Mt. Difficulty Race Preview

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one – this race truly ranks in the ‘take a spare pair of undies’ category. I ran this last year when it was a bit of a test event. Since then, it’s become part of the skyrunning series of races and has nearly 130 nutters ready to battle the mountain this time around. Race organiser Terry Davies has even installed a rope section on what is one of the most precarious descents I’ve come across in a mountain race.

See that ledge... just head over that and down
See that ledge… just head over that and down

I say I raced it… it was more like hiking it and getting a little lost for me. But I still had fun and even though I only completed two-thirds of the course, my claim to fame is that I climbed more than anyone else that day… 3000m of ascent over 28kms for the record.

Enough of me and my geographical limitations. There are some quality runners lining up this year now that points are at stake and there are some that are in for a bit of a shock come race day. There are two enormous climbs, and when I studied my run on Strava upon my return to civilisation, I saw that the first climb had something like 850-900m of ascent over just 2.5kms… you guys and gals racing are in for a real treat.

Up, up and away!
Up, up and away!

I also recall the second climb and at one point looking down thinking, “one bad move and I’m going down the mountain and not stopping for a while”… But don’t let that put you off 🙂 In all seriousness though, this really is a cracker of a run and we hear there will be a dusting of snow on the mountain too. Better pack some very grippy shoes if you’re racing!

So who’s in the running for the honours list? As always we’ll begin with the ladies and there’s some real depth racing here with around five or six ladies in with a podium shout. First up, two girls from Australia making their way across the ditch in Beth Cardelli and Sadie Cranston. Beth we all know about and it was really unfortunate that she had to pull from TNF100 recently. I think she would have won if I’m honest with you, so it will be good to see her smashing up the mountain in New Zealand, of which is a real strength of hers.

Those two girls won’t have it all their own way however as Whitney Dagg, Jo Johannsen and Fiona Hayvice will be getting the guns out for the kiwi girls in the battle of the honours here. Jo and Fiona have had solid performances at Tarawera and the Buffalo Stampede, while Whitney is very much back on the comeback trail after some extended time out injured.

No switchbacks here baby!
No switchbacks here baby!

In the mens, there’s one big standout name in Andrius Ramonas. The big Lithuian is kicking all ass before him. He won the Hillary Ultra back in March, then came across the ditch to Australia and spanked our behinds in the TNF50. Ramona is a seriously good athlete and I’d say right up there in terms of his results over the 50-80km distance.

Next up is last year’s champion Grant Guise whom I’m sure will be on  the podium in one form or another… even if it’s just to hand out the prizes. Keep an eye out also for Steve Neary, a handy runner from the North Island.

In the battle of mountain goat supreme status, we Aussies have two thoroughbreds of our own aiming to give the Kiwi sheep a run for their money. Ben Malby is part man, part goat – seriously, check out his website. Then we also have a stalwart of the Aussie mountain running scene in John Winsbury. He eats mountains for breakfast and has been traveling very well of late in terms of his results. I think we’ll see him on the podium for sure.

Finally I have to give mention to Matt Bixley. He’s had a tough time of it of late with a number of DNFs. He came third here last year, so there’s hope for him yet.

And after all that climbing some sweet downhill
And after all that climbing some sweet downhill
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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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