Episode 148 – KILIAN JORNET SPECIAL

Episode 148 of Talk Ultra is a Kilian Jornet Special

Kilian Jornet was 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 project – Everest. A failed attempt in a 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.

The Interview 01:0810

This interview with Kilian is in-depth and discusses the whole #SOML project and we talk about Kilian’s approach and ethos in regard to his adventures.

The interview is not about trying to prove what Kilian has achieved! This is about providing a voice and hopefully in that process, many aspects will be made clear.

More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all of those questions. The film will be released in 2018.

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.

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This show is co-hosted by Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer and we provide a review of the 2017 Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning year.

You can read the article here.

Length 02:46:12

Links

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website – talkultra.com

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.

 

Kilian Jornet Everest Speed Records – Questions Raised? And a response!

When Kilian Jornet doubled up on Everest in one week, the world looked on in wonder. Everest was the culmination of his ‘Summits of My Life Project’ and while he had some serious challenges on the Matterhorn, Denali, Aconcagua and so on, Everest was a whole new ball game.

In 2016 he didn’t summit due to bad weather and then in 2017 he seized the opportunity after a troublesome first ascent, he went again just days later.

I never questioned Kilian’s ascents.

I know the man, have spent time with him and he is 100% integrity. I have no question. So, am I impartial? I guess no.

I received an email in August from Dan Howitt who sent out documents to the media (pdf here) and he raised questions over Kilian’s Everest attempts. I discussed this doc with Kilian, looked at the evidence and while some valid points were made, I had no doubts over what Kilian had achieved.

Now, on everst1953.co.uk an article has appeared HERE. This article is as it says at the top, Submitted article by a person who wishes to be anonymous

UPDATE December 15th – The above article has been removed from everest1953 after the  web owner/ website moderator received threatening emails. This is completely unacceptable and is not in the spirit of any sport. It is important to allow free speech and allow people a voice. If that voice is correct or wrong is for us as individuals to decide. This article provided an opinion and below, Kilian has responded.

What is interesting, is that any journalist should ask questions. So I asked a question on the ‘anonymous’ journalist… to clarify the everest1953 site owner and I assume moderator, Colin Wallace, introduces the article, ‘Kilian Jornet Everest Speed Climbs’ in the ‘News’ as below:

I think it is good that questions are asked and raised over any record, FKT, or whatever it may be. But I also think that responses are required to provide perspective.

Like I said previously, I am a little biased, I have no question on Kilian’s claims. I emailed him, and in response he has provided the following (below) which will also be released via his agents, Lymbus.

In addition, Kilian has agreed to a full and in-depth interview this coming Friday December 15th and we will discuss the claims, Everest and all the details. This will be released on Talk Ultra podcast the same day.

KILIAN JORNET has responded accordingly with a PDF document

GPS track:

I was using Suunto Ambit Peak, to be sure that it recorded a maximum of hours (in altitude – cold, batteries last much less- some using garmin couls only recorded 4h! ) I was using mode GPS OK – It takes between 80-100h normally, so the gps it may records every 10’’:

1st Ascent: Everest Base Camp -Summit 26h31’ – ABC 36h

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move159990476 It is recorded all the uphill to summit and downhill to 8300m where battery die. Is a track for all the way. In the profile of altitude around 8600m you can see it is a straight 200m jump in altitude, maybe pressure decrease from day to night, and then continue climbing up 300 more meters.

2nd Ascent: ABC-Summit 17h – ABC -28h

http://www.movescount.com/moves/move159990614 I don’t know why it only recorded the downhill, but you can see from point 8750m and all the part in the downhill where I get lost in the N face and back to normal route. I did change watch from recording activity to navigation ( you can see where I get lost in the night so I use that mode to find way back safe) maybe that has something to do with the stop recording ascent and only the downhill.

Photos/ video:

Photos and film have non been public to have exclusive material for a coming film. Seb Montaz was filming with a drone from North col, so reaching an altitude of 7300m. I had a GoPro and filmed some parts during the day, and both sunsets (1st ascent before 2nd steep at 8600 and 2nd ascent at the beginning of summit pyramid at 8750). On the 1st summit I have filmed on the top (possible to see the flags just behind me on the dark. In 2nd summit I did not film on top, I was more concerned on safety and go down fast as weather was really bad, but I took 2 pictures of my watch so you can see where with the camera gps.

Here just some *screen shots from 2nd ascent between 8700m and 8790 at sunset and a bit higher at beginning of the night. All the GoPro shots are gps and time positioned so we can see the exact place they were shoot ( summit and all the other positions and hours).

*images withheld but available in due course (they have been retained to be exclusive for the film).

Witnesses:

1st ascent: On the way up I pass the Russian (7 summit club), Indian (Transcend), British and polish climber expedition going to or installing Camp 3, they prepare for sleeping and I continue up after a 10’ pause in a rock. On the summit I saw lights both on north side and south side coming up, north were higher. On the way down I pass some expeditions (Indian I think were the 1st ones) on the beginning of summit pyramid (after 3rd steep-8750) at around 1:30 – 2AM. It was some fresh snow there in the pyramid and to the summit so they saw my fresh snow tracks all the way to summit. Then I cross most part of the people (Russians, Polish, British…) were climbing 2nd steep when I was going down. In the climb I opened track on some snow so they could follow my tracks to the summit, as it was not strong wind this day. Sherpas from Indian expedition rapport at Base Camp sawing my fresh tracks to the summit, as I was alone to climb the night and they were the 1st to go up, in the final pyramid they could see my only tracks to the top.

2nd ascent: Going up I cross a climber ******** (name withheld but available)  and the Japanese expedition going down before camp 3 (8.350). Around 2nd steep at the afternoon I cross ******* and *********expedition going down (they film me). The last ones I cross was the Russian expedition just some meters higher (between 2nd and 3rd step). During the night it was strong wind and some snow fall, not any lights both on north or south on higher parts. On the way down I did not pass anybody since it was bad weather and much snow on the mountain and all expeditions was down to ABC.

Timmings:

I decided timings strategy based on my 15/06 training up to 8400m: http://www.movescount.com/ moves/move159296004 Going up from ABC (6300) to 8400 in 6h. And thinking on being on the summit around 3 PM (to use the warmest part of the day on the upper part, and since I wanted to try to minimize to meet lot of people on the higher part and the steeps ). On 1st attempt I was stomach sick so I slowed down a lot after 7800m, and became much late in the top, I was not planning night but since I feel good on not having edema and was not cold I never thought I was risking my life. On the 2nd attempt I was climbing better but fresh snow and bad weather (forecast was not accurate and became bad weather) and also I was more tired from previous days, it ended with summiting just after sunset.

Sat phone / fixed ropes and style:

I didn’t want to carry sat phone or radio, It was a choice of style for me. Climbing alone and with not any link to the base camp or “home” to be the sole on taking decisions up there, it was a matter of style.
For the fixed ropes, I don’t say I did an Alpine style climb since it is ropes in the route, but I choose to don’t use them to progress or safety. I was climbing without any harness or carabiner, I did climb the 1st and 2nd ladder on the sides, I took the 3rd one since the only creak to climb this part is behind (need to remove) the ladder. The 3rd step I climbed some meters to the left on a snow and ice slope, and go down the normal gully.

If it is a lack of images or communication from the expedition it was a matter of choice of style. I could had organized a big expedition, with sherpas on the route to have some assistance (safety and food, clothes) and some cameras with O2 waiting on some points and summit to have nice images. I could had a sat phone call from summit to “announce”. But the major goal of the expedition was far from that. It was for me to see if I was able to climb Everest with no external support (camps, porters, deposits, communication in the mountain…) and by myself (one push, no jumaring…) And to be able to climb as we do in close ranges (Alps, Colorado) in Himalayas, so low

budget (our expenses were 15.000e x person, all included) and doing activity in short time there and doing different ascents during this period. I had not problem to admit when I don’t summit, in Cho Oyu a 2 weeks before I just say I climb to the summit plateau, with no visibility I can not confirm if I actually reach the higher point or I just stand by some sides, In Everest is pretty easy to know if you reach the summit since is a small place at the end of the ridge.

********** names withheld but available

Catch up with Talk Ultra Podcast HERE on Dec 15th and listen to Kilian in his own words.

RUNNING BEYOND now in French ‘Ultra Trails Ultimes’

©kairn

RUNNING BEYOND book is now available in French, titled Ultra Trails Ultimes – It marks a new chapter in my book which was released one-year ago, November 2016.

The French edition has taken many months to put together and is a welcome addition to the UK, Italian, German and Spanish editions (see HERE).

A preview of the book is available here:

A l’instar des Plus belles cyclosportives d’Europe, paru dans la même collection chez Glénat, nous sommes en présence, avec Ultra trails ultimes, d’un très beau livre que l’on a hâte d’ouvrir aussitôt qu’on l’a entre les mains.

Ultra Trails Ultimes - les plus belles courses du monde
Ultra Trails Ultimes – les plus belles courses du monde

Le livre est signé Ian Corless, un photographe professionnel spécialisé dans la photographie de montagne et de trail au sens large mais également un sportif accompli. Il lui arrive même de participer à des courses en faisant suivre son matériel photo, ce qui lui permet d’être au coeur de l’action.

Dans la préface, Kilian Jornetpropose une réflexion sur le sentiment de liberté qui le transporte lorsqu’il court et qui est au coeur de sa philisophie.

YOU CAN READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

From the editor HERE

Montagnards à la recherche de sensations nouvelles, coureurs citadins en quête d’aventure et de grands espaces, sans oublier les spectateurs médusés devant leurs écrans ou au bord des sentiers, ils sont de plus en plus nombreux à être accro à l’ultra trail. Ce livre est celui qu’ils attendaient !

Que l’aventure se déroule sur les sentiers escarpés d’altitude, dans la poussière étouffante du désert ou dans la boue de la jungle, elle sera belle et extrême. L’ultra trail met les jambes, le cœur et le mental à rude épreuve, tout en vous conduisant dans certains des endroits les plus insolites au monde. Une expérience impitoyable pour le corps comme pour l’esprit.

Ian Corless parcourt la planète pour rendre compte de la beauté et de l’exigence des ultra trails les plus emblématiques.
Du Grand Canyon aux sommets enneigés des Dolomites, en passant par les plaines du Maroc, le voyage est ponctué d’entretiens avec les légendes de la discipline : Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg et Anton Krupicka, entre autres. Ils rendent compte des prouesses physiques et des défis émotionnels que représentent de telles épreuves. Ses photos, prises au cœur de l’action, constituent un bel hommage aux hommes et femmes qui pratiquent ce sport si spectaculaire. Une carte et un profil accompagnent le descriptif de chaque course et en offrent une vision plus topographique. Une inspiration pour ceux qui rêvent de relever le défi des courses les plus séduisantes et les plus éprouvantes au monde.

From AMAZON HERE

Skyline Scotland chosen for 2018 Skyrunning World Championships

Skyline Scotland has been confirmed as the venue for the 2018 ISF Skyrunning World Championships.

Athletes from all over the world will travel to Kinlochleven, Scotland to do battle over the long established distances of VK, SKY CLASSIC and SKY ULTRA during the month of September in 2018.

The Salomon Mamores VK provides a unique challenge unlike other races in the Vertical Kilometre World Circuit, maybe with the exception of Tromso, as runners run and climb 1000 vertical meters on terrain that is unique to Scotland. It is an incredible leg and lung bursting ascent from sea level to a Munro summit. Early winding trails soon stop and wall of heather and bracken lead skywards before the terrain changes to rock.

The Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace in just two editions has been hailed as one of the most challenging and rewarding, it has become a favourite in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series and for 2018 the worlds best will battle over uncompromising terrain that includes the Devil’s Ridge. Four peaks, technical terrain, ascents and descents and of course the unpredictable Scottish weather may well prove the ultimate challenge.

The Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra will have a re-designed route for 2018 but it will retain the key chartteristics that made the inaugural 2017 edition special. Expect single-tracks, trackless ridges and a climb and traverse of Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Distance will be +/- 65km with 4000m+ of vert (tbc).

The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) have pioneered mountain sports in the sky and the 2018 edition of the Skyrunner World Championships will prove to be a special one, especially for runners in the UK.

The 2017 edition of Skyline Scotland arguably saw the greatest elite fields ever assembled on UK soil for a mountain race, the restive and honour that comes from holding a World Championships is a dream come true for Skyrunning UK and Ourea Events who are the organisers of Skyline Scotland.

Race Director Shane Ohly said, “Salomon Skyline Scotland has exploded from nothing, to the pinnacle mountain running event in the world in just three years. It’s a phenomenal rate of change and organising the event has been some journey! It will be an honour to be trusted with the Skyrunning World Championship in 2018 and I look forward to welcoming the world’s best mountain runners back to Scotland next September.”

Notably, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline will still take place on the same weekend, however, this event will not be in the ISF Skyrunning World Championships but the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series.

Dates September 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th 2018

Importantly, from a UK perspective, SKYRUNNING UK will be looking to assemble a UK World Championship team made up of the best male and female Skyrunners. This will be based on ranking and past results. But, if you are interested and feel you have the appropriate skills, please email skyrunninguk@icloud.com

ISF HERE

Quotes ©ISF

Marino Giacometti, ISF President, commented, “We’re very proud and pleased to present the 2018 World Championships in the beautiful Scottish Highlands and, with the organisation of Skyline Scotland, we are confident the events will be a perfect showcase for skyrunning attracting the world’s best athletes for some intense competition on this technical terrain.

More news and updates will follow in the coming months.

Emelie Forsberg – Smiles and Miles; I am back!

©iancorless.com_GlenCoe2017-03356

Emelie Forsberg is back! She has just won Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and with a stunning course record beating her 2014 time and once again confirming that many smiles and miles are ahead.

“About the pressure, yes, for sure, sometimes you can feel pressure. If you have been winning a lot of races, it’s like people expect you to do that. I was not in good running shape when I let my skis for the summertime. Some of my friends, who don’t run that much, they beat me a lot. I’m not the kind of skier that runs through the winter. I train with Ida Nilsson and she’s running a lot, which makes her in a great shape at the beginning of the season, but I can’t do that because then I’m not the ski mountaineer that I want to be. I just hope everyone realizes that I can’t be in a great shape in the beginning of the season.” – Emelie Forsberg

©iancorless.com_GlenCoe2017-07148An accident while skiing has made the last 12 to 18 months tough. Surgery, rehabilitation and being patient are all tough things for an athlete to manage, especially one as active as Emelie. But Emelie was patient understanding the need for a full recovery and to come back strong. Working on her strength and core she came back slowly and fine honed her yoga skills, she event spent a month in India on an intensive course. Emelie has set the example for how elite runners should return from an accident and surgery.

I caught ups with her post her Glen Coe victory as she settled back into recovery in her Norwegian home before she once again started training for new targets ahead.

You can listen to the interview in Talk Ultra podcast HERE

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Ian: Before we come on to the race, I think the last time we spoke was about your rehabilitation from knee surgery and how you were managing that and of course, there’s been some ups and downs in that process, but you must feel now as though things are almost getting back to normal and the shape is there, the form is there, physically, mentally everything is good?

Emelie: Yes, everything is good now and yes, for sure, there has been a few ups and downs. I know what to do now when I switch from ski to running and my knee is working really well so it’s good. That is the short version…

Ian: Exactly. Well, it’s definitely working well because I saw you running up and down those fells and mountains in Scotland and it reminded me of exactly two years ago, when you came to Scotland and you won the race. You just ran that whole race with a big smile on your face and it seemed as though this year was — I was going to say the same, but I think probably even better.

Emelie: Yes, I think so because last summer I was only doing rehab and that was that. I wasn’t really in shape, but this year, my ski season went really well, but then, in the beginning of the summer, I didn’t really know… I had a lot of things going on. I have been writing a book and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be ‘only’ a runner for Salomon anymore? But everything has been working out like I want it to be recently, it takes time to try to figure everything out.

Ian: There’s a price to pay for being… and I’m going to use the word famous, you might not like me using that word, but famous in the trail, mountain and ultra-world, and you are. We can argue about the semantics of that word, but you are. That brings a lot of pressure, a lot of people looking on, a lot of people even criticizing or commenting or supporting and, of course, there’s lots of good and bad in that. But have you found in this period, this last 12 to 18 months, that there’s been some pressure there that you’ve tried to escape from? And I guess living in Norway helps with that.

Emelie: Yes, for sure it does, but I can be good and bad with pressure, I think like all the athletes. But I just made it clear for everyone now that I need to make my own plan because I am a skier and I’m a hobby mountaineer or whatever you call it –  light alpinism? I want to improve in that too, so I just made it clear for everyone that I want to take time to do mountains in that style and I want to take time to do my ski season, and then I want to take care of my running, as well. I think the balance now is much clearer for me and my sponsors, which is great.

About the pressure, yes, for sure, sometimes you can feel pressure. If you have been winning a lot of races, it’s like people expect you to do that. I was not in good running shape when I let my skis for the summertime. Some of my friends, who don’t run that much, they beat me a lot. I’m not the kind of skier that runs through the winter. I train with Ida Nilsson and she’s running a lot, which makes her in a great shape at the beginning of the season, but I can’t do that because then I’m not the ski mountaineer that I want to be. I just hope everyone realizes that I can’t be in a great shape in the beginning of the season.

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Ian: I guess in some ways, you’ve almost created a little bit of that pressure yourself, and that’s not a criticism, this is just the facts. If I think back to, say, 2012, 2013, 2014, you and I have often had those conversations, where you’ve come off skis and we’ve been talking about Transvulcania and you say to me, “I love that race and I really want to do it, but I’m not in shape and should I do it, shouldn’t I do it?” and you’ve done it and you’ve always done well.

But I think since 2014, the sport has changed and it’s been changing progressively year on year, now the sport is going faster, it’s changing completely and like you say, somebody like Ida Nilsson, who comes into Transvulcania with a lot more running, it’s very difficult for somebody like you, with such a high profile, to just step off skis and go into a race like that with expectation. Do you wish you could say, “You know, guys, I’m just going to run this because I want to run it and I might come 10th or I might come 20th, but give me a break.” Do you ever feel as though you want to do that?

Emelie: [laughs] Yes, I did that at Zegama. Zegama was really special this year because Kilian was trying his second attempt on the summit of Everest and I didn’t get any news until one hour before the race started. So, I didn’t sleep during the whole night. That was really, really hard. I can always run a race and do okay, but Zegama was really hard because of the stress, worry, lack of sleep and so on.

Ian: That’s an incredible pressure, a really incredible pressure. How do you deal with that?

Emelie: Yes, I just say to myself that in the end, it’s all about what I want to do. I cannot live a life through somebody else’s eyes and I just like to be honest, and if people are listening, they understand, I’m only human.

Ian: Absolutely. Following Zegama, you took a step back and maybe re-evaluated and this is the point where you say to yourself, “You know what? I have to do what I want to do because I know what I need to feel like, I know what training I need to do, I know what mental space I need to be in to perform.” In amongst that, you’ve already touched on the fact that you were writing a book, you’re a race director for the Tromso Sky Race. There’s all sorts of other things going on, but you said to me in Tromso, “I’ve sorted out my calendar now and I know exactly what I’m going to do.” That seemed like a really important process, where you got things clear.

Is that the type of thing now that you’re going to do moving forward and maybe communicate that with the fans, so that you don’t get that external pressure? You lay your calendar out early, or basically you say, “There is no calendar, leave me alone and I’ll tell you when the calendar’s available.”

Emelie: Yes, for sure, I will — it’s important to do the structure, especially as I said, that the beginning of the summer is really changing. Previously, many runners and my peers took a break during the winter and we all came to the races more or less with the same amount of running early in the season. Over the few years, I have realized that ski mountaineering is really important to me. I’m really excited and super motivated to do well there because I love the sport. It’s different from running and it’s something that makes me really happy and motivated to train for and focus on. I will try to or I will make a plan now in November for next year and let’s see if I share it or not. Things can happen and plans can change.

Ian: Okay. As the calendar changed, Salomon Glen Coe Skyline certainly became a priority. When I managed to get you over to the UK in 2014 to run the first edition, you said after that race, “Wow, this race is incredible.” Of course, my dream was not only to bring you back, but to bring Killian and to bring a world-class field. And we did it. This year we really, really did it. I think it’s been not only the best race in the UK, but worldwide. I think the quality of the field; the quality of the course was absolutely stunning. How important was it for you to come back? How important was it for you to come back with, say, Killian and the Salomon team?

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Emelie: First, it was really nice to come back because last year, I wasn’t there. I really loved it, the course, it’s amazing, it’s pure Skyrunning. Yes, for sure, was super nice to have Killian there because I knew that he was going to love the race, which he did. So, great to have a big team there, as well, to see what they were thinking about it.

Ian: Expectations of going into the race? I know what you’re like, I know that when you race, you want to perform well. No disrespect to 2014, but there was maybe yourself and a couple of other runners that could have potentially won the race. Whereas this year, it was completely different. There was plenty of really top female runners who could push you to the line. Does that bring external pressures on you or is that something that makes you bring your A-game to the race?

Emelie: [chuckles] 2014 was special because I had a really big week that week. I think I climbed Mont-Blanc four days before I was going there and I was just pushing really hard… I can’t remember? I was supposed to do another race after that, that I was training hard for. I knew that I was really strong, so I had the confidence to do that then. But this year, I haven’t been running long-distances because of my knee. But since OCC, which was like three weeks ago, my knee has felt good in longer training. I had like two weeks that I could do a bit more hours, which was really good. But two weeks is only two weeks. I knew that Megan Kimmel is super strong, Ragna Debats had a super good summer too and there was so many strong women there. I really wasn’t confident that I could do well and that I would be able to run well after four hours. I was more like, “I’m going to be happy with whatever.”

Ian: The opening miles of the race changed to 2014, because the initial edition was based at the ski center and we realized after year one that actually it brought you to Curved Ridge too quickly and it created a bottleneck for the field. Also, logistically, it wasn’t in the most ideal place for the race growing. So, we moved the race over to Kinlochleven, which means that you have probably a good hour of running before you get to the really first technical section, which is the climb of Curved Ridge. When you got there, you had Megan Kimmel right on your heels. The two of you were together. Were you surprised by that or did you expect it?

Emelie: Yes, for sure [chuckles] I expected that. I expected because she’s a fast runner and I thought that Ragna was going to be with us, as well. But it was Megan who was setting the pace. I just followed her and on the technical part, I was in the front and on the downhill, I was in the front too. But in the uphill, she pushed the pace a lot and I was a bit worried that it was too fast, actually, but I just tried to follow her. Sometimes, she had maybe 30, 40 seconds on me in uphill, but I knew that in the downhill, it was nothing. I just tried to keep my own pace, even though it was a bit fast. [chuckles]

Ian: Yes. Do you think Megan pushing the pace was a contributing factor to a course record?

Emelie: I think so. I think it could have been anyway, but it was a good time and it was good to push in the beginning, because that’s when you have the energy to push. Megan pushed the pace for sure.

Ian: I’ve got to say, I was surprised that Megan handled the technical section so well. Because she openly says that she’s not really a technical runner. I guess at the back of your mind, you knew that when it came to the real crunch moments, the Aonach Eagach Ridge for example, you could use your strength and maybe that’s where you could open up the gap and pull away?

Emelie: Actually, Megan, she’s a good climber…

Ian: Yes, I know, but she always says that she can’t do technical?

Emelie: No. The technical part, she was doing good, actually. She’s a very all-around runner, I would say. She can perform really well in technical races, like Dolomites and Zegama. But she can also win Mont-Blanc Marathon. She’s maybe one of the best all-around runners I know. So, I wouldn’t say that she’s bad on technical, that’s my opinion. In the end, I don’t think that I made a big gap, even though I kept the lead over the Aonach Eagach Ridge.

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Ian: Tell me the highlights of the course and tell me why this race is so special.

Emelie: First of all, I think I need to say that it’s not a race for everyone right now. I think anyone can run it if they train for it and get experience – the race is vetted anyway! But you should have a lot of respect for it. I do and I would never do a race like this if I wasn’t comfortable in climbing Degree III. Because it’s technical, which I really love.

We start with maybe 10K of running, until we come to Curved Ridge, which is the most technical par. Super steep and scrambling up. Then, we follow beautiful ridges with some ups and downs and big climbs. Then, we have a big downhill coming to kilometer 35, where is the aid station, the second one. After that, it’s a very steep climb, like a vertical. I was actually looking to my watch and I think I did the climb in 52 minutes, which I do the same time as the vertical.

Ian: The vertical, yes.

Emelie: Yes, it’s a steep vertical there. Then, the ridge starts, the Aonach Eagach Ridge, which is a beautiful ridge. People tell me that they feel like that’s a technical part, but I don’t see the technical part there. It’s a ridge, which is super nice to be there and run and I don’t see the difficulty there.

Ian: How does the Aonach Eagach Ridge compare to the ridge in Tromsø?

Emelie: For me, it’s about the same, actually. I know that some people find Aonach Eagach Ridge a bit more technical, but I think it’s more or less the same.

Ian: I’ve been along both and I have to say that the Aonach makes me feel a little bit more exposed than the ridge in Tromsø. I think it’s just those couple of down-climbing sections. Nobody likes down-climbing. [laughs] If you’re not a complete mountaineer, and I’m not, I can scramble, I can go along the ridges. But down-climbing really does make you think a little bit. I think maybe for me, it’s those couple of sections and there’s also the rock chimney that you go down, which I find is fine. But I know a lot of people after the race had said to me, “Oh, the chimney was just horrendous.” Because you’ve got to put one hand to either side and put your feet down underneath you. But I guess it just comes down to comfort and experience level.

Emelie: Yes, I see what you mean with the down-climbing. For sure, it’s not any down-climbing like that in Tromsø. That’s the difference. I guess it’s just as you say — I can see the difference, but more or less, for me, I would say it’s the same.

Ian: One of the things that I said to you after the race, and to Killian, was the similarities of Scotland with Norway. If I close my eyes, and apart from a couple of distinctive details, maybe like the midges [laughs], you could feel as though you’re in Norway at times. I guess that really appeals to both yourself and Killian because it feels like home.

Emelie: Yes, for sure. It is like home, but it’s new, so that’s really a cool feeling. The culture is different and the people. Trails are much better there in Scotland because when it’s not technical, you run on a super nice trail, I really like the contrast there, you can run really fast. In Norway, we don’t have too many that well-marked or big trails.

Ian:  With the victory and with the course record, do you feel as though one chapter of your running career is maybe ended and a new point is starting?

Emelie: [chuckles] Yes, in one way because, as I said, I wasn’t sure about how my endurance would be and I know that it’s my kind of race, I love the terrain. In one way, I can be hard to myself and say that win didn’t really matter because it’s so much your kind of a race, but then I know that I’m unfair to myself, that I should be proud of what I’ve done, but I also want to train on my weaknesses, which is to run fast for a longer time. Now, I actually will start to train for Les Templiers, which is a really runnable race, so that’s exciting. I know that it’s really hard for me to go out and run on the road but I will do that, I will find some flatter trails and try to do some speed work on them.

Ian: Okay. The other thing that you did in the UK was the VK. I actually really like that VK course, it’s very different to other VK courses because it starts off and it’s very runnable and then, all of a sudden, it just goes really, really, really steep and it’s very muddy, it’s very slippery. How was your experience of that?

Emelie: Yes, it reminded me of Norway, actually. I knew that it was a VK that would suit me pretty well and I like to do VKs because it’s good training, but I also have been saying for the last few years I’m not a vertical runner, but I have been improving in that and that’s also really cool.

Ian: You’ve said it’s like Norway, there are so many similarities in that VK to your VK in Tromsø. I know the final section is much rockier in Tromsø, but the early meters are so similar to Tromsø, that you could feel as though you were in either place.

Emelie: Yes, exactly.

Ian: How do you progress now? You’ve got Templiers, which is a very different race to Glen Coe. It’s not very technical, it’s going to be a fast race, you’re going to need to move quickly for that. You’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to be endurant for that one because it’s also quite a long race and then what follows that?

Emelie: After that, I will do San Francisco, actually. It has been a race that I wanted to do again. I had one good year there and one not so good year and now it’s actually two weeks earlier, so it fits my calendar better. That’s motivating, as well. It’s going to be the same training as for Les Templiers. I need to speed up and move fast.

Ian: Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m going from memory here, but you won San Francisco 50 on your first attempt/

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: It’s a good benchmark race, I guess. Things have moved on. I’ve not seen the elite field for San Fran yet, it’s probably a little bit too early, but because of the prize money that’s available, it’s going to be very competitive, we know that. Is there anything that you think that you need to do to get yourself in the shape that’s going to give you potentially a podium or a victory?

Emelie: Yes, I need to train flat.

Ian: I can hear the disappointment in your voice…

Emelie: No, actually it’s different and I know it’s not my favorite, but actually it’s really motivating for me because I always want to improve what is my weak side and I have been doing that with uphill running and I’m eager to do it now with my flat running, too, so I’m actually really excited for it. I know that I’m going to be like, “Why do I need to do this race when I run my tempo runs on a dirt, flat road?” But I’m actually motivated for it and it’s going to be really fun because Ida Nilsson, who I consider one of the best flat runners, will also run both races and we’re training together – she’s really pushing me, which is great.

Ian: And you ski together as well, yes?

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: What does 2018 and maybe 2019 look like for you? Do you have a bucket list of races or experiences that you’d like to tick off?

Emelie: I do, actually. I have three or four things that I have planned already for 2018, and one of them is a project in the Himalayas, which I want to do by myself and it’s going to be really exciting.

Ian: That sounds really good! Exciting.

Emelie: Yes.

Ian: My other question, which is actually related to that one. Any dreams of 100-mile race, say, Hardrock 100?

Emelie: Yes, yes, for sure. I think I said this before to you that I really like the distance. I’m fascinated about it. I did Diagonale des Fous for experience but I want to try to race it, I think I could do really well there. I want to wait for it though, maybe five, six years. It sounds a lot, but I know that it will be even better if I wait because I want to do so many shorter distances, up to 80K right now.

Ian: I think that’s a good idea. History shows that 100-mile runners are very, very good or in their peak once they get to mid-to-late 30s and even into their 40s. There’s no issue there and, of course, it’s more years running, more endurance, which you can then carry over to that long distance. You might as well maximize the speed that you have and the ability that you have up to the 80-kilometer distance. Pressured question, will we see you in Glen Coe next year?

Emelie: I really hope so.

Ian: I hope so, too.

Emelie: It really fits in my calendar, so I will be there.

Ian: What about Tromsø?

Emelie: I think so. We’re working with it now and I said that I need to step down a little because there are so many things to do there. I think it’s much better if there’s someone that has more time and take care of it. Kilian and myself are still part of the organization, but I cannot do as much work, so I think for next year, it will be even better than it has been before.

Ian: It’s so difficult to balance a busy life, training, racing and being a race director. You know both sides now, you understand the complexities of that.

I’m going to thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to have you back in the UK, great to have you win the race here in Scotland, great for you to have a course record and great to see you back to the shape you had before your accident.

Roll on Les Templiers and San Francisco 50!

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Salomon Glencoe Skyline 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg toed the line with one of the most ‘elite’ fields ever on UK soil for a mountain race. Yes, the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner Extreme Series stepped up a notch and went Extreme! In Scotland for the Salomon Glencoe Skyline.

‘This’ race truly is one of the best races out there!’ Was the consensus when runners finally made it to the finish line. To get across the tape though requires some endurance, skill and the technical ability to climb Curved Ridge and to cross the infamous ‘Aonach Eagach’ ridge.

In the words of Kilian Jornet, ‘What a cool race! Glencoe Skyline is absolutely one (the one) to do!”

Gaining Skyrunner® Extreme Series status has had a huge impact on this race and like Jornet says, this race has become ‘the one’ to do in addition to the iconic KIMA which will take place in 2018 and Jornet’s and Forsberg’s own, TROMSO SkyRace.

No question about it, the 2017 edition of the race had the greatest field ever assembled for a mountain race in the UK with a who’s who of elite runners with runners coming from all over the world to test themselves on the best course against the best runners.

Coming into this edition, Jornet was the hot favourite, how could he not be? The Catalan didn’t disappoint, he opened up a small gap while climbing Curved Ridge but it all came back together again with Jon Albon, Bhim Gurung, Andre Jonsson, Alexis Sevennec and the USA’s Max King keeping in contention. As they climbed to Aonach Eagach Jornet made his move extending away from Albon. Albon re-caught him though and apparently took Jornet by surprise. Jornet looked around and moved into the next gear pulling away from the 2016 Skyrunner Extreme Champion. By the time he reached the finish line, a new course record was his in 6:25:39!

Last years winner Albon was ‘first human’ in 2nd place in 6:31:45. Importantly for him though, 2nd place confirmed that he would also be the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion once again – a great result.

Alexis Sevennec placed 3rd, a race that for him is a little long (his words) but after racing the Mamores VK and Ring of Steel in 2016, he wanted a new challenge, 3rd on the podium 6:40:34 a great result.

Bhim Gurung placed 4th and Max King 5th. King went on to say, ‘This race is crazy, off-the-scale, mad, beautiful and just an outright challenge – it is amazing!’

In the ladies’ race, Emelie Forsberg lead from the gun and although Megan Kimmel pushed her close in the early stages, this race had Forsberg’s name written all over it! She won the first edition in 2015, missed 2016 with injury and now the comeback is complete. Forsberg beamed her amazing smile on the course and after it. ‘I so love this race and Scotland. It reminds me of Norway but it is also so different, just amazing!’ In the process, like Jornet it was a course record performance setting the new level at 7:53:30.

The USA’s Megan Kimmel is not known for her ability on technical terrain but here she excelled keeping on contact with Forsberg early on and then consolidating a strong 2nd place ahead of the indestructible Ragna Debats. The duo finished in 8:14:57 and 8:22:55 respectively.

Importantly, Maite Maiora who won the Royal Gran Paradiso and Tromso SkyRace did not run in Scotland as she already had the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Extreme title secure with two victories.

Ever-present in the Extreme series, Malene Bikken Haukoy placed 4th and the UK’s Beth Pascall 5th, their times 8:26:53 and 8:34:14.

The Salomon Glencoe Skyline route features long and sustained sections of scrambling terrain, which is roughly equivalent to moderate standard rock climbing. In addition, the race traverses high and remote mountainous terrain, which is at times impossible to retreat from and may be subject to severe and rapidly changing weather. The day started in glorious sunshine but as predicted, a weather system arrived late morning bringing in cloud and clag, however, conditions remained dry. The crossing off the Aonach Eagach was considered the most challenging part of the route and although rocks were slippery, many considered conditions to be good.

Skyline Scotland 2017 – Glen Coe Skyline Extreme plus VK, SKY and ULTRA

The Salomon Glen Coe Skyline series of races are upon us – a stunning weekend of Skyrunning! From the short, sharp and brutal VK in the VK World Circuit, to the long, demanding and challenging ultra – this weekend will be the pinnacle event of racing in the UK in 2017 and sees three events in the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series

With the exception of World Championship events or the Olympics, the Glen Coe Skyline events will without doubt have the greatest elite field ever assembled on UK soil of sky, trail and mountain runners. It’s a who’s who of the Skyrunning world with the best all assembled in one place in what will be an absolutely incredible weekend of racing.

Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Max King, Caroline Chaverot, Laura Orgue, Jan Margarit, Maite Maiora, Ragna Debats, Alexis Sevennec, Andy Wacker, Pascal Egli, Bhim Gurung, Mira Rai and so many more will head to Scotland.

The highlight event is without doubt the brutal, demanding, challenging and yes, dangerous, Glen Coe Skyline Extreme Race™ which will see 264 vetted runners take on what has become one of the most challenging events in the world. It’s up there with Tromso SkyRace and the iconic Trofeo Kima. Following in the finest tradition of the most prestigious Skyrunning races the race fuses mountain running and alpinism, the extreme race is a pure test of speed, endurance and skill on an uncompromising, world-class course. At 55km with 4,750m of vertical gain, this race personifies Skyrunning, it includes the most challenging Scottish mountain terrain with a traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge.

Ok, take a breath! Kilian Jornet will race on UK soil and on a course that it is fair to say, exactly his thing! It’s technical, pure Skyrunning, offers an incredible technical challenge – all things the Catalan loves. KJ needs no introduction to anyone, he just placed 2nd at UTMB, he won Sierre-Zinal and he summited Everest twice in one week and he won Hardrock 100 single-handedly, and that is just 2017. To see Jornet race this course in the UK is a dream come true.

But Jornet will have his hands full with Tromso SkyRace winner and GlenCoe Skyline 2016 champion, Jon Albon. Importantly, Albon is tied on SWS points with Nepalese runner Bhim Gurung. These two will have a race within a race, the first past the line will be the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series champion for 2017.

Let’s not also forget that Tom Owens is running! Add to the mix USA legend Max King and world class competition – Hector Haines, Andre Jonsson, Cody Lind, Martin Gaffuri, Pere Aurell, Rolf Einar Jensen, Roger Vinas, Konrad Rawlik and the UK’s Oli Johnson – we have the most exciting race ever on UK soil!

For the ladies, Emelie Forsberg is back to a race that she loves! This race has figured highly on Forsberg’s calendar and she has meticulously prepared in 2017 by slowly coming back to racing after knee surgery in 2016.

Ragna Debats will push Forsberg every step of the way. The lady from the flatlands of the Netherlands is having a stunning year and recently won at the RUT in the USA and placed 2nd at Tromso SkyRace. Caroline Chaverot was unstoppable in 2016, won Hardrock 100 earlier this year but recently withdrew from UTMB after winning in 2016. If she is recovered and fit, she will be a contender for sure, however, the technical terrain will be a challenge.

Other top contenders will be Megan Kimmel from the USA who was unstoppable early season. Malene Bikken Haukoy, Ekaterina Mityaeva, Katie Schide, Kimberly Storm, Natalia Tomasiak, Martina Valmassoi, Zuzana Urbancova, Kelly Wolf, Ann-Marie Madden and the UK’s Beth Pascall.

The weekend kicks off with the Salomon Mamores VK™, an incredible leg burning and lung-busting ascent from sea level to a Munro summit. It is also iconic as it is the UK’s only Vertical Kilometer®. Following the well-established ISF (International Skyrunning Federation( ‘VK’ format, 298 participants will follow a marked course climbing 1000m of vertical gain in less than 5km’s. Departing at timed intervals, it’s like an epic stage of the Tour de France as runners push their limits – the fastest overall time to the summit is the winner!

Stian Angermund-Vik heads up a world-class field for the men and Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ race. Also watch out for Jan Margarit, Alexis Sevennec, Andy Wacker and Ondrej Fejfar in the men’s race.

Saturday brings us the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™ which is a pure ‘classic’ following in the tradition of Zegama-Aizkorri and the Dolomites SkyRace. It consists of uncompromising mountain running with scrambling along mountain ridges. Traversing ridges are followed by technical ascents and descents, it’s a challenging race to push the most experienced Skyrunner to the limit. The Devil’s Ridge provides a thrilling and airy traverse with Glen Nevis visible ahead, and in total four peaks will be summited.

Last year, in its inaugural event, the race was won by Stian Angermund-Vik and he returns to do battle again! He is going to have a battle on his hands with Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi coming to race on UK soil along with Pascal Egli, Jan Margarit, Kiril Nikolov, the Casal Mir brothers of Oscar and Marc, Rok Bratina, Andy Wacker and the UK’s Jayson Cavill and Ben Hukins. It is set to be an epic battle. Egli, Angermund-Vik, De Gasperi and Margarit have all been on fire in 2017 and to see them go head-to-head on Scottish soil will be amazing.

 Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ race but she also will have a fight on her hands. Laura recently won the RUT VK and SkyRace so comes to Scotland with great form. Maite Maiora though has been unstoppable in 2017 with victories across the Skyrunning calendar, just recently she placed 2nd at CCC. Sheila Aviles is a likely podium contender and yes, maybe even winner after a strong performance at Comapedrossa. Also watch Oihana Azkorbebeitia, Katrine Vilumsen and Laura Sola.

The Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ uses remote runnable tracks, technical single track, and airy trackless ridges, the highlight and highpoint coming with a climb and traverse via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, leading to the summit of Ben Nevis. This is one seriously tough race, especially when one considers the demanding 120km course and 4000m + of vertical gain! Starting from the southern shore of the world-famous Loch Ness, the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra™ follows a route through remote Scottish Highland Glens, before finishing at the Skyline Scotland™ Event Centre in Kinlochleven.

Dmitry Mityaev heads up the men’s race and he will have a fight on his hand with local runner, Donnie Campbell. Lakeland 100 winner and 8th place at the 2017 CCC, Michael Jones, will also be one to watch. Csaba Nemeth and Nuno Silva add to an incredibly stacked male field.

For the ladies, Nepalese sensation Mira Rai will be a strong favourite, however, the ever-present and indestructible Andrea Huser will toe the line after recently placing 2nd at UTMB. This is going to be an epic battle! Also keep an eye on the USA’s Kristina Pattison and local lady, Rachel Campbell.

Skyrunning UK was created four years ago with the dream of bringing the best-of-the-best to UK soil, this weekend, that dream becomes a reality. I for one cannot wait!

Seminal UTMB 2017 – The Men’s Race

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

The 2017 UTMB was billed as the ‘best ever’ and as the weather finally improves in and around Chamonix, life returns to normal for us all and we have an opportunity to step back and look at how important this years race actually was.

I think it may well be a seminal edition and for many reasons.

Yes, I think this years race may well be a great influencer in the later developments not only of ultra-trail but more importantly the runners who participate.

The men’s race featured a known top-10 and I think it’s fair to say there were few surprises. Unlike in previous editions, the main contenders battled throughout and few dropped or faltered resulting in a super exciting edition of the race.

Read about the Ladies race HERE

THE TOP 10 MEN

 

NO1

Francois D’Haene 19:01:32 – Francois is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world. No question. Coming into the race, it was a coin toss if he or Kilian would win the race. I like everyone else went with Kilian – how can you bet against Kilian? But with reflection, Francois always should have been the hot-favourite for victory. He prepared meticulously for UTMB with victories in ‘warm-up’ races, he ran the UTMB route over 4-days with Salomon teammates and yes, he is the course record holder. He started at the front, closer than I had anticipated and he never relinquished a firm grasp of the race. Experience, fitness and endurance over the final third of the race saw him pull-away from Jim Walmsley and Kilian to confirm that he is the best in the world.

 

NO2

Kilian Jornet 19:16:38 – It’s tough being Kilian, so much pressure. But he shrugs it off on his own way… At the UTMB this year he interviewed runners on the start, filmed the start and continued to film over the opening miles. He surprised me by keeping with the front of the race, an unusual tactic for him. Maybe he thought that if he let Walmsley, D’Haene and the others go, he would never reel them back in. I expected Jornet to win, as did pretty much everyone else but a lack of running in 2017 and the early fast half of the race no doubt took its toll. He finished 2nd and that in itself is incredible, the fact he suffered so much is even more remarkable. He is an incredible ambassador and I know personally that he will be as happy with D’Haene’s victory as if it were his own. Let’s not forget he summited Everest twice in one week, won Hardrock 100 and won a fast Sierre-Zinal in the lead to UTMB.

 

NO3

Tim Tollefson 19:53:00 – Yep, Tollefson signifies why the 2017 UTMB is a seminal edition for US runners. He placed 3rd last-year and backed it up again with third this year. He started steady and let his experience, training and mental strength run a finely paced and well-judged race. It was impressive to follow how he meticulously worked his way through the race. With approximately 50km’s to go, he moved up into third and he remained in that place all the way to the line – impressive!

 

NO4 – Xavier Thevenard 20:03:14 – He’s won all the UTMB races (CCC, TDS, OCC and UTMB multiple times) and yes, of course, he was a favourite for the podium and or victory. Early on he raced with the front but I think he decided the pace was a little hot and he eased off. He knows how to run this loop though and experience counted. His fourth is no disappointment and confirms his ability over the 100-mile distance in the mountains.

 

NO5 – Jim Walmsley 20:11:38 – This was the seminal performance of the whole UTMB and yes, I have been vocal on Walmsley post his 2017 Western States. I have to say, he impressed the hell out of me at this year’s UTMB. He took the front as I and many expected but unlike Western, he understood the task at hand and who was behind him. A naturally fast runner, he obviously struggled to run slower but he restrained himself, often waiting for Jornet, D’Haene and others. I said before the race started that he would find the final 30% tough and he did. He is incredible over the 100km distance or running say 10-14 hours but beyond that is all new ground. From 100km he slowed and struggled dropping to seventh but then rallied to move back to fifth. This was THE learning curve that Walmsley needed and I am convinced that this IS the turning point in his 100-mile running career. He has already proven up to 100km he is incredible, now we will see him harness this learning curve not only in pacing and race management but also how to handle the mind games that this distance brings. I am convinced we will see Walmsley top UTMB and Western States podiums in years to come.

 

NO6 – Pau Capell 20:12:43 – He is a rising star of the sport, he has already had an incredible 2017 with a string of top-10 performances and now sixth at UTMB. He paced well-being a novice at the 100-mile distance but his Transgrancanaria run earlier this year no doubt helped. He was all set for fifth until a flying Walmsley found a late surge to grasp a place from him. A seminal performance.

 

NO7 – Dylan Bowman 20:19:48 – D’Bo nailed his first UTMB finish and confirms that the USA are finally understanding mountain running in Europe and in particular UTMB. I remember a few years back when he finished Transgrancanaria and he was blown away by how difficult and fast that race was. He’s slowly plugged away and learnt the craft.

 

NO8 – Gediminas Grinius 21:24:19 – He nails the 100-mile distance and his eighth place just proves how consistent he is. He will no doubt be disappointed with his placing after placing second last-year, but this year’s race was as stacked as stacked can be and this is a solid performance.

 

NO9 – Zach Miller 21:28:32 – Has been injured in 2017 and I think this no doubt impacted on his race and strategy. Last-year he ran off the front with what was either going to be a blazing victory or an incredible blow-up. It was the latter but he rallied for sixth. This year, he without doubt respected the distance but maybe he also realised he didn’t have the fitness and endurance to blaze a trail at the front. Either way, his 9th is solid, it confirms his ability for the distance and like Walmsley, he may well understand that a little patience will go a long way. A seminal performance.

 

NO10 – Jordi Gamito 21:44:31 – A revelation in 2017 and while I and others thought a solid race was possible, him rounding out the top-10 is a surprise. This will no doubt rally his enthusiasm and commitment for 2018 – a seminal performance.

 

NOTABLES:

The UK’s Damian Hall had an incredible race finishing 12th and top Brit. He only started racing a few years ago and he must be wishing he started earlier! David Laney was the USA’s prime contender for top-5 after two previous solid performances, he finished 14th. Other notable top-10 contenders such as Jeff Browning, Julien Chorier, Jason Schlarb, Tofol Castanyer, Sage Canaday and Miguel Heras all had mixed days. Most finished but Heras and Castanyer dropped. It is important to note that despite the weather and the high-level of competition, I consider the drop-out rate in the men’s race to be low.

Now we just need to wait one year to see how this year’s seminal race impacts on future editions.

It is a great time for the sport!

Tromso SkyRace 2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

Now in its fourth edition, the race has grown as one of the pinnacle races of Skyrunning. It’s not a race any runner can undertake. The course is 57km in length and a whopping 4600m of vertical gain – but this is only a small part of the story. Featuring two peaks, the Tromso SkyRace is by any standards – extreme! The Hamperokken ridge which is a key feature of the race is at the midpoint of the race and features an exposed, technical and at time knife edged arête that will require even the most experienced Skyrunner to use four-points of contact to traverse the ridge and its summit. Followed by snow fields, challenging terrain and a steep climb – this race is the ultimate challenge.

Read the full report and story HERE

You can view images from the race HERE