Stories from the Pack

AJW looks at events that may have been overshadowed by last weekend’s Transvulcania.

By on May 18, 2012 | 20 comments

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?

Andy Jones-Wilkins
Andy Jones-Wilkins finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.