Grab bagDecember 1, 2007
1. One of the most anticipated ultramarathons of the year, the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler, took place yesterday in the Marin Headlands (north of San Francisco). First prize was $10,000 cash; 2nd prize, a hearty handshake. The men’s race, as expected, was a duel between Matt Carpenter and Uli Steidl, with Steidl prevailing, 6:57 to 7:10. Congrats, Uli! As shown at the end of Uli’s race report, he now has 11 ultramarathon victories in 11 attempts. Great Britain’s Lizzie Hawker, winner of the 2006 World Cup 100K and the 2005 Ultra Tour du Mount Blanc, was the top female (7:59), comfortably ahead of Jenn Shelton (8:22) and Bev Anderson-Abbs (8:25).
2. Also taking place yesterday was the lottery to determine who gets to run the Western States 100 next June. With 1350 applicants and 370 spots, there were bound to be a lot of disappointed people. Andy Jones-Wilkins is not one of them, having secured an automatic berth with his top-10 finish this year, but he laments the fact that many fast people were not selected. Bryon Powell, in discussing the lottery and how it could be revised, says, “WS needs to determine what it wants to be. It can’t be all things to all people anymore. The Board needs to decide whether to retain the old community as best it can, transform WS into a championship race, or be an inclusive race. Obviously those goals aren’t mutually exclusive, but there are only so many entry slots to work with.” I agree.
3. Ian Torrence recently forwarded me a link to the Ryan Shay Memorial Fund. By now, most running enthusiasts are aware that Shay died of a heart attack while competing in the Olympic Trials marathon on November 3rd. I didn’t know him personally, but Lauren Fleshman’s tribute to Ryan gave me a good sense of what he was like and why someone might want to contribute to his memorial fund.
4. My JFK race report was negligent in not mentioning the outstanding performance of Michael Wardian, whose time of 5:50 was the second-fastest ever recorded since the race began in 1963. Wardian thus added his name to the list of people eligible for selection to the USA’s 2008 World Cup 100K team. Magician Oz Pearlman is now on that list as well thanks to his 5:31 at the Chicago Lakefront 50-Miler in October. Perhaps athletes such as these will allow the US to send a full team of six men to the World Cup next year. (Only four have made the trip in each of the past two years.)
5. USATF has announced its USATF ultrarunners of the year: Nikki Kimball … and me! I suspect that many people share the opinion of the ultra listserv member who wrote, “As talented as he is, it surprised me that USATF would name Greg Crowther as the male ultrarunner of the year.” Therefore let me briefly explain why I think I was given this award. A. Only USATF members are eligible for the honor, and many ultramarathoners are not USATF members. B. The USATF “year” lasts from November 1st to October 31st, meaning that my excellent Sunmart performance (from December 2006) was considered but my dismal JFK performance was not. C. I won two USATF championships (50K road and 100K road) and did fairly well in the World Cup 100K race, which is also a USATF event in the sense that USATF coordinates the participation of the American team. I suspect that, in giving out these honors, USATF weights its “own” events more heavily than prestigious non-USATF-affiliated races. In any case, I’m grateful for the award … and I don’t feel TOO guilty about receiving it, since other deserving individuals are likely to receive recognition in other end-of-year polls, such as those conducted by the Wasatch Speed Goats and UltraRunning magazine.