Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2008 Western States Preview!

We're just a couple weeks away from the 'Super Bowl' of 100 milers, the 35th Annual Western States Endurance Run (June 28-29, 2008), and this year's field is shaping up to be one of the best (if not THE best) ever!

All of the politics have been pushed aside for now and the field of elites at the starting line will be overflowing like the American River crossing at Rucky Chucky. With snow on the trail in the high elevations and sure-fire heat in the valleys, we'll all get to kick back and watch these guys (and gals!) fight it out all day for the top spots (live updates here!).

Without further ado, here's one fan's prediction for the top 10 to cross the finish line in Auburn - My apologies to the likes of Braje, Brimhall, Freeman, Morrison, Olsen, etc, but I had to make some tough cuts here. We all know any one of you could show up and grab a top 10 spot with ease!

10: Glen Redpath - Who says guys from the Northeast can't hang w/ the West Coast crew in this race? This Brooklyn-based runner finished 6th last year with a quick 18:05 run. He had successful tune up on June 1 at the Nipmuck Trail Marathon (2nd place), so look for him to bring some of that veteran savvy to the WS course and surprise more than a few cocky rookies along the way to Auburn by running *his* race.

9: Nikki Kimball - The tough-as-nails, no, TOUGHER-than-nails WS veteran is back to show the world she's the best female 100 mile trail runner, hand's down. The last two years she's placed 3rd and 8th overall in this race, so look for another solid Top 10 finish and long line of humbled elite men finishing behind her on the 'Chicked List'!

8: Jorge Pacheco - Ran an unchallenged 14:12 to win Rocky Raccoon in Feburary, so the speed isn't an issue. We'll see about the terrain. He should be focused and ready to avenge his DNF here with lots of company up front to help bring out his best.

AJW - We all know he's more excited about this race than a kid on Christmas morning, and from the word on the streets (or trails, as it were),he's in great shape after a big peak month of training. As long as the snow/mud isn't too bad, I do think this will be the year he breaks 17:00....but with the guys listed ahead of him here, I'm not sure even that smokin' time is good enough to keep pace with the front all day. I know history has proven this course favors veterans over rookies, but the term "rookie" really can't be applied to a couple of the WS virgins listed ahead here. They're simply too talented, experienced, and prepared to not show up and impress us all.

6: Erik Skaden - He's proven he can succeed on a slow track (2006, 2nd place, 19:08) and on a quick one (2007, 2nd place, 16:36), so you simply can't count him out. He ran to a solid 6th place finish in a tough Miwok field this spring, and I expect him to toe the line looking to contend all day long yet again. I wouldn't be surprised if his course experience has him leap-frog over a few of the guys listed ahead of him here in the last 20 miles of the race.

Graham Cooper - The 2006 winner (and 2007 3rd place finisher) certainly has the talent and the knowledge of the course to light it up again this year. His course record at the Quicksilver 50 (6:35) proves he's tuned up and ready to fly...and quite honestly, he should be listed higher here...it's just that the field is SO stacked this year, a 5th place finish is probably equal to a 2nd or 3rd any other year. Sorry Graham...I'd love to see you prove me wrong out there!

4: Michael Wardian - Most people know him as a burner in road marathons (and I mean*BURNER* w/ a 2:21 PR) and on flatter/faster trails - his 5:50 at the JFK 50 last fall (2nd fastest ever) and course record win the US 100k championships in April at Mad City prove he's not just a rocket at the 26.2 distance - but what about 100 milers w/ elevation? His VT100 back in 2000 is too far away to compare to anything like this WS showdown, but one thing is for sure, when you look at his March race results from this year alone, he should be in the front pack for at least 50+ miles:
3/2: 1st, 2:55:05 USA 50-K Championships
3/9: 1st, 2:34:46 Lower Potomac River Marathon
3/15: 2nd, 2:24:55 Shamrock Marathon
3/29: 1st, 2:24:59 SunTrust National Marathon
3/30: 3rd, 2:29:49 Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon
With WS experience proving to be the major deciding factor for 1st place over the last decade-plus, he might not be the one to pull it out in the final two hours of the race...but it's also really really difficult to wager against him.

3: Hal Koerner - I know what many of you are thinking: "He has Hal at #3, and he has TWO rookies ahead of him?! That's blasphemy!" ...and you're probably right in saying it. Really, what the hell do I know?? All I can say is Hal will definitely be back to defend his 1st place finish in tip-top shape, and with a favorable track he'll run a low 16 again...but Karl and Tony both have the right circumstances surrounding them right now to simply hammer the course as fast if not faster than the returning champ. Read on...

2: Karl Meltzer - Here's why Karl beats Hal (et al) on his first spin on the WS dance floor. With his AT record attempt coming up this summer, for the first time in forever he's been training more than racing. A rested Karl Meltzer is a scary Karl Meltzer. His easy C2M 100 win in March and recent desert training proves he'll be ready for any valley heat, and lord knows he was born to hammer the ups and DOWNS on the trails. You know he's ready to fight with this being his first time at WS, so there's a bit of pride and honor on the line too. Especially w/ all the politics surrounding the Race Organizers allowing him into the field this year. I don't know all the details on that topic, but I do know you'd be a fool to bet against him...unless a certain someone else toes the line next to him...

1: Tony Krupicka - Why does he win? He's healthy. Sure the human body really isn't meant to withstand the 200+ mile training weeks he puts in, but who's to say Anton is human? Simply put, when he's healthy, he wins. Yes, he's a WS rookie in the literal sense, but he's run the course in training, he's had a mostly injury free spring w/ 50 mile wins at Zane Grey and American River, and any elevation/snow won't be a problem for him. I know I know I know, the history of this race has proven to favor veterans, but I'm not sure too many people will argue that Tony won't be in the front pack all day long. He's got the speed to hang with anyone trying to break away, and he's got the power to make a move on a climb himself when he feels like it's the right time. Barring an injury popping up in his 150 mile taper week before the race (a joke, but you know that's not far off!), I see Tony crossing the line first in Auburn.


Marci B. said...

Dan, you amaze me. I am so incredibly inspired by you, your recovery, and your accomplishments. I wish you continued good luck, good health, joy and happiness.

Plus, a big ole Mazel Tov on your recent wedding!! :)

Jamie Donaldson said...

Dan...you've been tagged. Go to my blog to find out more :)!