A check of the “local” blog-o-shpere reveals a couple of soft pours. If you like what a tavern usually serves, then it’s your obligation to notify the patronage, even the management, when there’s a miss. Geoff Roes says this year has been his most enjoyable year of running. Andy Jones-Wilkins is asking for comments about this year’s UROY.
I really don’t want to seem like I’m piling-on Geoff Roes. I already wrote a piece that went out of its way to formulate some kind of explanation for his whiff at Western States 100 and his 2011 racing misfortune in general (COMPARED to his recent past. Context is key, for all contrarians out there). The sliver of hope that some mustered post WS100, rallying around the fact that he was not fully back from a tough spell, but in fact his entire 2011 season was focused on UTMB, came-up short. Objectively speaking, from a competitive racing standpoint, 2011 was a pretty big loss for Roes. And again, the argument that one (I) should not be critical of others, that one (Roes) can run for whatever thrill he/she seeks is horse manure. This is a sport, a very competitive one in which Roes has been pretty successful the last few years.
I’m not going to exhaustingly analyze this recent statement, other than to say really it doesn’t make any sense at all. At least qualify your statement more than reference to an “up and down” year. At least acknowledge the difficulty and misfortune that seemed to transpire. Give fans a more fulfilling account. Or is it just an advertisement for socks. I’m a sports fan and the past provides enormous context and expectations. Certainly, an off year is perfectly understandable. A plan to improve upon this year – sounds great. Racing doesn’t mean as much to him as it has in the past? Okay, if that’s how you feel.
But enjoyable? What in the world are you talking about? Does anyone remember Terrell Davis? I phantomed a Roes pick in our UTMB preview because the guy has, in the past, shown a lot of competitive heart, which assumes race health and fitness. I felt, if healthy, fit and driven, that he was the one and only guy who could hang with the train. Competing didn’t transpire. I’m disappointed like any fan of ultra running should be disappointed. Hate to break it to some who may think that on the elite level this is still just an extra-curricular past-time, like a little chamber of commerce fun run: this is going going gone international with the kind of competitive spirit that precedes major international endorsement aka major athletic production participation. If Roes doesn’t have the health or the drive, give the world a heads-up and good luck on that recovery.
Roes actually did have some success this year. I am not talking about Chuckanut or Crow Pass. Rather, he was instrumental in putting together a championship race since the country clearly lacks any sort of event. I love his thought process. He was actually anointed the “elite athlete liaison,” which basically means he was charged with convincing other elites to come on down to Virginia and run the UROC 100k with him. He helped organize an ultra national championship! Geoff Roes for Ultra Running Czar! If you didn’t catch wind of some of the discussions that took place on the web about this issue, go find. They seemed to revolve around the misguided idea that Western States is a default national championship ultra marathon. Roes, a reader can see, has some strong opinions on this matter.
In either Idaho or Virginia, the Andy Jones-Wilkins – to – Western States 100 association is freakishly strong. And it’s the autumn of another racing season. Therefore, he’s wondering who will be crowned Ultra Runner of the Year. Being of the quasi-academic fold, I hope he efforts to clarify for everyone the purpose of the UROY.
So often a discussion reeks of superficial significance. Andy and the sport at large can do better than this (that’s what Geoff Roes helped reconcile this year. Not sure if UROC will become the official national championship, but the effort is there. Appreciate that.) What would give UROY more meaning is a clarification of it’s intent. Though some might say the website/magazine does specifically say the award is for the top N. American ultra runners (without distinguishing between trail or road) picked by representatives from N. America, the popular perception is that it certifies a more comprehensive (global) supremacy.
In the past, the UROY might have been fairly accurate in recognizing a season’s top ultra (“100 miler mountain”) runner in the world. And I suppose we might just have to assume that this particular runner (especially guy) ran and won Western States 100 because it’s an “old” race that has been on “everyone”’s radar. In the past, we could perhaps feign ignorance about what was taking place around the world. These athletes rarely came together but for some shorter Skyrunner series races, or WMRA races, or European mountain classics like Sierre-Zinal. So let’s assume the award just symbolized the innocence and naiveté of a sport understandably excited about what’s happening in its own backyard. To the point, we’re years later, getting much more worldly and mature. Consequently, it’s time for some clarification just so we’re not misleading anyone here with a sense that our young sport decided to skip world geography, drop-out of school, and go to work at the local gas station (not that there’s anything wrong with working at a gas station).
We have argued elsewhere that the American version of the sport (or even the world’s for that matter) hasn’t seen, nor will it see – at least as far as we can see – a versatile talent like Dave Mackey in a long time. He races and, usually, he wins. He does his job. He’s been one of the biggest influences of Inside Trail’s other half, Tim. This year he’s a leading candidate for UROY. This is a great achievement, but it’s time to address the lack of international credibility that UROY has had in the past. If it has zero international scale, then clarify that. You can’t really disagree with that popular perception of UROY. Change the name of the award. For the sport’s sake. For Dave Mackey’s sake. He is the best North American ultra runner of 2011. Tough to argue that. In fact, we are going to go ahead an award him the NAUROY. Congratulations, Dave.
In the end, this commentary is not meant to belittle anyone; rather, we are more interested in improving the sport and really encourage discussion of these types of issues. An “MVP” type of award will always have shades of controversy involved because a “committee” votes and even if the criteria are rock solid, there’s still opinion that can discourage consensus or rational thought. That’s understandable and actually expected. At Inside Trail, when there appears to be a huge flaw in a process that’s supposedly quite central to a community or culture, we feel like that should be addressed.