Many thanks to Nathan for their generous support of our coverage of this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
The 2017 women’s field amounted to large group of ladies with diverse backgrounds and skill sets–previous Lake Sonoma champs, Western States champs, long-distance specialists, and more–a set-up for a truly fascinating women’s race.
When we caught a glimpse of defending champion YiOu Wang (pre-race and post-race interviews) before the race start, it seemed clear that she was all business and here to get the dueling jobs done of running for the win and earning a Western States entry in this final race of the Altra Golden Ticket Series. YiOu ran the entire race off the front, picking her way through the men’s field even, until she finished as champion for the second time, ninth overall, and in possession of a spot in this year’s Western States field. Her 2.4-mile split was 16:57 elapsed, which is 7:04 minute-mile pace, and from there she just kept pressing on as the terrain allowed. Her 7:24 finishing time–what amounts to 8:53 minute-mile pace on a course with some 10,500 feet of climbing–did not match her 2016 winning time, but was probably a nearly equal effort given the course’s reroute and muddy conditions.
Somewhere in the first couple road miles, Kaci Lickteig (pre-race and post-race interview) and Magdalena Boulet (post-race interview) fell into step with each other, and, seriously, the rest is history. The pair would later say that they somewhat unintentionally ran together until the halfway point, and, then, they began to intentionally work together, with Magda adding her strength to pull the pair up the uphills and Kaci using her strength to help them find another gear on the downhills. Every aid station, the pair entered and left together, full on hamming it up for volunteers and fans. They were legitimately having a good time. In the end, the pair crossed the finish hand-in-hand, Magda earning her Western States spot and Kaci, who did not need a spot in Western States as the reigning Western States champ, overwhelmed with happiness. It looked like a good day in paradise for this pair, and it was one of the finest examples of competitors working with each other that I’ve personally seen in trail running.
Every time we saw Courtney Dauwalter–at mile 2.4, 11.6, 19.5, 25, 30, 38, and 45.5, phew!–she was in fourth place. She ran fleet footed and metronome-like–you could see why she’s the 24-hour American record holder, able to hold steady effort from start to finish in an event. Julia Stamps Mallon, sixth a year ago here, moved up a spot to finish fifth.
With five or so men with great leg speed from track-and-field and road-running careers in this field, everyone expected the men’s race to go out hot, and indeed it did. A lead pack of five men–Jared Hazen was setting the pace with Ryan Bak, Chris Mocko (pre-race and post-race interviews), Patrick Smyth (pre-race interview), and Sage Canaday (pre-race and post-race interviews) all together–split the first 2.4 road miles at 6:06 minute-mile pace, hit the trail, and just kept rolling. Dakota Jones (post-race interview) was just a couple seconds later leading a long string of chasers. Mile 11.6, some nine miles of singletrack later, saw little change in the lead pack of five, except that Dakota joined it while Chris dropped back by two minutes, saying later that he struggled to keep the pace in the early climbing. The lead men hit mile 11.6 in 1:19 elapsed, which works out to 6:48 minute-mile pace. They were still flying.
Rolling singletrack eventually gave way to fire roads as well as a couple longer climbs and descents between miles 18 and 31. This totally shook up and wrung out that lead men’s pack. Sage would emerge at mile 30 with a 90-second lead over Dakota and a five-minute gap on third place Chris. These three men would remain in these positions all the way through the finish. Between miles 30 and 38, the gap between Sage and Dakota increased to three minutes, 45 seconds, and I began to think that the rest would be history.
Anything’s possible in ultrarunning, though, and at the mile 45.5 aid station, Dakota was arriving just as Sage was leaving, their gap at about one minute. Both would later say they were suffering in that last section due to the race’s fast early pace, but Sage was able to hold off the stalking Dakota, and they went one-two at the finish. Chris rallied from his early race difficulties to finish third. Sage’s final time, 6:17, was five minutes off his fastest time here in 2014, and works out to 7:32 minute-mile pace. I’m guessing the course reroute and mud more than attributed to Sage’s slightly slower time compared to the past. I’ve watched these guys race Lake Sonoma for years now, and I’m always impressed that they are able to keep this kind of pace on the constant hills and arrythmic nature of this course.
Early race leaders Jared Hazen, Pat Smyth, and Ryan Bak dropped due to various injuries and issues.
The balance of the men’s top five were the guys who ran more moderate efforts in the race’s first half and emerged into their positions in second half of the race. Zach Szablewski took fourth and Jared Burdick fifth. At the time of this writing, we understand that both Sage and Dakota will forgo their Golden Tickets, and third place Chris already has an entry from his top-10 Western States finish last year. The series rules allow the tickets to roll down as far as fifth place, so it looks like Zach and Jared will be offered Golden Tickets. More fruits of the labor of their consistent efforts start to finish.
Thanks to Pam Smith and Jon Murchinson for providing from-the-course updates!
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.