Epic, it was just epic… Monte Rosa Skymarathon lived up to the hype and delivered beyond expectations. The ‘buzz’ in Alagna after the race was incredible. ‘This is a proper Skyrunning race,’ was repeated time and time again. ‘Let’s have more of this Marino… let’s get back to the core values of the sport and yes, let’s go back 25-years!’
For Marino Giacometti, it was a dream come true. The tears in his eyes showed it…! It was here in Monte Rosa that a new sport was born 25+ years ago and today it was re-established – the sport of Skyrunning. Start low, go high and reach a summit and then return as fast as possible but not cluttered with mountaineering equipment, this sport is fast and light.
The course retraced the original route from Alagna Valsesia at 1192m via the Bocchetta delle Pisse (2396m) to the Indren cable car station (3260m). From here the route continues upwards via the Gnifetti Hut (3467m), Colle del Lys (4250m) and then the summit, the Margherita Hut at 4554m. The route re-traces all the way back to Alagna along paths, ski runs, glaciers for a 35km loop and 3490m of vertical ascent.
Teams of two, roped together to raced across moraine, snow fields and glaciers for 35 kilometres with an astonishing 7,000m ascent and descent.
Of course, any mountain adventure is at the mercy of the mountain and the weather. Today, the weather and mountain gods looked down on an Alagna and smiled; it was a perfect day!
From the gun, Franco Colle and William Boffelli dictated the pace and they looked relaxed, comfortable and in control. They were pursued by Alberto Comazzi and Cristian Minoggio, however, Colle and Boffelli were just too strong. Throughout the race they pulled away, constantly working in unison to eventually return to Alagna in 4:39:59. Comazzi and Minoggio placed 2nd but over 20-minutes later, crossing in 5:03:26.
The big news was all about Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet. Forsberg just two days previously had summited Mont Blanc in a super fast time, and now she was here, with Jornet powering up from Alagana to the summit of Monte Rosa to return in 5:03:56, just 30-seconds off 2nd overall. However, their time blew the ladies fastest time out of the water – congratulations Emelie on the new record. For Jornet, it was a return to racing after time away from the sport with injury. The duo beamed after the race, “this is the sport of Skyrunning,” said Jornet. “The ambiance here is excellent, the route is incredible, it’s just a pleasure to be here.” Emelie had set her sights on the record before the race, “I wanted the ladies fastest time and with a requirement to have two in a team, I needed someone like Kilian to allow me to run a fast pace knowing that he could keep up. I lead all day and he followed.”
Tom Owens and Andy Symonds were 4th to cross the line, the duo beaming with happiness from the experience, although Symonds did say, “I just need to be in better shape next time”
The first female duo were regular Skyrunner’s, Holly Page and Hillary Gerardi, they crossed in 5:51:32 and were 12th overall.
Ultimately though, the general consensus post race was that Marino Giacometti, the race organisation team, Alagna and Monte Rosa were the real stars of the day. It may have been a return to 25-years ago, but many feel it’s a new beginning!
Mountains dominate the life of Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten. It’s not a job; it’s a passion that dominates 12+ hours of every day. They are the visionaries of the sport, Skyrunning. In 1989, Marino set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. It laid the foundations of the sport and now, 25-years after the first official event in 1993, Lauri and Marino return to the birthplace. Introducing Europe’s highest race. Following in the footsteps of the race where it all began in the Italian Alps, retracing the original course to the summit of Monte Rosa at 4,554m from the town of Alagna.
Iconic names such as Bruno Brunod and Fabio Meraldi are once again being talked about in the same breath as Kilian Jornet.
“Older generations were already Skyrunners. My grandfather crossed the mountains working for example. ‘We’ as Skyrunners added more speed but in essence it has always been the same thing, Skyrunners have always existed.” Bruno Brunod says, “What I liked was going quickly to the summit. I felt the same when I was a kid in the pastures, I always ran up and down the summits that surrounded me. It is something I felt inside, something I liked.”
Marino was a visionary and many like to call him the ‘Father’ of Skyrunning.
“Skyrunning differs to other sports and this is the discipline we launched in the mid 1990’s. Skyrunning has always existed; all across the world it is just that it became a formalised sport. I therefore consider myself the father of Skyrunning for the aspect of race organisation because when it started 25-years ago nobody talked about this.”
So now, 2018, 25-years in the making, the sport’s founders present an exclusive new event, this time in teams of two, roped together to race in true skyrunning style across moraine, snow fields and glaciers for 35 kilometres with an astonishing 7,000m ascent and descent.
Marino and Bruno in the Aosta valley
Just as Bruno Brunod was Kilian’s hero. Kilian followed his dreams from the inspiration Bruno provided, Kilian is now the epitome of Skyrunning and along with Emelie Forsberg, the duo will line-up top international athletes including skyrunning stars – past and present – and ski mountaineering champions aiming to challenge the incredible records set in 1994 by Italians Fabio Meraldi in 4h24’ and Gisella Bendotti in 5h34′.
Fabio Meraldi will be present at the race but not participating. Bruno Brunod unfortunately is unable to attend due to a prior commitment. Marco De Gasperi, the Italian legend, laid the foundations for his incredible Skyrunning career on the slopes of Monte Rosa when just at the age of 16, he was given special permission to run to the summit and back. He will also join the party in Alagna.
Marino and Fabio Meraldi at Trofeo Kima
Kilian Jornet confirms he will run the race with his partner, Emelie Forsberg. Lauri and Marino first met Kilian in 2006, “he impressed immediately,” Marino says. “He was a natural Skyrunner. We all know the history; he was born in the mountains and as such he has just developed in an organic way. As I said, a natural.”
A timely reminder of Fast and Light
The stage is set for 2018’s most spectacular Skyrunning event.
The course retraces the original route from Alagna Valsesia at 1192m via the Bocchetta delle Pisse (2396m) to the Indren cable car station (3260m). From here the route continues upwards via the Gnifetti Hut (3467m), Colle del Lys (4250m) and then the summit, the Margherita Hut at 4554m. The route re-traces all the way back to Alagna along paths, ski runs, glaciers for a 35km loop and 3490m of vertical ascent.
Friday 22 June
0900 race office open
1800 Mandatory race briefing
Saturday 23 June
0600 Race start (the race has a 24-hour window for bad weather, so, the start may be postponed to Sunday 24 June.
1030 First athlete arrival
This race is unique and therefore experienced athletes will only take part. One may almost consider this to be an exhibition event. Athletes are responsible for their own safety and equipment but specific requirements are necessary. For example, from the Indren cable car, teams must be roped together via an approved harness. They must have two carabiners, micro metal crampons are essential and poles are required.
The race brings much experience from the ski and mountaineering world, and therefore, on first glance one may not recognise many of the names listed. Especially if looking at this from a ‘run’ perspective. Therefore, below I will concentrate on the names that crossover from the run/ Skyrunning world:
FORSBERG and JORNET
SYMONDS and OWENS
GERARDI and PAGE
– Hillary Gerardi
Lefort and Rozados
Paloncy and Mann
Tomasiak and Kaars Sijpesteijn
Zanchi and Fernando
and many more….
The 2018 Monte Rosa Skymarathon is a new moment for the sport… As races over the world increase and lines get crossed, the Monte Rosa Skymarathon goes back to the roots of Skyrunning in the place of it’s birth.
Scenic by name and scenic by nature, the longest race of the 2017Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series took place yesterday amongst the majestic mountains of Switzerland. Amongst an awe-inspiring backdrop, views throughout the 113km route stretch far and wide – the Alps, Lake Maggiore, the Appennines and the Po Valley.
Starting at midnight, the early hours of the race were under complete darkness, however, clear skies and full moon provided a spectacular ambience that added to the still and mild temperatures.
A 500m climb kicks off the race to Goal Di Lago and then after just 14km or so, a relentless climb, with little rest follows to Capanna Monte Tamaro at 31.6km.
The arrival of dawn welcomed the runners and then the long push through the day starts – a shark tooth profile clearly showing how the 7400m of vertical gain will challenge the runners.
The high-point of the race came at Gazzirola 2116m (81km) and one could say it’s all downhill from here. The reality is far from the truth, the course continually goes up and down all the way to the finish line at 415m alt.
An allocated 32-hours to complete the race sounded generous, however, as the race unfolded, it would soon become clear to finish, let alone within the cut-off, would be a challenge.
The race was predicted to have a hot day, and yes, it was! Temperatures reached over 30deg in a relatively cloud free sky. It was clear from the start that German Stephan Hugenschmidt was going to be the one to beat. He opened a gap immediately after the midnight start, it would have been a lonely night but Matthias Dippacher was matching step-by-step.
Czech Marek Causidis pursued the duo and with just over a marathon covered, was trailing by 4-minutes as they climbed to Cuccheto at 1571m.
Benoit Guyot and Gael Droz followed together and then Gabriele Sborina just 1-minute later, the front runners all just spread over 30-minutes.
Lead lady and pre-race favourite Francesca Canepa, had lead the race from the start and had spent a lonely night. She arrived just outside the top-10 overall at the marathon mark with a 15-minute lead over 2nd lady Christiana Follador, also from Italy.
Helene Ogi had Follador in sight and Follador knew it, she repeatedly turned to check on the German runner. But Ogli was already looking tired under the strain of the relentless climbing.
Spain’s Laia Diez was in 4th but the strongest looking lady (besides Canepa) was Russian Yulia Baykova who caused a little confusion as she displayed a race number from one of the shorter races.
Over the following kilometers there was little change in the men’s race, with Hugenschmidt and Dippachern controlling the race, the only real point of note was the extent their lead. At the summit of Monte Boglia (with just over 10km to go) they had a 20-minute lead over Causidis and 30-minutes over Guyot who was now running alone in 4th pursued by Droz who was another 9-minutes back.
Canepa arrived at this marker over 2-hours after the lead men but her lead was strong. However, it was all change behind with Follador, Ogli and Diez all crumbling under the pressure of Baykova who had moved up into 2nd and looked strong.
Follador, Ogli and Diez had succumbed to the course and local favourite Denise Zimmermann filled the gap followed by Giuliana Arrigoni from Italy.
The finish line finally came 15-hours and 40-minutes after the start for Hugenschmidt and Dippacher – they crossed the line together, joint victors of a super tough race. Causidis held for 3rd, Guyot 4th and Droz 5th, their times 16:08:53, 16:20:04 and 16:27:35 respectively.
Canepa was first lady in 19:12:18 – yes, the race is that tough! Baykova placed a great 2nd in 19:43:05 and then Zimmermann, Arrigoni and Patricia Besomi placed 3rd, 4th and 5th in 20:46:48, 22:38:56 and 23:03:10.
Extreme is personified with the imminent running of the 2016 Trofeo Kima. Tough, challenging, technical, inspirational. memorable… KIMA is not for everyone! For over 20-years this race has been the example provided to the world of what a Skyrunning race can be. The vision of Marino Giacometti was way ahead of its time, but now, the world is catching up. Two years ago saw the creation of the Tromso SkyRace by ‘Kima’ stars, Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg. Last year we witnessed the inaugural Glen Coe Skyline which incorporated elements of the other 2 races to create something quite unique for the UK.
In 2016, the three races combined to create a new challenge, the Sky Extreme Series – three races of which two must be completed to rank.
Kima covers 52km with 4200m of vertical gain and goes over 7 passes linked by refuges. Exposed crest, snow, ice, steep rocks, technical terrain and Via Feratta provides one of the ultimate challenges available.
The recent Tromso SkyRace set the stage for 2016 with stunning victories by two Brits, Tom Owens and Jasmin Paris. Paris will mis Kima due to prior race commitments but her presence is confirmed for Scotland. Owens by contrast follows up his purple patch of running (silver at the Skyrunning World Champs, victory at SkyRace Comapedrosa and victory in Tromso) by running in Kima, a place where he last raced in 2012 when he placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet. On recent form, Owens is without doubt the men’s favourite. He has pushed his stamina recently with many events and quality training but he just seems to be getting stronger and stronger!
Jonathan Albon (UK) who won Tromso SkyRace ahead of Luis Alberto Hernando in 2015 and recently placed 2nd to Owens at the same race in 2016 has rejigged his racing plans and has decided that Kima is just too good too miss. He did say in his interview on Talk Ultra podcast (here) that he will use Kima as a learning curve but I still anticipate a top performance!
Whilst on a UK theme, it’s important to acknowledge how the Extreme Series has really captured the hearts, minds and yes, legs and lungs of the Brits, primarily due to a race on home soil. Donnie Campbell winner of the Lakes Sky Ultra, 3×3 and many other races will test himself on Italian soil. He knows the challenge is the next logical step in his progress as a Skyrunner. Joe Symonds(*not confirmed), brother of Andy Symonds and winner of the 2015 Glen Coe Skyline will also get his Extreme campaign underway! 2015 Dragons Back Race winner, Jim Mann will also join the Kima party along with Glen Coe Skyline RD, Shane Ohly.
Main contenders for overall victory will come thick and fast from a world class line-up of experienced Skyrunner’s who know how to push to the limit on the ultimate terrain.
Marco De Gasperi needs no introduction, the Italian was there in the beginning and still pioneers a true path in the sport.
Sota Ogawa made the podium in Tromso and no doubt he will bring guts and determination to the Italian mountains for a repeat performance.
Fulvio Dapit has raced Kima many times (6th in 2014), is arguably one of the most experienced Skyrunner’s on the start list and although he is unlikely to win the race, he will be in contention. However, he has become a new Dad recently; he may be tired!
Bhim Gurung won the inaugural Yading SkyRace which kicked off the 2016 Skyrunner World Series. Just this last weekend he raced at Matterhorn Ultraks where he finished 7th. Kima’s technical terrain will be a challenge for the Nepalese runner but not the altitude.
Eirik Haugsnes won the inaugural Tromso SkyRace and has performed consistently in technical and challenging races. A recent top-10 in Tromso once again shows he has the fitness for a repeat performance. *update 23rd August, Eirik has withdrawn from the race.
Alexis Sevennec is a runner who mixes ski mountaineering and Skyrunning seamlessly. An ever-present on the Skyrunning circuit, he has always run well at the Dolomites SkyRace and most recently at SkyRace Comapedrosa.
Manuel Merillas is a last minute entry to the race and after placing 2nd in 2014 behind Kilian Jornet, he is likely one of the hot favourites for a podium place. However, his results in 2016 have not been as impressive as in 2014 and 2015, maybe Kima will be a turning point?
Andre Jonsson was on fire early season and then had a couple of mixed races, particularly at the Dolomites SkyRace where he performed below expectation. At Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, Jonsson dictated the pace from the start and looked set for a great victory only to crumble on the final climb. It’s all a learning curve and Kima will no doubt be a huge test but it’s one that he is happy to take on.
Florian Reichert has been racing on the Skyrunning circuit for years and has always been a consistent performer who has experienced Zegama, Transvulcania, Glen Coe and so many more races. He comes to Kima with experience and an understanding of the challenge ahead.
Philipp Reiter is racing less these days due to commitments working for Salomon, however, he always has a great level of fitness and the more technical the terrain, the happier he is. He showed this at Tromso recently. Philipp would be the first to say that podium is unlikely but he will be in and around the top 10.
Pablo Villa has raced a great deal at the moment, SkyRace Comapedrosa and just recently at Matterhorn Ultraks. Kima is a challenging race and Villa’s performance will depend on his powers of recovery.
Dani Garcia Gomez, Iban Letamendi, Paul Hamilton, Jan Bartas, Luca Carrara, Matt Cooper, Matt Lefort, Aaron Newell, Konrad Rawlik, Leo Viret, Situ Vives Bosch, Allan Spangler and Pieter Schaaps amongst others will also toe the line in what will be a very exciting men’s race.
The ladies race has recently been brought to life with the announcement that Emelie Forsberg will use Kima as her comeback race from a very serious injury and operation. At Tromso SkyRace, Forsberg tested her knee and fitness on the VK course and came away with a victory in a 3 up sprint for the line. The last time Forsberg raced in Kima it ended in tears; all set for what looked like to be a course record run when disaster struck with a navigation error and a huge loss of time. Chasing like a demon, Emelie pulled back places and eventually finished 2nd behind Kasie Enman. Having seen Emelie run in Tromso, I personally feel that we are going to see an on fire Forsberg on the mountain passes, the only 2 questions I will have and probably Emelie has: 1. How will the knee hold up? 2. How will Emelie’s endurance be for a 7-hour outing? If the answer the these two questions is positive, I think we will see Emelie win the race.
Emanuela Brizio won Kima in 2010, was 3rd in 2012 and 3rd in 2014. I have no reason to doubt that Emanuela will not be on the podium again, this year I think it will be 2nd but victory is a distinct possibility.
Ruth Croft had a great result at Transvulcania earlier this year and just won the 30km event at Matterhorn Ultraks. Kima will be a complete learning curve for Ruth, I doubt if she will have ever experienced a course that offers so much technical running.
Nuria Dominguez was 4th at Kima in 2014 and will no doubt be in the mix – a podium place is a distinct possibility,
Natalia Tomasiak was 4th lady at Tromso Skyrace and she can therefore handle the technical terrain and distance. Her finishing time though was over 60-minutes slower than race winner, Jasmin Paris. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Natalia can contest for the win but top-5 is possible.
Elizabeth Barker like Natalia ran Tromso and finished 7th. A top-10 is a possibility in Italy.
Zuzana Urbancova, Kristina Aluzaite,Elisabet Bertran Masenanes, Olga Lyjak, Tanya Pacheco, Kathrin Schambeck and Hana Krajnikova are all running and may well contest the top-10 or top-5 podium places.
Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott Running, Compressport and Salomon.
About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline: Less cloud. More sky.
The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.
iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:
Recently I have produced a couple of articles about how to ensure that you are an efficient walker when participating in long or mountainous events. You can read them HERE and HERE.
The first article discusses Training to Walk for Ultra, Trail and Mountain Running and the second article is about Walking, Running and Climbing with Trekking Poles.
JOIN OUR YEARLY MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP IN LANZAROTE with MARATHON DES SABLES 2015 CHAMPION, ELISABETH BARNES – HERE
On December 15th, the University of Colorado Boulder released a document called, CU-Boulder researchers discover optimal range of slopes for extreme uphill running.
This article made me take a look and read in-depth for two reasons: first and foremost it ties in nicely with my previous two articles but more importantly and secondly, research into VK data dates back some 16-years and was pioneered by the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) who created the VK format as a racing discipline.
To clarify a VK is 1000m of vertical ascent and the objective is to climb the elevation gain as quickly as possible. The original context of the VK always was about research and data.
VK courses vary greatly but the ISF consider a true VK to be under 5km in length. To understand the variables, some VK’s, for example the Dolomites are just over 2km in length. By contrast, Limone Extreme is a considerably longer course with a less extreme gradient.
Fully, Switzerland has long been a testing ground for VK performance and a post from the ISF which was updated 22nd October 2012 adds some very clear and specific points to consider:
“Italy’s Urban Zemmer rocketed up the 1,000m vertical course, only 1.9 km long, in just 30’26”, 20 seconds faster than the standing world record set here in 2011.”
In addition, the ladies records tumbled:
“French runner Christel Dewalle was first in 36’48” followed by Axelle Mollaret in 37’44” and third, Maude Mathys from Switzerland in 37’56, all beating the previous world record set two years ago by Italian Valentina Belotti in 38’50.”
Notably, the ISF commented:
“The new men’s record nears a speed of 2,000 vertical metres per hour (precisely 1,971m) an incredible ground-breaking performance that the ISF has been monitoring for many years in a scientific research project… Depending on the course and type of start, poles are permitted and yesterday, most of the runners used them. However, to date, the advantages of using poles has not been scientifically demonstrated.”
In 2014, the record for the VK was once again broken by Urban Zemmer at Fully, Switzerland with the incredible time of 29’ 42”.
Remi Bonnet prefers to run a VK and never walks
So by simple logic (I am no scientist), it would suggest that the steepest course is the fastest as Fully is only 1.9km long. To quote, Run the Alps,”The Vertical KM race in Fully, Switzerland is considered to be the fastest vertical kilometer course in the world. The race, held on a former funicular route, is home to both the men’s and women’s world records.”
You can watch a YouTube clip of the 2013 Fully race HERE
Watch the video of Fully and you will see varying techniques, some walk, some walk/ jog, some (most) use poles but one thing is consistent, the effort is almost maximal for all. Therefore, in a non-scientific look at Fully, the fastest performances come from the genetically gifted who have all the elements required for an optimum VK performance: lung capacity, V02max, lactate threshold, power to weight ratio, technique and so on.
Marco de Gasperi like to mix running and walking
But what about the optimal slopes for uphill running as questioned by CU-Boulder. They posed the question:
“Imagine that you are standing in Colorado at a trailhead where the base elevation is 9,000 feet. Your friend challenges you to race to the summit of the mountain, which tops out at 12,280 feet, roughly 1,000 meters of elevation gain. There are several different trails that go to the summit. They are all steep and some are extremely steep. One trail averages a 10 degree incline and the sign says it is 3.6 miles long. A second trail averages 30 degrees, but is only 1.25 miles long. A third trail averages 40 degrees, but only 1 mile long. To get to the summit the fastest, which trail should you choose and should you walk or run?”
Poles or no poles on a steep gradient?
This is a question that the ISF have asked and researched for many years. A paper titled, “Energy costs of walking and running uphill and downhill at extreme slopes” looks into this:
Davide Susta, Alberto E. Minetti*, Christian Moia and Guido Ferretti
Département de Physiologie, Centre Médical Universitaire, 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland, *Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alsager ST7 2HL, U.K.
The energy costs of walking and running (Cw and Cr, respectively, in J kg-1 m-1) increase with the slope uphill (up to +20%) and decrease with the slope downhill (down to -10%) (Margaria, 1938; Margaria et al, 1963). Outside this range, no measurements of Cw and Cr are available in the literature, even though walking and running on the mountains at greater slopes is becoming commoner and commoner practice in leisure and sport. We therefore set out to carry out the present study, the aim of which is to determine Cw and Cr on men walking and running at slopes up to +45% and -45% on the treadmill. After local ethical approval, 10 subjects (Skyrunners) were admitted to the study (age 32.6 + 7.5 years, body mass 61.2 + 5.7 kg, maximal O2 consumption 68.9 + 3.8 ml min-1 kg-1). They are all endurance athletes practicing mountain racing. O2 consumption at the steady state was measured by the open circuit method, using Leybold O2 and CO2 analysers and a Singer dry gas meter. Heart rate was measured by cardiotachography. Blood lactate concentration was determined after each run as a check for submaximal aerobic exercise.
Each subject performed up to three walking and three running trials at progressively increasing speeds on the level, and at the slopes of 10, 20, 30, 35, 40 and 45 % uphill and downhill. The duration of each trial was 4 min, and expired gas was collected during the 4th min of exercise. Minimum Cw on the level was:
1.85 + 0.57 J kg-1 m-1 (n = 10) at the speed of 0.69 m s-1. During uphill walking, Cw increased with the slope, to attainthevalueof18.08+1.57Jkg-1 m-1 (n=9)atthespeedof0.69ms-1 andat the slope of +45%. During downhill walking, minimum Cw was lower at the slope of -10% (0.81 + 0.37 J kg-1 m-1, n = 9) than on the level. At slopes below -10%, it progressively increased. At -45%, it was 3.46 + 0.95 J kg-1 m-1(n = 5). Cr on the level was 3.40 + 0.24 J kg-1 m-1(n = 30). Cr increased with the slope, to attain 18.69 + 1.42 J kg-1 m-1(n = 6) at +45%.
During downhill running, Cr decreased and attained its lowest value at the slope of -20% (1.73 + 0.36 J kg-1 m-1, n = 24). At lower slopes, it increased. At -45%, at speeds higher than 1.38 m s-1, it was equal to 3.79 + 0.57 (n = 7). The mechanical efficiency for vertical displacement was 0.216 + 0.015 at +45% and 1.078 + 0.275 at -45%. This data on the level and at slopes up to 20% correspond to those found by others on non-athletic subjects (Margaria, 1938). At higher slopes, the increases in Cw and Cr are such as could be predicted assuming that all energy is used to lift the body. By contrast, at -10% and -20%, both Cw and Cr are lower than in non- athletic subjects (Margaria, 1938), suggesting greater recovery of elastic energy at each step in the present athletes. At slopes below -20%, the increases in Cw and Cr are such as could be predicted assuming that all energy expenditure is for negative muscle contractions.
Margaria, R. (1938). Atti Acad. Naz. Lincei 7, 299-368.
Margaria, R., Cerretelli, P., Aghemo, P. & Sassi, G. (1963). J. Appl. Physiol. 18, 367-370. This work was supported by a grant from the FSA- Federation.for Sport at Altitude
Referring back to the CU-Boulder research:
“Based on our research, we now know that choosing the second trail (30 degrees) and walking as fast as you can within your aerobic capacity is the fastest way to go,” Kram said. “For either running or walking, slopes between 20 and 35 degrees require nearly the same amount of energy to climb the hill at the same vertical velocity.”
This new study (HERE), which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is believed to be the first to examine the metabolic costs of human running and walking on such steep inclines (suggested by the CU-Boulder researchers.) However, I would question this and refer to research by the FSA – “Energy cost of walking and running at extreme uphill and downhill slopes.” Received 29 November 2001; accepted in final form 29 April 2002. You can download this detailed documentation HERE and it is essential reading.
Who is the most efficient?
It would appear that gradients of 20-35 degrees require the same amount of effort and interestingly, CU-Boulder research found in a study:
“A vertical rate of ascent of just over 1 foot per second, is a pace that high-level athletes could sustain during the testing. At that speed, walking used about nine percent less energy than running. So, sub-elite athletes can ascend on very steep uphills faster by walking rather than running.”
In simple terms, this is something I have found out by attempting VK’s in my own time in and around events. More often than not, the effort required to run is so hard that it becomes counter productive. I have even found that including run sections to be counter productive as this raises my heart rate, increases lactate acid and requires me to recover while still climbing. However, if I maintain a constant effort walking, this produces the best results for me.
CU-Boulder research went on to say:
“The study examined 15 competitive mountain runners as they ran and walked on the treadmill at seven different angles ranging from 9 to 39 degrees. The treadmill speed was set so that the vertical rate of ascent was the same. Thus, the treadmill speeds were slower on the steeper angles. The athletes were unable to balance at angles above 40 degrees, suggesting a natural limit on the feasible slope for a VK competition.”
In regard to the latter point, this in some respects relates to Fully, Switzerland and brings in another element, the use of poles and if poles allow a faster ascent when the gradient steepens. One only has to look at the Dolomites VK and Fully VK where poles are used by nearly all participants. The ISF plan to do a new test with and without ski poles, but it is not easy to do a serious test. Although not scientifically proven, it’s fair to say that using poles with gradients under 20% it will mean more Kcal and a reduced performance. However, with gradients steeper than 25 or 30%, the use of poles can correct style, etcetera and can improve the overall performance.
The CU-Boulder article is available to read in full HERE.
I can quote technical papers and research all day, however, as a runner you want to know the answer to the question, should I walk or should I run uphill and should I use poles?
Irrespective of if you plan to run a VK or not, the research and thoughts provided by the FSA and CU-Boulder confirm that running or walking uphill provides an incredible workout. Importantly though, research confirms that walking should be a key element in any training plan, (*…walking used about nine percent less energy than running) especially if you are racing or training on hilly or mountainous terrain.
When participating in ultra events, reverting to periods of walking may well produce greater results and faster times. This is very evident when the terrain steepens; running will only expend more energy and produce slower times. The use of poles appears to benefit performance when gradients steepen, this is not scientifically confirmed.
On a final note though, many other factors come into play when looking at results and as with everything, there are exceptions. Urban Zemmer, Remi Bonnet, Laura Orgue, Christel Dewalle and so many more are able to run when others need to walk. We can’t choose our parents or our genetic pool. Ultimately, find out what works for you but practice makes perfect and the more climbing you do, the better and the faster you will become.
The International Skyrunning Federation is pleased to announce that the Skyrunner World Series calendar will have a new addition to VK, SKY and ULTRA for 2016 and future years. See the full release and calendar HERE.
They are going Extreme!
Trofeo Kima has long been a pinnacle race for Skyrunning enthusiasts worldwide. A jewel in the Skyrunning crown and the words of Kilian Jornet sum it up so well:
“Picture a mountain terrain that has no paths, amidst glaciers; it is all crests, rocks, stretches of via Ferrata and all over a course that stretches 50-km. Kima is not athletics, it is mountaineering; pure Skyrunning!”
The bi-annual race returns in 2016 and due to increasing demand for adventurous and demanding courses, the ISF have created a new series called SKY EXTREME.
Three countries, three awesome races, a real opportunity to embrace the ethos of where earth meets sky!
The series will start in Norway with the TROMSO SKYRACE in August, we will then move to Italy for TROFEO KIMA in late August and then the final race will be in the UK with Scotland’s GLEN COE SKYLINE in September.
Although it will be possible to race each race in its own right, to qualify for the series you will be required to run two races.
The rewards? Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion 2016.
“My vision of so many years ago is finally coming full circle,” said ISF President, Marino Giacometti. “I was ahead of my time! After our first records and races restricted to athletes-climbers on the summit of Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc, Trofeo Kima become the symbol of Skyrunning. Kima has always been for a select few but the growth and demand for more challenging races is now finally coming to fruition with the inspiration that Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg have provided. Tromso Skyrace and Glen Coe Skyline are great additions to the Skyrunner World Series and Sky Extreme is a new and exciting step for Skyrunning! ”
Needless to say, the addition of EXTREME to the Skyrunner World Series is great news for a UK audience and UK based runners.
“I had a dream 2-years ago when Skyrunning UK was launched in the UK that in 3-years we would host a SWS event. That dream is now a reality and with it the worlds best will come to Scotland in September to race in the mountains of Glen Coe!”– Ian Corless, Skyrunning UK Director.
Watch the film, Fast and Light at the bottom of this article
A trickle of piano noise from the local music school weaves its way through open window shutters left ajar to allow some breeze… the heat of the day can be stifling. It feels and sounds like a scene in a movie. Cobbled streets, stone arches, a wonderful old square, the chatter of children playing and the smell of a freshly brewed cappuccino in the air.
Biella, or should I say, the International Skyrunning Federation HQ (and home of Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti) is atop a hill in a walled village close to the Aosta valley, just over an hour from Chamonix and in close proximity to Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. It seems the perfect location for the home of pure mountain running. Biella lies in the foothills of the Alps in the Bo mountain range near Mt. Mucrone and Camino.
It is midway through the 2014 season, between Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima, I spend time with Lauri and Marino in Biella at their home in the mountains (Casina) Corteno Golgi and at Trofeo Kima to get an inside look at what makes this couple tick and how the Skyrunning calendar and its logistics fall into place. The African Attachment with Greg Fell, Dean Leslie and Kelvin Trautman were also filming for Salomon Running. Today, 20th Oct the preview film will be made live. #FastandLight is for me a special moment. I hope you enjoy the film and the related articles and images that are currently published worldwide to coincide with the films release.
Mountains dominate the life of Marino and Lauri. It’s not a job; it’s a passion that dominates 12+ hours of every day. You will see the dynamic duo at all the Skyrunner® World Series races every year. In total, that is 15-events in 3-disciplines, VK, SKY and ULTRA. But these worldwide events are just the visible face of what the ISF does! Behind the scenes it’s a frenetic highly pressured scene of telephone calls, emails, logistical planning and negotiations that make the Skyrunner® World Series tick.
“We moved here as the sports brand Fila were based here. In the 90’s they were a key sponsor for Skyrunning,” says Lauri van Houten, Executive Director for the International Skyrunning Federation, “When Fila folded, we were left with a dilemma; should we stay or should we go? Stay we did and it feels natural and relaxed to be here now.”
It’s a scenario far removed from 1989 when Giacometti set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. 25-years of mountain running and today, iconic names such as Bruno Brunod and Fabio Meraldi are once again being talked about in the same breath as Kilian Jornet.
“Older generations were already Skyrunners. My grandfather crossed the mountains working for example. ‘We’ as Skyrunners added more speed but in essence it has always been the same thing, Skyrunners have always existed.” Bruno Brunod says.
“What I liked was going quickly to the summit. I felt the same when I was a kid in the pastures, I always ran up and down the summits that surrounded me. It is something I felt inside, something I liked.”
In 2012, Skyrunning went through a revival. After careful and strategic planning, the ISF launched the new Sky Ultra Marathon Series with Transvulcania La Palma and a seminar, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky.’ The sport moved up a notch and became something that runners all over the world aspired to. It’s been called the ‘the next big thing’ but as Giacometti explains:
“There is nothing new in Skyrunning. It is just now that everyone is catching up with our vision from so many years ago.”
Biella is a wonderful place. Calm and relaxing, to me, it is typically Italian. Located opposite a music school, the ISF headquarters and home of Marino Giacometti and Lauri van Houten resonate a calm and tranquility that seems far removed from the full-on days in and around and Skyrunner® World Series.
The sun shines and the daily bustle of Italian life provides a wonderful soundtrack that penetrates ones’ mind. Cars rumble over cobbled streets as they scoot off to work, mothers are heard chastising their children as they amble to school. The click of an espresso machine and that wonderful noise as pressured water works its way through fresh coffee and the smell, oh the smell! Nothing beats a fresh coffee in the morning. It’s 7am and Marino is kicking off his day with a good strong shot of the dark stuff before donning glasses and opening his computer.
The office is adorned with memorabilia from 20+ years of travel and racing. The door plaque sums it up’ Skyrunners.’ In the corner, magazines are stacked in chronological order documenting a lifetime in sport.
Lauri joins us looking a little tired. Yesterday was another 18-hour day. It’s normal… it shouldn’t be but it is!
“What does a normal day look like for you Lauri?” I tentatively ask, knowing full well the answer.
“How long have you got? I have no idea; I am speechless. I am a person that gets bored easy. This job is NEVER boring! I may have 5-spreadsheets open, 50 e-mails to look at, and a schedule of things to address and amend and then I need to coordinate with athletes, teams, team managers and race directors and media. My day starts with email. I often think oh my goodness and then the first forty or so emails arrive and then a daily grind starts. In addition to this, sometimes language is a challenge. I speak English, Italian, German but I have emails from Russia, Turkey, Greece, Afghanistan and so on. As I said, my day is never boring.”
Trofeo Kima is just around the corner. For many, me included, ‘Kima’ is the epitome of Skyrunning. Kilian Jornet sums it up well when he says:
“Picture a mountain terrain that has no paths, amidst glaciers; it is all crests, rocks, stretches of via Ferrata and all over a course that stretches 50-km. Kima is not athletics, it is mountaineering; pure Skyrunning!”
Preparations are well underway for the race and in just 24-hours we will all need to travel to Milan for a press conference and then a journey will follow to the mountains, to Corteno Golgi and a stay at Marino’s mountain house, the ‘Casina’ before an onward journey to the Kima race itself.
“I m a hub, the person in the middle,” says Lauri. “But often you can’t plan how a day will unfold. I have a ‘to do’ list that obviously needs to get done but then things happen daily that need to be addressed immediately. It’s all about time management and you just can’t stick to a too rigid schedule as the guidelines constantly move and change. Kima is imminent and therefore many questions and problems arise. We also have a press conference in Milan, that requires work.”
Marino looks over at us, he peeps over his glasses and smiles. My question. “Tell me where you come in Marino?” Seems to suggest that I am implying he does nothing.
“Now it’s difficult. We have so many races. I look at race profiles initially and it is easy to see from a quick glance what will and will not make a good Skyrunning race. Remember, my experience was mountaineering but we had to adapt my dreams for a worldwide audience. I look for mountains and mountains provide races and opportunities. I also need to consider locations, countries and how the schedule comes together.”
The phone rings and Marino joins Fabio Meraldi in a conversation. Walking out of the office into the sunlight, Marino strides around the garden in animated discussion. The Italian sounds like bird song and with arms waving and gesticulating, plans are made for Kima and a series of interviews that will be filmed by The African Attachment on a new film about Skyrunning called, ‘Fast and Light.’
“Tell me about Trofeo Kima, because you designed this course, yes?”
“Kima is on the course of the Sentiero Roma. It’s a well known via ferrata route. It crosses the group of technical mountains in the area and passes through all the 7-refuges. We did the race in reverse for safety reasons but it is still a very technical race and ultimately it has become a beacon of Skyrunning. Ironically, for a Skyrunning race the course does not go to the summits! It is just not possible. However, it is a pure expression of Skyrunning.”
It is easy to look at the ISF calendar and see the Skyrunner® World Series and think easy! However, it takes 365-days to make those 15+ days happen. When one season ends, plans start immediately, if not before for the following season.
“We are no longer race organisers.” Lauri says, “We did in the past! We organised many races in logistically difficult places, such as Tibet, Mexico, Nepal and so on. I think we organised over 80-races! The World Series is a collection of races that we coordinate.”
Marino was a visionary and many like to call him the ‘Father’ of Skyrunning.
“Skyrunning differs to other sports and this is the discipline we launched in the late 1990’s. Skyrunning has always existed; all across the world it is just that it became a formalised sport. I therefore consider myself the father of Skyrunning for the aspect of race organisation because when it started 25-years ago nobody talked about this.”
Emails ping on arrival, the phone rings repeatedly and I suddenly realise that our day is going to be way too busy to continue discussing the working life of the ISF. Taking a place at my desk, I open my laptop and get on with my work in preparation for Kima. I sneak an opportunity pre lunch to stroll around the town, take in a cappuccino and photograph Biella. Lunch provides a break and in true Italian fashion, everything stops. It provides an opportunity to relax, take in a glass of wine and eat fresh and wholesome food in a meze style.
“Marino is brilliant,” Lauri says as she pours white wine into my glass. “He took on the role of food shopping and preparation to allow me more time to work on logistics. It really is a life saver.”
Marino is a fit man, he is lean, dark skinned from many hours outdoors and one may well think that is to be expected from someone who heads up the ISF and the sport of mountain running. It would be easy to assume that Marino spends 4 to 8-hours a day on the mountains, fulfilling his dreams and working his ISF role in and around his passion! In reality, Marino cycles or runs for 30-minutes a day. Somewhere deep inside I wonder, does he have regrets and then I find myself asking the question, “Do you regret the decisions you made all those years ago, to race direct and not race?”
“I made my choices. What can I say, for 2 to 3-years I was very disappointed with myself. I had run around Everest for example, but not to the top. Now I can’t go back. It’s a question of mountain mentality; I was born in a small valley, a small village with no sun in winter. You try to survive everyday and this forms your mentality. In my next life I hope to relax and enjoy simple pleasures.”
“But you must have dreams, aspirations. Do you have a bucket list; do you want to achieve anything else?”
“I want to go back to the mountains… it is just a dream! In 2016 I would like to go to the Everest North Face with Bruno and Kilian. I know it is impossible… but I can dream.”
It’s not often that I am stuck for words, but as I look into his eyes I feel sad. To me it seems as though Marino has given up on his personal dreams.
“Do you believe you can only live your dreams when you leave Skyrunning behind?”
“Skyrunning is our baby. But the baby has grown up. We would be lost without Skyrunning and we will be on board for as long as we can but obviously, in the near future we will hand over more duties to other people. Many of the people we work with are all very knowledgeable and passionate. That is stimulating and exciting. Skyrunning is here to stay, as we both are, have no fear!”
MILAN – Trofeo Kima press conference
Milan is not far away and it’s on our way to the ‘Casina’ thus making the Kima press conference logical and workable into a day of travel. We are late but Marino drives like an Italian! A clean white shirt, Armani jeans and Mr ISF looks pretty darn dapper. Lauri is dressed in black with large shades. I suddenly feel very British. Italians do ‘style’ with ease and of course, where better to look sharp than Milan. I have no choice, I am on a working trip and my wardrobe doesn’t extend to looking cool.
It’s hot in the city and the traffic irritates me after the quiet of Biella. Walking into a large office block we are escorted to the 4th floor and Kima delegates greet us. It’s all kisses and handshakes. Old friends meet new friends and the banter is relaxed.
A large table with place names adds formality to the event. Marino takes his place and the conference begins. It’s a show for local press and global papers and all part of the valued process to promote the ISF, Skyrunning and give valued exposure to race sponsors.
Post the conference, a meeting takes place and Kima is discussed. Great emphasis is placed on schedules in regard to the helicopter. Kima is so technical and demanding that a helicopter is the only way to transport media around the event. Bad weather; no media!
Helicopters are expensive but at Kima we often have 2-helicopters at our disposal for 8+ hours. It may well be why I enjoy the race so much. It’s an adventure. Believe me, to be afforded the opportunity to see the worlds best runners on arguably the best course is something I will never take for granted.
“We have to do these press conferences, it’s important for all concerned but it’s a drain on our valuable time and for every hour, minute and second we are here, more and more emails and questions flood into our respective in-boxes,”Lauri says as we rush to the car for our onward journey to the Casina. “It has a knock on effect for tomorrow and the days after, what can you do?”
CASINA – Corteno Golgi
The ‘Casina’ is a mountain house in Corteno Golgi close to Marino’s birthplace of San Antonio. Spread over 2-floors it is almost two completely different buildings. Upstairs is all wood, a combination of rustic/ modern and a wonderfully relaxing place that has been heavily influenced by Lauri. Downstairs is the original building, un-touched for years and one that harks back to Marino’s past. The garage is a Skyrunning museum of ice axes, helmets, shoes, race bibs, clothing, videos and old slides.
Surrounded by green fields and mountains on either side I suddenly see Marino in a new light. He his home! He points at peaks and explains his childhood; his passions and I suddenly feel very honoured and privileged.
“The African Attachment (TAA) arrive tomorrow Ian and you are going to be able to spend a couple of days in the mountains with Marino. They are filming a piece on Skyrunning and they want to take Marino back to his childhood, revisit old haunts and film Marino running in the mountains.”
I met Dean Leslie and Greg Fell from TAA at Transvulcania La Palma back in 2012 and since then we have kept in-touch and often crossed paths at races all over the world. I am excited at the guys arriving and the opportunity to work alongside them and shoot stills, a real perk of the job. Photographer, Kelvin Trautman is directing the film and although I haven’t met him before, we soon hit it off and I realise that what is in store; two awesome days in the mountains.
The evening is amazing. The sky is adorned with clouds and as we climb with cameras, Marino runs to the instructions of Kelvin.
Looking for ridges and technical lines, Marino embraces the challenge and is arguably having the most fun he has had in ages.
Days don’t get much better than this… at the summit of Monte Padrio the light is incredible and as the sun disappears for the day we are rewarded with a colour palette of orange, red and gold. Marino is in silhouette on the Skyline and I realise I am in a moment, a moment that I won’t ever forget.
Sleep is not something you need when working with the ISF. The following day starts early with a short drive and we are suddenly looking at Marino’s childhood home.
Marino’s childhood home
Marino laughs as he recounts boyhood memories. “I used to go mushroom picking in this area.”
Following him up the trail, Kelvin wants Marino to go back 50-years to those mischievous days as a boy. Immediately Marino finds a mushroom, he removes his Buff and ties a knot in one end to create a cloth bag. Moving left to right on the trail, the bag slowly fills with the rewards from the land.
“In the Valle Campo Vecchio I would go skinny dipping in the river.”
Marino may well have regretted this sentence as just an hour later he was running along grass banks barefoot and then submerging himself in the ice cold river water from the mountains.
Today, Marino may well have fulfilled some of those dreams that he thought might not ever come back. It was special.
The warmth of the log burner in the Casina provided that ultimate feeling of contentment that one longs for after a day in the mountains. Marino’s body was aching, his legs heavy from the repeated running but beneath a tired façade I knew he had had a good. Red wine had been decanted to glasses and dinner was moments away.
As we relax into the evening, the Casina provided a very different ambiance to Biella. It’s more relaxed. The pressures and deadlines still exist, they have not gone away but the mountains and mountain life make us all realize why we are here. It provides perspective.
Eager to resume my questions from the previous day, I hold back. Now is not the time… it has been a great day, a great couple of days and we need to savour the moments.
“We have plans for some very exciting races at high altitude that will be very technical in future years. 2012 was an important stepping-stone. Less Cloud. More Sky was an important phase in the development of Skyrunning. One thing that was apparent is the desire from runners for technical and high altitude sport. So, here we are following our heritage for a new era.”
My concerns of talking shop are eroded away as Lauri brings our conversation to present day.
“So, am I correct in assuming that we won’t see races like Templiers or UROC in future ISF race calendars?” I ask.
“We needed to expand, to grow and introduce Skyrunning to a new audience. Templiers and UROC allowed this to a certain extent but we will go back to our roots moving forward. In America it is harder to find courses but we are working on this. UROC was a high altitude race just not technical. The Rut has shown we can find the correct style of course. We would love to do a race from Cervinia or Chamonix to the summit of Mont-Blanc but we can’t do this for everyone!”
“Do you think it is a happy coincidence that the revival of Skyrunning coincides with the rise of Kilian Jornet?”
“Absolutely, however, it is no coincidence. Bruno Brunod was Kilian’s hero. Kilian followed his dreams and the inspiration Bruno provided, Kilian is now the epitome of Skyrunning. When we first met Kilian in 2006, he impressed immediately. He was a natural Skyrunner. We all know the history; he was born in the mountains and as such he has just developed in an organic way. As I said, a natural.”
Conversation turns to the day’s events; Lauri is eager to enquire how filming went. We laugh as Marino explains in detail his plunge in the ice-cold water of the river and how his fingers turned blue.
“Kelvin worked Marino hard today with his demands but it was great fun. This area, the mountains and the small village are all quite special. I can understand completely why Marino loves to escape here.”
Another fried mushroom is removed from the platter and added to my plate. To think, just this morning Marino was collecting these very mushrooms from his childhood haunts. He had prepared them in the traditional manner and the simple delicacy provided the perfect accompaniment to the surroundings and company.
The Casina gallery:
Filming with The African Attachment gallery:
Emelie Forsberg looked into the lens of the TAA camera, smiled in a way that only Emelie can and with a nervous and infectious giggle whispered the words:
“Two years ago in my first year of racing I was fortunate to race at Trofeo Kima. I looked at this course and thought; really… you can run a race on this course?”
I too had found my first Kima experience equally mesmerising. My breath had been taken away by the drama and severity of the course. I had never seen anything quite like it and the impact was profound. Hopping from one section of the course to another via helicopter added some serious icing to the Kima cake.
A vertical wall of rock and suddenly a flash of red and white. Kilian appears, hand-over-hand as he descends via chains and then flies past us with a wave as though running a 5k. He looks so incredibly relaxed.
Kasie Enman is the first lady and this provides some confusion. Emelie Forsberg had had a convincing lead; what had happened? Finally, Emelie arrives 5th lady, in tears but running like a demon. She had gone off course and lost almost an hour. Trying to claw back time she takes risks; 4th place, 3rd place and then 2nd, was it possible to take back victory?
Unfortunately, no! Kasie Enman held on to a convincing lead and the records will show that the American was the 2014 Kima ladies champion. In the male race, Kilian Jornet had the race of his life and in doing so broke his own course record.
Fabio Meraldi makes an appearance and like a long lost son is embraced into the arms and hearts of the Skyrunning throng:
“I remember the feeling, like a drug, feeling this moving energy… I still get goose-bumps just talking about it.”
The party atmosphere continues and minutes after the award ceremony, clouds turn from grey to black and a warning clap of thunder alerts everyone that a change is coming. The heavens open and rain falls from the sky like a series of rods being thrown. It’s a biblical storm and we all look at each other and simultaneously shake our heads. Lauri relays our thoughts, “Wow, thank god this rain and storm did not arrive during the race.”
Another race over, another successful event but there is no rest. This evening a glass of red and a nice meal but tomorrow it’s back to the grind. Another race is only weeks away and like déjà vu the process will repeat itself.
“Lauri, and you, your dreams?”
“To expand Skyrunning and see the growth continue with the collaboration from those who love the sport as we do.”
“Will you ever be able to let go?”
“Why, why would I want to let go? This is my life: I love it. Maybe I would like less stress but I like challenges, I like work and I don’t like to be bored.”
I smile knowing full well that her words are true and that in all honesty, I already knew the answer.
“One thing is for sure, I won’t be in the Bahamas filing my nails everyday, I can guarantee that will never happen.”
The KIMA galleries:
Fast and Light is released on October 20th 2015 at 1600 via Salomon SRTV HERE
A series of articles will be published worldwide to coincide with the release of Fast and Light and I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the editors and creatives involved in this process.
Look out for articles in: Adventure Types – Australia/ NZ, Canadian Running Magazine – Canada, Trail Chile – Chile, TRAIL Magazin – Germany, Ski Alper – Italy, Trail Run – Japan, Poland, ALERG – Romania, Running The Cape – South Africa, Outdoor Fitness Magazine – UK, Like The Wind – UK, Nature Trail – France, Spain and many more.
Another season of Skyrunning concluded in Limone sul Garda with the Limone Extreme SkyRace, the final race in the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series. As expected, it was a day of high emotions that ultimately resulted in blood, sweat, tears and elation.
Although race day conditions were ideal, a new course had been created after the thunderstorms of Thursday night and Friday morning. The resulting race although the same distance (23km) had an additional 800m of elevation and descent. Work it out! 23km and 2800m of elevation gain and descent, that can only mean one thing; pain!
One thing became clear though post race, although this new course was tougher it had a unanimous nod from all the runners that the additional difficulty was a good thing; that’s Skyrunning for you!
Final races in a series can often have a forgone conclusion of who will be crowned respective male and female Skyrunner® World Series champions, not here in Limone. It was wide open and all to fight for.
Click on the images to view pre race photographs:
In the men’s race, Remi Bonnet once again proved that we have a star in the making. He followed on from the previous nights VK victory with a world-class SKY performance that left every other runner in the race trailing in his wake. It was stunning to watch. This course is tough, don’t doubt it! Remi ran every step. He has an incredible style, almost shuffling as he moves from left-to-right foot in small movements. It’s incredibly effective and ultimately impossible to follow. Despite him winning the race outright, he could not follow up his Skyrunner® World Series victory for the VK distance as he did not have a result on a Continental race, had he had this, he may well have been the 2015 champion?
Behind Remi, series leader, Tadei Pivk grabbed the bull by the horns and followed the young Swiss runner with 100% determination. His style on the climbs was in complete contrast to Remi; he almost fought the terrain! On the final long descent back down to the Lake and the finish line in Limone, I had expected Tadei to close the gap as he descends incredibly well. Alas no, the day was not for him but his 2nd place gave him the ultimate prize of the 2015 Skyrunner® World Series title.
Ever present Manuel Merillas, also a strong contender for the overall series ran a well paced race and moved from 6th, 5th and 4th to finally finish 3rd. It was a great result and ultimately secured his 2nd place in the Skyrunner® World Series rankings ahead of Martin Anthamatten who took the final podium slot despite finishing 13th on the day, no doubt carrying over fatigue from his recent victory in the USA.
In the ladies race a hotly anticipated battle between Laura Orgue and Megan Kimmel really came to fruition and as always happens in these scenarios, somebody wins, somebody looses. Laura Orgue already had the Skyrunner® World Series title for the VK distance secure before Friday’s VK race and she made the very sensible decision not to race and save her legs for the following day and Saturday’s Sky race.
Running at the front of the race, the VK specialist really embraced the additional 800m of vertical gain and used all her climbing skills to pull off a stunning victory. It was a gutsy ‘give it everything’ performance and one that Maite Maiora tried to spoil. They traded blows throughout the day and Laura managed to squeeze ahead and find those extra percentages of performance to finish just 17-seconds ahead of the La Sportiva runner.
Could Megan Kimmel finish 3rd and secure the world series title?
No! A tough day in the office and carried over fatigue from a recent victory in the USA’s Flagstaff race resulted in Megan feeling tired all day. Of course, the additional 800m of vert didn’t help. Megan finally finished 6th and just had to accept that ‘these things happen!’
Oihana Kortazar followed up a great run from the previous days VK with the final podium place ahead of Elisa Desco and Yngvild Kaspersen.
A season comes to an end and with it we have memories, emotions and passion. The 2015 Skyrunner® World Series champions are:
Laura Orgue and Remi Bonnet are the SWS champions for the VK distance.
Laura Orgue and Tadei Pivk are the SWS champions for the SKY distance.
Emelie Forsberg and Luis Alberto Hernando are SWS champions for the ULTRA distance.
Attention now turns to 2016 and the calendar of races that will once again secure the hearts and minds of the mountain running community.
Less Cloud, More Sky!
Laura Orgue 3:18:50
Maite Maiora 3:19:07
Oihana Kortazar 3:22:24
Elisa Desco 3:28:00
Yngvild Kaspersen 3:28:40
Remi Bonnet 2:45:25
Tadei Pivk 2:51:08
Manuel Merillas 2:52:52
Aritz Egea 2:55:47
Moments from the finish line, click on images to view larger:
RACE DAY IMAGES – more images to follow as soon as wifi becomes available
In just over one month’s time, it all begins again, the Skyrunner® World Series fires up on the island of La Palma with what has become, in just two-years, an iconic Skyrunning race, Transvulcania La Palma.
To many, the growth and resurgence of Skyrunning in the last couple of years, triggered by the ISF (International Skyrunning Federations) foresight to hold a conference, ‘Less Cloud, More Sky’ after the 2012 Transvulcania may have many new Skyrunners thinking that our sport is just a few years old… They couldn’t be further from the truth!
Kilian Jornet’s new movie, Déjame Vivir, the second in his ‘Summits of My Life’ project, documents his 2013 season; wonderfully capturing the history of the sport of Skyrunning. ‘Fila’ clad Skyrunners pushing boundaries on snow capped peaks around the world on old footage from Transworld Sport. Conversations with Bruno Brunod about the Matterhorn summit record and of course, ISF President, Marino Giacometti talking candidly to camera.
Born on the slopes and summits of Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc, Skyrunning dates back to 1989 when Giacometti set a record running from the village of Alagna to the summit of Monte Rosa. It was a new sport, a sport of Alpinism without the clutter of ropes and heavy packs. It was about going fast and light to the mountains, summiting and returning as fast as possible. A sport where earth meets sky!
‘There is nothing new in Skyrunning. It is just now that everyone is catching up with our vision from so many years ago,’ Giacometti explained, ‘The creation of an ultra series of races is just what the Skyrunner® series required in 2012. Today we have a new breed of runner who is actively looking for technical, steep and demanding courses over longer distances.’
In addition, 2014 will see the Skyrunning World Championships take place in Chamonix, arguably, the endurance capital of the world. It will be a great showcase for the sport and it coincides perfectly with the ever-expanding Skyrunner® National Series.
The inclusion and growth of the Skyrunner® National Series has also shown the sport we love reach new heights. Just recently Canada announced a new series under the watchful eye of Adam Campbell, the USA series has been created by Ian Sharman and one-by-one more series follow; South Africa, Australia & New Zealand, United Kingdom and Russia to name just a few.
Lauri Van Houten (ISF Executive Director) understands better than anyone why Skyrunning has captured today’s runners hearts and minds, ‘It’s a different angle on traditional trail running and mountain running. Skyrunning captures the spirit and tough technical challenges runners are looking for today.’
Transvulcania La Palma will kick-start the 2014 Skyrunner® World Series and once again, fifteen iconic races over the classic distances of VK, SKY and ULTRA will see the worlds best Skyrunners®, do battle on the slopes and peaks of the worlds mountains.
Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless
An exciting year of high altitude drama awaits; Anna Frost, Nuria Picas and Emelie Forsberg will join new Skyrunners® Krissy Moehl, Jodee Adams-Moore and Cassie Scallon on the slopes of the Fuencaliente lighthouse on the weekend of May 10th.
Just two weeks later, Kilian Jornet, Luis Alberto Hernando will go head-to-head with Tom Owens and Zaid Ait Malek on the legendary slopes of Zegama-Aizkorri.
Tom Owens – Trofeo Kima
A new year, a new Skyrunner® World Series and without doubt, new memories and moments that will be remembered in years to come!
Don’t miss out on the Skyrunner® World Series 2014.
The three best results in each Series are scored. Ranking points in the final races of all three Series will be increased by 20%. Ranking points breakdown: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 2 points to 40th position for men and 15th position for women.
Total prizes: US $ 25,000. Titles and prizes will be awarded in each Series as follows:
SKY – races more than 22 km and less than 50 km long with at least 1,300m positive vertical climb (SkyRace® and SkyMarathon®) ULTRA – races over 50 km long that exceed the SkyMarathon® parameters (Ultra SkyMarathon®) VERTICAL – races with 1,000m positive vertical climb not exceeding 5 km distance (Vertical Kilometer®)
Skyrunner®,SkyRace®, SkyMarathon®, Vertical Kilometer® are registered trademarks
Marco De Gasperi is a legend of mountain and Skyrunning. At the age of 16 he gained special permission to climb Monte Rosa with ISF president, Marino Giacometti and a small group of like-minded adrenaline filled mountaineers. It was the birth of Skyrunning.
The rest his history, Marco has six-world titles and a list of victories from races all over the world. Today at 36-years old, Marco is still one of the few runners who can push Kilian Jornet all the way to the line. In 2013 he did just that with an incredible race at Mont-Blanc Marathon and once again at the Dolomites SkyRace.
Born in Bormio (in the Alps) a hub for skiing and short-track skating. Living at 1200m provided Marco with advantages, however, he only found his true vocation at the age of 10-years. Marco had tried to adapt to Skiing and Nordic Skiing but the reality was soon apparent; he just didn’t have the required size and bulk required to be competitive. The mountains beckoned; daily he would leave the town, climb a peak and return in the same day.
At 12-years old an encounter with Adriano Greco introduced him to the winter past time of ski mountaineering and running in the summer months. Adriano was very much a coach and guide for Marco. He was introduced to a new aspect of sport, a new discipline that was at its birth. In 1994, Marco ran his first Vertical Kilometer® on the slopes of the Matterhorn.
Marco’s knowledge is invaluable in regard to mountains and how to run them! I chatted to the ‘legend’ while he was helping to coach future stars of the sport on a training camp in Portugal
Do you do any specific training for a Vertical Kilometer®?
My season always includes mountain races and races with plenty of climbing, so, I like to devote myself with specific training in the gym to build strength. For example, I use leg extension, leg press and other exercises such as squats. I also do up and down reps on a large box (60cm high), this is great for strength and endurance. It is also important to apply yourself outside and of course finding a steep incline of 30% and running at a smooth and consistent pace is ideal; it’s difficult to run all the way but I always try.
The Vertical Kilometer® is very demanding and runners incorporate different techniques to reach the summit in the fastest and most efficient way. Hands-on-knees and ‘poles’ are two methods; do you have a preference?
Application very much depends on the individual needs and demands of each runner and the course. For example, you will find many VK specialists come from a Ski Mountaineering background and therefore they are very well adapted and practiced with the use of poles. Certainly, when slopes become much steeper, poles offer an advantage as they help balance the center of gravity and thus provide a more advantageous position. In principal though, I prefer to try and run!
Aerobically it is very easy to just ‘tip over the edge’ with a VK, do you have any special techniques in training to help to pace yourself?
You need to train and understand the muscular and mental aspects that are required to race a VK well. The correct pace is easy to find if your mind is prepared for the challenge ahead. Take long hills in training at an easy pace, try to keep running and enjoy the process have fun! If I don’t have the possibility to train on long steep hills I like to find a short hill that is steep and I do reps at a faster pace than racing… I walk back down to allow recovery and then repeat
Walking for many will be a key element of a successful VK. I am well aware that you will try to run as much as possible. However, do you practice walking?
Long and steep mountains are very difficult, it’s all about efficiency and yes, sometimes it is far more efficient to walk. It’s about balance; I run for as long as possible but a good climber knows when to switch to maintain rhythm and speed. You want to avoid building up too much lactic acid. I consider myself to be a good ‘walker’ and I am happy to switch as and when required. As for practice, no not really, just go out in the mountains and hike. It’s a perfect way to combine fun and training.
You have already mentioned indoor training and strength work. Have you ever trained on a treadmill and what about core and stability training?
Core and stability is very important, without doubt it provides benefits. Every week I do 3-4 sessions of five key exercises to work on this. In regard to a treadmill; it’s not the best way to train for a VK but maybe you have limited options? It can obviously be better than nothing. Just make sure you have it at an incline and work hard.
In regard to particular VK training, is it better to train on shorter or longer mountains; do you have a preference?
I have many years in the sport, in my opinion; I think that too many long mountains are not good for the specific demands of a VK. In particular, as a race approaches keep sessions in the 30-50 minute bracket.
Tricky question for you Marco, other than yourself (obviously) who do you regard to be the best runners at the VK distance?
You are very kind! I am going to split this. Urban Zemmer with poles, Berny Dermatteis without using poles and Valentina Belotti. I guess it comes as no surprise that these runners are all Italian but the records show that they have the fastest times.
Finally Marco, if you had to provide three invaluable tips for running a Vertical Kilometer® what would they be?
Do 6-7 reps 3 times on a trail that is not too steep, rest by walking down.
Make sure you have easier days between hard sessions
To race and perform well on race day, your legs must be very relaxed and recovered.
Marco De Gasperi is a true champion, not only on the trails and slopes of the mountains but also off them. A gentleman, professional and perfect ambassador for our sport, he gives of his time and experience freely.
As always, it’s a pleasure to speak and learn more about such a wonderful athlete. Thanks Marco!