Early Thoughts On North American Ultra Performance Of The Year

AJWs TaproomOkay folks, we’ve had lots of hand wringing here over the last few weeks and I’d like to put things to rest (at least until the year actually ends and the votes really count). :-) Here are my top-three votes for Ultra Performance of the Year for each gender. On the wise suggestion from the great Dave Mackey, we’ll go with ladies first!

[Author’s note: The same rule applies for these thoughts as I applied to the UROY discussion. These are North American runners’ performances at any ultramarathon race/event in the world. For the sole purpose of creating as broad a playing field as possible, I am including race performances, trail/road/track as well as attempts at Fastest Known Times (FKTs), multi-day efforts, and series races (e.g., Grand Slam), as a single ‘performance’. And, in contrast to my earlier columns in which I was predicting how the UltraRunning Magazine voting would play out, these are my votes. So, if you disagree, let me have it (not like I had to invite you to do that :)].

Women’s Ultra Performance of the Year

1. Rory Bosio’s win and course record at UTMB
Rory’s extraordinary seventh place overall, which eclipsed the course record by over two hours, could, by the time she finishes her ultra career, be the one race she tells her grandkids about. Truly, this was a run for the ages.

2. Sabrina Little’s 24-Hour American Record at the 2013 IAU 24-Hour World Championships
Sabrina’s single-minded focus and laser-like execution make this a solid #2 and will likely garner ample votes as #1. Anything over 150 miles is otherworldly and Sabrina’s 152 will likely stand the test of time. And, she did it with grace, dignity, and humility, values we love.

3. Pam Smith’s win at Western States
My WS bias notwithstanding, Pam’s run this past June at the Big Dance was extraordinary, particularly after struggling mightily in 2012. A true testament to fortitude, patience, and smarts, Pam’s race was a perfect fit for the event that is also all about fortitude, patience, and smarts. And, her race report published herein was, in my opinion, hands-down winner of RROY (Race Report of the Year).

Men’s Performance of the Year

1. Jon Olsen’s 100-Mile North American Record at the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Annual Ultra Classic 24 Hour
I’ve known Jon for years, from back in the days when he was resurrected off the cot at Highway 49 to finish Western States in 18th place to my years training with him in the Canyons, I can assure you this guy is tough. Running a 100-mile track event fast is extraordinary. Running 100 miles in under 12 hours is out of this world. Possibly the best American track ultra since Ann Trason.

2. Rob Krar’s Grand Canyon R2R2R FKT
Many have gone after this iconic record on a piece of trail that is carved out of the heart of America. Rob absolutely killed this thing. And, the video recording of him looking at his watch on the North Rim is priceless. True evidence of a guy who just knew he had something special going on and kept rolling with it. That rolling-with-it attitude is something you can’t help but love.

3. Timothy Olson’s Western States 100 Win
Yes, once again, I know I am biased and I know this wasn’t even a course record (Tim set that last year in 72-degree temperatures), but Timothy ran 15:17 on the second-hottest day in the history of the race against extraordinary competition, intense pressure, and the eyes of the ultra world on him. And, he did it with class. With all due respect to the world-class field assembled around him on that day, Timothy delivered.

So there you have it. My podium’s for the top-three UPOYs for North American men and women in 2013. There is still, of course, time left for people to pop off some great results at late-season races and these votes could be significantly altered as a result. (I remember doing just that a few years ago after the epic duel at The North Face 50 between Uli Steidl and Matt Carpenter.) But, for now, these are my thoughts. Next week I’ll be back to more philosophical drivel.

Bottoms up!

 AJW’s Beer of the Week

Troegs Perpetual IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from a Taproom favorite, Tröegs Brewing Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Their Perpetual IPA is a grippy, spicy beer with a hint of honey and a closing kick that reminds me of autumn. Not sure why, it just does.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Let’s talk about the ladies first! What do you think of AJW’s top-three women UPOYs? And, what other top performances from 2013 would you add to this list for consideration?
  • And, onto the men, how about the three performances listed above? Do you agree or disagree with those choices and why? Also, whose performances would you add to this list?
  • Now, let’s extend our scope of consideration to beyond North American runners and their performances. If we look at top men’s and women’s ultrarunning performances, no matter where the runner is from, what of those do you think would equate to or better the top performances listed here?

There are 110 comments

  1. Geoff

    I agree with what some others have said. Krar's UROC should be very high or at the top of list. Sonoma had a stout field for sure but UROC had the top two finishers from Sonoma PLUS Killian, Dakota, and Krar. In my mind Krar's run there was the best trail ultra in N America this year and it just comes down to whether you lean toward what Olson did on the track or what Krar did in the mountains for overall 1&2, with WS and SJS neck and neck for 3rd and 4th.

  2. Paul in Ireland

    As a non-American, looking at this from across the pond, I think what Rory did at UTMB was incredible. She went to Europe and nailed it…..not many of the US guys have done that.

    The men are hard to separate. How do you chose between Clark, Sharman, Tim Olsen and Sage? Rob Krar and Dakota also deserve mention + Mike Morton for flying the flag for us older guys!

    1. AJW

      Dear Anonymous,

      I did not ignore Sage. I certainly considered several of his races in thinking about my top-3. In the end, however, I thought the performances of Jon, Rob, and Timothy were better. That's just one guys opinion. But, to suggest he was ignored is a bit extreme.

      And, you'll note I did mention his Lake Sonoma performance in one of my comments above.

      Just curious, Anonymous, who would you bump out of my top-3? And, which of Sage's several outstanding performances would you put in his place?

      1. Lstomsl

        I wasn't anonymous and all due respect to Olson's WS but I'd bump him from the top 3 in favor of several others including Sages run at Speedgoat. I don't know what the exact criteria for performance of the year are but It seems to me that exceeding expectations must be part of it. Or is it just raw speed?

        If its just raw speed then Timmy's WS was off the mark. If we include external factors such as the heat then to me, even Rob Krars 2nd at WS was more impressive then Olson's 1st. Krar had no experience at the distance or the course and signed up on a whim after qualifying through MUC from my understanding. And he dealt with the same heat and was gaining ground in the finale. I wouldn't really expect a second place finish to get performance of the year on the basis of subjective criteria. And for the same reason, in a year when so many stout CRs were broken I see no reason to put a non-CR run ahead of them.

        1. Adam

          I'm sure they don't judge this way, but I think that Krar is more impressive than just about anybody when one considers that this was his first season of racing ultras, let alone his amazing performance at his first 100 miler. And the guy's 35, a bit old to be starting on ultras (albeit with and very fast short distance career behind him). In addition to raw talent, he seems to have a great deal of intelligence and maturity, balancing a regular job with training and racing, and racing relatively infrequently, and only when he's ready to give the race everything he's got. Between Leona Divide (where his overall pace was barely over 7:00), his R2R2R, WS, and UROC, he should certainly get male UROY, even if (arguably) no one performance stands out. It's terrifying to think of what he might be able to do next season. Just watch Dakota Jones's second place interview after UROC…he can hardly believe what he just saw.

  3. Flandria

    I noticed in the women that Stevie Kremer was not in the list in the original article.

    I agree that definitely Rory had an amazing UTMB performance. I am not familiar with the other women's field and I just started following ultra racing but I thought Stevie Kremer's performance was worth mentioning this year. She really kicked some butt this and was a big break through in her career!

    1. Meghan Hicks


      To my knowledge, Stevie Kremer hasn’t really raced ultramarathons (yet?). She’s run a couple events in Europe this year that were just a couple miles over the marathon distance, a 45k as part of the Kilian’s Classik events (she won by several minutes) and a very small 47k event in Italy (she was the only woman who finished the race).

      She’s a true specialist of marathon-and-shorter-distance mountain running (though I have no doubt she’d excel if and when she ever moves up in distances) and the award that AJW is pondering here is UltraRunning Magazine's Ultrarunning Performance of the Year, which is awarded to the North American male and female who, according to voters, had the greatest ultramarathon performance in a calendar year.

      In 2012 (I believe), Trail Runner Magazine started doing Trail Runner of the Year awards which considers/awards sub-ultra-distance and ultra-distance trail specialists. I have no doubt that Stevie will be in the running for this award because, like you said, she’s had an off-the-charts year.

  4. Tom W

    Anyone willing to drink water left behind by construction workers and dumpster dive to fuel their race deserves mention and my admiration :)

    Would certainly recommend Joe Fejes, John Fegyveresi and Alan's race recap and interviews from Vol State this year. Certainly makes me want to wander the back roads of Tennessee with fellow racers sometime soon.

  5. pacer1

    Hands down in the women’s category: Rory Bosio record at UTMB, there should be no doubt on this one.

    For the men, Sage Canaday gets my vote. If sticking to the list, I would pick Tim.

  6. scottrunsalot

    Now that the season is pretty much over I will vote on the following:
    1. Rory – UTMB
    2. Michele Yates – Nueces 50 Mile (USATF 50 mile trail championship)
    3. Michele Yates – TNF 50 Mile Championship
    1. Krar – UROC 100k
    2. Tim Olsen – Western States
    3. Krar – TNF 50 Mile Championship

    Female UROY – Michele Yates
    Male UROY – Rob Krar

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