Ian Sharman Destroys Rocky Raccoon 100 Course Record

[We’ve now published an interview with Ian Sharman from after his record setting run at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100.]

Rocky Raccoon 100 2011 snow

A tiny bit of snow remains on the trail margins early in the race. (Photo by @zentriathlon via Twitter).

When an arctic front brought single-digit temperatures and snow all the way to the Texas-Mexico border this week, the Lone Star state probably thought that severe weather would be the only thing breaking records. That is, until 395 ultrarunners descended upon Huntsville State Park in east-central Texas for the 2011 running of the Rocky Raccoon 100.

At the dark 6 a.m. start, runners shivered in the frosty 25 degree Fahrenheit air. After days of not knowing how the weather and course conditions would play out because of abnormal winter weather, dawn soon revealed bluebird skies and Huntsville State Park’s quintessential fast trails. The weather remained perfect for running, topping out at just under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and runners reported ideal trail conditions all day long.

This is to say that perfect conditions existed for the setting of a new course record, so meet the man who did just that:

Ian Sharman dominated an elite-laden field with a blistering and untouchable pace, finishing in 12:44:33. For anyone who is keeping count, that’s 7:38 minute/mile pace for an entire 100 miles!

Prior to Sharman’s superhuman Saturday performance, Eric Clifton held the Rocky Raccoon 100 course record at 13:16:02, set in 1996. A few runners since then have edged near the course record, including Jorge Pacheco and Anton Krupicka. But on this February 5th, 2011, Sharman didn’t just toy with the record, he destroyed it.

Sharman, a British national living in San Jose, California, is not new to elite-level endurance running. In 2010, as an example, Sharman finished the Comrades Marathon, the famous 56-mile road race in South Africa, in 6:01:13 for 23rd place. Sharman revealed on his blog just a few days ago that he’s just signed for sponsorship with The North Face.

Ian Sharman Rocky Raccoon 100 2011

Ian Sharman running toward a course record at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100. (Copyright Josh Baker, endurophoto.com).

Going into the race, Sharman played either coy or truly unknowing of his ability for the day. In a comment on his blog, he said, “The plan is to see how close I can get to 8 minute miling, which would be 13:20. But with the mileage I’ve recently been doing, who knows? It’s all about the last 40 miles, especially the last 20. Sub 14 would still be good.” If you’re wondering what was going through Sharman’s head beyond this snippet of goal-setting commentary, stay tuned because we’re interviewing the guy just as soon as he recovers a little.

It appears that the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 is just the beginning of a very full season of racing for Sharman. Look for him at the starting line of some uber-competitive races in 2011, including the American River 50, Miwok 100k, Comrades Marathon, Western States 100, and The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships, among a huge slew of road marathons. [Update: iRunFar now has a report from Ian’s pacers and crew.]

Here is the run-down of the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 top 5 finishers:

  1. Ian Sharman – 12:44:33
  2. Anton Krupicka – 13:18:52
  3. Hal Koerner – 13:26:19
  4. Karl Meltzer – 14:27:20
  5. Liza Howard – 15:33:09

That’s right, ladies, Texas’ very own sweetheart, Liza Howard, brought home the girls’ bacon with her fifth place overall finish among a hyper-competitive field of guys and gals.

The blow-by-blow stories of what went down out there on course are, right now, tucked away in the recovering minds and bodies of the racers. Those on-course stories will filter in over the next couple of days, so look for more 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 race coverage here.

In the meantime, we’ll have to sate ourselves with the stories that the splits tell. The Rocky Raccoon 100 course is a rough loop of 20 miles that’s repeated 5 times to make 100 miles. Ultralive.net recorded those 20-mile splits in a pretty-close-to-live webcast.

Anton Krupicka Rocky Raccoon 100 2011

Anton Krupicka runs through the frosty morning air at about mile 15. (Photo by @ryanalfred via Twitter).

The mile 20 split showed a big, early lead by Zach Gingerich (who would later drop at mile 60), coming through in an elapsed time of 2:23. Sharman came through second in 2:29 with a string of runners behind him that included Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer, Scott Jurek (who would later drop at mile 60), Michael Arnstein (7th, 16:34;45), and Mike Wolfe (8th, 16:53:30).

Anton Krupicka Hal Koerner Rocky Raccoon 100 2011

Anton Krupicka and Hal Koerner running together mid-race. (Copyright Craig Mitchell, endurophoto.com).

By mile 40, Sharman built a nine-minute lead on the rest of the field, surging to a below-course record pace in an elapsed time of 4:53. Gingerich, Krupicka, Koerner, and Jurek sailed through, all on course-record pace as well, over the course of the next ten minutes.

For the remaining 60 miles of the race, Sharman maintained his pacing with what onlookers described as high, strong spirits. Behind him, yet still on old course-record pace, Krupicka and Koerner ran together, clocking their mile 60 and 80 splits almost simultaneously. Somewhere in the last 20 miles of the race, it seems that Krupicka broke Koerner to reach the finish line about six minutes faster than him and three minutes slower than the old course record. No matter how hard a fight these guys put up, this was the day that the record fell big to Sharman.

Liza Howard

Liza Howard interviews with iRunFar's Bryon Powell before her 2010 victory at the Leadville 100.

As for the women’s race, there was no race. Liza Howard led the women’s field from start to finish. At the time of writing, no other woman was yet close to finishing the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100. Liza Howard’s Twitter feed was purportedly kept up by her crew during the race and here are a couple updates from it that tell the story of her day:

“Runners got off to a good start and Liza sped through 1st aid station on pace. It’s chilly in the mid 20s.”

“Liza finished 1st 20mi loop in 2:34, a little ahead of her planned pace looking great!”

“#8 through mi 60 @2:21pm. She’s working very hard. Having some g.i. Issues, but holding onto her target pace.”

“Liza through 80 @ 5:45pm. And was picking up the pace for last several miles.”

“She’s slowing down again and it’s getting dark. 6:22pm @ nature center. Now we have a long wait (13 mi) until we see her again at park rd.”

“Liza came in at 15:33! A solid PR! She’s sitting under a headlamp wearing down puffs top and bottom – definitely in a happy place.”

All’s well that ends well on what seems like a roller coaster day for Liza. She ran 15:45:03 at last year’s Rocky Raccoon 100, so the numbers definitely don’t lie with her 2011 fast finish.

This about wraps things up for this late-Saturday night race report. We’re writing this from the iRunFar headquarters in Park City, Utah, and it wasn’t without the help of iRunFar friends on course today to pass along race information for this race report. Our hats, thus, go off in gratitude to Rich White for his awesome text message reporting, photos from Endurophoto.com, which provided official race photos for Rocky Raccoon, and the highly useful Twitter feeds of @zentriathlon and @ryanalfred.

February 6 10 am MST Additions
Bryon Powell here. We’ll be updating this article as we have more thoughts and learn of new information, such as runners’ race reports. For the moment, here are a few thoughts.

For a brief time yesterday, there was talk of Ian Sharman’s outstanding performance being an unofficial 100 mile trail record. It was not. Swede Jonas Buud of Sweden ran 12:32 at a trail 100 mile in Sweden last year. We’re not sure how trail like that race was or if Buud’s run is even the unofficial world record. Let us know if you know anything about Buud’s course or if you know of someone who’s run an even faster 100 miler on the trails.

We’ve gotta believe, however, that Sharman’s run was both a UK trail 100 mile record and the fastest trail 100 miler on American soil. To put things in perspective, the American road 100 mile record is 12:12.

With all the excitement of Sharman’s course record as well as outstanding races by Krupicka, Koerner, Meltzer, and Howard, we didn’t report on the coincident Rocky Raccoon 50 mile in this article… though we covered it on Twitter. As Ian Sharman noted in a comment below, Todd Braje ran 5:41, knocking 20 minutes off the previous record. Yassine Diboun finished second (rumor in 6:18-19) while Maria Clementi won the women’s race. No word yet on on their times.

Race Reports (more as they come in)

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 25 comments

  1. Ian Sharman

    Since I can't sleep, I'm now net surfing. Don't forget Todd Braje smashing the 50 mile CR in 5:41, knocking 20 minutes off the previous record.

  2. Brian

    Great race Ian. Absolutely stellar performance. How about Meltzer showing that A) he's not merely a mtn runner and B)…how old is he anyway!? Sounds like is was a great day at the races!

  3. olga

    Uhm, on a different note, it is from the first words comes the fact that the post is written by Meghan:) Bryon, you should hire her!

    OK, on a race – it was awesome to watch it develop. Zach didn't have a stellar day, Scott didn't want to ruin his training the way it should go – he doesn't race far till March and had a great 60M training run. Hal was coming off bad cold, so his performance shouldn't go unnoticed. Why Tony didn't take off after 60M and didn't peel off Hal is a mistery to many, but they seem to have enjoyed each other's company. Karl is Da Man, really! When I was sorting drop bags I took pictures of his tiny tidy rolled grocery bag with some 60 gels and 4 Red Bull shots and the luggage suitcases of majority. Really, folks, are you nuts??? Anyhow, Todd Braje did fantastic, and Yassine came in 2nd much later in a 50. Liza had no female competition ever, but she pretty much raced the field – and the clock. The girl os a rocket, watch for her. Cute little thing too. I heard that trail 100M record is 12:23 or so, in Europe. This was a US-soil trail 100M record.

  4. Thomas Reiss

    so here is the deal with the result of Jonas Buud from Sweden. He ran a 100 miler last year, in Sweden not Germany with 26 finishers. He did run 12:32:04. As far of it being a true trail race, here is the official short race description:

    "The race will be run on a 10 km loop consisting of forrest trails and gravel roads. Support with drink, food and massage will be available every 10 kms."

    Here is a link to the race website:
    http://www.colibri.se/TEC/index.html

    all in swedish so I can't read it but I have this info from the official website of the German Ultra Running Association (and I can read German). This website can be found at: http://www.ultra-marathon.org

    As far as Ian's time it does not matter record or not, this is freaking fast.

      1. Magnus

        Jonas' record from last year's TEC is insane, as well as Sharman's effort this weekend.

        http://www.colibri.se/TEC/bana2010.jpg is a picture of the course that Jonas ran on.

        It consists of Asphalt, Forest trail, Gravel trail, walking paths, and other trails of easy run surfaces. Buud will run Comrades this spring, and it'll sure be interesting to see what he might come up with.

  5. Matt Lutz

    Thanks for the coverage via Twitter of this race. I followed it obsessively all day and was stunned as much as everyone to see a 15-year-old record get smashed with a spectacular run premised on mostly-even splits.

  6. Meissner

    And although someone would have eventually noted Buud's 12:32, it was actually Ian who found it and reported it first (amongst all the RR followers and runners that I was aware of, anyway). I just think that's awesome.

    Great write-up, Meghan!

  7. Jeff Browning

    Ian lived in Bend for a while and I've had the pleasure of cruising with him on quite a few occasions during our Wednesday noon runs and chatting before his stellar Comrades and WS100 performances last year. Not to mention his SLC/Boston Marathon doubles in April (2:45 at SLC, then 2:36 48 hours later at Boston!). I'm not surprised at all by his performance at RR100. He's a great guy and very humble…it's well deserved and his years of MANY consistent marathon performances speak for themselves. You definitely cannot fly under the radar anymore, spidey! :)

  8. Martin Bensky

    Never heard of this race until your mother-in-law gave us the news down at the Richland Community Center. Fantastic performance! Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

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