Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji #UTMF 2015 Preview

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UTMF will be a VERY different race this year. First and foremost, the race date has moved from early in the year to late in the year; this is significant! Another important factor is the course. For 2015 (the 10th edition) the race will be run counter-clockwise and as such all the climbing and difficulty will come in the early stages and therefore leave the more runnable sections for later in the race; again significant!

With around 8500m of climbing and a distance over 100-miles (105) this race is a real challenge.

However, for me this years UTMF may very well be all about the UTMB.

Yes, UTMB was only 4-weeks ago and we all know the devastation that took place in and around Chamonix. It was carnage!

Much has been discussed about the DNF’s and failures at UTMB and unfortunately I think it’s a sign of the times. The racing calendar is full and race series like the UTWT encourage runners to race regularly 100km+ and 100-miles often; is too much? Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas dominated the calendar in 2014 and where have they been in 2015?

Exhausted?

Just look at the start list here at UTMF. Many of the key players are runners who had tough, below par or DNF’s at UTMB.

Fernanda Maciel dropped with 2/3rds of the race done with severe foot pain.

Amy Sproston dnf

Gediminas Grinius dropped with over 90-miles completed.

Sondre Amdahl dropped with just over a marathon covered.

Jeff Browning dropped with a twisted ankle.

Of course, this is not all the favourites at UTMF but a pattern may be forming? All of the above have raced at one or more of the following: Lavaredo, HK100, Transgrancanaria, Western States, UTMB and now they line up at UTMF and I wonder how many post UTMF will travel to Reunion Island to take on the Diagonal des Fous (Raid de la Reunion). For many of the runners that will be 3 big 100-milers or a combination of 100-miles and 100km+ in relatively quick succession. The body may take it in 1-year but can it take year-after-year?

I merely raise the question?

So who is going to win?

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THAT is a million-dollar question. Keeping in mind what I have said above, we can still expect Grinius, Amdahl and Browning to figure at the front of the race providing they have no issues. Sondre Amdahl (interview on Talk Ultra) should be the freshest of the 3 as he dropped early at UTMB and therefore it was probably just like a typical training run for him. However, what caused the ‘failure’ of his hamstring at a race that he obviously prepared meticulously for?

Jeff Browning (interview on Talk Ultra) loves the long and hard races. He dropped at UTMB but I am pretty sure he will be recovered here. He lacks some of the speed of the competition so although I think he will be in or around the top 5-10 I don’t think the podium could be his.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6747Gediminas Grinius (interview on Talk Ultra) has continually impressed. He loves the long hard races and he closes like a demon. I do worry that he is just tired though? I may be wrong. He has the race and skill set for UTMF, pretty sure he would have prepared the course the other way around but Transgrancanaria finishes with a very runnable last 20km and look what he did there!

Okay, so that is the UTMB contingent done and dusted and arguably I am now talking about who may win the race?

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Gary Robbins has had a steady year with a great FKT (interview on Talk Ultra) and becoming a new Dad just a few weeks ago. He just missed the podium in 2013 and I think a podium slot may well be his this year.
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Brendan Davies is a runner who I should add to the exhausted list above! He just ran the Worlds 100k and this year he did TNF100, Western States and Transgrancanaria where he had a really tough day out. He has potential to be on the podium BUT…. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6833

That leaves Didrik Hermansen for the top slot and if all things go well I think he can do it. He has the running legs for the latter half of the race and as he showed at Transgrancanaria and more importantly Lavaredo (where he won) he knows how to get the job done!

As one would expect the start list is extensive at UTMF and I have picked out some key names. For sure I will have missed some other key players, in particular the local talent who I am less familiar with.

Anyone we should look out for who can take a podium place?

Uxue Fraile made the podium at UTMB and considering my thoughts at the beginning of this article, can she be recovered? Actually, I think yes? I saw Uxue at the weekend spectating at Ultra Pirineu and she looked fresh, enthusiastic and excited for the race ahead. Her talent lies in the waiting game and more often than not she picks up the pieces as others fall by the wayside. I think we will see a similar strategy here at UTMF. Don’t be surprised with a podium place! ©copyright.iancorless.com.P1060567

Fernanda Maciel was also spectating in Catalonia at the weekend! Her UTMB experience was far more dramatic and maybe traumatic that Uxue’s. Without a doubt, Fernanda has the race for UTMF as she proved last year with 2nd. Can she put the record straight so soon after UTMB?

Amy Sproston dropped at UTMB with approx. 100km in her legs. She can recover from that I think. Significantly (like Gary Robbins) she is a HURT 100 winner and that will be useful here at UTMF. It’s going to be a long day out!

Victory may well come from Aliza Lapierre. Her 8th at Transgrancanaria was off the lead ladies pace but significantly she placed 4th at Western States and has raced little since. At this point in the year with a whole bunch of tired legs around her, Aliza may well be the best option to fade the least.

Dong Li placed 3rd at Transgrancanaria with a breakthrough performance, she was 2nd at HK100 and won TNF 100. Add to that a 4th place at Mont-Blanc 80km and like Aliza she may well have fresh legs for the UTMF. She is going to need them though… as far as I know, this is the first time she will race 100-miles. This is a tough debut for the distance!

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Shona Stephenson has raced well here in the past and with fresh legs she may well be a contender for the podium if not for the win if everything goes well.

Nora Senn may well turn a few heads and then like the men’s race a whole wealth of local talent will infiltrate the top 10.

Who are your picks?

 

Race website HERE

INOV-8 RACE ULTRA pack/vest review

Brendan Davies inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest/ Pack

Please note*

Please note inov-8 have now updated the fit of the Race Ultra Vest for production. This has reduced the width of the top front pocket, resulting in it no longer being able to hold the 500ml flat water bottle. It does, however, still have capacity to hold the 250ml soft flask available with the Race Ultra 0.25.

It used to be simple; get rucksack, add a few essential items, grab a bottle of energy drink and off you go! However, the rucksacks used were more often than not, developed for hiking and thus Issues arose. The packs had too much bounce, a lack of specific functions related to running and more importantly, the need to access items such as food and liquid whilst on the go was non existent.

A boom in rucksack development followed. Brands developed new ranges of product, initially they were a reworking of already existing packs. As demand increased, new lines and new ranges came to fruition and suddenly an array of run specific items came on the market. We were spoilt for choice.

If you are like me, you will have tried many of these products in the search for the ‘perfect product’. Some items have come close but ultimately I have always wanted to make a tweak here or a tweak there. Bottles, bladder or combination of both, the decision will split people. Small capacity, large capacity; ultimately you need both. So, when looking at reviewing any new product one has to take into account many options and variables and then judge a pack on those merits and how well it fulfills those needs and demands. Rarely does a product come along that you can 100% say, ‘this is the perfect pack’.

For many, the launch of the Salomon S-Lab 5ltr pack started the current revolution and design in form fitting, vest like garments that could carry essential equipment, provide immediate access to essentials whilst still being able to carry 2ltrs of liquid in a bladder or the option to also have bottles.

But I can hear you say, so and so did it before Salomon and such and such did ‘x’ with ‘y’ product. I am not going to disagree; I am just highlighting a key moment in pack design that has heavily influenced the current trend for ‘vest’ like products.

Of course, Salomon soon realized that 5ltrs was not enough capacity, particularly for long mountain races such as the TNFUTMB. So, when Kilian Jornet lined up at UTMB several years ago, he had a new, 12ltr pack. It was a key moment in pack development and design. For many, the Salomon S-Lab 12 ltr has been and currently is one of the most popular packs for any racing and/or training.

Step in inov-8 with new Race Ultra Vest.

This new product from UK company; inov-8 may very well be the next key moment in pack design stripping away complication and providing a pack that would almost make a perfect accessory for Batman.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Following current trends, the Race Ultra Vest is a pack that is worn like an item of clothing. It is extremely minimal in design and offers one large ‘stretchable’ mesh pocket on the rear that is open ended with a zigzag elastic cord on the exterior to adjust compression.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

The front splits into a left and right side and replicates pockets/function. Two large angled stretchable pockets hold two newly designed inov-8 ‘flat’ bottles that sit close to and under the rib cage offering easy access and importantly, no bounce!

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

They are held in place with elastic cords to eradicate the bottles falling out.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Above these angle pockets are two large chest pockets that are ideal for storing large items OR they provide the option to house the two flat bottles in a higher position, freeing the angled pockets for storage. It comes down to personal preference.

In addition, two other smaller pockets sit on the chest section offering a place to hold mobile phone, camera, food, gels or other similar items and one pocket has an elastic cord to attach keys too.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

The product is light, open and has a unique adjustable fastening system. On both sides of the pack four straps attach the front to the rear and these are independently adjustable allowing for a perfect fit dependent on load.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

At the front, two chest straps have three ‘quick release’ fastening options (top, middle and bottom) that allow you to move straps higher or lower to ensure that you have restriction free movement.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

This is particularly important for ladies who will obviously require the option to adjust and control how straps fit in and around breasts…

Finally, the pack does come with a 2ltr bladder that sits within a temperature control sleeve and this easily slides into the rear open pocket. The feed pipe is insulated and can be used on the left or right hand side of the vest. Ideal should you require the option to carry 3 liters of liquid; 2 liters in the rear and 1 liter at the front in two bottles.

IN USE

This product fits like a glove! I have yet to find anyone who has put this product and on not found it immediately comfortable. It just fits, pure and simple. The adjustably of the four side straps and two front straps does mean that it can fit pretty much any body shape.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

When running it does not move. No bounce whatsoever.

Accessibility to bottles is superb in either of the two storage places. I personally found that I liked the bottles lower, sitting under my ribcage. Depending on your body shape and size, you may prefer the bottles in the higher position? One drawback of the lower position is that your arms may rub the bottles as you move left-to-right in the running motion… not an issue I experienced. Removing bottles whilst running was easy, just pull the red cord, remove the bottle, drink, push back in and then re attach the cord over the neck of the bottle.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Upper access pockets on the chest provided immediate access to anything I needed whilst running. I had a phone, camera, bars, gels, keys and money all at hand. Perfect.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

The rear pocket requires some thinking when packing, as it is just an open space. You push things in and keep pushing. The pack stretches and molds to the contents allowing what looks like a small space to become spacious. Pack this well and place a lightweight jacket or raincoat at the top and you can actually reach over your shoulder and remove the top item from the pack without stopping. A real bonus for the ‘racers’ amongst you. If you have fewer items in the pack, you can remove any bounce or excess room with the adjustable elastic cord.

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Poles or additional items can be added to the pack via several black nylon loops that have been added to the pack in strategic places. You may need to purchase some elastic cord and be creative with how you work this but it is a great additional way to get exactly what you personally need. For example, I added my poles across my chest allowing me the option to add and remove them at will. So much better than attaching to the rear and the complications this brings.

Unlike other vests, the Race Ultra does not get too hot. The main reason for this is the open design. Under the arms you have no fabric, just two straps on each side, therefore are flow is increased and importantly, internal heat can escape. In addition, the fabric and materials used are very light. This not only keeps the overall weight of the product down but it also does allow heat to pass through it. On your back you can’t help but have a hot spot. I have you to find a pack or vest that does not d o this, even those that have a framework that helps or reduce back contact.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

The big question is, can you fit all the required kit for a long 100-mile race such as TNFUTMB into the pack? The answer is yes, but you need to be creative and pack light/ small. Inov-8 have developed a whole new range of apparel that works in conjunction with this pack (reviews to follow) such as seamed waterproof jacket with hood, seamed waterproof over trousers, warm insulated layer, base layer, hat, gloves and so on. It would be fair to say though that for most people, with normal conventional run clothing and wet weather gear such as specified in the mandatory kit list at most long races, particularly for TNFUTMB, it would be a squeeze to get it all in. This is the only negative comment I have found in regard to this pack. But to clarify, with small, lightweight and ultimately expensive products, you can do it. It depends what is important for you and your specific needs, Remember the is called a ‘race’ product and as such, one would naturally assume that the user, male or female, will be looking to be as small and as light as possible.

inov-8 Race Ultra ©iancorless.com

Finally, taking up space on one of the quick release options on the front of the pack is a removable whistle.

CONCLUSION

I can’t tell you how many packs I have purchased over the years in the search for the ‘perfect’ pack. Just when I think I have found one, I find a reason not to be 100% convinced. I’d have to say that finally, in the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest I have found a product that ticks every box and makes me feel 100% confident in my choice and decision.

If I had one issue, it would be for longer races when high demands on mandatory kit are required. Unless you have the latest up to date smallest and lightest products, you will struggle to fit everything in this pack.

However, I can’t help but think inov-8 is already thinking about a solution for that!

Weight (pack stripped) 195g. In stores Feb.
Price £80. This includes two bottles, insulation sleeve and reservoir with insulated tube.

inov-8 website HERE news HERE

Many thanks to inov-8 for the opportunity to test and review. In addition, I would like to thank all the inov-8 athletes who made themselves available to facilitate the photo shoot. In this particular case, Brendan Davies was extremely patient while obtaining images of the Race Ultra.

Disclosure:

I attended an apparel test week in and around Chamonix at the invite of inov-8. I was supplied all products, apparel and shoes free of charge to test and review. I have used and tested all items for at least 3-months and my reviews are impartial based on the pros and cons of each specific item

The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2013 – Ladies Preview

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

It was always going to be touch and go… unfortunately, it is go. Lizzy Hawker has struggled with injury for much of 2013 and despite running at Sierre-Zinal recently, Lizzy has been forced to withdraw from the 2013 TNF UTMB with another stress fracture. Of course, this is devastating news for Lizzy and the race. Lizzy is the Queen of UTMB and we want her here, not only so that she can chase the course record she so desires but also to allow the other ladies to race the best.

Another main contender for the overall, Emelie Lecomte has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Emelie is a strong performer over the long races and a lovely person. I for one am disappointed not to see her toe the line. She placed on the podium at Ronda dels Cims earlier this year but has struggled ever since.

So, who are the ladies to watch? 

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Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) was 2nd in 2012 and then just one week later turned up at Tor des Geants and won! Without doubt, a remarkable double. Francesca likes long, tough and hard races. For sure, a shortened TNF UTMB as it was in 2012 in theory, would normally not suit her yet she still placed 2nd. That has to be a worry of all those that will line up against her on Friday. This year she has raced and raced. A very impressive and dominant win at Ronda dels Cims is probably the most significant result going into this race, however, Francesca placed well at Ice Trail Tarentaise and won the Eiger Trail. Recently she ran Speedgoat (not a race for her) and she placed 10th. All in all, Francesca is the outright favourite for this year’s race now that Lizzy and Emelie are not running.

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Emma Rocca (Buff) placed 3rd last year and is a consistently good performer with plenty of experience. For example, she has raced at Marathon des Sables (2nd in 2011) and just recently had a great run at Speedgoat with 4th place. That shows great depth over multi stage, single stage and also shorter faster courses. Without doubt, Emma is podium potential once again for this year’s race.

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The most exciting prospect for the 2013 race is Nuria Picas (Buff). This is Nuria’s first 100-mile race and that for sure will be the biggest stumbling block. However, if she can hold the reins back, take it easy over the first two thirds and then use her speed and skill in the final third, then we may well see Nuria top the podium. Nuria had an incredible 2012 dominating the Skyrunning calendar, she had three great wins at Trofeo Kima, Cavalls del Vent and Templiers, and she also placed second behind Frosty at Transvulcania. 2013 has been an equally great year, however, she has been chasing Emelie Forsberg around the Skyrunning calendar and has placed a super consistent second at Transvulcania, Zegama-Aizkorri and most recently Trans D’Havet. She is without doubt one to watch!

Three US ladies make my ‘hot contenders’ for this year and first up is Amy Sproston (Montrail). Amy is a 100k champ and placed top 10 at last-years UTMB with 8th overall. On paper, Amy can most certainly be top 5 at UTMB and if she has a great day, maybe top 3. Significantly, she placed 3rd at Western States, two places ahead of Rory Bosio. However, I think we will see those roles reversed in the Alps but as we all know, anything can happen.

Meghan Arbogast (Scott) was in Zermatt last weekend for the Matterhorn Ultraks but she only ran the short race as a loosen up for this weekends fun. She was looking strong, relaxed and confident. Her 4th place at Western States certainly means that everything is in place for a great tour of the Alps. In 2012, Meghan placed 12th at UTMB and for sure she can move up and be top 10. A great day and she may well push top 5.

Rory Bosio (The North Face) placed 4th in the 2012 race over the shortened course and was some time behind Francesca Canepa. Rory’s recent 5th place at Western States is obviously a great race and a great boost, however, I for one thought she would make the podium. Post WSER, Rory has spent plenty of time in Europe and therefore will come to the race adapted and ready to push for the podium and top slot.

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Shona Stephenson (inov-8) is making the long journey from Australia and arrived a day or so ago. Shona has already spent time in the Alps racing at the Mont Blanc VK, Mont Blanc Marathon and Ice Trail Tarentaise (she dropped about two thirds in). She also spent a great week with the inov-8 team testing new apparel and shoes in the mountains. Earlier this year she was performing consistently well with a win at Tarawera, a great 2nd place at UTMF and a win at Northburn 100. She like the longer and harder races and although she has limited European racing experience, if she is in the right frame of mind and feeling good, then we may well see Shona on the podium and I would expect a top 10 to be guaranteed.

Katia Fori (Technica) has raced twice at UTMB before placing 5th and 7th. Of course, being an Italian is a great advantage, as she will understand the terrain, mountains and the weather. This is a key to racing well over the Alpine course. In addition, she knows how to survive and spend a long time in the wilderness; her 4th place at the Tor des Geants proves this. In reality, I don’t see Katia making the top 5 but it only takes one or two to have a bad day and Katia to have a great day!

Helen Cospolich (The North Face) is a three times finisher at UTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th. She has the super strong TNF team behind her and although she placed just inside the top 20 last year (17th), I would imagine that she could do better. It all comes down to the day! This year looks to be dry and warmer (at least in the day) and that will make her feel better for sure.

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Another TNF (The North Face) athlete is Ligia Madrigal. Ligia is Costa Rican and I actually ran with her on several occasions at this year’s multi-stage, The Coastal Challenge; a race she has won and placed 2nd at in previous years. This year she didn’t have a great race and dropped. Although she places well in Central and South American races, UTMB will be a steep learning curve for her. She will do well to place in the top 20 and if she makes the top 10, she will have had a great race.

Completing the TNF line up is Ru-Ling Xing. I would be lying if I knew much about Ru-Ling however; her stats show top 10 results at TNF 100k in China and 3rd at Vibram 100k. She has raced at UTMB before but finished outside the top 20, if she edges into the top 20 this year she will have had a good race.

Nora Senn has placed 3rd overall at the tough UTMF in 2012; great grounding for the UTMB. Earlier this year she won Lantau 100k so I am sure she will be looking to put the record straight after dropping from UTMB last year. She has the potential to surprise a few people, however, best-case scenario will be top 10. I don’t see Nora contest the podium.

The ladies race may not have as many possibilities as the men’s race, but with Lizzy Hawker not in the race, it is wide open for a really exciting and competitive race up at the front.

Without doubt I will have missed several ladies who will make the top 10 and for sure make the top 20, so, if you know anyone let me know.

  1. Who do you think will win?
  2. Will we see a surprise performance from one of the ‘100’ newbies?
  3. Who will be the best placed US runner?

Ice Trail Tarentaise 2013 – Pre race images and photo shoot

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

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Ice Trail Tarentaise Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francois D'Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

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

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LADIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stats:

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

Notes:

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

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

Links:

Skyrunning HERE

Mont Blanc Marathon and inov-8

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Team inov-8 placed five athletes in the top-10 men and women at the 2013 Mont Blanc Marathon – a brutal Alpine route which included 2,511m of gruelling ascent and 1,490m of daredevil descent. Watch their story of exhaustion, elation and commitment.

Video by Dave MacFarlane (website)

on YouTube HERE

Read the Mont Blanc Marathon race report HERE

Read all about the inov-8 athlete retreat and apparel testing HERE

Images from Mont Blanc Marathon HERE

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/

inov-8 launch new apparel range

The British-born brand is renowned for its production of stripped back, high-gripping footwear for committed athletes wanting to run fast on all terrains. Now, as it celebrates its tenth anniversary, the company is set to explode onto the off-road apparel market with an ultra-lightweight, athletic-fitting range.

International mountain runners have tested all the new jackets, base layers, tees, tights and shorts on the UK and Europe’s most challenging trails, summits and ridges.

Team inov-8 members, a selected group of committed athletes operating at the top of their sport, are currently wearing the new clothing range at an inov-8 off road running retreat in the Alps.

Last weekend, as part of the Chamonix-based retreat, athletes competed in both the Mont Blanc Vertical Km and Mont Blanc Marathon races.

Alex Nichols, who finished seventh in a world-class marathon field, said: “The range is ultra-comfortable and lightweight.

“You can tell it has been designed with the hardcore runner in mind and features things other companies often forget – like elasticated hems and the small stuff sacks which many of the items can be packed into.

“It feels fast to run in and because it is athletic-fitting it never gets in the way of natural movement.

“It is also a really deep range so, as a runner, you are equipped with everything you need to deal with all weather conditions out on the trails and mountains.”

inov-8’s global team of athletes will continue to wear the range when competing at the head of ultra distance and sky running races across the world in 2013.

Australian inov-8 duo Shona Stephenson and Brendan Davies wore garments from the new range when finishing second woman and fifth male respectively in the 100-mile Ultra Trail Mt Fuji race in Japan.

Brendan said: “I love the new apparel range and have been wearing it at all altitudes, in all conditions and over all distances. It has stood up to all challenges.

“In keeping with the inov-8 ethos it is minimalist and lightweight, thus very fast to run in.

“The shorts are super-comfortable, while the Stormshell and Windshell jackets have tamed the weather conditions I’ve worn them in.”

Wayne Edy, inov-8 founder, added: “We are really excited about our first apparel range, which we have designed for athletes wanting to push boundaries, gain an edge and win races.

“Every fabric, seam and zip has been minutely scrutinized to ensure we deliver outstanding apparel that will allow runners to play at the extremes – and do so faster.”

Included in the range is the Race Elite Thermoshell.

The unique shell features Revershell technology, providing two insulation options. On one side there is a stitch-through design to offer body mapped breathability in key areas. On the reverse side, the stitch-through is removed, offering 10% more warmth.

Weighing in at just 260g for men and 220g for women, the Race Elite Thermoshell boasts air permeable Primaloft Sport technology on one side and a highly windproof Pertex Quantum outer fabric on the warmer reverse.

England international mountain runner and Transalpine-run stage winner Ben Abdelnoor has been part of the testing team for inov-8’s new apparel.

He said: “The clothing is super light and athletic fitting but still gives great freedom of movement.

“I’ve worked it to the extreme on gruelling mountain runs and it has stood up to all challenges.”

The lightest Race Elite Windshells in the range weigh just 70g for men and 60g for women, while there’s also a super-breathable, fully waterproof Race Elite Stormshell jacket at 150g for men and 140g for women.

Action images copyright iancorless.com
Apparel images copyright inov-8

All the Race Elite shorts, made using a four-way stretch material for ultimate comfort, boast a durable water repellent finish. Meanwhile, the base layers and short-sleeved race tops are Polygiene treated to stop odor-causing bacteria from settling into the material.

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It’s VK day for Aussie inov-8 runners

P1130536Brendan Davies and Shona Stephenson have both had incredible starts to the 2013 season. Members of the newly formed inov-8 International Skyrunning Team they are now in Europe to test themselves against some of the best runners in the world.

The Skyrunning VK is something both will never have experienced before. Standing in Chamonix and looking up they see 1000 vertical meters ahead of them. At 3.8km’s long how hard can it be…?

The answer is easy. HARD!

Lungs will burn and legs will ache as each participant pushes to the limit. Who will cover the distance and conquer the elevation in the fastest time?

Just two days later, Brendan & Shona will line up for the Mont Blanc Marathon, a classic Sky race with an extremely competitive field. Racing the best in the world, these Aussie runners will face up against Kilian Jornet, Luis Alberto Hernando, Marco De Gasperi, Emelie Forsberg, Stevie Kremer, Anna Frost, Silvia Serafini and so on… as Brendan says, “It’s a dream come true to be in Europe racing on such incredible terrain against the best in the world, it’s a very exciting experience and one I am relishing”.

P1130546Southern hemisphere running is going through a boom period at the moment, Brendan and Shona are at the forefront of the sport. The vision of the inov-8 International Skyrunning Team is not only enabling the sport to progress within the UK but also on a much wider scale. Lauri Van Houten, Skyrunning Vice President, more than anybody is aware of the growth and expansion. 2012 was  a breakthrough year for the International Skyrunning Federation. The Skyrunner World Series attracted the best International runners from trail and ultra. The consensus from all participants is that what Skyrunning offers is mind blowing,

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Links:

inov-8 HERE

Brendan Davies HERE

Shona Stephenson HERE

Skyrunning HERE

 

 

Inov-8 in Chamonix

Team Inov-8 copyright iancorless.com

June is proving to be a very special month for UK Company, Inov-8. Celebrating ten years in the business, 2013 has seen the company create an International Skyrunning Team bringing together runners from all over the world to take part in the Skyrunning World Series. Inov-8 started the 2013 campaign in Zegama-Aizkorri and will now follow with what will be a truly international field at the Mont Blanc marathon and Vertical Kilometer.

Natalie White, team manager for the brand has been influential in coordinating and bringing all this together, “Prior to me joining Inov-8 we only had a small team of UK based athletes. To get more brand awareness across the world I thought we needed an International team. So, the best athletes from around the world put them in one team and then send them out to run in the Skyrunning series. We support them and help them travel the world to race. We want to help them achieve”.

Brendan Davies and Shona Stephenson will arrive in Chamonix from Australlia. Brendan Davies (AUS), has had an incredible 2013 with top placing’s at the super competitive Tarawera Ultra in New Zealand, a top five at UTMF 100 in Japan and then a win and new CR at TNF100 in Australia. He has been fired up with an opportunity to race in Europe.

Shona Stephenson (AUS), like Brendan has had quite an incredible start to the year too, with impressive runs and results over a variety of distances and terrain. Shona was second at UTMF 100 in Japan, third at TNF100 in Australia and now she will race Europe and the high mountains for the first time.

 ©copyright .iancorless.com.Alex Nichols copyright iancorless.com

Alex Nichols (USA), unlike his Australian teammates has experience of Skyrunning, he scored a top 5 at the Sky Games in 2012, his first outing in a Skyrunning event. He said, “It was a learning curve’. With Pikes Peak on his doorstep in the US he has plenty of opportunity to practice ascending and descending, combined with natural speed he will be a force to be reckoned with in Chamonix.

Also flying in from the USA is Scott Dunlap (USA). Scott has already had a busy start to 2013, he PR’d at Boston Marathon with 2:44:35 and most recently he has run Silver State 50m in sub 10 hours.

Sarah Ridgeway, Anna Lupton and Natalie White all arrive from the UK and complete the International field. Natalie is fulfilling two roles as team manager and competitor. In 2012 she won the mixed pairs in the two-day mountain marathon and has placed fourth in the Skygames.

©copyright .iancorless.com.Anna Lupton_Zegama13_copyright iancorless.com

Anna Lupton has two wins at the famous Three Peaks race and she will bring that skill and fell running ability to both the VK and Marathon courses.

Finally, Sarah Ridgeway lives and breathes mountain running, her home in Wales is the perfect training ground for courses like Mont Blanc. With Mt Snowdon on her doorstep, she will be adapted and ready to race.

Sarah Ridgeway copyright iancorless.com

The Mont Blanc Marathon is the second event in the Skyrunning World Series and will be preceded by the KM Vertical on June 28th where 400 runners will line up for a lung-busting 1,000 meters skywards over the short 3.5 km course.

Among the events over the weekend organised by the Club des Sports Chamonix, is the new Mont-Blanc 80K on June 28, the first time a race has been held on this course, although shortened due to snow on the course.  The race will represent a “test run” for the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships where the three events will be featured.

In addition to racing, inov-8 will host their first-ever athlete retreat in Chamonix, in the Alps, starting on Thursday. Twelve inov-8 athletes will attend over the nine days. They will test exciting new product and train at altitude alongside their international team-mates.

Great North Walk 100s 020b

Brendan Davies looks ahead to brutal Alpine double-header and first-ever Inov-8 athlete retreat

Brendan said: “2013 has been an outstanding year for me so far. Winning the TNF 100km ultra in my own back yard in Australia was brilliant, on the back of my fifth place finish in the 100-mile Ultra Trail Mt Fuji.

“Now I’m ready to hit Europe for inov-8’s first-ever athlete’s retreat in the Alps and to race in the Mont Blanc Marathon.

“The experience of being around my fellow inov-8 team-mates is one I’ve been looking forward to all year.

“It will be an opportunity to soak up years and years of collective trail running experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

“The nine-day retreat will also give us the chance to test exciting new inov-8 shoes, clothing and packs, and provide valuable feedback. This can only have a positive affect on the performances of inov-8 wearers around the world.

“I can’t wait to get to Chamonix (France) and immerse myself in the camp, test the product and train in such stunning mountainous surroundings.

“Although I’ve raced on three previous occasions in Europe, this will be my first time in the Alps.

“Sunday’s Mont Blanc Marathon – which includes 2,511m of vertical gain and 1,490m of elevation loss – will be my first true mountain trail event.

“It is an iconic race and I’m looking forward to doing battle against the crème de la crème of global trail running. It is going to be something truly special.

“Although not my preferred terrain nor distance, I’ll be giving the race absolutely everything.

“I also plan to do the Mont Blanc Vertical KM race which, like the marathon, is part of the 2013 Skyrunner World Series.

“Friday’s lung-busting Vertical KM race starts in Chamonix and involves running as fast as possible to a measured 1,000m height gain over a course that is around 3.5km in distance.

“I’m more akin to running longer distances, so this short, steep seriously fast race will push me to the limit. I can’t wait!”

LINKS:

Inov-8 – HERE

Skyrunning – HERE 

Mont Blanc Marathon HERE