Monday, May 21, 2012


Gnar Runners brought the first ultra to Fort Collins, and it was aptly described as Ultra Successful

Many of us paid money to run on trails we could run on anyway -- and the overall experience vastly exceeded anything we could find on a solo run.

Meanwhile, some established "experiences" have screwed up big time:

  • The Green Bay Marathon was cancelled 2:25 into the race due to unprepared race direction and runners. Race temperature was 70 degrees at the start with humidity in the 60s, with a temperature in the low 80s (but dropping relative humidity, now down to 50%) when cancelled. The dew point for the OKC marathon I ran a few weeks ago was higher, and it was far higher for the non-cancelled, hotter-than-Chicago 2007 Twin Cities marathon.
Keeping in mind that half-marathoners started at the same time, and outnumbered marathoners by over 2-1, an unfortunate scenario played out in which plenty of water was still available among the rest of the route, but fully-prepared and healthy runners were denied a finish because the possibly-needed medical support was no longer available.
Make no mistake: this race was not cancelled because of objectively high temperatures that are a threat to health; rather, the meager (but responsive, qualified, and probably overworked) medical staff was overwhelmed by runners that succumbed to the heat. Even more strange, the top 5 men had finished; finishers after 2:35 were physically barred from the finish line, with a strange exception for allowing 5 women to finish well over this time so as to satisfy promised USATF prize money.

Everyone else was denied the opportunity.
What a disaster!
  • Meanwhile, in the Fargo half-marathon, there was a chaotic finish involving both hubris and a dangerous merge with 10k walkers. The video is worth a quick watch.
I've recently commented on the frustrations and dangers of shared courses with people running dramatically different speeds with regard to the OKC marathon, and the female winner herself mentioned the concerns of smacking hard into other people, worrying about a concussion, or getting hit by a car. It's clearly time that RD's take the responsibility to ensure separate finishes to prevent a truly disastrous injury.

  • Finally, here's a terrible way to spend a few months and $65,000, in my opinion:
  • I don't care if it is the world's highest mountain.
Loosely, the common trend I'm noticing here is the low bar for almost anyone to "experience" things via a social quirk that allows substitution of capital for experience. Normally a practical trade, it's not a problem when it doesn't affect others -- to each, his own -- but becomes a problem to the extent that it results in negative consequences towards others, when the whole becomes less than the sum of it's parts. Our only choice is to choose events that treat the overall event in a way that's positive for everyone, and avoid those that take shortcuts with regard to a quality event. (Additionally, we can cluck our tongues and write Blog entries. So that's two more things we can do!)

Lastly, I fear the social constructs of "bucket lists" and Facebook-bragging make a strident and mindful effort toward meaningful achievement even more rare: more unprepared people on the mountain.

Whatever happened to Quality?

This is why I like Blogs and avoid Facebook and (personal) Twitter. The bar for Blog entries is usually higher, serving up more general topics for discussion and information.


  1. The shallowness of seeking self-worth primarily in the adulation of random strangers is something Ayn Rand railed against. Careful :)

    I say make every day your bucket list.

    I think about Everest (not a lot, but some). If I were going to visit the Himalaya it'd probably be to strike out and run some lesser trails and take lots of pictures -- of course. A good opportunity to buy a DSLR.

  2. Interesting to note that you're describing a large part of existentialism, which I guess Rand rejected wholesale, but thought it would have been a good descriptor for objectivism? I wouldn't 'object' to that, because I always thought existentialism was a poor name for what it is! =)

    Otherwise...Careful? There have been many examples (starting with long drunken discussions with an old college roommate and good friend, back in the day) in which I've had the same conclusion as Randiasm, but via a vastly different rationale (term probably used ironically here). I would suspect the notion of an appreciation of 'Quality' as an intrinsic value might also be celebrated similarly?

    How do you feel about photographing (with permission) human subjects?
    I would love to go to the Himalaya someday, and I think some of the most striking pictures from their are the colourful natives in their environment below, almost the complete antithesis of the wealthy, foreign takeover of the mountains above.

    Have you read "The Snow Leopard?"

  3. Green Bay sounds like it was a royal cluster. But, one thing that I've been noticing lately is the attention given to "hot" conditions at marathons. It is certainly a health risk when you're running hard in those conditions, but how many ultras experience temps in the 80s or 90s or higher during the event? Granted, many western ultras don't have the accompanying humidity, but still. There's certainly a different mentality among ultrarunners than marathoners (i.e., more willingness to slow down and adjust to conditions). Part of me can see the marathoner mentality of just powering through and trying to get it over with. That may or may not work at mile 20 of a hot marathon, but it's not so much a possibility when you're at mile 20 of a 100 miler. Regardless, at Green Bay the marathoners weren't given the opportunity to slow down and adjust to conditions. On the plus side, the average official finish time of marathoners at Green Bay this year has to make it one of the fastest marathons in the world!

  4. Mike - Aside from the friend who started me on the books, my college experience with Rand was negative and full of weirdos. Things are better today.

    Nepal would be great for people photography, and it's one thing I want to develop, but I'm pretty self-conscious about doing it except with family and friends. I work on it slowly. I saw an exhibit by Steve McCurry in Durango and it was an amazing example of that type of work.

    Have not read "The Snow Leopard". One for the book queue.

  5. Great comments, Chris.
    Ironically, I don't think the GB marathon humidity was unusually high -- it was dipping while the temperature was rising. Dew points were in the high 50s, if not low 60s.

    Anytime ultramarathons are mentioned -- or the fact that marathoners were denied a chance to finish and were overwhelmingly outnumbered by HMers in GB -- people take it as a challenge or judgment against "lesser" distances.

    This should not be so.

    The advantage of an experienced marathoner or ultramarathoner is experience -- just like you said, adjusting to conditions. Especially, getting ready to run 15-48 hours means being prepared for absolutely anything, and not toeing the line until you think you've got a handle on what adjustments you need to make. Since the long run is usually ~1/3rd of the distance, it's even more about trusting your ability to make smart decisions than it is about the distance.

    I'm concerned that there's more of a trend of people barely getting ready to run/walk 13.1 or 26.2 miles in perfect weather, with a quick training plan, and not having any margin for anything that could go wrong. Running one's first marathon is so memorable, in fact, my advice is that, when you think you want to run one, pick one out for *next* year! Savor an entire year of preparation and anticipation! (Meanwhile, you're muscles/joints/tendons/ligaments adapt more fully and reduce injury risk)

  6. @MR2: Didn't know the name, thanks for the link -- immediately recognized *her*..and those haunting eyes. Thanks.