Hope Springs Eternal!

AJW writes about the annual great expectations of the American ultrarunning community on the first weekend of December.

By on December 2, 2016 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFor the past several years, the first weekend of December has been one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends on the American ultrarunning calendar. This year is certainly no different.

As we settle into the winter months here in the Northern Hemisphere and begin the annual runner’s navigation through the excesses of the holidays, this weekend reminds us that there is some great fast running out there and, perhaps more notably, there is hope for the sun and fun of the summer just around the corner.

Early Saturday morning, many of us will be glued to our devices as The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships takes off from the Marin Headlands in California. Annually one of the most competitive races in the country, this year promises to be a bit more exciting than usual as the fields on both the men’s and women’s sides are packed with an interesting blend of youth and experience. History suggests that experience usually pays off in the Headlands but, these days, you just never know. Either way, it’ll be a great morning of racing.

One hundred miles up the road from the Marin Headlands, drama of an entirely different sort will be unfolding in the Placer High School Auditorium in Auburn, California. The annual Western States lottery has, in recent years, taken on a festive atmosphere that is at once hopeful and devastating. For the few hundred lucky souls whose names are selected, the next six months of their lives become immediately focused on preparation for the Big Dance. For the 4,000 others who do not get selected, it’s time to look for other races and ways to spend their summers. While the palpable feeling of expectation in that high-school auditorium is always filled with optimism, there is also something kind of sad about the whole thing, as well.

And then, a bit further east and bit later in the day on Saturday, the annual Hardrock 100 lottery will take place in Ken Gordon’s home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This lottery, actually three lotteries, will essentially set the field for the 145 lucky runners who will toe the line in Silverton, Colorado in July. This weighted lottery essentially means that there are some lucky souls with over a 90% chance of being selected all the way down to those with a 0.6% (yes, that’s point 6!) chance of being selected. Yours truly is looking at about a one in four chance as I have three tickets in the ‘Everyone Else’ lottery.

Undoubtedly, by Saturday evening, social media will have exploded with both excitement and disappointment with what unfolds in San Francisco, Auburn, and Albuquerque. Nonetheless, come Sunday, the sun will rise again, we’ll lace up our shoes, and run off into a hopeful future, whatever and wherever that might be.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

hardywood-park-craft-brewery-rum-barrel-gingerbread-stoutOut here in Richmond, Virginia, this time of year also means the release of one of the Old Dominion’s best beers, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Gingerbread Stout. For 2016, the good folks at Hardywood added a new arrow to their quiver with the addition of a Rum Barrel Gingerbread Stout as a follow-up to their wildly popular Bourbon Barrel selections from 2015. Aged in rum barrels, this 2016 masterpiece is wonderful in combining the warming winter flavor of the classic Milk Stout with the wildly tropical tone of rum.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What are you waiting optimistically for on Saturday? The Western States lottery? Hardrock lottery? To see how the TNF 50 plays out?
  • Do you have contingency plans for if you don’t get into a race?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.