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Tollefson and Krupicka lead American athletes hoping to dominate Lavaredo

by Larry Carroll

Running through the streets of Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy is an experience like none other. Located in the Southern Alps on the Boite river, the charming ski town is lined with walking streets, simple storefronts and a church spiral in the town center. The crowd cheers “Bravo, bravo!” as you jog past, head torch reflecting the path ahead; the sounds of bells and vuvuzelas pierce the evening air.

For more than a decade, thousands of runners have traveled from all over the world to do exactly this, via the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, renowned as one of the most beautiful running races in the world. With 6,000m of ascent and a journey around northern Italy’s Dolomites that puts runners up close and personal with the region’s beautiful and distinctive mountain ranges, the race is as picturesque as it is punishing.

As the years go by, a formidable American presence has been increasing in visibility at Lavaredo. This point was underlined last year, as Minnesota’s Tim Tollefson finished 3rd behind countryman Hayden Hawks, the Lavaredo winner. In the 2019 installment, Tollefson returns with his eyes on the prize. An elite runner and full-time physical therapist, Tollefson typically keeps a lighter racing volume than his peers, which he believes helps with recovery.

Will the vuvuzelas blow for Tollefson on June 28, as participants race away from the starting line at nightfall, head torches ablaze? The 34-year-old certainly hopes so. Tollefson recently tweeted that he “began listening to podcasts and music intermittently while running,” but “very quickly it was realized that Apple earphones were designed by the devil.” Calling his attempts to grapple with the ubiquitous white earbuds “comical,” here’s hoping that Tollefson’s Lavaredo experience goes more smoothly than his battles with technology.

Another storyline this year is the return of American trail running legend Anton Krupicka, who won the 2014 Lavaredo while calling it “the most beautiful race I’ve ever run.” Known for his long hair, beard and minimal running gear (often sans shirt, wearing lightweight shoes), Krupicka ran his first marathon at age 12, ran 200 miles a week in his twenties, and was a prominent figure in ultra-running before his 30th birthday. Five years ago, Krupicka won Lavaredo with a sprained ankle; now the Nebraska native returns, and if he’s healthy the sky appears to be the limit in this race through the Dolomites.

Over on the women’s side, any runner regardless of nationality seems likely to have their hands full with Brazilian superstar Fernanda Maciel. A onetime gymnast who was competing on major events by age 10, she then studied martial arts before eventually falling in love with running at age 15. In the years since she has won numerous races — including the 2011 Lavaredo. Another run through Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2015 had her finishing third, so the 2019 Lavaredo offers a chance at redemption.

This year’s Lavaredo is one of transition and, as they say on their website, “novelties.” Most significantly, after ten years of sponsorship by The North Face, the race will now be branded La Sportiva. Lavaredo has also added a 4th trail length (the 87km UltraDolomites), and the start of the Cortina trail has been distanced from the others to reduce congestion. Some things, however, never change — and Lavaredo will always be a race of breathtaking beauty, physical punishment, and infectious charm.

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With Western States, Courtney Dauwalter closes out a stunning year

by Larry Carroll

As the summer officially descends upon us, the ultra-running community is asking itself one question: Which will be hotter in the next few months, the temperature on the trail or Courtney Dauwalter?

For those paying attention, the Colorado-based 34-year-old has strung together twelve months of running that are becoming the stuff of legend. It began with a dominant Western States 100 win in June of 2018 that was more than 2 hours faster than the 2017 Women’s winner. Now, as the Western States is on us once again, observers are left wondering how she’ll bookend this year of dominance.

Will she beat everyone at the Western States, both female and male? It certainly seems possible, as she has done exactly that in nearly a dozen other ultras, and last year’s 17:27:00 time would have made her competitive with many past male winners. Will she turn the race into a laugher? Also possible, as a 240-miler in Moab, Utah once had Dauwalter finishing 10 hours ahead of second place.

For many athletes, winning the Western States and then training for the next would be enough. But in between the two, the former high school science teacher has never stopped running — or winning.

A few weeks after the Western States, she ran a 50 miler in Squamish, British Columbia. She then returned to Colorado for the Continental Divide Trail Run a week later, finishing first in the 50K. 

Those were likely just warm-ups, however, for the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, which took place in September. All she did was destroy the previous women’s record by 18 hours, running a race whose requirement is that it be finished in 100 hours — while doing it in less than half that.

Then came Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra. Taking place in October, Dauwalter made headlines by covering a distance of 279 miles in three days. The brutal Tennessee-based event has one basic rule, as simple as it is punishing: The last one running wins. After 68 hours of running without sleep, she found herself alone with male competitor Johan Steene, ultimately settling for second place.

After taking a break for the holidays and admittedly doing a lot of sitting, Dauwalter roared back in February with New Zealand’s Tarawera Ultra. Posting a start-to-finish women’s win, she dominated the 102 km race and celebrated her 34th birthday shortly thereafter.

Next up was March’s Behind the Rocks Ultra in Moab (1st place), April’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (1st place) and June’s Mueller Marathon in Divide, Colorado (also 1st place).

Dauwalter has indicated that, following this year’s Western States, she has plans to tackle many other big races and give the 24-Hour World Championships another shot. The next question on the minds of observers, then, seems to be an obvious one: Could her upcoming 12 months be even more impressive?

Photo credit @ Lavaredo Ultra Trail 

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Trail-Running Weekend recap June 7, 8, 9

The Trail World Championships and the San Diego 100 both had races this weekend, and we’ve got the results for both, as well as a sneak preview of next week’s Lavaredo and Western States 100. Read on for all the latest info!

The Trail World Championships

The 9th Trail World Championships took place in Portugal in Miranda do Corvo on Saturday, with 411 athletes participating (compared to 33 at the first Championships in 2007). Tackling 44 km of varying terrain, the athletes had to grapple with 2120 meters of ascent and 1970 meters of descent while making their way through the area surrounding the fourth largest urban center in Portugal, among many archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era.

Men

The big winner of this year’s Trail World Championships was Jonathan Albon from the United Kingdom, who crossed the finish line adorned with sweat, a smile and his nation’s flag at 3:35:34. Close behind him was France’s Julien Rancon, whose final time was 3:37:47.

In third place for the men was Switzerland’s Christian Mathys (3:40:33), followed by Francesco Puppi of Italy (3:40:44) and Nicolas Martin of France (3:42:27).

Also worth noting is an unfortunate finish for Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, the trail runner/sky-runner and 2006 Olympian with multiple gold medals on his impressive resume, but who ultimately ended with a time outside the top 10 field which included:

6 – Emmanuel Meyssat (France) – 3:43:20

7 – Ludovic Pommeret (France) –  3:44:01

8 – Antonio Martinez (Spain) – 3:44:40

9 – Andreu Simon (Spain) – 3:46:12

10 – Helio Fumo (Portugal) – 3:47:34

Women

A logjam of women were observed racing through the streets, angling for second place near the completion of the race. But it was clearly France’s Blandine L’hirondel who was in it to win it, as she led the women’s pack with a time of 4:06:15. Crossing the finish line with a huge smile on her face and countless observers cheering her on, you’d never know that L’hirondel had just put her body through such exertion if it wasn’t for the bib.

In second place was New Zealand’s Ruth Croft, finishing about 8 minutes behind at 4:14:27. Third place went to Sheila Aviles of Spain, who collapsed after crossing the finish line in an emotional moment after her 4:15:03 finish.

In fourth place was Spain’s Azara Garcia (4:15:30), as the women’s finishers continued to pile in close together. Fifth then went to Romania’s Denisa Dragomir, with a time of 4:17:06.

The rest of the top 10 included:

6 – Silvia Rampazzo (Italy) – 4:17:50

7 – Gemma Arenas (Spain) – 4:21:22

8 – Sarah Vieuille (France) – 4:22:10

9 – Aydee Loayza (Peru) – 4:22:31

10 – Adeline Roche (France) – 4:22:45

San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run

The 19th installment of the San Diego 100 took place yesterday, traversing Mt. Laguna’s Pacific Crest, Noble Canyon and Lake Cuyamaca Trails. It took 100 grueling miles to separate the top two competitors, both accomplished ultra-runners who were determined to hang tough and ultimately finished barely two minutes apart.

Men

Zach Bitter and Christopher Hammes were neck-and-neck for much of the race, with the rest of the pack finishing about two hours or more behind them. As the San Diego 100 Twitter account breathlessly reported, the duo pulled into the Pioneer Mail Historic Site (28.2 miles along the course) just before nightfall at about 3 minutes apart. From there until the end, Bitter and Hammes ran in close proximity, thrilling observers of the race.

Bitter ultimately finished in first with a time of 16:49:13, while Hammes fell just short at 16:51:53. In third place was Eric Earnshaw with a time of 18:45:14.

Fourth- and fifth-place went to Matt Preslar and Sean Ranney at 19:58:47 and 20:22:03, respectively.

The rest of the top 10 included:

6 – Marc Robinson – 21:59:01

7 – David Aguayo – 22:04:54

8 – Danny Goold – 22:47:48

9 – Tim Cadogan – 23:01:19

10 – Derek Mondin – 23:11:22

Women

On the women’s side, Teresa Kaiser held a commanding lead for much of the race, ultimately finishing with a time more than 3-and-a-half hours better than her nearest competitor. Her final time of 20:18:57 placed her an impressive fifth overall.

Word came in around 17 hours into the race that Kaiser had opened up a commanding lead on Jade de la Rosa, who ultimately finished in third place with a time of 24:15:15. In between them was second place finisher Rebecca Murillo, who came on strong to finish at 23:15:36.

Fourth and fifth place went to Pargol Lakhan (24:57:44) and Laura Dunn (25:08:16) respectively.

The rest of the top 10 included:

6 – Deborah Cosmetis – 25:41:15

7 – Sarah Emoto – 25:42:03

8 – Katherina Laan – 26:03:59

9 – Katie Trent – 26:56:30

10 – Cynthia Rivera – 27:12:03

Coming up soon on the calendar are the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (June 28 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy) and the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (June 29 in Squaw Valley, California). The Western States bills itself as the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race and as one of the ultimate endurance tests in the world. The Lavaredo, meanwhile, has been touted as one of the most beautiful running races in the world. Stay tuned to Irun4Ultra for the latest results and racing news from around the globe.

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2019 Hardrock

2019 Hardrock threatened by snow, avalanche conditions

By Larry Carroll

One might think that scheduling an ultra-marathon in Colorado in early July would seem to be a pretty safe bet, weather-wise. Of course, a focal point of the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run (founded in 1992) has always been pushing athletes with extreme altitudes and multiple climate zones that can bring subzero temperatures, thunderstorms and other weather anomalies. But this year, snowy conditions may be putting a chill on the festivities.

2019 Hardrock

“There have been record levels of snow late into the season down in Southern Colorado this year,” the Hardrock’s official Instagram feed posted recently. “We wanted to give you an update on what this means for Hardrock 2019.”

Indeed, this year’s “snowpack” (a term referring to layers of accumulated snow) is an astounding 202 percent of its season-to-date average at this time of year. According to the Denver Post, the snowpack is approximately five times larger than it was at this time last year. Although many entrants of the Hardrock have often used crampons, trekking poles and other such equipment typically associated with mountain climbing, such conditions are threatening to make the race impossible for even such adventurous souls.

2019 Hardrock

“The Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run is currently monitoring the snowpack conditions within the San Juan Mountains,” explain the organizers of the annual race, dedicated to the memory of miners who settles the area. “We encourage everyone … to regularly monitor the Hardrock social media channels and our website to stay as up to date as possible on the situation.”

Entering the third week of May, snowpack was 302 percent of its average in the San Juan Mountains. For a race held on a loop course that traverses four-wheel-drive, cross country and dirt trails on the San Juan Range, from Silverton to Telluride to the 14,048-foot summit of Handles Peak, such snowfall could be a disaster in more ways than one. At the moment, Hardrock organizers aren’t officially telling athletes to stay home — but posted under an ominous picture of a truck squeezing between walls of snow is a message that seems anything but assuring.

The decision to proceed or postpone the July 19 scheduled event “is based on the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) measured at the Red Mountain Pass SNOTEL site.” Adding that another consideration this year is a number of avalanches that have occurred in the area, the Hardrock statement sets June 1st as a pivotal date of judgment. “Should the SWE be equal to or less than 23″ … the Run will take place … If the SWE is greater than 23″ on June 1st of this year and/or avalanche impact is still questionable, then a decision will be made by the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run management.”

Although rare, a cancellation wouldn’t be without precedent. The 2002 Hardrock didn’t take place because of nearby forest fires — and the 1995 installment was cancelled because of too much snow.   

2019 Hardrock

Over on Hardrock’s Facebook page, athletes and observers point out that the SWE has actually gone in the wrong direction since race organizers posted their statement, and question whether the lengthy wait to get a slot will carry over to next year in case of cancellation.

“We understand that considerable planning and resources goes into being a part of the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run,” the statement says. “With that in mind, as information on the snowpack and avalanche debris conditions and their possible impact on the running of the 2019 Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run becomes available to us we will work as fast as possible to pass any pertinent information along to all members of the Hardrock community.”

Will the Hardrock be able to navigate this sizeable obstacle, much like its participants have to do every July? As intimidating as those walls of snow may look, three decades of Hardrock runs have taught the running community that these are not athletes you’d be wise to bet against.



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