Sue Ding and the 2018 Marathon des Sables #MDS2018

Marathon des Sables is an iconic race. For over 30-years it has been the leading example of multi-day racing all over the world. It has often been copied, but never bettered. In its incredible history, runners from all over the world have toed the line for the experience of a lifetime.

In 2018, for the first time ever, a Malaysian lady toed the line in the hope to be the first Malaysian lady ever to complete the race.

Sue Ding has been living in the UK for over 20-years. She came from Kuala Lumpur to study law at Liverpool University and then stayed successfully building her own legal practice in London. She is an entrepreneur, business woman and is extremely successful.

Running became an escape from the everyday stress of work. Like many, Sue built to the marathon distance and has successfully completed London, Berlin and Tokyo. But Marathon des Sables was something very different – a new challenge.

I first met Sue when she joined our Lanzarote Training Camp (HERE) in January 2018.

I was fortunate to follow her journey as she prepared for the 2018 MDS, both in training and then day-by-day throughout the race.

It turned out to be quite a story and shows that the mental aspect of ultra-running is often far more important than fitness.

You can listen to a full and in-depth interview with Sue on Talk Ultra podcast HERE

What initially made you decide to take part in MDS?

I had heard about the Marathon des Sables from friends and I had seen images on Instagram. It enticed me, I was looking for a new challenge and although I thought the race was beyond my ability I took the plunge and entered. I told nobody for two weeks as I couldn’t decide if I had done the right thing. When I did finally disclose my intentions, some friends and relatives were negative saying I was crazy and that I couldn’t do it… I needed no better motivation to prove them wrong!

You have run several marathons such as London and Tokyo. How does the MDS compare?

Other than running or walking, there is no comparison really. A road marathon is a challenge but it is safe, you have aid stations, there is always help at hand. MDS is just so much more than just running. It brings in elements of survival, it plays games with your mind and it pushes the individual to depths that they maybe never even realised they could reach.  MDS is truly a transformational experience and although I will always remember my first road marathon, I now think, ‘it is only a marathon!’

What was your training and preparation like for the MDS? What are the differences in comparison to a road marathon?

In all honesty, marathon training is actually good preparation for MDS as the individual stages are marathon distance or below. Of course, the exception is the ‘long day’ which in 2018 was 86.4km (around 53 miles, so two marathons). Marathon training works well but of course one needs to build up strength and stamina for the challenge ahead. Therefore, most people allow 12-months to get ready for MDS. Time on feet is important and also including some specific ‘training’ races that provide a similar scenario to MDS. For example. Several races in the UK last 2 or 3 days therefore providing a mini MDS scenario.

I also signed up for a specific desert training camp in Lanzarote, 3-months ahead of the race. This proved to be essential as I met other competitions, we trained on terrain specific and comparable to Morocco and I was able to test equipment. We even spent one night sleeping inside a volcano to simulate camp conditions in the Sahara.

Training Camp information HERE 

Finally, two points. 1. Many runners think they will run MDS – the reality is that they will not! Walking is an essential and integral part of completing MDS for most participants and I can’t stress enough to walk, walk and walk in training. 2. Prepare the mind for the challenge. If you get the mind in the right place it will take the body to the line.

What was the biggest challenges out in the Sahara?

The challenges change daily. For example, just starting on day 1 seemed like a huge challenge as I was so anxious and nervous.

Then on day 2 I was silly and neglected taking my salt tablets, this impacted on my hydration and caused me to be dizzy. It was touch and go but I rallied and achieved the finish line.

That night we were hit by a sand storm which wiped out our tent and reduced sleep to a minimum. So, as you see, the challenges change daily, by the hour or even by the minute at times. This is what makes MDS so special, it is how you adapt both physically and more importantly, mentally at times.

How did you cope with the challenges, did you feel prepared?

One can only prepare so much. I really dedicated myself to the task and prepared methodically for the challenge. But after Tokyo Marathon I picked up a stress fracture.

Photo ©sueding

This resulted in no running for three weeks and then a slow return to training. Ironically, my final preparation to MDS was terrible and that worried me. Friends were always positive, they told me, ‘You can do this!’ I trusted them and despite my reservations, I achieved the start line.

Equipment is equipment but it is essential. I took advice from the training camp and honed my equipment for my needs. I made last minute changes to the pack I would use and I also changed my down jacket. It all worked well. During the race you must be flexible and adapt to conditions – tiredness, dehydration, sore legs, snoring tent mates, sharing a space with 7 others – you can’t really prepare for that, it is this that makes MDS such an experience, it is a journey into the unknown.

What did you enjoy most about the whole experience?

I was so anxious before the race but I feel like I blossomed as the race progressed. I embraced the challenge and got the race done – I did that and nobody can take that away. But my tent mates, Tent 95 were incredible and they will be friends for life. You were also at the race and shared my journey, that was so special and something that I will never forget. The race is a life changer, I was told this before I went to Morocco, it’s only now, afterwards, that I realised that this is true.

What were some of the most memorable or unforgettable moments for you, explain why?

1. Tent 95 – Gary, Daniel, Mark, James, Brian, Taka and Denise were just the best. We laughed, we shared our stories in the morning and the evening and we rallied and encouraged each other. We all finished – what an experience!

2. On the long day it was dark, I was walking through large sand dunes and I was listening to Craig Armstrong music, I looked up to the sky and saw thousands of stars… I was lost in my mind and thoughts and it was truly magical.

3. I had low points throughout the race, times of despair and worries if I could push on through. They were my lowest moments but each time they became the most memorable – you would always arrive, just at the right time.

4. I got some really bad blisters which needed medical treatment and caused great pain – I had to continue on, ignore the negative and fight each day to achieve my goals.

How did you manage the conditions – heat, survival, rationed food etc?

In all honesty, I was expecting the worst and the reality was not as bad. We had cold nights, sand storms and hot days but I managed. I wore the same clothes for ten days with no showering or proper washing, it was unpleasant but I survived. I craved fresh food and had to eat dehydrated food.

I wanted so much a different drink other than water but water is the only thing available. I keep saying it but this is MDS. It is meant to test you mentally as much as physically and you need to embrace it. If you fight it, your week will be miserable. It’s best to laugh and soak up the experience.

A Coke after the long day was so magical – simple pleasure! Going to the toilet is also somewhat an experience… you will need to use your imagination for that one!

What went through your mind during the race?

Ha! What didn’t I think about…? I put the world to rights, thought about my past, thought about my future. I concentrated on one foot ahead of the other and I escaped with music.

You have a great deal of time to think and I think this is why, for many, MDS has such an impact. You suddenly realise what is important. I have realised it. Experiences and memories are far greater than things and possessions – the Sahara and the MDS made me feel truly alive, pushed me to the limit and beyond.

Did you doubt yourself at any time, elaborate?

I had huge doubts and anxiety before the race but did as much specific preparation as possible and I listened to you and Elisabet Barnes,  you both told me I could do it. I was so nervous on day 1 and of course on day 2 I was extremely worried.

However, as the race progressed the stronger mentally I became. I was more tired, my body ached, my feet hurt but my mind was strong, there was no way I was giving up or not finishing – I had to prove all the doubters before the race wrong.

One lady had said, ‘If you finish the race, I will eat my hat!’ Guess what? I bought a hat in Morocco after the race…

What was crossing the finish line like?

On the marathon stage I had a moment early on when I cried but I got over it and pushed on despite the pain.

The miles ticked by and then as the finish line came, you were waiting as were all my tent 95 teammates.

I had no more tears left, just smiles and gratitude. I was flying the Malaysian flag, I kissed my cross which was around my neck and I gave thanks for the opportunity to complete a truly magical, life changing journey.

What are the biggest takeaways from the race?

We are too protected, too comfortable in the world and we shy away from tough times. A little tough, some challenge, some hardship and some pain makes you realise you are truly alive.

I went to so many low points during the race and overcame them, I made new friends and I triumphed over arguably the toughest challenge I have ever undertaken.

I now feel invincible, I feel alive!

If you did MDS again, what would you change in preparation and why?

Well, I would definitely try not to get a stress fracture just 8 weeks before the race. In general though, I feel everything clicked into place. I would make sure my shoes did not give me blisters, I made a mistake there going with a shoe size too large.

What advice would you give to future MDS runners?

Prepare the mind and the legs and lungs will followI also had a ‘special’ bag with me ‘Not Gonna Happen’ it contained daily inspiration to keep me going… It was invaluable.

MDS is described as the toughest race on earth, on a scale of 1-10 give it a rating and explain why?

Tough question as I have done nothing like it to compare, so, for me it would be a 8, or 9. But the daily cut off times are generous and it is possible to complete the race walking, so, like I said previously, get the mind right and anything is possible.

Certainly, no change of clothes, carrying everything one needs on ones back and having rationed food and water takes things to another level and therefore it’s a combination of all those elements that makes the race so tough.

MDS is not cheap, can you elaborate on how much the whole process cost?

I don’t really want to think about it… The race costs so much more than just the entry fee. For example, entry fee, flights and hotels around £4000. But I started to prepare 12 moths in advance. I did training races, I did the Lanzarote training camp, I purchased all my equipment and then changed my equipment. I added some extras such as staying in Morocco afterwards. I have not tallied up the total cost but it would easily be £10.000.

You are the first Malaysian woman to complete the race, how does that make you feel?

I am proud to be Malaysian and cross the line flying the flag – it is a real honour.

You ran for charities, Make A Wish Malaysia and Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, how much did you raise?

The total goes up daily as donations come in, but currently it is over £25.000.

“We all have our stories, we got together, encouraged each other, were there for each other, we went on a 250km MDS journey together… We are friends forever Tent 95! I was also privileged to have the additional support of a truly dear friend who documented our journey. Friendship and love completed the journey.”

#suckitupprincess

Check out Sue in MARIE CLAIRE – http://marieclaire.com.my/lifestyle/features/marie-claire-amazing-women-2018/5/

Episode 91 – Boulet Nichols Robbins Forsberg

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Episode 91 of Talk Ultra brings you with interviews Mont-Blanc 80km winner, Alex Nichols, we speak with WSER ladies winner Magdalena Boulet and we also chat with Gary Robbins about his FKT. Emelie Forsberg is back for a Smiles and Miles and this week Niandi Carmont co-hosts as Karl is getting ready for Speedgoat.

00:11:38 NEWS

Help Nepal – Nepal images ‘FACES of NEPAL’ – order a print and all funds donated to Nepal charities https://iancorless.org/2015/04/28/nepal-appeal-nepalearthquake/

HARDROCK 100

  1. Kilian Jornet 23:28 new CR and holds records both ways now
  2. Mike Foote 25:45
  3. Adam Campbell 26:49
  1. Anna Frost 28:22
  2. Darcy Piceu 28:57 won 3 times before
  3. Darla Askew 32:05

 

ICE TRAIL TARENTAISE article HERE

1 – Luis Alberto  HERNANDO 07:43:00

2 – Manuel MERILLAS MOLEDO 07:50:27

3 – Clement MOLLIET 07:54:29

1 – Emelie FORSBERG 09:17:21

2 – Magdalena LACZAK 09:30:37

3 – Anna STRAKOVA 09:48:46

FKT for Gary Robbins – In Washington on the 95-mile Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier, Gary Robbins ran 18:52 to cut just over two hours from Kyle Skaggs’s previous supported record, which had stood since 2006.

00:35:48 INTERVIEW

Gary Robbins

SCOTT JUREK completes the AT 46 days 8 hours 7 or is it 8 minutes? article HERE 

DOLOMITES SKYRACE article HERE

  1. Tadei Pivk 2:02:47
  2. Ionut Zinca 2:03:18
  3. Pascal Egli 2:03:46
  1. Megan Kimmel 2:25:57 – new CR
  2. Laura Orgue 2:26:58
  3. Elisa Desco 2:28:36

EIGER ULTRA TRAIL

  1. Caroline Chaverot 12:45
  2. Andrea Huser 12:52
  3. Francesca Canepa 13:13
  1. Urs Jenzer 11:44
  2. Jason Schlarb 11:50
  3. Davis Quelhas 12:27

MARCO DE GASPERI set a new FKT. He raced from Courmayeur up 15,780-foot Mont Blanc in 6:43:52, just under the previous 6:45:24 mark that had stood since 1995. The route covers nearly 50k while gaining 12,303 feet of elevation.

COLORADO 14ers RECORD After 9 days, 21 hours, and 51 minutes, Andrew Hamilton had climbed all 58 of Colorado’s 14000-foot peaks and was the new FKT holder.

01:27:00 INTERVIEW

AKEX NICHOLS

TALK TRAINING 

How to pick the correct shoe article HERE

02:11:26 INTERVIEW

MAGDALENA BOULET

02:54:23 SMILES AND MILES with Emelie Forsberg

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

New South Wales

Altra Centennial Park Ultra100km | 100 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Altra Centennial Park Ultra 50km | 50 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Queensland

Flinders Tour – 50 km | 50 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Austria

Dirndltal Extrem Ultramarathon | 111 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Canada

Alberta

Canadian Death Race | 125 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Quebec

Pandora 24 Ultra X Trail 100M | 100 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Ecuador

RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015 | 250 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Finland

Lapland

NUTS Midnight Sun Trail Ultra 125 km | 125 kilometers | July 24, 2015 | website

NUTS Midnight Sun Trail Ultra 55K | 55 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

France

Haute-Corse

Via Romana – 62 km | 62 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Haute-Loire

La Loire Integrale | 1025 kilometers | August 05, 2015 | website

Haute-Savoie

Trail du Tour des Fiz | 61 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Isère

Défi de l’Oisans | 200 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Trail de L’Etendard | 65 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Jura

Tour du Lac de Vouglans | 71 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Savoie

Courchevel X Trail 54 km | 54 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

EDF Cenis Tour 50 | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

EDF Cenis Tour 73 | 73 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

La 6000D | 63 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Germany

Bavaria

Chiemgauer 100 k Mountain Ultra Run | 100 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Chiemgauer 100 mi Mountain Ultra Run | 100 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Chiemsee-Ultramarathon Juli | 108 kilometers | July 31, 2015 | website

Brandenburg

Berliner MauerwegNachtlauf | 62 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Lower Saxony

Süntel-Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Guadeloupe

Rèd Mammel | 50 kilometers | July 24, 2015 | website

Ultra Transkarukera | 120 kilometers | July 24, 2015 | website

India

Himachal Pradesh

The Himalayan Crossing | 353 kilometers | July 27, 2015 | website

The SPITI | 126 kilometers | July 30, 2015 | website

Indonesia

Les Foulées de la Soie en indonénie | 100 kilometers | August 06, 2015 | website

Mount Rinjani Ultra | 52 kilometers | August 07, 2015 | website

Ireland

Munster

Keith Whyte Waterfront Ultra Marathon | 36 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Italy

Aosta Valley

Monte Rosa Walser Ultra Trail | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Sicily

Etna Trail | 64 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol

Südtirol Ultra Skyrace – 121 km | 121 kilometers | July 24, 2015 | website

Südtirol Ultra Skyrace – 66 km | 66 kilometers | July 24, 2015 | website

Veneto

Trans d’Havet Ultra | 80 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Latvia

Cēsis ECO Trail 80 km | 80 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Madagascar

Isalo Raid – Grand Raid | 80 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Mauritius

Trail des 7 Couleurs | 120 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Mongolia

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 100K | 100 kilometers | August 05, 2015 | website

Peru

Moyobamba Trail Running Festival | 80 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Philippines

TransCebu Ultramarathon 105 Km | 105 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

TransCebu Ultramarathon 55 Km | 55 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Portugal

Ultra-Trail Nocturno da Lagoa de Óbidos | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Réunion

Trail du Grand Ouest | 60 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Russia

Elbrus Mountain Race by adidas outdoor | 105 kilometers | July 30, 2015 | website

Golden Ring Ultra Trail | 50 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Golden Ring Ultra Trail 100 | 100 kilometers | August 02, 2015 | website

Singapore

50 km | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Spain

Aragon

Calcenada Vuelta al Moncayo – 104 km | 104 kilometers | August 07, 2015 | website

Gran Trail Aneto-Posets | 109 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Vuelta al Aneto | 58 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Cantabria

Trail La Herradura de Campoo – 55 km | 55 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Trail La Herradura de Campoo – Trail Etapas 28+32 | 60 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Catalonia

Ultra Catllaràs | 55 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Principality of Asturias

Ultra Trail DesafíOSOmiedo | 86 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Sweden

Tierra Arctic Ultra | 120 kilometers | August 07, 2015 | website

Switzerland

Grisons

Swiss Alpine Marathon K78 | 78 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Obwald

MOUNTAINMAN Ultra | 80 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Ticino

Ultra Race – 130 km | 128 kilometers | August 07, 2015 | website

Ultra Race – 80 km | 81 kilometers | August 07, 2015 | website

Valais

La Spéci-Men | 72 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Turkey

RunFire Cappadocia Ultra Marathon | 220 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

United Kingdom

East Riding of Yorkshire

The Montane Lakeland 100 | 100 miles | July 24, 2015 | website

The Montane Lakeland 50 | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

England

Round the Rock | 48 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Round the Rock Ultra Marathon | 48 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Hampshire

Oxfam Trailwalker GB (South) | 100 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Stirling

Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace | 43 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

USA

Alaska

Resurrection Pass 100 Mile Ultra Trail | 100 miles | August 07, 2015 | website

Arizona

Vertigo 63K Night Trail Run | 63 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Arkansas

Full mOOn 50K | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

California

Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance run | 100 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Badwater 135 | 135 miles | July 28, 2015 | website

Big Basin Trail Run 50 km | 50 kilometers | July 26, 2015 | website

Harding Hustle 50K | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Montaña de Oro 50km | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

San Francisco Ultramarathon | 52 miles | July 26, 2015 | website

Colorado

Grand Mesa 100M | 100 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Grand Mesa 37.5M | 60 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Grand Mesa 50M | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Never Summer 100km | 100 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Ouray 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

Ragnar Relay Colorado | 200 miles | August 07, 2015 | website

Wild West Relay | 200 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

Idaho

Wild Idaho 50K Enrudance Run | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Wild Idaho 50M Enrudance Run | 50 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Maine

Down East Sunrise Trail Team Relay | 102 miles | July 24, 2015 | website

Maryland

Catoctin 50k Trail Run | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Minnesota

Minnesota Voyageur Trail 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Montana

HURL Elkhorn 50 K Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

HURL Elkhorn 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Nevada

Ruby Mountain Relay | 184 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

North Carolina

Mattamuskeet Death March | 100 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

The March | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Ohio

Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Burning River 50 Mile Endurance Run | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Oregon

Cascade Lakes Relay | 132 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

Elkhorn Relay | 203 miles | August 07, 2015 | website

Relay | 132 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

Siskiyou Out Back Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Siskiyou Out Back Trail Run 50M | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

Pennsylvania

Viaduct Trail 100 Mile Ultramarathon | 100 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Viaduct Trail 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Texas

50K | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Utah

Kat’cina Mosa 100K Mountain Challenge Run | 100 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Speedgoat 50K Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | July 25, 2015 | website

Ultra Adventure Tushars 100 Mile | 100 miles | July 31, 2015 | website

Ultra Adventure Tushars 93K | 93 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Vermont

Moosalamoo Ultra – 36 M | 36 miles | August 01, 2015 | website

Virginia

Dahlgren Heritage Rail Trail 50 km | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

Washington

Bigfoot 200 Mile Endurance Run | 205 miles | August 07, 2015 | website

Grand Ridge 50K Trail Run (August) | 50 kilometers | August 01, 2015 | website

White River 50 Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | July 25, 2015 | website

03:11:15 CLOSE

03:14:45

Show links:

Website – talkultra.com

Gary Robbins prepares for the Salomon SKYRUN, South Africa

©copyright .iancorless.com._1080262

Gary Robbins has an incredible story… like all Canadians he played Hockey, his first race ‘off the couch’ was a 10-miler but in his late teens the lure of a good party and soft white snow saw him become a ski bum.

Like many, he had a cathartic moment. A moment when you look in, shake yourself up and decide that you need to get a grip. Gary travelled and travelled extensively. It was the millennium and those magic numbers, ‘2000’ provided a stimulus for many, not just Gary.

The process of finding fitness and health was a gradual one. When back home in Banff the partying continued but it was now on a back burner. Running became a normal activity and the mountains provided an incentive for adventure.

2002 ultimately was a key year, Adventure Racing was booming and  Gary had seen the EcoChallenge. What followed was a journey into the unknown and Gary raced with his team the Raid the North Extreme, Mind Over Matter Adventure Racing and the booming Primal Quest.

In 2008 a shift to purely running came and for many, this is the Gary Robbins we all know. His history and story around Hurt 100 makes incredible reading and listening. In 2010, Gary tackled Hurt and not only won the race in 20-hours 12-minutes but broke a Geoff Roes course record… that doesn’t happen very often!

What followed is possibly one of the greatest comebacks in sport. Whilst out training  with Geoff Roes and Max King, Gary broke his leg on the Hurt 100 course. At first he thought it was no big deal, however, what followed was a period of his life that may well have seen Gary never run again.

But mile by mile, Gary eased his way back into the sport with help of fellow ultra runner, Luke Nelson. In 2013, Gary went full circle and returned to Hurt 100, a place of so much glory and so much pain. He had a point to prove and prove it he did. He won the race and a little like Roy Hobbs in the the film, ‘The Natural’ Gary had his moment once again. A moment he followed up in 2014 with a repeat victory.

Hurt 100 holds a special place in Gary’s heart and it is his experiences in Adventure Racing, triumphing over the 100-mile distance, his incredible comeback that will now see him toe the line at the Salomon SKYRUN in South Africa.

SkyRun 2014 on White

IC: How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

GR: From a racing perspective I built out my year to attempt to peak for The Salomon SkyRun and as such I’ve had an unusually low mileage summer of running. I raced the Cascade Crest 100 miler on August 23rd. It wasn’t my best day, especially after a sleep deprived week of race directing my own Squamish 50 just six days prior. I ended up sitting in an aid station just 30 miles in for over twenty minutes after walking for the hour prior. It wasn’t pretty. I stuck with it though and had a great second half rally in which I managed to climb my way back up to finish 3rd overall. Seth Swanson (2nd WS100) took the win in a CR time.

IC:  Do you have any targets between now and your trip to SA?

GR: My target is a big month of training and to show up in peak fitness and injury free. I will be racing Rocky Man Brazil on November 8th though, before flying straight to South Africa.’RMB’ is a relay event in which teams compete by Nationality. It’ll be the first time a Canadian team has competed at Rocky Man and I’m quite excited with the team we’ve built. For me it’ll be a 35km mountain run along with a team based outrigger canoe paddle. The team if five members and the disciplines include surfing, skate board half pipe, SUP, mountain bike, men’s run, women’s run and a team outrigger canoe and team run stage.

IC: How has training gone, you are a busy race director yourself?

GR: It was quite the summer of race directing to be honest. I now oversee twelve races and it’s certainly kept me on my toes. I had a very successful first seven months of training, followed by a few months of non-structured training with lower overall mileage. I’ve just now started bumping up the distance again with a successful three day circumnavigation of the 150km long Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier. That capped off a 110 mile week and thankfully all systems seem to be a go right now.

IC: Navigation is a key component of the Salomon SKYRUN have you been looking at some maps of the Drakensberg?

GR: I unfortunately have not, and navigating was never my strong suit in adventure racing. I hope to work this in in October.

IC: You have a great adventure racing background, are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

GR: Thus far no, I’ll just follow the route Ryan Sandes did for the course record…!

IC: The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

GR: I struggle to look past the next event on my calendar and typically work through one event at a time, as such I haven’t been able to put much focus on my SkyRun research just yet. I direct my final trail race of the year this Saturday and following that it’s 100% focus on South Africa.

IC: A strong local contingent will be toeing the line… Iain Don Wauchope, AJ Calitz and so on… do you know much about them?

GR: I do not know much about these runners personally, but what I do know is that South Africans in general are incredible tough and talented runners. There’s no doubt in my mind that South Africans could very literally run away from the rest of us on race day. Home field advantage is certainly a reality over any terrain in which flagging isn’t utilised.

IC: Michael De Haast (race director) has put up a great prize purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

GR: I think it’s great that Michael has been able to put up such a prize purse. Personally I’ve never targeted an event due to a prize purse and am more driven by the aesthetic of a race. Prize purse or not, I can’t wait to run in South Africa! My wife will be joining me for two out of the three weeks that I’ll be in South Africa and we’ve been looking forward to this trip together all year long!

IC: This trip will provide two great opportunities – travel and racing!

GR: In terms of the race itself, I’m really excited to do a slightly non-conventional and more challenging form of a trail race. It seems more akin to an adventure run and I do love me a good adventure run. From a travel perspective, I’m stoked to run in a completely new country, while Linda and I are both really looking forward to taking in a safari while we’re there. Her face also tends to light up real bright when she says the words “dinosaur footprints,” which we hope to check out at some point as well.

The Salomon SKYRUN takes place on 20th-23rd of November and an exclusive package is available for those who may like to join us for the trip of a lifetime. Info HERE

‘I really like what the Salomon SkyRun is as an event, an honest to goodness bad ass mountain race. A lot of races out there like to brand themselves as such, but the Salomon SkyRun appears to be fully legit in this regard.’ Gary says as a parting shot, ‘I think few places in the world would embrace and even sanction an event such as this and I believe that offers great insight into the people, both behind the scenes and those lining up to tackle the race itself. This won’t be easy, as is evidenced by Ryan Sandes course record of almost twelve and a half hours.’

Having said all that, there’s an undeniable element of intrigue that emanates from everything surrounding the Salomon SkyRun.

You can listen to interviews with Gary Robbins below:

Episode 54 of Talk Ultra – Gary Robbins once again returned to the tough and gnarly Hurt 100 and came away with another victory, in this weeks show he tells us all about it and his plans for 2014. HK100 took place just a couple of weeks ago and young Australian sensation, Vlad Ixel placed 3rd overall in a top quality field, we interviewed him about his running and what the future hold. Talk Training as ‘Hint’s n Tips for running from Speedgoat himsel, the News, a Blog, Up and Coming races.. another great show in store!

Episode 29 – has come back man Gary Robbins telling us what it’s like to return from 2 years of injury to not only win Hurt 100 but to set a new CR. Jez Bragg tells us about completing ‘The Long Pathway, Te Araroa’ in New Zealand. Joe Grant says goodbye and heads off to the Iditarod. Colourful Catra Corbett tells us about drugs, alcohol, running, tattoos, clothes and Truman. In addition to all that, we also have… phew; Talk Training about the long run, ‘A year in the life off…, part 3 of our Marathon des Sables special, A Meltzer Moment, Up & Coming races and of course the News.

SkyRun 2014 on White