Friday, February 11, 2011

Up And Comers

I thought it'd be fun to do a post highlighting some of the runners who I think are very likely to become a lot more known in the ultra running world in the next year or two. A few of these runners have already had some "breakthrough" performances and others of them are almost completely unknown, but what I think they all have in common is that they have just scratched the surface of what they are capable of. I think it'll be really fun to follow each of their progress this year and beyond. The other thing I would say about this list is that I have been fortunate enough to meet all of these runners except for Ian and Jacob, and they are all great people who I think are very likely to succeed in their running and in most anything they take on in their lives.
  • It's hard to call Ian Sharman an up and comer, especially after his performance last week down in Texas, but I for one am really excited to see what he can do in more technical races going forward. Rocky Raccoon might just be a course that fits him perfectly, and he may have a difficult time ever having a race like that on a more challenging course, but on the other hand Rocky Raccoon may give him a level of confidence going forward that makes him a contender to win any race he runs. One thing I'll be curious to follow is how much "gas in the tank" he'll have at Western States. If he sticks to his current race plans he will have raced 300 miles this season before Western States! I am planning to race 180 miles before Western States, and I'm a little bit concerned that this could be a bit too much. To put this into context, I raced 130 miles before Western States last year, and Tony K. raced 62. Granted Tony raced such a small amount because he was coming back from injury, but I think a huge part of the reason Tony and I were able to run as fast as we did last year at WS was because of how relatively fresh we both were going into that race.
  • It's probably even harder to call Ellie Greenwood an up and comer, but I put her on this list because I think she has only scratched the surface of her potential. I don't mean this as any disrespect to any other runners, but I think Ellie is the most talented female ultra runner in North America right now. I for one am really excited to see how this talent manifests itself in the months and years to come.
  • Bill Fanselow is another one who has already had some solid results, but who I think will turn a lot more heads as he gets more and more experience racing for 7+ hours. He's a large guy for an ultra runner, but in my limited experience racing against him he seems tough as nails. This past fall at the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler he just kept on my heels for the entire day. In the end I was able to hold him off by 10 or 15 minutes, but then found out after the race that he had just had surgery on his heart less than a month before the race! I heard he dropped out of Rocky Raccoon last week after 80 or so miles, but my guess is he learned a lot from running that far and will be a force to reckon with in upcoming races. Bill, if you read this you should shoot me an email ( if you want to get out for a run sometime. I lost your number after Steamboat.
  • Jason Schlarb is a local Boulder guy who turned a lot of heads with his 5th place finish at the North Face San Francisco race in December. I'm pretty sure he's planning a pretty busy ultra racing schedule this season. If he gets on a roll he could be a force to reckon with.
  • Jacob Rydman is a much lesser known runner, who I have only met through email. One thing that stands out with Jacob though is that he seems to have a desire to test/push himself to see what he can do. He also seems to understand the importance (in my opinion) of huge amounts of vertical in training for long ultras. I think he's planning to run Way Too Cool and American River so he may not be such an unknown for too much longer.
  • Michael Owen might be the most exciting youngster this side of Dakota Jones. I think he's 21 and he just finished 9th at the North Face race in December. He's been running high mileage in training for about a year, and is a rare 21 year old that seems to truly get what it takes to race ultras. I only chatted with him for a bit during the SF race, but I saw enough to suspect that he has a great shot (if he wants to) of being a top contender in ultra running for several years. There are young, inexperienced runners who seem very young and inexperienced, and then there are young and inexperienced runners like Michael Owen (and Dakota) who seem to understand running and racing well beyond their years. I'm not sure what his racing plans are for this year, but I hope I get a chance to cross paths with him again soon.
  • Patrick Garcia is a cool guy from Denver who might not have quite as much raw potential as some of these other runners, but my guess is (based on the one run I've done with him and his impressive 3rd place finish at Hellgate 100k this past December) that he'd be suited really well for long slow races (Hardrock, Wasatch, etc.). It's sounds like his racing schedule is going to be fairly minimal this year as he and his wife are expecting a second (or a second and third) child this summer. After a year of drawing strength and focus from his family I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him drop some performances in 2012 that exceed anything he's done (from a performance standpoint) thus far. I'll certainly be rooting for him in every race he runs.
  • Rachel Phelps is the least known of anyone on this list. She's a friend of mine from Juneau who has only raced one marathon and one 50k. She had great performances in both of those races and has only just barely scratched the surface of what she's capable of as a runner. I don't know if she has a huge desire to race too many races in the lower 48, but I do know that she has a ton of talent as a mountain runner. Steep mountain ascents seem to be almost effortless for her, and the longer she goes the stronger she seems to get. I have been on more than a few runs with her over 4 hours in rugged, steep, mountainous terrain, and each time she has seemed as strong at the end of the run as she did at the beginning.
Ok, that's it for my list. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on these runners and/or of some more "up and comers" any of you might have in mind.


Jeff Valliere said...

Excellent post Geoff! I agree with all of your thoughts here.

re: Mike Owen.... He looked me up when he came to visit Boulder last March and we ran together 3 days I think and I have to agree that he certainly is wise beyond his years and has some serious potential. I have been trying to talk him into moving to Colorado ever since, hope he does. Great guy, great runner and I look forward to running with (probably behind) him again.

ruggedstickman said...

Mike Foote, 26, Missoula, MT

3 course records and broke Meltzer's CR at the Bear 100 last fall...and it was only his 3rd 100 mile race. this guy is for real.

dvroes said...

It was Geoff who had the CR at Bear in 2009 just two weeks after his CR run at Wasatch.

Carlee said...

Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this; it's the kind of thing that fascinates me! (not to mention gets me exited to blow my own goals out of the water)

Unknown said...

great post Geoff. I know you can't know everybody and I like the Colorado-centric list BUT Pearl Izumi runner Tim Olson should be at the top. Tim won Where's Waldo and Pine to Palm last year. His Where's Waldo time was very close to Eric Skaggs record. (sorry Tim I know you wanna lay low but your cover is blown)

Unknown said...
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ruggedstickman said...


you are certainly correct...geoff reminded me as well :)

either way, a great run by mike

Michael Owen said...

I like the idea you bring up in Ian Sharmans section about race mileage. It is certainly something people should keep track of and consider, especially if they are gearing up for a big race. There is only so much you can physically and mentally prepare for in a given time. One ultra per month seems like too much even (unless you are Karl Meltzer!).

Sharman has 25 races for this year alone posted on this blog. Granted, a lot of them are shorter than ultras, but that is a lot. To each their own though.

Brandon said...

If you think Ian is fast going flat you should see him go downhill, I think he beats gravity...I never thought the words "comfortable" and "4:30 mile" could ever be in the same sentence together.


runswithheart said...

I fully agree with your pick of Rachel Phelps. I ran with her for awhile during her outstanding performance at the 2010 Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks(i was running the 50k, 4th place 4:17) and we talked about you and the beauty and challenge of Juneau. Rachel was a pleasure to run with and talk with at the finish and I hope she continues with her running. Good choice Geoff