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Monthly Archives - February 2017

Transgrancanaria 2017 Race Summary

On the stroke of 2300 hours, 900 runners departed from the northwestern coastal town of Ageate in Gran Canaria for the tough and challenging 125km journey with 8000m of vertical gain that is simply known as Transgrancanaria.

A race in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) it has become over the years one of the worlds most iconic ultra marathons. The list of previous winners reads like a who’s who of the sport – Ryan Sandes, Sebastien Chaigneau, Didrick Hermansen, Núria Picas and Caroline Chaverot amongst others.

It’s a tough race. No, it’s an extremely tough race and one that should not be taken lightly. The island of Gran Canaria is traversed from north-west to the south via the trails and mountains that make Gran Canaria a must for any trail runner.

From the gun, the climbing starts and doesn’t let go. A rollercoaster ride of trails is made harder by darkness and often inclement weather. With the arrival of daylight, moods lift and as the runners travel south, temperatures rise as the lure of the sea and the finish line in Maspalomas brings the journey to the end.

The 2017 edition will be remembered for a cold and windy night that battered the runners both physically and mentally – over 300 runners would not make the finish line. Didrick Hermansen and Caroline Chaverot, champions from 2016, headed up a stellar field of world-class talent but they would not have an easy ride. Chaverot over the first 30km’s was off the pace and running out of the top-5 resulting in a withdrawal from the race at the first major control in Artenara. Hermansen equally was not having an easy run, like Chaverot, he was running off the podium in the first third of the race but he persevered – he is a master of pacing!

By contrast, Pau Capell and Azara Garcia, both from Spain, were showing the rest of the race the sole of their shoes. They started the race with commitment and dedication, pushing hard from the gun and opening up time on the chasers.

Daylight brought with it the arrival of Capell at the iconic Roque Nublio early, his pace considerably faster than that of Hermansen’s 2016 record time. Using poles he set a relentless pace and he looked relaxed. It was going to be his day! Behind, Lithuanian revelation Vlaidas Zlabys chased, he too looked in the zone while pre-race favorites of Diego Pazos, Andy Symonds, Hermansen, and Timothy Olson were accompanied by Jordi Gammito Baus and Maxime Cazajous chasing.

Azara Garcia was the First Lady to arrive at Roque Nublio and although she looked tired and sore from the journey, she had a steely focus that told all who watched her that she was going to fight for the line. Her time margin was significant over the chasers of Andrea Huser, Kirstin Beglund and Ildo Wermescher.

Garavan and then Pico de Nieves came and went, the journey to the coast was now seeing the runners descend from the mountains and with every meter of elevation loss, the temperature rose. From the almost zero temperatures of the night and morning, 25-degrees plus were punishing the runners as they fought for the finish line. Zlabys had closed some of his deficit on Capell, they were 10-minutes apart but Capell rallied and pushed for the line taking one of the greatest victories of his career – a new course record just reward. Zlabys finished 2nd and Hermansen paced his race to perfection using incredible closing speed to pass the runners ahead and take 3rd slot on the podium, he was just 6-minutes slower than his 2016 winning time.

Garcia produced a gutsy and incredible run to finish 50-minutes ahead of 2nd placed lady Huser. The race took it’s toll though. She was an empty shell on the finish line. A vacant expression replaced a normally glowing smile. Her fatigue deprived her of a celebration as she was stretchered away for medical attention. Rousset completed the podium.Azara Garcia

Pre-race favorites – Diego Pazos, Andy Symonds, and Timothy Olson all had solid races and finished in the top-10. Each had a story of overcoming adversity.

“It was so cold in the night, I hadn’t anticipated that,” Olson said. “I hadn’t taken gloves and I really regretted it. I just had to push on and make the best of it. This is such a tough course, the contrasts are amazing.”

Transgrancanaria is no longer just one race, it’s a weekend of racing and this year the addition of a new 250km event created a stir amongst runners and media. 

Transgrancanaria 2017

The 82km Advanced race was won by Sebastien Chaigneau – a popular victory for the ambassador of trail and  took the ladies title.

In the Marathon, former Transgrancanaria ladies winner, Nuria Picas, took the female victory with a course record time and lead the men, notably, Ryan Sandes placed 4th.

Men Results

Pau Capell 13:21:03 new course record (Didrick ran 13:41 in 2016)

Vlaidas Zlabys 13:35:38 (also under the 2016 course record)

Didrick Hermansen 13:50:06 

Jordi Gatito Baus 13:53:53

Maxime Cazajous 13:53:54

Ladies Results

Azara Garcia 16:25:20 (Caroline ran 15:23 in 2016)

Andrea Huser 17:15:45

Melanie Rousset 17:30:40

Kirstin Berglund 18:00:04

Ildo Wermescher 18:17:43

Credit ©iancorless.com

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Coastal Challenge

The Coastal Challenge 2017 Frost and Owens dominate

New Zealand’s Anna Frost and the UK’s Tom Owens dominated the 2017 edition of Costa Rica’s 13th edition of The Coastal Challenge 2017 – a six-day race that follows the coastline stating in Quepos and culminating at the iconic Drake Bay.

The Salomon sponsored duo grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck on day one and neither looked in danger of relinquishing the lead despite the intense heat, high humidity and a tough and challenging course that weaved in and out of the Talamancas for an overall distance of 250km.

Spain’s Chema Martinez, a participant in the 2016 edition of the race had spent several months specifically preparing for the race but despite his speed (he’s a 2:08 marathon runner) he could not handle Owens technical prowess not only climbing but descending.The Coastal Challenge 2017

Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb placed 3rd with a strong performance. His ability to transition from the cold and snow of Colorado to the heat and humidity of Costa Rica was impressive. The race was not without its challenges for the Altra athlete, on day one he made a navigational error losing him valuable time.The Coastal Challenge 2017

Notably, Costa Rican athletes came to the fore and impressed, the highest place going to Erick Aguero who just missed the podium placing 4th after fighting hard with Schlarb.

“I am very motivated and proud of my performance so far. I turned on my phone yesterday and was amazed at all the messages of support I’ve had from the Costa Rican running community. I will give it my all to complete this race 3rd overall. A podium finish has been my objective from the start.” – Erick Aguero

The ladies’ race had arguably the strongest line-up in the history of the race with 2016 champion, Ester Alves returning to defend her title. In addition, 2015 Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet Barnes toed the start line with mountain specialist and two time Everest Trail Race winner, Spain’s Anna Comet.Anna Frost

Frost, a last minute entry to the race, dominated from beginning to end with five stage victories, the only lapse coming on the last day when the New Zealander could ease off the gas and enjoy the Corcovado National Park. It was an emotional journey!

“This has been a tough and emotional journey, three editions in the making. I have finally won the race I love! I think I am done, not with Costa Rica or the TCC – next time I will be watching and spectating though!” – Anna Frost

Elisabet Barnes placed second on day one and looked set for a strong race, however, her technical running could not match Alves and Comet. Finally finishing 4th a podium place had maybe been a possibility had she not made a navigational error on day four.

Anna Comet started steady and looked relaxed and strong as the day’s passed. She had a battle on her hands on day five when sickness and a stomach upset scuppered her otherwise consistent running. Her margin though over Alves was enough to allow her to lose time and still place 2nd overall. The Coastal Challenge 2017

Portugal’s Alves looked to struggle through day one and most definitely improved as the day’s passed. She excelled on day five and opened up a gap of 9-minutes on Barnes thus taking the final podium slot. Barnes was not willing to give up without a fight and vowed she would fight the last day. Alves was like a tornado on the sixth day and from the gun pushed hard leaving the rest of the ladies’ in her wake.

“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, the mind takes control and the drive is there.” – Ester Alves

Dense rainforest, technical trails, stunning beaches, palm trees, a plethora of wildlife and relaxed campsites in amazing locations make the ‘TCC’ one of the bucket-list races for the runner who is looking for the next challenge.

Race winner Tom Owens summed it up as he flexed in Drake Bay after the last stage, “This has been an incredible journey. It’s a stunning and magnificent part of the world and the course, terrain, views, and the racing has been world-class. I have been blown away by everything – the final stage was just stunning and it managed to compress the whole TCC experience in just 22km. I’d be back to TCC and Costa Rica in a shot…!”

Credit ©iancorless.com

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Hayden Hawks – C'min’ at ya, fast!

Hayden Hawks – C’min’ at ya, fast!

On February 18th, Hayden Hawks will toe the line of Moab’s Red Hot 50k. If I was a betting man, I’d be having a punt and naming Hawks as the victor. Yes, this guy is on fire – he proved it in December when he pushed Zach Miller all the way to the line at San Francisco 50. Zach took the day and the $10.000 prize purse but the duo both went under the old course record, as Hawks says, “I broke the course record by over 10 minutes and did everything that I possibly could today but Zach just had a little more than me.”

But who is this 25-year old from Utah? In 2016 he burst on the scene with victory at Speedgoat 50K, sponsorship with Hoka One One followed and victory at Capstone 50K in November laid the foundations for that very memorable head-to-head with Miller.

Hayden grew up in St. George, Utah. For those who don’t know where that’s at, it’s right next to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Just 15-20 minutes from Zion it’s a beautiful area, where there are many places to run trails. For example, he had United Trails right in his backyard where he can get a quick 20-mile run in.

Ironically, growing up he never took advantage of those trails. He played baseball, played football, played basketball, but then going into junior year of high school Hayden started to think about cross-country, track, and field.

It was a catalyst – he would just go out and run on trails close to his house. “I would run off a mountain, you know there’s a big mountain by my house, and I would just be like, hey I’m going to run to the top of that thing. So, I’d go and run to the top of that thing, because that’s the only thing I knew that would probably get me better at running.”

Hayden joined the cross-country team and guess what? He found out that he had a talent for running.

By the end of my senior year, I was a state champion in cross-country. I went on and got a scholarship to run for a local university here. It’s a Division One University but kind of a smaller school, Southern Utah University (SUU). I started running there and tried to just get better each year. So, by the time I graduated at SUU, I ended in a Division One All-American in cross country, and I ran a 28-minute 10km and 13:51 for the 5km.”

A picture starts to build; the outline is now being coloured in and we start to get a little bit of a glimpse of the final painting – a painting of speed!

Hayden Hawks

Ultra-running is changing, we’ve been saying it for the past few years with Sage Canaday, Rob Krar and Max King but now Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller and now Hawks are taking the sport to a whole new level. It’s an exciting time but also a frightening time. Godfather of the sport, Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer recently said, “The sports just going to a whole new level, these fast-track guys are coming in and the pace is getting quicker and quicker.”

But I wondered, what is that makes these fast guys and girls miss out the progression through the ranks of 10km, half-marathon, and marathon and jump in at ultras?

By the end of track season, my senior year, seven-eight months ago. I was kind of burned out with track and field, to be honest with you. I was trying hard to hit an Olympic trials qualifier on the track, and I was just putting in the miles and putting in workouts. After college, I was kind of questioning a little bit if I was going to continue to try to do this track and field, road running thing, or if I was just going to go to a medical school… that’s when I started running a lot of trails again.”

Cedar City is a town close to Hawks home and they have a lot of trails and mountains up there. Hawks started back to his basics and started running the trails and started climbing the mountains. “I’d pick one mountain in that area and be like, Okay, I’m going to run to the top. I just fell in love, and found a passion for running again.”

Hawks signed up for the US championship for mountain running and signed up for the Siskiyou Race because he and his wife were going to go on a road trip to the Redwood Forest.

“I qualified for the US national team for mountain running, and I just loved it. I loved the people, I loved being up there in the mountains, I loved climbing; it was so much fun. And that, as I said, that passion came back. And I decided, I think I’m going to try to give this one more go. I’m going to try to make it as a professional runner, but I think I’m going to change my focus here, and I’m going to go more into trail running and mountain running!”

Going straight to ultra had me wondering why? Maybe Hawks thought he could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In marathon terms these days, unless you’re running 2:04, 2:05, you’re not in the ballpark!

Yes, that’s maybe true? I still run roads, I still run track workouts. I pride myself on keeping that leg speed and being fast. I think it’s an advantage I can have in this sport and I still do some of that stuff but you know what, I run faster on trail runs. I think it’s just because I love being on the trail so much.”

Running is less hard when on the trail, it becomes fun. It becomes just this beautiful thing; we can all go out there and just explore. We all do sport for our own individual reasons but certainly getting out in the open space and the fantastic landscape is what it’s all about.

In 2016, Hawks, a complete unknown and rookie ultra-runner turned up at the tough and competitive Speedgoat 50km race and won it.

I signed up the night before the race. I wasn’t planning on running, I wasn’t even planning on moving up to 50k anytime soon,” Hawks tells the tale. “I had a buddy that was running it. I contacted him he talked to Karl (the race director), Karl got me into the race the night before and I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even know what the course looked like or anything. All I knew is that it was a tough course but I sometimes I get myself in trouble being maybe a little too overconfident. I thought a tough course, I can handle that, I think I can do that and I went out and ran that race and had a blast doing it and was lucky enough to come out with that victory there.”

It was the catalyst, the transformation process where Hawks looked at himself and the ultra-community looked at him and thought, this guy could be good? In future years, and it might be two or three years’ time, but Hawks himself will look back and say that was the moment. That was the moment when it all changed.

*****

It’s all well and good winning Speedgoat 50km but stepping up to San Francisco 50 in December 2016 was a big and bold move. San Fran has the reputation as the big showdown to close the year, especially with the $10.000 price money at stake for the winner. There’s a big gap though between 50km and 50-miles, how did Hawks prepare?

Hayden Hawks

I average 120, 130-miles a week and I was doing that as a track athlete. Our program here at SUU was high mileage and so I was doing that. The workouts though have been different, I’ve been doing a lot more climbing, for example, going up mountains and doing mile repeats.”

“Today, I am going to do a workout where I will do a 15-mile run at a pretty decent pace on the trails. It will be under seven-minute pace for 15-miles and then I will do three by one-mile hill repeats and the hill repeats will have about 5-600 feet of elevation gain for each mile and I’m going at about 80 to 90% of my threshold up these hills. It will end up being about 21, 22-miles – quality stuff.”

Ouch! Now that’s a workout! Trail and ultra-runners have been renowned for just heading out the door, putting the hours in and then coming home to repeat the next day. But here, we see the track background and structure falling into place. It’s an ethos, a work ethic that will change the front end of the sport – the sport is going to get quicker – much quicker!

“Some days I run once a day, like today, this will be a single day, a 22-mile day single. The other days I am doubling. I’d say about half and half – I double and single. I think singles are important too because of getting in the required distance, I need to get used to being able to go for three or four-hour runs and teach my body how to do that especially if I plan on moving up to 100-mile distance in the future.”

I wondered what a long run is for Hawks?

“Pretty much on a regular basis, I’m doing 20 to 25 miles a day. But I do go out and I do five, six-hour runs. I call them adventure runs where I’ll just find a mountain and run to the top of it and then run around and try to just explore areas but just make sure I am out there for five to six hours on my feet. Sometimes, I do them without water or without food. Just trying to teach my body to use its fat metabolism and just learn how to fight through bonks and different things.”

Hawks always has an expectation to win. He is very competitive. “I am a very competitive person,” he confirms. Confidence can be perceived as arrogance though, especially when toeing the line at San Francisco 50 amongst a stellar line-up. “I knew the field. Not to say that I didn’t respect the field. I respect the field with guys like Sage Canaday and Zach Miller and stuff. I was like, this is going to be a tough race. I was hoping that I could be top five. That was the goal, but to win it was the ‘real’ goal and I knew that I could win it. I knew that I had done all the training. I knew that I was prepared, I was ready to go, I was healthy. That’s why at the beginning of that race, I went out hard and I wasn’t afraid to lead because I was confident in myself.”

Hayden Hawks

That’s brave. It’s brave, certainly within the context of the people that Hawks was racing against. Looking at the race, we knew that Zach Miller was going to go off hard because he only races one way. We love his attitude and we love his give-it-everything or die trying approach because that is the only way he runs. But for Hawks, it was his first 50-mile race, how could he have so much confidence?

“Talking about it here, it brings chills to me. It brings it back to me, how fun and how exciting that was. I look up to guys like Zach. I look up to guys like Jim Walmsley, these guys that have been doing it for a few years now. They have been my idols. They have been some of my influencers, my big influences to how I should race, how I should be. When I had the opportunity to race guys like that, it was amazing. I wanted to go out and beat them. They want to beat me just as bad as I want to beat them, but I want to race like these guy’s race. I want to make this sport exciting so that people can look at it and be like, man, these ultra-marathons, they are exciting.”

I hear an imaginary applause and cheering as ultra-running fans throughout the world get excited and whet their appetites of the showdowns that are to come in 2017, 2018 and in the future. This attitude may well make ultra a spectator sport, something that Hawks feels passionate about.

“If that means going out and racing as hard as I can from the front and maybe blowing up at the end, if that is what is going to bring people to watch the sport and see how amazing it is, then I am willing to do that and that is the only way I want to race too, just like Zach!”

There are so many others that are going to bring that too. I can’t help but think the next time that these guys are all on the same start line, it’s just going to be one of the most exciting races to watch.

Despite matching Miller stride-for-stride at San Fran 50, Hawks in the latter stages faded and placed 2nd. It was a great result, echoed by his time. He was 10-minutes under the old course record. Was he disappointed?

“It would have been nice to get that money but I was so caught up in the moment and I was happy that I had accomplished what I had done. When I saw that we had both broken the old course record I thought about it and I was like, man, what else could I have done? I broke the course record by over 10-minutes but I did everything that I possibly could today but Zach just had a little more than me.”

It’s a mature head on this 25-year old body and with a new year, new challenges are waiting. I can hear the excitement and anticipation of what’s to come within Hawks voice.

The target race, the big one is CCC (part of UTMB weekend in France) because that will be my first 100K and I’m going to do that in August and everything is going to be geared towards that and I’m definitely going for the victory there, hopefully, a course record.”

That confidence shows its head again; boy it must be great to be young and talented?

“I am doing a couple of 50km races, the first is in February and as I said, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to try to break course records, I’m going to try and run as fast as I possibly can!”

The excitement and anticipation is infectious, I feel my pulse increase as Hawks voice starts to run away with him, he is talking like he races – fast! Finally, what parting shot does he have for us

“I am excited to get going this year. To be honest with you, right now, I’m ready to race and I’m just getting anxious, I want to race so bad and I want to travel so bad but for now I need to get a good base in training and then I’m going to go out there and be ready to go…!”

Watch this space.

Credit ©iancorless.com

Photo Credit(s): Derrick Lytle & Josue Fernandez

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