Cayuga Trails 50 is coming up on June 4th. Once again, it will serve as USATF 50-Mile Trail Championships. This race annually brings an all-star cast to Ithaca, New York, and this year will be no different.
Here is a brief preview. It includes ten ladies who I expect to be competitive. It is not an exhaustive list, and if I left you out, I apologize! Go prove me wrong on the trails.
Amanda Basham: Amanda won last year and she is the course record holder. In fact, she has run 11 minutes faster than any other lady (Magdalena Boulet has the second fastest time). That means she will be incredibly hard to beat. Amanda snagged a golden ticket to Western States so she will be lining up in Squaw Valley just a few weeks after Cayuga Trails. This will be a nice tune-up race, and she is definitely my favorite for the win.
Jacqueline Merritt: Jackie came in second last year and third the year before that. She has shown the ability to run well on the Cayuga Trails course, and she is a likely candidate to pick up the pieces if Amanda falters for any reason. ***Update*** Jackie will not be running this year.
Laura Kline: Laura was fourth last year in her first 50-miler. She has more experience now and she will definitely be competing for a podium spot. She races a lot – will she be in amazing shape or tired (or both)? That is the only question.
Karen Holland: Karen was fifth last year and fourth the year before that. She ran about five ultras last year and she did well in every single one of them. She has been very consistent, and I think that favors her for a top-five finish.
***Liz Gleason finished third in 2015, and as of this writing, she is not signed up for the 2016 race***
Caitlin Smith: I was listening to Ultra Runner Podcast a few months back and Caitlin mentioned that she was interested in Cayuga Trails – and here she is! She is definitely quick and I think she is the most likely non-returning runner to grab a podium spot.
Corrine Malcolm: To be completely honest, I was not familiar with this name when I looked over the entrant’s list. However, I did a little bit of research and noticed a top-four finish at Gorge Waterfalls. That put her about 20 minutes behind Amanda Basham and about 20 minutes in front of Darcy Piceu – that means she is good. She is a west-coaster, presumably making a long trip, so that’s a disadvantage. But she ran Gorge Waterfalls and Ithaca is Gorges so you just never know.
Heather Hoechst: Heather recently won the Bear Mountain 50-Miler in 8:48 – that is no joke on that course. A similar time on Cayuga Trails might place her in the top five. Last year, she won Tussey Mountainback (a much faster course), and she almost ran under seven hours. Her combination of speed (Tussey Mountainback) and toughness (Bear Mountain) will be a perfect fit for this race.
Kelsey Allen: Kelsey was 12th at Cayuga Trails in 2014. Since then, she has gotten quicker. Last fall, she ran a speedy 8:11 at the Vermont 50 (September). Will that translate into an improvement at Cayuga Trails? Only time will tell.
Natalie Thompson: Natalie has run well over the last year. I expect her to finish in the top ten, the question is where in the top ten.
Kristen Roe: Kristen is my darkhorse for the race. She is relatively new to ultras, but she has some impressive performances over the last year, including a recent win at the Umstead 50-Miler (7:55:32). The Cayuga Trails course is much tougher than Umstead, but Kristen is semi-local, so I’m guessing she has checked out the course a few times. She is definitely top-ten material.