Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Future of Course Records


Last year I wrote about the most impressive US ultramarathon course records, and now I think we may see all of them fall in the next several years. In fact, I believe by 2017, if not sooner, all the major course records will be broken.

In today's ultra scene we are seeing more and more fast marathon runners crossing over to the ultra world. Most of this is due to their desire for a change of scenery, a new challenge, but also because running a 2:12 marathon will no longer win you marathons. However, when most fast marathoners "figure out" out how to adapt to the ultramrathon distance, it would seem likely that all the hallowed records will fall. Afterall, a sub 2:20 marathoner won't win any marathons these days, but they likely have more than enough speed to win ultras, and win the money and endorsements that could come with it.

Fast marathon times obviously don't always correlate to ultramarathon success, and is even less likely to promote success at extremely technical ultras, like the Massanutten Trails 100. To some degree, the best long distance technical specialists, like Karl Meltzer, should continue to dominate races of extreme geographic nature (Hardrock etc.). Case in point, Timothy Olson, in ideal conditions, destroyed the course record at Western States, and he's by far not the fastest guy to run. However, grinding for 100 miles requires a different skill set than raw speed. Thus, I believe most 100 mile course records are likely very safe from the super fast marathoners, but for 100k and shorter, records will drop like they are hot. That doesn't mean 100 mile course records won't continue to fall, I think they will, but by the increasing number of elite ultrarunners competing, and not due to the marathon speedsters.

However, for all the non technical ultramarathons out there we are seeing the fast crossover marathoners finally starting to get the hang of ultras. Last weekend Sage Canaday, who I think is at the beginning of a dominant stretch of ultrarunning, took down Tony Krupicka's stout course record at White River. It was his first 50 miler, longest run ever, never saw the course before, and ran a ridiculous 6:16. Tony was in his peek, had Uli Steidl's splits, and ran the course twice before getting to his 6:25 time. Even in smaller events, like West Virginia's Capon Valley 50k, fast road guys are coming in to clean house. Andy Allstadt, a 2:22 marathoner, won Capon Valley with a time of 3:52 in his first ultra. He beat out the talented local ultra stud, my friend Brad Hinton, by 22 minutes, and he even got lost on the course. Imagine what he might do next year if he runs the same race? Previously, people thought sub 4 hours was blazing at Capon Valley, but clearly a Max King, or Sage Canaday could run sub 3:30.

The number of guys who can run in the 2:20's and lower is growing my leaps and bounds. Max King, Sage, Jordan McDougal, Khalib Wilkinson, Matt Woods, Michael Wardian...so on. Even the women are out there running 2:39, like Devon Crosby Helms, and 2:40's like Ellie Greenwood, Jenn Shelton, and Leah Thorvilson. Look out ultra world, course records are gonna get turned upside down. The last time super fast marathoners dedicated themselves to training for ultras we got Matt Carpenter, Uli Steidl, and Michael Wardian. Even Josh Cox got in a little ultra action with his 50k American Record.

So where do I predict course will go in the next few years?

Western States- Sub 14:30, though the weather is a huge factor(snow and heat)

Hardrock- Sub 22:30. Eventually a high altitude runner, other than Kyle Skaggs, will figure this course out

Leadville- Sub 15:30. I think this will be the last CR to fall given Matt Carpenter was in his prime, and was virtually unbeatable at altitude when he set his CR of 15:45

Vermont: Sub 14 hours.

Umstead: sub 12:45.

Rocky Raccoon: sub 12:30, though Ian Sharman made this a beast to beat

American River: sub 5:20. Fast guy on a cool day could do it

Mountain Masochist: Sage could go sub 6:15 there

JFK 50: sub 5:30. Clifton's CR was like the 4 minute mile. Now people KNOW it can be broken

Badwater: sub 22 hours

Wasatch: sub 17:30

MMT: sub 17:30

Way Too Cool: sub 3:20

Caumsett Park 50k- sub 2:50

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