I'm not a natural blogger and I'm no techie. I'm an ultra trail runner by passion, and a journalist by profession - in that order of priority.
In this blog I use the one to talk about the other - my trail thoughts, musings and meanderings about running mountains and trails.
I call it rockhoppin', just because... well... that's what we trail runners love to do!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trail Hero of the Month: May - Stevie Kremer

It’s still May (only just) and time enough to squeeze in Rockhoppin’ Trail’s Trail Hero of the Month for May. This month it’s someone who’s still at the fresher end of her running career, who’s getting faster with every race she wins, and who has many exciting years ahead likely to be filled with front-of-the-pack experiences.

Stevie winning the Zegama-Aizkorri Skymarathon 2014
My personal reason for choosing this international trail runner is that she’s a personal friend, so I’m biased J   But that said, she’s top of her game – this past weekend cementing her 2013 Skyrunner® World Series Champion achievement by winning the Zegama-Aizkorri 42km Skymarathon® in Spain.

Stevie Kremer burst onto the international trail running podium at the Sierre-Zinal Skymarathon® in July 2012, when she finished in 2nd place. From there it was only up for Stevie, with a win at the Jungfrau Marathon a month later, crowning her the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champion 2012.

Highlights of 2013 showed consistent wins and a host of new records – 1st at Limone Extreme Skyrace® in Italy (course record); 1st at Goldenleaf Halfmarathon in Aspen, Colorado (course record); 1st at Breck Crest Marathon, Colorado (course record); 1st at Pikes Peak Marathon, Colorado (US Trail Marathon Championship); 1st at Hout Bay Trail Challenge, South Africa (course record); 1st at Mont Blanc Marathon, France (course record); 1st at Hermannslauf, Germany (course record). She was also awarded the World Sky Series® Champion 2013.

2013 World Sky Series® champs Kilian Jornet and Stevie Kremer

Stevie, 30, hails from Crested Butte in Colorado, USA where she spends her summer running, her winter ski mountaineering, and the rest of her time (!) teaching second grade at the Crested Butte Community School.

Here’s a short interview I had with Stevie yesterday, after hearing she is Rockhoppin’ Trail’s Trail Hero of the Month:

LD:    In the past year, your racing success has continued and you’ve notched several wins. How do you feel about it?  Which have been your most exciting races and/or wins over the past year, and why?

SK:    ​I have had an incredibly fun and exciting year of travelling and racing, meeting people and running up new mountains. I have been extremely lucky to have had these opportunities and hope I am able to get more of these opportunities. I would have to say my two most exciting races have been 1) the Sierre-Zinal Race in 2012 because it was my first international race and both my parents were there to support me and cheer me on. And 2) the Jungfrau Marathon in 2012, not only because it was a World Championship Race, but also because my dad was there at the finish when I had a completely unexpected win!
In 2013 Stevie was the first American to win the Jungfrau Marathon

LD:    Having seen you run, I know that ascents are your major strength. What training tips do you have for becoming a stronger uphill runner?

SK:    I do love running uphill, but am becoming more accustomed and comfortable with the downhills, I must say :-) I think my best tips for running uphill would be to keep your head down but to look ahead to see what's coming. I also try to use my arms to pump if I feel my legs getting tired. Some advice I was given, and that I really need to start following, is to do ab workouts, because strong abs can help you pump uphill!

LD:    What does the rest of 2014 racing calendar look like?

SK:    I will be participating in many of the Skyrunning® World Series races including the Mont Blanc Marathon, Sierre-Zinal, and the Limone Sky Race®. I may try to squeeze in some other skyrunning races if possible and of course, jump into some local US and Colorado races when I can, as I love local races.​

LD:    Do you have any long term running goals / dreams?

SK:    One day (or rather over the course of a few days), I would love to be able to run and race and possibly set some sort of record in a popular race in every one of the seven continents in the world.  ​

Stevie at the World Vertical Skiing champs 2013
LD:    I know you’re a strong winter skier too. Does skiing play a big role in your leg strength for trail running?

SK:    I definitely think ski mountaineering, especially the uphill, is a great complement to mountain running in the summer.​

LD:    You spent 2013 in Italy in a teaching post, and you’re now back home in Colorado. What is your preference, the US or Europe, and why?

SK:    Yes, I am back in Crested Butte, happily teaching and starting to run on the trails that are thawing out   I am very happy to be back in Colorado, but would not be opposed to moving back to Europe at some point in my life. Both places have such wonderful aspects to them, including the mountains and the people, but something about Europe that I miss is the variety of cultures there are and how many different languages are spoken at any given race. No matter where I end up, I know I will be happy!​

LD:    A quick comment on your Cape Town (Hout Bay) experience in 2013, just for your fans here in South Africa J
Stevie in the Salomon Concept Store in Cape Town

SK:    There're just not enough good things to be said about the Hout Bay Trail Challenge, and about Cape Town! From the time I arrived I felt so welcomed by everyone, and even though I was terrified about the thought of navigating my way on an unmarked route, my fears soon vanished when so many people offered to help me. Throughout the race everyone was so encouraging and supportive, I don't even know how to thank everyone! It was a beautiful race, despite the rain, and I would love to go back sometime to race the Hout Bay Trail Challenge again!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Whale of Trail 2014

The Whale of Trail: 53km of testing trail, the first half of it amongst the finest protea-studded Cape fynbos, and the other half along spectacular, jagged Cape coastline. (The whale part was a misnomer on the day, unfortunately, as the sea was so choppy from the howling southeaster…   although admittedly, had we been hiking, as do all who pass that way the other 354 days of the year, we’d have had a better chance of spotting them.)

This year’s event was the first of what will hopefully be many Whale of Trails in years to come, and blister by blister, either gruelled, gritted or grimaced, however we did it, we all loved it. The race was everything a decent trail running event should be – excellently organised, routed but not over-marked, marshalled but only at checkpoints, scenic, tough, testing, competitive.

The trail wasn’t overly technical (some may disagree!) and, in parts, allowed for some good open single track running. The course was varied, often challenging, always beautiful.

Race conditions, on the other hand, are never controllable. True to form for the southern Cape, the southeaster strutted its stuff like only it can. Between 34km and 39.5km of the route stretched several sections of beach that tested even the strongest runners. Once that stretch was done, there were still a few more beaches – another 2.3km of soft sand to contend with. Not only was the entire beach section all about sand that was sinkable to, in places, way past ankle-deep, but a head wind that gusted in semi-gale force strength, reducing everyone to a stagger. Even race winner Melikhaya Msizi (who, when asked, admitted even he had “walked the beach”).
Race winner Melikhaya Mzisi in full focus

One hundred and sixty runners braved the day. All were challenged. Most completed the course before cut-off. Not everyone saw the spectacular views, particularly along the cliff edge, and many missed spotting the myriad coves and grottos where crashing waves have etched their mark over millions of years.

There were some extremely speedy times, particularly by the top five runners – the fifth being the 1st woman, adventure racer Joanna Williams, visiting from New Zealand.

Congrats to all who braved the day, and to Mountain Runner Events for making this fantastic run happen. Here’s hoping for many more years for the Whale of Trail, another great race for the South African trail running calendar.

Top 4 men
Top 3 men
1.  Melikhaya Msizi (6:06:39)
2.    Ben Brimble & Chad Gordon (tie) (6:08:23)

Top 3 ladies
Top 3 women
1.  Joanna Williams (6:27:15)
2.  Katya Soggot (6:38:27)
3.  Linda Doke (7:06:40)

Full results: click on Whale of Trail final results