Jonathan Albon – Tromsø Champion Race Report



Listen to a full in-depth interview with Jonathan Albon on

TALK ULTRA Podcast Episode 92 out on Friday 7th August.


There are many reasons Tromsø SkyRace was set to be one of the highlights of my year. Although a race, I was most looking forward to running in the mountains, crossing streams and the wilderness that this event was set to deliver. There were two race distances – the Tromsdalstind (short) and Hamperokken (long). I’d be taking on the full Hamperokken skyrace which is actually classed as an ultra, more for the time it would take to complete as a opposed to the distance, which was only a modest 45km but had a huge 4400m of elevation gain.


Knowing this was what lay before me it was with a sadistic smile that I learnt the night before the race that the ski lift to the start wouldn’t open in time so we would have to make our own way up to the start! ‘A good warm up’ Kilian said – well, he was probably right.

Jonathan’s race stats:

45.1km Distance


5:48:11 Moving Time

8:10/km Avg Pace

5,842 Calories

screenshot_557 screenshot_558


After reaching the start it wasn’t long before we were off. In an attempt to run my own race (unlike in previous races this year) I tried to start easy, warming up into it. It was hard judging were I was placed anyway as the short course started at the same time so I was content with just running. I started with the mindset that I didn’t care where I would place, I would run in the mountains and enjoy myself. So that is what I did. It wasn’t until the top of the first summit, Tromsdalstind, where we turned for a big descent splitting from the short course that I started to get a feel that I was in the top 10.

The summit was covered in snow and the route turned to just drop of the other side of the plateau over what looked like a cliff. It wasn’t until getting closer that you could see it was in fact an extremely steep snowy slope with a rope to assist descent. Thankfully this section wasn’t long but there were plenty more snow fields to slip and slide down on the rest of the descent. The majority though was on loose rocky terrain and steep muddy tracks. Before long I was reaching the valley floor and out of the thick fog, for the first time I could see further than a couple of hundred meters and the sight was surreal.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-4640I had settled into a position next to a Swiss guy called Pascal Egli. He seemed to have the same happy attitude I had towards the race and we talked, joked and laughed as we crossed one of the only flat sections on the course between the two mountains.

Reaching the base of the big climb, Hamperokken, we were still together. After a third of the climb I let him go. I had by this point learnt he had come third in the Dolomites skyrace and had only finished something like 40 seconds behind Stian Angermund in the Tromsø vertical kilometer. I definitely didn’t feel worthy to be holding with him and felt I was either holding him back or I was pushing too hard. As it happened he never got more than 10m away. Running the majority but hiking the steepest gradients we were making good time…and catching people, passing two on the climb we just got another two as the ridge started. This put us in a group of 4 with only 1 guy ahead in the lead.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-4585I noticed one of our group was Eirik Haugsnes. I’m not sure there would be anyone I would rather be following through what was one of the craziest sections of any race I have ever done. Eirik was last years winner and lives in the Troms area.

Describing the Hamperokekn ridge is difficult. For much of it I was using both my hands and feet for purchase. At one point of the razor edge ridge we had to jump a gap from one rock to another. It was funny to see how our little contingent had gone from racing to simply traversing this dangerous section together. I found myself at the back of the group least experienced in this sort of scrambling and twice found rocks tumbling down towards me from above.

The last 50m ascent to the top was described by Kilian in the race briefing as grade 3 scrambling. I’d describe it as ‘f***ing scary’. With this done it didn’t take long for the race to resume; as soon as we summited the group split as we started to descend. We had crossed paths with the leader, Alberto Hernando, on the way up and were only 2 minutes behind after over 3 hours of racing!

The descent was again as technical as it gets with large boulder fields and steep snowy slides. One particular section that sticks in my mind is where we traversed on snow just 5meters above where it dropped into freezing blue water of a big lake – one slide and you were toast (or ice more likely).

It was shortly after this point that the race started in earnest for me. As the four of us reunited crossing a boulder field it was clear my VJ Irocks were providing far more grip than my competitors shoes. This enabled me to pull away skipping over the rocks bouncing from boulder to boulder. Reaching more even ground with a small lead I just decided to run on and kept putting one foot in front of the other as fast as possible all the way back to the valley floor.

1125066_origComing back into the aid station I learnt I was 1 minute 30 seconds behind Alberto in first. Not thinking I had a hope in hell of catching him I continued to run at a comfortable but fast pace enjoying the brief flat section. Just two kilometers later I noticed I was gaining on a competitor traveling in the same direction as me, I double took not believing my eyes but I had just closed a big lead in next to no time. Coming up behind him I startled him as I don’t think he was expecting to see an Englishman popp up to say hello. I moved passed and at the foot of the last big climb heard a yelp from behind. I immediately stopped and turned, starting to head back, but he shouted at me motioning to continue. It looked as if he had gone over on his ankle. Obeying his command I turned back to the climb ahead.

I knew in my head this was a deciding moment. I would either start to climb and feel good or I would feel terrible and my chances would be nil. Either way I would know within a couple of hundred meters…so I started to climb. I can’t say it was easy but I was doing it. Moving uphill I was pleased with the strength I had. This section was too steep to run or even hike in some places, so using hands and feet I steadily clawed my way up.

About half way I hit the first of the snowfields, remembering coming down with such speed I was now confused as to whether I was meant to follow the same line back up. The snow was only just soft enough to dig a little purchase in with my feet and every step forward resulted in sliding half of one back. So wrapping a buff around each hand I started to claw my way up this too. Hand over foot I slowly made progress.

After 900m of climbing and 300 vertical meters from the top I started to hear the whisper of cow bells on the summit. Knowing the climb was nearly done worsened my condition, but slowly, painfully I was getting there, all the while thinking I had competitors hot on my heels. The last 40 meters were back up the same steep snow slope with a rope and thankfully some snow stairs someone had made (legends). Using the rope to help haul myself up I was there. 3rd and final big climb done and all I could say was ‘I’m f***d’ as a response to everyone’s encouragement.


Now for the descent and a slow gradual climb towards the finish. It wasn’t time to relax, energy started to flow back as I took my first few steps downwards and concentration took over brute force. The path was rocky and technical but also twisting. The thick fog made it hard to see the flags and I had to once backtrack 10meters up to find the correct route. Kicking myself, I still thought I was being hunted by my competition.

This technical path soon gave way to a sweeping trail following a small river and down into the woods and the last aid station. Now just 6km of undulating but climbing track remained and I started to play with the idea I had done it.

I managed to keep a run going the entire way and soon found myself going past groups of people cheering and ringing cowbells. I was getting closer but every time the trail dipped I thought it was for the final time to the finish, only to find another rise around the corner. I still had no idea how far back my competitors where but couldn’t bring myself to gun it, so keeping a safe pace where I knew I would have some gas in the legs for a sprint finish I finally crested the last rise and dropped round to the finish. Giving my now wife a hug I then crossed the finish line and had done what I would always have thought to be impossible…I had won a skyrace.
This post is published with permission from ©jonathanalbon
Read a race summary here
View race images here
Jonathan Albon is an athlete first known for his success within the up and coming UK obstacle course racing (OCR) scene. He has now taken his exploits global, adding the title of OCR World Champion and Spartan World Champion to his name. Jonathan has enjoyed a busy 2014 where he has proved unbeaten in OCR as well as winning races such as Man v Horse, The Welsh 1000m Peaks Race and TelemarksHelten. He also achieved a remarkable 14th place finish in the Limone Extreme Skyrace and now victory at Tromso SkyRace.
website HERE

Scott Jurek – Leadville 100 pre race interview

Image taken from ©scottjurek

Image taken from ©scottjurek

Scott Jurek, Leadville 100 2013, pre race interview

It has been some years since Scott Jurek lined up on a 100-mile start line, but he is back! After some time away from competitive running, Scott has recently got married, wrote a book and successfully promoted that book all over the world. He will be 40 in October and although he admits that he may not race competitively for too much longer, he does say he has some good racing left in him…

IC – I am joined by Scott Jurek just days ahead of Leadville 100. Welcome back Scott.

SJ – Thanks Ian it is great to be here.

IC – Scott Jurek lining up on a 100-mile start line causes some interest and we are all wondering what is tempting you back. What is bringing you back to a 100-mile start line again?

SJ – I always had it in the back of my mind to come back to Leadville after I ran here in 2004 as part of the ‘Grand Slam’. Now that I live in Colorado it made perfect sense to run the home course so to speak. I am looking forward to getting back in the swing. I have been very busy for a few years with my book and I had a ton of effort prior to its release to get that done. It has been fun training hard and getting up high again. Leadville is a great race. It has lots of excitement around it. I have done Western States so many times that it made sense to come back to a race that I had not been at for almost a decade.

IC – Is Leadville the start of something new or is this is a one-off?

SJ – Laughs, new as in racing 100’s again?

IC – Exactly.

SJ – I have mentioned before that I will retire. I turn 40 in October. I have a few more goals and I know many people would love to see Scott Jurek race forever. I love to race, I love the sport, and you know it is almost twenty years now since I started. At some point, maybe next year I will wind things down. I have goals, particularly the 24-hour, I want the American record back and I am interested in the world record. We have so many great races now that it is hard to know what to do. I have a few more in me and I want to give it a go!

IC – You mentioned twenty years in the sport. We look back at your career, nobody questions your ability, multiple wins at Western States, in many ways you have created the community and the sport, not single-handed, other people obviously were influential. Do you feel the sport has moved on, although 40 is not old do you feel that at 40 you can’t be competitive anymore?

SJ – It’s a great question. Look at Western States this year! Mike Morton came back after a long hiatus and he was up at the front, he is in his 40’s. He had an incredible race. I believe that we only have so many great races and great years. I want to continue to have a great taste for the sport. I don’t want to burnt out. I want to be involved, help out and run for fun as a mid-packer. From a competition point of view, I would be lying, particularly if you look at research that it is hard to be at the top of the game. My body feels great but mentally it is hard to get out of the door sometimes. Day after day, month after month, particularly if you want to win. You come to a point, maybe it’s physical or mental, but we know muscles and nerves don’t react as quick, so, it’s definitely one of those things. I don’t limit myself but it does get harder, Scott Jurek is getting older and the field is getting younger and younger. I started in my 20’s; it is different to starting in your 30’s.

IC – Yes, you must look back now over you’re career and think to yourself that you are in a great place. You were setting the standard, you have seen the sport grow and expand. Ultra has never been stronger. We have never had so many races. We have never witnessed so many new CR’s. It must be satisfying?

SJ – It’s great. I came into the sport and I remember the old timers saying, ‘things are changing, we need to keep it the same’. I think like anything we have evolution and change, it’s a great thing for the sport. Of course we have some issues. Races are harder to get into. Twenty years ago you could enter Leadville at the last minute, not now! We have drawbacks but we have so many benefits. People are inspired and have great life experiences. We need to share what we have. Obviously we hold on to tradition and the simple aspects of the sport that make it special. More changes will come; prize money, competition and hopefully we will see more drug testing. At the core the sport will remain the same. I want to be involved in that even if I am not racing at the top level. It is something I have life experience with and I want to make sure that is passed on.

IC – I posted on Facebook asking, were people excited Scott Jurek was racing at Leadville. Of course we had great comments and support. Funnily enough, within twenty-four hours I found out that Ann Trason was toeing a 100-mile start line in September, so there is hope you may continue… we never thought Ann would run again.

SJ – I have known Ann for years particularly in her peak. She retired through injury. I think from what I have heard that Ann has a great attitude. She was even pacing at Western States this year randomly. That is a true champion. I am not sure what her goals are. Will she race or is she racing for fun? She may want to be part of the community. She was a competitive force. It’s just great to see her back out in the community. She also race directed for a few years. It’s a great sign; it is what the sport is about. It is about giving back. We all love to see champs come back and win but maybe Ann does not have that desire, it’s just super to see her back.

IC – One thing I did say when I posted was that as far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter if Ann was first or last. What was important was that she was back racing. That was all that counted. You mentioned that you personally don’t want to stop running and that you are more than happy to be a mid-packer. Do you think that Scott Jurek can ever be a mid-packer?

SJ – Definitely. I have gone to races and paced, I have helped at races. I have run an event for the fun; I have run with my wife. For me I have the right approach to it. It is hard sometimes to be a top athlete and not be pushing for the win. It is healthy for me though. It is nice to cruise along, hang out at feed stations and have fun. I am at the point that I can turn off the competitive juices as and when I want to. I am looking forward to doing the events that I haven’t been able to do. I want to do lower key events and that includes International races. It’s a good place to be and it is a good lesson for all, it is not always about goals and PR’s.

Image taken from ©scottjurek

Image taken from ©scottjurek

IC – Absolutely.

SJ – You can get bogged down. Just go out and embrace the experience. That is why we do it isn’t it? Experiences are what count.

IC – You mention competitive juices and Leadville 100 is about to take place. An out and back course in the Colorado Rockies with plenty of altitude and Hope Pass the highest point. Are you going into this to win?

SJ – You bet! I am here to do whatever it takes to run my best time and ideally win this race. I have put in the training. I am mentally prepared. My goal is to win… Ryan Sandes is here from South Africa, he and I ran together a few weeks back. Nick Clark and Ian Sharman are doing the Grand Slam; they may be a little tired. Nick is a Colorado guy, used to altitude and is tough. Mike Aish dropped last year but he may put it right this year. Leadville has no qualifier, you can literally have never run a 10k and sign up. This can throw up some surprises. Someone may turn up and pull it off. It is an exciting race. Many people don’t realize it is our biggest race, 1200 people will toe the line on Saturday. It has loads of excitement and fun because of the out and back; 50 out, 50 back.

Image taken from ©scottjurek

Image taken from ©scottjurek

IC – Of course you will get to see how the race unfolds on the out and back too. In the past you have paced Anton Krupicka at Leadville, earlier this year you paced Seb Chaigneau at Hardrock 100. Who will pace you at Leadville?


SJ – Well my old buddy Justin will pace, he has paced and crewed for me at Badwater, and Spartathlon he has seen me in some high moments and some low moments. It’s great to have him back. I have a surprise pacer; I wont release that info just yet. It’s a secret. You’ll see at Hope Pass. I went old school with my pacers, guys who have been around for a few years…

IC – Is Ann Trason going to pop up and pace?


SJ – I will give you a clue, not Ann Trason! You have to remember at Leadville you can ‘mule’. Pacers can carry bottles and food and whatever may be required. It is in recognition of the miners who used to use mules. So, a pacer may be carrying three bottles. It’s kind of unique. It makes it harder for the pacer…

IC – Sounds like you have got it easy Scott. The pacer has the tough job.


SJ – Maybe in some respects but they only need to do 25 miles.

IC – Awesome. I am going to let you go. I am taking up precious recovery time getting ready for the race. We will catch up with you after the race and get the lowdown on the action. Obviously on behalf of everyone I would like to wish you all the best. It’s great to see you back on a 100-mile start again.

SJ – I am looking forward to it. It’s gonna be fun and we will catch up after!


Scott Jurek website HERE 

Brooks HERE

Eat and Run HERE