This weekend elite runners from across the country (and world) will meet for a showdown the desert. Aravaipa Running’s 6th annual Desert Solstice Invitational is an event whose participants are selected by invitation or qualification only. On Saturday at 8:00 am PST, 27 athletes will toe the line and give it their all on a 400 meter all-weather track located at Central High School in Phoenix. Some will run for 100 miles; others will run for 24 hours.
Many of the runners this year are vying for a spot on the coveted 2017 US National 24 Hour Team which requires minimum 140 miles for men and 125 miles for women within a 24 hour time span. In addition they will be chasing national and world records on a track with a reputation for speed. 41 National Records and 10 World Records have been set at Desert Solstice. The weather forecast calls for near perfect conditions: a high of 68 and a low of 45 under clear skies.
Below are athletes reviews from Melia Coury and Joe Fejes (who is also competing in this year’s race). They are listed in order of Joe’s predicted finishes.
But as we all know, anything can happen on race day.
(1) John Cash (43) 100 mile PR 14:25 (DS); 154.51 24 PR. Hailing from Washington, Missouri, John set his 100-mile & 24-hour PR at the 2014 Desert Solstice: 14:25 and 154.6 miles respectively. That performance landed him on the 2015 USA National Team that competed in Italy. Earlier this year he ran an 84.4 mile 12 hour and ran second to Greg Armstrong at the Vol State 500k with an impressive performance. Teamed with crew chief, Meghan McCarrick, they are a tough combination and John is among the race favorites.
(2) Anders Tysk (44) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR 15:38 (DS); 152.95 24 PR. Anders is from Sweden and making he return to DS. In 2014 he ran a 15:38:50 for his 100 mile mark and then went on to finish 152 miles in the 24 hour time period. He is a brilliant runner-robotic steady pace from start to finish. If healthy he will repeat or better his 152 PR. 11/9 UPDATE: WILL NOT RUN DS 2016
(3) Olaf Wasternack (36) DS Rookie; 100 mile PR 18:44 (Pinhoti); 140.85 24 PR. Olaf completed 140 miles at NorthCoast 24 Hour Endurance Run in 2015. He has also won 6 marathons this year, two of which were on trails. Olaf has sufficient torque to put up a big number. His last 24 hour race at Northcoast 24 National Championship was a bust which means Olaf is redemption ready and could have an incredible day. 11/9 UPDATE: WILL NOT RUN DS 2016
(4) Bob Hearn (51) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR 15:55; 149.24 24 PR. Bob is currently sitting at 4th on the U.S. National 24 Hour Running Team rankings for 2017 selection with his American Age Group Record performance of 149.24 last year at Desert Solstice. EArlier this year, we became one of a handful of Americans to post a sub 30 hour time in Spartathlon, the 153.4-mile race from Athens to Sparta. Watch out – he could be looking to improve on his 200K & 24 hour age group records. The most disciplined runner in the field, we expect Bob to challenge for a top spot in the race and break into the 150s.
(5) Greg Soutiea (32) DS Rookie; 100 mile PR (16:53 @ Run Around the World). Greg has two great 24 hour performances this year. The first at 3 Days at the Fair- 24 Hour he completed 123 miles. Then at the Run Around the World 24 Hour he finished 130 miles under terribly hot temps. He has the potential for 150+ at DS and a podium spot.
(6) Joshua Finger (43) 100 mile PR 15:49 (Rocky Raccoon); In 2015 Joshua finish 152 miles in 24 hours at Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn Ultra. Earlier this year he completed a 50 mile race in 6:38:03. He possesses sufficient leg speed to surpass 146 miles. Has struggled past couple of 24s but his could be the race to turn things around.
(7) David Huss (35) DS Rookie; 100 mile PR is 16:41 (Umstead in 2015); David, from Seattle WA, finished the Woodstock Festival 100 mile earlier this year, in 20:40:16. Look for a surprise 24 hour debut. Umstead 100 time is faster than the likes of Riopel, Worts, Gardner and Armstrong.
(8) Andrew Snope (30) DS Rookie; 100 mile PR unknown but has 136.98 PR barefoot Guinness Record on the track. He ran a 24-hour 136.98-mile barefoot run at Six Days in the Dome in 2014 broke the previous barefoot record by 5.55 miles. Andrew recently won the Fort Clinch 100 in a new course record of 16:54:41. He also won the screwed division (unsupported) at the Vol State 500k earlier this year.
(9) Ed Ettinghausen (54) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR 14:50 (DS 2013); 144.62 24 PR. No doubt with is the Jester in the above photo with Pete Kostelnick and Bob Hearn. Ed ran the first edition of this race in 2010. In 2013 Ed ran his PR 14:50 100-Mile during Desert Solstice on his way to setting a 24-hour PR of 144 miles. Can Ed repeat 2013 magic? He’s on a roll already for 2016 with records in the 1,000 KM and 10-Day, so we shall see….
(10) Joe Fejes (50) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR 14:41 (DS 2012); 156.62 24 PR. Joe is currently sitting at 5th on the U.S. National 24 Hour Running Team list for 2017 qualification with 145.582 Miles (234.291Km) at Dia de los Muertos, Lillington, NC on 10/24/2015 . In his own words, “Weight & fitness level may trump experience and past performance”. We will see ….
(11) Thomas Podell (37) DS Rookie; 100 mile PR 15:54 (Long Beach 100 set last year); 122 24 PR. No activity in 2016. 130 seems feasible goal for debut based on 100 speed. He has a long history of strong 100 and 100+ mile races.
(12) Padraig Mullins (35) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR: 17:08 (DS in 2013); 125.69 24 PR. 135+ is a strong possibility. In August of this year he completed 52 miles in just 8 hours; a new PR for his 100 mile time may be on the horizon.
(13) John Ticer (60) DS Veteran; 100 mile PR: 16:35 (2004 Javelina Jundred). 122 24 PR at the NorthCoast 24 Hour Endurance Run in 2010. John has been an ultrarunner since early 80s. He will likely challenge 60-64 age group AR.
(14) Jay Aldous (55); DS Veteran; 100 mile PR: 13:52. 50-54 WR age group. 24 hour hasn’t been DS goal but he will be eyeing some American age group records with the main goal of a World Best in the 100 mile 55-59 age group (currently 15:14:35 set back in 1934). We believe this is a real possibility. Jay has gone on to set a 100-mile PR of 13:52 (at Desert Solstice in 2011) which is a standing World Best age group performance. In 1980 Jay ran the Western States Endurance Run on a whim where he ran a sub-24 at age 18. Since then, he has seen success in everything from technical mountain 100s to the track.
(15) Zach Bitter (30); DS Veteran; 100 mile PR: 11:40 (2015 DS). Currently, the fastest 100 mile runner on the Planet. He recently set a new course record at Javelina Jundred 100 mile in 13:30:28 on a record hot day in the desert. In 2014 he was the National Champion for the 100 kilometer distance and has represented Team USA at the World Championship multiple times. He will challenge 100 mile WR if fully recovered from recent 100k WC performance. 24 hour hasn’t been Zach’s DS goal. 11/9 UPDATE: WILL NOT RUN DS 2016