Yearly Archives - 2017

Everest Trail Race (ETR) 2017

Four 16-seater minibusses departed Kathmandu for the 8-hour drive to Jiri and camp one of the 2017 Everest Trail Race. The distance is only 200km but the roads are slow, it is a rollercoaster ride of twisting left-to-right, bouncing up and down and all with a constant soundtrack of car horns. There is a lack of road rules, which actually makes the journey very safe as drivers are constantly expecting the unexpected.
Arriving in camp, water and tents were allocated to the runners. These tents are home for the next 6-days as we all make our way towards Everest. Runners settled in and made final preparations as the reality hit home that tomorrow, the 2017 Everest Trail Race would start. The heat of Kathmandu soon disappeared with the arrival of darkness and t-shirts were replaced with down jackets.
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 1 Jiri Bazaar to Bhandar
As the sun disappeared last night, so did the temperature. Morning came with a welcoming hot tea delivered to every tent by the Sherpa’s who are an integral hub of the organization team managed by race RD, Jordi Abad.
Villagers from Jiri came to observe the ETR roadshow and they played music to announce the start as they have done for the past several years. On the stroke of 0900, the runners departed and the 2017 edition was finally underway.
Starting at 1890m the runners had a short descent and then immediately the first climb of the day to Mali at 2200m. Deurali Pass via Khasrubas (2173m) was the toughest climb of the day and the highest point 2715m.Elisabet Barnes
Luis Alberto Hernando set the early pace but was soon joined by fellow Nepalese, Suman Kulung. The two seemed to work together throughout the stage but Sondre Amdahl, as expected but up a battle. Luis Alberto stretched the elastic through and pulled away from the Nepalese runner finishing in an incredible 2:17:41 – a course record for day 1. Suman held a good pace despite the chase from the Norwegian and they crossed 2:19:56 and 2:21:20 respectively.
Brit Rebecca Ferry was leading the ladies race but unfortunately took a wrong turn and lost all the time she had gained, it was a real frustration for her as she was running so strong – she eventually finished out of the top-3. The pre-race favorite, Ester Alves from Portugal took over the front of the race and took a convincing win in 3:22:22 ahead of Nepali runner Chhechee Sherpa in 3:33:05. Elisabet Barnes, also took a wrong turn but re-traced and got back on route to finishing 3rd in 3:36:25
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 2 Bhandar to Jase Bhanjyang
On the trail, the freezing early morning temperatures started to rise and with it the sun. Suddenly, the first glimpse of the snowcapped Himalayas and Everest in the distance. It was another tough hike to Pikey Peak, once passed 3600m everyone could feel the altitude hit!
It was a split start today, slow runners leaving at 0700 and faster runners at 0800.
Starting with a short and technical descent for a couple of km’s, runners crossed a river via a suspended bridge and then it was pretty much all ‘up’ for 16/17km. The gradients were not brutal (however, poles were essential) and terrain underfoot, on the whole, was very good, but the combination of these elements and altitude made the whole experience extremely harsh.
Luis Alberto Hernando dare I say, made it look it easy! He smashed the old course record and in the process set a new time of 3:35. It’s difficult to comprehend how the Spaniard climbed to Pikey Peak in the time that he did. He arrived at the summit in 3:10 and then flew down the final technical descent and climbed to the finish line in 25-minutes – incredible!
It wasn’t all Luis’s day though, in the early stages he was pushed by Sondre Amdahl. The duo traded the lead over the early climbing and Nepali Suman Kulung tried to hold the pace but the other two were too strong.
Eventually, Luis made his move and Sondre new that he could not match the pace, but he arrived 2nd at the summit less than 10-minutes behind. Suman arrived 3rd and then used his incredible downhill ability to not only catch Sondre but pass him, finished 2nd and Sondre was 3rd. Jordi Gamito once again placed 4th, he is running a strong race but just doesn’t have the pace or the form of the top-3.
In the ladies’ race. Ester Alves used her mountain experience and climbing to forge ahead but the Portuguese lady didn’t open up the possible huge gap many had expected. At the Pikey Peak summit, she had only a handful of minutes over Elisabet Barnes. Elisabet the two time MDS champ is not known for her mountain ability but in 2017 she has honed her skills and in particular, she has trained a great deal at altitude.
On the technical descent, Ester extended her lead, her technical running ability is still better than Elisabet’s but the gap is closing. Post-race, Elisabet said, ‘I am really happy with my race, I climbed really well, handled the altitude and after 3400m I was really strong, the training paid off!’
Chhechee Sherpa was the 3rd lady and I guess somewhat surprisingly couldn’t match Ester and Elisabet on the climb – unusual for a Nepal native. However, she ran a strong race for 3rd with the UK’s Becks Ferry placing 4th.
One-by-one runners made the Pikey Peak summit, some in better shape than others. Unfortunately, the stunning early morning views of the Himalayas disappeared as the day passed and in the latter stages the race was blocked out with cold wind and dense mist.
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 3 Jase Bhanjyang to Kharikola
The mist and light wind persisted into the night and it was seriously cold! Jase Bhanjyang sitting just below 4000m is renowned for being a cold place and last night it lived up to expectations but not as bad as previous years. Needless to say, kit was tested and those who compromised on weight were left with a really cold and uncomfortable night. Pretty much everyone slept in base layers and down jackets with hoods up and gloves on.
Once again, it would be a split start, 0700 and 0800. Today’s stage had considerably less climbing than stage two, however, it had lots of descending, it may not hurt the lungs as much but it would certainly hurt the legs. Many thought it would be an easier day… A short climb out of camp the runners would then descend to Jumbesi (CP1) at 2696m. This initial trail would see them running through a dense forest section. Kharikhola, the end of today’s stage, is on a main trekking route and in addition, it is a main route for supplies. It is amazing to me to watch children carry baskets literally as big as they are and for sure, probably twice the weight. Mules go up and down the trail all day carrying all sorts of supplies, from bottles of gas, water, corn, maize, beer, Coke, cigarettes and so on. You suddenly realize how life moves around in these mountains.
Suman Kulung and Luis Alberto Hernando led from the front once again and the stage looked all set for an epic battle. Suman a super-fast descender, has Luis Alberto worried before the start. He knew it was going to be tough. Over the early miles they ran together but eventually, the Nepali runner broke the elastic and the Spaniard was left pursuing. Although a gap opened, Luis Alberto did an incredible job of holding Suman and then with a tough and relentless final climb, he closed to reduce his losses and still retain the lead. Suman crossed in 3:47:27 and Luis Alberto 3:55:58.
In third place, Sondre Amdahl and Jordi Gamito run together, Sondre using Jordi’s descending ability as a guide to help him down the trails. On the final climb, they stayed together and crossed the line 1-second apart, Sondre remaining 3rd overall.
Chhechee Sherpa, like her male counterpart, has an incredible reputation for running downhill. She put this to great use on day 2 basically opening a gap from the moment the race day started all the way to the line. Despite Ester Alves incredible mountain experience, she couldn’t match the Nepali runner, Ester crossed the line in 6:03:36, an incredible 36-minutes slower than Chhechee who crossed in 5:27:27.
Elisabet Barnes is not known for her downhill ability and today it tested her to the max, so much so, it opened the doorway for Rebecca Ferry to take 3rd on the stage in 6:28:19 and Elisabet crossing in 6:40:35. Elisabet still retained her 3rd overall position and now Chhechee has the overall lead just ahead of Ester by 4-minutes 45-seconds
Everest Trail Race (ETR) 2017
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 4 Kharikhola – Phakding
It was a wonderful calm night and warm, certainly in contrast to the previous night. Kharikhola to Phakding is a very busy trail with Sherpa’s and Porters making journeys up and down the trail, there are continual mule trains ferrying all sorts of supplies to shops, lodges and other facilities. This is the only way to move things around. This the motorway of this region! The further down the trail one goes, the busier it becomes. One sees more and more groups of trekkers with porters and of course, the continual ferrying of all sorts of items escalated as the demand for supplies increased. From CP3 at Cheplung, passing Nurning the towns became a little more organized, formal and touristy. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but our early days on the trail had been remote, almost isolated. We were now entering into the hub of Nepal’s trekking arena and our proximity to Lukla was obvious. Lukla is a main hub for the doorway to Everest. Weaving in and out of the trails, passing on the right of mules, squeezing past trekkers on the left and jumping around porters, the finish of stage 4 would soon be in sight. Dropping down the trail and crossing the Kamsyawa Khola (river) the day would be done. An exhilarating and eye-opening day on the trails of Nepal.
It may come as no surprise that Suman Kulung and Luis Alberto Hernando dictated the pace from the start and arrived at Cp1 in less than 1-hour, Suman with a slender lead over the Spaniard.  It was a ridiculous time considering the technicality and elevation of the course. Sondre Amdahl was holding his ground but the writing was already on the wall. The Nepali runner was pushing hard and making Luis Alberto chase hard to retain his overall lead. It was a brave effort by both runners. At the line, Suman took the victory in 3:15:23 a 3+ min margin making the final 2-days of the Everest Trail Race 2017 very exciting with it all to fight for between the Nepali and the Spaniard. Luis Alberto finished in 3:18:52 and still holds the number 1 slot on GC but it is close, really close! Sondre finished 3rd in 3:42:34 and Jordi Gamito 4th in 3:51:14
Chhechee Sherpa is one seriously impressive lady! She has a look of focus and determination that is softened by a smile. After a slow start in the Everest Trail Race0 2017, this Nepali lady has been a force to reckon with. Once again, she was first to CP1 with a strong lead over Ester Alves who was chasing hard and then Elisabet Barnes who was further back. As the day unfolded though, Chhechee slowed. Firstly, Elisabet caught Ester and then the duo closed on Chhechee. For once, the first 3 ladies were separated by minutes and it remained that way all the way to the line. The Nepali crossed the line first in 4:45:04 and just 34-seconds later Ester crossed with Elisabet just 22-seconds later – that is a close and hard-fought race! The overall GC remains with Chhechee 1st, Ester 2nd, and Elisabet 3rd – this is unlikely to change over the following 2-days.
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 5 Tengboche to Lukla
Many say that the 16km route from Phakding to Tengboche is one of the most beautiful trails in the world. The view of the Himalayan peaks is beyond mind-blowing. Especially when you arrive at the monastery and Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam await. It’s quite the picture postcard and the perfect finish line for the ETR.
However, to take in this spectacle a journey of 20km and 2124m of positive incline waits. It doesn’t sound too much, does it? However, many runners crossed the line saying, ‘that was a seriously tough day!’
Departing Phakding (2700m), Namche Bazar (3600m) is the first port of call then Khumjung and Cp2 and Phungi Tenga (3300m) before the tough and steep ascent to Tengboche at 3900m.
Today was all about Luis Alberto Hernando and Suman Kulung. On past days, it was expected that Luis Alberto would have an advantage with the uphill tough finish. This proved to be true!
Luis Alberto won days 1 and 2, Suman days 3 and 4 and now the Spaniard takes day 5 and an invaluable 1-minute 57-seconds to extend his overall lead by 6-minutes 23-seconds. He is going to need all that time on the last day which will suit the Nepali runner as much of it is downhill! It is going to be an epic battle to the finish line.
As in previous days, Sondre Amdahl and Jordi Gamito were once again consistent placing 3rd and 4th.
For the ladies, it was expected that maybe Ester Alves would steal some time back today on Nepali, Chhechee Sherpa. It was not to be. As the days have progressed, Chhechee has got stronger and despite not climbing to expectation on day 2, today she pushed on the final climb to finish ahead of Ester by 6-minutes 53-seconds. The Nepali runner now has an overall lead of 12-minutes 22-seconds and it will take a disastrous last day for her not to be the 2017 ETR champion.
Ester had a solid day but had no extra energy to fight Chhechee and Elisabet Barnes safe in 3rd took a more relaxed approach to the penultimate day safe in the knowledge that 2nd was unattainable this late in the race and secure that the 4th lady could not catch her.
The finish line at Tengboche is arguably one of THE most amazing finishing lines of any race and this was reflected in some of the emotions shown as runners crossed the line today.
Tomorrow is the final day of the Everest Trail Race ETR 2017 and the runners run back to Lukla via Namche Bazaar.
Everest Trail Race – Race Day 6 Tengboche to Lukla
At 3086m, the temperatures were just a little cool outside, a night in a lodge offered just that ‘little’ extra protection but many commented that they thought it was warmer in a tent. The route drops immediately from 3800m to 3300m before climbing back up to Khumjung at just over 3800m. It’s a beautiful trail, technical in sections but the views offered are inspiring. It’s a difficult place to run… you need to watch where you put your feet but around you, the vistas are just incredible. Khumjung would offer all the most spectacular backdrop of Everest, Lohtse and the stunning Ama Dablam, everyone just needed to remember to turn around and look!
The long descent from Khumjung lasts around 6km. The trail twists from left to right with conditions changing from dry sand, rocks, clay, and large stones. Passing through Namche Bazaar is quite an experience; one would almost call this a ‘metropolis’ of the region. It has many building, an obvious presence of tourists and with this demand, shops, restaurants, and bars. Runners have no time to stop, pushing on through the trail they are now on one of the main trekking route back to Lukla. Yaks made the journey difficult in places, they occupy the single-track with horns outstretched, needless to say, and you need to be careful.  At Phakding everyone crossed the Dudh Koshi river and were in the final stretch home. Cheplung, the final the final CP confirming just 3.5km to go uphill to the finish in Lukla.
Suman Kulung had it all to fight for today, he lay 2nd behind Luis Alberto Hernando 6-minutes and 53-seconds back. It was tough to ask to take this amount of time out of one of the best trail runners in the world, Luis Alberto Hernando. But as we had seen on the previous day’s, the Nepali runner can fly when going down-hill! After CP1 he had gained a lead of 4-minutes and Luis Alberto was chasing hard. At Namche Bazaar, the Spaniard lost some time after a wrong turn and tried to chase hard but the writing was on the wall and Luis Alberto knew it. He eventually eased off knowing that Suman had earned a well fought 2017 ETR victory, he placed 4th on the stage. Jordi Gamito moved up from his usual 4th on stage and placed 2nd and as per usual, Sondre Amdahl placed 3rd.
Chhechee Sherpa in reality already had the 2017 ETR sewn up on the start of the final stage, her lead of 12-minutes and 22-seconds was almost impossible to claw back on a stage with so much downhill running, something the Nepali loves! It went like clockwork, she forged away at the front and not only took the stage victory but extended her overall winning time. Ester Alves chased hard all day in the hope of a miracle and once again she placed 2nd ahead of Elisabet Barnes who placed 3rd.
Suman Kulung and Chhechee Sherpa are crowned the 2017 ETR champions but all credit goes to each and every finisher. It is a beautiful moment to see the pain, the passions, and emotions from six grueling days on the most incredible trails released as each and every runner passed under the ETR banner. Tears, joy, and relief; it was a bond shared with each and every runner and one that each member of the ETR staff could appreciate. You see, the race is not only about the participants, but it is also about the incredible organization and planning task that is undertaken by Jordi Abad and his team.
This is no ordinary race! You can’t just drive a car to a place as and when it is needed. Meticulous planning makes this race happen and I have to say, it was executed to precision and perfection.
Nepal is a contrast. It is a cacophony that penetrates the eyes, skin, and mind. It is possibly the most exhilarating, awe-inspiring and incredible experience you could ever witness.
The ETR doesn’t come to an end, it provides a beginning, a beginning of a love affair with Nepal, the people the trail and the Himalayas.


Everest Trail Race 2017

Everest Trail Race 2017Set against one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring backdrops on the planet, the Everest Trail Race is one of the world’s toughest high-altitude ultra-marathons.

From the noisy and frenetic streets of Kathmandu to the isolation of camping under the stars at the monastery at Kharikhola, Nepal and its people cement itself within the heart of every participant of the Everest Trail Race 2017.
Winding through the remote Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas, Nepal, the race takes place over six punishing days and covers a distance of 160-km with over 25,000m of vertical gain.
Everest Trail Race 2017
“You reach the highest point of the day and you are breathing hard with short shallow breaths. You think you must stop, that you can’t go on, but then you settle into a sustainable rhythm. Your body is adapting to the workload, to the altitude and with that realization, you feel a rush of empowerment that motivates you to continue to run with the stunning Everest as a backdrop.”
Terrain during the race is mixed and while daily distances may appear relatively short, don’t be fooled! Altitude and technical trails make the ETR a very specific challenge and the rigors of climbing and descending have an impact on everyone. A self-sufficient race, participants must carry all they need with the exception of food and a tent. Breakfast and dinner are provided and all the runners sleep in 2-man tents.
Following in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men to reach the summit of Everest, participants will run through time and history. It’s a breathtaking route that starts in Jiri and follows an incredible route to Tengboche – the gateway to Everest Base Camp – Daily altitude gain starts at 3.000 meters and goes up to 5,950. On the fifth day, arriving at Tengboche the Himalayan backdrop is magnificent with stunning vistas of Everest, Tawache, Ama Dablam, Nuptse, Lohtse, and Thamserku. Nepal will change you… it does! These views are some of the most memorable moments any trail runner can encounter and they provide a wonderful boost before returning to Lukla via Namche Bazaar and the return flight back to Kathmandu.
Temperatures vary greatly from warm sunny days to icy cold nights. Remember, the runners carry everything they need, so, shorts and T-shirts for the day and a down jacket, multiple layers and a very warm sleeping bag for the night. As with most multi-day races, a change of clothes is a luxury and a shower almost non-existent.
The Everest Trail Race is, without doubt, the journey and experience of a lifetime.
“I’ve done this. I’ve done that. I’ve achieved something that so many haven’t, I may not be the fastest, but I never will be the fastest. I’m not built to the be the fastest, and I’m certainly no Casey Morgan that’s for certain. I’m probably three times the size of him. But what I would say is that I’ve got a dogged spirit and a strong will. I say to myself, ‘Never, ever give up!’ and I don’t give up. Ever.” – John Percy, finisher, 2016.
Luis Alberto Hernando
Pasang Llama (Nepal) won the 2016 race ahead of Miguel Capo Soler (Spain) and Casey Morgan (UK) with a dominant performance, he completed the six-day journey from Jiri to Tengboche and back to Lukla in 22-hours, 04-minutes and 22-seconds. For the ladies’ Andrej Sterle Podobonik was triumphant over the UK’s Jennifer Hill and Sarah Davies.

Ones to Watch 2017

Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, IAU World Trail Champion and Migu Run Skyrunner World Series Champion for the ULTRA category, will head up the line-up for the 2017 edition along with two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes. But the top-line action doesn’t stop here, Miguel Cabellero, also from Spain, with push Hernando. Portugal’s Ester Alves will once again go head-to-head with Barnes – Alves has beaten Barnes at Costa Rica’s The Coastal Challenge but Barnes put the record equal in Morocco. Nepalese always are an intimidating element to the ETR and now in its 7th edition, it’s fair to assume that a Nepalese runner may take the top-honors once again, but who will it be?
The 2017 edition of the race starts on November 5th and concludes November 17th. Race website and information available HERE.


Skyline Scotland

Four years ago, Skyrunning UK was created to bring the ethos of running in the Alps and Pyrenees to UK shores. Of course, as many pointed out, the UK lacked the altitude and high-peaks of our French, Spanish and Italian friends. However, what we lacked in height most certainly could be compensated for with technical and challenging terrain.
Emelie Forsberg
2014 was a breakthrough year with the inclusion of the Glen Coe Skyline race. This race personified the pure ethos of Skyrunning and the race was modeled on the Italian classic of Trofeo Kima. Tempted by the initial PR and photography, many of the world’s best mountain runners converged at a tiny ski resort and by the end of the inaugural event, history was made. Emelie Forsberg took top honors for the ladies and Joe Symonds for the men.
It soon became apparent that the Glen Coe Skyline was going to boom and a new start and finish venue was created in the small village of Kinlochleven. But race director Shane Ohly didn’t stop there. A VK (vertical kilometer) was added, the UK first and in addition, for year two, the Ring of Steall SkyRace was added – all races joining the prestigious Skyrunner World Series.
In 2017, Skyline Scotland comes of age. From the short, sharp and brutal VK in the VK World Circuit, to the long, demanding and challenging ultra – the weekend became the pinnacle event of racing in the UK in 2017 and saw three events, Sky Classic, Extreme, and the new Ben Nevis Ultra being added to the newly formed Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series.
The weekend kicked off with the Salomon Mamores VK™, an incredible leg burning and lung-busting ascent from sea level to a Munro summit. p=Participants followed a marked course climbing 1000m of vertical gain in less than 5km’s. The route starts easy with winding trails but it soon kicks up with a wall of vertical muddy grass and fell. The terrain at times so steep and slippery that participants slid backward while trying to move forward. In the final sections, grass and mud turn to rock with a stunning run up the ridgeline to the summit. Departing at timed intervals, it’s like an epic stage of the Tour de France as runners push their limits, in principle, the fastest runners going last – the fastest overall time to the summit is the winner! The day was won by Stian Angermund-Vik from Norway and Laura Orgue from Spain, the duo, VK, and short distance specialists. They ran strong and fast races against strong competition to take the victory.
Saturday, day two of Skyline Scotland saw an early start for the runners in the inaugural Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra, a brutal 120km race with over 4500m of vertical gain. Using remote runnable tracks, technical single track, and airy trackless ridges, the highlight of the race comes with a climb and traverse via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, leading to the summit of Ben Nevis. Starting from the southern shore of the world-famous Loch Ness, the race follows a route through remote Scottish Highland Glens, before finishing at the Event Centre in Kinlochleven. Local runner, Donnie Campbell set his stall out early on and dominated the race he was so desperate to win, post-race he confirmed that victory on home soil was a dream come true. For the ladies’ we saw the return of Nepalese run sensation Mira Rai. Mira ran an incredibly smart race and so strong was her performance she placed 5th overall.
Skyline Scotland
The Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace started several hours after the Ultra start from the event center in Kinlochleven. It’s a challenging race to push the most experienced Skyrunner to the limit. The Devil’s Ridge providing a thrilling and airy traverse, in total four peaks were summited. The race is a pure ‘classic’ following in the tradition of Zegama-Aizkorri and the Dolomites SkyRace, the route consists of uncompromising mountain running with scrambling along mountain ridges. A world-class field toed the line with a who’s who of the mountain running world. In the early stages, it was all to fight for with Marco De Gasperi, Jan Margarit, Alexis Sevennec, Stian Angermund-Vik and the USA’s Andy Wacker dictating the pace. But just as in 2016, it was Angermund-Vik who grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck and just as he did in the VK he went on to victory with a new course record. For the ladies’ Laura Orgue battled with Sheila Aviles, Laura Sola, and Maite Maiora but like Angermund-Vik, Orgue was too strong for the completion and pulled off the ‘double’ and in the process set a new course record too.
Sunday saw the third and final day, undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend, the brutal, demanding, challenging and yes, dangerous, Glen Coe Skyline Extreme Race. The race so challenging that runners must be vetted for experience before being allowed to toe the line. The race is up there with Norway’s Tromso SkyRace and the iconic Italian classic of Trofeo Kima. The race fuses mountain running and alpinism in an extreme test of speed, endurance, and skill on an uncompromising, world-class course. The race follows the true and pure traditions of ISF President Marino Giacometti who pioneered and created this sport on the slopes of Monte Rosa in the late 80’s! At 55km with 4,750m of vertical gain, the race is an ultimate teat and includes the most challenging Scottish mountain terrain with a traverse of the Aonach Eagach ridge and a technical scramble of Curved Ridge coming very early in the race. The 2017 edition of the race, understandably, had the eyes of the mountain running world upon it with the best in the world toeing the line. Notably, Kilian Jornet fresh from 2nd place at UTMB would race for the first time on UK soil. The early stages of the race were dictated by Andre Jonsson but as Curved Ridge approached, Jornet took the front of the race followed by Alexis Sevennec, 2016 Glen Coe winner and Skyrunner Extreme Series champion, Jon Albon. It was all too close to call with Him Gurung, Max King, Hector Haines, and Cody Lind all running close. It was the climb to Aonach Eagach were the damage was done, Jornet and Albon pulled away and as they traversed the airy and technical ridge, Jornet but his experience to use pulling away from the 2016 champion to clinch victory in a course record time. Albon finished 2nd and importantly once again clinched the Skyrunner World Series title for the Extreme category.
For the ladies’ Emelie Forsberg and Megan Kimmel dictated the early stages of the race with the duo swapping the lead. But just as with Jornet, once the technical and challenging Aonach Eagach arrived, Forsberg used her skill and knowledge from victory in 2014 to pull away from the American and like Jornet she clinched victory with a new course record. In the ladies’ overall category, Maite Maiora was crowned 2017 Skyrunner World Series champion after gaining victories in Tromso and Italy at the Royal Gran Paradiso.
The 2018 Skyline Scotland events will no doubt be a highlight once again in the UK calendar and after this year, the world calendar too!


Elisabet Barnes-“Transrockies"

Elisabet Barnes, 2017 Marathon des Sables champion decided to get steep and get high at the 2017 edition of the Transrockies – an iconic multi-day race that takes place in the USA.
The race is a multi-day point-to-point race that is based upon the European TransAlpine run. Starting in Buena Vista, the race concludes in Beaver Creek. It’s a race that traverses wild and fantastic scenery through the heart of the White River and San Isabel National Forests. Single-track, forest road and 20,000ft of elevation gain make this a tough race especially when the race reaches high-points of over 12,000ft.
It is not a self-sufficient race – racers are fed and housed in tents, hot showers are available and they are supported throughout the journey.
I caught up with Elisabet Barnes after placing 4th – a race that certainly had some real high and low points, and I don’t mean attitude!
Elisabet Barnes
Ian: I last spoke to Elisabet Barnes a few months back, she was telling me about training in Tenerife at altitude. She then went off to the USA to race TransRockies and she’s here to tell us all about it. I think it’s fair to say, Elisabet Barnes, going racing at altitude, a multi-stage race was something new and a learning curve and I’m sure that you can pass on some knowledge.
Let’s, first of all, go back to your training. You had a block of time in Tenerife and then, you moved over to the US for three weeks before the race to finish off the acclimatization process. How do you think that whole preparation thing went and now, with a bit of hindsight, do you think it was the right preparation or would you have changed anything?
Elisabet: As far as the acclimatizing to the altitude, I did okay with the time I had. I spent five weeks in Tenerife and the last four of those was living at 2100 meters and training a bit higher. You can get up to 3,500 in Tenerife but that requires you to run up the volcano. Mostly, I trained around 2,500. That’s the closest to the race level to come to from sea level. Just the first few days there, they were hard and I definitely noticed it. If I would have gone straight to 3,000 meters, then, I think that would have been a bit of a shock to the system.
It was like three acclimatization’s if you wish. I definitely noticed a difference when I left Tenerife – I had gotten used to that altitude. I would have maybe wanted more time in Tenerife, but the altitude out there just makes it a little bit more difficult to recover. If you train hard and do more climbing than normal, which I did, and then you have the altitude to deal with. After three weeks, I actually got really tired and I thought that I had overdone it.
I didn’t really take into account the added effects of doing all the climbing at altitude, and it’s something that I don’t normally do. My body just needed a bit more time to absorb. You always must listen to your body. If you get really tired, you just can’t push on and I really had to back off a bit. That was frustrating but I did that because I knew I had to.
Ian: From a coaching perspective, that’s classic mesocycle and microcycle, isn’t it? Where you have your block of training but then that block of training, needs to be broken down into smaller segments and that classic three-week build and one-week recovery is effectively what you’re talking about there.
You can’t just keep adding volume and time without your body saying, ‘hold on a minute!’ What you’re doing is taking on a much more feel basis because, obviously, it’s a new environment and you have to work out how far to push and when to pull back off. I think that’s maybe what I’m touching at in terms of, for you, this was a new experience, a new learning curve. And so, the next time, you can either start at a higher level or go into your training with a greater knowledge of what you need to do.
Elisabet: Yes, absolutely. I certainly agree with you, it’s pushing your body and maybe working it and seeing what happens to learn. In Tenerife, it was hot too and the altitude, in addition, makes it fairly hard. I absolutely loved it out there and the trails were great.
Ian: We’ll come on to the fact that the trails are easier in the US and you purposely did all your training on more technical trails. Let’s talk about the transition from going from Europe to the USA and that period of time before the race because this is always a really difficult thing. It is easy to run yourself into the ground before a race, but we both know, you are not going to get any fitter in those final 2-3 weeks, just more tired.
I understand this, as runners, we love to be in the environment and I think what happens is it’s very easy to drop yourself into an amazing place and just want to run, but in a way, forget that you’ve got this really big race in 7 or 10 days. How did you manage to drop into Colorado and that amazing landscape with those amazing mountains and not overdoing it?
Elisabet: I came home from Tenerife, I had about five days at home and then I traveled out to Colorado. It was two and a half weeks before the race and I went to Leadville. I have decided to go to Leadville because I just wanted to go as high as I could, basically, knowing that the race would hover around 2,600 to 3,100 meters most of the time. The high point is Hope Pass which is just over 3,800 meters. My thought process was to go out there and then as soon as possible just try to adapt and learn a little about the course.
Stage one, or most of it, which was probably around 20 or 21 miles was actually my longest run that I did out there and I did it as soon I came out. Then, I wanted to spend time at altitude and obviously, I wanted to experience Colorado since I was there.
I decided to climb a few peaks but that was hiking. I took it relatively easy and tried not to really exhaust myself. It was quite enjoyable actually. I did some shorter runs as well but it was fairly low in terms of what I did in Tenerife. I felt good. I was focused on trying to get used to the altitude but then, there was a Leadville 10k.
I did the Leadville 10k and that was so hard. I have never walked in a 10k my whole life, but this course goes downhill for 5k and then you have to run back up for 5k. I tell you, running a 10k at 3,100 meters altitude, that’s no joke. That was really tough. And that got me actually a little bit worried about the race. I actually spoke to a guy in Buena Vista the day before the race and he had moved there from sea level, he said it had taken him a year to get fully acclimatized.
Ian: I get that. I spend quite a lot of my year at altitude but it’s a little bit here and a little bit there. As soon as you start getting above 2500 the impact of altitude is phenomenal, particularly if you’re trying to push the pace.
The difference comes when you have to push the pace. And of course, you can only realize where you’re lacking when you’re in a race because up until that point the only gauge you have to go off is yourself. It’s only when you’ve got another woman or two women in front of you and you’re then trying to keep up that you realize, “I’m missing X.” Like on day one of the race, you have Magdalena Boulet who has won Western States who is running ahead of you. She’s a world-class ultra-runner, who took the stage one victory.
And we know that Magda is adapted to this environment. Do you consider, if you want to excel at something like TransRockies, you need to be there at altitude for much longer.
Elisabet: Yes. I would need to be out there longer. But I have lived at sea level my whole life and I have rarely been at significant altitude. For my next race at this kind of altitude, I would definitely go a few months beforehand or at least a few months of altitude training. There’s also the climbing too to consider. I come from a road running background and I’m more used to running flat sections, and I’m quite good at running downhill, but climbing is my weakness – it is something that I need to work on.
I think I can definitely get stronger in the climbing with more training. But I do think it helps if one is petite. I am not, I am tall! Going downhill I am (my head) just farther away from the ground. And I think it might make it a little bit more difficult. Maybe my stride length is going to be a little bit longer?
Ian: Did you did you use poles for the climbs?
Elisabeth: I didn’t use poles on day one. I didn’t use poles on day two either which is actually when we went over Hope Pass. I hadn’t used poles at all in my training. Maybe a little bit in Tenerife. But then I did take them out for stage three. And then I immediately regretted not having used them on day two. And I did use them for the remaining stages on the climbing. Actually, in hindsight, it was stupid of me to not use my poles, particularly for stage two being on the Hope Pass. I’m actually a good user of poles. I did a lot of cross-country Skiing, growing up so I learned something there!
Ian: I didn’t know the answers to the poll question and I am surprised by the answer. I had the expectation that you were going to say yes. With the level of climbing involved poles would seem logical.
Elisabet: I think stage one was a mistake to not have poles. We had 12 kilometers climb going up to the first checkpoint – I would have done it faster with poles, I now know this now. On day two, I dropped one placing, so I finished fourth. And that prompted me to take the poles for stage three and I finished second.
I had a really strong climb on day three, that was my best climbing. In most of the stages I was behind on the climb and I gained some time and placings on the descent. Whereas on day three when I had the poles, I felt good. And for some reason, I was really good with altitude that day as well even though it was a high day.
But then I injured my knees so that’s when I deteriorated a bit.
Ian: I was going to come on to this… We do have a little bit of a joke with you as you do have a habit of falling over when running. It’s very rare that I don’t get a bloody knee photograph of you… Ironically in Tenerife, the trails were more technical and you had no issues, you felt as though you were adapting well.
You fell twice during Transrockies, the second time was a little more serious.
Elisabet:  The second fall wasn’t great and the doctor decided to mummify me, it took about 45 minutes to an hour. Ironically, both falls where not in the technical sections in the race. I’m becoming pretty good at focusing when it’s technical, all it takes is a lack of focus, which is easy when it goes from technical to non-technical and then suddenly you are on the floor! I’m not really sure, but on the second day when I tripped over, I realized afterward that I was a little dizzy – maybe the altitude was impacting on me. Maybe it was the fact that we went over Hope Pass, the highest point of the course.
The second time, which was on day three, we had this amazing lovely rolling downhill section through a pine forest and I absolutely loved it. I love stretching my legs, I’m pretty fast on the downhill. I ran some smooth road, took a sharp right down a single track and then it got quite steep. I just didn’t pay attention and I tripped over some rocks, that was pretty bad.
I slid on my forearms, and I didn’t realize at the time but I must have twisted my knee a little bit. When I finished, my knee started to swell up and it did get quite bad in the afternoon. I was really worried about the rest of the race, I thought if it gets any worse I won’t be able to continue because I could hardly walk. I elevated it, iced it, applied some creams and took some painkillers, anything to make it possible to just be able to start the next day.
I wanted to finish the race but you have to balance these things, I didn’t want to do myself any long-term damage. I concluded that it was mostly swollen, maybe a little sprain or bruised from the inside of the knee? The following day I could put weight on it, I could run, I did take some painkillers which I don’t normally do when I run and it seemed to work out ok.
Ian: You were never out of the top four ladies, you were always in or around the action but the knee slowed you of course. There was probably an element of adaptation going on during the race too.
Was there an element of you saying to yourself, “Well, I can only do what I can do, it’s pointless trying to push too hard,” because as you say at altitude like that and with an injury, you can be fine one minute but then 30 seconds later you can just blow up.
Elisabet: Yes, you can and it was interesting because there was one day, it might have been stage four or stage five. We spent quite a bit of time just running on this undulating trail at quite a high altitude and I did feel a little bit dizzy. I heard other people after who said the same – you just have to constantly monitor how you feel.
You can feel absolutely brilliant one day, then the next day it’s different. When the medics looked after me up after day three, they said, “Are you actually continuing? What? Are you running tomorrow?” I said, “Ye!”  It just never occurred to me that I wouldn’t keep trying.
I had to reassess the situation and say to myself, “Okay, maybe I can’t push that hard,” but we still had three stages to go, in a multi-stage race it’s never over until it’s over.
You don’t stop. You have to be sensible of course and I consider I was sensible – you can’t just give up because there’s always the chance, right?
I said before the race that if I was in the top five, given my experience of this type of environment, I thought that that would be okay because I knew there would definitely be people who train in the mountains or are more used to the altitude.
A great deal of people said to me beforehand, “You’re going win this, you’re going to smash this,” but people don’t necessarily understand that there are lots of different types of running and because you win one type of race, MDS for example, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to win another type of race just like that!
Ian: Absolutely it’s all about the learning curve, the balance, a completely rounded runner is somebody that can do all these things but these are few and far between. You do extremely well at multi-day races, and that’s confirmed by you placing fourth overall and achieving a pre-race objective of top five.
I certainly think if you went back to TransRockies next year with what you’ve learned this year then it may very well be a different story. With that assessment, now that you’ve had an opportunity to asses with the race behind you, what’s your overall opinion now, in particular, you will go to Nepal next and the Everest Trail Race – Transrockies will be great prep for this race?
Elisabet: I think Nepal is going to be a little bit more challenging in several ways, I think it could be a more uncomfortable week, probably in terms of the camping and the shifting temperatures. The amount of climbing, it’s quite a lot. I’m not necessarily worried about it. In fact, I think it might be a good thing because I think I’m maybe better at steeper hiking than just running up more shallow inclines. So, I’m hoping that there will be more of that, and that’s mostly good. I will be taking poles!
Ian: Poles are absolutely essential for Nepal.
Elisabet: I did work a little bit with sports scientists at Bryson’s university this year. They said that if you have routine exposure to altitude it can help accelerate future acclimatization and adaptation so I’m hoping that I won’t lose everything I gained out in the USA in terms of adaptation.
In an ideal world, I would have probably just gone to Nepal now and trained but that’s not possible, so, I will try to spend a couple of weeks at some altitude before the race. The plan is to go back to Tenerife if I can make that happen.
Ian: That sounds like a good plan.
Elisabeth: With the experience, I’ve had, I do feel a lot more confident about my ability at altitude. Although I know it’s going to be challenging, I’m not that worried about it. Whereas before, I was really worried about the altitude because in the past I have had a couple of really bad experiences where I’ve basically got altitude sickness. When I ran the Grand to Grand stage race I had altitude issues and we started at only 1600 meters elevation.
Ian: Yes, I am sure the adaptation is better and you will adapt much quicker in Nepal – it’s also important to note that ETR is more like MDS, you are semi self-sufficient and you need to carry a pack.
Elisabeth: Yes.
Ian: You’re not carrying your food, but you’ve got to carry what you need for the race, and of course because it gets so cold in the evening, that is a warmer sleeping bag, you need a down jacket, you’re going to need a change of clothing for the evening in comparison to day clothing. You’re going to need layers, you’re going to need a long thermal top, you’re going to need some sort of thermal leggings or tights or whatever they may be. And I do think that is an advantage for you because you do run well with a pack.
Food is provided, you’re sleeping in tents which are provided, it will all fit into your skill set. I think all those things are going to go into your favor in terms of the Nepal experience, and I think, like you say, that the climbs are so long and the altitude so high, that they’re not running climbs.
Elisabeth: Yes. [laughs]
Elisabeth: I think having done a few peaks out in Colorado, I have learned that you just have to be patient, you have to fall into a rhythm and just keep going. In regard to the backpack as well, I’m a bit taller and bigger than maybe most female mountain runners and that works in my favor when carrying 4-6kg’s!
Ian: What three pearls of wisdom from your last six months could you pass on? If you have to give them three tips, what would it be?
Elisabeth: Well, if I look at people who are not living at altitude or not necessarily having mountains next to them, you have to always look at the specifics of the race and replicate it as much as possible.
If you’re doing huge mountains in your race, you have to train climbing and descending, there’s no way around it. You have to be creative and find ways of doing that with what you’ve got available, even if that means a treadmill, it could mean specific strength training.?
Altitude, I’m always surprised talking to people doing multi-day races for example that will take place at altitude and then don’t think about adapting to the demands that this brings. You need to adapt!
My third one is the tapering. You need to do the training building peaks and troughs but importantly you need to ease off in that final 2-3 weeks so that you arrive at the start line fresh and ready to dig deep.
Credit ©iancorless.com


UTMB 2017

The trail and ultra world descends on Chamonix this August for what may well be, the ultimate edition of the race! We often hear the hyperbole, ‘the best field ever assembled’ but opinion is equal across the world that the 2017 edition of the race is the best – on paper!
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
The unpredictable nature of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc course and the physical highs and lows of running 100+ miles are difficult to predict though. We have seen it before, past editions of ‘stacked’ fields only to find that by Courmayer, many of the ‘hot-tips’ have been left either faltering on the trail or retired on feed station.
Yes, the UTMB 2017 circus is coming to town.
The men’s race is beyond comprehension with an elite list that extends beyond 100! The ladies race also has incredible depth but not to the extent of the male counterpart.
So, who’s gonna win?
My head is going on the block and yes, I am sticking my neck out with two predictions:
Kilian Jornet and Caroline Chaverot.
Yes, yes, I know, they are not adventurous off the wall unpredictable selections. I think it’s fair to say that fans and aficionados are reading this and nodding their heads finding it hard to disagree.
Kilian is on home ground, he knows these mountains and trails like the back of his hand and the dude is just a machine. He recently summited Everest twice in one week, won Hardrock 100 single-handedly (literally) and then by contrast went and won the short and super-fast Sierre-Zinal. No disrespect to the competition, but if Kilian doesn’t win it’s because he is injured or ill.
It’s also difficult to argue a case for Caroline Chaverot. She won UTMB in 2016 but only just… she often struggles with cramps in longer races and this may be her downfall this year? But her recent win at Hardrock 100 is a great indicator that her form is good and that she may well be on top of those pesky issues that could scupper her race. Like Kilian, she also has speed and loves to mix up long races with shorter ones. The only blip for Chaverot came at the beginning of this year when she withdrew from Transgrancanaria with health issues – she has that under control now.
So. Do I need to go on?
Well, yes, of course, I do! Nothing is guaranteed in a race that is this long and the depth of talent looking to take over should someone falter is beyond comprehension.
Francoise D’Haene is the most likely runner to topple Jornet, his results over 100-mile mountainous race is exemplary. His Salomon teammates Miguel Heras and Tofol Castanyer can also not be ruled out. But, 2017 may well be the breakthrough year for the USA. Of course, it is fair to say that Tim Tollefson, David Laney, and Jason Schlarb have already broken through but these three are back and on a hunch, I am saying that Schlarb may be the one who moves up a notch. Let’s not forget though that Jeff Browning is running, he is an incredible mountain 100-mile runner and we only need to look at Western States and Hardrock 100 for proof. Dylan Bowman is running too and then we have the new wave of track and field guys who are bringing full-on ballsy running to the front of the race – Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller, and Sage Canaday. Is it the year when one of these guys goes hard and holds on for one of the biggest wins in UTMB history?
In a field with so much depth, Xavier Thevenard as past two-time UTMB winner is the one who along with D’Haene is the most likely to make the podium. He is the only runner to have won OCC, CCC, TDS, and UTMB – a remarkable achievement.
Gediminas Grinius, Javi Dominguez and yes, Andrew Miller, remember him? He won Western States in 2016. Are all taking part, Grinius and Dominguez are tried, tested and proven on this course but Miller – are we in for a surprise?
Didrik Hermansen, Andy Symonds, Pau Capell, Julien Chorier, Vaidas Zlabys, Sebastien Camus and Giulio Ornati lead the 100+ plus charge of those who are going to be seeking glory on the streets of Chamonix.
Who are your picks?
In the Ladies race, the ever-present Andrea Huser (2nd in 2016) is the most likely contender to push Chaverot as she did last year. Huser races a great deal though and she will need to be 100% fresh if she wants to win in France.
Magdalena Boulet was 2nd at Western States and recently won Transrockies and providing the latter race hasn’t fatigued her, I think it may well be a podium year. Following on the US theme, Stephanie Violett (formerly Howe) was one of my favourites for Western States – that race didn’t go to plan but I have feeling UTMB will and I can see her placing 2nd or even winning if Chaverot falters. Kaci Lickteig would have been a contender but life pressures have taken a toll and Lickteig said some weeks ago that she would race, but not for the win – a smart move.
Juliette Blanchet was 4th at UTMB last-year and that took me off guard, it wasn’t expected! Following such a quality result with 2nd at Diagonale des Fous elevates Blanchet has hot for the 2017 race.
Nuria Picas gives me a dilemma. Any other year, I would say she is the hot favorite for victory, but this year I am not sure of her form or endurance for the big loop through Italy, Switzerland, and France – we shall see?
Leading the charge behind my hot contenders for the podium is Fernanda Maciel – she rocks the longer races and I see her being solid once again at UTMB. Emilie Lecomte is equally solid and she will be in the mix as will Kaori Niwa, Manu Vilaseca, Aliza Lapierre, Sophie Grant, and Amanda Basham.
For me though, the UK’s Beth Pascall is a dark horse that many of these ladies will not know. I see her watching Jasmine Paris’s 6th place last-year and don’t be surprised if we have a breakthrough performance that surprises everyone.
As with the men, there are many names not listed here that will threaten the front of the race and rest assured, if anyone above falters, they will be lining up to take over and achieve a coveted top-10 at UTMB.
Who are your picks?
Racing starts on Friday, September 1st at 1800 hours. It’s set to be an iconic edition of the race and with such a quality line-up we will no doubt see something special. I wonder, is a course record on the cards?
Credit ©iancorless.com


Tromso SkyRace

Jagged mountain peaks break through the ground as if they want to torture the landscape. Sharp rocks and boulders are interspersed with snow and ice. It’s the Hamperokken mountain range and the most exposed and technical section of the Tromso SkyRace – an extreme category race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner Extreme Series.
The race is the inspiration of mountain and Skyrunning icons, Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet. It does not need a creative mind to understand that any course or race organized by this duo will be challenging, tough, dramatic and memorable! The Tromso SkyRace does not disappoint. It’s a race that harks back to the early days of Marino Giacometti, the creator of Skyrunning.
Back in the late 80’s, Giacometti pioneered a sport of fast-and-light, a sea-to-summit or town-to-summit project – it’s about going fast to the summit and returning as quickly as possible. Monte Rosa, Mt Blanc, Kinabalu – yes, Fabio Meraldi, Bruno Brunod and Giacometti laid the foundations for the modern-day sport that is now called Skyrunning.
The Tromso SkyRace is a personification of those early formative years and Jornet is the modern-day exponent of the original ethos of fast and light. The Catalan needs no introduction. His five-year project called ‘Summits of my Life’ was very much a personal extension of racing as a Skyrunner; this journey culminated in his final summit, Everest.
In Skyrunning and mountain running, Jornet is a rock star. He’s a modest star and one who shuns the spotlight and attention his incredible ability attracts. He is one of the most gifted and natural runners of our time – no doubt. His partner, Forsberg, is equally an inspiring role model for the sport and the duo are the dynamic duo of the sport.
Imagine turning up to a local tennis match to find Nadal and Williams running around helping, organizing, setting things up and manning a registration desk… yes, it’s hard to imagine! But, the Tromso SkyRace is exactly this. Forsberg and Jornet, along with a dedicated team of helpers, run one of the most incredible Skyrunning events on the calendar.
Jornet runs in the mountains placing flags, setting up the routes and Forsberg is back in Tromso making sure that all logistics are in place. It’s amazing to see and it really does make one realize what a great community this sport is.
Now in its fourth edition, the race has grown as one of the pinnacle races of Skyrunning. It’s not a race any runner can undertake. The course is 57km in length and a whopping 4600m of vertical gain – but this is only a small part of the story. Featuring two peaks, the Tromso SkyRace is by any standards – extreme! The Hamperokken ridge which is a key feature of the race is at the midpoint of the race and features an exposed, technical and at time knife edged arête that will require even the most experienced Skyrunner to use four points of contact to traverse the ridge and its summit. Followed by snowfields, challenging terrain, and a steep climb – this race is the ultimate challenge.
It’s a bucket list race!
The 2017 edition of the race saw a return of the 2016 champion Jon Albon. Albon was the 2016 Skyrunner World Series Extreme Champion and recently won the Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira. In addition to his exploits in Skyrunning, he is a multiple world champion at Obstacle Racing. Competition for the Brit was going to come from Nepalese sensation Bhim Gurung, Lavaredo Ultra winner, Fabian Antolinos, Michel Lanne, Zaid Ait Malek, Hector Haines, Cody Lind and a host world-class talent.
Tromso SkyRace
In the ladies’ race, 2016 champion Jasmin Paris was unable to race leaving the door open for an in-form Maite Maiora who is in incredible form in 2017. Equally, Ragna Debats would toe the line along with Megan Kimmel, Hillary Allen, Nuria Picas, and Marlene Bikken Haukoy.
Known for inclement weather, for once, the sun gods shone on Norway allowing everyone a dry and relatively clear day to enjoy the mountains, fjords and incredible views that this part of the world offers.
Darkness does not come to Norway at this time of the year, the race, therefore, started 0800 with no pressures on the arrival of darkness. With the race underway, the early miles were dominated by Maiora and Albon as they dictated the pace.
Albon was followed by a strong group including Gurung and Lanne. Maiora, by contrast, was out on her own followed by Debats and Picas.
The Hamperokken ridge coming midway into the race is a significant marker and it was here that Albon and Maiora extended their leads. For the ladies though, Debats was going through a tough time and on the descent from the summit she was passed by Picas – the race was on.
Gurung made his move in the men’s race leaving Lanne and Antolinos and went off in pursuit of Albon. For the ladies, Debats did not give in, her stomach issues eased and she re-caught Picas and passed her. She then chased Maiora using her natural run speed to close in on the leader.
Maiora was too strong though, she took victory just 4-minutes ahead of Debats, both runners going under the old course record set by Jasmin Paris. Picas placed 3rd.
Albon lead from the front and looked relaxed, he once again took an incredible victory 8-minutes ahead of Gurung. Lanne placed 3rd over 20-minutes later with a beaming smile, content with an incredible day in the mountains.
Just one race is now left in the Extreme Series of the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. Maiora cannot be beat with two victories. However, for the men, Gurung and Albon have one victory each – it will all come down to the last race. It’s a nail biter!
Information on the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series HERE
Extreme Series Races:
Royal Ultra SkyMarathon Gran Paradiso HERE
Tromso SkyRace HERE
Glencoe Skyline HERE
Credit ©iancorless.com


Ryan Sandes & 2017 Western States

It’s a long history with the sport of ultra-running that has finally seen South Africa’s Ryan Sandes lift the Cougar – victory at the 2017 Western States.
Sandes story is an unusual one, he jumped in at the deep-end racing a multi-day race in the Gobi desert.
“An impulsive decision one Sunday afternoon completely changed my life back in 2008. Could I run 250km, self-supported through a Desert? Without another thought, I maxed out my credit card and entered a race I knew almost nothing about. The lead up to the Gobi Desert Race consumed me but most importantly it enabled me to dream.”
The Sandes of Time - Ryan Sandes and the 2017 Western States
What followed was a meteoric race in the sport and he became the first person to win all the Four Desert races – Gobi, Atacama, Sahara and Antarctica. In that process, he gained the pseudonym, ‘Sand Man,’ something that has stuck to this day!. He has won Leadville 100, he was second at Western States in 2012, beating Geoff Roes CR and losing out to a flying Timothy Olson and he has won Transgrancanaria and set personal FKT’s.
Known for meticulous planning and racing a very select calendar, Sandes is very much a perfect example of how someone should plan a career. Each step is thought through, prepared for and then recovery is planned to ensure peak performance and a long life in a demanding sport. It’s an example that many could learn from!
Married to Vanessa and with a son, Max, Sandes is a professional athlete and he admits that two years ago he was a different person, a great deal has changed – he would have maybe been more stressed. “I was used to eight or nine hours of sleep per night for example, and now I make do.” Family life brings perspective.
As Sandes has said on many occasions, Western States is something quite special – it’s the original 100-miler and one with the history. Ever since placing 2nd in 2012, Sandes has clearly made victory a target. It’s not been an easy journey though – that makes victory all the sweeter.
The 2012 Western was the 100-miler where everything clicked, “I felt so good!” sais Sandes in many an interview. In 2013, he sprained his ankle badly about a month out and missed the race and then in 2014 he had a bad day… he went on to say that it was probably due to too much racing beforehand.
In 2015, he woke up the day before the race with a stomach bug. Sandes has been open in saying that 2015 and in some respects, 2016 were tough racing years with a lack of form due to glandular fever and string of poor results and DNF’s. Although confidence returned in 2016, question marks remained in Sandes mind if he “still had it?” He decided to miss Western States.
The Sandes of Time - Ryan Sandes and the 2017 Western States
Missing Western for a year, made him realize how much the race meant to him and he was given a special consideration place by the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) for 2017.
“It’s a course that is runnable and suits my style,” Ryan Sandes said. “I’m able to focus and put my head down and the gradients are not steep and there is little or no technicality.”
This year snow was a key factor in the early stages and despite Jim Walmsley setting a blistering pace, Sandes eased back and used his experience, “The high country was tough with so much snow and it was dangerous to run to previous year split times, I think it was 20% harder at least and that is significant so early on.”
Known for taking his time and pacing himself, Ryan Sandes surprised himself and onlookers to be running in 2nd as early as 30km into the race.
“I had wanted to test myself this year but also respect the course and conditions. There was no way I was running at Walmsley’s pace but I wanted to be ready to take over should something happen… As we all know it did happen!”
Smart racing! As Walmsley set a blistering pace, Sandes managed his effort and as he passed halfway, news came in that Walmsley was slowing.
“I was getting mixed time gaps but the time was coming down, it had gone from 55-minutes to 20-minutes and then I knew the race was on! I eventually passed Jim, he was walking, he had blown-up and now I was the one being chased. I saw Hal Koerner, he told me that I had a 20-minute lead on Alex Nichols. I relaxed a little and then I was told I only had 5-minutes… it was so hard. I didn’t want a repeat of 2012 with Timmy Olson so I dug deep and pushed on.”
The river section has been a highlight in previous years for Ryan Sandes, but this year he battled saying it was a low point, however, ever the strategist, he didn’t want to show the supporters he was suffering, he pushed on and tried to look cool, calm and relaxed.
“I knew Alex was running well and potentially making up ground. I needed to send a positive message not only to those watching but to myself.”
Focused on running his own race, pushing early on and feeling good had put Sandes in a good place. Crossing the river and picking up his pacer, long-time friend Ryno Griesel was significant for the latter stages. He had been nervous about the guys behind, particularly Alex and Griesel would keep him focused.
Respecting the conditions, Ryan Sandes with the advice of Griesel took a walk after the river crossing just to allow his core temperature to drop.
At Pointed Rocks, after Griesel pushing Sandes along, the gap was back to 20-minutes, “That was great, I was starting to feel a little beat up and I could ease up.”
Sandes had prepared and trained to run at a pace that was close to or better than Olson’s 2012 course record time, “I was aware that it would be necessary to be ‘in that shape’ and I was ready for that. I have run just over 15-hours in the past and I believe I was ready for that this year. But the day and conditions were just not the same. Look at my time, it was 16:19! I had hoped to go faster but that is racing – it was a slow day!”
At the end of the day, racing is not about fast times, it’s about winning! Ryan Sandes is the 2017 Western States champion and he summed that up well when he said, “It may well be one of my slower performances but it’s the most memorable!”
Recovery is now key and the CCC in Chamonix is the next goal for the South African – a race he feels he still has the speed for due to the vertical gain. Sandes has a mixed history with Chamonix having failed to complete the UTMB twice, “Running the last 100km of the UTMB route will be a good way to prepare for a future run on the full route.”
Never one to rush, Ryan Sandes is casual about the remainder of the year but has highlighted Ultra-Trail Cape Town and he also mentioned a new ‘project’ that he is still waiting for permissions on.
Whatever happens, the Ryan Sandes of Time will pass and we will no doubt see the podium adorned on many more occasions by South Africa’s favorite ultra-running son.
Credit ©iancorless.com


Fifteen Questions on MDS

Fifteen Questions on MDS

Multi-Day racing and in particular, the Marathon des Sables provides a very unique and difficult challenge for those who toe the line in Morocco. It’s easy to get bogged down with too much advice on equipment, training and what is the best plan of action for a 6-day adventure in the Sahara.
I caught up with three 2017 participants and asked just five questions.

Elisabet Barnes has won the MDS twice, 2015 and 2017. She is a very experienced multi-day racer who is meticulous in preparation.

How did you get into running and how long have you been running?

I started running in my teens as a hobby so it’s been a long time. I ran my first Marathon in 2002 and in 2011 I started running Ultra Marathons as part of a lifestyle change.

What is it like to return to MDS as a previous champion?

I loved returning in 2017 as I felt well prepared and confident. The pressure is always on when you are the reigning champion and I have learned that it makes all the difference how you deal with that. It can make or break you.

You were really prepared for 2017, what made the difference?

I had some really specific training and racing in the lead-up including Lanzarote, Costa Rica, Tenerife and Morocco. In addition, I spent time focusing on other areas such as marginal weight gains on my kit, specific planning of my food, and mental preparations. I was very focused in this year’s edition.

Did you ever think you wouldn’t win?

Winning is never guaranteed. The field was strong and many things can go wrong in such an extreme race. I was super focused every day and never assumed I had it in the bag.

Three tips for those who may run MDS?

  1. Understand your race ambitions, e.g. whether you are a “completer or a completer”. \
  2. This will determine the focus of your training, kit choices and food planning
  3. Acclimatize to the heat. Be mentally prepared for the unexpected.

Kev George is relatively new to running but likes a challenge. It’s always good to dream and Kev made his dream a reality.
 Marathon des Sables

What was your experience prior to MDS?

I was an unlikely entrant to MDS, having only started running in 2014, but I had a dream to complete one of the world’s most iconic ultra-marathons and so signed up in December 2015. I spent the next 12 months training hard, running longer, ticking off multiple marathons and ultras until disaster struck in December 2016 when I suffered a stress fracture.

 You were injured before the race, how did the MDS go?

Because of the injury, my only goal was to finish and so I committed to only walking on Day 1, but as the days passed, my confidence grew and I ran more and moved up the rankings.

 Did the MDS live up to expectation?

Words cannot describe how special this race is; it is way more beautiful than I could have imagined and to be out there in the desert landscape in searing heat, testing your body and mind against the elements is incredible.

 How tough and long was ‘the long day?’ And what was your lowest point?

Yes, the long day was tough, and I cursed the race director frequently, but there was something magical about trekking over dunes in the moonlight, with desert creatures scurrying underfoot. I had some low points but all were forgotten at the sight of that finish line where I was overwhelmed by the achievement of traveling 150 miles across such an inhospitable landscape.

 Three tips for those who may run MDS?

  1. Do it!  Commit and believe in yourself.
  2. Train smart.  You are going to walk… lots!  So train for that.
  3. The journey is personal.  Train with your food.  Train with your kit and choose what works for you.

Pete Rees is experienced in off-road running and likes his fair share of mud, particularly if obstacles are in the way.

What was your experience prior to MDS?

I’ve run a lot over the last 10-15 years (mostly trail) but, until this year, I hadn’t ventured into ultra-distance.

How did the race unfold?

My aim was to “race” and get into the top 200, and I managed to finish in 89th. It was a grueling experience, mentally and physically, but I felt well prepared for it. My training and kit preparation was spot-on for my needs.

What was the highlight, what was the low point?

My low point was in the second stage. Bad toe-taping resulted in me ripping a large blister before the first checkpoint – it was a mental hit at the beginning of a very challenging day. My high point was halfway through the forth (long) stage. My energy had been sapped by temperatures approaching 50 degrees in the sun. I stopped at checkpoint four to get a grip on myself. I put music on (for the first time), ate and took some caffeine. The boost that gave me was incredible – I stormed through the dunes that followed, while others crumbled around me.

How did you feel at the end?

Elated, exhausted and proud. I have never given so much to anything.

Three tips for those who may run MDS?

  1. Research and test. This applies to training and kit. It helps you to go into the event with confidence.
  2. Lighten your load (but not at the expense of food). My favorite rule when deciding on gear: “If it’s not mandatory and you can’t eat it, don’t take it!”
  3. Contrary to rule 2: Take poles, no matter what your target. There were a lot of runners in the top 100 who were jealous of how they improved my dunes game.

Credit ©iancorless.com


Western States 2017

It’s that time of the year when the ultra and trail running aficionados go crazy at the prospect of another Western States 2017 Endurance Run (WSER) – the oldest 100-mile race in the USA and the one with the legendary story of Gordy Ainsleigh and a lame horse.
With 18.000ft of climb and 22.000ft of downhill, the race has in the past been full of incredible stories – Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Ellie Greenwood, and Timothy Olson to name just a few names from an incredible 40+ years of history.
Over the years, the course is often discussed around the heat that the canyons bring and if it will be a snow or no snow year.
Let’s be clear, the Western States 2017 is going to be a snow year but it is melting.
Before I get into the names that will contend the top-3, let’s just first mention who will not be running. Last year’s winner Andrew Miller (yes, Andrew Miller won WSER, remember him?) and 2nd place Didrik Hermansen will not race – that is two any shows! But where is Francois d’Haene, Luis Alberto Hernando, Kilian Jornet, Rob Krar, Max King, Zach Miller and so many other names? Is it a sign that the calendar is just getting way too big and priorities are shifting…? Or are many injured? For the ladies’, no Ellie Greenwood, Rory Bosio, and Caroline Chaverot to name just three.
Well Jim Walmsley is (no he didn’t win in 2017) and he is not only looking for redemption but maybe looking for sub-14! I personally think Jim should try and win the race and forget CR’s, especially with the snow. If he does that, I think he will win. However, the only person that is going to beat Jim, in my opinion, is Jim himself by racing too hard and too fast looking for that time.
With 8 of last year’s top-10 returning, there is no shortage of runners to step into Walmsley’s shoes. A surprise may well come from the UK’s Paul Giblin who placed 5th last year. Of course, you can not rule out Jeff Browning (3rd in 17) and Thomas Lorblanchet who placed 4th. The remaining runners – Ian Sharman, Kyle Pietari, Chris DeNucci, Chris Mocko, and Jesse Haynes are all going to be in the ball-park but I don’t see any of them winning.
 Endurance Run
The surprises, although not surprises to trail running fans may well come from outside last year’s top-10. Ryan Sandes is back and he’s addicted after placing 2nd in 2012. I don’t think he can beat Walmsley in a toe-for-toe run but if his form and fitness is good, the podium is a possibility.
For me though, Alex Nichols and Jonas Buud are the ones to potentially upset the apple cart in what is essentially a runner’s race. Both guys excel at running fast and Nichols gets the nod for handling the vert and snow. Let’s not forget Buud was 2nd behind an on-fire Walmsley in New Zealand earlier this year.
Elov Olsson is going to be pretty much unknown in the USA but after this year’s race I think many will know his name and then my final tip for the podium is Tofol Castanyer – yep, if he can just sting it all together, the Spaniard has the potential to rock the Canyons.
My dark horse prediction is with Alex Nichols and Mark Hammond, the duo battled out Run Rabbit Run and placed 1st and 2nd.
The ladies race for me is all about four runners – Kaci Lickteig who won the race last year, Camille Herron who was the first American in 20-years to win the iconic Comrades in South Africa just a few weeks ago. Magdalena Boulet who won WSER in 2015 and Stephanie Howe (now Violett) who won the race three years ago and then was unfortunately hit by injury. The winner will come from these four, but who?
Well, I am going to stick my neck out and go with Stephanie Howe, however, don’t get me wrong, it could be Kaci, Magda or Camille…
Western States 2017
Emily Harrison (now Torrence) may well stir up the apple cart and if one of the ladies above falter, and one will, Harrison will be there to step in and take over. She has speed, she is an IAU and USATF champ, however, the 100-mile distance may well be her biggest test.
Beyond this I am at a loss, for sure Amy Sproston will be in the mix, she has been 3rd and 2nd and has a list of great finishes but I see her fighting for top-5 and maybe 3rd, it all depends on what happens to the four above? Meghan Arbogast (no Laws) can’t be ruled out in any race, she is a true inspiration and her WSER list of results speak volumes.
Andrea Huser is unbelievably doing this race as well as pretty much every other race in the racing calendar, she is relentless! She will finish, she’s as tough as nails but she doesn’t have the speed to contend with the fast ladies who will fight for the top-5.
Amanda Basham finished 4th at WSER last year and I must be honest, she is not a runner I know a great deal about – 4th is 4th though so one can expect her to be around the front-runners.
5th in 2016 was Alissa St Laurent and she followed that up with 2nd at Run Rabbit Run but since then it’s difficult to gauge her form. Being quiet is a good thing though, it very often can mean careful and meticulous preparation.
My dark horse prediction will go to Fiona Hayvice from New Zealand and I believe we can expect a strong performance from Ildiko Wermescher who recently was 4th at Penyagolosa in Spain and 5th earlier in the year at Transgrancanaria.
I’ve missed plenty of names, so, who do you think will upset the race, who will be the next star and surprise of the ultra-running world?
Action starts on Saturday, June 24th at 0500 PDT and one thing is for sure, we are in for an exciting race.
Credit ©iancorless.com


Sondre Amdahl Wins The Jungle

Experienced multi-day runner Sondre Amdahl just recently completed and won The Jungle Ultra located deep within the Amazon Rainforest. Taking place in the Manu National Park, the route goes from the Andes mountains to the Madre de Dios river. It’s hot, humid, uncomfortable and the dense jungle provides no escape as the runners place one foot in front of the other as they cover 230km in 5 stages, Daytime temperatures vary from 20 to 30 degrees, at night the temperature drops to 10 degrees and below.
Like the Marathon des Sables, the race is self-sufficient – runners must carry all that they need! This not only includes clothing and personal essentials but food, safety equipment and the capacity to carry 2.5 liters of water. Some comfort is provided in the evening when participants sleep in research stations or lodges, however, the humidity makes nothing easy – especially if the day’s efforts have been through mud and rain.
It’s not an easy race!
I caught up with Sondre Amdahl to find all about the journey and what advice he would provide for those looking to take on the challenge of a rainforest multi-day run.
Jungle Ultra

How was your build up to the event and what specific training did you do?

This winter has been very busy for me, with a lot of races. So, there has not been too much specific training for the Jungle Ultra. I did quite a lot of faster running before Ultra-Trail Australia and I think that paid off in the jungle. I also did a four day fast-packing trip in Sweden at the beginning of May (four weeks before the jungle). I did 50k + 60k + 60k + 25k and my pack weighed approximately 6kg, so that was great!

You completed MDS and The Coastal Challenge – how does this compare?

It is always hard to compare races. The good thing about the Jungle Ultra is that we saw the “authentic” Peru. We ran thru small villages and could relax in them too – this was something I didn’t get at Marathon des Sables as the race is so much bigger and we spend our time in bivouac.
In comparison to The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, the Jungle Ultra is more technical but the race is shorter. Without a doubt, TCC is hotter and more humid – that is tough but Jungle Ultra is “scarier” in terms of snakes and spiders.

Tell me about the conditions and the self-sufficiency.

We had to be self-sufficient from Sunday morning until Thursday at the finish line. The organizers provided hot and cold water that’s all. Everything else we had to provide just like in MDS – so you need to be prepared!
Sondre Amdahl

Any specific equipment that you used that was invaluable? Did you not take something and wish you had?

The most specific equipment was the hammock! That is an absolute necessity. I used a very light hammock from Hennessy. You do not want to sleep on the ground in the jungle! I brought very little extra, and that was good. I think I had one of the lightest packs in the field.

Which was the easiest day and which was the toughest, explain why?

Easiest: The first day was the easiest and eased us into the race. I felt very good the whole day. I enjoyed the jungle trails at the beginning of the stage, but also the road section in the latter part of the stage
Toughest: The last stage which was the long stage. It was 65 km and even if I had about an hour lead ahead of the next runner, I wasn’t sure that I would make it. 65 km in the jungle is hard and everything can happen. So, I followed the second placed guy (Fabian from Germany) the whole day. He tried to push hard and run away from me a couple of times, but I managed to follow him.
In Costa Rica, I felt slow and that I had only one speed. It was totally opposite in Peru. I felt a lot stronger and managed to switch to a “lower gear” when I needed to.

Hydration and food – what did you use and did it work – any tips?

I used the same as I used in the MDS. Muesli for breakfast, couscous for lunch and freeze-dried meals for dinner. This worked great! I took some liquid hydration for during the race (Tailwind) and some gels. Approx. 2400 calories per day.

Would you do it again?

Yes, absolutely. It was a very well organized event.

Can you give 3 top tips for future runners doing this race?

Practice with the hammock before the race. It’s essential – you don’t want to sleep on the
floor! You need good trail shoes and ideally, they need to drain water. The jungle is wet and muddy.
Come early to Cusco and acclimatize and you can also explore.
Credit ©iancorless.com