I won't be running myself, but I will be in America's highest incorporated town this weekend with the family following the action in the early going before pacing Harry Harcrow to a sub-19 hour finish through the last 25 miles. Sub 25-hour runners get the big dinner plate belt buckle, but the real challenge is the 20-hour mark. Here's a quick look at a few of the names that could, and maybe should, be getting back into Leadville before midnight.
I'll start with the front of the field and the headline match-up: Tim Parr vs. Anton Krupicka. There is absolutely no doubt that Parr is fit and ready, having just won the US Mountain Running qualifier at Cheyenne Canon a few weeks back, in addition to destroying the field just four days ago at the Pikes Ascent in a blistering 2:12. He trains at high altitude, has surely been running high mileage, and will surprise a few people who maybe haven't heard of him before and think this race is all about Tony. Which brings me to Krupicka, two time winner and second fastest ever over the course. Not only has Tony won the race twice, but he also lives and trains through the summer months in Leadville. He set a very impressive course record at the USATF 50 mile championship a few weeks back, and appears to be in great shape. If I were a bookmaker, I'd have to make Tony the favorite, but I certainly wouldn't be offering any better than 2-1 on Tim.
My pick? I'm gonna stick my neck out and say that Parr wins this duel, but not necessarily the race.
The other contender for the win? Dennis Flanagan. He came from nowhere to win the Leadville Marathon, setting a seven-minute course record in the process and beating Tony by a convincing eight minutes. For whatever reason he didn't show up for the Leadville 50, so there might be some injury doubts, in addition to doubts that he can go the distance (having never run a 100 miler before - as far as I know), but he certainly knows how to run trail and how to run trail fast. Definitely a wild card.
The Chase Pack
Nobody is giving much love to the defending champ, Duncan Callahan, in discussing this year's race, which is a mistake. He may not have the ability to run 16 hours, but he'll be in the vicinity should the lead runners crumble and whither under too hot of a pace. Duncan had a solid run for third at the Leadville Marathon, in addition to a few other races through the season, but his focus appears to be 100% centered on Leadville. He trains hard, has a strong competitive spirit and will be ready. Look for him to beat his winning time of 18:02 from last year.
Zeke Tiernan was third last year in a strong 18:37. I have no idea how his season is going, but based on last year's finish, he has to be considered for a top five this year.
Andy Jones Wilkins has been running well this year, as he seems to do most years in the 100-mile category. He won Rocky Raccoon, placed 10th at States, and then followed that up a couple weeks later with a very strong run at Hardrock. You can count on Andy to sweep up any carnage that comes his way through the last 25 miles. Top five.
Harry Harcrow is another steady 100 miler who knows how to get it done. He's shooting for a PR, so anything under 19:30. I'll be pacing him through the last 25 and will be wielding the whip. I hope to get him home in under 19 hours, but first he's got to get to Fish Hatchery in one piece and on pace.
Nick Pedatella has been logging some big miles in training and says he's hoping to go under 20 hours. He is more than capable of going under 20. Nick, you should be looking at the 19-hour number!
Ryan Burch. Well, all I can say about Ryan and Leadville is that he proposed to Megan, his wife, on top of Sugarloaf last year on the way back to Leadville, all while blowing up big time. This followed a similar disappointment the year before (the blowing up part). That said, he keeps pushing out impressive 50-mile performances, including wins at Leadville and Jemez Mountain this year alone. He's pretty steadfast in his desire to 'get it done' in under 25 hours, all while not suffering too much, regardless of how much I've been prodding him to run competitively. If he can get to the turn and back over Hope in good shape, he might mount a late charge, but don't look for him to be running too hard; he just wants the monkey off his back.
Charles Corfield has had a couple of strong finishes at Leadville. Look for him to run under 20 and challenge for a top five.
Jeff Beuche has gone under 20 hours before and finished top three in '06. No idea what kind of shape he is in this year, but should run strong.
Glenn Steckler has had some good 50-mile finishes this year, including a fourth at Fruita and fifth at Collegiate Peaks. He ran Leadville in the 22-hour range last year. Has the potential to go faster.
Jason Koop has run Leadville in the 22-hour range. Could be there again for a top ten.
Other names I recognize that could run well
Kirk Apt is running his 15th (or something like that) Leadville this year. He won way back when in a record-slow winning time. The trails were rivers that year, apparently.
Jonathan Zeif is a friend, local trail runner and member of the Fort Collins Running Club looking for the big 1,000 mile belt buckle this year. No doubt in my mind that he will get it done, it's just a question of how fast he will go.
Doug Nash is another friend and member of the Fort Collins Running Club. He's had two good finishes at Leadville and is dogged enough to pull off a third, despite a sketchy training build-up.
Corey Hanson is another local trail runner and occasional running partner. Normally I would put him higher in the rankings as he is a fast runner, but he's been dealing with some Achilles issues and is deep into his bid for Leadman'dom. With a finish on Saturday/Sunday he becomes a Leadman. No doubt in my mind that it will happen.
Jeff O'Reilly has had a nightmare season with injuries, and he dropped from last year's race. He hasn't run much, if at all, in the last two months, but I'm pulling for him to save his season by getting a finish at Leadville on Sunday.
Brooks Williams is Anton K's former room-mate, landlord, and all around nice guy. This will be his first 100, so I hope he's been getting some good advice from Anton.
Jon Teisher, aka PitBrownie, will be looking to set a PBR consumption record over the course of a 100 miler. I believe he put away three at Hardrock in addition to a shot of whiskey and a fat cigar. I know he can do better at Leadville. Oh, and he's looking for some redemption on his DNF from last year. Go get it Brownie!
Top ten prediction
Andy Jones Wilkins
The women's race looks to be a three-filly affair with Darcy Africa, Jamie Donaldson and, to a lesser extent, Anita Fromm in with a shout. If I had to pick a winner, my money would be on Darcy, but Jamie is a very strong and experienced 100 miler. Coming off her repeat win at Badwater a few weeks back, she should give Darcy a run for her money. Anita is much slower than these two, but should be good for third.