CHANGES IN THE ULTRA LANDSCAPE
The whole landscape of ultras have changed radically in the last 10 years. The day of RDs putting on races because they love the sport are giving way to corporate-sponsored series, with all attendant features and blemishes.
Runners themselves have changed since I got into all this back in 1989. I came from a backcountry ski/travel/mountaineering focus. You self-insert, and self-extract. Runners now reflect the widely suburban culture, that expects free parking, deep swag-bags, medals and probably buckles for their 10ks.
Races and their entry requirements are also part of this education process. A 50k is a different order of business than a 50-mile, 100k, and a 100-mile.
We have legacy 100s that have not significantly changed their qualification requirements since Day One. Gutting out a 50 on the flats is not likely to get you through WS or AC, but occasionally miracles happen.
The Day of The Lottery is well upon us, and is rippling outward as the sheer weight of numbers overwhelms the races. In 1989 there were 6 100s in the US. Now there are over 100.
Ultra-newbies [and yes, I was one once, like all the rest of you] must realize that a hundred is not some jackoff reality show hoo-hah, nor is it The Sum Of All Fears Lord Of The Rings Death Match. It is also not some whip-saw ragnar, mud-run, "warrior-run" [which doesn't count unless its live-fire], or some other bullshit.
Its 100 miles, the end.
Its 100 miles, the end.
WHO GETS IN: ELITE OR BEGINNERS?WS is particularly conflicted about elite/beginner race identity. Yes, there are those who don't make it past Red Star, and then there's Rob Krar, who brought a lot more preparation to the game than someone who just finished a flat 50 under cutoff as a qualifier.
Down here at the AC100, there are a host of "ultra-squatters" who got their 2014 entries—and have not even done a goddamned 50k yet. They hope they're gonna make the qualifiers before Race Day. As an old-schooler, I find this kind of behavior insulting at the least. They saw stories like this in their childhood multiplexes, so their Dreams Can Come True, Really®™.
THE WEIGHT OF NUMBERSLeadville has just gotten lazy about the whole business. The rot set in back in '95, when the first LT100 MTB race was held. They quickly figured out that runners were cheap-ass compared to the shiny trucks coming up from the flats with bike stickers in their windows which told the world "$$$".
Rentals jacked, almost double what they were in '94. In '97 when I priced out the house I rented in '94 for $350/wk, it was $750/wk, and I was going to training there for a month. A motel was $1350/mo. I said "fuck that!", bought a Bibler Awhanee tent [$750]. Then camped out at Turquoise for 3-1/2 wks, and only rented a condo for 3 days figuring that crew, pacers and girlfriend would ALL be happier in a house if it poured. Which it did for 2 weeks leading up to the race.
VOLUNTEERINGIf memory serves, Wasatch was the first 100 to require trail-maintenance time. AC followed suit in '96. Yes, there was the usual bitching and moaning, etc.
I've told people repeatedly that in the face of repeated funding cuts at the USFS, and accelerating impacts, the volunteer work done by AC, WS and other 100s have guaranteed a place at the table when it came time for policy. This is huge.