It’s the second week of March and I can hear rumblings from the flat-track forums, along with the looks of disdain from Victoria… yes, it can only mean one thing!
It’s Six Foot Track time! Australia’s greatest race in the greatest State of all!
I jest of course. While Six Foot Track is kind of a big deal in our little NSW trail world, there are just as equally good races out there with the same history and heritage as this one, I’m just throwing a few hand grenades over the fence to our speedy road and neighbour State cousins 🙂
But there’s plenty to get excited about as a couple of ‘quicks’ from the road have/will step over the threshold from bitumen to bush so to speak, and will line up against the one of the best in business on trail in this country, Stu Gibson.
Let’s take a good look at some of the contenders for this year’s race a little more closely, and we’ll start with a couple of road stars, gunning to make a hit on us fat, old and slow trail-ponies.
The first up is a big name in Aussie athletics, well, both guys are very well-known but Vlad Shatrov is someone many in the running scene will know of. He’s actually not ‘officially’ entered yet into the race, but I have it on good authority that he’s highly likely to, so I really hope we see him toeing the line on Saturday. I see him occasionally around King George Oval down in Rozelle, putting his excellent coaching skills to good use with his running squad at 6am of a Tuesday morning.
Vlad’s got a 2:18 marathon to his name and just missed out on Rio Olympic qualification too. So on paper, ‘rapido runner’, but will he have the conditioning required for Six Foot?
He has the speed no doubt, but while you can show that speed off in the first 15.5kms down to the river, the true test comes in when you’re about one kilometre from the top of Pluviometer. This is where the power of the quads (and mind come into play) and the ability to run really hard for the next 19kms having slogged your arse up an 800m climb.
The guy I’m very interested in, a real dark horse and a bit of an unknown in trail terms, is Tom Do Canto.
Tom, like Vlad, is really freaking quick. Like sub 15 minute 5km quick. He’s also the course record holder at the Coastal Classic, so the pedigree on the trail is there. Now word on the street and musings from his stable (not Tom I might add) is that this is very much a ‘try and see year’.
After all, this is his first big race over 30kms and that he’s a track/roadie and then it’s all rather new too and there’s plenty of time to unwrap the cotton wool.
BUT… Unfortunately, there’s no backpack of excuses for this race. All we offer is a tiny fanny pack for your gels. It’s very difficult to load up the pre-race caveats in a fanny pack as all the room is taken up with old-man trail stubbornness and lack of understanding for anything shiny and pretty 🙂
BUT… Go Tom is all we can say. We’re super-excited to have you racing Six Foot and I think he’s going to make a big impact.
Of everyone starting, I think Tom could be the man to really give Stu the nudge he needs to bring the record down to around 3:12. Opps, did I just say new course record? That will be tough as many of us I’m sure will have studied the weather for Saturday like a hawk. It’s a great bone of contention, the weather at Six Foot. A few years ago we had ‘flood-gate’ where a bit of water literally stopped a race in its tracks.
This weekend the forecast high is 28 with showers. That will mean high humidity too, so conditions will be hard and it might mean a slowing down overall of around a minute or two for the front-runners. The heat won’t be as bad for the front-runners as say, us fatties in the middle running five hours or so, but it will have some kind of effect as the humidity will come into play around Alum Creek and the 19.5kms mark, this is where the race will be won or lost I feel.
It’s at this point a few guys will be wondering if they’ve gone out a little too hard for the conditions, or if there will be smiles on the faces of others knowing that the guy next to them might have bitten off a little more than he can chew.
But there aren’t just three runners in this one, there are a whole host of top guys running this year that deserve a mention. Next we have the battle of the Green’s, Mark and Dan.
Dan is an interesting one. He won this race years back in way back in 2005 before track runners even realised trail running existed. A ten-year lay off (well according to my untrustworthy results website) and the guy’s back with vengeance claiming second to Andruis Romonas in The Hillary 34kms, beating in the process a very handy and quite in form Majell Backhausen. That makes the ultra running computer here at Ultra168 Towers prick it’s ears up and listen. This guy has top 3-5 potential written all over him.
Mark Green has finished third, fourth and third the last three years running in this race. He also finished seventh at UTA100 last year too. Real pedigree, class act and at the ripe old age of 41, I think will podium again this year at the expense of one of the roadie superstars.
Others to keep a close eye on include my good mate Jono O’Loughlin who last year had a storming run to finish fourth in 3:23. I ran a few kms with him last week as he smashed himself to pieces on the Ultra168 logo run in the Blue Mountains and he looked to be carrying an extra keg or two. That said, his goal will be to try to bust 3:20 and hope that a few of those in the leading pack meet their maker on the Black Rangers as penneth for taking too many cookies out of the jar earlier on.
Another dark horse will be Mitch Dean. He ran in fifth last year in 3:24 just behind Jono. Nothing from him since, which is the scary bit. If he’s trained up and ready to burn, he’s got the most to gain. Could expect some big things from him.
Brendan Davies is running too, coming off the back of a nice marathon a few weeks ago, but to be in with a shot of winning this race you need to be in around 2:20 marathon shape. There’s also former Aussie 10km runner, Shaun Creighton, who ran a 3:51 last year after coming back from a big break from the sport. Again, I don’t think he’s going to be bothering the top guys, but I would be keen to see how another year back on the wagon will see him fare for another shot here.
The big name missing is Dave Byrne, fresh from his great run at Tarawera a few weeks back – a cracking 100km debut. Word on the street is that he’s not running, but the year he won he entered the day before. Who would pass up an opportunity to run against such a great field here? We’ll wait with bated breath…
Finally, a big mention to Don Wallace. He won this race back in 1991 and has twice come 12th at Comrades. And while he might be well into Fifties, he managed to bag a sixth place here two years ago. He’s not going to win, but if you were to age adjust all the results, he would by a country mile.