Weekend Wrap at Inside Trail: Mackey 3-Peats and Slickrock Circus

There was a good assortment of ultra races over the weekend.  From the soft, rolling hills in the Bay Area of California, to undulating and abruptly jagged desert trails in Moab, Utah, to ankle crushing rock-lined, steep descents of Virginia, there was variety in both the race terrain and the weather accompanying the events.  The weather played the biggest role at the Slickrock 100 (50 mile and 50k), where the recent heavy rains washed out dirt roads and created quicksand circumstances that actually swallowed the race director’s 4×4 vehicle up to the windows.  Both the 100 mile and 50 mile courses were changed substantially at the last minute to avoid the dangerous areas.  More on that in a bit.

Dave Mackey's well deserved bib number

First, let’s start with the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 Mile.  Dave Mackey made it three years in a row with his win in 6:34 (Hi, Ultra Runner Of the Year, meet Mr. Mackey).  He now owns 3 of the fastest 5 times ever run in this 29 year old event.  In a repeat of their last race, Chris Calzetta and Jean Pommier had a sprint to the finish with Calzetta (7:02:54) reaching the line one second in front of the speedy 47 year old Pommier (they tied for 1st at the Skyline 50k in August!).   For the women, Roxanne Woodhouse lead all day and crossed the line first in 8:00.  Jennifer Benna methodically picked off people all day, moving up to 2nd where she finished in 8:09.  Bree Lambert held on for 3rd in 8:26.

The transfer of race management to NorCal Ultras was seamless.  Lots of good feedback from participants commenting on the well-marked course, post race food, and terrific weather, albeit a bit chilly at the start.

6pm start of the 2011 Grindstone 100. Photo: Scott Livingston

The Grindstone 100 saw Neal Gorman take the lead early and run alone at the front for 93 miles, finishing in 19:41 (second fastest time on this course).  David Ruttum and Frank Gonzalez battled all day with David edging away in the final hours to take 2nd in 20:28 and Frank coming in just 9 minutes later in 20:36.  Debbie Livingston took the ladies’ win in 24:58, nearly two hours slower than last year’s winning time and course record but she got it done with style and a win is a win.  Kerry Owens came in second with a 28:43 finishing time and Zsuzsanna Carlson (Interesting use of the “Z”s?) nabbed 3rd in 29:31.

Though the finish times suggest the women’s race was without excitement, Debbie had a race on her hands and didn’t take the lead until the second half.  Her husband, Scott Livingston, said, “Debbie overcame a 25 minute deficit to Katherine Dowson at the 51 mile mark (turnaround), by coming on strong in the second half. Unfortunately Dowson succumbed to the course and dropped at the Dowells Draft Aid Station at mile 66.”  Scott also points out that many of the participants complained of quad pain.  With the climbs and descents of this monster mixed in with warmer temps, I’m can imagine the pain!

Both of the previous races are managed and run like a fine engine, everything in sync and predictable.  Unfortunately, for the participants, the Slickrock 100 had some backfires and sputtering and then just sort of died.  Weather was uncooperative, causing the race director (in consultation with Search And Rescue) to reroute the 100 mile and 50 mile course, which lead to all sorts of problems from leader (and eventual winner) Ben Hian running off course for 6 miles early in the race to other front runners getting lost after running 90 miles and dropping in the middle of the night due to long periods without food and lack of warm clothing.  I made the choice to switch to the “50k” (which ended up being 65k; the real course was long at 35.5 miles and I was directed by an aid station person to continue on for “4-5 miles” past the correct turn around) and officially came in second just 4 minutes behind the winner, but technically I ran 5 miles further than he did, so…  I’m just happy I switched races and wasn’t out on a wild goose chase “fun run” course that could have been anywhere from 90 to 105 miles, nobody knows for sure and nobody ran the same course.  It can be fun having some uncertainty in a race but not with 100 milers in the cold rainy weather.

The best info I’ve received has the top four in the 100 mile as:

  1. Ben Hian
  2. Rhonda Claridge
  3. Chris Boyack
  4. Leila DeGrave

There will likely be some fallout from this event.  Brendan T. was there to crew and support a runner and wrote, “Yeah it’s an inaugural event and he was dealt a bad hand with the weather — but zero communication to racers and volunteers about what the hell was going on?? Negligent and dangerous.  I don’t think the SR100 was received too well and wil be surprised if Grand County issues him another event permit in the near future.”

In a comment on my personal running blog (footfeathers.com) Jeremy Humphrey wrote,

Glen Redpath and I led by 30 mins to 1 hour for 80+ miles (after a 6 mile detour by Ben Hian). They made the course up as we went, thus rerouting us back toward the start/finish for another quick loop to add distance. Glen and I hit the last aid before the s/f and was instructed by aid staff on how to proceed. We proceeded as such and got incredibly lost coming to a stop 9+ miles off route and staring into a 1000′ canyon. Several hours without food and inadequate clothing forced the drop. Managed 91+ miles. My first DNF.

I can sympathize with the RD, Aaron.  It’s a very difficult job to begin with but all of the problems could have been avoided with better planning.  I have many thoughts and opinions on this specific event and poorly managed events in general but I would be grateful to hear from readers about their past experiences with mismanaged events and thoughts on this race.

Slickrock 100 Race Preview

From "course area photos" on http://www.runmoab.com

The growth of ultrarunning means so many things.  One of the benefits is the addition of new race events.  The Slickrock 100 kicks off its first year this Saturday at 7AM mountain standard time.  It will offer three race distances of 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile.  Aaron and Jenna Kissler have done a fine job so far with a solid event website, meaningful updates, and challenging course designs.  For their efforts, the race is nearly sold out at all distances.  Glancing at the elevation profile at 7,800 ft climb for the 100 miler, one may think this is an easy course.  Anyone who’s run the slickrock, sandy, exposed trails around Arches National Park near Moab, UT knows better.  This will be a challenging run, no doubt.  The course rolls, totally exposed to the elements, through red rock, over mesas, and by natural rock formations that inspired names such as, Coffin Rock, Crystal Geyser, Gemini Bridges, Poison Spider, Dead Horse, and the charming Hells Roaring.

Somewhat rare for a first year event is the amount and quality of awards.  Relax, there’s no big prize money, so Salomon won’t be sending over their hit-men and women but there are some big guns traveling from both sides of the US and from many places in between.  Awards for the 100 mile event include (from the website): “1st Place Men’s, Women’s, and Masters receive pair of Salomon shoes, free entry into next year’s race, free entry into Mohican 100 M and more.  All finishers receive shirt, 100M belt buckle and more.”  The 50 mile and 50k have similar awards – even finisher buckles for the 50 mile.

Some of the participants to watch for in the 100 mile race include:

Women:

Rhonda Claridge – Ophir, CO.  Rhonda’s coming off an impressive 2nd place finish at Leadville as well as a 2nd place at the Bighorn 100 earlier this year.  She’s consistent and tough and, as shown at the very runnable Leadville, should do well on this seemingly runnable course at Slickrock.

Leila DeGrave – Evergreen, CO.  Leila also had an impressive run at Leadville, going sub 24 hours for 6th place and is a regular on the podium at shorter events like her solid Collegiate Peaks 50mi this year where she ran 8:25 for 2nd.

Men:

Ben Hian – Carlsbad, CA.  Ben has been around the ultra scene since 1992.  After an eight year leave of absence, he returned in 2008 and picked up right where he left off, which means fast and competitive.  He won the San Diego 100 in 2009 but dropped from the same race in June this year.  Earlier in the year he raced to the win at Rocky Road 100 in 16:42.  He’s a little erratic but when he’s on, he’s on.

Glen Redpath – New York, NY.  When I see or hear Glen’s name, I think “consistently fast”.  Glen seems methodical in his racing.  When he shows up, it matters.  Just looking at the first six months of this year is illustrative of what I mean.  He ran 14:47 at Ulmstead 100 (ran 14:27 there last year) for 3rd and, to show his strength in diversity, he spun a 16:57 at Western States.  He has solid 100 mile experience and no terrain or elevation seems to affect him.  I have no idea why I don’t have him picked to win.  It will be a great race.

Ryan Burch – Fort Collins, CO.  I’m not certain that Ryan is running.  I’ve seen his name on one list but not another.  If he does, he should run well coming off his breakout 100 at Leadville.

Corey Hanson – Bellvue, CO.  Corey’s had a big year with solid runs that indicate a good shot at a podium finish here.

Scott Dickey – SLC, UT.  Scott is a wild card.  He has speed (3:36 at Red Rock 50k this year) but his longest race is just one 100k, which he won.  100 miles is a different world, so we’ll see whether he can transfer his light experience and endure the new distance.

After jinxing myself for Bear, I’ll leave myself off any predictions.  I can say that I train every day on trails and environment exactly like Slickrock’s course (only I do it in 90-100 degrees) and I have a good “track” record for desert-style running.  The key will be whether my body shows any wear from the heavy racing this summer.  I feel good and ready but 100 miles has a way of exposing any weaknesses and then grinding you into the ground with steel-spiked shoes.

Comments welcome!  Please share your thoughts and predictions.