Philipp Reiter – new kid on the block?

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter at the finish of Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Just days before the 2013 edition of the TNF Transgrancanraia on the island of Gran Canaria, I spent several days with Ryan Sandes, Julia Bottger and Philipp Reiter. Philipp had literally just come of his skis and had hardly run for 3 months. In the 83km race he lined up against a strong field and by the time the race was over he had taken the 2nd spot on the podium behind Ryan Sandes, once again proving that his incredible 2012 was no accident.

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Julia Bottger, Philipp Reiter and Ryan Sandes in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

IC: I am joined by, ‘wonder kid’ Philipp Reiter.

PR: Hi Ian.

IC: We went out on the trails yesterday and you immediately flew off. You were like a rabbit in headlights. For the last 2-3 months you have done no running. What is it that enables you to step off skis and start running as though you have never stopped?

PR: Yes you are right. I can step of skis and run immediately. You must remember that ski mountaineering is hard work and I do plenty of ascents so I am fit. If you stay fit in all kinds of sports then it’s not such a problem. Actually, it is good to have a break. I am keen and eager to run now.

IC: I get asked a lot about how significant skiing and ski mountaineering is in the winter. For example, Emelie Forsberg, Kilian Jornet, Nuria Picas and so on all put run shoes away for the winter months. What are the real benefits that it gives your running?

PR: It’s a different movement but it’s not as different as cycling for example. We do lots of elevation and that is great for fitness. As you say a break is good, as much for the mind as the body. Maybe it’s not as different as we think.

IC: What lies ahead in 2013 for you?

PR: I have Transvulcania La Palma in May and then I have a German race to do, the Zugspitze. I will attempt the Skyrunning series but not Andorra. That is much too long for me. I will also not do UROC. I think my highlight this year will be the Transalpine. I like the west route and it will be beautiful. They have changed some stage villages so we have 3 or 4 new stages.

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter stretching his legs on an evening run in Gran Canaria copyright Ian Corless

IC: You mention Transvulcania. The 2012 edition was one of the highlights of the race year, it gad a stacked field. This year’s race again has an incredible field. In 2012 you had a difficult race at La Palma. Relatively early on you had issues with your leg but you soldiered on and still managed a top 20 finish. You crossed the line with Joe Grant. What is your mindset for 2013? You have made big improvements in the last 12 months; you must be looking forward to this year’s edition.

PR: Yes I had a big problem in 2012. I wanted to stop after 20km. I don’t know how I finished. It’s a big mystery. I have no real idea what happened. I had to sit down and I had tears. It was very unusual. But I pushed on and achieved a finish, so if I can get through the race like this then I am optimistic for 2013. Mentally I am strong. I am now sure that whatever comes my way I have the ability to push on. Also, running Transalpine in 2012 with Iker Karrera made me much stronger. I am no longer the new kid on the blog!

IC: 2012 was a year that I feel ultra running changed. I think Transvulcania was instrumental in this. The level of quality on a start line changed so many things. But I also feel the emergence of your self and Emelie Forsberg was significant. You personally had so many great results. Can you recap?

PR: I won Super Trail and I beat my own course record. I wanted to keep less than 7 hours and I did it. I then won Salomon 4 Trails and I beat Francois d’Haene and Thomas Lorblanchet. It was a great result. I won by 2 minutes over a 4-day stage race. It was incredible. In the Skyrunning ultra series I was 3rd overall against some of the best runners in the world. That was behind Kilian Jornet and Andy Symonds.

Philipp Reiter at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter at Cavalls del Vent copyright Ian Corless

Also at Cavalls del Vent I was freezing for 7 hours out of 10 but I did not give up. I gained so much mental strength. Anything is possible. You just have to force yourself to go on and not give up. But the best result was the win with Iker Karrera at Transalpine. I wasn’t prepared for Transalpine. I was actually in Chamonix to watch TNF UTMB. The course got changed and Iker decided not to run. He said “do you want to start Transalpine with me tomorrow” I said, “yes of course”. We left and drove through the night. We arrived at midnight and then had to start the next morning. We had no time to get excited.

IC: That was crazy. I remember it well. The announcement came that the course was changed and then runners like Julien Chorier pulled out and decided to run the GR20 and then I heard that Iker, who had really focused on UTMB just thought I am not running a short distance and as you say, Transalpine was the alternative. I know you are only 21, if I think back to 21, that’s a long time… I remember that I had no fear. Do you feel that is your situation? Do you think, if I am given an opportunity I am going to say yes, because what is the worse that can happen.

PR: I definitely think lets just give it a go. As you say, I am 21 years old so if it doesn’t go well I can always go back and try again.

IC: When we talk about the runners you race against and the calendar you raced last year. You personally have such great potential ahead of you. I have said many times that I think you and Emelie are the future stars of the sport. You will lead the direction of the sport. Does that put a weight on your shoulders? Salomon as a sponsor, do they put pressure on you?

Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

PR: I have no direct pressure on me from Salomon. It is more that I need to act professionally. It sort of happened without me realizing. For example, I love running, I would run anyway but I used to run and nobody would be interested but now I run and people want photographs and autographs. I need to be professional at all times. I literally could spend 2 hours each evening just answering emails. But that is the package and I accept it. I am very fortunate. I do ask myself do I really want it but then again, I guess I have no option now. I started my own website and then I think, do I really want it!

IC: Yes, we discussed this over dinner last night, the topic of social media. Yes, I am partially to blame. It’s my job to interview, chat, photograph and then distribute it. It benefits you, it benefits the races, it benefits the sponsors, and it is a complete package. But ultimately it has far more pluses than negatives. Do you ever think we will reach a point were things revert, or do you now see that your future lies in running?

PR: I would say at the moment that my studying has nothing to do with sport. I want to be a teacher of mathematics and biology. I will have training away from sport so I have options. I want to have a difference between a hobby, which is now becoming professional and my job afterwards. I post of Facebook and I write on my blog. I enjoy that. It is about me showing and sharing my experiences. I see myself as a speaker for the sport. It’s also funny. I get some great responses, I have funny comments and I love to have fun too and make the most of what I have. I like to create stories too such as running a vertical k indoors by running up and down stairs of a business premises. I like to create ideas.

The very serious Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

The very serious Philipp Reiter copyright Ian Corless

IC: You almost seem to never take your self too seriously. For example, if I point a camera at you, you pull a funny face and smile. But the other side of that is that you are also very serious and precise. You have a duality to your personality. Do you find the balance comes easy?

PR: Training you have to be strict. I think the biggest lie would be that I think it is always fun… it’s not, sometimes I really do need to motivate myself to train. I have to talk to myself some days and force myself out of the door. You have to be focused and disciplined. I have no short cuts. You must put the time in and work hard. Natural ability helps but you must work and work hard. I have my fun side and I like to balance my hard work with fun. All work with no play is no fun at all. We don’t do this sport to get rich. We do it because we love it. We would run and be in completion without the professional side, it is also about meeting people and spending time with people I like such as Ryan Sandes, Julia Bottger, Miguel Heras and Emelie Forsberg. I really remember these special moments. I have met people from all over the world. I am very lucky.

IC: You mentioned you are not in the sport for money. I think that pretty much every elite ultra runner that I have interviewed has said the same thing. You have all come into the sport because of a passion. But it is changing; several races have big prize money. For example, $10,000 first prize, will that change the sport and do you think it will become more common.

PR: I’m not sure. Money changes sport for sure. I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that.

IC: I don’t think any of us know. I guess that is why we ask the question. Certainly we don’t want running or should I say ultra running to follow cycling. That would be a disaster. I don’t think we have any issues at the moment in our sport but you do have to think of the responsibility that we all have in the sport of controlling it. For example lets say I could give you two race options. A bucket list race with no prize money and a race you don’t like but with big prize money that you have a very good chance to win. Which would you choose?

PR: (laughs) Yes, I think I would choose the race with the money. I guess it’s a sad thing but we all need money.

IC: Without doubt we need money to survive and money is not always available in our sport so it does make sense that financial demands have a decision in your race choice.

When did you get into the sport Philipp, what did you do pre 2012?

PR: I have not been trail running very long. I came from ski mountaineering background. I started when I was about 14 yrs or 15yrs old. I had seen an advert for a race near my home and I asked my parents could I take part. They said of course but that I would need to train. I wasn’t sure I wanted to train but I thought, why not, lets give it a go. I managed to perform okay in a relatively small field and then I became addicted. I enjoyed it so much. Especially going to the bakery after the training sessions, it was a good motivation. I guess it was like a bribe. A local shop owner asked me if I wanted to do the next races for them. I thought I am trained now so I carried on. I made it to the National Team very quickly. That sounds impressive but not as impressive as you may think. During the off season I decided I needed to keep fit so I hiked with my poles and then one day I saw a guy running. I thought, okay, I will try that too!

IC: What year was this?

PR: 2009.

IC: So you see someone running and I guess 2010 was your first season running, the transformation has been so quick. Particularly on a world stage. You came to prominence in 2012 but you got Salomon German sponsorship based on your German results.

PR: Yes, in 2010 it was my first year. I tool part in the Transalpine and my partner for the race was already in the Salomon team. Salomon sponsored Transalpine and they like the fact that I was so young. I even look younger than I actually I am so thy asked would I like to join the team. Wow I thought, usually I have to do the asking so of course I said yes! I got famous in Germany at Zugspitze.

IC: So you progress in Germany and then you get onto the Salomon International team with Greg Vollet as a manager. We have spoken about Greg and his vision for the sport in the past. He definitely is a driving sport in the sport at the moment. Does he have a big involvement in your progression?

PR: Yes, definitely. Greg says that we must create our own image. He helps me achieve what I want but in a very careful way. We talk about everything. I am never forced to race, I really like that.

Philipp Reiter and Andy Symonds at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

Philipp Reiter and Andy Symonds at Trofeo Kima copyright Ian Corless

IC: So with the vision of Greg, Salomon as a sponsor and age on your side; what does the future hold for you? We spoke about Kilian in the past, he is only in his mid 20’s but he feels as though he has been around for decades because he has achieved so much. Do you see your progression as similar to Kilan’s and I remember you saying at Trofeo Kima that you said you want to ne Kilian, Do you still want to be him?

PR: I want to beat him! (laughs) What he has achieved is amazing. I want to do it step by step. This year I will do my first 100k. Next year I may go longer and of course I want to run the big races like UTMB or Raid de la Reunion. I have so many options ahead of me. I am just 21 so I don’t want to do too many things too soon. I want goals for the future.

IC: You have an old head on a young body. It’s great that you are patient and looking long term. Kilian had his bucket list and it is now pretty much ticked of. Do you have a list that you are building and when that list is ticked of, do you think you will move into a new realm like Kilian with his ‘Summits’?

PR: I don’t know. I have no idea what the future holds. As long as I am enjoying it and having fun I will continue. A day just has 24 hours. I have to study, I have sport and work but I have many things I would like to do that I don’t have time for. When I have achieved my goals, for sure I will continue with sport but I also want to be a father, I want a family.

IC: Philipp it’s been a pleasure speaking to you. It’s always fun. I’d like to wish you all the very best for 2013. It’s going to be a great year ahead. I can’t wait for Transvulcania La Palma.

PR: Thank you. It has been great fun.

This is part of a new series of interviews Skyrunning ‘The Interviews’ you can also view this on th ISF website HERE

Ryan Sandes – Trans Gran Canaria

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“Howzit”

“I’m good Ryan, it’s great to finally meet up”

Ryan Sandes in Europe is quite a treat and for sure, the runners on Gran Canaria appreciate it.

Our first meeting is in a secluded mountain campsite. Ryan has arrived from South African heat so the chill in the air is noticeable by the several layers he is wearing. Our initial chat is purely a catch up about mutual friends and who is doing what. But then over dinner we discuss the season ahead and what it holds.

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We discuss the pitfalls of too much racing and too much training and Ryan explains that the end of February, beginning of March is still VERY EARLY in the season. His decision therefore to move from the 119km race and enter the 83km seems logical.

Ryan very much carves his own niche in the ultra world. Maybe the ‘isolation’ of South Africa allows him to do this? But what is for sure is that this guy nows exactly his strengths and weaknesses and knows how to maximise what he has.

“My first marathon was like teenage sex… it wasn’t pretty”

Ryan explains at a talk/ video presentation at the H10 hotel in Meloneras on the southern coast of the island. He has a great story, an ex rugby player who stopped growing and decided to move sports… He ran a marathon, it wasn’t pretty but somehow picked up the bug. He wanted a challenge and thought big! So big he chose a multi stage race in the Gobi desert.

Why did he choose it?

“Well the Gobi desert sounded like a cool place to go but to be honest, I didn’t even know where it was let alone a multi day race. But I gave myself six months, trained hard and amazed myself by winning the race”

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Quite amazing. That natural ability came through and he then went on to win all the ‘four’ desserts.

2010 4 DESERT CHAMPION AND ONLY COMPETITOR TO WIN EVERY STAGE OF EACH OF THE 4 DESERT RACES (www.4deserts.com)

Always looking for a challenge he needed to test himself against the best in the world, at the time this ‘stage’ for ultra running was America. Paced by team mate, Anna Frost, Ryan ran Leadville 100 in 2011 and won it! Suddenly the North American runners started to take notice.

Results 2011

2011 The North Face 100 Australia – 3rd

2011 The Salomon Zugspitz Ultra – 4th

2011 Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run – 1st in 3rd fastest time in history

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In 2012 all attention was focused on Ryan as he moved to the ‘Big Dance’ Western States 100. After a win at Vibram Hong Kong 100km Ultra (new record) and The North Face 100 in Australia what would Ryan do… many thought that ok, yes, he won Leadvillie and yes, no doubt he is a good runner. But this is Western Sates!

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An usually cold year at the Big Dance produced the fastest year on record with Timothy Olson setting a new bar for the 100 mile race. But pushing him all the way was Ryan. Ryan crossed the line in 2nd place also breaking the old course record set by Geoff Roes.

Results 2012

2012 Vibram Hong Kong 100km Ultra – 1st in new record

2012 The North Face 100 Australia – 1st

2012 Western States 100 Miler USA – 2nd in 2nd fastest time in history

2012 Fish River Canyon Trail – 6h 57min ( record time )

The Fish River Canyon was a personal project… a fastest known time attempt. He had tried the ‘fish’ before and as he explained at his talk;

“I looked at the distance and thought, no problem. I just wasn’t prepared for the severity of the course. It chewed me up and spat me out”

Returning to the Canyon in 2012 he put the demons to rest and as his video shows, he tamed the beast that had chewed him up.

The Beauty of the Irrational

So how will Ryan perform at Trans Gran Canaria in 2013? Well for sure, he is going to be competitive. However, he does have ‘Wonder Kid’ Philipp Reiter to race against plus plenty of other talent. Very often in these events the focus is on the ‘main’ event. At Trans Gran Canaria that is the 119km race. With Sebastien Chaigneau and Miguel Heras on the start line of the 119km, a classic race is in the making, but don’t forget the little brother, I think this year spectators and followers of ultra racing are going to get a 2 for 1 deal.

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You can see images from my photo shoot with Ryan HERE

Ryan Sandes website HERE

You can check out the race website HERE

Follow the race on Facebook HERE

Philipp Reiter – wonder kid !

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Philipp Reiter makes me laugh… he makes me laugh lots! 21 years old, the world is ahead of him and he embraces each day as though it was his last. His passion for life and running is matched by his appetite for the ‘buffet’ at our hotel. Boy can he eat!

In 2012, he emerged on the ‘world’ stage by clocking up a series of top 10 places and wins that only a fool could ignore. He won the Salaomon Four Trails ahead of Thomas Lorblanchet and Francois d’Haene. He teamed up with teammate, Iker Karrera at Trans Alpine and won. He suffered a little at Transvulcania, ran strong at Trofeo Kima and dug deep at Cavalls del Vent.

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After Trofeo Kima I asked him what his aspirations are for the future….

“I want to be the new Kilian” he replied.

Today, just before we headed out on to the beach to take the photos that you can see in the post, I questioned him again. His answer today?

“I want to beat Kilian”

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He has just spent the last two to three months ski mountaineering and this weekend he lines up at the 83km TNF Trans Gran Canaria to take on a competetive field that includes teammate, Ryan Sandes. With no running in his legs is it possible to perform over 83km on tough trail? Philipp thinks so.

On the trails yesterday, Philipp flew off like a man possessed. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t run… no small stops to ease himself in. No, not at all. He bounded and leaped down the trail as though some binding shackles had been removed.

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“When you take the skis off and run, you feel so light. It’s incredible. It’s a joy to run” said Philipp in my 30+ min interview scheduled to be aired in episode 30 of Talk Ultra on March 8th.

“The break from running freshens the mind, it’s a good thing, I love sport, I love cycling, I love going to the gym, I love variety. That is what is so exciting about what I do”

You can see the logic. Look at his peer group; Kilian Jornet, Nuria Picas, Emelie Forsberg and so on… they all turn from trails to snow in the winter months.

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This coming weekend will show us how Philipp’s form is after months of no running. But ultimately the 83km on Saturday are only small and tiny steps on what will be a very interesting 2013 season.

A full set of images from today are available HERE

You can see how Philipp gets on against Ryan Sandes and the other runners at : http://www.transgrancanaria.net

You can listen to my interview with Philipp on the next episode of Talk Ultra. It will be available for ‘free’ download on iTunes, Libsyn and talk ultra.com.

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Website – talkultra.com

TNF Trans Gran Canaria – Pre Race

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It was a cold night in the mountains… the hot temperatures on the coast at lunch had disappeared. Wrapped under four blankets and still fully dressed during the night we emerged to a glorious new day.

As the sun rose so did the temperature. It wasn’t really hot but hey, it was warm enough. A couple of hours on the trails to allow me to capture images, that is all I needed. I love the light in the mountains. It’s warm and at this time of the year the sun is low in the sky providing some strong directional light.

Gran Canaria has some incredible trails and when you put Ryan Sandes, Philipp Reiter and Trailschnittchen Julia Böttger on them and only good things can come of it.

Philipp was like a wound up cork, he literally hasn’t run for 3 months. He has been skiing. It didn’t affect him, he shot up the trail immediately and we chased. What followed was a series of memorable moments on some incredible trail. Here is a highlight but you can see all the images HERE.

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Our morning fun over we left for the coast at midday. A leisurely lunch of fresh seafood and salad with views of the beach. The break over and another short journey, we arrived at what can only be referred to as a palace. Our hotel for 2 nights, the H10. In incredible hotel.

Ryan Sandes did a talk and presented a video of his Fish River Canyon run. It was a really enlightening and informal chat… I have to say, Ryan came out with some great quotes:

“My first marathon was like a teenager having sex… It wasn’t pretty!”

“I enjoy the mental aspect of ultra trail races. Immense highs and lows. I’ve learnt lots about myself. But it’s about enjoyment. I really respect those runners that take twice as long to complete the race than I do…. But, they get better value for money!”

“Lots of foot prints on the trail, do you follow them or do you make your own?”

So as our first day draws to a close it’s time to make the most of the H10 hotel and take advantage of a wonderful dinner laid on for us by the management.

Ryan Sandes website HERE

Philipp Reiter website HERE

Julia Bottger website HERE

The TNF Tran Gran Canaria website HERE