2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Men’s Preview

Lake Sonoma 50 MileThis weekend is the ninth running of the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile run northwest of Healdsburg, California. The relentlessly rolling and runnable course with over 10,000 feet of climbing will once again feature a very strong men’s field.

Vapor_Howe_GIFUnless I’m mistaken, the men’s course record has been lowered in each and every running of the race. If that’s to happen again this year, someone will have to dip under the 6:00:52 Jim Walmsley ran last year.

As you’d expect, we’ll be providing live coverage throughout the race, which starts at 6:30 a.m. PDT on Saturday, April 15th. We’ll also provide plenty of pre- and post-race video interviews. Be sure to read our women’s preview, as well.

Many thanks to Nathan for their generous support of our coverage of this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.

The Front of the Field

2016 Western States 100 - Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday

Sage Canaday (pre-race interview) is one of two recent Lake Sonoma men’s winners running this year’s race, as he bested the field in a time of 6:14 in 2013. He returned a year later to run two minutes faster, but finished third behind Zach Miller and Rob Krar. Back in December, Sage took seventh at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, a race he won in 2014. He’s started his 2017 season with a pair of third-place finishes at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k and the Chuckanut 50k.

It’s hard to believe that Dakota Jones is only 26 (oh, to be 26!), as he’s now seemingly been around for quite awhile. It’s now been five years since he won Lake Sonoma in 2012 in 6:17. Dakota’s battled some injuries of late, but he’s still got what it takes. In barely two months last summer, he won the Broken Arrow Skyrace, Kendall Mountain Run, and Squamish 50 Mile. Dakota jumped into and won the Behind the Rocks 30k a few weeks back.

2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile - Ryan Bak - second

Ryan Bak

I got to witness an ascendant Ryan Bak take second at Lake Sonoma and third at the The North Face EC 50 Mile Championships in 2015, but haven’t seen him race since. That said, Ryan’s thrown down some great results in the past year and change. To start, he won the Chuckanut 50k in March 2016 before winning the Flagline 50k last September after two prior seconds and a third at the race. He started this season off by placing fourth at Way Too Cool in 3:23.

Chris Mocko’s (pre-race interview) friends describe him in three words: Tall. Loud. Goofy. That’d work, but they forgot fast and driven. In February, Mocko left his job at Square to devote his full attention to ultrarunning, charting a path that he acknowledges could lead to burnout as likely as to great success. In just over the past month, he’s raced the Way Too Cool 50k (2nd), Marin Ultra Challenge 50 Mile (1st), Behind the Rocks 50 Mile (1st), and Woodside Crossover 35k (got lost, final placing unknown). He’s trained through those efforts and intends to put more focus on this weekend’s race. In case you missed him last year, Mocko jumped head first into ultrarunning, taking third at the Black Canyon 100k, second at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and seventh at the Western States 100.

Pat Smyth - 2015 US Mountain Running Championships

Pat Smyth

Patrick Smyth (pre-race interview) has the ability to put up smoking-fast results in ultras. He set the course record at the Way Too Cool 50k in 3:04 in 2015 and took second at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k later that year. He’s also dropped out of Speedgoat in 2014 and went out hard before fading to eighth at this year’s Way Too Cool in almost half an hour slower time than he ran two years ago, so he’s a bit hit or miss. He’s obviously fast as heck, having won the US Mountain Running Championships in 2015. I believe this will be his first go at a race of longer than 50k.

Jared Hazen crushed the first half of 2015, taking third at the Bandera 100k, third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and third at the Western States 100 during that stretch. Soon after, he disappeared from US ultra results. Last October, Jared did run to second-place at the always Les Templiers race in Millau, France. This February, Jared reappeared on the US trail map, edging out Galen Burrell at the Red Hot Moab 33k. With any luck, he’ll be coming to Sonoma with a bit of extra freshness and some fire in his belly. [Les Templiers ’16 added thanks to astute readers!]

One of the more intriguing men in the race is 25-year-old Joe McConaughy. Back in the summer of 2014, Joe set the supported FKT for the Pacific Crest Trail in 53 days and change (Karel Sabe has since gone 52 days on a fire-altered route.) Aside from going really long, he’s shown he’s got plenty of speed as only one person has run faster during the 16 runnings of the Stone Cat 50 Mile in Massachusetts, where he ran 6:12 last autumn. Just this weekend, Joe came in fifth at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k and his plan before the race was to give it a go at both events.

Still only 34, Chikara Omine has been running ultras since the last millennium. The faster the course, the better he is. He’s won plenty of races in northern California through the years, including the American River 50 Mile, Quicksilver 100k, and Jed Smith 50k. He might be best known for representing the U.S. at the IAU 100k World Championships on the roads a couple of times.

With second-place finishes at the past two Cayuga Trails 50 Miles, Jared Burdick has shown he can run well for 50 miles on the trails. Last year, he also won the Caumsett 50k on the roads in a speedy 2:57.

Other Men to Know

  • Martin Hernandez — 2:21 marathoner and former NAIA Cross Country national champ making his ultra debut.
  • Drew Macomber — 25-year-old with numerous of podium finishes at Norcal 50ks the past two years. He’s logged at least one 50 miler (2nd Burning River 2016).
  • Chris Mulverhill — Former U of Oregon cross-country runner and steepler. 8th at Lake Padden Half Marathon last October, 1st at Lord Hill 50k in February. He’s got wheels, but little ultra experience.
  • Zachary Szablewski — 10th JFK 50 Mile 2014; 7th Gorge Waterfalls 100k 2016; 20th Chuckanut 50k 2017
  • Paul Terranova — He has a DNF, 19th, and 14th at the past three Sonomas. 17th at Western States 2016.
  • Joe Uhan — 4th Bandera 100k 2015; 9th Sean O’Brien 100k 2017. He finished 5th, 7th, and 14th at Lake Sonoma between 2012 and 2014.
  • Stephen Wassather — 6th Bandera 100k 2017; 1st Sean O’Brien 100k 2016; 22nd Western States 100 2016
  • Scott Wolfe — A welcome-back race for Wolfe after multi-year break from racing. 12th Western States 2013; 13th Lake Sonoma 2012.

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will win this weekend?
  • Is there anyone who you think will be a big surprise out there? Anyone else who should be on our radar?
  • Have I listed anyone who you know won’t be racing?

There are 24 comments

  1. JacobsA

    Jacob Phillips is another fast guy to watch. Went sub 4 in the 1500 meter back in college and has been really fit as of late in 50Ks and above.

  2. Jeremy Wolf

    Looks like a down year for the men’s race at Sonoma. This is typically the most competitive 50 miler behind TNF with a solid list of guys 10-15 deep. The ladies race will certainly be the main attraction this year. Still an amazing event put on by John and Lisa. One of my favorite races.

  3. Stephanie

    I was concerned for a sec that Chris Mocko was still lost in the forest when I read “got lost, place unknown.” A quick Strava check confirms he is not lost. Thanks for the preview, should be a good race!

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ha. Thanks for pointing the lack of clarity in my statement. Hopefully, I’ve clarified that we know Mocko’s not gone missing, just that we don’t know the position he finished in after his 5-mile detour.

  4. Alex Nichols

    I have to point out that Jared Hazen wasn’t completely off the map last fall. He nearly won Les Templiers in France. Jared finished second ahead of some really solid runners and became the highest US finisher in the race’s history.

  5. David Roche

    I think the big X-factor is Pat Smyth. Was Way Too Cool just an off day or an ankle turn? If so, and he has the form of the past, he is virtually untouchable on his good days, and he could threaten Walmsley’s time.

    Sage is super fit right now, and if Pat is off his game even a bit, I bet we see Sage hammering everyone at the end. I’m guessing:

    1. Smyth
    2. Sage
    3. Mocko
    4. Dakota
    5. Hazen

    Any of them (or Ryan) could win though, will be exciting! Thanks iRF for everything you do!

  6. Ben

    Bummed that Sonoma is not going to be the barn burner of year’s past. Is this the start of less elite American men focusing on a race like Sonoma and shifting their focus to the awesome races in Europe (and elsewhere)? It appears a number of the really fast guys are racing elsewhere this spring (e.g., Zach, Hayden, Max, DBo, Jorge, Varner, Alex Nichols, Cody Reed).

    Agreed on Smyth being the wildcard. If he’s fit like he was at Way Too Cool in 2016 (or the Olympic Marathon Trials last fall) he’s untouchable. His Way Too Cool CR is 13 minutes better than anyone in the field on Saturday! However, 50 miles is a lot different than 50k and Sonoma doesn’t have any real flat sections since the course rolls so much. It’s gonna be interesting to see what he can do at 50 miles.

  7. SageCanaday

    If you’re a quantitive data/numbers guy like me and want to geek out a bit.
    Check out this comparison of ” flat track/road speed PRS” between guys like Pat Smyth and Ryan Bak:

    3k: 8:01 / 7:50 Smyth/Bak
    5k: 13:39 / 13:38 Smyth/Bak
    Marathon: 2:15 / 2:14 Smyth/ Bak

    Very similar backgrounds/PRs and super speedy! Of course the Big factor is Variable Running Economy (Efficiency)…which takes into account the hills, terrain and distance/duration of a specific race energy demand/work output.

    Bak has the experience on this course and running the “runnable” 50-milers. Smyth has the “shorter” distance (well, half marathon -50km) MUT Running experience.

    I’ve had the honor of racing both at a variety of distances and surfaces over the years (they usually beat me at anything under a marathon!…unless it’s like Mt. WA or something). One of the most inspirational running films I’ve ever seen is called “Five Thousand Meters: nothing comes easy” and Ryan is featured as one of the runners trying to qualify for the Olympics/Trials on the track (this was way back in 2004). Highly recommend that film.

    As far as the men’s field being “weak this year”(and of course I’m biased)….well I don’t know about that. I agree the women’s field is more “stacked” for sure though. We’ll let the finisher density of the 5 determine “how competitive it is”. I still think it will be the most competitive “Golden Ticket Race” this year (at least to finish top 2 in) and it will also probably be the 2nd most competitive 50-miler in the country this year (only TNF50 SF at the end the year will top it). Just my 2 cents. Looking forward to seeing everyone out there!

    1. Ben

      No doubt it will be competitive Sage, from a density standpoint. The top 1-4 or 5 guys will probably be quite close. I think when folks see or say “a down year” (and I don’t think anyone said “weak” did they?) they mean the number of really top guys we are seeing line up. I mean no disrespect to anyone by posting this but compare the list of the really top guys and it’s probably 5-8 deep. In previous years that list was 10-15+. Look at the 2015 preview for example! Crazy.


  8. SageCanaday

    Why not just list the actual men’s results from that year, 2015?
    Here’s the top 5:

    1. Alex Varner 6:09
    2. Ryan Bak 6:23
    3. Jared Hazen 6:31
    4. Jorge Maravilla 6:36
    5. Jim Walmsley 6:41

    This year, I think we can have 5 guys under 6:35 (depending on how much the course changes are and how hot it gets that afternoon). I mean in this year’s preview alone you have a 2:21 marathoner in the “other men to know” part of the preview!

    I guess if you want to look 10-15 deep with times/places that is a bit of a different angle..traditionally maybe only 10 guys crack 7 hours at this race (of course depends on weather conditions as well). Again, as a numbers/data guy I think we’ll just have to see how the results pan out before any further analysis/speculation on what entails “competitive”

    1. Ben

      Care to make it interesting?! I’ll bet you a pair of Hokas the following:

      1) The CR is not broken

      2) The combined times of M1-M10 won’t be as fast as they were in 2015

      3) The combined times of M1-M10 won’t be as fast as they were in 2016

      If I’m wrong on any of these predictions you win!

      And you get to bet on yourself here with #1 Pete Rose style! :)

  9. Zak

    I really can’t say it enough: So glad Smyth has been able to survive and thrive his elusive to diagnose thyroid disease. To go from retired marathon runner to being able to “put up smoking-fast results in ultras” is an inspiring F-YOU to this, outside of Nike sponsored athletes, rarely diagnosed malady.

    ps…let me know if anyone is interested in participating in a jog-a-thon to raise funds for thyroid awareness.

    1. Beriba

      I love that you post this every time he’s mentioned. What amuses me more is that everyone ignores your posts and carries on like nothing’s happened. Don’t look! Nothing to see here!

      1. AJW

        I agree with you all. This Dr Brown has always struck me as a shady character and the evidence seems to suggest something’s a little off with his diagnoses. Do you know if he endorses cannabis use as well? :)

    1. OOJ

      Big 10-4 on that, Andy. Go back to ’13 and see how the LS50 top ten fared at WSER. Mackey, Maravilla, and I all blew up. Clarkie survived at WSER, but he under-performed. That was his last fast WSER (and arguably last quality ultra performance).

      Bottom line is that it’s a tough turnaround to go to the well at LS50 and do something at WSER, a mere 10-11 weeks later!

  10. Astroyam

    There could easily be five guys under 6:20 or even 6:15 this year. I’d say that’s competitive. As for the record? Unlikely but possible. Go guys!

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