Stories from the Pack

AJWs TaproomWhat a week it’s been in ultrarunning! Headlined, of course, by the Transvulcania ultramarathon in the Canary Islands, the events of last weekend could go down in history as a watershed moment for the sport. Clearly, the race performances on La Palma, particularly from Dakota Jones and Anna Frost, were extraordinary and the attention the athletes, ambassadors, and spectators have received is truly well deserved.

That said, there was much more about the weekend of May 12-13, 2012 that was equally enthralling and noteworthy. Starting on the West Coast, two late spring classics, the Quicksilver 50 Miler and the McDonald Forest 50K, continued their storied traditions of providing runners with first class racing experiences and great tune-ups for summer exploits. In the southwestern corner of Utah, the Zion 100 Miler went off without a hitch this year setting the tone for the summer 100-miler season. A bit north of there in Fort Collins, CO, Nick Clark, himself a top ultrarunner who easily could have been battling his peers in Spain, debuted as Race Director of the Quad Rock 50 Miler, which apparently is an excellent Hardrock tune-up run (which is code for brutal course with punishing surface and more than its fair share of vertical ;-) ).

Next, in the Upper Midwest, was the Ice Age Trail 50 Miler, which had four more Western States spots quietly up for grabs and where Timmy Olson was seeking to stake his claim to the Montrail Ultra Cup. It was, by all accounts, an excellent race and four more runners punched their tickets to Squaw. Finally, in the mountains of Virginia, the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club staged their annual, low-key, old-school 100 miler, the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100. In that race, history was made (and only a few people noticed).

There, Eva Pastalkova reset her women’s course record from last year by running 22:01. Last year, she ran 22:30 to break Sue Johnston’s course record of 22:38 that she set in 2005 at age 39 (she still holds the Masters CR of 23:14). Then, in a performance that would make Meghan Arbogast proud, Jack Pilla, at 53 years old, finished 4th overall in 21:07 and along the way set a new standard for Senior Men by nearly an hour. But the most incredible story of the day, and, in my opinion, of the weekend, was told by the father and son duo of Gary and Keith Knipling. You see, these guys have Massanutten in their blood and even though they somewhat reluctantly toe the line each year, this year Keith, at age 36, finished his 13th MMT in 22:07 and Gary, at the ripe old age of 68, finished his 15th in 33:35. For those keeping score at home, that’s 28 total finishes for this father-son duo. I know they don’t keep records for this kind of thing, but if they did I am pretty sure this would be a category unto itself. And, for me, as a father of three sons of my own, it is particularly poignant and, I dare say, extraordinary!

So, Gary and Keith, here’s to you!

And, oh yeah, also last weekend Michael Wardian won another marathon. 2:30 in Delaware. Ho-hum…

The sun rises and sets, life goes on…we run.

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Bluegrass Pats Bearded BarleywineThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Bluegrass Brewing Company in Louisville, KY, my wife Shelly’s hometown. My sources tell me that Gary Knipling doesn’t drink beer but that he favors bourbon and Pepsi. That said, Bluegrass Brewing’s Bearded Pat’s Barleywine is a great boozy brew that tops out at 11% ABV and yet goes down smooth. Furthermore, when cold, it’s actually quite smooth drinking. So, if Gary did drink beer, I bet he’d like this stuff!

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What are your favorite performances from last weekend?

There are 7 comments

  1. Jeff Faulkner

    It seems with AJW onboard that east coast racing will continue to get more coverage. Who knows, maybe one day we'll see full-on iRunFar coverage at some of our (east of the Mississippi) bigger races.

    Oh and as a father who has raced with his sons, I think that what the Kniplings are doing is fantastic. A more complete retelling of their story would make for compelling reading. *hint hint*

      1. AJW

        Jeff and David,

        Thanks for the comments. Bryon and I have talked about expanding irunfar coverage to include some more east coast races we just have not been able to work out the logistics just yet. I did spend most of the UROC race with Bryon back in September so I have a sense of what it takes to cover a race. That said, I don't have anything close to Bryon's experience or expertise. For a start, I will try to provide coverage of JFK in November.

        As far as the in depth piece on the Kniplings, etc…I have been developing a few storyline profile ideas and will find a way to integrate them into AJW's Taproom moving forward. However, for the near term I am focusing more on the editorial type columns that are intended to get people thinking. The premise of AJW's Taproom is to write about things that people might talk about on a long weekend run or over a couple beers at their local watering hole after a run:)

        Finally, I continue to welcome any and all topic suggestions for future Taproom articles and you can contact me at the AJW's Taproom suggestion box:

        Have a great weekend of running!


  2. Malva

    While we're talking about quiet accomplishments: the weekend before last, Ellie Greenwood won the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 2:42.

  3. Neal Gorman

    Nice recap of last week's heavy race activity. Eva is in a class of her own. I'm not sure if she even "races". She just runs and has fun, as far as I can tell. Always sporting a backpack. If she ever decides to toe the line at WS, Leadville, Hardrock or Wasatch- in proper acclimatized fashion- I think many people might take notice. Though I believe she is running the Bear in Sept.

    As far as the Knipling's are concerned, look for them to continue their impressive dual-racing ways in June at the San Diego 100, in August at UTMB and (most likely) again in October at Grindstone. Before Keith is ever done racing, if that day ever comes, he will probably set a record for the most 100 mile finishes.

    Jason Lantz who won MMT appears to be in damn good shape. I wonder what is next up for him. Maybe he'll give you and Karl a run for your money at Grindstone.

  4. John Fegyveresi

    The awards ceremony at Massanutten was great too. Keith presented his dad a "goody bag" full of goofy race stuff (e.g. monkey butt powder, etc). Gary gave a great speech too. Humble guy. Truly inspiring stuff.


  5. Brennen

    Thanks for the flyby over so much in ultraland, AJW. Along with Pilla's amazing solo-division run at MMT, Zion had an impressive 50-something runner in Jay Aldous — who notched his second win in a 100 in a month. I'll save the barelywines for the winter. Drink the saisons and farmhouses while you can — spring is only so long.

  6. Mark Conrad

    AJW, your description of Quad Rock 50 was righteous. Sweet singletrack course and demands respect. Kudos to Nick and Pete for putting on a great event. It should be on everyones list.

  7. Eric Schramm

    I met Gary after the Unbreakable screening in Arlington. He's one of the friendliest, most encouraging guys! Equally impressive as well, as far as ultra accomplishments go. Glad to see him (and his son) get some recognition!

  8. Ed Cacciapaglia

    It should be noted that in addition to Gary Knipling's 15 MMT finishes and Keith's 13, Gary brother, Ron Knipling also has an MMT finish. That makes 29 MMT for the Knipling family, quite a feat.

    I agree with Neil Gorman's observations about MMT winners, Eva Pastalkova and Jason Lantz. Eva was in the zone when I saw her near Camp Roosevelt (Mile 63ish), running 7th overall at the time. Later at Visitor's Center, Mile 78, she was still going strong. Men's winner, Jason Lantz, was running 2nd around 1 minute behind the eventual 2nd place finisher, Nick Pedatella, when I saw him just beyond the top of Habron Gap, Mile 56. By the time I saw Jason again, at Visitors Center, he had opened a 20 minute lead. Those rocks on Kerns Mountain didn't deter either of these champions!

  9. Jon Allen

    Love the east coast coverage. Between the West Coast/Rockies, and all the Europe races, you could almost see the East Coast as the flyover states in the ultra running world…

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