted the hot favourites for overall victory and definite wild card of Jasmin Paris for a surprise podium place.
Luis Alberto Hernando
WOW! That may well be THE elite field assembled in any race ever… It’s a seriously exciting line-up and just look at how many bold names are in that line-up! In all honesty, the whole list could be bold as victory could come from anywhere.
So with several months to go, we have already seen Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen lay down seriously strong performances at Transgrancanaria.
Elite line-ups for TDS, CCC and OCC are as follows:
Notable names in the TDS are Ruth Croft and Lisa Borzoi for the ladies and in the men’s race, Franco Colle, Pau Capell, Travis Macy and Sondre Amdahl amongst others.
CCC ones to watch: Jo Meek, Holly Rush and Manikala Rai fo the ladies and Sage Canaday, Michel Lanne and Freddy Thevenin amongst others for the men’s race.
Who in your opinion will make top 3 in the respective male and female races at the 170km UTMB event?
It was always going to be touch and go… unfortunately, it is go. Lizzy Hawker has struggled with injury for much of 2013 and despite running at Sierre-Zinal recently, Lizzy has been forced to withdraw from the 2013 TNF UTMB with another stress fracture. Of course, this is devastating news for Lizzy and the race. Lizzy is the Queen of UTMB and we want her here, not only so that she can chase the course record she so desires but also to allow the other ladies to race the best.
Another main contender for the overall, Emelie Lecomte has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Emelie is a strong performer over the long races and a lovely person. I for one am disappointed not to see her toe the line. She placed on the podium at Ronda dels Cims earlier this year but has struggled ever since.
So, who are the ladies to watch?
Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) was 2nd in 2012 and then just one week later turned up at Tor des Geants and won! Without doubt, a remarkable double. Francesca likes long, tough and hard races. For sure, a shortened TNF UTMB as it was in 2012 in theory, would normally not suit her yet she still placed 2nd. That has to be a worry of all those that will line up against her on Friday. This year she has raced and raced. A very impressive and dominant win at Ronda dels Cims is probably the most significant result going into this race, however, Francesca placed well at Ice Trail Tarentaise and won the Eiger Trail. Recently she ran Speedgoat (not a race for her) and she placed 10th. All in all, Francesca is the outright favourite for this year’s race now that Lizzy and Emelie are not running.
Emma Rocca (Buff) placed 3rd last year and is a consistently good performer with plenty of experience. For example, she has raced at Marathon des Sables (2nd in 2011) and just recently had a great run at Speedgoat with 4th place. That shows great depth over multi stage, single stage and also shorter faster courses. Without doubt, Emma is podium potential once again for this year’s race.
The most exciting prospect for the 2013 race is Nuria Picas (Buff). This is Nuria’s first 100-mile race and that for sure will be the biggest stumbling block. However, if she can hold the reins back, take it easy over the first two thirds and then use her speed and skill in the final third, then we may well see Nuria top the podium. Nuria had an incredible 2012 dominating the Skyrunning calendar, she had three great wins at Trofeo Kima, Cavalls del Vent and Templiers, and she also placed second behind Frosty at Transvulcania. 2013 has been an equally great year, however, she has been chasing Emelie Forsberg around the Skyrunning calendar and has placed a super consistent second at Transvulcania, Zegama-Aizkorri and most recently Trans D’Havet. She is without doubt one to watch!
Three US ladies make my ‘hot contenders’ for this year and first up is Amy Sproston (Montrail). Amy is a 100k champ and placed top 10 at last-years UTMB with 8th overall. On paper, Amy can most certainly be top 5 at UTMB and if she has a great day, maybe top 3. Significantly, she placed 3rd at Western States, two places ahead of Rory Bosio. However, I think we will see those roles reversed in the Alps but as we all know, anything can happen.
Meghan Arbogast (Scott) was in Zermatt last weekend for the Matterhorn Ultraks but she only ran the short race as a loosen up for this weekends fun. She was looking strong, relaxed and confident. Her 4th place at Western States certainly means that everything is in place for a great tour of the Alps. In 2012, Meghan placed 12th at UTMB and for sure she can move up and be top 10. A great day and she may well push top 5.
Rory Bosio (The North Face) placed 4th in the 2012 race over the shortened course and was some time behind Francesca Canepa. Rory’s recent 5th place at Western States is obviously a great race and a great boost, however, I for one thought she would make the podium. Post WSER, Rory has spent plenty of time in Europe and therefore will come to the race adapted and ready to push for the podium and top slot.
Shona Stephenson (inov-8) is making the long journey from Australia and arrived a day or so ago. Shona has already spent time in the Alps racing at the Mont Blanc VK, Mont Blanc Marathon and Ice Trail Tarentaise (she dropped about two thirds in). She also spent a great week with the inov-8 team testing new apparel and shoes in the mountains. Earlier this year she was performing consistently well with a win at Tarawera, a great 2nd place at UTMF and a win at Northburn 100. She like the longer and harder races and although she has limited European racing experience, if she is in the right frame of mind and feeling good, then we may well see Shona on the podium and I would expect a top 10 to be guaranteed.
Katia Fori (Technica) has raced twice at UTMB before placing 5th and 7th. Of course, being an Italian is a great advantage, as she will understand the terrain, mountains and the weather. This is a key to racing well over the Alpine course. In addition, she knows how to survive and spend a long time in the wilderness; her 4th place at the Tor des Geants proves this. In reality, I don’t see Katia making the top 5 but it only takes one or two to have a bad day and Katia to have a great day!
Helen Cospolich (The North Face) is a three times finisher at UTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th. She has the super strong TNF team behind her and although she placed just inside the top 20 last year (17th), I would imagine that she could do better. It all comes down to the day! This year looks to be dry and warmer (at least in the day) and that will make her feel better for sure.
Another TNF (The North Face) athlete is Ligia Madrigal. Ligia is Costa Rican and I actually ran with her on several occasions at this year’s multi-stage, The Coastal Challenge; a race she has won and placed 2nd at in previous years. This year she didn’t have a great race and dropped. Although she places well in Central and South American races, UTMB will be a steep learning curve for her. She will do well to place in the top 20 and if she makes the top 10, she will have had a great race.
Completing the TNF line up is Ru-Ling Xing. I would be lying if I knew much about Ru-Ling however; her stats show top 10 results at TNF 100k in China and 3rd at Vibram 100k. She has raced at UTMB before but finished outside the top 20, if she edges into the top 20 this year she will have had a good race.
Nora Senn has placed 3rd overall at the tough UTMF in 2012; great grounding for the UTMB. Earlier this year she won Lantau 100k so I am sure she will be looking to put the record straight after dropping from UTMB last year. She has the potential to surprise a few people, however, best-case scenario will be top 10. I don’t see Nora contest the podium.
The ladies race may not have as many possibilities as the men’s race, but with Lizzy Hawker not in the race, it is wide open for a really exciting and competitive race up at the front.
Without doubt I will have missed several ladies who will make the top 10 and for sure make the top 20, so, if you know anyone let me know.
Who do you think will win?
Will we see a surprise performance from one of the ‘100’ newbies?
What an exciting prospect the 2013 TNF UTMB is going to be! Just a few months ago it looked as though the 2013 edition was lacking some really strong top competition, but a surge of confirmed US entries has brought this race to life and to be absolutely honest, if a US runner doesn’t take top slot this year, then maybe they never will…
It’s a quality field and the list of top men has incredible depth. For the purposes of a preview I am going to highlight who I consider to be the contenders for the top three slots and then give notable mentions to those who most certainly stand a chance to make the top ten and if on a great day, they may make the podium.
So, who is going to win? Or should I say, whom do I think stand a chance of the podium? In no particular order, here are my contenders:
Jonas Buud, Anton Krupicka, Julien Chorier, Miguel Heras, Timothy Olson, Jez Bragg, Sebastien Chaigneau, Mike Foote, Mike Wolfe, Carlos Sa, Dylan Bowman, Gary Robbins, Yoshikazu Hara, Francois Faivre, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Jean-Yves Rey and Arnaud Lejeune.
Jonas Buud – UTMB 2012
Jonas Buud placed second last year over the shortened UTMB route behind Francois D’Haene. It was a great run and a superb confidence boost for this year’s race. His recent run at Comrades when he moved up through the field from around 40th to the podium was not only an incredible lesson in pacing but also how to execute a great race strategy. I am pretty sure that this will be something he will bring to Chamonix. Without doubt he has speed but the full UTMB is a very different race to the shortened version and in this field a podium place will be a great result.
What can we say about Anton Krupicka? With a long time out of the sport due to injury, his return seemed guaranteed at the end of 2012 when he placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at Cavalls del Vent. We had hoped to see Anton run at Tarawera but just a week or so before the race he pulled out due to a niggle. Racing Ronda dels Cims was on the cards but he decided an attempt at Nolans-14 was a better option; it didn’t go well leaving him in pieces on the trail. One thing that is guaranteed is that Anton is fit and can climb. His recent 2nd placing at Speedgoat is going to be a great boost and he has been in and around Chamonix for several weeks now training with Joe Grant who will be his support during the race. It may be Anton’s year?
Julien Chorier is meticulous in planning, knows the UTMB route very well and after watching him run and dominate the 2013 Ronda dels Cims, if he brings ‘that’ form to Chamonix, then he will win! He was consistent, strong and a machine. Julien has been on the podium at UTMB before, 2007 and 2008 but this was relatively early on in his run career (a former cyclist). Since then he has won Hardrock, UTMF, Raid de la Reunion and so on. He will bring his ‘A’ game to UTMB with just one position in mind. A hot favorite!
Miguel Heras has had a tough time recently with injury. Running UTMB was a big question mark, however, I heard just the other day that he has confirmed he will run. His training has been hampered for sure and it is impossible to say at this stage, how that will affect his race. His most recent notable performances came in 2012 with La Templiers and San Fran 50. Like Julien Chorier, he is meticulous in planning and outside of Kilian Jornet; I would have said that an in form Miguel Heras would be the stand out favorite for this race along with Julien.
A little like Julien Chorier, Timothy Olson picks his races, plans, trains, turns up and wins. Anyone who can win Western States two years on the run knows how to bring the ‘A’ game to the right race. Timothy placed well at Tarawera and Transvulcania but his notable words to me at the end of Transvulcania were, ‘it just needed to be longer, I was getting warmed up’. Racing at Speedgoat recently he placed in the top ten but that doesn’t reflect a lack of form, in fact the opposite, it shows focus; focus on the big target, which is now UTMB. He has been in Chamonix and getting out on the course and so will now fully understand what he needs to do come this Friday. Along with Anton, he is a key favorite for the outright win, the only thing I can see going against him is the lack of experience in a European 100-mile race particularly in the Mountains.
I am going to stick my neck out and say that in the 2013 UTMB we will see a new Jez Bragg. He will run UTMB in a way that he has never run it before. We all know he was the 2010 winner of the race but quite frankly, and no disrespect to Jez, it wasn’t the full race and that makes a big difference. In recent years things have not gone well for him and post 2012 UTMB we discussed certain health issues that may have affected his performance. With those issues under control and then his incredible run in New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail, Jez will mentally and physically be in a different place when on the start line this year and in the famous Speedgoat Karl words he will be thinking, ‘a 100-miles is not that far’. Jez will have his best UTMB ever! Listen to Jez Bragg talk about UTMB kit HERE
Sebastien Chaigneau has already had an incredible year. His win at the recent Hardrock 100 in a course record time (counter clockwise) is a dream come true for Seb. He actually only got the go ahead for that race just a couple of weeks before as he was a reserve, so, I can’t help but think his long term training was for UTMB but also meticulously preparing for the hope to participate at Hardrock. His early season win at Transgrancanaria and then 3rd place at UTMF will no doubt all take its toll. Seb has all the abilities and experience to win this 2013 edition, however, he may very well be just a touch jaded.
Mike Foote placed third last year on the shortened course and by all accounts is in great shape and has been training really hard. However, he has been plagued by injury. His second place at Hardrock 100 in 2012 most certainly means that if he his 100% fit, he will mix it up at the front of the race and be in contention for the podium.
Teammate and great friend of Mike Foote is Mike Wolfe. Mike had a year to forget in 2012 after an incredible 2011. He has loads of skill, great fitness and can run like the wind when he needs to. After some time away to recoup, Mike has now found some form and fitness in 2013. He had a win at Pocatello 50 and recently raced to a podium slot at Lavaredo Trail in Italy. Most recently he set a ‘FKT’ on the John Muir Trail with teammate, Hal Koerner. Now no doubt this was great training and great preparation for a 100-miles in the mountains, but, and this is a big but, was it too close to UTMB?
Carlos Sa placed 4th at UTMB in 2012 and earlier this year won Badwater 135. I witnessed him run at close quarters at the Marathon des Sables where he consistently performed well and eventually finished 7th overall. UTMB is a very different race and with strong competition from ‘mountain men’, Carlos will need a great day to make the top three.
Another American joining the mix is Dylan Bowman. Dylan may well be the dark horse of the US contingent. For sure, European eyes will focus on Krupicka, Olson, Wolfe and Foote and therefore allowing Dylan a little more freedom and a little less pressure. They should take note; Dylan has had consistent top performances at Leadville and Western States. What Dylan’s resume of results lacks is experience on tough mountain courses and that will be the crux of how well he performs. Will he be able to take the ups and downs that the UTMB throws at him? *update 26th August, pulled out due to injury
Finally, my last contender is Gary Robbins from Canada. He had time away from the sport after having some horrendous injuries that almost stopped his career. With patience and rehabilitation he came back to his nemesis, Hurt 100 and not only won, but also set a course record. He has experience of UTMB and finished outside the top fifty last year, so why pick him as a possible contender? He knows what it is about now and to be honest, a full course is probably much more preferable than a short course for Gary. Also, he placed 4th at UTMF earlier this year behind Hara, Chorier and Chaigneau… that’s good company to be running with!
Yoshikazu Hara was the surprise winner of the 2013 UTMF putting Julien Chorier and Sebastien Chaigneau in 2nd and 3rd respectively. He is coming to this years race prepared and may well cause a few shocks!
Francois Faivre trainer of the French cross-country ski team from the Jura region, was recovering from some health issues at the start of the season. After signing up for the cancelled Maxi Race and after withdrawing from the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, François felt he lost some form. He finished 9th in 2011 and 7th in 2012! UTMB without doubt is his main goal for the season.
Tsuyoshi Kaburaki is extremely experienced at UTMB and has placed from 3rd to 11th in five outings. This year he won Bighorn 100 with some incredible running in the latter stages of the race. The jury is out on 2013 and I will update with more info as and when I have it on Thursday.
Jean-Yves Rey was 6th last year and is very much a dark horse. In his early 40’s he has had some impressive results over the years, 3rd at the iconic Sierre-Zinal in 2000, winner of the CCC in 2009 but recently he started the Eiger Trail and did not finish, so, his form is unknown.
Finally, Arnaud Lejeune is in his early 30’s placed 8th at UTMB and 3rd at Raid de la Reunion in 2012. He also had a string of top results with wins in; Faverges Trail, Trail de Savoyards, Trail Glieres, Quecha Trail Fiz, Verdon canyon Challenge and the Guyan Trail at 186km long. A resident of Annecy, he has access to the UTMB terrain on a regular basis and this is a distinct advantage. However, 2013 seems to have been very quiet. He may be a surprise!
As mentioned, the race has no shortage of possible winners, for example:
Sebastien Buffard 10th at UTMB and then of course we have Marco Olmo won UTMB at the age of 59yrs and in doing so became a legend. He most certainly won’t win this year but he deserves a mention.
Vincent Delabarre, Siu-Keung Tsang,Jason Loutitt, Gustavo Reyes, Armando Jorge Teixeira, Zigor Iturrieta, Giuliano Cavallo, Minehiro Yokoyama, Vajin Armstrong, Paul Giblin, Adam Perry and Terry Conway.
The TNF UTMB has gained a reputation as being one of the most iconic 100-mile races in the world. With over 2,000 participants, I will have missed several contenders who will create a stir and surprise us. Do you know who they may be?