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.

 

Episode 145 – Jeff Browning and Mark Hammond

Episode 145 of Talk Ultra brings you an interview with Jeff Browning who has been dominating the 100-mile racing scene with a string of highly placed finishes – but how? Jeff tells us the secrets of his success in a fascinating interview. We also speak with Mark Hammond who placed 3rd at Western States this year. We have the news and Speedgoat Karl is co-hosting
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00:10:10 NEWS
Speedgoat wins 50k a good sign for his next 100.
ELS 2900
Ne format for this year as alpinists took part as teams of two and they had to navigate. Lina and Sanna El Kott Helander won the ladies race and Dominic Trastoy and Lluis Sanvicente won the men’s, times 21:05 and 16:41 respectively.
Lakes in a Day UK
Katie Kaars smashed the ladies old CR in a new time of 10:46:29 for the 50-miles and bagged a £1000 bonus. She also placed 3rd overall.
For the men, Marcis Gubats took top honours in 10:18:39, Jack Casey 2nd in 10:43:49 and Nick Green 3rd man (4th overall) in 11:04:07.
Elizaveta Ershova and Liz Barker placed 2nd and 3rd ladies’ respectively in 11:52:54 and 12:50:31.
Report HERE
Limone Extreme SkyRace
Marco De Gasperi took the top honours and the 2017 SWS title, a fitting reward for the Skyrunning legend who started the sport aged 16! Tove Alexandersson, an orienteer world champ, took the female victory in an impressive and committed finish that saw her collapse on the line covered in blood from numerous falls.
Jan Margarit and Stefan Knopf placed 2nd and 3rd and Michelle Maier and Ragna Debats took the podium slots for the ladies.
Sheila Aviles joined De Gasperi as the 2017 SWS champ for the Sky Classic distance.
The COMBINED title was won by Jonathan Albon and Maite Maiora.
Report HERE
Moab 200
Courtney Dauwalter runs an incredible 57-hours and 52-minutes for an outright win. Sean Nakamura won the men’s race.
John Muir Trail FKT
Francois D’Haene obliterated the JMT FKT by 12 hours finishing in 2-days, 19-hours and 26-minutes. This result coming so soon after winning the UTMB!
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00:40:01 Interview with JEFF BROWNING
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02:04:27 Interview with MARK HAMMOND
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UP & COMING RACES

Argentina

Puna Inca Trail | 200 kilometers | November 03, 2017 | website

Australia

Queensland

100 km | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
50 km | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Run to Paradise Ultra Marathon | 74 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

South Australia

105 km | 105 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
57 km | 57 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Victoria

100 km | 100 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
50 km | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Canada

Ontario

50 km | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Croatia

109,8 km | 109 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
161.4 km | 161 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
57 km | 57 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Ecuador

50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

France

Aude

Raid des Bogomiles | 101 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website

Aveyron

Boffi Fifty | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Endurance Trail | 100 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
Trail des Hospitaliers | 75 kilometers | October 29, 2017 | website

Calvados

Raid solo 52 km | 52 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Corse-du-Sud

CCR Bleu Long | 86 kilometers | October 26, 2017 | website
CCR Rouge Court | 78 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
CCR Rouge Long | 166 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Savoie

75 km | 75 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
Grand trail du lac – 80km | 80 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Germany

North Rhine-Westphalia

Röntgenlauf Ultramarathon | 63 kilometers | October 29, 2017 | website

Greece

Rodopi Advendurun 100 miles | 100 miles | October 20, 2017 | website

Hong-Kong

Salomon LT 70 | 70 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

India

Meghalaya

70k Ultra | 70 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

West Bengal

Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race | 100 miles | October 29, 2017 | website

Israel

Ultra Marathon Sovev Emek – 61 Km Run | 61 kilometers | October 26, 2017 | website

Italy

Campania

Amalfi Coast Trail | 87 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Ert Rommel Trail 64k | 64 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Piedmont

120 km | 120 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
57 km | 57 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
82 km | 82 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website

Morocco

Race Désert Marathon | 100 kilometers | October 25, 2017 | website

Nepal

Annapurna 100 | 100 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Annapurna 50k | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Solukhumbu Trail | 289 kilometers | October 27, 2017 | website

New Zealand

Norway

100 Miles | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Réunion

La Mascareignes | 67 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
Trail de Bourbon | 111 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website

South Africa

Bonitas Golden Gate Challenge | 70 kilometers | October 20, 2017 | website
Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon | 250 kilometers | October 26, 2017 | website

Spain

Andalusia

Ultima Frontera – 166 km | 166 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Ultima Frontera – 55 km | 55 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Ultima Frontera – 83 km | 83 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Catalonia

LTSM | 66 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Ultra Trail de la Serra de Montsant | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Principality of Asturias

Ultra Trail Oscos Natural | 55 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Valencian Community

Mondúber Utrail | 66 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Sweden

Markusloppet | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Turkey

Cappadocia Trail 60km | 61 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Salomon Cappadocia Ultra Trail® | 114 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

United Kingdom

City of Edinburgh

50 km | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Cumbria

Ennerdale 50k Trail Run | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Original Mountain Marathon | 52 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

Oxfordshire

Autumn 100 | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Powys

Rebellion | 135 miles | November 03, 2017 | website

Suffolk

Coastal Trail Series – Suffolk – Ultra | 34 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Worcestershire

Halloween 7in7 | 295 kilometers | October 30, 2017 | website

USA

Arizona

100K | 100 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

California

Lake Hodges 50K | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Ragnar Relay Napa Valley | 186 miles | November 03, 2017 | website
Reebok Ragnar Napa Valley | 200 miles | November 03, 2017 | website

Colorado

50K | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
Indian Creek 51 km | 51 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Indian Creek 52 Mile | 52 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Connecticut

Bimbler’s Bluff 50k | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
Scantic Valley Six-Hour Ultra Marathon | 50 kilometers | October 29, 2017 | website

Delaware

Sinnemahone Ultra Marathon 50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Florida

80 Mile Relay | 80 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
Jacks 50k Trail Race | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
“Running for the Bay!” 50K | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

Georgia

Running Dead Ultra 100M | 100 miles | October 20, 2017 | website
Running Dead Ultra 50M | 50 miles | October 20, 2017 | website

Hawaii

Peacock Challenge 55 Mile Run | 55 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
Peacock Ultramarathons 100K | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Peacock Ultramarathons 50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Illinois

Chicago Lakefront 50K | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Kansas

Kansas Rails-to-Trails 100 Mile | 100 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
Prairie Spirit Trail Fall Classic 50K | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Prairie Spirit Trail Fall Classic 50 Mile | 50 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

Louisiana

50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Maryland

Patapsco Valley 50K | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website

Michigan

Y’OPA Halloween Costume 5K Run | 70 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

Minnesota

Surf the Murph 50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Surf the Murph 50M | 50 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Missouri

50K | 50 kilometers | October 29, 2017 | website

Nebraska

G.O.A.T.z 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

New Hampshire

Ghost Train Ultra Race 100M | 100 miles | October 22, 2017 | website
Ghost Train Ultra Race 45M | 45 miles | October 22, 2017 | website
Ghost Train Ultra Race 60M | 60 miles | October 22, 2017 | website
Ghost Train Ultra Race 75M | 75 miles | October 22, 2017 | website
Ghost Train Ultra Race 90M | 90 miles | October 22, 2017 | website

New Jersey

100 Mile | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
50 Mile | 50 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
The Teaneck 5K Walk/Run for Children with Cancer | 5000 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website

North Carolina

Allison Woods Halloween Hobble | 100 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
Triple Lakes Trail 40 Mile Run | 40 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
Tuna Run 200 | 200 miles | October 20, 2017 | website
Tuna Run 70 | 70 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
Uwharrie 100K Trail Run | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
Uwharrie 100 Mile Trail Run | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website

Ohio

Run With Scissors Double Marathon | 52 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

Oklahoma

100K | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
100 Mile | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
135.6 Miler | 135 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

South Carolina

Paris Mountain 50k | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Tennessee

100K | 100 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
100 Miler | 100 miles | October 21, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website

Texas

50k | 50 kilometers | October 21, 2017 | website
50K | 50 kilometers | October 24, 2017 | website
Cactus Rose 100 Mi Trail Run | 100 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
Cactus Rose 50 Mi Trail Run | 50 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
Trans-Pecos Ultra | 163 miles | October 22, 2017 | website

Utah

Atlas St. George | 40 miles | October 27, 2017 | website
Goblin Valley Ultra 50K | 50 kilometers | October 28, 2017 | website
Pony Express Trail 100 | 100 miles | October 20, 2017 | website
Pony Express Trail 50 | 50 miles | October 20, 2017 | website

Virginia

The Wild Oak Trail 100 “Hot” TWOT | 100 miles | October 20, 2017 | website

West Virginia

33 Miles | 33 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
34 Miles | 34 miles | October 28, 2017 | website
40 Miles | 40 miles | October 28, 2017 | website

Wisconsin

50K | 50 kilometers | October 29, 2017 | website

Vietnam

120 km | 120 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
70 km | 70 kilometers | October 22, 2017 | website
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02:40:06 CLOSE
02:43:19
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Western States Endurance Run #WSER 2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

With 18.000ft of climb and 22.000ft of downhill, the race has in the past been full of incredible stories – Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Ellie Greenwood and Timothy Olson to name just a few names from an incredible 40+ years of history.

 

Over the years, the course is often discussed around the heat that the canyons bring and if it will be a snow or no snow year.

 

Let’s be clear, the 2017 WSER is going to be a snow year but it is melting.

Read the full preview on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

UTMB 2017 Draw and Elite Names

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The results for the 2017 UTMB were announced on January 12th 2017 at 10.00 (Paris time) and what a draw! The list of persons registered and runners files can be viewed at http://www.ultratrailmb.com, all those entered will be confirmed by email.

Those runners lucky in the draw then have a period of 14 days, January 12th to 25th 2017, to definitively finalise their registration by paying, by credit-card, the balance of the registration price and sending in all the required supporting documents.

It’s a big day for many, dreams are made and broken with the opening of an email.

From a global perspective, a look at the elite start list provides an opportunity to whet ones appetite and imagine the race that will unfold for the UTMB and the races that also that happen in and around the main event, the CCC, TDS and OCC.

In 2016, many considered that the line up in the UTMB was the best ever, well, 2017 may have topped it?

The Top Men for 2017

  • Francois D’haene – Two time UTMB winner and countless other 100 victories.
  • Gediminas Grinius – 2nd at UTMB in 2016.
  • Julien Chorier – 8th at UTMB in 2016 but super solid at the distance.
  • Miguel Heras – Looking for 2013 form when he placed 2nd.
  • Luis Alberto Hernando – Hw wants this! 2nd in 2015.
  • Xavier Thevenard – Champ in 2013 and 2015 the winner of ‘all’ UTMB races – CCC, TDS and OCC.
  • Tofol Castanyer – 2nd in 2014.
  • Pau Capell –  TDS winner stepping up to the big dance.
  • Yeray Duran – Stepping up but 2nd at TDS in 2016.
  • Diego Pazoz – Mont-Blanc 80km winner – an intersting prospect!
  • Andy Symonds – Tried in 2016 but pulled out, he has a big race in him.
  • Carlos Sa – 8th in 2014 and an ever-present.
  • Kim Collison – Arguably the UK’s best hope for a top result.
  • Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB in 2015.
  • Didrik Hermansen – 2nd at Western States in 2016 and winner at Transgrancanaria

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Tim Tollefson – 3rd at UTMB last  year
  • Andrew Miller – Western States winner 2016
  • Sage Canaday – Unfinished business at UTMB
  • Jeff Browning – 2016 double with 3rd and 4th at Western States and Hardrock
  • Dylan Bowman – 4th at Lake Sonoma in 2016
  • David Laney – Placed 3rd and 4th at UTMB
  • Jim Walmsley – Unstoppable in 2016, UTMB is going to be a seriously exciting outing for him and us!

But it doesn’t stop there, there other names to consider, the list goes on!

The Top Women for 2017

  • Caroline Chaverot – Defending champ and un-stoppable in 2016.
  • Nuria Picas – 2nd twice, she wants the top slot.
  • Andrea Huser – Relentless, races week-in and week-out, 2nd in 2016.
  • Emelie Lecomte – Tor des Geants champ.
  • Beth Pascall – Lakeland 100 winner and course record could excel on this big loop.
  • Sophie Grant – Has had two top UTMB placings.
  • Gemma Arenas – Excelled in the Skyrunning ranks in 2016, Ultra SWS champ.
  • Juliette Blanchet – 4th last year.

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Kaci Lickteig – Western States champ, Bear 100 champ and ultra-runner of the year – exciting!
  • Magdalena Boulet – 5th at UTMB last year.
  • Stephanie Howe – Western States 2014 champ who looks to be back after 2016 full of injury. Previously 8th at UTMB.
  • Sally McRae – 11th at the 2016 Western States.
  • Meredith Edwards – 2nd at TDS.
  • Aliza Lapierre – Solid performer recently raced MDS in 2015 4th at Western States.

Ones to watch:

Kaori Niwa, Christina Bes, Laia Diez, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St Laurent and many more…

CCC and TDS has always felt like a side show to the UTMB but Zach Miller in many ways changed all that with a show boat victory and we are now seeing the CCC as real stepping stone to UTMB with a highly competitive field.

Notably for 2016, Megan Kimmel, Hilary Allen, Nathalie Mauclair, Maite Maiora and Anna Comet amongst others will go head-to-head in the ladies’ race.

For the men, the prospect of what Hayden Hawks is exciting, especially when one considers Tom Owens and Ryan Sandes will toe the line. Add to the mix Erik Clavery, Ludovic Pommeret, Jorge Maravilla, Ben Duffus, Michael Borst, Marcin Swierc and Aurelien Collet and you have a very exciting race.

TDS will see Rory Bosio head up a quality ladies’ field that includes Lucy Bartholomew and, Dong Li and Lizzie Wraith. For the men, Paul Giblin and Michel Lanne are followed by Samir Tamang, Arnaud Lejeune and many more.

The 2017 UTMB week of races, look set to be a very exciting prospect.

Now, get training!

Western States 100 and Hardrock 100 Lottery Draws for 2017

WESTERN STATES 100

WSER logo ©westernstatesendurancerun

WSER logo ©westernstatesendurancerun

See you Squaw… it’s the term and phrase that so many want to here and the only guaranteed entries are for those who place top-10 (male and female) in the previous edition and those who gain places via the Golden Ticket races, UTWT and Ultrarunning Race Series.

Golden Ticket Races

  • January 7th — Bandera 100k
  • February 4th — Sean O’Brian 100k
  • February 18th — Black Canyon 100k
  • March 25th — Gorge Waterfalls
  • April 1st — Georgia Death Race
  • April 15th — Lake Sonoma 50-miles

Of the 20 top-10 male and females from 2016, 19 will return, the only person not to accept a place is Didrik Hermansen who placed 2nd in 16:16:08. That’s a surprise for me as WSER suits this fast runner.

The men’s returning list is as follows:

  1. Andrew Miller
  2. Will not return
  3. Jeff Browning
  4. Thomas Lorblanchet
  5. Paul Giblin
  6. Ian Sharman
  7. Chris Mocko
  8. Kyle Pietari
  9. Chris DeNucci
  10. Jesse Haynes

The times for those returning 9 vary from 15:39:36 to 17:12:30.

The ladies’ returning list is as follows:

  1. Kaci Lickteig
  2. Amy Sproson
  3. Devon Yanko
  4. Amanda Basham
  5. Alissa St Laurent
  6. Meghan Arbogast
  7. Bethany Patterson
  8. Maggie Guteri
  9. Jodee Adams Moore
  10. Erika Lindland

The times for those returning 10 vary from 17:57:59 to 21:07:40.

Notable entries for 2017 come from ‘Automatics’ (notes here) in addition to the top-10 men/women come from Golden Ticket Races, 6 slots from UTWT and as listed on the WSER Automatics page.

WSER lottery statistics are here

But 250 runners were drawn HERE on December 3rd with 117 automatics. The waitlist is HERE.

The 2017 WSER entrants list is HERE with 332 entries.

Notable names on pre-lottery were:

  • Jonas Buud
  • Zach Bitter
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Michael Wardian
  • Stephanie Case

Jim Walmsley needs to qualify; I think we can expect him to crush a Golden Ticket race to confirm his 2017 WSER slot.

Other slots:

  • 24 tickets will come from the Golden ticket races,
  • 6 from UTWT
  • 2 places from the Ultraruning Race Series. These slots will go to the top male and female as of April 30th 2017.

HARDROCK 100

hardrock-100-logo

Well, Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet crossed the line hand-in-hand and they have both confirmed they will return in 2017 to dance once again in the San Juan’s. The only other person guaranteed a slot is Anna Frost – she will be back!

Information HERE.

Hardrock, despite being a small race increasingly is becoming THE race people want to do and that is reflected in almost 2000 applications for 2017.

Entry is down to a lottery but the lottery is broken down into divisions as follows:

  • ‘Veterans’ – Runners who have finished more than 5 times.
  • ’Everyone Else’ – runners who have completed 1-4 times.
  • ‘Nevers’ – As the name implies, runners who have never finished Hardrock.

Hardrock 100 usually has around 150 starters, 2016 edition had 152 and I understand the 2017 edition will be just less than 150.

So, who’s in?

  • Caroline Chaverot is a huge draw and I have to say her attendance in the San Juan is an
  • exciting prospect. For me, Caroline has been THE ultra-runner of 2016.
  • Darcy Piceu missed 2016 and as a 3-time winner, she is the one that ‘Frosty’ will most
  • fear and the one that will always challenge for the victory.
  • Nathalie Mauclair has won UTMB and excelled at Raid de la Reunion.

Other notable names for the ladies’ – Darla Askew, Rachel Bucklin, Bethany Lewis,

Betsy Kalmeyer and Betsy Nye.

The men’s race is an interesting one with some old and new names.

  • Joe Grant is back again to the race he loves, boy does he have some luck with the lottery.
  • Mike Foote was 2nd at the 2015 Hardrock.
  • Iker Karrera 9th at Hardrock in 2015 but he’s a podium contender for sure.
  • Karl Meltzer has been there, done it and won it. This will be a breeze after the AT!
  • Adam Campbell, wow, does he have some motivation to be back!
  • Mike Wardian just runs and runs and runs, Hardrock will be an interesting one.
  • But the biggest interest will come with Zach Miller. We could see fireworks!

Full Entrants List HERE

We can expect other top ranked men to contest this list and then of course there is the ‘waitlisted’ men and ladies who will have a chance to run. HERE.

Hardrock 100 2016 Preview

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Hardrock 100 2016 in many respects is all about two returning champions, Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost.

Kilian has won the last two editions and in the process has set two course records, 22:41 in 2014 being the fastest. Many, me included, wonder why he is returning… I think it’s simple; he just loves the race and the course.

Kilian has done little running this year but I don’t think it will make much difference, he always pulls a great result out of the bag and I see no difference for 2016. Long races of 100 miles plus though are difficult to nail time and time again, so Kilian may have a below par or bad year? If he does, Xavier Thevenard may be one to take over the charge.

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier is the only runner to win CCC, TDS and UTMB – an impressive thing! However, he does blow hot and cold and can be quite unpredictable. In all honesty, he is most unpredictable when the pressure is on him. Although Hardrock is a key race, it doesn’t have the high media profile of races such as UTMB and therefore, Xavier may well have a great race.

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Jason Schlarb did Hardrock on skis over the winter and I think he will find running the race easier… He has all the potential to do well on this course as his 4th at UTMB has proven. As is always is the case, Jason will need the Hardrock gods on his side.

Jeff Browning has been on fire as of late and the 100 mile distance and the Hardrock course are made for him. However, he just made the podium at Western States! On the plus side, he will have had 19 days recovery post WSER and that is a good block of RnR. I don’t see Jeff beating an inform Kilian but if Kilian falters, watch this space!

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Nick Clark did the WSER and Hardrock double way back in 2011. At the time he was a beast who trounced 100 milers and intimidated those around him. Don’t get me wrong, you couldn’t meet a nicer guy! Nick has had a tough couple of years, directly attributable to the head-to-head with Ian Sharman going for the Grand Slam – Nick has never been the same since. Hardrock suits ‘Clarky’ though and I wouldn’t rule him out… I hope he finds some of that 2011 form when he placed 3rd and set the WSER/ Hardrock double record.

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson leaves me with a question mark. The ‘American Tarzan’ (see here) has had a tough time in the last 12 to 24 months. Like so many runners, he nailed it, had huge success and then faded. Timmy loves to run and I actually think in many respects it contributed to his lack of form. He just got tired… ask Geoff Roes about this. I remember sitting on the beach in La Palma after Transvulcania a year or so back. Timmy had been on the island for a month and racked up the miles and hours, he couldn’t resist going out. When the race came, he didn’t have the energy to race. He then went to Hardrock and gritted out a suffer fest for a finish. But he has been quiet since and I am pleased about this. With luck he has recharged his batteries and he will toe the line fighting fit. I really do hope so – he could win it, no doubt.

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Joe Grant has a love affair with Hardrock and ultimately I do believe that Joe was made for this course. Despite solid results elsewhere, Hardrock is where Joe shines. His 2012 2nd place is still a career highlight. Can he do it again? Well the answer has to be yes, can he beat Kilian – no? But with the KJ factor removed, Joe could come up with something special. The only stumbling block may be that Joe only just got is HR100 place as he was on the waitlist.

Other contenders for the top 10 are Scott Jaime, Ben Lewis, Nick Coury and Ryan Kaiser amongst others. I also have a sneaky feeling that a certain Bryon Powell will do well this year. He has been committed and focused on the goal.

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Anna Frost is back. I did wonder if she would return but I guess, like Kilian, the Hardrock bug has taken hold. Last year Frosty had a head-to-head battle with Darcy Piceu and she came out on top not only with victory but a 2nd fastest time of 28:22. I do think that Anna is winding down her ‘racing’ days (not participation I must add) and running is becoming not only an extension of her life but a vehicle for other things. Post Transvulcania this year she said, ‘I can’t believe I ran THAT fast last year!’ Hardrock though is a different beast and I think it suits Frosty’s current mindset. She has been out on the course training and for me, and many others, she is the odds on favourite for victory.

Bethany Lewis has a great set of results at the 100 mile distance and at races that draw great parallels with Hardrock. Victory at Bear 100 and Wasatch 100. Recent exploits with FKT’s have had success and this is why Hardrock will suit her, it’s a big day out in the mountains and it’s one she will embrace.

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Emma Roca may well be the lady who stirs things up. This lady needs know introduction, she has been there and done it time and time again and her variety of results are impressive. Western States, UTMB, Leadville and so on and so on. Emma has every chance to win this race!

Two third places and one second certainly means that Darla Askew knows how to run and hike the HR100 course. In all honesty, she is likely to place somewhere between 2nd and 5th, it just depends on how the race pans out and how the top contenders run – victory is a possibility but unlikely.

Betsy Kalmeyer placed 2nd in 2014 but she would do well to repeat that with the ladies listed above. However, the contenders for the top 3 is always a small pool from which to take water, it only needs a slip and Betsy will be waiting.

Other ladies who will have an impact on the top 5 (top 10) are: Liz Bauer, Betsy Nye, Tina Ure and Megan Hicks.

hardrock-100-logo

Race Website HERE

Course Description – ©hardrock100

The HARDROCK 100 is a mountain run that passes through some of the most beautiful and rugged mountains in the world.

The course is closed. That means that runners are required to follow the specified route.

Four legs, linking the Lake City, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton areas. The finish is in Silverton, the same location as the start. The course is 100 miles long, has a cumulative vertical gain of 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, and takes place at an average elevation of about 11,000 feet. The high point is 14,048 feet.

This is a test of runners against the mountains. The course is on trails as much as possible. There are 13 aid stations; major aid stations will be located in the towns with less well-equipped aid stations in between. Runners are expected to be largely self-supporting between the towns.

This is not an orienteering event. We intend that you be able to concentrate primarily on running. However, remoteness, weather, animals, and people problems on the course make this problematic at best. We will mark the entire course before the run. However, long road sections and maintained trails may not be marked at all. Cross-country sections will be marked more intensely. We shall continue our trend over the past few years of less intense course marking with fewer flags along all course sections. The flags should be readily visible, even to those with red/green color blindness. The markers have reflective tags for night visibility. On some portions of the route we may place colored engineer tape. Chalk may be used to mark other sections, particularly roads in towns. Runners are responsible for knowing the prescribed course and following it whether or not markers are present.

The altitude range of this run (7,700 to 14,000+ feet) takes the runner through several climate zones. At the lower altitude, forests of aspen, pine, and spruce are common. Timberline is locally at about 11,800 feet, though this can vary greatly. Above timberline is alpine tundra and low vegetation interspersed with krummholz (low, stunted spruce, fir, and willow).

In the summer, animal life is abundant. You will almost certainly see elk in the high meadows, possibly with their young. Stay clear of elk: they can be ornery at times. Bears (black, not grizzlies) are present, though seldom seen. Mountain lions may also be encountered.

The run is a salute to the toughness and perseverance of the hardrock miners who lived and worked in the area.

Refer to the current Runners Manual for a full, accurate, and detailed course description.

Course Descriptions:

Order a copy of the Drake Mountain Map (official course map) from San Juan Mountains AssociationBuckskin Bookstore in Ouray, Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, or Rigs Adventure Coin Ridgway.
*Just the base map; does not include the Hardrock course specifically marked

Weather

The weather is a dominant factor for this run and can be at least as formidable as the terrain, remoteness, or high altitude. The run date is a compromise among competing weather factors. There is usually a period of a few days to weeks each year when the snow is generally gone, but the summer “monsoon” has not yet gotten into full swing – we’ve tried to hit this window. The usual “monsoon” pattern is a daily weather cycle, starting in the morning with blue skies. As the day warms up, thunderheads build up and around noon intense electrical thunderstorms may commence, continuing until late afternoon or evening, at which time the thunderstorms abate until the next morning.

The Colorado Mountain Club advises climbers in Colorado’s mountains to be off the peaks by noon. Since this may not fit in with your position on the course, you must use extreme caution. Always remember that the time limit is 48 hours. The long time limit is not only in recognition of the difficult terrain, but also allows runners to wait out thunderstorms or other life-threatening weather. You can hunker down in a valley for 2-4 hours and still finish; but, if you get fried by lightning your running career may end on the spot. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Take comfort in the fact that these thunderstorms are widespread. If you are pinned down, chances are that other runners are, too. Your position in the field will probably not change. Use the time wisely – eat, drink, stay warm, and rest. You will be able to run faster when the storm has passed. At the RD’s discretion, Aid Station Captains can hold runners if weather conditions are considered too dangerous and prevent runners from continuing if not carrying gear appropriate for conditions.

It is our general opinion that the first fatality we may have will be from lightning! Several runners in past years have had direct contact with lightning and there have been several more near misses. We would rather that there never be a fatality or injury. We will continually be giving you warnings, cautions, updates, and suggestions regarding the exposure you must face when attempting this run.

Prepare for any amount of snow! We could even have snowfall just before the run. In 1992 we went back to Handies Peak in August, just a month after the run, and found six inches of new snow on the ground! In 1997 we had an ice and snowstorm during the run. Remember, there have been avalanche fatalities in Colorado in every month of the year except September.

Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji #UTMF 2015 Preview

logo1

UTMF will be a VERY different race this year. First and foremost, the race date has moved from early in the year to late in the year; this is significant! Another important factor is the course. For 2015 (the 10th edition) the race will be run counter-clockwise and as such all the climbing and difficulty will come in the early stages and therefore leave the more runnable sections for later in the race; again significant!

With around 8500m of climbing and a distance over 100-miles (105) this race is a real challenge.

However, for me this years UTMF may very well be all about the UTMB.

Yes, UTMB was only 4-weeks ago and we all know the devastation that took place in and around Chamonix. It was carnage!

Much has been discussed about the DNF’s and failures at UTMB and unfortunately I think it’s a sign of the times. The racing calendar is full and race series like the UTWT encourage runners to race regularly 100km+ and 100-miles often; is too much? Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas dominated the calendar in 2014 and where have they been in 2015?

Exhausted?

Just look at the start list here at UTMF. Many of the key players are runners who had tough, below par or DNF’s at UTMB.

Fernanda Maciel dropped with 2/3rds of the race done with severe foot pain.

Amy Sproston dnf

Gediminas Grinius dropped with over 90-miles completed.

Sondre Amdahl dropped with just over a marathon covered.

Jeff Browning dropped with a twisted ankle.

Of course, this is not all the favourites at UTMF but a pattern may be forming? All of the above have raced at one or more of the following: Lavaredo, HK100, Transgrancanaria, Western States, UTMB and now they line up at UTMF and I wonder how many post UTMF will travel to Reunion Island to take on the Diagonal des Fous (Raid de la Reunion). For many of the runners that will be 3 big 100-milers or a combination of 100-miles and 100km+ in relatively quick succession. The body may take it in 1-year but can it take year-after-year?

I merely raise the question?

So who is going to win?

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6112

THAT is a million-dollar question. Keeping in mind what I have said above, we can still expect Grinius, Amdahl and Browning to figure at the front of the race providing they have no issues. Sondre Amdahl (interview on Talk Ultra) should be the freshest of the 3 as he dropped early at UTMB and therefore it was probably just like a typical training run for him. However, what caused the ‘failure’ of his hamstring at a race that he obviously prepared meticulously for?

Jeff Browning (interview on Talk Ultra) loves the long and hard races. He dropped at UTMB but I am pretty sure he will be recovered here. He lacks some of the speed of the competition so although I think he will be in or around the top 5-10 I don’t think the podium could be his.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6747Gediminas Grinius (interview on Talk Ultra) has continually impressed. He loves the long hard races and he closes like a demon. I do worry that he is just tired though? I may be wrong. He has the race and skill set for UTMF, pretty sure he would have prepared the course the other way around but Transgrancanaria finishes with a very runnable last 20km and look what he did there!

Okay, so that is the UTMB contingent done and dusted and arguably I am now talking about who may win the race?

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Gary Robbins has had a steady year with a great FKT (interview on Talk Ultra) and becoming a new Dad just a few weeks ago. He just missed the podium in 2013 and I think a podium slot may well be his this year.
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Brendan Davies is a runner who I should add to the exhausted list above! He just ran the Worlds 100k and this year he did TNF100, Western States and Transgrancanaria where he had a really tough day out. He has potential to be on the podium BUT…. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6833

That leaves Didrik Hermansen for the top slot and if all things go well I think he can do it. He has the running legs for the latter half of the race and as he showed at Transgrancanaria and more importantly Lavaredo (where he won) he knows how to get the job done!

As one would expect the start list is extensive at UTMF and I have picked out some key names. For sure I will have missed some other key players, in particular the local talent who I am less familiar with.

Anyone we should look out for who can take a podium place?

Uxue Fraile made the podium at UTMB and considering my thoughts at the beginning of this article, can she be recovered? Actually, I think yes? I saw Uxue at the weekend spectating at Ultra Pirineu and she looked fresh, enthusiastic and excited for the race ahead. Her talent lies in the waiting game and more often than not she picks up the pieces as others fall by the wayside. I think we will see a similar strategy here at UTMF. Don’t be surprised with a podium place! ©copyright.iancorless.com.P1060567

Fernanda Maciel was also spectating in Catalonia at the weekend! Her UTMB experience was far more dramatic and maybe traumatic that Uxue’s. Without a doubt, Fernanda has the race for UTMF as she proved last year with 2nd. Can she put the record straight so soon after UTMB?

Amy Sproston dropped at UTMB with approx. 100km in her legs. She can recover from that I think. Significantly (like Gary Robbins) she is a HURT 100 winner and that will be useful here at UTMF. It’s going to be a long day out!

Victory may well come from Aliza Lapierre. Her 8th at Transgrancanaria was off the lead ladies pace but significantly she placed 4th at Western States and has raced little since. At this point in the year with a whole bunch of tired legs around her, Aliza may well be the best option to fade the least.

Dong Li placed 3rd at Transgrancanaria with a breakthrough performance, she was 2nd at HK100 and won TNF 100. Add to that a 4th place at Mont-Blanc 80km and like Aliza she may well have fresh legs for the UTMF. She is going to need them though… as far as I know, this is the first time she will race 100-miles. This is a tough debut for the distance!

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Shona Stephenson has raced well here in the past and with fresh legs she may well be a contender for the podium if not for the win if everything goes well.

Nora Senn may well turn a few heads and then like the men’s race a whole wealth of local talent will infiltrate the top 10.

Who are your picks?

 

Race website HERE

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® #UTMB 2015 In-Depth RACE PREVIEW

Logo_UTMB

It’s the end of August and that can only mean one thing, UTMB. 

UTMB has become one of if not THE mountain races to do. In many respects it is almost a victim of its own success. More and more runners want to participate in the big circular dance around the Mont-Blanc but the trails can only take so many people.

I could enter into a debate about the points system but I won’t. I actually think it’s a solution to an ever increasing problem that UTMB organisation face and as such we all know the score, we know what we need to run the race and ultimately we have a choice.

Should points come from qualifying races? Yes, why not!

Should races pay a fee to supply those points? Yes, why not!

I know my last comment will create some debate but to be honest, the fee to ITRA is relatively small and the cost per head is minimal and the races that offer points gain entries. However, I do think another option exists for points.

Why not let all races provide points? Say 0.5 points for an easy trail race of say 50km and then points increase by 0.5 up to a maximum 4-points for a big mountain ultra. If you then want the points, you the runner pay for each 0.5 point you receive. That way, the person who wants/ needs the points pays and the race and other runners don’t pay. Seems logical to me and in actual fact, I think it would generate even more money for ITRA and the UTMB. I welcome your thoughts on that and boy oh boy what a way for me to start a preview on the 2015 race.

UTMB is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and as such offers points to a larger circuit. Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas were 2014 champions.

UTWT-Logo_NEWS

Well, I was supposed to be in Chamonix for this race but at the 11th hour I have decided not to attend. It was a tough decision and one that I didn’t take lightly. Particularly now that I am seeing all the social media posts of all the runners and spectators arriving in the endurance capital of the world.

The reality is I have been on the road since January with little or no break and next week I travel to the USA for over a week which is then followed by a succession of weekends travelling and providing photography and writing for a succession of races. I personally had great potential to break )ver training one may say), so, home I am staying and for once a relaxing weekend.

The main event starts at 1800 Friday 28th August. I always feel a little ashamed when I say the main event as a whole series of tough and challenging races take place during UTMB week. For example, the ridiculous PTL, the tough TDS, the challenging CCC and the OCC but I only have so much time and the UTMB draws the crowd and the most stacked field. For the first year, UTMB will not be a TNF event and the new sponsor Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Montrail has a tough act to follow, I wonder if we will notice any difference?

One thing is for sure, the men’s and ladies’ races are stacked. Darn it, I used that word again! Let’s try again – A plethora of talent has arrived in Chamonix to do battle on this super tough and iconic 100+ mile course that circles Mont-Blanc.

MEN

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Tofol Castanyer made the podium last year and with no Francois D’Haene he for me has the nod for victory. He has been quiet lately no doubt keeping the powder dry and although not very experienced over 100-miles he is a super savvy and experienced mountain runner with the solid Salomon team who can offer support and backup.

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Luis Alberto Hernando should win UTMB but he won’t. Nothing would please me more to see Luis top the podium in Chamonix but the reality is, he is not a 100-mile runner (not yet anyway). Put him on a course from 50km-80km and he is unstoppable. Put him on a 100km course and he may or may not win but will podium. Put him on 100m route and he will go great for the first 80km and then fade. This is not helped by entering UTMB tired. He won Transvulcania, placed 2nd at the IAU World Trail Champs, won Ice Trail Tarentaise and then placed 2nd at Tromso Skyrace looking distinctly whacked at the end. That was only a few weeks ago and I just don’t see the recovery and training working in Luis’s favour. I hope I am wrong!

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Miguel Heras, well who knows? If he is fit and on fire he could win and almost certainly podium. However, he is extremely injury prone and his performances could come with a flick of a coin. In 2015, Miguel has been much more low key, he has raced but without any pomp and circumstance and that was intentionally so. Placing 2nd behind Thevenard in 2013, Miguel WANTS to win the UTMB and this may well just be the year!

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The Salomon trio is rounded out with Ryan Sandes. This is a really interesting inclusion into the UTMB mix. Ryan can climb, can run fast and is endurant (Drakensberg Traverse) and therefore may well have the essential credentials to podium at the least and may well just win. Certainly, Salomon could repeat the trio of results that we have seen in pervious years. Ryan has had a mixed 6-months with injury, a last minute withdrawal from Western States and I therefore think he is going to be super focussed on this race. One to watch!

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Sage Canaday enters the 100-mile distance for the first time and as great a runner as he is, I don’t see him making the podium. Controversial I know. He has the speed for sure. He has the climbing and descending but I have no reason to think he has the race plan or strategy for what will be at best a 20-hour race. Like Luis Alberto I would expect strength and dominance over the first 100km and then a fade. But he has been in Chamonix preparing and he is a student of the sport. He may very well have hidden himself away, changed everything about his training and come up with the perfect 100-mile training plan? A 5k track session (in 16min) just 3-days before the race suggest otherwise though.

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Xavier Thevenard won the race (surprisingly) in 2013 and then seemed to implode with the pressure. Last year he took the attention of himself and ran the TDS and won it. In doing so, he became the only runner to have won the CCC, TDS and UTMB; impressive! So the facts speak for themselves, super talented and obviously can perform with the best if the pressure is off. Will the pressure be on for 2015 is the question? I think it will but less than in previous years and that may just allow him to run his own race and find his 2013 legs and head. Good luck.

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Julien Chorier impressed the hell out of me a couple of years ago at Ronda dels Cims with a consummate performance. He loves the mountains and he can run fast too. He was 2nd to Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria in 2014 and 2nd to Kilian at Hardrock 100. A recent 6th at Western States shows us that all is in place for a great run and that’s why I give him a nudge over Gediminas.

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Gediminas Grinius has been a revelation. His rise in the sport over the last 18-months has been remarkable and you know what, he could win UTMB. He ran a great UTMB last year (5th), won Transgrancanaria and placed 4th at Western States. Expect him to be out of the mix early on and then he will close out super hard and fast.

Stephan Hugenschmidt is my dark horse and potential big surprise of the 2015 UTMB. He had a breakthrough 5th at Transvulcania, won Zugspitz and had a great result at Transalpine.

We are now in the territory of surprise packages and believe me, some of the fellas mentioned below will figure highly in the run for the podium and top-10.

Seth Swanson has been 2nd at Western States 2-years on the run and I still know very little about him. My head says he will need a UTMB run to find his legs before he can comeback and mix it up at the very front. However, nobody expected him to place 2nd at WSER and then go back and do it again!

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Sebastien Chaigneau is the old guard of the race, the wily old fox that everyone loves. Seb has had a tough couple of years and as time has passed, the competition has got faster. I’d love him to find some of that old form, that 100-mile sparkle and dish out to the newbies.

Jeff Browning may well be the best prospect from an American perspective as he is a true mountain man. But he may well lack some of the essential European speed.

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Franco Colle won Tor des Geants and then earlier this year placed 2nd at Mont-Blanc 80km. In addition, he has been at the IAU World Trail Championships, ran (and won) a Skyrunning exhibition event in Cervinia and recently ran Tromso Skyrace. Potential dark horse for UTMB!

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Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas has been a revelation. He is committed, sometimes too committed but I love his passion. He prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria and placed 4th, went out to the USA to prepare for WSER and placed 15th and has spent recent months preparing in Chamonix for UTMB. Top-10 potential and maybe around 5th if he has a great day.

 

Best of the rest

 

Francois Faivre – 7th at UTMB last year.

Carlos Sa – He could win it but more than likely a top-10.

Pascal Giguet – Top-10 at Mont-Blanc 80km.

Ryan Smith – a Brit who may well be a real dark horse.

Robbie Britton – local lad, 3rd at the 24-hour and 7th at Tarawera. Placed just outside top-50 at UTMB last year but has been in Chamonix for months which will either mean he is in fine form or broken. I think the former. Good luck Robbie.

Yeray Duran – Always strong at Transgrancanaria.

Paul Giblin – another Brit with all the potential to spring a surprise.

Kim Collison – Another multi talented Brit who has speed and endurance.

Joe Grant – We all know Joe and what he can do.

Danny Kendall – The UK’s top MDS performer, not new to UTMB and this may well be his best year.

Jesse Haynes – Great at WSER but in Europe, who knows?

John Tidd – Won’t win but absolutely solid performer.

Stone Tsang – Every chance for a stunning or latter ‘teens’ performance.

Yoshikazu Hara – same as Stone?

 

I could go on….

 

LADIES 

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Neck on the line, this race is for Nuria Picas and I personally think she is going to have the race of her life and win it with a consummate performance. This is no way a reflection on the competition, just an observation of Nuria and an understanding of how this lady ticks. For the past 2-years, Nuria has raced a ridiculous schedule and still placed 2nd twice behind Rory Bosio. This year, Nuria has been quiet. Very quiet. A win at Transgrancanaria and then what? I will tell you, training and preparation. She will be on fire!

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Caroline Chaverot though has also been on fire! In the last 18-months Caroline has exploded with a series of remarkable performances that would suggest a solid UTMB is on the cards. Her victories at Lavaredo and the Eiger confirm that she can perform on the big days out.

Nathalie Mauclair beat Caroline at the IAU Word Trail Championships but that really draws no comparison to UTMB. However, Caroline beat Nathalie at Lavaredo. Take your pick! On paper, I would say Nathalie will be better over the longer distance and time that UTMB will offer and her victories at Diagonale des Fous will put her in a great place both physically and mentally for that.

The upset may well come from Stephanie Howe and I am sure that TNF and the USA would like nothing more than Steph picking up where Rory Bosio left off. Stephanie’s 3rd at WSER left her feeling tired but by all accounts, she has prepared well for the circle of the big white mountain. She has the speed, I just wonder if she has the legs for the climbs and descents and a 24+ hour run in her?

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Francesca Canepa may make the podium? I have always been impressed how Francesca can race UTMB and then just a week later race Tor des Geants. One thing is for sure, I don’t think we will see Francesca at Tor this year after last years’ controversy. 2014 was a great year for the Italian (until Tor) and then it all seemed to go to bits. Understandable really. So coming into UTMB we have little to go on, other than 3rd at the Eiger but she was 30min of the winning time. UTMB may well be a redemption year!

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Uxue Fraille has always impressed with her patience and calculated running. She is a diesel. Expect her off the pace early on and close well. She placed 5th last year and a repeat performance is a distinct possibility.

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Fernanda Maciel is solid on the UTWT circuit and although I don’t see her taking the top slot on the podium, top-5 is a distinct possibility and if she has a great day, the podium may well be hers. Fernanda spent a great deal of time at altitude over Christmas (too long) and this tired her. Let’s hope she is recovered and ready to race hard in Chamonix.

Darcy Piceu is an interesting addition and after that ding-dong with Frosty at Hardrock I am really eager to see what she can do here in France. She placed 3rd in 2011 in just under 29-hours, she will need to run much faster than that this year! One thing is for sure, the distance and time on feet will be no issue, the question mark will be recovery post Hardrock?

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Ester Alves from Portugal has already raced a great deal in 2015 with a string of top placing’s and I have no reason to think that a strong performance is a distinct possibility here. But by strong I mean top-10. A recent tumble at Ice Trail Tarentaise won’t have helped her preparation but she is strong and committed.

Lisa Borzani races and races and races. At TDS in 2015 she placed 2nd. I see her a consistent performance for a top-10 but not victory or the podium.

Nicole Struder ran 14:22 at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile. That’s fast! But she will need to add 10-hours of running to that Rocky time at a minimum for UTMB and through in some serious mountains. So although I see her potentially having a good race, I don’t think that those USA trail legs will handle the European mountains.

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My dark horse for the ladies is Veronica Bravo. She is a super strong adventure racer, has the mind for the long game and 100% commitment. She may not win but I expect she may turn a few heads and UTMB race day looks like it will be a hot one; she loves the heat! Earlier this year she won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.

Amy Sproston is a tough one to call. She won Hurt 100 but UTMB is a faster race with tougher competition.

Sally McRae may well offer the best prospects of a top USA performance outside those of Howe. Sally has been top-10 at WSER twice and although UTMB is a big step up from Western, she may well have the race to mix it up.

Gill Fowler from Australia may well rock the apple cart. She was 4th at Lavaredo, yes somewhat off the front pace but a top-10 at UTMB is on the cards.

 

Ones to watch

 

Shona Stephenson – Top-10 at UTMB before.

Sarah Morwood – 11th at UTMB previously.

Manu Vilaseca

Caroline McKay

Denise Bourassa

 

And so many more….

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