Friday, December 16, 2011

Steamboat In September?

I'm sure by now most readers of this blog have read about the new 100 mile race in Steamboat Springs next September. If this is new to you then check out the website here: Run Rabbit Run 100. Also, you might want to check out all the "chatter" about the race over on Irunfar.

To me this race is another obvious and expected step in the evolution of ultramarathon racing that I have talked about numerous times on this blog in the past couple years. I don't need to go into all the nuances of prize money/championships/commercialism in the sport. I have been down all of these roads, and my ideas here aren't really much different than I've expressed in the past.

I will however go into a few of the things that come to mind with the emergence of this race: I have stated numerous times (both here and in other publications) that I think the demand for these types of events (due in large part by the huge growth in the popularity of the sport in the past few years, a growth which has shown no sign of slowing down anytime soon) makes the emergence of these races inevitable. For the better part of two years now the question in my mind has not been, are more prize money/high competition type events coming to the sport, but rather, what are they going to look like when they get here? Even more importantly, what should they look like? To my delight the RRR100 gets just about everything "right." If you look back at this post that I wrote almost a year ago, outlining the things I see as crucial to doing an event like this "right" I think it's easy to see why I'm excited about this new race. To some degree this race satisfies each thing I laid out as important for a race like this to thrive.

With the North Face 50 and UROC, the RRR100 now makes three ultras in this country with $10k or more in prize money. To me the prize money isn't the exciting thing though. The exciting thing to me are the number of races in existence now that are pretty much guaranteed to have very high competition year in and year out. It is now possible, if one desires, to run 5 or 6 races a year in which you can pretty much be certain you are going to be racing against dozens of top runners from around the world. In my mind this is something that is new to the sport. Even just a few years ago there were years when top level runners would end up unintentionally "cherry picking" some of the most "competitive" races in the sport. Often times races would only be 3 or 4 runners deep (in terms of runners who had a legitimate shot at winning the race), and if one or two of them got injured before the race you suddenly had folks winning some of the biggest races in the sport by 2 or 3 hours. Now, if you want to run a high competition race and you choose to line up for WS, UTMB, RRR100, UROC, NF50, etc, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you are going to be running against 10+ legitimate top level runners.

Many might ask, what about the 99% of runners who aren't competing at the very front of these types of races? To me this is the beauty of the current dynamic: there is growth in the options for anyone and everyone right now. Not only do all of these mentioned races have a very specific desire/plan to provide a positive race experience for all runners in the field, but for every one of these higher competition races that is emerging there are dozens of grassroots/low profile events that are emerging. Add to this the number of "old classics" that seem to be very dedicated to keeping things more or less the same as they have been for years, and it all adds up to a terribly exciting time to be involved in this sport, no matter what you're looking to get out of it. If you're looking to kick it old school there are more options than ever, and if you're looking to run against as much competition as possible you can have those options too.

To me the only question I have about RRR100 is whether the timing of it (two weeks before UROC) will be a hindrance to either (or both) of the races? I think there is room in the sport for even more of these types of races, but I'm not sure having 2 of them in the same month is the best scenario. I know that RRR100 didn't want to conflict so directly with an existing race with a somewhat similar vision, but apparently September was pretty much the only time they could make it happen in Steamboat. I for one am hoping to run both races (although UROC will have to be a "wait and see how I feel race"), but I do imagine these two races so close together will be working a little bit against each other. Hopefully going forward after 2012 there can be some scheduling adjustments to one (or both) of these races to space them out a little more optimally.


GZ said...

... interested to see the 2012 schedule on the right hand bar includes this one for you (when it pops up) ... seems like it could be given its "distance" from from HR.

Richard Lima said...

Like Geoff said and I agree 100%, the best should run against the best. Why not give the winner of one of the top 50 or 100 mile races an automatic entry into the top 50 or 100 mile races? That way if you have one let's say Leadville in 2011 you can get an automatic into any top 50 or 100 mile race in 2012. You can opt out if you like as well, maybe you have an injury. But at least it gives the elite runners an option to enter the BIG events.

Santiago said...

It's going to be an exciting season. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Ben Nephew said...


My take on the RRR100 is that it is too high for anyone that doesn't live at altitude and will not be heading to Steamboat very early. Without acclimating, I don't see any of the top 10 men from UROC doing well at RRR100. UROC also seems more likely to attract 50 trail and road guys with the current course. The timing will certainly not make it more likely for Western 100 mile ultrarunners to attend UROC, though.

I agree that the benefit of having a few more races focused on competition far outweighs the risk of diluting competition. I wouldn't say that there is a huge field of competitors out there, but there are still few non-lottery races with prize money that are actively trying to recruit competitive fields.

Jack said...

I could not help but notice that a lot of key features you mentioned of a championship race do not apply to RRR100. It is not a loop or p to p(i actually find the course very contrived), it is not really close to a major airport(if you been to Steamboat it a ways from Denver), is not a elites only race(I really don't count a late start a elite only race as you will have to deal with slower runners infront of you, but you may disagree), not really any points where you pass through populated areas other then passing through Springs, does not guarantee elite entry(from what i gather). And last and with out a doubt the most important the fact that the low point is almost 7k and high point 10+k! As Ben mentioned this eliminates a lot of really fast guys, I can think of 10 guys off the top of my head that if at lower elevations could do huge damage, however unless they get a altitude tent or move to altitude a month early, are totally screwed, then again 100k would pay off a altitude tent rental!!!

I guess my main point and question, is are you sure you are not being fueled by money by endorsing RRR100??? The altitude alone makes UROC a more purply competitive race. If a race came out on the same day and had a slightly more competitive field and met all of you criteria except offered no cash prize, what would you do? Maybe your motives are less about running or competition and more about cash???

Fred Abramowitz said...

I hope you don't mind me stepping in here. On the one hand I'm defending our race against those who say it's too EASY; then there those who claim the elevation will make it too HARD. We're running the course through town to improve spectator access and make it more fun for everyne, and then some complain it's contrived, but they want it passing through population centers (and how many races do that?). One thing I can say is that no one who has actually run our Run, Rabbit, Run 50 (as has Geoff) is complaining one bit. We can get into a whole discussion about the good and the bad of putting up prize money - and I'd be happy to give you my take on that, on why we're doing this - but, without tooting our own horn too much, maybe that's because I'd like to think we put on a fun, first class run. And that's why those reading this ought to at least check it out.

Speedgoat Karl said...

The only arguement I have about those who complain about the altitude is too high:

What about the guy who lives at 8000 feet, then goes to sea level and races. I can certainly feel a big difference, and I only sleep at 4800'. Wouldnt the guy who sleeps at altitude have an advantage over the east coaster who does not?

It works both ways the way I see it. And for the record, my fastest time at Hardrock, 24:38.....I showed up the day before and ran the race 2 hours faster than I ever have, and I didn't acclimate, so......

Hone said...

Karl I usually agree with pretty much everything you say but your comment here is just dumb. Do you really think the Rocky Mountain runners would not have a huge advantage over the guys that literally see the Pacific ocean on all of their runs (me)?

(I suck and have zero chance of winning any cash but I might still run it because it does look like a sweet race)

Speedgoat Karl said...

Hone, I do think RM runners would have a general advantage over sea level runners....but not always. I guess that's all I'm saying, and if someone like Wardian, Riddle, guys with sick leg speed came to Steamboat to find out, they might surprise themselves and not necessarily be affected by altitude. I've seen many "flatlanders" at Pikes Peak kill it there, so it is possible. They'd be fools not to at least show up. Steamboat is a great town and a great place to hold the event. It would be cool if UROC were 100 miles too, but it's not, so this is the first chance to see what happens. Does this make any sense? Altitude acclimatization is a strange thing. I used to go to HR every year for 3 weeks, but still I am not really sure if it helps. I spent more time sleeping at 11,700' then I did training. I dunno, I just hope at least most of the faster US ultra guys and gals show up, so it'll be a good competitive race.

Jack said...

Karl the only thing I have to say regarding your experience is that you were running Hardrock, if hardrock was at sea level it would still be a bitch, its just a really tough course that by nature is not "fast" I have a feeling that RRR100 is going to be fast and when you are running fast is when thin air starts screwing with you, there is a reason why you train speed low. To sum it up I think if hardrock was a flater, less burly course at the same altitude I think you might see more payback for sleeping at 11,700. That said you did run the 2nd fastest time ever but...Kyle ran the fastest time ever and we all know what Kyle was up to before his run. He did not just show up the day before, not by any means.

GZ said...

altitude ... everyone is different. I'd go so far as to say that this is the one variable that is perhaps the most all over the map - regardless of a person's fitness. Some guys can be "okay" fit and hit altitude with little training at it and be okay (okay - we all have a ceiling but they are more okay than others), while other fit guys who have tried to acclimate get screwed. Certainly there is some compensation for folks who live there or spend a good amount of time three ... but no guarantees.

Geoff said...

There is a reason that i said in the this post that it meets these features to "some degree." I laid out a long list of features in the post from last year, and this race exactly meets most of them and comes very close to meeting the few that it doesn't meet exactly. here's my way of looking at the few you mention:

Yes, it is a 3+ hour drive from Denver to Steamboat, BUT Steamboat Springs has an airport which has several dozen flights each day arriving from numerous cities in the country. A quick search of flights from a few different major population centers from around the country shows roundtrip flights in the $400-600 range from the east coast and a bit less than that from the west coast. i.e. very easy access.

The course is in fact a loop (or at least a cloverleaf of several loops - not to be confused though with a loop race in which you run the same loop numerous times). Yes, there are some SHORT places where you will run back on an area you already ran, but my point here is that i think most people prefer to run 100 unique miles when they run a 100 mile race. This isn't going to be fully 100% unique mileage, but it's going to be very close.

... and the reason (as fred already mentioned) that it will loop back on itself in a few places will be to come down through town a few times during the race (plus a start/finish at the base of the ski hill). Not sure how you feel this doesn't meet the feature of going through population centers? Perhaps you misunderstood my original post, but this type of course is pretty much exactly what i was talking about in terms of "accessible population centers."

Geoff said...

continuation of previous comment:

Elite entry: Fred would be the guy to ask about this, but i'm pretty certain that no runner who wants to run this race who has shown that they have any chance of being competitive in this race is going to be held out of the race if they want in... only difference here (as compared to some other races) is that all runners will be paying their own entry fee, which seems quite fair to me since these runners will be running to earn some prize money which will in some part be funded by entry fees.

in terms of the stand alone championship event i think fred has come up with the perfect solution to this with the tortoise and hare divisions. this is pretty much exactly what i was talking about when i said in my original post "a race in conjunction with a standard race." Also, the stand alone event was more intended for an event which was being limited (by the FS) to a small field. in this event, every top runner who wants a shot at winning the race will have a shot at winning the race.

And lastly, the altitude dilema: yes, this course is a LITTLE BIT higher than what i indicated as being ideal in my post last year... but not very much. i mentioned the ideal situation being an average altitude lower than 7 and a high point less than 9. this race will be a bit more than 1,000 more than both of those figures. yes, this is perhaps a bit higher than "ideal", and certainly high enough to have some negative effect on runners coming from sea level, but it's not so high as to eliminate sea level runners from contention. Hardrock or Leadville it is not. both of those races have an average altitude higher than the high point of RRR. RRR will be more like Wasatch. Many runners have come from sea level and done quite well at Wasatch (myself included) with little to no acclimitization (the year i ran 18:35 at Wasatch i was in Utah for 4 or 5 days before the start of the race, which is pretty much the worst amount of time in terms of where you are at in your aclimitization). In my experience trying to race at high altitude the most challenging thing is sustained time up above 10 or 11k. going up to 10 or 11k isn't that bad if you are going up there for a bit and then dropping back down a few thousand feet for awhile. in this regard the numerous drops down to town will not only be a great oppurtunity to bring the race to spectators, but it will be a great break from the high altitude, as town lies at 6,700 ft. i'm not saying that altitude won't be a factor in this race at all, but the notion that it will eliminate sea level runners from contention is a pretty serious exageration.

yes, you are right that it doesn't exactly meet every single criteria that i mentioned in that post last year, but it does exactly meet most of them (including at least a few of the ones you disputed), and then comes really close in the others. I'm not saying that it's going to be the "perfect" championship type race, bit it's going to be really close.