I had just stopped my Fleabag (UK's best tv series since House of Elliot for any exotic subscribers) induced journey of obsessionally googling whether foxes appearing in films tend to be pro actors or 'feral' city foxes lured to the camera with a juicy falafel wrap and sweet Swedish cider when a new animal popped up on my radar; CACTUS THE DOG OF THE DUNES;
I honestly kind of lost interest in the human race (pun intended) when Cactus the dog decided to casually jump the bandwagon of runners on this classic 5 stage desert ultra during its second day. By the time he joined the ranks, Ragna Debats (I: @ragnadebats) was already in an expected comfortable lead in the women’s race after winning the first stage with nearly thirty minutes down to Aziz Raji in second and Laurence Klein in third. Just like my new four legged hero she went on to crush the remaining four stages and won all 5 stages. Behind her local runner Aziza Raji showed both consistency and strength as she ran herself to second place on not only four of the stages but on the total podium as well. Behind her UK's Gemma Game battled herself back from having a tough day on the first stage to repeat her overall third position from last year. That Cactus though, I think we should all embrace a bit of his adventurous this spring.
1. Ragna Debats 22:33:36
2. Aziza Raji 25:17:31
3. Gemma Game 26:04:10
I would take a lot to get me excited about a race not involving four legged participation, something like an 800 m sprint finish to decide the outcome of a 50 mile race …
The 2019 edition of this classic Golden Ticket race looked like a thriller already on paper and the real thing did not disappoint. Just like the course the leader board was a bit of a roller coaster, runners at the top at one check point would dip down the ranks at the next. Some even dropped off the course completely, like one of the (many) pre race favourites Camille Herron. After a blistering start which saw her take the lead and run up front with Amber Zimmerman for the first 11 miles she called it quits after 20 with an angry hammy to blame for it.
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Thanks everyone for the support out there at @lakesonoma50 ! My hammy wasn’t agreeing with the climbs today. I have the common sense (Conor sense 😃) to call it and live to fight another day. I otherwise feel fine and know I made the right choice. I’ll rest up and focus on being ready for June. Excited to see the finish and all the runners crushing it! It’s a beautiful day at Lake Sonoma. 😍 - 📷: @irunfar - #NikeTrail #LS50 #LakeSonoma #NathanSports #Coros #Unived #squirrelsnutbutter
By mile 19 Zimmerman had dropped down to fourth lady and shortly after she resigned from the race with reports of being injured going into the race. Taking over the lead was Anna Mae Flynn and Addie Bracy but they were not running safe as only 25 seconds behind was YiOu Wang and Kelly Wolf in full on chase mode. At the half way mark Wang had raced to the top with Addie Bracy still in second, Flynn was now 3 minutes behind and Wolf still in fourth with 5 minutes to the leading duo up front. YiOu passed the 30 mile check point in an unfathomable 4:10:45 with a 50 second gap down to Bracy and 2.5 minutes to Flynn in third and 5 to Wolf in fourth. The leader board stayed the same until mile 45 where we saw Bracy drop back a bit and Flynn catch up with her running just 2 minutes off the lead. And it only got more exciting from here! There is a brilliant GIF on twitter where you can see YiOu Wang turn her head whilst hiking up the last climb with half a mile to go only to see a charging Anna Mae sprinting up the ascent. With an incredible last kick Flynn crossed the line as first lady in 7:25:15 just 15 seconds ahead of Wang and two minutes ahead of Bracy in third. PHOARRRRR! Thanks for making up for the lack of animal presence with a very exciting race american trail shredders, now all we can do is wait and hope for an equally entertaining WS100 in two months time!
1. Anna Mae Flynn 7:25:15
2. YiOu Wang 7:25:33
3. Addie Bracy 7:27:57
4. Kelly Wolf 7:41:12
5. Cassie Scallon 7:58:27
Truckercaps off to the irunfar contingent for feeding us live action from the race via their twitter feed. You can listen and watch pre and post race interviews with favourites and podiumers along a more in-depth coverage of the race at;
Oh and here's that GIF of every 50 mile race leader at the 49.5 mile hill's worst nightmare.
PENYAGOLOSA TRAILS, 108 km / 5600 m
Last year this Spanish ultra hosted the World Trail Championships, in 2019 it is still on the UTWT calendar but lacked significantly in numbers of elite runners. The strong and experienced Spanish runner Gemma Arenas who was 4th on this course at last years WTC could run an unchallenged race up at the front. She crossed the finish line in 14:13:43 with over an hour and a half to spare down to Tessa Chesser and Angels Centelles who fought a closer battle for second and third.
1. Gemma Arenas 14:13:43
2. Tessa Chesser 15:36:04
3. Angels Centelles 15:43:29
This was not the only race on the UTWT calendar this weekend and on the course of the chilly Croatian chapter the runner up front was similarly unchallenged.
100 MILES OF ISTRIA, 100 miles / 7420 m
The Croatian peninsula was enduring the same bitterly cold winds as the UK this weekend and the runners out on this point to point course along the northern Croatian coast was faced with both rain and snow and some serious wind chill. Last years runner up Katja Kegl Vencelj took an early lead which she kept all the way through to her 23:16 finish. Second lady was Italy's Federica Boifava closely followed by Dariia Bodnar in third.
1. Katja Kegl Vencelj 23:16:54
2. Federica Boifava 24:25:38
3. Dariia Bodnar 24:46:37
IN OTHER NEWS
In my impatient world circuiting more than three laps of a track is a bad idea, 24 hours of staring down the red grit road of infinity is enough to make me feel ill of boredom just thinking about it. So a massive kudos to the champion of the circles and now member of the GB 24 hr team Cat Simpson for busting out a 100 mile PB of 15:35 during her insane 221 km long run at the Crawley 24.
This weekend its a bit quiet on the Ultra trails ahead of a big next week BUT on the short and steep scene it is time for the first instalment in the Skyrunner World Series and most of the usual half human half mountain goat suspects will be on the start line for the
Amongst the eager legs on the start line are those of last years runner up in the combined series Hillary Gerardi. She will most likely be challenged by fourth lady in last years classic rankings Sheila Aviles from Spain and I’m guessing our favourite Swedish twins will be back to make sure it will be a tight race too. Winner of the Classic series Holly Page is sadly still not able to run after stepping on a rock at the Adidas Terrex training camp in the Canaries earlier in the winter. She is out on location in Japan though, making her way towards the start line on a borrowed bike and I seriously recommend following along on her journey via her instagram feed https://www.instagram.com/hollyapage/ and hear more about the adventurous spirit she embodies here;