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SEPTEMBER ISSUE 2011

JIKELEZA Running the of JOG “Wildcoast” South Africa SALOMON 4 TRAILS

MEET THE MAN BEHIND THIS MUST-READ BOOK.

GEAR REVIEW

The New Balance Minimus


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Editor’s note Just recently, Go Trail magazine was named as one of the official media partners for the 2011 Himalayan Run & Trek taking place in northern India later this year. As part of our coverage of the event, I will be travelling to the race to take part and report on this 100-mile mammoth through the Himalayan foothills, so I’m sure you can appreciate that my rigorous training is in full swing. Assisting me with my training schedule is none other then Linda Doke, one of South Africa’s top women’s trail runners, once a competitor of this event a few years ago herself. It’s not only been interesting to hear Linda’s insight and advice on how to prepare for the race, but also on the amazing sights and experiences that one can expect from travelling to this remote and extreme part of the planet. As I have never travelled to India before, I am overwhelmed with imaginary expectations, visions of what lies ahead for me as I run my regular training routes. “Hills are your friends!” Linda keeps telling me and I am often left wondering if the 45-

Also in this issue > On the cover > Anton Krupicka

doing some winter trail running on his local trails ~ location: Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Joel Wolpert www.thewolpertinger.com

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Editorial/Advertising Enquiries >

Catching up with Anton Krupicka

Design Enquiries >

We introduce you to one of America’s top ultra-trail runners as he shares with you his philosophy on running

james@gotrail.co.za / James Hallet

design@gotrail.co.za / Simphiwe Mathunjwa September 2011

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degree slopes I choose to train on are actually a

South Africa and the inaugural Jikeleza Jog, a

true reflection of what to expect.

brand new multi-day event on the South African trail running calendar. Immerse yourself in the

As Winter makes way for Spring here in the

fantastic scenery and trail running terrain and

southern Hemisphere, trail running offers us the

re-live the exhilarating 3 days all competitors

opportunity to indulge in the emergence of new

had whilst “Running Free”. All this and more,

life, the cold Winters chill now being replaced by the

so enjoy!

scent of blossoming wild flowers and the orchestral sounds of abundant bird life. In this issue of Go

Before I go however, I’d like to leave you with

Trail magazine, we meet a South African athlete

something I heard from legendary documentary

as he takes on the Gobi Desert in one of Racing

filmmaker

The Planets 4 Deserts races earlier this year. Find

recent film about a trip to South America,

out how Dirk Cloete tackles the obstacles of this

he commented

ancient land on his way to an impressive fourth

questions that in the beginning you didn’t even

place overall. We then take you to Switzerland and

think to ask!”

introduce you to the trail running scene in this truly

quest of discovery that makes trail running so

alpine country. Michele Stofer of the popular Trail-

appealing, a journey that opens up endless

Running Switzerland Facebook page shares her

possibilities within our own self-exploration.

Jeff

Johnson.

In

completing

a

“the best journeys, answer I guess it’s the ever-present

knowledge of this vibrant trail running community. Within this feature, as a new addition to the

Keep on running!!!

magazine, we’ve introduced a summary of her

James

feature translated into German for all our central European readers. Next, it’s off to the Wildcoast of

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4 Deserts Series continues

GO EXPLORE: Switzerland

Meet South African Dirk Cloete and relive his experience at the 2011 Gobi March in China.

Michele Stofer checks out the trail running scene in this truly alpine country. Auch auf Deutsch! September 2011

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Go Trail Exclusive

Pioneering the 2011 Jikeleza Jog By: James Hallett Images: Kathryn Fourie

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It’s not often that one gets to experience true solitude in our day to day lives. The world just seems to be filled with more and more chaos as we continue to inundate ourselves with the overwhelming material and stress-filled influences of the modern world. Earlier in 2011, Go Trail magazine had been asked to partner with the organisers of the inaugural Jikeleza Jog, a brand new multi-day trail running event on the Wildcoast of the Eastern Cape, to become the official media partner. As part of our coverage of the event, I was invited to take part, an opportunity I relished and subsequently accepted with open arms. I mean, at the end of the day who wouldn’t really? This was a team affair so accompanying me was my fiancée (now wife) Susanne. She had worked tremendously hard in the weeks leading up to the race preparing and training for the task that lay ahead so we were feeling ready to tackle this remote coastline. Our journey began from the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, an eight-hour road trip through some of the most beautiful and diverse countryside I have ever seen. Interestingly, I had travelled this route some 7 years earlier, however for some reason it just felt and looked different. Perhaps it was because of what lay in store for us upon our arrival, the heightened excitement of being on the road and travelling to this unknown trail running wonderland. What ever it was, it was intoxicating and the surrounding vistas blurred into one long “slide show” outside of the car window. Rural villages

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dotted the landscape, cattle and goats roamed freely across the motorway, often stopping and staring our vehicle down as if to say “this is our land, what are you doing here!” The people on the side of the road seemed friendly and as we slowed through villages and small towns, their faces, full of expression and joy, gave us a sense of this remote lifestyle. As we had decided to travel down to the Wildcoast the day before the event, we were able to familiarise ourselves with what we’d be expecting over the 3 days of the race. As we approached the coastline, our journey having taken us inland somewhat, the majesty and stunning beauty of the area was mesmerising. Long beaches lay out ahead of us, the tall dunes towering above us like giants welcoming us to our destination with open arms. It was a calm winter’s day and the fresh sea breeze nourished the nostrils after having inhaled the stale air of the motor car all morning. The following day we would be catching our transfer to the start of the race but for now it was just us and the Wildcoast. A late afternoon run on the beach allowed us to stretch our legs and get the heart rate up. It’s incredible how quickly one forgets about the real world when you’re running along a hardpacked beach with not a soul in

sight. The next morning we made our way to the transfer shuttle and after a quick introduction to the rest of the runners, we packed our bags into the bus and begun what was one of the real highlights of the trip. Make no mistake, this is rural South Africa, there is little to no infrastructure in places like these, and soon we were off the tar road and onto what seemed to be a never-ending maze of pot-holes, deep ruts cut into the dirt road from the storms of the previous week and boulders the size of footballs. Needless to say, we arrived in one piece at our first overnight stop called the Wavecrest Hotel, the place that would see us off on day one of the Jikeleza Jog the following morning. We freshened up and were given our own time to sort ourselves out before we were called for dinner and the race briefing from the organisers Sarah Drew and Paul Colvin. As they spoke and as the route was described to us, you could sense the excitement in the room increasing as the runners looked on with huge smiles on their faces. There was no doubt about it that the following morning, we would be embarking on the journey of a lifetime.


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16th of June 2001 - Day 1> Wavecrest to Kei Mouth Dawn broke on day one of the Jikeleza Jog with a burst of sunlight emanating from the distant eastern horizon. As the early morning light struck the ground around us, the reality of what lay ahead of us began to set in and breakfast was a hurried affair…a piece of toast and some muesli gobbled down in mere minutes. The start was set for 9:00am as this would have us running along the shore line maximising the spring tides. The route for the first day was going to take us in a south-westerly direction, 22km to our fist stop over destination at the Kei River Mouth. The terrain was mostly a mixture of rocky coves, open beaches and open grassland areas where the myriad of cattle paths guided us forward. As we ran out of Wavecrest, we were greeted by a technical section of rock-hopping before being able to get into the rhythm of some open trail running. It was then onto the Kobonqaba River where concerns had risen the day before about the flow of water and the safety

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of the runners. Sarah Drew, the race director, had arranged for a ferryman to be present upstream to allow for safe passage of the runners. Susanne and I arrived at the crossing first and were quickly ushered one by one into a small canoe, a very competent local Africa man paddling with all his might to the opposite bank. Once we had both made it safely across, a small gap in the bush indicated our pathway up and out of the river gorge, allowing us to climb a little to get some fantastic vistas of the surrounding terrain. As we continued running, that solitude I was talking about earlier began to truly set in and on many occasions we were forced to remind ourselves that we were racing the clock to the finish line. En route we continued to traverse the rugged beachfront and it was in one of these small, secluded coves that we reached the shipwreck of the Jacaranda, a stark yet vivid reminder of the brutal force of the ocean along the Wildcoast. It was a great opportunity to snap some

shots and catch up with Sarah who had positioned herself at the wreck to snap some images of her own. We were more then half way to the finish line now and we ran on. Day one finished at the great mouth of the Kei River. With the recent heavy rains, the Kei was in full flow and chocolate coloured water poured into the ocean. The southerly wind that was forecast for the day had begun to pick up, whipping the sand off the beach. We wasted no time in pushing on, making sure we were out of the wind in good time. As we arrived at the Pont, the ferry that takes cars across the river, we were welcomed by Paul, his solitary clapping the sound of our achievement as he leaned against the bonnet of his car. It was like we had arrived in another country in Africa. The site of this old ferry with its local African captain, the small village of Kei Mouth on the opposite bank and the lush vegetation all around enforced our remoteness. We could now enjoy the relaxed afternoon lounging in the sun by the swimming pool at Thatches, our second overnight stop.


17th of June – Day 2 >

recall looking back and seeing the other competitors dotting the landscape like tiny ants as they negotiated the tricky slopes.

Kei Mouth to Haga Haga Dawn broke on day 2 to a howling south westerly wind, gusts as strong as 60km/h. We knew we were going to be in for a tough days running, especially with the towering sea cliffs near Morgan Bay awaiting us. Sarah and Paul put on a quick breakfast of fresh fruit, muesli, toast and honey…all fuel for the task that lay ahead. As the wind seemingly had got stronger and stronger, we all loaded our bags into the transfer vehicle and awaited the start. The route for day 2 would take us through the small village of Kei Mouth to join up with the start of the Strandloper trail. From here it was onto the beach at Morgan Bay as we fought the relentless wind to the cliffs about a kilometre in the distance. Moving at snails pace we inched our way onto the plateau and it was as if we had arrived on top of the world. One hundred and eighty degree views of the angry, windswept ocean was our running backdrop as we gingerly traversed the cliff tops. We were making slow progress but my-oh-my was that view worth every minute. Leaving the cliff-tops some 3

kilometres later, we descended a small trail into Double Mouth, a picturesque camping area in a secluded cove. Out of the wind at last, but our respite was short lived. As we rounded the corner the sheer force of the wind pushed against our chests once again bringing our running pace to a mere jog. There were times where we were forced to run with our faces shielded by our outstretched hands, a frivolous attempt at keeping the whipping sand out of our eyes. With more then half way still to go, this was going to be a long stage. It is at this point however that the Strandloper trail really becomes a magical web of cattle and fisherman’s trails. As we pressed on, and with the ghostly howling of the wind past our ears, we found ourselves dancing along what only can be described as a giant amphitheatre. The hillside that plummeted into the ocean below was angled at almost 60 degrees and narrow cattle paths created perfect running trails along this slippery slope. This lasted for almost 2 kilometres and I can still

As we rounded the corner at Black Rock, the gradient in the terrain began to retract and we found ourselves on a more flatter open grassland. The distant beaches signalled the last quarter of the stage, but as the wind continued to blast us, it was a stretch of running that seemed never-ending. Cove after cove, we rounded small rocky points and as we staggered closer and closer to the finish line, our energy levels seemed to increase. Haga Haga is a small holiday village with not much more then a handfull of houses and the Haga Haga Hotel, our third night stop over. As Susanne and I ran onto the lawn that graced the front of the hotel, the relief of completing this arduous stage flooded us. If there was one moment that I can remember where my inspiration was at an all time high, it was seeing the immense sense of achievement on Susanne’s face as we slumped into our post-run stretching. A dip in the icy pool and a cold beer were welcome reward for what was definitely the toughest of the three days. September 2011

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18th of June – Day 3> Haga Haga to Cintsa East After the previous days turmoil out in the howling gales, we awoke to a blissfully calm morning, the sun rise casting it’s warm glow on the bedroom window. At dinner the night before, all the runners had discussed the ominous headland that lay ahead of us only a few hundred meters from the start line. One option was to round the massive stone buttress and enjoy some seemingly technical rock hopping. The other was to take the small trail to the whale watching view point and then descend the other side. We decided to take on the climb and shortly after the “gun” had gone on the start of day 3, we found ourselves clambering through the dune vegetation to connect with the small trail that made it’s way to the top of the hill. It was a short climb so no time was wasted as we peaked out at the bench where travellers can enjoy the sights of breaching whales not too far from the shoreline. What awaited us on the other side however was less exciting and as the trail seemingly disappeared into the thick undergrowth, we were left with only two options: 1.) To press on through the tangle of vegetation, or 2.) Turn around and head back down the trail we had just ascended and make our way around the front of this massive headland. We decided to continue forward and after almost 20 minutes wasted clambering through a never-ending spider-web of indigenous coastal forest, we were back on the trail again. Unfortunately however, we now found ourselves at the back of the field and scampering across slippery rocks to try and regain some ground. This stage consisted of two very distinct halves, one being the rocky coves that dotted the first half, the other being the long stretch of open beach running towards the finish at Crawfords Cabins. Fortunately our training along the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast had put us in good stead along the rocks and we

were able to navigate the boulders with ease. As we took our last few strides along the rocks, I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the open expanse of beach and towering sand dunes that lay ahead of us. A true sense of insignificance is something I felt on many occasions along the three days, but with the ocean on the one side, and these gigantic sand dunes on the other, time almost stood still for a moment. As we ran the last 8 kilometres, the adventure became ever more apparent., the sound of the waves like a huge audience offering their ovation as we ran past. As we crossed the finish-line on the beach at Cintsa East, the overwhelming joy of pioneering this inaugural race sunk in. We waited to watch some of other competitors slowly filter in from the mystical sea haze that was gathering over the flat beach, the smiles on their faces painting a thousand words. We could now revel in the feeling and enjoy a few cold beers at the pool side of the hotel, a fitting end to a magical 3 days of Wildcoast trail running. Later that evening, race organisers Sarah Drew and Paul Colvin treated us to a seafood dinner at the Country Bumpkin Restaurant. It was an opportunity for all competitors to re-live the stories over the past 3 days, a photographic slideshow on offer to remind us visually of where we had just come from. A brief prize giving gave way to a few more beers and then it was time to turn in, to enjoy our last night’s sleep before going our separate ways the following morning. Congratulations to everyone that ran the 2011 Jikeleza Jog, the true pioneers of what will surely become a very popular trail running event in South Africa in years to come, we’ll see you all back on the Wildcoast next year. For more information on the 2012 event, head to the Active Escapes website.

Thanks to Hammer Nutrition SA for offering their advice on nutritional products for Team Go Trail both during our training preparation as well as throughout the run itself. We used both the Recoverite and Hammer Gel and for more details on these products, as well as their extended range, head to http://www.hammernutrition.co.za September 2011

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Book Review

Running on Book Review

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Empty. T

his is not a book about trail running. In fact, it’s not even a book about running. Ok well maybe it’s a little bit about running! No…this is a book about life, the inspirational dissection of one man’s adventurous journey through the highs and lows of everyday living, of a man that seeks to push the ever-present boundaries that seemingly defines man’s existence on earth.

Marshall Ulrich grew up on a dairy farm near Kersey, Colorado. As a young boy there was always the “chores” of the farm to keep him busy. Crops to be tendered, cows to be milked and the bailing of the

dried alfalfa was all normal life for Marshall. But as you begin reading further and further, it becomes ever more apparent that this ultra-runner extraordinaire relied on many of life’s harsh lessons to inspire and drive him forward in the pursuit of personal achievement. Running on Empty is a recollection of one such selfmotivated pilgrimage, a voyage across North America on foot. Recognised as one of the “holy grails” of running, the Transcon Run, a 3063-mile mammoth, is a test of sheer endurance and mental stamina, a feat only achieved by a select few.

“Not much longer, not much longer. Just one more mile. How often had I said that on this road? How many times had I pushed myself to go one more day, travel one more mile, take one more step? But isn’t that the way of any endeavour, of any trial, of any life? In stead of wearing me out, those words propelled me forward.” This book will challenge you, through the turn of every page, to identify with what makes you the runner and the person you are. Be encapsulated and often spell-bound by the detailed chronicle of this superhuman achievement, but above all, be captivated by the complete sense of life through the eye’s of Marshall Ulrich.

Q&A

next PAGE

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Interview with the author,

Marshall Ulrich Go Trail (GT): We understand that the Transcon Run was something you wanted to achieve for various reasons in your life, intrinsic elements that come out as one continues paging through the book. With all of the various factors that play an integral role in the story, would you say there is one truly fundamental basis for you writing this book and if so, why has that been so important for you? Marshall Ulrich (MU): Right, the run had been on my list of to-do items since the early 1990s. For the book, it was the thread that tied everything together, including many stories of ultrarunning, adventure racing, and mountaineering. What happened to me out on the road caught me by surprise. During the course of the run, I began to realize that I couldn’t go on living completely self-sufficiently, with the illusion that I could depend only upon myself, but that I needed others. This became apparent as the miles passed underfoot. And my relationship changed between my mother, brother, and September 2011

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my children as a result of me opening up and being receptive to loving at a deeper level. So the purpose of the book was to tell the story of adventure, but it also transcends that story and reveals love and loss, which we all experience at one time or another. And then there is a story of America and a taste of how we got to be who we are. GT: We understand that you and Heather embarked on a road-trip across America to retrace the steps of the Transcon Run, so as to help you write and complete Running on Empty. What was that like and were there moments where you felt like you were right back on that asphalt running towards New York? MU: While driving from San Francisco to New York, Heather and I both had so many vivid recollections of details during the run that it was astounding. It was so fresh in our minds, and we had so much to process that we hadn’t had time

to address when I was running. We could remember exact places that we’d stopped for the night as well as conversations we’d had along the way between ourselves and others. At times it would make us laugh, make us cry, and cause us to be angry for no apparent reason. But it all boiled down to the fact that we’d had to guard what was said out on the road – especially Heather had, as she’d insulated me from all the dysfunction that was happening around her. As we passed places where I’d been injured, I would hurt. Even smells would take us back to places we had been. One example of this was at 2,000 miles when I celebrated with a cigar, wood was burning when we re-drove the route and it instantly brought me back to that special cigar (cough, cough). GT: The Ultra-running community has been taken by storm by this epic recollection of your Transcon run. What do you specifically see as the main message of your book?


MU: If I had to boil it down to one thing, it would be “don’t be afraid to love.” After losing my first wife, I was afraid to connect with others, as I’d feared I would lose them and the pain would be too great. Learning to love again is possible and worth the risk. I hope people also appreciate how crucial the support team is during an athletic endeavor like this; it’s not often they get any real credit or recognition.

Other things are: • You can do more than you think you can (the only limitations are in your mind). • Don’t be afraid to try something new. • And it’s never too late to start a new chapter in your life … keep setting goals no matter how old you are.

GT: Having just turned 60 this past July, how has having completed that Transcon Run, and more so the writing of Running on Empty, inspired you to continue succeeding in various challenges? MU: I feel that the Transcon will likely be the most physically demanding thing I will ever do; however, I love dreaming and doing other things, too … I’ll likely be doing more mountaineering and mixing it up with running (or perhaps another endurance sport). I like to keep my life fresh. GT: We’re sure that you have received numerous comments and feedback about Running on Empty since it hit the book stores. Have there been any unexpected

or negative comments about the run? Don’t worry, you don’t have to mention any names! MU: Yes, there have been some negative comments. I’ve been called selfish and unlikable, and I’ve taken some criticism for the part where Jean lay on her deathbed and I felt compelled to go out and run. I understand how that might be someone’s take on the situation, but it was a way for me to survive and keep my sanity. I still regret leaving her, but I wanted to be totally honest in the book. I felt that would be the only way to connect with readers, to be honest … you can’t really engage people with smoke and mirrors, always trying to make yourself look good. So I knew I was taking a chance, but I am so glad that I did. GT: There were many people that assisted you with the actual run, people that were close to you and Heather as you pushed forward each day. Post run, what role did those people play in the writing of Running on Empty, and the various recollections that you wanted added to the book? MU: We had those people who supported us write about their thoughts about the run. And Heather and I talked and listened to what they had to say. And then there were those extraordinary people who would come out and run with me, and we actually looked several of them up and incorporated their stories within the book or in sidebars. I wanted to pay tribute to them as well as the history of our nation and those who have made it great.

in America and other parts of the world, what do you hope to achieve from having your story out there? MU: I’m hoping that people find that it is their story, too, that it is not only about running, but much more than that. It’s about how we all suffer, experience loss, love and can persevere. I would like to think there is something in it for everyone. Incidentally, there were two audiences we had in mind for Running on Empty: the running community and adult women who don’t run! Those people figure prominently in my story, too. GT: In 2012, Go Trail magazine will be working with you in promoting Running on Empty within the running community here in South Africa early in 2012. Why do you see this following of people as one that is beneficial to the success of the book? MU: Because I view the South African people as very much “the salt of the earth.” I think that here in America we have lost some of that fortitude that South Africans still have. The Comrades Marathon is a good example of that, as it is the largest in the world. I would like to think that my story will touch the lives of people in your country as it contains no hype, but gets back to the basics. GT: In one sentence, what would you say is the most valuable component of this book to each an every person who reads it? MU: Even an ordinary person like me can accomplish the extraordinary and learn to love again.

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Athlete Profile

Naturally Anton Krupicka All images by: Joel Wolpert

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A

nton Krupicka was born in Northeast Nebraska in 1983. He grew up on a small family farm 7 miles outside of Niobrara, a fairly isolated town of only about 350 people. Growing up in Nebraska, where high school sports are pretty popular, he played one year of football (helmets

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and pads, not soccer) and a couple years of basketball even though he was already heavily into running which he began at the tender age of 11. Some of his fondest childhood memories came while exploring the farm he grew up on. “I constructed lots of cabins and

trails and did a lot of fossil hunting in the surrounding hills. I still have an extensive collection of petrified pre-historic horse, bison, and mammoth bones, hooves, and teeth from those days.� Having recently wrapped up his studies in Alpine Hydrology,


Anton continues to expresses his deep sense of connection with the earth both through his work and his running. “Where I grew up in Nebraska was essentially the geologic leftovers of the most recent glacial ice age sheets in North America, so I loved hunting for fossils and

doing so was definitely one of the things that sparked my fascination with the natural world.� In this feature, get up close and personal with one of America’s top ultra-trail runners and learn more about his natural and seemingly minimalist approach to the sport.

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Q&A

Go Trail (GT): We know you began competing in marathons from the age of 12, and that you’re also currently wrapping up your studies in Alpine Hydrology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Tell us a little bit more about when and where your love for the outdoors and more specifically, trail running, truly began.

“ Mostly, it comes down to

acute sense of what my bo maybe most importantly, day-to-day training. ” Anton Krupicka (AK): My love for the outdoors was definitely a product of my growing up on my family’s farm in rural Nebraska. We lived a very self-sufficient and close-to-the-land lifestyle there which involved growing and preserving all varieties of fruit and produce in our gardens and orchard and maintaining a woodlot for fuel for our main source of heat—the woodstove in our kitchen. All of the attendant activities—along with my parents’ deliberate influence and encouragement— fostered an early and deep commitment to the natural world as being a value in and of itself. This was further reinforced with an annual summer camping and hiking roadtrip to the mountains, deserts, and coastlines of the American West. It was on

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these trips that I first became enthralled with the dramatic topography that is mostly lacking in Nebraska. However, my penchant for trail running was a direct result of growing up on our farm in a rural environment as I guess I was first a “trail runner” before anything else. I ran almost exclusively over hill and dale and pastures on game trails and stock trails or on the endless miles of dirt/gravel roads that criss-cross the countryside there. I hardly ever touched pavement. Even at a young age I would seek out the steepest, longest, gnarliest hills and routes I could find near our farm and definitely preferred that to

but it also includes faceless, largely nameless other folks in backcountry skiing, surfing, big wall climbing, sportclimbing, bouldering, etc. Basically, anyone who is earnestly interacting with their chosen environment with sincerity, purity, and the minimum of material trappings. Something legendary bigwall climber and alpinist Peter Croft once said sort of captures the way I feel. Paraphrasing, he said something like, “To call it discipline to get out in the mountains every day wouldn’t be right, because that makes it sound like it’s some sort of drudgery. It’s just that it’s

o just listening to my body and trying to have an ody should and shouldn’t be able to handle. Also, I don’t ever force the intensity of my running in flatter, easier running.

so good that even at 52 years of age I just can’t help my self, can’t hold myself GT: What are some of the defining factors that back.” get you out of bed in the morning to train or join some friends for a social run on one of the GT: In many interviews we’ve seen many mountain trails around Boulder? or read, you believe in stripping your running down to the bare essentials. Has AK: The mountains themselves are without a this philosophy evolved over the years doubt my greatest inspiration. There’s nothing you’ve been running or was it something more satisfying than the primal feeling of being you discovered in the early years and able to move quickly and proficiently through a have chosen to adopt ever since? rugged, natural landscape. So, just the feeling that comes with being at peak fitness annually AK: I don’t think of it as anything that is definitely inspiring. Additionally, I’m inspired I really “discovered” or that I’ve really by people that I feel appreciate the land and “chosen”. Running with only the sointeract with it in the right way and are clearly called “bare essentials” is just the only pursuing a type of personal growth through way that has ever really made any sense these interactions. This list of people would to me. In recent years I suppose I’ve tried include a lot of my close friends and fellow to deliberately explore that concept a competitors at the top of the sport, but I’m little more philosophically or try to place definitely inspired by all kinds of people who I its purpose or utility in a certain context, see as embodying the attitude and ethic that but when I was growing up running I I strive for in my own mountain running and would never even carry a water bottle life. This includes successful alpinists like Ueli in Nebraska’s hot/humid summers Steck, Reinhold Messner, and Steve House, because I didn’t like the extra weight September 2011

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and running without a shirt just made sense if it felt hot out to me. Wearing more clothes than necessary while running has just never made sense to me. When I began racing in the mountains I just continued with the same concepts of “lightweight” and “bare essentials” that had always seemed most logical to me when I first entered the sport so many years ago.

simplicity, problem-solving, and perseverance, even stubbornness. Obviously, in order to compete at the highest levels of the sport in the mountains, one’s fitness has to be there. And that’s a given. But in terms of actual race-day execution I try to pay close attention to what my body is telling me so that I can respond with the variables of water, salt, sugar, and effort (pace). For the first 60 miles or so

“Recognize trail running as a means for developing a connection with the land and gaining a deeper appreciation for GT: In more recent years you’ve become more involved in running longer 100mile races. What are some of the key fundamentals that define the way you approach a distance like that?

of a hundred miler, the goal is to just not do anything stupid (i.e. not fuel or pace improperly) while waiting for the real action to come around in the last 40 miles. In the last third of the race, it becomes much more about being more stubborn and being willing AK: For me, racing 100 miles is about to keep going even after maybe having to

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compromise on your pre-conceived goals. There’s no way to really plan for what your body is going to do/experience in the course of 100 miler, so it’s imperative to be flexible, adaptive, and resourceful in the management of your mental state and effort levels. At their core, 100 mile races are about being accepting of shitty/painful circumstances but still soldiering on with your best effort

“training” races don’t really work for me. I inevitably end up running them too hard and they end up taking too long to recover from. Anyways, I guess my racing philosophy is to take the day as it comes to me and, above all, to stand on the starting line with absolute confidence in my training and in my ability to win the race. Self-confidence is paramount for success in sports, and though it’s cliché, having it really makes

the natural world and all that it has to offer in terms of adventure, challenge, inspiration, solace, and personal growth”. and the confidence that things will eventually turn around and you’ll make it to the finish line. I’m not convinced that the “perfect” 100 mile race exists. For me, the “perfect” 100mi race is one where I respond “perfectly” to the problems that are almost guaranteed to arise at some point. Finally, all of this can be taken with a healthy dosage of salt, as I’ve DNFed two of the seven 100 mile races I’ve started, so my track record actually isn’t that stellar.

all the difference in the world. I think some runners are slightly—even unconsciously— intimidated by the course, the terrain, and/ or the competition—but when I’m on the starting line for a long-distance mountain race I am 100% at home in a mountainous environment as a result of my daily running/ training and I 100% believe that I am the one who is fit enough and is going to execute correctly in order to win the race. You can’t fake that kind of confidence and if I don’t have it I probably shouldn’t be lined up with GT: You’ve won some of America’s toughest the intent to win. ultra-races including the Leadville 100 mile and the Miwok 100k. Does your philosophy GT: When preparing for long distance events, on running change when competing against how do you adjust your training to allow for other top athletes at that kind of level, or the necessary recovery one’s body would would you say that it’s your approach which usually require? helps you adapt to the pressures that these events bring with them? AK: Mostly, it comes down to just listening to my body and trying to have an acute sense of AK: My racing philosophy doesn’t change what my body should and shouldn’t be able when competing in high-profile events to handle. Also, maybe most importantly, I against scads of other top runners, mostly don’t ever force the intensity of my running because I don’t race very often, but when in day-to-day training. I think a lot of people I do it’s usually in a high-profile event with try to run too fast on a day-to-day basis. excellent competition. If I’m lined up to race, it means I’m in fairly ripping shape and Really a lot of my running is at a comparatively probably ready to really run well. I don’t see low intensity and if I’m feeling particularly the purpose of competing if I’m not at the beat down I take no shame in just slogging/ top of my game—I can go for a long jog in the shuffling up the mountain on a given day. mountains for free and on my own time—so, However, on the other end of the spectrum, September 2011

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if my body is feeling good I will uncork and really let fly on some training runs, most often in the form of a nearly all-out effort up one of the local peaks. GT: We’ve noticed in many photographs you hardly run with a shirt, let alone some sort of hydration system. How do you keep your self hydrated and fuelled?

“ I don’t

see the purpose of

competing if I’m not at the top of my game...

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AK: Firstly, I’m sure I end most of my runs a bit dehydrated and bonky, but for me a mountain run isn’t about trying to feel as comfortable as possible the whole time. If I wanted to do that, I would just stay on the couch. But it certainly isn’t necessarily about arbitrarily enduring suffering, either. If I wanted to do that, I can think of all sorts of things to do to self-inflict physical pain. Rather, I like getting out in the mountains and stripping away distractions and traveling the most aesthetic routes and doing so on the mountain’s terms as much as is reasonable. Most of the time, for me, this means a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts and GO! I don’t like carrying stuff when I run and I enjoy the satisfying feeling of finishing a run slightly depleted and feeling like I just ran up and down a mountain with very little between me and the mountain, so I certainly don’t mind finishing my daily 2-3hr mountain run maybe slightly dehydrated and bonking. However, on longer runs (4+ hours) I definitely carry GUs and a bottle. I have hip pockets sewed onto a couple pairs of shorts that, combined with a couple of internal pockets, allows me to carry up to 10 gels (1000 calories) with basically no hindrance. 10 gels is usually more than enough to get me through a 50 mile training run, which is usually as long as I go outside of races. For liquid I usually carry a single 20oz bottle


that I’ll refill at springs and streams along and was without a doubt the primary initial the way. inspiration for me running 300 summits on Green Mountain in 2010. GT: What’s the one race (anywhere in the AK: If I know I’m going to have some long GT: What’s the one race (anywhere in the waterless stretches I’ll start the run with two world) that you’d want to compete in and bottles (very rare, I’ve only done this in the win, and why?t to compete in and win, and Grand Canyon, actually) or I’ll just chug as why? many bottles as my stomach will hold (I’ve AK: Without a doubt the Ultra Trail du Mont done four in one go before), fill the bottle Blanc in Chamonix, France. It is actually and be on my way hoping for the best. So, a pretty young 100 mile race, but with it I definitely hydrate and fuel during training, being held in the Alps it is the one 100 mile maybe just a little less and a little more mountain race that is staged in the vibrant discretely than the average runner. During endurance and mountain culture of Europe 100 mile races I am much more likely to carry that gets attention in the US. It has one of two bottles as I never intentionally neglect the best courses (tons of climbing, fantastic hydration or fueling while racing. scenery) and phenomenal spectator support. It attracts the top long distance GT: Is there anyone in trail running you ever mountain running talent from around the looked up to or saw as a role model to help world and has become, in my estimation, you achieve more in your goals? the de facto world championship in long distance mountain racing. AK: When I was younger I really looked up to Matt Carpenter (Pikes Peak Marathon/ GT: Finally, if you were speaking to a group Ascent and Leadville 100 course record of people starting out in trail running for the holder) as someone whose racing exploits first time, what would you tell them? were inspiring. While I still admire Matt’s domination, consistency, and long record AK: Two things: in the sport, once I moved to Colorado and started racing in the mountains my 1) In order to improve, be as consistent inspirations started to come from more as possible with your daily running. By outside the sport, as I mentioned in a previous developing a routine and making it a habit it answer. More recently I have been inspired soon becomes something that is difficult to by the past training and racing of Boulder, CO live without (which I think is a good thing!). local Scott Elliott. With 8 wins in the Ascent Also, daily consistency is the only way to and 13 top three finishes, Scott is nearly as build strength and improve. legendary on Pikes Peak as Matt, but what I have found most inspiring about Scott is 2) Recognize trail running as a means for his single-minded dedication in training. He developing a connection with the land and has posted multiple daily summit streaks gaining a deeper appreciation for the natural on Boulder’s Green Mountain and Bear world and all that it has to offer in terms of Peak (running 100 summits or even more adventure, challenge, inspiration, solace, in a row many times on both peaks—both and personal growth. peaks have ~2500-3000’ elevation gain),

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Go Trail Exclusive

Racing the Desert

By: Dirk Cloete Image: Racing the Planet

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F

or some unknown reason I decided to do one 100-miler in my life when I turn 40. I’ve completed the Comrades marathon 13 times since 1998 and ran more than 100 standard marathons and ultra-marathons during this period. Well, it so happened that I did the Washie 100-miler a couple of months before my 40th. The next year, in 2008 I somehow (can’t remember anymore how it came about) entered for the 5-Day Cape Odyssey Trail Run over 220 km with Heleen Joubert. This started a new era of running for me. At the Odyssey I could hardly get out of bed in the mornings, let alone start running from stiffness. Now, with 2 Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathons and a few 3-Day races under the belt my body has adapted to a situation where from Day 3 I seem to be less stiff, sore and tired than many other participants in these events. And I actually start looking forward to the “business” part of the races. This year I was blessed with the opportunity to take part in the 7-Day Gobi March in China. Leaving our hotel at lunchtime on Saturday with only our racing kit as if the race starts at that moment September 2011 | 30

was quite indifferent. We were about to take a 4-hour bus trip to Camp 1. The race officially only started on Sunday, 26 June. Camp 1 just outside the Gaoyachem Village was quite luxurious for desert racing norms and could completely fool the inexperienced about what was ahead. Before the time I met Pauolo Barghini of Italy, Rafael Fuschgruber of Germany and Juan (Jaume Tolos) of Spain. These were

all pre-race favorites with major pedigrees. It was soon evident that we would be able to strike a friendship that indeed grew as the week went by. My heart rate was between 110 and 120 bpm at the start line of stage 1. This pointed to trouble, but I was hopeful that it was only nerves. I didn’t travel well to the race. I had an intense headache for the past 4


days and felt nauseous all the time. The fact that the sun only sets after 22h00 at night and darkness only setting in at 23h00 didn’t help the process of adjusting at all. Many competitors shot off at a very fast pace as the race started. I settled into my own effort, trying to not lose touch with the front bunch. The first two stages until Checkpoint 1 was basically a steady climb of 700m over a distance of 15km. I soon hooked up with Juan and we ran together almost in an unspoken agreement. I soon realized that what should be a relaxed effort for me felt like hard work. My chest was closed up and it was as if I was lacking “power”. I eventually did the inevitable and checked my heart rate. It was between 180 and 185 bpm all the time, confirming that I was working much too hard. I used my asthma pump twice during the first hour, but had to accept that my old enemy, Exercise Induced Asthma

creased my heart rate and slowed me down. From this point I basically walked/shuffled home for the next 20km, trying to keep my heart rate at 170 bpm. We encountered some very steep accents over the second part of the stage with regular sightings of carcasses and signs of “defeat” in the desert. I completed the 35km stage in a slow 4h34, 33 minutes behind the leader and in 6th position. Surprisingly, despite being unable to go any faster than a shuffle I still overtook many of the top contenders over the last 10 kilometers. During the early hours of Day 2 thick fog moved in over the area of the campsite and the scheduled route. Due to safety reasons the start was delayed for 4 hours and the route shortened from 41 to 21km. I deliberately started fast to get clarity about my heart rate. Within a few hundred meters it was above 180

Images: Racing the Planet

was on my back. The entire stage was run at an altitude of above 2000 m, peaking at 2300 meters for the day. The lack of oxygen is a big enough challenge already at altitude. Combined with Asthma, it was simply not going to work. At CP2 after 15km I stopped to let the doctor check me out. Juan and Paulo went ahead as I slipped back to outside the top 10 positions. The doc confirmed that my lungs were clean. It was simply the lack of oxygen caused by the Asthma attack that in-

bpm again and I struggled to find oxygen. I continued at a frustratingly slow pace, without any power in my legs and the minimum oxygen in my lungs. It started raining after about an hour. At about the same point I felt how my chest was opening up and I could start running more competitively. The temperature reached a maximum of 14 deg. C during day 2 and dropped to 5 deg. C during the night. Instead of experiencing hot desert weather we were suddenly wet and cold. An uncomfortable night followed. People tried all kinds September 2011

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of innovative ways to dry their kit and shoes.

Image: Racing the Planet

Stage 3(44.6km) started with a 7.5 km section of loose rocks in a riverbed. It included 12 river crossings in this section. My asthma was gone. I was running relaxed with my heart rate between 145 and 150. I was fast over the technical terrain, easily trailing the leader on my own. Then followed a climb of 700-meter gain, up to 2336 meters altitude again over the next 10.5 km. My heart rate was totally under control. About 6 competitors were in a tug of war to the top of the hill. Once at the top, a very fast down run followed; again over some technical terrain for the first part. I covered the next 18km in just over 5 min/km, including the stops at CPs. At the last CP at 38km I was quickly catching up with the 3 remaining runners ahead of me. I was flying at this point, not ready to give up the race as yet despite the time lost over the first 2 days. At 42km I realized that I couldn’t see any course markers anymore and was obviously lost. The temperature was mid-40’s and I was out of water with no runners in sight ahead or behind me. Instead of me finishing the day in 2nd position and comfortably 3rd overall in the race, this unfortunate incident added another hour to my time. I finished in 16th position for the day, slipped back to 8th overall and was completely dehydrated due to the extra hour in the sun without water. We spent the night at the Peach Village. Although very contaminated, a little stream of water offered the opportunity of washing clothes and rinsing yourself to some degree for the first time in 3 days. At 04h00 on the morning of Day 4 we took a bus trip of 3.5 hours into the dunes for the start of stage 4. The first stretch of 10.5km was dune running in the desert in its purest form. Crossing several dunes of up to 50m high tested all skill and endurance. I saw a competitor tumbling at least 20 meters down a dune. Crawling out dunes on all fours was often the only way of getting to the top. Often just before you crest you slip back several feet. On the descend you sink knee-deep into the sand. One competitor collapsed and had to be evacuated from the dunes. The dunes were so

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steep that the rescue camels that were on the route all week could not reach the competitor and he had to be carried down to where the camels could reach. I ran easy over this section. Before the start I decided to just try and enjoy my run after the challenges of the first 3 days. Extended stops were required at all the CP’s to clean shoes, feet and socks. After 2 hours into this stage the desert sun became ruthless. The rest of the 37km stage was all on loose sand with small dunes (called dunets). No trails or paths; all just crossing the desert. I slipped back to outside the top 10 positions at CP 2 as competitors elected to just quickly refill with water and push on. I’ve been in the desert under these conditions and I’ve learned the balance between not wasting time, and


changed all rules and started handing out Pepsi and Water Melon to competitors on the route. One of the disadvantages of running at the front of the field is that such privileges will often not be afforded to you.

recuperating for a while when needed. Long before CP3 I’ve overtaken the competitors who left 20 minutes ahead of me at CP2. The temperature was reaching mid-40’s and I, like most other people was running out of water. Suddenly, just before CP I could see all 4 of the remaining competitors ahead of me in the distance. I made a calculate stop at CP3, allowing all 4 of them to leave a few minutes ahead of me. At this point it was so hot that they started implementing the BUDDIE SYSTEM for the competitors behind us. According to the rules when conditions become too dangerous the Race Director has the authority to implement the BUDDIE SYSTEM by which competitors have to wait for one another and progress in a group to the next CP. Competitors were collapsing all along the route, to such an extent that the organizers

Within 3km after the CP I’ve caught 3 of the guys in front of me. We reached a gravel road together. The route was crossing the gravel road, but suddenly all route markers have disappeared mysteriously on the other side of the road. Because it was quite rocky for this short section, it was not possible to follow the tracks of the only guy ahead of us. We spread out and searched for footprints. After 20 minutes I found the leaders footprints and we followed this for approximately 1km where the markers appeared again. Somehow the leader knew exactly in which direction to run (fairly fast) in this section “without” the markers. The moment we regrouped a sprint ensued for the last 5km to the finish. Amazing how a person can be totally exhausted, but adrenaline can cause you to find another level of competitive ness. Juan and I ran this section over very rough terrain in under 5:00 per km. The highlight was probably when we reached a fence close to the finish. There was no way I was going around, over or through it. On my approach I spotted a gap at the bottom of it in a small riverbed. With one perfectly timed dive, roll and recovery I was underneath it and running on the other side again. I was determined to capitalize on the fact that the guys were running too hard through the sand dunes and capture at least a 2nd-spot finish for the day. I beat Juan by 2 minutes and the 4th and 5th placed competitors by 20 minutes after this mad sprint. My sugar levels played up a bit at the end. After 2 hours I have recovered again.12 More competitors withdrew on this day. One had to admire competitors who endured the desert sun for as long as 10 hours on this 37km stage, but labored on until the end. Stage 5 was the long stage of 81.6km. In contrast with the first few days, this entire stage was run at an altitude below sea level. At one point we descended to 166m below sea level. It is believed to be the 2nd lowest point on earth. It

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started with a 10km section of no tracks or trails, crossing some dunes again. Here I had the unfortunate experience of taking a tumble at the bottom of one sand dune. You are totally covered in sand when this happens. As a result I had to take an extended stop at CP1 to wash myself down and clean my shoes in an attempt to avoid severe chafing the rest of the day. Paulo and Juan overtook me at CP1 as a result of this. After about 1h30 into the stage, the weather turned very kind on us. It felt as if the 2mm rain that falls per annum in the Gobi desert all fell during the week that we were there. All the way until the 40km mark it was overcast with infrequent downpours. The only negative aspect was a very strong headwind, but this kept the temperature down. I all along ran within myself, trailing the race leader by no more than 3 minutes all the way to CP4 at 41km. At this point the clouds were gone and within no more than 30 minutes the temperature shot up to over 40 deg. C. After CP4 a section followed which was completely “non-runnable”. I took a break at CP4 and lost site of the race leader in the process. During this next section, you were literally stumbling from one step to the next. The route mark-

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ers were again very poor and I had to try and trace the footsteps of the single runner ahead of me. In contrast with reaching CP4 in just outside 6:00 per km as part of my plan I covered the section to CP5 in almost 9:00 minutes per km simply because of the terrain, lack of route markers and the heat. The section until CP6 inside the Gao Chang ruins was runnable, but the temperature was now in the mid-40’s and there was no place to hide. You are fulltime exposed to the most intense desert sun. I all along knew what the gap was between me, Juan and Paulo behind me. I made the decision that if by CP6 at 61km it became evident that the leader was not collapsing and it was clear that the gap between Juan, myself and Paulo is not growing to the extent that we were going to change positions in the overall rankings that I might as well run with them. It was not a matter of “giving up” the challenge. The disappointment of the bad start earlier in the week and the “what could have been thoughts” were still very present in my emotions. I was not going to let anyone catch me. I was determined to get back to a top 5 position. But in the bigger


scheme of things, the value of strengthening friendships in the battle of covering the last few kilometers was higher than soldiering on alone and not moving up in the rankings anyway. The organizers made the decision on my behalf. After CP6 there was a message from Juan asking if I could help him as he was really struggling. At CP7 the Buddy System was implemented. The 12.8km section to CP8 was probably the most dangerous run I had in my entire life. The temperature was at 49 Deg.C as we were “running� along the famous Flaming Mountains. There is absolutely nothing growing in this area, not even one single blade of grass. The highest stone is no more than 2cm. I developed blisters underneath the balls of my feet at this point due to the extended time spent on the hot soil. It was simply too dangerous in the exposed sun to try and sit down to do something about it. Juan and I were sipping on the last bit of water we had between us. To make matters worse, the CP was about 2km past its scheduled position. I took my shoes off at CP8 in an effort to try and cool my feet down. We waited for Paulo at this point as it

was simply too dangerous to proceed alone. Juan was really struggling over the last section as the 3 of us made our way to Camp 6 in the middle of nowhere. It would have been totally unsportsmanlike to have left him at this point and finished the stage a few minutes ahead of him. We finished the long stage 20 minutes behind the race leader. Our time of 10h47 is indicative of how tough the conditions were. Competitors kept arriving at the camp through the night until after lunchtime the next day. One of the local Wigger people presented a teaching on the history of the Silk Road and the different cultural groups in the area around the campfire on the last evening. Everybody was looking forward to the last short run on Saturday, but the desert was not done with the competitors of the Gobi March 2011 yet. Just before 12h00 that last night a severe sand storm moved in over the area. The next 4 hours were like trying to survive inside a functional vacuum cleaner. Many of the tents were damaged by the gale force winds. Outside the tents you couldn’t see for more than 10

Image: Racing the Planet

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Images: Racing the Planet


meters and inside the boiling hot tents everything was covered with sand, while you had to try and breath. For the first time during the race the organizers introduced a staggered start on the last stage of 14 km. The route involved 11km of ascending a mountain on a very narrow, but nice sand trail followed by 3km of steep descend into the Buddhist Village where the Gobi March 2011 officially ended. Only 112 competitors from the 147 starters lined up for the final stage. The blisters below my feet were still very painful on the last morning. Once more it was a question of taking painkillers, strapping up the blisters and finding a way to run. The deal of a gentle jog home didn’t materialize as some of the “TV runners” took off at the start. I took it easy, but steady up the hill as I settled into the 8 position. Just before the top of the hill I caught the leading group and quickly overtook most of them on the technical downhill section, finishing 1 minute behind the winner. It was pure torture over the last 3 km with shoes filled with sand and large blisters underneath my feet. The prospect of cold Pepsis, beers, watermelon and other food was more than enough encouragement for all competitors to hasten to the finish line. There were many life changing stories to be told. Like that of Jim Willet who buried his Cancer test results in the Gobi desert and only had 6 months to train for the event. Completing an event like this is not just about successfully finishing a race. It is an epic journey which last for months and culminates in 7 final days where you will push your body and mind beyond all limits which you might previously have believed. It involves many hours of preparation and major support. I thank

my Heavenly Farther for giving me the opportunity to have participated in the Gobi 2011. And my sponsors, Columbia Sportswear, Scott Safety from Dubai, Short Term Brokers and Saab Technologies who made it financially possible for me to take part in this race. Professor Jacques Rossouw once again helped me with following a very scientific approach with my training and nutritional programs. Many of the friendships struck in adverse circumstances like these will last for ever. But the most gratifying emotion when you’re out in the desert like that is to get messages of support from your friends at home. It humbled me to learn how many people were following my progress and supported me. If it were possible at all I would have personally thanked everyone who sent messages. To have stayed focus and motivated for more than 120 hours of specific training for the event during the final 10 weeks would not have been possible on my own. The encouragement, support and patience from Marinda caused me to go to the Gobi, feeling like a champion regardless of the position I would finish in. Thank you my darling and also for helping my champion, Damian to be a part of the whole experience that his dad went through. He loves it so much and is so proud of his dad when I run through the desert. I felt proudly South African among competitors from all over the world. It was a privilege seeing and experiencing the Gobi Desert. After the experience I’m just more convinced than ever before. We have a beautiful country and a very scenic and pure desert in the Kalahari.

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Image: Kelvin Trautman

Up close and personal with

Dirk Cloete Go Trail (GT): To begin with what was it that attracted you to running the Gobi March? Dirk Cloete (DC): My strength lies in the longer type races. The desert races are the most extreme format of the stage races and this seems to fit me well. My rate of attrition seems to be lower than most of the competitors as the race progresses. One of my major strengths is my mental toughness. This is a handsome advantage in extreme desert racing conditions. The Gobi is almost like a bit of “mysterious” desert. Who will ever travel to the Gobi desert for a holiday? So, what better way to see and experience the Gobi desert, while running through it? GT: In the preparation for the actual race, were there ever times that you felt overwhelmed by the nature of the challenge and if so, how did you cope with those feelings?

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DC: No, I’m very focussed. The battle of beating the emotional challenges during a tough training program is almost part of the addiction for me. I just tell myself very few people will be as determined as what I am, and then I keep going. GT: As a trail runner, what are some of the driving forces that motivate you to want to achieve in the sport, and specifically in your build up to the Gobi March? DC: Running has always been therapeutic for me. Running in nature on trails just completed the experience. It is not an effort for me when I run in the veld. I am totally aware of the beauty of nature, the privilege of being healthy and the presence of God. On top of it, it is tough and often very lonely, which requires a lot of discipline. I prosper when challenges get tough. I’m a competitive person. I don’t mind being


“spend some time on improving your nutritional regime.”

beaten, but I hate losing. I guess that’s what drives me. When I’m beaten by a better athlete I accept it and still enjoy my achievement and the experience. But I hate it when I know I could have done better if I did something differently, which are within my capability. I knew I could do well at the Gobi. I wanted to measure myself against some of the world’s best ultra trail runners. The Gobi March 2011 was the most competitive event ever in the 4-Deserts series with more than 10 potential race winners lining up at the start. GT: Having completed the event, finishing fourth in the process, were you happy with your preparation and your overall performance? And what have you learnt from competing against some of the worlds best athletes? DC: I was very happy with my preparation (physi-

cally, mentally and logistically). I had challenges at the Gobi. I suffered from Exercise Induced Asthma the first 2 days. Then just as I started racing on Day 3 I missed the last turn-off and instead of moving into the 2nd position, I slipped back to 8th. I just kept on racing and worked my way back to 4th overall, getting 2 second place finishes on the long stages. I’m very satisfied with my effort in view of the challenges I faced. Many other top runners withdrew or finished further back without the setbacks I experienced. I avoid focussing on the “what could have been”. That will rob me of enjoying a great experience and achievement. I will not fall in the trap of believing that only winning races represents being good. Participating in the Gobi just confirmed for me what I’ve learned at the KAEM already and that is that I can be competitive in these types of races against any field of competitors.

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GT: Now that you back home, what’s next on the trail running schedule for Dirk Cloete? DC: I have a very busy business life and I value family time. So, my running is part of the bigger schedule. At this moment I’m contemplating going back to the KAEM in October and try to become the first person to win it 3 times. Alternatively, I’ll select a different extreme race for 2012. Maybe in Egypt or Spain. There as so many absolutely great 3 and even 2-day trail races in SA now. I’m going to do a number of those in 2012 with just one extreme race. GT: As the sport develops in South Africa, what are some of the challenges you see us facing as a trail running community, and what are your thoughts on how best you see the sport moving forward? DC: I’m very positive about trail running. In the KAEM we have one of the top desert races in the world. We have multiple other single stage trail races in a variety of environments that only a

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diverse country like ours can offer. Many people relate easier to the “achievability” of trail running as they measure it against hiking and also see the enjoyment aspect of it. Much unlike people who regard road running as tough as they don’t see themselves as marathoners. The support from sponsors and the media towards trail running is already very attractive. One of the biggest challenges will be to coordinate the sport to the benefit of the athletes, without restricting it with the baurocracy of the road running structures. I’ve served on the board of AGN and other structures for many years. The biggest thread to trail running in SA is to be hijacked by ASA. We need to use the success of trail running to draw more people into the sport of running, and not to deter them. Trail running must complement and not compete with all the other running disciplines in our structures. Another negative aspect of trail running is that there is almost a “culture” which determines that trail races have to be very expensive. We require


“Im very satisfied with my effort in view of the challenges I faced.”

a healthy balance between cost and the quality/ value offered to the participants. There are already many top quality trail races in SA. And quite a few organisers with the expertise to present such top races. GT: What advice would you give to someone starting out in trail running, or someone wanting to take their trail running up a few notches? DC: At first it might be a bit more difficult than what you anticipated. Just keep repeating it and focus on the pleasure of being in nature. Soon you’ll find yourself improving a lot with those aspects you initially thought you can’t conquer. If you want to move up a notch, spend some time on improving your nutritional regime. During and outside of racing. Because of the all the variables in trail running it becomes quite difficult to figure out the impact of your nutrition program. To be successful in extreme multi-day races you need to have a good understanding of your body’s nutritional requirements.

Images: Racing the Planet

At the coast trail runners are spoilt with the availability of trails to run and train on. Don’t be discouraged if you’re a city-dweller up North. Run the steps at the Super Circuit in your gym or local school’s pavilion to develop the same skills as the goaties in Cape Town. Use the dilapidated pavements to your benefits. Most of them are now technical trail courses. GT: If there was one thing you could do for someone through trail running, what would that be and why? DC: I would be an ambassador for organisations like the Wildlands Conservation Trust. In principle their purpose if to restore and protect these pristine environments (fauna and flora) we as trail runners get to enjoy. GT: In one sentence, sum up what trail running means to you as an individual? DC: “When I run (trail), I feel HIS pleasure” – Eric Liddel

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Gear Review

The New Balance MINIMUS MT10 review.

O

ne of the more highly anticipated pairs of shoes we’ve tested, the New Balance MINIMUS MT10 has just hit the South African trail running market. This shoe has been developed by New Balance to continue their focus on providing the running market with a minimalist range of footwear September 2011

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that are continually pushing the boundaries of design and function.

To begin with, the weight (or the lack there of) of these shoes becomes apparent the moment you remove them from When looking up MINIMUS their box. All the bulk has in the Oxford Dictionary, one been completely stripped to finds the following meaning: leave you with a very effective “the least or smallest amount no-clutter look and design. or quantity possible, attainable, A synthetic / mesh upper or required” and these shoes provides heaps of comfort most certainly fit the bill. while not detracting from


The grip on these shoes is really good, and coupled with the flexibility offer you a peace of mind when negotiating uneven footing. the support required so that the foot is not rolling about inside the shoe. Interestingly, New Balance were going to introduce the MINIMUS without laces, however Anton Krupicka, one of their top sponsored athletes, convinced them otherwise. “The MT10 was originally designed without laces, but I’ve never run in a good shoe that didn’t have laces and I had concerns for the shoe’s ability to lock the foot down on offcamber terrain. I didn’t want it to be an aqua-sock so we eventually went with laces on the final design. The upper on the MT10 is also very durable, I haven’t had any problems with it breaking down and I’ve put up to 700 miles on a pair.” Although a one-piece tongue has been included in the overall design of the upper, the extremely low profile of the collar around the ankle and Achilles does unfortunately let debris into the shoe, especially while running in sandy or

gritty conditions. The MINIMUS has been designed for sockless running so this can be a bit of disturbance as you may find yourself having to stop from time to time to empty the debris out. Moving to the midsole, New Balance have introduce a 4mm differential between heal and forefoot, offering runners a bit of grace when making the change to, or introducing minimalist running into to their regimen. A very noticeable feature of the midsole is its complete and unhindered flexibility offering tremendous proprioceptive qualities. Although the overall design is centred on minimalist running, the midsole still does offer a small degree of support and cushioning. Partnering with Vibram, one of the world-wide leaders of rubber manufacturers for running shoe outsoles, the MINUMS outsole has been constructed with a simple yet very effective web of rubber

lugs. The grip on these shoes is really good, and coupled with the flexibility offer you a peace of mind when negotiating uneven footing. What it doesn’t do however is provide too much protection between the hazards on the ground (sharp stones, thorns etc) and the base of your foot, so one needs to be a bit more aware of the terrain conditions. Another really great outsole feature is the extended piece of Vibram rubber that extends up and around the sides of the forefoot. As these shoes are designed to encourage a mid and forefoot strike, this feature offers a bit more protection and a support when striking the ground. In general, New Balance have thought long and hard about the MINIMUS and it provides you with natural running requirements you seek when looking for a true minimalist shoe. Functional design meets quality materials, all to bring you a well-rounded and versatile trail shoe. September 2011

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Anton Krupicka shares his further input into the design and functionality of the New Balance Minimus Trail

I

was definitely quite involved in the development of the Trail Minimus (MT10). We went about designing the 10 such that we thought there needed to be a shoe that could offer some of the foot strengthening and proprioception attributes of true “barefoot footwear”. On the other hand, we recognised that a shoe like the MT100/MT101 was really a very protective and built-up shoe that was actually nothing at all like running barefoot. So, basically, we went about designing the MT10 with the intention to make a sort of “middle-ground” shoe that would hopefully translate the “barefoot experience” as best as possible to the trails. This is why New Balance decided to go with the 4mm drop in the MT10, because they felt it would be irresponsible to go from producing shoes with a 10mm drop to no drop at all. I agreed, and given how popular the shoe has been I think this was a duly responsible decision on their part. While I ultimately can’t do much aggressive trail

running in the MT10 here in Boulder (Colorado, USA) because the trails are so technical and rocky, I definitely do get out on the trails with it but at a much more relaxed pace than normal and with the intention of really working on my form and footstrike awareness. It won’t ever be a shoe I race in (unless the trail is quite soft and smooth), but I really enjoy it for the 30-35miles/ week I run on less technical trails. As for my involvement in the actual design, basically New Balance would ask me what I wanted in a shoe like that, they’d draw up some sketches and send them to me, I’d give detailed feedback, they’d make some changes considering my input, and put together a prototype. I’d then try out the prototype, give feedback, etc., etc., etc. I also basically run the crap out of a pair of prototypes and then send them back to look at how my gait/footstrike affects the shoe, where it’s breaking down, etc. Also, if I feel strongly enough about something, New Balance is almost sure to do something to address it in the shoe.

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Through the lens

Salomon

4 Trails Vistas

By: Kelvin Trautman September 2011

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Tucked under the Zugspitze massif (the highest mountain in Germany), the quaint Bavarian town of Garmisch, played host to the start of the solomon 4 trails Race.

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High altitude lakes, as blue as the Mediterranean, are a common sight along the way. September 2011

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Back from injury, and back to winning ways. Kiwi, Anna Frost dominated the woman’s race. September 2011

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An amphitheatre of Alps

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Where is the top? Over 4 days, competitors were tasked with climbing over 10000m. September 2011

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You never too old to trail run.

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The top of Day 2’s first climb. It was 13km long.

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Exposed. Big Alp thunderstorms come rolling down the valley’s in late afternoon.

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At the top of the leaderboard, and all smiles, the Salomon ladies, Anna Frost and Julia Bottger pose for the Gripmaster.

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Salomon 4 Trails done. The after-party celebrations begin.

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Click here for some Salomon 4 Trails Video coverage.

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The African Experience THE

IL RUN

A AN TR C I R F A y

nted b

prese

magnetic south productions ™

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The infamous Otter Trail

R

x e l A h un wit * Monday 26th of September * Beachfront promenade, Durban at 3:30pm

* Sunday 2nd of October *

Tableview beach, Cape Town at 12:00pm For more details please contact James via email: james@gotrail.co.za or keep your eyes on Go Trail NEWS For more information on Alex Flynn and 10 Million Meters head to http://www.alexflynn.co.uk

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Go explore

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Trail Running Switzerland Written by MichĂŠle Stofer Images by www.edlibaer.ch


S

witzerland is often associated with delicious chocolate, creamy cheese, Swiss knifes and - the beautiful mountains. And this landmark offers – amongst others – perfect requirements for trail running. Over green meadows, through chilly woods, towards the mountains. Trail running in Switzerland provides beautiful landscapes; wide and varying.

nature; a “big city-feeling” never really comes up. This fact together with the varying weather conditions and the clean air makes running in Switzerland all prettier and an even more spectacular experience. After the Swiss increasingly turned into a hard-running nation, more and more runner discover the “off-road”-running. Escaping from the everyday life, descending in the wonderful world of trail running for a few hours and With about 7.7 millions inhabitants on a land enjoying the beautiful and rural countryside in area of 41’285km² you have the surroundings doing so – this seems to find a ready welcome to along with its impressive nature often for a lot of people. yourself. Switzerland is the highest situated area By now, there are more and more running in Central Eu-rope. With its size, this lovely events in Switzerland in which great parts confederation belongs to the smallest countries take place on trails and are therefore very in the world. The “Dufourspitze” with its 4’634 interesting for the trail running scene. The most meters above the sea is the highest point and popular ones are the “Jungfrau-Marathon”, the “Matterhorn” the most famous mountain in “Swiss Alpine Marathon”, “Zermatt-Marathon”, Switzerland. The four seasons in Switzerland are “Sierre-Zinal” and “The Mountainman”. The very diverse; in spring everything gets colorful international starting field shows that running and the birds start to twitter, in summer in the Swiss scenery is favored beyond the everything blooms and after sunny days there Swiss borders. Swiss mountain races are also are frequently cooling summer storms, in fall much affected by international top athletes the leaves turn into red, yellow and brown like Jonathan Wyatt, repeated winner of the and are falling down from time to time, in “Jungfrau-Marathon”. With 5’334 finishers, the winter it’s getting white and cold. Those who “Swiss Alpine” in Davos has the biggest field of prefer warm and southern weather conditions participants. should visit the Ticino, one of the 26 cantons in So who’s planning a trip to Switzerland should Switzerland and the only one with palms. absolutely pack runners and experience, gaze There is a range of routes which are ideally and enjoy the wonderful landscapes by running. suited for trail running. The scenery, with And don’t be scared if there’s a cow on your its many rivers and streams, hundreds of way – this is quite common near trails in the lakes, wide meadows, woods and impressive mountains – they are considerate towards trail mountains, is very diverse and there’s a suitable runners! trail-route for everyone. One is close to the Enjoy running!

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Deutsche Zusammenfassung Trailrunning in der Schweiz bietet einem wunderschöne Landschaften, weit und abwechslungsreich. Man ist nahe an der Natur, ein richtiges „Grossstadtfeeling“ kommt nirgends auf. Diese Tatsache macht das Laufen in der Schweiz umso schöner und zu einem noch eindrücklicheren Erlebnis. Die Luft ist rein und vielerorts hat man die Umgebung mitsamt seiner eindrücklichen Natur für sich allein. Auf einer Landesfläche von 41‘285km2 finden sich zahlreiche Strecken, die fürs Trailrunning bestens geeignet sind. Das Landschaftsbild ist durch die vielen Flüsse, Seen, weiten Wiesen, Wälder und imposanten Berge sehr vielfältig – für jeden findet sich eine passende Lauf-Strecke. Wer also eine Reise in der Schweiz plant, sollte unbedingt ein Paar Laufschuhe einpacken und die wunderschönen Landschaften laufend erleben, bestaunen und geniessen. Und nicht erschrecken, wenn plötzlich wild weihende Kühe auftauchen – dies ist in der Nähe von Bergtrails durchaus nicht selten – sie sind den Trail-Runnern freundlich gesinnt! For more info on trail running in Switzerland… click here.

Check out some of the races happening in Switzerland

http://www.jungfrau-marathon.ch/ http://www.swissalpine.ch/ http://www.sierre-zinal.com/ http://www.zermattmarathon.ch/ http://www.themountainman.ch/ September 2011

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Go Trail Magazine September 2011 Issue  

This month we check out a new multi-day trail running event on the Wildcoast of South Africa. We review Running on Empty, the awe-inspiring...

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