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5 Key Takeaways from 2024’s Busiest Trail Race Week Yet

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Ruby Wyles

By: Ruby Wyles

Runner, triathlete, and passionate coach, Ruby is most fulfilled by helping athletes overcome limiting beliefs with joy. She is also a proud science nerd, and advocate for athletes' mental and physical health.

From the second stop on the Golden Trail World Series (GTWS) in China to the UTMB World Series events in Auburn, California, and two World Trail Major races, the Mt. Fuji 100 Mile and the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail 115km – the 2024 trail and ultra running season is in full swing! Shoutout to the folks over at Irunfar among other media outlets, as well as Dylan Bowman with our Freetrail Trailgating Canyons Post-Race Show, for providing great in-depth race recaps. 

The podiums rarely tell the whole story, and with such an action-packed week, here are our top five takeaways alongside a quickfire Canyons segment to close the loop on some interesting storylines.

Out on the Western States Trail. PC: Ryan Thrower
Ryan Thrower heads out on the Western States Trail that much of Canyons 100km took place on over the weekend.

Is 2024 Courtney Dauwalter better than ever?

Astonishingly, after one of the best ultra trail seasons of all time, Courtney Dauwalter may be better than ever in 2024! After opening the year with a win at The North Face Transgrancanaria Classic, Dauwalter totally dominated the Mt. Fuji 100 Mile, or more accurately 103 miles, finishing over four hours ahead of 2nd place, and almost seven hours ahead of 3rd! While the women’s podium was not a close affair, Dauwalter was in contention for the outright win, duking it out with the top two men down to the wire. Ultimately, Guo-Min Deng won in 19:10, followed by Gui-Du Qin in 19:20, and Courtney Dauwalter 30 seconds behind in 19:21:22. And in case you weren’t already convinced that the trail running community is special, as well as the impact Dauwalter is having on the sport, the top 5 men all made mention of enjoying running with and/or being pressed by her during their post-race interviews.

For those running historians among us, you might recall that the last time Dauwalter ran, and won, this race was in 2018, finishing in 23:57:48. The outright winner that day was Freetrail’s own Dylan Bowman in 19:21:21, 1 second faster than Courtney’s time this year! If only she’d dipped at the finish… (we know, we know, the 2018 and 2024 courses differ substantially)

Courtney Dauwalter at the Hardrock 100mile in 2023
Courtney eclipsed the field so quickly that we had to snag this photo from the Hardrock 100-mile finish line. PC: Ryan Thrower

Takeaway: If 2023 was the year of Courtney Dauwalter, 2024 looks to be an encore. Not missing a beat, Dauwalter has begun this season just like she left off last year: total domination across the women’s field, and mixing it up with the top men for the outright podium. 

Should trail running be an Olympic event?

A celebration of a shared sporting language, the Olympic Games showcase athletes from around the world competing in popular events. Want proof that our wonderful sport of trail running is a truly global affair worthy of Olympic-status? Look no further than the top ten male and female finishers at last weekend’s Golden Trail World Series’ (GTWS) race on the Four Sisters Mountain Trail in China. In fact, four different continents were represented in just the women’s top 6: Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. As the GTWS heads west, resuming next month with Zegama-Aizkorri, we can expect to see Oceania and South America represented too. 

Grayson Murphy made her GTWS debut, finishing on the podium in 3rd place, behind the series’ leader Maude Mathys of Switzerland, with Kenya’s Joyce Muthoni Njeru in first. On the men’s side, Kenya also reigned supreme, with Patrick Kipngeno backing up his GTWS Kobe Trail win from the week before, solidifying top spot in the overall series ranking. Kipngeno was followed home by Elhousine Elazzaoui of Morocco, and the Italian Daniel Pattis rounded out the podium. 

Takeaway: The Golden Trail World Series is doing an amazing job bringing in trail runners from around the world, and a diverse array of countries, continents, and sponsors are represented at the top of the field.

adidas TERREX’s R&D team earned their bonus.

Publicly released on April 1st, adidas Terrex’s Agravic Speed Ultra is a shoe designed specifically with the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) in mind. Given the large overlaps between the Canyons race courses and WSER, last weekend’s results were very telling: the shoe works! In fact, adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultras were on the feet of four of the six podium finishes in the 50km race, 3rd and 5th place finishes in the men’s 100km, as well as Tom Evans and Ruth Croft when they won Western States in 2023 and 2022 respectively. Look out for their signature orange and white colorway on the feet of many more at this year’s WSER in June.

Petter Engdahl would go onto place third and take a golden ticket passed on from Drew Holman. PC: Ryan Thrower
Petter Engdahl would go onto place third and take a golden ticket passed on from Drew Holman. PC: Ryan Thrower

Not to be outdone, The North Face deserves a notable mention, taking both 100km victories, as well as 2nd and 4th in the women’s and men’s 50km respectively. 

Takeaway: Adidas Terrex’s new shoe, the Agravic Speed Ultras, held strong on areas of the course it’s specifically designed for, Western States, showcased on the feet of many podium finishers.

As good as shoes are, Katie Schide is better!

Katie Schide, running for The North Face, put in a performance for the ages at the Canyons by UTMB 100km. Schide dominated from wire-to-wire, putting minutes on the rest of the women in just the first ten kilometers. From there, Schide’s lead continued to grow, ultimately finishing 51 minutes ahead of second place finisher Emkay Sullivan and 1 hour and 14 minutes ahead of Anna Kacius in third. 

We've got our popcorn ready for WSER after Katie Schide runs to victory during Canyons. PC: Ryan Thrower
We’ve got our popcorn ready for WSER after Katie Schide runs to victory during Canyons. PC: Ryan Thrower

Schide’s split of 49 minutes from Michigan Bluff to Forest Hill, an iconic stretch of trail that features in both the Western States 100-mile and Canyons 100km course, was 59 seconds faster than last year’s WSER winner Tom Evans, two minutes faster than Jim Walmsley’s 2019 course record run, and seven minutes faster than the time Courtney Dwalter’s ran last year in breaking the women’s WSER course run. While Evans, Walmsley, and Dwalter logged their times on route to a 100 mile finish, compared to Schide’s 62,  there’s no doubt Schide’s performance was something for the history books!

To put Schide’s phenomenal run into even greater perspective, consider that her finishing time of 9:05:00, placing her 6th overall, was less than 5% behind the men’s winner Rod Farvard, who finished only 25 minutes ahead of her in 8:44:30. In comparison, Courtney Dwalter – one of the undisputed all-time trail and ultra running GOATS – finished 5.5% behind Tom Evans at last year’s Western States. 

Across the board, from distances ranging from 50km to 100 miles, the difference between men’s and women’s world records hover around 11%, further underscoring the magnitude of Schide run. And after finishing second last year, and with no Courtney at WSER this June, can anyone deny Schide top spot?

Takeaway: Katie Schide is one of the best ultra-trail runners of all time and is closing the gap to Courtney Dauwalter! Her performance at Canyons 100K is one for the record books, building the hype for what she can do at this year’s WSER.

Carbs Create Champions

Similar to Black Canyons 100km in February, the men’s top ten at the Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB was a mix of big names and breakthrough performances. Falling into the latter category, Rod Farvard, the overall race winner, ran aggressively from the gun, going out with what he called “pack zero”, referring to pre-race favorites Adam Peterman and Petter Engdahl. Farvard held the lead from halfway to the finish, breaking the tape in 8:44:30, narrowly holding off Drew Holman ahead of Petter Engdahl. 

Rod Farvard breaks the tape first in front of the California crowd. PC: Ryan Thrower
Rod Farvard breaks the tape first in front of the California crowd. PC: Ryan Thrower

Farvard has joined the likes of Hayden Hawks, Jim Walmsley, and Rachel Drake on the high-carb fueling bandwagon, crediting his performance leap from 14th at Black Canyons 100km to 1st at Canyons 100km to working with a dietitian to increase his race nutrition and hydration intake.

Other rising stocks after Canyons 100km include Makai Clemons and Ryan Raff coming in 4th and 9th on the men’s side respectively, as well as women’s podium finishers Emkay Sullivan and Anna Kacius.

In Case You Missed It: Quickfire Canyons 

  • In his first race back after a major injury that sidelined him in 2023, early leader Adam Peterman finished down in 13th, ending his unbeaten streak. 
  • In the 100km, Matt Daniels was a notable DNF, and Megan Roche a DNS after announcing her pregnancy: congratulations Megan! Chad Hall and Molly Seidel both pulled out of the 50km ahead of time due to injury.
  • Matt Seidel, the world’s fastest banana, stepped up from 19th at Black Canyons to 9th at Canyons.
  • Eli Hemming and Dani Moreno won the men’s and women’s 50km races respectively. Hemming adds to his 2024 unbeaten streak, while his wife, Tabor, continues her stellar season with a 3rd-place finish on the women’s side.
  • Drew Holman, in a tear-jerker moment, turned down his WSER Golden Ticket, delivering it in person to a surprised Petter Engdahl. Rod Farvard, Emkay Sullivan, and Anna Kacius will join him on the start line in Olympic Valley at this year’s Western States.

Takeaway: A lot went down at Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB, but a consistent theme highlighted by many of the top finishers was the importance of a high carbohydrate fueling strategy. Much like super shoes revolutionized marathon running, nutrition has changed the game when it comes to ultra performance.

Emkay Sullivan nails her first finish at the 100km distance to secure 2nd place convincingly. PC: Ryan Thrower
Emkay Sullivan nails her first finish at the 100km distance to secure 2nd place convincingly. PC: Ryan Thrower
Drew Holman ran a tactically near-perfect race to finish second, ready to turn his focus to UTMB. PC: Ryan Thrower
Drew Holman ran a tactically near-perfect race to finish second, ready to turn his focus to UTMB. PC: Ryan Thrower
Anna Kacius finally claims her golden ticket with her bay area crew around her. PC: Ryan Thrower
Anna Kacius finally claims her golden ticket, finishing third, with her Bay Area crew around her. PC: Ryan Thrower

Think we’ve missed anything? Let us know your highlights from the week by joining us in the conversation over on Freetrail Pro Slack channel.

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Adam Peterman: Training for Canyons 100k

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