GO HARD or GO HOME – Zach Miller In-Depth Interview

img_20160712_070410

Zach Miller has inspired from the day he burst on the ultra-running scene way back in 2013 when he relegated the then untouchable Rob Krar at JFK50 (who did not finish) and Matt Flaherty placed 2nd.  What has followed is a full-on, Go Hard or Go Home approach to ultra-running that at times has produced awe inspiring results and equally has left fans and Zach, holding their heads in their hands wondering, ‘what might have been?’ Win or not, Zach is one of the most exciting runners to follow. Earlier in 2016, he did a ‘Zach’ at UTMB and for much of the race it looked as though he may well pull of the biggest win of his life… he blew but still managed a top-10 placing. Cut to December 2016, $10.000 prize money and one of ‘the’ most stacked fields ever assembled at TNF50 in San Francisco and the stage was set, once again, for Zach to lay it all on the line…

“I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great!”

I caught up with Zach from La Palma, the home of Transvulcania, a place Zach knows well after racing here as part of the Skyrunner World Series.

Zach: How is La Palma?

Ian: La Palma is as good as La Palma always is as you know.

Zach: Yes, it’s hard to have a bad time there.

Ian: I came here last December because I was finishing off my book, Running Beyond, I needed a little bit of isolation and a little bit of space and an opportunity to get on some nice trails and just to do a little bit of running. It was just so nice because the weather here in December is fantastic, the trails are great. It’s just a nice place to be and I thought, “You know what, it has been another long year. I’m going to go and do it again.” It is just so good. It’s a little bit difficult getting around the islands to get to different places of trail because there’s not a lot of connection. But I’m staying in Tazacorte Port. I have a 2500-meter climb on my doorstep.

Zach: Yes, Okay. There you go, what more do you need?

Ian: The final descent of the race just drops straight to my apartment door.

Zach: Okay, you have no shortage of climbing then?

Ian: No shortage of climbing and no shortage of descending.

[laughter]

Ian: The only thing is it takes me as long to come down as it does to go up.

[laughter]

Zach: Yes, work on your down a little bit [laughs].

Ian: That downhill is just brutal, isn’t it?

Zach: Yes, it is.

Ian: 18k, 2500m of descent. It’s just exhausting. I’d rather go up anytime.

Zach: Yes, that one’s a tough one!

Ian: Yes, well you know all about it, don’t you?

Zach: Yes, I’ve done it once.

Ian: I remember you coming past me in the race after El Pilar, climbing towards Roques de los Muchachos.

Zach: Okay.

Ian: …at that point you were just in the lead with Luis Alberto Hernando, jumping on your heels.

Zach: Yes.

Ian: At that point, it was a classic Zach Miller day, wasn’t it?

Zach: Yes.

Ian: In that you lead the race from the front and then in the latter stages, it all goes a little bit wary… you had that fantastic finish with Dakota.

Zach: Yes, I did. I remember that. That was quite a day. Maybe one day I’ll maybe get back to take another crack at it.

Ian: It’s a great course, a great race. But talking of Zach Miller days, you do have a reputation for going out hard and giving it everything. La Palma, was one of those days. It’s a Zach Miller trademark. Tell me about the Zach Miller trademark of go out and go out and give it everything.

Zach: For one, it’s probably worked for me more times than it hasn’t [laughs]. And even when it doesn’t, it usually ends up exciting. It’s a combination of just liking to be aggressive and make sure that the race gets out and I give a good honest effort that we don’t dilly dally too much.

[laughter]

Ian: No, that’s true [laughs].

Zach: I just kind of set the tone, to give all, I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great. Like San Francisco!

Ian: Yes.

Zach: I didn’t really know that I could do that. On paper, I’d have thought I couldn’t maybe run somewhere around that time, but I didn’t know I could run it in that fashion. But I just like to give it a shot and see what happens. There’s plenty of races and if I mess up, there’s another one in few months…

Ian: You say that if you messed one up…  but sometimes going out as hard as you do for the distances you do, that could take some recovery. People like myself when we’re talking about a race that’s coming up or we’re writing a preview for a race, whenever we come to seeing Zach Miller’s name on the start list, we always say the same thing. That, you going to go out hard and you’re either going to have the most incredible day, set a course record and take victory maybe? Or you are going to blow up in [laughs] super fashion and it’s going to turn into carnage and you are probably not going to finish the race or you going to move down the field. You seem quite happy living with that strategy and certainly spectators all around the world love your racing strategy. Do you ever think to yourself that maybe one day, you might try something a little bit different?

Zach: [laughs].

Ian: – or are you happy with the fact that give it all or die trying?

Zach: Yes, I do every now and then I get curious and I wonder, I think like, ” Oh, I wonder what I could run.” And it’s like, “Just run smart.” It’s like if I were strategic, could I run 10 or 20 minutes faster. Would it be more… would it be less painful at the end.

img_20160616_233057

Zach: Would I feel a lot better at mile 40 and be able to run really, really fast instead of just hanging on? Yes, I have this thought sometimes but I like the way that I race and I think it’s exciting and I know people like it. I feel stuck with it because I feel like if I do anything different…

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: …people will be disappointed.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Although, I think some would like to see or would be entertained by seeing me taking a different strategy and seeing what I would have left in like the last– the second half of the race. Let’s say I ran with the guy with Alex Nichols through the first half of the race and then try to move. But I don’t know, it’s just my style. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m not going to lie when it doesn’t work, I’m hyped!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: The only time– the main time where it didn’t work and I wasn’t that hyped was at Templiers in France.

Ian: Aaargh, okay.

Zach: Just because it was so… you know I came so close. I was just very proud of the effort and people got excited about it. And then, I also saw how close I came to winning. I just concluded that it was a nutritional error. I didn’t know for sure but that was how I saw it. That one was like, it wasn’t a training error, it wasn’t even necessarily a pacing error. It was basically like, “I didn’t eat enough [laughs] or drink enough.” Then it was like, “Well, I can fix this.” And that was easier to deal with.

Ian: Okay, I’m going to come on San Francisco because obviously, that’s the most recent result. It’s the one where you had the amazing showdown. Your two-minute video or should I say Jamil’s two-minute video of you running into the finish of San Fran is quite spectacular and it’s certainly gained a lot of hits. But before we talk about that, I want to go back because we first did an interview when you burst on the scene and at the time you were working on cruise ship and training on the treadmill. You’ve come a long way since then, haven’t you?

Zach: Yes, I have. That’s one thing I say and I’ll always says that it’s amazing to see how far I have come in three years and the things is, it’s amazing to see how much my life has changed. My lifestyle. I’m anything but living on a cruise ship anymore [laughs].

Ian: No.

img_20160415_195424

Zach: Now I live in the middle of the mountain in a cabin [laughs]. But yes, it’s been a wild ride. A lot of things have happened. A lot of races have occurred but I think I’ve also developed a lot as an athlete. I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I could just do things now that I couldn’t have done three years ago.

Ian: What do you consider being the changing point for you, where life took on a different roll and you realized that there was an opportunity for you to change tack and almost make running your life?

Zach: Mainly, once I won JFK and then started getting some interest from sponsors, I just saw the potential of that. I was at that elite level and I was desirable to sponsors. When I realized, I could start making an income off it and that I could be good at it, I kind of saw maybe it was time to transition off the ship and get back on land. I moved to Colorado, so that was a big step and it was a great place to move to, to train and everything. Just seeing the success of JFK gave me the confidence to give it a go.

Ian: You got sponsorship from Nike, how instrumental has that sponsorship been? And how much do they help you to live the life that you now want to live?

Zach: Nike has been very helpful over the past three years. I was very new to the sponsored world. Basically, they came in and they gave me a lot of very good product support, travel support, an opportunity to make some money, too. It just opened doors to be able to travel, to races like Transvulcania or UTMB. To have the sponsors to do that because plane tickets and everything are very expensive and I wasn’t at the point in my career yet where races were paying to bring me over. I needed sponsor help to get me to those races so that I could make a name for myself. Basically, they just gave me an opportunity. They provided a way for me to get out there and make a name for myself. That’s been very, very helpful. Over time, I got a few more sponsors and things. But, yes, they were the first one to jump in and support me and it worked well.

Ian: When did the move happen for Barr Camp, and tell me a little bit about Barr Camp and the story behind that?

Zach: I would have moved to Colorado in May– around May, shortly after Lake Sonoma in 2014. I lived in Manitou Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak for about a year– working and training. I was on Pikes Peak a lot training on the Bar trail and just in that general area. I got to know the caretakers who were working at Barr Camp which is an off the grid cabin, halfway up the mountain. It’s like the huts that you would have in Europe except not as fancy. There isn’t a road. There’s a little electricity that comes from solar. Our water comes from the creek. The bathrooms are outside so it’s not as fancy as a lot of the European huts. It’s very remote and it’s pretty rustic. But anyways, I got to know them and then I found out that they were leaving and they were looking for new people to take the job so I got the information and then I pitched the idea to my sister because I wanted somebody to apply with me. My sister liked it and so we applied together and then we ended up getting the job. Now, it’s me and my sister and her husband– we all work up there. We’ve shifted rolls a bit. My sister and her husband take the full-time roles and then I actually work in a part-time – more of an assistant, part-time role. I live at the cabin year around but I have the freedom to go do my racing and my sponsorship obligations. And basically, when I’m here, I’m working but I get a lot more freedom to be able to like go Europe and go to California and do all the things I need for my running career. It’s really just a good mix.

img_20160919_220809

Ian: There’s a lot of people going to be reading this and they’re going to be thinking – particularly if they’re involved in trail and mountain running, “Wow, that sounds just awesome.” Is it as awesome as it sounds?

Zach: It is awesome but it’s not for everybody. It is also tough. The winters are very awesome because the camp is open year round but our traffic drops a lot in the winter. In the winter, we have a lot of time to ourselves. It is still labour intensive. You’ve got to haul the wood in so the fires lit to keep the cabin warm and you’ve got to carry the water in from the creek in five gallon buckets. You got to shovel off the solar panels and clear all the snow and everything. In terms of like day-to-day seeing people, we don’t see as many. It’s much more relaxed to have a lot of time to go out snowshoe, or ski or hike or run. It’s much more laid back. But the summers are incredibly busy. We’ll feed and house up to 45 people. If you come to our camp it’s not very big, so that can get hectic. We’ll feed like 45 people out of this little tiny walled kitchen. There’s just a lot of work in the summer, between cooking and cleaning and doing camp maintenance and doing search and rescues, and talking to hikers and selling things. In the summers, you pretty much go non-stop from 6:00 Am till 9:00 PM. And then maybe you read a book for like 30 minutes and then you pass out and go to bed [laughs]. I’m basically either working or training or working. It gets pretty busy.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about the training, because obviously, I don’t know what height Barr Camp is at, but it must be around about 10,000 feet. You’re sleeping altitude for sure, do you then drop down and train at lower altitudes or do you find that you’re training above 10,000– below 10,000 and that works really, well?

Zach: Yes, I just stay around 10,000. The camp is at 10,200 feet.

Ian: That was a good guess, yes?

Zach: Yes, it was. It’s 3,000m, I’m looking at my cabin right now because we have it up on the wall. It’s 3,109 meters for everyone in Europe. It’s very high. When I’m here I do a lot of my training. Sometimes if I make it all the way down to town, that’s like 6,400 feet. But then I must come back up. Basically, the low point of my training is around 6,400 but then I have days where I go all the way to the summit which is 14,110 feet. My training is anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 feet. It always starts and ends at 10,000. I probably spend a lot of time between 13,000 and 8,000 feet, it is probably where a lot of my training is done. I don’t necessarily intentionally go low to train; I just train where I am. I don’t drop down to do like speed work or anything. Not usually.

Zach: What’s interesting about that is we started this conversation with me being in La Palma and the Transvulcania course starts at sea level and almost finishes at the sea level. But that middle third of the course, once you go through El Pilar you’re then above 2,000 meters and you stay at 2,000 meters or above. One of the things that I’ve found running on the course and being on the course is that going up to altitude and dropping back down is completely different than staying at altitude and having to run at altitude for a prolonged period. And of course, that’s one of the things that happens at Transvulcania is that once you get into that middle and latter third section, you’re running at 2,000 to 2,500 meters for quite a chunk of time. Living where you do, this is perfect preparation for this type of race. Do you really feel the benefits of that when you travel and go to different races?

Zach: Yes, the benefits are there. It’s hard to always feel like Superman per say but the one thing is like when I run a race like Transvulcania or I race at UTMB, when we get up to the high points of 8,000 feet I don’t necessarily feel much different. For me, it’s not like I get up there and I feel I’m way out of my element. It’s just like that’s where I train every day. Up there I just feel like I do in Colorado. You don’t necessarily feel like superman per say although, I do usually feel pretty sure on climbs. Like when you get the high altitude and we go up the climb, that is where I notice it.

I do remember running at Transvulcania two or three years ago and being up on the volcano with Luis Alberto. He’s incredibly strong but I remember listening to his breathing and feeling like he was breathing very hard and he obviously ran very hard and he ran great that day. He beat me by a long shot but I don’t know what altitude he charged at? But I just remember noticing that we were up there and probably once he got down he was very, very strong. I remember him seeming a bit laboured up there but he still went right away from me. It was very, very impressive or maybe he’s just a heavy breather [laughs].

Ian: He does breathe heavily and Luis is a little bit like yourself in that he commits himself but he knows how to bide his time. Particularly at Transvulcania he would have known that you and maybe Sage Canaday and a couple of others were going to go off hard and he would be thinking about pacing himself. But when he makes his decision to go then he commits.

Zach: For sure I’ve seen that.

Ian: That was probably the phase that you were hearing him. When he made the commitment and it was a case of, “Now I’m going for it. I’m going for it.” Would you say that Transvulcania was maybe the race that started your switch to move to the longer ultras?

Zach: I wouldn’t necessarily say so because it’s still in that 70 to 80-kilometre range. I’m trying to remember if it was our first big European race or not?

Ian: It was, wasn’t it?

Zach: It was probably my first like real big more technical European race because Templiers in France is a hybrid. Transvulcania isn’t that technical in the beginning but that descent is what defines that and that is much more technical. I just think I was walking up in terms of racing in the European style at Transvulcania.

Ian: If Transvulcania wasn’t the real catalyst then surely something like Madeira Ultra Trail which at the time you said was one of the hardest races you’d ever done?

Zach: Yes, it’s still one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. That was the one that was a jump for me. I had been doing racing and it took around six to seven hours and then Madeira was my first race that ever took longer than like eight or nine hours. It was much longer than that. It was just under fourteen hours. That was a long time for me. That was new territory for me. But I did that and then people were like, “Well, if you can do this, you can do UTMB.” It scared me and also gave me some confidence for UTMB at the same time.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about Madeira Island Ultra Trial because I’ve been to Madeira Island several times now for races and there’s only two directions on the island and that’s up and down. It’s a brutal environment. I remember seeing a photograph of you lying on the ground looking as though you had a medical team making sure you were still alive.

Zach: Your description is good, there’s only two directions up or down. There are points in Madeira where you actually do run rolling almost flat but yes, it’s a very roller coaster course. You’re basically doing a big climb or big descend or a short little bit of runnable in between and the climbs are very steep and the descents are very steep. What defines Madeira are the stairs. So many of their trails just have stairs in them. They’re not uniform, some are concrete some are like dirt and wood planks. Some are small, some big, some are wide. Your footwork at Madeira must be very good and you must be able to change it at a moment’s notice. It makes the end that last 20 kilometres, so it was just brutal.

Ian: Do you still consider it, without considering San Francisco which you obviously have just won, was MIUT one of those defining races where you put it all on the line and it had come good?

Zach: Yes, it was because I was going thoroughly hard from the gun. We started at midnight and by the time the sun came up I had a good lead but I had already bonked… That’s why there’s that aid station video of me eating so much food because I had just bonked right before that aid station and I knew I needed to eat. Yes, I had worked very hard. I had run myself into a bonk and then came out of it. Then just had to fight really, really hard and it was very painful for the last like 20 miles but I was somehow able to keep going even though my body wanted to stop. It was also a day where it was like, “Wow, it’s impressive that my body could hurt that bad and keep going like it did.” It was a very telling day.

Ian: I’m interested in a couple of things that you’ve said there. You bonked in the race? You blew up, managed to eat and then carry on and not lose the lead but then also in the final stages– and quite long final stages where you’re really hurting and you’re in pain, you still manage to continue to push. Is that something that is just within you or is it something that you think you’ve worked on to enable yourself to do that?

img_20160929_224333

Zach: It’s both. It’s within me and it’s also something that I practice almost every day. Even as a kid I was a very very competitive person and I am very hard worker. If there was something in my mind that I considered to be successful, whether it was getting an A on my test at school or running a certain time in cross country. If there was something that I gained success I always wanted to attain it. I’m just naturally very, very driven and very hard working.

My parents were not so much athletes but very, very hardworking people, so I always kind of grew up with that example in front of me. And kind of not quitting until the job is done. Then the other part is I go out and I train and I just take those things and I practice them. I won’t let myself hike up a climb, I just stubbornly run it or I’ll bonk out there on the run and I won’t let myself walk it in. I’ll somehow manage to slowly run back to the cabin, and it gets cold in the winter and I train all winter long and it could be negative 15 degrees’ winter and freezing cold and snowing and I still go out and do it. I just kind of discipline myself on a day-to-day basis and then when I get in the races, I’m well practiced at suffering and just sticking with that and that’s how I get myself to push all the way to the end.

Ian: Okay. Well, that’s obviously one of the reasons why you’re successful because most people can’t do that. CCC, where did that fit into the big picture? I’m assuming that it was a case of going to Chamonix, understanding the environment, understanding the landscape for a serious attempt at UTMB?

Zach: Yes, sort of, it was probably less about scoping out the landscape for UTMB as it was just running CCC. I wasn’t at the point in my career where I wanted to do 100 miles yet, so I wasn’t going to do UTMB. But I still liked racing in Europe and that one looked good and Nike had gone over the scopes and they recommended it, Nike said it would be great. And yes, a bunch of my team mates were doing it. And it was like, “Well, this looks like fun and this looks like good one.” So, I jumped in and did it. It wasn’t so much like just a scouting mission for UTMB, it was more just to run that race. And it ended up being greater. It was kind of a turning point in my career and I was thankful that I did it.

Ian: Winning CCC is one of those funny things, if it was a stand-alone race, on its own weekend, it would be huge, but it always gets completely overshadowed by the UTMB. And I’ve spoken to and I’ve interviewed countless people who’ve been on the podium at CCC, Ellie Greenwood is a classic example and she said, “You really feel as though you’ve just won a smaller race in a big weekend.” Did you feel that?

Zach: That was my fear when I went to do it but when I did it, I didn’t really feel that. My fear was kind of like– in fact towards the end I wanted to run UTMB instead because I was thinking CCC is the side show, UTMB is the A race and CCC is the B race, and all the eyes and all the media and all the attention is on UTMB. And I was a bit reluctant to be in CCC to be honest. Probably even standing on the start line thinking all the big names are not in this race but then I ran it and the crowds were fantastic. My family was following along from home and the coverage was good. And when I came in… it finishes at the perfect time because it finishes around nine o’clock at night when everybody is having dinner. And so, the finish line at CCC is just phenomenal. When I came in and I won, it didn’t feel like I just won this side show, it actually felt like a very big deal. A lot people got very excited about that win. It got me a lot of attention in Europe and in the States, as well, so no, I was afraid that it would feel like that, but once I did it, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like its own show almost.

Ian: I wonder Zach, whether it’s because of your racing style and your race strategy and your, give it everything, and of course you did milk that finish line, didn’t you with the jump in the air… there was the elation, there was everything in there and of course an American winning a French race is a great story.

Zach: Yes, maybe it was partly because of that but yes, whatever it was, it was a great experience for me. And that’s the interesting thing about running and about sponsorship, most of the time the sponsors want the win, they want the podium finish. They want you on the top. But I’ve also come to realize that through racing, people are attracted to elements more than just winning. I probably had races where I haven’t won and I ended up with more interviews and articles and attention than the guy who did. Just because people were so entertained by the dynamic of it and the style of it and that’s just been very interesting. And it’s just funny how that is, it’s like sometimes you don’t even need to win, I want to win but there can be a lot of value just in the way in which you run the race regardless of exactly where you finish in the standings.

Ian: No, absolutely. And there’s a couple of classic examples of that and this year’s Western States with Jim Walmsley as a classic example of that, he’s had far more media coverage than Andrew Miller who won the race and almost to the point that if you ask people who won Western State this year, sometimes they don’t even know, because there was so much attention on Jim Walmsley.

Zach: Yes, exactly.

Ian: Particularly for you with UTMB, the fact that you took it on and you gave it everything, and you did blow up. But you didn’t blow up in spectacular fashion as myself and maybe a couple of other journalists thought you would – you somehow you managed to hold on and still get a very, very respectable place. Tell me about UTMB, and what made you think that you could go and run that big loop through three countries from the front and maybe hold on to the finish line?

img_20161222_213042_122

Zach: Honestly I didn’t know. That’s the thing with how I race. I said to friends or whatever, “I don’t go into races saying that I’m going to win, I don’t even go in with full confidence that I will. The only thing is that I’m just willing to try, and I’m willing to try to do something that I’m not sure I can do.” I think I can run around Mont Blanc, but I’m not sure I can run around it at the pace that I’m going to set off at. I’m just willing to try and find out and then if it works, it will be great, and if it doesn’t, I will learn something and then come back and probably try and fix it. Yes, I didn’t know if I could hold that all day. I did feel good and strong for a very long time. I had a little bad patch out of Courmayeur but then recovered and ran strong. It seemed all was going well up until just after Champex Lac, this is where it all started to unravel.

Ian: That’s what’s so great about it. I think to myself, if I was on the start line of a race like that and I had those insecurities-, those doubts or if I could or couldn’t, I’d play safe as most people would. And I’d maybe ease myself into the race, see how things go, and if I got to around about 70 or 80 miles and I’ve got something left, then I might give it a little bit more of a push. But you almost do it the opposite way around, you sort of go, ” I’m really fresh, let’s go as hard as I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can and maybe I’ll hold on.” When it all goes belly up and you get that major blow up and the major bonk, what goes through your mind at that point? Because you see the other runners coming up to you, you’ve got all those question marks in your mind about, “How I’m I going to get on here with? How am I going to continue? I’ve spent so long in this race at the front I don’t want to give it up now.” How’d you carry on?

Zach: It is very hard. Usually, there’s a fair amount of fight left. When I got Champex Lac I was getting chased but somehow I fought my way in there in the lead. Then by the time I left right on the heels of I think Julien and then just in front of the guy in third at that point in the race whose name is escaping me. Right then, I was in a bad spot – I wasn’t good mentally but I wasn’t going to give up. I was very determined to try and salvage it. I did actually get past Julien and I climbed away from him very, very, well. It wasn’t until the next day in the race that I found out that those two who had caught me at Champex Lac never beat me. I held them off.

Ian: No, they didn’t catch you!

Zach: Which I didn’t know because when Ludovic caught me I thought it was Julien, they’re both Hoka, I don’t know them very well by face. I know them much better now. I was confused when I was out there. I thought I was getting caught by Julien Chorier again and it was Ludovic. They’d comes from very far back. First, there was a lot of fight and then the body was just getting to a stand-still. It was just like the heart and the mind battle, the heart wanted it so badly to stay at the front and the body just wasn’t able to. It was very, very difficult for me. But I was still going to try to get to the finished and finish respectively. I just pushed to the finish — not very fast but I just did what I could and I got there. It was very tough mentally once I start getting passed.

Ian: It was still an incredible result for you to be one of the highest ever finishing Americans at the UTMB. History with UTMB and America is not something that the Americans have looked on until these last few years as being too great. What do you think has changed with people like David Laney, Jason Schlarb, yourself and so many others, that are now, making or enabling the American male runners – because the females have always done well at UTMB – but it’s significant the male runners that are now performing, what is it do you think that’s happened that’s now giving you good results at that race?

Zach: I’m not entirely sure I think maybe we’re a little more focused. Americans had a stage and we’re still maybe going through it where people just raced everything. They were not being very selective they just trying to see how much they can do but it’s quantity instead of quality. And as it’s gotten more competitive in America the elite runners have started to realize that, “I can’t just go out and win everything all year all along, I actually have to plan this. I need to be strategic and I need to target races.” I think maybe we’re targeting a little more and so we’re coming in with bodies that are not so beat up– that are ready to go.

And then we’re getting this faster generation that’s fresher and has this fast running background. On a runnable course– on a pretty runnable course like UTMB they’re able to– we’re able to go crank for a while. But then we’re also pulling young guys who have that background but also live live in the mountains of California at high altitude. I live in Colorado, Jason Schlarb lives in Colorado. David Laney bases out of Oregon but he’s always out the big mountains. Runners are finding themselves with these faster running backgrounds and good talents then coupling them with good training grounds and a little bit of focus and it’s paying off.

img_20160609_083240

Ian: Yes, you’re exactly right. It’s a learning curve and I also think that more Americans are racing in Europe and they’re beginning to understand the European style of racing and the courses that are available out here. Because in general, our courses are more technical– and I’m not saying that UTMB is a technical race but I’m just saying that it’s all a process and it’s all a learning curve. Your UTMB, and this is my last question on UTMB. We’ll talk about San Francisco in a minute. A lot of people have compared your run to Ludovic Pommeret who won the race. Ludovic, while you were leading the race, was probably back in 50th place and he slowly but surely moved his way through the field as many of the elite runners fell by the wayside and dropped out of the race. He moved up and eventually won the race.

Have you, in the weeks and the months after UTMB sat down and looked at your race and looked at his race and thought, “I can learn something from his win?”

Zach: You could learn something. His win is also interesting because, if I understand correctly, he and I were actually pretty much together in the very early stages of the race. He did go out aggressively. He had a stomach issue partway through that put him into a walk for a while or hike and put him way back in 50th and then he made that miraculous comeback. His body forced him into a more conservative or strategic approach even though it wasn’t necessarily what he was trying to do. It is very interesting; it shows that you can and guys like David Laney too, show that you can be slower and be much more strategic and then just sweep up all the carnage along the way.

Ian: Yes.

Zach: There is something to be learned there. For me, when I came out of it the big areas where I saw to improve and learn lessons was more from a training standpoint – conditioning my legs a bit better for the downhill running towards the end. Then just in general and then a nutritional standpoint. Because when I look at UTMB in my own head and I don’t know if I’ve ever actually said this to anyone but in my own head as I progressed through my career– as I’ve raced since then and as I looked backed at UTMB and I looked back at other races I’ve done I feel that maybe– and I must go back and try UTMB again to test my theory. But it feels maybe it’s a bit like Templiers where I learned a big lesson in nutrition and there was a lot of potential there in my body physically but there was a lot that needed to be learned nutritionally to support that kind of an effort. Now, I’m just trying to figure out how do I fuel my body to support that kind of a physical effort. I don’t know. Yes, maybe I need to make some adjustments in tactics, in pacing, in technique and how much I hike and when I run and how aggressively I go out. It’s all very, very, interesting and I have a lot to think on through the winter.

Ian: The Ultra running audience are quite happy with the way you run Zach and they’ll happily accept every now and again that you are maybe going to blow up or you’re not going to win a race because the way you’re racing is so exciting. How was the recovery process post UTMB? Had UTMB depleted you physically and mentally?

Zach: It took its toll physically and mentally in the short term. Physically, I was less sore but from a deep-set fatigue stand point I would say I was much more beat up. UTMB took about a month. It was much, much longer, about twice as long than 50 mile recovery. And then mentally, it was tough too. When I came back from UTMB, I was in a rough spot mentally. I just had trouble. Although, I acknowledge a lot of positive things that came of it, lessons learned and good experiences and things, it was just really hard. It was so very heart-breaking for me; it was hard to deal with for a while but then eventually the body came around. I got back to training hard and I could focus my energies on something and I had a goal in mind– getting ready for North Face, and eventually I found my way, but it was initially very hard.

In the long term, the fear of the hundred was kind of like, “Oh, you will lose your speed.” People were like, “Take your time getting to the hundred, you’ll lose your speed.” Maybe I lost a bit of very low end speed but after North Face 50 I don’t feel like I’ve made myself a worse 50 mile runner.

[laughter]

Zach: I’m very happy about that because I felt at North Face, and maybe you will ask about this, but I felt when I was out running North Face, maybe at North Face is where my UTMB training that I had done all summer was paying dividends and showing up. That maybe I wasn’t quite present at UTMB but after resting after UTMB and then going back, like shifting training a bit. But at North Face, the work that I had done all summer long was now finally paying off.

Ian: You have hit the nail on the head for me and that was going to be my segway into North Face in San Francisco. What you achieved or maybe what some people would say you didn’t achieve at UTMB is what gave you a course record and that incredible run at San Francisco. That suddenly 50 miles was not that long in comparison to what you did at UTMB, but also it gave you all that inner strength and there was definitely a part of me that, it was a case of you were on the start line not only to race everybody else but you were there really to race yourself and to see what you could get out of your body and if that meant victory then all well and good, but if it meant that you came third or fifth or tenth but having given it everything then you would have been happy?

Zach: Yes, that’s always kind of the idea. Sometimes I do come third or fifth and I’m not so happy because I am competitive. But yes, that kind of is the idea and with the talent that was in that race it was basically shaping up to be pretty much exactly what it was or what it turned out to be, just an absolute hammer fest all day long. And you know that’s an exciting thing. It’s like, “Well, here’s a chance to really find out what I’m made of.” Because I see snippets in training. But you never go out there and race a full 50 miles in training. It’s just like, “Well, here is a really good opportunity to put myself to the test and see exactly what’s possible.”

Ian: I’m going to compress 50 miles into five or ten minutes but I’ve seen a lot of races, a lot of ultras and I’ve seen some fantastic performances, but the one thing with an ultra is when you see the guy or the girl come down the finishing chute they never look spent. They never look as though they’ve given it everything (from a a pace perspective) and it looks as though at San Francisco that you gave everything right from the beginning and finished it off giving every last ounce that you had. Your finish is just the most captivating two minutes of a 50-mile race. You are giving it everything. You’re breathing out of every orifice that and you’re worried about whether Hayden is chasing you down because you were only separated by minutes. It’s just so compulsive. Do you feel as though that is the way that the racing is going to go now?

Zach: It is heading that direction. We’re getting to the point now where we’re really starting to race. Hayden’s performance that day was absolutely incredible. I basically told him after the race, I’ve never had anyone hang with me like that. I’ve had people like Luis Alberto beat me. I’ve had people catch me. I’ve had other experiences but I’ve never had anyone go out with me and challenge me like that and then stay right on my heels all day long. And sometimes it was me on his heels because we flipped back and forth. That’s how close it was. It was a race. It was like I was running a road marathon where we came down to the final couple of miles and somebody makes a kick and pulls away and wins. That’s pretty much what it was. It was an actual race all day long where I could never be comfortable and I could basically never let off on the gas.

Yes, as we get competitive fields and these young hungry guys in the sport we are maybe going that way. The 100 mile distances are a very interesting distance for that to happen to, just because there’s so many factors. But in this 50-mile distance where, especially in America where the courses are being run in five and a half– six and a half hours, and guys are starting to get very strong and trained very well and be tapered well for the races. Yes, we could see more of it. I don’t think we’ll see it necessarily at every race but I think a couple of the big ones during the year where you get the right combination of guys on the line and we’ll have a few more shows in the next couple years.

Ian: Zach, how much do you think $10,000 prize money influences it being a race.

Zach: It influences it in the sense that it draws a lot of very good competition to the start line. A lot of the elites, they want to run it because that’s the big pay day if they can get it. When I’m out there running… I forget where I heard it but it was somewhere I think after college somebody said they had received some advice or something that you should never run for money. Money should never be the reason that you’re running. When I’m out there running 50-mile race, money is not the motivating factor. I like to think that there’s other things that are more of a motivating factor but I won’t lie when I was running the race I was thinking about the $10,000 prize!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: That’s a pretty significant amount of money. It does a lot for me. Yes, it does push you. When I had 5k to go and I was in the lead by about a minute, it was kind of like, “Well, I can hurt an awful lot for $10,000.”

[laughter]

Zach: I would love to say that the money never crossed my mind, that I’m just such a purist of giving it my all and just the spirit of the sport, that that was the only thing motivating me but I’m too human. It was a mix. It was my competitiveness, it was my desire to just be first and attain that measure of success, and it was also $10,000. I probably needed just about every bit of of grit to get me to push that hard.

Ian: There is absolutely nothing wrong and my question was a loaded question because I wanted to get your viewpoint on the influence and the impact that money has in the sport, because I think we are going to see more of it and races like Run Rabbit Run where there is even more money available has an influence. This race was a race, prize money or not. And when Hayden and yourself are running shoulder to shoulder and he’s in the lead and you’re in the lead, what was the point where in your mind you thought to yourself, “Now is the point that I go and give it everything.”?

Zach: It was pretty much with about nine miles to go coming out of Muir beach the second time.

Ian: Okay.

Zach: There was a time shortly before that where I thought like maybe I was breaking away but I think mostly I had gotten a few seconds but the trail was just so twisty and turny that I couldn’t see him, so it felt like I was farther ahead than I was. And by the time we got to Muir Beach he was right behind me. He was like 15 seconds behind me. And there we were at around mile I don’t know 40, 42 and nobody had blown, we were in the exact same spot we had been basically at the start. But that was the point where I knew we had basically two more climbs and we had two descents and I didn’t want to lose it on a descent at the end and so I was just kind of like, “Well I just– I have to– I’ve been doing well.” After about 30 miles I had been doing well on the climbs– very well on them so I just had like, “Well, I’m just going to kind of push really hard here and see if I can get away and do a little caution for the couple of descends that were left.”

Ian: You got the course record and the race will be remembered for years and years to come. It’s one of those classic jewels and of course the advantage these days is that there’s so much social media that that story get shared worldwide. It’s certainly become one of the highlights of 2016 for several reasons – I think the time that you ran, that final two-minute video shows the amount of commitment and pain that you’re putting yourself through. But equally the finish line and the sharing of the story and the emotion with Hayden that very much humanized the event, that there was a victory there was prize money but ultimately it’s one of the things that I love about this sport, it was the interaction between you two and the mutual respect.

Zach: Yes, that was one of the greatest parts of the day. Was that I was competing against an incredible athlete who at the end of the day was willing to turn around and shake my hand and give me a hug and chat about the race and how incredibly hard it was. There was a good camaraderie there, it wasn’t this like ugly rivalry of like, “Oh, I hate you and you hate me and we can’t talk to each other.” No, it was almost like we were more friendly with each other after the race than we were friendly with each other before the race but I think each person kind of maybe has their guard up a little bit, you know?

Ian: Yes.

Zach: And then after the race it was good to be able to share those moments with Hayden and especially him being so new to the sport.

Ian: All right.

Zach: That was me at JFK with Rob Krar. And I remember how kind Rob Krar was after the race in talking to me and I respected that. And that is a good testament of the great sports we have.

Ian: 2016 is coming to an end, you’ve had incredible results at San Francisco, you’ve got that course record and now is an opportunity for you to look back at the year and recover and plan for 2017. I’m looking forward to next year, you have an entry for Hardrock 100.

Zach: [laughs] Yes, just to add it’s not a guarantee yet, I’m in if I want it. It was a funny situation, I had a ticket and I’d paid for the Hardrock and I’ve kind of wanted to do Hardrock and Bill Dupery wanted me to do it and I had this ticket and I said well, they say it takes like eight years to get in so I might as well put it in.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: And I said I will put it and I will hope that it doesn’t come out because I want to go UTMB.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: I got in!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Now I have this decision, I must decide whether I run Hardrock or run UTMB and at first I would say I was leaning towards just going to UTMB and then I kind of started talking with Bill Dupery and [laughs] friends in Colorado and I started leaning back more towards Hardrock. And now I’m not sure what to do but I’m considering both. I won’t do both but I will pick one and I’m considering both I just must decide which one to pick. I’m very honoured to have made it into the race and it is a very cool race and I think it suits kind of my current living and training style, I am well-suited for it, so I kind of feel I should probably take a crack at it while I have the chance. Because I know this chances are precious. I’d say there’s a decent shot I’ll be on that start line but I still must kind of think through a few things.

Ian: Well, I’m not going to pressurize that decision.

Zach: [laughs]

Ian: Should you choose to do Hardrock or UTMB it’s going to be a very, very exciting day. I must think that you’re run at Hardrock would really, interest me because [laughs] if you use the strategy that you always use that could be a very, very interesting day at Hardrock and particularly with Kilian and Jason Schlarb going back – that’s one hell of a line-up.

Zach: And I’ll say this, I feel like there are two things that people would love to see at Hardrock, they would love to see me race like I normally do…

Ian: Yes [laughs].

Zach: …because, as insane as they think it is, it’s extra insane at Hardrock because of the nature of the course and they want to see Kilian go as fast as he possibly can. And if we could get both of those things in one day it would be very exciting.

Ian: It would be more than exciting Zach!

Zach: Maybe Kilian’s already gotten his best performance there but the man is very, very talented and I felt like having Hayden at North Face just pushed me to a different level. I’m not saying that I’m good enough to push Kilian to that level but if we could ever have somebody push him to that level that could be very fun to watch.

Ian: It would be definitely fun to watch. And on that note, it’s a perfect place to finish with the anticipation and excitement of what might happen. Either at UTMB or Hardrock in 2017. Zach look, thank you so much for giving me your time, it’s been a fascinating interview and thank you for inspiring so many runners in 2016.

Zach: You’re welcome, it was my pleasure.

img_20160418_062137

All images ©zachmiller

Pikes Peak Marathon 2013 – Race Preview

Pikes Peak

Though heavy rains and flooding have caused havoc in Manitou Springs, the famous Skyrunner World Series Pikes Peak Marathon will go ahead as planned with the Ascent starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday and the Marathon at 7 a.m. Sunday.

“Our primary event locations, Memorial Park and Soda Springs Park were flooded and are unusable this year,” said race director Ron Ilgen. “We’ve decided to go with the smallest event footprint we can in order to reduce impact to the city.” Taken from HERE

The Course

map pikes peak

The race begins in front of the City Hall in Manitou Springs, 6 miles west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The majority of both races are run on Barr Trail in Pike National Forest. Barr Trail is a US Forest Service trail that is on the east face of Pikes Peak and Rocky Mountain. The course has an elevation gain of (start to summit) is 7,815′ (2,382 meters). The start is at 6,300′ (1,920m) and the summit is 14,115′ (4,302m).

The course for the 26.21 mile Pikes Peak Marathon® covers the same route as the 13.32 mile Pikes Peak Ascent® race but returns down the trail from the summit and finishes at Ruxton and Manitou Avenues in Manitou Springs

The Race

MEN

Alex Nichols in the Alps ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols in the Alps ©iancorless.com

2012 winner Kilian Jornet (3:40:26) will not return to Pikes Peak in 2013 and therefore this leaves the door open for Alex Nichols, (inov-8)2nd in 2012, to move up the podium to the top slot and potentially improve on his time of 3:47:22. He is a local lad, knows the course like the back of his hand and he is without doubt the hot favorite. Last years third place, Max King will also not race and therefore the main protagonist for Alex will be Cameron Clayton. Cameron raced last weekend at Dakota Jones’s Telluride mountain ascent and won and although he will race in Swiitzerland next weekend at the SkyrunningMatterhorn Ultraks, I am sure he will bring his ‘A’ game to Pikes Peak.

Cameron Clayton at Transvulcani La Palma ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton at Transvulcani La Palma ©iancorless.com

Although I have not had 100% confirmation, Fulvio Dapit may well toe the line, if he does, Fulvio without a doubt will push Cameron and Alex all the way to the line and has all the potential to top the podium. In addition, Jokin Lizeaga Mitxelena is very strong and he too will race at the Matterhorn Ultraks.

The rest of the men’s field does have depth and we can see many of the following runners looking for top ten placings: Gary Gellen, inov-8, Narc Caros, FEEC, Mikael Pasero, New Balance, Dai Matsumoto, Hagolfs *injued, Toru Miyahara, La Sportiva, Eric Diaz Martin, FEEC, Josep Vines Soler, FEEC and Oscar Casil Mir, FAM.

LADIES

Emelie Forsberg (4:28:07) 2012 ladies winner will also not return and in addition, last years second, Kasie Enman or third, Mireia Miro Varela will not return, so, who is the hot tip?

Step in Stevie Kremer. Stevie has been on fire for the last twelve months, she has been racing regularly and making consistent podium places. Just last weekend she placed second at the iconic Sierre-Zinal. For me, Stevie is the outright favorite, however, she hasn’t had much time at altitude lately and that may play against her.

Stevie Kremer at Zegama-Aizkorri ©iancorless.com

Stevie Kremer at Zegama-Aizkorri ©iancorless.com

On the face of it, the ladies field looks wide open, but expect pressure to be applied from, Laia Anfreu Trias, FEEC, Leila Degrave and Ragna Debats.

LINKS:

Skyrunning HERE

Pikes Peak Facebook HERE

In Progress Results HERE

Zegama – Aizkorri 2013 Preview

Zegama - Aizkorri

Zegama – Aizkorri needs no introduction to those who follow Skyrunning. It is a course that has created many a story over the years.

Located in a natural park, Aizkorri-Aratz, it brings respect and excitement to every mountain runner that toes the line.

Zegama Map iancorless.com

In July 2002, the Village Council decided to revitalise and bring life to the local area, in order to achieve these objectives the Zegama-Aizkorri Mountain Marathon Association was created. Today, the AIA-renovated Alpine Marathon has a reputation in the world as one of the world’s most prestigious mountain marathons.

Part of the Skyrunner World Series it is the ultimate mountain marathon test. In 2008 the European Championships were hold on this very course. When Kilian Jornet was asked about Zegama, he quite simply said:

“Zegama? It’s Zegama!”

Zegama Profile

In other words, nothing more needs to be said. It has a reputation that demands respect from the higher echelons of the mountain running world.

2012 Summary

Zegama followed just 7 days after Transvulcania La Palma in 2012 and therefore we almost had a re run of the La Palma race. Of course, conditions were a little different. The dry heat of La Palma was replaced by torrential rain, mud, cold and the occasional snow blizzard.

The American contingent who had raced well on La Isla Bonita transferred en-mass to mainland Spain with a couple of additions. Nick Clark representing Pearl Izumi and the ‘hot tip’, Max King. Max had everything in is his favour; speed and a mountain pedigree.

As it happened, the American contingent had a lesson on European mountain running and never got in contention. For many of them they could hardly stand up in the tough conditions and as Nick Clark crossed the line he exclaimed

“Now THAT is a mountain race!”.

It was a shock to the system. Dakota Jones victorious just a week earlier had taken the race easy, a pre-race plan as he had nothing to prove after topping the podium at Transvulcania. In comparison, Kilian Jornet had something to prove and now had some running in his legs… midway through the race he applied the pressure and once again proved that he is the king of the mountains.

In the ladies race Oihana Kortazar showed her dominance over this Sky distance and we started to get a glimpse of a star in the making, Emelie Forsberg. Nuria Picas also set her stall out for a year-long process of podium places over all distances, from marathon to ultra. Anna Frost tired after a dominating Transvulcania performance decided not to race at Zegama and keep some powder dry for another day.

2013

* PLEASE LOOK FOR UPDATES posted 26th April marked in BLUE

The 2013 race is going to see some great representation from top ranking teams: Salomon, New Balance, Adidas, La Sportiva, Arc’teryx, Valetudo Skyrunning, Inov-8 and Scott.

Zegama this year is two weeks after Transvulcania and although that would work well for additional recovery, it doesn’t necessarily work well for travel budgets, so, we wont have Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Anton Krupicka, Joe Grant and the ‘other names’ joining the Zegama party.

The Mens Race

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

Kilian Jornet will be a dominating force at Transvulcania La Palma and I see him on top of the podium, two weeks recovery is a life-time for Kilian and after his dominating performance in 2013 I see him replicating the win at Zegama. He has just flown around the Transvulcania La Palma course and set a new course record. Respect!

His sparing partner, Marco De Gasperi, a legend in mountain and Skyrunning unfortunately has now pulled out of the race with a knee problem. This is a great shame, we all love to see Kilian and Marco go head-to-head.

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

This almost certainly means that we will have a re run of the 2012 Zegama race and also the 2013 Transvulcania… Kilian’s main competition will now come from Luis Alberto Hernando. Luis was second behind Kilian at Zegama last year and is almost certainly in some of the best form of his life at the moment. He pushed hard at Transvulcania just over a week ago and was leading the race at the final summit, ultimately loosing his lead to Kilian on the descent. His race on the island of La Palma is even more impressive considering it was his first ultra.

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Missing from Transvulcania and deciding to run the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013 is Andy Symonds. Andy comes from a traditional fell/ mountain running background and just like Tom Owens, he will love the conditions here. Both Andy and Tom have withdrawn from Zegama I am afraid. In an email from Andy Symonds, he says, “We’re both injured!! can you believe it.. Tom’s got some pretty bad tendon rumpture in his foot and I’m limping with a duffed iliopsoas… neither of us have run for several weeks (much more for Tom). And so, no Zegama this year.. booo.. :-(” A real shame not to have these two top performers at the race. Speedy recovery guys.

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras missed Transvulcania due to injury so we currently have a question mark if he will run at Zegama. In form he is one of the best runners in the world, so, he will most definitely mix it up at the front. Tofol Castanyer recently raced the Three Peaks in the UK and had a good race but was not used to the ‘navigation’ element of UK fell running, he too has the potential to win, particularly when running on Spanish soil.

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

Michel Lanne from France had a great race over the tough and technical trail at Trofeo Kima in 2012 and has been racing regularly in the build up to this Spanish race. He will arriving in form and ready to take on the front of the race. Just this week he has been on the trails with Kilian.

Inov-8 have Alex Nichols and Ben Bardsley taking part and they may very well be two dark horses. Ben is well versed in fell and mountain running and will almost certainly come into the race a little under the radar… one person who knows and respects Ben’s ability is Andy Symonds. Expect a surprise! Also watch out for South African fast man, AJ Calitz, he may well struggle a little with the terrain, technicality and temperatures at Zegama. But a surprise can come from anywhere…

Other contenders are Michel Rabat, Nicholas Pianet, Dai Matsumoto, Toru Miyahara, Dawa Sherpa, Dave James and Daniele Capelletti.

The Ladies Race

Emelie, Frosty, Maud, Lizzy, Nuria copyright Ian Corless

Emelie, Frosty, Maud, Lizzy, Nuria copyright Ian Corless

The ladies race will be a battle royal and although the men’s field has a top quality field I can’t help but think that some real excitement and a nail biting finish will come from this select group of women. Of course, Oihana Kortazar is returning to hopefully repeat her 2012 victory. She will be fresh as she will have not raced at Transvulcania. However, I am going to go out on a limb and predict a podium place, if not a win for Stevie Kremer. Stevie (from the US and now living in Italy) may not be a name too familiar to many but believe me, she has all the class and ability to create some waves over the ‘Sky’ distance in 2013. She has just recently placed on the podium in a very tough race in Italy (overall podium, not the ladies) and after seeing her perform at Sierre Zinal and other races, I think Stevie will be the surprise package of Zegama.

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas once again had a great race at Transvulcania 2013 and will come to Zegama ready to push hard and go full speed for the win. She had an incredible 2012 season and performed over all distances always making the podium and in most cases, she stood on top of the podium. She is a true champion and a great ambassador for the sport.

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

Emelie Forsberg had a superb race in 2012 and she will be back fighting for the podium. She can go downhill like no other and as she showed last year, she took the final descent at break neck speed and got on the podium. She is wiser, stronger and more experienced now. She is going to be fired up after her incredible run at Transvulcania and just missing Frosty’s CR by a couple of minutes. I think back 12 months when I first met Emelie, Zegama really was her first big race… boy she has come such a long way in twelve months. What does the future hold for her?

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini is also another great potential for a podium place. I don’t see her on top of the podium… she is still very much a lady who likes speed and good running terrain BUT she is learning fast and has heaps of talent and ability. Just this last weekend, the 18th May, she set a new CR in The Great Wall run in China.

Silvia Serafini - copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini – copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost gets a notable mention. She won’t be racing this year. She missed Transvulcania due to injury but just this last week has had some good news and she is now back on the trails, albeit slowly and one step at a time. She will be back!

Anna Frost 'Frosty' copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost ‘Frosty’ copyright Ian Corless

Emanuela Brizio will lead the rest of the ladies gunning for one of those coveted podium slots. Maud Gobert, Stephanie Jimenez, Debora Cardone, Sarah Ridgeway and Anna Lupton make up the main contenders for the 2013 edition.

Links

Calendar

SKY
1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26
2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30
3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon – 42k, Manitou Springs, Colorado – August 18
4. SWITZERLAND: Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt – August 24
5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

Skyrunning Calendar 2013

ISF-logo

2012 saw the  ISF take running above the clouds to new heights. The vision of Marino Giacometti and Lauri Van Houten was fulfilled with the first event, the Transvulcania La Palma and this set the stage for an incredible year of racing. The inclusion of ultra distance races made some of the worlds greatest runners realise that Skyrunning had something new to offer. Tough, technical and gnarly courses at altitude with incredible competition.

With a season over and a new year ahead, we have great pleasure in releasing the 2013 calendar. Certainly from an ultra perspective the inclusion of the Ronda dels Cims in Andorra will set the stage for a battle ‘royal’ at the 100 mile distance. This course is renowned for its difficulty and altitude gain at 13,000m. As a season final, we have UROC (Ultra Race of Champions) in Colorado. At 100km this will provide an incredible closure to what I am sure will be the best Skyrunning year ever!

logo srws

As you will know, I have had great pleasure to be at many of the events in 2012 and this will continue in 2013. I will be bringing you news, reports, articles, images, facebook posts and tweets as an exciting year above the clouds unfolds…

iancorless.comP1050621

2013 SKYRUNNER® WORLD SERIES 

– new races, new format

Skyrunner® World Series celebrates 10 years!

November 30, 2012 Press release by Lauri Van Houten, ISF

It’s curtains up on the 2013 Skyrunner® World Series which celebrates ten years with some of the best and most exciting races across the world.  The new Series is divided into three stand-alone circuits: Sky, Ultra and Vertical, each with their own titles and prizes – clean and simple!

The introduction of the ultra distance this year wrote a new page in skyrunning.  The Series kicked off with the Transvulcania Ultramarathon on the Spanish island of La Palma, which saw probably the deepest field of world-class runners to date. The spectacular 83km course and 4,400m vertical climb will represent a major challenge to competitors in 2013 as once again the race opens the Ultra Series.

The success of the 2012 Ultra Series paved the way for our first 100-miler – the Ronda dels Cims.  With a gruelling 13,000m-elevation gain, the race will take place on the longest day under the full moon crossing the entire Principality of Andorra.

The Speedgoat 50K will be back with top runners and a fast course reaching three passes at 3,400m altitude in Snowbird, Utah, USA.

Two favourite skyrunning locations from the past also make a comeback:  Val d’Isère and Vail, Colorado.  The Ice Trail Tarentaise, 65 km with 5,000m vertical climb, will test the best against the spectacular backdrop of the Rhône-Alpes Region, site of the ’92 Winter Olympics while Vail in Denver, Colorado, will host the Ultra Race of Champions “UROC” – the Ultra Series final.  American and European legends will compete in this new 100 km race, very much at high altitude with four passes at 3,600m – a race of champions indeed.

Two of Europe’s most famous mountains feature in the Sky Series: the Mont-Blanc Marathon which will also host the KM Vertical in Chamonix the same weekend, and the new Matterhorn Ultraks, a fast, 46 km race in Zermatt, in the shadow of the world’s most famous peak will, without a doubt, attract top runners.

Spain’s long-standing testing ground of champions, the Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri, launches the Sky Series and the popular Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado USA, will again feature.  To close, yet another new venue offers both a nocturnal Vertical and the Sky Series final: Skyrunning Xtreme, a short, steep technical race towering over Italy’s famous Lake Garda.

Russia’s Mount Elbrus Vertical Kilometer® launches the entire skyrunning season and the Vertical Series on May 7.  Entirely over snow, the VK reaches an altitude of 3,450m, the world’s highest race of its kind. The Vertical Series continues with the Ribagorza Vertical Kilometer® on the site of the 2012 SkyGames® in Spain, followed by Greece’s Gerania Vertical Kilometer®, dominating the Corinthian Gulf.

See below for the full calendars in each Series.

Some numbers from the 2013 Skyrunner® World Series: nine new entries, two brand new races – 653m kilometres and 43,632 vertical climb six races located in the world’s top ski resorts (Chamonix, Zermatt, Vallnord, Val d’Isère, Snowbird, Vail) – without a doubt some of the best places to run in summer…see you there!

iancorless.comNuria Cavalls

SKY

1. SPAIN: Maratòn Alpina Zegama-Aizkorri – 42k, Zegama – May 26

2. FRANCE: Mont-Blanc Marathon – 42k, Chamonix – June 30

3. USA:  Pikes Peak Marathon, Colorado – 42k – August 18             

4. SWITZERLAND:  Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt – August 24

5. ITALY: Skyrunning Xtreme – 23k, Limone sul Garda – October 13

ULTRA

1. SPAIN: Transvulcania Ultramarathon – 83k, La Palma May 11

2. ANDORRA: Ronda dels Cims 170k, Vallnord – June 21

3. FRANCE: Ice Trail Tarentaise 65k, Val d’Isère – July 14

4. USA: Speedgoat – 50k, Park City, Utah July 27 

5. USA: Ultra Race of Champions “UROC” -100k, Vail, September 28

 VERTICAL

1. RUSSIA: Mount Elbrus Vertical Kilometer® – May 7

2. SPAIN: Ribagorza Vertical Kilometer®, Barruera – May 18

3. FRANCE: KM Vertical, Chamonix – June 28

4. GREECE:  Gerania Vertical Kilometer®, Loutraki September 8

5. ITALYXtreme Vertical Kilometer®, Limone sul Garda – October 11

Information

Ranking points

The three best results in each Series are scored in ranking.  Ranking points in the final races of all three Series will be increased by 20%. Ranking points breakdown: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 2 points to 40th position for men and 15th position for women.

Legend 

SKY – races more than 22 km and less than 50 km long with at least 1,300m positive vertical climb (SkyRace® and SkyMarathon®)

ULTRA – races over 50 km long that exceed the SkyMarathon® parameters (Ultra SkyMarathon®)

VERTICAL – races with 1,000m positive vertical climb not exceeding 5 km distance (Vertical Kilometer®)

Contact:

Lauri van Houten, International Skyrunning Federation

Tel +39 335 8000061 lvanhouten@skyrunning.com

A way of life

The TAA (The African Attachment) boys once again coming up with some wonderful footage for Salomon Running TV S2 episode 08 ‘A way of life’ featuring the ISF Skyrunning race Pikes Peak and some footage of Leaville 100.

Great to hear Tony Krupicka say that the important thing is to run…. racing is a bonus.

Pikes Peak

Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg dominate the Peak

Emelie Forsberg racing for the win. © Droz PhotoThe records stand, but new champions emerge: Kilian Jornet wins the 57th Pikes Peak Marathon, Sunday, in 3h40’26” followed by new skyrunning star, American Alex Nichols in 3h47’22” and Max King, third in 3h50’10”.

In the women’s field, the race went according to forecast with a full Salomon podium:  Sweden’sEmelie Forsberg first, 11th overall, in 4h28’07”, American Kasie Enman second in 4h28’25” and Spain’s Mireia Mirò, third in 4h32’13”, 15th overall.

The men’s race saw a tight group to the summit with Jornet leading throughout. Local runner Alex Nichols is evidently getting a taste for distance and altitude after excelling in his first SkyMarathon® at the recent SkyGames® in the Spanish Pyrenees with a 5th position while Max King, after a brilliant 3rd at Speedgoat, held the pace to close 3rd. Colorado runnerMarshall Thomson took fourth while France’s Greg Vollet and Oscar Casal Mir from Andorra took 5th and 6threspectively.

Alex Nichols on the descent. (c) Tim Bergsten

The women’s race was won on the descent.  A downhill specialist, Forsberg was ten minutes behind at the summit and overtook Enman on the last mile to the finish. Both Jornet and Forsberg set new records on the downhill – a natural for seasoned skyrunners.  Mirò’s tendon injury held off and was pleased to have finally concluded a marathon, the first this year.   Michele Suszek from Colorado was 4th and Britain’s Lauren Jeska, 5th.

Jornet and Forsberg now lead the Skyrunner® World Series ranking.  After just a few days’ rest and training they’ll be ready for the next challenge: the highly technical and gruelling Kima Trophy in Italy, on Sunday, where Jornet will face strong competition from top runners Tom Owens and Andy Symonds from Great Britain, Michel Lanne from France and Germany’s young Philipp Reiter.

Race results

Skyrunner® World Series ranking

Jury of Appeal ?

Events that arose in the recent Speedgoat 50k seem to have opened a can of worms! Is racing and applying race rules so difficult?

Let’s face it, in the ultra world on a course of say 100 miles, how will it ever be possible to ensure a runner abides by the rules?

At Speedgoat 50k confusion arose over the difference between ‘trail’ racing rules for the US and Skyrunning rules. Had RD Karl Meltzer stipulated a race rule pre race that corners ‘must not be cut’ then I guess we would have clearly had a DQ for Kilian. Under the circumstances Karl made, in my opinion, the best decision possible. End of story! Moving forward RD’s will learn from this and ensure that rules are clear before a race begins.

Taken from The Examiner
For this year’s 57th running of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon to be held the weekend of August 18-19, the Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc., board of directors has announced that a three-member jury of appeals will be in place to review and handle any race day issues affecting runners to include visible course cutting, unsportsmanlike conduct, and the awarding of prizes and prize money.

“Even though rules and regulations at the Pikes Peak events are very specific, there is always a chance that runners misinterpret them. We want to provide a forum whereby any course infractions can be reviewed and considered thoughtfully and thoroughly before a runner is disqualified from the event,” said Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc., President Ron Ilgen.

Although the inclusion of a jury of appeals is not groundbreaking, for instance the World Mountain Running Championships includes in their regulations a requirement that a jury of appeals be appointed, the majority of mountain and trail running events do not have an appointed jury.

USA Track & Field (USATF), the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States, has several published documents regarding meet personnel, referees, and jury of appeals for events they administer or sanction. Although mountain and trail running falls under the umbrella of long distance running, many of the events staged in the U.S. are not sanctioned by USATF and therefore operate with their own rules, regulations, or guidelines.

As more prize money is introduced into trail and mountain running events, there is more at stake than just a finisher medal.

As Ilgen states, “With athletes vying for a share of an increased prize purse this year, (it was announced last month that $54,000 is up for grabs at Pikes Peak), we want to insure that rules are adhered to and everyone in the race is competing on a level playing field.”

Just a few weeks ago, the Speedgoat 50K had an issue with a top runner reported to have cut the course. Without a jury in place, race director Karl Meltzer had to make a tough decision affecting the outcome of the race and the awarding of prize money. It was a ‘live and learn’ experience and something Meltzer doesn’t want to repeat in the future. He agreed that a referee in place at the event would have made the decision a lot easier.

Some of the items that could be addressed by the jury of appeals at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon include visible course cutting – either noticed by race officials who will be stationed throughout the course, or by other athletes in the race. This constitutes grounds for disqualification. Issues on marathon day related to an athlete hampering another athlete’s progress on race day related to an uphill runner not yielding to the faster downhill runner – possible grounds for disqualification. Unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated and is possible grounds for disqualification. Runners may take aid at specified aid stations, or take aid from supporters along the trail, or carry their own aid. However, taking oxygen prior to the completion of the race (even if medically necessary), is grounds for disqualification.

The Pikes Peak festivities kick off Thursday, August 16, at 1:00 p.m. with a press conference and reception for media and athletes. This event is open to the public and will be held at Manitou Springs City Hall. On Friday, August 17, the expo and packet pickup opens in Memorial Park in Manitou Springs at 9:00 a.m.

The Pikes Peak Ascent start time for the first wave of runners is 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 18, with the second wave heading up the mountain at 7:30 a.m.. The culminating event, the Pikes Peak Marathon, will start at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 19. Follow the Pikes Peak races as they unfold on Twitter @runpikespeak.