Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Sports Highlights

Looking back on 2008, it seems to me to be one of the better years ever for a sports fan. While I obviously am more attuned to endurance sports like running, biking, and competitive eating, I can be found on my couch most weekends watching more mainstream sports as well. Below is my top 10 (with obvious US Bias) list...

1. Without a doubt, the Wimbledon Men's Singles final between Federer and Nadal was the greatest sports performance of the year. Even if you aren't a tennis player how could you not get sucked into that marathon match (4:48 match time). John McEnroe was actually at a loss for words near the end, which doesn't happen too often. He ended up hugging both players after the match. Tennis might be the perfect combination of endurance, strength, skill, and mental toughness.













2. Usain Bolt's demolition of the best sprinters in the world at the Olympics (100 and 200). Say what you will about his prancing and preening, but he made the best sprinters in the world look like they didn't belong on the same track. The 100 and 200 are probably the most competitive distances in all of track, and he's got 2 Golds and 2 WRs now. I've never seen anyone look so relaxed and smooth while running that fast.












3. Samuel Wanjiru's Olympic Gold and Oly record marathon of 2:06:32! While not the fastest marathon of the year, it certainly was the greatest marathon ever run considering the course, the weather, and it being a championship race with no rabbits. This was televised during the combined Incline Club/CRUD post Pikes Peak/Leadville party and the TV room was packed!

4. Phelps' 8 Golds. I know many people would rate this as the best story of the year, but 4th is as high as I can put it in 2008 due to the previous performances.

5. Tiger Wood's US Open play-off win. I'm sure many people, like me, were rooting for Rocco Mediate to pull off the upset win, but regardless it was about as exciting as golf gets. Then finding out that Tiger had the knee injury made it even more remarkable.

6. The Giants win at the Super Bowl over heavily favored New England. Eli might be only the 3rd best quarterback in his family, but that is still better than just about everyone else out there.

7. Stephanie Brown Trafton wins Gold in the Discus; first US women's gold in that event since 1932.

8. David Wiens wins his 6th straight LT100 Bike race, lowering his own CR in the process. It was an epic duel between Wiens and Lance Armstrong, with Wiens pedaling across the finish line with a flat tire. This one year after Wiens held off Floyd Landis at the same event. Thanks to Garry Wang for the photo below. For those of you who have run the LT 100, the photo shows both Lance and Dave riding up the powerlines on the way back to town!















9. Ok, I had to have at least one ultrarunning performance! Dave Mackey smashes the Course Record at the MiWok 100K for the UR performance of the year. I've run this course, along with about every other major trail runner of the last 10 years, which makes his CR all the more impressive in that his time is heads and shoulders faster than anyone elses.

10. In the 93rd annual 4th of July Hotdog eating contest, Joey Chestnut upsets six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi in a five-dog eat off after each finished regulation tied with 59 dogs.

28 comments:

brownie said...

You think Mackey's Miwok race trumps Kyle's Hardrock performance?

Paul DeWitt said...

While Kyle's race was amazing, only time will tell if that was the UR performance of the year, though I'm sure there will be lots of folks who agree with you (including UR magazine probably due to the slant towards 100s in general).

Here's what I mean. Due to

1)Hardrock's ridiculous entry process, there has never been a HR where more than a few top runners were on the line together, and
2) the fact that the record keeps dropping by huge chunks at a time, it is hard to know what a great time on that course is. I had an interesting conversation with Peter Bakwin back when Karl set his record, at which time I said the record was soft (which turned out to be true). Obviously it isn't soft anymore, but I'm still not convinced we won't see more runners sub 24 in the next few years, and Matt would probably go sub 20 on that course. It is really unfortunate that HR goes out of its way to make it not a competitive race but they get what they get. At Miwok on the other hand, Matt or Uli would probably only take 10 or 15 mintues off of Dave's time.

brownie said...

Yeah, good point. Being just shy of elite ultrarunner status, I happen to love the Hardrock entry process.

Paul DeWitt said...

Hey, if my list was 11 deep your Triple Century attempt might have made it! Alas, I had to cut it off at 10.

And you're right about HR - depending on how you look at it, the entry process is "fair." Each race/event just has to decide which they want to be; a Race or an Event.

Trail Goat said...

I my biased opinion, one needs to add the Phillies World Series championship, which broke the city's championshipless streak that dated back to 1983...when I was 4. Hell has nothing that a Philadelphia sports fan would fear.

Anton said...

Paul--

I'm somewhat disinclined to take this bait...but do you REALLY think Matt could go sub-20 hours at Hardrock? Matt has admitted to me that he's not that great at hiking, and no matter how you cut it, there's going to be a lot of hiking at HR. I mean, that would be taking another 13% off of a CR that just had 11% chopped off of it.

Now. When Matt broke your LT CR, he took 11% off it. Maybe we won't agree on this, but I think Kyle's HR is a higher level performance than your 17:16 at LT. I obviously haven't run HR, but I've run with Kyle a lot and it was likely that he was in 16-flat, probably even sub-16 LT shape.

BUT, I think we can both agree that 15:42 isn't Matt's limit at LT, either. Probably more like 15 flat (but, who knows where he'd pick that up--one can argue that if 15:42 was sub-maximal, he would've run even more even splits than he did. however, i know for sure that his Hope Double Crossing and his last 23 miles are soft.).

Finally, I haven't run Miwok, but it seems fair to acknowledge that Dave's time there was clearly badass. Lon Freeman took 2.6% off what was considered a very stout record, and then the next year Dave comes back and takes another 3.3% off of the already substantially lowered record.

Happy New Year, and stay healthy!

Tony

Paul DeWitt said...

Trailgoat - no baseball making my list shows another one of my biases as I just don't get into that sport at all, but you've got a point. Go Philly!

Tony - You make some good points and sub 20:00 could well be an exageration! Then again, seeing Matt run up the whole freaking incline in 18 minutes might change your mind about HR having sections that have to be hiked!

I could argue against myself quite convincingly on this one. For one thing, you can't fault anyone who wins and/or sets a CR by saying so and so could go faster; you can only race whoever shows up. Hardrock just has so little data compared to an LT, WS, Miwok, etc. if you look at the total number of unique finishers over the years. Also, you have to give credit to somebody like Matt at LT, and Kyle at HR, who take a record to a whole new level. That then makes it easier for the next guy (like you!) to look at a race in a whole new way. As for my record at LT, you are darn right it was soft! Heck, I only was averaging 45 miles a week prior to that record, and I sat on my ass for at least 20 minutes if you combined my stops at Twin Lakes/Winfield/Twin Lakes.

But my final reasoning for giving it to Dave is the lack of altitude at Miwok. Altitude really is unfair to those who don't live here or can't devote the time to train/acclimate. Don't get me wrong, I love altitude races, but it is much harder to assemble a highly competitive field at altitude.

Trail Goat said...

Paul,
Great point about elevation, as it is often overlooked when looking at the competitiveness of events. A low-lander can train his butt off and still get wrecked when they go above 9,000'.

Just take a peak at the LT results from the past half decade or more - I'm pretty sure no one from the east coast has gone sub-21:30 without requiring an asterisk. I ran 20 and change... after spending the summer in Park City, UT. Skurka ripped it up at LT last year with a phenomenal first 100, but I'd guess he was out west, not in Mass before Leadville (his mailing address is listed as Boulder).

Anton said...

Paul--

I agree with basically everything you say (except, nitpicking here, I looked it up and your combined pit-stop time for those three aid stops was 6 minutes...not 20!;)).

It is hugely impressive when someone has a performance like Kyle or Matt did; that person is forced to run truly off of "feel" right from the start, which is really hard to do during the first half of a 100 when everything feels dead easy and it's entirely possible to be running 30 seconds per mile too fast.

I mean, take Kyle's HR run this year. After only 18 miles (Chapman) he was already nearly a full HOUR ahead of course record pace and at the half-way point, TWO full hours ahead of course record pace with half the race still to run. He'd run the first half 15% faster than anyone ever had. In Matt's LT record, he ran the first half only 5% faster than anyone else. All I'm saying is it takes a lot of balls to go out that much faster than anyone else ever has and not have really stubbornly nagging doubts about seriously blowing up. Especially in your first attempt at an event.

But, I see your point in regards to altitude. It is a much more level playing field without altitude, thus competition is deeper. That just sucks, though, because I love training and racing in alpine venues. Give me the thin air, tundra, and expansive views of Hope Pass or Hardrock any day over the heat, humidity, and forests of the WS canyons. But, that's just personal bias, and has nothing to do with comparing Dave's or Kyle's performances this year.

And, Andy was plenty altitude acclimatized--he'd run a pretty decent SJ50 a couple months earier--but I think he told me he'd just got back from 6 weeks hiking in Iceland right before Leadville. Either way, an impressively paced and executed performance at Leadville, for sure.

Paul DeWitt said...

Tony - (my own nitpicking here!) the problem with the LT splits is it doesn't take into account those like me who do their Twin Lakes crew stops over on the Twin Lakes side of the highway; thus it probably just shows me going in adn out of that one. And that is the one where I sat and bitched and moaned a lot in both directions!
- pauld

Anton said...

Touche.

brownie said...

Six minutes!!! You've told me to "get the f*#k out of here" in under two minutes at an aid station at San Juan. Of course, by the time I've finally rolled into an aid station, you've probably had quite a few beers.

I saw how you dug into the doughnuts at the Pueblo half, and you've said you're taking some time off from serious running. Are you getting ready for a run at Joey Chestnut?

Justin Ricks said...

I am going to have to agree with you Paul. I think that Carpenter is a dominate high altitude runner. He just doesn't run enough ultra races to really find out what he is capable of.

Geoff said...

OK. i'll take the bait too. the fish are biting today.

I'd have to agree with Anton on this one. Taking nothing away from Matt C. I find it really hard to imagine that he (or anyone in the world) could go anywhere near 20:00 at HR. the point about the lack of numerous top runners running HR over the years is certainly a valid point, but to me that would maybe be enough to lower kyle's time by another 30 or 60 minutes but much more than that seems quite unlikely. i know it's not a very apt comparision but it's at least worth thinking about that fact that Matt just beat Kyle by about 10 minutes at the NF50. they are of course two VERY different races but i'm not sure I can see how that 10 minutes would turn into 3.5 hours at HR. Even if you assume Kyle could go sub 23 at HR with more competition I don't think Matt could go 3 hours faster than that.

but i guess one never knows.

Paul DeWitt said...

Geoff,
Hopefully we will find out one of these days; I'm working on talking Matt into doing HR. The entry process is a huge obstacle however!

When I put this post together, I honestly thought that the biggest gripe would be Phelps not being my top performance/story of the year but that shows how much I know! Happy New Years everyone.

Geoff said...

who cares about phelps. i doubt he could even finish hardrock :-)

brownie said...

I talked to Matt about HR not long ago and all he would say was basically, "if Kyle wanted to beat me he'd hafta run a lot faster." He also said he'd go back to Leadville is someone (Tony, are you listening?) broke his record.

WynnMan said...

Joey Chestnutt's performance at Nathan's was a gut busting masterpiece. The rest of your picks are spot on. One I would have added that just seems to go unnoticed is Brian Robinson's CR at Barkley. Sure it's not a competitive style race and more about attrition, navigation, but it is timed. I think it's hard for some to comprehend busting through thick tagalders, brush, up steep ravines and through brambles for hours on end and to mentally push yourself to accept loop after loop. Seemingly it would be so easy to concede. When we do deer drives through thick brush and deep snow it's hard enough for a few hours let alone 3 days.

I agree that Kyle's performance was spectaculor, but I agree that there just has not been enough competition there because it seems to be more of an "event" than a comp. I think low times like Kyle's could be possible if there was more comp to push, but it would take more runners with alpine acclimation to make it legit and worthy. Where I run in the summer it's all about sweltering humidity, short/rocky/steep climbs, but the sultry weather is tough to get right. Looking forward to alpine living soon.

Dave's record was impressive. He has natural ability combined with seemingly precise training methods.

man- sub 20 at HR would be rough even for a super elite Kenyan held together with bailer's twine. Be interesting to know what some of the old school fast guys from around here could have done had they had sufficient alpine acclimation: Dan Held, Barney Klecker. when Barney told me he may have been able to cut another 5 minutes off his former WR 50mile time had he not cramped. Regardless his time is sick, roughly 5:45 pace! YOWZA!

WynnMan said...

If Hardrock sunk into the ocean Phelps would destroy HR, on land however, fat chance.

AJW said...

Paul,

Great discussion and I agree that it is tough to argue with Kyle's Hardrock and Dave's Miwok as performances of the year. However, two others that deserve consideration are Hal's AC and Scott's Spartathlon. While neither of them are course records those two guys were chasing legends (O'Brien in Hal's case and Kouros in Scott's case). Again, these are probably 3rd and 4th best of the year but they were damn good. And, in the fast road ultra department, Mike Wardian's 2:55 at the Caumsett 50K was moving. He sprinted past me when I still had two laps to go!

Happy New year!

AJW

Paul DeWitt said...

Hey AJW - thanks for dropping by; yes you are right, while I was thining sports in general, 2008 was a great year for ultras specifically as well.

Those you mentioned are great, plus the TNF50 race obviously, and Wynn mentioned the Barkley which I wasn't aware of (not on the ultralist anymore so I miss some stuff). Finally, the "other" Skaggs really nailed one at Quad Dipsea which should be on the list of possible performances of the year.

Then there are the women, which just off the top of my head I would go with Beck's record at WTC (again due to the incredible number of top runners who've run that one over the years and it being a Trason record).

-pauld

AJW said...

Hey Paul,

I agree that Beck's WTC was super strong but it's hard to argue with Kami Semick's 2nd place IN THE WORLD at the 100K championships and Jamie Donaldson's Badwater was stout as well. That will be a tough one to call.

AJW

WynnMan said...

Chestnut's impressive resume. I think his most impressive is the 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10minutes.
http://www.majorleagueeating.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16

WynnMan said...

The Records: http://www.majorleagueeating.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=66


another impressive athletic performance which I believe was this year.... Hailie bettering the marathon WR, not so much the record, but for a guy his age. Impressive. I think the runner-up at the Olympic Marathon behind Sammy was a 37 year old...

Reese said...

"10. In the 93rd annual 4th of July Hotdog eating contest, Joey Chestnut upsets six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi in a five-dog eat off after each finished regulation tied with 59 dogs."

Glutony as a sport? I'd have to say Bernard Madoff's performance tops Joey Chestnut.

Joy said...

Sorry I'm late here but what about the great women performances this year. I agree with AJW both Kami Semick's 2nd place IN THE WORLD at the 100K championships and Jamie Donaldson's Badwater performances are top this year. I have to give Jamie my vote based on her incredible time. The stat that sold me was Jamie's(8:25) last 45 mile split was faster than what Scott Jurek (8:31)ran in his last win in 2006.

Paul DeWitt said...

Hi Joy,
Thanks for your thoughts; yes a lot of great female ultra performances last year! I still give my vote to Susanah Becks for her WTC record, but Jamie had several great performances as well which could well get the honor. Because I don't think you should get a Performance of the Year honor for a 2nd place effort, I wouldn't vote for Kami's otherwise great run.

- pauld

Joy said...

Paul-

I agree with you that Susanah Becks WTC race was very impressive. Any time someone beats a record held by Ann Trason you know the time was legit. My only problem is that the race is a 50K. It hard for me to say that a race that is little longer than a marathon is the "Ultra" performance of the year. I'm more biased toward the longer Ultra races :)

Joy