Yeah, it’s just about that time, and the fine folks at RunColo have asked me to dig through a mountain of names to come up with a few that might have a shot at either taking home the ore cart or going top 10.
Despite the fantastically long list of names, the competition - it has to be said - looks to be a little on the thin side, but a couple of names that aren't on the published start list should make things interesting - presuming of course they end up toeing the line. And regardless of what happens at the pointy end of the proceedings, it is absolutely superb, in my humble opinion, that such a large field is assembling to run 100 miles at 10,000’+ above sea level. It would appear that the sport of ultrarunning is alive, well and thriving.
This will be the last year that the Choublers take charge of the proceedings in America’s highest incorporated city, and quite honestly I am excited to see what some new energy for the race will bring next year. Leadville has as much name recognition - if not more - than any of the other storied races around the country, yet has consistently failed to attract the depth of field that a race such as Western States does each and every year. I could come up with more than a few reasons why this might be, but that would be a discussion for a different day. Suffice to say, the corporate offices at Life Time Fitness have a massive opportunity to take the Leadville name and turn it into the premier 100-mile footrace in the country.
What would it take? A cash purse would be a start; some tweaks to the course would be huge; a few more aid stations would be a godsend; incentives for competitive runners would be fantastic; and some content on the website in addition to a state-of-the art webcast would be the icing on the cake. Just some thoughts at this stage, and definitely something to discuss and digest in a future post, but for now, a little prognosticating.
So in the men’s field, we have four former winners (maybe more, but no past results on the Leadville website – sigh – to check from). Three of those former winners I would say have a shot at going top 10, and two have a shot at the title.
Tony Krupicka, Boulder – If he runs, as I'm sure he will, then Tony is the red-hot favorite. Last year he had some genuine competition in the form of Timmy Parr; this year I really don’t see any competition but the clock. 15:42:59 ......... it's a big ask, but doable for sure.
Duncan Callahan, Gunnison – Duncan won two years ago with a low-18 run and then finished third last year with a mid-18 run. I’m sure he’s looking to at least run in the 17s this year, and I think he’ll need to if he wants podium again.
Paul Dewitt, Palmer Lake – Paul has won Leadville twice (I think), but his days of competing seriously in ultras are seemingly over. But you never know.
Kirk Apt, Fruita – He won’t win, he won’t finish top 10, but this legend of Colorado 100-mile running will get yet another finish under his belt to add to yet another finish at Hardrock a few weeks ago.
Hal Koerner - I have it on good authority that Hal will be toeing the line on Saturday, and while the addition of his name adds a little spice to the proceedings, I don't think he's going to be challenging Tony for the Ore Cart. He's finished second twice, with a best of 18:30, so it looks like a hattrick of bridesmaid finishes could be in the cards, but he'll have to go faster than 18:30.
Zeke Tiernan, Carbondale – Finished third in ’08 in 18:30, but doesn’t run a whole bunch of ultras. If in shape, Zeke has to be considered a contender for top three.
Jeff Beuche, Boulder – Fifth last year, third in ’06 and some other solid ultra finishes to his name, but rarely that fast.
Andy Jones-Wilkins, Ketchum, ID – What to say about Andy other than he will finish top 10. If there is one guy in the sport who knows how to get it done, it’s Andy. He’s coming off a strong ninth-place run at States and a win at Vermont, so I’m backing him to go top five. We need to find Andy a ticket to Wasatch so he can take a crack at Joe Kulak’s Grand Slam record, right Andy? Joe ran 20:03 at Leadville in his record-setting year (’03), and according to Senor Jaime, Andy is 23 minutes off Kulak’s cumulative time after two races (Western States and Vermont). A mid-19 run for Andy, and it's off to the races at Wasatch.
Harry Harcrow, Larkspur - Harry had a nightmare run last year, and I was there to witness the carnage from Fish Hatchery home. However, he’s finished as high as second and top 10 three times. That said, he’s never run faster than 19:30, so he probably won’t go top 10 this year, especially on current form, but I hope he proves me wrong.
Marty Wacker, Grand Junction - Marty has been having a pretty good year after a solid 14th place run at Leadville last year, so he could turn a few heads and pull out a top-10 run.
Jason Koop, Colorado Springs - Don’t know much about Jason other than he finished 8th last year, a fact that quite clearly sets him up as a top-10 contender this year. He struggled at States this year and finished 51st.
Corey Hanson, Bellvue - Corey went the Leadman route last year, suffering through some nasty achilles issues. He’s in much better running shape this year, and he’s another guy who could turn a few heads if he runs wisely.
Bob Sweeney, Louisville – Bob is a road ultra guy and a fast one at that. He’s represented the US on the roads at the 100k distance multiple times. If he’s going to excel at a trail 100, then surely this course is the one. Definitely a top-three contender.
Rod Bien, Bend, OR – Rod has been running ultras for a long time. Word is that he didn’t have the run he wanted at Western States after a very solid third at Miwok. I’m imagining he’ll have the bit between his teeth. Top five.
Dylan Bowman, Aspen – He’s had a couple of good runs at local races this year, but remains a novice at the 100-mile distance. Could knock one out of the park, could DNF.
Tim Waggoner, Golden – I don’t know where to start with Tim, so I won’t. I just hope he has the race that many think he's capable of.
Neal Gorman, Washington DC – Second at Vermont, strong at Western States, and on his way to Grand Slam’dom. Got to think he’s in the running for a top-10 finish.
Pawel Oboz, Grand Junction – Speedster who took down Justin Mock’s Fruita 25-mile record this spring, but then DNF'd early at the Mt Evans Ascent with an injury. Not sure if he’s ever attempted a 100, but I am sure that if he’s trained for it he has as good a shot as anyone of going top 10. He’s a sub-1:10 half guy and sub 2:30 marathoner.
Jack Pilla, Charlotte, VT – At the tender age of 52, Pilla appears to be running as strong as ever. He was third at the Burning River USATF 100 just last month in 16:22 and has won Vermont in recent years. Could easily finish top five.
Jayson Swigart, Boulder - Road speedster, low 2:30 marathoner, dropped at Winfield last year, but Justin tells me that he's determined to get back to town this year.
Ryan Kircher, Denver - 14th at this year's Lake City 50, 2nd at the 2010 Jemez 50K.
Thomas Reiss, San Luis, Obispo, CA - Don't know much about him, but he was 9th at the 2008 Miwok 100K. Only 31st this year though. Won the 2008 Tahoe Rim Trail 50M in a then CR of 7:52.
Pete Stevenson, Ft. Collins – Pete is a good friend and long-time training partner. He had a fantastic run at Western States (18:58), a horrible run at Vermont, so he appears to be set-up nicely for a strong run at Leavdille (followed by a horrible run at Wasatch). He’s capable of a sub-20, and therefore top 10. I’m pulling for him.
Marco Peinado, Leadville – A Leadville local and all-around nice guy. Marco has good days and bad days. Hopefully he’ll have a good one on his home turf.
Jason Ostrom, Ft. Collins – Another training partner, Jason is returning to ultras after a pretty long lay-off. He’s got something of a history with DNF’ing, so says that if has a solid run at Leadville, he can retire in peace. Or something like that.
Brooks Williams, Colorado Springs – Another friend from the local ultra circuit. He ran 23 and change last year, but reckons he can shave hours from that.
PittBrownie, Colorado Springs/Nearest Bar – If he can lay off the PBRs until the Blvd, he may beat Fuller.
Brandon Fuller, Longmont – Laser focused. He’s a bitter rival of Jon Teisher (aka PittBrownie) and these guys have been talking Leadville smack for what seems like an eternity. Something will have to give, and if it’s not Brandon’s guts, he may just have a chance.
Kraig Koski, Longmont - Holds the FKT for Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route (1:49).
Matt Mahoney, Melbourne, Florida - Wait, isn't he on the TransRockies start list too? Hardcore.
I hate to give the women short shrift, but, well, I just don’t recognize too many names. That’s not to say we don’t have an interesting race at the pointy end.
Lynette Clemons, Leadville – Came out of nowhere to win last year. Got to think that if she’s fit, she’ll be looking to repeat. That said, her 20:58 was a little on the pedestrian side, so may have to go a little faster this year.
Jamie Donaldson, Littleton – Appears to prefer running in circles and in extreme heat, but still managed to fend off Darcy Africa for second last year.
Elizabeth Howard, San Antonio, TX – If she can handle the altitude, Elizabeth is my pick for the win. She won Rocky Raccoon (second overall) this year, beating Jamie D by over an hour in an electrifying 15:45. Would be great to see a sub-20 women’s finish (only two have done it) - maybe even something with an hour of the legendary Ann Trason (18:02).
Samantha Sigle, Boulder – Won Cascade Crest 100 last year, and has some other good ultra finishes to her name. Definitely in contention for a top-three berth.
Elinor Fish, Basalt – Trailrunner editor and solid trail racer. Top five.
Megan Morrissey, Eagle – In the same mold as Elinor. Should run well. Top five.
Kelly Cronin, Yosemite, CA – Fifth last year.
Monica Scholz, Jerseyville, CANADA – Monica appears to be on a mad 100-mile quest this year. She has already finished 13 100-milers in the last eight months, so will undoubtedly finish at Leadville, and probably in the top five.
Catharine Speights, Fort Collins, CO – This one is more of a shout-out than anything else, and Cat insists that she’s in it just to finish, but I say that she’s in far better (faster) shape than she claims. Pulling for a top 10 for Cat – solid all day/night.
What say you?