Friday, April 19, 2013

Stoutest Records in Ultrarunning / Training Update

First off, a word on my poll (which is still open!). The question is, what's the stoutest record in ultrarunning? The choices are:
  • Bruce Fordyce - 4:50/50 miles
  • Yiannis Kouros - 188 miles/24 hrs.
  • Timothy Olson - 14:46/2012 WS100
  • Don Ritchie - 6:10/100K
  • Ann Trason - 14 WS100 wins
  • Matt Carpenter - 15:42/Leadville 100
  • Karl Meltzer - 35 career 100M wins
I realize that we could add quite a bit to that list (e.g., Kyle Skaggs’ Hardrock record, Scott Jurek’s seven consecutive Western States wins, Oleg Kharitonov's 100-mile record, etc.). In the interest of simplicity, I selected the records that most stood out to me.

To me, the most impressive record is Kouros’ 188 miles, followed by Don Ritchie’s 100K mark. Let me explain why by first eliminating the others.

Olson: I believe Tim Olson's 2012 Western States record, how ever amazing it is (and one could argue Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 record is even more impressive), will fall if the weather cooperates (a big if) and/or a world-class runner like Olson himself, Max King, Kilian Jornet, etc. has a very good day (entirely possible). The Western States record has fallen two times in the past three years. Who's to say 14:46 is the lowest it's going to get? Disclaimer: One might ask why I didn’t include Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 Western States record on the list. My reason: I believe it’s an indication of more to come from Greenwood. I also think Lizzy Hawker could make a run at it.

Fordyce: A few runners have come close to Fordyce’s nearly 30-year-old record, in which he averaged a blistering 5 minutes, 48 seconds per mile for 50 miles (equating to nearly two consecutive 2:33 marathons). There are world-class marathoners who could probably make a run at that pace for 50 miles if they trained specifically for it. Right now, there’s just not much interest in going hard and fast for 50 miles on the road. A prize purse could change that. Someone (Josh Cox? Sage Cannady? Max King?) needs to give it a go!

Trason: Ann Trason’s 14 Western States wins is an incredible record and I think it's in the conversation with the most ridiculous records of all time, but I think many of us agree that there are runners today, such as the Queen herself (Ellie Greenwood), who are perhaps capable of even more. Pound for pound, Ellie Greenwood is in my opinion the best overall ultrarunner in the world (how many runners out there can finish second at Comrades and then break the record at Western States?). She’s smart and, if she stays healthy, she’s going to break most, if not all, of Trason’s records. Of course, that would require her to remain a world-class talent into her mid-40s—a tough, though doable, proposition (see Nikki Kimball, Connie Gardner et al) if she wants it. And it would require a conscience, sustained effort to break Trason's records.

Carpenter: Carpenter’s Leadville record, which I would elevate above Kyle Skaggs’ Hardrock record (which I think Kilian Jornet or a healthy Anton Krupicka will eventually break) and maybe even above Olson’s Western States record, hasn’t been seriously threatened yet, though Anton Krupicka certainly went after it a few years ago. I think many of us would agree that a guy like Kilian Jornet could make a run at it, but it will require a perfect day. Running at that pace at 10,000+ feet for 100 miles, with the Hope Pass double crossing, is crazy stupid. In his prime, Carpenter could have beaten anyone on any day and should have bagged the course records at Hardrock, Wasatch and maybe Western States, but he never did those races. The guy was super human and a downright freak in terms of mountain running skills. His 2:01 ascent of Pikes Peak is--well--freakish.

(Matt, if you're reading this, I'd love to interview you for my blog!)

Meltzer: Melter has won 35 100-milers and there’s every indication he’s going to keep adding to that number. Some people accuse Meltzer, who is a runner I very much respect, of cherry-picking races. That may be true in a few instances, but what about his many victories at top races like Hardrock, Wasatch, Massanutten, Run Rabbit Run, San Diego and Bear? That said, there are guys like Hal Koener who could beat Meltzer’s mark if they stay healthy. Yes, that would require some cherry-picking. And while on the topic of Speedgoat Karl, I truly think he's going to kill it at this year's Western States. The guy may be in his mid-40s, but he's running very well right now and it wouldn't surprise me if he finishes on the podium especially if it's a hot race and there's lots of carnage at the front. Yep, I just said that.

The GOAT (Greatest of All Time): Yiannis Kouros
In the end, I give the nod to "the Great Greek," Yiannis Kouros, with honorable mention to Ritchie. When Yiannis Kouros ran 188 miles in 24 hours in 1997, he said his record would stand for generations. The man has never been one to overstate things, which is to say he knew at the time that what he'd just done was even crazier than a one-in-a-lifetime feat. No one has come close to his 24-hour record since then. The current American record is a stout 172 miles, set by Mike Morton—that’s a full 16 miles short of Kouros’ mark. Kouros, like Carpenter, is from a different planet.

As for Ritchie, he average 5 minutes, 57 seconds per mile for 62 miles. While I can see a world-class marathoner making a run at Fordyce’s record, I’m struggling to see how they could hold a similar pace for an additional 12 miles. I see Ritchie’s mark standing for a while longer. If road ultras ever go big money, it might fall.

So there you have it! Please chime in with your thoughts!


Last week (Apr. 8-14) was dedicated to recovery and that meant about a 25% drop in my mileage. On the week, I logged 57 miles, a full 20 fewer miles than the previous week’s 77. I ran six of the seven days and finished off the recovery week with a 15-miler on the hilly Highlands Ranch backcountry trails, fighting vicious gusts.
I’m still trying to figure out what proactive recovery means. Does it mean a reduction in miles while still running the same number of days as usual? Or does it mean extra days off from the normal routine? Or does it mean some of both? The good news is that I’m still early enough in my Leadville 100 training to experiment a bit with recovery and see what my body and mind need.
These past few months have been interesting, to say the least. I’m starting to see the value in simplicity. Rather than do lots of crazy, elaborate stuff with my training, I think I just want to run a bunch. I often daydream about long runs in the mountains (shirtless, of course) and big excursions to Leadville to train on the course. I know that, when winter finally blows through here and the snow recedes, those opportunities will come. I plan to take full advantage of the summer! But I don’t plan to make my summer all about Leadville, as I’ve done in the past. At this point, what’s most important to me is enjoying the summer and having good times with family and friends.
I’m dedicated to my Leadville training but I’m allowing myself to feel any pressure. Pressure is what takes the fun out of training and racing. And why even feel pressure when it’s all self-inflicted and not at all coming from anyone or anything else? Without pressure, you’re left to enjoy the simple act of running. If that simple act involves 100 miles a week, that’s great. If it involves 70 miles a week, that’s great, too.
Next Saturday I'll be lining up for my third consecutive Cheyenne Mountain 50K. Last year's race went pretty well, as I finished fifth overall with a 4:50, though I weakened a bit in the end. The year before that (2011), I ran the race mostly as a training run and finished strong as an ox. This year, I'm not sure what I'll be looking for. But right now I'm in decent shape and I look forward to upping the volume a bit more and gradually adding in some quality starting in May. The Cheyenne course plays to my strengths--it's mostly below 7,000 feet of elevation and it's hilly terrain with no big climbs. In the past, I've raced well on such terrain. The one big X factor is that Cheyenne has some technical spots and I haven't done much technical trail running yet this year.

For this week (Apr. 15-21), I'm putting in between 75-80 miles and on Sunday will go 22-25 miles on the trail. It's entirely possible I'll train right through Cheyenne, skipping any kind of taper. I'll make a decision on Sunday night!


  1. I'd give pretty strong consideration to Ann Trason's record never being surpassed. Mainly because there are so many more races now and so many more runners doing them that it is highly unlikely that a top competitor will focus only on Western States for 15+ years in order to make that happen.

  2. the woman who ran 27 100 milers in a year! she wins!

  3. I agree 100% with your top 2. Kouros' best 24hr. mark of 188.27 miles is the most dominant, unassailable record I'm aware of in all of sports, never mind distance running. The guy with the 2nd best historical mark (175.4) is nearly a half-marathon behind him. On a 400m track Kouros would have easily lapped him twice an hour. If such a performance gap existed in the marathon, the world record would be 9 minutes ahead of anybody else's time.

    Ritchie's 6:10 100k on the track is extremely impressive, but it's not nearly as head-and-shoulders above everyone else as Kouros is. For example, the road record is 6:13. With a sufficient financial incentive (say, $1 million), I think some of the world's best marathoners would take down both Fordyce and Ritchie; I'm considerably less confident that they could take down Kouros.