Seminal UTMB 2017 – The Men’s Race

Francois D’Haene racing in China, April 2017

The 2017 UTMB was billed as the ‘best ever’ and as the weather finally improves in and around Chamonix, life returns to normal for us all and we have an opportunity to step back and look at how important this years race actually was.

I think it may well be a seminal edition and for many reasons.

Yes, I think this years race may well be a great influencer in the later developments not only of ultra-trail but more importantly the runners who participate.

The men’s race featured a known top-10 and I think it’s fair to say there were few surprises. Unlike in previous editions, the main contenders battled throughout and few dropped or faltered resulting in a super exciting edition of the race.

Read about the Ladies race HERE

THE TOP 10 MEN

 

NO1

Francois D’Haene 19:01:32 – Francois is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world. No question. Coming into the race, it was a coin toss if he or Kilian would win the race. I like everyone else went with Kilian – how can you bet against Kilian? But with reflection, Francois always should have been the hot-favourite for victory. He prepared meticulously for UTMB with victories in ‘warm-up’ races, he ran the UTMB route over 4-days with Salomon teammates and yes, he is the course record holder. He started at the front, closer than I had anticipated and he never relinquished a firm grasp of the race. Experience, fitness and endurance over the final third of the race saw him pull-away from Jim Walmsley and Kilian to confirm that he is the best in the world.

 

NO2

Kilian Jornet 19:16:38 – It’s tough being Kilian, so much pressure. But he shrugs it off on his own way… At the UTMB this year he interviewed runners on the start, filmed the start and continued to film over the opening miles. He surprised me by keeping with the front of the race, an unusual tactic for him. Maybe he thought that if he let Walmsley, D’Haene and the others go, he would never reel them back in. I expected Jornet to win, as did pretty much everyone else but a lack of running in 2017 and the early fast half of the race no doubt took its toll. He finished 2nd and that in itself is incredible, the fact he suffered so much is even more remarkable. He is an incredible ambassador and I know personally that he will be as happy with D’Haene’s victory as if it were his own. Let’s not forget he summited Everest twice in one week, won Hardrock 100 and won a fast Sierre-Zinal in the lead to UTMB.

 

NO3

Tim Tollefson 19:53:00 – Yep, Tollefson signifies why the 2017 UTMB is a seminal edition for US runners. He placed 3rd last-year and backed it up again with third this year. He started steady and let his experience, training and mental strength run a finely paced and well-judged race. It was impressive to follow how he meticulously worked his way through the race. With approximately 50km’s to go, he moved up into third and he remained in that place all the way to the line – impressive!

 

NO4 – Xavier Thevenard 20:03:14 – He’s won all the UTMB races (CCC, TDS, OCC and UTMB multiple times) and yes, of course, he was a favourite for the podium and or victory. Early on he raced with the front but I think he decided the pace was a little hot and he eased off. He knows how to run this loop though and experience counted. His fourth is no disappointment and confirms his ability over the 100-mile distance in the mountains.

 

NO5 – Jim Walmsley 20:11:38 – This was the seminal performance of the whole UTMB and yes, I have been vocal on Walmsley post his 2017 Western States. I have to say, he impressed the hell out of me at this year’s UTMB. He took the front as I and many expected but unlike Western, he understood the task at hand and who was behind him. A naturally fast runner, he obviously struggled to run slower but he restrained himself, often waiting for Jornet, D’Haene and others. I said before the race started that he would find the final 30% tough and he did. He is incredible over the 100km distance or running say 10-14 hours but beyond that is all new ground. From 100km he slowed and struggled dropping to seventh but then rallied to move back to fifth. This was THE learning curve that Walmsley needed and I am convinced that this IS the turning point in his 100-mile running career. He has already proven up to 100km he is incredible, now we will see him harness this learning curve not only in pacing and race management but also how to handle the mind games that this distance brings. I am convinced we will see Walmsley top UTMB and Western States podiums in years to come.

 

NO6 – Pau Capell 20:12:43 – He is a rising star of the sport, he has already had an incredible 2017 with a string of top-10 performances and now sixth at UTMB. He paced well-being a novice at the 100-mile distance but his Transgrancanaria run earlier this year no doubt helped. He was all set for fifth until a flying Walmsley found a late surge to grasp a place from him. A seminal performance.

 

NO7 – Dylan Bowman 20:19:48 – D’Bo nailed his first UTMB finish and confirms that the USA are finally understanding mountain running in Europe and in particular UTMB. I remember a few years back when he finished Transgrancanaria and he was blown away by how difficult and fast that race was. He’s slowly plugged away and learnt the craft.

 

NO8 – Gediminas Grinius 21:24:19 – He nails the 100-mile distance and his eighth place just proves how consistent he is. He will no doubt be disappointed with his placing after placing second last-year, but this year’s race was as stacked as stacked can be and this is a solid performance.

 

NO9 – Zach Miller 21:28:32 – Has been injured in 2017 and I think this no doubt impacted on his race and strategy. Last-year he ran off the front with what was either going to be a blazing victory or an incredible blow-up. It was the latter but he rallied for sixth. This year, he without doubt respected the distance but maybe he also realised he didn’t have the fitness and endurance to blaze a trail at the front. Either way, his 9th is solid, it confirms his ability for the distance and like Walmsley, he may well understand that a little patience will go a long way. A seminal performance.

 

NO10 – Jordi Gamito 21:44:31 – A revelation in 2017 and while I and others thought a solid race was possible, him rounding out the top-10 is a surprise. This will no doubt rally his enthusiasm and commitment for 2018 – a seminal performance.

 

NOTABLES:

The UK’s Damian Hall had an incredible race finishing 12th and top Brit. He only started racing a few years ago and he must be wishing he started earlier! David Laney was the USA’s prime contender for top-5 after two previous solid performances, he finished 14th. Other notable top-10 contenders such as Jeff Browning, Julien Chorier, Jason Schlarb, Tofol Castanyer, Sage Canaday and Miguel Heras all had mixed days. Most finished but Heras and Castanyer dropped. It is important to note that despite the weather and the high-level of competition, I consider the drop-out rate in the men’s race to be low.

Now we just need to wait one year to see how this year’s seminal race impacts on future editions.

It is a great time for the sport!

The North Face #TNF Ultra Endurance Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3919A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the TNF Ultra TRII, I said then that TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes. The recent products from the brand have continued to impress and the addition of the ULTRA ENDURANCE adds another quality shoe that offers runners another option to tackle the trails. The current TNF line up is as follows:

ULTRA TRII read my review HERE

ULTRA CARDIAC read my review HERE

ULTRA MT read my review HERE

and the ULTRA ENDURANCE

In a review toward the end of 2015, when I compared many leading shoes against each other (not all shoes I must stress) the Ultra Cardiac very nearly took top honours, it was just pipped by the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac. (Read the review HERE).

If I did that review now, I strongly feel that the battle between the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac and the TNF Ultra Endurance may well be even closer but the Supertrac would still get the nod from me due to the outsole which is extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces, overall comfort and flexibility.

To provide some clarification, we need to look at the current TNF line up and see how (in simple terms) the shoes are to be used so that you can decide which shoe is for you:

ULTRA TRII – Is a dry trail, light and fast shoe for a runner who like a more minimalist feel. Cushioning is 8mm/ 16mm and It has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA CARDIAC – Is a cushioned trail/ mountain shoe that feels plush, fits snugly and works well and on dry trail, wet rock and very moderate mud. Cushioning is 12mm/ 20mm and it has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA MT – Has an aggressive outsole and is designed for off-road use in mud, mountains and demanding terrain. Cushioning is 9mm/ 17mm and it has an 8mm drop.

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Enter the ULTRA ENDURANCE – 9mm/17mm with 8mm drop.

This new shoe from the TNF brand sits somewhere between the CARDIAC and MT and as you would expect, has an 8mm drop. I like this! But then again I would… I am a real fan of 8mm drop shoes and as I have said many times before, this drop sits in the perfect middle ground that can work for most people. TNF have obviously thought about this and hence the continuity between the ‘ULTRA’ range. It’s also fair to say that as the name suggests, the ‘ULTRA’ shoes are designed for running longer and therefore 8mm will be more forgiving.

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Slipping the shoe on, it does feel different to the CARDIAC but more similar to the MT. This primarily due to the gusseted tongue which is secured within the shoe – this holds the foot firmer and in addition reduces the chance of debris getting in the shoe. It’s a winning combination that I love.

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The front (toe box) is wider than both the CARDIAC and MT and therefore allows the toes to splay a little more. Protection at the front is excellent with a very reinforced toe box bumper that will definitely protect against all those unplanned collisions with rocks, stones or other debris.

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Heel box is plush, padded and holds the foot secure and has FlashDry technology.

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Key features of many TNF shoes is ‘Snake Plate’ and the ‘Cradle,’ these two elements are present here in the Ultra Endurance and add to the overall benefits of the shoe.

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Snake Plate adds protection to the forefoot of the shoe and protects against rocks/ impact and so on, TNF vary the plates from one shoe to the next depending on what they consider to be necessary. In other shoes this would be called a rock plate.

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The cradle is designed to hold the rear of the foot more secure and stable.

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The upper is breathable and most importantly seamless, therefore reducing the chance of rubbing, hot spots or the chance of blisters. The upper is welded TPU with suede overlays.

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The outsole is Vibram Megagrip which is making an appearance on countless shoes in the trail world. I need to clarify here that Vibram don’t only make one Megagrip outsole (see here). They do many variations, so, please check! A classic example is the outsole on say the TNF ULTRA CARDIAC and TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE – they use Megagrip but they each have three different variations of the product. The Ultra Cardiac having a more subtle version, the Ultra Endurance a more aggressive outsole for mixed terrain and to draw comparisons, the Scott Kinabalu Supertrace (has a special Scott outsole) that is basically just aggressive, extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces.

For example:

Ultra Cardiac outsole:

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7017

Ultra Endurance outsole:

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3946

Scott Kinabalu Supertrac outsole:

©iancorless.com_ScottSupertrac-5061

Cushioning in the Ultra Endurance is single-density compression folded EVA which does a great job of allowing you to feel the ground but provide enough cushioning for a long day out.

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IN USE

The upper is seamless and snug and the gusseted tongue is a real pleasure which holds the foot firm. The toe box feels noticeably more roomy in comparison to say the Cardiac or MT.  The shoe feels relatively light but not super light. You really feel as though you are wearing a shoe that will take a battering. This in many respects is reflected in the shoes name, Ultra Endurance.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation. As I mentioned above, this is obviously something that TNF have really thought about and the whole ‘Ultra’ range of shoes has an 8mm drop. This is also great as it means I can seamlessly move from one who to the other shoe without having a shock. A clear example of this is that I have been doing road runs in the Ultra TRII and I have been out in the really muddy stuff in the MT.

The shoe works well in mud but it’s not an out-and-out shoe for muddy trails, better get the MT if that is what you need. The Ultra Endurance is a great trail/ mountain shoe that works well and transitions from a multitude of surfaces. As I mentioned above, I believe it would give the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac a run for it’s money as a potential best ‘all rounder!’

To emphasise a point, if you were looking to but just one shoe that could handle many terrains and provide you with happy and many days out on the trail, then the Ultra Endurance would be a good place to start. It’s not a great road shoe, but it will gladly provide a cushioned and responsive ride for road sections between trail. It’s not an excellent performer in very muddy conditions but it does provide some grip that will allow you to progress. Where the shoe excels is when all these elements combine, say on a long training run, long hike or a race when you may well be mixing from road to trail, to rocks, to mud, to scree and so on, here the Ultra Endurance works so well.

It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and some road. It has actually become a real favourite when travelling when space is limited and I need a ‘one shoe does all’ scenario. Feel for the ground is good and has improved the more I have run. The first few runs felt a little hard and flat but the shoe bedded in nicely. The Vibram® Megragrip sole is as mentioned, almost becoming a standard feature on trail shoes. the version applied to the Ultra Endurance compliments the shoe perfectly.

Grip in mud is compromised, it always is in a shoe that is designed for trail. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely designed to be an all rounder. If you need out-and-out grip and a shoe that will just be used for soft-ground, mud, fells or other messy terrain, you’d be better looking at the TNF Ultra MT or a fell shoe from say inov-8 – the Mudclaw 300 for example is a great off-road shoe.

The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring.

The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots. It’s a real bonus and it’s great to see that TNF are incorporating this more. For anyone who has used a Salomon S-Lab shoe with ‘endofit,’ a gusseted tongue really is just so much more comfortable. Although the TNF version is different to the Salomon version, similarities can be drawn.

The shoe has a neutral fit as does all the TNF ‘Ultra’ range and so therefore you could add an insert or orthotic if required. Drop is 8mm. Sizing is true to size, I take a UK9.5 in most shoes and my Ultra Endurance is UK9.5. However, due to the wider toe box the shoe does feel different to the Cardiac or MT so you may want to just make sure by trying in-store.

This is not the lightest shoe on the market but I don’t think that is really an issue. It’s not trying to be the lightest. What it does, is offer cushioning, protection and longevity in an attractive package that will last for many days, weeks and months. The colour-way of blue and yellow also looks pretty swish.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3952

Conclusion

This shoe is a great all-rounder and may well be a perfect ‘one shoe’ purchase for anyone who is looking for something that can do many things well. It excels on dry trails and loose surfaces such as scree, stones, sand etc. Grip from the Vibram sole is good on wet rocks and the shoes transition from trail to road well and the cushioning allows for plenty of happy miles.

The Ultra Endurance can handle mud as part of a mixed terrain trail run but if you wanted an out-and-out shoe for muddy trail, this is not it. It’s a really solid shoe with some serious toe protection, a plus for anyone heading out into mountainous terrain.

I have been working with and running myself in harsh, rocky, desert like terrain in Lanzarote, La Palma and so on and I think the Ultra Endurance would potentially make a great shoe for someone participating in a multi-day race like the Marathon des Sables. The combination of features sits well, the slightly wider toe box, protection, grip and cushioning all combine to make it a great shoe for such an adventure. I will feedback on this after the 2016 Marathon des Sables where I will test the shoe daily.

To draw a comparison, I think those runners who have enjoyed the inov-8 Race Ultra 290 will find the TNF Ultra Endurance very appealing. The plus side being the TNF who has more grip.

The TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE alternative colour-way

The-North-Face-Ultra-Endurance-Shoes-SS16-Offroad-Running-Shoes-Silver-Grey-Pompeian-SS16-2

The inov-8 RACE ULTRA 290

Inov-8-Race-Ultra-290-Shoes-SS16-Offroad-Running-Shoes-Grey-Red-Black-SS16-5054167431

The downsides are minimal for me. It’s a slightly heavier shoe and I have touched on the reasons why above. Longevity in TNF shoes has been an issue in the past so I will hold judgement on this and feedback. Currently after 100+ miles of mixed terrain, the shoes are holding up well with no issues.

The North Face say: With its Vibram® Megagrip outsole, Snake Plate™ forefoot protection and Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ stability, the Ultra Endurance will keep you tearing up the trail without tearing up your feet. CRADLE™ technology provides extra heel stability on uneven terrain, a gusseted tongue keeps loose trail debris out, while the rigid-yet-flexible ESS Snake Plate™ delivers on lightweight, heavy duty forefoot protection.

▪Welded TPU and suede mid-foot support overlays

▪Molded-TPU toe cap for protection

▪Gusseted tongue for protection from trail debris

▪Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ heel-stability technology

▪Single-density, compression-molded EVA midsole

▪Vibram® Megagrip outsole for durable sticky traction in all conditions

▪ESS Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

▪Cushioning 9mm front/ 17mm rear

▪8 mm offset

▪Weight per shoe 260g+/- for a UK8

▪Approximate Weight Pair: 510 g

TNF Technologies explained:

Snake Plate™

The patent-pending Snake Plate™ consists of a forefoot plate that winds back and forth between the medial and lateral sides of the foot. Because it is not one solid element, it is not as uncompromisingly rigid from side to side and front to back. The result is a forefoot plate that allows the foot to do what it is physiologically designed to do: flex, bend, and contort to changing terrain. At the same time, the Snake Plate™ delivers rigidity where and when it is still needed. The thickness, composition and size of the Snake Plate™ vary from style to style as appropriate. For example, a thicker, more rigid Snake Plate™ addresses the technical, ever-changing demands of a mountain run. A thinner, more flexible Snake Plate™ reconciles flexibility with a decreased demand for protection while on smoother dirt paths.

Vibram® Outsole Technologies

The North Face® collaborated with Vibram, long respected for quality and durability, to create various outsoles (Vibram® Humbolt Outsole, Vibram® Mikeno Outsole, Vibram® Walsh Outsole, and Vibram® Rubber Outsole Compound) with superior traction, stability and protection.

Ultra Protect™

A shank plate for torsional rigidity and consistent underfoot feel.

Scott Kinabalu ENDURO – First Impressions

©iancorless.com_ScottEnduro-00069

Since 2012 I have been using Scott shoes, yes, Scott make run shoes in addition to bikes. I say that, because that is what I get when other runners look at my shoes and say, ‘Scott, oh, thought they made bikes?’

Since the original T2 Kinabalu, I have been a fan. I remember the original incarnation in 2012 which I used to run all over the Transvulcania course (Review HERE). Since the original model, the T2 Kinabalu has had a few tweaks and the current incarnation is the 3.0 HERE.

Scott launched the Kinabalu Supertrac (original look HERE) and this shoe went on to be my favourite shoe of 2015. I even went through many other shoes I had been testing to work out which shoe (for me) was the best. The ‘Supertrac’ won, see HERE.

As 2015 came to a close, Scott informed me of several new shoes, one being the Enduro.

Well, the Scott Kinabalu Enduro has arrived and here are our first impressions and look.

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One thing is for sure, there is no hiding in the male version. Bright yellow, these shoes from the off say that they mean business. The ladies version is also bright but considering that many women wear bright apparel, I’m sure the colours will appeal. Certainly the original reaction from Niandi (who will test the ladies shoe) was wow, I LOVE the colours.

The shoes are not light. In all honesty, they were both noticeably heavy when removed from the boxes. The ladies a UK 8 weighs 380g and the mens UK9.5 weighs 418g. That is heavy; no doubt about it and I have to say initially disappointing.

Looking at the shoe closely, you soon realise why. The whole upper of the shoe has a plastic coating on top of the mesh below.

©iancorless.com_ScottEnduro-00081

I have to say, I asked why? Why is it necessary to add some much structure and protection to the upper of the shoe? Scott call this: Protective-High-Abrasion-Casing.

I took a look at Scott’s website and the description is as follows:

The brand new SCOTT Kinabalu Enduro is the latest addition to the range. The seemless one piece upper offers protection and comfort for all day adventures while the eRide tuned midsole and VIBRAM outsole provide performance and stability during your run.

Seamless upper – perfect

Protection – great

Comfort – brilliant

eRide – works, so great.

Vibram – tried and tested, so great

I still have to question though, why so heavy? My only point of question on the excellent Kinabalu Supertrac was the weight. Here Scott have beefed up the Kinabalu and made it bullet proof, it’s obviously way to early to tell but on first impressions, if you want a shoe to last and get value for money from, this may be the one!

©iancorless.com_ScottEnduro-00098

Cushioning as you would expect from Scott is good with 28mm at the rear and 17mm in the forefoot. However, these two figures cause me a little confusion, why for 2016 are Scott releasing a shoe with an 11mm drop? They dropped the ‘Supertrac’ from the Kinabalu’s original 11mm drop to 8mm drop and this for me made perfect sense. 8mm is a perfect sweet spot that appeals to many a runner and when running long it’s not too low to cause any issues. Having said that though, after just 2 runs in the ‘Enduro’ they do feel comfortable and offer a great feel. I have said this before, the ‘rocker’ system that Scott uses does give the shoes a feeling of lower drop due to the rolling action. I must point out too that I do fore foot strike so that will also help.

eRide – “Dynamic stability is the body’s own way to run efficiently and safely over uneven terrain. The eRIDE TUNED midsole has strategic flex zones to provide asymmetric flexibility and enhance ground adaptation while a EVA foam provides cushioning.”

©iancorless.com_ScottEnduro-00082

The outsole sits somewhere between the T2 Kinabalu and the Supertrac and therefore it will be a great all rounder for those who may well be looking for a ‘one shoe does all’ scenario. Made by Vibram, the outsole uses ‘MEGAGRIP’ as witnessed on the Supertrac but this version is less aggressive. From repeated year long use of the Supertrac I can confirm that this outsole is tried and tested and a favourite. This version does feels stiffer and less supple than the Supertrac version, we shall see?

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Lacing is standard and incorporates the ‘lace bungee’ for storing excess lace after you have tied your shoes. It’s a very simple and effective way for removing something that may catch on branches or trail obstacles.

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Heel box is very plush and secure. Always a key feature of Scott shoes and it really does add a secure and confident feel to the shoes.

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Sizing feels a little larger than normal. I always take a UK9.5 and the ‘Enduro’ does feel just a little more spacious, so, if you are new to Scott or if you have used Scott in the past, you may just want to check on sizing. The toe box is a little narrower than the T2 Kinabalu 3.0 and Kinabalu Supertrac and this may be why they size a little larger? If you like a wide roomy toe box, this may not be the shoe for you?

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Technologies:

  • Lace Bungee
  • Protective-High-Abrasion-Casing
  • Seamless-One-Piece-Upper
  • Rock-Protection-Plate
  • Vibram-Megagrip

Initial Conclusion

Our initial reaction to the ‘Enduro’ was shock. We were surprised at how ‘protected’ this shoe is. But having run in them on just 2 occasions and reflected on what Scott are trying to do, I completely understand the the addition of this shoe to the Kinabalu range. This is not a shoe to replace the T2 Kinabalu or the Kinabalu Supertrac it’s a shoe to be used in addition. So, if you like the other 2 models you will like this.

I’m still perturbed that the shoe is 11mm drop and not 8mm but it runs well; so why worry?

What’s the shoe for?

Well I guess you can use the shoe for any running, from groomed trail, fire trail to mountains. But considering the protection that has been added to the ‘Enduro,’ one has to think that this is intended for the rough stuff; rocks, snow, ice, gravel, slate and so; anything that can really batter a shoe and reduce its life.

For perspective, I recently ran for 1-month in La Palma on the Transvulcania course, I used a brand new pair of Supertrac and I used them every day, at the end of the month I threw them away. I am not saying the ‘Supertrac’ was no good, on the contrary, I love the Supertrac but the trails out in La Palma are harsh and abrasive; it eats shoes. The Enduro may well be a good shoe for a course like that due to the key elements of:

  • Protective-High-Abrasion-Casing
  • Seamless-One-Piece-Upper
  • Rock-Protection-Plate
  • Vibram-Megagrip

We will be reporting back in a couple of months after long term testing and only then will we really know how the Scott Kinabalu Enduro stacks up.

Scott shoes are available HERE

 

Francesca Canepa speaks to Carreras de Montana

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa has recently spoken to Sergio Garasa at Carrerasdemontana on the alleged accusation of cheating at the 2014 Tor des Geants. Francesca was accused of using a car for a section of the Tor course and missing a checkpoint. Tor des Geants race officials have disqualified Francesca for missing the check point. Of course, many stories are on the internet and several publications have commented on the story.

The allegation of cheating came from runner, Paolo Rossi.

Here in this interview, Francesca provides an insight. Of course, this story may well run and run.

However, this is not the first allegation of cheating at an ultra and Francesca is not the only runner to be implicated. Franco Colle, this years Tor winner had accusations made against him last year. Accusations were made against Emilie Lecomte at the 2014 Ronda dels Cims (read HERE ). Ronda dels Cims responded HERE but ultimately I don’t think we are getting the full picture from some aspects of our sport. Pretty sure this will not be the last incident.

Other posts – read HERE and HERE

Our sport is changing, prize money is increasing but importantly, people have cheated even when no money is at stake. Ego’s need feeding and I am sure we can all recollect a story from the past… remember the gentleman who got a bus in the UK to cut out part of a road race? Or the guy who missed out a huge chunk of London Marathon by jumping the barriers?

I wonder, will ‘Spot Trackers’ or similar become part of mandatory kit? I know they are not fool proof but I am pretty sure we need to be aggressive now, nip it in the bud and avoid some of the issues that other sports have had.

I’d like to point out that I know Francesca in a professional capacity and I also know her manager, Renato. I have followed, watched and photographed and interviewed Francesca for over 2-years and I have seen her perform at the highest level against top quality fields.

I know only the facts that have been circulated in the media and of course, we now have Francesca speak in English in this video interview to at least provide an insight in her own words.

All video content ©Carrerasdemontana

Francesca posted on Facebook and says:

These past few days have been the most difficult and absurd of my life and I hope it is not difficult to understand that my thoughts have turned to stone. It is impossible for me to accept that I need to defend myself for something that, not only I never committed, but neither thought could be done by others.

To cheat makes no sense in our races and it makes no sense in life. 
My opinion has always been that if it is necessary to take a shortcut, maybe it would be more appropriate to take the easier route.

I have no need for shortcuts, I have never taken them and I do not want to take them in any area of my life.

In these two interviews I have stated, not my version of the truth, but the FACTUAL truth.
Ayone who has taken my silence as an admission of guilt does not know me.

I do not care. 

The only thing I know is that I will always be able to walk with my head held high and look people in the eye with a clear conscience.
Not everyone can do the same. 

Thanks to everyone who, with a message, a word or even a thought, has chosen to believe in me.

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

You can watch the video interview, in English, HERE

A video interview and article in Italian was published at aostasera.it HERE

Here is a Google translate. Of course please keep in mind how a translation like this can somehow confuse the message and some finer points:

all content copyright ©aostesera.it

“I win all over the world without any problem and yet they are three years here I feel level accusations of all kinds: those of the past have been too much. Wrong, defamatory, offensive and bad.” The rain this night did not help Francesca Canepa to let off some steam accumulated yesterday afternoon, nor to freshen the air of the Tor des Giants, become heavy after the events that led to the withdrawal first and then to the disqualification of his official “Queen “. Today in Gressoney told us his version of the facts, again rejecting all allegations of irregularities and assuming legal action, even against the organization. “I will do everything possible in appropriate locations to protect my image – explained clearly still furious – this thing for sure does not go well, because this accusation has soiled my image has harmed me, my family and all that c ‘is around. “

The reconstruction of yesterday
The race of the winner of the last two editions has stopped at the base of life Donnas, where yesterday came shortly after 13 His coach, Renato Jorioz, informs immediately the rumors circulating now uncontrolled since early morning: “They say you took your car in Cogne, maybe there is a complaint by another athlete, risks disqualification. “Canepa bursts into tears for the voltage and is waiting to see what is happening. After two hours, then there is an official communication of the direction of travel, hand-delivered by two commissioners. “The process of disqualification in progress: the investigations are ongoing. The Clerk of the Course, having completed the necessary investigations, notify the disciplinary decisions taken. “At the risk of being stopped later, he decided to wait for further communication, however, come only after the 18 “Acquired officially the documentation relating to checks carried out by the race stewards Canepa was disqualified by the jury for not being transited at the control point Les Goilles in Cogne. “Meanwhile, dropped the ice between the athlete and the direction of travel. “It was not possible to explain the organization – says Canepa – because none of them asked us for our opinion. Nobody answered the phone when you were called.”

But what happened between the base life of Cogne and shelter Dream?
To reconstruct what happened we must go back a few hours. The yellow life begins at the base of Cogne, where the lead comes at 3 in the morning. Within an hour of entering and leaving the order trivel, Collé, Perez, Guillon, Rossi, Hollon, Le Saux. Then comes the first of the women, Francesca Canepa, who slips into the hall at 4.23: time to eat a little bit, rest a moment at 4:57 and is ready to restart. Hollon the preceding five minutes, Rossi follows her to the other five. The next point of that lap, with a swipe of the chip, it is the refuge Dream Berdzé at the base of the Fenêtre, a meeting point between the valleys of Cogne and Champorcher. First, however, there is a control point in Les Goilles, 2 km above Lillaz. “I made the journey as always – says Canepa – are transited to the point of Les Goilles, just that at that time there was no one outside. Then I took tea alone, because it was there, and I continued to dream. “

Accusations of Rossi
Al Rifugio Dondena, however, Paolo Rossi crosses Francesca Canepa, who stopped to sign autographs for the kids, and they start to rain the first allegations. “How was the trip from Cogne to Lillaz in the car?”, Attacks him, convinced that he was in front from Cogne and never to be exceeded. Canepa replica bewildered: “If you have any problems please contact the organization.” The voices of the quarrel began to circulate, as well as the hypothesis of a possible exposure to Rossi. In reality Canepa is output from the base life before him, the tables give the reason, he never passed because it was already in front of him. Maybe Rossi has not seen Canepa out, but may have seen the car away from the parking lot of his coach. With him was the doctor Marco Patacchini. “We took the private road to climb to the refuge – explains Jorioz – and we were also stopped by Forestry. In the car it was just us two. “In any case, at the end Rossi decides not to submit the complaint, the organization instead proceed with further verification, then that will lead to the disqualification of Francesca Canepa.

A loss of image for the Tor
Cuts of course, fights at high altitude, disqualifications: it is not the first time that the Tor des Giants is tinged with yellow. In 2010, at the end of the first edition, the mountaineer Abele Blanc was accused of having benefited from a shift to shorten the route. The following year the Swiss Marco Gazzola was disqualified even after you’ve already crossed the line and celebrated the victory, having missed the last inspection, the refuge Bertone, a few km from Courmayeur: his admission of guilt helped to quell the controversy . A similar dispute, without disciplinary action, however, the regularity of the steps to controls, was moved against Franco Collé last year, guilty of having shortened the path near the Rifugio Dondena. Yesterday on the grill is over Francesca Canepa, furious with an organization that after this latest episode is summoned and questioned by many. This morning, the Spanish athlete Salvador Calvo Redondo, who retired yesterday in Chardonnay, commented harshly the incident on his facebook page. “I broke the boxes, this has become a circus. If what happened last year was pathetic, this has passed.”

Race Report – The North Face Transgrancanaria 2014

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

“The Canary Islands Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing announces Ryan Sandes as winner of The North Face Transgrancanaria 2014. The arguments explained by the South African runner has been accepted by the arbitral team and the disqualification has been corrected.”

Excitement on the trails almost faded into insignificance on the morning of Sunday Mar 2nd as a press release was released claiming that Julien Chorier would be crowned 2014 Transgrancanaria champion and that Ryan Sandes would be disqualified for a failure to comply with mandatory kit as specified in the race rules.

A couple of hours of frantic activity followed and eventually a resolution found! The incidence arose due to a misunderstanding in regard to a space blanket, which was translated into the word, ‘cover’ by the local race official. Ryan understood cover to mean jacket and produced the item from his pack. The official noted this as a noncompliance of race rules and of course the rest is now history. Discussions will go on in regard to this situation, certainly, errors were made. A simple discussion with Ryan and officials prior to any statement would most certainly have been preferable in contrast to the media frenzy that preceded the awards ceremony.

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ultimately, Ryan was crowned champion and Timothy Olson summed up everyone’s sentiment post the decision, ‘I’m really pleased to hear this. Great decision. Ryan is a great athlete and true professional. He’s a great ambassador.’

The Race

Transgrancanaria 2014 ©iancorless.com

Transgrancanaria 2014 ©iancorless.com

The 2014 Transgrancanaria was always going to be a great race, tough 125km technical course with vertical gain and loss to make the most seasoned trail runner squirm in pain. Add to the course a top-quality men’s and ladies field and we had the makings of a classic.

Pre race we had a couple of notable drops from the line-up, Nathalie Mauclair was expected to be a real presence in the ladies race but she decided her form was not where she needed it to be. Julia Bottger also dropped with a niggling leg injury. In the men’s race, Jez Bragg withdrew before making the journey to Gran Canaria due to a cold, in contrast, Jez’s TNF teammate, Mike Wolfe arrived in Gran Canaria only to come down with flu like symptoms in the days before the race. Miguel Heras’s injury problems continued and he too unfortunately didn’t make the race

Starting at midnight in Agaete, runners would endure tough, technical terrain and relentless climbing before arriving at the finish in Faro de Maspalomas in an expected winning time of 14-hours. At the toll of midnight, runners disappeared into the night. Conditions in comparison to the 2013 edition of the race were good; light rain, some mist and blustery winds caused little problems. Ryan Sandes and Sebastien Chaigneau ran smart races in the early stages allowing time to get in the flow. Ryan in particular showed incredible maturity and patience and gave a master class in how to work your way up through the field and finish in the top slot. For nearly half of the race, Ryan was just on the edges of the top-10, British runner Casey Morgan said post race, ‘He really knew what he was doing and he looked so relaxed and calm. For sure, he was running within himself and I was just waiting for him to take off.’ Take off he did, just after the 70km mark Ryan was lying in 4th-place and in contrast to the 3 –runners in front of him, he looked relaxed and on a mission. Moving up in to 3rd and then 2nd, Ryan finally took the lead with just under 20km to go. Pushing from the front, Ryan couldn’t be complacent… Julien Chorier and Timothy Olson were pursuing. At the line, Ryan had opened up a 9-minute margin confirming that not only is he one of the best ultra distance runners in the world but also that patience is a precious commodity in any race.

Sebastien Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Sebastien Chaigneau had looked like a potential winner early in the race. He was the defending champion after all and he knows the trails well. Like Ryan, Seb had paced himself well early in the race and then took over the lead. Running relaxed but with focus, Seb traded blows with Arnaud Julia (Buff) and local runner, Yeray Duran (Yeray placed 5th at CCC in 2013) was arguably a revelation and surprise of the day, despite his 3rd place at the 2013 edition of Transgrancanaria, against such strong competition in 2014, I personally thought he would finish lower down the top-10.

However, Seb dropped with dehydration and Arnaud dropped having run too hard in the early stages of the race. This allowed the two main protagonists and pre race favourites, Julien Chorier and Timothy Olson to take control of the race.

Arnaud Julia Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

 Timothy ran a smart race and respected the terrain and the competition. Taking over the lead at just over halfway, Timothy battled with Julien until Ryan passed them both. Post race, Timothy was very happy with his race, ‘It beat me up; I like that, that’s why I do them. It was a beautiful and technical course. It’s a race I will do it again’.

Timothy Olson Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier impressed me at the 2013 Ronda dels Cims and without doubt was a potential favourite for the top title here on the island of Gran Canaria. Meticulous in preparation, Julien would bring a clever strategy to the race and having run the whole race in or around the top-5, one just wondered ‘when’ he would make his move. With Timothy out in front, the stage had looked set for an American win, however, a charging Ryan Sandes changed that and when Timothy faltered in the latter stage, Julien pounced to take 2nd place just 2.5mins ahead of the American.

Julien Chorier Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

It was Ryan Sandes day. After a troubled 2013, 2014 is certainly looking to be a great year for the South African. In just two weeks he will attempt an FKT in South Africa and then attention will focus on the Holy Grail of ultra; Western States.

Nuria Picas & Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas & Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

*Notable mention to Brit, Casey Morgan who ran an incredible race for 10th overall

Ladies

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas came into Transgrancanaria as a pre race favourite and the Catalan did not disappoint. Starting slowly over the first 10km she took the lead ahead of Francesca Canepa and then never looked back. Pre race Nuria had said how important it would be to have reserves for the latter stages; however, Nuria didn’t need to worry. Her consistency of effort was superb. Without doubt, Nuria’s 2nd place at the 2013 TNFUTMB has provided incredible confidence in how to run long and technical trail.

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

With Nathalie Mauclair and Julia Bottger out of the race, in reality, 2nd place and 3rd place was always going to be a battle between Francesca Canepa and Fernanda Maciel.

Fernanda Maciel Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Fernanda looked to have 2nd place sewn up and post race, she told me, ‘I was told I had a 30-45 minute lead over Francesca and I think I became a little complacent. In the latter stages of the race the terrain became easier and more runnable which played into Francesca’s hands. We arrived at the last feed station together and Francesca didn’t stop.’

Needing to eat and hydrate may very well have cost Fernanda 2nd on the podium, we will never know, certainly missing the last feed was not an option!

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©Iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©Iancorless.com

Francesca had an incredible 2013 dominating long distance racing, however, she found the trail on Gran Canaria a little too technical for her style of running. For much of the day she ran in 3rd place but in the latter stages, Francesca found some extra energy, closed the gap on Fernanda and managed to take 2nd place by just under 3-minutes.

Attention will now turn to UTMF in Japan; many of the runners at Transgrancanaria will be present to do battle once again on very different terrain. I wonder, who will come out on top?

RESULTS

Ryan Sandes Salomon/Red Bull : 14:27:42

Julien Chorier  Hoka One One/ Compressport “14:36:28

Timothy Olson The North Face : 14:39:03

Yeray Duran : 15:06:54

Antoine Guillon WAA : 15:17:30

Sondre Amdahl : 15:28:35

Javier Dominguez Vibram : 15:46:06

Cyril Cointre WAA : 15:47:08

Dylan Bowman Peral Izumi : 15:59:13

Casey Morgan Salomon 16:00:31

Nuria Picas Buff : 16:44:55

Francesca Canepa Montura : 17:29:18

Fernanda Maciel 17:31:57

Ildko Wermescher Mammut :18:50:45

Uxue Fraile Vibram 19:21:00

Nerea Martinez Salomon 19:21:00

Magdalena Ostrowska-Dolegowska : 20:27:02

Ester Alves : 23:03:10

Laureda Tirepied : 23:10:44

Helen Allison : 23:40:48

The North Face® Transgrancanaria® race day images

Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas were crowned 2014 champions of the The North Face® Transgrancanaria®

Ryan Sandes (Salomon) won the 2014 edition in 14 hours and 27 minutes  covering a total distance of 125km. Julien Chorier (Hoka One One/ Compressport) and the current two-time champion of the Western States 100; Timothy Olson (The Noth Face), came second and third with respectively.

Núria Picas (Buff), excelled amongst the female competition with a time of 16 hours and 44 minutes, followed by the Italian  Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) with 17 hours and 29 minutes and Fernanda Maciel (The North Face) came third just two minutes later.

A detailed race report will follow.

IMAGES of an exciting day of action:

All images ©iancorless.com : all rights reserved

Vibram® Hong Kong 100 2014 – Race Preview

Hong Kong 100 Logo

The Hong Kong 100 course starts in Pak Tam Chung on the east side of Hong Kong’s New Territories and winds its way west along coastal paths, across beaches, through ancient villages, over hills and through valleys before finishing after the descent of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak (at 957m). The 100km journey climbs over 4,500m and much of the climbing is in the second half of the course.

Hong Kong 100

The first race in the new UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) will have many eyes upon it as this new series starts. The announcement of the UTWT at the 2013 TNFUTMB gained very mixed responses from those who attended the press conference. I for one questioned the inclusion of races like Marathon des Sables and Western States. However, although the initial press conference left many question marks, the UTWT have progressed and started to assemble not only a solid of list of races but also an ever expanding list of racers who will take part. In real terms, runners who are looking to participate in the UTWT series of events are currently limited. If we look at HK100 this ultimately comes down to: Dave Mackey, Jez Bragg, Francesca Canepa, Lizzy Hawker and some members of the WAA Team. However, a series must start somewhere and the next race in New Zealand, Tarawera, will see a more international runners and ever expansive field. It will be interesting to see how UTWT progresses.

Hong Kong 100 course_profile

So let’s look at the action for Hong Kong 100

Participant list – HERE

1608 runners are listed for the 2014 edition of the race with a very strong contingent from running8.com and Vibram. As you can image, going through the list, many names are unknown to me, so, if I have missed a ‘local’ runner to the Hong Kong race scene that may well show a presence at the front, please let me know and provide some additional stats.

Below I have listed the ‘key’ runners in alphabetical order.

Fabrice Armand (Salomon) –  Has raced well at the Dodo Trail 50k placing 2nd and 3rd in 2011 he placed 10th at Diagonale des Fous however recent results are a little sparse.

Vajin Armstrong (Macpac)  Had a great 2013 with 2nd 2013 Kepler Challenge, 2nd at Swiss Alpine Marathon 2013, 2nd at TNF 100 Australia, 3rd at Tarawera. He did race at TNFUTMB but that didn’t quite go to plan. Without doubt HK100 will suit Vajin. Expect to see him up front.

Pascal Blanc (Hoka) 3rd at Mafate Trail Tour, 3rd at Diagonale des Fous, 5th at Extreme Dodo Trail has all the required skills and ability to race well at HK100. Certainly the race profile in the latter stages will suit him and his Diagonale des Fous experience will be invaluable.

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Jez Bragg (TNF)  this time last year was running from the top-to-the-bottom of New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail. His 2013 season was very much influenced by his ability to recover from such a supreme effort. However, Jez did place 11th at UTMB and 17th Cortina Trail. Jez decided to miss TNF50 in December which was probably a wise move. Pretty sure Jez will be focused on doing well here.

Francesca Canepa - Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa – Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa (Montura-Vibram) One of my runners of 2013. Francesca is just an animal and I mean that in the nicest way. Francesca not only races a lot (maybe too much?) but she also knows how to win. Without doubt she likes races that are tough, technical and involve lots of climbing. The latter half of HK100 will suit Francesca and most certainly, as other ladies fade with the effort, Francesca will just be getting warmed up! Expect her to release a supreme effort in the latter 30% of the race. After checkpoint 8 she will move up embracing Needle Hill, Grassy Hill and the finish at Tai Mo Shan. Her results from 2013 speak volumes: 1st Andorra Ultra Trail, 1st Tor des Geants, 1st Trail de Vulcain, 1st Eiger Trail, 3rd Ice Trail Tarentaise, 4th UROC. Hot favourite!

Cyril Cointre (WAA) Cyril has some great results and he may very well show a presence in the top-10 if he has a good day? His 2013 results are significant: 1st Ultra Trail du Vercors, 1st Defi de L’Oisans, 3rd at Ultra-Trail du Pay Mary Aurillac, 9th at UTMF, 8th Transgrancanaria.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1140922

Vincent Delebarre (WAA) had a mixed 2013. Top drawer performance at Ice Trail Tarentaise and then mixed performances at other races. I got to see him up close at MDS and UTMB and on both occasions he had some real tough patches. However, he came out the other end and survived. He has the potential of a good race at HK100; it’s just difficult to predict. 2013 results: 3rd at Ultra Trail Atlas Toubaki, 1st Le Quecha Tour de Fiz, 8th Ice Trail Tarentaise, 31st at MDS and 145th at UTMB

Antoine Guillon (WAA) Without doubt will like the HK100 course. Another quality performance at Diagonale des Fous and his 2nd place at TDS set him up well for the HK100. Like Francesca Canepa, I expect to see Antoine remain strong in the latter stages of the race, so, expect to see hime work up through the field. Results: 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at Diagonale des Fous 2012 and 4th in the 2013 edition behind Francois d’Haene, 7th at UTMF and 2nd at TDS.

Scott Hawker (Hoka One One Australia) I don’t know much about Scott and his results are very much Southern Hemisphere based, so, it’s difficult for me to say how he will stack up against the competition. One to watch for sure… 2013 results: 1st at Six Inch Trail 46k, 5th at Great Ocean Walk 100km, 1st at Kep Track 100km, 1st at Truth of Consequences.

©iancorless.com.iancorless.orgIancorless_utmb221facesofutmb

Lizzy Hawker (TNF) Needs no introduction, in 2013 Lizzy was 1st Annapurna 100km, 1st Mt Everest 60km and 5th at Swiss Alpine Marathon, however, she was plagued by injury early in 2013, tried to get ready for UTMB and then got injured again. So, post August Lizzy had to recover and get well. Spending time in Morocco with Frosty, Lizzy then moved over to Nepal and has spent months in the mountains, walking and hinking but recently she has been back out running. Her form for the HK100 is unknown? It may very well be a first race back and a test, however, should Lizzy be in form, expect a great battle with Francesca Canepa and last years winner; Claire Price.

Ram Kumar Katri was 3rd at the 2013 HK100 and therefore must be a hot tip for this year’s race.

Olya Korzh (Salomon) placed 3rd in the ladies race at HK100 last year and also had some great results with a win at TMBT and 2nd at MSIG Sai Kung 50. Local knowledge will be a big advantage and of course her previous podium will provide her with confidence to race hard.

iancorless.comP1020821

Christophe Le Saux (WAA) races all over the world week-in and week-out, always in or around the front of the race you can expect him to do the same at HK100 but I don’t see him threatening top-3.  2013 results: 9th at MDS, 13th at UTMF and 16th at Transgrancanaria

Dave Mackey (Hoka One One) Arguably the big hitter at HK100. Dave is one of the best 100k runners around. Although he has performed well at the 100-mile distance (particularly WSER) he has never quite nailed the distance like the 100k. Dave was one of the very first runners to sign up for UTWT, so, not only will he be looking for a top performance at this race, he will also be looking for consistency in the series. 2013 results: 1st at Rodeo Valley 50k, 2nd Bandera 100km, 5th at Lake Sonoma and 8th at TNF50

Nerea Martinez (Salomon) like Francesca Canepa loves hard races. A definite contender for overall victory and without doubt a top-10 finisher should all go well. Another lady who races a great deal and I can’t help but think some performances are affected by this? In 2013, racing regularly served Nerea well: 1st Transgrancanaria, 1st UTAX, 1st royal Raid Mauritius, 2nd Tor des Geants and 2nd at UTAT. Impressive!

Fabrice Perrin (UTWT) gets a mention here, not because he will contest the front of the race but because he is the UTWT Manager. He has finishes in previous years at: UTMF, UTMB, CCC and Grand Raid des Pyrenees amongst others

Claire Price (Salomon) last years HK100 winner and new course record holder; a record previously held by Lizzy Hawker. Crtainly to have Lizzy, Claire and Francesca in the same race is very exciting. I just hope they are all in good form! Clare is a consistent performer has her 2013 results show:  1st 2013 atHK100, 2nd at TDS and 8th UTMF

Jeremy Ritcey (Salomon) has the potential to do well at HK100. In 2013 he was 2nd at Lantau 100, 5th at HK100 and 16th at TNF100. Experience is always a big factor in any race… I wonder if he can improve on 5th?

Cassie Scallon (Salomon) another USA entrant who had some excellent results in 2013. Her recent 5th place at TNF50 in December obviously means that she is in good shape. However, Cassie’s wins at Tussey Mountainback 50, Ice Trail 50 and in particular, Lake Sanoma 50 mean that she has great potential (and speed) to push all the other ladies. Another great sign is Cassie’s 8th place at Run Rabbit Run 100-miler proving she has endurance too.

Siu Keung Tsang (champion Sysyem Adventure Team) 2nd HK100 in2013 and1st Lantau 50 must be a hot tip for this years race. However, I was told by a friend that he may well be not 100% at the moment, so, we will have to see. In 2013 we expected ‘Stone’ to do well at UTMB, he placed 18th, so, the jury is out on how his 2014 HK100 will go.

Results 2013:

  1. YanQiao Yun 10:16:06
  2. Siu Keung Tsang 10:19:43
  3. Ram Kumar Katri 10:19:59
  1. Claire Price 11:58:04
  2. Chiaki Jjelddahl 13:04:10
  3. Olya Korzh 13:10:40
  • Race Dates:18th – 19th January
  • Cut off : 32-hours

Race website: HERE

Live tracking will be available during the event.  To track any participant’s progress on PCs, iPads and large tablet, use this link.  For smartphones, use this link.  For live tracking on google map, use this link.

For participants who would like Facebook updates of your arrival at each CP (except CP1) posted on your wall, please register by using this link.

The Ruby Muir Story

I don’t think many words are needed here… I think we can all find something in this and relate to it.

“I love technical running… from what I hear, the closest running to the type of running that I like to do is European Skyrunning” Ruby Muir

Ruby Muir is one of New Zealand’s most promising young trail runners. At just 21 she had won the Kepler, Tarawera Ultra and nearly every other event she’d entered. This is the story of how she discovered running, what drove her to it and how it has helped her heal. This film was shot in one day at Eskdale Mountain Bike Park near her home in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

ULTRA RACE OF CHAMPIONS (UROC) 2013 Race Report

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

All images are available to purchase for personal or commercial use HERE

The 2013 Skyrunner Ultra World Series came to an exciting conclusion in Vail, Colorado on Saturday as many of the top ultra runners in the world lined up against each other for the Ultra Race of Champions. Starting at 0700 in the small town of Breckenridge and concluding in the center of Vail, some 100km later this race was always going to be an exciting nail biter and it didn’t disappoint.

Sunny skies the day before the race turned to dark grey, light rain fell and then snow. So much snow that on the highest sections of the course, particularly in the early stages of the race; eighteen inches of snow covered the ground. At 12,000 feet temperatures in the wind were around -14 deg. It was cold! However, Colorado has never looked so good. Deep blue skies, beautiful sunshine and so much snow it made one feel like Christmas.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1190949

The buzz in the small town was tangible as runners wrapped up in puffa’s and beanies waiting for the 0700 ‘GO’. It soon came and the 200+ strong field departed in a rush. Two early cash primes were won by Sage Canaday and Emelie Forsberg, a pattern was unfolding and as many had thought in pre race predictions, two outright favorites had taken the bull by the horns and were starting as they meant to go on.

UROC start ©iancorless.com

However, Emelie was certainly suffering from the altitude and had to ease off allowing Stephanie Howe to take an early lead out at the front. For the men though, the field was very much a who’s who of ultra running and Dakota Jones, Rob Krar, Kilian Jornet and Jason Wolfe reeled Sage in.

At Frisco, 14-miles into the race a front group had formed and then the climb to the highest point of the course came. At an altitude of 12,000 feet and freezing temperatures, a winter wonderland awaited the runners. Kilian Jornet and Dakota Jones arrived first, running together matching stride for stride. I was convinced that if conditions remained like this Kilian would for sure dominate!

 

Less than a minute behind, Rob Krar followed and then Sage Canaday. Sage looked less relaxed and calm in the knee-deep snow; his arms were outstretched as he tried to balance. A string of other top contenders followed, Ryan Ghelfi, Cameron Clayton, Luke Nelson, Mike Versteeg and so on. The descent from the summit was tricky in places as running water had turned to ice.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg used the snow to her advantage and reclaimed some time from Stephanie Howe, as she ran past me on the descent she shouted, ‘I feel better now, the altitude was making me feel very uncomfortable’. However, Emelie was still one minute in arrears.

Stephanie Howe UROC ©iancorless.com

Vail Pass at 33-miles was a significant turning point in the race, Rob Krar used his speed and took hold of the race and started to push. Dakota Jones followed. A flat road section that covered approximately 19% of the course demoralized Kilian; confident that his World Skyrunner Champion title was secure he eased back and allowed Cameron Clayton to run ahead of him.

Emelie Forsberg UROC ©iancorless.com

Emelie reclaimed the lead at Vail Pass and never looked back. She continually pulled away from Stephanie Howe and at the finish in Vail she had secured UROC victory and the Skyrunner Ultra World Championship title with 23-minutes to spare in a time of 12:06:34 (her first 100km). Stephanie Howe ran a great race and considering she very nearly didn’t start due to a potential injury issue, she looked super pleased with her 12:29:26. Third spot for the ladies podium went to Michele Yates in 12:46:24, considering Michele had won Run Rabbit Run 100-miler just two weeks prior, this was an incredible result for her.

Dakota Jones UROC ©iancorless.com

The men’s race however was less formulaic. On the descent to Minturn, Dakota Jones came charging through the forests with Rob Krar 1min in arrears. He looked strong and focused.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Minturn, mile 52.5 saw runners turn and head back up the trail. Jones appeared running every step of the way and then 90 seconds later Krar appeared with hands-on-knees powering up the climb. He looked less relaxed than Jones and at this stage one would have most certainly put money on a Jones win.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton was 3rd at this point, he was way too far back to contend the top slot and Kilian Jornet was far enough behind in 4th not to contend the 3rd place on the podium, so, barring a disaster, Clayton had 3rd guaranteed.

Cameron Clayton UROC ©iancorless.com

With less then 4-miles to go, Krar and Jones were together and then Krar unleashed a break neck descent to the line that Jones later went on to say, ‘jeez, that guy was an animal on the descent. All respect. It was a great race, a pleasure to run with one so talented and the better man won’.

Dakota Jones UROC ©iancorless.com

The better man did win; Krar broke the Skyrunner tape and then covered his face with his hands. ‘I can’t believe what just happened’. Exhausted, shocked, elated he was embraced by his wife and the victory sunk in. 2013 has been an incredible year for Krar, to put this in perspective, just a couple of years ago he thought he may never run again!

On the line, sitting in a chair, buckle in his hand, cowboy hat shadowing his face he said, ‘It was the hardest effort in my life, possibly the hardest course I have run. The course had a great mix of terrains making it a fair course’ I asked Rob, about the final climb when he was 90-seconds in arrears, ‘I caught him (Dakota) at the top. I was really hurting in Minturn I thought I was down and out but with a mile to go I caught him and pushed.’

The 2013 Ultra Race of Champions was without doubt a great race. It was a fitting finale to the Skyrunner Ultra World Series and of course, excitement now builds as the 2014 calendar in finalized. However, we do have a Vertical Kilometer and Sky Running World Champion to announce at the final race of the 2013 Skyrunner season in Limone, Italy.

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Results – Men

  1. Rob Krar – The North Face – 9:29:00
  2. Dakota Jones – Montrail – 9:32:26
  3. Cameron Clayton – Salomon – 10:06:24
  4. Kilian Jornet – Salomon – 10:19:16 2013 Skyrunner World Ultra Champion
  5. Ryan Ghelfi – Rogue Valley Runners – 10:24:38

Results – Ladies

  1. Emelie Forsberg – Salomon – 12:06:34 2013 Skyrunner World Ultra Champion
  2. Stephanie Howe – The North Face – 12:29:26
  3. Michele Yates – Ultimate Direction – 12:46:24
  4. Francesca Canepa – Vibram/Montura – 12:55:06
  5. Kerrie Bruxvoort – Salomon – 12:23:39

Skyrunner Ultra World champion Classification 2013

M

1° Kilian Jornet                  292 points

2° Sage Canady                 255

3° Cameron Clayton       208

F

1° Emelie Forsberg         320 points

2° Francesca Canepa        266

3° Stephanie Howe        206

The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2013 – Ladies Preview

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

It was always going to be touch and go… unfortunately, it is go. Lizzy Hawker has struggled with injury for much of 2013 and despite running at Sierre-Zinal recently, Lizzy has been forced to withdraw from the 2013 TNF UTMB with another stress fracture. Of course, this is devastating news for Lizzy and the race. Lizzy is the Queen of UTMB and we want her here, not only so that she can chase the course record she so desires but also to allow the other ladies to race the best.

Another main contender for the overall, Emelie Lecomte has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Emelie is a strong performer over the long races and a lovely person. I for one am disappointed not to see her toe the line. She placed on the podium at Ronda dels Cims earlier this year but has struggled ever since.

So, who are the ladies to watch? 

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Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) was 2nd in 2012 and then just one week later turned up at Tor des Geants and won! Without doubt, a remarkable double. Francesca likes long, tough and hard races. For sure, a shortened TNF UTMB as it was in 2012 in theory, would normally not suit her yet she still placed 2nd. That has to be a worry of all those that will line up against her on Friday. This year she has raced and raced. A very impressive and dominant win at Ronda dels Cims is probably the most significant result going into this race, however, Francesca placed well at Ice Trail Tarentaise and won the Eiger Trail. Recently she ran Speedgoat (not a race for her) and she placed 10th. All in all, Francesca is the outright favourite for this year’s race now that Lizzy and Emelie are not running.

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Emma Rocca (Buff) placed 3rd last year and is a consistently good performer with plenty of experience. For example, she has raced at Marathon des Sables (2nd in 2011) and just recently had a great run at Speedgoat with 4th place. That shows great depth over multi stage, single stage and also shorter faster courses. Without doubt, Emma is podium potential once again for this year’s race.

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The most exciting prospect for the 2013 race is Nuria Picas (Buff). This is Nuria’s first 100-mile race and that for sure will be the biggest stumbling block. However, if she can hold the reins back, take it easy over the first two thirds and then use her speed and skill in the final third, then we may well see Nuria top the podium. Nuria had an incredible 2012 dominating the Skyrunning calendar, she had three great wins at Trofeo Kima, Cavalls del Vent and Templiers, and she also placed second behind Frosty at Transvulcania. 2013 has been an equally great year, however, she has been chasing Emelie Forsberg around the Skyrunning calendar and has placed a super consistent second at Transvulcania, Zegama-Aizkorri and most recently Trans D’Havet. She is without doubt one to watch!

Three US ladies make my ‘hot contenders’ for this year and first up is Amy Sproston (Montrail). Amy is a 100k champ and placed top 10 at last-years UTMB with 8th overall. On paper, Amy can most certainly be top 5 at UTMB and if she has a great day, maybe top 3. Significantly, she placed 3rd at Western States, two places ahead of Rory Bosio. However, I think we will see those roles reversed in the Alps but as we all know, anything can happen.

Meghan Arbogast (Scott) was in Zermatt last weekend for the Matterhorn Ultraks but she only ran the short race as a loosen up for this weekends fun. She was looking strong, relaxed and confident. Her 4th place at Western States certainly means that everything is in place for a great tour of the Alps. In 2012, Meghan placed 12th at UTMB and for sure she can move up and be top 10. A great day and she may well push top 5.

Rory Bosio (The North Face) placed 4th in the 2012 race over the shortened course and was some time behind Francesca Canepa. Rory’s recent 5th place at Western States is obviously a great race and a great boost, however, I for one thought she would make the podium. Post WSER, Rory has spent plenty of time in Europe and therefore will come to the race adapted and ready to push for the podium and top slot.

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Shona Stephenson (inov-8) is making the long journey from Australia and arrived a day or so ago. Shona has already spent time in the Alps racing at the Mont Blanc VK, Mont Blanc Marathon and Ice Trail Tarentaise (she dropped about two thirds in). She also spent a great week with the inov-8 team testing new apparel and shoes in the mountains. Earlier this year she was performing consistently well with a win at Tarawera, a great 2nd place at UTMF and a win at Northburn 100. She like the longer and harder races and although she has limited European racing experience, if she is in the right frame of mind and feeling good, then we may well see Shona on the podium and I would expect a top 10 to be guaranteed.

Katia Fori (Technica) has raced twice at UTMB before placing 5th and 7th. Of course, being an Italian is a great advantage, as she will understand the terrain, mountains and the weather. This is a key to racing well over the Alpine course. In addition, she knows how to survive and spend a long time in the wilderness; her 4th place at the Tor des Geants proves this. In reality, I don’t see Katia making the top 5 but it only takes one or two to have a bad day and Katia to have a great day!

Helen Cospolich (The North Face) is a three times finisher at UTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th. She has the super strong TNF team behind her and although she placed just inside the top 20 last year (17th), I would imagine that she could do better. It all comes down to the day! This year looks to be dry and warmer (at least in the day) and that will make her feel better for sure.

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Another TNF (The North Face) athlete is Ligia Madrigal. Ligia is Costa Rican and I actually ran with her on several occasions at this year’s multi-stage, The Coastal Challenge; a race she has won and placed 2nd at in previous years. This year she didn’t have a great race and dropped. Although she places well in Central and South American races, UTMB will be a steep learning curve for her. She will do well to place in the top 20 and if she makes the top 10, she will have had a great race.

Completing the TNF line up is Ru-Ling Xing. I would be lying if I knew much about Ru-Ling however; her stats show top 10 results at TNF 100k in China and 3rd at Vibram 100k. She has raced at UTMB before but finished outside the top 20, if she edges into the top 20 this year she will have had a good race.

Nora Senn has placed 3rd overall at the tough UTMF in 2012; great grounding for the UTMB. Earlier this year she won Lantau 100k so I am sure she will be looking to put the record straight after dropping from UTMB last year. She has the potential to surprise a few people, however, best-case scenario will be top 10. I don’t see Nora contest the podium.

The ladies race may not have as many possibilities as the men’s race, but with Lizzy Hawker not in the race, it is wide open for a really exciting and competitive race up at the front.

Without doubt I will have missed several ladies who will make the top 10 and for sure make the top 20, so, if you know anyone let me know.

  1. Who do you think will win?
  2. Will we see a surprise performance from one of the ‘100’ newbies?
  3. Who will be the best placed US runner?