Last year’s women’s field at Utah’s Speedgoat 50k was strong, but it looks to be even stronger this year. Inclusion in the Skyrunning World Series, $6,000 in cash dedicated to the ladies, and Karl Meltzer’s continued hard work as race director mean that this is one of the US’s premiere 50ks. Although the forecast continues to be great for this weekend, racers will still face 11,000′ of climbing and an equal amount of descent all run at between 8,000′ and 11,000′ in the Wasatch Mountains. We’ll be covering the race live from Snowbird Resort starting at 6:30 MDT Saturday morning.
Thanks to Hoka One One for sponsoring our coverage of this year’s Speedgoat 50k!
[Editor’s Note: We’ve previously published an extensive preview of the men’s field.]
An “Unknown” Winner?
While a well-known runner will almost assuredly win the men’s race, it’s much more likely that a less-well-known runner will take the women’s win. Why do I say that? Because Ruby Muir and Jodee Adams-Moore have an excellent chance of winning this weekend.
If you’ve been following iRunFar, you learned a little about Ruby Muir when she dominated the Tarawera Ultramarathon in March. There, this spritely Kiwi seemed to float over the ground for 100k in her Vibram FiveFingers. She’s similarly crushed the competition at the vast majority of her trail racing in New Zealand, so it’ll be interesting to see how she takes to racing a more competitive women’s field in her first non-Oceania race.
Jodee Adams-Moore remains a largely hidden talent in the Pacific Northwest despite winning nearly every trail race she runs from 5 miles to 50k. Her lone notable defeat was taking second to Ellie Greenwood at the 2012 Chuckanut 50k. Adams-Moore returned to Chuckanut this year. She won.
A third relative unknown on the trails is Alicia Shay. She’s a two-time NCAA 10,000m champion and former NCAA women’s 10k record holder, a strong post-collegiate road and track runner, and, now, a credible threat on the trails. Last year, she won the TransRockies Run3 event and this year she’s won the Red Hot Moab 33k, a competitive La Sportiva Mountain Cup event, and she took third at Chuckanut behind Adams-Moore and Devon Yanko, and ahead of Cassie Scallon and Kerrie Bruxvoort, among other notables.
Mature Mountain Runners
For decades, distance runners have moved up in distance as they’ve aged. Fortunately for many, the 40s can be a golden age for racing the trails at ultra distances. This weekend, a slew of forty-something women will show that they’re still excelling. In fact, it would be of little surprise if a majority of the top five women came from these ranks.
Erica Baron has extensive mountain running roots, having won the Pikes Peak Marathon for four-straight years from 1999 to 2002. She’s also won Albuquerque’s famous nine-mile La Luz Trail Run four times, including last year. Later last year, Baron won the USATF Trail 50k National Championships. This year, she was sixth woman at the Bandera 100k in January, but she did win the Jemez Mountain Half Marathon, a La Sportiva Mountain Cup event, in May.
Anita Ortiz is well known in the ultrarunning crowd after she won her 100-mile debut at the 2009 Western States 100. Long before that, Ortiz was a standout mountain runner winning three-straight US Mountain Running Championships in 2002, 2003, and 2004. After winning Western States, she also won the 2009 Pikes Peak Marathon. Anita is no newbie to the Wasatch as she won the inaugural Speedgoat 50k in 2008. While she’s been off the radar for the past few years due to a major foot injury and its recovery, she clocked at 5:27 at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k last month, which is three minutes faster than her time from 2010 and just three minutes and change off Darcy Africa’s course record.
While Danelle Ballengee may be best known to newer runners for her harrowing near-death experience after falling off a cliff during a trail run in 2006, what you may not know is that she won four-straight Pikes Peak Marathons from 1994 to 1997 (she was second in both 2005 and 2006), competed in the Skyrunning scene for a decade, was a badass adventure racer, and holds the women’s FKT for summiting Colorado’s 54 14,000′ peaks in under 15 days. These days, she’s been winning local races near her Moab, Utah home, putting on her own trail races, raising her kids, and running Milt’s Stop n Eat, a Moab staple.
[Pause. We’re up to nine Pikes Peak Marathon wins in the women’s field!]
Julie Bryan represented the US at multiple Mountain Running World Championships in the early 2000s. Around that time she also ventured into ultra distances, winning the 2003 Pemberton Trail 50k in 4:03. This year, she trained extensively for, but did not finish the Marathon des Sables stage race in Morocco due to an Achilles injury.
Uber-local runner Sarah McCloskey doesn’t have quite the resume those listed above her do… and she just finished fourth at Hardrock two weeks ago, but McCloskey did take third at last year’s Speedgoat ahead of some talented runners.
With many great runs in the past, but almost no racing since 2009, Prudence L’Heureux is a wildcard.
Extensive masters experience is also coming from overseas, with prolific racers Francesca Canepa of Italy likely to race well. While she finished on 27th at the IAU World Championships earlier this month… that race was squeezed between her win at Ronda del Cims and third place at Ice Trail Tarentaise. Last year, Canepa had an amazing summer, during which won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail and Trans d’Havet, placed second at TNF UTMB, and then won the Tor des Géants less than two weeks later. Speedgoat may be shorter than Canepa’s ideal race, but she’s in top fitness. [Update 7/26: We’ve learned that Canepa won the mountainous 101k Eiger Ultra Trail in 16:18 last weekend, which will make nailing Speedgoat a bit more difficult.]
Not quite as prolific or fast as Canepa is Frenchwoman Karine Sanson. That said, Sanson has run countless high-profile European trail races with many respectable results, such as sixth at Transvulcania and eighth at Ice Trail Tarentaise this year. It’s doubtful that she’ll be on the podium, but she should be in the top ten.
The Fast Femmes
Yeah, and now’s the part where we name another nine women who regularly tear it up on the trails.
Kerrie Bruxvoort (pre-race interview) – Bruxvoort didn’t have her ideal day at Western States (16th), but she’s pretty much nailed every sub-100-mile ultra she’s run, including taking second at last year’s Speedgoat. As a fitness comparator, she ran a nearly identical time at last month’s Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k as she did in 2012.
- Salynda Fleury – A newcomer to the ultra ranks when she took fourth at last September’s Run Rabbit Run 100, she’s well experienced at races closer to Speedgoat’s makeup with at least five Pikes Peak Marathon finishes, including a win in 2007. [That’s a full 10 PPM wins in the women’s field!]
- Stephanie Howe – Howe was in amazing shape recently, taking second at last December’s TNFEC 50 Mile and setting a course record at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k this March. She’s been quiet since then due to a stress reaction in her fibula, so it’s tough to tell how what her fitness will be this weekend.
Bethany Lewis – While it may seem crazy to include local runner Lewis among such well-known runners, she’s got national-level talent and course knowledge. She did win Speedgoat in 2011 after all. Last year, she also showed she’s legit amongst the best in the sport when she took ninth at the TNFEC 50 Mile Championships.
- Krissy Moehl – Moehl ran some high-profile races in 2012 with a fourth at Western States and eighth at TNFEC 50 being highlights. This year, she’s been a bit more off the American radar with a fourth at the Red Hot Moab 55k and a win at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. It’s hard to say where Krissy will stack up, but she did just get a nice mountain session in pacing Darcy Africa to her Hardrock win.
- Sandi Nypaver – Likely topping out at the middle of the top ten, Nypaver recently took second at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile after placing 11th at last year’s TNFEC 50.
- Emma Roca – One of Europe’s top ultrarunners. Just last year, she won the Highland Fling, was third at UTMB, and took fourth at Cavalls del Vent.
- Joelle Vaught – Always a threat to win any trail race from 50k to 100k as her four wins and two seconds in that range this year already show. Her top performance on the year is likely her second place at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April. Like Bruxvoort, Vaught’s run at Western States didn’t turn out as she’d have liked with a DNF after leading early.
- Becky Wheeler – Wheeler missed almost all of last year to injury, but bounced back with a second place at the Quad Rock 50 Mile in May. Mountains are her thing and she’s got plenty of experience at Speedgoat with a fourth (2009) and a pair of seconds (2010 and 2011). She also won the Wasatch 100 less than two years ago.
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will take the Speedgoat 50k this year?
- Who’ll go for… and who will win the $1,000 prime at the top of Hidden Peak 8.3 miles in?
- Any big showdowns that you’re looking forward to watching?
- Did we miss any top contenders who are racing? Know of any top entrants who’ve decided not to race this weekend?