This is a test. Preparing to re-launch this bad boy.
Is anybody out there?
This is a test. Preparing to re-launch this bad boy.
Is anybody out there?
We love the satisfaction of exploring topics that might pique the interests of readers. In the end, we’re having these discussions ourselves either way (some on a few dirty miles with subsequent and abundant cold beverages) because there seems to be enough at stake, enough significance, greatness (triumph and heart-break) and healthy obsession to go around; in the event that others enjoy these discussions, as well (even a little), hooray. Seriously.
Last week, Tim and I shared some thoughts about the Speedgoat 50k and “the face” of ultra trail. On the face of ultra, I took the baton and ran myself up the proverbial steep and treacherous trail questioning the origin of Anton Krupicka’s celebrity. What in the hell was I thinking? It’s Anton, Tony, The Messiah, TK, whatever you call him. His is a very big name in this sport of MUT and the fact that I called into question his grandiosity is a cardinal sin! Asked questions, I did. And there were a few answers from the kind folk who swung-by for a gander. Thank you.
However, there wasn’t enough feedback from readers, from those desiring to “set me straight” in my infidelity of sorts, to help explain this phenomenon. In my wandering inquisition of the young man, I came to a fairly clear, basic inquiry: What is his gargantuan appeal?
Here is how I see it breaking-down.
I hope this has been somewhat worthwhile. This is just one’s brief exploration of why a runner has such hold on a competitive market. Keep in mind, too, this is juxtaposed with the questions Tim and I asked earlier of why aren’t other runners and personalities given as much “marquee” space as Anton. Who cares? You don’t give a shit? That’s fine.
But the discussion for me is quite compelling. And it gets more so. I might argue that Anton’s celebrity is an odd mix of elements outlined briefly above. I might also say that it is no mistake that he is the face of this odd sport of MUT. As this article has asked who or what is Anton Krupicka, I might also ask what is ultra running? Here at Inside Trail, we have embraced the competitive side of the sport. We provided fairly consistent race coverage (we were the first to offer solid coverage and commentary on European Skyrunning). We talked about “the front of the race” a lot, hoping to bring more focus and analysis to that semi and full pro style racing that has picked-up speed (literally and figuratively) recently.
This has been balanced against the perspective so pervasive out there that trail racing isn’t that serious and to take it seriously, like we are, is foolhardy. It’s the trail, it’s people out for a frolicky spin amongst the daisies and dandelions.
So, the question: what is ultra running?
“Well, it’s both, Matt. Get over it.”
I don’t buy that. Anton’s popularity clarifies for me what is perhaps at stake. The competitive aspect of the sport is under-appreciated. We’ll call this the Anton anomaly. Here’s a guy who has done more non-competitive running and is the better for it. Let me explain that. He has been appreciated more despite the fact he hasn’t competed (raced) nearly as much as his contemporaries. I might even say that his race resume is a mixed bag of oddity. What do you associate with Anton? Mountains. Yet much of his racing has been on the flatter, more runnable courses.
My perspective in microcosm: his 2012 late scratch from HR100 (a course seemingly perfect for his style of training) and late add to LT100. I think the most glaring asterisk is his unwillingness to race PPM. He had ample opportunity to go head-to-head with MC, racing up a mountain famous for its peak and the climb to get there; like HR, PPA or PPM seem tailor made for Krupicka. His absenteeism is a big head-scratcher. And yes, I know, he owes no one anything. Got it.
There are several reasons Tony is so beloved and “followed.” I hope we find some edible fruit in this kind of discussion.
Good luck to all the Leadville 100 milers and Pikes runners this weekend. Cheers.
Matt: Tim, welcome back to the tabloidy pages of Inside Trail Commentary. Seems like last year about this same time when we got this project up and rolling. Year two.
Obviously, there’s been a lot of racing thus far in 2012.
Last weekend saw a big 50k mountain competition in Utah that attracted some International Skyrunning folks along with a host of stout American mountain runners. The aftermath of this race has attracted a lot of discussion regarding a couple of storylines that emerged. The 2012 Speedgoat 50k definitely lived-up to its young yet legitimate mountain running reputation. The speedgoat himself, Karl Meltzer, continues to organize this mountain classic, which took a dramatic turn last Saturday.
So, Tim, what do you make of the events and aftermath of the 2012 Speedgoat 50k? You have run this very race, I believe in 2008. As for 2012, should there have been a DQ? What about the race itself? Give us some perspective.
Tim: Well, thanks, Matt. Good to be back. The commentary never really stopped and certainly the substance that evokes the discussion has only grown in both size and richness. We’ve had some outstanding races in the trail ultra world, including Timmy Olson’s dismantling of Western States, Hal Koerner’s gutsy win at Hardrock, and now the free-for-all at Karl Meltzer’s Speedgoat 50k last Saturday. Ricky Gates clearly won the race on the prescribed race course. Too bad he has to now justify and explain why he’s notched in 2nd place. Though some on the discussion boards want the discourse to end, I don’t see a problem with hashing it out and coming to some sort of legitimate reasoning of why KJ wasn’t DQ’d. I think it’s unfortunate that he received an official finish. KJ’s got deep talent and natural ability but when 200+ people run the correct course and he doesn’t, it’s difficult to give him a placing with the others. And now the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) comes to the conclusion that KJ should be penalized 3 minutes?(!) – a meaningless penalty. Kilian retains his lead in the Skyrunning standings (whereas he would’ve dropped to 4th if he’d been DQ’d at Speedgoat). Side note: I ran off course towards the end of the 2008 Speedgoat race and crossed the line in 6:37 but was DQ’d. Of course, I’m not Mr. Jornet. Karl did the best he could and what he thought right under the circumstances and congratulations to him for building a truly top level competition when others merely have the facade of such an event.
Moving along, I mentioned one of the most prolific ultraunners in the world, Hal Koerner. It’s terrific seeing him have another great year (Rocky Raccoon 100 win in 13:24 and his 24:50 at Hardrock). Talk about longevity at the top of the field. His Hardrock performance was stunning and illustrates his versatility between flat speed and floating up mountain grades.
It also brings up something I noticed while wasting time at a running store in Palo Alto, CA a couple weeks ago. You (Matt had come up to the Bay Area to visit me for an “Inside Trail Commentary Conference”, including lots of beers, trail running, and talking) and I decided to head down to Zombie Runner to validate our 11 mile slog-run in the Marin Headlands with a purchase of some new pretty running gear and on the way out of the shop we found ourselves standing in front of the book, magazine, and movie shelves and simultaneously wondered “Hmmm, if a non runner, especially non-ultrarunner, was looking at these books and movies, he’d come to the conclusion that the people dominating the sport today are Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka…, and Dean Karnazes.” Ultramarathon Man, 50/50, and Run by Karnazes, “Unbreakable”, “Indulgence” with Anton, Eat to Run and various magazine ads by and with Jurek all filling the shelves and our squinting eyeballs. While great runners, none of them has really been a force in the sport for at least the last two years. Of course, Jurek has earned his notoriety with years of dominating both in the US and abroad. However, it seemed like a distorted view of where we are currently on the scene. Where are guys like Mike Morton, Mike Wolfe, Jeff Browning, Ryan Sandes (oh yeah, forgot, he’s not American), Hal Koerner, Dave Mackey, Nick Clark? Oh, and where the hell are the women in the sport in terms of marketing?! What makes a runner marketable if it’s not for his current performances? Are simply training feats and cool photos of training runs selling shoes? It’s nice to see “Ultrarunning” magazine use images of current players on its covers. The August cover is a sharp image of Tim Olson (Peral Izumi’s got a handle on their team and knows what sells to true fans of the sport). Any ideas on the dual realities of the current ultra racing scene and the marketing world? Am I just a naïve dope putting too much thought into this thing?
Matt: To the task at hand: address the two points you so generously bring to this article: Kilian Jornet running buck wild at the Speedgoat 50k and the popular perception of ultra running (or WWAD – What Would Anton Do).
I think if you asked just about anyone, inside or out of trail running, what to do if a runner cuts a course, the answer is obvious: DQ the runner. It happened to you, Tim, as you point-out and it would happen to just about anyone, running any race. Again, and moreover, if you are CAUGHT cutting a course, if in fact you were warned, having been caught already, and you continue to cut the course: you’re out. What is the alternative?
I, like others, think Karl made a correct, albeit difficult, decision. It was diplomatic and really only works on Jornet’s first Speedgoat 50k. Indeed, the only thing keeping Jornet’s result relevant to ISF is the fact that Meltzer’s race is included in that federation’s esteemed mountain series, and he, understandably, wants to keep it that way (I would think). He was simply being generous, a gesture of forgiveness, a pass. It was diplomatic because Meltzer is business savvy. His race, or perhaps other US mountain courses to follow, gains tremendous international mountain-running credibility by being associated with Skyrunning. Therefore, (business) reason prevails here. To summarize, this was the inaugural year of the Speedgoat-ISF courtship, the culprit has more mountain running credibility than anyone, he’s European (and therefore cuts courses), and it was his first run at Speedgoat; so Karl made the right, difficult decision.
Of course, I did leave-out perhaps the most logical reason behind the RD’s final decision: the PPP (the Pikes Peak Precedent). Indeed a foreigner was DQed following the 1994 PPM, yet he was gifted his Skyrunning points. In other words, I think there were several reasons for Meltzer’s decision.
Yes: RD, clarify the race directions. And No: runners, do not cut courses. It’s what we call common sense, fairness, and mountain preservation.
Speaking of mountain preservation, I have to add that I recall a discussion last year around the running of UTMB that addressed the state of the trail over there. I forget the exact context of the discussion, but it pertained to people waxing poetic about the Alps and other seemingly pristine mountains and trail networks in Europe. Based on the comments, I’m pretty sure the “poet” was American because someone who knew some state of the trail over there advised the runner to enjoy the American trails since many popular European trail destinations are, in fact, “vandalized” by comparison. The insight suggested that large swaths of mountainside are relatively trampled with runner/hiker damage, which includes human waste. This was a sad commentary on the way, I guess, people run mountains outside the United States.
Listening to Bryon Powell interview Meltzer about the men’s final standings “adjustment” reminded me of this discussion I had heard last year. Karl seems deflated having to explain the awkward position in which Jornet puts him. The runner was warned a couple of times, yet he continued to cut the course. Wow.
And finally, Jornet’s “mountain-running glee” despite his heinous rules violations seems really odd. Didn’t sound like he even cared. You are aware that you could be DQ, right? Weeeeeeeee!
Tim, as for your concern about the perception of mountain ultra running, of course you’re over-thinking. Welcome back to Trail Commentary.
The blogosphere has democratized our world and by extension given us real (virtual) access to people’s lives. The Anton Krupicka story is pretty remarkable. Taking nothing away from him as a phenomenal mountain runner, doesn’t his “success” have a lot to do with his training? Couldn’t we argue that, in the big picture, his incredible mileage quantity (especially back in the day) has been an enormous factor in his, shall I say, marketability?
There are more successful racers from the same sport, and I suppose those runners have relatively adequate sponsorships, etc., but doesn’t it seem to be a case where, as Tim points-out, Krupicka is a kind of trail ultra running icon? Given the incredible cast of characters surrounding Tony, why him? What is his gargantuan appeal? The free and unlimited access to his meticulously vertical 25+ hours a week of trail?
Again, the guy has blazed stellar CRs across the trail landscape, but doesn’t it seem fair to say that his training and “lifestyle” are what have really defined him as such a trail celebrity?
I almost feel like he got more recognition for 2nd at WS100 in 2010 than Geoff Roes did for winning it and setting a massive CR. I may be wrong. And like Tim says, Tony just hasn’t raced and won much recently. Yet his celebrity soars more than anyone else when in fact there are handfuls of tremendous runners out there racing and competing regularly, and winning.
In no way am I trying to disrespect the man. I guess I’m just asking, like Tim, a few questions that others might not feel comfortable asking. Sorry if it rubs you the wrong way.
When I read this race media tweet, live, I thought about Western States 2009: “AJW editorial alert: I’ve seen Hal win at WS and AC (twice each) and this looks eerily similar
That came across 50 to 60 miles into the 2012 Hardrock 100. At first I thought, Nahhh. Jones catches him at mile 80. Right? Hal has a ton of game, but RR, Javelina, WS100. . . this is HR and I thought Meltzer might be the legend that comes-up big here. But AJW was right. The story had changed. Something dramatic was happening. And AJW would know. After that editorial floated across the interwebs, I slowly but surely started to sense a similar design. In 2009, Hal was running really well. I actually traded greetings with the ultra legend at The World of Hurt 50k in October 2008. He won that in the company of Ian Torrance, Scott Jurek, and Josh Brimhall (if my memory serves me). Pretty cool to meet him and Jurek (with whom I traded greetings in the bathroom). Hal would go on in 2009 to make a memorable move at WS100 that, as AJW was pointing-out, seemed quite similar to this move he was making in last weekend’s monster mountain ultra marathon in Silverton, CO.
Hardrock 100 2012 was, indeed, a bit of a flashback: I’m staring at my smart phone all day and into the night, unable to focus on anything more immediate or meaningful, my wife looking at me funny; and Hal Koerner blowing-up the joint, crashing the party. When I finally hit the hay, the race was pretty much over, though I was still half-expecting a late surge that might see Hal overtaken and someone like Dakota Jones win this long. ass. race.
Regardless of the outcome, it was a race for Jones to win and perhaps establish a new CR. I tried to explain this in the previous article. Jones, from what I can gather, is not showing-up to showcase his new shoe sponsor or use theses events as opportunities to train. Although fairly light-hearted and quick with a keen sense of humor, he also comes across as a thoughtful business man. Maybe in a bow-tie.
But it’s a 100, so anything can happen. That I even ventured such a prediction is pretty foolhardy (but it’s fun and when you’re right it’s really fun!). Hardrock is practically an adventure race; it lasts a couple of days. Picking a winner is like picking your nose. Karl Meltzer’s more conventional approach to establishing odds for each favorite is a lot more sensible.
But let me clarify: I feel like the one they call Young Money really wanted this race (and perhaps CR); I also think he is very fluent in the means to fulfill such a goal. The momentum was palpable, the schedule and weather pretty much lining-up this opportunity for him to “get her done.” And in support of my astrological read, some of the pictures of the race, especially those taken at the finish, reveal a sense of pain and devastation (beyond sore feet and legs from 33k of vert over 100 grueling miles and 25+ hours). Compare the expressions of Jones to Joe Grant: massive disappointment and triumph.
Is this a fair read? Let’s just say it’s in the mix. A lot of people felt Jones was a pretty good lock to win this race based-on his race last year, his recent off-road success, his preparation, and his overall confidence. This confidence is manifest in some of those expressions at the finish.
As for Hal Koerner, his preparation and build for this was perhaps even more dialed-in than Jones’. I recall Mr. Koerner, as recent as in the last year and a half or so, with regards to the whole Western States 100 focus, that he had some other goals to address. We have proof now that this was in no way a reaction to all of the speed that’s taken-up residence in Auburn the last few years, rendering his very impressive low 16:xx wins more or less top-10 times. Hell no. Rather, it appears Hal has been planning a return home to some of the cozy confines of Colorado’s high altitude.
One of his first mountain races was a 3rd in the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1999, where he went 4:08, age 23 out of Parker, CO. Perhaps a perception exists that Hal is a PNW guy who rips some of the flatter ultras. Obviously, his two WS100 wins have helped solidify his legacy. But that PPM result early-on in his career, the fact that much of his younger life was spent in CO, means he’s more than just a beer mile track star (I’ve seen him win one of those, as well!). He’s ALWAYS thrived in the altitude based on where he’s from, what he did in ’99, and, of course, what he did last weekend in and around Silverton.
For all aspiring mountain runners out there, look no further than Hal Koerner.
In the end, this is a guy that’s been running a lot of ultra for a long time. He has won a ton of races, accumulated several course records, finished relatively mid-pack in big races as well as gone off the front in huge events only to have hugely competitive fields explode under the guise of the visor or the soul patch.
I was right in my predictive article that Young Money would win OR an old schooler would rule the day. I just picked the wrong old schooler. I might venture to say that this race works as an addendum to my previous article. The line has been drawn on the trail. Are elites in for the long haul, willing to sip from the cup more conservatively and experience a lifetime of grace and growth in both victory and mediocrity? Or are we in an era of more extreme strategy that renders the shorter career? And although it is true that some athletes just move-on, deciding the competitive trail will be just a short stay on their ever evolving journeys, there is a certain pattern that guys like Hal help define.
Either way, it’s not really that important. Watching Hal Koerner win HR100, however, certainly was (though I might still have trouble convincing my wife of this fact).
In the end, congratulations and happy recovery to all the Hardrockers, runners, pacers and crew alike. You put on a great show!
A couple of things have sorta dawned on me recently, and with WS100 in the books and HR100 on the immediate horizon, time to pour a couple of stiff ones, San Diego double IPA style, if you will (yes, this tends to get me into trouble).
Really two points I want to address here: first, the men’s 100 elite field: a pattern. No way am I going to take-on the argument that the mountain 100 miler is a bad competitive concept for its sheer destructive nature. The popularity of the distance among elites and everyone else alone renders the point almost irrelevant; besides, I need to run one to strengthen my view (which is ironic).
That’s like saying in order to write about death, I need, first, to die.
Instead, I’ll look at the men’s 100 elites as a short study that may reveal a couple of insights.
Then I want to give a shout-out to the HR100. Very inspiring mountainous goods and a friend of mine is running it again.
Wish I was there.
Remember the infamous “Inside Trail Commentary” post months and months ago? Beyond all of the bad press that ensued, I remember one “astute” reader saying I lost all of my blogularity following said post. To summarize, I thought Geoff Roes was being disingenuous and AJW could bolster the entire sport’s credibility using a different tact.
I got killed and so did Tim (for helping a brother out!). The article was about Roes and UROC (AJW got roped-in because that’s how I think). This was last fall when I absolutely felt that something was wrong with Roes on the trail (I did give him props for his support and work to get UROC organized – this point was whiffed by the audience). Keenly watching his ’09 and ’10 campaigns gave me an almost eternal hope that he could turn things around at any race. His ambivalence on the subject of his health did not seem to match what was happening on the trails at the time compared to what had happened on the trails in the previous couple of years. So I made a note of this discrepancy. I guess I cared enough to throw myself on the block.
But take a step back. What did happen to Geoff Roes? Or what is happening to him? Are we using past tense at this point for one of the most dominant mountain 100 milers ever? Giving a little nod to my comments coming-up shortly on the 2012 HR100, Roes ala Meltzer (ala Roger Federer) could engineer an epic resurgence despite the apparent youth taking the reigns and subsequently controlling the sport. No doubt, these things can happen.
It is my contention, however, that the front of the American mountain 100 peloton is an inherently risky endeavor, one that speeds-up the ultra runner’s half-life, per se. Not that this is going to hinder one’s love of the long trail riddled with 14ers, but we may just have a bit of a pattern that I think is worth noting.
This is not an exhaustive study with a fearsome statistical argument. It’s fairly anecdotal, maybe even a little superficial. Mind you, please look-up the word superficial before you suggest that I’m making some kind of confession as to the weakness of this argument. These are observations, rather, that are being made at a kind of glance of the short history of the modern ultra trail. To simplify even further, we might recommend that the history be broken into two periods. There are the early days that take us up through the first part of the 21st century and the current era we’re in now. Sure, this seems rough. The second half of the “two period” history doesn’t seem long enough to establish any sort of “pattern.” I say it does. Time to lace up the dogs and get after it.
Speaking exclusively of the elite competitive American mountain 100, we are seeing some insane efforts that amount to the sport having to rethink what is possible, what amounts to a paradigm shift. Highlighting a few particular performances, we might say Roes’ and Olson’s WS100 wins are great examples. Interestingly, Krupicka’s 2nd at WS100 and his work at LT100 (wins but historically 2nd relative to Carpenter’s CR) provide similar examples. Lastly, Skagg’s epic HR100 CR (of one of two courses) is another terrific example of this kind of paradigm shift.
These performances essentially cover the last 5 or 6 years and there are undoubtedly others we can use to engage this point: Because of the training and racing involved for an athlete to accomplish these kinds of efforts, the life or peak of such talent or ability is short-lived. In other words, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Skaggs, Krupicka and Roes seem to have seen their best days running at that supreme level come and go.
Again, the fact that anyone of these men can roll-out another world-class, mind-boggling, paradigm shifting performance next month or even next year is not the question. Rather, what we’re seeing is that athletes like these who throw-down such epic 100 mile mountain races experience some real difficulty maintaining that level of excellence. We don’t need to get into the back story of Kyle Skaggs, but he’s gone after that epic run and since 2010 Roes and Krupicka have not been the same. Tim Olson’s 2012 Ws100 is staggering. Slower course (allegedly) than the one Roes destroyed in 2010. And of course Olson is still by all accounts ready to keep blowing our minds. But I would say to keep an eye on that “graph.”
Is this just coincidence? No. I would argue the competition contributes to these more unforgiving conditions at the front of the elite mainstream 100 trail. The training is more intense perhaps, and the race schedule busier; the draw of better athletes to ultra trail might be considered an factor, as well. All of this and more means, then, that the races themselves are bigger, there’s more at stake, CRs are falling, there’s more sponsorship, more international presence, etc. Guys are going bigger. And paying the price.
What about guys like Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurker and even Hal Koerner? I label them old school. Hal might be straddling the fence, if you will. He’s been around for a while. Meltzer and Jurker have been hammering out 100s for years, along with Hal. The difference is simply that many of their races, I am arguing, did not have that kind of speed and depth at the front of the race. Indeed, these guys have beaten deep fields, have weathered tremendous adversity out on the trail, racing, emptying themselves, etc. But there wasn’t such consistent depth and speed. Granted, Mackey may have chased Jurek to an unbelievable WS100 CR, but today, in these big races, the fields are consistently deep and fast, so the guys winning are just pushing the envelope that much further. And paying the price.
Which brings us to Dakota Jones and HR100 2012. I will not comment on the entire field as others have done a much better job than I ever could. Jones, given his recent ascent to other worldliness, will probably break Skaggs’ record. Why wouldn’t he? He’s finished 2nd at HR in 2011, so he’s got that going for him. And he is absolutely crushing his schedule. Granted, there are a few guys capable of winning this year in Silverton, but Jones is clearly the guy to beat given his established prowess and apparent high trail intelligence that may prove to anoint him the outlier of the pattern I’ve described above.
Is Jones a Jedi Knight? All kidding aside, he seems to have a slightly different approach to this sport compared to some of his contemporaries. Two things jump out at me: he trains and races, at least recently, with very clear goals in mind (that, or he’s just so fit that he coincidentally destroys very stout CR/FKTs). R2R2R and Transvulcania come to mind. Mackey’s R2R2R FKT was fairly legendary (even out of reach for the vagabonding Krupicka). And then Transvulcania was immense. Look at the field. Look at the CR. Wow.
The second point, which is more the focus here, is his race schedule. Even though he qualified for WS100: he just said no. Sure, I’m observing from afar (using my trusted palantir), and may be missing the crucial fact that he was attending his nephew’s 10th birthday party; the reality is he seemed more determined to live and train for HR100. This kind of selective racing probably pays off in the end, perhaps putting Jones on a different graph. Does he have a specific approach to the ultra that may provide for a different outcome? Will he last longer? He may be more of a hybrid. His 17th at the 2011 Sierre Zinal still strikes me as pretty amazing. Then he finishes 2nd at HR100 2011 about a month later. Hmmm. Different he may be.
In the same light, many might refer to Meltzer as a Jedi Master. At a glance, it looks like he just runs his ass off. Certainly, this guy is legendary. What would you attribute his longevity to? Sipping tequila at late stages of a 100? I like that, actually. He’s more like the king of the sport if you ask me (that’s a different article all together, one that includes the analogy comparing big wave surfing to 100 milers).
I’m not sure if any of you saw Wimbledon 2012, but an old dog won that race. Roger Federer, at 31, pretty much destroyed everyone in his path, including world number one, Djokovic. So, let’s say here that either Young Money takes the win this weekend, or an old dog drops-in on him and entertains us all with a vintage HR win, his sixth! Go Meltzer!
Off course, let’s also give a shout out to the very wily Tim Long. Keep an eye on this top 10-er. Go Long!
Back to the pattern of young uber-talented ultra trail runners, in effect, burning-out from the rigor of today’s UROY 100 culture. The idea here is that guys are not lasting like they used to. The racing is more intense now. The money, the international presence (that is different compared to the “international” racing of the 70s-90s), equipment, training, media. . . whatever it is, the fields are deeper and faster, so guys are literally breaking a leg to stay afloat.
I read an interview with Jonathan Wyatt where he commented on Kilian Jornet’s propensity for the 100. Wyatt was more or less dubious about that kind of running and the ability to extend a career, maintain winning consistency. He clarified that such a program would simply result in some good races and some not so good.
Will this be the pattern we see develop? Runners pushing long, fruitful careers that consist of some good, some not so good careers? Perhaps this is the pattern of the 2nd tier 100 miler, or ultra runner in general, out to compete hard, maybe pull-off a win now and then, maintain a full time job and family, etc. That 1st tier 100 miler, on the other hand, seems to be a neighborhood of temporary residences, a beautiful place, indeed, with views of heaven and hell and incredible story-telling of pain and mind-boggling triumph.
And if one says, “These are guys that don’t feel the higher stakes; they just love the mountain run.” I agree, but there is a professional/semi-professional culture that is breeding incredibly fast races full of stronger, quicker athletes. And recently these conditions have taken a toll on some of the top dogs.
Some may say, no shit. Of course that’s going to happen. What do you expect?
To that, I agree.
The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile Championship 2011 is in the books. So, what happened? As far as my picks were concerned, I didn’t do too shabby. Although I mentioned D Jones as an outright favorite in SF in a recent post digesting his R2R2R FKT, paired with the rest of his nutty and gutsy 2011, I balked and fell for the ole Geoff Roes will find his big stage big race form once again. Roes at or near his best has so much appeal, I might spend another year looking for that immaculate into the wild form.
In the aforementioned “recent post” I called Jones the future of competitive American ultra. His 2nd and HR100 2011 and his shorter ultra chops make him so dangerous on just about any track. Only world-class studs (Chorier, M Wolfe, etc.) will be able to run him down on a good day. Remember the early century K Skaggs and Krupicka? Welcome to Jonestown. He’s only 21.
Then there’s Mike Wolfe. In the discussion that ensued post-race, there was talk of Wolfe for UROY. His 2nd at WS100, the win at Way Too Cool, strong showing at Miwok among others and, indeed, this guy is right there, especially considering the other candidates. Granted, I picked Wolfe to possibly win SF50, but I had the wrong dog. Jason Wolfe finished 8th.
The Endurables’ fantastic portrayal of the day gives us a nice perspective on how things unfolded out there in the Headlands. Stunning scenery. The gorgeous landscape was pretty fine too. Yeah, the scenery to which I refer is the peloton of world-class runners that battled across that dirt roller-coaster consisting of 10k of climbing, forest canopied trail, technical sections and the like. Jones and Wolfe exchanging blows for what seemed about 20 miles, with some of the literal who’s who of ultra and mountain running in their wake, makes SF50 an instant classic.
Mike Wolfe – the grinder who seems really smart and calculating (I think he’s a lawyer for God’s sake), strong and not someone you want to tangle with even if you do plan to inflict head wounds.
Mike Wardian – how can his race schedule have been auspicious at all going into TNFSF. I think a lot of people had him winning. I thought, in the end, he’d implode at the start. Pretty gutsy to run like that. . . almost every weekend!
Adam Campbell – A classy guy who ran an absolutely classly race. I am very disappointed that I didn’t see that although we all certainly missed a runner or two due to this incredible depth. I am really stoked for this Canuck mountain runner. And will continue to enjoy his stuff.
Jason Schlarb, one of my lucky 7, had a nice race, finishing 10th.
Alex Nichols, a popular pick amongst some Coloradans was apparently running really strong at the front when he twisted his ankle. Very unfortunate.
What about Laborchet off the front through about 20 miles with another Salomon runner (Vollet?) and then pulling-out? What was that?
We could go on and on. The bummer for me is still that Roes didn’t quite have the goods. I thought he did have unfinished business. I thought he was ready to crush some demons, salvage 2011 massively. Hey, top five is still fantastic; I just like his style and wanted to see him carve off the front. I remember seeing a tweet from iRunFar at about 25 miles, Geoff in about 3-4th place and Bryon saying Geoff looks “chill.” That sounded perfect. But it sounds like his energy waned and he just didn’t have the boost to stay with the mad dogs fighting it out for the win (and again, iRunFar’s coverage was great).
Other than those menial thoughts on the men’s race, overall I thought Salomon and mountain running showed-up big-time. Anna Frost is a huge talent. The fact that she in very recent times has competed victoriously with the women Skyrunners, and is now doing very well at the ultra distance seems pretty remarkable. I like Adam’s 3rd for Salomon, as well. The white suits continue to represent where ever they “lace them up.”
I did get a chance to see Rickey Gates’ race report. In sum, he was calling for more of these ultra guys to step to some of the shorter, more classic mountain races ala Sierre Zinal and Mt. Washington. I love to hear that as it seems against the popular train of thought, the one that goes: “yeah, my grandma got chosen for HR100, so I’ll be pacing her and the whole family is getting involved.” Long live American mountain running.
What does this race say about 2011 and 2012? Last year, this race dawned an incredible trend of Salomon dominance that’s well chronicled. What trends might we see in 2012 hatched from the Headlands of 2011? Any thoughts on that?
I think last weekend’s race is a kind of coronation for Mike Wolfe who seems like a very legitimate world-class ultra marathoner. Maybe (other than Kilian) the best in his sport given what he’s done on big stages. Last Saturday had to be a big pint of confidence. I’ve heard others talk about him. I’ve gathered bits and pieces of some of his training that seems utterly world-class (big volume, big hills, blue-collar ballz). Certainly TNF has a fine leader in Mike Wolfe.
I’ve already waxed about Jones. He’s the future of the sport if he continues to enjoy it as much as he currently does. Mad game. Can run all kinds of tracks.
Adam Campbell is just another reason I want to visit Canada. That big block of ice, that purports to offer fantastic culture, spits out some pretty classy and down-to-earth athletic talents, specifically of the endurance tribe. We’re rooting for Adam all the way. Here’s to a big 2012.
Geoff Roes will be a very compelling athlete to watch in 2012. I’m sure he will have some superb races and results. No need to say anything else, really. Other than we’re rooting for Geoff big time.
Looking forward to it all. What do you think about 2012? Especially as TNF50 Championships may have produced a couple of trends we can watch develop perhaps over the next year or so?
It’s Friday (well, Thursday night really), the day before the biggest ultra of the year (2011 The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco Championship). There are a few reasons why we should consider this race ultra big, or this ultra race big. That’s what I’ll spend the next hour or so chipping away at, that idea that we’ve reached at last the Marin Headlands and a field of runners will assemble in just a few hours that could absolutely, in the spirit so poetically described by Geoff Roes, explode trail lore. Imagine what’s at stake. We are witnessing a sport get defined, re-defined as its precocious limbs mature before our very eyes.
The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships San Francisco represents the other half of this sport’s split personality. About a month ago, I explored the meaning of UROC and think some of those words apply here to this weekend’s race.
“What is the intent of [UROC]? This is a rhetorical question. The race is about the competitive nature of the sport. Period. Even more interesting: Geoff Roes is at the front of this campaign to create a race where elites are treated like elites and the race is centered around highlighting that competition at the front. Again, this sport is suggestive of two worlds: the down-to-earth just run and have fun and finish vibe, and the world-class Micahael Wardian v Geoff Roes vibe, or Jornet v Wolfe and Clark or Heras v Roes and Mackey vibe. It’s tough to deny this split personality in the sport.”
That is what is happening in San Francisco this weekend.
All year, every weekend, runners gather on myriad national and international trail to “race.” Most of these are friendly battles between friends and family members, or new and familiar faces just enjoying the outdoors. These events might more represent the local endurance challenge. The “race” might be inaugural or it might be 35 years-old. The spirit is better reminiscent of fellowship, of sister or brotherhood, of people of all walks of life sharing in the stewardship of our natural world and getting fit and having fun at the same time. “Winning” might not even be part of the local lexicon. A podium might be replaced by pints of craft beer; but the sweat and the beautiful feelings associated with giving it a go out there circulate like the good vibes of a people engaged in what I would call a new civic duty.
TNFSF50 certainly includes this same kind of friendly praxis, even amongst the elites (perhaps even more amongst the elites). Be that as it may, there’s a race going-on, one of world-class proportions, one so big it’s more germane to the competitions of ancient Greece, where epic battle preceded a celebratory feast.
This race has been well hashed and rehashed by the blogs. The folks at iRunFar produced a fine preview of the men’s and women’s race. The aforementioned renderings of Mr. Roes have people spinning on their bar stools. Adam Chase has been keeping us abreast of the Salomon scene, as well. Here we are, still in the tryptophanic aftermath of Thanksgiving, and, indeed, we have a lot to be thankful for. I am certainly thankful for the access we are all granted to so many stellar peeks at this sport’s elites (the runners, the managers, race directors, publishers, etc.). I am thankful for the blog as it seems to give us all an opportunity to articulate whatever odd ball single-track idea we’ve developed and hope to share with a few passersby.
The idea that this sport is indeed schizophrenic or of two minds (whatever you want to call it), is supported by this online presence. As AJW essays on the future of the sport with certain fundamental changes happening all around, in terms of corporate influence, etc., we have to be reminded that the sport is largely defined by the casual, neighborly discourse that exists on these webs, just like it is during those trail runs, at and after those hundreds of weekend races. Significant commercialization of all of that would be a tall order. Is some of this white-collar share-holder cologne distorting or undermining some of the trail discussions or the competitions? Perhaps. But the positive effects of these dollars are on display, as well: This weekend and any such opportunity we have to watch these elites battle it out on world-class trails has to be welcomed by even the casual fan. Viewing the MUT world in this open-minded way, I think, is imperative at this point. The sport is clearly changing, and Saturday’s race is another such example. But the sport is also staying the same, and every weekend of the year marks occasion for this argument in the abundance of ultra and mountain “races” in which we all get to compete.
Both worlds will be on parade tomorrow in San Francisco.
And this is how I see the men’s race going down: Above, I referenced a passage from an article I wrote about UROC. I make note of the role Geoff Roes played in that race’s organization (of course he played a pretty big role in the actual race, as well). I referenced that passage to evidence the parallels we see in UROC and TNFEC50. These two are especially similar in that they are geared toward attracting a large field by offering substantial prize money. Looks like we’re building a parallelogram: I see Geoff Roes winning this race, convincingly. He’s definitely had some close-calls at this race in the past. Sure there’s his back-to-back runners-up finishes in ’09 and ’10, but don’t forget about 2008. He was right there when the shit went down between Steidl and Carpenter. This is a must read from the event website archives:
At the bottom on the bone-crunching descent, at the seaside hamlet of Stinson Beach, Carpenter met his crew – his wife, Yvonne, and his six-year-old daughter, Kyla. “Last year, I’d come into a station and scrounge around a little bit for my drop bag,” he explains. “I’d lose a few seconds. And at this level you just can’t do that.” Still, Carpenter lost ground as the pack passed by like greyhounds, weaving through the quaint town’s streets before vanishing up the Matt Davis trail, heading 1,700 vertical feet uphill. This is when many runners felt Carpenter, who has built his legendary status running up the steep slopes of Pikes Peak near his home in Manitou Springs, Colorado, made his move and took control of the race. He quickly passed Steidl and soon came upon the others. “By the top I had wheeled everybody in again,” recalls Carpenter. “It was Geoff Roes and Shiloh (Mielke).” Carpenter, unsure of whether there were still some others ahead, turned to them and asked, “Gentlemen, who’s still ahead?” They replied, “Nobody.” And Carpenter pushed on. After a short out-and-back segment, during which runners could measure exactly where they stood (Carpenter, Skaggs, Steidl), they passed through Pantoll once again. Now Steidl had passed Skaggs, who had become somewhat dehydrated. At this point, Mile 30, Carpenter still held a two-minute gap on Steidl, but, entering the stretch run, and heading down into another deep valley, spectators wondered if Steidl could catch Carpenter. And, lurking only a few seconds behind, was Geoff Roes, hanging tough. They all dove 1,000 feet down the famed Bootjack trail, devouring technical trail like Tour de France riders descending the Alpe d’Huez.
Roes finished 5th that year in 7:12:35. That was the awakening of Geoff Roes if you ask me. His entire 2009 and 2010 were legendary. We all know that’s quite a run, which had already begun in Marin County in 2008 under the no less watchful eye than that of the great Matt Carpenter.
Team Salomon, which includes Rickey Gates, Christophe Malarde, Adam Campell, and the recently signed Matt Flaherty and Jorge Maravilla, look very well represented; and who knows if they might implement some team tactics to break-up what will be a very loaded peloton. Can Gates hang with Roes for 50 fast undulating miles? Can the Frenchman, or the talented Canadian? I don’t see it. Some see Flaherty as a real dark horse. If he were to win, that would be a huge upset. Some are picking Maravilla top 5.
The other runners I like this weekend are Dakota Jones, Michael Wardian, Jason Wolfe, Jason Schlarb, Leigh Schmitt and my big dark horse is Galen Burrell. Jones might have won last year and his 2011 campaign has been really solid. Knowing he can compete really well in such diverse conditions as Hardrock (2nd) and Sierre-Zinal (17th), races really well at this ultra distance, and just nabbed the R2R2R FKT, I really like this guy’s chances. Wardian is there because he’s Wardian. He absolutely could win this thing, but I don’t see him climbing with Geoff. Wolfe is a bit of an unknown to me, but I sense he has gobs of speed and climbing enduranc; he has some nice road and off-road results to his name, namely the Trans Rockies win. He could be tough. Schlarb was top five here last year and is apparently very fit and ready to rumble. Schmidt seems like a lock for this distance; he should have a solid showing. And, of course, the ultra inexperienced Burrell who can climb with the best of them and just spanked Leor Pantilat at a trail marathon in the bay area (and Pantilat doesn’t lose). I’m getting really good odds on my Burrell pick. There’s my lucky 7.
For the women, I’m really going-out on a limb here and picking Frost, Greenwood and Hawker to claim the podium. Based on recent racing though, how do you not pencil in these ladies.
A quick shout-out to Max King, wishing him luck this weekend going for another win at the Xterra Worlds in Hawaii; and a helpful reminder that TNF SF 50 would also offer some lovely trail travel this time of year, say, in 2012.
But it’s Roes with the huge win this year. He has unfinished business in Marin, and that is, I’m afraid, the way it is.