Friendly Rivalries

AJWs TaproomOne of the things I love most about ultrarunning are the relationships that the sport has spawned for me. Over 18 years of running ultras I have made lifelong friends that have inspired and motivated me. In addition, along the way, some of these relationships have been competitive in nature as I have been pushed to exceed my expectations as a result of my burning desire to beat my friends.

In my early career, Kevin Sawchuk pushed me to exceed expectations as he was a guy I admired and trained with and his times were benchmarks for me. I will never forget the last four miles of the Angeles Crest 100 in 2003 when, after the outcome of the race was well decided, I still pushed on in an attempt to best Kevin’s time from the 2000 race. Chasing Kevin’s ghost made me work hard and long and, I like to think, added to the collective body of work that is so important to ultrarunners.

As I look back, now in the waning days of my competitive career, I realize that there is no other competitive relationship in my running life that is as important to me as the one I have with Craig Thornley. Craig and I have been friends for years and the first time we went head to head (prior to the days of the ubiquitous ultrarunner’s blog) was the 2006 Way Too Cool 50k when Craig bested me by 27 seconds and in the process cost me about $500 worth of beer at the Georgetown Hotel afterward. It was a bet I was willing to take but one that cost me dearly.

Then, there is the now well-known 10-year bet which is memorialized in this post on Craig’s blog, Conduct The Juices. While this challenge is, for now, suspended until Craig can return to Western States as a runner to get his last two finishes, it is still an idea that inspires and motivates us both.

Then, there is this little ditty, the time Craig challenged me to a one-mile race on historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, and proceeded to sandbag the first three laps only to dust me over the last 400 meters.

A couple years later, in 2011, Craig and I found ourselves together at the American River 50 Mile, a race we had both run several times. We had an epic battle there, as well, and you can read all about it on my personal blog.

Then, just a few months after that battle at American River and another Western States for each of us (his report, my report), Craig came out for the Grindstone 100 Mile in Virginia. I was banged up so Craig ran and I crewed him.

It is in this context that I was struck earlier this week when the good folks at Ultra168 published a list of the top-25 influential people in ultrarunning that Craig came up 16th and I came in at 23rd. Darn, he beat me again!

Then, low and behold, I got an email from Grindstone Race Director Clark Zealand yesterday that, among other things, listed the top times in the race, by age. Wouldn’t you know it? Craig Thornley has the fastest time for any 47 year old at Grindstone in 24:42. Needless to say, I now have a clear goal for my race this weekend.

Once again, it’s game on, Thornley!

Bottoms up!

Lickinghole Creek Farm Brewery Four Pillars Imperial IPAAJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from a new farm brewery here in Goochland, Virginia. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is a great new place halfway between Richmond and Charlottesville and their Four Pillars Imperial IPA is a delightfully fruity addition to the style that is bitter at first but smooth in the end. Worth a stop if you’re in the area.

PS: In next week’s column we’ll be celebrating the third anniversary of AJW’s Taproom. For that column, I am curating two top-10 lists. One will be the 10 best Taproom columns of the first three years. The second will be the 10 best beers featured in the Taproom. If you wish to vote on either top-10 lists, please leave a comment below.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Okay, first things first, leave a comment to tell us about your favorite AJW’s Taproom columns over the years, as well as your favorite beers that have been featured in the Taproom. Want to go digging? These are all the columns listed from newest to oldest. Have fun! We need your help in celebrating the Taproom’s third anniversary!
  • Now, have you been witness to the AJW-Thornley great ultrarunning duel? If so, do you have any stories to share from watching their rivalry over the years?
  • Do you have your own competitive rivalry with an ultrarunning friend?
  • And, finally, what do you think AJW’s chances are of beating Craig’s 24:42 at Grindstone this weekend?