Kepler Challenge 2012- Woman’s Preview

Matt Bixely, aka “The Mouth of the South” has stepped up to give us an excellent insight to the 2012 Kepler Challenge woman’s field. Its is shaping up to be a great race, read on to find out why….

The head honcho at BCR has decided (rightly so) that I should write up the predictions form guide for this years’ women’s field. Rightly So, because he has no idea how they run. He’s usually been back to the hotel, showered and onto his 2nd beer before they finish (note- NOT at all the opinion of BCR “head honcho”, quiet the opposite!). I on the other hand, run with, train with, beat and get beaten by them. I run like a girl. I did however finally beat them all last year.

In recent years at various races around the country when looking at the women’s field you’d be lucky to find more than 2 who are capable of winning a given race and picking the podium wasn’t a difficult task. The depth hasn’t existed and the Kepler has been no exception. Not so this year. The winners of the 3 previous events are all entered. Vanessa Haverd, Shireen Crumpton and defending champion Victoria Beck. They are joined by the likes of Sarah Biss, Elina Ussher, Fleur Lattimore, Johanna Ottosson, Jess Simson and Whitney Dagg. All of those women could expect to turn up any other year and get on the podium or even win.

As recently as 2007 the race was won in 6:17 while 3rd place has been ranging between 6:07 and 6:30. This year expect to see 3rd needing a 5:50 or better and the win will be 5:40 or better. Which means I’ll probably lose my F1 ranking.

Who’s Who and what could they run.

Victoria Beck – The defending champion, she has had more time to train this year so has put in some longer runs and does the end of them easily. I know, because when we get near home I struggle to hang on. Ran a 1:19 down in Invercargill last week and beat Shireen in a 10k early in the training block. Marathon PB of 2:45. Vic should and wants, to run faster this year.

Shireen Crumpton – 2010 champion with a 5:46. Injury, a helicopter from Rocky Point in 2011 and then surgery saw her early part to this year restricted. But a 2:52 in Auckland showed that she is making progress towards the speed she used have ie a 2:37 marathon. She refuses to come training with us because it’s too slow, rough and muddy. Fiercely competitive, Luxmore Grunt record holder so will have no problem getting to the top. Shireen won’t be happy without sub 5:50 and more like 5:40.

Vanessa Haverd – A win in 2009 followed by two 2nds, a PB of 5:52 she could easily run that again but I don’t think she’ll have the speed to win with the depth in the current field. She is, however, very consistent, experienced and will run near 6:00.

Sarah Biss – Probably deserving of the favourites tag even though she only dipped her toe into ultras for the 1st time last weekend. Her 5:28 ‘jog’ for the 61km Taniwha suggests that if all goes well she could threaten the womens race record of 5:23. Sarah spent our winter in Europe racing and preparing for the World Long Course Mountain Running champs before injury ruined her day. If that stays away she could well run a large portion of the race with the leading men. Her marathon PB of 2:39 was run earlier this year. She is the fastest in the field.

Elina Ussher – Elina doesn’t really need a bio written. More at home on a bike, in a boat, off track or racing around the world. Elina will have better endurance than probably any other person in the field. She will lack the speed required in the 2nd half to win but will run down a hell of a lot of guys who go out too hard and could do enough to get on the podium, in other years she would win. She has a predicted time of 5:50

Fleur Lattimore – No predicted time!!!! A real dark horse. Fleur won the Loop the Lake and finished 2nd in the Abel Tasman earlier this year. Has been adventure racing so endurance won’t be a problem, but may lack the experience of running a very long way. She comes from a household where hard work on the sports field is the norm. Husband Ralph Lattimore was a long time NZ Basketball Rep.

Johanna Ottosson – Has a 2:45 marathon under her belt and a number of others around 2:50. That sort of form is good for a 5:50 or better (predicted 5:55). Trails are not new to her as she won the BigO earlier in the year. She shares the same coach as Vic Beck and I think she’s a real contender for the podium.

Whitney Dagg – Whitney has suffered with ITB issues for a while, but managed to string it all together and smash the woman’s record at the Routeburn earlier in the year. Solid runs at the Naseby 50 and then backing up with the Dunedin Marathon means she has the miles done, but won’t have the speed for this year’s field. Her current form would have her on the podium in other years.

Jess Simson – I have no idea where to place Jess in the mix. She doesn’t do standard running races. She won last year’s Luxmore Grunt in 2:18. I don’t think she’s suited to running fast. She is from the same mould as Elina Usher. I saw first hand how strong Jess is in the hills at the 2011 Motatapu Adventure run. An hour into the day and she was towing her male team mate up the first big climb, leading the race outright while the rest of us sat back and speculated about when they would blow up. They finished 2nd outright. Jess returned with Baz Smith this year and smashed Martin Lukes/Gavin Hawkes course record by ½ an hour. 2nd place that day was Phil Wood and Ross Rotheram who have both run well under 6:00 hours in Te Anau. I don’t know where she’ll finish, could be on the podium, could be 10th. She is freakishly strong.

So from that list we have at least 6 women who have run near, under or predicted a 5:50. That’s 6 women who probably think they have a genuine chance of winning if things go their way.

About Mouth of the South

Matt Bixley has written 24 .

Outspoken and opinionated- which is great cause we never have to guess what is on his mind. “The Mouth of the South” started his love of trail running with a 8hr+ Kepler in 2004. Since then he has run 220+km in 24hr while representing New Zealand and now has 5hr50, top 10 finish to his name. You can follow him HERE on his personal blog

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  1. Edit – Jess Simson is out, a real shame as few womans fields have such depth.

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