First, let's clear the acronyms in the title:
- USATF stands for the USA Track & Field, the name of the association overseeing our ultra running sport;
- PA is for Pacific Association, the regional chapter covering North California and a part of Nevada;
- LDR stands for Long Distance Running, which spans races from 1 mile and 5K to 100 miles or 24-hour events;
- MUT is the LDR committee governing the Mountain and Ultra Trail events. Other committees are XC (Cross-Country) and Road, with Short and Long categories, the Long one being limited to the marathon distance.
- Finally, GP stands for Grand Prix, a set of selected races in which each PAUSATF participants get points based on their finish place within their respective 10-year age group (see my very detailed Anatomy of a Grand Prix I posted last year).
2016 was my 10th full year participating in out MUT Grand Prix. My first ultra was Way Too Cool 50K in March 2016 but I wasn't affiliated with USATF then, still with the French FFA. I registered later this year, got a few points for the last two race of the year and started running most of the Grand Prix events in 2007. There has been quite some hefty competition over the past 10 years such as Victor Ballesteros, Mark Lantz, Ron Gutierez, Karl Hoagland, Kevin Sawchuk, Rob Evans, Mark Tanaka, Cliff Lentz, Pierre-Yves Couteau, and even the strongest Masters of all, Dave Mackey, who was visiting from Colorado to run one or two of our GP races every year. But my dedication to running most of the 17 yearly races, year after year, paid off and allowed me to win my age group for 10 years in a row, not something I had envisioned at all when starting running ultras in 2006!
To be honest, there are so many events in our MUT Grand Prix that few of the best local runners score in more than 2 or 3 of these races; showing up consistently, and getting to the finish line, will then lead to a good score. That being said, I still had to push hard to pull this out, and this competition has been a great source of motivation to run more than 130 ultras in 10 years.
In addition, in these 10 years, I've been nominated for the PA Ultra Runner of the Year a record 7 times! I had no idea I was short listed again this year, but I'm glad Chikara got picked again after his amazing performance at the 100K Road World Championship last year which allowed Team USA to get another gold medal. Proud of being listed along famous names on the international ultra scene.
- 2007: Mark Lantz, Mark Tanaka, Jean Pommier
- 2008: Eric Skaden, Jean Pommier
- 2009: Victor Ballesteros, Chikara Omine
- 2010: Victor Ballesteros, Chikara Omine
- 2011: Dave Mackey, Jean Pommier
- 2012: Jon Olsen, Jean Pommier
- 2013: Ian Sharman, Jon Olsen
- 2014: Alex Varner, Jean Pommier
- 2015: Chikara Omine, Mark Richtman, Jean Pommier
- 2016: Chikara Omine, Jean Pommier
As Hollis mentioned, only one of us was going to have the honor of getting a 3rd PA URoY, and that was... Chikara (PwC wasn't here to swap the envelopes!). Being 19 years younger, I see a bright future for Chikara in this competition! ;-)
Enough about me (I know...), there were 46 individual age group awards distributed that night, and 26 team recognitions. Plus 4 service awards and the listing of national awards, records and best performances. Like the Oscars, without the videos, music, and the red carpet. A good selection of the MUT awardees, with a majority from Excelsior this year:
As a team, we did 3rd in Men, 2nd Women and 3rd Overall behind Excelsior and Pamakids who took the top spot in Men and Women respectively. Only two awardees from our Quicksilver Club this time, with Joe Swenson happy to have left my age group since he turned 60.
This year's guest speaker was coming from South California to share his amazing late coach and road runner career and insights.
It was intriguing to hear about the struggle he went through in his early adulthood, although that part might have been more appropriate to a younger audience. I was also surprised by the number of injuries he suffered from, some really serious. I actually take pride in avoiding injuries, one key trait of the sustainable running concept I'm promoting, so that part didn't resonate much with me as well. Or maybe one can argue that I'm not training and running hard enough, but I'm not convinced, I'd rather remain as consistent as these past 10 years. At least, Pete is definitely a model and inspiration for Masters athletes and 5-10K road runners in particular. You can check his website for more information about this books and coaching programs.
Big thanks to our PAUSATF officials who stepped up this year again to organize this banquet, short of a club doing it. And, in particular to our LDR MUT committee co-chairs, Bill Dodson and Hollis Lenderking, who have given so many hours of their time and expertise to make these Grand Prix so exciting and successful. Bill, for your prompt scoring with Cynci Calvin, and Hollis, for your very kind and thoughtful words, at the banquets as well as when you volunteer at races.
our association already, please consider joining us, to share the fun!