The snowgum-cloaked slopes of the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort in Victoria welcomed some of Australia’s elite multisport athletes on the Australia Day long weekend with the inaugural staging of its Seasons of Pain trail running and mountain biking event.
The first in a series of four outings for the year, Seasons of Pain Summer Edition lured competitors with a hardy offering of a 9km trail run, 8km mountain bike ride, 6km trail run, 10km mountain bike and a final 1.5km ‘dash’, running a 400m vertical ascent to cross the finish line.
The racing at the pointy end was fast and furious in both male and female categories. The women’s in particular represented a strong field with the added international competition of Swiss professional Xterra athlete Renata Bucher. Also vying for first time honours was Australia’s leading female adventure racer, Deanna Blegg, top end Torquay-based multisporter Peri Gray and Sydney-based Xterra racer Nienke Oostra.
In the men’s, the race was always going to be between perennial adversaries, Jarad Kohlar and James Pretto, both champion adventure racers, with the likes of Gippsland-based Rob Preston and up and coming athlete Alex Houghton determined to put pressure on the two favourites.
As competitors weaved their way along freshly groomed single track, it quickly became a tussle in the women’s field between Blegg and Bucher, the pair coming into the final changeover to the bike within seconds of each other. Bucher found the extra legs needed on what all agreed was one of the toughest multisport courses they had raced, overtaking Blegg to find a healthy seven minute lead by the time she battled up the final incline dubbed ‘The Sting’.
The final 400 metre vertical ascent run over 1.5km took overall winner, Jarad Kohlar, more than 16 minutes to run on his way to victory. Showing just how tough The Sting was some competitors took up to 25 minutes to get to the top where spectators cheered them in.
Throughout the race Kohlar was never headed, however Pretto threatened his lead the entire way, with three of his five leg split faster than Kohlar’s, including both ride legs. With only a second between the pair up The Sting, it was Kohlar’s blistering pace on the fairly technical run legs that handed him the race by 50 seconds.
“It was fast out there; I had to work for every single meter. It was fun though, riding through the snowgums, and having this kind of short sharp racing.
Commenting on the final uphill run, Jarad was unequivocal that the event fulfilled its promise: “It’s runnable. But only just. And you have to hurt.”
“With its bike-run format I believe Seasons of Pain will fill a void on the Australian multisport and adventure racing calendar,” says an impressed Kohlar. “I think it should really take off as something that everyone from triathletes to adventure racers to runners buddying up with a riders can have a go at. And the environment up here is just stunning – absolutely pristine and amazing terrain to race through.”
For her part, women’s winner Renata Bucher, who competes around the world in the professional Xterra off road triathlon series, was also full of praise for the course.
“It’s one of the toughest single day adventure race courses I’ve done in Australia,” added second placegetter, Deanna Blegg, who is the current Anaconda Adventure Race National Series titleholder. “Looking at the distance on paper we thought that we’d be coming up to Mt Baw Baw for a quick race that would act as part of my training schedule leading in to my race season, but it was a much harder course than expected. There was just no let up as it continued to throw challenges at every turn, with plenty of up and down.”
In the team’s category which allows two people to share running and riding duties, it was the engaged couple Daniel Trevena and Samantha Gash who registered as the first winners. Both are notable trail runners, Gash particular in ultra running having not long ago run across the Simpson Desert for charity.
Renata Bucher continued her winning ways the following morning with the inaugural Dash for Cash, a ‘taster’ event for Mt Baw Baw’s upcoming Trail Running Festival (9-11 March) that saw runners bolt down the same course that was The Sting in Seasons of Pain.
Runners lined up at the top of what is usually the downhill mountain biking course to see how fast they could descent on foot, with an incentive of $100 at the finish line. Spectators lined the parts of the run to see a technical style of running usually only seen in Europe, which is perhaps why Bucher had the advantage in the women’s time trial.
In the men, it was Gippsland-based Rob Preston who flew over obstacles the quickest and managed to defy slippery conditions to set the benchmark for the run with at time of 5 minutes 18 seconds. As a comparison, the super quick downhill mountain bikers do the run in three and a half minutes, showing just how fleet of foot Preston was.
The downhill run will again feature as part of the Inaugural Mt Baw Baw Trail Run Festival on 9-11 March long weekend. Also on the roster will be full and half marathons, two 12km runs (one a night run), a five kilometer fun run and the down and uphill 1.5km runs.
The next Seasons of Pain event will be held on the weekend of 13-14th April 2013.
More information at www.mountbawbaw.com.au
Seasons of Pain Summer Edition Results
1. Renata Boucher (SWI) 2:59:20
2. Deanna Blegg (VIC) 3:06:26
3. Peri Gray (VIC) 3:15:22
1. Samantha Gash & Daniel Trevena 3:02:21
2. Jason Johnson & Becky Herridge 3:20:44
3. Donna Gibson & Ian Gibson 3:26:31
FULL RESULTS: www.tomatoresults.com.au/default.aspx?CId=16&RId=30048