No really, I promise this will be a more in-depth review than my rather flippant Facebook status update last week. The good news is most people saw the lighter side of this. But ultimately, being brutally honest, unless either one of these two gets an injury, I can’t see them losing. Both have been so damn dominant over the last year.
First up, let’s pay the ladies a visit.
If you look at the podium from last year, it’s hard not to see these three ladies doing it again this year.
Australia’s Lucy Bartholomew lines up for her second crack at WSER and second miler too. Once again, we’ll be completely biased here and of course we’re gunning for Lucy to win. She’s been out in Auburn for the best part of a month now, training and practically living on the course in preparation. She’ll have learned some valuable lessons from last year, and with hindsight, history suggests she should go quicker – the question is, how much? And, will it be enough to challenge Courtney Dauwalter?
There’s no doubt Lucy can hang with the best of them, including Courtney. But how long and can she keep it going?
Courtney Dauwalter is quite simply one of the best ultra running athletes on the planet right now – across male and female. Another big noticeable difference between this year and last, is that she’s raced way less. To this point prior to WSER last year, she’d done seven races. This year it’s three – and she’s won all of them. You have to think that again, with a year’s worth of experience and course knowledge, she’s going to knock a significant amount of time off her result from last year. And then we’re into course-record breaking territory – and that’s sub 16:47. Lucy needs to be over two hours quicker than last year to be in with a chance of giving Courtney a run for her money.
Kaytlyn Gerbin was second here last year, 19 minutes ahead of Lucy. If you’re looking for proof that a two-hour improvement can be made, then Kaytlyn is your lady. Last year, she knocked off those two hours from the previous year. As with Courtney, Kaytlyn has raced light, taking second at the highly competitive Transgrancanaria and then sixth at the Madeira Ultra Trail (115km). If fit and ready to go, it’ll be hard to not see her taking a podium here.
The UK’s Beth Pascall is a bit of a dark horse for me. Strong as a bull over the mountain stuff, I have a feeling she’ll be charging with the lead pack early on, but will also hold it steady too throughout the duration of the race. Don’t be surprised to see her contending late on for a podium finish.
Amanda Basham is ripe for a podium after two years of finishing fourth. Ever consistent, word on the street is she’s in very good form and out to nail a podium this time. The Kiwis among you will recognise Amanda from her third place finish at the Tarawera 50km. Keep your eyes peeled ladies, this one is on a mission!
Speaking of Kiwis (Italian ones that is), Cecilia Flori is back for another crack after her debut fifth placed finish last year. Cecilia has been plagued with a big of injury in the run up this year, but knocked out a solid marathon a few weeks back. No ultras to report on this year and a lack of race practice over the longer stuff could go one of two ways. Fresh legs could see her improving on last year’s time, or it could see her fade in the latter stages. Cecilia is made of string stuff however and the experience of last year should see her through for another solid finish.
Now, what about the guys?
There are two things nailed on dead certs this year. Jim Walmsley will win and Ian Sharman will finish his tenth WSER 100 for his tenth top 10 finish on ten consecutive occasions.
Now, Jim could of course get injured, take a wrong turn etc… but with the weather looking pretty darn good for this weekend, I think we could be talking course records again – given the heat of last year. Jim’s had a high-profile year already with the breaking of the world 50 mile record as part of Project Carbon X. If the motivation and desire is there, its impossible not seeing him take this one out.
Another UK dark horse is Tom Evans. Last year he took third place at the Trail World Championships and won the CCC over in France. Guy got bags of talent, and if he strings it together here, a podium is certainly with reach.
For his tenth top ten finish, I’d love to see Ian Sharman grab a podium, and there’s every indication that he could. He’s logged so many miles on this course, he could likely write a book about it. From one Brit to another, good luck chap.
Third place finisher from the last two years, Mark Hammond is a good bet for another podium. He’s raced four times this year and won all of them, including two milers and a 24hr event. Plenty of miles in the legs, but he seems to handle that well.
Ryan Sandes is back for another tilt, having won here back in 2017. Life is now very different for Ryan with a new family, and any one of us with kids knows just how hard it can be to combine ultra running and a family. If anything, the sleep deprivation should hold him in good stead 🙂
Others looking to secure, and with a strong chance of a podium include Jeff Browning and Gediminas Grinius.