Ghost Town Ultra 2009 – Report and results

Posted on January 19, 2009 by

Hey all,

I don’t know if other RDs have ever experienced this, but ’09 was the year I felt the Ghost Town 38.5 “grew up.” We leapt from 47 at the start in ’08 to 75 in ’09. Suddenly there were many names on the entrants’ list that I recognized from the front of race results in UltraRunning. It was exciting and a little daunting. I worried often about providing for everyone – and especially having enough volunteers.

The event starts and ends on my property. Runners grab up the 12-15 rooms available within 10 miles, stay down in town about 35 miles away, or camp for free at my place. We had many in tents, some in campers, and even a bunch who slept in their trucks and cars.

They started arriving on Friday. There’s no place to eat supper within 30 miles so I offer an “early arrivals” dinner at my place. I think there were 20 of us who sat down to the three tables placed end to end. One seat was eventually filled by a dog who looked longingly from its neighbor’s plate to her face and back again. There weren’t many left-overs and after several hours of great conversation and much laughter we kind of sent them on their way so we could get some sleep. We feel we went from meeting runners to gaining friends.

My volunteer shortage (living outside a village of about 100 people I don’t have a big base to choose from) was solved by putting out a plea to my runners and posting a message on my website. Many former GT runners volunteered, runners’ family members and friends, and even the random stranger who’d heard about the race stepped forward. By race day the volunteer/runner ratio was just about 1/3.

Saturday’s registration was held all day at my studio. There was a slightly raucous combination runner/volunteer Q&A meeting late in the afternoon and then we all headed to the Hillsboro Community Center for the pre-race pasta meal. The cook was our local B&B owner and she turned out a great spread. There were two birthdays in the house – one a female runner’s and one two runners’/sponsors’ child. There was ice cream cake with candles for the 6 yr. old…this was shared with all other children present, and a gift or two for each of the birthday girls. We all sang “Happy Birthday,” had a presentation from a young man who runs for Imerman’s Angels, and then I gave away a bunch of door prizes. My sponsors may not be the big money outfits like Gatorade or Nike, but it always seems that we get some pretty cool stuff to give away. Various runners’ kids came up to help me pull names. Everyone was involved.

The race itself was, well…wow! Some weeks back much murmuring started when Andy Jones-Wilkins registered. Some of my veteran runners and Derek Griffith of CO Runner mag. made mention of his capabilities. I promptly changed the time that the last station had to be in place…an hour earlier. Speculation was rampant when it came to the subject of the projected “Top Five.” As RD I have to say I was almost a little intimidated…my event has always had a balance of experienced runners and newbies to the sport, and my regulars like the very down-to-earth atmosphere. No emphasis on PRs and elite-status here. If you’ve not met Andy, well, let’s just say I had no need to fear…great guy! I now wonder if he ever stops smiling. He seems to share that smile with whomever he meets. I know that’s not a technical-running comment, but since my event hasn’t really got the rep of being all about serious running, I think it’s okay to say that Andy was for me an RD’s delight.

He was even gracious about taking second place at the finish line. I suppose I just gave away the big climax, but I don’t want to lead you on in suspense. Last year we at the finish line watched with our mouths agape as Pete Stevenson and Paul Grimm duked it out for 2nd and 3rd place. I probably reveal my lesser experience when I relate that I didn’t expect a fast sprint at the end of 38.5 miles, but it happened in ’08 and in an even faster and more amazing sprint it happened in ’09.

We’d sent a car ahead to spot for the lead runner. When the volunteer returned we at the finish were told “There are two running shoulder to shoulder and they’re less than a mile and a half away.” The binoculars came out and we stood, waiting. Finally they were spotted. Sure enough, two runners seemed to be running as a team…shoulder to shoulder, arms in sync, feet moving at the same pace. They came closer. They stayed together. The excitement grew. They were moving fast.

And then one made a break. The other tore after him. And then it was over amid much amazed cheering. Tim Long, 41, of Boulder, CO had edged Jones-Wilkins by 5 seconds. The course record was adjusted down some 45 minutes as the ’09 winning time is 5:21:01. The 6 hr. mark had finally been broken, and by no small margin.

Runners continued in. There were some surprises and there were some performances that weren’t so surprising, they were just good and strong as can be expected from those particular runners. I’m just beginning to collect stories. There were at least 20 elk and a dozen turkeys spotted on the course on Sat. (the day before the race). Much to many runners’ disappointment no javelina made an appearance.

Happily for the RD there were no substantial injuries – just the typical stiff leg or sore ankle. Most runners at the post-race bbq were looking pretty good. We sat around the various fire pits or outdoor fireplaces and talked trails, events, and simply enjoyed friends.

12-15 showed up for breakfast this morning. I made frittatas and served left-over bagels, banana bread, and fruit. I was too tired to make kuchen as promised earlier. Oh well…they were all very understanding.

Today we’ve taken down signs (one seems to have gone missing – not sure what’s up with that), retrieved the dogs from the kennel, loaded the trash to the full limit of the truck, and begun sorting out remaining station supplies and gear drop bags left behind, and removed a sponsor’s banner from the front of the cabin.

My worries have come to nothing, except maybe one more great year for Ghost Town. I’ve not compiled all the stats yet…I have to find all the stations’ clipboards so I can gather and sort the splits the volunteers keep track of. The full results will be posted on the website – hopefully before the end of the week. At the same time, I know many of you enjoy more technical reports, so I’m including a bit here. There’s a list of the award winners, the times and names of the top ten finishers, and some hopefully interesting facts comparing the ’07, ’08 and ’09 events. For what it’s worth:

Hey all,

I’m working on compiling all the various split times etc. This will involve finding the aid station clip boards and sorting the info. recorded by our amazing volunteers.

In the meantime I thought you might want to at least know who won which award, the top ten finishers’ times and a few more stats that might be of interest.


1st place male finisher – Tim Long, 41 yrs. old, CO, time: 5:21:01
1st place female finisher – Rona Van Willigen, 40, NM, time: 6:51:53

Jeff Johnston award for most improved runner returning from ’08:
Tammy Parsons, 45, NM. Tammy ran 1:30:56 off her 2008 finish time.

Martin Luther King day award for 19th finisher:
Keith Lascelles, 37, Ontario, Canada, time: 6:54:27

Marty Duchow award for 1st lowlander to finish:
Scott Eppelman, 42, TX, time: 6:02:10

oldest finisher award (for the 38.5 distance):
Jim Simpson, 67, CA. This award is strictly about honoring the oldest to beat the clock.

The Bill Halm award for the first finisher in the DoubleMasters (27 miles, minimum age: 80 yrs.):
Bill Halm, 81, NH, time: 7:48:42


Top Ten:

1. Tim Long, 41, CO, 5:21:01
2. Andy Jones-Wilkins, 41, ID, 5:21:06
3. Bobby Biles, 42, NM, 5:43:39
4. Pete Stevenson, 35, CO, 5:45:39
5. Jason Halladay, 34, NM, 5:52:15
6. Scott Eppelman, 42, TX, 6:02:10
7. Marty Duchow, 46, CT, 6:06:41
8. Ed Heller, 46, NM, 6:14:16
9. Paul Grimm, 40, CO, 6:19:30
10. Dave Coblentz, 46, NM, 6:20:54


Odd but fascinating facts:

1st place finish:            ’07 – 6:15:22     ’08 – 6:06:00       ’09 – 5:21:01
Last place time:             ’07 – 12:0        ’08 – 11:52:55      ’09 – 11:42:43
# Runners under 8 hrs:       ’07 – 14          ’08 – 14            ’09 – 34 .
# under 10 hrs.              ’07 – 29          ’08 – 34            ’09 – 57 hrs.
20th/21st  place in ’07 (top half) – 8:35:50
23rd in ’08 (top half) – 8:40:41
36th in ’09 (top half) – 8:04:43
# at start/finish:           ’07 – 42/40       ’08 – 47/43         ’09 – 72/71


It wouldn’t be honest of me to say that it was a perfect weekend. If you’re an RD or have ever been, there were a few glitches – none insurmountable or too serious. My one major show-down resulted in the firing of a couple of volunteers. It was about 30 minutes before start time when the two decided to announce they could pretty much do something that wasn’t approved. The presentation was “We’re going to do this and you can’t do anything about it.” Well, Sue Norwood commented later, “I was surprised that you are so assertive.” Well I’ve never liked people getting into my personal space while yelling at me and shaking their fingers close to my nose. I like it less when this happens in front of my runners in my front yard. And I really don’t like it when the two yelling at the same moment say things like, “You can’t tell us what to do” and “We’re not here to listen to you” and the killing blow “We don’t have to be here” as if I couldn’t manage to run the race without them. Assertive was a kind interpretation of what went down, but when delivered such a line by someone screaming at the top of his lungs, my response was, “Get the h..l out and get off my property.” I know they were stunned at the sight of my back as I moved to another part of the yard without ever looking back.

Let me say here that the two at fault are locals, and they are not runners.

I didn’t like what happened. I don’t like scenes, but I will stand my ground (literally) and I will protect my runners…because I feel out-of-control volunteers put people and the race at risk. There was a tickle of feeling badly under the surface for much of the day, but there was too much to be done to dwell and it’s part of the job, isn’t it? Several runners who’ve been RDs gave the same response, “IT’s going to be a great day and ya gotta have a tough skin.” For as much as it’s a rewarding task, the RD’s job isn’t always easy. Maybe my race isn’t the only thing to have grown up this year.

Laugh freely, Walk far,

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