Skyrunning is making its debut in NSW this coming weekend in the unique and magnificent Blue Mountains National Park, World Heritage Listed Grose Valley. Many runners from all across Australia and New Zealand will meet at Blackheath to participate in the 6th installment of the Oceania Skyrunning Series. With two events, a 68km Ultra and a 23km Skyrace on offer. The Hounslow Classic is shaping up to becoming a bucket-list trail running event for the future.
The course is as tough and challenging as you will get in Australia. Technical, rugged, varied, steep, stairs, valleys and climbs and set in one the most beautiful parts of Australia. The long course will be a very difficult race with several steep and relentless climbs and descents and also offers tricky single track along the cliffs for runners to link these climbs together. Although it is now 68km the 17hr cut off will loom ominous for a large contingent of the field and the return journey for runners retracing their steps will be a massive mental and physical challenge. The shorter option offers 23km of pure trail running bliss, the whole course bar 1km is single track with an absolute beast of a climb to finish. While it is less in distance it will test all involved to their limits.
So with a sold out event in the first year – who is who in the pointy end of the field?
With a similar feel to the first Buffalo Stampede, the depth of local talent will be on show across both days of the weekend. And it could be local knowledge and skills on the course that could make a difference.
Hounslow Classic Ultra Skymarathon
A deep field and on a tough course there will be many twists across the day.
Ben Duffus is coming in hot off a win at the Coastal High 50 last month and appears to have recaptured his 2014 form where he went on to claim 3rd at the World Skyrunning Champs in the French Alps. He is smart, patient and built for climbing so he is the favorite for the win.
Clarke McClymont is going to take some beating in this race. It has his skillset written all over it and with a solid win at GNW100 last month, Clarke is in good form. He loves the tough grind and there is a lot of this course that will play to him. Last minute scratch.
Grant Guise is also a clever and talented mountain runner. He will enjoy the technical terrain and with a massive year already he will be pushing the front of the podium. The Kiwi runner is reported to have brought an investment in St John First Aid to ensure optimal care if the dreaded snake bite occurs. With Scott Hawker injured, Grant is in a dual with John Winsbury for the SkyRunning Championship in 2015.
Ian Gallagher – a little bit different of a race for Ian but he has proven his pedigree both on trail with wins in the Glasshouse 100miler and as well with speed, boasting an impressive 2:42 marathon to his name in 2015. The terrain could be his biggest obstacle however if rumors are correct, Ian has had some quality time on course and this could prove to be in his favour on the weekend.
Tom Brazier is all class and with a break after a busy first half of the year in the mountains of Europe, will be looking for another strong performance. Look for Tom late in the race to mop up those who went out too hard.
Marty Lukes ran super well at Buffalo and has the pedigree to win this race out right. If he can run as well as in April he may just do that. Marty will leave no hostages out there – he has the experience and talent if any gun youngsters fail to meet their potential.
Andy Lee the local favorite of many. Andy trains the house down and has been on course a lot. He is strong mentally and physically and knows the valley and its trails. He will use his local familiarity of the course to his advantage and this could be his run of the year.
Ewan Horsburgh is coming off GNW100 (miler) and the win. He is very good on this type of terrain and will act as a sweep for those struggling up front. Ewan also has the speed and if he is in synch with what the trails are opffering him on the day – he too could podium.
John Winsbury has performed well all year on the Skyrunning circuit. He is vastly experienced and a fierce competitor. John has won Bogong to Hotham, podiumed at Kepler Challenge and is challenging with Grant Guise for the SkyRunning Championship in 2015. John has the experience to race smart and well and can handle the terrain. On any given day – this could be his race.
Eric Holt – little known but posting some great training in the Gross could be looking for a sub 8:30 on the course. We don’t know much about Eric but his form is great and he is familiar with the course. Being relatively “unknown” he could slip away easily with guys feeling they will catch him as he fades, which by all accounts of his training he may not do…
A race like this offers the likes of Konrad Legge, Darren Purcell, Tom Barkowski, Rob Sharpe, Christian Warren and Matt Bixley the chance to show their wares if they run well on the day.
The womens field is equally as strong and the race will just as competitive.
Beth Cardelli is familiar with the course, as consistent as you could ask for and with the local experience should go one place better than at the Buffalo Stampede in April. She will ensure there is plenty left to come home strongly. Beth is fighting for the SkyRunning 2015 championship honours and will have jo Johansen at her heels, if not chasing her throughout this event…
Jo Johanson is the big threat to Beth for the win. A meare 15min separated them in April and I have the feeling it will be just as close here too. Jo will enjoy the technical nature of the course and don’t be surprised if she lifts the trophy. Jo is in fine form at the moment and coming to race the race of her career at Hounslow. While she was happy enough with her Buffalo experience in April, she knows she has more and is definitely bringing it to Hounslow.
Maggie Jones is in form and has been training well on course. She will surprise many and could be on the podium come Saturday afternoon. Age group for sure.
Lou Clifton is coming of a strong run at the TNF50 in May. She has been training well and will also be in for a good showing on familiar trails.
Jean Beaumont is from New Zealand and in the Veteran 2 class and is as strong a racer as they come. Jean posted a sub 24hour at the Leadville 100 Miler which is impressive to anyone who has ever heard of Leadville, she was also 2nd over 50yrs lady at UTMB and was only 15minutes from the overall win (mens and ladies) in Northburn in 2012. The biggest challenge for Jean is that the distance may be too short for her to rally her true talent. But like some of the mens contenders, if there are any falters up front in the ladies race, this could be Jeans race day.
Others that will be around the front come the end of the race will be Jess Siegle, Anne Mackie, Bryony McConnell and Caroline Gavin.
Hounslow Classic Skyrace
Ruby Muir the Kiwi superstar is returning to Australia and will be very difficult to beat on terrain that will suit her. She is a gun of the highest standard and will be flying around the Grose. Ruby has been working on her speed on the road and this return to the trails will be a homecoming for her. Ruby loves the challenges a course can give her and the Gross Valley wont disappoint.Audrey Gullemin from the Gold Coast trains with so much discipline and just absolutely loves her running and any challenge that is presented to her. Audrey has been focused on mountains and repeats and has a decent base to draw from with the ability to take on any challenge in a positive light, The distance is a little longer than Audrey had been training for but she has amped it up a little in the last few months and will be out to run well.
Gretel Fortmann is coming of a series of crazy mountain adventures and will be very difficult to beat in this type of race. She will bring it home strongly on the final climb and but can she run well enough to knock Ruby off?
This is hard to predict, the biggest wildcard on the weekend was to be Reegan Ellis who is striong and competitive but with a late DNS, we will need to wait til another day to see Reegan race this one. Michelle Beattie is another wildcard, having podiumed at 6ft track and been a pro triathlete the competitive streak is definitely there, we don’t know much about Michelle’s current form but are stoked to have her line up regardless.
Mens – 23km Skyrun
Jono O’Loughlin will be very tough over the 23km. He is in form for 2015, loves the tough trails and climbs of the Blue Mountains and will run like a beast. Good luck dragging up the climb with him at the end.
Aaron Knight has burst onto the scene and is taking to the trails like a natural. He will enjoy the course and with a big climb to finish will be hard to hold off. Aaron was joint leader in the 26er at buffalo after the first climb but faded in the back half of the run to still take a top 10 spot, however he wasn’t happy with the fade and has been training well and is rested and ready to hit the trails hard. The biggest hurdle for Aaron is the unfamiliarity of the course. He does however have the talent and instinct to go for a win if it is there for him.
Mick Donges is as technically gifted runner as you will find. He is in good form after a European trip and some good local races. LATE Scratching due to injury.
Kristian Day is another of the NZ crew and with some solid results under his belt will be very much around the front pack. How he fair on the unfamiliar Aussie trails could well be the answer to his result. A podium if not win is not out of the question for Kristian.
Scott Hawker is coming back from injury but has been running well in training. Of the Kiwi runners he is the only one to be snake acclimatized so his knowledge will be sought after by his fellow countrymen. Scott is rumoured tobe running with his wife Liz however…. When the gun goes >> who knows?? Scott is sitting top of the leaderboard on the SkyRunning points score and a podium in the 23km event could keep him in touch with the other mens contenders for the overall SkyRunning title… will he say “go” when it comes to race day???
Jake Bresnehan – Jake is a local, knows the valley, knows the trails, is in form and from what we have heard is hungry to do well. Whether this converts to a podium, or an age group win we won’t be sure until race day.
Training well and focused – Wes can hit the podium in any event on any given day. Wes knows the course, is running well and is keen for the challenge, whatever the result, Wes is bound to bring his best or die chasing it on the day.
With a strong local contingent there are plenty of runners waiting to show how well they can run on these crazy trails. Shayne Bunting, Ben Artup (unofficial King of the Grose), Dirk Streefkerk, Loughlinn Kennedy and Marc Person will all be pushing the front end along. Andrew Hill, Paul Shoemark both stand a chance at the podium and depending on the field on the day could easily run themselves into a top spot.
So the showdowns for the weekend…
Matt Bixley Vs Dan Bleakman
This is mainly about beer, cricket and rugby and as entertaining as it comes when they start sledging… At the end of the day the beers will flow with these two and they will leave everything out on the trail to get the better of each other… for spectators it will be great to watch.
Jo Johansen Vs Beth Cardelli
With the Skyrunning Grand Title at stake and the talent to win in both camps – these girls will push it along til the last climb. It may be about who falters first on race day.
John Winsbury V Grant Guise
Again the SkyRunning title could be on the line. Will Grant be able to put his head back together after having his race dashed at UTMB or will John, the never ending competitor and insane mountain running specialist continue with his consistency and put himself ahead for good?
Marty Lukes V Andy Lee
Both strong, both competitive, both smart racers, these blokes have seen it all on race day and nobody would be disappointed to see either of them perched upon the dais with the win. For now the two represent the “old guard” for trailrunners as they have accomplished so much and carry some awe for all runners getting into the sport or for those long time followers.
Runners we would have loves to get on the course who we will have to wait another day to see run…
Brendan Davies… with back to back races in his legs over the last 4-5 weeks including the World 100km Championships and UTMF in Japan – this one unfortunately was not on the cards for Brendan, While the terrain isn’t really his thing, he is a fiery competitor who will put any field from the front during any race… and nobody wants to let him go if they can help it. It’s unfortunate this local race didn’t make it onto Brendans schedule but with so many great overseas opportunities we hope it will fit in in the future.
Andrew Tuckey … again one of Australia’s best and one the kiwi runners love to race with and against – Andrew is residing OS at the moment and unable to be here – would be great to see him tackle the race in 2016 or beyond..
Mark Lee – another Aussie oversea’s and another one missed fromt eh starters list unfortunately, Marks dedication to training and the task at hand make him a viable contender in any event and he just seems to enjoy it all so much. Hopefully another day.
Reegan Ellis – with a little bubba and just getting back intothe training and racing this event came up too quickly for Reegan to feel the amount of confidence need to push her body like she always will, this course is suited to Reegans tough mental outlook and we hope to see her come and have a good crack at it in 2016.
David Byrne – no nope… unfortunately not this time. Dave willhave his film crew from Rusty Cage Productions on hand to capture the event and I am sure the footage will make him hungry for the run in future years.
Emma Rilen – she is marrying Dave (see above) Cant wait to see Emma on the traila agin though. While this one may have “technicalled her out”. her speed and toughness as a competitor would unlikely leave her off the podium in the 23km event.
Blake Hose – Blake is teamed up with another one we would like to see on this course – Mathieu Dore in the GOW Relay with an unavoidable clash. While the boys will not be here we will be sure to show them enough tantalising images to make them salivate at next years opportunity.
Caine Warburton – with his new induction into the Fire Brigade Caine has been busy with training and new work hours. Once this stuff is bedded in again we will hope to see him back with his family on the scene. Caine is a running mate with Ben Duffus and they love to push the pace. Let’s hope Ben brings it on your behalf.
Sarah Jayne Miller – We really want to see this chic out on the trails again and with her passion and drive we hope to see her again in 2016. The sky is the limit when race fit!
Written and Edited by Wes Gibson and Melanie Michael
We have done the best we can to compile the most up to date info between us – happy reading – racing and more reading!!!