Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Review of 2017

As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.

It is a daunting task at times.

The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.

Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.

I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!

So, let us look at 2017.

I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse! 

Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!

Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.

Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.

Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!

Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing. 

Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.

Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.

Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!

Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!

The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.

Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.

Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.

UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.

Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.

Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?

2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.

Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!

The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.

Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.

Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.

Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.

Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.

The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.

Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis. 

Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.

MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.

Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.

Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.

Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.

Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.

On a personal note to conclude:

For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.

INSTAGRAM here

TWITTER here

FACEBOOK PHOTOGRAPHY here FACEBOOK TALK ULTRA here

PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE here IMAGE SALES here

Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE

BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.

 

The North Face Endurance Challenge, San Francisco, 50-mile Championships Preview (Men)

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50

My head hurts… it’s December, what happened to the ‘off-season’. Not only do we no longer have an off-season but The North Face have arguably assembled one of the most competitive fields in the 2013 season. Way back in April I was writing about the ‘race of the year’. Of course, it was Transvulcania La Palma. This was followed by another ‘race of the year’, Western States. I then followed this with another race of the year, Zegama and so on… you get the picture! Ultra running and mountain running is booming and as such, we are all seeing the benefits, not only from a watching and a following perspective but also from a racer perspective. It is now possible to have several peaks in one year and TNF may very well have hit on a winning formula with such a competitive race in December.  It’s late enough in the season to have recovered from recent previous efforts, such as UROC or Run Rabbit Run and equally far enough away from ‘key’ races in 2014 to allow for adequate RnR.

Okay, deep breath… here we go.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras returns after winning the race in 2012. His time of 5:33 in lousy conditions confirmed his ability if any was needed. Having said that, Miguel is used to rough-n-tough weather and as such, may very well have excelled in the conditions over his US contemporaries. Also the 2012 race did have issues over course marking which did lead to several runners going astray. I take nothing away from Miguel, he is a class act and although 2013 has been a difficult season for him, his second place at TNFUTMB proves that he is back. He followed this with a quality performance at Cavalls del Vent so without doubt he is a contender for the win. However, this field is stacked.

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones is back racing and embracing the trails after a quiet start to 2013 and some escape in the mountains. In addition, Dakota became an ‘RD’ in 2013 which primarily caused him to miss TNFUTMB and refocus on UROC. That refocus nearly worked and certainly with 5-miles to go at UROC he looked as though he had the race in the bag. However, Rob Krar pulled something out of the bag and relegated Dakota to second that day. In fine form, Dakota departed for Japan to repeat his 2012 win at Hasetsune Cup, however, disaster struck and he had a tough day and a dnf. Without doubt, Dakota will be recovered and focused on winning at San Francisco. He will be looking for a repeat performance similar to San Juan Solstice 50m when he broke Matt Carpentar’s record.

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday will bring his speed to this race and along with Cameron Clayton and maybe, Max King. They will be out at the front pushing the pace. Sage has had a mixed 2013 in the sense that he has occasionally pushed and failed below his own demanding standards. His great runs at Tarawera, Transvulcania La Palma and Lake Sonoma may well fall into insignificance in Sage’s own mind as I feel he may well dwell on his performances at Sierre-Zinal and UROC. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big Sage fan. He has all the ability to go out and win San Fran but I just wonder what effect recent performances will have on his confidence. In real terms, caution may well prove a huge bonus allowing him to hold back early on and keep his powder dry for the final 30% were he can use all that natural speed and ability. Unfortunately Sage has Flu – will not start

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will be feeling somewhat inspired and motivated coming into San Fran after his 3rd place at UROC behind Rob Krar and Dakota Jones. Cameron was 3rd at this race last year and although he has had a full season, you can’t rule him out from pulling something special out of the bag for that $10,000 prize. His 2013 season has been fulfilled with top placing’s at Transvulcania and Lake Sonoma, however, he has had a few below par performances which I think ultimately were more due to a niggling foot and other health issues. All looks good now though.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar, wow, what can we say about Rob that hasn’t already been said. Arguably, one of ‘THE’ ultra runners of the year after his rim-to-rim exploits, Western States run (his first 100) and then his incredible win at UROC. He raced just the other weekend at JFK50 and dropped leaving question marks in his own mind. However, the ‘drop’ may very well have just saved his legs and without doubt, don’t be surprised if he is on top of the podium at the end of the weekends festivities.

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson repeated his victory at Western States, always the sign of a true champion when you can go back to a race and do it again…! He raced at Tarawera and made the podium, he just missed the podium at Transvulcania and dug real deep at TNFUTMB. Surprisingly after such a tough TNFUTMB he then raced Run Rabbit Run on what must have been a tired body. He certainly has an autopilot but I can’t help but think this race will be all about fulfilling sponsorship requirements and showing face. Having said that, showing face will probably still result in a top-10 and should he get his race face on, don’t be surprised if Timmy gets a podium place.

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes has had ‘one of those years’ that he will be keen to get over! I was with Ryan in Gran Canaria in March, he was all fired up for an exciting season ahead and then injury hit forcing him to miss Western States. Healed, Ryan returned to Leadville in the hope of repeating his 2011 victory, however, injury reappeared. He has tackled some personal projects in South Africa and recently raced in Patagonia. Ryan will be looking to finish 2013 on a high and may just well go under the radar after a quiet year.

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King has not had a repeat of his 2012 season. Winner of the 2012 JFK and UROC, Max was an unstoppable rollercoaster and along with sage Canaday was just on fire. In 2013 he had planned to mix things up and race at different distances and represent the USA in multiple disciplines, it didn’t go to plan and he has been plagued with an ankle problem. If he is recovered and inform, Max will be up at the helm with Cameron and Sage dropping fast minute miles an looking to be the last man standing at the end.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols placed 5th last year and will come to this race confident after a great 2013 season racing in the Skyrunning calendar. In particular, he has plenty of speed uphill and has improved his down hill speed. 2013 may well just be the year that he moves a couple of places higher on the podium.

Francois D'Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene was last years 2nd place, approximately 13-mins behind his Salomon teammate, Miguel Heras. Francois has raced less in 2013 due to the pressures of owning a vineyard, however, when he has raced, he has been in top form. His was 2nd at Ice-Trail Tarentaise behind Kilian Jornet, he was joint winner at Mont-Blanc Marathon 80k Ultra with Michel Lanne and his recent dominance at the super tough Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale de Fous) means that his presence at San Fran surely means he is a podium contender. *Update “Finally my season ends sooner than expected …since my fall in Death Valley tuesday with a shock in the ribs I hope but I have finally abdicate … So I would support the team tomorrow.”

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne is another consistent performer who may well do very well at this race. He had a great run with teammate Francois D’Haene at Mont-Blanc but then picked up an injury. In addition, he has also become a dad! December may well prove to be a great time of year; his life will have settled a little, he will be over his injury and without doubt he will be excited to race in the US.

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

My final hot tip for a podium place goes to Dylan Bowman. Dylan had a great Western States and turned up at TNFUTMB in the form of his life but had a freak training accident, which caused him to miss the race. He has a new coach and he is going to be looking to release some of that UTMB frustration.

So who else… it seems crazy that I am not writing about the names below in more depth. But I have previewed above who I think may well take out the top-3 slots

  • Mike Wolfe – was 11th last year and set an incredible FKT this year with Hal he could win this race!.
  • Adam Campbell – 4th last year and I may regret not adding him above?
  • Mike Foote – great 2013 UTMB but been quiet recently.
  • Hal Koerner – Think he will be on TNF duty.
  • Karl Meltzer – Karl says he has no chance in such a fast and ‘short’ field. If it were a 100-miles he would be listed above.
  • Matt Flaherty – another who should maybe be above but he was 2nd at JFK just a week ago, maybe a little tired?.
  • Mike Wardian – anything can happen…. Mike is an unpredictable phenomenon.
  • David Riddle – may or may not race with injury?
  • Gary Gellin – 9th last year.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – 5th at UROC and I may regret not adding him above too.
  • Rickey Gates – mixed 2013 but always a contender.
  • Jorge Maravilla – top 20 in 2012.
  • Martin Gaffuri  – great season on the Skyrunning calendar.
  • And finally, Greg Vollet who continues to amaze and surprise every time he races.

So, there you have it. A super stacked crazy race to end the year, the top-3 are any bodies guess. I have tried to provide a little insight but just don’t be surprised if we see a completely unexpected performance and a surprise win.

Ladies preview HERE.

Ultra Race of Champions – UROC – Race Preview 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot_358 

Cash Purse: (awarded by UROC)

Champions Male/Female:    $5000.00

Runner Up Male/Female:    $2000.00

Third Place Male/Female:    $1500.00

Fourth Place Male/Female:  $1000.00

Fifth Place Male/Female:     $500.00

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

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

Overall Distance:  100K

Course Type:  Point-to-Point

Course details:

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

Estimated Total Vertical Gain:  13,245 feet

Elevation loss:   12,379  feet

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

Percent of paved road: 19%

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

Aid Stations: 9

Time Limit: 19 hours 30 minutes

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

Content taken from UROC website ©

THE 2013 RACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Males

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

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladies

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

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

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

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

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

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

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

Links:

UROC website HERE

Skyrunning HERE

Sierre-Zinal 2013 Race Summary

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What a race the 2013 and 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal proved to be. It was an exciting nail biter in the men’s race with a new star and the old guard shining. For the ladies, we had a new lady on top of the podium, a repeat performance for second and third and the UK showing how to be consistent and perform at the highest level.

Men’s race

Marc Lauenstein (Suisse) 2:32:14 took home the win from Juan Carlos Cardona (Colombia) who was Kilian Jornet’s pre race prediction by just 16 seconds in what proved to be a fitting climax to an incredible race. Cardona looked as though he had the race won but Lauenstein pulled something special out of the bag in the closing stages. Very little is known about Marc, however, he is a Swiss orienteering competitor and he won silver at the 2005 and 2006 World long distance orienteering championships.

Mountain running legend and Sierre-Zinal course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) proved that experience and pure class can outwit the competition for a 3rd place in a time of 2:33:44.

Although entered in the race for some time, Kilian Jornet decided to run only in the days before the race. He was already at the Matterhorn and preparing for his next ‘Summit’. The temptation to drive from Italy to Switzerland was too great, and although he may very well have raced for ‘fun’ he placed fourth in 2:33:59. After the race he tweeted, “Super, super, happy today with Sierre-Zinal. I was here to enjoy the race and I feel super good. Finished in an unexpected 4th with my best crono!”

Robbie Simpson from the UK proved what an incredible talent he is, running for inov-8 he placed 5th in 2:35:32. It’s a world-class performance in a world-class field. A star of the future!

As you will see from my pre race summary, the 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal was such a tough race to call. Stars like Tofol Castanyer (7th), Rickey Gates (9th), Sage Canaday (17th); all proved that predictions are a fickle area to delve into, particularly in a relatively short and tough mountain race like Sierre-Zinal.

Sage Canaday runs a 2:16 marathon and has had repeated victories in 2012 and 2013. Many of those victories have come with course records. Just recently he won Speedgoat 50k ahead of runners like Anton Krupicka, Max king and Timothy Olson. Now of course here at Sierre-Zinal he may well have been running on ‘jaded’ legs. It is a distinct possibility. Post race he said, “Total muscle failure. Mountain racing in Europe is totally different from the US ultra-trail scene.” It does beg a question, are some of the top guys racing too much or do they need to be more specific in training? Certainly Rickey Gates has proven here that US male runners can perform in Europe, as did Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent in the latter part of 2012. What are your thoughts?

On a final note, Cesar Costa (Martigny) has placed second at Sierre-Zinal three times before. For sure, many of us thought that 2013 may well have been his opportunity, however, he finished in thirteenth with a time 2:42:11.

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Ladies race

Placing 2nd at Sierre-Zinal in 2012, her first European race, I firmly placed my prediction on Stevie Kremer taking out the win after a stunning twelve months racing. At the finish line, Stevie didn’t disappoint, however, the top spot was not hers. In a repeat of 2012, Stevie placed second, 3:03:12 and Maud Mathys placed third, 3:04:13. It was like déjà vu.

One thing that did change though was the top slot on the podium. Unnoticed by me on the start sheet, Elisa Desco produced a career enhancing performance and she once again proved that after some time away from the sport that good things come to those who wait. Marc De Gasperi (2012 Sierre-Zinal winner) summed it up when he tweeted, “No words enough to say how much YOU deserve this victory! Brava, brava, brava!!!”

Kenyan, Hellen Musyoka set the early pace but in the end placed 4th with a time of 3:04:47 and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge proved that experience is what really counts when it comes to Sierre-Zinal with a great fifth place in 3:07:21.

Victoria Wilkinson from Bingley Harries in the UK produced a sterling run to place sixth overall and this was ahead of some sterling competition. For example; 2013 Speedgoat 50k winner, Stephanie Howe placed 11th, Lizzy Hawker 14th (admittedly training for UTMB), Zhana Vokueva 15th and Celine Lafaye 18th.

Without doubt, it was an exceptional weekend of racing and of course, from a UK perspective, it is great to see Robbie Simpson, Angela Mudge and Victoria Wilkinson flying the flag at the front of the top European races.

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You can actually watch all the action from the 2013 Sierre-Zinal here:

http://www.rts.ch/video/sport/athletisme/5125770-revivez-la-40e-edition.html

Sierre-Zinal Race Preview 2013

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgSierre Zinal 1sirrezinalIt’s a birthday year for this iconic mountain race. 40 years! To celebrate, the race organisation have invited many a past winner.

Considered to be one of the finest mountain races in the world. It was once written that it is to mountain races what the New York Marathon is to marathons. It is the oldest mountain race found in its category in Europe’s mountains.

The location is incredible. Of all the races I attended in 2012, Sierre-Zinal left some incredible memories… you see, the Zinal basin is just an incredible place. Also called, ‘the Race of Five 4000m Peaks’ when you stand in Zinal, look to the Matterhorn, you fully appreciate why. It is quite stunning.

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Sierre-Zinal, which takes place in the heart of Valais’ Alps, offers its participants a significant challenge: distance – 31 km, 2200m ascent and 800m descent. Incredible scenery, a warm atmosphere and exceptional organisation explain the success and longevity of this challenge.

As Jonathan Wyatt (record holder of both Sierre-Zinal and the Jungfrau Marathon, as well as a multiple world mountain racing champion) wrote, ‘As a mountain racer you must experience the tradition and history of this race.’

The course records are held by Jonathan Wyatt at 2:29:12 set in 2003 and Anna Pichrtova 2:54:26 set in 2008. If anyone fancies breaking a record in 2013, it would be a great pay day! A CR and a win this weekend, would earn the lucky person 3,000 Swiss Francs.

Legendary Pablo Vigil is a special guest this year. He participated and won the race years back and has become an ambassador for the race and has been instrumental in ensuring a strong American contingent at the race, for example, Stevie Kremer may very well have not participated in 2012 had it not been for Pablo.

This years race, as in any year will have names missing and I guess the big omission will be Marco De Gasperi. He is choosing to race in Italy. So, who will be lining up from the impressive 40-year history of the race?

MEN

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Despite Kilian Jornet telling me he was having a rest post Trans D’Havet so that he could prepare for his Matterhorn Summits attempt and the ISF Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks later in August, it would appear the proximity to Zinal is just too much temptation for him. So, he will make the trip from Cervinia and line up in Sierre for what he says will be a ‘fun’ run. Read into that what you will. When I see Kilian’s name on a start sheet he always must be considered for the podium… however, he may just kick back and enjoy the day. Read my interview with Kilian HERE

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Sage Canaday is travelling to the race after a strong victory at Speedgoat 50k and although he will be new to the course, I have to think it will suit him. He will need to ensure that he is near  the front in the early stages for the long climb, but once up, the course flattens and he will be able to open up and let his natural speed do the work. If he has a good day and is pushed, we may well see a new course record.

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Max King has raced at Sierre-Zinal before and from memory he didn’t have a great race. He was around 20th and I think the European style of racing was just too different from what he was used to. However, he is a very different person now. In actual fact, Max raced at the 2012 Zegama-Aizkorri, however, that race was as problematic as his 2011 Sierre-Zinal. It’s a tough call for Max. Definitely top 10 potential and of course he has all the ability to be on the podium. But will he get over the European demons?

Course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt is back at the race and although his pedigree and his history elevates him to a high-profile within the race, one has to wonder how he will perform against top-level competition who are some years younger than him. He still runs and races regularly, but as he told me in Chamonix, it is for fun. We will see ‘Jono’ figure for sure… his ability will set him apart from so many other runners but I think the podium is an option.

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Tofol Castanyer is finding form after early season injury issues and recently placed 2nd at Giir di Mont. Like Kilian, he will also race at Matterhorn Ultraks. This race won’t tire or affect his Matterhorn performance so we can expect him to run hard and that can only really mean one thing, a podium place is without doubt in his grasp.

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Rickey Gates also raced at Giir di Mont and placed just behind Tofol. He is obviously finding form after a slightly problematic Ice Trail Tarentaise. Sierre-Zinal will suit him and his speed.

Cesar Costa has finished 2nd at Sierre-Zinal three times, he knows the course like the back of his hand and in the 40th edition will most certainly want to move one place up the podium for the win. He will without doubt be a favourite. Local knowledge and being slightly under the radar to the American runners will play into his hands. He will push hard and for sure, top 3 is an expectation.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand has been in Europe for some time. Sage Canaday for sure will be well aware of what this man can do after racing each other at Tarawera in New Zealand earlier this year. Vajin has speed and considering he has had some great results recently: 2nd at Zugspitz behind Philipp Reiter, 2nd at the K78 Swiss Alpine Marathon, one can’t help but think that he will shake things up and turn some heads at the finish in Zinal.

LADIES

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It all started 12 months ago and the progression has been incredible. Stevie Kremer lined up at Sierre-Zinal completely blown away by the competition and experience that surrounded. Cut to the finish of the race and she was 2nd on the podium. What has followed is a meteoric race in the sport and without doubt, Stevie comes to the 2013 Sierre-Zinal race as my outright favourite. Listen to my recent interview with Stevie HERE

Ladies Winner

Aline Camboulives won the race in 2012. She has experience and ability and for sure, I see her on the podium. But I think Stevie has moved on and has the all the potential to take the race to Aline and not only push her to the finish but to go past her.

Megan Lund is a name I am familiar with but in all honesty, I know little about her. Stevie Kremer has told me that she has great potential and is one to watch on this course. I am aware that she won the race in 2010 but her European performances are few and far between. She has had a baby and as Stevie said, don’t you come back stronger after a baby!?

Ladies Podium

Celine Lafaye has been up at the front of all the Skyrunning races and I don’t see Sierre being any different. She has all the ability and potential to win this race and if she has a good day, she will push Stevie at the front of the race.

Local lady, Maud Mathys finished 3rd last year and will come to the race knowing full well that Stevie is the one to watch. I anticipate she will keep as close to Stevie as possible and try to pull something out of the bag in the latter stages of the race. However, she was five minutes behind Stevie in 2012 and Stevie has moved on. Has Maud progressed at the same level?

Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy Hawker turned up and ran literally at the last minute in 2012. Once again she will toe the line in 2013. I anticipate a top 10 finish but not the podium. Like last year, she will use this as a prep race for her attempt at another UTMB title. Lizzy has also had injury issues and although UTMB is only weeks away, she is still on the road back!

Zhana Vokueva will also be looking to push at the front of the race. She recently raced in the Dolomites at the Skyrunning European Championships but it wasn’t a great weekend for her. She will be looking to get back into form and for sure, would like to repeat or go better than her 5th place in 2012.

Stephanie Howe has just won Speedgoat 50k and like Sage Canaday, that has got to be a great boost going into this race. If she has recovered well from Speedgoat, Stephanie may well be the person to push Stevie all the way to the finish. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Finally, 2001 Sierre-Zinal champ and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge will toe the line. She has recently raced at a very high level and with some impressive results. I see Angela being a dark horse to the new runners who will know her name but may well dismiss her due to her lack of high profile racing of late.

Without doubt it will be an exciting men’s and ladies race.

Links:

Sierre-Zinal website HERE

Ice Trail Tarentaise 2013 – Pre race images and photo shoot

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Now part of the Skyrunner World Series, the Ice Trail Tarentaise will see a return of the 2012 winner, Francois D’Haene compete against Kilian Jornet, Philipp Reiter, Rickey Gates, Nico Valsesia, Jordi Bes Ginesta, Nicolas Pianet and Vincent Delaberre. For the ladies, the reigning champion, Anne Valero will not defend her title but don’t worry; the ladies field is extremely competitive. Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Francesca Canepa and Shona Stephenson will do battle on the glaciers and peaks of the ‘Tarentaise’; only one will be crowned the ice queen.

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Ice Trail Tarentaise Preview

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Ice Trail Tarentaise sends the chills down our spines as we prepare ourselves for the third event in the ISF Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

The stunning alpine village of  Val d’Isère is the official home of the Ice Trail Tarentaise. The race starts and concludes at this beautiful mountain retreat and as the name suggests, it is also the source of the Isère River. The Isère flows through some of the most iconic mountain landscape available. It is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel. ‘Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) is a ski region in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie département of France, to the south of the town of Moûtiers, partly in the Vanoise National Park. As implied by its name, the area originally consisted of three valleys: Saint-BonAllues, and Belleville. The skiing area has since been extended into a ‘fourth’ valley, the Maurienne valley. It is adjacent to Val Thorens, but can also be accessed using a long gondola lift from Orelle.

The Tarentaise valley and the Ice Trail Tarentaise in many respects personify what Kilian Jornet has been pursuing for years, the term ‘Alpinism’ is often perceived as climbing but it is so much more.

The race route has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte’ this is a race not to be taken lightly. Memories of the Tour de France flood into my mind when I discuss this region, however, other than the highest paved mountain pass at the ‘Col de L’Iseran’ at 2770m, no bicycles will be seen.

Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386 m, participants in the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will no doubt have a full appreciation of what Kilian and others like him strive for when they coin the term, Skyrunning. You see, Skyrunning is Alpinism but without the clutter, it’s about being light and moving fast.

Ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not all those who toe the line will see the finish. It is a tough tough race; no doubt!

The inaugural event was due to take place in 2011 however severe weather left the organization with no choice but to cancel, however, the 32km ‘Altispeed’ did take place (no easy option). Despite extreme conditions Damien Vouillamoz won the race in just over three and a half hours and Virginie (Virg) Govignon in 5:14. Virg just recently took part in one of the shorter events at Ronda dels Cims placing third, Andorra is now her home and the passion and love for the mountains are strong.

The arrival of the 2012 edition was eagerly anticipated, the shortened version in 2011 had wet many appetites, and success rates had been around approximately 50%, what would a full course offer? Despite initial weather concerns the race went ahead. Francois D’Haene from Salomon and Anne Valero from Mizuno were respective winners in times of 8:16:35 and 11:20:13 respectively.

Just three years old and only in its second edition, the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will now offer a challenge to elites and non-elites that only many could have wished for. Now part of the Skyrunner World Series, the Ice Trail Tarentaise will see a return of the 2012 winner, Francois D’Haene compete against Kilian Jornet, Philipp Reiter, Rickey Gates, Nico Valsesia, Jordi Bes Ginesta, Nicolas Pianet and Vincent Delaberre. For the ladies, the reigning champion, Anne Valero will not defend her title but don’t worry; the ladies field is extremely competitive. Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Julia Boettger, Silvia Serafini, Shona Stephenson and Emilie Lecomte will do battle on the glaciers and peaks of the ‘Tarentaise’; only one will be crowned the ice queen.

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Kilian Jornet – Considering the nature of this course, it’s location, severity, difficulty and true ‘Alpinist’ routes one would be foolish not to tip Kilian Jornet as a favorite for this race. As Lauri Van Houten points out, “Alpinism is traditional mountaineering with the big boots and all the gear – Skyrunning is doing the same stuff faster without all the gear…. Kilian will love it’. The race in many respects reads like one of his ‘Summits’ attempts and as such will suit him perfectly. With incredible results already achieved in 2013; Transvulcania, Zegama and Mont Blanc Marathon, one can’t help but think that Ice Trail Tarentaise is a race that will not only show him at his best but also it will be a race that he is eagerly waiting for.

Francois D'Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene – returns as the 2012 champion and for sure that will be a great advantage. Francois had an extremely successful 2012 with a top placing at Transvulcania but I am sure his TNFUTMB win will be the one he remembers most. He is currently in great form and for sure he will be pushing Kilian at the front.

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter – has incredible talent and recently won his first ever 100km race in Germany. He his experienced in the snow and without doubt this will play a big advantage in a race so demanding. He has shown in the past at races such as the extremely technical, Trofeo Kima, that he has all around ability. This will all come into play on this extremely tough and challenging race.

Rickey Gates – has been a little quiet of late. He always has a much smaller and tighter calendar in comparison to other runners but when he races, you know he will be in great shape. Top placing’s at the 2012 Transvulcania and a win at Speedgoat will carry over to this year and provide Rickey with a great base to compete against his Salomon teammates.

Nico Valsesia – is not shy of long distances. Arguably he is known for long cycling events like riding across America in the ‘RAAM’. His recent form is unknown as he should have toed the line at the 170km Ronda dels Cims.

Jordi Bes Ginesta – is a Catalan ski mountaineer and mountain runner and one has to say that ‘Ice Trail’ will play to all his abilities. His palamares are excellent in SkiMo with top ten placing’s in Spanish Championships, European Championships and World Championships. He was eighth in the 2009 world Skyrunning Championships and although I don’t think he will fight for a top three place you should definitely see him within the top ten.

Fulvio Dapit – is no stranger to Skyrunning and will come into the Ice Trail Tarentaise with a clear understanding of what needs to be done to compete at the front of the field. Fulvio was 2011 winner at the tenth edition of Monterosa Skyrace, he placed seventh at 2012 Zegama and recently had some success at Sardinia Trail, however, his form coming to Val D’Isère is not clear. Not a podium contender but a possible top ten.

Nicolas Pianet – has been racing since March and most notably raced the ‘Trail de Faverges Icebreaker 44km’ he placed third behind Patrick Bringer but one can almost certainly assume it was a preparation event for Ice Trail. His most recent race was Mont Blanc Marathon, he placed eleventh behind a strong and dominant Kilian Jornet. Nicolas has potential to mix things up at Tarentaise but he won’t contend the podium.

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Vincent Delabarre – previous winner of TNFUTMB and currently leading courses on the UTMB route will come into this race with plenty of mountain and snow experience. Invaluable! He raced earlier in the year at Marathon des Sables, a somewhat different experience to what lies ahead in Val D’Isère.

LADIES

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Emelie Forsberg – tops my table for the ladies race, just the other weekend she finished second to a flying Stevie Kremer at Mont Blanc Marathon, however, although she was fairly and squarely beaten, illness played an issue on the day. This was confirmed when just two days later she set a new female record for Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix in 8hrs 10min. Like Kilian, her SkiMo and mountain background will see her perform to her strengths on the Ice Trail course. A clear favorite.

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Francesca Canepa – fresh from a dominant performance at Ronda dels Cims will feel at home on the trails of the Tarentaise valley. She likes tough, technical and hard races. Francesca also has speed when required; her second place to Lizzy Hawker at the shortened 2012 TNFUTMB proves this. It will certainly be interesting to see how Francesca performs against Emelie Forsberg and Nuria Picas on this demanding course.

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Julia Boettger – loves long, hard and technical races. Tor des Geants and Raid de la Reunion are just two notches in her impressive resume. However, her recent form is unknown, she missed the start of Transgrancanaria due to illness and a main target for the year, the 170km Ronda dels Cims had to be missed for personal reasons. The recent Lavaredo Trail also saw Julia miss the start line, so, she will either come to Ice Trail fresh and ready to perform or a little under raced. withdrawn, confirmation 09th July 2013

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Anna Frost – had a troublesome winter and missed a race she loves, Transvulcania. However, she is back on her way to full fitness. Her recent performances at the Mont Blanc VK and Marathon show that she is not in full fitness but reassuringly this means that Frosty is easing her way back into 2013 instead of pushing too hard too soon. Without doubt she is a class act and I have never seen anyone with an ability to push so deep when the need arises. Her performance at Cavalls del Vent in 2012 was a personification of this. If she wants to win Ice Trail, Frosty could find something within herself to give it a go. Anna has podium potential without a doubt.

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Nuria Picas – missed Mont Blanc Marathon and will arrive in Tarentaise fresher than some of her rivals. Rumor has it that Nuria is running the 2013 UTMB so a very different Nuria may well toe the line for the ultra races in the Skyrunning series than we saw in 2012. Without doubt she has speed and ability, her 2012 season was remarkable, however, twice in 2013 she has placed second to Emelie Forsberg; Transvulcania and Zegama. Maybe her training for TNFUTMB is taking the edge off the speed? If so, her endurance and her ability to survive over a longer event may well be the difference between first and second in the Tarentaise Valley. Nuria, providing she has no problems will be on the podium for sure and ultimately I see the race being between her and Emelie.

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Shona Stephenson – has loved the whole European experience. The Australia based inov-8 athlete has had a great 2013 so far with some great 100-mile results, particularly in Japan at UTMF100. Without doubt this ability to endure and dig deep will be essential in Val D’Isère. However, her experience of snow, ice and extreme cold is limited and without doubt this will be a big disadvantage. She has the ability to be at the front of the race but the whole experience may well just be one big learning curve that she needs to take a step back from and accept that what will be, will be.

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Emilie Lecomte – placed top five at Transvulcania and then placed third at the super tough Ronda dels Cims. She loves races that are tough, long and technical. The winner of the 2012 Raid de la Reunion and course record holder for the GR20 long trail in Corsica, Emilie will without doubt push hard at the front of this race. Her experience in Andorra was mixed; she was dominating the race over the first third but then struggled with fatigue and a lack of energy over the latter half. For Emilie to finish showed incredible guts and determination,  you will see Emilie show that same spirit here, if all goes well she may very well make the podium.

The Ice Trail Tarentaise has all the makings to be an incredible and exciting race, which will be nothing like what we have experienced before. The combination of altitude, ice, climbing and descending will almost certainly provide some shocks and surprises. Who are your picks to win the third ISF Skyrunning Ultra event?

Stats:

The Ice-Trail Tarentaise (ITT), for the record, counts 65 km with 5,000m vertical ascent and descent, reaches a high point of 3,653m and touches five peaks skimming the 3,000m mark in Val d’Isère July 14.  Snow is not an option!

Notes:

It’s true that mountains at 3,000m offer a challenge to all who set foot here.  This year’s heavy snowfalls add an element of adventure (and technique) to test the most skilled skyrunners.  However, recent warm weather has taken its toll and much of the snow has melted although stretches on snow will remain.

The organisers will issue a statement regarding the course and safety measures after a meeting held this afternoon so check for updates which will be issued on this site, Facebook and the race website over the next few days.

Links:

Skyrunning HERE

It’s TARAWERA time

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

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

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

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

The Main Event

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

The Men

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

Timothy Olson, Jason Schlarb and Sage Canaday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviews are available on Talk Ultra as listed below:

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

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

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