27 June 2013

World's Toughest Mountain Ultramarathons and trail races

It has been very quiet at the blog the past month. It has been a very stressful month at work - the weeks before summer vacation here in Sweden always seem to turn out hectic. In my training it has felt more like November and build-up training, however, as I really have focused on adding miles to by legs – I have averaged over 62 miles (100 km) per week with one week well over 100 miles (160 km). The longest run was 37.5 miles (60 km). The average pace has been slow, but still probably too fast as I have experiences some shin splint problem in my left ankle – a mild medial tibial stress syndrome. However, it has not been so bad so I had to cancel a single run. Most of the training has been on quite level ground, however, with the basis being my daily 4.5 miles (7.5 km) runs in each direction to and from work.  I will now gradually focus more and more on uphill and downhill running before Tor des Géants.

I think both mileage and uphill and in particular downhill training will be essential in TDG. Looking at the course profile from a theoretical perspective it is not only one of the longest single-stage tracks in the world with 330 km, but also one with the highest altitude difference per kilometer with a positive elevation gain of 72.7 meters/kilometer and with the highest maximum altitude of 3,296 m at Col Loson.

·         330 km
·         Courmayeur, Italy
·         +24,000m
·         highest point: Col Loson 3,296m
·         D+/km = 72.7
·         time limit 150h

Inspired by the “Ultra Trail Bucket List” at Trailplodders Blogg I have compared the distance, highest altitude and D+/km of some of the mountain trails over 100 km distance.  Naturally, all of these trails qualify, with one exception as it is so extreme, for the maximum 4 UTMB qualifier points. The extreme race is also the one with the highest D+/km, The Barkley Marathons. This almost mythical 100 mile race in the Frozen Head State Park has a D+/km of 111.9 km and a maximum time limit of 60 hours, with a 12 hour time limit for each of the five 20 mile loops. Since the start in 1986 only about 14 out of 1000 ( 1.4 %) of runners have completed the race.

·         161 km
·         Wartburg (Frozen Head State Park), USA
·         +18,014m
·         highest point: Frozen Head Lookout Tower 1,013m
·         D+/km = 111.9
·         time limit 60h (12h/loop)

Other races with a higher D+/km than TDG are Ronda del Cims and Trail Ticino. Most of the trials with the highest altitude difference are located in Europe and these are in Spain and Italy.      

·         171 km
·         Ordino, Andorra
·         +13,000m
·         highest point: Pic del Comapedrosa 2,942m
·         D+/km = 76.0
·         time limit 62h

·         133 km
·         Ticino, Italy
·         +9,797m
·         highest point: Capanna Cadlimo, 2,567m
·         D+/km = 73.7
·         time limit 41h

There are some other really hard other mountain trail races with a very high altitude difference in the Alps and Pyrenées, for instance Ultra-Traversee de Belledone and Ultratrail Ehunmilak.

·         140 km
·         Vizille, France
·         +10,000m
·         highest point: Croix de Belledone 2,926m
·         D+/km = 71.4
·         time limit 54h

·         168 km
·         Beasain, Spain
·         +11,000m
·         highest point: Aizkorri 1,520m
·         D+/km = 65.5
·         time limit 48h

Among the probably more well-known mountain trails Le Graind Raid Diagonale des Fous is the one with the highest altitude difference, closely followed by UTMB, Ultra Trail Mont Fuji and Hardrock. However, the later really stands out with the highest peak being astonishing 4,282 m at Handies Peak.

·         165 km
·         Saint Philippe, Reunion Island
·         +10,800m
·         highest point: Git Piton des Neiges 2,411m
·         D+/km = 65.5
·         time limit 64h

·         168 km
·         Chamonix, France
·         +9,600m
·         highest point: Grand Col Ferret 2,537m
·         D+/km = 57.1
·         time limit 46h

·         161 km
·         Yagisaki Kouen, Japan
·         +9,000m
·         highest point: Youtsuji 1,800m
·         D+/km = 55.9
·         time limit 46h

·         162 km
·         Silverton, USA
·         +10,360m
·         highest point: Handies Peak 4,282m
·         D+/km = 64.0
·         time limit 48h

In comparison to these races, Fat Dog 100 in Canada has only 44.9 and Western States has an even lower D+/km of 29.4. Nevertheless, Western States is probably still the most prestigious race to win at least in the US and I will certainly follow this year’s very interesting and open race this weekend.

·         193 km
·         Lakeview
·         +8,673m
·         highest point: 2,338m
·         D+/km = 44.9
·         time limit 48h

·         161 km
·         Squaw Valley, USA
·         +4,735m
··         highest point: Watson Monument 2,656m
·         D+/km = 29.4
·         time limit 30h

Most races are 100 miles, however there are some exceptions in for instance Swiss Iron Trail T201, Beskidy Ultra Trail and Volta Cerdanya Ultrafons who all are over 124 miles and have an elevation gain of over 10,000 meters.

·         202 km
·         Ponteresina, Switzerland
·         +11,300m
·         highest point: Diavolezza 3,004m
·         D+/km = 55.9
·         time limit 56h

·         220 km
·         Bielsko-Biała, Poland
·         +11,000m
·         highest point: Babia Gora 1,725m
·         D+/km = 50.0
·         time limit 64h

·         214 km
·         Puigcerda, Spain
·         +10,000m
·         highest point: Borne 504 2,300m
·         D+/km = 46.7
·         time limit 56h

Even shorter trails can certainly be really though, however, and I still dream some nights about the last climb up in the middle of the night from Lourtier to La Chaux after having completed 100 km (62 miles) of La Boucle at Trail Verbier St Bernard last summer. This climb of only 5 km took me more than two hours and it was an almost divine experience when I finally came out of the dark forest and reached the summit under the moonlight.
·         111 km
·         Verbier, Switzerland
·         +7,014m
·         highest point: Col des Chevaux 2,714m
·         D+/km = 63.2 
·         time limit 31h

This list of all really tough and challenging mountain ultras is by no means comprehensive and, as all trails are different and all persons different, there might be others well as tough as these ones.

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