Riverbank One Day Classic -Joe Fejes’ Men’s Preview

The Riverbank One Day Classic race will be held on the brand new track at Riverbank High School in the Central Valley of California. This 24 hour, 12 hour and Team Relay races will be run on a certified 400 meter track and will be both an IAU Bronze Label event and USATF Sanctioned. This is the 2nd annual running of the race c0-directed by Jon Olsen, the 2013 International Association of Ultrarunners’ 24-hour world champion.

For the elite athletes, this is a great opportunity to make the 24 Hour National Team which requires a minimum 140 miles for men and 125 miles for women within a 24 h10275578_10153428070398267_1179432807538863412_oour time span. The USA team will be made up of six men and six women team who will compete in Belfast July 1-2 at the World Championships.

Below is Joe Fejes’ infamous race analysis and predictions, which we always look forward to!  But as we all know, anything can happen on race day….and we are on track for lots of drama to unfold this weekend.


The men’s field includes numerous proven performers as well as those whose race statistics scream out loud “BIG MILES AHEAD!!”, including but not limited to the following six (6) runners:


Rich Riopel (43): Rich was the top American at the 2015 24-hour World Championship in Torino, Italy with 159.53 miles, finishing in 8th place overall. Rich qualified for the 2015 US Team with 146.96 performance at Desert Solstice with a 15:14 split. He has been putting in mega training miles and should be chomping at the bit to put up a big number. Rich is a 2:55 marathoner.


Bob Hearn (51): What about Bob? Peeps always ask me, “Fejes, why don’t you run a smart race pace strategy like Bob? I’ll tell you why. Because Bob is what we call an “outlier”. Bob possesses the highest IQ in ultrarunning and maybe on the planet. He holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from MIT. Early in his career as a software programmer, he co-wrote ClarisWorks, one of the most successful Apple Mac programs of all time. His hobbies include astronomy, cosmology, juggling, quantum mechanics. He also likes to play the harpsichord along with his analog modular synthesizer.

Among his other hobbies, he uses artificial intelligence programming, to teach robots to learn. I’m not kidding. Here is a brief excerpt from an interview with him a few years ago, in a science journal,

“Right now, I can teach a robot dog to learn to stand up in a way that uses hierarchical brain representations. These representations are analogous to having a higher-level representation of the state of a game in your head. The dog has built a representation of its body posture as it learns to stand up. So, it’s not only learning that from one body state it needs to move its left leg like this, but it actually has a higher-level representation of “Oh, I’m lying on my side.” Each individual leg has to learn that “If I’m in this posture and I want to be in that posture, I have to go through this other intermediate posture.” But it’s not like the robot is dancing or anything. There is still a long way to go.” And THAT is why Bob is an outlier!

As far as his running resume is concerned, Bob is the current 24-hour American record holder for the 50-54 age group with 149.24 miles at 2015 Desert Solstice which performance put him in the #4 slot on the Team (directly in front of me-dammit). His 100-mile split was 15:55 which means his pacing was virtually even throughout the race. In December, Bob ran 144.71 miles with a 100-mile split of 16:43. Bob has been itching to crack the 150-mile barrier and should be prepped to do so at Riverbank. He is a 2:58 marathoner and has sufficient speed to improve on his current performance.


Chikara Omine (34):  Chikara possesses wicked leg speed even at the advanced age of 34. On December 4, 2016 Chikara ran a 2:28 marathon at the California International marathon to go with a pair of 2:34 (Modeston) and 2:40 (Blaine) marathons earlier in the year.

Chikara has represented Team USA in 3 prior IAU 100k World Championships (2016, 2015 & 2010). In November, he finished 18th (and 3rd American) at the 2016 IAU 100k World Championship in Los Alcazanteres with a blistering 6:48. In 2015, he finished 26th in the World (4th American) with a 7:02. In 2010, he finished 9th in the World (1st American) with a 6:58 performance.

He also is a veteran of ultrarunning having run more than 81 ultra’s (winning 30 of them!) competitively since 2000 when he was 18 years old.

Riverbank won’t be Chikara’s 24-hour debut. In 2015, he ran 132.62 miles at the San Francisco 24-hour race. Chikara is an absolute wildcard for Riverbank. He has definitely has potential for 150+ miles if he runs a smart race and is motivated to make the team.


Jean “the ageless speedster” Pommier (52): Last week Jean, a prolific racer with 138 ultra-races under his belt, won the master’s division at the USA Track and Field 50k national championship (FOURmidable 50k) with a 4:32. Two weeks prior he took 2nd overall at the Jed Smith 50k with a fast 3:19. His past 5 24 hours were, 124.3, 123, 129.44, 133.35 and 127.32. He still has the speed and certainly has the experience to put up a much bigger (150+) number. Look for Riverbank to be his breakout race.


Ed Ettinghausen (52): Last month Ed put up 118 miles at the 24-hour Celtic Winter Classic. In December 2016, he won the Across the Years (ATY) six-day race with 451 miles. Two weeks prior to ATY he ran 127 miles at Desert Solstice with a 17:16 100-mile split. In 2013 at Desert Solstice he ran a personal best 144.62 miles with a 14:50 1000 mile split which was the former American 50-54 age group record. I’m generally a proponent of “use it or lose” racing strategy as far as the wisdom of racing frequently is concerned. However, Ed really has put a lot of miles up in the past two months so it will be interesting to see the number he puts up at Riverbank.


Lt. Cmdr. Steve Slaby, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18, (36): Steve’s got to feel a little pressure on him to perform at Riverbank since he is probably being introduced to at pre-race meetings as “Gina’s husband”. No worries, Riverbank will give him his own opportunity to achieve fame as well as the chance to earn a spot on the US 24 men’s team with opportunity to hopefully join his wife in Belfast on July 1 at the 2017 24-hour World Championship.

Steve can certainly handle pressure. In addition to being a Naval officer he has been competitive in numerous marathons including winning the 2015 Seattle marathon, with a time of 2:38:15. He also has a personal best of 2:29 in the 2009 San Diego marathon. He isn’t only a one trick pony either—his ultrarunning resume is just as stellar. Earlier last year he won the rugged Plain 100 with a time of 29:22. In his ultrarunning debut at the 2006 Hellgate 100k, Steve ran (11:42) taking 2nd behind Eric Grossman and just in front of the legendary 24-hour runner Serge the “surge” Arbona.

Steve’s credentials suggest he can put up 160+ numbers in the 24. However, he has the same crash and burn risks that Gina does in deciding what his goal will be at Riverbank. In fact, he has even higher risks of because of the “T” factor. [sorry I lied about abandoning sexism in my predictions]. The safest and likely smartest choice would be for him to run a conservative pace and shoot for a performance of at least 150 miles to bump Bob Hearn from the #4 spot. Choosing a “safe” goal isn’t easy though—especially for a relative youngster like Steve with some serious speed issues. Steve and Gina will both be tempted to hit the gas pedal and rev their high-performance motors. Word of caution for Lt. Cmdr. Slaby- keep your eyes on your rearview for Rich Riopel driving a hot rod Lincoln.


Joe’s Prediction:

(1)        Rich Riopel-156ish

(2)        Steve Slaby-152ish

(3)        Bob Hearn-151ish

(4)        Chikara Omine-149ish

(5)        Jean Pommier-145ish

(6)        Ed Ettinghausen-132ish


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