High country to high street ultra success

IMG_0119 low Two ultra runners have successfully completed a unique challenge to run all the way from the summit of Mount Baw Baw, in Victoria’s east, to the bustle of Bourke Street, in Melbourne’s CBD. Theirs was a 205km effort that took three days to complete, undertaken with a point to prove: that you can run all the way from mountain to mall using only trails and tracks the entire way.

Ultra runner Richard Bowles and adventure racer Jarad Kohlar set off from Mount Baw Baw knowing they had to complete the equivalent of five marathons to reach their downtown destination.

The high country to high street journey took them off the summit of Mount Baw Baw via the Australian Alpine Walking Track, before running through the Yarra Ranges National Park to Warburton in the Yarra Valley.

The environs turned from wild water catchment to semi-rural farmlands along the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail before a diversion through the Dandenong Ranges gave way to the inevitable suburban sprawl of the eastern suburbs.

IMG_0196 mediumMaintaining the run ethos of staying on trail, the pair took to linking up green corridors including the Dandenong, Eastern Link and Capital trails to eventually make it to the banks of the Yarra River, and on into Bourke Street via Federation Square where curious onlookers barely believed their claim of running into town from 205km away.

While the aim of the run was to find an off road route the entire way, the runners admit that they were forced to run on fire and logging roads on one section early on.

“It was still running on dirt,” says Bowles, who is used to running marathon distances day after day having run the length of Australia’s eastern seaboard and the length of New Zealand. “And the huge gum forest wilderness, zero traffic, and overall remoteness meant it was pretty much the same as singletrack – stunning fresh air running. It blows me away that you can run all the way from Mount Baw Baw to the centre of Melbourne pretty much all off road. I think we only touched a kilometer or two of sealed road to link up trails.”

IMG_0402“Even the final day from the foothills of the Dandenongs through suburbia and into the CBD, the whole way you would barely know that you were in the city as the green corridors provided plenty of nature to run through,” said Kohlar, who while an experienced trail runner, had not previously run the distances undertaken for the Baw Baw to Bourke Street Challenge in one multiday stretch.

IMG_0385 low“The highlight for me was the first twenty kilometres of trail out of Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, along the Australian Alpine Walking Track. You’re up in the snowgums and then you drop down into tall Eucalypt forests, with big views. Also the last little stretch running past Flinders Street Station to Bourke Street amid all the hustle and bustle – it really brought home the nature of our journey from mountain to mall,” said Kohlar.

Bowles and Kohlar finished with a run down Bourke Street before dropping in to specialty running store, RunningFit, to IMG_2749 mediumcelebrate their achievement with a cool and rehydrating beer, a fitting end to just under thirty hours of endurance running completed over three days.

The challenge was undertaken to highlight the upcoming Brooks Trail Run Festival, a three day event that focuses on the trail running lifestyle, held at Mount Baw Baw during the March long weekend, 8-10 March. Entries, including for the iconic marathon from Walhalla to Mount Baw Baw using some of the same trails traversed by Bowles and Kohlar, are still open and will be taken on the weekend.


Screenshot 2014-02-19 22.39.45


Mountain to mall trail run challenge

Two endurance runners are set to run 180km from Baw Baw mountain to Bourke Street Mall, in an attempt to follow a route that stays almost entirely on trail and off road, taking in both wild national and suburban park landscapes.

Beginning on Wednesday 26th February, adventure athletes Richard Bowles and Jarad Kohlar, will leave Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort – usually a 2.5hour drive away from downtown Melbourne – running part way on the famous Australian Alpine Walking Track before hooking west towards the city, linking up bush and then suburban trails to arrive at Bourke Street two and a half days later.

The Baw Baw to Bourke Street Challenge won’t be the first time the endurance athletes have put their bodies and minds on the line to cover impressive distances.

993688-richard-bowlesRichard Bowles  is known for massive run missions including being the first person to run the length of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail (5330km), the first to run New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail (3054km) from top to bottom, and the first to run the Israeli National Trail (1009km).

Jarad Kohlar (below) is one of the nation’s best-known adventure racers. The one time Australian Multisport Champion is used to running in wilderness for days on end as a veteran of the Adventure Racing World Championship and winner of the Mark Webber Challenge.

Jarad 1

The Baw Baw to Bourke Street attempt officially launches this year’s Brooks Trail Run Festival, a three-day event (8-10 March www.trailrunfestival.com.au) that celebrates the ‘trail running lifestyle’ with a range of trail running events from marathon and half marathon to shorter fun run distances.

“In developing the Trail Run Fest, the team at Baw Baw were discussing whether it would be possible to run all the way from the CBD to Baw Baw purely on singletrack,” says Bowles.

“The idea resonated and our aim now is to prove how accessible trails are by running them from country to city.”

The route will track through the Baw Baw and then Yarra Ranges National Park, cutting from the resort village towards the small townships of Powelltown and Warburton. The runners will then follow the Warburton Rail Trail into the outer suburbs, passing through Mt Evelyn, to the northern part of the Dandenong Ranges National Park. After hitting and then following (on parallel pathways) the Eastern Ring Road, the route forges toward the Yarra River following its banks all the way into Federation Square.

The route descends from a high point of 1536 metres to a lowpoint of nearer 20 metres, with a small elevation challenge as the runners hit the Dandenong Ranges midway.

Screenshot 2014-02-19 22.39.45“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” says Kohlar who along with Bowles will run 80km on the first day and then follow up with two 50km days – a distance that in the endurance world doesn’t actually raise that many eyebrows. “The latter stages when we are tired and the trails are flatter will be tough. The Bourke Street finish will be as welcome as the cold beer at (iconic CBD pub) Young & Jacksons.”

Kohlar and Bowles will be supported by a small crew for the run who will manage hydration, nutrition and film the challenge as it transpires. The two runners are expected to reach Bourke Street to complete their mission by lunchtime Friday 28th February.

Richard Bowles www.richardbowles.com.au  // Jarad Kohlar www.jaradkohlar.com

Follow their progress here.


Kohlar scorches field in Seasons of Pain

DSC_0109 medThe first outing in this year’s Seasons of Pain series was marked by blistering racing in more ways than one, as temperatures nudged the 37 degree-Celsius mark, adding extra sting to the offroad duathlon challenge.

As Melbournites sweltered in an even hotter 45-degree concrete jungle, adventure athletes tackled the 32km course amidst a snowgum jungle, with the slight cooling benefit of a 1500 metre altitude and shade of Mount Baw Baw’s Victorian alpine bushland.

With the lure of a pool sitting at the finish line atop the infamous ‘Sting’ – a 300-metre vertical run ascent – solo and team competitors headed out for two trail run laps including an out-and-back to Mt St Gwinear, and two mountain bike loops on freshly groomed singletrack.

DSC_0398 medLeading the pack was last Seasons’ (2013) summer edition winner, Jarad Kohlar, who belted out fast, chased hard by Spring’s winner, Brodie Gardner, keen for a back to back win off last year’s November effort.

It was still either racers’ title at the end of the first trail run, only seconds separating the two into bike transition. However, Kohlar’s expertise on the tight technical singletrack gave him a four minute breather as he came back off the first ride.

On the second run the difference between the two athletes was negligible, both recording 29-minute legs before Kohlar again put another three minutes on Gardner on the final mountain bike loop. Lucky he did, as Gardner fought hard up the killer climb that is the 1.4km Sting, snatching back four minutes. It wasn’t enough to extinguish Kohlar’s lead, the well-regarded adventure racer’s mountain bike legs and an overall time of 2 hours 41 minutes enough to secure the win, Gardner collapsing into the finish line pool three minutes in arrears.

Seasons of Pain: a mountain of whipping from Adventure Types on Vimeo.

It is early days for Gardner, however, as he transitions from competing in triathlons. Given improvement on the mountain bike over time and with more singletrack experience, there is sure to be some heated racing up front in future Seasons of Pain events.

In third place was Ben Pattie, a further three minutes behind Gardner in 2 hours 47 minutes.

IMG_9783 med“I didn’t know what to expect coming back, but I’d hear about Brodie’s win in the last edition and I knew Ben was in the field, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day to stay out in front,” said Kohlar. “The heat was a game changer, and I tried to find the balance between pushing too hard and hitting a heat wall and maintaining enough pace to stay in the lead. The Sting still got me though – I felt lightheaded trying to get up it, so was happy to come away with the win and even happier to see that pool at the finish line.”

In the women’s category, all early bets were on Jade Forsyth, a racer with a mountain biking background and a previous winner at Seasons of Pain in 2013. Claim on the first female title for 2014 was, however, made on the first run leg by Britta Weller, who edged out in front and stayed there all afternoon. Her splits across all course legs were never threatened, despite notable runner and second place-getter, Ashley Lofton, putting in some smashing run times. Weller recorded a time of 3 hours 31 minutes. The split between second and third was closer, with Nicola Smithers punching up the Sting six minutes faster than Lofton, close but not enough to rise above third place, four minutes behind Lofton.

DSC_0420 med“The first lap I was in a lot of pain, and was thinking that it was going to be really tough,” said Weller, who has a mixed competitive background across both mountain biking and trail running, making the Seasons of Pain format well suited. “But then I settled in, relaxed and started to enjoy the racing. But I never expected to win!”

In the teams, Craig Flockhart and Chris Ord, stayed ahead of the pairs pack, recording the fastest times in the teams division across all four laps of the course bar the Sting, where they slowed somewhat (and were only third fastest team). Their time of 2 hours 56 was still enough to secure the win over Drew Cummings and Damien Bowden in 3 hours 22 mins.


DSC_0123 Brodie GardnerSUMMARY RESULTS:

1. Jarad Kohlar       02:41:16
2. Brodie Gardner    02:44:19
3. Ben Pattie      02:47:56


1. Britta Weller   03:31:37
2. Ashley Lofton  04:03:04
3. Nicola Smithers   04:07:38

Team (2)

1. Flockhart / Ord                   02:56:24
2. Cummings/Bowden          03:22:19
3. Crunden / Ormsby             03:26:23




Seasons of Pain lives up to its name on Mt Baw Baw

The snowgum-cloaked slopes of the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort in Victoria IMG_2618_medwelcomed 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’.

IMG_2498 medThe 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.

IMG_2565 med“It’s one of the best events I’ve competed in,” said Bucher.

“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.

Rob DaltonIn 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


IMG_2552 med1.     Jarad Kohlar (VIC) 2:25:44
James Pretto (VIC) 2:26:34
3.     Alex Houghton (VIC) 2:29:50


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
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