Montrail Ultra Cup – New and Improved

Montrail Ultra CupThis evening Montrail announced some major improvements to the Montrail Ultra Cup. Among those improvements are the addition of a couple races that make the MUC more geographically diverse, an increased emphasis on longer races, and more flexibility in the race series. We know for a fact that Montrail consulted extensively with its athletes in revising the series. While not everyone will be 100% satisfied with the changes (that would be impossible), we think that the changes make the Montrail Ultra Cup a much better ultra series.

The Races
The 2009-10 MUC will have more races, longer races, and more geographic diversity. The 2008-09 MUC included the White River 50 mile (WA), Mountain Masochist 50 mile (VA), JFK 50 mile (MD), Way Too Cool 50k (CA), American River 50 mile (CA), Miwok 100k (CA), and, of course, the Western States 100 (CA). From that line-up only the White River 50 mile (being run this weekend) has been left out of the next MUC. Without additions, the series would be even less geographically diverse than it was, as all the carryover races are along the I-80 in California or within a few hours of Washington, DC. Fortunately, Montrail added races in Oregon, Vermont, Texas, Alabama, and Wisconsin. These races are the Where’s Waldo 100k (OR), the Vermont 50k and 50 mile (VT), the Bandera 100k and 50k (TX), the Cheaha 50k (AL), and the Ice Age 50 mile and 50k (WI). This diversity was a highlight that all three of the Montrail athletes we talked to – Eric Grossman, Sean Meissner, and Matt Hart – mentioned. Here’s the schedule:

  1. 8/22/09 – Where’s Waldo 100k (Willamette Pass, OR)
  2. 9/27/09 – Vermont 50 Mile/50k (Ascutney Mtn Resort, VT)
  3. 11/7/09 – Mountain Masochist 50 Mile (Lynchburg, VA)
  4. 11/21/09 – JFK 50 (Washington County, MD)
  5. 1/9/10 – Bandera 100k/50k (Bandera, TX)
  6. 2/27/10 – Cheaha 50k (Cheaha State Park, AL)
  7. 3/13/10 – Way Too Cool 50k (Cool, CA)
  8. 4/10/10 – American River 50 (Sacramento, CA)
  9. 5/1/10 – Miwok 100k (Marin Headlands, CA)
  10. 5/8/10 – Ice Age Trail 50 Mile/50k (LaGrange, WI)
  11. 6/26/10 – Western States 100 (Squaw Valley, CA)

In general, we really like this schedule, but as an astute commenter pointed out last week, entry is already closed for the Mountain Masochist and JFK 50s. This is an odd oversight, considering Montrail leaked Where’s Waldo’s inclusion into the 2009-10 MUC at Western States.

Western States Qualifiers
As automatic Western States 100 entries have been the most talked about aspect of the MUC in recent, we’ll go there before talking about the series championship. Two big changes here.

First, runners will no longer be able to earn an automatic Western States entry at 50ks. Only 50 milers and 100ks will do the trick. A big thumbs up to this change… though in the future it would be interesting to throw in an “off-season” 100 miler for those of the slow, but strong persuasion to have a better chance for auto-entries. As odd as it may sound, there are decent 100 milers that don’t start in Squaw Valley.

Second, to earn Western States spot at one of the 9 qualifying MUC races a runner will need to place first or second. If you cross the line as the third man or woman, too bad. We can only assume that Montrail’s agreement with Western States was for a certain number of race slots and that adding qualifying races necessarily resulted in fewer slots per race.

The Montrail Ultra Cup, Itself
While Western States has been a (the?) key aspect of the Montrail Ultra Cup over the past few years, the revisions may catapult the series itself to prominence.

One major improvement is the elimination of Western States as the sole mandatory race of the series. Matt Hart noted “I appreciate that it’s no longer required. It just didn’t make sense with their very difficult lottery.” We agree. That said, Western States will be more heavily weighted in calculating series standings.

For the 2009-20 Ultra Cup, racers will only need to finish races to be eligible for series awards; however, up to four races will count towards a runner’s series total. Obviously, that makes it all but mandatory that a top MUC competitor run at least four races in the series.

In the revised Montrail Ultra Cup the longer the race, the more points earned. Hart told us that he’s “most excited about the fact that the races are weighted.” Maximum points earned in each race will correspond to the number of miles run in that race (i.e., 31 points for a 50k and 100 points for the WS 100) and race scoring will be separated by gender. The male and female winner of each race receives the maximum number of points, while every other competitor is awarded the maximum number of points reduced by the ratio of the winner’s time to the competitor’s time. Need to see an example to understand, check out the MUC participant guidelines page or Greg Crowther’s comment below.

As Greg points out, anyone participating in a shorter MUC race will receive considerably fewer points for the effort than a less impressive performance in a long race. For this reason, it would seem to us that no series MUC competitor would enter the shorter distance at event in which there are two MUC races. For instance, more points would be earned by jogging the Vermont 50 mile than racing the hell out of the 50k.

One of our own pet peeves with previous Montrail Ultra Cups has been eliminated. Once you enter the Montrail Ultra Cup online, you won’t have to log each of your subsequent results. Montrail will now be taking care of that.

Prizes
For you top guys and gals who may be reading, pay attention. Montrail will be giving cash three deep: 1st = $2,500, 2nd = $1,000, and 3rd = $500. Money winners will also get a pair of Montrail shoes, a Nathan pack, and some nuun. Fourth and fifth places in the series will get a pair of Montrail shoes and flip-flops, respectively.

Call for Comments
So what do y’all think of the changes?