Time once again to jump the gun by a week or two, recognize the good, the bad and the ugly for 2007 - and hope the judges don't notice the false start and call us back to the blocks. On your marks. Get set...
Rookie of the Year
The Mad City 100K
If the challenge of an event can be measured in inverse proportion to the number of entrants it draws, this inaugural 62.1-mile footrace, conceived by veteran ultramarathoner and race organizer Tim Yanachek, was the most grueling endurance test of the year. Of the 50-something individuals who stepped up to the Vilas Park starting line on that frigid April morning to vie for a spot on the U.S. national 100-kilometer team, a mere 30 survived all 10 spectator-friendly laps of the course around Lake Wingra via the UW Arboretum, Nakoma and Monroe Street neighborhoods.
Of the 25 relay teams that started, 24 finished - a rate that suggests a) misery loves company; b) it's easier to run 100 kilometers if you divide the distance among friends or co-workers, adopt an inspirational name such as Team Crybaby or Weakened Warriors and dress up in funny costumes; or c) both of the above. Mark your calendars: Registration for the second annual Mad City 100K (www.madcity100k.com), scheduled for April 12, will open by Jan. 1 and close April 9.
Veteran Athletes of the Year
Mary Anne Hinkes and Tom Curran
Both emerged triumphant in their age groups for the 2007 Madison Area Race Series. Participants earn points by running in the series' 17 races (distances range from the Capitol Mile to the Lake Monona 20K), and runners' tallies are based on their best 12.
Among women between the ages of 50 and 59, Hinkes earned 128 points to outdistance rival Janet Hagen's 94 points - itself an impressive five points better than any other woman in any age group, and a mark that suggests the merits of consistency over the long run. On the men's side, Curran racked up 143 points to edge out Billy Maybe by 10 in the hyper-competitive men's 50-59 cohort.
High-Water Mark of the Year
Watershed-wide slow/no-wake zones
Not to downplay the unfortunate consequences of August's heavy rains, which raised water levels throughout the Yahara Chain of Lakes to a threatening point, but in late summer the rain-swollen surface areas of lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa were a virtual paddlers' paradise. Dane County's watershed-wide emergency slow/no-wake orders cut down so much Jet Ski and motorboat traffic that the Yahara lakes were all but reserved for kayaks, canoes and small fishing skiffs.
Gone for a week or two was much of the noise and fossil-fuel perfume generated by motorcraft. And with U.S. Geological Survey gauges for lakes Mendota and Monona reading more than 24 inches above their August averages, paddlers enjoyed the rare opportunity to ride the water up over riverbanks and lakeshore rocks, to poke around in places they're not often able to venture.
Immodest Proposal of the Year
"The bicyclists who braved the week's second storm should be taken out and shot."
Given the extent to which this waxy posting has become a link magnet, one hates to call yet more attention to cranky former Madison Mayor-for-life Paul Soglin's Dec. 5 rant targeting two-wheeled nighttime snowstorm commuters. He has since posted a series of follow-ups in which he - depending on your perspective - a) explains himself as an heir to the ironic legacy of Jonathan Swift; b) backpedals while saving face; c) tut-tuts his dissenters into submission; or d) milks the attention for all it's worth.
But as a self-proclaimed protector of "the interests of bicyclists against aggressive drivers" and other threats, Bloglin ought to know that there are countless drivers out there who already believe cyclists (and pedestrians) are trespassing on roads that belong to cars and trucks, and are thus fair game. So to suggest - even in jest - that cyclists navigating a snowstorm at night deserve to be gunned down, well, that's about as worthy of Swift's standards as encouraging SUV drivers to fight the winter chill by lighting campfires near the pumps while they refill their tanks.
Online Community of the Year
From monitoring area road and bike-path conditions and posting advocacy advisories on budget proposals and projects affecting cyclists, to keeping abreast of changes at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and of this summer's spate of violent attacks on bikers, to providing forums on bike safety and on cranky bloggers who propose gunning down cyclists who offend his sensibilities - the Bikies listserv stands as the gold-standard first-alert network for bike riders. Subscribe at www.danenet.org/mailman/listinfo/bikies.