2013 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Men’s Preview

A preview of the men’s field at the 2013 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile championships.

By on December 2, 2013 | Comments

2013 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile ChampionshipsThe North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships have turned into one heck of a way to close out the ultrarunning calendar. In looking back at iRunFar’s previews from previous years, I honestly think this is the most competitive TNF EC 50 men’s field to date. That’s saying something. Here’s a look at the top men who’ll be racing in California’s Marin Headlands starting at 5 a.m. this Saturday morning. We’ll be providing live coverage of the TNF 50 on race day.

[Editor’s Note: We’ve also previewed the women’s field and held a prediction contest for the race.]

Last Year’s Top Ten

I hadn’t planned on considering last year’s men’s top ten separately, but with eight of those ten entered to race again this weekend, including the top seven runners from last year, I think it makes sense to look at these guys as a group. Here’s how they fared last year.

  1. Miguel Heras (Salomon) – 5:33:16 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. François d’Haene (Salomon) – 5:46:42 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  3. Cameron Clayton (now Salomon)– 5:47:14
  4. Adam Campbell (Arc’teryx, Salomon) – 5:53:35
  5. Alex Nichols (Inov-8) – 5:55:20
  6. Jason Wolfe (Run Flagstaff) – 6:01:50
  7. Dylan Bowman (Pearl Izumi) – 6:02:56
  8. Gary Gellin (Inov-8) – 6:06:41
Miguel Heras - 2013 TNF UTMB

Miguel Heras

Starting at the top, Miguel Heras (pre-race interview) is a two-time TNF EC 50 champ, having also won the race in 2010. A hit-or-miss runner due to injury troubles, Heras has never failed to bring his A-game to the Marin Headlands. Once again Heras is in top form this year, having taken second at The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview). It was his first finish there in numerous attempts.

We might not have heard much about last year’s runner-up François D’haene stateside this year, but he’s been crushing it further afield. After taking sixth at Transvulcania in May, he won the competitive Mont Blanc Marathon 80k in June. Just a few weeks later, he was runner-up to Kilian Jornet at the Ice Trail Tarentaise. In October, D’haene won the grueling 100-mile Diagonale des Fous. Update 12/7: François D’haene will not start due to a rib injury suffered in a fall earlier in the week.

2013 Transvulcania Ultramarathon - Cameron Clayton

Cameron Clayton

If there’s anyone who’ll be gunning harder for François than his good friend Cameron Clayton (pre-race interview), I don’t know who it would be. Cameron took third to François by half a minute at last year’s TNF EC 50 before missing catching his teammate by four seconds in a sprint finish at Transvulcania. Cameron’s highlights on the year include taking second to Sage Canaday at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview) in April and third behind Rob Krar and Dakota Jones at UROC (post-race interview). (Hold on a bit, we’ll be talking about Canaday, Krar, and Jones soon enough.)

Aside from an impressive win at the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 Mile in August, Adam Campbell has been largely missing from trail racing since last year’s TNF EC 50. Since then, Adam’s gone back to a more conventional career and moved from Vancouver to Calgary. Adam, how the heck are ya?

Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols was fifth at TNF EC 50 last year. This year, he’s been hitting the Skyrunning circuit. We’d write more about Alex, but that’d be redundant as Alex was our most recent Run Tramp interview. Read up!

You’ve got to give it to Jason Wolfe for laying it all out there of late. Just four weeks before TNF, he took third at the Bootlegger 50k (USATF trail 50k national championships) and then went out hard at the JFK 50 Mile (he dropped at mile 38) just two weeks before race day. That might be a bit aggressive, especially as he’s not typically one to race so often. Earlier this year, Jason was second at the Leona Divide 50 Mile and seventh at UROC. Update 12/3: Jason Wolfe has decided to call it a season and won’t be running TNF this year.

Dylan Bowman - 2013 Western States 100

Dylan Bowman

Dylan Bowman (pre-race interview) is a powder keg waiting to blow. (Or, if we may, dBlow.) After taking seventh at last year’s TNF EC 50, he won the Ray Miller 50 Mile and Miwok 60k (normally a 100k, but shortened due to fire danger) before placing fifth at Western States. Last month, he was fifth at the Bootlegger 50k. Bowman is all the more dangerous for the TNF EC race this year as he now lives nearby.

The final returnee from last year’s top ten is another local, Gary Gellin. Gary’s run numerous strong races this year, but, perhaps, none as strong as that TNF finish. Gary, I’m sure you’ve crunched the numbers… what’s your best performance on the year? Sixth at Bandera 100k or Way Too Cool 50k? Second at Miwok? Ninth at Pikes Peak Marathon?

The only two men from last year’s top ten who aren’t entered in the race this year are Sylvain Court who was eighth in 6:05:47 and Shaun Martin who took tenth in 6:07:17.

Additional Contenders for the Podium

Can I just leave the below list stand as it is? No introductions? No explanations? Seriously, aside from those listed above, this is a who’s who of who you don’t want to be racing against at a 50 miler. Glance at the list and think about it for a minute. Let your mind be blown. No exaggeration.

  • Sage Canaday
  • Matt Flaherty
  • Mike Foote
  • Dakota Jones
  • Max King
  • Rob Krar
  • Timothy Olson
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Jason Schlarb
  • Mike Wolfe

Okay, a little chatter, but less than normal.

Rob Krar

Rob Krar

Given the year he’s having, this would seem to be Rob Krar’s (pre-race interview) race to lose. Heck, if this were an election year, the presidential race would have been Krar’s to lose… and he’s Canadian. But then… then he went and ran the JFK 50 two weeks before TNF. He dropped at mile 41. We’ll see how that works out… then again, he did win the Leona Divide 50 Mile two weeks before the run of his life when he set the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT. Don’t be surprised if you’re reading Krar puns late into our race coverage.

That Sage Canaday character is having a season to remember, as well. </understatement> He’s won the Bandera 100k (his report), Tarawera 100k (post-race interview), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (post-race interview), Cayuga Trails 50 Mile (post-race interview), and Speedgoat 50k (post-race interview) along with taking third at Transvulcania. His only poor performance (relatively speaking) this year was his sixth at UROC. Sage started the TNF EC 50 last year and was with the leaders when he took at major wrong turn. He would later drop. Sage, I’m pretty sure it’s legal to wear a GPS running watch with programmed turns. Update 12/5: Sage Canaday will not be starting due to the flu.

Dakota Jones - Grand Canyon March 2012

Dakota Jones

In comparison to many others at the race, Dakota Jones has barely raced this year. He’s broken Matt Carpenter’s San Juan Solstice 50 Mile course record and twice finished second to Rob Krar at Moab Red Hot 55k and UROC 100k. Two years ago at the TNF EC 50, Jones battled Mike Wolfe for the lead into the final miles before taking second. Dakota’s been banging out intervals this autumn and is ready to race.

This year, Timothy Olson won Western States (for the second straight year) (post-race interview, his report). He’s taken fourth at Transvulcania and TNF UTMB (post-race interview). Clearly, Olson is in top form. Olson’s also toed the line at many other top races in the US, South America, and the Pacific. This weekend, we’ll find out if he’s got enough fire in his belly for one last top performance. Update 12/3: Timothy Olson will not be running the TNF EC 50 as he’s recovering from recent racing in South America.

Mike Foote - 2013 TNF UTMB

Mike Foote

Mike Foote (pre-race interview) has largely been off the radar this year. Don’t let that fool you. Foote was only one spot behind Olson in taking fifth at UTMB this summer (post-race interview). In early November, he beat out Sage Canaday at the Moab Trail Marathon. Yes, Sage got lost, but, if not, it would have been a race to the wire. Foote was 25th at the TNF EC 50 last year after taking eighth in 2011.

Good God! I’ve still not written about Matt Flaherty, Max King, Ryan Sandes, Jason Schlarb, or Mike Wolfe.

Let’s keep moving.

  • Matt Flaherty - 2013 UROC 100k

    Matt Flaherty

    Matt Flaherty took second at JFK two weeks before race day–that’s good and bad for the obvious reasons. Flaherty won the USATF road 50-mile national championships at the Tussey Mountainback in 5:28 in October. He’s fit and he’s fast. That said, he’s not finished in the top 20 in his two finishes at the TNF EC 50.

  • Max King has won the 2012 UROC (post-race interview), 2012 JFK (his report), and 2013 Way Too Cool in the past 14 months. During that span, he’s also been second at Chuckanut, third at Lake Sonoma, and fourth at Speedgoat. That said, we’ve not heard much from him lately after a nasty ankle injury suffered at the World Mountain Running Championships. He recently failed to win his fifth XTERRA World Championship (he finished third).
  • Ryan Sandes - 2013 Leadville 100

    Ryan Sandes

    Ryan Sandes has battled injuries this year, including one the forced him to drop from the Leadville 100. In 2013, he has won the 83k at Transgrancanaria and the Patagonia International Marathon.

  • Jason Schlarb ran a sublime race in winning the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile in September (post-race interview, his report). He’s also taken third at Leona Divide 50 Mile and Speedgoat 50k this year. He was fifth at TNF EC 50 in his first ultra back in 2010. Update 12/2Jason Schlarb won’t be racing TNF 50 this year as he’ll be racing in Hong Kong.
  • Mike Wolfe won TNF EC 50 in 2011 (post-race interview). He was seventh in 2009 and 11th last year. Don’t forget about this guy.

Other Notables

  • Martin Gaffuri – Martin finished fourth in the 2013 Ultra Skymarathon Series rankings behind Jornet, Canaday, and Clayton.
  • Rickey Gates – Only down here because he hasn’t nailed a race longer than 50k since winning the Canadian Death Race in July 2011.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – Buy Ghelfi stocks now. 13th at TNF  EC50 last December. Ninth at Lake Somona in April. Fifth at UROC in September. His stock is rising.
  • Neal Gorman – Made a name for himself at the 100-mile distance, but strong at 50 miles. Off the scene this year with cytomegalovirus. Bless you.
  • Peter Hogg – Peter who? Peter Hogg who ran 14:25 at the Burning River 100 Mile this summer, that’s who. This guy dominates trail ultras in the Old Northwest.
  • Dave James – Races a lot. By that, I may or may not mean too much. But probably the latter. Dave, help us with race coverage instead. Beers on us. Your friend, Bryon ;-) Update 12/6: Dave James won’t be racing due to a sprained ankle.
  • Hal Koerner – I suspect that Hal’s season usually ends before the TNF EC 50. He’s taken 20th the past two years. I’m pretty sure he has some DNFs before that. Update 12/3: Hal Koerner is out with an ankle injury.
  • Added 12/4: Michel Lanne – Frenchman Lanne is now in the elite start. Lanne won the Mont Blanc Marathon alongside teammate François D’haene in June before taking third at Templiers in late October.
  • Jorge Maravilla – I like to fire you up, Jorge. Have I done my job? You can run better than the high teens of last year, buddy.
  • Karl Meltzer – Speedgoat fans, don’t get mad. I’m pretty sure Karl would place himself here. We’ll both enjoy some non-Utah beers. They’re worth the trip.
  • Dave Mackey – He’d be in the list above except that he set the Quad Dipsea record a week before TNF. It’s that whole lightning striking twice thing.
  • David Riddle – I had Riddle listed with the podium contenders as that’s where a healthy David Riddle belongs… and then I read his most recent blog update. This three-time JFK 50 Mile podium finisher (who skipped this year’s JFK to focus on TNF) has been plagued by an adductor injury and has not been able to train at 100%.
  • Chris Vargo – 17th at TNF EC 50 last year. Second at Way Too Cool and sixth at Lake Sonoma this year. Another rising stock.
  • Mike Wardian – Nothing would surprise us after Wardian took third at JFK less than a week after racing two marathons in a day.

Rest of the Men’s Elite Wave

  • Joshua Arkins
  • Florent Bouguin
  • Noah Brautigam
  • Scott Breeden
  • Frank Caro
  • Jay Cech
  • Jeremy Clegg
  • Gerad Dean
  • Felix Deejay
  • Scott Dunlap
  • Fritjof Fagerlund
  • John Finn
  • Christian Fitting
  • Sjaan Gerth
  • Jeff Gosselin
  • Jonathan Gunderson
  • Josh KornUpdate 12/5 – Josh Korn has moved down to the 50k to defend his title.
  • Daniel Kraft
  • Marc Laveson
  • Simone Moro [Editor’s Note – 12/2: He was accidentally on the women’s elite entrants list we received. Thanks for the tip, @unknowndest.]
  • Michael Owen (top-ten longshot)
  • Danny Rogers
  • Phil Sanderson
  • Bob Shebest
  • Brian Tinder
  • George Torgun
  • Ricardo Tortini
  • Zach Violett
  • Greg Vollet (dark horse if he’s not playing rabbit)
  • James Walsh
  • Jeremy Wolf (a dark horse)

Call for Comments

  • Who’s gonna’ win this race? Who’ll be on the podium?
  • Most competitive men’s field for a 50 miler this year? Most competitive men’s ultra field on U.S. soil this year?
  • Any “Other Notables” going to finish in the top three?
  • Any runners from the final list cracking the top ten?
  • Know of any guys from the elite wave who aren’t running? Let us 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.