Lake Sonoma 50 Miler

by admin on April 11, 2014

By John Medinger

Several years ago when Lisa and I moved from the Bay Area up to Sonoma County’s wine country, several of our running pals started pressing us to organize a local ultra. At this point I had previously been Race Director of the Miwok 100K, was still directing the Quad Dipsea, and had been on the Western States Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years.

Greg Carter and I started measuring the various trails at Lake Sonoma with this in mind. There were a couple of decent staging areas, though they both lacked any facilities. We figured out a route that was almost exactly 25 miles and so laid out nicely for an out-and-back 50 miler. The problem we couldn’t get past was one rugged 12-mile stretch of trail with no vehicular access. I just couldn’t in good conscience ask runners to go that far at the end of 50 miles in potentially hot weather without aid.

We were a bit flummoxed until another long-time ultra veteran, Phil Penna, suggested bringing in aid by boat. Even boat access is limited, but we found a boat-in campsite that was only about 1/4 mile detour off the main trail. There might possibly be another race somewhere that boats in an aid station, but this was certainly a new concept to me! And so, in 2008, a race was born.

We started out modestly, holding the number of entrants to 100 that first year. Our weather fears were realized as a spring heat wave hit and temperatures climbed into the low 90s, about 20 degrees warmer than normal. Even in California, nobody is really prepared for racing in that kind of heat in April.

Despite the tough conditions, runners seemed to enjoy the route, which is almost all single-track and persistently hilly. Word of mouth is the best source of advertising, and the word was out.

In 2012, Lake Sonoma became part of the Montrail Ultra Cup series and we switched the first 2.4 miles to a backcountry road so we could take more runners. (The previous route was single track after about 100 yards of fire road, which created a bit of a bottleneck even with only 150 runners.)

Prior to being part of the Ultra Cup, Lake Sonoma had attracted several elite athletes each year, but now it was becoming the place to be. Top runners like to compete, and once a critical mass was reached, it seemed like everyone wanted to run. The course, with more than 10,000 feet of climbing, is fairly difficult but also pretty runnable with only three significant climbs and very little technical trail. “It’s just about the right amount of hard,” Dave Mackey said after last year’s race.

Combined with a pre-race dinner, a day-after wine tasting and the opportunity for a few days in wine country in the spring, the race has evolved into a bit of a destination event.

The race at the front has astounding depth and will possibly be even more intense this year. On the men’s side, defending champion Sage Canaday will be tested by the likes of 2013 Ultra Runner of the Year Rob Krar, two-time Western States champ Timothy Olson, Chuckanut winner Max King, JFK 50 champ Zach Miller, Way Too Cool winner Chris Vargo, Grand Slam record holder Ian Sharman, Bandera 100K winner Jorge Maravilla, veteran aces like Nick Clark, Jason Schlarb, Galen Burrell, Gary Gellin, Ian Torrence, and Joe Uhan, and relative newcomers like Alex Varner, David Laney, Ryan Ghelfi, Dan Kraft, Jacob Rydman and Mario Mendoza.

The women’s field is equally impressive with defending champion Cassie Scallon, 2013 Ultra Runner of the Year Michele Yates, 2012 winner Joelle Vaught, UTMB winner Rory Bosio, JFK 50 winner Emily Harrison, and Speedgoat winner Stephanie Howe. Relative newcomers like Jodee Adams-Moore, Kaci Lickteig, and Alicia Shay have big speed and might push their way to the front. Tina Lewis, Angela Shartel, Sally McRae, Jen Pfeifer, Sandi Nypaver and Jenny Capel are all used to winning races and could well challenge too.

Runners in the middle and back of the pack get to see the leaders on the out-and-back course and enjoy watching the battle unfold. “It’s really amazing to see just how fast the leaders are going,” said Scott Laberge, “though it’s a bit depressing to have run 20 miles pretty well and find myself 10 miles behind.”


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Chuckanut 50k – Third Time is a Charm

by Max on March 18, 2014

This past weekend was the conclusion to three years of trying for a successful race at Chuckanut 50k. I don’t know what it was about this race but it’s been one that I know I’d never really run my best at but also one that I knew I could run a CR on as well. My reasons for running it were good old-fashioned redemption this year and that was it, plain and simple. Would the third time’s a charm saying be true this time?
It may have been that first year of running it in 2012, going head to head with Sage up until we both missed an unmarked turn with about 8 miles to go took me out of it. We were both on CR pace that year and while we still had a ways to go, it was looking good that one of us would take it. I think that experience right there is what sealed it for me and I would continue to come back until I had both the win and CR.

2012 Conditions. Brrrr.

So when I entered both Way Too Cool and Chuckanut 50k last year and looking at the entrants list figured I didn’t have much to worry about, you can imagine how much I was kicking myself after racing side by side with David Laney and getting outkicked by him in the final 2 miles. That stung a bit but it was my own fault for A) running a fast 50k the week before and thinking I could actually get away with it and B) totally underestimating what David could do in a 50k trail race. That was my own ego getting the best of me but it made for a great race down to the wire and a lot of fun to go at it for that long in an ultra. That doesn’t happen often.
Now in my advanced age I told myself this year I should be a little smarter. I had to come back to take care of some unfinished business. A two month break during December and January this year was much needed but left me a little unsure if I had it in me to run 31 miles fast. I knew I was in decent shape however so didn’t worry too much. That, combined with the lack of a 50k 7 days prior, good trail conditions, and smarter racing on my part by not letting it come down to the flat interurban trail set me up to finally put to bed what I knew I could do at Chuckanut 50k last weekend.

Always a fast start

The race went out about the same as it always does, hovering about 5:40-5:50 pace for the first 6 miles on the interurban trail. Quick but relaxed. A group of 4 of us led the field where we would exit the interurban and start on the singletrack loops of Chuckanut Mtn.

Cruising the interurban

The first climb would bring the front down to Laney and me as we ground our way up Cleator Rd. Still unsure of how I was going to feel later I was reluctant to push it here so let Laney come up beside about half way up to finish the climb together. We then enter the most technical 3 miles of the course on the Chuckanut Ridge trail. A winding, up/down, rooty, rocky section that has you high stepping and grabbing trees to stay upright. This is the fun section. I sat behind Laney at this point but after some tentative steps I decided that this was probably the best time to make a move and try to get a bit of a gap. I just didn’t realize this gap would remain largely unchanged the rest of the race. By the end of the trail I had put 2min on him (of course I didn’t know that then) so I would be running the rest of the race scared, trying not to let him catch me. A little over halfway coming off this technical section the trail flattens and is pretty non-technical. I had to keep pushing at this point because I knew he would be coming after me.

He right behind me!

Chinscraper

The rest is history. We dashed up Chinscraper, where I felt way better than I did last year and back down the trail to the interurban. I hadn’t seen Laney for a long time now but I still didn’t know how far back he was. I had to keep pushing with the main goal of still feeling good enough on the interurban to hit 6min pace. This is the part of the race everyone hates. You come off a beautiful singletrack trail onto a wide flat bike path for a 6 mile slog to the finish. It’s a race breaker for some. Saturday though I felt exactly like I wanted to. Tired but able to get up and go. I wouldn’t see Laney until the finish. I had raced Chuckanut like I thought I could and how I was capable of. It’s a pretty big sense of accomplishment and relief to be able to do it after three tries.

Just as it had last year, the rain held off until just after we finished. The wind though wasn’t as thoughtful and picked up the whole finish festival and deposited it across the parking lot. This left us with one cozy tent we all huddled under the rest of the day as racers came through until the 8hr cutoff. One of the greatest things about Chuckanut is the hot soup at the finish line.
Ellie Greenwood continues to astound me with her finishing ability, coming from 6min back with 9 miles to go to win by 3min. That’s incredible.

Ellie grinding up Chinscraper

Thanks Krissy for having me back again this year and putting on a great race. Also thanks to Bellingham. What a cool little outdoorsy town. Actually similar to Bend but much wetter. I met some really cool people this year, like I do every year, and reconnected with some old friends.
Bellingham has a strong little running community too. I did a run and talk at Klicks Running on Thursday evening for Swiftwick when I got to town and things like that just remind me that no matter where you go there are always trail runners, and where there are trail runners, there are great people.

Me and RD Krissy

Now with Lake Sonoma 50 mile on the calendar in a couple weeks it’s back to training for two before a taper. The goal there being a top 3 finish to punch a ticket to Western States, yes, you read that right. That’s the plan. Exciting but also daunting. I’m scared to death of running 100 miles. That’s a long way last time I checked.


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Upping the Trail Challenge with OCR

by Max on February 24, 2014

This past weekend I flew to Southern CA for my first obstacle race of the year and ended up hanging out with a reality TV star and an Australian, a big bonus for the weekend if you’ve ever had the chance to hang with either one. So before you all start snickering that I did an obstacle race and I’m talking to the runners both pro and recreational who would never consider debasing themselves with such a gimmicky event as a mud run, obstacle race, or any of that, let me tell you a bit about the weekend and the people I met.

The Atlas Pro Team

This weekend was my first real taste of that other world of obstacle racing where crossfit goliaths meet sinewy track runners and they compete against each other on a level playing field. Is it intimidating for a runner like myself to line up against a guy that weighs 200lbs and could flip over a car and know we’ll be racing together, heck yeah.

Hunter. He's BIG.

This isn’t a crowd that I’m used to being around let alone racing and I suspect that’s a pretty big barrier to get over for many other runners as well. But if you’re a competitor, it’s actually a bit of a wake up call when a hoss comes up to a tire flip or sandbag carry that you’re struggling on, makes it look like he’s flipping pancakes and is off running to the next obstacle. It’s fun. That’s when it becomes a race. You’ve just decided there is no way you’re letting him get away with making it look that easy and you pump a little extra adrenaline out to get that tire over and now you’re on the chase. It doesn’t hurt as much anymore, you just know that you’re going to run with all your strength, be as efficient as you can at the next obstacle and whittle away at the lead of this dude who has no idea what his VO2max is but might be able to execute a clean with perfect technique. Oh, it’s fun.

These are the guys you deal with. They know how to flip a tire.

I came in Thursday evening for the second event that Atlas Race, a Southern Oregon Company, has put on. After a good amount of traffic, I hate driving in SoCal, I met the Atlas crew of Scott and Lance as they finished up dinner. I also met my roommate for the weekend Matt Murphy of Australia. If you’ve never met and Aussie, I’ll tell you they’re some of the nicest, funniest people on the planet. Just a good sense of life and laid back. Matt was no different. A guy I’d never heard of, but an Australian reality TV star from the Search for Hurt, a show he created, and a badass athlete himself. He was second last year at the Spartan World Champs and is a personal trainer with wealth of good knowledge.

Matt Murphy and me at the start of the weekend

As with any good Aussie, he also knows how to drink, and when they drink that socially acceptable do-not-cross line quickly shifts. The progression of photos will give you an idea of how competition and suffering through a common endeavor can make quick friends out of complete strangers in a very short weekend. I’d have to say Matt capped off the weekend.

Friday before the race we took short run out at the race venue, careful not to run on the course. It’s frowned upon to pre-run the course. The course designers like to throw in special challenges that they want to keep a surprise until the race. It tends to make things…more “interesting” that way. So we didn’t see much except what was visible from the start/finish area. Your usual obstacles, cargo nets, walls, a tunnel crawl, tire flip, etc. What we couldn’t see would hurt us.
You can’t help but be nervous before a race with unknowns. I have a hard enough time with nerves before a normal race but to go into a race when I don’t know exactly what’s out there, it’s entirely different.
Saturday was go time. Same as any other race except you don’t know what to expect and there’s a 200lb dude next to you on the start line that can trash talk about as well as Prefontaine. That’s to say, he’s good at it and can back it up. Hunter McIntyre is an other worldly beast, a heck of a nice guy (off the course), and one of the most confident competitors I’ve encountered in years. I knew I had to get out fast and use my running ability if I was going to have any chance at winning this race so I was off in the first 100m like it was a 5mi XC race. Unfortunately, because I’m new at this the first barrier totally took me by surprise. Think of a fly hurrying away from a horde trying to make a meal of it and flying right into a spider web. Yup, the first obstacle was a tunnel of criss-crossing ropes, only they were bungee ropes and I didn’t know that. John Yatsko didn’t know that either and we both dove to crawl under them. He got hung up on the first rope, I ran into him and the horde was upon us. Hunter fell on top of me and kept on going, right through the bungees. Taking his lead I stepped over John (quite possibly ON John, I don’t know, sorry John) and clawed my way through. On Hunter’s heels, our next challenge was a 500ft climb to the top of a small mountain. As we start to climb he turns to me and says “Are you ready for this?” I said “yup” and took off, knowing that while I might get away on these running sections, it wouldn’t last long. I pushed my way up the hill, over a 12ft wall at the top, down the other side to the tire flip. I got first pick of the tires and chose wisely. I held my lead through the next three cargo net climbs, mud pits, and burpee broad jumps and 2 miles of running.
Then came the real work. A challenge neither the racers nor organizers had really planned on being as hard as it should have been. A 65lb sandbag up over a mountain, an 8ft wall and a mile long is enough to destroy anyone…except Hunter. He finally caught me as we descended the back side of said mountain and continued to pull away on the flat part of the run. You’re talking half my body weight but only a third of his. Not to say that it was unfair, it wasn’t. It was just another obstacle and a lot of hard work even if it was longer than planned.

Sandbag Carry Mountain

I did my best to cut into his lead as we headed to the finish and I cut it down from over a minute to about 45 seconds but I ran out of room to catch him. Over the last few obstacles and through a lot of mud I was pushing pretty hard to catch Hunter but to keep Cody Moat and Chad Trammell from gaining on me.
I was extremely happy with a second place finish in my second obstacle race and against a field that included every big name in the sport right now including the top 3 from Spartan World Champs, new comers John Riccardi, John Yatsko a 4:05 miler, and a bunch of other guys that have proven themselves in this discipline already. With the prize money being laid on the line this sport is just going to continue to attract elite athletes from various disciplines and since it’s also a lot of fun with a great challenge, everyone is going to be doing this for a while. The sport is here to stay.

Cargo Net

The Final Wall

From there, we chilled on the grass of SoCal in 75 deg weather. Due in part to National Margarita Day the evening went into a downward spiral but ended on a high note with ice cream and a 11pm bedtime. Hey, I’m old. That’s really late for me these days.

After the Race.

And Capping off the Weekend.

Getting on the plane today I realized how similar OCR is to XC and that I always lament that we have a 1 month cross country season in the US but where there was a hole, a whole new discipline has popped up and I’ll be able to compete in XC all year around the world. It’s really what I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Atlas Race for getting me and everyone else down there to go head to head and to Montrail for some prototype trail shoes that work perfectly for this stuff. You wouldn’t think of it but this is still a “mountain” sport so thanks to Mountain Hardwear from some great gear. If you’re looking for a sock that will stay put on your foot while getting sloppy in mud, water, and sweat look no further than the Swiftwick Aspire socks. Wicking, low water retention, and snug they are a perfect sock for OCR.


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Sean O’Brien and Rocky Raccoon Race Preview

by admin on January 30, 2014

#seeyouinsquaw

When Jorge Maravilla crossed the line in first place at the first Montrail Ultra Cup race of 2014, he knew he had punched his ticket to Western States. He had travelled from the Marin Headlands with Squaw on his mind. The Ultra Cup has been affording top runners every year a way to get into Western States 100 despite its Forest Service mandated runner cap. This weekend alone, with both the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile and the Sean O’Brien 50 mile events, there could be up to 12 entries added to the list of runners headed to Squaw.

The Bandera 100k was the first event in the Ultra Cup and has been in the series for several years now. They’re close to reaching capacity at 1,000 total runners and Race Director Joe Prusaitis notes that Montrail has had a great influence on the increase in participants.

The second race in the series takes place in Texas as well. It also shares the same stellar Race Director. The Rocky Raccoon 100 miler takes place in Huntsville, Texas on February 1, 2014 and will host almost 600 runners! The race this year will also be the USA 100mi Trail Championship for 2014.

The third race of the 2014 Montrail Ultra Cup is a new race in Southern California called the Sean O’Brien 50 Miler. It will also start on February 1, 2014, but in the deceptively rugged Santa Monica Mountains. Over 200 runners will toe the line of the 50 mile event. Race Director Keira Henninger is not new to the racing scene; she previously hosted an Ultra Cup event at her Leona Divide Trail race near Lake Hughes, California. This picturesque yet difficult course in Malibu, California has over 11,000 total feet of elevation gain and is sure to challenge every runner out there!


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2014 Montrail Ultra Cup Race Results

by admin on January 27, 2014

Congratulations to all of the successful finishers of the 2014 Montrail Ultra Cup. The top four finishers of each MUC series race are highlighted below.


Bandera 100k Results- January 11, 2014

Men

1 8:02:27 Jorge Maravilla
2 8:07:06 David Laney
3 8:16:42 Chikara Omine
4 8:51:50 Paul Terranova

Women

1 10:12:57 Meghan Arbogast
2 10:39:00 Liza Howard
3 11:00:44 Melanie Peters
4 11:01:44 Silke Koester


Rocky Raccoon Results- February 1, 2014

Men

1 13:17:42 Matthew Laye
2 13:38:03 Ian Sharman
3 13:57:17 Jared Hazen
4 15:26:25 Steve Speirs

Women

1 15:42:04 Nicole Studer
2 15:45:32 Kaci Lickteig
3 16:45:26 Shaheen Sattar
4 17:10:30 Larisa Dannis


Sean O’Brien 50 Mile Results- February 1, 2014

Men

1 6:23:17 Dylan Bowman
2 6:37:34 Mike Aish
3 6:57:15 Mike Wolfe
4 7:02:38 Chris Price

Women

1 7:38:16 Cassie Scallon
2 8:36:25 Sally McRae
3 8:42:57 Denise Bourassa
4 8:43:15 Tera Dube

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2014 Plans – Focus, Focus, Focus.

January 22, 2014

2014 Plans Oh what to do, what to do? It’s a good problem to have, don’t get me wrong but when you’re faced with all these incredible races and other opportunities a running career can seem rather short. How to you get it all in? I’ll be the first to admit that I lead a [...]

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Making of the USATF Club XC Course

December 23, 2013

So, it’s one thing to put on an ultra race or trail race and it turns out that it’s quite another to put on a USATF Club XC National Championships. Not to worry, I’m recuperating well after a few nights of sleep. Right now it’s that deep sigh of relief after you just get done [...]

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TNF 50 and Lots of Excuses

December 9, 2013

Well, even if the North Face 50 didn’t go as well as I thought it should it was still a fun weekend. I spent the week in Austin at the Running Event, a trade show for independent running retailers, checking out cool new product that pertains, on a daily basis, to my lifestyle and profession [...]

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Team RWB Running Camp

November 19, 2013

I’m just tired. I was expecting more of an easy weekend rather than what I actually got. I figured running camp, run easy, fewer miles, etc. Instead I, like usual, ran three runs a day, couple miles each, over rough terrain and now I’m spent. The three times through the obstacle course yesterday probably didn’t [...]

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Japan 2013

October 28, 2013

-By Dakota Jones I’m back in Japan. Last year I arrived in Tokyo completely unprepared for what I was to find. If Japanese people weren’t so nice I likely wouldn’t have made it past the airport. Unable to go forward, too poor to go back before scheduled, I would have spent ten unhappy days in [...]

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