The 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships took place today in California’s Marin Headlands. The efforts of Coloradans Zach Miller (pre- and post-race interviews) and Megan Kimmel (pre- and post-race interviews) paid off with the men’s and women’s wins and $10,000 paydays. Read on to find out how the rest of the race played out.
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 previews on our TNF 50 live coverage page.
As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to TNF 50-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports. Check back.
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2015 TNF EC 50 Mile Men’s Race
The men’s race was so interesting! The previous two years each had a massive group of guys motoring together or nearly so for the first 15 or 20 miles, before the pace caused the group to splinter and for leadership roles to emerge. This year, not so much. It sure seemed like, this time around, the field spread out early–even as early as Tennessee Valley #1 at just under nine miles in–with the front of the men’s field staking early claims on right-for-them paces rather than a huge group of guys forging out together too quickly into the still-dark morning.
There were a couple gentlemen who stood apart from this general trend, however, eventual winner Zach Miller (pre- and post-race interviews), Tyler Sigl, and eventual third-place Ryan Bak (post-race interview). It wasn’t too surprising to see either Zach or Ryan out front, as Zach’s already carved a name for himself as an off-the-front racer and we’re seeing a similar trait in Ryan as he continues to develop his trail-ultra career. But Zach and Ryan managed to basically stay off the front to finish in their respective first and third places.
Let me be clear, I think it’s perhaps impossible to watch Zach Miller race and not want to root for him. Not only does he put heart and soul into pushing himself, but he also puts on a massive show when he rolls through aid stations, kicking the pace up a notch or two, fist pumping the sky for 10 strides, and smiling ear-to-ear. The kid just loves to run, and the faster the better. While he had company early on, I don’t think he was actually challenged by anyone else for the win. It was only the course and running through the pain created by working so hard that proved to be today’s challenges.
I just had this feeling all morning that Dylan Bowman (pre- and post-race interviews) was going to finish second. In watching his training on Strava, DBo has been nailing his long runs. The paces I saw him log 25- and 30-mile training runs at this fall made me almost sure that he could run 50 miles at podium pace here this weekend. Then, when I saw how comfortable he looked cruising in the middle of the top 10 for more than half the race, it seemed like it was only a matter of time until he unleashed. At Muir Beach #2 at mile 40, since he’s a local boy, him arriving in second place garnered loads of cheers. Dylan looked calm and in control from there through the finish. Like clockwork, his calculated, cool effort is another stair step upward of improvement for him on this course. There’s only one spot left now to step up to and he showed us all today that he is capable of the big W here.
Ryan Bak, dude’s got wheels and he’s figuring out how to use them for 50 miles. He said after the race that he hasn’t been training too much due to a new baby at home and being busy at work, but that he managed to put together a month-long, crash-course training block to build upon a modest base. And that was apparently enough to do today’s trick. The steep ups and downs may still be proving to challenge Ryan a bit, but the guy held his own in a stacked field.
Moving on up, that’s Jorge Maravilla. His fifth finish here today is his best, a fourth place! No matter whether Jorge is feeling good or bad, he always looks steady. And he always takes time to thank the volunteers and fans at aid stations. A class act all around. Like his friend, Dylan, Jorge looked even-steven calm while running most of the race right in the middle of the top 10.
Ryan Smith said at the finish that his aging legs struggled a bit on the downhills of the Marin Headlands, but he looked just fine as he cruised to fifth place. This performance, a ninth place at the 2015 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, and the rest of his results amount to what has truly been a breakout season.
Some said in the lead-up to this race that they thought Ryan Kaiser would finish well ahead of his just-one-position-outside-of-the-top-1o 11th place at Western States. They were right and he rolled through in sixth place after a later-race duel with Ryan Smith, and he became the third guy with the name Ryan to finish in the top 10 (and there would be another!).
Two years ago, Dan Kraft ran to fourth place. Last year he was 17th. It was hard to get a read on how he might do this year until game day as I know he’s been dealing with some physical issues. For much of the first half of the race, he ran at or just outside the top 10, slipped into it during the second half, and moved up to finish seventh. A smart race done so in quiet, confident style.
If there was anyone who I expected to have a break-out day, it was Justin Houck. After what appeared to be some step-up performances throughout this year, he just seemed primed. Early on he looked comfy running in the top 20. We first saw him inside the top 10 at Muir Beach #2, mile 40, where he was in eighth place. He maintained that to the finish.
Allan Spangler who? Well, if you hadn’t heard of Allan before today, put the guy on your watch list. From Alaska, he’s come south to race a couple times of late, including a strong eighth place at this fall’s The Rut 50k. Between that and ninth today, I sure hope we see more of his talent.
Ryan Ghelfi finished 10th for the second time, in his fourth finish at this race. A 13th, 10th, 18th, and now 10th again, this guy knows how to race this race.
Notable drops included Max King (pre-race interview), who said he felt the residual fatigue from a couple weeks of sickness, Alex Varner (pre-race interview), who wasn’t recovered from racing Quad Dipsea last weekend, Alex Nichols (pre-race interview), who succumbed to the plantar fasciitis he’s been suffering from for a while, and early leader Tyler Sigl.
2015 TNF EC 50 Mile Men’s Results
- Zach Miller (Nike) — 6:12:37 (pre- and post-race interview)
- Dylan Bowman (The North Face) — 6:20:28 (pre- and post-race interviews) (Strava)
- Ryan Bak (Nike) — 6:26:11 (post-race interview)
- Jorge Maravilla (Hoka One One) — 6:31:30 (Strava)
- Ryan Smith (La Sportiva) — 6:32:50
- Ryan Kaiser (Fleet Feet Bend) — 6:33:26 (Strava)
- Dan Kraft (Nike) — 6:37:33 (Strava)
- Justin Houck (Salomon) — 6:38:11 (Strava)
- Allan Spangler (Salomon) — 6:38:41 (Strava)
- Ryan Ghelfi (Nike) — 6:45:22 (Strava)
- Chris Vizcaino — 6:47:18 (Strava)
- Rivers Puzey (Altra) — 6:54:13
- Paddy O’Leary — 6:54:39 (Strava)
- Ben Koss — 6:55:12 (Strava)
- Chris Price (Hoka One One) — 7:01:40 (Strava)
- Daniel Metzger — 7:02:11 (Strava)
- Jeremy Wolf (Hoka One One) — 7:05:47
- Eric Strabel — 7:08:42
- Mark Hammond — 7:11:32
- Josh Arthur (Altra) — 7:13:01 (Strava)
2015 TNF EC 50 Mile Women’s Race
What a 2015 Megan Kimmel (pre- and post-race interviews) has had. I really hope she goes home, puts her feet up, and is pleased with what she’s done. After a DNF here in 2012, 10th in 2013, and second last year, methinks Megan came to win this year. While she hedged bets on herself during her pre-race interview with us, she said the same darn things in conversation before she tore up The Rut 25k in September, handily winning. Megan took things out hard and just hammered away the whole race, taking no mercy and seeming to encounter no issues that would let other women make up lost time. An impressive showing.
Ellie Greenwood (pre- and post-race interviews) may have finished in second place, but, oh my goodness, it looked like it was a struggle for her the whole way. When I saw her for the first time at Muir Beach #1, mile 12.7, her stride looked off, shorter and more guarded than usual. It seems like it didn’t really matter how she felt, she still pushed to eek as much out of herself as she could on the day. After running the first 25 or so miles outside the top five, she moved into it and up, little by little. She seemed so relieved to cross the line and sit down, and, to tell you the truth, I felt relieved to see her in a position of rest as well.
Larisa Dannis (post-race interview) is on her comeback after a year or so of injury. I’m pretty sure she didn’t hit the top 10 until after the halfway point. After the race, she said she took things out easy because she really wanted to be able to run a couple big climbs in the second half of the race. And, wow, she did. After hitting the top 10, she only kept moving up until she had made her way into third place. I suspect more good things are to come in Larisa’s near future.
Fourth-place Ruth Croft went for it, chasing leader Megan Kimmel for much of the race, and there’s really no reason to presume that wasn’t the right spot in the race for her, as she’s had some pretty phenomenal runs in 2015. While she slipped back to fourth place late in the race, she proved in a stacked field and with a fast time on this course that, as I overheard someone on the course say about her today, “she’s the real deal.”
Emily Peterson’s name was dropped to us a couple times before the race as a local gal we might not know but who we should watch, and those sources were dead on. She looked super smooth almost every time we saw her, from the first aid station to the last. After her fifth place, I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Sixth place was occupied by Anne-Marie Madden (pre-race interview). She may be new-ish to racing ultras–just a year into her 50-mile-ing career now–but when you watch her race, you know right away that she’s someone who is racing smart and within herself.
Seventh place was Keely Henninger, who has had a couple other stellar results in trail ultras over the last year or so as well.
Jo Meek was eighth place. I think Jo’s potential on a course like this is quite high, but she’s coming off a long period of injury, she’s been sick, and she just raced a stage race in Nepal two weeks ago. She lives in the U.K. so it might be a lot to ask, but it sure would be great to see her put in a focused block of healthy training and rip up a race like this here in the States.
Ninth place was Darcy Piceu, and Amanda Basham rounded out the women’s top 10.
Notable drops include last year’s winner Magda Boulet (pre-race interview) and Cassie Scallon.
2015 TNF EC 50 Mile Women’s Results
- Megan Kimmel (ASICS) — 7:13:52 (pre- and post-race interviews)
- Ellie Greenwood (Salomon) — 7:23:57 (pre- and post-race interviews)
- Larisa Dannis (Hoka One One/INKnBURN) — 7:25:48 (post-race interview) (Strava)
- Ruth Croft (The North Face) — 7:29:42
- Emily Peterson — 7:38:58 (Strava)
- Anne-Marie Madden (Salomon) — 7:41:17 (pre-race interview)
- Keely Henninger (La Sportiva) — 7:42:34 (Strava)
- Jo Meek (SCOTT) — 7:44:26
- Darcy Piceu (Hoka One One/Smartwool) — 7:59:25
- Amanda Basham (Nike) — 8:02:38
- Emma Roca (BUFF) — 8:04:40
- Helene Michaux — 8:13:48
- Marianne Hogan — 8:16:08
- Simona Morbelli (Salomon) — 8:17:19
- Melanie Bos (The North Face) — 8:18:52
- Rachel Paquette (The North Face) — 8:19:33
- Kristyn Kadala — 8:27:34
- Lauren Besenfelder — 8:30:11
- Rory Bosio (The North Face) — 8:33:11 (pre-race interview)
- Cindy Lynch — 8:35:29
2015 TNF EC 50 Mile Articles, Race Reports, and More
Articles and Photo Galleries
- Competitor Magazine’s photo gallery by Myke Hermsmeyer
- David Hays’s photo gallery
- Salomon Running’s Facebook photo gallery by Let’s Wander Photography
- Nate Dunn’s Facebook photo gallery
- Competitor Magazine’s report by Mario Fraioli
- Ellie Greenwood, 2nd female
Ryan Smith, 5th male [broken link removed]
- Ryan Kaiser, 6th male
- Ryan Ghelfi, 10th male
- Chris Price, 15th male
- Bob Shebest, 23rd male
A big thank you to our field help Hillary Allen, Elam King, and Chris Blagg. Another thank you to our office help Mauri Pagliacci, Travis Trampe, Nick Pedatella, and Aliza Lapierre. Thanks to all of you!