2009 Massanutten 100 – Men's Race Preview

This year’s MMT 100 men’s race is so competitive and so chock full of friends that we’ve put off writing […]

By on May 15, 2009 | Comments

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club VHTRCThis year’s MMT 100 men’s race is so competitive and so chock full of friends that we’ve put off writing this preview for well over a week. This year’s race has the potential to be just as competitive as MMT 2006 when an epic battle between Sim Jae Duk, Karl Meltzer, and Matt Estes pushed Sim to break the course record (17:40:45) while Karl and Matt ran the second and fifth fastest times in MMT history, respectively. In 2006, the men’s field was also quite deep with 10 breaking 23 hours. Ok, no more putting this off… here’s iRunFar’s look at this year’s men’s MMT field.

The Geologists (These guys have the rock-solid credentials to win)

Bradley Mongold (#121) – Those in the know almost unanimously pick this West Virginian for the win. What makes that remarkable is that Dr. Mongold has never run a 100 miler let alone MMT, which is a course that typically favors the experienced. Well, while Bradley has never raced a 100, last year he set the speed record on the 300+ mile gnarly-as-all-get-out Allegheny Trail. He’s also fast as heck. For instance, in March he set a course record at the Bel Monte 50 mile while besting Glen Redpath by 25 minutes. This ER doc/grizzly bow hunter may have the perfect mix of intelligence and bat-shit craziness to pull off a win this weekend.

Karl Meltzer (#118) – Karl won MMT in 2007 after third and second place finishes in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He also has three of the 12 fastest times in MMT history. Karl’s bread and fluffernutter is winning mountain 100 milers. Without fact checking we’re pretty sure that no one has won more such events that Karl. Mr. Meltzer may have been a bit burnt out last fall after his run of the Appalachian Trail; however, he’s had an impressive spring and looks capable of getting back to his winning ways at MMT.

Joe Kulak (#96) – Let’s face it – since he’s returned to the East, Joe Kulak has not been the same runner that he was during his Colorado days… until now. We are so pleased to see Joe hitting his stride again. As proof of Pukin’ Joe’s return, we offer his 15:26 Umstead 100 back in April as evidence. That’s 9:16/mile for a 100 miles. We rest our case.

Glen Redpath (#140) – Aside from Mongold, Glen could be the fastest runner in the field. In fact, he’s one of the fastest East Coast ultrarunners – at least for a flat 50k. That said, he’s no rookie to 100 miles. Last July, he “faded” to a 5th place/16:55 at the Vermont after pressing the leaders through 70 miles. We hope he’s fast enough to float over those Massanutten rocks!

The Rock Hounds (Granite-tough guys who have a solid shot at the top 5)

Todd Walker (#1) – Todd won MMT last year after racing Keith Knipling hard all day. Word is that Todd may not be in the kind of shape he was in last year, but his wealth of 100 mile and, particular, MMT 100 experience (see his 4 MMT finishes) should give him a solid shot at Top 5 regardless of his fitness level.

Keith Knipling (#94) – As noted above, Keith raced Todd Walker the entire way last year only to come up 9 minutes short. Like Walker, Knipling is not quite in top form. In addition, he may have less incentive to “race” this year as Keith is in line for his 10th (!) Massanutten finish. Not bad for a 33 year old!

Adam Casseday (#) – Adam was the man forgotten in the wake of Walker and Knipling’s epic battle last year. That’s unfortunate as Adam’s 21:37/3rd place was one heck of a debut 100 mile performance. Look for Adam to step up his game now that he has experience.

Mike Mason (#112) – Mike has a legit 22:30 MMT to his credit (2006). While he’s been hampered by a foot injury for the past few months, he’s also in ridiculous shape at the moment. If his feet win the feet v. rock battle, he’s a Top 5 runner.

The Pebble Polishers (Far from glacial, these guys will grind it out and have a shot at Top 10)

Mike Bailey (#8) – Mike is a youngster who ran 9:31 at the MMTR 50 mile last fall. Nothing else but gut feeling tells us to put Mike on the list. Sometimes a kid just busts one.

C.J. Blagg (#11) – A solid runner with Top 10 potential.

Joe Clapper (#36) – Joe will be in the lead at… 100 meters. No, Joe’s not gonna win Massanutten nor is he going to place Top 5. That said, with three MMT finishes, including 11th last year, a pair of sub-24 hour finishes (’95 + ’96), and tons of experience on the course, he could crack the Top 10.

Ryan Henry (#80) – Lots of MMT experience and steady improvement, including a sub-24 finish in 2007 (23:50:01), suggest Ryan will be back in the Top 10. He was 6th back in 2007.

Mario Raymond (#139) – Mario ran a tremendous race last year to place 5th in 22:39. With another great race he could repeat his placing, but only if the Geologists and Rock Hounds fall off the pace.

Jeffrey Wilbur (#176) – While Jeff might not place Top 10, he’s our sleeper pick for best breakthrough performance. When we talk to Jeff at the Ranch on Sunday, we’re expecting to hear good things!

[NB. I have purposely excluded Greg Loomis from this analysis as I’ll be pacing him. He’s in shape to run well, but that’s all I’m saying re this former second place MMTer (2001).]

Curious as to how iRunFar did at predicting last year’s field? Check out our preview and the results.

Also take a look at Karl Meltzer’s MMT odds and Greg Loomis’s predictions for this year’s race. We’re about to… as we haven’t read them yet. After all, it’s best to make an unbiased analysis here.

Looking to see what the women’s race looks like at MMT? Well, iRunFar’s women’s race preview will put you in the know.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.