Has there ever been as competitive an ultramarathon in Utah as this weekend’s Speedgoat 50k? No way. What’s more, the most competitive 50k season in the US is traditionally restricted to February and March with races such as Chuckanut and Way Too Cool. On the other hand, the hottest racing action over the summer tends to be 100 milers with a few 50 milers and 100ks sneaking onto the radar. Not this weekend when a slew of top American talent faces off against an infusion of international speedsters. Why? Two reasons. First, Karl Melter, the RD, has worked tirelessly to put together a brutal course (11,6oo’ of elevation gain) and a solid prize purse ($10,000, plus two $1,000 first climb primes and a $500 course-record bonus), which has steadily improved the field’s competitiveness since the race’s inaugural running in 2007. Second, Speedgoat is one of two International Skyrunning Federation Skyrunner World Series races in the US, specifically as part of the Ultra SkyMarathon Series, which has helped spur the arrival of runners from overseas.
Read on to find out who, exactly, will be racing this weekend. You can also jump ahead to watch Karl Meltzer’s Odds for the race.
Tune into iRunFar’s live coverage of the Speedgoat 50k starting 6:30 MDT Saturday morning!
With all due respect to the other women who’ll toe the line this weekend, Anna Frost (interview) of New Zealand is clearly the woman to beat. Back in May at the Tranvulcania Ultramarathon, Frost won the competitive women’s race while finishing just 7 minutes outside of the men’s top 10. While she’s still only raced a handful of ultras, she’s done so on the world’s biggest stages… and has never been beaten. She’s been a bit dinged up of late, but has no problems when tackling steep terrain… so she should be in luck this weekend. Should Anna falter, there’ll be more than enough capable women ready to take the win.
We start with the visitors, which, not surprisingly, include a contingent from Oregon. Meghan Arbogast is simply the best 50+ women’s ultrarunner ever. While she’s great on the roads, as shown by her near win at this year’s 100k World Championship where she ended up fourth, she’s also a perennial Top-10 runner at Western States, showing she’s not averse to mountains. With the Speedgoat 50k likely taking the top women only an hour and change less than Arbogast’s 100k time and the Speedgoat course being quite runnable, she stacks up better than you’d think. Then there’s Denise Bourassa who finished one spot (and 45 minutes) behind Arbogast at States this year. Her win at the Ice Age 50 mile (7:12) shows she’s got some speed heading into this weekend.
Colorado is also likely to represent well in the women’s race with Kerrie Bruxvoort and Gina Lucrezi. Kerrie is quite new to the ultra scene, but has won three 50ks since March, including Mesquite Canyon, Greenland Trail, and Golden Gate Dirty Thirty. Impressively, she ran 3:51 at Greenland Trail and, then, was only 3 minutes off Darcy Africa’s Dirty Thirty course record, which has seen many a top woman race despite being a newer event. Gina Lucrezi is a very experienced mountain runner… but is going after her first 50k finish. Speedgoat is a rough place to make such an attempt!
Other visiting contenders, include Jennifer Benna, Julie Bryan, and Missy Gosney. While on the entrants list, Nikki Kimball is not racing Speedgoat this year. Tina Lewis was on the waitlist as of yesterday, but isn’t there today… no word yet as to whether she’s racing or not.
Don’t count Utah out, as there’s a deep pool of local women’s talent with great experience running in the Wasatch Mountains. Leading the local ladies is likely to be Bethany Lewis. Aside from holding the women’s Grand Canyon double crossing record, Lewis was already won two 50 milers this year – Antelope Island Buffalo Run and San Juan Solstice – and placed second at the Miwok 100k. Oh, and she’s the defending Speedgoat champ. Sarah Evans, who lives only a few miles away at Alta, has finished at least four Speedgoats. During that stretch, Sarah has notched a second, two thirds, and a fifth. Other locals who’ll be up there include Liz Gleason (2007 Wasatch 100 champ), Anny Merrill, Suzanne Lewis, and Liz Sherman (a speedster with no known ultra experience).
The men’s field is stupid deep. Not Grand Canyon deep… think Mariana Trench deep. (Challenger Deep, in fact.) Not only that, the field is incredibly diverse. I should ban myself from using the phrase “world champ” in this preview as it’d save me quiet some time listing this stellar lineup’s accolades from myriad disciplines.
Let’s start with the two most visible athlete’s in the men’s field – Kilian Jornet (interview) and Anton Krupicka (interview). After stumbling out of the blocks (for him) with a third place finish at Transvulcania has nicely rounded into form these past two months with numerous podium finishes, including a win at the Zegama Marathon. Just this past weekend, he won the Dolomites Skyrace, breaking the long standing course record in the process. That win also leaves Kilian leading the Skyrunner World Series rankings. On the opposite side of the racing spectrum is Anton Krupicka, who’s not raced since February 2011, when he ran a 13:18 at the Rocky Raccoon 100. While that fact and the injuries that lead to it (broken leg and, then, shin issues) may lead you to believe that Tony is out of contention, that would be very wrong. Despite not racing for a year and a half and limited running (for him) until recent months, any reader of his blog know he’s setting personal bests and FKTs left and right. The steeper, the better.
Max King and Rickey Gates are two runners who’ve made their mark at shorter races before moving up to test themselves at ultras. Max King is the reigning World Mountain Running champ (although he didn’t make this year’s team). He also ran well at both the US Olympic Trials marathon in January as well as the Track and Field Trials last month, where he set a PR in the steeplechase and advanced to the finals despite hardly training for the event this year. Rickey Gates has multiple US Mountain Running Championships in his past and, more recently, a win and course record at the Canadian Death Race last August… his ultra debut. Despite a long battle with a hamstring problem, Rickey took tenth at the Transvulcania ultra in May.
From overseas, there’s also Salomon’s Thomas Lorblanchet and Philipp Reiter, both of whom have won big European ultras and could go Top 5. In 2009, Thomas was the trail running world champion, while he placed eighth at Transvulcania this May. Philipp, who turned 21 only a week ago, has twice won the Zugspitz Supertrail and recently won the overall title at the Salomon 4 Trails stage race, where Lorblanchet placed second. Top Canadians are also headed across the border with the aggressive Jason Loutitt sure to make an early push, while Gary Robbins attempts a comeback after multiple bouts with a broken foot.
Colorado is clearly the class of the states in the men’s field. Aside from Krupicka and Gates, Utah’s eastern neighbor will be represented by the likes of Jason Schlarb, Nick Clark, Justin Ricks, Dylan Bowman, Joe Grant, Nick Pedatella, and a host of others (Jeremy Duncan, Sean Meissner, Ryan Smith, Brendan Trimboli, etc.). If only to get Clarky riled up, I’ll pick Schlarb as the top guy out of this group. He absolutely crushed the San Juan Solstice 50 in late June in the second fastest time in race history (only Matt Carpenter has run faster). With yet another third place showing, this time at Western States (15:44), Nick Clark is in damn good shape. The only question is whether he’s given Speedgoat enough attention between States and the “flat” Leadville 100 only three weeks away. Clark did win last year’s Speedgoat and ran the third fastest time in race history in 2010. If you don’t live in Colorado, there’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of Justin Ricks. In Colorado, Justin has been fifth at the Pikes Peak Marathon (2009) and twice won the Golden Gates Dirty Thirty 50k (’10 & ’12) setting the course record with both runs. If Dylan Bowman has recovered well from his seventh place showing at States, he could be a factor. He lives in the mountains AND showed he has plenty of speed with his 6-hour-flat run at Leona Divide in April. DBo is certainly hungry enough. After running Hardrock just two weeks ago, Joe Grant (2nd) and Nick Pedatella (4th) are complete wildcards after placing third and second, respectively at last year’s Speedgoat.
There are still plenty of other top runners traveling to the Wasatch to race this weekend. Jorge “More Smiles” Maravilla is racing again after his eighth place finish at Western States. Jack of all trades Jason Bryant of North Carolina will be putting his mountain running skills to the test. James Bonnett (Scottsdale, Arizona), Jason Taylor (Albuquerque, New Mexico), and Eric Bohn (Flagstaff, Arizona) will all be headed up from the Southwest for the race. Brett Maune, the new Barkley Marathons course record holder (52:03:08…. that’s 52 hours!), will get to open his stride up on some easier trails. Jason Moyer of Bend, Oregon, who placed fifth last year, will be racing again. Adam Schwartz-Lowe (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and Sean Blanton (Atlanta, Georgia) will have the challenge of being lowland city dwellers high up in the Wasatch.
The top local entrants are Ben Lewis and Eric Storheim. Ben was fourth at last year’s Speedgoat. Since then he placed second at The Bear 100 (his first 100), the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 mile… and dealt with a stress fracture. Eric Storheim has the fifth (’08) and seventh (’09) fastest times at Speedgoat (though Karl has a knack for making the course harder every year). More impressive, Storheim recently became the first person to finish the local Millcreek 100 mile in one push. Other locals who could fare well are Andy Dorias, Jason Dorias, Matt Garland, and Mick Jurynec.
Karl Meltzer’s 2012 Speedgoat 50k Odds
Karl Meltzer’s been publishing race odds for years. We were lucky enough to catch his predictions for this year’s Speedgoat 50k on camera.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Call for Comments
How do you think this year’s Speedgoat 50k will play out? What effect will the King of the Mountain primes have on the race?