Competition: Can You Feel It Spreading?

AJWs TaproomWith the two big 100-mile lotteries in the rearview mirror and the respective fields taking shape for the big summer 100’s one thing stands out for me, the competition is dispersing across the landscape and I am not sure what to think about it.

Western States has eight women and eight men from last year’s top-10 returning. A few top names got in via the lottery but many others were shut out. Interestingly, in two days after the lottery, several runners appeared on the entrants list that had not been entered in the lottery.  A few of them were top-10 runners from 2011 and a couple others may have earned slots through Special Consideration which had the net effect of strengthening the field.  Additionally, there are quite a few spots to be had in the Montrail Ultra Cup races but aside from the field at Bandera I don’t see a top-10’er coming out of Sonoma, Leona, or Ice Age. Those races are just too close to the Big Dance to allow anyone to adequately recover for a serious run at the front. So, in general, the current Western States field looks to be a bit shallower than in past years and that is mostly because of…

Hardrock!

This year the lottery Gods were looking down fondly on some of the top American runners in this lottery and, as such, many of the top runners in the US will be toeing the line in Silverton come July. Assuming everyone stays healthy this will be far and away the most competitive race in Hardrock history. But, will it be the top race of the summer? I am not sure, Western States will still claim its fair share of the top guys/gals and with most of the Europeans essentially shut out, unless the Hardrock organizers completely change their ethos and cave, there will not be another Salomon invasion of this race in 2012. Good or bad, I just don’t see Dale, Blake or the Board letting that happen. So this field is essentially set, up to about #30 on the waitlist.

Which brings us to Leadville. Anyone, of course, can get into this one as long as their money’s green and they can stomach the aid station food. Perhaps this will be the year, given that Hardrock and Western States are lacking some top American and international runners, that someone could take a stab at Carpenter’s course record. The competition here seems to be slowly moving beyond the Front Range and a few out-of-staters have even cracked the top-5 in the last couple years. It’s hard to say at this point but one thing’s for sure, this will turn out to be quite a race, in spite of itself.

Next, there’s UTMB. This is an event that has clearly become World Championship caliber. And, with Europe’s loose wilderness ethic and the openness of the course a couple thousand people can get in and usually do. So, in that context, it’s a biggie. But, the race is in Europe and it is at the end of August. For some, Chamonix is an attraction and for others it is a deterrent. But, given the way this season is lining up, it could be the race we’re all watching. And, if any Americans make the trip over, they can do some serious damage control.

But wait, now there’s a $100,000 purse on the line at a new little 100 mile race in Steamboat Springs in September. (iRF article) Could someone recover from a win at Western States or Hardrock and win this one too? How about the injured folks? Could they capitalize on the summer’s carnage and take the big payday after they’ve recovered and the leaves start to change? Time will tell, of course, but it’s looking to be more and more difficult to bring all the best runners all together in one place at one time to hammer it out. This cash purse could be the last best chance we’ve got.

Maybe that’s good and maybe that’s not.

From where I sit we have arrived at an interesting intersection. Coming from one direction is the desire on the part of the fans of the sport and, to some extent, from the runners, as well, to see a pure championship event that pits all the best runners against one another at one time. From the other direction are the organizers of the events themselves who, while they may have an interest in some kind of championship and may even want their event to lay claim to such a championship, are mainly interested in the success of their own, particular event. In the case of Western States, Hardrock, Leadvllle, UTMB, and, now, Run Rabbit Run, we know the race organizers are as diverse as the sport itself. And, in the end, it is perpetuating the beauty and simplicity of the sport that I hope all these organizers have in common.

So, alas, as we settle ourselves in for a long winter’s night and look back on 2011 it is also quite intriguing to look ahead. If I were a betting man, as complex and didactic as the conversations about 2011 UROY have been, I can only imagine how much fun the 2012 conversation will be. And, we haven’t even started!

Bottoms Up!

AJW

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Ballast Point Sculpin IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week is Scott Jaime’s favorite – Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits. And, I gotta say, it’s one of the best I’ve ever had (even if it is from Southern California :) ).

Go out and get one of these. Better on tap but good just about anywhere, anytime…

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Which 100 miler(s) are you most excited to follow in 2012?
  • Which 100 miler do you think will have the best set of runners going for the win? Will a different race have the deepest field of top runners?
  • Do you think 2012 will start a trend toward additional “dilution” of competition at 100s? Do you wish that the top 100 mile runners were congregating at a smaller set of races? What are some ways to bring the top competition together?

There are 112 comments

  1. Rob Youngren

    I know this has been re-hashed again and again and it will probably never happen, but in an ideal world what I think would be really cool would be…

    1. Either via the USATF or IAAF hold a "true" trail 100 mile U.S. and World Championships with Gold, Silver, Bronze awarded just like the U.S. and World T&F Championships, even a sort of "Diamond League" for the highest scoring performers in some predetermined race/event series. Ok, I know there already is a USATF "trail championships" but Burning River 100? Please! It's a paper championship at best. No series trail runners are going to be racing there. It's time we admit that it's the big marquee races that are the defacto trail championships. So with that it like to see…

    2. Use WS100, Hardrock, Wasatch, Leadville, UTMB, etc… as the venues for future World Championship Trail 100 Mile evnets… they'd rotate on an annual basis.

    Short of prize money, the prestige of winning an actual Gold, Silver, Bronze medal from a sanctioned and legitimate (not a paper) World Championship would in my mind draw out the competition. I mean what elite ultrarunner hasn't watched the Olympics or World Championships and not wondered what it'd be like to be competing on the world stage?

    Yeah it's a pipe dream, but as mainstream as ultras are slowly becoming and with the growing running boon perhaps this is the time to really try and push for more recognition of our sport to the USATF and IAAF and Olympics? Nobody said it would be easy!

  2. Speedgoatkarl

    WS, HR etc. can't ever be the "world championship" because they don't let in elite athletes because they are elite. RD's have to change that policy…and they won't. Done. It won't happen with those races. We needed a new one, and it's in Steamboat and at the perfect time of year. UROC and NF50 are icing on the cake for more added competition at shorter races. Steamboat will not be labeled a "championship race", it's just the Steamboat 100, and it happens to have lots of cash in the pot (hopefully). If it becomes a championship, we'll find that out in a few years.

    The USATF or IAAF should not be involved, simply because they don't have any clue on what ultrarunning is, why have a governing body that has no real interest in ultrarunning. "sanctioning of a race" is just a way to put their name on it. IF USATF and IAAF made the rules, it just wouldn't work. Each race should have it's on flare and own sanction…sanctioned by the RD.

    AJW is right, there is alot of spreading around of elite runners, but I see that because there is not real draw to travel across the country to race for a buckle or whatever. Hopefully Steamboat will draw all the top guys an gals on a good solid course, (I personally would like to see it tougher), and all the comp will be there. Is it called a championship? NO, it's the Steamboat 100 and happens to have alot of cash in the pot. UROC and NF50 will be great followups. More and more races will have cash, and once that happens, it'll just keep spreading the money around, which is good for the sport as a whole..in my humble opinion.

    It's impossible to use WS and HR as the defacto because of old school RD's, but that's the way they want it, so let it be. Steamboat will be the big dance.

    WS could have their day too if they wanted, problem is, a few get in through the lottery, many faster guys and gals get shut out and if they really want to run WS, they have to qualify through an Ultra cup race, not even a 100 miles? Montrail has essentially started a monopoly on how the elite field gets picked. Not so sure if that's good or bad, but they have a good gig going on that idea.

    The Speedgoat 100 will happen Rob, hang in there…..

    The cash purse is the last chance we've got to get all the big boys and girls to race, and at 100 miles, all variables come into play. reality is what it is, money talks, bullshit walks. I'm running for the money, even if I have no chance.

    1. Rob Youngren

      Yeah, it's a shame but $$$ is about the only thing left to draw the cream of the crop to one place. That's why I'd say "ideally" when I'm talking about some sort of National/International "sanctioning" and recognition. To crown a real US and WORLD Champion with GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medals would be the ideal. But yes, short of that it's gotta to be the $$$ that draws 'em in.

      1. Ben Nephew

        While I agree that there needs to be some changes with how USATF deals with ultra championships, Bandera seems to have a pretty strong field for next year. Assigning USATF championships to races that are committed to increasing competition and support athletes is key, but the bidding process can sometimes prevent this from happening. RD's have enough to work on without putting together a bid.

        The MUT council includes several experienced and well respected ultrarunners to not have a clue.

        http://www.usatf.org/about/directory/info.asp?par

        You surely don't need USATF or IAAF to have a big competitive race, but I've never seen a non-organized running championship that has the level of international competition as the the IAAF races.

        I do remember reading a lot of complaining after UTMB the past two years, much more so than what I've heard for IAU/IAAF races.

        The level of athlete support at the IAU/IAAF races is far above any other ultra that I can think of. UROC is going in that direction, though.

        The thing with prize money is that it doesn't help runners who can't afford to depend on winning a good deal of money to attend the race (travel, race fees, housing). Having a deep prize structure will help, but this will not have the same effect as the organization and support involved in IAU/IAAF championships.

        I'd be really interested in hearing comparisons from runners who have competed at big US and international ultras as well as USATF and IAU/IAAF events.

  3. gary aronhalt

    what we really need is for there to be a formula… first, we need to divide the runners into different "conferences."

    then, we'll have a series of polls, written by runners and coaches and media that rank the runners from 1-25.

    then, we'll get several computers to take into account all sorts of variables like elevation gain, altitude, strength of competition, etc. these computers will rank the runners, too.

    these rankings will go up and down throughout the year, according to wins, losses, etc.

    then, we'll come up with a way to combine the human polls and the computer rankings to find out who the top 2 runners are and then we'll have them race together, head to head, in a 2 person race. and, let's make this race weeks and weeks after the regular season is over.

    this system is working SO WELL for college football… you know, really keeping the sport "pure," i think ultra-running should just adopt it wholesale.

  4. AJW

    Quick update, I saw on Facebook that Jez Bragg registered for WS last night. So, if someone can just call Tsuyoshi and tell him to sign up will have all 10 men on the list. Still two women to go to get last year's 10.

  5. Mykl

    Great article, AJW. While I am not quite ready for the likes of the premiere races you listed, I was wondering what your perception of the Angeles Crest 100 is. Do you or anyone else have any thoughts about this race?

    Speedgoat Karl, is your 100-miler happening this year?

    1. Randy

      Did AC once years ago,thought it was very well run,gj Hal and Ken,really diverse course,fair amount of downhills,of course i bonked(thats a given)but as i crested last Mt top and saw the lights of Pasadena,(i,m used to small cities),i remarked to the runner next to me how huge the city looked,he laughed and said,"that's only a small part of it!".

    1. Bryon Powell

      If you're talking about AJW's UROY list, all four men and women are already in States.

      That said, someone like Flaherty could hit Ice Age and, possibly, run top ten at WS100…. then again, it's a big leap (not impossible) to top 10 there as a first time 100 mile runner given the wicked depth there these days.

  6. Jacob Rydman

    Seeing Kilian on the WS start list, can't help but wonder if he has the CR in mind this time around? Hey, with the snow in the high country extremely mild compared to last year currently and with forecasters predicting La Nina being more mild compared to previous years, at the very least, Robinson Flat should be in the cards this year (hoping for Lyon/Red Star too). And if Kilian does run PPM as planned, what an impressive double that would be if he won both. Even though I won't be on the start line in Squaw, I'm looking forward again to this years race.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Jacob, the thing is that the snow courses are MUCH faster than the non-snow courses and I'm pretty sure that the snow doesn't slow someone like Kilian down much. (Heck, I think I ran the first 15 miles faster because of the snow this year.) If (and it's a HUGE if), he could run under Roes' time on a non-snow course you're talking about the best trail ultra performance during my decade in the sport…. and, most likely, ever.

      1. Jacob Rydman

        I agree. Joe Uhan and I ran from Squaw to Michigan Bluff on Oct. 22nd of this year (via Lyon and Red Star) and he commented the same thing, the snow course was much faster (with lethargic legs, it took us 7+hrs to get to Rob. Flat! ha). Granted, Granite Chief/Lyon/RS are so beat up from a combo of lack of trail maintenance & being pummeled by the elements over the past few years, but yeah, it would be unreal for sure.

        1. AJW

          If the organizers are able to get us back on the real course (for the first time since 2009!) everyone will be happy and some of the giddiness about these record times in 2010-11 should wane.

          That said, the course from Last Chance to the Finish remains unchanged and Geoff and Anton nailed that in 2010. Kilian and Mike ran it well in 2011 but not in top-10 ever kind of times. The truth is, until we return to the real course we really won't know how stout the 2010 Geoff/Anton times are.

          Here's hoping we can get there in 2012! And not take the boats across the river either!

  7. halkoerner

    I gotz no problem with RRR, but I can't believe all this 100 grrrr talk with no real scheme for 100 grrr other than they're open for it.I mean the landscape has changed for corporate sponsorship ( they now have their own races for this reason. ) Its a lot of money and everyone has been so free to hype it thus far. I mean I won't even get a $12.50 buckle?

    Probably not the right post to comment on but??!!

  8. AJW

    I may very well be wrong. However, historically, it's been all but impossible to come back from a hard effort so close to the race and pull off a top-10 at WS. Some folks have had good WS races after good Miwok's but most have admitted that they either sandbagged a bit at Miwok or were not 100% recovered by WS. With Ice Age in mid-May (traditionally a week later than Miwok) and WS taking place at the earliest date possible for the race I believe it would make a full recovery from Ice Age even more difficult. Of course, if a weak field assembles at Ice Age and a runner can cherry pick a top-2 without an full-on effort that I may, indeed, be proven wrong. But, until that happens I am sticking with my notion that a top-10'er will not come from Ice Age.

    1. geoff

      2nd place men at each of the last two WS ran really fast times at Miwok. also 4 of this year's top 10 men at WS ran Miwok. miwok and WS are 7 weeks apart. i really don't think a race that far out has much of a negative effect on most runners.

  9. Speedgoatkarl

    Ben, just curious, what trail races are IAAF races?

    I know USATF races get the "title's" cuz the RD's put their race in as a bid, it's unfortunate USATF can't be the one that decides what race they should be.

    Noone complained about UTMB, mother nature was just angry…very angry. :-)

    1. Ben Nephew

      The 50 mile trail race is IAU, but the IAU is basically the IAAF for ultras. All the details are handled by the IAU. The IAU 100k and 24 hrs are recognized by the IAAF, and so is the WMRA Championship. It doesn't really matter which organzization is doing the organizing. Mountain runners considered the WMRA Trophy a world championship before it was recognized by the IAAF.

      Many people are on the same page as you on the what I refer to as the backwards nature of the bidding process. The reality is that the races are doing most of the work of creating the championship, and some of that work requires extra money. For a new or smaller race, winning a USATF title may help increase field sizes are attract sponsors, but these incentives are not relevant to big, successful races (where everyone would want to go for a championship). It's just more work. The current bidding process also can result in odd annual schedules, like this year.

      USATF should make the bidding process easier for RD's, and approach races to encourage them to bid. They had success at White River, and Bandera looks like it is going in the same direction.

  10. AJW

    I love AC100. It was my first 100 miler back in 2000 and I've run it four times. It's a classic point to point course, it's got old school organization, the views are amazing during the first 70 miles, and the timing is good for Summer training. Downside is it can be hot and the last 25 miles are enough to pucker up even the toughest runners out there

  11. AJW

    I think 30 deep is almost a guarantee and 45-50 is more likely. With the lottery happening two months earlier this year I think attrition off the start list will be greater than it's been in the past.

    1. Spike

      How do you know that the guys that are currently at the top of the sport are not "real elite" runners? This debate has been going on and on here but I'm still sure that it takes a different kind of talent to do well at a mountain 100 than a flat 26.2.

        1. Speedgoatkarl

          Kenyans, Ethiopians, Chinese, Americans, Spaniards and everyone in between can run in the mountains. Thing is, if I were Kenyan, and could run a 2:08 marathon. I"d stick with that, and win many of the "smaller" marathons, like LA, Houston, stuff like that. Kenyans, just haven't ventured into ultras yet, when they do, we know they'll be good, but where are they? Let's see it, bring em' on. I may get smoked, but who cares, it'll still be fun right?

          Don't say we americans aren't good when you are comparing to others that don't exist. Running 100 miles is alot different than 26.2, especially on technical singletrack.

          1. William Swint

            First off I didn't mean any disrespect to the elite ultra runners. Saying "real elite" was the wrong choice of words. It seems lately that all the talk has been about competition and money. I just wondered if the elites thought about who may be attracted to ultras if money comes into the sport. It's just too bad that money has to be the thing that will bring the best competition together. Money is the root of all evil.

            It's cool that you are ready to take on all comers,Karl! You're an insporation for sure.

    2. geoff

      be careful what they wish for? in my mind the best thing that could come of more big money races would be if more top level runners from around the world were drawn into the sport of mountain ultra running. to me that's the biggest appeal of big money races. It's not about wanting to win money, but wanting to run against the field of runners that might be attracted to a big money race. It's happened already to a lesser degree at the NF50 where there seems to be a few sub 2:20 marathoners who show up each year. If an even bigger prize race brought in sub 2:10 marathoners that'd be even more exciting.

      as to the question of whether they'd dominate the race or not? if the example that's been set by the sub 2:20 guys at NF is any indication, then certainly some folks would fare better than others, but it doesn't appear likely that very many would outrun the current top level 100 mile mountain runners. I'm sure there are several sub 2:10 marathoners out there who could be very strong 100 mile mountain runners, but for every one of them there are probably several who would struggle mightily. then again, until any of them actually give it a try it's all kind of just silly speculation.

      1. William Swint

        Before NF 50 2010 had you heard of Miguel Heras? I had not heard of him,that's not saying much, because outside the U.S.A. I don't pay much attention to runners. It seems to me though that a lot of people had not. The point is the money will bring more attention to ultras,which will bring more guys like Miguel to come collect. That's just one guy.

        One of the other things that comes with money is cheating (doping). Bringing that into the sport might be something to think about. I will never be elite,but one of the things I've loved about the sport of Ultrarunning is that it's pure. Sadly,that may change.

        1. pjh

          This is ridiculous. Money is the "root of all evil". Come on, I get up to work every day and make money, I also swam Div I in college and didn't make jack sh$$ even though that was my life- training 5hrs a day for years. I will never make money doing ultra's but I sure as heck think people at the top of the field should. There is nothing wrong with it and they deserve it.

          1. William Swint

            Yeah,it's ridiculous that money is the root of all evil. What motivates 99% of crime?

            I never said the top of the field didn't deserve money. I just said be careful what you wish for.

            Thanks for letting us know that you were a Div 1 swimmer, bet you don't get to bring that up much.

  12. geoff

    in terms of the original post i think AJW raises some good points. are the top races getting spread too thin because there seems to be so many of them now? As much as this seems like it is likely to happen it certainly hasn't been the case and doesn't seem like it'll be the case in 2012. to me WS looks as solid as ever with almost everyone back from the past couple years. HR – likely the strongest field ever. leadville remains to be seen, but i've heard some big names who have it on their radar. RRR already has 4 or 5 of the top 100 milers in the country on board. UROC has doubled their prize money and will likely be as strong or stronger than last year. Add to this the fact that kilian is planning to spend most of his summer training/racing in the states and I feel like 2012 will have even more races with impressively deep fields than the last few years. I do agree that there are more and more very high profile races each year, but I also think there are significantly more runners pushing themselves to compete at the front of the pack and attempting to do so several times each year. almost all of the top runners are racing 5+ big races a year so you can easily have 8 or 10 races each year with a huge amount of top level competition. just think about how many races there were this year that probably had their deepest field ever: Bandera, Rocky Racoon, Chuckanut, Miwok, WS, Hardrock, UTMB, UROC, NF (to name a few). on the surface is seems like with so many high profile races that competition should be getting spread thin, but in reality it seems to me like the opposite is happening.

    1. Tom W

      Geoff is right, extremely competitive elite fields have remained constant or increased as the number of races has increased. As popularity of ultra running increases, the overall number of ultra runners increases. A percentage of these new additions will start out at or over time rise to the elite level.

      Certainly an exciting time to be in the sport and a fan of the sport.

      1. Sunny Skies

        I wonder what happens when the Born To Run 'bubble' bursts?

        As to the elites of the sport, its a very small group that dominates the above mentioned races. How interested is the general public in these people and the sport itself (and for how long)? How much revenue does their racing actually generate for the sponsors and advertisers (admittedly, sponsoring these athletes is certainly a bargain at this point … it is not NASCAR)? What happens to the these money races when the sponsors take their money elsewhere (if that money shows up at all) or when they decide they can cut out the middleman and simply put on their own event (or dictate the terms).

        A bit on a tangent to the discussion, I am watching with interest how the PCTR fiasco plays out in California. An over-ambitious race schedule with too little help; a competing company spun off and offering much the same races after the original organizers went their separate ways (competing with other organizers offering the same distances at virtually the same venues); a whole lot of unhappy customers voicing their dissatisfaction over cancelled races quite publicly on Facebook … yet, they have a company PCTR racing team. Seems like one should take care of the 'paying customers' first. I hope it all works out.

        1. olga

          I was thinking about all that money purse yesterday, granted that post is long behind now. I wonder what companies would contribute as much as 90k to make up close to what advertised, and why would they want to. the big shoe companies like Montrail and North Face have their own races/series, Salomon and La Sportiva are Euro companies, so is Inov8, Perl Izumi is not that popular in trail shoe world…and from their stand point (not only shoe, any trail-related company that might be expected to step in), if the race is won by someone other than the guy/gal wearing/eating/drinking/using otherwise their product, how would they write off that inot their budget and why would they hope it'll bring them new customers? Of course most of us are aware that it's not the shoe that a champion makes but rather the initial talent that get cultivated (and company may help that cultivation process by rpoviding the means for training and racing), but really, if Kilian wears Salomon yet Roes wears Montrail and Karl is all for Hoka…what the f&*^ shall I wear to win? Anyhow, just playing devil's advocate on how to bring that much money into competition. While I do see the ultrarunning develops into something attracting the sponsors and paying off money to top runners at many venues, it is probably from business stand point will be a few (or even many) various races with not much of a pay off (North Face type of prize in mind). I don't see anything wrong with it either. Just saying. Kind of wondering why some top runners hope to make a pay-day off the race – if you are a business person, why would you put your money on the line?

          As for PCTR, that is sad, and yes, paying customers absolutely have to come first. I don't live in CA and don't follow the details, but did hear bits and pieces. Sometimes it is the strongest survives, sometimes it is "lets merge and forget the differences", accomodate schedules and divide with runners in mind. Hope it all settles in. So far everybody's loosing – business owners and customers alike.

          1. Ben Nephew

            I added to this the other thread, but if WS pays its RD 55k and spends 25-30k on research, I don't have a hard time believing RRR100 could generate 100k for prize money with a less limited field size than WS. I would also guess that the course that is not as expensive to set up as WS. Is the corporate sponsorship of WS at a level that is unattainable by other races? If RRR100 can get the same level of corporate sponsorship and double the field, they could charge half of what WS charges for entry and generate 80k of prize money if the RD doesn't take a salary and don't spend any funds on research. I'm sure there are excercise physiology labs that would love the opportunity to gather data at a top level ultra.

            1. Speedgoatkarl

              why do they do research anyway? I really hope that WS doesn't spend "entry fee money" on research. We know it's not healthy to run 100 miles in 100 degree weather, no shit…:-)

            1. olga

              I know that, Karl, I am a big girl:) I am just making this example for the sake of questioning possible motives of companies shedding BIG bucks to a race (the emphasis is on big, they've been shedding money to promote races all along, thank you very much!).

        2. Anonymous

          Great point Sunny. I think the whole running community is thriving of some book that in my opinion is one of the worst things that has happened to running. I mean how can you trust a book about running written by a guy how can't even run, just tip toes around at 12min pace??? Either way when the boom dies as all booms do. What then??? A lot of "pro" ultra runners will be out of jobs, a lot of races will have weak fields, and a lot of people with have one(or a few) stupid looking pair of shoes in there closet.

        1. Not So Fast

          I got the chance to watch Kourous run in the States (at Olander way back when). I definitely will treat myself to a KJ viewing (greatest trail run ever?).

  13. Andy

    A great example of just one of the things I love about ultrarunning — plenty of hours on the trail to hone our acerbic sense of humor (and purist elitism).

    Touché

  14. Anonymous

    Might be 'silly speculation' but one thing is for sure, they are not wasting their valuable training time blogging or hawking products or hoping some prize money might materialize at some first year 100 miler. And, there is easier money to be made than running ultras for these guys.

    To get these guys to run, somebody is going to have to sponsor them, bring them to the States, and so forth … to win a few thousand dollars? That's good money for part time graduate students and ski bums, but not for a professi

    1. Joe

      I agree. I just don't see that happening. First of all "Ultras" may be growing but it certainly isn't mainstream and it always comes down to marketing reach and $$$. In addition most of the the races are not spectator friendly and covering them by TV would be a major undertaking. Reminds me of adventure racing about 5 years ago. Coverage and hype came and went as did many of the big sponsors.

      1. Anonymous

        I think ultrarunning already had its day … many years ago there was 'big TV coverage', beer sponsors, car companies and so on getting in on the action. Newcomers to the sport might not know that … but it happened … and came and went.

        And way back when there were runners trying to make a living off the sport … they came and went too.

        Yes today there are droves of new runners showing up at the races – many with no more experience than a reading of Born To Run and happy to know that pizza is Karno's performance food of choice and that an average of 15 minute miles can get you a Big Buckle at Leadville (sounds easy doesn't it :-) – but once the majority find they actually have to train and cannot 'blowhard' their way to a 100 mile finish, they return to Ironman'ing or similar.

        Its a great sport. Enjoy the training and the events, but keep your day job.

        The other limiting factor is the economy. How many companies – and families – are cutting back on the 'extras'? Personally, when I hear someone seeking money for their upcoming epic adventure 'for charity', I think of needs closer to home.

  15. Anonymous

    Maybe we should form a fantasy ultrarunning league with imaginary races. Nobody would have to train or have their feelings hurt. We could still blog and buy cool stuff. Pass the chips and I'll take Mackey as my first round pick!

    1. Andy

      In addition, we could start an Ultra Little League where we could run vicariously by pushing our kids to the extreme but not have to exert ourselves, just drive them to practices, special coaching, and endless mini-ultra meets. Of course, lots of feelings *would* be hurt and there would great rivalry and animosity, but at least not among the athletes themselves …

      1. Spike

        One thing I'll bring up with Kenyans trying to feed their village is the flash in the pan effect thats seen a lot in the distance races. They'll do what it takes to run the 3:30/13:00/27:00/2:08 or whatever(tons of anaerobic work on top of their huge aerobic bases a lot of times), make their money, then either leave the sport or burn out. I just feel like the 100 mile distance is just not as prone to this type of phenomenon because of the multiple dimensions that it takes to nail an ultra. Not saying that it can't be done but just that it doesn't seem as likely to me.

      2. Dean G

        Okay, I'm just a lowly newbie but…

        Last time I took a Biology class, running for more than 5 hours is an entirely different endeavor than running for 2. As in — it requires an entirely different kind of athlete — because it involves a whole host of systems that NEVER come into play at "shorter" distances.

        Managing your endocrine system is something that you just never have to do when you are running a marathon, even one under 2:08. So while I can understand the impulse to say the Kenyans work at the 5K, 10K, Marathon… So why not longer… The answer is: BECAUSE THE PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS change, much like the change from being a 100m runner to being a 10K.

        So personally, I'd urge caution before you start downplaying the level athletic performance you are seeing at these longer distances by the top Athletes competing today. And make no mistake, when you say, "Uh-oh, you might awaken the Kenyans" — that is exactly what you are doing.

        1. Coach Weber

          To quote Noakes from an ancient edition of Lore of Running:

          Page 358-Lore of Running: Training Methods of the Elite

          "Virtually all great runners achieved success at shorter distance races before gravitating to marathon and ultramarathon races. Kolehmainen, Nurmi, Zatopek, Peters, Edelen, Clayton, Hill, Shorter, de Castella, Salazar, Jones, Lopes, Temane, and Waitz were all excellent track or cross-country exponents before they achieved success at the longer distances on the road, especially in the marathon.

          Similarly, the great ultramarathon runners, Hayward, Meckler, Ritchie, Fordyce, Rowell, Kouros, and van de Merwe have all run fast over distances from 10 to 42.2 km.

          This evidence proves beyond a doubt that the faster the athlete at short distances, the greater that athlete's potential in the marathon and ultimately in the ultramarathon, as also shown in scientific studies.

          This truth was again confirmed in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, won by 1984 World Cross-Country Champion Carlos Lopes, who 2 months before the Games ran the second fastest 10 K ever (27:17:41) Second place in the Olympic Games went to John Tracy, also a former World Cross-Country Champion, who was running his first-ever marathon. Alberto Salazar ran his best marathon when he was training for 10 K on the track, and Steve Jones set his 1984 World Marathon Record in his first marathon, which he ran after training specifically for track and cross-country racing.

          Thus it comes as no suprise that Matthews Temane, who has run the fastest mile at altitude, holds the world 21.1 K best; that Bruce Fordyce has the fastest mile, 5 K, and 10 K of anyone running the Comrades; that Fritth van de Merwe and Eleanor Adams are the fastest female marathoners currently competing in the short and long ultramarathons; and that Yiannis Kouros is the fastest marathon runner competing in the long ultramarathons.

          The truth is that if you are unable to beat these runners at 1 mile or 10 km, you will also never beat them at any other distance, even up to 700 km!"

          PS: By the way, for you new-comers to the sport, the best money you can spend to learn the sport, is Dr. Tim Noakes' book "The Lore of Running"

          1. Spike

            That being said, why did for example Dakota Jones with modest shorter distance pr's beat guys like Wardian, McDougal, Flaherty, etc. in the TNF50? All these guys have much faster shorter distance prs.

            1. Coach Weber

              This might be an intesting topic for IRF to pursue in an interview with Dr. Noakes …I'd sure read it and learn from it.

            1. Keith

              Mountain races take a different skill set than paved ones. Wardian and the others do not spend enough time in the mountains to build the correct muscles for those kind of races.

              People said the same thing about Africans not being able to compete in steep mountain races. The Africans now dominate in the Euro mountain races that offer money.

              Noakes is right.

          2. Dean G

            Coach,

            The point I was trying to make above (I accidentally posted before I was done) is that not every runner has a body that supports racing 100 miles. Because racing 100 miles puts different demands not he body.

            So while I understand that Kouros has the best marathon of the ultra pool right now…

            …that wouldn't mean that every Marathoner faster than him could simply train and eventually smoke his 24-hour record.

            Just like not every fast 5k runner can train and win a marathon…

            It just means that in a pool of people capable of racing 100 miles, the one with the quicker 5k times wins.

            For all we know, a person who can run a 2:04 Marathon simply may not be able to race 100 miles… Or if they train to do so, their Marathon time might drop considerably by the time they've retrained their bodies.

            That was my understanding of Noakes. With all other capabilities being equal, the guy with "more natural speed" wins.

            1. Spike

              So according to Noakes, if Usain Bolt trained himself properly he would sweep the boards all the way up to a 100 miler?

            2. Bryon Powell

              Dean, I'm in general agreement, but I'd the guy with "more natural endurance capacity" wins. Throw Kilian into a track 10k, a vertical kilometer, a 100 mile mountain race, a skimo event, or a Tour de France hors catégorie climb and he will kill it. While he'd be me handily in a 100 meter dash, I'm sure his raw speed's not on par with the world's "fastest" guys. ;-)

          3. Speedgoatkarl

            Kolehmainen, Nurmi, Zatopek, Peters, Edelen, Clayton, Hill, Shorter, de Castella, Salazar, Jones, Lopes, Temane, and Waitz. All these runners achieved great success at shorter distances than the marathon. Of course they did, but they stopped there, well most of them. I know Salazar ran Comrades, but the others? You are still talking about the "Marathon" as being a long distance. It's not far. We can't compare all these guys above, if they are running a 100 mile mountain race. It's different, and to speculate and think they could have been better than Roes, Tony K, I guess myself too, and a slew of others at the 100 mile mountain race, is simply speculation. Yes, they were all very fast, but not at 100 miles, cuz' they chose not to run that far. :-)

            Kouros, well Kouros is an exception. But again, what was his best marathon? Mike Wardian, although not seasoned (yet) at 100 miles has run 2:17 ish. Has Kouros done that? Maybe, I don't know, but Mike throws a 220 ish down freakin' every other week.

            Coach Weber, you are still way off comparing great marathoners to 100 mile mountain runners…..it's different, and if you haven't run a 100 mile mountain race, speculation is the big word here. Coulda, shoulda, might have….but never did.

            Dean G can probably give some technical data on why. I can't really, I just run em with the textbook in my pocket.

            It's all mumbo jumbo, and if I could stand on a start line with 30 kenyans, such as Wardian has done at Boston…I would be honored.

  16. Carlos

    Mo' money and mo' races means mo' doping. Methinks there will some "incredible" performances and swift recoveries going forward — particularly with the easy and cheap availability of drugs (see, e.g. NYT articles on the ease of obtaining testosterone under one's health insurance).

  17. Hone

    I wish 1 or 2 world class African runners would spend a year of their lives training and running mountain ultras just to end this debate. I am intersted to know what would happen.

    Are the current elite ultrarunners special because only a couple people care to do it or are they special because no one else can do what they do?

    I guess since there is starting to be more money in the sport we will find out soon enough. Until this is done..it is all just speculation.

  18. Coach Weber

    You'll have to argue with Noakes, not me … it is his writing (although I agree with what he wrote **as written** not as some people are extrapolating from it).

    Now, if I were looking for the next ultra phenom (road, track or trail), I'd rather have a pool of fast runners than slow runners to begin my search (I believe the mile is a good beginning data point). While not every fast guy or gal will pan out as we take him/her up the distance ladder, it is a much better bet than taking a bunch of likeable plow horses and seeing if they can win the Derby by endurance alone.

    I find it illogical that some folks here are suggesting that being world-class fast at the marathon rules that runner out as potential world class ultrarunner (I agree that a runner with world class talent at distances that can make that runner a multi-millionaire has no reason to toe the line at a 100 miler for peanuts). No, not every fast marathoner will pan out as as fast ultrarunner, but does having world class marathon speed **hurt** their potential (underline the word potential)?

    So, what does predict world class potential at the ultradistances?

    (By the way, some of my best ultra 'finds' over the years have been from women who never had the opportunity to train/compete until later in life or who came from non-running backgrounds).

    1. Coach Weber

      … so not to seem simplistic or 'pop me a 4 minute mile or I'm not interested', I'll add that my very first ultramarathon 100 mile trail champion probably never ran a sub-7 minute mile in her life, yet, she won Leadville early on and had a career that included a 50 km – 3:53; 50 Mile – 6:33; 100 km – 8:22; 100 Mile – 17:07. I'm the first to admit that speed is not everything … but it doesn't hurt either.

      PS: Happy Holidays to All and it means a lot to me to be part of this awesome sport and community!

      Scott

  19. outsideinmi

    Let's make this easy. Just convince the Olympic committee to add a 100 mile race. No prize money needed, just an Olympic gold medal and we'll see if any kenyans, ethiopians, etc can match their 10k, 13.1 mile, and marathon domination.

  20. Ben Nephew

    I wonder how strong the correlation between a fast 5k and fast marathon was 30-40 years ago? It seems possible that the whatever trends we are seeing right now in ultrarunning are supported by low sample sizes.

    I do think Geoff's point about the lack of success by some of the faster ultra men raises interesting questions. With respect to US 100 milers, I think the data pool is too small to be of much use. With shorter ultras, I think the lack of success of 2:20 guys has more to do with a lack of training, ultra experience, and/or specific focus. Most ultrarunners I know either struggled with their first few ultras, or at least were inconsistent early in their career. Most of the examples people have been citing as evidence of the lack of success of faster runners are guys who are new to ultras. Perhaps some of them were more invested in making the Olympic trials? Sure, the 10k at TNF 50 is a good amount of money, but everyone realizes that 50 milers are unpredictable, especially if you are new to ultrarunning. Besides that race, there isn't much to entice a 2:20 guy hoping to make the Olympic trials to focus all his training on trail ultras.

    With women, Lizzie, Devon, Kami, Ann Trason, Megan Arbogast, and Ellie are all fast marathoners. Nikki Kimball has had success at short mountain races, short trail races, snowshoeing, XC skiing, and probably dog mushing. Can anyone find a top female ultra runner who is not fast at shorter distances where there is evidence that they actually spent time training for shorter distances?

    Karl, you want to know what happens when a world class runner tries a 100? Look at Ann Trason. Sure, she didn't have a marathon WR, but 2:39 is pretty solid. In addition to her WS success, she also ran a 100k in 7:00. But what would a 2:26 female marathoner run for 100k, though? That would be 6:33, or 3 minutes slower than the American male record.

    My answer to Coach Weber's question would be the same for any sport, talent and motivation.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      "what would a 2:26 female marathoner run for 100k, though? That would be 6:33, or 3 minutes slower than the American male record"

      "I object", so the judge says…"sustained" calls for speculation. Until a female runs a sub say 225 marathoner, then runs 6:33, it's simply speculation. Whatever science formula you are using, throw it out the window until it's reality. I"m not saying it couldn't happen, it may. "then why are people watching it?" "cuz' it's on TV"…..Dalyrimple says…."not yet". :-)

      One more wierd analogy coming from someone with a ski background. Avalanches are also unpredictable, no matter how much science you throw at the rouge block, it can still slide at any moment. Not sure if that makes sense to everyone reading this, but it does for any backcountry skier…I would hope.

      Trason sure was a phenom though, just like many other runners, that's what makes the sport of ultrarunning so unpredictable.

      This debate could go on forever. I think I"ll go run….

  21. Ben Nephew

    Karl,

    I clearly read in another thread that WS spends 25-30k on research in a discussion explaining how the race barely breaks even. Maybe it was 20-25k. Not sure where it would be coming from other than entry fees. Even if it isn't coming from entry fees, it is still an odd expense. That type of research is typically funded by federal agencies or private institutes.

  22. Andy

    Really amusing to read this banter which, true, is all just "speculation." But to answer Hone's somewhat rhetorical question: *of course* the pool of runners who care to run 100 miles is limited. And *of course* some, but not all, of the elite African (or other) marathoners would turn out to be elite ultra-runners if they chose to go down that … well … path. I'm probably not one to opine here, being a relative newbie and mid-to-back of the packer whose never run further than 100k, but you don't need a Ph.D. in exercise physiology or to have written a book to see the common sense.

  23. Chris Price

    AC was on July 23rd last year. I wasn't there but all my friends who ran it said it was hot from the start.

    I am toeing the line this year, will definitely need to acclimate myself to the heat before July.

  24. fredp

    Look at Matt Carpenter, fast at short distances, still one of the best and most unheralded CR's at Leadville. Look at Killian, fast at short distances…

    As for RRR, I wish them all the best of luck, but I'm not a big fan of the format. I already know the 'elites' can beat me by hours measured with two digits. Nevertheless, I, like many other ultrarunners, like to dream. I like to dream that this will be the year I trail like an olympian and make a quantum leap in my running. As a 'midpacker,' which seems to be the largest segment of the Ultra community, I don't want to designate myself as a tortoise or turtle or whatever it is, cause maybe this will be the year I become a hare;)

    Love the concept of the Hokas, but they are virtually worthless in large sizes, the uppers barely able to keep the big toe from slopping over the midsole:(

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      Fred, sounds like you have the Mafate. Try the Bondi or Stinson EVO, the upper is quite different even in a larger sizes.

      Good point on Carpenter and Killian. Here's the real kicker of why….in my humble opinion. Both these guys have a V02 max over 90! That's right, 4 lungs, not two, hence the ability to process oxygen better than everyone else….making them faster at shorter distances. Both of em' are freaks in a good way. :-)

      Don't be offended by the "tortoise or turtle" thing, it's all mumbo jumbo and at the finish line, we'll all be a "turtle" cuz' we won't be able to move…..

  25. Rune

    Karl,

    Firstly, how's the luge track coming? You wouldn't believe the hype you generated for that up here back in June :p

    Second, a woman has run a 2:26 marathon and a 6:33 100km! Tomoe Abe in 2000.

    Merry Christmas to ya!

    Ryne

      1. Rune

        Well dammit we trucked snow in for the Olympics here so Karl can truck some in for the track! No guff I just chatted with someone who wanted his winter vacation built around going to Utah not for the skiing or mountains but for the luge track.

        Classic!

    1. Ben Nephew

      Wait, was the Seinfeld reference serious? Thanks for pointing that out, Ryne! I should have realized people were more likely to pick up on a Seinfeld reference than some road time on an easy course.

      I probably wouldn't think it was serious unless I had seen the results.

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        Kinda scary with the Seinfeld reference. I've watched that show so many times…it's silly. The reference was perfect though. And you are right, many folks would recognize that more than any road time anywhere. :-)

        The Luge is still waiting for snow, and I am a little bummed about it, but I've lived here long enough to know….the big dumps are coming, they always do.

  26. the other "Geof

    Karl,

    Great responses on this post overall, but a solid one to "fredp". In the end we race against the course and ourselves on any given day. We all hope to finish and accomplish what we have set out to do. And yes, everyone hobbles home afterward… whether you are in the front or the back of the back. (Hopefully with your individual goal attained and the joy of running with a vibrant community.)

    I guess I would like to get your opinion and Geoff's / Bryon's (or any other elites), etc. on how elites choose their races. Is it courses they enjoy or want to be challenged by, is it the incentive of money, a challenging field, exposure opportunities, do sponsors get involved at the higher level in those choices, or (fill in the blank motivations here)? I am guessing each athlete is different, but I would like to hear your thoughts. How does one build their race calendar?

    UROC is an example of athletes potentially fitting a race into their schedule for money this year. And the opportunity to run with some really fast folks… Just don't take a wrong turn! (Much love for both Geoff and Michael. Both guys are awesome.)

    Thanks ahead of time for any insight anyone can provide.

    Cheers and enjoy the Holidays,

    Geoff.

    1. outsideinmi

      as i sit here enjoying a cup of Karl's 100 brand here is my 2 cents. I choose my race by location, field size, cost and how close it is to home. (family with 3 kids) I don't like the big crowds and being boxed in by people at every turn and hill. For my first 50 miler last fall it was a loop course with around 1000 runners total (marathon, 50, and half marathon on same course), for my next one it will be a 50 miler field of about 20 runners on amazing (not mountainous) terrain on the shores of Lake Superior. I've done marathons where thousands run together and i've done marathons where i don't see people for 15 miles and definitely prefer the latter. Solitude, close to home, beauty, and cost are my race preferences Karl. Someday when I retire I will, hopefully, choose exotic locations far from home with big ticket entry fees where i can line up next to elites. But, for now I'm happy with simplicity – that's the draw of running in general for me. Lace up shoes, step out the door and the adventure begins.

    2. geoff

      for me there are numerous factors which come in to play when choosing a race. the number one factor is the actual location of the race. close to home is a plus. in a location that i like to travel to anyway is a plus. and the beauty of the area is a plus. if i only did one race a year this would be how i would choose that race. but since i do several races a year i usually do about half of them based primarily on location. the other half tend to be influenced a lot by competition, timing of when the race occurs, attachment to the event (ran it before and liked it or know the race director and want to support their event or a deep history/legacy to an event), and prize money.

      prize money is an interesting one. i've only once run a race with for the primary purpose of trying to earn some prize money (NF 50 in Georgia in 2010). that was weird and not likely something i'll ever do again. generally i am drawn to prize money races because i know they will have a competitive field. rather than picking a typically competitive race and hoping that a bunch of fast runners show up, i can pick a race with decent prize money and pretty much be guaranteed that their will be several top runners there. UROC and NF SF are both great examples of this. neither one of these races would likely be on my race calander if it weren't for the prize money, but it's not because of the prize money directly that i race them, but rather for the guaranteed deep field.

  27. Mike Hinterberg

    I'm actually pretty happy with the fact that research is being done at WS100 (and associated with other races, e.g. Comrades and Leadville). It's a non-profit part of the race also based on donations/grants, so I'm unsure how much of the entry fee is used. I'm also happy that other races choose not to do any research — their prerogative.

    Besides exercise physiology research (note the other article on the "Central Governor" — people get excited about ex phys research, but it doesn't come for free), the research benefits runners directly through treating and preventing things like hyponatremia and rhabdomyolysis. More importantly (IMHO), research results from ultras teach us about general physiological processes, such as muscle destruction and recovery, inflammation, and immune function. These findings can be important for diseases like cardiac disease/MI's, diabetes, etc.

    A Leadville study this summer is looking at genetic expression changes of high-altitude training, but the results will be applied to hypoxia in pediatric heart failure and sudden infant death syndrome.

    So if you feel any race is too expensive or the money is not well-spent, feel free to choose appropriately. But other people might be interested to know how research works and what the money goes toward: in short, the extreme stresses and recovery in endurance athletes helps us learn about biological processes that are otherwise much harder to study in the general population.

  28. Josh White

    The book's statements are correct, but you can't apply this logic in reverse. It becomes a logical fallacy. True – successful ultrarunners have been faster at shorter distances. Not necessarily true – successful "short" distance runners will be successful at Ultras. To use a different analogy – While all tomatoes are plants, not all plants are tomatoes.

    Short story long – Our current ultra running elite have been fast at short distances. Kenyans are fast at "short" distances. This is not a bulletproof argument to say that Kenyans will automatically be good at 100's.

    "The truth is that if you are unable to beat these runners at 1 mile or 10 km, you will also never beat them at any other distance, even up to 700 km." – completely untrue

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