Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Predictions

(The coveted MMT100 Buckle. Photo courtesy of run100s)
*(5/20/14)Just added the prediction results to the bottom of the page so you can compare what I guessed to how it actually played out.

It's that time of year again! Time for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler. Arguably one of the toughest, gnarliest, and definitely rockiest races in the United States. I learned last year just how tough the course is first hand, and although it was my slowest race ever, I redeemed my 2009 dnf to join the club of MMT100 finishers. Unfortunately, due to scheduling with my new job, it is unlikely I will be able to participate in any capacity with MMT for a while, or at least until race weekend and my school's graduation weekend are on separate weeks.

Onto to the predictions. The forecast is calling for unseasonably cool weather, with high's near 70 and lows in the 40's. It does not look like rain is in the schedule and the course should be also be dry. In other words, the weather is going awesome, and I expect to see some super fast times and a lot of PR's.
*5/16/14 Weather update. The course will be wet from Thursday and Friday rain, but race day looks to be rain free. Temps still look ideal, if not a bit cool considering it will be in the 40's at night.

The Women's Race:

Eva Pastalkova- 2011 champ and course record holder. One of the strongest female mountain runners in the country. Predict another win in 22:15, but not a CR. She will likely win by a margin of over 2 hours.

Sheryl Wheeler- 2010 champ who also has two 2nd place finishes at MMT. Per her strength, I suspect she will hang back for the first 30-40 miles and gradually move up the field and overtake most of the women by Byrd Knob. I think this will play out a lot like 2011 and she will take 2nd. Predict 24:30.

Kathleen Cusick- She's trimmed down,toned up, and faster than ever. Ran a 50 mile PR of 7:21 at Tussey Mountainback last year and just won Bull Run Run on a hot day in 8 hours flat. Has more MMT finishes than any of the other women. However, any other year I'd choose her to win, but Eva is running. Predict 25:20. 3rd.

Amy Rusiecki- Probably the second fastest lady to Eva, and with considerable experience. But, like her husband Brian, she's never run on a course as rocky as Massannutten. Predict a top 4 in 25:40

Holly Bugin- One of the fastest females in the field, but with no 100 experience. Predict 27:45. Top 5.

Elizabeth Carrion- No doubt she will be in the hunt for a top 5, but probably not until after Camp Roosevelt. Predict 26:10.

Siobhan Leonardis- My sleeper pick for a top 7 finish. She has really improved her speed in the past year at all distances, and her spring season has been strong. Predict 28:30.

Kari Brown- I can't rule out the seasoned MMT veteran. Kari ran 27:38 at last year's MMT finishing as 5th female. It was also her best time on the course. She could definitely sneak into the top 5 or 6 again, Predict 28:30.

The Men's Race: (4 former champs running)

James Blandford- I'm calling for a rare repeat win. James won last year's event in a blistering 18:30. Only Karl Meltzer has runner faster, and by a few minutes, on the current course. Blandford has really dialed it in during the past three years. Predict 18:12, for a win and course record on current course.

Karl Meltzer- Speaking of Karl. Karl is known for being able to come off stretches of little running and still knock out 100 mile wins. Any other year and I'd give him the nod for the win, but for some reason, I think Karl's presence will only make Blandford run faster. Though I will never rule out the man with the most 100 mile wins in history, I predict a close second for Karl in 18:25.

Brian Rusiecki- One of the top runners in the country. He ran a ridiculous 14:54 to win Vermont in 2012, and he's been unbeatable at Bull Run. Rusiecki has also shown strength in the mountains by winning Cascade Crest. However, he doesn't have the experience on the technical courses like Blandford and Meltzer. Predict 3rd in 19:30.

Jason Lantz- Won the 2012 race in 19:33. He also had an impressive win at Vermont over guys like Ian Sharman, Nick Clark, Brian Rusiecki, and Chad Rickleffs. He will keep Blandford and Karl company for the first half, but they will pull away after Habron Gap. Predict 20:45. 4th.

David Frazier- 3rd overall in 2011 in 21:25. First person to break 5 hours on the rugged Elizabeth Furnace 50k course. Predict 20:45 and a top 5.

Jon Allen- One of the fastest guys in the field and good experience at 100 miles. He's run as fast as 15:16 at Umstead, and showed he can also throw down in the mountains with a 20:49 at the Bear 100 with 22,00 feet of climb. He's won a good number of ultras and finished near the top of most races. Predict a top 6 in 21:30.

Todd Walker- The 2008 champ is back after laying pretty low in the race scene the past couple years. It doesn't look like he has raced much, but his experience on the course may make up for lost speed. Has done well in all his previous MMT's, so I will say he runs near 22:15 and ends up somewhere in the top 6-7 in this deep field.

John Dennis- Just crushed the Umstead 100 in 13:47, but it's a non technical course. Has all the ability to go fast, but I think the rocks will slow him. Predict 22:15. Top 7.

Julian Vicente- 6th overall last year in 22:39, and 10th in 2012 in 23:17. I suspect he may PR again and get close to 22 hours. Predict top 8 in 22:25.

Adam Wilcox- (Withdrawn from race. Get better Adam!)lots of speed and has run 23:17 at MMT. Predict a new PR of 22:45 and a top 10.

Rande Brown- Rande has run under 24 hours the past two years, and has run as fast as 22:11. He's really proven to be a strong runner on Massanutten's course, and I think he will be near 23 hours again, and perhaps crack top 12.

Others to watch:

Justin Contois- Had solid runs at Bull Run(7:51) and Stone Mill(7:46). Also ran 19:29 at Vermont. Potentially a sub 24 hour guy.

Danny Mowers- Has had some good races recently. Would not be surprised if he dipped under 24 hours. Predict 25:20.

Matt Bugin- Has yet to finish a 100, but I think he is due. Predict 25:30, though he is capable of much faster. He may also be running the whole race with his wife. Top 15.

Ryan O'dell- Has run sub 17 hours for 100 miles. Predict 24:45.

David Peterman- Finishes near the front of most of his races, but has never run under 28 hours at MMT. Perhaps this will be a breakthrough year.

Dante Simone- Another guy who has run under 17 hours for 100, so you can't rule out a possible solid run. Predict 25:00.

Jim Harris- Nobody runs as steady as Jim, and I think he'll be going near 26 hours.

Keith Knipling- Anything from 23-26 hours seems reasonable for the veteran. Predict 23:45. Top 12.

Jack Kurisky- Has improved dramatically in the past couple years, and to think he was already very fast. Predict 23:30. Top 8.

Results and prediction comparisons

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day, and sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut . That being said, I didn't do too bad with this year's MMT100 predictions, considering I have not stayed up to date with the ultra scene lately. On good years, I have predicted within 5 minutes of several elite times and have come close to nailing the order of finish, but I didn't quite get there this year. Given all the variables in a 103.7 mile race, especially one as rugged as Massanutten, guessing within an hour of someone's finish time is a rare feat. Cool weather and low humidity also made for significantly faster times, and aside from wet feet from higher water crossings, conditions were prime for a lot of personal bests by several hours.

First things first, I should have never doubted Karl Meltzer's ability to run fast, and comfortably beat two other former champs in the process. Not that there was any question, but this is yet another reminder that even at age 46 Karl is still king of the mountains. My prediction of 18:25, however, was still fairly close, and only 15 minutes off his actual time of 18:40. On the women's side, I was way off in all my predicted times, and completely overlooked Angela Shartel who may have run one of the most impressive performances ever in a 100 miler. She beat one of the most dominant female ultrarunners in the country by two hours and knocked 37 minutes off a course record that was thought untouchable by anyone other than Eva Pastolkova herself. Boy was I wrong. Notable female drops included Elizabeth Carrion and Holly Bugin. Other surprises included 4th place Pierre Loic Deragne of France, who flew under my radar due to his foreign results, but alas I completely missed the fact he won the Zion 100, Ozark 100, and got 6th at Pinhoti. And then there was flat lander Gregory Brant from Virginia Beach who finished 8th and showed you don't need to live in the mountains to crush a mountain course. Todd Walker did not start.

My closest predictions:

Really, on second glance I didn't do too bad. Meltzer, Rusiecki, and Blandford were all in the top three as myself, and I'm sure many others, would have picked. Just not in the order I picked. I was 15 minutes off Meltzer's time and 24 minutes off Rusiecki's. I then predicted Jason Lantz in 4th in 20:45 and Jon Allen 6th in 21:30(which he was until David Frazier dropped). Lantz finished 5th with Allen in 21:00, so I was only off by 15 minutes and 30 minutes respectively, and the finish order still pretty accurate. I predicted a top 12 and sub 24 for Rande Brown, and he finished 13th in 23:42. Jack Kurisky was a tougher pick, because he's never run terribly fast at MMT, but he's run so strong lately, I figured he was due and predicted a 23:30. He finished in 23:54. For the women, I correctly predicted 3rd place for Kathleen Cusick, 4th for Amy Rusiecki, and a top 5 or 6 for Kari Brown (she was 5th). However, of the entire women's race, I am most pleasantly surprised that my sleeper pick for a top 7 for Siobahn Leonoardis came to fruition with her top 6. And since my predictions included Sheryl Wheeler who did not start, Leonardis actually finished exactly where I had thought.

Again, this is all for fun, and honestly the number of predictions I get super wrong will always outnumber the ones I come close with. Like I said, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.


Adam Wilcox said...

I'll be DNS-ing with a busted up ankle. Have fun.

Adam Wilcox

Jon Allen said...

Looks like it rained a lot and will be muddy, but great weather race day. Should be fun. Thanks for the predictions.