Ashland is fast becoming known as the nation's top spot for a culture that has nothing to do with Shakespeare.
UltraRunning magazine released its national rankings for ultramarathon runners last week, and five Ashlanders — four men and one woman — made the list. No other city even came close to this total.
Those making the list were Kyle Skaggs, age 23, who ranked second; Tony Krupicka, 25, voted No. 4; Hal Koerner, 32, voted No. 7; Erik Skaggs, 26, voted No. 11; and Jenn Shelton, 25, voted No. 22 among women.
Shelton earned her spot on the women's list following victories at the American River 50-miler and the World of Hurt 34-mile race. In 2007, she completed a 100-mile race, and she plans to run another 100-miler in 2009.
"To prepare, I'll run 20 miles in the morning and five at night. I'll do that back-to-back for six days a week," Shelton explains.
For Erik Skaggs, the biggest win of 2008 was his course record at the Quad Dipsea 28.4-mile race just north of San Francisco, an effort that also ranked as the No. 5 Performance of the Year.
"I ran 110 miles per week to train, including one 26-miler to the top of Mount Ashland and back down," Skaggs said. The Dipsea course is known for brutal hills and endless sets of stairs.
Hal Koerner, who placed seventh, has made the magazine's Top 10 list seven times. His commanding victory at the Angeles Crest 100-miler was a deciding factor in his ranking this year. In addition to his rigorous hill training around Ashland, Koerner, owner of Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland, prepared his body for the brutal Southern California heat by sitting in a sauna for three hours at a time.
After studying the Ultrarunning rankings for years, Koerner has only partially figured out the ranking criteria.
"It's clear it's not based on one good race, and 100-milers are weighted heavier. You have to have a diversity in the 50K to 100-mile range. Course records help and the high-profile races really count," Koerner said.
Snagging the #4 spot was Tony Krupicka, who moved to Ashland two months ago. Krupicka, who moved from Colorado, said he likes the climate and the running community in Ashland.
"There are like-minded guys training here," says Krupicka, who has been known to log 200-mile weeks on high-altitude trails in preparation for 100-mile races.
In the closest vote ever for the top spot, Kyle Skaggs — younger brother of Erik Skaggs — was far-and-away the top vote getter for Performance of the Year.
Kyle Skaggs smashed the course record at the Hardrock 100-mile race in Colorado — arguably the toughest 100-mile course in the country — by more than two hours. Run at an average altitude of two miles above sea level, the course includes river crossings, scree slopes and snow fields, some of it run at night.
The best way to train for any race, says Kyle Skaggs, is to "do a lot of your running on race conditions. For Hardrock, that meant moving to Silverton two months before the race. I did a lot of big runs on that terrain, including one nine-hour run."
For would-be 100-mile racers, Kyle offers this advice: "Keep the training fun — with a group or on fun trails. I find a route I'd love to backpack, then make it like a trip."
To see the full Ultrarunning rankings, visit www.ultrarunning.com/ultra/features/news/pacheco-semick-named-2008.shtml
Daniel Newberry is a runner and freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org