Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Summary and Images

The second race of the 2018 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series kicked today on the island of La Palma (La Isla Bonita). The stunning Fuencaliente lighthouse once again providing an epic backdrop as 1000+ head-torches rushed north for a 74km journey  of tough and challenging terrain on the islands iconic GR131 route. It was a day of mixed temperatures and the Route of the Volcanoes was bathed in glorious sun as the runners broke through a cloud inversion before heading to the mist, grey and damp of El Pilar. Pushing onwards, the wind increased causing a challenging chill that resulted in many runners reaching for wind proofs. As often happens on La Palma, push through the cloud and a new weather system awaits, it was no different for the 2018 Transvulcania. Running around the Caldera to Roques de Los Muchachos, intense heat and blue skies greeted the runners all the way. Dropping back down to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto, the only thing that remained was the final challenging climb to the finish in Los Llanos.

For the ladies’ 2016 and 2017 champion and pre-race favorite Ida Nilsson lead the charge and she never really looked back. It was a strong performance.

As often happens, the chasing group can change as the brutality of the Transvulcania route takes its toll. Monica Comas from Spain placed 2nd just 6-minutes behind Ida.

The American contingent of Kelly Wolf and Brittany Peterson placed 3rd and 4th ahead of Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva, their times 8:49, 8:59 and 9:13 respectively.

The men’s race proved to be a real revelation… despite the early efforts of Cody Reed, he faded around the 20km mark and then all the main contenders and protagonists made their moves. It was a close race and the long descent to Tazacorte Puerto was always going to be decisive. Pere Aurell Bove held a lead over Dmitry Mityaev, Thibaud Garriver, Marco De Gasperi and Xavier Thevenard. For perspective, it is arguably one of the closest top-5 the race has experience, 7:37, 7:38, 7:42, 7:44 and 7:47 respectively. It is fair to say, that for Pere Aurelio, this is one of the biggest victories of his career and one that he will savour for a long time.

Image gallery available HERE

Route Summary:

Leaving Fuencalientie lighthouse, black sandy trails lead to Los Canarios. From here, the route weaves in and out of pine forests – underfoot the trails are good, at times technical but it is as the runners break the tree line that the challenging volcano sections await. The arrival of the sun provides some clarity and the push begins to El Pilar and notable marker in the race progression.

At least 5km of relatively flat and easy running follow El Pilar. It provides an opportunity for the ‘runners’ to stretch their legs and either extend or reclaim lost time. A left turn and suddenly they are climbing again, high trees with a canopy of green shelter the runners and then from El Reventon the true splendor of this mountain range is exposed with Roques de los Muchachos visible in the distance.

The harder sections of technical running around the Caldera, combined with heat and altitude provided the next challenge. From the high point, dropping 2400+m in 18km requires legs and nerves of steel. Believe me, it’s one hell of a ride. The early sections are open and the heat hits hard. Tree cover finally arrives and underfoot the single-track changes from dusty sand perpetuated with rocks to sand trail covered with a blanket of pine needles. In the latter stage pine needles giveaway to rocks and then the final zig-zag steep path to the port follows.

At Tazacorte Puerto, a short run along the beach, a technical run through a gulley and then a relentless claim all the way to the finish line in Los Llanos would decide the overall winner of the 2018 Transvulcania La Palma

Transvulcania Ultramarathon 2018 Race Preview

Transvulcania is upon us! Since 2012, the race has been an ever-present in the Skyrunner World Series and now it is acclaimed the world over as a pinnacle event. Taking place on the Isla Bonita (the beautiful island) of La Palma, the race personifies the pure ethos of Skyrunning. It is a wonderfully logical race route that starts next to the sea in the south of the island and concludes on the west of the island in the town of Los Llanos. The route offers 74km’s of amazing trails, wonderful views and technical trail and some real vertical ascent (4350m) and descent (4057m) that tests the legs, lungs and mind of the most experienced runner.

Taking place on the GR131, Rute del Bastion, the route starts low and climbs and climbs into the National Park of the Caldera de Taburiente. Runners then traverse the rim to Roques de Los Muchachos before dropping over 2400m in one leg busting drop of 18km’s to the sea and Tazacorte Puerto before a final push upwards to the finish in Los Llanos.

A decade of Transvulcania and La Palma magic. In 2009, just 378 runners toed the line, in 2018, 2000 runners will embark on the majestic journey. One only has to look at past winners of the race to understand the importance of Transvulcania on the world running map – Luis Alberto Hernando Kilian Jornet, Miguel Heras, Dakota Jones, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost and the 2017 champions, Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks.

As in previous year’s the race has a stellar line-up of world-class talent and notably includes the Italian Skyrunning master, Marco De Gasperi. For Marco, this race will be a departure for him as he will arguably race one of the longest races ever in his remarkable career. He is, one of the first ever official Skyrunner’s who has pioneered and paved a way for the rest. His inclusion in the 2018 Transvulcania is an exciting prospect.

Competition will come from all sides, in particular Xavier Thevenard who comes to the race with incredible results, however, he has raced at Transvulcania before and has always seemed to just miss the performances shown at the UTMB series of events which he has dominated. Will 2018 be his year?

Zaid Ait Malek is a pure Skyrunner. He placed 3rd last year and this year may well place 2nd or take the top slot. The race is there for the taking and Zaid has all the skills to make it happen.

Jason Schlarb raced in La Palma last year and had a solid result. He knows the race now and will be finely tuned to move up the ranks and potentially break into the top-5.

Dmitry Mityaev has risen in the Skyrunning ranks over the last few year’s with a string of excellent performances. He has got better and better and it is fair to say we can expect a solid performance in La Palma. He prefers the longer distances, so, Transvulcania may well be ideal for the Russian.

Michel Lanne rarely these days but when he does, he always excels. He has won CCC and TDS and last-year had a great run in Norway at Tromso SkyRace. For me, on his day, Michel is a potential winner for Transvulcania.

Franco Colle was missing in 2017 from the Skyrunning ranks but he is back. A past winner of the Rut 50km, Franco is an experienced Skyrunner who will make his presence felt in La Palma.

With a stellar line-up, other contenders to watch are as follows:

Morgan Elliott – 2016 and 2017 Skyrunner National Series champion.

Cody Reed – 2nd Bandera 100km and winner of Mt Bachelor 50km.

Cole Watson – 1st Canyons Endurance Run 50km.

Daniel Jung – 2nd Hong Kong 100 in 2017.

Fulvio Dapit – Consistent Skyrunner with great experience. 

Pau Bartolo – 1st at Buff Epic Trail in 2017 and 1st TDS 2015.

Alfredo Gil – 8th Dolomites SkyRace.

Pere Aurell – 4th at The Rut and 3rd at Royal Gran Paradiso.

Thibaud Garrivier – 6th at OCC and Marathon du Mont-Blanc 2017.

Ivan Camps – 5th at Ultra Pirineu.

Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB and 6th at Ultra Pirineu.

Peter Kienzl – Long distance runner won won 360 Transgrancanaria.

Stephen Wassather – 1st Silver State 50 and 4th Bandera 100km

Jan Bartas – 4th Devil’s Ridge and 8th High Trail Vanoise.

Plus many more…

The ladies’ race has the 2016 and 2017 returning champion and course record holder, Ida Nilsson. In all honesty, if Ida shows any potential of her 2017 form, she will be unstoppable in 2018. She knows the course and has the speed and skills.

Ekaterina Mityaeva like her husband, Dmitry, has grown in experience and stature over the last few years and we can expect her to bring that experience to La Palma. The podium is a distinct possibility! 

Anna Mae Flynn has won Speedgoat 50km and placed 3rd at Lake Sonoma 50, two races that indicate a solid performance at Transvulcania. However, racing in Europe is always different than the US. I still think we will see something solid from this lady.

Cassie Scallon has won Bandera 100km and so we know the distance will not be an issue. In 2017 she had two notable wins at Gorge Waterfalls and Nine Trails.

Brittany Peterson has won Moab Red Hot 55km and placed 2nd at the 50km event at Run Rabbit Run. She is a slid runner with a good skill set that should transfer over to Transvulcania well.

Kelly Wolf may well be a dark horse after her recent win at Tararwera in New Zealnd. Arguably though, her 2nd at Speedgoat 50km and victory at Flagstaff SkyRace is more indicative of a good performance in La Palma.

Francesca Canepa prefers the longer distance races and although she brings a wealth of experience I believe the Italian will lack the speed required to penetrate the top 5.

Emilie Lecomte like Francesca is a long distance specialist and although she will perform well, it is unlikely she has the speed for the podium.

Meredith Edwards placed 2nd at TDS which confirms that climbing is not an issue, the question mark will be does she have the speed required to make the podium?

Eva Moreda is a solid Skyrunner who placed 5th in the 2017 Skyrunner World Series.

Ildiko Wermescher 3rd at TDS, 2nd at Swissalpine T133 and 2nd Swiss Irontrail confirms that Ildiko can run and handle the vert, however, I think Transvulcania may well be around 30km too short for a podium performance.

Laura Besseghini won the 2016 Dolomite Sky Run and in 2017 won Valmalenco Ultra Trail.

Paloma Lobera potentially could impact on the top-10 but lacks the pace or speed for the podium. She placed 8th at Matterhorn Ultraks in 2017.

Zuzana Bartasova – 7th at Trofeo Kima in 2016.

Natalia Roman – 1st Ultratrack Supramonte 2016 and 2nd Mustang Trail Race 2017.

Juan Maria Jimenez – 10th UTMB and 7th Oman Desert Marathon

Maylis Drevon – 11th Transvulcania 2017 and 2nd Marathon du Mont-Blanc 80km.

Plus many more…

Race Website HERE

As a point of note, other races take place over the Transvulcania weekend:

In the marathon, a key name to watch out for is Ryan Sandes, and in the half marathon, Stian Angermund-Vik for the men and Laura Orgue for the ladies.

Action starts on Thursday with the Vertical Kilometer Transvulcania Binter starting in Tazacorte Puerto at 1700 hrs.

The main events take place on Saturday with Transvulcania starting at 0600 and it is estimated that the first finisher will arrive in Los Llanos around 1230pm.

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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!

UTMB 2017 Draw and Elite Names

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The results for the 2017 UTMB were announced on January 12th 2017 at 10.00 (Paris time) and what a draw! The list of persons registered and runners files can be viewed at http://www.ultratrailmb.com, all those entered will be confirmed by email.

Those runners lucky in the draw then have a period of 14 days, January 12th to 25th 2017, to definitively finalise their registration by paying, by credit-card, the balance of the registration price and sending in all the required supporting documents.

It’s a big day for many, dreams are made and broken with the opening of an email.

From a global perspective, a look at the elite start list provides an opportunity to whet ones appetite and imagine the race that will unfold for the UTMB and the races that also that happen in and around the main event, the CCC, TDS and OCC.

In 2016, many considered that the line up in the UTMB was the best ever, well, 2017 may have topped it?

The Top Men for 2017

  • Francois D’haene – Two time UTMB winner and countless other 100 victories.
  • Gediminas Grinius – 2nd at UTMB in 2016.
  • Julien Chorier – 8th at UTMB in 2016 but super solid at the distance.
  • Miguel Heras – Looking for 2013 form when he placed 2nd.
  • Luis Alberto Hernando – Hw wants this! 2nd in 2015.
  • Xavier Thevenard – Champ in 2013 and 2015 the winner of ‘all’ UTMB races – CCC, TDS and OCC.
  • Tofol Castanyer – 2nd in 2014.
  • Pau Capell –  TDS winner stepping up to the big dance.
  • Yeray Duran – Stepping up but 2nd at TDS in 2016.
  • Diego Pazoz – Mont-Blanc 80km winner – an intersting prospect!
  • Andy Symonds – Tried in 2016 but pulled out, he has a big race in him.
  • Carlos Sa – 8th in 2014 and an ever-present.
  • Kim Collison – Arguably the UK’s best hope for a top result.
  • Francesc Sole – 7th at UTMB in 2015.
  • Didrik Hermansen – 2nd at Western States in 2016 and winner at Transgrancanaria

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Tim Tollefson – 3rd at UTMB last  year
  • Andrew Miller – Western States winner 2016
  • Sage Canaday – Unfinished business at UTMB
  • Jeff Browning – 2016 double with 3rd and 4th at Western States and Hardrock
  • Dylan Bowman – 4th at Lake Sonoma in 2016
  • David Laney – Placed 3rd and 4th at UTMB
  • Jim Walmsley – Unstoppable in 2016, UTMB is going to be a seriously exciting outing for him and us!

But it doesn’t stop there, there other names to consider, the list goes on!

The Top Women for 2017

  • Caroline Chaverot – Defending champ and un-stoppable in 2016.
  • Nuria Picas – 2nd twice, she wants the top slot.
  • Andrea Huser – Relentless, races week-in and week-out, 2nd in 2016.
  • Emelie Lecomte – Tor des Geants champ.
  • Beth Pascall – Lakeland 100 winner and course record could excel on this big loop.
  • Sophie Grant – Has had two top UTMB placings.
  • Gemma Arenas – Excelled in the Skyrunning ranks in 2016, Ultra SWS champ.
  • Juliette Blanchet – 4th last year.

And then look at the talent that will join from the USA:

  • Kaci Lickteig – Western States champ, Bear 100 champ and ultra-runner of the year – exciting!
  • Magdalena Boulet – 5th at UTMB last year.
  • Stephanie Howe – Western States 2014 champ who looks to be back after 2016 full of injury. Previously 8th at UTMB.
  • Sally McRae – 11th at the 2016 Western States.
  • Meredith Edwards – 2nd at TDS.
  • Aliza Lapierre – Solid performer recently raced MDS in 2015 4th at Western States.

Ones to watch:

Kaori Niwa, Christina Bes, Laia Diez, Joelle Vaught, Alissa St Laurent and many more…

CCC and TDS has always felt like a side show to the UTMB but Zach Miller in many ways changed all that with a show boat victory and we are now seeing the CCC as real stepping stone to UTMB with a highly competitive field.

Notably for 2016, Megan Kimmel, Hilary Allen, Nathalie Mauclair, Maite Maiora and Anna Comet amongst others will go head-to-head in the ladies’ race.

For the men, the prospect of what Hayden Hawks is exciting, especially when one considers Tom Owens and Ryan Sandes will toe the line. Add to the mix Erik Clavery, Ludovic Pommeret, Jorge Maravilla, Ben Duffus, Michael Borst, Marcin Swierc and Aurelien Collet and you have a very exciting race.

TDS will see Rory Bosio head up a quality ladies’ field that includes Lucy Bartholomew and, Dong Li and Lizzie Wraith. For the men, Paul Giblin and Michel Lanne are followed by Samir Tamang, Arnaud Lejeune and many more.

The 2017 UTMB week of races, look set to be a very exciting prospect.

Now, get training!

Hardrock 100 2016 Preview

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Hardrock 100 2016 in many respects is all about two returning champions, Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost.

Kilian has won the last two editions and in the process has set two course records, 22:41 in 2014 being the fastest. Many, me included, wonder why he is returning… I think it’s simple; he just loves the race and the course.

Kilian has done little running this year but I don’t think it will make much difference, he always pulls a great result out of the bag and I see no difference for 2016. Long races of 100 miles plus though are difficult to nail time and time again, so Kilian may have a below par or bad year? If he does, Xavier Thevenard may be one to take over the charge.

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier is the only runner to win CCC, TDS and UTMB – an impressive thing! However, he does blow hot and cold and can be quite unpredictable. In all honesty, he is most unpredictable when the pressure is on him. Although Hardrock is a key race, it doesn’t have the high media profile of races such as UTMB and therefore, Xavier may well have a great race.

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Jason Schlarb did Hardrock on skis over the winter and I think he will find running the race easier… He has all the potential to do well on this course as his 4th at UTMB has proven. As is always is the case, Jason will need the Hardrock gods on his side.

Jeff Browning has been on fire as of late and the 100 mile distance and the Hardrock course are made for him. However, he just made the podium at Western States! On the plus side, he will have had 19 days recovery post WSER and that is a good block of RnR. I don’t see Jeff beating an inform Kilian but if Kilian falters, watch this space!

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Nick Clark did the WSER and Hardrock double way back in 2011. At the time he was a beast who trounced 100 milers and intimidated those around him. Don’t get me wrong, you couldn’t meet a nicer guy! Nick has had a tough couple of years, directly attributable to the head-to-head with Ian Sharman going for the Grand Slam – Nick has never been the same since. Hardrock suits ‘Clarky’ though and I wouldn’t rule him out… I hope he finds some of that 2011 form when he placed 3rd and set the WSER/ Hardrock double record.

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson, Transvulcania La Palma 2013 ©iancorless.com

Timothy Olson leaves me with a question mark. The ‘American Tarzan’ (see here) has had a tough time in the last 12 to 24 months. Like so many runners, he nailed it, had huge success and then faded. Timmy loves to run and I actually think in many respects it contributed to his lack of form. He just got tired… ask Geoff Roes about this. I remember sitting on the beach in La Palma after Transvulcania a year or so back. Timmy had been on the island for a month and racked up the miles and hours, he couldn’t resist going out. When the race came, he didn’t have the energy to race. He then went to Hardrock and gritted out a suffer fest for a finish. But he has been quiet since and I am pleased about this. With luck he has recharged his batteries and he will toe the line fighting fit. I really do hope so – he could win it, no doubt.

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Joe Grant has a love affair with Hardrock and ultimately I do believe that Joe was made for this course. Despite solid results elsewhere, Hardrock is where Joe shines. His 2012 2nd place is still a career highlight. Can he do it again? Well the answer has to be yes, can he beat Kilian – no? But with the KJ factor removed, Joe could come up with something special. The only stumbling block may be that Joe only just got is HR100 place as he was on the waitlist.

Other contenders for the top 10 are Scott Jaime, Ben Lewis, Nick Coury and Ryan Kaiser amongst others. I also have a sneaky feeling that a certain Bryon Powell will do well this year. He has been committed and focused on the goal.

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Anna Frost is back. I did wonder if she would return but I guess, like Kilian, the Hardrock bug has taken hold. Last year Frosty had a head-to-head battle with Darcy Piceu and she came out on top not only with victory but a 2nd fastest time of 28:22. I do think that Anna is winding down her ‘racing’ days (not participation I must add) and running is becoming not only an extension of her life but a vehicle for other things. Post Transvulcania this year she said, ‘I can’t believe I ran THAT fast last year!’ Hardrock though is a different beast and I think it suits Frosty’s current mindset. She has been out on the course training and for me, and many others, she is the odds on favourite for victory.

Bethany Lewis has a great set of results at the 100 mile distance and at races that draw great parallels with Hardrock. Victory at Bear 100 and Wasatch 100. Recent exploits with FKT’s have had success and this is why Hardrock will suit her, it’s a big day out in the mountains and it’s one she will embrace.

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Emma Roca may well be the lady who stirs things up. This lady needs know introduction, she has been there and done it time and time again and her variety of results are impressive. Western States, UTMB, Leadville and so on and so on. Emma has every chance to win this race!

Two third places and one second certainly means that Darla Askew knows how to run and hike the HR100 course. In all honesty, she is likely to place somewhere between 2nd and 5th, it just depends on how the race pans out and how the top contenders run – victory is a possibility but unlikely.

Betsy Kalmeyer placed 2nd in 2014 but she would do well to repeat that with the ladies listed above. However, the contenders for the top 3 is always a small pool from which to take water, it only needs a slip and Betsy will be waiting.

Other ladies who will have an impact on the top 5 (top 10) are: Liz Bauer, Betsy Nye, Tina Ure and Megan Hicks.

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Race Website HERE

Course Description – ©hardrock100

The HARDROCK 100 is a mountain run that passes through some of the most beautiful and rugged mountains in the world.

The course is closed. That means that runners are required to follow the specified route.

Four legs, linking the Lake City, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton areas. The finish is in Silverton, the same location as the start. The course is 100 miles long, has a cumulative vertical gain of 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, and takes place at an average elevation of about 11,000 feet. The high point is 14,048 feet.

This is a test of runners against the mountains. The course is on trails as much as possible. There are 13 aid stations; major aid stations will be located in the towns with less well-equipped aid stations in between. Runners are expected to be largely self-supporting between the towns.

This is not an orienteering event. We intend that you be able to concentrate primarily on running. However, remoteness, weather, animals, and people problems on the course make this problematic at best. We will mark the entire course before the run. However, long road sections and maintained trails may not be marked at all. Cross-country sections will be marked more intensely. We shall continue our trend over the past few years of less intense course marking with fewer flags along all course sections. The flags should be readily visible, even to those with red/green color blindness. The markers have reflective tags for night visibility. On some portions of the route we may place colored engineer tape. Chalk may be used to mark other sections, particularly roads in towns. Runners are responsible for knowing the prescribed course and following it whether or not markers are present.

The altitude range of this run (7,700 to 14,000+ feet) takes the runner through several climate zones. At the lower altitude, forests of aspen, pine, and spruce are common. Timberline is locally at about 11,800 feet, though this can vary greatly. Above timberline is alpine tundra and low vegetation interspersed with krummholz (low, stunted spruce, fir, and willow).

In the summer, animal life is abundant. You will almost certainly see elk in the high meadows, possibly with their young. Stay clear of elk: they can be ornery at times. Bears (black, not grizzlies) are present, though seldom seen. Mountain lions may also be encountered.

The run is a salute to the toughness and perseverance of the hardrock miners who lived and worked in the area.

Refer to the current Runners Manual for a full, accurate, and detailed course description.

Course Descriptions:

Order a copy of the Drake Mountain Map (official course map) from San Juan Mountains AssociationBuckskin Bookstore in Ouray, Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, or Rigs Adventure Coin Ridgway.
*Just the base map; does not include the Hardrock course specifically marked

Weather

The weather is a dominant factor for this run and can be at least as formidable as the terrain, remoteness, or high altitude. The run date is a compromise among competing weather factors. There is usually a period of a few days to weeks each year when the snow is generally gone, but the summer “monsoon” has not yet gotten into full swing – we’ve tried to hit this window. The usual “monsoon” pattern is a daily weather cycle, starting in the morning with blue skies. As the day warms up, thunderheads build up and around noon intense electrical thunderstorms may commence, continuing until late afternoon or evening, at which time the thunderstorms abate until the next morning.

The Colorado Mountain Club advises climbers in Colorado’s mountains to be off the peaks by noon. Since this may not fit in with your position on the course, you must use extreme caution. Always remember that the time limit is 48 hours. The long time limit is not only in recognition of the difficult terrain, but also allows runners to wait out thunderstorms or other life-threatening weather. You can hunker down in a valley for 2-4 hours and still finish; but, if you get fried by lightning your running career may end on the spot. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Take comfort in the fact that these thunderstorms are widespread. If you are pinned down, chances are that other runners are, too. Your position in the field will probably not change. Use the time wisely – eat, drink, stay warm, and rest. You will be able to run faster when the storm has passed. At the RD’s discretion, Aid Station Captains can hold runners if weather conditions are considered too dangerous and prevent runners from continuing if not carrying gear appropriate for conditions.

It is our general opinion that the first fatality we may have will be from lightning! Several runners in past years have had direct contact with lightning and there have been several more near misses. We would rather that there never be a fatality or injury. We will continually be giving you warnings, cautions, updates, and suggestions regarding the exposure you must face when attempting this run.

Prepare for any amount of snow! We could even have snowfall just before the run. In 1992 we went back to Handies Peak in August, just a month after the run, and found six inches of new snow on the ground! In 1997 we had an ice and snowstorm during the run. Remember, there have been avalanche fatalities in Colorado in every month of the year except September.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® #UTMB 2015 In-Depth RACE PREVIEW

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It’s the end of August and that can only mean one thing, UTMB. 

UTMB has become one of if not THE mountain races to do. In many respects it is almost a victim of its own success. More and more runners want to participate in the big circular dance around the Mont-Blanc but the trails can only take so many people.

I could enter into a debate about the points system but I won’t. I actually think it’s a solution to an ever increasing problem that UTMB organisation face and as such we all know the score, we know what we need to run the race and ultimately we have a choice.

Should points come from qualifying races? Yes, why not!

Should races pay a fee to supply those points? Yes, why not!

I know my last comment will create some debate but to be honest, the fee to ITRA is relatively small and the cost per head is minimal and the races that offer points gain entries. However, I do think another option exists for points.

Why not let all races provide points? Say 0.5 points for an easy trail race of say 50km and then points increase by 0.5 up to a maximum 4-points for a big mountain ultra. If you then want the points, you the runner pay for each 0.5 point you receive. That way, the person who wants/ needs the points pays and the race and other runners don’t pay. Seems logical to me and in actual fact, I think it would generate even more money for ITRA and the UTMB. I welcome your thoughts on that and boy oh boy what a way for me to start a preview on the 2015 race.

UTMB is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) and as such offers points to a larger circuit. Francois D’Haene and Nuria Picas were 2014 champions.

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Well, I was supposed to be in Chamonix for this race but at the 11th hour I have decided not to attend. It was a tough decision and one that I didn’t take lightly. Particularly now that I am seeing all the social media posts of all the runners and spectators arriving in the endurance capital of the world.

The reality is I have been on the road since January with little or no break and next week I travel to the USA for over a week which is then followed by a succession of weekends travelling and providing photography and writing for a succession of races. I personally had great potential to break )ver training one may say), so, home I am staying and for once a relaxing weekend.

The main event starts at 1800 Friday 28th August. I always feel a little ashamed when I say the main event as a whole series of tough and challenging races take place during UTMB week. For example, the ridiculous PTL, the tough TDS, the challenging CCC and the OCC but I only have so much time and the UTMB draws the crowd and the most stacked field. For the first year, UTMB will not be a TNF event and the new sponsor Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Montrail has a tough act to follow, I wonder if we will notice any difference?

One thing is for sure, the men’s and ladies’ races are stacked. Darn it, I used that word again! Let’s try again – A plethora of talent has arrived in Chamonix to do battle on this super tough and iconic 100+ mile course that circles Mont-Blanc.

MEN

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Tofol Castanyer made the podium last year and with no Francois D’Haene he for me has the nod for victory. He has been quiet lately no doubt keeping the powder dry and although not very experienced over 100-miles he is a super savvy and experienced mountain runner with the solid Salomon team who can offer support and backup.

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Luis Alberto Hernando should win UTMB but he won’t. Nothing would please me more to see Luis top the podium in Chamonix but the reality is, he is not a 100-mile runner (not yet anyway). Put him on a course from 50km-80km and he is unstoppable. Put him on a 100km course and he may or may not win but will podium. Put him on 100m route and he will go great for the first 80km and then fade. This is not helped by entering UTMB tired. He won Transvulcania, placed 2nd at the IAU World Trail Champs, won Ice Trail Tarentaise and then placed 2nd at Tromso Skyrace looking distinctly whacked at the end. That was only a few weeks ago and I just don’t see the recovery and training working in Luis’s favour. I hope I am wrong!

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Miguel Heras, well who knows? If he is fit and on fire he could win and almost certainly podium. However, he is extremely injury prone and his performances could come with a flick of a coin. In 2015, Miguel has been much more low key, he has raced but without any pomp and circumstance and that was intentionally so. Placing 2nd behind Thevenard in 2013, Miguel WANTS to win the UTMB and this may well just be the year!

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The Salomon trio is rounded out with Ryan Sandes. This is a really interesting inclusion into the UTMB mix. Ryan can climb, can run fast and is endurant (Drakensberg Traverse) and therefore may well have the essential credentials to podium at the least and may well just win. Certainly, Salomon could repeat the trio of results that we have seen in pervious years. Ryan has had a mixed 6-months with injury, a last minute withdrawal from Western States and I therefore think he is going to be super focussed on this race. One to watch!

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Sage Canaday enters the 100-mile distance for the first time and as great a runner as he is, I don’t see him making the podium. Controversial I know. He has the speed for sure. He has the climbing and descending but I have no reason to think he has the race plan or strategy for what will be at best a 20-hour race. Like Luis Alberto I would expect strength and dominance over the first 100km and then a fade. But he has been in Chamonix preparing and he is a student of the sport. He may very well have hidden himself away, changed everything about his training and come up with the perfect 100-mile training plan? A 5k track session (in 16min) just 3-days before the race suggest otherwise though.

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Xavier Thevenard won the race (surprisingly) in 2013 and then seemed to implode with the pressure. Last year he took the attention of himself and ran the TDS and won it. In doing so, he became the only runner to have won the CCC, TDS and UTMB; impressive! So the facts speak for themselves, super talented and obviously can perform with the best if the pressure is off. Will the pressure be on for 2015 is the question? I think it will but less than in previous years and that may just allow him to run his own race and find his 2013 legs and head. Good luck.

Julien Chorier Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Julien Chorier impressed the hell out of me a couple of years ago at Ronda dels Cims with a consummate performance. He loves the mountains and he can run fast too. He was 2nd to Ryan Sandes at Transgrancanaria in 2014 and 2nd to Kilian at Hardrock 100. A recent 6th at Western States shows us that all is in place for a great run and that’s why I give him a nudge over Gediminas.

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Gediminas Grinius has been a revelation. His rise in the sport over the last 18-months has been remarkable and you know what, he could win UTMB. He ran a great UTMB last year (5th), won Transgrancanaria and placed 4th at Western States. Expect him to be out of the mix early on and then he will close out super hard and fast.

Stephan Hugenschmidt is my dark horse and potential big surprise of the 2015 UTMB. He had a breakthrough 5th at Transvulcania, won Zugspitz and had a great result at Transalpine.

We are now in the territory of surprise packages and believe me, some of the fellas mentioned below will figure highly in the run for the podium and top-10.

Seth Swanson has been 2nd at Western States 2-years on the run and I still know very little about him. My head says he will need a UTMB run to find his legs before he can comeback and mix it up at the very front. However, nobody expected him to place 2nd at WSER and then go back and do it again!

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Sebastien Chaigneau is the old guard of the race, the wily old fox that everyone loves. Seb has had a tough couple of years and as time has passed, the competition has got faster. I’d love him to find some of that old form, that 100-mile sparkle and dish out to the newbies.

Jeff Browning may well be the best prospect from an American perspective as he is a true mountain man. But he may well lack some of the essential European speed.

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Franco Colle won Tor des Geants and then earlier this year placed 2nd at Mont-Blanc 80km. In addition, he has been at the IAU World Trail Championships, ran (and won) a Skyrunning exhibition event in Cervinia and recently ran Tromso Skyrace. Potential dark horse for UTMB!

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Sondre Amdahl like Gediminas has been a revelation. He is committed, sometimes too committed but I love his passion. He prepared meticulously for Transgrancanaria and placed 4th, went out to the USA to prepare for WSER and placed 15th and has spent recent months preparing in Chamonix for UTMB. Top-10 potential and maybe around 5th if he has a great day.

 

Best of the rest

 

Francois Faivre – 7th at UTMB last year.

Carlos Sa – He could win it but more than likely a top-10.

Pascal Giguet – Top-10 at Mont-Blanc 80km.

Ryan Smith – a Brit who may well be a real dark horse.

Robbie Britton – local lad, 3rd at the 24-hour and 7th at Tarawera. Placed just outside top-50 at UTMB last year but has been in Chamonix for months which will either mean he is in fine form or broken. I think the former. Good luck Robbie.

Yeray Duran – Always strong at Transgrancanaria.

Paul Giblin – another Brit with all the potential to spring a surprise.

Kim Collison – Another multi talented Brit who has speed and endurance.

Joe Grant – We all know Joe and what he can do.

Danny Kendall – The UK’s top MDS performer, not new to UTMB and this may well be his best year.

Jesse Haynes – Great at WSER but in Europe, who knows?

John Tidd – Won’t win but absolutely solid performer.

Stone Tsang – Every chance for a stunning or latter ‘teens’ performance.

Yoshikazu Hara – same as Stone?

 

I could go on….

 

LADIES 

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Neck on the line, this race is for Nuria Picas and I personally think she is going to have the race of her life and win it with a consummate performance. This is no way a reflection on the competition, just an observation of Nuria and an understanding of how this lady ticks. For the past 2-years, Nuria has raced a ridiculous schedule and still placed 2nd twice behind Rory Bosio. This year, Nuria has been quiet. Very quiet. A win at Transgrancanaria and then what? I will tell you, training and preparation. She will be on fire!

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Caroline Chaverot though has also been on fire! In the last 18-months Caroline has exploded with a series of remarkable performances that would suggest a solid UTMB is on the cards. Her victories at Lavaredo and the Eiger confirm that she can perform on the big days out.

Nathalie Mauclair beat Caroline at the IAU Word Trail Championships but that really draws no comparison to UTMB. However, Caroline beat Nathalie at Lavaredo. Take your pick! On paper, I would say Nathalie will be better over the longer distance and time that UTMB will offer and her victories at Diagonale des Fous will put her in a great place both physically and mentally for that.

The upset may well come from Stephanie Howe and I am sure that TNF and the USA would like nothing more than Steph picking up where Rory Bosio left off. Stephanie’s 3rd at WSER left her feeling tired but by all accounts, she has prepared well for the circle of the big white mountain. She has the speed, I just wonder if she has the legs for the climbs and descents and a 24+ hour run in her?

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Francesca Canepa may make the podium? I have always been impressed how Francesca can race UTMB and then just a week later race Tor des Geants. One thing is for sure, I don’t think we will see Francesca at Tor this year after last years’ controversy. 2014 was a great year for the Italian (until Tor) and then it all seemed to go to bits. Understandable really. So coming into UTMB we have little to go on, other than 3rd at the Eiger but she was 30min of the winning time. UTMB may well be a redemption year!

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Uxue Fraille has always impressed with her patience and calculated running. She is a diesel. Expect her off the pace early on and close well. She placed 5th last year and a repeat performance is a distinct possibility.

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Fernanda Maciel is solid on the UTWT circuit and although I don’t see her taking the top slot on the podium, top-5 is a distinct possibility and if she has a great day, the podium may well be hers. Fernanda spent a great deal of time at altitude over Christmas (too long) and this tired her. Let’s hope she is recovered and ready to race hard in Chamonix.

Darcy Piceu is an interesting addition and after that ding-dong with Frosty at Hardrock I am really eager to see what she can do here in France. She placed 3rd in 2011 in just under 29-hours, she will need to run much faster than that this year! One thing is for sure, the distance and time on feet will be no issue, the question mark will be recovery post Hardrock?

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Ester Alves from Portugal has already raced a great deal in 2015 with a string of top placing’s and I have no reason to think that a strong performance is a distinct possibility here. But by strong I mean top-10. A recent tumble at Ice Trail Tarentaise won’t have helped her preparation but she is strong and committed.

Lisa Borzani races and races and races. At TDS in 2015 she placed 2nd. I see her a consistent performance for a top-10 but not victory or the podium.

Nicole Struder ran 14:22 at Rocky Raccoon 100-mile. That’s fast! But she will need to add 10-hours of running to that Rocky time at a minimum for UTMB and through in some serious mountains. So although I see her potentially having a good race, I don’t think that those USA trail legs will handle the European mountains.

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My dark horse for the ladies is Veronica Bravo. She is a super strong adventure racer, has the mind for the long game and 100% commitment. She may not win but I expect she may turn a few heads and UTMB race day looks like it will be a hot one; she loves the heat! Earlier this year she won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.

Amy Sproston is a tough one to call. She won Hurt 100 but UTMB is a faster race with tougher competition.

Sally McRae may well offer the best prospects of a top USA performance outside those of Howe. Sally has been top-10 at WSER twice and although UTMB is a big step up from Western, she may well have the race to mix it up.

Gill Fowler from Australia may well rock the apple cart. She was 4th at Lavaredo, yes somewhat off the front pace but a top-10 at UTMB is on the cards.

 

Ones to watch

 

Shona Stephenson – Top-10 at UTMB before.

Sarah Morwood – 11th at UTMB previously.

Manu Vilaseca

Caroline McKay

Denise Bourassa

 

And so many more….

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Schedule HERE

Ultratrail TV HERE

Follow LIVE HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Course des Templiers – 2013

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Millau, Southern France. The iconic ‘La Course des Templier’ has often been regarded as the Holy Grail of Trail in France. Salomon athlete and Brit, Andy Symonds won the race a couple of years ago and it made him a household name. Of course living in France and speaking the lingo did help.

The Great Race of the Knights Templar was founded in 1995 with a humanitarian purpose. To financially support an orphanage in Chad

Sighting the Leadville Trail 100 miler in the US as an influence, Odile and Gilles Bertrand decided to embark on this adventure in March 1995. The project was launched and a date was selected, the last Sunday of October.

But the format of 100 miles as at the Leadville race was considered too long and Odile and Bertrand decided to offer a more appealing distance of 65 km.

In October 1995 before the fortress of St. Eulalie de Cernon 500 runners assembled and the first edition was undertaken. La Course des Templiers gave birth to trail running in France. This first edition of Templiers was won by Patrick Fox and Corinne Favre.

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

Race start 2012 ©iancorless.com

THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS

. Distance: 72 km – altitude: 3200 m +
. Departure: 5:15 (note time change), Millau, Millau Plage road (attention, 1h 20 ‘night in the morning) and arrive in Millau, Millau Beach Road 1.2 km from city center
. 4 stations (Peyreleau, St André de Vézines, Pierrefiche, The Cade)
. Registration limited to 2500 runners

A weekend of racing – Festival de l’Endurance

The Templiers race is part of the Festival de l’Endurance. The main event takes place on Sunday, the Grande Course – THE GREAT RACE OF THE TEMPLARS is steep and rocky, so steep that the race organisers place ropes in many areas so that runners can ease their way through rough spots without falling.

To add to that magical ambiance, it helps to know that Nant was one of many points in a network of secret trails built by the Knights Templar, the monastic, international military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. The Knights Templar, known for their architectural skills and fighting alongside Richard I were the first warrior monks and were prevalent in that part of France until their downfall in 1307.

The race route uses the secret paths of the Templars which ncludes two long tunnels that had been used as shortcuts to beat enemies to strategic locations. The region has become a popular tourist attraction primarily due to the success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

2013 RACE

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB

The 2012 edition of the race concluded the Skyrunner World Series but not this year! However, a quality field is assembled. Miguel Heras (Salomon) just missed out on the win last year so he will be looking for the top of the podium. However, he will have a re match with TNFUTMB winner, Xavier Thevenard (Asics). Thomas Lorblanchet, teammate of Xavier will also return, he has won this race several times before and without doubt be at the front of the race. Julien Rancon will be looking to repeat his victory but Michel Lanne may well be the favourite, he had some time way from the sport with a new baby and an injury but he is back.

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

Xavier winning TNFUTMB

The ladies race has the return of Nuria Picas (Buff) Nuria dominated the race last year ahead of Emelie Forsberg and Lizzy Hawker. Nuria has gone from strength to strength and after placing second at TNFUTMB and then shortly afterwards winning Cavalls delVent once again, she is for me, the outright favourite for the ladies race. Julia Bottger (Salomon) will also participate, however, I can’t help but feel it will be a little too short for her.

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas winning Templiers 2012 ©iancorless.com

The main event takes place on Sunday.

You can see images from the 2012 race HERE

Seb Chaigneau – Get Ready for S4 EP07

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Great season for Sebastien Chaigneau who start his ultra season in Canaria for the Transgrancanaria, 120kms – 7000D+ that he won. Seb then travelled to Japan to discover the asian culture of trail across at the Ultra trail Mount Fuji, 160 kms — 9000D+, where he took the third place.

©copyright .iancorless.com._1080251During July, Sebastien was in the Colorado, US for the Hardrock 100, a 160kms with more of 10 000D+ and 3300m of altitude average. He won the race with the best time for the anti-clockwise direction

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A six week gap between the Hardrock 100 and the TNFUTMB. For the recovery, it’s a real challenge for Seb. Unfortunately, after 30kms of the race, he needed to stop because of fatigue.
The 2013 edition of the TNFUTMB®  had sun and every runner had an opportunity to  do the full tour of the Mont-Blanc. And the party was more beautiful with the presence of American’s runner like Anton Krupicka, Timothy Olson, Michael Foote, Mike Wolf and also Rory Bosio. They competed against great european runners like Julien Chorier, Jonas Buud, Miguel Herras, Carlos Sà… but the nice surprise came from the young french runner, Xavier Thevenard who won the UTMB®in 20h38.

Seb is a legend… enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CP_s9vcg2v0