Coming at you this week- The Routeburn Classic. Notice the full stop just back there, just after “Routeburn Classic” ? Now, there is likely other races/events taking place this weekend- I have looked high and low, but have seen nothing else out there (I know, I missed a few gems last week- sorry!). Even if there was, we would still be silly with excitement about the Routeburn and that was before we even looked at the start list. A look over the start list pretty much sent me into a frenzy. While folks out there labled Tarawera as “the race of the century” (which by the way took place in the Copper Canyons- I know because I read about it in a book) and then there was the huge amount of hype over a Kepler men’s race which sadly never happened last year due to various DNSs, the Routeburn Classic start list has quietly got more and more stacked- in BOTH the men’s and woman’s field……
So, less than a week until the Routebrun Classic, a 32km mountain run from The Divide on the Milford Rd to the Routeburn Shelter in Aspiring National Park. Having raced the Routeburn 3 times myself, I have a real soft spot for this race, but from what I have seen, which really is not that much, this is one of NZ’s must do mountain running races- if not the must do race. It’s just such a fun trail and Evan and his team really do put on a “Good Time”! I was lucky enough to catch up with race director Evan McWhirter over the weekend- sounds like things are falling into place very nicely for Saturday’s race.
So we will jump right into it-
Nick Hirschfeld- second male home last year in 2:52:38 and back for more! He is our race favourte and check in for a full interview with him later in the week.
Vajin Armstrong – well we all know what kind of runner Vajin is, the question is how will his technical running skills hold up on the descent from Harris Saddle to the Routeburn Flats- if he is anywhere near the front you would be hard pressed to beat him in the fast final section home from the Flats.
Braden Currie- multi-sport stud who is pretty handy on the rough stuff! Braden recently teamed up with the Ussher’s SubWay team for GodZone- they dnf’d “so he should be pretty fresh”. Oh yeah- he ran a 2hr59 Routeburn back in 2007, so has the course knowledge to get it done.
Adrian Bailey- ActiveQT’s head man was 2nd in 2009 in 2hr59 and if he makes it to the start line expect him to go well under that time. He has had a solid 3 months focused Routeburn training, including on-course training.
Jim Hawkridge- the 2007 winner (in 2hr58) is back after a break- well if you can call racing mountain bikes a “break”. Jim ran well back in January at the Shotover Moonlight Mt Marathon- if he has kicked on from that form he will be in the mix. We got a great e-mail from Jim earlier in the week and wanted to share some of Jim’s thought’s on the race also- “I am looking forward to being out in such a spectacular environment. Whether it will mean gliding along the Hollyford face admiring the view across to the Darran Mountains or being hammered by gale force winds, rain and snow. Whatever the weather brings, it’s always spectacular out there. I am also looking forward to being surrounded by the bubble of positive energy that these events seem to harness. A lot of local legends are coming out of hibernation. They are guys that inspired me when I first got into mountain running. Back then they kicked my arse so hopefully we get a chance to share some trail time this time round! There are also some younger guys that will smash it.”
Colin Earwaker- a bit of a legend of NZ trail and mountain running. “oh he is really old and a Vet now” you say. Well he just bitch slapped Andrew Howse and Kristain Day this past weekend at the Bush to Beach 22km, any other questions?
Nathan Jones- a very solid 3hr09 last year and a former top 10 C2C finisher. He will be cleaning up any carnage that occurs out front.
Phil Wood- the big man has run a 3hr02 finishing 3rd here before. We hear he might be carrying a few niggles, but we are not going to write him off all the same.
James Coubrough – He is on the start list and if he was racing I would say 1st place and a new course record without a doubt. James is on another level, especially on this kind of terrain, but we have heard he is unlikely to start. It is a real shame, but every cloud has a silver lining, this time in the form of….
Glenn Hughes- still to be confirmed, but it looks like Glenn will snap up his Wellington Scottish team mate’s (James) entry. Glenn is a former NZ Mtn Running rep and recently finished 3rd on Mt Campbell, at the NZ Champs. We briefly chatted with Glenn- ” I am most looking forward to what looks to be a very scenic track with some good terrain. Even though I enjoy uphill running, I find the downhill most exciting in these kind of races.” (Sounds like Glenn’s biggest worry might be having no mates at the Routeburn, so make sure you say hi to him!) He is our dark horse pick.
Dark, Dark House- have to throw this one out there- Rob Frost. Who? I know….. but Rob ran a 3hr10 off bugger all running last year, just big missions on the hills. If he has been “training” he could hurt a few people’s feelings for sure.
Whitney Dagg – last years winner in 3:34:34. She is coming back and coming out swinging by the sounds of it! Look for a full interview from her later this week.
Helen Gillespie - I don’t even know where to start- Helen is very experiences and very accomplished! This will be her first Routeburn, but before this she has represented NZ at the world mountain running champs (in ’95) and over the last 3 years she has either placed 2nd, or won the Croesus Crossing, Loop the Lake, Motatapu Marathon and Avalanche Peak . Can’t see her not continuing this trend on Saturday
Sia Svendsen- 4th last year in 3:47:42 and returning for her favourite mountain running race (well it’s a tie between this and Avalanche Peak). Sia is another multi sport stud and recently did GodZone, where she managed to twist an ankle, so her build up has not been Routeburn focused. And of course GodZone was a few weeks back now- she did the Contact Epic 125km Mt Bike race since then also! She will be pounding Gu’s to get her over Harris Saddle.
Sarah Chisnell- Dunedin’s 3 Peaks course record holder will certainly be in the mix.
Megan Martin- 8th in the 2010 Routeburn, Megan also works for Mountain Run Guides.
But wait there’s more….
Other folks of interest-
Mark Douglas who is in the Guru category is the only man to have completed the event each of the eight previous years is back for number nine.
Dom Harvey of the Edge radio station is making his first foray into adventure running attempting to convert from a road runner. He is blogging about his journey on the Routeburn Classic website. As is Michelle Blair, who has quite a following amongst the athletes. Check out Dom and Michell’s stories to date at goodtimesevents.net/blog.php
What are your picks? And who have I missed from the start list that is worth a mention?