Now that summer is finally over even here in Arizona it is time to start to think about next year’s schedule. Since the ultra running community has doubled in size over the last few years more and more races are filling up in the first few days that they open. Many races are now lotteries and while some allow you to go on a wait list to see if you can get into the race, many do not so it is good to start thinking about what you want to do in 2013 now. I know quite a few races have already opened sign up for next year and within days they were completely sold out. We’re in a time when it is not about what races we would like to run, it is about what races we can get into.
I have been sitting down trying to put together a 2013 schedule and every time I seem to pick out a race it has a lottery so I need a backup plan for each one of them. We all know Western States is tough to get in as most of us 100 mile runners try every year and only around 10 percent get in but there is starting to become more races that mirror the number of entries to be a statesman. I decided to pass on running some of the local races in 2013 and instead focus my training on some of the bigger races out there such as Miwok, Western States, Waldo but who knows if I will get in any of them. The odds are not really in my favor so I’ve been scouring the list of 100 mile races trying to figure out what will still be available after the names are drawn in December for Western States. This is really starting to become a predicament because there are so many people going after just a few hundred spots at each race. One of the things that drew me to ultra running a few years ago was how small and tight knit the community was and now so many more people are finding a love for the trails which is both good and bad. I love to see more people out running trail races but what I don’t like to see is people signing up for some of these races that they aren’t necessarily ready for. Often overlooked is the verbiage on the website or flyer that describes the difficulty of the race and people are still signing up just so they can say they ran in the race. Leadville seems to be the race of choice for many of these folks because it is so well known and they take so many entrants to the field but with a 46 percent finishers rate in 2012 you have to wonder if the qualifications for some of these races should be a little more stringent. I think Hardrock does one of the best jobs of keeping the field to people who are more than capable of finishing an extremely difficult race by making the entry standards high. Most people that put in for the Hardrock lottery know they probably won’t get in for a couple years but in order to stay qualified they must run a mountainous hundred mile race. Should all of the larger races require qualifiers like this to get in? I don’t know if it is completely necessary because so many first time runners do extremely well but how do we reward those that put the time and effort in making sure they complete some difficult races and are 100 percent sure they’re ready before entering? I have run four, one hundred mile races and I can say for sure that I’m not ready for Hardrock, nor do I have a qualifier. I ran Pine to Palm a month ago and this would have got me in the lottery but even if I would have finished the race I would have to say I would want to complete another tough hundred before putting my name in the hat.
There is no magic formula or answer to any of these questions but I do think it is something we should all think about before entering a race. There is the obvious fact that no matter how good of shape you’re in and how hard you trained you could still drop from one of these races for a number of reasons but you’re more likely to finish than someone who is using a race like Leadville as their first hundred mile experience. I have heard so many times that I knew I had no chance of finishing because I was hurt going into the race or was under trained but I wanted to check out the course. Is it selfish to do this and and take away a spot of someone healthy enough to run? No one can say expect yourself because you did pay to run the race just like everyone else so it is a personal decision. I’m not sure I lean either way on this issue just wondering what the trail running world’s thoughts are on this. Is it controversial or should we accept the fact that people will still try even if they have no chance to complete the race? Pine to Palm was my first ever DNF and I was in the best shape of my life but some unfortunate circumstances took me out of the race at mile 67 and several first time hundred mile runners finished making my point completely invalid but I do wonder if we will start to see more qualifiers to get into certain races. Is it even fair to set crazy standards on these races? Does a Race Director care if they’re qualified or not or are they just looking to fill the field? I think most if not all RD’s in trail racing care about the field because there is serious liability in putting people on a remote course if they’re not comfortable with navigating through difficult terrain with little aid or assistance. When I first started racing on trails I wondered why some races were so strict about whom they accepted but after working my way up to those courses I fully understand. You can train for certain conditions but you also need to be self sufficient in case of emergency. I for one am one of the worst navigators in all of trail racing and that is one of the biggest reasons I know I’m not ready for a race like Hardrock. I cannot go out with a map and find my way around with little markings, sometimes I can’t find my way around when a course is idiot proofed. I try to run races that stay in my comfort zone and are easy to navigate. I run many difficult races but before I put my name in for the race I make sure the race fits in with my skill set and training. Let’s face it some races are perfect fits for us and others are clearly out of our league so before you set a schedule make sure it works well for you.
Establishing a good race schedule might be one of the toughest things to do these days because while we all want to challenge ourselves and run new races they’re not always available so what should we do? I recommend sitting down here in the next few weeks and draw up a schedule to include races that will have a lottery and find another race that will fit your needs if you can’t get in. While I understand we all want to challenge ourselves I think it is important to ask yourself if you’re really going after this race or if you will be taking a spot from someone that has trained hard to earn a spot. No one knows besides you if you’re just running the race to see if you can complete it or if you’re going to give it your best shot. Remember as your trail running experience increases and you start looking at some of the more difficult races I think you will see why more and more runners are left frustrated because they can’t get into their dream race they worked so hard for. Just like everything in life; experience is so valuable and building up to your dream race should be no different. Take your time and find a race that will get you to your ultimate goal down the road. You didn’t start you’re working life as a Vice President of your company, you had to work your way towards the top. This is the same for trail running or any running for that matter. Enjoy the experiences of growing as a runner and you will enjoy your goal race even more when it happens.
Do you think there should be qualifiers for more races or are there too many restrictions now? Have you ever signed up for a race knowing you weren’t going to finish? What is your dream race?
Since I’m trying to find the perfect hundred mile race in 2013 what have you enjoyed and why so I can take a look at it.