Wow, there's been a ton of action in the ultra running scene over the past three weeks or so. In my opinion, some interesting shufflings have occurred in how people might rank in the Ultrarunner of the Year standings, so let's take a look.
Mountain Masochist 50 mile
This was the Masochist's 25th running and (ostensibly) the last one with Mr. Horton at its helm. This is a race that I would love to run some day, but it's swiftly filling ways make it hard for me to plan for---I hate signing up for a race and then having to back out because of an injury. This year, while certainly still full of great runners, seemed to lack some of the depth it's attracted in the past with several "West Coast" (and, by West Coast, I really mean any ultrarunners living between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast) runners conspicuously absent. Zach Miller and Eric Grossman looked to have waged an epic duel with both posting quick times, but failing to breach the sub-7hr threshold. Rumor is that Miller was able to gain entry from Horton as late as October by promising that he would finish in the top two---that takes balls, especially since he delivered by improving on his former best finish at the Masochist (2nd). I must also mention that Nikki continued to run brilliantly even though she was significantly off her game because of a recent freak injury.
Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim
Dave Mackey threw down a huge time while traversing the Big Ditch a week ago: 6:59:57. Getting under 7hr is especially notable, but even more impressive is that he was a full 37 minutes under Kyle's year-old record of 7:36:59. However, it must be noted that Kyle's record was set while having to cross the Colorado River on the Bright Angel Bridge (probably a solid mile out-of-the-way each direction) because the South Kaibab Bridge was under construction. Even so, it's reported that Dave was slowed by a mule train more than once (losing an estimated 12 minutes?), so it's obvious the record can go even lower. I'm really looking forward to taking a crack at this sometime next year, preferably with the Brothers Skaggs along for company.
JFK 50 mile
There was an absolutely stacked field for JFK this year (also, the biggest ultra in the country at over 1300 runners!). Ubiquitous marathoner Michael Wardian was back for another shot after blowing up at this race a couple of years ago, but he was running on tired legs with the Olympic Marathon Trials (2:30:xx) and the Outer Banks Marathon (2:24:xx) on the two previous weekends. Well, Michael got it right this time around and cruised an impressive 5:50:34--only 4 minutes off of Eric Clifton's venerable 5:46:24 course record (that has withstood assaults by such luminaries as Dave Mackey, Chad Ricklefs, Howard Nippert, and now, Greg Crowther.) Zach Miller notched another impressive result with a 6:04 in second place, Mark Lundblad continued to show impressive form (after his Tussey mOUnTaiN BACK 50 victory earlier in the fall) with a 6:09 in 4th place, and Eric Grossman ran 6:20 for 5th, completing the same double as Miller. Defending champ Pete Breckinridge was relegated to 7th, and Crowther struggled home in 10th, only a minute ahead of women's champ Ann Lundblad--Mark's wife. I've heard murmurings that Wardian is thinking of doing a 100 miler (although, I think he's already competed in a 24hr race and maybe the Old Dominion 100...), and I hope he does; he's exactly the kind of talent that ultra running needs.
Ultracentric 24 Hour Championships
I think Akos Konya is the most overlooked contender in this year's UROTY rankings (at least on the men's side). He just won this race this weekend with146.25 miles, which was only 1 mile ahead of women's winner Connie Gardner (who also won the Javelina Jundred less than a month ago...very impressive). However, Akos' results this year, off the top of my head, have been very very good:
--2nd to Jorge Pacheco (losing by only 4 minutes) at the Avalon 50 in 6:27 on Catalina Island back in January
--2nd to myself at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Febuary in 14:51 (only 6 minutes ahead of Jenn Shelton)
--2nd at Badwater in a very fast sub-24 hrs (beaten only by the venerable Valmir Nunes' new course record.)
--1st at the Lean Horse 100 in a course record 15:34
--and now, 146 miles in the 24hr National Championships.
I'm sure I'm missing some of his other performances, but I think these alone are impressive enough to make my point.
Now, the only major events that I can think of are the The North Face 50 showdown (highly anticipated with Uli Steidl and Matt Carpenter going head to head), the Sunmart 5o mile, and the Across The Years races (where, even though Scott Jurek has now withdrawn, Paul Dewitt should be taking a very solid shot (see his recent 14:26 CR at the Heartland 100) at the 24hr American Record). Should be exciting!