Winter Running and Adventure Essentials – What Goes In The Pack?

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risks and I discussed this in an in-depth article on Winter Running HERE

Following on from the article, I have had many questions to elaborate on the pack and the equipment I would use for day-to-day adventures and then how I would expand that equipment list for more adventurous and specific trips.

Firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. I write about this in the article above, but it is worth emphasizing that no two people are the same. The ethos of ‘fast and light’ is great if you can go fast… BUT and this is a big BUT, what happens if you can’t go fast? What happens if you fall, are immobilized, waiting for help or a rescue?

Imagine a scene, stuck on a mountain side, you have broken your leg. You were moving fast and so were warm. But now you are still, the temperature is dropping well below zero and you are unable to move or generate heat. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and THIS is the scenario you MUST think off when packing for an adventure.

I have a simple attitude of it’s better to carry it and not needed it.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. However, in winter the changes are often far more extreme, Hypothermia can hit in minutes and it is deadly.

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

The equipment list below are my personal choices, and I must stress here that I have tested many variables and brands to come up with the list below. Importantly, there is most definitely multiple ways and solutions to any problem, so, while my list below could be seen a perfect shopping list, it’s also fun to find out what works for you.

YOU AND WHAT YOU WEAR

What you wear for a run/ adventure should come as second nature, but it can often be a real dilemma understanding how to balance the layers so that you don’t overheat or equally, get too cold.

Read about GETTING LAYERED HERE

Personally, I find the most difficult temperatures around 0 to +5 degrees C (32-49 Fahrenheit.) It’s cold enough to make you feel chilled (often will feel damp too) but within 15-minutes of running you feel warm.

inov-8 ambassador, Abelone Lyng

The starting point for me is a merino wool base layer, it naturally helps regulate body temperature, remains warm when wet, transports sweat away from the body, and is very good in regard to odors. Icebreaker is my product of choice and they have a simple system of 150/175/200 and 260 products, the higher the number, the thicker and warmer the product. I personally find 150 ideal, especially for running and active sports.

My jacket will balance warmth, breathability and protection from the wind, Haglöfs L.I.M Hybrid Hood manages to balance all these elements in a really lightweight package. It can even be worn directly against the skin. The inov-8 Technical Mid Hoodie is also a good choice.

Leg wear will depend on the weather and arguably I would potentially look at 3 scenarios. On milder winter days hovering around 0C I would use my standard inov-8 run tights. 0 to -10C I would use a thicker winter tight, potentially with wind block panels on the front by Swix. Below -10 and I would use Icebreaker 150 merino underneath the thicker Swix tights.

Keeping feet warm is essential in winter and again, based on weather, temperature and conditions. I will go with one of three scenarios: Merino woolneoprene socks or Sealskinz. My default is neoprene as it works well in most conditions. It’s not unusual to wear two pairs of socks in winter, say a merino liner and thicker over sock or a merino liner inside Sealskinz, keep this in mind when getting winter run shoes, you may need a half-size larger shoe?

Hands, like feet, need to be warm. I use Icebreaker liners, with either inov-8 Extreme Thermo Mitt which is incredibly warm.

I wear a Buff or similar product around my neck, and I use a Haglöfs Fanatic hat which manages to be always warm, but not too warm!

Vj Sport Xero 5 here

Shoes will depend on conditions but for me, once winter arrives, I usually require a winter shoe with studs to provide grip, particularly in ice. The VJ Xero 5 works exceptionally well. Of course, in most scenarios you could use your favourite trail shoes and carry micro crampons which you can add and remove as required. However, if you know you will be in snow/ ice all day, a specific winter shoe provides a much more enjoyable experience.

Finally glasses with a specific winter lens are often essential to protect from cold air, snow and reflected brightness from snow. I use Oakley Radar.

THE PACK

Black Diamond Distance 15 is a somewhat unique pack that manages to appeal to trail runners and alpinist/ climbers who have discovered that all important link-up of sports coming together for unique adventures and/or fastpacking. These adventures tend to entail a bit of easy climbing, some scrambling, some fell running and some walking – or just about whatever you can string together.

Black Diamond Distance 15 balances running and alpinism perfectly.

A hybrid between running and climbing pack, the Distance 15 fits snug to your body and is stable with minimal bounce. The main compartment of the pack includes a quick draw-string main opening which Black Diamond say is waterproof – it is not! Please use a waterproof bag inside like those provided by Sea to Summit. A zippered security pocket inside is ideal for a wallet and there is a stretch mesh divider that will hold a bladder, or it can be used for storing nylon or dyneema.

Elasticated compression straps either side of the main bag are ideal for reducing the volume of the pack and keeping everything tight together and they can be used to secure a pair of ice axes that also have specific storage at the bottom of the back and security buckles that pass through the ice axe head. Integrated into the main compartment (on each side) are ‘Quiver Sleeves’ for Black Diamond Z-folding walking poles. The front of the pack has a vest fit with two adjustable straps and two 4-way stretch zippered pockets and four front stretch pockets that will hold soft flasks, snacks or any other essential ‘on-the-go’ items.

IN THE PACK

Icebreaker 150 top and bottom

Spare base layer, top and bottom – These would be duplicates of the Icebreaker 150 as worn.

Spare socks – Merino run sock.

Jacket

Mid layer/ insulation – In winter, I will already be wearing a mid-layer, either the Haglöfs or inov-8 as mentioned above. My additional insulation would be down and the Haglöfs Essens is an incredible all season product. It has warmth, very low weight and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling that it is DWR treated – the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions.

Barrier shorts

*Barrier Shorts – Haglöfs make an excellent, light and packable barrier short for the extreme cold.

Haglöfs Gore-Tex Paclite

Waterproof jacket – The inov-8 Ultrashell Pro is an excellent very lightweight waterproof jacket but in winter I will usually take a heavier duty Gore-Tex Paclite L.I.M jacket by Haglöfs.

inov-8 Trailpant

Waterproof pants – inov-8 Trailpant waterproof and breathable designed for really cold, wet conditions.

Icebreaker liner gloves

Liner gloves – I would carry an additional pair of Icebreaker merino as mention above.

Sentinel by Mountain Equipment
Black Diamond waterproof over mitt

Outer gloves – I would typically carry two outer gloves as I suffer with cold hands, a warm Sentinel mitt by Mountain Equipment and a waterproof over mitt by Black Diamond.

Hat – Spare hat as above.

Buff – Spare as above.

Food and hydration – In winter, a main issue can be frozen bottles, so I carry one or two small Thermos flasks with coffee, sweet tea or hot chocolate. It can make a big difference to have this option. For snacks I will use energy bars, Kvikk Lunsj or similar. Always a good idea to plan a cafe stop on longer runs too!

Phone – I use an iPhone and I make sure I have mapping software such as Footpath and what3words for emergency use.

Petzl e-lite
Silva Trail Runner Free

Headtorch – A simple Petzl e-lite as a ‘just-in-case’ for all runs but if running at night I use a Silva.

Small knife

Knife – Victorinox.

Mountain wipes

Wipes – Wipes.

Waterproof liner bag

Waterproof liner bag – (maybe 2 depending on needs) – Sea to Summit make excellent lightweight bags to make sure all spare clothes etc remain dry.

Survival bivi

Bivvi – Terra Nova Survival bivi that is fully waterproof, breathable and has a simple drawcord closure. It packs away into a small stuff sack.

Hand and feet heat pads

Heat pads – An essential back-up for hands and feet by Nevercold or similar.

First aid – Lifesystems small emergency kit in waterproof protection.

Additional power.

Batteries/ Battery pack – Modern tech doesn’t last long in extreme cold so carrying a back-up battery can be a good idea, Goal Zero make good products.

Map and Compass – As applicable.

Garmin inReach

*InReach tracker – Garmin.

Folding Z Poles

*Poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole Carbon.

Micro crampons

*Crampons – You need to be very specific with crampons and the shoes you use them with, however, a pair of Snowline are a good back-up.

Camp Corsa

*Ice Axe – Camp Corsa – lightest ice axe out there for low angle glacier travel, ski mountaineering and adventure racing.

Atlas Race 22

*Snowshoes – Atlas Race 22.

*Hand Ice Studs – Isvidda Isdubb If you are running on the ice, it is important that you use ice hand studs both for your own and others’ safety. (These are often sold for those ice fishing.)

All items with * are only applicable based on the adventure, the type of terrain, weather conditions and personal experience. The inReach is a wonderful security blanket that is arguably ideal for any run/ adventure but if you have a phone (with power) at least you have one emergency back-up. However, phones don’t always have reception.

Running across a frozen lake, Norway.

LIGHTERPACK is a great online tool that helps you manage equipment and keep track of pack weight and contents, HERE is an example of what is listed above.

SUMMARY

Winter adventures are incredible and exhilarating. On a personal level, I find them more challenging and exciting than many Spring/ Summer trips due to the added complexity. However, that complexity can prove to be fatal.

Don’t compromise in winter. Be prepared.

The above list of equipment is designed to show you what is possible and how to make weight as minimal as possible without losing efficacy of the items. You could go away and purchase this list of items and you’d have all you need for winter running.

However, if you are like me, looking around, testing items and comparing is part of the fun… It’s actually what I have been doing for years, that is how this list came about.

So, do the research, make sure you not only have what you need for an adventure but make sure you have all the extras needed should a situation arise leaving you vulnerable.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE

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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Shining Some Light On Headlamps For Running

Winter is looming. It’s dark in the morning and darkness arrives earlier and earlier in the evening. The lure of a treadmill or training in a gym is just not an option for some and therefore the need to be outdoors getting in some fresh air is essential for day-to-day function. So, if you are going to keep running during the winter months a headlamp is going to be essential. Here is a guide to help you make the correct choice.

Headlamps are an important piece of kit and arguably one that is ‘mandatory’ when heading to the trails, particularly during winter months or when racing. It may be light when you leave home, but have you noticed how suddenly the light switch is flicked off and how quickly light disappears. If you are on the road (with streetlights) this is not too much of an issue but if you are off-road, you are going to need a light that illuminates the trail, has durability and good battery life.

BEAM 

One thing I hate about running at night is that I eventually fall into the beam and I feel that I am in a tunnel. It affects my mind, my vision and my concentration. Many head torches have ‘beam options’ that usually are ‘narrow’ or ‘wide’. This option is an essential item to allow you to adapt to the environment and your vision needs.

Morning arrives in a trail race in the USA.

NARROW will focus the beam. For example, you may be running single-track and need vision in a very specific area. You need to see roots, rocks or any other obstacles. The narrow beam will facilitate your vision and allow you to make on-the–go decisions without losing speed.

WIDE as it suggests provides a softer more widespread light that provides a much more general field of view. This tends to work well with clearer skies or on open trail when obstacles are reduced.

Some head torches have two lamps, one wide and one narrow that provides the best of both worlds. some headlamps allow ‘variations’ between wide and narrow.

BRIGHTNESS

Brightness is measured in lumens and while many think more lumens are better, this is not always the case. Brightness is a key consideration for faster sports such as skiing and Mountain Biking when the need to react at speed is paramount. But for running, the pace is lower and therefore the need for a really bright light is not essential. Many headlamps have several settings, for example, a 400-lumen product may have a 50, 200 and 400 setting. This is useful when using a headlamp in mixed lighting/ darkness scenarios. If running on roads with streetlights, you may only need to be visible and then 50 lumens is ideal. However, if you are on dark forest trails with no ambient light, 400 lumens will be required.

In addition, some products have a ‘flash’ option that can be used for safety.  

Manually adjusting brightness with 1, 2 or 3 clicks is for me preferable to some of the new head torches that ‘auto-adjust’ to conditions. I have issues with these when in fog, mist, rain and so on as the sensor becomes confused. It over engineers a simple problem that a button click resolves.

Racing a VK during the night in a rainstorm. A double bean headlamp providing wide and narrow light.

Be careful of ‘boost’ modes, they are designed to produce brighter light for shorter periods, they will eat through battery life.

Understand your needs and be specific when purchasing. A light that provides too much power can be turned down BUT a light with not enough lumen cannot be turned up.

Also, when looking at power and brightness, this goes hand-in-hand with the beam. A narrow beam may well require less power because the beam is so concentrated, however, when on wide, you may wish to up the power as the light provided is softer.

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life, lumen power and weight are a delicate balancing act. Quite simply, autonomy comes from a larger battery and that will always mean more weight. If you are using a bright headlamp on a full power setting, then you need to balance this combination and understand your needs.

If you use a headlamp occasionally, using conventional batteries such as AAA or AA may be an option. However, regular headlamp use will almost certainly require rechargeable batteries which are better on cost and the environment.

Top tip: Choose a headlamp that can switch between conventional batteries and rechargeable seamlessly. Not only does this provide the best of both worlds but it will also allow you the opportunity to always have conventional batteries as a backup.

Silva Trail Runner Free can change from AAA to rechargeable.

Another key consideration is the option to use the batteries on and off the headband. The reasons for this are twofold:

The more power/ autonomy you need, the heavier the battery will be. The option to store in a pack or pocket is considerably more comfortable.

In colder weather, batteries last longer if warm. Storing off the head and in a pocket close to your torso will provide more autonomy.

Silva Trail Runner Free has a Hybrid case that takes AAA and rechargeable and can be used off the head.

Be specific. If you run typically 1-2 hours on dark trails, a 400-lumen light will be ideal, and the batteries will last for the duration of the run.

If you are running and you know you will have 8-hours or more under darkness, you will almost certainly need one spare set of batteries and maybe even two! So, the option to change rechargeable batteries and/or use conventional batteries can be a deal breaker. The Silva Trail Runner Free balances this perfectly with multiple options available.

On a final note, batteries can either fit in the lamp unit at the front (typically 2 x AA or 3 x AAA) or at the rear in a battery box that is sealed from the weather. The latter option usually means that you will have more power and the light will have more autonomy, but you will need to check! Is one better than the other? It all depends on your preference; I have found that a lamp at the front and batteries at the back balances the light well when in use. However, I do like the simplicity of everything in the head unit as it does allow you to use the light in other scenarios.

ADJUSTMENTS

Headlamps will tilt and some swivel. The tilt function is most important and will allow you to adjust the angle of the light based on your running style. This is important as we all have different run styles. You want the beam to be in a natural position taking into account your head angle whilst running and what field of vision you require. Usually, 2-3 meters ahead is ideal as this allows a natural run pace without slowing due to vision problems. If the trail is gnarly, you may need to adjust the angle, power and beam so that you are able to see obstacles.

Fog and mist can cause issues for any headlamp. Instinctively you try to increase the light to improve visibility only to find the light bounces back and makes visibility worse. In this scenario, using a light on your chest or waist can make improvements – just like they way fog lights on a car work. Simply removing the torch from your head and holding in your hand will improve matters considerably. Some actually prefer chest or waist mounted lights all the time. Personally I do not. I think they are a good addition to a headlamp but not a replacement.

Adjusting beam power is useful when reading maps.

Nearly all head torches use an elastic system to stretch around the head and hold the light in place. One or two also include a strap that goes over the top of the head too. This adds extra stability but often is a problem when wearing hats and so on. Ultimately you just want something that is comfortable.

SUMMARY

Night running is awesome. If you haven’t tried it, head out with friends at first, you will feel more secure as It can take some getting used to as you may feel disorientated.

But once you have the feel for it, it will be something you embrace and of course it adds some spice to your running.

If snow falls, embrace the opportunity of dark skies, white snow and the glow of a light!

Recommendations:

Moonlight Mountain Gear provide very powerful lights beyond 2000 lumens HERE

Silva Trail Runner Free specifically for running that takes AAA and rechargeable HERE

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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Silva Trail Runner Free Headlamp Review

A headlamp, a good one! is an essential item for any runner, be that for racing or training. Winter, short days and what can feel like constant darkness can stop training and force sessions indoors, however, a good lamp can make all the difference for helping you get out of the door. Recently I looked at headlamps by Norwegian brand, Moonlight, HERE who produce lamps with serious lumens for running, mountain biking, skiing or any sport that takes place in pitch darkness and bright illumination is required.

Read a guide on headlamps HERE

Silva with the Trail Runner Free have taken the head lamp to a superb next level offering a specific product for running with 400 lumen output. Comfortable, lightweight with beams optimized for running this is proving to be my ‘go-to’ lamp. The ability to use AAA batteries or an optional rechargeable battery in a Hybrid battery case make this extremely user friendly, even for long and relentless outings.

Use 3x AAA batteries or a rechargeable battery for ultimate flexibility.

There are countless pluses to this new incarnation from Silva:

The free in the product name refers to the power cord being integrated into the headband. This provides a comfortable headlamp experience without distracting cords or tangled wires. The headband is soft with a silicone on the inside to stay in place. Gladly there is just one strap that goes around the head, there is no strap over the top of the head.

The weight is super-light coming in at 125g with the battery. Every part of the headlamp has been compressed and the unit only weighs 55 grams.

Hybrid battery case which can be used with AAA batteries (provided) and the option to purchase a Trail Runner Hybrid (1.15AH) battery for increased flexibility. The case has grip friendly surfaces and holds an integrated red rear safety light – adding extra visibility. 

There is a small switch with 3 settings: Off, permanent red light or flashing.

Importantly, the battery case can be used on or off the headband. An additional extension cable is provided so that you can store and use the battery in a pocket or a run pack – especially important in cold climates when warmth will allow the battery to last longer.

An extension cable (supplied) facilitates ‘off the head’ use of the Hybrid battery pack.

Customized light distribution via a double light beam with light settings that are perfect for running. A combination of a long reach spotlight and a close floodlight provides an excellent balance of close and long view perspectives which allows one to run with confidence, even at speed.

Spot and flood for ideal visibility.

It has 3 modes of varying brightness, 400, 200 and 50 lumens. In good weather conditions, you can expect 2.5 hours on full power or 12-hours on minimum power.

IPX5 water resistance

Price

77.00 (with AAA) 

The 1.5Ah Hybrid battery is an optional accessory for the Trail Runner Free and is supplied with the ‘H.’

Hybrid Battery is 32.00

The TRAIL RUNNER FREE H is 109.00 and includes Hybrid Battery.

The TRAIL RUNNER FREE ULTRA is 127.00 and includes 4.0 Ah long-distance battery.

OPTIONS

The base version Trail Runner Free is at a great price and is provided with 3x AAA batteries which means you can use it straight out of the packaging. The option to use AAA and a rechargeable is a deal breaker for me, especially if I am out on long adventures or if I was racing. The flexibility to be able to purchase batteries anywhere and use the head lamp is a win! 

Choose Trail Runner Free with the Hybrid battery case and 3 x AAA batteries if you don’t run on a daily basis, but still value long burn time.

3x AAA battery is great for flexibility and a back-up to the 1.5Ah Hybrid battery.

In reality though, the best option is to purchase the Trail Runner Free H that comes with a Hybrid Battery. I also purchased an additional spare battery for increased flexibility. This allows me to charge a battery while using the torch (I carry 3 x AAA in my pack as spares and for a ‘just in case’ scenario). Equally, I can carry a charged Hybrid battery as a spare too.

The Hybrid battery case takes 3x AAA or the 1.5Ah battery.

If you always run long, the Trail Runner Free Ultra has the largest battery and burn time offering 9-hours on full-power in good weather. This can reduce to below 5-hours in sub-zero temperatures.

TOP TIP

Choose Trail Runner Free Ultra if you want to go for really long sessions with the 4.0Ah long-distance battery. With Free Ultra you also get the Hybrid battery case which can be used with either 3 x AAA batteries or by complementing it with a Hybrid battery (1.15Ah).

IN USE

The head lamp, head band and Hybrid battery case is the same irrespective of which option you choose. Please note that with the Ultra, the larger 4.0Ah battery does not fit in the Hybrid case but can still be used on the head band or in a pocket using the included extension cable.

Comfort level is high with the Trail Runner Free and I would go as far to say, it’s arguably one of the most comfortable head lamps I have used, especially with no cables flapping around. However, because the cables are incorporated within the headband, adjusting is a little more laborious than in others I have used, it’s a minor niggle. On the head band the battery is well balanced, secure and comfortable.

Cables are incorporated inside the headband and you connect the battery via a connector.
The pack simply connects via a short cabe is the pack is attached to the head band.

The Hybrid battery pack easily attaches or removes from the head band allowing for great flexibility.

Using the battery off the head and it’s easy to change batteries and turn the red safety light on or off.
Off the head you use an extension cable so the battery can placed in a pocket or pack.

It has an inbuilt red LED for safety.

Rear red safety light can be off, flashing or permanent.

This rear light has its own switch which you turn on by opening the rear battery cover and moving the small toggle switch, flashing or constant is available. There are pluses and minuses to this. The plus is that you do not need the rear light on, which will save some battery, especially if storing the battery and using in a pocket. The downside is twofold: 1. It’s easy to forget to turn the rear light on. 2. Opening the door and flicking the switch is just one extra thing to do and if it’s cold, almost impossible to do with gloves on.

The lamp itself is small, rotates up and down easily (even with gloves on) and the switch on the left-side is easy to press for illumination.

Green shows good power in the battery, red shows recharging or new batteries are required.

You press and hold to turn off, if you see a red light, the battery needs charging or changing. If you see green, all is good. There are two lamps, a spot and wide and they work exceptionally well. 

At 400 lumens, the head lamp sits at a very comfortable balance of illumination v battery life. Lumens and brightness are not always the be all and end all for a head lamp, especially when running. For faster sports, MTB or skiing, illumination is crucial because everything is moving so much faster, with running, especially at night, everything is a little slower and 400 lumen works really well. I also feel that our eyes and perception adjust accordingly but I am aware that for some, this is not the case.

Not all head lamps are the same and the Trail Runner Free has become my ‘go-to’ and most likely the product I would recommend to others as a first option.

The reason being weight, comfort, price but most importantly the Hybrid battery combination and the flexibility it brings.

Using the battery off the head is a real plus of the Trail Runner Free.

I have actually only used the Hybrid case on the head band three times (it was comfortable, no problem.) I have found that the best solution for me is to store the battery pack either in my run vest or in a pocket on my clothing.

The reasons for this are countless:

  • Less weight on the head.
  • Keeping the batteries warm so that they last longer.
  • I can change batteries without having to take the head lamp off.

Another key point is the flexibility to daily use a rechargeable battery (thus saving on costs and the environment) but also having 3x AAA with me should I need to have additional backup power. Of course, you can carry another rechargeable too OR use the larger 4.0Ah battery.

CONCLUSION

The combination of battery options, free technology, comfort, flexibility and 400 lumens all packaged into a running specific lamp make the Trail Runner Free a winner. There are a couple of minor niggles, but they are nothing to worry about and are certainly not real considerations when considering should I or should I not buy this head lamp. When purchasing, consider which model best suits your needs. But have knowledge knowing that you have complete flexibility afterwards to switch between batteries and how the battery is used. Highly recommended. 

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 #USM2015 – Race Images and Summary

©iancorless.com_USM2015-3343

Images to purchase HERE

Waking up at 0400 to pouring rain is never a great way to start a day, particularly when you have 55km of tough, challenging and mountain terrain to get over. After a couple of recce runs in the days leading up to the race, it became very clear that the USM was going to offer a very tough challenge.

Stevie Kremer had flown in from Colorado and was praying for sun. Ricky Lightfoot and Aritz Egea are from Cumbria and the Basque country and ‘it always rains’ they told me, so no need to ask what they hoped for.

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

Departing the start line at 0600 on the dot, the runners disappeared down a darkened lane with only head torches and rain for company. It was a brutal start to the day, just 1km to warm up and then a climb of 1400m.

Onwards and upwards the runners climbed and a section of via ferrata at around 6km provided a taster for the final push to the summit. It wasn’t easy going. The mist had come in and visibility was poor. Add to this constant rain and steep gradients.

Ricky Lightfoot and Zaid Ait Malek were the first to appear. The contrast between the two striking, Ricky is tall and well built and a fireman by trade. Zaid is Moroccan, small and probably only about 50kg in weight when completely wet through and wearing three layers of clothes.

They matched each other step-by-step. Minutes later, Aritz Egea appeared looking calm and relaxed in the wet and challenging conditions. With 90 minutes of the race elapsed, the main male contenders came thick and fast and with them, Stevie Kremer.

It was sometime before the 2nd lady Ester Alves came into sight and the writing was on the wall. Stevie was going to need to crumble to loose this race. Descending over the summit, an inversion came in allowing the surrounding vistas to come clear. 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 change until a decisive phase around the 30km mark. Climbing from the sea and beach, Ricky Lightfoot continued to extend his lead looking strong. However, Zaid Ait Malek looked in trouble and Aritz Egea was closing. After 5km of ridge running and a technical descent, a riverbed with boulder hopping awaited.

Ricky was long gone but here Aritz moved ahead of Zaid. It looked like a decisive move but as we know, nothing is guaranteed in racing. Behind, Clemente Mora and Nuno Silva were coming to life. In particular Nuno, he ran over the boulders in the river like a man possessed.

But another long climb needed to be ascended and descended before the finish line and here the podium changed. Zaid was having trouble and feeling dizzy. His only option to ease off the pace providing a gateway to third. As Clemente and Nuno battled for 3rd, Aritz exploded through a lack of calories and was forced to jog/ walk it into the finish. Seizing an opportunity, Clemente proved the stronger and finally pulled away from Nuno and they finished 6:17:22 and 6:24:57 respectively behind Rick Lightfoot’s new course record, 6:09:56.

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Steve Kremer was almost in another race by the time the riverbed and the final climb came. However, she did say she wasn’t feeling great. This was the longest race she had ever run! It was academic, Stevie despite what she said ran into the finish looking strong in 7:33:37 almost 45 min ahead of 2nd placed Ester Alves in 8:14:45. Lucia Franco took the final podium place in 9:01:53.

Post race, Stevie went on to say, ‘USM is one of if not the hardest race I have ever done. I think it is a much harder race than Zegama-Aizkorri. It was relentless terrain and the conditions just made it so much harder. Race organisation was brilliant and course marking superb. It was brilliant but so tough.”

By contrast, Ricky seemed relaxed after his run, ‘It was a great course and one that embodies Skyrunning exceptionally well. However, the first hour of the course is not designed for someone as tall as me! All those trees that needed to be crawled under; I was bent double,’ he said with a laugh. ‘Zaid is only tiny so he could just run. I felt like I was crawling. The views when the mist lifted were incredible. It was almost as though I was running in another race.’

The 2nd edition of the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira has been a great success. Madeira is an amazing island with a tough and challenging course. The future looks bright for this new addition to the Skyrunning calendar.

Results:

  1. Stevie Kremer 7:33:37
  2. Ester Alves 8:14:45
  3. Lucia Franco 9:01:53
  1. Ricky Lightfoot 6:09:56
  2. Clemente Mora 6:17:22
  3. Nuno Silva 6:24:57

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

Ultra SkyMarathon™ Madeira 2015 #USM2015

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The Ultra SkyMarathon™ Madeira (#USM2015) will take place on the13th and 14th June 2015 on the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal.

Continuing the growth and expansion of Skyrunning globally, for the first time, USM will see its integration in the Skyrunner® National Series Spain, Andorra & Portugal. A set of 6 ultra distance races, USM will be the only race that takes place in Portugal.

Comprising of three races of different distances, USM will have:

  • Ultra SkyMarathon® Madeira (USM 55 km 4000 m D +)
  • Santana Sky Race (SSR 21 km 1350m D +)
  • and the Mini Sky Race (MSR 13km 400m D +).

It’s going to prove to be an exciting weekend of racing as runners from all over the world will travel to Madeira, not only to race but also to soak up the beautiful scenery, talk with the locals and indulge in the excellent food that only Portugal can offer.

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Stevie Kremer needs no introduction to Skyrunning aficionados and her incredible 2014 and Skyrunner® World Series title has recently been followed up with a great start to 2015 with victory at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia. This lady from Crested Butte is going to take some beating.

Ricky Lightfoot is the 2014 IAU World Trail Champion, winner and course record holder for the ‘Otter’ in South Africa and victor and course record holder for the DoDo Trail in Mauritius. On his day, he is an incredible force in any fell, trail, mountain or Skyrunning event.

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Zaid Ait Malek burst onto the Skyrunning scene in 2013 with a top placing at Zegama-Aizkorri. His enthusiasm, big smile and huge presence are a great contribution to any race. His victory at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2014 was a highlight and for sure, he will be looking for a podium place in Madeira.

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Aritz Egea is a ‘Sky’ distance specialist and his ability to climb and descend with equal ability has seen him dominate races all over the world. A consistent top-10 finisher he will be looking to gain valuable points in Portugal.

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Alessandra Carlini really made a mark on the Skyrunning circuit in the past two years and she has proven, that despite living in the flat lands next to the sea, she has an ability to climb and descend with the best. Her performances improve when the races get longer, so, expect Alessandra to turn a few heads in the 55km race.

It won’t be easy running for Stevie, Ricky, Zaid, Aritz or Alessandra… a plethora of other top runners will toe the line looking for glory in Portugal:

  • Ester Alves (winner at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra Trail)
  • Nuno Silva (Winner, Falcotrail SkyMarathon 2014)
  • Luis Fernandes (winner at this year’s Madeira Island Ultra Trail)
  • Manuel Faria (Winner USM 2014)
  • Unai Santamaria (3rd USM 2014)

It’s not too late to enter any of the races in Madeira and a special discount is available if you enter before the end of April.

What you waiting for? Join some of the worlds best on the beautiful trails of Madeira.

Santana is a northern municipality of Madeira Island, renowned since 2011 as World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is known by the typical A-thatched houses, symbol of Madeira and Portugal and offers a wide variety of surroundings such as the laurel forest, mountainous areas surrounding Pico Ruivo and São Jorge hills and the outstanding cliffs of the north of the island.

I will be at the event photographing and reporting on the action as it unfolds. You can follow on Facebook and Twitter – @talkultra

Promo video: https://vimeo.com/125025950

Race website HERE

Registration HERE

Race weekend program HERE

Marmot Dark Mountains 2014 Results & Images

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The 2014 Marmot Dark Mountains was a resounding success and in contrast to the 2013 event, weather conditions were extremely kind on all entrants… well, at least all those who finished before 7am.

As predicted, the weather took a very serious turn for the worse as dawn arrived with increasing winds and torrential rain. It really did turn into a tough test for the final 20 or so teams who were still out on the course. However, a warm leisure centre awaited and a breakfast fit for a king.

Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)

Shane Ohly and the Ourea Events Team really did put on a great event with excellent support. Nothing was left to chance. As we all know, an event of this nature is not for the inexperienced.

A night in the Peak District with only a map, head torch and all essential equipment (as required for safety) plus your running partner for company is a test you either embrace or shy away from.

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Departing from Glossop at timed intervals starting at 1900hrs on Saturday, competitors ventured out into the dark. Maps were checked, bearings taken and then a plan was formulated. Experience really showed in the first 5-minutes of the race. Some runners required several minutes of map checking before departing whereas experienced runners like eventual elite category winners, Steve Birkinshaw and Tom Gibbs received a map and immediately ran whilst taking bearings and making navigation decisions whilst covering ground.

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Conditions during the night on the whole were extremely favourable. It was dry and temperatures, particularly if running, were mild. Of course the wind did blow on the tops and occasionally mist and fog would move in and out making navigation difficult. A couple of teams did struggle with this and were forced to retire.

The ground was very wet from months of rain and certain sections of the Peak District had been blocked off to ensure safety.

Headlights appeared all over the mountains as different teams navigated different routes to maximise time. One thing remained a constant; as I encountered runners on the course, a smile and welcome greeting was always returned.

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A midpoint checkpoint proved to be a great central hub to see runners depart and arrive. A glowing Marmot tent providing protection for the marshall team and of course providing an additional safety shelter should runners need it.

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As the event unfolded, pre race favourites in the elite race, Steve Birkinshaw/ Tom Gibb took a very early lead and never really looked  back. Bruce Duncan/ Lucy Harris pushed them close in the early stages but as the race progressed the gap opened.

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Over the other categories:

Catherine and Ross Litherland took a convincing victory in the A category in 11:30:01

Matt Harris and James Stokes won the B category by around 18-mins in 12:43:34

Louis and Bertie Goffe won the C category by over 30-mins in 6:37:02

Ben Stansfield and Pat Bartlett won the Long Score with 345 points in 9:44:47

Joe Gillyon and Catherine Evans won the Short Score with 185 points in 7:37:24

Full results available HERE

©iancorless.com.©iancorless.com.P1100638The 2014 Marmot Dark Mountains was without doubt a great success. Marmot and SilvaUK added to the whole experience and without doubt a huge thanks was passed on to all the marshals who ensured safety for all throughout the night.

You can receive additional information from the race website HERE

Photography of the race is available HERE

Marmot Dark Mountains™ – Peak District National Park in January 2014

Image ©benwinston

Image ©benwinston

The second Marmot Dark Mountains™ mountain marathon will take place in the Peak District National Park in January 2014. Race organiser, Shane Ohly from Ourea Events, elaborated on the special allure of this area.
“The Peak District has the perfect blend of high moorland areas, challenging terrain and a wonderful sense of wilderness… especially at night. Precisely because of the superb nature of the area, we have had to negotiate over a two year period with the National Trust, National Park and other agencies to secure permission for this event. We have six different courses on offer and they all take advantage of some of the best parts of Bleaklow and Kinder Scout. It promises to a superb test of competitors’ mountain running skills.
Marmot Dark Mountain - FINAL (BLACK)
Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes place on the last weekend of January each year, and the inaugural event took place in what can only be described as diabolical weather (just have a look at the videos on the event website) but Shane Ohly knows this is all part of the attraction.
“Obviously, we would all like to have a still, cloud free and moonlit night but competitors don’t enter this event unless they are up for an epic mountain running experience and it is our job to deliver this safely without compromising on the nature of the challenge. The knowledge gained from the first event shows that with experienced and vetted competitors, you can run an event in atrocious weather and allow the competitors to make decisions about their own safety. Kenny Leitch, a competitor at the 2013 event summed it up nicely.
“What an extraordinary event! I did my first mountain marathon 24 years ago and Marmot Dark Mountains™ definitely had the worst conditions ever.”

Image ©benwinston Marmot Dark Mountains - iancorless.com

Image ©benwinston Marmot Dark Mountains – iancorless.com 

As a night mountain marathon, the event presents some unique challenges to both the competitors and the organisers. This year Ourea Events has been working in collaboration with Harvey Maps to produce a bespoke ‘high contrast’ map of the event area, which shows the contours and other map detail with greater clarity than a standard map.
With the announcement of the event area, the organisers have also released details of the planner’s optimum routes. The 2014 planner, Dave Taylor, is a very experienced fell runner and Peak District local so the competitors can expect that his optimum routes really are the quickest way to complete each of the courses.
C Course = Distance 36.3km / Height Gain 1,547m
B Course = Distance 41.1km / Height Gain 1,785m
A Course = Distance 44.4km / Height Gain 1,940m
Elite Course = Distance 55.5km / Height Gain 2,635m
Short Score = 8 hours
Long Score = 10 hours
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With the support of sponsorship from Marmot® and Silva® there is a £500 cash prize for the winning elite team at the event. This year the competition is really hotting up, with top elite runners Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near from Team Hagloffs already entered.
Tim said, “Elite mountain marathons are hard to finish let alone win; the courses are long, navigation tricky and route choices crucial. So if you take this concept, remove the half-way rest, run it overnight to make the navigation nearly impossible – and then stage it in deepest winter for good measure you have something that will stretch the best to their limit! There’s a certain type of person that enjoys a challenge this hard. See you out there!”
LINKS:
Date: 25th & 26th January 2014
Venue: Peak District National Park
Entry: £45 per person
Courses: Elite, A, B, C, Short Score and Long Score