It has been a year of ups and downs, tumbling records, cancellations, innovations, tragedy, new races, emerging talent, controversies and comebacks.
Ultra168 and its friends were privileged to have an up close and personal view and bring to you all of these goings on and we expect to see more of the same in 2013. If it is not in print here, it probably didn’t happen ! So pour yourself a drink, find a comfortable seat and recall one incredible year.
In Australia the year always kicks off with one of the toughest ultras anywhere on the planet – Bogong to Hotham 60km race. The field was stacked with in-form runners of the likes of Mick Donges, Damon Goerke, Andy Lee and Clarke McClymont and for once the untouchable record of Andy Kromar was going to potentially go.
The days before the race and the sun was shining across the high alps. Race day came and some drizzle greeted the runners before the big climb up to Mt Bogong. Then it all went pear-shaped ! High winds and driving rain resulted in temperatures dropping close to freezing and by halfway the experience of Race Director Andy Hewitt was called into action as the race was shortened at 30kms.
January was also the month that the UTMB lottery was announced and 20 + Australians were granted a spot in the iconic ultra.
Pat Farmer made it to the South Pole having started at the North Pole !
Suunto launched the new Ambit and the world briefly stopped turning.
Lizzy Hawker was announced at the IAU athlete of the year.
Mick Donges cemented himself as an athlete to watch with a win at the 2 Bays Ultra out-pacing Magnus Michelsson over the final 10 kms.
Ultra168 held an Alpine Training Camp in the Victorian High Country with a boot full of new gear to test and we followed it up with the 200km AUDAX Bike race from the town of Bright.
Salomon launched the shoe made famous by Kilian Jornet and it quickly became the most talked about shoe in history !
Ryan Sandes started the year in style by winning the Vibram 100km Hong Kong Trail race and took the course record under 10 hours for the first time.
Dan and Marcus ran the pairs event at the inaugural Stromlo 12 hour race as part of the Stromlo running festival. They managed to take out the win narrowly holding off a late charge from an asthmatic snail and a glacier ! Ollie Zambon won the actual race holding off C2K champion Ewan Horsburgh.
The training was done, the taper was under way and yet the weather gods played rough with the 850+ athletes ready to tackle the annual Six Foot Track marathon in the Blue Mountains. Ultra168 took an excursion down to the famous river crossing at the 20km point on the course and the video we shot of the river in flood went viral. In fact the news spread globally such is the reputation of this race.
Over the ‘Ditch” and the stars of the ultra world descended on New Zealand to run the Tarawera Ultra. New Balance athlete and global shirtless running icon Anton Krupicka started the long road back from injury by racing 15kms of the course. Salomon Australia athlete Mick Donges took out the 100km race.
Tough NZ races lived up to their reputation with Glenn Sutton held off American Ray Sanchez to win the Northburn 100 miler with Sanchez later DNFing after getting lost.
Another Salomon Australia athlete Matt Cooper, won the Alpine 100 miler in Victoria. And Ultra168 won the pairs event from emotionally challenged and UTMB hopefuls Clarke McClymont and Jim Villiers.
Runners all around the world woke up on April 1st to the news that the body of Micah True from the popular “Born to Run” book had been found dead from a heart condition while out on a run in the mountains of Mexico.
Ultra168 found that it was being invited to the Skyrunning race Transvulcania and we quickly started to dig out the maps for islands in the Atlantic ocean. Little dod we know how the next few weeks would pan out as an incredible field of athletes started to declare their interests in racing over the Volcano.
New Zealander Vajin Armstrong wins the Californian American River 50 against a strong field to cement himself as a quality athlete both home and away and to have a few Californians scrambling for a map to find where Kiwiland was.
The North Face launched their answer to the Salomon Sense with the introduction of the Single Track Hayasa – and as with all new shoe launches these days this one also had a back story born out of an unhappy athlete and a Stanley Knife.
Ewan Horsburgh wins the Coburg 24hr with a quality 234.4kms to reinforce his International rep qualities.
Landmark performance from Brendan Davies at the World 100km champs in Italy – breaking the magic 7 hour mark for 100kms and finishing 11th overall.
Jez Bragg finished the month is fine form by taking out the Fellsman Race for the 3rd time. We all looked forward to him bringing this form to the Blue Mountains the following month for the TNF100
Dominating all of these was the mighty Transvulcania Skyrace on the island of La Palma off the west coast of Africa. Marcus fuelled the Ultra168 private jet and drew the short straw and headed to Europe.
Meanwhile the battle of the brands unfolded at the North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains with Salomon putting out a number of international and local representatives including Ryan Sandes and Mick Donges, while The North Face flew Englishman and tea drinker Jez Bragg over to try and spoil the party.
Some local miscreants had better ideas and moved some of the markers early on in the race with a number of the athletes including Jez getting off course for about 6kms. Ryan Sandes showed his versatility and form to take out the win and just outside Kilian’s record.
Meanwhile in the Atlantic the opportunity for Marcus to name drop got better and better as the likes of Kilian, Anton, Max King, Mike Wolfe, Nick Clark, Anna Frost, Joe Grant, Seb Chigneau, Nuria Picas, Dakota Jones and Andy Symonds all decided to race over the volcano.
It was billed as the best gathering of quality athletes ever ! And if you saw the feeding frenzy from the media, fans and other runners is was not hard to see that the sport was about to go up a few notches after this week.
Marcus had the difficult role of running, eating, training, interviewing, Tweeting and FBing about these guys 24/7 and was able even with little sleep and slow internet connection able to bring back to peoples screens all the action as it unfolded.
The collaboration between our friends at TalkUltra and irunFar was nothing short of a coalition of the willing and we all returned home to some incredible memories, new friends and huge global roaming bills!
As for the racing, the pace up front was hot both figuratively and literally as Dakota Jones was able to squeeze out a fast finishing Andy Symonds and a rapidly fading Kilian Jornet to become a Spanish legend. His ability to walk through the Kingdom of Spain unnoticed was to change for ever!
The following days after the race were filled with a couple of firsts – To begin with we all attended a Skyrunning conference. The purpose was to recognise the growth of the sport, understand the challenges the athletes faced and build a format that would be both exciting and inspiring for all. It certainly did that and it was a privilege to be involved in this debate shaping the sport for the better. And secondly, Salomon’s main marketing man Greg Vollet broke the 100m world record held by Usain Bolt – albeit assisted by a steep downhill slope of a volcano !
The mighty juggernaut of runners then all moved to the European mainland to repeat the process all over again as the infamous Zagama Skyrace. Talk about a contrast of terrain and weather. The mountains of the Pyrenees put on a show with incessant rain turning to snow on the highest peaks, yet an undeterred crowd witnessed an epic race between Kilian and all comers. This time he was able to show his versatility and take off for the final 10km treacherous descent to run clear of the field.
The after party was also of similar epic proportions and captured how racing in Europe is steeped in so much tradition and enthusiasm which other nations struggle to comprehend or even replicate at this stage.
The month closed out with Kilian Jornet launching the next chapter in his remarkable life with his new Summits of my Life project.
June started with a bang as the shoe everyone had been talking about finally arrived in the hands of mortals and promptly sold out everywhere. The Sense became a regular sight on people’s feet everywhere including a couple of nightclub adventures.
The famous South African Comrades ultra was marred in controversy as the winners were embroiled in a drugs scandal. The world took a brief intake of breath as we started to imagine our quiet world of ultrarunning being infiltrated by drug cheats. Ellie Greenwood showed her class by gaining a podium place prior to defending her title at WSER100
The world was also introduced for the first time to the term “DoucheGrade” and very quickly the YouTube clip of Mike Wolfe went viral – only later in the year to be overshadowed by Psy’s Gangnam Style.
New Zealand’s Martin Lukes came over the “ditch” and taught the Aussies a lesson at their own 100km championships on the Gold Coast with Victorian Dave Eadie snagging second place.
Frustration levels reached a peak among the ultrarunning community as the commercial business Racing The Planet failed to resolve the ongoing debacle that resulted in the terrible burns victims still being financially devastated after the Kimberly event.
So it took a group of runners including Ultra168’s own Dan Bleakman and the first woman to run all 4 Deserts Samantha Gash to launch a fundraiser for the two most badly burned victims. The launch of Ultra Spirit was announced with the purpose of every single dollar contributed going to support the girls.
The World Mountain Running association released a paper on their interpretation of the sport and got one of the biggest laughs of the year!
Midway through the month we awoke to the news that the first of Kilian’s projects – a difficult crossing of Mont Blanc with his mate Stephane Brosse has met with tragedy as Stephane fell to his death. We all reminded ourselves on why we do these things and could only imagine what those last few moments on that mountain would do to a young chap like Kilian. He later that week pulled out of defending his title at the WSER100
Attention quickly turned to Squaw Valley and the annual running of the granddaddy of all ultra’s – The Western States 100 miler. Weather conditions have frequently made this run one of the toughest as the heat in the canyons destroy muscle fibres and spirits in equal doses. 2012 weather gods had a different view. Drizzle, cold and overcast resulted in probably the best running conditions for years and records tumbled!
Timmy Olsen established ultra running immortality with a staggering new course record of 14hrs 46 mins. Ryan Sandes places second and also goes under the od record. Ellie Greenwood smashes the womens record in 16:47 and erases the long standing record from Ann Trason.
The month finished with Salomon’s Iker Karrera edging out TNF’s Seb Chaigneau in the Italian Lavaredo Trail Ultra to show his form heading towards UTMB
This mont was packed with action. The slopes of Mt Solitary were being worn away as Marcus and Clarke spent hour after hour running up and down in preparation for their departure to Europe.
Samantha Gash became the fastest person to run nonstop across the Simpson Desert and raised an enormous amount of money for her Save the Children charity.
The running of the Vermont 100 miler saw Aussie Mike Le Roux put in a solid performance to keep his Grand Slam hopes alive.
Hal Koerner held off a fast finishing Joe Grant to win the breath sapping classic Hardrock 100. Pre race favourite Dakota Jones toughed it out to finish after a bit of a sufferfest in the back half. It was also good to see Anton Krupicka pacing Joe after withdrawing from the race in previous weeks as he needed just a little more time to fully recover from injury.
Meanwhile the frequent flyer points were racking up for Ultra168 as Andrew mixed it with his fellow Salomon athletes at one of the best places to be an ultrarunner – the Pyrenees at the Kilian’s Classik. Kilian and Tom Owens took the field out hard and gave them all a lesson in trail running.
The month finished with one of the most controversial episodes of the year. Kilian won the SpeedGoat 50 in the US but was later denied the prize money due to hi interpretation of the rules around switchback cutting being different to the RD’s rules. As you can imagine, the nations all went to DEFCON1 as an online war of words erupted over who was in the right. Kilian kept the victory but not the prize money or the race record – which went to Ricky Gates. An odd conclusion but a conclusion all the same and the world started to spin again!
Local runner Kevin Mannix won the Tan Ultra 100km. Die hard mountain runner Marco De Gasperi won the Skyrunning Sierre Nazal race. Ryan Sandes broke the Fish River Canyon race record in South Africa.
Kilian Jornet broke the FKT on the Grand Teton route after a number of years. He then repeated his performance with an easy win at the Pikes Peak Marathon. This also saw a breakthrough win for another up and coming Salomon athlete – Emelie Forsberg from Sweden.
Meanwhile the 3rd ultra in the US Grand Slam was another victory to Salomon at the Leadville 100 with Thomas Lorblanchet easing to the win.
During taper week for the UTMB Marcus was invited to the Trofeo Kima Skyrace in Northern Italy – this race was a real eye opener for both himself and his offsider Clarke McClymont as the extremes of the course, the weather and the quality of the field led again by Kilian Jornet firmly reminded the Aussies that we are still a fledgling nation when it comes to hardcore mountain races.
Another dream come true was the fulfilled when Ultra168 was given a rare behind scenes look at the Salomon HQ and the very secretive S-LAB in Annecy in France. Of course the details of that trip can never be revealed but all we can say is that in 2013 the gear on offer will be spectacular as usual.
As the month ended in Europe and 3000+ athletes arrived in Chamonix from all over the world to run the various races that make up the UTMB week, the weather went from very hot to warnings of snow and pretty bleak conditions. Could it be possible for the 10th running of this race to be disrupted yet again – yep ! Warnings of -12degree conditions on mountain tops, deep snow and rain at the village level resulted in huge speculation of what may happen on race day.
Race day dawned and the heavy overnight rain had turned to snow and the green slopes of the lower alpine valleys were very white. Rumours of a course change were soon confirmed and the race was kept to the lower mountains around the Chamonix valley and stayed within France. Still, 111kms and 7000m of vertical ascent still made for a dramatic race run predominantly throughout the night. Frenchman, winemaker and Salomon athlete Francois D’Haene ran away from a quick field to secure the victory with Lizzy Hawker continuing her domination of the ladies event with another win. The best result for Australia came from Clarke McClymont who battled hard for 34th place.
The following day Ultra168 was invited back to Italy to attend a runners conference on the future of trail and mountain running. To this day the activity through the Ultra168 FaceBook page has not seen such polarising comments as to what the sport should be and how it should evolve. Let it be known that the sport is in good health but as it goes though growing pains certain changes will potentially change the face of the sport.
In Poland at the World 24hr Champs Mike Morton won overall with a new US record of 277.543kms in what was a great follow up victory to his Badwater win earlier in the year. Special mention to Allison Lilley in the Aussie ladies, cracking 203kms and breaking the 200 barrier for the first time.
Ian Gallagher won the oldest 100 miler in Australia with victory at the Glasshouse Mountains 100 in 16hrs 17mins. September also saw the running of the Altra Centennial Park Ultra with a comfortable win for speedster Alex Matthews. One athlete to make FB runners sit up and notice was Ben Phillips – Ben is blind and he ran for 12 hours straight in hot conditions to complete his first major ultra – well done Ben.
Road marathoner Rowan Walker enjoyed the fast and flat conditions of the Surf Coast 100km to win easily and Richard Bowles wrapped up his epic run of the Bicentennial National Trail from the bottom of Australia to the top – a world record for the longest continuous trail run. He quickly announced his next venture to do the same in New Zealand in October and November. Jez Bragg from the UK would be hot on his heals as he was to do the same route starting in December.
Kilian continued his dominance by not only recording the fastest crossing of Mont Blanc from Italy into France but also holding off a quality field including Anton and Dakota at the Cavalls Del Vent in Spain. Tragedy marred the celebrations as one of the women racers died in the extreme conditions. Another timely reminder that mandatory gear is there for a reason and even then, the mountains sometimes win.
20 years ago this month Dean Karnazes ditched the drink and went for a run on his birthday – the rest is history.
Arc’Teryx athlete, Canadian trail runner Adam Campbell broke the marathon world record for the fastest man in a suit.
The final showdown in the Skyrunning calendar was taken to the slopes of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo where Kilian was crowned world champion for the 4th time.
Brendan Davies won the Great Ocean Road Ultra in a new course record to be in good form for the GNW100 miler.
Kilian moved on to the mighty Grand Raid Reunion in the Indian Ocean and again held on for the win in 26hr 32 minutes. Unfortunately another death was associated with an trail race when a runner fell to their death on the course during a night section.
Ultra168 put the Suunto Ambit up against the challenger from Garmin – the Fenix and briefly our servers melted down ! Still incredible to know that a watch still gets people talking.
All eyes turned back to Australia briefly and its fickle weather got people concerned about the conditions of the GNW100 – the weather had historically played a massive role in race times and overall finishers due to heat and humidity slowing everyone down. Not this year – in fact drizzle and cold conditions allowed Brendan Davies to unleash his speed and run away with the win in a new course record in 19hrs 40.
Gill Fowler ran away from the field to win the women’s race in a sub 24hr time for the first time. Clarke McClymont kept his UTMB form going and shattered the 100km race record by running sub 10hrs for the first time ever.
Andy Hewatt kept his 8 straight in a row streak alive at this race and used this as a base to go off and know over another long distance trail – this time is South West Australia with the running of the Bibbululum Track.
Another month and another show was launched – this time Salomon released a long distance version for their Salomon Sense called the ultra – more time in this shoe is needed to get a feel for it so look out for a review in 2013
Salomon France sent a great team including Francois d’Haene and Michel Lanne to race the OXFAM Trailwalker in Hong Kong and they lived up to their reputation with a certain win.
As the year came to a close the action was still frenetic with Vajin Armstrong repeating his win at the Kepler Challenge in New Zealand and Ewan Horsburgh repeating his win from last year at the famous Coast to Kosciuszko 240km ultra to the top of Australia.
Meanwhile Miguel Heras won the season closer in the US with another win at the TNF50 Challenge in tough conditions in San Fran – this time the weather caused further trail changes and a new course. Emelie Forsberg took out the women’s title to finish a great break though year.
The statisticians poured over the numbers and the odds for the Western States 100 2013 lottery were announced and no one held their breath. Remarkably a small number of Aussies were pulled out of the hat including Ultra168’s very own international ambassador Marcus Warner who will be on a aircraft a fair bit next year !
So as the year closes out and we all eat too much, contemplate new goals in 2013 what will we see from the new year ? Well, we anticipate more of the same, new athletes will break though, controversies will be debated, images will flash around the world and we will all be happy that this sport is in rich health and when all else fails we are all content in the knowledge that we can strap on our shoes and go in search of the trail – after all its only running !
Thank you for all your support and interaction and we look forward to seeing you in 2013 and stay safe !