Monday, January 30, 2012

Early Open Indoor Results

Indoor season is starting to heat up.  A good meet was held last week at MSU (check out  There were plenty of good collegiate performances.  But, wanted to make note of a post-collegiate/open peformance.

Lyle Weese continues to train hard and perform at a high level - as witnessed by his 2nd place finish at 3000 meters with his 8:20.75 effort.

Some other (native) Montanan's who still are racing hard on the track also include the two younger Ricardi kids.

Josh ran 8:39.64 over 3,000 meteres at the University of Washington Invitational on 1/28.  At the same meet baby sister Lois ran a PR over the mile with her 4:47.35.

Looking for some more good open track performance yet this year.  But, really jazzed for the annual Montana Men's Master's Mile (M4) next weekend at Bozeman.  Preview and prediction will be coming this coming weekend.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2011 Master's Womans Runner Of The Year

So, here we are with the 4th and final category in the Buzzard's selection of the 2011 Runners Of The Year - The Master's Women.  The field had more depth and quality this year - in part due to a few new women entering the 40+ category.  So, with that introduction, here they are:

Number 1 - Nikki Kimball - Bozeman.  A top ultra/trail runner over the years, Nikki seemed to have a renewed energy upon entering the over 40 group in mid year.  Many of her best performances came at out of state races at her specialty.  But, she also showed some wheels in a fair number of races under the Big Sky.
  • Big Butte Run 11K - 39 - 51:07 - 1st Woman
  • Don't Fence Me In 30K - 39 - 2:46:03 - 1st Woman
  • Bozeman Classic 5K - 40 - 19:46 - 1st Master Woman
  • Bridger Ridge Run - 40 - 3:56:39 - 1st Woman, 9th Overall - still the only woman with a sub-4:00 finish.
  • Bozeman Marathon - 40 - 3:15:18 - 1st Woman, 5th Overall

  • Western States 100 Mile - 40 - 18:17:39 - 3rd Woman (5 seconds out of 2nd place)
  • Bear 100 Mile - 40 - 22:19 - 1st Woman
  • Antelope Island 50K - 39 - 4:41:19 - 1st Woman
  • North Face Bear Mountain 50 Mile - 39 - 9:36:50 - 2nd Woman
  • North Face Endurance Challenge Atlanta - 50 Mile - 8:57:54 - 1st Woman, 4th Overall

It's pretty hard to argue with those types of performances.  Sub-20:00 5K to top 3 at Wester States 100 Miler.  Man, that is some serious range of performance.  Local or national fields, she performed at the front.  Not only was she the top Master's Woman, she is always competitive against the open women's field.  It was a spectacular way to enter the master's rank.

Number 2 - Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge.  The 2010 Overall Women's Runner Of The Year, Nicole had a short but impressive season.  Why so short - how about pregnancy (culminating in the birth of twins Roam and Ember in early November of 2011)!!!!!!  She only got in four races in 2011 - not enough to get her back into the open ranks; but, the level of performance showed that she is clearly at the top of the women's masters field.
  • AOH Shamrock Run 6 Mile - 36:50 - 1st Woman
  • Ice Breaker 5 Mile - 32:16 - 3rd Woman, 1st Masters
  • Big Butte Run 11K - 53:34 - 3rd Woman, 1st Masters
  • Wulfman CDT 14K - 1:17:51 - 9th Woman, 1st Masters
Impressive races on their own; but, when you consider that all of them were completed while she was in the early stages of pregnancy, that borders on incredible.  Nicole is back into training and looking forward to some hard racing for the 2012 season.

Number 3 - Dani Shahan, Bozeman.  Dani doesn't race a lot - sticking closer to home and the family in the Gallatin Valley.  But, when she does venture out onto the roads, she is ready to rock and roll.  Even with just the 3 listed races, Dani clearly demonstrates that she belongs at the top of the 40+ lists.
  • Bozeman Classic 10K - 37:48 - 1st Overall Woman
  • Seatte Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon - 1:19:40 - 6th Woman, 1st Master
  • Bozeman Marathon - 1/2 Marathon - 1:20:26 - 1st Overall Woman
With a few more races on her docket, Dani would have been a contender for the overall woman's list.  Would love to see her hit a few more races this coming year and show us what she's really capable of.

Number 4 - Jenny Newton of Missoula.  With the exception of Nikki, it seemed as though the rule of the Montana master's women is to not race too often.  Jenny raced a bit more than some of the others; but, still a pretty limited season.  Jenny is a true racer who's at home on the track, roads and XC.  She had pretty wide range of performances from 800 meters track to 12K roads. 
  • Mt. Sac Relays Master 800 Meters - 2:25.69 - 5th Master
  • Diva Day 5K - 19:29 - 2nd Woman, 1st Master
  • USATF Club Championships XC 6K - 23:24 - 12th Master
  • MT Cup 7.2K - 29:09 - 9th Woman, 1st Master
  • Bloomsday 12K - 48:17 - 5th Master
A good year for Jenny without a doubt.  Love seeing the wide range of races and the willingness to compete against the best master's runners at the national level.

Number 5 - Julie Gilchrist, Missoula. Many people know Julie's daughter Paige as one of the best Montana girls prep runners...........but, if you've watched Julie race, you know that the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. Julie is a tough competitor. She tends to focus on the longer races; but, as can be seen from the MT cup results, she is pretty adept at the shorter stuff as well.
  • Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon - 1:36:51 - 1st Master
  • Run To The Pub 1/2 Marathon - 1:32:28 - 1st Master
  • Eugene Marathon - 3:17:07 - 5th Master
  • MT Cup 7.2K - 30:26 - 16th Woman, 2nd Master
Julie has already started the year off with a bang as she ran a 1:29 1/2 Marathon at Houston on January 15th. Her racing is a bit limited as she follows Paige around the state during track and XC seasons; but, she's a master's force without question.

Next year should be even deeper for the 40+ women as Jennifer Burke enters the mix (she turned 40 in October and just didn't have enough master's performances to be considered for the rankings this year).  Would love to see the women race a bit more and would really love to see some more head to head performances within this group.

Performance Of The Year - Nikki Kimball's 3rd Place @ Western States 100 Mile.  Western States is THE ultra trail race in North America; and, one of the top in the world.  To finish on the podium at such a prestigious event is quite impressive.

Next up would be Jenny Newton's 2:25.96 800 Meters @ Mt. Sac.  Those are some serious wheels, especially for a master's athlete.  #3 would go to Dani Shahan and her 1:19:40 1/2 Marathon in Seattle - where she came through 10K faster than her winning time at the Bozeman Classic.

So, that wraps up our 2011 rankings.  Looking forward to an exciting 2012 - full of fast and furious racing.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 Open Women's Runner Of The Year

Okay - so the 2011 Open Women's ROY has already been announce as Sarah Graves of Ballantine (see my January 7, 2012 post).  But, let's recap what an amazing season Sarah had:

  • 1st @ Wulfman CDT 14-K Trail (68:34) (# 3 Time on Course)
  • 1st @ Women's Run 2-Mile (11:33)
  • 1st Overall @ Beartooth Run 8.4 Mile (84:48) (2,000' elevation gain)
  • 1st @ MT Marathon (Billings) 1/2-Marathon (79:05)
  • 3rd @ MT Cup (only :33 out of 1st Place)
  • Houston Marathon - 1/30/11 - 2:47:21 - 16th Woman
  • Eugene Marathon- 4/30/11 - 2:46:20 - 6thWoman
  • Philadelphia Marathon - 11/19/11 - 2:46:24 - 6th Woman
  • California International Marathon - 12/4/11 - 2:44:25 - 16th Woman (Oly Trials Qualifier)
She then opened her new year with a 2:50:16 at the Oly Trials in Houston on January 14th.  That's 3 marathons in 8 weeks with an average finish time of 2:47:01 - Simply Amazing.  Yessirree, she was miles ahead (pun intended) of the rest of the Montana women this past year.

But, that by no means suggests that the rest of the females on the Big Sky racing scene were slackers.  Unfortunately, they just ran into a buzz saw of a runner who had a career defining year.  That being said, let's move onto the rest of the list.

The field on the women's side was suprisingly deep this year and picking a top 5 was a huge challenge.  The choice is made even harder by the fact that some of the women don't race a lot (understandable since many of them have kid and family duties that most of us guys don't deal with quite as much).  So hard in fact that I took the easy way out and went 6 deep for the women.  I'll explain why later.  The biggest challenge on the women's side was choosing between 2 and 3.  But, after much deliberation - here goes:

Number 2 - Trisha Miller of Missoula.  Trishs had a solid year over a variety of distances and terrain - from 5K to Marathon, roads to trails to XC, Trisha tackled them all.  Her performances of note include:
  • Run To The Pub 1/2 Marathon - 1:22:59 - 1st
  • 11 Miles to Paradise - 1:16:02 - 1st
  • Pengelly Single Dip - 44:11 - 1st
  • Hellgate 5K - 17:12 (short course ???) - 1st
  • Pacific Crest 1/2 Marathon (OR) - 1:22:24 - 2nd
  • Eugene Marathon - 2:54:00 - 3rd
  • Montana Cup - 7.2K - 27:34 - 6th
Trisha got big help in securing the #2 slot with her Eugen performance (just 1 place behind ROY Sarah Graves) and her head to head wins over Lisa Minnehan. 

On the same day that Sarah was in Houston at the Oly Trials, Trisha was in Tempe, AZ at the PF Changs Rock and Roll Marathon....................where she scored an overall win of 2:49:12.  That time didn't affect the 2011 rankings; but, may have some major bearing on the 2012 season. 

That then brings us to Number 3 - Lisa Minnehan, Billings.  A lot of people may not recognize this name.  Lisa started her college career as a golfer; but, ended up running for Dave Coppock at MSU-Billings during her graduate work.  Over the last couple of years she's been honing her running and racing chops; and, it's all starting to come together.  She races often, at a wide range of ditances.
  • Women's Run 2-Mile - 12:17 - 2nd
  • AOH Shamrock Run 6 Mile - 27:02 - 2nd
  • Boston Marathon - 2:54:29 - 57th Woman
  • Jennie Kramer 5K - 18:38 - 1st
  • An Ri RA 10K - 38:21 - 1st (2nd Overall)
  • Heart and Sole 5K - 18:44 - 1st
  • Beartooth Run 4.2 Mile - 33:45 - 1st
  • Governor's Cup
    • 10K - 39:59 - 1st
    • 5K - 19:38 - 1st
  • Hellgate 5K - 17:23 - 2nd
  • Montana Cup - 7.2K - 28:37 - 7th
  • Big Sky State Games Athlete Of The Year
Lisa had a great year obviously.  And, her same day Governor's Cup double was impressive.  But, it was hard to overlook her 0-2 record against Trisha.  And, given the tail wind at this year's Boston, I would say that Trisha's Eugene time is intrinsically superior to Lisa's Marathon.

But, it will be exciting to see if Lisa can take another step forward in her racing progression in 2012.

Number 4 - Jessica Johnson of Bigfork. Here's another name that may not be super familiar. Jessica races mostly within the NW and Western part of the state. But her forays to Missoula, Seeley Lake and Great Falls helped her move up onto the list.
  • Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon - 1:30:07 - 2nd
  • Riverbank Run Trifecta - 1st
    • 10K - 39:05
    • 5K - 18:20
    • 1 M - 5:34
  • Herron Hustle 10K - 38:34 - 1st
  • Boogie To The Bank 10K - 38:21 - 2nd
  • Montana Cup 7.2K - 27:20 - 5th
  • Whitefish Lake Tri - 1st - included 19:07 5K
Would love to see her mix it up a bit more on the Missoula scene.  But, living in the far NW corner of the state, it gets a bit tough to hit as many races as some of the other women.

Number 5 - Suzanne Huse - Missoula.  Here's someone who doesn't race much due to taking care of the kids.  And, she also spends a good chunk of her competitive time in triathlon.  But, she had a couple of big performances that shows what a stud she is.  Part of the powerful Mountain West group, when she shows up to race, you now she's going to be challenging for the win.
  • River City Roots 4-Mile - 23:02 - 1st (15th Overall)
  • MT Cup - 1st - 26:02
  • Spring Meadow Triathlon - 2nd
Sue clearly has the chops to place higher in the rankings.  But, her lack of events keeps her from ranking higher.  While she had some big wins - I'd have to see her wit more races under her belt at a wider range of distances to see how she would stack up against others on the list.

Number 6 - Michelle Bazanella of Butte was 4th in last years the open women's rankings  (by the way - only Sarah and Bazz return from last year's rankings).  This was my "Editor's Choice" if you will.  Bazz races a lot - all across the state, in a wide variety of distances, on all types of surfaces.  She's usually near the front; and, on almost any given day at almost any race against most all competition, she would be a top 5 finisher.  All that being said, I just couln't let her seaon pass by without some recognition.
  • Veteran's Day 5.2 Mile - 35:29 - 1st
  • Governor's Cup 1/2 Marathon (Helena version) - 1:31:00 - 1st
  • Big Butte Run 11K - 52:28 - 2nd
  • Wulfman CDT 14K - 68:57 - 2nd
  • AOH Shamrock Run 6-Mile - 39:54 - 3rd
  • Boogie To The Bank 10K - 39:43 - 4th
  • Diva Day 5K - 20:00 - 5th
  • Montana Cup 7.2K - 13th - 30:00
In several of those races, she was only beaten by people like Nicole Hunt, Nikki Kimball and Lisa Minnehan.  Her gutsy performance at the Wulfman was perhaps her shining moment of the year.

One person missing on the list was Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge.  The 2010 Overall Woman ROY was starting off gangbusters, with wins at the AOH Shamrock Run 6-Mile and a solid 3rd overall at Ice Breaker -both coming in the very early stages of her pregnancy (with twins Roam and Ember born in early November).  But, if history shows us anything, Nicole will be back to the top of the ranks in no time.

Performance Of The Year:  Easy Cheesy Selection.  Without a doubt it would have to be Sarah Grave's 2:44:25 Olympic Trials Qualifying Marathon.

That would be followed by the new Snow Joke 1/2 Marathon course record of 1:23:57 set by Kara DeWalt of Missoula on a cold (-10 F) and snowy day.

Thanks for all the great performances in 2011 ladies.  And, with the early season performances of Sarah Graves, Trisha Miller and Julie Gilchrist (Houston 1/2 Marathon) - we look to be off to another great season for 2012.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2011 Master's Male Runner Of The Year

So, now that the Buzzard has announced the Open Male ROY, it's time to move onto the Master's Male Runner Of The Year.  And, for those of you who follow the Montana running scene, the number one choice shouldn't surprise you to much.  After that, the choices got really tough.  The masters fields keep getting stronger and stronger.  But, that's a nice problem to have.  Regardless, another strong year of master's running made for a solid group in the top 5 - and left some super tough guys in the wings.  Without further ado......................

Number 1 - Scott Creel - Bozeman - 49After a couple of years away from the racing scene (he kept running but also spent some more time with the family and in honing his climbing skills), Scott returned with a vengeance in 2011.  While winning most of his master's races at age 49, Scott was also a force to be reckoned with in the open ranks.  His performances for the year include:
  • Montana Men's Master's Mile - 4:41.91 - 3rd Place
  • Wulman CDT 14K - 57:32 - 5th Overall, 1st Masters - New Masters Course Record
  • Ridge Run - 3:17:19 - 1st Overall, 1st Masters.  10 for 10 in Ridge Run Wins.  # 10 time ever (only other person to have a time in the top 10 is Mike Wolfe from the epic 2006 race)
  • Bozeman Classic 5K - 16:58 - 2nd Overall, 1st Masters
  • MT Cup 7.2K - 23:51 - 8th Overall, 1st Masters
  • Hugging For Stuffing 5K - 18:11 - 3rd Overall, 2nd Masters.
Not sure how you argue with those type of results.  Road, track, trail, XC - Scott performed on them all.  Races from 5:00 to 3 hours - didn't matter to Scott.  He's the master's runner version of the Honey Badger.  And, the way he ran, you would think that he just entered the master's ranks rather than being on the verge of entering the 50+ category.  Pretty clear decision in the mind of the Buzzard to put Creel at the top of the old man pile.

Number 2 - Pat Judge - Helena - 41.  Continuing the momentum of his 2010 campaign, Pat had a season that in most years would have qualified him for a Number 1 ranking.  But, with Creel back on the scene, Pat has to settle for the runner-up spot (to complement his 2010 # 2 Ranking).
  • Montana Men's Master's Mile - 4:42.94 - 4th.
  • Don't Fence Me In 5K - 17:21 - 1st Overall
  • AOH 3-Mile - 15:18 - 2nd Overall, 1st Masters
  • Ice Breaker 5 Mile - 27:20 - 4th Overall, 1st Masters
  • Wulfman CDT 14K - 59:30 - 7th Overall, 2nd Masters
  • Montana Cup 7.2K - 24:17 - 2nd Masters
  • Governor's Cup 10K - 34:37 - 1st Overall
  • Vigilante Mile 5K - 16:59 - 2nd Overall, 1st Masters
  • Big Sky State Games 5K Track - 16:29 - 1st Overall, New Age Record
  • Veteran's Day 5Mile - 28:49 - 1st Overall (Has now won the race in 3 separate decades)
In addition to Pat's racing prowess, he is the driving force behind the juggernaut known as the Vigilante Track Club.  One of the sports all around good guys, it's expected that he'll be a master's force yet again in 2012.

Number 3 - Mike Telling - Dillon - 42,  Mike didn't have the greatest volume of racing in 2011; but, he certainly threw down some quality.  And, his head to head races helped him to secure the number 3 slot (matching his 2011 ranking).
  • Don't Fence Me In 12K Trail - 51:58 - 4th Overall, 1st Masters
  • Wulfman CDT 14K Trail - 1:00:44 - 8th Overall, 3rd Masters
  • Ridge Run - 3:53:56 - 8th Overall, 2nd Masters
  • Riverbank Run 10K - 34:55 - 4th Overall, 2nd Masters
  • MT Cup 7.2K - 25:06 - 3rd Masters
Hopefully we'll see a strong healthy Mike for all of 2012 that will allow him to add some quantity to his quality.  In any event, you can rest assured that when when he toes the line he'll be ready to race aggressively.

Number 4 - Steve Morley - Bigfork - 43.  Steve's is probably a bit of an unexpected choice.  He doesn't race much outside of the Flathead Valley.  But, this year he expanded his reach a bit.  Like the racers above him, he threw down some quality performances.  And, when you look at his head to head performances - that's again what gave him the nod to rank in the top 5. 
  • Roodell Run 5K - 16:28 - 1st Overall (winning over Pat Judge)
  • Whitefish Lake Run 5K - 16:37 - 1st Overall
  • Boogie To The Bank 3 Mile - 15:44 - 4th Overall, 1st Masters
  • Huffing For Stuffing 5K - 18:01 - 2nd Overall, 1st Masters (winning over Scott Creel)
  • MT Cup 7.2K - 25:17 - 5th Masters
  • River City Roots Run 4 Mile - 21:41 - 10th Overall, 1st Masters
With wins over Creel and Judge (ranked 1 and 2), Steve clearly has the chops to qualify for an even higher ranking.  But, his Montana Cup performance kicked him back a couple of notches.  Would love to see Steve continue to broaden his racing exposure in the coming year.

Number 5 - Don Demetriades - Bozeman - 51.  This was probably the most difficult choice of the bunch.  Jeff Braun of Butte had a great year with lots of quality performances at a wide variety of distances.  And, at the shorter end of the spectrum, Peter Dan Sullivan of Helena was outstanding.  In fact, both had the measure of Don at Montana Cup.

But, there were two factors swayed the ranking in Don's favor.  First was his marathon in April.  It represented the 5th decade in which Don has run under 2:50 - which appears to make him the only person in the US to have done so.  And, he had some stellar performances at Ultra/Trail events.
  • Bighorn 50K - 4:19:19 - 2nd Overall/1st Masters
  • Thunderbolt 50K (Helena) - 4:48 - 1st Overall
  • Pocotello 50K - 6:44:38 - 6th Overall, 2nd Masters
  • Martian Marathon - 2:47:09 - 6th Overall/1st Masters
  • Huffing For Stuffing 10K - 42:31 - 9th Overall/2nd Masters
  • USATF 50 Mile Road Championships - 7:24:22 - 12th Overall, 5th Masters, 50-54 National Champion!!!
  • MT Cup - 27:58 - 16th Masters
Don's Marathon performance was pretty spectacular.  At 51, he's still competing at a high level - and, his ultra/trail races show that he hasn't lost any of his endurance.

And yet, that still leaves a lot of deserving folks off the list.  Guys like Ray Hunt, Peter Dan Sullivan, Brent Ruby, Jeff Braun, Kyle Strode, Rob Walker and Steve Bruner.  The best part is that this means that we have a healthy, competitive group of masters runners in the Treasure State. And, we have some new guys coming in like Chris Colberg of Helena.

Performance Of The Year - As with the Open Men, we also have a top performance to consider.  For 2012, that would be Scott Creel's 3:17:19 at the Ridge Run.  Running the event for the first time in 3 years, this was the #10 performance ever on the course.  Only Mike Wolfe has also run sub-3:20 on the course.  The other 9 times all belong to Creel.  All that at 49.

The #2 performance was Creel's crushing of the Wulfman's Master's Course Record with his 57:32 time (breaking Mike Telling's old record by almost 3 minutes).

#3 was Demetriades 2:47:09 Marathon at 51.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2011 Open Male Runner Of The Year

I’ve already announced the individual Open Women’s Runner Of The Year (Sarah Graves); but, we’ll do the first full category with the Open Men’s Runner Of The Year.

As with the last two years, there were some hard choices to make.  But, this year, there was a whole new twist – how to compare runners in “traditional” road distances mostly within the state boundaries versus trail/ultra specialists whose major competitions were outside of the Big Sky State.  There has been some wringing of the wings and gnashing of the beak; but, for better or worse, the Buzzard has made his picks.

Number 1 – Repeating on his ranking of last year is Alan King of Billings (that gives him rankings of 3, 1, 1).  He had another stellar year at a wide range of distances.  Here are some of the highlights:

Shamrock Run   16:35 – 5K – 1st Place
Ice Breaker         26:02 – 5-mile – 3rd Place
                                           15:27 – 3-mile – 1st Place
                                           4:23 – 1-mile – 1st Place
                Purple 5K           14:57 (PR) – 5K – 1st Place
  Big Sky State Games
                                            16:15 – 5K – 1st Place (6:00 p.m. Friday)
                                            1:14:49 – ½ Marathon – 1st Place (7:00 a.m. Saturday)
 Quality of Life Run  24:24 – 5-Mile – 1st Place (net downhill)
 Fargo                   1:11:07 – ½ Marathon – 1st Place
 Chicago                  2:37:48 – Marathon
 MT Cup                   2nd Place (just a couple of weeks after Chicago Marathon)

He had a number of other fast runs at smaller races in the Billings area.  But, Alan is clearly not afraid to race against big or small field at just about any distance.  When he shows up at a race, it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be in the hunt for the win.  He made some valiant attempts to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials in the past year – and, just to show how well he’s running – 2:37 was not a good day.  Alan’s high quality record, fast times, range of distances and total number of races gives him the nod to rise to the top of the list.

Number 2 – And here is where the dilemma comes in.  Mike Wolfe of Helena (moving up from #4 in 2010) is without a doubt one of the nation’s top ultra/trail runners (if not numero uno).  The Buzzard’s challenge was to try to figure out how Alan and Mike would compare head to head.  It’s hard to argue against Mike’s record in ultra events – could almost have gone either way and/or called them “co-winners”.  But, this isn’t youth soccer where everyone gets a prize to feel good; and, the Buzzard had to make a choice.  So, in the end, his lack of racing against other Montanan’s hurts his ability to get to the top of this podium. 

 But, all the same, let’s revel in some of the great races that Mike put together. 

              HURL Fat Ass 50K – 3:40 Course Record and 26:00 win
              Way To Cool 50K – CA – 3:28:01 – 1st Place
              Western States 100 Mile – 15:38:29 – 2nd Place (and only 5:00 behind the great Killian Jornet)
              North Face Endurance Challenge  50 Mile – 6:18:57 – 1st Place
              Huffing For Stuffing 10K – 36:32 – 3rd Place

Can Wolfe – a full time attorney – find the extra little bit necessary to take down Jornet and the other top Europeans?  Even without racing against Montanan’s that would clearly push him to the top of the list.

Number 3Jimmy Grant of Missoula.  The 2009 ROY and # 3 in 2010 continues to run fast.  This year he added a few new events (Wulfman and MT Cup) to his calendar; and, his performances across the board helped keep him in the top 3 (rankings of 1,3,3).

             Snow Joke ½ Marathon – 1:14:56 – 1st Place
             Run For The Luck Of It 5K – 15:39 – 1st Place
             Riverbank Run 10K – 31:39 – 1st Place
             Wulfman CDT 14K Trail – 55:05 – 2nd Place
             Missoula Marathon – 2:36:32 – 2nd Place
             MT Cup – 7.2K – 23:22 – 3rd Place

Would love to see Jimmy finally hit the sweet spot in the marathon and get that elusive sub-2:30.

Number 4Goes to the two-time #2 ranker – Thomas “Big Bird” Jodoin of Helena.  It looked like Big Bird’s season may have been over after his quick race at the AOH St. Patrick’s Run in Anaconda and an apparent hamstring injury.  But, he recovered well and had a strong season.  But, with the competition as it was this year, even the performance below couldn’t get him ranked any higher.

AOH St. Pat’s Day – 3-mile – 15:13 – 1st Place
               Don’t Fence Me In 12K – 49:29 – 1st Place
               Governor’s Cup 5K – 16:16 – 2nd Place
               Wulfman CDT 14K Trail – 56:50 – 3rd Place
               Montana Mile  - 4:31.95 – 3rd Place
               August Road Race – Helena – 3.8 miles – 19:35 – 1st Place
               MT Cup – 7.2K – 24:57 – 19th Place

If Big Bird can go injury free through 2012, he may be poised to finally claim the top spot.

Number 5Mike Foote (matching his # 5 in 2010) - Missoula.  Another ultra/trail specialist, Footie fell into the same dilemma as Mike Wolfe.  How to compare his longer, off-road events to the other top runners from Montana?  Mike made a huge jump in his performances and reached the national level in his specialty. 

              UTMB (France) 166 K – 24:25:12 – 11th overall and 1st American
              North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile – 6:52:30 – 9th Place
              Pocatello 50 Mile – 8:40:30 – 3rd Place
              Antelope Island 50K – 4:03:09 – 4th Place
              Don’t Fence Me In 30K – 2:19:56 – 4th Place
              Huffing For Stuffing 10K – 36:28 – 2nd Place
              MT Cup 7.2 K – 23:31 – 4th Place

With his new affiliation with North Face, will Mike make another jump in performance and form Montana’s very own Mike & Mike show on the US Ultra/Trail scene?

As always, there was a whole bunch of deserving runners who couldn’t crack the Top 5.  Guys like Jesse Zentz, Devin Cowan, Zach Strong, Lyle Weese, Andy Drobek, Michael Fisher, Hunter Nelson and Graydon Curry.

In 2011, we maybe didn’t see quite as much head to head racing as the last couple of years.  Would love to see the top guys bang heads at some of the events like Wulfman, Ice Breaker, Riverbank, Roots Festival, Big Sky State Games and Governor’s Cup.  That would give us some great, great ability to really, truly be able to best define the ROY.  Unlikely that we'll be quite that fortunate; but, here's to hoping.

On top of the Runner Of The Year – The Muddy Buzzard wants to also make note of the Performance Of The Year.  And, for the Open Men, that goes to Elliot Welder’s 2:26:25 at the Missoula Marathon.  After having company (from Jimmy Grant) through a 1:12:52 Half, Welder then went on to a solo 2nd Half in 1:13:33.  I may be wrong; but, I believe that this was the first sub-2:30 since the Hatcher, Zezotarski, Wold, Rothermel days of the 1980’s.  Spectacular run by Elliot.

That would definitely be followed by Mike Wolfe’s close 2nd place finish at Western States and Mike Foote’s 11th place at UTMB.

What a great year we had in 2011.  Perhaps the Olympic spirit will rub off in 2012 and we’ll see even more Big Sky magic.

 See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

 The Muddy Buzzard.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trials Time

Tommorrow morning in Houston is the bid day for US Marathoners as they try to become the first members of the USA Track & Field's Olympic Teams.  The race will take off at 7:00 a.m. Mountain Time for the men and 7:15 a.m. for the women.  The race will take place on a multiple loop course - first loop of 2.2 miles around downtown Houston, then 3 8-mile loops around downtown and Allen parkway to the west of downtown.

Race day conditions look fantastic at this point.  Prediction of mid-30's for the low in the morning, warming up to only the high 50's or low 60's in the afternoon - so, it should be clear and crisp for the entirety of the race.  Very light winds from the south at 5 mph shouldn't be a factor.

So, the big question - who will make the team.  Just so that you can say you saw it here first, here are the Muddy Buzzard's predictions:

Men's Team:

I'm feeling pretty good about the first two slots - after that, it gets a little more sketch.  But, here goes.

First Place:  Ryan Hall.  He's clearly the man of the moment in US Marathoning.  Since his big sub-1:00 1/2-Marathon in Houston several years ago and his run to the 2008 Oly Trials win, Hall has been the class of the field on the US scene.  It's his race to lose - even on a bad day, when you have sub-2:05 speed, I'm just not sure he can be beat.

Second Place:  Dathan Ritzenheim.  A great talent with 60:00/2:10:00 PR's.  He seems to be reasonably healthy and is probably the biggest potential threat to Hall.  Again, a place on the team is his to lose.

Third Place:  This is where I think it get's interesting.  After the two big boys, it gets a lot more cloudy with no dominant person to fill this slot.  But, I'm going to go with Brett Gotcher of the McMillan Elite squad.  He debuted with a mid-2:10 PR.  He flies under the radar a bit; but, he had some solid races earlier this year at the US 10-Mile and 20K; and, ran well in Decmber's Club Championship XC race.  I think that he just may be ready to pop the big one.

Dark Horse:  Mo Trafeh.  A serious talent with some speed.  But, he's never raced beyond the half marathon.  And, not sure that the trials is the place to debut.  Just don't think he has the patience or marathon tactics to pull it off.  I predict a DNF (after being with the lead group through about 20 miles).  But, if he pulls it off and Ritz or Hall stumble, he could very well be on the team.

Sentimental Favorite: Meb Keflezghi.  2004 silver medalist.  First American to win NYC (2009) since Salazar.  But, he's getting bit older at 36 and he just ran New York in November (albeit in a PR).  As much as I would love to see it happen, I just don't think that Meb's older legs will be ready to bounce back with the type of effort that will be needed to make the team.

Winning Time:  2:08:28 (4:54 pace)

Time to Make the Team:  2:10:39 (4:59 pace)

Women's Team:

Again, I think the front end is pretty clearly defined, unless one of the front runner's stumbles.  So, here goes.

Winner:  Desiree Davilla.  The Hanson-Brooks runner, Boston Marathon suprise second placer and 2009 Worlds top ten finisher has been on a roll of late.  Besides her great marathoning, she was also a top ranked American at 5,000 and 10,000 meters (setting PR's in both races).  I see a race between her and Flanagan for the win - with Desi cranking it over the last couple of miles to put a stamp on the race - kind of the Hanson's

Second Place:  Shalane Flanagan.  2:28 PR and US Record Holder at 10K.  Perhaps more of a talent than Desi, she could easily be the winner.  But, I see her being a bit wiser and a bit more patient than Davilla (as would be expected by a Jerry Schumacher coached athlete) and not going to the well just to get a win.  I think she'll comfortably make the team and save her dig-til-you-puke effort in running for a podium finish in London.

Thrid Place:  Deena Kastor.  Bronze Medalist in 2004.  Trials Champ in 2008.  Quite since then.  But, she appears to be as fit as many of the girls out there and is "under-raced" over the last couple of years.  So, I'm thinking that her experience, race smarts and guts will be enough to carry her on to one last Oly team.

Most Likely To Make The Team If One Of The Front Runner's Falls Apart:  Kara Goucher.  2:24 PR.  She had a good Boston after coming back from maternity leave.  But, since then she hasn't really been the same.  Not sure that she has the sharpness needed to make te team unless some breaks go her way.

Dark Horse:  Amy Hastings.  2:27:03 PR.  She trains with the Mammoth Lakes group and they know how to get ready for the big races.  Meb and Deena will surely give her some pointers.  She could be the suprise of the day.

My Personal Sentimental Favorite For A Top 10 Finsih:  Caroline White.  2:37 PR.  Caroline is the sister in law of my old pal Kelly Fulton (sister of Kelly's wife Liz).  She is a US Air Force pilot who currently trains full time in their Armed Forces program.  A super stud, she's training at levels far beyond what she has been able to sustain in the past.  If she runs a smart race and PR's into the low 2:30's - anything is possible. 

My Personal Senitmental Favorite For A PR:  Sarah Graves.  Our very own Montanan - born and bred.  Lives in Ballantine - runs for Brooks and the Yellowstone Rim Runners.  See my January 7th blog entry for some more about Sarah.  She's represents all that's good about running - my hope is that we see her scoring another PR and having the race of her life.

Winning Time:  2:26:00 (5:34 pace)

Time To Make The Team:  2:28:55 (5:40+ pace and the Buzzard's PR)

Speaking of Kelly Fulton - he is in Houston to watch sister-in-law Caroline, 3 college teammates and competitors, and Sarah Graves.  I expect to get some race day input from him and will post his observations this weekend.

Go Red White and Blue

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, January 07, 2012

She's The Top Of The Heap

While the Buzzard hasn't finished compiling his full list - he has made his choice as his Open Female Runner Of The Year.

Carrying on from her fine 2010 campaign, Sarah Graves of Ballantine (NE of Billings) had a breakout year in 2011.  She was the Buzzard's Open Female Runner Of The Year for 2010; but, was ranked behind the Overall and Master ROY Nicole Hunt.  Given her 2011 season, there was no such question of Sarah being the best of the best of the Montana Women.

Let's look first at her top performances from inside the borders of the Treasure State:
  • 1st @ Wulfman CDT 14-K Trail (68:34) (# 3 Time on Course)
  • 1st @ Women's Run 2-Mile (11:33)
  • 1st Overall @ Beartooth Run 8.4 Mile (84:48) (2,000' elevation gain)
  • 1st @ MT Marathon (Billings) 1/2-Marathon (79:05)
  • 3rd @ MT Cup (only :33 out of 1st Place)

Great Picture of Sarah (in Yellow Brooks gear on right) as she finishes her 2-mile win at the Montana Women's Run.
To her left is US running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the 5-mile race.
But, where Sarah really shined in 2011 was at the Marathon distance at 4 different races across the country.  In a snapshot, here's what she accomplished over the 26.2 miles:
  • Houston Marathon - 1/30/11 - 2:47:21 - 16th Woman
  • Eugene Marathon- 4/30/11 - 2:46:20 - 6thWoman
  • Philadelphia Marathon - 11/19/11 - 2:46:24 - 6th Woman
  • California International Marathon - 12/4/11 - 2:44:25 - 16th Woman
All by themselves, those are some prety top level performances.  She's running in some pretty elite company at that level.  And, her 2:44:25 at CIM in December is really something, especially considering that it came just 2 weeks after her race in Philadelphia.  But, what's the most impressive part about that Sacramento race - by running under 2:46:00, Sarah qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials - where she will be the only Montanan (male or female) to compete.

Collectively, that set of performances puts her at the top of the Buzzard's list for Montana women in 2011.

But, I would be remiss if I didn't talk a bit more about Sarah and her journey to the Trials.  With one week to go before the big race, I visited with Sarah by phone to get a little more insight into her efforts over the last 5 years to run on the hallowed ground of American Marathoning.

The race is scheduled to be held next Saturday (January 14th) on a multiple loop cource in and around downtown Houston.  The runner's will do a first loop of 2.2 miles around downtwon, followed by three 8-mile loops along the Allen Parkway.  The men start first (7:00 a.m. Mountain Time) with the women to follow 15 minutes later.  Same day TV coverage will be on NBC from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time.  (Not sure if there will be any live on-line video coverage; but, Runner's World & Running Times will be doing live web coverage.)

Sarah first started trying to qualify for the 2008 Trials.  She missed the 2008 standard by just 61 seconds at the 2007 St. George Marathon; and, had a couple of other efforts in the 2:52 range.  Starting in 2009, she began her quest to meet the 2012 Qualifying Standard of 2:46:00.  Her first attempt was at the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon, where she ran 2:47+, just missing again.  She then made several attempts in 2010 running between 2:48 and 2:52.

Then she really went after the mark in 2011, coming Oh-So-Close on 3 occasions.  She missed the time by 1:21 in Houston, :20 at Eugene and :24 at Philly.  But, she just didn't want to close out the year thinking "Why didn't I give it one more try."  So, with just two weeks of recovery, she packed her bags and headed off to Sacramento for the December 4th California International Marathon.

After Philly, she spent a couple of days walking around the City of Brotherly Love to give her legs some post race rest.  Then, she did some easy running, with just one 10-mile run before Sacramento.  She was relying on her solid base fitness to get her through the last chance effort.

At Sacramento, their were around 50 women all with the same thought in mind - hit the Q-Time.  With that in mind, race organizers set up a pacing effot to get the group through halfway in 1:22 (for a finishing goal of 2:44:00).  A group of about 30 hit the mark just right - 1:22:11.  The group stuck together pretty well through about 35 Kilometers; the, it was everyone for themselves.

Sarah held on just right, coming through the second half in 1:22:14 (perfect, even splits) to hit her 2:44:25.  The big group helped tow her along to the great finish time, with 14 women running between 2:43:48 and 2:44:51.  In total, 29 women qualified to make the trip to Houston.  Sarah clearly made the right choice in making one more attempt to qualify - and, she clearly picked the right race.

Via the California International Marathon site (, you track down some cool photos of Sarah in the race and at the finish line.  Try this link and it may take you right to the search pictures section of the official race photographer -

Since Sacramento, Sarah took several easy days.  Then got back into the training groove with several 18 - 20 mile long runs, togeter with several tempo efforts.  She says that her legs are feeling good and she thinks that she's pretty well recovered from her Philly and CIM efforts.  (And, she clearly has the ability to sustain several hard efforts in short windows of time.)

She head to Houston this coming Thursday; and, would love to score a new PR - although she was coy about divulging any specific race or performance goals.

So, from The Muddy Buzzard and all of Big Sky Country - good luck.  Run Hard, Run Fast, Run Happy.  We wish you the best of luck as you line up with the best women in the US at our Olympic Marathon Trials.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard