Ultra Race of Champions – UROC – Race Preview 2013

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All good things must come to an end and it is no different for the Skyrunner Ultra World Series. The five series long championship is four races down with just one to go. An incredible start on the island of La Palma with Transvulcania La Palma and victories for Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg was followed with the tough and challenging 100-mile, Ronda dels Cims seeing Julien Chorier and Francesca Canepa shine. Ice Trail Tarentaise in Val D’Isère tested all with altitude, snow and ice and once again saw the ever present and dominant duo of Kilian and Emelie take convincing victories. Speedgoat 50k in Utah saw and impressive course record by Sage Canaday and a ladies victory by Steph Howe.

So with one race left. It’s all to fight for. Arguably one of the most impressive fields of 2013 will line up in Vail, Colorado for the 100-km, Ultra Race of Champions (UROC). The fifth and final event will not only see two champions from the race but also two Skyrunner Ultra World Series champions crowned (three events for five award points).

Let’s be clear, UROC is not a 100-km world championship race it is merely the final race in the Skyrunning ‘ULTRA’ world series and is such will be a decisive race in both the men’s and ladies overall classification.

UROC sees the race as a championship event for the sport of ultra distance running.  This, I believe is a title they have imposed on themselves, for sure, they have a great line up and without doubt, the concept of an ultra race of champions rings true! The objective is to bring together annually the year’s best ultra runners in the first ever ‘formal’ ultra running championship event, but at the same time has the appeal of being open to one and all. It’s an admiral claim and one that ambassadors of the sport would seem at least in principal, to agree with.

“There is a growing demand for a trail ultra running event that celebrates and encourages as many top level runners as possible to come together on the same trail, on the same day, to compete in a true championship style race. In UROC, I think we finally have an event with a desire and a commitment to meet this demand. I can’t wait to toe the line in September with the field of elite runners this race draws.”Geoff Roes, UROC 2011 Champions, UROC Elite Advisory Council Member, Two Time Ultra Runner of the Year.

“UROC is an amazing opportunity for the best in the ultra running sport to test themselves on a course that favors no one. May the best all around runner win.”Max King 

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Of course, as ultra sport progresses, the desire for prize money progresses and UROC is do different. It has a very healthy set of cash prices available. The cash reward system is something that Skyrunning have had in place for some time and not only are prices award by the ISF at every Skyrunning race (VK, Sky and Ultra) they also award cash prices for the respective world champions, in each Skyrunning category.

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Cash Purse: (awarded by UROC)

Champions Male/Female:    $5000.00

Runner Up Male/Female:    $2000.00

Third Place Male/Female:    $1500.00

Fourth Place Male/Female:  $1000.00

Fifth Place Male/Female:     $500.00

Other Race Premiums will include $250 King/Queen of the Mountain, $250 First Male/Female to Copper MT Ski Area and $250 for the Winners of the Corporate Cup Challenge 

The course in detail (please note, the 2013 route is a ‘new’ route)

Overall Distance:  100K

Course Type:  Point-to-Point

Course details:

  • Section One (Mile 0 to Mile 13): Start in Breckenridge- Elevation 9600 feet.  The race travels toward Peak 8 to an elevation of 11,000 feet.
  • Section Two (Mile 13 to Mile 27):  Breckenridge to Frisco- Elevation 9100 feet.  The race travels over Ten-Mile range at an elevation of 12,408 feet on the Colorado trail between Peaks 5 & 6.
  • Section Three (Mile 27 to Mile 40): Frisco to Copper Mountain Ski Area- Elevation 9712 feet.  The race travels over Vail Pass at an elevation of 10,622 feet.
  • Section Four (Mile 40 to Mile 45):  Copper Mountain to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain at 9170 feet to Minturn, CO at an elevation of 7,861 feet.
  • Section Five (Mile 45 to Mile 51):  Minturn to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Minturn to Vail Mountain on the Game Creek Trail.
  • Section Six (Mile 51 to Mile 62):  Vail Mountain to Vail Village- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain to Vail Village at an elevation of 8150 feet.

Estimated Total Vertical Gain:  13,245 feet

Elevation loss:   12,379  feet

Maximum altitude: 12,408 feet or 3782 meters at the Ten Mile Pass between Peak 5 and Peak 6

Percent of paved road: 19%

Technical Features: The Ultra Race of Champions crosses 4 passes or peaks above 12,140 feet or 3700 meters.

Aid Stations: 9

Time Limit: 19 hours 30 minutes

Interactive Route Maphttp://www.mapmyrun.com/us/breckenridge-co/uroc-vail-2013-route-112588745

Content taken from UROC website ©

THE 2013 RACE

Stacked! It’s a word we have used multiple times in 2013 but if ever a race was stacked, it’s the 2013 edition of UROC. In the men’s race I have thirty-two names of note! Yes, thirty-two.

  • Max King
  • Dave Mackey
  • Sage Canaday
  • Anton Krupicka (not racing due to injury)
  • Dakota Jones
  • Cameron Clayton
  • Mick Donges
  • Rickey Gates
  • Pablo Crado Toca
  • Gustavo Reyes
  • Mike Wardian
  • Luke Nelson
  • Matt Flaherty
  • Trent Briney
  • Dylan Bowman
  • Troy Howard
  • Duncan Callahan
  • Ty Draney
  • Karl Meltzer (not racing)
  • Adam Campbell (not racing)
  • Paul Terranova
  • Josh Arthur
  • Ryan Burch
  • Gary Gellin
  • Michael Versteeg
  • Justin Ricks
  • Brian Tinder
  • James Walsh
  • Mike Wolfe
  • Joe Grant (possibility of not racing tbc)
  • Martin Gafurri
  • Rob Krar
  • Kilian Jornet

For the ladies race it is an equally impressive field with fifteen names that stand out and shine,

  • Tina Lewis (not racing)
  • Francesca Canepa
  • Kristina Folcik
  • Shannon Price
  • Jen Benna
  • Ashley Arnold
  • Helen Cospolitch
  • Michele Yates
  • Devon Yanko
  • Darcy Africa
  • Tracy Hoeg
  • Anita Ortiz
  • Fernanda Maciel
  • Steph Howe
  • Emelie Forsberg
  • Kerrie Bruxvoort

It would be quite possible to look at the lists above and say, take a pick. Anyone of the listed runners on the right day could come away with victory.

As with all previews, I have to put my neck on the line and look at the likely contenders.

Males

Kilian Jornet has gone from strength to strength and just never really seems to have a bad day. His list of results and achievements in 2013 is second to none. Not only is he performing at the highest-level at all three disciplines in the Skyrunning calendar (VK, Sky and Ultra) but he is also setting record in his ‘Summits’ project. In actual fact, as I write this he is in Russia for an attempt at Mt Elbrus. So, how will Kilian perform at UROC? He will be at the front, pushing and without doubt will be highly competitive. Can he win? Of course, it’s Kilian. However, the lack of really high mountains, technical terrain and 19% of road will not play to the Catalans abilities.

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

If ever a course was made for Sage Canaday, this course is probably it. The mixture of trail, road and climbing ticks all the right boxes and we all know after a disappointing performance at Sierre-Zinal, Sage took some rest and has been extremely focused on performing in Vail. Add to this his win and course record at Speedgoat 50k and a top placing at Transvulcania; Sage is also in a great place for the overall Skyrunning World Series title.

Previous winner of UROC, Max King will be looking to repeat his 2012 performance. A world mountain running champion and 2:15 ‘ish’ marathon runner, Max, like Sage has the ability to win once again. However, he is mixed things up in 2013 and he is short on racing long. UROC at 100-km may just be a little too long?

Rob Krar until recently was relatively unknown, however his FKT at the rim-to -rim-to rim rectified that. Having secured a place at Western States at a previous race he went to his first 100-miler with respect. At the finish, he had placed top three and in doing so is now without doubt a one-to-watch. For sure, the 100-km distance will suit all aspects of Krar’s running abilities and he won’t mind 19% of road too… his background is well established in road running.

Dakota Jones recently pulled out of TNFUTMB and has been pretty quiet in 2013. However, if Dakota is turning up, you can guarantee he is running to win. Nobody would question that Dakota may very well be standing on top of the podium come the 28th.

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will love the UROC course and as per usual he will be fired up and ready to race. He loves to push hard from the start and hold on. If he does this it at UROC, he will have no shortage of followers. However, the secret is to keep at the front! Cameron’s recent races have been a little mixed and he was nursing a foot problem. He came through Matterhorn Ultraks well and that must bode well for UROC.

Rickey Gates has already had a full season of racing and travelling. He is always a consistent top ten performer and as he has shown in Europe this year, he has had great results in France and Italy on some tough and technical European mountains.

Matt Flaherty has performed real well over 50m with a win at American River 50, fourth at Ice Age Trail and second at Cayuga Trail in June. He has been relatively quiet since then so maybe UROC is his ‘A’ race?

Dylan Bowman had a great Western States finishing just behind Ian Sharman; however, just recently he had to pull out of TNFUTMB with injury. The question mark for Dylan will be if he has the form after some time off.

Finally, Mike Wolfe. Wolfepaw is back, his FKT on the John Muir Trail with Hal Koerner was a great run. But turning up at TNFUTMB with all that running and time in his legs was just too much and he dropped relatively early on. With some RnR post Chamonix; with luck Mike will be fit and firing on all cylinders in Colorado.

I could go on… just look at the list above. So many names to choose from and so many could be in this preview, Mike Wardian for one has been a podium finisher at UROC before, don’t rule him out.

Ladies

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg has been dominant in 2013. Her performances and her ability over multiple distances and terrain are second to none. However, UROC will be her first 100km race, this will provide a new challenge for Emelie. Like Kilian, this course may well prove to be lacking altitude and technicality but Emelie does like to run fast, just as she proved at San Francisco last December.

Devon Yanko (Crosby-Helms) has had a quiet 2013, her only significant result was second at Chuckanut 50k. She has started a bakery and apparently that is the priority. But I am sure she will be coming to UROC with a win in mind. To be honest, Devon may well pull it off. She is a great marathon runner and the 100km distance suits her (4th at Comrades in 2012).  The road section will allow her to push and that may very well be all she needs to make a decisive move. Her list of results is impressive, very impressive.

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa has had quite a 2013. With a win at Ronda dels Cims, top placing at Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently a return win at the super tough, 330km, Tor des Geants. UROC for sure will be too fast and not hard enough for Francesca; she also may very well be just a little tired!

Helen Cospolich is a three times finisher at TNFUTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th so she packs endurance punch. She recently returned to Mont Blanc but had to drop through illness. She has recently been training on the UROC course and has now covered the whole route; without doubt, Helen will be looking to put TNFUTMB behind her with a podium in Vail. In 2013 she already has had a string of top placing’s, second at Desert Rats, third at Miwok 60km, second at Silver Rush 50m and finally third at Power of Four 50km in early August.

Darcy Africa once again has had a string of top three places in 2013. At Telluride she placed second, second at Squaw Peak 50, third at Coyote Cohorts Backbone 68m but importantly she has won at Hardrock 100 (again) and Miwok 60km. Darcy has a little of everything and on her day could win at UROC.

Steph Howe has had two great results in 2013, victories at Speedgoat 50k and Gorge Waterfalls 50k. The big question mark comes if she can take that speed to double the distance?

Kristina Folcik will be smiling all the way around UROC that is for sure. She had a great race at Cayuga and will hope to bring that winning form to this race. She says on her blog (dangergirldh.com) that she is, ‘an ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life’.

Ashley Arnold placed 16th at Leadville 100 (won the ladies race) recently and 15th at White River 50m; so, one would think that she currently has the form to contend the podium. Ashley is certainly more consistent over the 50k and 50m distance so the 100km may just be a stretch for her considering the speed that this race will be run. Leadville is a very different race to UROC.

Kerrie Bruxvoort placed 1st at Run Rabbit Run 50 on Sept 13th so she must come to UROC a little tired and jaded. Earlier this year she placed 16th at Western States so that contrast between the two races is high. Despite this contrast, Kerrie has won Quad Rock 50 and Zane Grey this year, so, the 50m distance is her forte, can she stretch out her performance for those other twelve miles.

Tracy Hoeg has had a quiet 2013 but in 2012 she had repeated success over 50km and 50m with a fourth, two third places, a second place and a win. As far as I know, her results beyond 50-miles are sparse, so Tracy comes to UROC a relative potential dark horse.

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel has been racing a lot in 2013 but she has been plagued with a few niggles. At the CCC she was having a great race but an old injury flared up causing her to drop. Certainly longer races suit her but this may just not be technical enough.

Finally, Anita Ortiz, Speedgoat winner from 2008 will join UROC. She has quite a pedigree but it is almost impossible to say what her current form is like. She has been a US Mountain Running Champion several times, won Western States and she has also won Pikes Peak, so, she has a great mix of endurance, speed and altitude adaptation; she may be a surprise on the day!

One thing is for sure, UROC will certainly be an exciting race and great way to end the Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

Links:

UROC website HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Tarawera update

Tarawera logo

Locals Vajin Armstrong, Brendan Davies and Mick Donges had spent a summer preparing for what was almost certainly the most high profile race to have been staged in this part of the world.

Vajin Armstrong had been doing some crazy mileage in training each week (over 200k) in the build up to the event and was most definitely fired up to take the race to the ‘Yanks’. Fast man Brendan Davies was equally fired up and on paper certainly had the potential to give Sage and Timmy a race. Mick Donges as the 2012 winner of the race had some added pressure on his shoulders but he was in shape.

Sage Canaday was coming into this race as a relative newbie. His progression from a 2:16 marathon runner into one of the best ultra runners in the world (up to 100k) is nothing short of miraculous. He showed incredible strength in 2012 with some stunning wins and he showed this form had carried over to 2013 with a great win and course record at Bandera 100k.

Timmy Olson on the other hand had most definitely kicked back after Western States and had enjoyed getting married and was relishing the birth of his son. He also started the year at Bandera but raced the 50k. Although winning the event, his time was slower than Sages’ split time for the distance. However post Bandera Timmy had knuckled down and pre Tarawewra had stated he had had some great training and was ‘in shape’.

Race Day

Fast is probably the easiest way to describe it. Brendan Davies set an early pace that almost seemed like suicide. He was either in the shape of his life and was going to teach everyone else in the race a lesson or he was going to crash and burn. Ultimately it turned out to be neither. He most certainly dominated the race over the opening 20km by gaining a 1 minute lead but had to ease back as Sage took over the race and by the 45km mark, Sage was pulling away from a chasing Brendan Davies and Vajin Armstrong  with Timmy Olson and Mick Donges following.

At 40km Sage had a 6/7 minute lead and he then seemed to turn the after burners on. He just seemed to be getting faster and faster. At half way he had a 12 minute lead and in reality we looked back into the field and had to decide who was likely to take 2nd place.

Timmy Olson took over the reins at the front of the chasers and started to move away from Vajin Armstrong. It now seemed that Brendan Davies was paying for that first 20km’s and Mick Donges now in 5th was heard saying “I am saving myself for the final 15km”.

Feedback in the latter stages of the race became sporadic due the difficulty with comms. I had been told at one point that Sage had a 20 min lead. I had just posted on Facebook that I expected Sage to finish in approximately 10 min and Bryon Powell from iRunFar tweeted that Sage was in the final 2/3km.

But then the shocker…. a following tweet saying Timmy was only 2/3 min behind. Really? Had Timmy closed that gap?

Sage went on to say after the race “yeah, I went a little too fast in the middle and it almost got me in the end!”

Sage held on and crossed the line in 8:53:30 managing to avoid a sprint finish.

Timmy really had paced himself perfectly and to be honest, if the race had been a little longer he may very well have taken the win. But hey, the finish line is where it is and he crossed it in 8:56:45. I am still not sure of what the gap between the two front men stretched too but 12 mins or 20 mins, Timmy did a great job of closing down.

Vajin Armstrong took the final slot on the podium in 9:39:45 and was followed by Brendan Davies in 9:51:50 and Mick Donges in 9:59:47.

In the ladies race pre race favourite Ruby Muir absolutely dominated a small field and led from start to finish. New to the 100km distance she showed experience beyond her years. My pre race prediction that she would be doing some ‘chicking’ while out on the course came to fruision. She crossed the line winning the ladies race in 10:30:07. Her time was fast enough for a 7th overall. Impressive.

At the time of writing updates on the remaining ladies have been sporadic but Beth Cardelli a certainly looked likely to be taking a podium slot.

Update ladies result

2nd Beth Cardelli  : 11:43:56

3rd Kelly Harrington : 14:23:56

4th Raewynne Blommerde  14:35:55

5th Kate Townsley : 15:54:13

We must remember that other races did take place, a 60km and 85km event. Notable interest for these events are the relay pairings of Francois d’Haene and Emelie Forsberg going head-to-head against Rickey Gates and Anna Frost in the 85km. Also, Salomon Team manager, Greg Vollet was racing in the 60km.

It’s TARAWERA time

“The quality of the field is amazing,” says Charteris, with a grin. “The 2013 Tarawera Ultra will be the most competitive long distance running event in New Zealand since the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon.” Paul Charteris, RD

I shouldn’t say it but I guess I must, I am starting with a negative. After some serious smack down talk just months ago, Anton Krupicka has pulled out of the Tarawera race. This is not breaking news, he actually stated this on his blog a couple of weeks ago but it is sad news for the race and for Anton.

“I decided over a week ago to not make the trip down to New Zealand for the Tarawera 100K in 10 days, and despite my hip showing significant improvement I know it was the right choice. I’ve done no long runs of any type since December and don’t have any desire to travel all that way to muddle through 62 miles with poor fitness and a very likely chance of re-injuring myself”

However a race will go ahead and the missing Anton just means one less name in a stacked field. The European contingent of Francois d”Haene, Emelie Forsberg, Greg Vollet will not mix it up in the ‘main event’. Francois announced at the press conference that he stepped down to the 80km relay and would partner Emelie Forsberg. That will mean that the Francois/Emelie show will be going head-to-head against Salomon teammates Rickey Gates and Anna Frost.

The Main Event

As announced earlier in the week, the main race is now even tougher as the course has had some modifications due to fire risk. You can read the post HERE.

The Men

Ultimately, particularly in the mens race race it is the Southern Hemisphere against the USA. The USA have three top representatives toeing the line in the land of the Hobbits.

Timothy Olson, Jason Schlarb and Sage Canaday.

Sage Canaday, of Boulder, raises his hands in victory, after winning the 52nd running of The Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, with an official time of 58:27, in Pinkham Notch, NH, on June 16th, 2012. 1,200 runners raced up the 7.6 mile Mo

Without doubt, my hot tip is Sage Canaday. Sage throws some freakish speed into the mix. A 2:16 marathoner, he has recently switched to ultra distance racing and became the United States 100km trail champion. He started 2013 by running a stunning course record at Bandera 100k in 8:13:49. His marathon training background and natural speed make him a danger on any course. He may not be used to high mountains but Tarawera will suit him. You can listen to an interview with Sage Canaday on Talk Ultra episode 27.

Timothy Olson needs no introduction after his incredible run at Western States in 2012. Married life and the birth of his son saw him take a more relaxed approach to 2012 and he too started 2013 by running at Bandera but in the shorter 50km race. Although he won that race his pace was casual. It was very much a ‘getting into a new year run’. Since then he has put in the miles and has knuckled down and says he is in good shape. He is without doubt a contender for the podium but I can’t help but think his passions and motivations will be concentrated on Western States and the UTMB. It is still very early in the year for him.

In contrast, Jason Schlarb looks ready for this race. He has spent several months in the Southern Hemisphere preparing so he is going to feel relaxed and adapted. Unlike Sage and Timmy who are really only just starting a racing season, Jason is in the thick of it. This will play into his hands. He has the speed to be up a the front and with Sage and Timmy taking the limelight he may just slip under the radar and take many by surprise.

With USA contingent covered we now look at the Southern Hemisphere.

Vajin Armstrong, Brendan Davies, Mick Donges and Dave Eadie.

My tip here would be Brendan Davies. Brendan really is super focused on this event. Like Sage he brings a real speed element to the race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two battling at the front for much of the day. I interviewed Brendan for episode 23 Talk Ultra and you can listen to that HERE. Brendan has recently run a 3:16 50k at Stromlo and he is a top 100k runner.

Mick Donges comes to this race with some pressure on his shoulders as last years winner. I spent time with Mick in 2012 in and around Sierre Zinal and UTMB. He is certainly a talent and he has the speed to go with it. However, pressure and the big occasion can seem to affect him. They don’t get any bigger that Tarawera this year so how will he hold up? Mick ran the famous six foot track marathon just last weekend (was that a good idea?) in 3:35.

Vajin Armstrong wants this race. I actually really think he had focused his mind on taking on Anton after the ‘smack down’ talk months ago and as such has been doing some really heavy training. He won the 2012 Kepler Challenge in 4:55:24 and like Brendan he will be pushing for the win or at least, the podium.

Finally Dave Eadie is without doubt a quality runner but I don’t think he will be in the mix for the podium. No disrespect for Dave (honestly Dave). He has done it all… just last year he was at Badwater crushing out those 135 miles in the soaring heat. He has run Western States and has been a multiple 100k champ. He will go out strong and hope he can hold on.

Who do I predict? Sage Canaday. To be honest, I think he will run hard and smash it. Lets just hope he doesn’t go off course.

The Women

I guess with Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg taking some spice out of the ladies race by running the relay we have four who will fight for the podium.

Ruby Muir, Candice Burt, Shona Stephenson and Beth Cardelli.

“The ultra-racing world is keen to see how 21-year-old Barefoot Inc sponsored, Ruby Muir from Napier will handle the distance”, says Charteris. “She’s unbeaten – including winning her first ever ultra distance run when she stormed away from the field at the 2012 60k Kepler Challenge in Te Anau.”

Tarawera Logo

Beth Cardelli won the last eight events she entered in her home country. That is impressive! She was Australia’s ultra athlete of the year but having had some recent injury issues it does look like her emphasis will be on a good consistent run to lay a foundation for racing some of the 2013 Skyrunning calendar.

Shona Stephenson, like Cardelli had a really impressive 2012. She has recently won a 50km in Victoria but I don’t see her beating Ruby Muir.

Finally, Candice Burt placed 3rd at Hurt 100 and she also had a top 3 placing at the Tahoe Rim Trail. She most certainly has the endurance but does she have the speed. It may very well be that if Beth Cardelli really is not in perfect form that Candice can take that 3rd podium slot or maybe even the 2nd if she has a great day.

Who do I predict? Ruby Muir. She is new to the 100k distance but I think she will lead this race out and may very well ‘chick’ a few guys in the process.

Interviews are available on Talk Ultra as listed below:

  • Brendan Davies episode 23 HERE
  • Timothy Olson episode 12 HERE
  • Anton Krupicka episode 19 HERE
  • Anna Frost episode 3 and 9 HERE & HERE
  • Emelie Forsberg episode 28 HERE

“It’s like organising a local bicycle race and having half of the Tour de France peloton show up for the ride,” says Charteris, as he scoped out a section of the course in Rotorua’s world-renowned Whakarewarewa Forest. “It’s humbling – and frankly, scary.”

  • Race coverage will come from ULTRA168 and iRUNFAR and I will help spread what they provide via Talk Ultra
  • Race website HERE
  • Results will be available HERE

Tarawera Ultramarathon

Tarawera trails set for world-class endurance test on March 16 2013

Tarawera Logo

It’s a ridiculously long-distance running race on some of the most beautiful trails in New Zealand’s North Island.

The 100 kilometre Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon will be run on the magnificent bush tracks and forestry roads from Rotorua to Kawerau on Saturday March 16.

One of the world’s toughest endurance running races, it’s the brainchild of Paul Charteris. The Rotorua event organiser launched ‘the Tarawera’ 5 years ago and for many of the world’s best off-road distance runners, it has quickly become a ‘must-do’.

“The quality of the field is amazing,” says Charteris, with a grin. “The 2013 Tarawera Ultra will be the most competitive long distance running event in New Zealand since the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon.”

It’s a bold claim.
“The race sold out months ago and the 430-strong field is stacked with the world’s best,” says Charteris to back this up. “The winners of nearly every major international ultra marathon race will be on the start-line.”

A lot of top Kiwi runners will also be in the field, defending local honour.

“The ultra-racing world is keen to see how 21-year-old Barefoot Inc sponsored, Ruby Muir from Napier will handle the distance”, continues Charteris. “She’s unbeaten – including winning her first ever ultra distance run when she stormed away from the field at the 2012 60k Kepler Challenge in Te Anau.”

Muir is expected to receive stiff competition from Dunedin’s Anna Frost, widely regarded as the top female trail runner in the world last year. Frost’s Salomon Racing teammates, Emelie Forsberg from Sweden and Candice Burt from the United States will also be on the start line, along with Australia’s Beth Cardelli.

Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

Cardelli won the last eight events she entered in her home country.

The top of the men’s field is a fleet-footed freight train of long-distance talent.

Mick Donges from Katoomba Australia is back to defend his 2012 Tarawera title against Christchurch’s Vajin Armstrong. The Kiwi finished second over the 100km distance the past two years and is keen to go one better.

Colorado-based runner Anton Krupicka, who ran a relay leg at Tarawera last year, has already fired a warning shot, posting online that he’s coming back to New Zealand for the win.

“This year, I’m looking forward to the technical trail between Humphries Bay and Tarawera Falls most of all,” says Krupicka. “The whole section from Okataina Lodge to the Falls will definitely be a highlight of the day, especially cruising at race pace.”

Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

UPDATE* on Anton Krupicka posted on his blog site:

“I decided over a week ago to not make the trip down to New Zealand for the Tarawera 100K in 10 days, and despite my hip showing significant improvement I know it was the right choice. I’ve done no long runs of any type since December and don’t have any desire to travel all that way to muddle through 62 miles with poor fitness and a very likely chance of re-injuring myself”

Other top runners to watch will be Brendan Davies, Australia’s ultra runner of the year and Timothy Olson, Jason Schlarb, Rickey Gates and Sage Canaday from the United States. France’s Francios D’haene and Greg Vollet lead the European contingent.

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Interviews are available on Talk Ultra as listed below:

  • Brendan Davies episode 23
  • Timothy Olson episode 12
  • Anton Krupicka episode 19
  • Anna Frost episode 3 and 9
  • Emelie Forsberg episode 28 (future show)

Olson and D’haene won the two biggest races in the world during 2012. Olson won the Western States 100-mile endurance run in California in record time and
D’haene won the coveted Ultra Trail Mont Blanc title in his home country, with over 2000 runners in the field.

Canaday throws some freakish speed into the mix. A 2:16 marathoner, he has recently switched to ultra distance racing and became the United States 100km trail champion just last week. You can listen to an interview with Sage Canaday on Talk Ultra episode 27.

For Race Director, Charteris, it’s been a dizzying few weeks.

“It’s like organising a local bicycle race and having half of the Tour de France peloton show up for the ride,” says Charteris, as he scoped out a section of the course in Rotorua’s world-renowned Whakarewarewa Forest. “It’s humbling – and frankly, scary.”

Rotorua is renowned for hosting a number of international sporting events.

In 2006 the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championship were in Rotorua and the Single Speed World Champs were held in the Whakarewarewa Forest in 2010.

On race day, running shoes will replace wheels on many of the same trails.
“A beautiful environment and superb athletes – it really is a recipe for a fabulous day of racing,” enthuses Charteris.

“And with this sort of fierce competition, there will be a large national and international media following for this race. It will be a big week for the region.”

UTMB pre race

With just over 24 hours to go to the 2012 TNF UTMB here is just a quick look at some of the contenders for this year’s race.

One important factor is the weather!

The race organisers have been tweeting, texting and posting as much as they can about the severe weather that is predicted over the race weekend. It would now appear that a ‘mandatory’ 4 layers of clothing will be required.

Forget being lightweight! Finishing anyone of the races this year in Chamonix may very well come down to how good your kit is.

Australian, Mick Donges has just posted a last minute blog and writes:

The forecast is snow down to 1800m, temperatures on the high mountain passes are -10 degrees and they are saying 4 layers of clothing is necessary. They are predicting severe and dangerous weather.”

Will the course be shortened I guess may very well be one big question. My gut reaction is no! Lessons have been learnt from previous years and I think the process of ‘pre-warning’ via text, email and social media is all in attempt to ensure that all participants are prepared. The 2010 shortened race made the UTMB organisation re look at mandatory kit and increase what was required for 2011 and 2012. It would appear that they are now ‘adding’ to this kit pre race to compensate for worsening conditions. Having said that, safety is paramount and should conditions become extremely dangerous I am sure they will have no issue in ‘pulling the plug’ and I agree and support that.

The LADIES

Firstly, Ellie Greenwood has moved down from the UTMB to the CCC and I predict a win for her! The terrain on this course may not be what she is used too but the cold and snow is something she is well practiced in and actually I think she may even welcome it!

Krissy Moehl is the course record holder and loves the UTMB but she has had a busy year with Western States, Hardrock and mow UTMB. She knows what is needed on this course and she has the invaluable experience. If she is fresh she will be up at the front with Lizzy Hawker.

Amy Sproston has placed well at Western States but UTMB is a whole new ball game for the 100k-world champ and I have to say she may well be in for a surprise.

Rory Bosio is another achiever at Western States but as was shown last year in the men’s race, UTMB is not Western States! I think Rory may be up at the front but not contending with my ladies prediction…

Lizzy Hawker loves the course and I wouldn’t bet against her. I spoke to her at Sierre Zinal and she was racking the training and was running the UTMB course in 2 days as ‘training’. She has some issues with her back but even with this issue, the mountains are her playground and she will take the win barring disaster.

Emma Rocca from Spain is maybe a little more suited to the UTMB as she has a multi-sport background and is a ski mountaineer.

Katia Fori from Italy has been top 10 at UTMB before and will once again contend.

Finally, Meghan Arbogast will toe the line. Another great 100k runner, Western States finisher and 2nd at KFK50 but as I keep saying… UTMB is nothing like those races and I can’t help but think the terrain and cold weather will play against the American field

The MEN

Dave Mackey has moved down to the CCC and Mike Wardian is out of the race due to a stress fracture. To be honest I don’t think either of those removals will make any difference to the UTMB outcome. Both are great runners but not in contention on this course.

With Kilian Jornet not taking part (or will he?) the field this year is maybe a little more open.

Jez Bragg after winning the shortened race in 2010 hasn’t fulfilled his potential but this may be his year. He didn’t race as he wanted at Western States but that may well have been a good training run for the UTMB. He is super motivated.

Seb Chaigneau after 3rd last year told me that this may be his last UTMB but he recently had a bad accident and damaged his knee. He will start the race but who knows what implications this will have, He knows the mountains, he knows the course and he is tough. If the knee causes no problems he will be up at the front.

Julian Chorier is the hot tip. He is in great form and meticulous in prep for the big races. With the Salomon Team behind him they will be going into this race with a plan. A plan to win.

Other Salomon athletes such as Iker Karrera who placed 2nd in 2011 will also be chomping at the bit and we may well see Chorier, Karrera and Francois d’Haene all running together to help each other along until the latter more decisive stages. Francois d’Haene has a good year this year and he will be in the top 10 if all goes well.

Nemeth Csaba from Hungary placed 4th last year and knows the race well. He has finished multiple times in the top 10 and I guess he only needs a ‘perfect’ year to move onto the podium or take the win. He did after all finish 2nd in 2006.

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Carlos Sa and Patrick Bohard all paced top 10 in 2011 and return to the 2012 race. Although Kaburaki finished behind Sa and Bohard you can’t help but think a good race will move him up the field and place him top 5. In 2009 he was on the podium in 3rd and the previous year he was 4th.

Jonas Buud from Sweden is super quick and his 100m-world record of 12:32 confirms that. But just like Ian Sharman, this speed doesn’t translate to the high mountains. He has won the Swiss Alpine Marathon though. He may make top 10 but not top 3.

I am still uncertain if Miguel Heras is running. If he is he will be up at the front and may well take the win but he has had a mixed year. My outsiders are a couple of Aussie – Jim Villiers and Clarke McClymont. Clarke is running the race for the first time but having met him, chatted and discussed him with a close friend he may just create a surprise…

I will be in Chamonix over the race weekend and provide updates and news as and when I can.

Without doubt an interest race lies ahead.

Sierre Zinal

Marco De Gasperi will be at the start line of Sunday’s Course de Sierre Zinal again, defending last year’s win. Without sparring partner Kilian Jornet the race still has plenty of competition coming from Britain’s Tom Owens, Spaniards Luis Alberto Hernando and Tofol Castanyer as well as Portugal’s Cesar Costa, second last year, together with a host of super-strong contenders from various countries.

After several months layoff for health reasons, De Gasperi will again take up the challenge – minus Jornet who is training at altitude in the US for the Pikes Peak Marathon, next on the World Series calendar. De Gasperi’s time last year, 2h30’18” was just 98 seconds short of Jonathan Wyatt’s long standing record set in 2003.

Hernando, heading the World Series ranking, could possibly be feeling the strain of a very successful and intensive season’s racing, including the recent SkyGames® combined title.  Owens, ranked third, fresh from his second place at Giir di Mont, may find the race a little short for his liking, while Castanyer, Giir di Mont winner, will no doubt prefer the 31 km distance – which boasts 2,200m elevation gain.

Aiming for a podium place will also be twenty-two-year-old new entry Mattheo Jacquemoud from France together with fellow countrymen Michel Rabat, Eric Clavery, and Yann Curien, Joe Gray and John Tribbia from America, Italy’s Nicola GolinelliSaul-Antonio Padua from Columbia, following in his father’s footsteps   Dimitris Theodorakakos, Greece, Britons Joe Symonds (brother of Andy) and Robbie Simpson

2011Winner Oihana Kortazar

In the robust women’s field it looks like Spain and France will dominate the podium with Oihana Koratazar, last year’s winner and reigning World Series champion looking for a repeat performance.  Her time last year was 3h11’24” – still far from the incredible record of 2h54’26” set in 2008 by Czech Anna Pichrtova.  More podium promises include Nuria Picas, recent SkyGames®champion, Blanca Maria Serrano (currently ranked second) and Nuria Dominquez.

The French ladies’ line-up counts Aline Camboulives, second last year ,Celine Lafaye, third, past skyrunning world champion Corinne Favre and Maud Gobert.  Others to look out for are Russia’s Zhanna Vokueva,currently ranked third, and Italy’s new skyrunning star Silvia Serafini.

1,279 runners from 15 countries are entered, including runners from ISF Skyrunning Associations from countries as diverse as South Africa to Hong Kong, Greece and Poland together with Japan’s Dai Matsumoto who is competing in the World Series races.

The 31 km course with a total 2,200m elevation gain is favoured by runners from many different backgrounds and offers a unique panorama of five 4,000 mountains – unquestionably one of the most spectacular on the Skyrunner® World Series calendar.

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