Friday, September 16, 2011

North Coast 24-Hour Predictons

There's a unique type of ultrarunner and it's the individual who runs for 24 hours around a ~1-mile paved loop. In 2009, I lined up for the inaugural North Coast 24-Hour Endurance Run, held along the shores of Lake Erie in beautiful (yes, I said beautiful) Cleveland, Ohio. We lived in Cleveland at the time--5 of the best years of our lives (fully expecting he next 5 to be even better). I completed just shy of 131 miles that day, finishing a somewhat disappointing 9th overall. The last 5 hours are a blurr. Racing for 24 hours non-stop ain't easy! I plan to return to 24-hour racing if not this year, then next year, and will gun for 140+!

This weekend a little over 200 hard-ass athletes will toe the line for the third running of the North Coast 24, which once again serves as the USATF 24-Hour National Championship. National championship status, though a questionable distinction in trail races, nonetheless carries a lot of weight in the world of 24-hour racing. This weekend, as was the case in 2009 and 2010 at North Coast, many of the top time-based ultrarunners will be in Cleveland for some high drama! It will truly be a national championship joining the best. So, here are some predictions:

For the guys:

1) Zach Gingerich
The 2010 Badwater Ultramarathon champ, who finished 4th overall at this year's hot weather classic, will reign supreme. I believe this is his first 24-hour event, but he's used to running that long, plus some, and has the speed, toughness and pacing discipline to gut out the requisite 150+ miles and could, yes could, challenge the 24-hour American record (165.7 miles), held by Scott Jurek.
Post-race update: Finished 20th with 100.88 miles

2) Phil McCarthy
Earlier this year, Phil smashed John Geesler's 48-hour record, running a little over 257 miles at the Fair 24-Hour in New Jersey. Phil won the 2009 North Coast 24 with an eye-popping 151.5 miles and finished third last year with 138. Look for Phil to surpass 140 miles and snag another 24-hour national championship if he's on his game and Zach falters even a little.
Post-race update: Finished 1st with 153.37 miles. National champ!
3) Mark Godale
Mark, who hails from Cleveland, held the 24-hour American record of 162 miles for about 10 years, until Scott Jurek cranked out his 165.7 at the 2010 world championship. When he's on, Mark is tough to beat, especially in hometown races. We've seen this many times, as with his wins at the 2007 and 2009 Burning River 100-Mile races in Cleveland, along with a whole slew of other victories he's collected over his long and distinguished career. He will surely be the top master's runner, though the next guy might have something to say about that, which brings us to....
Post-race update: Finished 11th with 111.69 miles
4) Serge Arbona
Serge won the 2010 North Coast 24 with 155 miles. He's had a nice year, running 145 miles at Back on My Feet in July and a 14:33 (good for second overall) at the flat, fast Umstead 100, which, along with the Rocky Raccoon 10, is the anti-Hardrock 100 in terms of difficulty. It's hard not to have him in the top spot, and he very well could win this thing. He'll surpass 135 miles but I don't see him holding off Zach, Phil and maybe Mark.
Post-race update: Finished 5th with 129.77 miles

5) Michael Arnstein
I've seen this guy, known as "The Fruititarian," run and he's fast. This year alone, he ran a 2:30 at the Boston Marathon, won the Vermont 100, and placed 4th overall at the Leadville 100 with a fast 17:56. Yeah, he can flat-out haul ass. But can he stretch it out for 24 hours? If he can, look out. Michael Arnstein is my dark horse.
Post-race update: Did not start

Other dudes to watch for (in this order): Michael Henze, Matt Shaheen, Nick Coury, Bob Pokorny, and Brian Coughlin. Look for Michael and Matt to bust one out. Henze, like Arnstein, is a darkhorse--he can go north of 150 if he's having a good day (Note to reader: I'd inadvertently overlooked Michael but, thanks to Lloyd's comment, added him in. My bad!).

Now for the women, and it's a stacked field!

1) Jamie Donaldson
Do I even need to explain? Jamie is the three-time winner (three consecutive years--2008, 2009 and 2010) of the Badwater Ultramarathon and she's also a 24-hour machine. She hasn't run much at all this year, taking the 2011 Badwater off, and is presumably fresh. I'm not 100% sure Jamie will line up at North Coast, but if she does it's hers. Period.
Post-race update: Dropped after 6 hours with 39.63 miles

2) Connie Garder
Whether it's 100 miles or 24 hours, Connie is as tough as they come and was the top woman at North Coast last year, finishing second overall with a ridiculous 141 miles. A few years ago at a rather infamous race in Texas, she came within a hair of setting a new women's 24-hour record but got screwed by the RD. If Jamie DNS's, this is Connie's race. She's from Cleveland and this is her turf.
Post-race update: Finished 1st among women and 2nd overall with 144.72 miles. National champ!

3) Anna Piskorska
Anna has been a consistent performer at North Coast, racking up 132 miles in 2009 and 128 miles in 2010. She'll be in the hunt and could win if Connie and/or Jamie falter.
Post-race update: Finished 6th with 105.39 miles

4) Debra Horn
Debra, who is north of 50 years of age but you wouldn't know it by how she runs, is always a factor in 24-hour races and especially at North Coast. She's from Cleveland and will perform well in her hometown race, especially late in the game when it really counts. Pencil her in for 125+ miles.
Post-race update: Finished 2nd among women with 131.51 miles. Just like clockwork!

5) Lisa Bliss
Lisa, who was the top woman at Badwater in 2007 (before Jamie Donaldson went on her rampage), racked up a somewhat modest 117 miles at last year's North Coast race and is surely primed for a better result this year. In March, she ran 118 miles at Pacific Rim, winning the race. We'll see what she does this weekend. She's kind of a wildcard here.
Post-race update: Finished 2nd among women with 125.2 miles.

Did I miss anyone? Lemme know if I did!
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  1. Mike Henze deserves a mention, although I'm not sure he's in top shape now.

    He ran 156 miles and second American in the world race Jurek notched the 165.

  2. Lloyd: Major oversight on my part. Michael is a 24-hour stud. I'm going to add him to others to watch for. My bad!


  3. This is at least the 5th time Gingrich has run at 24 event. His best being 133 mi.

  4. Tim: All the more reason he's my favorite. Last I heard McCarthy was slightly over Godale and Gingerich.