As we draw towards the end of the year, perhaps two of the toughest races are saved until last. The weekend after this, it’s the infamous Coast2Kosci 240km odyssey to the top of Australia, but before then, it’s the Alpine Challenge 100s, incorporating a 100 miler, 100kms and 60km races.
With around 8,000m of climbing over some very steep and rugged terrain in the Victorian Alps, this one is a brute of a race and not for the faint-hearted. We’ll start with the 100 miler and there are some good names heading the list and in particular, one Gill Fowler, perhaps our leading runner over the 100-mile distance.
Gill’s had another excellent year, which has seen her gather great results at both home and abroad. She kicked off the year by winning the Cradle Mountain Ultra down in Tasmania, before placing second at Six Foot track and then fourth at the Buffalo Stampede Ultra too. She then hit the trails of Europe, finishing just outside the top 20 in the IAU World Cup, representing Australia, fourth at Lavaredo and then won the Monta Rosa Walser 50km trail race over in Italy. Gill likes it tough and gnarly, so Alpine really is her favoured type of course and a race we expect her to win bar any disasters.
Also in the ladies is Kathryn Austin, who has performed consistently well and looks a good bet for a podium placing here also.
For the men, a few names stick out. Former winner of this race, Matt Cooper once again toes the line. Matt’s been very quiet of late, not racing since last year when he won the inaugural UTA50kms, followed by 26th at the 80km Mont Blanc race. It will be hard to tell what type of form Matt is in, but he’s a talented runner, so he’s sure to be right up there.
Andrew Donaldson has had a string of great results, this year and last. Most recently he won the You Yangs 100 miler in a speedy 17hrs 15mins, as well as knocking out a handy 128kms in the Sri Chinmoy 12hr race in Sydney. Certainly a man for the podium.
Dan Beard is the perennial Victorian ultra marathon racer and knows the course well. Rumour has it that he’s been on the ‘bevvies’ of late celebrating a big birthday, I’m sure he’s up for the challenge here and will be there or thereabouts for a podium.
Other names to watch out for include Scott Manson, Paul Monks, Chris Roberts. Anything can happen in a 100 miler and invariably it does and if the guys above falter, expected a few of these guys to start popping their heads towards a podium.
Certainly not the ‘sprint’ option as this cousin of the 100 miler can often be known as in ultra circles. One name at the top of the list in this race is last year’s joint 100 mile winner, Tom Brazier. I think he’ll win, but he’ll have some tough challenges from some of the other runners.
Tom’s a different runner from last year, having been over to Europe to race Lavaredo, where he finished 25th. Not a bad result by any means. He also clocked second place at the Mount Buller Skyrun, just five minutes behind Dave Byrne, as well as fourth at Mount Buffalo too.
One might think that Tom will run away with this race, but Dave Coombs might have something to say about that. Dave’s a great runner, but has been plagued with bad luck and injury over the last year or two when racing. He recently finished the GNW 100km, but in a time that is way below his full capability when fully fit. Here’s hoping he’s back on track for this one, but similarly he could just be out for a nice day in the ‘montanes’ too. Either way is cool.
Trina Denner is a lady to watch in the ladies having scored just outside the top 10 in the recent UTA 50kms. However Jacquie Hansen, last year’s winner will not want to relinquish her crown I’m sure. She’s run many of these events in the past, so will have course knowledge to her advantage. NSW runner, Delina Rahmate, however is a good bet for a podium and one to watch for these two girls. She’s a little more used to the ‘flatlands” or the Glasshouse trails, so the big climbs might be her undoing, but she has pace to burn on the flats.
My tip however, is Maggie Jones, who finished just outside the top 10 at UTA this year, a great achievement when you consider the calibre of talent running that event.
Back to the mens and Ben Grimshaw is also likely to want to push his fellow ACT runner, Tom to the line. Ben recorded at 11:20 Canberra 100km time this year placing fifth.
Simon Ferraro is likely to be up there too, recording just over 12hrs for UTA. Brett Godden has run the 60kms here before, placing fourth, so will be hoping to go one better in the 100kms this time.
I think the one most likely to challenge Tom will be Michael Keyte, who this year has already won the Razorback 64kms, run over similar parts of this course as well as a top 20 placing at UTA in 2014. He also has a sub 8hr Bogong to Hotham (64kms) to his name too – anything starting with a ‘7’ for a finish time at Bogong is good if you’re looking for a yardstick. If Tom falters in any way, this guy will be hot on his heels.
All the best to everyone racing this weekend. Have fun in the ‘montanes’.