Ultrarunning magazine's Ultrarunner of the Year award, and I found this time around much harder than the first. The men's and women's UROY were pretty obvious choices, but beyond that, narrowing down the rest of the top ten was exceedingly difficult. Not to mention parsing the myriad fantastic races run this year to come up with the five best Performances of the Year. And of course, just when I had settled on just about everything, last weekend happened and OH MY GOD. It was pretty much back to the drawing board Monday morning.
One thing that made it a bit easier--or maybe harder?--was that for the first time, we were explicitly instructed by the powers-that-be that Fastest Known Time performances (FKTs) were not to be considered among the criteria for deciding UROY or POY. This meant that several of the top contenders for POY, particularly on the men's side--Jim Walmsley's incredible R2R2R FKT, Pete Kostelnick's amazing transcontinental record, Karl Meltzer's FKT on the venerable Appalachian Trail, Jacob Puzey's 50 mile treadmill WR--were all out. (For me, that effectively took Pete and Karl out of the running for UROY as well, though it didn't effect Jim's candidacy at all.)
There are about thirty voters, and the results are still being tabulated; the final results will be released on the Ultrarunning website starting in about a week. For what it's worth, here are my picks.
1. Kaci Lickteig
2. Magdalena Boulet
3. Caroline Boller
4. Courtney Dauwalter
5. Sarah Bard
6. Amy Sproston
7. Camille Herron
8. Maggie Guterl
9. Hillary Allen
10. Darcy Piceu
I found this category to be the toughest of all to compile my ballot. This past weekend made it almost impossible; after Kaci, who was untouchable in 2016, I agonized over just about every spot on this list. Toughest omissions for me: Katalin Nagy, Pam Smith, Gina Slaby, Devon Yanko, YiOu Wang, Jenny Hoffman, and Alissa St. Laurent.
Women's Performance of the Year
1. Gina Slaby, 100mi WR at Desert Solstice
2. Caroline Boller, 50mi trail world best at Brazos Bend
3. Katalin Nagy, dominant repeat win at Spartathlon
4. Sarah Bard, fourth place at Comrades
5. Hillary Allen, win at Cortina Trail ultramarathon
Felt like maybe I made up a bit here for leaving Gina and Katalin off the UROY ballot. Tough to leave off Maggie's 100mi performance at Brazos Bend last weekend, Kaci's dominant win at Western States, and Cassie Scallon's course record at Bandera.
Women's Age Group Performance of the Year
1. Meghan Arbogast (55 years old), 100K age group WR at IAU World Championships
2. Meghan again, sixth place at Western States
3. Connie Gardner (52), win at Mohican 100
4. Beverly Anderson-Abbs (52), win (3:48) at Jed Smith 50K
5. Debra Horn (52), 170 miles in 48 hours (and the win) at Across the Years
Meghan's world age group record was an easy choice for me here, though I continue to have difficulty evaluating all of these performances across different age groups.
1. Jim Walmsley
2. Jeff Browning
3. Zach Miller
4. Alex Nichols
5. Ian Sharman
6. Hayden Hawks
7. Dylan Bowman
8. Cody Reed
9. Brian Rusiecki
10. Andrew Miller
Just like for the women, Jim was an easy pick for the top spot; I'd honestly be a little surprised if he doesn't win unanimously. And, just like the women, the next nine spots were a nightmare. Almost too many difficult omissions to count; the toughest: Zach Bitter, Dave Laney, David Riddle, David Roche, Paddy O'Leary, Chase Nowak, Patrick Regan, Tim Tollefson, and Aaron Saft.
Men's Performance of the Year
1. Zach Bitter, 100mi American Record at 2015 Desert Solstice
2. Jim Walmsley, course record at JFK
3. Jim Walmsley at Western States
4. Tony Migliozzi, repeat winner at IAU 50K world championship
5. Tim Tollefson, third place at UTMB
Honestly, this was even harder than the women's POY for me. Trying to choose between Walmsley course records was a thankless task; JFK got the nod given the history of the race, the number of legends who have taken on that course, and the fact that no one is within two fucking miles of that performance. I couldn't leave off Jim's race at States either, which was the single most talked-about performance of the year, and the most dominant display that I've ever seen. It may not be fair, but that's my vote. I do hope Zach winds up winning this; it's unfair that people have kind of forgotten about DS last year, which was too late for 2015 voting. Toughest omissions here were Zach Miller's crazy battle and win over Hayden Hawks at North Face, Jim at Bandera, Jim at Sonoma, Jason Schlarb at Hardrock, Geoff Burns' 6:30 100K at Mad City, and Patrick Regan's third place finish at IAU 100K worlds.
Men's Age Group Performance of the Year
1. David Jones (65 years old!), 17:34 100 mile at Tunnel Hill
2. Rich Hanna (51), age group national record (3:17) at Jed Smith 50K
3. Jean Pommier (52), 3:18 at Caumsett 50K
4. Ed Ettinghausen (57), 270 miles in 72 hours at Beyond Limits
5. Roger Jensen (66), 7:59 for 50 miles at JFK
You really could make an argument for any of these to be at the top of the list for me, and I wouldn't disagree with you.
So there you go. Feel free to tell me what an idiot I am. If you do, though, you must vote for me for Run Ultra's Blogger of the Year. If you vote, you can go to the comments and call me whatever names you want.