Looks like it's going to be a barn burner down at Western this year, both literally and figuratively as the mercury is set to climb over 100 for the first time in numerous years. "The Real Course" as many would call it, is about to be run.
Many have asked me if I'd return to WS after my 6th place finish in 2010 and the answer is a resounding YES, but not for at least a few more years as I'm really looking to focus my energy and finances towards big mountainous races in the next few years. I'll be putting in for the Hardrock lottery this year and we'll take it from there.
SO, given that the heat will play a MAJOR factor in tomorrow's run. Here are my picks for top three men and women.
1) Mike Morton - living in Florida, knocking out sub 13h30m 100's like it's nobodies business, smashing the US men's 24 hour record, and having won the race once before in a staggering sub 16hr run before most of us knew what ultra running was. The story lines are too intriguing to not be pulling for him. I think he takes it and it becomes one of the stories of the year in the ultra scene.
2) Timmy Olson - hard to slot Timmy into second, especially after a great year to date in which he also showed he could handle the heat with a stout 4th place finish at Transvulcania last month. The course record holder will have his hands full with Mike and in the end I think Mike's living in the heat full time will be the deciding factor.
3) Hal Koerner - everyone overlooks Hal even though he's won it twice and both during hot years. Like Hardrock last year he's managing to fly just under the radar this year. I think the heat works to Hal's favor and we end up with the first ever podium full of previous champions, a story in and of itself.
Guy hardest not to pick for top three: Rob Krar
1) Cassie Scallon - Cassie was injured for almost all of 2012, but right before she went down with a stress fracture she was crushing records in 50 mile or under distances. Cassie runs FAST and she's in top form this year as evidenced by her annihilation of the CR at the recent Ice Age 50. She bettered a 15 year old women's record by 18 minutes and in the process bettered 2nd place, previous winner and competitive runner Denis Bourassa by over an hour!
2) Rory Bosio - Very, VERY difficult not to pick Rory for the win after all she's done on the WS course in the last few years. Rory is also a very smart runner so expect to see her make a late push while others are fading in the heat.
3) Emily Harrison - Speed is what wins WS and Emily displayed this in spades while pushing Ellie Greenwood to a new CR at the JFK 50 late last year. Emily was testing the waters then with it being her first 50 miler as she will be now with this being her first 100, but as she's coached by the legendary Ian Torrence, I'm fairly certain she'll have a proper race day strategy in place and she'll be hard to beat if she runs a smart race and handles the heat alright.
Woman hardest not to pick for top three: Amy Sproston
What say you? Who are you picking for the podium tomorrow?
Best wishes to everyone for a safe and successful race!