Long weekends both in Europe and the US meant the trails were less competitive and more vacay-y a fortnight ago but lets take a quick trip back to fill in the gaps.
MAXI RACE, 115 k / 7000 m, 82 km / 5200 m
The starting field for this ever growing Salomon event in the beautiful mountains surrounding Lake Anncey was not really up to its usual standards this year and the female/male ratio on the longest distance was even less impressive. Of the 936 runners which started a mere 38 were women. It might be down to the gals playing it clever and holding back ahead of bigger races later in the summer but STILL ...
The 58 year old badass and Hoka runner Ildiko Wermescher from Hungary has a long CV of high rankings most recently as runner up at UTMB Oman and fifth lady at a stacked Transgrancanaria. With Caroline Chaverot in injury recovery mode there was no one to stop her from taking an easy victory on the ultra distance. Forty minutes behind Wermescher last years Swissalpine champion Denise Zimmermann ran in as second lady with just seven minutes down to Sandrine Beranger in third. In the shorter Maxi Race last years third lady at Marathon du Mont Blanc Marion Delespierre got to bag her first major win. Isabelle Dragon took second, twenty minutes behind Delespierre and with over an hour down to Virginia Oliveri in third.
1. Ildiko Wermescher (HUN) 17:34:51
2. Denise Zimmermann (SUI) 18:13:59
3. Sandrine Beranger (FRA) 18:20:35
1. Marion Delespierre (FRA) 10:57:57
2. Isabelle Dragon (FRA) 11:19:45
3. Virginia Oliveri (ITA) 12:29:37
DRAGONS BACK, 315 km / 15500 m over 5 days
You would think that an epic stage race traversing all the peaks of Wales over 5 days would not make for a tight one but this years Dragons Back Race was a thriller from the start in Snowdonia to the Finish In Llandeilo. Ahead of the final day American by birth, Scot by location, Lisa Watson had just a minute to spare down to Sabrina Verjee in second. American Alyssa Clark who had the OA lead after three days of running sadly dropped out after collapsing out on course during the fourth stage.
Watson had a very strong last day and managed to stretch the initial minute down to Verjee (who stated she started on very tired legs) to over two hours as she crossed the finish as 9th runner overall. Rounding up the podium was Swedish runner Kerstin Rosenqvist who improved on her sixth place from the last time she slayed the dragon back in 2015.
1. Lisa Watson 44:33:23
2. Sabrina Verjee 46:44:59
3. Kerstin Rosenqvist 49:16:46
Right, FFW to the weekend just gone and the first instalment of this years Salomon Golden Trail Series;
ZEGAMA 42 km / 5472 m
If you look up ‘Trail Running’ on a European version of Wikipedia I’d say there’s a 99% chance that the entry will be accompanied by a picture of a young Jornet battling a vert lined with people armed with cowbells and open jaws and that it will be an Ian Coreless pap’ from this classic Basque mountain marathon. It is notoriously hard to get a non elite entry to the race and since Salomon started their questionable live feed (think running’s version of VAR where instead of following the ref’s return trips to the IT booth you get to listen to assorted native runners talk about their training sessions in front of a green screen as the live footage is disrupted YET AGAIN) it is a challenge to even get on the sidelines. This year the lucky spectators out on location got to see a big chunk of heavy names suffer in the heat on the climbs and struggle down the technical descents whilst a Norwegian n00b on the distance smashed out a comfortable win in a time threateningly close to Maite Maori’s course record from 2017.
Eli Anne Dvergsdal who has previously had success on the short & steep running circuits and has four medals from the European Mountain Championship had not competed on a distance over 26 km prior to her start at Zegama so when she took an early lead on the first climb I dare to say that we were many who were questioning whether she was going to be able to keep the punchy pace up for long. Turns out she could. For a while Megan Kimmel and Yngvild Kaspersen were chasing close but as the miles went by it became clear that Dvergsdal was not going to pass Bonk-Ville on her way to the finish. As the sky running elites crumbled she crushed the field behind her with a ten minute victory. Second lady was Elisa Desco who has previously served a two year ban from the IAAF for a positive EPO test and in third, just 8 seconds behind the controversial Italian runner was Amandine Ferrato. UK could claim a top 10 spot thanks to experienced fell runner and 3rd lady at last years Ring of Steall race Victoria Wilkinson who placed 8th.
Next up in the Golden Trail Series is the Marathon du Mont Blanc later this month.
1. Eli Anne Dvergsdal (NOR) 4:36
2. Elisa Desco (ITA) 4:47
3. Amandine Ferrato (FRA) 4:47
8. Victoria Wilkinson (UK) 5:04
MADEIRA SKY RACE 55 km / 4000 m
Whilst most of the top ranked ladies from the Skyrunner World Series were busy eating Dvergsdal dust in Zegama another newcomer could claim the victory at this very technical sea-summit-sea course across the Portuguese island of Madeira. Maria Koller has similarly to Eli Anne ran well on shorter alpine distances and is a member of the German Mountain Running team. This was her first go at a race in the Skyrunner series though but judging by the outcome it probably wont be her last! Koller took an early lead and managed to hold off a chasing Ekaterina Mityaeva all the way into the finish and won the race with two minutes to spare. Ultra Pirineu champion Mityaeva had a bigger gap of twelve minutes down to Ester Casajuana who finished third.
1. Maria Koller (GER) 7:20
2. Ekaterina Mityaeva (RUS) 7:22
3. Ester Casajuana (ESP) 7:34
TRAIL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Trail World Champs are alternating between long and ‘short’ races and since last years edition played out on the 80 k long route of Penyagolosa the turn has come for a shorter one this year. Trilhos des Abutres is a 44 km long race in central Portugal with 2100 m of elevation gain, the course starts out flat before it hits a rollercoaster of up and downs including some technical terrain and a big climb in the middle and ends on a gradual descent. With no altitude or mountain summits to talk about it looks like one for the road speed legs with a fast turn over.
UK’s team this year has a strong representation from the fell running side with Jasmin Paris, Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn and Jo Meek, all three of them are used to fast and furious racing but with the relatively easy course in terms of technicality and Meeks and Paris late focus on the longer distances I’m not sure if they’ll be able to keep up. My bet is on Sijpesteijn out of those three. Scottish Georgia Tindley landed a top 10 at Skyrace des Matheysins two weeks ago and has had a strong XC country season this year. She was also part of the squad that earned Team GB a silver at the Mountain Running World Championship in 2018. And talking about the MRWC, last years winner Charlotte Morgan has spent most of 2019 travelling between the snow free peaks of south Europe and her tune up race results speak of good form. The to me previously unknown Meryl Cooper has replaced an injured Holly Page (who looks to be on the mend, fingers crossed she will be back on the sky running series soon), a quick internet stalk revealed that she placed third on the 65 k course at Ultra Trail Cape Town last year and it looks like she is living out in UAE at the moment so she should be we’ll accustomed to running in heat! I’m going to agree with Megan Hicks of irunfar and say that UK’s biggest hope for a medal lies in Charlotte Morgan but I think that Katie Kaars could run well on a course like this too.
Team US looked strong earlier in the year but with Anna Mae Flynn dropping out to concentrate on Western States after gaining an entry through her epic win at Lake Sonoma 50 and Kelly Wolf struggling with niggles they’re looking less likely to bring the bling back to the west.
Spain on the other hand has a solid crew who could very well run home a red and yellow podium. Whilst Gemma Arenas is admittedly stronger on longer courses, Azara Garcia and Sheila Aviles are very strong on short and fast races. Skyrunner Avilés might perform better on a more technical course but she is fast and has tuned up well with fourth at Mt Awa and third at the half marathon distance at Transvulcania the following weekend. Garcia has had an incredible year so far with wins at Penyagolosa and El Réventon and stands out as a strong favourite to win on Saturday.
Sweden are sending one of the El Kott twins (Sanna) and strong runner and skimo champ Fanny Borgström to challenge the continental runners and with their XC skiing fitness they could both do well on a fast course like this.
Team Canada feature the Chuckanut 50 podium and though they lack international experience both winner Kat Drew and runner up Kim Magnus are fast enough to be possible top 10 contenders.
Neither Switzerland, Netherlands or New Zealand will compete for the top team medals but Kathrin Götz, Ragna Debats and Ruth Croft are very likely to be in the battle for the individual gold. We have yet to see a strong race from Götz this year but both Ragna and Ruth have already had outstanding performances and with their sky running experience they are well in tune with their speedy gears.
The trusted irunfar contingent will be out on the trails for live coverage so tune in to them for more in depth stats and the latest news over the weekend!
SOUTH DOWNS WAY 100, 100 miles / 4000 m
The second instalment of Centurion’s 100 mile grand slam series starts on Saturday and lining up for a 16+ hour journey are some familiar long game names including previous Trail World Champ team members. Last years NDW 100 champion Ingrid Lid continues her Slam attempt and is likely to want revenge on her second place at Thames Path 100. It wont be an easy feat for the Norwegian young gun though as she is up against the highly experienced Sarah Morwood. Having won not only this race twice but 7 of the Centurion races over the past five years she is a proven expert of the rolling hills of South East England. Edwina Sutton has been successful on the 50 mile circuit and after spending the past two years testing her legs on multi day endurance events it will be interesting to see how she will do in her 100 mile debut this weekend. Another hundro novice with potential is Michelle Maxwell who has wins at Classic Quarter, NDW 59 and Beacons Ultra in her past.
Cajsarunsfar will be out on the South Downs for pacing duties so hopefully be back with a good idea of what the conditions were like for the centurions next week! Have a goodun shredders!