2016 Ultrarunner Of The Year Balloting: Women’s Edition

AJW's TaproomFor the past eight years I have been honored and privileged to be part of the panel of individuals who vote on UltraRunning magazine’s annual Ultrarunner of the Year awards, an award for runners residing in North America. Each year around this time the 30 or so members of the panel receive a lengthy email from John Medinger, the coordinator of the annual vote, with some instructions on the balloting process and an incredibly detailed spreadsheet summarizing the year’s results. This spreadsheet includes data on over 60 North American ultrarunners as well as a couple dozen age-group runners.

Along with John’s annual letter, each year John also reminds us that the selection process is by no means an exact science and that part of the reason for such a large panel is that the diversity of opinion in the sport is often disparate and occasionally controversial. As such, John reminds us to vote on the criteria we believe to be most important and to also consider such things as head-to-head competition, field strength of certain ultras, and the runner’s full “body of work.”

[Author’s Note: At the time of this writing there are two additional events taking place this weekend which could impact the voting, Hellgate 100k in Virginia and Desert Solstice in Arizona. With ballots being due on December 12th, there will be time for voters to include results from these events in their ballots should that be necessary.]

This year, in compiling my ballot, I have decided to establish some criteria of my own to inform my rankings in an attempt to inject some objectivity into my own personal process. In this column I am going to share that criteria and then provide an alphabetical listing of the female runners meeting that criteria for 2016. I am welcoming reader comments in the comment section with suggestions on how to rank the runners in each group. Then, next Friday, I’ll compile and publish a similar list on the men’s side here in the Taproom.

So, here you go, AJW’s Ultrarunner of the Year Criteria:

To meet the standard…

  1. A runner must have completed at least four ultras in 2016 of at least two different distances.
  2. A runner must have finished first place (in their gender) in at least two races in 2016.
  3. A runner must have had at least one top finish* in a ‘major’** ultra in 2016.

*A top finish is defined as a finish in the top 20% of the overall field.

**For the purpose of this exercise here are seven ‘majors:’

  1. The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships
  2. Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
  3. UTMB
  4. Western States
  5. Comrades Marathon
  6. IAU 100k World Championships
  7. IAU 50k World Championships

Here is an alphabetical listing of the North American women who meet the criteria and the events in which they competed for 2016:

Caroline Boller
Wins: Mokelumne River 50k, Caumsett 50k
Majors: Western States (12th), IAU 50k (16th)
Other Races: JFK 50 Mile (2nd)

Magdalena Boulet
Wins: Canyons 100k, Overlook 50k
Majors: UTMB (5th), TNF 50 Mile (2nd)
Other Races: Speedgoat 50k (3rd), Western States (DNF)

Traci Falbo
Wins: Mad City 100k, Burning River 100 Mile
Majors: Comrades (18th), IAU 100k (16th)

Kaci Lickeig
Wins: Silver State 50 Mile, The Bear 100 Mile, Western States, GOATz 50k, Bohemian Alps 50k, Psycho Psummer 50k
Majors: Western States 100 (1st), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (2nd)

Bethany Patterson
Wins: Georgia Death Race 68 Mile, Promise Land 50k
Majors: Western States (7th)
Other Races: Holiday Lake 50k (2nd)

Pam Smith
Wins: Dawn to Dusk 24 Hour/100 Mile, Hagg Mud 50k
Majors: IAU 100k (12th)
Other Races: Spartathlon (2nd)
[Added 12/9, 8 a.m. Mountain Time]

Amy Sproston
Wins: Tillamook Burn 50 Mile, Black Canyon 100k
Majors: Western States (2nd)
Other Races: Zane Grey 50 Mile (4th), UTMB (DNF)

Alissa St Laurent
Wins: Mt Si 50 Mile, Capitol Peak 50 Mile, Bridle Trails 50k
Majors: Western States (5th)
Other Races: Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile (2nd)

YiOu Yang
Wins: Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, Quicksilver 50k
Majors: Western States (13th), Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (1st)
Other Races: Way Too Cool 50k (2nd), IAU Trail World Championships (DNF)

Devon Yanko
Wins: Sean O’Brien 100k, American River 50 Mile, Berkeley Trail Adventure 50k
Majors: Western States (3rd)

Now, it is entirely possible that I missed someone who may meet the criteria and if so please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from the loyal AJW’s Taproom readers on how you think I should rank the nine speedy women listed above.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Orpheus Brewing Life.Death.Life.TruthThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. These guys make a great, simple, single IPA called Life.Death.Life.Truth that I was able to try last month while on vacation in Georgia. It’s a wonderfully fruity IPA without any stickiness or overly hop-forward tones. I think it’s definitely worth a growler fill if you find yourself in Atlanta.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • You heard AJW’s question above, how would you rank the women listed who meet his criteria?
  • How would you tweak AJW’s selection criteria to better select for UROY?
  • If you were to create your own UROY selection criteria, what would they be?
  • Can you think of a scenario or a runner whose annual body of work might be good enough for top-10 UROY but who wouldn’t qualify within AJW’s criteria?

There are 148 comments

            1. Sean

              I definitely love my western US groomed trails, Bethany! However, I don’t think HG is 100% evil. About half of the terrain is very easy/non-technical footing, i.e, dirt roads, grass roads, etc. The other half, well, it’s covered in knee-deep leaves, so I’m not quite sure what’s under there, but it’s not super fun. And I’d consider all of HG’s terrain relatively easy compared to parts of TT252!!

            2. Bethany Patterson

              hellgate is tough midnight start (fast guys don’t understand running through the night), the time of year, the cold, and the leaves. TT252, on the other hand was one of my fondest memories. Way harder than Hellgate for sure, but different.

  1. Bob Hearn

    You missed Pam Smith. Three wins, plus 2nd at Spartathlon (which oddly does not appear on her ultrasignup). Not to mention a handful of ARs, plus one AG WR, at her spring 24-hour.

    Also, why is Spartathlon not on your list of majors?

  2. Kaci

    Thank you and I feel like Bethany, being very honored to be among these amazing women. They all inspire me and push me to be better than I was yesterday. One more talented woman I would include is, Katalin Nagy. She’s had one impressive year.

      1. Pam

        I don’t know if Katalin meets all the criteria you put forth because she was injured part of the year, but after running Spartathlon, I have to say she needs to at least be on the list for POY – she is 90 minutes faster than any other woman has ever been on that course (including Lizzie Hawker) and she is running in the mix with the top men. 153.6 miles in a hair over 25 hours (and not on a flat loop like 24 hour races!) is incredible!

        1. AJW

          Pam, thanks for this and, indeed, Katalin’s Spartathlon has to be at or near the top for female performance of the year. With respect to my criteria, while there is some disagreement on this, I did not include Katalin on my list due to her not running one of my “majors”. And, at least according to the chart I am using she “only” ran three races. All that being said, when the real voting takes place I would not be surprised if she ends up in the top-10

          1. Kaci

            Pam that is a great point! And yes, she’s definitely making a run at the POY! Thanks for all the input. AJW you are a busy man today. Just wait until next week with them men!! You’re going to be bombarded with replies.

          2. KenZ

            Ahhh, so I would argue that your methodology for selecting the majors needs more work. The list is fine, but should be include any race with a concentration x of y ranked runners, where some math type (Bob H, I’m looking at you) gets the algorithm down.

            I would suggest at looking how USSA/FIS ranks skiers by a points system where your points per race are accounted for by the points of the top skiers in attendance. It’s a very objective easy of ranking skiers.

            1. AJW

              If there’s someone out there who wants to do FIS type scoring for every ultra in the world I would gladly analyze that data. Provided they understand that this particular award is for North American Ultrarunner of the Year.

      2. Bob Hearn

        The unfortunate thing is that her performance last year at Spartathlon was even better — smashing the CR by nearly two hours — but was not recognized for UPOY. That was a Kouros-level performance, one for the ages.

  3. Gary

    While I LOVE this conversation, and Kaci seems a lock… seems like it’s time it should be renamed North American UROY, or open it up to international runners because Ida Nilsson also had a pretty great year, didn’t she?

    1. AJW

      It is North American runners only as is noted in the first paragraph. That is the way Ultrarunning Magazine has chosen to limit the scope of the award since they first awarded it in 1981

      1. Gary

        I realize that’s how it’s been done, but this tiny bit of North American centrism causes me to cringe ever so slightly. I suppose it’s a bit like the “World Series” for baseball, eh? :-)

        And I also suppose it’s hard enough to come up with a NA UROY, let alone accounting for the other continents! I’ll confess my own Northern and Western bias in thinking primarily of adding European runners to the conversation, but that would no doubt leave off highly qualified candidates from Asia, South America, Austraila and Africa…

        For such a discussion, the line has to be drawn somewhere!

        1. AJW

          Thanks Gary! I know there are some folks out there who have been working on a global ultrarunner of the year system I just don’t know how evolved the discussion is at this point. I do know, however, that such a poll would be way above my pay grade

    2. Ben

      Gary, I’ll see your Ida Nilsson and raise you a Caroline Chaverot!

      She won the two most competitive races in the world (arguably) in UTMB AND IAU Trail World Champs. Insane.

      Oh, and she also won Buff Epic Trail, Mont Blanc 80k, Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, and Transgrancanaria.

      Ida certainly did well at the ‘shorter’ end of the ultra spectrum but Caroline crushed the longer end!

      1. Kaci

        I agree that Caroline would be the Ultra Runner of the World this year! She had an outstanding season. I can’t wait to see her race Hardrock next year. It’s going to be awesome to have her talent in the field. And Ida, is also one that would contend to be an UROY-World! :)

        1. AJW

          Mark d, no, probably not. But aside from Comrades there were few, if any, high end North American runners in those races. And, if I missed some please let me know. I hope, someday, to run an ultra in South Africa. Seems like the motherland

          1. SageCanaday

            Keep in mind there are 20,000 runners in Comrades…which really adds to the competition. The winner is competing for $30k in prize money and Africa has a great history with a lot of very talented and amazing distance runners… Max King (100km American Record Holder and IAU 100km Champ was only 8th there this year on the “down” and 52nd place on the “up” year). I really respect Max and he is an amazing runner with great range, but the competitive depth at Comrades is just totally insane (look at the close margins of the top 10 with finisher density and realize it’s a 5.5 hour race or so)….running 6:10/ mile pace for 54-miles with 6000′ of climbing on a net uphill course! Nothing compares to Comrades.

            1. AJW

              For sure Sage, while I’ve never been there (although I hope to get there one day) there is no ultra quite like Comrades.

  4. SteelTownRunner

    Shouldn’t we consider times as well (not just placing), at least when judging road / track races? Part of the beauty to those races is being able to look objectively how those race results rank in history, both domestically and internationally.

    Another “major” race that got left out is Spartathlon; consistently one of the most competitive ultras in the world. Granted, this year had weaker competition due to close scheduling proximity to the European 24hr Champs, but Katalin Nagy still ran the second fastest time (2nd to her CR from last year) on that course in history. A stellar time for men.

    Kati’s friend and rival, Aly Venti won both Keys 100 and Badwater (again, for both). Again, when competition might not be up to snuff, this is where times can make a difference. Her Badwater, granted they call it a new CR, is probably more properly called a Race Record (with the revised night start), but was darn fast no matter which way you slice it.

    Another seemingly overlooked performance was Yolanda Holder’s 600+ mi (don’t have the exact mileage handy) at the Sri Chinmoy 10 Day. She has run other ultras this year, and that’s a fine performance. I don’t think it would get the nod from me, but should warrant a mention.

    *************************

    Some other races left on the 2016 calendar:
    -Brazos Bend 100 (Maggie Guterl, among others, running)
    -Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic (unlikely to see anything to shake up the rankings, but an historic race)
    -Daytona 100 miler in FL
    -Trail of Fears (a last man standing spin-off of Gary Cantrell’s Big Backyard Ultra). Notable entrant includes Marylou Corino – a 27X 72hr runner.

    1. AJW

      Thanks Steeltown. I looked long and hard at Spartathlon and decided not to give it “major” status. I know that may bother some people but I just looked at the other 7 and decided it wasn’t as competitive. Now, I am just one guy so I am sure many on the panel will end up weighing it heavily.

      Also, I do know about Brazos and the potential for Maggie to win and therefore meet the criteria. So, we’ll see…

      1. SteelTownRunner

        May I ask why you’d ignore Spartathlon? Lake Sonoma has some* depth to it as does Western (some years more than others), but I’d argue Western had less depth (save for a few: Jim, Sage, etc) than in recent years, and that Spartathlon was no less competitive. Certainly, the field as a whole, is more competitive than Western or LS, and far more history (with historic times to compare) than LS.

        1. AJW

          Steeltown, as I said earlier, I didn’t ignore Spartathlon. Rather, I just didn’t consider the level of competition commensurate with the seven races on my list. And again, I am just one of a panel of many

  5. laz

    I find the Spartathlon omission puzzling. I understand it was down a little this year (competitively) due to the proximity of the World 24 hour (which should also count as a major), but it is competitively superior to all the US races included. I see the need to include the top US races, as it is a North American list, but performances on the world stage should count for more than success in local events.

    1. AJW

      While I hear you on Spartathlon and the 24 hour I respectfully disagree. Keep in mind, as well, that four of the seven majors on my list are international races.

    2. Bob Hearn

      FWIW there were no 24-hour WCs this year; now they alternate years with 100K WCs. So I’d assumed AJW’s criteria would use them next year instead. But based on his reply here, maybe not? Which would be a real head/scratcher to me.

      Without a doubt, the competition level at Spartathlon is comparable to that at 24-hour WCs. It’s the same people competing. I admit I am biased, but many, myself included, consider Spartathlon “the greatest footrace on Earth”, due to the history, the organization, the competition, and especially the very tight cutoffs. (In most years only about 40% finish.)

      Of course you are free to disagree, but re the level of competition, at least, I don’t think there’s much room for debate.

      1. AJW

        Bob, Thanks and fair enough to have a little disagreement about relative competitiveness. That said, please keep in mind that, as I said in the column, this is the first time in my eight years on the UR Magazine panel that I have endeavored to inject some degree of objectivity into my ballot. And it is way more art than science. Perhaps next year a month before the end of the year I’ll ask the readers of the column to nominate their “majors” and then compile the list from there. As with so many things in this beloved sport of ours, this is ever evolving…

  6. Michael Owen

    Andy, are those 7 races the only 7 major races that you are considering, and it is dictated per year based on competition, or are there more on your list? And I’m assuming you chose those races based on several factors including history of the race, size of field, but most importantly probably competition? JFK comes to mind — realizing it didn’t have the depth of competition as the other 7 — but say it had a 15 deep field breaking 6 hours next year, would it be in your “major” race list? Hardrock 100 could be looked at similarly – like for the men, Jason Schlarb should be considered as a top 10 UROY runner but I don’t know if he ran any of the 7 major races you have listed, but he won HR100.

    For considering “major” races, and then being considered a “top finisher” being top 20% can really vary based on size of field. I feel like being top 20% is a lot. Top 20% at UTMB would be a lot of runners compared to top 20% at Western States.

  7. Mark

    I’m curious about your criteria about racing at least two different distances in the same year. While I’m sure it didn’t eliminate anyone, it seems somewhat arbitrary. If a woman won a bunch of prestigious 100 milers, but never raced another distance would that make her less deserving somehow?

    1. AJW

      Mark, in our instructions from the magazine we are asked to consider both the breadth and depth of a runner’s performance. That is why I had as my standard at least four races at at least two distances.

      And, even with that, as we’ll see in the men’s discussion next Friday, at least three top-tier male runners ran fewer than four and are certainly worthy of being part of the discussion.

  8. Mackey

    AJW did you “bottom’s up” a few too many before you reviewed your data? :)

    I agree on several of your pics, but I don’t see 100 milers as being an absolute requirement to be picked.. an ultra’s an ultra’s an ultra IMO. top 100 mile races are so hard to even toe the line, I don’t weight those as much; the entry process and demand to get into HR and WS don’t make for a level playing field. for example hillary allen killed it this year overseas in stiff competition and didn’t run 100 miles..maybe she would have run HR and WS both if she’d been able to get in (I don’t know if she tried). Jason schlarb had a great run at HR, but he got a slot through sponsors and not through the normal lottery route (nothing against jason at all as he is one of my best buds and love him to death..just an example).
    that’s a good side of the UROY panel in the variety of nominators’ opinions. now back to that beer..

    1. AJW

      Good to hear from you Mackey! And, in spite of the fact that I have been accused often of having a 100 mile bias, in this case I honestly tried not to which is why five of the seven “majors” I designated are races less than 100 miles.

      1. Schlarb

        Hey there AJW and Mack Daddy.
        Dave, I did not receive a slot from sponsors to enter Hardrock, I gained entry with no help on my 5th try.
        I tried to resist, but failed:
        -Kilian
        -Xavier (master of UTMB races)
        -Jeff Browning
        -Timmy O
        -Nick Clark
        -Ryan Burch
        -Joe Grant
        But MORE importantly: the precedence of the race and who has raced it in the past. This race should not be left off any ultra running benchmark, national or international. HRH won’t ever have the single year volume of TNF or UTMB and usually Western States, but over time most every iconic mountain ultra runner will probably run this race. One can always just look at an athletes times for HRH (with weather consideration of course) regardless of that year’s entrants.

        We only really have two world class 100 milers in North America (at this time), you can’t just scratch one of them man.

        1. AJW

          I hear you loud and clear Schlarbie, and truth is, we all wish HR was more competitive. But bottom line, it’s not. That said, a couple of the girls who defied the odds and got in for 2017 will make it a bit more competitive on the distaff side than it’s been recently.

      2. Bob Hearn

        … but none are *over* 100 miles. :-)

        One more point about Spartathlon and I’ll shut up. You have four trail races, three road races. Spartathlon would be the obvious way to balance that (as well as getting something well over 100, which really is its own regime).

  9. Scott Kummer

    I think Ashley Nordell should be in the conversation. First Overall at Ozark 100, and F1 at Bighorn 100.

    Also Denise Bourassa. F1 at HURT and Chimera. (along with a few other podium finishes).

  10. Mason

    What if a runner were to win three of your “majors” in a year, but those were the only ultras that he or she did? Hard to imagine that runner wouldn’t be up for consideration simply for not doing a fourth race.

    1. AJW

      Mason, quite true. The four race minimum is, indeed, quite arbitrary and perhaps unfair. Probably something I’ll tweak in the future. Looking over the women’s list I couldn’t find anyone who ran fewer than four, had two wins, and a top place in a major. On the men’s side, however, it is another story with Z Miller and H Hawks. Miller ran three races, won two, and the one he didn’t win was 6th at UTMB. Hawks also ran three, won two, and the one he didn’t win was second to Zach at North Face. Then, there’s Andrew Miller who ran two races, one them both, and one of them was Western States. Like I said, it’s more art than science:))

        1. AJW

          Buzz, “eligible” might be a strong word as this is just me playing around with some criteria. That said, Zach is certainly a worthy candidate for ultrarunner of the year regardless of the fact that he did not meet my criteria. And, perhaps my criteria is bad. Who knows? In my column next week I’ll be sure to explain that. To be honest, I think this is worthy of a classic “quality vs quantity” discussion but let’s save that for next week. This is the week to discuss the women’s ballot.

          1. Nick Truax

            If Zach Miller is not eligible, then the criteria needs to be changed.

            +1

            As much as I love the beast that is Walmsley, let us also give thanks to the runner known as Zach. Can we please give them both a win?

    1. speedgoat Karl

      I actually started the FKT discussion, and even though I was one of the FKT guys…I vote against it being included. I suggested there be a “best FKT vote” just for kicks because it’s a popular thing these days. Only competitive races should be counted

  11. Ian Sharman

    Times relative to stout historical records are just as relevant as places and with only 7 major races considered it’s easy enough to put each in the context of it’s history regarding course changes or weather…or direction (for Comrades).

    1. AJW

      Thanks Rudy! I have no reason to be secretive. Everyone knows my biases anyway. In fact, it is my hope that being transparent might make me less biased. We’ll see, ballot’s due on Monday:)

  12. Mark Smith

    Kaci had such an amazing year. I got to watch her before, during and after The Bear (which was incredibly tough this year) and she shined throughout. If attitude has any weighting in your picks, Kaci’s infectious smile and attitude should push her over the top. I also see her name on the list for the 50 miler at Hitchcock this weekend.

  13. Ben

    So ‘major’ = your definition of ‘competitive’ in this criteria? What determines whether a race is deemed ‘competitive’?

    I have this discussion with folks all the time. For example, is Hardrock ‘competitive’? I would argue no since only the top 2-3 men or women do in fact go on to win every year. But you could also argue it is competitive since the course is so hard and anything could (and sometimes does) happen.

    Transvulcania is a mighty competitive race too I would argue and perhaps should be considered for inclusion?

    1. AJW

      Yes indeed Ben. It is highly subjective. I know there are folks out there who are good with math and computers who have figured out BCS style ways to measure field strength and perhaps they can chime in. As for me, to be quite honest, I considered about 15 races and narrowed my list to seven. It’s far from perfect but it’s a good start. I’ll try to refine that list (and the number of ultras) for next year.

      1. Ben

        Appreciate the response. I’m pointing out Transvulcania and races like that only because the more I learn about races in Europe and how deep they are the more I realize they are so insanely competitive. With a longer history of trail running and more accessible big mountains it’s no surprise but when North Americans do well at races like CCC, UTMB, Transvulcania, Zegama Marathon, IAU, etc. I am in awe.

        1. AJW

          Ben, yeah, for sure. Take Dylan Bowman, for example. He had great runs at Templiers and Mt Fuji (which was shortened to 27.3 miles from 100) but only did one of my “majors” (Lake Sonoma) and had “only” one win. He should certainly be in the mix. Again, it’s a science and an art with no easy answers. But it’s fun to play around with.

    1. AJW

      Camille had two wins and a 4th at a major (Lake Sonoma) but only finished three races. So again, as harsh as it may be, she didn’t make my cut. I am sure she’ll make the cut with other panelists.

        1. Nelson

          Please, let’s not start with the bashing on Herron again. Specially after male runners with comparable behaviors and attitudes are praised as ‘refreshing’. Let’s all be a little kinder.

          1. AJW

            Nelson, I hope you didn’t interpret my comment as “bashing”. I was attempting to simply objectively explain my rationale. Which is, of course, subject to ample criticism. Didn’t mean anyone any disrespect

            1. Nelson

              Absolutely. I was replying to Nick’s snarky (I think) comment. I can see how she might be a controversial character, but the recent wave of criticism towards her left a very sour taste in my mouth.

              Again, nothing to do with your explanation. As for the criteria, the sport is so diverse and broad that it’s impossible to settle objective parameters that will satisfy everyone. Some people will have a trail bias, a 100-mile bias, etc. Some will favor deep international fields while others will prefer home races with a rich tradition. It’s apples and oranges, somewhat, and necessarily it’s going to be very subjective. Which is the way it should be.

              Although Kaci Lickteig seems like as objective a choice as you can get. What she did at Western States was really masterfully executed, and I hope will get a nod in the performance of the year category as well.

          2. pacer1

            I guess I am out of the loop on what the controversy about Camille is. I think she naively allowed an a$$hat to help “market” her, but she’ll correct that as she settles in and gets her head around her own talent.

  14. Corrine Malcolm

    I’ll also echo Kaci’s incredible year!

    Although I have some issue with a straight up “Wins” column as not all those races will have had the same level of competition, which I’m sure you guys have a way of factoring in? Just making a play for the consistent folks who might be in the bridal party a lot more often than the winners circle due to the races they choose.

  15. Traci Falbo

    I totally agree that Pam Smith and Katy Nagy should be considered. I am impressed that you are putting your criteria out there. Usually there is no transparency by how people make their decisions…boo to all the critical people :) and Kaci for the win!

    1. AJW

      Thanks Traci, but just to be clear, I am not trying to impress…rather just thinking out loud about how to ultimately make sense of something that, frankly, defies common sense. Which is, of course, why we’re here in the first place!

  16. Bethany Patterson

    And also, people, there is a performance of the year award to recognize specific achievements even when the runner may not get the vote for UROY.

    1. AJW

      For sure Bethany! And among those POYs, in addition to Katalin’s Spartathlon are Hillary Allen’s Cortina, Leah Frost’s JFK and Ashley Nordell’s Bighorn. Lots of great runs this past year!

  17. AJW

    Also, we mustn’t forget that Kaci became only the 3rd woman ever to run sub-18 at WS. And she did so on the 4th hottest day in race history.

  18. Andy

    AJW…I like where you are going with this criteria. Being a college hockey fan it is similar to the Pairwise computer ranking which selects the post season tourney. I disagree with having to win to be considered, but perhaps it helps to narrow the field.

  19. Ben

    The more I think about the four race minimum criteria the more I dislike it. Reason being that I think ultra-runners are already over raced and often suffer from FOMO. If someone chooses to focus on 2-3 goal races for the year that is smart I believe and keeps them in the game longer. This should be celebrated, not penalized (even though I realize we are talking about one person’s criteria). I guess my point is that I would prefer to see folks focus on quality and not have things like a four race minimum criteria catch on so that runners don’t feel pressured to potentially over race for awards and sponsorships.

    Many of the best road marathoners in the world race two marathons a year. I think about that often in relation to how hard we push our bodies at the ultramarathon distance.

    1. AJW

      Ben, I know exactly what you are saying and I thought long and hard about that one before adding it to the criteria. But, in the end, I did. Maybe next year I’ll drop that and just say 2 wins and at least one top performance at a major. But, I will stick to the “at least two distances” standard. To me, as one member of a 30 person panel, that’S important.

      1. Nick Truax

        Gonna go with Ben on this one.

        Whether it be two or four focus races, I’m all for the 2 win/1 top performance at a major.

        As for the “at least two distances”, I’m backing that.

        Thanks for the transparency, AJW!

  20. GMack

    The idea of Ultrarunner of the Year (North Americans, only) has always stuck me as ridiculous in the 15 years I’ve been in the sport. Even more so with qualifying races.

    Ultrarunning is a meritocracy, race-by-race. To render a competition based on the subjectivity of a vote of ‘experts’ runs counter to the sport. It always has, but we looked the other way and congratulated the winners. Happy for them. No harm, no foul.

    Now, look at the 3 US races – all located in California. The entrants lists for the races are unsurprisingly full of Californians. No offense, I used to live in the Bay Area, but seriously? For many elites in Colorado, it’s not a barrier, but an unnecessary obstacle.

    The US qualifying races are also WS100-centric. That is, rolling hills and leg speed. No big mountains, no altitude. I believe big-mountain races define the ultra of today. Just an opinion, but substantiated. That leaves UTMB as the sole qualifier in that category. For most, that means having a deep-pocketed sponsor. Also, WS100 and UTMB are also sister UTWT races, coincidence?

    For ultrarunning to become cliquey and further arbitrary is a mistake. The trend towards event syndicates and contrived standards pushes the sport towards tribes we really shouldn’t have.

  21. AJW

    Gmack, I hear where you’re coming from and concur. However, what I did in determining my 7 majors was to look solely at competitiveness in the context of North American participation. After doing that, these are the races I chose. Next year, perhaps I’ll choose seven different ones. But regardless, the seven selections had nothing to do with geography or sponsorship.

  22. Michael Dominguez

    And Bam! Caroline Boller breaks a 22 year old 50 mile trail record she decided to race at the last moment! Sure to change some voters minds…

      1. Chris

        29th at WS, CR at Badwater, fastest ever run across the US. He’s easily had a top 5 kind of year and you wouldn’t even put him in your top 10… Sorry to say this, keep in mind that I’m a huge fan of yours and all you do, but your system is flawed.

        1. Jay

          Chris, as per the publisher’s instructions, FKTs are not being considered this year. So Petes transcontinental record is out. With that stipulation, it’s tough to vote for him.

  23. KenZ

    Gina Slaby is crushing it right now over at desert solstice. Might be in for a new 100 mile world track record, but it’s gonna be close. She’s gonna decimate the U.S. record. Can’t keep my eyes off the live reporting!

    1. KenZ

      Which of course begs the question: is breaking a world record in an objective, comparable event, effectively a major bc you’re competing with everyone across time?

  24. kyle

    Isn’t an FKTa race against anyone who had run the same course just at different times, and Is usually highly competitive based on who has run them? It may not bean official race against live competition, but everyone goes into an FKT in the best shape and in the best weather, ruling out a top competitor having a bad run due to weather. Not trying to influence anyone, just thinking out loud.

  25. Anne

    Another name to add to your list, for the sake of completeness, Elissa Ballas: 2 wins at 50k, a 100k win, and 5th American at Comrades.

  26. AJW

    Well, last night’s/this morning’s results have certainly made things interesting:
    Gina Slaby World Record 100 mile on the track to take down an Ann Trason record which goes along with her 100 mile wins at Vermont and Lumberjack
    Caroline Boller’s amazing 5:48 at Brazos Bend 50 break another Ann Trason record and go along with her results noted above
    Maggie Guterl 14:47 and overall win at Brazos Bend 100 which makes her the 11th woman to meet my criteria above as it was her second win to go along with her F8 at WS
    Courtney Dauwalter closing in on 140 miles at Desert Solstice after her win at RRR as well as a string of other great performance.
    It’s going to be really hard to narrow this list down to just 10!

  27. Fernando B

    With what she did over the weekend…looks like Kaci wrapped it up, picked out a box and put a bow on it! To win the UROY! Very nicely done!

  28. AJW

    PSA: the panel received an email this morning summarizing the weekend’s results so nothing will be missed. Now we’re all just scurrying around trying to get our ballots in by the deadline!

  29. AJW

    Just submitted my ballot to UR Mag. Since it’s been such a hot topic here are my 5 female Performances of the Year:

    1. Gina Slaby Desert Solstice 100
    2. Caroline Boller Brazos Bend 50
    3. Kaci Lickteig Western States 100
    4. Katalin Nagy Spartathlon
    5. Maggie Guterl Brazos Bend 100

    Glad that’s done!

    1. SteelTownRunner

      Thanks for the post and transparency AJW; fully knowing you were opening a can of worms :). I don’t know what order my 2-5 would be, tough call. Fully on board (whatever that’s worth) with Gina’s run. Till next post! ;)

    2. Ian Sharman

      Good top 5 and I’d have said Katalin’s Spartathlon was the leader before this weekend but then the 100 mile WR had to leap above that, although it’s not a record that’s really been tested as much (I’d guess Ann could have run sub 13hrs if she’d really focused on it).

  30. Jason Friedman

    AJW,
    One woman who meets your criteria who didn’t even make TJ’s spreadsheet is Laura Kline. Wins at TNF Ontario and TNF DC 50Ks, second at Caumsett, third at Cayuga, 11th at TNF 50mile champs. Don’t want to be accused of partisanship, so I’ll probably leave her off my ballot, but she probably deserves some votes.
    Jay

  31. txultrarunner

    Had the pleasure of watching Caroline Boller and Maggatron while running my race at Brazos Bend SP (my backyard) and was blown away – wanna break records, come to Texas.

  32. Myke

    US Skyrunning Series winner Sarah Keyes should be listed based on your criteria. Look out for her at Western States next year…

    -A runner must have completed at least four ultras in 2016 of at least two different distances. (3x50k, 1×50 mile, 1×100 mile)
    -A runner must have finished first place (in their gender) in at least two races in 2016. (1st at Broken Arrow, 1st at Aspen Power of Four, 1st at Runamuck 50k)
    -A runner must have had at least one top finish (top 205) in a ‘major’ ultra in 2016. (12th North Face 50 California).

    2016 Results:

    1st Broken Arrow Sky Race
    1st Runamuck 50k
    1st Power of Four Sky Race
    2nd Flagstaff Sky Race
    4th Cascade Crest 100
    12th North Face 50 California

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