This Week In Running: December 5, 2016

This Week in Running Justin Mock TWIRThis week’s column includes a deep dive on The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, a look at the XTERRA Trail Running World Championships, and a preview of next week’s Desert Solstice track meet.



This race lived up to the hype. Despite the exceptionally deep field, the race at the front was limited to two men, Zach Miller and Hayden Hawks. The two sparred up and over the Bay Area’s best trails and even after 50 miles, only two minutes separated the sluggers. Miller’s 5:56 was a little better than Hawk’s 5:58. Much of that separation came in the race’s final six miles. Though the courses have deviated some over the event’s 10-year history, a sub-6 hour 50-mile time on any combination of the Bay Area trails just seems incredibly fast.

Zach Miller - 2016 The North Face 50 Mile

Zach Miller after winning his second-straight TNF 50. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

For Miller, it was a repeat win and another $10,000 payday. Hawks, who earlier this year won the Speedgoat 50k, pocketed $4,000.

Third-place David Laney patiently advanced through the field for a 6:15 podium finish, taking home $1,000.

iRunFar was on site and covered the race dynamics separately in great depth.  Although the separate results article went 20 deep, the men’s pre-race preview included 40-plus names.  To complete a full roll call on each, here’s everyone else:

4 – Jorge Maravilla – 6:23
5 – Alex Nichols – 6:33
6 – Dimitris Theodorakakos – 6:34
7 – Sage Canaday – 6:35
9 – Paddy O’Leary – 6:39
10 – Brian Condon – 6:42
11 – Jim Rebenack – 6:43
12 – David Ryland – 6:45
13 – Scott Spillman – 6:47
15 – Dan Kraft – 6:56
16 – Cody Reed – 6:58
18 – Brian Gillis – 7:03
19 – Mark Hammond – 7:03
21 – Benjamin Stern – 7:08
22 – David Riddle – 7:08
23 – Tyler Green – 7:09
28 – Dan Berteletti– 7:17
29 – Moises Jimenez – 7:22
30 – Ricardo Tortini – 7:24
31 – Benoît Cori – 7:24
32 – Brendan Trimboli – 7:25
34 – Lindsay Hamoudi – 7:35
37 – Gustavo Reyes– 7:41
47 – Mike Wolfe – 8:00
170 – Dylan Peterson – 10:15

Only one man not named in the pre-race preview cracked the top 10 and that was eighth-place Erik Sorenson.

DNF was the result for Tim FreriksMiguel Heras, Vlad IxelKiril Nikolov, and Coree Woltering.

Those included in the preview that did not start the race were Noah BrautigamBrett HalesMario MendozaChris MockoJustin RicksEric SensemanTyler SiglRyan SmithChris VizcainoJim Walmsley, and Stephen Wassather.


For much of the day, it looked like Megan Kimmel would match Miller with her own repeat win. Late race calf cramps ruled that out and Kimmel would have to fight to just to stay inside the top 10, ultimately finishing 10th in 7:46.

Sweden’s Ida Nilsson was running in second for most of the day and after passing Kimmel, was out of reach of the rest of the chase group. Nilsson dipped under the 7-hour mark with a 6:59:49 winning time. Like Miller, Ida, too, wins the $10,000 champion’s payout.

Ida Nilsson - 2016 The North Face 50 Mile

Ida Nilsson running strong at sunrise. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Local favorite and 2014 race winner Magdalena Boulet finished strong to shake loose of New Zealand’s Ruth Croft. Boulet ran 7:06 for second, and Croft was third in 7:20. Boulet and Croft respectively take home $4,000 and $1,000 prizes.

As with the men’s preview, the women’s entrant list too was full of contenders. Again, the separate results post included the top-20 women and here’s the rundown of each name included in the pre-race preview.

4 – Annie Jean – 7:24
5 – Clare Gallagher – 7:25
6 – Sandi Nypaver – 7:27
7 – Kasie Enman – 7:33
8 – Keely Henninger – 7:38
9 – Stephanie Howe Violett – 7:42
11 – Laura Kline – 7:47
12 – Sarah Keyes – 7:50
13 – Felice Kelly – 7:54
14 – Elizabeth Simpson – 7:54
15 – Ellie Pell – 7:59
16 – Megan Chamoun – 8:01
17 – Kim Magnus – 8:01
18 – Nicole Kalogeropoulos – 8:07
19 – Cassie Scallon – 8:09
20 – Rachel Paquette – 8:17
21 – Julia Stamps – 8:18
22 – Cindy Lynch – 8:23
23 – Tara Berry – 8:24
24 – Arden Young – 8:25
25 – Helene Michaux – 8:28
26 – Anne Wheatly – 8:36
31 – Molly Culver – 8:45
32 – Amy Phillips – 8:45
33 – Leah Maher – 8:51
34 – Rachel Drake – 8:51
37 – Anne Bouchard – 9:17

Each of the top-26 women’s finishers were named in the pre-race preview.

Drops included Jen BennaAlexis BraunKaren HollandPaige PatilloDenali Strabel, and Lindsay Tollefson.

Non-starters were Amanda Basham (she ran the marathon instead), Rory BosioAnna Mae Flynn, and Kristyn Kadala.

Full results.


Expected to be a prized match-up between Joe Gray and Patrick Smyth, this one fizzled halfway through. With Gray leading by about two minutes, Smyth missed a turn near mile six and cut out a lengthy uphill. That missed turn unknowingly catapulted him into the lead. With Gray still thinking he was in the lead and Smyth still thinking he was in second, both had to be surprised when Gray regained the lead near mile 9. Gray would cross the finish line first, and Smyth would be DQ’d.

Joe Gray - 2016 XTERRA Trail Running World Champion

Joe Gray, 2016 XTERRA Trail Running World Champion. Photo: XTERRA/Mike Adrian

Gray then would win in 1:17, finishing just 39 seconds off Max King’s 2010 course record. 2:11 marathoner Nick Arciniaga was second in 1:23, over a minute ahead of third-place Chad Hall.

The more well-known of the Hall siblings, Ryan Hall, was 17th in 1:43.

Women’s winner Polina Carlson comfortably cruised to the women’s win. She ran 1:38, over seven minutes ahead of her closest chaser. The battle for second was much closer with less than a minute separating second- and third-place Caroline Veltri and Malia Crouse. The pair ran 1:45 and 1:46, respectively.

Flagstaff Sky Race winner Kelly Wolf was fifth in 1:48.

Full results.

Polina Carlson - 2016 XTERRA Trail Running World Champion

Polina Carlson, 2016 XTERRA Trail Running World Champion. Photo: XTERRA/Mike Adrian


The Action Asia Events race doubled as the 2016 Asian Skyrunning Championships, and France was the big winner. Nico Martin (France) ran 5:41, beating out Cristofer Clemente (Spain) by three minutes. 2016 UTMB winner Ludovic Pommeret (France) was third in 5:55.

Nico Martin - 2016 MSIG Lantau 50k champion

Nico Martin, 2016 MSIG Lantau 50k champion. Photo: Lloyd Belcher Visuals

Caroline Chaverot (France) took the women’s crown in 6:27. Sunmaya Budha (Nepal) and Maud Gobert (France) were left behind Chaverot’s quick pace. Budha and Gobert ran 6:52 and 7:28 for second and third.

Full results.

Caroline Chaverot - 2016 MSIG Lantau 50k champion

Caroline Chaverot, 2016 MSIG Lantau 50k champion. Photo: Lloyd Belcher Visuals

In the accompanying Vertikal K men’s race, which took place two days before the 50k, Japan’s Toro Miyahara won in 38:17, with Nico Martin taking second at 33 seconds back. Italy’s Emanuele Manzi was third at another minute-plus in arrears.

The women’s Vertical K was also bested by a runner from Japan, Yuri Yoshizumi, in 45:59. Nepal’s Sunmaya Budha took second here, too, more than two minutes off the winner. And third was Caroline Chaverot, another two minuted behind Budha.

Full results.

Sunmaya Budha - 2016 MSIG Lantau 50k second place

Sunmaya Budha of Nepal took second place in the women’s 50k and the Vertical K. Photo: Lloyd Belcher Visuals


The 60k Kepler Challenge is known as the “jewel in New Zealand’s mountain running calendar.” The beauty of a course follows the well-known Kepler Track along spectacular ridgelines and through beech forests. Sam McCutcheon (New Zealand) topped Vajin Armstrong (New Zealand) to win the men’s race, 4:54 to 5:01. Anna Frost (New Zealand) was a big winner in the women’s race at 6:07. Full results.

At Taiwan’s Soochow 24-hour InvitationalYing Shan (China) scored an upset win over 2015 IAU 24-hour world champion Katalin Nagy. Shan totaled 149.95 miles. Nagy, whose best is 151.92 miles, called it a day at the 125-mile point of this race with just over three hours remaining. Zi-yu Zhao (China) won the men’s race with 147.25 miles. 2016 Spartathlon winner Anddzej Radzikowski (Poland) was 10th with 128.68 miles.

At The Running Event industry conference in Florida, Jacob Puzey ran 4:57:45 for 50 miles on a treadmill, a new 50-mile treadmill world record. That’s an average of 5:56 per mile, and includes a 2:38 marathon split. It was also an hour better than the previous 50-mile treadmill world record. For perspective, the non-treadmill world record is Bruce Fordyce’s 4:50 that dates to the 1984, and the American record is Barney Klecker’s 4:51 from 1980.

Jacob Puzey - 2016 50-mile treadmill world record

Jacob Puzey on his way to setting a 50-mile treadmill world record. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships also included 50k, marathon, and half-marathon distance races. Cole Watson won the 50k in 3:48, and bouncing back from injury, Seth Swanson was fourth in 4:16. Abby Levene won the women’s race in 4:48. In the marathon, Robert Peterson and Amanda Basham were race winners in 3:25 and 3:44, respectively. Full results.

Aravaipa Running’s McDowell Mountain Frenzy took over Arizona’s Usery Mountain Regional Park with five different races. In the 50-mile event, it was Peter Mortimer and Rhea Black on top in 8:11 and 9:14, and in the 50k race, Phil Slama and Lauren Besenfelder-Coury were victorious with 4:12 and 4:18 winning times. Full results.

Owen Bradley and Cass Chisholm took the Arctic Frog 50k in Illinois with 3:23 and 4:14 winning times. Full results.

The inaugural running of Tennessee’s Rock/Creek Stillhouse 100k crowned Nathan Holland and Natalie Sims as victors in 12:13 and 16:22. Full results.

Rum Bum’s Battle for Black Rock 36-mile race was a “hard as nails, beautiful as heck” three lapper through Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia. Race winners were Shawn Webber and Lauren Johnson in 6:30 and 7:56. Chase Fulford and Elaine Thomas won the accompanying 24-mile race in 4:51 and 6:26, respectively. Full results.

A week after the IAU 100k world championshipsChikara Omine ran 2:28 at the Cal International Marathon. Full results.

Vince Molosky repeated as winner of Florida’s Caloosahatchee Ultra 50k, running 4:16 and breaking his own course record. Krystle Martinez won the women’s race in 6:03. Unfortunately there was a tragic death in the accompanying 25k, when 58-year-old Keith Carlton suddenly passed away upon completing the race, according to a Facebook post by race director Justin Radley. Full results.

Some 7,000 runners took part in the giant Saintelyon 72k race in France, and the mega-event actually included 17,000 runners over its four races distances. On the long course and with a midnight start, Emmanuel Messat raced from Saint Etienne to Lyon in 5:17, edging out second-place Alexandre Mayer by 92 seconds. Benoit Charles-Mangeon was third in 5:31. The women’s race was even closer with Juliette Benedicto besting Sylvaine Cussot by just 37 seconds. The pair ran 6:35 and 6:36. Mélanie Rousset was third in 6:52. Full results.


In its first five years the Desert Solstice track meet has produced 41 national and 10 world records. That tally is likely to grow after this weekend’s race, though many of the 27 entrants are instead focused on a qualifying mark for the U.S. 24-hour team. The six-man and six-woman U.S. national team will compete at the 2017 IAU 24-Hour World Championships, to be held July 1, 2017 in Belfast, Ireland.


Olivier Leblond, winner of this year’s USATF 24-Hour Championships, is the only man guaranteed a spot on the team at present. Pete Kostelnick (163.68-mile qualifying mark), Harvey Lewis (157.90-mile qualifying mark), Bob Hearn (149.24-mile qualifying mark), Joe Fejes (145.58-mile qualifying mark), and Adrian Stanciu (144.87-mile qualifying mark) are next in line. Of that group, only Hearn and Fejes are expected to race at Desert Solstice.

Whether targeting a 24-hour mark or a shorter personal best or age-group record, other key men in the field include:

  • Jay Aldous – 13:52 at 2011 Desert Solstice 100 Mile
  • Zach Bitter – 11:40 100-mile American record (2015), 163.78k 200k world record (2013)  12/5 Edit: Zach Bitter has scratched from the race.
  • John Cash – 154.6 miles at 2014 Desert Solstice 24 Hour
  • Ed Ettinghausen – 144 miles at 2013 Desert Solstice 24 Hour
  • Josh Finger – 152 miles at 2015 Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn Ultra
  • Anders Tysk – 152 miles 2014 Desert Solstice 24 Hour


2015 world champion Katalin Nagy and 2015 world runner-up Traci Falbo are both guaranteed spots on the U.S. women’s team, as is 2016 USATF national champion Jenny Hoffman. That means that only three women’s team spots are up for grabs. Those positions are presently held by Pam Smith (143.66-mile qualifying mark), Melanie Rabb (136.95-mile qualifying mark), and Courtney Dauwalter (135.70-mile qualifying mark). Both Rabb and Dauwalter are expected to race at Desert Solstice in an effort to improve their qualifying positions.

Other key women include:

  • Laurie Dymond – 135.5-mile 24-hour best
  • Kristina Pham – 6:55 50-mile split at 2014 Across the Years
  • Whitney Richman – 2nd at 2016 Umstead 100 Mile (17:13)
  • Adela Salt – 16:53 100-mile at 2015 Across the Years
  • Gina Slaby – 1st at 2016 Vermont 100 (18:05)

Salt is seeking a spot on the U.K. 24-hour team.

Live tracking will be available at Aravaipa Running.


  • What are your thoughts on Zach Miller’s incredible TNF 50 performance?
  • The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships runner-up Hayden Hawks ran 2:23 at the all-downhill St. George Marathon earlier this year. Third-place David Laney’s marathon best is 2:17. Sage Canaday ran multiple 2:19 marathons over the past two years. Going back to the beginning, 2007 TNF 50 winner Uli Steidl ran a 2:23 marathon as late as 2012, five years after he first won TNF 50. Sure the ultra race times have dropped drastically, but are the men running ultras really that much faster at lesser distances than their predecessors? At the marathon distance, I’d argue not. At the 5,000m and 10,000m distance, maybe so.
  • Ten years in, TNF 50 first-place prize is still locked at $10,000. The price of few things hasn’t changed over 10 years, so is it time for a cost-of-living adjustment? Perhaps most surprising, even after 10 years, no other 50-mile race offers prize money close to that of TNF 50.
  • What other races can be added to this week’s commentary, in the comments field below?
Justin Mock

is a family man, finance man, and former competitive runner. He gave his 20s to running, and ran as fast as 2:29 for the marathon and finished as high as fourth at the Pikes Peak Marathon. His running is now most happy with his two dogs on the trails and peaks near his home west of Denver.

There are 18 comments

  1. Dylan

    The largest (by participation) trail ultra was held in France over the weekend. The 2017 Saintelyon saw some 17,000 participants in one of the various distance categories (72km, 44km, 22km, 12km) with approximately 7,000 starting the 72km race between the cities of Saint Etienne and Lyon.

    The race is a special one for a few reasons: a long history (back to the early 1950s), an early winter date (snow and ice are not uncommon), a midnight start (the fastest runners never see the sunrise), and huge participation (7,000 ultrarunners is damn huge).

    For the mens race Emmanuel Meyssat came in first with a time of 5:17:27. He was about a minute and a half ahead of Alexandre Mayer (5:18:59) and Benoit Charles-Mangeon (5:31:34) was third.

    In the womens race Juliette Benedicto (6:35:36) was first only about half a minute ahead of Sylvaine Cussot (6:36:13). Mélanie Rousset (6:52:13) was third.

    Full results for all distances are on Live Trail:

  2. SteelTownRunner

    The marathon is a useful race predictor and indication of talent leg speed (when figuring out 50K-48hr potential)… when a well trained for and executed marathon is raced. Otherwise, of course a 10000 or 5000 (or steeple) is helpful. I’d argue that any of these guys (Zach, Hayden, etc), with a decent block of training and a good race should all be sub 2:20 marathoners. Sage btw, has run a 2:16, and his 2:19 in Boston, both he and Nate Jenkins credit as an effort worth a few minutes faster.


    Interesting to see Ryan Hall’s name pop up in the X Terra Champs. Supposedly he’s not running much these days, and by his own admission, is maintaining his weight lifting routine (and not running many miles – perhaps not even 80mpw) leading up to his 7 marathon 7 continent challenge in Jan, where he’ll be racing Mike Wardian among others.

    1. Justin Mock

      Hey Steel,

      I added a few notes to last week’s TWIR about Ryan Hall, sounds pretty committed to his current lifestyle so I don’t think Wardian will have much trouble in that challenge next year.

    2. SageCanaday

      SteelTown: I said it on LetsRun and I’ll say it again here:

      Fast 5k/10km track times and road marathon times only correlate well with ROAD ultras (or flattish runnable ultras) usually.

      When you throw mountains and big climbing hills in the mix for ultra distances (and even mountain races) things can change. Sometimes a 2:25 marathoner with “mountain legs” is more dangerous than the 2:15 guy on a course with over 10k of climbing (or even a net uphill mountain race). The fastest roadie or track guy doesn’t always win…it’s not about raw Vo2max power it’s about variable running economy.

  3. Chad Bowen

    There was quick mention of Cole Watson winning the TNF 50k. Just wanted to point out that he won by 20+ minutes. This guy has been crushing it around southern Oregon. Had big wins at Ashland hillclimb and Lithia Loop marathon. If and when he chooses to up the distance I expect he’ll have an immediate impact similar to Cody Reed and Hayden Hawkes.

  4. Peter

    Hi Justin, interesting, I’ve always thought the opposite. The previous generation or two of ultra champions, at least on the men’s side, had marathon PRs in the 2:38 to 2:45 range (Jurek, Krupicka, and Meltzer to name a few). I get that these guys never seriously pursued road marathons and Krupicka’s 2:42 PR was at altitude, but it is a good comparison to all of the sub-2:20 marathoners that have entered the sport in the last five years (starting with Max King), and also with Krar and Sharman being the ~2:25 to 2:30 bridge between the Roes era and now.

    1. Justin Mock

      Hmm, maybe Steidl is the exception. Thinking specifically about TNF 50, I was thinking of Matt Carpenter too and believe he has a 2:19 PR, though that was several years earlier than his TNF 50 win, I think.

      1. Peter

        Yes, good point, Carpenter’s 1992 marathon 2:19 PR was 13 years before his 2005 TNF50 win at age 41(!). Amazing feat at a race now being contested at the top by runners in their mid-20’s.

  5. Bob Hearn

    Re Desert Solstice and 24-hour team slots, Adrian Stanciu has retired from ultras. This effectively puts Olaf Wasternack’s 140 miles in the 6th and final team slot. That’s not likely to survive Desert Solstice — it will likely take over 150 to make the team this year. (I believe the most it has taken in any previous year is 145.)

    But Wasternack is also running at Desert Solstice, and should be considered one of the top contenders.

    1. Bob Hearn

      Also Zach Bitter has pulled out of Desert Solstice (coming as it does two weeks after 100K worlds, and Javelina Jundred a few weeks before that).

    2. Bob Hearn

      Also the list of women’s qualifiers for the 24-hour team is not up to date. Megan Alvarado ran 140 at NJ One Day in November, putting her ahead of Rabb (6th place) and Dauwalter (7th).

      140 is the distance to beat for the women at Desert Solstice.

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