Once again, I was honored to be on the voting panel for thee 2017 UltraRunner of the Year. And while the 2016 voting was challenging, this year was increasingly so. But that's the fun of it, right?!?
For example, how do you compare the year of Tim Tollefson versus what Hayden Hawks did in 2017?
Tim completed 3 Ultra Trail World Tour races with amazing results (a win at UltraTrail Australia, 3rd at UTMB, and 5th in Hong Kong, and well as a podium at a highly competitive domestic race (2nd at Speedgoat). He showed success at the 50k to 100+ mile distances. But, he only completed those 4 races, and DNFed American River 50 mile. Hayden Hawks had a major international win at CCC, and an amazing domestic performance with a win and course record Moab Red Hot, as well as a win at Red Mountain 50k which is a relatively small race. Add to that two other strong performances at highly competitive domestic races with a 2nd place at Chuckanut and 3rd at TNF-San Fransisco. Hayden had successes at the 50k to 100km distances. He raced more, but also had a few races where he struggled, with a 77th at Transvulcania and 81st at the World Trail Running Championships.
Now - looking at those two resumes of their years, which would you vote for over the other?
Hayden completed 7 races with 5 strong performances. Tim started 5 races, completing 4, yet the four that he completed were all strong performances. Tim showed successes over a larger range of distances (50k to 100+ miles), however Hayden showed successes over a wider range of terrain ranging from technical mountain (CCC) to runnable rolling (Moab Red Hot). Hayden had a MAJOR win at CCC, but Tim had a podium at UTMB and a win at UltraTrail Australia.
Which is more impressive? You could make an argument for either of them, depending on how you value different factors.
And, looking down the list of well respected runners, incredible performances, and diverse results for 2017, it was an exciting challenge to sort through it all. Add to that the challenge of selecting top performances, and top age graded performances - and it can be a daunting (but fun) endeavor.
So, as an engineer, I decided that the best way to be objective and calculated about it was to write out my criteria, give a point value for different types of performances, and then just add up the total points accumulated for each runner. This helped me weed through the 50+ names provided and ultimately determine who was my top 10 UltraRunner of the Year.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty too much, I basically gave folks:
-5 points for an 'outstanding finish' which was a win at a major race (Western States, Comrades, UTWT, World Championship), top 3 at UTM, setting a World Record or American Record
- 3 points for a 'fantastic finish' which was a win at a large (more than 200 finishers) race, podium at a major race (listed above), 4-10th at UTMB, win at a highly competitive race (Golden Ticket race, US Championship, US team selection race, US Sky Race, or race with major prize $)
- 2 points for a 'super finish', which was a win of a medium size race (100-200 finishers), 4-10th at Western States or UTWT, 11-15th at UTMB, Comrades or World Championships, podium at highly competitive race (listed above) or podium at race with 200+ runners
- 1 point for a 'great finish' which was a win of a small race (under 100 finishers), podium at a medium race (100-200 finishers), 11-15th at Western States or UTWT, 16th-20th at UTMB, Comrades, or World Championship, and 4th or 5th at a highly competitive race (listed above)
- bonus point for a course record, and bonus point for females that finished 1st overall
- one point less for the lesser known (less competitive) race if two distances are offered (i.e. for a win at Vermont 100km as opposed to win at Vermont 100 miler which is the more competitive race)
It wasn't an exact science, but it allowed me to analytically score the runners for my ballot. So, what did it look like? Below is my 2017 UltraRunner of the Year ballot:
Top 10 Women:
2. Courtney Dauwalter
3. Gina Slaby
4. YiOu Wang
5. Jackie Merritt
6. Kathleen Cusick
7. Katalin Nagy
8. Caroline Boller
9. Davon Yanko
10. Kaci Lickteig
Top 10 Men:
1. Jim Walmsley
2. Tim Tollefson
3. Hayden Hawks
4. Brian Rusiecki
5. Tim Freriks
6. Olivier Leblond
7. Mark Hammond
8. Cody Reed
9. Max King
10. Kris Brown
Performance and Age Group performance of the year was way less scientific, but after crunching so many data points I just went with how I felt about these performances. It's so hard, with so many incredible 2017 performances, but here's my votes...
Women's Performance of the Year:
1. Camille Herron setting WR 100 mile at Tunnel Hill
2. Camille Herron winning Comrades
3. Courtney Dauwalter setting AR 24 HR at Soochow
4. Claire Gallagher winning CCC
5. Camille Herron winning Tarawera in CR
Men's Performance of the Year:
1. Hayden Hawks winning CCC
2. Olivier Leblond setting AR 48 HR at Icarus
3. Jim Walmsley winning Tarawera in CR
4. Jim Walmsley winning Gorge Waterfalls in CR
5. Patrick Reagan winning Javelina 100 in CR
Women's Age Group Performance of the Year:
1. Liz Bauer (58) getting 1st female and 3rd overall at Across the Years 6-day
2. Meghan Laws (56) finishing 9th female at Western States
3. Anita Ortiz (52) finishing 43rd female at World Trail Champs
4. Connie Gardner (53) finishing 1st female and 3rd overall at Canal Corridor 100m
5. Gunhild Swanson (72) finishing 7th female at Badger Challenge 50m
Men's Age Group Performance of the Year:
1. Thomas Dever (60) winning Tallahassee Classic 50k (in 3:38!)
2. Wally Hesseltine (74) finishing Hennepin 100m in 24:21
3. Roger Jensen (66) finishing Bull Run Run 50m in 9:20
4. John Geesler (57) finishing 2nd place at Across the Years 6-day
5. Bob Hearn (51) finishing 3rd place at Run4Water 24-hour (with 152 miles)
Can't wait to see what performances the 2018 season brings...so I can analyze them and make my vote for UltraRunner of the Year!