A Western States 100 Golden Ticket race at the Sean O’Brien 100k, two USATF championships, and the second Ultra-Trail World Tour event at the Tarawera Ultramarathon made this the biggest weekend of the year so far. Highlights from these events and many more as well as a look toward this coming weekend’s racing festivities are included in this week’s column.
Sean O’Brien 100k – Malibu, California
The second-year 100k was also the second of the year’s Golden Ticket races. An automatic entry to Western States was up for grabs for the top-two men and women.
Overlooked in last week’s short preview, 25-year-old San Francisco Bay Area runner Stephen Wassather won the men’s race. He ran 9:37 for a dominant victory on what was said to have been a very hot day. Though believed to be a new name to this column, Wassather was fourth at this year’s Bandera 100k and was 18th at last year’s Western States.
Men’s runner-up Jesse Haynes will also be back in Squaw. He finished second in 9:55. His history with Western includes a drop at the 2015 race and a 10th-place finish in 2014.
It’s unclear at the time of this writing if the three men highlighted in last week’s preview–Yew Ferrara, Bob Shebest, and Dominick Layfield–started the race or not.
Finishing third overall, women’s winner Devon Yanko is on a roll. After a few years of infrequent racing while focusing on her career, she’s found the balance needed to return to the sport’s top ranks. Yanko chased down early leader and training mate, Amelia Boone, and clocked a 10:27 winning time. Boone, one of the country’s top obstacle-course racers, was immediately behind as second female and fourth-overall finisher.
The next Golden Ticket Race is the February 13 Black Canyon 100k in Arizona.
The event also held a 50 mile, 50k, and marathon. Timothy Olson was the 50k winner.
Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile – Huntsville, Texas
Five years ago it was a sensational 12:44 win at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile that vaulted Ian Sharman into the sport’s elite. He’s still coming back to the race, and still owns the five-lap, flat, and fast course, and the course record.
Sharman won this year’s race in 13:45, 13 minutes off his finish time from a year ago. The course had a couple reroutes this year for construction, which Sharman said after his finish made the course a bit more difficult. Always one of the sport’s most consistent runners, he’s next registered for the American River 50 Mile and the Gorge Waterfalls 50k on back-to-back weekends in April as he builds toward a season again expected to include Western States and the Leadville 100 Mile.
Second-place Paul Terranova repeated as USATF 100-mile trail national champion. The 42-year-old ran 14:24, 19 minutes slower than his 2014 finish. The final podium position went to Will Swenson in 16:28.
Gordy Ainsleigh, 68 years old, finished in 28:31 to qualify for this year’s Western States event.
In the women’s race, Sabrina Little was a four-plus-hour winner in 14:55. The mark ranks second all-time at Rocky Raccoon, trailing Nicole Kalogeropoulos’s (formerly Studer) 14:22 course record, and sitting just inside Jenn Shelton’s 14:57 from 2007. Little is best known as the U.S. 24-hour record holder at 152.030 miles.
Second and third were Amy Clark and Olga Huber in 19:24 and 19:42, respectively.
Pre-race women’s favorite Kaci Lickteig scratched a few days prior to the race start. Whether because of a changed last name or as a late entry, defending champion and course-record holder Nicole Kalogeropoulos was overlooked in last week’s preview. She dropped from this year’s race early.
The next USATF mountain, ultra, trail championship is the March 6 USATF 50k Road National Championships. The event will again take place at Long Island’s Caumsett 50k.
Tarawera Ultras 100k – Rotorua, New Zealand
iRunFar was on site with live coverage, and has already detailed the race’s top finishers. Behind 2015 IAU 100k world champion Jonas Buud was Australia’s track-turned-trail ace David Byrne. The pair ran at the front of the race all day and went for 8:00 and 8:22 finish times.
South Africa’s Ryan Sandes was a close third in 8:30. Among the Americans, Jason Schlarb ran 9:16 for sixth, Michael Wardian was seventh in 9:27, Ben Koss was 11th in 9:42, and Ford Smith was 12th in 9:49.
For perspective on the winning time, Dylan Bowman and Jorge Maravilla ran 7:44 and 8:01 on a course said to be 2k shorter last year.
Defending champion Ruby Muir dropped from the race near 80k, paving the way for Kiwi Fiona Hayvice. Fourth a year ago, Hayvice ran 10:34 to best Melissa Robertson and Fiona Eagles. The second- and third-place finishers clocked 10:56 and 11:24 marks.
Heather Anderson, better known by her trail name, Anish, was the top American woman in 28th at 14:03.
The race was the second Ultra-Trail World Tour (UTWT) race of the year, and the next UTWT event will take place in March at Transgrancanaria.
USA Cross Country Championships – Bend, Oregon
For the second-straight year the event was held in Bend, on a course designed by local Max King. This year’s races were somewhat dulled by their proximity to next week’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, however. Of note was that both the men’s and women’s race distances were equal. The men’s race was shortened from 12k to 10k, and the women stepped from 8k up to 10k.
In the men’s race, King bolted to an early lead on the first of five laps. Soon caught by the chase group, he held form and finished a strong fifth in 32:05. 2015 USATF 50k trail national champion Andy Wacker was seventh in 32:27. King and Wacker each earned $1,000 and $750 in prize money, respectively.
In the women’s race, 2015 U.S. Mountain Running Team member Allison Grace Morgan ran 37:01 for fourth, and 2014 HURT 100 Mile champion Gina Slaby was seventh in 38:47. She, like King, will take part in next week’s Olympic Trials Marathon. And five weeks after that, Slaby is registered for the Badger Mountain Challenge 100 Mile.
The top-five finishers in the cross-country championships earned the chance to race on the U.S. team at the Pan American Cross Country Cup in Venezuela on March 5.
Jed Smith Ultras – Sacramento, California
Billed as “the fastest ultra in the west,” multiple race distances took place on a looped course that includes the American River Parkway bike path. Karl Schnaitter dominated the 50-mile race with a 5:56 finish, and Cassie Smith won the women’s class, and was third overall, in 6:57.
The 50k was especially competitive with U.S. 100k team member Chikara Omine running 3:11 to finish six minutes in front of 51-year-old Rich Hanna. Jean Pommier, also age 51, was third in 3:20. Taking the women’s win and setting a new American record for the 50-54 age group was Bev Anderson-Abbs. At 3:48, she cut eight minutes from the previous record. Jennifer Pfiefer was second in 3:56 and Julie Fingar was third in 4:09.
European Ski Mountaineering Championships – Les Marécottes, Switzerland
Though admittedly not well versed in the European ski-mountaineering circuit, it appears that races are frequent and include multiple disciplines labeled as Individual, Vertical, and Sprint Races. It was this weekend’s races, which took place in Les Marécottes, Switzerland, that doubled as the European Ski Mountaineering Championships.
In the first event of the weekend, the Individual Race, Italy’s Michele Boscacci edged Kilian Jornet and Germany’s Anton Palzer. A week ago Boscacci and Jornet tied, but in this race Boscacci raced to a 1:24:31 finish with Jornet clocking 1:25:00. France’s Laetitia Roux won the first of two races on the weekend, finishing in 1:27:36. Switzerland’s Jennifer Fiechter was second in 1:30:01 and Spain’s Claudia Galicia was third in 1:30:36.
In the 3k Vertical Race, Jornet was victorious. He finished in 22:39 to edge Switzerland’s Remi Bonnet and Germany’s Palzer. The chasers finished in 23:08 and 23:09. Victoria Kreuzer gained the women’s win in 27:30. Pre-race favorite Laura Orgué suffered a ski problem and was second in 27:34, and Roux was third in 27:43.
The weekend competition concluded with the Sprint Race, where Italy’s Robert Antonioli and France’s Roux were race winners.
Injury struck Emelie Forsberg in the Individual Race. A bad fall led to an MRI and a confirmed cruciate ligament tear for the Skyrunning phenom. In the early stages of Forsberg’s diagnosis, it’s unclear how severe the injury is and what a potential timeline for recovery may be.
Other Races and Runs
In the 300-mile Yukon Arctic Ultra, Jan Kriska took the victory in the foot division. Michele Graglia won the 100-mile race. Results.
Nathan Stroh and Clara Terrell won the Bristow Trail Run 50k in Dexter, Oregon. The pair raced through Elijah Bristow State Park in 4:11 and 4:43, respectively. Full results.
2015 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji runner-up Fernanda Maciel established the first women’s FKT on Aconcagua in South America. Records are kept on Aconcagua on two routes: 1. from the Horcones entrance gate to the summit and back to the entrance gate again for a total of about 60 kilometers and 4,100 meters of climb, and 2. from Plaza Mulas base camp to the summit and back to base camp, which is a fairly short distance with 2,800 meters of climb. Last winter saw activity on the longer record route via the efforts of Kilian Jornet and Karl Egloff, while the men’s record on the shorter route stands from 2000. To our knowledge, only Fernanda and Emelie Forsberg have made speed attempts on the mountain prior to Fernanda’s return to the mountain this year. An unusual severe-weather season, said to be caused by El Niño, has impacted most climbs on the mountain, including Fernanda’s. Due to trail washout between the Horcones entrance gate and Plaza Mulas base camp from that weather, Fernanda’s record attempt was limited to the shorter base camp-summit-base camp route, and it took her 14 hours and 10 minutes. For perspective, the men’s record is 4 hours, 52 minutes, and 14 seconds. Snow on the route and high winds are said to have significantly slowed the speedy runner’s pace.
At South Carolina’s Mill Stone 50k, Ginn White and Amanda Morris were victorious in 4:28 and 4:54 on the three-lap Anne Springs Close Greenway course. Full results.
In the other Carolina, it was Alan Talhelm and Natalie Nalapin on top at the Uwharrie Mountain Run. The pair finished the 40-mile race in 6:02 and 7:42, respectively. Full results.
Rainshadow Running’s popular Orcas Island 50k took place off the coast of Washington with Masazumi Fujioka and Holland Gidney winning in 4:22 and 5:14. The Orcas Island 25k took place a week earlier, and the inaugural Orcas Island 100 Mile takes place on February 19. Full results.
Troy Shellhamer made it two straight at the Louisville Lovin’ the Hills 50k in Kentucky. Shellhamer ran 4:53, and women’s winner Ashley Cearbaught clocked a 6:53 mark. Full results.
Santa Fe, New Mexico hosted the Ski Santa Fe Fireball ski-mountaineering race. Stevie Kremer repeated as women’s champ, while Scott Simmons edged Paul Hamilton for the men’s win. Simmons and Hamilton teamed together to win last year’s popular Grand Traverse event. Full results.
The Ordnance 100k took place around California’s Monterey Bay. Ryan Neely edged Daniel Metzger for the first-overall finish, 7:45 to 7:47, and Kim O’Donnell was third overall, first female, in 9:26. Full results.
A death hit the ultrarunning community for the second time in as many weeks. Stephen Jones was killed in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in Utah. Jones was a beloved member of the Wasatch trail community. Though not racing often, Jones was a big adventurer and an avid outdoorsman in skiing, backpacking, and running.
Next Weekend – U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon – Los Angeles, California
For most of the 217 men and 259 women who have qualified for February 13th’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles, merely taking part in the spectacle is a defining achievement. And that’s likely true for the numerous trail and ultrarunners among the field.
Both the men’s and women’s 2015 Ultrarunners of the Year, David Laney and Magdalena Boulet, have earned the right to compete, though Boulet, who took part in the 2008 Olympics, is not presently among the entrants. [Update February 9: Magda isn’t racing due to injury.] Also qualified, Camille Herron has previously taken part in two Olympic Trials Marathons and will skip this edition in consideration of coming ultras.
Despite those absences, the fields still include an incredibly diverse group of ultrarunners. Household names like Max King and Patrick Smyth, 19th and 22nd at the 2012 trials, will take part, and Emily Harrison too will be back. And then there’s 2015 IAU 50k world champion Tony Migliozzi and two-time JFK 50 Mile winner Sarah Bard.
The stories and names are countless, and iRunFar will cover the trail and ultrarunners amongst the men’s and women’s fields in greater depth later this week.
Next Weekend – Black Canyon 100k – Mayer, Arizona
The third Western States Golden Ticket race looks to be the most competitive to date. Racing on the point-to-point trail will be a deep group of potential podium finishers. Top men’s entrants include:
- Sage Canaday – winner at 2015 Speedgoat 50k
- Michael Carson – 2nd at 2015 Javelina Jundred
- Paul Giblin – winner 2015 Javelina Jundred
- Ryan Kaiser – 6th at 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships
- David Kilgore – winner at 2015 Everglades 50 Mile
- Ben Stern – 3rd at 2015 Gorge Waterfalls 100k, winner at 2015 Miwok 100k
- Hal Koerner – 4th at 2015 Arkansas Traveler 100 Mile
- Chris Mocko – 2:22 at 2015 Cal International Marathon
- Devon Olson – 22nd at 2015 Western States 100 Mile
- Michael Owen – winner at 2015 Mohican 100 Mile
- Charlie Ware – winner at 2016 San Tan Scramble 50k
Michele Yates earned a Western States entry at January’s Bandera 100k. (She was third, but one of the top-two entries rolled down to her.) Though on the Black Canyon start list, she’s not expected to compete. That leaves a slightly smaller group to compete for two Western States entries.
- Denise Bourassa – winner at 2016 HURT 100 Mile
- Kelsie Clausen – 5th at 2015 White River 50 Mile
- Amy Sproston – 9th at 2015 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji
- Alissa St. Laurent – winner at 2015 Canadian Death Race
Next Weekend – Moab Red Hot 55k – Moab, Utah
Over the wildly scenic red rock, top men’s entrants include:
- Cody Lind – 4th at 2015 Flagstaff Sky Race 55k, 2nd at 2015 Quest for the Crest 50k
- Jim Walmsley – winner at 2015 JFK 50 Mile
Though likely not challenging for the win, there is a deeper group of men with podium potential.
- Seth Demoor – 2nd at 2015 Quad Rock 25 Mile, former University of Colorado runner
- Joe Grant – 3rd at 2015 Jemez Mountain 50 Mile
- Karl Meltzer – 10th at 2014 Moab Red Hot 55k
- Mark Pokora – 14th at 2013 Moab Trail Marathon
- Jesse Rickert – 5th at 2015 San Juan Solstice 50 Mile
Top women’s entrant Maria Petzold hasn’t raced often in recent years, though she did win the 2015 Telluride Mountain Run. Early successes include runner-up finishes at the Pikes Peak Marathon and the Collegiate Peaks 25 Mile, among other numerous podium finishes.
Other women’s challengers include:
- Meghan Arbogast – 7th at 2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
- Helen Cospolich – 2nd at 2013 Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile
- Sabina Parigian – 2nd at 2015 Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile
A 33k event will also take place, and will see the likes of Chris Vargo, Timmy Parr, and Keith Laverty in the men’s race and Bethany Lewis, Anna Frost, Alicia Shay, and Kara Henry in the women’s race.
Call for Comments
It was a big weekend and we surely overlooked some notable results. Readers, fill us in on any oversights!