It’s that time of year folks; when all the magazines, websites and blogs more or less agree with each other about who was the most awesome “ultra” runner in 2013. Except that they usually confine their picks to just North Americans. And any ultra race goes, even those 24-hour runs done on high school tracks.
Well, here at Run JMC we only really pay attention to mountain / ultra / trail (MUT) running, so we’re hard at work tallying votes from all around the world and getting you all the latest scoops and gossip… uh, not really.
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with guys and gals that run on tracks for 24 hours or do 100 km or 50 mile races on those 2.5-mile flat concrete loops; that’s an amazing feat. I’m just into a different kind of running right now. One day I might try one of those 6, 12 or even 24-hour runs, but for now- all trails, baby.
Because I really like mud. I purposely jump in puddles when I’m out running, and I prefer doing it on single-track trails that meander through some combination of coniferous/deciduous forest. I like finding steep trails and going up them, then cresting out on a ridge and bombing down the other side. Sometimes I fall down. Because there are rocks and roots.
So yeah, all trail running, all the time.
So without anymore qualifiers or disclaimers, here’s what I’m doing…
100-Mile Performance of the Year
Seb Chaigneau, Hardrock 100 (24:25, CR)
Hardrock is a gnarly race and people that win it are gnarly individuals. Sebastian Chaigneau is French; and you can stop right there with all that French stereotype crap; dude is a badass. He lowers Karl Meltzer’s previous record by 13 minutes, and since Hardrock reverses its direction every year, Seb sets a new CR on the “counter-clockwise” course.
Dominic Grossman, Angeles Crest 100 (19:06)
Just watch this video:
Xavier Thevenard, UTMB (20:34, CR)
Who? Never heard of this dude, but he takes Kilian’s record down by 2 whole minutes. I have a feeling Kilian will want to do this race again to take it back, or everyone is gunning for this new time. Either way, Xavier beat a stacked field this year, the “year an American was finally going to win UTMB”. We’ll have to wait another 9 months to find out now. Xavier wasn’t really challenged the whole race, it seemed like every time I looked at the race feed Tony Krupicka was falling further and further behind. Thevenard just got stronger and blew every one away.
Gary Robbins, HURT 100 (19:35, CR)
Beats his old CR by 37 minutes. This is even more impressive considering it’s a January race, so if you’re running this it either means no off-season or your off-season is late January into February, when the rest of us are base building. Gary Robbins is a beast to win a race in a rainforest that’s essentially 5 20-mile loops over nothing but wet, slippery roots. Think you could run a 100-miler through the jungle from LOST? Think you could do it in 19.5 hours?
Francois d’Haene, Diagonale des Fous (22:58)
The Diagonale des Fous (Diagonal of Fools) may just be the toughest race in the world; it’s gotta be up there with Hardrock and UTMB- I mean 164 km (101.9 miles) long and +9,917 meters (32,536 feet) of elevation gain, it looks unbelievable. A tropical volcanic island in the Indian Ocean where the people are obsessed with trail running? Sounds like paradise. Anyway, d’Haene, a regular competitor on the European ultra scene (as a Salomon team member) ran a tremendous race, winning by almost 3 hours.
Ian Sharman’s Grand Slam Record (69:49)
For the uninitiated; the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning” is the completion of the four oldest 100-milers in the USA; Western States 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch Front 100 and Vermont 100 (in ’89 Vermont was added as a substitute for the original 4th race, the Old Dominion 100. OD100 was officially dropped from the Slam in ’03). They are all run within a 10-week window (WS100 was June 29th, VT100 July 20th, Leadville August 17th and Wasatch September 6th) which is totally insane. The fact that a guy could do all 4 combined under 70 hours boggles my mind. That’s like 17.5 hours per 100 miles.
Rory Bosio, UTMB (22:37, CR)
This might be one of those records that stands for like 20 years. Rory was running with the boys all race, finishing 7th overall. Mind boggling. Her fierce determination coupled with race preparedness (she had went out to France weeks ahead of time to acclimate) gave us one of the best performances not only of 2013, but one for the ages.
Pam Smith, Western States (18:37)
Likewise Pam Smith at Squaw, she was picking up carnage all day; even chicking Karl Meltzer late in the race. Pam overcame some stomach issues early in the heat to win the ladies’ race, and also lower her time from 2012 by 10:21. That’s ten hours and twenty-one minutes. She hit Robinson Flat at mile 30 in 30th place. From there, she picked her way up through the race; hitting Michigan Bluff at mile 56 in 17th, then Rucky Chucky at 78 in 11th. A systematic dismantling of the competition.
Michele Yates, Run Rabbit Run (20:16, CR)
Michele Yates is probably the female rookie of the year; the first time I saw her name was in UltraRunning Magazine earlier in the year winning the 50-mile USATF Championship at Bandera. Since then, she’s absolutely dominated. Run Rabbit Run was no exception; finishing 7th overall and first woman by about 43 minutes. For a race that starts at noon, it basically guarantees that you’re running through the night; and being in Colorado, there’s the chance that it could snow (it did). Add a bear encounter, some muddiness and that 10,000 dollar first place prize and you’re guaranteed for some epic racing. Michele also won a hundo outright (the Indiana Trail 100) with a time of 17:35.
100k Performance of the Year
Rob Krar, UROC (9:29)
First, Krar had to break Sage Canaday, Scott Wolfe and Kilian Jornet to make a move away from the lead pack (with Dakota Jones in tow) right around mile 33. Then Dakota surged around mile 52, building up a pretty solid little lead until about mile 57 when Rob caught Dakota, passing him and then pulling away for the win. Rob was a monster on the climbs all day, and he brought home a $10,000 prize purse plus bragging rights.
Sage Canaday, Bandera (8:13, CR)
Sage beat an insanely stacked field early in the season to come away with his first dominating win of the year, beating the likes of Dave Mackey, Paul Terranova, Karl Meltzer, Gary Gellin, Dave James and Jeff Browning. Winning by almost 40 minutes, Sage was able to execute a perfect race.
David Laney, Waldo (9:05, CR)
The 25-year old Laney was a XC star at NAIA-division Southern Oregon University (he also just ran an insane 2:18 at CIM last week), and he’s a newcomer to the mountain ultra scene. Winning both ultras he’s entered in ’13 (and setting course records) might get him rookie of the year honors, but first let’s talk about his win at Waldo- a dominating 40-minute obliteration of the field. He basically pulled away from the field early and ran alone to the win.
Sage Canaday, Tarawera (8:53)
Sage blew up so badly BUT had such a sizable lead that he was able to “walk it in” down in New Zealand. Not really, but he did have to take the last few downs pretty gingerly since he blew his quads building that huge lead. Some say it was up to about 12+ minutes by 55 kms, and staving off dehydration (coupled with the dreaded bonk) he was able to fend off the onslaught and win by about 3 minutes.
Ruby Muir, Tarawera (10:30)
The fact that Miss Muir runs in Vibram Five Fingers is astonishing. The fact that she finished 7th overall is pretty amazing, too. I hope she’s going to defend her title in ’14 because from what I hear, this New Zealand race is “epic”, and hopefully it attracts some real competition for Ruby.
Emelie Forsberg, UROC (12:06)
Emelie said she was prepared for the “road” part of this race, and although she never runs on it she was able to use her mountain-ultra-trail background to hammer away and make up time where she thought she’d be the weakest. Emelie was able to overcome some altitude-related issues and break away from Stephanie Howe at mile 33, running to a 23-minute victory.
Michelle Barton, Javelina (9:50, CR)
Michelle Barton won the Javelina 100k outright, beating all the men. By an hour and 25 minutes, no less. That’s a super dominant performance. I’m not familiar with Michelle but her UltraSignup page shows that she’s finished in the top ten 9 of her last 10 ultras, (going back to the 2011 Speedgoat- 17th place) while winning 5 of them. I’d say look out for Barton in ’14.
50-mile Performance of the Year
Sage Canaday, Lake Sonoma (6:14, CR)
Sage hit the Madrone Point aid station at mile 31 five minutes back of Max King and 3 minutes back of Cameron Clayton. In the next 8 miles, Sage was able to put 3 minutes on Max and 5 on Cam. By the Island View AS at mile 45.5, Sage had built a 6-minute lead over Cam and 17 minutes on a faltering Max. The rest is history, as Sage torched Dakota Jones’s CR by 3 minutes. I ran a full 6 hours and 8 minutes behind Sage, and all I can say is that this course was designed to break the runner’s will, forcing this guy to all but walk in the last 12 miles.
Dakota Jones, San Juan Solstice (7:35, CR)
It’s been said that Matt Carpenter’s course records might stand for the next 50 years. Pike’s Peak Ascent, Pike’s Peak Marathon, Leadville 100, Aspen Marathon, the list is so long it would fill most of this page. So Dakota, a Colorado running legend in his own right, breaks Carpenter’s record by almost 25 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the San Juan range in southwestern Colorado, it’s probably the most rugged part of the state. As for the race, it’s 12,856 feet of cumulative climbing, and tops out at just over 13,000 feet (twice) and never dipping below 8,671. So, running that under eight hours gets you the title “Freak of Nature”.
Kilian Jornet, Transvulcania (6:54; CR)
If you were wondering when Kilian was going to show up on any of these lists, look no further than the performance he put up at Transvulcania (he’ll show up again later down the list…) This was a warm-up race for Jornet, as he had just finished his SkiMo season a few weeks prior to this race. He hung back and was patient, finally taking the lead towards the end of the race, eventually charging to the lead and taking down Dakota Jones’s course record by 4 minutes. If you’re not familiar with Transvulcania, it basically runs the length of a volcanic ridge on the island of La Palma, gaining close to 28,000 feet of climb throughout, with temps close to triple digits most of the day.
Rob Krar, TNF Championship (6:21)
Fresh off a DNF at the JFK 50-miler, it looks as though Krar was just using that as a 41-mile training run (speedwork?) He ran at the front all day, eventually pulling away from Cameron Clayton and Chris Vargo on that last climb out of Tennessee Valley at mile 44. This was Krar’s second big “money” win of the year, and after a second place finish at Western States (his first 100-miler), wins at Zane Grey, UROC and here at the TNF Championship pretty much cements him as my pick for Mountain / Ultra / Trail Runner of the Year for 2013.
Emelie Forsberg, Transvulcania (8:13)
Like I said earlier, Transvulcania is early in the season and most of the European runners compete at a high level in Ski Mountaineering, so for Emelie to win just a few weeks off of her “other” winter sport leads me to believe that SkiMo is great training for mountain running. Anyway, huge day for Emelie here at La Palma, beating Nuria Picas over the last 6 km for the win.
Cassie Scallon, Lake Sonoma (7:47, CR)
Cassie had been leading through the first 30 miles of the race, and then she fell apart. Literally, being passed by Joelle Vaught and going down 3 minutes by mile 38, Cassie somehow pulled it together and overtook Joelle for the win and course record. On a deceptively hot day and on a deceptively relentless course, Scallon showed a ton of grit and determination to go for the win.
Michele Yates, TNF Championship (7:21)
Another superb finish for someone that wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the start of ’13. Yates systematically destroyed the field at TNF, the most competitive 50 of the year. It places the added demand on all runners to have something left over this late in the season, and for Yates to be able to go out super aggressively and never relinquish the lead for the entirety of the race says something about her drive. A great finish to the season, and another reason why I’m naming Yates as my female Mountain / Ultra / Trail Runner of the Year for ’13.
50k Performance of the Year
Sage Canaday, Speedgoat (5:08; CR)
Probably the hardest 50 km race in the states (in terms of altitude & elevation) Sage showed dominance from the get go, breaking Max King on the first huge climb while stretching out a 9-minute lead by mile 21. Holding off a late surge from Anton Krupicka, (nice to see that dude back racing) Canaday wins against a super competitive field over names like Jason Schlarb, Luke Nelson and Timmy Olson.
David Laney, Chuckanut (3:40, CR)
In his first ultra attempt, Laney breaks Geoff Roes’s course record, outlasts Max King and a tough field to win the Pacific Northwest’s toughest 50k. With his win at Waldo, Laney is quickly making a name for himself- two ultras, two wins, two course records. He’s the guy to watch in 2014, without a doubt.
Max King, Way Too Cool (3:08, CR)
It seems like Max was always finishing 2nd or 3rd this year, and after a dominant 2012 he sort of (kind of) takes a step back. Not to worry, he dominated the W2C race this year, another early season warm-up race held in Cool, California on parts of the Western States trail. Running against an insanely stacked field, King showed mettle early and broke away from Leor Pantilat and Chris Vargo for the dominant win.
Stephanie Howe, Gorge Waterfalls (3:49)
There’s the “other” awesome Pacific Northwest 50 km race, Gorge Waterfalls; which showed off Stephanie Howe’s complete dominance in back-to-back years, setting another course record in the meantime. Winning by 16 minutes over Catrin Jones on some of the most beautifully scenic and rugged trails is no small feat.
Meghan Arbogast, Way Too Cool (4:06)
Meghan had to fend off a surging Rory Bosio to win one of the most competitive 50 km races in the States. Never mind that Arbogast is still a beast at 51 years young, beating women half her age, she showed a ton of poise and determination. It’s truly inspiring, and besting such a stacked field also proves that you can still run it fast into your fifth decade.
Stephanie Howe, Speedgoat (6:17)
Another win at the 50 km distance for Howe, who passed Jodee Adams-Moore in the final downhill to win by about a minute. Adams-Moore ran in first the whole race and Howe’s patience and determination got her the win.
Jodee Adams-Moore, Chuckanut (4:01, CR)
This time it was Adams-Moore’s turn, beating a tough field of Devon Yanko, Cassie Scallon and Kerrie Bruxvoort. She takes the course record down a full 8 minutes and wins over Yanko by 21 minutes. Pretty dominant stuff out there.
After reading all the nominees above, I’ll now present you the winning performances.
100 Miles (Men): it’s gotta be Ian Sharman‘s Grand Slam record. To do that amount of mileage and winning in all of 10 weeks, that’s amazing. 4th at States, 4th at Vermont, winning at Leadville and a 2nd at Wasatch is pretty unbelievable. He was pushed along by Nick Clark, who was doing the Slam “bandit” style (not officially registered, but whatever) who also came in under the old record.
100 Miles (Women): Rory Bosio‘s complete obliteration of UTMB. Nothing else really comes close.
50 Miles (Men): gonna have to go with Dakota Jones‘s annihilation of Matt Carpenter’s CR at Solstice. He didn’t run against crazy good competition but to go out and blow up a Carpenter CR is just amazing.
50 Miles (Women): Michele Yates‘s wire-to-wire win at TNF was as dominating a performance this year as I’ll see, and to do it against the most stacked field? Gotta give it to her.
50 k (Men): Sage Canaday, Speedgoat. Sage wins the first climb, lights out after. Sage had some huge wins in the early season and faded a bit late, but he’s my early pick for MUTROY ’14. Watch Sage- there’s some murmurs going around that he’s hungry…
50 k (Women): Meghan Arbogast‘s win at Way Too Cool is too storybook not to give her the award. I won’t go in to too much detail, but read this article for more on her story.
I guess you already saw my MUTROYs above, Yates and Krar. That was pretty easy, they deserve those awards.
Now for the Rookie MUTROYs (first ultra in the calendar year of 2013):
Men: David Laney. A win at the 50 km distance (Chuckanut) and the 100 km distance (Waldo) cements this fact, and he’s the #1 guy to watch going into next year. He just ran a 2:18 at California International Marathon so he’s got that Max and Sage kind of leg speed; I’m just saying “look out” for this dude.
Women: Magdalena Boulet. This was a tough choice, not because the female rookie competition was so tight, it was because there was such a lack of first year ultra talent to choose from. But this former Olympian (with a 2:26 road marathon to her credit) blew away everyone (except Runner of the Year Michele Yates) at TNF Championships. She’s running W2C in ’14, so stay tuned.
Runners to watch for 2014…
Chris Vargo- dude is a monster, and he (among several other great “new” runners) made his ultra debut at the 2012 Bootlegger 50k. Here’s his 2013 stats: 2nd at W2C, 6th at Lake Sonoma, 1st (and CR) at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k and 3rd at TNF Championships.
David Laney- he’s my ’13 rookie of the year, I see him only improving. Crazy fast, hopefully we’ll see more of him in the next 12 months.
Sage Canaday- only being sick could slow Sage down this year, as he DNS’d at TNF Championships due to the flu. He was one of my picks to win the thing (as was Dakota, also felled by the flu) and I’m saying it now: Sage is my early pick for MUTROY ’14.
Alex Varner- this guy is ridiculously fast, and he just made the jump to ultras, winning both (Tamalpa Headlands 50k & Bootlegger) and setting CRs along the way. Bay Area folks know him as “the guy that wins the Dipsea and the Woodminster every year” but soon the ultra world will know him, too.
Geoff Roes- I don’t know if Geoff’s signed up for anything yet in ’14, but I hear he’s running again and looking to get competitive. I’m hoping he’s going to be at or near the level he was when he was last competing; but if not, his presence is still awesome for the sport.
Emily Harrison- Emily finished 2nd at the 2012 JFK50, her first ultra ever. She then went on to the Moab Red Hot 55k, the Mormon Fat Ass 50-miler abnd finish 7th at Western States, her 100-mile debut. Those impressive races were then followed up by a 2nd at Bootlegger 50k and a win 1at JFK50 this year.
Obviously Magda Boulet (see above).
Stephanie Howe- she’s making her 100 mile debut at the ’14 WS100, and I’m sure she’s going to podium there. With a super strong showing at last year’s UROC 100k and a several top-3 finishes at the 50-mile distance I’m sure she’s ready to crush it in 2014.
Anna Frost and Ellie Greenwood; both were injured for most of 2013, so I’m looking for those two to bounce back big time. Ellie is signed up for Lake Sonoma, and hopefully Anna is running back at full strength as well.
Races to watch:
Lake Sonoma 50 (April 12th): Rob Krar will be there this time to take on defending champ Sage; along with perennial beasts Max King, Dave Mackey, Jason Schlarb, Nick Clark, Chris Vargo, Ian Sharman, Timmy Olson, Joe Uhan, Jorge Maravila, et. al. Possibly another CR? Should be awesome, I’ll be running about 3 hours behind these guys.
Western States (June 28th): always a stacked field here, except for the returning champ Timmy Olson (he’s focusing on Hardrock). And the women’s field is pretty unbelievable- Nikki Kimball, Aliza Lapierre, Emily Harrison, Stephanie Howe, Amy Sproston, returning champ Pam Smith, Meghan Arbogast, wow- that’s going to be a great race. But look at the top guys: Krar, Miguel Heras, Mike Morton, Karl Meltzer, Jez Bragg, Nick Clark, Dylan Bowman and Ian Sharman. I think Rob Krar gets his first big 100-mile win, but I’m also picking Dylan Bowman and Nick Clark to podium. I’ll change these picks as we get closer, but for now…
Hardrock (July 11th): This race was made for Kilian Jornet’s style of running. I’m calling it now; Kyle Skaggs’ old CR is going down. Also; Julien Chorier, Dakota Jones, Timmy Olson, Joe Grant, Nick Coury, Tim Long, Jared Campbell… Crazy good field, and will make everyone sort of forget about that race from Squaw to Auburn two weeks before.
There it is, the 2013 Mountain / Ultra / Trail Running Year in Review from where I’m sitting…