Leadville 100 Preview

This Leadville 100 Run preview will be like Liza Howard, short and sweet.

Fot once, we have a women’s race that is far more interesting than the men’s.  I say this mostly because women at the top level seem to know, and, more importantly, remember race after race how to run these things without exploding at mile 75 like a male front runner brimming with testosterone.  The ladies have a stacked field up front.  In order of how I see it breaking down at the finish line on 6th Ave…

Tina Lewis

Lynette Clemmons

Liza Howard

Becky Wheeler

Darcy Africa

Aliza Lapierre

Ashly Nordell

For the guys it’s a mixture of pure speed (Aish, Aldous, Arnstien), consistent grinders (Clark, Torrance, Jaime), and some wildcards (Krupicka, Tiernan, Waggoner).

If Tony Krupicka tries to run at the front with Jay Aldous and Michael Aish and hits Winfield (mile 50) any faster than 7:25, he’ll be in trouble later.  The only reason Tony is a wildcard is based on two things:  He hasn’t run Leadville smart since 2007 and he hasn’t raced a 100 in a year and a half.  If  he runs smart with the intent to win (as opposed to a race against time), he’s the one to beat.  Michael Aish definitely falls into the wild card slot as well.  Of course, if he runs his 10k PR pace at Leadville, he’ll finish in 7 hours 26 mins (wow.).  Aish’s Leadville run may seem like a publicity stunt but the Kiwi went to college in Gunnison (8,000+ ft elevation), where he ran to national titles.  He also competed in two Olympics (’00 and ’04) and ran his first ultra, the Silver Rush 50 miler this year (Leadville) for the win in 6:54 (just 4 mins off course record time).  If he runs to Winfield at a reasonable effort (like 7:30-ish) and holds the fueling together, this guy is the one to take down Carpenter’s course record of 15:42.

Another interesting competition playing out is the Leadman Series (look it up).  Currently, Tim Waggoner leads the series by a scant 3 mins 39 secs with just the 100 mile run left to determine the victor.  Troy Howard, a dominating, albeit quiet, force in ultrarunning (one of the top 10 fastest Hardrock 100 times) is lingering behind Tim W. in 2nd after beating him in the 100 mi mtb race last Saturday by 24 mins.  Troy has a solid chance to run 18:30-19 this weekend, so Tim W. ran 19:19 for 6th overall here in 2010 in his first 100 mile attempt but that was with an epic meltdown (I saw it live after pacing him for 50 miles) and being forced to walk slowly for the last 5 miles, so 19:19 is soft for him.  He will have to pull out all his knowledge and speed and any other tricks up his sleeve to hold off Troy.  Look for Tim Waggoner to be lurking near the podium.  I’ll be pacing him again for the last 50 and, frankly, hope to hang on.

The way I see it.

Nick Clark

Michael Arnstein

Tim Waggoner

Anton Krupicka

Jay Aldous

Jason Koop

Scott Jaime

Zeke Tiernan

Patrick Stewart

Troy Howard

Sean O’Day

Ian Torrance

Please feel free to comment with opinions on who you think will be ripping up the fast out-n-back course.  Check out Footfeathers’ guide to “How to Run the Leadville 100”

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Slickrock 100 Race Preview

From "course area photos" on http://www.runmoab.com

The growth of ultrarunning means so many things.  One of the benefits is the addition of new race events.  The Slickrock 100 kicks off its first year this Saturday at 7AM mountain standard time.  It will offer three race distances of 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile.  Aaron and Jenna Kissler have done a fine job so far with a solid event website, meaningful updates, and challenging course designs.  For their efforts, the race is nearly sold out at all distances.  Glancing at the elevation profile at 7,800 ft climb for the 100 miler, one may think this is an easy course.  Anyone who’s run the slickrock, sandy, exposed trails around Arches National Park near Moab, UT knows better.  This will be a challenging run, no doubt.  The course rolls, totally exposed to the elements, through red rock, over mesas, and by natural rock formations that inspired names such as, Coffin Rock, Crystal Geyser, Gemini Bridges, Poison Spider, Dead Horse, and the charming Hells Roaring.

Somewhat rare for a first year event is the amount and quality of awards.  Relax, there’s no big prize money, so Salomon won’t be sending over their hit-men and women but there are some big guns traveling from both sides of the US and from many places in between.  Awards for the 100 mile event include (from the website): “1st Place Men’s, Women’s, and Masters receive pair of Salomon shoes, free entry into next year’s race, free entry into Mohican 100 M and more.  All finishers receive shirt, 100M belt buckle and more.”  The 50 mile and 50k have similar awards – even finisher buckles for the 50 mile.

Some of the participants to watch for in the 100 mile race include:

Women:

Rhonda Claridge – Ophir, CO.  Rhonda’s coming off an impressive 2nd place finish at Leadville as well as a 2nd place at the Bighorn 100 earlier this year.  She’s consistent and tough and, as shown at the very runnable Leadville, should do well on this seemingly runnable course at Slickrock.

Leila DeGrave – Evergreen, CO.  Leila also had an impressive run at Leadville, going sub 24 hours for 6th place and is a regular on the podium at shorter events like her solid Collegiate Peaks 50mi this year where she ran 8:25 for 2nd.

Men:

Ben Hian – Carlsbad, CA.  Ben has been around the ultra scene since 1992.  After an eight year leave of absence, he returned in 2008 and picked up right where he left off, which means fast and competitive.  He won the San Diego 100 in 2009 but dropped from the same race in June this year.  Earlier in the year he raced to the win at Rocky Road 100 in 16:42.  He’s a little erratic but when he’s on, he’s on.

Glen Redpath – New York, NY.  When I see or hear Glen’s name, I think “consistently fast”.  Glen seems methodical in his racing.  When he shows up, it matters.  Just looking at the first six months of this year is illustrative of what I mean.  He ran 14:47 at Ulmstead 100 (ran 14:27 there last year) for 3rd and, to show his strength in diversity, he spun a 16:57 at Western States.  He has solid 100 mile experience and no terrain or elevation seems to affect him.  I have no idea why I don’t have him picked to win.  It will be a great race.

Ryan Burch – Fort Collins, CO.  I’m not certain that Ryan is running.  I’ve seen his name on one list but not another.  If he does, he should run well coming off his breakout 100 at Leadville.

Corey Hanson – Bellvue, CO.  Corey’s had a big year with solid runs that indicate a good shot at a podium finish here.

Scott Dickey – SLC, UT.  Scott is a wild card.  He has speed (3:36 at Red Rock 50k this year) but his longest race is just one 100k, which he won.  100 miles is a different world, so we’ll see whether he can transfer his light experience and endure the new distance.

After jinxing myself for Bear, I’ll leave myself off any predictions.  I can say that I train every day on trails and environment exactly like Slickrock’s course (only I do it in 90-100 degrees) and I have a good “track” record for desert-style running.  The key will be whether my body shows any wear from the heavy racing this summer.  I feel good and ready but 100 miles has a way of exposing any weaknesses and then grinding you into the ground with steel-spiked shoes.

Comments welcome!  Please share your thoughts and predictions.

Bear 100 Preview: The Utilitarian Playground

Bear 100 Elevation Profile. That first climb is a grunt and that last descent, well, hope your health insurance is up to date.

If one yearns for the grassroots, rustic 100 miler of yore, then look no further than the Bear 100.  The bare nature of Bear is by design.  Race Director, Leland Barker, is old school and likes his race that way too.  Leadville, especially under new management, seems to cradle the runners, providing everything, short of carry them to the finish, for a fairly easy out-n-back jog.  Bear is a stark contrast and I, for one, love it.  The Bear 100 began in 1999 with 17 starters and zero sub 24 hour finishers.  Last year there were 157 starters and a record 17 sub 24 hour finishers.  You may get the idea that it’s a tough course and you’d be correct.  The course begins in Logan, Utah and, after an obscene amount of climbs and descents, it finishes at Bear Lake in Idaho.  It’s both stark and harsh.  Did I mention I love it?

The whole production starts with the no nonsense website that provides the essentials (schedule, location, important updates), then moves on to the race briefing, with the emphasis on “brief” where participants have the pleasure of characters like Errol “Rocket” Jones, Phil Lowry, and Leland Barker casually mentioning things like, “The course should be marked well enough to follow” and “watch out for herding cattle”.  I literally had just found a spot on top of a picnic table to plop down and the briefing ended with, “We’ll see you folks at 6am.  Thanks for coming!”  A short, funny story of how laid back this whole thing is:  Last year’s Bear was my first 100.  I was nervous (scared) but confident enough that I bought a belt, ready to attach my new finisher’s buckle.  I was so excited the day before the start and could barely relax long enough to think straight.  At the end of the pre-race briefing Leland wraps up then says, “Oh yeah, I forgot to order the buckles.  I hope you all understand.”  I received my buckle on the verge of Thanksgiving, six weeks after the event, fat and lazy from taking a month off of running.  My custom belt barely fit but I wore the buckle proudly for a week, then realized it was fairly uncomfortable wearing a heavy, brass buckle and stiff, leather belt.  That’s an indication of the relaxed nature of the event.  The whole experience is such a bright image in my memory that I was one of the first to register again this year.

Me coming into Tony Grove aid station, mile 52, at last year's Bear 100. Photo: Aric Manning

The course is marked well enough, save for the errant and angry ATVer who may re-route or otherwise vandalize sections (extra adventure at no cost).  Frankly, the difficulty and beauty of the course overshadows any worries about race organization.  The race begins with a hands-on-knees, 4,000 ft climb at which point you top out close to or just after sunrise and are rewarded with an amazing view of Logan, UT way down where you began the day.  The first 50 miles take up roughly 15,000 ft of the 22,000 ft total climb.  It’s a nice thought when you’ve reached Tony Grove aid station at 52 miles, knowing you’ve completed so much climb and ‘only’ have 50 miles and about 7,000 ft climb left.  I won’t go into the hideousness of the final 9 miles of the race.  Let’s just say, aspirin and ice will be your ankles’ friends for a while.

On to our predictions we go:

Women:

Nikki Kimbal – From Bozeman, MT.  The women’s record at bear is 23:37, set by Rhonda Claridge, who is the only woman to run under 24 on the new course (since 2009).  Only two women in the history of the race have run under 24.  Look for Nikki to run two hours faster than that.

Jane Larkindale – From Tucson, AZ.  If Nikki takes too long to sneeze on the course, Jane will pounce.  After running undefeated in 2010 with impressive times at such races like San Diego 100 and Zane Grey 50, she hasn’t laced up the trail racing shoes this year.  She’s either going to be incredibly fresh or stale, no middle ground.

Ellen Parker – From Seattle, WA.  Ellen should round out the top three.  She ran to a 4th place in 26:18 at the tough Pine to Palm 100 last year and has had a light year of racing in 2011 with a 3rd place at White River 50 in July.

Men: (Note that part of tradition for the race is that the Race Directors, Leland Barker and Phil Lowry run the course to drop markers but start an hour earlier than the rest.  Leland is damn fast and is regularly in the top 5.  I don’t count him in the results due to the different start times)

Nick Pedatella – From Boulder, CO.  After a two year hiatus from the top step of the podium, this is Nick’s race to stand tallest at the awards ceremony.  His true potential competition would’ve been Karl Meltzer but after a bold run at Wasatch earlier this month, Karl is resting his back injury and will be at the Bear in the capacity of crew for Mrs. Speedgoat.  At just 26 years old, Nick has built solid experience, including eight 100 mile finishes; not just finishes but solid performances: 5th at Hardrock, 14th at UTMB, 6th at Leadville, 6th at Wasatch, and 2nd here at Bear 100 where only Geoff Roes crossed the finish before him.  Even when he has a bad day, he seems to hold it together for finishes most runners would kill for.

Todd Gangelhoff – From Morrison, CO.  I’m going out on a fairly sturdy limb here in this pick.  Karl and others will likely disagree and place some of the untested speedier guys in front of Todd but, as I mentioned to Karl, Todd reminds me a lot of Erik Storheim in terms of running style, speed, and toughness.  Those are the ingredients for success at Bear.  I did a big 6.5 hour run at 12-13,000 ft with him two months ago and he lead the way with an impressive base of fitness.

David La Duc – From Oakland, CA.  David’s put together a big season, capped with an 18:01 run at Western States.  He’s a quick guy and prolific racer.  It’ll be interesting to see how he runs in real mountains.  I’m obviously guessing he’ll do well.

Mick Jurynec – From Salt Lake City, UT.  At some point in the picks, I have to go with someone familiar with the area and Mick is the hometown guy.  A couple of key indicators are his runs at Wasatch 100 last year (5th in 22:21) and Squaw Peak 50 this year (3rd in 9:25).

Gary Gellin – From Menlo Park, CA.  Gary is full of speed.  Way Too Cool in 3:35, Firetrails 50 in 6:43, Quicksilver 50 in 6:29, White River in 7:11… the list continues.  One thing that stands out as a 22,000 ft speed bump in his way is the lack of any race beyond 50 miles.  100 miles isn’t just double 50 miles.  It’s a different world and it’s impossible to extrapolate, for both the spectator and the runner, what will happen.  Giving him 5th here on this course, with these experienced guys is giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Tim Long – Boulder.  It seems odd giving myself odds but, looking at the entrants objectively, I have to give myself a place in the mix somewhere.  This will be my 5th 100 miler since June (San Diego, Hardrock, Grand Mesa, Leadville so far).  This has also been the longest break between 100s (five weeks), so I’ve been able to get into a real training block following a two day rest after Leadville.  I ran 23:05 for 9th overall here at Bear last year.  It was my first 100, so I was cautious, made mistakes, ran off course, and enjoyed the day like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  So, my enthusiasm, fitness, and focus on this particular race has to count for something, right?

Me, JT, Rick Hessek, Scott Jaime, Don

Wasatch 100 Preview and Predictions

Photo Matt Galland

In the true spirit of American ultrarunning, when you do something tough, you look for something tougher. Inspired by the Western States 100, five entrants ran the first Wasatch 100 in 1980.  Two of them finished after 35 hours.  The next year saw a 40% increase in participation with seven people starting the race.  No one finished.  Now, after 31 years, one of the most difficult 100 mile runs in the US will see 250 “lucky” lottery winners lining up at 5am this Friday morning to start yet another odyssey through the jagged, rocky trails of the Wasatch Mountains.

The Wasatch 100 has nearly 27,000 ft of climb and about the same descent.  The temperature can range from freezing to smoldering.  The rocky, technical trails can leave you begging for pavement.  It’s a true mountain 100 that can break the will of even the most experienced ultrarunner.

For very few, like course record holder Geoff Roes, the pain ends in less than 20 hours (he ran the current course record of 18hrs 30mins in 2009).  Everyone else enjoys two sunrises on the course and many ramble through most of the second day.  The cut off is 36 hours.  Roes gives his perspective of the race, “The Wasatch 100 is basically two separate runs. A 75 mile warm up to Brighton and then a 25 mile race from Brighton to the finish. The route has so many tough climbs, rutted; dusty; sandy; rocky trail, and shockingly steep drops in the last 25 miles that it almost feels like you’re not running in the some mountain range anymore.”

Photo Wasatch100.com

With that description in mind, let’s take a look at the contenders for this year’s edition, in predicted finishing order:

Timmy Parr – For the majority of events, one can simply pick the fastest runner to win.  Timmy Parr is the fastest runner entered in the Wasatch 100.  However, the gritty mountain 100 specialist wins this race… usually.  Timmy is due for a big run (again) and with the help of two-time Leadville 100 champion and friend, Duncan Callahan, crewing and pacing, I’m going with Timmy for the win.

Evan Honeyfield – Evan has been racing well and infrequently this year and, in his first and only 100 miler, the Bear 100 last September, he nailed the race with a 19 hour 2nd place finish.  Bear is the sister 100 to Wasatch, so I’m giving him the same finish he nabbed at Bear.

Jared Campbell – After his DNF at his focus race, Hardrock, in July, Jared has to be fired up to run well.  Not many people know these trails and the mountain range better than he does.  He, along with the other grizzled vets will be on the heels of the two guys above, one mistake and they eat them like hungry wolves.

Erik Storheim – The tough workhorse of this group, which is what works for this race.  He always shows up ready and fit.  Erik cracked the top 10 in 2009 with a 7th place in 22:49.  He’ll PR this year.

Troy Howard – I ran with Troy for 6 hours in the Indian Peaks region of the rockies a month ago.  He’s mountain trained and ready.

Luke Nelson – Had a knee injury take its toll on him at last year’s race but still finished 13th in 23:30.  With the knee healthy, he’ll be flying this year.

Christian Johnson – Consistent and tough.  Knows the trails well.

Peter Lingren – 9th overall in 2010 in 23:05.  Has only raced one ultra since then and it was a mediocre finish, so we’ll see whether he can repeat with another strong one here.

Women:

Becky Wheeler – Should have an easy time (if anything about Wasatch can be called easy) with this one.

Suzanne Lewis – Thanks to an astute reader of Inside Trail for pointing out my omission of Suzanne.  She nabbed a distant 2nd place behind Darcy Africa last year and should be able to improve on that time.

Emily Judd – Sub 24 hour at Bighorn shows she has what it takes to contend.

Linda McFadden – With over 200 finished ultras, her consistency and tenacity should carry her in for a solid run and propel her to the win if  others have a rough day.

Sarah Evans – Has finished this race sub 30 hours, so she knows what to expect and how to deal with it.

“One Hundred Miles of Heaven and Hell.”  The race slogan makes sense to those who’ve finished it.  Enjoy.

One Hundred Miles of Heaven and Hell. Photo mrc-ultra.blogspot.com