13 Lessons: UTA mid-pack perspective

Everyone loves hearing the inspirational feats of the elite runners. Our jaws drop as we hear the winner’s time (9.20…how is that even possible?). But what went down in the middle of the pack? Is there anything to learn from those runners for whom a silver buckle is a distant dream?For anyone who is more likely to crawl up the Furber Steps than sprint, and who maybe had a little meltdown on Nellies stairs, this is for you. Here are some lessons from middle of pack runner Nicki Letts from www.runoldgirlrun.com:Taking in the View at the top of Tarros Ladders

  1. Plan nothing else for the day

Stop seeing the run as race, and instead think of it as something you are doing for the day. As explorer Lawrence Oates famously said, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Okay, he never returned, but the point is 100km is a bloody long way. Accept that this is something that will take all day and night. Once you can get your head around this, the rest of these lessons are a breeze.

  1. Choose accommodation close to the start/finish line

The last thing you want to worry about is how to get to and from the start/finish line. Especially if you don’t have a support crew. We stayed at Katoomba Falls Caravan Park, less than 1km from Scenic World (book early!). Walking to the KCC and Scenic World is far easier than dealing with shuttles, taxis and car parking. And when your brain isn’t functioning pre- or post-race, easy is exactly what you need.

  1. Get tech tips from the second oldest runner in the field

At T minus 24 hours, we were eating our brekkie in the campsite kitchen when Alf walked in, munching on a bowl of cereal. He quickly pegged us as runners and humbly introduced himself as the second oldest runner in the field, at 73 years old. If this wasn’t inspirational enough, he then taught us how to use the UTA app. Alf told us the app is especially comforting for him, as he could pinpoint his exact coordinates if he wandered off course. Who can argue with that? We downloaded the app.

  1. Invest in the right compression bandage

It’s no secret that UTA guys are strict on the mandatory gear list. We enjoyed a very thorough safety briefing explaining why. But there’s nothing quite like a real-life encounter to drum home the message. On a pre-race morning walk along the trail to Echo Point – the very same track we would be running along – we came across a rather real, big anguish. That’s Latin for snake. And very close to the word ‘anxious’, closer still to the word ‘anguish’. Needless to say, we packed a snake bandaged and passed mandatory gear inspection.Gear Check

  1. Devise a bulletproof nutrition strategy

Ultra runs are really all about the food and drink (and not just the celebratory drinks at the finish line). They can actually be won and lost by fuel choices – or lack thereof. We went into this run knowing what we would be eating and why.

We train with Clif Bars, so that was a no-brainer, and a choice of four flavours meant we wouldn’t get bored. Kooee beef jerky for protein goodness. Mars bars for the later checkpoints when everything starts to taste the same. Electrolytes and salt tablets would keep the cramps at bay. And 2 minute noodles would provide the perfect mix of salt, sugar and warmth at the final checkpoints. Admittedly, we don’t train with 2 minute noodles, but everything else passed the high-energy no-reflux challenge with flying colours.

  1. Drink to your uni days

There’s not a lot of nutrition advice I’d take from my 19-year-old self. Which is why it’s probably surprising that there are two things we consume during the run that once only passed my lips as a hangover cure. The first is flat coke – it gives you all the sugar and caffeine you need for a final push, without any unwelcome bloating. The second is Red Bull. We never drink this stuff, so downing a can at the final water stop gave us wings for the last 5km.

  1. Soak in the views

“The colours are magnificent”, said David King in the Welcome to Country. He hit the nail on the head. I’m not saying you should stop and pull out your selfie stick at every viewpoint, but you are in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots in Australia – if you don’t bask in the views, you might as well be running around your local footy ground.Beating the Sun

  1. 8. Train on stairs 

Confession: when running this two years ago, I had a meltdown in the middle of what’s best described as the waterfall section (Leg 5). I simply wasn’t prepared for that many stairs at that stage of the race. It didn’t help that we were running in the dark and could only hear what we presumed were very beautiful waterfalls (this wasn’t good for bladder control either!). This time, not only did we train for stairs, we made it our goal to get to this section in daylight. Meltdown averted.

  1. Don’t count the Furber Steps

There are 951 uneven stairs climbing up, up and across the finish line of UTA100. But do yourself a favour: do not count them. Sometimes it’s just better not to know.Mt Buller

  1. When all else fails, dance up the hill 

As trail runners, we don’t run with music. We talk or enjoy the silence and the sound of waterfalls (sigh). But there’s nothing like your favourite tunes for a pick-me-up. I carried it the whole way and only used it to pull me out of my darkest moments (specifically between 85-95km).

That said, I am incredibly grateful to my co-midpack-runner, Mat, who told me halfway up the Furber Steps to turn off my music. I did, and my reward was the sound of cowbells and realisation that the end was really, really close.On top of the world CP1-CP2

  1. Hide a treat at the finish line

After 15+ hours of drinking and eating, more food and drink is usually the last thing you crave. But crossing the 100km finish line puts you into a whole new mentality. You want to celebrate before you collapse into a post-run coma. But being a mid-pack runner, there’s no guarantee the bar will still be open when you rock up. That’s why this year we popped a mini bottle of wine and beer into our finish line bag. And man, did it taste good!

  1. Don’t anticipate a good post-run sleep

The night’s sleep after 100km must be the best of your life, right? Wrong. Your brain is asleep but your legs are still out there on the trail. Get ready for a night of twitching, dancing and kicking. They will even start running at one point. You’ll dream about falling over twigs on the trail and wake up in frenzy. Do yourself a favour, enjoy the finish line for a few hours – stretch, relax and cheer other runners across the line. There’s certainly no sleep waiting for you back at the hotel! Oh and if you usually share a bed, warn your co-habitant that they won’t be getting any sleep either.Into the Wild

  1. Forget what you said at the finish line

 Remember when you swore you would never do this ever again? You lied. You’ll stew for a couple of hours/days/weeks. Then the pain will fade. And only the good bits are left. Like when you were running through Leura Falls and the sky turned purple. Or when the volunteer at the final water stop told you to “get out of here, we don’t want you to hang around!” Or when, halfway up the Furber Steps, you were fighting back the tears and the runner behind gave you a pep talk. Or when you grabbed your partner’s hand and sprinted across the finish line to cheers and bells. Oh yes, you’ll be back. And next time, while it will still hurt, you’ll know just how incredible it feels to reach the end.

Read more of Nicki Letts’ musings on a trail running lifestyle at www.runoldgirlrun.com 

RESULTS from UT: http://uta.livetrail.net/classement.php

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Natural Born Hero: Christopher Mc Dougall


He’s the most famous as the author of the-book-every-runner-worth-their-salt-has-read-even-if-it’s-passe-to-now-admit-it: Christopher McDougall, the man behind and featured in the classic run novel ‘Born To Run‘. Travelling to New Zealand for the New Zealand Festival Writers Week being held in Wellington in March (from the 12th), the writer chatted to Trail Run Mag about his new book Natural Born Heroes, his approach to running and its growth in popularity around the world.   

Casting though across your running-related writing, can you talk to the different reasons you have found within others (‘others’ being your subjects of study) as to why they run?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Natural Born Heroes

Think about how weird a spectacle it would be if an alien life form could look down from space and see tens of thousands of humans gathering in cities all over the world to run 26 miles in a giant pack. No other creature acts that way — you don’t see thousands of leopards getting together for a four-hour recreational jog. To me, that speaks to our ancestral roots as long-distance runners. No matter what day-to-day reason we give for getting out for a run, I’m convinced the motivation for all of us is the same: running is our native legacy, our first natural superpower, and some internal instinct never lets us forget.

How and why do you think endurance running can ‘touch’ the average person’s life in a meaningful way?

All you have to do is go for one short run and you’ll have your answer. Who ever came back from a run and didn’t feel better — physically and emotionally? I once asked Anton Krupicka why he runs 200+ miles a week, and he said, “I never came back from a run and thought, ‘Well, THAT was a bad idea.’”

Reading your books, the characters (including yourself) all remain ‘forces of nature’ – that is, they all exhibit in various ways strong personalities, hence the fire and chase for life-inspiration through running – but how does (or could) someone not as full of passion and persistence find their way to a running life?

It’s just playtime. The most addicted runners I know get out there every day because it’s FUN. Focus on fun and you can’t go wrong.Christopher McDougall_Image

Running technique is everything when it comes to maintaining a running life. True or false and why?

Yes, just like in every other human activity, the secret to doing something for a long time is learning how to do it right. Imagine you belly-flopped every time you tried to dive into the pool. Sooner or later you’d get sick of it and give up. Now imagine someone corrected your form and taught you a graceful, pain-less swan dive. You’d want to keep diving forever. Same thing with the way you hit the ground while running.

As a sweeping generalisation, I tend to find that runners are readers – what part do you think literature (high and low) has played in reinvigorating an interest in running?

For a long time, the running bookshelf was pretty slim. All you had were how-to books of generally useless or obvious advice. There still aren’t many really good adventure books about running out there. Adharanand Finn is just about the only writer who’s doing something interesting, and of course there’s always Dean Karnazes’ classic, “Ultramarathon Man.” Otherwise, I think the renewed interest in running is coming from the shift into trail and ultra-racing, which gets people out into the woods and brings a new sense of playfulness to the sport.

Born To Run was published a while back now – how have you seen the dynamic in the ‘trail/nature/adventure/endurance running’ scene(s) change since then?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Born to Run

Yes, there’s been a huge surge in trailrunning, which I think speaks to an embracing of our ancestral roots as hunting-pack animals.

I recently wrote an editorial in Trail Run Mag, where I stated that technique kept me in trail running and that I was on a mission to die on my feet, of old age, while running through the wilderness. What are your thoughts on the notion of it being possible to run until you drop, be that in your 80s, 90s or older?

I saw Tarahumara geriatrics in their eighties and nineties cruising up switchbacks in the thinnest of sandals. If I’m still moving that way at their age, I’ll be happy. I think it’s all about consistency — do a little every day, and you’ll still be going late in life.

In your latest book, Natural Born Heroes, you travel to Crete to investigate endurance feats of a very different nature to those you covered in Born To Run – can you contrast the lessons you took away from Crete as opposed to those from the Tarahumara?

Really, it’s all the same lesson: as humans, we have far more latent strength and endurance than we realize. Once we remember how to release it, we’re ALL capable of remarkable feats.

What has your journey been since Born To Run reached its crescendo of popularity (and must-read status) among the running crowd, in terms of your life journey but also your personal running journey?

I’ve become a lot more like Barefoot Ted, who only runs for fun. I once asked him how on earth he could run a 24-hour Leadville Trail 100 on only 25 miles of training per week, and he said, ‘Because most people are busy practicing pain. I practice PLEASURE. All my runs are enjoyable, so I’m always ready to run more.” That’s become my motto.

A thematic in your latest book is about ‘unlikely types’ becoming heroes by undertaking physically demanding journeys, and also the ability of an individual to find a ‘hero’ within – “The art of the hero is the art of natural movement.” – what lessons have you gleaned about how ordinary folk can go about finding their hero within?Christopher McDougall_Writers Week_Headshot

The first step is to forget about competition and focus on skills. We tend to get all worked up about instant achievement — we all want to get faster and stronger immediately — but I’ve learned that the best way to really access our greatest talents is to forget about instant results and instead focus on the slow process of mastering skills.

How can an Ordinary Joe runner start the journey towards awakening their fascia profunda?

Take off your shoes. Learn how your foot wants to move naturally, without all that cushioning and motion-control gunk in the way, and go from there.

In Natural Born Heroes touch on nutrition and a return to the ancient fatty-meat, low-carb diet which sustained our ancestors until agriculture came to the fore? How do you answer critics crying ‘another fad diet on repeat’ and what does it matter to runners?

It’s not a fad if it’s been around for 2 million years. Humans have thrived on a high fat diet since the dawn of time. The true fad are the white flour/processed sugar which have only been prevalent for the relative blink of an eye.Mt Buller



If I could only give one piece of advice to a runner, it would be… Focus on fun.

My most treasured experience while running was… Pacing Barefoot Ted over the last four hours of his Leadville Trail 100. We had a fantastic party in the woods, and I grew to appreciate him more than ever.

The worst mistake I ever made on a run outing was… I get lost ALL THE TIME, but I’m not sure I’d call that a mistake. More like regular blessings in disguise.

A place I have always wanted to run but am yet to get to is…Auckland, where Lydiard created the entire sport of recreational running, and Percy Cerutty’s old Stotan camps in Australia.

My next big run adventure is…Getting lost all over Wellington when I’m there for the NZ Festival’s Writers Week. I expect to spend half my time wandering happily around with no idea where I’m going.

Postscript: Christopher McDougall is a guest at the New Zealand Festival Writers Week in Wellington in March. He will discuss extraordinary feats of endurance with journalist Rachel Smalley on 10 March, and the true limits of human potential with four-time world champion adventure racer, Nathan Fa’avae, ultramarathoner, Lisa Tamati, and record-breaking Masters runner, Roger Robinson, on 12 March. See festival.co.nz/writersweek for details.

McDougall will also be leading free fun runs open to runners of all abilities on 9, 10 and 12 March. See meetup.com/WellingtonRunningMeetup for start times and meeting points.

GIVEAWAY: We have TWO Writers Week Bookmark Passes (worth $200 each) to giveaway to Trail Run Mag readers. The Bookmark Pass gives you 15 tickets to Writers Week sessions at the Embassy, BATS and Circa theatres, with 40 events to choose from. Bookmark Passes may also be used to secure multiple tickets to a single event; so why not experience Christopher McDougall’s events with your running group?

The first two readers who:

  • email chris@trailrunmag.com with the answer to this question:
    What is the title of Christopher McDougall’s latest book? 
  • Like Trail Run Mag Facebook
  • and who are on our email subscriber list (if not already, you can subscribe via the subscribe field found on our homepage, just under the headline image. Look for this on the home page:
    Screenshot 2016-01-18 12.14.42





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Landscape_Saucony version

Shoe Review: Saucony Nomad TR


This review first appeared in Edition #19 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.

Nomad: a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place, usually seasonally and often following a traditional route or circuit…Saucony-Nomad-TR-Shoes-AW15-Offroad-Running-Shoes-Red-Black-Orange-AW15-S20287-2

With a model stamp carrying that kind of meaning, I just had to try out Saucony’s new Nomad TRs by kicking them along a few of my ‘traditional routes and circuits’.

One thing made me wary at first – the fact that the colourway looks like I’ve had a night on the turps and thrown up all over them didn’t tickle my fancy, but then fashion sense is not my strong point – maybe that’s what all the trail hipsters are wearing these days? Of course, as one trailite buddy pointed out, they actually just look pre-muddied, as though they’d already sloshed through a paddock of mud before being put into the sales box. Instant cred, perhaps?

Other, more important and notably functional aspects noticed before getting them on trail: the sole construction is like nothing else out there and the toe box shape is a new direction for Saucony, especially for those used to slimmer Kinvara architecture.

First, to the grip. Where others look to get traction from spiking things up with bigger (or more) lugs, Saucony has looked to an elongated hexagon made of so-called (nonsensical capitalised marketing claptrap nomenclature alert!) PWRTRAC outsole – a tacky rubber compound that’s “engineered to adapt to various terrain types while providing excellent traction and durability.”

Sure, the rubber is a softer, stickier yet seemingly durable compound, but I think what gives these such awesome grip is the design of the hexagons and the interlocking between four separate plates of grip. This allows the hexagons to open up as the curved foot lands and then close up as the foot flattens out, effectively making the grip ‘pinch’ the ground as it moves through the impact motion.saucony-nomad-tr-s20287-2

For smoother surfaces – groomed trail, packed dirt, slippery rocks – it works in the same way that road bike tyres have more grip in bitumen than mountain bike tyres: there’s more contact area between rubber and ground. In mud there’s less clogging if any as no ‘cleats’ for mud to get stuck between. But whereas a road bike is useless in the mountain biking off road territory, take the Nomads off road and their grip remains strong on most trails. Sticky wet, claggy clay is the only kryptonite, but then that is a hard ask for any shoe and who wants to run in it?

In terms of ride, the Nomand offers a highly agreeable balance between cushioning and response. It runs firm enough so as not to feel unstable on semi-technical terrain, but also runs forgivingly on flatter, smoother trails. In many ways this is a door-to-trail shoe, given the mix of comfort and flatter grip, yet it can easily push deeper into wilderness than most other door-to-trail offerings, making it more versatile than most trail shoes.

No rockplate means where it starts to struggle is in the steeper, more technical stuff where sharp rocks are a puncture and bruise problem. Even so, those with strong technique will be able to take these to the very edge of roughness.Mt Buller

The shoe does have a ‘heavier’ feel to it – not by the grams as much as in how it feels on the foot, in the same way a Brooks Cascadia feels like it has a little beef. For those who like a feeling of some structure especially around the rear if the shoe, this may be a good thing.

Then there’s the new up-front expansion, in terms of the toe box widening out (unlike Saucony’s traditionally more narrow toe box, especially the Kinvara). The Nomad sports what they refer to as an oblique, toe-shaped last.  It’s a wider fit in the tradition of the Altra brand, although not quite as big. Where the Saucony trumps the Altra is that from the midfoot to the rear it reverts to a more average corridor width coming back into a snug heel. Just because you have a flatter, wider slab of meat up front doesn’t mean you have fat ankles. To me this fits with a broader range of foot shapes, gives a much firmer overall fit, and also allows for the swell of the forefoot on longer and ultra runs.

The drop is a lower end 4mm but the stack height 22mm at the heel and 18mm at the front, is where the cushioning is found. So a good shoe for those trying to transition to a forefoot strike but liable to get lazy and drop technique as tiredness sets in.

Saucony’s Nomad TR – despite a label hinting at homeless wandering – have found a place in my home. Welcome to the tribe… 

Great for: grip, hard-packed dirt and gravel trails, comfort, trail response, those wanting more toe room, long runs
Not-so-great for: hardcore mountains and seriously technical trails
Test Conditions: groomed trails (MTB), fire roads, semi-technical singletrack
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running
RRP: $199.95
Website: www.saucony.com.au
Retailers: The Running Company Clifton Hill and Geelong www.therunningcompany.com.au

Landscape_Saucony version 



EDITORIAL: Technique of Ages

Technique is about the little things, but also about the big things, like keeping you in the game in the first place, says TRM Australia Editor, Chris Ord. [This is the AU Editor’s editorial from the recently released TRAIL RUN MAG #19, out now. Download for FREE here.]Mt Buller

A general thirst for adventure led me to trail running. But technique has kept me in trail running.

I was a generalist outdoorsman – expert at nothing, dabbler in everything. Trekking, paddling, mountain biking…whatever it was, so long as it was in the Great Outdoors.

Blame a youth spent in scouts under a scout master who threw notions like uniforms, badge collecting and honouring the Queen and Country out of the tent flap in favour of midnight madness mega-hikes and coasteering without ropes or helmets. Thanks for that, Dad (he’d never get away with it these days).

If there was a running influence, perhaps it was that same scout master (I was never allowed to call him Dad, it had to be his scout name – Suba – taken from the first half of the name of his work car. His lieutenant’s name was, of course, Roo). Suba/Dad punched out eight or so Melbourne Marathons in his day. Never broke three and a quarter, however (3:17 was his peak performance). Perhaps the trail thing was seeded obliquely back in a youth spent cross-country running, the only sport I was anything better than below average at.

But I was not a runner. At least I didn’t call myself a runner.IMG_6184

So when I came to trail running – not much prior to the beginnings of this magazine – I had long lost the elasticity and supernatural recovery powers of youth. I loved being out on trail, in the bush, an environment in which I had spent so much time. But my running was hopeless. I could headstrong it through the distance. But I soon paid the price of absolute ignorance: ongoing, unabated injury. ITB was the worst, but my knees felt like I had severe osteoarthritis (or what I imagine that to feel like) – something akin to metal grinding and ceasing. It sounded bad, it felt worse. Running to the top of some steps I clearly remember stopping, and inching down like a decrepit old man. I was in my mid thirties at the time. My boss of the day bounded off ahead. He was around the same age. I thought that was me done with running before I even really started. That realisation was wrenching. I wanted to run. I’d spent a mid-life doing all sorts of adventurous things, but not running. And now I’d found it (or rediscovered it if you count the cross country), I wanted it badly.

So I did what any idiot runner does. I bulldozered on through the pain. I ran anyway. No idea why things just got worse. No idea why I didn’t consult anyone. Not a physio, not a biomechanist, not a coach of any description. Not even a running buddy.

Then I did what any other runner does do. I consulted not someone, but something. Hello Doctor Google.

Now, Medi-Googling is not to be recommended. But somehow it did indeed start the journey to rehabilitation by exposing me to one important thing: the idea of technique. I didn’t even know there was such a thing – as stupid as that sounds. I read up on how to run, even though I thought I knew. I mean, we run from the day we can walk, why do we need to learn any more about it? Okay, if you’re an elite, I would accept that technique makes you faster. But I wasn’t trying to get faster, I just didn’t want my knees to lock up whenever I took ten paces.

Following the black hole of tangents that can swallow days on the Internet, I ended up reading about form, Chi running, gait, cadence, barefoot, body position, breathing, core, arm swing. And I took none of it in. This is the danger of the Internet: awash with so much information, yet so little of it sinks in.

One thing that did stay with me was the danger of overstriding and heel strike. I leant forward a little. I started stepping on my mid-to-fore foot. Smaller, more nimble steps. It felt awkward, wrong, laborious. But then I left the screen and started my studies in real life. On a hill in Victoria, I watched elite runner Matt Cooper glide through the bush. Easy, with grace, and a smile. I wanted to float like he did.

In the mountains of Nepal, I watched, me the broken runner still ascending on an out and back, ultra star Lizzy Hawker springing down the boulder field, rock to giant rock, her wrists limp, arms out in front like a kangaroo, feet tap dancing. It was a flow of easy, efficient movement I instantly likened in my mind to Fred Astaire, Singing in the Rain. This at 4000 metres and 100km along the trail. She, too, was smiling.

And so it was that I decided to take my running lessons in the school of observation. I soaked up other’s technique  – watching, feeling, and admiring. I chose my subjects by their lightness of being and their smile.

I banked away in my mind images of those runners. On a downhill bomb, I’d project visions of Lizzy’s (and Fred’s) dancing onto my own technique. Weaving along flowing singletrack, I’d get my shoulders back, engage the core, float over the earth, just like Coops. And, of course, I’d smile.

For me it was not about speed, nor winning, nor times, or even comparing performance against performance. It’s not even about being the best runner I can be, in a way.

What it has been about is seeking a more natural, effortless flow so that I may tap into and enjoy the more ethereal aspects of running: the seeing, the smelling, the feeling. If I make it easy on the effort, through technique, I get to relax and enjoy the ride a whole lot more.

And it’s about longevity. I’m not alone in not getting any younger. And the older I get, the more aware I am of my limited lifespan. Not just generally, but specifically as a runner. And my worry is that my lifespan as a runner will end before my lifespan as a human. And I don’t want that. I want to die on my feet. Running. In the wilderness. With a smile on my face. Thankful for the technique that allowed me to pass away while still moving freely in the environment that makes me feel so alive. Yes, I’ll die running and smiling wildly. Until that time, I’ll keep watching others who radiate effortlessly through nature and try my best to follow in their footsteps, so light they are.

Your observant editor,
Chris Ord, AU

Mt Buller

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Singletrack on the sly

This editorial appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.

Rebellion hath furthered many a righteous cause. And sometimes I’m glad that there are rebels in our midst risking angry lectures from park rangers at best, prosecution at worst, to forge new singletrack under a canopy of anonymity.

Those who are by day law-abiding, tax paying, voting citizens, become by night (or weekends, or days off), environmental vandals – as the grey suits sitting in grey boxes in grey-walled offices with grey views of the world would likely charge. That is, if they ever caught those singletrack vigilantes who steal into particular patches of wilderness, eyeing off the rise and fall of the land like a Howard Roark character gone wild, before pitching their shovel into the earth and getting dirt on their hands. All in the name of delivering the alchemy of science, art, elbow grease and risk that is guerilla trail building.291114_SamuelCostin_ full

I know a friend of a friend of friend who has worked on the legitimate side of trail building but now lurks on the shadowier side. He is approaching bald, hair left in meeting room after meeting room where he met with nothing but incomprehension, disinterest, intractability, and indeed hostility at the idea of building trails through suitable stretches of wilderness. Shock horror – he (and we all) wanted people to actually enjoy the environment. Not through a screen. But in person.

While certainly we need rules and regulations for society to function, sometimes those bureaucratic black and legislative whites don’t pass the muster of logic, context or flat out reasonable-ness. And so civic disobedience has its place and sometimes that place is in the bush because a culture of risk aversion, red tape and burdened process often grinds any moves to open up recreational access to a frustrating halt.

So now the singletrack shadowman, in complete anonymity and with a belief we all have a right to enjoy wild places, builds trails as he pleases. 

Now, I’m not arguing that we should all be off ripping into national parks willy nilly, bashing spades into the dirt at the environment’s peril.  We’re environmentalists, too. This particular individual has the nous and knowledge to only build sustainable tracks in areas he knows are tied up in bureaucratic nonsense rather than any real environmental concerns. For the most part, few of us would have the skills and thus most of us should remain on the right side of the law.

But as knowers of the landscape, runners also understand a little footfall through large swathes of forest hurts no-one. If brumbys and cattle can run in the high country – backed by (to the writer’s mind and on ground experience patently false) arguments of minimal impact – then the impact of the odd runner sticking to a snaking path is beyond negligible. We don’t eat the bush (unless you’re Beau Miles – reference his Trail Muse piece later in this edition), we don’t hoove up the ground, nor destroy fragile peats, bogs or pummel riverbanks to the point of destroying whole river and billabong ecologies. No, we just run though, smile, appreciate, get back home and tell ourselves we’ll do whatever is necessary to maintain the nature of the nature we love to be in.
Trail Run Magazine

The tide is turning, of course, as a new generation moves through the ranks of public and park services. They now ride and run, too. They ‘get it’. And with that turning tide comes greater collaboration with the communities who believe access to areas of wilderness isn’t a gift we are selectively given, but a right we should be given by those caretakers we, as taxpayers, employ.

Sometimes that collaboration just involves turning a blind eye to the odd bit of creative permanent wayfinding – “must be a busy roo run (chuckle).” We’re also sure there are some singletrack saviours fighting the good fight from within the system, keeping a sideways eye on those out there tilling under the moonshine, each in tacit agreement that all shall be done with an eye to environmental responsibility.

I’m no anarchist (unless you count my past working for the Ramblers’ Association in the UK as being employed by a vigilante trails group – they were borne of an access protest that ended in incarceration, as it happens), but I believe a little activism is sometimes warranted in fighting for what Parks Victoria herald as: Healthy Parks, Healthy People. Its slogan, of course, implies that getting more people into nature is the aim of the game, one with which we trail runners fervently agree. To do that, however, you need to have access. For access you need trails.  Legal trails preferably, but in the absence of land management motivation, what’s a renegade trail hound to do…?

Your bureaucracy fatigued AU editor, Chris Ord

NB: I reiterate the point, I’m expressly NOT encouraging you all to head out to start blithely building trails! No, no, no…but if you find one, may as well run it.

This editorial appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.


Off the back of the editorial above, we received a strong right of reader reply, one that indeed made us rethink our editorial in some respects, and one we thought had some extremely valid points within. It was enough to shift our thinking some, and we’re okay with admitting that we (I – AU Editor), wrote in haste, with emotional drivers and language, which resulted in an inflammatory and perhaps reckless piece. However, we believe the piece and more importantly the reply below, brings to light some excellent thinking from the reader, so we’ll leave both here published, to show how one man’s rant can be another man’s call to order and correction. Simply, I got schooled. And that’s not a bad thing. We’re more than happy to further the debate and shift our thinking accordingly. Thanks to J, the reader who submitted (identity has requested to remain anonymous as he works in the land management sector and need not be linked back to his particular position in such):

J: No, no, no. The mate of a mate of a mate, who used to be “in the system” and now isn’t, is no longer aware of the planning surrounding the landscapes he is building in. That chunk of land that is “held up by bureaucratic bickering” (or so he remembers) may now be a centerpiece of a plan of ecosystem connectedness, but old mate wouldn’t have a clue. The wild places that we run in support a lot more important processes than allowing people to run on quieter trail.

This piece sounds like it is romanticizing illegal trail building and trivializes the impacts of it. Encouraging people to run on known illegal trails that they see means adding to the problems that the trails present. I wonder, how are the readers supposed to tell if the ghost trail in front of them was built by your trail fairy mate who has the Midas touch or if it was built by johnny-cum-trailrunner dude who reckons “there’s a rad line over some sketchy rocks, like in Killian’s videos” (incidentally skink habitat) that all of us dooooods just have to film with our gopro set ups.

This is so important that I will get specific about what I think is dangerous about the piece. I think you guys do a good job of covering events and other stuff that I’ve seen, and I know this is an opinion piece, and I am happy to see that you welcome other points of view. So here is what I find scary:

“…the idea of building trails through suitable stretches of wilderness.” — Wilderness has a pretty specific definition in most areas of Australia. Are you really talking about cutting unauthorised trail in wilderness areas? If so, this is so sad that I want to throw up on my keyboard here!

“This particular individual has the nous and knowledge to only build sustainable tracks in areas he knows are tied up in bureaucratic nonsense rather than any real environmental concerns”. — Please let us know how this conclusion was arrived at. Parks are managed as a system, a mosaic of assets, not individual chunks of land. Among so many other issues of interconnectedness, in this system there are offsets being allocated, which means the relative ecological significance of sites is in flux. Does you mate have access to this information on a weekly/monthly basis? Is your mate an expert on all flora and fauna in the country, migration routes, indigenous heritage and hydrology? I can already answer that question, no, he is not. No one person is adequately credentialed to make that kind of call, the bureaucracy acknowledges that, and I am glad.

“But as knowers of the landscape, runners also understand a little footfall through large swathes of forest hurts no-one”. — A bit of footfall (ie random off track exploration) and cutting a “snaking path” are different things entirely. I think this sentence either over-estimates the knowledge most runners have of “landscape” or underestimates how complex and fragile our ecosystems are… probably both.

“The tide is turning, of course, as a new generation moves through the ranks of public and park services. They now ride and run, too. They ‘get it’.” — What is this based on? The best trail runner Australia has even seen was a park ranger. [Ed’s note: Andy Kromar, for those wondering]

“No, we just run though, smile, appreciate, get back home and tell ourselves we’ll do whatever is necessary to maintain the nature of the nature we love to be in.” — This doesn’t make sense to me. You espouse “I’m expressly NOT encouraging you all to head out to start blithely building trails! No, no, no…but if you find one, may as well run it. “, so one thing that we won’t do is take time to check and then run only on sanctioned trails, and trust that hundreds (or thousands) of environmentally conscious (and mostly specifically educated) people whose job it is to protect our natural areas, might have a broader perspective on the importance of the condition of our local park?

“… getting more people into nature is the aim of the game, one with which we trail runners fervently agree. To do that, however, you need to have access.” — I get the impression that what is happening by the shovel of your mate is the extension of existing trail networks, perhaps some sweet singletrack offshoots of a wider gravel walking trail. If so, he isn’t increasing the number of people who access parks when he does this, instead he makes formerly intact areas less inviting for people to go and look at and be part of, which probably means less people going to look at them and visiting parks at all. Why does he do this? So that people who are active and use parks anyway can have an extra 3km of gnar on their 15km trail loop. Let me know if I’m wrong, but if this doesn’t describe what your mate is doing, it almost certainly describes what other self-appointed “sustainable trail builders” are doing all over the place and we all see it.

This brings up another point, the article sounds as though it authorises us to self-nominate to the group of a “few” who have the “nous” to build sustainable trail because we’ve worked with the environment in some capacity before. So bad!

I understand that you’ve said “most of us” shouldn’t build trail without authority, but that falls waaaaaaay short of my expectations of our community. There is such a thing as trail advocacy, and I’m sorry to hear that you and your mate are tired of the process. Illegal building is not the answer, but more people who read you magazine becoming involved in planning process might be. This piece misses an opportunity to be a call to arms (not literally) for your readers to become more engaged, and instead encourages us to become as disillusioned with the only process that will actually improve an already pretty great situation in the long term. The loser, in the end, is the environment that we cherish the chance to run through.


Ed’s note: Thanks J. Well-reasoned and some great points in there. While I won’t dive back in to reply to some specifics where I still feel I had a point (okay, mostly I got schooled), I will pick up JP’s point about trail advocacy. A great one. I’m actually a member of a trails advocacy group as it happens (which I guess makes the editorial in and of itself even more head-scratching, admittedly. Stay away from late night work and a glass of wine, kiddies). So JP may well say you should know better. So I should. And I too encourage all to volunteer to their local trail group, who work in with ‘the system’ to work towards that balance of protection and access for all.

That said, as in correspondence to J:

“The specific trail/s this piece came off the back of run through areas that in many ways may not be regarded as wilderness, and indeed factually are not ecologically sensitive, as part of any broader system or otherwise. Those within the system admit that while sometimes all your (J’s) reasoning is why trails aren’t and shouldn’t be built, they also admit that there are just as many cases where realistically there’s no reason for a trail not to go through a particular patch, bar economic and risk (not enough money for land managers to upkeep, no enabled way for volunteers to be empowered to take management of that trail upkeep, and the aversion to perceived risk of litigation. In terms of actual impact on environment, there are absolutely examples where trails would be fine. More broadly however, I agree with your well-made arguments – the system exists for very valid reasons, and in the main does very much more positive, beneficial work. And you are right if it’s a choice of unchecked impacts versus no access, no impact regardless of perceived ‘rights’ of access, then I guess no access is the lesser of two evils (rather a strong word… there’s no evil in any of this on either side of the debate).

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” ― Michel Legrand

Larapinta strip

Records smashed at Surf Coast Century

It was a record breaking day at the 2015 Surf Coast Century ultra trail run in Anglesea on Saturday 19 September with the men’s, women’s and relay team course records all broken.

First over the finish line in the 100km event was team Love the Run, taking line honours for the third year in a row and setting a new course record of just 7hrs,15.41. That set the tone for the day.Ellie_Emmerson

Paul Munro from Melbourne paced himself brilliantly for the first 75km to creep to the lead in the final leg and finish strongly, winning the 100km in 8hrs,17.08. He broke the previous individual course record by over 8 minutes, which had been set by Rowan Walker in the first year of the event in 2012.

“I was seeded number one today which added a bit of pressure but I ran the whole way and was feeling pretty good. I made sure my stops were quick and just kept moving through.

It wasn’t until a couple of k’s to go that I realised I was in the running for the course record so I tried to push a bit harder to see if I could break it and I’m really happy with how it all went today.

It’s great to have such a large field here and thanks to everyone for all the encouragement along the course, especially my partner Anna and other support crew members. It’s such a great atmosphere here at the finish,” said Paul Munro.

Behind Munro was Ross Hopkins from Mansfield in 8hrs,44.40 – who improved on his fifth placing in 2014 – and then third male (fourth overall individual runner) was Michael Rathjen, a newcomer to the event, who finished in 9hrs,21.25.

Kellie Emmerson, last year’s female winner and current women’s course record holder, stole the show. She was untouchable as she powered through the 100km, absolutely blowing the rest of the field away. She set a new women’s course record in a smashing time of 9hrs,18.15, finishing 11 minutes faster than last year and nearly an hour ahead of her nearest rival. Not only that, she also finished third overall individual in the 100km, a fantastic feat.Paul_Munro_2

She was overcome with joy and swamped by friends at the finish line.

“Everyone has been amazing with the support on course, especially my crew, you’re awesome,” said Kellie Emmerson.

Amy Lamprecht from Tasmania finished second to Emmerson in a repeat of last year’s results. Lamprecht finished in 10hrs,10.07 with Marlene Lootz from Western Australia rounding out the top three in a time of 10hrs,40.30.

This year the event also incorporated the Australian 100km Trail Running Championships under the guidance of the Australian Ultra Running Association.

Paul Munro and Kellie Emmerson have rightly claimed the prestigious National Titles following their stellar Surf Coast Century performances.Larapinta strip

In total, over 800 runners competed in the Surf Coast Century, across the 100km solo, 50km solo and the 100km relay team events.

The race started at sunrise on the Anglesea Main Beach with runners enjoying a stunning course consisting of bush and 4WD trails, flowing single track, sandy beaches, coastal headlands and breathtaking cliff top trails with seemingly endless views across the Great Ocean Road region.

The 50km half century included legs 1 and 2 of the course which took runners on a loop from Anglesea to Torquay along the beach and then back again via the coastal hinterland trails and Surf Coast Walk. New Caledonian runner Cocherau Oswald took the field by surprise and won the event in just 3hrs,33.03. In second was Tim Oborne from Queensland and then Fergus Koochew.Surf_Coast_Century_Leg_1

In the women’s event nobody stood a chance against former World Orienteering Champion Hanny Allston from Tasmania who had a clear win in 3hs,43.56. Behind Allston was Karen Sharman and in third was another visiting New Caledonian, Plaire Angelique.

The second half of the 100km course featured more single track and bush trails as runners took a second loop from Anglesea to Moggs Creek, and returning to Anglesea via the coastal trails and surf coast beaches.

The course received rave reviews from competitors.

“It’s the first 100km I’ve ever run and I’m really stuffed. I loved it. The course was awesome, just a mix of everything. The beach at the start at sunrise… it doesn’t get any better than that. It was a perfect morning. Then you go off into this awesome single trail for the next 50km which is just unbeatable as you snake in and out. Then the run home past Aireys Lighthouse is picture perfect, it’s the Great Ocean Road on a plate really,” said Michael Rathjen.

Many runners finished in the dark with just a head torch to light their way through the coastal trails. After the many hours on their feet they were treated with fairy lights to guide them back down Anglesea Beach and through the finish arch to the crowd of loving family and friends waiting to cheer them home.Mt Buller

Brendan Soetekouw, a member of the local Surf Coast Trail Runners, finished after sunset in a time of 13hrs,48.24.

“It was awesome. I had a tough day, particularly on Leg 2 and I really had to refocus and start afresh for Leg 3. It’s such a mental effort but the body held up alright so I couldn’t be happier.


Male 100km solo
1. Paul Munro 08:17:08
2. Ross Hopkins 08:44:40
3. Michael Rathjen 09:31:25

Female 100km solo
1. Kellie Emmerson 09:18:15
2. Amy Lamprecht 10:10:07
3. Marlene Lootz 10:40:30

Male 50km solo
1. Cochereau Oswald 03:33:03
2. Tim Oborne 04:08:50
3. Fergus Koochew 04:14:00

Female 50km solo
1. Hanny Allston 03:43:56
2. Karen Sharman 04:32:59
3. Plaire Angelique 04:34:51

Top male team of 2:
Burning Sensation (Grant Hicks and Chris Armstrong) 09:50:48

Top female team of 2:
The Merri-Jigs (Christine Hopkins and Katherine McKean) 09:42:12

Top male team of 4:
Love the Run 07:15:41
(Campbell Maffett, Agustin Scafidi, Tim Bryant and Aidan Rich)

Top female team of 4:
Licorice Legs 09:14:18
(Michelle Keogh, Bernadette Dornom, Sharon Hanna and Eiblin Fletcher)

Top mixed team of 4:
Surf Coast Mammas 13:21:36
(Sally Connor, Denise Satti, Annella Chambers and Anita Nichols)

This is the fourth year of the Surf Coast Century and it has really developed a strong reputation amongst the Australian and international trail running community. Approximately 130 runners came from interstate or overseas for this year’s event and this number is expected to increase again in 2016 as again, it will host the Australian Titles.

For the full event results visit www.SurfCoastCentury.com.au


Surf Coast hosts 100km Trail Run Champs

FROM NEWS RELEASE: This year the Australian 100km Trail Running Championships will be contested at the Surf Coast Century on Saturday 19th September, starting and finishing at Anglesea, Victoria, in the famous Great Ocean Road region.

The event has become a mainstay on the ultra marathon circuit. After three years it has built a reputation as one of Australia’s must-do trail running events and approximately 20 percent of this year’s 800 competitors are from interstate or overseas.

The winner of the Surf Coast Century 100km solo event will automatically be crowned the Australian 100km Trail Running Champion, providing extra incentive to interstate competitors.

Paul Munro from Melbourne is expected to finish on the podium again this year. Munro finished third in 2014 and is currently in great form, having won the recent Run Larapinta Stage Race in Alice Springs. Other contenders for podium are Mathieu Dore and consistent high performer Ross Hopkins.SCC_Kellie_Emmerson
In the women’s event all eyes will be on last year’s 100km female winner Kellie Emmerson (pictured above), who set a new women’s course record in 9hr,29.32. Emmerson finished 19th female – and 1st Australian female – at the 2015 World Trail Championships in France in May so she’ll be tough to beat. However Amy Lamprecht from Tasmania who finished second to Emmerson last year will be back to challenge her again.

The 100km course can be completed by individual runners or relay teams (of up to 4 competitors). There’s also a 50km solo option that makes the step into ultra-distance races a bit easier for those not quite ready to tackle the full 100km.

The women’s 50km event will be hotly contested by last year’s winner Lucy Bartholomew, who finished in 4hr,32.04, and 2006 World Orienteering Champion Hanny Allston from Tasmania.

The Surf Coast Century course is a beautiful run in a beautiful part of the world. It provides plenty of variety to keep runners excited, access for spectators and support crews, a few challenging hills but also a few rewards and easy kms. It’s an ideal introduction to ultra trail running.

The course is a figure 8 with Anglesea being the start, half way point, finish and the event hub. The race starts as the sun comes up on Anglesea main beach and the course features renowned surf beaches, clifftop trails, sweeping single track, lighthouses, waterfalls, scenic lookouts, remote wilderness and almost everything in between.

The 100km course is basically split into 4 different legs, the end of each leg being a checkpoint where teams may interchange to another member, receive support from support crews and race officials and tick off another milestone of this challenging event. Each leg is also quite different from the others, with its own range of landscapes and terrain through which the course passes – retaining interest for individuals and providing team runners the chance to choose a leg that suits them.surfcc14_02412

Salomon Leg 1, 0km – 21km
Leg 1 of the Surf Coast Century starts on the beach at sunrise and takes runners on a beautiful 21km journey from Anglesea to Torquay. Highlights along the way include the towering Anglesea cliffs, rock hopping at Red Rocks, Point Addis Beach, the famed Bells Beach and plenty of rock pools. It’s almost flat from start to finish.

Active Feet Leg 2, 21km – 49km
Leg 2 basically follows the Surf Coast Walkand other coastal walking tracks and trails along the clifftop from Torquay back to Anglesea. Runners will enjoy some magnificent views before hitting the single track wonderland of Eumeralla at the 33km point, and then will ultimately descend back to the beach to finish in Anglesea.

Hammer Nutrition Leg 3, 49km – 77km
Leg 3 is the hilliest leg of the race and the crux of the course, feature some more remote sections of coastal bushland and a mixture of single, 2WD and 4WD tracks. There are several significant climbs but runners will be rewarded with what is arguably the best trail running loop in the Otways – a flowing single track that climbs gradually up the valley past Currawong Falls to a trig point on the ridge at the 67km on Love’s Track, and descending down into Ironbark Gorge on the other side. This section finishes at the Moggs Creek picnic area.

AY UP Lighting Systems Leg 4, 77km – 100km
The final leg provides more single track through tall timber forest to emerge at the best lookout on the coast (in the Event Manager’s opinion anyway) on Ocean Views Ridge above Moggs Creek at the 79km point. Heading towards home, runners will pass the majestic Aireys Inlet Lighthouse, run along Urquhart Beach and re-join the Surf Coast Walk before the final descent onto the Anglesea Main Beach and into the finish line at Anglesea Riverside Park.

To register or find out more about the Surf Coast Century 2015 visit


Shoe Review: Salomon SLAB X Series

Does Salomon’s cross-over shoe have the The X-Factor? TRM steps to the dark side and trials a shoe that takes the dirty secrets of our trail world and transfers them to…(cough)…the road*.

*No roads were actually run in the making of this article. The tester couldn’t bring himself to it. Testing remained on trail and fire ROAD. There, we said it. We did it. This review first appeared in Edition #16 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.

Offended or intrigued? I’m not sure which to feel. They sent me a road shoe.

A road shoe goddam it! That’s like sending Kryptonite to Superman, or yellow daisies to the Green Lantern (yellow nullifies his super powers, according to my research). Not that my trail running displays any sign of superhero-ness to be de-powered in the first place, of course. Unless you count someone with all the running prowess of Star Wars’ C3PO as a super trail runner type.

But a road shoe? From a brand at known best for their trail running clobber? Seriously…? Okay I’m curious enough to lace up.

So what have we here in the Salomon SLAB X Series, then? Certainly looks like a trail runner. Or in the least like most of the other Sense series shoes doing the singletrack rounds and indeed Salomon have sucked the DNA from their other Sense line-up to create a shoe that is their first foray into the road market. Why? Because of City Trail, that’s why. This is a new movement, for lack of a better word, that bridges road and trail running by trying to replicate the trail running style in an urban environment: constant gear shifts in effort with more technique involved as you traverse changeable urban surfaces. Think tight and twisty cornering through back alleys and play parks matched to a multitude of surfaces from smooth gravel, paving stones, brick, concrete and road asphalt with plenty of ups and downs entailing stairs and short hillocks found in undulating cityscapes. It’s kind of a hyper road run style or, alternatively viewed, a sedated trail running experience.Screenshot 2015-08-03 11.09.00

So what is the deal with the shoes made to pace us through jungles of concrete?

The signature red paint job, super lightweight construction, string-thin pull-tight lace system, and to be fair, the superior instant comfort that Salomon is rightly known for, all are there in spades.

The main injection of change comes first in the upper featuring a 2-way lycra, which is very stretchy and lets feet spread out as they swell over the longer distance (and a result no doubt of harder pounding). The upper is also super breathable, perfect for combating the fact you’ll likely get hot slabs as you speed over warmed asphalt.

The Endofit construction gives a sock-like feel, wrapping around to hold your foot securely in place.  I reckon Salomon have always been good at minimising foot movement inside their shoes while still giving decent room up front for toe splay, a delicate balance.

As a road-marketed shoe, the 19mm heel to 11mm forefoot delivering an 8mm drop gives good stack height for added padding, yet maintains that midrange heel-toe to attempt to keep you on your forefoot with good feedback from what’s happening below.

The mid sole is different to the trail cousins built sans rockplate (or Profeel film equivalent in many Salomons) and with a much softer heel it adds up to what has been described as ‘buttery’ ride.

That butter analogy doesn’t extend to any slip and slide on the outside, however, the Contra-Grip package – Salomon’s own grip solution – featuring multi direction lugs giving more grip that most road shoes. The grip channels underfoot are deeper, while the horseshoe-like heel gip is soft and spongy, ready to combat harder impact running for the heel strikers. Overall, traction on the liquorice allsorts surfaces found in city environments is superb.

Mt Buller

Click on the image to DOWNLOAD the latest edition (17) of Trail Run Mag for FREE!

Looking back, Salomon actually led the reverse crossover from trail back to road establishing the idea of door-to-trail running, where a shoe was needed to be able to cope with the wide-ranging demands of both dirt and concrete as runners left their suburban front door striking out in search of dirt trail for at least part of their run – the realities of city lifestyles and limited time.

Although this shoe is sold with a story of ‘urban adventuring’, I thought it remiss not to test the to-trail aspect. What I found is that they are actually a versatile shoe, well suited to moderate singletrack and fire trails and any dirt munching that is relatively consistent in terms of being non technical. They fill that gap where the other Sense models with meatier lugs would be uncomfortable on more regular terrain.

When the going is relatively smooth – be it dirty or concrete clean – these shoes come into their own. They feel comfortable enough for long hauls, yet remain light and floaty enough to give your a racer feel.

I did also venture onto more technical (if soft underfoot) trails and they performed as well as any other mid-range trail ranger, handling creek crossings (they drained and dried well), bush carpet and slippery rocks with aplomb.

My only complaint about these shoes (when worn in appropriate context in general – they are no mountain muncher) is that I tended to get hot spots on my outer toes. This, however, would be down to the very personal shape of my own foot versus yours. Most will likely remain comfortable, but do be aware of that zone as a potential problem patch when trying them on in-store.

TAKEOUTS: Salomon SLAB X Series

Great for: door to trail, long training runs on mild terrain, road (cough)
Not-so-great for: mountains and technical terrain|
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track, some fire road and as little actual road as I could do while still getting to grips with their performance on asphalt, 68km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD $209.99
Website: www.salomon.com/au

Screenshot 2015-07-31 16.43.48


Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.21.10 pm

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.21.00 pm

Masters of the Trail: learnings from Yogis

Dan Lewis gets the Jedi mind trick low downs from those wielding the sabres of trail talent…

Brendan Davies, former winner of The North Face 100, says his thick new beard makes him look more intimidating and protects his face from the elements in his native Blue Mountains, but it is not a secret weapon in his bid to win the prestigious race again this weekend.

“It just seems to be all the rage in ultra-trail running now,” Davies said of the hipster-inspired big beard look.photo (9)

That’s just one of the insights delegates got at day two of Australian’s first National Trail Running Conference being held in the Blue Mountains this week in the lead-up to TNF100.

After Race Director’s Day on Tuesday, today was Runner’s Day and Davies’ presentation on how he meticulously prepares for every big race did make you suspect that maybe even the beard on the previously clean-shaven runner was part of his well-planned plot to win a second TNF100 title.

Davies also coaches runners these days through his UP Coaching business and was one of a number of presenters at the conference to give his insights into what runners should be doing before, during and after trail running races like TNF100.

Others to share their wisdom included fellow elite runners Hanny Allston and Jo Brischetto, coach Andy Du Bois, race directors Sean Greenhill and Andy Hewat and US medical expert Dr Marty Hoffman.

Together, they covered subject matter such as choosing an event, nutrition and hydration, training, gear, developing an event strategy, psychology, pain and injury and post-race plans.
Some good laughs were had with a striptease designed to show just how silly the obsession with gear can be.

Davies highlighted how different TNF100 and Western States were as trail running races and how different his preparation was for each race.

His hot tip for this weekend’s TNF100 is wear trail shoes with some gnarly tread – “almost football boot studs” – because a lot of those Blue Mountains trails are still super muddy from heavy autumn rains.TNF13_aurora_02 (1)

Here are some other things that were learned from the day:

  • * Hanny Allston thinks 18 months ahead with her racing and ranks races as As, Bs and Cs. She tries to run just two A races a year where she gives it everything she’s got while the C races are basically treated as training run.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of always wanting to make the next race longer and harder than he one before.
  • For every 10km you run in a race where you performs to your optimum ability you need a week to recover, says Allston, so that’s 10 weeks for TNF100 runners.
  • Don’t just run the big ones like TNF100, support your small, local races as well.
  • On training runs of up to three or four hours you shouldn’t consume calories because you want to train your body to burn fat during races so it needs fewer calories.
  • “You are kidding yourself” if you think there’s big performance advantages from the electrolytes in energy drinks, says Dr Marty Hoffman. And pre-loading hydration before a race is also futile because the human body can’t store excess water.
  • Just drink to thirst – that’s going to provide you with adequate hydration. If you are not thirsty and your urine is clear before a race then you are adequately hydrated.
  • Drinking too much water causes hyponatremia, which can be deadly.
  •  Judging hydration levels based on the colour of your unine during races is futile, Hoffman says, because hormones produced during running can make your urine look like you are dehydrated when in fact you have hyponatremia.
  • When it comes to hydration and nutrition, “listening to your body is really he key”, Hoffman says.
  • Maintain a high-carb diet in the week leading up to a race but don’t start the race with a bloated stomach full of food, says Andy Du Bois,
  • You can develop the necessary glycogen stores for a big race just by eating a normal diet.
  • The TNF100 has more than 4000m of climbs and descents and Sydney runners who think training on the Spit to Manly track is good enough preparation are kidding themselves, says Du Bois.
  • To perform well in TNF100 you need to do a lot of training on steps.
  • On your long training runs, make sure your pace is similar to what your race pace will be.
  • Walking and running are very different skills and unless you think you can run up all the steps in TNF100 your training should include lots of walking up steps.
  • Walk up the steps two at a time in training so doing one at a time will seem easier in the race.
  •  There’s no research show core strengthening exercises like planks and crunches do anything to help your running.
  • Recovery runs should be easy but done on technical surfaces to help loosen all your leg muscles.
  • Jo Brischetto has 17 running packs – “one for every mood”.
  • Bottles are better than bladders because they make it easier to see how much liquid you have consumed.
  • No matter how cool they look, don’t wear ankle socks – they just let in the dirt that causes blisters.
  • Hanny Allston’s running philosophy is: “All in perspective and all in good time.”
  • Jo Brischetto’s favourite racing mantra she keeps repeating to keep herself in the moment is “one perfect step” while a favourite training mantra is “train hard, eat Nutella”.
  • Hanny Allston believes runners shouldn’t set themselves times as it just leads to heightened anxiety during races.
  • Jo Brischetto believes its important to have race goals that aren’t attached to times or places such as getting your nutrition right, avoiding chaffing or being mindful.
    Brendan Davies tells his runners not to look at their watches during races.
  • Marty Hoffman says it’s important to be able to reset goals during a race if things aren’t going to plan so there is still some sense of achievement. Otherwise you feel like “you just screwed up the entire race”.

But our favourite bit of advice was Hoffman’s tip that the rock stars aren’t just at the front of the pack.

“You need to still think of yourself as a rock star in the middle or the back of the pack.”


Shoe Review – La Sportiva Bushido

The Bush Warrior

Bushido – the way of the warrior – or Bush-I-do? Choosing between an Italian shoe company appropriating a Japanese cultural concept and my misappropriation, I’d prop for the latter. And it’s an apt because the La Sportiva Bushidos do all kinds of bush, from sandy coastal scrub to high alpine snow gums and everything inbetween – the rockier the better.

The Bushidos are a ruggedly handsome, aggressive midweight trail running shoe that look chunky at first glance – they’ve got a heavily lugged sole, protective plate under the forefoot and a TPU cradle/shank – but when you pick them up they’re lighter than you would expect (298g for a size 9). While not a minimalist model, they do approach the form with a slim(ish) 6mm drop which is balanced by a leaning to more traditional 19mm of foam and rubber under the heel.Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.24


My first run in these shoes is forever etched in my memory: running north from Cape Nelson on the Great South West Walk (down near Portland in Victoria), kicking up clouds of a billion butterflies at every step, the Southern Ocean a gleaming blue monster on my right (if I had Anton Krupicka’s long hair and bare chest it would have been a trail runner’s wet dream). It’s a run that taught me the first lesson about the Bushidos – they’re stiff. Having been running mainly in über lightweight, soft shoes – like the La Sportiva Helios and Asic GEL FujiRacers – my feet were tender after 25km (admittedly, a big hit-out for the first time in a shoe). Even now, many more kilometres, the Bushidos remain quite rigid – pointing toward a preference for steep mountain terrain.

Screenshot 2015-05-09 09.51.42Compared to my usual trail shoes, the Bushidos are very stable to run in – more akin to heavier road shoes but without the weight – and they are a delight on rough technical terrain, where you can bound along with confidence. They are responsive, but at the same time offer plenty of protection.

A lot of my running is done in the Grampians, Victoria, on very rocky surfaces, so the extra protection was noticeable compared to the pounding you can get in something superlight like the Helios. The outer sole lugs provide good grip on both rocky and muddy terrain, while the Frixion rubber (which has its origin in La Sportiva’s long rockclimbing heritage) is extremely sticky and adheres well even to wet rock.

I’ve long delicate foot appendages, such as you find on a well-bred aristocrat or artiste, and the Bushidos – being of Italian origin – fit my feet nicely without being too snug. People with paddles for feet may find them quite narrow, while I’ve read online that they size small (so try before you buy), although I was spot on my normal size. The sock-like mesh inserts add to the nice snug feel of the shoe, although I did find that they seemed to make my feet get quite hot (I get hot feet though). My narrow foot swims around in many shoes, but the TPU cradle and lacing system held my foot nicely in place, even on really steep or snakey terrain. Perhaps because of the stiffness of the shoe, I could feel my heel rub at times, but it was never enough to cause any problems.

For anyone who loves the suppleness of many minimalist shoes, the Bushidos will feel stiff and claustrophobic, but as a heavier runner with weak ankles I have found them excellent, offering great support and protection yet light on the scales. La Sportiva spruik them as ‘sky runners’, and they definitely excel on steep, technical terrain, in the wet or dry, rock or mud.

TAKE OUTS La Sportiva Bushido

Great for: Rough technical trails, the rockier the better; steep mountains.
No so great for: Runners who like super-flexible minimalist shoes or with paddles for feet.
Test conditions: Everything from sandy coastal single track, rocky Grampians’ terrain to muddy snowgum-lined alpine trails. Approx 250km.
Tester: Ross ‘The Flash’ Taylor
Tester mechanics: heavy runner, midfoot striker.

RRP $199.95