I don’t know enough about the life/work balance of Norway’s Trolls to safely state that they were off on their annual leave and not lurking around Tromsdalen this weekend but seeing how seamlessly the 2019 edition of Tromsø Skyrace went they either didn’t mind a flock of fearless humans scrambling across their lands or they were a safe distance away from echoing cowbells and the scent of adrenaline.
TROMSØ SKYRACE, 57 km / 4700 m
Although the winter snow was still intact on parts of the route this year’s field of daredevils got to properly inhale the beauty of Tromsø’s peaks as the fjord basked in summer sun throughout the weekend.
Sweden’s Johanna Åstrøm set off fast, full of confidence from a second place at BUFF Epic Trail two weeks ago and a win at the VK she quickly gained a substantial gap to most of the field over the first climb. Christine Lundy tried her best to keep up with Åstrøm but the ferocious pace got the best of her and she had to drop shortly after the first summit. The Swede flew over the feared ridge of Hamperokken but started to loose time to Holly Page who was taking up the chase over the second descent. “I was alone for the entire time but people kept telling me Holly was three minutes behind so I had to push a lot harder on the last climb” Åstrøm said after the race. And push hard she did, when reaching the finish line she had not only bagged a top ten overall but also crushed Hillary Gerardi’s course record from last year with 14 minutes. Last years champion did not manage to defend her title but still had a good race in what she said was a very different race compared to last year (when most of the course was covered in fog) and finished third lady fifteen minutes behind Page and eleven minutes behind her course record time of 2018.
Behind the top three a battle broke out between WS100’s cougar chaser Brittany Peterson, Emily Hawgood and Italy’s running ‘trail pap‘ Martina Valmassoi. Around 15 k after a somewhat conservative start Peterson caught sight of the two runners in front and still feeling good saw her chance to move up the ranks. With a full throttle sprint down the last descent she pulled away from Hawgood and Valmassoi and finished fourth in her first Skyrace of the year.
1. Johanna Astrom (SWE), 8:00:49 (9th OA)
2. Holly Page (GBR), 8:10:09
3. Hillary Gerardi (USA), 8:25:57
4. Brittany Peterson (USA), 8:43:17
5. Emily Hawgood (ZIM), 8:58:36
6. Martina Valmassoi (ITA), 9:12:55
She might not have been first to finish but the big win of the weekend must go to Hillary Allen who came back to face the ridge that nearly took her life two years ago. She ran the race together with Manu Par who was the first to come to her rescue when she took a fall at Hamperokken in 2017, the two crossed the finish line together in 10:09 after what sounds like an emotional journey.
“I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be on the ridge and actually I was smiling the whole time. A lot of tears were shed throughout the day but more because it feels like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I really wanted to come back and face the ridge and it feels so good that this chapter has been closed” Allen said after the race.
We’ll next see Hillygoat at TDS and the Skyrunning series continues with Matterhorn Ultraks Extreme in two weeks time.
NORTH DOWNS WAY 100, 100 miles / 3050 m
Just like in Norway the pilgrim travelled trails of South East England were enjoying some un-traditionally good weather this weekend. It was still warm but in contrast to last years heatwave edition the temperatures stayed pleasant even through the night making for perfect race conditions and the race saw it’s highest completion rate to date. With pre-race favourite and Centurion 100 mile record holder Susie Chesner sadly not making it to the start it was an open race for the women’s trophy that started in Farnham early Saturday morning. For the first quarter Rebecca Lane and Karen Hacker were entering and exiting the aid stations with not more than a couple of minutes between them. Somewhere before the half way mark Lane’s legs started to feel the strain of having already ran two hundred mile races in short succession and as she fell back the field Hacker’s lead expanded and Lindsey Hamilton and Kelsey Price moved into podium positions. As Karen Hacker crossed the finish line in 20:40:38 her lead had grown to nearly an hour but it’s noteworthy that her time was over an hour slower than both Ingrid Lid’s time in the heat of last year and Mari Mauland’s winning time in the storm ridden 2017 edition. Lindsey Hamilton held on to second place through the small hours and finished in 21:37 well ahead on Kelsey Price in third.
1. Karen Hacker 20:40:38
2. Lindsey Hamilton 21:37:19
3. Kelsey Price 22:59:52
Next up in the Centurion calendar is the new Track 100 which will see a small elite field focus on breaking records at the Julie Rose stadium in Ashford. So far there are only three female names in the list of registered runners, here’s to hoping that some more speedy long distance legs will have signed up before race day (7th of September)
MEET THE MINOTAUR
This isn’t the biggest or most prestigious of races but I have a soft spot for organisers who try to switch things up and make things more interesting and the people behind The Minotaur are doing just that. The course is a mystery for all runners as it changes every year and the exact location of the start is only revealed at the Bib pick up! What runners can expect though is a course of around 20 k packed with enough altitude gain, bushwacking and boulder scrambling to last for up to 8 hours. Basically its a secretive extended fell race over rough alpine terrain (a.k.a your trail round up editor’s dream). This year the ladies race was a tight one with Svenja Espenhahn leading the race up until the very last technical descent into the finish where Joanna Ford who had been on Svenja’s heels for much of the race woke her inner Minotaur and crushed her way to a 30 second win in 4:15:42. Rounding up the podium in third was Anna Koevoet.
1. Joanna Ford 4:15:42
2. Svenja Espenhahn 4:16:22
3. Anna Koevoet 4:41:18
Next week its time for another leg in Salomon’s Golden Trail Series. This time the turn has come to the legendary SIERRE-ZINAL in Switzerland and just like last year it also plays host for the World Mountain Running World Cup. The race basically goes up for the first half and down for the remainder of the route finishing off with a deadly steep kilometre into Zinal. Lucy Wambui Murigi repeated her 2017 victory last year and with a strong season in the Mounting Running World Cup so far it is very likely she could take a third win this weekend. I do have a feeling that this years Zegama champion Eli Anne Dvergsdal could be hungry for revenge after Marathon du Mont Blanc though and that might just be fuel enough to at least be close to Murigi. Ruth Croft, Azara Garcia and Ragna Debats should also be serious podium contenders. Holly Page might have raced a bit too much of late to have enough short distance speed left in her legs but her UK buddy Charlotte Morgan who has raced very conservatively this year could have a chance of a break through race on the international scene. As usual you can catch the live action over at Salomon’s socials and the line up should be well worth a couple of hours of your weekend!
IN OTHER NEWS
Sharon Gayter broke the FKT for the 822 mile long John O’Groats to Lands End route linking the most north- to southern tip of Great Britain. Sharon completed the ‘JOGLE’ trail in 12 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes and 7 seconds, beating Mimi Anderson’s record from 2008 with three and a half hours.
It’s so good to see more women taking on FKT attempts of the worlds rounds and routes, I’ve been locked onto Kaytlyn Gerbins gram where she’s been drip feeding more pictures and stories from her and Alex Bors’ Rainer Infinity Loop over the last week. So inspiring!
Right to tame my jealousy of the worlds elites who all seem to be roaming the alps in prep for the UTMB races at the moment I’m off for repeats of my local 150 m chalk climbs ...