Third Annual AJW’s Taproom Year In Ultrarunning Rankings: 2013

AJWs TaproomFor the past two years (end of 2011, end of 2012), I have posted some year-end ultrarunning awards. Now, I would like to introduce the Third Annual AJW’s Taproom Year in Ultrarunning Rankings.

These are not scientific in any way and the criteria was made up entirely by me. They represent a selection of North American racers competing in events in the U.S. and abroad. It, in no way, represents an exhaustive study nor does it pretend to be fully representative of all that occurred in 2013, so, take it or leave it. In addition, the selections in each category are not in any specific order:

Female Ultrarunner of the Year

 Male Ultrarunner of the Year

Female Race of the Year

Male Race of the Year

Female Surprise of the Year

  • Pam Smith

Male Surprise of the Year

  •  Zach Bitter

Female Rookie of the Year

  •  Michele Yates

Male Rookie of the Year

  • Rob Krar

And, I thought a couple of new categories would be appropriate this year:

FKT of the Year

Race Series of the Year

Until next week,

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Hardywood Gingerbread StoutThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from one of the Taproom’s favorite breweries, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Virginia. This little, boutique brewery produces some outstanding seasonal varieties and the headliner of those is their Christmas stout, Gingerbread Stout. Neal Gorman gave me a 25-ounce bottle of this year’s version the other day and I must say it was extraordinary. Complex flavor, even body, and a smooth finish make this a prime holiday choice. But, if you want some you’ll have to wait until next year as they’ve already sold out for this year.

 Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Who is your pick for female and male Ultrarunners of the Year as well as female and male Performances of the Year? Be sure to tell us why, too!
  • Who do you think surprised our community with a breakout performance or two in 2013?
  • And, in those non-single-race categories AJW introduced, do you agree with his picks? Who might you add to those lists?
  • (From Bryon) What’s your beer of the year?

There are 25 comments

  1. @dietz1000

    For people that are familiar with Zach Bitter's past performances, the only surprise about Desert Solstice was that he decided to race it on such short notice. It was a hell of a performance but not really a surprise for an athlete with his level of talent.

    For me the male surprise of the year was Zach Miller at JFK 50. Not sure anyone saw that coming…

  2. hthe3rd

    I agree with Dietz, if you follow ultra running in the Midwest then Zach's performances weren't a complete surprise — he won the TNF Wisconsin 50 in 2010, Ice Age in 2012, Kettle Morraine 100k in 2013 and on the road he posted a 5:26 at the Fall 50 in 2011 and a 3:02 50k a couple years back. Zach Miller on the other hand came out of nowhere at JFK this fall.

    Male UROY: Rob Krar — He dominated the most competitive US trail races.
    Female UROY: Michelle Yates — Winner because of her collection of quality victories.
    MPOY: Ian Sharman's GS /or/ Zach Bitter @ Desert Solstice — Slight edge to Ian if a series of races counts because there were so many factors in play during his GS attempt and he handled them all masterfully while winning Leadville and placing top-4 at the others.
    FPOY: Rory Bosio @ UTMB — No contest.
    MSOY: Zach Miller — Nothing more surprising than an unknown winning JFK in his first attempt at 50mi while running the 3rd fast time and dispatching Krar, Flaherty, and Wardian in the process.
    FSOY: Michele Yates — Virtually unknown in the ultra scene to top female runner.
    MROY: Rob Krar
    FROY: Michele Yates

  3. scottrunsalot

    I will have to mostly agree with "hthe3rd"above.

    Male UROY: Rob Krar, he was dominant in the big ones.
    Female UROY: Michele Yates, may have had a better year than Rob.

    Male UPOY: Ian's GrandSlam has to go somewhere. It has been under appreciated. This may be the new toughest record to break. And Nick ran an unbelievable Slam as well.
    Female UPOY: Rory @ UTMB

    Best performance no one is talking about:
    Male- Ian Sharman's Leadville win. I read it was the third fastest time ever on the third leg of the Grand Slam and on a course that's been made more difficult the last two years with course changes.
    Female- Michele Yates at Nueces 50 (USATF 50 mile trail championship). She ran an unbelievable race and was running with the top guys.

    Honorable Mention: Zach Bitter, Sage Canady, Dakota Jones, Nikki Kimball, Tim Olson, Pam Smith & Jason Schlarb for the performances and years they had.

    1. scottrunsalot

      Can't mention them all, but other super performances by Jon Olsen, Sabrina Little, Stephanie Howe, Cassie Scallon, Zach Miller and many more…
      The sport is definitely getting more competitive up top.

  4. yetitrailruners

    Beer of the year needs to be a beer with a little more distribution throughout the country- my vote -Lagunitas Sucks ( and Lagunitas sponsored a few trail races in 2013 )

  5. Bryon of iRunFar

    For Beer of the Year, I will have to go with Pliny the Elder. It was far better than I expected. Far more drinkable, too. It's a subtly sophisticated master of its kind. I'm not a huge DIPA guy, so this really surprised me.

    Honorable mentions:
    Mammoth's 395 IPA
    Firestone Walker's Velvet Merkin
    Oskar Blues's Ten FIDY

    Mildpacker Award:
    Sierra Nevada Old Chico

    Out of Category Addition:
    Folks often add internationals to North American UROY discussions. Likewise, I nominate a non-beer. Crispin's The Saint cider is far and away the most enjoyable cider I've ever had.

    Think I'll be at a race? Bring one (or more) of these and make me a very happy man! That said, I LOVE to try new beers, so bring me your favorites to expand my knowledge and enjoyment. You never know, the beer you bring me might be my pick for beer of the year! ;-)

      1. Bryon of iRunFar

        If I'm going to try and invent one fringe benefit from this job… it might as well be people bringing* me awesome beer, right?! ;-)

        * Sending beer is also acceptable. Hats off to a Front Ranger for recently sending me a few Colorado beers to taste.

    1. @dbconlin

      Pliny the Elder, while an excellent beer, is not new this year (although I suppose one could argue that each batch has its nuances and the recipe/ingredients may evolve through time). Not sure what the criteria for BOTY are…

      My personal pick is Fremont Brewing Co Pale Session Ale, although attmitedly narrow release and distribution, I was able to find/drink it all summer and into the fall. Very sad it will not be around again. It is not even listed on their website as a special release.

      1. Bryon of iRunFar

        There are no restrictions on Beer of the Year, except that I suppose, it be beer. I guess it should also have been publicly available in 2013. Other than that, it's wide open. :-)

        I'll need to look for that Freemont next summer. I do like me some porters, stouts, and bigger IPAs, but was recently telling Meghan how there's definitely the need for a sessionable beer over the summer. Hence, Old Chico making my list.

  6. @sharmanian

    The one thing we can all agree on is that this was probably the most memorable year in ultra running for a while – so many excellent competitions at races both in the US and globally. And this was a year where Ellie Greenwood and Lizzy Hawker weren't racing much due to injury

  7. stack

    i would add Pam Smith's world record @ desert solstice as well… and crispin is definitely good stuff Bryon! my wife won't drink beer (only cider) so I've 'tested' just about every cider out there.

  8. zachbitter

    The Sharman/Clark Slam sticks out to me. We all expected them to both break the old record, but they still impressed.

    Smith at two polarizing environments (track and mountain) is incredible.

  9. @dbconlin

    I have to go with Krar in just about every male category. Super impressive. Was he not a surprise to everyone else? Although both Bitter and Miller were too.

    Actually I think hthe3rd nailed it.

  10. robsargeant

    For Male Ultra Runner of the Year I would say it's a close call between Olson and Krar. Both had strong finishes in races and distances that were new to them this season, with Olson competing internationally for the first time, and Krar in longer distances in the US.

  11. steeltownrunner

    Still surprised that Olsen and Bitter aren't even mentioned as candidates for UROY.

    Krar certainly deserves to have his name in the conversation for UPOY, but I think his UROC run w/ Dakota breathing down his neck might have been more impressive. TNF wasn't so impressive as much as it was an impressive win/ run to cap an amazing year.

    Bitter was hardly as much a surprise as the new Cruise Ship Zach Miller.

  12. RL_Stormo

    There are Male and Female winners for most categories but not for FKT so I nominate Heather Anderson's PCT FKT for that distinction.

    1. steeltownrunner

      AJW mentioned Krar's well-known R2R2R. Heather Anderson's FKT is also a great performance as is the 'oft overlooked Appalachian Trail self-supported FKT by Matt Kirk. I am not in position to judge or weigh one of these FKTs against another, but I am puzzled why neither Anderson nor Kirk are mentioned in the article above.

  13. ncrrunner

    I'd like to see a new category — DNFotY, saluting the performances of athletes who put in incredible performances but didn't make it to the finish line. While one would have to be careful to not be mean, I think it can be clear. My nominations:

    Diana Finkel's Hardrock. 3 hour lead in the race with just 12 miles to go when she's forced to drop for medical reasons. Heartbreaking, and I hope she manages to finish in 2014!
    Laurence Klein at MdS
    Cameron Clayton's "Top or Cot" strategy at Western States is something I hope he can laugh about after his superb performances at UROC and TNFEC.
    Nick Clark's DNS at the official grand slam race. Despite being the person who finished all four races in the fastest time ever for 37 minutes, according to The Rules, he didn't start.

    I'm sure there were other epic DNFs that deserve to be saluted.

  14. arilevinega1

    With all due respect to Zach Bitter, Zach Miller's win at JFK 50 was clearly the Surprise Win for 2013. Dude steps off a cruise ship (a cruise ship!!!), gets the RD to let him in the race last minute (he wore bib #1019), he buys a handheld water bottle before the race (figured he may need a little water while he runs) and wins a 50 mile race in a field which featured a couple top 50-milers named Rob Krar (DNF) and Josh Arthur (30th) and ahead of both Flahtery (2nd) and Wardian (3rd). if that's not a surprise win, then I'm not certain what is.

  15. @PatrickDLyons

    Another new category: Team of the Year, men's, women's and overall.

    While not completely up on who is sponsored by who, but I'd have to think The North Face team takes the cake for all three. Krar is Men's UROY, Hal and Wolfe set the JMT trail FKT and Rory Bosio has WPOY. Stephanie Howe also contributes mightily to the women's cause, as well.

    VFuel gels might also get some consideration with Timmy Olsen, Sage Canaday, and Josh Arthur all having great years.

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