Glen Coe Skyline 2018 – Skyrunner World Series

Kilian Jornet and Hillary Gerardi win the 2018 Glen Coe Skyline 2018.

Report via Lauri van Houten, ISF

With wild and windy weather in the Scottish Highlands, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline was run on a reduced course, but it didn’t take any of the excitement away from the star line-up that battled right to the finish line. The sixth stage of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series, valid for the Sky Extra category, was won by Kilian Jornet and Hillary Gerardi.

Probably one of the toughest races on the Series, it was run on the “bad weather route” which is just 32 km long with 2,700m vertical climb avoiding the exposed scrambling terrain. (The original course was 55 km with 4,700m vertical climb). 203 runners from 28 countries participated.

Race winner Kilian Jornet was in his element. “The Scottish Highlands really inspire because you can run everywhere. It’s got good ridges and good elevation and even though it’s not high altitude you can find all the challenges you want. I ran with André [Jonsson] for a big part and then I took the lead to be a bit more relaxed in the last part. He’s a very strong runner. For me it’s more for the participation than winning. These are races that I love.” Jornet closed in 3h40’33” followed in 3h42’33” by Sweden’s André Jonsson. In third in 3h45’03”, a first podium for ItalianDaniel Jung.

I got a good position so I feel good. I pushed myself to the limit. It was a great course, technical. I live in the Alps but here it’s more slippery. I love it when it’s raining,” commented Jung. “When you see Kilian and André Jonsson in front, the world champion and second world champion, what more can you ask? It’s a dream for me to be on the podium and so… I love Scotland!”

With less kilometres, vertical climb and ridges, there was still plenty of action in the stacked field especially in the women’s race where a fierce battle raged concluding in a tight sprint.

Winner Hillary Gerardi from the USA, who closed in 4h17’48”, summed it all up. I was really pleased to be at this race although disappointed not to be able to do the whole ridge but it was the right call on the part of the organisers to cut it short. It was pretty cold and wet and very, very windy at the top. I gave it my best. I was a little faster than Jasmin [Paris] on the uphills but she definitely dominates on the downhills and it was really a pleasure to be out there with her.

“Either of us could have won the race. We were together on the last downhill and I said to her ‘What do you think will happen if I manage to hold on to you and we go through the finish together?’ and she said, ‘Oh no! It will come down to a sprint!’ So I just gave it everything I had and in the last 200m I was able to pull ahead of her.

“I will definitely be back next year to do the full ridge. Last year when I came here I was hitting a low point in my season and I found joy in running again in Scotland.” 

Briton Jasmin Paris lost the sprint by just seven seconds. “It would have been nice to win to be honest. I gave it my best shot but going to the end I couldn’t make up on the downhill and I knew I didn’t have the speed in my legs.”

Third lady was another American, Brittany Peterson. “For me I actually never got cold, it was all a matter of arm sleeves up, arm sleeves down. I was definitely tired by the end just tried to stay strong for third. It was a great race! I love it! I feel like I suddenly got a new element of technical terrain – wet and slippery and mossy which just added a new element of fun. I fell three or four times and just popped right on back. I got really muddy,” she said. “I’ve heard great things about the ridge so I can imagine what the full race would be like. Just doing the Skyrunner World Series I feel it brings a lot of energy!”  

André Jonsson climbs to third on the Sky Extra ranking and is 55 points from leader Dmitry Mityaev while Pere Aurell holds onto second.  Kilian Jornet ties with Jonathan Albon in fourth place.

Hillary Gerardi now leads the women’s ranking with Ragna Debats right behind. Brittany Peterson secures third position while Malene Haukøy and Jasmin Paris rise to fifth and sixth respectively.

There are no significant changes in the Overall ranking except that Jornet is the new leader.

Next stop on the 2018 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series is the Salomon Ultra Pirineu in the Spanish Pyrenees on September 29 where the Ultra specialists will be heading for the longest race on the circuit valid for the Sky Extra category.

Salomon Glen Coe Skyline results
Men

  1. Kilian Jornet (ESP) – 3h40’33”
  2. André Jonsson (SWE) – 3h42’33”
  3. Daniel Jung (ITA) – 3h45’03”
  4. Andy Symonds (GBR) – 3h45’03”
  5. Cody Lind (USA) – 3h45’41”

Women

  1. Hillary Gerardi (USA) – 4h17’48”
  2. Jasmin Paris (GBR) – 4h 17’55”
  3. Brittany Peterson (USA) – 4h25’44”
  4. Malene Blikken Haukøy (NOR) – 4h30’10”
  5. Aitziber Ibarbia Beloki (ESP) – 4h34’40”

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Ring of Steall SkyRace 2018 – Skyrunning World Championships

Report by Lauri van Houten, ISF

In three days of uncertain and often extreme weather conditions, the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships lit up the sky in the Scottish Highlands with a rainbow of nations and world class competition. Nine countries took medals and 26 National Teams scored points lead by Spain, UK and USA.

The third and final event of the Championships, the Salomon Ring of Steall SkyRace, saw a stacked field with 879 runners from 40 countries. Thanks to the extremely tough competition, records were smashed by new World Champions, Kilian Jornet from Spain and Tove Alexandersson from Sweden. The top ten men and seven women finished below last year’s record. The new records are 3h04’34” and 3h48’28”.

 

It’s a wonderful race, I love coming here to Scotland. It’s technical, the track is beautiful, what I love when I’m racing,” stated Jornet. “Today was a great battle with Nadir. I managed to put 20” on him on the last part of the uphill. It’s great because when we look for racing we look for competition, for a fight, and that’s what it was today. When you think about skyrunning you think about races like this, you need to fight every step.

“What’s particular here is it’s very muddy, very wet, slippery. The terrain is similar to Norway. I fell in the mud on the last downhill. This year it was good for me, such a good field with so many strong people,” he concluded.

 

Second man, Italian Nadir Maguet, closed in 3h06’05” to take the silver medal. “I came here hoping to do well. Obviously when you see a start list with a very high level, you ask yourself how will it go. My dream was to race with Kilian, to feel strong, and that was how it went. I ran the whole race with him, mostly half a minute behind. In the second half of the race and on the last descent I tried to push but you know Kilian is strong on the downhill. It was impossible to catch him, I tried. The important thing is to dream and dream…I’m really happy with my second place.”

 

2016 Vertical, Sky and Combined champion and race record holder of the Vertical and Sky records set here last year was Norwegian Stian Angermund-Vik. He closed the podium to take the bronze in 3h09’05’. 

It was awesome. As I said before this is my favourite race. This year I ran 15’ quicker,” he said. “This race is more technical than most…I love the ridges and the mud and everything. On the second ridge I just had to stop and look around it was so beautiful. I almost cried it was so amazing. I’m so happy to finish third. It was like a big dream for me.”  For many, it was all about sharing a dream.

Tove Alexandersson, a multiple Orienteering World Champion from Sweden cut an incredible 19’ off the previous record to take the gold and the new Skyrunning World Champion title for the Sky category. “It was a bit more muddy and slippery than I expected but otherwise it was just perfect. I felt strong all the way. I didn’t have much time to see the views because it was quite technical. On the downhill you have to be so focussed. I think that’s my biggest strength so I had a good feeling.

 

“This is so much longer than orienteering. I won my first skyrunning race last year and I couldn’t move for an hour. This time I was more prepared to run a bit longer. I really wanted to come here and to be World Champion. Skyrunning is the best thing. I really enjoy the atmosphere and everything. I’m so happy that I came here to run the Sky race.”

Taking the silver was Briton Victoria Wilkinson. “It was hard work because I have not raced for four hours for quite some time and that meant I had to pace myself.  I raced with Laura [Orgue] who won the race last year for some of the first part. She’s a good climber and I learned a lesson or two from her! I hadn’t run the Ring of Steall course before but I won the Ben Nevis race a couple of weeks ago which was good experience. I loved the race and I’m really happy to be second lady.”

 

The bronze went to top skyrunner Holly Page who took the medal for the UK. “I’m absolutely delighted. I wasn’t expecting that at all when I saw who was going to be here. At the top of the first climb I think I was 15th and I felt really unhappy and horrible. But then I got into a downhill and it ‘smelt’ like a fell race, it felt like home. I overtook lots of people on the downhill which gave me quite a confidence boost.

 “It was quite rough and very muddy until the rocky technical bit which is the part I like. It was a great course. I occasionally looked round and thought ‘I’m so glad that the world has come to Scotland and seen these views.’ It was stunning.”

 

The course, 29 km long with 2,500m vertical climb is fast becoming a skyrunning classic in every sense, with steep ascents, scrambling sections, ridges, and…spectacular views.

Individual world titles and a total of 27 medals were awarded in the three disciplines as well as a combined title based on the best results of the Vertical and Sky races.

Marino Giacometti, ISF President awarded the medals after the events and at the final ceremony. “These World Championships was announced as a difficult challenge and I’m obviously extremely happy for the great participation… and to have survived the Scottish weather,” he said. “Now among the new world champions we have not only Kilian, but Jonathan Albon (an Obstacle racing champion), Tove Alexandersson (an Orienteering champion) and Nadir Maguet (a ski-mountaineering champion). I like to think that skyrunning inspires athletes from other sports too!”

 

He also expressed his thanks to SkyLine Scotland for the excellent organisation and for hosting the 2018 Skyrunning World Championships in the Scottish “Skylands”, a new and spectacular international sports arena.

Following ISF protocol, WADA antidoping tests were carried out at the Championships.

Salomon Ring of Steall SkyRace® results


Men

  1. Kilian Jornet (ESP) – 3h04’34”
  2. Nadir Maguet (ITA) – 3h06’05”
  3. Stian Angermund-Vik (NOR) – 3h’09’05”
  4. Alexis Sévennec (FRA) – 3h11’56”
  5. Pascal Egli (SUI) – 3h12’24”

Women

 

  1. Tove Alexandersson (SWE) – 3h48’28”
  2. Victoria Wilkinson (GBR) – 3h54’01”
  3. Holly Page (GBR) – 3h57’57”
  4. Sheila Avilés (ESP) – 4h01’20”
  5. Laura Orgué (ESP) – 4h03’56”

 

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Trofeo Kima 2018 on IRUN4ULTRA

“For over twenty years, ‘Kima’ as it is affectionately known, has blown the minds and the legs of all those lucky enough to toe the line. This is a race that one aspires too; you need to earn a place on the entry line. The challenge comes no greater. The race is like a precious jewel, hidden away for fear of someone stealing it. Kima is not for everyone, but if you have the experience and the courage, the Sentiero Roma rewards each who ventures on to its tough and technical terrain.” – Ian Corless

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Salomon S-LAB ULTRA Shoe Review

It has been a while since I slipped on a Salomon shoe for my daily runs. No particular reason, sometimes when testing shoes, I find a real winner and then that becomes my shoe of choice. I wrote last year how I loved the Nike Wildhorse 4, I still love them, and they go everywhere, I would say that they are my ‘go to’ shoe that handles a little of everything with loads of comfort, security and all in a great looking shoe. 

I have always been a fan of the Salomon S-Lab Sense both in normal HERE and SG HERE (soft ground) versions, however, for me, they are just a little too minimalist for everyday running and longer runs.

The S-LAB ULTRA is a shoe that may well be a game changer for Salomon. 

To clarify, Salomon fans are already happy with the Sense shoes and its variants, however, I cannot tell you how many times I have had messages asking me to feedback to Salomon the need for:

  • Wider toe box
  • Higher drop (8mm)
  • More cushioning
  • And all the same goodies that made the Sense such a great shoe.

Well, the S-LAB ULTRA is the shoe! 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It’s that classic red colour that Salomon utilize so well and at first glance you know it is a Salomon shoe. It’s a good-looking shoe, the fade between red at the front and a darker colour at the rear is ‘sexy,’ if a shoe can be sexy?  

The first thing you notice are two straps on either side of the outside of the shoe. It makes the shoe look a little heavy and somewhat over engineered. This is a protective Skin guard – more on that later.

 The toe box is visibly wider, beefier and well protected.

 

The cushioning is visibly deeper both at the front and rear. This is, as Salomon says: “Energysave® foam insert in the forefoot adds long-lasting cushioning and protection from rocks and rough ground, while ENERGYCELL+ foam in the bottom unit ensures a smooth, consistent ride.”

The grip looks pretty classic for a Salomon trail shoe. It’s red, with a standard trail lug that is not too aggressive. So, this shoe is obviously not designed for mud, it is a hard trail shoe that can be used on a multitude of surfaces, be that wet or dry. It is, “an all-new Contagrip® outsole, with premium wet traction and reverse lugs on the heel area, delivers confident grip, especially on the downhills.”

At £160 a pair, they aint cheap!

On Salomon’s website, they say the usage is ‘Racing Only’ but I have to disagree, this is a brilliant day-to-day comfy shoe that can handle pretty much anything with comfort, road too! Maybe this advice comes based on the price and they would recommend another similar Salomon shoe for day-to-day and keeping the S-LAB Ultra for special occasions… nah! If they are that good, use them I say! But the Salomon Sense Ride has an 8mm drop with 19/27mm cushioning and a similar outsole and they are £50 per pair (£110) cheaper. So. It is worth considering a training/ racing combo? – HERE

THE SHOE

 

Cushioning is excellent with 18mm at the front and 26mm at the rear, this provides an 8mm drop which for me is the perfect drop for longer runs. It’s a light shoe, but not super-light. A UK8 comes in at just under 300g. In a UK 9.5 (my size) it weighs 340g which is exactly the same as the SCOTT KINABALU HERE – there actually is a great deal of similarity in these shoes. My Nike Wildhorse 4 though are 290g in the same size, so, if I was a weight freak, the Nike’s win hands down!

I always say this about Salomon shoes and two things always stand out:  

The lacing with the storage pocket.

ENDOFIT internal sock liner.

 The ENDOFIT is just so awesome, it hugs the foot, holds it, secures it and keeps it protected. It is perfect. Other shoes come close, but I think Salomon ‘just’ win each time. Nike Wildhorse 4 has something similar, it is awesome and, in all honesty, why I love the Nike shoe so much. The other shoe that is similar is the VJ XTRM HERE. Actually, the ‘new’ reinforcing on the outside of the new S-LAB Ultra does a very similar thing to the Fitlock on the VJ.

 

The new straps on the outer of the shoe are significant, there is four of them, two on each side. Two lower, two higher – the laces pass through them and when you pull the lace tight, they bring the shoe in tighter in four key points, in addition with the sockliner, the foot is held firm in one of the most reassuring and comfortable grips I have experienced. 

The laces are classic Salomon. You pull them tight, slide the toggle down and then stuff the excess in the little ‘garage’ at the top of the tongue – so simple it is ingenious.

The inner of the shoe is pretty much seamless, so, if you wanted to go soulless you could. 

The heel box is plush, padded, really comfortable and holds the foot firm.

The toe box is wider and has an excellent toe bumper to protect against the terrain.

This shoe has been designed with a great deal of influence from Francois D’Haene and you can see why. He runs long, and he needs a shoe that can handle long hours on his feet, provide comfort, toe splay, cushioning and grip without losing many of the aspects of what has made the ‘Sense’ range so popular. 

The upper of the shoe is a breathable mesh with Ortholite Impressions which add structure and reinforcement to the shoe.

Midsole is cushioned and really is excellent on longer runs. Combined with the 8mm drop this is a great shoe for those who are running 80km and beyond. The combination of compressed EVA and Salomon’s EnergyCell make them very comfortable but not spongy. At all times, the S-LAB Ultra feels firm on the ground, allowing you to feel the ground but still run with precision.

 The outsole is classic Salomon. However, the S-LAB Ultra has a ‘new’ Premium Wet Traction Contagrip that works really well on a multitude of terrain, wet or dry. There is a Profit Film in the chassis of the shoe which protects against rocks and sharp objects – it is rock plate! 

IN USE

Slipping the S-LAB Ultra on you immediately notice how comfortable they are, the ENDOFIT just does its job perfectly and you can use them around the house without laces, they are that comfy and reassuring. Pull the laces and you feel your foot held in one of the most comfortable and tight embraces. It is so reassuring. I do not like sloppy shoes and my foot moving around inside the shoe – no chance of that here. BUT the laces are had to adjust, it’s all or nothing! However, I find this system preferable to the BOA system which adidas are using – at least I can pull my laces really tight in the Salomon. 

At the front end the additional room is very obvious in comparison to a pair of Sense.

The cushioning is also noticeable, you get that wonderful slightly bouncing feel when walking around.

On road they provide great comfort and grip and for sure, if I had to run large road sections in a race or training, I’d have no worries using this shoe. On hard pack trail they do a great job providing feel for the ground but not at the compromise of protection. The outsole is aggressive enough to grip when it is required. In mud they are pretty useless, the lugs are just not aggressive enough so keep that in mind. On grassy banks going up or down, they were great. On wet grassy bank in the wet they did slip once or twice – nothing crazy and I never fell over. On rock, grip is excellent in the dry but just a little compromised in the wet. In comparison to the Nike Wildhorse 4 in the wet, Salomon’s grip is superb, the Nike’s are a liability! 

The S-LAB Ultra is a solid all-rounder – be that road, trail, rocks, sand or whatever. It does nothing brilliantly and nothing bad. It’s a solid shoe for the long game, hence the Ultra title. To provide a scenario, I would say a S-LAB Sense is a Formula 1 car for shorter, faster and more aggressive races, whereas the S-LAB Ultra is better for Le Mans 24-hour race.

CONCLUSION

The S-LAB Ultra is for those who require a shoe that can handle a little of everything in a cushioned 8mm drop shoe that has great looks. ENDOFIT is just brilliant but I am well aware that not everyone likes it; I love it! The laces do the job brilliantly, again, not everyone like this type of lacing because of the lack of adjustment. The lugs are middle of the road and for some, may not be aggressive enough and despite the ‘wet traction’ name, the Contragrip is still not 100% in the wet. For example, inov-8 has the new Graphene and Sticky Rubber outsole and that really works. At £160 they are expensive, which is maybe why Salomon recommend them for racing? There is a great deal to like in the Salomon S-LAB Ultra and they have been used regularly by me as my ‘daily’ shoe for my 8/9 mile run as I have a whole mix of terrain that includes 2-miles of road, canal tow path, forest trail, gravel path and a little mud – the S-LAB Ultra handles all this superbly. I travel a great deal and these shoes provide me a simple solution as to what shoes to take as I know I can pretty much do anything in them. They are solid shoes and recommended. 

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Ultra Trail Mont Blanc #UTMB 2018 Preview

UTMB is upon us and the hype just keeps on building and building. The 2018 edition looks set to be another great race and the year when the chances of an American at the top of the podium, have probably never been higher!

The 170km loop that starts in France, passes through Italy, then Switzerland and once again returns to France with 10,000m of vert is considered the pinnacle of 100-mile mountain running.

 UTMB LIVE HERE

MEN

It is easy to look at UTMB and the presence of Kilian Jornet on the start line and say, ‘we know who has won!’ To be honest, I think Kilian is the odds-on favourite to win the 2018 edition, particularly with Francoise D’Haene missing the race. What Kilian has achieved in 2018 after a very serious injury has been quite remarkable. What is most impressive is the range of his skill, he can break an almost unbreakable FKT in the UK (Bob Graham Round), win a super-fast and competitive Sierre-Zinal and then win and set a course record at the most technical and pinnacle skyrunning event there is, Trofeo Kima, just 5-days before toeing the line at UTMB. Without doubt, Kilian is the one to beat, however, the one thing he has against him is the lack of specific 100-mile training. For anyone else, that would be a huge problem, for Kilian, no!

Many will say that Jim Walmsley is the prime contender to beat KJ but let’s give a nod and respect to Tim Tollefson who has placed 3rd twice and now knows the race like the back of his hand. He prepares specifically and respects the race and the distance. His form seems a little off based on results in 2018, but, I am sure Tim has only ever had his eye on one prize.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me one of the greatest and most underrated mountain runners in the world. He is pure class. He is a multiple world champ, has placed 2nd at UTMB before and missed the race in 2017 because he knew he didn’t have the necessary form to win. He has been quiet this year which can only mean very specific training. He hasn’t run many 100’s and this has been his downfall in the past, he always races hard and from the front which can mean he blows up. This may be Luis’s year for the win, but everything will need to go right, and Kilian will need to be a little off. A Luis victory would be extremely popular! 

Jim Walmsley finally fulfilled his dreams and ability with nailing Western States earlier this year and obliterating the course record. He has earned his 100-mile apprenticeship. Last year at UTMB it was all going well, and Jim was running a smarter race, it went wrong but he rallied and then finished in the top-10 closing hard. He has a tough decision to make at this year’s race, does he go on gut feeling and run at ‘his’ pace early on and hope he can take it to the line (think Zach Miller) or does he hand with Kilian, mark him, stay with him and then make a move late in the race where he then maybe can use his natural run speed to win? It’s important to note, that running and winning UTMB will be at least 20% more time on his feet than the WSER victory. I think Jim will make the podium this year and yes, he could be at the top of it, quite easily!

 Xavier Thevenard has done it all at UTMB winning all the main distances over the past 4-years. He will no doubt be reeling from his DQ at Hardrock and that could work either way at UTMB. It may motivate a superb performance or put questions in his mind. Podium potential for sure but not a winner this year.

 Alex Nichols is for me the greatest US potential for a win in years. However, it may take this year for him to fully understand the race before he can come back and win next year or the year after. I said many times in the last 18-months that Alex has the greatest potential and he proved it recently with his Nolans 14 FKT. He is one to watch and a dark horse.

The above are my prime podium contenders but as always, it’s a stacked field with the following toeing the line:

  • Gediminas Grinius
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Mark Hammond
  • Michel Lanne
  • Stephan Hugenschmidt
  • Jordi Gamito
  • Sondre Amdahl
  • Benoit Cori
  • Scott Hawker
  • Timothy Olson
  • Damian Hall
  • Sylvain Court
  • Javi Dominguez

That is an A-list of contenders with Gediminas Grinius and Javi Dominguez as stand outs. It is UTMB, so anything can happen on the big loop. One person to watch is the UK’s Damian Hall. Over the past 3-years he has moved closer and closer to the top-10 and last year placed 11th. He is super motivated this year and although I don’t think he will make the top-5, the chances are high for him to fulfil his top-10 dream. 

WOMEN 

Mimmi Kotka for me is the 2018 UTMB champion. She has won CCC, TDS and has crushed mountain races such as Madeira Island Ultra Trail, Mont-Blanc 90km and the Maxi-Race in Annecy. She eats mountains and although this is her first 100, something just tells me she is ready for the big loop.

Caroline Chaverot of course should be the odds-on favourite but boy-oh-boy as she had a tough time of things after winning ‘everything’ and I mean ‘everything’ a year or so ago. Her form is a real question mark and she has openly discussed on social media that she has been very unwell. Caroline in form is of course podium potential, anything less and she would be disappointed.

Uxue Fraile has a 5th, 3rd and 2nd at UTMB and that alone sets her up as a prime podium contender. She always runs a savvy race, has loads of experience and for me, she may well match her 2015 2nd place. 

Kaori Niwa has been 4th at UTMB and recently took 4th at Hardrock 100, so, we know she has endurance. That is super important here at UTMB and although victory is unlikely with Mimmi and Caroline in the race, the 3rd slot on the podium is possible.

 Sephanie Violett was 15th last-year which seems a below par performance based on her experience and skill. But UTMB is not the US and Magdalena Boulet and Kaci Lickteig also placed out of the top-10. I have a feeling that these three women will change things around this year and impact on the top-10 with Stephanie my tip as the one who does the best of the trio.

Beth Pascall and Jo Meek are two Brits who I believe this year will turn heads. Beth gets the nod over Jo as she has much experience at the long game with success at races such as Lakeland 100, Dragons Back and the Spine. She dropped at UTMB last year after getting cold, this year I am putting my neck on the line and saying top-5! Jo has trained specifically and knows the UTMB mountains after placing 2nd at CCC. This is her first foray to 100-miles and this length of time on her feet. She has all the ability to do well, so, fingers crossed she makes the top-10.

Fernanda Maciel has buckets of experience at the long game, has excelled at UTMB time and time again and I have no reason not to think she will do the same again this year. A prime top-10 contender and for sure, 4th/ 5th is a distinct possibility; she has placed 4th twice before.

Juliette Blanchet was 4th last-year and has buckets of experience and results at long and tough races… She was 2nd at Raid de la Reunion after UTMB in 2017. She will be fighting for the podium and amongst the 2018 women’s field, she has a great chance.

 Cat Bradley has won Western States but, in all honesty, I have no idea how she will fare on this monster 170km loop. You don’t win Western by accident which is why she gets a nod here, but let’s look at Kaci and Magdalena last-year, they were both outside the top-10. 

Mariya Nikolova is not a name that many will have heard but she has been in the top-10 at UTMB previously and she has won in Turkey at Cappadocia. Her recent form is a little unknown but an improvement from 9th is to be expected. 

Strong Contenders:

Emilie Lecomte has been there and done it in long distances races but seems to be lacking the speed of her prime. Amy Sproston has been 8th before, she will be in the top-10 game but not a podium contender. The UK’s Sophie Grant is another real contender with Beth and Jo, she was 15th last-year. Teresa Nimes was just outside the top-10 placing 11th in 2017. Aliza Lapierre dnf’d last year but has loads of experience as does Ildiko Wermescher who has been 6th and 7th at UTMB previously… In all honesty, Ildiko should be in the list above. Francesca Canepa is a long-distance specialist. Katia Fori also one to watch after 5th at MIUT.

It is all to fight for. The big loop with all that distance, vertical gain and descending, variable weather and just the many, many hours on foot means nothing is guaranteed. So, expect some surprises!

Action stars Friday 31st August.

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Trofeo Kima 2018 – Summary and Images

Kilian Jornet takes back the record at the Kima Trophy with a supreme effort. Equaling the record of Mario Poletti, Kilian took his fourth title after missing the race in 2016. Hillary Gerardi followed her victory in Tromso with another incredible win proving that she is the woman to beat on technical courses!

The 23rd edition of the Kima Trophy that will be remembered amongst one the most beautiful ever after overnight rain cleared to an amazingly beautiful cold day. However, temperatures were cold due to strong winds and ice was present on the course. The race director Matteo Colzada and his staff checked the various critical points on th ehigh passes and postponed the start but to the relief of all the runners, the full route was allowed.

Kima has 52 technical and very challenging kilometers with 8,400 m of total height gain and loss with 7 alpine passes all above 2500m (maximum altitude Cameraccio 2.950 m). 

Already winner of this race and record holder before the Nepalese Bhim Gurung beat it (6h10’44 “), the star of Team Salomon ran with Alexis Sevennec for much of the race. The two raced shoulder to shoulder until the final descent, a real 2000 meters dive from Passo Barbacan to the village of San Martino. Here Kilian launched a winning attack, an attack that allowed him to cross the line in 6:09:19 beating the 06;10:44 mark set in 2016.

Alexis Sevennec 2nd in 6:11:59 was a popular favourite and rounding out the podium was Transvulcania winner, Pere Aurell in 6:20:50. 

The top ten of the day also Andre Jonsson, Leo Viret, Petter Engdahl, Andy Simonds, Cristian Minoggio, Cody Lind and Samuel Equy. With today’s success, Kilian enters right into the history of Kima joining Mario Poletti in the golden book of success.

Hillary Gerardi, did not beat the record of 7:36:21 set by Nuria Picas in 2016 but she produced an outstanding race, following up victory in Tromso. On the first descent towards Bocchetta Roma, Ragna Debats had tried to make a difference and close the gap, but Hillary was too strong. In the high altitude crossing, Hilary pulled away with a slender 5-minute lead, chased by Jasmine Paris, Brittany Peterson, Robyn Owen and Martina Valmassoi. Ragna was unfortunately suffering and dropped back.

 At the end, the South African, Robyn Owen tclosed on the leadership, but Hillary kicked and came back and won in 7:37:29. 

Second place for Robyn in 7:39:01 was a real surprise… watch out for this woman! Third was for the Nepalese Mira Rai in 7:41:46.

The American Brittany Petterson, who had been in 2nd at the midway point, and the Italian Martina Valmassoi followed to round out the top-5!

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SkyRace® Comapedrosa – Skyrunner® World Series 2018

The tiny ski-resort of Arinsal, nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic peaks, was bustling with nervous anticipation as 100’s of runners lined up to take part in the next stage of the Skyrunner® World Series, the SkyRace® Comapedrosa. 

The 22km course with a vertical ascent of over 2,000m had a top-quality line-up of Skyrunners in both the male and female fields. The most challenging part of the course in addition to very technical terrain, was the 1000-metre vertical climb over 2km to the summit of the Comapedrosa, the highest point of the course at 2,942m and also the highest peak in the principality of Andorra.

The course is extremely hard – the climbs are like vertical kilometres. There is no flat running in Comapedrosa, this course suits the vertical specialist but at the same time what comes up must come down.

Kilian Jornet and Petter Enghdal lead the male field early on as they pushed the pace, climbing hard and descending super fast. Series leader Finlay Wild chased as did Pascal Egli who was having a stunning run… He reeled in the leading duo and fought hard with Kilian before the Catalan eventually pulled away. Pascal remained in 2nd place and Petter in 3rd as they arrived at the Comapedrosa summit. Finlay was 4th.

As they started the very long descent to Arinsal, Kilian used his speed and skills to maintain his lead eventually finishing first approximately 3-minutes ahead of Pascal and Petter was an additional 3-minutes back. Kilian’s time was a new CR, however, the descent from Comapedrossa summit was different to previous editions, so, in reality it is a new CR and not a breaking of a previous CR.

In the female field, Laura Orgué’s was a pre-race favourite, especially after last-weekends victory in the Dolomites. However, Lina El Kott Helander had a different plan. She dominated the race from the front giving a solid and strong performance ahead of Laura. It may come as no surprise that Lina’s twin sister, Sanna, was in 3rd place. The El Kott twins have been a revelation in the 2018 Skyrunner World Series.

Lina pushed all the way to the line and crossed in 3:03, Laura was 2nd 3-minutes later. However, the battle for the final podium place was not predictable as last-year’s winner, Sheila Aviles fought head-to-head with Sanna. At the line it was only 2-seconds that separated them with Sanna taking the coveted 3rd place.

Provisional Race Results

Male:

1.Kilian Jornet 2:33:18

2. Pascal Egli 2:36:29

3. Petter Engdahl 2:39:12

4. Finlay Wild 2:41:34

5. Alejandro Forcades Pujol 2:42:20

Female:

1. Lina El Kott Helander 3:03:07

2. Laura Orgue 3:06:54

3. Sanna El Kott Helander 3:11:53

4. Sheila Aviles 3:11:55

5. Holly Page 3:16:19

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Episode 159 – KILIAN JORNET Bob Graham Special

Episode 159 of Talk Ultra is a Bob Graham Round special with a full and in-depth interview with Kilian Jornet. In addition, we bring you two interviews with Paul Aitken and Steve Birkinshaw who helped pace Kilian, amongst others, on this record breaking FKT.
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THE SHOW
On July 8th 2018, Kilian Jornet departed the Moot Hall, Keswick looking to break the 36-year old Billy Bland FKT for the Bob Graham Round.
You can read how the day unfolded HERE.
Kilian not only broke the ‘unbreakable’ but he set a time that was 1-hour 1-minute quicker than the previous best.
Kilian joins us to tell the story.
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00:01:44 Interview with KILIAN JORNET
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00:54:02 Interview with PAUL AITKEN
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01:10:56 Interview with STEVE BIRKINSHAW
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01:27:49 CLOSE
01:30:00
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Kilian Jornet smashes Bob Graham Round record

It all dates back to 1932 (actually earlier) when a certain Bob Graham broke the Lakeland Fell record by traversing 42 fells and peaks within a 24-hour period, he ran 23:39. The ‘round’ has since become synonymous with fell runners as a bucket list item to do.

In 1960, Alan Heaton lowered the record to 22:18 and it dropped over the years to 17:45 by Mike Nicholson in 1977. But it was in 1982 when Billy Bland stormed around in 13 hours 53 minutes that set the benchmark that stood the test of time; 36-years to be exact.

Bland’s record has been considered almost untouchable… many have tried, but the difficulty of the route, the distance the elevation gain and loss, the need for a team of helpers to run the legs and of course the weather, all must combine for a perfect storm.

In 2016, Jasmin Paris ran 15:24 and suddenly the ‘impossible’ started to look possible. Read Here

Fell runner’s looked at Paris’s run and realised that Bland’s time was possible. It was something that Bland himself agreed on. He has often stated that the record is there to be broken and he couldn’t understand why nobody had.

The route can be run clockwise or anti-clockwise and starts at the Moot Hall in Keswick.

The summits are as follows:

Skiddaw

Great Calva

Blencathra

Threlkeld *road crossing point

Clough Head

Great Dodd

Watson’s Dodd

Stybarrow Dodd

Raise

White Side

Lowerman

Helvellyn

Nethermost Pike

Dollywagon Pike

Fairfield

Seat Sandal

Dunmail Raise *road crossing point

Steel Fell

Calf Crag

High Raise

Sergeant Man

Thunacar Knott

Harrison Stickle

Pike O’ Stickle

Rossett Pike

Bowfell

Esk Pike

Great End

Ill Crag

Broad Crag

Scafell Pike

Scafell

Wasdale Campsite *road crossing point

Yewbarrow

Red Pike

Steeple

Pillar

Kirk Fell

Great Gable

Green Gable

Brandreth

Grey Knotts

Honister Pass *road crossing point

Dale Head

Hindscarth

Robinson

Moot Hall, Keswick

Kilian Jornet has always been interested in the history of running and the Bob Graham Round has certainly been on his radar for some time. However, his Summits of My Life project had most certainly been a priority ever since 2012. But in 2017, this project was complete and he was now open to new possibilities. In September he came to Scotland to race the Glen Coe Skyline, a race that he won. He had considered an attempt at the ‘Bob’ before or after, however, conditions in September were not ideal, so, the project was shelved.

In early 2018, Kilian suffered an accident in a SkiMo race, he broke his leg, this put him out of action for months. However, he dedicated himself to recovery. At times using cycling to keep aerobic fitness and then when allowed by doctors, he returned to the mountains. Not running, just doing big days with the aim of regaining mountain fitness without damaging his fragile leg.

In June, Kilian could see light at the end of the tunnel and he decided, after clearing with medical teams, to return to racing at the Monte Rosa Sky Marathon (here). In all honesty, it was the perfect return event… You see, Kilian has very much based his career around Skyrunning following in the footsteps of Giacometti, Meraldi, Brunod and De Gasperi. The event had not run for 25-years but the Monte Rosa Skymarathon was ‘the’ event that created the sport of Skyrunning. Racing in teams of two, Kilian teamed up with his partner, Emelie Forsberg and the duo created a new part of history… Emelie dictated the pace for the duo and in the process set a new FKT for Alagna-Monte Rosa- Alagna. Kilian was back?

Well, even Kilian was unsure? In his words, “Next week I run the Mont Blanc Marathon, this is a fast running race and I am just not sure how I will feel with such an effort? My leg feels good but this will be a test!”

Mont Blanc Marathon arrived one week later and amongst a world-class field, Kilian won. It was an incredible return and one that confirmed that Kilian as the supreme sportsman that he is.

What was next?

Well, in Monte Rosa, I had discussed the ‘Bob’ with Kilian and he said it was on the cards, and that he just needed the window of opportunity, the weather and the correct people in place.

Cut to early July, just day’s after Mont Blanc Marathon and Kilian arrived in the Lakes. He was on the fells and doing a recce of the route. The weather window was good and with some frantic planning, an attempt was put together.

0600, July 8th. Kilian departed the Moot Hall, Keswick on his first attempt at the Bob Graham Round.

It’s important to clarify and Kilian is the first to acknowledge this, that any record attempt on the ‘Bob’ is not possible without the right people. For clarification, to run an official Bob Graham Round you must have runners with you at all times to help pace, navigate and confirm that you reach the summits. The Bob Graham Round club are very active in helping with this process. It is allowed that these ‘pacers’ can mule for the runner.

Kilian had a line-up of pacers that are world-class, nothing else would do! Let’s face it, if the record was on, he’d need people that could not only navigate the best lines and route, but also be able to keep up! Somewhat intimidating to know that you will need to run with the best mountain runner in the world.

The route is broken down into ‘legs’ and the pacers work on certain legs and are then replaced by fresh runners for the next leg – for the pacers and navigators, it’s like a relay. For Kilian, it’s an all out run as fast as you can loop.

Kilian had stated he was going 13:25.

READ KILIAN’S RACE REPORT HERE

How it unfolded

Early reports came in that he was 6-7 minutes up on the record – I posted this around 10:20am so Kilian had already been going 4-hours.

At 11:23 I posted that Kilian was on leg 3 and had 21-minutes on Billy’s time. It was getting exciting… Temperatures were rising and Kilian had a sting of supporters.

I had reports coming in from friends on the course and I was doing my best to build a picture of Kilian’s progress. I joked that Kilian was moving so fast that by the time I had an update, it was old news.

It soon became clear that the record was not only on, but it may will be obliterated.

Kilian arrived at Dunmail with 4:30 elapsed and this placed him 30-minute UP on Billy’s record.

It was a hot day though, anything could happen…. And what about Kilian’s leg, would it hold up to the relentless fells?

At Harrison Stickle, Kilian arrived at 11:51 am with approximately 5:51 elapsed – the record was really on and excitement started to grow.

Image copyright Paul Taylor

Bowfell came at 12:45 with 6:45 elapsed. He was looking fresh and reports confirmed that he was moving well.

The pace was relentless and the support incredible.

Image copyright Fellrunningbrief and Kim Collison

Good friend and experienced fell runner, Kim Collison confirmed that Kilian was 34mins UP on the record at Scaffell Pike – history was being written on the Lakeland fells!

Social media became a frenzy of Bob Graham hashtags and by early afternoon, many began to realise history was going to be re-written, a 36-year record was going to fall barring a disaster.

The Moot Hall, Keswick soon became a new meeting point for Sunday night as runners from over the UK made the journey to welcome Kilian home.

Image copyright Amelia Hunt

Amelia Hunt confirmed that Kilian passed Yewbarrow at 14:00hrs – that placed home approximately 40-minutes up on the record.

Kilian passed Gable at 16:10hrs.

As Kilian entered a network blackout area, a lack of updates left questions on how fast he was going and then suddenly I had a confirmed report that he was approximately 45-minutes ahead of Billy’s record… was this possible? Was it possible that he could be going so fast?

Image copyright Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson ran from Grey Knotts with Kilian and confirmed he was flying “Ran from Grey Knotts with Kilian and pacers. He stopped for 2mins for food and drink and pushed on. Had a great team with him: Scoffer, Paul Aitken and Steve Birkenshaw.”

Image copyright Honister Slate Mines

Finally an update came from Honister Slate Mines at 1700 hrs +/-.

Kilian passed Dalehead at 17:26hrs and now sub13 was looking possible!

Image copyright the lakes mike

Kilian arrived at the final summit Robinson at 17:52 – the record was going down and by a big margin!

At 18:20hrs Kilian arrived on the road at Little Town and before we knew it, he was at the Moot Hall.

New record 12:52 (tbc) – 1h 01m quicker than Billy Bland – wow!

IT IS OFF THE SCALE.

Image copyright Tim Harper

In the words of @kilianj 

“Thanks Billy, I had better conditions than you, the best pacers and your inspiration to give everything! And even like that it was sooo sooo hard!!! Thanks to Carl, Chris, Martin, Josh, Jebby, Steve, Paul, Andrew, Neil, Paul and all the guys who has been helping out, without you guys it wouldn’t been possible ! Big big thanks to Martin for making it real and such an organization last minute, thanks Shane, Thanks Jordi and thanks all the people cheering on the route. This Bob Graham Round was an amazing experience!” Photo ©timharper shared from Kilian’s IG account.

As I write today, I still struggle to comprehend the speed at which Kilian completed this route and a huge credit must go to the team behind this. Kilian had the ‘best of the best’ to pace and navigate him. Without them this could not have happened. He had perfect weather, maybe a little too hot for some? And the ground conditions were ideal enabling a fast time.

Like I said, it takes a Perfect Storm for a record to happen. But Billy’s record was just beaten, it was elevated to a whole new level. Just think, Billy’s record has stood for 36-years, how long will Kilian’s stand for?

Records are made to be broken and this is one record that elevates Kilian to a whole new level and I think finally, he may well get the respect from many who have said that he is not a ‘runner!’ With this record, he has done something so special, it is a great sporting achievement that should be embraced by all. It’s not fell running, mountain running, ultra running, Skyrunning or any label, it is just running – let’s embrace it for that.

Kilian undertook this FKT attempt in the true spirit of the ‘Bob,’ *it was low-key, without grandeur, without PR, without announcement, without film crews or photographers – it was man agains the fells. It says a great deal about the man and his character, he is a true ambassador for the sport. Post his finish in Keswick, he returned to the steps of the Moot Hall and sat for a hour with the assembled fans to ‘give back’ as he chatted and posed for photos.

Sporting achievements come and go, some truly last the test of time. Billy Bland’s record stood the test of time and now we have a new level. I personally can’t foresee this record being broken for many a year? But in year’s to come, I will be able to look back at July 8 2018 and remember that I witnessed a truly great sporting achievement by a truly great man. The word legend is used a great deal, in Kilian Jornet we have a living legend.

I will be interviewing Kilian on July 10th or 11th and his interview will be on Episode 159 of Talk Ultra podcast (Here). It will also be transcribed and post as word interview on this website.

*It came to light after the event that Lymbus employed a film crew and photographers to document Kilian’s BGR. At the time off writing this was unknown to me and I think to the general public. I still stand by the fact this attempt was low-key and without fanfare. Having now interviewed several of the pacers who helped Kilian on the legs, they have also confirmed that Kilian was ‘in the true spirit’ of the Bob Graham.

Monte Rosa Skymarathon 2018 – Summary and Images

Epic, it was just epic… Monte Rosa Skymarathon lived up to the hype and delivered beyond expectations. The ‘buzz’ in Alagna after the race was incredible. ‘This is a proper Skyrunning race,’ was repeated time and time again. ‘Let’s have more of this Marino… let’s get back to the core values of the sport and yes, let’s go back 25-years!’

For Marino Giacometti, it was a dream come true. The tears in his eyes showed it…! It was here in Monte Rosa that a new sport was born 25+ years ago and today it was re-established – the sport of Skyrunning. Start low, go high and reach a summit and then return as fast as possible but not cluttered with mountaineering equipment, this sport is fast and light.

The course retraced the original route from Alagna Valsesia at 1192m via the Bocchetta delle Pisse (2396m) to the Indren cable car station (3260m). From here the route continues upwards via the Gnifetti Hut (3467m), Colle del Lys (4250m) and then the summit, the Margherita Hut at 4554m. The route re-traces all the way back to Alagna along paths, ski runs, glaciers for a 35km loop and 3490m of vertical ascent.

Teams of two, roped together to raced across moraine, snow fields and glaciers for 35 kilometres with an astonishing 7,000m ascent and descent.

Of course, any mountain adventure is at the mercy of the mountain and the weather. Today, the weather and mountain gods looked down on an Alagna and smiled; it was a perfect day!

From the gun, Franco Colle and William Boffelli dictated the pace and they looked relaxed, comfortable and in control. They were pursued by Alberto Comazzi and Cristian Minoggio, however, Colle and Boffelli were just too strong. Throughout the race they pulled away, constantly working in unison to eventually return to Alagna in 4:39:59. Comazzi and Minoggio placed 2nd but over 20-minutes later, crossing in 5:03:26.

The big news was all about Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet. Forsberg just two days previously had summited Mont Blanc in a super fast time, and now she was here, with Jornet powering up from Alagana to the summit of Monte Rosa to return in 5:03:56, just 30-seconds off 2nd overall. However, their time blew the ladies fastest time out of the water – congratulations Emelie on the new record. For Jornet, it was a return to racing after time away from the sport with injury. The duo beamed after the race, “this is the sport of Skyrunning,” said Jornet. “The ambiance here is excellent, the route is incredible, it’s just a pleasure to be here.” Emelie had set her sights on the record before the race, “I wanted the ladies fastest time and with a requirement to have two in a team, I needed someone like Kilian to allow me to run a fast pace knowing that he could keep up. I lead all day and he followed.”

Tom Owens and Andy Symonds were 4th to cross the line, the duo beaming with happiness from the experience, although Symonds did say, “I just need to be in better shape next time”

The first female duo were regular Skyrunner’s, Holly Page and Hillary Gerardi, they crossed in 5:51:32 and were 12th overall.

Ultimately though, the general consensus post race was that Marino Giacometti, the race organisation team, Alagna and Monte Rosa were the real stars of the day. It may have been a return to 25-years ago, but many feel it’s a new beginning!

IMAGES AVAILABLE HERE

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