The Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in the Sonoma region of California takes place this Saturday, April 15th. Race director Tropical John Medinger and his band of merry helpers consistently draw together steep, early season, North-American-based competition to duke it out on the hills above the race’s namesake lake. Come for the competition and stay for the wine, though, because the Lake Sonoma team also puts together a lovely race weekend outside of the race itself, where competitors can enjoy the *ahem* fruits of their labor.
The Lake Sonoma 50 Mile is the last race in the Western States 100 Altra Golden Ticket race series. Two women and two men earn entry into Western States.
The women’s race should serve up a solid dose of spectating enjoyment. We have seven of last year’s top-10 women returning to race again, including the full 2016 podium. In the mix are two Western States champions. And we’ll see several women who have run standout national and international performances in different types of races than Lake Sonoma who will give this event–with its hilly but runnable and fast terrain–a shot. Finally, the Golden Tickets should affect the racing dynamic, too, with some women seeking it and others who already have a Western States entry not needing to race for one. The women’s course record sits at 7:08:23 courtesy of Stephanie Howe in 2015.
Of course we’re covering the Lake Sonoma showdown! We’ll be providing pre- and post-race interviews as well as live coverage on race day. Stay tuned. We’ve also published our men’s preview, if you’re interested.
Many thanks to Nathan for their generous support of our coverage of this year’s Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
Contenders for the Win
We think it’s most likely that the women’s winner will come out of this trio of women. Fascinatingly, I also think that these women have similar racing styles: strong from the get-go but consistent in their end-of-race strength and follow-through.
YiOu Wang (pre-race interview) returns as the Lake Sonoma defending champion, after having run the second-fastest ever time on the course last year through an even-keel, start-to-finish performance. YiOu seems to have preferred terrain and distance. That is, in trail ultrarunning we’ve seen her run her best at hilly, relatively non-technical races up to 50 miles in length. Lake Sonoma is right in that preference window. Since last year, YiOu’s best performances have been a win at the 2017 FOURmidable 50k and a second place at the 2017 Chuckanut 50k. YiOu finished Western States outside the top 10 last year, so I suspect she’s hunting a Golden Ticket.
Kaci Lickteig (pre-race interview) finished second place here last year in her comeback from injury and on her journey toward winning the 2016 Western States and becoming UltraRunning magazine’s 2016 Ultrarunner of the Year. Kaci’s finished Lake Sonoma three previous times, third in 2014, fifth in 2015, and second last year. She was virtually unstoppable during the second half of 2016, and I suspect she’s in relatively similar physical condition now, too. An obvious note, Kaci doesn’t need a Golden Ticket as Western States’s defending champion.
Magda Boulet has been a NorCal trail and ultrarunner since late 2013, but I think this is her first outing at Lake Sonoma. We last saw her in December and February in taking second at both The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships (interview) and the Tarawera Ultramarathon (interview). Magda, too, excels at the kind of terrain and distance we’ll see this weekend. This 2015 Western States champ dropped early in the 2016 Western States race due to illness, and I know she’d like to return if she can secure a Golden Ticket.
Anna Mae Flynn has decided not to race. [Updated April 10]
Anna Mae Flynn had a breakout run in finishing third here last year, but has unfortunately had a rough go with racing and injury since then with a DNF at last year’s Transvulcania with dehydration-type issues and a DNF with injury at Western States after earning a Golden Ticket here last year. She looked so joyful in racing onto the competitive podium last year, so I hope she’s got her health back.
I admit, I am really excited to watch Ashley Nordell race amongst this group of women. Over the years, she’s consistently performed well in almost every race she runs, but she rarely lines up against steep and deep competition. In 2016, she won the Bighorn 100 Mile and the Ozark Trail 100 Mile, among other races. I’ll bet she’s in good, early season form, too, given that she already won the 2017 Three Days of Syllamo stage race in Arkansas.
Courtney Dauwalter. Here’s another woman who will be interesting to watch among this competition. In 2016 and early 2017, she’s really made a name for herself with a win at the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile and a 24-hour American record. She’s showed a diverse skill set thus far, having won 50 milers, 100ks, and 100 milers on both mountainous and flat terrain. I don’t think we’ve seen her race amongst deep competition yet, so I am wondering what can she do among this group of fast ladies?
Canadian Alissa St. Laurent had a really strong 2016 of racing, which included a fifth place at Western States and a second place behind winner Courtney Dauwalter at the Run Rabbit Run 100-Mile. She started but didn’t finish the Tarawera Ultramarathon two months ago as a result of physical issues. She already has her Western States entry for this year courtesy of last year’s fifth place, so she’s clearly here for the competition on NorCal terrain.
Sabrina Little (pre-race interview) is another woman with excellent national and international results, but who generally races in different-style races than Lake Sonoma. For example, she’s long been a specialist in 24-hour races–she’s the former 24-hour American record holder and was second at the 2013 IAU 24-Hour World Championships. And she’s got course records all over the state of Texas where she lives, but in those races she’s often time trialing against herself. Last year, she took second at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile in New York, which runs more slowly than Lake Sonoma mostly due to trail technicality. I suspect she’ll fare quite well among Lake Sonoma’s terrain and competition.
Two Texas dwellers, one starting line. Liza Howard has made a name for herself at the Leadville 100 Mile, having won the race three times (2015 interview) and finished second twice in the race’s last seven editions. We haven’t seen her compete as much in the U.S. of late due to her focusing at least part of her 2015 and 2016 on racing Marathon des Sables in Morocco.
I think Julia Stamps Mallon has all the skills and abilities she now needs to finish on the Lake Sonoma podium. The standout road runner has been racing trails for the last two-ish years, and her performances in this time have included a seventh place at the 2014 TNF EC 50 Mile and a sixth place here last year.
Kerrie Wlad has twice finished Lake Sonoma in the top 10, in seventh place last year and fourth the year before. My guess is she’s solid for another top-10 finish. In 2016, she was also third at the UROC 100k.
Canada’s Christina Clark has been running trail ultras for several years, but she popped onto our radar last year when she took 10th at Way Too Cool 50k and eighth here. She additionally followed up her run at Lake Sonoma with a win of Canada’s 2016 Sulphur Springs 50 Mile.
Jennifer Pfeifer is Ms. Consistent on the Lake Sonoma course. In her four finishes here, she’s gone sixth, seventh, 11th, and 10th. That 10th place was last year. Jennifer has been running ultras for some 20 years, so the woman knows how to race smart.
Meghan Arbogast is the other woman in this preview with a 20-year trail ultrarunning career. She had a heckuva 2016, finishing her 10th Western States and placing sixth in doing so. Additionally last year, she placed ninth at the Marathon des Sables and fourth at the FOURmidable 50k behind winner YiOu Wang and third-place Jennifer Pfeifer. Meghan has two finishes at Lake Sonoma, seventh in 2015 and fifth in 2013.
Pam Smith hasn’t recovered from running Georgia Death Race so she won’t start the race. [Updated April 10]
It’s only mid-April and Pam Smith already has a lot of racing miles under her belt. I guess she needs them, as she’s targeting the IAU 24-Hour World Championships in July. Only two weekends before Lake Sonoma, she took fourth at the Georgia Death Race, so she must be aiming to use Lake Sonoma as a training race. Pam’s run this race once before, finishing 12th in 2015.
More Women to Watch
We’ll all want to keep our eyes on these women for possible breakout runs into the women’s top 10.
- Lauren Besnefelder Coury – 3rd 2016 Zane Grey 50 Mile
- Leslie Howlett – Winner 2016 TNF EC 50 Mile – Utah, 8th 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
- Bree Lambert – 2nd 2016 Miwok 100k
Call for Comments
- Who’s going to win Lake Sonoma this year?
- And who is going to grab the final Golden Ticket entries into this year’s Western States?
- Who might surprise us out there this weekend?
- Know of anyone we’ve listed who won’t be racing?