Lizzy Hawker – Interview

Lizzy Hawker, 2012 UTMB copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker, 2012 UTMB copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker is arguably one of the greatest female runners of all time. She has transcended what we all think is possible in running. Her versatility over multiple distances and terrain has without doubt made her one of the most respected ultra athletes of all time. She has dominated the UTMB, she is a 24-hour champion and she has set numerous course records. I was fortunate to catch up with Lizzy in early 2013. She had just had a very successful latter half to 2012 but was recovering from an injury before embarking on another full year of racing and personal challenges.

IC: Lizzy, it’s a real pleasure to finally chat, we have been trying to coordinate this for sometime.  Firstly, can we go back to how you got into running, you say you always remember running but at what point did you realize you had ability?

LH: Well going back, I can’t remember NOT running. I guess we all run as children, you know, just running around. I always remember at school that I preferred running in contrast to netball or similar sports. I don’t know how really but it just became normal to run everyday. It was only for fun though. It never crossed my mind to race or join or club. It was just my way to be outside and in nature. It was a balance to school, university and all other distractions. It’s just something that has always been there for me and I don’t think it was really until 2005 when I entered a couple of long races that I realized that I had something that I should really pursue.

IC: Pre 2005 is that when you where travelling doing expeditions. You were in Antarctica. An Oceanographer, yes?

LZ: I was actually finishing off my PHD and then I had a job with the British Antarctic survey.

IC: Running was very recreational then, a way to keep fit?

LZ: Absolutely, it was my way to be outside and an escape.

IC: Did you do any competitions, half marathons, marathons etc.?

LZ: I did London Marathon just because I felt I should… you know, it just seemed logical. I remember it was several years before I actually got a place due to the ballot. This was prior to my PHD but I was working at the Antarctic Survey when I got a place. I was actually at sea for six weeks. It was only a month before London that I got back on land. Not ideal preparation! It was my first race…

IC: How was that, how did it go?

LZ: I enjoyed it but my time wasn’t special.

IC: Time?

LZ: 3:40 ish

IC: Wow, considering how fast you now run that was a humble beginning. Nice for us all to hear… 3:40 for many is a good time but it was a very modest start for you. How did you progress?

LZ: From London a friend suggested that if I love hills then I should do a marathon in a hilly place, you know, somewhere nice. So, I did Snowdonia marathon in Wales for a few years and then the same friend suggested going ‘off-road’. You know, going across hills instead of around them. So, I entered the Welsh 1000’s. Because I didn’t have fell-running experience at all, I couldn’t enter the fell class, so, I was in the mountain class. It meant a heavy pack, long trousers and walking boots. I enjoyed it and did it a couple if times… that was the only experience I had prior to 2005.

IC: In 2005 what changed, what was it that you then did that paved the way to were you are now?

LZ: Two things really. I was visiting friends in South Wales to escape my PHD for a weekend. They were running a 40-mile track race in Barry. So I just entered it. Primarily because they had. I think that was March and then I was selected for the England team for the UK 100k champs. That was based on my time at the 40-mile race. The 100k was a month later and in-between that I went to Turkey to SkiMo (Ski Mountaineer). Not conventional prep! Also, I had read an article about the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc (UTMB). UTMB did not have the prestige it has now and it had no wait list, so I entered. I was due to finish my PHD and it was a great excuse to go to the Alps. I would goo climbing and then race at the end. That was my first mountain race.

IC: So in 2005 with little or no experience, you go to UTMB. That is quite a step up eh?

LH: I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had nothing to gauge it against. I had no idea even if I would get back to Chamonix after starting. I certainly expected not to make one of the cut offs… I was on the start and I thought about a quote from Alice in Wonderland, you know, the one about starting in the beginning and stopping when you get to the end. That was my goal. To start and keep going until I stopped or was stopped.

IC: What was that first experience like?

LH: I loved it. I started in the masses. I was way back at the start. I was on the Church steps way back from the front. It was a long long time before I even started to run. Just the sheer number and volume of people slowed everything down. I can remember, after about 15 to 20k I was somewhere between about 500/600th place. I actually finished 25th or 26th overall by the time the end came. I just worked my way past everyone… I just loved it. It was my first experience of running at night and I can remember after one of the feed stations, I was running up  a climb and I could feel the beauty of the mountains. I knew then that I would have to go back. Yes, it was magic.

IC: You have won that race (UTMB) five times…

LH: Well, kind of five times…

IC: Ok, yes, five variations of the race! We spoke after the 2012 finish and you said you still had unfinished business. You want that ‘time’* on the course. Will that mean you will be back?

*Lizzy is very keen to set the fastest ladies time in the UTMB course.

LH: Yes, I am mulling over my plans. I can’t confirm for 2013 but I almost certainly will be back to UTMB, if not this year then maybe next. I do have unfinished business.

IC: Do you think the plans that the UTMB organization have made for 2013 and moving forward to correct issues* in the past will work?  *by issues, we refer to the race being shortened due to unpredictable weather.

LH: I don’t know. What I would like to see is a sliding start time. So that they have the possibility to bring the race forward or delay by 24 hours, this will allow for good weather windows. I am not sure how that would work with the other races (CCC and TDS) going on but it seems to me that the weather systems work through quite quickly and this window may very well be ideal to allow the full race to go ahead. We want the race to be as it should be, a full tour of Mont Blanc. That is 160km. If I were taking time of work, paying money to get there, I would much prefer to add one extra day either side and have that possibility to race for what may very well be moderate additional expense. I don’t think they (UTMB organization) have taken this as an option but it is what I would like to see.

IC: I think many would agree with you. The race is a ‘tour ‘of Mont Blanc. Not a 60k, 100k or 140k. You want to go back and do the race and get the time* but your variety of races are extreme, you know, you run on the track, you run on the road, you run mountains, you run trail, you do multi stage, how do you apply yourself in your training, do you literally just go out and run and enjoy it?

LH: Pretty much I guess. I think over the years I have kind of built up a high level of base endurance so depending on the race I am targeting next I kind of focus training to that specific event. But because of the way I came into running, running was part of my daily routine. I wanted to be outside, I wanted to be moving and I just love running, So, that is really the backbone of my training even now I guess. I just like to run.

IC: For someone who loves the mountains so much, You are passionate about Nepal for example, what is it in your mind that allows you to run on a 400m track, time and time again for 24 hours?

LH: I haven’t done that yet!

IC: Yes I know that, but I am curious what it is within you that will allow you to do this?

LH: I can remember back to my first track race in 2005. I hadn’t been on a track since school. It was funny, I couldn’t get lost, I couldn’t fall down a crevice, I had no avalanches to think about and it basically just simplified the process. I could think about the running movement. I could just focus. Almost like meditation.

IC: Do you use meditation when running?

LH: I use mediation for it’s own sake. But that is just during the last 12 months or so. But I have realized that most of my running is kind of a meditation. Or at least  it is my quiet time. Time alone with myself. Not every case obviously but when I am alone it is a relaxing and spiritual time.

IC: I followed you at UTMB in 2012. I had the benefit of being in the feed stations with Keith (Lizzies crew from The North Face). You would arrive; Keith would have everything laid out. It looked planned with a definite strategy. Get you in and out ASAP. But I remember you said to me that it isn’t that planned.

LH: No not at all. I never know what I want but if I have the options I can choose what I want. I need to move through as quickly as possible.

IC: Do you find that you turn yourself off? Do you almost become metronomic?

LH: Not really. It’s a body and mind connection. It has to be very strong. You need to know what is going on; particularly with your body but at the same time you need to be able to cut pain off. You need to hang on in and sort it out. It’s two sides of the coin if that makes sense.

Lizzy Hawker at Sierre-Zinal 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker at Sierre-Zinal 2012 copyright Ian Corless

IC: If we look at your achievements, UTMB, 100k champs, 24-hour world record and in 2012 you had a golden period… UTMB, Run Rabbit Run and then Spartathlon. If we look at all these things, what are your highlights?

LH: Ultimately it is the running. It is an essential part of my life. The races are stepping stones within that. I think it is funny though, I look at what you call the ‘golden period’ and I don’t feel I raced at my best! I could have done so much more… It is kind of funny; I am always trying to improve. Go faster, go longer. I want to be so much better. I was happy with those three races but I felt I could have given more.

IC: Lets take Spartathlon. It is an iconic race in the ultra calendar. It is a race that has a different variety of people who take part, we often look at that race as giving some significant performances, and for example we talk about Yiannis Kouros and Scott Jurek. You raced for the first time in 2012. Did the race live up to its billing?

LH: It is an iconic race. The atmosphere is amazing. The route is not that wonderful, not so much the route but the fact that you are on busy roads and they don’t close them. I had times during the night with lorries passing me that were less than comfortable. It is an incredible race to be a part of though.

IC: Of course you had a pretty darn good race. You set a women’s course record, you were on the podium overall but yet you say it wasn’t good enough! Did you want to win outright?

LH: yes!

(Joint laughter)

IC: Funny. I love the standards that you set yourself. Will you go back?

LH: Yes, I am not sure in 2013 but I will go back and try again one year.

IC: After Spartathlon I guess you had a cleansing period in Nepal. You did Manasulu Trail. Is that type of race more for you, a personal race?

LH: Half and half. Of course, I love to be in Nepal. Nepal gives me so much back, to be in that place is rewarding but those Nepalese guys can really run, it is not easy.

IC: I love you say that you mention the men and the fact that you are not racing the women.

LH: It’s a small race!

IC: Yes, but women usually race women. You always race for the overall instead of racing for first lady. Are you very competitive?

LH: I guess I am competitive but the competition is within. I want to be the best I can be. I can win a race and not be happy or I could come way down the field but be happy because I did my best on that day. That is the way I feel about racing. It is a personal thing.

IC: You love Nepal. You attempted a full crossing, which unfortunately didn’t go to plan… you lost your sat phone amongst other things!

LH: Or the permits! Just a few things… (laughs)

IC: Will you try again; I know the rules have changed on how you can now do these crossings?

LH I definitely want to go back. It is my dream journey. To cross the Himalayas keeping as high as possible and moving fast is what really motivates me. I would love to go back.

IC: How long is that journey?

LH: About 1,000 miles.

IC: A long way!

LH: Yes, a pretty long way.

IC: A race has been announced that will take this whole route for 2014.

LH: Yes, Spring 2014 and 2016 I think.

IC:  Is that of interest to you or would you prefer solo?

LH: I can do both! (Laughs) I still want to do my solo journey because it will be so different. The race will miss the high passes. You can’t really compare the two. They both have validity and I would like to do both.

IC: 2013 is here, what does it have in store for you?

LH: Good question. I am mulling that over. Nothing is definite, not that it ever is. I am formulating race plans at the moment.

IC: Western States, Skyrunning, and UTMB?

** Please see UPDATE below

LH: Ronda del Cims 100m Skyrunning race is looking very likely in June. I hope to do Hardrock 100. I am on the wait list so I hope to race.

IC: You are high up on the wait list for Hardrock 100 if I remember correctly?

LH: Not sure it is high enough though? I will try to do those two and then we shall see what the rest of the year holds for me.

Lizzy Hawker copyright Ian Corless

Lizzy Hawker copyright Ian Corless

IC: Ronda del Cims is a tough course. It has plenty of climbing and altitude.

LH:  Yes. I am looking forward to it. It will be a real challenge and a great race.

IC: Well Lizzy as per usual, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Without doubt you are an inspiration to all. I really appreciate your time and I look forward to seeing you and following you around the Ronda del Cims course in late June.

LH: Thanks so much Ian.

*To get 2013 rolling, Lizzy raced at Annapurna 100k and won the ladies race. She then decided to break her own personal record running from Everest base camp to Kathmandu (319km/ 198m) in 63 hours and 08 minutes (here) smashing her previous record. Not content with running for 63 hours, Lizzy then raced the 277km Mustang Trail Race and was 2nd overall. However, just recently she entered the 24-hour championships and pulled out. Apparently all is well with Lizzy and her focus is now on Ronda dels Cims. I have to say, that Lizzy has not only the potential to win the ladies race but the race outright. Race preview HERE

UPDATE June 6th, An email from Lizzy “As it turns out I’ve just had an MRI confirming a stress fracture in my foot. So, Hardrock would have been off the cards, and now I also have to pull out of Ronda del Cims.”

Links:

Causeway Crossing Race Report

©copyright .iancorless.com._1100598

Sun broke the horizon just 30 or so minutes before the 0600 start of the 100k, the first of three events in the Lost Worlds Racing, Causeway Crossing series. It would be followed with a 50k starting at 1300 in the Quarry and a 25k starting at 1530 at the final turn point in the 100k event.

Races from all over the world lined up for the start of the second edition of the Lost Worlds Causeway Crossing. Representation came from Japan, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Starting in Waterfoot in the Glens of Antrim, the race passed through areas of local beauty such as Larry Bane quarryCarrick-A-Rede, the Moyle Way and the Causeway Coastline including the Giants Causeway.

As often happens, the longest event of the day always attracts the most attention, however, the 50k event certainly had some names to watch.

However, as the “3,2,1 and GO” was being uttered by race director, Tim Holmstrom, Jonny Steede flew off like a rabbit that had just been scared in headlights and really, that is the last that any runner saw of him all day… of course, they did get an opportunity to see him run back against them later in the day as he returned along the ‘Causeway’ to secure a very impressive win over his first 100k race. Jonny had recently won the Wicklow Way 51k and was a ‘hot tip’ going into this race. His time of 8:35:23 was very impressive.

Jonny Steede - copyright Ian Corless

Jonny Steede – copyright Ian Corless

Fast man, Dave James was over in Europe from the USA and just the weekend before Ireland had taken part in Lost Worlds Racing Tuscany event and was now on the start line for the 100k. It is worth pointing out that Dave is in Europe for several weeks. In just seven days he will be lining up against the best in the world at Transvulcania La Palma and then just two weeks later he will go to Zegama before attempting, in June,  the brutal Ronda del Cims 100m mountain race in Andorra. Dave also like to race on a regular basis, but with the proximity of Transvulcania he was never going to push too hard at the Causeway Crossing. He ran a very solid second place behind a dominant Jonny Steede but by the time he arrived at the 50k point he was approximately 40 mins in arrears of the fast man up front and decided to call it a day and prepare for the next race in just a week.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1100752

Noel Brick took 2nd place after gaining some places in the latter stages of the race. When I saw him at the Giants Causeway he said he was tired and hurting but he would push on… push on he did crossing the line in 11:20:26 ahead of Ronald Peacock 11:58:10.

Local runner Hannah Shields is somewhat a legend in Irish running and she fulfilled her pre race ‘favourite’ billing by running a smart race despite some calf niggles. Always smiling, always chatting she powered her way through the 100k and not only did she win the ladies race convincingly in 12:13:33 but she also finished sixth overall.

Hannah Shields - copyright Ian Corless

Hannah Shields – copyright Ian Corless

Susanne Hastrup from Sweden took 2nd place in 14:10:27 and Amy Beggs (tbc – possibly Mette Kildermoes in 15:01:30) crossed the line in 15:01:30 for third making it a truly international podium.

The 50k race started at Larrybane Head Quarry (the halfway point for the 100k and finish line for all races). Runners headed out along the coast as a cold, strong wind blew in from the sea. Running around the Giants Causeway they turned at  Dunluce Castle before heading back to the finish line at Larrybane Head Quarry this time via the Giants Causeway.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1100475

Hot tip and last minute entrant to the race was Scot, DR Andrew Murray. He pushed hard from the beginning of the race and gradually built an advantage over his rivals to finish in 3:55:54 in first place. He was very enthusiastic when I caught up with him, “How could you not enjoy this… it’s a beautiful coastline. I had a great day out with some great views”.

Martin Rea  and Shane Whitty had a fight for second place but it was the man from North Belfast (Martin) who pushed ahead in the latter stages to cross the line in 4:07:02 with just over three minutes lead over Shane who finished in 4:10:36 for third place.

Jolene Mellon from Ireland started the race as she meant to go on and dominated the 50k event from beginning to end. She crossed the line 4 mins ahead of Col Conway, finishing times 4:49:48 and 4:53:58 respectively. Stefani Jackenthal from the USA, before the race had said how excited she was to be running on this course, she is a journalist and sports writer, so the challenging course and a solid third place will almost certainly make a feature in an up and coming article, her time 5:07:54.

Stefani Jackenthal - copyright Ian Corless

Stefani Jackenthal – copyright Ian Corless

The final event of the day, the 25km started at the final turn point for the 100k and 50k races. Karen Alexander flew away from the start and never looked back… running up the climb out of the Giants Causway she made the gradient look easy. So easy that not only did she win the ladies race but the 25k race overall. Her finish time of 1:53:17 very impressive.

Karen Alexander - copyright Ian Corless

Karen Alexander – copyright Ian Corless

Patrick Thompson was the first male runner home in 2:00:33 taking a win in the category but ultimately was second place overall.  Chris Heaney had a sprint for the line and secured third place by just 2 seconds in 2:01:09 ahead of fellow American, Kalle Kraften. Laura O’Driscoll was second in the ladies race in 2:06:45 and Helena Dornan third in 2:13:31.

RESULTS

100k

  1. Jonny Steede 8:35:23
  2. Noel Brick 11:20:26
  3. Ronald Peacock 11:5810
  1. Hannah Shields 12:33:33
  2. Susanne Hastrup 14:10:27
  3. Amy Beggs 15:46:30 (tbc) possibly Mette Kildermoes in 15:01:30

50k

  1. Andrew Murray 3:55:54
  2. Martin Rea 4:07:02
  3. Shane Whitty 4:10:36
  1. Jolene Mellon 4:49:48
  2. Col Conway 4:53:58
  3. Stefani Jackenthal 5:07:54

25k

  1. Patrick Thompson 2:00:33
  2. Chris Heaney 2:01:09
  3. Kalle Kraften  2:01:11
  1. Karen Alexander 1:53:17
  2. Laura O’Driscoll 2:06:45
  3. Helena Dornan 2:13:31

A portfolio of RACE PHOTOGRAPHY is available to view HERE

Images will be available to purchase from May 8th using this LINK HERE

LINKS

  • Lost Worlds Racing – Here
  • The Causeway Crossing – Here

Thanks

To the Lost Worlds Racing staff, Ryan and Justin at NI Running and all the local hospitality and help.

A beautiful start to a day... - copyright Ian Corless

A beautiful start to a day… – copyright Ian Corless

Joe Grant joins Inov-8

Joe Grant

February 21, 2013

HARDCORE new inov-8 athlete Joe Grant is preparing to tackle the extremes of Alaska in a 350-mile race described by organisers as the world’s longest human powered winter ultra-marathon.

An interview with Joe is available on Episode 27 of Talk Ultra and just THIS WEEK, Ian from Talk Ultra caught up with Joe before he headed out to the race. You can listen to that audio in Episode 29 of Talk Ultra released on February 22nd.

The 29-year-old, who will form part of a new global inov-8 team of athletes set to push boundaries and stretch limits in 2013, begins the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Knik, Alaska, on Sunday.

Born in the UK, raised in France and now based in Colorado, US, Joe will wear inov-8’s roclite™ 286 GTX boot to tame the snow and ice in a race that can take runners anything between four-and-a-half and ten days, depending on conditions in the Alaskan wilderness.

There are just seven checkpoints on the course where food and lodging is available. Between checkpoints racers have only each other.

Joe said: “It will be the longest ultra I’ve done in terms of distance and the extreme cold will make it tough but it’s a super exciting challenge. I just hope I can keep all my toes until the end!

“When racing over 350 miles in such wilderness and conditions it’s crucial to have trust in your footwear.

Roclite243_2-13[1] roclite286gtx_02-01

“The roclite™ 268 GTX is light and close to the ground, which is good on uneven snow. It runs like a low top trail shoe, but has all the advantages of a high top for these kinds of conditions.

“The GORE-TEX membrane helps keep my feet dry and warm, while the height of the boot in combination with gaiters prevents snow from getting in.”

Following that, Joe hopes to go head-on with the world’s best mountain runners at the opening race in the 2013 Skyrunner ultra series.

May’s 83km Transvulcania ultra-marathon monster on the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean, which features 4,415m of elevation gain, was last year won by Dakota Jones, with Joe in joint 11th.

Joe went on to record an outstanding second place finish at the epic 2012 Hardrock 100-mile race in the US – an achievement he wants to better this year.

“I want to be on the start line for Transvulcania but it will depend on how my recovery goes after the Iditarod Trail Invitational,” said Joe, who has finished top-20 at the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB).

“The Hardrock 100 is a big one for me this year. It’s an awesome race, which embodies everything I like about racing in the mountains. I really want to do a fast time there in July.”

Joe will wear shoes from inov-8’s trailroc™ and roclite™ ranges to race over trails and mountains across the world in 2013.

He said: “I’m super excited about the roclite™ 243 (new for spring/summer 2013). Its specifications are spot-on and I couldn’t think of a better shoe for trail and mountain running.”

More details on Iditarod Trail Invitational visit http://www.alaskaultrasport.com/alaska_ultra_home_page.html

2013 Calendar – Race Coverage

Just four days into a new year and my diary is full…. or so to speak.

2012 was an incredible year. So many new things and new opportunities. The success of Talk Ultra was incredible and in just a couple of weeks the show will be 1 year old! In addition to the podcast I diversified my photographic skills and in conjunction with writing I shifted away from working as a ‘commercial photographer’ in the advertising world (I till do some commissions) and started to concentrate on running, runners, races and the world around this.

I am extremely grateful to Skyrunning for the support and backing in providing me with the opportunity to attend so many great events. I am also extremely grateful and thankful (in no particular order) to

Of course articles and photography would mean nothing without an outlet and I would like to thank:

So what does 2013 have in store?

Here is a list of races that I will be attending as a photographer and journalist in 2013.

2013 CALENDAR

January

February

01st – 10th COSTA RICA: The Coastal Challenge. Official Race Website HERE

RainforestRunHeader

28th – 7th SPAIN: Lanzarote (training camp)

March

April

04th -18th MOROCCO: Marathon des Sables. Official Race Website HERE

DRAYMDS2012-04-14-3437

18th – 22th TURKEY: Iznik Ultra TBC  Official Race Website HERE

turkey

May

09th -17th SPAIN: Skyrunning Transvulcania Ultramarathon – 83k, La Palma. Official Race Website HERE

iancorless.comP1040137

24th – 27th SPAIN: Skyrunning Zegama-Aizkorri. Official Race Website HERE

zegama

June

20th – 24th ANDORRA: Skyrunning Ronda dels Cims – 170k, Vallnord. Official Race Website HERE

Perfil2012Ronda

27th -1st July FRANCE: Skyrunning KM Vertical, Chamonix & Mont-Blanc Marathon. Official Race Website HERE

Mont Blanc Marathon

July

12th -15th FRANCE: Skyrunning Ice Trail Tarentaise – 65k, Val d’Isère. Official Race Website HERE

image_115

18th  – 20th ITALY: European Skyrunning Championships. Official Race Website HERE

Image courtesy of Trans D'Havet

Image courtesy of Trans D’Havet

August

23rd – 26th SWITZERLAND:  Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks – 46k, Zermatt. Official Race Website HERE

ultraks

September

22nd – 28th Sept (Race Dates) my schedule 19th to 26th USA: Grand to Grand Ultra – Official Race Website HERE

G@G

24th -01st Oct (dates tbc)  USA: Skyrunning Ultra Race of Champions “UROC” -100k, Vail. Official Race Website HERE

uroc

October

10th -14th  ITALY:  Skyrunning Xtreme – Vertical Kilometer® & SKY RACE, Limone sul Garda. Official Race Website HERE

extreme

November

Everest Trail Race

December