Now Is Tomorrow



Yours truly back in the day when a boy and his friend's shark could run a 100—Wasatch, 1992.

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.

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 NUMBERS

Leadville 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.

I should add that Leadville 100 was topping out at 350 when I last ran it [1997]. Now it's 1000+, which is Rock-N-Roll Marathon/Bay To Breakers Cali-stupid. Well-played, Colorado!

VOLUNTEERING

If 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.

Comments

Anonymous said…
As both a multiple finisher of the AC100 and four-time aid station captain, I can assure you that AC under Ken will never be a corporate-sponsored race. It is pure as the driven snow. Ken could care less about sponsorship. Maybe we don't have all sorts of cool gear before the race like WS,but we have our soul. For 2014 Ken increased the number who could enter to cover those who DNS.
Mr Trail Safety said…
I agree to your points about Ken's views on sponsorship, etc. I treasure a quiet finish line, which is enforced by nature of it being in a county park in a residential neighborhood. Booming PAs are really, really tiring.

As to increasing the numbers to accomodate DNS runners: that does not answer the question as to why there were over 50 DNS in 2013. This isn't a booking oversight, its a squandering of opportunity. Sure, it makes it easy for bookkeeping and capitalization. But the race is not a fire-and-forget cruise missile—its a continuing series of calculations and course adjustments.
Why isn't there a waiting list?
Why isn't there a coherent entry requirement policy?
Why does the next season have to start minutes after the close of the last? Even WS100 with an 8% acceptance rate waits five whole months until the Draw.

AC is in danger of becoming a regional backwater 100—a curiosity that only attracts a local crowd. The US is crawling with competitive talent. They don't show up. Sure, the course record has been standing since 1989, and maybe Ken doesn't want to see it go, for whatever reason.

AC is a beautiful race, but parts of it need to be brought out of 1987 and into the present.
Bill Ramsey said…
For folks to put an entry in for Ac100 without ever having completed an ultra is utterly stupefying. Where are there heads? It shows utter disrespect for the race and the distance. Time for Ken to institute a 50 mile qualifier, like Red Rock or Leona Divide or Old Goat.
Anonymous said…
I think part of the reason for all of the DNS's is that you have to sign up a year in advance. Real life happens and many people find that 12 months after they sign up work, family, or injury get in the way of getting to the start. Maybe Ken should open entry in Febuary so people do not have to plan so far in advance. Have you checked to see if the majority of the folks that signed up last year were newbies to the sport without a qualifier?

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