2008 Massanutten 100 – Men's Race Preview

Race fans get ready, ’cause there’s sure to be some spectacular racing in Virginia’s Massanutten Mountains this weekend! I was excited when the initial field was drawn up in December of last year and that excitement hasn’t waned a bit. With the lack of genetic freaks like Matt Estes, Karl Meltzer, and Sim Jae-Duk in this year’s field, the race is wide open with a stable full of studs ready to pound rocks… and their competitors’ wills into submission. As I will be pacing one of the contenders, Mike Mason, I won’t be posting odds on the race. Instead, below’s a numerically ordered racecard all you fans can use to follow the big dance on a rock pile this weekend. [Get your Women’s MMT Racecard here.]

2008 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Racecard – Men

  • # 5 – Sean Andrish – A local who’s spent many a day running over the rocks. Back in May 2004 he had a particularly good day on Massanutten’s finest – winning the race by 40 minutes in a time of 20:49. More recently, Sean won the Uwharrie 40 in February (6:05) and the Promised Land 50k going away just two weeks ago in the outstanding time of 4:44.
  • #7 – Serge Arbona – A veteran 100 miler who is perhaps more suited for speed than rocks having just won the Umstead 100 in less than 16 hours. (Serge also won Umstead in 15 hours in change in 2005 and 2007.) That said, he had back-to-back 22:”high” MMTs back in ’04 and ’05.
  • #27 – Adam Casseday – Dark horse from the Mountain State. Casseday probably eats rocks like he eats ice cream… with sprinkles, of course. That could be a dangerous combo with his 4:08 Holiday Lake 50K++ speed. To contend, he’ll have to temper the early enthusiasm of his first 100. (Adam, you are a full-pull virgin, right?)
  • # 30 – Joe Clapper – Can someone hold Joe’s blocks at the start? The big question on the day is can Joe hold his lead for more than 50 m… meters that is.
  • # 68 – Tim Holsgrove – It pays to do your homework – both as a writer (me) and runner (Tim). This wee lad from Britain’s green & pleasant land earned legit ultra credentials by winning the 2007 Grand Union Canal race, which is 145 miles in length. Mister Holsgrove best be aware of the challenge he faces in Virginia’s grey and unpleasant land for if he’s not the sun may yet set… and rise again on this man’s Empire this weekend. Here’s a BBC Radio interview of Holsgrove following his recent win at the 78 mile Jurassic Coast Challenge.
  • #79 – Keith Knipling – What need be said about a man who ran three Massanutten-area 100 mile races in three weeks last May – winning two and placing 3rd at MMT with an awesome time of 21:18. In March, Knipling and Andrish rocketed a 50k over the Massanuttens – finishing together. Two weeks ago, Keith ran a speedy 5:07 at Promised Land. No other contender has as much MMT experience as Keith.
  • #94 – Mike Mason – Mike’s got a 22:33 MMT to his name (2006) and won the rugged Bel Monte 50 miler in March. I’ve seen this guy massively negative split a 100 (Cascade Crest 2006)…after going all Skeletor on us in the heat of the day. That said, the lower the Mike’s position at mile 25, the higher his position at 75… and after that The Cleaner will take care of business.
  • #105 – Tom Nielsen – Tough. As. Nails. I would fear racing this man at the end of a 100 miler like few others. Tommy’s got an MMT win (2003- 21:55) and a pair of victories at Angeles Crest (’99 + ’00). He’s also a regular Top-10 finisher at Western States with one 2nd (’00) , two 3rds (’98, ’99) and two 4ths (’01, ’06) to his credit.
  • #130 – Mike Schuster – If Schuster’s healthy, he’s a smooth operator over rocks. In March, Schuster won the Chocolate Bunny 50k with Andrish – the pair finished the night 50k on the Massanutten trails in less than 6 hours. Last September, Mike set the course record for the 71 miles of the Massanutten Trail “The Ring” with a time of 15:41.
  • #151 – Todd Walker – Todd has been the first human at MMT the past three years – finishing second to Matt Estes in 2005 (19:24! and beating Meltzer), fourth behind “The Korean,” Meltzer, and Estes in 2006 (19:13!!), and second to Meltzer last year (21:11). He’s the fast runner from each of the past three MMTs returning to kick rocks this year. Oh, and no one else in the field has run within 90 minutes of Walker’s 19:13. So although I’m not ranking, it’s hard not label Walker as the favorite.

Those are the players for podium spots, folks. The best of the rest include CJ Blagg (#13), Scott Myers (#101), Brad Smythe (#138), Kevin Townsend (#146) [added 5/13], and Brennen Wysong (#158). Since I’m not making any predictions, how do y’all think the race is gonna play out this weekend?

I should added that there are a couple notable omissions from the original entrants list – Matt Estes and Wynn Davis. Certainly the retention of Estes in the field would have dramatically changed the race. Wynn Davis would have been in the thick of things, too. Oh, I also withdrew. ;-)

I must share that great minds think alike. Midway through writing this post I came across Dan Rose’s preview of the MMT men’s field. For the record, I did not read it until I completed my participant profiles. Eerily similar. Take a look for yourself. I hope Meltzer posts odds on the MMT field giving his recent experience with the race.

If the mountains and my phone allow it, I hope to be posting periodic updates from the MMT course right on up to 6 p.m. on Saturday when I’ll head out toe-stubbing with Mr. Mason.