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Canyons 100K preview: can Reid Coolsaet bounce back ahead of Western States?

The top North American trail runners look to the Canyons 100K to earn a golden ticket to Western States

The Canyons 100K endurance run is back on Saturday, with one of the deepest fields in recent years. Many of the top North American trail runners will race Canyons as the final chance to earn a ticket into the Western States 100, which is awarded to the top three men and women. Finishers will also receive three running stones for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) lottery.

Riccardo Tortinii at Canyons 100K. Photo: Hilary Matheson

The race follows the Western States 100 course for 100K in reverse, starting in Auburn, Calif., and many trail runners use it as a tuneup for the granddaddy of US ultras, which takes place in late June. Runners will climb 14,900 feet (4,500m), or roughly 74 metres per mile, over 59.3 miles in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The key to fast times depends very much on the weather, and rain makes for slippery conditions on the descents. The forecast is calling for 30 cm of snow and showers Friday evening, and the race start is Saturday at 5 a.m. PT, which could potentially be very problematic at the start. The forecast for Saturday is a high of 21 C and clear skies throughout, which could mean very wet conditions on the course.

In 2021, Anthony Costales from Salt Lake City won the men’s race in a course record time of 9:11:40. A course record was set on the women’s side as well, with the U.K.’s Beth Pascall getting the win in 10:01:55. This year Canyons will crown a new champion, as neither Pascall nor Costales are coming back to defend their titles.

Canada’s Marianne Hogan, who won the Bandera 100K last year, was poised for a top finish at Canyons, but has unfortunately withdrawn after sustaining an ankle injury a few weeks ago, since she hopes to race well at Western States.

Men’s preview

Ryan Miller

Miller is coming into Canyons as one of the many favourites, after winning the Bandera 100K in 2021; he went on to race Western States last year but did not finish, and will be looking for redemption this year. He is strong on the descents and has shown his speed on the flats, with a 63-minute half at the Houston Half Marathon in 2020. Look for Miller to be among the leaders early on Saturday.

Adam Peterman

Peterman won the JFK 50-miler in 2021. Photo: ATRA

Peterman has won his last three races and looks to make it a fourth at Canyons. His recent first-place finishes came at the 2021 Speedgoat 50K, JFK 50-miler, and most recently, the 2022 Chuckanut 50K. Peterman does not lack the speed to win this thing, but he is fairly fresh on the scene and Canyons 100K will be his longest race to date.

Reid Coolsaet

Reid Coolsaet competes in the 2021 Quebec Mega Trail. Photo: Reid Coolsaet Instagram

The two-time Olympic marathoner made a transition into trail ultrarunning last year, and won the Quebec Mega Trail 110km, despite going off course. He followed up his promising debut with a DNF at this year’s Black Canyon 100K. Although Coolsaet has already gained entry into the Western States 100K courtesy of his sponsor, he’s looking to gain experience on the Canyons 100K course before tackling States.

Sage Canaday

The Canyons 100 could mark a triumphant return for Canaday, who has slowly been working his way back to fitness after being treated for blood clots in his lungs in early 2021. His most recent result was second place at the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2019 and a fifth-place finish at the 2020 Tarawera Ultra. Canaday’s experience will come in handy against some of his greener competitors at Canyons.

Dave Stevens

Dave Stevens at Run Rabbit Run 2021. Photo: Paul Nelson

Stevens, who resides in Nelson, B.C. (he’s originally from the U.K.), has all the experience and talent needed to win this race. Last year, he won the Run Rabbit Run 100-miler in 18 hours, beating the 2021 Canyons champion, Costales, by 40 minutes. Stevens is a wicked climber and makes up a lot for his lack of speed on the flats on the ascents. He could be a podium threat if conditions are tough.

Women’s preview

Brittany Peterson

Peterson is the favourite to win, there’s no debate. She knows the course like the back of her hand and has twice been in the top five at Western States (fourth in 2021 and second in 2019). Last year she won Black Canyon 100K and came second to Camille Herron at the Javelina Jundred. She not only has the speed and experience, but the Canyons course also works in her favour as an uphill race in a familiar landscape. Look for Peterson to create a gap on the climbs.

Nicole Bitter

Nicole Bitter at the Javelina Jundred in 2020. Photo: Instagram/zachbitter

Bitter has many years of ultrarunning experience and has been a threat to the podium in most of her recent races. Her most recent win was at the 2020 Javelina Jundred, but she has had numerous top-five finishes in the past three years. 

Anna Mae Flynn

If there is a runner who could take this from Peterson, it’s Flynn. in her career, she’s had a lot of success at the 50-mile distance, collecting multiple wins at the Speedgoat 50K. Flynn has the top-end speed, with a 5K PB of 17-low and excels well on the hills. She had a top 10 finish at Transvulcania Ultramarathon 73K, which is a similar course to the Canyons 100K. Flynn will certainly be one to watch on Saturday.

Jazmine Lowther

Since Hogan is out with an injury, Lowther, of Nelson, B.C., will be the top-ranked Canadian heading into Saturday’s race. She finished third at the Chuckanut 50K last month in a competitive field and also collected two top 10 finishes at the Sinister 7 50-miler and Run Rabbit Run 100-miler. Lowther is an up-and-coming star on the trail ultrarunning scene and is bound to have a breakout season in 2022.

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