From out of the early morning mist and into a sunshine-filled afternoon on the hills above Lake Sonoma in the heart of northern California wine country, Zach Miller (post-race interview) and Emily Harrison (post-race interview) pulled out all the stops on their way to convincing victories amongst loaded fields in the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Also check out our Lake Sonoma video recap produced by Journeyfilm.
In addition to this article, you can find our full play-by-play of the race as well as a collection of our pre-race interviews and preview on our 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Live Coverage page.
As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to Lake Sonoma 50 Mile-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports.
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2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Men’s Race
Zach Miller is a young-buck collegiate runner turned ultrarunner hailing from the East Coast who seems to have found his footing with national-level ultrarunning through his dominance of the Lake Sonoma 50 today. He shot off the start line just like you’d expect an excitable, young guy to do. Behind him a couple loose packs formed and worked their way through the race’s first half in each others’ company. Breakaways off the front of packs rarely stick, so we kept expecting Zach to get gobbled back up into the passel of talent behind him. Especially because we watched him time and again attack the uphills much more aggressively than the men behind him, which made us wonder if he’d tire sooner. We couldn’t have been more wrong! Never did he get absorbed into the pack, even though his chasers were only a minute or a bit more off at times. Running solo from almost the beginning through breaking the tape, the cruise-ship kid who surprised us all with a victory at the 2013 JFK 50 Mile by training on the treadmill of the cruise ship he worked on will surprise us no more.
Another fascinating part about today’s men’s race was that there was almost no one from the men’s top 10 who ran too hard early and blew up later. That is, the top-10 men as early as mile 12 were pretty much the top-10 men at the finish, with just one switcheroo, Jacob Rydman moving into it after a conservative start and Chris Vargo falling out with a DNF because of knee/IT Band issues.
In the early miles, with Zach Miller off the front, a chase pack of Max King, Chris Vargo, Sage Canaday (post-race interview), and Rob Krar (post-race interview) formed. These four guys ran kind of accordian style, sometimes close together, sometimes a bit further apart. At mile 30, Chris, Sage, and Rob were still together, though they’d lost Max King off the back. When Max slid back, Alex Varner wiggled in, hanging a couple minutes off the back of that pack. By mile 38, the chase pack whittled to two, Sage and Rob, as Chris dropped off because of knee pain.
The show got really good in the closing 12 miles. Sage surged and Rob had a low patch, creating a two-minute gap between them with 4.5 miles ago. Then Rob got a glimpse of Alex behind him and ran scared until he caught sight of Sage. With under one mile to go and on a painful, uphill grind, Rob rocketed past Sage. We saw Sage simply shrug his shoulders in disbelief; he had nothing in the tank with which he could respond.
In the end, Zach finished with a shiny new course record, beating Sage’s 6:14:55 of last year. Rob came blazing saddles over the finish line in second, also under the previous course record and a little more than a minute after Zach, still reeling from his super-late-race pass, and Sage arrived a short 40-ish seconds later (still under his previous course record, too). At the finish line, we heard the words “track meet” spoken over and over in response to these three guys’ close finishes.
Alex Varner lapsed a bit in the final 12 miles, going from just three minutes in arrears of Sage and Rob at mile 38 to a full 11 minutes back of Sage by the end. But the guy ran a smart race from start to finish, so he probably has little to complain about.
With Lake Sonoma’s participation in the Montrail Ultra Cup, Zach Miller, Sage Canaday, and Alex Varner receive invites to race the Western States 100. (Since Rob Krar is on the podium and he already has an entry, his invite rolls to Alex.) We’ll see who accepts their invites to the June dance.
David Laney was there all day, hovering in the middle of the men’s top 10, and finishing in fifth place. Ryan Ghelfi was good fun to watch. He seemed to just get better and better as the day went on. As we saw him at aid stations in the early to middle miles, he seemed eager and able to move up in the field, and he sure did. Running in eighth place for a good chunk of the race, he found his way to sixth by the finish line.
I’m going to take a wild guess that Max King is not happy with how things went today. He was going for the win and a Western-States entry, and he got neither. In addition, we know we was also seeking to avenge his rough miles late in the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50. But it seems like he struggled again in the race’s second half today, too. You know, it took him three years to get Chuckanut 50k right. He wanted the win and course record there and he finally nailed it this past March. Something tells me that Max might already be thinking about next year at Sonoma. Will a third time be a charm? And perhaps more importantly, are we going to see him run the Ice Age 50 Mile in May, his last chance to get a Western States entry through the Montrail Ultra Cup this year? Time will tell.
Dan Kraft and Bob Shebest ran in ninth and 10th places for most of the day, and they finished that way, too. Talk about solid pacing strategies!
2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Men’s Results
- Zach Miller (Nike) – 6:11:10 (new course record) (post-race interview)
- Rob Krar (The North Face) – 6:12:14 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Sage Canaday (Hoka One One) – 6:12:58 (post-race interview)
- Alex Varner (Nike) – 6:24:04
- David Laney (Nike) – 6:34:10
- Ryan Ghelfi (Nike) – 6:35:30
- Max King (Montrail) – 6:37:20 (pre-race interview)
- Jacob Rydman (Pearl Izumi) – 6:52:06
- Dan Kraft (Nike) – 6:54:16
- Bob Shebest (Hoka One One) – 7:02:02
2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Women’s Race
Early on, Emily Harrison, Stephanie Howe (post-race interview), and Jodee Adams-Moore found each others’ company, running either with or very close together until about mile 18. There was one point on the course where we could see and hear runners about a mile before they reached us and you know what we heard? A couple of these three girls all the way across the hills, chatting the early miles away like they were in a coffee shop.
Emily and Jodee arrived to the mile 18 aid station together, and while Jodee stopped to fill her bottle, Emily didn’t. This put Emily in the lead, the spot that she would maintain from there to the finish. Emily said she felt the strongest on the climbs today, and that she used this race to really practice getting her nutrition right. While Emily never had a problem, she always had women pretty much right on her tail in the event that she did. Emily found a couple minutes here and there, building out the seven-minute lead she had over the rest of the field at the finish line and the 21-plus minute new course record of 7:26:15 over Cassie Scallon’s 7:47:42 from last year.
Stephanie Howe looked a little tight and reserved in comparison to Emily during the race’s early miles, and we couldn’t help but wonder how she would fair in the final miles. Looks clearly aren’t everything because she was just fine, finishing second in this solid field. She said in her pre-race interview that she was a little nervous about her fitness in her first real race back of the season. Hey Stephanie, your fitness is darn good!
After running for the middle miles in third position, Jodee fell back one spot by the mile 38 aid station and Kaci Lickteig (post-race interview) moved on up to the last spot on the podium. Kaci ran a smart race all day, never really deviating her pace or her distance from the other women. She looked particularly efficient on the climbs. Since she does most of her running in the flats and hills of Nebraska, she told us in her pre-race interview that she was eager to see how she compared to other women on the steeps of these California trails. Well, time has told, and Kaci did just great! We can’t wait to see what happens once she gets a couple more western races under her belt. Both Stephanie and Kaci finished under the previous course record as well.
As a Montrail Ultra Cup race, up to three Western States spots are given away. Emily Harrison, Stephanie Howe, and Kaci Lickteig all have entries already, so one invite rolls down to fourth place Jodee. We’ll see if she collects it.
We said earlier that the top-10 men stayed close to the same layout at the end of the race as in the beginning. The same was true for the women, and Angela Shartel was a perfect example of that. That woman was like a rock, solid in fifth pretty much all day long. Sixth place Sally McRae didn’t seem happy with her race, but she did seem happy otherwise. She ran among the lead ladies for several miles before dropping back, finding that sixth-place place position and keeping it. Jennifer Pfeifer ran in the back half of the top-10 women all day long and finished seventh.
Leslie Howlett, who finished eighth, was one of the only switcheroos in the women’s top 10. She was outside of the top 10 until after the halfway point. By mile 38.2, she had found the position she would finish in. She’s the biggest breakout story in the women’s race, for certain. A strong runner back in her home state of Utah, this is her first national-level performance, and among the field we saw today, it was a good one. (Some have pointed to Leslie’s 2013 UROC 100k seventh-place finish as a breakout, but with all due respect to her and the other women who were there, there were only eight finishers in the women’s race and she was three hours back of the lead.) Today, eighth place and 52 minutes back from the lead–now that’s a real breakout.
Tera Dube and Caroline Boller rounded out the women’s top 10.
2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Women’s Results
- Emily Harrison (AdiUltra) – 7:26:15 (new course record) (post-race interview)
- Stephanie Howe (The North Face) – 7:33:24 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Kaci Lickteig (Pearl Izumi) – 7:37:42 (pre-race and post-race interview)
- Jodee Adams-Moore (SCOTT) – 8:04:18 (pre-race interview)
- Angela Shartel – 8:07:02
- Sally McRae (Nike) – 8:20:48
- Jennifer Pfeifer – 8:26:12
- Leslie Howlett (Altra) – 8:34:25
- Tera Dube – 8:36:26
- Caroline Boller – 8:40:38
2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Articles, Race Reports, and More
Articles and Photo Galleries
- Emily Harrison – 1st woman
- Stephanie Howe – 2nd woman
- Sage Canaday – 3rd man
- Alex Varner – 4th man
- Sally McRae – 6th woman
Ryan Ghelfi – 6th man[broken link removed]
- Leslie Howlett – 8th woman
- Jacob Rydman – 8th man
- Caroline Boller – 10th woman
- Bob Shebest – 10th man
- Ian Sharman – 18th man (training effort)
We owe a big thanks to the people who helped put our Lake Sonoma live coverage together, including Gina Lucrezi and Patrick McKenna in the field and Eric Senseman, Travis Liles, Travis Trampe, Kim Wrinkle, and Nick Pedatella in the ‘office.’