While the weather Gods threatened runners on Friday and the early part of Saturday morning at Ultra-Trail Australia, it was the Aussie ladies who made sure the sun shone through for the rest of the day, with fine performances from two Victorian lasses.
In the main event, Lucy Bartholomew placed a massive stick in the ground with a barnstorming time of 10hrs 52 minutes to win the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km against a highly competitive ladies field that was dominated by Aussies. It really goes to show that over the last few years, our Aussie ladies have come on extremely strong in ultra trail running.
In the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km, Kellie Emmerson continued her dominance, winning in a time of 4hrs 42mins ahead of the world trail championships next month. Both ladies were in fine form this weekend and one might say, the form of their lives right now.
With some last minute changes, the 50km took in an entirely new course, running what is effectively the first loop of the 100km event and arguably, a tougher course, taking in far more technical running and stairs compared to the usual 50km course. Kellie’s time is technically a new fastest time for the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km, but on a different course. Still, no matter which course, it was a world class run.
The same can be said of Lucy’s run too. The 100km took in some slightly variations in the first loop, with the climb up to Iron Pot ruled out and a completely different back leg that saw an out and back to the Queen Victoria Hospital instead of the usual loop into the Jamieson Valley. But what the course lost in elevation, it gained in far more technical running and masses amounts of stairs. Again, you’d probably argue the 100km was tougher in that it’s extremely hard to get a rhythm going on that out and back compared to the smashing downhill of Kedumba and the metronome of a slog up into the Leura Forest. Still it is what it is and again, technically, Lucy has set a new 100km course record.
While people will marvel at Tim Tollefson’s amazing run of 8hrs 52mins in the men’s race, the run of the day for me and many other’s was Lucy’s performance in the 100km. On what was her 21st birthday, she made it a birthday to remember with some fine running from the front against a hugely competitive field. Hanny Allston was on her tail on day long, as well as the massively improving Lou Clifton. I had a sneaky feeling Lou was going to make it to the podium, as mentioned in our ladies preview and her performance was pure class.
For Lucy, this win really sets her on the map. For the month leading into this race, she lived on the course under the watchful eye of Jo Brischetto, whom I’m sure gave her all the wisdom and experience she’s gained from doing well at this race too. Having had a few conversations with Lucy prior to the race, it was clear she was in fine nick and ready to give this everything she had. Her time of 10hrs 52mins certainly puts her right up there in terms of women’s ultra running, not just in Australia, but globally. When you think that the amazing Nuria Picas has won here in just under 11 hours, as well as China’s Dong Li, Lucy’s time really does speak for itself.
In the men’s Ultra-Trail Australia 100km, the talk of the town was probably the return of Rob Krar, but I had a sneaky suspicion in the back of my mind that Tim Tollefson was going to do the business, and do the business he did with a time that was arguably the fastest ever run, although technically two minutes shy of the record.
It was a cracking run by Tim, who as noted in our preview has pace to burn and looks set to be a real gun ahead of the rest of the year. For Rob Krar, it was a hugely popular welcome return to racing after nearly two years away from the sport with injury and then building back up. His time of 9 hrs 11 minutes is a really solid one and I’m sure he’ll look to build to even greater heights from here. Rounding out the male podium was France’s Aurelien Collet in a time of 9hrs 23 minutes.
Big shout out to Dave Byrne for his brilliant fourth place and first Aussie home in a time of 9hrs 25 minutes and just two minutes behind Aurelien. Dave will now get his legs ready for Wester States in just five weeks time, but I’m sure that 100km will be a big confidence booster ahead of the big dance. It was a mighty impressive time and his ability to transition onto some of the more technical stuff with some relatively biggish climbs thrown in for good measure too has shown the good progression he’s making. That will have done his legs the world of good ahead of Western States where quad conditioning is vital. Best of luck Dave for the next few weeks and the big one.
In the men’s Ultra-Trail Australia 50km, a cracker of a race unfolded with Nepal’s Samir Tamang winning overall in what can also be regarded as a new course record time of 4 hours 7 minutes, but only just. The old dog, Stu Gibson was just 10 seconds behind him, completing an excellent comeback of sorts after over a year out from his last competitive race. He keeps saying he’s finished, but Stu just can’t resist another crack. And just over a minute behind Stu was Frenchman, Thibaut Baronian in a time of 4hrs 8mins.
All up, it was a cracking weekend of running for what was the 10th edition of this race. Well done to all who competed this weekend, particularly those who have been with the event for 10 years too and have run all ten of the Ultra-Trail Australia 100kms to complete what is now a 1000kms on the Blue Mountains course.