The Aussie Trail Ultras Are Almost Here – Let Silly Season Begin!
I love August. And that’s because it’s only a few weeks to go until the Aussie trail ultra season is upon us. No matter if you live in Australia or in one of the other many countries that reads this website, we welcome all of you to have a think about which race you’d like to have a crack at, and this year there are even more races than ever before to choose from. So without further a do, we give you a little preview on the races that are coming up over the next few months so that you can decide which might tickle your fancy!
The first cab off the rank is the Glasshouse trails taking place on September 15th and 16th. Of all the big ultras on the calendar, Glasshouse is the longest running, and race director Ian Javes is well-known on the ultra-running circuit as a quiet, yet impeccably solid man who puts on a top race each year. The series consists of the two main events, the 100km and the 100 miler, with a 50km race held too for those aiming to start making the grade up towards the larger distances.
In terms of ‘difficulty’ Glasshouse is probably known as the easier of the four in terms of terrain and elevation, but for those of us from South of the Queensland border, it’s always a little difficult adjusting to the warmer climes of bush up there as the temperatures tend to be warmer than we’re used to down in NSW. The beauty of the Glasshouse 100′s course is the fact that there’s an aid station pretty much every 10kms, so gear carrying really is at a minimum and the only requirement one water bottle. Last year saw the fastest ever 100 miler run in Australia when Mike Le Roux ran a storming race for 15:3x finish. It’s a quick course, but don’t be fooled into think it’s easy!
Next up are two new additions to the ultra calendar in the Hume and Hovell 50/100 and the Surf Coast Century. The Hume and Hovell course is very well know to Ultra168 boys, Darrel Robins and Andrew Vize, after they along with Terry Coleman set a new record for the fastest traverse of the entire 440km track. This year sees the first ultra race being held on the track and follows as closely as possible the historic route taken by Explorers Hume & Hovell on their 1824 expedition to Port Phillip Bay. The event is being organised by members of Wagga Wagga Road Runners and race director Peter Fitzpatrick, so show your support for this inaugural event and make the trip inland to take part in what should be a fantastic event.
Taking place on October 20th, the 100km event, starts (6am) at the Henry Angel Trackhead, (some 9km south from Tumbarumba on the Tooma Road), and finishes at Blowering Dam Power Station near Tumut. The track is a mixture of constructed walking track and fire trails. The highest point is over 1200 metres in elevation, passes scenic Buddong Falls, then close by to Snowy Hydro Tumut 3 Power Station, near Talbingo and then along the foreshores of Blowering Dam.
The 50km event starts (11am) at Jounama Dam, joining the Hume & Hovell Walking Track near Ben Smith Campsite and finishing at Blowering Dam Power Station, near Tumut. The course follows a mixture of single track and fire trails over Gurkeroo Ridge. The Blowering dam foreshore is then followed for some 30kms.
Another new race to hit our calendar this year is the Surf Coast Century, being held on September 22nd. The course encompasses a figure eight, ensuring plenty of spectator opportunities with ease of access to checkpoints and other viewing areas, all within 10-15 minute drive. The course runs past lighthouses, waterfalls, scenic lookouts, renowned surf beaches, surf life saving clubs, remote wilderness and almost everything in between. There’s headlands to traverse, cliff top and bottom trails, sweeping single track ensconced in unique coastal flora all coupled with awesome views across the southern seaboard.
The Surf Coast Century also gives everyone the opportunity to get a taste for ultra running without necessarily having to run an entire ultra too. The event is open to individuals (100km) and relay teams of up to four runners, with each team member tackling legs between 25km and 50km, making this a very do-able event by all.
Another newbie to the list is the Heysen 105km ultra, in its second year as an official race. The Heysen 105km trail event gegins at Newland Hill at 7am, Saturday 20th October, the run will take you through rolling farmland, majestic Myponga Conservation Park, the devilish single-trail of Yulte and Kyeema Conservation Parks and the sandy fire-tracks of Kuipto Forest before you can celebrate your victory arriving at Rocky Creek Hut. For more info on this South Australian race, have a look here.
Next up is the Great Ocean Walk 100km in October and just a few weeks after the Surf Coast Century. Race director Andy Hewat is another stalwart
of the ultra running scene, and has worked hard to get this established as a brilliantly well-run event in an amazingly beautiful part of the world. The race is held entirely over the Great Ocean Walk track, which in the main runs alongside the Great Ocean Road as well as along the rugged coastline offering some of the most spectacular scenery around too. For this one, there is more in the way of mandatory gear required purely because of the changeable nature of the weather down on the coast. One minute it could be beautiful sunshine, the next storms and force 10 winds. It really can change in an instant, so every precaution is taken given the distance between aid stations.
In what some people say is the show piece of the 100 milers in Australia, the Great North Walk 100 miler and 100kms rear their devil like heads in early November. Don’t let the title mislead you in any way – this is far from a ‘walk’. Total elevation for the 100 miler is 6,500m, which while not a huge amount is certainly enough to keep the hardened trail runner happy. The difficulty with this race is the searing heat that usually occurs when this race is on. It can be pretty average in terms of temperatures leading up to the race, but come race day, someone upstairs turns the ovens on and you’ll typically find plenty of carnage on the course.
The course is pretty brutal because of the heat that descends upon it, and a 50% completion rate is testimony to this. Aid stations are a long way apart, where you have to be self-sufficient for anything up to 6 hours or so. This race is not for the feint-hearted. It’s hardcore, it’s tough, but is possibly the most rewarding race in Australia as you hit the sand at Patonga. The race is run by another legend of Australia running and general adventuring, Dave Byrnes. A former smokey over the marathon distance, Dave enjoys the fact that this race has a reputation. This is a true epic, and if you want to feel the meaning of living, click on the 100 mile option when you enter.
Finally, the last big race of the year is the Coast 2 Kosi, again run by Australian ultra running legend, Paul Every. Paul is an Australian 24 hour and 100km rep and knows just how to put on a great show. The race is known for the prize it hands out to every finisher, an Akubra.
The race is roughly 240kms in length, and starts at sea-level on the NSW coast at Eden, slowly rising up and up towards the Alpine region of NSW, before finishing in Charlotte’s Pass after a trip to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain at just over 2,200m. A crew is essential for this race as there are no ‘official’ aid stations, following the same sort of style as the famous Badwater ultra marathon over in the US at Death Valley. The course starts on dirt track, which is where it stays for a good 130kms or so, before moving onto the bitumen and final climbs to the mountains. If you like it long and slow, this is the race for you.