So it is the beginning of January, and time to start planning the upcoming season, right?
WRONG! Apparently I should have been planning last August!
- Massanutten 100 (race date May 15) entries were closed on Dec 7, and there are 122 people on the wait list after the lottery entry.
- Orcas Island 50k (race date Mar 6) was full on Jan 3. Pretty good for a low-key local event that is only in its third year!
- Pocatello 50m (race date May 29) was filled on Jan 5. Again, it’s just the second year for this event.
- I was up early last Saturday to enter Chuckanut 50k (race date Mar 20) when entries opened at 8AM. It was filled about four hours later.
- …and while I’m ranting, it is not filled, but I was going to add my name to the list of the Zane Grey 50m entrants again this year – what an awesome course! – but looking at the registration, the entry fee is $115!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Screw that, I’ll go run a 100-miler for not much more. No more Zane Grey for me. But then again, I’d probably have to turn it into an unsupported 100-miler since it is in the middle of nowhere and there’s no race transport to the start or from the finish area – not easy for a solo traveller like I would be. May as well run back to the start where my car would be!
The other thing is that some of those entry fees are getting way up there: $115 for a 50-mile!!! That’s just crazy-talk! Then there are some events like Badwater ($895 entry fee) and Western States ($295) that kind of cover both spectrums. IMHO, Badwater takes the cake on huge entry fees, in addition to Byzantine entry requirements, with the least to offer back. That’s one expensive t-shirt and, if all goes well, a belt buckle. Bring your own aid.
I used to race Ironman triathlons pretty religiously, but saw them – or Canada anyways – transform from you being able to enter in March for $165CDN back in 1989, into frantic lineups to enter the day after the race and a $495+USD entry. On the other hand, amongst other appealing factors, ultras caught my eye as pretty reasonable for what you get out of it with many events priced under 50 beans, with a whole lot more value and integrity added. (and less Speedos, to boot!)
A lot of this has to do with the increasing popularity of the trailrunning sport, and I know that I am guilty in contributing to get many others to either get off the road and run on the trails, or bumping their distances up to the ultra level. This is all a Very Good Thing, and I love to see people embracing our sport or expanding their boundaries. And so, with more athletes and increasing race attendance, demand gets pushed up.
I know there is also the argument that a “proper” schedule would anticipate training cycles, levels and phases of effort, and goal races. A dedicated athlete intent on optimising performance should plan his/her schedule to the day. Read any issue of Triathlete magazine for more info on that stuff. But I race ultras because I love them, and I have a passion and excitement for the opportunities race directors present to us. I get excited to hear about the XX race that I haven’t done before with a gazillion feet of climb, gnarly trails, and 25 miles between aid stations – it is in April and hey, I can swing the time off to get there, so I’m going! I plan a season in broad strokes, but it is very open to whim and opportunity; I’m not as structured as some.
So yes, I got snuffed out of a few races I wanted to do because I was slow on the draw, but that’s OK because now I know better for next year, and there’s so many other races out there that are interesting or challenging to take on instead. However, I lament those easy, lazy times when you could find a race you wanted to do and enter it pretty much whenever you were able; gone are the days of discovering an event on next month and being able to drop into it. The challenge, as I alluded to above, is that we have to start thinking of our race schedules many months in advance.
p.s. I’m ready for some things, and my Hardrock application is sitting on my desk, to be submitted by Feb 5…didn't think I was going to do it this year, but it sure is tempting...