Thanks for joining us today on Elevation Trail. We talk about the Olympics, mountain biking, Leadman/Leadville races, interview with “The Champ” oh, and handguns.
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Tell us! Make this a give and take community. We’re obviously not that worried about pleasing everyone but we would like to know how certain things work and don’t work for ET Mob.
Oh, and buy a fuckin’ hat. I have a box of them sitting here.
On the eve of the WS100 entry application, we thought it would be interesting to gage runners’ interest, thoughts, and general view of the race, so an informal comment-style questionnaire follows along with my answers. (just copy questions and write over my answers).
1) Do you want to run Western States?
-yes and no. It’s like spoiled milk in the fridge; you know it’s not what you want to do but you sniff it anyway just to see what it’s like.
2) Why/why not?
-Yes, because then I can comment on it with base knowledge and experience and not just sound like some windbag armchair WS basher.
3) Are you entering the lottery?
-Yes. (not holding my breath on getting in)
4) What do you like or dislike about WS100?
-Like – history and challenge. I’ve heard it’s amazing and I’ve heard it’s over-hyped and not that interesting. Dislike – Entry fee. Old boys network. The event’s general exclusive attitude and feel.
5) Should the WS board allow (invite!) Karl Meltzer to the race? Why/why not?
-Hell yes. The man is a legend. How can you have such a “wonderful” event and not have a legend run it?
6) Anyone else think it’s odd that the qualifying events (Montrail Cup) are not representational of racing 100 miles?
-I sure do. As Karl pointed out today on irunfar’s employee, AJW’s post today, a 100 is like three 50s. It’s like using a 10k to qualify for Boston.
7) What is the most annoying thing about the event? Hype (like this post)? Elitism? Entry fee? Smoke and mirrors of the entry/lottery process?
-All the above.
8) Here’s a fun one… Will the US get crushed again this year in the race?
-I’ll say no because Salomon probably will move on and find something else to dominate. Business is done there.
9) What are some other 100s you believe are better and why? Terrain? Entry? Direction? Lack of or more competition? Nicer schwag?
-Having not done WS, I can only say which 100s in my small experience I like: HARDROCK, Grand Mesa was a tough bastard too.
10) What are you going to do when you don’t get selected in the lottery? Grumble online? Sigh and have a beer? Write a constructive letter to the WS board outlining the unethical and unfair entry process and what they should do about it? Run another 100 in June?
-Hopefully be focused on Hardrock. (probably grumble online a bit too).
Have a good weekend, follow along at Javelina 100. The field is deep with talent and they’ll be enduring some nasty weather this weekend.
The Significance of the Frontier in American Ultrarunning.
Motivated by the 1890 census that stated there was not a distinct frontier line any longer, Fredrick Jackson Turner wrote and delivered his thesis “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” in 1893. In one reading in one afternoon, one man essentially closed the frontier and, further, blurred the meaning of “frontier” and civilization and called into question the meaning of being “American”. The dynamically forward morphing of becoming American and, thus, more and more different than England (and Europe) suddenly ended. This self-awareness of Americans’ development, becoming more “American”, as the line pushed westward made not only the line of the frontier but both what lies beyond (savagery) and what lies behind (Americanism) a slippery concept to grasp.
Is this where we are in American Ultrarunning? Are we at a stage of self-awareness and examination where we search for the frontier line that no longer exists in this sport in America while we gaze backwards hoping for clarification of where we are now? Is this the reason for the seemingly schizophrenic realm where we pine for simplicity yet yearn for established meaning? I don’t know; that’s why I’m asking. Turner asserts, “In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails.” We, the followers and practitioners of our sport, must bend ourselves to fit the expansion of ultrarunning. We enter into and try to understand the growth and development of the sport and try to fit into it the best we can. In time, though, we ourselves influence and even create the evolution of the sport in our own unique manner, much as Americans did with the frontier as stated by Turner, “Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American.”
There are many ways in which the sport of ultrarunning in America resembles the wild west in my view of it. There are rules, sometimes firm and sometimes loose. There’s a sense of wildness, an untamed environment, especially in most 100 mile events, where the level of the perception of wildness, both in physical nature and the sport’s structure, is dependent upon one’s background, daily existence, and media influence. It’s similar to the perception of the “wild frontier” in America in 1893. A second generation pioneer (a bit of an oxymoron, I realize) in, say, Nevada or Arizona would most certainly have a different perception of the frontier or west than a banker in Pennsylvania. Likewise, the perception of the boundaries of ultrarunning, both literally and idealistically, is different for the local Medford, Massachusetts road runner and the Silverton, Colorado born trail master and all layers in between.
Also, just as the American frontier absorbed more and was in fact driven by more immigrants and people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs as it expanded westward, we too must accept (embrace) the diversity of perceptions, opinions, and backgrounds as our sport grows. Turner states, “The [East] coast was preponderantly English, but the later tides of continental immigration flowed across to the free lands.” The narrow view of a few men (primarily) in our sport in its origins has blossomed to include mainstream populations and their influences that will continue to shape ultrarunning.
How is ultrarunning like the wild west of the 19th century? At what point is the demarcation of American and international ultrarunning dissolved and we allow, embrace the merging? What are some key indicators this has begun? What will we see next year in terms of new, different outcomes and changes showing that the frontier line has disappeared?
-Tim Long, Inside Trail Commentary
To be continued…
Tim: What a year of racing so far. American ultrarunning has experienced globalization in its biggest events and narrow perceptions have been peeled wide open. It all seemingly began with Salomon surging to a convincing men’s and women’s sweep at last year’s North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco, thus earning the $20,000 prize and introducing a significant change in the landscape of US ultras. That spark set off the firestorm of not only “foreigners” winning the big American events, but one team dominating the big races. Salomon seems to have single-handedly retooled American ultrarunning to the international colors and to the meaning of the word “team”.
What does this storm of white and red compression clothing do to the sport here in the US? It reestablishes the concept of “elite” and “best”. The coveted annual award of Ultra Runner Of the Year (UROY), presented by UltraRunning Magazine has been awarded to North Americans (Canadians and Americans, mostly) who’ve won the big US events, with acute focus on the big 100 milers, specifically Western States. The organizers of this award will have to either clarify, which they don’t do currently, whom is eligible for this award or specifically rename it the “UROY award for North American residing runners placing highest in primarily western US trail 100 mile races with arbitrarily weighted importance to which only the selection board is privy.” Personally, I say open it up to the world. What do you think, Matt?
Matt: I think this is a problem: I could say that the UROY award goes to that year’s “world’s best ultrarunner,” and up through 2010 there might not be much opposition to that. My audience would half-nod in agreement, not really knowing what they’re agreeing to. But really the award is for the best American runner (which echoes your earlier reference to “narrow perceptions.”). From the UR website, the announcement of the award reads like this: “2010 UltraRunning Magazine North American ultramarathoners of the year.” That is fairly clear as to whom the award goes; it’s reserved for an American (and rare Canadian). The point is this: clarify the intent of the award, which is to recognize ultra runners from North America only. I bet a lot of people think it carries more weight than that.
Another problem comes from just a fleeting glance at the past winners. The UROY prize has pretty much gone to trail runners who have excelled at the 100 mile distance (a specific kind of ultramarathon). More specifically, as you have already pointed-out, the winners have excelled at 100 milers in the western half of the U.S., and even more specifically at one particular race. So, just call it the Western States 100 Mile Champ award or the Champion of the 100 Milers in the Western Half of the States award. All kidding aside, many interested people have shared these complaints.
Tim: As you point out, there are a lot of tangential conversations that emerge from this topic. Back to my original point, the merging of nationalities is common at races like UTMB, but we’ve never really seen it here in the US (especially in the bigger 100 milers). I think the organizers of UROY have to face the task of either revamping the award and the process in which runners are chosen or the committee must face the diluted value of the award. In many people’s minds, including mine, Kilian Jornet is the UROY, worldwide. The UROY voters in the US have had a somewhat easy task when voting in the past; “Who won Western States? Okay, that’s our UROY winner.” What do they do now that a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and a South African have won the big 100s in the American Wild West? The “old boys” network has its work cut out. Regardless, Salomon has smashed the rosy, narrow-view lens through which we’ve enjoyed looking, believing that America had the best ultra runners in the world. This exciting year will come full circle in December and The North Face Championship in San Francisco will be the climax event of 2011. I’m excited that we at Inside Trail will be there.
Matt: Yes, the process has only been complicated by the non-American wins at big American 100s (and yes the TNF50 in December will be epic!). The award’s value will certainly be diluted if the much larger (internationally enhanced) audience doesn’t concur with the judge’s decision, especially in the men’s “race” to UROY. By reading what others have already said about the UROY and USA Track and Field’s awards, one has to wonder why there hasn’t been more effort to find a true governing body to oversee these important recognitions. Is that what the International Association of Ultrarunners is all about? Why does the UROY have more credibility than the winner of the IAU 100k World Championship? Because UROY is about trail/mountain 100 milers, not some subordinate road ultra? Essentially, what happens in mountain 100 milers in the western portion of the U.S. says a lot more about who is “the best” ultrarunner (or it used to say that). According to the UROY web page, regarding the 2010 voting, “A panel of 18 race organizers from all regions of North America submitted ballots this year. An ultramarathon is generally defined as any race longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. There were 554 ultramarathon races held in North America in 2010.” I would guess that the 554 races probably include road ultras. And based on the voting, the races that really count are, in fact, 100 milers run on trails.
In the end, clarify what the UROY award means (as it apparently means a lot – at least in the U.S.). Because of the confusion about the true criteria of the award, and because of the huge displacement of American runners in these “big” races this year, the award committee probably ought to reassess (quickly) what it’s looking for. After all, what exactly is an Ultra Runner of the Year?
This is the article we wrote for Go Trail Magazine this month. Check out the mag. It’s truly levels above its contemporaries.
As race reports and articles come across the wires, a clearer picture is coming into view; but that doesn’t mean that additional questions aren’t raised. The difficulty of the scheduling changes, the course reroutes, the way in which organizers communicate to participants can cause frustration at varying levels. Some handled it well (exceptionally well), like Lizzy Hawker, Darcy Africa, Mike Foote, and Nick Pedatella. Some, like Scott Jaime, handled it the best they could and grinded through the course, teeth gnashing, legs burning. Others, like Hal Koerner and Roch Horton, had the shell of their pride torn away and made it to the finish in nearly twice the time of the winner, thus revealing a brighter and bigger sense of pride and due respect.
Here are some of the writings that have emerged in the few days following last weekend’s epic race.
Geoff Roes, UTMB DNF Team Montrail
Geoff Roes’ year has been a stark contrast to last season. Not finishing the two biggest ultras this year leaves one wondering whether it’s a matter of being tired, physically run-down, or something more mentally derived. He’s raced and run harder and more in past seasons and dominated. It’s difficult to speculate from what he’s written in his report but we certainly hope the best for him.
Nick Clark, UTMB DNF Team Pearl Izumi
When I heard Nick Clark had dropped from UTMB, I assumed one (or both) of his legs had simply detached and fallen off. Aside from Dave Mackey, I consider Nick the toughest guy out there. This is one person I’m certain will rebound quickly and, frankly, I feel sorry for the competitors at the next event in which he chooses to race. What made UTMB different for him?
CCC 2nd place, Adam Campbell, Canadian Team Salomon
Adam Campbell might not be a name recognized by many in the ultra world, but he is the Canadian 50 mile national champion, running 5:44 for the distance. The CCC (98k) was the first run he’s done longer than six hours. He captures the culture and energy of this particular European event well in his report.
There are some good points in this article. It’s nice to see that Americans aren’t the only ones who sometimes have narrow or limited views of other cultures’ approaches, athletes, and venues. Matt and I both have trouble with a couple of this article’s major points. We’re interested in what others have to say about it.
Dave Mackey, Waldo 100k Win and CR Team Hoka
Even though it took place last week, we want to reference Dave’s run at Waldo as an example of an American ultrarunner with both race day laser focus and season race scheduling focus. Dave chooses his races carefully, and rarely, if ever, “jumps into” any event longer than a half marathon. With course record splits written on his arm, he surgically picked the course and the competition apart to break Erik Skaggs’ CR from 2009. It’s also worth mentioning that Dave is 15 years older than Skaggs was when he set the record. Speaking of Mackey, SF Bay area resident and impressive adventurist Leor Pantilat ran and dominated another trail 50k at the Tamalpa Headlands though he came-up short of one of DM’s many CRs. Reference to the question we posed last week, will we see another runner like Mackey dominate the way he has (variety and longevity)? By the way, we see Mackey’s stock going up here at the end of 2011 and surging through 2012.
The runners who dropped at UTMB knew early in the season they’d be competing there. Did they take it too lightly? Did they assume that fitness from the first part of the season would carry them across the finish in Chamonix? What is the key to performing well there for Americans?
We’ve been thinking about the attrition at UTMB and have come to a couple of distinct conclusions, which we’re happy to share, but we’d like to hear some other opinions from fans.
Tomorrow we’ll share an interesting write-up and interview we did with a trail industry insider. Stay-tuned!