Ian Corless – RUNNNG BEYOND Interview

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The launch of RUNNING BEYOND book has required me to do several interviews recently and some of my words and images have appeared in print. The most current edition of Outdoor Fitness has a large spread and RUNning Magazine in Portugal has a spread.

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In the coming week or so, the UK’s Like The Wind will also have a multi-page feature on RUNNING BEYOND book showing several images over 10-pages.

Like The Wind, UK

Like The Wind, UK

Several week’s ago, my good friends at Marathon Talk Podcast, Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, did me the great honour of having me as a guest on their show. I have to say, these two guys are vey much the reason that Talk Ultra Podcast started and I am ever thankful to both of them and the support.

THE INTERVIEW

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Tom: This week’s guest has been a longtime friend of Martin and myself and a longtime friend of Marathon Talk – for six and a half years now so for probably something like four years, he’s edited the audio for Marathon Talk and probably saves mine or Martin’s blushes on more than one occasion, edited out the odd rude word perhaps in there and during that time he’s also built up the amazing Talk Ultra podcast which, has gone from strength to strength to strength and he is an absolute go to for ultra-running. He is as many would say, living the dream of making his passion his career and doing a really good job of it. He’s just bringing out a book, Running Beyond, which we’ll talk about in detail. Welcome Ian.

Ian Corless: Hey Tom, thanks for having me! Feels a little weird being on this end of the microphone.

[laughter]

Tom: It’s been far too long getting you on the show and it’s nice to have the excuse of you having released your book Running Beyond – Epic Ultra Trail and Skyrunning Races. Foreword, nonetheless, by Kilian Jornet.

Ian Corless: Yes.

Tom: Tell us about the book. Before we go back and talk about this whole crazy journey you’ve been on over the last four, five, six years, tell us about the book.

Ian Corless: The book came about I suppose in a way by accident. It’s quite funny because Martin (co-host of Marathon Talk) said to me years ago, “Mate, you should do a book, you should do a book, you’ve got all these photographs you should do a book” and I did do a self-published book. But the problem with a self-published book is that you just can’t get the price of the book competitive. It just becomes ridiculous once you go to a hardback and color etc. The cost is just prohibitive. So I did a very small print run which was really for me, friends, family and a few people bought it and I used it as a giveaway to clients or potential clients and from that perspective it was a great vehicle. But then about two and a half years ago, I got approached by a publisher and they said, “We love what you do, we follow your website, we follow your photography and we think the time is right for a book”. Of course, it was music to my ears because normally you have to go hunting for a publishing contract and there they were contacting me. That was an amazing foot into the door.

The process then was deciding what that book should be and of course, because the publisher wanted to go in a certain direction, I had to adhere to some of the things that they wanted so it had to be commercially viable. They wanted it to be a coffee-table book, they wanted it to be big and utilize the photography that I had done but also it needed to incorporate my experiences going from race to race. Over the last five years six years, I’ve traveled extensively to races all over the world and basically the book is about that but it’s not an A to Z of races. It doesn’t start at A and it doesn’t finish at Z and it certainly is not a book about ‘the’ best races in the world – it’s the races that I’ve been to and experienced and, in my opinion, of what has grown my photography and my writing within the ultra-running trail and mountain world.

Tom: That’s quite an exciting thing, isn’t it? I listen to that and I think, “That’s really exciting I can’t wait to see it.” I went through a kind of process like that with a coffee table book a couple of years ago for park run, although I had no content in there of my own. I was just helping the guys do stuff but I think the guys did it really well. But for that to be your own book and your own content you must be really excited.

Ian Corless: Yes, I’ve got copies at home and it’s quite funny because the first hardback copy arrived about two months ago and you know what? I’ve not looked at it.

Tom: [laughs] You do know they spelled your name wrong on the cover, don’t you?

Ian: [laughs] I’ll be having a word with the publisher if that’s the case! I say I’ve not looked through it, I have. I’ve flipped through it. But it’s a massive chunk of my life and to actually sit down and flick through it page-by-page almost intimidates me because I won’t look at the positives, I’ll look at the negatives [laughs], and I’ll think, “Maybe I should have put that photo in” or, “Why didn’t I do this?” or, “Why didn’t I do that?” And so in a way it’s frightened me to actually sit down and look at the book now that it’s done. Because there’s nothing that I can do about it, I have to assume that myself and the publisher did a good job and now it’s left to people, yourself and the audience who are going to get it and let them decide whether we did a good job.

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Tom: You have got some rave reviews. We’ll talk about your journey in a second. We talked before we started recording about you having a huge level of respect in the ultra-running community now as a really great journalist. On your website and the promotion for this book, you’ve got Nikki Kimball, US ultra-runner saying, “Ian Corless continues to be one of the planet’s foremost journalist in the sport of ultra-marathon”. Check that out.

Ian: It’s awesome to hear that type of thing. It’s flattering and we’re talking now five six years down the line and I know one of the questions you’re going to ask me is probably how did it happen and in a way I don’t know [laughs].

Tom: Mike Wolf, “If you know Ian, it comes as no surprise… he is the most motivated, talented and insightful photographer, journalists out there.” This is amazing stuff, how did you get… so we tried to get Kilian Jornet on the show a couple of times, we’ve never managed it. He is one of those few athletes that has truly transcended their sport and in a good way just does whatever he wants. I’ve got Summits of My Life t-shirts and I’m a fan of Kilian Jornet. He has moved up to that level of being just himself. But here you are with him writing the foreword for the book?

Ian: Yes.

Tom: He’s written some really kind words, “Ian’s photographs can tell you the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race.” Tell us a little bit about Kilian, how you managed to get that for a start but also what your experiences are with him as a person and what’s he like?

Ian: I first met Kilian in 2012 at Transvulcania. That was probably the key phase of how everything started for me, when things really started to take off and I began to realize that there was an opportunity for me to convert what I was doing into a business. Prior to that, I was a photographer and always have been a photographer but I was a commercial photographer shooting advertising, food, room sets, people, all those types of things. Talk Ultra, a little bit like yourselves with Marathon Talk, came out of passion and an interest in the sport. I was competing in sports as you guys did cycling, ironman, and running. I was doing this thing that was an enhancement of my life and something that took up a massive chunk of my life but when you’re doing something you love it’s never quite work, it’s never quite hard. You always bounce it off with the fun and the bonuses.

So 2012 I was invited to Transvulcania and it was a skyrunning race and Skyrunning held its conference and it was about how the sport was going to change. They invited the world’s best runners to the race, of which Kilian was one of them and he went on to place second I believe in that race behind Dakota Jones. Of course I met him and that was the first time we chatted but it was very much like meeting somebody famous and they hold you at a distance because you’re a journalist and they’re a famous runner and that was the scenario.

Tom: He is to ultra-running what Kelly Slater is to surfing or Michael Jordan is to basketball. He is the greatest of all time. I don’t think many people would disagree with that?

Ian: No. He has elevated the sport to a completely different level. He is within the very minute world of ultra-running and trail running, he is global superstar and I’m not saying that everybody on the street would know him, but certainly people who are interested in sport will know of Kilian Jornet and in recent years because he’s extended what he’s done to more extreme adventures and recently he’s just come back from Everest.

All those things click together in him being a megastar but also that brings a lot of pressures and he does get mobbed. The equivalent is imagining walking down the high street and David Beckham comes walking out in Manchester or Liverpool… He would be mobbed and Kilian is the same, particularly in Spain. He is a little bit defensive at times but over the years, because we’ve seen each other at a great deal of races, we became friends. I have that relationship with him… I don’t phone him up every week though, you know what I mean…

Tom: Ever since he got a restraining order…

Ian: Ha! Exactly, ever since he got a restraining order but if I see him we talk, we chat, we sometimes have dinner, we’ve been out for a drink. If you’re going to write a book you might as well have the best runner in the world write the foreword. I sent him an email and I said, “Look, feel free to say no, because I appreciate you get asked a lot of times for this type of thing” but he replied back and said, “Absolutely, no problem. I’ll do it”. It’s fantastic to have Kilian’s name on the cover of the book.

Tom: It’s a lovely photo that you’ve got, the black and white portrait of him looking down. It’s stunning. Let’s go back to the beginning. You knew Martin for a long time before you knew me.

Ian: Yes.

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Tom: At first I was editing Marathon Talk around the stuff I did and then we joined forces with you to launch Talk Ultra. Then in time, you took over the editing of Marathon Talk and you still do that to this day… I do visualize you editing in something like rusty twin prop plane over some snowy peaks. You haven’t done this your whole life though?

Ian: No.

Tom: …it was a kind of a career transition. You’ve already mentioned still life photography, photographing whatever it is – a bunch of grapes in a bowl? You’ve made that transition, amazing transition. What was the inspiration or motivation for that? When, why did that happen?

Ian: It’s quite simple actually. It’s 2008. This is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s about one of those moments in my life where everything changed. Everything. In summary, without going into too much detail but I’m more than happy to go into detail if you want to, I lost my job, I got divorced, my dad died of cancer and I said, “That’s it. I’m never doing anything again that I don’t want to do”.

Tom: How old were you then in 2008?

Ian: I’m 50 this year [laughs].

Tom: Okay. What’s that, eight years ago. So you were roughly 42?

Ian: Yes. So I made this decision. That’s it, I’m never going to do anything that I don’t want to do again.

Tom: What were those things? What were you doing that you didn’t want to do?

Ian: I think it wasn’t so much things that I didn’t want to do. It was I appreciated life and I’d appreciated that I had made some real gaffs in my life. I’d made financial mistakes; I’d got obsessed in sport – I am very OCD. When I’m doing something, I’m doing it. I guess that’s why I’ve made what I’m doing now successful because I can put blinkers on and I can work 20 hours a day. That is actually what’s needed to be done in the job that I’m doing at the moment. Sleep can be a luxury. But my obsessive-compulsiveness to sport, and that was participating, I’d really ruined my marriage. I had the foresight to be able to look back and think, “You’re bit of an idiot because you were never making a living from sport. You enjoyed it, you loved it and you’ve ruined a marriage because of it!” At the time my son was 12, he was old enough to understand what was going on and old enough to have some independence. But the impact on him and the impact on me was pretty bad. I missed home terribly… Plus, in 2008 also, I decided to run eight marathons in eight days, I don’t know if you remember?

Tom: When you’re under masses of pressure and stress, that sounds like a really good thing to do; not!

Ian: No. The thing was that the eight marathons in eight days was planned the year before and it was to coincide with me doing my last ironman, which I did in Klagenfurt and I think Martin was there for that. I think Martin raced Klagenfurt 2008? I did my last Ironman then I was going to run eight marathons in eight days and the plan was to run the Cotswold path all the way from the Gloucestershire to the Thames barrier. Then on the eighth day I ran on the marathon.

A little bit like Martin’s South West Coast path jaunt, my dad was going to support me and he was going to be in a mobile home. In the months, two to three months before this venture was going to start, my dad said, “I’ve got cancer”. I went through this whole process of “No, I’m going to cancel, I’m going to do this, I’m going to that” and he said, “No. You carry on. You do this for me”.

 

I remember distinctly, it’s quite a nice story in a way, it was the third day of the 8-marathons and I was finishing in Henley-on-Thames. That night was the night that my dad was going to hospital in Liverpool to have this major cancer operation. I finished my marathon, I had a car waiting for me. I drove up to my dad’s. I took him to hospital, waited during the night while he had the cancer operation, found out that the operation had gone well. I got back in the car, drove to Henley and then ran the marathon the next day. I remember running that marathon and not remembering it. I was an emotional wreck to be honest.

I had also a lot of things going through my mind about, “This is ridiculous. Your dad is potentially dying and you’re running in a marathon”. How could I justify that? So, there was all those things and to cut a long story short, you come out of the end of all this and you’re just not the same person. My marriage very quickly fell apart, my dad got a different form of cancer which eventually killed him about four or five months later, and I lost my job in October. I started 2009 basically with no home, no marriage, my dad had gone. I had a blank canvas and so I started with the priming coat and built what I am doing now from scratch.

Tom: It’s amazing. Huge! Wow… from that point to this point, it’s hugely inspirational because you did start from scratch.

Ian: Yes.

Tom: Because there’ll be people listening to this thinking, “I want to make changes. I want to do things. How do you do it?” We all look at people, we can look at your website, iancorless.com and see loads of success and inspirational content, whatever it is, but actually those first few steps are the most important by a million miles and people never really shout about those, share those. People aren’t aware of them so no one really knows where to start. Where did you start? Take me back to beginning of 2009.

Ian: For two years it was rubbish.

[laughter]

Ian: It really was because I had no money. My mom had spent her whole life with my father and then suddenly she was alone and vulnerable. I spent four months living with my mom because she needed the support. Then there came a point where I thought I had to say, “You know what mom, I’ve got to move out because this is not helping you” and also it wasn’t helping me. For four months, five months I was in a bit of a no man’s land. I was trying to get work as a photographer. I had clients, previous clients and I was getting some work but it was peaks and troughs. Sometimes you were busy, sometimes you weren’t. At the same time, sport was an escape. Of course, I got talking with you guys, with Marathon Talk, and I was helping provide you with some interviews in those early stages. I remember setting up an interview with Scott Jurek and what have you.

Tom: Yes, I remember this, I think it was Scott Jurek or it might have been Ryan Hall that you set up first. It was one of our early really good ones where you said to me, “Why don’t you interview such and such?” and I said, “Well we don’t know him?” and you said, “Have you asked?” and I went, “No. Of course not, I’ve not asked them, what a ridiculous suggestion”.

I think you asked them and they said yes! Again, it wasn’t that you were some huge well-known star, which you are now. It was actually just you were brave and bold enough to just ask people. Which a lot of it I was too scared to do. They won’t even reply to my email I thought… You had that ability to just to make things happen?

Ian: Yes, I guess so. I look back or I try and think back why did I think that would happen? I don’t know, maybe I understood the community. I don’t know?

Tom: People put barriers up there don’t they? And you didn’t seem to see those barriers. Even me I consider myself as a relatively barrier-free kind of guy but I even found just asking them to be ridiculous.

Ian: Yes. I asked them and they said yes and then eventually I said to you guys, “You know what? I think the time is now right for an ultra-running podcast, because there’s obviously demand for this!” Then I came up with this crazy concept of doing a show that’s ridiculously long and everybody told me it was a really bad idea, it would never work but actually it has been the ‘USP’ of the show. Thank God I didn’t try and do it every week, because otherwise I’d be at a mental home or an institution [laughs]. It’s bad enough trying to get a show out every two weeks because of the amount of content that I’m trying to put in it.

Tom: I don’t know how you do that?

Ian: My audience run long and so if they’ve got a show that’s three hours, four hours long they take it on their runs, and that was always my idea. I think, if I look back, that was definitely one of the really key things with the podcast, it was making it a long show because the other podcasts that existed were normally 45-minutes to an hour. You can listen to it those shows on the bus, listen to it on the train whereas I produce this show that was long, something to listen to while running long! I think that was one of the key factors of its success.

The podcast was like Marathon Talk. It was something that I was doing outside of everything else and I was still trying to make a living. But once you start contacting these people and interviewing them, you start to realize there is another world out here. As I said, I went to Transvulcania in 2012 at the invite of Skyrunning and I realized then when I was there because of my background as a photographer, because of what I was doing with the podcast – nobody else was doing this. It was that real brainwave moment! If I write, I podcast and I photograph this world, I am completely unique.

That was the moment that I then put everything together and went headfirst into creating what I’ve now created. It was hard and it was slow and it was steady. Once you’ve done one thing good then something else good then people start to ask more and invite more or request more.

I’ve always been very respectful of the runners. It’s really easy to be a fan. A classic example is Kilian. When you see him it would be so easy to go and run over to him and say, “Hi Kilian, how are you?” because he’s Kilian. I don’t do that. If he walks into a room, I’ll wave and I’ll let him come to me. I think that’s the way that I’ve always treated the runners. I just try and treat them as ordinary people.

I also have been very, very careful in what I write and what I say and how I interview them. You’ll know that you often hear things that are not repeatable because you’re having a private conversation. I’ve seen it happen where a private conversation has ended up in print or ended up in a blog or something. That is the moment that your career is over. Once you betray that trust that you’ve built up, then your career is over. So I’ve always respected that, I’ve always respected their private space and that in turn comes back a hundred fold.

I can be at a race and I’ll be having breakfast and for example, let’s say Sage Canaday walks past and he’ll say, “We’re going for a run, do you want to come?”

“Yes, okay.” That’s a really crazy thing to do because you only last about three minutes if you go for a run with Sage. But I think that’s the important thing, that although I’m a photographer and a journalist and I’m writing and communicating about the world that they are in, I’ve broken down a barrier in that yes I’m doing that but I’m also approachable, I’m friendly, and I’m somebody that they don’t mind having around, which isn’t always the case with journalists.

Tom: In that time period, fast forward now to the end of 2016 and you’re making a successful career out of something you love. First of all, that’s not always a good thing. To make your passion your career isn’t always as rosy as it sounds and sometimes people end up… and clearly that’s not the case with you but sometimes people end up no longer liking something they loved because it’s become a job and not fun. I’m interested in your thoughts on that and I’m also interested in your thoughts, without going into too many details and confidential stuff whatever it is, interested in as a business, how that is made up? Because I know having done Marathon Talk for a long time, at best, it’s made a tiny, tiny amount of money at worst it’s cost us a load and most of the time it just about breaks even in terms of costs. It’s not some golden ticket to living in Beverly Hills. You have to do it for passion. What is the business component of your business?

Ian: I learned very early on, once you’ve hit rock bottom you don’t go buy a car, you don’t go buy another house. You keep expenses at minimum and you have fingers in fires.

Tom: Fires or pies?

Ian: Fires or pies, whichever way.

[laughter]

Ian: Is it pies? Fingers in pies, okay?

Tom: Either way [laughs].

Ian: Either way, I’m sure the audience understand. So I’ve never relied on any one particular source of income. I’ve tried to make sure that I’m doing a couple of things to cover the bills if need be. I guess this is one of the reasons why I still edit Marathon Talk. Sometimes I think to myself, “I’ve got so much on and I’ve got to edit Marathon Talk” but then again I remember when I needed Marathon Talk and so I’m reluctant to give things up. Martin said to me recently, “Mate, you need to learn to say no” [laughs], but it’s very, very difficult to say no.

Tom: Slightly rich coming from Yelling!

Ian: Yes, exactly. But you’ll appreciate this and I think most people listening out there appreciate. If you go to the office at nine o’clock and leave at five o’clock and that’s your only obligation and you get your cheque at the end of the month that’s fine, but I don’t. I’m my own boss, bank holidays they don’t exist, weekends they don’t exist. It’s all time that you work and build and like you’ve said, that is one of the negatives. It’s very, very difficult for me to take time away, to take time off because I’m always thinking and when you have a website that is about the sport that happens and changes daily, it’s like having this animal that needs feeding and you have to feed it all the time. You can’t go missing for a week and not post or write something because news has happened.

One the advantages of the world that we live in is thank goodness for the internet, Wi-Fi and mobile phones – you can actually be anywhere in the world and do the job that I do. I don’t know whether I’m answering your question in the correct way but it’s about commitment, it’s about controlling to a certain extent how you start a day and end a day. That start and that end has to be really flexible with no fixed start and no fixed end and you need to fill the time.

Tom: And mixing up podcasting, coaching, speaking, training camps, publications, race coverage…

Ian: Yes, you have to have many different things. Talk Ultra is free for the audience just as Marathon Talk is. I don’t have any sponsors for Talk Ultra and I think it’s fair to say that directly from Talk Ultra, I don’t think I’ve earned anything. But Talk Ultra is a vehicle and we had this conversation years ago about the potential to make a living from a podcast, and I think it is possible but I’d have to devote myself 100% to the podcast and I’ve always had this philosophy with the podcast that I don’t want adverts and jingles. Because I think, from a listening point of view, what would I want to listen to? I wouldn’t want a jingle every 15 minutes, because it would be like turning the TV on and watching the film on ITV and then the commercials come on. I hate it. I don’t want that for the podcast, and although I’ve had conversations with sponsors in the past or potential sponsors, that would’ve been what would have had to have happen, so I didn’t do it. That maybe is a mistake, I don’t know but Talk Ultra has become a vehicle for what I do and it’s an outlet, and it keeps me in the environment that I need to be in not only with the runners, but with the community and the audience, and that’s invaluable. That connects me with everything else I do so when I go to a race, I can get content for the podcast at a race. I can provide a service to a race in the sense that I can give them exposure. That’s all into connecting with the business side of photography and writing.

Tom: It’s amazing. We’ve had various partners on the show on Marathon Talk, and in various things I’ve done we’ve had various shows and sometimes you do think, “I’m not enjoying this component of what I do now because of x, y, or z”. Actually the more you can stay true to your principles the better… I would argue though that you will always struggle to commercialize a five-hour podcast.

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: But commercializing isn’t your primary goal. Your primary goal is to do something you really love, you really enjoy, that people you respect really love and really enjoy what you do, and then turn that into a career as opposed to the former.

Ian: I think about moments in the podcast and you said this to Martin some time ago, but I think it was a significant episode of yours. Maybe the 300th, or the 250th, or something. I remember you saying to Martin, “You know what? I’m really, really proud of what we’ve got because even if the show stopped tomorrow, we have documented an era of sport that is there for lifetime.”

I think about some of the things that I’ve got. I interviewed Kilian when he set the fastest known time to the summit of the Matterhorn – I interviewed him the day after. I think about that interview and I think, “That is gold.” That is a pure piece of gold that can be listened to at any point. I interviewed Scott Jurek and his wife, Jenny for over an hour after they set the record on the Appalachian Trail last year. I think to myself, an hour of getting into the mind of Scott, you can’t put a price on that type of thing and I think that’s why the show works. If an interview takes 90 minutes, it takes 90 minutes. Of course, I might edit it down but the point is you can go so deep and get so much information in that time that you can’t get that anywhere, and I think that’s one of the advantages of Talk Ultra, and I think that’s why the audience like it.

Tom: I’m absolutely sure you’re right. It’s so rare to get good quality, in-depth content about people. So much of what we do now is snippets, and 30 seconds here, and as much as I love BBC and so on, it’s very rare you get in-depth with one person, and maybe on multiple occasions. Some of my proudest moments, the things I can share is the interview with Chris Chataway, or Martin’s show with Sammy Wanjiru, people who aren’t with us anymore. In that form, that’s documented not only just for a lifetime but forever, that’s out there digitally as in-depth stuff. When you look at that whole journey you’ve been on in for the last six, seven years, what are some of the highlights? Tell me about a couple of the moments… When you look back, there must have been some moments where you just had to pinch yourself and say, “I can’t quite believe I’m stood here doing this.”

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Ian: To be honest, and this is going to sound quite corny but it happens almost every month and sometimes it happens every week. I never take what I do for granted and I look at the amount of time that I’ve spent on the road in one year, and the places that I’ve been. This is going to sound like name-dropping and I guess it is name-dropping but this year alone, I’ll have been to Costa Rica rainforest, the Sahara, Nepal, to Everest, South Africa, Australia, and I just think… you said at the beginning of the show that you’re living the dream, and yes. I’m sorry, but I do actually think that sometimes I am living the dream. But it’s not easy and there’s a big price to pay for that. I’m in a relationship and that makes a relationship very, very hard when you spend so much time on the road.

But key moments, I remember 2012, when all this started. There’s a mountain race in Italy called, Trofeo Kima, it’s one of the ultimate races. It takes place at high altitude, 3,000 meters, the course is ice, glaciers, rocks, via Ferrata. It’s just the most extreme race. I turned up at this race and I thought, “How on earth am I going to cover this race?” It’s 50 odd kilometers. Kilian can win the race in six and a half hours. How am I going to get around? They said, “Here’s a helicopter” and basically I just leapfrogged the course in a helicopter. The helicopter couldn’t land so we had to hover above the mountains and I had to climb out of this helicopter while it’s hovering, and then I’d have to run on the course, take photographs, run back, get on the helicopter, move to the next place. That was a real pinch moment. Marathon des Sables with Sir Ranulph Fiennes – daily going in to see him in the morning, seeing him at night, and chatting to the real James Bond. Ranulph Fiennes is the real James Bond. The guy is incredible. Here he is, one of the oldest competitors ever to complete Marathon des Sables, and of course Kilian. Kilian is an easy, a very, very easy name to drop but he is a legend. I’ve been at some of those key moments when he’s created a piece of history. He didn’t invite me to Everest though which was a bit disappointing.

Tom: Rude, I’d call it.

Ian: Rude.

Tom: Downright offensive.

Ian: [laughs] I don’t think I would have lasted very long at six, 7,000 meters with Kilian.

Tom: Yes, keep up with those cameras on your back.

Ian: Yes. It’s very difficult to pick races and people. There’s a race in South Africa called, the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun, and it takes place in one of these remote places on the Namibian border. The race actually crosses the Orange river, goes into Namibia. It’s one of the oldest places on the planet, the landscape is amazing. You spend a night in the middle of nowhere in a tent, looking up at the amazing South African skies and you think, “Wow. I’m actually here working.” It’s just moments like that. Like I said, I never take anything for granted. Tomorrow, I go to Italy and I’ll be on Lake Garda, and I’ll be working in the mountains behind Lake Garda, and that almost becomes just an ordinary weekend. But I still get on the mountain, and I look down, and I look at the lake and I think, “Look at this, this is my office. This is today’s office. This is amazing”.

Tom: A really interesting thought about hobbies. He says picking himself up… but an interesting observation of mine from running is that we separate the rest of running from ultra-running, the ultra-running seems to have done, in my opinion a really, really great job. A bit like cycling, of positioning itself as an aspiration or the aspiration is to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, build friendships, be outside and it’s seen as enjoyable for its own sake, for the fact of doing it whereas the rest of running has got so fixated on times and have you done a marathon? And what’s your PB? It forgot, in my opinion, the rest of running forgot about the nicer things. Running is almost unique, I would say, in that you ask most runners if they enjoy running, most of them will say, “No” and they’ll come out with, “Well, I can eat cake at the weekend” or something, whatever it is. They don’t really enjoy it, whereas ultra-runners, it seems to me, have got it right and they are actually in the moment. For example, we’re talking about what are your best experiences are and they are amazing, bucket list experiences that actually anybody can do. Most of these races anybody can endure, anybody can take part and anybody can have the same experience.

Ian: You are exactly right. The sport is changing slightly, you know the FKT, fastest known time is becoming more and more popular, but it’s still taking place in the stunning location in an amazing environment. An FKT is about a runner setting something against a clock in a place and it’s the place that actually is really significant. Just this last weekend, a runner called Jim Walmsley set a new record in the Grand Canyon, running the rim-to -rim but also doing the rim-to-rim-to-rim, which is out and back. The Grand Canyon as a location is a stunning place and the speed that he ran is just absolutely phenomenal, but it was him in his environment testing himself and the point is that with an FKT, an FKT is personal. You can have your own FKT, your own fastest known time and that is great! As somebody who was competitive in terms of competitive with myself, not necessarily competitive within the sense of being elite but I always tried to do my best and a few years ago I started to get chronic knee problems and that has seriously impacted on what I can do. So FKT’s and personal journeys are great. I get asked all the time, “Ian, do you miss racing?” and I say, “No.” because I’m in the domain, I’m with the runners, I’m at races, and yes all right I’m not racing myself, but I’m still getting a fix. I can still be on the mountain, within the landscape – I just do things now at my pace, at my distance because the two are connected.

If I get a day free before a race or a day free after the race I can go out on the race course and experience what the runners are going to experience in the race, but in my own time and then I can come back and talk to them and say, “I went up today and I did the vertical kilometer and came back down.” And they don’t ask, “Oh, what time did you do?”, they’ll just go, “Oh, cool, so you managed to find some time to get up there, yes the mountain’s stunning, isn’t it brilliant?” That’s the type of scenario that that we’re in. I think it started to get clouded a little bit with some prize money that’s coming in, and of course UTMB last year, we had the first EPO case which has raised alarm bells and then we’ve got the craziness of people like Rob Young. Underneath it all, Rob is a person and why did he think he was going to get away with it? You actually have to think, what was the reason he made that really bad decision? With the amount of scrutiny he was going to get… he wasn’t even a good liar. Why would you try and run a sub-three marathon when you’re running three thousand miles?

Tom: Unfortunately, I think a lot of these things slide, they start out with the best intentions, they get carried away and then they just bend things a little bit because actually it’s a good outcome… Raising money for charity or whatever it is and actually the mind’s very clever in saying, “Well, that’s all right, you’re doing that for the right reasons” and then once you’re on that slope you just get tangled up and it runs away with you, doesn’t it?

Ian: It’s like Lance.

Tom: Exactly.

Ian: Lance, still to this day didn’t do anything wrong. That’s his viewpoint. He didn’t do anything wrong, because everybody else was doing it. And he still believes that.

Tom: And I understand that, I don’t agree with it, but I understand that and I think I think sometimes we don’t understand how people’s minds work, how things change over time, how motivations can blur things up and it’s crazy…

Tom: A bit of a cheesy question but I think a really interesting question. If you were, let’s take you back 30 years or 20 years and you’re 20 or 30 years old and you’re in the absolute shape of your life, fighting fit, but you know what you know now, so you know all the races you’ve been to, you’ve seen them firsthand, if you could be in the form of your life just once and go to one race and absolutely smash it to pieces, where would you go?

Ian: That’s a really tough one. Can I give you two answers?

Tom: You can give me two answers.

Ian: Okay. From an ultra-running perspective there would be an obvious choice because you would go where you would have the biggest audience so that would be something like UTMB, because that’s the big showcase. If you won UTMB then you’d get all the plaudits and the slap on the back and equally something like Western States. It’s a much smaller race, but it’s completely respected in the community.

Tom: Comrades if we’re going on the road?

Ian: Comrades if you’re on the road equally. Mountain UTMB, trail Western States, road Comrades. If you could have your day and be up there and fighting with a chance for the podium one of those three races would be incredible. But if I could just go to a race and just have an absolutely fantastic time and feel brilliant, I’d probably choose a multi-stage race, like marathon Des Sables or Everest Trail Race because what I love about those races from a working point of view and from a running point of view is that they are journeys. I love to be in this place where they have a start point and a finish point and the way that you move through that landscape is by foot. Most of the time all the modern gizmos are gone because you’re self-sufficient, so your phone won’t work and it’s pointless carrying it, because it’s just weight, you’re eating around campfires, there’s no TV, there’s no music, there’s nothing and it’s primal.

When I work on those races you come out of those races and you think, “That was just a transformative process”. I often interview runners who’ve gone through that for the first time and it’s changed their lives, they are not the same people who went in the race when they come out. They’re different, and it often changes what they do and for a lot of people it can be that point where it was for me in 2008, they come out of the desert or the mountains and they say, “You know what? I’m going to change my job and I’m going to find a way to give myself either more time or more money or whatever it is, but allow myself the freedom to do more of this, more adventures, more exploration”.

Tom: You’re talking about life changing and so on, some of your guests have changed my life. You interviewed Barry Murray in a really fascinating interview and we ended up getting Barry on our show and then Barry ended up working with me for a year, helping me with my nutrition and lifestyle stuff. There’s actually, selfishly, there’s things that come out of the stuff we do that actually helps us. Have there been examples, cases with the people you’ve met and interviewed who they’ve really moved your life into another direction as well?

Ian: Yes, I think there’s people that have inspired me in racing and the top-end runners inspire me all the time, but it’s really the mid-packers and the back of the packers that are the true inspiration because you know, Scott Jurek or Karl Meltzer or Emily Forsberg or whoever it is, they’ve got that natural innate ability that makes them a supreme being and then what they do with that talent is they nurture it and they train it and they become better but the natural ability is there. What I’m always amazed at is when I go to a race and I see the back of the packer and I look at them and I think, “Why are you doing this race?” Because even if it’s a good race for them, they are going to suffer but they actually embrace the journey, they embrace the process and I always tell a story about Marathon des Sables to provide perspective. There’s a British guy called Tobias Mews who I think you know, Tom? He was the highest placed Britain until I think James Cracknell beat him…

Tom: 12th place or almost there I think.

Ian: Yes, I think up until that point Tobias had been around about 18th or 19th. I went to a talk where Tobias was speaking with his best friend. They were both in the army or should I say they were both ex-military and they’d both worked in the same regiment. Tobias stood up and he said, “I just want to tell you a story about the perspective of the Marathon des Sables.” He said, “I finished the whole race in around about 22 hours for the whole race. Whereas my friend here did just the long day in 36 hours.”

Just the long day in 36-hours and his finishing time was something like 60 hours, almost three times longer than Tobias!

It’s that perspective that I see every single time I go to a race. The front people are the front people, they’re fast, they’re gifted, they’re talented, they’ll have the highs and the lows but it’s all the ones at the back who are putting one foot in front of the other. I think if you can take that motto into whatever you do daily… There’s always going to be somebody better than you but you have to keep going forward, you have to keep pushing, you have to keep putting the commitment in and if you don’t put the commitment in then it’s a DNF and you don’t finish. That’s the same whether it’s work, family, relationships, whatever. So I don’t think there’s any one significant person, although there are many interviews that have really changed me but I think as a global thing, it’s the experience of what people go through to achieve their own personal goals – I think that’s the most inspirational thing.

Tom: Finally, of course, I can’t let you go without asking you a question. You’ve edited and listened to this show every week for the last four years or something like that, so you know it intimately. Let’s cut straight to the chase – six months, perfect training on the track, one mile… how fast?

Ian: Can I have somebody else’s knees?

Tom: Somebody else’s knees, yes.

Ian: I knew this question was coming and I didn’t think about the answer.

Tom: Have you done any timed run in the last year?

Ian: No.

Tom: No? Okay. Nothing to go off?

Ian: My last marathon was Paris three years ago and I ran 2:53. So that’s what?

Tom: 6min 30s pace?

Ian: Yes, it’s about that… I’d say I’d probably be lucky to get a 5:30!

Tom: That would put you with Rich Castro, Frank Shorter, Kirk Parsley, Simon Weir etc. I think that sounds about right, you happy with that 5:30?

Ian: Yes, I think so. It does hurt me a little bit because I know that you hit five minutes. I’m tempted to say 4:59 [laughs]. I think I’d be pushing the boat out for a 4:59.

Tom: Well, I haven’t got your knees, my knees work. It’s the difference.

Ian: I should try with Kilian’s knees shouldn’t I?

Tom: Absolutely! Look, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking, thank you for sharing your amazing story or inspirational story. Apologies that it’s taken so long but it was worth the wait and I can’t wait to get my copy of the book, Running Beyond.

Ian: Yes, I’m sure there’s some non-signed copies out there as well if you want one.😉

******

Many thanks to Tom Williams and Marathon Talk Podcast for allowing me to transcribe the interview for my website. RUNNING BEYOND book is available worldwide HERE

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“Ian has been there to witness the stories. He knows the sport, he practices it and he has been involved in many different aspects, all of which provides him with a great overview. He has the strength and character to work many hours, even practicing his own ultra with cameras in order to capture the emotions and the passion from inside the sport. Ian has immense enthusiasm, and his commitment to following a race knows no bounds.”

 

“Ian’s photographs convey the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race. We are able to feel what the runners have felt, and it is the closest you will get without being there yourself. It is a great journey, and one that you are able to follow yourself in Running Beyond.” – Kilian Jornet

KilianJornet_RunningBeyond

As a final note, I need to give a huge thanks to my soul mate Niandi Carmont who has been a rock since 2009 and supported me on my journey in the world of trail, mountain and the ultra world – without her support and continued support this journey would not be possible. Thanks!

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Episode 124 – Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016

A_GRAVATAR

Episode 124 of Talk Ultra is all about the Everest Trail Race with a selection of audio from 5 participants – Andreja Sterle Podobonik, Casey Morgan, Jennifer Hill, Tom Arnold and John Percy. We bring you news from the ultra world and Niandi Carmont co-hosts

We are in La Palma and bring you the audio from our apartment right on the Transvulcania route. So, apologies if you can hear the sea in the background and if we sound like we are recording in public toilet….

RUNNING BEYOND BOOK many thanks for all the great comments and support. It’s been great to get so many messages on social media. For those interested, we are planning a RUNNING BEYOND event in the UK in London. The venue is tbc but the dates will be Friday March 3rd to Sunday March 5th. We will have Running Beyond Book on sale and of course it will be possible to get it signed. We will have an exhibition of images from the book printed large in a gallery but this will also be a three day event on all things ultra, trail or mountain running. We will have guest speakers, films, a photography workshop and this will all be in conjunction with Like The Wind Magazine and Run Ultra. Watch this space!

00:21:31NEWS

100k Worlds in Spain

  1. Hideaki Yamauchi 6:18
  2. Bongmusa Mthembu 6:24
  3. Patrick Reagan 6:35
  1. Kirstin Bull 7:34
  2. Nikola Sustic 7:36
  3. Jo Zakrezewski 7:41

JFK50

  1. Jim Walmsley 5:21:29 smashed Max Kings by 13 min! For perspective – Walmsley’s year now included nine wins in 10 starts, six course records, and two giant FKTs in the Grand Canyon.
  2. Anthony Kunkel 5:52
  3. Mike Owen 5:56
  1. Leah Frost 6:23
  2. Caroline Boller 6:32
  3. Megan DiGregorio 7:02

2017 Skyrunner World Series Announced and new Vertical World Circuit HERE

ETR 2016

Pasang Llama

Miguel Capo Soler

Casey Morgan

Andreja Sterle Podobonik

Jennifer Hill

Sarah Davies

00:36:54 INTERVIEWS FROM EVEREST TRAIL RACE

  • Andreja Sterle Podobonik
  • Casey Morgan
  • Jennifer Hill
  • Tom Arnold
  • John Percy

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 100km | 100 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 50km | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Cayman Islands

Off the Beaten Track | 50 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

Finland

Lapland

66° North Ultra Race | 66 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

Roavve Polar Ultra 300 | 308 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

France

Yvelines

51 km | 51 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

51 km en relais | 51 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

Ireland

Kildare

Donadea 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

New Zealand

Bedrock50 | 53 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Taupo 155 km Great Lake Relay | 155 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Taupo 67.5 km Great Lake Relay | 67 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Sri Lanka

RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka 2016 | 250 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

Thailand

100 km Relay | 100 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

50 km Relay | 50 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Thai Ultra Race | 140 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

USA

Arizona

Ragnar Relay Del Sol | 200 miles | February 19, 2016 | website

Southwest 125 Ultra | 125 miles | February 15, 2016 | website

Colorado

Headless Horsetooth Fat Ass 50K | 50 kilometers | February 20, 2016 | website

Virginia

Holiday Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Washington

Fishline 50K | 50 kilometers | February 21, 2016 | website

02:05:08 CLOSE

Our next show will be a christmas special and we will bring you our four favourite interviews from 2016, so, if you have a preference or a favourite, let us know on our Facebook page.

 

 

02:08:30

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

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HEREAndroid HERE or via a web player HERE

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

Jim Walmsley – Western Sates and Beyond Interview

Earlier this year, off the back of a stunning run at Lake Sonoma, Jim Walmsley said he was going to go to Western States, his first 100, and not only win it but potentially set a new course record. It was quite the statement and of course it turned heads. What followed was one of those golden days on the trail when Jim looked to float over the course. With every step he creeped under the old Western States course record. A new record looked almost certain until disaster struck…

I caught up with Jim just a week after the 2016 Western States and delved into his mind about maybe one of the most memorable runs of the year.

The Interview

IAN: I’m joined by Jim Walmsley after an incredible, memorable, inspiring, heart-wrenching, everything Western States. How do you feel Jim? Do you feel good?

Jim Walmsley: Right now? or during the race?

IAN: No, now that you’ve had an opportunity to recover.

Jim Walmsley: Now is going good. I started shuffling again. I called just my shuffle recovery. It’s what I try doing until my legs start coming back to me a little bit, I have started that process things are good. Yes.

IAN: Yes. Okay, before Western States, a lot of people particularly over in Europe and in the UK won’t have really known who you are. You were definitely a dark horse. People in the sport like myself who look at names and follow trends were looking at you. In all honesty some of the claims that you made prior to Western States, were very bold.

I love it when somebody comes into a race and they say, “You know what, I’m going to go hard, I’m going to go for the course record and that’s it.” And deep down you think brilliant, absolutely brilliant I hope he does it. But the reality is, he’s possibly going to crash and burn. Up until about 92 miles it looked like you were just going to make probably one of the most memorable Western States ever. First of all, what gave you the confidence to be so bold with your predictions?

Jim Walmsley: First and foremost, it was my training; it had been going so well. I did a big 50-mile race in April and I ended up getting a course record at Lake Sonoma 50 mile. A lot of big guys have run that in the past. Basically, I felt like I’d only built off of that. As far as confidence wise I knew I was more fit than I ever have been at least in my ultra-career.

I could feel in my training runs that faster paces were feeling more comfortable. I thought I would surrounded myself with a good team to go on a Western States and go knock that out. I guess the other thing with it being my first hundred, it’s one of those things that everybody has got to make that jump from whether it be 50 mile or 100K up to a 100-mile distance. That’s the next benchmark of distance up. I mean, everybody’s got to do it, some people do great with it, some people don’t but I think my journey had been ready to make that jump.

IAN: If we look back at your results and really from my perspective looking at your results they only really go back one year. Back to say May 2015 where you ran Don’t Fence Me In Trail 30K, and then you did Speedgoat, and then you won JFK, 3rd at Moab, 5th at Lake Sonoma, 1st at Black Out Night Run 13K, then Flagstaff Extreme Pine.

There’s a whole list of other races but for me when I was looking at the race there was a couple of significant results. JFK 50 miler you won that in 2014, 2015 Bandera 100K and then of course that Lake Sonoma run in April. You look and you think, “Wow. This guy is fast.” But like you’ve just said, fast at 50 miles and then coming to the 100-mile distance is a big difference. How did you prepare yourself physically for the unknown?

Jim Walmsley: I start knocking out the most miles I’ve ever tried before Lake Sonoma, I did my first 140 mile weeks not sure what that is in kilometres.

IAN: It’s a long way, 200+K.

Jim Walmsley: Okay. Yes. It’s 200K thereabout, and then from Lake Sonoma up to Western States my big training block ended up being back-to-back 140 mile weeks, followed by 120 and a 100, and then I went into my taper for two weeks. The first 120-mile week I did all in single runs. Probably the point where I knew I was feeling really good was when I was climbing and running really good at the Grand Canyon. I have a loop I do in Grand Canyon. I go down Bradenton it’s about seven to nine miles of mostly downhill and then you come back up South Kaibab, it’s about a seven mile up hill and then you finish on a four-mile flat kind of finish so it’s about a 21-mile loop.

That went really well, but then the next day I did a big workout on or just by Pace in Arizona. That was 30 mile run with 8,000 feet of vert up and down. That was huge back-to-back days, even at the end of that week I still did a long run with a bunch of the marathoners in town. I think this one might have been the one that I ran with Andrew Lemoncello, he’s a Scottish guy that lives in Flagstaff. I think we came through in like 2:01 for 20 miles but we went out in the first half and maybe like 65 mins. We were really cooking on the second half, kind of finish that big long run that week end was super huge. That was one of the main things too is that long run in my training it has just became comfortable to start running those 20 miles in about 2 hours. Things were really clicking.

IAN: I mean 120, 140 mile weeks that is huge. How do you maximize your recovery from those types of training sessions? Is that something that you’ve built upon year-on-year or have you just suddenly pushed the envelope and find that you can adapt to it?

Jim Walmsley: In high school I ran 90 miles a week for the last two years, I was a big mileage kid when I was young. But then I look around even less than that in college. I had won 1500 oriented coach. It’s been the first time where I felt comfortable to try to add on more miles and experiment with that. The only main thing I really did to try to help out with recovery, I started trying to take just calories and proteins stuff right immediately after races. I just have a little recovery shake after a run. That’s all I really added in after Lake Sonoma for the most part it’s just kind of being a bit lucky of staying healthy because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

IAN: The recovery side of things seem to be working well. Is there anything else that you did in terms of nutrition? Anything that you’ve found out that works well for you or if you are just eating the normal healthy balanced diet?

Jim Walmsley: I mean, that is the only thing that I have changed recently. The other thing is I don’t eat meat but it’s not dietary reasons, it’s just a whole bunch of reasons of why I don’t necessarily want to support a lot of those bigger companies in the industry here in the US. I don’t eat meat for good and for bad but I don’t worry about making up that protein deficit. A lot of people think that I need to make it up somehow. I just eat whatever, I mean I do eat a lot! I eat a ton of junk food. I kind of joke that the amount of junk food I do eat and processed sugar actually gives me just a super rock solid stomach on race day. I’m taking a bunch of gels and a bunch of processed sugar on race day and I eat a lot of that pretty regularly. It almost helps me with having a more solid stomach on race day.

IAN: Okay, you’re very much booking the trends of the moment of low GI and low sugar and going paleo. You’re old school?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, I guess I am?

IAN: Okay, let’s talk about the race, Western States. You were very bold with your pre-race predictions and that puts a big target on your back. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this, but I think a lot of the favourites for the race, respected the fact that you said what you were going to do. You did sort of say that you would try and take it easy early on. That didn’t really seem to happen. Sage Canaday and David Laney and yourself were pushing right from the start. Did you feel comfortable with that?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. I did feel comfortable with it. I was probably 30 something place at the first climb. I was trying to just slow down, walk and almost even stop a lot on the first climb out of Squaw Valley, to try to basically get some of the other favourites to get rolling and kind of run their own race. I mean I could see them and they were looking back a lot.

It was just one of those things where I felt it was almost pointless to slow down more and more and more, because I was either going to run their race, or my game plan would be to try to go off a feel and start running some splits. Those splits that we initially had started with the course record splits. Can’t understand how those felt, if they felt easy, if they felt hard and kind of base things off the feel from that.

IAN: Yes. I mean, it’s unusual in ultra-running for somebody to come into a race with an idea of splits with a real intention of breaking the record. Course records tend to come because it just turns out to be one of those days, when everything clicks and everything aligns and then course records happen.

You’re almost bringing into this marathon running perspective we’re it’s easier and more consistent to run the minute mile pace, because the terrain is more uniform, more predictable, whereas here, Western States. You’ve got elevation, you’ve got trail, you’ve got heat, you’ve got so many variables, but yet you seem to be very well planned and very well controlled that’s quite unusual.

Jim Walmsley: Well, how I did it was… I’ve never ran a marathon, but it’s a little different than just splits. Between each aid station I had average pace that I needed to hit, for that section. It was very course dependent and terrain dependent. I figured things were at least close enough, when you’re going four mile splits.

If you’re going up a hill, it’s okay to lose some time on that. That’s how I based it off, then it kind of ended up being where I was just able to taking chunks and chunk off of those average splits that I already had.

IAN: Now, the other thing that you seem to be taking in your stride and I loved the retro shirt look…. The heat! You’d obviously come into this race acclimatized to the heat. Was that something that you’d really concentrated on?

Jim Walmsley: I’m originally from Phoenix Arizona. I live in Flagstaff, which is about two and a half miles north. I have lived in flagstaff for the last year. But before that, I lived in Colorado, California and Montana. A little cooler, but as far as heat, I know I can handle it. I know I can run really well in it. But the main question was whether I can handle running in the heat all day, during the middle of the day. WSER was going to be the first big test. Being from Phoenix there’s a lot of people that have their little tricks and tips to stay a little bit cooler on their arms. I kind of pick up on those, just kind of keeping your wrists cool, always staying wet. I wore a hat and sunglasses the whole time.

IAN: Yes.

Jim Walmsley: I think both of those contribute to a perception that it’s a little cooler. I try to keep my shoulders covered with the crop top shirt I had, rather than going on with singlet with skinnier shoulder bands. The shirt in general was kind of it held water better, the holes helped ventilation and then, it also helped with sun protection. Yes. You’re just trying to find different elements of what’s making you hotter and trying to mitigate those, and then always staying wet. If you see a creek lie down in the creek, it’s worth that time.

IAN: Yes. You went out to WSER for a running camp, is that correct?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, it is.

IAN: Was that a double edged sword? Or it was an opportunity to be on a training camp, an opportunity to go and heat acclimatise and also to get some training in?

Jim Walmsley: It was really nice weather, as opposed to anything uncomfortable. I wasn’t getting out on the actual Western States trails. It was more run in the Tahoe Rim Trail and a couple trails more in the Flume trail and stuff, but I hadn’t really spent time like that out in Tahoe. It’s just this wonderful beautiful place that was really awesome to do for sure.

I really enjoyed working with John Fitzgerald and Stan Myers, now at the mountain post running camp. The initial debate was whether I go back to Flagstaff for two weeks and then come back, or whether I stay out there… I had a couple friends that were supposed to do the Broken Arrow race in between those two weeks, and they ended up both dropping out, or scratching and not doing it.

But, I had made plans to just stay out there and kind of stuck with trying to stay out there. After that, I think next year I would really like to stay in Flagstaff, stay where I can get some bigger climbing consistently, because I just know that all the different runs where I live. I can just really dial it in on what I want to focus on most.

IAN: Yes, I see the logic in being in Flagstaff and then it’s easy to go down to Phoenix. I guess.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Phoenix or if you want to get in a big running day the Tetons. I like heat training in the canyon because it gets pretty high and then also it has a similar reflection of the heat down there off of the rocks. The rocks really release a lot of heat out of them and make it feel a lot hotter than what it might– the ambient temperature might be.

IAN: Yes. Let’s go back to the race. By the time you got to half way, you had around about 20 minutes under the course record. Everybody was getting super excited and of course it was that 50:50 scenario. Is this going to be the most incredible run? Or at any point is he going to blow up and it certainly didn’t look like you were going to blow up? You were keeping yourself cool, like you said you put in plenty of water on yourself. You were submerging yourself in the rivers and water whenever you possibly could. You did almost end up going for a bit of a long swim… Do you want to just touch on what happened there? I mean, that was what, mile 70 something?

Jim Walmsley: It was mile 78, 79. I heard that Rob Crow last year swam across and that was the fastest most efficient way to cross the river. I started holding on to the rope and paddling with one arm and then, before I knew it, I gave it a couple swim strokes to get across. And then, before I knew it like I looked the rope was right there on my left and then it was 7 to 8 feet away and I couldn’t reach it. It became basically me against the river. You have this life vest on which is great that keeps your float but at the same time, it’s a big old kite in the current and it really pulls you downstream.

I think actually Rob totally ran passed the life vest which might help swimming if he did swim. I’ll definitely keep my hand on the rope next year. I basically started to get swept downstream. Eventually, I had to try to basically figure out how I can get some floating on some rocks.

Then there was that boat that came out and they posted a video online. I guess that boat wasn’t part of the race at all. It was a spectator and they weren’t supposed to be down there. They had different separate safety boats that they weren’t worried about it in this situation. But at the same time, people’s reactions were dramatic at the time. But probably the biggest thing from that is the one bottle… I had two bottles when I got in the river and I filled one at the aid station on the bank before the river and that’s the one that ended up floating off down the river. I didn’t have any water going up from the river up to Green Gate which is only a 1.8 mile climb out but it’s really exposed in the sun and then it is a steep climb and just not having something to drink there, was a little rough and I just took my time… I think that’s the one split that I did lose I think a minute or two.

IAN: Yes. I was going to say, I think probably by the time you were in America River you had to run about 30, 32 minutes under the course record. By the time you got a Green Gate you’d probably given away about five or six minutes but I guess that was with the swim as well.

Jim Walmsley: Yes, part of us just maintaining composure. You just need to maintain composure and make sure that you don’t over exert if something like that does happen. It’s all just relaxing, take your time it’s not a big deal. I think at that point course record starts really playing more and more of a factor and almost working out where I have time.

IAN: Was your plan to have that big buffer of say 30 minutes or 20 minutes? Whatever it might have been so that you could slow down… because you anticipated slowing down, because one of the things that I always think of in these scenarios is you actually only need to beat the old record by one second. You don’t need 30 minutes. Where you just having an amazing day?

Jim Walmsley: No. I don’t think any of that was pre-planned at all. If you told me that I was going to be even 20 minutes up on the course record at any time. I think I would have had a laugh… that would be a pretty good day. I remember seeing my crew ready to the station and just going like I’m trying to slow down but I’m trying to run comfortable and this is just comfortable… I know I’m running too fast based on time and stuff but at the same time I feel like I’m running easy and I’m running comfortable. I was just trying to go with that.

IAN: I remember speaking to Ian Sharman when he had that amazing run on Rocky Racoon, Timmy Olson re Western States, Rob Krar re Western States, Kilian Jornet with this countless records. I’ve often said there is one day for every runner where everything aligns and it becomes the perfect run. Sharman has gone back to the Rocky Racoon and never found the same day and the same form that he had when he did that blistering 100-mile time. I just wonder for you, was this that day? Was this that time when everything was aligned apart from the 92-mile void of going off course? We’ll come into that. But do you think now looking back that it was just the most incredible day?

Jim Walmsley: It definitely was an incredible day. Whether I’m going to be able to replicate this next year or in the future, I’m not sure? I think I have to approach it as why shouldn’t I be able to? But that was one of the first things of reflecting on the race is just, I don’t know if I’ll ever have… because so many little things have to go right. In nutrition, your stomach there is so many just unknown valuables. I didn’t step and twist an ankle or anything. I don’t know if I will ever have as good of a chance as that to break the course record again.

At the same time, I was able to take away a lot of experience, a lot of tips from the course. I know I’m going to be planning to go out there probably for a week earlier in the year to very much scout the course and make sure I’m getting everything on detail right about what I want to do for 2017. I think I can meticulously attack it next year. It will be interesting. I don’t know about trying to get another half hour up on the record though…

IAN: [laughs] I mean, sometimes you can’t plan these things. I think the thing is you went into this race saying that you’re going for the course record. The fact that you got 30 minutes under the course record is significant and it shows that your form, shows your ability is there. You said sometimes you can’t account for certain things that happen on race day… so tell us about the disaster.

Tell us about going off course and I know obviously you didn’t realize that you’d gone off course, otherwise you’d have turned around pretty damn quickly. But what was the point where you realized, “Shit, I’ve gone the wrong way.” Then was it panic, distress? What happened?

Jim Walmsley: It was probably three and a half miles after Bar Aid station that I really had the sinking feeling that I missed the turn. I ended up probably going on another three-quarter of a mile to the actual highway because at that point I could see it. I could see a hill and I’m on such an obvious dirt road at the time. I was like maybe this section is just much less marked than most the other course but things started to not make sense and that sinking feeling started getting in my stomach. I think it started with missing this turn off –  it’s this huge wide like 20 to 25-foot dirt road that two cars can totally pass on and then you go up this little tiny trail to the left. I was told it was about three miles past the aid station. In reality, I think it was about two and a quarter or two and a half. That’s about three to four minutes’ difference, probably closer to four minutes’ difference?

I just wasn’t looking for the left at that moment! I remember seeing three miles and going, “Crap, the turn should be right here”. Then after that I’m like, “All right. I haven’t seen a flag in a little while”. I thought, I’m going to give it another half mile and just look for flags. I wasn’t seeing any flags, at that point that was the three-and-a-half-mile mark of “oh crap, this might not be good”. But at the same time I was able to see were the road I was on connects with the high way that I’m supposed to get to. I was just like trust it, hopefully it works out, it might not, but hopefully it works out. I wasn’t able to convince myself to turn around yet. It’s a really hard thing to do when you’re having that day.

I think when I got to the road and I stop and I look down the road. There’s a bunch of cars parked on that road that you can see as you’re approaching it too. There’s a ton of cars up here maybe there is an aid station? But I think it’s a recreation area where a bunch of just random cars parked. Yes. It was when I really popped out on the road that I just had this demoralizing feeling of I had missed something. I wouldn’t tell you what the trail was marked when I went passed it, because obviously I didn’t see it. Initially, people were saying that flags might have gotten pulled, from what I’ve heard flags weren’t pulled. The 2nd and 3rd runner made the turn…?

IAN: Yes.

Jim Walmsley: Both of them made the turn with the same flagging that was there… but I missed the turn. But at the same time I’ve also seen heard other things… some guy posted that he remarked it? He was running back to Brown Bar Aid Station. He saw Andrew Miller and he knew that it was going to be Andrew Miller’s day, sort of thing. It was one of those things that chronologically doesn’t make tons of sense. It was really odd; I just don’t know… All I can say is that I had my head down and was just trying to crank away. I think I was still running under nine minute miles at that point. I was moving really well. Yes, I can’t explain why I missed that turn necessarily other than; I don’t think I was looking for it yet.

IAN: When you back tracked and when back to the turn point you obviously would have seen the marking of the direction you should have gone. Was the marking good then when you managed to re-navigate yourself back?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. They re-flagged everything and they made it extremely obvious and well-marked by the time I got back there and saw it for the first time.

IAN: Right. Is that because they knew you had gone off-course?

Jim Walmsley: Yes. They just exaggerated the left hand turn a lot more because I ended up going of course. Basically, everyone else had it very, very, well marked by the time they hit that.

IAN: Right. By the time you got back to that point, how much time had you lost?

Jim Walmsley: I don’t know… probably one of my biggest regrets about it is I really felt the competitive side of me really quit when I came out on Highway 49. I wished I had more fire and hunger in me. I wish I had hit highway 49 and just turned around, and said, “I’m not letting this ruining my day”, I wish I had attacked it a lot more. The information I had at the time was that I was only 12 minutes up. I was only 15 minutes under course record. In reality I was still about 25 to 30 minutes up on the course record, almost a full hour ahead of second place. Hearing that now – that part really sucks of just how missed informed I was. Having everybody… or should I say, thinking that everybody was so close, and then knowing that I went off the trail by a mile and a half or two miles.

That really crushed me, just crushed my spirits. My reality at the time was, I’m not winning, I’m not getting a course record, this whole sinking feeling. I just need to take a break really quick, try to get your composure again and refocus. At that point I was just not doing good. I was out of calories completely, it just became a negative, I thought I’m going to just walk it back to the next aid station. Between some of the medical staff, and the two photographers that found me on highway 49, I’m actually friends with them. They just encouraged me to start walking back. At the time I’m not a hundred percent sure I would have made that decision by myself. But in retrospect I’m really glad I did. As far as competing for top three or top 10. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for at the time.

IAN: It’s interesting, I can’t imagine the frustration.

Jim Walmsley: It was just wasn’t important to me of how things were going, how things went. Yes. I ended up winning two of the golden races, or golden ticket races, to get in the Western States. To race in the Western States is not a big — I don’t view it as a big deal, obviously it is. I feel very capable of racing back in next year. Top 10 in that stuff just — It was more.

IAN: You wanted to win?

Jim Walmsley: I definitely wanted to win.

IAN: Yes. You wanted to win.

Jim Walmsley: Those spirits were crushed.

IAN: Yes. Once the win wasn’t there I guess it was a case of second is not good enough, third is not good enough…

Jim Walmsley: A little bit, but I don’t know, I was in the lead for so long it’s just… I guess maybe at the time second, third wasn’t enough, but I don’t know, it become just making it more manageable, or whatever… I don’t know?

IAN: I had to look at your river splits. It seems as though from that point where you started to back track that you hardly run a step. I was looking at it and I was trying analyse it. Of course, you’ve gone in many ways explaining to what your thought process was. It’s easy for me for me from the outside looking in and thinking why didn’t you just run and chase down? You had that 30-minute buffer, or maybe 25 minutes’ buffer.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. The information I had was 15 minutes.

IAN: Was it just mentally so demoralizing for you that you just couldn’t get yourself back onto your game, or was it other factors? Yes, mentally you’ve been crushed, but also you were lacking the energy. Maybe you had burned yourself out a little bit? I’m just trying to get an insight into the mind of what it was like at that point.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. I would say mentally I was crushed. But then between taking a little bit of a break and mentally not focussed, somewhere I was just not wanting it any more. My muscles and body started really wanting to be done. Just the walking and trying to jog after that was extremely difficult. After that moment and realizing that everything slipped away. Yes. I definitely did bonk after that. I think if that didn’t happen I absolutely don’t think I would have bonked. But it’s one of those things… I think the mental thing had to happen first, and then my body soon followed that… it was just extremely hard to rally.

When I got back to my crew and stuff, they could see I was just completely demoralized. They were totally okay with just walking it in with me. That just became my game plan. At that point it became about the silver buckle more than anything. Not being out there for the longest period time it just became just one step at a time, and we’ll just get to the finish and we’ll take those positives.

IAN: You got the buckle, and that’s super important.

Jim Walmsley: I think this also goes back to in retrospect of ”Now I think about the race”. That is one of my bigger regrets of it. I wish I did react better mentally, and then I did go and actually try to still race again. I do regret that a bit.

IAN: What I’m interested in here is the duality of you as a person, because I think pre-race a rookie 100-mile runner saying, “I’m going to go to Western States and I’m going to go for the course record.” Of course people in the community look and think, “Who’s this guy? Gees, who’s he to say this?” But then what I’ve witnessed afterwards, and what I’m witnessing now in this interview is an incredible humility, an incredible respect, there’s no bitterness. You’re not actually bitter, you’re not questioning course marking. You’re questioning you not noticing the course marking, but you’re not blaming anybody. You’re only blaming yourself I think that’s absolutely fantastic.

I think that would really warm you to the audience. Have you thought in depth about that process of how you’ve handled pre-race and post-race?

Jim Walmsley: Well, I totally get how pre-race it rubs people the wrong way, but just pre-race and post-race I feel like I’m honest guy and I’ll tell you my goals and what I think I can do pretty blatantly. Pre-race too I would also say it’s a mental approach of trying to convince myself that I can do it. It’s also mental tricks with myself of, “I can do this.” Saying that out loud, saying that publicly does set up for a lot of scrutiny, but at the same time I think that goes so far as far as mentally how you’re going to be in the race and making you tougher to stick to that.

Post-race, I would like to think that I’m just being me and being honest. I don’t think getting bitter about things is going to make anything better or positive. At the end of the day, it was an amazing run. It was an amazing experience. It was a great adventure. I finished my first hundred. There are so many positives to still take away from that day. As an athlete, I think two things are important as well, one, short term memory loss. You get to forget about it and move on as far as bad things that happen like that especially in running. That’s part of our sport. I think most people can relate to making a wrong turn at one time or another.

IAN: For sure. They just don’t make it 92 miles into Western States when looking to set the course record. [laughs]

Jim Walmsley: It’s pretty tough when that happens for sure, yes. The other thing too about being a more competitive athlete is I think you have to focus and build off of the positives rather than beat yourself up about the negatives. I don’t think it’s beneficial for you to dwell on the mistakes. I think it’s beneficial to say, “Look, you did this really well.” One of the biggest things that I am extremely happy about that I think I can take forward into a lot more races is just how well I did in that heat. I think I surprised myself a little bit with that. It was almost 30 degrees warmer than 2012 when Tim Olsen ran his course record.

Yes, little things like that are huge just building off of those and it’s all a process. It’s a learning process, but it’s something that I want to make a career. Yes, it’s going to building off of this to hopefully running even better next year.

IAN: The next question is you had 93 miles of really good running where you were functioning the way that you wanted to in your first hundred-mile race. It was a complete learning curve, and it was an incredible learning curve. You were almost… it was almost a textbook run. Is there anything that you’ve learned that will improve your running for next year? Other than a recce of the course and making sure you know where to turn is. But physically, if you’ve done 120, 140 mile weeks, you can’t really add anymore volume? Will there be more speed work? How will you reflect on this and improve, or maybe you don’t need to improve, what you just need is another repeat performance like this year?

Jim Walmsley: Yes, you’re spot on with that. The biggest thing is going to be able to try to at least replicate what I was able to do in my training next year. With those 140 mile weeks, one of the weeks was 22,500 feet of vert. One thing personally, I think I can do a bit more consistently is getting out to that Grand Canyon and run in it maybe twice a week instead of just once a week. It’s huge to be able to do those long, long down hills. I know it’s something I’m very interested in. I’ve done it once, and it completely punted me on this day. We called it double tapping South Kaibab. South Kaibab is the steepest trail in the Grand Canyon, and basically FKTs go through South Kaibab because it’s just shorter, but it’s steeper.

My friend and I we went down it, up it, and then one more time down it, and up it. It ended up being over 11,000-foot vert day in less than 30 miles. It was just a massive, massive day. I think that was much earlier in the year, but I think focusing days like that. You can only train as hard as you can recover, and it’s a lot about mitigating stress in other parts to your life so that you can recover better on the running stress. Yes, I think a really important part of this year was that I was able to do longer tempo runs that I haven’t been doing since I’ve gotten into ultras in the last 2 years.

I am doing these long runs with a lot of the marathoners in town. If some of these guys they’re like, “Hey, I got this workout today, anybody want to hop in?” I just say like, “Yes, I’ll do that with you.” They’re not planned workouts, but hopping in with guys that are doing sessions works out. That’s been really beneficial as well in getting that foot speed going. That’s where like I’m running these splits and I’m trying to slow down, but look I’m efficient and I don’t feel like I’m over exerting. I think that’s how those things happen. It’s just foot speed wise, I was so prepared almost where things were just butter smooth and I was able to chip away at it a couple of minutes you’d split.

IAN: It was an incredible run, and it was an inspiring run. You have the Ultra community just sitting there aghast at the performance. The question is now, where do you go from here? Obviously a priority will be getting qualification for Western States next year. I quite like the way that you said that’s not really an issue. That’s that confidence side of you that I really like. You’ll prepare yourself, you’ll choose your race, you’ll get your slot, and I’m convinced you will be at Western States next year. Now, with this run, people have got an eye on you. I’m sure races are sending you some invites to attend their races. Where do you go from here? What’s lined up for the rest of 2016?

Jim Walmsley: Well, I was just really hoping that I would nail a hundred miles out of a hundred miles, or 100.2 out of 100.2 miles at Western States, because one of the biggest things is I do want to travel on. I do want to take opportunities to do all these great races across the world but the way that things went this year and my own personality and just realizing what I can do at Western States, 2017 is totally going to be about… at least giving it one more shot of having that perfect day. Maybe things fall apart again and I need to step back and maybe I’ll revisit it in a couple of years but it’s going to definitely build towards that. Right now, I’m trying to stay pretty disciplined and not put on too many races on my plate.

It’s extremely easy to do that. I don’t want to fall into the trap that a great deal of runners fall into. No matter what happens, because sometimes its injury, sometimes it’s over-training syndrome, but people are stereo-typing that all the elites are getting into this over-training syndrome. I don’t think that’s quite accurate. I think if you do look at the marathon world, their training is so much harder for so much longer.

You just don’t see that topic come up in that side of the sport. This year though, I kind of have a little bit of a gap right now, what I’m going to be racing. I’m taking advantage of it. I’m taking some really good down time. I’m going to try to get little things that had been bothering me for the last six months fixed and be hopefully healthy.

I’m going to try holding out until JFK to do another big race, but at the same time my plan for this year is to try to do a really big block of training in the fall and try to pull out a JFK North Face San Francisco Double. They are two weeks apart, they’re both 50 Milers which JFK being first in November and then the North Face 50 in San Francisco being the first weekend in December. I would like to try doing that double and seeing how that goes.

IAN: Okay, big difference in prize money between those two races.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Yes, a little bit.

IAN: You’re not tempted by the Run Rabbit Run 100 for the prize money?

Jim Walmsley: I definitely am. I’ve been talking to the race director and it was even something on my radar before this. Run Rabbit Run this year though hinders that block of training and this is the biggest reason not to do it this year…  I guess what I’m saying is I want to do the double, I want to try to win both.

To get in the fitness required to be competitive and to recover so fast and then to run again, you’re talking a couple months of big mileage, hard running training to get ready for JFK where it’s not going to dig you in that big of a hole that it takes weeks and weeks to get out of that sort of thing but I want to be able to recover quick and then be able to race in two weeks.

That’s the biggest reason not to do Run Rabbit Run. The other thing I guess is what’s maybe keeping me from falling down that slippery slope is I’m kind of hoping a contract works out soon but we’ll see.

IAN: How’s that process going? I’m assuming that with you saying that there’s been some interest.

Jim Walmsley: Yes. Things are really positive. There’s definitely interest which more than that I ended up getting an agent because when I’m contacting these companies, it’s more in ultra-world. It’s kind of a weird thing because athletes are a lot of times trying to contact companies to ask for sponsorship, ask for this and that. A lot of times what I found out is I’m getting connected with the wrong people or people too low on the totem pole to really make decisions.

They’re like, “Look, we just have to wait until the end of the year” sort of thing. I ended up getting an agent after the race. The best part about that is that he’s able to work with people much higher up that if they want a contract done, they’ll get a contract done now instead of waiting until the end of the year when most people are renewing their contracts and stuff.

IAN: Well, it’s an exciting time. Certainly, the ultra-community is going to be very interested to see what happens over the coming months and year right up to Western States 2017. I just want to thank you so much for giving us an hour of your time and talking in depth about what has been quite an inspirational Western States.

Post Western States, Jim went on to set a Rim-to-Rim record in the Grand Canyon and a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim record, smashing the previous record set by Rob Krar to a new level of  5:55:20 – 26-minutes faster than Krar’s 6:21:47. As Jim eluded to in my interview, his main objective for the end of the season was the ‘double’ at JFK50 and San Francisco 50. Just last weekend, the first race took place. Jim ran the JFK50 and smashed the old course record setting a new time of 5:21:28. The stars are aligning for Jim Walmsley, San Francisco and a potential huge pay day awaits… Is Jim Walmsley the next big thing in the ultra world?

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 2 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Stage 2 Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang

Stage-1 finished yesterday in Bhandar and due to logistics it was necessary for myself to leave camp and make my way to Golla, the midway point of stage 2. It was a 3.5 hour hike with 2000m of vertical, I arrived in the dark and was saddened to see the lodge that I had stayed in on two previous occasions was now a pile of rumble – real evidence of the earthquake od last year. A two story house gone and now the family living in make shift huts. It was devastating to see and no doubt it has devastated them but they are a resilient people, life goes on and as such they offered me a bed and food.

I departed 0530 to climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. In principal, you look at the stage and think, it’s only 23.9km, and it won’t be too bad! Wrong. The stage has 3468m of vertical ascent and 1796m of negative descent. It’s a brute!

On the trail the freezing early morning temperatures started to rise and with it the sun. Suddenly, the first glimpse of the snow capped Himalayas and Everest in the distance. It was another tough hike to Pikey Peak and in particular, once I got passed 3600m I could feel the altitude hit! Ever watched a program on Everest and seen everybody walking really slow up the gradients? Now I know why… this stage of the ETR was a brute and without doubt it would cause some damage. Finally, we arrived at the Peak and waited for the runners. 

It was a split start today, slow runners leaving at 0700 and faster runners at 0800.

Starting with a short and technical descent for a couple of km’s, runners crossed a river via a suspended bridge and then it was pretty much all ‘up’ for 16/17km. The gradients were not brutal (however, poles were essential) and terrain underfoot on the whole was very good, but the combination of these elements and altitude made the whole experience extremely harsh.

Pasang Lama and Jennifer Hill were overall ETR leaders going into stage 2 and they lived up to their billing leading their respective groups to Golla

I had expected Pasang to be in a league of his own today, after all, he is Nepalese. However, the early gaps he had opened up were given away to Miguel Capo Soler and Casey Morgan. In the final climb to Pikey Peak – it certainly looked like he pushed too hard! Miguel was the first to reach the summit and then several minutes later, Casey arrived saying, “Now that is tough, I am nearly passing out with the effort.”

Pasang was expected next but first day 4th place finisher, Joan Soler, arrived next looking strong. Pasang finally arrived but he looked broken, constantly needing to stop.

Jennifer Hill proved in great form and dominated once again for the ladies with Andreja Sterle Podobnik once again following in 2nd to the summit.

One-by-one runners made the Pikey Peak summit, some in better shape than others. Unfortunately, the stunning early morning views of the Himalayas disappeared as the day passed and in the latter stages the race was blocked out with cold wind and dense mist requiring the ETR admin team to make some changes for the latter runners to ensure their safety.

In the distance, just 4km away from Pikey Peak, base camp could be seen early in the day at Jase Bhanjyang (3549m). A technical descent was followed by one last tough climb to the finish and an opportunity to rest.

Miguel took a strong stage victory ahead of Joan Soler who passed on the descent. Casey, post-race said that the climb to Pikey Peak had taken a great deal out of him allowing his Compressport teammate to pull away.

Jennifer once again won the ladies race with Andreja placing 2nd and Sarah Davies 3rd and moving up to 3rd lady overall.

The day took its toll on many runners, with altitude sickness causing issues and of course fatigue.

Going into Stage 3, Miguel Capo Soler and Jennifer Hill have a strong lead.

Stage results:

  1. Miguel Capo Soler
  2. Joan Soler
  3. Casey Morgan
  1. Jennifer Hill
  2. Andrej Sterle Podobnik
  3. Sarah Davies

General Classification:

  1. Miguel Capo Soler 7:19:17
  2. Casey Morgan 7:27:53
  3. Joan Soler 7:29:22
  1. Jennifer Hill 10:05:35
  2. Andrej Sterle Podobonik 10:18:20
  3. Sarah Davies 12:45:26

Stage 3 preview: Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikhola 37.4km

Stage 3 is all about running downhill, however, the finish is brutal ascent to Kharikola at 2100m.

Leaving Jase Bhanjyang runners have a short ascent of 2km to 3800m and then an 8km descent to Jumbesi, CP1. A 6km climb to just over 3000m is then followed with a 4km descent to Lharpa and CP2. Another 3km climb to 3000m and then a brutal leg sapping drop from 3000m to 1500m in 10km before the final sting in the tail, a 3km climb to the finish.

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Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Stage 1 Results and Summary

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Everest Trail Race – Day 1 Jiri Bazaar to Bhandar 

As the sun disappeared last night, so did the temperature but by Nepal standards it was a warm night! Just a base layer upper and bottom required inside the sleeping bag.

Morning came with a welcoming hot tea delivered to every tent by the Sherpa’s who are helping us. Organization is excellent. ETR have one advance team everyday, so as we are looked after in Jiri and new base camp, tents, eating tents, media tent and so on are being assembled in duplication. As Jordi Abad explains, “it’s the only way it can work here. The terrain is too difficult and too arduous to try and transport the same facilities day after day.”

At around 0700, villagers from Jiri came to observe the ETR roadshow and they played music to announce the start as they have done for the past several years.

On the stoke of 0900 the runners departed and the cold chilly of the early morning had disappeared with the rising of the sun. The contrast between just a few hours extremely noticeable.

Starting at 1890m the runners had a short descent and then immediately the first climb of the day to Mali at 2200m. Pasang Lama dictated the early stages followed by Casey Morgan and Miguel Capo Soler.

Jennifer Hill bided her time in the early stage but took a convincing lead and looked relaxed throughout the stage. Andreja Sterle Podobnik and Janine Canham pursued.

Deurali Pass via Khasrubas (2173m) was the toughest climb of the day and the highest point 2715m. Pasang, only had a slender lead over Casey and Miguel. A long descent to the finish and anything could happen – Pasang prevailed and took the stage win in Bhandar. 

Andreja couldn’t pull back time and Jennifer and the British athlete secured a stage one victory with Janine taking 3rd.

Runners now have the opportunity to relax, eat and prepare for tomorrows stage. It’s a tough day!

Stage 2 preview:

Leaving Bhandar, non-stop climbing follows a short 4km descent; firstly, to Gompa (Golla) at 3010m, a small downhill section follows of 2km and then a climb to Pikey Peak at 4068m. It’s a tough-tough day and the sting in the tail comes at the very end with a very short and steep ascent to Jase Bhajyang. Total stage distance 23.92km

Please note: I am leaving stage 1 camp today and hiking through the afternoon and early evening to hopefully arrive at a suitable vantage point to record images from stage 2. Updates will follow as soon as possible.

 

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Kathmandu to Jiri

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Departing in five 16-seater mini buses, participants of the Everest Trail Race made the long, twisty and at times stressful journey from Kathmandu to Jiri for the start of the 2016 edition of the ETR.

It’s a rollercoaster journey up single-track roads, a frenetic and constant beeping of horns and a multitude of bends that would leave the most hardened rollercoaster freak with a turning tummy. The roads are wide enough for ‘just’ two vehicles – a loud blast on the horn means we are overtaking. The lack of road rules works, all the drivers are prepared for anything and as such, nothing happens.

Our lunch stop was a welcome break from the journey. While runners found a space and relaxed, I walked looking for some local colour. I found a family relaxing under a tree, the midday sun was warm and they needed a break from the hard work in the fields.

They locals embrace tourists and actually seem to enjoy the process of having a photo taken. I lifted out balloons for the children and comically all the adults wanted one too. They were sitting, laughing aloud, as each and every one of them tried to inflate them. I am convinced they had not witnessed a balloon before. I inflated one and let go…. It whirled through then air and landed as if dead.

Relaxed with the balloon distraction, one-by-one they looked into my lens.

Weathered faces show the lines from years of toil in the fields. Children have wonderful circular faces that glow and piercing eyes with a cheeky smile.

I could photograph these people all day!

Back on the bus the ride continues and finally our arrival at Jiri came. We had been on the road 8-hours and the glow of yellow tents was a warm welcome as the day began to lose its light.

Water collection, tent allocation and final preparations were underway for tomorrows race day as the runners became acquainted with their new homes for the next 6-days . A mug of hot tea warms as the departing of the sun takes the heat of the day away and the temperature slowly drops…

Day 1 commences at 0900 Thursday 10th November.

Jiri (1850m) to Bhandar  (2050m) – 21.5km 3795m+

The stage has two summits, one at 2400m and the high point of the day at Deurali Pass 2700m before descending to the finish at Bhandar.

Everest Trail Race 2016 #ETR2016 – Kathmandu

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Today was a relaxing day in Kathmandu soaking up the sights, sounds, colour but most importantly, for me, the people!

Nepal and the Nepalese people fascinate me.

The day started with a morning in Patan – Patan, an ancient fortified town, was founded in 745 AD by Vanraj Chavda, the most prominent king of the Chavda Kingdom. He named the city Anhilpur Patan or “Anhilwad Patan” after his close friend and Prime Minister Anhil shepherd. (wikipedia).

And the midday around the Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa) which is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. (sacred-destinations).

The close of the day allowed runners to obtain race numbers, have equipment checked and as I write this, the race briefing is about to start.

Tomorrow we leave Kathmandu for Jiri, a journey of 7-8 hours and our first overnight camp. Racing will start on Thursday at 0900.

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Running Beyond Book available worldwide

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The day has arrived, November 3rd 2016 and RUNNING BEYOND is available worldwide.

Amazon.co.uk HERE and Amazon.com HERE

It seems a lifetime since I started putting this book together and although the Italian, Spanish and German versions were released in October, it’s so satisfying to finally have the English version released today.

The book will be available in store in all good book sellers and of course one of the easiest solutions for purchasing is via Amazon.

Please note that RUNNING BEYOND has been given a different name in Italy, Germany and Spain. A Swedish version is also planned – more news on that to follow.

Book available Amazon Spain HERE

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Book available Amazon Italy HERE

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Book available Amazon Germany HERE

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The book has 240 pages of images and words that encapsulate some of the worlds most iconic ultra, trail and skyrunning races.

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The book is hard bound with a dust cover and is ideal for a coffee table, dimensions are 12 inches by 10 inches.

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To coincide with the launch of the book, a limited number of signed copies are available on a first come, first served basis. A book can be dedicated to you or another person if required.

Order a signed book

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Sondre Amdahl to run The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica 2017

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Sondre Amdahl has been on a roll over the last couple of years running amongst the best runners in the world and on multiple occasions excelling with a string of consistent top-10 results.

I guess the journey really started in 2013 when Sondre placed 4th at Transgrancanaria (83km) and 10th at the CCC. In 2014, the Norwegian runner stepped up to the 125km Transgrancanaria race and placed 6th, ultimately though, the breakthrough came at UTMB with 7th followed up with a 17th at Diagonale Des Fous on Reunion Island.

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The 2015 season started really well with 2nd at Hong Kong 100 and moving up the ranks to 4th at Transgrancanaria – a race Sondre loves! 15th at Western States and 4th at UTMF set the stage for 2016 and Sondre’s first attempt at the Marathon des Sables were he placed 9th amongst a highly competitive field.

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“The main attraction with multi-day racing is that it takes longer! When I travel to the other side of the world, I appreciate that I can run more than “just” one day and night, like in a typical 100-mile race,” Sondre said when I asked about the appeal of the Sahara and MDS. “Multi-day racing also has a more social component to it. You meet more people and have more time to hang out with other passionate runners. Even though I’ve only done one multi-day (MDS in April 2016), I find the lack of recovery/rest and sleep makes it hard to race hard day-after-day.”

Sondre is hooked on the format of racing for multiple days and as I write this he will head to Oman to race in the desert once again. However, never wanting to stand still and always seeking a new challenge, the heat, humidity and varied terrain of Costa Rica has lured Sondre to The Coastal Challenge.

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“Of course it will be a challenge, but I love technical trails and elevation change. I think the TCC course fits my running style. I guess the biggest challenge for me will be the heat and the humidity! I live in one of the coldest places in Norway and in February the normal day temperature is minus ten/fifteen degrees Celsius. My heat acclimatisation needs to be spot on.”

Costa Rica is a magical place and so different to the baron almost featureless Sahara Desert. Having raced all over the world in stunning mountains, on isolated trails, I wondered why Costa Rica?

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“The tropical climate is a real attraction and it will be a great escape from the cold winter in Norway. I can’t wait to run on the beach and explore the rainforest.”

Renowned for specific training, Sondre often immerses himself in preparation for a key race. As he has said, Norway is not going to be the ideal training ground for a high humidity race with hot temperature. It begs the question, how will he train for this challenge?

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“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I feel a lot better now, and I’m ready for a good block of training in November, December and January to prepare for TCC. This training block will include the Oman Desert Marathon and a 115 km race in Hong Kong on New Years eve. I will also train in Gran Canaria in January to be 100 percent prepared for TCC.”

Sondre is leaving nothing to chance and peaking for a race so early in season can bring with it some risks, the racing calendar is so full and long now! I therefore wondered what his 2017 schedule will look like and I also wondered would we see more multi-day races?

“I will run the Jungle Ultra in Peru (6-day stage race) in early June of 2017. And may be Hardrock? I also want to go back to Reunion and run the Diagonales Des Fous in October.”

Marathon des Sables provided an opportunity to test equipment and be self-sufficient. It’s a challenge carrying ones own kit and I know only too well that not having enough food can be a real test, especially when racing hard. TCC is not a self-sufficient race and so therefore calories shouldn’t be an issue, however, I wondered about equipment such as shoe choices and other details for the race?

“I haven’t thought too much about this yet, but I guess I’ll use the Superior and/or the Lone Peak shoes from Altra. TCC will be fantastic as I just need to run with liquid and some food. I wont be weighed down by a 6.5kg pack. Being in my own tent but with all the other runners also provides a great compromise over a race such as MDS. I can have some privacy if I need it but I can still share the community spirit that a multi-stage race brings. I think for those who are looking for a challenge but also some comfort, TCC is perfect for this. I can’t wait!”

TCC and Costa Rica has a reputation for being a relaxed and enjoyable race – do you think holidays that combine a race are a good idea?

“For me personally, the race and holiday combo is just perfect. I will be racing for sure, that is my DNA But I know that when I get back home again, I will remember (and appreciate) camp life and the social aspect way more than the race result.”

The 2017 TCC is just a few months away, the ladies’ line-up is already looking incredible with 2016 champion Ester Alves returning. 2015 MDS champion and 2016 TCC runner up, Elisabet Barnes will also return. Add to the mix Everest Trail Race two-time winner, Anna Comet, and one thing is for sure, Sondre may need to watch out for the ladies’ as competition, never mind the men…

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A multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

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The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

Entries are still available for the 2017 edition

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

#RunningBeyondBook – Signed Copies

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RUNNING BEYOND BOOK

In advance of the UK release date of #RunningBeyondBook on November 3rd

I have 10- copies that I can sign and personalise. Strictly, fist come, first served.

The cost is £25.00 per copy plus postage and package within the UK

To order, please complete the form below

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