Marathon des Sables 2018 Race Preview #MDS #MDS2018

It is here, the 33rd edition of the iconic Marathon des Sables – 250km, 6 stages over 7 days and over 1000 runners from over 50 countries battling the sand and the heat of the Sahara in a self-sufficient manner.

The MDS is the granddaddy of multi-day racing and with its long history it is still the race that all other multi-day races base themselves on. Patrick Bauer’s vision is as strong today as it was back in the 80’s.

Bauer is not just a race director, he is a passionate man who loves Morocco and the people. The MDS ‘is’ Bauer and without him it is like the band QUEEN touring without Freddie Mercury center stage.

The stats for the race are impressive. They always are.

In 2018, as per usual. The 40-49 age group is the most popular. Yes, it is the mid-life crisis group with 349 males and 72 females toeing the line. The 30-39 group is next with 225 males and 58 females. Surprisingly, the 50-59 group comes in 3rd with a split of 177 to 37 male and female respectively.

The youngest runner is 17yr old Moroccan Ali Zaghloul who will be supported along the route by his father, Mehdi. The youngest female is Sally Wellock from the UK aged 23yrs.

France takes top honors for the oldest male, Jean-Claude Raymond aged 80yrs will look to complete his 12th MDS and Philippa Lloyd from the UK is the oldest female aged 69yrs.

I have to say, I have a soft spot for my good friend Didier Benguigui, this will be his 14th MDS and he is blind. I have seen him over the years overcome great adversity to achieve his medal. He is a true inspiration, he will make you cry – a legend of the MDS!

For those who love stats, believe it or not, the 2018 MDS will be Christian Ginter’s 31st MDS – yes folks, 31st edition – incredible!

ELITE RUNNERS

Female:

Natalia Sedykh returns to the MDS after winning the race in 2016 with a blistering performance. For me, she is the head and shoulders favourite for the 2018 race. She is currently in excellent shape and at the end of 2017 she won the Oman Desert Marathon.

Andrea Huser is a UTWT specialist and one of the strongest runners in the world with a string of incredible performances, be that UTMB or Transgrancanaria. She hasn’t run in the desert before and multi-day racing is a fickle beast. I see her doing well but I don’t think she will have the pace of Natalia.

One lady who will have the pace to take on the Russian is Magdalena Boulet. Magda has won Western States and placed 5th at UTMB. However, like Andrea, she is a desert Virgin and that will be her achilles heel for victory.

Anna Marie Watson can run in the sand, she won Half MDS Fuerteventura and recently placed top-10 at UTMB. She is likely to be a real contender for the podium this year and has trained specifically for the challenge ahead.

Gemma Game was 4th at MDS in 2015 and would have been a likely challenger for Natalia but has decided to ease of the gas for the 2018 race and she plans to have as much fun as possible.

Jax Mariash is a multi-day specialist who will bring her Gobi, Atacama and Namibia experience to Morocco. The question will be, does she have the speed to match the experience?

Also keep an eye on Bouchra Eriksen, Amelia Griffith and Beth Kay.

Male:

Rachid El Morabity is the desert king and you’d be a fool to bet against him. He won Morocco and Peru in 2017 and knows the sand like the back of his hand. He is an amazing runner with a wealth of experience and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Mohamed El Morabity is Rachid’s younger brother and if Rachid was not running, Mohamed would have the nod for victory. He was 2nd in 2017, and he also won the 100km Ultra Mirage in Tunisia.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz won the London Marathon in 1999 and 2001. He has a marathon PB of 2:06:43 – ouch! He is a MDS vet having placed 2nd twice and 7th.

Aziz El Akad is a consistent Moroccan who has finished in the top 5 at MDS on 7 occasions – that speaks volumes!

Gediminas Grinius was new to sand and multi-day at MDS Peru at the end of 2017. The race didn’t start well for him, but he eased into the race and finished strong. I am sure Peru was invaluable for him to fine tweak his prep for MDS Morocco. I expect to see his kit and food fine-tuned and it to be lighter. He is a formidable performer, strong as on ox and never gives in.

Alejandro Fraguela placed 3rd at Half MDS Fuerteventura and that will set him up well for a strong and consistent run in Morocco.

Arnaud Lejeune is maybe the great French hope. However, his lack of desert experience will be against him despite great results at UTMF and a top-10 at UTMB.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand is a strong runner and fierce competitor, he’s a sand/ Sahara virgin and has a huge learning curve ahead of him.

Majell Backausen from Australia is also a strong competitor and like Armstrong will have his first desert experience in Morocco.

*Remigio Huaman is on my start list but I am not sure if he will race? If he does, he is a podium and most definitely, top 5 contender.

THE 2018 RACE

Speculation is always rife about the route the race will take and certainly looks like from the very brief description below that the 2018 edition of the race will be similar to 2017. I therefore predict a finish in Merzouga dunes.

For perspective, the 250km distance can be covered at 3km ph with an approximate 83hrs finish time. By contrast, the fleet of foot can cover the distance at 14km ph with a finish time of 18hrs.

For the record, 2017 distances per stage were as follows:

  • Day 1 30.3km
  • Day 2 39km
  • Day 3 31.6km
  • Day 4/5 86.2km
  • Day 6 42.2km
  • Day 7 Charity stage

I think it’s fair to say that the 2018 edition will have similar distances and therefore the key days will be day 2 and of course the long day!

2018 ROUTE OVERVIEW

Stage 1 – The terrain will be flat with a great deal of sand, small dunes and a small climb to the finish.

Stage 2 – Is a longer stage, with a great deal of sand. It will include a climb through a gorge and then a steep descent.

Stage 3 – Starts with a climb followed by small climbs one of which is very steep with a technical passage. This stage includes the first ‘real’ dunes of the 33rd MDS.

Stage 4 – The dreaded long day! It’s going to be a tough day with a great deal of sand. It includes two passages through small gorges, a climb up a djebel, a rollercoaster through sand and a technical descent. It’s a day about managing oneself and saving something for the night.

Stage 5 – Is the classic marathon stage with dunes to kick off the day. It’s a day of no major difficulty and it includes sandy oued and small sparse dunes. However, be prepared for the long plateau towards the end.

Stage 6 – Obligatory charity stage and buses will wait for the finishers to return them to civilization.

KEY STATS

Needless to say, key elements of the MDS are the distance, heat, sand and self-sufficiency. The combination of all these elements makes the race a tough one! For safety, each runner is tracked and monitored with a SPOT tracker.

Each runner must carry all the food they require for the journey and the race specifies a minimum per day. This must be adhered to; however, a runner can carry as much food as they like. The downside is the weight. Therefore, the race is all about balancing calories to weight.

The runner must also carry a sleeping bag, sleeping mat (if they wish), any luxuries and they must decide if they carry a change of clothes – many don’t!

Mandatory kit is specified by the MDS organization and this must be carried. It includes:

  • SPOT tracker
  • Knife
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Lighter
  • Venom pump
  • Antiseptic
  • Sleeping bag
  • Survival blanket
  • Mirror
  • Salt tablets
  • Light sticks
  • Headlamp

In addition to the above, other items are specified and failure to carry them will incur a time penalty.

The only items provided by the race for each runner is water (rationed) and a bivouac (tent) that holds 8 people.

SCHEDULE REMINDER

April 6 – arrive Morocco

April 7 – Inspection day

April 8 – race start, stage 1

April 9 – stage 2

April 10 – stage 3

April 11 & 12 – stage 4

April 13 – stage 5

April 14 – charity stage

April 15 – free day

April 16 – journey home

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Buud and Hayvice triumph at the 2016 Tararwera Ultramarathon

jonas finish line

Widely tipped to take out the internationally esteemed Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km event, Sweden’s Jonas Buud didn’t have it all his own way, battling it out over two thirds of the distance with Australia’s David Byrne.

Forty-one year old Buud, 100km world champion, eventually broke the bungy cord between the two just before the 60km mark and charged home to take the 2016 title at the finish line in Kawerau in a time of 08:00:53. Byrne, 35 years, finished second in 08:22:39.

Ryan Sandes from South Africa completed the podium in a time of 08:30:40. Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara finished fourth in 08:40:17, with New Zealand’s Vajin Armstrong the first Kiwi home in a time of 08:46:12.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s Fiona Hayvice claimed first place in the women’s 100km event, after race favourite Ruby Muir pulled out at the 76km mark due to stomach issues. Hayvice also won the Tarawera 50km Marathon in November last year.

Muir, from Hawke’s Bay, had led the field from the outset until her withdrawal from the race.

Hayvice won the event in a time of 10:34:26. Australia’s Melissa Robertson came second in 10:56:20, with New Zealander Fiona Eagles taking third in 11.24.57.

The men’s first and second spent much of the race together, with just seconds between them at several of the key aid stations, including Lake Okataina (39.4km), Humphries Bay (49.2km) and the Tarawera Outlet (57km).

Buud finally put a gap on Byrne and never looked back.

“I felt very strong for the first 60km,” he says. “The plan was to keep a good pace in the first 60km. The next dirt road stretch really suited me so I was able to speed up and continue with that pace. The last seven to ten kilometres was pretty heavy though!”

Buud says the morning’s rain was a help in the first half of the race, but the humid conditions in the second half made for it being “a bit warm”.

Byrne says he is thrilled to have run so well in his first ever 100km event, but he was completely demoralised by Buud who “looked like he was just jogging, and then took off”.

“Then I went into consolidation mode to get to the finish. It’s a great event and I’m really happy to run so well. I’ve only ever run 60km, this was my first 100km race but I had to do it in New Zealand – it’s the best country on the planet!”

Third place Sandes says he’s happy to take the last spot on the podium.

“I’m super stoked, it’s an awesome event. I was pretty conservative in the middle stretches, but the last bit on the road was hard and I was worried that third and fourth were going to run me down. I decided to make a break in the technical section, as I knew Vajin [Armstrong] would run away from me on the flat.”

Hayvice says she couldn’t be happier to take the win.

“I’m feeling awesome, what a great day. The Tarawera Ultra is dear to my heart because its the first ultra I ever ran and it usually lays the foundation for me for the year. I have a big schedule lined up for the year but now my foundation is laid and I’m stoked.”

Hayvice says she found the first part of the race “actually quite lonely” due to the new course and its big climbs which threw the field open.

“I ran a lot of it on my own which I haven’t done in previous years. Once you know you’re in the final stages, you just tick the kilometres off. My goal was just to better my time, but the course and conditions had an impact on that time – but the win has meant I changed the goal!”

New Zealand’s Vajin Armstrong finished fifth, claiming a new record for finishing in the top five placegetters for the sixth year in a row at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Armstrong says he hadn’t intended running the event this year, after racing the Tarawera Ultra for the last five years, but once he saw the elite world champion field that was entered, he couldn’t resist.

“I wanted to run against the best runners in the world and I also felt like I had a bit more in my legs last year. The whole goal this year was to be a bit more aggressive and get myself into a position to compete with these top runners. This was by far my best performance here, even though the time was a bit slower with the slightly different course. Three or four years ago I would have won it today, but [race organiser] Paul keeps bringing better runners. The pedigree of this race is such that it now has world champion runners and I think it’s important for New Zealand runners to represent and show what we can do on the world stage.”

Due to course changes in for this year’s event, the actual course was 102.7km.

Race results: 

Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km Results:

Men:

  1. Jonas Buud (Sweden) 08:00:53
  2. David Byrne (Australia) 08:22:39
  3. Ryan Sandes (South Africa) 08:30:40
  4. Yoshikazu Hara (Japan) 08:40:17
  5. Vajin Armstrong (Christchurch, New Zealand) 08:46:12

Women:

  1. Fiona Hayvice (Wellington) 10:34:26
  2. Melissa Robertson (NSW, Australia) 10:56:20
  3. Fiona Eagles (Auckland) 11.24.57

Tarawera Ultramarathon 85km Results:

Men:

  1. Richard Coghlan (Japan) 08:40:55
  2. Valentin Benard (France) 08:50:58
  3. Lance Brew (Hamilton, NZ) 09:11:52
  4. Valentino Luna Hernand (Wellington, NZ) 9:34:12
  5. Sidney Willis (Townsville, Australia) 10:15:18

Women’s results unavailable at time of distribution.

 

The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2013 – Men’s Preview

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

What an exciting prospect the 2013 TNF UTMB is going to be! Just a few months ago it looked as though the 2013 edition was lacking some really strong top competition, but a surge of confirmed US entries has brought this race to life and to be absolutely honest, if a US runner doesn’t take top slot this year, then maybe they never will…

It’s a quality field and the list of top men has incredible depth. For the purposes of a preview I am going to highlight who I consider to be the contenders for the top three slots and then give notable mentions to those who most certainly stand a chance to make the top ten and if on a great day, they may make the podium.

So, who is going to win? Or should I say, whom do I think stand a chance of the podium? In no particular order, here are my contenders:

Favorites:

Jonas Buud, Anton Krupicka, Julien Chorier, Miguel Heras, Timothy Olson, Jez Bragg, Sebastien Chaigneau, Mike Foote, Mike Wolfe, Carlos Sa, Dylan Bowman, Gary Robbins, Yoshikazu Hara, Francois Faivre, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Jean-Yves Rey and Arnaud Lejeune.

Preview:

Jonas Buud - UTMB 2012

Jonas Buud – UTMB 2012

Jonas Buud placed second last year over the shortened UTMB route behind Francois D’Haene. It was a great run and a superb confidence boost for this year’s race. His recent run at Comrades when he moved up through the field from around 40th to the podium was not only an incredible lesson in pacing but also how to execute a great race strategy. I am pretty sure that this will be something he will bring to Chamonix. Without doubt he has speed but the full UTMB is a very different race to the shortened version and in this field a podium place will be a great result.

Anton Krupicka, Cavalls del Vent, 2012 ©iancorless.com

Anton Krupicka, Cavalls del Vent, 2012 ©iancorless.com

What can we say about Anton Krupicka? With a long time out of the sport due to injury, his return seemed guaranteed at the end of 2012 when he placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at Cavalls del Vent. We had hoped to see Anton run at Tarawera but just a week or so before the race he pulled out due to a niggle. Racing Ronda dels Cims was on the cards but he decided an attempt at Nolans-14 was a better option; it didn’t go well leaving him in pieces on the trail. One thing that is guaranteed is that Anton is fit and can climb. His recent 2nd placing at Speedgoat is going to be a great boost and he has been in and around Chamonix for several weeks now training with Joe Grant who will be his support during the race. It may be Anton’s year?

Julien Chorier, Ronda dels Cims, 2013 ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier, Ronda dels Cims, 2013 ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier is meticulous in planning, knows the UTMB route very well and after watching him run and dominate the 2013 Ronda dels Cims, if he brings ‘that’ form to Chamonix, then he will win! He was consistent, strong and a machine. Julien has been on the podium at UTMB before, 2007 and 2008 but this was relatively early on in his run career (a former cyclist). Since then he has won Hardrock, UTMF, Raid de la Reunion and so on. He will bring his ‘A’ game to UTMB with just one position in mind. A hot favorite!

Miguel Heras, La Templiers 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras, La Templiers 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras has had a tough time recently with injury. Running UTMB was a big question mark, however, I heard just the other day that he has confirmed he will run. His training has been hampered for sure and it is impossible to say at this stage, how that will affect his race. His most recent notable performances came in 2012 with La Templiers and San Fran 50. Like Julien Chorier, he is meticulous in planning and outside of Kilian Jornet; I would have said that an in form Miguel Heras would be the stand out favorite for this race along with Julien.

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

A little like Julien Chorier, Timothy Olson picks his races, plans, trains, turns up and wins. Anyone who can win Western States two years on the run knows how to bring the ‘A’ game to the right race. Timothy placed well at Tarawera and Transvulcania but his notable words to me at the end of Transvulcania were, ‘it just needed to be longer, I was getting warmed up’. Racing at Speedgoat recently he placed in the top ten but that doesn’t reflect a lack of form, in fact the opposite, it shows focus; focus on the big target, which is now UTMB. He has been in Chamonix and getting out on the course and so will now fully understand what he needs to do come this Friday. Along with Anton, he is a key favorite for the outright win, the only thing I can see going against him is the lack of experience in a European 100-mile race particularly in the Mountains.

I am going to stick my neck out and say that in the 2013 UTMB we will see a new Jez Bragg. He will run UTMB in a way that he has never run it before. We all know he was the 2010 winner of the race but quite frankly, and no disrespect to Jez, it wasn’t the full race and that makes a big difference. In recent years things have not gone well for him and post 2012 UTMB we discussed certain health issues that may have affected his performance. With those issues under control and then his incredible run in New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail, Jez will mentally and physically be in a different place when on the start line this year and in the famous Speedgoat Karl words he will be thinking, ‘a 100-miles is not that far’.  Jez will have his best UTMB ever! Listen to Jez Bragg talk about UTMB kit HERE

Sebastien Chaigneau, UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau, UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau has already had an incredible year. His win at the recent Hardrock 100 in a course record time (counter clockwise) is a dream come true for Seb. He actually only got the go ahead for that race just a couple of weeks before as he was a reserve, so, I can’t help but think his long term training was for UTMB but also meticulously preparing for the hope to participate at Hardrock. His early season win at Transgrancanaria and then 3rd place at UTMF will no doubt all take its toll. Seb has all the abilities and experience to win this 2013 edition, however, he may very well be just a touch jaded.

Mike Foote, UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote, UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote placed third last year on the shortened course and by all accounts is in great shape and has been training really hard. However, he has been plagued by injury. His second place at Hardrock 100 in 2012 most certainly means that if he his 100% fit, he will mix it up at the front of the race and be in contention for the podium.

Teammate and great friend of Mike Foote is Mike Wolfe. Mike had a year to forget in 2012 after an incredible 2011. He has loads of skill, great fitness and can run like the wind when he needs to. After some time away to recoup, Mike has now found some form and fitness in 2013. He had a win at Pocatello 50 and recently raced to a podium slot at Lavaredo Trail in Italy. Most recently he set a ‘FKT’ on the John Muir Trail with teammate, Hal Koerner. Now no doubt this was great training and great preparation for a 100-miles in the mountains, but, and this is a big but, was it too close to UTMB?

Carlos Sa placed 4th at UTMB in 2012 and earlier this year won Badwater 135. I witnessed him run at close quarters at the Marathon des Sables where he consistently performed well and eventually finished 7th overall. UTMB is a very different race and with strong competition from ‘mountain men’, Carlos will need a great day to make the top three.

Another American joining the mix is Dylan Bowman. Dylan may well be the dark horse of the US contingent. For sure, European eyes will focus on Krupicka, Olson, Wolfe and Foote and therefore allowing Dylan a little more freedom and a little less pressure. They should take note; Dylan has had consistent top performances at Leadville and Western States. What Dylan’s resume of results lacks is experience on tough mountain courses and that will be the crux of how well he performs. Will he be able to take the ups and downs that the UTMB throws at him?  *update 26th August, pulled out due to injury

Finally, my last contender is Gary Robbins from Canada. He had time away from the sport after having some horrendous injuries that almost stopped his career. With patience and rehabilitation he came back to his nemesis, Hurt 100 and not only won, but also set a course record. He has experience of UTMB and finished outside the top fifty last year, so why pick him as a possible contender? He knows what it is about now and to be honest, a full course is probably much more preferable than a short course for Gary. Also, he placed 4th at UTMF earlier this year behind Hara, Chorier and Chaigneau… that’s good company to be running with!

Yoshikazu Hara was the surprise winner of the 2013 UTMF putting Julien Chorier and Sebastien Chaigneau in 2nd and 3rd respectively. He is coming to this years race prepared and may well cause a few shocks!

Francois Faivre trainer of the French cross-country ski team from the Jura region, was recovering from some health issues at the start of the season. After signing up for the cancelled Maxi Race and after withdrawing from the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, François felt he lost some form. He finished 9th in 2011 and 7th in 2012! UTMB without doubt is his main goal for the season.

D'Haene, Kaburaki (middle) Chaigneau UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

D’Haene, Kaburaki (middle) Chaigneau UTMB 2012 ©iancorless.com

Tsuyoshi Kaburaki is extremely experienced at UTMB and has placed from 3rd to 11th in five outings. This year he won Bighorn 100 with some incredible running in the latter stages of the race. The jury is out on 2013 and I will update with more info as and when I have it on Thursday.

Jean-Yves Rey was 6th last year and is very much a dark horse. In his early 40’s he has had some impressive results over the years, 3rd at the iconic Sierre-Zinal in 2000, winner of the CCC in 2009 but recently he started the Eiger Trail and did not finish, so, his form is unknown.

Finally, Arnaud Lejeune is in his early 30’s placed 8th at UTMB and 3rd at Raid de la Reunion in 2012. He also had a string of top results with wins in; Faverges Trail, Trail de Savoyards, Trail Glieres, Quecha Trail Fiz, Verdon canyon Challenge and the Guyan Trail at 186km long. A resident of Annecy, he has access to the UTMB terrain on a regular basis and this is a distinct advantage. However, 2013 seems to have been very quiet. He may be a surprise!

As mentioned, the race has no shortage of possible winners, for example:

Sebastien Buffard 10th at UTMB and then of course we have Marco Olmo won UTMB at the age of 59yrs and in doing so became a legend. He most certainly won’t win this year but he deserves a mention.

Marco Olmo, MDS 2013 ©iancorless.com

Marco Olmo, MDS 2013 ©iancorless.com

Other names to watch out for:

Vincent Delabarre, Siu-Keung Tsang, Jason Loutitt, Gustavo Reyes, Armando Jorge Teixeira, Zigor Iturrieta, Giuliano Cavallo, Minehiro Yokoyama, Vajin Armstrong, Paul Giblin, Adam Perry and Terry Conway.

The TNF UTMB has gained a reputation as being one of the most iconic 100-mile races in the world. With over 2,000 participants, I will have missed several contenders who will create a stir and surprise us. Do you know who they may be?

Get involved:

  1. Who is your prediction for the race?
  2. Who will have the greatest improvement?
  3. Who will shock us?

Links:

The North Face HERE

TNF Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc website HERE

Sierre-Zinal Race Preview 2013

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgSierre Zinal 1sirrezinalIt’s a birthday year for this iconic mountain race. 40 years! To celebrate, the race organisation have invited many a past winner.

Considered to be one of the finest mountain races in the world. It was once written that it is to mountain races what the New York Marathon is to marathons. It is the oldest mountain race found in its category in Europe’s mountains.

The location is incredible. Of all the races I attended in 2012, Sierre-Zinal left some incredible memories… you see, the Zinal basin is just an incredible place. Also called, ‘the Race of Five 4000m Peaks’ when you stand in Zinal, look to the Matterhorn, you fully appreciate why. It is quite stunning.

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgP1040536sirrezinal

Sierre-Zinal, which takes place in the heart of Valais’ Alps, offers its participants a significant challenge: distance – 31 km, 2200m ascent and 800m descent. Incredible scenery, a warm atmosphere and exceptional organisation explain the success and longevity of this challenge.

As Jonathan Wyatt (record holder of both Sierre-Zinal and the Jungfrau Marathon, as well as a multiple world mountain racing champion) wrote, ‘As a mountain racer you must experience the tradition and history of this race.’

The course records are held by Jonathan Wyatt at 2:29:12 set in 2003 and Anna Pichrtova 2:54:26 set in 2008. If anyone fancies breaking a record in 2013, it would be a great pay day! A CR and a win this weekend, would earn the lucky person 3,000 Swiss Francs.

Legendary Pablo Vigil is a special guest this year. He participated and won the race years back and has become an ambassador for the race and has been instrumental in ensuring a strong American contingent at the race, for example, Stevie Kremer may very well have not participated in 2012 had it not been for Pablo.

This years race, as in any year will have names missing and I guess the big omission will be Marco De Gasperi. He is choosing to race in Italy. So, who will be lining up from the impressive 40-year history of the race?

MEN

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1080586

Despite Kilian Jornet telling me he was having a rest post Trans D’Havet so that he could prepare for his Matterhorn Summits attempt and the ISF Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks later in August, it would appear the proximity to Zinal is just too much temptation for him. So, he will make the trip from Cervinia and line up in Sierre for what he says will be a ‘fun’ run. Read into that what you will. When I see Kilian’s name on a start sheet he always must be considered for the podium… however, he may just kick back and enjoy the day. Read my interview with Kilian HERE

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1080155_Snapseed

Sage Canaday is travelling to the race after a strong victory at Speedgoat 50k and although he will be new to the course, I have to think it will suit him. He will need to ensure that he is near  the front in the early stages for the long climb, but once up, the course flattens and he will be able to open up and let his natural speed do the work. If he has a good day and is pushed, we may well see a new course record.

iancorless.orgIancorless_transvulcania_019

Max King has raced at Sierre-Zinal before and from memory he didn’t have a great race. He was around 20th and I think the European style of racing was just too different from what he was used to. However, he is a very different person now. In actual fact, Max raced at the 2012 Zegama-Aizkorri, however, that race was as problematic as his 2011 Sierre-Zinal. It’s a tough call for Max. Definitely top 10 potential and of course he has all the ability to be on the podium. But will he get over the European demons?

Course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt is back at the race and although his pedigree and his history elevates him to a high-profile within the race, one has to wonder how he will perform against top-level competition who are some years younger than him. He still runs and races regularly, but as he told me in Chamonix, it is for fun. We will see ‘Jono’ figure for sure… his ability will set him apart from so many other runners but I think the podium is an option.

iancorless.comiancorless.comP1060841cavallsdelventcavallsdelvent

Tofol Castanyer is finding form after early season injury issues and recently placed 2nd at Giir di Mont. Like Kilian, he will also race at Matterhorn Ultraks. This race won’t tire or affect his Matterhorn performance so we can expect him to run hard and that can only really mean one thing, a podium place is without doubt in his grasp.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1160125

Rickey Gates also raced at Giir di Mont and placed just behind Tofol. He is obviously finding form after a slightly problematic Ice Trail Tarentaise. Sierre-Zinal will suit him and his speed.

Cesar Costa has finished 2nd at Sierre-Zinal three times, he knows the course like the back of his hand and in the 40th edition will most certainly want to move one place up the podium for the win. He will without doubt be a favourite. Local knowledge and being slightly under the radar to the American runners will play into his hands. He will push hard and for sure, top 3 is an expectation.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand has been in Europe for some time. Sage Canaday for sure will be well aware of what this man can do after racing each other at Tarawera in New Zealand earlier this year. Vajin has speed and considering he has had some great results recently: 2nd at Zugspitz behind Philipp Reiter, 2nd at the K78 Swiss Alpine Marathon, one can’t help but think that he will shake things up and turn some heads at the finish in Zinal.

LADIES

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1090905

It all started 12 months ago and the progression has been incredible. Stevie Kremer lined up at Sierre-Zinal completely blown away by the competition and experience that surrounded. Cut to the finish of the race and she was 2nd on the podium. What has followed is a meteoric race in the sport and without doubt, Stevie comes to the 2013 Sierre-Zinal race as my outright favourite. Listen to my recent interview with Stevie HERE

Ladies Winner

Aline Camboulives won the race in 2012. She has experience and ability and for sure, I see her on the podium. But I think Stevie has moved on and has the all the potential to take the race to Aline and not only push her to the finish but to go past her.

Megan Lund is a name I am familiar with but in all honesty, I know little about her. Stevie Kremer has told me that she has great potential and is one to watch on this course. I am aware that she won the race in 2010 but her European performances are few and far between. She has had a baby and as Stevie said, don’t you come back stronger after a baby!?

Ladies Podium

Celine Lafaye has been up at the front of all the Skyrunning races and I don’t see Sierre being any different. She has all the ability and potential to win this race and if she has a good day, she will push Stevie at the front of the race.

Local lady, Maud Mathys finished 3rd last year and will come to the race knowing full well that Stevie is the one to watch. I anticipate she will keep as close to Stevie as possible and try to pull something out of the bag in the latter stages of the race. However, she was five minutes behind Stevie in 2012 and Stevie has moved on. Has Maud progressed at the same level?

Lizzy Hawker

Lizzy Hawker turned up and ran literally at the last minute in 2012. Once again she will toe the line in 2013. I anticipate a top 10 finish but not the podium. Like last year, she will use this as a prep race for her attempt at another UTMB title. Lizzy has also had injury issues and although UTMB is only weeks away, she is still on the road back!

Zhana Vokueva will also be looking to push at the front of the race. She recently raced in the Dolomites at the Skyrunning European Championships but it wasn’t a great weekend for her. She will be looking to get back into form and for sure, would like to repeat or go better than her 5th place in 2012.

Stephanie Howe has just won Speedgoat 50k and like Sage Canaday, that has got to be a great boost going into this race. If she has recovered well from Speedgoat, Stephanie may well be the person to push Stevie all the way to the finish. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Finally, 2001 Sierre-Zinal champ and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge will toe the line. She has recently raced at a very high level and with some impressive results. I see Angela being a dark horse to the new runners who will know her name but may well dismiss her due to her lack of high profile racing of late.

Without doubt it will be an exciting men’s and ladies race.

Links:

Sierre-Zinal website HERE

Brendan Davies – what’s next?

Brendan Davies TNF100 supplied by Brendan Davies

Brendan Davies TNF100 supplied by Brendan Davies

I first spoke to Brendan Davies (36) in the latter part of 2012. A schoolteacher, he was motivated by the escape that running provided. On the horizon was the Tarwaera Ultra in New Zealand. This race was being billed as the really big kick-start to the 2013 season. It had a stacked field with Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Anton Krupicka (who didn’t race), members of the Salomon International Team and of course all the local talent such as Vajin Armstrong, Mick Donges and Grant Guise. Brendan was relishing the opportunity to race… deep down though he had a bucket list. Brendan had a desire to travel and to race the best ultra runners in the world. As 2012 came to a close and 2013 started, Brendan was rewarded for his commitment, dedication and ability with a position in the Inov-8 International Team. Dreams would become a reality…

IC: Brendan, it is great to catch up with you once again.

BD: Thanks Ian, it is great to be back

IC: The last time we spoke you had aspirations for racing in Europe and a calendar that would fulfill your bucket list. 2013 is looking great… you must be happy.

BD: Absolutely. I have some great races planned. I have raced at Tarawera, UTMF and now TNF100. I go to Europe in June for Mont Blanc marathon and I hope to do UTMB.

IC: That would be awesome; UTMF was quite a race and a new experience. You had a great race in 5th place but I guess very different to racing in Australia?

BD: Definitely, the amount of elevation and the length of the climbs is just something else. You can’t get that in Australia. We don’t have the high mountain ranges. Our mountains are hills in world standards. We have hills not long climbs. I was certainly tested on the long climbs… what I found is that European men can go uphill so much quicker. They had a better technique. Something I really need to work on. I was slower on the climbs.

IC: I guess from your perspective when you train at home in NSW (New South Wales) you always run. I know that may sound stupid but if you train in the high mountains you have no option, particularly around Chamonix; it just isn’t possible to run everything. You must become efficient at hiking and walking. I guess you are going to work on that?

BD: Absolutely, that is probably the most important thing I learnt at UTMF. If I had the opportunity to race at UTMF again that is the thing I would really work on. I made the mistake of not doing enough research but I never anticipated the walking aspect. It is something I am now going to work on and I will find tough climbs and I will work and work to get stronger for the European races.

IC: What is it like racing in Japan; I would imagine the Japanese are passionate?

BD: Oh yes, they love the running. We had Japanese men in the field and the crowd really got behind them. Great organization and the RD put loads of effort into making everyone feel welcome. The race itself was very difficult. 9000m+ of elevation but I thought it may have been runnable… it definitely wasn’t. It was scrambling and rock climbing in sections. Massive climbs that gave you no opportunity for a rhythm. Thankfully road sections between climbs kept me in the race. Early on I was in 3rd place and then on the first big climb the European men such as Seb Chaigneau and Julien Chorier just pulled away. They cleaned me up on the climb. The race fluctuated for me. I finally settled into 5th place and I held that.

IC: I presume weather was an important factor. Japan at this time of the year must be chilly.

BD: It was nice during the day. The locals said how lucky we had been to get sunshine. However at night it dropped below zero. At the highest point of the course it was very cold.

IC: The experience at the finish, they had a local winner so I guess that must have been fantastic for the locals, however, for you it must have been emotional. This was a big race and big learning curve.

BD: I was absolutely over the moon. I can’t explain the emotions. It was just such an epic and brutal event.  When I saw the finish I took my pack off, threw it in the air and high fived the crowd. It was such a relief. I was overcome by emotion. It was such a tough event. I used every trick in the book to get to the finish. My body and mid were absolutely smashed at the end… I had given it everything!

IC: Nice to hear that even the elite have to fight hard and dig deep to reach the finish line. What was your lowest point?

BD: I don’t think I really had a low point in the race. My nutrition and hydration went really well. I was happy. If I had a low point it was probably the last leg. It had the most brutal climb I have ever done in my life. This beat everything and I am including rock climbing. I had to scramble, it was muddy, it was so tough and it went on and on. At the top it went on for 7km and switched back on itself repeatedly. It was just incredibly tough. My quads were smashed to oblivion.

IC: How was your recovery post UTMF?

BD: I had some rest and I had some massage. Everything post UTMF was all about getting ready for the TNF 100. It is Australia’s biggest race.

Brendan Davies - Inov-8

Brendan Davies – Inov-8

IC: TNF 100, what an incredible race eh? Not only did you win it but also you set a new CR!

BD: I feel pretty good today; I think it is all just sinking in. It has hit me what I achieved. I never expected it, a real bonus to set the new CR too. Actually I had no idea of my time in the race. It was only when I finished that I found out the time. I knew I was having a strong race because I know that course and I was running sections that sometimes I walk, so, I knew it was going to be good.

IC: What do you put it down too? You have been super motivated this year. In our previous chats you have said what you would like to do and achieve. Everything is now falling into place with Inov-8, the International Team, a top five at UTMF, do you think that you are in a really good place with your running at the moment? Also, UTMF was only a few weeks ago but you obviously recovered and came back stronger from that experience?

BD: I truly believe that everything I have done in the last six years has been building to the performance at the TNF 100. This year in particular I have been so focused about my running and where and what I wanted to achieve. All those little 1% gains and ticking boxes. It is paying off. I have been waiting for a performance like this; I knew it wasn’t far away. Certainly UTMF and TNF were two big races. I was always going to run both and race them. Months ago I treated them like a block of races. I planned a way to recover from UTMF and use it as a way to benefit the TNF 100. I truly believe UTMF prepared me mentally plus having the aerobic capacity to run 100 miles almost made 100km insignificant. Instead of struggling at the back end of the 100km I had a lot more power in the 80-100km section. So, doing 100 miles as most definitely helped. The hills at UTMF were so much harder, the course was tougher and in comparison TNF 100 was easier so it put me in a great place.

IC: After UTMF that was one thing we discussed, UTMF was such an eye opener for you that it made you realize what else was out there. Suddenly what was difficult on home ground suddenly became easier and your mental balance shifted

BD: Absolutely. Shona Stephenson and I both said the same thing after UTMF. Of course, you can’t just say that and not have a plan. I went straight into recovery mode post UTMF, I didn’t train much but I kept my race legs by doing a half marathon and a 10k. I thought it was a good plan. Both high intensity races that would keep my race legs. The TNF 100 is the no1 race in Australia. It is what counts.

IC: Makes perfect sense. When you have raced 100 miles and then three weeks later you are not going to get any fitter, what you need is recovery and maintaining your top edge. Exactly what you did!

BD: Exactly my plan. UTMF essentially was my last long, long run for UTMF. I saw that as a positive.

IC: Going into the race, Ryan Sandes was without doubt the favorite so what was your thought process when he dropped at CP2?

BD: No, no way. I met Ryan last year and he is a great guy. I have always welcomed international guests to our races. I want the sport to grow in Australia and Ryan is a real powerhouse in the sport. I look at it, as he is someone to test myself against. I have been able to run against Kilian and Ryan, I have watched them, studied them and I have emulated what they have done. I have listened and learned and I have got a little bit closer each year.

IC: Well you surpassed your expectations this year. It is quite incredible. When Ryan dropped at CP2 that left you out in front dictating the pace is that something you don’t mind?

BD: I lead from the front, pretty much from Km 1. You have a little out and back section just after CP2 and it is great as you get to see the competition. I turned and expected to see Ryan. But it was Vajin Armstrong and I had no sign of Ryan so I assumed something must have gone wrong. I didn’t let it affect my performance. I have raced Vajin several times and he has had the better of me, so I respected him as much as Ryan. It kept me motivated to keep going. I didn’t look back; I don’t believe it is a good thing. I needed to keep going and run my own race. Even at the finish I was asking if anyone was on my tail. Running at the front you run scared, you need to be motivated.

IC: The Blue Mountains are your home territory; I guess you know these trails like the back of your hand. What’s it like to win and set a CR on home soil?

BD: It is so special for me. I was in a race that has a small community. The ultra running community is small. I know so many people in the race, front, middle and back. It was so special to share the moment with so many people. The race is in my back yard. It is very significant. A very special moment to be able to share it.

IC: Southern Hemisphere running is going through a renaissance, you, Shona Stephenson, Beth Cardelli, Ruby Muir, Vajin Armstrong amongst others are leading the way. What does the future hold in store for you all?

BD: We are going to be more of a force in international big races. We are going to encourage a new generation of ultra trail runners. I was speaking to people after TNF 100, I spoke to a guy who was 21yrs old who finished seventh, he came up to me and humbled me by saying that I was his inspiration. Many others said this. That touches me and it also signifies how the sport is growing. We are going to get a new breed of runners that are faster, better and more focused than myself. They will lead to the way and it will go from strength to strength.

IC: You are in Europe for the Mont Blanc marathon in June. You will be representing Inov-8 as part of the International Team, how excited are you about being part of this team but also running in the Skyrunning calendar.

BD: I am honored. I have always worn inov-8 so when I was asked on to the team it was such a great honor. To be around other international runners will be a great experience. I also think my Inov-8 teammate Shona Stephenson will really prove what a great runner she is when she gets to Europe. She has gone from strength-to-strength. The longer the race the better she goes. I am really excited to see the other athletes too to see what they can do. I will be a great experience. I am just really happy that Inov-8 has backed us.

IC: Brilliant, what lies ahead for you post Mont Blanc?

BD: Possibly Ice Trail Tarantaise but I am not sure it will fit in my schedule, we shall see. Maybe I will come back to Australia and then I will focus on the road. I want to get my road marathon time under 2:30, I did a 50k in Canberra two weeks before UTMF and I could have gone under 2:30 in that race. So, that will be on my agenda leading up to the world 100k championships in late October in South Africa. I would like to be in the 6:30’s for 100k. So, the latter half of 2013 will be about road running.

IC: Look forward to catching up in Europe. Certainly 2013 is going to be a really exciting year for you.

BD: Thanks so much Ian.

TNF 100 Results:

Men:

  1. Brendan Davies 09:16:12 new CR beating Kilian Jornet’s previous best
  2. Vajin Armstrong 09:42:22
  3. Andrew Tuckey 09:44:52

Ladies:

  1. Beth Cardelli 11:01:08 (12th overall)
  2. Joanne Brischetto 11:44:35
  3. Shona Stephenson 11:45:38

 

Links:

  • TNF 100 full race results HERE
  • Skyrunning Calendar HERE
  • Inov-8 HERE
  • Brendan Davies : runmrd.blogspot.co.uk

Tarawera update

Tarawera logo

Locals Vajin Armstrong, Brendan Davies and Mick Donges had spent a summer preparing for what was almost certainly the most high profile race to have been staged in this part of the world.

Vajin Armstrong had been doing some crazy mileage in training each week (over 200k) in the build up to the event and was most definitely fired up to take the race to the ‘Yanks’. Fast man Brendan Davies was equally fired up and on paper certainly had the potential to give Sage and Timmy a race. Mick Donges as the 2012 winner of the race had some added pressure on his shoulders but he was in shape.

Sage Canaday was coming into this race as a relative newbie. His progression from a 2:16 marathon runner into one of the best ultra runners in the world (up to 100k) is nothing short of miraculous. He showed incredible strength in 2012 with some stunning wins and he showed this form had carried over to 2013 with a great win and course record at Bandera 100k.

Timmy Olson on the other hand had most definitely kicked back after Western States and had enjoyed getting married and was relishing the birth of his son. He also started the year at Bandera but raced the 50k. Although winning the event, his time was slower than Sages’ split time for the distance. However post Bandera Timmy had knuckled down and pre Tarawewra had stated he had had some great training and was ‘in shape’.

Race Day

Fast is probably the easiest way to describe it. Brendan Davies set an early pace that almost seemed like suicide. He was either in the shape of his life and was going to teach everyone else in the race a lesson or he was going to crash and burn. Ultimately it turned out to be neither. He most certainly dominated the race over the opening 20km by gaining a 1 minute lead but had to ease back as Sage took over the race and by the 45km mark, Sage was pulling away from a chasing Brendan Davies and Vajin Armstrong  with Timmy Olson and Mick Donges following.

At 40km Sage had a 6/7 minute lead and he then seemed to turn the after burners on. He just seemed to be getting faster and faster. At half way he had a 12 minute lead and in reality we looked back into the field and had to decide who was likely to take 2nd place.

Timmy Olson took over the reins at the front of the chasers and started to move away from Vajin Armstrong. It now seemed that Brendan Davies was paying for that first 20km’s and Mick Donges now in 5th was heard saying “I am saving myself for the final 15km”.

Feedback in the latter stages of the race became sporadic due the difficulty with comms. I had been told at one point that Sage had a 20 min lead. I had just posted on Facebook that I expected Sage to finish in approximately 10 min and Bryon Powell from iRunFar tweeted that Sage was in the final 2/3km.

But then the shocker…. a following tweet saying Timmy was only 2/3 min behind. Really? Had Timmy closed that gap?

Sage went on to say after the race “yeah, I went a little too fast in the middle and it almost got me in the end!”

Sage held on and crossed the line in 8:53:30 managing to avoid a sprint finish.

Timmy really had paced himself perfectly and to be honest, if the race had been a little longer he may very well have taken the win. But hey, the finish line is where it is and he crossed it in 8:56:45. I am still not sure of what the gap between the two front men stretched too but 12 mins or 20 mins, Timmy did a great job of closing down.

Vajin Armstrong took the final slot on the podium in 9:39:45 and was followed by Brendan Davies in 9:51:50 and Mick Donges in 9:59:47.

In the ladies race pre race favourite Ruby Muir absolutely dominated a small field and led from start to finish. New to the 100km distance she showed experience beyond her years. My pre race prediction that she would be doing some ‘chicking’ while out on the course came to fruision. She crossed the line winning the ladies race in 10:30:07. Her time was fast enough for a 7th overall. Impressive.

At the time of writing updates on the remaining ladies have been sporadic but Beth Cardelli a certainly looked likely to be taking a podium slot.

Update ladies result

2nd Beth Cardelli  : 11:43:56

3rd Kelly Harrington : 14:23:56

4th Raewynne Blommerde  14:35:55

5th Kate Townsley : 15:54:13

We must remember that other races did take place, a 60km and 85km event. Notable interest for these events are the relay pairings of Francois d’Haene and Emelie Forsberg going head-to-head against Rickey Gates and Anna Frost in the 85km. Also, Salomon Team manager, Greg Vollet was racing in the 60km.

It’s TARAWERA time

“The quality of the field is amazing,” says Charteris, with a grin. “The 2013 Tarawera Ultra will be the most competitive long distance running event in New Zealand since the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon.” Paul Charteris, RD

I shouldn’t say it but I guess I must, I am starting with a negative. After some serious smack down talk just months ago, Anton Krupicka has pulled out of the Tarawera race. This is not breaking news, he actually stated this on his blog a couple of weeks ago but it is sad news for the race and for Anton.

“I decided over a week ago to not make the trip down to New Zealand for the Tarawera 100K in 10 days, and despite my hip showing significant improvement I know it was the right choice. I’ve done no long runs of any type since December and don’t have any desire to travel all that way to muddle through 62 miles with poor fitness and a very likely chance of re-injuring myself”

However a race will go ahead and the missing Anton just means one less name in a stacked field. The European contingent of Francois d”Haene, Emelie Forsberg, Greg Vollet will not mix it up in the ‘main event’. Francois announced at the press conference that he stepped down to the 80km relay and would partner Emelie Forsberg. That will mean that the Francois/Emelie show will be going head-to-head against Salomon teammates Rickey Gates and Anna Frost.

The Main Event

As announced earlier in the week, the main race is now even tougher as the course has had some modifications due to fire risk. You can read the post HERE.

The Men

Ultimately, particularly in the mens race race it is the Southern Hemisphere against the USA. The USA have three top representatives toeing the line in the land of the Hobbits.

Timothy Olson, Jason Schlarb and Sage Canaday.

Sage Canaday, of Boulder, raises his hands in victory, after winning the 52nd running of The Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, with an official time of 58:27, in Pinkham Notch, NH, on June 16th, 2012. 1,200 runners raced up the 7.6 mile Mo

Without doubt, my hot tip is Sage Canaday. Sage throws some freakish speed into the mix. A 2:16 marathoner, he has recently switched to ultra distance racing and became the United States 100km trail champion. He started 2013 by running a stunning course record at Bandera 100k in 8:13:49. His marathon training background and natural speed make him a danger on any course. He may not be used to high mountains but Tarawera will suit him. You can listen to an interview with Sage Canaday on Talk Ultra episode 27.

Timothy Olson needs no introduction after his incredible run at Western States in 2012. Married life and the birth of his son saw him take a more relaxed approach to 2012 and he too started 2013 by running at Bandera but in the shorter 50km race. Although he won that race his pace was casual. It was very much a ‘getting into a new year run’. Since then he has put in the miles and has knuckled down and says he is in good shape. He is without doubt a contender for the podium but I can’t help but think his passions and motivations will be concentrated on Western States and the UTMB. It is still very early in the year for him.

In contrast, Jason Schlarb looks ready for this race. He has spent several months in the Southern Hemisphere preparing so he is going to feel relaxed and adapted. Unlike Sage and Timmy who are really only just starting a racing season, Jason is in the thick of it. This will play into his hands. He has the speed to be up a the front and with Sage and Timmy taking the limelight he may just slip under the radar and take many by surprise.

With USA contingent covered we now look at the Southern Hemisphere.

Vajin Armstrong, Brendan Davies, Mick Donges and Dave Eadie.

My tip here would be Brendan Davies. Brendan really is super focused on this event. Like Sage he brings a real speed element to the race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two battling at the front for much of the day. I interviewed Brendan for episode 23 Talk Ultra and you can listen to that HERE. Brendan has recently run a 3:16 50k at Stromlo and he is a top 100k runner.

Mick Donges comes to this race with some pressure on his shoulders as last years winner. I spent time with Mick in 2012 in and around Sierre Zinal and UTMB. He is certainly a talent and he has the speed to go with it. However, pressure and the big occasion can seem to affect him. They don’t get any bigger that Tarawera this year so how will he hold up? Mick ran the famous six foot track marathon just last weekend (was that a good idea?) in 3:35.

Vajin Armstrong wants this race. I actually really think he had focused his mind on taking on Anton after the ‘smack down’ talk months ago and as such has been doing some really heavy training. He won the 2012 Kepler Challenge in 4:55:24 and like Brendan he will be pushing for the win or at least, the podium.

Finally Dave Eadie is without doubt a quality runner but I don’t think he will be in the mix for the podium. No disrespect for Dave (honestly Dave). He has done it all… just last year he was at Badwater crushing out those 135 miles in the soaring heat. He has run Western States and has been a multiple 100k champ. He will go out strong and hope he can hold on.

Who do I predict? Sage Canaday. To be honest, I think he will run hard and smash it. Lets just hope he doesn’t go off course.

The Women

I guess with Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg taking some spice out of the ladies race by running the relay we have four who will fight for the podium.

Ruby Muir, Candice Burt, Shona Stephenson and Beth Cardelli.

“The ultra-racing world is keen to see how 21-year-old Barefoot Inc sponsored, Ruby Muir from Napier will handle the distance”, says Charteris. “She’s unbeaten – including winning her first ever ultra distance run when she stormed away from the field at the 2012 60k Kepler Challenge in Te Anau.”

Tarawera Logo

Beth Cardelli won the last eight events she entered in her home country. That is impressive! She was Australia’s ultra athlete of the year but having had some recent injury issues it does look like her emphasis will be on a good consistent run to lay a foundation for racing some of the 2013 Skyrunning calendar.

Shona Stephenson, like Cardelli had a really impressive 2012. She has recently won a 50km in Victoria but I don’t see her beating Ruby Muir.

Finally, Candice Burt placed 3rd at Hurt 100 and she also had a top 3 placing at the Tahoe Rim Trail. She most certainly has the endurance but does she have the speed. It may very well be that if Beth Cardelli really is not in perfect form that Candice can take that 3rd podium slot or maybe even the 2nd if she has a great day.

Who do I predict? Ruby Muir. She is new to the 100k distance but I think she will lead this race out and may very well ‘chick’ a few guys in the process.

Interviews are available on Talk Ultra as listed below:

  • Brendan Davies episode 23 HERE
  • Timothy Olson episode 12 HERE
  • Anton Krupicka episode 19 HERE
  • Anna Frost episode 3 and 9 HERE & HERE
  • Emelie Forsberg episode 28 HERE

“It’s like organising a local bicycle race and having half of the Tour de France peloton show up for the ride,” says Charteris, as he scoped out a section of the course in Rotorua’s world-renowned Whakarewarewa Forest. “It’s humbling – and frankly, scary.”

  • Race coverage will come from ULTRA168 and iRUNFAR and I will help spread what they provide via Talk Ultra
  • Race website HERE
  • Results will be available HERE

Tararwera is going to be HOT!

Tarawera Logo

Fire risk makes ultramarathon even tougher

Extreme fire danger means that New Zealand’s Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon100 kilometre-long run will be even tougher to complete for the 430-strong field.

The event is on this Saturday, March 16 and was scheduled to run from Rotorua to Kawerau in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty. However, because of a prolonged drought the fire risk is so high the last 40 kilometres of the course is now closed to the event organisers.

Instead of finishing on relatively easy forestry roads in Kawerau, the runners will turn-around at the 60km mark of the race – right next to the Tarawera Falls – and run another marathon over rugged, hilly trails.

“Mind you, ‘easy’ really is a relative term,” says event organiser, Paul Charteris. “Once you’ve been running for 60km, the thought of running another marathon of any sort is mind-boggling, even for the most experienced runners.”

The Tarawera Ultramarathon has a reputation as being relentlessly tough – but achievable – even for a first-time ultra runner.

“I’m afraid this new course is going to break some of those runners,” continues Charteris. “It’ll mercilessly eat them up and spit them out.”

For those who may get chewed-up on race day, the Tarawera Ultra has shorter options with an 85km and an 60km distance. Both will be run on many of the same trails as the 100 kilometre distance.

“The choice to re-route the course was an straightforward one,” says Charteris. “The safety of runners, spectators and volunteers is always the number one priority.”

For the runners, the last minute curve ball throws in some new challenges.

With more of the route being covered by rocks, roots and hills, runners will need to conserve more energy for later in the race. The winner of the 100km event is expected to finish in a little over eight and a half hours. The final finisher is expected home just before midnight.

Many of the world’s best off road distance runners will be racing Tarawera. For the European and North American favourites, this is their first clash of 2013. The world’s ultra running media are keen to see how they fare against the best from down under, including top runners from Australia.

“Christchurch’s Vajin Armstrong will be defending Kiwi honour in the men’s race and 21-year-old ultra phenom Ruby Muir in the women’s 100k race,” adds Charteris. “Both runners are sponsored by American brand, UltrAspire.”

Armstrong has been running an astonishing 250km per week to prepare for the race, while Muir has continued her habit of winning every race she’s entered.

Many of the Northern hemisphere athletes have already arrived to get acclimatised to the heat and to course conditions.

Francois d'Haene TNFUTMB 2012 copyright Ian Corless

Francois d’Haene TNFUTMB 2012 copyright Ian Corless

France’s Francois D’Haene, a professional athlete from the European-based Salomon Racing Team, has been training in the South Island, getting acclimated to the roots and rocks of New Zealand trails. In 2012, D’Haene won the coveted Ultra Trail Mont Blanc title in his home country, with over 2000 runners in the field.

For Race Director, Charteris, it’s been a hectic few days re-arranging the course.  There’s an army of dedicated volunteers putting on long hours to make sure the race come off smoothly. An added complication is that large sections of the race are now only accessible by boat.

“I’m trying to figure out a way to transport about 20 volunteers and about quarter of a million calories worth of food across Lake Tarawera,” he says.

Rotorua is renowned for hosting a number of international sporting events. In 2006 the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championship were in Rotorua and the Single Speed World Champs were held in the Whakarewarewa Forest in 2010.

On race day, running shoes will replace wheels on many of the same trails.

“With this sort of fierce competition, there will be a large national and international media following for this race,” adds Charteris. It will be a big week for the region.”

Tarawera Ultramarathon

Tarawera trails set for world-class endurance test on March 16 2013

Tarawera Logo

It’s a ridiculously long-distance running race on some of the most beautiful trails in New Zealand’s North Island.

The 100 kilometre Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon will be run on the magnificent bush tracks and forestry roads from Rotorua to Kawerau on Saturday March 16.

One of the world’s toughest endurance running races, it’s the brainchild of Paul Charteris. The Rotorua event organiser launched ‘the Tarawera’ 5 years ago and for many of the world’s best off-road distance runners, it has quickly become a ‘must-do’.

“The quality of the field is amazing,” says Charteris, with a grin. “The 2013 Tarawera Ultra will be the most competitive long distance running event in New Zealand since the 1990 Commonwealth Games marathon.”

It’s a bold claim.
“The race sold out months ago and the 430-strong field is stacked with the world’s best,” says Charteris to back this up. “The winners of nearly every major international ultra marathon race will be on the start-line.”

A lot of top Kiwi runners will also be in the field, defending local honour.

“The ultra-racing world is keen to see how 21-year-old Barefoot Inc sponsored, Ruby Muir from Napier will handle the distance”, continues Charteris. “She’s unbeaten – including winning her first ever ultra distance run when she stormed away from the field at the 2012 60k Kepler Challenge in Te Anau.”

Muir is expected to receive stiff competition from Dunedin’s Anna Frost, widely regarded as the top female trail runner in the world last year. Frost’s Salomon Racing teammates, Emelie Forsberg from Sweden and Candice Burt from the United States will also be on the start line, along with Australia’s Beth Cardelli.

Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

Cardelli won the last eight events she entered in her home country.

The top of the men’s field is a fleet-footed freight train of long-distance talent.

Mick Donges from Katoomba Australia is back to defend his 2012 Tarawera title against Christchurch’s Vajin Armstrong. The Kiwi finished second over the 100km distance the past two years and is keen to go one better.

Colorado-based runner Anton Krupicka, who ran a relay leg at Tarawera last year, has already fired a warning shot, posting online that he’s coming back to New Zealand for the win.

“This year, I’m looking forward to the technical trail between Humphries Bay and Tarawera Falls most of all,” says Krupicka. “The whole section from Okataina Lodge to the Falls will definitely be a highlight of the day, especially cruising at race pace.”

Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

UPDATE* on Anton Krupicka posted on his blog site:

“I decided over a week ago to not make the trip down to New Zealand for the Tarawera 100K in 10 days, and despite my hip showing significant improvement I know it was the right choice. I’ve done no long runs of any type since December and don’t have any desire to travel all that way to muddle through 62 miles with poor fitness and a very likely chance of re-injuring myself”

Other top runners to watch will be Brendan Davies, Australia’s ultra runner of the year and Timothy Olson, Jason Schlarb, Rickey Gates and Sage Canaday from the United States. France’s Francios D’haene and Greg Vollet lead the European contingent.

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Interviews are available on Talk Ultra as listed below:

  • Brendan Davies episode 23
  • Timothy Olson episode 12
  • Anton Krupicka episode 19
  • Anna Frost episode 3 and 9
  • Emelie Forsberg episode 28 (future show)

Olson and D’haene won the two biggest races in the world during 2012. Olson won the Western States 100-mile endurance run in California in record time and
D’haene won the coveted Ultra Trail Mont Blanc title in his home country, with over 2000 runners in the field.

Canaday throws some freakish speed into the mix. A 2:16 marathoner, he has recently switched to ultra distance racing and became the United States 100km trail champion just last week. You can listen to an interview with Sage Canaday on Talk Ultra episode 27.

For Race Director, Charteris, it’s been a dizzying few weeks.

“It’s like organising a local bicycle race and having half of the Tour de France peloton show up for the ride,” says Charteris, as he scoped out a section of the course in Rotorua’s world-renowned Whakarewarewa Forest. “It’s humbling – and frankly, scary.”

Rotorua is renowned for hosting a number of international sporting events.

In 2006 the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championship were in Rotorua and the Single Speed World Champs were held in the Whakarewarewa Forest in 2010.

On race day, running shoes will replace wheels on many of the same trails.
“A beautiful environment and superb athletes – it really is a recipe for a fabulous day of racing,” enthuses Charteris.

“And with this sort of fierce competition, there will be a large national and international media following for this race. It will be a big week for the region.”