We're just a few days away from the annual homage to John "The Wulfman" Wulf; worshiping of the summer solstice; and, the pain, agony and all-around-good-time of a hard run. That's right, the Wulfman CDT-14K Trail Race is right around the corner. And, by all accounts, it's shaping up to be another amazing event.
This will be the 3rd running of the Pipestone to Homestake route (remember that the trail is run from Homestake to Pipestone in even numbered years); and, the race filled it's 240 slots in mid-February! A great testament to the fantastic event that's put on by the Butte Piss & Moan Runners; and, the great post-race event as hosted by the fine folks at Homestake Lodge.
Bear with me a minute while I first recognize the fine sponsors of this event. Due to their contributions of cash, goods, services and support, you get: A first class, well-organized trail race. A fantastic post race celebration with great friendship, food, and beverages. Unique awards. And, most importantly, race proceeds that put money back into the creation and care of this amazing portion of the Continental Divide Trail. Thank you to: Butte Pathology, St. James Healthcare, Dan Harrington, DDS, Speed Endurance Coaching, Brooks, Marathon Machine Works, Metals Sports Bar & Grill, Montana Broom & Brush, Water & Environmental Technologies, Great Harvest Bread, Hennessy Market, Back Country Horsemen, Anderson Zurmuehlen, Food Services of America, Circle K, Triple Ring Productions, Quarry Brewing, Harlow's Bus Sales, Trail Runner Magazine; and, Asten Center Therapeutic Massage. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
Okay - now onto the race preview - starting with the guys. Defending champion Jimmy Grant of Missoula returns to try to tame the trail for the 2nd year in a row. Having run 55:05 on the South-to-North course in 2011, Jimmy will be taking aim at Lynn Reynold's course record of 54:30. And, he's shown himself to be in fine form this year with wins at the Riverbank Run 10K, 11-Miles To Paradise trail race and the Pengelly Double Dip trail race. Add in a 2:29 marathon PR from last fall and Jimmy would seem to be ready to take on the role of race favorite.
In the role of suprising uderdog may have to be Forrest Lewton. A Caldwell (i.e. the east side of the Greater Whitehall Urban Area) native and current Whitehall resident, Forrest had an outstanding collegiate career at Azusa Pacific University. He's raced on and off in Montana over the last several years, including a stint or two at the Montana Cup. Assuming that he's fit, Forrest could shake things up a bit.
Thomas "Big Bird" Jodoin of Helena returns to the Wulfman - a site of some his best running over the lat 5 years. Big Bird won the first two editions of the event; and, since then has finished 2nd, 3rd and 3rd. He seems to be taking a bit of a sand-bagger approach this year - he's predicted a fairly moderate (for him) finish time. But, once he hits the line, I wouldn't be surprised to see him right at the front of the pack by the finish line.
Speaking of sand-baggers.....................the master himself will be back. Race co-creator and co-director Ray Hunt of Deer Lodge will once again set aside his race duties for an hour and hammer away on the CDT. Looking to improve on his 5th place overall finish (and 1st Master & 1st Age-Graded Male) in 2012, Ray has already been working on his trail skills with a top 5 finish at the 11-Miles To Paradise event. Ray has been known to run himself sick at this event; and, if he's feeling good on race day, don't be surprised to see him taking aim at Scott Creel's master's record of 57:32 (and age graded record of 51:23).
A few others to keep watch for: Rumor has it that Clint Choquette's (Butte native) fitness is questionable; but, if he races and is feeling good, he should be in contention. [UPDATE - Clint has pulled out of the race - so the intrigue on the makeup of the potential top 10 is even greater!!] As should college sophomore and Butte native Josh Panasuk. Josh has the experience of multiple times competing at Wulfman and knows the course well. Master's aces Jeff Braun (Butte) and Mike Telling (Dillon) also know the course very well and would be expected to be close to the front of the pack.
Speaking of Master's runners - there's a whole group who are throwing down some pretty fast predicted times. Aside from the aforementioned Hunt, Braun and Telling (who all could be top-10 overall finishers), we also have senior studs like Kirk Keller and Mark Slater (both of Bozeman). Toss in some others such as Cobey Williamson of Corvallis, Bryan Bradshaw of Butte, Paul Brandt of Spokane Valley, WA, Guy Wadas of Henderson, NV, Kyle Klicker of Phillipsburg and Steve Holloway of Missoula; and, you have the makings of not just a solid Master's race - but, the age-graded rankings become very competitive indeed.
The women's race could be a one-sided affair; or, it could be very interesting. Assuming that she's healthy, fit and rested, Deer Lodge's Nicole Hunt is the odd's on favorite to run away with the title. Nicole is the defending champion and is the record holder for both course directions. Nicole won the women's division of the 11-Miles To Paradise event a month ago; and, has run well in several other early season races. But, as a 40+ mother of 3 (including the young twins) - her sleep and training can, at time, cause her to be less than fresh going into competition. And, being heavily involved in the race management duties will also contribute to her pre-race workload.
If ready to go, Nicole will be chasing her S-N record of 64:10 from 2009; the Master's record of 75:27 set by Debbie Gibson (2009); and, the 66:03 age-graded record of Debbie Magilke (also 2009). But, if she's not on her "A" game - then there's quite a field that will be in the chase.
Olivia Wood of Anaconda is fresh off an exceptional high school career as an Anaconda Copperhead distance runner. And, she's had a top 10 finish at CDT (2010) and 4th place finishes in 2011 & 2012. Is this the year that she makes the top 3; and, if things go her way then maybe the title? Or, what about race rookie Lisa Minnehan of Billings? She was a top collegiate performer during her time at MSU-Billings; and, has had quite a bit of road success over the last few years. Injury issues laid her low last year; but, she could be a definite factor if fit and healthy.
Kathy Peterson of Dillon is back and ready to improve on her 4th place Master's finish from last year. And, then there is newcomer Lori Buratto (42) of Spokane Valley, WA. With the mix of race veterans and newbies, it should prove to be a very interesting day on the trail.
Good luck to all entrants. Remember to check the Wulfman website for pre-race details on starting procedures, parking, shuttle buses, etc. Look forward to seeing everybody on the 22nd.
See you on the roads, tracks and Continental Divide Trail - The Muddy Buzzard