Trail World Championships Report
Back from the Trail World Championships, Clare Gallagher interviews teammates and reports on the race...
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After an impressive finish herself, finishing first for the US Women's Team and 8th overall, Clare Gallagher recaps the race and talks with other La Sportiva Mountain Running teammates.
The 2018 IAU Trail World Championships were held in the Valencia region of Spain, ending at the base of the breathtaking Penyagolosa mountain and monastery. The race covered 88km (55mi) of rocky terrain with over 4,800m (16,000ft) of vertical gain. This is the longest trail race in a World Championship format—there are other mountain and trail world championships, but all are shorter than the marathon distance. Up to nine runners from each gender category competed for each country, but only the top three finishing times counted toward each team's score. The top three runners’ times are added up for the total time and team place. It’s like a hybrid of cross country mixed with the Olympics on indisputably difficult terrain.
Kaytlyn Gerbin at the Yakima Skyline 50-miler, on her way to placing first. Photo: Tad Davis
Leading up to the race, I caught up with three La Sportiva Mountain runners representing three different countries.
Ryan Smith (Great Britain): Hailing from Scotland, Smith is a double legend. First, in the UK after setting the second fastest known time on the Bob Graham Round last summer. Second, in his longtime home of Boulder, Colorado, where he and his wife Silke have cultivated a world-class trail running community of lunatic ultra trail runners (affectionately known as Rocky Mountain Runners).
Ryan Smith racing for Team Great Britain at the Trail World Championship.
Kaytlyn Gerbin (USA): In a brilliant run at Western States last year, placing 4th, Kaytlyn solidified her place as one of the strongest and most consistent 100-milers in the U.S. winning the Pine to Palm 100-miler, Cascade Crest 100-miler, and Gorge Waterfalls 100k, didn’t hurt either. She balances training with being a bioengineer in Seattle.
Nick Elson (Canada): You may know Nick for his running, his climbing, his scrambling, or his ski mountaineering—or all of the above. He is a Canadian renaissance man who’s twice won the Squamish 50, placed 2nd at Mount Marathon in AK, twice won the Canadian Ski Mountaineering Championships and has more FKTs than you’ll ever be able to remember. Oh, and he’s humble to boot, residing in British Columbia.
Nick Elson climbing at the Kneeknacker 30-miler in Vancouver. Photo: Hilary Matheson
While the Penyagolosa trails are touted for their rockiness, and steepness, the course also provides plenty of dispersed more runnable sections of fire road. Still, the vaired terrain makes for a predicament in the shoe department.
Here’s what the pros wore:
Gerbin: “Lycans; a great hybrid shoe. I normally train with the Helios SR and mutants for sloppy, muddy, steep stuff in my local PNW trails.”
Smith: “Bushido. It’s a good shoe for dry conditions. It’s stable and it feels fast.”
Elson: “Lycans. I’m used to racing in the Helios SR, but the Lycans should work for this mixed terrain race.”
Kaytlyn Gerbin looking strong on race day. Photo courtesy of Penyagolosa Trails
What do you do when you’re not running? Jobs, hobbies?
Elson: “I just graduated from UBC law school two weeks ago. Now I’ll ‘article,’ which is a Canadian term for apprenticeship. Within a year, after articling and taking the Canadian bar, I hope to work in the public realm, either in aboriginal or agricultural law. I also like to read, climb and ski.”
Smith: “What do I do when I’m not running? I like to talk about running! Also, trial different breweries, climb, skimo (since I did it for three days this winter, it counts right?). I am a software engineer at the very last of the list. Aspirations? I aspire to sit on the couch maybe once or twice a week, but know it’s impossible because Silke has too many DIY projects.”
Gerbin crossing the finish line to help Team USA secure bronze. Photo: Ely Gerbin
Gerbin: “I’m a bioengineer for the Allen Institute. We’re working on a Google-Earth-like interactive platform of a cell, and we operate as an ‘open source and open science’ institute.” (Like Smith and Elson, you have to practically beat her credentials out of her, she is comically self-deprecating. She got her PhD from the University of Washington.)
What is your favorite type of terrain?
Elson: “The more technical the better.”
Gerbin: “Gnarly, big climbs.”
Smith: “Hard terrain. Anything hard.”
Almost like they’re mountain runners or something…
Clare Gallgher and Kaytlyn Gerbin celebrating Team USA's podium finish. Photo: Ely Gerbin
And, the race?
Smith ran hard and closed even harder for Great Britain as the team’s third runner and final scorer, placing 16th individually. He crushed one of the fastest splits from the last aid station to the finish. The take home about him: don’t mess with a motivated Smith at the end of a race.
Gerbin finished in similarly strong fashion to Smith, except it was all part of her plan from the beginning. This girl can execute! She moved up steadily throughout the race, catching the first and second American women in the final 15 miles of the race, pushing the team to a bronze medal, finishing in an incredible 10th place individually.
Elson had a tough stomach from the gun and had to pull out before dying a slow, un-fueled death in the relentless Valencia sun. If you couldn’t eat on this course, you were done for. No one’s concerned because Nick will do so much running and climbing this summer in Canada and won’t tell anyone about it.
Preview Photo: Ely Gerbin
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CLARE GALLAGHER is a member of the La Sportiva Mountain Running® Team.
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