Top to tail on trail: mission New Zealand

Adventure runner Richard Bowles is set to create another record in the world of ultra-distance trail running, this time with sights set on New Zealand. During 2012 Richard became the first person to run the world’s longest marked trail, the rough and remote National Trail of Australia, raising awareness and funds for mental health organisation SANE Australia along the way.

In just 5.5 months Richard ran the equivalent of 127 marathons, and traversed the treacherous dividing range mountains from Melbourne to Cooktown, earning the reputation as a hybrid of Bear Grylls and Forrest Gump.

Starting on Saturday 13 October, Richard will run the 3054km Te Araroa trail stretching from Cape Reinga in the North of New Zealand to Bluff in the South where he aims to arrive on 15th December, just 60 days! The trail which opened on 3 December 2011 showcases New Zealand’s impressive landscape traversing down the coastline, through the forest, across farmland, over volcanoes and mountain passes, along river valleys, and on green pathways through seven cities.

Combining a passion for adventure, a love for running, and a determination to make a positive contribution to the places through which he runs, Richard is raising funds and awareness for Project Crimson, a leading conservation organisation, who have made impressive progress re-establishing pohutukawa and rata nationwide by planting trees, coordinating and supporting a wide range of maintenance activities, scientific research, possum control programmes and public education.

 One of Project Crimsons projects is Living Legends, planting native flora throughout New Zealand, supported by former All Blacks.

Many people have run the length of New Zealand on relatively flat terrain and at a total distance of just 2,200km. Richard will run another 50% on top of this distance and on rugged, mountainous terrain. Richard says, “The trail less travelled offers the best adventures, and I’m all about challenging myself on a daily basis”.

It’s one of the longest walking routes in the world. Hundreds of volunteers worked over ten years to put the trail in. The Te Araroa trail has never been run before, and typically takes hikers 100 days or more to complete. The trail offers people from all walks of life the ability to experiences some of the most magnificent aspects of New Zealands natural beauty and in turn educates people about the importance of conserving the natural environment.

Richard invites runners to join him on the trail for a run, and is keen to meet with the communities through which the trail passes.

BACKGROUND

Richard Bowles has many years experience in the discipline of distance running and regularly runs 200km weekly on trails around Melbourne. He is the first person to ever run the worlds longest marked trail, and is the Australian Record holder of the 2010 Tenzing Hillary Mt Everest Marathon; Winner of the 2011 Tasmanian 3 Peaks Challenge (sailing and mountain running event)
and Record Holder of the Wilsons Prom Ultra Marathon 2010.

For more info go to www.richardbowles.com.au

Project Crimson www.projectcrimson.org.nz

Te Araroa Trail 3080km trail from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the South www.teararoa.org.nz

Trail Run Mag is proud to be nominated as Richard’s media partner for this mission and will be following his exploits on our Facebook page and will undoubtably feature his story in our zine pages down the track. In the meantime make sure you’ve downloaded our latest Edition #6 from www.trailrunmag.com/zine  

Shoe review: Inov8 Trailroc 245

Guest reviewer Caine Warburton offers up an early review of Inov8’s new Trailroc 245, the popular brand’s crack at catering to long course trail runners. Check out a review of it’s sister shoe the Trailroc 255 by NZ Editor Mal Law in edition #6 of Trail Run Mag’s zine downloadable at www.trailrunmag.com/zine.

They’ve arrived and with pedigree – Inov8’s new Trailroc range and specifically the 245s are the shoes worn by the recent winners of the Pikes Peak Marathon and the GORE-TEX Transrockies. Hitting Australia in coming months and  already in New Zealand – the Trailroc range features 6mm footbeds teamed up with various heel to toe drops. There are three models:  235= 0mm drop, 245=3mm drop and 255= 6mm drop.  All feature Inov8’s renowned never-let-go lug design, here with three different compounds. 

I chose to pull on the 245 as this is most comparable to Inov8’s other shoes and let’s face it…they look wicked!

Fit and Feel

Firstly the 245 is a neutral running shoe with no arch support, typical of Inov8 designs. The footprint of the 245 is slightly wider than other models, which fits well with its long distance mission, allowing for foot swell and also accommodating those with a straighter, wider foot, much more common for runners in the Antipodes than in Europe, the market Inov8 first catered to.

The upper is comfortable and stitching minimal allowing it to be worn well without socks. There is a good amount of room in the toe box to accommodate toe splay, a factor which is most noticeable after about 40km.

The 6mm footbed of the 245 gave a remarkably soft and cushioned feel for an Inov8 shoe. I noticed when using this on the road that the extra padding hid the usual annoying feel of trail lugs on road. Despite the extra padding, the 245 is still extremely flexible, it does lack the “raw” feel of more minimal shoes like the X-Talon 190 but still retains enough feedback from the ground to let you run with a good foot strike on most surfaces.

In Action

The 245 retains a lugged sole but has used smaller and more frequent lugs in comparison to the larger and spaced out Talons of the 190 and Bare Grip. The 245 also utilizes a tri-compound sole, meaning that high-wear areas (toe – for climbing) are made from a stiffer more durable rubber, while the mid foot from a slightly softer longer lasting rubber and instep from sticky rubber (for rock hopping). This allows the shoe to perform well on hard pack, road and rocky terrain while still retaining some “bite” for softer surfaces.

I’ll be honest that the 245 isn’t as fun as the 190 for short, steep muddy courses as its smaller lugs and slightly larger footbed don’t allow it to conform to the ground as well. However the fact that it still feels comfortable after 40km+ and is kinder on the body after hours of running means it’s suited for a different, longer run use.

The Durability

 I have now put in 150-200km in these shoes with a good mix of road and trail. I have not noticed any unexpected wear and the lugs are holding up better than expected for the road running I have done in them. The upper on the 245 is more durable than that of the 190, so I do not expect to have any side blow out or toe holes anytime soon.

The Final Word

In the end this is a great shoe for a specific purpose…. It’s not suited to the likes of short course trail racing or fell racing like much as the Inov8 range; it serves one purpose and one purpose well – to go long. I would recommend the 245 for minimal runners looking for a long distance racer/trainer. I would also recommend the Trailroc series (perhaps more so the 255) to runners looking to change to minimal shoes, get closer to the ground and enjoy trail running.

Would I fork out my penny’s again for a Trailroc….Yes, indeed (and yes, I did for this pair)!

Caine Warburton- Ultra runner/ Coach

TRAIL BRIEF
Great for > Long races, hard pack and soft trails, rocks, new minimal converts.
Not so great for > Short course racing, fell running.
Test conditions >
Mixed trail, hard packed and soft soil, fire-trail, steep inclines/declines, road and technical rocky conditions. -150km

Tester > Caine Warburton – everyday competitive (or try to be) trail runner, completed North Face 100, B2H (2012 version), various Glasshouse races 30/50km, off road marathons, road marathons, road ultra marathons, short course trails races and cross country.
Tester mechanics > Minor pronator, mid foot trail runner, 73kg, US12.

RRP > AU$160 Approx.
Web > www.barefootinc.com.au (Coming Soon)

Trio of trail runs: records made, slain

It was a big weekend on the trails with runners making and breaking records at two of the biggest events on the trail ultra calendar, one of them an inaugural, another a rising star in South Australia, plus the Abel Tasman 36km being run and won over in New Zealand.

Yurrebilla Ultra

Yesterday the Yurebilla Ultra (56km), was headlined by a storming Kiwi in the guise of, well, Grant Guise, the man who recently won the Canadian Death Race and behind great Kiwi trail run website, The Backcountry Runner.

Grant nabbed a course record running it in 4:54, leading home a huge field of more than 300 entrants, making the Yurrebilla likely the third largest trail ultra in terms of solo competitors in the country (behind TNF100 and Six Foot Track). Not bad for a race that started with about 20 runners.

Behind Guise, James Duffy took second in 5hrs 7mins and third was Mark Bloomfield in 5hrs 09mins.

In the female category, Joanna Kruk registered another convincing win in 5hrs 40mins with Sally Roffey in second (5hrs 47mins) and Stephanie Gaskell taking third in 5hrs 48min.

http://www.sarrc.asn.au/index.php/eventstop/trail-run/238-yurrebilla-trail-56km-ultra

Abel Tasman

Nelson-based trailrunner, Graeme Taylor continued his strong form of late, starting and finisihng fast to take out the 19th Abel Tasman Coastal Classic in 2 hours 27 minutes and 5 seconds, “scorching” the 36km course from Awaroa Lodge back to Marahau.

Conditions couldn’t have been any better, according to organisers. A dead flat sea showcased why its New Zealand’s premier paddling territory as 297 competitors boated up to the start. Once there all bar one ‘took off’ down the airstrip chasing Taylor who was intent intent on not being beaten.

At Tonga Beach, Taylor had “the pretenders” tucked away safely behind. Only the other race favourite Vajin Armstrong ( Christchurch ) looked a threat as he valiantly chased. But the catching up didn’t eventuate as Taylor comfortably crossed the finish line just under 4 minutes ahead. Third was Cantabrian Matthew Pepler, one of eleven to come in under three hours.

One of these was Michelle McAdam who joined the sub-3hr club with not many women members. Being a very good long distance road runner she had the background required for the marathon equivalent course posting 2.58.02 and commenting at prizegiving that the terrain was unforgiving.

Adventure racer Fleur Lattimore knows the territory well but not McAdams history and like every event she enters she gave it her all leaving nothing out on the track. Her second in 3.01.05 was a stunning performance recording a personal best and 12th overall in a quality field. Fleur Pawsey also has a penchant away from the bitumen and she followed eight minutes adrift .

Biggest cheer for the day was received by Huntly Octogenarian Brian Smith who at 80 years young ticked off one of his bucket lists 5 hours 46 minutes and 23 seconds later.

http://nelsonevents.co.nz/content/taylor-triumphant-abel-tasman

Surf Coast Century

Banzai Adventurers Adam Evans belts along the early stages of the Surf Coast Century. Image: Tim Arch

One of Australia’s top road marathoners set the trail world alight in the inaugural Surf Coast Century 100km trail ultra, held in Anglesea, Victoria. First time ultra runner Rowan Walker blew all contenders away to secure the first crown. The Geelong runner knocked off the 100km course in a blistering 8 hours 25minutes.

It was the 2011 Australian Marathon Champion’s first major trail race and his first ever 100km run, his longest prior run – on road – being ‘only’ 46km. He only decided to run the full course two weeks ago, after his pairs team partner, Julian Spence, pulled out suffering injury.

Walker, who obviously has as big a heart as he does lungs and legs having saved his younger brother’s life with a bone marrow transplant in recent years, went out fast covering the first 49km in 3 hours 42 mins, more a marathon pace than trail ultra. Pundits at the halfway mark wondered if Walker could maintain the speed as he ventured into unknown distance territory for him, but splits revealed he was barely 23 minutes behind the overall team leader (sharing leg duties between four runners) at the final major checkpoint at 77km.

“It was a risk making the decision only two weeks out to run the full distance having not done the long distance training or specifics,” said Walker, who has already been dubbed ‘The Terminator’ by impressed spectators.

“I’m a real road runner with a flat stride, and I fell over about five times because I couldn’t lift my feet up enough! So it was a challenge in that sense, but you’re just out there for survival really.”

Asked to compare the intensity of the ultra trail experience to his usual marathon distance, Walker was diplomatic.

“Look, a ten kay hurts, a marathon hurts, this distance hurts, they all just hurt in different ways. That just hurt from 40 kilometres onwards. It was intense for a long period of time, and I walked up hills thinking ‘I never walk up hills’ It was tough, very tough.””

Accomplished trail ultra runner, New South Welshman Jonathan Worswick, ran a strong race, registering second place behind Walker in 9 hours 10 minutes while David Hosking filled the final podium place with a 9 hours 43 minute run.

Worswick, who has had a full calendar of ultra trail runs in 2012 including two Oxfams, The North Face 100 and Mt Solitary Ultra, said the course was fast, flowing and fun.

“It perhaps suited marathoners like Rowan, but didn’t quote play to my strengths of technical trail running – I like bigger hills and rocks.”

Accepting the 1-Litre beer stein for his sub-13 hour finish, Worswick noted: “That’s perfect – I’ve been thinking about a beer for the past 25 or 30 kays!”

Pocket rocket trail queen, Sydneysider Shona Stephenson, smashed the course in a time of 10 hours 18 mins to win the women’s category, maintaining her string of major trail victories in 2012, having won the Coastal Classic and the Oxfam Sydney 100km.

“I found the first sixty kilometres easy – I always start fast and just hope to hang on. But then the back half started to hurt, a few of those hills got me,” said Stephenson.

“And then my shoulder gave way and I realised I didn’t have any more energy gels. But I loved the fact that there relay teams were up with me so I had someone to talk to most of the way.”

Second solo female over the line was Amy Hinds, a Tasmanian Ironwoman who has never run a full 100km before.

“I’ve run the Cradle Mountain (80km), but never this far,” said the personal trainer. “It was tougher than I thought it would be. The hills in the second half really got me. But a beautiful course.”

In third place was Mandy Lee-Noble, who ran with her husband Christopher Noble.

“For most of the way. She left me for a while there!” said Christopher.

“But he always reels me back in over the final seven kilometres.” added Mandy.

And so he did, the couple crossing the line together.

In the teams category, it was a come from behind win for Peak Adventure, with well-known adventure racers JaradKohlar, Alex Polizzi, Alex Houghton and James Pretto managing to reel in the Team Giant duo of Mitch Anderson and Damian Angus, the pair’s elite-level Ironman credentials transferring rather well to the ultra trail.

The super Salomon team, comprising some of Australia’s top ultra marathoners, came third.

For the rest of the four hundred or so runners (teams and solo), the day on trail was not about the podium, but about enjoying the amazing scenery as they stepped along the singletrail route that tracked from Anglesea to Torquay via famous surf Mecca, Bells Beach. They trail runners then turned back towards Anglesea, passing back through the start/finish to continue on out through hinterland bush to Moggs Creek and Aireys Inlet before a final beach run home.

Runners finished throughout the night, a generous cut-off time of 27 hours giving plenty of time for the group of eight Geelong schoolgirls to finish and prove detractors wrong. They stuck to race plan, moving conservatively through the course, with six of the eight finishing proudly. Two were pulled from teh course by their coach and supervisor on course, ultra runner Michael Tong, after knee and ITB niggles, Tong playing safe and withdrawing them  – despite their disappointment – before any full blown injury.

Not running conservatively at all, but also blowing away the expectations of many, was 16 year old Lucy Bartholomew. She smashed the course in 12hrs 13 mins, only just under two hours shy of winner Shona Stephenson. And even then, reports are that she could have gone faster but was running with her Dad, who struggled more than she. Despite Dad’s encouragement for her to move ahead, Lucy was happy to stay with her Dad on her promise, and finished strong, smiling and laughing across the line.

It was a weekend trail running festival of sorts, with the  Salomon Trail Run Series taking place on parts of the SCC course the following day. The race four finale of the popular outings which has introduced thousands to off road running over the past four months again attracted well over 1000 runners taking on a  short (8km) and long (15km) course. The lure of a warm down run was too much for SCC winner Shona Stephenson, who backed up to win the long course event and thereby the inaugural Concrete Shoe award for the fastest cumulative time over the 100km SCC and the long course Salomon Trail Run event.

www.surfcoastcentury.com.au

www.salomontrailseries.com.au

DON’T FORGET: NEW Trail Run Mag (Editiopn 06) OUT NOW! Free to download from www.trailrunmag.com/zine.

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Trail Run Mag Edition #6 Online

It’s here, you’re awaited bit of dirty reading that gets to the nitty, gritty of the world of trail running.

Sure, there’s gear reviews and shoes to salivate over, but more than that, and unlike any other trail running publication out there, we try to strike to the heart and more importantly soul of the pursuit we all love.

We love to challenge too… so get your eyes and head into the latest edition and feedback your thoughts on what you read.

DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY NOW, FOR FREE (STILL!!)

In this edition:

Editors’ Letters – what the hell is this ‘sport’ of trail running? Discuss…

TRAIL MIX

Barefoot: Born to trail run sans soles?
Column: Trippin’ on trails

Event preview > Manaslu Trail Race, Nepal

Event preview > Cape Brett Challenge, NZ

Event preview > Hume & Hovell Ultra, NSW

Trail Coach > Strike strong, stay injury free

Trail Porn > It’s dirty

REVIEWS

Now’s A Good Time to Buy > The best in trail kit

Shoe Review > Salomon Sense, Merrell Mixmaster, Inov8 Trailroc

INTERVIEW

Q&A: Shona Stephenson

FEATURES

Mountain child: Anna Frost looks back to a wild childhood

Gobi Desert: Roger Hanney is Born To Run in Mongolia

Grampians A-Go-Go: Chris Ord investigates notions of a new trail miler in Victoria’s western districts.

Soul Runner: Vicki Woolley contemplates going solo on singletrack

Kilian’s Classic: Jim Robinson runs with The King and asks why?

TRAIL GUIDES

> Whakapapaiti, North Island, NZ

> Black Mountain, Canberra, ACT

> Mount Somers, South Island, NZ

> Yaberoo, Yanchep, WA
Trail goodness? You betcha…..!!

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And remember to LIKE us on FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE.

 

 

Defining dirty: what is trail running?

[Editorial taken from Ed#6 Trail Run Mag OUT NOW]

Define trail running.

Box it in.

Put labels on it.

Do you need a mountain? How much single track? Does there have to be a trail? What about deserts? Is multi day included? Or eliminated because you ran through a village in Nepal

TRM#6 out now! Download your FREE pdf copy now by right-click saving the download linked to this image or go to www.trailrunmag.com/zine for instructions on how to download.

Then, once you have squished your notion of trail running through a mincer of coloured ideology, package it, label it, hell, write the ingredients on the outside. Ah, now you have a product, all nice and controlled. Defined. Rigid. Now you can create rules around that. Guidelines, do’s and do nots.

Better yet, you can vote for people to ensure that their idea of trail running doesn’t step outside those bounds. To tell you: ‘Hey, easy, that’s not quite trail running what you’re doing there. Oh, and have you paid your membership yet? No? Not sure you are really a trail runner then.”

“And you sir, your event…have you got our approval of it? Does it abide by our regulations? That’ll be a grand for us to assess by the way. No? Well, then I’m not sure you can legally use that word ‘trail’ in conjunction with the word ‘run’ to openly discuss your ‘event’.

“We own that word pairing don’t you know? You need our permission to use it. We’re working on technology right now to police even your thoughts. So don’t even think about thinking you know what trail running is. Only we do.”

Yes, the angry trail runner (remember him from edition #1?) rears his head, prompted by news of the pompous-sounding International Conference of Trail Running. If I could afford that flight to Italy I may well have gone. But then I would have seen the stale stuffy lecture theatre they were discussing all matters trail in – readying the mincer if you will – and I likely would have gone trail running instead. Courmayeur must have some cracker trails, surely? (Wouldn’t that be a regulation requirement for any city hosting a trail run conference?)

Of course, I go off the deep end: the conference is all about the specific sport of trail running and how it should be managed as it moves from amateur and fringe to professional and, let’s swallow it, mainstream. Nearly.

One proposed definition as reported was: “A pedestrian sport with a ranking point open to all taking place mainly in the countryside without the use of technical equipment such as Alpine gear over a distance at least 20kms with a maximum of no more than 30 % tarred road.”

Now the pragmatist in me recognises that there needs to be some structure if the trail running community wants to advance the ‘sport’. But that definition is bollocks.

As Ultra 168’s Marcus Werner, who was at the conference, questioned at the time: “No vertical kms or short mountain sprints included in trail running?”

And there are many more omissions.

We run trail for varied reasons. Competitive types to win. And compare themselves against things: others, times, their past glories. And the key to scientific comparison is control. Standards to measure against. And when you bound out of those – hello Kilian’s Skyrun in the States, watch shortcutting those switchbacks, mate, tut tut – you get tripped up by the powers that be.

And I recognise the fact: even the hippiest of trailites wants to know who’s the best. And why. And there must be lines in the sand/dirt for that to be judged in any fair measure.

So I guess I’m not railing against the idea of a conference or putting some shape to the sport we love, I’m just saying, don’t put fences around the ideology of it. Don’t splinter the trail running community the way the paddling community is divided: you ever seen a bar room discussion between a sea kayaker and a white water kayaker? It degenerates into ‘you’re not a real f’ing paddler’ pretty quickly.

I’m sorry, they both have paddles in their hands and they both float on water in pumped up bathtubs. Ergo: paddlers.

And so, you step off a road, into the wilderness, singletrack, double track…whatever, you are a trail runner. If there is some form of raw earth underneath, you are a trail runner.

The rest is personal. It can be competitive. It can be spiritual. It can be for body or for mind. Whatever it is, trail running is yours. And mine. It’s not for administrators in lounge jackets pontificating on committees to determine.

As Matt Ward posted on Ultra168’s live online debate: “No one owns trail running, it is what it is and no body or council is able to define its path, this is 2012, not 1990. Of course there may be a Council which will be good in a way for guidance for race organisers and the like, but that will not stop hundreds and thousands of people just going out there and, basically, trail running.”

And from a man I like to call ‘Grasshopper’ posted recently on FB:

“When I hit the trail in the mountains, my body is in tune, humbled and content…When all else would assume exhaustion, pain and hardship – I find my body singing…like a lullaby to my baby…”

There’s a definition of trail running if ever there was one right there.

I say: Matt Cooper for President of the Committee for Trail Running World Domination.

 

The Anti-Establishment Trail Runner.
Chris Ord, AU Editor, Trail Run Mag

REMEMBER: EDITION #6 of Trail Run Mag is OUT! Available to download FREE HERE. 114 pages of dirty goodness.

Suunto Ambit ups the ante

It’s an ever-present reminder on my wrist (and on my MovesCount profile) that I should be running more, but despite the nag, I love my Ambit [SEE PRODUCT REVIEW BELOW]. And I’m no techno dude, far from it. But the upcoming software upgrades do bring out the inner geek in me as the Ambit is about to get supercharged with this week’s announcement of two free upgrades that will take the GPS watch to a new level of functionality. Suunto Ambit

One thing the Suunto crew has done since the product’s successful launch is to continuously seek the views of its users to improve useability. Through feedback, and the ability of the watch to update itself and functions via the internet, Suunto has quickly developed ‘fixes’ and additions addressing concerns registered on the watch’s release. The first update, available at the end of September via Movescount.com, will include:

>> On screen route navigation
>> Online routes to download (this update particularly excites Trail Run Mag given our Trail Guide section in the magazine)
>> Location displays in 14 local grid references (includes US, UK and key European countries –  Antipodeans miss out here)
>> Plus chrono, GPS time keeping, a constant backlight and five new languages (Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish and Swedish. No – there will be no ‘Strine language feature.)

With this update, users will be able to download routes online or input their own waypoints from the comfort of their computer. Then out on the trails they’ll be able to see their route in real time, including  start point, current position and more importantly, the route ahead.

Providing location displays in local grid references is another anticipated update for users who want to pinpoint where they are on their map.

The following launch, planned for November, will offer users new training features such as interval timer and compatibility for both the Suunto Foot POD and ANT+ as well as the ability to download community-created features.

SUUNTO AMBIT REVIEW
(as appeared in Trail Run Mag Edition #5. Note that this review was conducted before several updates, so we have added some notes addressing some points).

Let’s get a one thing out of the way about the Suunto Ambit GPS-watch, namely its downside. It’s like a nagging partner – one that has the unnerving ability to give you the guilts without saying a word.  It’s eyeing you off every second, silently banging on: “Why aren’t you running? How many hours have you done this week? Don’t lie. I know, remember? You could do a little more, you know. Have you seen how many kilometres the Ultra168 crew have done? They’re killing it y’know? Making you look bad. A bottle of red? Now? I know it’s dark and cold, but really…you call yourself a trail runner, start acting like one…”

It. Doesn’t. Let. Up.

And that’s just my wife. The Ambit then always sides with her.

Of course, that’s a good thing. It pushes me over the line, a little black pod of cognitive dissonance giving me the willpower to place the bottle of Shiraz back on the shelf, strap the Ambit on and disappear into the night. Once I’m out there, the fact that the world – well, the internet and anyone who happens across Trail Run Mag’s Movescount.com profile (http://www.movescount.com/groups/group2838-Trail_Run_Mag_AUNZ) – knows I am, and can even comment on my total ascent/descent, pushes me that fraction more, that bit further. And so my running benefits, regardless of all the bells and whistles this thing boasts, regardless of if I know how to blow or ring them.

Any other moans? Well, not being a ‘watch man’, the thing is a little lumpy on my girly wrist, but then it does talk to a contraption the size of a car hovering above me, and in doing so tells me how far, how fast, how high, how hard, how hot and pretty much any other how you can think of, and that’s pretty impressive, so I I’ll forgive it’s largesse.

Otherwise this GPS-watch is a trail runner’s information orgasm.

I’m no technocrat, so I’ll not regale you with too much minutia regarding the Ambit, mainly because if you’re a gadget man/woman reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of the finer points of what makes this watch tick (ba da boom). Jump online and you’ll find lots of overwrought War & Peace length reviews, not all positive, with plenty of boffins arguing the pros and cons, tossing up and tossing off over the superiority or not of competitors Garmin and Polar.

But let’s pretend that like me, you’re new to this world of datafying in detail of what used to be the blissfully simplistic act of getting lost on the trot in the wilderness (that was the fun bit, wasn’t it, getting lost?).

If like me you are new to measuring your joy, you too will actually be a little tickled at the ability to press a button, run, return home, hook up your watch to a computer and, Shazam George Jetson, you can see where you ran, how long it took, where you slowed for that latte, where you got lost, how you found your way again, how steep that descent was and how fast you caned down it, not to mention how long you stopped at the bottom picking gravel out of your teeth. It’s awesome.

Seriously, the main take-away about the Ambit is that it is simple and straightforward to use for luddites like me. And while I’m all for purity of running, I do actually enjoy the overview the stats give you – even if I won’t ever stretch to having an animated conversation about the ins and outs of the machine that delivers such rich information – I do, after all, actually have a life.

In a nutshell that looks convincingly like a dot point list, here’s the good skinny:

  • It has a longer battery time – 50+ hours on economy settings. On 1sec intervals you get 15hrs+. Without GPS in operation, you’ll get thirty days.
  • ‘FusedSpeed’ technology means the Ambit has an accelerometer in it, a measurement device that doesn’t rely on the satellite GPS. It then pairs up with what GPS readings are coming in to ‘smooth out’ the data output.
  • The 3D compass is great for the directionally challenged as is the barometric altimeter.
  • Hook up is easy with a four-pin cable that uses USB to connect to your computer (PC or Mac).
  • Basic function use is easy.  Hit “Start”, choose “Exercise,” “Navigation,” or “Previous.” In Exercise you have a list of different choices, showing up that this really is a watch for any outdoor fanatic. Choose Trail Running or die.
  • You can customise what you see on each display. There’s a negative to this, see below.
  • I find Movescount.com a great interface, easy to use with loads of great clickable information. It did take a little while to find my way around, but what website doesn’t at first? I cannot compare to other online GPS-user portals, as I haven’t experienced Garmin etc.

And the bad skinny:

  • That 50 hour battery life is on a slower GPS location sampling period of a minute per check in, meaning all those tight twists and turns on the flowing singletrack you just spent sixty seconds grooving though – they get cut to a straight line. In terms of running, you want more accuracy, meaning a check every second. On the Ambit that still gets you 15 hours (a good target time for any 100km).
  • It can take a while for the GPS to locate…but think of it as a reminder to calm down, breathe and stretch. NOTE: the trick to this is to ensure you have logged your watch in at least once a week – when it connects with MovesCounts, it registers a diary of where satellites will be in your part of the world for that week, meaning it picks up the satellites pretty darn quickly if the watch has been connected in the past seven days.
  • If you want to customise what displays you see, you have to do it using your Movescount account, not on the watch itself.
  • In exercise mode, the watch is limited use in navigation, as the compass and GPS location cannot be used. NOTE: there is now navigation while exercising available including finding your way back.
  • If you start the stopwatch before the GPS signal is locked in, it stops looking for a GPS. NOTE: now you can hit the button (written ‘later’ instead of ‘skip’) and set off on the exercise and the watch will still look and start the GPS automatically letting you know when its found with a beep.
  • Speed accuracy at slower speeds seems all over the place
  • The thermometer doesn’t work on your wrist. So the point is…?
  • Make sure you ‘lock’ your buttons after starting your exercise – it’s easy to knock them and accidentally stop recording.
  • Make sure you set the initial starting altitude by using a known and correct elevation source. I didn’t which is why my altitude while running on the beach tends to be 6 metres.

Says Jonathan Wyatt – one of the best trail and ultra runners Down Under and an ambassador for Suunto Ambit:

“This one of the strong things about the watch I think because new features can continuously be added based on testing and feedback that I am involved with.  I know that Suunto are currently looking at ideas for using the accelerometer for stroke count in swimming and there are new ideas for improving the GPS battery life (that I don’t think I am allowed to talk about just yet!) and improvements including a better battery life indicator on the way.  These things can’t all be included straight out of the box so the watch is a living thing.”

RRP$630 with Heart Rate Pack

RRP$550 without
www.suunto.com/au/product-families/suunto-ambit

Great review here:  
www.irunfar.com/2012/05/suunto-ambit-review.html

Some of the new changes and improvements are detailed in this pdf memo.

Thanks to Jonathan Wyatt for providing some notes on our review. Check in with Jonathan’s trail running (he smashes it) at
www.jonospulse.com or www.movescount.com/members/JonathanWyatt

He’s also a member of Trail Run Mag’s Moves Count page…come join him at www.movescount.com/groups/group2838-Trail_Run_Mag_AUNZ

Run The Planet: in the footsteps of legends

Can an ultra runner who has already run two times around the planet and a beginner who has run a few times around the block answer the question: were humans really born to run?

To find out, two runners – master and apprentice – will look to push mind and body to the limit and beyond in a proposed television series, dubbed Run The Planet. The series will will take viewer on a journey following a number of grueling ultra-distance challenges that trace the footsteps of history’s greatest feats of endurance through the wildest environments on the planet.

The pair will investigate what drives endurance runners to push the boundaries of what is possible; is there an evolutionary need to run? Is it part of our DNA? Is there something in our psychology that makes some people push the limits of endurance, to forge past frontiers, to be pioneers, explorers and adventurers? Is there an innate instinct to run? Was the ability to run in an ancient world the difference between life and death – the ultimate survival of the fittest?

Here’s a ‘screener’ – a small abridged taste of Run The Planet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8MEBdHjiKo

From chasing down food as hunter gathers to running hundreds of miles for a message of war, Run The Planet will take viewers to the edge of what is possible to run. And what is not.

During the series Lisa will mentor her student in the art of endurance running, the pair battling through some of the scariest ultra-challenges on earth. Will they make it? Is Chris tough enough to endure Lisa’s world? Can she find an answer to the question she has been asked a million times before: why do you do it?

Viewers will join the pair on an rollercoaster journey as they face medical crises, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, breakdowns, meltdowns, triumph and failures: all part of the experience of extreme running.

The program concept for Run The Planet was developed when Trail Run Mag editor, Chris Ord, journeyed to Kashmir, India, on assignment for Australian Geographic Outdoor Magazine to cover Lisa’s attempt to run La Ultra The High, a 222km ultra through the Himalayas.

While embedded in Lisa’s crew, as he watched her throw up, faint, and push her body and mind to oblivion, Chris got to thinking about why people would consider undertaking such extreme runs in the first place.

Lisa’s answer echoed that of Christopher McDougall and his famous book, Born To Run: humans were born to run. She went further, saying that anyone could be an ultra runner. We all had it in us.

Trying to run with Lisa over two of La Ultra’s 5400m  passes, Chris had doubts.

Conversations ensued about big runs undertaken throughout history. Suddenly the pair had the bet (‘I can turn you into an ultra runner’) and they had plenty of legends to unearth and feats to recreate. And Run The Planet was born.

 More info at www.runtheplanettv.com.

Run From The Hills: new trail event

Ah running and booze – always going to strike a chord. The trick here, we feel, is to run FIRST, then drink. Just a thought.

Thing is, at least with this all-new trail event slated for the western side of Victoria, Australia, you know that whether you have a good run or your legs drop off from under you (there’s a nasty descent), you can be 100% guaranteed the plonk you down at the end will be quality. Yes, you saw it coming: you can get legless for the second time in one day. At least it’ll take the pain away.

Actually, I drama queen it up. The new Run From The Hills event is no ultra ball buster. Rather we’re talking about a sensible weekend dash of 21.5km through the stunning Pyrenees Range State Park forest. Those of you with an eye to to a good Shiraz or Cab or other varietal will recognise the name as pertaining to one of the best wine districts in the nation. Turns out amongst the vines, there’s some trails to be enjoyed.

And thus the first year of Run From The Hills will be held on Saturday 17th November in the Pyrenees Mountain Range finishing at the Mount Avoca Winery.

The event is expected to attract over 200 runners with three different distances to appeal to all abilities: a 21.5k trail run, a 7km Round The Vineyard trail run/walk and a Through the Vines for the juniors at just 2km. Anyone entering the latter will not be served at the bar.

Participants of Run From The Hills will be transported from the winery up to the start line in the heart of the Pyrenees Range State Park forest, where they’ll run down fire roads, 4wd tracks, double tracks and the newly restored Pyrenees Endurance walking trail. This will finish with a sprint through the grape vines ending at the beautiful Mount Avoca Winery.

Entries in the main race are currently limited to 163, to allow for transport up to the start line in the forest.

Round The Vineyard is a shorter 7k run/walk which takes runners through the stunning grounds of the Mount Avoca Vineyard. The Through the Vines fun run for the kids will take place through the grape vines of the winery. So you can just about pour your Chardy and keep an eye on the kids at the same time. And if not, there will be course marshalls (who will be directed to not be drinking for their on duty period).

The event is run by local Rohin Adams, a pro level mountain biker who has obviously seen the light and recognised that trail running is the go..and who has been working at promoting the Pyrenees as a key outdoor destination for the past 4 years.

The event will be supported by the fantastic crew of volunteers from Avoca Primary School and the Ballarat 4wd club who will marshal the track and man the feed/water zone stations.

Run From The Hills will attract runners, friends and families of all abilities to this beautiful area to get a taste of what a trail run event is all about. If you are interested in attending or require more information please do not hesitate to contact Big Hill Events.

Trail Run Mag is proud to be a supporter of this inaugural event. Hell, we’ll support any new event so long as it’s on dirt… but this one looks especially appealing A wineray as the finishline? Wish I’d thought of that…

Entries HERE.

Run From The Hills
Saturday 17th November
21km / 7km / 2km
www.bighillevents.com.au

Manaslu trail run magic…coming?

I’m not sure how I came across it, but when I did, I was hooked. One flick through the day-by-day run itinerary, a swoon at the pictures of the landscapes to be trotted through, and I was there in spirit already. And while the spirit flew to Nepal months ago, champing at the bit at the thought of the inaugural Manaslu Trail Race, I’ve got between now and November ten to get the body prepared. Stop the donuts. And the excuses. Get out and run more. Because I know this is going to be the adventure run of a lifetime. First, a bit of research – speak to the Race Director, Richard Bull, to get the inside line on what we reckon is going to be a Wish List race for any trail runner worth their salt…

There are now a few trail events in Nepal – it’s become a bit of a trail hotspot – what brought you round to thinking a Manaslu event would break the mould? They have a mould for these things?! Breakable ones? I am not sure this will break too far away from any of the other events being held in Nepal, I just know that Manaslu is a very special and relatively untouched place in the Himalaya with a lot more to offer than just views and trails. I hope all of the competitors will come away with a great appreciation for the people of the area and their culture, as well as having enjoyed running through their valleys.

You’ve got nine days on trail – seven racing and two ‘rest’ days that still require a decent trek for participants . Those two days are the two high pass days – why not run them as the pinnacle days of the  event? I’m thinking about it! I’d like to give people the option of a rest if they need it. I’ve run at altitude before and it wears you down. Additionally, it is nice to slow down and enjoy the stupendous views in these areas. One option is to run these stages and have a compulsory 15 min stop at checkpoints where competitors are forced to enjoy the views.

Image: Oleg Bartunov

Nepal has long held a special place in the hearts of travellers – what is it about the place that makes it special for trail runners?
it is a special place indeed. Beyond the culture, the spirituality of the place and the enormous mountain landscapes that trekkers and runners alike will experience, I think trail runners will enjoy two things. Firstly you’re an extra-special oddity in a country that walks everywhere but hardly runs, and you’ll get some admiration (as well as derision) for that. And in a place where trails are not purely for recreation, but for getting from village to village and valley to valley, there is a pleasant feeling of running being also a journey, a jatra. Something like that!

Apart from Trail Run Mag  – any other Antipodeans getting along for the inaugural race this year? We’ve a bunch which is not surprising given your sports-mad reputation. (Lisa Tamati, Robyn Lui, Marcelo Vanzuita, Steve Humphrey, Andrew Cattermole.)

What kind of factors are you as RD thinking about in the organisation phase,  given this is an inaugural race – there are a lot of unknowns… I am really happy that we have Doctor Ben Winrow running with us and Doctor Helen Clements based at the CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu. They both know their mountain stuff and are keen as mustard, and top medical support is a big weight off of the mind of any RD. Otherwise small things certainly will go wrong, but that is normal in Nepal and usually an entertaining, creative band-aid solution is to hand. The Nepali support staff can always be relied on to bust a gut to make things work which is also great. All in all, we’re preparing rigorously, but everything else will be part of the Nepal experience.

Talk to me about the route and trails – what kind of landscapes are we going to pass through?
Best to take a look at some of the pictures on the website. It’s pretty varied, but the signature of Manaslu is the lush, sometimes sleep sided river gorge of the Budi Gandaki and then the wide open valley leading up to Sama, the largest village in the area, with 8000m Manaslu always somewhere in sight.

Image: James McGuinness

Villages surrounded by fields pepper the route. Thereafter it will be a few days of mountains, with a glacial visit to Manaslu Base Camp and the pass crossing. The view from the pass is breathtaking. The trails are well used, should should be perfect for running.

What’s going to be the toughest pinches on Manaslu? Do you think people will look at the distances and itinerary and underestimate how hard it’s going to be? As always with these events, it is the compound-effect of day after day of running that is tough. The increasing altitude and acclimatization also plays a part. Some days are quite short it’s true, but I can only imagine everyone feeling properly knackered by the end, especially you Chris as I know you are underestimating it wildly! I think the second day is going to be great with marathon distance and a 1km climb. Crossing the pass (subject to question two) will certainly bust lungs.

Trail running, and ultras, are going through boom periods now – where do multiday races sit in the pantheon of big offerings across the globe now? Boom! Judging by the comments left on the registration form, people are more and more looking to mix running with travel and adventure and to experience different cultures and landscapes as well as pure physical challenge. I think multidays have a lot to offer in terms of the depth of the experience and the bonding with fellow runners. The average age in the field is around 40 I think which perhaps says something too.

Manaslu Trail Race RD Richard Bull shows his style on the Nepali trails. Image: James McGuinness.

Is a multi day more about the adventure than the racing? Or do you expect the racing up front to be as fierce as ever? I remember the first multi-day I ran. I walked, jogged and socialised on day one and came in an hour behind the leaders on quite a short day. I spent the next week clawing it back aggressively. As soon as times are written down and a leader board is established, it makes you want to do your best and pass the person in front, wherever you are in the field. I know some people certainly will be running at their limit, I know others will be creating a great photo album along the way, I know yet others will be simply enjoying the hell out of the surroundings.

Your run will benefit the local community – tell me about that? Yes, on several levels. Firstly we aim to donate proceeds of the race to the village hydro-electricity project in Samdo. It is actually up and running, but needs some upgrading to keep the lights bright. If you can imagine living at 3,500 m with only small oil lamps for light…. We’ll also donate to the charity LED who provide locally made solar lamps to villages off the hydro grid. They also provide basic medical training to villagers and specially designed educational materials.

We also hope that the race will draw more attention to the area and encourage more people to visit. Tourism, when well managed, is one of the best methods for people to earn income in such rural places without migrating out for work. It also will hopefully take pressure of logging timber, which is a threat to the area.

What is your own background in trail running? To be honest I am not a fanatic trail runner. I just love it as a method of travel and exploration, and also enjoy the knowledge that I can run for miles and miles, a fact that still surprises me. I love nothing more than a Saturday out running through new areas of the Kathmandu Valley and observing life being played out Nepali style.

There are still limited slots available to join the Manaslu Trail Race, although Rich advises there is a capped number as he wants to keep numbers down to maintain the quality of experience. So if you’re keen, get in quick… www.manaslutrailrace.org .

Trail Run Mag / Adventure Types along with Lisa Tamati Productions will be filming the Manaslu Trail Race adventure, so stay tuned post race for what we reckon will be some killer trail vision and imagery.

 

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