Anyone who has traveled into the Grand Canyon understands the great immensity of what they have entered into. You don’t really go into the canyon, it swallows you whole.
As the dust begins to settle from the the massive earthquake that struck near my New Zealand home and the tragic loss of a running friend in a motor vehicle accident, I have the space to pause and reflect on a bright spot of the last week: the 71km Queen Charlotte Ultramarathon.
The thunderstorm abruptly ended and I stepped out onto the cobblestone street toward the start line of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in the historic plaza in the center of Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy below the looming belltower that would soon toll 11 p.m. and our departure up into the mountains above town.
Morocco conjures images of crowded souks, piles of spices, rolls of carpet, elaborate lampshades and incomprehensible bartering – these were the sights of Marrakech, our arrival city. Having survived its hammer-blow to the senses, we escaped to the edge of the Sahara desert. Here we stretched our legs on the first day with a half marathon though sleepy villages.
It all started about 10 years ago while visiting the Grand Canyon National Park with my wife. We took a quick look at the majestic canyon, did the touristy things, bought souvenirs and then drove back to Phoenix. I always carried this sense of guilt inside me, always knew that somehow I had violated the grandeur of that place by not even setting foot in its entrails!
We had been running through the desert of Baja California for 17 hours. Despite being followed by armed police, obsessing about water and losing a couple of runners to injury, it had been a great day so far. All that quickly changed once the sun went down.
On a Sunday morning in early March, an eclectic group of runners make their way into a small, crowded kitchen on top of Mt. LeConte. The LeConte Lodge is closed, but we’re here at the caretaker’s invitation, readying for a day of running in the Great Smoky Mountains. We drink cowboy coffee and hastily down donuts, indulging in what would normally be off-limits pre-race food.
For many ultra runners Patagonia is a distant iconic image propagated by vivid imaginations of unscathed wild terrain and sharp edged peaks. A mysterious mountain running promised land of sorts, that has constructed itself upon years of whimsical exploration. Given Patagonia’s mystical appeal, it is no wonder why 1,638 people from all over the world traveled to the Osorno Volcano this December to run one of the various distances in the 2015 Volcano Ultra Trail (VUT) race series.
Last week, I traveled to north-central Sweden to compete in the second annual UltraVasan 90K on Saturday morning, August 22. What follows is an account of my race but also the race history, the course, and the three kings on everyone’s mind as the weekend unfolded.
Why is my first ultra story any different from the next newbie’s story? It was a double newbie scenario; I sweated through the inaugural race, which skirted through jungle hill tribes of northern Thailand, a region never before touched by any organized, international venue.
Europe is a popular travel destination for many reasons: its rich history attracts historians; its grand cities marvel visitors with eclectic architecture and centuries-old facades; the diversity among its different countries and cities make Europe favorable to nearly everyone; its skiing, hiking and running trails, and breathtakingly beautiful mountains and landscapes, attract adventurers and outdoors persons from around the globe.
London is flush with idyllic gardens, grand estates and impressive buildings, bridges and museums. Many of the city’s treasures can be absorbed, although perhaps not fully appreciated, after just a few minutes of viewing. If you want to see some of the iconic highlights of London quickly and efficiently, consider the London Scenic Route.
Two hundred and sixty runners shuffled nervously in the half-light of dawn before the start of the inaugural Javadhu Hills Ultra (JHU) in a forest in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. It’s a remote location. The nearest city is five hours’ drive. The nearest town with any form of accommodation is 90 minutes away. Many camped overnight at the start line.
The Black Canyon 100K trail is the newest addition to the Montrail Ultra Cup series and takes place on the world class Black Canyon Trail near Phoenix, AZ. Featuring incredible single track trails on an old stagecoach route, this net downhill course will automatically qualify the top two placed male and female runners for Western States.
Traveling overseas as an “elite athlete” comes with romantic aire of catered this, escorted that. A plane ticket arrives in your email inbox with an itinerary you may have had some input on. This particular trip, I was thankful to see the direct flights, minimal connections each way and with a carrier I fly frequently.
The Miwok 100K is a longstanding ultrarunning classic for good reason. It draws a big field (450 entrants) and it’s competitive (past winners include Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Hal Koerner, Anton Kupicka, Dave Mackey, Kami Semick, and Ann Trason). It’s also challenging with 12,000 feet of elevation change packed into its 61 miles and unpredictable weather.
by Nick Barraza
This year’s Patagonian International Ultra-Marathon was nothing short of magical. Combining the natural elegance and wonder of Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia with eco-conservation initiatives in the area, the event attracted over 740 runners