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Editor’s note.

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hile out enjoying a solitary run recently, I was forced to stop on several occasions to marvel at the wonders of my surroundings. Summer in the southern hemisphere is an interesting time of year, especially on the East coast of South Africa. Increased rain fall, and humidity that would put any Norwegian sauna to shame, creates a myriad of new and interesting changes to the trails upon which I run throughout the year. I got to experience the open savannah resembling a turbulent sea as the tall grass, extending its outstretched neck skyward, swayed back and forth in the wind. I was engulfed by the thick indigenous coastal forest, the trees heavy with moisture, leaving me with the sense of something similar I’m sure to running through an underground tunnel. And for the finale in my 2 hour sensory overload, my ears were almost deafened by the increased bird and insect activity around me, the cacophony of sounds my trail running theme tune. There was not a stride that went by, not a moment through that overgrown landscape, where I wasn’t reminded of how the trails continue to inspire me!

one of their “roving races” in the mountain country of Nepal. One competitor in particular had the race of her life and it all happened in the final stages of the event. Read Stephanie Case’s amazing recollection of how she came from a fairly distant second place to win the women’s category overall through her determination and endurance throughout the last few days of this 250km, high altitude staged race.

In this issue of Go Trail magazine, there are two features in particular that I’d like to focus on. Firstly, in November 2011, Racing The Planet hosted

Enjoy this month’s issue!!

Secondly, we introduce you to one of Britain’s young and upcoming trail athletes as he continues to focus on his future goals in the sport. 29 year old Tom Owens impressed the trail running world in 2011 with a series of electrifying wins at some of Europe’s high profiled events. With his sights set firmly on a 2012 season which includes the Skyrunner World Series, get to know Tom a little bit more in this intimate interview, and learn more about what drives him as a runner. With 2012 already firmly into the swing of things, there’s no doubt that we’re going to be seeing some exciting trail running as this new year progresses. Having witnessed so many amazing achievements in 2011, can it get any better? We’ll just have to wait and see.

James

Also in this issue > On the cover > Tom Owens enjoying

some free running at Salomon Advanced week in France. Image by: www.salomonrunning.com

Editorial/Advertising Enquiries > james@gotrail.co.za / James Hallet

Design Enquiries >

design@gotrail.co.za / Simphiwe Mathunjwa Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Editor

62 GO EXPLORE: Namibia Just beyond our South African lies a trail running wonderland. A desert, some rocks and a deep river canyon…. roadtrip!


southern hemisphere is an interesting time of year, especially on the East coast of

Summer in the

South Africa.

16 ATHLETE PROFILE From the fells of England and Scotland, top the European Alps and American Rockies, we find out more about what makes British trail athlete Tom Owens the runner he is today.

60 A women’s Perspective A new addition to the magazine, The Fairer Side of Trail seeks to expose the feminine side of trail running through the musings of top South African trail athlete Robyn Ferrar. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Image by Jacques Marais

Well look no further. Go Trail magazine is a free online trail and ultra running publication focussing on the lifestyle and

the culture of the sport we all are so passionate about. Subscribe to Go Trail magazine today and you’ll get an update to let you know when the latest issue goes live. You can also subscribe to our NEWS website where we post daily updates from around the world of trail running. Don’t worry, your email addresses will only be used to share info about Go Trail with you.

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SUBSCRIBE Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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American Trail Commentary

with Matt Copeland appy New Year. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is now inspired by his or her 2012 running and adventure goals, perhaps in possession of a new pair of trail shoes with a fresh coat of dirt to boot! 2011 was a dramatic year in trail and mountain racing; we certainly had our fair share transpire here in the U.S. We witnessed at least a handful of non-Americans put-on some famous ultra-running clinics, which caused quite a stir in trail running discourse. The Salomon narrative is especially illustrative since Miguel Heras (NF50 San Francisco), Kilian Jornet (Western States 100), Julien Chorier (Hardrock 100) and Ryan Sandes (Leadville Trail 100) all won big in some big races. So, looking ahead, we fancy we’ll see some of the same faces out there competing on the mainstream Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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mountain trail, naturally with some once familiar faces returning to battle, along with a few new faces joining the fray. What do we have to look forward to in particular? Here are a few early season American races: Rocky Raccoon 100/50 mile, February 4th. This is certainly worth noting since it was on this Texas loop course where Ian Sharman set the American trail 100 record last year with a stunning 12:44. Todd Braje ran the 2010 50 miler in 5:43. Mind-boggling. Both Liza Howard and Ian Sharman will be in attendance to run the 100. Other early season races worth mentioning are the Moab 55k in Utah, the Sustina 100 mile in Alaska both on February 18th. The Neuces 50 mile trail national championship in Texas on the 3rd of March and the

Caumsett 50k in New York on the 4th of March which is the national road 50k championship. Beyond these early season affairs, we may as well begin the discussion of some summer ultras that will definitely require our attention in my upcoming columns. One big issue that tends to resurface in popular ultra discussion is the role of the lottery system. This affects two of our bigger mountain ultras. The 2012 Western States lottery is through and it looks at this point like a re-do of the 2011 race. On June 23-24, Jornet, Wolfe, Clark, Bragg, Cooper, Mackey, Jones-Wilkins and Olson should be present. Adding to that list will be Ryan Sandes, Neil


in the U.S. We witnessed atleast a handful of non-Americans put-on some famous ultra-running clinics, which caused quite a stir in trail running discourse

Gorman and most likely David Riddle. Get ready for another international “track meet” (Jornet, Bragg and Sandes will continue the international flavor of this American classic that finishes on an oval)! Ellie Greenwood, Kami Semick, and Nikki Kimball look entered on the women’s side. The Hardrock 100 lottery carries a little more intrigue. First off, there is a big-time appeal to this mountain monster. This San Juan Mt ultra on July 13-15 appears to have almost elevated itself beyond the handful of great American ultras. Its difficulty

is feared and championed simultaneously. Secondly, the race only accepts about 140 runners, compared to Western States’ 369. It’s difficult to get in and then difficult to finish! Let me rattle-off the names that most likely will be at the start, ready to contend: Jonathan Basham, Jared Campbell, Joe Grant, Dakota Jones, Hal Koerner, Jason Koop, Karl Meltzer, Timmy Parr, Nick Pedatella, and Geoff Roes (among others). On the waiting list,Anton Krupicka looks

poised to find his spot. Read through that list again. Outrageous. 2012 Hardrock 100 will likely be an historical event. Definitely tune-in for that. These are just a few events to keep an eye on as we unfold the 2012 season of trail and ultra racing. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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M

att lives and runs in San Diego, CA where he grew up. As a boy hiking the trails of Mt. Whitney and the Grand Canyon, his love for the outdoors was fostered but more recently enjoys trail and mountain running, competing in the 25-30km range of events. Through his ongoing involvement in the sport, Matt has become the true ultra, trail, mountain fan and his love of the sport shines through in his energetic and precise writing.

through this regular column, Matt will aim to expose many facets of the America trail and ultra-trail running scene through topical and informative articles highlighting this diverse running community across the country. If you have some comments or suggestions for Matt, please get in touch with him by sending an email to mcshow@gmail.com. If you’d like to follow Matts blog, head to http://insidetrail.wordpress.com/

American Trail Commentary is an extension of his own personal blog and

Matt lives and runs in San Diego, CA Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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GRACE ANATOMY

37 million

runners hit the trails a few times a year


Words by: Grace Hughes Images by: Kelvin Trautman

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rail running in South Africa is the only thing to do with our weather, terrain and outdoor lifestyle. If the American Stats are any thing to go by then this is the “next big thing” - more than 5.7 million Americans consider themselves avid trail runners, an increase of 36 percent in the last five years. Another 37 million runners hit the trails a few times a year. Nancy Hobbs, co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running, explains the growing interest in trail running this way: “There’s a real spiritual component to being on the trail. It provides a great physical challenge but in a serene, forgiving environment” (active.com). So, if you’re an outdoor purist (rather than a mountain-bike techno freak), make the transition now. Here are some guidelines…


Grace’s

tips Start slowly Trail running is more demanding than road running, so focus on time rather than distance. Energy consumed will be equal per time run. It’s advisable to run at about 80% of the speed you would when on the road until you find a good “average trail pace”.

Play it safe Run with a partner who knows the route, so you don’t get lost. Run with a partner in case you have a fall and need help. Run with a partner – this is South Africa. Run with a cell-phone between you (preferably with a GPS function). Keep watching for bearings/markers and look back often so you can recognise landmarks from the other way. Once you get better and are going to be doing longer runs, have safety equipment, like jacket, torch, water, food etc

Get fit for the extra demands of Trail Running Trail running ensures you use far more muscles than you do when road running. This is good as you won’t be as prone to the repetitive strain injuries associated with road running. Each stride and each landing is different, so you can’t hone out. Your balance and core strength will therefore need to be better than for road running – this will build up gradually, but it’d be good to do some specific training. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Improve your balance and agility Trail running allows one to run on uneven and sometimes invisible (covered by grass) tracks. Your balance needs to be extra developed so you can correct for those uneven surfaces and unseen holes in the road – so work hard at balance and agility. Keep your arms slightly away from your sides and keep hands free to help with balance.

Concentrate ahead You will need to really watch where you’re going to be stepping – look about 3 metres ahead NOT down at your feet. Your mind will automatically calculate the best route for you by the time you get there. Sometimes it’s best not to talk when the terrain demands extra attention and remember to LIFT your feet


Uphill Trail running, depending on the route may entail some mean uphills – even the best trailers need to walk sometimes. So start by walking and gradually push into the hills with small steps as you improve. Imagine pulling on a rope with your arms to “power” you up. Remember to “keep tall” as bending over into the hill compromises your lung capacity.

Downhill Downhills can be dangerous in trail running, so watch more carefully those 3 metres ahead. Relax into the down, but don’t become floppy and lose control as you’ll need all your reflexes to correct for uneven footing.

Gear Initially use only your road running gear – your feet will be used to the tar shoes so it will be safer than starting new shoes and new terrain simultaneously. As you do a bit of trail running, then start investing in the gear you would need and like

Love it Splash through the crossings. Stamp in the mud. Feel the dew-soaked spider-webs on your face. Throw leechies and bananas and grapes at your buddy. Listen to the song of the trail – it is always melodious. Stop to bathe in the view/the sunrise/the dappled shade/the mountain stream/the rocky ocean. Bask in the privilege of running where and when you are! You won’t want to stop…

Trail

running allows one to run on uneven and sometimes invisible

tracks Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Athletes Profile

Tom Owens

the long and

the “FELL” of it Photo by: Kelvin Trautman

If you’re interested in hearing more about Tom’s amazing racing year in 2011 then click here.


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ever really that interested in running as a child, UK trail athlete Tom Owens stuck to the more conventional sports while living and growing up in Barnet in North London. Being naturally competitive, something he attributes to having an older brother allowed him to excel at many sports including football, tennis and badminton. With the landscape of London not offering much in the line of trail and fell running, it was not until he attended Bristol University that he discovered his passion for the hills.

to do some training to for it, although running was still secondary to football” comments Tom. “ I later joined the University Cross Country Club and loved the training and banter so I ran the London Marathon the following year and did slightly better in a time of 2h42m. Then I discovered trail running and that was the end of my very brief road running career!”

Go Trail magazine caught up with Tom towards the end of 2012 after a stellar year competing on behalf of the Salomon UK Trail Running Team. In this exclusive interview, find out more about where it all began for him and what it’s “I entered the London Marathon on a whim like as an athlete competing at such a high and got accepted first time I decided I would level.

Q&A Go Trail (GT): How did you get involved in competitive trail and ultra-trail running? In my final year at University (2004) I met Andy Symonds through the Cross Country Club. Andy had returned to Bristol after an exchange year. Even as a youngster Andy was a legendary hill runner and had represented England on the international stage. His family are also awesome endurance runners! I started training with Andy and we would venture onto trails. After we’d graduated from University in 2004, Andy encouraged a crowd of us to try the Snowdon race – a Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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race up and down the highest mountain in Wales. A load of us did that; we didn’t have a clue, but we loved it. After a taster of fell racing in Wales, I tried the Cumbrian Mountains next: with the Grizedale Horseshoe fell race. These races were the hardest thing I’d ever done but huge fun and endorphin rush.... they were becoming addictive. These days Andy is also a member of the Salomon International Trail Team and today our university friendship is as strong as ever. We went on to compete in adventure and stage races together including the Trans Alpine Run victories in 2009 & 2010.

GT: Looking back over your professional career so far, including your dominance at many of Britains FELL races, what were some of those early moments that have shaped the way you approach your competitive and social running today? Sadly trail running is not my profession – I have a full time job as an ecologist which I fit my running around. It is however, very much my passion and I must admit I get more ambition from running then progressing with my work career! Fell running is an extremely low key nonprofessional sport. It is totally pure and about fun, and


GT: You had an incredibly positive year in 2011, the most impressive performance of all for us has to have been you victory at the inaugural Salomon 4 Trails in central Europe. Tell us a little bit about 2011 and how your approach to the season made it such a great year for you?

Baring the number 1 as Tom dominates on his way to his debut Salomon 4 Trails race win in Europe – Photo by Lars Schneider

Freedom, simplicity, discovery. appreciating the UK hills and mountains. The key factors have been getting involved with good running clubs and mixing with other hill runners. I have run for three awesome running clubs: Wellington Harriers whilst living/travelling in New Zealand (2005), Mercia Fell Running Club when I took my first ecology position in Birmingham (2006) and most recently Shettleston Harriers (2008), Glasgow when I transferred to Scotland to get closer to the mountains. These

clubs gave access to other like minded and talented hill runners and the opportunity to train together in the hills and share ideas. I had lots of bad races and results in the early days but was quickly learning and becoming more consistent As results improved, I was lucky enough to be invited onto the UK Salomon Team (then called Saab Salomon Team) in 2008. This was an amazing opportunity to compete in adventure races and ‘skyraces’ overseas.

I was delighted with 2011 season. I had some fantastic results both in the UK and internationally with 4 trails sitting slap bang in the middle of the year. I had a fantastic 2010/2011 winter with consistent training ( running and cycling), despite all the ice & snow we experienced in Scotland. This allowed me to start the racing season with a really good training base. Precious winters Iv’e had Achilles issues so couldn’t get the same amount of training in. I’ve also now been regularly hill running 5 years now - i think the cumulative strength and experience gained over this period has been starting to pay off. Some big UK wins in February to April 2011 gave me confidence in leading and winning races which had been previously been lacking. I took good form to Europe and had some great races with highlights being 2nd in the World Long Distance Champs in Slovenia and some good Skyraces 1st, Senterio delle Gringe &2nd Zegama, (by 35seconds! to Kilian Jornet) Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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GT: Is there any athlete or running mentor you look up to and if so why? I admire all runners that are prepared to put themselves on the line and go for it! In the UK Rob Jebb has been a role model – he is awesome at the long races, but can also win the short classics.. He climbs ridiculously well. He just seems to really enjoy the sport and he’s won the world Sky Running Series, has some very impressive world wide mountain race records yet he still goes back to his home town and loves running his local races; total grass roots. And of course Kilian Jornet seems to be unbeatable and seems super human most of the time. Again he has a real love for the sport & is a super nice guy

Tom crossing the finish line at race 4 of the 2011 Skyrunner World Series in Sentiero delle Grigne, Italy Photo by www.skyrunning.com

Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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I admire all runners that are prepared to put

themselves

on the line and go for it!

In Glasgow, the Shettleston Harriers club coach, Malcolm Patterson, has been just absolutely brilliant in encouraging and supporting Scottish Hill runners. He’s helped me get some structure to my training and with my confidence. GT: You’ve been a part of the Salomon UK trail running team for a few years now. How has that helped you develop as an athlete and what are some of the advantages of being linked with a brand like Salomon? I’ve been with the UK Salomon Team since 2008 and recently part of Salomon’s International Team. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to explore and meet like minded people. I realise how very lucky and I intend to try and make the most of it!!! Initially Salomon’s big focus in 2008 was the Adventure Racing team and the multidisciplined, multi-day Mountain X Race (mountain biking, white-water rafting, rope-works, trail and mountain running). It was an incredible experience to be part of this gruelling event and we were just pipped into 2nd after an epic battle over six days. In 2009 we focused on trail racing and I’ve raced several European ‘Skyraces ’ and stage


I’ve been with the UK Salomon Team since 2008 and recently part of Salomon’s International Team.

races such as the TransAlpine and TransRockies races. It’s amazing to be part of the International set up where I have the opportunity to compete in races on the Salomon International Calender e.g. 3 peaks race, Zegama and 4 Tails. There are about 20 athletes in the International setup (including South Africa’s Ryan Sandes) and I’ve been lucky enough to train, travel and race with several of them this year. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet the Salomon product designers, test new products and feedback ideas for product development. GT: We ask everyone this question…if someone found your race pack and decided to take a quick peek, what would they find?

Nothing like relaxing with fellow Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet after placing 2nd at the Zegama leg of the European Skyrunning Series.

Map, compass, whistle, waterproof top and trousers. Some food if it’s a long run! These items are compulsory kit for most UK hill races. The weather is often dodgy and changeable and athletes must be capable of navigating as races are usually not marked but instead you run between check points. We tend to carry this kit around the waist in what us Brits call a “bum bag”. With the UK being such a wet country (especially Scotland) there’s usually no need to carry much water as you can drink from the upland watercourses.

early days. I’ll see what opportunities are out there with Salomon next year and hopefully get involved. I loved running for Scotland in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge, Slovenia in 2011 - it was a huge honour. Next year I’d like to run for Scotland in this event and the course will be the Jungfrau Marathon, Switzerland – it’s uphill only – bonkers!

GT: With the summer season fast approaching, what’s on the cards for Tom Owens and what are some of the goals you’ve set yourself this year?

GT: Finally, in one sentence, tell us what trail running means to you!

Not too sure yet as it still

I’m also very keen to complete the World Skyrunning series as well as the British Hill running champs a definite option.

Freedom, simplicity, discovery.

Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Editorial

Words by Stephanie Case images by Zandy Mangold / Racing The Planet


We have all been taught the phrase,“second place is the first loser”. I suppose in a way that is true, but what I learned during my recent race in Nepal, sometimes being behind is just what you need to lead you to a win. This past November, I participated in my fourth Racing The Planet event: a six-stage, self-supported footrace covering 250 km and almost 30,000 feet of elevation throughout the Annapurna region. Having already conquered the muddy race paddies of Vietnam, the shifting sand dunes of the Namibian desert, and the untamed brush of the Australian outback, I hate to say I went into the race feeling rather confident. I had picked up a few tricks during my previous stage races that I thought might help set me apart from the crowd. In Namibia, I learned that if your gaiters break on day one, it is possible to make backups using just a needle and thread and some spare head buffs. Vietnam taught me that ‘trench foot’ is not as bad as it sounds, and definitely possible to run through. In Australia, I discovered that time benefits of urinating on yourself instead of stopping for a proper bathroom break is not worth the dire physical consequences. Surely, with this wealth of information, I would catapult to the front of the pack. More importantly, for the four months leading up to the race, I had been religiously following a training plan concocted by Canadian ultrarunning legend Ray Zahab. Speed work and intervals were the name of the game during the week, with long runs scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately, with a full-time job in a city like New York, that often meant that weekdays, and the odd Saturday, were spent in the gym on the treadmill.

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I actually did not mind it too much until I had to start training with my backpack on. One weekend, I finished a marathon on the treadmill wearing a 15 lb pound backpack, surrounded by bags of salty chips, sticky rice krispie squares, and enough Gatorade to turn your sweat fluorescent pink for a week. Anytime one of the other gym-goers shot me a funny look (and you can imagine there were many), I responded with a nod and a little grunt, secretly smiling as I imagined myself running through the Himalayas. Thankfully, I got out of the city most weekends to hit the trails in nearby New Jersey, and I worked in a few races to keep me on my toes (literally), including the inaugural Ultra Race of Champions in Virginia. Everything was on track for a strong performance in Nepal. This, of course, made me feel more pressure than ever to do well. I had no excuses for failing and nothing to hold me back. I had won RacingThePlanet’s Vietnam race in 2008, but I had not been able to secure that top spot since. That little voice in the back of my head was getting louder: maybe you’re just a hack. I realize I might have been a bit hard on myself, but a big part of me worried that at the ripe old age of 29, I had already hit my peak. I had tried to put in as much training as I could, and however well I did in the race was going to be my best. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone about my burning desire to win, for fear of fuelling my delusions of grandeur. When I arrived at RacingThePlanet’s host hotel in Pokhura, about a six hour drive from Kathmandu, I got completely caught up in the excitement of seeing old friends, meeting runners from all over the world, and, of course, getting through the official equipment check. As the race is self-supported, getting your gear “right and light” is half of the battle. Each runner is required to carry certain mandatory items and a minimum of 14,000 calories of food, but there are still a million decisions to make. How many nuun tablets should I take? Do I have enough batteries for my headtorch? Will I get sick of chicken teriyaki by day three?

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A

nd the ultimate question, how many squares of toilet paper will I need mountains? Any miscalculation could not only affect your race performance, but also your mental sanity, so these decisions were not taken lightly. Even after removing all of my food from their packaging, snapping my toothbrush in half, and forgoing the luxury of a sleeping mat, my bag still weighed in at 8.5 kg, about 2 kg over what would soon be the leading woman’s pack.

but then the course veered straight uphill. Much of the race route consisted of stone steps, placed by hand at what often seemed to be random intervals. Within minutes of starting the climb my heart rate rocketed skyward and the sweat dropped off my forehead at an alarming rate, leaving a trail of dark splotches on the stones behind me. Suddenly my treadmill marathon training seemed ridiculously inadequate and I cursed myself for not having made more of an effort to, say, give up my life in NYC and move to the Swiss Alps to train. I was told that there were brilliant views of the snowy peaks of Annapurna South and Fishtail Mountain along the ways, but frankly I was too focused on staying upright and propelling myself to the finish. After 4h18m, I finished stage one first amongst the females, but it was far from an easy win. The formidable Samantha Gash, one of the expected frontrunners, had gotten lost on the course and finished just a few minutes behind me. I knew from then that it was going to be a tough race…

After passing through all the necessary formalities, we made it to our first campsite and were greeted by local men and women who marked our foreheads with red powder. I was absolutely itching to start the race, bursting with energy from my taper. I felt like a toddler on Christmas Eve, hopped up on sugary treats and unable to wait until morning. I had not checked out the women’s field before arriving, but I knew that there were some heavy hitters in the crowd. I tried not to let my nerves get the better of me, but it was somewhat inevitable. The first day sets the tone for the rest of the race and I knew …What I didn’t expect, however, it would give me a sense of what was that just a few hours after lay ahead. winning stage one, I would be contemplating dropping out At 7 am the next morning, with entirely. a few yelps and whoops from the crowd of 220 runners, we were I had barely eaten anything finally off into the hills. Stage while I was out on the course, one was relatively short at just and I had to force myself to 27 kilometers, but the climbs eat my ramen noodles when I were not to be underestimated. made it to camp two. I didn’t The first 4 km followed a jeep think anything of it until a few road that was “Nepalese flat”, hours later when one of my Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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tentmates became ill…. And then a second tentmate went down. I had this sinking feeling that it would hit me too, but I convinced myself that I was

“Of course, I didn’t tell anyone about my burning desire to win.”

just being paranoid. I knew I needed to get some calories in, so I dipped into my emergency snack bag (saved for those really low moments when I needed a boost) and pulled out a plasticwrapped ball of peanut butter and some chocolate squares. They tasted horrible. Shivering from the cold, I bundled up in my long pants and jacket and crawled into my down sleeping bag for a nap. Just before I closed my eyes, I noticed that the other competitors outside my tent were comfortably lounging about in their shorts and t-shirts. Something was definitely wrong. At 7 pm, just twelve hours after the start of the race, I began vomiting. This can’t be happening. I made it to the latrines just in time to throw up the half-eaten ramen and the unpleasant peanut butter and chocolate combination. I did a quick calculation in my head – that was over 800 calories gone. With an average of only 2000 calories available per day, that was no small loss. And the vomiting continued. All night.


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I’ll spare you the gory details, but needless to say I felt like roadkill the next morning. I tried to eat a few bites of oatmeal, but my stomach told me loud and clear to leave it alone. All I wanted to do was curl up in a comfortable bed, watch movies and drink chicken noodle soup out of a mug. I most certainly did not feel like running 32 km over mini-mountains with nothing in the tank. What made matters worse was that as I was the leader after stage one, I was forced to wear a special bright yellow jersey Tour-de-France style stating LEADER in large block letters. I just wanted to hand it over to one of the other women right then and there. I did not care about winning. I did not care about the months of training. I did not care about the time, energy, and money I had put into getting ready for this race. I just wanted it to be over. I can’t remember actually making the conscious decision to start stage two - I think I just let routine take over. I put on my backpack, filled up my water bottles, and when everyone else started running, I followed. I could barely look up without getting nauseous and I was unsteady on my feet from the lack of calories. I could not even get water down. I was running hunched over and at one point I tripped over a small rubber pipe on the road, sprawling out on all fours on the ground in front of an entire Nepalese family. I showed up at the next checkpoint with blood running down my knee and mud all over my face. I felt completely out of place. Runners kept flying by me, offering encouraging words and advice, but I could barely hear them. Nepalese children greeted me with a high-pitched ‘namaste!’ at every village I passed, but the most I could muster in return was a meager ‘namememe…’ A couple kids were so excited to see me hobble by that they followed me for twenty minutes in their school uniforms. It was hard for me to keep up and they were less than half my size.

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By some small miracle, I finished stage two in third place, but I was ecstatic to finish at all. I was only behind the lead by about 15 minutes overall, but I knew I would be feeling the effects for at least the next day or two, and with the amount of calories I had lost, it would be tough to bounce back. And you know what? From then on, I really did not want to win anymore. Once I started to feel better, I did not want to waste another minute of the race worrying about the competition. I just wanted to RUN. That evening, I kept down about 200 calories of dinner and another 200 calories in the morning. Not a lot of fuel for the distance I had to cover in stage three, but I was definitely on the mend and for the first time in a day and a half, I was able to look up and take in my surroundings. The 38 km course took us over cable bridges and followed a fast-flowing river through more remote villages. The adults joined the kids in their trailside cheering, offering a namaste or two with hands pressed together in prayerlike mode. A few kids tried practicing their English by yelling out my race number or shouting ‘Canada!’ when they saw the flags sewn onto my shirt sleeves. It was better than the crowds at any marathon. As expected, I slipped further behind the lead, but winning was no longer my goal. I went to bed that night without stress, worries or expectation - just a desire to get up and run again. By day four, I was almost back to normal. The stage was dubbed “The 1000 year Old Gurung Steps” and it consisted of a 27.2 km course, starting with a 1200 m steep climb to Gorepani. To give you a sense of the difficulty – and the remoteness – of the course, the race organizers had a helicopter on standby, just in case one of us overzealous runners got into trouble and needed to be evacuated.


I couldn’t believe it. I was going to win this race after all. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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I took the steps steadily, leaned into the hillside, and pushed off my quads with my hands on each step. When I reached the top at 3200 metres, I barely had time to stretch my legs before the course headed sharply downhill over endless stone steps. I zigzagged down the steps as if I were skiing down a snowy slope, switching up my leading leg to try to give the other leg a short rest. I made it to camp five 3500 steps and only one nasty fall later, completely jubilant.

stages. Perhaps it was the caffeinated soda, but that night we were all buzzing with equal amounts of trepidation and eager anticipation for the challenge ahead.

When I woke up the next morning, I knew it was going to be a good day. As I lined up at the start line with the 175 others who remained in the race, my legs told me that they were ready. I set my polar watch and looked Camp five was situated in the village of Birethanti at the numbers, knowing that the 0 km distance at the foot of the Modi Khola Valley, and instead reading would say 72 km by the end of the day. of our usual tents and dehydrated meals, we Right from the start, I broke off with the front were treated to beds in teahouses and a large pack of men and soon enough we were heading dinner of dal bhat and coca cola. Not used to straight uphill again. None of us had poles, so such luxury during these races, I could not help it was down to the strength of our quads. I was but wonder if the race organizers were trying to drenched in sweat almost immediately and I had apologize to us ahead of time for what was about to keep reminding myself to take sips of water in to come. The next day was the “long day�, which between gasps of breath. is normally double the length of any of the other Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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I would have let the pressure get to me, taken a wrong turn, gone too fast down a hill and twisted my ankle, or simply not been able to run as fast. Every once in a while I allowed myself to take a second to breathe in my surroundings. Snowcapped mountains, trees covered in pink blossoms, stone villages, multi-coloured prayer flags – I was running through a photo-shopped postcard. I was having so much fun I barely remembered I was in a race. I managed to stick with second and third placed males on the uphills, but they would lose me on the downhills. For a while, I was even ahead of the Italian Stallion or, my favourite nickname, the ‘manimal’, whose incredible quads and chiseled physique earned him the admiration of even the most manly of men. The numbers climbed higher on my watch. I started to slow down on the flats in the afternoon, but I kept eating, drinking, and moving forward. The runner’s highs had me giddily singing along to my ipod, serenading the local villagers and sometimes the passing donkeys along the way. When I reached the last checkpoint, one of the Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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race volunteers told me I would finish before dark. Before dark! I was expecting to be running well into the night, so the thought that I would not even need my headtorch gave me a major boost of energy. I flew into camp at 5:15 pm after 10 hours of running, giggling and smiling so hard I thought my face might crack in half.

let the pressure get to me, taken a wrong turn, gone too fast down a hill and twisted my ankle, or simply not been able to run as fast. Being in second place up until that final stage was a blessing in disguise because I was able to run purely for the sake of running, and I know that is when I run my best. I am not saying that I am going to aim for second in my next race instead Not only had I come in as first female and fifth of gunning it for first. What I am saying is the overall, but I had finished a full hour ahead of the next time I catch myself thinking more about lead woman. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to my performance than the feeling of the ground win this race after all. And 36 hours later when quickly passing under my feet, I might look for a I ran through the final finish line in Pokhara, I root to trip on to bring my head back to earth. In actually did. the end, I got my challenge, my adventure, and my win – just not in the way I had expected, and I had come into the race seeking a challenge, that is always a good thing. wanting an adventure, and, yes, secretly wanting to win. I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling So who wants to join me next year? Come on, I that had I not gotten sick at the start of the race, will let you lead. I probably wouldn’t have won. I would have

Follow Stephanie on her journey via her blog

http://www.ultrarunnergirl.com

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5 - 9 May / 80 km / Teams: Pairs

www.wildtrails.co.za Run wild across empty beaches and rugged headlands following the paths of sure-footed Ngunis as your trail. On the 3 day Jikeleza Jog from Mazeppa to Cintsa, participants will cover an average distance of 21 - 30km/day. SuďŹƒcient distance for racing teams to break a sweat and apply some tactics, it also oers a fair but manageable challenge to social joggers looking to enter a multi-day event that will provide an unforgettable experience.

Price: R4400/per person Includes: 4 Nights Accommodation & all meals Transfers to & from EL Airport / Vehicles Daily luggage transfers Category & Lucky Draw Prizes Quality event garment for all entrants

+*,&-&;"+0(  



















Contact: Sarah Drew 084 240 7277 / sarah@active-escapes.co.za / www.wildtrails.co.za


Through The Lens

Vintage Trail words and images by Michael Hudson

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hat draws us runners to the trail? Presence, I suppose I could answer –a dimension where the beauty and hardness of physical terrain meets the sometimes unspeakable and profound feeling of physically being. In a series of photos capturing today’s trails through a vintage lens, I seek to re-imagine the essence of what it means to engage with special places and spaces, such as timelessness and simplicity – qualities that many runners can appreciate. These photos, I hope, capture what it means to be in motion, interacting with the world in its purest, unadorned forms and the feelings associated with that experience.


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Where ancient cliffs of the Porcupine Rim Trail mingle with the towering La Sal Mountains. Moab, Utah.

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Vast layers of skyline meet the depths of Castle Valley. Porcupine Rim Trail, Moab, Utah.


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Sleeping elephants need not rise. Sand Flats Recreation Area, Moab, Utah.


Creature among the conifers. Lolo National Forest, Montana.

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The jagged teeth of the Sawtooth Range get larger as the trail winds closer. Edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

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Canine inspects the trail fork. Backbone Trail, Salida, Colorado.


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a canopy of winter-white. North Backbone Trail, Salida, Colorado.

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Distended clouds survey each stride. Edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.


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Editorial

Profiling the

Swiss

Irontrail


A

s the popularity of single-stage ultra-trail races grows worldwide, one such event, held in the beautiful Graubünden region of the Swiss Alps, is taking the European ultratrail running scene by storm. The 201km Swiss Irontrail, the brainchild of Andrea Tuffli, is a mammoth undertaking between the towns of Pontresina/St.Moritz and Chur in the South East of Switzerland, posing a rare opportunity for all competitors to encompass both the natural and cultural richness of this diverse landscape. Athletes will find themselves running in the footsteps of the painter Giovanni Segantini and philosopher Friedrich Nitzsche as they negotiate a course that includes over 11000m of vertical

ascent and a further 12000+ of descent. One of the highlights and more challenging aspects to the Swiss Irontrail is the technical section on the traverse through Graubünden, demanding everything of the runners. “Like the wild ibex on our event logo, this will be all about the title of King of the mountains,” says Tuffli Between 700 and 800 people are expected to take part in the premiere event, with the aim of the organisers to break the 4,000 barrier in five years time. With the race being held over such a distance, predominantly more experienced single-stage ultra trail runners are being targeted to enter, and especially participants (on waiting lists) for both the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and La Réunion.


Q+A with Andrea Tuffli

I

n this exclusive interview with Andrea Tuffli, Race Director of the Swiss Irontrail, not only will you get an in-depth look at what makes this one of Europe’s must-run events, but also be introduced to the team that makes it all happen.

Go Trail (GT): This is by no means an easy job. Explain to us a little bit more about how you became involved in working on trail running events and how this has lead to you becoming the race director of the Swiss Irontrail. Andrea Tuffli (AT): 27 years ago I introduced mountain running in Switzerland by organising the Swissalpine in Davos, which is an off road event of 79 km over a mountain pass and through an amazing landscape. The Swissalpine is now one of the most famous mountain marathons in the world. During the last years, trail running became even more popular. To run off road is trendy. By the Swiss Irontrail project we want to present the multi-faceted natural, cultural and mountain landscape of Graubünden as well as encourage sports and tourism. GT: We’re sure that an event of this magnitude is by no means a one-man job. Tell us a little bit more about the team that you have working with Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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you and why these people were selected for the task. AT: For the last 2 years we have worked in a team of five. Beat Villiger, experienced racing doctor; Hans Jud, experienced mountain guide, who knows every single track in Graubünden and he already completed the whole race trail. Christian Clement, experienced in logistics and provisions and Hansueli Bärfuss, owner of “Heli Bernina” helicopter company and experienced mountain guide. A few months ago we extended the organizing committee and involved all destinations, tourism offices, organisations and alpine clubs Graubünden. GT: 201km is a lot of trail for a single stage event. How did you go about finding the right route for the event, and how did the Swiss trail infrastructure assist you with this? AT: The route taken by the race makes it possible to connect the unique features of the different regions. However, not only does it link up the diversity offered by the landscape, but also the destinations. To be sure the course will satisfy the runners, Julia Böttger – a famous german trail runner – finished every single part and gave us some more input.


The vast expanse of the beautiful Graubünden region of the Swiss Alps is the perfect invitation for any aspiring mountain runner Photo by Julia Böttger

GT: As you get closer to race day, what will be some of the major challenges you and your team will face in your preparation? AT: We want to provide a trouble-free course. Therefore we need to train all supporters and involved people. One of the biggest challenges is the whole logistics department, such as lagguage transport, medical service and provisions. GT: Runners safety must be a high priority for you in the Swiss Irontrail. What are some of the safety measures you will have in place throughout the event? AT: Runners safety is the most important to us. There is a emergency office with an emergency number, only responsible for Swiss Irontrail. In Pontresina/St.Moritz, Bergün, Lenzerheide and Arosa there is a medical base and we also have two or more mobile medical teams. GT: With some major mountain passes and glaciers to name but a few of the obstacles out on the route, tell us a little bit more about the nature of the terrain that the competitors will be faced with throughout the race. AT: The most part of the trail is alpine trail and some jeep track. There are no new trails, because

the path network is very well developed in Graubünden. That means that the whole trail is not very difficult to run. Of course you will pass glaciers, but these are at the beginning of the race and no longer than 3 kilometres. GT: As the last competitor crosses the finish line, what will be the next step in your organisation and how will this help you prepare for the 2013 event? AT: First of all, we will have a debriefing with all involved team leaders to hear about their teams’ experiences, their inputs and what they would improve. We are also very interested in runners’ meanings and experiences. In a second step we’ll make all necessary modifications for the future planning. GT: Finally, in one sentence, and in your experience of the Graubünden region, sum up what this event will mean to the runners who take part. AT: Staging the Alpes’ highest altitude, longest, toughest and most beautiful single-stage trail race in the multi-faceted natural, cultural and mountain landscape of Graubünden. It’s all about the title ‘King of the Mountains’, just like the wild ibex on the logo! Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Q+A with Julia Bรถttger Ensuring that the route selected for the event was up to the standards that Andrea Tuffli and his team was up to the standard they required, Salomon Internation team member Julia Bรถttger was asked to do a trial run of the course. We chatted to Julia to find out a little more about why this was an important objective for the organisers as well as what her thoughts are on the route itself. Go Trail (GT): When Tuffli Events approached you to explore the route for the 2012 Swiss Irontrail, what were they hoping you would discover for them? Julia Bรถttger (JB): They wanted me to explore the route to see if it is suitable for trail runners. If it is Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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too demanding or too easy and to find the perfect trails. As well we wanted to find out if the track is runable and if trail runners will like it. GT: How well did you know the area and the trails before running them? JB: I did not know the area before as a running area. I have been to St. Moritz before for skiing and biking but have never been there for running. And I knew it is a very beautiful area with so many different mountains, views and trails. GT: Did you run the entire route and if so, how long did it take you?


German ultra-trail runner Julia Bรถttger doing what she does best as she checks the route for the event organisers Photo by www.klarlicht.ch

JB: Yes I run in total the entire route. But I the route in 4 days and then we made some chances at the final part and I run again the last bit on another day. They gave me maps with the tour on it and it always takes you longer when you have to navigate on your own. As well the water and food situation was harder because I had to carry everything with me. And at some parts of the tour I was running different paths to find out if there are better opportunities. GT: What are gong to be some of the more memorable sections of the trail for the competitors? JB: Well the first part around Pontresina and St Moritz with all the glaciers and glacier crossing is

just fantastic! you are just in the mountains and so high! But all sections are different and have there specialty. When you run over the Pass di Orgels it is like the Dolomites. Great view and panorama is as well when you fly down from the Weisshorn to Arosa with a fantastic trail and all the lakes. And of course the finish line after 200 km will be memorable. GT: Will you be lining up at the start line for the inaugural 2012 race? JB: Of course! And I will be there the week before when we do a visit on the route around the glacier part. It will be a walking tour to see how the ascend to Diavolezza glacier is like. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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The race ends in the picturesque town of Chur in Switzerland

The point at which Morteratsch and Pers glaciers cross The Fuorcla Pischa ridge/ibex trail Passing Lake Hahnen to St. Moritz, The Piz Nair, which, at 3,022 metres above sea-level is apex of the event. Fuorcla Crap Alv to Berg端n via Lake Palpuogna The Digls Orgels Pass (through the Graub端nden Dolomites), The section right through the middle of the Parc Ela with the Albula-Bernina Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site The Churer Joch

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The Fairer Side Of Trail

The

Fairer Side of Trail

by Robyn Ferrar

M

ost of us spend the majority of our time in the grey environment – love it or hate it, city offices, rush hour traffic and urban living is what most of my demographic are about. Fundamentally we have come to depend on consumerism, technology and convenience to sustain and entertain us, but it never seems to be enough, and happiness is an increasingly scarce commodity. I’m not saying I have found the key to lasting happiness – I don’t believe there is such a key – but I am saying that a deeper appreciation of, and connection to, the natural environment can open your soul and make room for happy times. And logic dictates that the more happy times we experience, the higher our average happiness index. For me it is trail running and similar outdoor pursuits that have provided my most memorable happy times. And the irony is that even when I am having a miserable time, such as being caught in a storm facing imminent hypothermia, I walk away with a huge grin thinking “Wow! That was cool!”. There is nothing more humbling and life-affirming than facing the ingenious beauty, as well as the

spectacular wrath, of mother-nature. That is primarily why I am so passionate about this sport, but the harder question to answer is why do I want people to get out there with me? Surely the less people on the trails the better for me? In a sense, yes. My dilemma is one of selfish requirements vs. those of our society. But the more I think about it the more

In terms of the sport itself, I strongly believe that it is under-represented by women

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I realize just how much I would gain from living in a society with a greater reverence for nature. And I believe that reverence is only achievable through personal experience. In terms of the sport itself, I strongly believe that it is under-represented by women, and that contrary to popular belief, women are natural runners. Society has conditioned us from childhood to believe we are not as


Who is Robyn Ferrar? capable as men in the sporting arena and that our strengths lie elsewhere. Personally I would love to see more women rising to the challenge, going back to their running roots and discovering the incredible physical power that we all possess. Once again I’m not saying that we will ever compete at the same level as men (although this may not be impossible), but we could certainly claim our fair share of the glory. My bi-monthly column in Go Trail - a fabulous new-age publication dedicated to the sport I love best - will be primarily about trail running and everything related, however it will be largely from a female perspective in an attempt to redress the balance of a male dominated sport. So, to all the women reading this I hope to capture your imagination, inspire you to step out of that comfort zone, and discover

the fun that is out there for the taking. To my fellow female trail runners who have a story or opinion to share, I urge you to get in touch. I have touched on several subjects close to my heart that I will expand on further in the coming months. There are others, such as media coverage, eco-responsibility, spiritual enrichment, events, sponsorship, kit, personalities and more. Perhaps soon we will start to hear a lot more about the experiences and achievements that take place on the fairer side of trail. “There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.” Auguste Rodin

Born and bred in southern Africa, my love for the outdoors started as a child scampering over the granite rocks of the Rhodesian hills and exploring the bush of the Highveld. I discovered a natural running ability at school and excelled on the track and trail. After school I moved to the UK and discovered the excitement and beauty of fell running and adventure racing. Four years ago I finally returned to Africa and to the rapidly growing fledgling sport of trail running. I had been dreaming of settling near the mountains of the cape peninsula for many years, so finally I had come home. Some achievements in the past year include wins in both the Helderberg and Jonkershoek Mountain Challenges; 2nd in the Otter African Trail Run and Stanley’s Mountain Run; and 3rd in Two Ocean’s Trail Run and Old Fisherman’s Challenge. If you’d like to contact Robyn with suggestions on what topics she should cover, please feel free to do so via email: robyn. ferrar@gmail.com Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Go Explore

Trail Running Namibia

Words and images by Tinus Hansen / African Extreme Promotions


I

f you stop and think for a minute about trail running in Namibia, images of stark, un-spoilt wildernesses should begin to form in your mind. Although trail running is fairly new to Namibia, it certainly is becoming a popular form of running, with many of the “roadies” opting to explore the vast network of trails around the capital of Windhoek, not to mention the almost limitless options to run in so many diverse landscapes which are to be found around Namibia. A question often posed to us at African Extreme Promotions (AEP) a local organization specializing in the development, staging and running of ultra distance events, by various trail running platforms is “why does Namibia lend itself to trail and ultra-

trail running, and why should it be on the bucket list of every trail enthusiast” This could lead to an encyclopedic and voluminous response, however given the limited space (thanks James…) in a nutshell it comes down to space, diversity and a spectacular surrounding environment. Namibia is well known for the diversity of its landscapes, wildlife and vegetation. This includes the ancient Namib and its dune belts, the Savanna grass plains and the typical African Thornveld and finally to the Mopani forests and river systems in the North. This provides for a host of different environments in which the avid trail runner can spend many hours and days enjoying the freedom and the adventure


The allure of the Fish River Canyon Trail record

P

eople had always been running off the road and in the wilderness in Namibia, however as a recognized discipline one can look back to 2003 when, on the 16 August, four Namibians, Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit, Coenraad Pool and Tommy van Wyk set out in an attempt to break the record for completing the 84km Fish River Canyon hiking trail. The existing record was 11hrs 42min and was set up on 13 July 1990 by two South Africans, Bruce Matthews and Ronnie Muhl. Bruce had at that stage completed 16 Comrades Marathons finishing in the top 20 a massive 6 times. He had also finished the London to Brighton Marathon in 7th place in 1989 and received a gold medal in the Two Oceans Marathon in 1984. Ronnie was a veteran of 7 Comrades Marathons and 9 Two Oceans Marathons. The Canyon is stark, rugged, magnificently desolate and harshly unforgiving. Added to this was that during this period, there was a unusual lack of water in the canyon. This meant that all hiking activities have been suspended and special permission was required to allow this attempt to take place. The lack of water meant that each athlete had to carry a backpack with approximately 5 liters of water. This together with the energy supplements and emergency gear meant that each athlete had to carry an additional 7kg in weight. At 5:45 on the morning of the 16th, all four set off from the start of the hiking trail and descended into the darkness of the canyon with torches to assist them until first light. Having reached the bottom in 30 minutes, they set off for the first

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check point at Sulphur Springs at approximately 16km. This first stretch was extremely demanding due to large boulders and thick sand and was reached in 2hrs 30min. Here the support crew who had climbed down into the canyon via the emergency escape route at that point to resupply the water met them. The next section was a stretch of 43km to the only section of the entire canyon where vehicles can get access to the river. Here they were given a re-supply of water having all run out approximately 8km before this point. At this point, Tommy was forced to stop due to an injury that he was battling with over the previous 6km. It is impossible to explain to someone that has never experienced it, the disappointment of having to have to withdraw from something like this due to injury when the mind is still willing to go on. The remaining three set off on the final 18km stretch to Ai-Ais with new determination knowing that the record attempt was still on. By now they were truly sick and tired of the continuous stretches of thick sand and river boulders. Exhaustion had crept in long ago and it was only their mental

Ryan Sandes enjoying some technical trail along banks of the Fish River

strength as well as the targeted record time that kept them moving forward as fast as possible. It was with great relief that they rounded the final bend in the river to see the pump station some 400m from Ai-Ais. At this point the realization


dawned on them that they were not only going to break the existing record, but that they could come in under 11hrs. With sudden renewed energy they made a final dash for the finish line in front of the offices at Ai-Ais finishing in a new official record time of 10hrs 54min overall Towards the end of 2010, Ryan Sandes contacted AEP, as he was interested in an attempt on the record for the running of the Fish River hiking trail. Russell Paschke, a founding member of AEP, could provide valuable input for the attempt. Due to Ryan’s hectic itinerary for 2011, March was the only available opportunity. Normally the canyon is closed to hikers during this time as it falls in the rainy season and the canyon is prone to flash flooding. The idea was to scout the trail over a period of two to three days, then launch the attempt. Once Ryan and the scouting team descended into the canyon, it became apparent that the water levels were dangerously high, and reports had been received over the satellite phone that the Hardap dam sluices had again been opened sending approx 300 cubic meters of water per second hurtling towards the canyon. After the first day scouting and a rainy night in the canyon, the team decided to abort the attempt, as conditions were just to dangerous. Ryan is firmly set on claiming this record and already a date has been set for September 2012, for another attempt. Look out for more news building up to this. Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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The continued popularity of trail running in

Namibia

Namibia trail running really came to light in 2009, when the Racing The Planet organization decided on Namibia to stage one of their “roving� events. As part of their 4 Deserts series, they also have an additional fifth event, which is held in a different country each year, 2009 therefore saw Namibia playing host to this. Once again the Fish River canyon formed part of the 250km stage ultra, eventually ending in the mining town of Luderitz with the Spaniard Salvador Calvo Redondo narrowly beating Ryan Sandes to the post. As a result of the 2003 record attempt on the hiking trail and the 2009 RTP event, AEP saw the potential to put together a single stage ultra down the Fish River Canyon. August 2010 saw the inaugural running of the Windhoek Lager Fish river canyon Ultra. Well known South African adventure racer Lisa de Speville took part and described the event as one which any trail Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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enthusiast should put on their bucket list. The growth in popularity of the X-terra events has also had a positive spin off for trail running in Namibia. It has exposed and converted many previous road runners and MTB enthusiasts to the awesome world of trail. Local organizations are increasingly becoming involved in the development of trail, this is also made easier my an increasing awareness of the sport in commercial sectors, resulting in access to sponsorships, which previously has been extremely limited for this type sport. Testament to the potential that Namibia has for trail running and the staging of several world class trail running events, there is no surprise that international organizations, such as Racing The Planet have already capitalized on this potential and will continue to do so as the ever increasing international appetite for trail running continues to grow.


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Quick Facts: 1.

Namibia covers an area of 824 292 Sq Km

2. It has a population of only 2.2 million people, which equates to just under three people per Sq Km, some of the lowest population densities to be found globally.

3. Most of the population resideds around the urban centers, mainly in the central and northern regions

4. In certain area such as the expanses of Damaraland / Skeleton Coast in the northwesterly portion of Namibia, one can go a few days at a time without encountering any other human presence. So if it solitude and sole cleansing you are looking for, then Namibia can provide this in abundance.

5. The annual Windhoek Lager Fish river canyon Ultra will once again take place during the last week of July 2012, entries are already open at www. africanextremepromotions.com

6. For all tourism related queries head to the Namibian Tourism website http://www.namibiatourism.com.na/

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Single Track Mind

k c a r T Single

n a g a n a l F n i v e K y B

R

oad running has bonked in comparison to the high flying growing sport of trail running – no disrespect intended!! Tar vs. trail is a mirror image of road cycling vs. mountain biking, as the dual suspension bank account breaking mountain bikes out sell the feather light road bikes on an annual basis. South African’s are naturally more inclined to want to hit the dirt than the asphalt and given our beautiful

mountains and country side, it makes perfect sense. The likes of Ryan Sandes and Burry Stander have drawn more interest to the off road sports as these guys break into the athletic elite class, taking on the crepe eating Frenchies and the rest of the world. Our very own ultra distance trail running monkey Mr Sandes, has been handing out a few good klaps along the way, pinning the S.A. flag on the podium. For runners like myself, who have


seen the light and converted to the trail, the road is looking more and more mundane and quite frankly, as exciting a licking sand paper. Don’t get me wrong, road running has its place and races like the Comrades Marathon are on my bucket list, but you are not going to catch me entering too many weekend road marathons. For a start, those running club mesh vests and poly shorts, that look like something out of a bad 70’s porno, are enough to

out me keep my off the road for a lifetime. If I am going to climb a lung busting calf muscle quenching hill, I would rather be rewarded with a panoramic view than a set of traffic lights. Road runners will argue that it’s a matter of preference; I would say it’s a matter of either being a cooped up sheep or a free roaming mountain goat. Personally, trail running is less about PB’s, winning and losing. It’s


"South African’s are naturally more inclined to want to hit the dirt than the asphalt." not matter of life & death if I cross the finish line in 10rd or 11th, but more about living life, enjoying the outdoors, mountains, challenging routes and crossing the line with more stories than medals. Hell, even if I wanted to win, my talent and ability would get in the way. For Christmas, I asked Santa for a spare pair of legs and was hoping to find a third lung in my stocking, as I plan to take on a few of the ultra distance trail runs in 2012. It’s on this levels that the real duals are taking place, whether it be Ryan Sandes and Kilian Jorent going to toe to toe at front of the pack, or Joe Blogs at the back of field having a personal physical and mental battle, asking that great question of, “why the hell am I out here?” . The ultra distances have always been and will always be the purest

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form of trail running, going long and far into the unknown to explore and conquer. Multi stage adventure races, Xterra, Puffer, Trans Alps and The Sky Run have all been talked about over one too many beers. Soon enough it will come time to commit and get kicking some dust on the training routes in and around Cape Town. Trail running is alive and getting pumped up with the best drug in the world, enthusiasm. I suggest you don a pair of trail shoes and head out into the unknown and follow the evolution of this crazy sport. This column will be a firsthand account of all matters surrounding the trail, backed up with a good dose of humour, the most important piece of kit trail runners should pack before heading out.


Personal bio Born and bred in Cape Town, I spent my university career maximising the holidays travelling Africa quenching my thirst for adventure. After that, I took a quick gap year to Whistler-Canada for some more adventure and now find myself back in CT, working away at making millions. I am by no means a specialist at any sport, in fact one my inner personal debates, is that I try compete in too many sports & disciplines, so I end up not been able to focus enough on one discipline to get any good at it. However, the variation keeps me interested and prevents serious adventure FOMO (Fear of missing out), when I see other people taking on extraordinary adventures. My number one entry on my bucket list was trekking to base camp Everest in 2008 and seeing Everest with my own eyes - mind blowing!!! Team Kelfords Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/groups/109748955710607/ Blog: www.off-the-hook.co.za

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Editorial


words By: Richard Bull Photos by: The Everest Sky Race


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here were about 30 of them, moving quickly, in a big hurry to get to somewhere else, maybe being chased? They were breathing heavily as if the air was different to what they were used to at home and it didn’t suit them. They seemed to be suffering. Their dress was unusual: eyes covered, body wrapped in bright colours, socks on their arms and their trousers thin and shiny black like the beetles that crawl on fresh yak dung. Each wore a number, on the front and back, like they do at the Miss Nepal contest in Kathmandu. They mostly carried sticks like old people do, not just one, but two of them, and they had attached bottles and pipes to themselves like the village water project. But they seemed very happy. They say Namaste a lot, which is very nice. They like tea, and lots of it, and pay good money for it. They take pictures of everything, even mother milking the yak. They’re always taking pictures! The first time

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visitor to Nepal will often experience a culture shock – the people, the smells, the chaos - but spare a moment’s thought for the inhabitants of remote Himalayan villages encountering for the first time an invasion of Lycra-clad aliens of the trail-running kind. These particular aliens happened to be the largely French participants of the 6th Everest Sky Race, a biennial seven-stage race held over 10 days through the Nepalese Himalaya. The territory being invaded is the remote Rolwaling Valley, home to the holy Gauri Shankar (7,134m) peak, and the Solukhumbu, better known simply as the Everest region. The temperamental Tashi Labsta, a notorious glaciated pass of 5,755m, connects the two areas. It’s my first time in such an event. This one has its own race medic and own cameraman. The competitors are mostly males, but not all, and mid-thirties and above. Many seem to be looking for a break from normal life, a challenge and to experience the mixture of culture and nature that Nepal is famous for. The race began in Dolakha, five bumpy hours east of Kathmandu. It’s an innocuously small


"The first time visitor to Nepal will often experience a culture shock – the people, the smells, the chaos " town with a pretty old centre, which is, like many places in Nepal, being slowly advanced upon by slapdash, concrete modernity. Its claim to fame is its rather curious Hindu temple dedicated to the god Bhimsen, a fierce-looking fighter, but one of the good guys who protects the weak. It’s interesting, but we’re all rather more keen to be beginning our journey into the mountains. The word has got around and in the morning the townsfolk have come to watch the oddly dressed group. Before the start, members of a mothers group adorn each of us with a malla, a necklace of chrysanthemum flowers symbolising long life, and plaster a chemical red tikka powder rather too liberally on foreheads and cheeks. It’s a typical Nepali tradition before starting a journey. November is normally a peak-season month for visitors to in Nepal with its cool days and blue skies, yet within 200m of the start, the heavens open unexpectedly, leaving tikka dripping from our faces. It’s a disappointment. The first race stage was around 25km, a mixture of undulating riverside trails, through villages with ripe millet fields being pillaged by occasional families of grey langur monkeys. We arrive later in Suri Dobhan, a small, poor-looking village perched on a hillside. The villagers are joining in applauding the runners crossing the airy suspension bridge to complete the first stage. The atmosphere is fantastic. Easing off my backpack (and cursing the crampons and helmet I have to carry for the pass), I naively realise that this is a race. While the field may be small in number with runners of all abilities, with no prizes, self-importance nor media fuss, and with an emphasis on enjoyment

and the experience, it’s an unwritten rule that everyone is absolutely expected to do his or her best on the day. After a day of enjoyable ambling, “tomorrow I will run,” I promise to Pascal, the race director. We’re distributed among rooms that have been given up for us in different people’s houses, with beds that invariably end somewhere around mid-calf, and low doorways that bludgeon the skull should you forget to duck. It’s comfortable. The weather remained poor on the second day, and a new road has obliterated the trail marked on the map used to plan the route. Here a Chinese company was undertaking a huge hydroelectric project, much needed in a country plagued by blackouts. The race was halted for an hour as blasting and clearing above sent avalanches of rock and mud on to the road. It was only day three when the sky part of the sky race came into play. As the trees thinned at around 3300m on the way to the hamlet of Beding, it felt like an invisible researcher was slowly turning down the oxygen tap on us labrats. Breathing became harder and even slight slopes would reduce a run to a jog to a walk.

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The race was conceived by Bruno Poirier, a well-known sports journalist in France. His affair d’amour with Nepal began in 1994 when, aged 29, he ran across Nepal in 42 days. Since then he has combined his passions of running and Nepal by organising countless multistage races through remote and high places in this wonderfully diverse country, building up a community of like minded individuals along the way. Along with the Everest Sky Race, there is the annual Annapurna Mandala Trail and the infamous Himal Race, which takes self-sufficient runners across great distances through very remote and difficult landscapes. Those who have competed in his races, and have run over 5000m, can call themselves Chevaliers du Vent, Knights of the Wind, and for the females, Amazones du Ciel, Amazons of Heaven. Indeed, emails from him address you as such. Virgine Duteme, one such Amazon, describes Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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Bruno as having “mystique”. “If you want information about one of his races, you have to phone him and he will determine if you can join,” she says. There’s no website or advertising, just occasional articles in magazines and the rest is word of mouth. Beding is a small village with a Gompa (monastery) and around 50 stone buildings surrounded by bare fields. Lingering cloud means the sun is not able to put in an afternoon’s work. “Chiso!” says the lodge owner, “it’s cold!” while walking in to the tea-house leaving the door as wide open as her jacket, apparently viewing the cold as something to bear rather than as a problem to solve. In the afternoons, most people spend a few hours cosily in bed reading or sleeping. The altitude requires restful adaptation. As per daily routine, 5pm is tea and biscuit time though, with appetites ravenous, the biscuits will not last long, nor will politeness when down to the last cookie on the plate.


In the twilight hour before dinner, I do a short tour of the village passing by the Gompa, ending at a less holy house where alcohol is being drunk. The smell of raksi, locally brewed millet alcohol, mixes with the wood smoke in the air behind the dirty curtain acting as a door. The old man sitting by the fire offers a glass. His daughter warms the hooch on the embers in a kettle to take the chill off. It’s a distinctive taste that grows on you, as does the wizened old man. He has climbed on all of the big mountains, even with Chris Bonnington, he tells me knowing I am from England. His hands wrapped around the raksi glass reveal several amputations. Dinner’s called. It is recognisable trekking fare: bright pink prawn crackers, a tasty garlic soup, a heap of dal bhat, rice and dhal, for main course with second and third helpings. It’s not what the French would choose themselves, but its high in calories and plates clear quickly. With stomach full, it’s time for an arguable highlight of the day: sleep. It’s not even nine o’clock and a rainbow of down-filled cocoons are ready for nine hours of uninterrupted warmth and dreamy sleep. If going to sleep is the best, then crawling out of warmth into yesterday’s (and tomorrow’s) clothes in the frozen morning air is less appealing. The breakfast scheduled for 6.30am invariably arrives at something past seven. The day’s stage is due to begin at 7.30am. This is a good thing about this kind of race. There’s no stretching, no real warm up, stomachs are full at the start line and, apart from the Swiss competitor complaining about the starter’s watch not following Swiss time, the atmosphere is relaxed and good natured. When the starter’s whistle blows though, elbows are sharp, and it is competitive. Stage

four is the shortest of all, and at just 10km, it’s a sprint. The grassy, yak trail from Beding to Na climbs 500m to 4,190m where we’ll spend a day of acclimatisation. Lizzy Hawker, the British runner of some repute is out in front intent on maintaining her first place on the leader board. She’s trailed by locals Deepak Rai and Jorbir Rai, both of whom are past Everest Marathon winners. Lizzy had joined the race after having to stop her solo run along the Great Himalaya Trail, the new 1600km high-route across Nepal. In dense, mountainside forest, in an untracked wilderness area, she lost a pack containing critical equipment including satellite phone, money and permits. Bitterly disappointed she seized the opportunity to join the race to get back into the mountains where she feels most at home. With four stages completed, there is a three-day hiatus from racing. First, a rest and acclimatisation day with a gentle walk up to 5,000m for the views and give the body’s adaptation a push. On the second day the journey towards the Everest region begins. The hike to the foot of the pass makes for a long day. We skirt the Tsho Rolpa, one of the many rapidly growing Himalayan glacial lakes, that is threatening to burst its natural damn wall and obliterate the valley below it. At the moment we pass it however, the damn fortunately appears solid. Less can be said for the trail over the Trakarding Glacier, which zigzags across loose glacial debris and bare ice making the going as tough as running. Here the group makes its only camp on a boulderstrewn area and there is not a flat surface in sight. The surrounding peaks are majestic, but freezing air sinks from their icy walls. Together these factors make for a sleepless last night in the Rolwaling Valley. The crossing of the Tashi Labsta is dramatic and it feels unusual to be

"This is beautiful terrain for running, though with high points of over 5,300m every day, it is going to be hard."

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walking over expanses of snow and ice in trail running shoes. Compared to the few other groups in big boots and carrying ice axes, we look like lost tourists. It’s not a difficult route in good weather, but notorious for stone fall and has exposed sections where a simple slip would only have an unhappy ending. Despite this, the crampons and helmets carried thus far stay packed. “There’s no race quite like this,” says Sylvain Bazin, a trail running blogger, “where the non-competitive part can be more memorable than the competitive parts.” Descending into the Solukhumbu reveals the contrast with Rolwaling. There it seemed raw whereas here it seems sophisticated. It’s a little to do with the weather, the sky above is now nothing but blue, and a lot to do with the wealth that has been brought by decades of tourism. The valleys are wide with good trails, the Buddhist chortens are freshly maintained, and the number of jagged peaks in view is simply stunning. It’s as though an exterior decorator has been in and the shapely form of Ama Dablam made the centrepiece.

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This is beautiful terrain for running, though with high points of over 5,300m every day, it is going to be hard. Passing a Yak caravan heading for Tibet and clusters of children heading to school wearing fake North Face and Mountain Hardwear jackets, we head up to the Renjo La (5,340m). There is a certainly an upside to running at such altitude. The thin atmosphere allows light to pierce it more easily bringing an incredible vibrancy to the landscape. And space, the final frontier, seems close. It feels however like driving a car in first gear: while the lungs and heart are in overdrive, the legs move you at a geriatric’s pace. Overdo it by the slightest bit, whether ascending or descending, and you’re an anaerobic heap loosing seconds with hands on knees. Sucking from a bladder is impossible and, without stopping and loosing time, a squirt of a gel is just about all you can eat. A consequence of this is Khumbu Cough, the name given to the inevitable irritation in the lungs from panting dry, cold air. This can be

expensive as well as painful. Pascal, the race director, coughed himself a hernia and had to be immediately evacuated by helicopter. From the Renjo La, we get the most incredible view of Everest, but only briefly. Lizzy Hawker lamented, “Sometimes I just wish I could stop to appreciate the view,” but with the speed of the two Rais over their home terrain, she has her work cut out. On the Cho La a day later, we pass trekkers breathlessly clambering up the steep boulderstrewn slope towards the pass holding both their trekking poles in one hand like a pair of giant chopsticks. While perfect for poking two eyes out at once, their poles are doing nothing to keep them upright. Perhaps, like me, they should use a single short pole to lean on extending the arm into third leg? By now we’re all tiring fast. There is an announcement in the evening that the plan to finish at Ama Dablam Basecamp is “unrealistic” and the final day will be shortened. ‘Bravo’ is the common sentiment. The difficulty of sleeping at this height also takes Dec 2011/Jan 2012

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it toll. Some experience sleep apnoea where the body regularly ceases breathing only to partwake itself to take five giant breaths before the unpleasant drowning-like process repeats. The final stage takes runners up to the famed viewpoint of Kala Patar. At 5,500m its the highest point on the race, and perhaps of any race in the world. The long decent to the village of Pangboche is on the well-known Everest Basecamp trekking route and is a fabulous trail to end a fabulous journey. We’ve covered ground in 10 days, which normally takes four weeks. Apart from food, we’ve carried everything we needed. We’ve saved a lot of soap and washing powder. Rather than a race, it feels more like travelling under your own steam, and experiencing changing landscapes. It’s running as travelling; a little like Bruno Poirier did in 1994 across Nepal. At a particular moment the packed dining hall where the presentation will take place sounds like a tuberculosis hospital with a cacophony of

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contagious coughing. With puffy eyes, reddened skin from the sun and facial growth of varying quality (on the men at least) we all look and feel older. The aliens have been tamed. Yet the staff who have worked so hard to manage this race still look pretty fresh and prove it by clearing tables away and dancing to Britney, Shakira and friends. They are not the only fresh ones. As we prepare to descend to Lukla airstrip to fly out to Kathmandu, Lizzy Hawker prepares to return to Everest basecamp. In 2007 she set a record with Steven Pyke for the 319km ‘mail run’ to Kathmandu in three days, two hours and 39 minutes. With remnants of Khumbu Cough in her lungs, she beat her record by just over three hours. Find out more about this race as well as other trail running adventures in Nepal: http:// trailrunningnepal.org


This is a good thing about this kind of race. There’s no stretching, no real warm up, stomachs are full at the start line

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February/March 2012 issue Go Trail magazine  

Get up close and personal with British trail athlete Tom Owens (on the cover) Go high with the Everest Sky Race We GO EXPLORE in Namibia Top...

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