Ultra Running, Mountain, Trail and Skyrunning Review 2014

2014

Did that just happen?

Another year draws to a close and with it many races, many experiences and many highlights. I don’t need to tell you but our niche sport is progressing at an alarming rate: more runners, more races and more standout experiences, what a year!

It is no easy task being at the top of your game in our sport anymore. Competition is high at every race and past scenarios where a runner could return to a ‘fave’ race year-after-year and win it are long gone! I don’t think we will ever see a Scott Jurek or Ann Trason dominate the sport as they did in their times.

Runners at the top of the game now need to be specific, peak for races; recover and then re peak if they want to perform. The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) and the UTWT add to the complexity of the race calendar by adding a ‘series’ element to proceedings. The need to be at your best for a series requires planning, commitment, dedication and patience. It’s way to easy to burn out… a good year, maybe two good years and then boom, gone! We have seen this happen time-and-time again. Ask Geoff Roes, ask Anna Frost, Tony Krupicka and so on. The need to balance racing and recovery is now more than ever a key component of the ultra runners weaponry and so therefore when I review a year, I do it with a sense of hesitation.

For sure, I am going to write about several runners who have excelled, who have repeatedly blown my mind with stunning performances and against all logic have recovered, come back and won again. So as I write this, please keep in mind the above. A long ultra running life must come with balance.

Also, the following summary and notes are my highlights of 2014 so I welcome your thoughts and feedback..

2014 in summary

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Jo Meek followed on 2nd place lady in the 2013 Marathon des Sables (2013) with a course record performance in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Showing meticulous preparation and dedication, Jo just gave us all a glimpse of what was about to come!

 

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Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas laid out a stall at Transgrancanaria and put on two consummate displays of ultra running prowess. Nuria lead from the front showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals whereas Ryan played the waiting game and moved through the field slowly but surely to grasp the race by the scruff of the neck in the latter stages and take a superb victory.

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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel did the DrakTraverse and in doing so they showed us that big projects in the mountains are just as exciting as racing. FKT’s love them or hate them are here to stay and I for one love the concept. Ultimately it gets back to why we all run. Ryan and Ryno with considerable help of Red Bull really put South Africa on the map and the fellas at The African Attachment produced a great film called Trevelyan to document the record.

UTMF (Ultra Trail Mt Fuji) confirmed that Nuria Picas was going to be the lady to beat in 2014. Nuria’s strength, powers of recovery and ability to push beyond the norm elevated her to a new level. Equally, Francois d’Haene showed us that he had recovered from Raid de la Reunion in 2013 and when it came to 100-miles in mountainous terrain he would be the man to beat.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball arrived in Morocco and for the 2nd year running put an American on the top of the ladies podium and in doing so she confirmed her status as one of the best female ultra runners in the world.

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I mentioned Anna Frost above and after 12+ months in an ultra wilderness the ever smiling lady from New Zealand returned to the volcanic island of La Palma and produced not only one of the best comebacks in our sport but in the process set a new course record for the Transvulcania La Palma course.

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As Frosty made that comeback, up the trail in La Palma, Luis Alberto Hernando was having one of the best races of his life as he went toe-to-toe with Kilian Jornet. He pulled it off! He beat Kilian and in doing so he achieved something that so few have done. His emotions on the line in Los Llanos provided a special moment in the sport.

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Zegama-Aizkorri had all the excitement and buzz of previous years and Kilian started a winning streak that placed his career on an all time high. By comparison, Pocket Rocket, Stevie Kremer took top honours confirming that her 2013 results were no flook (never in question) and that a repeat performance for the Skyrunning World Series was on the cards

Ellie Greenwood did it… she won Comrades and achieved the ultimate tick for her own bucket list but inspired so many Brits, Canadians and Americans in the process. It was quite a run and one that Ellie will take to the grave as a defining moment of her running. Jo Meek followed up victory in January’s The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with 5th in South Africa; the ultra community looked on and asked the question: who is Jo Meek?

Kilian Jornet obliterates the record for Denali in Summits of my Life (11:48) – nuff said!

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Luis Alberto Hernando bolstered by his Transvulcania performance laid it all on the line in Chamonix for the Skyrunning World Champions in the 80Km Ultra event. Collapsing on the finish line not only had Luis achieved a lifelong dream but he had relegated the almost unbeatable Francois d’Haene into 2nd place. Emelie Forsberg won the ladies race against Anna Frost and Kilian Jornet proved what an incredible athlete he is by working his craft in the VK and SKY race just days after setting a new Summits of my Life record on Denali. Elisa Desco became ladies SKY world champion in a highly competitive and exciting race and Laura Orgue confirmed her outright climbing ability and was crowned VK world champion.

Steve Birkinshaw

Steve Birkinshaw produced the ultimate FKT and broke a long-standing record for the Wainwrights (518km) in the English Lakes. Summiting 214 tops with an elevation gain/loss of 36,000m Steve set a new record of 6-days and 13-hours.

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Ice Trail Tarentaise in the stunning resort of Val D’Isere allowed Francois d’Haene to once again excel in the snowy and cold mountains of this tough, technical and amazing Skyrunning course. Running head-to-head with Luis Alberto Hernando (again) with less than 20km’s to go, Francois moved ahead and took top honours. Emelie Forsberg took a back-to-back victory at the race and confirmed that her ability at the 80km distance was unmatched.

Kilian ©jordisaragossa

Hardrock 100 will go down in the history books as one of THE runs of all time. It was the most stacked field ever, it was a who’s who of ultra running and the prospect of Kilian Jornet finally getting an opportunity to test himself on what many consider to be the ultimate course was just way too exciting. Like a script from a screenplay, Kilian bided his time, pulled away, hung out waiting for Julien Chorier and then by his estimations ‘wasted’ 55-minutes in aid stations and still smashed the record. KJ’s victory guarantees an entry for next year when the course is run the opposite way; I wonder… could we see Kilian set two CR’s?

Western States was all about Rob Krar doing his thing and coming back for a repeat victory (14:53:22). This quiet unassuming man let his legs do the talking and produced what was the start of a trio of 100-mile successes. Max King in his first 100-miler set a blistering pace early on and eventually placed 5th… more on him later! Stephanie Howe was crowned ladies champion in 18:01:42.

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The Skyrunning Dolomites Skyrace was remarkable for two reasons. Laura Orgue progressed from a VK specialist to a SKY victor and remarkably Kilian Jornet, just 7-days after Hardrock ran the VK on Friday (placing top-10) and then won the SKY race on Sunday against the best in the world; ridiculous.

Sierre-Zinal, the epic mountain race in Switzerland was finally won by Pocket Rocket herself, Stevie Kremer after placing top-3 on two previous attempts. It was a defining moment for the little lady from Crested Butte and post race she said if she could only win one race, Sierre-Zinal would be it. A pattern is forming… yes, those two words: Kilian Jornet. Yes, he did it again!

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Trofeo Kima (Italy) only happens every 2-years and is arguably the jewel in the Skyrunning crown. It’s a kick-ass race of epic proportions and if I could only ever cover one race as a photographer, Kima would be it. Combining running, climbing, descending, chains, ropes, ladders and vertical drops it is a course that is made for Kilian Jornet. Needless to say the Catalan won and in doing so, he set a new course record. Emelie Forsberg look set to take the ladies crown but a lapse of concentration mid race took Emelie of course and loose approximately 1-hour. Despite chasing like a demon, Emelie could not pull back the time on ladies winner, Kasie Enman.

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The British Ultra Trail Championships crowned Jo Meek and Kim Collison as respective champions in two exciting races on the Lakeland 50 course.

Iker Karrera and Nura Picas won Buff Epic Trail in ‘testing’ conditions.

UTMB provided confirmation that Rory Bosio is one of the best female mountain runners in the world. Her 2013 course record performance was epic but as we all know, to come back and win again confirms the accolades. Nuria Picas placed 2nd and gets a nod here as her list of performances and results (on the UTWT) are off the scale. If anyone questioned who is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world at the moment – Francois d’Haene backed up his incredible UTMF performance with an outstanding UTMB run against a stellar field.

Rob Krar backed up victory at WSER with a stunning Leadville 100 victory and set the stage for a repeat ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ award.

Run Rabbit Run came pretty close after Leadville and to my surprise we saw Rob Krar toe the line. I was a little surprised. Rob has always been one of the more savvy runners on the circuit in that he peaks, recovers, trains and then re peaks. For Rob to run 100-miles so soon after Leadville was a surprise! Maybe the big prize bucks were a motivating factor? Anyway, what do I know… he took the win and the bucks! Nikki Kimball followed up 5th at WSER with the biggest payday victory of her career and she shed a few tears to show how much it meant.

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Skyrunning Limone Extreme confirmed Stevie Kremer as Skyrunner® Word Series Champion for the 2nd consecutive year but the big news came via Kilian Jornet. His victory in the VK confirmed him as Skyrunner® World Series Champion in all 3 Skyrunning disciplines – VK, SKY and ULTRA. If any of us needed confirmation of the Catalans all around ability, this was it!

Ultra Pirineu (Cavalls del Vent in the past) had Nuria Picas and Luis Alberto Hernando take top honours – unstoppable!

USA’s The Rut set the benchmark for Skyrunning in the USA with universal accolades about the course. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg took top honours and respective Skyrunner® World Series titles.

Raid de la Reunion became the Francois d’Haene show. He followed up his 2013 victory with a repeat consummate performance. Dare I say, ‘he makes 100-miles in the mountains look easy!’ Nathalie Mauclair also produced a quality back-to-back victory and along with great runs on the UTWT circuit set herself firmly at the top of the best female ultra runners in the world.

Doha finally became the venue for the 100km world championships and Ellie Greenwood backed up an incredible Comrades victory and placed herself on top of the world with a stunning performance. Big shout here too for the British ladies, Joasia Zakrzewski and Jo Meek who both placed in the top-5 ad took home team gold. Max King showed amazing depth of ability, speed and performance in taking the male victory ahead of some of the fastest men in the world.

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Iain Don Wauchope smashes the Salomon SkyRun record in South Africa and Landie Greyling tops the ladies podium.

Rounding out the year, Sage Canaday and Magdalena Boulet took top honours at San Francisco 50.

Phew…

Wait a minute! Kilian Jornet gets the last word. As I write this Mr Jornet is attempting another summit, Aconcagua. Only appropriate that we should end a year on a real high… Just below 7000m to be exact.

Get involved:

I am going to have missed races, missed performances and no doubt you will remind me of what they are. I welcome that. I’d love you all to comment (below) on what 2014 has meant to you and what/ who in your opinion deserves a tip of the hat.

MY 2014 AWARDS

  • Male ultra runner of the yearFRANCOIS D”HAENE (Rob Krar came close)
  • Female ultra runner of the yearNURIA PICAS
  • Best male performanceKILIAN JORNET for Hardrock 100
  • Best female performanceANNA FROST for Transvulcania La Palma and ELLIE GREENWOOD at Comrades
  • Best single stage raceTROFEO KIMA
  • Best multi day raceEVEREST TRAIL RACE
  • Best FKTSTEVE BIRKINSHAW, The Wainwrights
  • Biggest surprises of 2014ZACH MILLER and the rise of JO MEEK. The AUSSIES at the Skyrunning World Championships.
  • Stand out athlete of the year – KILIAN JORNET
  • Best cinematography – The African Attachment and Seb Montaz
  • Best film – Dejame Vivir

Anything else worthy of a mention?

Personal message:

On a personal note, 2014 has been an incredible year! I have travelled the world and in the process I have attended and worked on 31-races. From the humidity of Costa Rica, to the heat of the Sahara and the cold of the Himalayas, my job has afforded me the privilege to watch, observe and photograph the best runners in the world work their craft.

 

I am eternally grateful to each and every race, race director and of course I must give huge thanks to Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti from the ISF for the continued support and opportunities they have afforded me in allowing me the opportunity to work on and cover the Skyrunner® World Series.

 

I must also give a huge thanks to every single person who listens to my podcast, Talk Ultra, reads this website and ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ my respective Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I am eternally thankful.

 

Now roll on 2015 and lets do it all again!

Ryan Sandes goes back to his roots

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©craigkolesky

Trail running extraordinaire, Ryan Sandes, who by the way is currently leading the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) rankings, is going back to where it all began and will be taking part in RacingThePlanet’s seventh Roving Race, on the picturesque island of Madagascar from the 31st of August 2014 to the 6th of September 2014.

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“I am really excited to be travelling to Madagascar for the first time, to take part in Racing the Planet Madagascar. This is going to be an epic experience with lots of wild life and some pretty crazy conditions,” says Ryan. “As this is a self-supported multi day race I will need to get used to running with a 7-9kg backpack again. I have taken a 4 week break after Western States 100, so I am feeling well rested and looking forward to the next adventure.”

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Starting from the beaches of the Indian Ocean, the course follows the coast along white sandy beaches, lush green rice paddies and across vast savannah. It includes Baobab trees, red and grey limestone formations known as Tsingy and a mixture of flora and fauna found only in Madagascar. The format of the course follow is the same as previous races in the 4 Deserts Race Series – 250km, 7 day, 6-stage completely self-supported endurance race.

Madagascar, sometimes known as the Eighth Continent, is the world’s fourth largest island. As with previous RacingThePlanet races that Ryan has taken part in, on day’s 1 to 4, competitors will run 40km each day, then have a long day on day 5 – 80km – and a short 10km sprint on the last day for the final finish line.

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With temperatures averaging between 30-40°C accompanied by humidity, Ryan should be in his comfort zone. Approximately 250 competitors from 40 countries around the world will compete, made up of roughly 80% male and 20% female competitors. The race leaders are expected to complete the race in around 26 hours, with the slower competitors taking up to 70hours. For more info on the race please visit the race website or follow Ryan Sandes and Facebook and Twitter.

Ryan was kind enough to forward d me the excellent photo at the header of this post.

‘Here’s a photo you are welcome to use of me running with crocs. Credit is Craig Kolesky. See you soon!’ Ryan Sandes

I asked Ryan, ‘Is it a real situation or a photo comp?’

His reply, ‘No it’s real;-) we put Perspex on water for me to land on but I was nervous – the crocs weren’t too big though. Only big enough to eat my leg, not my whole body;-)’

We wish the ‘Sandman’ all the very best on his journey back in time.

TRAVAILEN – Film Review. Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s Drak Traverse

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

‘Travailen’ – To make an arduous journey

It was never going to be easy. Making an arduous journey never is, however, the Drakensberg Traverse has a history and in the opening minutes of this 30-minute visual candy, we are introduced to that history, not only in words but mages.

Ryan and Ryno explain the process of how they met at the Salomon SkyRun years earlier and how a seed was planted, a seed that would grow and blossom into the Drak Traverse.

It’s in the early section of the film that we are treated to an explanation of the challenge through an array of images accompanied by short interviews

Gavin & Lawrie Raubenheimer pioneered the trail in 1999 (104hrs 39min) and established a benchmark (and route) that must include the 6-peaks under self-sufficiency. Previous record holder, Stijn Laenen excitedly discusses the ‘Drak’ and how difficult a speed attempt will be. But ultimately, one of the most important characters is Cobus Van Zyl, a large man with a deep authorative voice. Cobus held the current record which he set with Ryno, but he shows no jealousy, no hint of contempt; in actual fact it is the contrary. Cobus actually becomes involved in the whole process, helping recce the route, plan logistics and during the attempt, Cobus is the ‘pin’ back at HQ following the tracker.

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

Ryan speaks softly and shows vulnerability throughout the whole film. He may well be a superstar with a list of palmarès to confirm his ascendance in the sport in such a short space of time. However, we see none of that in this film… no previous glories, no back slapping… in actual fact, the back slapping comes from Ryno who almost places Ryan on too high a pedestal.

‘I felt super vulnerable, out of my depth and out of my comfort zone’

Ryan tells us in the middle section of the movie where we are introduced to the extremities that the Drakensberg can throw at anyone. On the third day of a fast-pack attempt; Ryno, Cobus and Ryan are confronted by extreme weather and Ryan pulls the plug amongst snow-covered fields. One has to remember, Ryan is new to running, let alone extreme running and it becomes very clear in these moments, that although Ryan may very well be the vehicle of the film, this attempt would not be possible without the knowledge and experience of Ryno and Cobus. Ryan has no façade, he has no bravado, and he tells it like it is…

‘If things go wrong, I don’t think I’d be capable of looking after myself.’ 

Footage of the actual record completes the final third of the film and for me; the process of reducing 41hours 49mins of record-breaking time into approximately 11-12 minutes is where the true miracle happens. I know only too well as a photographer how protective I can become of images and moments. Dean Leslie and the crew at The African Attachment work wonders. It’s like a wonderfully crafted piece of music that actually takes instruments away, rather than adding, to make the whole piece larger, greater and more memorable. Switching for arial vistas and close ups; the story is told in a series of bold moments that encompass key moments during the traverse. 

‘If I am not ready now, I never will be’

Ryan rushes to prepare in the final moments before the midnight start. At the stroke of 12, they depart into the night. Climbing metal ladders running through the night, head torches are replaced by the arrival of the sun.

Back at base, Cobus and Cindy Van Zyl follow Ryan and Ryno; they monitor each step via trackers.

‘You realize how quickly things can go wrong, how vulnerable they are… if you need to escape, it’s at least 6-hours hard hiking!’

Exhausted by the heat, Ryan and Ryno reach Cleft Peak at 08:39 and run on. Dreaming of milkshakes they become dehydrated and face the demons of trying to refuel at night at Giant’s Pass.

‘If you don’t get your nutrition right you will fail and you will simply stop’

Tired, exhausted and lacking concentration they move on into the night. Trying to sleep is almost impossible. The dawn of a new day shows us the impact of the terrain, the beauty, the magic and the splendor of the traverse. Here words aren’t required and the mix of visual and music takes us to a new level. This is more than a running movie. It’s art.

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

Travailen screen capture ©theAfricanAttachment ©RedBull_564

‘It’s about doing things that make you happy and doing it because you want to.’

Bushman’s Neck Border Post 5:49pm with 205km’s covered, Ryan and Ryno approach a Red Bull arch. It’s the first glimmer of the real world and the brand that made this attempt possible. No crowds, no razzamatazz, just a few friends and family…

‘Just a short run in the Drakensberg Mountains,’ Ryan says to camera.

As the film closes, quite rightly, respect is given to the history of the Drakensberg Traverse via visual snaps:

  • Cobus & Ryno
  • Andrew Porter (successful solo attempt and record)
  • Stijn & Andrew
  • Gavin & Lawrie

Travailen is not your usual showboating movie about running. It’s a honest piece. It shows vulnerabilities and how we overcome them. Egos and reputations are dismissed into a collective gathering of skill and experience. It’s a spiritual journey that I am sure will live on within each of those involved.

As a movie it is a visual feast handled with great skill by Dean Leslie and the team at the African Attachment. The blending and fading of subtle music provides a wonderful and balanced atmospheric to the pain and struggle of Ryan and Ryno. For such a tough challenge, the movie is a calm and tranquil homage to a very tough, rugged and gnarly mountain range. The characters involved, maybe it’s the South African accents, blend with the nature providing a wonderful silky smooth experience.

Runner or not, Travailen holds joys and pleasure for all. The film previewed on May 29th at The Labia, Cape Town. The film will be available for public release, however, the date has not yet been made available. I will update as and when appropriate.

READ MY DRAK TRAVERSE INTERVIEW WITH RYAN SANDES HERE

Thanks and credits:

I’d like to thank Ryan Sandes, Ryno GrieselKelly Burke, Dean Leslie, Greg Fell, Red Bull and The African Attachment for the opportunity to see an advance copy of Travailen.

Links:

TAA logoRed Bull Logo

 What Red Bull have to say:

The visually epic tale of Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s Drakensberg Grand Traverse record.

At midnight on Monday, March 24 2014, trail runners Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel set off into the darkness from Witsieshoek car park. Their goal: to complete the 210 kilometreDrakensberg Grand Traverse – the mother of all Drakensberg hikes – faster than anyone had before.

To rightfully claim the title they had to travel on foot, carrying all their own gear without receiving any form of support along the way. It was just them against the mountain elements. Against the clock.

Travailen is the thrillingly visual tale of their attempt. Dean Leslie, Director for Travailen, gives us some insight into the toughest assignment the The African Attachment have ever taken on.

Episode 58 – Sandes, Walton, Kendall, Portal, Rush

Ep58

This is episode 58 of Talk Ultra and on this weeks show we speak with Ryan Sandes about his record breaking run with Ryno Griesel on the DrakTraverse. We speak to Brit, Claire Walton who placed 2nd lady at the highly competitive, Tarawera Ultra. As part of our MDS coverage, we have a catch up with Danny Kendall who is arguably the UK’s most consistent MDS performer, we also speak to actor, Bertie Portal who is going to the MDS for the first time. Talk Training is an extended edition with Holly Rush. Holly placed 7th lady at the 2013 Comrades and in this episode we discuss how to prepare for this iconic road ultra. The News, a Blog, Up & Coming Races and of course Speedgoat.

 
NEWS
 
Drakensberg Traverse
 
Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel set a new record for the DrakTraverse – 41 hours 49 mins beating the previous record by over 18-hours
 
AUDIO – Ryan Sandes
 
Barkley – Jared Campbell does it again!
 
White Mountains 100 – Joe Grant wins the run section with a new CR in just over 17-hours
 
Hardmoors 55
 
  1. Bert Goos 8:09:27
  2. Dan Anderson 8:19:00
  3. Matty Brennan 8:53:23
  1. Charmaine Horsfall 8:59:26
  2. Shelli Gordon 9:35:29
  3. Emma David 10:13:15
 
Northburn Station 100-mile
 
  1. Wouter Hamelick 24:33:45
  2. Greig Hamilton 27:05:14
  3. Andrew Redinger 27:39:27
 
  1. Jean Beaumont 26:24:30
  2. Becky Nixon 34:58:15
  3. Tayebeh Alireazee 40:02:56
 
Skyrunning UK announces the Peaks SkyRace for August 3rd
 
Marathon des Sables starts this weekend, Sunday August 6th. I will be at the race reporting and photographing the action. It’s an iconic race and one that inspires so many… on the last show, we spoke with Danny Kendall who placed 10th in 2013. I caught up with him again just days before departure to find out how is final training has gone.
 
AUDIO – Danny Kendall
 
MDS is renowned for the variety of people it attracts. It is very much a ‘bucket list’ race. This year, actor, Bertie Portal is taking part. He has appeared in films such as The Kings Speech, My Week with Marilyn and The Iron Lady… what has attracted an actor to the Sahara. I caught up with Bertie to hear his story
 
AUDIO – Bertie Portal
BLOG – Joe Grant lists his thoughts on the week before White Mountains 100 and lists his kit. Go to alpine-works.com
INTERVIEW – Claire Walton took many by surprise with her stunning 2nd place at Tarawera earlier this year. I caught up with her to discuss her background, the Tarawera race and what the future holds.
 
AUDIO – Claire Walton
 
TALK TRAINING – A special Talk Training this week with Holly Rush. Holly placed 7th lady at the 2013 Comrades, arguably the largest and most iconic road ultra in the world. In this episode we discuss the race and how to prepare.
 
MELTZER MOMENT with Speedgoat
 
UP & COMING RACES
 

Argentina

Patagonia Run 100k | 100 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Patagonia Run 63k | 63 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Patagonia Run 84k | 84 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Australia

Australian Capital Territory

Australian Running Festival Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Queensland

Nerang State Forest 50 km | 50 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

Victoria

Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon | 75 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Western Australia

3 Waters 50km Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Bunbury 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Canada

British Columbia

Diez Vista 50k Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

China

Croatia

100 Miles of Istria | 100 miles | April 11, 2014 | website

100 Miles of Istria – 105 km | 105 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

100 Miles of Istria – 65 km | 65 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Denmark

Midtjylland

Gudenaa Trail Challenge | 75 kilometers | April 18, 2014 | website

France

Aveyron

Trans Aubrac | 105 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Bas-Rhin

Le Challenge des Seigneurs | 100 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Le Défi des Seigneurs | 74 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Le Grand Défi des Vosges | 58 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

L’Intégrale | 132 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Bouches-du-Rhône

Trail Sainte Victoire 60 km | 60 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

Jura

Le Savagnin | 58 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

Lot

Cahors (Lot) – Eauze (Gers) : du 5 au 8 avril 2013 | 187 kilometers | April 11, 2014 | website

Marne

Trail du Pays d’Argonne – 55 km | 55 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Rhône

Le Crêt de l’Oiseau | 63 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Var

Mountain Azur Run | 58 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Germany

Hesse

Bilstein-Marathon BiMa 53+ | 53 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

North Rhine-Westphalia

Waldhopper 70Km Landschaftslauf | 70 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Saarland

Keep on Running St. Wendel | 52 kilometers | April 11, 2014 | website

Saxony

Saxonian Mt. Everestmarathon | 84390 meters | April 12, 2014 | website

Greece

Ireland

Connacht

Connemara Ultramarathon | 39 miles | April 06, 2014 | website

Italy

Latium

UltraTrail dei Monti Cimini | 80 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Piedmont

100 km di Torino | 100 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Jordan

Dead Sea Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | April 04, 2014 | website

Morocco

Marathon des Sables | 250 kilometers | April 04, 2014 | website

Nepal

Everest Ultra | 65 kilometers | April 07, 2014 | website

Mustang Trail Race 2014 | 200 kilometers | April 15, 2014 | website

Netherlands

Limburg

Limburgs Zwaarste 100 km | 100 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Limburgs Zwaarste 60 km | 60 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Limburgs Zwaarste 80 km | 80 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

North Holland

Castricum Ultraloop | 60 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

New Zealand

Oxfam Trailwalker NZ | 100 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Norway

Bergen Maratonkarusellen no3 – 1 1/2 Marathon | 63 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Bergen Maratonkarusellen no3 – Ultra 100km | 100 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Philippines

Mayon 360º | 80 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Réunion

Caldeira Trail | 74 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

South Africa

Loskop Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Spain

Canary Islands

Anaga Ultratrail 88 km | 88 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Catalonia

Ultra Trail Muntanyes de la Costa Daurada | 90 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Extremadura

LXVII Milhas Romanas | 100 kilometers | April 04, 2014 | website

Sweden

Silva Ursvik Ultra – 75 km | 75 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Täby Extreme Challenge 100 miles | 100 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

TEC 100 Mile | 100 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

TEC 50 Mile | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

United Kingdom

Calderdale

The Calderdale Hike – Long | 36 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Devon

Coastal Trail Series – Exmoor – Ultra | 34 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

East Sussex

South Downs Way 50 | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Glasgow City

Glasgow – Edinburgh Double Marathon | 55 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Gloucestershire

Cotswold Way Challenge Multistage Ultra | 57 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

USA

Arizona

Crown King Scramble 50 Km Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

California

American River 50-mile Endurance Run | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Grizzly Peak 50 Km Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Lake Sonoma 50 | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Oriflame 50K | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Oriflamme 50k | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Ragnar Relay So Cal | 200 miles | April 04, 2014 | website

Woodside Ramble Spring 50K | 50 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Delaware

Trap Pond 50K | 50 kilometers | April 13, 2014 | website

Florida

Wild Sebastian 100 Spring Edition – 100 Miles | 100 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Wild Sebastian 100 Spring Edition – 50 Miles | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Wild Sebastian 100 Spring Edition – 75 Miles | 75 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Georgia

SweetH20 50K | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Illinois

Chicago Lakefront 50K George Cheung Memorial Race | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Potawatomi 100 Mile Trail Run | 100 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Potawatomi 150 Mile Trail Run | 150 miles | April 04, 2014 | website

Potawatomi 50 Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Kansas

Rocking K Trail 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Michigan

Traverse City Trail Running Festival 50k Run | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Minnesota

Trail Mix Race Minnesota 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Zumbro 100k | 100 kilometers | April 11, 2014 | website

Zumbro 100M | 100 miles | April 11, 2014 | website

Zumbro Midnight 50 Mile | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Mississippi

Gulf Coast Interstate Relay – Ride or Run | 263 miles | April 04, 2014 | website

North Carolina

Cedar Island 40 | 42 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Umstead 50 Mile Endurance Run | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Ohio

Forget the PR Mohican 50K | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Oklahoma

Tatur’s Lake McMurty Trail Race 50K | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Oregon

Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 Mile Trail Run | 40 miles | April 13, 2014 | website

Shotgun Trail Blast 50K | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Pennsylvania

Hyner Ultra Challenge 50K | 50 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

South Carolina

Blind Pig 100K Ultra Marathon | 100 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Blind Pig 100 Mile Ultra Marathon | 100 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

XTERRA Hickory Knob Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Tennessee

Power to the Tower 50k Ultra | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

War at Windrock – 3 stages race | 51 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Texas

Hells Hills 50 km Endurance Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Hells Hills 50 Mile Endurance Trail Run | 50 miles | April 05, 2014 | website

Utah

Zion 100k | 100 kilometers | April 04, 2014 | website

Zion 100 Mile | 100 miles | April 04, 2014 | website

Zion 50K | 50 kilometers | April 05, 2014 | website

Vermont

Twin State 50 km | 50 kilometers | April 06, 2014 | website

Twin State 50 Miles | 50 miles | April 06, 2014 | website

Virginia

Bull Run Run 50 Mile | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Washington

Alger Alp 50k | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Lumberjack 100 K Run | 100 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

Lumberjack 100 Mile Run | 100 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Lumberjack 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | April 12, 2014 | website

Squak Mountain 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 12, 2014 | website

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RYAN SANDES – Drakensberg Traverse Interview #DrakTraverse

©iancorless.com.IMG_2606

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel embarked on the ultimate Drakensberg adventure – the Drakensberg Grand Traverse.

Spanning parts of the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces of South Africa, as well as the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the unmarked route has broken many an adventurer.     Griesel and Cobus van Zyl set the previous Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT) record, of 60 hours 29 mins.

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

 

Fighting the elements and the terrain, Sandes and Griesel brokee the existing record by an incredible 18 hours to complete the traverse in 41 hours and 49 minutes on 25 March 2014. (Intro by Kelly Burke fluxcom.co.za)

I had the opportunity to catch up with Ryan just hours after his finish to discuss the epic adventure and ground breaking run.

Images ©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

 ryno-ryan-dgt-map-drakensberg

IC I bet you are a little tired?

 

RS Just a little Ian, I’m deprived of sleep but I have been catching up. I ‘m really pleased with how the DrakTraverse went. It was an awesome experience and adventure.

 

IC This attempt has been followed worldwide, 2-years in the planning, can you give us an insight into what this has meant. In particular Ryno, he held the previous record.

 

RS The Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains) they are the biggest mountain range in South Africa. They are iconic for any mountain sport. The thing with them is that they are extremely remote and very difficult to get too. The Drakensberg Traverse is a journey from one side to the other.  Starting in the north, we finish in the south. Along the way you have six peaks to traverse and several checkpoints. You have to self-navigate and be self-sufficient. There are no proper trails, so basically you have to make your own route. The terrain is brutal. We did plenty of recces over the final 6-months to decide on the best route and that takes a great deal of effort. Ryno has grown up in these mountains and he knows them really well. For me it was important that I came and understood the mountains and the terrain. I wanted to spend as much time as possible here to figure out what the terrain is about. It was an emotional experience to cross the finish line; it has been a dream for both of us. To see it all come together is great.

 

IC The previous record of 60:29:30 as you said was the first time anyone had approached this with a ‘faster’ approach and of course Ryno was involved in this. Ryno and Cobus put the record at a new benchmark; however you guys have smashed that! You ran instead of hiking, you had minimal sleep, you travelled very light, the record now stands at 41:29, is that a solid record or do you think ‘we’ could go quicker?

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS I’m sure it would be possible to go a couple of hours quicker, however, everything would need to align. We did the best that we could and we had brilliant weather conditions. We were very lucky. I’m not going to look back and say we could have done this, or could have done that. We are both really happy. So many factors come into play with a record like this, you can get really fast runners that on paper should do really well but with this course so many factors come into play, luck being part of it! I’m amazed at how un-runnable the route is. Certain sections you can run quite quickly but mostly the terrain is brutal and unforgiving. I looked at this as an adventure as much as anything, it’s nice to have the time but the journey was the most important thing. The concept of starting in one place and finishing in another place and completing the traverse is what matters.

 

IC Some of the photographs (Kelvin Trautman) that have been publicized are stunning; they really show the terrain and the beauty. I also know The African Attachment were filming, when can we see some footage of the journey?

 

RS We will have some footage available early next week I think? Everyone will work hard to get this done ASAP. I think the actual video of the whole project will be coming out in 6-weeks or so.

Video Here

 http://www.redbull.com/en/adventure/stories/1331642891250/footrace-across-the-dragons-back

IC That’s cool, boy, they have a few long days and nights ahead.

 

RS For sure!

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC An early image showed you going down the chain ladders traversing a sheer rock face. The terrain is crazy as you have said, how beat up are you both?

 

RS We did the chain ladders at night. I don’t enjoy heights so I was please to do them in the dark. On the recces we did them in the day and I ‘froze-up’ a little. The terrain is tough but I don’t feel too bad. My feet are pretty battered and they are sore but generally all is good. I have a few hotspots, my toes are swollen, my ankles are sore but that is all down to the unforgiving nature of the terrain. You are constantly running on sharp rocks or boulder hopping. The camber is difficult and that is continually hard. I think we both came out pretty well when all is considered. I would always prefer physically tired over mentally tired. The sleep deprivation was very tough. I struggled both mornings with a lack of sleep and I had the sleep monsters.

 

IC Ryno has a strong adventure racing background so he is used to 6+ days on the edge. Did he push you?

 

RS I think we complimented each other very well. I was nervous beforehand that Ryno wouldn’t let me sleep but we both decided on a power nap of 30-mins at the same time. But I couldn’t sleep. I was cold. I tossed and turned. We had no sleeping bags because we wanted to travel so light… that frustrated me. Later we managed sleep after 2-hours more running. Just 10-mins. It’s so cold that you can’t sleep any longer. A powernap is quite incredible. It was a new experience but that is what I wanted… I wanted a new challenge, something that would push me mentally and physically. I got what I asked for! Funny, during the night I could hear helicopters and I could see reflections in the water but it was just my imagination.

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC The high point was 3482m at Thabana Ntlenyana, was this also the toughest part of the course?

 

RS For me it wasn’t the toughest part for me. We had many peaks to climb; some of the harder sections are in the final section. Smaller peaks but you are going up and down. The second last climb is just a vertical rock face that lasts 800m or so, it was fine in training but extremely tough during the event after 190 km. In general I really enjoyed the course and the severity. I tried to take in as much as I could. We were so lucky with weather, no rain at all! I’m at the finish now in a hotel and thunderstorm is raging…

 

IC Without a doubt, on that terrain in those conditions, rain alone could cause serious problems. You both traveled extremely light. You both had just Salomon S-Lab vests. Can you give us an insight into what you did carry?

 

RS For sure, the idea for us was about going fast and light. We wore shorts, t-shirt and visor. Obviously shoes and socks and we carried 2-jackets each. I find that 2-jackets are warmer when it gets really cold. My hands can get cold so I had 2-sets of gloves, a thin pair and a waterproof pair. We had a space blanket (bivvy style) between us… a large one that we could both get inside and keep warm if required. I am sure Transgrancanaria guys will be happy about that…!

 

IC You had to get that one in?

 

(Laughter)

 

RS I also had a first aid kit, sun cream but mostly we had food. It probably accounted for 80%. We had to be fully self-supported so we carried everything and took water from streams. I had some bars, chomps, a few gels, peanuts and some Red Bull shots. I think I took too much sweet stuff; I couldn’t face it in the latter stages.

 

IC That is often the case in longer events; the longer the event and the more you crave savory food. Did you purify the water?

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS We just drank from the streams. We chose flowing water. We were really high up so it’s fresh. You can get cattle so I suppose it was a calculated risk. If it’s flowing you are usually ok.

 

IC 204km in a time of 41hrs 49mins; is it the hardest thing you have ever done?

 

RS Mentally it was tough. Pushing through the sleep monsters I found difficult. Personally it is one of the biggest things I have ever done. I am surprised how good I feel less than 24-hours later… I don’t think it has kicked in yet. I am not sure the traverse and our achievement has kicked in. It was really challenging at times but it was so new for me that I just continually enjoyed it. I embraced every moment; it was a great 2-days in the mountains.

 

IC You tweaked your ankle in the first 2-hours. After your injury issues from 2013, how much did this stress you?

 

RS Yes that was the most worrying moment. Ironically, I fell in the first hour and gashed my hand and then 2-hours later I did my ankle. It was a worrying time and it played on my mind. I became nervous. That is the main thing about that terrain and particularly at night; if anything goes wrong you can be in serious problems. I ran scared for a couple of hours but I settled. My ankle feels good today so that is reassuring. I need a few days with my feet up and then hopefully back to training.

 

IC I’m impressed that you want to start training again so quickly! This event was about 2 of you. How important was it having Ryno along; he has a great knowledge and experience of this region?

 

RS For sure, Ryno was instrumental in this journey. I couldn’t have done this without him. His knowledge of the mountains and the effort he has put in is extremely special. To share the Traverse with him has been incredible. Ryno has been over this route for 7-8 years. He has done the Traverse 3 or 4 times now. He has even tried it in winter with half the course covered in snow. We formed a special bond. I am really grateful. We fulfilled a dream.

 

IC Recovery is paramount but in 30-days or so you will be lining up at UTMF in Japan.

 

RS Jeez, it’s that soon…

 

(Laughter)

 

IC I was thinking exactly the same Ryan; it’s not far away. You’ve had a great start to 2014 with Transgrancanaria and now the DrakTraverse, is UTMF a good idea coming so soon?

 

RS I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I need to listen to my body, recover and then slowly come back. I am not going to get any fitter. It’s just about getting fresh and recovered. I will have some fatigue in my legs but I will be okay I think, I will hold back. I did the same after Transgrancanaria, I only had 3-weeks between that race and the Traverse. That worked well but I listened, the second recovery week I felt flat so I had more rest. I am really looking forward to Japan and the opportunity to run Mt Fuji is great. Then I will think about Western States.

 

IC Western States is the next big thing. You are going to want to improve on 2nd but you will be a marked man!

 

RS Yes for sure but WSER is a stacked race. Anyone in the top-20 can win. It’s an iconic race and a great vibe.

 

IC Great… feet up and start the recovery. Really appreciate you finding the time to speak so soon after the event. Many congratulations to you, Ryno and all the team.

 

RS Anytime, thank you so much for all the support and for everything that you do for the sport.

INTERVIEW NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH

HERE

screenshot_537

Links:

Ryan Sandes HERE

Ryno Griesel HERE

Red Bull HERE

Salomon HERE

 

©Video content,  The African Attachment HERE

©Photography, Kelvin Trautman HERE

 

 

SANDES and GRIESEL achieve #DrakTraverse record

Image ©kelvintrautman

Image ©kelvintrautman

At 00h00 on Monday, 24 March 2014, trailblazers Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel embarked on the ultimate Drakensberg adventure – the Drakensberg Grand Traverse. The two battled the elements and intense fatigue to break the existing record by an incredible 18 hours to complete the traverse in 41 hours and 49 minutes on 25 March 2014.

Spanning parts of the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces of South Africa, as well as the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the unmarked route has broken many an adventurers heart with only 3 official records set since the route was first run 15 years ago. The previous Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT) record, of 60 hours 29 mins, was set by Griesel and Cobus van Zyl.

A tired, but remarkably upbeat, Ryan Sandes was elated at completing the attempt and achieving a new record. “This attempt started as a seed more than 2 years ago…to have finished it now feels quite surreal. We felt good from the start & knew if the weather held, we would have a great chance of breaking the record. However, until you cross the line, you can’t be too sure. There were a few anxious moments when I tweaked my ankle 2 hours into the attempt & I was worried that it might mean the end so soon. Running through the night was challenging at some of the more technical parts, but it really helped to have Ryno there. He knows the mountain like the back of his hand & it was reassuring to have someone so experienced with me.”

Griesel was equally complimentary of his teammate. “Ryan has got to be the best runner in the world when it comes to these conditions. Running the DGT, as opposed to speed hiking, takes a greater toll on your body than I realised. I became dehydrated during the first day and had a couple of tough hours, but Ryan pushed us through it and kept me going.” When asked how he was feeling, Griesel summed it up in one word: ‘Privileged’. “It was such an incredible experience to see this dream of ours realised after years of planning and to enjoy so much support from friends, family & strangers from around the world.”

ryno-griesel ©kelvintrautman

ryno-griesel ©kelvintrautman

In order for the attempt to be official Sandes and Griesel had to start and the Sentinel Car Park and end at the Bushman’s Neck Border Post. As there is no set route for the DGT, one can choose any route to do so as long as one passes eight checkpoints along the way including The Chain Ladders, the Mont-aux-Sources summit at 3282m and the highest of the all the summits (and the highest point in Southern Africa) Thabana Ntlenyana Summit at 3482m.

Both of the athletes cited the sunrise from this summit as something that would stay with them forever. As Griesel said, “The sunrise this morning from Thabana was a special moment and we both stopped for a few seconds to appreciate the view. It was both inspiring & humbling to greet the day from such a vantage point.”

Part of the equipment the athletes carried was a mobile tracking system that tracked their movements across the mountains. This data was fed into an interactive website – http://www.redbull.co.za/draktraverse – that tracked distance, time against previous record and conditions live. The site attracted more than 20 000 visitors from all over the world over the course of the event and users were able to show their support for the athletes by sharing live data from the site.

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes ©iancorless.com

With his DGT record in the bag, Sandes now has his sights set on Ultra Trial Mount Fuji in April, before he comes back to South Africa to participate in the Wings for Life World Run in Franschhoek in May.