Marathon des Sables 2021 #MDS – GALLERY SLIDESHOW

The 35th edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES will go down in the history of the race as one of, if not the toughest edition.

Due to the Covid pandemic, the April 2020 edition was postponed three times to finally take place in October 2021.

Heat and conditions in October for the Sahara and Morocco are usually very similar to April, however, this year, the race had intense heat from beginning to end. Add to the mix sickness, and only 50% of the race completed the 250km journey. Rachid El Morabity won his 8th edition and Aziza Raji her 1st. A final race day summary is here.

Enjoy this highlight gallery of the race.

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Images are available to purchase HERE.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Marathon des Sables 2021 #MDS – Stage 4 (The Long Day)

The long day. The description and course distance for the toughest day of Marathon des Sables had been ket secret until the end of day-3. This in itself mentally challenged each and every runner. It played with the mind and of course, many asked questions of what the day would entail. In the end, the distance was a classic 82.5km with the unique challenge of climbing Jebel El Oftal during the night, except for the top and fast runners.

The mood of day 4 was mixed, there are two starts, the masses departing at 0815, the top-50 departing later at 1115.

Unfortunately, the devastation of heat and sickness and once again took its toll during day 3, during the night and in the morning of day 4. The exact drop out rate to be confirmed but certainly, statistics are showing that it is highly likely that less than 50% of the field will finish the 35th edition of this iconic race.

The illness and sickness has not only impacted on runners but also staff, logistical and medical teams making the race, at times, almost feel like a war zone.

However, the race goes on and with it, for some, a very well and hard earned medal at the finish.

Stage 4.

With over 20km’s of soft sand and dunes, the climb and descent of Jebel El Oftal, intense heat and balancing hydration and sickness, stage 4 of MDS was never going to be easy for anyone. This became apparent early on with many struggling to reach CP1.

The plan for most was to keep control and reduce stress during the day and then make the most of the cool night to gain time and ground.

Few were running. It was all about marching, one foot ahead of the other and survive.

Of course, the elite wave was slightly different with the top men and women still setting a relentless and excellent pace.

Aziza Raji for the women showed local knowledge and an understanding of the heat, the terrain and the race to excel on the 82.5km stage and take a convincing win. Aichi Omrani had showed great intention on day-1 of the race but has learnt as the race progressed that sometime less, is more. This was the case for the long day. She paced herself with Aziza but then settled at her own speed to maintain  a 6th place finish but her overall podium standing remaining 2nd. Race revelation, Tomomi Bitoh from Japan has run consistently well all race and on the long day she excelled finishing 3rd, always with an amazing smile and happiness. Severine Gaillez started in the early race start but set a great place to finish 2nd on the stage.

For the men, the expected challenge from French duo Mathieu Blanchard and Mérile Robert started well but sickness ruined Mathieu’s chances and while Mérile tagged Rachid El Morabity for a good percentage of the race, in the end, the Moroccan’s dominance and experience was just too great. Rachid took over the reigns at the front and ran a superb race.

Mohamed El Morabity once again finished 2nd behind his brother and Mériile finished 3rd.

Now the runners are fighting through another day for a coveted long day finish and the opportunity to tow the line of stage 5 and receive a 2021 35th edition medal from Patrick Bauer. The allocated time is 32-hours to complete stage 4’s 82.5km.

The elation of crossing the line is a special one.

Day 4 results (provisional):

  • Rachid El Morabity 8:46:16
  • Mohamed El Morabity 9:00:25
  • Mérile Robert 9:44:26

  • Aziza Raji 12:22:26
  • Severine Gaillez 14:45:57
  • Tomomi Bitoh 15:17:50

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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adidas INFINITE TRAILS 2021 Summary

Three runners. Three loops. One Team. The concept of the adidas Infinite Trails is a bold one. Take three run routes of varying distance, take three runners, each running their own loop varying in distance from 15km to 40km. Quite simply, add the three individual finishing times together to see who the fastest team can be.

Now in its third edition, 2018 being the first followed by a hugely successful 2019 edition that elevated the event to a whole new level. As such, 2020 was hugely anticipated edition rolling on from the growth of 2019, unfortunately, a certain pandemic changed those plans.

Working within very specific parameters, the 2021 edition had less runners, new loops for the relay race of 20, 30 and 40km, a new solo 65km/15km race and a smaller athlete village. It would be easy to think that the 2021 version would be disappointing… Not at all! Mike and Sonja of Planet Talk, with the help of a truly dedicated team, once again managed to pull off an event that sets the benchmark for all running events.

Incredible organization and planning are at the hub of adidas Infinite Trails and it’s why the event is a success. No stone is left unturned, every eventuality is looked at and planned for. It’s a dream event to run and work on. 

The weekend started with a very controlled registration process meeting COVID guidelines. Race briefing was done digitally, and one has to wonder if race briefings in the future will always be done this way? It’s time efficient and arguably more thorough.

The ‘Market Run’ started in the afternoon and with it, racers of all ages tackled shorter distances around Bad Hofgastein. Of course, the highlight was the children. It’s so special to see kids run and run fast with no thought of pace. 

Saturday was race day and this is where the format changed to previous editions. In 2019, runners ran the first loop only first and then passed the timing chip to their teammate on completion at the finish. The second runner would then go on their own loop of a new distance to repeat the process once again. The third loop would follow the same process and the conclusion at the start/finish area would provide a total accumulative time. 

For 2021, all loops started at the same time with the three team members lining up and then departing on their respective loops at 0700.  The 65km solo loop started 30 minutes earlier, the solo 15km starting at 0900. The format worked extremely well and provided a plethora of finishes starting firstly with the 15km loop and lastly with solo runners arriving at darkness for the 65km loop. 

Austria and Gastein is a playground for trail runners, the three loops providing a perfect showcase for the highlights of the area. Only the 65km loop provided a full 360 journey including the highlights of Gamskarkogel, Graukogel and Tischkogel.

Races within a race bring an exciting element to adidas Infinite Trails. There is individual accolade as each runner passes their own finish line, but it’s only at the end that three runners will know if they have won the event; the three individual times added together to bring one finish time. 

The adidas Terrex Team fielded a star-studded line up, even more impressive coming so soon after hard efforts at UTMB. As always, the #oneteam ethos was paramount and for those who would not race, they would crew and support the others. 

Importantly though, the 2021 edition was all about inclusion and participation, of course, there were individual and team winners, but importantly, there were no losers. The adidas Infinite Trails was full of achievement, happiness, and pride. It was good to all come together again, enjoy the trails, a great atmosphere, and all glory in a combined stunning weekend of running joy, very much the #oneteam ethos working for a whole community of likeminded people who wanted to celebrate the sport!

Bad Hofgastein provided a perfect hub for a weekend like this and the after party achieved a whole new level of awesomeness as it moved to the Alpentherme for water, music, drinks, and food. 

2021 may well have been a transition year for the adidas Infinite Trails, one thing is for sure though, we all received a resounding confirmation that the race is here to stay. Something this good should be a must for all. 

I said this in 2019, but I’d love to see other brands field teams to go head-to-head to see who the best with three runners over three loops can be. And you? Plan now, find two friends, create a team name and join us in Bad Hofgastein next year for the adidas Infinite Trails. Or if you fancy the full and immersive 360 journey, why not contemplate the 65km solo run, it’s a toughie, but very rewarding. 

Race website HERE

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021 Summary #UTS

Josh Bakker-Dyos

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

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

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY

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

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

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

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

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

Stunning landscape

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

Josh Bakker-Dyos

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

Mark Darbyshire

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

Lauren Woodwiss

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

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY

Abelone Lyng

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

‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 6

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

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

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

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

It was a wow day, the landscape truly spectacular.

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stages 1 and 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERIES

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

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

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

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

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

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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Twitter – @talkultra

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Episode 212 – Beth Pascall

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


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

NEWS

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

FKT’s? check the FKT website HERE


NEW REVIEWS


RAB Mythic Ultra Sleeping bags HERE


Hoka One One ZINAL shoe review HERE


Big Agnes Fly Creek solo tent HERE


adidas Terrex Speed Ultra long-term review HERE

OLDER ARTICLES:

Hypothermia – Be Prepared HERE

Mandatory Kit HERE

inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max Review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA shoe review HERE

VJ Sport ULTRA

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

La Sportiva Cyklon

INSTINCT XX20L Pack review HERE

Instinct XX 20L

HOKA ONE ONE Torrent 2 Review

La Sportiva Lavaredo Ultra Trail Review and Images.

NEED A TRAINING PLAN?

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

100-Mile Training Plan now available HERE

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

Listen to the show here or via links:

LINKS:

Spotify HERE  

ITunes HERE 

iOS HERE

Android HERE 

Web player HERE 

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

RAB Mythic Ultra 180 and 360 Sleeping Bag Reviews

RAB Mythic Ultra – Great in a hammock.

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

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

Quite simply, amazing levels of warmth for low weight.

Image ©RAB

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

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

Please read How To Choose A Sleeping Bag.

IN USE

Mythic Ultra 360

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURES

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

CONCLUSION

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

Mythic Ultra 180

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURES

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

CONCLUSION

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Stranda Fjord Trail Race 2021 Race Summary

Kristian Aalerud arriving at the first summit at 0500 hours.

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

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

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

VIEW THE IMAGE GALLERY HERE

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

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

No better place for sunrise!

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

Øystein Røen

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

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

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

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

Descending Slogen

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

Easy running before Slogen.

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

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

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

Felix Weber approaching Roaldshornet.

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

Rocks and more rocks.

Be warned, this route is tough!

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

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

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race

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

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

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

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

Beautiful and Brutal!

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

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Slogen

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Hoka One One Torrent 2 Cotopaxi Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SHOE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN USE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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