With the first cup of coffee of the week in one hand the other reached for my phone for a quick twitter check, just in case there'd been any news from Frozen Head since i last checked one minute ago and there it was; the monday blues wrapped up in a screen notification; "The Barkley Marathons has ended. There are no finishers."
THE BARKLEY MARATHONS 2019, who knows? km / who can count?
It's hard to write a race summary on an event which is so secretive it's like Dumbledore threw a protective shield spell over the entire Frozen Head state park and not even Rita Skeeter has an insider. Even though twitter has an account for pretty much every feature of the race (including previous contestants body parts) it's hard to know which rumours to take seriously, what we do know for a fact (we think) is that Karel Sabbe was the last man running but dropped on his forth loop. Greig Hamilton, Tomokazu Ihara, Johan Steene and Jamil Coury (https://www.instagram.com/jamilcoury/) finished a fun run (three loops) but Hamilton quickly returned from his fourth loop and the following three were timed out before starting theirs. Sadly none of the female contestants managed to complete two loops. Nicky Spinks (https://www.instagram.com/nickyspinks/) and Stephanie Case (https://twitter.com/runningcase) both went out for a second spin but returned together stating that the turn of the weather had taken its toll and made the conditions far too cold for what they were prepared for. In deed it seems that what started as a slightly too warm day warped into full blown winter over the second night and rain became sleet and eventually snow. As if that was not enough judging by Jamils brief report on Instagram there'd been some changes made to the course that's turned the difficulty level up from 10/10 to 11. Also the gate wasn't pink after all … We are again all left humbled and hungry for revenge, I hope the 2020 edition sees the number of female participants increase and I'd personally like to request Orienteering World Champion Tove Alexandersson, Jasmin Paris and those baggy shorts on the start line for it. (If you want to read our preview and compare it to reality, click here)
In the neighbouring state of Georgia the conditions and courses were on the gentler side but the prizes almost as coveted as a Bark-finish.
GEORGIA DEATH RACE 74 miles / 4000 m
It might be trying to sound as scary of an experience as infinitely looping 90% slopes covered in exotic brambles but this 74 mile race even with its 4000 m of elevation gain does not reach anywhere near the difficulty of Barkleys. It does however reward its top two finishers with one of those elusive golden tickets to Western States and that will certainly put some pressure in the soles of the contenders. Swiss runner Luzia Buehler and Liz Canty gave the spectators a very tight race swapping podium positions all the way into the finishing stretch. With a last kick Buehler managed to take the win by a mere SIX SECONDS over Canty. They both accepted their spaces for WS100 and with strong resumes from the past couple of years i think they both could have a chance for a top 10 in Squaw. Liz Canty might have aspirations for additional fast track entries as she is registered for Laz Big Backyard Ultra later in the year! Third lady across the line, 19 minutes too late for a golden ticket was Teresa Kaiser.
1. Luzia Buehler 13:42
2. Liz Canty 13:42
3. Theresa Kaiser 14:01
IN OTHER NEWS
Clearly fully recovered from her amazing run at The Coastal Challenge back in February is Ida Nilsson who smashed the CROWN KING SCRAMBLE 50k course record set by the legend Ann Trason in 2002 by eight minutes this weekend… She won the race in 4:26:44 half an hour ahead of second lady Colleen Lingley. That 'spending more time running than skiing during winter' -plan is clearly paying dividends already. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Ida's speedy legs has in store for the rest of the season.
That was not the only noteworthy course record obliteration over the weekend, Spanish runner Azara Garcia finally looks to be back in old form after suffering from various injuries over the last two years. She won the Reventon Trail Marathon at La Palma in an incredible time of 4:20. In the 32 k version UK's Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn took second place behind Meg MacKenzie from South Africa.
IN MOTHER NEWS
Old pals and rivals on the trails Anna Frost (https://www.instagram.com/annafrosty) and Emelie Forsberg gave birth to two future female shredders in the same week! As fellow running parents both me and Gill are sending all the muscle flex- and heart emojis their way!
MARATHON DES SABLES
This desert classic has a field less stacked than usual but a noteworthy debutant is the strong Sky Runner Ragna Debats. She will be sharing the dunes with UK's Gemma Game who podiumed at MDS last year and 2013's champion Meghan Hicks of irunfar.
CENTURION SOUTH DOWNS WAY 50
The Centurions are back with a new calendar stacked with South East England trailheads' most frequented ultra races. They are warming up the season with this classic 50 miler on South Downs Way. Last year Sarah Morwood set a new course record of 7:03:55. I dare to predict that next week it will belong to Maverick Trail Division's Julia Davis. Although she is new on the ultra trail scene her strength and speed has already been proven. Last year she came second at the North Face 50 k in Bear Mountain NY. That was her first ultra … Sophie Power might be a more familiar name but even though she is a strong runner with UTMB and Spartathlon finishes I don't think she can match the speed of Julia. Amy Sarkies won and broke the course record at Wendover Woods 50 in 2018 and is likely to be a podium contender. Rachel Dench has yet to win a Centurion race but she has 50 mile podium finishes in her resume and could also prove to be a contender for the top three.
KIELDER ULTRA 100 k / 50 k
Last year the Spine Challenger champion Carol Morgan won this Northumberland Ultra but it is unlikely she will be back for another go as she tested the waters at Barkleys this week (sadly she didn't finish the first loop but we are still in awe!). There are no start lists to mull over so no speculations to be had but we will hopefully be back with a report next week! (it looks like a beautiful course and the entries are open until Thursday so why not enter and be featured in next weeks roundup!)
And that's the bugle blown for this weeks round up from the gnarly side of the road!
See you in seven!