Races Align: Stone Cat, Mountain Masochist, and Lithia Loop Previews!

Previews of the 2009 Stone Cat 50 mile, Mountain Masochist 50 mile, and Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.

By on November 6, 2009 | Comments

Who said the trail racing season is over for the year? (Oops, we kinda did!) Well, this weekend proves us wrong with the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon – the USATF trail marathon national championships – in Ashland, Oregon and two fiercely competitive 50 milers out east with Stone Cat in Massachusetts and Mountain Masochist in Virginia. In fact, this could be one of the most competitive trail racing weekends of the entire year. We’re excited to take a look at the fields at Lithia Loop, Stone Cat, and Mountain Masochist. We’ll be publishing reports on Lithia and Stone Cat over at Competitor Running next week.

Best of luck to everyone throwing down this weekend. Be sure to let us know how you think these races will play out!

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon – Ashland, Oregon
Lithia Loop Trail MarathonIn only its second year, the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon has wasted no time breaking into the big time. It helps that this year the race is the USATF trail marathon national championship. However, that’s only part of the reason that such a great field will be toeing the line on Saturday. You see, the race is put on by Rouge Valley Runners, a specialty running store owned by Hal Koerner, the 2007 and 2009 Western States 100 champion. Long time ultrarunner Ian Torrence manages the store, while stud runners like Erik Skaggs, the current USATF trail 100k champion, work there. In other words, this is a trail race put on by some of the best and most respected names in the sport and that alone attracts other top talent. $6,000 in prize money doesn’t hurt either! It looks like all that talent could have an “interesting” day given the forecast of cold rain down low and snow up high. Here’s who the crew have gotten to show up this year.

While many of the top men are locals that still means a slew of men with 2:30 or faster marathon speed when you’re talking Oregon.

  • Max King (Bend, OR) – A past member of team USA at the cross country world championships and US Olympic trails participant in the steeplechase, Max ran a 2:19 last weekend at the New York City Marathon in his first serious attempt at the distance. If he recovers, this is Max’s race to lose.
  • Jeff Caba (Bend, OR) – Jeff won the inaugural Lithia Loop Trail Marathon last year (2:47) and returns to defend his title. In the interim, Caba ran a 2:31 at this year’s Twin Cities Marathon.
  • Andy Martin (where else but Bend, OR) – Andy trains with Jeff, but beat him by 6 minutes at Twin Cities with a 2:25.
  • Thomas Brooks (Eugene “Hey, we’re not Bend!”, OR) – A steeplechaser like Max King, Thomas placed third in the event (8:25) at the 2007 USATF national championships.
  • Aaron Saft (Fletcher, NC) – Aaron will attempt to regain the USATF trail marathon crown that he captured in 2007 with a 2:30:53.
  • Mark Godale (Aurora, OH) – A road ultra specialist looks to tear up the trails. He’s no slow poke though given his 2:30 marathon PR.
  • Phil Kochik (Seattle, WA) – Not sure he has the speed to compete, but he won the USATF trail 50 mile championships in ’04 & ’05.
  • Sean Meissner (Sisters, OR) – Ok, Sean’s not going to win Lithia, but he’s won three out of four marathons he’s raced this year. He was also second at Lithia last year (2:53). We hope this iRunFar favorite brings home some gas money with a top-5 finish.

It’s a two woman race. Devon Crosby-Helms versus Krissy Moehl. If they were guys, they’d probably be talking smack right now. Why? Not because they’re enemies, but because they’re friends. These two (and two others) ran the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim together last month. (DCH’s report; KM’s report) So how’s this friendly showdown gonna go down?

  • Devon Crosby-Helms (Sausalito, CA) – A good friend of iRunFar, Devon Crosby-Helms gets our nod. Earlier this year, Devon placed fourth at the 100k road world championships as part of Team USA’s victory. More recently, she teamed up with Caitlin Smith to win the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run by besting The North Face’s team of Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball.
  • Krissy Moehl (Seattle, WA) – In June, Krissy placed second behind Anita Ortiz at the Western States 100. In August, she came back to win and set the women’s course record at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Clearly Krissy has had a great year, but can she match Devon’s speed?

Stone Cat 50 mile – Ipswich, MA
Stone Cat 50 mileThe Stone Cat 50 mile is one of iRunFar’s absolute favorite races. (iRF 2007 race report) Let’s call it a quirky classic that is New England all the way. Stone Cat is sponsored by a brewery with a mascot on (and off) course and is organized in the attic of a small mom and pop grocery (Gil’s), the basement of which is the headquarters of Gil’s Athletic Club that puts on the race. Every year, many of New England’s top runners come out to race Stone Cat and this year is no exception.

This year Stone Cat looks like a de facto New England trail 50-mile men’s championship.

  • Leigh Schmitt (Conway, MA) – When was the last time Leigh Schmitt lost an East Coast 50 miler? Yeah, we can’t remember either. Some say he can’t be beaten. Behind the scenes, some say they can be him. We’re waiting.
  • Kevin Sullivan (Andover, MA) – Kevin Sullivan, an iRunFar contributor, is one man who could take Leigh on the right day. At this year’s Western States 100, Kevin took the NE crown by beating Leigh by 2 places and 50 minutes.
  • Brian Rusiecki (Leeds, MA) – Rusiecki won the Vermont 50 at the end of September. He churned out a 7:12 in horribly muddy conditions to edge out Glen Redpath by 7 minutes.
  • Jack Pilla (Charlotte, VT) – In 2007, Jack won Stone Cat with a then course record of 7:02. [Trail Goat Note: He schooled me by almost an hour that year.] Since then he placed 3rd at last year’s Wasatch 100 and finally won the Vermont 100 this summer.
  • Todd Walker (Amherst, MA) – Unlikely to have the speed to claim the win, Todd is a long time ultrarunner who’s more of a threat at 100 miles.
  • David Herr (Canaan, VT) – David does have the speed with 2:3X marathon credentials, but he’s never put it all together at Stone Cat. Could this be the year?

There’s aren’t too many national level names in this field and we plead ignorance on the top women’s runners from New England, but here goes. Feel free to help us out with info and suggestions.

  • Aliza Lapierre (Williston, VT) – As far as we know, this is Aliza’s race to lose. Lapierre won the race in 2007 while setting the course record at the time (8:07).
  • Jenny Chow (Long Valley, NJ) – Jenny has raced 8 100 milers this year and has won three of them (Kettle Moraine, Mohican, and Oil Creek).
  • Jenny Hoffman (Cambridge, MA) – Jenny won Stone Cat back in 2005 (8:30).
  • Kelly Willson (Charlotte, VT) – Kelly has won the Virgil Crest (nee Iroquois Trails) 100 the past two years.
  • Amy Lane (Westfield, MA) – Amy was the second woman at last year’s Stone Cat 50 (8:55).

Mountain Masochist 50 Mile
Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 mile mmtrWith a few late entries, this year’s Mountain Masochist Trail Run went from a good race to a great race. As this is a Montrail Ultra Cup race, the top two runners in both the men’s and women’s fields will earn a spot in next year’s Western States 100. While we note a few top runners below, you can also check out former-RD David Horton’s runner seedings for a more extensive list and his predictions.

Given his season to date, we can’t help but pick Alaska’s Geoff Roes for the win.

  • Geoff Roes (Alaska) – Geoff Roes is having fun running these days and that spells trouble for everyone else. In July, Geoff became the first runner to break 3 hours at the quarter century old Crow Pass Crossing (24 miles), so he’s got speed. In September, he took more than an hour off the Wasatch 100 course record, so he’s got endurance and toughness.
  • Valmir Nunes (Brazil) – Valmir is a fast road guy with some endurance skills. In 2007, he set the Badwater 135 record… in his first attempt at the race. We don’t know if he has the experience to handle the rocky second half of MMTR.
  • ????? ???????? (????????) – Forget being PC, Mountain Masochist is the kind of race where stud runners CAN get in last minute. You never know who will show up on race day.
  • Gary Robbins (Canada) – An ultra friendly Canadian, Gary was setting 50k course records left and right this spring before winning the open mixed category at the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run in August. Gary was second at MMTR last year.
  • Jeremy Ramsey (Virginia) – Always fear a fast local like Jeremy Ramsey at Mountain Masochist. Jeremy placed third here in 2008.
  • Will Harlan (North Carolina) – Not a local, but Will is familiar with the rocky trails of the Appalachian Mountains. Harlan is very hit or miss, so he’ll need to have one of his good days to compete.

The women’s race has some good runners, but no clear favorite. Will it be the talented, the tough, or the unknown who takes the day?

  • Justine Morrison (DC) – Justine is the defending MMTR champ and there’s no one in the field that is clearly faster than her. A repeat is quite possible.
  • Heather Fisher (VA) – Heather cracked the top 5 in her Mountain Masochist debut last year. Look for this youngster (age 23) to move up now that she has some ultra experience under her belt.
  • Donna Utakis (MA) – Donna made the trek down to Virginia to win the Grindstone 100 last month. If she’s recovered, this ultra veteran is a no-brainer for the top 5 with a chance to place higher.
  • Annette Bednosky (North Carolina) – Annette is on tough trail runner and is a treat to win any trail race she enters. (She won Western States in 2005.) However, Annette’s been hurt and that hurts her chances of winning MMTR.
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.