AC100: The Once And Future Race

[updated 8/17/15, 10/20/15]

Registration for the  2016 Angeles Crest 100 opened and closed in less than 10 minutes Monday, Aug 3. The 2016 Race is Aug 6-7 2016. This is a winning plan for filling a parking lot, but fatal for a legacy 100 like AC.

There's only one reason—its all about the money. Let's look at the moving parts.

The entry qualifications are laughable: finish one 50mi race before race day. Straight outta 1986. That's pure sucker bait, but I'll call it a swindle. Some ultra-bob does a flatland Care Bear 50 on carpeted trail somewhere, and he does not have a fucking clue what awaits for him in the San Gabriels. But he's "qualified".

There were 66 DNS [401k Division] in 2015
Out of 238 signups: 172 started, 98 finish, 74 dropped/missed cutoff/wtf ever. Sixty-six DNS is a spectacular achievement, out-pacing previous years averages of 25 or so. 2014 had 40. Do the math: 25-40 DNS every year means $10,000+ in pocket, no accounting etc. The roster is front loaded with multiple DNFs and barely-qualified. It's a perfect money-funnel. We're in the big leagues now.

No waiting list. And no refunds. No answers.

I'll Ask The Awkward Questions

Following the 2014 entry-scrum, I posted the following ideas:
  1. all entrants must prequalify with 2 50s or 1 100, using the list of races that WS100 had already figured out. Right now it's "get a 50 done whenever" before race day, like it was in 1986.
  2. there would be a functioning waiting list to mop up the 25-40 DNS I'd noticed over the last 2-3 years.
  3. Move the sign up date to at least 30 days after close of race. Right now it's THE DAY AFTER. Which means that every pacer, weenie n wannabe at the finish line will be jacking off to do it. Even WS100 waits 5 months before the entry-draw.
A good friend pointed out to me that THIS IS THE BUSINESS MODEL.

RD Ken Hamada was enraged that I had gone public. I didn't care. I thought an original Legacy 100 had morphed from a massive mastodon to a Pygmy elephant, a side show.

When the 2015 race sold out in 7min, the interwebs triumphed. Ken no longer had to wait for months to fill the race. And he didnt have to answer to impertinent old-timers who asked awkward questions. There are 1,000 people lining up to take your place.

There's more, I'll cover that in a bit.

Bottom Line

Ken doesn't care about you. But I'll leave you with this visual nugget from the 1995 race-brochure.
Its about Quality. Screenshot from the 1995 AC100 brochure, way before my tenure as the RaceBook editor.

2017 AC100 Update

The official 2015 AC100 Race report was posted on the Ultrarunning website 10/10/2015. It was the usual strangled syntax etc, with this cryptic paragraph at the end:
"The 2016 AC100 closed in less than 2 minutes. [ital mine] We had a very high demand for entry during the 2016 AC100 Registration, causing the servers to crash during the registration process. Due to the high demand for the race, we are making the following changes to the 2017 AC100 Registration Process: (1) 2017 AC100 Registration will be a lottery. (2) Runners will be allowed more time to enter the race, beginning at 12 PM on Monday following the end of the 2016 AC100, which will eliminate the “rush to enter” the race and overloading the servers. (3) Solo runners will have priority.

There are no further details, which is standard. But seriously. Allowed more time to enter? 12pm Monday following? ITS STILL A PANIC BUY IN. And with the hilariously low qualification standards, I expect a bumper crop of 2016 DNS, aka 401k Class. 
Well played!


PhotoMatt said…
Great points! I was astounded by the number of drops so early in the race this year and by the number of people who didn't even make it past sundown. The apparent 30% finishing rate (on paper) puts this race on par with others like the completely unsupported and unmarked Plain 100, which seems laughable.

I'd love to run AC100 someday, but it doesn't seem likely when its limited field will be filled every year with aspirants who may not even have finished a marathon but happen to hit the webserver at the right time.

The profits don't bother me. Heck, keep the signup the same but build a wait list and move the qualification date up a month or two before race day. Then you could churn the wait list and make more money from those who didn't have any idea what they were doing and couldn't bother to finish their Care Bear 50 beforehand. Then you still make money (yay!) but end up with a reasonable field too.

Also the folks at the later aid stations might actually have something to keep them entertained. Everyone wins!
Jim Tello said…
As a 2x volunteer at this race in 2013 and 2014, I can say that I do care about the runners, otherwise I wouldn't volunteer my time. But I dont care about the politics, and I dont sign up for races with lotteries that close in a day or less. I prefer small, low key races.
Craig said…
Well . . . it's a free country (I repeat myself), and if there is such an overwhelming demand for a local 100 mile race, and if the AC 100 is SO inadequate at satisfying potential runners' desires, then ANYONE should be able to create another race in a heartbeat that will be the dream-come-true for all those "disgusted" with AC. In the meantime, this is all sniping at a guy who has run a successful race for close to 30 years, with LOTS of folks apparently quite content with his efforts, even if all doesn't conform to their personal desires.
Anonymous said…
Well said. The irony of Quality!

Craig - I agree, It's his race and if you don't like it go elsewhere, but it is on MY public land. That said, no, ANYONE cannot create another race in a heartbeat. Have you ever tried to get permits from all the agencies (BLM, FS, etc.) in a massively populated area with many different user groups? No you haven't. Not with a comment like that.

I also don't care if he makes a profit, BUT the race needs to be adequately supplied with food for all runners. For example (and just a single example), why are there no gels on the course? Spend a few dollars. Most races (big and small) provide gels - I don't want to pick through leftovers at the check in. Yes, we can all use drop bags, but this is one example of a food that every runner will use at least once.

I'm not sure it's ALL about the money. The wait list issue is simply RD's being lazy. It is easy to establish and maintain and I'm sure if the RD asked there would be more than enough people who would be willing to take on this job. If making more money is the goal, the RD could make even more money by refusing to issue a refund and still fill the race to capacity with wait list runners, which I assume would be enough to fill all the DNS positions. Why say you that you want more runners (250 in 2016??) when history has told you this will never happen?

It's too bad. The AC100 is truly a beautiful and challenging course. I like the old school feel of the race, but things need to change. I don't know the RD's and am not part of the SoCal running community, so I don't know their motivation beyond what people say on the intard webs.

Craig said…
Okay, Anonymous, I have NOT tried to get permits from all the agencies, but allow me to take issue with your comments about the "massively populated area with many different user groups." Sorry, this vast area is still substantially a "wilderness," and I think it is "massively" underused. What really should happen is for the AC participants who truly feel abused by the nature of the race as it is run NOW, should petition the USFS and any other agencies for an alternative to the "AC 100" trail race. They will have to make their case, but if they have enough issues in their favor, I would like to think that their alternative to the AC 100 will prevail.

Oh, you mentioned no gels on the course? Are you kidding? Don't expect the aid stations to have ANYTHING you may personally need. Have you done ultras? You should know this little secret by now. My advice to you would be to become a member of the SoCal running community, which has existed for more than 30 years, FAR before the last very few years when I go involved. But, really, I don't need a lecture from someone who says he's not even in the local community to tell me what I don't know about the USFS!!!
Dean said…
I am not qualified to run this race, and it will take me years to get there so... I hope by then a functioning waitlist can be established. To me, in this day and age, not having a waitlist is really a shame. Simply because of the 50-60 athletes who would be SO THRILLED to run on that day if given the chance. I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would be happy knowing more people could have enjoyed their event, but didn't get the chance.

It is a totally separate debate than a qualifying standard. Even than a lottery. A wait list is simply saying, "Yes, I want to give this opportunity to as many people as possible, and yes I acknowledge that 25% of my runners don't show up"
ultra Poser said…
The AC course is great. The tradition, the history and the people are the best. The I'll take my ball and go home attitude of the RD is Bullshit. What attracted me to the sport in the first place was the sense of unity and fairness. If i wanted to support corporate style greed, I'd do Ironman. Bottom line is that the RD and his "tech person" screwed up and were not willing to fix it.

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