Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Modest Proposal

In case any readers have been in cave the last few days, there has been a good bit of angst created by the WS100 lottery results. There are many other races that either fill up quickly or require a lottery to gain entrance, yet one hardly ever hears much of a complaint about those (ironically, 2 of the races that are a Montrail Ultra Cup backdoor into WS100 are just such races, meaning you have to be fast at the keyboard and fast on the trails should you hope to make it to Squaw Valley this way). The situation with WS100 is complicated by the fact that it wants (even claims?) to be the holy grail of 100 mile trail running in the US. The fact that the number of entries flooding into the WS100 office continues to rise in the face of every increasing choices for 100 mile trail races amazes me, but that is a topic for another day.

In my opinion, since we don’t have any control over the entrants selection process at WS (probably a good thing!), and there are plenty of other races out there that do not fill up early, why not let WS do its thing and simply choose another race to be our informal “championship.” Of course no one race will be ideal for everyone, just as WS isn’t now but surely there are other races out there that would love to see a highly competitive and deep field show up. I will make this promise; if there is any way to vote/decide on such a race, I will be there. I figure I have only a certain number of quality races left in me, and at this point in my life I want to either run fast races or competitive races, and if the two happen to be the same all the better. Many will say that the race in question would have to be a longstanding event with a lot of history, such as WS100. Well, speaking of history, the WS100 course has changed so many times over the years, that despite its long history it is still hard to figure out how you stack up with the runners of yesterday. In fact, I’d like to see all races list both “Event Record Holders” and the various “Course Record Holders” along with a brief description of the differences of each course.

Ideally, I’d like to have several races and rotate through them over the course of 3 or 4 years. If nothing else, this would help avoid the “one course wonder” type phenomena that you sometimes notice with runners. For example, if you can not only beat all the best runners two years in a row, but do it at say Superior Trail one year and Rocky the next, I think you might just be the best 100 miler out there.

Let's Play Poker
Another idea I've been kicking around for awhile, and I've talked with a few good runners about it and got some decent feedback, is whatever race is picked, have an option of putting up your own money to make things interesting, sort of like the big Poker tournaments. For example, if you think you should be worthy of "special consideration" at WS100, surely you are feeling confident enough to put up a few hundred dollars!

Possible Races:

Rocky - fast, anyone can get in
Superior - slow, anyone can get in
Leadville - high, anyone can get in
Bear (don't know if this fills up)
Angeles Crest (don't know)
Burning River (midwest)
Something on east coast?
etc.

edit on 12/05 - Tahoe Rim Trail another good choice. Only mild altitude so not much of an issue for flat-landers.

edit on 12/06 - Let's add AT and Javelina to the list.

13 comments:

Jasper said...

Paul,

Make it happen. I bet if you can get 5-10 of the top guys to agree on a race (good luck!), the buzz might pull in many the rest. Probably too late for 2008 since people already have their schedules planned out. But sometime this summer, put out the call, and let's pick an event for 2009. I'll be there.

TRT is another option, especially if it continues to hold USATF championship status. Okay, nobody cares about that, but having $1000 prize money would have to help. TRT does fill, but I am betting Dave Cotter could be talked into holding some spots for elites.

-Jasper

Paul DeWitt said...

Jasper - good point on TRT; I added it to the list of possible races. After looking at the info, I see it is on my birthday this year which would be cool as it is the big 40th. Count me as 75% leaning towards doing it (hard to fully commit to anything other than a psych ward till after ATY.
- paul

Jasper said...

Paul,

Awesome to hear. I'd love to see what you could do on that course. Let me know if you need any course info, I've spent a lot of time on those trails in the last two years...

I won't be going back to TRT this year, myself. I'll be trying the Hardrock lottery again, and I'm looking at Vermont as a possible backup.

-J

WynnMan said...

Paul, you nailed it! Everything here is valid and makes a lot of sense. I have also wondered if those that focus just for WS would do well elsewhere. Like you said, proving more than just a one hit wonder.

davidultra49 said...

Paul,

Kettle Moraine or Arkansas Travler could be possiblities. Just enough elevation change for it not to be a complete runaway for the super fast flat guys. At the same time not so boring for the mountain goats.

Dave W.

Bedrock said...

Paul & Jasper,

Mind you, I am certainly not a top runner and would be nowhere near contention for a championship race. That said, I think it would be cool to have a separate race and rotate the course (kind of like the US Open does in golf). For example, the race is the US 100 Mile Championship or whatever. One year, it is run on the Rocky Racoon course and another year on the Tahoe Rim Trail course, etc.

I see two big advantages. First, varying the course will give different top runners (goats vs. speedsters) an advantage. Second, it would allow for the championship potentially occuring at different times in the year to minimize conflict with other races. For example, if the championship is at Rocky Raccoon, top runners could still recover and contend at Hardrock , which would be diffficult if the race was at Tahoe or Burning River. If at one of those venues, the top runner could focus on HURT or Traveller. Just an idea.

Also, have it as a separate event with a strict qualifying standards (like they did with the Olympic trials in NYC) so that the slow folks (like me) can still run the regular race and potentially watch the elites compete. Just some random thoughts. Happy to help out with organizing as needed.

Bedford

Paul DeWitt said...

Hey Bedford - thanks for your comments. I agree that looking at other sports is a good way to get some cool ideas. When I suggested rotating the championship between 3 or 4 events, I was thinking of the way the BCS rotates the championship game between the 4 top bowls (ok, at least that is good thing that has come from the BCS!), but Golf does it too. Or look at Tennis, where they have the 4 "grand slam" events and each is on a different surface. The 100 Grandslams used to be neat in that regard, except now you have 2 that are a lottery and they are crammed a little close together for most people.

I noticed that some 50K in the Pac Northwest did something similar this year; the regular race one day and then an "invitation" race the following day. Of course, that is asking a lot of volunteers to stick around for another long, long day.

Anton said...

Paul and Bedford,

Seriously, this has been the thing at the forefront of my mind the past half-week...a bona fide 100 mile trail US Championship that rotates courses.

The other thing that rotation eliminates is a North Face type organization debacle. Established 100 mile races have already proved their ability to put on a good race.

I really like the idea of different courses/regions around the country. Obviously, I don't care if it is flat and fast (a la Rocky...btw, the only reason I ran that race last year was because I knew Jorge was coming back and he'd be going for the record again and I wanted to be part of the action) or mountainy (Pb, Bighorn, Wasatch, on and on and on), I just want a chance against solid comp!

Jasper, I think you're right; get enough top guys and it will hopefully reach critical mass (even without prize money or some type of "championship" billing). I'm in, and I'm sure guys like Kyle, Karl, Hal, etc., etc. would be too.

Unfortunately, TRT this year is out...unfinished business to attend to at Pb still...but I wouldn definitely seriously consider for '09.

Bedrock said...

Guys,

I posted this earlier but it didn't take, hopefully it won't double up. Anyway. Seems like with all the dialogue among us and others (Loomis, Meltzer, Powell, etc.) that so long as the discussion continues in earnest, this event should become a reality.

Paul raises an important issue about the volunteers. I have an interesting way to handle this. Have the "elite" event occur on the day(s) before and encourage entrants in the "regular" race serve as volunteers. The motivation being you get to see the course up close the day before (key for folks that may not have access to it during training) and you get to observe the "elites" up close and perhaps ascertain "how they do it". This would preserve the local volunteers for the existing race. As a mid oack runner, this would be very apppealing to me.

If necessary, you could provide and incentive to regular entrants to volunteer (i.e., discount of next year's race fee). Another thought is to make it a requirement in order to start the "regular" event. With races filling as quickly as they are lately, this would give folks that are willing to volunteer an advantage.

Perhaps the biggest controversy would be how does one "qualify" for the event? I think the simplest way is to take the winners (maybe even top three) of all the 100 mile races plus races such as Badwater, Spartathlon and UTMB. Maybe a win gets you in for two years and a top three for one? I think there are around 40 or so races, so if you to took top three male and female you would have a max field of 240, which depending on the course, could be an issue. However, that assumes no one either wins or gets top three in two races (rarely the case). Tony and Jasper would be in (for two years)for last years wins at Leadville and Tahoe Rim, respectively. Also, Tony's win at Rocky Raccoon would not get him another two years, that spot would go unfilled. This cuts at least three spots. AJW's performance this past year would also free up two spots (qualifies with Vermont win, no spots for Teton win or Javelina 2nd). Jasper, I apologize if I have left out a win or top three performance of yours.

You would also make it a hard top three, meaning for example, since Tony won Rocky Raccoon, only the 2 and 3 males would be in, not 2, 3 and 4. This isn't that well formulated yet and is more of a ramble I suppose but does get the tought process going. Make any sense to you guys?

AJW said...

Folks,

I really like the idea of a championship race and think it would be well worth pursuing. In fact, a quick glance at the Coyote Two Moon Field lines it up as one of the most competitive 100's of the season (pending the Hardrock and Wasatch lotteries). Whatever happens I think pulling something together would be great. In fact, if there's an RD out there for one of the "open" 100's perhaps they could chime in with their interest. My plan at this point is to do C2M, the Slam (if I get in to Wasatch and Teton if I don't) and then Javelina. My hunch is that the organizers of both Teton (mountainous) and Javelina (fast and flat) would be intrigued by the idea of an elite invitational race.

AJW

olga said...

Paul, Lisa from Teton 100 is interested in hosting the championship this year. She asked me to email some folks - here I am. Take a look at her web and you can email her or me at olgav100@gmail.com

andyb said...

I'll chime in as one who wouldn't compete on the elite level, but would love to run in a championship event along with those who would compete on the elite level. Sorry Bedrock, but your idea just doesn't cut it from my point of view - the energy of a race like that would be great to be a part of, not just watching from the sidelines or an aid station.

I also think that rotating it among a number of different events, and regions, would allow for a better range of competition and allow for more people to participate and enjoy what could be a fantastic experience.

Carrie said...

I was just thinking about this topic about a week ago, before reading any of Paul's blog. Here are my suggestions:
1. Invite the top 3 winners, male and female, from all US 100 mile races in one year.
2. The Championship would include 2 100s in the next year - one on hilly trails and one considered to be an easier course (Umstead, Heartlands, etc.). All runners accepting this invitation must complete both races. Finishing times would be averaged.
3. The races should be spaced enough apart time-wise for recovery.
4. The races should be in different geographic locations so some people aren't at an advantage to train on both courses.
5. The RDs should still accept non-Championship runners because that particular race should still continue as an open 100. This may mean turning away a large group of people because top runners will take many of the bibs available.

Consider the possibility of a race doubling in size that year because of this championship race! Some 100s get 30 people tops.

I was thinking of this because I was wondering when the Olympics would hold an Ultra event, more particularly a 100. From this 100-mile Championship, the top 3 men and women would represent USA. I would love to be part of the crew for anyone who makes it!