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Competition Is Stacked at This Year's Lake Sonoma 50

The Lake Sonoma 50 is one of the fastest and most competitive 50-milers in the U.S., and it's turning up the notch on competition in its 16th year. 

Set in the rolling foothills near Healdsburg, California, the hilly course is known for its smooth singletrack and more than a dozen creek crossings. For the first time, Lake Sonoma will be the 50-mile selection race for Team USA, and all runners who race their way onto the podium will get an automatic invitation to run for Team USA in the long-format race in this year's  World Mountain and Trail Running Championships set for June 6-10 in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria. 

While Lake Sonoma has always been a competitive event (previously a Golden Ticket Race), that invitation has certainly encouraged a high level of competition. 

"I'm super psyched for Lake Sonoma to be a USA Selection Race," says Gina Lucrezi, race director and founder of Trail Sisters, a non-profit that supports women in the trail space. "This event has been a top 50-mile race in the U.S. since its inception. John Medinger, Lisa Henson, and Skip and Holly Brand have created a sought-after course and event, and I'm proud to continue their legacy of keeping it a barn burner event, pulling in top talent to test their fitness and abilities." Lucrezi represented the U.S. at several USATF MUT Championship events, and she's excited that her event will extend that opportunity to a new generation of ultra athletes. "It's both an honor and privilege to host this opportunity for runners vying to represent the USA," says Lucrezi. 

The event is Trail Sisters certified, which means there will be equal podium spots, awards, women's specific race swag, menstrual products at aid stations, and equal space for women on the start line. Lake Sonoma races are held within the Native lands of the Southern Pomo. The Southern Pomo are part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe. The race has also partnered with a local charity, The Children of Vineyard Workers Scholarship, which provides education funding to the kids of agricultural workers in the area. 

"In terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, when hosting the lottery, we split the field 50/50 male/female. (Non-binary folks were grouped in the field that they noted as their gender assigned at birth). We then utilized gender-specific waitlists if participants cancel or defer, but we extinguished our waitlists and then allowed for open registration to fill our vacant spots. In the lottery form, we requested race and ethnicity information," Luzrezi told Trail Runner in an interview. "This provided insight into the diversity of signups and helped us make sure the starting line could be as diverse as possible."

Sweet Sixteen

In its 16th year, Lake Sonoma has ushered a generation of ultrarunners onto the scene, and many are returning to reconnect with those fond memories at an event that epitomizes the grassroots appeal of trail races, with an internationally competitive field. 

Ultrarunner Devon Yanko is competing in the marathon after her win and earning a Hoka Golden Ticket at Javelina Jundred, says she feels a deep connection to the race after winning it early on in 2010. Building up to Western States in June, Yanko says her primary objective is to feel healthy and enjoy the race. 

"I have been a part of Lake Sonoma almost since its inception and have been a spectator/crew for most of its biggest years," says Yanko, who formerly lived in San Anselmo, California. "It was an extension of my local community and always had the best vibes. I'm mostly looking forward to seeing friends, supporting the race, and helping keep the tradition of Lake Sonoma alive."

Many runners have long histories with the buttery, grass-lined trails. Lake Sonoma was one of the first ultras OCR athlete and ultrarunner Amelia Boone ever knew about more than a decade ago. But, a broken femur derailed her initial attempts at the 50-mile event, and she's been looking for an opportunity to get back to Lake Sonoma's start line ever since. She says the high level of competition and community vibe were big draws as well. 

"I'm looking to run strong in a competitive field. It's been a while since I've run a race with a super deep field, so I'm looking to put the ego aside and have some faith in myself. My ultimate reach goal would clearly be top 3 to qualify for the U.S. World team, but that'd just be a bonus," says Boone. "Oh, and give as many high fives on the trails as possible."

Brett Hornig, a coach and athlete from Ashland, Oregon, hopes that the third time's the charm. He's run the race twice, and hasn't had the day he wanted.

"LS50 was one of the premier 50-mile races in the world when I was first introduced to trail and ultrarunning around 2014, so the allure of competing against the best has always been there for me," says Hornig. "That initially drew me to the race, and the competition is still there, but it is the community who puts on the race that keeps me coming back. The race directors (both past and current), the volunteers, sponsors, and fans of the sport put on an incredible event that everyone should check out for themselves at least once."

Ryan Miller, the winner of the 2022 Gorge Waterfalls 50k and Bandera 100k, from Vero Beach, Florida, says he's excited by the fast and smooth Sonoma trails.

"The primary allure of Lake Sonoma 50 has to be the trails themselves. Have you seen the videos and pictures of this place?! It's absolutely stunning. I'm most looking forward to the competitive racing with big stakes as it tends to bring the best out of everyone," says Miller. 

The proximity to wine country doesn't hurt either. 

"Throw in a deep competitive field, prize money, my wife's excitement to go to California wine country, and an opportunity to earn a spot on the World Championship team, and it's a no-brainer for an athlete like me focusing on the 50K-100K distances."

Miller, like others, is gunning for a podium finish that would earn an invitation to race for Team USA at the World championship. 

The race field is chock full of talented runners, including the women's field with Abby Levene, Anne-Marie Madden, Allison Baca, Tara Fraga, Sarah Keys, Megan Drake, Sarah Biehl, Erin Clark, Natalie Sandoval, Erin Viehl, Amelia Boone, Anna Kakis, Catrin Jones, Mercedes Siegle-Gaither, Sarah Cummings, Kristina Randrup, Jackie Merrit and Hannah Osowski.

The men's race includes Miller, Hornig, Drew Holmen, Seth Ruhling, David Kilgore, Drew Macomber, Preston Cates, Terence Copeland, Reed Breuer, Aubrey Myjer, Charlie Ware, Ryan Sullivan, Caleb Olsen, Chris Myers, Jason Schlarb, Erik Sorenson, Matthew Seidel, Morgan Elliot, Addison Smith, and Travis Lavin.

"The overall Lake Sonoma race event is focused and centered on community," says Lucrezi.   "I'm really excited about our new start and finish location and the celebration vibe we are creating. No matter your pace, experience, or what place you finish, Lake Sonoma is an event that welcomes all runners and fosters friendships made through the event and on the trails."

(04/08/2023) Views: 755 ⚡AMP
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Lake Sonoma 50

Lake Sonoma 50

The race is held on the rugged trails at Lake Sonoma, about 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg. The course is 86% single track and 9% dirt roads, with the first 2.4 miles on a paved country road.The race starts at 6:30 a.m. and has a 14-hour time limit. ...

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American Jim Walmsley will be taking another stab at UTMB

The 2022 edition of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is seven months away, but the elite fields have been made official. Although he has never done better than fifth (and that was back in 2017), American Jim Walmsley will be gunning for a podium finish again on Aug. 28, along with seven of Canada’s top ultrarunners, including last year’s third-place finisher, Mathieu Blanchard. Check out the top athletes who will be racing this year.

UTMB — men

Blanchard, who is from France but lives and trains in Montreal, is among the top men who will be competing this year. Going into the race, Blanchard says his goal is to win the race, and he’ll have two main focuses for his training: “the first will be to prepare myself mentally, to visualize, to accept this possibility of a big goal because I still have trouble believing it today,” he says. “The second will be to build a logical race path to prepare for this race, choices of reason rather than choices of the heart.”

Last year’s second-place finisher, Aurélien Dunand-Pallaz of France will be returning, along with 2019 UTMB winner, Pau Capell of Spain. Walmsley, whose top finish was fifth in 2017 but who has won the Western States 100 for three consecutive years (2021, 2019, 2018) will also be challenging for a podium spot, as will France’s Xavier Thévenard, who has won UTMB three times (2018, 2015, 2013) and placed second in 2019. Nine other recent top-five finishers will also be joining them on the start line.

Notably absent from the start list is last year’s winner, François D’Haene and three-time UTMB champion, Kilian Jornet.

UTMB – women

Canadian ultrarunning fans will have plenty to cheer about in the women’s race in August. Three top Canadians will be on the start line, including Montreal’s Marianne Hogan, who won the 2022 Bandera 100K and placed second at the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100k. Toronto’s Claire Heslop, Canada’s top finisher in 2021, will be joining Hogan, along with Alissa St. Laurent of Moutain View, Alta., who placed fifth in the 2018 UTMB TDS 145K in 2018 and sixth at UTMB in 2017.

“My dream result would be a top 10 at UTMB,” says Hogan, “so I will definitely shoot for that. A lot can happen come race day, so I will make sure to show up to the start line as ready as possible.”

Other top contenders on the women’s side include Camille Herron, who won the 2021 Javelina Jundred Mile (and broke the course record) in 2021 and set the 24-hour world record in 2019, Anna Troup, who won the 2021 Lakeland 100 Mile and the 2021 Spine Race Summer Edition 268 Mile, Sabrina Stanley, two-time winner of the Hardrock 100 and Beth Pascal, winner of last year’s Western States and two-time top-five finisher at UTMB.

There will be five other recent top-five finishers on the start line as well, but running fans will be disappointed to hear the two-time winner Courtney Dauwalter, 2019 third-place finisher Maite Maiora, among several other past winners, will not be in Chamonix on August 28.

CCC — women

There will be three elite Canadian women in the 100K CCC, including Victoria’s Catrin Jones, who placed in the top-10 at the 2019 Comrades Marathon 90k and holds the Canadian 50-mile and six-hour records. She will be joined by Ailsa MacDonald of St. Albert, Alta., who won the 2020 Tarawera 100 Mile and the Hoka One One Bandera 100K, and placed sixth in the CCC in 2019. Rounding out the Canadian squad will be Vancouver’s Kat Drew, who was third at the 2019 Bandera 100K, first at the Canyons 100K and eighth at Western States in 2019.

Other notable runners in the CCC include New Zealand’s Ruth Croft, who won the 2021 Grand Trail des Templiers 80k, placed second at the 2021 Western States 100 and won the UTMB 55K OCC in 2018 and 2019. France’s Blandine L’hirondel will also be looking to land on the podium after winning the OCC last year.

(01/28/2022) Views: 1,279 ⚡AMP
by Brittany Hambleton
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North Face Ultra Trail du Tour du Mont-Blanc

North Face Ultra Trail du Tour du Mont-Blanc

Mountain race, with numerous passages in high altitude (>2500m), in difficult weather conditions (night, wind, cold, rain or snow), that needs a very good training, adapted equipment and a real capacity of personal autonomy. It is 6:00pm and we are more or less 2300 people sharing the same dream carefully prepared over many months. Despite the incredible difficulty, we feel...

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Chris Balestrini and Krista DuChene break Canadian 50K records

On a hot, sunny morning in Hamilton, Ont., Chris Balestrini and Krista DuChene ran a blazing-fast 50K, both setting new Canadian records of 2:48:32 and 3:22:22, respectively. Both athletes took several minutes off the previous Canadian records, proving that a little early summer heat wasn’t going to get in their way.

Balestrini’s run improves on Cal Neff’s 50K record by nearly three minutes, which he set earlier this year in Texas in 2:51:27.

Prior to the run, Balestrini told us he was confident he could outdo Neff’s record-setting pace of 3:26 per kilometer, which he did handily, holding an average pace of 3:25 per kilometer. Balestrini is a 2:17 marathoner, but this was his first official ultramarathon.

On the women’s side, DuChene shattered the previous Canadian record set by Catrin Jones in 2015 at the IAU 50K World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where she ran 3:28:20. Duchene’s 3:22 lowers that record by an incredible six minutes, making her average pace per kilometer 4:02 for the win.

This was DuChene’s second ultra of her career, having run a 54 kilometer trail race last fall. That run, she told us, gave her confidence knowing that she’d already completed the distance once before.

There have been no official results posted yet, so currently there is no news of how Phil Parrot-Migas or Rachel Hannah finished.

(05/21/2021) Views: 1,164 ⚡AMP
by Brittany Hambleton
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Canadians Catrin Jones and Calum Neff head to Comrades Marathon

Catrin Jones and Calum Neff, two of Canada’s strongest ultrarunners, are heading to South Africa this week to tackle the 94th running of South Africa’s most famous and historic ultramarathon, the Comrades, next Saturday, June 8.

Neff ran it for the first time last year, finishing in 31st position overall, in 6:08:06. Jones will be racing Comrades for the first time.

Jones is a veteran of the BC trail and road scenes who has eased back into racing since having her daughter, Elodie, who is now two.

“I’ve been wanting to go for years and thought about it many times,” says Jones, inspired by her friend, the much-decorated ultrarunner Ellie Greenwood, who won Comrades in 2014.

Jones won last year’s Squamish 50K and Whistler 30K, and finished third at the 2018 BMO Vancouver Marathon.

Neff holds the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon while pushing a stroller (2:21:22), set with his daughter Alessandra at the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

(Neff also held the half-marathon stroller record for a time, but his 1:11:27 from 2016 was eclipsed in 2017.) Neff is from Ontario but lives and trains in Houston, Texas.

(06/03/2019) Views: 1,974 ⚡AMP
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Comrades Marathon

Comrades Marathon

Arguably the greatest ultra marathon in the world where athletes come from all over the world to combine muscle and mental strength to conquer the approx 90kilometers between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the event owes its beginnings to the vision of one man, World War I veteran Vic Clapham. A soldier, a dreamer, who had campaigned in East...

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