Julian Spence ran a cracking race, leading from the outset to finish up with a new course record and more than likely, raising the eyebrows of a few veterans on the trail circuit with a quality run. In a few days time we’ll have an interview with Julian up here at Ultra168, so keep an eye out. A big mention too also to Nikki Wynd, the female winner from last year as she showed up the majority of the guy’s field (including yours truly) to run a barnstorming time of just over 12 hours and smash her own ladies course record – a brilliant run too.
As part of our predictions, I’d singled out Julian as a serious contender to watch-out for, although I was reluctant to make him overall favourite merely because he was still unproven over the longer distances. It was an email from him a few months ago that first led us to this new talent, when he asked for some advice on training for GOW.
My first response was to understand what his goals where, and when he initially told me he was hoping for sub 11 hours, my mind did wonder if this was another 4 hour marathon runner who was simply multiplying his marathon time by 2.5 to arrive at a target 100km time. (I’m sure we’ve all done it! I know I have!) My next question was to naturally ask if he’d done many other races before, to which he replied, “yeah, a 2:27 marathon.”
OK… maybe I’m not the best person to be asking for advice, but the only thing I could say to him that I thought would be of use was to get a really good block of kms in and to get on the course as much as possible. Fast-forward three months, and I think it’s hugely exciting to be seeing runners of the quality of Julian, Oli Zambon, Chris Wight and Dave Eadie banging heads against one another in one of Australia’s best 100km races. Julian is lined up for Bogong to Hotham in January, I believe he’s a serious contender.
The race itself started out hard and fast as the lead group, including the above names and a few others went off at lightning pace. I was in the second group of runners and a quick glance at my watch showed that we were knocking off 4:40kms, nice and fresh for 6:15am! After we hit the trail things settled down a little, but not by much as this first section, although extremely muddy, is also very quick. In speaking with Dave Eadie after the race, Julian had managed to gain a lead towards the end of this section and there he stayed for the entire duration, building and building until he’d managed to put over 45 minutes into everyone else by the close. A special mention to Dave for his second place and cracking time of 10:40(ish) and never say die attitude. It was cracking to be able to spend a few hours with him after the race and chat about the trail scene and the up and coming runners that now populate it.
For some, things didn’t go quite as well. Chris Wight in particular, another guy with huge talent pulled at Johanna Beach after 55kms. Anthony Bishop from Adelaide and just 19 years old pulled shortly after Johanna too, having spent quite a lot of time with the leaders in the first half of the race.
Oli Zambon, the Glasshouse 100kms winner finished a very credible third place in 11:15 with last year’s winner Toby Wiadrowski in fourth. Dan Beard, another handy local Melbourne runner took fifty minutes off his time from last year to finish in just over 12 hours, with female winner Nikki Wynd coming in close after in sixth overall. In the ladies race, Bryony McConnell continues to impress with a time of 12:59, and sneaking in 5 minutes ahead of yours truly. I spent quite a lot of the race playing leap-frog with Bryony and it was great to run with her for a while, until a few stomach issues saw her leave me at around 60kms.
On a personal note, I think I had a solid race. I’d taken a look at Dan Beard’s splits from last year (12:52), and set that as a rough guide for myself this year. But with the course changes this year, I wasn’t overly sure if they would stay true for me. As it happens I did go a little too quick, hitting Johanna Beach checkpoint (55kms) in 6:35-ish, bang on where I wanted to be, but in my heart, I knew I was taking a few too many cookies out of the jar.
I felt good on the climb out of Johanna, but 5kms onwards my stomach was in bits, so I had to back off the pace, the food and the water for 30 mins to sort myself out. That seemed to do the trick, but I was pretty wasted by 70kms and I knew it was about doing what I could to get to the finish.
A huge thanks to Andy Hewat and his team for a very slick race, excellent checkpoints and also to Gordi for going out of his way to crew me after he got injured early on. Many others ran some great times, which I think goes to show that standards are rising as the competition increases, which is only a great thing for Australian trail running.
Next stop the big daddy – G.N.W.