Staying with the theme of tough and gnarly after this weekend’s Buffalo Stampede, we turn our attention to the Mount Solitary Ultra, put on by the hardworking guys and gals of Running Wild NSW. These non for profit races prove to be very popular in the Blue Mountains and attract some very good running talent, particularly for this race, run over one of our favourite routes in Australia.
It has all the facets of what trail running is about – fast downhill fire/single trail, gnarly uphill, stairs, rolling single trail, creek/river crossings, rock clambering and diverse flora. From Mt Solitary itself the vista includes areas of Lake Burrogarang, through to the Southern Highlands, Kanagra Boyd and The ‘Wild Dog Mountains’. The course also encompasses historical and culturally significant area’s of the Gundungurra Nation.
The race begins and ends at the old Queen Victoria Hospital in Wentworth Falls, sweeping down into the Kedumba Valley, before a sharp right into the Jamieson Valley and the wonderful single track running to Mount Solitary. It’s then a tough slog across the top of Mount Solitary, before you descent towards Chinaman’s Cave, Ruined Castle and Furber Steps and then the sweeping downhill from Leura Forest and then the slog back up Kedumba to the finish.
Given the historical significance of this race, the race shirt has been done by local Aboriginal artist (Elly) telling her story of runners coming to land along traditional lines paying tribute to local warrior Billy Russell. Elly has also done the new race trophy moving away from local hard wood mural of Solitary to a new pottery version of the Mountain. The race bib also has the original mapping of Solitary as done by Miles Dunphy and there will be a welcome to Country done by Gundungarra Elder.
The ladies field contains a great line-up that will hotly contest for the title and will prove to be very competitive – the men we’ll cover in a separate post due to the depth of the ladies field, which if I’m honest is massively encouraging and follows on from the very deep field of runners we saw competing at Six Foot. Hopefully this also passes through to UTA and we see a plethora of ladies competing for the top five placings there too. Women’s ultra running in Australia is in a good place right now.
Leading the field is the current race record holder for the ladies, Beth Cardelli, who ran 5:28 last year. While there is a strong line-up of ladies, it’s hard to look beyond Beth for the win here, who usually uses this as a warm-up for UTA, which she then goes on to smash. She’s raced once this year, down in the lower mountains at the Knapsack 6 hour race where she recorded 61km and won – as you might expect.
She won’t have it all her own way however as a few other quality athletes will be vying to upset the apple cart. Lou Clifton has risen spectacularly in recent months, culminating in a massive PB at Six Foot Track recently, running 4:08 and fourth place. She’s on fire with both speed and climbing ability and will run very close here. This course will suit her down to the ground with the mix of climbing, technical running and fast downhills.
Gill Fowler is also down to race and while there’s been a focus on some of the longer stuff for her earlier in the year at Bogong to Hotham and Ultra Easy, she’s turning now to some of the shorter distances. At Six Foot she ran just outside the top five to finish in 4:16 and will be using this race I’m sure to tune up some speed on those long descents into the Jamieson Valley.
Sophie Brown’s another leading contender, who since UTA last year has been relatively quiet on the ultra front. At UTA she scored a highly impressive second place in a time of 5:25 behind Hanny Allston as well as running onto the podium at Six Foot Track too in 2016. A talented runner who could easily end up on the podium here too.
Robyn Bruins also ran Six Foot Track this year too, recording a time of 4:22, which last year would have gained her a spot on the podium. However with the quality of the ladies field this year, that only just saw her bag a spot in the top ten, in what was one of the most competitive ladies’ fields in a long time. Robyn had some cracking performances last year, which included a sub 24 hour and first place at the GNW 100 miler. She also finished sixth in the UTA50 in 5:48.
Finishing just behind Robyn at Six Foot Track was Chantelle Farrelly by a matter of seconds. She had an action packed 2016, which included podiums at Coast2Kosci, Hume and Hovell 100km and this race last year in which she was second in a time of 5:48 behind Beth.
Maggie Jones will be another contender there or thereabouts having finished with three podiums from six races last year. This included the Buffalo Stampede and Razorback, as well as first at the Alpine 100km. Good luck to all the ladies racing this weekend.