Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 Review #Peak20

Packs for a multi-day race or a running multi-day adventure were once the domain of Raidlight. Of course, other brands ventured into the arena but it was only really the arrival of WAA that made everyone start to stop, look and see what else existed.

Packs are personal.

I think a pack becomes even more personal when one requires something to be comfortable for multiple days and also when carrying 6.5kg or more.

Salomon have now extended their ‘vest design’ to the S-LAB PEAK 20 and in doing so, they will turn the head of many a runner and make them question, is this THE pack for them for their next multi-day adventure or race.

Shape, gender, size, height and so many other variables dictate if a pack is comfortable or not and this depends on you, so, when looking at this pack I try to be impartial and when possible I always try to cross reference with a female perspective. The plus of this pack is it comes in S, M, L and XL so no compromising to be made. I am 38/40 chest and I have a medium which fits perfect.

If you are heading to the mountain for an overnight adventure, I am pretty sure the Peak 20 will work for you. However, would the pack work for a race like Marathon des Sables, Grand to Grand, Everest Trail Race or one of the 4 Desert races when one is completely self-sufficient for multiple days?

Let’s look at the packs highlights:

  • 1 main compartment with a full length zip (double slider) that open up allowing easy access and organisation of what is inside.
  • Fabrics that wick and are quick drying.
  • Three sizes – S, M and L.
  • Soft trims so no chafing.
  • Sensifit is a Salomon buzz word that ultimately means it should be the Rolls Royce of bags when coming to fit and comfort.
  • Front hydration pockets x2 (designed for 500ml soft flasks).
  • Adjustable front straps for customized fit.
  • Zipper pockets – It has 2 large pockets on the front, 2 expandable pockets on the shoulder straps and 2 top zipped mesh pockets.
  • Will take a bladder.
  • Ability to carry poles or ice axes.
  • Lightweight at 484g +/-.

THE PACK

This pack will work for an overnight adventure, mountain marathon race or an adventure when an excessive mandatory kit will be required. But, the big question for many will be, can this pack work for a 6-day self-sufficient race?

In a word – Yes!

Simple reasons why:

  • Yes, it can hold 2 x 750ml of liquid at the front
  • Yes, it has 4 pockets on the front that will allow immediate access to anything you will need whilst running a stage.
  • Yes, it can hold another liter to 1.5 liters on the rear in two external pockets.
  • Yes, it can hold everything you need for 6-days self-sufficiency.

OVERVIEW

The pack has a 20L capacity (typical for Marathon des Sables and comparable with the competition from Ultimate Direction, WAA, Raidlight, OMM and others) and has one large external zip on the rear that works two ways so that you can zip down or zip up depending on preference. Once open, it’s possible to access the pack easily and arrange contents. Internally there is a small mesh panel so that you divide the large compartment in two – a good thing for maybe an overnight jaunt but not required for a multi-day adventure.

It’s light, very light! It has a vest style that echoes and follows on from the designs from Salomon’s other models.

The front of the pack has two stretch pockets for soft-flasks or bottles. On top of these pockets sitting a little lower are two large pockets with zips that hold a surprising amount. On top of the shoulder straps are two stretch zip pockets that provide additional storage.

On the sides of the vest are adjustable cords that pull the pack closer to the body or allow the pack to be looser.

On the top of the rear of the pack above the zip, is a central cord pull. Pull this and the yellow cord that wraps around the pack pulls tighter and compresses the contents. Great when the pack is full to make everything tight and secure but especially useful as the days pass when racing and the pack contents become less.

IN DETAIL

The pack tapers and as you can see from this side-view is narrow at the bottom and then opens up wider as one gets closer to the top. On both sides is an open topped stretch pocket that will take a bottle or other items.

The pack has thin blue padding that does not sit inside the pack but on the outside and underneath the mesh back. The is ingenious as it has been designed so that it can be removed.

It is held in place by small metal buckles that attach to web loops. I removed the padding and used my sleeping mat inside the pack as my padding. Ingenious – not only do you save weight but your mat doubles up as protection when running and sleeping.


The two-way external zip is great to allow access to upper items or lower items in the pack without having to un-zip the whole pack. Importantly, when un-zipped it’s easy to access the inside and arrange items. An internal mesh panel can be used to split the pack into two halves. For some this may be useful but if like me you use the sleeping mat inside, you can only have one large compartment. It’s a great space and like any pack, you will want to play around with how you pack your contents to find the correct balance. As a tip I recommend you leave your sleeping bag out when packing. Put all the contents in and then add the sleeping bag filing in all the empty spaces – you will be amazed how a lightweight down bag will compress.

The external cord the wraps around the pack is designed to be pulled tight and compress the contents. This is adjusted on the rear of the pack just above the zip.

Simply hold the buckle and pull the cord. The cords pulls tight and compresses to make the pack smaller and tight – perfect! You can make this even tighter by pulling the cords on the side and then taking up the the slack by the top adjustment. This on days 3, 4, and 5 will be just incredible at making the pack smaller and smaller as contents are used up.
On the shoulder straps, the yellow cord is also present under the two shoulder zip pockets. Pull the cord here and take up the slack and you pull the top of the pack closer to your back.

 On the sides of the pack between the bottom rear and the front lower pockets there is a yellow cord on each side – again this allows you to pull the bottom of the pack as close to your back as you require.

In a nutshell, this level of adjustment is just perfect and is the best of all packs I have tried.

 The front of the pack is classic Salomon vest design but with some differences. Fitting to the torso comes via 3 straps. Two go right to left and one goes left to right. These attach via a black plastic hooks to a yellow cord.

They can be moved up or down and they can also be made tighter or looser. In particular, this will be useful for lady runners who need to adjust the pack to fit around their chest. It’s a method that works and the on-the-go adjustment is welcome.

There are two stretch pockets that are designed for soft-flasks. This for me caused concern as I was under the impression that they would only hold 500ml. Not so! These pockets will take the Hydrapak SF750 soft-flasks and you can drink from these without the need to remove them.

Prefer straws? The Hydrapak 600ml bottles with straws will fit.

Prefer hard bottles? This is where I needed to think outside the box… OMM make very slim 500ml bottles and they fit like a glove.

Have no fears, you can carry enough water up at the front. Also, lets not forget the two external pockets. In my tests, I had 2x 500ml OMM flasks on the rear too. So, at a minimum you could carry 1litre or 2litres with 2 bottles on the rear. At a max you could carry 3litres with 1.5 up front and 1.5 at the rear.

UPDATE on the bottle situation. I finally obtained 2x 750ml Raidlight bottles with straws and they fit like a glove to the front pockets!


The two pockets that sit below the bottles are a real welcome addition. They are easy to get at. They have great capacity, trust me, you need no more additional space up front, especially when one considers the two additional sip pockets on the shoulder straps. These pockets are less spacious but they will take a phone, snacks or other essentials.

 

There is an attachment system for poles that comes over the right shoulder. I personally though would probably attach to bungee cords to the front of the pack so that I can place the poles across my chest when not in use.

Fit is sweet and with all the adjusters you can really get this pack close to your torso. It fits like a piece of clothing and there are no rough edges – all the seams are soft. Salomon actually say that the pack may be worn against the skin and it will feel like apparel.

At 484g it’s light.

INITIAL SUMMARY

This pack is still under test and things such as longevity, strength, weaknesses, durability and so on have not been tested as it’s too early to say.

However, what I can say is that this is the best pack I have tested for running when the contents are heavy and I require 20L capacity.

I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Direction Fastpack as I loved its simplicity and no nonsense approach to the task of carrying many items and weight. The Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 has now become my new favourite.

It’s not without flaws – what pack is? The yellow cord compression works like a dream but it can be a little tricky to set up – it’s a small price to pay though.

The front bottle pockets almost certainly require soft-flask use or using the OMM 500ml bottles. I personally would always caution against soft-flasks for a multi-day, if they puncture, you are screwed. However, the Hydrapak soft-flasks are more durable than much of the competition and they have never let me down. The 600 or 750 versions work with the vest – perfect.

We will follow up with some action shots of the pack and an overall summary from a male and female perspective in the coming weeks, for now, this pack gets an ‘A’ for awesome.

Photo below is copyright Ricky Gates – he’s currently using a prototype Peak 20 with front pack. Interesting!

You can read Ricky’s specs and the contents of the pack on his Facebook page #transamerica 

In use at Everest Trail Race, November 2016

Some comments:

Paul Wilson Used one on the spine race. It was ace. Did most of my training with an ultimate direction fast pack then seen got the Salomon pack. Which proved to be far better.

Jana Studzinska Tested on fully self supported solo running trip across Serra de Tramuntana. Can’t recommend more.

Sito Castello perfecta para la Everest Trail Race.

Robert Kampczyk Cool bag. Like it because my complete Photo Equipment can insert.

What Salomon say:

Ideal for alpine running, superlight mountaineering or fast hiking, the streamlined S-LAB Peak 20 set uses our trail running knowledge to move fast in the mountain, with stretch fit and complete stability. With convenient access to the 20L compartment, both the pack and the load are easily compressed for maximum stability under partial load. It includes front storage solutions for two 500ml soft flasks and essentials and possibility to carry poles, ice axes…

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable fit
  • Breathability

FEATURES:
Back systems
MotionFit Trail
Sensifit (pack)

Load Management
Soft Twin Link
Compression quick lace
Top and bottom sensi load lifter

Pockets & compartments
2 front soft hydration elastic pockets
2 front zipped large pockets
2 shoulder expandable pockets
2 top zipped mesh pocket

Carrying system
4D Pole holder

Opening & closure
Wide front opening with double sliders

Miscellaneous
Soft trims
Apparel sizing
Patent pending

Fabrics
PVC free
Elastic Power mesh
Fast wicking fabrics
70D Nylon Double Ripstop, Waterproof 500mm
70D Nylon Triple Ripstop – Silicone coating, Waterproof 500mm
Elastic Jersey

Pack weight (lb oz) : 17.073
Pack weight (g) : 484
Pack volume (l) : 20
Pack volume (ci) : 1220

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!

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

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A new year and new products! Nothing is more eagerly awaited than a new offering from Salomon and today I take a look at two new race vests from the French brand, the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

Race vests have become the norm in racing now and it’s east to see why. When the product works (and some don’t) they fit like a piece of clothing, they don’t move, they cause no chaffing and they provide easy and immediate access to everything you need while still pushing the pace. I honestly don’t know who first came up with the ‘vest’ concept, what I do know is I always remember Kilian Jornet finishing and winning UTMB and holding his vest above his head!

Salomon vests and the S-LAB ADV SKIN HYDRO 12 SET can be seen in long distance races all over the world. Tweaked from one model to the next and the current incarnation has moved away from using a bladder to front mounted soft flasks. With a huge capacity, it’s often considered as one of the most ideal packs to hold all mandatory kit for a long distance race. The pack is lighter and utilises all the key features that one needs including that snug form fitting hold on the body. However, 12L capacity is not needed for shorter and faster races.

Enter the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

It’s unusual in a review that I would review two packs at once, however, these two packs are so similar that a separate review is not necessary. So, I am reviewing the SENSE ULTRA SET and I will note comments and changes as appropriate for the SENSE SET.

So what is the difference? Simple: weight and capacity. The SENSE ULTRA SET has a 3L capacity and weighs a  110g. The SENSE SET has a capacity of 1L and weighs 90g. I am pleased to say that my two test packs are different colours, the 3L is black and the 1L is red. That’s going to make things easier.

©iancorless.com_Salomon-7741©iancorless.com_Salomon-7796

 

Both packs are identical at the front and differ at the back. This is where capacity is removed or added, so, let’s look at the front first.

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This is a really sweet pack! The layout is great, comfort is awesome and the capacity is ideal for any run when mandatory kit is minimal.

Key features:

Two 500ml soft flasks in two stretch pockets.

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Two dump pockets (open ended but elasticated at the top) at the bottom of the soft flasks

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Two zipper pockets (on each side) with large capacity made from a stretch fabric.

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Open ended stretch pocket on the left shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Zipper pocket on the right shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Adjustable fitting system (left to right) with three upper and lower settings.

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Whistle.

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In Use

I have the M/L fit and it’s quite simply the most comfortable pack I have ever worn. The pack hugs the body, it does not rub and importantly under the armpits and around the neck area the cut is wide to avoid any nasty rubbing.

The soft flasks sit on the chest and do not bounce. You can drink from the bottles without removing them when required, however, I haven’t been able to do that running. I need to stop, lean over, bite the bottle, take a drink and then push on…  Soft flasks and tight fitting stretch pockets make for a tricky combination. The soft flasks and the way they fit on the body are perfect, but trying to add a full bottle back to the pocket can be tricky. With practice it does get easier and a tip is to blow back into the bottle once you have taken a drink. This inflates the bottle and makes it more rigid. I personally have always preferred bottles over bladders and soft flasks and Salomon’s positioning make this combination the best I have tested.

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The upper zipper pocket will fit a phone or a gps device. I personally use and old style waterproof phone when racing and that fits perfectly. However, on training runs I have taken an iPhone 5 in a waterproof casing. So, capacity is ideal. The pocket is tight and stretchy and therefore whatever you put in is held tight with no bounce, another plus!

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On the opposite side the open ended stretch pocket is also large enough to hold a phone but is ideally suited for maybe food items or a music player.

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The two open ended dump pockets on either side of the pack below the bottles are large enough to hold multiple gels and bars and/ or items such as gloves, hat, buff or anything similar. To give you an idea of capacity, I could fit a beanie and gloves in one side and four/ five gels or bars on the other side. Ultimately it means you have plenty of room for energy when racing. Access is dead easy. Just put your hand in and pull the items out.

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The two zipper pockets are the secret weapon on both packs. I am amazed at how spacious these pockets are. Depending on the race you are doing and also dependant on your own personal preferences; the zipper pockets will actually hold a taped seam waterproof jacket in one side and taped seam waterproof trousers in the other side!

©iancorless.com_Salomon-7832 ©iancorless.com_Salomon-7836

 

Salomon provided me the  S-LAB HYBRID JACKET and S-LAB HYBRID PANTS (both medium) to test (review to follow later) and these items folded up and fitted in both packs perfectly.

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Considering the SENSE SET pack is only 1L capacity, this is remarkable. Lets just look at the facts, you can fit in:

  • Jacket
  • Trousers
  • Phone
  • 1L of fluid
  • 4-10 bars or gels
  • Hat and gloves
  • and then other extras such as Mp3, space blanket or other small items.

The SENSE ULTRA SET adds extra capacity at the rear in the form of two pockets. The SENSE SET is just a highly breathable and lightweight pack with no extras.

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A ‘kangaroo pocket’ on the on the lower third of the rear of the pack provides an easy access open ended pocket that can be added to or taken from whilst moving. The pocket is quite small and would take a windproof jacket or food items.

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The mesh back panel is actually two layers and makes an open ended deep pocket that can actually be accessed without removing the pack. It’s surprisingly roomy and should you decide not to add a jacket and trousers to the zipper pockets, this pocket can hold both items. Yes, it’s that roomy!

When running, it was easy to reach over, place my hand in the pocket and pull out my jacket. Of course, it was easier to do this if I stopped BUT this vest is very much designed about moving fast and light. It’s a performance product and as such, should you have the need to be quick… this product will allow you that comfort!

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I have reviewed many products and last year I reviewed the stripped down inov-8 race vest (review here). This for me was a great product. I loved the feel of it, I loved the capacity and I loved its usability when running. For me though, Salomon have upped the game with the SENSE ULTRA SET and the SENSE SET and produced two sublime products that are a joy to wear and use.

Considering the minimal differences between the two vests, I would almost certainly recommend that the SENSE ULTRA SET is the ideal purchase. From Salomon’s perspective, it almost feels an indulgence to have a 1L and 3L version. The added cost and added capacity of the 3L makes far more long term sense for me and lets face it, if you are running really long races, you will probably have the 12L product (or similar) anyway.

On a final note, I am seriously impressed with the capacity of both packs. The SENSE SET at 1L holds a ridiculous amount of kit for something so minimal that I question if 1L capacity is correct? The SENSE ULTRA SET wouldn’t hold all the required items for a race like UTMB but it wouldn’t come far off if you were keeping items to a minimum. That said, the SENSE ULTRA SET makes a perfect and ideal pack for racing any distance (even 100-miles) when all you need is some liquid, food, jacket, trousers, hat, gloves, space blanket, phone and a few other small items. It’s arguably the perfect pack!

Pros:

  1. Soft flasks are a dream
  2. Capacity on the front of both packs is incredible
  3. Zipper pocket is great for valuable items
  4. Open ended dump pockets great for items that you need all the time – food, hat, gloves and so on.
  5. Zipper pockets have amazing capacity
  6. You could wear the products against your skin
  7. On the SENSE ULTRA SET the rear capacity is superb and a real eye opener
  8. Weight is amazing
  9. Price is good £100 for SENSE ULTRA SET and £85 for SENSE SET

Cons:

  1. Soft flasks can be tricky to get back in the open ended pockets
  2. I am not sure how the pack would fit for lady users. The bottles would potentially sit in just the wrong place?
  3. The ‘kangaroo’ pocket on the SENSE ULTRA SET is small
  4. These are lightweight products and durability ‘may’ be an issue?

Conclusion:

I love these two packs. They actually make wearing a pack a pleasure rather than a chore and that is a real bonus. Capacity is quite mind blowing in both products and the SENSE ULTRA SET makes the most logical purchase choice as it provides more usage options. I actually found it difficult to come up with ‘cons’ for these packs they are that good!

Check out Salomon HERE

 

Salomon LogoSALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET

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Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set weighs in at 110g and is designed to carry the bare essentials in absolute comfort with a 3L capacity.

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • Back compartment
  • Kangaroo pocket
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

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Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Set weighs in at under 100g and is designed to carry 1L of the absolute bare essentials.

 

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

Diagonale Des Fous 2013 (Raid de le Reunion) Race Preview

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La Diagonale Des Fous 2013 – 164km – 9900m D+

21st edition of the Diagonale des Fous – 17th to 20th of October 2013 –

Start at 11pm from St Pierre (Ravine Blanche)

The Diagonale Des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) literally translated, as the Diagonal of Fools is renowned as one of the toughest 100-mile challenges available on the racing calendar. It’s a leg busting 164-km’s with 9900m of positive incline. To put this in context, it took Kilian Jornet 26 hours and 33 minutes to complete the course in 2012. Emilie Lecomte, the long distance specialist, won the ladies race in 33 hours 03 minutes and in doing so placed tenth overall. Starting at 2300 hours on Thursday October 17th, the challenge is not only the terrain and the distance but also battling through several nights without sleep.

It’s a tough race!

Kilian Jornet describes it as a crazy, crazy place! He said very few places have fans that are as crazy and as passionate about running as those on Reunion Island. So passionate are the fans that Kilian actually had a bodyguard for the 2012 edition, just so that he could eventually get away from the adoring fans.

Located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, La Reunion (previously called Ile Bourbon) has a population of just under 1 million. Reunion is French and is one of the twenty-seven regions of France. This is reflected in the statistics of those who enter the race. For example, the 2013 edition has 2168 registered runners, 1230 come from the island itself, 775 from France and the remainder from nations all over the world. To put this in perspective, Switzerland have the next highest participation rate with just 24 runners and the UK has no participants at all. To say that this is an iconic French race would be an underestimation.

The Island is 39 miles long and 28 miles wide and covers 970 square miles. In size, it is very similar to Hawaii.

The Piton de la Fournaise on the east of the island rises more than 2631m and is an active volcano. It last erupted in 2010. The Piton des Neiges is the highest point on the island at 3070m however this volcano is no longer active. Reunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter.

The climate in Reunion is tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation. The weather is cool and dry from May to November, and hot and rainy from November to April. Precipitation levels vary greatly within the island, with the east being much wetter than the west. There is more than 6m of rain a year on some parts of the east and less than 1m a year on the west coast. (Info from Wikipedia)

Male Contenders

©copyright .iancorless.com._1140768 Kilian Jornet, winner of 2012 edition in a time of 26:33 returns after a hectic and busy season. He has raced and won at all distances from VK to 100-km and in addition he has achieved great success and results with his Summits of my Life project. Reunion will be his first and only 100-mile race of the year, however, this comes on the back of an extremely busy 3 weeks of racing; 100-km at UROC, VK in Limone and then the SKY race in Limone, the latter two events just a few days ago. Kilian has incredible powers of recovery and no doubt is the out and out favourite for the 2013 race.

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera raced at Reunion in 2012 and had a mixed race. He was encouraged repeatedly by his fellow teammate, Kilian, but he eventually dropped from the race. Iker is a different runner in 2013, his incredible win at Tor des Geants (330km) will certainly put him in a great place to push Kilian all the way to the line.

Oscar Perez at Ronda dels Cims

Oscar Perez at Ronda dels Cims

Oscar Perez another long distance specialist was the 2012 winner of Tor des Geants and this year placed 2nd to Iker Karrera. He is extremely patient and understand his own pace and ability. You may very well see him relatively low down in the field for the early stages but watch him start to move up and push hard in the latter third. Podium potential for sure.

Eugeni Rosello Sole like Oscar Perez is another runner who likes races that are long, tough, technical and hard. Eugeni won the ‘The Spine’ in the UK earlier this year and placed 2nd overall at the 216-km Hexenstleg Ultra. In 2011 Eugeni placed 10th overall at Tor des Geants. So his pedigree over the long distances is not in question, however, he may not quite have the speed to fight for the podium.

Francois D'Haene leading Kilian Jornet at Ice Trail Tarentaise

Francois D’Haene leading Kilian Jornet at Ice Trail Tarentaise

Francois D’Haene is a consistent and talented runner over multiple distances. In 2012 he had an excellent performances at Transvulcania La Palma but arguably his highlight was winning the shortened TNFUTMB. He has been relatively quiet in 2013 however a recent win at the ultra distance event at Mont-Blanc Marathon shows he is in great shape in addition, he went head-to-head with Kilian Jornet at Ice Trail Tarentaise and finished 2nd.

Kaburaki ©iancorless.com

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki loves long distance races and gained some great exposure earlier this year when he won Bighorn 100-mile race. He is a specialist at the TNFUTMB having raced multiple times and securing a highest placing of 3rd in 2009. In addition, Tsyoshi placed 2nd at the 2009 Western States 100. He may not have his 2009 form but for sure, if he is feeling good, he will be up at the front pushing for a podium place.

Antoine Guillon placed second behind Kilian Jornet in the 2012 edition of the race just +1:10 behind. Experience counts for everything on Reunion and although competition is high for this year’s race, one has to assume that Antoine will be chomping at the bit to go one place higher in 2013. Antoine has been 2nd at TDS twice and placed 5th, 6th and 8th at TNFUTMB in past years.

Mico Clain like Antoine Guillon was at the 2012 Reunion race and finished 6th 31:31. That is some way off the pace of the front-runners, however, any race that last 164-kms has ups and downs and Mico has proven he has the staying power, he just needs a good year and a top 5 is possible.

David Pasquio placed 7th in 2012 in a time of 31:56. His current form over the longer distances is unknown, although he has raced regularly, his longest race  (on file) was Ecotrail de Paris in March, his time of 06:02 being very impressive.

George Erick Nirlo 9th in 2012 finished just 1 minute behind David Pasquio and therefore gets a nod in my predictions as a rank outsider.

Watch out for Xavier Carabi Garcia, Jordi Sole Mestre, James Irvine, Paul Janssens, Alain Simon, Didier Mussard, and Richard Hallgren.

Ladies Contenders

Emilie Lecomte ©iancorless.com

Emilie Lecomte comes to the race as the 2012 champion. Without doubt a specialist at long distances, She is the current record holder for the fastest time by a lady on the GR20 in Corsica and earlier this year she placed 3rd lady at the tough, Ronda dels Cims. She has had injury recently and had to miss TNFUTMB so one has to assume that she will be in great shape for the 2013 Diagonal des Fous. Favourite for sure!

Nathalie Mauclair ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair has been a revelation in 2013, she stormed onto the scene with a top placing at Transvulcania La Palma and has then gone on to perform at the highest level over multiple distances. She targeted the IAU Trail Championships in 2013 and came out on top! Diagonal des Fous will be a very different experience for Nathalie and I am sure she will be as interested in how the experience goes, just as we are.

Alexandra Rousset placed 4th in 2012 almost 6-hous behind Emilie and her current form is unknown (by me anyway). Needless to say, she has performed at the highest level before and she can do it again…

Estelle Carret 5th in the 2012 edition was some way off the pace in 42:19 but in any long race, finishing counts and this is reflected with top 5 places. Estelle has had a strong 2013 with a 5th at TDS and string of 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th places in shorter races.

Geraldine La Chapelle and Cecile Ciman placed 12th and 13th respectively in 2012 and return in 2013 looking to make the top 10.

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.comFinally, Emelie Forsberg! Yes, can you believe I have waited this long to mention Emelie? The main reason for this is that Emelie has had a long season. She has performed at the highest level over multiple distances from VK to 100-km and has not only excelled but won most of these races. Emelie has recently run and won at UROC 100-km and in the process been crowned Skyrunner World Series Ultra Champion. On Sunday, Emelie raced at Limone Extreme Sky race not only looking for the win but the Skyrunner World Series Sky title, however, fatigue began to show and she finished 3rd behind a storming Stevie Kremer and the ever consistent, Antonella Confortola. Diagonal des Fous is Emelie’s first 100-miler and as such will be a distinct learning curve. We all know that she has the ability to win any race she sets her mind too, however, Diagonal is being added to what has already been an incredible season. Emelie has nothing to prove and as such, I don’t want to add any additional pressure. Emelie has openly said, she wants to do this race for the experience and challenge. If she feels good she will push on. If she feels bad, she will save herself and drop.

Ones to watch: Alexandra Clain, Angela Laino, Jessica Poirier, Sandrine Renault, Karine Roulet, Alexandre Smith and Hilda Souprayen Ramaye.

To complete the Grand Raid one must combine mental and physical capacities. Both vary considerably and unexpectedly during the race.

Interesting stats:

Organizing The Grand Raid means solving complex logistical problems. For each competitor, either a champion or a glorious anonymous, volunteers are there to help, comfort, feed and encourage them all.

Table 1 gives you an idea of our chief caretaker’s shopping list. No other event on the island requires mastering such logistics.

tableau1This is what it takes to feed the competitors over the four days of the race but volunteers often are on duty longer to get things ready. They too, need food and drink!

Camp beds, tents, tables, medical equipment, food and drinks, computers, generators etc. How are things brought up to each assistance point?

Transport by helicopter is needed to many of those points. At the Piton des Neiges, we even set up a radio relay transmitter to allow the various checkpoints to communicate during the duration of the race!

tableauHelicopters cannot do everything! 
An impressive fleet of vehicles is needed throughout the week of the race: lorries, vans, 4wheel drive, all sorts of vehicles are used, not to forget 12 buses to transport competitors to the start!

Website HERE

The race can be followed LIVE HERE

Ice Trail Tarentaise, video Aiguille Pers

If you wondered what it was like at the Ice Trail Tarentaise, this short video will give you a no fills insight to the Aiguille Pers summit.

CE TRAIL Tarentaise – Val d’Isère 2013 – Aiguille Pers
BAB (Bout à Bout)
filmé par: Ludovic Rolandone
postproduction Alex Covaci
Une Production Radio-TV Val d’Isère
©Tous droits réservés

YouTube HERE

Ice Trail Tarentaise Race Report

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Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg excel at the ISF Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise. With over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte’ this is a race not to be taken lightly. Memories of the Tour de France flood into my mind when I discuss this region, however, other than the highest paved mountain pass at the ‘Col de L’Iseran’ at 2770m, no bicycles will be seen.

The Tarentaise valley and the Ice Trail Tarentaise in many respects personify what Kilian Jornet has been pursuing for years, the term ‘Alpinism’ is often perceived as climbing but it is so much more. Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386 m, participants in the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will no doubt had a full appreciation of what Kilian and others like him strive for when they coin the term, Skyrunning. You see, Skyrunning is Alpinism but without the clutter, it’s about being light and moving fast.

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Val D’Isère, 0400 on Sunday 14th July, 600+ runners departed for one of the most challenging races they would ever experience. With a total distance of 65km’s, 5000m+  positive gain and over 60% of the course in snow, the race would ultimately be the most challenging Skyrunning race ever encountered by all the participants.

The 2012 race winner, Francois D’Haene dictated the early pace with Rickey Gates and Kilian Jornet. At Tignes after following a river trail and an early climb the field was already spreading out. Emelie Forsberg had opened a gap on the female competition and was already pulling away.

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Darkness was now being replaced by the arrival of a new day and blue skies, temperatures started to rise but temperatures did drop to as low as -3deg on the first big challenge of the day, the Grande Motte at 3653m, this would see participants climb 1800m  in under10km. The ascent included traversing a glacier (YakTrax compulsory) and then a 70deg climb that included sections of Via Ferrata. At the summit, km17, Kilian, Francois and Rickey continued to establish a lead over a chasing Fulvio Dapit and Philipp Reiter.

Christel Dewalle and Ronda dels Cims winner, Francesca Canepa pursued Emelie Forsberg but the pattern was set for the whole race. Emelie was in her element, and although she said post race that it was the hardest race she had ever done, she also admitted that she loved every step of it, ‘this is pure Skyrunning, it is what I love about this sport, the ability to combine mountains, snow, running and ice to combine together in one of the most challenging sports’.

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The descent from Col Fours at 2976m to Pont Neige at 2530m now had Francois D’Haene and Kilian Jornet establishing a lead over the rest of the field that would not be relinquished. A small section of road and a right turn at Cascade ultimately proved to be one of the hardest sections of the course. Climbing from 2700m to the Col Pers at 3009m and then Pointe Pers 3386m resulted in many runners failing to meet cut-off times or drop with fatigue at Cascade. Marcus Warner from Ultra168 said, ‘that broke peoples spirits, I have buried the feeling it created; I had to look inside and decide if I wanted to put myself through it. However, I found that inner strength and moved on. The terrain was hard pack snow on the north side to waist deep soft snow. It sucked life from within me, the final 300m was a treadmill of slate and scree, I felt I was going nowhere’.

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At the iconic Col de L’Iseran, the highest road in Europe the final challenge awaited, the 300m ascent to the Tunnel Lessieres at km56. It was in the final stages of this climb on the tough and technical rock section that Kilian moved ahead of Francois and pulled away to take another incredible win. Emelie Forsberg looked relaxed and comfortable, her lead was convincing and a victory was guaranteed. Christel and Francesca continued to hold second and third place and this format would not change to the finish line.

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The 2013 ISF Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise will be remembered in years to come as an iconic day in Skyrunning history. Along with Zegama-Aizkorri, Trofeo Kima and Canazei in the Dolomites, the ‘ITT’ will become a flagship event. It will test elites and non-elite runners to the limit and as many said post race, ‘km for km, that is the hardest race I have ever done’

RACE PHOTOGRAPHY HERE

RACE START IMAGES HERE

PRE RACE IMAGES HERE

PRE RACE INTERVIEW with EMELIE FORSBERG HERE

Men:

  1. Kilian Jornet (Salomon) 07:35:32 new course record
  2. Francois D’Haene (Salomon) 07:40:13
  3. Philipp Reiter (Salomon) 08:12:38

Ladies:

  1. Emelie Forsberg (Salomon) 09:11:11 new course record (and 10th overall)
  2. Christel Dewalle (Terre de Running) 10:08:58
  3. Francesca Canepa (Team Montura/Vibram) 10:31:59

Links:

FULL RESULTS HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Ice Trail Tarentaise HERE

Ice Trail Tarentaise Preview

image_1873

Ice Trail Tarentaise sends the chills down our spines as we prepare ourselves for the third event in the ISF Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

The stunning alpine village of  Val d’Isère is the official home of the Ice Trail Tarentaise. The race starts and concludes at this beautiful mountain retreat and as the name suggests, it is also the source of the Isère River. The Isère flows through some of the most iconic mountain landscape available. It is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel. ‘Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) is a ski region in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie département of France, to the south of the town of Moûtiers, partly in the Vanoise National Park. As implied by its name, the area originally consisted of three valleys: Saint-BonAllues, and Belleville. The skiing area has since been extended into a ‘fourth’ valley, the Maurienne valley. It is adjacent to Val Thorens, but can also be accessed using a long gondola lift from Orelle.

The Tarentaise valley and the Ice Trail Tarentaise in many respects personify what Kilian Jornet has been pursuing for years, the term ‘Alpinism’ is often perceived as climbing but it is so much more.

The race route has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte’ this is a race not to be taken lightly. Memories of the Tour de France flood into my mind when I discuss this region, however, other than the highest paved mountain pass at the ‘Col de L’Iseran’ at 2770m, no bicycles will be seen.

Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386 m, participants in the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will no doubt have a full appreciation of what Kilian and others like him strive for when they coin the term, Skyrunning. You see, Skyrunning is Alpinism but without the clutter, it’s about being light and moving fast.

Ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not all those who toe the line will see the finish. It is a tough tough race; no doubt!

The inaugural event was due to take place in 2011 however severe weather left the organization with no choice but to cancel, however, the 32km ‘Altispeed’ did take place (no easy option). Despite extreme conditions Damien Vouillamoz won the race in just over three and a half hours and Virginie (Virg) Govignon in 5:14. Virg just recently took part in one of the shorter events at Ronda dels Cims placing third, Andorra is now her home and the passion and love for the mountains are strong.

The arrival of the 2012 edition was eagerly anticipated, the shortened version in 2011 had wet many appetites, and success rates had been around approximately 50%, what would a full course offer? Despite initial weather concerns the race went ahead. Francois D’Haene from Salomon and Anne Valero from Mizuno were respective winners in times of 8:16:35 and 11:20:13 respectively.

Just three years old and only in its second edition, the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will now offer a challenge to elites and non-elites that only many could have wished for. Now part of the Skyrunner World Series, the Ice Trail Tarentaise will see a return of the 2012 winner, Francois D’Haene compete against Kilian Jornet, Philipp Reiter, Rickey Gates, Nico Valsesia, Jordi Bes Ginesta, Nicolas Pianet and Vincent Delaberre. For the ladies, the reigning champion, Anne Valero will not defend her title but don’t worry; the ladies field is extremely competitive. Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Julia Boettger, Silvia Serafini, Shona Stephenson and Emilie Lecomte will do battle on the glaciers and peaks of the ‘Tarentaise’; only one will be crowned the ice queen.

MEN

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Kilian Jornet – Considering the nature of this course, it’s location, severity, difficulty and true ‘Alpinist’ routes one would be foolish not to tip Kilian Jornet as a favorite for this race. As Lauri Van Houten points out, “Alpinism is traditional mountaineering with the big boots and all the gear – Skyrunning is doing the same stuff faster without all the gear…. Kilian will love it’. The race in many respects reads like one of his ‘Summits’ attempts and as such will suit him perfectly. With incredible results already achieved in 2013; Transvulcania, Zegama and Mont Blanc Marathon, one can’t help but think that Ice Trail Tarentaise is a race that will not only show him at his best but also it will be a race that he is eagerly waiting for.

Francois D'Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene – returns as the 2012 champion and for sure that will be a great advantage. Francois had an extremely successful 2012 with a top placing at Transvulcania but I am sure his TNFUTMB win will be the one he remembers most. He is currently in great form and for sure he will be pushing Kilian at the front.

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter – has incredible talent and recently won his first ever 100km race in Germany. He his experienced in the snow and without doubt this will play a big advantage in a race so demanding. He has shown in the past at races such as the extremely technical, Trofeo Kima, that he has all around ability. This will all come into play on this extremely tough and challenging race.

Rickey Gates – has been a little quiet of late. He always has a much smaller and tighter calendar in comparison to other runners but when he races, you know he will be in great shape. Top placing’s at the 2012 Transvulcania and a win at Speedgoat will carry over to this year and provide Rickey with a great base to compete against his Salomon teammates.

Nico Valsesia – is not shy of long distances. Arguably he is known for long cycling events like riding across America in the ‘RAAM’. His recent form is unknown as he should have toed the line at the 170km Ronda dels Cims.

Jordi Bes Ginesta – is a Catalan ski mountaineer and mountain runner and one has to say that ‘Ice Trail’ will play to all his abilities. His palamares are excellent in SkiMo with top ten placing’s in Spanish Championships, European Championships and World Championships. He was eighth in the 2009 world Skyrunning Championships and although I don’t think he will fight for a top three place you should definitely see him within the top ten.

Fulvio Dapit – is no stranger to Skyrunning and will come into the Ice Trail Tarentaise with a clear understanding of what needs to be done to compete at the front of the field. Fulvio was 2011 winner at the tenth edition of Monterosa Skyrace, he placed seventh at 2012 Zegama and recently had some success at Sardinia Trail, however, his form coming to Val D’Isère is not clear. Not a podium contender but a possible top ten.

Nicolas Pianet – has been racing since March and most notably raced the ‘Trail de Faverges Icebreaker 44km’ he placed third behind Patrick Bringer but one can almost certainly assume it was a preparation event for Ice Trail. His most recent race was Mont Blanc Marathon, he placed eleventh behind a strong and dominant Kilian Jornet. Nicolas has potential to mix things up at Tarentaise but he won’t contend the podium.

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Vincent Delabarre – previous winner of TNFUTMB and currently leading courses on the UTMB route will come into this race with plenty of mountain and snow experience. Invaluable! He raced earlier in the year at Marathon des Sables, a somewhat different experience to what lies ahead in Val D’Isère.

LADIES

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Emelie Forsberg – tops my table for the ladies race, just the other weekend she finished second to a flying Stevie Kremer at Mont Blanc Marathon, however, although she was fairly and squarely beaten, illness played an issue on the day. This was confirmed when just two days later she set a new female record for Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix in 8hrs 10min. Like Kilian, her SkiMo and mountain background will see her perform to her strengths on the Ice Trail course. A clear favorite.

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Francesca Canepa – fresh from a dominant performance at Ronda dels Cims will feel at home on the trails of the Tarentaise valley. She likes tough, technical and hard races. Francesca also has speed when required; her second place to Lizzy Hawker at the shortened 2012 TNFUTMB proves this. It will certainly be interesting to see how Francesca performs against Emelie Forsberg and Nuria Picas on this demanding course.

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Julia Boettger – loves long, hard and technical races. Tor des Geants and Raid de la Reunion are just two notches in her impressive resume. However, her recent form is unknown, she missed the start of Transgrancanaria due to illness and a main target for the year, the 170km Ronda dels Cims had to be missed for personal reasons. The recent Lavaredo Trail also saw Julia miss the start line, so, she will either come to Ice Trail fresh and ready to perform or a little under raced. withdrawn, confirmation 09th July 2013

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Anna Frost – had a troublesome winter and missed a race she loves, Transvulcania. However, she is back on her way to full fitness. Her recent performances at the Mont Blanc VK and Marathon show that she is not in full fitness but reassuringly this means that Frosty is easing her way back into 2013 instead of pushing too hard too soon. Without doubt she is a class act and I have never seen anyone with an ability to push so deep when the need arises. Her performance at Cavalls del Vent in 2012 was a personification of this. If she wants to win Ice Trail, Frosty could find something within herself to give it a go. Anna has podium potential without a doubt.

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Nuria Picas – missed Mont Blanc Marathon and will arrive in Tarentaise fresher than some of her rivals. Rumor has it that Nuria is running the 2013 UTMB so a very different Nuria may well toe the line for the ultra races in the Skyrunning series than we saw in 2012. Without doubt she has speed and ability, her 2012 season was remarkable, however, twice in 2013 she has placed second to Emelie Forsberg; Transvulcania and Zegama. Maybe her training for TNFUTMB is taking the edge off the speed? If so, her endurance and her ability to survive over a longer event may well be the difference between first and second in the Tarentaise Valley. Nuria, providing she has no problems will be on the podium for sure and ultimately I see the race being between her and Emelie.

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Shona Stephenson – has loved the whole European experience. The Australia based inov-8 athlete has had a great 2013 so far with some great 100-mile results, particularly in Japan at UTMF100. Without doubt this ability to endure and dig deep will be essential in Val D’Isère. However, her experience of snow, ice and extreme cold is limited and without doubt this will be a big disadvantage. She has the ability to be at the front of the race but the whole experience may well just be one big learning curve that she needs to take a step back from and accept that what will be, will be.

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Emilie Lecomte – placed top five at Transvulcania and then placed third at the super tough Ronda dels Cims. She loves races that are tough, long and technical. The winner of the 2012 Raid de la Reunion and course record holder for the GR20 long trail in Corsica, Emilie will without doubt push hard at the front of this race. Her experience in Andorra was mixed; she was dominating the race over the first third but then struggled with fatigue and a lack of energy over the latter half. For Emilie to finish showed incredible guts and determination,  you will see Emilie show that same spirit here, if all goes well she may very well make the podium.

The Ice Trail Tarentaise has all the makings to be an incredible and exciting race, which will be nothing like what we have experienced before. The combination of altitude, ice, climbing and descending will almost certainly provide some shocks and surprises. Who are your picks to win the third ISF Skyrunning Ultra event?

Stats:

The Ice-Trail Tarentaise (ITT), for the record, counts 65 km with 5,000m vertical ascent and descent, reaches a high point of 3,653m and touches five peaks skimming the 3,000m mark in Val d’Isère July 14.  Snow is not an option!

Notes:

It’s true that mountains at 3,000m offer a challenge to all who set foot here.  This year’s heavy snowfalls add an element of adventure (and technique) to test the most skilled skyrunners.  However, recent warm weather has taken its toll and much of the snow has melted although stretches on snow will remain.

The organisers will issue a statement regarding the course and safety measures after a meeting held this afternoon so check for updates which will be issued on this site, Facebook and the race website over the next few days.

Links:

Skyrunning HERE

Philipp Reiter – new kid on the block?

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Just days before the 2013 edition of the TNF Transgrancanraia on the island of Gran Canaria, I spent several days with Ryan Sandes, Julia Bottger and Philipp Reiter. Philipp had literally just come of his skis and had hardly run for 3 months. In the 83km race he lined up against a strong field and by the time the race was over he had taken the 2nd spot on the podium behind Ryan Sandes, once again proving that his incredible 2012 was no accident.

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

IC: I am joined by, ‘wonder kid’ Philipp Reiter.

PR: Hi Ian.

IC: We went out on the trails yesterday and you immediately flew off. You were like a rabbit in headlights. For the last 2-3 months you have done no running. What is it that enables you to step off skis and start running as though you have never stopped?

PR: Yes you are right. I can step of skis and run immediately. You must remember that ski mountaineering is hard work and I do plenty of ascents so I am fit. If you stay fit in all kinds of sports then it’s not such a problem. Actually, it is good to have a break. I am keen and eager to run now.

IC: I get asked a lot about how significant skiing and ski mountaineering is in the winter. For example, Emelie Forsberg, Kilian Jornet, Nuria Picas and so on all put run shoes away for the winter months. What are the real benefits that it gives your running?

PR: It’s a different movement but it’s not as different as cycling for example. We do lots of elevation and that is great for fitness. As you say a break is good, as much for the mind as the body. Maybe it’s not as different as we think.

IC: What lies ahead in 2013 for you?

PR: I have Transvulcania La Palma in May and then I have a German race to do, the Zugspitze. I will attempt the Skyrunning series but not Andorra. That is much too long for me. I will also not do UROC. I think my highlight this year will be the Transalpine. I like the west route and it will be beautiful. They have changed some stage villages so we have 3 or 4 new stages.

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

IC: You mention Transvulcania. The 2012 edition was one of the highlights of the race year, it gad a stacked field. This year’s race again has an incredible field. In 2012 you had a difficult race at La Palma. Relatively early on you had issues with your leg but you soldiered on and still managed a top 20 finish. You crossed the line with Joe Grant. What is your mindset for 2013? You have made big improvements in the last 12 months; you must be looking forward to this year’s edition.

PR: Yes I had a big problem in 2012. I wanted to stop after 20km. I don’t know how I finished. It’s a big mystery. I have no real idea what happened. I had to sit down and I had tears. It was very unusual. But I pushed on and achieved a finish, so if I can get through the race like this then I am optimistic for 2013. Mentally I am strong. I am now sure that whatever comes my way I have the ability to push on. Also, running Transalpine in 2012 with Iker Karrera made me much stronger. I am no longer the new kid on the blog!

IC: 2012 was a year that I feel ultra running changed. I think Transvulcania was instrumental in this. The level of quality on a start line changed so many things. But I also feel the emergence of your self and Emelie Forsberg was significant. You personally had so many great results. Can you recap?

PR: I won Super Trail and I beat my own course record. I wanted to keep less than 7 hours and I did it. I then won Salomon 4 Trails and I beat Francois d’Haene and Thomas Lorblanchet. It was a great result. I won by 2 minutes over a 4-day stage race. It was incredible. In the Skyrunning ultra series I was 3rd overall against some of the best runners in the world. That was behind Kilian Jornet and Andy Symonds.

Philipp Reiter at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Also at Cavalls del Vent I was freezing for 7 hours out of 10 but I did not give up. I gained so much mental strength. Anything is possible. You just have to force yourself to go on and not give up. But the best result was the win with Iker Karrera at Transalpine. I wasn’t prepared for Transalpine. I was actually in Chamonix to watch TNF UTMB. The course got changed and Iker decided not to run. He said “do you want to start Transalpine with me tomorrow” I said, “yes of course”. We left and drove through the night. We arrived at midnight and then had to start the next morning. We had no time to get excited.

IC: That was crazy. I remember it well. The announcement came that the course was changed and then runners like Julien Chorier pulled out and decided to run the GR20 and then I heard that Iker, who had really focused on UTMB just thought I am not running a short distance and as you say, Transalpine was the alternative. I know you are only 21, if I think back to 21, that’s a long time… I remember that I had no fear. Do you feel that is your situation? Do you think, if I am given an opportunity I am going to say yes, because what is the worse that can happen.

PR: I definitely think lets just give it a go. As you say, I am 21 years old so if it doesn’t go well I can always go back and try again.

IC: When we talk about the runners you race against and the calendar you raced last year. You personally have such great potential ahead of you. I have said many times that I think you and Emelie are the future stars of the sport. You will lead the direction of the sport. Does that put a weight on your shoulders? Salomon as a sponsor, do they put pressure on you?

Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

PR: I have no direct pressure on me from Salomon. It is more that I need to act professionally. It sort of happened without me realizing. For example, I love running, I would run anyway but I used to run and nobody would be interested but now I run and people want photographs and autographs. I need to be professional at all times. I literally could spend 2 hours each evening just answering emails. But that is the package and I accept it. I am very fortunate. I do ask myself do I really want it but then again, I guess I have no option now. I started my own website and then I think, do I really want it!

IC: Yes, we discussed this over dinner last night, the topic of social media. Yes, I am partially to blame. It’s my job to interview, chat, photograph and then distribute it. It benefits you, it benefits the races, it benefits the sponsors, and it is a complete package. But ultimately it has far more pluses than negatives. Do you ever think we will reach a point were things revert, or do you now see that your future lies in running?

PR: I would say at the moment that my studying has nothing to do with sport. I want to be a teacher of mathematics and biology. I will have training away from sport so I have options. I want to have a difference between a hobby, which is now becoming professional and my job afterwards. I post of Facebook and I write on my blog. I enjoy that. It is about me showing and sharing my experiences. I see myself as a speaker for the sport. It’s also funny. I get some great responses, I have funny comments and I love to have fun too and make the most of what I have. I like to create stories too such as running a vertical k indoors by running up and down stairs of a business premises. I like to create ideas.

The very serious Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

The very serious Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

IC: You almost seem to never take your self too seriously. For example, if I point a camera at you, you pull a funny face and smile. But the other side of that is that you are also very serious and precise. You have a duality to your personality. Do you find the balance comes easy?

PR: Training you have to be strict. I think the biggest lie would be that I think it is always fun… it’s not, sometimes I really do need to motivate myself to train. I have to talk to myself some days and force myself out of the door. You have to be focused and disciplined. I have no short cuts. You must put the time in and work hard. Natural ability helps but you must work and work hard. I have my fun side and I like to balance my hard work with fun. All work with no play is no fun at all. We don’t do this sport to get rich. We do it because we love it. We would run and be in completion without the professional side, it is also about meeting people and spending time with people I like such as Ryan Sandes, Julia Bottger, Miguel Heras and Emelie Forsberg. I really remember these special moments. I have met people from all over the world. I am very lucky.

IC: You mentioned you are not in the sport for money. I think that pretty much every elite ultra runner that I have interviewed has said the same thing. You have all come into the sport because of a passion. But it is changing; several races have big prize money. For example, $10,000 first prize, will that change the sport and do you think it will become more common.

PR: I’m not sure. Money changes sport for sure. I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that.

IC: I don’t think any of us know. I guess that is why we ask the question. Certainly we don’t want running or should I say ultra running to follow cycling. That would be a disaster. I don’t think we have any issues at the moment in our sport but you do have to think of the responsibility that we all have in the sport of controlling it. For example lets say I could give you two race options. A bucket list race with no prize money and a race you don’t like but with big prize money that you have a very good chance to win. Which would you choose?

PR: (laughs) Yes, I think I would choose the race with the money. I guess it’s a sad thing but we all need money.

IC: Without doubt we need money to survive and money is not always available in our sport so it does make sense that financial demands have a decision in your race choice.

When did you get into the sport Philipp, what did you do pre 2012?

PR: I have not been trail running very long. I came from ski mountaineering background. I started when I was about 14 yrs or 15yrs old. I had seen an advert for a race near my home and I asked my parents could I take part. They said of course but that I would need to train. I wasn’t sure I wanted to train but I thought, why not, lets give it a go. I managed to perform okay in a relatively small field and then I became addicted. I enjoyed it so much. Especially going to the bakery after the training sessions, it was a good motivation. I guess it was like a bribe. A local shop owner asked me if I wanted to do the next races for them. I thought I am trained now so I carried on. I made it to the National Team very quickly. That sounds impressive but not as impressive as you may think. During the off season I decided I needed to keep fit so I hiked with my poles and then one day I saw a guy running. I thought, okay, I will try that too!

IC: What year was this?

PR: 2009.

IC: So you see someone running and I guess 2010 was your first season running, the transformation has been so quick. Particularly on a world stage. You came to prominence in 2012 but you got Salomon German sponsorship based on your German results.

PR: Yes, in 2010 it was my first year. I tool part in the Transalpine and my partner for the race was already in the Salomon team. Salomon sponsored Transalpine and they like the fact that I was so young. I even look younger than I actually I am so thy asked would I like to join the team. Wow I thought, usually I have to do the asking so of course I said yes! I got famous in Germany at Zugspitze.

IC: So you progress in Germany and then you get onto the Salomon International team with Greg Vollet as a manager. We have spoken about Greg and his vision for the sport in the past. He definitely is a driving sport in the sport at the moment. Does he have a big involvement in your progression?

PR: Yes, definitely. Greg says that we must create our own image. He helps me achieve what I want but in a very careful way. We talk about everything. I am never forced to race, I really like that.

Philipp Reiter and Andy Symonds at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter and Andy Symonds at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

IC: So with the vision of Greg, Salomon as a sponsor and age on your side; what does the future hold for you? We spoke about Kilian in the past, he is only in his mid 20’s but he feels as though he has been around for decades because he has achieved so much. Do you see your progression as similar to Kilan’s and I remember you saying at Trofeo Kima that you said you want to ne Kilian, Do you still want to be him?

PR: I want to beat him! (laughs) What he has achieved is amazing. I want to do it step by step. This year I will do my first 100k. Next year I may go longer and of course I want to run the big races like UTMB or Raid de la Reunion. I have so many options ahead of me. I am just 21 so I don’t want to do too many things too soon. I want goals for the future.

IC: You have an old head on a young body. It’s great that you are patient and looking long term. Kilian had his bucket list and it is now pretty much ticked of. Do you have a list that you are building and when that list is ticked of, do you think you will move into a new realm like Kilian with his ‘Summits’?

PR: I don’t know. I have no idea what the future holds. As long as I am enjoying it and having fun I will continue. A day just has 24 hours. I have to study, I have sport and work but I have many things I would like to do that I don’t have time for. When I have achieved my goals, for sure I will continue with sport but I also want to be a father, I want a family.

IC: Philipp it’s been a pleasure speaking to you. It’s always fun. I’d like to wish you all the very best for 2013. It’s going to be a great year ahead. I can’t wait for Transvulcania La Palma.

PR: Thank you. It has been great fun.

This is part of a new series of interviews Skyrunning ‘The Interviews’ you can also view this on th ISF website HERE