Another March weekend and another Six Foot Track passes us by. Despite having run this race five times previously, it’s amazing how much you forget just how hard you have to run if you want a modicum of respectability about your time. There’s no let up in the slightest, you’re ‘always on’ so to speak, from the dash to the river, to the climbs and then the thrash for home.
Often referred to as where road meets trail and trail meets road, I personally don’t see any delineation. After all, we’re all just ‘runners’ and while we may identify as being perhaps more of a trail runner compared to a road runner depending upon where we choose to race, the simple truth is that the vast majority of us train and race on both types of surface – what we both enjoy is good hard honest racing, be it on the flats of the road or the trails of the bush.
Six Foot Track is great because it’s where the hard racing of the road meets the slightly hillier and in some places, technical aspects of trail running. What I love most about this race is that element of good hard honest racing. It’s peddle to the metal from the moment the gun goes off. Sure, other races might be prettier and if you want to ‘play in the mountains’ then that’s fine. But if you want to test yourself against a string of decent runners, be they ‘trail’ or ‘road’, then this is the place to be.
While Six Foot gets a good crop of decent runners each year, this year was probably as competitive as it can get. I said in the preview that I didn’t think any records would be broken, and I was right, but only just. Vlad Shatrov took out the men’s race with a fabulous run of 3:15:44 while the Ultra168 computer got the ladies winner right, Marnie Ponton coming home in 3:50:22.
In both mens and ladies, the lead swapped around a few times, with Vlad and Courtney Atkinson taking out the mens race, working together until Vlad pushed ahead after the hills. While in the ladies, Steph Auston led in the early parts until Marnie and Gemma Jenkins overtook her to grab the top two placings. In the men’s Vajin Armstrong grabbed the final podium place, keeping his highly consistent run of form at this race. This was on top of racing the Old Ghost Ultra just a few weeks back too.
Vlad however was always going to be there or thereabouts, but calling his form was very difficult as he left Strava lying to us very badly indeed. But despite his silence on Strava, I managed to catch up with Vlad on the phone yesterday to ask him about his race and how his training went. Here’s the upshot of a little interview I did with him:
When did you decide to run 6FT Track and has it always been on the cards for you?
I decided to fully commit in December last year. My wife has run it twice and as a spectator at the finish line, it’s an amazing experience to be a part of. I’ve always wanted to come along and have a crack at it, but with my running and racing schedule over the last few years not permitting it, this year was the time to give it a red-hot go.
Most of us will know you wanted to get to Rio to represent Australia in the marathon, how has the change in training been in getting ready for Six Foot?
To be honest, training for Six Foot really suits the type of runner I am, which is more strength-based. After smashing the road for a few years it was time to change things up and the opportunity to get back out onto the trails and focus on some hills and building the strength back up really suited my body the and type of runner I am. I don’t feel as though I’ve lost any speed with the transition to trail and more strength-based running in the slightest.
So what type of training were you doing for Six Foot?
Well I kept pretty much all of it off Strava, so if I tell you, I’d have to kill you! Only joking! It was really based around getting on the trails and building up those undulating kms while still maintaining the core speed I have. I also got back into the gym twice a week, which I love doing, so the enjoyment of training really came back into my regime too.
Are we going to see you do more longer trail events in the future?
I think so yes. I love running and while you probably won’t see me at the mountain trail ultras, I’ll certainly be looking to race a 100km event within the next year or so on trails. I’m also focused on Comrades this year too, which will be a fantastic race to be part of. Then it’s a case of weighing up which race is going to suit me best. I didn’t walk once at Six Foot and I don’t intend to when I race a 100km either, for me it’s all about the running. The Surf Coast Century looks like a great run to do, along with Tarawera and Kepler too – perhaps it will all lead to Western States one day?
There are two other performances that deserve a huge calling out for the massive improvements they’ve made. Lou Clifton certainly surprised the computers here a Ultra168 central with a massive PB of 31 minutes to claim fourth. Normally known for her ‘mountain goat’ capabilities, Lou’s taken speedy advice from the likes of Brendan Davies and really focused on doing well at this race. She certainly did that and more, with a cracking time of 4:08 that saw her only six minutes off the podium.
In the men’s, fifth placed Ross Lambert scored an equally huge 25 minute PB to run in fifth place in a time of 3:33. I know Ross very well. I work with him and when he arrived in Australia a few years ago, I convinced him to dump the road for a bit and join me on the trails. Training together, he duly ran a very respectable 4:07 at Six Foot two years back. But being a young whipper snapper and not wanting to stick with a slow old fart like me, he was right in wanting to focus his efforts on the road and to bring his marathon time down. Struggling to break the 3 hour mark, he joined the rather excellent Run Crew team (under Gary Howard and Ben St Lawrence) and they’ve done wonders with him, taking him to a 2:45 in Melbourne last year. This is surely going to come down at a rate of knots in 2017 too.
Chatting with him after the race, he’s one of the most humble and modest guys you’ll meet. Recalling his race, he said that when he passed Aussie ultra captain and Ultra168 Ultra Runner of the year, Brendan Davies, he thought to himself, “What the hell am I doing here?”. The crazy thing is that Ross is only a few years into his running career ‘proper’. I think he’s got a lot of mileage to go and while a bit of a bold call, we could see him tipping low to mid 3:20s at Six Foot if he continues in this form and sticks to his dedicated training regime. Nice work buddy.
That’s a wrap, can’t wait for next year.