Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021 Preview

Coronavirus pretty much wiped out the 2020 racing calendar and unfortunately, UTS was a casualty at the 11th hour. Gladly, UTS returns for 2021 bigger and better than ever… Supported by Hoka One One® and now part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour, UTS is the UK’s answer to other big European ultras! Learn more about the Ultra-Trail® World Tour HERE.

Michael Jones of Apex Running Co is a runner himself, so, he has understood the need and desire to race, but also abide by government guidelines and provide a safe race – a thankless task for anyone. Michael has been positive though, always looking ahead, planning and working within government guidelines to bring a safe and stunning weekend of racing to Wales.

Three events that show Snowdonia at its best. The 50km has a 14-hour cut-off, the 100km 33-hours and the 165km a whopping 50-hour limit. Needless to say, 3 very tough events in a tough and challenging part of the world. Covering an area of 827 square miles and established in 1951, Snowdonia is the second largest National Park in the UK and home to the highest peaks in the UK outside of Scotland. From its 37 miles of beautiful beaches where you can surf, to rugged, ridge-laden mountain peaks and an array of pristine lakes inbetween: there is something to please every outdoor enthusiast here! Keen to learn a bit more about beautiful Snowdonia? A great place to start is the Snowdonia National Park Authority website HERE.

The 165km event is the main event of the weekend starting at 11am on Friday 10th September. A route that starts and finishes in Capel Curig, it’s a monster of a challenge.

The schedule for the weekend is HERE

UTS Facebook HERE

UTS Instagram HERE

UTS Twitter HERE

Each distance features 3300/6700/10,000m+ elevation gain, on predominantly technical mountain trails. This makes UTS one of, if not THE toughest Ultra-Trail® events in the world. UTS isn’t just challenging for the sake of it though. With routes that explore Snowdonia’s most scenic valleys, rugged peaks and epic landscapes, these race routes are truly the most beautiful in the UK!

Entry lists are available to view via the UTS website. While most entrants are from the UK, there is a multinational feel with Poland, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Portugal, Czech Republic, Australia, Spain, USA, Germany, Netherlands and more… listed on the start sheets.

The UTS 165 is the stand-out and flagship event offering a stunningly brutal and beautiful tour of the Snowdonia National Park. Starting in Capel Curig, the route takes in the most notable peaks of north Wales.

UTS 100 has technical trails, epic views and is a highlight tour of north Wales.

Arguably, the UTS 50 is an entry level race but still requires respect for the challenges that Wales and its mountains can bring.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 6

It was the penultimate day of the 2021 Pyrenees Stage Run, 26.6km with 1820m+ starting in Tavascan and concluding in Esterri d’Àneu.

Crossing the last part of the Pallars Sobirà region to face Vall d’Aran, past participants had enthusiastically proclaimed that this was a spectacular day, and they were correct.

The early 6km of climbing to La Pleta del Prat (1720m) were mostly on forest trails, however, from the ski station, the landscape opened up offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The highlights of the day were the lakes of Estany de Mascarida and Collada dels Tres Estanys.

The highpoint of the day coming at 2646m and with it scree slopes, rope sections and after Collada dels Tres Estanys some small chained sections.

It was a wow day, the landscape truly spectacular.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES

Pont de Graus and Unarre broke up the long 16km downhill to the finish that would sap tired legs.

Parc Naturel de L’Ailt Pirineu gave way to Parc Nacional d”Aigüestortes I Estany de Sant Maurici and the finish in Esterri d’Àneu was a welcome conclusion to a beautiful day.

Tomorrow, stage 7 will conclude the PSR and while the runners bodies will welcome the conclusion of a tough 240km journey, there is already a hint of sadness that this experience is coming to close.

The PSR is most definitely a run experience that gives an all encompassing run journey through a remarkable part of the world. Of course, there are those who will finish first, but this 7-day journey feels much more like a run than a race.

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active Wear, Garmin, Puigcerdà, Encamp (And) Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and bifree sports.

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.

Follow on:

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Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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Episode 217 – The Chamonix Tapes 5 – Robbie Simpson

Welcome to ‘The Chamonix Tapes’ an inside look at the adidas Terrex Team during the 2021 UTMB.

Starting on Tuesday August 24th and running through to Sunday August 29th, there will be a daily podcast release for your audio pleasure.
In The Chamonix Tapes 5, we speak with Robbie Simpson.

“I have always like road and I think there is a place for that… But, I am keen to move towards trail and longer distance events. That feeling of running up a mountain on a smooth or technical trail is magical.”

Show links:


Website HERE

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE  

iOS HERE

Android HERE  

Web player HERE  

Libsyn – HERE   

Tunein – HERE

Episode 212 – Beth Pascall

Episode 212 has an interview with Beth Pascall who won the iconic Western States 100-mile. The show is co-hosted by Abelone Lyng.


Talk Ultra needs your help! 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Donate HERE

NEWS

Firstly, apologies for the lack of a show recently. It’s been one of those periods when life and travel have taken over and after the rollercoaster of the last 18-months, I personally decided to go with the flow and not force anything. Abelone, who is co-hosting with me, has joined me on many and adventure recently and we have enjoyed the disconnect and trail time. We have run many miles, climbed many mountains, fastpacked, camped wild and soaked in the best of what Norway has to offer… July has been a good month to re-connect. I also started to travel again with races, a stunning trip to Lofoten for The Arctic Triple, a race in Hardanger, a four day (the UT4M) in France and just recently, the Stranda Fjord Trail race and this weekend, as the show is released, the Rondane 100.


Next week I head to Chamonix for build up to UTMB and some news on that to follow later in the show.


Scott Jurek is back on the Appalachian Trail and Speedgoat Karl is with him. Scott is once again taking on the 2190-mile journey  travelling south looking to set an FKT for the second time, he departed August 4th at 0730. Scott set the record in 2015 travelling north. Karel Sabbe holds the fastest time of 41-days, 7-hours and 39-minutes. *Update, news came in after recording that Scott had to stop after injury.


Talking of FKT’s, Timmy Olson set a new record on the Pacific Crest Trail, 51-days, 16-hours and 15-minutes for the 2653-mile journey. Supported by his family, Krista his wife heavily preganant, this journey was far more than just running. From the outside looking in, it was a truly inspirational journey. We hoe to chat with Tim soon!


Simen Holvik set a new record for the Norg Pa Langs (road) in Norway, 25-days 15-hours and 20-minutes. 


Kilian Jornet once again the legendary Sierre-Zinal for the 9th time. 31km, 200m of vert in 2:31, the dude is a GOAT. Huge shout to the UK1s Robbie Simpson in 2nd and Cesare Maestri in 3rd. Maud Mathys won the women’s race (already a 2x champ) in 2:46 ahead of Nienke Brinkman and Anais Sabre.


Tromso Skyrace was won by Therese Arvik and Lars Olaf Haaheim, the race usually has excellent competitors from outside Norway, however, the ongoing Covid restrictions impacted on an international field.


Abelone and myself were in Stranda, Norway, for the Stranda Fjord Trail Race – I focussed on the 100km but there was a 48km and 25km. This course needs to be experienced – it is stunning! Please read the race report and view the images.


TransRockies in Colorado was won by Cody Reed and Grace Staberg, the duo running the 6-day solo in 15:59 and 18:35.


Next week the build up to UTMB starts and Talk Ultra is going to be providing in-depth content, behind the scenes of the adidas Terrex Team. We are going to be discussing many subjects and although the full line up of interviews are not confirmed, you can expect chat with the team manager, in-depth chat with one of the shoe designers, emphasis on women in trail running, chats with legends of the sport and of course, chat with up and coming stars.

FKT’s? check the FKT website HERE


NEW REVIEWS


RAB Mythic Ultra Sleeping bags HERE


Hoka One One ZINAL shoe review HERE


Big Agnes Fly Creek solo tent HERE


adidas Terrex Speed Ultra long-term review HERE

OLDER ARTICLES:

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

La Sportiva CYKLON shoe review HERE listen to Episode 208 of Talk Ultra is a special show with DANIEL FEENEY and Jonathan Wyatt discussing the collaboration between BOA and La Sportiva for the new, Cyklon shoe.

La Sportiva Cyklon

INSTINCT XX20L Pack review HERE

Instinct XX 20L

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent 2 Review

La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail Review and Images.

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

12 – 24 Week Multi-Day Training Plans now available HERE

100-Mile Training Plan now available HERE

We also have several places that have become available for bespoke coaching and training plans. Like more information? 

Listen to the show here or via links:

LINKS:

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player 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.

Follow on:

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Stranda Fjord Trail Race 2021 Race Summary

Kristian Aalerud arriving at the first summit at 0500 hours.

The words epic, beautiful and brutal get used a great deal in ultra-running and I get it. For many of us, any journey can entail all those things on a personal level and that is why you toe the line…

However, here in Stranda Fjord, Møre go Romsdal, Norway, one of the most truly spectacular experiences is waiting for you to toe the line.

Missing in 2020 due the Coronavirus pandemic, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race returned with three races, 25km, 48km and the new 100km distance. The latter offering a full and immersive 360 experience of what this magical area of Norway has to offer.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY HERE

Let’s be honest, Norway as a location is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as a runner or outdoor enthusiast, the options and possibilities are endless, be that in the south or north.

Stranda, part of the Sunnmøre region, is a small place located on one of the west Norwegian fjords. Often accessed via ferry from Liabygda, it can also be accessed by road from Grodås. In proximity to Alesund, Åndalsnes, Loen and others, it’s a wonderful and magical area to explore.

No better place for sunrise!

The 25km and 48km races use much of the opening miles of the 100km route, however, after reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m they return to Stranda via Heimste BlåhornetLøfonnfjellet and Rødesthornet. The 25km then concludes in Stranda and the 48km continues for another loop summiting at Roaldshornet at 1230m and then following on to Blåfjellet and Skurdahornet before descending all the way down to the finish line. Both races are tough, challenging, and demanding and should not be underestimated. There is little easy running here, the climbing is hard, the descents can be tricky, and the terrain varies in technicality, at times harsh on the body and mind, the only easy running is in the final sections of road to the finish line. This is reflected in the winning times, Jack Kosky 6:16:21 and Sara-Rebekka Færø Linde 7:14:34 taking top honours in the 48km and Anders Haga and Anita Iversen Lilleskare winning the 25km in 2:31:01 and 3:12:17 respectively.

Øystein Røen

The main event of the weekend, the 100km race. Is for many only a dream. To say it’s tough would not do the course justice, it’s mind blowing in the challenge. Beautifully brutal as one runner said. Offering a 360 clockwise experience of this stunning area of Norway, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race 100km route is quite simply, one of the most stunning routes I have experienced.

Relentless is the only way to describe. The course does contain some areas where you can switch off and just run, but they are few and far between.  The opening miles maybe offering many a false illusion of the severity to come. The hard work starts to really kick in with approximately 20km covered at Liavarden. What follows are walls of grass, rock, scree, stone slabs, technical ridges, vertical climbing and challenging descending.

The race is truly a hands on experience.
Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting to hard.

Reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m, 23km covered, and every runner was under no illusion of the challenge ahead. The terrain rocky, slow and hard, the panoramic views at sunrise quite simple stunning. Following on to Lissje Blåhornet and a technical ridge section offered exposure and scrambling before dropping down to the valley and easier running to the aid station on the road of Dalevegen and 28km distance.

Descending Slogen

A short section of road was followed with more climbing, an out-and-back to another peak and then the Liasætra aid station.

Easy running before Slogen.

Valley running to Patchellhytta DNT cabin and then the relentless out-and-back climb to the iconic Slogen at 1564m. This climb being one of the highlights of the route offers a challenge, especially near the top when hands-on-knee climbing turns to scrambling and easy climbing.

The final push to Slogen summit.
The view from Slogen.

The summit offering a stunning panorama but there is little time to enjoy the view. Descending via the way you came, eventually you turn left in the valley and make your way to Velleseter, Brunstadsætra, Storevatnet, and then the road section that leads to the final section of the course, 80km covered.

Felix Weber approaching Roaldshornet.

The climb to summit Roaldshornet at 1230m is long, the summit at 86km and it would be easy to think it’s all downhill from here. Considering what has gone before, it’s fair to say that it is. Eventually the 100km joins with the final section of the 48km track and the run in to the finish is welcome and hard earned.

Rocks and more rocks.

Be warned, this route is tough!

Kristian Aalerud set a hard pace at the start of the race and while nobody really knew how long this 100km would take, best estimations were 17-hours for the winning time. Kristian crossed in 15:49:31. A spectacular time.

Øystein Røen for much of the day had run in 2nd place, however, Felix Weber moved ahead to take the 2nd podium spot, Øystein settling for 3rd, 17:03:12 and 17:25:38 respectively.

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race, easing in to the day and eventually taking over the lead to finish in 22:25:12. Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting too hard she slipped down the field and eventually finishing in 28:29:34 in 2nd place. They were the only two women to complete the course!

In total, 20 completed the distance reflecting the severity of the challenge. It’s also important to note that the start list was drastically reduced to ongoing restrictions from the Covid pandemic.

One thing is for sure, running 25km, 48km or 100km in this area of Norway is not easy, ask anyone who toed the line of the respective distances.

There is something truly magical here, I can only encourage and emphasise that you ‘need’ to add Strand Fjord Trail Race to your bucket list.

Beautiful and Brutal!

You will not be disappointed with the experience of racing here, BUT come prepared, you are going to earn that finish medal.

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Slogen

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.

Follow on:

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Episode 210 – Petter Engdahl

Episode 210 has an interview with Petter Engdahl and Speedgoat Karl co-hosts.


Talk Ultra needs your help! 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
Donate HERE

INTERVIEW : PETTER ENGDAHL

NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

Latest Reviews

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

La Sportiva CYKLON shoe review HERE listen to Episode 208 of Talk Ultra is a special show with DANIEL FEENEY and Jonathan Wyatt discussing the collaboration between BOA and La Sportiva for the new, Cyklon shoe.

La Sportiva Cyklon

INSTINCT XX20L Pack review HERE

Instinct XX 20L

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

12 – 24 Week Multi-Day Training Plans now available HERE

100-Mile Training Plan now available HERE

We also have several places that have become available for bespoke coaching and training plans. Like more information? 

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player 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.

Follow on:

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Hypothermia – Be Prepared!

Yading SkyRace China, 2018.

Hypothermia and Hyperthermia

They sound the same, don’t they? But don’t be confused. In the following two articles we will clearly explain the differences and do our best to inform you how to avoid it and what to do should it happen.

This article will be about Hypothermia but before we begin, lets provide an initial explanation to avoid confusion.

Hypothermia – Refers to the cooling of the human body which in severe cases can result in death.

Hyperthermia – Refers to the elevated temperature of the human body due to a failure of thermoregulation and in severe cases can result in death.

The bodies core temperature is normally around 37 deg C. When the core temperature drops, Hypothermia starts to set in. A drop of below 35 deg C signifies mild conditions whereas anything below 33 deg C is considered severe.

“Hypothermia occurs when an individual’s core body temperature decreases to a level where muscular and cerebral functions become impaired. The most common cause of this loss of body temperature is exposure to cold and/or wet conditions. When exposed to cold conditions, the body can lose heat through a variety of routes. These include conduction (contact with cold or wet objects, such as snow or wet clothing), convection (heat being carried away from the body by wind, i.e., wind chill) and evaporation (sweating and respiration). Once the body’s core temperature begins to drop, the symptoms of hypothermia will begin to appear.”

Grainger.com

Let’s be clear here, conditions on the trail, fell or mountain don’t necessarily need to be bad for Hypothermia to set in. Running and moving fast creates heat and a runner can generate a great deal of heat in a short space of time. Imagine a scenario where you are moving fast, and you have been travelling this way for say 2-hours. You are warm, no hot! You are a little fatigued, hungry, a little dehydrated and then disaster happens…. you fall and twist an ankle.

Wear the correct layers to keep warm. Protect the extremities, hands, feet and head.

Suddenly moving becomes impossible and you start to cool.

I probably don’t need to elaborate too much here as it’s very easy to see and visualize the scenario that follows.

Low blood sugar, low energy a cooling body and mild Hypothermia starts to set in. Conditions do not need to be bad or inclement for this to happen! However, bad weather only adds to the situation and can speed up any decline. Imagine the scenario where conditions are bad – rain, wind, snow, ice, windchill and so on. The Hypothermia process is then escalated and speeded up rapidly requiring much faster action from the individual who is impacted by the conditions and those around who can provide help.

As the body cools, certain things start to happen and in mountain running we always warn runners of the possible signs of Hypothermia – Mumbles Grumbles and Stumbles.

A good water poof layer with taped seams and hood is essential.

Look out for:

An inability to make decisions.

Shivering.

Confusion.

A reduction of consciousness.

Slurred words.

Unusual behavior.

In severe cases any shivering may well stop and you will see visual signs of change such as blue lips.

A space blanket is an essential item for any kit list.

ACT QUICKLY

Grainger.com
  • Speed is of the essence with Hypothermia as mild conditions can spread quickly and before you know it, they can become severe and critical quite quickly.
  • If you have additional clothing (you should have, see a post on mandatory equipment) put as many layers on as possible including hat, gloves, warm base layer and windproof. If you or the person are wet from rain, ideally you would remove wet layers and replace with dry.
  • Ideally eat sweet foods. Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol, If the victim can swallow without danger, give him/her warm, sweet liquids to drink.
  • Place warm objects and add heat/ layers next to the victim’s head, neck, chest, and groin.
  • If possible, get off the mountain or out of the bad conditions as soon as possible. If this is not possible, try to find shelter. If you are unable to move add as many layers as possible and seek assistance from the emergency services. A personal tracker such as Garmin InReach is a great addition to a mobile phone when out in remote and isolated environments.
  • Keep a potential Hypothermia case awake if you are looking after someone. If you are suffering from Hypothermia, do everything possible to avoid losing consciousness.

Of course, the above is not a comprehensive and fool-proof guide as mountain conditions and the condition of the casualty should indicate what action to take.

Do not try to evacuate a severe on unconscious casualty. Seek the services of the professionals with an emergency call.

weather.gov

All the above can be avoided with good mountain practice and skills.

The recent trend and desire to move fast and light is all well and good providing that you can move fast. However, when you can’t move fast, that is when problems arise. Personal responsibility, self-awareness and an understanding of the challenge, terrain, and weather, at minimum, requires you take stock of the situation before departing on any adventure and always think of the worst-case scenario.

Ask, ‘Do I have enough items with me should I become immobilized in bad weather and need to wait for rescue or help?’ If the answer is no, you need to reassess your equipment.

Mandatory kit should be something that you take with you on all your adventures, particularly on mountain journeys when in remote and isolated places, be that in training or racing. The more extreme the terrain, conditions or risk of adversity, the more equipment you should take.

Also remember that altitude and going high can impact in multiple ways. For example, it may be warm and sunny in the valley, but the higher you go, weather systems can change completely. For every 100m of elevation gain, temperature can drop by 0.65 (+/-) degrees. 1000m of elevation gain could see 10 degrees cooler temperatures, add wind and other inclement conditions and suddenly, without the right equipment, you are in a difficult situation. Be prepared!

Mamores VK Scotland

As a minimum carry with you: Read winter kit list.

  • A pack that can carry at least 1ltr of liquid with capacity for mandatory kit
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers to protect from the elements
  • A base layer Top and bottom) ideally merino wool.
  • A down or primaloft jacket that will retain heat/ warmth in wet conditions.
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff
  • Space Blanket
  • Liquid
  • Compass (know how to use it)
  • Map (know how to read it)
  • Whistle
  • Mobile phone
  • Spare food – energy bars or similar.

for more extreme conditions, consider the following:

  • Bivvy bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Spot tracker or similar
  • Stove such as a Jetboil
  • Dehydrated meal

The above to some of you may sound extreme, believe me, when you need the above, you will really need them, and you will be more than thankful that you have them with you. Also understand clothing, how it works, how to layer, what garments are best in what conditions. Educate yourself on the pros and cons.

Good Practice

Be prepared!

Ideally always go to the mountains or remote challenging locations with company – buddy up!

Check the weather and make a sensible decision based on you, your ability, your objectives, and skill level.

Know the route that you are taking and tell a friend or family member where you are going, when you are going and when you anticipate returning.

Have a contingency plan with options to shorten or abort a route with quick and easy escape routes.

Have a mobile phone that is charged and contains relevant contact numbers for emergency services.

Can you read a map, take a bearing or do you have a phone or GPS device that will give you a location? This will be essential when requiring help. If you can provide a grid reference you will be rescued far quicker when a rescue party that needs to search for you. what3words is a phone app for this and is better then nothing in an emergency. OS Locate possibly a better option as it provides grid reference.

Look after each other and look after others on the mountain.

Know whistle signals – six blasts every minute signifies an emergency.

Hypothermia can happen to anyone, even the most experienced runners or mountaineers. However, if you are sensible, have the necessary equipment and understand your ability and the ability of those around you, the risk of Hypothermia should be reduced greatly.

In the next article we will look at Hyperthermia.

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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

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Mandatory Kit for Ultra Trail, Ultra Running and Ultra Marathon

I was notified of the horrific incident in China over breakfast whilst on location in the mountains of Norway.

I immediately typed ‘China’ into a Google search and the headline was everywhere:

Twenty-one dead as extreme weather hits ultramarathon in China”

The Yellow River Stone Forest 100k, held at Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu Province in northwestern China was organized by the Baiyin Municipal Committee, Sports Bureau, and local branches of the Communist Party of China.

It was clear that a horrific tragedy had occurred and I, like everyone else asked, ‘How could this happen on such a huge scale?’

On the start line 172 participants toed the line, ahead 100km. Reports outlined cool and breezy conditions at the start. But by 1pm in the afternoon, conditions had changed considerably, and the race was hit by freezing rain, gale-force winds and dropping temperatures. With most participants somewhere between 20 and 32km, the weather continued to become more severe, runners were ill prepared and defenseless against the conditions resulting in the death of 21 souls, the main cause hypothermia.

‘The runners were racing along a very narrow mountain path at an altitude of about 2,000-3,000 meters.’

GT

The race was halted at 2pm after messages were sent out by emergency trackers, cell phones and some runner’s posting on social media. Search and rescue efforts were put in place and somewhere between 700 and 1200 rescuers were called in to action – the exact figures vary depending on which news outlets one uses. Using state-of-the-art technology such as drones, thermal imaging, and radar, 151 runners were eventually confirmed safe despite harsh conditions and delays due to landslides.

There has been much debate, many questions asked, and a great deal of blame fired around on all media platforms. The deaths prompted outrage in China, with many questioning the preparedness of the Baiyin Municipal Committee.

In ultra-running circles, worldwide, Twitter, Facebook and other social outlets had continuing heated debates that pointed blame, questioned mandatory kit and the overall experience level of runners, and organising team. To clarify, Jing Liang was one of the poor souls to lose his life, an experienced athlete who has raced at UTMB and Hong Kong 100, so, not a novice. And the Baiyin Municipal Committee had organized previous editions of the race without problem.

“The tragedy in China has weighed on me heavily. It could have been any of us out there pushing through with the ultrarunner mindset,” said Camille Herron. “Part of being an ultra-runner is being able to trouble shoot.”

The Global Times on May 24th published an article titled Deadly cross-country race exposes hidden yet common safety problems in China’s red-hot marathon pursuit – It was an article that did not hold back.

‘While it’s the hypothermia that directly caused their death, several insiders in China’s marathon business said the organising committee should shoulder the main responsibility for failing to provide enough organisational, tactical, rescue, and security support for the event.’

Global Times

It is only correct questions are asked, and without doubt there is much to learn here, not only by those who organise races but also for those who run them.

As many running friends have commented to me personally, ‘shit happens’ and sometimes you cannot plan for freak occurrences. After all, this is why they are called freak – An incident, especially one that is harmful, occurring under highly unusual and unlikely circumstances.’

However, the required ‘mandatory’ equipment for the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k was at best minimal – cell phone, whistle, water container, headlamp, race bib, GPS tracker, GPX file (I assume on watch or phone) and timing chip.

A jacket, trekking poles, water, energy supplies, first aid, petroleum jelly and Buff were considered ‘recommended’ but not mandatory.

Anna Cometi at Everest Trail Race, Nepal.

It’s fair to say, that even with the ‘recommended’ items, in the freak weather encountered in China, maybe the outcome would have been no different due to the severity of the storm. However, we will never know the answer to this and at best, we should all use this as a lesson to be better prepared.

Remember though, while we tend to associate danger with cold, wet, wind, altitude, snow and ice, the opposite; heat, humidity and sun can be equally as dangerous and fatal. Take for example, The London Marathon. In 2018 the race was hit with 24-degree temperatures which caused havoc; one runner died after collapsing during the race and 73 were hospitalized. Now for some, 24 degrees may be considered a warm day, however, for many British runners who trained through a UK winter, it was exceptionally hot and something they had not trained for.

While mandatory kit is useful, being specific and training for an event is equally, if not far more important than the equipment you will or not wear. An understanding of the event, the challenges it can bring, and the dangers are all part of the process.

“It is essential to adapt yourself and your equipment to your reality, to test it during training outings in various conditions and to bring everything that will be useful and necessary to you for the race.”

UTMB

The nature of an ultra-running event is to push boundaries, go to the unknown and find a new personal level. Safety, to some extent, is an illusion and to assume that because you have entered something ‘official’ does not mean that you are safe. UTMB sum it up well (and they have a great deal of experience in managing route, runners, and weather):

Choose clothing that really provides good protection in the mountains against cold, wind and snow, and therefore gives better safety and performance. In the event of an incident, your equipment must also allow you to wait for help in sufficient safety conditions.”

UTMB

The above sums it up for me, and quite simply I would summarize:

  1. Know the event.
  2. Understand yourself, your limits, and your expected time on the course.
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Prepare and plan meticulously with training that simulates the event and conditions.
  5. Don’t compromise.
  6. Imagine the worst conditions possible and then plan for them to deteriorate even more. Remember, shit can happen!

Make educated decisions about risk.

Learn about the equipment you are using, understand layering.

Act quickly and quite simply, be prepared to turnaround and understand (in advance) what exit routes and speedy options exist.

Physically prepare so that you are in the best position possible to achieve your desired goal – be realistic.

Be mentally prepared for the highs and lows and accept that YOU are ultimately responsible for your own safety.

Understand that yes, one day, you may not return from an adventure… And to clarify, there is no guarantee on what day you will die, it could be tomorrow crossing a road, next week through illness or on the top of the mountain in a race – life is a risk we manage daily.

I personally see mandatory kit implemented to protect runners from themselves. The educated, experienced, and knowledgeable know what to bring, I most certainly do, and I usually carry far more than would be required.

However, racing does change the mindset, particularly at the elite level when every gram of additional weight could be seen as a disadvantage.

Jason Schlarb in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge, mandatory kit here is liquid and electrolytes.

Good friend and elite runner, Jason Schlarb posted on May 24th, ‘This sounds like something that could happen in many, many races or in my own adventures. I know I go as light as I can in races and don’t really prepare to be able to stand around in the cold… it’s a race… I’m embarrassed it took me realizing how this could totally happen to me,’

Choosing the lightest weight clothing possible to gain a few grams is not always the best option, opting for clothing which really offers good protection in the mountains against the cold, wind, and snow, provides better security and ultimately, a better performance.

Therefore, a no compromise approach to mandatory kit levels the playing field and means that every participant should be carrying the same and therefore carrying similar (+/-) additional weight. As UTMB states, ‘All runners must have the mandatory equipment with them at all times or face a penalty.’

In addition, UTMB go one-step further and have options based around kit lists for heatwaves, cold conditions and finally bad weather scenarios. They would implement the necessary list based on weather forecasts pre-race and it is the responsibility of the runner to have all items available.

Contents for ‘winter’ conditions.

Standard UTMB kit list:

  1. Pack destined to transport obligatory equipment throughout the race.
  2. Mobile/cell phone with international roaming allowing for its use in the three countries (load into its memory the organisation’s security numbers, keep the phone on, don’t mask your number and don’t forget to leave with the battery fully charged)
  3. Personal beaker 15 cl minimum (bottles or flasks with lids are not accepted)
  4. Supply of water of 1 liter minimum
  5. 2 torches in good working order with spare cells/batteries for each torch
  6. Recommendation: 200 lumens or more for the main torch
  7. Survival blanket of 1.40m x 2m minimum
  8. Whistle
  9. Self-adhesive elasticated bandage which can serve as a bandage or strapping (minimum 100 cm x 6 cm)
  10. Food reserve, recommendation: 800kcal (2 gels + 2 energizing bars each of 65g)
  11. Jacket with hood which will withstand bad weather in the mountains and made with a waterproof* and breathable** membrane – the jacket must, imperatively, be fitted with an integrated hood or one which is attached to the jacket by the original system designed for that purpose by the manufacturer – the seams must be sealed – the jacket must not have sections of fabric which are not waterproof, but air vents fitted by the manufacturer (under-arm, in the back), since they do not damage in any obvious way the impermeability, are accepted.
  12. It is the runner’s responsibility to judge, with these criteria, if their jacket fits the regulations stated and so bad weather in the mountains, but, during a check, the judgment is made by the person in charge of the check or the steward.
  13. Long-legged trousers or race leggings OR a combination of legging and socks which cover the legs completely
  14. Cap or bandana or Buff®
  15. Additional warm second layer: a warm second layer top with long sleeves (cotton excluded) of a weight of a minimum of 180g (men’s size medium (M))
  16. OR the combination of a warm long-sleeved underwear (first or second layer, cotton exclude) of a minimum weight of 110g (men’s size medium (M)) and a durable water repellant (DWR protection) windproof jacket*
  17. The wind-proof jacket does not replace the obligatory waterproof jacket, and vice versa
  18. Hat
  19. Warm and water-proof gloves
  20. Waterproof over trousers
  21. ID – passport/ID card

You may read the above and consider the list to be an overkill. I personally do not. On considerably more than one occasion, I have encountered conditions where the above was completely required. Please don’t cut corners, technically compliant does not always equate to useful.

Read an article on ‘What goes in my Winter Pack.

Ultra-distance and mountain races are designed to push boundaries, but personal responsibility and self-awareness goes a long way. The above, without a doubt, can help should a situation turn badly, but ultimately, a good understanding of one’s ability is a great place to start. Maybe (?) to stand on certain start lines in the first place is already a bad decision.

Luis Alberto Hernando at CCC

Will Gadd, a prominent Canadian ice climber, paraglider pilot and mountain guide summed his thoughts up so well in a recent article:

‘If we go into the mountains, we are taking a larger-than-daily-life risk. The only way to totally avoid that is to not go… I’ve spent decades in the mountains and have had three serious accidents in my groups in all that time. Pretty good odds, no? But, to my guest who got hit in the arm by a rock while I was guiding her, and to my partner who I dropped a rock on, that record means very little. I also reviewed the avalanche forecasting where, the next day, an amazing woman, who was very close with my family and deeply loved by hers, died. I didn’t’t think any of those outcomes would happen, but they did. I really can’t keep us—you or me—completely safe. That’s my painfully learned truth after thousands of personal and professional days in the mountains. Days sometimes end badly, even with the best practices and motivations.’

The debate will continue and there are no simple answers, but the situation in China should be a learning curve for all and wake-up to a greater understanding for race organizations and runners. Maybe we will see more in-depth mandatory kits imposed on races worldwide? Also, maybe there will be greater vetting so that races can understand if runner has the required experience to participate.

A good friend, Graham Kelly said recently, ‘I am sitting wondering where personal responsibility, vetting and experience sits in the sport we all love. I am at best mid pack these days (more often chasing cut offs). There are races I won’t enter (that I used to enjoy) knowing the burden on race staff/volunteers could be unacceptable in my mind.’

Hillary Gerardi at Glen Coe Skyline

Vetting in races of an extreme nature, such as Glencoe Skyline already happens, ‘The organisers have an obligation to ensure that the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline® is as safe as possible, but without diminishing the nature of the challenge… The nature of the challenge is very severe and there is a risk of serious injury or death whilst participating in this event… Our route features long and sustained sections of scrambling terrain, which is roughly equivalent to moderate standard rock climbingBe under no illusions that a slip or trip on these serious sections of the route could result in death.’

In the above scenario, equipment alone is not enough, so educate, understand and asses.

I for one, like to think I am prepared for most scenarios when going out. I constantly adapt my pack and its contents for the planned adventure, terrain, anticipated conditions, and my expected time out. I also know, through bitter experience, whatever I have planned for, I can expect it all to go wrong, and I then add additional items for the ‘freak’ scenario that unfortunately our runner friends experienced at the Yellow River Stone Forest 100k. I am also never worried about turning around and going home, it can be frustrating for sure, but the trails and mountains will be there for another day.

We can try to plan for every scenario, we can educate and anticipate the worst-case scenario so that we increase not only our individual opportunity to return home but maybe those around us.

Ultimately though, shit happens, and when it does, I want to be as prepared as I possibly can be, I hope you do too.

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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INSTINCT XX 20L Multi-Day/ Stage Racing Pack – First Look

It is finally here… I have been waiting to get my hands on the INSTINCT XX 20L pack ever since I laid my eyes on it and now I have one to test.

Unprecedented in design, the XX marks a new beginning for those seeking the ideal solution for multi-day trail races, ultra-distance events or their next self-sufficient adventure.Stunning in function and versatility, the XX’s intuitive design offers easy access to key elements in the most critical conditions. Extreme function allows customization in how gear/ clothing/ food/ hydration can be carried.The XX is evolutive in volume and brings intelligent, segmented storage.

This is not a review, this is a first look and importantly I have done a video that address questions that I have asked and asked…

How much liquid will it hold?

Will it take 750ml bottles both hard and soft?

Do they have different sizes?

Is there a female version?

Over the coming days I will be testing the pack completely and I will video packing and showing capacity and features.

Below shows the pack with a typical multi-stage equipment list.

I will then do a 2-day fastpack carrying all I need, including tent, to see how the pack performs with a loaded weight of 8kg.

Below shows the pack with a typical fastpacking set up.

To show packing flexibility, the above pack is as in the Fastpacking video BUT with the tent split between one of the mesh pockets and the main compartment. All other contents remain the same, just packed differently.

Initial impressions confirm the pack has vest comfort and amazing flexibility and fit. Notably, the pack has the option to adjust in size shifting from 24L to 18L – important in a multi-day like MDS when you eat food and the need for less volume is required.

KEY FEATURES : – Large back door = instant access to main compartment and easy viewing of internal items
– Independent roll-top pocket for increased storage
– Removeable top pouch carries smaller items (first aid kit, knife, etc). A stretch mesh pocket over the top allows instant access to jacket storage or a solar battery panel

COMFORT  & PROTECTION : 
– Entirely made of Cordura© Nylon 6.6 ripstop
– 3mm perforated EVA padding in back panel
– 3D mesh shoulder straps/back panel for ideal sweat dissipation

The XX allows : 
– 2 x 750ml+ bottles/softflasks in front
– 2 XL vertical front zip pockets
– 2 zipped shoulder pockets
– 2 XL mesh front pockets
– 3 fixing options for poles (front/back)
– Ice pick on back
– Shovel fixture
– Easy backside carrying of sleeping mat or other objects (ex: tent)
– Independent 3L water bladder pocket
– X-Large 2-in-1 overlapping stretch mesh pockets on lower backside

Follow here for full review, video and photos.

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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Episode 207 – Coree Woltering

Episode 207 of Talk Ultra brings you an interview with Coree Woltering who in the last 12-months has set two FKT’s, one on the Ice Age Trail and the other on the Pinhoti Trail. Speedgoat co-hosts.


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NEWS

Check FKT website for latest updates HERE

Latest Reviews

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

ARTICLES

  1. What goes in a Winter Pack? HERE
  2. VJ Sport Xero Shoe Review HERE
  3. adidas Terrex Speed Ultra Shoe Review HERE
  4. adidias Terrex Speed PRO SG Shoe Review HERE
  5. La Sportiva VK Boa shoe review HERE
  6. Moonlight head lamp review HERE
  7. inov-8 Roclite Pro boot review HERE
  8. Review of 2020 HERE
  9. Icbebug Pytho 5 Review HERE
  10. inov-8 Mudclaw G260 Review HERE
  11. inov-8 G270 Long-Term Review HERE
  12. Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE
  13. Winter Running – Hints n Tips HERE
  14. Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review HERE
  15. The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing (updated) HERE
  16. Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket HERE
  17. First look at VJ Sport new shoe HERE
  18. adidas Terrex Two Ultra Parley shoe review HERE
  19. Exped Down Socks and Bivy Booty review HERE
  20. Coros VERTIX review HERE

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

12 – 24 Week Multi-Day Training Plans now available HERE

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We also have several places that have become available for bespoke coaching and training plans. Like more information? HERE

INTERVIEW : COREE WOLTERING

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player 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.

Follow on:

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