The North Face Endurance Challenge 2010 Championship Women’s Preview

The North Face Endurance Challenge 2010 LogoWhile we hemmed and hawed about calling the men’s field the best trail ultra field in the world this year, there is no doubt that The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship women’s field is the best women’s trail ultra field this year and, quite likely, ever! No hyperbole, no exaggeration. That’s what happens when you combine the top women from this year’s Western States with the top women from the past two years of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) and the World 100k Championships. The only thing that could make the field better would be if Caitlin Smith, last year’s TNF champion, and Nikki Kimball weren’t forced to withdraw due to injury.

Below is iRunFar’s preview of the women’s field. (If you’re interested in the guys, we’ve also published a men’s race preview.) If you can confirm that any of the runners mentioned below are not running or know of someone who we overlooked, but will be in the mix, please let us know, as we are constantly updating this article. We will update this article as we receive new information. We’ve already posted some notable withdrawals and may have some late additions before race day. Keep checking back to get the latest scoop.

I’ll be headed out to San Fransisco to cover the race. I’ll publish interviews and additional information after I meet with competitors. I’ll also be livecasting the race on iRunFar’s Twitter feed, so be sure to follow us. (Updates will also be posted in the iRunFar.com sidebar.)

World 100k Championship Women
Less than a month ago, Ellie Greenwood (UK & Montrail), Lizzy Hawker (UK & The North Face), and Monica Carlin (IT) put on a race at the 100k World Championships in Gibraltar that rivaled this men’s race at this year’s Western States. (iRF 100k World Championships report) These three ladies switched spots like they were playing musical chairs with none willing to take second chair. In the end, Greenwood made a late surge to beat Hawker, who was also passed by Carlin. In the end, the top three places were separated by a mere 7 minutes (7:26-7:33). Greenwood and Hawker will have a rematch this weekend in California and we can only hope that it’ll be as exciting as their race Gibraltar. Greenwood may have run faster last month, but Hawker knows the Headlands from her win at the 2007 TNF Championships.

If you’re a fan of American ultrarunning, then you might remember that the US women brought back gold from last year’s 100k World Championships. Not only did the US bring home the team gold, but Kami Semick of The North Face brought home the individual gold with a 7 minute victory. Semick has won literally dozens of top ultramarathons, including The North Face EC Championships in 2008. This year, Semick has won the Miwok 100k and set the course record at the Vermont 100 mile in 16:42.

Last year, the American cause was aided when Devon Crosby-Helms finished fourth at the 100k World Championships. Crosby-Helms, who runs for Salomon, recently earned the USATF Trail 50 mile title with her win at the Tussey Mountainback 50 mile. While she won the Vermont 100 in 2008, her most impressive ultra victory was her 6:29:21 course record at last year’s JFK 50 mile. Crosby-Helms finished second to Semick at Miwok back in May. (We interviewed Crosby-Helms before this year’s Western States.)

The final cog in Team USA’s victory machine last year was Meghan Arbogast, who placed fifth in 8:04:29. Last month, Arbogast again placed fifth at the 100k World Championships. This time she was the top American women by running 7:46:01. Like Crosby-Helms, Arbogast enters the race with two USATF Championship belts from this year after winning the Mad City 100k (road) in April and White River 50 mile (trail) in July. Last but not least, Arbogast placed second at this year’s Western States 100 with a break out time of 19:15:58. Not bad for a 49 year old… or anyone! (iRF post-WS Arbogast interview)

The Women of Western States
We’ve already talked about Arbogast’s second place finish at Western States, so I guess we should mention Tracy Garneau, the Canadian who beat her. After placing third at last year’s TNF championships, Garneau has been unstoppable with 2010 wins at the HURT 100 mile, American River 50 mile, and Western States. She started the first edition of this year’s UTMB, but opted not to start the second. (iRF post-WS100 Garneau interview)

[This is where we’d mention Nikki Kimball, the three-time WS champ, who was third there this year. Unfortunately, she’s injured and won’t be running.]

Ultra youngster Rory Bosio (26 y/0) placed fourth at this year’s Western States in her debut 100 miler. She’s previously won the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 mile (2009) and Silver State 50 Mile (2007), while she placed sixth at the 2007 TNF Championships.

Joelle Vaught ran her debut 100 miler at this year’s Western States. She placed seventh, but that’s not at all indicative of this former adventure racer’s ability. For starters, she was second to Caitlin Smith (not running due to injury) at last year’s TNF championships. Just this year, Vaught has won the Way Too Cool 50k, Silver State 50 mile, and Run, Rabbit, Run 50 mile.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc Femmes
We’ve already mentioned Lizzy Hawker in the context of her third place finish at this year’s 100k World Championships, an event she won in 2006. That’s all well and good, but Hawker is Ms. UTMB. Why do we say that? Because she’s won the race three times, including 2010. We spent some time with her in Chamonix this August, so you can learn a bit more about her in this video interview we conducted with her following UTMB ’10. Hawker won the inaugural TNF championship in 2007.

[Update: Krissy is back in as 12/2!] In 2009, the UTMB world was surprised when Hawker was beat by American Krissy Moehl, who runs for both Patagonia and Vasque. H owever, it’s never a shock here in the US when Moehl wins yet another race. As far as we can tell from some quick research, Krissy’s finished outside of the top 3 at an ultra exactly once since Western States 2005 (a fifth at Mountain Masochist 50 mile in 2007). In that span, she’s won around 20 ultras. Her career includes 100 mile wins at UTMB, Hardrock, Vermont, HURT, and Grindstone with second places at Western States and Leadville. Unfortunately, rumor is that Krissy’s been nursing a calf injury.

We thought Nerea Martinez of Spain was entered in this weekend’s race, but didn’t see her during our multiple reviews of the entrants list. However, we was her last night and she’s in. Martinez placed second to Hawker at this year’s reprise UTMB. A former adventure racer, she’s be quite successful in Spanish trail ultras.

Helen Cospolich, who won the Leadville 100 miler in 2008 and was seventh at this year’s UTMB, will be racing this weekend, as well. (iRF pre-UTMB Cospolich interview)

Could Be Contenders
While we’re giving up on the thematic note, we’ll share a few more top women contenders with you. None of these ladies are dark horses. It wouldn’t surprise us if any one of them won the race, but we’re unsure about some aspect that will come into play this weekend, be it their speed, endurance, experience, climbing ability, or some else.

Liza Howard of Texas is another past Leadville 100 winner. She ran 21:19 to win the race this past August. (We interviewed Liza before her Leadville 100 win). Liza showed she’s got both speed and endurance when she won the Rocky Raccoon 100 in 15:45 back in February. What is she lacking? Experience racing the best women ultrarunners in the world.

If you’re impressed by Howard’s 15:45 at Rocky Raccoon, then you’ll be blown away by Jenn Shelton‘s 14:57 back in 2007. Only 27, she’s already been putting up impressive ultra results for seven years. Shelton is nearly untouchable on flat courses, but she’s had mixed results when it comes to hilly courses such as Western States and the Miwok 100k. That said, Shelton did take second behind Hawker at the 2007 TNF championships.

As fellow Kiwi and Salomon teammate Jonathan Wyatt was the most intriguing entrant in the men’s field, Anna Frost of New Zealand is in the women’s race. Like Wyatt, Frost is a veteran elite mountain runner making her first foray into ultrarunning. (There’s no better stage to do it than in San Francisco this weekend.) Frost has made a name for herself in 5 to 10 mile events with as much climbing as possible. This year, she was third at the Pikes Peaks while winning the Run 3 event at the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run. Frost was interviewed for a recent issue of Running Times.

Canada’s Tamsin Anstey has won every ultramarathon she’s finished. That’d be three wins by our reckoning, the Diez Vista 50k, Frosty Mountain 50k, and Mountain Masochist 50 mile, all run last year. Last year, Tamsin also won the co-ed division of the TransRockies run with fellow Canadian Gary Robbins. (iRF interview with Anstey before Western States 2010)

Other Notable Entrants
We hadn’t heard of Katherine Koski, but back in 2005 she ran a 8:00 in 100k debut at the Ed Fitz. She also placed sixth at the Pikes Peak Ascent this year, which served as the World Mountain Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge. Her 2:46:53 was less than 4 minutes behind Anna Frost. She may not have much ultra experience, but she’s been running 2:45-50 marathons for more than a decade.

Lyuda Anderson ran a smoking 7:30 50 mile at the TNF regionals in Washington, DC this fall. She also won the same regional event last year.

Kasia Zając is a Polish Salomon runner/adventure racer who lives in Germany. Since we can’t read Polish or German, we’re coming up scant for results we can understand, but we do know she ran a 4:10 50k in late October and that’s not half bad. Anna Frost interviewed Zając this week in San Francisco.

Last Minute Entrants
We don’t have any last minute additions… yet, but hope that there’ll be a surprise last minute addition or two.

Notable Entrants Who Are Not Running

  • Tracy Garneau – Injury
  • Nikki Kimball – Injury
  • Caitlin Smith – Hip injury
  • Diane Van Deren – Reason unknown

Other Resources
We like sharing other great resources, so here ya go. We’ll add others (such as Karl Meltzer’s race odds) as we find them.

Call for Comments
As mentioned above, we’d love to know of other top runners we missed, runners we mentioned that we may have underrated, or top entrants you know not to be racing this weekend.

Who are your picks for the top three spots?

If you’ll be out at this weekend’s races, which distance will you be running? Are you excited for the race?

There are 13 comments

  1. Natural1

    My money's on Devon for the win – she's a fierce competitor and her recent win/CR at Stinson Beach should set her up nicely for a fast 50 on Saturday. GO TEAM SOLOMON!

  2. Mark Ryan

    As fast as Devon is and considering it's her home course it's hard to bet against her but I like one of the Canadians to win. Tracy and Ellie have had massive years and Tamsin is definitely an up and coming force.

      1. Ian Sharman

        My top 3 picks are Kami, Ellie and Lizzie. No idea of the order as they have very similar 100k times and all do serious amounts of very fast trail running. Sprint finish with just a couple of minutes between them?

        1. Bryon Powell

          Ian, I think it should be a really tight race for most of the 50 miles with wheels completely coming off when one of these ladies drops off. If anyone of the three ladies you mention can blow out the other two, I think it might be Ellie.

  3. megatomic

    With my personal fave out (Krissy) and now Tracy out, it's going to have to be Devon for the win. With Kami as a close second. No idea on a third…

    1. Just saying

      It's worth considering the course change at Rocky Raccoon when comparing Liza Howard's 15:45 to Jen Shelton's 14:57. Liza ran that time on the new course which is significantly more single track and judged as approximately 15 minutes slower per loop by AJW who ran it before and after the change.

      Anyway, Liza Howard is a boss.

  4. Meissner

    Something most probably don't know but I do because I'm geeky like that is that Kami is undefeated in the Headlands. She knows those trails, she loves those trails, she excels on those trails. And she didn't race 100 fast and hard road kilometers 27 days before this race.

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