It’s that time of year again when our attention turns to the cauldron that is GNW. There’s already been talk of searing heat and potential bushfires as the weather pattern for 2012 promises to dish up a hot one. While most people should be wondering how the hell they’re going to make it to Patonga beach, it seems that most want to know how hot will it be at Congewai valley.
For those that haven’t experienced the oven like conditions there – you’re missing out. Last year we counted our lucky stars when the temperature only nudged around 32 degrees… this year I think we’re be extremely lucky if we escape 40 odd degrees, but that’s just me taking a punt 🙂
Although the line-up is slightly depleted of some of the gun runners from last year, we still have a line of quality runners toeing the line in both the 100 miler and 100km events. For the miler, we’ll have a new champ on the board for the first time in three years with Ultra168’s Andrew Vize focusing on new races and adventures.
Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride, Matt Cooper will be seeking to change the roles this year as he looks to charge to the top of the bill. Matt has had a storming year to date, which has seen his times improve dramatically. His highlight this year has to be the excellent 10:22 he scored at the North Face 100km event in May in the Blue Mountains. Matt knows this course very well and you have to think that will give him some sort of advantage over the other gun runner for this year, Brendan Davies.
Brendan, like Matt has had a fantastic year and his recent showing at the Great Ocean Walk 100, where he ran 9:16 and smashed the course record to bits shows what kind of form he’s in right now. BUT, this is Brendan’s first 100 miler and he’s stepping into the unknown somewhat with a beast of an event like GNW. Excuse the French here, but when your race goes to shit in a 100 miler, it can really go to shit and this is especially true of GNW.
People say that surely you can walk 6kms an hour (sub 30-hour pace), but the GNW can have you stumbling around at 2-3kms per hour pace if you really lose it. Another consideration is that Yarramalong i.e. the 103kms mark, should effectively be treated as the halfway mark. Despite being two-thirds of the distance, it’s just under halfway in terms of time if you look at the stats, such is the slow-down and the toughness of two of the final three sections – and it’s in these final three sections that a lot can happen.
However it’s not all about the Matt and Brendan show… another name likely to keep these boys on their toes is Andy DuBois, recently returned from the UK and with a previous sub 30 hour UTMB to his name from a few years back. To put that into context, a sub 30 hour UTMB will get you into the top 50 out of around 2,500 runners, so Andy certainly has the pedigree and the aptitude for a race like GNW.
For anyone doing this race however, it really is hard to tell because there are so many variables to consider, those being the heat and also the ability to stay focused in the latter stages of the races when all you want to do is finish. It can be so easy to miss a turn here or there and suddenly your race has gone. Just ask Dave Waugh who a few years ago at the 160kms mark decided to take a wonder up the rather aptly named Mount Wondabyne and then prompted DNF’ed with just 15kms to go… it’s gut wrenching stuff. So although on paper it can be an easy call, on race day the variables will throw a spanner in the works for at least 50% of the field as the DNF rate for this race proves.
For the ‘sprint’ version, it’s very hard to look beyond the Central Coast’s prodigal son, Clarke McClymont for the title and to also capture the course record too if he’s still held his form from UTMB. The 36th place that Clarke secured over there is up there with Brendan’s 11th place at the 100km as one of the top performances by an Aussie in an overseas race this year when you consider some of the competition he’s up against. Hot on his heels though will be the little pocket rocket from Berowra, Beth Cardelli, who has dropped down from the miler to challenge for overall honours in the 100km event.
As always with the 100kms, we’re sure there are a few dark horses lurking about that will come to the fore on race day and there are a few little whispers that Berowra runner, Stephen Mills could feature well too we hear. However all will be revealed on race day and it remains to be seen if the weather Gods decide to show up and mess about down in the valley.