The North Face Endurance Challenge, San Francisco, 50-mile Championships Preview (Men)

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50

My head hurts… it’s December, what happened to the ‘off-season’. Not only do we no longer have an off-season but The North Face have arguably assembled one of the most competitive fields in the 2013 season. Way back in April I was writing about the ‘race of the year’. Of course, it was Transvulcania La Palma. This was followed by another ‘race of the year’, Western States. I then followed this with another race of the year, Zegama and so on… you get the picture! Ultra running and mountain running is booming and as such, we are all seeing the benefits, not only from a watching and a following perspective but also from a racer perspective. It is now possible to have several peaks in one year and TNF may very well have hit on a winning formula with such a competitive race in December.  It’s late enough in the season to have recovered from recent previous efforts, such as UROC or Run Rabbit Run and equally far enough away from ‘key’ races in 2014 to allow for adequate RnR.

Okay, deep breath… here we go.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras returns after winning the race in 2012. His time of 5:33 in lousy conditions confirmed his ability if any was needed. Having said that, Miguel is used to rough-n-tough weather and as such, may very well have excelled in the conditions over his US contemporaries. Also the 2012 race did have issues over course marking which did lead to several runners going astray. I take nothing away from Miguel, he is a class act and although 2013 has been a difficult season for him, his second place at TNFUTMB proves that he is back. He followed this with a quality performance at Cavalls del Vent so without doubt he is a contender for the win. However, this field is stacked.

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones is back racing and embracing the trails after a quiet start to 2013 and some escape in the mountains. In addition, Dakota became an ‘RD’ in 2013 which primarily caused him to miss TNFUTMB and refocus on UROC. That refocus nearly worked and certainly with 5-miles to go at UROC he looked as though he had the race in the bag. However, Rob Krar pulled something out of the bag and relegated Dakota to second that day. In fine form, Dakota departed for Japan to repeat his 2012 win at Hasetsune Cup, however, disaster struck and he had a tough day and a dnf. Without doubt, Dakota will be recovered and focused on winning at San Francisco. He will be looking for a repeat performance similar to San Juan Solstice 50m when he broke Matt Carpentar’s record.

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday will bring his speed to this race and along with Cameron Clayton and maybe, Max King. They will be out at the front pushing the pace. Sage has had a mixed 2013 in the sense that he has occasionally pushed and failed below his own demanding standards. His great runs at Tarawera, Transvulcania La Palma and Lake Sonoma may well fall into insignificance in Sage’s own mind as I feel he may well dwell on his performances at Sierre-Zinal and UROC. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big Sage fan. He has all the ability to go out and win San Fran but I just wonder what effect recent performances will have on his confidence. In real terms, caution may well prove a huge bonus allowing him to hold back early on and keep his powder dry for the final 30% were he can use all that natural speed and ability. Unfortunately Sage has Flu – will not start

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will be feeling somewhat inspired and motivated coming into San Fran after his 3rd place at UROC behind Rob Krar and Dakota Jones. Cameron was 3rd at this race last year and although he has had a full season, you can’t rule him out from pulling something special out of the bag for that $10,000 prize. His 2013 season has been fulfilled with top placing’s at Transvulcania and Lake Sonoma, however, he has had a few below par performances which I think ultimately were more due to a niggling foot and other health issues. All looks good now though.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar, wow, what can we say about Rob that hasn’t already been said. Arguably, one of ‘THE’ ultra runners of the year after his rim-to-rim exploits, Western States run (his first 100) and then his incredible win at UROC. He raced just the other weekend at JFK50 and dropped leaving question marks in his own mind. However, the ‘drop’ may very well have just saved his legs and without doubt, don’t be surprised if he is on top of the podium at the end of the weekends festivities.

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson repeated his victory at Western States, always the sign of a true champion when you can go back to a race and do it again…! He raced at Tarawera and made the podium, he just missed the podium at Transvulcania and dug real deep at TNFUTMB. Surprisingly after such a tough TNFUTMB he then raced Run Rabbit Run on what must have been a tired body. He certainly has an autopilot but I can’t help but think this race will be all about fulfilling sponsorship requirements and showing face. Having said that, showing face will probably still result in a top-10 and should he get his race face on, don’t be surprised if Timmy gets a podium place.

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes has had ‘one of those years’ that he will be keen to get over! I was with Ryan in Gran Canaria in March, he was all fired up for an exciting season ahead and then injury hit forcing him to miss Western States. Healed, Ryan returned to Leadville in the hope of repeating his 2011 victory, however, injury reappeared. He has tackled some personal projects in South Africa and recently raced in Patagonia. Ryan will be looking to finish 2013 on a high and may just well go under the radar after a quiet year.

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King has not had a repeat of his 2012 season. Winner of the 2012 JFK and UROC, Max was an unstoppable rollercoaster and along with sage Canaday was just on fire. In 2013 he had planned to mix things up and race at different distances and represent the USA in multiple disciplines, it didn’t go to plan and he has been plagued with an ankle problem. If he is recovered and inform, Max will be up at the helm with Cameron and Sage dropping fast minute miles an looking to be the last man standing at the end.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols placed 5th last year and will come to this race confident after a great 2013 season racing in the Skyrunning calendar. In particular, he has plenty of speed uphill and has improved his down hill speed. 2013 may well just be the year that he moves a couple of places higher on the podium.

Francois D'Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene was last years 2nd place, approximately 13-mins behind his Salomon teammate, Miguel Heras. Francois has raced less in 2013 due to the pressures of owning a vineyard, however, when he has raced, he has been in top form. His was 2nd at Ice-Trail Tarentaise behind Kilian Jornet, he was joint winner at Mont-Blanc Marathon 80k Ultra with Michel Lanne and his recent dominance at the super tough Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale de Fous) means that his presence at San Fran surely means he is a podium contender. *Update “Finally my season ends sooner than expected …since my fall in Death Valley tuesday with a shock in the ribs I hope but I have finally abdicate … So I would support the team tomorrow.”

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne is another consistent performer who may well do very well at this race. He had a great run with teammate Francois D’Haene at Mont-Blanc but then picked up an injury. In addition, he has also become a dad! December may well prove to be a great time of year; his life will have settled a little, he will be over his injury and without doubt he will be excited to race in the US.

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

My final hot tip for a podium place goes to Dylan Bowman. Dylan had a great Western States and turned up at TNFUTMB in the form of his life but had a freak training accident, which caused him to miss the race. He has a new coach and he is going to be looking to release some of that UTMB frustration.

So who else… it seems crazy that I am not writing about the names below in more depth. But I have previewed above who I think may well take out the top-3 slots

  • Mike Wolfe – was 11th last year and set an incredible FKT this year with Hal he could win this race!.
  • Adam Campbell – 4th last year and I may regret not adding him above?
  • Mike Foote – great 2013 UTMB but been quiet recently.
  • Hal Koerner – Think he will be on TNF duty.
  • Karl Meltzer – Karl says he has no chance in such a fast and ‘short’ field. If it were a 100-miles he would be listed above.
  • Matt Flaherty – another who should maybe be above but he was 2nd at JFK just a week ago, maybe a little tired?.
  • Mike Wardian – anything can happen…. Mike is an unpredictable phenomenon.
  • David Riddle – may or may not race with injury?
  • Gary Gellin – 9th last year.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – 5th at UROC and I may regret not adding him above too.
  • Rickey Gates – mixed 2013 but always a contender.
  • Jorge Maravilla – top 20 in 2012.
  • Martin Gaffuri  – great season on the Skyrunning calendar.
  • And finally, Greg Vollet who continues to amaze and surprise every time he races.

So, there you have it. A super stacked crazy race to end the year, the top-3 are any bodies guess. I have tried to provide a little insight but just don’t be surprised if we see a completely unexpected performance and a surprise win.

Ladies preview HERE.

Ultra Race of Champions – UROC – Race Preview 2013

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All good things must come to an end and it is no different for the Skyrunner Ultra World Series. The five series long championship is four races down with just one to go. An incredible start on the island of La Palma with Transvulcania La Palma and victories for Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg was followed with the tough and challenging 100-mile, Ronda dels Cims seeing Julien Chorier and Francesca Canepa shine. Ice Trail Tarentaise in Val D’Isère tested all with altitude, snow and ice and once again saw the ever present and dominant duo of Kilian and Emelie take convincing victories. Speedgoat 50k in Utah saw and impressive course record by Sage Canaday and a ladies victory by Steph Howe.

So with one race left. It’s all to fight for. Arguably one of the most impressive fields of 2013 will line up in Vail, Colorado for the 100-km, Ultra Race of Champions (UROC). The fifth and final event will not only see two champions from the race but also two Skyrunner Ultra World Series champions crowned (three events for five award points).

Let’s be clear, UROC is not a 100-km world championship race it is merely the final race in the Skyrunning ‘ULTRA’ world series and is such will be a decisive race in both the men’s and ladies overall classification.

UROC sees the race as a championship event for the sport of ultra distance running.  This, I believe is a title they have imposed on themselves, for sure, they have a great line up and without doubt, the concept of an ultra race of champions rings true! The objective is to bring together annually the year’s best ultra runners in the first ever ‘formal’ ultra running championship event, but at the same time has the appeal of being open to one and all. It’s an admiral claim and one that ambassadors of the sport would seem at least in principal, to agree with.

“There is a growing demand for a trail ultra running event that celebrates and encourages as many top level runners as possible to come together on the same trail, on the same day, to compete in a true championship style race. In UROC, I think we finally have an event with a desire and a commitment to meet this demand. I can’t wait to toe the line in September with the field of elite runners this race draws.”Geoff Roes, UROC 2011 Champions, UROC Elite Advisory Council Member, Two Time Ultra Runner of the Year.

“UROC is an amazing opportunity for the best in the ultra running sport to test themselves on a course that favors no one. May the best all around runner win.”Max King 

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Of course, as ultra sport progresses, the desire for prize money progresses and UROC is do different. It has a very healthy set of cash prices available. The cash reward system is something that Skyrunning have had in place for some time and not only are prices award by the ISF at every Skyrunning race (VK, Sky and Ultra) they also award cash prices for the respective world champions, in each Skyrunning category.

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Cash Purse: (awarded by UROC)

Champions Male/Female:    $5000.00

Runner Up Male/Female:    $2000.00

Third Place Male/Female:    $1500.00

Fourth Place Male/Female:  $1000.00

Fifth Place Male/Female:     $500.00

Other Race Premiums will include $250 King/Queen of the Mountain, $250 First Male/Female to Copper MT Ski Area and $250 for the Winners of the Corporate Cup Challenge 

The course in detail (please note, the 2013 route is a ‘new’ route)

Overall Distance:  100K

Course Type:  Point-to-Point

Course details:

  • Section One (Mile 0 to Mile 13): Start in Breckenridge- Elevation 9600 feet.  The race travels toward Peak 8 to an elevation of 11,000 feet.
  • Section Two (Mile 13 to Mile 27):  Breckenridge to Frisco- Elevation 9100 feet.  The race travels over Ten-Mile range at an elevation of 12,408 feet on the Colorado trail between Peaks 5 & 6.
  • Section Three (Mile 27 to Mile 40): Frisco to Copper Mountain Ski Area- Elevation 9712 feet.  The race travels over Vail Pass at an elevation of 10,622 feet.
  • Section Four (Mile 40 to Mile 45):  Copper Mountain to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain at 9170 feet to Minturn, CO at an elevation of 7,861 feet.
  • Section Five (Mile 45 to Mile 51):  Minturn to Vail Mountain- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Minturn to Vail Mountain on the Game Creek Trail.
  • Section Six (Mile 51 to Mile 62):  Vail Mountain to Vail Village- Elevation 10,981 feet.  The race travels from Vail Mountain to Vail Village at an elevation of 8150 feet.

Estimated Total Vertical Gain:  13,245 feet

Elevation loss:   12,379  feet

Maximum altitude: 12,408 feet or 3782 meters at the Ten Mile Pass between Peak 5 and Peak 6

Percent of paved road: 19%

Technical Features: The Ultra Race of Champions crosses 4 passes or peaks above 12,140 feet or 3700 meters.

Aid Stations: 9

Time Limit: 19 hours 30 minutes

Interactive Route Maphttp://www.mapmyrun.com/us/breckenridge-co/uroc-vail-2013-route-112588745

Content taken from UROC website ©

THE 2013 RACE

Stacked! It’s a word we have used multiple times in 2013 but if ever a race was stacked, it’s the 2013 edition of UROC. In the men’s race I have thirty-two names of note! Yes, thirty-two.

  • Max King
  • Dave Mackey
  • Sage Canaday
  • Anton Krupicka (not racing due to injury)
  • Dakota Jones
  • Cameron Clayton
  • Mick Donges
  • Rickey Gates
  • Pablo Crado Toca
  • Gustavo Reyes
  • Mike Wardian
  • Luke Nelson
  • Matt Flaherty
  • Trent Briney
  • Dylan Bowman
  • Troy Howard
  • Duncan Callahan
  • Ty Draney
  • Karl Meltzer (not racing)
  • Adam Campbell (not racing)
  • Paul Terranova
  • Josh Arthur
  • Ryan Burch
  • Gary Gellin
  • Michael Versteeg
  • Justin Ricks
  • Brian Tinder
  • James Walsh
  • Mike Wolfe
  • Joe Grant (possibility of not racing tbc)
  • Martin Gafurri
  • Rob Krar
  • Kilian Jornet

For the ladies race it is an equally impressive field with fifteen names that stand out and shine,

  • Tina Lewis (not racing)
  • Francesca Canepa
  • Kristina Folcik
  • Shannon Price
  • Jen Benna
  • Ashley Arnold
  • Helen Cospolitch
  • Michele Yates
  • Devon Yanko
  • Darcy Africa
  • Tracy Hoeg
  • Anita Ortiz
  • Fernanda Maciel
  • Steph Howe
  • Emelie Forsberg
  • Kerrie Bruxvoort

It would be quite possible to look at the lists above and say, take a pick. Anyone of the listed runners on the right day could come away with victory.

As with all previews, I have to put my neck on the line and look at the likely contenders.

Males

Kilian Jornet has gone from strength to strength and just never really seems to have a bad day. His list of results and achievements in 2013 is second to none. Not only is he performing at the highest-level at all three disciplines in the Skyrunning calendar (VK, Sky and Ultra) but he is also setting record in his ‘Summits’ project. In actual fact, as I write this he is in Russia for an attempt at Mt Elbrus. So, how will Kilian perform at UROC? He will be at the front, pushing and without doubt will be highly competitive. Can he win? Of course, it’s Kilian. However, the lack of really high mountains, technical terrain and 19% of road will not play to the Catalans abilities.

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday ©iancorless.com

If ever a course was made for Sage Canaday, this course is probably it. The mixture of trail, road and climbing ticks all the right boxes and we all know after a disappointing performance at Sierre-Zinal, Sage took some rest and has been extremely focused on performing in Vail. Add to this his win and course record at Speedgoat 50k and a top placing at Transvulcania; Sage is also in a great place for the overall Skyrunning World Series title.

Previous winner of UROC, Max King will be looking to repeat his 2012 performance. A world mountain running champion and 2:15 ‘ish’ marathon runner, Max, like Sage has the ability to win once again. However, he is mixed things up in 2013 and he is short on racing long. UROC at 100-km may just be a little too long?

Rob Krar until recently was relatively unknown, however his FKT at the rim-to -rim-to rim rectified that. Having secured a place at Western States at a previous race he went to his first 100-miler with respect. At the finish, he had placed top three and in doing so is now without doubt a one-to-watch. For sure, the 100-km distance will suit all aspects of Krar’s running abilities and he won’t mind 19% of road too… his background is well established in road running.

Dakota Jones recently pulled out of TNFUTMB and has been pretty quiet in 2013. However, if Dakota is turning up, you can guarantee he is running to win. Nobody would question that Dakota may very well be standing on top of the podium come the 28th.

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will love the UROC course and as per usual he will be fired up and ready to race. He loves to push hard from the start and hold on. If he does this it at UROC, he will have no shortage of followers. However, the secret is to keep at the front! Cameron’s recent races have been a little mixed and he was nursing a foot problem. He came through Matterhorn Ultraks well and that must bode well for UROC.

Rickey Gates has already had a full season of racing and travelling. He is always a consistent top ten performer and as he has shown in Europe this year, he has had great results in France and Italy on some tough and technical European mountains.

Matt Flaherty has performed real well over 50m with a win at American River 50, fourth at Ice Age Trail and second at Cayuga Trail in June. He has been relatively quiet since then so maybe UROC is his ‘A’ race?

Dylan Bowman had a great Western States finishing just behind Ian Sharman; however, just recently he had to pull out of TNFUTMB with injury. The question mark for Dylan will be if he has the form after some time off.

Finally, Mike Wolfe. Wolfepaw is back, his FKT on the John Muir Trail with Hal Koerner was a great run. But turning up at TNFUTMB with all that running and time in his legs was just too much and he dropped relatively early on. With some RnR post Chamonix; with luck Mike will be fit and firing on all cylinders in Colorado.

I could go on… just look at the list above. So many names to choose from and so many could be in this preview, Mike Wardian for one has been a podium finisher at UROC before, don’t rule him out.

Ladies

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg has been dominant in 2013. Her performances and her ability over multiple distances and terrain are second to none. However, UROC will be her first 100km race, this will provide a new challenge for Emelie. Like Kilian, this course may well prove to be lacking altitude and technicality but Emelie does like to run fast, just as she proved at San Francisco last December.

Devon Yanko (Crosby-Helms) has had a quiet 2013, her only significant result was second at Chuckanut 50k. She has started a bakery and apparently that is the priority. But I am sure she will be coming to UROC with a win in mind. To be honest, Devon may well pull it off. She is a great marathon runner and the 100km distance suits her (4th at Comrades in 2012).  The road section will allow her to push and that may very well be all she needs to make a decisive move. Her list of results is impressive, very impressive.

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa has had quite a 2013. With a win at Ronda dels Cims, top placing at Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently a return win at the super tough, 330km, Tor des Geants. UROC for sure will be too fast and not hard enough for Francesca; she also may very well be just a little tired!

Helen Cospolich is a three times finisher at TNFUTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th so she packs endurance punch. She recently returned to Mont Blanc but had to drop through illness. She has recently been training on the UROC course and has now covered the whole route; without doubt, Helen will be looking to put TNFUTMB behind her with a podium in Vail. In 2013 she already has had a string of top placing’s, second at Desert Rats, third at Miwok 60km, second at Silver Rush 50m and finally third at Power of Four 50km in early August.

Darcy Africa once again has had a string of top three places in 2013. At Telluride she placed second, second at Squaw Peak 50, third at Coyote Cohorts Backbone 68m but importantly she has won at Hardrock 100 (again) and Miwok 60km. Darcy has a little of everything and on her day could win at UROC.

Steph Howe has had two great results in 2013, victories at Speedgoat 50k and Gorge Waterfalls 50k. The big question mark comes if she can take that speed to double the distance?

Kristina Folcik will be smiling all the way around UROC that is for sure. She had a great race at Cayuga and will hope to bring that winning form to this race. She says on her blog (dangergirldh.com) that she is, ‘an ordinary girl living a not so ordinary life’.

Ashley Arnold placed 16th at Leadville 100 (won the ladies race) recently and 15th at White River 50m; so, one would think that she currently has the form to contend the podium. Ashley is certainly more consistent over the 50k and 50m distance so the 100km may just be a stretch for her considering the speed that this race will be run. Leadville is a very different race to UROC.

Kerrie Bruxvoort placed 1st at Run Rabbit Run 50 on Sept 13th so she must come to UROC a little tired and jaded. Earlier this year she placed 16th at Western States so that contrast between the two races is high. Despite this contrast, Kerrie has won Quad Rock 50 and Zane Grey this year, so, the 50m distance is her forte, can she stretch out her performance for those other twelve miles.

Tracy Hoeg has had a quiet 2013 but in 2012 she had repeated success over 50km and 50m with a fourth, two third places, a second place and a win. As far as I know, her results beyond 50-miles are sparse, so Tracy comes to UROC a relative potential dark horse.

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel has been racing a lot in 2013 but she has been plagued with a few niggles. At the CCC she was having a great race but an old injury flared up causing her to drop. Certainly longer races suit her but this may just not be technical enough.

Finally, Anita Ortiz, Speedgoat winner from 2008 will join UROC. She has quite a pedigree but it is almost impossible to say what her current form is like. She has been a US Mountain Running Champion several times, won Western States and she has also won Pikes Peak, so, she has a great mix of endurance, speed and altitude adaptation; she may be a surprise on the day!

One thing is for sure, UROC will certainly be an exciting race and great way to end the Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

Links:

UROC website HERE

Skyrunning HERE