Salomon Glen Coe Skyline 2016 Preview – Skyrunner® Extreme Series

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Skyrunning reaches new heights in the UK this September with the Skyline Scotland series of events – VK, SKY and EXTREME. In just three years, Skyrunning in the UK has progressed from zero races to a well-established portfolio of races that bring the ethos and principles of pure Skyrunning onto UK soil.

In 2015, the Glen Coe Skyline provided a race that was considered by the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) as a pinnacle event and plans were hatched. In 2016 we saw the launch of the Skyrunner® Extreme Series – three races, three ultimate challenges and Glen Coe Skyline was included alongside Kilian Jornet’s and Emelie Forsberg’s Tromso SkyRace and the iconic Trofeo Kima.

In addition to this, Shane Ohly (Ourea Events) in conjunction with Skyrunning UK was well aware of the growth potential and possibilities that Glen Coe area has to offer, therefore, new for 2016 will be the UK’s first ever VK – Salomon Mamores VK. Yes, folks, 1000m of vertical gain in one push. In addition to this a new SKY distance race has been added, the Salomon Ring of Steall SkyRace.

The VK and SkyRace will have eligible points for the Skyrunning UK Series but not the Skyrunner® Extreme Series, that honour is given to the pinnacle event, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.

Tromso and Kima are done and dusted and boy oh boy there has been some seriously exciting racing. At Tromso, it was a Brit 1,2,3 with Tom Owens, Jon Albon and Finlay Wild taking top honours. In the ladies’ race it was Jasmin Paris who topped the podium.

At Kima it was all change with Nepalese runner, Bhim Gurung taking top honours and Owens and Albon missing the top podium places. Finlay Wild was missing saving his energy for Scotland and Jasmin Paris ran UTMB and placed an incredible 6th. Emelie Forsberg made her return to high level racing after month and months of rehabilitation after ACL surgery. She won! It was a dream comeback for the Salomon runner and hopes were raised that the 2015 Glen Coe Skyline winner would return… Unfortunately, no. Emelie is taking her rehabilitation seriously and has now gone to India for 1-month to work on her yoga skills ahead of the 2016/17 ski mountaineering calendar.

So, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline is all to fight for from a male and female perspective with valuable Skyrunner World Series points up for grabs.

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The men’s race is going to be a nail biter. Tom Owens racing on home soil must be the favourite, particularly after victory in Tromso. He placed just off the podium in Kima and so therefore overall position and the 20% bonus points that come with the final race will be crucial. Tom had a purple patch of running recently with back-to-back incredible results, maybe he was a little tired at Kima but I think he will be rested and fired up for the Scottish race.

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Although not confirmed, Skyrunning and Trail Running Nepal are doing their best to obtain a visa to allow Bhim Gurung to race in Scotland. With a victory at Kima, his chances of sealing the SkyExtreme title are very high. His race in Kima against Skyrunning legend, Marco De Gasperi was phenomenal. Also take into consideration he broke the course record set by Kilian Jornet. If Bhim makes it to Glen Coe it is going to be very exciting to watch.

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Jonathan Albon was the 2015 champion at Tromso and placed 2nd this year. He ran Kima very much as a learning curve knowing full well that Glen Coe is a race that he can excel at. It’s all to fight for and the points combinations between Bhim, Tom and Finlay make the SkyExtreme champion an unknown…

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This is Finlay Wild’s home ground and after placing 3rd at Tromso, home advantage here at Glen Coe is going to provide a great boost for the man who excels in the mountains.

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Alexis Sevennec ran in the lead for much of Trofeo Kima only to relinquish a podium place in the latter stages of the race. However, he has points for the Extreme Series and with such a quality field here in Scotland, it’s all to fight for.

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Marc Lauenstein and along with Stian should not be ruled out for overall victory at Glen Coe. This guy is on fire and with a victory at the iconic Zegama-Aizkorri and a recent victory at Matterhorn Ultraks, Marc is one to watch. This is Marc’s first Extreme race and he can therefore not qualify for the series.

What follows is a list of athletes that without doubt makes the Glen Coe Skyline THE most exciting and stacked field ever assembled on UK soil. Skyrunning UK had a plan 3-years ago to bring the world’s best to the UK. In 2016 we have achieved that. This line-up is world class. What is important to remember is that in many respects two races are taking place in Glen Coe – the race for the podium and the race for points so that one male and one female can be crowned Sky Extreme Champion 2016.

In alphabetical order:

Jan Bartas – Jan is a regular runner on the Skyrunning circuit and has recently raced at the Skyrunning World Champs where he placed 27th on the men’s race and most recently he raced Trofeo Kima.

Donald Campbell – racing on home soil. He had a below par performance at Kima but will look to put the record straight here.

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Kim Collison had a great race at the Skyrunning World Championships and with a strong background in fell, mountain and and adventure racing he is without doubt another UK talent who will be a contender in the upper ranks.

Pascal Egli – A Skyrunner who will no doubt mix things up at the front of the race who will be looking for victory or podium place. – Injured

Mike Foote – The TNF athlete needs no introduction as he has been around the ultra-scene for years. He is best known for strong and consistent performances at UTMB and notably, he is the race director (along with Mike Wolfe) at the RUT VK, SKY and ULTRA – cancelled

Andrew Fallas raced at Tromso with a strong and consistent performance and will without doubt be one to watch. He recently had a below par performance at Matterhorn Ultraks.

Martin Gaffuri – Team Manager for the Scott Team is no slouch when it comes to racing and running in the mountains. Last year, Martin had a great run and placing at the super technical ELS2900 in Andorra, so, we can expect a sold run.
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Eirik Haugsness – Won the inaugural Tromso SkyRace and followed with a strong performance in 2015. In 2016 he had a strong run in Tromso but below par for him. He missed Kima saving his strength for Scotland.

Gareth Hughes – Is a UK based runner who has performed consistently on the Skyrunning UK Series where he is one of the top performers, he will no doubt relish the opportunity to test himself against such a world-class field.

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Rolf Einar Jensen – Was 3rd at Tromso SkyRace in 2015 and just off the podium in 2016. He is a strong runner who knows how to handle the tough, technical and challenging terrain that Scotland will offer. Tromso’s terrain and weather is very similar to Scotland – he’s one to watch!

Oli Johnson – Another UK based fell runner who excels on muddy, technical and boggy terrain. He’s had good results in the Skyrunner World Series in previous years and has also contested the Skyrunning UK Series with a strong performance at the V3K. – withdrawn

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Andre Jonsson – Has been a revelation in 2016 with a string of strong results in the Skyrunner World Series. He raced Trofeo Kima just a couple of weeks ago and he’d be the first to admit that it was a learning curve… One that he loved. He will be in the mix in Scotland.

Ricky Lighftoot – Could very well win Glen Coe. He has all the skill sets to excel on this terrain as he has proven countless times in past years. Ricky though can’t contest the SkyExtreme title as this will be his first race. – withdrawn

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Jim Mann – The Dragons Back 2015 champion raced at Tromso and Kima and under normal conditions he’d be a contender for the top places. However, life seems to be getting in the way for Jim and he’s using 2016 for experience.
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Luke Nelson – Raced Tromso and just recently raced the VK and SKY race at the RUT in Montana. Luke loves the mountains and technical terrain and we can expect a strong performance.

Pavel Paloncy – Is a winner of The Spine race and comes from an adventure racing background. For sure he will be in the mix in Scotland but on this terrain over this distance, I think he will lack the speed to contend for the podium.

Konrad Rawlik – Ever consistent in the mountains and fells. We won’t see him on the podium but he will hover around the top-10.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2015-4836Philipp Reiter – Tromso and Kima are ticked off for Philipp and if he was ‘just’ able to run and train he would have been a contender for the overall series. However, like for many of us, life and work has got in the way. However, don’t rule him out. This guy has natural talent and he will certainly be in the top-10 mix.

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Christophe Le Saux – Has raised the series and as many of you may well know, this guy races a great deal! He’s a huge character, very friendly and although he won’t be in contention for the series podium, you can expect to see him around the top 10 to 20.

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Joe Symonds – Last year’s Glen Coe Skyline winner has not raced at Tromso or Kima so will only be looking for Glen Coe glory. However, he will have his hands full as I am sure he is aware. He has the advantage of racing and winning last year, he also has home advantage.

Es Tressider in Glen Coe

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Esmond Tressider – Es almost certainly could have contested the overall series had been available to race at Tromso or Kima. As it stands, he will only race Glen Coe but he is one to watch. Last year he was living and training in the flat lands despite a love of the mountains. That has changed recently and he has been able to train on more specific terrain.

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Greg Vollet – Team Manager for Salomon often beats the athletes he manages… He comes from a professional mountain biking background and is known for his fast descending. Just last weekend he placed 2nd at The Rut 50k. Greg won’t be contesting the series but he will be in the mix at the front end of this race!

Notable mentions for Jayson Cavill and Ally Beavan who are racing on home soil who are solid performers in the Skyrunning UK series.

Do I need to say that the men’s race is going to be an incredible and exciting battle?

The ladies’ race has less depth. It’s often the case in all Skyrunning racing but in the SkyExtreme Series this is even more so due to the challenging nature of the courses.

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Jasmin Paris is without doubt the favourite for the race victory and overall series title after her victory at Tromso. This is also helped by the fact that Emelie Forsberg (who won Kima) will not race. I have to say, I would have loved to see these two run against each other again on this course. In 2015, Emelie beat Jasmin. Jasmin’s biggest question mark will be her recovery from 6th place at UTMB? It was a few weeks ago but the deep fatigue from such a big race lies within and you only find out how tired you are when you try to race again…
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Marlene Bikken Haukoy – Had a solid race once again at Tromso with a repeat podium place, she was also on the podium in 2015. Marlene is a rock solid racer with a string of top placed runs. Like I have said before, Norway is very similar to Scotland and we can expect her to on the podium.

©iancorless.com_TrofeoKima2016-1676Ruth Croft placed 2nd behind Emelie Forsberg at Trofeo Kima and has now decided to run in Scotland in the hope to gain valuable ranking points and with a 20% bonus there is everything to fight for. The battle for the series title between Ruth, Jasmin and Malena is an exciting one!

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Sarah Ridgeway – Is currently 2nd in the Skyrunning UK Series and ultimately will be looking for a maximum of points to secure her 2016 title. However, she is extremely competitive and has experience of competing on a world-stage. Sarah won’t be phased by the competition in Scotland, on the contrary, she will love it. A podium place for sure but which one?

©iancorless.com_LSU2015-2-31Beth Pascall is a force on the UK scene with some incredible performances at The Spine Race, Dragons Back and most recently she obliterated the Lakeland 100 female course record. Beth will relish the opportunity to mix things up with the other ladies and she may well pull of a surprise victory!

Naila Jornet Burgada – Kilian Jornet couldn’t make Glen Coe, apparently there is some big peak he is trying to set an FKT on in the Himalayas… Not to worry, Kilian’s sister, Naila will join us. Not a pure runner, Naila is very much a skier, ski mountaineer and rock climber, however, all these skills will come together on the Glen Coe course. It’s going to be great to see her take part!

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Lizzie Wraith – Is a previous winner of the Lakeland 100, she made the podium at the Dragons Back Race and we can expect her to be in the mix for the top 5 and most likely the podium. Although not a pure Skyrunner, Lizzie has dipped her toe in the UK series and placed well at the Mourne Skyline MTR in Ireland.

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Martina Valmassoi from the Salomon International Team has raced on the Skyrunning Circuit for 2-years now. Last she placed 3rd at The Rut and earlier this year she had a strong performance in Madeira. Just last week she raced at The Rut once again but dropped with stomach issues. Martina did race at Tromso with a solid performance so we can expect her to mix things up at the front in Scotland and of course she will be looking for valuable series points.

Natalia Tomisiak, Zuzana Urbancova and Olga Lyjak will also be ones to watch in what will be an exciting and stunning ladies race.

 

VK and SKY Preview

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For the UK’s first ever VK there are several notable names to watch. Firstly, and most importantly is Skyrunning World Champion for the VK and SKY distance, Stian Angermund from Norway. I think it’ stair to say that the time he sets in the VK race is one that may last for some years to come…

However, Francois Gonon from France is the 2015 Skyrunning European VK Champion and if one person can push Stian it is him.

From a UK perspective eyes will be on Graham Gristwood who is the 2010 World Orienteering Champion tackling his first VK. Jim Mann, Joe Symonds and Martin Mikkelsen-Barron will also run.

In the ladies’ race, Lizzie Wraith is looking to do the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline double.

Salomon Ring of Steall SkyRace

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Stian Angermund is the Skyrunning World Champion for the Sky distance and it’s an honour to have him come and race on UK soil. The similarities between Norway and Scotland are going to suit him and we can expect him to blast around the course and without doubt he will contest for the top of the podium.

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Francois Gonon is the most likely person to push Stian to top the podium in the SkyRace and we can expect him to blaze a fast trail to the line.

Bjorn Verduijn currently leads the Skyrunning UK Series ranking and he will be looking to consolidate his lead with a top placing and maximum points.

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In the ladies’ race, Raidlight sponsored Joanna Zakrzewski is a likely contender for the top spot. She is Scotland based and has great experience racing on a big stage. She has placed highly at Comrades in South Africa, is a GB 100km runner and has completed races like the Dragons Back.

Importantly, many runners from the UK will be looking for points in the Skyrunning UK Series. Please make yourself familiar with the main names and overall contenders HERE.

More race information and full entry lists are available:

Info

Action starts on Friday September 16th with the VK, the SkyRace is on the 17th and the weekends main event will take place on the 18th.

Skyline Scotland will be the pinnacle of the UK’s running calendar and a whole weekend of activities are planned. Please check out the website HERE.

Film shows, meet and greet the athletes, talks with Q&A possibilities and of course 3 amazing races that you can come and watch for free! Information HERE.

  • Taking centre-stage on Friday night will be the awesome Jasmin Paris who will be talking about her record breaking Bob Graham and Ramsay Rounds followed by questions from the audience.  We’ll follow this with a screening of the Best of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival winner, The Barkley Marathons.
  • On Saturday night the spotlight will be on Salomon athletes Tom Owens and Joe Symonds (2015 Salomon Glen Coe Skyline™ winner) who will be introducing two Salomon films including Fast and Light and Bob Graham Round followed by a question and answer session. After the interval you can settle down to watch the Best of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival films: 3022 FeetThere on the Periphery and Curiosity.

Important

*Please check the race website on information in regard to spectating HERE. The main race takes place on some very challenging and exposed terrain. For the safety of runners, volunteers and supporters, we request that you do not go to certain areas. Please also appreciate that this is the UK, the weather can change in minutes. Be prepared with warm layers, waterproof clothing, hat, gloves and please make sure you have food and water to last whilst on the mountain.


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:

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Glen Coe Skyline is featured in my new book, RUNNING BEYOND (information here)

RunningBeyond_JKT

 

Skyrunning UK – True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra – The Movie 2015

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I was told 2-years ago that Skyrunning in the UK was not possible.

You don’t have the mountains…

You don’t have the technical terrain…

Ridges – pah!

Climbing – pah!

You have nothing over a 1000m… 

and so on and so on.

The V3K launched our series and in doing so we showed UK runners that Wales, the 3000’s and in particular Crib Goch can test even the hardiest competitor.

The Mourne Skyline MTR had Skyrunner World Series champion Stevie Kremer come over and what did she say?

‘That is the hardest race I have ever done!’

In 2015 we stepped it up a notch with the mind blowing Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and Emelie Forsberg, Skyrunning World and European Champion for the Ultra distance half way through the race said,

‘This is the best course I have ever run for this distance!’

And then just last weekend, the first edition of the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra took place under horrendous conditions. Torrential rain, gale force winds and and I am pleased to say we have it all on film.

Enjoy!

Skyrunning in the UK? 

of course we can! With bells on….

Film by Steve Ashworth – MovieiT

Images from the race to purchase HERE

Lakes Sky Ultra 2015 Race Preview

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Skyrunning UK is booming. Already this year we have had the V3K, Peaks Skyrace and the recent ground breaking Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.

Attention now turns to the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra.

A Lakeland course that offers elevated ridgelines, breathtaking exposure, fast travel on technical mountain terrain and some classic Lakeland scrambling. Race directors Charlie Sproson and Andrew Burton say, ‘Fell running on additives. This is Skyrunning™.’

Race date is September 12th and race entries close on September 6th, so you have time to gain a last minute entry in what will be a very special race.

It’s a race route that follows on quite nicely from the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in that the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra has plenty of vertical grind (4300m+), grade 3 scrambling, knife edge arêtes and all over 50km’s of challenging terrain.

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It’s not a race for the feint hearted and this is reflected by the start list.

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Starting on the streets of Ambleside, arguably one of the most important town in the English Lakes, runners will run this challenging course via a fully way marked route.

Who is running?

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Eirik Haugsness has been racing the Skyrunner® World Series for several years and he is the 2014 champion of the Tromso Skyrace. His presence in the English lakes is an exciting prospect as he will attempt to do battle against local talent.

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Ricky Lightfoot needs no introduction to Skyrunning and fell running aficionados and without doubt he is a favourite for overall victory on what for him is home soil. Ricky has already had a string of top performances in 2015, can he add the LSU to the list?

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Es Tressider recently raced the Glen Coe Skyline and ran much of the day in 2nd place. Unfortunately, Es faded in the latter stages of the race and missed the podium. Es’s experience in the mountains is quite incredible and if recovered, we can certainly expect him to mix it up at the front of the race.

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Damian Hall in 2015 has raced The Spine, The Dragons Back Race and just finished 32nd at UTMB (2nd Brit). LSU only comes 2 weeks after the Mont-Blanc monster so Damian may well be a little tired; we can’t rule him out though!

Ben Bardsley is an experienced fell runner and ski mountaineer. In the past he has raced at classic Skyrunning races such as Zegama-Aizkorri. Ben’s current form is a little unknown but he’s one to watch for sure.

Chris Stirling has had excellent performances at the Langdale Horseshoe, Three Shires, Great Lakes Race and has preparing for LSU for several months. His presence almost certainly will be felt at the front of the race.

 

In the ladies’ race, V3K winner and 3rd placed lady at Glen Coe Skyline, Sarah Ridgway makes an appearance and if recovered we can expect her to contest the podium once again.

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But Beth Pascall comes to the race with a set of solid results. She has placed 2nd at Lakeland 100, won The Spine, placed 2nd The Dragons Back Race and for me is the most likely lady to top the podium on the 12th September.

Shiri Leventhal has placed on the podium of multi-day races in the 4 Desert Series and in 2013 was 2nd lady at the Everest Trail Race. This course will provide a test to Shiri but it’s one that she can rise too!

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Finally, Victoria Mousley is another hot contender for the top of the podium. Her experience on courses such as The Three Peaks, Tour of Pendle and Scaffell Pike Marathon will set her up nicely for a great run at LSU.

Race details can be viewed here:  HERE

Course map here: HERE

RACE ENTRY HERE (open till September 6th)

HERE

SkyrunningUKlogo

Skyrunning UK at http://www.skyrunninguk.com

 

inov-8 athlete retreat and apparel testing

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The taxi drive from my hotel in Chamonix to Les Praz was short and expensive. Not sure if it was because I am English or because I was travelling closer to Switzerland, anyway, the price was worth every penny. My arrival at three impressive chalets was awe-inspiring. Nestled in a secluded cul-de-sac, our vista was the Mont Blanc Mountain range. Despite the fading light and the arrival of darkness I had immediately decided this was a place I could live.

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My welcome was a little like a new kid arriving at school a week after school starts. Everyone had settled in and felt really comfortable. However, I had no awkwardness. The inov-8 team made introductions and within minutes we were all best mates. In reality, I knew many of the people either from interviews for Talk Ultra or from previous races. Alex Nichols from the US I had met in Zegama along with Anna Lupton (and Keith), Florian Reichert, Sarah Ridgeway and Natalie White (and Dave). Aussies Shona Stephenson and Brendan Davies (and Nadine) I had spoken to and interviewed multiple times, to meet them both face-to-face was a real pleasure. Dave MacFarlane was working on video, Lee Procter and I had FB’d, emailed and tweeted for months so it was great to put a face to the name. Matt Brown (and Rosamond), arguably the brains behind much of the new apparel, packs and accessories that we would be testing in the coming days fulfilled my ‘geek’ side. Robbie Simpson and Ben Abdelnoor, both names I was extremely familiar with but runners I had not met before. Scott Dunlap from the US, Megan Hess from IMG and journalist Andy Blow would all leave us early on either Monday or Tuesday and Florian Schopf concluded the introductions. Florian was from inov-8 Germany and as I would find out, was somewhat an expert on ‘Pose’ running. The party was complete.

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I love the dawn of a new day and no more so than when I can see a blue sky, white fluffy clouds and possibly one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. I was up early, I needed to get at least three hours work under my belt before heading out on the trails with the ‘crew’.

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The ‘crew’ is my affectionate term for the athletes, staff, videographer and myself as photographer. Our days had a relatively simple format; we hike up to altitude, find beautiful vistas, create some great imagery of the athletes running in new apparel and then finish off with some training… And of course some fun!

The snow has really lingered in the Mont Blanc Mountain range. As the locals say, spring has arrived late! This does provide some benefits. Clear mountain trails are currently interspersed with snow and some sections offer great potential for long snow runs. I tell everyone about the American runner Jared Campbell who has this great technique for running, or should I say sliding in the snow.  You start running but if the snow is soft and the gradient steep you can basically use your shoes as skis. The look of doubt across all faces of course meant only one thing, I was going to have to do it.

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Nervous faces looked as I headed down a steep slope. I could hear the minds behind me think this guy is crazy. However, when they saw me bounce down the snow and start to slide, ski and then comfortably come to a controlled stop the realization and glee was clear. Suddenly the whole team followed. Laughter, screams and pure fun were the recipe on the trail menu card. The odd tumble was shrugged off with laughter and to draw a line under proceedings everyone lined up for an ensemble run down the slope. We may all be grown up adults but it’s days or should I say impromptu moments like this that make you fully understand and appreciate why we do what we do. Children again, our love for the outdoors was like a birth of new life. We each found something in those moments together that hadn’t been there before.

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‘That’s a beautiful trail and the vista behind is superb’, I said. It was decided, we would do a whole series of images of the different athletes wearing different combinations of apparel and accessories. First of was Ben, Megan from IMG needed a front cover shot for a magazine. Ben sprinted down single track moving from left foot to right foot spending incredible floating moments in the air. I love my job! Nothing like looking in the viewfinder and getting that buzz when you know you have captured a moment.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1050186Brendan was next, I asked him to run at me and jump over me. My intention to capture him in flight. These shots are tricky. You need everything to come together. Arms need to be balanced, legs dynamic and face composed and committed. Unbelievably we nailed it on the first run. YES. I looked in the camera and with excited glee as I passed the camera around and a unanimous acceptance of a special moment was confirmed.

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Shona and I moved up the trail to a technical section that would demand some serious concentration from both runner and photographer. Lying flat on a ridge with a wide-angle lens I would shout ‘go’! The Aussie downhill demon would take the break off and throw her self down the trail. ‘How was it Ian’, Shona would shout, ‘It was good but we didn’t get the one, can you go again’ I would reply. It’s the nature of the beast, some times you nail it, others you need to work on it but patience is rewarded and eventually the shots come.

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inov-8 really has nailed the new product range. I’m very fortunate to do what I do, I feel as though I have the boxes ticked, not only do I write, photograph and podcast about what I love but I also do the sport. Maybe not at the level I have done in the past but I am we’ll aware of the pluses and minuses of great product. I may be working on this project but I was also wearing and testing everything the athletes had to test. From functional T’s to long sleeve warm layers, wind shells and waterproof layers. Matt and the team have started with a blank canvas and didn’t start with paint but started with a pencil outline, like any great painting they have built up the layers over time only adding what needed to be added. Ultimately they have finished with some wonderful masterpieces of lightweight and minimalist running apparel. It’s an exciting and innovative line that will make competitors look and question.

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On our first day, the sun was shining and we could utilize the lighter products in the new inov-8 range, T shirts, shorts, windshell layers and of course hats and rags as accessories. The Race Elite Windshell layer in particular is a great product, weighing in at just 70g for men this is a product that you can take on every run. Once stuffed into its storage pocket (provided) it can be carried in the rear of your shorts, waist belt or pack. You can even carry it in your hand if need be. A perfect wind proof layer with 1/2 zip and small front napoleon pocket.

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Photography over it was time to run. Joining the Mont Blanc marathon course we made our way back to our chalet. The pace relaxed, at least for some (not me) we twisted and rock hopped on the trails to Les Praz. As the sun beat through the foliage, the ground beneath us tested our ability to adapt to the terrain. I was using inov-8 Roclite 245’s a relatively minimalist shoe for me but I loved the secure grip and contact with the ground. Brendan and Matt were using F-lites, the most minimalist shoe in the inov-8 range. Not a shoe for me but in the right hands, or should I say on the right feet they were a pleasure to watch as light steps, high cadence and forefoot running of the highest order confirmed why Brendan has that incredible turn of speed.

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A stream gushed with increased water flow from the melting snow up high and as we made a final turn to our chalet day one on the trails came to a close. It was time to chill, eat and drink a beer or three. Does it get any better?

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In short, the answer is yes! Day two we took a drive into Switzerland for a full day in the mountains. Snow was in abundance and the trails interspersed the white like a pencil line on a blank page. I asked Alex to do some shots on a rock cluster with a wide and expansive mountain backdrop. It only took us fifteen minutes but when completed we were alone.

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Heading up the trails we followed footprints and then ran across fields and mountainsides of snow turning a pinky/ red in places as the flowers and vegetation underneath stained the snow. In the distance we could see Dave setting up his camera, he had found a place to capture some action shots.

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A picnic lunch was followed be a series of set up shots. A rocky section with a waterfall offered the perfect combination of options to capture the runners jump, splash and rock hop. ‘Shona, will you run through the icy cold water and create some splashing?’ I asked, ‘Of course’ came the reply! To be honest, I already knew what the reply would be. Shona just loved her first European experience, the mountains; the trails the company was making her feel alive.

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Repeatedly she ran at my request and then the boys turned up. I asked them to stand on a ridge and look down. Four silhouettes and Shona splashing in the trail. It was a great image.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1140283Alex jumped the waterfall, my idea to capture him in full flight with a wide and expansive backdrop.

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Standing on high I asked four of the them to run down the trail and cross as stream as though on a group training run and then finally I found a ridge that allowed Brendan and Anna to open up the the throttle and capture them flying along the trail.

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Ok it’s a wrap and with those words excitement built at the peak in front of us. Someone coined the phrase ‘The Mini Matterhorn’ and so the quest began. Climbing upwards on technical trails an ascent of the Mini Matterhorn was begun. It become somewhat interesting as trails turned to snow.

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Ever tried running up steep snow? No? Neither had I or probably anybody else until this second day. It soon became apparent that slow was best and that you had to ‘toe’ the snow. Basically kick the snow with your toe, make a hole for your toe to sit in and then do the same and repeat. It was hard! Although nobody was in any danger the potential to loose grip was high and basically a pretty fast and cold high-speed return to the bottom was guaranteed. Yes, you got it. I made that trip!

The peak conquered our return to our vehicles was interesting. Blue skies and high temperatures were replaced with cloud and showers. In the distance thunder could be heard. It was absolute confirmation of the fragility and danger that mountains offer. I can’t stress this enough, never go unprepared. Race Elite Windshells offered a breathable and lightweight option to the wind and light drizzle but a prolonged wait back at the car park saw me reach for my Race Elite Stormshield 150 as the rain started to fall at a more considerable pace. A coke in one hand and an energy bar in the other I was satisfied with a safe and stunning day in the mountains.

Stormshell mensDo you get a buzz when you pick up a product and think, wow, that’s light? Imagine a fully waterproof seam sealed jacket that fits in a storage pocket the size of your hand that weighs only 150g and ticks all the boxes for the TNFUTMB. The Race Elite Stormshield 150 does this and no corners are cut. It is a pullover style product to reduce weight from a full-length zip and of course have fewer seams to reduce possible leaking. The hood has a reinforced brim so that you can adjust it for your needs and also it has several toggle cords so that you can obtain the correct tension. A waist drawstring, thumb loops and front pocket completes the package. It’s an incredible jacket and one that will set a benchmark.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1150625Day three was wet! Very wet. The close to day two of cloud and light drizzle had escalated during the night and we had a wash out! Perfect Dave and I smiled; we can now test the Stormshield and Thermoshell products and capture some images. You already know the answer to this… ‘Shona, do you want to run along the trail next to the river in the cold, hard, rain?’ I asked, ‘Of course’ came the reply.

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Brendan, Alex and Florian felt penned in and went out for a couple of hours to loosen legs and tag a summit. ‘Back by two’ Natalie confirmed with them and good to their promise at two we were in vehicles heading out for some cold, wet and misty imagery.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1140400Grey fluffs of broken damp mist moved through the valleys making the Mont Blanc mountain range look as though someone had taken a knife and removed the top of every peak and replaced it with a grey uniform line. Speckled in the monochrome were flashes of silver, it was illuminated by my remote flash. It was cold and we hadn’t headed upwards. It would have been crazy to go too high, as it happened we had no need. Our desire to meet the mist was realized when as a gesture of good will, the mist came to meet us. We were engulfed by dullness and we embraced it.

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Natalie, Brendan and Anna line out and I ask them to run in line along a stony path, the contrast of Stormshild jackets in blue and purple illuminated the monochromatic vista. A stony path and up the trail a tree bent over in silhouette as the mist engulfed it. One by one they ran towards me,  left to right foot, the inov-8 shoes providing a firm grip on wet and slippery rocks.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1150574©copyright .iancorless.com._1140501©copyright .iancorless.com.P1150461©copyright .iancorless.com.P1150616The rain slowly began to increase and with it temperatures dropped, ‘are we happy’ I pleaded, ‘a unanimous, YES, came back’. A short run and we were soon back in our vehicles and donning Race Elite Thermoshells to get warm.

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The Race Elite Thermoshell is a warm insulating layer for when conditions become very cold or for pre/post runs. It has ‘Revershell’ technology that allows for two insulating options. On one side the stitch-through design offers mapped breathability in key areas whereas on the reverse no stitching is visible offering 10% more warmth. It also provides a different colour option. Boasting permeable Primaloft on one side and wind proof Pertex Quantum on the other side the Thermoshell weighs only 260g for men and 220g for women.

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It felt like a Sunday back at the Chalet. Sitting around a large communal table we chatted, worked and nibbled snacks. Music played, ‘Beck’ providing a mellow soundtrack to a busy table. The boys; Brendan, Alex and Florian once again headed out for another run, it was Brendan’s third that day! ‘Don’t worry’ he said, ‘it will just be an easy recovery’.

Replete from a great meal, a few beers lubricated our minds and our tongues. It was time to tell Jokes. Poor Shona, I still think she is trying to work them out!

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My final day in the mountains arrived. My pick up would arrive at 1300; however, I was not going to waste time sitting around the chalet. The prospect of some great weather lay ahead with a glimmer of blue amongst the cloud around Mont Blanc. At 0930 we headed out on the trail and the climb up to the summit at the Mer de Glace. I knew I would need to turn back at some point but I was going to delay it as long as possible. We started out nice and easy with a walk. The walk became a power hike as we hit the early slopes to the summit and then those that could, ran. Those that could not run, jogged. And if like me you couldn’t jog, you put your hands on your knees and perfected the art of climbing while doing a walk similar to a scene from Monty Python. I would occasionally break momentum with a shout, ‘guys, this is a great spot, can I get you to run along here for me while I get some shots’.

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Upward the trail became increasingly rocky and with it, slippery. Months of snow were disappearing but it was leaving behind a potentially hazardous residue. ‘The trail gets really interesting here Ian’ said Alex, ‘some ropes, some chains and ladders’. Alex was right, double ladders worked up through the rock face providing some really excellent photo potential.

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All too quickly it was time for me to say adieu. I needed to leave and make my way back for a rendezvous with a bus back to the airport. As I said goodbye, flashes of blue, black and purple disappeared in the mist and suddenly I was alone.

Chamonix and the Mont Blanc mountain range is a haven for the outdoor enthusiast. Beautiful, dramatic and dangerous, it’s a place that demands respect. I am extremely fortunate to have spent such a great time in such an exciting place. The Skyrunning VK and Marathon over the previous weekend had been a perfect entrée for my time with inov-8.

photo Matt Brown at inov-8

photo Matt Brown at inov-8

I want to sincerely thank Natalie, Lee and Matt for providing me with the opportunity to work and run in this idyllic environment. I also want to thank them for the opportunity to test such incredibly versatile new apparel.

Did I mention the new ultra race pack, waist belt and hand bottle?

No?

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Well, you are going to have to wait. But believe me, the above products are going to turn heads, create a stir and be seen on trails all over the world. More on that later though…

I used the following items whilst in Chamonix and I will provide a detailed review with images in the coming weeks:

CLOTHING:

  • Race Elite Windshell 70 HERE
  • Race Elite 150 Stormshell HERE
  • Race Elite 260 Thermoshell HERE
  • Race Elite 275 Softshell HERE
  • Race Elite 140 Trail Short HERE
  • Race Elite 195 3/4 tights HERE
  • Baselite 200 long sleeve HERE
  • Baselite 140 short sleeve HERE
  • Arm warmers
  • Hot Peak 60 HERE
  • Wrags HERE 
  • Prosoc HERE

SHOES:

Trail Roc 245 3mm drop HERE

trailroc 245 12 13 red blk

Trail Roc 255 6mm drop HERE

trailroc 255 12 13 ink orange

Roc Lite 315 9mm drop HERE

roclite 315 12 13

F-Lite 262 6mm drop HERE

f-lite-262-GREY-LIME-2-13LINKS:

Read the inov-8 Press Release HERE

http://www.inov-8.com/

About inov-8:

inov-8 is a fast-growing sports performance brand that manufactures innovative, lightweight gear for committed athletes wanting to run super-fast on all terrains and smash hardcore workouts.

Born in the UK in 2003, inov-8 now trades in 60 countries and boasts more than 80 shoes in its range, meeting the needs of athletes who want to push boundaries.

inov-8 sponsors a global team of athletes that represent committed competitors in mountain, trail and road running, functional fitness/CrossFit, as well as obstacle course racing. To learn more, visit our website at www.inov-8.com and blogsite at http://teaminov8.wordpress.com/team/

Zegama Inov-8 team are ready!

The Inov-8 International Skyrunning Team are ready for Zegama – Anna Lupton, Sarah Ridgeway, Ben Bardsley and Alex Nichols along with team manager, Natalie White are excited to be racing at this iconic race.

It also sees the launch of the new Inov-8 Mountain Running Wear.

The team have been testing new products such as the Wind Shell 60 jacket for the ladies and the Wind Shell 70 jacket for the men. In addition, they have also been using the Base Elite ‘T’s and 3/4 tights.

Zegama will be the first race for Inov-8 using this new apparel.

Sarah Ridgeway Zegama pre race interview

Sarah Ridgeway Inov-8 copyright Ian Corless

Sarah Ridgeway Inov-8 copyright Ian Corless

Sarah Ridgeway needs no introduction to the ‘Zegama’ experience. She raced here in 2012 and placed 6th overall. She loves Zegama and she feels very privileged not only to be back racing at Zegama again but also to be part of the Inov-8 International Skyrunning Team.

Last years race was cold, wet and we had snow. Sarah hopes she gets similar conditions this year… one of the advantages of being a fell and mountain runner in the UK!

YouTube HERE

Links:

Zegama – Aizkorri 2013 Preview

Zegama - Aizkorri

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

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

Zegama Map iancorless.com

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

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

“Zegama? It’s Zegama!”

Zegama Profile

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

2012 Summary

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

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

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

“Now THAT is a mountain race!”.

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

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

2013

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

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

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

The Mens Race

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

Kilian Jornet copyright Ian Corless

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

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

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

Marco De Gasperi copyright Ian Corless

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

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

Transvulcania 2013 copyright Ian Corless

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

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

Andy Symonds copyright Ian Corless

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

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Tofol Castanyer copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

Miguel Heras copyright Ian Corless

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

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

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

The Ladies Race

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

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

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

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer copyright Ian Corless

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

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

Nuria Picas copyright Ian Corless

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

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Trofeo Kima 2012 copyright Ian Corless

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

Silvia Serafini - copyright Ian Corless

Silvia Serafini – copyright Ian Corless

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

Anna Frost 'Frosty' copyright Ian Corless

Anna Frost ‘Frosty’ copyright Ian Corless

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

Links

Calendar

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