UROY and Other Year-End Award Favorites

AJWs TaproomWhen Bryon and I first dreamt up this column we thought it would be fun to provide a forum for ultramarathon running that was the equivalent of those three-hour pre-game shows we see on TV during football season. We thought it would be fun to give something to the folks out there who really like to geek out on ultrarunning and love to over analyze even the most miniscule details about running, others, and life. Kind of a Bob Costas, George Sheehan, Mike Wallace forum all rolled into one trail running bundle.

Thus, AJW’s Taproom was born!

I also would like to think that the columns here in the Taproom contain a reasonable amount of somewhat intelligent discourse to entertain even the casual reader and I hope that the topics we cover are at least as stimulating as a trip to the local pub.

Therefore, in that context, I endeavor to dream that the readers of this column might take hold of the topics contained herein and bring them along to their local brewpub (or out to the trails) with a few friends for further rumination and dissection. In the best of times, these ideas might inspire. In the worst of times, well, at least they are ideas. And, in the middle? Well, we’re all in the middle, so there.

With all of this as a backdrop I thought it would be a good time to look at the Year in Ultrarunning and simply, without judgement or analysis, throw out some nominees and see where the chips might fall. [Of course, I am making up the categories as I go along and none of this is the opinion of the staff at iRunFar. :-)]

Female Ultrarunner of the Year

  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Ellie Greenwood
  • Kami Semick
  • Joelle Vaught

Male Ultrarunner of the Year

  • Nick Clark
  • Dave Mackey
  • Mike Wardian
  • Mike Wolfe

Female Race of the Year

  • Meghan Arbogast – IAU 100K World Championships
  • Diana Finkel – Hardrock 100
  • Ellie Greenwood – Western States 100

Male Race of the Year

  • Dave Mackey – Miwok 100k
  • David Riddle – JFK 50 Mile
  • Geoff Roes – Chuckanut 50k
  • Ian Sharman – Rocky Raccoon 100
  • Michael Wardian – IAU 100k

Female Surprise of the Year

  • Rory Bosio
  • Regan Petrie

Male Surprise of the Year

  • Hal Koerner
  • Anton Krupicka

Female Rookie of the Year

  • Sandi Nypaver

Male Rookie of the Year

  • Tim Olson
Masters Runners of the Year
  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Dave Mackey
Comeback Runners of the Year
  • Nikki Kimball
  • Mike Morton
“Coaches Award” (Best Attitude)
  • Hal Koerner
  • Krissy Moehl
Most Improved Award
  • Dakota Jones
  • Joelle Vaught

Fathers of the Year (Added 12/12)

  • Nick Clark
  • Dave Mackey
  • Michael Wardian

Mothers of the Year (Added 12/12)

  • Darcy Africa
  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Betsy Nye

Until next week, bottoms up!


AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Silverton Ice Pick AleAJW’s beer of the week comes from Silverton Brewery. Their Ice Pick Ale is simply extraordinary. Simple, harsh, complex, and unpredictable it is, indeed, like the mountains that surround the brewery. Not available outside of the immediate area, this is a beer that is worth the trip.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
I trust all of you can figure out what to talk about regarding this taproom! Share your thoughts in one or more of the categories.

There are 91 comments

  1. Rob Youngren

    Umm, I guess you forgot about Kilian Jornet? Western States, UTMB, etc… should get some votes I'd imagine for UROY. My money's on Michael Wardian, I mean come on how many folks have had the year he's had even in their lifetime. I'm sure I'm missing something but, qualifies for the Olympic Marathon Trials, Team Gold Medal and 2nd O.A. at the World 100k, smoked the Badwater Ultramarathon, Marathon des Sables, also broke the 17 year old JFK50 record, and so much more! This guy is on fire! It would be a real crime if he doesn't take home UROY award!

      1. Rob Youngren

        Then it should be AMERICAN UROY! :-p I say let's give credit where credit is due why not take in account the efforts of ALL ultrarunners of the world? Is there a separate award for that? Why so American biased? I'm sure there are probably a ton of notable performances in a lot of the ultras around the world (probably a lot in races nobody's ever heard of too!). Sort of like the "World Series" of baseball is just American team… ho hum!

        1. Bryon Powell

          Rob, With all due respect, this issue of American vs Global UROY has been thoroughly discussed on iRunFar. If you'd like, I can direct you to the most salient conversations and comments. In talking with AJW before this piece he brought up the analogy between ultrarunning and golf's separate American and European tours. There's some crossover at the majors for sure, but the two competitive scenes are very much separate. It's the same with ultrarunning. We're all intelligent enough here to realize the implicit scope of AJW's "nominations" or suggestions or whatever. :-)

          1. Rob Youngren

            Sorry, I'm more of a latecomer to iRunFar. But as you say along the lines of the American and European golf tour wouldn't it still be the American UROY instead of just UROY? I guess it's implied. All the same I still think it would be to have a resource, such as this site, that reports on the accomplishments of ultrarunners outside the US as well. The value in that is multi-fold:

            1. Educate the American ultra runners about foreign events, this would possibly encourage more folks to travel to foreign destinations for races (I know it's helped encourage my wife and I to travel overseas to races: Spartathlon, Antarctica Marathon, etc…)

            2. Educate about the efforts and performances by foreign athletes. There is some amazing times/distances being achieved world wide, why just report on the U.S.? Remember UltraMarathon World? They did a great job covering efforts world wide! I can see iRunFar being that one stop site!

            There are probably more points but that's a good start. I love what you've done with iRunFar Byron, seriously keep up the good work! I just like to be the devil's advocate sometimes… ;)

            1. Aaron Newell

              Let the guys do what they're good at. Reporting. Bryon is right. It was pretty implicit what AJW meant. Besides Kilian would sweep every category and that's no fun.

  2. Jay

    IMO, Male performance of the year has to be Ian Sharman at RR100. That was almost inhuman.

    Male UROY is so hard to call. Those 4 all deserve it and have had amazing years. To some extent it's back to the debate from an older taproom: big performances (Nick and Wolfe) vs. consistency (Dave) vs. volume (Wardian). (Sure, they all have a bit of each).

    And Dakota isn't UROY (this year), but he deserves top ten for sure.

    1. Wes

      +1 on Performance of the Year. I just find that one hard to argue with. Simply amazing. I'm typically ho-hum about races that aren't big mountain races, but dang, that run was something else.

      Male UROY: Wardian. The guy's an animal, week in and week out. His depth of breadth of ability is scary.

  3. Brett

    On comeback, Morton is a good one. Hopefully TonyK will snag that award next year. :)

    Morton's 164 miles on a trail in a 24 hour event with 200 other slow asses he had to dodge when its 80F+ impresses me. That was Yiannis Kouros special.

    On a very side tangential question, whatever happened to John DeWalt? He had several Hardrock finishes all the way up to 79 years old I think, and then I haven't read anything about him since…in the last year or two.

  4. Jay

    Can a double count as a "performance?" If so, then Nick's Western/Hardrock double and record should be in the running too. That would make the POY choice harder for sure.

  5. Seth

    With TNF over, it does seem like time to start the debate. I think of the four major awards, female and male UROY, two are very easy and two are very hard.

    UROY on the women's side is Ellie. Her year was just ridiculous. I'm from Oregon so it's nice to be able to say that Kami, Pam Smith, and Meghan all deserve high spots in the top ten but Ellie really separated with big wins against amazing fields at AR, Chuckananut, and WS, plus a great finish at Comrades, and top North American at TNF.

    Male performance of the year is Ian's Rocky Raccoon. The only reason there will be any debate is the fact that it was so long ago. A lot of chatter was already naming it performance of the year when it happened. It is still just bizarre even to think about. Nick Clark's WS/Hardrock back to back is second in this category. Hard even to fathom.

    Women's performance is pretty wide open. Ellie's WS with the bear near the finish has a great chance. If Lizzy Hawker were North American, her 24 hour would be an easy choice. Every time Diana Finkel runs Hardrock it seems like her performance should be considered. That's just a few off the top of my head. That one should be debated a lot.

    And the mens UROY really comes down to a debate about a couple of really big wins, vs. serious ironman high finishes week after week at big races. Mackey and Wolfe have the big wins. Wardian and Clark both have huge performances week after week. Based on my look at it, I'd go in this order





    maybe Dakota Jones

    Geoff Roes (lots of chat about him not living up to expecatations of the past two years but who really could and still had a year most people would call a career year)

    lots I am forgetting.

  6. Mike Bailey

    Gotta give a little local love to Neal Gorman. 2nd at Massanutten, 1st at Grindstone, 1st at Old Dominion, and one of the fastest flatlander times ever at Leadville, which was good enough for 3rd. He might be the next…dare say…Karl Meltzer, as far as knocking out the mountain 100's.

    1. AJW

      Agree on Neal. Glad he moved here to Charlottesville. Likely to be one of the guys (like Morton, Clifton and Wardian) to help the reputation of East Coast Ultrarunning. He is the Grand Slam record holder, after all.

  7. Tony Mollica

    Great article for food for thought!

    I'd like to know what man and woman (elite or otherwise) raced the most miles in 2011? I have no idea how one would even acquire such information. I think it would be interesting to know. (Along with a list of their races.)

    1. Brett

      If you included all races of all distances in the total mileage and not strictly ultrarunning, Michael Wardian would probably have triple the distance raced of second place.

  8. maryT!

    I think Liza Howard should be in there somewhere. Race of the year? Surprise of the year?

    Bandera 100k, USATF Champ. 9:35 (6th overall)

    Rocky Raccoon 100m: 15:33, (5th overall)

    Javelina 100m, 15:46 (4th overall)

      1. maryT!

        Yeah, then to come back after foot problems kept her from running and do so well at Javelina– I can't figure out why she is overlooked. Underrated!

  9. Dominic

    Having witnessed TNF and Miwok first hand.. Mike's TNF was definitely more impressive than Mackey's Miwok. Faster Pace/Tougher Terrain/more intense dialed in competition.. it was epic

  10. Joachim

    Well, having taken the point about this UROY list being an americanocentric thing (and I appreciate that one would need Über-many resources to cover the global ultramarathoning scene in quite the level of intensity that Byron and the team manage for the american scene), I still feel the need to fiddle with my beer mat and worry at he edges of the list – Ellie Greenwood is in the list but Lizzy Hawker not? A 24 Hr World Record, UTMB-Sieg and an Everest-FKT have to count for something. Or did Canada just get annexed? or did Ellie move and I'm the last to know.

    I'd bet money that the criteria dont exclude an evaluation of the performance of americans at say UTMB or Winschoten? Thought not.

    I d not expect Lizzy to make the top of the americancentric lists – but an honourable mention is needed and at the risk of a call to order, I'm going to break a lance for her. Surely one solution could be to extend the list of categories?

    Just sayin'

    1. Jenn

      Canada hasn't been annexed! It's just that the award covers North America, rather than just the U.S., which is why Ellie's on the list.

  11. worm

    gotta give props to Mike Foote for his 11th place finish at UTMB. On a day that humbled all other American elites the Montana boy pulls out a stellar performance. Not a first place, but KILLER performance.

  12. Ben Nephew

    I posted this in the NF50 thread, but it's more relevant to this discussion.

    I’ll start off by saying that the appropriate thing to do is probably to split roads and trails, but I think comparing Wardian and Mackey is interesting.

    Most of seem to agree that a win is not a win. So the question is how big are Dave’s wins, and much of a loser Wardian is.

    So Dave has:

    1. Miwok

    2. AR

    3. Bandera

    4. Waldo

    5. Dick Collins

    Mike has:

    1. 2nd IAU 100k

    2. 11th Comrades

    3. 2nd JFK

    4. 1st Tussey

    5. 2nd UROC

    6. 1st Caumsett 50k

    7. 19th Two Oceans 56k

    8. 1st NF Kansas City 50k

    I find the the IAU Silver medal more impressive than the Miwok win. If a track runner won a national championship, and then another runner won a silver medal at the world championships, which is more significant? Even if you only look at the internal American competition (like at Miwok), at the IAU race Wardian beat a stronger field. All those guys that made the American 100k team ran the equivalent of a 5:25-35 50 miler, and then ran another 12 miles at 7 minute pace. I think that the difficulty of competing well internationally should be taken into account, as it seems to be extremely challenging for many elite runners.

    Wardian ran the fastest 50 mile by an American this year at Comrades, uphill, with a long ponytail dragging in the wind, overseas at the biggest road ultra in the world, and then kept going for another 6 miles. He probably flew in the morning of the race. I find this more impressive than a win at AR that was 23 minutes off the CR with 2 women in the top 8.

    The other option would to compare JFK with AR. Once again Wardian was a loser, after breaking a 17 yr. CR at the oldest 50 miler in the country.

    Depending on your preference, you can now compare either Wardian’s Comrades or JFK with Bandera. I doubt Dave James and Jason Bryant, who were 2nd and 3rd at Bandera, would rank Mackey’s run at Bandera higher than either of Wardian’s runs.

    Up next is Waldo vs. Tussey. The field was stronger at Tussey, Wardian broke the CR by twice as much as Mackey at at race that is 3 hours shorter. Wardian loses points for going out too slow, though, as he went through 25 miles at 3:00, and then ran 2:33 for the second 25 miles. Not sure I believe that, but whichever way he ran 5:33 for a 50 miler with 5k of climbing is probably a better performance than his JFK, so maybe we should be comparing JFK with Waldo and Tussey with AR?

    We can then compare a diverse selection of Wardian runs with Mackey’s win at Dick Collins. The field at Dick Collins was not very strong, and although Dave was 15 minutes off his CR, he still won by almost 30 minutes. Wardian’s win at the Caumsett 50k was the fastest road 50k in the US (2:55) this year, and he was about a minute off his own CR despite a slight hurricane during the middle miles. He ran faster than that through 50k at the hilly 2 Oceans 56k. Yes, he was only 19th, but that race is almost as competitive as Way Too Cool. That 3:02 at Kansas City was the third fastest 50k by an American this year. If 50k’s are too JV, then you can compare UROC with the win at Dick Collins. Again, Mike was a loser, or maybe he was just trying to create an original line with his route, like Reinhold Messner? I need that GPS track….

    I'd rather reward US runners for running competitive international races, rather than penalize them.

    I think Mike is capable of running any of Dave's performances, but I doubt Dave is capable of running 6 out of 8 of Mike's runs.

    1. Geoff

      ben, interesting last sentence, and one that i would have to question. if mike were capable of running any of Dave's performances you'd think that once out of the 4 or 5 times that mike has raced in the Headlands (miwok/NF 50) he would have at least come somewhere close to what Dave did there this year at Miwok. I have raced on technical trails with both mike and dave and the difference is night and day. i would guess mike would struggle to run within two hours of what Dave ran at Bandera. I haven't seen the waldo course, but from what i've heard the same would apply there. Of the races Dave won this year AR is the only one were I think Mike would have a legitimate shot at running anything close to the times that Dave ran. I do agree that Dave would also have a tough time running very close to some of Mike's top performances as well, but to me this is why the discussion between the two is so interesting: because they each did something this year that the other would have a tough time doing. In a sense it comes down to the question of what's more noteworthy: some killer performances on technical trail with lots of vertical or some killer performances on roads/less technical trails without nearly as much vertical. With ultrarunning as mountain/trailcentric as it is nowadays I would be shocked to see the award go to mike over Dave, but i guess we'll find out next month.

  13. Ben Nephew

    With Miwok, my opinion is partially based on how well Mike climbed at UROC, and that is something that was lacking in all his previous runs out there. I'd be interested to hear others opinions on the courses at Bandera and Waldo who have run with Mike on trails. Dave a better technical trail runner, but the I don't the night and day difference you see is significant enough to make a differenc on most terrain. I ran with Mike at the NF DC race with Leigh Schmitt, and was fully expecting for Leigh and I to put some time on a couple technical sections of the course. Mike had no issues whatsoever. He can run the AT section at JFK in 1:57.

    I've run most of the trails on the Miwok course, and I don't see the amount of technical mileage to be enough of a factor to keep Mike from doing as well as Dave there given his performance at UROC, which had more vertical.

    The trails I've run in the Pacific Northwest have been very runnable, maybe the Waldo course is different.

    With Bandera, I've never thought of Dave James as a trail specialist, and he did pretty well there this year. I think Dave and Mike are pretty similar as trail runners.

    While there is certainly room for debate on how each runner would do on roads and trails, I haven't seen any convincing arguments in support of Dave having the stronger year other than the number of his wins and the popularity of trail racing vs. road running. When I looked at the fields, the wins do not seem big enough compared to Mike's races. The related issue is the USA vs. international competition. In short mountain running, the strongest international results, even in they are 10-20th place at Worlds, are typically given greater emphasis than national championship wins (the equivalent of the NF50).

    This is another good example of how different ultrarunning is when compared to seemingly similar sports. I guess we shouldn't be surprised at some of the resistance to efforts to make ultrarunning more similar to other forms of running.

    1. AK


      Geoff beat me to it, but I was going to make essentially the same comment as him. Your opinion about Mike "being capable of running any of Dave's performances" simply has no basis in race results reality. To be clear, I think your comment overall does an excellent job of making an argument for Mike having had a stronger year than Dave (as much as we can compare two very different styles of running, as Geoff points out), but I strongly disagree with your last sentence.

      I have only raced Mike twice (WR50 2009, Miwok 2010), but I pay attention to results (of course), and Mike consistently falters during trail ultras (at least when compared to his almost always stand-out performances on flatter, less-trail courses). I absolutely commend Mike for racing the gamut of race distances, styles and surfaces, and for consistently throwing down at the toughest international road ultras, but I would find it VERY hard to believe that this year he could've gone:

      <8:16 at Bandera (this is no carpet like PNW or Marin trails)

      <8:03 at Miwok (we just saw another of his performances in the Headlands)

      <16:36 at WS100 (19:32 in 2009 for Mike, granted I think it was a week after World 100K)

      <9:06 at Waldo (Dave dominates the trail 100K and said this was one of the hardest CRs to break, E Skaggs is no slouch when in shape)

      I allow that Mike could likely run quite a bit faster than 5:55 at AR and 6:34 at Firetrails (though maybe not faster than Mackey's 6:19 CR there from last year). As for UROC…dude, 33mi of ROAD, of course Mike is gonna have a good day!

      Again, I still think Mike's year was likely a bit better than Dave's, but your last sentence is simply misguided.

      1. Ben Nephew

        You are correct about the poor past performances at trail ultras, but from the quotes I have read from Geoff, Mike is clearly climbing better than in past years (09-10)and this is due to specific changes in training. How many of those past poor results have involved navigation issues? True there was a bit of an issue at UROC, but he still had pretty good race with the detour.

        My comment was that I think Mike is capable of Dave's performance at Miwok, and I don't think that the NF50 was a good day for him, just like UROC wasn't a good day for Dave. If Geoff wants to say that Mike lost time due to trails, then my opinion will change. I just watched video coverage of the race, and I think Mike was still with the chase pack after several technical sections??

        With Waldo, Eric Skaggs surely put up some tough times, but I was just thinking that given how runnable the trails seem out there, the elevation profile, and Mike's climbing in 2011 that Mike could put up a similar performance. From a physiological point of view, considering what happened to Eric after the race,it is very difficult to imagine that was an optimal performance, but maybe his renal issues didn't affect the run.

        I would never have thought Mike was capable of a 2:17 prior to this year, or a 5:43 at JFK. Many would have called predictions of those times misguided. People were thinking he was crazy for talking about a mid 5:30 at JFK. IF you consider the course, and his run at Tussey, it seems rational to me.

  14. Jeremy

    I'm really sorry to be dull and get off the main point of the really good discussion, but does Ian Sharman count – is he a Brit living in the US or as he fully left us now for you Americans?!

  15. Sarah

    What about Cassie for rookie/surprise of the year? Her performance at JFK was amazing. I also agree that Liza should be on the list for performance of the year at Javelina.

  16. Seth

    Wow, great discussion, especially the classis Dave vs. Wardian that makes total sense this year and leads to interesting and valid points on both sides. It also leads to a bit of stretch thinking like Wardian could Run Mackey's times at Miwok or Waldo. Wardian hasn't been close to Mackey's twisted cr at Miwok and although I haven't actually run Waldo, my good friend has several times and usually hallucinates pandas… and he's a great runner. In all serioiusness the climbs at Waldo bury the climbs at Miwok. They are absurd. So tough to compare. Not trying to diss Wardian by any means. I think the case can be made. I have Mackey myself because he wears clown shoes but love hearing the case for wardian.

    Oh and I argued Sharman is the POY at Rocky but he is english…. though lives here now…. that's for the refs. That cat is cool. I crewed a race when he was way behind and he never showed any interest…. until he ran down the leaders in5 miles then crushed.

    1. Anonymous

      All of this discussion about UROY is awesome to read…I, however find it difficult to read when someone tries to diminish someone else's accomplishments. Let's stay as neutral as possible, and just weigh the in the results. You all are getting way too technical for the sake of argument. It sounds as if this is turning into a college football BCS debate… the race was on the East coast, no West; trail was technical, no not so much; temp. on race day; how bout' head to head?… Really????? I come from a professional soccer background where awards were nice, but the true measure of success was what my teammates had to say about me. With this being said let's not lose sight that all of these runners are truly amazing! They put so much hard work into what they love to do, and just to be in the running SHOULD BE satisfaction enough. Awards are usually so overrated because the people who pick them are rarely the people who should be picking them… Finally, I think more credit should be paid to those runners that have full time jobs and have little ankle biters at home…Can you tell this where I'm BIASED.

  17. Anonymous

    Did Ben really label Waldo as very runnable and something about the profile? Have you been out there???? How's the profile at JFK?? C'mon, stop bantering about the facts and twist them to be opinions. Mike is a great runner, but focuses mainly on flatter races. Until he consistently can perform(top3) at major TRAIL ultras, then he's always going to be regarded as a great ultrarunner, not great ultraTRAILlrunner.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Your definition of runnable is likely to be different than mine. These awards are subjective opinions by definition. My opinions are based on facts and my personal experiences.

      Here are the facts:

      The award is UROY, not URTOY.

      Miwok has about 10k of climb

      Waldo has about 11k

      UROC has about 12.5k of climb [broken link removed]

      Geoff stated that Mike was the stronger climber at UROC.

      Mike added about 4 miles and another 1-1.5k of climb, and finished second in 9:20. Geoff won in 8:58.

      Dave's Waldo course record is 9:03, which is similar to Geoff's run at UROC which has 33 miles of road.

      So the trails are very tough at Waldo, yet the CR is almost identical to a race with 33 miles of road you don't even consider a trail race? I'm a little confused.

      1. Anonymous

        Wow! Are you the agent for Mike? Again, most people in the Ultra world know Mike is a great runner, but until Mike can consistently do well at Trail ultras, there will always be this debate.

      2. Anonymous

        mike has in fact improved his climbing A LOT, but on technical trail he's still slower than just about any top level runner i've raced against (and in the past 3 or 4 years i've raced at one time or another against just about every top level ultra runner in the country). Dave, on the other hand, is probably the fastest technical trail runner i've ever run with. i was never intending to say mike isn't a strong runner and can't do well on hilly trails, but throw a few rocks or roots in the trail and mike slows down A LOT. Throw these things at Dave and he actually tends to speed up. The argument about who had the better year is a very compelling one for sure. The argument about which one is a better trail runner is really quite silly though. mike has done some great things this year (and in his career as well), but he has done nothing to indicate that he's anywhere near as solid in legitimate trail ultras as someone like Dave. until he does it's kind of silly (in my mind) to talk about whether he actually can or not (in numerous cases he's tried and shown that at least for now he can't). it reminds me of the speculation as to whether a 2:08 marathoner could run 14 hours at WS. perhaps there is someone out there who could, but until they actually do, the claim that they could is quite shallow and silly.

  18. Sean

    Re: Waldo vs. Bandera.

    Waldo is not technical, and I'm saying this as a not-very-good technical runner. I live close to the Waldo course, so get to run on it a fair amount, and sure, there are a few rocks on the Leap of Faith trail, but still, it's not technical. It has 2 big climbs and 3 smaller climbs, and most of the course is definitely runnable for the top girls and guys. With Mike's noticeable climbing improvement over the past year, I imagine he could run a very fast time there. Skaggs' record there was very stout, and definitely got over-looked for POY in 2009. Mackey had to run hard to break it.

    Bandera is way more rugged and technical of a course. There's one section that's pretty flat and fast, but overall, it's very rocky with undulating terrain most of the race.

    For me, Waldo is an "easier" course because I do better on less-technical terrain, and long ups and downs, whereas Bandera is "tougher" because it's way more rugged and it's hard to get into much of a rhythm with the constant up-and-down.

    That's all – I just wanted to provide some perspective on the differences of these 2 courses.

    1. Ben Nephew

      Thanks, Sean. That's what I figured based on the UROC/Waldo comparison. If Bandera is consistently technical, it would probably wear down someone that does not run on trails consistently, like Mike.

      It's impressive how fast some really bad trail runners can run on short sections of trail. The difference becomes apparent a few miles down the road, though.

      I was racing Mike Slinskey once in a 30k trail race on rather nasty trail, and he was right on me for quite a while. Right when I started to get nervous, he disappeared out the back. Now, when we raced a 10 mile trail with with a 50/50 split of carriage road and technical singletrack, he crushed me.

  19. Anonymous

    To Ben…Dave and Mike are similar Trail runners???? Similar, that they are both really goooood, BUT, I agree with Geoff; Dave, along with Geoff Roes, Mike Wolfe, and Dakota to some extent, are a in a class by themselves on the trail 9 out of 10 days. I feel most respected ultrarunners would agree with that. It's not that I'm trying to discount Mike W. as a runner, it's just pretty evident, as has been shown over the years.


    1. Ben Nephew

      Where did I say they are similar trail runners? I think Geoff is a much better trail runner than Uli, but Uli won at NF, correct?

      I don't think Mackey is a better trail runner than Dave James, but Dave James was only 17 minutes behind him at Bandera. I could see Mike beating Dave James by 17 minutes in a 100k based on their results and my runs with them on trails.

      If you have specific comments on my opinions on Miwok, Bandera, or Waldo, please contribute. Can you explain the similarity of the UROC and Waldo times? Stating how great Dave is on trails doesn't really add anything.

      These same conversations could be had about any 2 runners competing for a useless award, no one is trying to discount anyone. I could be making the same argument for anyone who had Mike's record this year.

  20. Anonymous

    To Ben:

    I'm out…it appears, based on the previous posts from multiple people that they agree that Dave is a better TRAIL runner than Mike, based on results and times, You are purely one sided with your outlook…and you're entitled to that, but you also need to be more neutral in your outlooks/statements, and understand the nature of the conversation. If Mike wins the award he deserves it based on the results he had, but the ultra running community is clearly more open minded and base their opinions on what they know/saw/experience racing against, not on what they want to know.

      1. Gerell

        Ben…read the previous posts from EVERYONE..To be fair, there are multiple people that seem to be saying something similar. Cliffnote version…Mike is a great runner, Dave is a great runner, and excels on trail/elevation/altitude/. Mike needs to venture in to more TRAIL type races if he's to be put into the class of others. I don't know Dave, Geoff Roes, Anton..etc, and can't speak for them, but I'm guessing you won't see them at too many flat, paved type ultras, so Mike will have to go to them if,HE, wants to be put into the same breath as them.Until them the speculation lingers and we all just admire all their achievements, whatever that may be.

        1. Keith

          "so Mike will have to go to them if,HE, wants to be put into the same breath as them."

          This is why there needs to be 2 separate awards. All of the fast flat runners need to go to the mountains to get any kind of credibility.

          It is the distance that defines ultrarunning not the terrain and it is not fair to the ultra runners that do not care for mountains or live anywhere near them.

          Mke had a better year then Dave but Mike can not hang with Dave on the trails. I doubt Dave could hang with Mike on the flats. So who is better?

          1. Gerell

            Well, guess there needs to be two separate awards then. Ultrarunning ,for me, always took on the trail connotation because of my preference and where I live. I have always known what ultrarunning meant by definition , but now I guess we need to be specific and state, UltraTrailrunning. I again, refer back to my earlier post that awards, to me, are not the measure of someone, and those that gear there path towards that are not truly understanding why they do what they LOVE to do.

          2. Sean

            “so Mike will have to go to them if,HE, wants to be put into the same breath as them.”

            Or perhaps it is they who will have to go to Mike if they want to be put into the same breath as him…

            I'm not saying that Mike is better than Dave, Geoff, etc, nor am I saying the opposite. I'm just saying that your statement above, Gerell, was very cocky.

    1. AJW

      It's not intended as a dig or as a joke. The surprise is that Anton's been out for so long (11 months, I think). Anton is the first to acknowledge that he is injury-prone. Believe me, I want nothing more than to have Anton back to racing.

  21. JCC

    Totally agree regarding Leor's Quicksilver (and his new Quad Dipsea CR too). 6:01 on the Quicksilver course (~8500 of vert) is seriously impressive. For reference… Dave Mackey won the American River 50 in 5:55 this year, which has ~3500' of vert. And Anton Krupicka won the White River 50 in 6:25, which has ~8700' of vert.

    Leor doesn't run the longer stuff, so he usually flys under the radar, but just about every "ultra" he runs he crushes. I wish we could see what he would do in something like the NF50.

  22. Sean

    But Sarah, Cassie is definitely not a rookie (her first ultra was in 2006), and regarding her JFK run – were you really surprised by that?? I wasn't!! Okay, so I may be one of very few who wasn't surprised, so I agree that she should get some love for surprise of the year:).

  23. Dan Brannen

    Well, to cool down the lively discussion about Road vs. Trail; Mackey vs. Wardian….how about 2 new threads:

    (1) Sub-13 on a Trail 100 Mile course bares careful scrutiny. Does anyone know with certainty how the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile course was measured? And how recently? Although it is technically not eligible to be "certified" (no trail course is) it's certainly sufficiently non-technical to be capable of being measured by bicycle calibrated Jones counter (the most accurate measurement method available). About 10 years ago I was involved in discussion with some who ran it (including one of its winners), and the consensus at that time was that it was about 3 miles short. Has it been lengthened in the past decade? Sharman's superb sub-13 makes the question of course measurement and verification pertinent.

    (2) I suggest a notable omission from both "Male Race of the Year" and "Male Surprise of the Year" lists: Phil McCarthy's 257+ mile new American 48-Hour Record; #11 all-time World. To put it in perspective: Scott Jurek's new American 24-Hour record of 165.7 miles set last year stands at 87% of Kouros' 24-hour world record. McCarthy's new American 48-Hour record now also stands at 87% of Kouros' 48-hour world record.

    1. AJW

      Dan, I recall those conversations about the short RR course in relation to Clifton's record. The course has been changed significantly since then. In particular, the one out and back section which was generally perceived to be short has been lengthened making it 100 miles. Joe Prusaitis could tell us definitively, It's also interesting to note, that about four years ago the course was further altered to include quite a bit more singletrack. It's still flat as a pancake but now has less dirt road than it once did.

      And, thanks for the tip on McCarthy's run. Didn't know about that one. 87% of Kouros is stout!

    1. stack

      I was going to say something about the surprise for Anton but not quite in the same way… more of that it wasn't a surprise with the training he does but totally agree about it bc of the length of time.

      If someone told you after 'The Unbreakable' WS that Anton wouldn't really be racing/running in 11' you would have called them a liar.

      Hope he comes back strong in 12'!!!

  24. stack

    'east coast ultrarunning' … random question but are there other 'big names' that are from the east coast (maybe now living in the west but actually from the east)?

    I know Roes is from NY originally & curious if there were others. Maybe those on the right coast are born with talent but decide to move out west?

    1. geoff

      hey Stack,

      you are correct in your assumption. i am more the rule than the exception in terms of growing up out east and then becoming an ultra runner after moving west. mackey, meltzer, jurek (midwest) are just a few of the names you could point to. i don't think this speaks of there being more talent east or west, but rather that this is simply the trend of population dispersement throughout the country. there are way more people currently moving from east to west (as compared to west to east), so of course you are going to have a lot of runners who fit this pattern, simply because you have so many people who fit this pattern.

      1. Bryon Powell

        I resemble that remark… not the elite bit, but the moving from East to West bit. There's huge lifestyle population shift going on. Here in Park City, it's mostly for snowsports and a bit for mountain biking, but there are a ton of easterners out here enjoying the mountain playground. Perhaps given our trail runners' desire to play in the mountains, we represent a greater proportion of the "move to the West" population that the US population as a whole, but it's certainly part of a larger trend… one I'm happily a part of.

        I'm off to enjoy the trails of the Wasatch rather than the road of Washington, DC.

        1. stack

          Thanks for the replies… I do have some east coast pride but whats funny is I really didn't think about the fact that I was born in CO but moved to NY at a young age so technically I went the opposite direction.

  25. stack

    "All of the fast flat runners need to go to the mountains to get any kind of credibility."

    I don't agree with this at all… if Wardian or anyone else wants to lay down smoking fast times in a flat/road 50m, 100k, 100mi, etc then they're going to get credit for it but it'd better be fast.

    They actually have a small advantage because they could do a 100m race with a boyscout troop or run a timed 100k against a retirement home on a track and as long as they put in a fast time they will get credit/credibility.

    The trail guys HAVE to have others there to validate their finishes or hopefully be running at a race that has all of the following: a long established history, a stout CR and a course that hasn't been modified too much over the years.

  26. Joe Prusaitis

    I can verify that the course is the correct distance since I took the reins about 10 years ago. Before that… I don't know. I go out there each year and remeasure the entire thing. It's not a big park and because I'm only measuring a 20mi loop, its pretty easy. They do make changes now and then because of erosion control and usually the changes are pretty minor, but because I know they occasionally change a few trails, I do a re-measure. The local trail club out there always emails me to keep me abreast of anything new, which is nice to know, but I do it anyway regardless. I have a 6ft professional series rolotape measuring wheel (model 623) that I use. I walk the entire course and take exact measurements to the foot. The course is as accurate as we can make a trail race. We dont make any assumptions and we double check all our work. I asked a friend of mine (John Ferguson) who measures many of the road races course in Texas to check it for me and I told him what I was already doing. He said it would be redundant. That he couldn't do any more than what we are already doing, and he could not certify any trail course anyway. It would be a waste of my money. John is a certified measurer and uses a Jones Counter. We do not use a GPS for distance verification because of the poor reception. We do use it to simply lay down a track for map making purposes. All our numbers come directly from the wheel.

    I was an Engineer by profession for 20+ years, but this sort of stuff is not my expertise, so I enlisted Chris Matus to help me with this. Chris has worked in the mapping/GIS field for 12 years. With all that said, I still considered having John measure the course anyway, but then wondered what sort of 'can of worms' I'd start for trail race directors when its already understood that courses cannot be certified. All that said and done, I am pretty sure we do a heck of a lot more than most people do.

    I know this course well, having run it 4 years, and directed it for 10 years, so there are no surprises or unknowns. The measuring of it is a slow meticulous process. I make it a point to be as accurate as I possible. I changed the course significantly 3 or 4 years ago… and since then, it's been pretty much the same since then. Still, I re-measured it a few weeks before the 2011 race. I walk the entire length each year, slowly, pushing the rolotape. The distance posted is true.

    I am well aware of the times being posted on this course, I am actively involved with USAT&F and understand the need for accuracy for records. I also understand that although this course is not certified, I make it a point to make it as accurate as I can. Please understand that I am always open to discuss this. I want people to know that the course is accurate and has been since I started directing it.

    Joe Prusaitis: RD – 512.294.6456

  27. Dan Brannen

    There's an unspoken assumption here that Mackey/Roes/Krupicka are already in the top rank and that Wardian starts out a level below them. Then, the burden is placed on him to move from his road venue to their trail venue. The unspoken assumption stacks the deck before the cards are played. By what logic is the burden on Wardian to run more trail races? Why is it not equally on the others to run more road races? Wardian has been racing both venue types for years. The others, not. On the face of it, then, Wardian exhibits an element of versatility that the others do not; and that some burden should be on the others to expand their racing horizons in order to maximize what UROY can and should be. All of the great American trail ultrarunners up to the last half-decade did that (Check Ultrarunning Mag's #1 rankings for the past quarter century). They sought out the most competitive ultras both road and trail, virtually every one of them. The American trail-only practitioner at that very top level is a very recent phenomenon in the history of the sport.

    1. geoff


      not to say that it's entirely fair, but the burden you speak of exists because of how much more popular mountain trail ultra is right now than road ultra. the consistency and depth of the competition in trail ultra is several times more than that of road ultra. due to this, mike is running several races a year in which there isn't another runner in the field who has a chance in hell of staying anywhere near him unless he totally blows up. conversely there are nowadays several dozen trail races each year that require a very solid day to come out on top (no matter who you are).

      in any endeavor that is inherently competitive individuals are held in higher regard who compete more often with, and more effectively against other top level competitors. This isn't to say that Mike hasn't finished ahead of many very legit runners this year (and in past years), but the number is so much lower than if he were running primarily mountain/trail ultras and having as much success as he is at the road stuff. This dynamic almost forces an observer to ask the question, well, would he be able to perform as well in the types of races that are drawing much more of the top athletes in the sport right now? in my mind, mike has it in him to do very well in mountain trail ultras, but to this point he definitely has not performed at anything near the level he has in road and smoother/flatter trail stuff. until he does a lot of people are going to question whether he should be held in the same regard as the runners who are performing at the top level of mountain trail ultras. not because mike, specifically has an obligation to go to Dave, Tony, etc., but because mountain trail ultra is by far the most contested and most competitive arena in ultrarunning at this time. is this unfair to runners like mike? to some degree i think it is, but unfairness doesn't change that this is the reality of the sport at this time.

      1. Dan Brannen


        Appreciate the spirited dialogue. A couple of counter-points:

        (1) Running against weak fields has no bearing on intrinsic quality of performance. In terms of elite performance, Phil McCarthy ran the 3 Days at the Fair 48-hour against what was arguably the weakest ultra field of the year, but the field was irrelevant: he was running against the all-time world list. Some legendary, still-standing American Records have been run against remarkably weak fields. Yiannis Kouros could legitimately argue that every race field he has ever faced was weak.

        (2) To get back to Wardian's 2011 racing year: You seem to be suggesting that every race one runs in a given year has to be against a strong field; and that Wardian's success on the roads is somehow causally connected to running against weak fields. He ran the 2 most competitive ultras in the world: The World 100k and Comrades. There isn't an American Trail Ultra that comes close to the quality and depth of both of those fields. Then, he ran the U.S. trail ultra that was touted for a year to be the de facto "true championship" the ultra world has been waiting for, and finished 2nd. By some accounts, he might have won had he not taken a wrong turn. When I think of Wardian's "success at the road stuff" in light of UROY, I basically ignore wins like Caumsett 50k and Tussey 50 Mile, which, in terms of his competitive placing in each, are pretty much irrelevant to this discussion. Instead, I focus on finishing 2nd in the World 100k and 11th at Comrades.

        (3) I think you are making a selective interpretation of the evidence provided by Wardian's choice of races. One could use a different but equally selective interpretation of the same evidence to conclude that the top American pure trail ultrarunners are avoiding the tougher competition offered by the major international road ultras. I'm not making that case, but I think it logically parallels your evaluation of Wardian's UROY status.

        Part of the case you are making is grounded in a view of the sport from a purely domestic perspective. From a global perspective, for over a quarter of a century the greatest ultra racing quality in depth (I'm talking 40 or 50 places deep) has been provided by the big international road ultras. The most competitive ultra ever held on U.S. soil was a road ultra, and it took place over 20 years ago: The World 100k hosted by the Ed Fitz Ultra in Minnesota. The top American men of the day (as reflected by Ultrarunning mag's annual rankings at that time) were all there, and they got humiliated. The top American woman, the iconic, otherwise untouchable Ann Trason, lost her only race (other than DNF's) on U.S. soil.

        The four most competitive ultras in the world today, by any fair objective measurement standard, are Two Oceans, Comrades, The World 100k, and the World 24 Hour. I suggest that any meaningful UROY of American-based ultrarunners must take this fact into consideration, unless we are going to decide to be limited and insular in our scope of what the ranking means. And why would we want to do that?

        1. Bryon Powell

          I'll chime in just to say thanks to all for the spirited (and generally quite civil) discussion of an interesting, but occasionally divisive topic. Conversations like these are what make iRunFar great!

    2. geoff

      dan, thanks for the polite and intriquing conversation.

      i think it's important to keep in mind that the award we are discussing here is for North American ultra runner of the year. if the award were for worldwide uroy it would be a very different conversation in my mind. this isn't to say that performances against top international fields shouldn't and don't count, but a lack of top performances against top american fields is hard for me to ignore. i'm pretty sure uroc is the only race mike had all year in which he finished ahead of any runners who will likely finish in the 10 of the uroy voting. in that race he finished ahead of mackey and sharman. conversely a runner like mackey finished ahead of nearly every runner who is likely to be top 10 (and many of us more than once). again, this isn't to say that these races are tougher (not by any means) than some of the big international races mike ran, but that this is where the vast majority of the top ultrarunners in north america are putting their energy right now, and thus this is where the emphasis is likely to be when you are talking about North American ultra runner of the year.

      also, on a side note, i would have to disagree with you about the most competitive ultras worldwide. in my mind utmb, WS, and NF50 all had a stronger top level field than world 100k. but this is probably more of an apples to oranges (and thus somewhat pointless) conversation as the top runners in one or the other races would likely get their asses handed to them at the other.

  28. Dan Brannen

    Joe, thanks for the clarification. That's more than enough to convince me that Sharman ran a legit 100 miles. In evaluating the top men's performances, here's an interesting exercise. JFK has enough of a history that we can statistically cull out a fair conversion factor to a flat road 50 mile. It has generally been thought to be about 25 minutes at 6 hours–although at Riddle's record pace it's probably more like 20 minutes. But, give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it is worth 5:15 for a flat road 50 miler. That's a performance factor of 84% of the world record. Phil McCarthy's new 48 Hour American Record of 257+ miles is at 87% of the world record. Wardian's World 100k run is at 92% of the world record. Sharman's Rocky Raccoon 100 is at 90% of the world record–but that gives him no extra credit for any slowing factor caused by the non-road terrain. I don't know the RR course and I'm sure even one who knows it well could only guesstimate a slowing factor. But it sure seems, at the very least, that of those performances mentioned, the intrinsic qualities of Sharman's and Wardian's are the best, and are almost impossible to separate. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to put the Miwok and Chuckanut courses into a similar perspective.

  29. james varner

    i've been following this thread and love the debate and i love that it allows me to get caught up on all the amazing performances that have happened this year while i was busy doing other things. one thought keeps coming to mind, especially in the most recent posts, are we trying to compare "apples to oranges" with such an inclusive award, ultrarunner of the year? would it not be better to have two main categories, trail and road?

    trail ultras would be a race that is at least half or maybe even 2/3 trail. perhaps it should be further defined but for now i think the definition would suffice for our conversation. road ultras would those that were at least mostly on pavement, dirt roads and tracks. The difference between the two categories is pretty obvious and most races i think would easily fit one category or another. there are of course races like AR 50m, UROC 100k, JFK 50m, etc. that are a pretty even mix of both categories and therefore judges could take those races into consideration for either category. i think most runners would by default self select which category they'd be considered for since most likely the majority of their races would fall clearly into one category or another. although there's no reason a runner couldn't be considered for both categories but my guess is since the two types of races are so different and the training necessary performing at an elite level for the two types would probably mean a very few runners would rank very high in both categories in the same year.

    AJW and others what are your thoughts on this split? is the sport of ultrarunning finally big enough to support two kings and queens?

  30. William

    First of all, let me say that I love the idea for this column! Keep it up AJW!

    My comment is pretty simple, why wouldn't Kilian Jornet be the Ultrarunner of the Year (almost hands down, in my opinion)?

    He won Western States and UTMB – arguably the two most prestigious competitions in North America and Europe, against an A-list crowd at each. He seems unbeatable.

    (If this was addressed elsewhere, forgive me. I just skimmed through the responses).

  31. Andy Mason

    I think David Riddle deserves some consideration for not only Performance of the Year (at JFK), but also Ultrarunner of the Year.

    He won seven of his nine ultras in 2011, setting course records in all seven victories, including JFK.

    One of his two "losses" was a second-place, sub-7 at the Mad City 100K.

    You can read about his year here:

Post Your Thoughts