Hayden Hawks – C’min’ At Ya, Fast! on IRUN4ULTRA

hayden-hawks_irun4ultra

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

irun4ultra_logo

Kaci Lickteig – Dreams Do Come True on IRUN4ULTRA

kacilickteig

 ‘Western States definitely was the race of my life. Everything came together so perfectly that day. I had a once in a lifetime race day experience. I had only dreamed of winning Western States and wanted some day for that to happen. All the stars aligned and I could win. To be among the winners list is surreal…I admire and respect all those women and men who have won. It’s such an honour to have my name listed as a winner of Western States 100.’

Kaci Lickteig ran her first ultra in 2012 aged 25-years. A small lady, she does pack a punch. It’s all wonderfully echoed by her nickname ‘Pixie Ninja’ – that sums up Kaci in a nutshell.

Some may say, 3rd time is a charm. It certainly is the case with Western States 100. The rise of this lady has been gradual but logical – 6th in 2014, 2nd in 2015 and yes, you’ve guessed it, top spot in 2016. The ‘WSER’ is rolling course, which begins in Squaw Valley, California. It climbs more than 5500m and descends nearly 7000m before reaching the finish in Auburn some 100-miles later. It’s the ‘Grail of Trail!’

Read the full article on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

irun4ultra_logo

UTMB 2017 Draw and Elite Names

iancorless-com_runningbeyondbook-21-of-278

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.

Now, get training!

GO HARD or GO HOME – Zach Miller In-Depth Interview

img_20160712_070410

Zach Miller has inspired from the day he burst on the ultra-running scene way back in 2013 when he relegated the then untouchable Rob Krar at JFK50 (who did not finish) and Matt Flaherty placed 2nd.  What has followed is a full-on, Go Hard or Go Home approach to ultra-running that at times has produced awe inspiring results and equally has left fans and Zach, holding their heads in their hands wondering, ‘what might have been?’ Win or not, Zach is one of the most exciting runners to follow. Earlier in 2016, he did a ‘Zach’ at UTMB and for much of the race it looked as though he may well pull of the biggest win of his life… he blew but still managed a top-10 placing. Cut to December 2016, $10.000 prize money and one of ‘the’ most stacked fields ever assembled at TNF50 in San Francisco and the stage was set, once again, for Zach to lay it all on the line…

“I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great!”

I caught up with Zach from La Palma, the home of Transvulcania, a place Zach knows well after racing here as part of the Skyrunner World Series.

Zach: How is La Palma?

Ian: La Palma is as good as La Palma always is as you know.

Zach: Yes, it’s hard to have a bad time there.

Ian: I came here last December because I was finishing off my book, Running Beyond, I needed a little bit of isolation and a little bit of space and an opportunity to get on some nice trails and just to do a little bit of running. It was just so nice because the weather here in December is fantastic, the trails are great. It’s just a nice place to be and I thought, “You know what, it has been another long year. I’m going to go and do it again.” It is just so good. It’s a little bit difficult getting around the islands to get to different places of trail because there’s not a lot of connection. But I’m staying in Tazacorte Port. I have a 2500-meter climb on my doorstep.

Zach: Yes, Okay. There you go, what more do you need?

Ian: The final descent of the race just drops straight to my apartment door.

Zach: Okay, you have no shortage of climbing then?

Ian: No shortage of climbing and no shortage of descending.

[laughter]

Ian: The only thing is it takes me as long to come down as it does to go up.

[laughter]

Zach: Yes, work on your down a little bit [laughs].

Ian: That downhill is just brutal, isn’t it?

Zach: Yes, it is.

Ian: 18k, 2500m of descent. It’s just exhausting. I’d rather go up anytime.

Zach: Yes, that one’s a tough one!

Ian: Yes, well you know all about it, don’t you?

Zach: Yes, I’ve done it once.

Ian: I remember you coming past me in the race after El Pilar, climbing towards Roques de los Muchachos.

Zach: Okay.

Ian: …at that point you were just in the lead with Luis Alberto Hernando, jumping on your heels.

Zach: Yes.

Ian: At that point, it was a classic Zach Miller day, wasn’t it?

Zach: Yes.

Ian: In that you lead the race from the front and then in the latter stages, it all goes a little bit wary… you had that fantastic finish with Dakota.

Zach: Yes, I did. I remember that. That was quite a day. Maybe one day I’ll maybe get back to take another crack at it.

Ian: It’s a great course, a great race. But talking of Zach Miller days, you do have a reputation for going out hard and giving it everything. La Palma, was one of those days. It’s a Zach Miller trademark. Tell me about the Zach Miller trademark of go out and go out and give it everything.

Zach: For one, it’s probably worked for me more times than it hasn’t [laughs]. And even when it doesn’t, it usually ends up exciting. It’s a combination of just liking to be aggressive and make sure that the race gets out and I give a good honest effort that we don’t dilly dally too much.

[laughter]

Ian: No, that’s true [laughs].

Zach: I just kind of set the tone, to give all, I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great. Like San Francisco!

Ian: Yes.

Zach: I didn’t really know that I could do that. On paper, I’d have thought I couldn’t maybe run somewhere around that time, but I didn’t know I could run it in that fashion. But I just like to give it a shot and see what happens. There’s plenty of races and if I mess up, there’s another one in few months…

Ian: You say that if you messed one up…  but sometimes going out as hard as you do for the distances you do, that could take some recovery. People like myself when we’re talking about a race that’s coming up or we’re writing a preview for a race, whenever we come to seeing Zach Miller’s name on the start list, we always say the same thing. That, you going to go out hard and you’re either going to have the most incredible day, set a course record and take victory maybe? Or you are going to blow up in [laughs] super fashion and it’s going to turn into carnage and you are probably not going to finish the race or you going to move down the field. You seem quite happy living with that strategy and certainly spectators all around the world love your racing strategy. Do you ever think to yourself that maybe one day, you might try something a little bit different?

Zach: [laughs].

Ian: – or are you happy with the fact that give it all or die trying?

Zach: Yes, I do every now and then I get curious and I wonder, I think like, ” Oh, I wonder what I could run.” And it’s like, “Just run smart.” It’s like if I were strategic, could I run 10 or 20 minutes faster. Would it be more… would it be less painful at the end.

img_20160616_233057

Zach: Would I feel a lot better at mile 40 and be able to run really, really fast instead of just hanging on? Yes, I have this thought sometimes but I like the way that I race and I think it’s exciting and I know people like it. I feel stuck with it because I feel like if I do anything different…

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: …people will be disappointed.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Although, I think some would like to see or would be entertained by seeing me taking a different strategy and seeing what I would have left in like the last– the second half of the race. Let’s say I ran with the guy with Alex Nichols through the first half of the race and then try to move. But I don’t know, it’s just my style. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m not going to lie when it doesn’t work, I’m hyped!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: The only time– the main time where it didn’t work and I wasn’t that hyped was at Templiers in France.

Ian: Aaargh, okay.

Zach: Just because it was so… you know I came so close. I was just very proud of the effort and people got excited about it. And then, I also saw how close I came to winning. I just concluded that it was a nutritional error. I didn’t know for sure but that was how I saw it. That one was like, it wasn’t a training error, it wasn’t even necessarily a pacing error. It was basically like, “I didn’t eat enough [laughs] or drink enough.” Then it was like, “Well, I can fix this.” And that was easier to deal with.

Ian: Okay, I’m going to come on San Francisco because obviously, that’s the most recent result. It’s the one where you had the amazing showdown. Your two-minute video or should I say Jamil’s two-minute video of you running into the finish of San Fran is quite spectacular and it’s certainly gained a lot of hits. But before we talk about that, I want to go back because we first did an interview when you burst on the scene and at the time you were working on cruise ship and training on the treadmill. You’ve come a long way since then, haven’t you?

Zach: Yes, I have. That’s one thing I say and I’ll always says that it’s amazing to see how far I have come in three years and the things is, it’s amazing to see how much my life has changed. My lifestyle. I’m anything but living on a cruise ship anymore [laughs].

Ian: No.

img_20160415_195424

Zach: Now I live in the middle of the mountain in a cabin [laughs]. But yes, it’s been a wild ride. A lot of things have happened. A lot of races have occurred but I think I’ve also developed a lot as an athlete. I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I could just do things now that I couldn’t have done three years ago.

Ian: What do you consider being the changing point for you, where life took on a different roll and you realized that there was an opportunity for you to change tack and almost make running your life?

Zach: Mainly, once I won JFK and then started getting some interest from sponsors, I just saw the potential of that. I was at that elite level and I was desirable to sponsors. When I realized, I could start making an income off it and that I could be good at it, I kind of saw maybe it was time to transition off the ship and get back on land. I moved to Colorado, so that was a big step and it was a great place to move to, to train and everything. Just seeing the success of JFK gave me the confidence to give it a go.

Ian: You got sponsorship from Nike, how instrumental has that sponsorship been? And how much do they help you to live the life that you now want to live?

Zach: Nike has been very helpful over the past three years. I was very new to the sponsored world. Basically, they came in and they gave me a lot of very good product support, travel support, an opportunity to make some money, too. It just opened doors to be able to travel, to races like Transvulcania or UTMB. To have the sponsors to do that because plane tickets and everything are very expensive and I wasn’t at the point in my career yet where races were paying to bring me over. I needed sponsor help to get me to those races so that I could make a name for myself. Basically, they just gave me an opportunity. They provided a way for me to get out there and make a name for myself. That’s been very, very helpful. Over time, I got a few more sponsors and things. But, yes, they were the first one to jump in and support me and it worked well.

Ian: When did the move happen for Barr Camp, and tell me a little bit about Barr Camp and the story behind that?

Zach: I would have moved to Colorado in May– around May, shortly after Lake Sonoma in 2014. I lived in Manitou Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak for about a year– working and training. I was on Pikes Peak a lot training on the Bar trail and just in that general area. I got to know the caretakers who were working at Barr Camp which is an off the grid cabin, halfway up the mountain. It’s like the huts that you would have in Europe except not as fancy. There isn’t a road. There’s a little electricity that comes from solar. Our water comes from the creek. The bathrooms are outside so it’s not as fancy as a lot of the European huts. It’s very remote and it’s pretty rustic. But anyways, I got to know them and then I found out that they were leaving and they were looking for new people to take the job so I got the information and then I pitched the idea to my sister because I wanted somebody to apply with me. My sister liked it and so we applied together and then we ended up getting the job. Now, it’s me and my sister and her husband– we all work up there. We’ve shifted rolls a bit. My sister and her husband take the full-time roles and then I actually work in a part-time – more of an assistant, part-time role. I live at the cabin year around but I have the freedom to go do my racing and my sponsorship obligations. And basically, when I’m here, I’m working but I get a lot more freedom to be able to like go Europe and go to California and do all the things I need for my running career. It’s really just a good mix.

img_20160919_220809

Ian: There’s a lot of people going to be reading this and they’re going to be thinking – particularly if they’re involved in trail and mountain running, “Wow, that sounds just awesome.” Is it as awesome as it sounds?

Zach: It is awesome but it’s not for everybody. It is also tough. The winters are very awesome because the camp is open year round but our traffic drops a lot in the winter. In the winter, we have a lot of time to ourselves. It is still labour intensive. You’ve got to haul the wood in so the fires lit to keep the cabin warm and you’ve got to carry the water in from the creek in five gallon buckets. You got to shovel off the solar panels and clear all the snow and everything. In terms of like day-to-day seeing people, we don’t see as many. It’s much more relaxed to have a lot of time to go out snowshoe, or ski or hike or run. It’s much more laid back. But the summers are incredibly busy. We’ll feed and house up to 45 people. If you come to our camp it’s not very big, so that can get hectic. We’ll feed like 45 people out of this little tiny walled kitchen. There’s just a lot of work in the summer, between cooking and cleaning and doing camp maintenance and doing search and rescues, and talking to hikers and selling things. In the summers, you pretty much go non-stop from 6:00 Am till 9:00 PM. And then maybe you read a book for like 30 minutes and then you pass out and go to bed [laughs]. I’m basically either working or training or working. It gets pretty busy.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about the training, because obviously, I don’t know what height Barr Camp is at, but it must be around about 10,000 feet. You’re sleeping altitude for sure, do you then drop down and train at lower altitudes or do you find that you’re training above 10,000– below 10,000 and that works really, well?

Zach: Yes, I just stay around 10,000. The camp is at 10,200 feet.

Ian: That was a good guess, yes?

Zach: Yes, it was. It’s 3,000m, I’m looking at my cabin right now because we have it up on the wall. It’s 3,109 meters for everyone in Europe. It’s very high. When I’m here I do a lot of my training. Sometimes if I make it all the way down to town, that’s like 6,400 feet. But then I must come back up. Basically, the low point of my training is around 6,400 but then I have days where I go all the way to the summit which is 14,110 feet. My training is anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 feet. It always starts and ends at 10,000. I probably spend a lot of time between 13,000 and 8,000 feet, it is probably where a lot of my training is done. I don’t necessarily intentionally go low to train; I just train where I am. I don’t drop down to do like speed work or anything. Not usually.

Zach: What’s interesting about that is we started this conversation with me being in La Palma and the Transvulcania course starts at sea level and almost finishes at the sea level. But that middle third of the course, once you go through El Pilar you’re then above 2,000 meters and you stay at 2,000 meters or above. One of the things that I’ve found running on the course and being on the course is that going up to altitude and dropping back down is completely different than staying at altitude and having to run at altitude for a prolonged period. And of course, that’s one of the things that happens at Transvulcania is that once you get into that middle and latter third section, you’re running at 2,000 to 2,500 meters for quite a chunk of time. Living where you do, this is perfect preparation for this type of race. Do you really feel the benefits of that when you travel and go to different races?

Zach: Yes, the benefits are there. It’s hard to always feel like Superman per say but the one thing is like when I run a race like Transvulcania or I race at UTMB, when we get up to the high points of 8,000 feet I don’t necessarily feel much different. For me, it’s not like I get up there and I feel I’m way out of my element. It’s just like that’s where I train every day. Up there I just feel like I do in Colorado. You don’t necessarily feel like superman per say although, I do usually feel pretty sure on climbs. Like when you get the high altitude and we go up the climb, that is where I notice it.

I do remember running at Transvulcania two or three years ago and being up on the volcano with Luis Alberto. He’s incredibly strong but I remember listening to his breathing and feeling like he was breathing very hard and he obviously ran very hard and he ran great that day. He beat me by a long shot but I don’t know what altitude he charged at? But I just remember noticing that we were up there and probably once he got down he was very, very strong. I remember him seeming a bit laboured up there but he still went right away from me. It was very, very impressive or maybe he’s just a heavy breather [laughs].

Ian: He does breathe heavily and Luis is a little bit like yourself in that he commits himself but he knows how to bide his time. Particularly at Transvulcania he would have known that you and maybe Sage Canaday and a couple of others were going to go off hard and he would be thinking about pacing himself. But when he makes his decision to go then he commits.

Zach: For sure I’ve seen that.

Ian: That was probably the phase that you were hearing him. When he made the commitment and it was a case of, “Now I’m going for it. I’m going for it.” Would you say that Transvulcania was maybe the race that started your switch to move to the longer ultras?

Zach: I wouldn’t necessarily say so because it’s still in that 70 to 80-kilometre range. I’m trying to remember if it was our first big European race or not?

Ian: It was, wasn’t it?

Zach: It was probably my first like real big more technical European race because Templiers in France is a hybrid. Transvulcania isn’t that technical in the beginning but that descent is what defines that and that is much more technical. I just think I was walking up in terms of racing in the European style at Transvulcania.

Ian: If Transvulcania wasn’t the real catalyst then surely something like Madeira Ultra Trail which at the time you said was one of the hardest races you’d ever done?

Zach: Yes, it’s still one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. That was the one that was a jump for me. I had been doing racing and it took around six to seven hours and then Madeira was my first race that ever took longer than like eight or nine hours. It was much longer than that. It was just under fourteen hours. That was a long time for me. That was new territory for me. But I did that and then people were like, “Well, if you can do this, you can do UTMB.” It scared me and also gave me some confidence for UTMB at the same time.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about Madeira Island Ultra Trial because I’ve been to Madeira Island several times now for races and there’s only two directions on the island and that’s up and down. It’s a brutal environment. I remember seeing a photograph of you lying on the ground looking as though you had a medical team making sure you were still alive.

Zach: Your description is good, there’s only two directions up or down. There are points in Madeira where you actually do run rolling almost flat but yes, it’s a very roller coaster course. You’re basically doing a big climb or big descend or a short little bit of runnable in between and the climbs are very steep and the descents are very steep. What defines Madeira are the stairs. So many of their trails just have stairs in them. They’re not uniform, some are concrete some are like dirt and wood planks. Some are small, some big, some are wide. Your footwork at Madeira must be very good and you must be able to change it at a moment’s notice. It makes the end that last 20 kilometres, so it was just brutal.

Ian: Do you still consider it, without considering San Francisco which you obviously have just won, was MIUT one of those defining races where you put it all on the line and it had come good?

Zach: Yes, it was because I was going thoroughly hard from the gun. We started at midnight and by the time the sun came up I had a good lead but I had already bonked… That’s why there’s that aid station video of me eating so much food because I had just bonked right before that aid station and I knew I needed to eat. Yes, I had worked very hard. I had run myself into a bonk and then came out of it. Then just had to fight really, really hard and it was very painful for the last like 20 miles but I was somehow able to keep going even though my body wanted to stop. It was also a day where it was like, “Wow, it’s impressive that my body could hurt that bad and keep going like it did.” It was a very telling day.

Ian: I’m interested in a couple of things that you’ve said there. You bonked in the race? You blew up, managed to eat and then carry on and not lose the lead but then also in the final stages– and quite long final stages where you’re really hurting and you’re in pain, you still manage to continue to push. Is that something that is just within you or is it something that you think you’ve worked on to enable yourself to do that?

img_20160929_224333

Zach: It’s both. It’s within me and it’s also something that I practice almost every day. Even as a kid I was a very very competitive person and I am very hard worker. If there was something in my mind that I considered to be successful, whether it was getting an A on my test at school or running a certain time in cross country. If there was something that I gained success I always wanted to attain it. I’m just naturally very, very driven and very hard working.

My parents were not so much athletes but very, very hardworking people, so I always kind of grew up with that example in front of me. And kind of not quitting until the job is done. Then the other part is I go out and I train and I just take those things and I practice them. I won’t let myself hike up a climb, I just stubbornly run it or I’ll bonk out there on the run and I won’t let myself walk it in. I’ll somehow manage to slowly run back to the cabin, and it gets cold in the winter and I train all winter long and it could be negative 15 degrees’ winter and freezing cold and snowing and I still go out and do it. I just kind of discipline myself on a day-to-day basis and then when I get in the races, I’m well practiced at suffering and just sticking with that and that’s how I get myself to push all the way to the end.

Ian: Okay. Well, that’s obviously one of the reasons why you’re successful because most people can’t do that. CCC, where did that fit into the big picture? I’m assuming that it was a case of going to Chamonix, understanding the environment, understanding the landscape for a serious attempt at UTMB?

Zach: Yes, sort of, it was probably less about scoping out the landscape for UTMB as it was just running CCC. I wasn’t at the point in my career where I wanted to do 100 miles yet, so I wasn’t going to do UTMB. But I still liked racing in Europe and that one looked good and Nike had gone over the scopes and they recommended it, Nike said it would be great. And yes, a bunch of my team mates were doing it. And it was like, “Well, this looks like fun and this looks like good one.” So, I jumped in and did it. It wasn’t so much like just a scouting mission for UTMB, it was more just to run that race. And it ended up being greater. It was kind of a turning point in my career and I was thankful that I did it.

Ian: Winning CCC is one of those funny things, if it was a stand-alone race, on its own weekend, it would be huge, but it always gets completely overshadowed by the UTMB. And I’ve spoken to and I’ve interviewed countless people who’ve been on the podium at CCC, Ellie Greenwood is a classic example and she said, “You really feel as though you’ve just won a smaller race in a big weekend.” Did you feel that?

Zach: That was my fear when I went to do it but when I did it, I didn’t really feel that. My fear was kind of like– in fact towards the end I wanted to run UTMB instead because I was thinking CCC is the side show, UTMB is the A race and CCC is the B race, and all the eyes and all the media and all the attention is on UTMB. And I was a bit reluctant to be in CCC to be honest. Probably even standing on the start line thinking all the big names are not in this race but then I ran it and the crowds were fantastic. My family was following along from home and the coverage was good. And when I came in… it finishes at the perfect time because it finishes around nine o’clock at night when everybody is having dinner. And so, the finish line at CCC is just phenomenal. When I came in and I won, it didn’t feel like I just won this side show, it actually felt like a very big deal. A lot people got very excited about that win. It got me a lot of attention in Europe and in the States, as well, so no, I was afraid that it would feel like that, but once I did it, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like its own show almost.

Ian: I wonder Zach, whether it’s because of your racing style and your race strategy and your, give it everything, and of course you did milk that finish line, didn’t you with the jump in the air… there was the elation, there was everything in there and of course an American winning a French race is a great story.

Zach: Yes, maybe it was partly because of that but yes, whatever it was, it was a great experience for me. And that’s the interesting thing about running and about sponsorship, most of the time the sponsors want the win, they want the podium finish. They want you on the top. But I’ve also come to realize that through racing, people are attracted to elements more than just winning. I probably had races where I haven’t won and I ended up with more interviews and articles and attention than the guy who did. Just because people were so entertained by the dynamic of it and the style of it and that’s just been very interesting. And it’s just funny how that is, it’s like sometimes you don’t even need to win, I want to win but there can be a lot of value just in the way in which you run the race regardless of exactly where you finish in the standings.

Ian: No, absolutely. And there’s a couple of classic examples of that and this year’s Western States with Jim Walmsley as a classic example of that, he’s had far more media coverage than Andrew Miller who won the race and almost to the point that if you ask people who won Western State this year, sometimes they don’t even know, because there was so much attention on Jim Walmsley.

Zach: Yes, exactly.

Ian: Particularly for you with UTMB, the fact that you took it on and you gave it everything, and you did blow up. But you didn’t blow up in spectacular fashion as myself and maybe a couple of other journalists thought you would – you somehow you managed to hold on and still get a very, very respectable place. Tell me about UTMB, and what made you think that you could go and run that big loop through three countries from the front and maybe hold on to the finish line?

img_20161222_213042_122

Zach: Honestly I didn’t know. That’s the thing with how I race. I said to friends or whatever, “I don’t go into races saying that I’m going to win, I don’t even go in with full confidence that I will. The only thing is that I’m just willing to try, and I’m willing to try to do something that I’m not sure I can do.” I think I can run around Mont Blanc, but I’m not sure I can run around it at the pace that I’m going to set off at. I’m just willing to try and find out and then if it works, it will be great, and if it doesn’t, I will learn something and then come back and probably try and fix it. Yes, I didn’t know if I could hold that all day. I did feel good and strong for a very long time. I had a little bad patch out of Courmayeur but then recovered and ran strong. It seemed all was going well up until just after Champex Lac, this is where it all started to unravel.

Ian: That’s what’s so great about it. I think to myself, if I was on the start line of a race like that and I had those insecurities-, those doubts or if I could or couldn’t, I’d play safe as most people would. And I’d maybe ease myself into the race, see how things go, and if I got to around about 70 or 80 miles and I’ve got something left, then I might give it a little bit more of a push. But you almost do it the opposite way around, you sort of go, ” I’m really fresh, let’s go as hard as I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can and maybe I’ll hold on.” When it all goes belly up and you get that major blow up and the major bonk, what goes through your mind at that point? Because you see the other runners coming up to you, you’ve got all those question marks in your mind about, “How I’m I going to get on here with? How am I going to continue? I’ve spent so long in this race at the front I don’t want to give it up now.” How’d you carry on?

Zach: It is very hard. Usually, there’s a fair amount of fight left. When I got Champex Lac I was getting chased but somehow I fought my way in there in the lead. Then by the time I left right on the heels of I think Julien and then just in front of the guy in third at that point in the race whose name is escaping me. Right then, I was in a bad spot – I wasn’t good mentally but I wasn’t going to give up. I was very determined to try and salvage it. I did actually get past Julien and I climbed away from him very, very, well. It wasn’t until the next day in the race that I found out that those two who had caught me at Champex Lac never beat me. I held them off.

Ian: No, they didn’t catch you!

Zach: Which I didn’t know because when Ludovic caught me I thought it was Julien, they’re both Hoka, I don’t know them very well by face. I know them much better now. I was confused when I was out there. I thought I was getting caught by Julien Chorier again and it was Ludovic. They’d comes from very far back. First, there was a lot of fight and then the body was just getting to a stand-still. It was just like the heart and the mind battle, the heart wanted it so badly to stay at the front and the body just wasn’t able to. It was very, very difficult for me. But I was still going to try to get to the finished and finish respectively. I just pushed to the finish — not very fast but I just did what I could and I got there. It was very tough mentally once I start getting passed.

Ian: It was still an incredible result for you to be one of the highest ever finishing Americans at the UTMB. History with UTMB and America is not something that the Americans have looked on until these last few years as being too great. What do you think has changed with people like David Laney, Jason Schlarb, yourself and so many others, that are now, making or enabling the American male runners – because the females have always done well at UTMB – but it’s significant the male runners that are now performing, what is it do you think that’s happened that’s now giving you good results at that race?

Zach: I’m not entirely sure I think maybe we’re a little more focused. Americans had a stage and we’re still maybe going through it where people just raced everything. They were not being very selective they just trying to see how much they can do but it’s quantity instead of quality. And as it’s gotten more competitive in America the elite runners have started to realize that, “I can’t just go out and win everything all year all along, I actually have to plan this. I need to be strategic and I need to target races.” I think maybe we’re targeting a little more and so we’re coming in with bodies that are not so beat up– that are ready to go.

And then we’re getting this faster generation that’s fresher and has this fast running background. On a runnable course– on a pretty runnable course like UTMB they’re able to– we’re able to go crank for a while. But then we’re also pulling young guys who have that background but also live live in the mountains of California at high altitude. I live in Colorado, Jason Schlarb lives in Colorado. David Laney bases out of Oregon but he’s always out the big mountains. Runners are finding themselves with these faster running backgrounds and good talents then coupling them with good training grounds and a little bit of focus and it’s paying off.

img_20160609_083240

Ian: Yes, you’re exactly right. It’s a learning curve and I also think that more Americans are racing in Europe and they’re beginning to understand the European style of racing and the courses that are available out here. Because in general, our courses are more technical– and I’m not saying that UTMB is a technical race but I’m just saying that it’s all a process and it’s all a learning curve. Your UTMB, and this is my last question on UTMB. We’ll talk about San Francisco in a minute. A lot of people have compared your run to Ludovic Pommeret who won the race. Ludovic, while you were leading the race, was probably back in 50th place and he slowly but surely moved his way through the field as many of the elite runners fell by the wayside and dropped out of the race. He moved up and eventually won the race.

Have you, in the weeks and the months after UTMB sat down and looked at your race and looked at his race and thought, “I can learn something from his win?”

Zach: You could learn something. His win is also interesting because, if I understand correctly, he and I were actually pretty much together in the very early stages of the race. He did go out aggressively. He had a stomach issue partway through that put him into a walk for a while or hike and put him way back in 50th and then he made that miraculous comeback. His body forced him into a more conservative or strategic approach even though it wasn’t necessarily what he was trying to do. It is very interesting; it shows that you can and guys like David Laney too, show that you can be slower and be much more strategic and then just sweep up all the carnage along the way.

Ian: Yes.

Zach: There is something to be learned there. For me, when I came out of it the big areas where I saw to improve and learn lessons was more from a training standpoint – conditioning my legs a bit better for the downhill running towards the end. Then just in general and then a nutritional standpoint. Because when I look at UTMB in my own head and I don’t know if I’ve ever actually said this to anyone but in my own head as I progressed through my career– as I’ve raced since then and as I looked backed at UTMB and I looked back at other races I’ve done I feel that maybe– and I must go back and try UTMB again to test my theory. But it feels maybe it’s a bit like Templiers where I learned a big lesson in nutrition and there was a lot of potential there in my body physically but there was a lot that needed to be learned nutritionally to support that kind of an effort. Now, I’m just trying to figure out how do I fuel my body to support that kind of a physical effort. I don’t know. Yes, maybe I need to make some adjustments in tactics, in pacing, in technique and how much I hike and when I run and how aggressively I go out. It’s all very, very, interesting and I have a lot to think on through the winter.

Ian: The Ultra running audience are quite happy with the way you run Zach and they’ll happily accept every now and again that you are maybe going to blow up or you’re not going to win a race because the way you’re racing is so exciting. How was the recovery process post UTMB? Had UTMB depleted you physically and mentally?

Zach: It took its toll physically and mentally in the short term. Physically, I was less sore but from a deep-set fatigue stand point I would say I was much more beat up. UTMB took about a month. It was much, much longer, about twice as long than 50 mile recovery. And then mentally, it was tough too. When I came back from UTMB, I was in a rough spot mentally. I just had trouble. Although, I acknowledge a lot of positive things that came of it, lessons learned and good experiences and things, it was just really hard. It was so very heart-breaking for me; it was hard to deal with for a while but then eventually the body came around. I got back to training hard and I could focus my energies on something and I had a goal in mind– getting ready for North Face, and eventually I found my way, but it was initially very hard.

In the long term, the fear of the hundred was kind of like, “Oh, you will lose your speed.” People were like, “Take your time getting to the hundred, you’ll lose your speed.” Maybe I lost a bit of very low end speed but after North Face 50 I don’t feel like I’ve made myself a worse 50 mile runner.

[laughter]

Zach: I’m very happy about that because I felt at North Face, and maybe you will ask about this, but I felt when I was out running North Face, maybe at North Face is where my UTMB training that I had done all summer was paying dividends and showing up. That maybe I wasn’t quite present at UTMB but after resting after UTMB and then going back, like shifting training a bit. But at North Face, the work that I had done all summer long was now finally paying off.

Ian: You have hit the nail on the head for me and that was going to be my segway into North Face in San Francisco. What you achieved or maybe what some people would say you didn’t achieve at UTMB is what gave you a course record and that incredible run at San Francisco. That suddenly 50 miles was not that long in comparison to what you did at UTMB, but also it gave you all that inner strength and there was definitely a part of me that, it was a case of you were on the start line not only to race everybody else but you were there really to race yourself and to see what you could get out of your body and if that meant victory then all well and good, but if it meant that you came third or fifth or tenth but having given it everything then you would have been happy?

Zach: Yes, that’s always kind of the idea. Sometimes I do come third or fifth and I’m not so happy because I am competitive. But yes, that kind of is the idea and with the talent that was in that race it was basically shaping up to be pretty much exactly what it was or what it turned out to be, just an absolute hammer fest all day long. And you know that’s an exciting thing. It’s like, “Well, here’s a chance to really find out what I’m made of.” Because I see snippets in training. But you never go out there and race a full 50 miles in training. It’s just like, “Well, here is a really good opportunity to put myself to the test and see exactly what’s possible.”

Ian: I’m going to compress 50 miles into five or ten minutes but I’ve seen a lot of races, a lot of ultras and I’ve seen some fantastic performances, but the one thing with an ultra is when you see the guy or the girl come down the finishing chute they never look spent. They never look as though they’ve given it everything (from a a pace perspective) and it looks as though at San Francisco that you gave everything right from the beginning and finished it off giving every last ounce that you had. Your finish is just the most captivating two minutes of a 50-mile race. You are giving it everything. You’re breathing out of every orifice that and you’re worried about whether Hayden is chasing you down because you were only separated by minutes. It’s just so compulsive. Do you feel as though that is the way that the racing is going to go now?

Zach: It is heading that direction. We’re getting to the point now where we’re really starting to race. Hayden’s performance that day was absolutely incredible. I basically told him after the race, I’ve never had anyone hang with me like that. I’ve had people like Luis Alberto beat me. I’ve had people catch me. I’ve had other experiences but I’ve never had anyone go out with me and challenge me like that and then stay right on my heels all day long. And sometimes it was me on his heels because we flipped back and forth. That’s how close it was. It was a race. It was like I was running a road marathon where we came down to the final couple of miles and somebody makes a kick and pulls away and wins. That’s pretty much what it was. It was an actual race all day long where I could never be comfortable and I could basically never let off on the gas.

Yes, as we get competitive fields and these young hungry guys in the sport we are maybe going that way. The 100 mile distances are a very interesting distance for that to happen to, just because there’s so many factors. But in this 50-mile distance where, especially in America where the courses are being run in five and a half– six and a half hours, and guys are starting to get very strong and trained very well and be tapered well for the races. Yes, we could see more of it. I don’t think we’ll see it necessarily at every race but I think a couple of the big ones during the year where you get the right combination of guys on the line and we’ll have a few more shows in the next couple years.

Ian: Zach, how much do you think $10,000 prize money influences it being a race.

Zach: It influences it in the sense that it draws a lot of very good competition to the start line. A lot of the elites, they want to run it because that’s the big pay day if they can get it. When I’m out there running… I forget where I heard it but it was somewhere I think after college somebody said they had received some advice or something that you should never run for money. Money should never be the reason that you’re running. When I’m out there running 50-mile race, money is not the motivating factor. I like to think that there’s other things that are more of a motivating factor but I won’t lie when I was running the race I was thinking about the $10,000 prize!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: That’s a pretty significant amount of money. It does a lot for me. Yes, it does push you. When I had 5k to go and I was in the lead by about a minute, it was kind of like, “Well, I can hurt an awful lot for $10,000.”

[laughter]

Zach: I would love to say that the money never crossed my mind, that I’m just such a purist of giving it my all and just the spirit of the sport, that that was the only thing motivating me but I’m too human. It was a mix. It was my competitiveness, it was my desire to just be first and attain that measure of success, and it was also $10,000. I probably needed just about every bit of of grit to get me to push that hard.

Ian: There is absolutely nothing wrong and my question was a loaded question because I wanted to get your viewpoint on the influence and the impact that money has in the sport, because I think we are going to see more of it and races like Run Rabbit Run where there is even more money available has an influence. This race was a race, prize money or not. And when Hayden and yourself are running shoulder to shoulder and he’s in the lead and you’re in the lead, what was the point where in your mind you thought to yourself, “Now is the point that I go and give it everything.”?

Zach: It was pretty much with about nine miles to go coming out of Muir beach the second time.

Ian: Okay.

Zach: There was a time shortly before that where I thought like maybe I was breaking away but I think mostly I had gotten a few seconds but the trail was just so twisty and turny that I couldn’t see him, so it felt like I was farther ahead than I was. And by the time we got to Muir Beach he was right behind me. He was like 15 seconds behind me. And there we were at around mile I don’t know 40, 42 and nobody had blown, we were in the exact same spot we had been basically at the start. But that was the point where I knew we had basically two more climbs and we had two descents and I didn’t want to lose it on a descent at the end and so I was just kind of like, “Well I just– I have to– I’ve been doing well.” After about 30 miles I had been doing well on the climbs– very well on them so I just had like, “Well, I’m just going to kind of push really hard here and see if I can get away and do a little caution for the couple of descends that were left.”

Ian: You got the course record and the race will be remembered for years and years to come. It’s one of those classic jewels and of course the advantage these days is that there’s so much social media that that story get shared worldwide. It’s certainly become one of the highlights of 2016 for several reasons – I think the time that you ran, that final two-minute video shows the amount of commitment and pain that you’re putting yourself through. But equally the finish line and the sharing of the story and the emotion with Hayden that very much humanized the event, that there was a victory there was prize money but ultimately it’s one of the things that I love about this sport, it was the interaction between you two and the mutual respect.

Zach: Yes, that was one of the greatest parts of the day. Was that I was competing against an incredible athlete who at the end of the day was willing to turn around and shake my hand and give me a hug and chat about the race and how incredibly hard it was. There was a good camaraderie there, it wasn’t this like ugly rivalry of like, “Oh, I hate you and you hate me and we can’t talk to each other.” No, it was almost like we were more friendly with each other after the race than we were friendly with each other before the race but I think each person kind of maybe has their guard up a little bit, you know?

Ian: Yes.

Zach: And then after the race it was good to be able to share those moments with Hayden and especially him being so new to the sport.

Ian: All right.

Zach: That was me at JFK with Rob Krar. And I remember how kind Rob Krar was after the race in talking to me and I respected that. And that is a good testament of the great sports we have.

Ian: 2016 is coming to an end, you’ve had incredible results at San Francisco, you’ve got that course record and now is an opportunity for you to look back at the year and recover and plan for 2017. I’m looking forward to next year, you have an entry for Hardrock 100.

Zach: [laughs] Yes, just to add it’s not a guarantee yet, I’m in if I want it. It was a funny situation, I had a ticket and I’d paid for the Hardrock and I’ve kind of wanted to do Hardrock and Bill Dupery wanted me to do it and I had this ticket and I said well, they say it takes like eight years to get in so I might as well put it in.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: And I said I will put it and I will hope that it doesn’t come out because I want to go UTMB.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: I got in!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Now I have this decision, I must decide whether I run Hardrock or run UTMB and at first I would say I was leaning towards just going to UTMB and then I kind of started talking with Bill Dupery and [laughs] friends in Colorado and I started leaning back more towards Hardrock. And now I’m not sure what to do but I’m considering both. I won’t do both but I will pick one and I’m considering both I just must decide which one to pick. I’m very honoured to have made it into the race and it is a very cool race and I think it suits kind of my current living and training style, I am well-suited for it, so I kind of feel I should probably take a crack at it while I have the chance. Because I know this chances are precious. I’d say there’s a decent shot I’ll be on that start line but I still must kind of think through a few things.

Ian: Well, I’m not going to pressurize that decision.

Zach: [laughs]

Ian: Should you choose to do Hardrock or UTMB it’s going to be a very, very exciting day. I must think that you’re run at Hardrock would really, interest me because [laughs] if you use the strategy that you always use that could be a very, very interesting day at Hardrock and particularly with Kilian and Jason Schlarb going back – that’s one hell of a line-up.

Zach: And I’ll say this, I feel like there are two things that people would love to see at Hardrock, they would love to see me race like I normally do…

Ian: Yes [laughs].

Zach: …because, as insane as they think it is, it’s extra insane at Hardrock because of the nature of the course and they want to see Kilian go as fast as he possibly can. And if we could get both of those things in one day it would be very exciting.

Ian: It would be more than exciting Zach!

Zach: Maybe Kilian’s already gotten his best performance there but the man is very, very talented and I felt like having Hayden at North Face just pushed me to a different level. I’m not saying that I’m good enough to push Kilian to that level but if we could ever have somebody push him to that level that could be very fun to watch.

Ian: It would be definitely fun to watch. And on that note, it’s a perfect place to finish with the anticipation and excitement of what might happen. Either at UTMB or Hardrock in 2017. Zach look, thank you so much for giving me your time, it’s been a fascinating interview and thank you for inspiring so many runners in 2016.

Zach: You’re welcome, it was my pleasure.

img_20160418_062137

All images ©zachmiller

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc UTMB® 2016 Preview

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6451

I won’t be at UTMB this year, Trofeo Kima is happening the same weekend in Italy and I wouldn’t miss this high octane extreme event for anything, especially when it only happens every other 2 years.

But UTMB has a stellar line up this year. It’s going to be a cracking race.

Just in case you didn’t know, UTMB is a 170km circular journey that starts and finishes in Chamonix passing through France, Italy and Switzerland with 10,000+ meters of vertical gain on non-technical trails. In 2014 Francois D’Haene of France set the men’s course record 20:11:44 and the female course record is held by Rory Bosio (USA) who ran 22:37:26 in 2013. Rory in the process ranked in the top-10 overall that year!

Recently, UTMB has hit the headlines after a top 10 finisher in the 2015 race, Gonzalo Calisto, was tested and found positive for EPO. This came to light in June when the IAAF added Calisto’s suspension to its website. However, UTMB were not notified of this positive test? In recent weeks and months, many investigations have been made and you can read them all on this website HERE. Ultimately, this positive test has raised alarm bells and certain aspects of the testing and notification procedure need to change. I hope UTMB will have testing once again this year and they provide data and information to the media.

Racing for the main starts on Friday August 26th at 1800hrs local time and it looks like a great weekend of weather is in store for spectators, it may be a little hot for the runners. Please also remember that many other events happen in and around the UTMB, the PTL, TDS and CCC.

MEN

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2016-5065

Luis Alberto Hernando is in a good place! He is a new Dad, has raced less and when he has raced he has been in top form. A repeat win at Transvulcania and dominant performance at the Skyrunning World Championships for a gold medal and world title and suddenly you begin to see everything clicking into place. Luis dropped from the 2014 UTMB and then came back, one year later to place 2nd. Luis does always race from the front and hard, he tempered this in 2015 but it still may well be his achilles heel in 2016? I hope not, Luis would be a popular champion!

David Laney third at UTMB and 8th at Western States in 2015 are two very significant performances and bode well for a great 2016 UTMB. What doesn’t bode well is the most recent 20+ hour finish at Western States. It leaves a huge question mark on David’s current physical and mental ability to take on the big dance in Chamonix.

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6470

Andy Symonds for me is the dark horse. It’s his first 100 miler and that is a huge disadvantage. But Andy knows how to race, prepares meticulously and I know he’s fired up for this race. In the past he has often played 2nd fiddle at the big races but a podium at Transgrancanaria, a victory at Lavaredo and 2nd (silver) behind Luis at the Skyrunning World Championships tells me that the time is right for the Brit who lives in France. Listen to the podcast here.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-7603

Zach Miller is relatively easy to write about… we will see one of two performances: 1. An all guns blazing early race that potentially will open up a gap that he extends and holds on to take the biggest victory of his life! 2. As 1 but a major blow up that sees him lose the lead and drop substantial places or a resulting DNF. Think Max King at Leadville.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-1481

Didrik Hermansen is a potential revelation in Chamonix and I do believe that he can win. I said that at Western States after I saw his run and victory at Transgrancanaria. He didn’t disappoint in the USA and he placed 2nd at WSER. UTMB is a different playground but this guy can run and hike – he is going to need all those skills in France, Italy and Switzerland. Listen to the podcast here.

©iancorless.com_MDS2016-5210

Jason Schlarb was fourth at UTMB in 2014, won Run Rabbit Run, completed Marathon des Sables. skied the Hardrock 100 course, won the Hardrock 100 with Kilian Jornet and here he is, in Chamonix, looking to do an epic double – you know what, I think he can do it! I’m not sure that he will have those extra percentages for victory, Hardrock may well have but pay to that. But I do see a potential top 5 and even the podium if the stars align. Listen to the podcast with him here.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-3016

Gediminas Grinius 5th at UTMB in 2014 and what followed was quite a rise in the sport of ultra-running. Gediminas has an interesting back story of post-traumatic stress and it is running that helped. When you have been to hell, pain in an ultra is nothing. It’s worth remembering that this guy can dig deep. A win at Transgrancanaria, a win at UTMF and a string of top 2nd places certainly elevate GG for a top UTMB place. Listen to the podcast here.

©iancorless.com_IMG_5982SierreZinal_2014_

Tofol Castanyer won CCC and was 2nd at UTMB in 2014. He has a string of top performances and results but his recent form seems a question mark. On paper, he’s a podium contender but I said that last year and he didn’t finish. We will have to see?

©iancorless.com_South Africa14-5983

Ryan Sandes had a tough 2015 and has patiently come back in 2016 with a 3rd place in Tararwera and 4th place in Australia at the Ultra Trail. Ryan never likes to race a great deal preferring to train and prepare meticulously for key events. He has done that in the past, Western States for example only to not race at the 11th hour due to injury or illness. Apart from FKT records, Ryan’s career highlights are his win at Transgrancanaria and top results at UTMF and WSER. Ryan has been in Chamonix for some time training and I hope he will arrive at the line fresh. He has all the potential to shake up the podium. Listen to the podcast here.

©iancorless.com_EcoTrailMadeira2015-9452

Fabien Antolinus is an under the radar runner who is known in France and not many other places. A top consistent performer at Templiers and the Ice Trail Tarentaise, Fabien backed this up last year with a 6th place finish at UTMB behind a doping Gonzalo Calisto, so, he finished 5th really. I see a potential repeat performance.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras could win, could finish in the top 10, may not start and if he does start, may not finish. Yes, Miguel is a class act when the stars align but neither he or us can predict when this will happen. A highlight for sure was his UTMB 2nd behind Xavier Thevenard in 2013.

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6363

Javier Dominguez just had a great run at the Skyrunning World Championships with 3rd place behind Luis Alberto and Andy Symonds. He also placed 3rd at Lavaredo. Although he will be in the mix he is potentially a top 5-10 finisher.

©iancorless.com_EcoTrailMadeira2015-9106

Julien Chorier has the long game, strength and persistence for a top UTMB performance. I’ve seen him time and time again grind out great results. His victory at Ronda dels Cims a few years back is still one of the most dominant performances of running I have seen. Julien has backed that up at Western States, Hardrock, Diagonale des Fous, UTMF and of course UTMB. His best UTMB was 3rd in 2008 and in 2013 he finished 6th.

Paul Giblin for me is a dark horse. Last year he missed UTMB and compensated with focusing on Western States in 2016, he placed 5th. That’s one of the UK’s best performances at the race. He’s a runner and the 10,000m of vertical may go against his natural abilities but don’t rule him out! Listen to the podcast here.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-1724

You have to draw a line somewhere but we also need to consider, Diego Pazoz who has illuminated several races in 2016, most notably victory at the Eiger Ultra Trail and Mont-Blanc 80km.

He could be a huge surprise as could Stephan Hugenschmidt from Germany who has had many notable results.

Zdenek Kris finished 9th at Ultra Perineu in 2015 and recently placed 5th at the Skyrunning World Championships.

©iancorless.com_EcoTrailMadeira2015-5747

Two Frenchmen, Arnaud Lejeune who was 2nd at UTMF in 2015 and Thomas Lorblanchet who has wins at Leadville and 4th at Western States will also mix things up.

Ryan Smith, Pau Bartolo, Jez Bragg, Aurelian Collet, Ludovic Pommeret, Armand Teixeira, Jordi Bes and Bertrand Collomb-Patton all have top 10 and certainly top 20 potential.

Needless to say there is a whole stack of other male talent that have experienced UTMB before somewhere in and around the top 50. Any of these runners who could make a breakthrough performance and venture into the high ranking top 20’s or even top 10. It’s what makes the race so interesting.

LADIES

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio holds the course record at UTMB – nuff said! Any lady that finishes in the top-10 overall rocks. But where has Rory been since her repeat victory in 2014? Well, believe it or not, she was filming a reality TV show… really, Rory is an actress! In 2015 she won the Atacama Extreme but other than that she has been relatively low key when racing. UTMB performances are backed up by 2nd, 4th and 5th at Western States so Rory needs no other boosting. I do wonder though if she is in the ‘A’ game frame of mind of 2013 and 2014? We will find out…

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-3338

Caroline Chaverot for me is the lady that will win UTMB 2016. Caroline is a machine who smiles from beginning to end and her performances over the last 18-24 months have blown me away. She does race a great deal and I think that went against her at UTMB in 2015 when she DNF’d. This year though I have noticed a difference… she obliterated the Transgrancanaria course, she obliterated the MUT in Madeira and she became Skyrunning World Champion at the Buff Epic Trail – 2016 is Caroline’s UTMB year!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0131

Nuria Picas has twice finished 2nd and I would normally talk Nuria up as the winner. Last year she dropped early and since has had very mixed performances. I do believe she has the UTWT curse of running and winning too many races in a short period of time which has left her drained. I have seen this in 2016 at Transgrancanaria and most recently at the Buff Epic Trail. Of course, Nuria may well have been savvy and kept her powder dry for Chamonix – I hope so! *August 24th, Nuria will unfortunately not run the 2016 edition due to an injury.

Magdalena Boulet will be there or thereabouts but for me, this course will not allow enough running which is Magda’s strength. No doubt she will be in the mix, her 2nd at CCC proved that but 170k and 10,000m is a big difference to CCC or Western States. Listen to the podcast here.

Uxue Fraille will be out of the mix early on and keep going and produce a solid finish. Uxue’s success is all about pacing and finishing. She lets the other ladies race and fade and then she sweeps them up in the final 1/3rd. Last year she placed 2nd at UTMB and she won UTMF.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2016-8879

Jasmin Paris is one lady who may well win UTMB one day. I’d love to say that 2016 will be the year but I don’t think it will happen. Jasmin runs a great deal and therefore rarely ‘peaks’ for any one race. This is sometimes a good thing but also a bad thing. Although Jasmin can run long, this will be her first big 100+ miler and the Chamonix experience may well overwhelm her. This year she blitzed the Bob Graham Round FKT to a new level and a week after getting married took bronze medal at the Skyrunning World Championships and then won Tromso SkyRace. Personally, I feel Jasmin’s forte and skill set will be best suited to the Skyrunner courses where her fell and mountain running background really shines. She will do well at UTMB but this year will be a learning curve. Don’t get me wrong though, top 5 and certainly top 3 is possible. Listen to the podcast here.

Andrea Huser like Jasmin is a non-stop racer and for me always lacks that extra 5-10% when required due to a constant element of fatigue. Her string of top 2nd and 3rd places for me confirm this. In this 2016 field, Andrea can better her 2014 7th and potentially will make the top 5 and may even challenge the podium but I don’t see a victory.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-5568

Fernanda Maciel is a another runner who mixes many sports, races regularly and is always in and around the action. Like Andrea Huser, I see her in the mix but not taking the top slot. If we look at recent results, the consistency is there – 4th at UTMB in 2010, 3rd at MDS, 3rd at Lavaredo 2016 and a string of other podium places at UTWT races. * Fernanda will not run 23rd August. News from her doctors: “They said I was in an advanced stage of injuries to my kidneys caused by my last 2 long races due to dehydration I suffered during the races. Now my blood tests from last friday done here in Chamonix seem normal but not 100% recovered, and of course I am thinking of the UTMB on friday… I’m really sad because they only told me it today!”

Emilie Lecomte has the long game, strength and tenacity for a 170km race but she lacks the speed of many of the other ladies. A top 10 is an almost guaranteed and as other ladies fade, we can expect Emilie to move up.

Francesca Canepa and Emilie Lecomte in many ways are similar runners and Francesca has a strong history with UTMB and Tor des Geants. On her day, she can be up there and in the mix. Recently her form has been questionable.

Amy Sproston has won Hurt 100 and placed 2nd at Western States. For me, Amy is a runner but then again, Hurt has some gnarly terrain on those 20-mile loops, so, is this the year that Amy puts UTMB demons to rest? Her history is not good with the race – three starts and only one finish when she placed 8th.

Aliza Lapierre is potentially the USA’s top contender behind Rory Bosio. Her list of results in all varieties of races bodes well for a solid UTMB. But at really specific races, Transgrancanaria for example the mountainous terrain has caused her to struggle a little. Aliza like to run and although UTMB has plenty of that, it also has plenty of hands-on-knee action.

Larisa Dannis likes a running race and like many of the American ladies the increased vertical causes an issue. On paper though, she has the racing pedigree for a top performance. you don’t get 2nd at Western States by accident.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-2442

Ester Alves is a good friend and races too much (sorry Ester). One day, Ester will pick a race and prepare meticulously for it and then excel. I saw this earlier this year when she won and dominated The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. I think what worked there was it was the first race of the season and she could therefore be specific over the winter. What has followed is a string of races in many varied locations with a list of good results but no stand out results! Ester placed 8th at the 2014 UTMB so the potential is there!

©iancorless.com_USM2016-0718

Gemma Arenas I know well in the Skyrunning circles but this will be her first 100 and it’s a tough one with strong competition. It will be a learning curve.

Like in the men’s race, curve balls will swing in and we can expect to see these ladies’ mixing it up, Silke KoesterNicky Spinks, Sally McRae, Sarah Willis, Sophie Grant, Frederica Boifava, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St. Laurent and Manu Vilaseca amongst others.

Social Media Logos

Facebook/iancorlessphotography
Twitter (@talkultra)
Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) 

IAAF response re EPO positive test at UTMB®

It has been a whirlwind 36 hours and I would like to make one thing clear, I have grabbed this positive EPO test at UTMB® by the horns not because I wish to humiliate the guilty runner, cast doubts on UTMB® or UTWT but because this is the first official EPO test of a runner in a trail running event (as far as I know).

I believe strongly that if we get it right NOW then this can only help in the future. For me and yes, I may be naive, but it appears that the current process has huge flaws!

See my original post HERE

The positives are obvious:

  1. Testing at the world highest profile event
  2. Finding a positive test ‘in competition’
  3. This test being confirmed, listed on the IAAF website and a ban put in place.

However, the test was taken on the day of UTMB® and ‘we’ the public have only found out on July 18th/ 19th and this was down to the eagle eyes of UK ultra runner Robbie Britton.

I picked up the case and contacted all the relevant people and within 24 hours we had a UTMB® release stating disqualification. See HERE.

The above are positives but how was it possible that the UTMB® did not know of this positive test? I asked for clarification and Michel Poletti at the UTMB® provided a response HERE.

Michel Poletti eluded to the facts:

  1. Indeed, the anti-doping procedure is so discreet that :
    The organizer has no information about the doping controls operated on his race.
  2. When a national or international federation make a decision, this decision is published on the web site of the federation, with no other announcement.
  3. Thus, if an organizer want to know something about the anti-doping controls which were made on his race, he should need to look every day on the web site of the federations…or to wait to be warned by someone else…

It seems crazy to me that a race (any race) would not be informed of a positive test. How are the race meant to action on this? Like Michel Poletti implies above, he or the race would need to check monthly, weekly and/ or daily for results to be posted? This is a major flaw and I hope that we can somehow instigate from this a better procedure so that races and those in charge receive results asap!

I must stress that I don’t think that this positive test is a negative thing for UTMB®, on the contrary, it’s a positive! They have had tests, the tests have worked and the sport is a little cleaner.

What I am worried about is the protocols and procedure.

This morning I emailed the IAAF and I also found out that AFLD provided the testing procedures at UTMB®. The procedures are HERE but importantly look at the screen shot below:

AFLD_aftercontrols

By the above ‘After Controls’ one has to assume that Gonzalo Calisto was informed of his positive test in September 2015 (the above says, within 3 weeks maximum.) Calisto lives in Ecuador so if he requested a B sample this would take us to the middle of October but lets assume the worst and it was November.

What has happened since November 2015?

Luckily as I was asking theses questions (somewhat bemused and flabbergasted) the IAAF emailed me and they clarified the following points:

Information regarding the positive test and sanction for Mr. Calisto was included in the June 2016 IAAF newsletter. http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/iaaf-newsletter

The athlete is also added to the IAAF list of athletes currently serving a suspension: http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/anti-doping

In this case, the Testing and Results Management process was performed by the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD): https://www.afld.fr/  Normally we would expect that they would have informed the organisers but in this case as it was handled at a national level we do not have confirmation of this.

As you will see, some major flaws in my opinion. This is bad for the UTMB®, UTWT and ALL runners who want to compete on a level playing field.

It’s time to lobby for a change and YOU as runners, followers of the sport or whatever capacity you have as a fan need to ensure that we all act now and make sure that the following happens:

  1. Positive tests are confirmed to the athlete asap
  2. Due process is allowed for a B sample
  3. The race, race director and management team are notified immediately
  4. A press release is issued by the race and or organisation
  5. IAAF, WADA, AFLD and so on list and make results public asap

I am still struggling to understand how it has taken till July for us all, UTMB® included to find out of a positive test and a ban that must have taken place in November, December at the latest.

I welcome your thoughts

MIRA – The Movie

©iancorless.com_UltraPirineu2015-3066

“MIRA” is a gem among the many ultrarunning movies that are currently available. It’s a simple story that pulls at the heart, inspires and at all times remains humble. The movie, like Mira started small and has grown.

In 2014, Mira was unknown, but through the insight of Trail Running Nepal, Richard Bull and Lizzy Hawker, Mira found a home and a story started to unfold. Like any flame, if you provide the right conditions, the flame will grow, increase and yes, even rage.

In February 2015, Lloyd Belcher started to work on this project. Like any project of this nature, it was a risk. Would Mira perform, would the film find the funding required to complete it. Lloyd sums it up so well when he recently said:

“Thank you to all who believed in the value of this project when we started filming in Feb 2015 without any money but a vision of how we wanted to reach girls in Nepal with Mira’s inspirational story. So many have joined us on this journey and given in so many ways.”

The film is the story about Mira, a Nepali village girl on her pursuit to becoming a world-recognised mountain runner while racing primarily in the 2015 Skyrunner World Series.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-5182

I have to say, I have been more than fortunate to witness Mira’s growth, not only from the outside looking in but also on the trails as I have documented in words and images her inspirational rise in the sport.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-3808

The ridges, mountains and technical trail of Tromso, the stunning Italian Dolomites and the Spanish mountains in and around Ultra Pirineu. Mira inspired through her humility, her no-nonsense approach and a very simple approach to life. When you watch MIRA you realise why.

Unlike many other running movies, MIRA is just a great story. It’s inspiring and at times heart breaking. A fascinating watch, Mira’s life journey is told on film; from growing up in  remote Nepalese countryside with poverty, a 2-year stint in the army and a brave solo move to Kathmandu. Victory at an impromptu 50km race made Richard Bull, stop, ask questions and suddenly help Mira (along with Lizzy Hawker) take the first steps on a compelling story to competing with the best in the world.

MIRA is a film for all, runner or not, it’s just great story telling!

Watch the trailer

But most importantly rent and watch the movie. Proceeds will directly benefit initiatives to empower Nepali girls to participate in sports. 

©iancorless.com_DolomitesVK2015-9868

The movie ‘Mira’ is now available online here

 https://vimeo.com/ondemand/miraraifilm

UTMB – Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc announce the elite field for the 2016 edition

UTMB

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.

So who is running?

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

LADIES:

  • Rory Bosio
  • Stephanie Howe
  • Caroline Chaverot
  • Magdalena Boulet
  • Andrea Huser
  • Alissa St Laurent
  • Francesca Canepa
  • Uxue Fraile
  • Frederica Boifava
  • Gemma Arenas Alcazar
  • Fernanda Maciel
  • Jasmin Paris
  • Cristina Bes Jineta
  • Pui Yan Chow
  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Denise Zimmermann
  • Emelie Lecomte
  • Ildiko Wermescher
  • Amy Sproston
  • Kerrie Wlad

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-3338

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.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-1500

MEN:

  • Luis Alberto Hernando
  • Tofol Castaner
  • Dylan Bowman
  • Zach Miller
  • Miguel Heras
  • David Laney
  • Stephan Hugenschmidt
  • Timothy Olson
  • Seth Swanson
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Jason Schlarb
  • Gediminas Grinius
  • Pau Bartolo
  • Jordi Bes
  • Tim Tollefson
  • Fabien Antolinus
  • Jorge Maravilla
  • Ryan Ghelfi
  • Ludovic Pommeret
  • Didrik Hermansen
  • Julien Chorier
  • Andy Symonds
  • Thomas Lorblanchet
  • Ryan Kaiser
  • Arnaud Lejeune

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-3016

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.

TDS2016

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.

CCC2017

OCC2017

Who in your opinion will make top 3 in the respective male and female races at the 170km UTMB event?

Please comment below:

4KVDA – 4K Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta

screenshot_99

3-9 September 2016

25,000 m D+ 200 miles Start and Finish CogneAosta Valley – Italy

BREAKING NEWS March 15th 2016

THE JUDGE ACCEPTS THE APPEAL OF VDA TRAILERS AND RESTRICTS THE 4K
Regarding the Tor des Géants ® – Regione Valle d’Aosta issue, The Ordinary Tribunal of Turin – Company Division has accepted the appeal presented by VdA Trailers.

The Tribunal of Turin considers the actions of the Region regarding Vda Trailers and the Tor des Géants® to be damaging and harmful and considers the 4K race organized by the Region to be harmful of the rights of VdA Trailers and of the normal operation of the Tor des Géants ®2016, since it overlaps it regarding route, length, altitude difference and duration.

Specifically, the Tribunale prohibits, effective immediately, the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from accepting registrations and collecting the related registration fees for the “4k Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta” event planned from September 3 – 9, 2016.

In addition, the Tribunal prohibits the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from making any reference to the “Tor” or the “Tor des Géants” in the presentation, promotion and publicizing of the “4k Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta” event, including the use of the expression and the brand of “Tor des Géants®”.

Finally, the Tribunal prohibits the Autonomous Valle d’Aosta Region and the Forte di Bard Association from engaging in any actions which might hinder the organization or execution of the Tor des Géants®, such as that, in particular, of issuing declarations aimed at leading people to believe that the Tor des Géants®2016 will not be held, or that it has been or will be replaced by another event organized by the Region, or to make declarations regarding the “limited safety” of the “Tor des Géants”.

This decree has become law with immediate effect.

The Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley is organising an endurance trail running event to be raced clockwise along the Alte Vie 1 and 2 high-mountain trails, at an altitude between 300 and 3,300 msl. A 350 km circuit with 25,000 m. elevation gain which starts and ends in Cogne, in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park.

It was the need to make the best use of all the various synergies involved and to focus particularly on the safety and spectacularity of the competition that prompted the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley to launch its own project, taking over the organisation of the event and actively involving the whole territory.

These are the main innovations:

  • Obligatory GPS device provided to every runner
  • Possibility of participating individually or in pairs
  • Greatest possible care taken in laying out the course
  • Obligatory small crampons, supplied in the race bag
  • Monetary prizes for those who finish in the first few places in the overallrankings according to the Itra Regulations
  • Alternative routes available in the event of bad weather
  • Random antidoping tests
  • Skin Tattoo with the route elevation profileThe competition can accept up to a maximum of 1,200 runners and is a semi self-sufficiency event. In order to enter, athletes must be at least 21 years old in 2016. Accompaniment is permitted, without transport service or transfer of material.The route highlights key elements of the Region’s rich historical, cultural and natural heritage: as well as the famous Fortress of Bard it touches on well- known tourist destinations such as La Thuile, Courmayeur, Breuil – Cervinia, Champoluc, Gressoney and Cogne, and also gives both athletes and spectators the chance to discover some rather less renowned but outstandingly beautiful spots.The most precious contribution will come from the over 2000 volunteers who will be supporting and assisting the athletes along the route and together with them at least 100 mountain experts. A compact group with a single grand objective: to ensure that the race is a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone and that it takes place in the safest possible conditions.

    Illustrious, silent spectators of the event, the majestic “4K” of the Aosta Valley: Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso.

    The race will take runners on an unforgettable journey amidst the marvels of the Aosta Valley Alps, in the company of warm, friendly crowds of spectators who will be lining the route to cheer them on. An extreme experience awaits them, a real physical, introspective and emotional voyage in which mental as well as physical endurance will be a decisive factor.

4K Alpine Endurance Trail Valle d’Aosta is a tough, fascinating competition, raced in a breathtaking natural setting. Ready to accept the challenge?

Pre-registration opens on the 1st of March 2016 at 12 noon on the site http://www.4kvda.com and will close on the 25th march 2016 at 12 pm. The draw is due to take place on the 26th of March at 1 pm.

The registrations can be accomplished from the 27th march 2016 to the 20eth april 2016.

Individual participation fee: € 550,00

Contacts: info@4kvda.com

As a footnote, I am a little confused! the Tor des Geants despite rumours of being cancelled (?) has gained sponsorship from Montane and (according to the website) is still scheduled to take place in September. 2400m and 330km in the valley Aosta….

More news HERE

http://www.tordesgeants.it/en

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® #UTMB 2015 In-Depth RACE PREVIEW

Logo_UTMB

It’s the end of August and that can only mean one thing, UTMB. 

UTMB has become one of if not THE mountain races to do. In many respects it is almost a victim of its own success. More and more runners want to participate in the big circular dance around the Mont-Blanc but the trails can only take so many people.

I could enter into a debate about the points system but I won’t. I actually think it’s a solution to an ever increasing problem that UTMB organisation face and as such we all know the score, we know what we need to run the race and ultimately we have a choice.

Should points come from qualifying races? Yes, why not!

Should races pay a fee to supply those points? Yes, why not!

I know my last comment will create some debate but to be honest, the fee to ITRA is relatively small and the cost per head is minimal and the races that offer points gain entries. However, I do think another option exists for points.

Why not let all races provide points? Say 0.5 points for an easy trail race of say 50km and then points increase by 0.5 up to a maximum 4-points for a big mountain ultra. If you then want the points, you the runner pay for each 0.5 point you receive. That way, the person who wants/ needs the points pays and the race and other runners don’t pay. Seems logical to me and in actual fact, I think it would generate even more money for ITRA and the UTMB. I welcome your thoughts on that and boy oh boy what a way for me to start a preview on the 2015 race.

UTMB is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and as such offers points to a larger circuit. Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas were 2014 champions.

UTWT-Logo_NEWS

Well, I was supposed to be in Chamonix for this race but at the 11th hour I have decided not to attend. It was a tough decision and one that I didn’t take lightly. Particularly now that I am seeing all the social media posts of all the runners and spectators arriving in the endurance capital of the world.

The reality is I have been on the road since January with little or no break and next week I travel to the USA for over a week which is then followed by a succession of weekends travelling and providing photography and writing for a succession of races. I personally had great potential to break )ver training one may say), so, home I am staying and for once a relaxing weekend.

The main event starts at 1800 Friday 28th August. I always feel a little ashamed when I say the main event as a whole series of tough and challenging races take place during UTMB week. For example, the ridiculous PTL, the tough TDS, the challenging CCC and the OCC but I only have so much time and the UTMB draws the crowd and the most stacked field. For the first year, UTMB will not be a TNF event and the new sponsor Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Montrail has a tough act to follow, I wonder if we will notice any difference?

One thing is for sure, the men’s and ladies’ races are stacked. Darn it, I used that word again! Let’s try again – A plethora of talent has arrived in Chamonix to do battle on this super tough and iconic 100+ mile course that circles Mont-Blanc.

MEN

©iancorless.com_IMG_0698SierreZinal_2014_

Tofol Castanyer made the podium last year and with no Francois D’Haene he for me has the nod for victory. He has been quiet lately no doubt keeping the powder dry and although not very experienced over 100-miles he is a super savvy and experienced mountain runner with the solid Salomon team who can offer support and backup.

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-8400

Luis Alberto Hernando should win UTMB but he won’t. Nothing would please me more to see Luis top the podium in Chamonix but the reality is, he is not a 100-mile runner (not yet anyway). Put him on a course from 50km-80km and he is unstoppable. Put him on a 100km course and he may or may not win but will podium. Put him on 100m route and he will go great for the first 80km and then fade. This is not helped by entering UTMB tired. He won Transvulcania, placed 2nd at the IAU World Trail Champs, won Ice Trail Tarentaise and then placed 2nd at Tromso Skyrace looking distinctly whacked at the end. That was only a few weeks ago and I just don’t see the recovery and training working in Luis’s favour. I hope I am wrong!

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras, well who knows? If he is fit and on fire he could win and almost certainly podium. However, he is extremely injury prone and his performances could come with a flick of a coin. In 2015, Miguel has been much more low key, he has raced but without any pomp and circumstance and that was intentionally so. Placing 2nd behind Thevenard in 2013, Miguel WANTS to win the UTMB and this may well just be the year!

©iancorless.com_South Africa14-5983

The Salomon trio is rounded out with Ryan Sandes. This is a really interesting inclusion into the UTMB mix. Ryan can climb, can run fast and is endurant (Drakensberg Traverse) and therefore may well have the essential credentials to podium at the least and may well just win. Certainly, Salomon could repeat the trio of results that we have seen in pervious years. Ryan has had a mixed 6-months with injury, a last minute withdrawal from Western States and I therefore think he is going to be super focussed on this race. One to watch!

©iancorless.com.IMG_8711Transvulcania14

Sage Canaday enters the 100-mile distance for the first time and as great a runner as he is, I don’t see him making the podium. Controversial I know. He has the speed for sure. He has the climbing and descending but I have no reason to think he has the race plan or strategy for what will be at best a 20-hour race. Like Luis Alberto I would expect strength and dominance over the first 100km and then a fade. But he has been in Chamonix preparing and he is a student of the sport. He may very well have hidden himself away, changed everything about his training and come up with the perfect 100-mile training plan? A 5k track session (in 16min) just 3-days before the race suggest otherwise though.

tnfutmb 2013 ©iancorless.com

Xavier Thevenard won the race (surprisingly) in 2013 and then seemed to implode with the pressure. Last year he took the attention of himself and ran the TDS and won it. In doing so, he became the only runner to have won the CCC, TDS and UTMB; impressive! So the facts speak for themselves, super talented and obviously can perform with the best if the pressure is off. Will the pressure be on for 2015 is the question? I think it will but less than in previous years and that may just allow him to run his own race and find his 2013 legs and head. Good luck.

Julien Chorier Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier impressed the hell out of me a couple of years ago at Ronda dels Cims with a consummate performance. He loves the mountains and he can run fast too. He was 2nd to Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria in 2014 and 2nd to Kilian at Hardrock 100. A recent 6th at Western States shows us that all is in place for a great run and that’s why I give him a nudge over Gediminas.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6747

Gediminas Grinius has been a revelation. His rise in the sport over the last 18-months has been remarkable and you know what, he could win UTMB. He ran a great UTMB last year (5th), won Transgrancanaria and placed 4th at Western States. Expect him to be out of the mix early on and then he will close out super hard and fast.

Stephan Hugenschmidt is my dark horse and potential big surprise of the 2015 UTMB. He had a breakthrough 5th at Transvulcania, won Zugspitz and had a great result at Transalpine.

We are now in the territory of surprise packages and believe me, some of the fellas mentioned below will figure highly in the run for the podium and top-10.

Seth Swanson has been 2nd at Western States 2-years on the run and I still know very little about him. My head says he will need a UTMB run to find his legs before he can comeback and mix it up at the very front. However, nobody expected him to place 2nd at WSER and then go back and do it again!

 ©iancorless.com_likethewind-7570

Sebastien Chaigneau is the old guard of the race, the wily old fox that everyone loves. Seb has had a tough couple of years and as time has passed, the competition has got faster. I’d love him to find some of that old form, that 100-mile sparkle and dish out to the newbies.

Jeff Browning may well be the best prospect from an American perspective as he is a true mountain man. But he may well lack some of the essential European speed.

©iancorless.com_ITT2015-9929

Franco Colle won Tor des Geants and then earlier this year placed 2nd at Mont-Blanc 80km. In addition, he has been at the IAU World Trail Championships, ran (and won) a Skyrunning exhibition event in Cervinia and recently ran Tromso Skyrace. Potential dark horse for UTMB!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6975

Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas has been a revelation. He is committed, sometimes too committed but I love his passion. He prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria and placed 4th, went out to the USA to prepare for WSER and placed 15th and has spent recent months preparing in Chamonix for UTMB. Top-10 potential and maybe around 5th if he has a great day.

 

Best of the rest

 

Francois Faivre – 7th at UTMB last year.

Carlos Sa – He could win it but more than likely a top-10.

Pascal Giguet – Top-10 at Mont-Blanc 80km.

Ryan Smith – a Brit who may well be a real dark horse.

Robbie Britton – local lad, 3rd at the 24-hour and 7th at Tarawera. Placed just outside top-50 at UTMB last year but has been in Chamonix for months which will either mean he is in fine form or broken. I think the former. Good luck Robbie.

Yeray Duran – Always strong at Transgrancanaria.

Paul Giblin – another Brit with all the potential to spring a surprise.

Kim Collison – Another multi talented Brit who has speed and endurance.

Joe Grant – We all know Joe and what he can do.

Danny Kendall – The UK’s top MDS performer, not new to UTMB and this may well be his best year.

Jesse Haynes – Great at WSER but in Europe, who knows?

John Tidd – Won’t win but absolutely solid performer.

Stone Tsang – Every chance for a stunning or latter ‘teens’ performance.

Yoshikazu Hara – same as Stone?

 

I could go on….

 

LADIES 

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-7277

Neck on the line, this race is for Nuria Picas and I personally think she is going to have the race of her life and win it with a consummate performance. This is no way a reflection on the competition, just an observation of Nuria and an understanding of how this lady ticks. For the past 2-years, Nuria has raced a ridiculous schedule and still placed 2nd twice behind Rory Bosio. This year, Nuria has been quiet. Very quiet. A win at Transgrancanaria and then what? I will tell you, training and preparation. She will be on fire!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-4457

Caroline Chaverot though has also been on fire! In the last 18-months Caroline has exploded with a series of remarkable performances that would suggest a solid UTMB is on the cards. Her victories at Lavaredo and the Eiger confirm that she can perform on the big days out.

Nathalie Mauclair beat Caroline at the IAU Word Trail Championships but that really draws no comparison to UTMB. However, Caroline beat Nathalie at Lavaredo. Take your pick! On paper, I would say Nathalie will be better over the longer distance and time that UTMB will offer and her victories at Diagonale des Fous will put her in a great place both physically and mentally for that.

The upset may well come from Stephanie Howe and I am sure that TNF and the USA would like nothing more than Steph picking up where Rory Bosio left off. Stephanie’s 3rd at WSER left her feeling tired but by all accounts, she has prepared well for the circle of the big white mountain. She has the speed, I just wonder if she has the legs for the climbs and descents and a 24+ hour run in her?

iancorless.orgiancorless.orgP1060737vibramUTMBvibramUTMB

Francesca Canepa may make the podium? I have always been impressed how Francesca can race UTMB and then just a week later race Tor des Geants. One thing is for sure, I don’t think we will see Francesca at Tor this year after last years’ controversy. 2014 was a great year for the Italian (until Tor) and then it all seemed to go to bits. Understandable really. So coming into UTMB we have little to go on, other than 3rd at the Eiger but she was 30min of the winning time. UTMB may well be a redemption year!

©iancorless.com.IMG_9464Transvulcania14

Uxue Fraille has always impressed with her patience and calculated running. She is a diesel. Expect her off the pace early on and close well. She placed 5th last year and a repeat performance is a distinct possibility.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-5568

Fernanda Maciel is solid on the UTWT circuit and although I don’t see her taking the top slot on the podium, top-5 is a distinct possibility and if she has a great day, the podium may well be hers. Fernanda spent a great deal of time at altitude over Christmas (too long) and this tired her. Let’s hope she is recovered and ready to race hard in Chamonix.

Darcy Piceu is an interesting addition and after that ding-dong with Frosty at Hardrock I am really eager to see what she can do here in France. She placed 3rd in 2011 in just under 29-hours, she will need to run much faster than that this year! One thing is for sure, the distance and time on feet will be no issue, the question mark will be recovery post Hardrock?

©iancorless.com_USM2015-3127

Ester Alves from Portugal has already raced a great deal in 2015 with a string of top placing’s and I have no reason to think that a strong performance is a distinct possibility here. But by strong I mean top-10. A recent tumble at Ice Trail Tarentaise won’t have helped her preparation but she is strong and committed.

Lisa Borzani races and races and races. At TDS in 2015 she placed 2nd. I see her a consistent performance for a top-10 but not victory or the podium.

Nicole Struder ran 14:22 at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile. That’s fast! But she will need to add 10-hours of running to that Rocky time at a minimum for UTMB and through in some serious mountains. So although I see her potentially having a good race, I don’t think that those USA trail legs will handle the European mountains.

©iancorless.com_TCC2015_Day4B-1768

My dark horse for the ladies is Veronica Bravo. She is a super strong adventure racer, has the mind for the long game and 100% commitment. She may not win but I expect she may turn a few heads and UTMB race day looks like it will be a hot one; she loves the heat! Earlier this year she won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.

Amy Sproston is a tough one to call. She won Hurt 100 but UTMB is a faster race with tougher competition.

Sally McRae may well offer the best prospects of a top USA performance outside those of Howe. Sally has been top-10 at WSER twice and although UTMB is a big step up from Western, she may well have the race to mix it up.

Gill Fowler from Australia may well rock the apple cart. She was 4th at Lavaredo, yes somewhat off the front pace but a top-10 at UTMB is on the cards.

 

Ones to watch

 

Shona Stephenson – Top-10 at UTMB before.

Sarah Morwood – 11th at UTMB previously.

Manu Vilaseca

Caroline McKay

Denise Bourassa

 

And so many more….

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Schedule HERE

Ultratrail TV HERE

Follow LIVE HERE