The North Face 100: an A-Z

Dan Lewis previews this year’s The North Face 100, with an A-Z guide of the iconic 100km Blue Mountains trail running event (May 15-17) that attracts elite athletes from around the world. IMAGES: Incite Images / Mark Watson

THE NORTH FACE 200 - 2009A is for AROC Sport, the organisation that runs TNF100 each year and started it in 2008.

B is for Kilian Jornet Burgada, the freakish Spanish trail runner who won the 2011 TNF100. B is also for the cherished belt buckles awarded to those who finish in under 20 hours.

C is for the camaraderie of the runners, climbs (more than 4000m), checkpoints (five) and competitors (a thousand in the 100km race). C is also for cut-off time. If you haven’t finished by 10.53am on the Sunday your race is over.

D is for Brendan Davies, a Blue Mountains runner who won the 2013 TNF100 in a time of 9:16:12 – still the record. He’s aiming for another win this year.

E is for the incredible emotion runners display when they cross the finish line. E is for the eighth running of TNF100. And E is for employment. TNF100 is a big employer of the Blue Mountains outdoor guiding fraternity for their first aid skills.

F is for TNF100’s companion 50km race. It’s for Furber Steps, the first big descent into the Jamison Valley and the last agonising climb out of the valley (860 steps, 200m of vertical gain) just before the finish line.

G is for Tasmania’s Stu Gibson, last year’s winner. He won’t be in this year’s race unfortunately, he’ll be working in Antarctica. G is also for the Golden Stairs, the race’s first big climb out of the Jamison Valley. G is also for the Gundungurra people, the traditional owners of the land across which TNF100 is raced. Gundungurra man David King has provided a great welcome to the runners every year since 2008.THE NORTH FACE 200 - 2009

H is for hotel rooms. It’s impossible to get a last-minute one in Katoomba on the weekend of the race due to the hundreds of runners and supporters who come to town.

I is for Ironpot Ridge, a section of the course with spectacular bush views that isn’t usually open to the public.

J is for the journalists like Dan Lewis (ex-The Sydney Morning Herald) who will keep you informed about TNF100 on its Facebook page and website.

K is for Katoomba’s KCC convention centre where the expo (where you can buy cool outdoor gear), registration and race briefings will be held on the Friday. K is also for the Injinji 1km-4-Kids race on the Sunday morning.

THE NORTH FACE 200 - 2009L is for Andrew Lee (right), a Blue Mountains runner who won his first TNF100 in 2009 and famously tied with Stu Gibson to take out the 2010 race. L is also for Tom Landon-Smith, TNF100 race director and a former member of the Australian cross-country ski team.

M is for the Megalong Valley, where the race follows the historic Six Foot Track that connects Katoomba and Jenolan Caves.

N is for the first ever National Trail Running Conference that’s being held in the Blue Mountains to coincide with this year’s TNF100. N is also for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, a key supporter of the race.

O is for overseas runners from 35 countries This year’s elite field includes athletes from New Zealand, Japan, France, Canada, Britain, Lithuania, Spain, South Africa, Ireland, China and the US. The world’s top-rated trail runner in 2014, Francois D’Haene of France, will be out to see if he can do better than his second place in 2011.

P is for Petzl, one of the race’s sponsors. Their head torches come in very handy for night running. P is also for prize money – $1500 to the male and female winners – that will be handed out at the presentation at 10am on the Sunday. And P is for Nuria Picas, the female winner of last year’s TNF100 in a new record time of 10:57:46.

Q is for the old Queen Victoria Hospital on Kings Tableland, Wentworth Falls – the last checkpoint (78km mark) before the finish line.

R is for race rules – everything from no iPod use at checkpoints to no faeces on the track.

S is for Scenic World in Katoomba, where the race starts and finishes. S is also for the race start, 6.20am on the Saturday. And S is for spectators. Scenic World is a great place for spectators to cheer on the runners.

T is for Tarros Ladders, a spectacular climb down the cliffs runners must make from the heights of Narrow Neck to the grassy oasis of Dunphy’s Camp, named after the legendary bush walker and naturalist Myles Dunphy. And T is for outdoor clothing company The North Face, which has sponsored the race since 2008. T is for Blue Mountains adventurer Lucas Trihey, who co-ordinates the race’s first aid team.

U is for the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a prestigious international trail running series which TNF100 is an important part of.

V is for high-visibility vest, part of the mandatory gear runners must carry with them to stay safe. The mandatory gear list also includes thermals, a waterproof jacket, beanie, gloves, compass, compression bandage, whistle, space blanket, maps, matches and mobile phone.

W is for the women like three-times winner Sydney-based Beth Cardelli who are going to make the female section of this year’s TNF100 so competitive.

X is for x-factor, that special something that has made TNF100 Australia’s greatest ultra-endurance trail running event.

Y is for YouTube, where you’ll find some very cool TNF100 videos.

Z is for zen, that meditative state of mind trail runners seek as they compete in TNF100.

Check out  and follow the action.

Adventurer launches new trail conference

Already one of Australia’s foremost adventurers and remote area outdoor event safety experts, Lucas Trihey is now staging the first National Trail Running Conference in May in the Blue Mountains. Trail Run Mag quizzed him about his latest big adventure. Interview: Dan Lewis.

I’ve spent 30 years working in adventure. I’ve worked as a climbing and expedition guide and spent six years editing and publishing outdoor and adventure magazines. I’ve climbed new routes on cliffs and mountains all around the world and in 2004 I changed tack to explore Australia’s deserts and lead expeditions and small groups in the arid parts of Australia.

Lucas on one of his many epic adventures.

Lucas on one of his many epic adventures.

My most precious memories are the more unusual and remote expeditions.
The Mt Chongtar expedition in 1994 in the Himalayas was as part of a team of just three climbers without sherpas or porters. We had good conditions and weather and pulled off the first ascent of the massive mountain – at 7400m it was the highest unclimbed mountain on earth at the time. My favourites was my 17-day, 400km solo trek across the SImpson Desert in 2006. I pulled a cart that weighed 160kg and I loved the solitude, the desert sky, the vastness of the landscape and not seeing any sign of other humans for so long. Being alone is a rare experience these days. I feel very priveledged to have had 17 days in such a wild place.

In January 2000 I pioneered a 30-pitch rock and ice climb on Mt Scott North in Antarctica. This was a beautiful and technical climb and it almost became my tombstone. Half way up my climbing partner dislodged a small loose rock that knocked into a bigger rock, and then due to a nasty chain of collisions an even bigger rock was heading straight at me. I was tied to a belay ledge and couldn’t move as this wheely-bin-sized boulder hurtled straight at me. With nowhere to go I pressed against the rock and waited for the killer blow. Amid a thundering of rocks, sparks and dust I was pummelled and battered leading to a cracked helmet, a bloodied finger and cut ropes but miraculously alive. Smaller rocks had hit me but the bigger evil one must have bounced right over me. We carried on up the climb chastened and wary. The steep ice pitches near the top were some of the most beautiful climbing I’ve ever done but I had a deep weariness from the near-death experience lower down and I was relieved to be finally on top.LT mic

To be humble. Nature is so much more powerful than us puny humans. We venture out there for fun and to learn about ourselves but never to conquer. Nature can swot us down like a fly if she cares to.

My personal climbs and expeditions led me into guiding and adventure photo-journalism. This led to a bit of a profile in the adventure world that then took me into support work for other people’s expeditions and working with film crews in wild places. And that in turn introduced me to adventure racing. In 1997 I was asked to form the Australian climbing and safety team for the Australian Eco-Challenge in Cairns. This massive event was a real eye-opener with internatonal crew and teams, millions spent on logistics, vehicles, film crews and all the rest. That experience then led to enquiry for support services for other events. At Eco-Challenge I also met Tom Landon-Smith and Alina McMaster for the first time and years later that led to our relationship working together at The North Face 100.

I had been trading for 15 years supporting events under my own name and lots of clients would say “what’s your business name” and I’d say I just trade under my own name. Finally Sean and Mel from Mountain Sports told me I had to get my act together and formalise the business so I came up with the name and haven’t looked back since (thanks guys!). It was a surprise to me how much of a difference it made to have a business identifty and how it led to other work and more job offers. So here we are with an awesome little team working for me now and more interesting jobs coming in all the time as we meet more event organisers. And the business is expanding to cover mapping (paper and electronic), risk management consulting and the safety plans that have become a critical part of how event organisers plan to keep the runners safe and well. I love the challenges of helping event organisers to stage events in wild places. It’s a fun business.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.55.17 pmHOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN TRAIL RUNNING EVENTS?
It started when I worked on the Eco-Challenge in 1997 in Cairns and gradually morphed into a lot of my work supporting trail events. The big year for trail events was 2008 when both Wild Endurance and The North Face 100 started up and my business did the first aid and safety for both events. After that more and more trail events popped up and we started working on a few of them.

Wild Endurance, The North Face 100, Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon, Buffalo Stampede, the Running Wild NSW series, Sydney Trail Series, Kanangra Classic, Coastrek and a few smaller events. We are also helping plan some new events this year including the Hounslow Classic and the Mt Barney Sky Runs. I also work on the Big Red Run, a six-day, 250km stage race in the Simpson Desert and the Burke and Wills Trek, an 11-day trek that covers 330km of remote outback.

We are very focussed on looking after the runners. With race Director Tom Landon Smith we spend a lot of time planning preventative measures, fine tuning the route, reviewing the mandatory gear and planning in detail the medical teams. As TNF100 has grown it’s brought its own challenges. It seems to be attracting a slightly less experienced group of runners and some years we see of lot of unnecesary illness caused by rookie mistakes with nutrition, hydration. We also see a lot of runners not understanding their limits and pushing to exhaustion and collapse. Our focus has been to both educate them (and Tom has been very supportive) and to monitor runners at the checkpoints so we can catch the really sick ones before they head into the Kedumba Valley, which is cold, dark and hard to get out of.THE NORTH FACE 200 - 2009

Over-hydration is consistently a problem and in recent years we’ve seen way too many runners falling ill with it. Typically we see about eight times as many runners get sick due to over-hydrating compared to a dehydration. At events overseas runners are dying from over-hydration and I think it’s important that we send strong message to runners, especially new runners, that they should only drink if they are thirsty. In an average year just at the events I work on we send 10 to 15 people to hospital with moderate to serious hyponatraemia caused by drinking too much.
The other things at races that are a serious danger to runners are heart issues and this is a bit more of a lottery. If runners haven’t been ill most won’t have done an ECG test so if they have a heart condition it may remain undiagnosed until they push hard on a big race. There’s nothing much we can do about those except to have defibs around the course and to have staff who can do good CPR.

The most special things I see at trail events is when me and my staff help someone to achieve a special goal. While it’s always eye opening to see the performances that the elites pull off (watching North Face winners over the years has been amazing!) it’s powerful and emotional to watch some of the middle-of-the-pack runners to pull off a lifetime dream. We’ve had some pretty ill people at Checkpoint 5 at North Face who we’ve nursed back to reasonable health who have finished in good style.

I’ve seen so many events now and tens of thousands of runners that I’m starting to get a feel for what they want to know and what they like about running trails. So the motivation for NTRC was really to stage something to help people realise their dreams. Let’s expose them to some inspiring elite athletes and coaches, give them good quality information and well researched and sound guidance on nutrition, hydration, training, the mental aspects of trail runs and how to get the best from their body and mind to help them perform.

We are so lucky that we have access to so many elite athletes and coaches that the line-up is stunning. Dr Marty Hoffman from the USA is the world’s leading authority on the health aspects of ultras while Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston are both solid, world-class athletes. They are also great communicators. Andy DuBois is a massively respected coach, Jo Brischetto is an amazing athlete who came out of nowhere a few years ago to become a dominant athlete. Jo’s great passion goes beyond her own running – she’s an active leader in the trail running community, started Summit Sisters and Trail Kids and is an inspiration to many runners. We also have some “wise elders” in the mix including Sean Greenhill who was involved in the early days of Fatass, Running Wild and 16 Six Foot Tracks! Andy Hewat is race director for Bogong to Hotham and we have Alina McMaster and Tom Landon-Smith from AROC with a lifetime of podiums in adventure Racing, Rogaining and staging successful North Face 100s since 2008.

2 figures-oldand youndWHO IS THE CONFERENCE FOR?
The Conference is for all trail runners. There’s a mix of information for entry level runners as well as lots of more advanced sessions for more experienced runners. The structure is a mix of short presentatons by our experts followed by discussion and Q&A sessions to share ideas and knowledge. There are also some very experienced runners among the delegates which will lead to some great exchanges.

I’m hoping we’ll energise the trail community through a spirit of sharing of information and experiences. My co-organiser Dr Ursula King is experienced with staging conferences and in presenting information in a way that stays with the audience so I’m confident the sessions will be stimulating and helpful.

Yes, we’ll be putting it on every year in the week before The North Face 100.

I’m seeing a genuine desire among race directors to move with the times and keep improving the organisation at trail runs. I’m seeing more and more events every year which have made it a priority to invest in improving systems for things like runner tracking, medical and first aid services, better maps and safety planning.

Trail running is similar to a lot of developing sports in that there’s a mix of people organising events. While there are lots of experienced organisers there are also less experienced organisers but a common thread among all the events I see is that everyone seems keen to develop and improve. The trail community is very vibrant and active. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising when so many of the people organising events are passionate runners themselves.

The things that sometimes worry me are mostly educational issues (like so many runners getting ill due to hyponatraemia or taking too many tablets) and the word is getting out so as long as the opinion leaders help us to get good information out there I’m confident we’ll see a better understanding of these health issues over the next couple of years. Hopfeully the conference can help a little with this as well.Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.40.58 pm

The “industry best” standards in the outdoor industry (guiding etc) have a lot of promise to help the fledgling trail running community. Some of these include good expedition planning documents that serve the same function as running event safety plans. Events with hundreds of runners need good plans to avoid messing up, losing runners or to respond when a runner gets sick. Running events also need to collect medical background questions for all runners and I see this happening at most of the events I work on now. It’s relatively easy to collect this data as part of the registration process, which is a good development. That information is gold if a runner gets sick and I’ve seen with my own eyes how such information can save lives due to quicker and more appropriate medical responses to peculiar ailments.

Paper based systems have major limitations – mostly to do with it being difficult to share with other members of the event medical and first aid staff. So if a runner sees our medics at an early Checkpoint it’s time-consuming to get the details in front of the doctor at the finish. Our electronic system means any data entered into a patient’s record anywhere on the course is automatically live for all users across the event. We can also take photos and insert them into the runner’s record so for example a doctor might be able to give the medics on the scene better advice to cope with something unusual.

A big advantage of our electronic system is the the medical background data is available (behind a secure password-protected gateway) to the medics in the field. So if they find a sick runner they can immediately look up and check for allergies, previous illness, medications etc.

Preparation. Know your body, know your limits, don’t try new stuff on race day. Trial and test your nutrition, hydration and gear. Get advice from experienced coaches about a race plan.


BEST: Seeing the inspiring performances by all the runners – the elites because they are so incredible and the rest because they are out there testing themselves to the limit, learning about themselvs and achieving things. They are all amazing.

WORST: Seeing too much unnecessary illness caused by poor planning and poor advice. Don’t pre-load with fluids or drink to a schedule – you’ll make yourself sick. Only drink if you are thirsty. Don’t take preventative anti-inflamatories, they will make you sick and there’s not even good medical evidence they help with pain or inflamation.Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.36.05 am

I’m employing new staff as we take on more events and that’s exciting. My staff bring their own enthusiasm, specialties, interests and experience and it makes for a stimulating work environment to be constantly trying to improve our service and to help event organisers keep improving the events. Trail running is booming and I love to see that so many runners are being exposed to the beautiful natural places that I’ve been working in all my life.

The conference in May is my current “big adventure” – it has lots of challenges and excitement and the only thing wrong is that it requires too much office time for my liking. But hopefully like lots of challenges it will all be worthwhile on the day when we see all the delegates walk in and we get to meet them, talk with them and hear their own running stories.
Aside from that I’m trying to organise a summer trip to the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts in northern WA. There are some extremely remote waterholes out there surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of sand and gibber plains. It will be really hot but I love the heat and it means we won’t be bothered by other travellers. And always in the back of my mind is another desert crossing on foot. The nights spent under the desert stars in 2006 in the Simpson are some of my most treasured memories … something to dream about.


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The North Face 100: Gibson and Picas win

The North Face 100kmAs the winners celebrated having conquered the Blue Mountains course in astounding times, several hundred more runners faced a long, cold night while they battled through the distance to finish The North Face 100 this weekend, the seventh outing of what is now Australia’s most iconic trail ultra.

Others wondered what could have been if only they had fought back against their own bodies just a little harder. But for a select few, and those watching from the sidelines, the 2014 edition of The North Face 100 The North Face 100kmwill live in the memory as one of the hardest fought finish lines in the race’s history.

Stu Gibson (right), a hard-as-nails Scotsman from Hobart and formerly rated as Australia’s Fittest Man, narrowly led this mountainous run for 90 kilometres. In the final 10km of the day, he scrapped ferociously with Sydney’s Andrew Tuckey. The two men ultimately tried to outrun each other on the final climb – close to one thousand steep, uneven stairs climbing higher than Sydney’s tallest office buildings over the final two kilometres. In an unforgettable display of tenacity and heroics bordering on masochism, Gibson outsprinted Tuckey over the final 30 metres to take first place by two seconds in a time of 9:31:1.1

Behind Tuckey ran last year’s TNF 100 winner, Brendan Davies (09:53:10) followed by Jono O’Loughlin (09:53:30).

The women’s race winner staked her claim early, leaving her fellow competitors to fight for second place amongst themselves as she surged to a position of total domination.

The North Face 100kmNuria Picas (right), a Spaniard who was recently successful over 100 miles around the iconic Japanese volcano, Mt. Fuji, utterly destroyed a course regarded by many returning athletes as the toughest in the event’s history to record the fastest ever women’s time of 10:57:43. She also finished 13th outright.

In second place for the women was Joelle Vaught in 11:45:15, followed by Fernanda Maciel (11:47:52). The first Aussie female home was Gill Fowler in fourth in a time of 11:56:01.

Behind the lead pack, plenty more stories played out. The casualty corner was packed with first-timers, shivering underneath the silver space blankets which so famously populate the finish line of the London Marathon. Spreading across the top floor of tourism icon, Scenic World Katoomba, bean bags littered with exhausted, grazed bodies slowly piled up as the sound system outside announced a new wave of finishers spared the near-zero temperatures so many others faced before the coming of a new day’s dawn.

THE NORTH FACE_DANE GEERCKE_02To understand the sacrifice these ‘back-packers’ have made to reach this point, the average person  needs to train in all terrain and all weather for upward of 20 hours per week for upwards of 12 months, in all states of health and personal life, and without thought of ever quitting or turning back. Because that is exactly what these ordinary people have had to do, to achieve the kind of extraordinary achievements seen in the Blue Mountains today.

The North Face 2014 results:

All images: Lyndon Marceau / & Dane Geercke  / The North Face AU



Record torn up at The North Face 100

It was a huge weekend of trail running achievement up in the Blue Mountains on the weekend, with records and PB’s smashed all over the Blue Mountains at The North Face 100, Australia’s biggest trail event outing. There were a few good runs had by the Trail Run Mag crew, too [Roving Ed Mal Law snagging a silver buckle in the TNF100, co-publisher Adrian Bortignon registering a handy time in the long one too; our AU editor cracking his first TNF50 and Asia Editor Rachel Jacqueline over the line for fifty fast ones]. But because we’re pretty confident you’re more interested in what transpired at the pointy end, rather than the midpack where we were plodding out some fantastic trails, we’ll pass you over to Daniel Lewis who reports from the front line of trail running.

_MJW0888Brendan Davies was in tears as he approached the Leura finish line in The North Face 100 on the weekend, then fell to his knees when he crossed it, so emotional was he to have won such a prestigious event in his own backyard.

‘It means a lot to me, this race, being a local guy,’ he said. ‘I train on this course a lot. It’s a dream come true to win a local event. This will always mean the world to me. It’s the biggest win of my career.’
The 36-year-old school teacher from the Blue Mountains didn’t even realise at the time that he had also managed to set a new race record of 9 hours 16 minutes 12 seconds.

Flat batteries meant his watch stopped working towards the end of the gruelling 100km trail running event  that takes in Narrow Neck, Nellies Glen, Megalong Valley, Jamison Valley, Kings Tableland, Kedumba Pass, The Six Foot Track and Echo Point, so he had no idea he had run the final sector of the race so strongly that he had broken the 2011 record of celebrated Spaniard Kilian Jornet (9.19.06) by more than two minutes.

Davies’ victory was greeted warmly by the trail running fraternity. ‘What a great performance from such a humble, friendly guy,’ was one Facebook comment.

It was only three weeks ago that Davies achieved a brilliant fifth place in a star-studded 100-mile (161km) race in Japan that boasted 9000 metres of elevation gain.

North Face second-place getter, New Zealander Vajin Armstrong (9.42.22), said it was classic Brendan Davies that the Australian had never sought to use the race in Japan as an excuse not to do well in The North Face.

‘A lot of people would have said, ‘I’m coming in a bit tired’. He made himself believe that [the Japanese race] was going to help him out there. He felt strong and fit and fast and he just took it to us all day. I was shocked a couple of times when we came to the aid stations and heard how far ahead he was. I was never upset about it because he’s a fantastic bloke. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person, to run a performance like that.’

Andy Green | NF100Going into The North Face 100, the hot favourite had been defending champion, South African runner Ryan Sandes. But Sandes started to feel unwell about five kilometres into the race. His stomach started churning and his food and drink started going straight through him, forcing him to repeatedly go to the toilet. The stomach bug saw Sandes  pull out at check point two, 38 kilometres into the race at Dunphy’s Camp in the Megalong Valley.

In his presentation speech Davies offered his commiserations to Sandes and said he hoped his own performance helped keep Australian trail running going from strength to strength. The four Australians and one Kiwi who made up the top five all broke the magic 10-hour mark.

Davies went into the race aiming for a time of about 9 hours and 40 minutes and felt it was his concentration on only running ultra-distance trail events that had enabled him to do the time he did.
‘The 100ks seem a lot easier than they did in the past. I had a storming last leg [in The North Face 100] which gave me the record in the end because I was behind at the last check point by 4 minutes or so. I can only think the reason I had that strong last leg was because of the extra training I’ve been doing and the extra training I’ve been doing. Instead of struggling I really powered through it this year.’
_MJW1341As part of his preparation for  the Mont Blanc Marathon in France at the end of June, Davies will also be competing in the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon in the Wolgan Valley near Lithgow on June 16.

Towards the end of this year he plans to go to South Africa to do the world 100km road championships in Durban. He was 11th in the same event last year. Next year he hopes to do the famed Western States trail run in the US.

In the women’s 100km, another Blue Mountains runner, Jo Brischetto, scored a fantastic second place to Beth Cardelli, who calls Berowra home but was up in the Blue Mountains every second weekend to put in solid training sessions of up to 50km on sections of the course. ‘A lot of the time we would start [running] at four o’clock in the morning and finish at lunchtime.’

When Cardelli first started striding out with the Berowra Bush Runners in Sydney’s north in 2007, she struggled to complete 10km.But on the weekend, the 33-year-old claimed her third The North Face 100. What is more, she bettered her own race record with a new fastest time of 11 hours 1 minute and 8 seconds, more than 17 minutes quicker than her 2012 effort of 11:18:49.

_MJW1193Only 12 men beat Cardelli to the finish line overall and her only disappointment was that she hadn’t become the first woman to break the magic 11-hour barrier. Cardelli wasn’t wearing a watch but knew during the race that she was on track to do a very fast time.

“I was trying really hard to break 11 hours,’ she said.

Her training involved heading to the Blue Mountains every second weekend in the months leading up to The North Face to put in solid training sessions of up to 50km on sections of the course.

Cardelli first started running by joining the Berowra Bush Runners simply because she wanted to meet people after moving to the area.
She is grateful the group also helped her to become a lover of running.

‘I didn’t run at all [before joining Berowra Bush Runners]. My first 10kms with them, I was pretty much a wreck, but I thought ‘if I just keep coming back …’ Your body just eventually gets used to it.’

Next up Cardelli is heading to Italy to do the 118km Lavaredo Ultra Trail in the mountains of the Dolomites, another North Face race.

For the first time this year there was also a 50km North Face race. The men’s winner was road running hot shot, and recent star of the Sydney Trail Running Series, Vlad Shatrov in 4:15:21 and the women’s Brooks Trail Run Fest Queen of the Mountain winner, Gippslander Kylie Murray, won in 5:19:50.

The North Face races started and finished at the Fairmont resort in Leura and at the presentation ceremony on Sunday the resort was heaving with hobbling but happy runners who were busy comparing times, injuries and war stories.
When The North Face 100 was first held six years ago, it attracted about 170 competitors. But trail running is a booming sport and this year there were 1022 entrants in the 100km North Face race and 508 in the new 50km race. However, only 698 made it to the finish line of the 100km, although their average time of 16hrs 41mins was a big improvement on the 17hours 16 mins of 2012. This year’s oldest 100km runner was 70.

Keeping the competitors fueled up required more than 5000 litres of water, 1700 boxes of noodles, 250kg of lollies, 800kg of fruit and 2500 sausages. Competitors said the addition of the 50km event had made the running less isolated because there were so many more competitors and spectators. North Face 100 race director Tom Landon-Smith of AROC Sport described the 2013 event as possessing a ‘special vibe’.

A celebrity competitor was Antarctic adventurer James Castrission from Blackheath. Castrission was thrilled to finish 13th in the men’s open division of the 50km race with a time of 5:40:24. It was a ‘perfect day with an incredibly positive vibe from all involved. Awesome to be a part of it,’ he said.

Enter the Sandes Man: TNF 100 preview

Trail Run Mag catches up with South African and Salomon super trail star, Ryan Sandes, to get a vibe on how it feels to be the favourite in this weekend’s The North Face 100, a race with a fair few thoroughbreds on track, and the changing face of trail running as it booms across the world (hello Transvulcania…). INTERVIEW: Chris Ord IMAGES: courtesy

1. Straight in to it – you’re roundly touted as the most likely winner this year, how does that pressure play on your mind leading into next weekend?

I think there are a number of competitors that can win the race so I am not focusing on the results too much. My main focus is to have a strong run and the rest will come. 100km is a long way, so anything can happen.  

2. Some pundits reckon you’re tuned enough to break the race record (which has been broken every year the event has taken place). Thoughts? Is that something you have in your head when you’re running well at the halfway mark or…?

I would imagine the winning time will be under 9 hours 30 mins ,so I am sure the winner will get close to the coarse record. No, I am personally not too focused on the record but I will have the record time stored in the back of my head somewhere ;-). [9hrs 19min 06 seconds]

3. You have been quoted as saying last year’s run didn’t go as smoothly for you as you would have liked yet you still managed third with a sub ten hour time – what was the Achilles last year and what’s changed about your form/approach this year?

Last year was my first mountain 100km race, so I was not sure what to expect. I made a few mistakes like not drinking enough during the first 30km, which hurt me during the middle section of the race. I am a more experienced runner this year and hoping for a more consistent performance during the race. 

4. You tend to arrive early and really get to grips with the trail your’re about to run on – how much of the TNF course have you rerun in the last week and where do you think your crux will come (and why)?

The one thing I love about trail running is that I get to travel the world and explore new places. I always try get out to my races early to experience the local culture and environment as well as running parts of the race route. I have run about 60% of the route… I think the race will come down to being strong in the final 30km.

5. Many may have expected you to be running at the Transvulcania – why did you choose to race here instead of there?

I entered the TNF100 Australia before the Sky Running Ultra series was announced but that said, I really enjoy Australia and wanted to come back for the race again. 

6. How does the Blue Mountains course suit you in particular – strengths and weaknesses on it?

I would like to think I am quite an all round runner so the course should suit me … I’m not giving much away here :-). 

7. You had 30 mins plus over fourth placed (Goerke) and other locals (Donges, Davies, etc al) last year, but they are being touted as serious threats with a much deeper field this year than last – how do you think the competition has changed over the past year?

Yes, it’s really exciting to see how trail running is growing around the world. I think everyone is improving and it is going to be a very exciting race. I think there will be a lot more people under sub-10 hours this year. 

8. Everyone’s talking about how the sport of ultra and trail running in general is changing rapidly, with ‘celebrity’ runners the likes of yourself and Jornet in ascendancy – talk to me about how you as a person and as a runner have changed over the past few years of racing?

I am still the same person as a few years back… the main difference is I drink less tequila now J .  More Red Bull and Vodka.. haha! I started running relatively late and competed in my first ultra in 2008 – the whole experience has been life changing. It’s exciting to see the sport becoming more professional and creating so many opportunities for trail runners. I have been lucky enough to run on all 7 continents and explore the world through trail running. 

9. You remain based in South Africa – is there any pressure to be based in Europe or the States these days, given the competition, or is ultra trail a truly global sport, doesn’t matter where you’re based?

I spend quite a lot of time abroad but still keep Cape Town my base. We have great running there…just no altitude. I think when I run UTMB I would need to spend a lot more time in Europe getting used to the Euro trails. Their climbs are massive and the running can be very technical. At the end of the day trail running is a global sport and it’s really easy to jump on a plane and fly to a race in the US etc.

10. You seem to be a runner that escapes major injury time – what’s your approach to physical preservation?

I try do a bit of cross training like mountain biking etc. I do a lot of core work and spend a lot of time keeping my ‘wheel alignment straight’ i.e. I see a Physio, Chiro, Lynotherapist, Massage and Biokinetisist regularly. 

11. How many ultras do you think, in peak form, your body could handle in a year?

3-4 a year .. maybe 5 at a push.  

12. Beyond winning the TNF100, what are you targets in the next year or so?

I am running Western Sates 100 in June and would love to line up at UTMB soon. 

13. You’re sixty kays in, the hurt is there…where is the Sandes’ mind at – take me through some honest moments of where you’re at mentally, what demons come to you in particular while out there on trail and what you lean on for inspiration to get you through?

Running in an individualist sport but I feel I am running for more than just me…I focus on the surroundings and try and keep my mental attitude as positive as possible. Luckily I am normally running in the most beautiful parts of the world so the hurt is not too bad.

Thanks Ryan, good luck on the weekend at The North Face 100. Remember: 9 hours 19 mins and 05 seconds is your mark…

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