IROCK2 by VJ Sport – Shoe Review

Imagine a scene:

A man enters an elevator, he pulls the cage metal door across and as it clicks into place, his right hand reaches for the buttons to his left. ‘Lower Basement’ is pressed.

As the lift moves, music starts in the background; a lone guitar.

dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun deDON Do do do
Badap ba daa ba da daa ba daa da deda daa Badap ba daa ba da daa ba daa da deda daa

The lift stops, the gate is pulled open and the man walks into a grey room illuminated by dappled spotlights. Ahead, a man in a white jacket, is crooked over a table with his back turned.

“Argh, 007 you are here, finally! Now listen up. This is the new IROCK2 by VJ Sport. It has Fitlock that ensures a sure and precise fit around the arch and instep of the foot for secure constant changes of direction. The outsole is made of Butyl rubber with an aggressive pattern, it will grip anything in the wet and dry!”

“And the upper Q?” Our man asks.

“007, let me do the talking… The upper is made of Kevlar, it’s stronger than steel, lightweight and extremely durable. Toe box and the heel box is plush, secure and protects from the toughest terrain. Cushioning is provided by KvamO and Duotech. These shoes are designed for fast, light and agile mountain running on any terrain – any questions?”

“When can I use them Q?”

“Have you not been listening Bond? You can use them on the gnarliest, muddiest, wettest, driest, most technical terrain imaginable and they will give you the advantage over the competition… Now go run!”

If James Bond was a mountain runner, he’d be using the IROCK2 by VJ Sport

*****

This review comes in two versions:

Version 1.

The IROCK2 by VJ Sport is the best mountain running shoe for any terrain with superior grip in the wet and dry on the rockiest, gnarliest, muddiest terrain imaginable in a moderately cushioned, 6mm drop, lightweight neutral shoe. It’s the best shoe ever – go buy it!

Version 2.

Read on.

VJ was found in 1981 and has been the secret weapon of Orienteers for many, many years. Ask anyone in the know, affiliated with a brand or not, out of choice, if they could, they would use IROCK when the need for grip on wet and dry surfaces is essential.

I was first introduced to the brand several years ago whilst working on the Tromso SkyRace. I saw the ‘locals’ using them and when out on the trails, mountains that had a mix of rocks, snow and ice, I continually noticed they had more grip than myself. This was confirmed when Jon Albon won Tromso race using IROCK ahead of the ‘almost’ unbeatable Luis Alberto Hernando.

I took note!

The shoe range can be viewed HERE and over the year’s VJ Sport have added and tweaked the line of shoes to 12 models, varying from a very specific Orienteering shoe with metal spikes (midstud) to a kid’s shoe!

Key Features of the IROCK2:

FITLOCK ensures that the fit is snug and holds the foot in place, essential when running on technical and challenging trails when a change of direction happens in a fraction of second. You don’t want a sloppy shoe. FITLOCK supports the arch of the foot and protects from the terrain.
SUPERIOR CONTACT OUTSOLE is made from sticky butyl rubber with an aggressive grip. It has superior grip in wet and dry conditions and lugs are aggressive to gain traction in mud. They are also spaced out to help release mud from the sole so that you don’t get clogged up and lose traction.
Schoeller® – Keprotec® KEVLAR upper is bullet proof and stronger than steel. It is pretty much tear resistant with comfort. The chances of the uppers failing is almost non-existent. The upper also has reinforced sections, the toe box and heel cup protect the foot from the most demanding terrain and to keep the foot secure.
KvamO offers cushioning, torsion support and a shaped insole.
DUOTECH is used on the inner side of the shoe, contrasting against the KvamO. The Duotech is higher density foam which makes for a more durable shoe.

6mm drop
Narrow width
Neutral

IROCK2 was Jon Albon’s shoe of choice for the 2017 season – He is a multiple OCR World Champion and two-time Skyrunner World Series Champion for the Extreme classification.

OUT OF THE BOX

Red and black, always works for shoe colours and I feel and I am instantly attracted to the IROCK2. However, they don’t look like run shoes… almost a cross between a football boot and a shoe for MTB. They look heavy!

I lift one up. They are not heavy… It almost comes as a surprise. Immediate first impression is how robust the shoe looks. The heel box is reinforced, the Fitlock looks aggressive and secure, the Kevlar material looks like it is interwoven with strands of steel and the toe box reinforced with a bumper. Turning the shoe over, soft black butyl rubber covers the outsole and a mass of aggressive studs immediately confirm that the IROCK2 means business as far as grip is concerned.

Lacing is very secure and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable flexible but hard material. I am surprised to find that the IROCK2 does not have a gusseted tongue or sock liner fit. I feel disappointed! It’s no secret if you read my shoe reviews that this is by far my favourite method of shoe fit. The toe box looks really narrow – I expected narrow as this is a precision shoe, however, they look narrower than expected.

All-in-all, I am impressed. Great looks, solid build, aggressive outsole but I have concerns on the toe box and lack of sock liner/ gusseted tongue.

IN USE

It’s important to remember here that the IROCK2 is not a jack of all trades, it’s not a trail shoe, it’s not hybrid shoe, it’s not a shoe for the road – it is an out-and-out specific fell/ mountain running shoe and as such, you should and must keep this in mind if considering if the shoe is for you!

The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in a MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.

I loosen the laces and slide my foot in. I am immediately surprised that the toe box is deceptively more spacious than anticipated. Almost Tardis like. Don’t get me wrong here, they are not spacious that would allow ones toes to splay. The fit is secure but not overly narrow, however, if you have Hobbit like feet, the IROCK2 is not going to be for you! It is normal in fell/ mountain running shoes that a ‘precision’ fit is required as this provides security and precision when running, exactly what you need when on demanding and challenging terrain.

As I pull the laces tight, I am immediately surprised how well the tongue fits to my foot and the lack of a sock liner or gusseted tongue soon becomes no issue. The Fitlock steps in and I have to say that this is one of THE secret weapons of the shoe. You immediately feel the support and security this system brings as I tighten and adjust the laces.

The reinforced heel box adds to this security and once laced up and adjusted I soon realize that the IROCK2 has incredible fit and security – and I haven’t even run in them yet!

As I walk around my apartment, the wooden floor provides a solid surface, I feel the grip of the Butyl outsole take hold and with each lift of my foot, the shoes make a sound a little like when separating two strips of Velcro. These shoes seriously grip.

Orienteering, fell and outright mountain shoes rarely have a great deal of cushioning as the need to be low and feel the ground is essential. The IROCK2 has cushioning and it is noticeable without compromising feel, importantly there is also a rock plate for protection. Therefore, this shoe certainly provides an option for longer races, be that in distance or time. How long or how far depends on the runner, but I would certainly consider this shoe for 6-8 hour mountain jaunts. You also must remember that if running on soft and muddy ground, much of the cushioning actually comes from the ground beneath ones feet. Rocky and hard trails are a different story.

ON THE TRAILS

I always start my test runs with a section of road and the IROCK2 keeps me honest wanting to land fore to mid foot. I can hear and feel the grip on the road and I am surprised at the level of comfort and cushioning for such an aggressive shoe. I set my mind at ease knowing that the IROCK2 can handle road sections should they crop up in a race or training. Note though, the outsole won’t thank you for this and one can expect it to wear quicker if you throw too much tarmac at them.

6mm drop works well and although 8mm is normally preferable (for me) it is appropriate that a shoe of this nature has a lower drop keeping you connected to the ground. The fit is neutral but Fitlock really does provide support (in a good way) to ones arch. Fit is true to size.

Back on the tail, a 3-mile section of single track flies by as the shoes happily eat up the miles switching between hard and dry sections and soft, wet, muddy sections don’t compromise the grip.

Off track and the IROCK2 start to feel seriously at home. I am now on open fell that is rutted. I am constantly changing direction and this is when I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together. For me, it’s the best feel and most secure of any mountain running shoe I have used. No question!

The outsole is gripping everything.

On a vertical wall of grass and mud, I am on my toes and the shoes just dig in and keep me going forward with no wasted energy through slipping.

I hit an extremely muddy section. It’s like a brown river. Constant rain has made it into a brown lake and as I run through it, the height passes my ankle. Once again, I feel the shoes pushing through the soft upper layers to find traction below. Grip is found and I am able to move on with more security than any other shoe used. The closest comparison coming with an inov-8 Mudclaw.

It’s on rocks, wet or dry, that the IROCK2 becomes outstanding. I have had mountain shoes in the past that have handled the mud only to find that rock, and in particular, wet rock grip is compromised. The IROCK2 stand out as the best in its class with unmatched grip and control.

The run continues on and as the terrain constantly changes I am finding that the IROCK2’s are handling everything but it is the overall package of the shoe that is impressing me and no one stand out feature.

It is the combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip that is making me realize that the IROCK2 is the best fell/ mountain shoe I have used.

LONG TERM

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK2 is the best I have used. I have now put just under 200-miles on them on a whole multitude of scenarios and without doubt, this shoe stands out. It’s the overall package as mentioned above that make them so special and in comparison to other brands, the Kevlar uppers show no sign of use.

It’s easy to get carried away when writing about a shoe like this but so often I have had a mountain shoe that does one thing really well only to find that it is compromised in another use. Not so with the IROCK2.

It is the most complete mountain shoe I have used for its specific use.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport was created in 1981 and although I first became aware of these shoes in 2014, I have to say that I really have a feel of ‘FOMO!’ – Fear Of Missing Out.

Orienteers and obstacle racers will be reading this review and saying – ‘Yep, yep and yep!’

They will be asking the question, ‘What took you so long?’

They are correct, what did take me so long?

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for so many years but now the secret is out!

I have already heard many a Skyrunner talking about the original IROCK and now the IROCK2 moves things up a notch and quite simply:

This is the best fell/ mountain running shoe I have ever used.

CONCLUSION

It’s a glowing review, no doubt.

There are so many PROS to the shoe that I feel I must try and reign myself in and find some CONS, so, here goes:

I have been trying to get a pair of IROCK’s for sometime, it took me 18-months to finally get a pair. They are not easy to come across! However, see at the bottom of this review as we have an offer.
The IROCK2 is a fine tuned piece of kit designed to excel with a very specific use. This is not an everyday shoe (unless you are always on fells/ mountains) that you use on road and smooth trail.
In reference to point 2, you will need other run shoes for those ‘normal’ runs when the IROCK’s are not required.
The IROCK2 has cushioning but it is NOT a ‘cushioned’ shoe and it shouldn’t be. Some cushioning is good but anymore and this shoe would lose the feel and control that makes it so great.
The fit is precision, again, as it should be for a shoe with such specific use. Worth keeping in mind for the Hobbits out there!

FINALLY

Skyrunning? Fell running? Mountain running? Running in the wet, mud, on dry rocks and wet rocks?

Need a 6mm drop, neutral and moderately cushioned shoe?

Look no further than the IROCK2 by VJ Sport.

OFFER

*Please note, I have no affiliation or working relationship with the following, this is purely an offer to help those who may be interested in the IROCK2 to purchase a pair.

 

 

The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 4

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Day 4 of the Cape Wrath Ultra was a stunner, no, it was amazing! The early morning cold temperatures and icy wind lifted to show the highlands in their true magnificence and what a course… today was arguably THE day of the Cape Wrath Ultra.

Just 69 runners (from 95) are left in the race, yes, the first 3-days have really started to hit! Although day-4 was a ‘recovery’ day (heard in the camp this morning!) of 22 miles, it was still a day of epic challenges and one seriously beautiful course. In particular, the section of trail from CP1 (on the A896) in the Glen Torridon that weaved it’s way up and up via a stony path between Spidean a Choire Leith and Spidean Coire nan Clach to the amazing cauldron that backed onto Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. This is a stunning place! Despite tired legs, fatigue, pain and no matter what ailments, this place put a smile on every single participants face.

It may come as no surprise that Marcus Scotney once again lead the charge. He was instructed by event director, Shane Ohly, that under no circumstances must he start before 0900. For the remaining runners, the start window of 0700-0900 was open and many, despite fatigue, still decided to leave early in the hope that they would be back in camp to gain additional rest at the end of the day.

Finishing in Kinlochewe, Scotney stopped the clock in 4:05:52 and although Thomas Adams had been very close to hime at the midway point, he lost more time at the finish with a 4:22:22. Ian White finished 3rd and Pavel Paloncy finished 4th, their respective times 4:41:23 and 4:42:32 – looks like we may have a fight on our hands for 3rd place with Paloncy just 9-minutes advantage.

For the ladies, Ita Emanuela Marzotto was back on form today, with a definite, ‘I love the mountains!’ as she moved past me on the trail. Her time of 6:14:51 extended her lead over Laura Watson (overall ladies 2nd place) who finished in 6:42:26. However, 2nd lady on the stage and 3rd lady overall, Louise Staples stopped the clock in 6:34:04. We may have a battle on our hands for the ladies podium?

Ultimately, today was all about blue skies, white clouds and the stunning highlands, even Marcus Scotney stopped to grab some photos on his phone! Today was a special day and one that all the runners will not forget.

Roll on day 5 which once again is a (relative) shorter day of 27-miles and 1400m+ to Inverlael.

Follow the race and get more information http://www.capewrathultra.com

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The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 3

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A ‘runnable’ day played into Marcus Scotney’s hands and pulling of a three-in-three stage win he once again consolidated his overall lead by another 20+ minutes for convincing lead overall. For the ladies, Laura Watson today took a stage victory by just over 1-minute from overall ladies race leader, Ita Manuela Mariotto.

At 68km long, it was a long and tough day, considerably coming on the back of a tough day 2. Although considered a course that would allow more running, the 2400m of ascent added to the difficulty. Unfortunately, the day didn’t start well for a couple of runners, Darren Grigas and Peter Fairhurst who made a huge navigational error and went completely off course and causing a minor concern from the safety team – a message was sent to the runners informing them that they were off course and to take evasive action. Unfortunately they missed the cut-off time at CP1 and therefore were withdrawn from the race in a competitive nature. It was a huge blow for both runners, particularly Peter who was in a top-position.

At the time of writing (21:30) just 49 runners had completed the day 3 course with 13 confirmed additional confirmed dnf and the remaining 32 fighting the cut-off times for a finish.

Departing Kinloch Hourn between 0700-0900, most runners maximised the additional time and left as close to 0700 as possible in an attempt to make Acanshellach before 2300 hours.

The sun was out, the skies were blue and white fluffy clouds occasionally offered some cover from the heat of the day but it was a tough day and only Scotney (7:49:09) and Mariotto (11:56:24) made the day look easy. For the remaining runners it was a day of struggle and survival. Thomas Adams (8:11:29) remained consistent running 2nd (once again) but Pavel Paloncy (10:00:58) seemed to struggle today and looked to be fighting the terrain, he finished the stage 5th over 1hr and 10min behind Scotney. Ian White (9:31:22) ran another good stage and today finished 3rd.

Ita Manuela Mariotto and Louise Staples ran a consistent day 3 and consolidated their respective overall top-3 places with11:56:24 and 12:18:38.

Stage 4 is a arguably a recovery day at 22-miles finishing in the town of Kinlochewe.

Overall standings after day-3 

  1. Marcus Scotney 16:58:06
  2. Thomas Adams 17:36:28
  3. Pavel Paloncy 20:24:51
  1. Ita Manuela Mariotto 25:29:00
  2. Laura Watson 25:54:06
  3. Louise Staples 26:30:40

Follow Cape Wrath Ultra LIVE http://www.capewrathultra.com

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Great Lakeland 3 Day 2016 #GL3D – Day 3

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‘Well almost,’ is becoming a theme on the GL3D. Last night during camp 2 bivouac the wind increased – then increased – then increased! As sun rose, the carnage was clear to see. Broken poles, ripped tents, lost dry bags due to being blown away in the wind and in addition, the rain just kept on coming and coming. Some may call the conditions ‘character building!’ However, bloody brutal was the general consensus amongst camp.

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Race director Shane Ohly, although extremely sympathetic to the runners needs was a little distracted… the large marquee that provides a shelter and eating environment for the runners was about to take off and provide a vey unique kite in the stormy skies. It was all hands on deck; poles were being rammed in the ground, straps were being added and luckily, the improvised actions secured the imminent flight.

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The gale force winds, torrential rain and a bunch of tired competitors gave Shane no option – bad weather courses were announced at 0600. This was then adjusted nearer 0700 removing a key control that would have taken all runners over Grizedale Peak. The winds were just too strong and dangerous.

Only 7 elite runners were left in the race and they ran a full bad weather course, several runners attempted an improvised A/B route but most people just made a direct route to the ‘C’ finish causing a logistical headache for the Ourea Team. Buses had been arranged for approximately 50 runners, however, on the day, the numbers escalated beyond 100.

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As one would expect, just as the day approached midday, the rain stopped, the wind reduced, the sky turned blue and white fluffy clouds occupied the sky as the sun broke through… you couldn’t make it up! Really?

Shane Ohly confirmed at the finish line, ‘this has been the most testing event and conditions we have encountered in any race we have organised. I don’t like to reduce courses but safety is key and we make the right call. It’s been a tough weekend!’

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The runners confirmed the severity of the 3 days but it’s funny how morning grimaces turned to afternoon smiles. The GL3D ethos rose above the surface and talk soon started about 2017.

Images available at iancorless.photoshelter.com HERE

Follow on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

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Great Lakeland 3 Day 2016 #GL3D – Day 2

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Yesterday I said, ‘The Lakes really are a special place any day, anytime, in any weather… well, almost?’

‘Well almost,’ hit today with some seriously torrential rain, gusting to gale force winds (particularly on the tops and in exposed areas) and at times slippery conditions underfoot. That’s the Lakes for you… the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Despite the onslaught of the weather, the scenery and the landscape still remained beautiful and spectacular. Despite the odd patch of white at higher levels, the complete blanket of snow that had covered about 500m was gone! It really is amazing the difference a day can make.

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Warmer temperatures overnight certainly made camping a more pleasant experience and for those runners who were up early and packed away by 0615, they will have dry gear and a dry tent to pitch tonight! Anyone who slept in will have a different story to tell. When the rain came, it really did come and although Shane Ohly (race director) had said it was on it’s way, we had all secretly hoped he was wrong.

The forecast was bad and Shane had contemplated running a bad weather course but many runners, even those in the Elite category decided to run the much shorter ‘C’ route. In all honesty, it was a wise decision. The C route although easy navigation had plenty of ups and downs in it and in the conditions, it was far enough.

This was confirmed at the Cafe at Honister Pass which contained a gathering of GL3D competitors throughout the day. They all found solace in some food and a warm drink before pushing on past Buttermere and to the day 2 camp at Loweswater.

Despite the harsh conditions, temperatures were good. However, wet clothes and serious wind chill did make many a runners journey a tough one – hands in particular were constantly being banged together and rubbed in an effort to bring them back to life.

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In the true nature of the GL3D, many of the participants had nothing but smiles and laughter for the conditions, particularly after the picture postcard scenes of day 1. The race did have its casualties though with many participants not completing any of the race categories (they just wanted to be back in camp asap) and others deciding to end the 3 day adventure early; the lure of warm clothes and a bed just too much of a temptation after such a tough day.

Post race the rain slowly reduced to a persistent drizzle, temperatures were relatively good but the main priority for all was to get out of wet clothes and into dry clothes. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, ‘thank goodness this is not a full self-sufficient mountain marathon!’

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Dry bags were opened, tents were pitched and in the safety of one of the large marquees provided by Ourea Events, stories started to be told about the days challenges. Of course, as per the previous day, free cake was consumed and energy levels were topped up with a pint of beer.

Day 3 concludes the 2016 GL3D and the runners will navigate back to the start location via Elite, A, B and C courses. However, I heard someone say the weather forecast is worse for tomorrow; oh joy!

Images available at iancorless.photoshelter.com HERE

Follow on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

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Marmot Dark Mountains™ Howgills 2015 – Race Preview

Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)

Marmot Dark Mountains™ is the only overnight winter mountain marathon and the 3rd edition of the race will take place on Saturday 24th January in the Howgills.

The Howgill Fells are hills in Northern England between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. The fells are bounded by the River Lune to the north by upper reaches of the River Lune and to the east by the River Rawthey. The Howgill Fells include two Marilyns: The Calf – 2,218 ft (676 m) and Yarlside – 2,096 ft (639 m) and a number of smaller peaks, including five Hewitts. Parts of the southern Howgill Fells lie within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, though they have been within the modern county of Cumbria since the county boundary changes in 1974. They were originally shared by the West Riding of Yorkshire and WestmorlandThe name Howgill derives from the Old Norse word haugr meaning a hill or barrow, plus gil meaning a narrow valley. – wikepedia

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This year’s elite course is a tough one, with a potential 3000m of elevation gain and an optimum distance of 53km. Famous for their steep rounded hills, the Howgills will be a tough challenge. Having viewed weather forecasts the organisers have issued a stern warning to all the competitors about the challenging nature of the terrain and event.

Needless to say, mandatory kit will be checked prior to the event.

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Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a true test of mountain craft for experienced mountain runners. Challenging terrain, night navigation and a wintery environment will test each runner over the variety of courses available: Elite, A, B, C, Short Score and Long Score.

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“Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and gives it a new… darker twist.” said Race Director, Shane Ohly. “Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, Marmot Dark Mountains™ packs everything into one winter’s night!”

Steve Birkinshaw

Three of the UK’s leading teams are of particular interest in the 2015 event: Steve Birkinshaw and Jim Mann, Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom and Kim Collison and Adam Perry.

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Runners will start to race at 1900-hours and  Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom will be first off! The dynamic duo have won practically every elite mountain marathon and they have held various long distance mountain running records. In 2014, Near and Higginbottom missed the race due to last minute illness, they will be looking for victory in 2015.

Steve Birkinshaw needs no introduction. His incredible Wainwrights record in 2014 was a highlight of the year for many a trail, mountain, fell and ultra runner. Steve’s partnership with Jim Mann is fitting as Mann holds the record for the winter Bob Graham Round. Birkinshaw won the 2014 event when partnered with Tom Gibbs, so the pressure will be on! Birkinshaw and Mann start at 2000-hours chasing the other runners down.

Kim Collison and Adam Perry will be a tough pair to beat and setting off at 1940-hours. Collison won the first Marmot Dark Mountains in 2013 (running with Alex Pilkington) and finished the 98km Fellsman with Perry in first place last year. The duo are evenly matched and are considered favourites by many!

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Offering a range courses to suit a range of abilities, every year there has been a small but steady increase in the number of participants.

“The event kicks-off on the Saturday evening with the longest classes setting off first for dusk-to-dawn racing. The shorter classes will set off later in the evening with the aim of most competitors finishing within an hour or so of each other the following Sunday morning. This makes for an exciting finale as all the courses and most of the competitors converge on the finish as dawn breaks.”

There are four linear courses that follow the standard Elite, A, B and C format of ordinary mountain marathons and two score format courses.

This year there will be two manned checkpoints in the Howgills that competitors on the various courses may visit and the organisers intend to post updates to the event website as the night of racing unfolds.

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Follow the race at Ourea Events HERE

Marmot Dark Mountains HERE

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Navigation 101: Intermediate Navigation – Beyond the Basics by Mountain Run

Mountain Run

This is a second article in a trio of interviews with Ian Corless, about Navigation for Ultra Runners & more. Read article one HERE

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In the first interview we covered the Basics of Navigation, this encompassed maps, compasses, setting your map & how to set a bearing.

The second interview was moving into intermediate navigation & it consisted of the following information & techniques:

  1. Declination/Magnetic Variation
  2. Grid Numbers/Plotting a Grid Reference
  3. Back Bearings
  4. Re-Orienting/Re-locating
  5. Thumbing the Map
  6. Hand-railing
  7. Catching Features
  8. Aiming Off

So lets start with:

1) Magnetic Declination or Magnetic Variation: 

There are 3 points at which north is seen. 1) True North, 2) Grid North & 3) Magnetic North. We are concerned with Grid North & Magnetic North.

Grid North is what is detailed on a map, its where the North/South grid lines show us the direction of north, according to the grid lines printed on the map. This is almost the same as True North, so we will group True North & Grid North the same. These are fixed points & do not move.

Magnetic North is what your compass needle points towards, being magnetised & this is not a fixed point, it moves over time. Magnetic North is explained as so:

“The North Magnetic Pole is the point on the surface of Earth‘s Northern Hemisphere at which the planet’s magnetic field points vertically downwards (in other words, if a magnetic compass needle is allowed to rotate about a horizontal axis, it will point straight down). There is only one location where this occurs, near (but distinct from) the Geographic North Pole and the Geomagnetic North Pole.

The North Magnetic Pole moves over time due to magnetic changes in the Earth’s core.[1] In 2001, it was determined by the Geological Survey of Canada to lie near Ellesmere Island in northern Canada at 81.3°N 110.8°W. It was situated at 83.1°N 117.8°W in 2005. In 2009, while still situated within the Canadian Arctic territorial claim at 84.9°N 131.0°W,[2] it was moving toward Russia at between 34 and 37 miles (55 and 60 km) per year.[3] As of 2012, the pole is projected to have moved beyond the Canadian Arctic territorial claim to 85.9°N 147.0°W.[2]

Because we have a variance between True North & Magnetic North, we therefore need to use something called the Magnetic Variation. This is described as follows: 

“Magnetic declination or variation is the angle on the horizontal plane between magnetic north (the direction the north end of a compass needle points, corresponding to the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field lines) and true north (the direction along a meridian towards the geographic North Pole). This angle varies depending on position on the Earth’s surface, and changes over time.”

It is also explained more formally, Bowditch defines variation as “the angle between the magnetic and geographic meridians at any place, expressed in degrees and minutes east or west to indicate the direction of magnetic north from true north. The angle between magnetic and grid meridians is called grid magnetic angle, grid variation.

Magnetic_North_Pole_Positions

Depending on which country you reside in will then depend on what the Magnetic Variation actually is. For example, if you live in the UK then the Magnetic North is 1.5 degree’s at the start of 2014 west of True North. The reason it is west is that we sit to the east of the Agonic Line or line of Zero Declination where Mag North & True North are the same. There are several points where this occurs around the world. Its a bit technical, but all you need to remember is that the Mag Variation is printed on all maps in the UK to advise what the Mag Variation is at what ever year the map was printed.

IGRF_2000_magnetic_declination

In order to correct your bearing to take into account the Mag Variation, you must adjust the compass 1.5 degrees east of the bearing you have taken, or more easily remembered, add 1.5 degrees on to your compass bearing you have just taken from the map. To make life even more confusing, the Mag Variation in 2015 is 0, therefore Mag Variation need not be corrected for that year, so it is almost not worth making this correction for the next year & certainly if your navigation is broken down into small legs. It really only comes into play right now, if you are travelling over large expanses of land, without any catching features, hand rails etc.

Transversely, if you are using the Mag Variation, remember when making a sighted bearing, whilst relocations, you might want to subtract 1.5 degree’s off your bearing in order to get an accurate bearing when you place the compass on the map. It all depends how accurate you need the bearing to be? Are you looking at a mountain summit? If so, is your bearing really that accurate anyway.

So Mag Variation in the UK is not really necessary right now.

If you are in Europe or other parts of the world like the US, then your Mag Declination/Variation will be different. It should be on the map you are using, if not consult a website like Wiki for more information.

North & South of the Equator. 

If you buy your compass in the northern hemisphere, then it is not set to work in the southern hemisphere & visa versa. Silva produce 3 types of compasses to work in 3 different magnetic zones. The best piece of advise is if you are traveling, then buy a compass for use in the zone which you are traveling. Best to contact a company like Silva to get the right compass.

Can I set the declination on a compass, so I can forget about the Mag Variation? 

Yes is the answer, but they don’t come at a small price. Most compasses, of reasonable value, like Silva 2NL-360 Explorer will have a Declination Scale on the bevel base plate, this can be used for quick adjustment. If you want to set the mag declination, then you need to purchase a compass capable of doing this, like the Silva 15T-360/6400 Green military compass. Its not really necessary for general use, especially in the UK right now.

Ok, so the confusing Mag Declination/Variation is done. Use at will, just remember to check on the country you are in as to what the variation is & apply it if necessary. Its list on the map you have in your hand, or at least the one you will be using.

2) Grid Numbers & Plotting a Grid Reference

Grid numbers are applied to the grid lines. These are a squared matrix applied to the whole country to divide it into different sections. They are laid out to make squares 100k by 100k, these squares are then broken down to have a further matrix applied giving squares of 1km by 1km. These are the lines/squares printed on your map. The lines running from east to west are numbered from south to north, these are the ‘northings’, the lines running from north to south are numbers west to east, these are called the ‘eastings’. A grid reference is made up of these printed numbers.

northings-eastings

So on the image pictured to the left, we have Eastings along the bottom & Northings running up the side. In order to find a certain grid we need 4 of these numbers. This a 4 figure GR.

We are always given the Eastings first & the Northings second.  A 4 figure GR would read as 17 45

Once we understand this we can move to a 6 figure GR. This is done by breaking down each of the squares into a further 10 divisions on either scale, making 100 squares inside the existing square and will allow us to pin point a location to within a 100m square on the ground. A 6 figure GR would be something like 175 454.

This can be taken into a further pin point of 10m squares by using the same logic & so on.

A roamer on your compass can be of great help here to pin point 6 figure GR’s.

Not following? Book on a course….

3) Back Bearings. 

Very useful in either re-locating yourself or using a feature to make sure you are looking at what you think your looking at. A back bearing is taken by using a sighting of an identifiable feature, be it a path, summit, building or  large reentrant & applying it to the map. This can help you do one of 2 things. 1 – re-locate yourself on a line feature (its hard to relocate with this technique exactly, but it can help your judgement or give you a rough location) or 2 – help you to make sure the feature you are looking at is the same one you are looking at on the map.

Remember that when taking a back bearing, you might need to subtract the Mag Variation to make sure its correct. 

compassatpeak

To take a back bearing, line the direction of travel arrow at the front of your compass with the feature, make it as exact as possible. Then swivel the rotating bevel so that you line the red end of the needle in the red house/shed, remember the Red in Shed. This is now your bearing set. Next put the compass on the map & line the front side up with the feature you think you are looking at, and move the compass until your orienting lines on the base plate match with the N/S Grid Lines on the map. You should now be able to locate yourself somewhere along the side of the compass.

A back bearing works best if you are already located on a line feature, as this bearing will then cross the line feature at some point, giving you a rough location of where you are on that line feature.

4) Re-Orienting/Re-Locating.

A very necessary skill, used to either make sure you are where you think you are, or as it sounds, to actually re-locate. Once you are adept at this skill, it should be used throughout the day, as you progress through your race or just through the mountains to keep a check on your position, but of course if you are thumbing the map, then it will be a whole lot quicker & easier. When you’re really good at it you will re-locate whilst on the move.

Clients on a recent OMM Mountain Skills Day relocating on Place Fell, Eastern Lakes

©iancorless.com.IMG_5128GL3D_Day1

How to do it: 

Use everything at your disposal. This means look for all the identifiable features you can see, summits, paths, streams, woods, walls, buildings, ruins, sheepfolds etc. Orientate your map, if it is not already! Now match the features on your map to the ground, or visa versa. If your still not sure, then use a back bearing by locating a summit or other feature & take a bearing from it by following what was discussed above.

If you are not on a line feature you will then need to start really assessing the contours & because you have studied your contours well at home, you have a good handle on how to interpret what you are looking at to the features/contours on the ground. Are you in a reentrant, or is there one close by. Is the valley in the right place in front of you in relation to the map.

Re-Location requires lots of practice, the more you do, the better you will get until you can re-orientate whilst on the move.

5) Thumbing the map. 

Thumbing the map with compass in hand.

©iancorless.com_IMG_5329Marmot24_2014_

A very simple, but very useful technique. Once you start to get a handle on navigation, map reading & compass work you will be able to fold your map smaller, so not needing so much of it in view. The smaller you can have your map folded, the easier it is to thumb the map. By doing this we mean, fold your map in half, half again and so on until you have a manageable size to hold in your hand. Obviously make sure you can see the area you are in. Now, knowing where you are on the map, put your thumb over this location. Having the map oriented correctly in your hand is very important. As you walk/run along your chosen courses/bearing, you simply move you thumb small increments to keep up to date with your progress.

Why is this useful? 

Because you need to be able to locate your rough position on the map at a split second or whilst on the move. When you want to check your surroundings against the map, just pull it up to have a look & your thumb will be placed near to where you are, you can then re-locate very quickly & keep a track of your progress from map to land or the other way round. This is how you will learn to re-locate whilst on the move!

6) Hand-railing. 

It is as it sounds, using a handrail to help you on your way as you travel across the land. So what is a handrail? It a feature on the map that allows you to use it as a hand-rail. It is always a line feature & can be as simple as a path, or as obscure as a blind ridge line (by blind I mean rounded & not obvious). Once you have established the handrail is going in the direction of travel you want you can walk/run along it until you need to make your next decision.

Examples of Hand Rails

Handrails

How do you know when to stop? Use the next technique, a catching feature….

7) Catching Features. 

A catching feature again is as it sounds, its a feature that catches you. It can be designed to wake the brain up to say your nearly at your destination, next direction change or just as a marker to what is coming next. You can have as many catching features as you like along your chosen course. Don’t pick too many though, as it will be hard to remember. Try to limit them as wake up calls, or direction changes, but you can still use them as markers to track your progress.

Plenty of Catching Features in the image below: 

Catching-Features_edited-2

A catching feature might be a wall corner, building, junction in a path or river or a crag that you are moving past. Used in conjunction with thumbing the map & hard rails, you can see that you can really track your progress as you move forwards.

8) Aiming Off. 

The last technique in our intermediate navigational skill set. We use aiming off to catch a line feature, that we may then use as our next bearing setter or as a handrail until we reach the next catching feature.

To aim off we use a bearing slightly off to the side of the line feature we are heading for. This can be either left or right, but it need to be obvious, otherwise you might miss it.

Aiming Of below so you don’t miss the control, best practice in foul weather!

Aiming-Off_edited_edited-1

Lets say your travelling across open ground south to north, there is a tarn in front of you running from west to east & you want to catch this feature, but keep moving past it. The weather is in and visibility isn’t what you want it to be. You want to pass the tarn to the east, so you need it to be on the western side of you. How will you know you have passed it, if you can’t see so well due to mist? The tarn might be 500 m long, west to east. By aiming off, rather than passing the tarn on a bearing and checking it off as you go, you are better aiming off your bearing slightly to the west & hitting the tarn, this then gives you an identifiable feature to break up your leg & confirm you are where you think you are. You can then take your next bearing to the location you want to reach, using the techniques of handrails, catching features & possibly aiming off again.

Get these skills dialled in good weather & you can now be ready to head out in to the open fell in inclement weather. Get them dialled in bad weather & your getting ready to head out at night.

Still not got it? 

Are you interested in an UltraTrail Nav Day or a Mountain Marathon Skills Day?

Send us your details here:

 

Marmot Dark Mountains™ – 2014 Race Preview

Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)This weekend will see the second Marmot Dark Mountains™ take place in the Peak District. “The Peak District has the perfect blend of high moorland areas, challenging terrain and a wonderful sense of wilderness… especially at night.”

Taking the classic two-day mountain marathon format, Shane Ohly (RD) and Ourea Team have given the race format a new… darker twist. The Marmot Dark Mountains™ will pack everything into one night. Derbyshire in January can only mean one thing… cold and potentially wet. Current weather forecasts are showing at best an 80% chance of rain, wind speeds of 17-22mph and lows of 2degs. Navigation is only going to be one element of this race!

©benwinston

©benwinston

Based on the classic mountain marathon format, competitors will compete in 2-man teams in categories Short/ Long Score, A, B, C and Elite. The nature of the terrain would normally dictate the distance of each course and the Ourea Team are sticking with this format and planning with a certain winning time in mind.

The addition of darkness, potentially bad weather and navigation will all make Marmot Dark Mountains™ a tough challenge.

©benwinston

©benwinston

“The knowledge gained from the first event shows that with experienced and vetted competitors, you can run an event in atrocious weather and allow the competitors to make decisions about their own safety.”

Although the winning time for the chosen race class will be similar to a normal mountain marathon, the distance covered will be reduced.

Departing from Glossop (Peak District) on Saturday evening, the longest classes will set off first and conversely; the shorter classes will set off later. This dusk-to-dawn style of racing will look to have all competitors finishing in a 1 to 2-hour window come Sunday morning. The break of dawn as runners converge on the finish line will without doubt make this an exciting finale to a long nights racing.

Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a challenging event, however courses will remaining open until 1200 on Sunday; this will allow sufficient time for everyone to complete their respective courses.

BW-Sponsors-Marmot

Shane Ohly when asked about the event and who would be the main protagonists had this to say, “My suspicion is that the elite race will be a battle royal between the duo of Steve Birkinshaw / Tom Gibbs and Chris Near / Tim Higginbottom. Both Steve and Tim are excellent navigators but with a 14-minute difference in their start times, I am hoping that they will remain in the ‘dark’ about each others positions until they have finished. I wouldn’t dismiss Simon Patton / Dave Troman either as both have intimate local knowledge and the darkness can be a great leveler of speed. Dark horses will be Jim Mann (recent winter BG record) / Stuart Walker – they are not renowned as a strong navigation team but they are fast.”

BW-Sponsors-Silva

It goes without saying that there will a hearty breakfast and hot drinks available to everyone as they finish. Competitors may also sleep at the Event Centre, which is recommend, before travelling home.

Race sponsorship comes from Marmot, Silva and Trail Running Magazine.

Entrant Numbers (teams of 2):

  • Short score – 20
  • Long score – 15
  • C category – 15
  • B category – 7
  • A category – 7
  • Elite – 13

Links:

About Mountain Running…

Yes, I openly admit I work for Skyrunning and I attend the events that they organize. I love the philosophy, the courses and the people.

To be honest, I love our sport. Don’t we all?

The WMRA – World Mountain Running Association, are once again making sure that WE understand what Mountain Running is and I guess what Mountaineering, Orienteering and Skyrunning is…

Taken from the WMRA website – link HERE

Mountain Running is Athletics. Differences with Mountaineering, Orienteering and Skyrunning.

To distinguish the sport of mountain running from mountaineering or orienteering or skyrunning we can look at the philosophy of each sport.

The philosophy of mountaineering is based on contact with and challenge to nature. The time factor is only important in relation to our planning and safety. Climbers seek their adrenalin rush climbing on rock faces, looking for new routes and overcoming the danger inherent in their sport. A considerable amount of technical equipment, (ropes, pitons, etc) is needed. It is a question of combat between man and nature.

The philosophy of orienteering is to work out the quickest router between two points. Speed is important but it is useless without map-reading, compass, and route finding skills. In a few competitions, orienteering moves out of the forest, its natural habitat, and onto the mountains but its philosophy is still distinct from that of mountain running.

The philosophy of skyrunning seems to be an adventure on the mountain, trying extreme difficulties: in fact skyrunning is the discipline of running in the mountains above 2.000 meters, where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade. Ski poles and hands may be used to aid progress.

The philosophy of athletics, in our case mountain running, is based on the time factor, how to reach the finish taking the defined way as fast as possible. This is the objective of those who take part in competitive mountain running. Courses are designed to eliminate danger. No equipment is needed, no ropes, no compass. Athletes find their challenge in matching their speed against that of other runners, a competition between man (woman) and man (woman).

Are we clear?

Just to make sure:

2013diack.jpgWMRA Council: definition of mountain running for IAAF Rule Book

During the final day of meetings for the WMRA Council in Monte Carlo, the definition of mountain running was discussed at length which resulted in proposed language for a new rule to appear in the IAAF rule book: this new rule numbered 251 could replace actual rule 250.10.
It was agreed by the Council that there are extreme variations in conditions in which Mountain running is practiced worldwide. The difference between very successful and unsuccessful events often lies in the natural characteristics of the venue and the abilities of the course designer.
The proposed rule from the WMRA Council is intended as a guide and incentive to assist countries to further develop Mountain running.
Guidelines are included to support worldwide race directors in the organization and logistics of their events.
The proposed rule will be forwarded to the IAAF for consideration with hopes for final approval by the IAAF Congress in August 2013, at Moscow.
The rule would then appear in the IAAF Rule Book