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meditation

Making Meditation Part of Your Training Routine

It’s long been widely recognized that regular meditation practice brings a variety of health benefits. Reduced anxiety and depression, increased pain tolerance, improved attention span, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep are just a few of the medically acknowledged benefits to mindfulness. 

That’s a list that looks like it could double as a description of the benefits of long distance running, which may be what inspired a team of researchers to examine the effects of combining meditation and running1. Their research suggested was a big win for the combined program, which is one of the reasons we now see ultra running pros, like two-time Western States 100-mile winner Timothy Allen Olson and three-time Hardrock 100 winner Darcy Piceu, advocate for what they call “mindful running.” 

Getting Started

If you’ve never meditated before, you won’t accomplish much trying to get your first session in on the road.  Instead, you should start by adding a short, seated meditation session before you start your workout. 

Find a comfortable seat—there’s no need to cross your legs, unless you’d like to—close your eyes, and tune in to a guided meditation program. There are several applications available serving exactly this purpose. Three favorites: 

Calm – an excellent meditation primer. The freely available “Seven Days of Calm” unit is a perfect place to start, and the additional features are well worth the subscription cost. 

Headspace – another solid introduction. The free offering isn’t quite as robust as Calm’s, but the opening session is slightly more approachable. 

Run Mindful – Timothy Allen Olson’s own offering to the selection, an app made specifically for endurance runners. 

Once you’ve got the program running, all you have to do is sit still, listen for about ten minutes, and do the best that you can to follow along. There’s no need to worry about whether you’re doing it right, just trying will be enough to improve. 

Immediate Benefits

Over time, you’ll start to notice better sleep, experience reduced stress, and exhibit lower impulsivity and greater patience in your daily life. The improvements won’t be limited to long-term gains: in the short term, you’ve brought your breath under control, lowered your heart rate, and cleared your mind of the day’s stress. Pay close attention, and you may notice a marked difference in the quality of that first workout. 

Honing the Mind-Body Connection

Depending on the guide program that you choose, you’ll likely encounter body scan meditations. These meditations encourage you to mentally scan your body from end to end (usually head to toe), carefully observing any and all sensations. With practice, these body scans can help you discover knots, tightness, and posture imbalances. Sometimes, simply noticing a pain that you’ve been ignoring is enough to relieve the tension. Even when it isn’t, if you pay attention to the signs, you’ll know when you need a little extra stretch, or a date with the roller. 

Take It to The Road

As you grow in your meditation practice, you are essentially developing the ability to train your focus on one stimulus while tuning out distractions. At first, the stimulus will almost always be the rhythm of your own breath, but once you’ve got the knack, you can substitute anything. That’s when it’s time to take the show on the road. 

Some mindful runners like to silently repeat a positive mantra (a simple, short, repetitive statement, usually reflecting a goal or ideal). Focusing on the finish line can be a strong motivator, or general thoughts about life can help influence positive thinking outside the run. 

You can apply the body scan technique here, too. Any time pain crops up as a distraction, you can try impartially listening to it. Our natural instinct is to push pain aside, which often leads to unconscious changes in form and stride. By making an effort to listen to the pain, welcome it, and understand it, we avoid making these comfortable negative corrections, and give ourselves a much better chance of correctly identifying and treating the problem. As Timothy Allen Olson told REI, “When you observe it and accept it, many times pain simply dissolves.”2

Mindful Running Retreats

If you want to make the advantages of mindfulness a part of your running routine, but you don’t think a phone app will get you there, there is help available. As the practice has grown in popularity, there’s been a movement toward group mindful running retreats. Timothy Olson’s Adventure Mindful is one of the groups on the forefront of this movement. They’ve got retreats planned for 2019 in the Canary Islands, Colorado, and Austria, which include trail running for all experience levels, mindfulness training, food, and transportation. 

  • “MAP training: combining meditation and aerobic exercise reduces depression and rumination while enhancing synchronized brain activity.” B L Alderman, R L Olson, C J Brush & T J Shors. Translational Psychiatry volume6, pagee726 (2016). https://www.nature.com/articles/tp2015225 

  • “For Runners: How to Stop Stalling and Start Meditating.” Kelly Bastone. REI. May 15, 2018.  https://www.rei.com/blog/run/meditation-for-runners 

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Training Tips

Training Tips from Three of Ultra Running’s Greatest Coaches

Whether they’re gearing up for your first marathon, making a third attempt at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, or testing their legs on a 24-hour, the most important piece of any long-distance runner’s preparation is a thorough, intentional training plan. The right regimen can spur an athlete to P.R.s and victory laps, and a mistimed routine can leave the same athlete on dead legs before the starting pistol fires.

With so much riding on a runner’s routine, there’s little wonder that a handful of high profile champions have leveraged their racing success into reputations as the sport’s ultimate gurus. Let’s check in with three of the top trainers in ultrarunning for a quick primer on the techniques and philosophies that carry their clients to the finish.

Training Tips

Sundog Running’s Ian Torrence

Ian Torrence has built a sterling reputation in the ultrarunning world, winning 53 of the 200 ultras he’s completed. 27 of his finishes have been 100-mile runs. Formerly a coach under the legendary Greg McMillan, Ian and partner Emily Torrence (nee Harrison) formed Sundog Running in the hopes of reaching more runners. They offer personal coaching services, advisement, and weekly training plan packages, and keep up a blog with free tips for all levels of experience.

The Sundog team stress individualized plans for each athlete. They build long-term plans for the full season based on the runner’s goals, experience, form, injury history, life events, and fitness gains.

Training Zones

Torrence’s training philosophy revolves around four training zones, each of which focuses on improving a small subset of the body functions involved in an endurance run. This allows a runner to emulate the effects of extreme distance in shorter training sessions. As Torrence himself wrote in Trail Runner Magazine, “Training is the art of replicating different exertion levels in short, controlled bouts so that our body and mind may adapt to the new stressors and be better able to handle that workload on race day.”1

In the Spring Zone and Neuromuscular Training phase, we enhance the ability to run quickly when our muscles our inundated with lactic acid. This includes workouts like neuromuscular strides, and interval springs with slow jogging recovery between. In this zone, a focus on proper form is stressed.

During Speed Zone Training we run full speed for extended durations (8 to 15 minute bursts) to improve mechanics, recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, improve our metabolic pathways to use fuel more efficiently, and improve the rate of oxygen uptake from blood into muscles.

To improve the body’s ability to remove lactic acid building, we use Stamina Zone Training, which consists of race pace work for an hour or more. Steady state runs, tempo runs, tempo intervals, cruise intervals, and progression runs are a few recommended Stamina Zone exercises.

Lastly, Endurance Zone Training, which forms the bulk of the training under Torrence’s plans. These runs improve the ability to run for long durations, maintain aerobic fitness, and maximize the capacity to train and recover in the other three zones. These are long, easier runs where the heart rate should not rise about 70% of the runner’s maximum threshold.

Base Phase

Torrence’s plans interweave the 4 training zones throughout four training phases. The first phase is the base phase. This phase should make up more than half of a runner’s training throughout the year, and consists of lighter work in all four training zones to keep the body fast and efficient without a high degree of exertion.

Pre-Race Specific Phase

This consists of a 4 to 6 week ramp-up phase. Runners in this phase perform roughly the same exercises as in the base phase, but slowly increase distance, duration, and intensity to prepare the body for hard running.

Race Specific

Three to 10 weeks of full intensity in all four zones. During this phase, the runner focuses most strongly on their individual weaknesses and on the specific demands of the race.

Peaking

For the last two to three weeks before the race, Torrence’s team recommends maintaining the race specific routine and intensity, but gradually dropping the volume of each run to rest while maintaining peak form.

Jacob Puzey of Peak Run Performance

Compared to Ian Torrence, Peak Run Performance founder Jacob Puzey has had a slightly rockier road to renown in the running community. While Torrence’s claims to fame largely hinge on his own running career, Puzey became a name in the running community when he returned to Hermiston High School, his Alma Mater, and coached the cross-country team to their first ever state title. Despite the differences, the two do share one key link: both have worked as coached under the legendary Greg McMillan.

Training On A Treadmill

As holder of the 50-mile treadmill world record, Jacob Puzey is a major proponent of training on a treadmill. He sees treadmills as a technological advantage, a way to help balance the demands of long running with the other commitments of a busy life.

Aside from taking advantage of treadmill time to spend time with family while training, catch up on TV, or listen to an audiobook, Puzey also loves it for form improvement: put a mirror in front of the treadmill (or find one near the mirrors at the gym) and watch yourself run.

Finding Your Form

If you’re not sure what to look for in the mirror, Coach Puzey has a lot of great advice available on the Peak Run Performance YouTube channel, including an excellent series on injury prevention that serious runners absolutely must see.

In his “Running Form Cues” primer, he provides these vital tips to help with efficiency, speed, and safety.

Relax your jaw. To get the feel for this, Puzey recommends clenching your teeth and then letting go until your mouth is slightly open. A tight jaw causes tension in the neck, which can travel through the back, shoulders, and even into the glutes and hamstrings.

Relax the shoulders, too. To test this out, raise them as high as possible, then drop them to your sides.

Hold your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and don’t open and close them while you run. Your arm movement should be driven from the shoulders, almost like putting your hands into your pockets.

Don’t let your hands cross your upper body.

Hold your hands slightly closed, but not clenched, with the thumbs on top, nearly touching the index finger. Puzey suggests visualizing a delicate, dry leaf between the thumb and finger.

Hold your body tall while you run, with a slight lean forward at the ankles. Your feet should strike the ground directly beneath your hip.

Sage Canaday’s Sage Running

Sage Canaday has been running, and winning, on some of the sports biggest stages for 16 years. His pro endurance wins include the World Long Distance Mountain Championship (Pikes Peak Ascent), the Tarawera 100k, the Speedgoat 50km, and TNF50 mile championships.

Through his and Coach Sandi Nypaver’s Sage Running coaching company, Sage offers training plans and advice to runners across the world. His Vo2maxProductions YouTube channel, where he releases training tips, gear reviews, and other content, has over 100,000 subscribers.

Feeling Based Training

As vital as a strong training plan is, it can be even more important to know when to know when to leave the plan behind, so Sage Running’s training plans are all based on how the runner feels. Canaday and Nypaver futher explain the philosophy in a joint post on the Sage Running site, “The Art of Feeling Based Training”.

In the same post, they offer several tips to avoid (or recover from) overtraining.

The coaches caution that poor sleep, incomplete nutrition, long term stress, or bad caffeine habits can all mimic the symptoms of overtraining. If you maintain healthy habits outside of running, it will be easier to tell when your body needs more rest.

Be honest with yourself when evaluating your condition. You don’t want to force yourself to meet the schedule unless you’re sure it’s right for your body.

Bad quality of sleep, an uncharacteristically sour disposition, a weak immune system, or an elevated resting heart rate can all be signs of overtraining.

If you have overtrained, check your training logs to get a sense of where you went wrong. For now, cut back on hard runs and mileage. Go easy until you’re feeling normal, and then cautiously ramp back up to full intensity over a few weeks.

Don’t Underestimate Easy Runs

Canaday is a big believer in easy runs, and pushes runners to take them at an even lighter pace than they typically expect. Pushing the pace on easy runs limits your ability to recover from the hard days. The key is to get enough work in to keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period, while still giving yourself enough rest to heal from your more intense work. The exercise strengthens your heart, builds capillaries and increases the efficiency with which your body transfers oxygen to your muscles.

Make the Long Runs Count

The long runs on Coach Canaday’s schedule are all specific workouts, rather than pure mileage. Canaday believes that this is the most effective way to simulate race conditions for event specific training exercises, so he makes them an integral part of his training. To further simulate the intensity of competition, Canaday recommends planning long run workouts so that the second half of the run is taken at a much faster overall pace than the first half.

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Limone Extreme 2018

In this Limone Extreme 2018, Lake Garda situated east of Milan and west of Venice has long been a destination as holiday resort. Limone sul Garda as the name suggests, sits on the lakes edge on the north west side.

Flanked by sheer mountains. The heart of the old town is the little harbour, the old Port Porto (‘Porto Vecchio’). Narrow lanes lined with tourist shops wind in and along the shore with a plethora of streets that go up the slopes behind.
In the other direction, south, is the more modern part of Limone that includes a waterfront promenade, it is here that the start and the finish of the Limone Extreme races 2018 takes place.

The steep aggressive mountains don’t require too much imagination when It comes to designing a race. Skyrunning legend, Fabio Meraldi, has been instrumental though in creating 2 races. Firstly, a VK that travels from the lake 1000m directly up, originally undertaken during darkness.
Limone Extreme 2018
Secondly, a SkyRace of 29km and well over 2000m elevation that leaves the town following lakeside paths to the north of the harbour on a circular route through the mountains back to the shore.
Limone Extreme 2018
Meraldi’s exploits are legendary and gain the respect of all who love our sport. He passed his mountain guide training at the age of 20. Not only a runner, he participated in mountain tours, ski mountaineering and pioneered the early days of Skyrunning with ISF president, Marino Giacometti.
Limone Extreme 2018
Four European titles and nine Italian titles amongst other cups and medals are listed in his palmares, he also won the iconic Pierra Menta ten times and the Sellaronda Skimarathon, six times. However, it is his world records of speed ascending to high mountains that has gained him his iconic place in the sport of mountain running; the most notable on Aconcagua.
Limone Extreme 2018
Leaving Lungolago Marconi next to Lake Garda, a 2km stretch of narrow path leads through the streets of Limone. Passing scattered hotels, peaceful terraces, lemon groves and little secluded beaches before crossing the main coastal road and heading up into the impressive mountains at Reamòl. A breath-taking, rugged ascent leads to Punto Larici, proceeds to Passo Rocchetta and reaches the crest of Monte Carone at 1621 meters above sea level.
Limone Extreme 2018
The second part of the race, with its continuous change in gradients, takes athletes from Bocca dei Fortini at 1200m to Monte Traversole, 1441m and Corna Vecchia 1415m.
Limone Extreme 2018
The course slopes down to Dalco at 842 m before the steep descent to the finish line in Limone. It’s a course that epitomizes the pure ethos of Skyrunning; to the summit and back as quickly as possible. Something that Meraldi is a firm believer in!
In a deeply stacked international field, youngster Davide Magnini not only took the win but crushed the record by eight minutes delivering a memorable performance. He covered the challenging and technically demanding 29 km long course with 2,500m vertical climb in 2h59’24”. Rémi Bonnet, fresh from yesterday’s Vertical Kilometer® World Champion title at the same venue placed 2nd and Spaniard Oriol Cardana closed the podium.

I’m really surprised by this result… I found my pace and my legs worked really well. I stayed focused all the time and beating the record held by a legend like Marco De Gasperi is simply humbling,”

Limone Extreme 2018 women’s result

  • In Limone Extreme 2018 the women’s race was won again by orienteering world champion Tove Alexandersson from Sweden who raced her first skyrunning race here last year. Known to give it her all, today’s win was no different.
  • Ragna Debats closed second, triumphant with her new Overall title.
  • Third was Spaniard Sheila Avilés.

“It was so tough for me today. I’ve had a long season with many orienteering competitions… I wasn’t sure to come here because I was so destroyed,” said Tove post-race. “When I started I felt terrible, but I was just fighting, fighting all the way… I really enjoy these challenges and that’s what I love!”

Skyrunning  was born in Italy, it only seems appropriate that the traditions and ethos created on the slopes of the snowy Alps should now be carried forward on new mountains and in new places such as the Creste Della Mughera mountains that back on to Limone sul Garda.
Limone Extreme 2018

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Ultra Mirage in Tunisia

UMED – Ultra Mirage© El Djerid

Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert, The Tunisian Sahara – mixed terrain that involves oasis, palm groves, sand and of course intense heat. It’s a tough place to walk, never mind run! But over 130 runners toed the line for the 2nd edition of the UMED – Ultra Mirage© El Djerid.
 UMED
Known for its unique landscape, this desert has featured in many a movie, the most famous being Star Wars Episode 1. Bulbous buildings, the space port of Mos Espa still remain in the area and they provide a unique backdrop to the start and the finish of this single loop, 100km race.
The desert is a calm place and Mos Espa, surrounded by high dunes, makes for an incredible start as the morning sun breaks the horizon.
Ultra Mirage
In 2017, Mohamed El Morabity won the race. It was great run in Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert on a course that had to be changed in the 11th hour after freak rains damaged the original course. The single loop 100km race became a two loop 50km course.
Ultra Mirage
In 2018,Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert (UMED) was back to the original route and although described as flat with little elevation gain, the runners would soon find out that this was no easy course.
Ultra Mirage
With a 20-hour time limit, runners departed on the stork of 0700, the cut-off time coming at 0300 the following day. The 100km race broken down into sections where aid and refreshment would be provided at 20km, 35km, 50km, 65km, 80km and then the finish.
Ultra Mirage
Each aid station would have its own cut-off time too to ensure the safety of each participant out on the course. Marwen Kahil from Tunisia dictated the early pace along with Mohamed Mnsari while the pre-race favourites of Mohamed El Morabity, Sondre Amdahl and the desert king, Rachid El Morabity bided their time.
Ultra Mirage
Women’s favourite and two-time Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes was shadowed by Shefia Hendaoui while Orianne Dujardin followed.
Ultra Mirage
At the first aid station, the men’s race was hardly unchanged with all the main protagonists together, whereas in the women’s race, Elisabet had made her move slowly pulling away from all the other challengers.
Ultra Mirage
With 35km covered, the race was taking on a whole new perspective at checkpoint 2. Rachid had now made a move and was slowly pulling away looked calm and relaxed. Rachid’s brother Mohamed followed flanked by Tunisian, Emir Grairi.
Ultra Mirage
Minutes later, Norwegian Sondre Amdahl followed – a past top 10 finisher of the Marathon des Sables and winner of the Jungle Ultra. Shefia and Orianne could do little in the women’s race other than follow the trail blazed by Elisabet.
Ultra Mirage
Checkpoint 3 with 50km covered only confirmed the dominance of Rachid and Elisabet but for the men, Mohamed was in trouble! He moved from joint 2nd to now place 4th and he didn’t look good! Emir was now in 2nd and Sondre 3rd. For the women, Orianne now had a slender lead over Shefia – the race was beginning to take shape.
Ultra Mirage
The next section of terrain was relentless soft sand and it took its toll on every participant. It just sapped strength and broke any run stride into a stumble.Ultra Mirage in the Tunisian Desert It was here that Sondre made up time and moved into 2nd. He was some way behind Rachid, but he looked strong.
Ultra Mirage
Behind, Emir was struggling, so much so that Mohamed and caught him and the duo ran together. For the women, Elisabet was now moving into the top-5 overall and Orianne was pulling away from Shefia as the heat and terrain took its toll.
Ultra Mirage
Rachid at the 80km with his lead reduced. He was struggling. The heat was punishing him, and he struggled to re-hydrate and eat. He left for the final push to the line knowing that the final 20km would be a challenge. Sondre arrived only minutes later looking very fresh and ready for the hunt.
Ultra Mirage
He pursued the desert king and despite bringing Rachid close, the skill and the tenacity of the man up front was too great, and he clinched victory collapsing in to the arms of race director Amir. Sondre placed 2nd and the Mohamed rounded out the podium after Emir withdrew from the race in the closing stages due to dehydration.
Ultra Mirage
Elisabet was a conniving women’s champion. Her race was so complete that she placed 4th overall. Orianne placed 2nd and Shefia finished 3rd.
Ultra Mirage
RESULTS

  1. Elisabet Barnes 10:26:06
  2. Orianne Dujardin 12:58:57
  3. Shefia Hendaoui 13:35:57
  4. Rachid El Morabity 9:11:47
  5. Sondre Amdahl 9:18:12
  6. Mohamed El Morabity 10:17:33

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ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Gale force winds, torrential rain, freezing cold and the occasional burst of sunshine tell the story of the 2018 Scotland Skyrunning series of events. For the first time, the ISF skyrunning world championships were held on UK soil combining of the classic VK, SKY and ULTRA distances. On the 4th day, the event center in Kinlochleven was transformed for the skyrunner world series, Glen Coe Skyline – 4 days, 4 events and 1000’s of runners; a truly memorable experience for running in the UK.

MAMORES VK

The Mamores VK kicked off the weekend under some of the toughest weather conditions. Torrential rain throughout the day had made the ground sodden and as the first runner departed the event center, the rain started to fall, and the wind picked up. At the summit, temperatures were below zero causing tough and extreme conditions for runners and race staff.

345 runners from 30 countries took part in the severe challenge which climbed 1,000m to the Munro summit, the UK’s only Vertical Kilometer® and valid for world titles and medals.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Reigning VK World Champion, Laura Orgué from Spain and Switzerland’s Rémi Bonnet took the gold medal crushing the previous records in 39:23 and 51:35.

“It was really a tough race with the weather conditions,” said Remi post-race. “A lot of mud and also a lot of people cheering. It was good to come to Scotland and run a good race.”

In a surprising return to form after a long time away from the sport, Thorbjørn Ludvigsen (NOR) placed 2nd in 41:49 and Stian Angermund-Vik (NOR) placed 3rd in41:50.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Laura Orgue suggested that she no longer felt like a VK specialist post-race, but the result proved otherwise, “I don’t feel like the same Laura of some years ago. I still know the kind of effort it takes to do a VK. It was a hard race because of the weather but the outcome was fine,”

The silver and bronze medals were taken by two new names in the world of Skyrunning who in 2018 have excelled week after week, Lina El Kott Helander (SWE) and Hillary Gerardi (USA) their times, 52:34 and 52:53.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

BEN NEVIS ULTRA

Overnight weather continued to beat the Scottish terrain and considering the Ben Nevis Ultra would take in two very dangerous sections, race director, Shane Ohly made the tough call of choosing the bad weather course. This changed the dynamic of the ultra-race with considerably less vertical gain, less technical running and more importantly, less distance. The reduced course resulting in a distance of 47 km with 1,750m vertical climb avoiding the summit of Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. (The original course designed especially for the occasion was 52 km long with a vertical climb of 3,820m).

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Experience counted on the day with Skyrunner World Series Champions 2017, Jonathan Albon and Ragna Debats producing two dominant performances ahead of world-class fields. The duo dominated their respective races taking victories with at least 10-minute margins, Albon winning in 3:48:02 and Debats 4:36:20.

Ragna was crowned IAU World Trail Champion earlier in the year, so, the gold here in Scotland was extra special. Only Luis Alberto Hernando has achieved similar double success in previous years.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“I decided to start fast right from the beginning and see if anyone would follow me,” said Debats. “I saw nobody was close to me, so I just kept on going, reserving just a little energy just in case somebody came up behind me. The medal means a lot to me, my season couldn’t be more perfect!”

Gemma Arenas from Spain moved from way down the field to finally battle with Maria Mercedes Pila from Ecuador. At the line they were separated by just 4-seconds, 4:50:32 to 4:50:36.

For the men, André Jonsson from Sweden who took the silver ahead of Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando, 2014 and 2016 skyunning World Champion, he took the bronze just one minute later, their times 4:00:35 and 4:01:21 respectively.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

RING OF STEALL SKYRACE

In three days of uncertain and often extreme weather conditions, the Ring of Steall participants were treated to a full course. It was the largest event of the weekend with over countries represented and 879 athletes.

Records were smashed both in the women’s and men’s races. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet topped the podium, but he had a fight on his hands for the gold! Tove Alexandersson was the female champ who took many by surprise, however, she proved her ability at the 2017 Limone Extreme race in Italy after a dominant performance.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

Despite sodden ground, occasional rain and strong winds, the top ten men and seven women finished below the 2017 course record. Kilian recorded 304:34 and Tove 3:48:28.

“What’s particular here is it’s very muddy, very wet, slippery. The terrain is similar to my home in Norway,” Kilian mentioned post-race. “I fell in the mud on the last downhill. This year it was good for me, such a good field with so many strong people.”

Second man, Italian Nadir Maguet had pushed the Catalan throughout the race and despite Kilian’s dominance over all distances in 2018, many wondered was an upset on the cards?

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“I came here hoping to do well. Obviously when you see a start list with a very high level, you ask yourself how it will go. My dream was to race with Kilian, to feel strong, and that was how it went… In the second half of the race and on the last descent I tried to push but you know Kilian is strong on the downhill. It was impossible to catch him, I tried.”

Nadir finished in 3:06:05 ahead of Norwegian Stian Angermund-Vik, who took the bronze in 3:09:05, he summed up the emotions of many, “This race is more technical than most…I love the ridges and the mud and everything. On the second ridge I just had to stop and look around it was so beautiful.”

Tove Alexandersson, a multiple Orienteering World Champion from Sweden cut an incredible 19 minutes off the previous record to take the gold and the new Skyrunning World Champion title.

ISF Skyrunning World Championships

“It was a bit more muddy and slippery than I expected but otherwise it was just perfect. I felt strong all the way. I didn’t have much time to see the views because it was quite technical. On the downhill you have to be so focused. I think that’s my biggest strength, so I had a good feeling.”

Victoria Wilkinson is a fell running legend in the UK and recently broke the long-standing female Ben Nevis record. For the Brits, Victoria was always going to be a dark horse and she didn’t disappoint running an incredible 2nd and seizing the silver in a time of 3:54:01.

Holly Page has had an incredible season in the Skyrunner World Series with a string of victories and high places. In the early stages of the race she was way off the pace and looking to be having a bad day; “At the top of the first climb I think I was 15th and I felt really unhappy and horrible. But then I got into a downhill and it ‘smelt’ like a fell race, it felt like home. I overtook lots of people on the downhill which gave me quite a confidence boost.”

Scotland Skyrunning

Holly closed the gaps and finished on the podium taking bronze in a time of 3:57:57.

Individual world titles and a total of 27 medals were awarded in the three disciplines as well as a combined title based on the best results of the Vertical and Sky races.

ISF President and the founder of skyrunning, Marino Giacometti concluded the weekend awarding medals. He quite rightly thanked Scotland for the challenging weather and Ourea Events for hosting an incredible event.

“Now among the new world champions we have not only Kilian, but Jonathan Albon (an Obstacle racing champion), Tove Alexandersson (an Orienteering champion) and Nadir Maguet (a ski-mountaineering champion). I like to think that skyrunning inspires athletes from other sports too!”

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Trofeo Kima 2018

The pinnacle of the skyrunning calendar, Trofeo Kima, has gained a reputation as one of the most demanding and challenging races in the world. At 52km in length the distance is not intimidating, however, 8,400m of ascent and descent put the race in perspective. You cannot look at Trofeo Kima with the eyes of a pure runner; It’s beyond running!

Passing over seven passes of the Sentiero Roma, a well-known GR route, the race in its current form is the brainchild of the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) president, Marino Giacometti. So tough is Kima that it has a capped field of just 300 participants and the race is held every other year to add to its allure.

Sections of the course are so severe that fixed ropes and chains provide the only secure way to traverse vertical walls of rock or exposed ledges. Taking place on mountain paths that are unmarked, just the red/white flicker of GR markers show the way along with flags added by the race team. Rock, granite, snow, and ice make an incredible playground for athletes with a head for heights, exposure, and adventure.

The 23rd edition of the Kima Trophy will be remembered amongst one the most beautiful ever. Overnight rain cleared to an amazingly beautiful cold day with strong winds and ice was present on the course.

Much of the talk was about Kilian Jornet who returned to the race after missing the 2016 edition. Already a winner of this race and record holder before, would he beat the 2016 record of 6:10:44 set by the Nepalese Bhim Gurung? Kilian ran with Alexis Sevennec for much of the race. The two raced shoulder to shoulder until the final descent, 2000 meters drop from Passo Barbacan to the village of San Martino. Kilian launched a winning attack, that allowed him to cross the line in 6:09:19 – a new course record!

Alexis Sevennec placed a convincing 2nd in 6:11:59 ahead of 2018 Transvulcania winner, Pere Aurell in 6:20:50. Andre Jonsson, Leo Viret, and Petter Engdahl followed and rounding out the top ten was Andy Symonds, Cristian Minoggio, Cody Lind and Samuel Equy.

Hillary Gerardi did not beat the record of 7:36:21 set by Nuria Picas in 2016 but she produced an outstanding race! She has found her legs and lungs in 2018 and proving to be, ‘the one to beat,’ especially after victory in Tromso just weeks ago…  On the first descent towards Bocchetta Roma, IAU World Trail Champion, Ragna Debats, had tried to make a difference and close the gap on Hillary, but she was too strong gaining a 5-minute lead. The victory looked set, but it was Robyn Owen from South Africa who closed on the leader and for a time they ran together, but Hillary kicked and came back and won in 7:37:29. Second place for Robyn in 7:39:01, a stunning result and certainly a name to look out for in the future! Nepalese Mira Rai, always a popular runner with the crowds placed 3rd and rounded out the podium in 7:41:46. Brittany Petterson, who had been in 2nd at the midway point, and the Italian Martina Valmassoi followed to round out the top-5!

For over twenty years, ‘Kima’ as it is affectionately known, has blown the minds and the legs of all those lucky enough to toe the line. This is a race that one aspires too; you need to earn a place on the entry line. The challenge comes no greater. The race is like a precious jewel, hidden away for fear of someone stealing it. Kima is not for everyone, but if you have the experience and the courage, the Sentiero Roma rewards each who ventures on to its tough and technical terrain.


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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.
Namaste.

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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.

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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!
 
 
©iancorless.com

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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.
 
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