2014 Squamish 50 Mile Preview

2014 Arc'teryx Squamish 50 MileIn just three years, Gary Robbins and company have built the Squamish 50 races (there’s a 50k, too) into mainstays on the western Canadian and even Pacific Northwest ultrarunning calendars. We’ve heard that the Squamish setting is the star of this show and can’t wait to see if that’s the case. That said, from the outside looking in, we’re pretty sure that the competition will take center stage this weekend. Below, we’ll note who’ll be lining up in the 50 mile, which features 11,000 feet of climb and, perhaps, a few kilometers of technical singletrack.

As you might expect, we’ll be covering the pointy end of the 50 mile. You can follow along starting at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Saturday, August 16.

Thanks to Salomon for sponsoring our coverage of the 2014 Squamish 50 Mile!

[As noted, there’s also a strong field in the 50k, as well as a 23k race and a combined 50 mile/50k competition.]

2014 Squamish 50 Mile Women’s Preview

Salomon S-Lab BeltAfter another injury layoff, Cassie Scallon is back to racing. With the efforts she’s banged out at the 50-mile distance over the past few years, she’s got to be the presumptive favorite. As a refresher, she won the JFK 50 in late 2011, Lake Sonoma 50 (post-race interview) and Tussey Mountainback 50 last year, and the Sean O’Brien 50 (post-race interview) early this year. So long as her body holds up, she should be first across the line.

A cadre of Canadians will be chasing Cassie. While she has limited trail ultra experience, Catrin Jones has a solid shot at the women’s podium. Last year, she won the Squamish 50k and took second to Stephanie Howe at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k. [Aug 14 Update: The 50 mile and 50k entrants lists now confirm Ellie G’s comment, Catrin Jones has switched to the 50k.]

Lisa Polizzi has been the runner up at the past two Squamish 50s and will be returning for this year’s race. Previously, Lisa has also won the Canadian Death Race (’06), the Dirty Duo 50k (’11), and the Knee Knackering 30 Mile (’12). She’s entered in the 50/50 competition, meaning she’s racing 50k the following day. We’re not sure if that means she’ll hold something back on Saturday. [Aug 13 Update: Lisa Polizzi has withdrawn from this weekend’s races.]

Cheryl Beatty won last year’s shortened 85k TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail, which is certainly the highlight of her decade of ultrarunning. She was also third at last year’s Pocatello 50 Mile. [Aug 13 Update: Cheryl Beatty won’t be racing due to an ankle injury.]

Stacey Cleveland is a familiar name with at least a dozen ultra finishes over the past four years as well as some wins at regional races. On the bigger stage, she took sixth at the Chuckanut 50k two years ago and has taken 11th and 15th in two goes at the TNF ECS 50 Mile in San Francisco. Stacey has the third-fastest time on the Sun Mountain 50 Mile course (7:19:26) in the race’s five runnings. [Aug 13 Update: Stacey Cleveland is out of this year’s Squamish 50.]

While not Canadian, Cassandra Dufek could be a podium threat. In four regional 50ks over the past three years, Cassandra was two wins, a second, and a third with her most recent race being a win at the Bishop High Sierra 50k in mid-May.

Kathy McKay was third at last year’s Squamish 50 Mile and won the Meet Your Maker 50 Mile the previous year. She was well off the pace in seventh at the Yakima Skyline 50k in April.

Samantha Drove is another local who could find herself placing well. She won the Diez Visto 50k in April and took second at the Squamish 50k last August. In between, she was seventh at the Meet Your Maker 50 Mile, her longest race to date.

It’s hard to rectify America Aznar’s pair of second-place finishes in solid times (4:52 and 4:36) at the Blackfoot 50k the past two years with her 31st place at the Squamish 50k last year. Any inside scoop? Regardless, this looks like her first go at 50 miles.

Marieve Legrand is a strong pick for the top five. In 2012 and 2013, she racked up second-place finishes at the Squamish 21k, Meet Your Maker 50 Mile, and Dirty Duo 50k. Earlier this year, she was fourth at the Sun Mountain 25k.

Others to Watch

  • Janet Lun — No known experience over 50k, but won this year’s Sun Mountain 50k in 4:47.
  • Kim Magnus — Third at last year’s Knee Knackering 30 Mile.
  • Kristina Marvin — After a few years of top-five finishes in sub-ultra trail races, she’s stepped up to 50ks recently, taking fourth and seventh at the Blackfoot 50k the past two Mays.
  • Joanne Schmidt — She’s built up a ton of ultra experience over the past five years and appears to be improving over time.

With the Canadian-heavy contingent, we’d love to know if we missed any ladies to watch.

2014 Squamish 50 Mile Men’s Preview

There are a bunch of strong men in the field, but two standouts: Alex Varner and Jorge Maravilla. Both are based in Marin, California and have spent plenty of time running together, which will make this all the more interesting.

Jorge Maravilla - 2014 TNF TransGranCanaria

Jorge Maravilla

Jorge Maravilla really arrived in 2012 and has had two more years to build base, experience, and confidence. This year, he won the Bandera 100k to start off the year, but didn’t follow that up with an equivalent performance at Western States. Look for Jorge to be fired up… and smiling at Squamish. He’s signed up for the 50/50 double, so we’ll see what he lays out there on Saturday. [Aug 13 Update: Jorge Maravilla won’t be running as he’s an expectant papa to be!]

I’d have picked Alex Varner as the favorite, but he ran his first 100 miler at Western States and was reportedly pretty wrecked afterward. That’s understandable with his seventh-place finish in 15:53(!?). Varner gained entry into States with a strong fourth-place showing at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April, which was a follow-up to his second-place finish at the Way Too Cool 50k in March. If–and it’s a big if–Varner is recovered, this could be his race to lose.

There are two folks who could serve as big surprises on the podium this weekend. British Columbia’s Ed McCarthy, who just won the Diez 50k in a course-record time, is one of them. He was fifth at the Squamish 50 Mile last year after taking third in 2013. Over the past two Chuckanut 50ks, he’s run sixth and fifth. The other is Washington’s Maxwell Ferguson who broke seven hours to take second at the White River 50 Mile last year after taking third at Chuckanut earlier that year. This year’s he’s finished sixth at Chuckanut and won the Capital Peak 55k. You’re on notice.

When I think of Paul Terranova, I think of tough. Like crushing jagged limestone chunks with his feet as if they were hoarfrost tough. Then again, maybe that’s just me thinking about him repeatedly running so well at the Bandera 100k in his home state of  Texas. Last year, Paul also showed how strong he was with his eighth-place finish at Western States. This year, he dropped back to 13th place, but showed how fast he is in running half an hour quicker this year (17:26). Like Maravilla, Terranova is entered in the 50/50.

Might Oleg Tabelev be Alberta’s version of Karl Meltzer? He’s at the top of his game from 100k to 100 miles and keeps on racking up wins at 48 years old. His resume has grown quickly over the past five years and includes wins at the Lost Soul Ultra (at the 50k, 100k, AND 100-mile distances), Sinister 7, and the Elk/Beaver 100k.

Hassan Lotfi-Pour has a diverse resume that includes multiple wins at the challenging Fat Dog 120 Mile as well as representing Canada on the roads for 100k at both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships. His results suggest that he’s best from 50 miles on.

Look for another local, Oliver Utting, to surprise some people. In running the Chuckanut 50k the past four years, he has a seventh and two eighths to his credit. Recently, he made what we believe was his 50-mile debut at the Sun Mountain 50 Mile where he took second in 6:34. He’s also been on the podium three times at the Knee Knackering 30 Mile. Yet another 50/50 entrant.

The top contender from eastern Canada (no, I didn’t almost just type Canaday) is Gareth Davies. He one the 60k Ultimate XC in both 2012 and 2014. He’s no stranger to Squamish, having placed fourth at the 50 mile in 2012.

Gary Gellin seems to have bounced from a sub-par 2013 this year. He won the Miwok 100k and has taken on best-of-the-best fields in taking 11th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April and 16th at Western States in June. Look for him in the middle of the top 10 on Saturday.

Mike Wardian - 2014 Tarawera 100k

Mike Wardian

Technical mountain trails, such as those run during the Squamish 50, aren’t Michael Wardian’s forté. Wardian don’t care… he’ll try to win whatever distance, terrain, or technicality a race is run over. And, as it’s the more races, the better for Wardian, he’s entered in the 50/50 double.

Added August 15: Somehow we overlooked Jeremy Ritcey in our original list. Having just moved from Asia back to his native Canada, he’s here to race Squamish!

Even more than Wardian, Dave James seemingly tries to win every race he enters from the gun. He’s an unapologetically aggressive racer with some tremendous results, including multiple 100-mile trail national championships. Dave’s not let up in racing lately, but it’s been a little while since we’ve seen him running a major Can-Am ultra. He’ll get two cracks at things this weekend, as he, too, is running the 50/50 double. [Aug 14 Update: Dave James isn’t racing Squamish this weekend.

With only two ultras under his belt, Mike Murphy has a win at the Meet Your Maker 50 Mile in 2012 and a runner-up finish at the Knee Knackering 30 Mile last year. He’s seen success at Squamish, having taken second at the 21k race in 2012.

Another 50/50 runner, Michael Versteeg should finish in the second five on Saturday, but with an outside shot to break into the top five. He was 10th at UROC last September and 15th at the Speedgoat 50k last month.

Others to Watch

  • Nick Elson — Third at last year’s Knee Knackering in the fifth-fastest time at the storied event. Not enough history to include above, but highest potential of this group.
  • Sean Meissner — Entered in the 50/50, he may be a bit too long in the beard, but he could crack the top 10 in something (if there’s a donut-eating contest).
  • Colin Miller — Fourth at the Squamish 50 Mile last year. He’ll have an even better test this year. Recently 10th at the White River 50 Mile.
  • Daniel Kono — Has gathered a bunch of top-two finishes in the Bay Area the past two years. It’ll be a big step up to 50 miles on Squamish’s trails.
  • Graeme Wilson — Another short resumé with a third at this year’s Sun Mountain 50 Mile.

Call for Comments

  • How do you think the fronts of the two fields are going to play out?
  • Canadian friends, give us some help in putting your country men and women in context heading into the race.
  • Any other dark horses that we should keep our eyes out for?
  • Know of anyone who we’ve listed that won’t be toeing the line?

There are 42 comments

  1. mikejones77

    Great preview. You mention that Kim Magnus and Mike Murphy came 3rd and 2nd, respectively, at last year's Knee Knacker. That's true, but this year they both came 1st. (Graeme Wilson and Oliver Utting, also mentioned here, took 2nd and 3rd).

  2. @eLLiejG

    Mike Murphy won Kneeknacker 30 miler this July in 2nd faster time ever (faster than Gary himself has run it!) and I believe that he also has the 4th fastest time ever at KK. He comes from a triathlon and road background from what I know (where he was high level). An ggressive racer who can handle technical trails, it'll be great to see him race against some out of towners. Graeme Wilson, along with Mike, is early 40s – Graeme has a marathon PB of at least 2:28 (and numerous sub 2:30s) and a 1:11:55 half last year shows the only reason he might be slowing down with age is because he's now transitioned more to ultras (2nd to Mike at this years Kneeknacker 30 mile). Oliver Utting (also a masters runner!) placed 3rd to Mike & Graeme at KK this year.

  3. @eLLiejG

    Kim Magnus will be attempting her first 50 miler but placed 1st at this years Kneeknacker 30 miler, in a very solid time, following on from a 2:56 at Vancouver marathon this May.

    I believe that Catrin Jones may be switching to Sundays 50km.

    As for Hassan Lofti-Pour (or Sam Loverunning as he is known in the facebook world) he'll win the contest for biggest smile out on the course as he preps for Tahoe 200 :)

  4. bazzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Jorge Maravilla doesn't seem to be running much of late, according to Strava, so he's either well rested or rusty. The terrain is a lot more technical than any of the SF runners will be used to, plus the opening flat 11 km (think: way easier than Chuckanut) might tempt some into going out too fast. Also, I guess it depends if any of the 50/50 runners are taking the 50k element seriously and will run more cautiously with that in mind. I know I'll be using it as an excuse for a slow run on Saturday!

    My money is on someone local, but quite tough to call. Pick any one of McCarthy, Elson, Utting, Wilson or Murphy. But I hope it's Sammy!

    1. @ultrarunt

      The trails are not any more technical than those in Marin. In fact some Marin trails are rockier than those on this course.

      Squamish has some of the smoothest/most runnable trails around.

      My money goes to the speed guys-most likely Varner. Temps should be perfect – cool and rainy right now.

  5. bazzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Oh yeah, and Michael Wardian's apparently running UTMB the following week so I'm sure that'll be at the back (or front) of his mind. The reason I'm favouring the locals above is because I'm sure they'll be taking this race a lot more seriously than the out-of-towners who are probably just enjoying a nice trip to Canada with a bit of running thrown in.

    1. @eLLiejG

      Mike races every weekend Barry, and prob has a 5km road race thrown in in between, he races all out with enthusiasm whenever he toes a line (and recovers absurdly fast!), that said – SQ50 is a pretty tech course for Mike. Hey – good luck in the 50/ 50 btw – last minute VFAC training tom?!

      1. Bryon of iRunFar

        Ellie, you beat me to the gun at explaining Mike Wardian and his racing. If he toes the line, he's giving it his A-game, whether it's a 5k in his Arlington, Virginia home, a 50/50 double in Squamish, or UTMB.

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      We're not intentionally ignoring Leadville. When we had to make the call of which race to attend this weekend (and booking the relevant travel), the combined men's and women's fields were more competitive at Squamish. When the Leadville field ticked up late, we looked into finding someone to cover Leadville, but, regrettably, that didn't work out. We independently evaluate each and every event we cover afresh each year. We'll certainly consider covering Leadville again next year.

      1. @MT_Anderson

        I understand you can't cover them all but the logic here seems a bit questionable… Leadville is easily top 5 in terms of the most prestigious 100s in North America and the field doesn't seem that much different than last year in terms of quality and to dump it for a 50 miler in its third year… Having said that, thanks for all you do!

        1. Bryon of iRunFar

          "Prestige" as an intangible and "race history" (you point out Squamish's three-year history) are not important factors when we decide what races to cover. That said, neither are race-related web traffic nor potential financial race coverage support. Certainly, all of those factors would point to Leadville. When we made the very tough Squamish/Leadville call (and we followed the situation for months), the combined Squamish 50-mile fields appeared more competitive than Leadville. That's what drives what we do.

          (The situation /has/ changed markedly over the past few weeks and even past few days, but that's beyond our control.)

        2. Bryon of iRunFar

          Ps. Thanks for the kind words about iRunFar! :-) Just trying to explain a bit about how we work.

          If you're up in Leadville, I hope you enjoy it. I love the town and have a ton of great memories around the race (running, pacing, and reporting). I truly hope the race goes off well this year.

      2. austinhobbs

        Competition aside, the question of how Leadville comes off this year is almost certainly more interesting and more important for ultrarunning than what happens in Squamish. I know that covering a race for its successes and failures as a race — as opposed to covering the front end competition — is not what iRunFar tends to focus on on race day. But I do appreciate what you do, and it would have been great to have some reliable sources reporting from Leadville.

    1. @eLLiejG

      If donuts are required, you guys need a side visit to Honey's Donuts in Deep Cover, North Van – beautiful spot apart from anything and great donuts! See you this w/e team mate (in SQ, not in the donut shop!)

    2. Bryon of iRunFar

      I forgot about Alex and the donuts… I'm in for a donut race anytime, as well!

      (Ps. For those on the outside, Sean's the head of the iRunFar Store and a long-time friend. Couldn't pass up the chance for a little friendly teasing. ;-) )

  6. jrschmidty

    Look out for Nick Elson, he was 1 minute behind Max King at the recent Trailstoke 50k in Revelestoke – a fairly technical Skyrunning event. Understated, shy, but one heck of a mountain runner. Great to see you covering a Canadian event Bryon!

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      Thanks. It's great to be covering a race up here in Canada. The last time I was in Canada (other than an airport) was the summer of 2009. I did manage to get up to the Death Race to watch my buddy Sean Meissner take the win there. :-)

  7. TxUltraRunner

    Love Canadian trails. Ran Knee Knacker last year and really want to go back. Pulled out of Squamish as I didn't think I was ready for the course after running KK the previous month. Regret that a lot. As a Texan I'm pulling for Paul. He has Run Rabbit Run next month so it'll be a good test to see where he's at. Came in second at a local 60K last weekend. My money is on a local. Impressive, top notch runners up there.

  8. capmodel

    Really looking to this weekend. I'm a local and volunteering on both days. I'm awed at all the talent that is heading in to take part and I hope we put on a great weekend for everyone. The only sad part is that the weather looks like it'll be a bit off – we've had about two straight months of sunshine and relatively high temps. Ah well, I think it's beautiful up here regardless.

    Have a great time everyone!!!

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