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.

There are 30 comments

  1. Dan Rose

    Great review, Bryon. Good pick up on our fast friend from across the pond. Yet another bloke to keep an eye on out there. It will definitely be a close pack up front all day. I hope to hang w/ the likes of Mike, so I'll look forward to meeting you on the trails. I'll be the guy with the bloody knees, I'm sure.

  2. Iron Mountain Trail

    My money is on Casseday; Walker is in good shape as evident by his 7:10 at Bull Run in the warmth. Adam is ready to roll, runs smart and has the mental tools to do well; plus he has a wild, wooly, bearded fellow named Mongold pacing him. Andrish's legs will be toast from Promise Land's heat. Knipling could be a threat too but he has not raced up to par as of late besides PL.

  3. Trail Goat

    I'd been wondering if best man Mongold would be pacing Casseday. It's awesome that he is – mostly cause it means I'll get a chance to catch up with him during the day.. and test my mettle against him at night. ;-)

  4. AnthonyP

    Great, great preview. This makes it easy for me in doing the TWIR post – I can just link over to your post for Massanutten !

  5. Keith Knipling

    Responding to NickAndrish's legs will be toast from Promise Land's heat.Sean finished at 10:15 AM. It was still quite cool. Hell, it was still cool when I finished.Knipling could be a threat too but he has not raced up to par as of late besides PL.I'm running about as slow now as I always have. Find a race that I won where there was competition. Lots of contenders on this list — I'm not one of them.My money is on Todd. Adam will also run very well, but his inexperience will cost him the win. Nielsen will also be top three.

  6. Iron Mountain Trail

    I hope Andrish does do well but he is inconsistent with racing; Keith if you are training/running the same as you have in the past, then you should be up there too – I thought you'd run faster at Holiday Lake. Nonetheless good luck.Nick

  7. Brennen

    Start slow, speed up when you smell the beers at the finish line. I'd like to be popping my first one before sun up, but I think I've popped too many heading into MMT. My money is on Keith Knipling. Man, if I can keep a similar pace as last year, it is gonna be a hoot watching the frontrunners heading back from Bird Knob. Most silver bucklers ever?

  8. Trail Goat

    Brennen,I'm gonna say your wrong on all the three ladies you named having a shot at going sub-24 at MMT. Exactly one woman has broken 24 hours at MMT and that's the spectacular Sue Johnston. It took Sue until at least her 5th finish to break the one-day barrier. Sue does have a pair of sub-24s – 22:38 in '05 and 23:14 in '06. Outside of Sue there have been exactly two other female performances under 25:45(!) – Rock angel Bethany Hunter at the top of her form in 2003 (24:40) and the always awesome Annette Bednosky in 2004 (25:14). Also, note that the course is also as tough as its ever been.I will post a brief women's preview in the next day or two. Frankly, the women's field is just not as exciting a field as the mens race … not because of who the entrants are, but rather the lack of entrants. The entire women's race is 20 individuals! (There are 140 men.) The women's race is a test of speed versus certainty. More later.

  9. Bedrock

    I think Mason grabs a top three spot due to fueling up with "Rock Guac" the night before. Another notable thing to mention is Tom Sprouse. At age 66, he is the only person to finish all previous 13 MMTs. Hopefully the trend will continue. Also, I think Keith Knipling is going for number 9 or 10, which is pretty amazing considering he is only 32.Can't wait for Saturday. Hopefully that will persist early Sunday morning.

  10. Wonderboy

    I ran with Casseday for several hours on his Mountain Moonshine Madness course 2 weeks ago and I have one observation: The rest of the field is in trouble!

  11. Mongold

    well looky here!IMTR stirs the pot, there's a surprise.Keith is a most excellent – and most modest – runner AND contender.WonderBoy doesn't train with any fast runners, so his comment is null and void.please bring babies to the finish… pacing makes me hungry.

  12. Wonderboy

    To counteract the supposed "jinx", I will feed babies to Mongold. If this doesn't work we will just fall back on Adam's talent and training to bail us out.

  13. WVmtnrunr

    Bryon,This is my first "full pull". The training is there for a sub-24, but who knows what will happen beyond 100K. I appreciate my friends' confidence in me, but on Sat. my plan is to just run. I'm not much for talk or speculation; I just hope everyone in the race runs the race they hope to.Cassedayp.s. Keep all babies away from Mongold.

  14. Mike Mason

    Adam,We've not met but I will say that your head is in the right place. You'll definitely run well under 24if you don't put a lot of silly pressure on yourself.Mongold,I had planned to bring my six-month old daughter to the pre-race briefing. Sounds like I should rethink this!GodspeedMike

  15. Mike Mason

    Another solid runner and likely top 10 finisher… Harland Peelle – won Mohican last year or the year prior, I forget which. Trains with those Leesburg boys Andrish, Courtney, Schmidt and Schuster (this sounds like a good name for a law firm)…I'm starting to think we could see more finishers in the 20:00 to 24:00 slot than ever before this year…

  16. Brennen

    From what I gather in Mongold's post, he only eats babies post-race. Seems your child is safe at the prerace briefing, Mikey.Good luck out there, as I'm sure not to see on the course again this year (and I'll be too busy listening to stoner rock, anyway).

  17. Mike Mason

    I'll be plugged into all kinds of Stoner Rock myself. Live Dead, Phish, the Who (Quadrophenia in its entirety, no less), some crazy stuff I picked up from the Bikhram Yoga class I attend… And I'm sure we'll see plenty of each other this year. Sandbager ;-)

  18. Anonymous

    What about Sherpa John? He's not particularly "fast" and has no chance of winning.. but he is really eyeing that silver buckle. Don't count the kid out… he IS accustomed to the rocks!Nate

  19. Mike Mason

    Nate, I agree. I've heard about him, know his majesty is training him, and agree he has a great shot at the silver. This course eats its young much in the way Mr. Mongold eats babies. The trick for Sherpa John will be to hold back and not outkick his coverage early. He definitely has the rock training.

  20. ultrastevep

    SJ told me he was going sub 24….I told him he was nuts to even try. SJ doesn't have "THAT" kind of speed even with his rock running ability. I like the kid, but have been trying to cool his flame all week to prevent a real crash and burn ;-)He knows rocks, but doesn't know MMT, it will eat him alive if he tries to run it that fast.Steve

  21. Trail Goat

    While I wish Sherpa John the best of luck in his endeavors, will power alone can not bring one home at MMT in less than 24 hours. I'm not sure how he can run almost 7 hours faster at MMT than at Grand Teton. Sherpa John has one 100 miler under 24 hours – Vermont in 23:19. Another SJ with lots of experience on rocks has a few sub-24 MMTs to her name, but also logged an 18:55 at Vermont. All that said, I won't say he can't break 24. It's great that he can dream, it's the only way one can truly hit their best performance. I quash my dreams with reason an logic – I'm glad not everyone does that.Note that SJ is also not a "contender" (whatever that means) even if he nudges under 24 hours – the men's field is too good and too deep. I left off many very qualified guys off my racecard, such as Harland Peele (#116) and Mario Raymond (#121).

  22. Iron Mountain Trail

    Casseday and Walker will eat those rocks for breakfast; mark my words; Walker only is better due to age = more endurance/experience; Casseday is just too good right now. Plus, the baby eater pacing him – you can't go wrong! Peele is good – not fast enough though; Andrish is too inconsistent, plus his 20 miles after Promise Land will weaken his legs; Knipling – a dark horse, but this isn't his year.

  23. Trail Goat

    IMTR,Isn't it USUALLY endurance and experience that win 100s? Not saying your are suggesting otherwise, but often there are "faster" youngsters in most 100s and with some notable exceptions, they are normally beat by the more experienced folks like Walker, AJW, Tommy Nielsen, etc. Courses like Massanutten magnify this experiential differential. Even otherwise experienced 100 mile runners steadily improve with experience on MMT's rocks. (Sue Johnston is a good example.) Speed will only get one so far at MMT. The same goes for experience on rocks. (Though both certainly help.) It's awfully hard for a course rookie, let alone a 100 mile rookie to win. (Freaks like Estes or Sim Jae Duk, excepted.)While the odds are against a Casseday win, he's obviously convinced some experienced ultrarunners that he's got the tools to get the job done. (…but so do Walker and Nielsen and Andrish and….)I'm like a kid be fore Christmas right now!

  24. Trail Goat

    I have received word that I incorrectly noted Sue Johnston's best VT 100 time in my May 15 12:11 p.m. comment. Sue ran more than an hour faster than her 18:55 when she ran 17:49 Vermont 100 in 2004! Fortunately, this new data only bolsters my point.

  25. I am a runner. &quot

    Mason, Andrish, and Knipling tie for the win in 20:28. Neilson and Walker up front much of the day, but fade. its time for 30- somethings to take the crown.

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