Today we welcome back our resident Queensland contributor, Troy Lethlean to the pages of Ultra168. Troy is not only a cracking guy in sticking his hand up to help us cover the latest from the trail and ultra scene in Queensland, but he also founded, created and runs the Aussie born and bread nutrition brand, Trail Brew (great name). Yep, a bit of a commercial plug I know, but it’s just Troy running the show and his idea and we love supporting local, home-grown ideas and ventures. Check it out here: http://trailbrew.com/
BLACKALL 100 PREVIEW
After only three short years, the Blackall 100 has grown to become one of Australia’s premier 100km trail running events. 2017 will see the inclusion of this race as a Western States qualifier and also the recognition as AURA’s Long Course National Trail Championships. Congratulations to the team at Run Queensland for making this a top-level event! Combined, there are already well over 400 entered in the 2 races, so what makes it so appealing?
Firstly, is the onsite, quite affordable accommodation and food, with Mapleton QCCC providing the perfect setting for the start of this race. Secondly, the course. It’s probably only has around 7-8% road/path with the rest being single track trail or 4WD Fire Trail/road. Early in the race (only the 100k), the Kondalilla Falls section is amazing, with the sub tropical rainforest and falls making it a fantastic location to run. I think Aaron Knight (La Sportiva) has one of the Strava records through here and he is quite sure it’ll stand in a 100km race.
After the next section of path and road along Flaxton Mill Road, runners drop into a magical single track down to a suspension bridge over Baxter Creek Falls. Another incredible spot!
After climbing out from the falls, back to the QCCC, the runners venture out (including the 50km), through more rain forest at Mapleton Falls National Park and then into the ‘tough’ section, the Gheerulla Falls Circuit. This is where it could get hot, and a bit tricky at times underfoot, but if you get a chance to look left and right, it is a beautiful place to run with views out over the Conondale Ranges.
The final sections past the Kureelpa Falls track (you need to take 5-10 minutes to check them out if you aren’t “racing”) and the loop around Cooloolabin Dam may be closer to dark for some, and ends up mainly on undulating gravel roads before backtracking to the QCCC for the finish.
So, who’s going to be surviving the race, ringing the cowbell first, and taking the prizes?
Starting with the 100km women, we have the returning “stand-out” racing again, with Shona Stephenson back to take win number 3! Being a seasoned ultra competitor, knowing the course, and loving running in the Queensland heat, she should be very hard to beat (by both the female and male competitors). While her racing has been quiet this past 12 months compared to previous years, Shona is my pick for the win… followed closely by the Coastal High 50 winner, Lou Betts, who is stepping up for her first 100km. Others who will give these two a run for their money ($1000, in fact) are returning runners Meagan Sims and Jessica Schluter, and unknowns on this course, however with results to back them, Karen Barrett, Alena Scurrah and Connie Stevenson. Should be a very interesting race.
The men’s race will be a little more closely contested this year, with the first and second Blackall’s winners, Ben Gerhardy and myself, returning to the race. Ben is running Blackall #3 and this time not coming off the back of a win at the Glasshouse 100 miler, so should have rested legs. The new runners who would be wanting to stop these two include Charlie Boyle and Ray Crilly. Charlie is a Brisbane based runner, stepping up to his first 100km event after coming a close second at Coastal High 50 a few weeks back, and running an incredible 2:33 marathon at the Gold Coast in July. Ray is also Brisbane based and making Blackall his first 100km trail race, after a marathon PB back in July and putting in some big trail k’s over the past few months.
In the 50km races, there are already around 250 starters! Last year’s winners, Scott Farrell and Danielle Evans (Gage) are returning to defend their titles, and at this stage look like clear favourites, but with 140+ competitors in each field, someone may have flown under the radar.