Episode 168 – Jasmin Paris

Episode 168 of Talk Ultra is here… And we bring you an interview with the one and only, Jasmin Paris. #TheSpine winner #JasminParis @TheSpineRace @JasminKParis @inov_8
 
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00:20:01 NEWS
 
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9 DRAGONS
 
I was in HK for the 9 Dragons – two races 50-milkes and 50-km but the ultimate race is the 50/50 were runners do both races. Full report HERE – The 50/50 winners were Magda Boulet and Kazufumi Ose.
 
ROCKY RACCOON 100
 
David Laney ran 14:03for the 4-loop race with Catlow Shipek and Wade Barrett 2nd and 3rd in 15:04and 17:09. Maria Sylte won the women’s race in 19:19with Julia Sorbet and Jessica Hardy 2nd and 3rd 20:56and 21:48.
 
ARROWHEAD 135
 
Faye Norby ran a 48:34 to top the women’s race and the men had two joint winners in 36:09 for Scott Hoberg and Jovica Spajic.
 
ULTRA TRAIL HUACHI
 
Jason Schlarb and Jazmin Lozano won the 50km and Jou Valenzuela and Carina Mendoza won the 80km.
 
HONG KONG 100
 
Jiasheng Shen won the race in 10:22ahead of Jing Liang and Zhenlong Zhang. For the women, Yangchun Lu was ahead of Fuzhao Xiang and Guangmei Yang – winning time 11:43.
 
HURT 100
 
22:37was the male winning time for HURT by Nate Jaqua ahead of Trevor Fuchs and Masazumi Jujioka in 23:24and 23:38. Sabrina Stanley Solange Saxby and Anna Albrecht were 1,2 and 3 for the women, 28:28, 29:07 and 29:54 respectively.
TARAWERA
 
What an epic 100-miles – Camille Herron laid it all on the line and was potentially looking like the outright winner until a major blow-up… she rallied though and finished 2nd overall and dominated the female race obliterating course records, her time, 17:20:52. Man of the moment, Jeff Browning once again won another ‘100!’ – But what a story…. he took a detour adding over 40-minutes to his race dropping him to 10th. He then chased, picking the runners off and finally passed Camille to take the victory! His time 16:18:54 – 3 hours better than the old CR!
In the shorter race, 102km, Reece Edwards beat Cody Reed and Harry Jones – 8:22:51, 8:29:44 and 8:30:35. Courtney Dauwalter kicks off her 2019 campaign with another win, 9:28:03 to Stephanie Austin and Angelique Plaire in 9:49:22 and 10:39:47.
THE SPINE RACE
We have had many SPINE winners on this show but this year, Jasmin Paris won the 268-mile race outright! It was 12-hr better than the previous men’s record and obliterated the women’s record.
In the shorter ‘CHALLENGER’ race, Jim Mann smashed the male record In 22:53and previous SPINE winner, Carol Morgan topped for the women in 31:47.
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00:46:22 Interview with JASMIN PARIS
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01:42:05
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Jasmin Paris breaks The Spine

Jasmin Paris has long been regarded as the Queen of British mountain running! Her record on the Bob Graham Round and other rounds, her victories in skyrunning and her down to earth, no nonsense approach have endeared her to all fans of the sport. 

Yesterday, she won The Spine, a 268-mile run billed as the UK’s toughest race race, in 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds. It was a record breaking performance that not only provided victory in the female race, but an outright victory. Even more stunning was her time… It obliterated the existing female record of 109 hours 54 minutes and more notably, the men’s record of 95 hours 17 minutes set by Eoin Keith.

The gap between male and female competitors in ultra running has always been closer – the longer the race, the better women perform. Ann Trason proved this many years ago and more recently, Rory Bosio placed in the top-10 at UTMB. However, Jasmin’s victory here at The Spine is  turning heads and rightly so.

To provide perspective, she has just appeared on the UK’s BBC Breakfast Show!

Starting on Sunday January 13th at 8am from Edale, Jasmin soon set her stall out running with past winners Eoin Keith and Eugeni Rosello. The trio pulled away, opened a gap and those in the know, me included, wondered could Jasmin pull something special off.

At Hawks, Eugeni and Jasmin forged away from Eoin. It’s not unusual for the lead to change in such a long race as sleep requirements vary and therefore one can expect many variables. At Alston, Eugeni slept as fatigue and sleep deprivation took its toll. Jasmin saw this as an opportunity and pushed on.

At Greenhead, Jasmin had a lead of close to 2 hours. But one sleep and a charging Eugeni could change all that… No! Jasmin seemed unstoppable and took little rest. It was soon becoming clear that Jasmin was not only in a race to win outright but set an overall course record.

Strong winds, cold and rain were relentless but conditions in comparison to past editions were good – there was no snow to slow the pace.

A recent mother, news came out that in addition to obliterating the race at a ridiculous speed, she was actually expressing milk when she took a break! And talking of breaks, over the duration of the 268 mile journey, this amazing inov-8 athlete slept less than 8 hours.

At the finish, Jasmin’s story had become world news. Social media was illuminated with her story and mainstream media was suddenly interested in our niche sport of ultra running.

This victory makes us start to ask a question about records and in future, should races just have one classification and one course record? Jasmin and others before her, have proven that women can compete and more importantly, beat the best-of-the-best. 

It’s a stunning era for the sport and Jasmin is a true ambassador and role model to take the ultra running torch into a new era.

Many congratulations Jasmin!

Update:

Eugeni Rosello looked set for 2nd place but had to withdraw just 6km from the finish. The mountain safety team escorted him off the hill – such a sad end for a valiant battle. This opened the door for Eoin Keith who was 1st male and 2nd overall.

 

INOV-8 UNVEIL WORLD’S FIRST-EVER GRAPHENE FASTPACKING/ HIKING BOOTS – ROCLITE 345 GTX

Rare that I post a press release from any brand but I actually received these boots a week ago from inov-8 so that I could use them on my Nepal trek – info HERE

I was told, ‘You are going to be the first person to use them, so, please keep it quiet until we do an official release in 2019’

Well, inov-8 have moved things forward and today have released the shoe! So this post is just a heads-up on the new ROCLITE 345 GTX with Graphene.

I will be able to provide a full and in-depth review when I return from Nepal in January.

Press Release:

The world’s first-ever hiking boots to utilise graphene – the strongest material on the planet – have been unveiled by British brand inov-8.

Building on the international success of their pioneering use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes last summer, the brand is now bringing the revolutionary technology to a market recently starved of innovation.

Just one atom thick and 200 times stronger than steel, wonder-material graphene has been infused into the rubber of inov-8’s new ROCLITE hiking boots, with the outsoles scientifically proven to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

Collaborating with graphene experts at The University of Manchester, inov-8 is the first brand in the world to use the Nobel Prize winning material in sports shoes and now hiking footwear.

Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, said: “Working with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester, we’ve been able to develop rubber outsoles that deliver the world’s toughest grip.

“The hiking and outdoor footwear market has been stagnant for many years and crying out for innovation. We’ve brought a fresh approach and new ideas, launching lightweight, fast-feel products with graphene that will allow hikers, fast-packers and outdoor adventurers to get more miles out of their boots and grip to all terrains, no matter how gnarly.”

There are two ROCLITE boots with graphene-enhanced rubber grip (G-GRIP) – the ROCLITE 335 and the ROCLITE 345 GTX. The former offers increased warmth on cold days with PrimaLoft insulation in the upper of the shoe, while the latter has waterproof GORE-TEX protection for hiking adventures in wet conditions. The ROCLITE 335 weighs just 335g and the ROCLITE 345 GTX weighs just 345g. Both are available to buy now.

Commenting on the continued collaboration with The University of Manchester, inov-8 CEO Ian Bailey said: “Last summer saw a powerhouse forged in Northern England take the world of sports footwear by storm. That same powerhouse is now going to do likewise in the hiking and outdoors industry.

“We won numerous awards across the world for our revolutionary use of graphene in trail running and fitness shoes, and I’m 100% confident we can do the same in hiking and outdoors.

“Mark my words, graphene is the future, and we’re not stopping at just rubber outsoles. This is a four-year innovation project which will see us incorporate graphene into 50% of our range and give us the potential to halve the weight of shoes without compromising on performance or durability.”

Graphene is produced from graphite, which was first mined in the Lake District fells of Northern England more than 450 years ago. inov-8 too was forged in the same fells, albeit much more recently in 2003. The brand now trades in 68 countries worldwide.

The scientists who first isolated graphene from graphite were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Building on their revolutionary work, a team of over 300 staff at The University of Manchester has pioneered projects into graphene-enhanced prototypes, from sports cars and medical devices to aeroplanes and of course now sports and hiking footwear.

Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, Reader in Nanomaterials at The University of Manchester, said: “Using graphene we have developed outsole rubbers that are scientifically tested to be 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

“But this is just the start. Graphene is a such a versatile material and its potential really is limitless.”

The new ROCLITE boots with G-GRIP are available to buy from www.inov-8.com/g-grip and will soon be in-store via the brand’s retail partners worldwide.

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Three Passes Trek 2018: Ultimate Trek in the Everest Region

Nepal, the magic of Nepal! It truly is a remarkable place and if you are a trekker, fastpacker, runner or mountaineer, it is arguably THE best place in the world. Nepal changes people, it really does. I experienced the change on my first visit 7-years ago and I have been going back ever since. It’s not just the trails, the Himalayas or the stunning vistas; It is so much more! It’s the combination of all those elements for sure, but it is the Nepali people that often lure me back. They truly are the salt of the earth.

I have just returned from once again working on the ‘ETR’ – Everest Trail Race. It’s a 6-day running journey of 160km’s that starts at Jiri and traces a route that Hillary and Tenzing took when they first made their way to summit Everest. It’s a magical race and the structured format is a wonderful way to experience Nepal for the first time.

Home for 2-days and I was already missing the trails, views and the people, however, a stinking cold I picked up on the journey home was keeping me from sleeping. In the middle of the night, I laid a Nepal map on the floor and started to plan a journey that would take in the ‘Three High Passes’ on a circular route from Lukla.

It was as I stared at the map, I began to realise the options open and the possibility to do out and backs and add some serious additions to what is, an already very popular trek.

The high passes are:

  • Renjo La 5338m
  • Cho La 5380m
  • Kongma La 5535m

Now of course, before undertaking any route like this you have to ask yourself some really sound questions and gain an understanding of trekking or running at altitude – you don’t just do it. You have to ease yourself in and acclimate to the demands.

For me, I am not overly worried at being circa 5500m. My job regularly takes me to high altitudes, for example this year alone I have been over 5000m in China, been at 4000m in Turkey, been at the summit of Mt. Teide in Tenerife, been at the summit of Monte Rosa and of course, just recently I have done Everest Trail Race. So, I am pretty well prepared to go to 5500m or higher. The big question is usually, can one stay there? 

See the map below:

My route would follow the very clearly defined high pass trek, clockwise, finishing with the higher Kongma La at 5535m. For example, this is usually done in 16-18 days and often 21-days are recommended to allow for any issues or problems. 

My idea, once again (I did a trek last December) was to avoid the noise and the frenzy of Christmas and travel to Nepal for an adventure.

Rough plan was to leave the UK for Dubai Dec 13th, arrive in Kathmandu on the 16th. Start my trek on the 18th and finish on the 30th. Return to Kathmandu on the 31st and then have some RnR time before returning to the UK.

That allowed me 13-days.

However, I know from experience that I can move considerably faster and cover more ground than a normal trek, so, it got me looking – what could I add?

The plan is to add ‘out and backs’ to my route that would add some spice and challenge:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Kala Pattar?
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Taboche
  • Thamersku Base Camp

I am well connected with the guide / Sherpa community in Kathmandu and so I asked Pasang Sherpa and Lhakpa Rangdu (both who have summited Everest multiple times, Lkakpa, 11 times!) Was my schedule feasible? Pasang knows me well and he immediately said yes! He confirmed that I usually cover double what most trekkers do in a day, also, mt time on the ETR confirms this. So, the plan was turned into a reality.

Initially I was going to go alone, but December in Nepal is very cold and relatively quiet. Pasang did not insist, but highly recommended a fast Sherpa to join me. I didn’t need much persuading and I agreed. I was adamant though – no porter, we carry our own equipment for the duration moving fast and light.

Another factor to consider was the crossing of glaciers. I had already made the decision to carry mini-spikes and a light ice axe.

THE PLAN:

13th Dec leave UK

17th KTM 

18th Depart for Lukla (early flight I guess) and then we hike to Namche.

19th Lumde

20th RENJO PASS to Gokyo to include Gokyo RI

21st CHO LA PASS to Dzongla

22nd Gorak Shep w/ Kala Pattar?

 

23rd EBC and back to Lobuche

 

24th KONGMA LA PASS to Somare

25th Ama Dablam BC and back to Pangboche

26th Tabuche Peak and back to Pangboche

27th Monjo

28th Thamersku BC

29th Lukla

30th Spare day

31st Back to KTM 

1st KTM 

2nd Onward travel

It is very easy to look at a fastpack like this and lose perspective. Daily distances mean very little when climbing and descending at altitude and particularly in this environment – it is going to be very cold too, especially at night.

Pasang Sherpa – the main man and my Mr Fixer.

EQUIPMENT:

I recently wrote an article on equipment for fastpacking in Nepal, HERE. While much of what is in this article is correct, I am making some changes for December. First and foremost I am replacing my SPOT with a Garmin inReach MINI. I asked friends was the difference worth it and I have to say I am currently blown away with the device. User friendly, small, great battery life and perfect sync with the EARTHMATE App on iPhone. The map below is what I imported into the inReach as a ‘just in case’ scenario is needed.

However, the primary use for the inReach will be safety. It has a SOS button and that in a remote environment can be the difference between life and death. Also, I can send and receive messages – not essential but really great for letting the important people in my life know that I am ok. The other function will also allow anyone to follow me by using this link HERE – I must stress, I am going for no FKT’s, not looking to set records or do anything out of the ordinary, however, you may like to see where I am? I haven’t decided yet if I will turn the inReach on each morning and off each evening or leave it permanently on. The battery will last 20-days on 30-min tracking.

I am going to use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 backpack. It is light, super comfy and will allow me to carry all I need.

I have purchased a pair of RAB Endurance Down Gloves which are maybe overkill, but, I have had friends at EBC and in that area in December and it has been -25, so, I don’t want  cold hands!

I am using the inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex fastpack boot.

I normally do not take waterproof clothing but I have decided to take the inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket (175g).

Ice Axe – I am taking the amazingly super-light CAMP Corsa which is just 200g

YakTrax XTR cramp ons

The rest of my equipment will be as follows:

Day:

  • inov-8 3/4 tights.
  • inov-8 AT/C Merino Top
  • inov-8 AT/C soft-shell Pro Top
  • Plus inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex, inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket

Night:

  • RAB INFINITY 500 sleeping bag
  • RAB NEUTRINO PRO Jacket
  • RAB MICROLIGHT Jacket
  • RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY
  • RAB 120 long sleeve base layer
  • RAB 120 pant
  • PHD down socks
  • RAB PROTON PANTS
  • RAB gloves, hat and neck rolls

Extras:

  • Basic toiletries
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Earphones
  • Phone
  • Pen
  • Passport
  • Black Diamond Z Poles
  • Waterproof bags

Camera:

  • Sony A7RIII with 35mm f2.8 prime lens and 4 batteries/ 2 spare SD cards.

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Departure form the UK is Dec 13th and you can follow my tracker HERE

I will do iPhone posts during the trek, mainly on Facebook and Instagram Story. All the good images will come post the trek when I can download and edit.

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Equipment for Fastpacking in Nepal – A Guide

Having just returned from Nepal, I have once again had many questions from runners, hikers and enthusiasts on the equipment I used during the Everest Trail Race.

I would normally say, read ‘this’ post and send a link. However, over 7-years of going to Nepal and the Himalayas, I have constantly tweaked and changed equipment. In 2018 I made some significant changes. So, I have something to write about.

The Everest Trail Race is a 6-day multi-day running race. Runners aim to cover 160km over 6-stages with extremely varied terrain, huge altitude gain and descent and of course, they have altitude to deal with. They must carry all they need for the race. However, a tent is provided which they share, food is provided, and water is rationed and provided at specific checkpoints. The race is the ultimate fast packing exercise as runners obviously try to be as light as possible without compromising warmth and comfort. The race takes place in November, the prime trekking season in Nepal – days are usually sunny and warm and the nights are cold. At certain places on the route, nights can be very cold.

My equipment requirements are not too dissimilar to that of the runners as I to need to move over the trail as fast and light as possible. However, I also need to carry camera equipment. This is significant and adds KG’s instantly.

I have also learnt over the years that I do not like being cold.

In my first Nepal experience I went light (too light) and I was cold. A little extra weight with warmth and comfort is worth it, for me! But here in, this is where the challenge comes and actually, this is part of the fun of fastpacking and in particular, fastpacking in Nepal when the variables can be so great.

This is even more poignant now as I am planning to return to Nepal in a few weeks on a much longer and harder trek than the ETR and when temperatures will be considerably colder, especially at night.

One thing is for sure. You go trekking in Nepal and you will rarely change clothes and a shower/ wash will be a rarity. Accept it! Everyone will be the same so embrace this as part of the challenge. There are ways of dealing with this and I like to think of my clothing as day and night. During the day, I am wearing run clothing, and, in the evening, I am wearing more mountain specific clothing.

I am not the fastest on the trails, but I move considerably faster than nearly all the trekkers. So, I look more like a runner when trekking than a trekker. For example, trekkers will wear boots, trousers, and a shirt. I use run shoes, run tights and a run top.

It is also important to consider individual needs and individual strengths when looking at equipment and weight. For example, a 5ft woman weighing 50kg is going to have a very different set of abilities to a 6ft 85kg man. Keep this in mind!

My equipment list below is specific to me and my needs, but it does provide an excellent start point.

Disclaimer: No equipment or apparel was supplied by RAB, Osprey or Montane. They were all purchased items. The apparel by inov-8 was supplied and the Trail Talon 290 shoes were purchased by myself.

Sherpas and Porters are able to carry huge loads and weight…

PACK

I have used many packs over the years. The runners tend to use the Ultimate Direction Fastpack which is generally a great option. Other variants come from Raidlight, Salomon and so on. Typically, a capacity of 20-30L would be required.

I need to use a larger pack as I carry more, especially with the cameras.

For 2018 I used the OSPREY EXOS 38 which really was excellent. It had great comfort, flexibility and many features that made it a pleasure to use.

My other favourite packs, and to be honest, when I return in December, I will either use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 or 55 depending on my equipment needs? Both these packs are minimalist, light and very comfortable.

WARMTH WHEN SLEEPING

I have already said I like to be warm and layering is absolutely key to regulating temperature. Especially at night.

I do not take the warmest and biggest sleeping bag. The reason being I like to have flexibility. Such I have an unusually mild night, I still want to use my sleeping bag and not be too warm. However, if it’s cold – really cold – how do I get warm? Well, I have three options:

  1. Sleeping bag on its own
  2. Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
  3. Merino base top and bottom, down pants, down jacket and sleeping bag

I also have down socks that I would wear over merino wool socks. So, as you can see, I regulate temperature in a very controlled way. In addition, the above I can also wear gloves, a hat and a neck roll. Just wearing a hat really helps retain heat.

Layering is key!

Sleeping bag is a RAB INFINITY 500

Merino top is a RAB 120 long sleeve

Merino Bottoms are a RAB 120 pant

PHD down socks

JACKETS

I take two down jackets. One thinner than the other, again offering flexibility. This year I upgraded to a warmer down jacket, the RAB NEUTRINO PROand it was such a great choice! It was so warm, comfy and with a two-way zip it allowed flexibility of movement. It also had a great hood and high collar.

The lighter jacket was a RAB MICROLIGHTwith no hood. This offers excellent warmth in the morning and evening when on the trails. It also is excellent in my sleeping bag on colder nights. It packs small and is lightweight.

RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY is a great mid-layer that works well in the dry or wet and is excellent when the warmth of down is not required.

PANTS

I have used down pants previously but this year I used the RAB PROTON PANTS which are not down filled, a little heavier but more flexible for other uses and they are Primaloft. So, they can get wet and keep warm. Down cannot get wet!

HAT, GLOVES and ACCESSORIES

Hands and feet are so difficult to keep warm and for me, they are the areas I most struggle with. So, I have options:

RAB Merino liner glove

RAB Xenon Mitt (warm and waterproof)

RAB Windblock convertible gloves which allow me to use my camera

RAB Shadow Beanie (for day use)

RAB Beanie (for night use)

RAB neck tubes (usually have 2 or 3)

RAB hut slippers allow me to remove my run shoes and are also much warmer. I go a size bigger than needed so I can wear my down socks in them too.

DAY CLOTHING

My day hike/ run clothing is pretty conventional, and I have long been a fan of inov-8.

It is possible to wear shorts as day temperatures are usually very good, however, I prefer the flexibility of 3/4 tights as they also keep my knees warm.

I use the AT/C Merino Top, and should temperatures get high, I just roll the sleeves up. One great addition is that the sleeves have thumb holes, so, they also provide a great alternative to using gloves.

The AT/C soft-shell Pro Top is brilliant early morning or late afternoon when the warmth of a down jacket is not required. This jacket has been tweaked over the years and has some great features – high collar, good hood, two pockets and thumb loops to help keep hands warm.

Extreme Thermo Skull Hat keeps my head warm and the Extreme Thermo Mitts are excellent – much better than gloves.

Shoes are always a debatable point and very personal. I prefer to use a shoe with cushioning, a wide but not too wide toe box, adequate all-round grip and 8mm drop – the Trail Talon 290 is perfect for me and on the recent ETR were perfect every day!

TIPS

My inov-8 run apparel is for the day. As soon as I finish the day’s run or trek. I immediately get changed into my RAB Merino base layers and put on my overprints, down jacket and put on a hat. This makes sure I don’t sit in damp clothing.

The priority is then to get the day’s clothing dry. A priority if you are not carrying an alternate set of clothing.

EXTRAS

Extras add weight, but I do consider certain items to be essential.

  • SPOT Tracker for me just makes sense and is a great security blanket.
  • Mobile phone – get a Ncell sim when you land in Kathmandu. You can get a 30-day sim with 16gb of data for not much more than £10. Coverage on the trails now is pretty good!
  • POLES – I use Black Diamond Z Poles, they are light, fold and are essential on the relentless climbs and descents.
  • EARPHONES – handy at night when relaxing.
  • EAR PLUGS
  • BLINDFOLD
  • HEAD TORCH and batteries
  • WET WIPES
  • MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
  • BASIC TOILETRIES
  • PEN
  • PASSPORT
  • WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Based on what type of trek you are doing, where you are going and when you are going, the requirements will vary here. For example, I am returning to Nepal in December and I will need light crampons and an ice axe.

The simple thing with any extra is that it adds weight. So, always ask the question, ‘Do you really need it?’

Read about the Everest Trail Race HERE

Read about the 2017 edition of the race HERE

And now, what is next for me….

Well, Nepal captures my imagination like no other place. Last year after the ETR I returned and did the whole race on foot in the same timescale as the race itself. It was a wonderful experience.

So, this December, the plan is to fly into Lukla and then do the high passes with some serious additions visiting Base Camps and peaks:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Tabuche Peak
  • Thamserku Base Camp

SCHEDULE DECEMBER:

18th – Depart for LUKLA go straight to Namche

19th – Namche – Tengboche – Namche (acclimatisation)

20th – Namche – Thame – Lumde

21st – Lumde – Renjo La – Gokyo – Gokyo RI – Gokyo

22nd – Gokyo – Dragnag – Cho La – Dzongla

23rd – Dzongla – Lobuche – Gorakshep

24th – Gorakshep – EBC – Gorakshep – Lobuche

25th – Lobuche – Dingboche – Somare

26th – Somare – Ama Dablam Base Camp – Pangboche

27th – Pangboche – Tabuche Peak – Pangboche

28th – Pangboche – Namche – Monjo

29th – Monjo – Thamserku Base Camp – Monjo

30th – Monjo – Lukla

31st – Lukla – KTM

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inov-8 TERRAULTRA G 260 #Graphene – First Impressions

It’s a new phase in the history of inov-8, for over 10-years the UK based brand have pioneered shoe development for running. Now, in 2018, they launch products with Graphene – a new material that is lighter and more long-lasting than previous 

Three models are currently available:

F-Lite 290 G

Mudclaw 260

And the Terraultra G260 which I am currently testing.

The Technology

Graphene – is an enhanced rubber that offers grip and longevity. Previously, a soft rubber has provided grip but you always compromised on the outsole life. Graphene looks to change that! It is 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% harder wearing.

Kevlar – The upper is made of a breathable mesh with Kevlar overlays. Kevlar has been used in bulletproof vests.

The Shoe

Out of the box, it’s noticeable how light this shoe is, the ‘260’ refers to the weight of the shoe (as with all inov-8 shoes) in a standard UK8 size.

I wear a UK9.5 and the G260 is true to size. Shoes by inov-8 are now scaled 1-5 for width, 1 being narrow, 5 being wide. The G260 is a ‘4’ but I would say it may almost drift to a ‘5.’ Importantly, if you need a wide toe box or need a wide toe box, these shoes will appeal.

Notably, the G260 is zero drop. This is a bold move by inov-8 and I will be interested to know if they plan to expand the G260 shoe with 4mm and/ or 8mm drop? Certainly, there has been much demand and request for a zero drop shoe, and although a zero drop version of the G260 makes sense, I am surprised not to see a 4 and 8mm drop versions. This is particularly relevant due to the intended use of the shoe. This is an out-and-out trail shoe designed for long run days. I personally prefer a 8mm drop shoe when running longer… but hey, that is me!

With 9mm of cushioning, the G260 is a comfortable shoe with adequate cushioning for long trail days for runners with good run form.

The upper and the outsole is where we really see the technology. The upper is very impressive and very resilient – it is very strong with breathable mesh and Kevlar overlays. The outsole is the star of the show and is hard wearing and offers excellent grip. This is the Graphene technology! As this is a trail shoe, the outsole has grip (4mm lug) but it is not aggressive, it’s a shoe that is designed for all surfaces in wet or dry but not for mud. If you are running in mud you need a different shoe, for example the Graphene Mudclaw 260.

First Impression

Green. That was my first impression. Yes, theses shoes are GREEN. Ain’t no hiding in these shoes and although they would not be my chosen colour, I can see why inov-8 have chosen this colour for the three new Graphene models – they stand out and are easily noticeable.

I mentioned above that they are light. They are, super light.

Slipping them on I immediately noticed how wide the toe box is, considering these are zero drop shoes, I can certainly see Altra shoe users moving over or at least being curious as to how the G260’s run. For me, the ‘4’ width fitting could even drift to a ‘5’ based inov-8’s width fitting scale – I found them very roomy.

The lacing eyelets are fabric stitched through into the upper and the all important additional eyelets are added to the top should one with to ‘lock lace’ or using a simulated lacing technique. I really disliked the laces. I don’t know what it is about them but they always wanted to loosen off, for me anyway. That is just annoying. It’s a minor problem which easily rectified.

The tongue is sewn into the shoe and gusseted. This is great for keeping out debris and providing a secure and welcome foot hold. I found with the wider toe box that I wanted to pull my laces a little tighter than normal to give me a secure and confident feel.

The upper is made of a green breathable mesh and the structure/ rigidity of the upper is created by Kevlar overlays. Notably, Kevlar is the toe protection and then it spreads out like fingers on the side of the shoe to the laces. Pulse the laces tight and the Kevlar pulls in and provides the hold for the foot. Inov-8 have added gaiter eyelets on the rear of the upper should you like to add the optional extra. A solid green band extends around the rear of the shoe, again adding some structure and stability.

The heel box is plush and like all inov-8 shoes I have tested, is very comfortable, run free and provides a firm and secure hold.

I always try to wear any new shoes for a day at home before going for a run. It helps me decide if there will be any issue points and it also helps bed the shoes in. The G260 was our of the box comfortable – really comfortable! I have to say, I am not a zero drop runner, 3/4mm is usually as low as I go. I actually questioned if the G260 was zero drop, they didn’t feel like it. But when I put an 8mm drop shoe on, I really noticed the difference.

My first run was a standard 12km loop which I use for all shoe tests, the reason being is that it has a little of everything. It starts and ends with 1-mile of road at the beginning and end. It has 4km of canal toe path and then what follows is a mix of trail, rocks, stones, forest path, single-track, climbing and descending.

On the road, the G260 felt really great. So much so, I wouldn’t hesitate doing a road run in them. I was conscious over the early mile to run with good form. My mind was telling me I was in zero drop and therefore my technique needed to be good. However, as in my apartment, the run experience was telling me I was in a low-drop shoe, but not zero.

The canal path section was ticked along and after a very dry and sunny patch of weather, the trails were very hard and the G260 flew along them. On the single-track sections and climbing, the shoes performed solidly. Grip at all times was secure and confident. 

Running a long descent is when I really noticed the wide toe box. I had less control than in a precision shoe, but my toes splayed well. They were too wide for me!

As with many inov shoes, they have Meta-Flex, this allows the shoe the bend at the front and those therefore helps with the propulsive phase and toe-off. I found the G260 very flexible.

By the end of the first run, I had run 12km in 65 minutes and had had no issues. On the contrary, I was really impressed with the G260.

After 140km

I have used the G260 on alternate days since receiving them, the primary reason for this being is that zero drop is not my chosen drop, so, I wanted to make sure I reduced the risk of picking up an injury. However, every time I have gone for a run, I have wanted to use the G260 – yes, I like them that much.

They give a very different feel to my current favourite shoes and ironically they are all 8mm drop.

The longest I have run in the G260 is 2-hours and that for me currently feels far enough. I definitely think about my run technique more when using these; no bad thing! But that is mentally tiring. For those who always run zero drop, I think you are going to find the G260 a revelation.

The outsole and upper are showing no signs of any wear at all but I guess with only 140km covered, it is too early to give judgement on long term life. I will come back to that in a month.

It’s a shoe that feels very much of an all-rounder, one that can handle road and trail. In dry conditions I am really impressed, grip is excellent. I haven’t been able to test in the wet as we have had no rain, so, I will have to come back to you on that one.

The cushioning at 9mm is adequate providing enough comfort but not so much that a feel for the ground is compromised. However, on rocky ground, particularly with small stones, I could feel them! There is no rock-plate so you feel a great deal. I also found the cushioning a little lifeless… Some sparkle is missing? It’s fair to say, that with zero drop, the G260 is aimed at efficient runners, so the cushioning should be ideal.

Upper and fit are excellent, I have had no hot spots and the gusseted tongue is a winner. Heel box is perfect holding the foot secure at all times, be that running downhill, climbing, walking or running. I really disliked the laces so I replaced them. On occasion I have ‘lace locked’ the shoes to provide a more secure and firm hold of the foot.

For me, although I enjoy a wide toe box, I would say these feel a little too wide. I am noticeably pulling the laces in tighter to provide a more secure feel. So, if you like wide or need wide, the G260 should be a great shoe for you.

Summary

Early impressions are really good of the G260 and I am absolutely convinced it is going to appeal to many. I personally would use the shoes daily if it were not for the zero drop, but that is me! I am certainly going to be interested to see if 4mm and or 8mm drop versions become available?

The more aggressive Mudclaw 260 Graphene version has 4mm drop and the classic 8mm studs, so, if mud is your thing, you have an option to the G260.

However, if you want one shoe that can do everything well (not sloppy mud) in a zero drop, the G260 is a shoe for you to consider.

Personally, several issues are worth considering: 

  1. The toe box is wide and maybe too wide for some. 
  2. I found the cushioning a little lifeless? 
  3. At 9mm cushioning this is a shoe for efficient runners.
  4. Zero drop is not for everyone.
  5. So far, the Graphene and Kevlar are doing the job that inov-8 say – good grip and less wear and tear.

I will feedback more after long-term testing.

You can view the Graphene range and find out more information on the inov-8 website https://www.inov-8.com/us/terraultra-g-260-mens-womens?___store=us

inov 8 X-TALON 210 Shoe Review

The inov 8 X-TALON range for 2018 has had a reworking. Always a tricky subject, especially with such a classic shoe in the inov 8 line-up. But as history shows, this shoe is 10-years old and has had many incarnations.

So, what is different for 2018?

Well, first and foremost, STICKY GRIP. This new outsole compound is inov 8’s new secret weapon for holding a runner on the ground when conditions are challenging, in particular, wet and slippery rocks.

The second key aspect is the reworking of the shoes upper. Now depending which X-TALON you have, the upper will be different. For example, I have just reviewed the X-TALON 230 HERE and the upper on the 230 is a world away from the upper on the 210.

So, here goes!

THE SHOE

Orange! Whoa, yep, you are going to be seen coming in these babies on your first outing. I strongly suggest, going in the garden and rubbing them in the soil before venturing out. I wore sunglasses for the first day of testing. I joke obviously, but the 210 is a bright shoe, one could easily be put off by the colour, but let’s face it, if you are using the shoe in the place it is intended for, they are only bright for one outing!

In comparison to the X-TALON 230 (here) the 210 appears super light and airy – funny as there is only 20g difference between the shoes. The upper is light, very breathable and has the now traditional inov 8 overlays that gives the upper its structure. They are light and fast and gladly they have a gusseted tongue to give a slipper like feel. They feel very different to the 230’s – I would go as far to say that they are not comparable. They are completely two different shoes. So, whereas in the past you may have two pairs of X-Talon’s with different drops and have a similar feel between the two, now that is not the case. So, if you fancy 230’s with more cushioning, 6mm drop and a tough upper, make sure you try them first.

The 210 is 1 arrow, so, 3mm drop. Fit is scaled as 2, so, they are at the narrow end of inov 8’s fit gauge but not as narrow as the 230’s which scale as 1. Have to say, I prefer the fit of the 2.

The outsole, like the 230’s, is STICKY GRIP with classic 8mm lugs – a winning combo!

Cushioning is pretty minimal with 6mm at the front and 9mm at the rear.

This is a shoe that has racing written all over it.

MORE DETAIL

The fit is slipper like and the 2-grade fit is pretty sweet allowing a little room for toe splay but not at the loss of control or precision when running. Of course, fit is all relative and based on an individual’s foot. However, I keep saying this, if you want a shoe for fast and technical running, it can’t be sloppy. It must fit and hold the foot – the 210’s does this perfectly.

The upper is very soft and flexible. The fit and security all comes from the overlays and in particular the 5 that lead to the lace eyelets.

The overlay extends round to the front of the shoe and the outsole extends up to provide a little toe protection. Toe protection is minimal, especially when one compares to the 230’s!

The upper is very breathable and there is method to this! inov 8 are recommending this shoe for the obvious fell, mountain, trail, obstacle course running but with the new addition of swim/run – a fast growing sport! Cleverly, the upper does not absorb or retain water and it has been Designed to actively encourage water (or sweat even) to escape. Obviously, this is key for swim/run but I can also see this being a great feature for any races or courses where one may be in and out of water. For example, the 210 would be a great shoe for the multi-stage race in Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge – here participants on certain stages are in and out of water all the time. The heal box is snug, comfortable, holds the foot perfectly and caused no issues .

The outsole is a key feature of the 210 just as in the 230. STICKY GRIP is the new secret weapon. Basically, it’s a new compound of outsole that is softer and stickier than previous inov 8 outsoles. In mud, on trails, on fells etc there is little noticeable difference as the 8mm lugs do the job they have all done. What is noticeable is the additional grip on rock, particularly when wet. This is a great USP and maybe even more so for this shoe with a possible swim/run audience. 

IN USE

Unlike the 230, I slipped the 210 on and they immediately felt great – slipper like and definitely no breaking in required. I wore them around my home and soon didn’t notice them.

The 2 fit is as mentioned is narrow/ precision but not super narrow and I really liked the feel – this was helped by the soft upper and the gusseted tongue. The shoes upper combination works really well and once I adjusted the laces to personal feel and preference, I just knew that I was going to be happy in them.

With minimal cushioning and 3mm drop, this is not a shoe for everyone, or maybe I should clarify and say, that for some people, it is a shoe they should use sparingly. It’s a fast and light shoe designed for an efficient runner. The shoe is very flexible and just urges you to push on with the META FLEX on the outsole really helping with the propulsive phase.

Although cushioning is relatively minimal, the EVA FUSION works really well and providing excellent comfort. The shoes are so low to the ground, they are a little like taking a F1 car out for a drive. Hoka One One shoes for example would be a double decker bus.

A mile of road had me clipping along, right on my toes and then I suddenly realized I didn’t have the fitness for the pace the shoes made me want to run. So, racers out there are going to love this feel! On a muddy tow path, the 8mm studs gripped as they have always done and I had 100% confidence, the low-drop adding to that secure feel.

The 210 certainly gets you on your toes. I purposely tried to run slower and heal strike to get a feel of how the shoe would respond – it just felt all wrong. So, I speeded back up and got back on my toes.

On a wet grassy bank, the outsole gripped away and in the really thick mud that followed, I was over my ankles with soft, wet, brown stuff. Here I noticed two things, the 8mm lugs were trying to gain purchase in the harder ground below, at times they did, at times they didn’t – that is the nature of thick mud. One thing is for sure, in most other shoes I would have hit the deck! The second thing I noticed was how the shoes filled with mud but noticeably on the harder trail that followed, the shoes squelched and squelched, and I could see the mud escape from the uppers! I normally miss a small river on my run, yes, to avoid getting my feet wet, but I had to test the swim/ run capability. Apart from the water being bloody freezing, the shoes and uppers worked a treat. I was really impressed to see the water escape as I ran down the follow-on trails.

Wet rocks have been a hit and miss affair with inov 8 in the past but I can confirm, just as I found in the 230’s (here) that the new STICKY GRIP is a huge step forward for the inov 8 outsole. It is definitely getting more purchase and thus providing more security which in turn allows one the confidence to run at speed.

Most of my runs in the 210 have been between 5-12 miles. I haven’t gone past 100 minutes in any one run and in all honesty, for me, I would probably say 2-hours would be the max I would want to run in such a light, minimal and low-drop shoe. But that is me! My preferred drop is 6 or 8mm and most scenarios I prefer a little more cushioning. A light, fast and efficient runner I am sure could run longer in them!

Nearly all my runs have 1 mile of road at the start and end. With 108 miles in the 210 I can see the impact of the road sections, but it is not worrying. In all honesty, the 210 should only be used off-road and if I could, that is what I would do. The reality for most of us though is that a little road will always appear in our runs, so it is good to get a feel of the durability of the new STICKY GRIP. It’s still too early to say what that life is.

With extensive experience in Skyrunning races, I see the 210 being a perfect match for VK’s and SKY races (typically 20-30km) – in particular, the STICKY GRIP outsole would be most welcome on the technical, rocky and often wet ridges that can be encountered say in the Dolomites or the Alps.

CONCLUSION

The 210 is a winning shoe for efficient runners who want to be low to the ground feeling the terrain as though running barefoot without the discomfort. The combination of the light upper, precision fit and new sticky outsole makes them really stand out as a shoe distance racing shoe for fell, mountain and OC races. The upper certainly works really well at expelling water, so, if swim/run is your thing, they will be worth a look.

At 3mm drop and minimal cushioning, the 210 is definitely not for everyone. Certainly, I could not run in a shoe like this every day, but I think it’s fair to say that inov 8 don’t intent that to be the case. By way of clarity, the 210’s are a 2-seater car that sits in the garage, only to be used every now and again, whereas normally every day you drive around, say in a Ford Focus. Maybe the X-Talon 230’s are the Ford Focus and the X-Talon 210 is the Porsche 911?

inov 8 X-TALON 230 Shoe Review

The inov 8 X-TALON 230 may well be the most interesting shoe the UK based brand has released in many year’s. That is not to say that they have had dull shoes for the last 24-months, on the contrary, however, the X-TALON 230 feels like the next step!

The X-TALON is well established in the inov-8 line-up, as inov 8 say, it’s the ‘original!’ So, what is difference?

Well, two things stand out!

The upper

The outsole

Inov 8 may not me like me mentioning the VJ Sport IRock 2 but last year, that shoe stepped up the mark and blew my socks off in terms of upper, outsole, comfort and grip.

The X-TALON 230 is now a rival.

The upper is unlike any other shoe in the inov 8 range – it is bullet proof! This will be music to the ears of many inov 8 users who have wanted a shoe that is more durable to the rigours of fell, mountain, trail, obstacle racing and orienteering. At first glance, the shoe looks heavy and then you pick it up and suddenly you realise it is not!

 The toe area is well protected with a good solid bumper but it’s the upper material and the overlays that stand out. There is a great deal of protection going on here. It has the Met-Cradle as seen on other inov shoes, this version is beefier.

The heal box is classic inov 8 providing a snug and secure hold. The upper is non-water absorbing which combined with the fitted gusset tongue should mean dry socks providing you don’t go ankle deep in mud or water.

A reinforced area goes all the way around the shoe and above this, reinforced sections lead to the lace loops which again, add more security and hold to the shoe.

At the rear, the shoes have the inov 8 gaiter loop and the All-Terrain Gaiter can be added to add to the overall protection and comfort of the shoe.

 It is a precision fit shoe classed as scale 1* – this means the narrowest shoe that inov 8 do. For example, a 5 is wide (2E fit). So, if you are a Hobbit, this is not for you! To clarify though, when one is running on challenging, muddy and technical trail, a shoe should be close fitting with a precision feel. I don’t consider myself to be a ‘1’ fit but the control a tight-fitting shoe is worth it. For me, the comports would come with how long I could run in such a precision shoe before having any discomfort, for others this is not a problem. I certainly had no issue with the X-Talon 230 for 4 hours on the trails. Drop is ‘2 arrow’ which is 6mm and the cushioning is 7mm at the front and 13mm at the rear. So, for many, this is not a shoe for ultras – again though, this is so dependent on experience and conditioning.

There is certainly enough cushioning for many hours. Comfort comes from POWERFLOW+ which has better shock absorption and energy return.

The STICKY GRIP is arguably the second big talking point on the shoe. The classic 8mm lug has been retained and as we all know, the X-Talon grip has long excelled in the mud or on fells. However, grip has been compromised in the past on wet rock…

Now inov 8 have a compound that sticks and grabs rock like a good climbing shoe. It’s a huge improvement and one that increases confidence dramatically. It’s a winner over the old outsole.

The usual Meta Flex is present at the front which allows the foot to bend easily, aiding the propulsive phase of the run. A Fascia Band and Meta Plate add protection from rocks and harder objects – something that inov 8 users have been asking for some time. 

IN USE 

Slipping the 230 on it felt different. I have to say, I have been using inov 8 shoes for years and in any model, I am a UK9.5, in the 230 I questioned if I had the correct size? They somehow felt too long?

I held them against the new X-Talon 210 (review *HERE *to follow) and they may be just a ‘little’ larger – nothing to worry about. I walked around in them looking for them to settle.

The shoe has a gusseted tongue so holding the foot is really secure and the heal box has the usual comfort and feel I would expect. But something was niggling me?

I left the shoes on all day and as the time past and the more I flexed and moved my foot, the better the 230 started to feel. I concluded it was all down to the new upper being considerably more durable and less flexible than other models I have used before. So, keep this in mind. I have never had to break an inov 8 shoe in before, but I did with the 230. 

I wore the shoes for a good 8 hours before going for a run – an 8-mile loop that includes a little of everything. A 1-mile road start, canal towpath and then open fields, fell, and rocky sections before returning back to the road for a finishing 1.5 mile of the hard stuff.

Grip was noticeable on the road with the 230 making that classic sucking noise as I lifted each foot – reassuring! Think it’s fair to say, you want to avoid roads and tarmac in these shoes if you can, they are for off-road and while they handle the hard stuff well, that new STICKY GRIP will soon start to wear away.

Off road they had classic X-TALON feel with the 8mm lugs gripping just as my favourite X-Talon 212’s had done in the past. The noticeable difference came from the additional protection – I was feeling less stones digging into my foot and when I went on wet rocks, the grip continued to hold. The STICKY GRIP is a big improvement.

The upper will be a winner in the long-term but does feel different and I have to say, makes the shoe feel more inflexible. Less slipper like. But it will mean that the upper will last for considerably longer. The question will be, can the STICKY GRIP last as long as the upper? It’s too early to say.

Providing you don’t get mud or water coming over the top of the shoe, your feet will remain dry. The new upper along with the gusseted tongue certainly keeps everything out. To be honest, I only think this becomes really important on long runs when you may be worried about looking after your feet. For runs of 1-2 hours I am more than happy if my feet get wet. I did notice my feet got hotter than normal when running in Lanzarote, so, I would say the upper is less breathable.

I now have 164 miles in the 230’s and I would say that they are now feeling really great. They definitely need breaking in and getting wet, covered in mud multiple times to ‘soften’ up. The support, hold and security is excellent. You feel really safe in the 230’s especially on wet rock, a place I felt compromised before, say in the 212. 

CONCLUSION

 The X-Talon 230 as I said at the start, is a new venture for inov 8. They are bullet proof shoes that should last-and-last providing the STICKY GRIP has long life? Certainly, based on my use up to know, the upper will keep going long after the outer sole gives out… But I don’t know when that is yet? With 6mm drop, a little more cushioning and the durable upper, I see the 230’s being the perfect long-distance race shoe or training shoe. As the name suggests, at 230g (for a standard size) they are light shoes but they don’t necessarily feel light and I think that is quite simply down to the durability of the new upper. So, for shorter sessions the new X-Talon 210 may well be a better option. I have a review to follow on these so please be patient.

The X-Talon 230 is narrow but after say 6-8 runs I didn’t think about this anymore. My foot never felt stifled by the shoe so that is a good thing.

The new added protection and STICKY GRIP is most certainly a winner – extra grip is always good, especially on wet rock.

FINALLY

I need to come back with a follow-on review of the 230’s as they reach their last days of use. Currently I feel I have unanswered questions that can only truly be answered with the passing of time.

 The X-Talon 230 on inov 8 website HERE 

*inov 8 shoe grading:

We have graded the fit of all our shoes from 1 to 5 to make it easy for you to find the perfect fitting shoe. All our shoes are designed with Met-Cradle technology to lock down the mid-foot for a stable hold. Where they differ is in the toe box. Grade 1 represents our closest, most precise fit. At the other end of the scale, Grade 5 has the widest fitting toe box.

We have meticulously studied the foot and its function during the gait cycle and also the interaction between the foot and the terrain. We have used this knowledge to develop our fitting scale. For technical footwear a good fit is essential to enhance your performance.

The lower the number on our scale, the narrower the fit, which ensures minimal internal movement of the foot when running fast on technical terrain. Shoes with the higher numbers on our scale will suit athletes with a wider foot and those wanting that extra comfort in the toe box. This wider toe box allows the toes to splay for increased stability when lifting heavy weights. It’s also perfect for longer runs and races when toes begin to swell.

As a rough guide, Grade 1 represents an industry B fit, while Grade 5 equates to a 2E fit in the forefoot.

 

Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Review of 2017

As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.

It is a daunting task at times.

The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.

Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.

I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!

So, let us look at 2017.

I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse! 

Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!

Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.

Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.

Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!

Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing. 

Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.

Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.

Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!

Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!

The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.

Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.

UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.

Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.

Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?

2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.

Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!

The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.

Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.

Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.

Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.

Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.

The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.

Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis. 

Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.

MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.

Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.

Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.

Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.

Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.

On a personal note to conclude:

For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.

INSTAGRAM here

TWITTER here

FACEBOOK PHOTOGRAPHY here FACEBOOK TALK ULTRA here

PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE here IMAGE SALES here

Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE

BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.

 

Limone Extreme 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series draws to a conclusion on the stunning shores of Lake Garda for the Limone Extreme weekend of racing. The mountains that back onto this iconic location provide a wonderful playground to Friday’s VK (VK World Circuit) and Sunday’s Classic SkyRace.

It’s been a long season of Skyrunning all around the world. Recently, Jonathan Albon and Maite Maiora were crowned EXTREME champions in Scotland at the Skyline Scotland and at Ultra Pirineu, Ragna Debats and Luis Alberto Hernando were crowned champions for the ULTRA category.

This weekend in Limone we will have two champions crowned for the CLASSIC sky distance and in addition, we will have COMBINED champions. The combined champions having scored points in the 2017 season over different race distances.

Over the years, Limone Extreme has grown to be a pinnacle event on the calendar and as the last race of the Skyrunner World Series, it is often a crouch race for points, therefore, fast and aggressive racing is guaranteed over the 27km course with 2450m of vertical gain.

Marco De Gasperi will go head-to-head with Aritz Egea and young gun, Jan Margarit for the Sky Classic title, it is et to be an epic battle with nine out of the top ten male runners toeing the line.

Limone gives a 20% bonus, so, it’s all to fight for!

The ladies’ race may be even more exciting than the men’s, it is wide open! Ragna Debats has already won the Ultra title and she would need an incredible run in Limone to pull off the overall tittle – it is possible though! In reality, Laura Orgue is the favourite with a strong threet coming from Sheila Aviles. These two have fought each other in the mountains in 2017 and now it comes down to who will perform in Italy! Hillary Gerardi and Oihana Azkorbebeitia will also figure.

Joining the line-up for the SWS title is a host of world-class talent who will not only impact on the results of the race but they will more than likely impact on how the SWS points are allocated and therefore influencing who are the champions for 2017.

Remi Bonnet and Stian Angermund-Vik are likely winners of the race, Bonnet has won here in the past and Angermund-Vik has been unbeatable in 2017. Joining these two is Eugeni Gil. Hector Haines and Pascal Egli – all theree have had their fair share of podium places. Marc and Oscar Casal Mir, Kiril Nikolov, Eduard Hernandez and Julien Martinez round out the top contenders.

The combined titles are also at stake and here there is a very interesting prospect with Maite Maiora not racing and Ragna Debats toeing the line. Should Debats place first or second, she will take the title from Maiora. For the men, Jonathan Albon has an untouchable lead.