Welcome to 2018! You may have noticed things were quiet for Ultra168 over December, but I’m back with a bang for the new year. If truth be told, I needed a bit of a break from all forms of work – working 11 months straight with little to no holiday kinda smashes you in a little, so December was the designated ‘quiet’ month spent chasing three kids five and under everywhere and anywhere they chose to go – hardly quiet, but nice and different from the daily grind. Now having had that month off and feeling even less refreshed than before (seriously, looking after three kids all day is way way way harder than any form of work and ultra, as the mother’s here will tell you!), I’m back with plenty to get the teeth into. In a moment we’ll have the Bogong to Hotham preview, but first a few little plugs on the ‘commercial’ side that you might not be aware of if that’s OK!
The Ultra168 Supporters Club is entering its fourth year in April and I’ve lined up even more races for those looking for some sweet discounts from a list of over 35+ ultras to choose from. If you’re keen for a gander, take a look here to see which races are included and the kind if discounts you can get. Put it this way, you pretty much make your money back on one race entry.
The other plug is the very nice line of soft flask bottles just put on sale in the Ultra168 store. Featuring a new and improved design, along with a wide cap opening these have sold like hotcakes in the first few days they’ve been up online. There are discounts available for bulk purchase too and with the hot weather peaking right now, it’s a cracking time to grab yourself some quality bottles.
Bogong to Hotham ladies race
Right… back to the topic at hand, the Bogong to Hotham preview and as always, there’s a stellar line up of ladies and gents who’ll be lining up at Mountain Creek campsite this coming weekend.
In the ladies race, four big guns take to the stage looking to take out the title including the complete podium from last year. They are Gill Fowler, Nicole Paton and Katherine MacMillan, along with the addition of Kylee Woods. I’ll stick my neck out and say that the favourite is probably Gill based on previous results / form and her win here last year. Gill started 2017 with wins at both this race and also over at the Ultra Easy 100km before claiming seventh at UTA and sixth at Six Foot Track, as well as third at the Mount Solitary ultra. She then finished with a fourth place at the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa – Ultra 170. Quite a year and some big kms and races behind her.
Nicole has had an equally, if not fuller calendar of racing in 2017, which included six wins from 11 races in and around Victoria. She was just 11 minutes behind Gill at this race last year, so it promises to be another close battle between these tow once again. A good test of where these two sit was UTA last year too with Gill coming in just 23 mins ahead of Nicole over the 100km – expect a close battle this weekend across the high plains past Langford Gap.
Also fighting for places will be Katherine MacMillan and Kylee Woods. The latter, has had some close battles with Nicole, namely over the Surf Coast Century last year, which Kylee won by 12 minutes from Nicole. Kylee also raced UTA, finishing just three minutes behind Gill in eighth place. Kylee also finished just a few minutes ahead of Nicole at the Two Bays 56km ultra as well last year, which all things being equal means the battle between these three will be mighty close. Gill is probably the best known for her climbing from the three, whereas Kylee is probably the quickest over the flatter terrain. Nicole has a good balance of the two judging on the results/performance times to date – but put it this way, I don’t think we’ll see more than 10 minutes separate these three over the 64kms.
Finally, Katherine placed third at Bogong to Hotham last year and has had an equally big year of racing in 2017, which included nine events, winning three of them. She also made the trip over to Canada for the Fat Dog 120 miler, finishing a very credible fourth place in the process. She also recently won the GSER 50 miler – the legs will be more than prepped for this one. Finally, keep an eye out for the quickly improving Anne Bennett too.
Bogong to Hotham men’s race
In the men’s race, while we’re unlikely to see the kind of performance we did last year from Julian Spence, there’s a fine crop of male runners all looking to go hard over the mountain terrain. These include, Jono O’Loughlin, Loughlinn Kennedy, Oowan Davies, Marty Keyes, Damon Goerke, Stephen Rennick and Ashley Hoffman.
Starting with one of the true veterans of this race, it’s great to see a runner of Damon’s calibre back at Bogong to Hotham, a race he’s finished seven times, including a win in 2009, along with five podiums. That’s quite some record. According to the Ultra168 computer, Damon hasn’t run an ultra since 2015, so it will be great to see him back at one of his favourites once again and highly likely gunning for a sixth podium. He’ll have some serious competition though in the form of Loughlinn Kennedy, who’s been improving nicely over the last few years – a highlight being the win at the Mount Solitary ultra last year, along with the Hounslow Classic win in 2016. This is exactly his type of race and along with the effort to improve the pace, it should see him gunning for a podium.
Marty Keyes and Ashley Hoffman are interesting additions to this race, with both being better known for their form over the faster, flatter trail ultras such as Six Foot Track and Two Bays. Marty finished seventh at Six Foot track last year, along with a win at the Tarawera 60km in 2016. Ashley has very little ultra data to run off apart from a second place at the very competitive Two Bays 56km ultra last year. Both runners have pace to burn, but will the mountain legs be available next weekend too? I’m sure they will as the pace will count big time over the high plains past Langford Gap.
Jono’s form will be hard to read for this one, depending on how much training the lad has done. Having done this race with him before, this time of year is about getting his rear end back into gear for UTA and Six Foot Track. The alternative is that if he has trained, he could be right up there with the other guys. We’ll wait to see which Jono turns up this weekend 🙂
Stephen Rennick and Oowan Davies are two Victorian lads to keep an eye on, both with strong results in 2017. Stephen picked up a second place at the Blackall 100, along with a very tough seventh place at the GSER100 in a very respectable 35hours and some change. We’ll see if his legs are sufficiently recovered from that to make an impact here. Oowan has done well recently on the local Victorian ultra racing scene, culminating in a strong second place at the Alpine 100km a few months ago. Also look out for Dan Whitehead who finished sixth here last year too.
Best of luck to all runners taking place in one of the finest and oldest events on the Australian ultra running calendar.