Monthly Archives - June 2017

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


Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2017

Taming the Dragon

It’s no easy race, ask anyone that has contemplated it, more importantly, ask anyone who has toed the line.
It’s a race that has put fear into many a runner, magnified by its history, you see the first edition happened just once in September 1992. Considered to be the toughest mountain running event ever organized, twenty years on, the legendary race returned and the Dragon breathed a new fiery breath.
Organized by Shane Ohly from Ourea Events, the 2012 edition closely followed the original route. Starting at Conwy Castle in North Wales, the route traced the mountainous spine of Wales southwards over five days to finish at Carreg Cennen Castle in the Brecon Beacons. Competitors had to contend with a course that was approximately 320km long and with 15,000m of ascent.
Cut to 2015 and the Berghaus Dragons Back Race becomes an event that will take place every other year alternating with another Ourea Event, the Cape Wrath Ultra – an 8-day journey that travels along the west coast of Scotland and finishes at the most northern point – a race that echoes the format and ethos of the The Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2017. The 2015 edition was won by Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris. Mike Evans, a participant in the 2015 edition summed up the journey well:
So, what a week, what a journey, impossible to explain how tough, how mentally and physically challenging it was but also how spiritual it has been. Cut off from the world, no social media, no showers, just living in the wild with a group of equal enthusiasts.
The stage was set for the 2017 edition. Traveling from the North to the South via the ‘Dragons Back’ – the Berghaus Dragons Back Race was all set to have the makings of a classic. A gigantic 315km route awaited the runners with 15.000m of vertical gain ahead.Dragons Back

Day 1

Day 1 is a tough day in its own right, as the first day of a 5-day race it is brutal. Jim Mann, the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back Race  Champion, today set out his stall with a strong and dominant performance that left all the other runners following in his wake as he dominated the tough, challenging and yes, intimidating day 1. Neil Talbott, Marcus Scotney, and Jez Bragg followed.
For the ladies, Sabrina Verjee also produced a strong performance despite pre-race concerns that a recurring calf injury may surface and scupper her plans. Caroline McIlroy and Carol Morgan, both pre-race favorites followed and completed the podium slots.

Day 2

Having completed day 1, the competitors have a starting window of 0600-0900. the slower runners starting as early as possible allowing themselves as much time possible to complete the day before the 2300 cut-off. Jim Mann was slowly but surely reeling all the competitors in, having started last – the fox, he was chasing the rabbits. Marcus Scotney, Neil Talbot, and Jez Bragg were putting up a battle but Mann was just on fire. At the final summit, Diffwys, Mann ran fast and smooth and at the finish line, he set the fastest time of the day – elapsed 15:20:25. However, Scotney who had started earlier was the first to cross the line in16:30:29. Neil Talbot (16:46:40) managed to hold off Jez Bragg in 4th. Sabrina Verjee, like Mann, was taking a grip of the ladies’ race.
Carol Morgan and Caroline McIlroy put up a battle to Verjee and this resulted in McIlroy gaining time on Morgan, 20:21:52 to 20:22:27. The battle for 2nd lady now very close with just 35-seconds between them – Verjee, by contrast, extended her lead, her elapsed time 19:45:08.

Day 3

Sabrina Verjee and Carol Morgan pretty much shadowed each other for most of the day, however, in the latter stages Verjee looked hot and bothered with her effort in the strong hot sun – she crossed the line in 11:01:05 and retained the overall lead in 30:46:13 elapsed. Morgan finished in 11:07:46 with an elapsed time of 31:30:13 but the ladies story was all about Caroline McIlroy who finished in 11:06:52 and therefore consolidating her lead for 2nd with an elapsed time of 31:28:44.
For the men, it was a dramatic day! Race leader Jim Mann made a navigational error and in the process, gave away his hard-earned 90-minute lead over Marcus Scotney. Scotney buy contrast was having a great day – running fast and smooth. It was the end of the day when the damage was really starting to come clear. Scotney arrived at the line in 7:54:33. When Mann finally arrived, he was a long way back and pushing hard – 9:30:43! The true extent of the damage was finally confirmed, Scotney had taken the overall lead by approximately 26-minutes, 24:25:02 to Mann’s 24:51:08 elapsed time. Neil Talbott remained in 3rd.

Day 4

Mann set off at a ridiculous pace and despite a day of sun and high temperatures. He pushed and pushed breaking splits for his 2015 winning time. On the rolling terrain, he rarely walked, constantly switching from running to fast, hands-on-knees hiking. The terrain suited Marcus Scotney and his fluid running style but Scotney’s 31:46:28 to Mann’s 31:54:34 meant that Mann had closed the gap to just minutes and the last day of the 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back Race was going to be epic!
For the ladies, Sabrina Verjee had a tough day battling heat and dehydration and crossed the line in 9:51:25. Whereas Carol Morgan had a game-changing day crossing the line in 9:14:18 – this eradicated much of the time gap Verjee had built up over the first three days. Morgan moved up into 2nd place and this left her just minutes from a potential 2017 victory. The first 3 ladies had just 15-minutes between them.Berghaus Dragons Back Race

Day 5

Most the field started early at 0600 but all eyes were on the 0800 ‘chase’ starts. Scotney and Verjee would start on the stroke of 0800 and then 2nd placed runners, Mann and Morgan would depart as per their time deficits to the leader. The same applied for 3rd placed lady, McIlroy. Quite simply, the first man or woman across the line would be the 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back winner. Scotney, despite a troublesome knee, was flying, the terrain suited him and allowed him to stretch his legs. By CP2, Scotney was pulling away from Mann and Verjee and Morgan were equally matched with McIlroy losing time. More good running to CP3 and then the climb to CP4 and the run along the high ground with the impressive Llyn Y Fan Fact to the right saw Scotney extend his lead. When Mann arrived at CP5 he was over 30-minutes back and barring Scotney having any problems, the race was his for the taking. Mann no doubt paying a price for a tough first 3-days and a hard chasing 4th day. Scotney crossed the line in 6:12:09 1st and Mann came in much later (7:43:40) having eased off the gas knowing that his place for 2nd was secure. Neil Talbott who had started later than the 1st and 2nd placed runners had a long day chasing all in front of him, his 3rd place secure in 7:31:04 placing 2nd on the stage. In the ladies’ race, the possible threat of a blazing run from McIlroy didn’t happen and the race was now between Verjee and Morgan.
Morgan hunted Verjee down and by CP6 had caught and passed her. It was all about putting her head down and pushing on. The victory was hers in 7:57:16 and with it, the title of Ladies 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back champion.
A tough race for all concerned but when you race over 5-days with the highs and lows that this type of race can throw at you, it’s about how the runner manages all aspects of the race and not just one day. The 2017 edition will go down in history as one of the most compelling, particularly in the final 2-days. Over 50% of the race starters did not make the finish line, a special nod goes to Joe Faulkner, the legend that he is, who completed the very first Dragons Back Race in 1992 and came back for more. He completed the 2012 and 2015 events and now the 2017 – a remarkable feat.
Attention will now turn to 2019 and the next edition of the race but as Ourea Events rightly say, don’t forget it’s the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 for those who need their fix!
Top 3 results:
1    Marcus Scotney 37:58:37
2    Jim Mann 39:38:14
3    Neil Talbott 41:54:33
1    Carol Morgan 48:41:17
2    Sabrina Verjee 49:29:42
3    Caroline McIlroy 50:23:47
Results HERE
Credit ©iancorless.com


Transvulcania 2017

A new star and a course record on Isla Bonita

Transvulcania Ultramarathon
Transvulcania Ultramarathon never disappoints, since 2012 and the addition to the Skyrunner World Series, the race on the idyllic island of La Palma in the Canaries have gone from strength-to-strength. In 2017, we saw the confirmation of a new star – Ida Nilsson from Sweden and we witnessed the rise of a new star, Tim Freriks from the USA.
Ida Nilsson repeated her 2016 victory with a standout performance that dominated the ladies’ field. It resulted in a course record 8:04:00 bettering the two previous record held by Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg – the queens of Skyrunning!
Tim Freriks came from nowhere… he wasn’t even on any pre-race previews he was so unknown. However, word on the trails in the 24-hours before the start was Freriks was in La Palma, ‘to of hard or go home!’ Go hard he did and he repeated the rewards of victory at one of the worlds most iconic ultra races.
The day started at 0600 in the south of the island at Fuencaliente lighthouse – the glow of almost 2000 head torches breaking that blackness of the sky. Even the amazing stars (La Palma is known for stargazing due to clear skies and a lack of noise pollution) could not be seen with the impressive glow of the runner’s lights.
Heading north, the ladies race very much was dominated by Ida Nilsson, she lead from the front, at first slowly but surely extending her lead and then when the course reached higher altitudes, the 2016 Transvulcania winner applied the pressure and opened up the gap over her competition not only to win the race but set a new course record 8:04:17. It was a stunning run that came as no surprise. Anne Lise Rousset matched her 2016 performance with 2nd place and a solid race biding her time and keeping a consistent pace. The USA’s Hillary Allen moved up to 3rd place passing Ragna Debats.
Freriks and Hawks dueled the early miles together passing through El Pilar with seconds between them. It was as the caldera arrived and the run around the rim to Roques de los Muchachos that Freriks dropped his fellow American. Although still in 2nd Hawks would later lose that place and move down the field as sickness took hold.
Following was Pommeret, Martin, Capell, Owens, Thevenard, Schlarb, Malek and many of the other big hitters and lee race favorites. But Freriks was too fast. He extended his lead and crossed the line in Los Llanos in just over 7-hours.
Pommeret consolidated 2nd on the long 18km descent from the 2400+m summit all the way to the sea and arrived to a applause – the 2016 UTMB champ gaining a podium place.
The Ling descent punished the favorites, in particular, Owens who suffered terrible foot pain and was forced to slow down. Malek though was on fire, he moved through the field took the final podium place. A great result for the Moroccan who lives in Spain.
Since 2012, Transvulcania Ultramarathon has never disappointed, it is arguably one of the greatest courses and finish lines out there. The 2018 edition will no doubt be as equally as impressive.
Credit ©iancorless.com