Friday 29 May 2015

Trail politics

The text below is not trying to be deliberately provocative. What I am trying to do to is to see both sides of the debate and to bring a global perspective into the context of the recent exchanges, manifestations, boycotts, etc.
It's not about Skyrunning vs trail running either. They are not the same thing and they don’t necessarily need to conflict. They are set on different terrain and they have different values. I am a big, big fan of Skyrunning. For me it's the coolest version of running around, but I know many a trail runner at the World Trail running Championships in Annecy who wouldn't be seen dead on a real Skyrace course, like Kima, for example. Let's just accept that and let’s give both of these versions of off-road running a future. They can both have World Championships, Skyrunning can be more branded, with more money, cash prizes etc, whilst the World Trail Running Championships can be run by a separate non-profit federation with its heart closer to the original Olympic values. Like those held for other sports, the World Trail Championships are about countries competing against each other in a big international event. Whilst Skyrunning and trail running are separate in the nature of terrain and perhaps their respective financing, parallels can also exist - both should not stray into lapped courses, wide tracks or tarmac, for example. And both need a proper system for drug testing.
As sports evolve organisations and federations form. Companies also jump on the band wagon. A growing sport does need to be controlled and organised to a certain level, we all agree on that. As the federations set up their respective series and championships they inevitably don't get it right first time. Take Skyrunning for example. They tried to go global a bit too quickly and as a consequence ended up bringing inappropriate races into their circuit. (Les Templiers is a pure and classic trail race. It has nothing in common with Skyrunning, yet it was included in one of the early world Skyrunning series). The ISF recognised their errors and are now returning to their (originally Italian Alpine) roots with races like the Glencoe Skyline. This evolution however takes time, organisation and a certain amount of trial and inevitably error.

What do I think personally? I think having a World Championships is very good thing. It brings credibility to the sport. National competitions are great. It would be a shame to limit ourselves to “team” competitions being about shoe maker X vs shoe maker Y. I also think that a separated (elite / mass) start is a natural and correct approach for such an event. And finally, I believe that the best races are the most natural ones with lots of small paths, mountains, nature... They can be rough, rocky and a bit dangerous and fit into the Skyrunning category and they can be smoother and more undulating, without necessarily big mountain summits and ridges, and fit into a trail running category. I'll be on the start line of both.

Finally, why am I not in Annecy? I was too late in submitting my request to be considered for GB, and you know the protocols! :-)

So, now for the crux of the debate: Certain "trail celebrities" are boycotting the World Trail Champs this weekend. Why is that? And what is my perspective?
(in bold are some of the arguements we’re hearing. In italics are my thoughts)

Because the Championship start is separated from the mass race start!
- Trail races are about single track. If hundreds or thousands of enthusiastic trail runners funnel straight into a single track it gets messy!

Because I can't wear my branded clothing!
- Is it not a proud moment to represent one's country? Don't worry; the countries don't have to supply the shoes! A Championship race is about one country vs another, it's not about Make X vs Make Y.  Clogs vs Wellington boots.

Because it's "elitist" and controlled by an independent Federation!
- The sport is getting more financial backing; top athletes make money out of it. The sport does need some regulatory bodies and importantly it needs doping control! The IAAF, IAU, etc.. may well have some suit-clad odd-bods who may not be best positioned to determine trail running's future (I’m not saying that necessarily the case :-), but importantly, and contrary to some of the suggested alternatives, it IS an independent organisation. The preference proposed by many athletes seems to be a sport controlled by the shoe and gear manufacturers. Now that feels like a more dangerous future to me. It means a money-controlled future and with money comes mess, we know that. Remember that when certain top trail runners speak, it is not necessarily their natural voice, they could have been hypnotised by their marketing managers.

Because it's too flat and easy!
- The 5 laps of a forest in Wales were a joke and a slap in the face for the sport. Not representative and certainly not a good advert. Trail running is not hamster running. The Annecy course may have been modified, but it is nonetheless one hell of a step in the right direction since the last Championships i.e. no laps, steep mountainous, lot's of single track and some nice views!

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Ultra Lozère

Un weekend avec beaucoup de kilomètres...
L'Ultra Lozère, c'est une façon de visiter le Tarn.

Au départ, on nous explique le parcours !

et voilà, "Go".. et ça monte de suite...

et ça descend - c'est vraiment chouette !

Guillaume prend plaisir dans une première descente !

52km, 2500m et une nuit plus tard,..
maintenant pour la deuxième étape,..
tout le monde semble être frais ?!..

La deuxième journée est beaucoup plus roulante par contre

Avec de beaux passages encore

Je mange pas mal de bananes !

Voilà du roulant !

Podium final. Plus besoin de cacher sa fatigue !

Mais voilà une vraie course, avec de la vraie vitesse !
(mon fils 4ème du 400m - une étape seulement :-)

Et après... la récup, version Tarn

Et un peu de tourisme. L'Aven Armand. Impressionnant !

Bref. Une belle course, à faire !
Résultats :
Petite Vidéo :

Thursday 7 May 2015

Tchimbé Raid : la nuit, un volcan et la jungle

Je résume mon expérience du trail de Tchimbé Raid à travers les quelques petits dessins suivants :
(cliquez pour agrandir !)


Bref, c'est ma façon de dire que c'était autre chose !!

Jusqu'au jour de la course, le 1er mai 2015, je n'avais jamais de ma vie :
- monté un volcan à la frontale
- mangé des patates douces au milieu de la nuit
(c'est une excellente nourriture de ravito d'ailleurs)
- parcouru 92km dans la jungle
- avoir eu l'impression de passer 11h dans un sauna
- autant bu

Quoi dire ? C'était simplement très très dur, mais en même temps c'était vraiment excellent comme experience - je la conseille ! De toute façon, il faut reconnaitre les intentions primaires d'un ultra-runner : voir de nouveaux paysages, faire de nouvelles choses, tester et trouver ses limites de fatigue ! C'est accompli.

Mais ce n'était pas "que" une course. Avec Carole, nous avons profité de l'offre de mes parents pour passer une semaine sans nos enfants - opportunité rare, il faut la saisir ! Donc, cinq jours de liberté pour bien profiter de l'île. Au programme, une ascension du volcan de jour (car dans la course on y passe à 2h du mat !), des balades dans la jungle, dégustation de la cuisine créole (et les boissons :-) et un peu de repos + récup sur les belles plages de l'île.

La jungle

Le Volcan

avec son dénivelé


La vue

La nourriture, fraîche

La nourriture, moins fraîche

Un homme qui a faim sur une plage


Et la boisson de récup locale

Voilà, une bonne course + des bonnes vacances... !

résultats complets )