2017 #UTMB® Ultra Trail Mont Blanc Race Preview

The 2017 UTMB is upon us and yes, it may well be the best line-up ever for this big loop of France, Italy and Switzerland which starts and finishes in the iconic mountain resort of Chamonix shadowed by the impressive and iconic Mont-Blanc.

The race for many has become the race to do and this is reflected in the growth of the main race, the UTMB and the growth of the sister events – TDS, CCC, PTL and the recent addition of OCC.

Image ©UTMB

Departing at 1800 hrs on Sep 1st, the UTMB race goes in a loop via Les Contamines, La Balme, Les Chapieux, Lac Combal, Col Checrouit, Courmayer, Refuge Bertone, Refuge Bonati, Arnouvaz, La Fouly, Champex-Lac, Plan de L’au, Trient, Vallorcine, Col Des Montets, La Flegere and finally Chamonix.

Image ©UTMB

The route is 171km in length with 10.000 mt of vertical gain and a maximum time limit of 46-hours and 30-minutes.

2300 runners will toe the line for the 2017 edition, it is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT).

LADIES

The ladies race will once again be an interesting one with the return of the 2016 champion Caroline Chaverot, 2016 2nd place, Andrea Huser, 5th placed Magdalena Boulet, 8th placed Kaori Niwa and 10th placed Sophie Grant.

However, this only provides a small glimpse of the potential top-10 for the 2017 UTMB.

Nuria Picas, Stephanie Howe (now Violett), Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaci Lickteig, Gemma Arenas are without doubt contenders for the top positions and yes, victory.

Also keep an eye on a couple of dark horses, in particular Beth Pascall from the UK.

On 2016 and 2017 performances, Caroline Chaverot is the head and shoulders favourite for 2017 victory. Her recent win at Hardrock 100 was super impressive and although 2017 started with a glitch at Transgrancanaria, Chaverot is now back in winning ways and looks set to match her incredible 2016. For me, she is the best female ultra-runner in the world at the moment.

Andrea Huser just races and races and last year came very close to Chaverot, 25:15:40 to Huser’s 25:22:56. In all honesty and no disrespect to Huser, this closeness was due to Chaverot having problems and not Huser speeding up. In reality, I think Chaverot can (and possibly will) win the UTMB with a clear 1-hour margin. Can Huser place 2nd again? Yes for sure, however, she will have her hands full.

Nuria Picas has all the potential to win the race but I am not convinced that she has 25 hours of running in her at the moment? She just placed 3rd at Tromso SkyRace which was a great training day but UTMB is going to require a completely different strength.

Magdalena Boulet is going to know what she is in for this year and therefore may well have a better race. She placed 2nd at Western States and in the following weeks and months has recovered and prepared for the big dance in France. I think we may well see her on the podium this year!

Kaci Lickteig and Stephanie Howe Violett were hot favourites for Western States and they both had tough days. Lickteig has said in advance of this year’s UTMB that she is not here to race. Howe Violett though will be here to race and for me she is a hot favourite for the podium and should all things align, she is a potential winner. She was 8th in 2015.

The UK’s Beth Pascall may well be the surprise package of the 2017 race taking the American’s by surprise and yes, even the Europeans. She is a great long distance runner and loves mountain terrain. She is also a great 24-hour runner and that is a key feature for the UTMB – running 100-miles at UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles on another course. Jasmin Paris placed 6th last-year and I think Pascall can match this and potentially go top-5.

Emilie Lecomte, Fernanda Maciel, Kaori Niwa, Aliza Lapierre, Gemma Arenas, Yulia Baykova, Sophie Grant, Amanda Basham, Amy Sproston,  and Joelle Vaught are all potential top-10 runners amongst a very competitive and stacked field.

  • CHAVEROT, Caroline
  • PICAS, Núria
  • BOULET, Magdalena
  • HUSER, Andrea
  • LICKTEIG, Kaci
  • ST LAURENT, Alissa
  • HOWE VIOLETT, Stephanie
  • ARENAS ALCAZAR, Gemma
  • MAJER, Ewa
  • EMMERSON, Kellie
  • BES GINESTA, Cristina
  • VAUGHT, Joelle
  • BASHAM, Amanda
  • LECOMTE, Emilie
  • PASCALL, Beth
  • CHOW, Pui Yan
  • MACIEL, Fernanda
  • LAPIERRE, Aliza
  • BLANCHET, Juliette
  • SPROSTON, Amy
  • NIMES PEREZ, Teresa
  • BRUINS, Robyn
  • MEHL, Lisa
  • BERRY, Tara
  • BARD, Christelle
  • BAYKOVA, Yulia
  • DIEZ FONTANET, Laia
  • VILASECA, Manuela
  • ANDREY, Sophie
  • MCRAE, Sally
  • GRANT, Sophie
  • BOS, Melanie
  • ALVES, Ester
  • NIWA, Kaori
  • EDWARDS, Meredith
  • TROUP, Anna
  • CHIALVO, Martina
  • VARGAS, Adriana
  • CAMACHO ORTEGA, Noelia Patricia
  • SANTOS SOUSA, Lucinda
  • FÖRSTER, Basilia
  • VERJEE, Sabrina

MEN

Ludovic Pommeret took victory in 2016 in 22:00:22 and was followed by Gediminas Grinius, Tim Tollefson, David Laney, Javi Dominguez, Zach Miller, Sebastien Camus, Julien Chorier, Giulio Ornati and Juan Maria Jimenez. A stout top-10 of which we see many return.

The 2016 race was interesting one that saw Miller go off at a reckless pace, blow-up, recover and somehow manage to finish 6th. We also saw how pacing and patience is a key element for a successful UTMB, completely reflected in Pommeret’s victory – he was in the lead early on, he dropped to 50th about 25% in the race and then somehow came back!

With such a stacked field one if the biggest questions will be, ‘who will make it beyond Courmayer?’ As in previous years, many hot favourites will fall by the wayside with pressure on a pace that is too fast early on.

I said in the ladies preview that running 100-miles (more actually – 172km) at the UTMB is not the same as running 100-miles say on a typical US course. I think this can be clearly explained when one looks at say Anton Krupicka. He had success and results at 100-miles that took 14-16 hours, UTMB requires a minimum 20-hour effort and in reality a 20-24 hour effort if you are going to be top-10. This makes a huge difference and therefore, I will put my neck on the line now and say that Walmsley, Miller and Canaday will struggle in the final 25% of the race.

I am jumping ahead though.

With a certain Kilian Jornet returning to the race, I do believe that everyone else is running for 2nd. This is not something that I ever like to write but with all due respect to the rest of the competition, if Kilian is on form I just don’t see anyone coming close. I will also say, that if the weather conditions are good, we will see him not only win the race but I do think we have the potential of a 19-hour finish and a new course record. Jornet is coming back to this race for one reason – the race! He wants the competition, he wants to be pushed and he wants to be the best of the best. Victory will be a priority and then a CR if that is feasible and possible.

Jornet does have three teammates toeing the line and they are a formidable quartet of Francois d’Haene, Tofol Castanyer and Miguel Heras. All four of these guys can win the race and in particular, d’Haene is an odds on favourite to push Jornet and should the Catalan falter, he will be there to take over the reigns. In terms of strategy, I see the Salomon quartet running together in the first 50% of the race behind the front but close enough to pounce should they need to. Jornet will be chatting and looking for company before he and d’Haene pull away in pursuit of the front. In the latter 20/25% of the race, Jornet will pull away, catch any front protagonists and take the win. Castanyer and Heras may well be top-10 with d’Haene 2nd. They have all the potential to go 1,2,3 as in 2014.

I make it sound easy don’t I. It’s 100-miles and therefore of course it is not! Anything can happen.

Jim Walmsley and Zach Miller are no doubt going to head up the front of the race, however, if they have learnt from previous exploits it would make sense that they reign themselves in over the first half of the race. Their fans will want them to go hard or go home, but, if either of them want to win the race, patience will be key. I see Miller having the edge over Walmsley. We all know Walmsley can run fast – really fast. He proved this recently at Speedgoat 50k but that race is 50k and not 172k! Miller has been injured and of course this may well impact on his ability to have a good race in 2017?

The strongest potential for US success will come from Tim Tollefson (3rd in 2016), David Laney (4th in 2016), Jason Schlarb, Dylan Bowman, Jeff Browning, Sage Canaday and Western States 2016 champ, Andrew Miller.

That is one serious US line-up and if Jornet wasn’t running, I would have potentially said that 2017 was the year when we could see an American win the men’s race!

Tollefson missed 2nd last year by just 4-minutes and Laney 3rd by 11-minutes.

It is worth noting though that the winning time in 2016 was almost one hour slower than in 2015 when Xavier Thevenard ran 21:09. That is significant especially with Jornet and d’Haene racing!

BUT, think back to 2014 when d’Haene won in 20:11:44, Castanyer 2nd in 20:55:42, Iker Karrera 20:55:42 and Jason Schlarb 4th in 21:39:44. The top-3 (all Salomon) went under Thevenard’s 2015 winning time – that is a wake-up call for everyone racing the 2017 edition!

Remember too that the course has changed over the last few years!

On paper, based on times, Jason Schlarb has the best potential to impact the podium and his potential may well have increased evermore with his early withdrawal from Hardrock 100 with illness. He is going to be fresh!

Tollefson, Laney are the obvious contenders for top-5, they have done it before but Browning is an incredible force over 100-miles – he is patient, loves to climb and he gets the job done. Equally, Bowman is going to be raring to go for this year. We may well see the top-10 full of US runners – it is going to be a great year for them.

Luis Alberto Hernando would have been my tip for the podium but he has decided not to race – a real shame. He would have really had am impact on the front of the race if inform.

Therefore Xavier Thevenard has to be a key favourite. He is the only person to have won UTMB, TDS, CCC and OCC – impressive! He does blow hot and cold sometimes though, particularly if the pressure is on him. If he keeps a low-profile in the build up to the 2017 race I think will see him once again have a great race.

Gediminas Grinius nails the 100-mile distance and was 5th in 2014 and 2nd last year. He will be in the mix for sure but if it is a fast year, I don’t think he has the pace for a 20-hour finish.

Didrik Hermansen does have the pace but may not have the endurance, having said that, he won Transgrancanaria and was 2nd at Western States in 2016.

Pau Capell has been so consistent and is an exciting prospect at the 2017 UTMB, he won Transgrancanaria and placed 2nd at Madeira Island Ultra Trail – both races taking 13-hours. He is going to need to race for 30% (minimum) longer in Chamonix and that will be a huge learning curve.

The UK’s Andy Symonds ran the UTMB in 2016 and detonated, he will be back this year more focused. He has the potential for a great race.

Julien Chorier recently participated in Ironman Nice with a 10-hour 22-minute finish – very solid for a tough (bike) course. It’s interesting prep for UTMB but Chorier is a class act and he has been top-10 at UTMB before. He knows how to run the race. I don’t think he has the speed now to be top-3 but he has the staying power and he can pick of places and move up the ranking in the latter stages of the race.

Javier Dominguez, Vaidas Zlabys, Sebastien Camus, Yeray Duran, Scott Hawker, Carlos Sa, Sebastien Chaigneau, Yoshikazu Hara, are all potential top-10 runners… this distance and this race is so unpredictable and it rarely goes to plan or script.

From a UK perspective, Casey Morgan, Kim Collison, Damian Hall and Danny Kendall will toe the line. Hall in particular having consistently solid races.

What are your thoughts, who are going to be the surprises?

Here is the list of elite men:

  • WALMSLEY, Jim
  • JORNET BURGADA, Kilian
  • D’HAENE, François
  • CANADAY, Sage
  • MILLER, Zach
  • THEVENARD, Xavier
  • HERAS HERNANDEZ, Miguel Angel
  • TOLLEFSON, Tim
  • CASTANYER BERNAT, Tofol
  • BOWMAN, Dylan
  • SCHLARB, Jason
  • GRINIUS, Gediminas
  • SYMONDS, Andrew
  • CAPELL, Pau
  • LANEY, David
  • HERMANSEN, Didrik
  • DOMINGUEZ LEDO, Javier
  • ZLABYS, Vaidas
  • MILLER, Andrew
  • BES, Jordi
  • GAMITO, Jordi
  • PAZOS, Diego
  • HAWKER, Scott
  • SANCHEZ SAEZ, Sebastian
  • CAMUS, Sébastien
  • ORNATI, Giulio
  • CHORIER, Julien
  • GAY, Anthony
  • GHELFI, Ryan
  • PASERO, Mikael
  • DURAN LOPEZ, Yeray
  • ANGUITA BAYO, Manuel
  • ROVERA, René
  • BROWNING, Jeff
  • HARA, Yoshikazu
  • SA, Carlos
  • FERNANDES, Luís
  • CHAIGNEAU, Sebastien
  • HAJNAL, Robert
  • SOLE DUOCASTELLA, Francesc
  • GORCZYCA, Bartosz
  • KRIZ, Zdenek
  • FISTER, Gerald
  • COUCHAUD, Sylvain
  • BERNAD BLASCO, Victor
  • AMAT ASENCIO, Daniel
  • GRASEL, Florian
  • MORGAN, Casey
  • SHERPA, Sangé
  • PFANDLBAUER, Andreas
  • JAQUA, Nate
  • COLLISON, Kim
  • YANG, Jiagen
  • RODRIGUEZ BARREIRO, Alvaro
  • HALL, Damian
  • BROGNIART, Stéphane
  • FREITAS, Francisco
  • DOBERT, Steeve
  • SANCHEZ CASALS, Carles
  • DI GIACOMO, Fabio
  • STEPHAN, Quentin
  • LARROTCHA, Juan Jose
  • DOI, Takashi
  • BACKHAUSEN, Majell
  • SCHJØLBERG, Hallvard
  • DE SALVADOR, Marco
  • VINAGRE CRUZ, Alberto
  • REYES, Gustavo
  • CHAVET, Cedric
  • NOURRY, Yann
  • DIBOUN, Yassine
  • SUGA, Satoru
  • DIOGO, Leonardo
  • PARRA HERNANDEZ, Vicente
  • PARIS, Thomas
  • MENDIZABAL, Adur
  • MALARDE, Christophe
  • VIEUX, Florian
  • DROZ, Gaël
  • OUTTERS, Benoît
  • WAGNER, Thomas
  • EVANGELISTI, Michele
  • TEJERO, Sergio Luís
  • BUFFARD, Sébastien
  • GASC, Mickael
  • VERMILYEA, Andrew
  • COUCHOUD, Fabrice
  • LAYFIELD, Dominick
  • EVARTS, Roman
  • RESTORP, Petter
  • HERRERO, Albert
  • DEPERRAZ, Stephane
  • CATALAN, Iñaki
  • SKURKA, Andrew
  • BUCKLIN, Benjamin
  • NAMKUNG, Evan
  • LEFRANC, Julien
  • VIOLETT, Zachary
  • FUCHS, Sebastian
  • LAVY, Jeremy
  • PIGOIS, Thomas
  • FARIA, Manuel
  • LUJAN MALDONADO, Agustin
  • JUNG, Frédéric
  • CUCCO, Francesco
  • KENDALL, Danny
  • IINO, Wataru
  • BESSARD, Yann
  • BERNINI, Stefano
  • VALENTINE, Rick
  • MOLIN, Ivano
  • CASANOVAS, Ramon
  • DAVID, Benjamin
  • CAUCHON, Jean-Francois
  • MATSUNAGA, Hiroaki
  • CARCANO, Gaetano
  • ESCUDERO, Israel
  • GU, Bing
  • POMMIER, Jean
  • CALMETTES, Guillaume

UTMB Information HERE

 

2017 #VK Vertical Kilometer Youth World Championships – ISF, International Skyrunning Federation

The KV Arinsal kicked of the 2017 ISF Youth Skyrunning World Championships in the Principality of Andorra following on from the success of the inaugural event held in Italy in 2016.

Sixteen countries (double the 2016 number) from four continents participated. Competing in three age group categories:

  • A (16-17 years)
  • B (18-20 years)
  • and U23 (21-23 years)

18 medals were at stake – Gold, Silver and Bronze.

The KV Arinsal is a 3.5 km long Vertical Kilometer® which started in the town of Arinsal and finished at Alt de la Capa summit, 2,570m altitude.

RESULTS

16-17 age group category A

Nicolas Molina (ESP), Arnau Cases (ESP), Diego Gomes (POR), Jana Aguilar (ESP), Erin Margill (USA), Andreu Sinfreu (AND).

18-19 year-old B category

Jan Margarit (ESP), Roberto Delorenzi (SUI), Luca Lizzoli (ITA), Giorgia Felicetti (ITA), Sora Takizawa (JPN), Irati Zubizarreta (ESP).

U23 category

Alex Oberbacher (ITA), Antonio Alcalde (ESP), Daniele Felicetti (ITA), Fatima De Diego (ESP), Claudia Sabata (ESP), Barbora Chica (CZE).

Countries competing in the 2017 Youth Skyrunning Championships are: Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA.

The Youth Skyrunning World Championships are held annually in different countries with a view to developing and promoting the sport and to highlight young skyrunners, giving them an opportunity to shine on the international stage.

With thanks to the La Massana Ministry of Tourism, Federaciò Andorrana de Muntanysme (FAM) and SkyRace® Comapedrosa organisers Ocisport.

 

SKYRACE COMAPEDROSA Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series 

Andorra will host the seventh stage of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series with the SkyRace® Comapedrosa coming just one week after the Dolomites SkyRace and VK that took place in Italy.

Arinsal, a small ski resort within Andorra will have 300+ runners toe the line to take on the challenging 21 km course that includes a brutal climb of 1000m to the summit of the iconic and beautiful Coma Pedrosa at 2942m. The climb even more difficult and spectacular due to its overall distance of just 2km – yes, it’s a 50% gradient!

The opening miles are road and ease the runners into winding forest trails all the way up to the Col de les Cases (1958M), a wooded area follows and from this point the runners will encounter a stretch of ridge. Pic de les Fonts at 2748m and the Pla de l’Estany follows.

Now the beautiful and challenging climb begins, a true vertical wall of more than 1000m of positive difference in about 2km. A VK within a race! Without a marked path, the runners follow markers to the summit of Comapedrosa at 2942m. Pure Skyrunning – Less Cloud, More Sky.

The descent is by the traditional route through the Estany Negre and Coma Pedrosa refuge, until reaching Arinsal where the race started.

2016 Youth Skyrunning World Championships, Italy. ©fabriziopoliti.it

The Skyrunning World Youth Championships will also take place on the same weekend. The first edition took place in 2016 in Italy and it was a great success. Two events, the KV Arinsal which is the classic Vertical Kilometre will take place on July 28 and the SkyRace will take place on July 30. On offer are 54 medals distributed across three age categories – 16-17yrs, 18-20yrs and 21-23yrs. Read ISF release here.

The Contenders Men

Aritz Egea is on form this year and had a great race at Comapedrosa in 2016. He has already placed 2nd at Livignio and Buff Epic and won Olympus Marathon. He is the hot favourite in Andorra.

Jan Maragrit Sole won the iconic 20th edition of the Dolomites SkyRace last weekend and I am unsure at this moment if he will race the Youth Championships or the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series? Either way he is a hot contender for victory.

Pere Aurell Bove had a great result at The Royal Gran Paradiso recently and although this event is considerably shorter and faster, he should be in the mix. He won the race in 2015.

Kiril Nikolov placed highly at Olympus Marathon and the shorter distance events suit him, he has proved this before at races like Limone.

Hassan Ait Chaou like Egea had a great race in Andorra last year and although his form doesn’t appear to be as good as 2016, you can’t rule him out!

Eugeni Gil Ocana is having a great 2017 with strong and consistent running, Comapedrosa will suit the Spanish runner. He is top-10 potential for sure and top-5 on a good day.

France’s Adrien Michaud may well stir up the front of the race but Benat Marmisolle is a likely podium contender after a strong and solid race at The Royal Gran Paradiso – the question will be if he has recovered?

Andorran brothers Oscar and Marc Casal Mir will be focused on this race and they know the course like the back of their hands.

Breaking news may well see a last-minute entry by Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi. If the Italian toes the line, I would predict a podium place and I have a feeling that victory is on the cards… De Gasperi has some great form now as we saw with his 3rd place in the Dolomites, just 45-seconds behind the winner.

It’s a stacked field and other names to watch are as follows:

Nicolas Bouvier Gaz, Brice Delsouiller, Jose Larralde, Jokin Lizeaga, Inaki Uribe-Etexbarria, Aitor Aiuria, Anartz Artola, Paul Riera, Sintu Vives, Ismail Razga, Pere Rullan, and many more runners from FEEC.

The Contenders Ladies

Laura Orgue just won the Dolomites SkyRace and is the defending champion at Comapedrosa. Orgue and Kimmel will have a real head-to-head battle for top honors.

Megan Kimmel is on fire this year and she loves the classic SkyRace distance. The 22km race will suit her down to the ground and as she has proven time and time again, she is the hot favourite victory.

Denise Dragomir had a very strong race in Livignio – she placed 2nd. She was strong on the climbs and fast on the descents which makes her a podium favourite.

Anne-Lise Rousset recently missed High Trail Vanoise through injury but if recovered with good training miles, she will be a definite contender for the podium.

Celia Chiron had a solid 2016 and it was a breakthrough year on the Skyrunning calendar. She has raced a great deal already in 2017 and I see her as a podium, top-5 for sure. *upadate: Celia will not run, confirmed 26th July. 

Hillary Gerardi has been a revelation in 2017 with a solid run in Livignio and just last weekend she placed 2nd at the Dolomites behind Laura Orgue. She is a good friend of Celia Chiron (the duo race together) so we may well see an interesting dynamic in the Comapedrosa race.

Anna Comet this year is racing shorter and faster races instead of the ultra-distance, she had a tough race in the Dolomites but it’s all learning curve – I think we will see an improved performance in Andorra.

Maria Zorroza is another contender for the top-5 and almost certainly the top-10, she will however have some strong competition from Aitziber Ibarbia and Oihana Azkorbebeita.

Laia Andreu rounds out the top-10 contenders and we can also expect Silvia Puigarnau, Paloma Lobera and Nuria Dominguez to be in the mix.

Race website HERE

2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series HERE

High Trail Vanoise 2017 Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series continued at a pace today with the High Trail Vanoise – 70km in length and 5400m of vertical gain.

Starting and concluding at the iconic ski resort of Val d’Isere, this race marks back to the early days of Skyrunning mixing fast trails, technical trails, snow, ice and altitude. The course has many key features with highlight coming at Grande Motte (3500m) and then a rollercoaster of climbs and descents that finally culminates with Aiguille Pers (2800m) before dropping down to the Col I’seran before the final push to the line.

Departing under darkness at 0400, it was very apparent that a warm and hot day lay ahead. The early hours were always chilly ones, especially as the runners climbed from the start to Grande Motte at 3500m+ in the first 17.5km. In the early stages, a small group of runners pushed the pace lead by Luis Alberto Hernando, Dimitry Mityaev and Aurelien Dunand Pallaz – the trio arrived at the summit with just 90-seconds between them. In the ladies race, Megan Kimmel arrived first and Ragna Debats followed just 4-minutes later with Mimmi Kotka another 1-minute back. It was all too close to call!

From the summit of Grande Motte, the arrival of sunlight facilitated the long fast descent past Lac de Tignes all the way to La Daille at approximately 34km. By now the runners were spread out all over the course but the front of the race saw Hernando, Dunand Pallaz and Mityaev arrive together and it stayed that way up the steep climb.  Megan Kimmel had a 2-minute slender lead over Debats who looked strong and fight for 3rd was between Kotka and the USA’s Hillary Allen.

A 4km climb to Lac Sassier was followed with a rollercoaster descent to Le Fornet at 46km, Hernando had opened up a 2-minute gap on Dunand Pallaz and Mityaev was 11-minutes back. Kimmel also opened the gap over Debats – would 7-minutes be enough?

Now the action was really unfolding and arguably, the next section of the course from Le Fornet to Aiguille Pers via Tete Cema was going to be instrumental as this section climbed for 10km with an altitude gain of 1400m +/-.

From the summit a fast descent to the iconic Col I’seran was followed by a short climb with technical sections before passing through a tunnel through the mountains which was followed by a fast drop to the line and finish in Val d’Isere.

Hernando here put the hammer down and slowly but surely stretched the elastic and took a strong victory in 8:17:05 smashing the old course record. Dunand Pallaz followed in 8:31:04 and Mityaev sealed the last podium place in 8:43:10.

Kimmel’s victory never looked in doubt in the final stages and her 9:46:05 to Debats 9:52:10 showed how close the ladies race was. The battle for 3rd was also close with Kotka and Allen both struggling with fatigue in the latter stages – Kotka held on with 10:30:21 to Allen’s 10:33:52.

Notably, the High Trail Vanoise was the Skyrunning European Championships and Luis Albert Hernad and Ragna Debats were crowned 2017 Champions.

Full results HERE

Attention now turns to Italy to the Gran Paradiso race, the first ‘extreme’ race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.

All images ©iancorless.com

 

 

High Trail Vanoise Preview – 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series arrives in Val d’Isere, France this wwekens for the High Trail Vanoise and the Face de Bellevarde VK (VK World Circuit) kicks off the action at 1600 on Friday when runners will climb this classic downhill ski route all the way to the summit.

Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi, held the record of 34:51 set on this course many years ago last year Xavier Gachet broke it! This year, Nejc Kuhar will be looking to set a new benchmark along with Marco Moletto. The young runner won’t have it all his own way though, Ferran Teixido, current leader in the SWS rankings will be looking for a strong performance and the ever-present Hannes Perkmann, William Bon Mardion and Marc Faccinhelli will push all the way to the summit.

For the ladies, Francesca Rossi ultimately may be the one to beat! Ekaterina Mityaev and Stephanie Jimenez will be putting on a hard-fought battle along with Corinne Favre and Jennifer Fiechter, but can they beat Laura Orgue’s time of 40:52?

High Trail Vanoise is the main event of the weekend – Ice, snow, glaciers, high altitude, the High Trail Vanoise course has it all. Crossing the iconic Col D’Iseran at 2764m is merely just a taster, at 67km in length, runners will climb and descend many 1000’s of meters with a total vertical gain of 5400m – the high point of the course is the impressive Grande Motte at 3653m.

Luis Alberto Hernando heads up the men’s field, he recently became IAU World Trail Running champion for a 2nd year in a row – Luis has excelled in Val d’Isere in recent years and he is without doubt the one to beat!

Nicolas Martin won the race last-year and apparently, HTV is a priority race for 2017. It’s going to be interesting to see Luis and Nicolas go head-to-head, a little like a few years ago when Francois d’Haene and Luis raced each other – that day Francois won.

Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz recently lead the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira but was pipped to the line by Skyrunner Extreme Champion Jon Albon, we can expect Aurelien to figure at the front of the race along with 3rd place at USM, Dmitry Mityaev who is having a strong year in the world series, he also knows HTV well having podium last year.

Remigio Huaman, Andre Jonsson, Daniel Garcia Gomez, Jan Bartas, Nuno Silva and Scott Hawker head up the competition for the front of the race but it’s a stacked field and we can’t rule any of the runners below making an impression on what is a very tough race – patience pays dividends!

Xavier Teixido, Alexey Kurochkin, Artem Rostovstev, Clement Ripoll, Marc Puig, Francesc Sole Duocastella, Lars Olaf Haaheim and Nicola Alfieri.

Megan Kimmel fresh from victory in Chamonix will be looking to for maximum points in France, her form is great now, she recently beat Transvulcania champion Ida Nilsson by over 10-minutes! Local French lady Anne-Lise Rousset may well have other thoughts though, she won the race last year with a dominant performance and she knows this course well – it will be a tough race! Travelling from the USA, Kristina Pattison will be looking to repeat her performance from last year and hopefully better it.

Ekaterina Mityaeva is moving un from the ‘classic’ distance in 2017 and has already showed some great results, particularly at USM recently. HTV will be a tough challenge but the podium is there for the taking. Nuria Dominguez, Manikala Rai, Eva Maria Moreda and Ildiko Wermescher are all names to watch.

But the greatest threat for the podium will come from Ragna Debats who recently won with a new CR in Greece, Francesca Canepa who took victory at the tough Scenic 113k, the USA’s Hillary Allen who won USM and Gemma Arenas who was the world series champion in 2016 – it’s going to be quite a battle!

Kaci Lickteig – Dreams Do Come True on IRUN4ULTRA

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

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

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

Read the full article on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

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UTMB 2017 Draw and Elite Names

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The results for the 2017 UTMB were announced on January 12th 2017 at 10.00 (Paris time) and what a draw! The list of persons registered and runners files can be viewed at http://www.ultratrailmb.com, all those entered will be confirmed by email.

Those runners lucky in the draw then have a period of 14 days, January 12th to 25th 2017, to definitively finalise their registration by paying, by credit-card, the balance of the registration price and sending in all the required supporting documents.

It’s a big day for many, dreams are made and broken with the opening of an email.

From a global perspective, a look at the elite start list provides an opportunity to whet ones appetite and imagine the race that will unfold for the UTMB and the races that also that happen in and around the main event, the CCC, TDS and OCC.

In 2016, many considered that the line up in the UTMB was the best ever, well, 2017 may have topped it?

The Top Men for 2017

  • Francois D’haene – Two time UTMB winner and countless other 100 victories.
  • Gediminas Grinius – 2nd at UTMB in 2016.
  • Julien Chorier – 8th at UTMB in 2016 but super solid at the distance.
  • Miguel Heras – Looking for 2013 form when he placed 2nd.
  • Luis Alberto Hernando – Hw wants this! 2nd in 2015.
  • Xavier Thevenard – Champ in 2013 and 2015 the winner of ‘all’ UTMB races – CCC, TDS and OCC.
  • Tofol Castanyer – 2nd in 2014.
  • Pau Capell –  TDS winner stepping up to the big dance.
  • Yeray Duran – Stepping up but 2nd at TDS in 2016.
  • Diego Pazoz – Mont-Blanc 80km winner – an intersting prospect!
  • Andy Symonds – Tried in 2016 but pulled out, he has a big race in him.
  • Carlos Sa – 8th in 2014 and an ever-present.
  • Kim Collison – Arguably the UK’s best hope for a top result.
  • Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB in 2015.
  • Didrik Hermansen – 2nd at Western States in 2016 and winner at Transgrancanaria

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Tim Tollefson – 3rd at UTMB last  year
  • Andrew Miller – Western States winner 2016
  • Sage Canaday – Unfinished business at UTMB
  • Jeff Browning – 2016 double with 3rd and 4th at Western States and Hardrock
  • Dylan Bowman – 4th at Lake Sonoma in 2016
  • David Laney – Placed 3rd and 4th at UTMB
  • Jim Walmsley – Unstoppable in 2016, UTMB is going to be a seriously exciting outing for him and us!

But it doesn’t stop there, there other names to consider, the list goes on!

The Top Women for 2017

  • Caroline Chaverot – Defending champ and un-stoppable in 2016.
  • Nuria Picas – 2nd twice, she wants the top slot.
  • Andrea Huser – Relentless, races week-in and week-out, 2nd in 2016.
  • Emelie Lecomte – Tor des Geants champ.
  • Beth Pascall – Lakeland 100 winner and course record could excel on this big loop.
  • Sophie Grant – Has had two top UTMB placings.
  • Gemma Arenas – Excelled in the Skyrunning ranks in 2016, Ultra SWS champ.
  • Juliette Blanchet – 4th last year.

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Kaci Lickteig – Western States champ, Bear 100 champ and ultra-runner of the year – exciting!
  • Magdalena Boulet – 5th at UTMB last year.
  • Stephanie Howe – Western States 2014 champ who looks to be back after 2016 full of injury. Previously 8th at UTMB.
  • Sally McRae – 11th at the 2016 Western States.
  • Meredith Edwards – 2nd at TDS.
  • Aliza Lapierre – Solid performer recently raced MDS in 2015 4th at Western States.

Ones to watch:

Kaori Niwa, Christina Bes, Laia Diez, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St Laurent and many more…

CCC and TDS has always felt like a side show to the UTMB but Zach Miller in many ways changed all that with a show boat victory and we are now seeing the CCC as real stepping stone to UTMB with a highly competitive field.

Notably for 2016, Megan Kimmel, Hilary Allen, Nathalie Mauclair, Maite Maiora and Anna Comet amongst others will go head-to-head in the ladies’ race.

For the men, the prospect of what Hayden Hawks is exciting, especially when one considers Tom Owens and Ryan Sandes will toe the line. Add to the mix Erik Clavery, Ludovic Pommeret, Jorge Maravilla, Ben Duffus, Michael Borst, Marcin Swierc and Aurelien Collet and you have a very exciting race.

TDS will see Rory Bosio head up a quality ladies’ field that includes Lucy Bartholomew and, Dong Li and Lizzie Wraith. For the men, Paul Giblin and Michel Lanne are followed by Samir Tamang, Arnaud Lejeune and many more.

The 2017 UTMB week of races, look set to be a very exciting prospect.

Now, get training!

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

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

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

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

Zach: How is La Palma?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[laughter]

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

[laughter]

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

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

Zach: Yes, it is.

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

Zach: Yes, that one’s a tough one!

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

Zach: Yes, I’ve done it once.

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

Zach: Okay.

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

Zach: Yes.

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

Zach: Yes.

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

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

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

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

[laughter]

Ian: No, that’s true [laughs].

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

Ian: Yes.

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

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

Zach: [laughs].

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

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

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

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: …people will be disappointed.

Ian: [laughs]

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

Ian: [laughs]

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

Ian: Aaargh, okay.

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

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

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

Ian: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian: That was a good guess, yes?

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

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

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

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

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

Zach: For sure I’ve seen that.

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

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

Ian: It was, wasn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zach: Yes, exactly.

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

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

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

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

Ian: No, they didn’t catch you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian: Yes.

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

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

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

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

[laughter]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian: [laughs]

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

[laughter]

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

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

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

Ian: Okay.

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

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

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

Ian: Yes.

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

Ian: All right.

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

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

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

Ian: [laughs]

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

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: I got in!

Ian: [laughs]

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

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

Zach: [laughs]

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

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

Ian: Yes [laughs].

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

Ian: It would be more than exciting Zach!

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

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

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

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All images ©zachmiller

TROFEO KIMA 2016 Race Summary and Images – Skyrunner® Extreme Series

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You cannot look at Trofeo Kima with the eyes of a pure runner; It’s beyond running! For over twenty years, ‘Kima’ as it is affectionately known, has blown the minds and the legs of all those lucky enough to toe the line.

The race is arguably the pinnacle of the Skyrunning calendar and as such it has gained a reputation as one of the most demanding and challenging races in the world. At 52km in length the distance is not intimidating, however, 8,400m of ascent and descent put the race in perspective.

Passing over seven passes of the Sentiero Roma, a well-known GR route, the race in its current form is the brainchild of the International Skyrunning Federation president, Marino Giacometti. So tough is Kima that it has a capped field of just 250 participants and the race is held every other year to add to its allure.  This is a race that one aspires too; you need to earn a place on the entry line. The challenge comes no greater. This is confirmed in the words of the previous course record holder, Kilian Jornet:

‘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 52-km. Kima is not athletics, it is mountaineering; pure Skyrunning!’

Kima takes place on mountain paths that are unmarked. Simple flickers of colour show the way through rock, granite, snow and ice. Sections of the course are so severe that fixed ropes and chains provide the only secure way to traverse vertical walls of rock or exposed ledges. Needless to say, a head for heights, an ability to look after oneself and excellent fitness make each runner’s journey on the Sentiero Roma one that they will never forget. Scaling incredible terrain on foot and at times by hand, participants will reach a high point of 2,950m at Cameraccio Pass. It is the challenging terrain that truly sets the race apart, as Giacometti describes: ‘Kima crosses the group of technical mountains in the area and passes through all of the seven refuges situated on the route. It’s a very technical race and ultimately it has become a beacon of Skyrunning’

‘Kima’ was the nickname of Pierangelo Marchetti, who with friends founded the first helicopter equipe in Italy. The mountains were Perangelo’s life; he loved them and he embraced them. Unfortunately, on July 8th 1994, while attending a rescue mission via helicopter, Pierangelo’s life was taken. Trofeo Kima was created in his memory to ensure his love and dreams of the mountains would live on.

During the 20-year history, Kima has seen the best in the world perform over this challenging course. Now part of the Skyrunner® Extreme Series, Kima is one of three ‘extreme’ races that provides points for an overall Sky Extreme Series title where two out of three races must be completed. The first race in the series was Tromso SkyRace, the second Trofeo Kima and the third being the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in Scotland.

For many, this iconic Skyrunning and mountain running race is still unknown. It’s like a precious jewel, hidden away for fear of someone stealing it. With each edition, one link in the securing chain is removed and the extreme beauty of Kima is being revealed to an audience of adrenaline junkies. Kima is not for everyone, but if you have the experience and the courage, the Sentiero Roma rewards each who ventures on to its tough and technical terrain.

This year, Tom Owens was riding high after a string of successful results and many had tipped him as the pre-race favourite. However, a day of intense heat and clear skies most definitely played with the rule book throwing several curve balls.

In the ladies’ race, the 2016 Kima will no doubt be remembered as the return to top level racing for Emelie Forsberg. Recent surgery on her knee after an ‘acl’ injury had deprived Emelie (and us) of her presence in a race. A couple of forays into shorter races had tested her fitness and recovery but could Emelie stand 7+ hours on ‘this’ course.

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Early action came from Alexis Sevennec and Leo Viret who dictated the pace up the very long first climb pursued by Marco De Gasperi and Nepalese runner, Bhim Gurung.

©iancorless.com_TrofeoKima2016-0996Constantly fighting the terrain and each other, Sevennec and Viret lead the race for much of the way with Gurung moving up into 3rd place after Qualido. In the latter stages of the race though, De Gasperi made a move as Sevennec and Viret faded. Gurung joined the Italian Skyrunning legend and in the closing stages the two dueled to the line… in the closing stages it was Gurung who made the break crossing the line to a stunning victory and new course record time of 6:10:44. De Gasperi crossed the line also under the old course record of Kilian Jornet a spent force. He dropped to the ground exhausted from the effort and heat. Vireo closed 3rd and Sevennec smiled his way across the line in 4th. Tom Owens finished 5th after a tough and hard day in the office – his first at Tromso and 5th here still securing his place at the top of the Sky Extreme Series.

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The ladies race was all about come back girl Emelie Forsberg and she didn’t disappoint. Leading the race from beginning to end, Emelie smiled her way to the line, pretty in pink! Yes, this was one of those great comebacks that even Emelie questioned, “I planned to take it easy early on and not push too hard. My operation removed some of my hamstring and this has made my leg weaker so I need to be careful. But everything felt good today and I am so happy, this was not about winning a race, although that is great! It was about coming back with no problems and feeling good.”

©iancorless.com_TrofeoKima2016-2490Emelie finished in 7:49:06 outside Nuria Picas’s course record time of 7:36:21. Ruth Croft from New Zealand pursued Emelie all day and had a great run often hovering around 10-minutes behind.

©iancorless.com_TrofeoKima2016-2542At the line the gap was 17+ minutes and Ruth confirmed that her skills on such technical terrain are not good enough in comparison to Emelie. Kima legend and previous winner of the race, Emanuela Brizio upheld her incredible history with this race crossing the line in 3rd, 8:21:42.

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Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

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Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc UTMB® 2016 Preview

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

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

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

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

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

MEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LADIES

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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