inov-8 Trail Talon 290 V2 Shoe Review

inov-8 TRAIL TALON 290 V2

TRAIL TALON 290 (8mm drop) is one of my favourite all-round trail shoes of all-time, the previous incarnations were always a ‘go-to’ for everyday running and when travelling, they were the perfect shoe to take as they managed to cover a multitude of uses, be that road, hard trail, rocks and yes, even some mud and very soft-ground.

The new version of TRAIL TALON, named TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is all that the previous incarnation was with a new upper.

The plus side from the off, is the new TRAIL TALON 290 V2 has that all important 8mm drop that is great for everyday use, not too low and too high. Therefore, it’s perfect for those longer days.

The outsole has 4mm lugs with a classic configuration, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.

The TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is wide (fit 4 – 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) and it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model but not at the loss of a secure feel and reassurance when on more technical trail.

When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, the shoes have room for the foot to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased on ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. The TRAIL TALON V2, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain excel with a plush ride, great return in the push-off phase and all-day comfort.

The 6mm POWER FOOTBED and TWO PIECE POWERFLOW midsole provide a cushioned ride with 1imm at the front and 19mm at the rear.  This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long-distance shoe, if going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, the Trail Talon 290 V2 would be ideal. Also, ideal if running a multi-day race like Marathon des Sables or similar. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 290 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.

I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 has great cushioning and great mid-foot comfort.

When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 290 has a great ‘feel’ for the ground despite the extra comfort, really important for me, I never want to lose that connection with the surface I am running on.

As in the previous 290, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 incorporates the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.

The lacing system and a gusseted tongue are winners contributing to the great out-of-the-box comfort. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense; It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.

The lacing is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the front to swell within the shoe.

Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.

Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is not intended for this type of terrain, you are much better looking at a Mudclaw or similar which is designed for specific off-road and muddy use.

The key change and hence the V2 title; the upper. It is lighter and more breathable without a compromise to durability. Recently, inov-8 have had some complaints re upper durability but here in the 290 V2 I have no complaints. I have put 150-miles in them on a mixture of terrain and the shoes are holding up really well, both the upper and outsole.

Finally, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is gladly very similar to the previous incarnation and for that I am very happy. Often a brand feels the need to tweak a shoe looking for constant improvement when in reality, what they had was already fine! Gladly here, the V2 has just an upper change and that works perfectly well.

This TRAIL TALON 290 V2 was a winner before and it still is. I would go as far to say, that it is inov-8’s best shoe. It is most certainly the best all-rounder and if you were looking for one pair of trail shoes to handle many scenarios, the 290 V2 is perfect.

Specs from inov-8 (web here)

  • Iconic inov-8 rubber outsoles with multi-directional claw-shaped 4mm studs, each with a wide contact area, allow the quick release of debris and provide unrivalled grip and stability over rocky terrain.
  • The two-piece POWERFLOW midsole, constructed from two compounds – one designed to optimize comfort and the other to maximize energy return – delivers 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. An inbuilt Dynamic Fascia Band (DFB) mimics the “Windlass Effect”, delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping you run faster more efficiently.
  • An 8mm drop offers comfort, while new highly durable lightweight upper materials offer breathability and protection. Built around the natural anatomic structure of the foot, the next generation ADAPTERFIT met-cradle adapts to the natural movement and swelling of the foot on longer runs.
  • An External Heel Cage (EHC) wraps around the rear of the shoe and provides support in the heel – aiding foot stability and helping maintain a better gait when fatigued.
  • The new upper features extended welded TPU overlays and a rubber toe bumper to protect the foot from sharp rocks and stones. On-the-shoe gaiter hooks allow you to attach an ALL TERRAIN GAITER for additional protection, keeping loose debris out of the shoe.

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The Coastal Challenge #TCC2020 – Day 6 23km

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica’s number one multi-day race concluded on Drake Bay today, a 23km loop of ‘the best’ of Costa Rica all wrapped up in a wonderful 23km.

The run manages to bring together, all that has gone before in the previous 5-days, running through rivers, crossing waterfalls, fire road, secluded coves, rainforest trails, single-track, suspension bridges and of course, wonderful empty beaches.

It was a day of fun, with all the major podium positions decided, with the exception of the women’s 3rd podium place after a stunning day 4 by Ashton Keck Keck educing the gap to 8-minutes to Abelone Lyng who suffered badly in the closing 17km of day 4.

Keck Keck pushed from the off and Lyng did not respond, the heart was willing but the body had no reserves to push and push hard. Lyng had accepted the loss of the podium place before the stage 6 start and enjoyed a victory loop of a job well done and 4th overall.

The men’s race was a loop of honour with the top-3 men staying side-by-side all the way to the line, Erick Agüero and Andy Symonds congratulating Cody Lind on an incredible 2020 victory.

“I am so happy, I gave it all on day-5 for the win and to secure the top of the podium, it has been an incredible week of such diversity”

Kaytlyn Gerbin despite taking the foot of the gas still won the last stage making it 6 out of 6.

“I trained for this thinking it would be as hard as a 100-mile race, but the multi-day format is so much harder. It’s nice to get things done in one go. To get up day-after-day and race again has been a learning curve but I have loved it.” Gerbin said on the finish. “I have raced hard and was tested but I had some reserves, you are never quite sure how hard to push. For this race you need to be an all-rounder to win as it has so much variety.”

Natalia López Arrieta once again ran a solid day, like Gerbin, she had no need to push and she finished comfortably with second place secured.

For most people, to have a podium place and then lose it would be heart breaking, but Abelone Lyng had a real sense of perspective:

“I was broken after stage 5 and I knew I could not ‘race’ the last day, but I was convinced I would finish, even if that meant crawling. I have no complaints… What is there to complain about? I am privileged to have run in Costa Rica, the start near Quepos and finish at Drake Bay. I have travelled by foot and the experiences and memories will last a lifetime – Pura Vida as the Costa Rican’s would say!”

Ashton Keck Keck had a tough last day and ran the stage of her life to secure the podium place. Her joy was tangible and she will have great memories.

Each competitor though is a champion, The Coastal Challenge is not an easy race, not at all. To finish is a huge achievement and all who received their medal should be proud. Now it is time to relax, enjoy the beach and a beer, swim in the sea, go snorkelling and enjoy the hard won rest.

Ranking Overall:

Men:

Cody Lind 22:42:33

Erick Agüero 23:01:19

Andy Symonds 23:15:49

Women:

Kaytlyn Gerbin 27:31:57

Natalia López Arrieta 29:40:34

Ashton Keck Keck 32:54:54

Mount Toubkal and the Atlas Mountains in Winter

Located just 75-minutes’ drive from Marrakech (approximately 40-miles) the Toubkal National Park and Jebel Toubkal(4167m) is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. It is also, the highest peak in North Africa and the Arab World.

 Toubkal has two-seasons, Winter and Summer. In winter, summiting the peak brings new challenges as it is completely covered in snow. Winter mountain skills are required, and the use of crampons is essential.

I wrote an in-depth article about visiting Toubkal in summer months HERE and some of the information from that article is repeated below.

PRACTICALITIES

The gateway to Toubkal is Marrakech which is less than a 90-minute journey away from Imlil via taxi or private car. Imlil is the starting point for any adventure in the Atlas Mountains with a small village of restaurants, shops and hotels.

Flights to Marrakech are abundant and many budget airlines offer great prices, particularly if one can travel on a weekday.

If you have not been to Morocco before, I strongly recommend staying in Marrakech for several days before and after any trip to the Atlas. Even now, after multiple trips to the region, I still enjoy a pre/post stay in a Riad (local traditional hotel) to help provide some luxury and RnR either side of a strenuous hiking/ climbing period. There are many Riads in Marrakech all offering something unique and prices vary considerably, my favourite is the Dixneuf La Ksour which has only 6 rooms.

If you have been to the region before and want to maximize time, it is of course possible to land in Marrakech, get a taxi at the airport and be in Imlil within 2-hours. Riads in Imlil are very inexpensive and I have stayed at the ‘Riad Atlas Prestige’ on all my trips – it is inexpensive and offers great food.

A taxi to Imlil will be approximately 40 euro and a private car, usually arranged by your Riad will be 80 euro. 

TOUBKAL and the ATLAS MOUNTAINS

If you have not been to the region before, it would make sense that you visit the area in the non-winter months when hiking/ climbing is much easier and very predictable.

Please note! You now MUST have a guide for any treks/ climbs in the region. This was a rule imposed in late 2018. There are currently three passport checkpoints on the way to the refuge. This in time will change with one new police checkpoint that is currently being constructed just before the entrance to the National Park.

Our guide, Mustafa

The refuge at Toubkal is a great place to plan a booking as you are able to arrange a guide and a bed at the refuge all in one email. Hamid is my contact who is always helpful.

refugetoubkal@gmail.com – Liaise with Hamid.

Refuge Tariffs (Jan 2020):

  • 34.5 euro per person per night full board (Dinner, breakfast and lunch)
  • 29.5 euro per person per night half board (Dinner and breakfast)
  • 19.5 euros per person per night (without meals) 

The refuge can also arrange the following for you:

  • Transport from and back to Marrakech
  • Accommodation in Imlil
  • Mountain Guide 

A guide will be approximately 50-80 euro per day and is payable in Euro (cash only).

CLIMBING and TREKKING

Toubkal is considered an entry level 4000m peak and as such it is a great place for training and gaining experience, particularly in summer.

In winter, it is still considered an entry level 4000m peak, however, far more equipment is required and some exposure to harsh winter environments would be strongly recommended.

In summer one can usually wear shorts and t-shirts during the day but it is essential to have trekking pants, a warm upper layer, waterproof jacket/ trousers, hat and gloves at a minimum for any summit treks. Poles are for many an essential item too!

Winter is completely different, and the environment can be very harsh and dangerous. One needs to be prepared for conditions that can be below -20 with very strong winds, thick snow and a great deal of ice.

At a minimum you will need:

  • Merino base layer, top and bottom.
  • Trekking pants.
  • Mid-layer thermal top.
  • Down or Primaloft upper insulation.
  • Gore-Tex or equivalent out layer, top and bottom.
  • Very warm gloves. Probably with inner Merino layer.
  • Very warm socks, usually two pairs made up from inner Merino and outer mountain sock.
  • Climbing boots suitable for harsh winter than can take a mountain crampon – La Sportiva G5 as an example.
  • Crampons.
  • Ice Axe.
  • Poles.
  • Pack.

Sleeping bag (the refuge is usually quite warm (in the sleeping dorm), so, with a merino base layer, a bag with comfort to -5 should be ok). 

ROUTE TO THE REFUGE

 Imlil to the refuge is designed to introduce you to the terrain and slowly adapt you to the altitude. Imlil is at 1800m and the ‘Les Mouflons’ refuge is at 3207m. Depending on experience and adaptation, Imlil to the refuge can take 3-6 hours.

Leaving Imlil, you have a narrow trail that rises quickly to a road and then the village of Aroumd. Here you will meet the first passport control and then you cross a floodplain before starting the climb to the refuge. The terrain is rocky and rough but not dangerous. Chamharouch is the next passport control and here you will see a large white rock that is a Muslim Shrine. Here it is possible to by water, food if required and soft drinks such as coke.

Depending on the time of year and how harsh the winter has been, snow may already be present on the trail. Usually, just wearing trekking shoes or boots is fine to the refuge, however, it can be possible to need to add crampons in a harsh year, so, make sure they are easily accessible from your pack when you leave Imlil.

Passport check point

The path now climbs steeply and gently reaches upwards, once again the terrain is rocky. You will arrive at two disused building that now sell drinks and here is the 3rd and final passport check. Before you know it, you will arrive at the refuge located at 3207m.

Depending on what you have arranged with your guide, you will have a meal at the refuge and then you will stay in a shared dorm with all the other climbers. These dorms are often unisex, so be prepared. You also need to be self-sufficient in terms of sleeping bag, additional clothes and warm layers. Everyone usually sleeps by 8/9pm. Bring wet wipes/ toilet roll as this is not provided at the Refuge.

Dinner is typically served at 1830 and offers soup, bread, a carb rich main meal with protein, fruit dessert and tea. A shop is available to purchase soft drinks, water, chocolate and other items.

Breakfast is bread, mixed jams/ honey, soft cheese and a selection of drinks. Depending on one’s plans, breakfast is often served from 0400 through to 0900.

Lunch is served on request.

ROUTE OPTIONS

TOUBKAL

The standard Toubkal summit day will typically start at 0400 with breakfast and the intention will be to start the climb asap. Sunrise is approximately 0810 (+/-) in winter, so, depending on your projected speed, the guide will advise on a departure time so you can climb from 3207m to 4167m and arrive at the correct time to experience sunrise.

Note – It is dark for pretty much all the climb and very, very cold. How cold depends on many factors but be prepared! Ambient temperature may be -10 but in the wind chill this can easily be beyond -20.

The trail goes straight up often zig-zagging to ease the gradient. The snow and ice can be unpredictable, and crampons are essential. The use of poles is highly recommended and the carrying an ice axe is in my opinion compulsory. You may very well not need it, but better to have one just in case.

 Once at the saddle, the trail goes left and right. Here you go left for a final push to the summit. On a clear day, the views are magnificent and if you time it correctly, the sunrise can be truly magical. The terrain here is not as steep but depending on route options, it can be a little more technical.

Most arrive at the summit between 0745 and 0900 to experience the winter sunrise. Depending on the day, hanging around is usually not an option; it is too cold. Of course, you may want to take a photo? Be careful! Removing gloves at the summit in -20 is not a good idea. Be sensible.

 Descending becomes easier from an altitude perspective, with every meter you go down, the easier it will become to breathe. Rely on your crampons on the descent, they provide great security and often, depending on conditions, it is possible to take a more direct line. Let the guide dictate, they know all the route options and will keep you safe.

Once back at the refuge, many take a break for lunch and they will look to descend back to Imlil in the afternoon via the exact same route they went up the previous day.

The above scenario is the classic Imlil-Toubkal-Imlil mini-trek that is ideal to do over a weekend, Friday to Sunday or as a mid-week adventure. If possible, I always recommend mid-week, far less people!

FAST OPTION:

If you are experienced or want a challenge. Imlil-Toubkal-Imlil can be done in one day. I have done this twice now, once in Winter and once in Summer. Depending on one’s speed and ability, it is possible to leave Marrakech at 0530, meet a guide at 0700 in Imlil, summit at midday/ early afternoon and then be back in Imlil before dark.

The above is not for everyone, but for me, it was an ideal opportunity to fit an action-packed day between holiday days, before and after in Marrakech.

ALTERNATIVE OPTION:

Once you have summited Toubkal it is possible to take another route down. This is a more challenging descent with some exposure, very lose scree and lots of technical rocks in summer. In winter, you would need an experienced guide who understands the route and weather conditions and you personally would need a greater level of skill. The route rejoins the main trekking path and you then have an option to go left and return to Les Mouflons refuge or go right and return to Imlil. 

OUANOUKRIM ROUTES

Located high above Les Mouflons refuge, Ouanoukrim offers the 2ndTIMZGUIDA’ and the 3rd, ‘RAS’ highest peaks of the Atlas range. These two peaks are often neglected due to Toubkal being the highest peak, but these two are just a fraction lower at 4089m and 4083m and they offer much more challenging and technical climbing.

Leaving Le Mouflons, one heads up the mountain, Toubkal is to the left and you take the valley leading to the peaks ahead. The out and back trek/ climb is longer than Toubkal and the early gradients are less severe. However, as one moves up the climb the terrain becomes increasingly challenging and steeper.

At the saddle, you can decide to go left for RAS or right to TIMZGUIDA. TIMZGUIDA is higher and a more challenging climb that in winter requires more advanced scrambling skills, the need for an ice axe and a level head. It’s a stunning route that is perfectly achievable, even for a novice climber, as long as you have a good guide and the correct equipment.

After several scrambling sections, the mountain opens up with one last scramble to the summit.

The return is via the way you arrived, so, constantly ask yourself on the way up, ‘Am I happy down climbing these sections?’ – It is always easier to climb up than climb down. Exposure to the elements is a factor that you must consider, especially in the final 100-200m where the mountain is exposed. On my most recent trip, we had thick snow which made trekking up and down hard, we had snow flurries, thick mist, fog and very, very cold temperatures.

Of course, it is possible to do RAS and TIMZGUIDA in one day.

OTHER ROUTE OPTIONS

AFELLA 4043m and AKIOUD 4035m are two other route options from the Toubkal refuge.

AFELLA is to the west of the refuge with more complex faces. The majority of the winter lines are on the south face and are accessed by a narrow ravine. The east face requires ice climbing.

AKIOUD is accessed from the south via the ‘Assif ait Maine.’ The climb can take 3 hours based on conditions and it is possible to ski down following a south east direction.

Other route options exist that can be made up of multiple days. 

EQUIPMENT:

As suggested previously, summer on Toubkal and you can get away with standard running apparel with the addition of a warm layer (PrimaLoft or down) and water/wind proof top and bottoms for the climb and summit. Gloves, beanie, buff and so on are also essential.

In winter, you need very specific equipment which I will list below with links. Climbing boots are large and heavy and I strongly suggest you use a much lighter approach shoe or run shoe for the trek from Imlil to refuge and back.

 Base layer:

RAB Forge leggings and top

Mid layer:

RAB Shadow hoody

Insulation:

RAB Xenon Jacket (Stratus insulation) 

Pants:

RAB Torque and Winter Torque

Gloves:

RAB Forge liner glove and RAB Xenon Mitt

Hat:

RAB Shadow Beanie 

Waterproof layer:

inov-8 Stormshell

Shoes:

La Sportiva Mutant (used for Imlil to refuge) 

Boots:

La Sportiva G5 mountaineering boot 

Crampons:

Petzl Irvis Hybrid

Ice axe and Poles:

Petzl Glacier and Black Diamond Distance Z Carbon

For extreme cold:

RAB Neutrino Pro Jacket

RAB Aragon Pants (down)

Sleeping Bag:

RAB Neutrino 600

Other:

Make sure you have good sunglasses and I found goggles essential in winter conditions.

Make sure you apply sun screen.

I recommend you have an emergency tracker, I use a Garmin InReach for all outings. 

TIME OF YEAR:

Summer:

August for me is perfect. Marrakech is hot but has less tourists. Expect 30-40 degrees during the day. Imlil to the refuge, temperatures will be somewhere between 15 degs at 0700 and 30 deg in the afternoon.

Winter:

January through to April provides excellent winter conditions and snow/ ice levels will vary depending the usual weather variations. I have climbed in January and April. January provided more extreme conditions with much colder temperatures. 

RETURNING TO IMLIL

The way to return to Imlil is via the trekking path used when coming out. There is no need or requirement to visit the control points and show your passport.

This January Toubkal and Atlas Mountain trip was undertaken in preparation for a 2020 expedition to Nepal for the ‘Three Summits Expedition‘ – read more HERE

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inov-8 TRAILROC 280 Shoe Review

Fans of inov-8 shoes may well be a little surprised by the new incarnation of the Trailroc 280.

It’s a bold shoe and dare I say, on first look, one may even mistake it for a Hoka One One shoe. The blue and yellow and color fade has that classic Hoka look and the cushioning really stands out.

I had to make sure that I definitely had an inov-8 shoe in my hand.

Die-hard inov-8 fans may well immediately dislike the new Trailroc – it’s a departure for the brand. But one should not be too hasty. 

For those who like minimal, low drop, and aggressive outsoles, inov-8 still have a plethora of shoes to choose from. So, the new Trailroc 280 should be embraced as something new to try.

First Impressions

I like the look, bold color fade work well. The cushioning is the stand out and is built up and reinforced section around the rear. Heel box is well padded and has firm hold of the foot. The tongue is attached to the inside of the show with elastic on either side, I am a fan! The tongue is really padded, very plush. The upper is very breathable and there are reinforced overlays on the outside (left and right) to provide some structure to the upper and hold the foot.

Lacing is pretty standard and there are additional eyelets should you wish to lock-lace or similar. Toe box has reinforcement for protection, but I expected this to be more substantial for a shoe designed for rocky terrain. The toe box is on the narrow side so if you are a fan of the Trail Talon (here), for example, you may not like the Trailroc? Sizing is touch and go. I always use a UK9.5 in inov-8 and the Trailroc is definitely a little smaller than my other inov’s. It is marginal and I have had no problem using them… worth noting that they may feel smaller as the toe box is a little narrower, however, I always go for a thumb nail of space, and in these I am at ¾!

Outsole is the new Graphene and the grip is classic trail grip – not too aggressive. Graphene is slowly making its way to most inov shoes now and apparently it increases longevity by some 50% without a comprise on the grip characteristics.

The Shoe

Sliding the shoes on for the first time, several factors stood out.

  • I could feel the cushioning immediately.
  • The padded tongue is really plush.
  • The toe box felt on the narrow side.

Lacing the shoes up, the hold on my foot felt ‘so so!’ I have to say, and this comment comes now after weeks and weeks of using the Trailroc, I feel the upper lacks some rigidity to hold the foot. I have been using inov for years and something in the upper here is lacking for me. It’s particularly noticeable when the terrain is not flat, for example, when running off camber or when on rocks – my foot is moving inside the shoe! This is not because of lacing. I tried many lace configurations and I just couldn’t get the firm hold I like to make me feel reassured. It left me perplexed.

The toe box is on the narrower side. I need to clarify here that I love the Trail Talon and Parkclaw (here) but easily transition to ‘precision’ fit shoes, for example a Mudclaw (here). When running on muddy and technical terrain, I like my feet to be held firm and have confidence in the shoe. When running trail and longer miles I am happy for my toes to splay, providing the lacing holds my foot. The Trailroc left me feeling 50/50. There is nothing particularly unpleasant, but equally there was nothing sparkling going on.

I guess the main feature of the shoe is the added cushioning and that really is noticeable. It has a real bounce to it and comfort levels are high. So, those who are looking for a more cushioned trail shoe, this version of the Trailroc 280 will appeal. It’s a shoe that transitions from road to trail easily and that is a real plus for many.

The outsole does its job and works well. These are not shoes for muddy terrain. They are classic trail / rock shoes and the outsole works well on the latter both in the wet and the dry.

In Use

The cushioning of the Trailroc 280 is the selling factor along with the Graphene outsole. It is all packaged together in a great looking shoe. On road, the cushioning is apparent providing a plush feel and a definite bounce, so, for those who are looking for more comfort on longer runs will be happy. On trail, the cushioning is apparent, however, I did have less feel for the ground and ‘height’ from the ground was more noticeable in comparison to other inov-8 shoes.

When the trail became more challenging, as mentioned above, this is when I had issues. I just never felt my foot was held secure… It almost feels as the shoes are too big, but they are not! I really over tightened my laces and that did add to a more secure feel, but the level of tightness was not sustainable for longer runs – it just added to much pressure.

The outsole works on trail and rock well providing adequate grip when needed when conditions are wet or dry. It’s not an aggressive outsole, so, in mud you will slip and slide around.

There is a Meta-Flex in the outsole and so the propulsive phase feels dynamic but less dynamic than some other inov-8 shoes.

Drop is 2 arrows, so, 8mm. Makes sense for a shoe like this, I really feel this shoe is designed for an ultra-trail runner going longer distances. Cushioning is 20mm rear and 12mm at the front.

inov-8 very often make shoes for a very specific purpose and with this Trailroc 280 I feel that it is a shoe trying to do many things and as such does no one thing brilliantly, but if you are looking for an ‘all-purpose’ shoe that transitions from to road to trail, this may be for you!

Conclusion

The Trailroc 280 is not a bad shoe. Equally it is not a great shoe. This is the first time in a while I have not glowed about an inov-8 shoe. I have tried and tried to like this shoe and don’t get me wrong, if I had no other shoe to wear, I’d be happy in the 280. However, I have lots of options on footwear and the 280 has nothing that stands out that makes me want to grab it and go run. It’s cushioned, has 8mm drop, has a great outsole but has some failings for me.

Foothold and toe box are the two factors that leave a question mark. The toe box I can live with, it causes me no problems, it is just not ideal. The foothold though really is an issue and I hate the feel of my foot not being secure.

inov-8 website HERE 

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Long Term Goal Setting and Planning for Ultra Running

The Long Term Goal

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Recently I have produced several articles that have been created to help runners formulate a plan for a new year of racing and training. The articles have been as follows:

  • Planning a Running and Racing Year HERE
  • To Base Train or not to Base Train HERE
  • Base Training HERE
  • How long should the long run be? HERE
  • In addition, I wrote several articles on walking and how important it is to practice this for:
  • Ultra running HERE
  • Walking with poles HERE
  • Walking efficiency when climbing HERE

Recently I was involved in a series of discussions about the Marathon des Sables. One thing that became very clear is the panic and apprehension many runners feel about a goal that may well be a ‘one-off’ or lifetime goal.

Experienced runners will know how to goal set, they will know how to periodise and plan their training so that they hopefully arrive at a target event in peak form. This was discussed in Planning a Running and Racing Year (HERE). However, goals that go beyond one macrocycle (one year) require a much greater perspective and overview. If you are new to running, well, it can be just terrifying.

A great deal of advice can be extremely counter productive as it makes many runners feel inadequate, inexperienced, lacking confidence and in the worse scenarios even questioning if they should even go ahead with the race.

Let’s be clear. Everyone is an individual, I have yet to find two runners who need the same training plan or structure. However, certain scenarios work for all and it is with this in mind that I am writing this post.

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Why not join our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote with 2x MDS Champion, Elisabet Barnes? Information HERE

Why set a long term goal?

Long term goals provide incredible motivation to step out of the door and to train. You will have heard the saying, ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it!’

To that end, iconic races such as UTMB and Marathon des Sables, are races that for many are the ultimate race, they are races to be built up to and therefore a macrocycle is not enough time to prepare; hence long term goal setting.

Irrespective of experience, two key words come in to play when setting a long term plan: Structured and Progressive.

In this scenario, I am using goal setting for Marathon des Sables.

STRUCTURE

A macrocycle is one training year and this is broken down into mesocycles. It may sound like a fancy word but a mesocycle is a series of blocks of training that make up one macrocycle. For purposes of explanation, let’s assume that you are running the Marathon des Sables which takes place in April 2020.

I always recommend getting a year planner so that you get a big picture of what lies ahead. Fourteen months may seem like a long way off, it is, no need to panic, but also don’t become complacent. What’s important here is experience. I am therefore going to have two runners.

Please Note – This guide below is geared towards someone who aims to run as much as possible at MDS. Very few run all of MDS and most walk considerably more than they think. For me, walking is a key element to a very successful training plan. The structure below still applies, the sessions would adjust accordingly.

Runner A has run a marathon, runs to keep fit and has set the lifetime goal of Marathon des Sables. Priority is completion.

Runner B has been running for years, eats marathons for breakfast, races ultra races regularly and is going to Marathon des Sables as a challenge, to test him or herself and plans to compete over complete.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that runner A and runner B need completely different training plans and strategies. Keeping in mind that A has less experience, more insecurities and a great deal of anxiety about the big target, I will talk through the possible planning cycle for A.

Let’s break down the macrocycle. As I said, we have twelve months (+/-) to play with, so a schedule may look like this:

Phase 1: Apr, May with C race objective (half-marathon).

Phase 2: June, July, Aug with B race objective (marathon to 50km).

Phase 3: Sep, Oct, Nov with A race objective (multi-day race)

Phase 4: Dec, Jan with B race objective and/ or specific warm weather training camp.

Phase 5: Feb, Mar.

Phase 6: Apr – A race.

Phase 1

Is all about consistent and regular running based on available time, ability and commitments. Set yourself a C race target for the end of this period. It could be a half marathon. It’s always good to have intermediate targets to work to and we often use C and  B races as stepping stones to an A race, in this scenario, Marathon des Sables.

Be realistic here, it’s important. Ask yourself a couple of key questions:

How many days can I train?

How many hours a week can I train?

We are going to assume that running three/four days is possible every week with a fourth/ fifth day for cross training and strength work. A microcycle (week) in phase 1 may well look like:

  • Tuesday – key day
  • Thursday – key day
  • Saturday – Cross training
  • Sunday – key day

In phase 1 we want to just walk, run or walk/ run and build a base of fitness from which to build. No need to rush in and panic. Be sensible and progressive. A safe way to do this is build for three weeks and on the fourth week rest and recover, Yes, rest and recovery is just as important as running.

Use the 10-20% rule and never add more time than this to each run. An example for the first month may look like:

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Over this phase, you would eventually cap the length of time for the Tuesday and Thursday runs at 60 to 90-minutes and the Sunday run would progress to 3-hours 30-minutes as follows:

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Use this system in phase 1 building week on week over four months to lay a great foundation of progressive miles and time on feet. If you have built progressively, your Sunday long run will have progressed to over three hours which puts you in a great place for a C run target.

A marathon would be a good C target at the end of phase 1. You wouldn’t taper for a race like this, it would be a training run that would be added to your plan.

Phase 2

You have phase 1 under your belt and the confidence of completing a C target. Phase 2 now builds and at the end of this phase you will have a B race target as a goal. This race should be challenging but not so challenging that it becomes intimidating or breaks you. If you ran a half marathon as a C race, then your B race could be a marathon. If your C race was a marathon, then your B race may be a marathon or 50km race if you feel that training is going very well?

It’s also important now to think ahead to Phase 3 and an intermediate A race target that will motivate you and boost your confidence for phase 4, 5 and 6.

Also think about planning and booking heat chamber sessions or equivalent for the final build up phase just before the race; this usually takes place in the final 2-3 weeks and sessions go quickly.

In the UK, a race takes place in November called the Druids. It’s a three day race where runners take on a marathon for three consecutive days. It’s a perfect ‘mini’ Marathon des Sables scenario and a great opportunity to test clothing, pack, fitness and build confidence.

Assuming that four days training are still possible and that you have had no injury issues or problems, we can now progress training building on endurance in the long runs and adding some faster/ strength sessions during the week.

A week may look like this:

  • Tuesday – Hills.
  • Thursday – Speed
  • Saturday – Cross training and strength.
  • Sunday – Long run.

As in phase 1, progression is really important and the plan would actually change and evolve over this period with each month looking different.

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The above plan is a guide and this is where a run coach can step in and provide structure and remove the guess work away from how the plan is put together. It’s all about placing the right emphasis at the right place and at the right time.

You will see how month 3 changes from months 1 and 2 so that it is specific to the B target at the end of this mesocycle.

Phase 3

You have just completed your longest run in a B race, be that 50k, 50m or somewhere in-between and your confidence is sky high. You now have an A race on the horizon (November) that involves three back-to back marathons and suddenly your appreciation of what is required is much clearer. You respect the Marathon des Sables target but now it is less intimidating as you have moved your way up through logical and incremental steps.

Another three month phase of training that allows is to fine tune and hone in on the racing skills required.

As you may expect, phase 3 starts with recovery from your B race target. You will need to cross train or just run easy for 3-4 days. By the time the weekend comes around, you will feel as though recovery is well on the way, don’t rush. Take your time and the following week run easy Tuesday and Thursday for up to 60-minutes and then do 60 and a 90-minute run on Saturday and build on the Sunday run. An example of phase 3 is below. Please remember, YOU are an individual with specific needs and what I provide below is a possible structure leading to an A race in November.

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The A race at the end of November provides a significant marker in your training. The experience will allow you an opportunity to find out what worked, what didn’t work, how your kit worked, what was good, what was bad and so on.

December is now upon you and Phase 4 is an opportunity to look at weaknesses and work on them so that you are in great shape to take on Phase 5 which is the final period before your key race.

1. If you lacked endurance in your November A race, keep working on consistency and build endurance with time on feet.

2. If you lacked speed and want to run faster, December is a perfect opportunity to cut back on distance and long runs and add some speed work.

3. Due to the demands of running with a pack, running long and all the associated fatigue, make sure that you incorporate a strength and core routine to make you a stronger runner. It’s easy to say here, ‘I don’t have the time!” You do, cut down your run time on a Tuesday and Thursday and free up time for strength and core. Maybe you can even find an extra day in your week (Wednesday) to allow you to work on this. Alternatively, work on strength and core at home maybe while watching television? The time is there, you just need to find it and be creative.

4. Practice walking. Effective and fast walking is a key weapon to a successful race in any long ultra or multi-day race.

With a new year coming, April and the heat of the Sahara looms on the horizon. January provides a perfect opportunity for a warm weather training camp just as the weather is wet, miserable and cold in Europe.

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In conjunction with 2015 ladies Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet BARNES, we run a week long camp in Lanzarote that provides the perfect opportunity to test everything in a real situation. We even provide a bivouac experience. You can ready daily posts and view images from the 2016 camp HERE and you can listen to client feedback below:

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Phase 5 is the last phase and ultimately you have 6 weeks to get prepared and ready for your key race. If you attended a training camp you will now have a full appreciation of everything that you need to do. That may be changing kit, more time on feet, looking at nutrition or even a combination of all elements

Now is the time to make sure you have all your admin sorted – insurance, medical, compulsory kit and so on.

Don’t leave anything to chance now. If in doubt about equipment, contact MyRaceKit, they are able to provide expert advice in regard to everything that you will need.

Think about heat and how you will adapt. With luck, back in phase 2 or 3 you will have thought ahead and booked time in a heat chamber. Ideally this will take place in the final 2-3 weeks before the race. No sessions booked? Train in a gym with additional layers, take a sauna, do Bikram Yoga etc

Again, consistency is key here. You have been training for this long term goal for sometime, don’t do anything silly, don’t do a long run that is really long; you up your chances of injury risk. Remember, training is about ALL the sessions you have done and not just one session

Pack weight is a consideration and get it as close to 6.5kg as possible. On day-1, when you add water it will be 8kg. BE CAREFUL training with too much weight, it is a guaranteed route to injury. For sure, do some sessions with weight, be progressive and slowly build up. Just do one session per week in the final phase and only do 1 or 2 sessions with pack at 8kg and do not go too long.

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Phase 6 is race time.

Be organised, be prepared, think of everything and have the race of your life.

It’s in this final phase when you are so close that little things can go wrong. Be prepared as best as you can. You can’t account for the unexpected but reduce chances of anything going wrong by taking no risks.

The information provided above is designed to provide an outline and a guide on how to plan for a long term goal. Although you may be able to take this plan away and use it, please be sensible and assess your own experience, fitness and goals. Importantly, the scenario provided is with a multi-day race in mind, you would need to tweak and adjust this for a single stage race or a mountain ultra for example.

I can’t emphasise enough that we are all individual, so you need to find out what works for you.

Good luck.

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TRAINING FOR… UTMR with Damian Hall

Damian Hall ran his first half marathon race in 2011. In his own words, “It was  a life-changing race.” Just 1-year later he ran his first marathon and first ultra-marathon. Dedicated to the art of running, Damian became a student of the sport and through his journalism work, he gleamed as much information as possible. He became his own test subject.

In a very short period of time, he completed the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on four occasions progressing each year to finally place 5th. He has run Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert,the Ice Ultra in Arctic Sweden,The Coastal Challenge in Costa and has excelled at multi-discipline and long distance races in the UK such as The Spine, The Dragons Back and the UK Trail Championships.

His love for the sport has also seen him test himself on multiple challenges and FKT’s such as running ‘The Rounds’ such as Bob Graham, the South West Coast Path and most recently the Cape Wrath Trail with Beth Pascall.

A lover of a good mug of tea and a Tunnock biscuit, Damian, the husband and father of two children, has a popular voice on the UK ultra-run scene.

Leaving his beloved UTMB alone in 2019, Damian will challenge himself in September with the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa.

Training for…, a series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store, myRaceKit, http://www.myracekit.com

We are very fortunate to have myRaceKit sponsoring several articles on ‘Training for…’ in this scenario, the UTMR, the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, an epic trail race designed by no less than Lizzy Hawker, who in herself is an absolutely stunning multi-day ultra-runner. Lizzy came up with this beast of a race, or should I say beasts of races because now there is more than one, there is the big one which is a 170 km with 11,300 meters of vertical, there is a four-stagerace which is basically the big one broken down into four days and then there are the Ultra Three Passes which is 100 km with 6420 meters of vertical gain, big statistics. I wondered, what enticed Damian to tackle the UTMR instead of UTMB in 2019?

“I thought if I’m not doing UTMB, I’ll do the race with the closest name,” Damian says with a hint of mischief. “No. I think number one, I love running a hundred miles, I think it’s a really special race distance, I also love running a hundred miles in a lumpy place because it’s just that bit more ‘hurty,’ but I think the number one appeal really for me is Lizzy Hawker actually, I’ve never met her and she’s a huge inspiration to me. When Iwas just getting into the sport, she was winning UTMB every year, and I love her outlook on the sport, I’m sure she probably wouldn’t call it a sport, it’s probably more than that to her and probably to me as well, but I’ve read her book, I love that and she’s just super inspiring. I still have that UTMB obsession to shake off, I did four UTMBs in a row and I’m looking forward to a year without one just to freshen things up and see what that feels like and UTMR, it’s not too far away either, is a similar time of year but in a way it sounds very similar and yet very different. Obviously, the crowds will be a lot smaller, the field’s a lot smaller. It sounds like a tougher course, there’s more climb. From the pictures I’ve seen, it’s possibly more spectacular. I’ve had three good friends do it including Nicky Spinks. They’ve all absolutely raved about it. There’s a whole load of reasons to be attracted to the race. I’m really excited.”

Put like that, it’s self-explanatory why Damian will venture to new ground. After all, the Matterhorn as a backdrop to stunning trails is an easy sell. It’s arguably the most iconic mountain in the world, maybe even more so than Everest. After all, Everest did not make it on to Toblerone packaging!

Damian came to this sport later in life, and in doing so, has inspired a great deal of people to relook at their own running and what they can achieve. I’ve always said, age is just a number, it doesn’t actually really mean anything. Not only are you proving that but there’s countless other people proving that. In 2014, Damian placed fourth in the Spine and second in the Cotswold Way, which was then just about over 100 miles. The following year, I raced at the Dragon’s Back, he placed 29th at UTMB. Then the following year, you came to The Coastal challenging Costa Rica where you placed fifth in a super stacked front field. Second at the Highland Fling which was a UK trail championship, a great result. You moved up from 29th to 19th at UTMB, then 19th to 12th and then 12th to 5th! Actually, 2018 was a great year for you because you won the Ice Ultra, you were sixth at Madeira and you were first at Ultimate Trails and second at Mozart 100.

“Yes, I think I’ve realized that UTMB and similar are the races I like.  Long climbs and some technical aspects and fun. I suppose fun, long technical descents. I’ll be honest, I like a hiking race. I like a long climb that’s so long, you can’t really run it. I like the change in rhythm that that brings. I am not full-time but am dedicated. My progression has been gradual, and I am happy. UTMR in a way is perfect because it’s some of the similar format big mountains, similar distance that kind of thing but it feels quite fresh and that’s a new course.”

Running well for any race usually requires very specific preparation and ideally on opportunity to go and run on some of the race route.

“I’m still undecided whether I’ll be able to go on recce or not. Traditionally, I haven’t really recced races because I’m in the sport for the adventure really. Obviously, I love the athletic, the competitive element of it too. I love the adventure element where you’re not really sure what the course looks like and you’re not sure what’s of the next horizon, the next mountain, the next valley.”

A family man who works, how does Damian plan his training? How does he fit in training? What does his research look like when going into a race? So many questions come to mind! It’s very easy with the Ultra Monte Rosa course I guess, look at a map and it’s a nice big circular loop and you suddenly start to see really key statistics like Zermatt and Saas-Fee and then you start to look at everything else and then suddenly you realise there’s lots of 4,000 meter mountains in this area. It’s going to be quite a hard race. How does Damian start to approach the training process for a race like this?

“I guess the distances is a key statistic and you’d hope people would know the distance before they sign up but then it’s also how much vert as the Americans call it, how much ascent is in the race overall. What I learned from my first UTMBis actually the descending is going to hurt than the climbing. It’s always important to know roughly what that figure is and that’s going to dictate probably the latter block of my training.”

You need to be strong for a race like a long distance ultra, particularly when in the mountains, I wondered on Damian’s approach to strength and conditioning?

“I do additional strength work making sure my legs are strong enough for that. I suppose how technical is the course is something that people think about a lot and quite rightly. UTMB for example has got a couple of short technical sections, I suppose, but mostly it’s good terrain, good hard trails. I must admit I haven’t looked in detail yet at UTMR about how technical it is compared to UTMB.I have heard more technical. Strength is key and another thing I’ve done over the time is I’ve worked with Shane Benzie who’s a movement specialist on having good technique for descending, especially for the technical terrain. I still don’t always get it right. I’ve just seen some of my photos from my recent race and they’re a bit disappointing. My technique was out of step. As you get tired sometimes, old habits slip in.”

I am sure that Damian’s training is more than just going for a run, but what about speed?

“There’s volume of course, ultra-runners need volume and miles. But I’ll be going to the track as well because last year for the first time, I started doing track work. I hate it but know it’s effective. I’m 43, I’m trying to squeeze every… I guess people would call it marginal gains, but I make sure I’m as fast as can be as well legs being as strong as can be and so on. I will be going to the track.”

Vertical climbing is a key element to a race like UTMR, as well as the descending as Damian has mentioned. Breaking training down into blocks, ‘periodization’ is important, I asked Damian how he approaches these elements.

“A good plan is all about periodizing, for now, I am in a good spell of getting fast. Vertical training will come a bit later nearer the race, which thankfully is in the summer when it’s a bit more pleasant getting to mountainous places. Also, what’s changed for me over the couple of years also is that I really look forward to runningraces. Now, I think I’m more sensible in picking three or four key ones for a year. Actually, I really enjoy the training. I love training for the sake of training, which is a nice feeling, a nice place to be, I suppose.”

Adding races in to training can be difficult, especially if one of those ‘other’ races can be as important as another ‘A’ race. For example, Damian hopes to run Western States which is close to UTMR and the courses are very different.

“Yeah, at the moment, I’ve still got this outside hope or outside wish of doing Western States in late June. Obviously, some of the Western States training would benefit UTMR, but some of it would be quite different. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it yet. In a way, I can’t plan too much of that, but I know that July and August will be all about UTMR for me. That probably means a big amount of days and trying to get a lot mountain running.”

Equipment for Western States is pretty straightforward. You need a pair of running shoes, shorts, and a top, and a hydration vest, whereas UTMR is going to be something that is completely different. Variables in terrain, extremes of hot and cold, mandatory kit, poles, etcetera. I asked Damian what are some of the specifics in a mountain race in terms of equipment that he needs, must have, and then the optional extras that he takes?

“There is something special about doing a mountain race where you have a pack, where you’re feeling self-reliant, where you know you can be okay for 6, 8, 10, 12 hours with everything in your pack, maybe even 24 hours if you get off-course. I do like that. That’s mostly why I got into the sport really is to have those mini mountain ventures. I do love agonizing over what kit to take and checking the weight of everything and checking the weather and all that aspect in the few weeks beforehand. I love all that, the anticipation.”

So, what equipment does Damian take?

“I’ll take two if not three waterproof jackets because probably the last weather forecast, the day before the race, will probably determine which one I take. With UTMB, I learned in the past that the weather can do anything and you’re not really sure. You need to be prepared for bad weather in high mountains. Any jacket should have taped seams and of course one needs appropriate trousers to go with the jacket.”

 

“I’ll probably, depending on the time of year, take a Protec-Shell which is probably a winter jacket. I wouldn’t expect to use that, but you never know, the weather really might come in and you don’t want to be caught out. I don’t expect to race in that, but I’ll take that out with me just in case.”

 

“Base layers, I use merino wool because that just gives you a little bit of extra warmth. For the last two years at UTMB I’ve worn merino gloves. I’m pretty sure they’ll be on mandatory kit list. If the weather is rough, I might be taking two, I might be taking a pair of mitts to go over the top of the gloves. I imagine there’ll be some mid layer. Again, that’s a tricky one. Sometimes if you go the lightest possible then you might get caught out. Again, I’ll probably go two different options maybe a merino one and maybe a PrimaLoft. I’ll probably take a light pair of tights as well if it’s on the mandatory kit.”

 

“Headlamp and spare batteries are essential, I really like the Petzl NAO+ which you can program in an app. You can decide exactly how many hours you want it to last for. It’s really bright. It’s been dependable so far. Poles, I like the Black Diamond Z Pole.”

Poles have become increasingly popular in ultra-races, particularly in mountain races. Certainly, in America, you wouldn’t see anybody using poles. I think that’s primarily because the terrain out there is probably more runnable. I’m not saying that they don’t have plenty of vert. For example, Hard Rock has got plenty of vert. Hard Rock is a good example because now if you look at the elite field in Hard Rock, they’re pretty much all using poles. Poles have become almost the ‘go to’ in races like UTMB and all these other mountain races but a lot of people think that they can just pick up a pair of poles the day before a race and use them. There is absolutely a real skill to using poles. Damian has used poles on many occasions, I wondered about his thought process?

Read about using poles HERE

“Poles still causing some debate definitely in some British circles where I think they still get called cheat sticks. About whether they’re really useful or not, in the last couple years I’ve seen definitely even people like Jim Mann and Nicky Spinks, Jasmin Paris and so on use them. Personally, I think they help me with long climbs. I can’t prove they do really unless I suppose I did a huge climb without them and then a huge climb with them to compare. I suppose I’ve never actually done that. Some of it may be psychological. You might feel you’re climbing better with them, but I really believe in this sport the mental side is so important. If you think you’re climbing well, then chances are it will help, positive mindsetis key and think. I really feel they helped with climbing. It’s not just spreading the load of the muscles. It keeps you more upright as well which can aid your breathing. It also means your muscles, especially your quads, get less stress because there’s always a temptation to bend. Practice in training is essential, especially on your long runs. Also, press-ups are excellent to tone the required muscles.”

 

“Also, the better your arms are moving your legs tend to follow your arms. If your arms are keeping a decent cadence your legs are hopefully not being too lazy and keeping a decent smaller cadence. A bigger cadence but a smaller gap, smaller stride. That’s what I found. I also try hard to tuck them away for any flats or downhills because I think they seem to slow me up. I think that’s a cadence thing where if you’re holding poles your arms move less and therefore your legs can move less. Poles also aid travelling down hill,  sometimes I’ve been so wrecked that my quads have needed the extra help on the downhill.”

Safety is a key element in mountain races, the need for minimum calories, minimum liquid, a mobile phone and so on. I wondered if Damian had witnessed key changes?

“When I started out in the sport, I think I’d usually go with a bladder, that seemed to make more sense but the last few years I’ve been using soft flasks. I think it’s easier to see how much water you’ve got and to monitor how much you’re drinking. For example, at Station A, you might just fill them both up and try and drink them both by the time you get to the next one. I think if I need to carry one and a half, I’d probably just take three soft flasks. One might stay in the back of my pack depending on how hot it is. If it’s getting hot I’ll maybe bring that into play, but what I’ve learned as well as sometimes you have a third one that’s full of water and you use that for tipping over your head if it’s really hot rather than drinking because it can be more important to bring the body temperature down, definitely what I learned at Costa Rica! In regard to nutrition, it goes in waves and it constantly changes, I usually go with one gel and some nuts to be honest because nuts are high calorie per weight. If you are in trouble or you found someone else is in trouble, the sugar from a gel is going to help them quicker. Emergency food is very personal. In addition to a phone, often a space blanket or even a form of bivvy bag is required along with a whistle and compass. It all makes sense. Now I even would consider a GPS like a Garmin inReach as a really useful safety addition.”

Most mandatory kit lists include whistle and compass, that’s pretty normal. Some sort of elastic bandage or strapping is also useful should you have a bad ankle or a knee that you can strap it up is useful. Also, your own cup just makes sense.

“Yes, definitely, it is kind of horrifying especially in road running. I’m not trying to beat up on road running necessarily but when you see a city half marathon or marathon. Then you just see the debris left behind afterwards of water bottles. I don’t know how practical it is to turn that to road races and stuff but obviously, this is the way forward. We’re all in the last year or two become really aware of plastic wastage and yes it’s horrifying some of the stuff we’ve seen in the oceans.”

Finally, I asked Damian for a top-tip to get ready for UTMR.

“There are a few things. An obvious thing is a bit more strength work which obviously has other benefits and should help prevent injury and stuff. I must credit Ian Sharman who used to coach me, his signature session is probably the weight vest hike which I’ve become a fan of, and a weight vest is only probably only about £30 or £40 online, maybe eight to 10 kilograms and you wear for half an hour at a time, one or two miles, ideally a little bit of hill involved. Not running and just hiking you definitely don’t run downhill because that’s a hell of a lot of weight to go through your knees. If you just get in the habit of doing a short walk, often for people it’s a dog walk maybe, that can grow a bit of strength quite safely.Ultimately if you live somewhere flat it’s probably a good idea if you can sometimes get away to somewhere lumpier and do some specific training. Personally, I live near Bath in the bottom of the Cotswold’s, I go to the Brecon Beacons quite regularly, which is a three-hour round trip for me. The longest climb there still is just only 400 meters, that’s not even half of what it will be in the Alps, but one can do repeats.”

One thing is for sure, in any running adventure, if you want to progress and perform, you need to be specific. Damian has applied these principles and year-on-year, as he has learnt and has progressed. It’s not just the ‘running’ part but the planning, the equipment, the strength, core, nutrition and importantly the mind. To achieve one must address all those aspects to perform.

Training for…A series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store myRaceKit, http://www.myracekits.com.

MANDATORY EQUIPMENT for UTMR

Mobile Phone HERE

Head Torch and batteriesHERE

Bottles x2 or bladder (1.5ltr)  HEREor HERE

Emergency food (400 cal)HERE

Bivvy bagHERE

Whistle

Elastic bandageHERE

Drinking cupHERE

Waterproof jacket w/ hoodHERE

Waterproof trousers HERE

3/4 or full run tightsHERE

Warm hatHERE

GlovesHERE

GPS tracker (provided)

Identity papers– Passport is required in a waterproof bag

Rear lightHERE

Thermal warm layerHERE

Run packHERE

PolesHERE

Dry BagHERE

LINKS:

myRaceKit – HERE

UTMR – HERE

Damian Hall – HERE

 

Listen to the ‘Training for…’ article on Talk Ultra Podcast HERE

Join Ian Corless in London with Lizzy Hawker ‪@lizzihawker in June for a special @myRaceKit ‬#Tailsfromthetrails couple of days!

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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.
*****
 
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.

*****

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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