Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021 Summary #UTS

Josh Bakker-Dyos

Persistent rain, low cloud, poor visibility, mud, bogs, wet rocks, climbs and descents that made even the most adapted legs scream in pain, yes, that was Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021.

Missing in 2020 due to the dreaded ‘C’ word, the UTS returned in 2021 to Capel Curig as part of the Ultra Trail World Tour and supported by Hoka One One to confirm the dream of Michael Jones of Apex Running – A big UTMB style weekend of racing in the heart of Wales.

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With distances of 50km, 100km and the whopping 165km, one word was touted pretty much everywhere all weekend, brutal! And it was… A savage weekend of racing but as Michael says, ‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

Despite the rain, despite the lack of views, Wales was a stunning playground for trail running. Let’s be clear here, there is no ‘easy’ running at UTS. The 50km is a wonderfully challenging route that may well have surprised many with some of its technical challenges, particularly the climb from Ogwen up to Carnedd Dafydd, compensated for what could be then considered a ‘relatively’ easy run in to the finish via Lyn Cowlyd and Blaen-Y-Nant.

The 100km route followed the early miles of the UTS50 all the way to Pen-Y-Pass but then headed along the Miners’ Track for an extended loop to return via the Pyg Track heading off to Y Garn, a loop around Tryfan and then head up to Carnedd Dafydd via a different route to the 50km and then follow the same run in to the finish.

The 165km is well, just a monster! As expected, it created carnage amongst the competitors. It’s a relentless beasting of mind and body that passes through the whole of Snowdonia. The 100km and 50km routes all utilizing sections of this all-encompassing journey but only the 165km giving the full perspective of how beautiful and hard the Welsh mountains are. As with all races at UTS, it started and concluded in Capel Curig. Heading off to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Croesor it then picked up the 50km and 100km routes to Pen-Y-Pass. Nantmoor, Moel Hebdog, Llyn-y-Gadair and then after Yr Wyddfa it followed the Snowdon Ranger Path for an extended loop before returning via the Snowdon Massif and Pyg Track to Pen-y-Pass. From here, the 100km and 165km routes were identical all the way back to Capel Curig.

Tremayne Dill Cowdry summed it up:
“45 hours to do just over 100 miles and every minute of that was a hard slog.
Mountains, bog, wet rock, tough nav on a marked course, sleep deprivation, mist, rain and the terrain!! Very little was even runnable. I can’t imagine a 100 miler more difficult than that. Easily the hardest I’ve done and definitely the hardest in the UK. I was going ok although I would have happily dropped given the chance but my feet succumb to the permanent wet and I had to hobble the last 20-ish miles…

Stunning landscape

As with all races, someone has to cross the line first, and of course there was stunning performances all weekend. However, the real sense of achievement came firstly from toeing the line and being in with a chance of completing a journey. The second came from completing the journey. Every medal was hard earned.

Josh Bakker-Dyos

In the 165km event, Josh Bakker-Dyos lead from the start and while many expected him to blow up, so fast was his pace, he never did. He was relentless and consistent crossing the line in 28:51:43. It was easy to say, ‘he made it look easy!’ But for every other runner who crossed the 165km line, it was very clear, there was nothing easy on this route! Toby Hazelwood was less than 60-minutes behind in second, 29:45:17, another stunning run! Adam Jeffs rounded the podium with 34:09:54. Alice Sheldon and Becky Wightman were the only female finishers, 45:09:55 and 47:41:06 their hard-earned efforts stopping the clock – a brutal two nights and days out in the Welsh mountains. Only 32 completed the race.

Mark Darbyshire

The 100km route was won, but not dominated by Lakeland 100 champ, Mark Darbyshire ahead of Josh Wade and Jack Scott. Mark crossed in 14:25:47 with 14:33:36 going to second. It was 16:02:05 elapsed before the third crossed the line. Sarah Stavely (21:41:03) won the women’s race with Kajsa Holgersson and Julie Finn in second and third, 22:28:49 and 22:44:53.

Lauren Woodwiss

Harry Jones flew around the UTS 50 route and looked as strong at the finish as when he started, his 6:13:33 a stunning time. It was 6:56:54 elapsed before second place Will Simmons crossed ahead of Spencer Shaw in 7:14:53. Lauren Woodwiss, like Jones, lead from the start dictating an excellent pace over the 50km route and completed her journey in an excellent 7:54:18. Celia Waring placed second in 8:36:18 and Abelone Lyng from Norway, moved up from outside the top-10 women to eventually finish third in 8:43:16 after sprinting for the line ahead of Jenna Shail who was just 13-seconds behind.

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Abelone Lyng

As Capel Curig slowly returned to some normality on Sunday, it was easy to see that the UTS will become one of the ultimate trail running events not only in the UK but the world. It may not have all the glamour and glitz of Chamonix and the UTMB. It’s a much more grass roots event, some would say a ‘true’ trail running event. Ultimately though, Wales was the hero of the weekend offering stunning routes. This landscape combined with the vision of Michael Jones of Apex Running and a team of dedicated volunteers and supporters will make UTS a ‘one to do!’ However, if you are thinking about the 165 event? Think long hard and without doubt, train hard, it’s a beautifully brutal beast.

‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

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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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.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stages 1 and 2

The Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 got underway yesterday, Sunday August 29th from Ribes de Freser. The challenge? 240km over 7-days allowing participants to fully appreciate the beauty of the Pyrenees. 

A linear route, the journey concludes in Salardú with a 32.8km distance and 2300m+ 

Running in teams of 2 or 3 participants, the Pyrenees Stage Run arguably is a running holiday, with tough and challenging days and then relaxing post-race with a shower, bed, fresh clothes and excellent dinner each evening.

Stage 1 concluding in Queralbs after 34.3km and 2180m+ with highlights of Emprius de Pardines, Balandrau at 2585m (the highest point peak of the day), Col de Tres Pics, Coma de Vaca and finally Santuari de Núria before the drop to Queralbs. It was a successful day with all runners achieving the cut-off times. However, as always happens in any run,, injury hit forcing one runner not to make the start for day 2.

The ‘Tuna Canarias’ team of Gilberto Molina and Carmel Gonzales dictated the pace over the challenging terrain in Capçaleres del Ter I Freser Natural Park. A highlight of the day was the panoramic views from Balandrau Peak. Passing Refugio de Montaña the temptation to stop, take a cold drink and snack may well be tempting distraction but the Santuari dr Núria was waiting and then the finish.

Stage 2 started with the Cremella train journey back to the finish line of day 1 and a relatively late start of 0815. The 37,4km that lay ahead with 1700m+ was in comparison to stage 1, ‘easy’ running!

Concluding in Puigcerdà the route was almost 100% GR11 track with little technicality but some stunning views. 

Starting with a climb over the first 7km to Collet De Les Barraques, the route then dropped down to Can Fosses at 10km and the second lowest elevation point of the day. The following 12km was all about gently climbing  to Coll de la Creu de Meians at 1992m via the pretty town of Dòrria. Coll Marcer followed and then the route dropped to Vilallobent before 5km of road to the stage 2 conclusion in the capital of Cerdanya, Puigercerdà.

The race is so far it is dominated by “Tuga Canarias” team of Gilberto Molina and Carmelo Gonzalez. Jesús and Mario Delgado of the “The Sigobros Century” follow and the “The Ultrazzz” team of Wim Debbaut, Thomas Swankaert and Kurt Dhont are 3rd in the in the men’s category. 

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In the female category, Marcela Mikulecka and Petra Buresova of “Runsport Team” have a strong lead after another excellent day, followed by mother and daughter, Jeanette Rogers and Kerrianne Rogers of “Running Holidays France.” 

Finally, in the mixed category Jaroslaw and Natalia Haczyk of “BeerRunners” lead “B-Running” team Bastian Mathijssen and Birgit Van Bockxmeer are followed by Steffen Rothe i Kathrin Litterst of “Black Forest.” 

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

The event enters Andorra on Tuesday for stage 3, the longest of the race at 47km and 2600m+ The runners have 12 hours to finish the route.

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.

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 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
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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:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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RAB Mythic Ultra 180 and 360 Sleeping Bag Reviews

RAB Mythic Ultra – Great in a hammock.

RAB have produced two state of the art sleeping bags in the Mythic Ultra 180 and Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bags. Utilising the same technology, both bags offer low weight, small pack size, Hydrophobic Down and the ground-breaking TILT technology – Thermo Ionic Lining Technology. The TILT in real simple terms brings elements of an emergency space blanket incorporated into the design of the bags.

Offering best performance at weight for any comparable bag, both the 180 and 360 have been my ‘go-to’ bags since early in 2020. 

Quite simply, amazing levels of warmth for low weight.

Image ©RAB

The RAB Mythic 180 has 180g of 900+ fill power Hydrophobic down and a comfort limit of 0 degrees and a weight of 390g. It’s a perfect bag for warmer weather and any adventure when low weight, small pack size and warmth are important. Perfect for multi-day racing for Marathon des Sables or similar and, is brilliant for fastpacking adventures when travelling in a self-sufficient manner.

The RAB Mythic 360 has 360g of 900+ fill power Hydrophobic down and a comfort limit of -8 degrees and a weight of 620g. This bag utilises all the same technology of the 180 and quite simply is warmer and heavier. Just like the 180, it’s the perfect bag for racing and fastpacking adventures in colder and more challenging conditions.

Please read How To Choose A Sleeping Bag.

IN USE

Mythic Ultra 360

The recent 18-months have allowed me more time outdoors than ever before and almost weekly I have ventured outside on multi-day fastpacking adventures or overnight trips. The 360 and 180 have been on most of these trips offering low weight, small pack size and incredible warmth.

I am lucky, based in Norway, I get to fully experience the cold of winter and in summer, warm and comfortable nights.

An overnight fastpack in February and I was camping in -18 degrees on snow in a small one-man tent. The Mythic Ultra 360 with a comfort rating of -8 was not going to be enough for a cold night, however, I had planned accordingly carrying Merino base layers, down pants, and down jacket. When all combined inside the Mythic Ultra 360 I was cozy warm. This was an extreme test of the 360 and importantly, I think it’s important to understand how layering is an important element to the use of any sleeping bag. It offers incredible flexibility.

But the true test of the 360 has come on regular trips in Autumn and Spring when the temperatures are hovering around +5 to -5. In these situations, the bag has performed flawlessly providing low weight and incredible warmth all in a small package. The groundbreaking TILT really does perform and as mentioned earlier, it’s like adding a space blanket inside the bag. It’s heat reflective and therefore increases the internal warmth for minimal extra weight.

I consider the bag a game changer for its weight v performance but of course, this comes at a price. Expect to pay around £700 for this technology. 

Using 7D ripstop nylon, TILT and excellent design, the Mythic Ultra 360 has been the most comfortable bag I have ever used. One would potentially think that just 360g of down would not be enough, especially for a -8 bag, but that is where the technology kicks in and that is why the price goes up. It’s the perfect bag alpinists, adventurers, and runners.

It has boxwall construction and trapezoidal baffles which allows the down to loft reducing cold spot risk. It has an ergonomically designed collar and hood that closes in around the head and neck reducing cold getting inside the bag and therefore allowing the warm air inside the bag no opportunity to escape. An anti-snag zip guard, angled foot box and short zip are additional features.

As you would expect, internal space is compromised, after all, this helps keeps the weight down. So, this may be a consideration, it’s suitable for someone up to 6-foot tall with comfort. After that, it would come down to personal comfort and needs. Shoulder width is 27 inches, hip width 21 inches and the foot width 16 inches.

FEATURES

The bag comes with a large cotton sack so you can store without compressing the down, it is also supplied with a compression dry bag. It has a ½ length zip on the left only. The down is Hydrophobic, so, it can get wet and retain warmth, an important feature. 7D Ripstop fabric and importantly the TILT technology is a USP to boost warmth thereby facilitating lower bag weight. Tested to EN1357:2016 standards, the Mythic Ultra 360 has comfort of -2, Comfort limit of -8 and an extreme limit of -27 (but I wouldn’t want to be in that situation!)

CONCLUSION

This is a high-performance bag and state of the art. If the cost is no problem and you require small size, low weight, and warmth, the RAB Mythic Ultra 360 should be on your list. It’s an amazing bag!

Mythic Ultra 180

At £550 the 180 has all the features of the 360 above and it has the same measurements: Suitable for someone up to 6-foot tall with comfort. After that, it would come down to personal comfort and needs. Shoulder width is 27 inches, hip width 21 inches and the foot width 16 inches.

It also has all the same features including the cotton storage bag, dry bag, 7D ripstop, TILT, 900+ Hydrophobic down and same great construction.

Quite simply, the Mythic Ultra 180 is a stripped down 360 designed for warmer temperatures and thus bringing even lower weight and pack size.

At 400g, it is perfect for racing or fastpacking when temperatures at night are expected to be 0 degrees or above, as such, it’s a perfect bag for Marathon des Sables or similar multi-day adventures. It’s also ideal for Mountain Marathon events and summer alpinism.

All the pros and cons listed above for the 360 are directly transferable for the 180.

FEATURES

The bag comes with a large cotton sack so you can store without compressing the down, it is also supplied with a compression dry bag. It has a ½ length zip on the left only. The down is Hydrophobic, so, it can get wet and retain warmth, an important feature. 7D Ripstop fabric and importantly the TILT technology is a USP to boost warmth thereby facilitating lower bag weight. Tested to EN1357:2016 standards, the Mythic Ultra 180 has a comfort limit of 0 degrees.

CONCLUSION

Low weight, amazing warmth and small size, the Mythic Ultra 180 is a bag for warmer temperatures when price is no issue and features are paramount. It’s a perfect bag for racing and fastpacking adventures and the Hydrophobic down gives peace of mind in poor weather conditions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The RAB Mythic Ultra 180 and 360 bags are state of the art and work together with each other offering low weight and warmth for any adventure. I am fortunate to have both and therefore can switch between 180 or 360 based on weather conditions. However, all sleeping bags have greater flexibility when one adds layers. The 360 can be used in much colder temperatures with Merino and down layers. You could argue that this adds extra weight to the overall pack, but, if you are out in in -10 or lower, you will be carrying these layers anyway for day use.

The 180 is a lighter bag and again, adding a layer or multiple layers when inside will increase warmth. A prime example being a race like MDS, many take a very light down jacket for when sitting around, add this inside the bag and the warmth increases.

However, here in the RAB Mythic Ultra, remember the TILT works by reflecting heat, so, one would need to test and try what method provides the best warmth.

Ultimately, if you need a sleeping bag the 180 and 360 offer two great starting points and they should be a consideration.

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

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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.

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Hoka One One Torrent 2 Cotopaxi Review

It has been a long time since I slipped on a Hoka One One shoe, 2012 to be exact. Almost 10-years ago and while I could write my reasons why, it’s best to read an article I wrote called ‘Minimal, Maximal or the curious question of Drop.’

So, I have avoided Hoka One One and maximal cushioned shoes ever since.

However, when you test as many shoes as I do, I didn’t feel it correct to neglect Hoka, however, I also felt that no matter how impartial I try to be in reviews, I probably would still hark back to the pre 2012 days.

Recently though, I have been testing and loving trail shoes that somehow sit in the middle, not minimal cushioned or maximal, a nice middle ground. Currently, my shoe of the year is the adidas Speed Ultra and if I need more grip and an aggressive outsole, the VJ Sport Ultra has been great.

With this in mind, many who read my reviews suggested that I try the Torrent 2 by Hoka One One. One thing was universal in all the comments, ‘It is the least Hoka like shoe that they do.’ Ultimately, it is the least cushioned and bouncy shoe currently in the Hoka range… This may change with the new ‘Zinal!’

So, Hoka One One in Norway kindly sent me a Torrent 2 Cotopaxi to test. Cotopaxi is ‘an innovative outdoor product and experience that funds sustainable poverty relief, move people to do good, and inspire adventure.’

Cotopaxi joins brands, such as Hoka One One to ultimately ‘do good’ and they bring some unique colours and designs. The Torrent 2 celebrates the kaleidoscopic wonders of this great planet in what I think is a stunning colour way, but I fully appreciate that this may well be too much for some. I love the uniqueness, the colours, and the fact that the left shoe is different to the right.

THE SHOE

Love the colour way, it’s a winner for me.

The Torrent 2 is light, 278g from an UE44/ UK9.5.

The tongue is well padded and comfortable, the lacing excellent and additional eyelets exist should you need to lock lace or similar.

The upper is extremely durable and yet breathable using a mesh upper that utilises recycled post-consumer plastic waste to make a Unifi REPREVE yarn. Reinforcing exists to help protect the foot but there is little to no toe protection.

Heel box is padded and holds the foot well with no slippage when climbing.

The outsole is a nice middle ground trail grip that is extremely comfortable on dry trails and road but yes has enough grip when the trails become sloppy. The lugs are multi-directional which work exceptionally well and even on wet rock, the grip has been reassuringly good.

Toe box is on the wider side and allows good toe splay and comfort over longer distances. On a 1-5 scale, 1 being narrow, the Torrent 2 is a 4 for me.

Cushioning is somewhat a revelation, and, in all honesty, I expected to not like the feel or the ride. I was completely wrong. The Torrent 2 feels nothing like the Hoka’s I used pre 2012 and I understand why many say, ‘It is the least Hoka like shoe.’ The cushioning was firmer, had less roll and quite simply provides wonderful comfort over any distance. Cushioning is PROFLY.

The footprint of the shoe is wider, and this helps compensate for additional stack height reducing any inward or outward roll, and thus provides more precision and stability when the trails become more technical. The reason I defected from Hoka was I got way too much roll from the super soft cushioning and maximal nature of the shoes – note here.

IN USE

Well, I never thought I would be writing this, but, the Torrent 2 has become a real favourite shoe and has been in a regular rotation with my adidas Speed Ultra, which I love! The Hoka and adidas are in many ways similar but at the same time, very different. The adidas without doubt better on more technical terrain and excellent if not superb on the road.

The Torrent 2 is just a great everyday shoe that works on most terrain and provides comfort over short or long distance. The landing and cushioning from PROFLY is excellent and the propulsive phase are not lacking. There is a firmer feel to the Torrent 2 and I can anticipate that Hoka One One fans (who like the maximal bounce) will find this shoe maybe not to their liking. For me, it’s perfect!

A neutral shoe it allows my foot to respond to the terrain in a natural way and the shoe has great response, the 5mm drop adds to that ‘at one with the ground’ feel despite this being a more cushioned shoe with 18mm at the front and 23mm at the rear. The female version has less cushioning, 16/21 and I applaud Hoka for understanding that women need their own specific shoes, not smaller versions of the men’s shoe. Roll is present, especially when on rocky terrain, tree routes and so on, however, it’s completely manageable and within parameters I would want and expect from a shoe with more cushioning. The wider footprint goes a long way in providing more comfort and less roll. There is no rock plate in the shoe and in all honesty, I found no issues or problems. My regular trails are littered with rocks, tree roots and demanding sections. Nothing came through to impact on my foot.

On a scale of 0-100% for rigidity, I would say the Torrent comes in around the 50% mark offering reassured comfort that sits in a perfect middle ground. By contrast, the adidas Speed Ultra is considerably more flexible sitting around 75/80%.

The outsole I am assuming is ‘in-house’ but does have some resemblance to Vibram. Apparently, the outsole has been re-worked from the original Torrent and while not mega aggressive, it performs exceptionally well on most terrain but excels on dry trail. The grip works well in soft ground but if heading into muddy terrain, you will no doubt need a more aggressive outsole. Some compromise comes on wet rock.

Fit for me was excellent providing plenty of toe room and the lacing held my foot well. They are true to size.

The upper is a little hot, especially on hot days and in the wet, I found that the shoe drained well but the upper did retain some water.

CONCLUSION

Everything is personal and I love the Torrent 2, I will be clear, I didn’t expect to! I like them ultimately because they are not what I expected, and I am used to from a Hoka One One shoe. They are firmer, lower to the ground, provide adequate cushioning and allow great comfort over any distance and pretty much any terrain. They are a great everyday shoe.

If I wanted to race or move faster, I wouldn’t choose the Torrent 2. It’s a comfort shoe that allows me to relax and run over longer distances on easier run days or say when running a multi-day or fastpacking.

Hoka One One fans will like the Torrent 2 less I would imagine, I can hear the comments now, ‘They are too firm for me!’ And that is fine! What I like is that Hoka as a brand are looking beyond what made them famous (max cushioning) and understanding that many people (like me) would like what Hoka offer in a more ‘conventional’ shoe, the Torrent 2 does just that! The new Zinal looks to take that to a new level and I am keen to try them.

The collaboration with Cotopaxi is excellent providing a great colour way and some extremely positive ‘eco’ stats. Cotopaxi ties its earnings to impact by allocating 1% of annual revenues to the Cotopaxi Foundation. The foundation awards grants to outstanding nonprofit partners who are carefully selected for their track records at improving the human condition and alleviating poverty. This year alone, the foundation has awarded 34 individual grants, directly assisted 750,000 people, and donated over $400,000.

Ultimately, a great all-rounder over any distance and any terrain. It’s not a perfect shoe but there is little to complain about. It has low weight, comfort, toe splay and cushioning. Compare this to the latest Trailfly from inov-8 and we are talking chalk and cheese, I still struggle to understand how inov-8 could make such an awful shoe… But then again, some love it. Ultimately though, is the Torrent 2 as good as the adidas Speed Ultra? It’s a tough call, but the Speed Ultra would be shoe of choice. Trust me though, I have been rotating between the two and I am happy in both. The adidas gets the nod as it has more response, feels nimble, lighter and makes me want to run faster. If I compared the shoes as though cars, the Speed Ultra is nimbler and faster, say a Porsche, whereas the Torrent 2 is more a family saloon designed for comfort over the long haul, say a Toyota Rav4.

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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The Arctic Triple Ultra-Trail 2021 Results

The Arctic Triple Ultra-Trail series of races concluded in Svolvær, Lofoten today after two stunning days of racing. With distances at 12km, 24km, 48km and 80km, there is a distance for everyone! The whopping 100-mile race, that journeys the length of this stunning archipelago started with a boat ride from Reine to the races start line in Kirkefjord.

It’s difficult to some up in any meaningful words how truly spectacular this stunning part of Norway is, Lofoten has distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains, peaks, open sea, sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands.

The Arctic Triple races bring a stunning trail and road running experience that links the best of the area with a stunning journey on foot, which for the brave starts in Kirkefjord, a 100-mile journey ahead.

Travelling from the south west, the races encapsulate the entire group of islands from Moskenesøy to Austvågøy. Passing through an amazing scenery of mountain ridges, white beaches, green hills and grey cliffs – almost the entire time the ocean is in view. All the races conclude in Svolvær, next to the ocean with 80km, 48km, 24km and 12km races all taking part of the respective sections of the 100-mile route.

The 100-mile started at midday on Friday June 4th, the 80km at 0900 the following day, the 48km at 1300 and the remaining two races, 24 and 12km at 1600 and 1700. In addition, there is a 100-mile and 50-mile relay.

View the IMAGE GALLERY for The Arctic Triple.

With 24-hours of daylight, darkness was no issue for any runner to deal with and incredible wall-to-wall sunshine made the journey for all, a truly remarkable experience. The only problematic conditions arrived during the nighttime hours when a heavy mist and cooler temperatures rolled in from the sea.

A full report on the journey, the landscape and the race routes will follow in the coming days.

Race Results

100-Mile

Terje Sandness 26:36:43

Lena-Britt Johansen 31:34:16

80-km

Gaute Løset 10:20:46

Tore Bergbjørn 11:09:44

48km

Sylvia Nordskar 5:33:03

Joanes Veka Tretli 6:05:34

24km

Pavel Serov 2:28:39

Marlene Jasund 2:55:46

12km

William Fjellheim Urliksen 1:03:17

Elisabeth Brevik 1:24:49

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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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.

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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.

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