"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Minneapolis Spleen (apologies to Beaudelaire)

1)There was a televised track meet where a woman from the US had a surprising race, but it wasn't shown - they were interviewing someone, I believe - and there was a huge uproar in the running community. "Why do they only show sprints! Everyone knows what a 5K is. It's the most common racing distance." To which I ask, "When was the last time you ran a 5K on the track?" "Well, never. You couldn't pay me to run that many laps. I'd go crazy from boredom."

Arrgh! Don't argue about what you don't know!

2)Looking up advice online about DOMS, I found a chatroom and some of the things said: "It's a magnesium deficiency." "I had that once, but not since I switched to minimalist shoes."

Stop! There's not a one-size-fits-all answer to everything. It's not what you ate or what you wore - ever. Just shut up.

btw, I found a simple elegant solution after a lot of messy errors (the way you really learn things). Running hard downhills and then jogging back up backward.

3) There was a guy on Facebook who was complaining that he didn't want to hear about predictions of who would win and what the times would be, because it's not about winning, it's about participation. The response from a sports writer attacked that from several directions, the first and best being "You don't have to read it." The generation that has killed the sport of running has now swamped trail races and ultras. I'm sick of it.

I'm feeling a lot of ennui about Superior right now. It's always intrigued me as a problem to be solved and what I liked hearing about was people who failed at an attempt there (not due to happenstance) who came back to finish the next year. You can learn from that. Most people who do 100's, though, are well-suited to it, and after adequate training and mental preparation, finish almost comfortably; that just bores me. A friend of mine didn't finish and I was wondering if he'd double-down like Julie Berg (who ran 85 miles per week and did 7 hour hill workouts with 10000+ feet of climb) or if he'd decide he just didn't care - like me. He ended up with a third response: "I just love being a part of it. I'll be back;" he won't train any differently and he won't ever finish... and he won't care.

I get that attitude - I really do - but it just makes me want to vomit. Race, or don't, but if you want to just run on trails and hang out with your friends, don't gum up the races. There were people who couldn't get into the race (it filled quickly) who would actually want to try to finish and couldn't because there were many just messing around.


Robyn said...

I disagree. The finish rate at Superior this year was 74%. That's better than Western States (68%), which can only be run with a qualifying 100 mile race, and is therefore only run by previous 100 mile finishers (many of them multiple finishers). And it's better than the 66-69% historic finish rate from multiple 100 mile races described in this 1996 survey: http://mattmahoney.net/ultra/table.htm. Superior 100 now requires a previous 50 mile finish, or a 50k finish on the SHT as a qualifier. The high finish rate reflects the general preparation and fitness of the participants.

Yes, Superior is now a lottery, but this year there were a couple dozen spots open in the 100 after the lottery closed. To get in, it's certainly advantageous to know early in the season that you want to run it. But shouldn't you be training for it by then, anyway?

I think characterizing the Superior runners, even at the back of the pack, as "messing around" and "gumming up the races" does them a disservice. A Superior finish is a BFD even when you roll in at 37:59:59. Maybe especially then.

Dale Nesbitt said...

The high finish rate this year could also be due to the cool weather and easier start.

Robyn said...

It certainly could. But it's still a high finish rate on a difficult course (judging by the course record and median finish time), and I think that reflects well prepared runners.

Compare to Leadville, which has no qualifier and typically has a 40-55% finish rate. There, I think you could legitimately complain about underprepared runners "gumming up the races".

SteveQ said...

Finishing Superior is a major achievement for some, but not all (Andy Holak slept for 8 hours and still finished). What I'm complaining about is people - some very good friends of mine - who enter the 100 with absolutely no chance of finishing, rather than entering the 50 or marathon, to "be a part of it." I believe that catering to these people is part of the reason the entry fee has more than doubled.

Robyn said...

I think the numbers suggest that if people entering who have no chance of finishing is a problem, it's no more a problem at Superior in 2015 than it is at other 100 milers in 2015, or for that matter in other 100 milers in 1996.

As for the cost, all race entry fees have climbed in recent years. As far as 100 milers go, Superior is bottom-to-middle of the pack in price at $225. Pine to Palm is $250, Leadville is $315 (including $15 just to enter the lottery!), Western States is $370, looking more locally, Lean Horse is $225, Black Hills is $199, Zumbro is $195. For the level of support you get at Superior, it seems fair.

SteveQ said...

"What the market will bear" is the mantra of pricing. Once one race can charge exorbitant fees and get them, others do the same. Look at the professions of the finishers - ultrarunning is all professional runners, doctors (ahem, Robyn), lawyers and engineers. Fifteen years ago, it was a blue collar endeavor - but those runners have been priced out. The last time I was at Superior, three of my friends had slept in their cars the night before the race because they couldn't afford to race and pay for a room.

KurtN said...

For the record Steve, I'm doubling down. Or in my case I suppose it is tripling down since I have now failed twice?

In the distinguished words of Happy Gilmore... "364 more days until next year's hockey tryouts, I have to toughen up."

Dale Nesbitt said...

I entered three 100-milers last year and dropped out of each of them. I learned something about myself at each one. You could say I was unprepared and had no chance of finishing any of them.

Moral of the story: I learned from my mistakes and tried again this year and succeeded in finishing strong at both Kettle and Superior.

I'm not trying to make it personal. But if people want to enter a race they have no chance of finishing, let them. I understand it sucks that somebody else who would definitely have finished didn't get it. I understand that they might be able to finish one of the shorter races. But if they want to blow their money with a charitable donation, that's their decision.