Now the Buzzard moves onto the cream of the crop in the old guys divisions - the 2010 Montana Master's Runner of the Year. This was a much more challenging choice than the open men since we had two athletes with some stellar results and some great head to head competition. Both members of Helena's Vigilante Runner's, Kyle Strode and Pat Judge are well known around the Montana running community - and they have continued to compete at high levels as they have crested the 40-year old age mark.
In fact, Pat may have had his best year of running in at least the last 5 years with a resurgence in his fitness as he entered the masters ranks. And, that newly returned snap in his legs gave Kyle a run for his money (both literally and figuratively). The two squared off in races around the state throughout the year; and, in the end, the head to head competition was a near draw. But, the tie-breaker in this oh-so-close battle goes to the wide range of distances on the portfolio of Kyle Strode.
From a 4:48.98 mile at the Montan Men's Master's Mile (M4) to a 2:47:00 at the Missoula Marathon - Kyle had an incredible string of performances over a wide range of distances. Aren't we all a bit envious over a season like this:
Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon - 4th overall, 1st Master - 77:37
M4 - 4th place - 4:48.98
Across the Bay 12K (San Fransisco) - 4th Master - 41:57
Ice Breaker 5 Mile - 10th overall, 1st Master - 28:22
Don't Fence Me In 30K - 3rd overall, 1st Master (and beaten by only two of the top 5 open men) - 2:29:10
Missoula Marathon - 4th overall, 1st Master - 2:47:00
Montana Cup - 13th ovarll, 1st Master - 22:03
August Road Race (Helena) - 3.8 miles - 3rd overall, 1st Master - 20:43
Carrol College Open Cross Country Meet - 5 miles - 2nd Master - 28:22
Veteran's Day Run - Butte - 5 miles - 3rd Overall, 2nd Master - 29:35
Kyle's "run to the top" has been building steam for a couple of years. He had a very solid season in 2009; but, in 2010 he really was hitting on all cylinders. With so many top 5 overall finishes and just a couple of defeats in the Masters catefory, it's pretty hard to not give the to nod to Kyle. And, on top of all that, he did the running world a big favor by "outing" an apparent cheat by the name of Kip Litton. Turns out this guy has been running all over the country (including the Missoula Marathon) under the presumed goal of setting a world record for the number of marathons under 3 hours. But, in the end, turns out that he was a big fraud. If you're interesed in a bizzare story of the lengths that some people will go to in order to get some attention, check out this post by Kyle from another blog: http://kiplitton.blogspot.com/2011/01/update-discussion-on-history.html
It was a hard choice to leave Mr. Judge off the top spot. He also had a fantastic year - with top performances that included:
M4 - 8th - 4:59.51
Big Butte Run - 2nd overall, 2nd Master - 44:11
Don't Fence Me In 5K - 1st overall - 17:48
VIG Scrimmage Mile - 4th ovearll, 2nd Master - 4:51.8
Governor's Cup 10K - 5th overall, 2nd Master 35:40
Carrol College Open XC - 13th overall, 1st Master - 27:31
Big Sky State Games 5K (track) - 2nd Master - 16:35
Montana Cup XC - 14th overall, 2nd Master - 22:09
And, his coup de grace for the year - The Veteran's Day Run in Butte - 2nd overall and 1st Master - 29:18. What made this race all the more special was the sportsmanship that Pat demonstrated towards Big Bird Jodoin. Check out the story here: http://www.buttespissandmoanrunners.com/Butte%20Races/Vets%20Day/Results/2010%20Results.pdf I would also be remiss if I didn't also make mention of Pat's great contributions to the Helena running scene with his involvement in the Vigilante Runner's and his leadership of Helena's Montana Cup team.
After Pat, the Buzzard is going to go with what may be a bit of a suprise - Mike Telling of Dillon. He had a season that was shortened due to some pretty significant injury issues in late summer. But, his early season efforts were pretty impressive. 1st overall at the Frigid Digger Run, 1st overall at the Big Butte Run, 6th overall and 3rd Master at the Don't Fence Me In 30K Trail Run, 5th overall and 2nd Master at Wulfman 14K Trail Run and 6th overall and 2nd Master at the Missoula Marathon.
Mike is followed by the ageless speed demon himself - Peter Dan Sullivan of Helena. Dan continues to hold onto an amazing amount of speed and turnover. How about this set of miles - M4 in 4:38.59, VIG Scrimmage - 4:40.6 and Montana Mile in 4:34.3. Throw in the Governor's Cup 5K in 16:52, 4th ovearall/3rd Master in 30:10, and 5th in August Road Race (Helena). Dan is arguably held back in the rankings to some degree by his limited racing outside of the Helena area and the fact that his cumulative race distance for the year is less than the marathons run by Strode and Telling. He gets high marks in the Buzzards's book for that sly Irish grin that always seems to be plastered on his face.
Another guy whose "stock" has soared in the last couple of years is Jeff Braun of Butte. He had top 3 Masters finishes at the Riverbank 10K in Misosula, the Roots Festival 4 Mile in Missoula, Montana Cup and Wulfman. Plus, he had Master's wins at the Don't Fence Me In 12K Trail Race, Lewis and Clark Half Marathon and MT Helena. For such a quiet, laid back guy before the race, he's a fierce competitor once the gun goes off.
One guy who was on his way to a top 5 ranking before fracturing his left patella (aka busted kneecap) was the Waterloo Wiz - Ray Hunt. He had the performance of the year in the Master's Category with his 4th place overall finish at the Wulfman CDT 14K Trail Race. Running under the old course record (the open record that is) and to an off the charts age graded performance, Ray literally ran himself sick. It was a stunning performance that was inspiring to all of us over 40 lads.
It was a great year for Master's competition. Consider some of the names that didn't make the list this year - Scott Gaiser, Jeff Thomas, Kirk Keller, John Herring, Steve Bruner and Rob Walker. Just goes to reconfirm the notice that moving to a new age group doesn't necessarily make things any easier.
In the next few days look for the 1st ever ranking on the women's side. Just like th men, there was some intense competition on the distaff side and some great performances. Plus one very difficult challenge for the Buzzard on exaclty where to categorize one of the state's top females.
See you on the roads, tracks and trails
The Muddy Buzzard.