Anybody who’s read this column over the past few years knows that I am a big fan of the Montrail Ultra Cup. Long before runners could earn Western States spots in the series’ races, I knew that having a race series that brought together the best in the sport was a good idea. In fact, back in the day, I even placed in the MUC series. Unfortunately, the $1500 gift certificate from Fleet Feet Sports that I won back in 2010 expired four years ago. It is still in my glove compartment.
Nonetheless, the Montrail Ultra Cup has grown up and now, even though there are several other series across the country and around the world, the MUC has endured and, in my opinion, thrived.
As a result of the much-needed changes in the Western States qualifying standards, the current incarnation of the cup is made up of four 100k races, one legacy 50 miler, and the Western States 100. This recent move to longer, more rugged, more Western States-specific courses has brought a level of competitiveness and sticktoitiveness that had previously not been a part of the cup.
The folks over at Western States have been pretty clear in their expectations: If you fancy yourself an elite, North American ultramarathon runner and you want to gain elite entry into the race, you simply need to register and run one of the five qualifying races and if you finish in the top two (or three, four, or five if circumstances permit), you get an invite to the Big Dance. If you don’t or can’t, you can try again next year. It’s a simple, transparent, clear system.
And so it was with a great deal of giddiness that I looked on with awe earlier this month at the Sean O’Brien 100k and Black Canyon 100k. You see, in the midst of all this talk about how much better today’s ultrarunners are than those of the past decade and even amidst an onslaught of young talent, two hardscrabble, hard-working, hard-driving guys in their forties simply got it done.
I have known Jorge Pacheco and Dave Mackey for over 15 years. I have finished behind them most of the time but have been in the same zip code some of the time. Javelina, Western States, and Angeles Crest have been the source of those battles and it’s been fun and heartwarming to become their friends. Dave and Jorge, while they come to the sport from different places, are both smart, humble, simple men. They take what they get and they give what they can. They are examples to me and should be examples to us all. Dave, among many other extraordinary accomplishments, finished second to Scott Jurek at Western States in his first 100 miler back in 2004 and Jorge has three Angeles Crest wins on his mantel as well as countless other SoCal course records to his name.
So, when I saw that, on successive weekends, each of these great guys defied the odds and their ages to gain entry into Western States, I was thrilled. Not only did they get the entries but they did so in style. Gritty, focused, and not too serious, Dave and Jorge embody what I believe is the key to longevity in the sport.
We’ll all be rooting for our favorites at Western States come June this year but I, for one, will be paying a little special attention to my friends and fellow battlers, Jorge and Dave.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Earlier this week I was visiting my parents and they spared no expense in buying me a couple bottles of Stone Brewing Company’s (Escondido, California) Enjoy By 3/14/15 IPA. And, while I know I have sung the praises of Stone’s fresh hop offering before, I can’t help but gush about this latest offering in the drink-now series. Complex, eminently hoppy, and bursting with fruit, 3/14/15 is not to be missed. Hoppy Pi Day, everyone!
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you been following the Montrail Ultra Cup this year? If so, what do you think about Jorge and Dave’s performances?
- What other top runners inspire you with their longevity?