Adam Campbell – A Rock And A Hard Place

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On August 30th 2016, Adam Campbell was attempting a big traverse that had never been completed in a single push before in Rogers Pass, BC. Adam was accompanied by two partners, Nick Elson and Dakota Jones. They were fairly early on in the journey, going up relatively moderate terrain (class 3/4). Adam followed Nick and Dakota up a route matching their steps and actions, Adam pulled on a rock that the previous two climbers had used. This giant rock came loose, broke and away and Adam fell. He tumbled backwards, summersaulting and rag dolling over 200 feet (70-80 meters) down a serious of ledges and sharp rocks.

Adam ended up breaking his back, several vertebrae, breaking his hip, breaking his ankle, damaging his wrists, shoulders and knees and had severe lacerations across my body. His helmet was shattered and has cracks across all of it,  It still has blood and hair caked into it. Without it he would have suffered severe head trauma, instead, he just had stitches and a mild concussion.

Adam is alive, not paralyzed and is here to tell his story.

All images ©adamcampbell
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Ian: Adam I’m pleased to say is on the road to recovery after a horrendous accident several months ago, and he’s here to talk to me about the incident and maybe about some lessons that we can all learn from spending time in the mountains. Adam, first of all, it’s a great pleasure for you to be here, and I put the emphasis on ‘here!’

Adam: Yes, that’s entirely true. And first of all thanks, it’s great to chat to you, it’s been a while. But I’m really, really lucky, I came very close to having a very different outcome which could have meant paralysis or very, very close to death as well, so I am very lucky to be here speaking to you in the literal sense.

Ian: Yes, absolutely. This is the sort of interview that I don’t want to do, but I’m pleased that you’re here for me to do it. There’s a slight irony in that but you know what I mean.

Adam: For sure, but at the same time, I think it’s important to have these conversations because there are lessons learned and I think after an accident, to a certain degree, I’m a bit of a survivor now and I think talking about it now, analysing it, is really important for my recovery and also hopefully help some other people avoid some of the things that I could have done differently perhaps to avoid ending up in the situation I did.

Ian: It was an awkward one for me because I didn’t know whether to reach out to you and ask you for an interview, because we know each other but that doesn’t really mean a lot in a situation like this because it can be a very fragile thing to talk about, and I sort of, was a little bit plus or minus in the way that I worded the email to you. I’m really pleased to say that you came back because you realize that there are lessons to be learnt for everybody. Let me go back a little bit because if I remember rightly I think the last time that we did an interview together was when you got hit by lightning at Hard Rock.

[laughs]

Adam: Yes, the Hard Rock incident was definitely the first major mountain incident that I had, that one luckily there was no lasting repercussions. Aaron who I was with at the time, he was my pacer at Hard Rock, he came out and visited me in hospital a couple of months ago and I saw him at the weekend. We’re still, really, really good friends and that incident was a little bit different than this one because the outcome was fine, so maybe I don’t analyse it as much, because I walked away from it.

Ian: I think there was an element of, although many of us realized the seriousness of the incident, there was a real comedy element to it and I don’t wish to undermine what happened but it almost became folklore, “Oh, Adam Campbell got hit by lightning”, and of course when Hard Rock came around this year everybody was commenting, “I wonder who’ll get hit by lightning?”, or, “I wonder if there’ll be that sort of incident.” It’s good to see humour in things, but also we do need to be aware of the real life dangers, and we’ll come onto real life dangers but I just wonder, before we talk in depth about your incident, before you went to the mountains on this trip, and I know that you’ve always respected the mountains and the environment but do you think in hindsight you respected them enough?

Adam: Yes, I’d say I would because I have a few friends who had some very, very serious accidents in the mountains and they include losing their life in there, so I think I do have a real respect for it, but I think sometimes you understand the power of the mountain, and the unpredictable nature of them, but I think you understand that in an intellectual level but until you actually experience it in a real tangible way, I’m not sure if the lessons strike quite as deeply, if that makes sense.

I’ve done quite a lot of avalanche courses and, you spend a lot of time talking about these things and reading up on internet sites. If you’re just reading about them and analysing them from a distance they don’t strike you in quite the same way, I don’t think. Although, I’d say, I respected them on a theoretical level, there’s times I’ve been scared up there because you do understand the risk. I think it’s when you’ve actually seen the powers and unpredictable nature of mountains, it’s very hard to fully, fully respect them.

Ian: That makes sense, complete sense. Let’s first of all just provide a little bit of perspective but I think it’s good to just give a little summary. You were going climbing with Nick Elson and Dakota Jones, and you were going to… well, you were on a single push before Rogers Pass in British Columbia. Just give us an insight into what type of climbing terrain this is. What was the purpose of the day out?

Adam: We were tackling something call the Horseshoe Traverse, which in essence, you’re covering 14 different peaks in Rogers Pass. Rogers Pass is a really beautiful area in Canada and it’s basically the birthplace of mountaineering in Canada, so it’s got a lot of history to it, although Canadian history is not nearly as old as it is in a lot of other places, it’s still a very wild and rugged place with very few people that actually visit it, despite it being somewhat touristy. The specific terrain that we are moving over though is 4th to 5th class terrain, so nothing extremely wild, so we were looking to solo everything.

We did have a couple of ropes with us if we had to repel off some of the backside of mountains as we were down coming, or if the conditions changes drastically on us, but we were looking to solo everything. There was nothing in there that was really at our limit, it was something that was well within our capability of doing. Nobody had done this traverse in a single push before, previous parties had done it, but only a handful of people had done it, and it had taken three or four days, so maybe our initial arrogance was looking to do it in a day but looking at the terrain and the distance and the vertical gain, we figured it was possible to do it in under 24 hours but it was going to be pretty close to that 24-hour mark.

It does involve glacier crossings and some rather complex terrain which slows you down quite a bit.

Ian: To give perspective to this, bearing in mind my audience are runners not climbers, but admittedly heavily influence by Skyrunning and by the adventures of runners like Kilian Jornet, where running ventures into this new area, this sport, that is called Alpine Running. Where does what you were doing fit into this? Was it a run with some climbing, or was it very much climbing with some running?

Adam: It was very much climbing with some running. It was more of a mountaineering outing than anything else.

Ian: Okay, so from a perspective of our audience, you needed to be a competent climber, rather than a competent runner.

Adam: Yes, absolutely yes. There’s a trail that approaches the first peak, and there’s a trail that get you home at the end, so in the 24 hours, or however long it’s going to take us, we probably would have been on trail for all of half an hour.

Ian: Right, okay, okay.

Adam: Very much climbing yes, and I’m not sure how much the audience know about Nick Elson, for instance, but Nick Elson is an incredibly competent mountaineer. He just broke the long-standing Teton Grand Traverse record, which is owned by Rolando Garibotti which is the best known alpinists in Patagonia, and he’s not very, very well-known outside of North America but I would argue that he’s probably the best person in North America at the moment, he’s light and fast, mountain objectives.

He’s incredibly fast, he beat Mike Foote at the Squamish 50 last year by quite a bit which instantly means you’re a very, very competent runner. He finished second at the mountain marathon in Alaska, basically going the same time as Kilian went last year on that course so to give you an idea of his competence level, and he’s also an assistant rock guide, and is a very, very good rock climber. He’s done a lot of things in the coast mountains, he just doesn’t advertise himself at all. Obviously, Dakota needs to introduction with his resume for the audience here.

Ian: Adam if you can be objective on this is, how much does your experience and Dakota’s experience in the mountains as mountaineers compare to say, somebody like Nick or Kilian? I’m just trying to draw a parallel, so the audience can understand your abilities.

Adam: Yes, I know for sure. Dakota, I believe has climbed for quite a long time since he was a teenager. Where he lives in Colorado, very mountainous type of terrain. I think he’s got quite a good history of mountaineering. I did mountaineering for probably the last five years at a pretty decent level, but not Nick and Dakota’s level – they have been doing it their whole lives. I have been moving more and more towards doing these mountain objectives. I was fortunate this summer to get out quite a bit with some of the top guys in the world really. Will Gadd for example, who is one of the best ice climbers in the world. I’ve had some really, really good mentors. Definitely, I would say of the party of three, I was the weak link for sure.

Ian: In terms of what you were doing here, obviously, it was challenging and that’s part of the reason why you’re doing it, and that’s part of the attraction. But in advance of going into it I’m sure the three of you sat down, talked about it. Talked about the speed that you needed to go. Talked about the ability level. Talked about where the difficult sections would be. Did you feel calm, controlled, and relaxed by what lay ahead?

Adam: Absolutely, yes. There’s no single part of it that was outside of our comfort zone. I’ve done several parts of the route myself in individual blocks. I just never linked them together before. I proposed the route to Nick Elson originally. Nick was super keen on it, because he enjoys doing these sorts of big pushes. It’s a challenge. No single part of it is difficult. It’s just linking it all together and try do it fast is where you can add complexity that way. Dakota just happened to be around that weekend, he was spending some time at the Canadian Rockies. When we found that out, we invited him along and he was super keen to come.

Ian: You mentioned earlier about faster and light. Obviously, what you were doing here was going to be a fast and light exercise, because if you’re going to cover that amount of ground, that amount of climbing, you can’t be pulled down and dragged down by lots of equipment. You need to be moving at a pace that will allow you to cover the distance within the safe time. How do you decide how light to go on something like this? What does light look like to the audience?

Adam: We are fortunate that we have some of the top end gear, and top end gear often can be really light. We looked at the route and what the objective dangers are, and what the terrain is like. It’s fortunate that we have got guide books for these things, so you can read what the guide books say. I know a lot of people who live in that area, so I could get some information from them. I’ve actually had some other friends who’ve attempted this traverse before and so we can get some route data from them. I also had done sections of it earlier this year, so I had some first-hand information as well. It gives you a sense of what you need.

From there, we met up in the camp grounds the night before the race. Sorry, not the race… the effort. We just put our gear out and had a look. What we had was crampons – a really lightweight aluminium crampon which just attach on our running shoes for the glacier crossings. We had two sections of 30-meter rope. Our rope was more like a rappel cord. It’s just six millimetres, really lightweight. I was using the Petzl glacier rope. We split that up between two runners. We had a few pieces of gear with us, so just a couple of knots in hand.

In case we had to build a belay anchor or a rappel anchor from, and then we had a couple of slings as well so that we get through over rocks the same thing if we had to do an emergency escape. I also had a small emergency bivy sack with me, which is basically like this baseline kit, but it’s an inflated baseline kit. We each had lamps because of how long we’d be out, and then a light windbreaker, a down jacket because Canadian Rockies can get cold especially at the summit and the weather can roll through. A set of gloves. I don’t think any of us had pants with us, like long pants. But basically from there is more or less what you’d be required to use like UTMB.

We had a little bit of water, a little bit of food, but really not that much. We had enough to stay comfortable while you’re moving, but it would’ve gone uncomfortable to stop moving for a night.

Ian: Yes, and this is the point that I was going to come on to is the great thing about fast and light, is light is great when you’re moving fast. It’s not so great when you’re not moving fast, and you’re going to be able to tell us about what not moving was like.

Adam: For sure. I think there’s a saying in mountaineering that light and fast means “cold, tired, and hungry.”

Ian: [laughs] Yes. I think there’s a real lesson to learn here, because fast and light has become a buzz word. The skyrunning film that came out was called fast and light. I think it’s important. I always try and do a job of making people aware of actually what fast and light means. For you top guys, when you’re moving fast, it’s not really an issue. The problem is that if you fall, if you twist an ankle, if something happens and the weather turns and then you’re stuck. This is when there is a real problem with this type of manoeuvring, but you’re going to be able to provide a perspective of that later on. Let’s cut to the chase.

Let’s talk about the incident… Basically, Nick and Dakota had moved through a section of rock and you were following. There’d been no issues as they moved through, but as you moved through and grabbed hold of a section that had been perfectly safe for the previous two, it moved and came lose, and basically…

…you take over and tell us what happened.

Adam: Yes. I just want to just take one quick set back. The one other part with the light and fast is you want to make sure that you have got the weather. We’re fortunate now with all the forecasting that we have. We made sure that we had a perfect weather window to do this attempt in. We made sure that we had at least 48-hours of good weather predicted, which sort of, adds in element of safety. That means that you can go light and fast, because the weather can change but at least that was one thing that we did account for.

You do have to plan very carefully, because as you say you have very little room for error if things do go wrong. Light and fast also means having just the right equipment for the terrain and route that you’re looking to do.

Ok, back to the incident now. We were probably three and a half hours into the run, and we’re moving up towards the fourth peek on the route. We’re moving in fourth class terrains with the big court side blocks of rock. The rock in that area is normally quite solid. All the rock in the Rockies is quite good, but the rock in Rogers Pass is normally very, very solid court side blocks.

Nick and Dakota were just ahead of me, and I was rushing a little bit to move quickly. Often, you’ll check the rock to make sure that everything is stable as you’re going, but if you’re moving quickly and you’re seeing other people go through a zone, I basically pulled on this block which is maybe the size of a small refrigerator. I felt the rock start to move, and I heard it crack. At that point I knew in some way what was going to happen. As a note, we were all wearing helmets as well, because when you’re scrambling like that with people above you, you need a helmet.

The rock just pulled out on me, and I tumbled backwards down a series of ledges about 200 feet, so 70 to 80 meters. I just basically bounced and rag doll down a series of ledges. I was conscious the whole time, which was quite scary. I still have pretty vivid flashbacks of that happening. I ended up face down. I actually remember slowing down at one point. I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I’m alive. I can’t believe I’m alive.” and then starting to fall again, and then I’m like, “Oh crap, I’m dead.” It was probably saltier language than that. I ended up face down at the base of the rock edge, and all I could see was this pool of blood underneath me. But I was like, “Oh my God I’m alive.” I rolled myself over onto my back and waited for Nick and Dakota to come down.

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I can’t imagine what they were thinking right now. I’m sure they thought they were coming down to a body. But I was conscious the whole time, and yes, it was quite a horrible feeling. As I was laying there, I did a self-assessment, when I knew something was okay because I was able to push myself up onto my back, which in retrospect may not be the smartest thing to do, but you’re not really thinking that clearly at the time. I knew that I had broken my pelvis. I could feel it, and I knew I had broken my ankle, but I didn’t know what kind of internal damage I had, and I knew that there was a lot of blood around me.

Nick and Dakota came down, ran down probably within minutes of this happening. They just have to make their way down the same terrain, and when they got there, I had a locator beacon on me and reach beacon. I had it in my pack, and I also had a cell phone on me, and so I told them where the beacon was on my back pack, and they simply pressed the SOS button on that. We noticed the previous peak there was cellular service. Nick was able to run up to the previous peak with my cell phone, and was able to call Search and Rescue from there.

Dakota stayed with me and made sure I stayed calm. He took out my jacket and my emergency space blanket, and put that on me because I was starting to go in a bit of shock at this point and sort of going in and out of consciousness, and trying to stay with it, but at the same time knowing that I was in a lot of trouble. I knew that I needed help to come quickly because you never know what kind of internal damage is going on. Luckily, Search and Rescue were actually doing a training mission in the area, so within half an hour, a rescue helicopter flown by and had located us.

But then they had to fly back in to Revelstoke to go get a pilot who can longline people in, because not all pilots can longline rescuers in. They had to fly back to town which is 80 Kilometres away, get the new pilot, fly back, set the staging area. They did another flyby to assess where we were. Luckily the terrain that we were in wasn’t so technical that they could longline a rescuer in.

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I remember lying there, watching this helicopter, at the base of the glacier, as they were prepping, and I just lay there, staring at the rotor of the plane just there at the helicopter hoping to see it move because I remember they were going to come and get me. Because of where the wind blows off the glacier, they had to do two flybys, to drop the rescuers off, and then from there, they package you, or they bundle you, make sure that your spine is stable, so they put you on a spinal board. Then they flew me out, and then they flew Nick and Dakota home afterwards.

I was flown to this, it’s like a visitor centre in Rogers Pass, and from there, there was an ambulance crew waiting for me, and they worked on me for over an hour stabilizing me, and making sure that my vitals were in place before getting me in a helicopter and flying me an hour to the main hospital, to the trauma centre, where I was able to get into surgery that night, which is quite lucky.

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Ian: Wow, you’ve sort of described that with such clarity. I need to clarify here that this is only eight or nine weeks ago. It’s almost giving me goose bumps just listening to you describe it, because I’ve got the images that go with it even though I wasn’t there. It’s quite traumatic to listen to. Do you feel in a way a little bit separated from it, although, you’re fully aware of everything that went on, and your body showing the impact of what went on. But do you feel as almost an out of body experience, because you’re describing it as though you’re looking on?

Adam: Yes, I know, for sure. It definitely was. I think because if you’re going in and out of consciousness at the time, it’s mostly just the shock and blood loss. Yes, perhaps there was a little bit of out of body experience going on for sure. But at the time I was very aware of what was going on, and I was trying to stay calm the whole time, again, you know how important it is to stay calm in those situations. I think Nick and Dakota were incredible. I really couldn’t have had two better people because neither of them panicked, which is the last thing that you want in those situations. Dakota just stayed there, holding my hand, sort of stroking me or just doing whatever I needed to just to get some comfort.

I believe that when I was lying there, if I would move a little bit, I would scream on pain. But I don’t really remember that so vividly, what I do remember is the feeling of falling and this feeling of the rocks breaking against, or just say I get these flashbacks and the sound of the sound of the rocks cracking. I have a really, really vivid image of as I was stumbling, because I was stumbling backwards, like seeing the mountain range turned upside down, and thinking how strange it was to see this range upside down. Just how horrific that was.

I do remember at one-point thinking, “I’m dead, this is it. I’m gone.” But at the same time just accepting that, that was my reality. Which sounds maybe kind of morbid, but that was like I’m dead, this is it.

Ian: I guess at that point when you’re falling, we’ve all been there to really varying extents. Even if it’s just tripping over a curb on the way to the shops. You certainly go in slow motion, don’t you? You see the fall coming, you see the pavement or whatever it is getting closer, and that instantaneous thing just seems to become handfuls of seconds rather than the fraction of second that it actually is, and you do get that opportunity to sort of say “Oh, this is going to hurt.” Or in your case, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.”

The reality of when you got to hospital was, you ended up breaking your back, you had several vertebrae broke, you broke your hip, you broke your ankle, you damaged your wrists, shoulders and knees, you had lacerations all over your body, and you went  on to say that had you not been wearing a helmet, then you probably would’ve been toast, you probably wouldn’t have been here because of head trauma.

It is amazing that it is only eight or nine weeks ago because I think myself, and so many other people when we heard of this, well, the instant thoughts were, will you walk again? I’m sure that must have been going through your mind.

Adam: Hell, absolutely. I completely did. I remember being in hospital waiting to go into surgery and wondering this. It’s quite terrifying going into surgery even though, I knew I was around very confident doctors and surgeons. It’s a scary feeling not knowing what’s going to happen to me when I got out of there. Originally they told me I have punctured a lung as well, which didn’t turn out to be true. But yes, you just don’t know what is going to happen.

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My girlfriend is a doctor and she’s from the town where I was flown to, and so her mother was actually the first person to come see me in hospital. She’s called Laura, so Laura who was working in Calgary at the time, got on a flight straight out there and she actually was able to run up to me right before I went to surgery, which is quite moving to have that. When I came out of surgery my mom had flown out as well.

You’re just lying there, in quite a lot of pain and also in this really heavily drugged state because the ambulance people put me on Ketamine, which is quite a powerful narcotic.

I remember the feeling of being in a helicopter and sort of this strange drugged state and this tremendous amount of pain, and then waking up in the hospital corridors being told I was going into surgery, people asking me all these questions, you don’t really know if you can answer. It’s just, it’s so like so much sensory overload really at that point. Yes, not knowing what was going to happen to me for the rest of my life, and then not knowing… Yes, it’s quite powerful.

Ian: Yes. You had eight hours of surgery, you had pins put in your body and then unfortunately some complications arose after the operation with your digestive system basically shutting down and you had to have ongoing treatment for bowel problems, etc. That lasted 10 days and you said in your email that this was almost one of the worst bits because your body started deteriorating, you started to lose muscle mass.

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Adam: I broke my T8 to T11. That’s fine so they put pins in there, I broke my iliac crest, so the top of my hipbone sheared right off and then as they said that I had open lacerations which are actually the biggest concern to them because of infection. There’s rock fall in there, but it was down to the bone across all my hip. Which is pretty horrible and the other parts of me were sore but they weren’t as critical.

The one thing that I found after the fact, there is actually two anaesthesiologists who were working at the hospital and one of them thought that all they would work on is my hip to start and then they would come back and do my spine at a later date because it wasn’t critical. The second anaesthesiologist was like no, this person is young and healthy so we’re just going to do both now, he can handle eight hours of surgery.

Because otherwise I would have sat there in the hospital with a broken back for several days until they got back to operate on it and I understand that dilemma is a doctor because you know this is an emergency trauma centre and they likely have somebody else come in and so how much time and resources to put into helping one person. I’m really fortunate. I found out that after the fact is as always, angels are around the hospital looking out for you and giving you all this special care, so in a lot of ways I got lucky like that. I ended up having, it’s called a “stomach ileus” which means your stomach shuts down.

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That was just horrific, horrific pain. I had never experienced anything like that. The rest of me was pinned, so it was more or less stable at that point. But all my haemoglobin dropped in my body and so they also swelled up to probably like three times my normal size because your body is not able to process in the fluid. I was just sitting in this hospital room and the person across the hall from me he’d been hit by a semi-truck. The other person right beside me had been in a helicopter crash.

Ian: Oh Jeez.

Adam: – Yep, we were pretty messed up.

Ian: Sounds like a hospital ward for Vietnam or something.

Adam: Yes, it certainly is. I mean, the trauma centres really are something else.

Ian: Yes

Adam: I end up going almost 10 days without eating any food and I lost a ton of muscle mass during that time and just really had to feed in a huge way. But the same time I had swelled up quite bad, this is a bit of a funny state because I was like jello but I was losing my body. I was just cannibalizing through the whole process which is pretty wild. Then I was finally allowed to start eating it made me violently ill after 10-days because I ate too much right off the bat, so I ended up having to reintroduce food very slowly back into my system.

Ian: At what point did they allow you to leave the hospital and go home?

Adam: I left the hospital two weeks later but ended up staying for a few days in this town Kamloops for a couple of days then. It was quite amazing actually. The one thing I need to say is, despite this being a horrific accident, my family is spread out around the world, my father lives in Nigeria, my brother lives in Thailand and they flew out to come see me. My mother and my father are estranged like they haven’t really spoken much in the last 10 to 15 years. Because of that they were brought together, by the end of the trip they were going out for dinners together and talking and were hugging. That was very powerful and my girlfriend and I were able to connect in this like incredibly special way.

It’s quite incredible how trauma and tragedy can actually bring people very close together. I also have a lot of my friends from Vancouver who drove six hours to come see me. Which was also incredibly special to have these people come. Even my boss from work, happened to be in Kamloops, he came and saw me in the hospital. You have this really strong community of people around you which was really, really help get the recovery process.

Ian: It’s so good to be able to see those positives out of something that is potentially so negative. You have mentioned in other places about how that process has been, something that you’ve been able to look on. It’s something that you can be really thankful for, there’s a real positive to come out of something so bad. Also, it’s made you made you face maybe your position within the world and within your life and look at your own vulnerabilities?

Adam: Absolutely. It also just made me question a lot of other my approach to things because as athletes we can also all be very selfish with our time and maybe not spend an extra bit of time calling family here. Just some day to day life, you kind of pretend you get too busy to do it. But it’s not, it’s just a bit of an excuse and you realize how important family is in those circumstances and even friends too. But how you just taking a few extra seconds to call somebody can make a really, really big difference in their life. What really struck home for me is, one of the person who was hit by a truck beside me, the entire time I was there never had a single visitor.

I just couldn’t imagine how lonely that would be and how terrified I would have been if I didn’t have that love and support around me. It really, really adds to the healing process.

Ian: Wow.

Adam: For sure

Ian: Well I mean, we’re speaking now, as I said it’s 8 or 9 weeks after the incident and you know, I’m happily, happily, say I’m amazed at the speed of your recovery and I know when I say recovery it’s an ongoing process but you’ve said or your doctors have said that they believe that your recovery will be a complete one. Is that still the situation Adam? Does it look as though everything is going to be really, really good?

Adam: Yes. It does. It seems to be. I mean, yesterday I went ski trailing for the first time which I can’t believe…  I already been back up the mountain. My girlfriend and I went out and did a few laps up in the Rockies and we had some deep powder smell which is incredible. Obviously, my ankle still gives me a lot of grief, I have a lot of soft tissue damage in there and still have some bone fragments there, my hip is incredibly tight, like I’ve got a lot of limited range of motion and if I do too much in a day my body does let me know but I was water running within a two and a half weeks…

Ian: No way.

Adam: Yes. By water running I was like moving slowly in the water but it was slowly starting to come back and just doing anything to get my range in motion back. Doing yoga, doing some strength training and like, physio multiple times a week. The one thing I’m really lucky at is my work has been really understanding and I haven’t had any real pressure to come back to work. I am going back eventually, I’m doing a little bit of work for them but I’ve had the opportunity to really just put all my energy into recovering and into a physio, which I think in those first few months really is critical to your long-term recovery.

Ian: Yes

Adam: I saw my surgeons on the weekend, they gave the green light to start skiing and climbing and going for hikes. I can’t run yet because my ankle still super wonky and my hip is still a little too sore but once those settle down I hope to be able to start jogging again a little bit. Within the next maybe month or so. Which will be amazing and I never would have expected any of this happened so quickly.

Pic by Kos from the summer. I did my first walk run (all uphill) this week - 4*30sec run many minutes walking between them. I have also done some easy routes in the climbing gym. I am far from light footed, as I appear to be in this image, but it's all progress - beyond stoked!

Pic by Kos from the summer. I did my first walk run (all uphill) this week – 4*30sec run many minutes walking between them. I have also done some easy routes in the climbing gym. I am far from light footed, as I appear to be in this image, but it’s all progress – beyond stoked!

Ian: Talk me through this mind process, because I’m fascinated by this. It’s traumatic incident and yes, you’re super thankful that you’re here and you’re alive and so, therefore, you’re going to embrace life. Of course, you are. But that first time that you maybe go for that longer walk or that first time you strap on the skis or that first time you look at the rock face. There’s going to be all sorts of stuff going through your head.

Are you just going to be stubborn and respect that the mountain as you’ve always done but think to yourself no life goes on or is there a real element of inner fear that you’re shielding from me and maybe everybody else but really, it’s there?

Adam: No, of course, there’s a lot of different fears. One, there’s fear to what my ultimate movements going to be like, I don’t know if I am ever going to feel fluid on a run again. Am I ever going to feel smooth and fast? There is fear that… the one thing that really strikes home is that when you have these accidents it doesn’t just impact you it impacts a lot of other people; will I be stressing them too much if I do decide to go climbing again. I don’t know what my comfort level is going to be at. The first time I get to anything with a little bit of exposure, how am I going to feel? Am I going to panic and not want to be there? I don’t know those things yet.

Back to your first question, yes. I remember the first time I had left the hospital, although I was still admitted, stepping aside and feeling the cold breeze rush across my body, I started crying because it felt so good to finally be back outside just feeling the cold wind on my skin. The first few steps I took, I remember the first time I walked, I walked about 10 meters and then the next time, and this was all in hospital with a walker, and then the next time it was 50 meters and then it was can I walk and do a lap of the ward? Then can I do two laps of the ward? Until you set these small little process goals for yourself and you break it down to little chunks and you’re just happy with any little victory you get.

Obviously, there’s going to be setbacks. When I first came back, I was walking a little bit and then the doctors thought that I might have another injury in my foot which basically means, more or less the metatarsal of your foot might be broken and that this can be very, very serious with long-term repercussions. I was told I had to be non-weight-bearing again. All of a sudden I’d gone from walking two kilometres to being back in a wheelchair and mentally struggling with that quite a bit but you also just have to accept the process of what comes. You can’t set too many expectations.

I’ve not once put expectations on myself as to what my recovery should be or what it should look like because it’s very individual and the doctors don’t know. It’s a best guess on their effort based on past experiences but my body’s different from other people. My mind is different. At the same time, also, I just didn’t want the pressure of saying, “I have to be able to run a 5K by January,” and not do it and be disappointed. There’s no purpose in my recovery process. It’s very day-to-day. Some days I wake up and I feel quite good and loose and other days I wake up and I feel like I’m getting hit by a truck because I did too much the previous day or I slept funny the night before, I had a beer too many the night before.

Ian: Enjoy those beers.

Adam: Yes, for sure.

Ian: Obviously, the last nine weeks have given you a real opportunity to look at so many different things but I guess one of the things that you really look back at and analyse was that day or what was going to be a day in the mountains. I’m sure you’ve gone over everything and analysed what you were doing and maybe tried to reassure yourself that what you were doing was correct. What’s the outcome been of that looking back? Are you happy and content that you three guys did all the right things?

Adam: No, definitely not because something happened. I did something wrong. I don’t really believe that bad luck necessarily happens in the mountains. One, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous environment so you’ve obviously taken luck out of the equation in that sense. Something that I probably did wrong at the time was, when we were rushing, we’re going fast, but there’s a difference between moving fast and efficiently and rushing and because Nick and Dakota were ahead of me, I was probably rushing a little bit. Just because they went through somewhere safely doesn’t mean you get to. In retrospect, I probably should’ve tested the rock first, that I pulled on.

The other thing, too, is when you’re moving through that terrain unroped, you don’t really want to be pulling on blocks. You more want to be pushing down on things because if you’re pushing down on things, they’re not going to move. If you’re pulling up, when you’re rock-climbing, roped up, you’re pulling on holds and things. If you are secured to the wall, it’s less likely to be risky.

That’s probably the biggest thing. Don’t rush. The way that you move in the terrain can be very, very significant so I was probably using incorrect technique in that kind of, blocky terrain, but in terms of what we did with the rescue itself, that can have a slight element of luck in that, we had cell service but we also had just enough equipment to keep me comfortable. Like having the emergency space blanket was incredible, having a light down jacket to put on made a huge difference, having the right partners. That can really come into it. If either one of them had panicked, I probably would’ve panicked a little bit as well but going to the mountain with people that you really, really trust and have the experience, Nick and Dakota have a lot of experience, so I was lucky to have those two guys with me.

Ian: I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations with Nick and Dakota. What impact has this accident had on them? I did see Dakota very quickly after this incident because he came over to the ‘Rut’ but it wasn’t appropriate to have a chat with him about this incident because he was racing and I didn’t want to affect his thought process, his mind, but I’m sure that both he and Nick have been really shook up by this. Dakota wrote an article on iRunFar and I quote a section, “I don’t think I was scarred from Adam’s accident. Not like him certainly, and not very badly in an emotional way either. But that accident really drove home the seriousness of what a lot of us do on a regular basis, often without considering the possibilities. In that event I was given a very visceral demonstration of what can happen in the mountains. A single misstep, a tiny poor judgement, or simply bad luck, and all of a sudden you’re in a crumpled, bloody heap with the dust of rockfall settling around you. It’s very real, and it’s scary.” article link here

Adam: Definitely. I think they both understand that it’s dangerous moving in that terrain. I’ve had regular contact with Nick and Dakota. They’ve both gone back into the mountain since then and they’ve both gone climbing since then. I don’t see how this doesn’t have impact you in some way. Dakota just went and did a rope safety course for mountain rescue so clearly he was impacted, realizing either it was the limitations of what his knowledge base was or he just, I’m just saying that, the more skills that you have to help, the more likely you are to be able to help in the situation.

Having that wilderness first aid course or any kind of first aid course, just when you’re going out and doing these big objectives is a valuable thing to have. Nick had a bit more experience because he’s done The Apprentice Rock Guide, you’re trained to be an alpine guide at that point. That comes with quite a lot of mountain rescue training and theoretical knowledge but the difference between that and seeing one of your friends actively falling down the side of a mountain. It’d be very traumatic to watch that happen and to think that you’re coming up on a body. I think it would definitely make you think twice in a lot of situations or just reinforce how dangerous those environments can be.

I was rather thrilled to be able to take my skis for a walk in the mountains and actually get in some decent turns with Laura. I am so thankful to my support network for helping me get back into the hills so quickly. I have to continue to be patient and listen to my body, but this was a rather huge step/stride forward

I was rather thrilled to be able to take my skis for a walk in the mountains and actually get in some decent turns with Laura. I am so thankful to my support network for helping me get back into the hills so quickly. I have to continue to be patient and listen to my body, but this was a rather huge step/stride forward

Ian: I’m not going to ask the question of what the future holds because as you’ve said, there’s no point in setting a target for a 5K run. That will happen in its own due course and we just have to hope that all the stepping stones are in the right place. As you say every now and again, there’s going to be a step backwards but the direction is forwards and obviously, myself and the whole community wish you the very best with this Adam. I mean, it’s an amazing story and I’m just glad that you’re here to be able to tell it.

Adam: Yes, thanks so much for the interview and I hope a few people have picked up one or two little tips from this but I guess the biggest takeaway is mountains are dangerous. Going for any little trail run in the woods can be dangerous. We have the ability to move very, very fast as runners into the wilderness and we’re often alone all It only takes is a broken ankle by stepping on the wrong thing then all of a sudden you have a very, very horrible walk home. Especially when you’re going for trail runs. It’s one thing to be lightning fast but make sure that you have just enough gear to survive and bring you home because those things can make a difference. Look at Dave Mackey, for instance…

Ian: I was going to come on to Dave.

Adam: He was going out for an evening run and his life changed on that evening run and in a very, very profound way. He got unlucky in the way that his injury happened. I’d been lucky in that the bones that I’d broke are ones that are basically non-weight-bearing. If I’d fallen a centimetre in a different direction, my outcome could’ve been very different and I’m aware that, there’s not anything that I did special. Knowing it’s in the way that I fell, I broke my back but I didn’t damage my spine in a serious way. I did to a certain degree because I still had some tingling in my feet and hands and things but that should, in theory, go away over time.

These things can happen when you’re outside in the mountains or even just heading out in the woods. An ounce of prevention, an ounce of caution is always a smart thing for sure, really having as emergency blanket with you, having a little bivy sack, having a cell phone, having a light jacket. Even in the middle of summer, if you could go into shock, having a jacket on can save your life. These things, they’re so light these days that we’re able to carry a lot of stuff with us.

Ian: These days, there is no real reason not to carry some of this stuff because it is so light, and as you say, we’ve got all the technology, it’s never been easier to carry this stuff. We have all these amazing packs that fit our body, we have down jackets that way grams, we have windproof, waterproofs, we’ve got spot trackers, in-reach trackers, mobile phones. The technology is really, really there.

Final thoughts?

Adam: I received thousands and thousands of messages, I actually received so many messages that I had to stop going on social media because I just needed to take a big step back from it all, and just focus on myself, and recover for a bit. It was incredibly empowering, and you I just felt the love from everybody, but at the same time, to open your email and just have thousands of messages every time from people is a little overwhelming at that point what with everything I had going on. But it shows you incredible level of support that we have in our little community of people here, which is so touching.

The other thing, in the last two months I’ve actually had two friends or acquaintances die in mountain accidents, and that also really, really struck home, it shows how vulnerable we are. One of them was skiing and the other person was climbing in the Himalayas. It was just very, very touching, and I actually went to one of the funerals and being there and hearing the stories of everybody around this person was very moving. When you know somebody in one context in their life, for example, I knew this girl in a climbing sense, but then you forget just how much depth people have to their life, and how rich they are.

It was a real reminder that everybody has an incredible story, and it’s worth taking time to get to know people because you never know what you can find out from them. There’s always so much complexity to people.

Adam and Laura

Adam and Laura

And finally….

“Over the past few months this amazing woman has been my rock, she has shown me that true beauty, love and joy can be found in even the most trying of circumstances. That spirit defines her.
She was by my side from the moment I went into surgery and has been there every step from there on forward.
In that time we have laughed, cried, struggled and shared the most incredible journey together, a journey that keeps on getting better and better. 
She is the most incredible partner. She is loving, caring, compassionate, adventurous, athletic, curious, smart, passionate, fun and incredibly beautiful and, soon enough, I am proud to announce that I will get to call her my wife. Last week she said “yes” and agreed to share her life with me.
We are beyond thrilled and I am so incredibly lucky, she makes me better in every way.” – Adam Campbell

Jim Walmsley – Western Sates and Beyond Interview

Earlier this year, off the back of a stunning run at Lake Sonoma, Jim Walmsley said he was going to go to Western States, his first 100, and not only win it but potentially set a new course record. It was quite the statement and of course it turned heads. What followed was one of those golden days on the trail when Jim looked to float over the course. With every step he creeped under the old Western States course record. A new record looked almost certain until disaster struck…

I caught up with Jim just a week after the 2016 Western States and delved into his mind about maybe one of the most memorable runs of the year.

The Interview

IAN: I’m joined by Jim Walmsley after an incredible, memorable, inspiring, heart-wrenching, everything Western States. How do you feel Jim? Do you feel good?

Jim Walmsley: Right now? or during the race?

IAN: No, now that you’ve had an opportunity to recover.

Jim Walmsley: Now is going good. I started shuffling again. I called just my shuffle recovery. It’s what I try doing until my legs start coming back to me a little bit, I have started that process things are good. Yes.

IAN: Yes. Okay, before Western States, a lot of people particularly over in Europe and in the UK won’t have really known who you are. You were definitely a dark horse. People in the sport like myself who look at names and follow trends were looking at you. In all honesty some of the claims that you made prior to Western States, were very bold.

I love it when somebody comes into a race and they say, “You know what, I’m going to go hard, I’m going to go for the course record and that’s it.” And deep down you think brilliant, absolutely brilliant I hope he does it. But the reality is, he’s possibly going to crash and burn. Up until about 92 miles it looked like you were just going to make probably one of the most memorable Western States ever. First of all, what gave you the confidence to be so bold with your predictions?

Jim Walmsley: First and foremost, it was my training; it had been going so well. I did a big 50-mile race in April and I ended up getting a course record at Lake Sonoma 50 mile. A lot of big guys have run that in the past. Basically, I felt like I’d only built off of that. As far as confidence wise I knew I was more fit than I ever have been at least in my ultra-career.

I could feel in my training runs that faster paces were feeling more comfortable. I thought I would surrounded myself with a good team to go on a Western States and go knock that out. I guess the other thing with it being my first hundred, it’s one of those things that everybody has got to make that jump from whether it be 50 mile or 100K up to a 100-mile distance. That’s the next benchmark of distance up. I mean, everybody’s got to do it, some people do great with it, some people don’t but I think my journey had been ready to make that jump.

IAN: If we look back at your results and really from my perspective looking at your results they only really go back one year. Back to say May 2015 where you ran Don’t Fence Me In Trail 30K, and then you did Speedgoat, and then you won JFK, 3rd at Moab, 5th at Lake Sonoma, 1st at Black Out Night Run 13K, then Flagstaff Extreme Pine.

There’s a whole list of other races but for me when I was looking at the race there was a couple of significant results. JFK 50 miler you won that in 2014, 2015 Bandera 100K and then of course that Lake Sonoma run in April. You look and you think, “Wow. This guy is fast.” But like you’ve just said, fast at 50 miles and then coming to the 100-mile distance is a big difference. How did you prepare yourself physically for the unknown?

Jim Walmsley: I start knocking out the most miles I’ve ever tried before Lake Sonoma, I did my first 140 mile weeks not sure what that is in kilometres.

IAN: It’s a long way, 200+K.

Jim Walmsley: Okay. Yes. It’s 200K thereabout, and then from Lake Sonoma up to Western States my big training block ended up being back-to-back 140 mile weeks, followed by 120 and a 100, and then I went into my taper for two weeks. The first 120-mile week I did all in single runs. Probably the point where I knew I was feeling really good was when I was climbing and running really good at the Grand Canyon. I have a loop I do in Grand Canyon. I go down Bradenton it’s about seven to nine miles of mostly downhill and then you come back up South Kaibab, it’s about a seven mile up hill and then you finish on a four-mile flat kind of finish so it’s about a 21-mile loop.

That went really well, but then the next day I did a big workout on or just by Pace in Arizona. That was 30 mile run with 8,000 feet of vert up and down. That was huge back-to-back days, even at the end of that week I still did a long run with a bunch of the marathoners in town. I think this one might have been the one that I ran with Andrew Lemoncello, he’s a Scottish guy that lives in Flagstaff. I think we came through in like 2:01 for 20 miles but we went out in the first half and maybe like 65 mins. We were really cooking on the second half, kind of finish that big long run that week end was super huge. That was one of the main things too is that long run in my training it has just became comfortable to start running those 20 miles in about 2 hours. Things were really clicking.

IAN: I mean 120, 140 mile weeks that is huge. How do you maximize your recovery from those types of training sessions? Is that something that you’ve built upon year-on-year or have you just suddenly pushed the envelope and find that you can adapt to it?

Jim Walmsley: In high school I ran 90 miles a week for the last two years, I was a big mileage kid when I was young. But then I look around even less than that in college. I had won 1500 oriented coach. It’s been the first time where I felt comfortable to try to add on more miles and experiment with that. The only main thing I really did to try to help out with recovery, I started trying to take just calories and proteins stuff right immediately after races. I just have a little recovery shake after a run. That’s all I really added in after Lake Sonoma for the most part it’s just kind of being a bit lucky of staying healthy because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

IAN: The recovery side of things seem to be working well. Is there anything else that you did in terms of nutrition? Anything that you’ve found out that works well for you or if you are just eating the normal healthy balanced diet?

Jim Walmsley: I mean, that is the only thing that I have changed recently. The other thing is I don’t eat meat but it’s not dietary reasons, it’s just a whole bunch of reasons of why I don’t necessarily want to support a lot of those bigger companies in the industry here in the US. I don’t eat meat for good and for bad but I don’t worry about making up that protein deficit. A lot of people think that I need to make it up somehow. I just eat whatever, I mean I do eat a lot! I eat a ton of junk food. I kind of joke that the amount of junk food I do eat and processed sugar actually gives me just a super rock solid stomach on race day. I’m taking a bunch of gels and a bunch of processed sugar on race day and I eat a lot of that pretty regularly. It almost helps me with having a more solid stomach on race day.

IAN: Okay, you’re very much booking the trends of the moment of low GI and low sugar and going paleo. You’re old school?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, I guess I am?

IAN: Okay, let’s talk about the race, Western States. You were very bold with your pre-race predictions and that puts a big target on your back. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this, but I think a lot of the favourites for the race, respected the fact that you said what you were going to do. You did sort of say that you would try and take it easy early on. That didn’t really seem to happen. Sage Canaday and David Laney and yourself were pushing right from the start. Did you feel comfortable with that?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. I did feel comfortable with it. I was probably 30 something place at the first climb. I was trying to just slow down, walk and almost even stop a lot on the first climb out of Squaw Valley, to try to basically get some of the other favourites to get rolling and kind of run their own race. I mean I could see them and they were looking back a lot.

It was just one of those things where I felt it was almost pointless to slow down more and more and more, because I was either going to run their race, or my game plan would be to try to go off a feel and start running some splits. Those splits that we initially had started with the course record splits. Can’t understand how those felt, if they felt easy, if they felt hard and kind of base things off the feel from that.

IAN: Yes. I mean, it’s unusual in ultra-running for somebody to come into a race with an idea of splits with a real intention of breaking the record. Course records tend to come because it just turns out to be one of those days, when everything clicks and everything aligns and then course records happen.

You’re almost bringing into this marathon running perspective we’re it’s easier and more consistent to run the minute mile pace, because the terrain is more uniform, more predictable, whereas here, Western States. You’ve got elevation, you’ve got trail, you’ve got heat, you’ve got so many variables, but yet you seem to be very well planned and very well controlled that’s quite unusual.

Jim Walmsley: Well, how I did it was… I’ve never ran a marathon, but it’s a little different than just splits. Between each aid station I had average pace that I needed to hit, for that section. It was very course dependent and terrain dependent. I figured things were at least close enough, when you’re going four mile splits.

If you’re going up a hill, it’s okay to lose some time on that. That’s how I based it off, then it kind of ended up being where I was just able to taking chunks and chunk off of those average splits that I already had.

IAN: Now, the other thing that you seem to be taking in your stride and I loved the retro shirt look…. The heat! You’d obviously come into this race acclimatized to the heat. Was that something that you’d really concentrated on?

Jim Walmsley: I’m originally from Phoenix Arizona. I live in Flagstaff, which is about two and a half miles north. I have lived in flagstaff for the last year. But before that, I lived in Colorado, California and Montana. A little cooler, but as far as heat, I know I can handle it. I know I can run really well in it. But the main question was whether I can handle running in the heat all day, during the middle of the day. WSER was going to be the first big test. Being from Phoenix there’s a lot of people that have their little tricks and tips to stay a little bit cooler on their arms. I kind of pick up on those, just kind of keeping your wrists cool, always staying wet. I wore a hat and sunglasses the whole time.

IAN: Yes.

Jim Walmsley: I think both of those contribute to a perception that it’s a little cooler. I try to keep my shoulders covered with the crop top shirt I had, rather than going on with singlet with skinnier shoulder bands. The shirt in general was kind of it held water better, the holes helped ventilation and then, it also helped with sun protection. Yes. You’re just trying to find different elements of what’s making you hotter and trying to mitigate those, and then always staying wet. If you see a creek lie down in the creek, it’s worth that time.

IAN: Yes. You went out to WSER for a running camp, is that correct?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, it is.

IAN: Was that a double edged sword? Or it was an opportunity to be on a training camp, an opportunity to go and heat acclimatise and also to get some training in?

Jim Walmsley: It was really nice weather, as opposed to anything uncomfortable. I wasn’t getting out on the actual Western States trails. It was more run in the Tahoe Rim Trail and a couple trails more in the Flume trail and stuff, but I hadn’t really spent time like that out in Tahoe. It’s just this wonderful beautiful place that was really awesome to do for sure.

I really enjoyed working with John Fitzgerald and Stan Myers, now at the mountain post running camp. The initial debate was whether I go back to Flagstaff for two weeks and then come back, or whether I stay out there… I had a couple friends that were supposed to do the Broken Arrow race in between those two weeks, and they ended up both dropping out, or scratching and not doing it.

But, I had made plans to just stay out there and kind of stuck with trying to stay out there. After that, I think next year I would really like to stay in Flagstaff, stay where I can get some bigger climbing consistently, because I just know that all the different runs where I live. I can just really dial it in on what I want to focus on most.

IAN: Yes, I see the logic in being in Flagstaff and then it’s easy to go down to Phoenix. I guess.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Phoenix or if you want to get in a big running day the Tetons. I like heat training in the canyon because it gets pretty high and then also it has a similar reflection of the heat down there off of the rocks. The rocks really release a lot of heat out of them and make it feel a lot hotter than what it might– the ambient temperature might be.

IAN: Yes. Let’s go back to the race. By the time you got to half way, you had around about 20 minutes under the course record. Everybody was getting super excited and of course it was that 50:50 scenario. Is this going to be the most incredible run? Or at any point is he going to blow up and it certainly didn’t look like you were going to blow up? You were keeping yourself cool, like you said you put in plenty of water on yourself. You were submerging yourself in the rivers and water whenever you possibly could. You did almost end up going for a bit of a long swim… Do you want to just touch on what happened there? I mean, that was what, mile 70 something?

Jim Walmsley: It was mile 78, 79. I heard that Rob Crow last year swam across and that was the fastest most efficient way to cross the river. I started holding on to the rope and paddling with one arm and then, before I knew it, I gave it a couple swim strokes to get across. And then, before I knew it like I looked the rope was right there on my left and then it was 7 to 8 feet away and I couldn’t reach it. It became basically me against the river. You have this life vest on which is great that keeps your float but at the same time, it’s a big old kite in the current and it really pulls you downstream.

I think actually Rob totally ran passed the life vest which might help swimming if he did swim. I’ll definitely keep my hand on the rope next year. I basically started to get swept downstream. Eventually, I had to try to basically figure out how I can get some floating on some rocks.

Then there was that boat that came out and they posted a video online. I guess that boat wasn’t part of the race at all. It was a spectator and they weren’t supposed to be down there. They had different separate safety boats that they weren’t worried about it in this situation. But at the same time, people’s reactions were dramatic at the time. But probably the biggest thing from that is the one bottle… I had two bottles when I got in the river and I filled one at the aid station on the bank before the river and that’s the one that ended up floating off down the river. I didn’t have any water going up from the river up to Green Gate which is only a 1.8 mile climb out but it’s really exposed in the sun and then it is a steep climb and just not having something to drink there, was a little rough and I just took my time… I think that’s the one split that I did lose I think a minute or two.

IAN: Yes. I was going to say, I think probably by the time you were in America River you had to run about 30, 32 minutes under the course record. By the time you got a Green Gate you’d probably given away about five or six minutes but I guess that was with the swim as well.

Jim Walmsley: Yes, part of us just maintaining composure. You just need to maintain composure and make sure that you don’t over exert if something like that does happen. It’s all just relaxing, take your time it’s not a big deal. I think at that point course record starts really playing more and more of a factor and almost working out where I have time.

IAN: Was your plan to have that big buffer of say 30 minutes or 20 minutes? Whatever it might have been so that you could slow down… because you anticipated slowing down, because one of the things that I always think of in these scenarios is you actually only need to beat the old record by one second. You don’t need 30 minutes. Where you just having an amazing day?

Jim Walmsley: No. I don’t think any of that was pre-planned at all. If you told me that I was going to be even 20 minutes up on the course record at any time. I think I would have had a laugh… that would be a pretty good day. I remember seeing my crew ready to the station and just going like I’m trying to slow down but I’m trying to run comfortable and this is just comfortable… I know I’m running too fast based on time and stuff but at the same time I feel like I’m running easy and I’m running comfortable. I was just trying to go with that.

IAN: I remember speaking to Ian Sharman when he had that amazing run on Rocky Racoon, Timmy Olson re Western States, Rob Krar re Western States, Kilian Jornet with this countless records. I’ve often said there is one day for every runner where everything aligns and it becomes the perfect run. Sharman has gone back to the Rocky Racoon and never found the same day and the same form that he had when he did that blistering 100-mile time. I just wonder for you, was this that day? Was this that time when everything was aligned apart from the 92-mile void of going off course? We’ll come into that. But do you think now looking back that it was just the most incredible day?

Jim Walmsley: It definitely was an incredible day. Whether I’m going to be able to replicate this next year or in the future, I’m not sure? I think I have to approach it as why shouldn’t I be able to? But that was one of the first things of reflecting on the race is just, I don’t know if I’ll ever have… because so many little things have to go right. In nutrition, your stomach there is so many just unknown valuables. I didn’t step and twist an ankle or anything. I don’t know if I will ever have as good of a chance as that to break the course record again.

At the same time, I was able to take away a lot of experience, a lot of tips from the course. I know I’m going to be planning to go out there probably for a week earlier in the year to very much scout the course and make sure I’m getting everything on detail right about what I want to do for 2017. I think I can meticulously attack it next year. It will be interesting. I don’t know about trying to get another half hour up on the record though…

IAN: [laughs] I mean, sometimes you can’t plan these things. I think the thing is you went into this race saying that you’re going for the course record. The fact that you got 30 minutes under the course record is significant and it shows that your form, shows your ability is there. You said sometimes you can’t account for certain things that happen on race day… so tell us about the disaster.

Tell us about going off course and I know obviously you didn’t realize that you’d gone off course, otherwise you’d have turned around pretty damn quickly. But what was the point where you realized, “Shit, I’ve gone the wrong way.” Then was it panic, distress? What happened?

Jim Walmsley: It was probably three and a half miles after Bar Aid station that I really had the sinking feeling that I missed the turn. I ended up probably going on another three-quarter of a mile to the actual highway because at that point I could see it. I could see a hill and I’m on such an obvious dirt road at the time. I was like maybe this section is just much less marked than most the other course but things started to not make sense and that sinking feeling started getting in my stomach. I think it started with missing this turn off –  it’s this huge wide like 20 to 25-foot dirt road that two cars can totally pass on and then you go up this little tiny trail to the left. I was told it was about three miles past the aid station. In reality, I think it was about two and a quarter or two and a half. That’s about three to four minutes’ difference, probably closer to four minutes’ difference?

I just wasn’t looking for the left at that moment! I remember seeing three miles and going, “Crap, the turn should be right here”. Then after that I’m like, “All right. I haven’t seen a flag in a little while”. I thought, I’m going to give it another half mile and just look for flags. I wasn’t seeing any flags, at that point that was the three-and-a-half-mile mark of “oh crap, this might not be good”. But at the same time I was able to see were the road I was on connects with the high way that I’m supposed to get to. I was just like trust it, hopefully it works out, it might not, but hopefully it works out. I wasn’t able to convince myself to turn around yet. It’s a really hard thing to do when you’re having that day.

I think when I got to the road and I stop and I look down the road. There’s a bunch of cars parked on that road that you can see as you’re approaching it too. There’s a ton of cars up here maybe there is an aid station? But I think it’s a recreation area where a bunch of just random cars parked. Yes. It was when I really popped out on the road that I just had this demoralizing feeling of I had missed something. I wouldn’t tell you what the trail was marked when I went passed it, because obviously I didn’t see it. Initially, people were saying that flags might have gotten pulled, from what I’ve heard flags weren’t pulled. The 2nd and 3rd runner made the turn…?

IAN: Yes.

Jim Walmsley: Both of them made the turn with the same flagging that was there… but I missed the turn. But at the same time I’ve also seen heard other things… some guy posted that he remarked it? He was running back to Brown Bar Aid Station. He saw Andrew Miller and he knew that it was going to be Andrew Miller’s day, sort of thing. It was one of those things that chronologically doesn’t make tons of sense. It was really odd; I just don’t know… All I can say is that I had my head down and was just trying to crank away. I think I was still running under nine minute miles at that point. I was moving really well. Yes, I can’t explain why I missed that turn necessarily other than; I don’t think I was looking for it yet.

IAN: When you back tracked and when back to the turn point you obviously would have seen the marking of the direction you should have gone. Was the marking good then when you managed to re-navigate yourself back?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. They re-flagged everything and they made it extremely obvious and well-marked by the time I got back there and saw it for the first time.

IAN: Right. Is that because they knew you had gone off-course?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. They just exaggerated the left hand turn a lot more because I ended up going of course. Basically, everyone else had it very, very, well marked by the time they hit that.

IAN: Right. By the time you got back to that point, how much time had you lost?

Jim Walmsley: I don’t know… probably one of my biggest regrets about it is I really felt the competitive side of me really quit when I came out on Highway 49. I wished I had more fire and hunger in me. I wish I had hit highway 49 and just turned around, and said, “I’m not letting this ruining my day”, I wish I had attacked it a lot more. The information I had at the time was that I was only 12 minutes up. I was only 15 minutes under course record. In reality I was still about 25 to 30 minutes up on the course record, almost a full hour ahead of second place. Hearing that now – that part really sucks of just how missed informed I was. Having everybody… or should I say, thinking that everybody was so close, and then knowing that I went off the trail by a mile and a half or two miles.

That really crushed me, just crushed my spirits. My reality at the time was, I’m not winning, I’m not getting a course record, this whole sinking feeling. I just need to take a break really quick, try to get your composure again and refocus. At that point I was just not doing good. I was out of calories completely, it just became a negative, I thought I’m going to just walk it back to the next aid station. Between some of the medical staff, and the two photographers that found me on highway 49, I’m actually friends with them. They just encouraged me to start walking back. At the time I’m not a hundred percent sure I would have made that decision by myself. But in retrospect I’m really glad I did. As far as competing for top three or top 10. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for at the time.

IAN: It’s interesting, I can’t imagine the frustration.

Jim Walmsley: It was just wasn’t important to me of how things were going, how things went. Yes. I ended up winning two of the golden races, or golden ticket races, to get in the Western States. To race in the Western States is not a big — I don’t view it as a big deal, obviously it is. I feel very capable of racing back in next year. Top 10 in that stuff just — It was more.

IAN: You wanted to win?

Jim Walmsley: I definitely wanted to win.

IAN: Yes. You wanted to win.

Jim Walmsley: Those spirits were crushed.

IAN: Yes. Once the win wasn’t there I guess it was a case of second is not good enough, third is not good enough…

Jim Walmsley: A little bit, but I don’t know, I was in the lead for so long it’s just… I guess maybe at the time second, third wasn’t enough, but I don’t know, it become just making it more manageable, or whatever… I don’t know?

IAN: I had to look at your river splits. It seems as though from that point where you started to back track that you hardly run a step. I was looking at it and I was trying analyse it. Of course, you’ve gone in many ways explaining to what your thought process was. It’s easy for me for me from the outside looking in and thinking why didn’t you just run and chase down? You had that 30-minute buffer, or maybe 25 minutes’ buffer.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. The information I had was 15 minutes.

IAN: Was it just mentally so demoralizing for you that you just couldn’t get yourself back onto your game, or was it other factors? Yes, mentally you’ve been crushed, but also you were lacking the energy. Maybe you had burned yourself out a little bit? I’m just trying to get an insight into the mind of what it was like at that point.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. I would say mentally I was crushed. But then between taking a little bit of a break and mentally not focussed, somewhere I was just not wanting it any more. My muscles and body started really wanting to be done. Just the walking and trying to jog after that was extremely difficult. After that moment and realizing that everything slipped away. Yes. I definitely did bonk after that. I think if that didn’t happen I absolutely don’t think I would have bonked. But it’s one of those things… I think the mental thing had to happen first, and then my body soon followed that… it was just extremely hard to rally.

When I got back to my crew and stuff, they could see I was just completely demoralized. They were totally okay with just walking it in with me. That just became my game plan. At that point it became about the silver buckle more than anything. Not being out there for the longest period time it just became just one step at a time, and we’ll just get to the finish and we’ll take those positives.

IAN: You got the buckle, and that’s super important.

Jim Walmsley: I think this also goes back to in retrospect of ”Now I think about the race”. That is one of my bigger regrets of it. I wish I did react better mentally, and then I did go and actually try to still race again. I do regret that a bit.

IAN: What I’m interested in here is the duality of you as a person, because I think pre-race a rookie 100-mile runner saying, “I’m going to go to Western States and I’m going to go for the course record.” Of course people in the community look and think, “Who’s this guy? Gees, who’s he to say this?” But then what I’ve witnessed afterwards, and what I’m witnessing now in this interview is an incredible humility, an incredible respect, there’s no bitterness. You’re not actually bitter, you’re not questioning course marking. You’re questioning you not noticing the course marking, but you’re not blaming anybody. You’re only blaming yourself I think that’s absolutely fantastic.

I think that would really warm you to the audience. Have you thought in depth about that process of how you’ve handled pre-race and post-race?

Jim Walmsley: Well, I totally get how pre-race it rubs people the wrong way, but just pre-race and post-race I feel like I’m honest guy and I’ll tell you my goals and what I think I can do pretty blatantly. Pre-race too I would also say it’s a mental approach of trying to convince myself that I can do it. It’s also mental tricks with myself of, “I can do this.” Saying that out loud, saying that publicly does set up for a lot of scrutiny, but at the same time I think that goes so far as far as mentally how you’re going to be in the race and making you tougher to stick to that.

Post-race, I would like to think that I’m just being me and being honest. I don’t think getting bitter about things is going to make anything better or positive. At the end of the day, it was an amazing run. It was an amazing experience. It was a great adventure. I finished my first hundred. There are so many positives to still take away from that day. As an athlete, I think two things are important as well, one, short term memory loss. You get to forget about it and move on as far as bad things that happen like that especially in running. That’s part of our sport. I think most people can relate to making a wrong turn at one time or another.

IAN: For sure. They just don’t make it 92 miles into Western States when looking to set the course record. [laughs]

Jim Walmsley: It’s pretty tough when that happens for sure, yes. The other thing too about being a more competitive athlete is I think you have to focus and build off of the positives rather than beat yourself up about the negatives. I don’t think it’s beneficial for you to dwell on the mistakes. I think it’s beneficial to say, “Look, you did this really well.” One of the biggest things that I am extremely happy about that I think I can take forward into a lot more races is just how well I did in that heat. I think I surprised myself a little bit with that. It was almost 30 degrees warmer than 2012 when Tim Olsen ran his course record.

Yes, little things like that are huge just building off of those and it’s all a process. It’s a learning process, but it’s something that I want to make a career. Yes, it’s going to building off of this to hopefully running even better next year.

IAN: The next question is you had 93 miles of really good running where you were functioning the way that you wanted to in your first hundred-mile race. It was a complete learning curve, and it was an incredible learning curve. You were almost… it was almost a textbook run. Is there anything that you’ve learned that will improve your running for next year? Other than a recce of the course and making sure you know where to turn is. But physically, if you’ve done 120, 140 mile weeks, you can’t really add anymore volume? Will there be more speed work? How will you reflect on this and improve, or maybe you don’t need to improve, what you just need is another repeat performance like this year?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, you’re spot on with that. The biggest thing is going to be able to try to at least replicate what I was able to do in my training next year. With those 140 mile weeks, one of the weeks was 22,500 feet of vert. One thing personally, I think I can do a bit more consistently is getting out to that Grand Canyon and run in it maybe twice a week instead of just once a week. It’s huge to be able to do those long, long down hills. I know it’s something I’m very interested in. I’ve done it once, and it completely punted me on this day. We called it double tapping South Kaibab. South Kaibab is the steepest trail in the Grand Canyon, and basically FKTs go through South Kaibab because it’s just shorter, but it’s steeper.

My friend and I we went down it, up it, and then one more time down it, and up it. It ended up being over 11,000-foot vert day in less than 30 miles. It was just a massive, massive day. I think that was much earlier in the year, but I think focusing days like that. You can only train as hard as you can recover, and it’s a lot about mitigating stress in other parts to your life so that you can recover better on the running stress. Yes, I think a really important part of this year was that I was able to do longer tempo runs that I haven’t been doing since I’ve gotten into ultras in the last 2 years.

I am doing these long runs with a lot of the marathoners in town. If some of these guys they’re like, “Hey, I got this workout today, anybody want to hop in?” I just say like, “Yes, I’ll do that with you.” They’re not planned workouts, but hopping in with guys that are doing sessions works out. That’s been really beneficial as well in getting that foot speed going. That’s where like I’m running these splits and I’m trying to slow down, but look I’m efficient and I don’t feel like I’m over exerting. I think that’s how those things happen. It’s just foot speed wise, I was so prepared almost where things were just butter smooth and I was able to chip away at it a couple of minutes you’d split.

IAN: It was an incredible run, and it was an inspiring run. You have the Ultra community just sitting there aghast at the performance. The question is now, where do you go from here? Obviously a priority will be getting qualification for Western States next year. I quite like the way that you said that’s not really an issue. That’s that confidence side of you that I really like. You’ll prepare yourself, you’ll choose your race, you’ll get your slot, and I’m convinced you will be at Western States next year. Now, with this run, people have got an eye on you. I’m sure races are sending you some invites to attend their races. Where do you go from here? What’s lined up for the rest of 2016?

Jim Walmsley: Well, I was just really hoping that I would nail a hundred miles out of a hundred miles, or 100.2 out of 100.2 miles at Western States, because one of the biggest things is I do want to travel on. I do want to take opportunities to do all these great races across the world but the way that things went this year and my own personality and just realizing what I can do at Western States, 2017 is totally going to be about… at least giving it one more shot of having that perfect day. Maybe things fall apart again and I need to step back and maybe I’ll revisit it in a couple of years but it’s going to definitely build towards that. Right now, I’m trying to stay pretty disciplined and not put on too many races on my plate.

It’s extremely easy to do that. I don’t want to fall into the trap that a great deal of runners fall into. No matter what happens, because sometimes its injury, sometimes it’s over-training syndrome, but people are stereo-typing that all the elites are getting into this over-training syndrome. I don’t think that’s quite accurate. I think if you do look at the marathon world, their training is so much harder for so much longer.

You just don’t see that topic come up in that side of the sport. This year though, I kind of have a little bit of a gap right now, what I’m going to be racing. I’m taking advantage of it. I’m taking some really good down time. I’m going to try to get little things that had been bothering me for the last six months fixed and be hopefully healthy.

I’m going to try holding out until JFK to do another big race, but at the same time my plan for this year is to try to do a really big block of training in the fall and try to pull out a JFK North Face San Francisco Double. They are two weeks apart, they’re both 50 Milers which JFK being first in November and then the North Face 50 in San Francisco being the first weekend in December. I would like to try doing that double and seeing how that goes.

IAN: Okay, big difference in prize money between those two races.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Yes, a little bit.

IAN: You’re not tempted by the Run Rabbit Run 100 for the prize money?

Jim Walmsley: I definitely am. I’ve been talking to the race director and it was even something on my radar before this. Run Rabbit Run this year though hinders that block of training and this is the biggest reason not to do it this year…  I guess what I’m saying is I want to do the double, I want to try to win both.

To get in the fitness required to be competitive and to recover so fast and then to run again, you’re talking a couple months of big mileage, hard running training to get ready for JFK where it’s not going to dig you in that big of a hole that it takes weeks and weeks to get out of that sort of thing but I want to be able to recover quick and then be able to race in two weeks.

That’s the biggest reason not to do Run Rabbit Run. The other thing I guess is what’s maybe keeping me from falling down that slippery slope is I’m kind of hoping a contract works out soon but we’ll see.

IAN: How’s that process going? I’m assuming that with you saying that there’s been some interest.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Things are really positive. There’s definitely interest which more than that I ended up getting an agent because when I’m contacting these companies, it’s more in ultra-world. It’s kind of a weird thing because athletes are a lot of times trying to contact companies to ask for sponsorship, ask for this and that. A lot of times what I found out is I’m getting connected with the wrong people or people too low on the totem pole to really make decisions.

They’re like, “Look, we just have to wait until the end of the year” sort of thing. I ended up getting an agent after the race. The best part about that is that he’s able to work with people much higher up that if they want a contract done, they’ll get a contract done now instead of waiting until the end of the year when most people are renewing their contracts and stuff.

IAN: Well, it’s an exciting time. Certainly, the ultra-community is going to be very interested to see what happens over the coming months and year right up to Western States 2017. I just want to thank you so much for giving us an hour of your time and talking in depth about what has been quite an inspirational Western States.

Post Western States, Jim went on to set a Rim-to-Rim record in the Grand Canyon and a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim record, smashing the previous record set by Rob Krar to a new level of  5:55:20 – 26-minutes faster than Krar’s 6:21:47. As Jim eluded to in my interview, his main objective for the end of the season was the ‘double’ at JFK50 and San Francisco 50. Just last weekend, the first race took place. Jim ran the JFK50 and smashed the old course record setting a new time of 5:21:28. The stars are aligning for Jim Walmsley, San Francisco and a potential huge pay day awaits… Is Jim Walmsley the next big thing in the ultra world?

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Kathmandu to Jiri

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Departing in five 16-seater mini buses, participants of the Everest Trail Race made the long, twisty and at times stressful journey from Kathmandu to Jiri for the start of the 2016 edition of the ETR.

It’s a rollercoaster journey up single-track roads, a frenetic and constant beeping of horns and a multitude of bends that would leave the most hardened rollercoaster freak with a turning tummy. The roads are wide enough for ‘just’ two vehicles – a loud blast on the horn means we are overtaking. The lack of road rules works, all the drivers are prepared for anything and as such, nothing happens.

Our lunch stop was a welcome break from the journey. While runners found a space and relaxed, I walked looking for some local colour. I found a family relaxing under a tree, the midday sun was warm and they needed a break from the hard work in the fields.

They locals embrace tourists and actually seem to enjoy the process of having a photo taken. I lifted out balloons for the children and comically all the adults wanted one too. They were sitting, laughing aloud, as each and every one of them tried to inflate them. I am convinced they had not witnessed a balloon before. I inflated one and let go…. It whirled through then air and landed as if dead.

Relaxed with the balloon distraction, one-by-one they looked into my lens.

Weathered faces show the lines from years of toil in the fields. Children have wonderful circular faces that glow and piercing eyes with a cheeky smile.

I could photograph these people all day!

Back on the bus the ride continues and finally our arrival at Jiri came. We had been on the road 8-hours and the glow of yellow tents was a warm welcome as the day began to lose its light.

Water collection, tent allocation and final preparations were underway for tomorrows race day as the runners became acquainted with their new homes for the next 6-days . A mug of hot tea warms as the departing of the sun takes the heat of the day away and the temperature slowly drops…

Day 1 commences at 0900 Thursday 10th November.

Jiri (1850m) to Bhandar  (2050m) – 21.5km 3795m+

The stage has two summits, one at 2400m and the high point of the day at Deurali Pass 2700m before descending to the finish at Bhandar.

Sondre Amdahl to run The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica 2017

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Sondre Amdahl has been on a roll over the last couple of years running amongst the best runners in the world and on multiple occasions excelling with a string of consistent top-10 results.

I guess the journey really started in 2013 when Sondre placed 4th at Transgrancanaria (83km) and 10th at the CCC. In 2014, the Norwegian runner stepped up to the 125km Transgrancanaria race and placed 6th, ultimately though, the breakthrough came at UTMB with 7th followed up with a 17th at Diagonale Des Fous on Reunion Island.

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The 2015 season started really well with 2nd at Hong Kong 100 and moving up the ranks to 4th at Transgrancanaria – a race Sondre loves! 15th at Western States and 4th at UTMF set the stage for 2016 and Sondre’s first attempt at the Marathon des Sables were he placed 9th amongst a highly competitive field.

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“The main attraction with multi-day racing is that it takes longer! When I travel to the other side of the world, I appreciate that I can run more than “just” one day and night, like in a typical 100-mile race,” Sondre said when I asked about the appeal of the Sahara and MDS. “Multi-day racing also has a more social component to it. You meet more people and have more time to hang out with other passionate runners. Even though I’ve only done one multi-day (MDS in April 2016), I find the lack of recovery/rest and sleep makes it hard to race hard day-after-day.”

Sondre is hooked on the format of racing for multiple days and as I write this he will head to Oman to race in the desert once again. However, never wanting to stand still and always seeking a new challenge, the heat, humidity and varied terrain of Costa Rica has lured Sondre to The Coastal Challenge.

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“Of course it will be a challenge, but I love technical trails and elevation change. I think the TCC course fits my running style. I guess the biggest challenge for me will be the heat and the humidity! I live in one of the coldest places in Norway and in February the normal day temperature is minus ten/fifteen degrees Celsius. My heat acclimatisation needs to be spot on.”

Costa Rica is a magical place and so different to the baron almost featureless Sahara Desert. Having raced all over the world in stunning mountains, on isolated trails, I wondered why Costa Rica?

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“The tropical climate is a real attraction and it will be a great escape from the cold winter in Norway. I can’t wait to run on the beach and explore the rainforest.”

Renowned for specific training, Sondre often immerses himself in preparation for a key race. As he has said, Norway is not going to be the ideal training ground for a high humidity race with hot temperature. It begs the question, how will he train for this challenge?

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“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I feel a lot better now, and I’m ready for a good block of training in November, December and January to prepare for TCC. This training block will include the Oman Desert Marathon and a 115 km race in Hong Kong on New Years eve. I will also train in Gran Canaria in January to be 100 percent prepared for TCC.”

Sondre is leaving nothing to chance and peaking for a race so early in season can bring with it some risks, the racing calendar is so full and long now! I therefore wondered what his 2017 schedule will look like and I also wondered would we see more multi-day races?

“I will run the Jungle Ultra in Peru (6-day stage race) in early June of 2017. And may be Hardrock? I also want to go back to Reunion and run the Diagonales Des Fous in October.”

Marathon des Sables provided an opportunity to test equipment and be self-sufficient. It’s a challenge carrying ones own kit and I know only too well that not having enough food can be a real test, especially when racing hard. TCC is not a self-sufficient race and so therefore calories shouldn’t be an issue, however, I wondered about equipment such as shoe choices and other details for the race?

“I haven’t thought too much about this yet, but I guess I’ll use the Superior and/or the Lone Peak shoes from Altra. TCC will be fantastic as I just need to run with liquid and some food. I wont be weighed down by a 6.5kg pack. Being in my own tent but with all the other runners also provides a great compromise over a race such as MDS. I can have some privacy if I need it but I can still share the community spirit that a multi-stage race brings. I think for those who are looking for a challenge but also some comfort, TCC is perfect for this. I can’t wait!”

TCC and Costa Rica has a reputation for being a relaxed and enjoyable race – do you think holidays that combine a race are a good idea?

“For me personally, the race and holiday combo is just perfect. I will be racing for sure, that is my DNA But I know that when I get back home again, I will remember (and appreciate) camp life and the social aspect way more than the race result.”

The 2017 TCC is just a few months away, the ladies’ line-up is already looking incredible with 2016 champion Ester Alves returning. 2015 MDS champion and 2016 TCC runner up, Elisabet Barnes will also return. Add to the mix Everest Trail Race two-time winner, Anna Comet, and one thing is for sure, Sondre may need to watch out for the ladies’ as competition, never mind the men…

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A multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

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The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

Entries are still available for the 2017 edition

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

#RunningBeyondBook – Signed Copies

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RUNNING BEYOND BOOK

In advance of the UK release date of #RunningBeyondBook on November 3rd

I have 10- copies that I can sign and personalise. Strictly, fist come, first served.

The cost is £25.00 per copy plus postage and package within the UK

To order, please complete the form below

RunningBeyond_JKT

Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2016 Race Images and Summary

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The skies went dark and the clag came in, the 2016 Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR started under stormy skies as torrential rain soaked the runners. On the stroke of 0900, the runners departed the coastal town of Newcastle ran into Donard Park via the promenade entrance and then climbed the Granite Trail for a long and relentless climb.

From the off, Salomon International athlete Roki Bratina dictated the pace as a small group followed lead by local runner Eoin Lennon, the Team Garmin Adventure athletes of Julien Jorro and Germain Grangier and Chris Arthur.

Jasmin Paris, as expected dictated the ladies’ race but Skyrunning UK Series leader, Sarah Ridgway was very close by and keeping the inov-8 athlete insight as was Katie Boden who also was in search of valuable ranking points.

A race within a race was also happening for the men as Bjorn Verduijn, Michael Jones and Ben Hukins all fought for points and places in a bid for the 2016 Skyrunning UK Series title. It was Bjorn’s title to lose but on the first climb, Ben was dictating the pace followed by Michael and Bjorn, although trailing was looking relaxed.

After two hours of running, the heavy rains subsided and the skies opened up to reveal the majestic Mourne Mountains and the ever-present Mourne Wall that weaves its way across the landscape.

At Hare’s Gap, the first major peak waited: Slieve Bearnagh. The runners first passing the North Tor before reaching the summit quickly followed with the technical ascent of Slieve Meelmore. In the ladies’ race, Sarah Ridgeway had taken the lead, Jasmine feeling a little tired and jaded after a full-on racing year. For the men, Germain Grangier was showing the rest of the men a clean pair of heals. Chris Arthur had him in sight and Roki Bratina was in 3rd.

The climbs and summits were coming thick and fast now; Slieve Loughshannagh, Slieve Meelbeg and the course continues to follow the Mourne Wall leading to a repeated climb of the technical and challenging Slieve Meelmore, this time in the opposite direction. The toughest climb of the day follows, Slieve Bearnagh.

From Hare’s Gap a steep climb next to the Mourne Wall brings the runners Slievenaglogh and Slieve Commedagh. The race was now taking shape, Germain looked controlled and relaxed as he pushed his way up the climb. Chris also looked relaxed and Roki looked focused with a determination to close the gap on 2nd and potentially reclaim the lead. One of the pre-race favourites, Eoin Lennon complained of not being able to climb despite running in 4th place.

Jasmin Paris had now reclaimed the lead and Sarah trailed by just a few minutes with a flash on inov-8 red constantly pulling her up the muddy and challenging terrain.

The highest point of the course at Slieve Donard signified the end of the climbing and from here on in, a relentless drop to the finish followed the Mourne Wall before turning right and re-tracing the morning’s early climb before taking the Glen River Path to Donard Park and the finish line.

Germain’s victory never looked in doubt, he was super smooth and super strong all day – his new course record 3:49:39 confirming this. However, pre-race favourite Roki Bratina closed a 5-minute gap from Slieve Commedagh showing some supreme descending skills to finish 2nd in 3:50:17. Chris Arthur finished 3rd with local Eoin Lennon holding on to 4th ahead of Michael Jones.

Despite all his efforts, Michael’s 5th place was not enough of a gap over Bjorn Verduijn’s 10th place and therefore the 2016 Skyrunning UK Series title was awarded to Bjorn.

Jasmin Paris, despite a deep tiredness somehow managed to find the energy to hold off Sarah Ridgway and they finished, 4:30:02 and 4:34:10. Katie Boden finished 3rd lady and therefore moved up to 2nd in the Skyrunning UK Series ahead of Sarah Sheridan but it was Sarah Ridgway who was the outright winner of the series with 2 victories, a 2nd and 3rd place – great consistency!

The mountains of Northern Ireland may not have the height or elevation gain the Alps or Pyrenees offer, but what they lack in height is more than compensated for in technicality and repeated roller coaster climbing. Ask anyone who has run it, the Mourne Skyline MTR is no easy race.

  1. Germain Grangier – new CR 3:49:39
  2. Loki Bratina 3:50:17
  3. Chris Arthur 3:55:16
  1. Jasmin Paris 4:30:02
  2. Sarah Ridgway 4:34:10
  3. Katie Boden 4:49:17

Skyrunning UK Series champions 2016

Bjorn Verduijn and Sarah Ridgway

runners up Michael Jones and Ben Hukins / Katie Boden and Sarah Sheridan

Full results available here

Dolomites SKYRACE 2016 Race Summary and Images – Skyrunner® World Series

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At 22km long with 10km uphill and 12km downhill The Dolomites SkyRace is a tough Skyrunning race that perfectly shows the ethos of the sport – start low, get high and then return as quickly as possible. Piz Boe at 3152m is the high point of the course and what follows is a technical descent to the starting town of Canazei.

Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel hold the current course, their times 2:00:11 and 2:25:57 recorded in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

Starting in Piazza Marconi, Canazei at 0830, 4 hours 30 minutes are allocated for participants to complete the course.

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From the gun Aritz Egea dictated the pace and lead a chasing trio of 2015 champion Tadei Pivk, Stian Overgaard and Martin Anthamatten. On the slopes leading up Piz Boe, Egea was relegated to 4th and a battle was on for victory.

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At the summit, Pivk took the lead and descended without fear as Anthamatten and Overgaard chased.

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Pivk was too strong though crossing the line in 2:03. Overgaard in his first Skyrunning race placed 3rd in 2:04 and 2015 Matterhorn Ultraks champion, Anthamatten placed 3rd.

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In the ladies’ race, Laura Orgue was always going to be the lady to beat, the only question mark would come on her ability to descend from the summit of Piz Boe… easier this year she broke her leg in a skiing accident.

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We should have no questions! From the beginning Orgue pushed the pace and the only lady in close contention was Elisa Desco. Orgue summited first and then held that lead all the way to the line besting Desco by 2-minutes, 2:28 to 2:30.

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Surprise of the day came in the ladies 3rd place, Celia Chiron who ran an incredible 2:32. Pre-race favourites Yngvild Kaspersen finished 5th and post-race said, “I had bad feelings today and my legs were just heavy.” It was a similar story for 2016 Transvulcania champion, Ida Nilsson.

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Attention now turns to this coming weekend, the Skyrunning World Championships will take place in Spain with VK, SKY and ULTRA races


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:

Social Media Logos

Facebook/iancorlessphotography
Twitter (@talkultra)
Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) 

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

Facebook.com/skyrunning
Twitter @skyrunning_com
Instagram @skyrunning

Face de Bellevarde VK 2016 Race Summary and Images – Skyrunner® World Series

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Christel Dewalle and Xavier Gachet set the trails of the Face de Bellevarde VK on fire yesterday as they not only went in pursuit of victory but the opportunity to win the use of a BMW car for 1-year – a special prize offered by the race!

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Dewalle needed to beat Laura Orgue’s 40:52 and Gachet 34:51 set by Skyrunning legend, Marco De Gasperi who was also running in the race.

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They did it!

New records stand at 38:11 and 33:34.

Starting at 1700 hours, runners departed on timed intervals of 1-minute. Temperatures were cool and cloud cover removed any strong and direct heat thus making conditions excellent for a hard effort.

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Dewalle and Gachet was never going to have an easy run and strong threats came from A. Mollaret and E. Collinge in the ladies race, they crossed the line 40:33 (also under Laura Orgues’s old record) and 41:33.

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For the men, A Perret produced a surprise 33:41 and VK and Skyrunning specialist, R Bonnet crossing the line in 34:06.

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Bonnet had been a pre-race favourite but a niggling injury was still causing a little stress to the young body of the Swiss man. One runner who we had anticipated to do well was Zemmer – he did not start. Fern Tpeixido, Marco Moletto, Hannes Perkman, William Bon Mardion and Pascal Egli made up the rest of the main contenders in an impressive field.

Attention now turns to the Ultra – High Trail Vanoise which starts in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Read the race preview HERE


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:

Social Media Logos

Facebook/iancorlessphotography
Twitter (@talkultra)
Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) 

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

Facebook.com/skyrunning
Twitter @skyrunning_com
Instagram @skyrunning

High Trail Vanoise Ultra and Face de Bellevarde VK 2016 Race Preview – Skyrunner® World Series


Skyrunning and the 2016 Skyrunner World Series arrives in France this weekend for an action packed double bill of VK and ULTRA. On Friday, the Face de Bellevarde VK kicks off in Val D’Isere to take on the steep slopes that lead to the summit way up in the sky.
Marco De Gasperi, Skyrunning legend has the record of 34:51 set on this course many years ago and this year, up and coming rising star, Remi Bonnet will be looking to set a new benchmark. The young runner won’t have it all his own way though, Ferran Teixido, current leader in the SWS rankings will be looking for a strong performance and the ever present, Urban Zemmer will push the young gun all the way to the summit. Marco Moletto, Hannes Perkman, William Bon Mardion and Pascal Egli will make up the main contenders in an impressive field.
For the ladies, Christelle Dewalle is the current SWS leader and ultimately the one to beat! Elisa Desco, Emily Collinge and Serena Vittori will push the French lady hard but can they beat Laura Orgue’s time of 40:52?
In both races, an incentive is on offer. Should a male or female break the old course records they will receive a cash prize of 2000 euros. If the runner is French, the opportunity to have a new BMW car is available for one year!


High Trail Vanoise is the main event of the weekend and it harks back to the golden days of when Giacometti, Brunod and climbed Monte Rosa and paved the way for this modern phenomenon called Skyrunning. Ice, snow, glaciers, altitude, the High Trail Vanoise has it all. Crossing the iconic Col D’Iseran at 2764m is merely just a taster, the high point of the course is the impressive Grande Motte at 3653m. It’s a tough race, 67km in length, runners will climb (and descend) 5400m to reach the finish line.


Cristofer Clemente heads up there men’s field after an impressive top 10 at Transvulcania and victory at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. Nicolas Martin, Nuno Silva, Jan Bartas, Dimity Mityaev and the ever-present Fulvio Dapit will look to take top honours and maximum SWS points.


Gemma Arenas fresh from victory in Madeira will be looking to consolidate maximum points and set herself up for a good chance of winning the 2016 SWS. Local French lady Anne-Lise Rousset may well have other thoughts though! Anna Comet has been fighting injury issues but a finish in Madeira and some quality RnR will hopefully set her up for a strong run in France. Travelling from the USA, Kristina Pattison will be looking to repeat her top 10 performance from Madeira and work her way up the rankings ahead of the RUT in the USA.


Just as in the VK, prize money is on offer and the respective winners can expect 3000 euros or French runners will receive 1000 euro and a BMW for a year.
Alpina Watches, sponsored of the SWS will also offer a male and female watch for the Alpina Smart Time.

600 runners will take part in a stunning weekend of high intensity action.


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

iancorless.com is the official photographer and media partner for the Skyrunner® World Series Follow on:

Social Media Logos

Facebook/iancorlessphotography
Twitter (@talkultra)
Instagram (@iancorlessphotography) 

Follow the Skyrunner® World Series on social media platforms

Facebook.com/skyrunning
Twitter @skyrunning_com
Instagram @skyrunning

Suunto Spartan Ultra – New Sports GPS

Spartan Ultra collection

Suunto introduces its next generation multisport solution with a new family of GPS watches and a renewed Suunto Movescount.com

                      Press Release by Suunto

The long-awaited next generation of Suunto multisport watches is soon here. Today, Suunto introduces Suunto Spartan Ultra, a premium multisport GPS watch for athletes and adventurers. At the same time, Suunto is renewing its online sports service Suunto Movescount with a range of new features and improvements.

People have been asking about what’s next after Ambit3 for quite some time now,” notes Sami Arhomaa, Performance business unit director at Suunto. “So it’s a great pleasure to announce our next generation Suunto Spartan solution for athletic and adventure multisport.” The solution comprises of the Suunto Spartan Ultra watches, a renewed Suunto Movescount service and mobile applications for both iPhone and Android.

“In a fast-paced world with an overwhelming flood of information, athletes need better tools to determine how to efficiently achieve their goals,” explains Arhomaa. “People who are driven by the passion to progress want to know if they are doing things right. More and more people are reaching out to communities of like-minded people for guidance and inspiration. With the Spartan solution, we are building on the insights we’ve gained through our constant dialogue with athletes and coaches around the world. The new Suunto Spartan multisport solution will offer customers new community powered tools to progress. We are convinced these tools will help them progress beyond their expectations.”

Suunto Spartan Ultra – the GPS watch for athletic and adventure multisport

Adventure proof

Suunto Spartan Ultra watches are hand-made in Finland and built to last in any conditions. Water resistant to 100 meters, the watches sport an extremely durable color touch screen with a wide viewing angle and great visibility in bright sunlight. The watch is built with a glass fiber reinforced polyamide casing, sapphire crystal glass and a grade5 titanium or stainless steel bezel. For your multisport adventures, Suunto Spartan Ultra offers guided route navigation, barometric altitude with FusedAlti™, a digital compass, as well as a competitive battery life.

Sports expertise and insights

The Suunto Spartan Ultra is a true multisport watch. With GPS, FusedSpeedTM, heart rate measurement and in-built accelerometer, it accurately tracks your training and provides versatile insights on your progress for a multitude of sports.  It  offers  dozens of preset sport modes, e.g. for triathlon, swimming, cycling, running, adventure racing, and snow sports – including modes for specific types of training, racing and activities.  If you are a runner, for example, you can choose a basic running mode that offers the essential information for running, or an interval running mode, a trail running mode, and more.  The Suunto Spartan Ultra also provides you visual overviews on your training load, rest&recovery status and your progress to help you plan your training. With the watch you can also track your feeling after each workout.

In addition, Suunto Spartan Ultra monitors your overall activity 24/7 with daily and weekly steps, calories and active time. Pair the watch with Suunto Movescount App to get smart mobile notifications. The watch will also keep you up to date on your personal bests by sport.

Community powered progress

In connection with the launch of the Spartan solution, Suunto deploys big data methods for turning the community generated sports data into valuable training insights. Suunto has been analyzing tens of millions of endurance sport sessions to provide both existing and new consumers with answers to the questions like where should you train and how are you progressing. The first tool utilizing this data are sports-specific heatmaps, available from today in Suunto Movescount. Later, the toolset using the data will grow with tools for peer group comparison and insights.

The Suunto Spartan Ultra collection includes four models: Suunto Spartan Ultra All Black Titanium, Suunto Spartan Ultra Stealth Titanium, Suunto Spartan Ultra White and Suunto Spartan Ultra Black – each available with or without Suunto Smart Sensor for heart rate monitoring. The RRP price of the Suunto Spartan Ultra Titanium will be £585 and Suunto Spartan Ultra £545. Prices with a HR sensor are £40 higher.

Further details of the product will be released in July 2016.  The watches become available in August, and the solution will continue to grow in functionality via SW, service and application updates during the remaining year.

Read more about the Suunto Spartan Ultra at www.suunto.com/spartan