Sponsor:
TAILWIND NUTRITION - my fuel on long adventures.
For a limited time save 15% off your order with code - MATHIAS.

TAILWIND NUTRITION - my fuel on long adventures.
For a limited time save 15% off your order with code - MATHIAS.

David Smith, iOS developer and Apple Watch fan takes the Apple Watch Ultra on one of his epic hikes to the Scottish Highlands. This is quite a beautiful and a bit lengthy review, not 100% targeting ultra runners, but it gives folks a good idea how the watch performs out in the wild.

Stay for the obligatory ‘Skyfall’ shot.

(Clearly, it’s “Alps-Friday”) in the Electric Cable Car global headquarters.)

The best short films are still the ones produced, funded and marketed by the brands themselves. This one’s by La Sportiva and has absolute gorgeous drone(?) footage of Nadir Maguet grabbing the FKTs on the famous mountains, the Piz Bernina, Ortler, and Grossglockner.

I want someone else to tell me that trail running doesn’t look as sexy, exciting or cool as snowboarding or free climbing. All you need is a drone, a rugged mountain peak, and a blue bird day. Oh, and a protagonist who can run this jagged ridges…

I’m gonna link to that website a second time here.

The tourism office of the canton of Graubünden created a dedicated website just to promote trail running in the area. And the tourist destination considers Graubünden to be one of the best places to run trails. (Well, of course every tourist destination is paid to think and say this.) But nonetheless, there are tourism dollars spend trying to attract trail runners to the area. If you live on the West Coast of the US, let that sink in for a sec.

Clearly with the insane success of UTMB for Chamonix and it’s surrounding towns and valleys, we will see in the coming years lots of attention being directed to ‘trail running’ as an activity, which, doesn’t require special parks, special equipment (like cable cars, gondolas and retrofitted chair lifts to allow bikes to be transported up the mountains). Tourism destinations have been sleeping on trail running as a niche to market to, but I think this will dramatically change in the next few years. Trail running is the perfect low impact sport for a large and diverse group of people from all walks of life.

Currently the Graubünden trailrunning website lists lots of running different events, but none that I would consider internationally well-known.

In a related note: I briefly went to the tourism website for Auburn, CA, and the outdoor section on their homepage highlights a mountain biking. In Auburn! Birthplace of the modern ultra endurance run.

According to Dan Patitucci of AlpsInsight in an interview for Graubünden Tourism. (The interview is in German, but was originally held in English. I can’t find the English version online, use your handy translate tool in your browser if you want to read the full thing.)

Dan elaborates:

If you’re looking for solitude, the Alps might not be the best location due to the crowds, but if you looking for iconic trails, runs to summits, cultural experiences, good food, and comfort the Alps can’t be beat.

What else would you want in a trail run?

From the Seven Hills’ email newsletter:

YES! It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s been a whole ten years since Phil opened up the doors to our sweet little speciality trail running store in Magnolia, Seattle!

We’ve come a long way since then. We started with a handful of brands and now we’re crammed full of all the amazing running gear you could want.

A beloved institution for Seattle and for the entire Western Washington region. What an achievement in this retail climate! If you’re in the area hop on over to Magnolia and show them some love. There’s a big anniversary sale going on, I hear.

Mallory Richard for iRunFar:

The conversation about diversity in trail running and ultrarunning is ongoing. If we value a welcoming community and growth in the sport, it makes sense to promote races that allow runners of a range of abilities a good shot at finishing. Some races are contributing to this growth by attracting runners who are, by comparison, less represented at some iconic and challenging North American races.

More generous cutoffs help increase diversity in trail running.

But it does put pressure on the volunteer system of our races, which is… the Achilles heel of our sport.

Stephanie Hoppe shares the wisdom of Julie Hawkins, a 100+ year old runner:

Julia Hawkins insists we should all try new things. She would know—she started running at 100 and became an age-group ace by 101.

Andrew Bisharat on the death of Hilaree Nelson:

…a very profound sense of humility and gratitude begins to emerge. It’s the humility of accepting that we don’t own or control anything in this universe. It’s not ours to keep, only a beautiful miracle to witness. From that point of view, only gratitude can remain, at being able to have this one brief and bright experience of living at all.

Only gratitude remains!

After this year’s UTMB, and in fact for the entire summer, it seemed the Adidas Terrex team and its gear were ever present at every race and on every podium. I commented on this seemingly successful strategy but wondered what to make of the gear. The names of the shoes seemed confusing and it wasn’t really clear on where to even buy them.

Well, it seems Adidas unrolled the next phase of their strategy with a big partnership with REI. In their Uncommon Path magazine REI introduces the Adidas flagship shoe in great detail, including a short history lesson of Adidas’s place in the mountaineering world when they provided Reinhold Messner with his shoes he wore to climb Mt. Everest in the 70s.

Searching for ‘Adidas Terrex’ on the REI website now produces 3 pages of results including clothing and shoes for hiking and trail running.

Alright then.

This is NOT a gear blog, but I’m making a bit of an exception here for NNormal (probably because I’m such a Kilian Stan…).

The Tomir family includes three different shoe models, with different colours in each model. First, there’s the standard-cut trail running and outdoor activity shoe, made for just about everything. Then there’s the same cut of shoe but waterproof, made with a highly breathable Sympatex® membrane that’s as planet-friendly as it is high-performing. Finally, there’s the higher ankle-cut boot version, made for extra support while hiking, that’s also waterproof. 

With every new product announcement NNormal is planting a flag into the ground announcing their intentions. This shoe, or family of shoes expands their line from their first announcement of the ‘Kjerag’ the high performance trail running shoes to a this shoe more meant as an everyday running and hiking shoe.

Kilian Jornet:

Tomir is this almost impossible mix of best-in-class technologies and materials, and forget-you’re-wearing-them comfort.

For one, the ‘Tomir’ looks cool. Certainly cooler than the first images of their ‘Kjerag’.

This new broke yesterday morning and I was waiting to post about it, hoping to be able to share an update, but as time moves on worry is replaced by despair.

Still hoping.

SingletrackEpisode 252:

Singletrack is live from Chamonix for UTMB. Well, sort of. Keith Laverty is calling in from the (almost) finish line during the biggest event in trail running, UTMB week. Keith is sharing his experiences crewing his runners, navigating the Alps for the first time, and some personal impressions of the atmosphere in town. We’re hyped! This is big!

GUESTS ON SINGLETRACK

Volunteers!

The summer is coming to a close and the running media (Twitter!) has been hotly debating on where our sport is heading. There are lots of worries and concerns and I am working on a larger article to address them individually, but the ‘elephant in the room’ that’s barely addressed, is the need for volunteers at every race. Our sport is growing, and becoming more professional on the upper end, but the events can only happen if people volunteer at aid stations, at pickup, during course marking and sweeping. The human power required to put on these events is enormous, and perhaps I am not long enough ‘in the game’ yet, but when I see even popular and very established races send out desperate emails and social posts asking for volunteers at upcoming events I can’t help but worry and wonder how the growth will affect our sport. And this doesn’t even include the need to volunteer at trail work parties that help maintain the trails we love to race.

This is not just a post meant to highlight and celebrate all the volunteers who make these events possible, but is meant as a challenge to all us folks talking and debating and thinking about our sport. The importance of volunteers is often emotionally celebrated, but rarely highlighted in a honest and serious fashion.

What I previously tried to make sense of, but only focused on everyday folks (read amateurs) Zach Miller expands on this for iRunFar and includes a few ways to qualify I omitted for simplicity reasons.

You can get into the lottery registering as a group:

To enter as a group, you put all of your names in together, but the maximum number of stones you can use per person is the minimum number of stones owned by any one member of the group. 

Zach details the process for elites:

With the UTMB World Series structure now in place, elites must race their way into the series finals (OCC/CCC/UTMB).

And mentioned age category ranking, and priority bibs.

In his conclusion he asks:

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is often a good thing, but it is at times of change like this that it is important to step back and ask the big questions. Like where is this all going, and is that a place we want to end up?

It’s a tough place to be, especially as an elite runner. On one side we love trail running for its simplicity, almost purity, on the other side UTMB has positioned itself as the premier race around the globe, and its popularity demands a complicated system. Western States and Hardrock have their own complicated process, that’s equally dismayed by many. If elites would stop going to these races the importance of the race would subside. So, for elites who have sponsor deals to fulfill, they have to dance the dance and I doubt there’s a sport easier to manage as a professional athlete. Climbers and mountaineers often complain about the challenges of sponsor demands far from the mountains. For everyone else there are still thousands upon thousands of races all over the world that are managed in a grassroots fashion and have that simple feel we cry about losing by wanting to run around Mont Blanc each year.

I previously mentioned their amazing lottery policy of separating men and women into two, equal-sized pools. Essentially creating two lotteries, with results in a field that’s evenly split between women and men. What I didn’t mention is their little side note to their qualification process:

Due to UTMB’s partnership with Ironman, we no longer feel that their company or races reflect the values of this sport. We will not recognize any UTMB finishes as qualifiers and encourage runners to seek out races that prioritize the community, sport, and environment instead of those who’s sole objective is maximizing revenue.

From the High Lonesome Value Statement page:

The High Lonesome 100 is committed to excellence, and we will continually strive to meet the highest levels of quality in our planning, organization, and implementation of our race. We believe in honesty and transparency, and will act in a manner that enhances the reputation of the ultra-running community. Our goal is to create a high quality ultra-marathon and trail running event in Colorado that benefits the runners, communities, volunteers, sponsors, environment, and auxiliary users.

While I’m not here to trash Freestone Endurance, organizers of High Lonesome, their own value statement doesn’t really sound that much different to what UTMB is known for?

And from the Freestone Community Policies:

It’s simple, running doesn’t discriminate.

Unless you run UTMB races?

I wonder if there’s something else at play here… did Ironman/UTMB approach them sell their race?

For Outside Andy Cochrane chats with Catherine Poletti, UTMB President and Founder, and Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman. These “business” articles, sharing some behind the scene maneuvering always read very scary and imposing.

Messick:

“Trail running looks identical to triathlons 30 years ago. Lots of races and events created by small groups of very passionate people, but most of these people don’t want the risk or work of scaling up. The natural step is being acquired by a company like ours.”

Ironman big bet wasn’t predicated on the long term growth of trail running at all, but instead on a monopoly of the market today. With UTMB as a partner, they have the ability to drive both demand and supply. They don’t need a quantum leap in the market cap to see a return on their investment if they can capture what already sits in front of them.

At the heart of it all, they get why people love trail running:

Trail running offers something everyone needs right now: freedom. In a world more and more crowded every day, Messick wants to capitalize on our collective need for an escape.

If and how they might succeed in molding our sport into their vision waits to be seen. No business can be succeed off of a spreadsheet exclusively. If the UTMB races turn into a fast food chain cookie cutter experience, then people will turn away and find other ways to enjoy the mountains.

My go-to tech reviewer who does not spend time in the outdoors, John Gruber on Daring Fireball:

I’ve neither dived nor climbed nor gotten lost nor really done anything a damn bit dangerous or exciting, but I’ve had a lot of fun wearing it for the last week.

With no experience on how the bigger display could be useful to people on the move in the outdoors, Gruber mainly focuses on what the new features could bring to regular folks wanting a big watch.

Chris Foster for Trailrunner:

Now, instead of having your Apple Watch for going to the office or going out at night, and your “workout watch” for serious runs, backpacking, and outdoor adventure, Apple wants to be all of these things: Leave your Garmin at home, let it die. Does Apple fully pull this off? Not quite, but they’re dangerously close. 

And the most exhaustive review from DC Rainmaker concludes:

However, as good as Ultra is for most existing Apple Watch users (or more mainstream prospective users), it falls short when it comes to features that you would need to complete an actual ‘ultra’ – that is, a long distance running race, or trek, or really any adventure in the backcountry. 

Despite taking the Apple Watch Ultra on this grand 14-hour Alps adventure yesterday, it didn’t actually serve much of a purpose. Meaning, it wasn’t the one navigating me to the finish line, pacing me up 3-hour climbs, or helping me find my way in the pitch-black dark. My Garmin Epix watch was. The Apple Watch was (mostly) dutifully recording that trek, but it wasn’t providing much actionable information. Apple needs to find a way to have the Ultra be the *key* to successfully completing these sorts of adventures, and the primary path to that is a robust navigation component.

That’s what I was worried about when looking over the feature set Apple touted for the new watch.

At this point, it’d be easy for endurance athletes to dismiss the Apple Watch Ultra. And for the moment, yes, that probably makes sense. However, I sure as hell wouldn’t bet against Apple closing these gaps – and likely closing them quickly.

Good enough for a version 1 product, but if Apple is focused on a product they tend to iterate fast year over year. This is when it will get really interesting.

Just announced today the Trail Alsace Grand Est is UTMB’s newest World Series event. The race is offering the 4 official distances and is situated in the Alsace region in the Vosges mountains, near the Black Forest, surrounded by lush trees and old castles… and only a couple hours away from my hometown. The races are scheduled for May 18-21, 2023 and all finish in Obernai, 20min outside of Strasbourg, right on the border to Germany.

On a personal note this is a must-run race for me in absolute spectacular setting that will feel very much like home.

Strategically, this is another early season race for UTMB, when the Alps are still covered in snow there’s tons of possibility to expand for them. I mentioned this as an opportunity on the German Trail Running Podcast I was guest back in December.

It’s also interesting to note that expansion, by building new races in France clearly seems to go quit swimmingly for UTMB, while we’re still waiting on more races to be announced in North America.

From the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa Facebook page:

How do you feel when a sponsor retracts their support part way through a 3-year agreement? We now know that feeling well, thanks to #onrunning. On we won’t miss you. Good luck forging a sustainable market in the running world that excludes mountain or trail. You’ve missed a big trick here. We don’t believe in you and neither do our runners.

Bizarre development here. That contract could not have been that much money for ON, which is part owned by Roger Federer and clearly is spending a ton of cash right now to position themselves as a fashionable shoe brand.

Maybe UTMR didn’t grow the way ON were hoping/expecting? When I ran UTMR it felt like a little mountain race, not even remotely comparable to UTMB one valley over and one weekend earlier in the calendar.

Ian Corless comments on the post:

On make trail shoes. They do not last, do not work and the clouds fill with debris – terrible.

I didn’t love the pair of their trail shoes I was testing. The little cloud bubbles endlessly squeaked when only slightly wet and even though the shoes sell the idea of “running on a cloud” were’t bouncy or soft at all. Rock hard shoes.

Official blog post announcement:

Peyton’s debut with NNormal was at the Pikes Peak Marathon last Sunday, where she achieved a hard-fought third place. Her next challenges are the Ultra Pirineu (marathon) at the beginning of October and she plans to do an FKT in the United States in November.

And an interesting aside, right in the post:

Peyton is also a Patagonia athlete, a brand with which we feel very identified and that inspires us, as we share the same values.

Dylan Bowman in a ‘state of the union’ blog post:

Chapter 2 coincides with the re-launch of freetrail.com, our home on the worldwide web. To this point, Freetrail’s web presence has been mostly non-existent, instead emphasizing third-party content platforms like YouTube, podcast players, and social media.v

Wherein the Freetrail folks discover the web. Okay, that sounded snarky, sorry. I’m actually excited and glad that more folks are coming back to open web and realizing that while social media creates instant hype it doesn’t build long lasting brands and communities around it. (That’s why Electric Cable Car is a website foremost. And that’s why Singletrack has a proper website at and a sharable blog entry for every episode I post.)

More announcements from Freetrail:

The site will be home to our media content and eventually Freetrail Experts – a marketplace we’ll be announcing in the near future.

This sounds like a “niche LinkedIn” of sort. Which is a good idea and others have tried something similar. Basecamp for example is a really big niche, covering the entire outdoor space, and currently only on Facebook).

The third and potentially most significant development in Chapter 2 is the eventual folding of the Freetrail app and the launch of Freetrail Pro – a membership community of like-minded trail runners around the world.

The community is now on the open web, not on social media, and not in a dedicated app. All good developments. Freetrail positions the community as the product. Subscribe and be part of the team. You get tons of benefits worth the ~$100 easy and Freetrail gets a chance to build a business. Media is a tough cookie and in today’s world not many have succeeded in finding a new business model. If you put too much of your A+ content behind a paywall you run the risk of not being discoverable anymore. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

And one final observation: Dylan doesn’t mention sponsors or advertisers at all in his “state of the union” post. That’s quite fascinating to me. Media used to be funded by advertising. That created the solid backbone for seemingly free news and content for everyone. We lived with ads, endured them, and sometimes even appreciated them. In some respect I’m surprised the companies aren’t stepping up and wanting to be part of that story in a bigger way.

Singletrack – Episode 252:

Singletrack is live from Chamonix for UTMB. Well, sort of. Keith Laverty is calling in from the (almost) finish line during the biggest event in trail running, UTMB week. Keith is sharing his experiences crewing his runners, navigating the Alps for the first time, and some personal impressions of the atmosphere in town. We’re hyped! This is big!

GUESTS ON SINGLETRACK

We started it, we’ll keep it going, here’s the breakdown for this weekend’s inaugural Rock Candy Mountain Run. The namesake race of our race organization Rock Candy Running is a 12 Hour Mountain Endurance race. Runners chase vert from sunrise to sunset on Rock Candy Mountain in the Capitol Forest. The loop is 6 miles with 1,800ft. of vertical gain with plenty of gnarly singletrack, roots, rocks and other fun stuff.

We have are a total of 25 runners registered. 17 are women. Yepp, that’s 68%.

And while we’ll be starting in the dark with headlamps, the starting line will look so great. Can’t wait for this weekend.

This is such an nutty story:

In both 2019 and 2020, the Sea to Sky Gondola’s cable was cut by a saboteur. The combined direct cost of both incidents was over $10 million.

I drove by the place countless times. Saw them announcing the gondola opening and watched them build it. It was such a cool addition to the area, but shortly after opening the cables got cut, twice, resulting in significant damage, but luckily no injuries.

“Our community has been faced with something never before seen within our industry,” said gondola’s general manager, Kirby Brown.

Yes, I’ve never heard anything like this happening before, and the fact that even years later they still don’t have any suspects is extra bizarre.

From founder Yvon Chouinard:

Instead of “going public,” you could say we’re “going purpose.” Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.

Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits. But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.

That’s how it’s done. Real leadership.

Tomorrow, September 13th Salomon is announcing something new in trail running:

At Salomon, we’ve been crafting the future of sports since 1947.

That’s 75 years of creating innovative products, supporting talented athletes, and pushing sports forward.
But you don’t lead by standing still.

September 13th marks the first day of a new era for Salomon.

Let’s hope it’s more than a bunch of new Youtube videos celebrating themselves and their albeit rich history. Salomon pro athletes are clearly still at the top of there game, even with Kilian having left to start his own brand. The Golden Trail Series is still a big focus, but Salomon has clearly been missing out of the really big action by having not partnered with UTMB in recent years (never?) Which is quite interesting in itself. So, what are we guessing? Hopefully not another new shoes with another new name. The Salomon shoe lineup is one of the most confusing out there.

TN State Representative Gloria Johnson on Twitter:

I’m hearing @GovBillLee may end an internationally renowned eco-friendly event in Morgan County, The Barkley Marathons, because they want to expand a bit and that means a bit more security.

Trying to get more clarification, it seems that the difficulty they are getting on the fall race will potentially cause them to pull all of it.

Working with public entities can be a tricky thing and obtaining permits can be an endless hassle. The biggest challenge most of the time is that most public entities don’t understand, or don’t want to understand the positive impact tourism can have on a place. NIMBYism at its finest.

SingletrackEpisode 251:

Lifelong runner, co-founder of the apparel brand rabbit, and Santa Barbara Running Company co-owner Monica DeVreese joins Singletrack this week to share her personal journey into running. Monica talks about her transition from roads to trails and later ultra distances and getting picked from the waitlist for this year’s Western States.

Sami Fathi for MacRumors:

Garmin has reacted to Apple’s new rugged Apple Watch Ultra, saying in a tweet following the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch event that it measures battery life in “months” and “not hours,” promoting its latest Enduro 2 watch for athletes.

Garmin responds in a way every endurance athlete with a GPS adventure watch responded this week after Apple announced the Apple Watch Ultra.

But, technologists who’ve been following Apple’s moves forever (but don’t know anything about the outdoor space) see it this way:

Bye-bye Garmin.

For a minute I thought the West Coast might be spared of large devastating fires this summer, but the Mosquito Fire in Placer County, California is burning structures in Michigan Bluff right as we speak. The official WS Instagram page has a map showing the outline of the fire and the affected race course.

Residents of Michigan Bluff and Foresthill were evacuated as the fire continues to grow. Less important than homes, we don’t know yet how much of the WS trail has been effected.

MADE BY EINMALEINS