August 23, 2011

Musings From The Sidelines - Weekend Ultra Story Lines

A couple of big races took place this past weekend and as always there were many story lines that emerged. A couple that stood out to me

(Hope Pass)
Ryan Sandes's 100 Mile Debut

South African Ryan Sandes won the Leadville 100 miler with the 3rd fastest time in the race's 28 year history. Yeah, that little race in Colorado that attracts one of the largest fields of any North American 100 miler. The race with a low point of 9,600 feet, and a high point of 12,620 while cresting Hope Pass...twice. That little race where the two fastest times ahead of this 100 mile rookie's performance are Matt "The Lung" Carpenter and Anton "My Bones Heal Faster Than Yours" Krupicka.

It's not like Sandes is inexperienced by any stretch of the imagination though, as he's the only person to ever sweep the Racing The Planet stage racing series. That does little to diminish the shocking caliber of his 100 mile debut however. And, if you happen to be keeping tabs, yes that another Salomon victory this year, and yes that's the 4th major US race to be won by an 'out of towner' since December.

NF 50 Champs - Heras
WS 100 - Jornet
Hardrock - Chorier
Leadville - Sandes

Can a U.S. runner finally snag victory at the most competitive race of the year, starting in France on Friday evening? (and yes my heart bleeds just a little bit every time I think about missing out on that starting line)

Dave Mackey Back Atop UROY 2011 Voting?

Dave Mackey got back to form again on the weekend by breaking yet another course record. This time at the Waldo 100k in Oregon. This one is summed up nicely right on their homepage: It is not a beginner-level ultra and participation in the race should not be taken lightly.

Dave shaved just over four minutes off of Erik Skagg's 2009 effort, in which you may recall he ran himself straight into the hospital, which thankfully he eventually fully recovered from.

After Mackey finished 8th at Western States he seemed to fall out of favor with the UROY chatter, even though his 8th place finish was a pretty damn solid 16h36m effort.
It will be interested to see what the voters think come year’s end, though there is still a lot of racing to go. I'm curious if we'll see similar to past years, where there seems to be a weighted voting process associated with the distance of the runs upon one's resume. Though it's pretty hard to argue the stats:
-1st CR Bandera 100k
-1st Amercan River 50m
-1st Miwok 100k
-8th Western States 100m
-1st CR Waldo 100k

Canadian Back In The Mix

Canadian runner Chris Downie broke onto the scene a few years back with some impressive results, before seeming to disappear for about a year. Well it appears the BC native is back with a vengeance as he pulled off a very impressive 4th place finish at the above mentioned Waldo 100k on the weekend. Downie finished just ahead of Oregon's own Yassine Diboun, who is a highly regarded ultra runner, and all around great guy period.

I believe Chris's next race will be another Oregon gem, the Pine to Palm 100 miler in mid September, and I'll say right now that I'm picking him for a podium finish. Chris has shown nothing but success over longer distance runs while winning his first 100mile and 146km races.

Thoughts?

So whatdaya think? Is Ryan Sandes poised to become the next great 100 mile runner? Is Dave Mackey your pick for UROY through 2/3 of the year? Have you ever raced against Chris Downie and come away shocked that a man who looks like a football player can be so damn fast?

GR

23 comments:

GZ said...

Nice post.

I think Mackey has a strong grip on UROY, but there seems to be a heavy emphasis put on a few races in that voting - namely WS. Clark probably gets a lot of consideration with his 3rd there and then putting up the same result in HR. His UTMB performance can sway things too I guess.

Pikes is a Skyrunner race ... and the "visitors" did nuthin there.

aka Moogy said...

I'd definitely go w/ Clark. That 3rd place double at WS & HR is insane. Also setting a CR at Jemez which was Skagg's time and then after HR winning that nutso course called Speedgoat. Bazinga!!!

Pricey said...

Sorry Robbins, you can't ride shotgun anymore, Chris Downie is my hero!

slowrunner said...

i met chris at sinister 7 in 2009. i remember seeing this big muscley guy at the start line with tons of tattoos and a mowhawk - he definitely looked like a football player! i thought for sure he was just doing a leg of the relay! he ended up crushing the course! incredible runner and a super nice guy!

Anton said...

Oh Gary, don't worry, I'm still gimping around. A touch over-zealous last week so I'm back to a few more days of complete rest...I'm in no hurry.

LT100: Sandes certainly had a notable debut, and as I said in a recent interview, I totally welcome the international Salomon invasion of the past 12 months--it just makes the rest of us step up our game. I can't help but nerdily and self-servingly note, though, that the post-2008 LT course is objectively ~2mi shorter (18-20min for the frontrunners), which would put Matt's and my times there at ~15:25, ~15:55, and ~16:40 (as opposed to 15:43, 16:14, and 17:01). Sandes is a great guy and obviously quite steady on the 100mi path, but there was a reason Salomon sent him to LT100 instead of UTMB for his debut. He would've got his ass kicked at UTMB and this was far better for marketing.

UTMB: unfortunately, I just don't see a Yank snagging the title there. Chatting w/ the Salomon folks over the weekend up in Leadville, there is a strong sense that Kilian might even go down--at the hands (legs? feet?) of Heras. I think Francois D'Haene will be quite strong, too. I do think an American will podium. Wolfeman or G-force. Clarkie's sandbagging is honesty.

UROY: Mackey has crushed for the last 12 months. But getting beat by 7 dudes at WS didn't help his cause, so depending on what happens at UTMB and TNF50 it could be really tight between him and Clarkie. Also, Nick's 3rd at AR--although 5min back from Dave--only serves to further pad his resume on the year.

Exciting times in this sport!

garobbins said...

GZ - Yeah a lot will change in the banter following this weekend's race in France for sure

Moogy - It does sound more impressive every time I read it

Pricey - You're dead to me and I want my camera back (even if you paid for it)

Slowrunner - I think I'm gonna tell Chris to race Mtn Mas 50miler as they have a bench press comp immediately following your completion of the race with 135lbs. My record was 3, the guy who won the combo did 33!

GR

garobbins said...

Anton - It's obviously really cool to see you back on your feet so quickly and hopefully this initial setback is just a tiny speedbump in the process.

I had no idea that the course had slightly changed so that does alter the impressiveness of the time for sure.

The Salomon marketing machine had been churning at full speed for almost a year now. Unlike some other brands though they seem to be backing it all up with one of the most dominating team performances in recent memory. (I now consider all Salomon runners MORTAL ENEMIES, insert evil laugh and pinky finger raised to bald head)

It's funny to think that just over a year ago (pre-WS) there were many who not only questioned the talent of Kilian, but of the European contingent in general. As you mentioned though this is a beautiful and exciting time for this sport and in the end it's forcing every single one of us to ask more of our own bodies when we toe those starting lines.

I think Dave will have to take it in San Fran in December to have any real shot at UROY. I've just been a little shocked how little love I've seen thrown his way considering the season he's put forth so far...not to mention he's an old fart now too.

GR

Aaron said...

And DM has kids - he takes the 'with kids' UROY hands down. Stupid. But I imagine, until he nails a big-name 100miler he won't win the overall.

garobbins said...

Would have to agree with that assessment Aaron...as much as it pains me to agree with you on anything!
GR

Footfeathers said...

Good post. It echoes much of what Matt wrote in his article at our inside trail site. Whomever wins UROY this year, it'll probably be lackluster because it's obviously just a North American award (this year for sure). If Nick C wins it, which he should, to this point, he's technically not a US citizen.

Do any of you guys know the rules of uroy, if there are any? Is it just North Americans who can be considered?

I'd love to see someone other than a Salomon runner take the top spots but I'm guessing 3rd might be the only one available... and that's a maybe. In my opinion, Dakota is the US's best shot at podium. What do any of you think?
tim

Jeff Valliere said...

Great post Gary.

Both Dave and Nick are both such great guys, I would be happy seeing UROY go to either of them, but since it is not awarded for being "great guys", we'll have to see how things play out over the remainder of the season.

Both Nick and Dave each have two kids, but Dave is older AND simultaneaously consumed with PA school, which makes his accomplishments this year even more impressive.

As an aside, typical of Dave's character, he called me Sunday to see how I did in the Pikes Peak Marathon while on his drive home from Waldo. Never did he mention what he had done, I had to drag it out of him (as is typical). He is the ultimate example of modesty and humble.

Footfeathers said...

sorry, to clarify, I'm referring to UTMB in the last paragraph of my previous comment.

Matt said...

Gary,
Looks like we're on the same page here, so to speak, ala insidetrail.com.

UROY voters seem to like success at 100 milers, underscored by recent winners of the award. That hurts Mackey, imho, so I agree with Aaron.

If Kilian wins UTMB, wouldn't he have a case for UROY? Or is it only for North American runners (Garneau is from BC) running NA races?

Feel free to drop-by IT as we hash-out some of these goods over there. Thanks.

Brett said...

Well who wants to open the can of worms on the 9/24 UROC 100k race? That will have a huge contingent of top runners. Surely that means it should carry as much weight as something like Western States.

If you weight top finishes in major ultras regardless of distance, then you'd have to give Dave Mackey the edge.

If you weight top finishes in 100 mile races, then you'd have to give Nick Clark the edge.

With how down to earth and humble they both are, I wonder if either of them really care that much about UROY? Nick probably cares more about that next beer and the off season at this point. :)

Footfeathers said...

I'd love to see Mackey win uroy more than anyone but you need to run against competition and at least three of his wins had little competition: Neuces, Bandera, Waldo. They were basically super quick solo runs.

UROC has the feel of an all star game in pro sports to me. Bunch of the top guys there, a little appearance money, and a fun-run.

HEATHERRUNS said...

I know the names, but not the details on 'who's who'... but its really cool to see y'all chatting about ultrarunning, the way I hear people quote stats on say, hockey. LOVE IT !

garobbins said...

Footfeathers: I don't know that there are any specific rules on the UROY? Though to my limited knowledge Europeans have never been considered for the award unless they live in NA. Ellie Greenwood is the run away (weak pun) favorite for the women's this year and was high on voters lists last year. She's UK born and still not an official Canadian citizen, though we've all adopted her anyways.

Nick will be right near the top no matter what happens from here on out.

In terms of UTMB, I think it's funny how quickly one can lose their air of invincibility. Pre WS Geoff hadn't lost a 100miler and no one would really bet against him. I think he'll be in it to win it come the final 10miles on Sat and I'm picking Dakota for top 5-6, which in that field would be an outstanding accomplishment for anyone.

garobbins said...

Jeff, thanks for adding that Nick has two children as well. I had no idea and now his accomplishments become even more mind boggling.

Great story on Dave too. I really like hearing that confirmation of guys you root for being all around good people.

GR

garobbins said...

Matt: loved the article. Thanks for contributing on here as well.

Brett: Though neither of them would ever admit to caring about winning the UROY, they compete to win races all year long and the recognition of peers can often mean more than winning a race itself. It would never be someone's singular focus to try to win the thing, but they only hand out one per year, and I'm sure it's always a nice cap on the year to those who take em home.

RE: Competitiveness of races. Great point, though when you're breaking very established CR's without anyone hot on your heals I think it makes those performances that much more impressive, though certainly less exciting with no dramatic tales to follow.

RE: UROC I haven't perused the starers list yet. I hope they draw the field they were intending to and that we really do so a barn-burner out there.

Heather: Glad you're enjoying us geeking out on ultrarunning!

GR

Olga said...

I would tend to agree for Mackey, esp. after UTMB (no matter why's). And, to echo Brett, lets all glue our eyes to UROC 100k now. The fact that UROY might have to be decided with no regards to wins at 100M is actually exciting (even though a 100 miler is my fav distance).

Digger said...

Wow, after UTMB it has to be Kilian. We could make UROY just for the U.S.A. and Canada(like the "World Series"), but that's not reality. No North American men are even close to the top.

garobbins said...

Olga, yeah it is quite shocking that the NA UROY might come down to the 100 mile distance meaning very little for the first time, and merely by default and not design.

Digger, as far as I know the UROY is actually called NA UROY. It's never crossed the ponds on either side, and has never really needed to, given that US races were predominantly, if not exclusively, won by Americans up until the last 12-18months.

I think the bigger question that now looms is if NA runners can 'fight back' in 2012??

GR

Anton said...

Little late here but I'm pretty sure that Nick actually has dual-citizenship as a Brit and an American.

Agreed that no North American tops the ultrarunning world this year, but as Gary said, I think UR's ranking has always been explicitly about NA runners.

For example, Yiannis Kouros never made the lists, or Olmo, back when he was winning UTMB in his late 50s, or any number of excellent Japanese runners. It seems that only in the last 3-4 years have many North American ultrarunning geeks even recognized the fact that the sport exists outside of North America.