When I first heard Salomon were bringing their international team to the Lake District for Advanced Week I was excited. That depth of talent coming to the UK, to the home of fell running, this was something unique and unquestionably special. But there was one catch. Although you may be lucky enough to find your heroes out on the fells, Advanced Week is very much behind closed doors.
Athletes and designers test products, tread patterns, compounds, clothing and much more for the up and coming seasons. It is also an opportunity to get Salomon’s elite around a table and discuss what’s missing from the range, whether for consumers or racing.
So, when I saw George Fisher’s were hosting a 10km run with the team and The Theatre By the Lake, a film and Q&A session, I dropped all my plans. This was a day not to be missed.
Leaving my house in the South East at 5am (I wouldn’t return until 1am the following day) I knew it was going to be a long yet for filling day. Driving the 270 miles to the Lakes, I had plenty of time to contemplate what might happen. Would it live up to the expectations I had placed on it? Would it be a wash out? Is meeting your heroes wise?
Pulling up in Keswick some 4 ½ hours later, I headed straight for George Fisher’s and to Abraham’s café. Meeting Victoria from the store, we discussed what the day had ahead.
Before long it was time to head down to the Theatre by the Lake. Salomon were hosting a session where they would show several episodes from Salomon Running TV, including a section of questions and answers.
Having never been to the theatre before, despite the seating plan on the website, it had an intimate feeling and even at the back of the room, you didn’t loose out. Salomon’s Athlete Manager Greg Vollet took to the stage to introduce the audience the meaning behind Advanced Week and their choice of the Lake District. The company had wanted mud, rain and a test for their more aggressive shoes. Judging by the weather they were greeted with, it would be fair to say they got what they asked for.It was after these words, Greg introduced each member of the International Team, providing career highlights, as the screen behind displayed the athlete in action. With the stage filling up, cheers increased as household and new names lined up beside one another.You may have expected the biggest cheer of the night to be for Kilian, but when Greg announced Ricky Lightfoot, the local, a huge applause echoed around the walls of the theatre. Centre stage, microphone in hand, Ricky thanked everyone for turning up, donating to Fix the Fells and how we were the only ones who could understand his Cumbrian accent.Taking their seats in the galleries, Greg took us through the history of Salomon and their pivotal role in the transformation of trail running in the 1990s.
First to take the stage was Ellie Greenwood and Ryan Sandes, talking about what happens during Advanced Week. From testing kit, providing ideas and discussing topics, the roles and requirements varied, but ultimately they benefitted everyone the brand touches.
Max King and Remi Bonnet followed explaining the Salomon Running Academy, searching for the next generation of trail runners. Last year, Max was a coach and Remi was an academy member – to which there were many father son jokes by the pair. As much as we focus on the present stars of the sport, these are the future of the sport and how it will develop, been seen and enjoyed.
Anna Frost took the next stand, with her spectacle Paradise Lost. We had been fortunate to spend the weekend before at her “A Day with Anna Frost” and seeing the film for the second time in a week was even better. Like many of the Salomon Running TV films, they are best watched several times to get the full experience. Paradise Lost is more than a glossy film, shot with the level of attention, thought and quality of a block buster. It is an intimate look into the life of someone who has stood at the top of her sport for over a decade. The physical toll pressures bring outside of racing and how reconnecting with home provides grounding and an opportunity to reassess priorities.
The two Ricky’s. Well one is technically Rickey. Moving on.
Ricky Lightfoot and Rickey Gates presented Of Fells and Hills. Shot in the Lakes and Glencoe, it follows the journey of Rickey as he ventures into the world of Fell running. Having narrowly completed his own Bob Graham Round with Scott Jurek (down to an epic run the day before), it was a fitting location to show the film, the start/finish of the self-run challenge. Watching the duo descend down fields of scree and Tom and Rickey run over Scottish moorland and crag, the simplicity of mountain running was never more paramount. In a world of commercialised races, increasing entry fees and prizes, the grass roots nature of fell running continues to this day. Long may it continue.
And now something…. Unexpected.
Kilian Jornet and Seb Montaz took the stage whilst technical issues ensued. Did the phase them? No.
Taking us through the Summits of My Life project, Kilian’s personal quest to set records on several summits including Denali, The Matterhorn and Everest, comedy was evident from the first moments. As Kilian spoke to an expectant crowd, Seb moved the file tab to reveal a picture of Kilian smiling with blackened teeth. With the audience laughing, Kilian looked back to see he was the butt of the joke. And this set up the following half an hour or so. To be honest I lost all sense of time, as the pair entertained and informed, turning the feats of one of the world’s greatest endurance athletes into something greater.
Talking about the Denali trip, arriving in Anchorage, arriving in flip flops with no trainers, having to head to a shop and purchase his own Salomon trainers. The shop assistant having no idea who he was or any real understanding of glaciers. Cutting shoes to make them lighter, whilst running in H&M boxers, then lying to rangers about their intentions to get them the permits. To add insult to injury he’s then seen taking a picture of the rangers map as he didn’t have one.
As you quickly realise, not the slick, OCD preparation you may have expected but a personality you can immediately relate to – ok not all of us.
When Kilian described the Dru as a small pinnacle, which in fact stands 3,754 meters tall with an 800 meter north face wall, the audience was taken back. Jordi, close friend and mountain guide (also featured in Langtang -https://vimeo.com/146914663 ) climbedacross the ice and snow fields with technical crampons and a tree branch. Breakfast consisted of 3 cookies and the main meal was a cup noodle for 2, divided by 3 climbers. Going light comes at a cost and Jordi was quick to dispense weight. Their adventures aren’t by the book.
De Je Vivir
The story of Kilian’s quest to set the speed record on Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. From glacading on his bum “It’s a bit painful in the bottom, but it’s faster” to pulling his friend and then Skimo World Champion Mathéo Jacquemond down a crevasse. Ironically Seb jumped into say that Kilian didn’t want to use a rope on the glaciers, but they insisted, pulling Matheo in. As Seb joked “He’s happy to kill his friends.”
More antics followed, from driving in Kilian’s van for 50 hours and 27 minutess to get to mount Elbrus in Russia, only stopping for fuel. Then having to repeat the drive four days later in order to make a flight to the RUT in America. And there we were thinking him running 100 miles was tiring enough!https://player.vimeo.com/video/89966934
But what stood out more than anything was his interest in testing his body, seeing what the limits are physically. This was never more apparent then running 4 hours in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon, for 4 days, only on water. On the 5th day, he fell over. But learning what the human body is capable of has more than one use and as he pointed out to the crowd, if you are stuck in the mountains, you don’t have to worry. You can move with no food and get yourself out of trouble.
His own race, Tromso, in the Norwegian Artic Circle, resonated with the Lakeland Fells. Seb and Kilian thought it shared similarities. The technical trails, feel and attitude. And much like the content that has been put out by Seb, Jordi Saragossa and Salomon, the message from Kilian and Seb was “You can do things seriously, not in a serious way.” Whether your running, racing or organising a project you can still have fun doing it. To finish Greg took to the stage again, thanking everyone for attending and announcing the signing session upstairs. With this, seats were swiftly departed, as fans clambered to get inline to meet the team members. With a packed room and stairwell, members of Salomon handed out posters, dvds and stickers, as expectant fans waited their turn for a signature and brief chat.
It soon became apparent half of Keswick appeared to have turned out, as the queue never appeared to reduce. Excited children spoke to their idols, whilst adults were reduced at times to being childlike in the wake of meeting people who they felt they knew from social media.The session at a Theater by the Lake was memorable for many reasons. Though elite mountain runners, it was evident the athletes were normal people and saw themselves that way. The content provided by The African Attachment and Seb Montaz was stunning and encapsulated so much more than just running. The mood throughout was light hearted and as much as this was a celebration of their achievements, the message I took away was all the challenges and decisions they may face are all scalable and related. Have fun in the mountains, enjoy yourself and make sure you have time to play.
When Salomon announce their Advanced Week in 2017, if you are in the chosen country, I implore you to do what you can to make a screening. You won’t be disappointed.
As mentioned at the beginning, there was a 5km and 10km run which followed immediately after the theatre session.