2016 Skyrunner® World Series launches

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2016 Skyrunner® World Series launches
– new races, a new partner, all-round rebranding and website, the Series is set to reach new heights.

The Series’ new management company, Geneva based SkyMan SA, is pleased to present a new Main Partner, Migu Xempower, a Chinese exercise and health management platform which also counts a rich experience in organising marathons, city and mountain races for millions of runners.

NEW WEBSITE HERE – http://skyrunnerworldseries.com

SkyMan SA brings a  breath of spring air across the Skyrunner® World Series just before the 2016 season kicks off and the 2016 Skyrunner® World Series launches. The series kicks off with Yading Skyrun in China, the course reaches a high point of 4664m in China’s Sichuan Mountains. Followed by a world-class line up at the stunning Transvulcania Ultramarathon, the race calendar expands to stretch across the globe. Six new races and a calendar that features twenty-three races in total, the 2016 Skyrunner® World Series is set to be the best yet, especially with the new Extreme category that combines Tromso, Trofeo Kima and Glen Coe in an adrenaline packed trio of races that hark back to the roots of the sport pioneered by Marino Giacometti. This series is sponsored by Alpina Watches and is joined by the well established Sky, Ultra and Vertical formats.

Skyrunner® World Series is also delighted to count on the continued support of Alpina Watches, together with the three Official Pool Suppliers, Compressport, Salomon and Scott Sports.

©iancorless.com_IMG_8821Kima2014_Kilian Jornet, the sport’s best known figure and organiser of the Extreme Series’ Tromsø SkyRace® in Norway, comments:

“When I started to run I was inspired by the images of Bruno Brunod, Fabio Meraldi and Marino Giacometti climbing (and descending) technical ridges, passing climbers and alpinists with just a pair of running shoes – and amazing technical skills! I’m very glad that today there’s an Extreme Series with this alpine philosophy and, as an organiser, to share my passion for scrambling and travelling light on big mountains.”

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The Skyrunner® World Series is known for attracting the best athletes in the sport at each event. They compete for an end of season prize purse of €36,000, in addition to the prize purse of over €100,000 distributed across all races.

The Skyrunner® World Series is known for attracting the best athletes in the sport at each event. They compete for an end of season prize purse of €36,000, in addition to the prize purse of over €100,000 distributed across all races.

©iancorless.com_Rut2015-1300Mike Foote, world class trail runner and organiser of The Rut events in the rugged Montana mountains, adds:

“It’s an honour to be a part of the 2016 Skyrunner World Series. As the organisers of three events here in the United States, it is exciting to host many of the world’s best. I love the ethos of skyrunning. Steep, technical and dramatic courses inspire me as an athlete and it has been such a pleasure to also organize events with these traits here in my backyard.”

Iancorless.com and iancorlessphotography are once again pleased to announce that they will be the official photographer and media partner for 2016 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES.

You can follow through all the usual media channels, in particular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make sure you follow all the ‘official’ Skyrunning feeds.

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2016 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES

SKY
April 30: Yading Skyrun – 29 km, Sichuan – China
May 22: Maratón Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42 km, Zegama – Spain
June 26: Livigno SkyMarathon® – 30 km, Livigno – Italy
July 17: Dolomites SkyRace® – 22 km, Canazei – Italy
July 31: SkyRace® Coma Pedrosa – 22 km, Andorra
August 20: Matterhorn Ultraks 46K – Zermatt – Switzerland
September 3: The Rut 28K – Big Sky Montana – USA
October 15: Limone Extreme SkyRace® – 23 km, Limone sul Garda – Italy

EXTREME
August 7: Tromsø SkyRace® – 50km, Tromsø – Norway
August 28: Kima Trophy – 50 km, Sondrio – Italy
September 18: Salomon Glen Coe Skyline – 53 km, Glen Coe – UK

ULTRA
May 7: Transvulcania Naviera Armas Ultramarathon – 74 km, La Palma – Spain
June 4: Ultra SkyMarathon® Madeira – 55 km, Madeira – Portugal
July 10: High Trail Vanoise – 68 km, Val d’Isère – France
September 4: The Rut 50K – Big Sky, Montana – USA
September 24: Salomon Ultra Pirineu – 110 km, Bagà – Spain

VERTICAL
May 5: Kilómetro Vertical Transvulcania Binter- La Palma – Spain
June 24: Santa Caterina Vertical Kilometer® – Sondrio – Italy
July 8: Kilomètre Vertical Face de Bellevarde – Val d’Isère – France
July 15: Dolomites Vertical Kilometer® – Canazei – Italy
August 5: Blamann Vertical – Tromsø – Norway
September 2: Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer® – Big Sky, Montana – USA
October14: Limone Extreme Vertical Kilometer® – Limone sul Garda – Italy

FAST and LIGHT Salomon SRTV – Skyrunning

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Watch the film, Fast and Light at the bottom of this article

A trickle of piano noise from the local music school weaves its way through open window shutters left ajar to allow some breeze… the heat of the day can be stifling. It feels and sounds like a scene in a movie. Cobbled streets, stone arches, a wonderful old square, the chatter of children playing and the smell of a freshly brewed cappuccino in the air.

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Biella, or should I say, the International Skyrunning Federation HQ (and home of Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti) is atop a hill in a walled village close to the Aosta valley, just over an hour from Chamonix and in close proximity to Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. It seems the perfect location for the home of pure mountain running. Biella lies in the foothills of the Alps in the Bo mountain range near Mt. Mucrone and Camino.

It is midway through the 2014 season, between Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima, I spend time with Lauri and Marino in Biella at their home in the mountains (Casina) Corteno Golgi and at Trofeo Kima to get an inside look at what makes this couple tick and how the Skyrunning calendar and its logistics fall into place. The African Attachment with Greg Fell, Dean Leslie and Kelvin Trautman were also filming for Salomon Running. Today, 20th Oct the preview film will be made live. ‪#‎FastandLight‬ is for me a special moment. I hope you enjoy the film and the related articles and images that are currently published worldwide to coincide with the films release.

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Mountains dominate the life of Marino and Lauri. It’s not a job; it’s a passion that dominates 12+ hours of every day. You will see the dynamic duo at all the Skyrunner® World Series races every year. In total, that is 15-events in 3-disciplines, VK, SKY and ULTRA. But these worldwide events are just the visible face of what the ISF does! Behind the scenes it’s a frenetic highly pressured scene of telephone calls, emails, logistical planning and negotiations that make the Skyrunner® World Series tick.

“We moved here as the sports brand Fila were based here. In the 90’s they were a key sponsor for Skyrunning,” says Lauri van Houten, Executive Director for the International Skyrunning Federation, “When Fila folded, we were left with a dilemma; should we stay or should we go? Stay we did and it feels natural and relaxed to be here now.”

It’s a scenario far removed from 1989 when Giacometti set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. 25-years of mountain running and today, iconic names such as Bruno Brunod and Fabio Meraldi are once again being talked about in the same breath as Kilian Jornet.

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Bruno Brunod

“Older generations were already Skyrunners. My grandfather crossed the mountains working for example. ‘We’ as Skyrunners added more speed but in essence it has always been the same thing, Skyrunners have always existed.” Bruno Brunod says. 

“What I liked was going quickly to the summit. I felt the same when I was a kid in the pastures, I always ran up and down the summits that surrounded me. It is something I felt inside, something I liked.”

In 2012, Skyrunning went through a revival. After careful and strategic planning, the ISF launched the new Sky Ultra Marathon Series with Transvulcania La Palma and a seminar, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky.’ The sport moved up a notch and became something that runners all over the world aspired to. It’s been called the ‘the next big thing’ but as Giacometti explains:

“There is nothing new in Skyrunning. It is just now that everyone is catching up with our vision from so many years ago.”

BIELLA

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Biella is a wonderful place. Calm and relaxing, to me, it is typically Italian. Located opposite a music school, the ISF headquarters and home of Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten resonate a calm and tranquility that seems far removed from the full-on days in and around and Skyrunner® World Series.
The sun shines and the daily bustle of Italian life provides a wonderful soundtrack that penetrates ones’ mind. Cars rumble over cobbled streets as they scoot off to work, mothers are heard chastising their child©iancorless.comIMG_5035ren as they amble to school. The click of an espresso machine and that wonderful noise as pressured water works its way through fresh coffee and the smell, oh the smell! Nothing beats a fresh coffee in the morning. It’s 7am and Marino is kicking off his day with a good strong shot of the dark stuff before donning glasses and opening his computer.

The office is adorned with memorabilia from 20+ years of travel and racing. The door plaque sums it up’ Skyrunners.’ In the corner, magazines are stacked in chronological order documenting a lifetime in sport.

Lauri joins us looking a little tired. Yesterday was another 18-hour day. It’s normal… it shouldn’t be but it is!

“What does a normal day look like for you Lauri?” I tentatively ask, knowing full well the answer.

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“How long have you got? I have no idea; I am speechless. I am a person that gets bored easy. This job is NEVER boring! I may have 5-spreadsheets open, 50 e-mails to look at, and a schedule of things to address and amend and then I need to coordinate with athletes, teams, team managers and race directors and media. My day starts with email. I often think oh my goodness and then the first forty or so emails arrive and then a daily grind starts. In addition to this, sometimes language is a challenge. I speak English, Italian, German but I have emails from Russia, Turkey, Greece, Afghanistan and so on. As I said, my day is never boring.”

Trofeo Kima is just around the corner. For many, me included, ‘Kima’ is the epitome of Skyrunning. Kilian Jornet sums it up well when he says:

“Picture a mountain terrain that has no paths, amidst glaciers; it is all crests, rocks, stretches of via Ferrata and all over a course that stretches 50-km. Kima is not athletics, it is mountaineering; pure Skyrunning!”

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Preparations are well underway for the race and in just 24-hours we will all need to travel to Milan for a press conference and then a journey will follow to the mountains, to Corteno Golgi and a stay at Marino’s mountain house, the ‘Casina’ before an onward journey to the Kima race itself.

“I m a hub, the person in the middle,” says Lauri. “But often you can’t plan how a day will unfold. I have a ‘to do’ list that obviously needs to get done but then things happen daily that need to be addressed immediately. It’s all about time management and you just can’t stick to a too rigid schedule as the guidelines constantly move and change. Kima is imminent and therefore many questions and problems arise. We also have a press conference in Milan, that requires work.”

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Marino looks over at us, he peeps over his glasses and smiles. My question. “Tell me where you come in Marino?” Seems to suggest that I am implying he does nothing.

“Now it’s difficult. We have so many races. I look at race profiles initially and it is easy to see from a quick glance what will and will not make a good Skyrunning race. Remember, my experience was mountaineering but we had to adapt my dreams for a worldwide audience. I look for mountains and mountains provide races and opportunities. I also need to consider locations, countries and how the schedule comes together.”

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The phone rings and Marino joins Fabio Meraldi in a conversation. Walking out of the office into the sunlight, Marino strides around the garden in animated discussion. The Italian sounds like bird song and with arms waving and gesticulating, plans are made for Kima and a series of interviews that will be filmed by The African Attachment on a new film about Skyrunning called, ‘Fast and Light.’

“Tell me about Trofeo Kima, because you designed this course, yes?”

“Kima is on the course of the Sentiero Roma. It’s a well known via ferrata route. It crosses the group of technical mountains in the area and passes through all the 7-refuges. We did the race in reverse for safety reasons but it is still a very technical race and ultimately it has become a beacon of Skyrunning. Ironically, for a Skyrunning race the course does not go to the summits! It is just not possible. However, it is a pure expression of Skyrunning.”

It is easy to look at the ISF calendar and see the Skyrunner® World Series and think easy! However, it takes 365-days to make those 15+ days happen. When one season ends, plans start immediately, if not before for the following season.

“We are no longer race organisers.” Lauri says, “We did in the past! We organised many races in logistically difficult places, such as Tibet, Mexico, Nepal and so on. I think we organised over 80-races! The World Series is a collection of races that we coordinate.”

Marino was a visionary and many like to call him the ‘Father’ of Skyrunning.

“Skyrunning differs to other sports and this is the discipline we launched in the late 1990’s. Skyrunning has always existed; all across the world it is just that it became a formalised sport. I therefore consider myself the father of Skyrunning for the aspect of race organisation because when it started 25-years ago nobody talked about this.”

Emails ping on arrival, the phone rings repeatedly and I suddenly realise that our day is going to be way too busy to continue discussing the working life of the ISF. Taking a place at my desk, I open my laptop and get on with my work in preparation for Kima. I sneak an opportunity pre lunch to stroll around the town, take in a cappuccino and photograph Biella. Lunch provides a break and in true Italian fashion, everything stops. It provides an opportunity to relax, take in a glass of wine and eat fresh and wholesome food in a meze style.

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“Marino is brilliant,” Lauri says as she pours white wine into my glass. “He took on the role of food shopping and preparation to allow me more time to work on logistics. It really is a life saver.”

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Marino is a fit man, he is lean, dark skinned from many hours outdoors and one may well think that is to be expected from someone who heads up the ISF and the sport of mountain running. It would be easy to assume that Marino spends 4 to 8-hours a day on the mountains, fulfilling his dreams and working his ISF role in and around his passion! In reality, Marino cycles or runs for 30-minutes a day. Somewhere deep inside I wonder, does he have regrets and then I find myself asking the question, “Do you regret the decisions you made all those years ago, to race direct and not race?”

“I made my choices. What can I say, for 2 to 3-years I was very disappointed with myself. I had run around Everest for example, but not to the top. Now I can’t go back. It’s a question of mountain mentality; I was born in a small valley, a small village with no sun in winter. You try to survive everyday and this forms your mentality. In my next life I hope to relax and enjoy simple pleasures.”

“But you must have dreams, aspirations. Do you have a bucket list; do you want to achieve anything else?”

“I want to go back to the mountains… it is just a dream! In 2016 I would like to go to the Everest North Face with Bruno and Kilian. I know it is impossible… but I can dream.”

It’s not often that I am stuck for words, but as I look into his eyes I feel sad. To me it seems as though Marino has given up on his personal dreams.

“Do you believe you can only live your dreams when you leave Skyrunning behind?”

“Skyrunning is our baby. But the baby has grown up. We would be lost without Skyrunning and we will be on board for as long as we can but obviously, in the near future we will hand over more duties to other people. Many of the people we work with are all very knowledgeable and passionate. That is stimulating and exciting. Skyrunning is here to stay, as we both are, have no fear!”

BIELLA gallery:

MILAN – Trofeo Kima press conference

Milan is not far away and it’s on our way to the ‘Casina’ thus making the Kima press conference logical and workable into a day of travel. We are late but Marino drives like an Italian! A clean white shirt, Armani jeans and Mr ISF looks pretty darn dapper. Lauri is dressed in black with large shades. I suddenly feel very British. Italians do ‘style’ with ease and of course, where better to look sharp than Milan. I have no choice, I am on a working trip and my wardrobe doesn’t extend to looking cool.

It’s hot in the city and the traffic irritates me after the quiet of Biella. Walking into a large office block we are escorted to the 4th floor and Kima delegates greet us. It’s all kisses and handshakes. Old friends meet new friends and the banter is relaxed.

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A large table with place names adds formality to the event. Marino takes his place and the conference begins. It’s a show for local press and global papers and all part of the valued process to promote the ISF, Skyrunning and give valued exposure to race sponsors.

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Post the conference, a meeting takes place and Kima is discussed. Great emphasis is placed on schedules in regard to the helicopter. Kima is so technical and demanding that a helicopter is the only way to transport media around the event. Bad weather; no media!

Helicopters are expensive but at Kima we often have 2-helicopters at our disposal for 8+ hours. It may well be why I enjoy the race so much. It’s an adventure. Believe me, to be afforded the opportunity to see the worlds best runners on arguably the best course is something I will never take for granted.

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“We have to do these press conferences, it’s important for all concerned but it’s a drain on our valuable time and for every hour, minute and second we are here, more and more emails and questions flood into our respective in-boxes,”Lauri says as we rush to the car for our onward journey to the Casina. “It has a knock on effect for tomorrow and the days after, what can you do?”

CASINA – Corteno Golgi 

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The ‘Casina’ is a mountain house in Corteno Golgi close to Marino’s birthplace of San Antonio. Spread over 2-floors it is almost two completely different buildings. Upstairs is all wood, a combination of rustic/ modern and a wonderfully relaxing place that has been heavily influenced by Lauri. Downstairs is the original building, un-touched for years and one that harks back to Marino’s past. The garage is a Skyrunning museum of ice axes, helmets, shoes, race bibs, clothing, videos and old slides.

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Surrounded by green fields and mountains on either side I suddenly see Marino in a new light. He his home! He points at peaks and explains his childhood; his passions and I suddenly feel very honoured and privileged.

“The African Attachment (TAA) arrive tomorrow Ian and you are going to be able to spend a couple of days in the mountains with Marino. They are filming a piece on Skyrunning and they want to take Marino back to his childhood, revisit old haunts and film Marino running in the mountains.”

I met Dean Leslie and Greg Fell from TAA at Transvulcania La Palma back in 2012 and since then we have kept in-touch and often crossed paths at races all over the world. I am excited at the guys arriving and the opportunity to work alongside them and shoot stills, a real perk of the job. Photographer, Kelvin Trautman is directing the film and although I haven’t met him before, we soon hit it off and I realise that what is in store; two awesome days in the mountains.

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The evening is amazing. The sky is adorned with clouds and as we climb with cameras, Marino runs to the instructions of Kelvin.

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Looking for ridges and technical lines, Marino embraces the challenge and is arguably having the most fun he has had in ages.

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Days don’t get much better than this… at the summit of Monte Padrio the light is incredible and as the sun disappears for the day we are rewarded with a colour palette of orange, red and gold. Marino is in silhouette on the Skyline and I realise I am in a moment, a moment that I won’t ever forget.

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Sleep is not something you need when working with the ISF. The following day starts early with a short drive and we are suddenly looking at Marino’s childhood home.

Marino's childhood home

Marino’s childhood home

Marino laughs as he recounts boyhood memories. “I used to go mushroom picking in this area.”

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Following him up the trail, Kelvin wants Marino to go back 50-years to those mischievous days as a boy. Immediately Marino finds a mushroom, he removes his Buff and ties a knot in one end to create a cloth bag. Moving left to right on the trail, the bag slowly fills with the rewards from the land.

“In the Valle Campo Vecchio I would go skinny dipping in the river.”

Marino may well have regretted this sentence as just an hour later he was running along grass banks barefoot and then submerging himself in the ice cold river water from the mountains.

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Today, Marino may well have fulfilled some of those dreams that he thought might not ever come back. It was special.

The warmth of the log burner in the Casina provided that ultimate feeling of contentment that one longs for after a day in the mountains. Marino’s body was aching, his legs heavy from the repeated running but beneath a tired façade I knew he had had a good. Red wine had been decanted to glasses and dinner was moments away.

As we relax into the evening, the Casina provided a very different ambiance to Biella. It’s more relaxed. The pressures and deadlines still exist, they have not gone away but the mountains and mountain life make us all realize why we are here. It provides perspective.

Eager to resume my questions from the previous day, I hold back. Now is not the time… it has been a great day, a great couple of days and we need to savour the moments.

“We have plans for some very exciting races at high altitude that will be very technical in future years.  2012 was an important stepping-stone. Less Cloud. More Sky was an important phase in the development of Skyrunning. One thing that was apparent is the desire from runners for technical and high altitude sport. So, here we are following our heritage for a new era.”

My concerns of talking shop are eroded away as Lauri brings our conversation to present day.

“So, am I correct in assuming that we won’t see races like Templiers or UROC in future ISF race calendars?” I ask.

“We needed to expand, to grow and introduce Skyrunning to a new audience. Templiers and UROC allowed this to a certain extent but we will go back to our roots moving forward. In America it is harder to find courses but we are working on this. UROC was a high altitude race just not technical. The Rut has shown we can find the correct style of course. We would love to do a race from Cervinia or Chamonix to the summit of Mont-Blanc but we can’t do this for everyone!”

“Do you think it is a happy coincidence that the revival of Skyrunning coincides with the rise of Kilian Jornet?”

“Absolutely, however, it is no coincidence. Bruno Brunod was Kilian’s hero. Kilian followed his dreams and the inspiration Bruno provided, Kilian is now the epitome of Skyrunning. When we first met Kilian in 2006, he impressed immediately. He was a natural Skyrunner. We all know the history; he was born in the mountains and as such he has just developed in an organic way. As I said, a natural.”

Kilian Jornet

Conversation turns to the day’s events; Lauri is eager to enquire how filming went. We laugh as Marino explains in detail his plunge in the ice-cold water of the river and how his fingers turned blue.

“Kelvin worked Marino hard today with his demands but it was great fun. This area, the mountains and the small village are all quite special. I can understand completely why Marino loves to escape here.”

Another fried mushroom is removed from the platter and added to my plate. To think, just this morning Marino was collecting these very mushrooms from his childhood haunts. He had prepared them in the traditional manner and the simple delicacy provided the perfect accompaniment to the surroundings and company.

The Casina gallery:

Filming with The African Attachment gallery:

TROFEO KIMA

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Emelie Forsberg looked into the lens of the TAA camera, smiled in a way that only Emelie can and with a nervous and infectious giggle whispered the words:

“Two years ago in my first year of racing I was fortunate to race at Trofeo Kima. I looked at this course and thought; really… you can run a race on this course?”

©iancorless.com-8663I too had found my first Kima experience equally mesmerising. My breath had been taken away by the drama and severity of the course. I had never seen anything quite like it and the impact was profound. Hopping from one section of the course to another via helicopter added some serious icing to the Kima cake.

A vertical wall of rock and suddenly a flash of red and white. Kilian appears, hand-over-hand as he descends via chains and then flies past us with a wave as though running a 5k. He looks so incredibly relaxed.

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Kasie Enman is the first lady and this provides some confusion. Emelie Forsberg had had a convincing lead; what had happened? Finally, Emelie arrives 5th lady, in tears but running like a demon. She had gone off course and lost almost an hour. Trying to claw back time she takes risks; 4th place, 3rd place and then 2nd, was it possible to take back victory?

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Unfortunately, no! Kasie Enman held on to a convincing lead and the records will show that the American was the 2014 Kima ladies champion. In the male race, Kilian Jornet had the race of his life and in doing so broke his own course record.

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Fabio Meraldi makes an appearance and like a long lost son is embraced into the arms and hearts of the Skyrunning throng:

“I remember the feeling, like a drug, feeling this moving energy… I still get goose-bumps just talking about it.”

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The party atmosphere continues and minutes after the award ceremony, clouds turn from grey to black and a warning clap of thunder alerts everyone that a change is coming. The heavens open and rain falls from the sky like a series of rods being thrown. It’s a biblical storm and we all look at each other and simultaneously shake our heads. Lauri relays our thoughts, “Wow, thank god this rain and storm did not arrive during the race.”

Another race over, another successful event but there is no rest. This evening a glass of red and a nice meal but tomorrow it’s back to the grind. Another race is only weeks away and like déjà vu the process will repeat itself.

“Lauri, and you, your dreams?”

“To expand Skyrunning and see the growth continue with the collaboration from those who love the sport as we do.”

“Will you ever be able to let go?”

“Why, why would I want to let go? This is my life: I love it. Maybe I would like less stress but I like challenges, I like work and I don’t like to be bored.”

I smile knowing full well that her words are true and that in all honesty, I already knew the answer.

“One thing is for sure, I won’t be in the Bahamas filing my nails everyday, I can guarantee that will never happen.”

 

The KIMA galleries:

******

FastandLight Salomon SRTV

Fast and Light is released on October 20th 2015 at 1600 via Salomon SRTV HERE

Credits and thanks

Quotes from Bruno Brunod, Fabio Meraldi, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet are taken from the film, FAST and LIGHT. ©TheAfricanAttachment and ©SalomonRunning.

Many thanks to Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti the ISF and Skyrunning.

Many thanks to Trofeo Kima and all the staff.

All images and content ©iancorless.com

A series of articles will be published worldwide to coincide with the release of Fast and Light and I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the editors and creatives involved in this process.

Look out for articles in: Adventure Types – Australia/ NZ, Canadian Running Magazine – Canada, Trail Chile – Chile, TRAIL Magazin – Germany, Ski Alper – Italy, Trail Run – Japan, Poland, ALERG – Romania, Running The Cape – South Africa, Outdoor Fitness Magazine – UK, Like The Wind – UK, Nature Trail – France, Spain and many more.

 

PHD Summer Lightning Review

© www.NICKMUZIK.com

Fast and Light. They are buzzwords in the world of trail, mountain and ultra running. We could argue all day about how this came about. Many would potentially give Kilian Jornet credit for the movement but I think it’s fair to say that men and women have been going light to the mountains and trails for quite some time, it’s just recently that we have all become far more aware.

Light does have its problems!

We have many documented reports, articles and stories of runners, mountaineers or alpinists being ‘caught out’ on a mountain and as a consequence in certain circles, mountain runners have gained a bad reputation.

Travelling light is all well and good providing that you are able to move fast! The two words go together; FAST and LIGHT! But what do I mean? Well quite simply, the process of going light will almost certainly mean that what you carry as a runner or alpinist will be minimal. Minimal of course is subjective and dependent on the person. For arguments sake, lets call light as follows:

  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Pack to carry water
  • Mobile phone

In essence, that is going light to the trail or mountain. Should conditions become difficult or problematic, this is where FAST comes in. You need to get out of trouble, danger or the cold fast and to safety. In many respects, this is part of the challenge. Running in the mountains is not a risk adverse sport.

Question:

What if though you could add a 1000 fill down product to your pack for a weight addition of 3oz (85g) or 6oz (180g)?

I kid you not.

UK based company PHD currently have 2 remarkable products that embrace low weight, low pack size and ultimate functionality in a limited availability range of products called Summer Lightning.

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PHDwafer-vest-28-4-15_med

A SUMMERLITE DOWN JACKET (£199 6oz) and a WAFERLITE DOWN VEST (£99 3oz) are part of the K Series range of products that offer ultimate warmth against minimal weight. Filled with 1000 fill power European goose down (responsibly sourced) the jacket has a water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric, stitch through construction and the vest has a 10x inside and out fabric that is not water-resistant and stitch through construction.

I have to say, having tested both these products I think PHD should make them available all year around. As a brand, my understanding is that they see them as a warm alternative for summer months but to be honest, they are a great addition to any kit list irrespective of the time of year. Both products would provide ideal warm layers to any multi-day adventure such as MDS. The potential to combine a warm layer and lightweight sleeping bag are endless. The apparel would also make a perfect addition (for every run) to any mountain runner’s kit list and lets face it, for fast packing they are brilliant. You see, these products are so light, so small I simply can’t think of a reason not to take them! I even have the jacket packed away in my day-to-day laptop bag or camera bag for that ‘just-in-case’ scenario.

On Test

I have had both products for 1 month and I have tested them ‘in situ’ at Richtersveld Wildrun in South Africa and at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira. Both races provided me with changeable weather and an opportunity to test each product to the full.

On first impressions it’s difficult to believe that when one looks at these items compressed in a small stuff sack that they could possibly be a down vest and a down jacket. You pick up the vest and you don’t even notice any weight. It is just 3oz. The outer Ultrashell fabric on both products is silky smooth and a pleasure to wear against the skin. I wore the vest and jacket with just a t-shirt underneath and found them both really comfortable.

They may be light but they are warm, really warm. Let’s be realistic, they are not for polar conditions. But if you need a warm layer to protect against morning or evening chill, daily colder or cooler temperatures or an additional warmth layer to be added under a Gore-Tex (or similar) or windproof jacket, they are the perfect choice.

They are arguably the lightest down products in the world? Both pack to the size of an apple!

I have to say, I was spoilt; having a vest and jacket did allow me to regulate my temperature extremely well and on one occasion I actually wore the vest under the jacket on a very cold and damp night in South Africa.

They are simple, no frills products. The vest has no pockets and just a half-zip to reduce weight. The jacket has a full-length zip, two side pockets and a short stand up collar with no hood. However, it is possible to add a hood when ordering for the additional cost of £27.

As with all PHD products, items are made to order and this does allow you to customize any apparel exactly to your needs. For example, you could have a jacket with a half-zip, no pockets and a hood! The choice is yours.

Please keep in mind that if you need or require products by a certain date, you will need to allow for manufacturing time.

On the go, I found adding or removing either the vest or the jacket easy. They pack so small that I could actually just stuff either item in the pocket on my shorts. This is important because as soon as you start to move quickly, they retain heat exceptionally well and you find that you need to remove them so that you don’t sweat. Of course, as soon as you stop, you can quickly access the vest or jacket and wear them so that you don’t get cold

I wore the jacket all day on a very wet and chilly South African day and the Ultrashell outer fabric did a great job protecting the down from wet and moisture. Admittedly, I did wear a waterproof layer over the top. But in and around base-camp I was often moving from one tent to another with no waterproof layer and the product held up well with no problems despite constant drizzle and rain. Notably, the vest and the jacket did a great job of blocking out the wind.

Summary

PHD has come up with two incredibly light and small items of apparel that are now part of my ‘essential’ kit. They are so small, light and effective that I can’t be without them. Yes, they are that good!

Do I have a negative comment?

Down does not like rain, wet or moisture and it effectively becomes useless should this happen. Ultrashell fabric does protect the insulation in the jacket but this would only protect to a certain extent. So, if you anticipate bad (wet) weather you would almost certainly need a Gore-Tex or similar 100% outer layer to maximize the 1000 down fill. To be honest though, if you were going to the mountains a waterproof outer layer should be mandatory no matter how light you are going!

On a final note, I can’t recommend these two products enough. They may not be the cheapest apparel available but what you get are two incredible products that are functional, pack small and are superlight. Did I also mention that PHD has two sleeping bags that are also part of this range: ELITE RACER DOWN BAG (8oz) and RACER DOWN SLEEPING BAG (90z) more news on those to follow.

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Specs as provided by PHD 

Summer Lite Down Jacket £199 

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  • A PHD ‘K Series’ product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s Unique 1000 fill power European Goose down
  • Water-resistant Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest-ever proofed fabric)
  • Ultralight 10X inner fabric
  • Stitch-through construction for lightness
  • Pockets: 2 zipped hand-warmer pockets

Not only is this our lightest-ever insulated jacket, it’s made in water-resistant Ultrashell fabric too.

A super-light down jacket with exceptional summer race and trekking performance.  At just 180gr it weighs less than many base layers, and it packs down tiny taking the absolute minimum space up in a summer rucksack.

The amazing Ultrashell outer fabric (our lightest water-resistant material) protects the down from damp and its 100% wind block qualities enhance the performance of the unique 1000 fill power Down insulation.

  • Ideal companion for summer nights
  • Pack without noticing the weight or bulk
  • Outer layer or mid-layer warmth
  • Warmer, lighter and a smaller pack size than a fleece jacket and 100% wind block too.

5 deg C

180g / 6oz

Add a hood £27

Three colours 

XS, S, M, L, XL

 

WAFERLITE DOWN VEST

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  • A PHD ‘K Series‘ Product: Ultimate warmth / weight performance
  • PHD’s unique 1000 fill power European Goose Down
  • Outer & Inner fabric: Ultra light 10X
  • Stitch-through construction for maximum weight saving
  • Down-filled collar to seal in the warmth

At 85g (3oz) the WaferLite vest is the lightest down vest in the world. 35% lighter than our superlight standard Wafer Vest.

The 10X fabric gives total wind block and the unique 1000 fill power down provides the highest warmth-for-weight performance possible. Packed into a tiny stuff sac, the WaferLite vest is simply breath taking for summer racers and ultra-light trekking.

The WaferLite vest will fit snugly under any of our down jackets, even the Minimus or the Yukon.

  • Ideal companion in a cool camp, bothy, or hut.
  • Pack without noticing the weight (or the bulk).
  • Midlayer to boost warmth

Add performance to your sleeping bag.

5 DEG C

85G / 3OZ

£99

 

PHD are available HERE 

SummerLite Down Jacket and WaferLite Down Vest are currently only available in May/ June.