Located 800 miles from Oslo and 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Lofoten is an archipelago in Nordland county, known as the land of the midnight sun, from the end of May to the middle of July sunset merges into sunrise, with no darkness in between. Majestic mountains, lush valleys, chalk-white beaches, seagull cries, the smell of sea and houses where you would not believe that anyone could live. It’s Lofoten in a nutshell.
Highlights are countless, especially for an enthusiastic tourist, however, as a runner, you are in an amazing position to explore. Off the beaten track you get to see the ‘real’ Lofoten that only the hardy get to see. Higravtind, 1146m is the highest peak, what Lofoten lacks in height, it more than compensates for with a plethora of mixed terrain and endless peaks connected via sea, beach, road, and trail.
The Arctic Triple isa series of races (skimo, ultra-trail and triathlon) that take place at 3 key points of the year, March week 11, June week 22, and August week 33. Created to showcase this stunning archipelago; the Ultra-Trail (and shorter races) takes place in June bringing endless days and nights of light.
Providing a perfect opportunity to sightsee while running, it comes as no surprise that the 160km, 80km, 48km, 24km and 12km races are extremely popular, 750 toed the line in 2023. In addition, there is a 160km relay competition and a 80km relay competition.
Passing through amazing scenery of mountain ridges, white beaches, green hills, and grey cliffs, the race routes are stunning and for almost the entire time, the ocean is in view. All the races conclude in Svolvær.
Reine, the classic picture postcard view of Lofoten, is a small fishing village located on the island of Moskenesøya, surrounded by towering mountains, this is where The Arctic Triple experience starts for 160km runners leaving by boat for Kirkefjord, the official start line.
Highlights come thick and fast, the peak of Kråkhammar towering the opening km’s to cp1 at Selford. The beach of Kvalvika is by far the loneliest beach in Lofoten on the way to cp2 at Fredvang. In previous editions, Unstad, Uttakleiv and Haukland beach have been part of the race route, but for 2023, changes were made to accommodate local farmers and livestock. A coastal section from Nesland to Nusjford providing rolling and at time technical trail.
Nusford, like Reine, is a picture postcard fishing village on the southern shore of the island of Flakstadøya. What follows is arguably one of the more challenging sections of the whole race route and the cp at Napp (56km) is a key aid station. The coastal trail loop of Offersøy leads eventually to Leknes, 73km covered and it is here that the 80km race starts.
Now, as the 160km route counts down to the finish in Svolvær, the respective 48km, 24km, and 12km races start. The route from Brustranda climbing up from the coastline into Grønbakkan being a highlight.
Torvdalshalsen and the 48km start leads to Vetten and some challenging terrain before climbing a steep wall of grass and a race highlight of Dalstuva ridge. Road miles follow and now, with approximately 20km’s to go, the route enters the whammy of Jordtinden, Nonstinden, Spisstinden and finally Tjeldbergtinden before finally arriving in Svolvær, exhausted!
Lofoten, on foot, is relentlessly beautiful and challenging and for 2023, even more so, with persistent rain, strong winds at time varying amounts of snow; the final section over Nonstind, Spisstind and Tjeldbergtinden providing an even greater challenge with recent snowfall, varying levels of visibility and cold temperatures.
“You run on some absolutely fantastic trail, and you are constantly surrounded by sea and lush mountains. It is a raw experience, steep mountain sides, narrow edges and 100% concentration is required. There are airy parts that offer a challenge and incredible views. Single-track, road, marshland, dense forest, mud and views to make my eyes sore – what a place Lofoten is!” – Abelone Lyng
Ultimately, Lofoten is a magical paradise that is waiting to be explored. There is so much to do and see that one trip will not be enough and it will only whet the appetite for future visits and plans.
However, if you need an introduction to this magical part of the world, signing up for one of The Arctic Triple races would be a great introduction. Of course, the 160km race provides the ultimate point-to-point immersive experience from Reine to Svolvær, for many though, this is too far and too challenging, but watch this space, new for 2024 (in addition to the 160km single-stage) the 160km race will be broken down in to four stages and offer Norway’s first multi-stage race (more info HERE), it will provide a full and immersive experience.
160km, 80km, 48km, 24km, 12km or the new stage race, running The Arctic Triple lets you experience the nature, views and atmosphere of Lofoten – there is no better way to experience any place!
The long day at Marathon des Sables. It is always feared and rightly so. Coming on day 4, bodies are already tired and depleted. This year, the challenge is 90km, the second longest long day in the races 37th year history.
The 37th edition has already been impacted by the intense heat and challenging terrain with approximately 200 withdrawals before the long day started.
With 36 hours allowed to complete the challenge, it was going to be a tough challenge for all. The race start was brought forward by 1-hour once again, 0700 instead of 0800. The top 50 staring at 1000.
Self management is key. With aid stations approximately 10km’s apart, the race can be broken down, Cp by Cp and for most, the welcome of sunset and cooler temperatures makes travelling by foot easier.
The front of the race was highly anticipated with Rachid, Mohamed and Aziz close together on the GC. But really, all eyes were on Rachid looking for a 10th victory.
The day started with Rachid pushing the pace ahead of the other contenders but no real gaps opened up, for much of the day, the trio were close together and it stayed this way all the way to the end with Mohamed finishing 1st (8:14:39), Aziz 2nd (8:14:45) and Rachid 3rd (8:14:58), the GC staying with Mohamed as leader. It’s all to fight for come the marathon stage. Mathieu Blanchard once again ran consistency securing 4th place on GC.
Update: 1400hrs 27/04
Rachid El Morabity and Aziz El Akad both failed a mandatory kit check ahead of the stage 4 start. The reason, ‘outside assistance.’ This has resulted in a 3-hour time penalty given against Rachid and Aziz and the Morocan team will be penalised.
Ragna Debats had dominated the first three stages and barring disaster, was almost guaranteed victory. But, there are no guarantees in the Sahara. The terrain brutal, the heat intense and the challenge extreme.
Ragna struggled early on, looking uncomfortable and lacking power. She started to fade and eventually she started to fall back with Maryline Nakache and Aziza El Amrany pulling away. The gaps opened and Maryline became the provisional leader on the trail.
As sunset came, Maryline and Aziza were together before Cp6, Maryline looking troubled, Aziza looking strong.
Aziza forged ahead to take a well earned stage victory in 11:44:39. Maryline is now the women’s leader of the 37th Marathon des Sables finishing stage 4 in 11:50:04. Tomomi Bitoh, Corina Sommer and Catherine (Katy) Young all moved up in the rankings. The marathon stage will be interesting!
For many, today, Thursday is a rest day, recovering from the long day. But remember, runner’s have till 1700 hours to complete the stage, another day of intense heat to fight against.
The MDS is called ‘The Toughest Race in the World,’ in 2023 it is proving to be true. The combination of distance, heat, challenging terrain, self-sufficiency and rationed water make this an ultimate challenge.
The 2023 MARATHON DES SABLES draws near and as usual, here is a preview of the coming edition. We will look at the top contenders for the male and female podiums, provide an overview of MDS history and look at some crazy statistics.
Since 1986, well over 22,000 participants have raced at the Marathon des Sables and we have record (or close to record) for 2023, with1200+/- toeing the line. As per usual, the race is multi-national with over 50 represented. The French and British providing the largest contingent.
THE TOP MEN AND WOMEN
Rachid El Morabity returns looking for his 10th victory, all eyes will be on him, but he is in for a fight! 2019 female champion, Ragna Debats returns and is without doubt the hot favourite for the top of the women’s podium.
THE WOMEN RACE
Ragna Debats dominated the race in 2019 and in recent years has become one of the top trail, ultra and skyrunner’s in the world. When in form, she is incredibly difficult to beat. In 2022 she had an incredible season with four top victories, Transgrancanaria 129km, Istria by UTMB, Montreux Trail Festival and the 100m Nice Côte d’Azur by UTMB. Ragna has had a relatively quiet start to 2023 and recently she has changed her coach of 13-years. She will be meticulously prepared for MDS 2023.
Gemma Game from the UK has been on the podium of MDS twice, 2018 and 2019, on both occasions placing 3. Gemma most definitely can win MDS but, as she will tell you, she runs for fun and MDS is an escape from a very busy and hectic life with a high-powered job and family. Is she wants to, she will be on the podium again in 2023.
Manuela Socco from Belgium is not a runner I am very aware of; however, two results stand out, victory at Cappadocia Medium Trail in 2019 and Tarawera 100km in 2020. She has also represented Belgium at the Olympic Games in the marathon distance. With a 35min 10km, a 1:16 half marathon and a 2:37 marathon, she has all the running fire power to create a stir in the Sahara.
Maryline Nakache from France has a string of top results, she often wins! However, stand-out markers come from Templiers (3rd) 90km du Mont-Blanc (3rd), CCC (5th) Transgrancanaira Advanced (1st), Tenerife Blue Trail (1st), UTMB (6th) and in 2022 alone she was never out of the top-5.
Tomomi Bitoh from Japan was 3 in the 2021 MDS and has recently participated in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. She is an incredible personality, a fierce competitor and although the podium is a possibility in 2023, I feel that she will just be outside the top ranking.
Elise DELANNOY (France) was 18th in the 2016 MDS in 38-hours. This is a long way off the pace required to podium in 2023… But a great deal has happened since then, notably a 7th place at UTMB in 2019, so, Elise cannot be ruled out of shaking up the front of the race.
Corina Sommer from Zurich recently won the Oman Desert Marathon against Aziz Raji (past MDS champ) and Aziza El Amrany who had led the race only to have Corina run two incredibly strong days and take the victory. New to trail, she placed 18th at Templiers and 3rd at Istria by UTMB for the 68km. She will need a great week to make the podium, but it’s a distinct possibility.
Jodie Moss from the UK was 8th at MDS in 2019 and has been preparing meticulously for the 2023 edition. However, recent injury issues placed the race in question, but it looks like she will be in the Sahara, hopefully in great shape.
Ester Alves won The Coastal Challenge in 2016 and placed 3rd in 2017. She also raced MDS in 2017 ￼but the race did not go to plan… In recent years, she has had time away from the sport, but last year, Ester raced Everest Trail Race which will have no doubt provided some great momentum for the Sahara.
Maria Semerjian has results going back to 2009 and without doubt, she enjoys the tough mountain courses, UTMB, Raid de la Reunion, Grand Raid Pyrenees, UTMF, and more… The distance won’t be a problem, however, the speed to make the top-5 may well be the problem.
Brunhilde Girardet recently won Trail de Cité de Pierres as a warmup for MDS. It’s her first edition, so, let’s see…
Wild card – Katie Young from the UK.
Laurence Klein returns, she has won MDS three times, with no disrespect to the Queen of the desert, there is no chance of victory in 2023, but she will no doubt bring colour to the race.
Currently, Aziz Raji and Aziza El Amrany are NOT on the start list, but I hope they do make it to the 2023 edition. It’s important that Morocco has female representation and of course, both of them have great potential for the top 5. Raji has won the race and El Amrany was 3rd in 2022.
THE MEN RACE
The men’s race is extremely notable in 2023 as Rachid El Morabity will look for a 10th victory. This will without doubt add an extra dynamic to the race, particularly after the superb tactics which played out in the 2022 edition.
Rachid El Morabity is the boss of the Sahara and the hot favourite. BUT, I believe this year will be his toughest challenge. There are multiple reasons for this… Rachid has expectation on him, this is not really an issue, he can handle that. He has raced a great deal in the past 12-months, he may be tired? The Moroccan team is probably at its weakest, especially when compared to the past ten editions, so, the support network will be less. The competition, namely Mathieu Blanchard and Aziz Yachou are a serious threat. Will Rachid win? It is very hard to bet against him, but 2023 has the potential to be the upset year.
Mohamed El Morabity is the eternal 2nd at MDS and his possibilities of victory in 2023 are zero if Rachid is in good form. The only opportunity for Mohamed is if Rachid falters and he gets the green light from his elder brother to attack. In Oman Desert Marathon earlier in the year, Mohamed took victory ahead of Rachid, don’t be fooled in to thinking Mohamed was stronger, he was gifted the win as credit for April and the 2023 MDS. Mohamed can win the race, but just as we saw in 2022, he will be the super domestique for Rachid.
Aziz Yachou is the fly in the Moroccan ointment and 1-year on, has the potential to create fireworks and upset Rachid’s dream. He was 4th in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. Last year he was worked over by the tactics of Rachid and Mohamed, he will be prepared for that this year. Little is known about his training in the early part of 2023.
Mathieu Blanchard raced MDS in 2021 and finished 5th – he was hit by the bug that swept through camp just in time for the long day. One thing is for sure, after placing 2nd at UTMB in 2022, we are looking at a different Mathieu. He raced The Coastal Challenge in February and placed 2nd, he recently summited Kilimanjaro and most recently ran a 2:22 marathon in Paris. Mathieu can win MDS and the French have put a team together to potentially make that happen. Beating the Moroccans on home soil (sand) is tough, but THIS may be the year.
David KILGORE from the USA has been top-10 at Leadville 100, and recently 7th at Tarawera 50km. On paper, he is not an MDS podium contender, but he will be in the mix for the top-5.
Erik Clavery adds more fire power to the French line-up. He was 5th at MDS in 2016 and a fierce competitor. He has raced UTMB, WSER, Eiger Ultra and even 24H championships, so, he brings something special to the MDS.
Vasily Kortytkin (Russia) comes to MDS with a history in 6H and 24H races, he has PB’s of 86.493 and 260.570 respectively. He has won some trail races in Russia in 2021 and 2022, how he performs in the Sahara is a big question.
Pierre Meslet (France) placed 9th at MDS in 2021 and returns in 2023 not only to perform to the best of his ability (top-10) but to also help the French maybe win the race and also get the team prize.
Anton Samokhvalov also from Russia has been racing trail since 2014. He has a list of solid results but nothing spectacular, in 2021 he made 10th at Transgrancanaria Advanced.
Duncan Slater from the UK lost both legs during a mission in Afghanistan, he’s back this year for another medal!
Christian Ginter, dinosaur of the desert, returns for the 35th time!
1150 runners will toe the line (1263 were registered) and the youngest runner is 16-year-old Girard Fialon (she will run with her father, Grégory) and the eldest, Henry Botha, 81!
Crazy Statistics of the MDS
“The logistics are a big headache, and we organize every detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that must be set up and dismantled every day. We need to be self-sufficient in energy, food, water, and fuel. As one of my friends says, ‘Let’s expect the worst because the best will never surprise us!’ We also benefit from the infallible support of the Royal Moroccan Army, which makes available about 25 6WD military trucks to transport all our equipment.” – Patrick Bauer
You must see Marathon des Sables to appreciate the size and scale of the event. It’s like the largest moving circus you will ever see and it’s impressive to witness.
Following statistics provided by the Marathon des Sables office:
▪ 150 volunteers to supervise the race,
▪ 450 general support staff,
▪ 120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,
▪ 300 Berber and Saharan tents,
▪ 120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,
▪ 2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,
▪ 8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,
▪ 30 buses,
▪ 4 dromedaries,
▪ 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,
▪ 5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,
▪ 14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,
▪ 15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!
A brief history of the MDS
1984: At 28 years of age, Patrick Bauer decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come into contact with a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg and containing water and food, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days. It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.
1986: The creation of the first MDS in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which has today become a must among the major adventure sport meets. The creation of a non-mechanical competition in the Moroccan sands offers adventure runners a wealth of new prospects.
1987: Creation of the MDS logo: the face of a runner covered by a keffiyeh, the eyes protected by a pair of sunglasses and the pipette from the runner’s water container clenched between the teeth.
1989: 170 competitors take the start of the race.
1991: The gulf drama puts the MDS at a disadvantage and the financial partners withdraw. Fortunately, some runners answer the call. For these competitors, the true victory lies in meeting athletes from different backgrounds and their communion in the desert around the same goal. Sport proves once again that it can bring people together and create bonds.
1992: One and the same regulation for everyone. This year sees the establishing of unexpected draconian tests, to ensure that each participant properly transports all his or her gear from one end of the course to the other. A 30-point charter is drawn up.
First participation by the Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal
1994: Arrival of the Doc Trotters at the event.
1995: 10th anniversary. Since the start, over 1,500 men and women have left their footprint and their passion in the desert. Installation of water-pump for the inhabitants of the village of Ighef n’rifi (South of Er-Rachidia) – an idea by competitor Gilles Flamant and backed by Rolland Barthes and Patrick Bauer. Its success is to be repeated.
1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.
1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.
1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.
2000: Internet appears in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.
2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.
2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.
2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.
2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There are a total of 146 retirements ultimately, which equates to double that of the previous record… Race management decides to shorten the long leg by over 10km given how tired the runners seem.
2008: The Solidarité MDS association is created. The aim: to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education, and sustainable development in Morocco.
2009: MDS is disrupted by flooding and the 1st and 6th stages are not able to take place. To avoid the flood zones, the organization is obliged to improvise new legs on a day-to-day basis. In this way, the edition goes down in legend for its 3rd leg, which is the longest ever contested: 92km of sand, loose stones, and rocks… The leg even sees the retirement of Lahcen Ahansal… At the prize giving the 2 winners admit to having competed in their hardest MDS. However, it was also the shortest: 202km.
2010: For its 25th edition, the number of participations reaches a record high of 1,013 participants. It is to be the longest MARATHON DES SABLES. It spans 250 kilometers with a course considered by former entrants to be the most difficult ever organized.
2012: A dramatic turn of events on the longest leg as the then leader in the overall standing, Rachid El Morabity (MAR) injures himself one kilometer from the finish. Medical examinations reveal a serious muscular lesion in the quadriceps. After over five years on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra secures the title.
2013: 1,027 competitors on the start line make this a new participation record. New feature: a final “Charity” stage sponsored by UNICEF and traversing the Merzouga dunes round off the race. Sportswise, Mohamad Ahansal and Megan Hicks are the champions of the 231.5km event. On a human level, all of the finishers pull off their crazy bet.
2014: 2011 winner, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity (MAR) wins the overall ranking and takes Mohamad Ahansal’s crown. In the women’s category, another American stamps her mark, Nikki Kimball. The French revelation is one Michaël Gras, 22 years of age, 8th overall and top Frenchman. A major athletics star, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj lines up to take the start of Saturday’s Unicef Charity leg.
2020: The Corona virus takes over the world.
2021: The Marathon des Sables returns but with an October edition due to the global pandemic. Celebrating 35-years, it is remembered as on one of the hottest editions and almost 50% not completing the race due to a possible Norovirus that swept through bivouac.
2022: Rapid El Morabity wins his 9th edition setting himself up for 10 in 2023. Sandstorms made for some difficult and challenging days.
Follow the race here with a daily update and selection of images. Also, follow on IG @iancorlessphotography.
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, the Balearic Island of Menorca has long been a more low-key holiday location, in contrast to its immediate neighbours of Ibiza and Mallorca. With an area on just 700 km square, Menorca is a small island full of endless beaches, pine trees, turquoise water, rugged coastline, and a winding network of trails. Mahon is the capital and Ciutadella de Menorca is the second largest centre on the opposite side of the island, both filled with narrow streets and wonderful architecture. There is a great deal to love and appreciate in Menorca.
With a highest elevation point of 358m (Monte Torro), Menorca is essentially flat. However, if you journey around the coastline, you soon realise that the rollercoaster of trails that continually take you up and down make a circumnavigation of the island, a challenge.
Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (1993) the island is a paradise for botanists, especially in spring when meadows are carpeted with wildflowers. Calm, peaceful, rest and relaxation, Menorca is, without doubt, not the party destination as associated with its nearest rivals. Culture, gastronomy, local products and produce, places of interest, Menorca is waiting to be explored.
Many ask, what is the best way to see the island of Menorca? The immediate answer, is nearly always, rent a car and go explore…
Ask a trail runner, and the answer is clear, ‘Enter Trail Menorca!’
Trail Menorca, created 10-years ago utilizes the ‘Camí De Cavalls’ GR223 route to journey around the island either in entirety (185km,) or in sections broken down as 100km, 85km, 58km, 45km, and 27km. North or south, Menorca has a great deal to offer, there is no better way to explore than by running or walking this hidden gem of the Mediterranean. As the race says, 7 adventures, 1 legend.
The Camí de Cavalls (way of the horses) according to some sources goes back to the 14th century. Named after the ‘Cavalleries’ (knights) who were charged with defending the perimeter of the island from invading forces – pirates! The 360-degree route that weaves around the island with watch towers and trenches randomly located for protection; both still in existence to this day were created by the British who marked the path to defend against the constant sieges of invaders.
In the 1990’s, after long and lengthy protests, much of the Camí de Cavalls which had been closed for decades, was once again made accessible. Finally, some of the most pristine landscape and coastline of the Mediterranean was once again available to be explored. With 185kms of marked trail, 130 bays and coves, desert like beaches, dense woodland, rugged, harsh and rocky terrain, the GR223 became a reason to journey to Menorca for an active holiday. For many, the journey takes at least one week to complete the circular route, while 10-14 days is more normal. Off limits to cars, a journey must be undertaken on foot, by bike or horse; or maybe a combination of all 3!
However, in May every year, Trail Menorca provides the opportunity to experience the Camí de Cavalls over a stunning weekend of racing. Breaking the island down in to north and south sections, runners can decide a distance and direction. The north being more rugged, exposed, and rough. The south more groomed, tranquil, and picturesque with the turquoise Mediterranean as a backdrop.
The 185km route (TMCdC) starts in Ciutadella and travels clockwise providing a full, immersive and difficult 360-degree journey. The other routes all conclude in Ciutadella but start in different areas of the island and then either travel clockwise or anti-clockwise to return to the finish.
The TMCN 100km starts at 0100am in Maó and travels north winding through rugged coastline of exposed and harsh terrain.
The TMCS 85km starts in Es Castell and weaves its way through the full length of the south coast and its incredible coves and beaches.
The PTCN 58km starts in Fornells and concludes in Ciutadella taking in the final sections of the TMCN route.
The PTCS 45km starts in Es Migjorn Gran and arguably provides the most beautiful and picturesque journey of the whole GR233 route.
Finally, the STCN 26km, which starts in La Vall provides an entry level distance travelling the final section (or opening sections, depending on direction) of the GR233. Enough to whet the appetite to return the following year and take on a longer distance.
The beauty of Trail Menorca is that you can quite easily race year-on-year and never have the same race experience as it is possible to run north or south sections over multiple distances. Perfect for those who consider the full 185km route a step too far!
Menorca may not have high mountains, but what it does have is unique and special. There is an incredible beauty and calm in Menorca. Racing is just one attraction, the opportunity to chill, relax, recuperate, and enjoy the islands gastronomy post-race makes this Balearic gem an essential to-do list location.
The 2023 edition is already close, but it is not too late to join Trail Menorca!
‘Trail Menorca Camí de Cavalls is an opportunity to discover what is hidden on this wonderful island, jewel of the Mediterranean, beyond its fantastic beaches. Running on tarmac, road, track, rocks, forest trails and depending on the race and distance, experience a night illuminated by stars. Come and immerse yourself in the beauty of Menorca.’
The ‘Queen Stage’ of The Coastal Challenge at 49km’s is for many, a highlight stage. Have no doubts though. it’s a tough one!
A rollercoaster day, the early km’s are spent boulder hopping through a river bed and then the impressive Nauyaca Waterfalls.
Fire roads, steep climbs, brutal descents and eventually a beach section arrives before several water crossings and then a very demanding road section leading to camp 3.
It may come as no surprise that Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen dominated the day. The duo battled it out foot-for-foot in an impressive display of tenacity, grit and endurance.
With less than 10km’s to go they were neck-and-neck, the final sections of road certainly would play in to the hands of Didrik.
But no, the strength of Mathieu is currently off-the-scale and he managed to apply pressure and win by 2-minutes, 4:51 to 4:53 respectively.
Dani Jung ran a solid day, with the withdrawal of Sebastian Krogvig and now Peter van der Zon, Dan’s 3rd place is secure and so he ran a smart race.
For the women, Katie Schide set the pace early on and by the waterfall she already had a huge lead. When Marianne Hogan finally arrived, all was not well, she was suffering… Marianne would eventually drop at CP2 with a sprained ankle.
This opened the door for Costa Rican, Paola Herrera to move into a strong 2nd place.Tomomi Bitoh now in 3rd.
Katie once again clinched victory with a huge margin, she just needs to now run smart for the remaining three days. Paolo is on a strong 2nd and Tomomi a secure 3rd. However, we are only halfway through TCC and the first three stages have only confirmed one thing, anything can happen!
Stage 4 tomorrow at 35.5km and with 2434m+ is considered ‘a very tough day’ by the race organisation
It was a 0330am wake-up in camp this morning with race start at 0530am. It may sound early, but trust me, the earlier hours pay dividends for everyone. Body clocks are now reset, bed between 1900-1800, wake-up 0330.
Sebastian Krogvig unfortunately succumbed to his sickness and did not finish day 1. He will rest and recovery and hopefully rejoin the race in the later stages for fun.
Mood in camp was buoyant, however, nobody was under any illusion of the severity of the TCC. The heat and humidity are one thing, but the fire roads, climbs, technical trails and long stretches of no shade a punishing.
“They say Marathon des Sables is hot, it’s nothing in comparison to this. I was in the ‘notorious’ October MDS that had intense heat, trust me, it’s hotter here!” – Mathieu Blanchard
Climbing out of camp, mountain man Dani Jung was in his element and he lead Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen. Peter van der Zon was a way back, it was obvious he was struggling… As he passed he mentioned tight hip flexors.
For the women, Marianne Hogan had a very small lead over Katie Schide. Katie looking strong, the previous night she had questioned if she should withdraw from the race as illness from previous days had returned on stage 1 making for a tough day.
Didrik and Mathieu set a relentless pace, they are very well matched. Running at this pace and in this heat and humidity, victory may well come down to the one who manages effort the best, it’s a fine line.
In the final 10km Mathieu opened a slender lead and Didrik chased. The gap remained and it was another victory for Mathieu.
Dani was 3rd, he looked relaxed and in control, he is running a smart race.
In the women’s race, Katie opened a gap on Marianne and in the final 7km that gap opened, post-race on the finish line Katie discussed her race:
“I was so happy to recover from yesterday, that was helped by cooler temperatures and a climb to start the day today… I had planned to run with Marianne but on one of the more technical sections I opened up a gap. When I eventually looked around Marianne was not there, I hope she is okay?”
Marianne was okay and finished strong with a smile looking relaxed and at ease. With 4-days to go and a long day tomorrow, there are no guarantees, the men’s and women’s races are still wide-open.
The biggest change of the day was with the 3rd place woman, Paolo Herrera. She ran an incredibly strong and consistent race to finish with a good margin over Tomomi Bitoh, this making the local Costa Rican contingent very happy.
It was an early start (0300) leaving San Jose and heading to the Pacific Coast for the stage 1 of the 2023 The Coastal Challenge starting at Del Rey beach, Quepos.
This year, the shorter Adventure category and the longer Expedition category would run different distances for stage 1. In the past, they have run the same course.
Expedition would run 41km with 1071m vertical gain and the Adventure, 32km.
Getting underway before 0800, the rewards were blessed with cooler’ temperatures for the first hour, however, cooler is all relative when on the coast, it was still hot!
Overnight, Sebastian Krogvig unfortunately had picked up some sickness, although feeling generally okay, it was clear as the stage started he was not 100%. He struggled with any pace, it was a tough day…
Didrik Hermansen though set his stall out from the start setting a strong pace. He was followed by Dani Jung, Mathieu Blanchard and Peter van der Zon.
It wasn’t long before Didrik and Mathieu broke away.
For the women, Katie Schide and Marianne Hogan ran together and behind, Tomomi Bitoh followed.
Checkpoint 1 and there was no change, the pace by Didrik and Mathieu was fast.
As the race progressed, Didrik and Mathieu took a wrong turn and lost in the region of 1.5km allowing Peter and Dani to take the lead. They chased, caught them and then once again pushed ahead in 1st and 2nd.
Peter started to struggle in the heat and Dani started to hold on to the duo. However, Mathieu found the energy to break away and take victory on stage one, closely followed by Didrik and Dani.
“Very happy, a hot day. In Canada it was -40, today 40-degrees here, that is a big change…. My body handled the waether today. It’s a big Tropical environment, wonderful trees, amazing bridge and waterfalls.”– Mathieu Blanchard
Katie and Marianne finished together, Katie looked happy to be done, she had also struggled with some illness and fought hard throughout the day.
Tomomi came in securing 3rd place, all smiles. Last year, Tomomi caught Covid one day before the race and had to miss four stages, this year, she is so happy to be back.
Faces told the story at the finish, the heat and the humidity had taken its toll, it always does on stage 1, it’s such a shock to the system without pre-acclimation, something that Marianne and Mathieu had done.
“I heard the sound of animals in the jungle, I turned to Peter and said this is incredible, ‘This is much more atmosphere than UTMB!” – Dani Jung
Trail, mountain, and ultra-running is booming and it’s clear to see. Circuits have increased, prize money has increased, ‘pro’ runner numbers have increased, and it must be accepted, with the potential rewards both financially and egotistically, there will be some tempted to dope.
Mark Kangogo at Sierre-Zinal an example. And now, Esther Chesang!
Trail running, unlike athletics, be that on the road or track, is unpredictable; tough and varied, with ups and downs, rocks, scree, and technicality, it draws comparisons to mountaineering, not road running. It’s the experience, the doing, the completing that brings the rewards. Take a marathon, on the road you may be able to complete in say 3-hours… On trail, the same distance could take, 4,5, 6-hours or even longer for the same runner. Road running rules don’t apply, a trail runner’s needs are different, except maybe for the sense of fair play, truth, and integrity.
Well, times are a changing
Look at cycling, athletics, and other financially lucrative sports. Doping has been a problem. Trail has been relatively void of positive cases. Note, I say positive cases, not void of doping. It’s fair to assume that doping has happened, but it’s impossible to confirm at what levels. The 2015 case of Gonzalo Calisto testing positive for EPO at UTMB was the writing on the wall. I wrote at length about the case and issues. Read HERE.
It was a call to awareness with the #cleansport tag being used on social media and many prominent trail runners backed up the call. It all got a little muddy with the blanket of the Quartz Program which effectively was/is as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Now, the iconic Sierre-Zinal has had to suffer and endure two positive tests for the respective male and female winners. Ridiculously, the female positive was announced January 2023! She was confirmed positive in May 2022 after a road marathon! Oh, my word, we have a long way to go.
Is now the time to act, before the sport we love heads in a southern direction? If left alone, we may not be able to turn the tide.
But how prevalent is doping in trail, mountain and ultra?
A research paper published August 2017 (HERE) stated that : ‘estimated prevalence of past-year doping was 43.6%’ (from one event) –from a survey of 2167 athletes at two sporting events. That’s an horrendous statistic. The conclusion, ‘doping appears remarkably widespread among elite athletes, and remains largely unchecked despite current biological testing.’ Now this wasn’t trail running, but, one has to maybe assume, the situation is worse than maybe we think…
Skyrunning in many ways paved the way with testing, admittedly not at all events due to cost. But at key events, World Championships for example, WADA tests were conducted. Here is a quote from 2014:
“In compliance with the WADA protocol,11 anti-doping tests were carried out across the three disciplines, which included two for EPO (Erythropoietin). The tests were based in part on arrival order and in part random which included several members of the podium in each discipline. All results were negative.”
UTMB incorporated testing in 2015 and look what happened, Gonzalo Calisto was caught.
Trail runners are effectively hippies. We are on the outside, a weird and wild bunch of adventure and adrenaline seekers who do not want to be confined by rules. This rings true for well over 90% of us, but for those at the top, the pinnacle, who are now becoming professional, this is a business. In any business, corruption can take a hold and doping steals rewards, glory, and recognition.
ITRA, IAAF, WMRA, USATF, Skyrunning and the list goes on. Is it time for trail, ultra and mountain running to be incorporated within one Global Federation where rules and regulations could be imposed? Until now, the answer has been no, the excuse being trail running would lose its freedom and spirit. Many are opposed that a ruling body should not only dictate rules but also profit from ‘our’ sport. Look at the current divisive arguments on the growth of the ‘by UTMB’ and Ironman merger, they only reflect and affirm these thoughts for some.
Do we want in-competition and out-of-competition rules that includes comprehensive random drug testing?
Pro-runner or not, at the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say that you (we) got into the sport not for rewards, glory, and money but through heart. First and foremost, we had a need for nature, adventure, freedom, and open spaces, this was the motivator, not a podium and a cheque.
Of course, rules do already exist, ‘no doping’ is a rule for all sports, mandatory kit (for some races) is a requirement, and the list goes on. But the list in many cases is left to the RD, race organization and more importantly, budget. There is no one set of rules that should be adhered to worldwide and this can be part of the problem, which is why the IOC had the Lausanne Agreement.
Is it time for this to happen?
The fear of cheating, being ‘found out’ and the ongoing disgrace, public humiliation and shame may well have served as a deterrent in trail, until now.
The IAAF finally stepped in to suppress the ever-growing problems of doping with a set of rules to help control a rising problem. The IOC then took this one step further at the Olympics with one set of codes, rules and regulations that blended all anti-doping restrictions in one with theLausanne Declaration. This was a pivotal moment and within one year, WADA (World Anti-Doping Association) was created.
WADA oversees testing of several hundred thousand athletic blood and urine samples annually: ‘…of which 1–2% test positive. Measures using the Athlete Biological Passport suggest a higher mean prevalence of about 14% positive tests. Biological testing, however, likely fails to detect many cutting-edge doping techniques, and thus the true prevalence of doping remains unknown.’ – August 2017
It was like the Lord of the Rings – One ring (rule) to rule them all.
Simple huh, WADA produce a list of banned substances. You, as an athlete, look at the banned list and DO NOT use anything that is listed.
Argh, but there is always a loophole. The wonderful TUE – Therapeutic Use Exemption. Amazing how many asthmatic runners are out there. Yes, WADA had to accept that some athletes have a legitimate medical condition that allows the use of a TUE.
The TUE has been used to gain an advantage, no question.
And what about NSAID’s? Read a report HERE about Parkrun. Running 5km is a long way from trail and ultra, but it shows a trend. Now WADA do not list these on the banned list, but, UTMB have gone one step ahead HERE.
Should we just relax? After all, if the winner of Sierre-Zinal takes drugs, it doesn’t really impact on me or you, the slow guy or gal who is out running for fun and adventure, does it?
Well yes, it impacts on the core and the ethos of the sport, the sense of fair play.
So here we are, 8-years on from Gonzalo Calisto at UTMB, a pivotal moment, and now we are once again fuelled by discussion of the two positive cases at Sierre-Zinal. Of course, there have been other positive cases in this interim period.
But the doping fire has been re-ignited.
Update, just hours after this post, Kilian Jornet posted THIS on IG.
There is much talk, opinion, and discussion, for me, it’s time to seize the momentum and move in to 2023 with some new impetus.
I had a weekend off and although I attended a race, this time it was as a client/ runner and not photographer, of course, I did take a camera….
I had been told about ICEBUG XPERIENCE multiple times by my partner Abelone and her friend, Karin. They both get excited about running, exploring and adventures almost continuously, this time though it was different… The talk was all about fun, no pressure, great camping, food, organization and an all-inclusive experience that was for all, any ability and pretty much any age!
So, I had to find out more.
Located in Bohuslän, Sweden. The Icebug Experience West Coast Trail is all based around Ramsvik Stugby & Camping on Ramsvikslandet which is the hub for the weekend. Here there is a restaurant, cabins, camping and fixed spaces for motorhomes or caravans. Located on Sotefjorden and surrounded by water, it’s the perfect location for a weekend.
“The whole purpose of Icebug Experience Bohuslän is to show that a race can be so much more than a race.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
Quite simply, Icebug have created an event that starts before the start line and goes on long after the finish line. As the name suggests, it is an ‘Xperience’ and one that I only wish I could experience more often.
Consisting of three days, Icebug Xperience offers 3 routes that can be undertaken as a run, a run/ walk or a walk. Start times are 0900, 0915 and 1100 respectively.
While a medal (wooden) is rewarded for completion at the end, the event is much more about experience and memories than results.
Day 1 – 22km 455m+
Day 2 – 30km 603m+
Day 3 – 25.6km 435m+
Start line and finish line is different each day, however, day 1 starts at the race hub and day 3 concludes at the same place, offering an excellent 360-deg journey exploring the very unique surroundings and trails this area has to offer.
Transport is included as part of the race, be this by coach or boat. It’s all seamless, perfectly organized and works with military precession.
Route marking is some of the best I have witnessed with a plethora of red/white Icebug tape strewn throughout the trails no more than 20m apart.
Each day when you cross the line you are rewarded with beverages and a stunning locally sourced vegetarian lunchbox that was exceptional.
One key element that makes this event a standout is the kids club. I cannot express how excellent this is. Starting everyday 15-minutes before race departure (either race start or travel departure) a full 3-day itinerary is available to keep little ones happy while parents run.
Look at the schedule below:
The start and the end will be at Ramsvik camping every day at the playground. There will be nine adults responsible for the Kids Camp group, who will split into four groups during some activities. Beside the lunch, the children will also be served fruit and beverages in the morning and afternoon and an ice cream surprise!
The Kids Camp will take place from early morning to 17.00, or until you pick them up upon arrival to Ramsvik.
FRIDAY 2/9 – Excursion Day at Ramsvikslandet
08:30 Welcome to Icebug Xperience-Kidscamp at Ramsvik camping: Get to know each other on the beach in the morning.
09:30 4km/3km/1,5km walk from Ramsvik to Tångevik. Back at Ramsvik beach we will have our lunch over the open fire.
14:00 Back at Ramsvik, opportunity to play beach soccer, beach volleyball and crab fishing.
17:00 Kids Camp close for today.
From 17:00 Kids Camp dinner with parents (for the children staying at Ramsvik).
SATURDAY 3/9 – Nordens Ark day
06:45 Welcome to a new day at Kids Camp, sign in at Ramsvik camping. Drop-in until 09:00.
09:30 Bus transport to the famous zoo Nordens Ark.
11:45 Lunch at the Zoo.
14:30 The bus leave Nordens Ark, back to Ramsvik for further activities at the beach.
17:00 Kids Camp close for today.
From 17:00 Kids Camp dinner with parents (for the children staying at Ramsvik).
SUNDAY 4/9 – Sailing and Kids Race day
07:30 Welcome to a new day at Kids Camp, sign in at Ramsvik camping.
09:30 We take the Zita boat from Ramsvik to Hunnebo/Sotefjorden yacht club. Our leaders are very experienced with teaching children how to sail! If your child has sailed before they will sail in an Optimist on their own. If not, they will sail in slightly bigger boats with a sailing instructor. Your child needs to have swimming skills to sail in the Optimist/boats with instructor. The smaller kids with no swimming skills can try an inflatable boat close to the shore. Please send me an e-mail if your child will not sail/take a ride in the inflatable boat. For those not sailing we will have activities on the pier. Life jacket is off course mandatory. If the weather doesn’t allow sailing, we will stay on land with other activities.
11:30 Lunch at Sotefjorden yacht club
13:00 Leaving Sotefjorden yacht club back to Ramsvik and get ready for the Kids Race!
14:00 Kids Race (1,7K same distance for all kids)
15:00 Medal ceremony
16:00 End of Kids camp for this year
It’s hard to express the insight, thought and attention to detail that Icebug and the team have put together to create such an amazing child experience that keeps everyone happy. It’s often so hard to find time for parents to run when they have children, especially run together. Here, the Icebug Experience breaks new ground and creates a template that I only wish more events would copy.
In a time when there is much talk of making events more inclusive and increasing female participation, Icebug once again break new ground.
Not racing is almost encouraged, this I love. Take the time, enjoy the terrain, enjoy the experience and if you wish run, if you’d like to mix it up, walk and run. If either of those are too much, just walk.
The weekend was very much a bonding exercise where it was easy to see how work colleagues had tempted co-workers to join them. Running clubs had put teams and groups together and most notably, the presence of women runners was extremely high.
Post-race I checked, the weekend had more female participants than men.
Think about it, why?
I think the answer is clear to see…
Age was not limiter. Speed was not important. What shall we do about the kids(?) was taken away.
Trust me, more events need to be like this.
I was a client for the Icebug Xperience, I wasn’t working as a photographer, I wasn’t given a free place to help PR. I signed up and soaked up the event.
Arriving Thursday night, we pitched our tent, a nice large three-man Nordisk that would act as our base for the weekend. For reasons of comfort and ease, Abelone and I signed up for the food package which offered buffet breakfast (superb) and dinner. A superb lunch was provided as part of the race.
Kids club was approximately 50-euros per day (+/-) and while I appreciate that this may prove costly for some, it was worth every penny. To see the kids’ bond, play and have the most amazing time put a smile on everyones face. In all honesty, I was tempted to sign up for the kid’s club and miss out on the running, the schedule was so good.
Ramsvik Stugby & Camping was the perfect hub for the weekend located 2.5-hours’ drive from Oslo or roughly 2-hours from Gothenburg. It offers something for all in a hard-to-beat archipelago idyll on the West Coast.
Our weather was wall-to-wall sunshine with warm temperatures, yes, we couldn’t have had it better, especially with the location. The was maybe even more important for the children who played on the beach, went fishing, sailed and had a day at the zoo. But trust me, many an adult jumped into the water post-run to cool off and soak in the atmosphere.
The key to any successful weekend is great organisation and the Icebug Xperience excelled. Everything was like clockwork which made everything so calm and relaxing. There was no worry if a bus would turn up, will the ferry be there? What about breakfast? Where do I drop my child? Everything was clearly communicated, and all happened at the times specified.
The routes offered a great challenge and were superbly marked with a distance marker every 2km’s and either 2 or 3 aid stations.
Day 1 started at Ramsvik race village and ended in the picturesque village of Hunnebostrand.
Day 2 started at Bohus-Malmön and the finish line was at Kungshamn. An interesting route that was split starting with 10km, a ferry (timing stopped) and then a 20km course to the finish and then a bus or boat back to Ramsvik.
Day 3 started in Smögen and concluded at the race village in Ramsvik, a special day that lets you fully experience the Ramsvik rocks.
Three special days that follow the ocean: old fisherman’s villages, heaths, canyons, and a huge amount of red-colored granite rocks. Three stages – three different Xperiences.
The process and the journey are what provides the memories for me, and while I fully appreciate racing a clock and others has its place, weekends like Icebug Xperience bring a whole new level of full absorption, not only for the runner but for the family. Nobody is left out here, everyone is looked after, everyone has their own experience and then it all comes together towards the end of the day to share the experience over dinner and whilst hanging out in your chosen accommodation.
There is much to learn from what happens here in Sweden.
The number of female participants. The planning and structure to look after children. The inclusivity of providing an experience for everyone irrespective of age, ability, or gender.
Congratulations Icebug on producing something very special.
A new VJ Sport shoe is always exciting, this time, the XTRM2, which I guess is not really a new shoe but a re-working of a VJ classic. The XTRM has been a popular shoe in the trail, fell and mountain running world for a very long time, sitting in the middle ground of the aggressive iRock and the MAXx.
The key to any VJ shoe is the outsole and the incredible grip that this outsole provides. The XTRM had 4mm lugs, the same as the MAXx but not as long as the iRock and therefore it was the ideal shoe for say skyrunning.
However, two things were often heard when fellow runners discussed the XTRM:
I just wish there was a little more cushioning.
I wish they could be just a little wider.
Well, the XTRM2 addresses both these issues and brings a couple of newer developments.
You should never judge a shoe by how it looks, and yes, some of you may love the look of the new XTRM2, I do not! Red is always great and when combined with black, superb. Look at the VJ Sport iRock HERE – now that is a nice-looking shoe! But this XTRM2 looks like someone had a little too much alcohol and dope in Hawaii and then designed the shoe. It’s a ‘me’ thing. Sorry.
Gladly, I can get past the looks because I know that a VJ Sport shoe will do all that I want and do it well.
As mentioned, the XTRM2 is designed to fit between the iRock, which is a short distance and soft-ground shoe and the MAXx which is a longer distance trail/ mountain shoe. Of course, there is now the ULTRA too. That is for the long stuff.
Quite simply, if you loved the XTRM, the XTRM2 is going to make you smile. I had no issues with the original version, however, straight out of the box I welcomed the extra cushioning and the slightly rounder, more spacious toe box.
Drop is 4mm with 10mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. For perspective, the iRock has 8/14mm and the MAXx 12/18mm.
With a reshaped last, CMEVA cushioning and a rock plate, the XTRM2 is the perfect mountain/ skyrunning shoe.
Pulling the shoe on there is a notable difference with the tongue, it is fastened on both sides. One of the issues in the previous XTRM and MAXx for that matter, was the tongue would move when running – often moving to the left or the right. This has now been addressed and in all my test runs so far, the tongue has remained in place and secure.
Fitlock is a VJ Sport secret weapon and is one of the USP’s of the VJ brand. Once you have put your foot in the shoe, as you tighten the laces, the Fitlock grabs hold of the instep/ arch and holds it tight and secure – exactly what is required in mountainous and technical terrain when you need the shoe to be precise. With the more spacious XTRM2 toe box, this new Fitlock is even more welcome. I was initially worried if I would lose some of the precise feel at the front end, not so, the Fitlock compensates.
The lacing is classic with 6 eyelets and the addition of a 7th eyelet on both sides should you require to lock lace or similar. There is reinforcement here ensuring that the laces can be pulled tight without causing any issue to the upper.
The upper is Swiss Schoeller Keprotec® which is more durable than previous incarnations of the XTRM and it is also more pliable, allowing it to fit the foot better. Look at the old XTRM HERE – I reviewed this shoe back in 2018. Notably look how different the upper is… The original XTRM had many reinforced panels on the upper with a solid extension from the toe box and heel area. It’s a major change. I wondered, by contrast, if the new XTRM2 would feel less secure and sloppy – no. Foot hold has been excellent. The upper is excellent and repels moisture, water and mud.
The heel area is slightly padded but not excessively, importantly it holds the foot and there is no slipping when climbing.
Toe protection is adequate but could maybe be a little more? Certainly, in a skyrunning scenario when rocks, boulders and hard mixed terrain will be encountered.
The outsole is a notable difference, the previous XTRM had 4mm lugs, they have now been increased to 6mm and in doing so, they now match the iRock. This is a key and notable change. For me, I would now only need an XTRM2 and MAXx (which has 4mm lugs). I do appreciate though, that the narrower and more precision fit of the iRock would be preferable for some.
The outsole pattern is newly designed to optimize grip on all terrains and with the 6mm lugs, you now have an outsole that can handle softer ground. There is little to say about the grip of the outsole, VJ have the tagline ‘bestgripontheplanet’ and it is. No outsole from any other brand matches the grip, wet or dry, of a VJ outsole. However, be warned, that grip comes from a wonderful soft and grippy superior contact – it will not last and last and if you run too much road, that longevity will be reduced greatly. You cannot have amazing outsole grip and long life.
There is a torsional rigidity in the shoe that is very noticeable when running on uneven and rocky terrain. If you have the Fitlock laced up and tight, the XTRM2 gives superb precision.
Flex and life are superb, and the propulsive phase is superb. There is a real ping behind the metatarsals when pushing off.
Weight is incredible, VJ list 250g for a UK8. My UK10 is 289g.
I am always a UK9.5 in test shoes, however, I have noticed with extended use in VJ that I have often wished I had gone a half-size larger, so, with the XTRM2 and SPARK (review to follow) I decided to go to UK10. It was a good choice; I have found that extra space welcome. So, you may want to check this when purchasing.
Fitlock and a VJ outsole and you have a perfect shoe when precision and grip are required. The XTRM2 with a new upper, a new last, more cushioning and lugs increased to 6mm, and you now have the perfect trail/mountain and skyrunning shoe for short to middle distance. There are few shoes out there that can compete with VJ when this combination of elements is required. It is highly recommended.
Are there any negatives? I found prolonged running on hard surfaces (gravel road a good example) eventually tiring, but that is no real surprise. The outsole is soft and sticky and if you use on the wrong terrain, it will not last. I really dislike the look of the shoe, which is a petty thing to say, but the ‘look’ could put some people off before ever having the chance to run in the shoe and then find out how good it is. However, I may be alone in finding the look displeasing?
Ultimately, the XTRM2 is a superb shoe with incredible fit and grip.