Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mad City Preview

The Objective:
The Mad City 100k, to be held April 9th in Madison, WI, is the USA Track & Field National Championship for the road 100km.  More importantly, it serves as a qualifying race for the USA World 100km team.  The 100km World Championship will be competed in September 2011 in Winschoten, the Netherlands.  I would very much like to represent the US in the Netherlands this fall.

How to Qualify:
Qualifying for the team is somewhat involved, but here's the executive summary.  There are 6 slots for the men's team.  Two of those spots and already filled from previous qualifying events/times.  The winner of the Mad City 100km automatically qualifies for the US team.  The remaining positions are filled based on athletes' performances at other qualifying events.  If you want to know the details click here.

Clearly, winning the race would be nice and remove any doubt about making the team.  But a fast time at Mad City could also qualify me for the team.  The third and fourth slots already have pretty fast qualifying times which will make them hard to displace.  That fourth slot is held by a 7:01:36, but there is a big gap on the performance list back to the 5th fastest time of 7:15:11.  To have any reasonable chance of making the team, I'll need to go sub 7:15.  It will more than likely take something faster than that though.

The Course:
Straight off the website: "The 100K Solo race will consist of 10 laps of a 10K loop.  This loop is Madison's most popular 10K race course, which takes runners along the shore of Lake Wingra, through scenic neighborhoods, and through the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. The entire course is pavement or sidewalks."

The Competition:
While the quality is high, the entry list is relatively short, so I've done a little research on the registered competition.  Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know any of these guys.  I haven’t met them or ever raced them to my knowledge.  Everything I’m reporting here was found on the good ole internet.  And I definitely could have missed some results. was very helpful in my research, but it doesn’t include things like road marathon times, so it would be easy to miss that type of result.  There could be late registrations and I could have overlooked a contender as well.  If so, no disrespect was intended.  Anyway, here’s the scouting report:

Todd Braje (34 yrs old)  – Todd was on the World team last year and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.  He’s been on fire lately racking up his 3rd individual USATF National Championship last October at the Tussey Mountainback 50 miler with a time of 5:43 which is a new course record.  He then broke the CR at the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February with another 5:43.  He finished second at the Way Too Cool 50k in March.  He was also ranked 6th in Ultrarunning Magazine's North American ultramarathoners of the year in 2010.

Zach Gingerich (31) – Zach is an experienced ultrarunner who seems to tend toward the longer races like Badwater, which he won last year.  He also won the Arrowhead 135 mile race, Umstead 100 Mile (13:23), and a 24-hour race last year.   But, he also ran the fastest 50 miler in the country last year with his 5:35 at Des Plaines River.  This guy has great range and will be tough to beat.  Oh yeah, he was ranked third best on Ultrarunning's list last year.

Mark Godale (41) – Mark has a very impressive and lengthy ultra resume.  He went 3:17 earlier this month at the Camusett Park 50k, finished 6th at the Bandera 100k in January, and was 5th at the Tussey race that Braje won last fall.  I don’t think you can pick him as the pre-race favorite, but if the leaders screw up by going out too fast or something, this is the kind of guy that might sneak up and steal the thing.

Andrew Henshaw (25) – The young one has the speed.  He ran 2:26:39 at the Miami Marathon on January 30th.  But he’s also got quite an ultra resume for his age and it includes several 50 and 100 milers.  He ran 5:56 last spring at American River 50mi coming in 2nd behind Geoff Roes.  This guy worries me a bit, because he and I have virtually identical marathon PRs, and I’m used to having the upper hand when it comes to leg speed in these long races.

Chad Ricklefs (43) – Chad’s another guy with a long ultra resume who appears to have focused more on road ultras and what I call “trail lite” type races.   He is the only guy on this list who ran Mad City last year (7:16:52) and went on to run 7:01:36 for the US at the IAU 100k World  Championship race.  He also ran just under 6:07 at JFK 50 mi in 2009.  Chad’s got invaluable experience in this type of event and is sure to be in the mix.

Devon Crosby-Helms (28) – Yes, this is a female and she won’t be directly competing with the boys, but I still think she deserves a mention.  She’s an experienced road 100k runner and holds the female course records at Tussey (6:28) and JFK (6:29).  I'm not as familiar with the women's side of things, but she appears to be the clear favorite to me.  And if I bomb the race, I'll be looking over my shoulder trying not to get chicked.

Me (29) – If you use the same methods I used to research these other guys and try to rank me objectively, I think you can only come to one conclusion:  I’m the least experienced guy on the list.  Really, all I have is a 2nd place, 5:53 at JFK 50 mi last fall.  Sure, I have a bunch of fast 50k’s over the last few years, but everyone knows 50k’s aren’t a “real” ultra.  If you really did your research you’d know that I ran a 2:26 road marathon a little over a year ago.  I think my speed looks as good as anyone on this list, but I am still unproven at the 50mi+ distances. 

Here are the questions in my mind:  Was my JFK race a fluke?  Was it just a one-hit-wonder in my first attempt at the distance?  Can I do it again, plus 12 miles?   Was my training appropriate for this type of race?  How will an all road surface affect me?  What will the early April weather in Wisconsin do?  Can I stay in control early and run a reasonable pace?

The Prediction:
So, what’s my prediction?  Ha.  I have no clue.  This race looks wide open to me.  Anyone mentioned above has a legitimate shot at winning.  If Michael Wardian or Chikara Omine were registered at this point, I’d have to give them the nod.  But they’ve already qualified for the 2011 US 100k team based on their performance at Worlds last year and aren’t currently on the entry list for Mad City. 

The Strategy:
Run my race.  Try not to get caught up in the excitement early, because this is kind of a long race.  It's going to take at least a sub 7:15 and probably faster.  Getting my nutrition right will be important, but thankfully my dad will be there crewing for me and it shouldn't be a problem.  I think that's all I want to say right now.

The race starts at 6:30AM on Saturday.  You can follow my progress on race day via the webcast which will record each 10k split.  You can also follow me on twitter (@rundavid1) for before and after updates.  And I might even try to teach my dad how to tweet for me during the promises there though.


  1. Dave,

    Good luck man! I will be rooting for you.

    I have seen 3 of the six names you have listed first hand. Braje has a knack for winning lots of races, and watching him at Burning River last year, he was well crewed and had his strategy dialed in. Gingerich, is a machine...he will run hard from the beginning, and has been logging huge miles 180+ weeks. I was at Badwater last year pacing Dave Corfman when he won, he and his pacer (Evan Hone another solid trail runner) passed us (Corfman and I) at mile 42, and they were gone. His diet can creepo up on him, but he knows what he is doing. Not telling you how to run, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep him within a distance you feel comfortable that you could close on him. Godale, is a wild card, great runner and has a ton of experience. His workouts are also big, fast and often.

    All that said, you have the ability to beat these guys, and do it handily. I believe that you have more natural speed and may have the advantage of not too many races on your legs. Regardless, I know you will be locked in and be ready. Embrace the journey and run fast!


  2. Kyle, great scouting report. Thanks for sharing. I also appreciate your confidence in my abilities. I don't think I've done anything yet that would suggest I'm any better than these guys, but I'm looking forward to racing them and finding out where I stand.