Embrace Winter for New Adventures

The passing of September and the arrival of October can signify dread and a sense of despair in many as daylight disappears and the weather changes. However, one of the secrets of ‘surviving’ this new season is to embrace it. Don’t look at the negatives, on the contrary, the perceived negatives are actually positives. Seasons exist for a reason.

Lethargy, low mood and the perceived feel to hibernate are all characteristics we feel during the winter months and first off, don’t fight it, accept that winter brings an opportunity to recharge, relax, read a book, catch up on some movies, light a fire, get a blanket and yes curl up on the sofa and relax. There is no harm or guilt in this.

SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) is something we all can feel and yes, some feel it considerably more than others, particularly if Serotonin is reduced and this is often treated with drugs. But light, or the lack of it, is a great contributor. Top tip – Look at changing the bulbs on your lights to ‘daylight’ balanced and when required, adjust brightness throughout the day to help simulate the natural passing of light. It’s a great and easy way to help simulate the variable light intensity changes in one normal day.

Mindset is a key factor to a successful winter and once you get the mind tuned, you will soon appreciate and embrace the possibilities that the winter season can bring, especially as a runner or someone who enjoys outdoor life and activity.

As in all things, we are individuals and as such, we all treat circumstances and changes in different ways. I personally see winter as an opportunity to do things I could not do in spring and summer. I see the challenges that winter will bring as a test, both physical and mental and I look upon it as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Resources and circumstances do go a long way in making my ability to adapt successful, so, to start off, look at these aspects and put yourself in a good place before the cold, wet and dark hits.

In a discussion with a friend over a glass of wine, I was surprised to hear our discussion begin to deteriorate…

“I just hate this time of year. The daylight is leaving us earlier and earlier each day, the light is already arriving so late in the morning and I can feel the damp starting to creep into my body. It will be only a matter of weeks before I am in perpetual cold and dark, I cannot wait for spring!”

It is easy to see from the above quote that before winter has begun, my friend is defeated. I smiled and laughed with him and turned the conversation around.

“Yes, the darkness is coming as is the cold, the wet, the snow and the ice,” I replied. “But what a remarkable opportunity this brings. Just think about it. Cozy nights at home with candles and a movie. Adventures in the snow. Running with a head torch. Learning a new skill. Reading and yes, I could go on and on. Winter for me is just a wonderful opportunity and I cannot wait for it to begin.”

I already felt like a winner as mentally I was prepared and excited for the opportunity, whereas my friend, was already starting the hibernation process.

EMBRACE THE WINTER

I strongly believe that embracing winter and making the most of the season starts with mindset. With a good mindset as outlined above, you will already be in a great place to start.

Marino Giacometti, founder of skyrunning also made the summit on race day – ‘for fun!’

As runner’s and outdoor enthusiasts, we are all at different abilities and yes, we all have different reasons why we do what we do. A great example being an elite runner may well look at winter as an opportunity to address weaknesses and maybe spend more time in a gym working on strength and core.

Monte Rosa Skymarathon

A running enthusiast may well just want to tick over, keep fit and maintain a healthy weight during winter months. And then there is the outdoor enthusiast who may well accept that running is something that will go on a back burner for the coming months and accept that walking, indoor cycling, skiing, gym work and so on is the way forward. Whatever group you fall in, take a couple of hours with a pen and paper and self asses how the last year has been and what you want to achieve the following year, this will help provide some specific goals over the winter to keep focused. This planning and assessment can be as simple as complicated as you wish.

As an example, mine is to embrace the season and the weather and to seize every opportunity. I will hone my head torch running. I will practice my ice and snow running. I will experience my first snow shoeing and I look forward to multi-day snow adventures that will carry me from one point to another in a self-sufficient way. But I also want to write more. I want to read a couple of books that I have never found the time for and I also want to embrace the downtime to rest and recover. My connection with nature and breaking from the digital world is integral to a healthy existence and that cannot stop just because the season has changed.

CLOTHING

We have all heard it before, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” It’s true I am afraid. Clothing is one of the key essentials that makes any winter adventure not only bearable and enjoyable. As outdoor people, we have never been as lucky. Technology in apparel has now progressed to a level that we can be warm and dry in super-light products. The downside of course is cost and yes, gearing up for winter can be expensive.

Layering is key with apparel, starting with warm layers against the skin, insulating layers on top and then waterproof and windproof layers as the final touch that will protect from the elements. Merino is great as a base layer and I have a long sleeve top and legs as a starting point. Now of course, I may or may not use them as this depends on the outdoor exercise I am doing. As an example, I would wear the top if running but not the legs. A mid-layer is more often than not either Primaloft, down or synthetic. Each has its place but if you could only choose one, Primaloft (or similar) would be the most versatile due to its ability to retain warmth when wet and still be lightweight. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof with taped seams and again, it is essential to have jacket and trousers.

The above looks at the core, but if you are like me, the extremities are my most vulnerable in winter and after getting frost nip both in my toes and fingers on the summit of Monte Rosa several years ago, I know need to ensure that I have multiple options for keeping my feet and hands warm. I use Merino base layer socks and gloves which are very thin. For my feet, I then add thicker Merino socks over and inn certain scenarios I have even used Gore-Tex or Neoprene over socks. For my hands, mitts always provide the most warmth and I will use them as first choice. If I need finger dexterity, I often purchase gloves several sizes too big that will allow for multiple layers to retain warmth.

A hat, buff and glasses add the finishing touches. A good hat is one of the easiest ways to retain heat inside the body. A Buff is perfect for around the neck, pulled over one’s nose and mouth to keep out cold air or you can use as a hat. Glasses are an essential to keep out the elements from my eyes and particularly essential if doing any outdoor activity in snow.

Finally, footwear is an absolutely key element to make any outdoor activity successful. There is no one-stop solution here and as a runner, your everyday trail shoes may be ideal for a bulk of your runs, however, specific conditions require specific shoes.

 

Mud/ Wet – You need an aggressive outsole that will grip and gain traction not only of sloppy wet mud but also on tree routes, rocks, gravel and a multitude of other surfaces. Top recommendations are VJ Sport and inov-8 who have been producing shoes to handle the elements for years. Personal favorites are the XTRM (here) and X-Talon(here.)

Snow/ Ice – In soft snow, the shoes that you use for mud/wet will usually work fine providing adequate grip. However, ice brings new challenges and many runner’s avoid ice at all costs. However, products exist that allow for running in such conditions. Firstly, you can micro-crampons (Snowline or Nortec as examples) that simply adapt any running shoe for ice.

I personally prefer a specific shoe, such as the VJ Sport Xante (here) which as all the attributes of my favorite trail shoes and the added grip from 20 studs. Or the Arctic Talon (here) by inov-8.

Xante

Arctic Talon

As a final note on footwear, I use boots and more substantial crampons when venturing in to more alpine and challenging terrain. Read about a trip to the Atlas Mountains here. There is no one answer here but if moving fast and light, the new inov-8 Rocltite Pro G 400 (here) is a great cross over and then I use two specific mountain boots, La Sportiva G5 (here) or the Trango Extreme (here.)

There is no one solution here and having the options to adjust clothing based on weather conditions is key.

Top Tips:

  • Carry a pack that will allow you to carry options of clothing. For example, it may well be dry when you leave but rain could come at any time, make sure you have waterproof layers with you.
  • Take off and add clothing as you exercise. When it’s cold, we often start with many layers as the first 15 min can feel uncomfortable. However, our core soon warms up. Take the layers off early to avoid sweating. Sweating is not your friend in cold climates. Be prepared to add and take off as required. One of the many reasons many people do not, is because it can disrupt the flow of exercise, however, a little time stopping pays dividends in the long term.
  • Avoid getting base or mid layers wet.
  • Carry an extra base layer.
  • Protect extremities – hands, feet, nose, ears and lips.
  • Protect skin with sun block as and when required and post-exercise use a moisturizer – winter is hard on exposed skin.
  • Start easy and build into any outdoor activity allowing for a gradual warm up.
  • Have appropriate footwear.
  • Don’t forget to drink.
  • Take snacks/ food and even a flask or consider the option to obtain hot drinks.

SAFETY

Even at the most basic level, winter brings extra challenges and risk. A simple road run has increased danger due to increased challenges not only for you as a runner, but for those who are sharing the outdoors with you – drivers! Reduced visibility, challenging conditions under foot and on the road can make that simple road run feel like an assault course, so, accept that sometimes staying indoors and or going to the gym is a better option. But we don’t want to be forced to stay indoors and why should we? If you have the correct apparel and footwear, all is good, yes? Well, nearly… Running on the road and I would most definitely consider adding the following:

  • Wear bright clothes or wear a reflective vest such as the Ultra Performance (here) which is minimal and light.
  • Add a flashing light to your arm and ankle. Example here.
  • Use a head torch.
  • Take a phone.

Moving from road to trail and the risk from traffic is reduced greatly especially if one can start immediately on trail with no road running involved. Therefore, the need to wear reflective clothing can be reduced. But the risk of falling is greatly reduced and depending on where you are, that risk can be potentially life threatening. So, adjust safety measures based on:

  • When you are running.
  • Where you are running.
  • The duration of the run.
  • If running alone.

Running for 1-hour on a local trail is very different than a multi-hour adventure. I personally have a standard kit list and I take the basic on every run. It’s an overkill for the 1-hour runs and for the longer sessions, I add to it as required and dictated to by location and conditions.

  • Spare Merino base layer.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket.
  • Lightweight waterproof pants.
  • Space blanket.
  • Head torch.
  • Mobile phone.
  • First aid.
  • 500ml water.
  • Snack

The above, is my absolute basic kit that will go in a lightweight pack.

I then add equipment based on:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

The above is a great start point. Even a local run has great risk if one is alone. Imagine running in the forest with snow on the ground, the temperature is just below zero and you are at least 30-minutes from anyone else. If you hit the deck, sprain an ankle, break a bone or whatever, you are suddenly stationary in subzero temperature. This is high risk.

Adapting to the environment, conditions and challenges is not something to be feared. It is actually fun! I go back to the mindset approach at the beginning, I see this as an opportunity, an experience to learn and a great potential to be taken out of my comfort zone.

What equipment/ advice can make a run/ adventure safer and address the list of questions above?

  • If possible, share any trip with another person. It’s more social and you have a backup.
  • Check weather conditions.
  • Tell a friend/ family member where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Have a phone and if necessary, an additional charger. It’s worth considering purchasing a phone that is not a smartphone – battery life is usually amazing.
  • Carry a tracker such as Garmin InReach or Spot.
  • Think layers and have base layer, warm layers, waterproof layers, hat, gloves and buff. On a personal note, I take spare gloves, socks and a base layer should I get wet and need the comfort and warmth of dry layers.
  • Know where you are going and have a map and compass. A GPX file is also a great option for watch/ smartphone.

Specific equipment:

  • Carry micro-crampons if you think snow/ ice is high risk.
  • Carry a bivvy bag which can be a life saver if stuck in a remote location with an inability to move.
  • Goggles are better than glasses if you are in a blizzard or strong winds.
  • Carry an ice axe if venturing anywhere with winter conditions.
  • Hand spikes for ice (more details below).
  • Snowshoes (more details below).

In many scenarios, common sense comes in to play and quite simply, a little extra weight and safety is far better than the alternative. Accept in winter that you will move slower and in a different way.

WHAT OPTIONS EXIST IN WINTER

This question can be asked in two ways, firstly, one’s head can be lowered, shoulders dropped, hands below the waste, a look of desperation on the face and, “What options exist in winter…?” The person asking this question has already decided that the answer is none!

For me, the way to ask this question is standing upright, huge smile on my face and the question, “What options exist in winter?” Already has me ready and primed to list a plethora of activities to keep even the most hardened sport enthusiast occupied for quite some time.

  • Night running.
  • Snow running.
  • Ice running.
  • Road running.
  • Climbing
  • Ice climbing.
  • Hiking
  • Fastpacking
  • Snow shoeing.
  • Learn something new.
  • Spend time with family and friends.

And the list goes on! Location, finances and available time all have a bearing on what is and what is not possible. One thing is for sure, possibilities are endless.

Night Running.

Quite simply, you need your run apparel and appropriate equipment as listed above. Importantly you need a head torch. Not all head torches are the same and an investment in the right kit early on saves money later. If you are running in the city with a great deal of ambient light and just the odd foray on trail, you may well get away with a budget torch and something around 200 lumens would work. However, if you are heading into the pitch black, running in forest, venturing into the mountains and pushing the darkness envelope, you are going to need a specific tool for the job. As an example, Norwegian lighting company Moonlight (here) provide head torches from 700 to 7000 lumens. Be specific on your needs and requirements and importantly consider autonomy, beam direction and spread, options for spare batteries and the option to keep the battery in apparel while still using the head torch, especially important in very cold environment when warmth will make the battery last longer.

Snow Running.

Layer up so that you have the flexibility to reduce heat and get warm as required. In many scenarios, particularly soft snow, a good aggressive trail shoe will work. However, consider the risk of ice so carry micro spikes. If in the mountains, knowledge and experience of snow conditions would be advisable. Be prepared with additional equipment such as poles and ice axe. Needless to say, gloves are really important.

Ice Running.

Use micro spikes for specific shoes as mentioned previously to ensure that you have grip and traction. In some places, Norway and Canada a good example, summer lakes freeze over and they become an incredible playground. Caution, safety and experience is required and if you have never run this way before, take advice from those that have. Importantly run with hand spikes (pictured below) available at all times should a disaster happen – these help you get out of a situation.

  • Measure the ice.
  • What is a safe thickness? 4 inches or more is ideal.
  • Check the ice colour – clear blue or green is good.
  • Fresh ice is best.
  • Know rescue techniques.

Climbing.

Mountains in winter offer an incredible playground and if you are new or inexperienced, the first option would be to sign up for a weekend trip with experienced professionals. The equipment requirements, techniques and safety measures vary considerably.

Ice Climbing.

No need to venture outside. In 2019 as an example, I started on a series of indoor ice climbing lessons which has now set me up for experiencing ice climbing outdoors. There is obviously a need for specific equipment: helmet, glasses, harness, ice axes, boots and crampons. However, most places, indoor or outdoor, offer the option to hire equipment as part of the lessons.

Snow Shoeing.

Fimbulvetr Hikr-X

A great winter exercise that provides an alternative to skiing or snowboarding that is an extension of running. Snowshoes basically allow you to float and not sink in the snow. But there is a difference to snow hiking and snow running, both in the shoe used and the type of snow. Run snowshoes are smaller, allow for a more natural gait and require the snow to be har packed. Whereas in soft snow, you need a much larger snowshoe to stop you sinking in the ground. Either option provides a great challenge and workout. Of course, races exist that require snow running both with and without snowshoes, so, if you are signed up or plan to race like this in the future, seize the opportunity. Abelone Lyng (here), winner of the Ice Ultra does winter snow shoeing trips in Norway.

Fast Packing.

Peak Design Field Pouch attached to a Montane Pack when Fastpacking in Nepal.

Snow, ice and cold weather doesn’t mean that multi-day adventures need to stop, on the contrary. Find a route, plan accordingly, have the correct equipment and off you go. These adventures can involve winter camping (you need a 4-season tent, appropriate matt and sleeping bag) or you can run/ hike form hut-to-hut or hotel-to-hotel. You are only limited by your imagination. Accept that you will move slower. Nepal is a magical playground for winter adventures.

Hiking.

Wrap up and include the family. Sport and our pursuit of it can often be selfish, not purposely, but we can get engrossed in challenge and adventure and often exclude the ones we love. Share the journey.

Training Camp.

Consider a training camp, maybe this could be something in warm weather to break up the winter months. I have been organizing a warm weather camp every January in Lanzarote for over 10-years, info here.

Other options:

  • Sign up for a challenge.
  • Make it social.
  • Add variety.
  • Train in the home.
  • Rest.
  • Learn something new.
  • Enroll in a class.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, don’t letter winter get you in a spiral of mood swings, depression and locked indoors. It’s all about the mind and understanding that the variety winter brings is actually far more exciting and challenging than good weather and dry predictable trails.

Seize the conditions. Plan accordingly. Have the correct equipment. Test yourself with something new and trust me, by the time Spring comes around you may well be a little disappointed.

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Episode 189 – Elisabeth Borgersen, Marcus Scotney and Spartan Trail

Episode 189 – We talk to Marcus Scotney about coaching, lockdown and preparing for MDS. Elisabeth Borgersen talks climbing Everest, albeit virtually and we speak with Mariano Alvarez about Spartan Trail.
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FASTPACKING – A Guide.

Runner’s and particularly ultra-runners have this wonderful ability to cover distance under their own power with very little needs or requirements. Some water, some food, a warm jacket and waterproofs and adventure awaits.

However, you can only go so far without the eventual need to return home.

Fastpacking manages to encompass the world of backpacking and running to create a different adventure, fast and light! Backpackers tend to carry a plethora of equipment and move at a slower pace, happy to adventure for days and weeks at a leisurely pace.

Fastpackers, arguably are runners or hikers looking for the need to travel for multiple day’s but still cover good distances and not be excessively slowed down by weight and excess equipment. The crux though is often the balance of weight and one’s ability to still run/ fast hike.

“Fastpacking isn’t for every outing though. Sometimes you want to take it easy, set up camp, and enjoy a particular area. That’s when backpacking shines. Sometimes you just want to crush through a workout. That’s when you want to go for a really fast run.” Says Simoni, adding that he opts for Fastpacking, “when I want to tag multiple mountain summits in an area at one time, without needing to take multiple trips. If you’re squeezed for time, Fastpacking can really help maximize an adventure. I find it very rewarding to cover so much distance with minimal gear.” – Justin Simioni via La Sportiva

One could arguably say that races like Marathon des Sables, which is 35-years old in 2020, have paved the way for Fastpacking bringing a ‘fast and light’ scenario to a race format allowing participants to cover 250km’s in a self-sufficient manner.

However, Fastpacking has been around for many, many years. Long before MDS, and long before the term Fastpacking. But in recent years, the sport has developed into something else, no doubt boosted by the growth and popularities of FKT’s and lighter, more functional equipment.

It’s important to clarify, that Fastpacking is what you make it. Personally, I enjoy a lighter pack, moving fast (but not running) and being self-sufficient. This allows me to carry a little more weight, travel for longer, enjoy the process and still cover over a marathon per day. You though may prefer to be more minimalist, look at micro/ mini adventures of 2-4 days and aim to run for much of the way. There are no rules to the speed or distance you go.

It’s also important to consider many other factors that come into place:

  • Location and environment – There is a big difference to Fastpacking in Nepal to say the Alps.
  • Time of year – Winter conditions require more equipment and more specific equipment.
  • Weather conditions – Check weather and be prepared.
  • Access to water – Streams, rivers and lakes
  • Access to external help – If you are going remote, be responsible and plan accordingly.

It’s easy to see from the above, there is no one definitive kit list, but there are crossovers that apply to both.

Route Plan

Plan the route in advance, understand the terrain and understand what possibilities exist to obtain water. Importantly, carry a system that will ensure that you can drink water that is available from any source.  Work out how long a planned route will take and then plan for contingency should something go wrong. Note that vertical ascent, descent and technical terrain will require moving slower. It’s not unusual to sometimes only cover 2km’s in 1-hour. Make sure you inform family or a friend of your planned trip, start day and end day. That way you have a backup and someone checking out for you. It may sound alarmist, but should something happen, you may well not be able to call for help. Contact and research with local authorities and ascertain current conditions on the trails and be aware of any restrictions.

The Pack

Typically, a Fastpacker will look for something between 20 and 40 liters. For summer and short adventures, it is possible to go lighter and smaller. In winter, one will need more equipment that is often heavier and bulkier. Quite simply, the heavier the pack, the harder it is to run. So, if the plan is to run as much as possible, you need to go as minimal as possible whilst keeping safe. Make sure when testing and trying a pack that you add weight and understand how it feels when moving. Many brands are now producing packs specifically for Fastpacking. Personally, I like my pack to have a waist belt as this helps distribute the load and make the pack more secure. I would say that a minimum pack weight will be 6.5kg (14.3lbs) with water. Where possible, you would not want a pack to exceed 10kg (22lbs).

Packs with considering:

  • Montane Trailblazer 30ltr HERE
  • Ultimate Direction Fastpack 25 HERE
  • OMM Phantom 25 HERE
  • Six Moon Designs Flight 30 HERE
  • UltrAspire Epic XT HERE (this is a smaller pack)

Tent / Tarp/ Hammock

On a personal level, I would always go with a tent as I personally feel that it will offer more flexibility, especially if one shops in a clever way. My go to tent is an MSR Hubba Hubba NX (1/ 2 and 3 person versions available).

Things to look for in a tent:

  • Weight
  • Flexibility
  • How many season use?
  • Space

For example, the above MSR is a free-standing tent, so, it can be pitched inner only. If you know you are Fastpacking in ‘guaranteed’ good warm weather, you could travel without the fly sheet and basically sleep in a lightweight and bug proof shelter. Equally, if you know that you are fast packing in a bug free (mosquito) environment, you could leave the inner at home and just travel with the flysheet. This then provides a secure waterproof shelter, and, in this scenario, it acts just like a tarp but with more protection.

Tents to consider (2 person):

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 here
  • MSR Carbon Reflex 2 here
  • Nemo Hornet here
  • Nordisk Lofoten 2 ULW here
  • Terra Nova Solar Photon here
  • Marmot superalloy 2P here

Tarps offer a light solution that can be used with trekking poles and if one is going very minimal and fast, they provide a very simple answer for overnight protection. It all comes down to comfort and what one is prepared to accept as ‘comfort’ whilst Fastpacking. Big Agnes make the Onyx which comes in at under 200g. A Tarp is a compromise if you will have bugs such as mosquitos whilst on your adventure.

Hammocks are also an option providing one has trees to secure against. But if you add a bug net and tarp, in my opinion, a tent is a much better option. But a hammock can be a great addition to any Fastpacking kit, I use an Amazonas (here)

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is essential for any adventure but firstly you need to ask some very specific questions before purchasing. I would say that ideally, one potentially could need several sleeping bags based on time of year and weather conditions. Remember, that any sleeping bag can be made warmer with layers. Add a hat, gloves and down jacket, suddenly the sleeping bag is considerably warmer.

Read an in-depth article HERE.

Down is by far the lightest and smallest packing size, however, down cannot get wet! So, if you think you will encounter damp and wet conditions, you should consider a bag with a synthetic filling. Weight and pack size are important and with sleeping bags, the more you pay, usually, the lighter and smaller it will be.

Be careful on the ‘comfort’ rating of the sleeping bag.

  • Upper limit – the highest temperature the average male can expect to have a comfortable night’s sleep at without too much sweating.
  • *Comfort – the temperature at which the average adult woman can expect to have a comfortable sleep. *This is the ideal for most people choosing
  • Lower limit – the temperature at which the average adult male can expect to have a good night’s sleep in a curled position.
  • Extreme – the lowest temperature at which the average adult woman can survive. This rating comes with caution and additional consideration should be given if you plan to sleep in temperatures this low.

Recommendations:

  • PHD – Make sleeping bags and jackets to order, I am a long time fan here
  • Yeti – Passion One and Passion Three are a good start point here
  • Rab – The new Mythic Ultra is a personal favourite, available in 180 and 360 here
  • OMM -The Mountain Raid 160 is a great bag if you need synthetic filling here
  • Sea to Summit – The ‘Spark’ range have been getting rave reviews here
  • Western Mountaineering – here

Sleeping Matt

The minimalist Fastpacker will go with no matt or a very simple and small pad that provides just enough coverage for one’s hip if sleeping on one’s side. Personally, a good night’s sleep is essential, and a good/ light matt is an essential element to a fast and light kit.

Also, one should consider that in winter/ snow conditions, a matt will be essential for insulation.

Another consideration is potential problems from a puncture. Many inflatable matts become super light by using extremely light material. Be careful when using and make sure any potential sharp objects are removed before sitting or sleeping!

Matts very considerably but a personal favourite is the Klymit V Ultralite slim which offers full length body comfort all for 316g. It also packs very small. There are lighter matts and I list them below:

  • Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite 158g
  • Klymit Inertia X 258g
  • Nemo Insulated Short 278g
  • Sea to Summit Ultralight 294g
  • Exped AirMat HL 304g

Ultimately, the matt you choose may come down to a tradeoff between price/ packing size and weight. Be careful, some matts can be noisy when you move. Ok of going solo but really irritating if you are in close proximity of someone else.

Cooking System

For me, the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe (here) or 2 (here) kit is perfect. It has all one needs in a very small pack size and weight. I use the PocketRocket 2 kit that allows me to place a gas canister inside the 278g kit + a 4oz canister.

Another consideration would be JETBOIL Micromo Cooking System (here) which is the lightest system they do and if you just need to boil water, this is perfect!

Food

Dehydrated food is probably the most obvious option here and there are many varieties on the market. They are a one-stop option that requires water to hydrate and if you wish to be extremely minimal, some options exist that do not require hot or boiling water. A personal favourite is Lyo (here) and Real Turmat (here) – It may sound crazy but they both make foods that I would consider eating when not fast packing. They also do Vegan and Vegetarian options.

Check out Chicken Tikka Masala, Nettle Curry, Penne alla Bolognese and if Vegan, Organic Chilli and Barley Risotto. Breakfasts such as Mexican Scrambled Eggs and Organic Millet Porridge.

For any adventure, I work on a breakfast and a dinner and then carry snacks for during the day, this can be energy bars or if on a long Fastpack, I will even consider carrying another main dehydrated meal. Typical weights are 132g with approx 600 cals.

Other options to look at for dehydrated food are:

Coffee

For me, Fastpacking is fun and adventure. I am not looking for FKT’s and therefore I do allow myself one or two luxuries. Coffee for me is an essential part of any trip and I mean good coffee. I could just take some coffee sachets and have a combined weight of grams.

No! For me, I take fresh ground coffee in a sealed tub and I use one of two coffee presses.

Aeropress here or Espro here

The Espro is my favourite as it acts as a flask/ drinking canister too. But it does come at a weight and size cost.

I fully appreciate that if going fast and light, the above is a complete no, no! But for me, that smell of fresh coffee each morning is worth it.

Water

You are going to be self-sufficient for multiple days, so, you need to find water and plan to obtain water from the route you will take. You can use purification tablets, I take the MSR TrailShot pocket sized filter (here) which meets U.S. EPA drinking water standards* and NSF protocol P231 for removal of bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.9%), and particulates.

Clothing

Clothing requirements depend on the time of the year, the weather you will encounter and the duration of the Fastpack. Needless to say, one has to accept that changing clothes, taking a shower and feeling wonderfully fresh daily is not what Fastpacking is about. Layering clothing is essential to allow for fluctuations in temperature. Do your research, check weather forecasts and plan accordingly. The above photo is my equipment for a Fastpack in Nepal. Make sure you have a ‘Drybag’ to make sure all contents of the pack are protected from the weather, Sea to Summit (here) for example.

A good start point is as follows:

  • Short sleeve T
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Shorts
  • Underwear x2?
  • Socks x2?
  • Hat with peak
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Merino base layer, top and bottom – I use Icebreaker here
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket – I use RAB Charge here
  • Lightweight down/ Primaloft jacket – I use RAB Kaon here
  • Buff
  • Bivvy bag

The above, for most, would be a start point and based on where and when Fastpacking, you could maybe add or takeaway certain items.

If going to more extreme and cold environments, the demand on clothing and what one takes will increase. I wrote an article on Fastpacking in Nepal (here) and this is a worthwhile read. Please note in Nepal, one can use tea rooms, so, one saves on tent/ tarp weight immediately if required.

Tracker/ Beacon

I use a Garmin InReach Mini (here) and it is superb. Small, light, has SOS button and allows for 2-way messaging anywhere in the world. I do not go on any adventure without it now. In conjunction with a mobile phone and associated App, functions become easier to use. Subscription services can be changed monthly and therefore one can add or takeaway facilities as required.

Another option to consider is a SPOT device.

Essential Extras:

  • Water purification
  • Toilet paper/ wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Lighter/ matches
  • Whistle
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Earphones

Optional Extras:

Trekking poles – to be honest, for most of my Fastpacks, poles are an essential and especially if one is using a Tarp or similar.

Battery pack for recharging.

Conclusion

Fastpacking for me, is one of the most pleasurable ways to travel by foot. The ability to cover distance, usually in a point-to-point way under ones own power and being self-sufficient is extremely rewarding. You can move as fast or as slow as you like, take as long as you wish and fully immerse yourself in the surroundings and environment.

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 6

The 2019 The Coastal Challenge today came to an end on the stunning beaches of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.

Pere Aurell and Ida Nilsson are the champions after a masterclass of multi-day running. The duo ran amazing races and Ida obliterated the 2018 record of Ragna Debats and in the process set 4 female stage records and placed 2nd overall. Holly Page set two stage records also.

The 22km final day is a stunning day, starting and finishing on Bahia Drake, the loop is like a mini Coastal Challenge all compressed into one stage. Waterfalls, rainforest, plantations, dusty fire trail, water crossings, beaches, coves and the stunning Pacific as a backdrop as the runners make the way to the finish.

The dynamic of the day was the staggered start for the top-6 after the mass start at 0700.

They were released as follows:

6. Ragna Debats 07:01:00

5. Holly Page 07:03:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:06:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:10:00

2. Ida Nillson 07:15:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:21:00

 

The race was on between Jorge and Marcus and in the early stages, Jorge opened a gap on the technical trail. However, as soon as the trail became more runnable, Marcus unleashed his natural fast pace and secured his 3rd overall on GC.

After a tough stage 5, Pere was keen to make sure he won the 2019 TCC and by the waterfall, he had caught Ida for the 6-minute time gap. He then ran to the line and secured his victory ahead of the incredible Ida, who placed 2nd overall and dominated the women’s race.

Ida won 4-stage CR bonus’ worth $250 each and $2500 for a new CR – That is $3500 for her week in Costa Rica.

Holly Page was the first to cross the line holding off the top-5 runners and catching all those before her – in the process she set a new stage CR and in addition to her female CR on stage 4, she netted $500. On timing, Pere was the stage winner just missing Tom Evans 2018 stage-6 record. Marcus was 2nd and Holly 3rd.

The finish-line was full of emotion as an epic journey has come to an end. The 2019 TCC will go down in history for the incredible performances of all the runners, but the truly inspiring story his how the top-3 women placed in the top-6 overall, with Ida 2nd on the podium – truly epic!

For now though, it’s all about Pere and Ida celebrating victory. This evening, the awards will take place on the beach with a roaring camp fire. 2020 will see the 16th edition of the race and I am sure we can expect another spectacular race.

PURA VIDA

Stage Results:

  1. Pere Aurell 2:00:00
  2. Marcus Scotney 2:06:32
  3. Holly Page 2:07:04
  4. Ida Nilsson 2:08:12
  5. Sebastian Jones 2:13:55

Overall standings, male/ female after 6-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03
  3. Jorge Paniagua 24:17:21
  1. Ida Nilsson 23:36:03
  2. Holly Page 24:50:38
  3. Ragna Debats 26:16:06

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsen 23:36:03
  3. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2018

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 5

It was the longest day of the 2018 The Coastal Challenge and what a day! At 49km, it was only 2km more than day 3 but coming at this stage in the race, it is always a tough one.

 Runners departed camp via bus for a short bus ride to the Sierpe river and then a ferry across to the other side with the arrival of daylight. At 6:15am, they were released.

Much of todays race is very runnable on wide gravel roads and much of that chat pre-stage was that it was ideal for Ida and Marcus. It’s great if you can run, but for many it’s a tough day. Technical forest sections break up the distance and then at 2/3rd of the race covered, the runners turn right on a loop around the peninsula, running through forest trails before finally dropping to the beach and taking a small boat from one side to the other. Once across the estuary, it is 9km’s to the line with the final sections on the beach to the stunning Drake Bay, a Unesco Heritage Site

It was a day of drama, with the main podium contenders all running close together to checkpoint. Notably, Jorge was running side-by-side with Pere at the head of the race. Ida chased and then Marcus. Just before the right turn for the loop around the peninsula, Pere made his move and pulled away from Jorge.

Behind, Ida chased and Marcus was looking strong and gaining time.

Holly Page was some way back but looking relaxed and comfortable in the intense heat.

At the peninsula. Pere was first in the boat and crossed with no sign of any other runners. Jorge and Ida arrived together and shared a boat. Minutes later, Marcus arrived. It was all going to come down to the final 9-km’s!

What happened next, could not have been predicted. Pere struggled with exhaustion, the heat and sickness from a restless night before. He was reduced to a walk. Ida on the other hand went from strength-to-strength.

Ida left Jorge, pursued Pere, passed him and once again won the stage outright obliterating the previous female stage CR set by Ester Alves by almost 45-minutes – it was an incredible performance.

Marcus bided his time. Closed on Jorge and the duo fought an epic battle to the line. Marcus was 2nd just over 30-seconds ahead of the Costa Rican runner.

Pere finally arrived 20-minutes after Ida – he looked broken!

With the final stage tomorrow, an epic battle will unfold between Jorge and Marcus for the final podium spot on GC. Also, Pere and Ida have a potential fight. Pere has a lead of 17-minutes, one would normally say that is more than enough. However, after today, anything can happen…!

Holly Page finished 2nd woman and Ragna Debats lost time in the closing miles due to a navigation error, however, she did finish 3rd on the stage.

Tomorrow’s stage is a loop of Drake Bay – it’s a stunning day that manages to encompass all the previous 5 days in one loop. The top 6-runners will depart after the main group.

The starting times will be:

Mass start 07:30:00

6. Ragna Debats 07:31:00

5. Holly Page 07:33:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:36:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:40:00

2. Ida Nilsson 07:45:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:51:00

Overall standings, male/ female after 5-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:22
  2. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30
  3. Jorge Paniagua 22:00:49
  1. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  2. Holly Page 22:43:34
  3. Ragna Debats 23:54:00

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  3. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2018

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 4

Day 4 from Coronado to Palma Sur is a unique day – starting at sea level, the route climbs to just under 1000m in 10km and then stays high with a rollercoaster of hills dropping to just over 600m at 25km and then climbing again to 900m at 30km. From here, the runners drop like stones, all the way to the finish line in Palma Sur with 37.1km covered.

Pere Aurell once again showed incredible strength and recovery powers. From the start he pulled away from the competition and powered all the way to the line for another stage victory and a securing of his overall GC classification.

Behind Pere, the day started pretty much as one would have expected with Ida Nilsson, Jorge Paniagua, Marcus Scotney and Holly Page all following and all within seconds of each other at CP1. It was clear here, that Ragna Debats, the 2018 champion and course record holder was not having a good day. She trailed the front of the race and complained of sore legs.

As the miles passed, Jorge and Holly ran strong races. The duo pushed at the front and at the line, Jorge had managed to pull away a 5-minute gap on the British runner who won the stage for the women’s category and broke Ragna’s 2018 stage CR – the women’s race this year is proving spectacular.

Ida finished 2nd woman and 4th on the stage just 3-minutes behind Holly – she is way ahead in the overall women’s ranking and now 2nd overall on GC after Marcus had a bad day!

Stage 4 proved to be a tough day both for Ragna and Marcus. Ragna complained of tired legs and ran to the line trying to conserve energy for the two days ahead. Marcus though was trying to hold on the 2nd overall – a bad nights sleep and some stomach issues unfortunately impacted on him greatly and he lost far too much time allowing Ida to move to 2nd overall on GC. Marcus is now 3rd with Jorge less than 6-minutes behind. The fight for the podium is still on!

Tomorrow’s stage is 49km from Sierpe to Drake Bay (it is the longest stage of the race) and the early stages are very runnable – this will play into the hands of Ida and Marcus – will they have the strength?

  1. Pere Aurell 4:13:25
  2. Jorge Paniagua 4:20:51
  3. Jose Fabio Madrigal 4:50:29 
  1. Holly Page 4:25:04 (3rd on stage)
  2. Ida Nilsson 4:28:42 (4th on stage)
  3. Ragna Debats 4:55:09 (6th on stage)

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 16:04:50
  2. Ida Nilsen 16:42:31
  3. Marcus Scotney 17:07:24

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2019

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 3

Day 3 of the 2019 kicked off at 0530 this morning and what lay ahead was a tough and challenging day of hills, technical trail, waterfalls, long dusty and stony roads and relentless beach – all intensified by Costa Rican heat and humidity.

The early trails leaving Dominical Beach take the runners into 10km’s of technical river bed. It’s all rock-hopping and slip-sliding away on the wet and greasy surface. 

Nuayaca Waterfall is no doubt the highlight of the day, if not the race. The runners arrive down a small trail and the cascade greets them. They pass through and climb up a winding trail. From here on in, the terrain varies from rainforest, dusty access roads and technical trail before the beach arrives. Now the sun is high, the heat intense and it punished the runners mile after mile. A small dense rainforest is a prelude to a final section of road that leads to the finish.

Now, the heat is intense and the runners are sandwich pressed between sand and sky.

It’s a brutal day.

Pere Aurell dictated the early pace over the opening technical miles, his skyrunning background a real bonus. He pushed and pushed the pace and he opened up a considerable gap by the time of waterfall. This gap continued throughout the day until the final road section took its toll – reduced to a walk at time, Pere still finished the day first overall and first on general classification. 

Jorge Paniagua was a key chaser today pulling away from Marcus Scotney. In the early-stages. Marcus didn’t look good and at the waterfall was a long way back behind the lead men and women. Post-race he complained of a damaged toe.

However, as the stage progressed and the trail became more runnable, Marcus clawed back time in in the final 6km he caught Jorge and managed to take 6-minutes from him. It was an incredible closing run.

The story of the day was the women’s race. Early on, Ida Nilsson and Ragna Debats traded blows matching each other, stride-for-stride. Pursued by Holly Page, the top-3 ladies were in for a real battle.

Ida made he move and slowly pursued the front of the race and increasingly opened a gap on Ragna. On the flat beach section, Ida lengthened her stride and does what she does best – run fast! She was now 2nd overall on the stage having caught and passed all the male runners ahead of her, with the exclusion of Pere. At the line, once again, she smashed the 2018 stage course record set by Ragna and earned herself another $250 CR stage bonus. Ida’s run in the 2019 TCC is incredible!

Ragna ran a solid race for 2nd but in the closing miles, Holly put an effort in and closed the margin to just 90-seconds.

With three stages complete, the general classification is interesting with Pere in a strong lead. Marcus is 2nd but notably, Ida is 3rd and just a handful of minutes behind. The fight for overall podium places is going to be an epic one.

  1. Pere Aurell 5:10:55
  2. Marcus Scotney 5:32:10
  3. Jorge Paniagua 5:38:51

 

  1. Ida Nilsson 5:20:27 (2nd on stage)
  2. Ragna Debats 5:31:20 (3rd on stage)
  3. Holly Page 5:32:50 (5th on stage)

 

Full Results HERE

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 2

It was a an 0400 wake up call this morning and an 0530 start. It may sound super early but believe me, the runners weren’t complaining! The advantages of an early start are simple, it gives the runners a good 2-3 hours before the heat starts to take its toll. Most had been in bed before 8pm and had maximised the time available to sleep and recover after a tough first day.

Stage 2 kicks off with a tough 39km climb and Pere Aurell was in his element as he climbed away from the rest of the field. Local runners Jorge Paniagua and Maikol Cruz chased looking really confident on the technical trail and Marcus Scotney pursued. It was early in the day for a fast pace and a long way to go, anything could happen!

Ida Nilsson today still looked incredibly strong and ran in 5th overall chased by Ragna Debats and Holly Page. Ragna looked more calm and relaxed than on day-1 and Holly complained of not feeling great.

Pere dictated the pace for the men, pushing and pushing. Could he hold on?

Behind, Marcus eventually caught the Costa Rican duo and pushed ahead confident in knowing he had gained a good chunk of time on day-1. He was now the virtual TCC 2019 leader on the road.

The course rolled up and down with a series of hard, stony and dusty access roads that connected sections of rainforest. At 16km another high point was reached, just over 700m and then it was all pretty much downhill before reading the beaches of Dominical and a flat but hot run to the finish.

Pere arrived first still looking strong and it was over 5-minutes later that Marcus arrived. The duo stayed that way all the way to the line. Looks like we may be in for an exciting battle for the overall lead in the coming days. Jorge managed to pull away from Maikol and at the line had gained an 8-minute gap.

Ida continued her dominance and once again broke the stage course record which was set by Ragna in the 2018 edition. Her run provided her a 5th place overall on the stage. Ragna finished 2nd looking more relaxed and confident but she still lost over 10-minutes to the Salomon runner. Holly finished 3rd and confirmed over the 2nd half of the stage she had felt better.

Tomorrow’s stage and 47.4km is a tough one that runs from Dominical Beach to Bahia Ballena.

Stage Results:

  1. Pere Aurell 3:47:28
  2. Marcus Scotney 3:53:30
  3. Jorge Paniagua 4:00:12

 

  1. Ida Nilsson 4:08:46 (5th on stage)
  2. Ragna Debats 4:19:13
  3. Holly Page 4:27:44

Full stage results HERE

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 1

It was a hot day, a seriously hot day!

Leaving San Jose at 0430, runners eventually arrived at Quepos and transferred to the beach for a 0900 start. It’s tough starting so late in the morning, particularly on the first day when there is no time to adapt. However, although temperatures were high, humidity seemed lower than in 2018.

The early flat miles ticked away and it was Marcus Scotney and Pere Aurell who had a short lead over Ida Nilsson who was matching them stride-for-stride and running just 2-3m meters behind. 

Pursuing was Jorge Paniagua for the men and for the women, Ragna Debats, the 2018 champion had a slender lead over Holly Page.

A dense section of rainforest and then some fast trails to cp2  saw Marcus Scotney move ahead Ida and Pere. But Ida was running to strong and went alone to hunt Marcus down. Behind, Ragna was having a tough day in the heat and Holly moved into 2nd women.

Ida for the women was in a race of her own and finally caught Marcus at the final summit. The duo dropped to the final river crossing and it was here, Ida moved ahead and clinched the overall stage victory less than 30-seconds ahead of Marcus. Her time obliterated Anna Frosts’ stage course record by 30-minutes – incredible!

Pere Aurell was the 3rd across the line and then remarkably, Holly Page was 4th, also well under Anna Frosts’ old CR. Jorge Paniagua rounded out the men’s podium and Ragna completed the women’s.

The 2019 TCC based on day 1 is going to be an epic race!

  1. Ida Nilsson 2 44 35
  2. Holly Page 3 04 33
  3. Ragna Debats 3 20 22

 

  1. Marcus Scotney 2 45 11
  2. Pere Aurell 2 53 00
  3. Jorge Paniagua 3 13 13

Full results at www.webscorer.com

Follow the action as the race unfolds #TCC2019

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Episode 168 – Jasmin Paris

Episode 168 of Talk Ultra is here… And we bring you an interview with the one and only, Jasmin Paris. #TheSpine winner #JasminParis @TheSpineRace @JasminKParis @inov_8
 
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00:20:01 NEWS
 
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9 DRAGONS
 
I was in HK for the 9 Dragons – two races 50-milkes and 50-km but the ultimate race is the 50/50 were runners do both races. Full report HERE – The 50/50 winners were Magda Boulet and Kazufumi Ose.
 
ROCKY RACCOON 100
 
David Laney ran 14:03for the 4-loop race with Catlow Shipek and Wade Barrett 2nd and 3rd in 15:04and 17:09. Maria Sylte won the women’s race in 19:19with Julia Sorbet and Jessica Hardy 2nd and 3rd 20:56and 21:48.
 
ARROWHEAD 135
 
Faye Norby ran a 48:34 to top the women’s race and the men had two joint winners in 36:09 for Scott Hoberg and Jovica Spajic.
 
ULTRA TRAIL HUACHI
 
Jason Schlarb and Jazmin Lozano won the 50km and Jou Valenzuela and Carina Mendoza won the 80km.
 
HONG KONG 100
 
Jiasheng Shen won the race in 10:22ahead of Jing Liang and Zhenlong Zhang. For the women, Yangchun Lu was ahead of Fuzhao Xiang and Guangmei Yang – winning time 11:43.
 
HURT 100
 
22:37was the male winning time for HURT by Nate Jaqua ahead of Trevor Fuchs and Masazumi Jujioka in 23:24and 23:38. Sabrina Stanley Solange Saxby and Anna Albrecht were 1,2 and 3 for the women, 28:28, 29:07 and 29:54 respectively.
TARAWERA
 
What an epic 100-miles – Camille Herron laid it all on the line and was potentially looking like the outright winner until a major blow-up… she rallied though and finished 2nd overall and dominated the female race obliterating course records, her time, 17:20:52. Man of the moment, Jeff Browning once again won another ‘100!’ – But what a story…. he took a detour adding over 40-minutes to his race dropping him to 10th. He then chased, picking the runners off and finally passed Camille to take the victory! His time 16:18:54 – 3 hours better than the old CR!
In the shorter race, 102km, Reece Edwards beat Cody Reed and Harry Jones – 8:22:51, 8:29:44 and 8:30:35. Courtney Dauwalter kicks off her 2019 campaign with another win, 9:28:03 to Stephanie Austin and Angelique Plaire in 9:49:22 and 10:39:47.
THE SPINE RACE
We have had many SPINE winners on this show but this year, Jasmin Paris won the 268-mile race outright! It was 12-hr better than the previous men’s record and obliterated the women’s record.
In the shorter ‘CHALLENGER’ race, Jim Mann smashed the male record In 22:53and previous SPINE winner, Carol Morgan topped for the women in 31:47.
*****
 
00:46:22 Interview with JASMIN PARIS
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01:42:05
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