Bandera 100k Preview

Bandera 100KThis Saturday, the USATF 100k trail national championships will be run at the Bandera 100k near San Antonio, Texas. Last year, the field was strong with Dave Mackey and Liza Howard winning. This year, the competition has risen to an entirely new level… enough so, that I’ll be flying down to Texas to livecast the race on Twitter.

The draws for the race are now numerous. First off, there’s the cash – $4,000 total with $1,000 going to the men’s and women’s winners. There’s also the prestige of winning a national championship. Sure, not everyone is into it, but there’s a bunch of folks on the entrants list who are. Next up, there are four Western States 100 entries courtesy of the Bandera’s inclusion in the Montrail Ultra Cup. As a few competitors already have their tickets booked for Statesmas ’12, I’ll note that MUC WS100 entries can roll down as far as third place. Finally, Bandera’s snowballing level of competition is self-perpetuating. As proof, I present the men’s and women’s field for this year’s Bandera 100k.

Dave Mackey

Dave Mackey

Men’s Preview
As the defending champ, Dave Mackey’s got to be the men’s favorite. Last year, he went on to win the American River 50 mile and Miwok 100k after his strong run at Bandera. After starting his 2011 season so early, Mackey opted to skip the JFK 50 and The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships late last year to recover from the rigors of a long racing season. I trust that his toeing the line in Texas means he’s rested and ready to go.

Mackey is sure to be in the top five of most US ultrarunner of the year ballots, but so is Nick Clark who’ll be making his way down to Texas. Like Mackey, Clark declined to run December’s TNF race due to feeling like he couldn’t perform up to his standards after a long season. It’d be wrong to say Clark’s been taking time off, as he’s just run a bunch of races in the UK as well as attempting a winter Bob Graham Round that was called due to weather. I hope that he brings his US passport and USATF membership as he’s at least figuratively going to be in the run for money.

Timothy Olson was up-and-comer ultrarunner of the year in 2011. His runs at Western States (6th – 16:18) and The North Face 50 (4th) put him on ultrarunning radars across the country. There’s no reason for him to slow down in 2012.

Last year’s runner-up Dave James is back to try and improve on his 2011 performance. James had a roller coaster of a year, but did win the USATF 100 Mile championships at Burning River in June. Jason Bryant, who was third at Bandera last year, won’t be racing having massively broken his arm last autumn.

Jason Schlarb won a 2011 USATF national championship in another Tejas Trails race, the Nueces 50 mile, last March before serving a tour in Iraq with the US Air Force. Fresh off the plane back to the US, Schlarb ran to a tenth place finish at The North Face 50 five weeks ago.

I get the impression that Todd Braje is always flying under the radar, at least as far as the broader ultra community is concerned despite having won a few dozen ultras over the past five years. In 2011, all Braje did was win the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile, place second at the Way Too Cool 50k and Tussey Mountainback 50 mile (USATF road championships), and third at the Mad City 100k. I’m sure none of his competitors will be underestimating Braje.

Dylan Bowman recently wrote that he’s now training like it’s his job. That’s likely to mean big things for this (relative) youngster in 2012. The past two years he’s finished third and then second at the Leadville 100, while winning both the San Diego 100 and the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 mile in 2011. At 25 years old, this new addition to the Pearl Izumi Ultrarunning Team has plenty of upside, though his knee is a bit banged up at the moment.

Lots of other talent will be out there with 2:22 marathoner Justin Ricks (100k debut), Yassine Diboun, Jack Pilla, Paul Terranova, Joe Uhan, Steven Moore, and others racing on the Texas trails.

Liza Howard Leadville

Liza Howard

Women’s Preview
Last year’s champ Liza Howard is also returning to Bandera to defend her title. While Howard lost much of her 2011 to injury, she showed everyone she’s back by running a 15:46 at the Javelina Jundred in November. Howard’s also won six-straight ultras in her home state of Texas.

Pam Smith was runner-up in 2011 just 11 minutes behind Howard. Since then, Smith has won the Miwok 100k, placed second at the Mad City 100k, and represented the US at the IAU 100k World Championships.

You can never count out Darcy Africa when she’s racing as she’s sure to be near the front. Africa had a stellar 2011, winning the Collegiate Peaks 50k mile and Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k, placing second at Hardrock, and earning third place finishes at the Chuckanut 50k, Red Hot Moab 55k, and TNF Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. She also set the women’s Grand Canyon double crossing record that Bethany Lewis broke late in the year. Africa excels in the mountains, but she’s no slouch on flatter patches either.

Cassie Scallon had a breakthrough ultra season in 2011. In particular, her win and third-fastest time ever at JFK in November (beating Meghan Arbogast in the process) show that she’s ready for the big time. Scallon’s JFK performance also speaks of her foot speed, which she’ll need if she’s to keep close to Howard.

Two Californians, Keira Henninger and Bree Lambert will chase the top four ladies and are capable of stepping it up.

Additional Info

Racers Talkin’ ‘Bout Bandera

Call for Comments

  • How do you think the men’s race will shake out?
  • Which woman will rise to the top?
  • Got floor space in Texas for a dirtbag ultra reporter to sleep on?