Montrail Ultra Cup Winners and Losers

When this year’s Western States 100 was canceled, iRunFar pointed out a few issues raised by the cancellation. Well one of those issues, the determination as to the winners of the 2007-08 Montrail Ultra Cup has been made. After tallying the results of three MUC races instead of four (the WS100 was to be the mandatory 4th race) Erik Skaden and Nikki Kimball came out the victors.

iRunFar agrees that the elimination one race from this year’s series was the right thing to do. It would be too hard for the contenders to all schedule a fourth to-be-determined race, especially if it was to be a 100 miler. One nice thing about the MUC is that competitors know the races well ahead of time and can plan their schedules accordingly. However, all is not well with the Montrail Ultra Cup. Read on to find out what seems to be wrong and suggest solutions of your own.

One huge problem should become immediately apparent after a quick look at the series results listed below.

Men

  1. Erik Skaden (Folsom, CA)
  2. Jean Pommier (Cupertino, CA)
  3. No qualifying third place winner

Women

  1. Nikki Kimball (Livingston, MT)
  2. Caren Spore (Davis, CA)
  3. Leslie Antonis (Modesto, CA)

Ok, so we highlighted the obvious problem. Even without requiring competitors to finish Western States, only two men qualified for the MUC standings! That’s absurd. While there’s no easy solution, having a series based around 7 races most of which are extremely difficult (if not damn near impossible) to get into appears to put a ceiling on the MUC’s stature.

Also, the MUC podium does not have the geographic mix it should with the exception of Nikki Kimball. The other four runners cumulatively live 300 miles from Sacramento, California. That highlights another problem with requiring runners to finish four events – the cost of getting to four MUC races. That also creates a huge geographic disparity in that it’s clearly much less expensive for a Northern Californian to compete for the Cup. This year’s MUC included three races (Way Too Cool, American River, and Miwok) that were a grand total of 130 miles from Sacramento. In comparison, any East Coaster looking to compete for this year’s cup would need to have traveled a minimum of around 12,000 miles … and that’s (1) assuming they live in Lynchburg, Virginia (where the MUC’s Mount Masochist is held) and (2) not highlighting that it would be closer to 18,000 miles if Western States had been run. That does not compute into a national championship.

[Update 7/23 8:30 p.m.] Meissner just brought up a third problem that we’d considered, but obviously forgot to include earlier. It’s kinda silly to have to sign up for the series and even worse to have to enter your data from particular races. It seems like a competition that awards $10,000 could pony up a couple hours to do the data compilation. There’ve got to be loads of interns clambering to work for Montrail, right?

That said, there’s alot of promise in a series like the Montrail Ultra Cup, but that promise cannot be realized under the Cup’s current format.

So how would you suggest Montrail modify the Ultra Cup in coming years? Different races? A change in how the winner is determined?

Below are a couple quick, scattershot ideas for improving the MUC to get you thinking:

  • Add some races to the series that aren’t on Route 80 in California.
  • Cut the series to two required races. To be eligible for the Cup, a runner must place top 3 at an MUC qualifying race. Qualified MUC contenders must then have to finish Western States. Placement among MUC qualifiers at States would determine the winner.
  • Reserve slots at MUC races other than the WS100 for top series participants. We’ve admittedly got no clue how to initially determine who gets the reserved slots. Perhaps there could be a mandatory first race from which 10 runners have guaranteed slots at the next race or possibly the rest of the series. The first race would have to be held at a race with a nearly unlimited field.