Hellgate 100k Race Profile

Best Blood award from 2010 Hellgate. Photo: Keith Knipling

“*Be prepared for this section!!  It is long and tough.”

“*Be aware:  This is the second toughest section of the race.”

“*** This section will seem like it goes on forever.”

These are footnotes within the course description written by David Horton.  When Horton says something is tough and long, you best be listening and heed the advice.

This is the 9th running of the Hellgate 100k.  The race starts Friday night, er, Saturday morning at 12:01AM, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the frozen ground, chilly water crossings, and 20 degree temps all while navigating through the pitch blackness, save for the ghostly hue from the full moon (given there are clear skies, that is).  Good for you if you’re fortunate enough to get some sleep Friday evening before the race.  For most, it will be a long time between rest from Friday morning until they finish sometime Saturday afternoon and into another evening for many.

The course is a monster point to point starting near Big Hellgate Creek in Rockbridge County, VA and traverses through the Jefferson National Forest, drunkenly following the Blueridge Parkway for 66 miles to the finish at Camp Bethel in (heh, heh) Wise, VA.  13,500 feet of gain and roughly the same amount of descent ensures you’ll have fond physical memories for days after the race.

Hellgate elevation profile. Credit: Keith Knipling.

For the men this year, watch for Frank Gonzales, Aaron Schwartzbard, and Jeremy Ramsey.  For the ladies, Amy Sproston makes the trip back East and should run uncontested.

The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco Championship 2011

It’s Friday (well, Thursday night really), the day before the biggest ultra of the year (2011 The North Face Endurance Challenge  San Francisco Championship). There are a few reasons why we should consider this race ultra big, or this ultra race big. That’s what I’ll spend the next hour or so chipping away at, that idea that we’ve reached at last the Marin Headlands and a field of runners will assemble in just a few hours that could absolutely, in the spirit so poetically described by Geoff Roes, explode trail lore. Imagine what’s at stake. We are witnessing a sport get defined, re-defined as its precocious limbs mature before our very eyes.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships San Francisco represents the other half of this sport’s split personality. About a month ago, I explored the meaning of UROC and think some of those words apply here to this weekend’s race.

“What is the intent of [UROC]? This is a rhetorical question. The race is about the competitive nature of the sport. Period. Even more interesting: Geoff Roes is at the front of this campaign to create a race where elites are treated like elites and the race is centered around highlighting that competition at the front. Again, this sport is suggestive of two worlds: the down-to-earth just run and have fun and finish vibe, and the world-class Micahael Wardian v Geoff Roes vibe, or Jornet v Wolfe and Clark or Heras v Roes and Mackey vibe. It’s tough to deny this split personality in the sport.”

That is what is happening in San Francisco this weekend.

All year, every weekend, runners gather on myriad national and international trail to “race.” Most of these are friendly battles between friends and family members, or new and familiar faces just enjoying the outdoors. These events might more represent the local endurance challenge. The “race” might be inaugural or it might be 35 years-old. The spirit is better reminiscent of fellowship, of sister or brotherhood, of people of all walks of life sharing in the stewardship of our natural world and getting fit and having fun at the same time. “Winning” might not even be part of the local lexicon. A podium might be replaced by pints of craft beer; but the sweat and the beautiful feelings associated with giving it a go out there circulate like the good vibes of a people engaged in what I would call a new civic duty.

TNFSF50 certainly includes this same kind of friendly praxis, even amongst the elites (perhaps even more amongst the elites). Be that as it may, there’s a race going-on, one of world-class proportions, one so big it’s more germane to the competitions of ancient Greece, where epic battle preceded a celebratory feast.

This race has been well hashed and rehashed by the blogs. The folks at iRunFar produced a fine preview of the men’s and women’s race. The aforementioned renderings of Mr. Roes have people spinning on their bar stools. Adam Chase has been keeping us abreast of the Salomon scene, as well.  Here we are, still in the tryptophanic aftermath of Thanksgiving, and, indeed, we have a lot to be thankful for. I am certainly thankful for the access we are all granted to so many stellar peeks at this sport’s elites (the runners, the managers, race directors, publishers, etc.). I am thankful for the blog as it seems to give us all an opportunity to articulate whatever odd ball single-track idea we’ve developed and hope to share with a few passersby.

The idea that this sport is indeed schizophrenic or of two minds (whatever you want to call it), is supported by this online presence.  As AJW essays on the future of the sport with certain fundamental changes happening all around, in terms of corporate influence, etc., we have to be reminded that the sport is largely defined by the casual, neighborly discourse that exists on these webs, just like it is during those trail runs, at and after those hundreds of weekend races. Significant commercialization of all of that would be a tall order.  Is some of this white-collar share-holder cologne distorting or undermining some of the trail discussions or the competitions? Perhaps. But the positive effects of these dollars are on display, as well: This weekend and any such opportunity we have to watch these elites battle it out on world-class trails has to be welcomed by even the casual fan. Viewing the MUT world in this open-minded way, I think, is imperative at this point. The sport is clearly changing, and Saturday’s race is another such example. But the sport is also staying the same, and every weekend of the year marks occasion for this argument in the abundance of ultra and mountain “races” in which we all get to compete.

Both worlds will be on parade tomorrow in San Francisco.

And this is how I see the men’s race going down: Above, I referenced a passage from an article I wrote about UROC.  I make note of the role Geoff Roes played in that race’s organization (of course he played a pretty big role in the actual race, as well). I referenced that passage to evidence the parallels we see in UROC and TNFEC50. These two are especially similar in that they are geared toward attracting a large field by offering substantial prize money. Looks like we’re building a parallelogram: I see Geoff Roes winning this race, convincingly. He’s definitely had some close-calls at this race in the past. Sure there’s his back-to-back runners-up finishes in ’09 and ’10, but don’t forget about 2008.  He was right there when the shit went down between Steidl and Carpenter.  This is a must read from the event website archives:

At the bottom on the bone-crunching descent, at the seaside hamlet of Stinson Beach, Carpenter met his crew – his wife, Yvonne, and his six-year-old daughter, Kyla. “Last year, I’d come into a station and scrounge around a little bit for my drop bag,” he explains. “I’d lose a few seconds. And at this level you just can’t do that.” Still, Carpenter lost ground as the pack passed by like greyhounds, weaving through the quaint town’s streets before vanishing up the Matt Davis trail, heading 1,700 vertical feet uphill. This is when many runners felt Carpenter, who has built his legendary status running up the steep slopes of Pikes Peak near his home in Manitou Springs, Colorado, made his move and took control of the race. He quickly passed Steidl and soon came upon the others. “By the top I had wheeled everybody in again,” recalls Carpenter. “It was Geoff Roes and Shiloh (Mielke).” Carpenter, unsure of whether there were still some others ahead, turned to them and asked, “Gentlemen, who’s still ahead?” They replied, “Nobody.” And Carpenter pushed on. After a short out-and-back segment, during which runners could measure exactly where they stood (Carpenter, Skaggs, Steidl), they passed through Pantoll once again. Now Steidl had passed Skaggs, who had become somewhat dehydrated. At this point, Mile 30, Carpenter still held a two-minute gap on Steidl, but, entering the stretch run, and heading down into another deep valley, spectators wondered if Steidl could catch Carpenter. And, lurking only a few seconds behind, was Geoff Roes, hanging tough. They all dove 1,000 feet down the famed Bootjack trail, devouring technical trail like Tour de France riders descending the Alpe d’Huez.

Roes finished 5th that year in 7:12:35.  That was the awakening of Geoff Roes if you ask me. His entire 2009 and 2010 were legendary. We all know that’s quite a run, which had already begun in Marin County in 2008 under the no less watchful eye than that of the great Matt Carpenter.

Team Salomon, which includes Rickey Gates, Christophe Malarde, Adam Campell, and the recently signed Matt Flaherty and Jorge Maravilla, look very well represented; and who knows if they might implement some team tactics to break-up what will be a very loaded peloton. Can Gates hang with Roes for 50 fast undulating miles? Can the Frenchman, or the talented Canadian? I don’t see it.  Some see Flaherty as a real dark horse.  If he were to win, that would be a huge upset.  Some are picking Maravilla top 5.

The other runners I like this weekend are Dakota Jones, Michael Wardian, Jason Wolfe, Jason Schlarb, Leigh Schmitt and my big dark horse is Galen Burrell. Jones might have won last year and his 2011 campaign has been really solid. Knowing he can compete really well in such diverse conditions as Hardrock (2nd) and Sierre-Zinal (17th), races really well at this ultra distance, and just nabbed the R2R2R FKT, I really like this guy’s chances. Wardian is there because he’s Wardian. He absolutely could win this thing, but I don’t see him climbing with Geoff. Wolfe is a bit of an unknown to me, but I sense he has gobs of speed and climbing enduranc; he has some nice road and off-road results to his name, namely the Trans Rockies win.  He could be tough.  Schlarb was top five here last year and  is apparently very fit and ready to rumble.  Schmidt seems like a lock for this distance; he should have a solid showing. And, of course, the ultra inexperienced Burrell who can climb with the best of them and just spanked Leor Pantilat at a trail marathon in the bay area (and Pantilat doesn’t lose).  I’m getting really good odds on my Burrell pick.  There’s my lucky 7.

For the women, I’m really going-out on a limb here and picking Frost, Greenwood and Hawker to claim the podium.  Based on recent racing though, how do you not pencil in these ladies.

A quick shout-out to Max King, wishing him luck this weekend going for another win at the Xterra Worlds in Hawaii; and a helpful reminder that TNF SF 50 would also offer some lovely trail travel this time of year, say, in 2012.

But it’s Roes with the huge win this year.  He has unfinished business in Marin, and that is, I’m afraid, the way it is.

North Face 50 Preview: Geoff Roes’ Dreamscape

Corle and Geoff

In lieu of yet another nerdy list of possible contenders at the NF 50 that we normally try to provide here at Inside Trail, we think Mr. Roes has outdone himself with an obvious uncorking of pent up frustration with the granular over-analyzing of our sport.  Of course, he does it in his own dry, insightful sense of humor.  Read a classic post here:  http://akrunning.blogspot.com/2011/11/north-face-50-race-preview.html

Quad Dipsea – Stairway to Heaven

How do you improve the oldest trail race in America?  You run it four times, of course!

The Dipsea trail race began in 1905 and is still going strong after 106 years (missing only four years due to economy and war).  It starts in Mill Valley, CA and finishes at Stinson Beach.  With 671 steps leading up the side of Mt. Tamalpais to the highest point of Cardiac Hill, the course is challenging, to say the least.  A unique aspect of the race is the ability to choose from a variety of connecting paths to reach the finish, so familiarity with the area trails pays off. Lovers of the event were likely sitting around in November pining for June to roll around and the popular event to take place, so they came up with the Quad Dipsea in 1983, held initially as a fun run in ’83 and ’84.  The race is directed by UltraRunning Magazine publisher, John Medinger.

The Quad Dipsea, 28.4 miles, runs the Dipsea course in an out and back fashion, beginning in Mill Valley.  If you can believe it, there are 9,276 feet of climb packed into the bloated marathon-ish length course.  Imagine bounding down wet, wooden stairs after 4 hours of climbs and descents with your quads humming with fatigue.  Three men have run under four hours: Carl Anderson (four times), Erik Skaggs (twice), and just last year Leor Pantilat. Leor’s time of 3:54:29 was good enough to be the fourth fastest time in the event’s history, which has seen big named runners compete throughout the years.  Caren Spore, from Davis CA, broke the women’s record in 4:38:33 last year, a year that saw the additional challenges of a muddy, slick course.

A few of the 2,684 total steps in the race with Leor Pantilat. Photo: http://pantilat.wordpress.com/

This Saturday’s race will see both Leor and Caren returning to defend.  Last year’s 2nd place finisher, Gary Gellin, will again be in the mix, likely gunning to strip away the 2 mins 32 secs from last year’s finish to reach the coveted sub four hour time.  Consistently fast Leigh Schmitt should keep it interesting but the structure (CLIMB) of the course doesn’t play into his normal strength of fast, rolling courses.  Rumor has it that Leigh will pass up Quad Dipsea to be fresh for the North Face 50 the following weekend.

Unlike her “runaway” race last year, Caren Spore should be challenged by fellow Californian, Jennifer Pfeifer, and by midwesterner, Kim Holak, as long as Kim is healthy and fit.  She hasn’t raced much this year but is a fierce competitor when she does.

Happy Thanksgiving from Inside Trail to our American readers.  I’m thankful my resting month is almost over and I can begin training and racing again!  Have a great weekend on the trails.

 

JFK 50 Race Preview

Photo from Running Times 2003 article

49 years.  Other than some participants, not much is older in our sport of ultrarunning than the JFK 50 miler.  The event began as part of a series of challenges created by JFK to… well, you can read the brief history here.  The history of this race is remarkable, right down to the legends who loyally return most years for this classic, including Eric Clifton, Ed Ayres (In the 1977 photo left in the back with green singlet and 70 yrs old this year), and Ian Torrence.

Over 1,100 runners will be pounding the pavement, gravel toe path, and Appalachian Trail, starting in Boonsboro and finishing in Williamsport.  Weather in Maryland this time of year is unpredictable, at best.  Forecast  for race morning is a comfortably cool 50 degrees with partly cloudy skies, near perfect conditions for a fast race.  Race-addicted Michael Wardian returns this year presumably focused on redeeming himself for last year’s 6th place finish in 6:12.  Coming off two quick marathons run within seven days (2:26 and 2:22, both 2nd places), Wardian will toe yet another start line with a self-inflicted handicap, which must scrub at least some of his raw speed off his performance.  Poised to take advantage of the situation is last year’s 2nd place JFK finisher, David Riddle.  Riddle finished one minute off the win in 5:53, one of only two instances when he’s finished with anything lower than a win in his ultra career.  Of course, David will have to contend with several other speedy dudes, including Andrew Henshaw, who handed David his only other 2nd place finish earlier this year at Mad City 100k.

For the ladies, let’s ride the wave of Meghan Arbogast’s impressive season.  She’ll have her hands full in the rematch with the Blue Ridge Mountain runner, Annette Bednosky.  They did America proud at the 100k world champs, coming in 5th and 6th respectively.  The last time they raced JFK in 2009 they duked it out for 2nd and 3rd (behind Devon Crosby-Helms).  With the bulk number of participants, there’s always openings for new “unknowns” to break out.  One of my dark horse picks is Cassie Scallon.  Not an unknown by any stretch, but faded off the scene a bit this year until just last month with her win (overall) at Glacial Trail 50k.

Gook luck to all the runners at this classic!

Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Race Preview with Liza Howard

Photo: Event website

Finally!  Another 100 we can sink our teeth into.  With 384 participants, the Javelina Jundred has a solid depth of talent.  It’s been two years since Dave James blistered the six-loop course in his course record 14:20.  Last year saw Jamie Donaldson set the women’s course record of 17:11, nabbing 2nd overall in the process.  I’m not certain about Dave’s record but I feel good about Jamie’s record being eclipsed this year.  We’ll get to that in a moment.

Javelina gets under way at 6AM on Saturday November 12th in Fountain Hills, Arizona at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  The loop course is 15.4 miles, repeated six times reversing directions each lap.  A 9 mile loop adds up to the 101.4 mile total.  Though the total climb looks to be approximately 4,000 ft, the terrain includes several sandy wash areas, single track, and jeep roads.  The loop course lends itself to great spectating and easy crewing.  Ample food is on the menu with sub sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, along with all the staple ultra-fare.  Temperatures should remain comfortably between 75 for a high and 50 for a low.

The terrain. Photo: Sue Norwood

The event website is well laid out, comprehensive, and fun (even if the red on black layout cause your eyes to start twitching).  The only thing I noticed that could use some fixing is the outdated “blog/news” page.  It’s always a pleasure to be able to obtain all the information you may need directly from the website.  I’m always struck by the many event sites that omit important information.  It just increases work for the organizers by having to answer email questions.  Anyway, the JJ site is good, right down to providing the entrants list, which brings us to a very special treat here at Inside Trail.  Liza Howard, if you’ve forgotten about her after her early season injury, is returning to the race scene at the JJ100 and she is healthy, trained, and eager.  Bad for the other ladies.  Good for us fans!  Liza took the time (after some minor pleading on my part) to write up a preview on the women’s race.  My only regret is, like I told her, that her writing is so graceful, thorough, and humorous that it’ll be like Lenny (Of Mice and Men) trying to dance with Paula Abdul when I try to match her with my men’s preview.  I’ll get that out of the way quickly, so you can enjoy her take on the race.

Men:

Hal Koerner – Ashland, OR.  Hal has shown both speed (Rocky Racoon) and fortitude (UTMB) this year.  Watch for him to show us some speed again to cap off his year with a win.

Jay Aldous – Brighton, UT.  Jay is 50 years old.  Jay is faster than people half his age.  Jay just ran 15:06 at the Pony Express 100 two weeks ago.  If he hadn’t just raced the PE, I would pick him for the win here with a 14:45-ish time.  I mean, he did just come in a scant 18 mins (2nd place) behind Dave James (JJ course record holder) at the Burning River 100.

Jay Smithberger – Granville, OH.  This Jay has some speed too and, like Hal, has had a “character building” run this year as well (his 28:30 Wasatch).  He also ran 14:53 at Umstead 100.  He knows what he’s doing and could pounce for the win late in the race if Hal and Jay A. aren’t on their games.

Guillermo Medina – Santa Maria, CA.  To say Guillermo is a veteran ultrarunner is like saying U2 has played a few concerts.  Guillermo has had a prolific ultra career over the last 13 years, approaching 100 ultra races.  He’s only 37 years old.  I lined up with him (and Leigh Schmitt) in my first 50 mile race in 2007.  I bounded along with those two, leading the race for the first 20 miles before I realized that they planned to run that pace for the whole 50 miles.  I bonked and finished an hour behind Guillermo.  Since then I’ve been a fan of his as he methodically bangs out great races, including winning the Javelina 100 last year.  His consistency will pay off again.

Now please welcome Liza Howard, coming on board here at Inside Trail with her preview of the ladies’ race.  Note that she is too humble to say that she will win.  She’s my obvious pick, anyway.  Enjoy.

Javelina Jundred’s Women, Ladies, and Chicks

Liza Howard earlier this year en route to her win at Rocky Raccoon 100. Photo: Lynn Balard

Tim asked if I would write a short Who’s Who piece about the women who are running well in ultras right now. I agreed in a moment of insanity and then realized it was too big a task for an uneducated sportsperson such as myself. I told him I’d be happy to write something other than “And as for the women running, I have no idea” for any upcoming races he’d like instead. I sent along this Javelina Jundred preview because it was the first race that came to mind – as I’m running it.

So in case you weren’t in Fountain Hills, AZ last year, or following on Twitter, or you haven’t read all the females’ race reports, you should know that Javelina was a pretty darn exciting 100-mile race in 2010. And it looks like it’ll be the same this year. Jamie Donaldson broke the course record in 17:11, and while she won’t be there this year, the next four ladies will be. Take a look at their finishing times.

2. Brenda Carawan, 33, Virginia Beach, VA, 19:56:44


3. Ronda Sundermeier, 43, Tigard, OR, 20:07:14


4. Brenda Corona, 48, Escondido, CA, 20:20:41


5. Katherine Metzger, 30, Phoenix, AZ, 20:30:40

I asked RD Nick Coury about it and he said everyone was biting their nails when the Brendas, Ronda and Katherine left so close together on the last loop. (Javelina’s a 7 loop course. Six 15.4-mile loops and one 9-mile loop. Yes, that’s 101.4 miles.)

It was Brenda Carawan’s first time on the Javelina course and Nick said she started at a moderate pace and was able to maintain it until the end. She actually finished the last loop faster than Jaime did. Brenda wrote afterwards how coach Amanda McIntosh kept her on track for a finishing time of 19:56:44, 2nd place female overall, and 9th runner overall. You can read her race report here if you haven’t already. http://www.brendacarawan.com/race-reports.html

Since JJ, Brenda’s run a the Seashore Nature Trail 50k, the Rocky Raccoon 100 (2nd in 22:31) and her dream race, Badwater.

Ronda Sundermeier came in third and was “never too far behind Brenda” according to Nick. Ronda’s race report begins, “Beating my own expectations doesn’t happen often but Javelina 100M was so much more than I could have imagined… Racing a 100M is often the next step for many beyond just finishing. The word “racing” also has many meanings. It could mean winning, it could mean going for a PR or just simply putting your head down and focusing. That’s what endurance activities have to offer. An array of meaning for each individual and most of the time that personal meaning is respected among peers.” You should read her race report and her blog in general.

http://roosterruns.blogspot.com/2010/10/javelina-100m.html

Ronda’s been busy becoming a Leadwoman since Javelina. (That’s where you finish five of the following events: Leadville Marathon, Silver Rush 50 bike or run, Leadville Trail 100 run, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and the 10K run.) Oh, and Ronda also did the Grand Slam back in 2007. Bring your autograph book.

2011 will be Brenda Corona’s fifth Javelina and her times have gotten faster each year. Nick says she “could be going for a sub 20 hour finish this year which would put her in the top ten all time for the race.” Brenda’s run three 50ks and the San Diego 100 (26:38) since Javelina.

And Katherine Metzger, who came in fifth, is a local runner who Nick says has been “training for the race while preparing and taking her medical boards.” (Now I feel like a slacker.) “Javelina was her first 100 last year and she kicked hard on the last loop to catch 25 minutes on 4th place, so look for her to be a competitor.” Since Javelina Katherine’s run two 50-milers and a 50km. She won the Deadman Peaks Trail Run 50-miler in New Mexico on Oct. 22nd in 11:25.

Nick also says Alexa Dickerson has great potential to do well this year. It’s her 3rd time at Javelina and she won the Mohican 100 in June in Ohio. She’s a lot younger than the rest of us, but maybe that won’t be too much of a handicap.

Brenda Carawan adds that Badwater runners Jess Mullen and Cheryl Zwarkowski are both very strong competitors. And Brittany Klimowicz, who also ran Badwater, just won The Gibbet 50-miler going sub-10. AND Jen Vogel is “on fire this year” according to Brenda. She set a new course record for the Double Ironman in March, placed 2nd female at Badwater, and won the Great Floridian last weekend. “Vogel could very easily sweep the field at Javelina.

As for me, I’ve had a broken foot most of the summer, but I’ve been healthy and on the trails since August. I haven’t run 100 miles since February at Rocky Raccoon, but I think I still remember how. And I’ve got all that running in the Texas heat going for me…

I’m thinking floppy-eared rabbit for my costume. Carrot-shaped water bottle? Maybe I’ll just stick to getting these ladies’ autographs.

Please comment if you think I’ve left off anyone. A friend will be tweeting the women’s race at lizahoward1 if you want to see who’s chicking whom on November 12th. ;)  

Enjoy more of Liza’s writing about running and daily life at her site, www.lizahoward.com

 

Meltzer Invades Alabama: Pinhoti 100 Preview

Photo: Race website

Like a shark, the Speedgoat must keep moving to stay alive.  Even with a bulging disc, suffered during Hardrock this year, he continued to stay active during recovery with long hikes.  Karl is back this weekend to run the Pinhoti 100.

In its 4th year, the Pinhoti 100, is one of those secret gems.  The point to point course boasts 16,200 ft of climb on mostly (80 miles worth) singletrack trail, gnarled with roots and rocks hidden under fallen leaves.  It’s like a day/night-long run in a booby-trapped forest.  Karl comments about the race on his site, “It is very well organized to boot. Todd Henderson, the RD does a great  job marking and has great aid station personnel.”  The race is full with 132 registered runners ready to enjoy the Pinhoti trail as they “make their way over the highest point in Alabama while navigating over rocks, through creeks and across beautiful ridge lines of the Talladega National Forest.” [race website]  The high point of the course, Mt Cheaha at 2,413 ft, is also the highest point of Alabama. [Wiki site]

Karl Meltzer

Karl Meltzer set the course record here two years ago with a 17:12.  He says, “I feel great.  I’ve put in five weeks of training at 10,000′, so I’m ready for sure.”  The only person to have come within two hours of that time is John Dove from Georgia, who’s run all three previous installments of the event.  John’s best time was en route to his win here last year in 19:01.  John will have his hands full trying to fend off Pennsylvanian Angus Repper (past wins at Sawtooth 100 and Virgil Crest 100) and Kentuckian Troy Shellhammer  who’s had a nice little season with a 16:12 at Umstead 100 and 7th place at UROC 100k.

For the ladies, Jill Perry from New York looks strong coming off her win last month at Oil Creek 100.  Is she recovered enough to muster the power to race hard against young Tennessean Sarah Woerner?  Sarah is the defending champion at Pinhoti (24:42) and has put together a solid season filled with sharp performances at a variety of distances.

The weather forecast looks nearly ideal with partly cloudy skies, highs in the 60s and lows around 40.  Hope everyone has a safe, fast, and fun race.

Pinhoti 100 elevation profile. Photo: Race website

Mt. Masochist 50 Mile Race Preview

Friendly looking course profile...

Clearly, with the name “Masochist”, the Mt. Masochist 50 must be great for 50 mile beginners.  Right?  That’s what the website says in it’s intro: “The course itself is a challenging combination of roads, jeep trails, and single track that can cause even the most experienced runner to breathe a sigh of relief at the finish line in Montebello, VA. Ample aid stations and tried and true organization makes the race a perfect first 50 miler.”  A point to point course from Lynchburg to Montebello Virginia, climbing 9,200 ft with a cut-off of 12 hours means it would probably be a good idea to cut your teeth on another (maybe a few) easier 50 milers.  The Mt. Masochist 50 began in 1983 with David Horton turning over the race direction duties to the capable Clark Zealand in 2007.  They work together on a series of events aptly called “The Beast Series“.  With over 60,000 combined feet of climb in the 6 events, these races will break your heart and your feet.

Mt. Masochist is one of the unique races where consistency isn’t the norm.  It brings out the best in some runners you wouldn’t expect to do well and can cause otherwise speedy runners to sputter.  It takes guts, speed, smarts, and patience, just ask Scott Jaime, last year’s winner.  Geoff Roes owns the eye-popping course record of 6:27, which he set in 2009, blowing by Mackey’s course record by 21 minutes.  To run that time on this “Horton miles” long 50 mile course that starts at near zero feet elevation and climbs and drops continuously to over 4,000 feet is remarkable; a record that should stand for quite a while.  The women’s record hasn’t even been within shouting distance for the women’s winners since Nikki Kimball set it in 2006 (7:47).  I doubt we’ll see Nikki’s record go down this year but if anyone on the start list has the ability to break it, Sandi Nypaver is the one.  However, I’m going with my gut here and picking Alyssa Wildeboer for the women’s win.

Alyssa Wildeboer at Leadville. Photo: Alyssa's ultrasignup page

Alyssa has vast experience on the MMTR course, having run it six times.  More relevant is the fact that she has refined her ability in ultras over the years.  She cranked out a 3rd place 8:54 at MMTR last year and carried that momentum into 2011, her best year yet, with a 4th place in a tight women’s race at Leadville, 4th and just out of the money at Cheyenne Mountain 50k, and 1st at Devil Mountain 50k a month ago.  Unless either she or Sandi run into trouble, it’ll be a hell of an exciting race.

Those nasty green shorts either make Jon faster or the competition blind. Photo: his ultrasignup pic

Eco-X has “seedings” up on their blog but it doesn’t make much sense to me other than the picks for men/women wins.  The list has Eric Grossman as the #1 seed but doesn’t even list Ty Draney’s or Josh Finger’s names.  Ty hasn’t had much of a season racing in 2011 with just one event (Pocatello) but I know Josh has been active, which I witnessed personally at the Ice Age 50 mile where he took 5th (I was a distant 7th).  Josh also just (I mean like last week) cracked out a 6:33 at Tussey Mountainback 50 miler for 5th, which needs to be taken into account, since he takes a while to recover from what I’ve seen.  I’m not saying either has a shot at beating Grossman (except maybe a sharp Ty Draney) but those two would be on my top 5 or at worst top 10 picks.  To not pick Eric Grossman for the win here is swimming against the tide, going against the grain, going out on a limb, whichever silly cliche you prefer, but I’m going with Jonathan Allen.  It’s not that thin of a limb I’m going out on.  Allen did run for 5th in 9:26 at UROC, over a half hour faster than 8th place Grossman.  Mix in other speedy guys like Brian Rusieki and local favorite, Frank Gonzalez and you’ve got yourself a competitive race for top 5.

Either way, Mt. Masochist is a late season classic that’s sure to please both participants and us fans.

 

 

Chicago Lakefront 50 Race Profile

This weekend is the Chicago Lakefront 50/50 fall edition.  The current 50 mile World Record of 4:50 was set on the Chicago Lakefront by Bruce Fordyce in 1984.  This course is flat.  This course is fast.  On the current certified course, a 12.5 mile out and back repeated four times on concrete, Oz Pearlman owns the course record of 5:25, set in 2009.  In fact, he holds the fastest four finish times run on this course.  Ann Heaslett holds the women’s course record of 6:53, which she set in 2006.  True mountain runners need not apply; this event is for pure speed and a lust for concrete underfoot.

The only thing that may slow runners in any given year is the weather.  This is Chicago after all.  That won’t happen this year as the forecast is near perfect with highs in the low 50s and clear.  Like last year, Oz Pearlman isn’t on the entrants’ list this year, so the door is open for veteran 50 mile specialist, Mark Lundblad from North Carolina to make waves along the Lakefront.  A Browsing of the entrants, nicely provided to me by Race Director, Pat Onines leaves me to believe Lundblad will have his way with a solo effort.  He is, in fact, a mountain and trail specialist, to be specific.  However, he’s shown great speed on the road and flatter courses with runs at JFK and Tussey Mountainback that illustrate his flatland speed.

Mark Lundblad. Photo from his Facebook page

Connie Gardner during her 2009 winning run. Photo: event website

For the women… I’m going with Cathy Becker for the outright win and Rachel Arthur from Tennessee in her first ultra nipping at her heels until near the end.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a female write about the female predictions?

Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile Race Preview: Dave Mackey 3-peat?

This week we began our look at this weekend’s upcoming events on the East Coast with our preview of the Grindstone 100 in Virginia.  Then we traveled to Moab, Utah for a preview of the inaugural running of the Slickrock 100.  Today we finish this week’s race previews in Lake Chabot, California with the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 miler.  The Firetrails 50 is a popular race that sells out just about every year and in this, its 29th running, it is once again full.  The biggest change this year is the transfer in race direction.  The speedy duo of Ann Trason and her husband, Carl Andersen, had managed the race for several years.  It’s among one of the best managed races in the country, right down to the post-race festivities of delicious, abundant food and kegs of micro beer to wash it down.  This year will see NorCalUltras, headed by Julie Fingar and Mark Gilligan, taking over the event directing.

Firetrails 50 course elevation profile

Ann Trason and Carl Andersen

The course is an out and back design with a diversion over the last couple of miles taking runners around the opposite side, compared with the start of the race, of Lake Chabot.  The course ranges from 200 ft to 2,000 ft of elevation.  There’s nothing terribly difficult about the course but it’s still a good recommendation to take the first half easy because one reaches the turn around by descending a bit over 1,200 ft, then having to climb back up on the return trip.  The last 20 miles are very runnable with mild trails and a general rolling net descent to the finish.  It can be a fast course, if run correctly.  One who knows this first hand is Dave Mackey.  He’s participated and won for the last two years with the highlight last year of breaking Carl Andersen’s 16 year old course record with a 6:19 effort.  The women’s course record is held by, who else, Ann Trason with a 7:31 laid down in 1987 (good luck with that, ladies).

Speaking of speed, here are some contenders to note:

Women:

Bree Lambert – San Jose, CA.  Bree is a veteran of Firetrails with this being her fourth running.  She’s competitive and strong and should win Firetrails this year just cracking the 8 hour mark.  She won the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler in July in 23:07 and who came charging in just 16 minutes behind her at that race….?

Jennifer Benna – San Francisco, CA.  Yep, Jennifer was 2nd at TRT100.  She seems to have moved to a new level in terms of racing and will give Bree a run.

Men:

Dave Mackey – Novato, CA.  Coming off a DNF at UROC due to illness, Dave is the defending champion with the 6:19 course record at Firetrails.  His smooth, loping, but fast gait is made for this course.  Unless his Hoka Bondi Bs fall off his feet, he should have no problem repeating as champ for the third consecutive year.

Graham Cooper – Piedmont, CA.  Graham had a sharp run at Western States, actually nipping Mr. Mackey by a couple minutes there.  He hasn’t raced much, at all since, so should show up eager to run well.

Jean Pommier – Cupertino, CA.  Jean seems to prefer and excel at the shorter distances.  Thankfully, in ultras, 50 miles is a shorter distance.  He’s run Firetrails three times with a 7:15 PR.

Chris Calzetta – Monterey, CA.  Chris just began running ultras eleven months ago with his first 50k but has racked up some decent results, including an 18:45 at Western States (his first 100 miler) and, most recently, a 3:46 and 2nd place at Skyline 50k, just seconds behind winner, Jean Pommier.  If he doesn’t try to hang with big Mack early, he should run well.

Dan Barger – Auburn, CA.  Dan has been around the ultra scene longer than many of the participants in this race have been alive.  He hasn’t raced much this year but his experience requires respect.

Mark Tanaka – Castro Valley, CA.  Mark has had his typical year of 80 races.  Seriously, he races a lot and has five 100s in his body this year (again).  He has great speed but is probably not as sharp as he could be (this is speaking from my own experience this year of racing so much).  Regardless, he’ll be “in the race” and have a huge smile to brighten everyone else’s day, as usual.

Comments are welcome.  I would love to hear thoughts on the change in race management.  I’m personally sad that Ann and Carl aren’t at the helm any longer.  That, frankly, was the main draw for me wanting to run this event.  I’m absolutely certain Julie and Mark will do a superb job with it as well.  Anyone have any inside information on the participants or picks I’ve not mentioned?  Let’s hear it.

Have a great weekend of training runs and races!