Livigno Skymarathon 2018 | Alta Valtellina Skyrunning

Days in the mountains rarely get better. Than here in Livigno… The Livigno SkyMarathon really is a truly spectacular Skyrunning race that personifies less cloud, more sky!

Over a 34km course, the runners climbed over 2700m of vertical gain with much of the race taking place between 2500 and 3000m. Exposed mountain ridges, roped sections, via feratta an abundance of technical terrain and this course is a Skyrunner’s  dream.

Following on from Zegama-Aizkorri which took place in May, this race was always going to be exciting with valuable Migu Skyrunner World Series points available.

The day was all about Petter Engdahl, the young skier/ runner dominated the race from the front and although he had some close competition at times, he blitzed the course with an incredible performance finishing in 3:33:26 ahead of Pascal Egli 3:38:01 and David Sinclair from the USA, a surprise 3rd in 3:39:16.

The ladies’ race was a close run epic with Laura Orgue and Sheila Aviles trading blows throughout. It was touch and go who would win, eventually it was Laura 4:10:11 to 4:10:45. Elisa Desco, wife of RD Marco De Gasperi, made a great return to racing after her 2nd child to take 3rd. in 4:19:45.

The 2018 edition of the Livigno SkyMarathon was different to 2017 and therefore the times recorded this year are course records. Conditions were exceptional throughout the day with clear blue skies, sun, little to no wind and temperatures were kind until the early afternoon when they started to rise.

The talk post race was all about how incredible the course is. The opening flat miles providing a warm up before the first climb with no technicality. What follows are walls of rock with chains attached, scree slopes of rock and thin, narrow and exposed technical ridges that really place you in the sky. 

The high point of the course at 3000m in many respects brings an end to the very technical sections and then the course changes with plenty of single-track and of course climbing. The final drop from Monte Campaccio at 3007m is long with plenty of rocks and scree. The final 10km’s to the line sap the legs and mind – a Livigno finish is hard fought.

Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM 2018 – Race Preview

The 2018 Skyrunner World Series arrives in Madeira for the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira, USMfor short. It’s a 55km race with a whopping 4000m of vertical gain. Anna Frost, a regular on the island sums it up, “The place is incredible, it has diversity of nature, amazing vertical gain and of course, the sea provides stunning backdrop to amazing technical and mountainous terrain.”

 

Created specifically for the Skyrunner World Series, the USM is a serious challenge and includes tough terrain and at times, climbing expertise to grade 2 is required. The race, in many ways, is like no other race on the calendar. The sea provides an aspect rarely found in Skyrunning races as they more often than not, take place in-land, in mountainous areas. Leaving the town of Santana, the race heads into the mountains taking single-track, working a route that takes in the highest point of the island. From here, the route drops to the sea before finally climbing once again and returning to Santana for the finish. However, before the finish, runners must work their way up a river, boulder hopping; it’s a little spice to mix the racing up.

 Last year, Jon Albon won the race in style, “USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. It was relentless terrain of ups and downs; the variety is incredible, and I loved the river bed section. This race is up there with my all-time favourites. I will definitely be back!” 

For the ladies’ it was Hillary Allen who took the top honours, of course, our thoughts and best wishes go out to Hillary as she slowly but surely returns to fitness and racing after a horrific fall at Tromso SkyRace.

So, who are the 2018 contenders for victory?

One could say, that this year, the USM has the most stacked field ever in the history of the race. It’s a who’s who of the world’s best.

LADIES RACE

 Ragna Debats arguably tops the ladies’ field after her stunning victory at the World Trail Championships, add to this, a super solid 2017 season on the Skyrunning calendar, and she will be the one to beat.

Gemma Arenas has raced in Madeira before and has had great success; she won! Gemma knows the course, knows the challenges and will certainly be in the mix.

 Malene Haukoy like technical race, she as placed well in Tromso and Glencoe and the 55km of USM will suit her. One to watch for sure! 

Hillary Gerardi goes from strength-to-strength, she likes technical, she loves vert and therefore USM is made for her. Her recent success over the VK distance and top placing at Yading in China means she is in great shape.


Ekaterina Mityaeva like Hillary seems to get stronger with each race. She has just had atop placing at Transvulcania and I think it’s fair to say that the more challenging terrain of Madeira will suit her skills in contrast to the more runnable and faster, Transvulcania.

Emelie Forsberghas been away from the sport over the winter concentrating on Skimo and just this weekend will race Zegama. Zegama for Emelie, despite great success in the past may well be just a little short and fast for this early in the season, so, USM will suit her far more. She is one of the best in the business and you can never rule her out. 

Martina Valmassoi was missing for much of 2017 with injury, she is now back and recently had a victory! USM will no doubt be a push this early in the season, but Martina knows the course and has done well in the past.

Nuria Picas was always the one to beat in any Skyrunning race. In recent years, Nuria moved to the longer UTWT series and she excelled at the longer distance. In 2017 she raced Tromso and now in 2018, she runs USM for the first time. It’s Nuria Picas, so, expect something special.

Anna Mae Flynn and Brittany Peterson both raced Transvulcania and just missed the podium. It’s fair to say that USM is far more ‘European’ than Transvulcania… the trails more technical, rutted and challenging, therefore it will be interesting to see how the duo handle the change. One thing is for sure, they both know how to run, Transvulcania showed us that! 

Mira Rai would probably prefer a longer course than 55km, however, Mira is always one to watch and USM will be no different. One thing is for sure, she will smile her way around the course. 

MEN’S RACE

Jonathan Albon is the returning champ and based on his 2017 race and his overall SWS championship victory, it’s fair to say that he is the favourite for the 2018 win. His recent 4th at the World Trail Champs confirms good form and we all know he prefers technical and challenging terrain.

Dmitry Mityaev gets stronger and stronger, he did well in 2017 and just recently made the podium at Transvulcania, Dmitry will be in the mix in Madeira, for sure.

Marco De Gasperi was 4th in La Palma recently and admitted post-race that he didn’t take enough risks. This was primarily due to the races distance, he rarely races over 42km and Transvulcania’s 75km was an unknown. With USM being 55km, I think we will see a different Marco and is we all know, he is the Skyrunning master!

Pau Capell is an interesting addition to the race. He is without doubt a master over longer distances and as we saw in 2017, he can do welt Skyrunning after a top run at Transvulcania. He is a savvy and clever runner and I expect him to trade blows with the best in Madeira.

Andre Jonsson races everything and usually very consistently. He once led USM from the front only to be passed in the latter stages. I would anticipate he will have a similar tactic in 2018.

Alex Nichols i

Alex Nichols was a pioneer for American’s running in Europe on the Skyrunning circuit. In recent years he has moved to longer distances, in particular, 100-miles. He is a class act who manages to combine speed and technical ability – he is one to watch!

Cody Lind had a tough race in China with a below par performance. That will have no doubt knocked his confidence, but I think we wills him back at the front in Madeira and looking to impact on the front of the race for atop-5and maybe podium.

Franco Colle, Luis Fernandes, Daniel Jung, Armando Teixeira, Phillip Reiterand Fulvio Dapit make up the other main contenders for the male podium, it is going to be an exciting race!

Action starts on Saturday June 2nd at 0600.

 

Race website HERE

 

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Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Summary and Images

The second race of the 2018 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series kicked today on the island of La Palma (La Isla Bonita). The stunning Fuencaliente lighthouse once again providing an epic backdrop as 1000+ head-torches rushed north for a 74km journey  of tough and challenging terrain on the islands iconic GR131 route. It was a day of mixed temperatures and the Route of the Volcanoes was bathed in glorious sun as the runners broke through a cloud inversion before heading to the mist, grey and damp of El Pilar. Pushing onwards, the wind increased causing a challenging chill that resulted in many runners reaching for wind proofs. As often happens on La Palma, push through the cloud and a new weather system awaits, it was no different for the 2018 Transvulcania. Running around the Caldera to Roques de Los Muchachos, intense heat and blue skies greeted the runners all the way. Dropping back down to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto, the only thing that remained was the final challenging climb to the finish in Los Llanos.

For the ladies’ 2016 and 2017 champion and pre-race favorite Ida Nilsson lead the charge and she never really looked back. It was a strong performance.

As often happens, the chasing group can change as the brutality of the Transvulcania route takes its toll. Monica Comas from Spain placed 2nd just 6-minutes behind Ida.

The American contingent of Kelly Wolf and Brittany Peterson placed 3rd and 4th ahead of Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva, their times 8:49, 8:59 and 9:13 respectively.

The men’s race proved to be a real revelation… despite the early efforts of Cody Reed, he faded around the 20km mark and then all the main contenders and protagonists made their moves. It was a close race and the long descent to Tazacorte Puerto was always going to be decisive. Pere Aurell Bove held a lead over Dmitry Mityaev, Thibaud Garriver, Marco De Gasperi and Xavier Thevenard. For perspective, it is arguably one of the closest top-5 the race has experience, 7:37, 7:38, 7:42, 7:44 and 7:47 respectively. It is fair to say, that for Pere Aurelio, this is one of the biggest victories of his career and one that he will savour for a long time.

Image gallery available HERE

Route Summary:

Leaving Fuencalientie lighthouse, black sandy trails lead to Los Canarios. From here, the route weaves in and out of pine forests – underfoot the trails are good, at times technical but it is as the runners break the tree line that the challenging volcano sections await. The arrival of the sun provides some clarity and the push begins to El Pilar and notable marker in the race progression.

At least 5km of relatively flat and easy running follow El Pilar. It provides an opportunity for the ‘runners’ to stretch their legs and either extend or reclaim lost time. A left turn and suddenly they are climbing again, high trees with a canopy of green shelter the runners and then from El Reventon the true splendor of this mountain range is exposed with Roques de los Muchachos visible in the distance.

The harder sections of technical running around the Caldera, combined with heat and altitude provided the next challenge. From the high point, dropping 2400+m in 18km requires legs and nerves of steel. Believe me, it’s one hell of a ride. The early sections are open and the heat hits hard. Tree cover finally arrives and underfoot the single-track changes from dusty sand perpetuated with rocks to sand trail covered with a blanket of pine needles. In the latter stage pine needles giveaway to rocks and then the final zig-zag steep path to the port follows.

At Tazacorte Puerto, a short run along the beach, a technical run through a gulley and then a relentless claim all the way to the finish line in Los Llanos would decide the overall winner of the 2018 Transvulcania La Palma

Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Preview

Transvulcania is upon us! Since 2012, the race has been an ever-present in the Skyrunner World Series and now it is acclaimed the world over as a pinnacle event. Taking place on the Isla Bonita (the beautiful island) of La Palma, the race personifies the pure ethos of Skyrunning. It is a wonderfully logical race route that starts next to the sea in the south of the island and concludes on the west of the island in the town of Los Llanos. The route offers 74km’s of amazing trails, wonderful views and technical trail and some real vertical ascent (4350m) and descent (4057m) that tests the legs, lungs and mind of the most experienced runner.

Taking place on the GR131, Rute del Bastion, the route starts low and climbs and climbs into the National Park of the Caldera de Taburiente. Runners then traverse the rim to Roques de Los Muchachos before dropping over 2400m in one leg busting drop of 18km’s to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto before a final push upwards to the finish in Los Llanos.

A decade of Transvulcania and La Palma magic. In 2009, just 378 runners toed the line, in 2018, 2000 runners will embark on the majestic journey. One only has to look at past winners of the race to understand the importance of Transvulcania on the world running map – Luis Alberto Hernando Kilian Jornet, Miguel Heras, Dakota Jones, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost and the 2017 champions, Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks.

As in previous year’s the race has a stellar line-up of world-class talent and notably includes the Italian Skyrunning master, Marco De Gasperi. For Marco, this race will be a departure for him as he will arguably race one of the longest races ever in his remarkable career. He is, one of the first ever official Skyrunner’s who has pioneered and paved a way for the rest. His inclusion in the 2018 Transvulcania is an exciting prospect.

Competition will come from all sides, in particular Xavier Thevenard who comes to the race with incredible results, however, he has raced at Transvulcania before and has always seemed to just miss the performances shown at the UTMB series of events which he has dominated. Will 2018 be his year?

Zaid Ait Malek is a pure Skyrunner. He placed 3rd last year and this year may well place 2nd or take the top slot. The race is there for the taking and Zaid has all the skills to make it happen.

Jason Schlarb raced in La Palma last year and had a solid result. He knows the race now and will be finely tuned to move up the ranks and potentially break into the top-5.

Dmitry Mityaev has risen in the Skyrunning ranks over the last few year’s with a string of excellent performances. He has got better and better and it is fair to say we can expect a solid performance in La Palma. He prefers the longer distances, so, Transvulcania may well be ideal for the Russian.

Michel Lanne rarely these days but when he does, he always excels. He has won CCC and TDS and last-year had a great run in Norway at Tromso SkyRace. For me, on his day, Michel is a potential winner for Transvulcania.

Franco Colle was missing in 2017 from the Skyrunning ranks but he is back. A past winner of the Rut 50km, Franco is an experienced Skyrunner who will make his presence felt in La Palma.

With a stellar line-up, other contenders to watch are as follows:

Morgan Elliott – 2016 and 2017 Skyrunner National Series champion.

Cody Reed – 2nd Bandera 100km and winner of Mt Bachelor 50km.

Cole Watson – 1st Canyons Endurance Run 50km.

Daniel Jung – 2nd Hong Kong 100 in 2017.

Fulvio Dapit – Consistent Skyrunner with great experience. 

Pau Bartolo – 1st at Buff Epic Trail in 2017 and 1st TDS 2015.

Alfredo Gil – 8th Dolomites SkyRace.

Pere Aurell – 4th at The Rut and 3rd at Royal Gran Paradiso.

Thibaud Garrivier – 6th at OCC and Marathon du Mont-Blanc 2017.

Ivan Camps – 5th at Ultra Pirineu.

Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB and 6th at Ultra Pirineu.

Peter Kienzl – Long distance runner won won 360 Transgrancanaria.

Stephen Wassather – 1st Silver State 50 and 4th Bandera 100km

Jan Bartas – 4th Devil’s Ridge and 8th High Trail Vanoise.

Plus many more…

The ladies’ race has the 2016 and 2017 returning champion and course record holder, Ida Nilsson. In all honesty, if Ida shows any potential of her 2017 form, she will be unstoppable in 2018. She knows the course and has the speed and skills.

Ekaterina Mityaeva like her husband, Dmitry, has grown in experience and stature over the last few years and we can expect her to bring that experience to La Palma. The podium is a distinct possibility! 

Anna Mae Flynn has won Speedgoat 50km and placed 3rd at Lake Sonoma 50, two races that indicate a solid performance at Transvulcania. However, racing in Europe is always different than the US. I still think we will see something solid from this lady.

Cassie Scallon has won Bandera 100km and so we know the distance will not be an issue. In 2017 she had two notable wins at Gorge Waterfalls and Nine Trails.

Brittany Peterson has won Moab Red Hot 55km and placed 2nd at the 50km event at Run Rabbit Run. She is a slid runner with a good skill set that should transfer over to Transvulcania well.

Kelly Wolf may well be a dark horse after her recent win at Tararwera in New Zealnd. Arguably though, her 2nd at Speedgoat 50km and victory at Flagstaff SkyRace is more indicative of a good performance in La Palma.

Francesca Canepa prefers the longer distance races and although she brings a wealth of experience I believe the Italian will lack the speed required to penetrate the top 5.

Emilie Lecomte like Francesca is a long distance specialist and although she will perform well, it is unlikely she has the speed for the podium.

Meredith Edwards placed 2nd at TDS which confirms that climbing is not an issue, the question mark will be does she have the speed required to make the podium?

Eva Moreda is a solid Skyrunner who placed 5th in the 2017 Skyrunner World Series.

Ildiko Wermescher 3rd at TDS, 2nd at Swissalpine T133 and 2nd Swiss Irontrail confirms that Ildiko can run and handle the vert, however, I think Transvulcania may well be around 30km too short for a podium performance.

Laura Besseghini won the 2016 Dolomite Sky Run and in 2017 won Valmalenco Ultra Trail.

Paloma Lobera potentially could impact on the top-10 but lacks the pace or speed for the podium. She placed 8th at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2017.

Zuzana Bartasova – 7th at Trofeo Kima in 2016.

Natalia Roman – 1st Ultratrack Supramonte 2016 and 2nd Mustang Trail Race 2017.

Juan Maria Jimenez – 10th UTMB and 7th Oman Desert Marathon

Maylis Drevon – 11th Transvulcania 2017 and 2nd Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km.

Plus many more…

Race Website HERE

As a point of note, other races take place over the Transvulcania weekend:

In the marathon, a key name to watch out for is Ryan Sandes, and in the half marathon, Stian Angermund-Vik for the men and Laura Orgue for the ladies.

Action starts on Thursday with the Vertical Kilometer Transvulcania Binter starting in Tazacorte Puerto at 1700 hrs.

The main events take place on Saturday with Transvulcania starting at 0600 and it is estimated that the first finisher will arrive in Los Llanos around 1230pm.

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Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Review of 2017

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

It is a daunting task at times.

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

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

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

So, let us look at 2017.

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

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

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On a personal note to conclude:

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

INSTAGRAM here

TWITTER here

FACEBOOK PHOTOGRAPHY here FACEBOOK TALK ULTRA here

PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE here IMAGE SALES here

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

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

 

Limone Extreme 2017 Summary and Images – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

What an epic day in Italy!

The final race of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series turned out to be an epic day.

Young gun, Jan Margarit and Skyrunning legend Marco De Gasperi went head-to-head in a full-on battle as they climbed and descended in the mountains that back onto Lake Garda. It was Margarit who dictated the pace on the early climb while De Gasperi followed just a minute or so back with Aritz Egea and Peter Engdahl.

However, De Gasperi closed to Margarit and the duo ran side-by-side for much of the race pushing each other all the way beyond the 20km mark. The final descent is renowned for its punishing technical running and it was here that De Gasperi opened a small gap, reversing the result from Dolomites SkyRace earlier in the year when Margarit dropped the Italian on the final descent.

Needless to say, De Gasperi’s win on home soil not only is a popular one but it also confirms De Gasperi’s skill and perseverance in the sport. He won’t mind me saying but he is twice the age of Margarit. 

Young German runner, Stefan Knopf was around 10th place on the first climb but ran a stunning 2nd half of the race to take the final podium place ahead of Peter Engdahl.

For the ladies’ Ragna Debats laid it all on the line knowing that she could win the series with a 1st or 2nd place. On the first climb, she pushed and pushed with Laura Orgue hot on her heels. Michelle Maier followed and in 4th was the orienteering world champion, Tove Alexandersson.

As the race progressed, Debats went through a bad patch allowing Maier and Alexandersson in to the first and second slots. Despite pushing, Debats found it difficultl to find her rhythms and when she finally did it was too late, the other two had leaped ahead.

Alexandersson gave it everything and opened up a gap of 4-minutes over Maier. Pushing the pace, she took several tumbles on the final descent and as she crossed the line in Limone she collapsed – her legs cut, her feet bloody, her hands and arms damaged. It was a seriously gusty run and one that wiped her out completely. 

Maier finished 2nd and Debats 3rd.

The big question would come around who would win the series? In many respects, it was Laura Orgue’s to lose. Unfortunately, Orgue had a bad day, a very bad day for her and Sheila Aviles finished ahead of her and in the process, took the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series title. 

Limone Extreme over the years has had many an epic battle, this year was no different.

It was a confirmation of experience and an introduction to new names and new faces. Marco De Gasperi and Sheila Aviles were crowned 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series champions and now as the Skyrunner season comes to an end, everyone looks ahead to 2018 and 2019 for a new era in Skyrunning.

Less Cloud, More Sky!

The COMBINED title was won by Jonathan Albon and Maite Maiora, the two most consistent athletes over all Skyrunning disciplines in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series.

1 – Tove Alexandersson (SWE) 3h31’11”
2 – Michelle Maier (GER) 3h43’03”
3 – Ragna Debats (NED) 3h45’39”
4 – Holly Page (GBR) 3h51’46”
5 – Sheila Avilés Castaño (ESP) 3h54’20”

1 – Marco De Gasperi (ITA) 3h07’32”
2 – Jan Margarit Solé (ESP) 3h07’58”
3 – Stefan Knopf (GER) 3h10’51”
4 – Oriol Cardona Coll (ESP) 3h13’18”
5 – Petter Engdahl (SWE) 3h14’56”

Limone Extreme 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace 2017 Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

Uncompromising mountain running, ridges, scrambles, steep ascents, boggy ground and a bucket full of technical running made the 2017 Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace™ an epic race. The sodden ground was muddy and uncompromising, the weather wet and brutally cold. This race had epic written all over it and it drew comparisons with the Skyrunning classic, Zegama-Aizkorri.

The h finish line post-race was full of praise, many stating that it was a pure classic, a race they would return to and yes, one of the toughest 25km’s they have ever run! A sentiment echoed by race winner Stian Angermund-Vik who won the previous day’s Amores VK and who was the champion of the Ring of Steall in 2016

“A Tough and beautiful race. The weather was harsh today and I didn’t feel great but I rallied in the latter stages. I saw my teammate Tom Owens, he shouted encouragement at me and it spurred me on!”

Stian produced a stunning win in an incredible 3:24, a new course record. In the early stages, the race was all together with the USA’s Andy Wacker leading from the front by a small margin. He was followed though by all the favourites, Marco De Gasperi, Jan Margarit, Kiril Nikolov, Stian Angermund-Vik and many more, As the conditions took hold and the temperatures dropped dramatically with an icy wind, Angermund-Vik pulled away from the race. In-form Pascal Egli pursued and Kris Jones from Wales was paving the way for UK runners. It was all close and anything could happen. Egli held on for second in 3:26, just 1-minute later Jones finished and then young-gun Margarit finished 4th ahead of Kiril Nikolov in 5th,m their times 3:29 and 3:30.

In the ladies’ race, Laura Orgue, like Angermund-Vik, was looking for the double, VK and SKY victories. She lead the race to the top of the first climb but then lost the lead only to regain it and then pull away with a strong and convincing victory in 4:05.

“I loved this race, the terrain, the mountains and the challenge. It was a close race and I had to fight which is good. It feels very different to the other races on the SWS calendar and I think it may be my favourite – Ioved it!”

Sheila Aviles moved up from outside the top-3 as the race progressed, showing her form that gave her victory at Comapedrossa earlier in the year. Once in 2nd she stayed there and crossed the line in 4:05:51 just 40-seconds behind Orgue. The Spanish duo are now head-to-head in the SWS17 ranking with Limone Extreme in October the deciding race.

Oihana Azkorbebeitia finished 3rd, the USA’s Hillary Gerardi continued her strong streak of top performances for 4th and Maite Maiora was 5th after placing 2nd at CCC just 2-weekas ago, their times 4:15, 4:21 and 4:22.

This Skyrunning race route incorporated two lofty ridges within the Mamores, including the Devil’s Ridge, which provides a thrilling and airy traverse with Glen Nevis visible ahead.

Full results HERE

Gallery 2

Matterhorn Ultraks 2017 Race Summary – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The Matterhorn provides a stunning backdrop for Switzerland’s Matterhorn Ultraks race, a 49km Skyrunning race with 3600m of positive and negative gain. Now in it’s 5th edition, the race once again is in the Migu Run  Skyrunner® World Series.

It is a magical race that provides a circular journey that starts and concludes in the picture postcard mountain town of Zermatt with the towing Matterhorn ever-present to inspire the runners.

The day started with rain and cloud. It was an ominous beginning. But by the time the runners had reached the high-point of the course at thee Gornergrat, the rain was easing, the cloud was clearing and suddenly the sun broke through. What followed was a glorious and hot sunny day.

Whispy white clouds penetrating the blue of the sky, we all knew though that it wasn’t going to last… with 2 hours of running the sky turned grey, the rain arrived and low mist enveloped the mountains; the beautiful Matterhorn was gone!

Wild expansive space, high mountains and the 3100m Gornergrat provides the high point of the race and the first indication of how the race would play out. Marco De Gasperi was pushing the pace closely followed by Aritz Egea and Eugeni Gil.

In the ladies’ race, Ragna Debats was already dictating the race and the pace but Sheila Aviles and Laia Andreu were very close and chasing together.

A 1000m drop from the summit is broken by a small climb at Riffelalp and then Furi follows at 24km at 1880m. Two short sharp climbs follow, the first to Schwarzsee at 2583m and approximately 28km covered. Here De Gasperi was leading Gil Ocana, Anthamatten and Egea – it was all too close to call! For the ladies, Debats was still at the front, but like the men, anything could happen.

A drop down to 2200m from Schwarzsee was followed with another 500m+ climb and then what follows is mostly a flat runnable plateau that gently weaves up, down and left to right all the way to Trift. De Gasperi had taken the lead now and was flying, Gil Ocana chased but the Italian was looking too strong – he really wanted this victory, it was clear to see. Anthamatten was now in 3rd and Egea in 4th.

A short kick up of 100 to 200m follows Trift and then a fast and furious drop of almost 1000m over a distance of 6km leads to the finish line in Zermatt and the assembled crowds. De Gasperi sealed victory in a new course record, bettering Kilian Jornet’s time and this 2017 course was 1km longer – an incredible run.

Gil Ocana held on for an excellent 2nd and Anthamatten placed 3rd. Once again Egea ran an excellent 4th place.

We also witnessed the race of a rising star, Petter Engdahl who placed 5th.

Debats finally managed to open a gap in the latter stages taking a convincing victory ahead of Laia Andreu who had shadowed Debats all the way to Trift.

Aviles placed 3rd followed by Laurance Yerly and Michaela Mertova.

Skyrunning is not just about the uphill and more often than not, it’s the downhill that determines the winner. Today was all about patience and consistency. Racing is often a mental journey as much physical, De Gasperi and Debats today proved this at the Matterhorn Ultraks.

A full gallery of images are available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

all images ©iancorless.com

Results:

1. Ragna Debats (NED) 5h52’05”
2. Laia Andreu (SPA) 5h53’22”
3. Sheila Avilés Castaño (SPA) 6h00’17”
4. Laurence Yerly (SUI) 6h15’45”
5. Michaela Mertova (CZE) 6h20’36”

‪1 – Marco De Gasperi (4h42’31”)‬
‪2 – Eugeni Gil Ocaña (4h45’15”)‬
‪3 – Martin Anthamatten (4h48’59”)‬
4 – Aritz Egea (4h53’50”)
5 – Petter Engdahl (5h00’46”)

Matterhorn Ultraks 2017 Preview – Migu Run Skyrunner World Series

The stunning Matterhorn provides the backdrop for Switzerland’s Matterhorn Ultraks race, the next race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series – a 48km race with 3600m of positive and negative gain. A magical race, now in its 5th edition that provides a circular journey that starts and concludes in the picture postcard mountain town of Zermatt.

Eight out of eleven Sky Classic races have been completed and Matterhorn Ultraks counts for a 20% bonus on points, so, it is all to fight for.

Wild expansive space, high mountains and the 3100m Gornergrat provides the high point of the race where the ever present lone peak of the Matterhorn shadows the race and runners with it’s majestic beauty.

Zermatt, located 1600m above altitude provides the focal point for this high altitude race, a beautiful place steeped in history. It’s a logical start and finishing place for such an iconic race.

Renowned for its tough opening kilometres, the Matterhorn Ultraks immediately heads to the sky via Sunnegga at 2260m all the way to the high point Gornergrat at 3130m. It’s a brutal 14km to open any race and as such, those opening km’s can be decisive in who crosses the finish line first.

Aritz Egea has been on fire in 2017 and he is looking to better his 3rd place of 2015. He needs the points but it has been a long season.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered those early Skyrunning days with Giacometti in the early 90’s and he is still running head-to-head with the best in the world and matching them, he was recently pipped to the top-slot at Dolomites SkyRace and Comapedrosa.

2015 champion and designer of the course, Martin Anthamatten will be fired up for victory, especially after his recent success at the Red Bull 3000m vertical race – he is in great shape and knows the course like the back of his hand.

Jon Albon, Skyrunner World Series Extreme champion in 2016 and recent winner of the Tromso SkyRace is toeing the line here isn Switzerland. He is incredible talent but this race may well lack technicality for Albon to excel, he will be in the mix for sure, but the top-slot maybe a tough call?

 Aurelien Dunard-Pallaz had an incredible race at Ultraskymarathon Madeira – he lead the race from the front only to be passed in the latter stages by Albon. He also had a great run at High Trail Vanoise giving Luis Alberto Hernando a push all the way to the line. He has come of age in the Skyrunning Series this year and we may well see the Frenchman achieve another podium place in Switzerland.

Equally, Pere Aurell has stepped up to the plate in 2017 kicking off the season with a strong run at Yading SkyRace in China and then an excellent run at the Royal Gran Paradiso. Aurell has raced a great deal in 2017 and he may well be feeling some fatigue but he is strong and motivated.

Andre Jonsson just keeps racing and racing. He has had a gap from racing recently and we may well therefore Jonsson fresh for the Ultraks race. He is always in the mix and earlier this year he had some excellent top placings, the best coming at the Royal Gran Paradiso just 1-week after a great run at High Trail Vanoise.

Hassan Ait Chaou has always run well in Zermatt, particularly last-year when he pushed for the podium. This year his form seems a little below his 2016 levels but on this course I wouldn’t rule him out of something special on the day.

Murray Strain may well be a surprise package in the race and he will almost certainly not be on the radar of the top runners going valuable points – don’t be surprised if he makes the podium!

As always, the depth of talent in Zermatt is deep, surprises can come from anywhere, two names worth keeping an eye on are Benat Marmissolle and Marc Casal Mir.

Can anyone beat Kilian Jornet’s 2013 time of 4:43:05?

The ladies race will be an interesting one with Megan Kimmel, Stevie Kremer and Elisa Desco not racing – all ladies who have excelled in past edition, Kremer still holds the course record 5:18:43 set in 2014.

However, Ragna Debats is on fire in 2017 with a string of top results, the most recent coming in Tromso when she was just a few minutes behind Maite Maiora. Debats recovers well and I am sure she will be the lady to beat in Zermatt, the course will suit her, her run ability matches her technical and climbing ability.

Rising star Sheila Alves will have other ideas… her podium at Zegama-Aizkorri and recent victory at Comapedrosa has left her wanting more and she will almost certainly be Debats biggest rival.

Paloma Lobera and Michaela Mertova are podium contenders and then it is wide open. The potential threat from Megan Kimmel, Laura Sola, Aziber Ibarbia, Maria Zorroza and Ekaterina Mityaeva has disappeared in the last week due to injury or sickness.

The ladies race is wide open!

The 2017 edition of the race has had a slight course change adding an additional kilometre to the race, so, finish times will need to take this into consideration, particularly with course records.

The race starts 0730 on Saturday August 26th.

The Sky Classic ranking?

Five results out of eleven are counted for the final titles and end of season bonus prize for the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series category.