Monthly Archives - August 2017

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