The Coastal Challenge #TCC2023 Preview

Countdown to the 2023 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ begins and today, we announce the elite line-up that will travel to Costa Rica to experience six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain.

The ultimate Costa Rican multi-day adventure hugs the coastline of the tropical Pacific, weaving in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country. An ever-changing terrain challenges each participant, from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. River crossings, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long and relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.

TOP WOMEN

UTMB 2022 champion Katie Schide (The North Face) is no stranger to the challenges of distance or terrain. In recent years she has shot to fame with a string of high profile results with victories at Mont Blanc 90km, Val d’Aran by UTMB, MIUT 85km and of course, the most recent, UTMB. With results that date back to 2025, Katie is the ‘one-to-watch’ at TCC 2023.

“I’m very excited to explore Costa Rica on foot, to share a big week with so many other runners, and to challenge myself in a new place!”

Swedish athlete, Mimmi Kotka (La Sportiva) is excited to leave a cold and wintry Scandinavia to join the TCC line up. Victory at CCC in 2016 made Mimmi a star and since that start, she has topped the podium at Gran Trail Courmayer, Marathon du Mont Blanc, TDS, MIUT and recently, Lavaredo.

“Costa Rica is one of my bucket list destinations and the possibility to go there and run a stage race at the same time; a perfect combo! I have never done a multi stage race and this is also something that excites me. New experience, a new place and a new race format.”

Tomomi Bitoh joined the TCC line-up in 2022 but unfortunately contracted Coronavirus in the days before the race started. Once clear, she did join the race for a couple of stage but there and then, the Japanese athlete confirmed she would toe the line in 2023.

“I was able to run through the very beautiful ocean at TCC2022 but I only experienced a small part of the route. I’ll be running through it again this year, enjoying the scenery and appreciating the full point-to-point journey that TCC brings.”

TOP MEN

Peter van der Zon (Hoka) is no stranger to Costa Rica or TCC. He toed the line in 2022 and placed 2nd to an inform Hayden Hawks. With experience and now an understanding of the route, the conditions and what it takes to win, Peter will no doubt be returning looking for the top spot come Drake Bay and the conclusion of the 2023 race. He has recently placed 7th at Mozart 100 and won Istria by UTMB.

“I am looking forward to going back to TCC, the racing was hard but it felt like a big family adventure and of course i want to try to be number one this time. But seeing the competition I am up against, that will not be easy!”

Didrik Hermansen (Hoka) has been an ever-present on the ultra scene dating back to 2010. A breakthrough performance with victory at Lavaredo in 2015 paved a way to victory at Transgrancanaria and a 2nd place at Western States. Didrik is known for his fast pace and for sure will be one-to-watch at the start line in Quepos.

“Costa Rica looks so amazing. I have never run in that area and be able to combine running in a beautiful terrain over several days at new locations seems awesome. I will run the World Championships in Thailand this November, the climate will quite similar so that will be a good benchmark what to do and what to use come February 2023.”

Dani Jung (Scarpa) in recent years has gained attention due to a string of high profile results, victory at Raid de la Reunion and 4th at Hardrock 100. But Dani has been ticking of impressive results for many years, particularly in the skyrunning calendar with races such as Mega Ultraskymarathon, Hamperokken Skyrace, Royal Ultra Sky Marathon and USM.  The distance of TCC will not intimidate this Italian, however, a multi-day format is very different to one long race.

Sebastian Krogvig (Dynafit) heads up a Norwegian double act with Didrik. The duo will also be racing at the World Championships in Chiang Mai, so, as Didrik mentioned, they will both get an invaluable ‘heads-up’ on racing in heat and humidity ahead of TCC in February 2023. Sebastian had a breakthrough season in 2021 with 3rd at Lavaredo and victory at TDS during UTMB week. Recently he placed 2nd at Trail 100 Andorra by UTMB.

“I heard about TCC many years ago, I think first from the book “Running beyond” by you! TCC has always grabbed my attention, February is early in the year, so, there are not many races. For me, it will be a challenge, I’m usually home skiing in Norwegian winter and in 2023 I will be in an excotic race in the Jungle – it’s exciting! The landscapes and nature looks spectacular! The trails look challenging and fun, a perfect mix of racing and adventure.”

THE RACE

  • Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent
  • Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent
  • Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent
  • Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent
  • Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent
  • Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent

Total 230.5km

Vertical 9543m

Descent 9413m

Stage 1

It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because of the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality, it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.

Stage 2

From here on in, it is an early breakfast, around 0400, the race starts with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.

Stage 3

It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular.

Stage 4

It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a roller coaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rain forest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the line and the finish at 37.1km.

Stage 5

The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.

Stage 6

The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!

“The Coastal Challenge was lucky to continue through the pandemic, of course we had restricted fields with 2022 signifying a return to normal. TCC is a unique race and one that we are passionate about. We created this race to show of Costa Rica and this beautiful coastline. The race travels in and out of the stunning coastal 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.”

Rodrigo Carazo, RD

*****

#tcc2023

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Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT – Shoe Review

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Ask any experienced mountain or skyrunner, what is the ‘best’ race and route, more often than not, the answer will be ‘Kima!’

Trofeo Kima in Italy has long been the dream of many a runner who loves a challenge at the max level. Taking place every other year, the race really gained notoriety when UTMB was hit by bad weather and a certain Kilian Jornet decided to take a fast exit out of France and stand on the start line of Kima the next day.

History was made, Kilian has returned again and again and, in his words, it is one of ‘the’ best races in the world that mixes running and alpinism – skyrunning!

Therefore, any shoe that is named after this iconic route had better be good!

Enter, the Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT.

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Let me just say, from the start, this may well be ‘one of’ the best mountain running shoes I have ever tried. I place it up there with the best that VJ Sport offers in terms of fit, comfort and grip. Trust me, if you read my shoe reviews, you know I regard VJ as the Holy Grail when it comes to perfect shoes. It also matches the best from La Sportiva.

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Scarpa in recent years have gone from strength to strength with shoes and design. A huge contributing factor was the arrival of legendary WMRA and skyrunning champion, Marco de Gasperi. Marco was there on the slopes of Alagna, aged just 16 when skyrunning was born. There are few that know the sport better!

And as for the Trofeo Kima route, he has raced it and in recent years set the FKT (7:53:41) for the completion of the course.

“…mountain lovers who face this technical and very hard route take three days, sleeping two nights in the refuges: a journey that is completed by dancing from rock to rock along with eight alpine passes above 2,500 meters (Barbacan, Camerozzo, Qualido, Averta, Torrone, Cameraccio, Bocchetta Roma and Corni Bruciati) before jumping headlong towards the finish line.”

All of the above can be felt in this remarkable shoe.

I could stop here and just say, go buy them! But at £190.00 a pair, you may take a little more convincing.

The Shoe

Out of the box, a great looking shoe, a mix of black/blue/grey which Scarpa list as Grey-Azure. The women’s version is light grey/ aruba blue here. They are light, especially for such a robust looking shoe. Noticeable is the toe bumper, the cushioning/ outsole and the high heel area that is designed to protect and support the achilles.

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With a 6mm drop, they fit that wonderful middle ground between a 4 and 8mm that will suit most people.

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Cushioning is 22mm at the rear, 16mm (women’s 21mm/ 15mm) at the front and the addition of an enclosed carbon plate only makes the 290g (UK8) weight even more unbelievable.

Carbon plate visible in the middle.

When I saw the carbon plate, I flinched a little. My experience so far with carbon plates in trail shoes has not been good – often it has added weight and made for a lifeless feel with little or no flex. Not here in the Golden Gate Kima, on the contrary, I was not aware of the plate until I ran and then two key things were noticeable: 1. There is a return in energy and comfort, particularly on hard, technical trail/ rock. 2. The plate act as a rock-plate offering increased protection. Quite simply, this is the best shoe I have tried with a plate and in all honesty, I am putting it out there now and saying that the Golden Gate Kima is arguably the best mountain shoe I have ever used… A bold statement!

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There are so many aspects to this shoe that are so right, that the moment you slip them on, you smile. The fit is just amazing. It has a ‘sock-like’ internal construction which when laced up just holds the foot secure, reassured and comfortable. Everything I want in a mountain shoe. Amazingly, even when laced tight, they manage to avoid hot spots or pressure points.

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The heel area is superbly padded and goes high offering the ultimate comfort and protection – a level I have not experienced before in any shoe.

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At the front, the shoe opens up in to a wide toe box, which on a scale of 1-5 (1 being narrow) sits at a 4. This is quite unusual for a shoe that is so obviously designed for technical and challenging running. But it works. There is room for those with wider feet and for those with narrower feet, you get toe splay. Normally this would not work for me in a mountain shoe, I like my foot to feel held, secure and un-moveable, this only confirms how good the middle of the shoe is and how the lacing and sock-like fit gives you all the security you need.

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The upper has a double construction with structure coming from microfibre and anti-abrasion mesh which adds durability but still allows for breathability.

Toe box is superb with arguably one of the most protected front ends I have found in a run shoe.

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The outsole is Scarpa’s own Presa which I must be honest and say in past Scarpa shoes has left me perplexed. Not here in the Golden Gate Kima. There has been a significant re-working and the ‘SuperGum’ 4mm lugs are a dream on rock offering stunning grip. However, on wet UK Lakeland rock they were less secure.

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Cushioning is unusual. They are neither cushioned or firm but sit somewhere beautifully in the middle offering a superb feel for the ground without being harsh. The cushioning allows for comfort but without being squidgy. The combination of elements, which has double density foam wrapped around a 1mm carbon fiber plate gives an amazingly precise, lightweight, cushioned and reassured ride that adds energy to the run. I don’t know how Scarpa have managed it, but they have! This shoe has ground feel, precision, comfort and energy rebound in a package that feels light and fast. Flex behind the metatarsals is superb, so, the propulsive phase is not compromised. It’s difficult to believe a plate is in the midsole, but it is, you can see it.

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In Use

Women’s shoe with 100’s of KM’s and the 65km Transgrancanaria race in them.

It’s one of the best mountain/ skyrunning shoes I have used. The Golden Gate Kima goes head-to-head with VJ Sports XTRM and MAXx and dare I say it, equals them! The VJ’s are the go-to choice for many based on the stunning outsole and superb foot hold. However, many say that VJ are too narrow and are not cushioned/ protective enough. The Golden Gate Kima addresses all those issues and summary provides:

  1. Cushioned comfort without a loss for ground feel or control.
  2. Incredible foot hold with a superb sock-like fit and lacing.
  3. Superb heel protection.
  4. Wider toe box.
  5. Caron plate which adds protection and rebound without compromising ground feel and control.
  6. Lightweight.
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I could go on about how great these shoes are. Out of the box and straight in to a 25km run and I was smiling and a little amazed at how Scarpa have upped their game in the shoe world. There was much talk about the Ribelle Run but for me, this Golden Gate Kima places Scarpa at a whole new level.

Hard trail, rock and even some road, the shoes just perform. The compromises coming on muddy ground, the outsole lugs are not long enough and some types of wet rock. This is a mountain shoe designed for hard trail and rocks, be that wet or dry and they perform.

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Comfort is superb, energy return excellent and importantly precision and control is top-notch. It’s a shoe that can eat time and miles and most certainly, 6-hours in a shoe like this would not be a problem. Of course, this is personal. If you like Hoka-like squidge, bounce, roll and lack of control, this is not a shoe for you. How long could you run in them? It’s so personal it is hard to say, for me a good mountain day out maxing at 12-hours would be a limit.

Although neutral, there does feel to be a little additional support in the arch of the foot. It is noticeable, but not unpleasant. This is no doubt due to the combination of sock-like fit, dual cushioning and carbon plate.

Conclusion

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Buy them! It’s as simple as that… If you are heading to the mountains, running technical trails and want a combination of superb features all wrapped up in a lightweight good-looking shoe, you can’t go wrong with the Golden Gate Kima RT.

I have found it difficult to find fault in the shoe. For some, maybe the cushioning is not enough? But remember, the balance between ground feel, control, precision, and comfort is delicate – these are the best out there that I have found along with VJ. In prolonged runs I got some toe rubbing (2nd toe from the right) on my right foot (only the right) – It is where the toe bumper stops and the upper mesh starts. It may be unique to me, my foot shape etc, but worth noting.

The name ‘Golden Gate’ I find confusing. Scarpa make a shoe called Golden Gate ATR which is highly cushioned and a world away from this Kima RT model. The Golden Gate reference initially made me think it was a development of the ATR model.

It looks as though sizing is whole sizes, EU 40, 41, 42 and so on. This may make a compromise for some. I use EU 44 and they were perfect, true to size for me.

At £190.00 they are not cheap, blame Brexit! Much cheaper in Europe. However, based on how darn good they are, for me, they are worth it.

As always, there are other shoes that offer options and VJ with XTRM or MAXx are definite rivals which maybe get the nod due to the outsole. Also, La Sportiva Akasha are a more robust and cushioned shoe and if I was going longer, wanted more security and more long-term comfort, they would win out. The Goldengate Kima RT is without doubt a shoe that will regularly appear in my shoe rotation.

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Scarpa Ribelle Run Shoe Review

Ribelle Run GTX
Ribelle Run (not GTX)
The Scarpa Ribelle Run and Ribelle Run GTX shoes are designed for harsh terrain. They will protect you and keep you safe and secure on a multitude of terrain, be that rock, scree, snow, ice (with micro crampon), ridges, or rocky single-track.

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The Best and Worst Trail Shoes of 2021

adidas Speed Ultra

I get to review and test a great deal of shoes and 2021 has been no different. Some shoes really stand out and get used all the time and others fade to a dark and lonely place in my shoe cupboard.

So, what has been the highlights and low points of 2021?

First and foremost, I need to clarify that I haven’t tested ‘every’ shoe that is out there to be tested, so, this is very much an opinion post. Importantly, what I have done is tested shoes from zero drop to 10mm drop and shoes with minimal to maximal cushioning.

For perspective, I am happy to run in shoes with varying drop as I really believe that not only is it good for the body, but I also believe that certain drops and better for certain distances and terrain. A good example being, if I were to be running longer, I’d prefer a higher drop, say 8mm. But if running shorter and faster, I’d be more than happy to be in a lower drop, say 4mm. The same applies for cushioning, I am happy with les cushioning for shorter distances and a little more cushioning for longer distances.

Outsole varies considerably and therefore when considering ‘the best’ one must caveat that the shoe is the best for a typical type of terrain and conditions. However, some shoes can be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and manage to do a little bit of everything.

I am a neutral runner, so, the shoes listed fit in that category. Regarding shoe width, I am fortunate that I can squeeze my feet in most shoes and I accept and am happy to have my toes a little cramped for a very specific shoe that needs to excel on technical terrain. I appreciate that for some people, that is not an option or a choice, so keep that in mind.

Read an in-depth article about How to Find Your Running Shoe Size and Fit.

Finally, you may well agree and disagree with my shoe choices below. Perfectly normal, gladly there are many, many shoes out in the marketplace with different drops, cushioning, fit, outsoles and so on.

THE BEST TRAIL SHOES

adidas Speed Ultra

This shoe has been a revelation in 2021. It has managed to encompass so many key elements that make a shoe stand out. They are light, responsive, fun to run in, offer a great fit, have a wider toe box and are cushioned. Designed in conjunction with Tom Evans, Adidas and Tom wanted a shoe that could excel at Western States. So, the shoe had to be good for 100-miles but did not require an aggressive outsole. The Continental outsole is almost road like and for some, potentially too minimal. However, the grip is superb and for trail running; superb. On dry and wet rock, the grip has never faltered, in mud grip is compromised. The Speed Ultra has been my ‘go-to’ shoe of 2021 and has been on many varied terrains and always provided a superb ride. They have even been an excellent road shoe. There are few downsides to the Speed Ultra, but the lack of a rock plate does mean that occasionally you can feel the ground beneath you a little more than desirable. Read the full review HERE.

Hoka One One Torrent 2

I was the first person to bring Hoka in to the uk, way back in 2009. I used them constantly for many years but in 2012 I defected. It has taken almost 10-years for me to lace up a pair of Hoka’s again and it was actually the adidas Speed Ultra that tempted me to try the Torrent 2. I was told by many that the Torrent 2 was the least cushioned and potentially most ‘normal’ type trail shoe that Hoka made. They were right. Out of the box the Torrent 2 has excelled, and they have been in a constant rotation with my Speed Ultra. The outsole is more aggressive than the Speed Ultra and therefore open a few more options when it comes to varied terrain. However, I will say that on wet rock the grip is bad. I wished Hoka had used Vibram MegaGrip instead of their own outsole. But if you stick with dry trail or even muddy trail, the Torrent 2 performs exceptionally well. Despite the stack height (still low for a Hoka) they give great ground feel and stability. The toe box has good space and the foot hold is superb. Read the full review HERE. I will make a note here that the Zinal was also a consideration. It has many Torrent 2 features but for me a firmer and harder ride. I preferred the Torrent 2 but you may well think the Zinal preferable.

THE BEST MOUNTAIN/ AGGRESSIVE SHOES

VJ Sport ULTRA

When you need grip, no other brand offers an outsole like VJ Sport. The soft and grippy butyl is just superb. Over the years I have constantly raved about their shoes, be them the iRock, XTRM or the MAXx. However, the one downside (for many) was a fit that was too narrow and not enough cushioning. Enter the Ultra. VJ listened and came up with a light mountain shoe that instantly felt like a VJ but with that wider toe box and additional cushioning. Many would never consider running UTMB or similar in a VJ MAXx but the Ultra now gives that option. You get the best of both worlds, cushioning and the best grip on the planet. I will say that the cushioning is not as plush as I would have maybe liked, however, they do bed in a become a little softer with use. Read the review HERE.

adidas Speed Pro SG

The soft-ground terrain that inov-8 excelled and dominated in has now been impacted upon by many brands offering their own incarnations of grippy and aggressive outsoles to tackle sloppy terrain. The VJ Sport iRock is without doubt a consideration when looking for an SG shoe. Constantly, one of the biggest complaints from many runners is that most SG shoes have narrow toe boxes. Step in the adidas Speed Pro SG. This shoe has a wide toe box, lightweight upper, cushioning and 7mm lugs for the muddiest and gnarliest terrain. The fit and feel is excellent and the grip superb. It’s not a shoe you’d want to spend all day in but if moving fast over technical, muddy and challenging terrain is your thing, this shoe is a great addition. Read the review HERE.

THE BEST RUNNING BOOTS

La Sportiva Cyklon

The La Sportiva Mutant has been a long-time favourite for many a trail runner and the Cyklon is very much a development of this shoe. It manages to combine many elements of classic La Sportiva and then push new ground with the addition of BOA. Designed to excel in mountain terrain, they are more than a shoe but not as much as boot. They fit this wonderful middle ground of combining shoe like feel and comfort but boot-like security. It has an aggressive outsole and some stability (not too much) to ensure mountain days pass without problem. The sock-liner fit, and the new BOA dynamic cage has provided me with arguably the greatest foot hold of any shoe I have ever tried. It is superb. All these plus points do come with a couple of downsides: A little extra weight and they retain warmth/ heat. The latter a good point in winter but less so in summer. Read the review HERE.

adidas Terrex Tech Pro

This is a late addition to my 2021 shoe line-up and what an addition! For many, this would just be too much and too specific, but for me with Norwegian winters, it’s a boot to put a smile on my face. It’s almost two shoes as there is an inner Agravic shoe inside the Tech Pro outer all fastened together by a zip and BOA fastening system. Comfort is superb, warmth is excellent, and the outsole has wonderful grip. There is a downside (for me) though… I really wish adidas had added winter studs to this boot so that they could handle ice. Had they done this, it would be the perfect winter boot. However, I do understand why they haven’t, usage becomes very restrictive with studs. As it stands, you have a boot that you can use all year and if required, add a micro crampon to tackle ice. Read the review HERE.

THE BEST WINTER SHOE

Asics Gel Fujisetsu 3 G-TX

I have tested a great deal of winter studded shoes in the last couple of years and VJ and Icebug have provided me with many great runs with excellent grip. However, there was always a compromise to be made until I got hold of the Asics Gel Fujisetsu 3 G-TX. This shoe has been a revelation… A Gore-Tex upper, wider toe box, cushioning and 14 studs in aggressive outsole to handle snow and more importantly ice with aplomb. They have been superb over short distance runs and recently a 6-hour outing in -10. Read the review HERE.

MY WORST SHOE OF 2021

inov-8 Trailfly G300 Max

Normally I would find it hard to pick a shoe to go here as today, shoe technology and development means that most brands make good shoes. It’s fair to say that me adding the Trailfly as the worst shoe will cause controversy as for some it has been hailed a revelation…! Not so for me. It’s a Frankenstein shoe that is a pure horror. They are heavy (mine over 380g!), lifeless, clumsy, and well, just plain awful. There are some positives which I tried to give credit to in my initial review, but the more I have used them, the more I dislike them. This shoe had the potential to be a more cushioned G270 with a higher drop. They are not even close! Even the Graphene outsole doesn’t feel as good? But one of my coaching clients uses them and loves them. I said in my review they would be a Marmite shoe and I don’t like Marmite. In fairness, if you are a bigger and heavier runner, the Trailfly may well offer a level of protection not found before. Read the review HERE.

CONCLUSION

The best and the worst? Fully accept that they are ‘my’ best and worst and you may well agree and completely disagree with my thoughts. Ultimately though, it may well introduce you to a potential new favourite shoe that you hadn’t considered before.

I have seen some brands stand still in the most recent 12-18 months, arguably over 2+ years when you consider how long it takes to develop a shoe. But adidas (never a leader in the trail world) has grabbed trail and mountain running by the horns and pushed forward with some great development and shoes with their Terrex brand.

Scarpa Spin 2

Another stand out has been Scarpa, a well-established mountain brand who with the influence of Marco De Gasperi has started to make some excellent trail/ mountain shoes, the Spin 2 almost making this list. I need to test the Ribelle!

Hoka One One have diversified from the max cushioning and while the Zinal didn’t make my list, it very nearly did and for those who do prefer more ‘cush’ between them and the ground, the Speedgoat (now 4) always gets rave reviews.

But what about Altra, Brooks, Salomon, Nike, Topo and more…

Well, the Nike Pegasus has been a favourite of mine in past years and it’s still a great shoe with a plethora of great features, especially comfort for long trail days. However, my choice was always the Wildhorse. But Nike always had to tweak and change it, we are now on version 7 I think?

Altra unfortunately just don’t do it for me. I know, I know… Some of you will be holding your head in your hands. But the zero drop and super-wide toe box is a no for me. However, I have many friends telling me I need to try the Olympus 4 or the Lone Peak 5.

Salomon have not been on my radar in 2021, I very much feel that as brand they stood still. They released a Speedcross 5 but it’s a Marmite shoe (for me) and the grip although aggressive has always been horrendous on wet rock. The previous incarnations also had arch support which I didn’t like. The Sense Ride 4 with 8mm drop is maybe worth a look?

All shoes were provided for free as test samples. The exception being Asics which were purchased. In addition, many shoes in 2021 were provided for testing that do not appear here.

adidas Terrex Speed Ultra

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Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2021 Summary

Elisa Desco on her way to victory and CR.

3500 participants, representing 50 nations, gave life back to Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Dolomites for a stunning four days of racing, Thursday 24 to Sunday 27 June, after the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to the 2020 edition of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. It was good to be back!

Taking place in a UNESCO World Heritage location, the SkyMarathon, Cortina trail, the Ultra Dolomites 80km and the main event, the 120km Lavaredo Ultra Trail which represented the Italian stage of the Spartan Trail World Championship 2021.

UNESCO World Heritage location

Cortina d’Ampezzo (Belluno), hosted the 14th edition of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and while it was not easy for Cristina Murgia and Simone Brogioni to return after a difficult year, they rallied and with a team of 600+ volunteers, the 2021 edition can be deemed a great success. It is obviously hoped that the 2022 edition can be a ‘normal’ edition with more participants and more nations.

The 2021 La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail, kicked off on Thursday evening with the Cortina SkyRace which 20 kilometers and 1000m of vertical gain that started and concluded in Cortina taking in a picturesque root with stunning views and trails.

Marta Fabris

Spaniard, Alex Garcia Carrillo won the men’s race setting a new course record and the Italian, Marta Fabris, took home the crown for the women.

Alex Garcia Carrillo

The Cortina Trail started the following morning at 0900, once again starting and concluding on Cortina, with a distance 48 kilometers and 2,600 meters of elevation gain, the route contained much of the final section of the 120km main event.

Elisa Desco in the early stages of the Cortina Trail

1200 competitors competed that led around the Tofane, touching Col Rosà and going up the Val Travenanzes, up to Col dei Bos. In the second half in the shadow of Averau and Nuvolau, the Giau pass, Forcella Ambrizzola, Croda da Lago refuge and then the finish in Cortina. Antonio Martínez Perez from Spain won for the men in 4:17:14 (new CR) ahead of Norwegian, Jo Forseth Indgaard and Fin, Mårten Boström, the duo completing in 4:23:41 and 4:26:31 respectively. Skyrunner, Elisa Desco from Italy, won for the women’s race with a new CR of 5:06:57 breaking the 2018 mark, set by Hillary Allen by almost 12-minutes. Ursula Paprocka 5:24:19, and Katarzyna Wilk 5:25:43 completed the podium.

Antonio Martínez Perez
Jo Forseth Indgaard

The main event, the La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail now in its 14th edition) started at 2300hrs on Friday evening and as mentioned, represented Spartan Trail World Championship for 2021. With 5800m of vertical gain and 120km’s, the task is arduous and hard for all who toe the line. A night of running is broken with the arrival of dawn at the stunning Tres Comes of Lavaredo welcomes the front runners. What follows are stunning trails in an amphitheater of rock and amazing views. The ever present and unique Dolomite mountains providing the most amazing background to modern day gladiators battling for their own personal victories.

Tres Cimes de Lavaredo
Hannes Namberger leading Andreu Simon Aymerich at Giau.
Sebastien Krogvig

Hannes Namberger, from Giau to Forcella Ambrizzola, changed gear and in the closing 6km he opened gap of almost three minutes after a long battle with Andreu Simon Aymerich to gain victory with a new course record in 12h 02m 12s. Sebastian Krogvig completed the podium, repeating his third place in 2017. For the women, Camille Bruyas from France, clinched a solid victory in 14:06:16 ahead of Katie Schide and Mimi Kotka, 14:28:21 and 14:51:09 respectively.

Camille Bruyas
Katie Schide

While the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120km event passed through its 9th hour, the Ultra Dolomites, now in in its 2nd edition started, with 4100 meters of elevation gain and 80km waiting from Sesto (Bolzano). Czech, Marek Causidis clinched victory in 8:10:26 and Martina Valmassoi won for the women in 9:21:11.

Stunning landscape

The Lavaredo Ultra Trail had a title sponsor of La Sportiva and was supported by other important brands – Parmigiano Reggiano, Buff, Petzl, La Cooperativa di Cortina, Rudy Project, Garmin, San Benedetto, Elleerre, Fabbrica di Pedavena, Eolo, Cortinabanca, Astoria, Reflexallen and Cortina Hospital.

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Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2021 Preview

After a year of standstill, racing returns to Cortina and the Dolomites with four races, over four days and approximately 4000 athletes from 50 countries for the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

The action starts on Thursday evening with the 20km Skyrace which has 1000m of vertical gain and 330 participants.

Friday morning, 0800, the Cortina Trail kicks off over a distance of 48km and 2600m of vertical gain with 1350 runners

The main event, the La Sportiva Ultra Trail starts at 11pm Friday, 1350 runners have entered anticipating covering 120km’s with 5800m of vertical gain within 30-hours.

The final event, the Ultra Dolomites, has 80 km’s and 4100m of elevation gain with 780 athletes toeing the line in Sesto (Bolzano).

ONES TO WATCH

Marco De Gasperi, Matterhorn Ultraks

The main event, the La Sportiva Ultra Trail has Andreas Reiterer will try to bring the men’s LUT podium back to Italy after 8 years. Xavier Thevenard, the only athlete who has won all the Mont Blanc Ultra-Trail race distances, from 50 to 160 km is without doubt, the hot favourite. Also fighting for the lead positions are France’s, Germany’s Hannes Namberger and Spain’s Andreu Simon Aymerich and Tofol Castanyer. The Italian mountain running and skyrunning legend, Marco De Gasperi also toes the line.

Azara Garcia

Katie Schide ids on form at the moment, as is Spaniard, Azara García. The duo will almsost certainly lead a charge at the front followed Camille Bruyas, Mimmi Kotka, and Swiss Kathrin Götz, winner of the 2019 LUT.

All the races will have staggered starts, 400 athletes every ten minutes. Race bib numbers, which have been assigned on the basis of participants’ ITRA (International Trail Running Association) ranking, ensure that the fastest athletes start in the first grids, thus avoiding gatherings and overtaking as much as possible. 

The Cristallo and Tofane, Sorapiss, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Pomagagnon, Croda Rossa, Croda da Lago and Averau provide a world-class arena for the 2021 gladiators to do battle.

In addition to the title sponsor, La Sportiva, other important companies also support the event such as: Parmigiano Reggiano, Buff, Petzl, La Cooperativa di Cortina, Rudy Project, Garmin, San Benedetto, Elleerre, Fabbrica di Pedavena, Eolo, Cortinabanca, GVM Ospedale Cortina, Astoria and Reflexallen.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Scarpa SPIN Shoe Review

I have used Scarpa shoes and boots in the past and have always been impressed with the mountain pedigree the brand has. So, I was very welcome to receive the SPIN and the SPIN ULTRA for testing. 

The SPIN, in the words of Scarpa say, ‘… with more cushion and protection than the Atom, but a lighter, lower-profile design than the Neutron, the new Spin is the Goldilocks of our Alpine Running collection, for those who want both support and simplicity on rugged trails and craggy ridge lines.

I will discuss and write about the SPIN ULTRA at a later date.

The SPIN is noticeably light (252g for EU42) and flexible. From the first look one can immediately see that this is a race or fast training shoe designed for a mountain environment. For sure, it’s a trail shoe, but I would extend that to be a mountain/ alpine shoe. It has ‘skyrunning’ written all over it and certainly from initial outings it immediately felt like VK’s and SkyRace (sub 42km) terrain would sit perfectly in the SPIN list of ‘go to’ uses.

The upper is mesh and therefore very breathable, structure and support of the upper comes from welded PU overlay. One of the plus sides of this, as in other shoes using this method, there are no seams that can cause irritation or rubbing inside the shoe.

 The lacing is substantial with 5 sets of eyelets and the additional 6th eyelet should you wish to lace-lock. With a comfortable and padded auto fit tongue which extends slightly higher than other shoes I have tested, this is perfect for stopping any discomfort where the top of one’s foot joins the lower leg. There is a ‘lace-garage’ which is so obviously great, I have never understood why all run shoes do not use this method, or at least something similar.

 The heel is padded and plush and really holds the foot with comfort and security. Very noticeable when running or hiking uphill is the hold the shoe gives; it is very reassuring.

It has a ‘sock-like’ fit (SOCK-FITLW by Scarpa) which is just perfect as it provides a wonderful, secure and comfy hold of the foot.

The toe box is well shaped, allows for toe splay but the SPIN is more of a ‘precision’ shoe designed for technical trail and as such it has a narrower fit but not very narrow. Certainly, if you need or require a wide toe box, the SPIN is unlikely to be for you, but you should try it… It has a toe bumper which provides some protection from contact with rocks or debris.

With a 4mm drop one needs to be a more efficient runner. It’s a shoe with cushioning (24mm/20mm) but not excessively so, hence I see that is a shorter/ mid-distance shoe. The midsole is EVA and I would say is on the firmer side, but after several runs one can feel it soften without compromising the shoe. It has a rock-plate, and this works really well offering great protection via a H-EVA Plate.

 The outsole is Vibram which is known throughout the world. MegaGrip is extremely popular and although aggressive, it is not extremely aggressive. It can handle mud but not really sloppy stuff. Then again, very little shoes can do well at everything. If running in lots of mud, there would be better outsoles than this. But the MegaGrip is perfect for the SPIN intentions – mountains, ridges, trails, rocks in wet or dry conditions. The lugs are 4mm and quite spaced out. Grip is very good on a wide variety of surfaces, but it works best on rock, ridges, loose gravel and soft ground. You will see the the SPIN has cut outs in the sole and here you can clearly see the rock-plate. The cut aways help reduce weight and increase the flexibility of the shoe. This is noticeable, especially in the propulsive phase.

The SPIN comes with two foot beds. One minimalist and the other providing more cushioning and structure. This is a great idea! I personally used the more structured foot bed which secured the rear of my foot more. Switching between the foot bed really changes the feel of the shoe, so, if you prefer something more minimal. You will prefer the thinner of the two.

 Sizing is true to size, I use an EU44 and these fitted as expected.

IN USE

 The SPIN has great comfort and the sock-like fit is just perfect. The lacing system is superb at holding the foot and it is easy to adjust should you need. For example, I have a high instep, so I like to loosen my laces but not at the compromise of a secure foot hold. The addition of the the 6th eyelet allows for different lacing options; I didn’t need to lock lace as the foothold form the SPIN is so good. The lace garage is perfect for getting laces out of the way. One of the revelations is the heel area. It’s plush, extremely comfortable and is arguably the best hold I have had from any shoe. Climbing there is no movement or slipping. 

The upper is very breathable and my feet were comfy in either wet conditions or hot conditions. Drainage is good. The welded overlay is adequate and provides good stability. Toe bumper could be better, but it is a minor complaint.

On technical trail, foot roll is minimal, but the SPIN does have a wasp like (figure of 8) shape and so depending on your foot shape, you could have some roll? I had no roll at all. I got no issues with the SPIN rubbing my ankles, a problem I have had with other shoes on technical terrain, this is a real plus!

Cushioning is on the harder side and lacks life and bounce but that is compensated for with great flex, especially in the propulsive phase. Also, you have two foot bed options and the more padded/ supported option was a real boost for me. They are very comfortable shoes. 

The MegaGrip outsole works really well on a whole mix of terrain, wet or dry. But it works best on soft-ground, rocks and technical trail. Protection is very good but occasionally, you may find a stone getting in one of the gaps in the cutaways of the sole. It will not stay there, but if it is sharper, you may just feel it through the rock-plate.

CONCLUSION 

I have been using Scarpa for many years, the Charmoz a personal favourite. But I have never used a run shoe from the brand. The SPIN has been a revelation and certainly for runs up to 4-hours on technical/ mountainous routes, it’s a shoe I will use time and time again. The overall package is excellent combing lightweight, responsiveness, feel for the ground, cushioning, great comfort and excellent grip in most scenarios. It’s a shoe for faster training or racing in the mountains.  

Highlights come from excellent lacing, the sock-like fit, the shoes weight and the heel box.

There is little not to like in the SPIN. It is more of a precision shoe, but the fit is not as narrow as others, so, you would need to try them on to find out if they would work for you.

The only negative, for me, is the cushioning is a little hard and lacks a little life. It is a minor point and actually does not impair how the shoe performs, however, for some, it may influence how enjoyable the SPIN is to wear. 

Specs: 

  • 4mm drop
  • 252g for EU42
  • Upper Mesh w/ welded PU overlay
  • Insole H-EVA Plate
  • Midsole EVA-CM
  • Outsole Vibram Fixion/ MegaGrip
  • Cushioning 24mm/20mm
  • Sock like fit
  • Lace storage
  • Medium cushioning and protection
  • Choice of insoles

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2018 Race Summary and Images

The USM, Ultra Skymarathon Madeira – 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over, the next race in the the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.

The 2018 edition was arguably the greatest field ever assembled at the USM with a who’s who of elite mountain runners. Heading up the men’s field was last years winner, Jonathan Albon. For the ladies, it was difficult to pick a favourite byut gut instinct said that either Emelie Forsberg on the recent IAU World Trail Champion, Ragna Debats, was the favourite.

Weaving up and down mountains, around beaches, through dense undergrowth, up a riverbed and of course plenty of climbing and descending, the USM course is a unique one – It’s not an ordinary Skyrunning course!

Experienced runners start a little slower for this race and Jonathan Albon and Ragna Debats did just that, placing themselves away from the first three over the early sections of the course, there is a reason…

The USM has a brutal start, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m. Light rain followed the runners over the early miles until they broke through the cloud – on the other side, blue skies and a different day.

A section of via ferrata at around 6km was followed by a little descending and a final push for the highest point of the day. Dmitry Mityaev from Russia was the first to arrive no doubt feeling confident after a great result at Transvulcania recently. Marco De Gasperi and Franco Colle followed and then Andre Jonsson and Jon Albon.

Emelie Forsberg lead the ladies to the summit and Mira Rai pursued with Ragna Debats a little further back. Emelie was on a mission and looked strong, Mira unfortunately was suffering with stomach issues and eventually had to ease off opening the doorway for Ragna to pursue Emelie. Behind Hillary Gerardi, Ekaterina Mityaev, Nuria Picas and many others followed.

Descending over the summit, the cloud inversion was clearly visible – the landscape awe-inspiring. It was quite special to see so many mountains and trails all above the cloud.

Running the ridges and several more climbing sections, the front of the race didn’t really change until they returned back to the coast. Franco Colle had dropped and now the men’s race had Dmitry leading Marco and Jonathan in 3rd- they were all close though. A descent to the sea was followed by a steep short climb and then another descent which was followed by a section of riverbed littered with boulders. Albon made his move, the obstacle course world champion was in his element and he pulled away from the other two with ease. Marco looked in trouble though and eventually he would ease back out of the top 5. Andre Jonsson though was revived, he moved from 4th and eventually would take a great 2nd ahead of the Russian and then Pau Capell and Dani Jung placed 4th and 5th.

Emelie lead through the riverbed but Ragna was close. With a tough climb to go, it was anyones race. Behind, Nuria Picas had moved from way back into 3rd and looked very strong. The battle at the front was intense and eventually Ragna opened a 1-min gap to finish ahead of Emelie.  Nuria Picas would hold on for 3rd.

“USM is one of if not the hardest races out there, I loved it last year and I loved it this year.” said Albon. “It is a course made for me with my obstacle course racing background and it was nice to race today tactically and it alcove together!”

 

For Ragna, “Emelie pushed hard and really wanted the win, she never gave up trying and it was so tough to finally make a move. It is so pleasing to win against such incredible competition.”

RESULTS:

  1. Ragna Debats 6:46
  2. Emelie Forsberg 6:47
  3. Nuria Picas 6:58
  4. Hillary Gerardi 6:59
  5. Ekaterina Mityaeva 7:01

 

  1. Jonathan Albon 5:48
  2. Andre Jonsson 5:55
  3. Dmitry Mityaev 5:57
  4. Pau Capell 5:58
  5. Dani Jung 6:07

RACE IMAGES AVAILABLE HERE

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