I think it is safe to say that the Klaxon has sounded for the end of "Off Season - Schmoff Season" (as Alex Nichols so beautifully summarised Courtney Dauwalter's trail efforts in a tweet the other day).
Things are heating up, okay mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, but the level of performance on display down under is enough to put a spring in the step of us trudging through ever increasing levels of mud up north too.
Since there isn't much competitive long distance trail running to report on from the 'still in winter' continent this week lets jump straight to the island so many of us wish we inhabited at this time of the year (and point in history …)
TARAWERA ULTRAMARATHON, 102 k / 3089 m - 100 miles / 5132 m
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Camille Herron is through 141km. She is 40 minutes behind Jeff Browning and she has just been through “the bonk from Hell”. She is running on heart with the pain locked right behind a determined grin. Beer and pizza are on the menu 6km from here and we’re expecting her to hit the finish line close to 9pm, maybe a little more than 15 hours after she started. We’re all cheering you. Go Camille!!!!!!
The shorter 100 k distance of this prestigious and stunning looking ultra trail is usually the most competitive one, not only because of its early season race date making more runners opt for less mileage but also due to it being the second instalment of the Ultra-Trail World Tour series. This years edition did not disappoint and served up both big names and great performances. Our favourite pair of Baggy Shorts were making their first appearance of the year and sitting on the legs of Courtney Dauwalter it is not surprising that they saw most of this fast paced race from the front end. Courtney and local lass Cecilia Flori could be seen cruising through the first three check points together before Dauwalter "dewey-ed to it" and took control of the lead. She won the race (and placed 8th OA) in 09:28:03 twenty minutes ahead of the speedy Austrailan runner Stephanie Auston ( https://stephanieauston.wordpress.com, https://www.instagram.com/steph_auston/?hl=en) who ran a very impressive debut on the 100 k distance. Rounding out the podium was last years New Caledonia Ultra Trail champion Angelique Plaire from France in 10:39.
The 100 miler might not have been as stacked with elite names but what does that matter when you have a 24 hour record holder toeing the line. The flat and fast start to the 100 mile course suited Camille Herron like hand in glove and she went off like fire leaving not only her sisters but also the entire field of men in her dust. With Zac Marion battling cramps and Jeff Browning taking a wrong turn leading to a 30 minute detour it looked like she was on to an outright victory but as the trail turned technical during the last quarter of the race Camille's wheels started to come off and she could not hold off the by now ferociously chasing Hard Rock champion any longer. Herron still managed to bag 2nd OA behind Jeff Browning and obliterated the female course record with a 17:50:22 finish. To think that I doubted she'd be at the start-line in my preview last week … Second lady was Katie Wright in 23:43:26 and 25 minutes behind in third was Lesley Park.
Impressive season debuts from both Courtney and Camille, fingers crossed for an injury free spring for Americas two big C's so we get to see them in proper battle mode at WS100 in June!
1. Courtney Dauwalter (8OA) 09:28:03
2. Stephanie Auston (11 OA) 09:49:22
3. Angelique Plaire 10:39:47
1. Camille Herron (2 OA) 17:20:52
2. Katie Wright 23:43:26
3. Lesley Park 24:07:38
Full Results Here;
Right back to those step infested trails over in Hong to the Kong for the next round up section;
HONG KONG FOUR TRAILS ULTRA CHALLENGE 298 km / 14500 m
It feels like this autonomous and most westernised region of the east is slowly but steadily becoming the Alps of the Winter (for runners, not skiers …). With trail running becoming increasingly popular in Asia there are new races popping up every year and older events like the "somewhat" INSANE Four Trails gains wider recognition and with that a stream of international runners. The HK4TUC started back in 2012 and is a self supported non stop event where runners complete each of the four big trails (Maclehose, Wilson, Hong Kong, Lantau) of Hong Kong within a time limit of 75 hours. The biggest challenge, at least for the foreign visitors, seems to be sorting out the transport between the trails. Up until this year only 6 runners had completed the race under 60 hours and no female runner had made it back to kiss the Green Post Box by the ferry terminal in Mui Wo that marks the finish before the "finisher" cutoff. You are considered a survivor of the race if you complete Maclehose within 18 hours (the first cut off), start the Lantau trail within 56 hours (the second cut off) and have finished all four trails within 75 hours (the final cut off) and a finisher if you reach Mui Wo under 60 . There are also a long list of rules that the runners have to follow, poles for examples are not permitted (the inner hippie of yours truly highly approves of this :) ) and whilst you are allowed a crew outside of the trail you can not have a drop bag, pacer or anyone running with you whilst on route. You can however, as there are no aid stations, buy supplies and food in shops and vending machines along the route IF you are lucky enough to encounter them during opening hours that is ……. As the race description goes; "This is only for people who love pain and suffering and get a thrill out of attempting something that they deem impossible and they expect most likely to completely fail at".
Since this is a low key, community driven race there are no official rankings as such BUT the participants have to use live tracking and similarly to The Spine there is a daily summary of footage being uploaded to the race Facebook page which is how i know that the 2019 edition of the four trails had a first ever female finisher in Nikki Han. Nikki is British but lives in Hong Kong, she completed the challenge in 58 hours and 20 minutes! Whatta Shero!
You can read a longer pre race interview and a short post race chat with Nikki here:
IN OTHER NEWS
THE COASTAL CHALLENGE COSTA RICA is underway and in the spirit of 2019 the ladies are C.R.U.S.H.I.N.G it.
Ida Nilsson won the first stage out right, had a bit of a wobble on day 2 but was back in form for a second OA finish on day three. She has so far taken down the ladies course record on all the three completed stages and is not only leading the women's race but is currently sitting as 3rd OA. Behind Ida there is a daily battle between the previous champion and record holder Ragna Debats and Holly Page. Three days remains and we will be back with the final results in next weeks round up. For now: HEJA IDA!
BLACK CANYON 100 k / 1580 m
This second Golden Ticket race of the year is stacked with strong runners and will give us a good idea of the American trail elites early season form. Kaci Lickteig and Yiou Yang are both speedy marathoners and this flat and not too technical 100 k route should suit them. They will be joined by handful of other long distance trail champions in the hunt for WS 100 starting numbers though so this is likely to be a fast and furious edition of the Black Canyon 100.
That's it trail heads! More muddy kicks in seven!