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 MIRA RAI Initiative

I was fortunate in November 2019 to visit the home of Mira Rai in a remote part of Nepal.

I first met Mira, in 2015 as she rose through the racing ranks in Europe. Her ensuing story of success on the trails and then giving back to her community is the stuff of dreams. From our first encounter, I knew she was special. She was strong, dedicated and had a strength of character based on survival, perfect for long-distance running. She spoke no English, had a huge infectious smile and laughed when we couldn’t communicate, simply saying “Namaste.”

My images and story of the journey is now available in Trail Runner Magazine in the USA. Spread over 5-spreads/ 10-pages.

I met her parents, walked the trails, visited her school, shared meals, fed the animals and shared a magical time in Bhojpur.

As I went through the doorway, the bright and intense outside light gave way to darkness. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. A small window on the left allowed some light to penetrate the darkness and behind a pillar, I could see the outline of a woman, a glowing fire and simmering pan to her right.

Mira Rai’s mother looked up and her smile broke the darkness. Huge white teeth with a gap in the middle provided the warmest welcome. She gestured to the floor and we sat.

“Namaste” was universally offered with hands pushed together, palm against palm as though praying. Three metal plates were laid out and large portions of sticky rice were added, then vegetables and small pieces of chicken. Dahl was added to a small bowl for each person and we enjoyed our first dahl baht.

We were deep in Nepal, isolated in the green verdant lands of Bhojpur, the home of Mira Rai.

Trail Runner Magazine available HERE

The Mira Rai Foundation HERE

VIEW THE FULL IMAGE GALLERY HERE

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10 Top Tips for Multistage and Multi-Day Racing

Running is running yes? Anyone can do it! Well I guess the answer is yes. However, variables come in to play. Running is broken down into many different distances, from 100m to 100-miles and beyond. The longer we run, the more the challenges and requirements on a runner change. Running for multiple days or running a multistage race on mixed terrain throws up many different scenarios. Over the years I have spoken with many champions who have raced in the sands of the Sahara, the forests of Costa Rica and the mountainous paths of Nepal. They all provide me with similar hints ’n’ tips to a successful multistage race.

TOP 10 TIPS FOR A MULTISTAGE

1 – RUNNING IN THE SAND

Desert races are very popular. Marathon des Sables for example is the father of multistage racing and over the years, many races have followed in the MDS format. A desert race is never all dunes but some races have more soft sand than others, so, be prepared. To avoid getting tired it’s important to read the terrain. Carve your own path running on fresh sand and when possible, run along the ridges. In smaller dunes (dunettes) it can be beneficial to run in tracks left by others, at all times, run light as though running on ice – you don’t want to sink in the sand!

2 – HYDRATION

Dehydration is a real risk in any race, particularly a self-sufficient race where water is rationed. The risks of dehydration increase when the mercury rises and a lack of cover comes. A desert for example will be open, have intense heat but humidity will be low. By contrast, a jungle such as those found in Costa Rica may well have plenty of tree cover and streams to cool off in but the humidity will be through the roof. In both scenarios it’s important to drink regularly. Take small and regular sips of water and supplement lost salt with salt tablets. Races like Marathon des Sables provide salt tablets at aid stations and they recommend dosage. Other races you will need to think of this and plan accordingly. Also think about food choices on the trail and when in camp – food rich in minerals and salts will also help you. Importantly, multistage racing is about management from day-to-day and this is what can trip people up. Think about the event as a whole and make sure you recover after each day – rehydrating is as important post a run as when running.

3 – BLISTERS

Many a multistage race is ruined by bad personal management of feet. Think about this well in advance of the race by choosing socks and shoes that work for you. Also choose shoes appropriate for the terrain you will be racing on. A shoe for MDS will be very different to a shoe for the Himalayas for example. By all means take advice on shoes from previous competitors BUT you are unique and your needs are unique. Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Do you need a low or high drop? Do you prefer a cushioned shoe or a more minimalist shoe? What about grip, do you need any? Do you need to fit gaiters? The questions can go on and on and only you can make a choice. If all this is new to you. Go to a running store that understand runners and can provide expert and impartial advice. They will assess you and your run style and provide advice. One consideration for multistage racing is that your foot ‘can’ possibly swell due to variables such as heat, running day-after-day and so on. Your foot will not go longer, but it may go wider. So, think about shoes that have some room in the toe box. Don’t purchase shoes that are 1 or 2 sizes larger – this is poor advice. Larger shoes will only allow your foot to move… a moving foot causes friction, friction increases the risk of soreness and soreness will lead to a blister. Also think about walking. Many people choose a shoe because they are good to run in… But how do they feel when you walk? Remember, a multistage race can involve a great deal of walking!

Do you have sensitive feet? If so, you can prepare your feet in the run-up to an event. Also make sure your nails are trimmed back. While racing, if you have blisters, stop and get them treated as soon as possible. Take responsibility and learn basic footsore before an event. You need to make sure you can make any necessary treatments. Finally, many races have a medical team that are provided to look after you and your feet. Don’t hesitate to use them, but remember, there may be a big line waiting. Self-care is an excellent way to make sure that you are ready to run in your own timeline.

4 – BALANCED PACK

Not all multistage races are the same. The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, for example, is not self-sufficient so a runner only needs to carry liquid, snack food and any ‘mandatory’ kit. By contrast, a self-sufficient multistage race requires you to carry everything. A simple rule is keep everything as light as possible and keep your pack balanced. Luxuries really are luxuries in a race over multiple days so really ask yourself, do I need to take that? You will need mandatory kit as specified by the race and in addition you will need (as a guide):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping matt
  • Warm layer
  • Spare socks
  • Food (minimum calories are specified per day)

Clothes, shoes, hat, sunglasses –  but you will be wearing these so they don’t go in the pack.

That’s it. Keep it simple and if at all possible, get your pack with its contents as close the minimum weight as specified by the race.

By general consensus, a luxury item is considered a music player (or 2) such as an iPod shuffle.

Also remember that minimum pack weight will be without water, so, if your pack weighs 6.5kg, you will have to add 1.5kg on the start line on day 1. This is where a front pack or a pack where bottles sit on the front works really well. Bottles on the front help balance the front and the back and provide a greater running experience. Also, think about items your need whilst running… it’s not a good idea having them in the back, they need to be at the front so you can access them ‘on-the-go!’

Many packs are available to choose from and you will see two or three are very popular – WAA, Ultimate Direction and Raidlight. Choosing a pack is light choosing shoes; we are all personal. However, keep a pack simple, make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it has little or no bounce when running/ walking.

Consider joining a multistage/ multi-day training camp HERE

5 – PROTECT FROM THE SUN

The sun can be a killer in any race, single stage or multistage – use sun protection and apply it daily. Also use products like arm coolers, a hat and a buff. At aid stations or whilst racing, you can keep these wet which will help cool you. Particularly the buff. If you overheat, slow down and apply cold/ water to the back of the neck. Use UV protective clothing and the jury is out on if clothing should be tight or loose. This often comes down to personal preference.

6 – EAT WELL

Any multistage race is quickly broken down into three phases – running, eating and sleeping. Food is a really important part of any race as it has to perform many functions. Most importantly, it has to sustain you so you will need carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individual requirements will vary but carbs will restore energy, protein will repair and fat is essential as this is one of the primary fuel sources for a multistage race. Remember though, our bodies have an unlimited reserve of fat. It’s important to understand that your diet whilst training may well be very different to when racing. In training you may well have eaten less carbs to teach your body to use fat, but when racing, you need to recover and be ready to run/race again the next day. Have variety in your food as your palette will change with fatigue, dehydration and heat. Real foods are good but dehydrated food also has a place. You also need to decide if you will require a stove for heating water? Don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organization’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day, remember though, it’s all weight!

7 – REST

Rest is crucial and how much you get will depend on how fast you run. Front runners have no shortage of rest time, however, those at the back of the race get minimal rest. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag that is warm enough for you and is as light and packs small as possible. You can save weight by not carrying a sleeping matt – general consensus says that carrying one is worthwhile as sitting and sleeping is much more comfortable. Matts come in two types: inflatable or sold foam. Inflatable matts work really well, pack small but you run the risk of a puncture without diligence. Foam matts won’t puncture but they can be bulky.

Make sure you have a warm layer for comfort, temperatures drop with darkness. A jacket (usually down) will also allow you to add warmth while sleeping if required. A lightweight sleeping bag and down jacket is preferable (by general consensus) over a combination sleeping bag that turns into a jacket. A jacket and bag offers flexibility, weighs less and packs smaller but will be considerably more expensive.

8 – PACE

Remember that you have entered a race that lasts multiple days. Spread your effort and have the big picture in mind – pace yourself. Don’t set off too quickly and consider race profiles, distances and cut-off times. YOU take responsibility of when you need to be at checkpoints. A day with a great deal of climbing, soft sand or technical train will take longer, allow for this and be prepared. Most multistage races have a long day and it’s fair to say it is the most feared day – keep some energy back for that day. Remember, the long day often has a generous time allowance so don’t be worried by taking a sleep break midway through.

9 – KEEP ON TRACK

Most races will have markers for you to follow but be sensible and self-aware of the challenge. If a race requires you to carry a map and compass, then please understand how to use them. Carry a Spot Tracker for safety and if you use a GPS such as Suunto or Garmin, remember that these watches plot a route that you can use to backtrack. In a race like MDS it is difficult to go off course due to the volume of people, remember though that dunes are not way-marked and you will be given a bearing to run off. If you are alone or in the dark, an understanding of how this works is a positive.

10 – ENJOY IT

A multistage journey often offers so much more than any single-day race. It’s an experience like no other and friends made in the desert, jungle or mountains will stay with you forever. Also remember that this journey is a hark back to a more primitive and simple time – embrace that. Leave gadgets at home and live a simple life for a week – I guarantee it will change you!

contributions from

Elisabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, Jo Meek, Nikki Kimball and Laurence Klein

The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 6

Leaving Tengboche the race retraces elements of stage-5 to Phakding but as opposed to previous year’s, at Sensa the runners did not go right to the Kumjung Valley. Instead they followed the main route Namche Bazaar the ETR then re-traces stage 5 all the way to Phakding and then as the trail heads back to Kharikhola, a left turn leads to the final climb and the swinish line in Lukla.

The stage is mostly downhill with 3183m of descent in comparison to 2105m of ascent over the 30km course. It’s a tough way to finish a race, but the rewards are worth it! After the high elevation from the previous day, the additional oxygen made the km’s easier.

Both Suman and Anna have been on fire all week and on the final day, it was no difference. The duo pushed and pushed but at all times looked in control and relaxed. Suman actually just looked to be having fun… Playing in the mountains. The pace of them both was quite ridiculous.

Behind Anna, Manuela and Nuria once again traded blows, pushing each other and in doing so, found greater individual performances.

For the men, it was a real battle with Hans, Miguel and Gerard not taking things easy and all fighting for the 2nd and 3rd places on the overall podium.

At the finish line, Manuela beat Nuria, 4:10:45 to 4:19:22 and in doing so, secured her overall 2nd place just as in 2018.

Hans was the first home after Suman, then Miguel and Gerard together. Suman crossed the tape in an incredible 2:46:25 and then the respective times were 3:01:24 and 3:06:39. 

Suman Kulung and Anna Comet are crowned the 2019 Elements Everest Trail Race champions but all credit goes to each and every finisher. At 170km, this race may not be the longest but it is surely one of the toughest! The combination of tough technical terrain, relentless climbing and descending and of course altitude, all combine to make the ETR a race to do!

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 6 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 2:46:25

Hans Smedsrod 3:01:24

Miguel Heras and Gerard Morales 3:06:39

Anna Comet 3:45:33

Nuria Dominguez 4:10:45

Manuela Vilaseca 4:19:22

The 2019 Elements Everest Trail Race final classification

Suman Kulung Rai 20:51:36

Gerard Morales 23:28:29

Hans Smedsrod 23:54:13

 

Anna Comet 26:20:56

Manuela Vilaseca 29:29:05

Nuria Dominguez 30:03:47

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 5

EPIC was all the runner’s had to say as they finished stage 5 of The Elements Everest Trail Race at  the Monastery at Tengboche, the Himalayan backdrop of Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam providing context to the journey undertaken.

For the first time in ETR history, the race went beyond Tengboche taking a stunning high route to Pangboche and return to the iconic Monastery finish line.

Starting in Phakding the runners climbed to Namche at 3402m, proceeded to Syangboche at 3760m passed through Kumjung, Mong La, Phortse and then took a high pass at 4000m to reach Pangboche at 4100m. Finally the finish 3875m, 32km later with 2850m of ascent and 1650m of descent – beyond epic!

It was a feared day, everyone was aware of the challenge and under taking!

It may sound a similar story, but Suman and Anna was at another level. The Nepali completing the journey in just over 4-hours….!

Racing was hard and relentless and today Miguel Heras placed 2nd fighting off injury with a stunning performance making the podium battle once again exciting.

Hans and Gerard once again battled each other hard and the duo were separated by just minutes.

 

Behind Anna in the women, Nuria Dominguez once again fought hard for 2nd ahead of Manuela.

 

Today though, the race was all about the route and the best of what the Himalayas have to offer. It was a brave move to re-vamp stage 5 of the ETR with added distance, a new route and extended period at elevation. It’s a decision that the runners loved despite how hard and difficult the journey was.

Tomorrow, the runners return to Lukla via Namche and Phading in the final finish line of the 2019 ETR.

IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Day 5 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 4:04:35

Miguel Heras 4:27:03

Hans Smedsrod 4:43:01

 

Anna Comet 5:17:11

Nuria Dominguez 5:47:42

Manuela Vilaseca 5:50:23

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 4

Day 4 of the 2019 The Elements Everest Trail Race was the same as all previous editions, starting at the stunning Kharikola Monastery and concluding in Phakding 27.5km away and in the process gaining 2423m of positive incline and losing 1907m.

Along the route, runners pass through Kari La (2820m), Paiya, Choutok La, Surke (2310m), Chaurikharka, Cheplung and finally Phakding.

In comparison to the previous day’s, day-4 is a low altitude day allowing the runner’s some recovery from the intense 3000m+ day’s. However, the course is relentless with a rollercoaster of up and downs on mostly technical rocky trail. Here the route now has Yak’s and Mules and that in itself brings its own challenges.

It is a stunning day that finally leaves the remoteness of the first three day’s and slowly introduces the competitors the main trekking routes that lead people to Namche, Tengboche and the EBC routes.

It may come as no surprise that once again, Suman and Anna showed the race a clean pair of heels as they both set a pace that could not be followed. In the early stages, Miguel Heras fought hard to the first highpoint at Kari La, he was only seconds behind the Nepali. But when the descending started, Miguel could not maintain the pace with his injury and relinquished his place to Gerard Morales and Hans Smedsrod.

Gerard was pushing hard and looked motivated to gain time and secure his top podium place. Hans in comparison to the previous three days looked a little more tired and this was reflected at the finish line with Gerard 2nd and Hans 3rd.

 

Anna as in the previous day placed 4th overall. Her performance this year has been off the scale! Manuela ran a solid day no doubt using her 2018 experience to run a smart day, she placed 2nd but the 1st place of Anna was well out of her reach.

Nuria Dominguez showed great consistency placing 3rd once again.

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Day 4 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:32:20

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 3:56:04

Hans Smedsrod 4:10:50

 

Anna Comet 4:13:09 (4th overall)

Manuela Vilaseca 4:44:09

Nuria Dominguez 4:59:52

Day 5 Preview

What an epic day lies ahead. For the first time in ETR history, the race will go beyond Tengboche with a stunning loop of 32km reaching a highpoint of 4100m at Pangboche and stunning views of Ama Dablam. With 2850m of positive gain and 1650m of negative gain, day-5 will be a stunning and tough day.

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 3

At 30km with 2232m of vertical gain and 3164m of vertical loss, the day was all be about energy management. The relentless downhill today pounding tired legs. Technical and relentless as one runner said on the finish line.

After the start in 5km the runners reached 3400m, from here they drop down and climb to Taksindu La at 3071m. Chhulemu follows, Hewa, Jubing and then the final tough climb to Kharikola at 2100m.

The day was all about Suman Kulung Rai and Anna Comet who today put on masterclass performances. 

Suman covered the distance in a ridiculous 3:49:53, 25-minutes quicker than Hans Smedsrod who ran a great race to close the gap on the overall podium places and place himself in contention for a top-3 at the finish line in Lukla.

Gerard Morales realised the risk and marked the move finishing in 4:17:46 to Hans’ 4:15:58.

Unfortunately, the injury woes of Miguel Heras plagued him today and he finished in 6th losing his grasp on the top-3 overall.

Anna Comet is relentless and strong this year. She finished the stage in 4:41:54 and placed 4th on the stage. Manuela Vilaseca once again fought hard today to finish 2nd woman in 5:17:29 to Nuria Domguez who placed 3rd in 5:28:43.

With the three stages covered and three to go, although nothing is guaranteed, it certainly looks like Suman and Anna have leads that will be impossible to beat. However, the 2nd and 3rd placed for both women and men is all to fight for.

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Day 2 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:49:53

Hans Smedsrod 4:15:58

Gerard Morales4:17:46

 

Anna Comet 4:41:54

Manuela Vilaseca 45:17:29

Nuria Dominguez 5:28:43

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 2

At 26km with 1916m of vertical gain and 1819m of vertical loss, day 2 of The Elements Everest Trail Race was a tough one.

In previous year’s Pikey Peak at 4100mm had appeared late in stage 2 with a loom and relentless climb to its summit. This year, with the course changes, the high summit would occupy the first 8km of the day – a tough way to start any day!

The change in direction brought the runners from the complete opposite direction and the usual magical vista visible at the summit and on the way to the summit was even more spectacular. Everest was mo longer hidden and clearly visible.

From the summit a technical descent that twists and turns to Jase Bhanjyang, here in previous editions, camp 2 would be located. Not today, the runners split to the left and then encountered new terrain that few people visit. It was technical with relentless boulder fields not allowing any opportunity to relax.

From Lamjura La and 8km decsnt, again technical until the final km would lead to Jumbesi and the final checkpoint. With just 4km left, the runners I am sure they were home and dry with just 4km to go… It was all uphill on steep narrow trails all the way to Pungmucheat at just over 3000m.

With two starts, 0700 and 0800 (faster runners starting later) the ascent to Pikey Peak was littered with runners of varying ability, but Suman Kulung Rai  and Miguel Heras made easy work of the climb arriving at CP1 in under 50-minutes. Suman taking time to point out the mountains to Miguel. They left at pace make the altitude and gradient look easy. Gerard Morales followed and then Hans from Norway.

For the women, once again Anna Comet set the pace chased by Manuela Vilaseca and then Nuria Dominguez.

At the summit it was all to fight for with 18km’s still to go, considerable technical trail, long hard descents and tough climbs.

Unfortunately disaster struck for Miguel with an injury forcing hime to ease off the pace opening the door for Gerard and Hans. Miguel would eventually finish 4th. Suman though was relentless making a tough stage look easy.

The women’s race took a twist from the previous day with Anna winning once again and Nuria finishing ahead of Manuela.

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Day 2 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:34:03

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 4:09:46

Hans Smedsrod 4:21:44

 

Anna Comet 4:37:46

Nuria Dominguez 5:13:04

Manuela Vilaseca 4:15:57

Day 3 Preview

At 30km with 2232m of vertical gain and 3164m of vertical loss, the day will all be about management. In 5km the runners reach 3400m then drop and climb to Taksindu La at 3071m.m From here Chhulemu follows. Hewa, Jubing and then the final tough climb to Kharikola at 2100m

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Race Day 1

A damp and chilly night soon passed to greet the runners with spectacular views of the Himalayas – Everest and so many more completely visible from camp.

Day 1 of The Elements 2019 Everest Trail Race was a new route after eaving Patale, the journey would encompass Lakap, Kerung, Chyangsar, Meranding, Bhittakharaka, Khoriya, Kunikhop and conclude at Dimise. The distance of 24.9km starts at 2800m, drops to just above 2000m and then climbs again over 14km to 2906m. 

For the runners it was a day of excitement and nervous anticipation. Kathmandu is located just over 1300m, so, to suddenly be at 2800 and have to run is a big ask. Gladly, the runners dropped down to 2000m after a slightly uphill start. However, the long final climb to the finish was a real test.

Sumun Kulung Rai, a previous participant of the Everest Trail Race set the early pace pulling away over the early km’s. However, Spain’s Miguel Heras was not allowing the Nepali to gain any advantage and the duo marked each other throughout the day. It was Sumun who took the tape with a late charge to beat Miguel with a handful of seconds.

Gerard ‘Blacky’ Morales placed third with a solid race and pacing.

Anna Comet, also a previous finisher of the Everest Trail Race ran a strong and solid race pulling away from Mauela Vilaseca who placed 2nd at the 2018 ETR. Anna was very strong, and even in the closing km’s looked well in control with plenty of energy left.

Manuela knows how challenging the ETR is and was no doubt respecting the race, the distance and the altitude on day 1 finishing a very strong second ahead of Nuria Dominguez.

Day 1 will no doubt be remembered for the new track, the isolation, the complete lack of any tourists and local life that seems unaffected by the crazy world around it. One got a feeling that for some, we were the first non Nepali people they had seen.

News in the local area had got out about the race and some had walked up to an hour to experience the start – the buzz of the helicopter not doubt adding to the fascination.

One cannot emphasise enough, that no matter how majestic the trails are, no matter how stunning the mountains are, that without the people, Nepal would miss a really integral element that makes this place so special. This new route once again introduced us to a raw people who were only too welcome to open their arms and welcome us in to their home – now that is special.

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Day 1 Results:

Suman Kulung Rai 3:03:40

Miguel Heras 3:03:56

Gerard (Blacky) Morales 4:15:04

 

Anna Comet 3:45:23

Manuela Vilaseca 4:10:22

Nuria Dominguez 4:24:18

Please check online via the Everest Trail Race Facebook page for full Results.

Day 2 Preview

At 26km with 1916m of vertical gain and 1819m of vertical loss, it will be a tough day, particularly in the first 7km the runners will pass over Pikey Peak at 4100m. Passing through Jase Bhanjyang, Lamjura La, Jumbesi, the route will conclude at Pungmucheat just over 3000m.

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The Elements EVEREST TRAIL RACE #ETR2019 – Registration and Travel

Collect bib numbers, receive road book, kit check and leave ones luggage at Hotel Shanker and now, The Elements ETR 2019 became a reality for all the runners.

Jordi Abad provided a detailed briefing to the runners and this was followed with a group meal. One runner said, ‘It feels like the last supper!’

An 0500 call and then 0600 departure on Sunday and suddenly the whole ETR was on the road to camp 1.

It was quite the journey, 9-hours of winding dusty roads, loud Indian music and the repeated sound of car horns to warn on coming traffic that you are coming around the bend at speed. Many were daunted by the journey but in reality it was quite an adventure showing all of us a new area of Nepal. 

We experience village life, workmen and women in the fields, impromptu shops created from scraps of wood and the on occasion, one passes through a small village.

A lunch break by the river with the Sunkoshi Bridge as a backdrop and by 1600 hrs everyone was in camp 1 receiving Spot Trackers, rationed water and an allocated tent to spend the night.

Camp is made up the runners section and staff section. Nepali Porters and Sherpas are on hand to look after everyone and cook in a makeshift/ mobile kitchen. The planning of the ETR always amazes me.

The Elements Everest Trail Race is now underway and tomorrow, at the stroke of 0830 Monday 11th, the 40+ runners will be released on to a new route and a new adventure.

Leaving Patale, the journey will encompass Lakap, Kerung, Chyangsar, Meranding, Bhittakharaka, Khoriya, Kunikhop and conclude at Dimise. The distance of 24.9km starts at 2800m, drops to just above 2000m and then climbs again over 14km to 2906m.

It’s an exciting time for the race – a new route, new adventure and new experience.

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