It’s a bit of a mixed bag to start the week as we draw close to the festive season here in Australia, but still with plenty of racing to go, including the big one at the close of the Aussie ultra year, coast2kosci. We’ll be delving into a light preview of that race in this post, followed up with a more in-depth preview coming later in the week. We’re also grabbing some time with new world 100km champ, Kirstin Bull who will be telling us how she managed to grab the win over in Spain.
But first up it’s across the ditch to Kepler, one of the best-known races in New Zealand, and described by many as “the jewel in NZ’s mountain running calendar”. So popular is it that a fair few Aussies head over for this and we’ve in the past done very well. Indeed, an Aussie, Marty Dent holds the record for the 60km Challenge event in 4hrs 33mins.
With no Marty this year, the door was pretty wide open for the local Kiwi lads to win back a bit of pride from the Aussies and it was Wellington’s Sam McCutcheon who took the line honours after what has been a very good last few years for him. Sam took third spot in this event last year on debut, so he’ll be mighty pleased to have gone a few spots better this time around, and beating one of New Zealand’s best runners in the process too, Vajin Armstrong. Earlier in the year, Sam won the Ultra Easy 100kms and then went on to win the highly competitive Buffalo Stampede too.
In the ladies, it was ‘Frosty’ who took out the win in what was quite remarkably, her first Kepler Challenge attempt. Anna will be pretty pleased on both accounts this weekend as she’s also secured another place at the infamous Hardrock 100 following her win last year. Another Dunedin local, Grant Guise also managed to swing the odds in his favour by grabbing his second consecutive Hardrock place this time around too. Me thinks Dunedin must have some kind of magnetic pull on the shiny balls being used in the Hardrock draw to push out two locals in this highly select race.
Which makes for a nice segue to the lottery draws for Western States and Hardrock.
Not one Australian from 99 applicants for Western States managed to bag a spot this year. EDIT: Apparently we have one, Geoff Evison who’s been on the list since the monolithic ages, but he’s not listed on the 2017 entrants thus far – but he’s confirmed to me that he’s in. Admittedly, many of those listed were ‘virgin entrants’ with just one ticket… Oh well, I’m sure we’ll keep on feeding the UTWT machine with dollars at the qualifying races… The upside I guess is that in three to four years time when all these virgins have multiple tickets, we’ll have a plethora of Aussies in the draw.
At Hardrock 100, while US names still dominate the entrants list, we did go two better in what is arguably and even tougher race to get into than Western States. Phil ‘Spud’ Murphy can thank the luck of the Irish for his second consecutive spot at this race, along with Blue Mountains runner, Nicky Redl too.
I have to admit, the line-up for Hardrock is utterly mouth-watering in the both female and male events. In the ladies we have last year’s champ, Anna Frost going up against our ultra runner of the year, Caroline Chaverot and French compatriot, Natalie Mauclair. Another former winner, Darcy Piceu is also on the entrants list. Should make for an awesome race between those four.
In the mens we have both returning champs from last year, Kilian and Jason Schlarb, along with a whole host of top names including, Zach Miller, Mike Wardian (more a speedster over the flats), Karl Meltzer, Spain’s Iker Karrera, Joe Grant, Adam Campbell and Mike Foote. Who would bet against Kilian and Jason holding hands again?
And finally, we have our own epic race to fixate on this weekend, the 240-odd km Coast2Kosci. The race that starts in the seaside town of Eden on the south coast of Australia, heading inland, up and up and up and up to the highest point in our fair land, Mount Kosciusko.
We’ll be doing a full preview later this week, but one name I’m pretty excited to see on the list is Paul Munro from Victoria. He torn the Great Naseby 100 miler a new one a few months ago, baffling many a Kiwi over the ditch as they pondered how an Aussie was leading a Kiwi race in such awful weather. Paul won in a barnstorming time of 14hrs 37mins. For those who know their 100 mile racing, that’s a quick time. While Great Naseby is a flat miler, sub 15hrs is still mighty quick. The ladies contain a few regulars to C2K but early heads above the water suggest Pam Muston and Susan Keith might be early frontrunners. More research will be done this week.
Feature Image from the Kepler Challenge website