VOL4 ED16 // AUTUMN 2015 // AU/NZ/ASIA
INTERVIEW: NEPAL’S MIRA RAI // TRAIL BUG: CATCHING IT IN COSTA RICA // ASYLUM ON TRAIL: MOHAMMAD’S MARTHON // BLIND AMBITION: KIWI MARY FISHER // MINIMUM FUSS: GUIDE TO BAREFOOT // HUT TO HUT: A NEW TRAIL ICON // FINAL STAND: TARAWERA TALES // TRAIL MUSE: FOX HUNT // TRAIL GEAR, GUIDES, PREVIEWS & PORN
NEVER STOP EXPLORING
D E F Y C O M P R O M I S E S A C R I F I C E N OT H I N G – W I T H T H E TO U G H E S T, L I G H T E S T M O U N TA I N F O OT W E A R .
U LT R A C A R D I A C AVAILABLE IN MEN’S & WOMEN’S
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VOLUME 4, EDITION 16, AUTUMN 2015
Foundation supporters (the
Windroo Trails www.windrootrails.com Salomon au www.salomon.com/au Wild Plans www.wildplans.com Brooks / Texas Peak www.brooksrunning.com. The North Face Australia www.thenorthface.com.au La Sportiva / Expedition Equipment www.mountainrunning.com.au
Editorial Australia Editor: Chris Ord Associate Editor: Tegyn Angel New Zealand Editor: Amanda Broughton Minimalist/Barefoot Editor: Garry Dagg Design: Jordan Cole Craft-Store.com.au
Visit us online www.trailrunmag.com
Contributing Writers Samantha Gash, Kyle Williams, Beau Miles, Dion Milne
Senior photographer Lyndon Marceau www.marceauphotography.com
Photography Lloyd Belcher /www.lloydbelchervisuals.com, Beau Miles, Ian Corless / www.iancorless.com, Ricoh Riott / www.ricohriottphotography.com, Amanda Broughton, Tegyn Angel, Richard Bull, Shane Hutton, Rob Scott / www.marathon-photos.com, Jose Andreas Vargas, Sam Costin / www.samuelcostin.com, Erwin Jansen / http://galleries.dandyrunner.com, Dylan Haskin / www.dylanhaskin.com, Mal Law.
COVER: Nepali trail runner Mira Rai in her element in the Himalaya. IMAGE: Richard Bull. THIS SHOT: Our new NZ editor Amanda Broughton gets in some dusk running above Wellington. IMAGE: Ricoh Riott.
Trail Run is published quarterly Winter / Spring / Summer / Autumn Editorial & Advertising Trail Run Magazine 10 Evans Street, Anglesea, Vic 3230 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Telephone +61 (0) 430376621 Founders Chris Ord + Stuart Gibson + Mal Law + Peter & Heidi Hibberd
Disclaimer Trail running and other activities described in this magazine can carry significant risk of injury or death. Especially if you are unfit. Undertake any trail running or other outdoors activity only with proper instruction, supervision, equipment and training. The publisher and its servants and agents have taken all reasonable care to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the expertise of its writers. Any reader attempting any of the activities described in this publication does so at their own risk. Neither the publisher nor any of its servants or agents will be held liable for any loss or injury or damage resulting from any attempt to perform any of the activities described in this publication, nor be responsible for any person/s becoming lost when following any of the guides or maps contained herewith. All descriptive and visual directions are a general guide only and not to be used as a sole source of information for navigation. Happy trails.
Publisher Adventure Types 10 Evans Street Anglesea, Victoria, Australia 3230
You make connecting with nature a messy good time. And with the Brooks Cascadia 10’s super grippy 4-point pivot system, you’ll tackle any tough terrain with ease. The ballistic rock shield protects your foot from gnarly trail hazards, making your off-road running adventure the best road. Time to hit the shower. Learn more at brooksrunning.com.au
©2015 Brooks Sports, Inc.
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VOLUME 4, EDITION 16, AUTUMN 2015
Now’s a good time to buy all the good gear
A wild child, a mountain goat, an improved ultra, another innov8tion and something with the X-factor
120. Lorne Waterfall Loop,Victoria,AU 122.Polhill-Red Rocks,Nth Island,NZ 124. Korokoro Dam,Nth Island,NZ 126. Avalanche Peak,Sth Island,NZ
TRAIL MIX 10.
Australia – Chris Ord New Zealand – Amanda Broughton Australia – Tegyn Angel
FEATURES 40. Final stand – manning the crash zone at Tarawera 46. Rai of Sunshine – Nepal’s rising trail star 52. Blind Ambition – sight impaired runner Mary Fisher 60. Hut to Hut – a high country epic 70. Mohammad’s Marathon – seeking asylum on trail 78. Catching the Bug – getting the runs in Costa Rica
Event & Tour Previews
from Down Under to France and Bhutan
The Fox and I by Beau Miles Surf Coast Trail Runners
Trail Porn – it’s dirty
CHRIS ORD, AU
IMAGE: Shane Hutton
Rock climbers are a curious bunch. I’m not one. But I’m blessed to be occasionally blinded by the light shining from the carabinerstrewn editorial box of Trail Run Mag’s sister-publication, Vertical Life (www.verticallifemag.com.au).
THEY ARE A CULT-LIKE COMMUNITY, IF JUDGED FROM AN OUTSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE – THEIR OWN NOMENCLATURE, A DISASTROUS SENSE OF STYLE (TRAIL RUNNERS STAND ACCUSED OF MUCH WORSE FASHION ATROCITIES, HOWEVER), A NEVER-SATED APPETITE FOR THEIR SINGULAR PURSUIT, AND A SUPER-SATURATED PROCLIVITY FOR PISS-TAKING. I’M UNSURE ABOUT THEIR PREDILECTION FOR SECRET HANDSHAKES, BUT I AM SUSPICIOUS. Be careful with this craggy crew, however, as they react like a ropey snake when provoked. I once opined that their persistent and pithy verbal digs aimed at ripping their own boulder brothers off rock-hewn pedestals reminded me of the shit-canning usually reserved for footballers’ change rooms. Their sense of superior intellect (to that of your typical ball-chaser) and incisive humour did not take kindly to such gutter-culture comparisons. While modesty is not, in general, a strong trait among climbers, what I do admire about the climbing fraternity (beyond the sheer bravado it takes to rise more than ten feet up a wall), is the concept of the ‘Project’. A Project is exactly what it sounds like, a work in progress – a route hard enough that the climber must attempt it multiple times, searching for a sequence that will ‘unlock’ it. They must study it, intricately. Cast eyes and hands over its every crack. Understand its personality and moods. And somehow work slowly to master that package in order to successfully climb it. I like that packaged idea. The notion that they work on their Project over time, returning to it, enjoying it, being frustrated by it, getting angry at it, but ultimately – though not always – being rewarded by the joy of completion after a complex if frustrating relationship with the wall. I appreciate the idea of them reaching their ‘crux’ – the most difficult point in any
climb – and climbing through it, beyond it. That hard-earned progression and result seems to be the core of their why. The different contexts and structures wrapped around the pursuit of trail running make it hard to parallel. Our chasing of ‘vert’ only goes as far as something a climber would call an ‘approach’. Our ‘steep’ is their ‘walk in’. Our most dangerous fall results in a strain or at worst a break. Theirs can mean death. Our battle is to push past that wall of fatigue, but we do so with a safety net: we can sit down at any point in time. They do it with nowhere to ‘let go’ for even the briefest moment. When we stop, we are done. When they stop, they still have to get down. Another factor is what it takes to complete a Project. Beyond general climb fitness and technique, a climbing Project takes place on a wall that constitutes a series of problems, usually solved in succession over many, many attempts. Sometimes it takes days or weeks, often months, sometimes years and maybe even a lifetime to string solutions together, unlock a problem and so complete, or ‘send’, a Project. Some problems go unsolved and thus Projects remain unfinished. Can you imagine the equivalent: a trail route that remains unrun despite attempts? In the trail running world, a Project is most often completed the first time it is tackled. In climbing nomenclature, it is called on-sighting. Example: having scoured maps and researched I have for a while wanted to run Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge, one of the state’s Great Walks. It could be considered my pet ‘Project’ at the minute. Roughly 87km, it’s a technical trail dusted lightly with campsites that passes through spectacular terrain. Like a climber looks at a wall and wonders, I look at the information in front of me and wonder: what would Carnarvon be like to run? But there’s no use going there and cracking into short sections month after month, learning the route, getting to know its
nuances, before eventually going the full loop. Nope. In trail world, you do your paper research. You plan best you can. You train. You run through logistics and then you on-sight: you go run the damn thing. There are no weeks/months/years of building a relationship with the trail to unlock its secrets. There is just the time you need to get along it successfully, hopefully first time. Sure, if it’s big enough (i.e. John Muir Trail or the AAWT) you may recce something – run it in parts – before your big attempt, but it nowhere compares to the studied patience and focus a rock climber has to have to engage their Project. For the trail runner tackling a nominated Project, it’s about distance and environment and the ability mentally and physically to manage what both throw at you. And essentially it’s a short fight, even when the distances are ultra. You run the trail and get to the finish. Or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s usually just the result of an off day or lack of training. It’s not a matter of being able to ‘unlock’ the mysteries of a 100km trail, the same way it is on a 100-foot wall. For that, I am envious of the climbing fraternity. You could argue that we enjoy pushing further physically. Or that in an ultra, we push our minds deeper into beautiful oblivious, delirious space. Talk to a rock climber and you’ll quickly understand that they do just that, too. They hurt. They reach exhaustion. They battle mind and body to persist. And they chase that higher state that an effort beyond known limits can deliver. I’m not a rock climber. I’m a trail runner. But sometimes I wish I had a trail running Project that was more like that of a climber’s, one that took years to unlock. Perhaps, just perhaps, I need to find a real wall, rather than a metaphorical one, along the next trail Project I run. Your playground editor, Chris Ord email@example.com
AMANDA BROUGHTON, NZ
IMAGE: Ricoh Riott / www.ricohriottphotography.com
IF YOU’RE READING THIS, YOU COULD BE SOMEONE WHO IS TOYING WITH THE IDEA OF COMING TO THE DIRTY SIDE. YOU COULD BE A SEASONED TRAIL RUNNING ATHLETE FOR WHOM IT WOULD ALL APPEAR OBVIOUS, OR YOU COULD BE SITTING WITH YOUR FEET UP, INJURED AND DREAMING OF WHEN YOU CAN GET BACK OUT THERE AGAIN. When you get so deeply into something it is easy to lose sight of why you started, where you started, and why you enjoy doing it in the first place. It’s extremely hard if you’re injured and facing a long recovery, to keep spirits up and still have that passion for a sport that you can’t fully participate in. Here are a few reasons why I like running on trails: I run off road for my personal hygiene. Because I might have tried to save on washing and re-use those sweaty running shorts if they didn’t have so much visible dirt on them. I run off road because I like to be able to support people in beginning their own running journey, to not be so focused on my own strict training plan that I forget why I do this in the first place. I run off road because I need to justify spending money on a new GPS watch with the ‘Get back to home base’ feature for people with poor navigation skills.
I run off road because it means I’m less accountable for my pace and time. It also means I can cheat and make a 10km easy training run a sprint up and down a hill. My coach will never read this so it’s okay. I run off road because I enjoy being that special person that people feel comfortable with in turning to for advice for awkward body issues, like lost toenails. I run off road because my farm of snot, my bleeding nose and my poorly aimed spitting doesn’t feel so welcome along the esplanades in the city. I run off road because the drivers of balance bikes are so bloody unpredictable. I run off road because volunteering at trail running events means plentiful scenery and food rather than road cones and traffic detours. I run off road because I can’t stand running past the houses at dinner time and smelling all of the elaborate feasts that are on the boil when I will be going home to something from the blender and/or freezer. I run off road so that nobody toots at me from their nondescript white utility van or woo-hoos at me from their 4WD when I’m running in my crop top. I run off road because if a Tomorrow When The War Began style invasion starts playing out in Wellington then I will be safe up in the hills with my gels and my hydration pack.
I run off road because I like to stop and chat with other runners about where they are going and where they have been (and to ask how fast they ran up that hill before looking them up on Strava). I run off road because it almost always involves a lot of food before, during, and after. And the next day. I run off road because I can stop for a break when the beauty (gasp). Gets (gulp). Too (wheeze). Exhausting (phew). During the six months I had on the couch with an injury, I had to think a lot about what it was I enjoyed so much about running, and why it would be worth it doing all of the rehabilitation to come back to the sport. Rehab is boring, listening to your mates recount stories of their runs and races is painful when you can’t even walk, and having the patience to deal with an injury takes a lot more focus than the hard training that put you there in the first place. So if you’re enjoying the high of being at your peak fitness or you’ve just taken a mighty fall, take a moment to think about why you run. I want you to love it as much as I do and if your passion is waning, may this issue ignite a little spark to get you going again! Your happily post-injury editor, Amanda Broughton (NZ)
TEGYN ANGEL, AU
IMAGE: Tegyn Angel
WITHIN ANY COMMUNITY OF AVID DEVOTEES THERE DEVELOPS SOMETHING KNOWN AS A LINGUISTIC REGISTER. REGISTER IS A TERM FROM SOCIOLINGUISTICS, A FIELD THAT LOOKS AT THE TWO-WAY INTERPLAY AND CO-EVOLUTION OF SOCIETY AND LANGUAGE. SPECIFICALLY, REGISTER REFERS TO “SPECIFIC LEXICAL AND GRAMMATICAL CHOICES AS MADE BY SPEAKERS DEPENDING ON THE SITUATIONAL CONTEXT, THE PARTICIPANTS OF A CONVERSATION AND THE FUNCTION OF THE LANGUAGE IN THE DISCOURSE.” Simply put, the catalogue of words we choose, when we say them and how we choose to speak in any given conversation. Within any cultural or social group you will find a linguistic register. When compared to what might be considered the mainstream or dominant register, such as you might hear on the evening news, the language choices of certain groups are often very distinct. Compare the language of military to that of the national radio station and you’ll notice some differences. Generally a register will develop within, and contribute to the development of, sub-currents within the greater flow of society. Trail running is a subculture, a group of people within the larger culture of running. As the sport grows and evolves, and in doing so develops its own identity, so too do the marks of differentiation. The clothes, equipment, philosophies, aesthetics and language of
trail running are divergent from those of the mainstream running culture. As a trail runner we’re familiar with a peculiar linguistic register, we wear spandex in public, we hang out with other runners and over time our priorities shift. These are inherent parts of belonging to a community, particularly an emergent one. To think of yourself as a trailrunner and identify with others within the trail running fraternity means to be a part of the trailrunning tribe. As Seth Godin put it in his book, Tribes:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Clearly, you can run trails and move quickly through the unformed landscape without calling yourself a trail runner. Likewise you can race or volunteer at every trail race in your state without ever uttering the words douche grade, vertical gain or DNF. That members of a tribe might fade in and out of the population, belong to several communities at once or not demonstrate certain behaviours is irrelevant. At the core of the trail running community there is a quantifiable, unique and thriving culture that expresses itself and interacts in a particular way. The unfortunate consequence of an evolving group identity, however, is the creation of a Straw Man “Us versus Them” mentality that
undermines the inherent physical and spiritual value of a community. A Straw Man technique relies on the ignorance of the audience; the misdirection of their attention away from the true issue. Once we run out of targets in The War Against Anyone Not Us (road runners, crossfitters, triathletes, mountain bikers, orienteers etc.) and our “uniqueness” becomes commonplace, our self-confirmed superiority complex gets hungry and we become pedantic and dogmatic, soon turning inward in attempt to once again distinguish ourselves from our peers. Your backpack is Salomon not Ultimate Direction; your shoes are minimal not maximal; you have a beard; you run for charity; you’re a Skyrunner. Pandering to false dichotomies is toxic. We’re all members of a very strong movement, one that promotes health, emotional wellbeing, strength of mind and a palpable community-focused spirit. On countless occasions I’ve heard people say that it is the warmth and openness of the trail community that draws people. Sure, the occasional sprinkle of condescension, derisiveness and black humour at the expense of others probably won’t sink the communal boat. But we must be conscious of the fact that the words we use as commentators, the opinions we shout from the rooftops and the influence we have on newcomers seeking wisdom and direction DO matter. Your keeping it #trailpositive editor, Tegyn Angel (AU)
NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO BUY Reviewer: Tegyn Angel Reviewer: Chris Ord
Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Maya
Reviewer: Chris Ord
Thir Anzac Ultra Headwear
BRRRRRR… FEEL THAT? That’s winter on its way. Better start looking to some layers for those colder training runs (and races). Here’s one that puts a little plush into cold weather performance. It’s a weather- and wind-resistant softshell that feels like tissue paper, breathes like a Rottweiler – hard and heavy – and keeps you warm enough in the bitey chill. The thermal properties as a ratio to weight are extreme, the 330g jacket cutting wind chill down massively while the dual layer design trapping multiple layers of air to up the internal heater effect. Although not billed as waterproof, in testing the water repellant capabilities were better than a typical soft shell, thanks to Pertex Equilibrium fabric and the DWR (durable water repellent), which helps make the outer hydrophobic. It’ll do for those lighter showers. Two way front zip gives ventilation options, double hemcord keeps it snug around your waist and a built in wire brim in the form-fitting headpiece gives you a sturdy peak to keep the wind and sleet off your face. The luxe interior features a silky-against-skin micropile inner designed to wick away moisture. The jacket has three huge pockets (two on the outer and one on the inner) and packs away snugly (although we couldn’t work out how the small clip at the neck operated to keep it packed down when not in use). For runners, this jacket works well thanks to its form fitting design, and also the high pockets allows water-belts to be strapped around the outer without obstruction. Overall, a good balance of wicking, warmth and wind resistance and if matched to a good thermal base and a superlightweight waterproof outer, you have an all-round lightweight 3-shell running system.
The ANZAC Ultra THIR Band is a way the trail community can show support for the men and women of the ANZAC legend who sacrificed their lives to supporvt a way of life we now take for granted. Proceeds from this limited edition product go towards supporting Legacy (www.legacy.com. au) and its support of incapacitated and deceased veterans’ families. The ANZAC Ultra 2015 itself will start from Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra, and follows the Canberra Centenary Trail. It is a continuous multi-day ultra marathon with competitors pacing themselves over the route within the specified time limit. Runners will complete laps of a 75km course with the 450km event starting first, joined later by runners of the 300km, 150km and 75km options. The celebration will culminate on the second last day with a tribute to the ANZAC Centenary. More information on the ANZAC Ultra can be found here: www.anzacultra2015. com. Even if you can’t run, grab a THIR band to show your support out on trail.
lifestraw THE LIFESTRAW was originally intended as a survival tool, a source of water during absolute emergencies. Throw it in your bug-out bag, pull it out when the government falls, the undead rise, your hydration bladder pops or someone goes to the bathroom upstream of you. It is lightweight (56g), simple to use (dip and suck), extremely effective at filtering muck, bacteria and parasites, has no moving parts, requires no batteries and is very cheap (e.g. Micropur Tablets are approximately 1500% more expensive per 1000litres). While there’s a mountain of videos on YouTube of people using their Straw to drink questionable water from very questionable sources, keep in mind that it was never meant to eliminate viruses. For the trail runner/hiker the Straw is small and light enough to be thrown into (and left in) your pack without another thought. There’s no question it’s a great tool and an awesome backup and should be in the emergency kit for any runner heading into the wild for a long run. That’s it, review over, buy one. Still reading? Okay, perhaps it’s best to put the LifeStraw into context given that it’s both a product (the LifeStraw Personal, henceforth the Straw) and a brand name (LifeStraw), the former the subject of this review, the latter the company that manufacturers it. I stress the importance of this because the first things that came to mind when I learned about the Straw were its limitations. My train of thought went a little like this: I live on the driest inhabited country on Earth and this thing is trying to tell me I can dump my bladder and adequately hydrate by running from one suck-able body of water to the next? Unbloodylikely. In my haste I was judging the Straw by a set of criteria it never claimed meet.
What I neglected is that the Straw was never intended to replace all other forms of water supply or carriage. In the range of LifeStraw products the Straw is at the bottom of the ladder, beneath the LifeStraw Go, which sticks the Straw into a bottle, and the LifeStraw Family and Community models, which upsize and upspec capacity and filtration. These models are designed to allow you to take water with you and filter it on the go, or to service a household or community. The Straw, however, is there to support other supplies. As a backup, get out of the shit by being able to drink it solution, it’s awesome but it’s not a magic wand where any decent quantity of water is required, just where quality is absent. Here’s an idea... as a trail runner I’m a fan of the hydration bladder. I like knowing I’ve got a big supply of water on my back and that I can rely on it to get me through several hours in hydrated comfort. I also like the idea of carrying extra in training; train hard fight easy, as they say. So how about LifeStraw releases an in-line model of the filter? Attach a Hydrapakstyle universal adapter to a small piece of tube that clips into the bladder, and your existing bladder tube then clips directly into the LifeStraw filter. Fill your bladder with questionable water, suck out the good stuff. The pressure might be too much (which is why Geigerrig pressurised theirs...) but it’s worth a thought. In the meantime, it’d suck to be water-less on a run and come across a puddle of wet stuff, but not be able to drink it for fear of contamination. Therein is the contextual beauty of packing a LifeStraw...
NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO BUY www.salomon.com/au/
Salomon Kit Out
S-LAB SENSE TANK FIRST RULE: you have to have the body for it. Second rule if not meeting the first: you have to be Brad Pitt (or whichever ‘today’ equivalent the kids are drooling over). If you do or are, this top is a great hot-weather tank top; light, uber-comfortable and the most breathable thing you will ever wear without actually going naked. For which you also have to be Brad Pitt, or a six-pack running god toting great guns. That is: hot.
Reviewer: Chris Ord
S-LAB HYBRID JACKET IF YOU WERE EQUATING TRAIL BRANDS with car brands, fair to say Salomon is Ferrari. All go-fast and quote often red. They are also Formula One, if speaking race categories, and this garment is the epitome of the super light, highly technical, drop-weight-atany-cost approach the engineers at F1 Ferrari might take. Of course, like any high performance car, there are gains and sacrifices. Mostly here we have gains, so long as you’re not on the actual race-track. Gains: the Hybrid Jacket is perhaps the lightest water and windproof jacket on the market (120g) and packs down to as small as you’d expect something that featherweight would. Fabric technology is leading edge, as you’d expect with a panelled combination of rip-stop nylon material with a “durable water resistant” (DWR) coating, matched to other sections made from highly breathable (but not water proof) stretch fabric. The waterproof sections are where
you nee it most – the shoulders, the front torso. The arms, while the wind-only proof is at the lower back and under the arms. It is super-sleekly-fitted for barely-there feel, and has great features like three quart zip, a stretch headband within the hood to maintain close fit, and an elasticized wrist and waist band – the latter’s thickness doubling as a ‘carry belt’ where you roll down the top to be stowed around your waist. The sacrifice: well, you can’t enter the big races where mandatory equipment checks rule supreme… the untaped seams and laser cut holes (great for wicking), along with the non-waterproof panels means it doesn’t comply with most of the bigger (ultra trail) race requirements where a waterproof jacket is required. This is the jacket for the trail runner that has a full-option wardrobe and wants a sexy extra
S-LAB SENSE SHORT
for those in-between conditions: blustery, a little cold, sometimes wet, but nothing ultra-severe. Which is actually a lot of the time as we head into Autumn and Winter and our training is mostly on near-suburban fringe trails rather than on Alpine peaks. The Hybrid is perfect for shorter dashes, where you’re training hard
and fast, going lightweight in changeable conditions, or for the minimalist freaks where a gram is everything.
NOW, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RUNNING the best pins in the business to get the most from these shorts, although the price means you need to be economically well endowed. Like the tank, these are the lightest, most breathable things on the market, and one of the skimpier models with legs riding higher, reminiscent of track. These are so light on your butt you forget they are there, making use of Advanced DrySkin technologies: Actilite Bi-Stretch Nylon and a Cocona fabric derived from coconut husks for odour and moisture control. The combination delivers a zero clammy feel even when soaked with sweat, and they dry super quickly. Great simple design features include laser cut holes for breathability, and front and rear pockets for stashing minimalist carry-on. The rear mesh pocket is a place for a very light jacket, gels or nutrition, maybe event a 250ml flask while the front can handle anything from gels up to an iPhone, with not as much bounce as you’d think. There are also two hidden hip pockets specifically for gels. Supremely comfortable, and easy and quick to rinse, dry, and wear again. The long and short of it: absolute go-tos.
KILLER TRACTION COMING TO AUS
NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO BUY When choosing a bra there are three categories that you should never, ever ignore: comfort, looks and of course, bounce rate. Here are two put to the tests.
Berlei Ultimate Performance 12DD
I did two (short) runs in this bra - one with a heart rate monitor (HRM) and one without. Unsurprisingly, it’s more comfortable without the HRM, but that’s more to do with the HRM than the bra. There was a good level of comfort and support and very little movement. It’s probably a bit more supportive than the bras I normally wear. I also mixed it up between road and trail a little on the theory that downhill trail running might create more bounce. No noticeable difference in movement, even running down stairs. The aesthetic is good. It could be worn as a crop top without danger of public indecency. This is important for when I decide it’s a good idea to jump in the harbour after a run. Although, the padding means it’s unlikely to be quick-drying. The comfort again rates as good. Wide and cushioned shoulder straps meant it was comfortable to wear for a period of time (for running and non-running activities). The support was very structured and supportive-feeling. Straps can hook together at the back (hook-eye rather than a cross over strap) for extra support. Snazzy features included a pocket for MP3 player and straps under the underwire around the chest to fit in a heart rate monitor. This inspired me to use my HRM for the first time in several months. The MP3 pocket was too small for my old-school iPod, but it was a convenient place to store my house key. I also managed to fit in an Eftpos card and buspass (into the bra not the pockets) without any discomfort. Two downsides: the hook-eye clasp that’s used instead of crossing over the straps creaks a bit when running, which is annoying. After a while I tuned that out. The straps could be adjusted to cross over instead. The high level of padding meant that I felt a bit hotter than in other less-structured running bras. Not a major problem, but could be a little uncomfortable in hot weather. Reviewer: Elspeth Newstubb (12DD)
GET A GRIP WITH
If a bra looks good, you pick it up off the shelf. I must admit – this bra wouldn’t make it to the changing room with me at first glance. It’s a running bra, but in my opinion it shouldn’t look like a bra. It’s the togs-undies issue; I like my bra to be able to be worn on its own. Unfortunately in that department, Berlei’s Electrify would likely attract a few ‘wait, is she wearing a bra-bra?’ looks. If you want a bra-bra, rather than a show-off bra, it’s perfectly passable. Despite being in the less-handsome department, the Electrify is actually surprisingly well-fitting. When I put it on for the first time, my boobs just slid in the spaces required (and believe me, that’s not always the case). Many a bra have I put on, only to find that my boobs have been misplaced somewhere along the bottom edge and the side panels. To fix this usually involves a wee bit of wiggle. Berlei performed really well here, with instant fit. As for comfort in action, after initial period of adjustment I promptly forgot that I was wearing it. Four stars! But to the bounce factor. When you have boobs larger than a peanut, it really matters if your boobs stay secure. In the Electrify’s case, I decided on a two-tier test, (i) self-assessment in front of a mirror and (ii) a third party bounce rating. The former proved a bit unreliable as I jogged on the spot in front of a mirror, carefully watching my boobs. Bounce rate very low, very good. The second test involved asking my husband to watch my boobs carefully while running downhill towards him. He (and the 20 other runners surrounding him) gave them a thumbs up. I was pleasantly surprised by not really feeling the boobage floating while running in various modes, including during a tempo session. Four stars. Berlei Electrify is a sturdy and reliable running bra with lots of comfort, as long as you don’t feel any need to reveal it on a hot summer day. Call it a winter bra perhaps. The only other thing I’d wish for is for Berlei (and any other bra maker for that matter) to go a bit more adventurous and less gender stereotypical on colours. In other words, I’d kill for a sunny yellow bra that works. Reviewer: Ewa Crazychick (12C)
The Trail Partner You’ve Been Looking For! Get off the beaten path and experience the grip that gives you full control on your road less travelled. Run wherever you want - when you want.
WEIGHT Nonabsorbing - Low dry weight and low wet weight
MIDSOLE HGMS2 - Combines stability with flexibility
GRIP RB9X - Branch Leading traction on both dry and wet surfaces
Find out more & order:
NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO BUY TURBO SUPERFOODS ELECTROLYTE POWDER
TURBO SUPERFOODS CHOC HONEY SHOT Ingredients: 100g honey
REVIEWER: Tegyn Angel
$50 / 400g (makes 10 litres)
REGULAR READERS MIGHT REMEMBER our glowing review of Turbo Superfoods’ products back in edition 14. We raved about their Body Boost and Performance and Recovery powders, and introduced readers to their Electrolyte Powder. At the time of writing the Electrolyte Powder was still under development and we weren’t able to get a detailed nutritional breakdown of the product. Now well and truly on the market we thought we’d go back and have a look at what it’s packing. So what’s in it? For every 30g of Turbo Superfoods Electrolyte powder (about three scoops) you’re getting 112 calories from Dextrose and Maltodextrin, a solid whack (390mg) of sodium and a sprinkling of Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium from the Himalayan Sea Salt. Add in a little dash of L-Leucine and a pinch of Citric Acid to keep things fresh and give the product a very mild and, in my opinion, refreshing, taste. That’s it. No nasties. So what’s it good for? Maltodextrin is rapidly absorbed yet burns slowly and provides sustained energy while the Himalayan sea salt provides a natural source of bioavailable electrolytes. As such, Electrolyte Powder would make a great fuel base for longer runs or post-run rehydration. Supplemented with a more concentrated form of calories, like gels or the Choc Honey shot recipe below, Turbo Superfoods Electrolyte Powder will keep you striding.
50g Turbo Performance & Recovery or Body Boost Powder 40g – 50g warm water (start with 40g and add more if you like it more runny) 10g freeze dried coconut water (this is an optional ingredient – added to help replenish essential minerals lost during exercise) Method: Place bowl over scales and add your ingredients, weighing as you go Stir until all is dissolved. You may also like to use a food processor. How To Use It: The Choc Honey Turbo Shot is syrupy and chocolate sauce-like. It’s very sweet and only needs to be used one mouthful at a time as it’s so packed with nutrients and energy. During long runs of 30mins plus, this product can be carried in a small bottle and sipped on for a boost of energy every 20-30mins of exercise for peak performance.
Reviewer: Chris Ord
$130 (Tank) $150 (Tee) $115 (Shorts) www.2xu.com.au
YOU CAN IMAGINE 2XU’s latest compression clobber being used as the undersuit for astronauts – such is the high-tech look and feel of the new XTRM range (no, not named after Trail Run Mag, but definitely aimed at the trail running community). These are slick to look at and on the bod. The tech is in the materials, the short sleeve top (also comes in a tank for hotter climates) features six unique fabrics including “70D Light and 105D/CK fabric panelling to support key muscle groups while facilitating breathability.” That means that it gives your muscles some support over the long run while the mesh paneling allows your skin to sweat up a storm with its superior wicking. It also has a ¼ front zip, for even greater for ventilation. For the tee are three gel / nutrition pockets - one on the arm, and two on the hips. The tank retains just the two hipsters. These feel slightly heavier than most other run tops, but the pay off is the compression benefits. Match either the tee or the tank to 2XU’s ½ compression X Run shorts – light, breathable and with a touch of compression benefit – and you have a nifty duo for all trail terrain.
1/2 Compression X Run shorts
XTRM Compression Top
EVENT PREVIEW IMAGE: supplied by event
3D ROTORUA MULTISPORT FESTIVAL Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand
ure, it’s a multisport festival, but there are trail runners who don’t mind the odd two-wheel foray, or even a paddle. So this may be the perfect active weekend melting pot for you. A bunch of events from single pursuit to all-in-one adventure races are featured. The main point is that they all take place in Rotorua and its wild playground, including in the magnificent Redwood Forest. The trails are silky sweet (and if you do pick up a paddle, the view from the water is something else, too). On the trail running-only score, we’re talking a main-event half marathon beneath the giants of the Redwoods Forest, through native bush, ferns, stands of Eucalyptus, Radiata Pine and Douglas Fir to a highpoint with views of the wonderful thermal
city and Lake Rotorua. The course finishes under a fantastic canopy suspended from massive Redwood trees (just 100 meters from the start), where there will be a gala atmosphere for all to enjoy. For those looking to shorter dashes, there are also 5.5km and 10.5km distances plus a 2km under-10s fun run.
EVENT 3D Rotorua Multisport Festival
WHERE Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand
WHEN 31 May, 2015 DISTANCE 5.5km / 10.5km / 21km trail runs + multisport, paddle, dualthlon, mountain bike
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EVENT PREVIEW IMAGE: Tegyn Angel
LA SPORTIVA WILSONS PROM 100
CONQUER NEW TERRITORY
Wilsons Promontory, Victoria, Australia
sk those who have run this one, and you’ll get a pretty emphatic reply: this is one of Australia’s under rated gems and up there with the most spectacular coastal ultras in Australia. Experience the sound of waves crashing on rocks, feel the sand under your feet and sometimes the water up to your waist as you tackle this wilderness paradise. The La Sportiva Prom 100 offers runners 44, 60, 80 and 100km run loops and this year celebrates its 11th running. The route is on single track, over rock, along fire trails and beaches offering coastal views with approximately 10km on sealed road. Depending on tide movements it may be necessary to wade across the creek at Oberon Beach. The Prom 100 is a self-supported adventure run, more so than a race.
Runners are fully responsible for their own safety with no support personnel or equipment available other than at the Tidal River village. This is an arduous course with constant climbs that take a cumulative toll. As a minimum, runners attempting the 80km or 100km courses must have successfully completed at least one 50km organised trail run in the previous six months.
EVENT La Sportiva Wilsons Prom 100 WHERE Wilsons Promontory,
Free Suunto Movescount App - learn more on suunto.com/movescountapp
WHEN 1 May, 2015 DISTANCE 44km/60km/80km/100km
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SUUNTO AMBIT3 PEAK
THE ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE The journey to your summit is what it’s all about – whether it’s a mountain or a personal best. Progress and stay safe on your quest with the Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS watch as your companion. www.suunto.com
EVENT PREVIEW IMAGE: Tegyn Angel
WONDERLAND RUN Grampians, Victoria, Australia
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utting proudly out of the otherwise brown and monotonous planes around Stawell and Horsham, the Grampians mountain range in Victoria’s west is one of those places that just begs the question: “Why in God’s name hasn’t there been a trail running event organised here before now?!” Technically there has in the Run Grampians event of last year, and the Serra Terra event, less a trail run and more a mangled adventure race mix exploring the southern flanks. But nothing to date has really explored and delved into the true delights of the Grampians’ technical terrain. Until now. Named after an area of the park only a few kilometres from Hall’s Gap (the start/finish of the event and the main population centre in the park), Wonderland Run follows a course through some of Australia’s most unique sandstone formations. The first half of both the 21km and 37km courses climbs high into the mountains along incredible single track, taking you around cliff edges, through narrow canyons
and back and forwards between the ornaments of a massive natural rock garden before spitting you back out at the bottom of the range for a fast run back to the Gap. Having run the course we can comfortably say that The Wonderland Run, organised by Matt Bell and Rohan Day (of Two Bays Trail Run and Rollercoaster Run fame), and set in a landscape as incredible as this, will become a highlight on the national trail running calendar.
Top Gear. Expert Advice, Great Prices.
Gone Running Tours
WHERE Grampians, Victoria, Australia
WHEN 29-30 August, 2015 DISTANCE 8km/20.5km/37km
Retail & Online Store
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Educational Camps & Clinics Events
findyourfeet.com.au 74a Liverpool St, Hobart, TAS
292 Montague Rd West End, Brisbane
Ph 07 3844 9604 Arcteryx The North Face Salomon S-Lab Suunto Innov8 La Sportiva Icebreaker Patagonia Prana Petzl Black Diamond Ultimate Direction Clif Shotz MSR
EVENT PREVIEW IMAGe: Rob Scott / www.marathon-photos.com
PORIRUA GRAND TRAVERSE Porirua, Wellinton, North Island, New Zealand
elebrating its 10th anniversary, the Porirua Grand Traverse is here to stay, judging from the feedback of those who have run and loved it. The PGT has something for all ages and abilities: a 7.5km fun run/walk and a longer course of 18km (and a few non-running events thrown in, too). The long course takes you over a mix of native bush tracks, private farmland and hidden coastal beaches with views over Porirua and Cook Strait. With 900m of climbing over several hills this run will make you work for the spectacular vista. It starts from Porirua Harbour and runs through the Porirua Scenic Reserve and up Colonial Knob where you hop the fence into Pikarere Farm and head down to the remote western coast and back over Takapuwahia Reserve to finish back at the edge of Porirua Harbour. The shorter course follows a different route along Titahi Bay beach with much of it on a well-
maintained walking track suitable for beginners. This year the fun run will incorporate the Youth Challenge, where students who enter have a chance to fundraise for their school. As half of the course runs over private land, this is your one chance each year. to experience this particular traverse.
COMPRESSION TECHNOLOGY FOR ENDURANCE
EVENT Porirua Grand Traverse WHERE Porirua, Wellinton, North Island, New Zealand
WHEN 12 April 2015 DISTANCE 18km / 7.5km The long course can also be done alone or as part of a Multisport or duathlon (Kayaking, Mountain biking)
COMPRESS MUSCLES. CRUSH COMPETITION. THE WORLDâ€™S MOST ADVANCED COMPRESSION TECHNOLOGY COMBINES WITH RACE PROVEN RUN TECHNOLOGY TO CREATE THE XTRM RANGE FOR THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE IN ENDURANCE RUN PERFORMANCE.
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PERSONAL WATER FILTERS
LOZÈRE TRAIL, FRANCE Sainte Enimie, Lozère Department, France
village founded in the 7th Century by a leprosy survivor is an unlikely place to start a trail run. Or so you’d think until you get to the medieval town of Sainte Enimie, Southern France, often regarded as one of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (the most beautiful villages of France). That’s high praise given how many of those exist. Surrounding the village is the bucolic, limestone, landscapes of the Gorges du Tarn, a canyon formed by the Tarn River between two limestone plateaus, the Causse Méjean and the Causse de Sauveterre. The event offers 14km, 25km and 52km courses (plus a twoday 54km/54km event) that pound both cobblestone pathways and the hillside trails surrounding. If that isn’t enough to make you jump the next flight to Lyon, consider this: it’s a mere 30 Euros (AU$43) for entry into the 52km version and features aid stations roughly every 10km. The longer route explores low mountains with 2300 meters of ascent on paths boasting panoramic views. Plus, it’s not often you get to run a trail in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
EVENT Lozère Trail WHERE Sainte Enimie, Lozère Department, France
WHEN 23-24 May 2015 DISTANCE 14km/25km/52km
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Click the Play button to watch a video from the event. 32
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EVENT PREVIEW IMAGE: Chris Ord
SURF COAST TRAIL MARATHON
The official jacket of the Buffalo Stampede
ow there’s a bias here, because the crew behind this mag are also behind this event. But just like Trail Run Mag was conceived to help celebrate the trail run lifestyle and hopefully inspire more people into it, so too was the Surf Coast Trail Marathon created to lure roadies onto the dirty good stuff. So this ISN’T the toughest, most brutal, longest (insert your hyperboled adjective here) trail run... nup... But it is one of the most beautiful coastal trail runs you’ll ever enjoy (again, a slight bias as we live here and breathe these trails every week). Two distances are on offer – the full marathon and the half and you can run either as an individual or the marathon can be run as a team of two, knocking off half each. This is about trail runners picking up the pace and road runners getting their first taste while still always being within a kilometre of a good cafe latte. Race rules allow you to step off course and have one if you like – time penalty is whatever it takes for you to down that piccolo
and get back on course (where you left it, of course!) There’s very little technical, no mountains (just a few small, short hillocks), but still some good fun, windy trails and BIG views. Oh, and a little beach action. And a lighthouse. What’s a good run without a lighthouse? This is about fun people. And converting all those bitumen bruises to the dirty side without scaring ’em off.
WHAT Surf Coast Trail Marathon WHERE Torquay-Fairhaven, Victoria
WHEN 27 June, 2015
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THE HELIUM II JACKET Built for rainstorm protection, the Helium II is lighter, more breathable and 30% more waterproof than its predecessor. An ultra-compressible piece you’ll never leave behind. The Helium II is so light (180g), and packs down so small, you’ll forget it’s in your pack until you throw it on to ward off a sudden downpour. Compressible to the size of a muesli bar and completely waterproof and windproof, the Helium II doesn’t waste space or add more than a feather’s-worth of weight. Available in Men’s and Women’s specific models.
To find your closest Outdoor Research stockist email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 9417 5755
Click the jackets to see the full colour range 34
Words + Images: Beau Miles illustration: Jordan Cole
I’m following a fox. A crafty little creature that seems to like single track just as much as me. Such dainty marks. Then I’m not, all alone again on the trail.
The Fox & I
WHIPPY OAK BRANCHES CRACK ME ACROSS THE CHEST AND AN UNSEEN FUR BRANCH, CLOGGED IN SNOW, FILLS MY EAR FROM THE SIDE. ZEN ENGULFS ME AS I PINBALL MY WAY THROUGH THIS NEW SPACE. TOURIST COMES TO MIND, AS IF MY RUNNING STYLE IS READING A MAP, JITTERY AT EACH TRAIL JUNCTION. I’M A LITTLE UNSURE OF THINGS, LOST IN LANDSCAPE. MY EARFUL SOUNDS LIKE ‘COLD’. I’M REMINDED OF THE SCENE IN DUMB AND DUMBER WHERE JEFF DANIEL’S CHARACTER PEGS A SNOWBALL AT HIS LADY FRIEND POINT BLANK, THE WHACKY BASTARD. I SMIRK AS I BLUNT MY WAY FURTHER IN.
amount of UV for the citizens? That’d be it, operating off an old Volkswagen battery charged by pudgy British students in the gym working off beer on ergo bikes (whilst the whip-thin, meat-eating Germans run in the forest that rims town, forest that lurks in the cul-de-sacs and dead ends as if trying to reach further into town). I come across a castle. Yep, a bloody castle. In Australia, a surprise in the forest is seeing a rusty old car body, probably set alight by a bloke named Kevin after 15 beers and a sausage in bread. Here, you bump into a medieval building that smells like the inside of a restaurant’s coolroom, a million smells all vaguely edible. The castle had long ago stopped firing arrows and now serves espresso and pastry. I felt like an idiot that I’d actually bought food with me, rattling around in my pocket, giving me the shits. The wafty smell of fresh bread emanates from the mortar cracks. I wonder if the castle is for sale, the old ‘bake a loaf of bread’ trick used by real estate agents. But no, it’s just ‘Germany’. It has taken me a week to find this trail, the one my fox friend uses to commute into town for cheap eats. We have some things in common, the fox and I; both dashing red heads, both a little secretive about our
I have no idea where I am, not exactly. My position in the world is central Germany, flanking the university town of Marburg, but my compass bearings, bankable in the southern hemisphere, have gone somewhere up my arse. The sun, if it stayed out for more than a moment, may as well be the moon. I’ve been going left now for thirty minutes and the bright glow of sky hasn’t changed position. Maybe it’s a large German lamp post in the middle of town that beams down a medicated
business, both perhaps a little hasty. I’m tempted to think we both go to Aldi; one redhead out the back, rustling through the bins, and the other cleaning up after me. I’d been fixin’ for a run all morning, writing blabber about this and that. Half-truths, prose and well minced ideas. My last line went something like “…”. Shit, I can’t remember. Thank Christ too. Not another strange PhD about an obscure mollusk or a feeling I once had. I’m with you…that’s why I’m out running. The nose-burning air, greasy tree roots and sock-deep mud hidden under chocolate ice holds me now in a completely different space. I could say, cliché as runners can be (painted in tights, huddled around a start line talking about trail epiphanies, nibbling goji berries), that running in snow, in the footprints of a fantastic fox, is like running on a cloud, a fresh and velvety layer of white. But it’s not. Instead slippery as hell, cold as the proverbial, and every shade of brown seems to be eating at me from below and taking over my field of vision ahead. I’m wearing my lightweight Salomon jacket, Ferrari red. The rest of me clings to gray-green wool. Kiwi wool from head to toe, sweating a beautiful layer of dewy condensation. Lucky, too. If for some reason I was booting along in only black pants, black top, black gloves, and charcoal beanie, whilst mud caked runners turned beneath me, I’d have been shot by now. A hunter surely mistaking me for a wobbly
piece of landscape, or a deer. The spongable air is thick with moss and snowflakes and the smell of castle. I feel out of contact, visually, with the actual smells. Spores themselves are no doubt behind me, but my nose hairs have done a fine job of delaying the sensorial experience from a few turns back. Mixed with hibernating funk from a close-by cave and the hum of industry beyond the hill, the forest air is a heady mix. As if an old Italian man, the deli kind that knows just how much, has emerged from his cellar after making salami for a week. His apron is smeared in layers of fatty glaze and his shoes are bloody. That’s the perfume. Decayed, yet organic, and in some way salacious. Like I heard once, perfume is made 5% rotten to make the smell interesting, and to many, attractive. Needless to say, I’m awake, and following a weird passage of thought. And here’s the thing, the point to the fox, an ear full of snow, mud, running tights (on a bloke), browness and muskiness – it’s all bloody marvelous. Honk your flamin’ horn marvelous! A runner with no other business than his own in a carnival of senses and oddball narrative. In Australia, a few weeks ago, I had trotted out one last run before heading to the airport. Capering through bush at dawn, kicking up ancient dust, every shade of yellow and the last of the greens flicked around me. Summer brightness and lightness in full regard. Here,
amongst zee German forest, planted after a clear-felling apocalypse 200 years ago, it seems opposite in every conceivable way. A sense of sopping and rotting and hunkering down. A sense of one season staying exactly where it is. The ‘mud months’ they call it in the States, code for brown. There is snow in parts; the lee side of a hill, gullies and groves, but elsewhere it’s the interior of a lair. Australia’s famous brown-ness is multiple shades different to this, contrasted ever more with an equally vast swipe of blue above it. I shuffle on, thinking almost exclusively about the colour brown. I come across another fox trail. I presume it’s a different fox as the stride is slighter. Maybe a new mum on the hunt? I’m kindred again with a fellow trail runner. Following the footfalls of the smallest path, wayfaring you could say, we share the same line. Our marks add to the path, a groove of multiple footfalls grown around fallen trees and rocks, zeds up and down switchbacks and sweeps wide of a bog. Trail narrates the landscape, full and storied and arbitrary. An unmade bed as opposed to hospital corners, a window into what has taken place here. I emerge into fringe lands of the village. Smoky, high pitch roofs of edible houses leak orange light. Beer drinking and dishwashing can be seen as I blur past. The fox goes left; I merge with town, dressed like a wanker, zipping up an alley to get home. I’m glad I run.
A lifelong adventurer, Beau Miles has paddled the cape of Africa and was the first to run the entire Australian Alpine Walking Track. He is a leading outdoor education academic teaching at Monash University, and is a documentary maker, his Trials of Miles (Google it) a popular video of his AAWT success. Follow Beau’s exploits at www.beaumilesfilm.com
The final Stand Stand WORDS: Amanda Broughton IMAGES: Lyndon Marceau / www.marceauphotography.com
They often call it the crash zone…the final 10km of an ultra. Sadists we are, we thought it might be, ummm, fun to (wo)man the aid stand 90km into the 100km Tarawera Ultramarathon. Is it all vomit and anguish or is there a lighter side to the hardest part of running 100km? We sent our appropriately attired NZ Editor Amanda along to find out.
YOU’VE MADE IT TO THE START LINE! IN FACT YOU’VE MADE IT QUITE A BIT FURTHER THAN THE START LINE IF YOU’RE SEEING ME. THE SIGN IN THE TREES TO YOUR RIGHT TELLS YOU THAT IT’S A MERE 200 METRES TO THE NEXT AID STATION AT FISHERMAN’S BRIDGE, THERE’S EVEN A BRIDGE HERE! AFTER THE LOOP OF DESPAIR AND SEEING JUST A FEW OTHER RUNNERS OVER THE LAST 10KM YOU REALLY NEED THIS AID STATION, YES YOU DO. Rounding the corner you cross the stream (you can’t see anyone fishing, not like you would notice) and power up a small bank before reaching the aid station. People are clapping and cheering as if you’re winning the race, someone cheers and calls out your name (which lucky for you is an easy-to-yell name like Dave or Jo and is printed on your race number). Whether it’s the overstimulation of Justin Timberlake blasting out of a big sound system and reverberating off the pine trees, the multiple plates of coloured sugary lollies or the large banana person thrusting a cup of Heed at you, you’ve somehow lost the ability to speak. You grab the cup and drink it, still staring ahead at the banana, and become suspicious when it offers you a smaller, edible banana.
Someone smells like wee, is it you? Is it the man sponging himself from the bucket of cold water from the bucket you just dunked your cap in? Whatever, you all smell as bad as each other. It’s an ultra marathon not a continence competition. You gulp down your Heed, spilling most of it down your singlet and wonder if you could relax enough pee while running, wait, when did you last pee? Off comes the hydration pack to be filled by a second banana, you’ve been warned about the coffee-coloured urine that comes with dehydration. You really like coffee though, a coffee would be great right now, thanks! Flat white, long black, at this stage you would even drink decaf. You’re still smiling. Yes, 90 kilometres on foot and you are still smiling like a maniac. It’s beginning to get dark now, you won’t beat the sunset to the finish line but that’s okay, the end is so close now that you’re certain that you will get it done. There is no cut off once you pass Titoki, so it’s all on you to finish; the only thing stopping you is you. And that weird feeling in your calf, or is it your knee? After 90km the pain is quite evenly spread around all body parts, but she’ll be right. How far to go now? You ask, hands on knees, squinting in to the last of the sun. Just ten kilometres, I smile, you smile, until >>
FEATURE THE FINAL STAND
FEATURE THE FINAL STAND
someone corrects us ‘It’s ten-point-nine.’ Point nine could be point nine hundred right now, but you accept it and move on. When you finish eating, drinking, and re-filling your supplies you turn away from the aid station, and break in to a slow jog to chase the last of the light down the forest road. I watch until you go out of sight, amazed that after almost 15 hours you still have the determination to get it done. Seeing Dylan Bowman blitz the 100km course in 7 hours and 44 minutes, was incredible, but what you are doing right now out here in the dying light, still reaching for your goal, is impressing me a whole lot more. I expected to see people like you in anguish, in pain, with tears, and with looks of hopelessness. Aside from when we ran out of watermelon and I caught my reflection in the face of my Garmin, there were no looks of anguish to be seen.
You are running alongside people from all over the world, people who took the trip of a lifetime to come here, and lucky for you this is right in your backyard. You are running with people much older than you, a few in their early twenties, people with kids, grandkids, two people with broken arms in cast, a few men in tutus and people who are world renowned trail runners, you are all running the same course today and you are about to beat it. You are so close to the finish! You provided me a glimpse of why the Tarawera Ultramarathon has such a strong community (and I am now questioning the collective sanity of said community). You reminded me why I love to do this and I hope we’re running side-by-side next year. I’m still debating whether I’ll bring out the banana suit for that one.
If you’re out with an injury, a stint at volunteering will restore your love for running and runners, and take the bitter edge off the cocktail of physio and aqua-jogging you’ve been sipping away at over the past few months. Any race director would be glad to hear from you if you want to give your time. Yes…volunteering can be just as rewarding as running 100km. Most especially if you happen to be placed at the 90km aid station. www.taraweraultra.co.nz
Interview: Chris Ord Images: Lloyd Belcher & Richard Bull
RA I OF
S U N S H I N E
One year is a long time in trail running, it seems. That’s all it took for a young woman from a remote village in Nepal, Mira Rai, to shoot to relative trail fame via some stunning performances in big races, including winning the Asia Skyrunning Championship (MSIG HK50). Now on her way to Australia to compete in the Buffalo Stampede, and the subject of a new film by well-known Hong Kongbased trail documentarian, Lloyd Belcher, Mira is set to inspire a whole new generation of Nepali mountain runners (and we dare say women from around the world). We spoke to Lloyd, Trail Running Nepal’s Richard Bull and, through an interpreter, to Mira herself, about her journey to the world trail stage.
RICHARD BULL, as the founder of Trail Running Nepal, you’ve been a key supporter of trail running in that nation – through your many trail events there, but also in particular through your efforts to support Nepali runners by encouraging their talent and helping get them to international races. How did Mira come onto your radar? Mira didn’t know that trail running was a sport that people did until a year ago. This is one thing that makes her story compelling and is one of the reasons I am excited about Lloyd’s film. She’s a naturally sporty and competitive person, and wanted to find some success through sport. She pursued karate, which was political rather than meritocratic, and later moved to running on the advice of her trainer. Sport is quite rigid in Nepal and ‘running’ as a discipline here means track to marathon – mirroring the Olympic-ideal distances. Mira moved to the city to train and see how good she could be. By chance she found out about a trail race and automatically joined, as she was signing up for every race she could find. She admits that she wasn’t really prepared
for this very hilly 50km trail race, but finished and took the first female prize - she was the only woman to run the 50km. The realisation that this “hilly running” was a valid competitive sport plus an invitation to our Mustang Trail Race (a multiday) steered Mira towards continuing in the trail sphere.
MIRA RAI, how do you feel about your journey to date, from running in your mountains to running around the world? It’s a big chance. I am so very happy just to be able to race, and on top of that, being able to travel around the world. That’s, as we say in Nepal, gold with a good smell (cherry on the cake).
You’re from a very different home life and culture to most of our readers in the western world, how do feel your general motivations differ, perhaps? I faced a lot of difficulties in early life. In general women are the workers. Ladies are cutting grass for the animals, cooking rice, >>
MIRA RAI TRAILTALK
fetching water, doing hard domestic work. The gents eat the cooking and relax and enjoy. I want to change the way this patriarchal society works, if I can, and show women can compete against men in what is supposedly a men’s sport. I want my name and the name of Nepal to be known across the world.
When I was 10 years I was carrying 12kg of rice, salt, oil and other products on a long trip to market, leaving at 4am, and returning back only 4pm then next day, walking while it was light. It’s not changed much at home in terms of electricity and water, and I’d like to change that if I can, though it is not a small task. With Richard as a guiding light, you have come onto the trail scene at perhaps a golden time for Nepali trail running. What do you think the rise of a sport like trail running could mean for Nepalis with a penchant for running? There are a lot of factors in this kind of race: altitude, climb and descending, difficult, variable terrain. It tests endurance, determination, and strategy. There are many people more talented that I am in this. If trail running becomes an official sport in Nepal, and the government supports and organises events, then those people can come out and show their talent. Nepal’s name will be known across the world.
You’ve achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time (although that commentary doesn’t of course reflect all the hard work we’re sure you put in prior to having the spotlight shone on you!). What are you looking ahead to now? I’ve been able to do so well in the past one year, and I just want to keep progressing and setting higher goals. I want to try 100-plus kilometres at some point. From day to day I keep training, climbing at the climbing wall, and studying.
How does running fit into Nepali culture… from what we know it’s not a natural fit?
Your determination shines through and that quality is embedded in your past, no doubt. What in your childhood do you feel contributed to your capabilities in terms of physical and mental toughness today?
Running is the mother of all games: football, cricket etc… they all rely on it. But running of and for itself, people think it is hard work and there are other sports which people think are more fun. Football and cricket dominate the nation. Not a lot of people are active in running. In my district just a handful of people know about trail running. But Nepal has varied geography, and in the hills, with awareness-raising and some organisation I feel it could be hugely popular.
There were no facilities where I lived: it’s a long way to school by foot, I carried water half an hour up the hill, collected firewood and so on. When the food we grew was finished there was nothing to eat so then we had to trade.
I have seen the small changes I’ve been able to make encouraging people. When I was studying in Sindhuli, I ran every day and encouraged others to start running shopkeepers, and people doing morning walks and so on. They’re still running now years later and happy about it.
LLOYD BELCHER, you’ve just wrapped nearly a month of filming Mira’s story on location in Nepal, how did the film come about? The idea to film Mira’s story started late last year when I met Mira while doing a photo shoot for Richard and Trail Run Nepal in Hong Kong. During the shoot, I learned parts of Mira’s story about her childhood and life in Nepal and then saw her talent on the hills of Hong Kong as I was shooting a race that she took part in. I thought at that time that if I had the opportunity then it would be something special to film her story. I kept the idea to myself, as I was not sure how I would practically have the time to undertake a project like this. But when a recent overseas project was cancelled at short notice, I found myself with some time available. That’s when I contacted Richard Bull in Kathmandu and told him the idea of filming her story and that I had a short window of time if it was a ‘go’. We had no money for the project but between Mira, Richard and myself, we decided to go for it. Two months after that conversation I was in Nepal wrapping up filming of what has been an incredible adventure. >>
MIRA RAI TRAILTALK
Tell us more about the shoot – it must have been an adventure in itself? It has been. Flight delays, bitten by a wild dog, lost equipment, bitten by a spider, ending up on a drip after dehydration make up some of the more challenging parts but stuff like this happens and they are part of filming and do not take away from the special moments that we’ve captured. The sunrise shoots as Mira has bounded effortlessly on high ground, the insights into Mira as a person, the moments when you nail it in camera and capture that spontaneous moment, filming in her mountain village as she recounts childhood stories and spends time with her family who had never had a Westerner in that area before. Also, working in another language that I do not speak means that I have to approach this differently. I depended on a translator at times for filming and transcribing to make sure I am on top of my material, which is something that I do not worry about in Hong Kong or other Asian countries I have filmed in.
Films of trail running are starting to proliferate worldwide, led by the likes of The African Attachment (who film the Salomon webisodes) and yourself. How is your approach to capturing the sport changing as you take on more assignments like the story of Mira? I am always learning and honing my craft and am doing some different things here that I have wanted to do before and now have the chance. On an equipment level, this means that I am using a drone for aerial filming and some other bits of equipment that enables me
How do you expect the film to reach audiences?
to film in a way that is consistent with my style but in a way that works better for the visuals. As technology develops then there are more options for filming equipment. However, I try to keep the process simple as it really is not that complicated. Story telling through the medium of film should be uncomplicated and the challenge at this time is to allow the narrative to breathe and not be seduced by all the latest film equipment that might not work for a particular scene or part of capturing the story. I held off using a drone for filming until this project as I did not want to be distracted by aerial filming when I tend to work on my own. There are a number of ‘drone centric’ videos in the adventure and trail running world with spectacular aerial filming but do not really offer any narrative as they are mainly made up of killer aesthetics. I like African Attachment’s work as you can see that the narrative is the spine and centre of an individual piece of work. They have good equipment but are not seduced by it at the expense of the story. I also adopt this approach and let the narrative breathe through the visuals.
The first folk to get to see this film will be those who donated money to the film fund. They will get to see this before it is released as a way of saying “thank you” for believing in the project and investing in it. We have a few options in terms of releasing the film. We have been taken aback by the number of requests to screen the film once finished from film festival organisers. We have not committed to any film festivals yet and once we have some time then we will sit down and work out which film festivals to screen the film at. The main method of release will be online. I am particularly excited about this film reaching young people in Nepal. We are talking to organisations about getting the film into schools and areas of Nepal where they would not otherwise view it on social media.
More details on Lloyd’s Mira Rai film can be seen at www.miraraifilm.com. There remains a lot of post production work to be done and donations are still being taken to ensure Lloyd and Richard get her story out to as many as possible. Details on the website.
You guys put out a call to crowd fund the Mira Rae Film. How you have found the general response? We have been blown away by the support and interest from around the globe. Without anyone actually seeing a trailer or footage. All we’ve released are some footage frame shots and behind the scenes images that we have posted on social media as we have been filming and are chuffed that we have already met the basic costs of the project through the generous donations of people out there. It’s great to know that there are people out there who are not only behind this project in terms of wanting it to happen but are making it happen by putting their hands in their pockets and putting money in.
Lloyd’s photography can be viewed at www.lloydbelchervisuals.com
More on Trail Running Nepal and Richard Bulls’ events there at
WORDS: Amanda Broughton IMAGES: Ricoh Riott / www.ricohriottphotography.com
Ambition New Zealand athlete Mary Fisher (MF) feels most at home in the water, having won swimming gold medals at Olympic and World Championship level. Yet, despite feeling out of place on land, she recently ran a mountain marathon in support of Mal Law for his High50challenge for Mental Health. Mary is blind and runs with the help of her guide, Catherine. Our NZ Editor, Amanda Broughton (AB) caught up with Mary to see how she has taken to the Wellington trails.
Like most 22 year old students Mary tries to sleep in as long as possible, is in awe of gazelle-like athletes she knows (she names track stars Hamish Carson and Keeley O’Hagan) and is still unsure about exactly what she wants to be “when I grow up”. Unlike most young twenty-somethings, she has a genetic condition resulting in her losing vision by the time she finished high school. Also unlike most twenty-somethings, she has already won four Olympic medals, at the 2012 Paralympics in London (one bronze, two silvers and a gold) and she set a World Record in the 200m Individual Medley. When asked, she didn’t even know where the medals were.
“They went on many outings last year, but have been in hibernation over summer,” she says. They are probably somewhere in her Wellington flat, along with the Halberg award (recognising New Zealand sporting achievements) she picked up in February. The first thing you’ll notice about Mary is her positivity and ambition. She is always thinking of other people and her goals see her alongside others in a team, supporting them while achieving her own dreams. This explains why she recently swapped her swim flippers for trail shoes in support of Mal Law’s High50challenge for Mental Health, and ran her first mountain marathon.
MARY FISHER INNERVIEW
AB: How do you compare road running to trail running?
AB: When did you first start trail running?
MF: I quite like trail running because you’ve got more to think about and just less traffic around. The mountain bikers are really nice but they can just come out of nowhere! The mountain bike tracks are great, I had heard a lot about them but had never been on them. You just meet the coolest people, you’re a few kilometres out of town but feel like you are totally in the wilderness. Wellington Round the Bays (a road run event) is an awesome event but it was quite cool on that day being up in Makara, just the three of us with the hills to ourselves when there are 15,000 people running around the waterfront below.
MF: I’ve always liked tramping, but I hadn’t done very much. And I think the first time I did any off-road running was 2012, just a little bit around Mt Vic with my old swimming coach, Luke. After that I didn’t do much running until about six months ago with Catherine, my guide. We were working towards the Rimutaka Incline half marathon. It says it’s ‘off road’, but it is pretty much just gravel, so we just did road training with a little bit of off road. We did it to finish rather than to get a good time. It was nice to say ‘Oh my gosh, I can run 21-22kms in a row’. That was exciting for me. It was cool to know you are capable of something like that. After the Rimutaka Incline, Catherine signed up for the High50 Challenge and I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be awesome!’ So I thought a bit more about it, made some strategies in terms of guiding and training, and yeah, signed up as a support runner!
You just meet the coolest people, you’re a few kilometres out of town but feel like you are totally in the wilderness.
NZ EDITOR, AMANDA BROUGHTON, GUIDING MARY ON THE TRAILS ABOVE WELLINGTON, NZ.
AB: What does your guide, Catherine, have to tell you? MF: So, primarily Catherine (or whoever is guiding me, there have been a bunch of people now) tells me about the gradient of what we are running on, and also the surface; if it is on road if there are curbs, steps, poles – our name for a curb that blends with a ramp to the road is a ‘cramp’. I guess that is our kind of lingo, you just build up a little vocabulary of guiding instructions between you and your guide. When we are off road, I can feel the direction of the trail from the guiding/hiking pole, but she is also just constantly telling me about how rocky or how slippery it is. If there are steps down we will usually walk them, especially if they are uneven. It is really important to trust your guide, and for them to be very articulate and explain
AB: What do you like about running? MF: When I was quite young I could see a little bit, and I always found running really difficult, because I didn’t want to have a guide or anything. And being a swimmer I think I am kind of uncoordinated on land. I definitely feel more at home in the water! So it was a good challenge to actually be more confident just walking and running. Also, the running community, especially the kind of ‘casual’ trail running community, has been amazing, they have been so helpful and just very supportive.
MARY FISHER INNERVIEW
TOP: MARY JOINS THE RED SHIRT BRIGADE, RUNNING A MARATHON FOR MAL LAW’S HIGH FIVE0 CHALLENGE. BOTTOM: AMANDA PICKS THE PACE UP WITH MARY.
what is happening around you. Not everything, but terrain things; you can have too much information so it is important to get that balance of information that you need. We tend to go safety first, so we’re not going fast, but it is very enjoyable and it is just nice to be out of the coordinated environment and exploring the Wellington hills. AB: What makes Catherine a good guide? MF: She has got a sense of humour, and we talk about things other than running when we are running so that takes you out of the mindset of ‘What’s this hill doing?’ She is good fun to be around, pretty accurate with what she is saying and we’ve just formed a really good trusting guide bond, which is cool. AB: What is your favourite trail and why? MF: Probably the Barking Emu Track (Ed: see http://tracks.org.nz/track/show/294), it is quite smooth but you are right in the bush. That’s my favourite so far. I don’t have to worry about how slippery it is. There are cool sounds and smells and nice ups and downs; and you finish on the Tip Track. AB: Do you have any particular strengths or weaknesses? MF: My weakness is just not doing enough! Running is a backburner activity at the moment. Also, I think sometimes my guide can tell me that it’s ten metres to the top of the crest when it is actually not…I don’t know if that is a strength or a weakness but you are quite reliant on the guide for instructions and notifications on how far you have to go or what
You are quite reliant on the guide for instructions and notifications on how far you have to go or what is coming up.
is coming up. You get to know if people are consistent and what their judging of distance is like. I am okay at hearing mountain bikes coming, that is my contribution to the small pack of joggers we have going! AB: Place you would like to run?
MF: I think just exploring NZ more would be really cool. And ultimately, not in the next few years, but at some point in the distant future, it would be really cool to do the Coast to Coast, that would be a dream of mine. AB: What would your (swim) coach say to more trail running? MF: My coach would say no! So it would be after that phase in my life. AB: You are quite driven, what helps you get through a hard training sessions? MF: I just get quite motivated by looking at things that I can work on to be faster than I have ever been before. It’s quite an exciting thing to know that whatever you are trying to peak for, just doing the hard work each day is what you have to do to get the benefit later on. And wanting to get under a certain time or qualify for a certain team is always a good driving force. AB: What did you want to be when you grew up? MF: I was never really sure, and I am half way through a Bachelors degree now. So I probably am going to be what I was in our high school yearbook, which was ‘Eternal Student’. Probably just stay studying for a while. One of the big goals when I was a kid was to
For more information on how the visually impaired can enjoy running or how you can assist as a running guide, visit www.blindrunner.com/index.html
MARY FISHER INNERVIEW
CATHERINE GUIDES MARY ON THE HIGH FIVE0 MARATHON - HER FIRST WITH THE RED SHIRT BRIGADE AND A TRAIL FAIRY TO GUIDE THE WAY.
represent NZ at the Paralympic Games. It has been amazing that I ever achieved that. The guy that got me in to sport was Tim Prendergast who use to run middle distance for NZ and is also visually impaired. Even though he was a runner he was always very supportive of my swimming and any kind of sport that we were doing. AB: How did you meet him? MF: He was a recreational advisor for the Blind Foundation, based in Wellington and running very competitively at that stage (when I was at Primary School). He would take us on recreation camps where all these blind kids and low vision kids from around the North Island would go for a week in January. As a kid he was a big role model and is a lovely person. AB: How did you lose your vision? MF: I have a genetic condition, which meant I had about 10% of normal sight when I was younger, and then gradually lost the rest when I was at High School. So I can still see light and dark. Which is sometimes useful for running, like I can tell when we are really dense forest I can tell if we are somewhere really exposed. AB: How did you feel about your involvement in Mal Law’s High50? MF: So, I just thought it was amazing what Malcolm Law is doing, in terms of raising SO much money for The Mental Health Foundation and AND just doing fifty marathons in a row. Even though he has had serious injuries, it has been really so cool to keep up with his progress. I guess my connection with the challenge is that if you think about how many friends and family you have, there is always someone you know who is struggling with some aspect of mental health. Or yourself at some point in your life, for sure. It is a pretty cool cause to be supporting. The other thing is to raise awareness that it (mental health issues) is natural, especially in the kind of world we live in at the moment where it is all so hectic and busy and so much
importance is placed on success and always being the best and always being happy. People forget that that is not normal. Just being able to speak out about mental health issues is important.
Guiding Mary CATHERINE BENNETT’S PERSPECTIVE
MF: Hopefully a good summer of training, and, I guess looking towards qualification for Rio, and hopefully being part of a big swim team there.
“I met Mary through piloting on a tandem for a friend of mine through the Blind Foundation. Through our conversations she discovered I was a runner, she then asked about running a half marathon.”
AB: Who is your Idol?
“I thought ‘Oh my god, here we go!’”
MF: I think I draw inspiration from a whole bunch of different people for different reasons but mostly their attitudes towards things that they feel are important. I would have to say my parents Jenny and Mike. They are very dedicated and supportive of everything I do, in and out of the water. Transport is a bit more difficult for me and early morning starts when most older teenagers would be driving themselves places…I always had to get a lift from somewhere to training, they have been amazing in that aspect . My Grandfather also went to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games as a sound technician for Radio NZ. Other forms of media weren’t very predominant then so he was bringing back all the sound bites, which is a connection I like.
“The one we did was great. We didn’t train a lot but you have to remember that Mary is a high performance athlete, so some days she would have done two swim sessions and been to the gym before running. Her fitness is really good.
AB: A year from now what do you think you will you be celebrating?
“I got a text from Mary one morning saying ‘Can we do the High50 challenge?’. I thought, ‘This is absolutely crazy!’ but then Mary can also downhill ski, so if she can do that then she can definitely run off road, she is fearless.”
AB: What is your superpower?
“Mary has been amazing with her off-road training; we have done a long run on the course every week. I would say we run at least 70% of the time, the only time we need to walk is when it becomes too difficult for me to describe the rocks and terrain when guiding.”
MF: What is my superpower? Or what do I want my superpower to be? I think just to be the best that I can and to try and encourage other people to put their best into things, as well as challenge preconceptions. AB: That’s the best superpower. (Superhero voice) “Hopefully we’ll change the world!” When Trail Run Mag went to print Mary had raised $1,258 for Mal Law’s High50 and has offered to teach me to tumble turn. Ergo, she really is fearless.
SUPPORT MARY IN HER FUNDRAISING BY GOING TO: WWW.FUNDRAISEONLINE.CO.NZ/MARYFISHER/
CHRIS ORD // AUSTRALIAN EDITOR
WORDS & IMAGES: CHRIS ORD
HUT TO HUT TRMâ€™s editor, Chris Ord, heads out on 100km multiday run in the Victorian Alps, along the way coming to grips with why reconnaissance is so important when it comes to running in remote wilderness: because sometimes the running takes a back seat to the way finding.
HUT TO HUT FEATURE
MY GUESS IS THAT IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE ANYONE STEPPED FOOT ON MOUNT KOONIKA. MAYBE THAT’S A SIGN THAT WE SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THERE. The trail is gone, the scrabbly ground thicket of Victoria’s high alpine scrub having clawed back over the footpath, any remnant of visitor prints or route finding invisible to the eye. As is the way in the Australian bush – given its vastness, lack of population and scarcity of up-to-date mapping – a dotted line on a map doesn’t mean there’s still something on the ground to follow. Nevertheless, we’d navigated our way to the summit, guided by a 500 metre vertical drop-off to the west. Hugging the rim took us to Koonika, a muted platform peak jutting out atop King Spur at 1594 metres. Koonika is a detour off perhaps the most spectacular and well-padded stretch of Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT). It sits minding its own business just north of Mt Speculation and other better known features of the AAWT: Mt Buggery, Crosscut Saw, Mt Howitt and Mt Magdala. For us, Koonika was a sentinel en route to King Hut, a reconstructed wooden den paying machine-sawed homage to hand hewn versions of old and hidden riverside on the King Valley floor. It would mark our final night on a 100km adventure run we dubbed the ‘Hut-toHut’, named so for its leapfrogging between traditional alpine bush huts dotted throughout the terrain, long-time safe havens for cattlemen, horsemen, cross country skiers and bush walkers. Also movie sets, if you include Craig’s Hut of Man From Snowy River fame. The mission was to scout a potential multi day trail run route, with grand ideas of guiding other runners around it, or even potentially racing it. The idea was seeded months prior, while running the trails of Mount Buller Alpine Resort, ostensibly to audit and rate them for a suite of trails now known as Run Buller (http://run.mtbuller.com.au) – 11 routes graded according to a ‘Trail Score’ system, aimed at enticing recreational trail runners to Buller’s flanks. Mid-audit, we’d stopped at a viewpoint, a wooden seat offering mid-run respite
and alluring views across to the famous Crosscut Saw, an impressive spine of exposed mountain rock sighted 10 kilometres distant as the crow flies. My co-runner at the time was Beau Miles, known for being the first to run the entire length of the AAWT. He pointed out Crosscut as one of the most spectacular sections of his 680km feat. His musings in turn set me to scouring maps of that distant wilderness, looking for places to run, for trail, scanning viable routes, dreaming of multi-day adventure. The map showed – as much any symbol, line or dot set down on paper can ever show, maps being a representative snapshot from a point in time long before you cast eyes on it – that it was possible to run a 100km loop. Trusting in those lines, the route traced from Mount Buller village, down into the Howqua Valley, back up to the Bluff and onto the AAWT. A runner could then head north for what the contours showed would be a spectacular extended ridgeline run along the AAWT before dropping down to the valleys of the King, looping back up to Stirling and eventually home to Buller. By the map, the route would use mostly singletrack and take in what promised to be some of the biggest mountain views you’ll find on mainland Australia. Perhaps some of the biggest climbs. Perhaps the best wilderness run, if not in Australia, at least in the state.
ast-forward months, and the adventure started off as all adventures should: in absolute meltdown. With barely 12 hours until I was due to run off the 1805-metre summit of Mt Buller, I had no safety runner to come with and my crew – the plan being to have a 4WD support vehicle to meet us at each night’s campsite – had ditched me. My inner OH&S officer pulled the reins: any idiot knows it’s not safe to pummel headlong into the remote Australian alpine wilderness with woolly weather forecast, without having verified trail conditions, and with no co-runner or crew to meet for a cuppa and campfire conversation each evening. Even so, the bull headed, caution-to-thecrisp-alpine-wind runner in me called seniority, and I continued preparations.
FEATURE HUT TO HUT
running at this early stage, and forward progress was slow. The trail we were attempting to follow, Four Mile Spur, was once used regularly by school groups, but with little traffic in recent years had lost its battle for survival to the ravenous bush on the higher reaches. We’d managed to not slip off either side long enough to eventually snatch sight of a rare but appreciated orange arrow and finally, lower down, a clear and very runnable trail taking us into Howqua Valley and across its eponymous river. We’d dropped 1300 metres in the first stretch, and while the soothing waters of Howqua refreshed, there was no salvation in the thought that we had to immediately make that gain again. As with any run worth its sweat and tears, there would also be a false peak to burst our motivation bubble.
Enquiries on the local grapevine unearthed a local odd-jobber with a four-wheel-drive and a few days to kill. He knew the rough tracks enough to know he could get in to rendezvous at the nominated huts. Another phone call pulled in a last minute miracle in the form of Australian ultra adventure runner, Shane Hutton, famous for numerous feats of extreme endurance, including running the length of Tasmania top-to-toe via its rough-hewn mountain heart, an extreme 13-day effort. He’d finished that expedition, compete with blown knee, only a few days prior, yet was mad enough to accept my masochistic offer. “I know you’ve just run 670km, but reckon you can come and top that up with another 100 in the Vic Alps?” He arrived late that night, a man who can never say no to a challenge or to spending more time in the mountains. “Ahh, wasn’t ready to go back to work anyway,” he smirked. And as with any good adventure, enough came together at the last minute to get a green light flickering. Having Shane along for the jaunt allayed fears. An experienced wilderness runner, the multiday he’d knocked off in Tassie had him forging through off-track wilderness as rough as anything we’d likely encounter up on the Alps. Even so, I should have known to be wary of the early route. As part of the trail audit, I had run out and back on West Ridge trail, not far from the village, but still a true adventure run. Darting off the summit of Buller it undulates its way 8km along an exposed ridge on similar terrain to that we would be traipsing. Alone on that run, I had dropped sharply off an early minor peak and found myself instantly well off trail. That situation was quickly replicated as we dropped to the south off the same summit, to the same result. Within minutes the steep forested flanks of the mountain robbed us of any way-finders. It was the first time we were forced to zigzag through the bush in the hope of picking up either trail, signage or in the least an easily defined spur we could stick to for the descent. It wasn’t to be the last time we’d find ourselves scouring a mountainside for clues to our whereabouts. Needless to say, there was not a lot of
s soon as I received Jan Saunders’ text, I knew where she was, even though she thought she was lost. It was closing in on a year since the recce run of the Hut-to-Hut. Seeking a last minute multiday adventure of her own, Jan had put the call out for ideas. Her pick of the bunch that flurried back via social media was our Hut-to-Hut. She’d walk it, rather than run, carrying a heavier pack with more supplies, but do it solo and without the luxury of a 4WD crew meeting her each night. Having strung the loop together and tackled its vagaries, I had become her point of safety contact, checking in every so often to make sure she was on track. I knew exactly where she was lost, because Shane and I got lost in exactly the same location. Damn false summit. Having trudged (and it’s a trudge – no running on this super steep section) up out of Howqua along Eight Mile Spur, it’s easy to get to a 1292m high point and think you’ve reached the Bluff, which represents the start of the ridgeline trail. It’s easy to mentally rejoice that there are no more extended climbs beyond short peak bagging pushes. In actual fact you aren’t on the Bluff, and you’re not even on the high point of the ridge you’ve climbed upon. >>
HUT TO HUT FEATURE
Yet another 150 metre of vertical has you on Rocky Ridge and looking across – half in admiration and half disappointingly – at the Bluff. Where you thought you already were. Jan describes what she’s seeing over the phone, and sends a picture of that Bluff. I can feel exactly what she is feeling, for just past here the trail peters out (again) to a mess of fallen trees. I know she’s trying to figure out how much daylight is left, how long it will take to find the trail, how long it will take to then make the Bluff scramble. Can the push to the top be made before dark? Scrabbling for the map in the comfort of my home office, I triangulate using reference points and confirm with Jan that she’s not far from Refrigerator Gap. Trust her instincts and our experience and drop through the battlefield of fire-felled gums and you’ll pop out on a road. Promise. Ahead is a near vertical climb to the Bluff, but the trail is clear – with road access, lots of day-trippers have rutted it out distinguishable enough. A thumbs-up photo in front of a Refrigerator Gap sign and, later, a shot of her tent pitched high in the sky with a glorious sunset over the mountains, tells me Jan made the Bluff. For the safety guy back at home monitoring an adventurer in the field – thank the stars for Facebook and mobile phone coverage. Also thankfully, having heeded our tales, Jan wasn’t routing via Koonika on her fourday trek.
here Jan camped wild on the ridgeline, our run had us past Bluff Hut and in to the safety of Lovick’s Hut where our 4WD support had tea on the hob. The ramshackle buildings like Lovick’s found along the Hut-to-Hut – there are eight visited en route – are intrinsically linked to the legends of Australia’s backcountry bushmen, drovers and, in later years, forestry workers, with the odd wild hermit thrown in for good measure. Supping our tea, it was easy to imagine the horses being ties to the hut railings, and the banter of mountain men heard over a billy boiling. Low on creature comfort, each hut has a story to tell hewn into their rough timber and tin constructions. Few are originals, rather they are reconstructed versions mostly in 66
the traditional style, some in a more modern geodesic dome iteration. The most famous, Craig’s Hut, is a fully-fledged imposter whose history dates only back to being a film set for the Man From Snowy River. It is, however, the most visited hut in Australia courtesy of its silver screen fame. There is something uniquely moving about visiting the huts, especially when you have run (or walked) in to them, rather than arrived in a 4WD; the silence of your approach, the sweat you have toiled through to get there more intimately connecting visitors on foot with the history of this wild place. As Klaus Hueneke wrote in Australian Geographic (#93, Jan-Mar 2009): “Mountain huts stir something quite primal in our hearts: a universal need for shelter, safety in an emergency, warmth in a cold climate, identification with a hardy, pioneering era and a desire to preserve structures and skills from the past.” Even so, we still opted for tented accommodation each night, pitching nearby each hut. But knowing there was structure nearby should the weather rage rancid was comfort enough as was knowing that the horse hustling stockmen often chose themselves to hunker down in swags, preferring the starry night sky and the feel of earth beneath their backs. The experience of running along the AAWT was as Beau Miles promised – enough to have us shouting superlatives endlessly at each other, but only after we’d caught our breath from meaty climbs, like the first up Mt Magdala (at 1725m just 80m shy of the starting height back on Buller). The run started to string peaks together – after Magdala it was Big Hill, Mt Howitt across Crosscut Saw to Mt Buggery and on to Mt Speculation – and each time we looked up from feet on trail to the view we were rewarded with an ever-changing perspective back toward Mount Buller. The route circles around, enabling you to see exactly where and across what you have run which only adds to the sense of achievement in each step. But then, Koonika. The King Spur to King Hut route would cut off a round about way via Mustering Flat and a horse trail, Muesli Spur. We managed to navigate the pink dotted trail on the map leading to Koonika, ‘undefined’ as it was labelled. So surely the black dotted trail >>
FEATURE HUT TO HUT
WANT TO RUN HUT TO HUT? <<
found the trail, only to realise it was animal tracks, not trekker trail. Then a clue: I have never been so happy before to find a bit of litter – a pen – in the bush. But it showed that someone, at some stage had been where we now stood. Although it didn’t look like any trail I’d ever been on, we must have hit it and forged on down through the thicket. Over the course of the next few hours we found and lost that trail numerous times. Eventually we gave up and just bee-lined and bushwhacked for where we though the road below should be. At 5.25pm a paddock and then a horse trail popped us out half a kilometre from where the trail should have exited. The final 1km run in to King Hut was a sprint as we tried to cut short the Emergency 000 call by our crewman. “Nah, don’t think Parks Vic would let us take anyone down that,” quipped Shane, as we bolted into camp. The third and final day on the Hut-to-Hut route was our first without putting a foot wrong. The run took us across to Craig’s Hut – the quintessential if fake Australian mountain hut – and on to Stirling where we joined the Run Buller trails for the final stretch of silky (and thankfully very defined) singletrack. Passing by the bench where the original Hut-to-Hut seed was sown, we stopped and looked back at Crosscut. We’d run it only yesterday, but it seemed a lifetime of adventure ago. I was quietly thankful that we couldn’t make out Koonika. Best, I figured, that our lingering memories should be of floating across the rooftop ridges of Victoria, rather than hanging off its walls wondering where all the trails have gone.
(‘walking track’) would be clearer cut? As soon as we dropped off the edge of Koonika I should have known nothing in the coming hours would be clear-cut. “Parks Victoria will never let me take any kind of tour off this,” I remarked to Shane, as we both grappled with loose rock down a vertical incline that dropped off, deathinvitingly so, to either side. For now, running was once again off the cards. Surviving nerves and navigation along the spur seemingly inch by inch was the reality. Although trackless we hacked along, guided by the sharp ridge we balanced on – there were no options to get ‘lost’. Clinging on we eventually made it to where the ridge expanded and flattened off some in its belly, making for much safer walking; there was still no trail and so much more indecision as Shane and I constantly corrected each others’ course, double checking each others’ navigation logic. Two kilometres after dropping off the cliff face, we faced the proposition of numerous smaller spurs starting to dart off around us. Picking which was the right one – where the trail should have been - was proving more difficult that expected. Our 4WD support would be at the bottom of the valley, waiting for us out of mobile range. It was late afternoon. We’d pinpointed the ‘hit the panic button’ time as 5.30pm, figuring we should have made it to camp easily by 3.30pm. Two hours should have been plenty leeway. Diving off what we guessed to be the correct spur we were met by near impenetrable bush. Ducking, weaving, squeezing, hurdling…everything but running. Occasionally we’d get excited, thinking we’d
The base route map – including revisions to skip Mt Koonika – can be found online here
Tour de Trails currently offers fully catered and supported 3-4 day run tours or 4-5 day walk tours on demand for groups of 4 or more. Contact email@example.com. See a sample itinerary at
CHECK OUT THE TOUR
There are also plans for a charitable participation event using this course suitable to both runners and walkers. Stay tuned. For more information or to register your interest as a participant or volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For defined, mapped and way-marked runs for beginners and up check, out the Run Buller routes exploring Mounts Buller and Stirling. Check them out at:
Mohammad’s Marathon WORDS & IMAGES: CHRIS ORD
MOHAMMAD’S MARATHON PROFILE
OUR FIRST EVER MARATHON IS ALWAYS A BIG DEAL. BUT WHEN YOU’RE AN ASYLUM SEEKER LOOKING TO ESCAPE YOUR PAST AND FIND YOUR TOMORROW IN PEACE, IT’S A PRIVILEGE TO BE ABLE TO RUN AT ALL, BELIEVES AFGHANISTANI, MOHAMMAD SHIRZAD. TRAIL RUN MAG CATCHES UP WITH THE MELBOURNE TRAIL RUNNERS GROUP MEMBER TO DISCUSS WHAT HAS BEEN A VERY DIFFERENT JOURNEY TO BECOMING A TRAIL RUNNER.
FOR SOME, RUNNING IS ABOUT MOVING FORWARD. RELENTLESSLY. For others, it can often be about running away from something. With fervour. Sometimes it’s about avoiding both what lies behind and what lies ahead in life. It is about chasing the moment that exists fleetingly within each step – finding a string of fractions of peace where the runner can be neither worried about what has happened nor what will. Sometimes life in either direction is just too tough to face. For 27 year-old Mohammad Shirzad, running is a pathway to just that: an effort to be in the now, which for him is the best place to be. “I don’t want to think about the past. It is too much to bear. And what will be of the future? What is to come? I don’t know. It is too difficult to think about at the moment.” Running began for Shirzad as it does for all, as a joyfully unconstructed activity with no boundaries or rules and with a lot of laughter.
As a child he would run around the alleyways of his Afghanistani village with friends and later on, as an adolescent, around a local park. Those are a few memories from a troubled past that he is willing to revisit with his characteristically broad smile. Back then Mohammad was too young for the still-fresh echoes of a civil strife to sully early childhood. He was only four years old when the war between the communist government and the Mujahideen ended. He was six years old when the Taliban began their insurgency, eventually taking control of Afghanistan in 1996 to impose its severe brand of Sharia law. For Mohammad and his family, the coming of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban was an ominous event. Although Muslims alike, Mohammad’s family is of the Shi’i persuasion from the Hazara ethnic minority, while the Taliban is Pashtun ethnic group with a particular dislike for the Shias whom they refuse to recognize as Muslim brothers. >>
PROFILE MOHAMMAD’S MARATHON
one or two years back in Afghanistan but the situation was worse than ever. “We felt unsafe everywhere. Going to the village no one was safe. If you wanted to walk anywhere, you weren’t safe. Everywhere you had to be ready for a bomb blast. There was no running for fun. You were never sure when something was going to happen. Despite the fear, when he could, Mohammad still ran. “Anything up to 15km. It was a small bit of physical freedom in a country that was a jail.”
As ethnic and religious minorities, the Shirzad’s were on the outer from the beginning. Nevertheless, they held on, laying low and getting on with life. Then the Taliban came calling. “No-one is all bad,” says Mohammad, “But the Taliban is bad. They want to rid the world from Shia people, my people. When my father died, it was Taliban.” “They came one day in front of my house. There was a lot of metal there. They said they wanted to buy it, even though it was not for sale. They then left and after one month, came back with Taliban government officials, accusing my father of stealing a lot of money.” “After that they took him to jail, beat him, beat him, beat him, until he got blood pressure and heart problems. After three years, he died under the Taliban’s persecution.” Mohammad was 12 years old. The eldest male in a patriarchal society, he was now the head of the family. For Mohammad, that meant leaving school and starting work to support his family. The days of carefree running in parklands faded fast. “I started to work as a mechanic. I was panel beating and repairing cars.” The death of his father did not mark the end of the Taliban’s attentions, however. “Afterwards we had trouble with the bad situation as the Taliban had us living in fear. We moved to Pakistan for a while, then came back.” That initial move sparked Mohammad’s drive to find a life outside of Afghanistan, a plan that for a short while succeeded. “I managed to get a visa to work in Dubai for three years. I had a small business, and a partner with US citizenship. We imported cars from the US to Dubai to sell. Then my visa expired. I was
FOR MOHAMMAD, THE LAND AND SEA JOURNEY TO AUSTRALIA, UNDERTAKEN IN 2013, WAS AKIN TO AN ULTRA. LONG, ARDUOUS DAYS ON BUSES, TRUCKS AND, EVENTUALLY, A RICKETY BOAT HEADED FOR CHRISTMAS ISLAND AND A ‘JAIL’, ALBEIT OF A MUCH MORE BENEVOLENT KIND. “I travelled overland to India, then Malaysia. Then a boat to Indonesia, where I again travelled overland for three days to Jakarta.” In Jakarta, Mohammad contacted the authorities and applied for official status as an asylum seeker. “After getting my papers, I found a boat to get me to Christmas Island. We paid US$5300 each. It was crowded. It was dangerous. I was scared.” “We were in a small boat crowded with 57 people, all Afghanistani, except for three crew from Indonesia. It took two days and one night to get there. “When we were just offshore, the Australian Navy intercepted, but we were happy – we knew at least we were safe. They treated us well.” Unlike many stories coming out of
Australian detention centres, Mohammad reports his was a relatively smooth progression from detainee to free man, able to move around in the community, albeit with restrictions on working. Six weeks after landing on Christmas Island, he landed in Melbourne – his preferred destination for reasons of family, study and its sizeable Afghanistani community. Unable to seek employment due to visa restrictions, Mohammad threw himself into anything to keep occupied: volunteering to help others, taking classes to help himself and keeping physically active. The latter two were key to his running with the Melbourne Trail Runners (www.facebook.com/ MelbourneTrailRunners), a 900-strong social group who meet weekly in Melbourne’s eastern fringe parklands. “I met Vickie Saunders at one of my Headspace classes (a not for profit dealing with mental health issues). She was a volunteer teacher, I was a student. We got talking and I told her that I wanted to do more, get involved more. She told me about her trail running group and asked if I was a runner. I said yes and she invited me to their group runs, the first at Lysterfield Lake. Vickie said “Can you run ten kays?” I said, “Let’s see how I feel.” For Mohammad, Vickie’s invitation represented not just an offer to make new friends and go running, it was an opening to participating in the broader Australian community. “I have found joining the running community very good for me. Before, I spent most of my time with my Afghanistani community. Not too many runners in that!” >>
MOHAMMAD’S MARATHON PROFILE
Which is why Mohammad has decided to tackle his first ever marathon. “I mentioned to Vickie that I saw some big runs in the city. She told me they were likely the big marathons and half marathons. Immediately I wanted to experience that, but as an asylum seeker, I cannot afford that. Even my running shoes – I got them at a Red Cross shop for $5! “But Vickie decided to help me realise my dream of the marathon. She chose for me the Great Ocean Road Marathon - a better view (than the Melbourne ones) she said! “So I started training. She put a post on the Melbourne Trail Runner’s Facebook stream, asking people to help me. I was humbled by the response, and now I am signed up to the marathon.” Running trails at Lysterfield and training for a marathon that will take Mohammad along our most famous coastline stretch is a long way from dusty streets of Afghanistan and death knocks from the Taliban. Mohammad’s marathon journey of life will continue as he navigates his way through the bureaucracy asylum seekers face to resettle. He doesn’t like to think back to where he came from. And he is scared about what may lie ahead, his future uncertain. So Mohammed likes to stay busy. He will train with his newfound trail friends and he will concentrate on the marathon he will run with no roadside bombs to fear, no Taliban to avoid, nothing but 44km of freedom along a Great Ocean coastline. It will be a run that he could never have imagined while beating car panels back in Kabul as he shed silent tears over a father lost and a childhood stolen. Perhaps Mohammad’s marathon will also gift him the strength to finally start running towards something. Towards his new life.
“But being part of Melbourne Trail Runners is like spending time with all of Australia – people from all different backgrounds – Mexican, Russian, English, American, Chilean…and me! “There’s opportunity for me to find friends, improve my running and improve my English. It’s a way for me to integrate more into the Australian community. I believe it is also healthy for me – not just physically, but mentally.” Mohammad believes inactivity in detention centres is part of the problem of mental health issues within them. “There were activities on offer – soccer, boxing, gym yoga, studying – so for me, there wasn’t any mental problems caused by being in the centre itself. But others would think about it like a jail. And it was like that – we couldn’t go outside into the community. But for me it did not matter because I was safe. It was better than my country. And I could run in the detention centres.” Mohammad notes, however, that he was incarcerated for only six weeks, whereas for others it is a lot longer and often debilitating periods. “And unless they can find the right state of mind – and take up as many activities as possible to stay healthy, I know it is difficult (mentally) for some, especially given some of their backgrounds and experience of conflict in their homelands.” For Mohammad, staying a step ahead of his own demons is helped by his love of running. “Running is the best for me for the moment. I believe it is the mother for every sport. If you have running you can take on any sport around you. Everything starts with running. You want to warm up, you have to run.” Mohammad exudes a drive common among asylum seekers who rise above their lot. His infectious energy and beaming smile, only briefly pricked when talking of his father’s death, signals a determination to not let his past weigh him down. “I do lots of volunteer work and lots of exercise to keep busy, given I’m not currently allowed to work. For physical activity I do all sorts, wrestling to taekwondo, and even a bit of Aussie Rules Football. But running is the one constant.”
Editor’s note: Mohammad Shirzad is now being assisted on his journey to completing a marathon with new shoes courtesy of Active Feet (www.activefeet.com.au). Trail Run Mag has also donated Mohammad’s entry to the Great Ocean Road Marathon and, through our association with the Surf Coast Trail Marathon www.surfcoasttrailmarathon.com.au, offered him (if he pulls up okay from all that bitumen and remains keen!) a free entry into that event, slated only one month later. Mohammad will be a trail ultra machine in no time…
CHRIS ORD // AUSTRALIAN EDITOR
T H E R U N N I E R U N N I N G N N I N G B U G
An accomplished runner across many trail disciplines, Australian Samantha Gash is known mostly for her multiday exploits, be that as the youngest and first female to complete the 4Deserts series (2010) or her more recent astonishing feat of running nearly 2000km across Southern Africa. But in multi-days, every race can be like your first as runners adapt to the peculiarities of location, terrain, co-competitors and camp life. Not to mention the travellers you can pick up along the wayâ€Ś
words: Samantha Gash images: Jose Andres Vargas and Ian Corless
COSTA RICA FEATURE
F YOU ARE ABOUT TO ATTEMPT SOMETHING BIG IN YOUR RUNNING LIFE, SIGN UP TO SOMETHING ELSE THAT EXCITES YOU, SLATED FOR NOT TOO LONG AFTER THE FIRST EFFORT. IT HELPS WITH POST ADVENTURE BLUES AND THE POTENTIAL LETHARGY THAT FOLLOWS (ALTHOUGH RECUPERATION AND REFLECTION ARE IMPORTANT AND SHOULDN’T BE MISTAKEN FOR LAZINESS).
Just before attempting to run across South Africa for my Freedom Runners campaign, I took my own advice by signing up for a multiday race in Costa Rica. This, despite the fact that I predicted running let alone racing would be a questionable task after the demands of running 1968kms over 32 days. Having never visited Central America, I didn’t know what to expect of the Coastal Challenge, a 230km-six stage race. Beautiful weather, stunning and secluded beaches, wild jungle trails, endless coconuts and humidity was what I was told to prepare for. Following updates on social media, I caught sight of alluring on-course photos taken by Ultra Talk’s
trail guru, Ian Corless. I couldn’t help but feel that running in a place so variant from the previous mission and landscapes of southern Africa would be a good salve for my soul, a rejuvenation for mind and a pathway back into running after a relaxed recovery period. Looking at the kilometer breakdown per stage of any multistage race there is a tendency to underestimate what you are getting yourself into. Coastal Challenge’s line up was 32.5km, 39kms, 48kms, 37.5kms, 47.5kms and 23.7kms. In essence, taken standalone, nothing from a distance perspective that is overwhelming for anyone who has completed a 100km or longer event. However, multistage racing is a pretty unique set up. You are living in close proximity with competitors and event staff whilst also being in relative isolation to the world outside of the event. There is a physical toll that is hard to describe as you expect your body to rise each morning and perform on limited and often disturbed sleep. What is harder to explain is the impact on your emotional wellbeing as each competitor deals differently to camp life, in the case of Costa Rica extreme 90% >>
FEATURE COSTA RICA
Over the course of the week I notice how happy everyone is. Constantly. Now, I’m a pretty happy person, but the Costa Ricans I met were reaaaaaaally happy, a demonstrable fact borne out by an article published in Forbes, ‘ Want to be Happy? Move to Costa Rica’, which discussed the Happy Planet Index. It found that Costa Rica topped the list of happiest countries (Australia ranked 76th). It is also one of the greenest countries in the world, they have no army and citizens have a high life expectancy of 78.5 years of age. I would initially have said their amazing coffee beans would have added to the ‘happiness’ factor but alas, I wasn’t able to find a good coffee place while there (perhaps all the good beans are exported to Melbourne). Not only is happiness contagious, it is also most appreciated when you are not having an ideal race. I picked up a nasty bug in the days leading up to the race and it made the Challenge rather more challenging that it already was on paper, as I battled to move forward without stopping to relieve myself in one way or the other. When the race kicked off, I wasn’t the only one enduring the exhausting effects of humidity and heat. You could feel the energy
humidity, significant vertical gain, fatigue, the unknown, sleep deprivation and, of course, running for six days in a row. I think it would be fair to also say that in an environment such as this you often see the best and more vulnerable sides of people. It isn’t until you are at the core of the situation that you realise a dependency on creature comforts of home, specifically those which aid you in your process of recovery. I have taken part in numerous multistage races across the globe and whilst there are trying moments – the simplicity, degree of self-sufficiency and flexible way of thinking are elements that I am also most attracted to. The race director of the Coastal Challenge is a rather charismatic and knowledgeable athlete in his own right – Rodrigo Carazo. His briefing on the night before the race sets the scene for the week to come. Speaking in English followed by Spanish or vice versa, you can feel Rodrigo’s passion even in a language that you don’t understand. He clearly loves to share his trails with like-minded people from around the world and he has assembled a crew of Costa Ricans that match his desire of showcasing what running in Central America is all about.
COSTA RICA FEATURE
Check a video from the 2015 event by clicking above.
drain as you tried to run a respectable pace. The mileage and vertical gain were manageable on day one (36.4kms, 850m ascent), but competitors crossed the day’s line disheveled and noticeably more wasted than on any other day as they struggled with early acclimatisation. After the first stage we put up tents and found ourselves fidgeting as we attempted to lie down, only to wake in a pool of sweat a couple of minutes later. A deliciously cool river beside our campsite gave some relief and provided a social hub with other runners joining me to take the pinch off overheated bodies. I had spent a decent portion of stage one vomiting. So much so, that I dubbed myself ‘Vomgirl’ as numerous competitors stopped to see if I needed assistance. I attracted a stream of concerned looks and questions at camp. During the stage I tried to brush off both my loss of dignity and the vomit, forcing out a causal look to reassure all that I was completely fine. I wasn’t, but based on how everyone else looked after the stage I convinced myself that I was just battling the elements in a slightly different way to them. As nighttime fell, I spent more time sneaking behind rocks in the dark to relieve myself than actually sleeping. As we woke at 3:30am for the second stage I felt more shattered than ever and nervous about how I would get through the day. Stage two had significant climbs early on. I had lost any desire to race and was hoping I could simply get through a couple of kilometers at a time before needing to go to the toilet. It was wholly unpleasant and not the way I wanted to experience the Costa Rican jungle for the first time (or any time, for that matter). When I crossed the final 5km beach stretch in the exposed sun I had absolutely nothing left and my temperature was through the roof. I was lucky to be in the wonderful hands of Doc Luciano at the finish line and he stayed with me for the next hour getting my temperature down and trying to get some fluids into my system. Co-runners, Anna Frost and Nikki Kimball – my gal pals for the trip – checked on me constantly, each expressing concern about my
insistence on lining up the next day. I wasn’t yet ready to give up my chance of exploring the Costa Rica trails. I am not sure if it was the wisest decision but I was going to give stage three a crack. I had not eaten in over 24 hours, but I have experienced my share of pain and discomfort, I knew it is part and parcel of multi days, especially in foreign countries where the added risk of exotic viruses and bacterias come in to play. In many respects I have been in far worse situations than the one I was in here, or so I kept telling myself in an attempt to rationalise continuing. Whenever things got tough, I thought of the attitude of American Joe Grant who had hurt his ankle on the second day. It was inflamed and looked painful. With no complaints and an acceptance that he was no longer racing the event, he continued through each stage with a calmness and ease that I respected. And wanted to emulate. I was constantly blown away with the support offered by the event team. In many instances they went above and beyond what is to be expected in a multistage race and I wouldn’t pass an aid station without someone enquiring into how I was feeling. With no end in sight of the yo-yo between stomach cramp and evacuation to the bathroom, I decided to pull the pin at the start line of stage four. I hated the idea that I may have been letting people down. Deep down I know I made the correct decision but the irrational side of me – as I am sure it is with any runner determined to finish what they start – hates not finishing what I start. The race-wisened part of me knows that sometimes giving up and taking that moment to rest is exactly what you need to do in order to get back to what you love. And what I love is not merely racing but enjoying my surroundings and feeling blessed that my body allows me to go to places that are off the beaten track and are as special as Costa Rica. With a trip to the hospital, beginning a course of antibiotics, some rest and space to digest food, I made a deal with myself. If I were able to keep food in my body throughout the night, >>
FEATURE COSTA RICA
I would make the start line the next morning with an approach of taking the stage gently. With the first decent night’s sleep since starting the race I happily slid back into race clothes ready for stage five. Prior, we had a short drive and boat ride across a stretch of water. You could feel a thickness in the air due to the rain the night before and I knew it was going to be a misty, sweaty day as we climbed steadily up for 8kms. With no pressure of racing and placing, and feeling far more human, I started off and found myself running with ultra running legend, Nikki Kimball. We were joined by Sydney-based runner, Collette and stayed together for the entire stage. There are running moments in your life that you never forget and so often they are not the ones in which you place first, or achieve your best result. The banter between the three of us throughout that incredibly muddy, wet and humid section was constant. The energy and camaraderie kept us positive and calm. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, we moved at a very consistent pace even though we took the opportunity to completely immerse ourselves in every passage of water we found. We finished that stage in Drake Bay, which would be the start and end point for the last 24km stage, one of most beautiful stretches of running I have undertaken. We ran through waterfalls, across rivers, along jungle-coddled single track and up pristine beaches. It was enough that the sickness of the days washed easily away with that final dip in the ocean, leaving a satisfied sense of having run through tropical landscapes alongside new and now familiar friends, together with a deep appreciation for Costa Rica and its colourful culture. The vagrant stomach bug abated with antibiotics, but the feeling of Costa Rica’s warmth and welcome I doubt will ever fade. Rather it will lure me back.
EVENT DETAILS Coastal Challenge – Costa Rica 13-20 February, 2016 Expedition Category – 230km Adventure Category – 155km Solo or teams of 3-6
CHECK OUT THE EVENT
TRAILCREW INTERVIEW: Chris Ord IMAGE: courtesy The North Face 100
Surf Coast Trail Runners VIC, AU
1. How did your group begin? After completing the Rollercoaster Run in March 2013 both Dion (Milne) and Matt (Hosking) were toying around with the idea of creating an online group to post up runs and see if people wanted to jump on board. Facebook was and still is a great medium for this.
2. Where does your group run mostly? Since the You Yangs has some incredible technical tracks, good hill climbs and is very flexible for planning routes, it makes for a great training ground. A lot of our members live further north than the Surf Coast itself, so it makes a great mid-way meeting point. The trails around Anglesea, on the actual coast, are also a favourite stomping ground.
3. What is your favourite local trail and why? Most people who run on the East-West loop (4km) at the Youies love it. It’s probably the best accessible technical single trail in Victoria.
4. What local event does your group rally around? We try to get out and support all the Victorian trail events where we can but particularly those on our home turf like the Surf Coast Trail Marathon (www.surfcoasttrailmarathon.com.au), You Yangs Trail Running Festival (www.trailsplus. com.au/you-yangs/), Surf Coast Century (www. rapidascent.com.au/SurfcoastCentury/) and Afterglow (www.afterglowtrail.com.au). Those events have such a great feel, especially sharing our training grounds with other runners.
5. What single piece of advice would you guys give a newbie joining your group? Have fun, don’t worry about the pace and get talking with the other members. We aim to be an all-inclusive group so that anyone who likes getting out on the trails can enjoy them with others and find what they are after. From 1km -100km there’s something for everyone.
6. If your trail group was an animal, what would it be and why? Maybe the panther – it’s not the fastest, nor the biggest or the quickest cat in the jungle, but people take notice and admire it. >>
SURF COAST TRAIL RUNNERS TRAILCREW
STATS: SURF COAST TRAIL RUNNERS
Birthday: March 2013 9. Your group can choose ANY three people on earth, living or dead, to come join one of your runs…who would they be and why?
7. If you were heading out for a solo ultra run and some bastard stole your pack so you can only take two things, what would you have in each hand? Knowing our social media active crew, a mobile phone and a camera.
8. The world is ending – nominate a trail anywhere on the planet that your group must run, it’s the last trail you’ll ever see…what / where is it? Hurt 100 (www.hurt100trailrace.com) course in Hawaii. In general SCTMers need hills and beautiful ocean views. Legend has it that this may be the last trail you ever see. It looks epic.
• Jacinta O’Neil: we are fortunate to have Jacinta and many more of Australia’s great trail runners join us on group runs. A former local, it’s always great to have ’Cint’s smiling face back on the coast. • Dakota Jones: last year at Buffalo, Dakota smoked the field and those who witnessed it were in awe. A very laid back dude, I think he’d fit in nicely (the ladies would be happy too). • Cadel Evans: now the Tour de France champ is retired, we will be trying to get this local onto a group run in the future, so if anyone out there knows Cadel bring him along for some SCTR #TrailLove
10. How have you seen participation in your trail group change people and lives? There are many great stories how not just our group but the trail running community in general has changed lives. The sport is full of passionate, genuine people who just amaze us with every run or every post you see. EVERYONE has a story and more importantly, people are prepared to listen to those stories and inevitably end up part of the story. As long as there are trails to run, the story never ends. The lives that have just started and are probably the most exciting to watch as running is ingrained in them, are those of our Surf Coast Trail Kids. The parents and members are showing them the great outdoors as they start to love from an early age what so many of us have only discovered later in life. So many beautiful places, so many inspiring people, it’s the best classroom in the world.
Region: You Yangs (west of Melbourne), Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast and on down to the Great Ocean Walk, Victoria
Members: 955 Average runners at each hook up: 40-50 Average hook ups a year: 15 Shoes owned in total by all members: Thousands? 3000+? Unofficial clubhouse: Out on the trails, particularly in the You Yangs
Website / FB page link: www.facebook.com/groups/sctrs
words: KYLE WILLIAMS images: TEGYN ANGEL
Minimum fuss: how to go barefoot
Let’s leave the maximalist/minimalist argument at the door, and assume if you’ve read the headline, that you have at least some interest in the minimalist – or incorrectly labeled barefoot – approach to running. This is the one where you’re stripping back the padding and protection, and concentrating on finding your best form and strength to run better. But if there’s one thing you don’t want to do is rush in…the key is to gently, gently, lest you suffer the consequences of too hard, too fast on your way to your minimalist Nirvana. Thanks to the publication of Born To Run, the concept of running shoe minimalism has now become a mainstream fitness trend. Whilst the evolution of running shoes to ‘minimal drop’ models is a massive positive for improving the way we run, it has also resulted in a big negative: a massive increase
in running overuse injuries associated with the transition to minimalism. So let’s get back to basics and get the lowdown on the pros and cons of minimalism, as well as a step-bystep running plan to allow you transition to minimal shoes safely without injury. >>
Minimal Shoes Explained For the uninitiated, minimalism is a catchall term referring to the redesign of shoes to create a more natural running experience by primarily reducing a shoe’s heel-toe drop (a.k.a heel-toe offset or heel-toe differential), or the difference between the heel height (rear of the shoe) and the forefoot height (front of the shoe). Thus, a 4mm drop shoe means when your foot is in the shoe, your heel will sit 4mm higher off the ground than your forefoot. A ‘minimal drop’ shoe is generally classed as anything between 0–8mm.
Pros Of Running In Minimal Shoes THE KEY ADVANTAGES RUNNING IN MINIMAL SHOES ARE:
Noticeable improvements in biomechanics and running gait: the closer you are to zero drop, the closer you are to aligning your biomechanics and gait to how nature intended you to run. In particular, this tends to shift you into a more mid-foot or forefoot foot strike (as opposed to a heel strike), which can significantly reduce impact forces (read: likelihood of injury) and improve your running efficiency (see point #4).
Less range of motion restrictions in ankles and lower leg tissues: the higher your heel-toe drop, the more you restrict range of motion in your ankles and lower leg muscles. As running by nature involves thousands upon thousands of repetitions, your ankle and body will quickly adapt to this restricted range. Tight ankles and heel cords dramatically increase your likelihood of soft-tissue overuse injuries (e.g. Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis).
Functional strengthening of lower-leg and feet muscles: closely aligned with point #2, running in minimal drop shoes forces your lower-leg and feet musculature to work harder by moving through a greater range of motion. The end result, if you transition to minimal shoes properly, is huge functional strength improvements in the lower-leg and feet muscles. This, too, significantly reduces your injury risk.
Improvements in power and economy: from my own experience, I have found the lightweight and more natural feel of minimal drop shoes noticeably improves my running power by reducing my ground contact time and improves my running economy by making it easier to maintain a higher cadence. For me, both of these variables noticeable drop off when I run in drops with higher drops.
Better Ground Feel & Subjective Enjoyment: nearly everyone that runs in minimal drop shoes will tell you they truly feel awesome on your feet and give you better ground feel when running. They make for a much more enjoyable running experience that makes it very hard to go back to a big bulky higher drop shoes.
Cons of Running In Minimal Shoes The biggest con of running in minimal shoes is the significantly increased likelihood of injury if you donâ€™t transition correctly. As highlighted earlier, running in minimal drop shoes forces your lower-leg and feet musculature to work harder by moving through a greater range of motion. For those coming from a higher drop shoe or having not run before, this increased range of motion places huge stress on your feet and calves. This increased stress will lead to pain and injury unless you patiently add minimal drop loading and ensure you body has adapted before progressing.
TOURS & EXPEDITIONS G U I D E D - O W N P A C E - A C C O M M O D AT I O N - F U L LY C AT E R E D
G R E AT O C E A N WA L K , G R A M P I A N S , H U T T O H U T - V I C A L P S , L A R A P I N TA T R A I L , E AS T T I M O R , C H I N A , B H U TA N , C O O K I S L A N D S
W W W.T O U R D E T R A I L S . C O M
ABOUT THE TRAIL TRAINER
How To Transition Safely: 12-Step Minimal Shoe Transition Plan What follows is a 12-step running program that will allow you transition smoothly and injury free into a more minimal shoe and/or barefoot. Better still, it also works extremely well as a starting program for new runners or for those returning to running after a long lay-off. As you will see, it incorporates the progressive use of run/walk efforts. While some running purists may consider that ‘conservative’, trust me when I tell you that transitioning to minimal drop shoes/barefoot is brutal on your lower limbs and you will be rewarded by adopting a patient approach.
The 12-Step Minimal Shoe Transition Plan 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
10mins (Run 1/Walk 1) 15mins (Run 2/Walk 1) 20mins (Run 3/Walk 1) 25mins (Run 4/Walk 1) 30mins (Run 8/Walk 2) 35mins (Run 10/Walk 1:40) 40mins (Run 12/Walk 1:20) 45mins (Run 14/Walk 1) 50mins (Run 15/Walk 1:40) 55mins (Run 17/Walk 1:20) 60mins (Run 19/Walk 1) Run 60mins
Kyle Williams is an Australian adventurer, fitness and nutrition coach and motivational writer. A former Army medic and physical trainer, Kyle has 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry as an athlete, coach and outdoors leader.
You can either perform these sessions barefoot on the beach/soft grass OR perform these sessions on the road/track in your preferred minimal shoe.
Only progress to the next run stage if you do not have any lower leg soreness in the 24–48 hours following the previous session. If you experience soreness, then you repeat the same stage the next time you run.
If these are your only running sessions, do no more than 3 of these runs per week. If you are currently running three or more times per week, than substitute one of these sessions for every second run you do (e.g. Sunday Transition Session, Tuesday Regular Run in normal shoes, Thursday Transition Session, Saturday Regular Run)
x5 x5 x5 x5 x3 x3 x3 x3 x3 x3 x3
Don’t run on back-to-back days; always have at least one day between runs.
Perform any non-transition runs in your regular non-minimal shoes.
Either spend 10-15 minutes daily and/or at the end of every run working on mobility of your ankle joint and tissue quality/flexibility of lower leg muscles (read gastrocnemius/soleus/tibialis anterior/plantar fascia).
When choosing what minimal drop shoe to transition to, I recommend dropping no more than 4mm from your current shoe e.g. if you currently run in 12mm drop shoes, transition to a 8mm drop. Once you have transitioned to your new minimal shoe, you can follow this program again to transition even lower.
At the completion of the plan, you should now be able to run in a more minimal shoe and/or barefoot for at least 60 minutes without soreness or injury. If you want to progress beyond 60 minutes in any one session, add cautious progression (10% per week). If you want to progress beyond 60 minutes for multiple sessions, I recommend you adopt this transition for each session you want to go minimal in.
Kyle was also the first person to climb 26 of Australia’s 2,000-metre mountains nonstop (the A2k) and the first person to run an 82-kilometre ultra marathon across the Australian Alps while climbing its 21 highest mountains (the A21 Ultra). Read more about Kyle’s adventures, training programs and motivational musings at his website, www.kylewilliams.com.au.
Focus On The Long Game At the minimum, this program will take four weeks to complete, and for most it will take between 6–8 weeks. It will also require a fair degree of patience and humility. Remember, you have to focus on the long game. Going minimal is a means of improving your body’s natural function and your enjoyment of running for the rest of your life; not a quick-fix panacea to jump on a mainstream fitness trend.
TRAIL SHOES //NIKE ZOOM WILDHORSE 2
Image: chris ord
take outs NIKE WILDHORSE 2
Great for: nearly everything – techy, flowy singletrack, fire trails.
Not-so-great for: durability, steep and sharp mountain trails, mud.
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 80+km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes.
Information online at: www.therunningcompany.com.au/
WILD CHILD SO YOU’VE BAKED A CAKE AND, DAMN, IT WAS ROCKIN’ LIKE A NIGELLA KITCHEN SERENADE – SMOOTH, SILKY AND SEXY. HOW THEN, WHEN YOU’VE MUNCHED THAT CAKE TO NONEXISTENCE, DO YOU TOP IT? HOW DO YOU BAKE SOMETHING BETTER?
Nike Zoom Wildhorse 2
new and all ‘next-level-up’. Tell us it is and we’ll buy. No matter if in reality the chocolate cake is still a mud cake is still a Brazilian cocoa cake. In the case of Wild Horse 2, that’s no big issue as in the first version they produced a game changer (in my estimation) in what was a super comfortable shoe that performed amazingly for the most part across a broad style of trails. I’ll be honest – as stupid as it sounds - I was wishing that the offspring would be a chip off the old block. Wish granted. And that’s good and bad. The downside is that the few small interrogations I had with the first model haven’t been addressed. Durability is still an issue if you’re running the seriously snitchy
The answer, if you’re Nike, is to follow the original recipe and not change too much at all. Just whack a number ‘2’ after the name, maybe get out the icing dust for a new paint job, then re-market what is essentially the same shoe. Retail’s a funny game of psychology – us buyers just gotta feel like something is shiny, 98
mountains and grip is good but could be much better with only minor changes (note to Nike: just copy Saucony Peregrine’s and slap on some of your own marketing nomenclature – ‘hey, we’ve used our new Bio-grab™ sole with added Terra-Suck™ materials for superior grip.’ Job done. We’re suckers for the Swoosh and its pumped-up vibe, remember). So why wouldn’t I just buy the redundant 1s on sale? Well, you’d be lucky to find any going, or in your size at least, such are their popularity. But if you did, well, snap those discount puppies up and read no further. If you didn’t get your slabs of stinky meat into a pair, and had been wondering what all
In the case of Wild Horse 2, that’s no big issue as in the first version they produced a game changer
the Zoom fuss was about, these shoes will deliver, as did the first iteration. They are ridiculously comfortable both in terms of foot accommodation and ride comfort. The inner has a no-seam feel – not one rub or bother point. Once laced in, the foot feels ‘at home’ relaxed and ready to tackle whatever trail lies ahead. The toe box and mid foot inner remain roomy without being a slosh fest. I’d say in my undoubtedly unqualified estimation that they are a great fit for the typical Antipodean foot, which tends to be that bit wider and flatter than a Euro-style (apparently because we run around without shoes on as kids, although that could be an old wives’ tale obscuring
genealogical factors, who knows?). The midsole delivers a noticeably smooth and softened ride while allowing excellent trail feedback. This point is the Wildhorse 2’s (and its predecessor’s) absolute strength. How these shoes feel on foot, and when kissing dirt surpasses pretty much every other model on the market, especially in that mid range category where you’re happy with some torsional flex, confident with a low profile stack and a 4mm heel-to-toe. They still have a fair whack of malleability, meaning the super steep mountain terrain may be beyond them (runners often looking for a little more underfoot support and structure in those environments to assist step-up). But for the fast, flowy stuff, with technicality that only runs to ruts and roots, these are ideal. As with the steep mountain territory, Wildhorses 1&2 don’t deal particularly well when underfoot becomes super rocky and sharp. One of the main criticisms of the Wildhorse is that it lacks any kind of rockplate. While the cushy midsole does hold off general rough stuff, it isn’t enough to keep the real sharps at bay. This has many online commentators calling for a
lightweight rockplate insertion for Wildhorse to differentiate it from the Nike Kiger (also a go-fast racer trail model) and to take the Wildhorese more into the workhorse category able to handle true technical trail territory. Also taking away from the protection factor is that fact that the toe guard is mostly gone – one of the few noticeable differences between 1 and 2 aside from the paint job. While I haven’t had any serious stubbings, I’d still prefer the protection of the first Wildhorse here. The grip has improved a smidge, but the compound remains fast-wearing in its softness, and the grip is only mid range in my estimation. Any slightly wet dirt tends to cancel out any grip, so muddy trails are a no go. Overall, the Wildhorse is a Top Three Trail Shoe that earns its place on the in-wardrobe podium. If you could only have three shoes (that is, you were on a shoe diet), you’d find a beefier mountain model, along with a super light racy style for those 10-30km event outings, and then this would be your middle choice, one that will more than likely wear out faster than the others. Not just because the Nikes generally do, but because you’ll use this shoe way more than the others. 99
TRAIL SHOES //THE NORTH FACE ULTRA TRAIL II
Image: chris ord
take outs THE NORTH FACE ULTRA TRAIL 2
Great for: most mid range trails – including door to trail runs, lairy runners.
Not-so-great for: mud, shy people (if you buy the orange).
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 95km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 1530km range outings.
$190 /AU $230 /NZ Further information at: www.thenorthface.com.au
ULTRA REFINED ANOTHER SECOND-ITERATION SHOE IN THIS EDITION’S SHOE SLOTS, AND YET ANOTHER STUDY IN THE ART OF REFINEMENT, ALTHOUGH IN THIS CASE THE NORTH FACE HAS UPPED THE INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT ANTE OVER IT’S NIKE COMPADRE.
material. The North Face has replaced what was a soft and easily degraded material with a much tougher ripstop fabric that almost feels plasticy. On foot, that stiffer feel is not noticeable the comfort factor for which I rate these shoes highly remains. The side-benefit of this more durable material – which has been likened to a cross-county spike shoe upper – is a natural improvement in its ability to shed water, meaning you have to get a whole next level dunking for the shoe to saturate in a light shower. Every second your foot is dry and more comfortable is a bonus second in my book when running.
The Ultra Trail II takes the original and award-winning Ultras and specifically tackles it main weaknesses – durability. Try to see past that bright glowing fluoro orange exterior (they do come in black for the less ostentatious), and you’ll see and feel that the upper is an all new 100
The North Face Ultra Trail II
It’s also a super lightweight material, helping it save overall grams on its predecessor to weigh in at 230g/shoe for a US9. It’s one of those shoes you hardly notice you are wearing, such is its lack of beef. That is, until you look down and the glare blinds you. Buy the black pair unless you’re looking to emulate a Dermott Brereton or Warwick Capper (if you know who I am talking about and why them, you are showing your age. Lairy Aussie Rules footballers for those of you aged younger than 35). Looking to the 2015-released models, The North Face offers three trail running models in the Ultra range – The Ultra II, the new
Cardiac (yet to be tested, but it’s coming) and the not-available-in-Australia-but-shouldbe Ultra MT (it has bigger, beefier grip for knarlier conditions, reminiscent of Salomon’s Speedcross 3). All three models run a mid-range 8mm heeltoe drop, which is a great sweet spot for most. Those transitioning to mid/forefoot will find it a not-too-aggressive platform, while those more minimalists running 4-6mm will actually find these remain unobtrusive, comfortable and perfect for the longer run where form may drop off, giving leeway for the fatigued landing. On trail, I found the Ultra Trail IIs gave excellent trail feedback, allowing for a touchyfeely experience making them ideal for fast and technical trails where responsiveness is key. One key beef I had with the first iteration, and indeed most of the trail models I’ve reviewed from The North Face, was grip. While the Vibram compound is, of course,
first rate and gives great stick for the most part, it remains a slip fest in mud and snow. But you’d expect that with anything other than a true lug-endowed shoe, which is perhaps where the aforementioned Ultra MTs come into play. In general, on dry to moist trails tending smooth to rocky and rooty, these were absolutely serviceable and indeed on flat but slippier surfaces, the high ratio of coverage offered by the tread patterns increased grip as compared to most. Therefore, in actual fact, the overall grip rating across varied surfaces is quite high and good for those who don’t like riding rugged on ‘spikey’ lugs, which really are only suitable for super soft and slushy ground. Adding to the ride comfort is The North Face’s Cradle heel, which has been a winner across most of its trail models for a while now and remains a huge positive, especially for those seeking a neutral run and good cupping
of the heel. The Cradle integrates forward with a cushy midsole, providing smooth ride (16mm to 8mm stack) and slight rebound for the mid footer. Yet this shoe could be used by any form of striker, realistically. Once again, The North Face has produced a refined, sturdy and performance-orientated trail shoe that will sit proudly in anyone’s collection and be used more than most. This is the shoe (and indeed a brand) that should get more attention than perhaps it does in the trail marketplace, given its consistent high quality offerings. Maybe that’s why the orange? It’s trying to catch our attention. But for my money, it needn’t shout like that, for this shoe speaks enough volume when it’s on my feet, on trail. The message is clear: it’s a comfortable, confident runner. And so I go faster and harder. If Warwick Capper was a trail runner, I reckon he’d say it’d help get higher, too. 101
TRAIL SHOES // INOV-8 X-TALON 200
Image: Tegyn Angel
take outs INOV-8 X-TALON 200
Great for: loose, technical, super rough terrain, mud, slush and water
Not-so-great for: roads and hard pack.
Test Conditions: Technical Kiwi single track plus a dash of dirt road and hard pack.
Tester: Tegyn Angel, Trail Run Mag Associate Editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker with a preference for minimalist shoes and nearvertical trails
$169.95 AU Information online at: www.barefootinc.com.au
SHARPENED TALONS INOV-8 MAKES SHOES WITH PURPOSE. FORM IS DRIVEN BY FUNCTION AND THIS SHINES THROUGH AS CLEARLY IN THEIR NAMING CONVENTIONS* AS IN THEIR DESIGNS. AMONG THE CROSSFIT CONGREGATION, INOV-8 HAS A HUGE FOLLOWING OF OLYMPIC LIFTERS, ROPE CLIMBERS AND FITNESS NUTS, WHILE IN THE OBSTACLE COURSE RACING (OCR) WORLD THE LOVE IS JUST AS STRONG AND OBSESSIVE. THE TRAIL RUNNING COMMUNITY IS NO DIFFERENT, WITH A STRONG STABLE OF PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES, BOTH LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, LEADING AN ARMY OF DEVOTEES.
I won’t lie, I’m a fan. After injury forced me away from Five Fingers and I discovered Inov-8, I’ve added 10 pairs of English rubber to the shoe cupboard: four pairs of first generation X-Talon 190s (they had a problem with the toe box wearing out), X-Talon 212s, TrailRoc 235s and 255s and a pair of BareGrips. In my mind, they’ve always been almost perfect, a result of trying to tailor each shoe to users with distinct requirements. They’re a damned sight closer to perfection than most, mind you, but their minimalism and attention to purpose also made the small imperfections that much more frustrating. The last pair to grace our pages was the restyled X-Talon (meaning grippy as hell) 212, a 102
Inov-8 X-Talon 200
shoe designed for “off road” (i.e. not trail, but off trail) and fellrunning. It’s an exceptional shoe (insane durability, traction like a prenup, moderate 6mm drop and very light) but was designed with a very narrow “precision” toe box for increased control and agility. Which, in other words, means it’s a pain in the foot for the really long-distance stuff, particularly when your feet start to swell or you want to wear thicker socks. I ran UTMF in them in 2014 but my toes paid for it. The X-Talon 200s, which are positioned squarely between the existing 190s and 212s, seem to be the answer to all my frustrated pleas. Built on the X-Talon outsole, covered in 8mm lugs and looking more like a football boot, the 200s rise a mere 3mm from toe
to heel and were designed specifically for the OCR Market. The fit is much wider in the forefoot fit thanks to the company’s Standard last (first seen in the TrailRoc series), allowing the toes to splay more naturally and accommodate swelling feet, while still hugging the heel. Obstacle Course Racing takes a pretty big toll on shoes and so the upper of the 200s has been completely redesigned to strike a good balance between durability, comfort, protection and drainage. The rear 2/3 of the upper, from the to crease back, features a coarse, heavy duty, tight-weave ballisticesque nylon that looks a lot like Cordura. The tongue and forefoot is a softer, looser weave and is protected with a semi-rigid,
rubber toe cap while the gilly lacing system helps to ensure that the laces sit flat and that the tongue doesn’t slide down. All of these features are designed to increase durability (shock!) and intended to maximise the life expectancy (horror!) and protection of the shoe by minimising snags and reinforcing high-wear areas. At this point I haven’t run enough in my test pair to comment on real-world durability, but they presently show no signs of wear (even after the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon). It will be interesting to see whether the stitching at the junction of soft and hard upper materials blows out. On-trail I’ve found the 200s a dream, feeling exactly like you’d expect; the ground-
feel, ride comfort and insane grip of the other X-Talon models but with more room in the forefoot. While this may mean it is ever-so-slightly less technically responsive than the tighter fit models, I’d expect that for runs of 4+ hours, and most runners would happily make the sacrifice. It’s a big call, but this might just prove to be the best shoe I’ve ever worn. Time will tell. *The name of an Inov-8 Shoe, such as the TrailRoc 235, is comprised of a model name that implies intended purpose, e.g. Trail running, and a number that refers to the weight of a size 9 shoe of that model, e.g. 235 grams).
TRAIL SHOES //MERRELL CAPRA SPORTS
Image: chris ord
take outs MERRELL CAPRA SPORT
Great for: fastpacking, speek hiking, serious scree and technical terrain, heavy-stepping blokes, Oxfam / Wild Endurancestyle events
Not-so-great for: minimalists, sustained trail running
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 45+km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, prefers minimalist to 4mm heel-toe.
$219.95 /AU Further information at: www.merrellaustralia.com.au/
SPEED SCRAMBLER “IT’S A GREAT SHOE,” I KEEP TELLING MYSELF. IT IS. BUT IS IT A TRAIL RUNNING SHOE? IN THE PURE SENSE, I HAVE TO SAY NO, IT IS NOT.
told, after getting used to their relatively lofty weight (765gm/pair – light for hikers, heavy for trail running shoes), their comfort was enough that I slowly stopped internally whinging about the bricks on my feet and got on with enjoying the run – and the shoe’s actual benefits. Nailed that tight corner, landed and stuck every strike down that big boulder descent… Halfway through the runs, I became ‘accustomed’ to the shoes’ character and actually found them better than I pre-judged for the running. The caveat here is that perhaps I’m not the ideal tester, my usual
If I was reviewing this model as an approach shoe, a scrambler, a speedhiker, a fastpacker…I’d be stating that it’s in its element. Tough, durable, comfortable, grippy, with the sense of protection on your feet that you feel you can tackle any terrain. But run? For any distance? Perhaps not. I knocked off some mid-rangers in them – 10-15km – and that was enough. Truth be 104
Merrell Capra Sports
selection being more lightweight and definitely more deconstructed than the Capras. I prefer a lot of trail feel and like to at least feel like I’m a go-fast pacer (even if I’m actually more of past-their-best plodder). And these have actual heels – I don’t run in heels! [NB: although for a multiday mauler where ankle skirts and gators are required and an under foot strap is the attachment mode, these, would be perfect]. They are named with cues from a mountain goat, so let’s put it in perspective. No one will win any short races in these, especially not where it’s fast and flat. I doubt anyone will ever race in them, full stop. But take a longer
and heavier view: if you are of the larger sized runner. i.e. larger sized runner, with a clomp masquerading as a step, and the terrain is beefy mountain and scree country, real rough stuff, and the distance is long (imagine an Oxfam Trailwalker gone wild), and perhaps it’s a multiday, so there’s some weight on your back… then these may be your shoes. For of course you’ll most likely be fastpacking in actuality, rather than trail running. The distinction has a grey area, of course, and it is in this grey area that the Merrell marketeers have decided to play. Maybe they are correct? There are more mid to back pack, long ranger walk-run-trek-trotters out there than there are Kilians or Brendan Davies. Perhaps that’s where the market is, after all there are 3000-plus participants in each Oxfam, yet only a few hundred in the beefy go-fast ultras in Australia (The North Face 100 excluded). And there are plenty of trail runners
out there who if they did a bit of a survey of their own on-trail habits (check your average pace on wrist computers, people), actually do more walking than running. Sometimes I even count myself in that mob – a 100km Hut to Hut loop (read about it earlier in this edition) proved to be a fair whack of steep, technical terrain enforced ‘speed hiking’ as much as any running. And where there was running (along the ridges), the trail underfoot was not for delicate feet. The Capras may well have proved their worth in this scenario. That said, they are a stiff shoe, much more in the mold of a traditional approach hiker. I can imagine – especially in their native America, or even in New Zealand where technical mountain playgrounds are more within easy reach – they’d be ideal for those half-to-full day scrambles to top out a peak or three for the fun of it. Merrell agrees with me, as it states on its website that the Capras are an “extremely
lightweight speed hiker…made for the ultimate adrenalised climbs and scrambles.” In that context, they are most certainly a handy shoe. The Vibram grip is killer, the stepped heel giving good downhill braking. The UniFly midsole is firmer against foot and softer to ground, giving good cushioning but dulling any sense of trail feedback. The exoskeleton and the mesh upper, with traditional lacing, does a great job at securing the foot, and the toe protection is second to none, as you’d expect from a hiker-DNA shoe. An interesting re-emergence for Merrell onto the Down Under trail scene, and a world away from the last time we saw the brand in the trail scene with the (what I thought was) excellent Trail Glove series, a minimalist, zero-drop number. Unlike the old Gloves, the Capras are, however, most certainly for bush bulldozers not ballerinas.
TRAIL SHOES //SALOMON SLAB X SERIES
Image: chris ord
take outs SALOMON SLAB X SERIES
Great for: door to trail, long training runs on mild terrain, road (cough)
Not-so-great for: mountains and technical terrain
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track, some fire road and as little actual road as I could do while still getting to grips with their performance on asphalt, 68km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
$209.99 /AU Further information at: www.salomon.com/au
THE X-FACTOR OFFENDED OR INTRIGUED? I’M NOT SURE WHICH TO FEEL. THEY SENT ME A ROAD SHOE. A ROAD SHOE GODDAM IT! THAT’S LIKE SENDING KRYPTONITE TO SUPERMAN, OR YELLOW DAISIES TO THE GREEN LANTERN (YELLOW NULLIFIES HIS SUPER POWERS, ACCORDING TO MY RESEARCH). NOT THAT MY TRAIL RUNNING DISPLAYS ANY SIGN OF SUPERHERO-NESS TO BE DE-POWERED IN THE FIRST PLACE, OF COURSE. UNLESS YOU COUNT SOMEONE WITH ALL THE RUNNING PROWESS OF STAR WARS’ C3PO AS A SUPER TRAIL RUNNER TYPE.
But a road shoe? From a brand known best for their trail running clobber? Seriously…? Okay I’m curious enough to lace up. So what have we here in the Salomon SLAB X Series, then? Certainly looks like a trail runner. Or in the least like most of the other Sense series shoes doing the singletrack rounds and indeed Salomon have sucked the DNA from their other Sense line-up to create a shoe that is their first foray into the road market. Why? Because of City Trail, that’s why. This is a new movement, for lack of a better word, that bridges road and trail running by trying to replicate the trail running style in an urban environment: constant gear shifts in effort with more technique involved as you traverse 106
Salomon SLAB X Series
changeable urban surfaces. Think tight and twisty cornering through back alleys and play parks matched to a multitude of surfaces from smooth gravel, paving stones, brick, concrete and road asphalt with plenty of ups and downs entailing stairs and short hillocks found in undulating cityscapes. It’s kind of a hyper road run style or, alternatively viewed, a sedated trail running experience. So what is the deal with the shoes made to pace us through jungles of concrete? The signature red paint job, super lightweight construction, string-thin pull-tight lace system, and to be fair, the superior instant comfort that Salomon is rightly known for, are all there in spades.
The main injection of change comes first in the upper featuring a 2-way lycra, which is very stretchy and lets feet spread out as they swell over the longer distance (and a result no doubt of harder pounding). The upper is also super breathable, perfect for combating the fact you’ll likely get hot slabs as you speed over warmed asphalt. The Endofit construction gives a sock-like feel, wrapping around to hold your foot securely in place. I reckon Salomon have always been good at minimising foot movement inside their shoes while still giving decent room up front for toe splay, a delicate balance. As a road-marketed shoe, the 19mm heel to 11mm forefoot delivering an 8mm drop gives good stack height for added padding, yet maintains that midrange heel-toe to attempt to keep you on your forefoot with good feedback from what’s happening below. The mid sole is different to the trail cousins built sans rockplate (or Profeel film equivalent in many Salomons) and with a much softer heel it adds up to what has been described as ‘buttery’ ride.
That butter analogy doesn’t extend to any slip and slide on the outside, however, the ContraGrip package - Salomon’s own grip solution - featuring multi direction lugs giving more grip that most road shoes. The grip channels underfoot are deeper, while the horseshoe-like heel gip is soft and spongy, ready to combat harder impact running for the heel strikers. Overall, traction on the liquorice allsorts surfaces found in city environments is superb. Looking back, Salomon actually led the reverse crossover from trail back to road establishing the idea of door-to-trail running, where a shoe was needed to be able to cope with the wide-ranging demands of both dirt and concrete as runners left their suburban front door striking out in search of dirt trail for at least part of their run – the realities of city lifestyles and limited time. Although this shoe is sold with a story of ‘urban adventuring’, I thought it remiss not to test the to-trail aspect. What I found is that they are actually a versatile shoe, well suited to moderate singletrack and fire trails and any dirt munching that is relatively consistent in terms
of being non technical. They fill that gap where the other Sense models with meatier lugs would be uncomfortable on more regular terrain. When the going is relatively smooth – be it dirty or concrete clean – these shoes come into their own. They feel comfortable enough for long hauls, yet remain light and floaty enough to give your a racer feel. I did also venture onto more technical (if soft underfoot) trails and they performed as well as any other mid-range trail ranger, handling creek crossings (they drained and dried well), bush carpet and slippery rocks with aplomb. My only complaint about these shoes (when worn in appropriate context in general – they are no mountain muncher) is that I tended to get hot spots on my outer toes. This, however, would be down to the very personal shape of my own foot versus yours. Most will likely remain comfortable, but do be aware of that zone as a potential problem patch when trying them on in-store. Overall, a great urban run warrior perfect for Salomon’s new City Trail event/s starting to spring up (check www.rapidascent.com.au/citytrail/).
MONIQUE FARMER FROM HEALTH OUTFIT, GROW TO LOVE, LOVES THE COASTAL TRAILS OF NSW. LYNDON MARCEAU / WWW.MARCEAUPHOTOGRAPHY.COM 108
LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF ONE OF BHUTAN’S LONGEST SUSPENSION BRIDGES, PART OF BHUTAN’S INTERNATIONAL MARATHON. DYLAN HASKIN WWW.DYLANHASKIN.COM
A SPECTATOR IS NONE TO FUSSED ON THE WILDCOAST WILDRUN COURSE, ON THE EASTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA. WWW.WILDRUN.COM DYLAN HASKIN WWW.DYLANHASKIN.COM
THE REDWOODS FOREST MAKE A NICE WARM UP RUN FOR TRAILITE, MIKE WARDIAN, PRETARAWERA ULTRA, NZ. LYNDON MARCEAU WWW.MARCEAUPHOTOGRAPHY.COM
RUNNING MUMS AUSTRALIA AMBASSADOR, ANNA FITZGERALD, ON THE TRAILS OF CENTENNIAL PARK, SYDNEY, NSW. LYNDON MARCEAU WWW.MARCEAUPHOTOGRAPHY.COM
INTO THE BEAUTIFUL STORM, ON COPLAND TRACK, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND. TEGYN ANGEL
ULTRA RUNNER KELLIE EMMERSON ON THE DESCENT FROM BEN LOMOND, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND. TEGYN ANGEL WWW.WILDPLANS.COM
BHUTAN SHANGRI-LA RUN TOUR A
EVENT Bhutan Shangri La Expedition
first ever trail run expedition along one of the most coveted, but least-trammeled trails in the world: Jomolhari / Lasa Gaya, Bhutan, through the land of Shangri La. Not only will you get to visit a land untouched, running in the high Himalaya (reaching up to 5050m) where the only inhabitants are a tribe of itinerant Yak herders, but on this trip you’ll be rewarded at either end of the 180km-8/ day adventure run with a level of luxury you won’t believe, courtesy of seven more days spent in five star retreats at either end of the trail, with traditional massages, hot stone baths...the whole shebang. Also, you will have the pleasure of being hosted by one of the world’s top trail athletes, in Anna Frost, winner of Transvulcania among many other top tier international trail ultras. And, yes, you’ll get to visit the famous Tigers Nest Monastery (the one that seemingly clings to the side of a vertical mountainside, pictured). This is a once in a lifetime... book now to reserve your place.
Trail Run Tour
WHEN 2-16th November, 2015 LENGTH 180km HIGHEST PASS 5050m AVERAGE KM/DAY 22km INCLUDED 8 days on trail +7 days spent in luxury adventure retreats In country transport, all meals and accommodation, guides and logistics inclusive.
INFO email@example.com *ONLY FOUR SPOTS REMAINING.
CHECK OUT THE EVENT
LEAVES ARE 120
You know they’re there: those pristine trails.Close.Not far from your doorstep. You can smell them…
Lorne Waterfall Loop, Victoria, AU 118
Or maybe that’s just the sweet waft of dirt not-long ground into the lugs of your trail shoes, which sit by the front door — a welcome reminder of the weekend’s mountain jaunt. But the blood screams for more. The legs are sore, yet they pine for a warm down. A warm up. A flat out blast along some winding, wet, wonderful singletrack. But where to go? Only got an hour (which you know can stretch to three). Trail Run Mag has the answer(s). Here. In this guide. Each edition we’ll bring you step-by-step trail run guides, all within an hour of a major city or town in Australia, New Zealand or Asia, all between 5km and 30km, all worth zipping out to for a trail fix. We’ve also included some post-trail goodness ‘cause we’re human; we’re caffeine freaks too (strong latte – sometimes double espresso, but only on race days), and we love the smell of fresh eggs and bacon after pounding the paths. Welcome to the goodness guide.
Polhill-Red Rock Return, Wellington, NZ
Korokoro Dam, Petone, North Island, NZ
Avalanche Peak, Canterbury, South Island, NZ
Win Salomon gear! We need trail correspondents! If you think there’s a cracking trail the world needs to know about, go research it, write it up, shoot a photo and send it in. We do have a bit of a style going, so be sure to check out the guidelines and download the pro forma before you do at www.trailrunmag.com/contribute If your guide is chosen as the ‘Editor’s Pick’ of the issue, you’ll win some great Salomon Trail Gear. The best guide submitted to be published in Edition #17 (out June 2015) will receive an Agile Set 12 backpack (RRP $139.99), and an XA run cap (RRP$29.99), valued at $159.99. Just for going trail running (with a camera!)? Yep, that easy! So go running, get writing and start window shopping at www.salomon.com/au
IMAGES: chris ord
LORNE WATERFALL LOOP Your Guide: Chris Ord They call it the Noosa of the South…the vibrant seaside town of Lorne on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. But turn away from the beautiful beaches and head inland where you will find a wonderland of singletrack criss-crossing through stunning sections of rainforest, fern fringed hillsides, babbling creeks and giant waterfalls. You can link them together a few ways, but here’s an open jaw loop run that has become our favourite.
1. You’ll need to car shuffle this one, although
if you’re running solo and happy with a longer stretch, you can run (mostly on trail) out to the nominated start of this at She Oak Picnic Area. Or for shufflers, it is a five minute drive up Allenvale Road, which leads off behind Lorne.
2. The suggested full loop (no car shuffle) run
adds on at least 7km, and has you running out of town coasteering south to eventually pick up the trail inland at St Georges River. That trail passes the Allenvale Mills site, from where you left up Allenvale Road (dirt) to She Oak Picnic Area (the shufflers’ start).
3. If you are limited for time or just happy with the 24km distance, leave a car in Lorne, and drive another to the She Oak Car Park.
4. From the car park there is a trail leading
north down over a bridge and towards Henderson Falls and The Canyon (signposted).
5. The trail shortly hits the Allenvale Road
(200 metres in). Cross over and take the trail left uphill another 150 metres before crossing Sharps track. Stay on the singletrack as it sidles down to Won Wondah Falls (small, 50 metres off trail) and on to Henderson Falls, an out and back side trip that adds 600 metres, but worth the detour.
6. From Henderson Falls, track north towards The Canyon – this is a sublime patch of wilderness that has you entering the canyon from the rear, with big rock walls squeezing you eventually through a tight cave-like hole, popping you back onto runnable trail. 120
7. From The Canyon it is another 1.2km to
8. From Phantom Falls, it is another 800 metres
NAME: Lorne Waterfall Loop
reach Phantom Falls. A good refresher stop or even swim spot.
NEARBY TOWN/CITY: Lorne (5 minutes
to a road crossing (Ada Dam Car Park) before you are pushed into a 5.5km stretch of jungle trail that while mostly runnable, does have umpteen creek crossings as you weave back and forth across Cora Lynn Creek. This is a magical part of the run where you feel truly remote as you slowly climb up into a gorge that ends at Cora Lynn Cascades, a stunning set of falls.
from start); Melbourne 145km / 2 hours
EXACT LOCATION: Shorter trail begins at She Oak Picnic Area. Longer run heads from Lorne Main Street south along the coast.
TOTAL ROUTE DISTANCE: 24km or 31km
9. A short steep climb and a signposted left
TOTAL ASCENT/DESCENT: 800m/750m
hand turn off the main ascent trail brings you out at Erskine Falls Road.
TIME TO RUN: 3-4 hours TYPE OF TRAIL RUN: Open jaw loop
10. Cross directly over following the singletrack
(car shuffle) or full loop
another 2.5km from the road on a sweet, fast and flowy section through fern and eucalypt country spitting out at the Erskine Falls Car Park. This is the only section you may have to share the trails with crowds, given the easy car access and picturesque nature of the Falls.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate - great runnability given the technical terrain, but be careful of the slippery rocks encountered in several sections.
of the waterfall, check it out from the viewing platform, before continuing downstream, along Erskine River, being careful on the upper sections as the rocks are super slippery.
single track, rainforest fern and eucalypt forest, technical sections matched to lots of fine flowy sections that means you can get on a pace and maintain it for big sections, while the break up bits of creek crossings and rocks give good breather points.
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: Mostly
11. Drop down the steep stone stairs to the base
12. After scrambling and rock hopping about
1km or so, the trail stretches out into a super runnable and fast downhill (mostly), following the course of the river past Straw Falls and Splitter Falls, and on down to finish near the Lorne Caravan Park and within cooee of a bazillion coffee, cakes, lunches and all kinds of fine foodie fare. But first, a dip in the ocean – it’s only a few hundred metres away…
FEATURES OF INTEREST: Numerous
waterfalls, swimming spots, huge ferns, creeks, Erskine Falls is the biggest (but most crowded) falls en route. Check the natural rock slide garden about 500 metres just prior to the finish, on the left.
POST RUN GOODNESS: This is Lorne. Café culture central on the south-west coast of Victoria, so take your pick. But we’ll say have a crack at the burgers and milkshakes (and decent coffee) at The Milk Bottle, or next door’s Kaos is also a cheery eatery with good servings of carbohydrates.
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IMAGES: Ricoh / Running Quail Productions
POLHILL-RED ROCK RETURN
TRAIL TIPS NAME: Polhill to Red Rocks NEARBY TOWN/CITY: Wellington City CBD (Cuba Street) 1km
EXACT LOCATION: Trail begins on Aro Street just before Holloway Road, clearly signposted as Polhill track
TOTAL ROUTE DISTANCE: 24km
Your Guide: Amanda Broughton Surrounded by hills, Wellington offers up a plethora of great runs mixing up trail, dirt roads and even beach stretches, all transporting those who venture to spectacular views over the city and its seascapes. The Polhill to Red Rocks route in particular is worth getting up for an early morning foray…
1. The Polhill trail begins just off Aro Street,
and gently winds up through native NZ bush, switching back at an easy gradient until suddenly you’re high above Wellington city with a view eclipsing the high rises that stretches out over the sea. The first 3km of the trail is very well maintained, used frequently by mountain bikers, walkers and a few longlegged dogs that will race you up the hill.
2. After 3km you will come out of the bush
and on to a track at the edge of Zealandia Sanctuary. This section is rocky in comparison and has a few steep climbs. Choose your preferred option here where the trail meets the road; opt for pretty dirt trails and switchbacks through the trees, or continue on the edge of the sanctuary to challenge your strength with two more short steep climbs before popping out at the Brooklyn Wind Turbines.
3. After a quick stop to admire the view, from here you drop back down in to an undulating single track that curls around the edge of the hillside through Car Parts track, this is exposed at points to test your balance against the famous Wellington wind. 122
4. You’ll come out at a junction after 4km
above the Tip Track where you can choose an easy run straight ahead down to the coast, or swerve to the right to bag Hawkins Hill and get a great view over the other side of the valley. There are several steep climbs and descents you can add in at this point for a lot of extra work but no nice views.
5. The final long descent is a winding trail
over ridges that drops in to a valley and follows a stream out to the ocean. You’ll come out on the coast near an army-green hut with boarded windows a Landrover of similar aesthetic parked out front. Turn away from the funky smell of the Seal Colony and run to the left along the coastline.
6. You’ll get sand in your socks over the final
few kilometres of off-road running before hitting the road in Owhiro Bay. You can find public transport back to the beginning here or just extend the run up hill back to Aro valley along the road; it’s much faster than catching the bus.
POST RUN GOODNESS: Aro Café (www.arocoffee.co.nz, 90 Aro Street in Aro Valley) has great coffee and outdoor seating if the trails have been muddy. Aro Café is not too far from the start of the trail and open 7.30am weekdays and from 9am on weekends. The people who frequent Aro Café are musicians, actors and writers, so talk loudly about yourself in the hope that one of them will turn your epic running story in to a work of art.
TOTAL ASCENT/DESCENT: 900m elevation TIME TO RUN: 3 hours (lots of opportunity to increase or decrease this as many trails connect)
TYPE OF TRAIL RUN: Loop if returning via road
TAKE NOTE: Toilets and clean water are at the Red Rocks end (17.5km in), poor cellphone reception in the gullys and not a great amount of foot/ bike traffic in the hills after the Car Parts trail.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate - very few technical parts and the gradient is mostly runnable from city-sea direction. If you feel heroic then drop down in to one of the many gullies for a fast easy descent then suffer on the long crawl up.
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: Mostly single track, lots of switch backs and a couple of kms on hard packed sand with stones. The track becomes a stream in places after hard rain but nothing gumboot worthy.
FEATURES OF INTEREST: Wind Turbines, a discarded beer fridge filled with old boots, a view of the South Island’s Kaikoura ranges as well as 360’ views over the Capital City, native bush, pungent smell of the local seal colony, and some red rocks as a cherry on top.
STRAVA DETAILS ONLINE
IMAGES: courtesy Amanda Broughton
45 min to 1.15 hrs
Petone, North Island, NZ
trail tips NAME: Korokoro Dam NEARBY TOWN/CITY: Petone, 2km EXACT LOCATION: From
YOUR GUIDE: Amanda Broughton Trails are often linked to a historical use other than running, or even recreation for that matter. In the case of the Korokoro trail, it was part of a network first used by the Maori to link the Porirua and Wellington harbours, and then was the guideline for the establishment of New Zealand’s first ever gravity-fed dam, built to supply water for the Petone Borough in 1903. Add in a trig point for kicks, and you have a sweet run with options.
reach Korokoro Dam. You can extend the run here 1km to reach the Oakleigh Street car park to your right (if you wanted to car shuffle or needed the loo), or for the shorter run option, U-turn to head back along the trail to Cornish Street Car Park.
7. After a little more than 2km, take the trail
back or loop
small car park at Cornish Street, the concrete quickly left behind as you’re enclosed by bush on all sides.
south west down Ridge track, part of the Puke Ariki Traverse Trail, via Baked Beans Bend, to Cornish Street.
2. Korokoro is the perfect trail for beginners,
POST RUN GOODNESS:
turn left to head toward Belmont Trig Via Honeysuckle Ridge. For this run, we’ll keep the high point for later.
TIME TO RUN: 45min - 1hr 15min TYPE OF TRAIL RUN: Out and
longer loop by following the trail further on along alongside the dam, heading north-east.
8. Having summited, you can then run back
4. 3km along the trail there is the option to
TOTAL ASCENT/DESCENT: 286m elevation (8km out and back)
1. The Korokoro Stream Track begins in a
valley, it’s not technical and has just a few small hills to get your heart rate up.
TOTAL ROUTE DISTANCE: 8km or 11km loop
6. There are opportunities to extend into a
3. The trail follows a stream through a small
5. So, veer right, and just after 4km you will
left along a cleared ridge towards Belmont trig. This high point sits at 456m and offers 360-degree views across Wellington Region and to the South Island.
those looking for an easy recovery run and a great spot to get away from the city to clear your head; it’s ‘happy place’ running territory.
Wellington, take the Korokoro turn off SH2 and turn left in to Pito-one Road towards Cornish Street car park. The trail is less than 1km from the train station.
DIFFICULTY: Easy DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: Soft track, based on a large pile of evidence it is wide enough for a horse to be using this trail, you also have the option of doing a few creek crossings if you feel like a splash n dash.
FEATURES OF INTEREST: One highlight of the trail is Korokoro dam, the first gravity fed concrete dam in New Zealand. We’ll claim it!
Beannie Café in Petone (www.beannie.co.nz , 198 Jackson Street Petone). Beannie has a great selection of cabinet food for a quick bite to eat if you are too hungry to wait for food. They have a great outdoor area out the back for the fragrant runner, and the café is cosy indoors if you’ve politely zipped your post run glow inside a sweater. Grab a Havana coffee and a date scone, order a smoothie and admire the local artwork on the walls.
CHECK OUT THE TRAIL
IMAGES: Tegyn Angel
Canterbury, South Island, NZ
trail tips Your guide: Tegyn Angel Incredible views from the summit, plenty of options to add kilometres exploring the high ridges, lots of Kea (alpine parrots) to keep you company. ’Ware the conditions in winter and don’t disregard the name – make sure you check local conditions with the Department of Conservation (DOC), as it can get hairy out there, and quickly.
1. Park at the Arthur’s Pass Café and Store, or the nearby Train Station if parking is tight.
2. Head North-North-West up West Coast
Road for about 500m, until you reach the Scotts Track trailhead (marked with DOC signs) on the Western (Left) side of the road.
3. Follow the orange arrows up, up, up and away.
4. The trail will head in a north-westerly
direction for about 1km before turning SouthSouth-West and following the dominant ridgeline and orange markers/poles all the way to the craggy, obvious summit (about 3.5km). After about 1km of this you’ll leave the tree line and head into an open area with some incredible views.
5. 300m or so from the Summit you’ll hit a
rocky section that dips into a small saddle before continuing up to the main peak. In this small saddle you’ll see a line of poles heading off to the left (south-east), return here once you reach the summit. 126
6. Returning from the Summit to the
NAME OF TRAIL: Avalanche Peak Loop NEARBY TOWN/CITY: 2hrs/150km ex
junction in the small saddle, turn south east (now on your right) and follow the line of poles through a series of switchbacks and into a large, open saddle.
Christchurch CBD, 75mins/95km ex Greymouth.
EXACT LOCATION: Arthurs Pass Café and
7. Continuing to follow the poles, climb
Store, Arthurs Pass, Selwyn District, New Zealand (South Island)
toward the small peak on the opposite side of the saddle before contouring around this and joining the dominant spur.
TOTAL ROUTE DISTANCE: 7km TOTAL ASCENT/DESCENT: 1150m/1150m
8. Descend along this spur for about 1km,
descending 400m, before turning a hard left (north-east) and re-entering the tree cover (keep following those poles!).
TIME TO RUN: 3hrs TYPE OF TRAIL RUN: Loop DIFFICULTY: Hard climb, hard descent,
9. Once back in the tree line you’ll head in
mostly technical except for 1km of flat road at the bottom.
(mostly) north-east direction, now following the orange arrows again.
10. Once you hit the groomed trail at the
DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: An
very bottom, and return to flat ground, turn left and follow the trail over a small bridge (Avalanche Creek) and into town for a wellearned coffee.
incredibly rewarding climb with some banging technical descent, perfect for practicing technical mountain running straight out of your car. Unparallalled on the bang-for-your-buck scale.
Note: there is no reliable water along the trail.
FEATURES OF INTEREST: There is an annual race that climbs up to Avalanche Peak, albeit via a different route (cancelled in 2015 – info here:
POST RUN GOODNESS:
The Arthur’s Pass Café and Store do reasonable coffee and food and you’re pretty much guaranteed a visit from a Kea if you sit outside. The Mountain House YHA Hostel is a cheap, comfy, very central place to stay and means you explore more of the area’s incredible trails.