Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ultracentric = Ultradisappointment

I really do not know how to describe the sheer disappointment I feel in regards to hat took place in McKinney Texas this past weekend. I wasn't there, but from what I have read, a great injustice to fellow runners and an even greater disservice to our sport was committed. This past weekend was the 2008 Ultracentric Experience. It is home to the 48/24/12 and 6 hour Ultra-Running Championships. If you are not sure what that is, basically if you sign up for the 48 hour event; you show up and run as many miles as you can in 48 hours. Whoever runs the furthest wins, and so on. There is also a Mountain Bike division and a Bike/Run Duathlon division.

Here is what the race website advertises besides just the various races:
1st Place $3000
2nd Place $1500
3rd Place $750
Prize Money in all 24 & 48 Hour Solo Events.
Also... $7000 to anyone who sets a new American record in the 24 hour event. If you are a first time Ultracentric participant you add another $1000 to the prize money. $4000 to anyone who sets an American record in the 48 hour.
The UltraRunning Course is a paved & certified USTF 1 mile loop.
The loop has a slight uphill on the west side, and a slight down hill on the east side, for a net change of nine and one half feet.

With all of this prize money, you would expect that the race had its act together. Unfortunately, the reports from McKinney, TX this past weekend are not great. In fact, they are highly disappointing where many of our countries top ultra-runners are calling the RD out and demanding explanations. Here is what went down:

In terms of the course, one runner reported that Scott Jurek had 3,500' of gain on his GPS watch just a few hours into the run. Not sure how a 9.5 foot hill could add up to 3,500' so quickly. Not to mention that Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball and many others dropped out of the race early because of this. These runners had trained all year to go to this race and set records.. what they got when they got their was an unveiling of lies. The course was not "flat" as advertised.. it was a bruiser and their quads begged for their money back. "Tony Mangan for sure talked to the RD on the phone and was told that the course was flat---I believe Nikki talked to someone in person too....and all of us were lied to." one runner reported.

Another runner informed us all that they never received any prize monies for their 1st place performance on the course. This is extremely bad form where the entire race website AND the races various advertisements in running periodicals are based on these monies. Where is it and why hasn't anyone received it?

Another runner bought various items from the race website, souvenirs to bring home to family and friends. When they ordered the items they checked that they would pick them up at the races sponsor expo. Upon arriving at the race, their purchased items were no where to be found. No refund could be given and it is highly likely that they will neither see product or reimbursement.

Beyond these facts, as a fellow race director I feel insulted. Many runners had displayed great interest in running The Peakraces.com Funeral Run 200/100 Miler a few weekends ago in Vermont. But these very runners backed out of the the opportunity given their hopes for placing well and/or setting records in Texas. Only thing is.. when they got to Texas they had been lied to. The course was changed.. and they ended up losing out on TWO great running events instead of just one. What rubs me raw is that another great ultra experience.. another event that could have used the support of fellow runners, suffered and for what?.. nothing.

I wasn't in Texas this weekend but what I have read as a runner and race director sickens me. I won't lie, my first stab at being an RD was by no means perfect. During the planning of the New England Ultras, we had to make multiple course changes. Every time we had to make a change we IMMEDIATELY informed all of our runners and updated our website. If we had no change yet, we'd still inform the runners that a change was coming.. and then we informed them when it had been made. This is the very least that we could have done for our paying customers. Also at Peakraces this year, Ri Fahnestock was the only person to complete all 6 Peak races and in doing so, I had the honor of awarding him the actual $10,000 check at the finish line of the 100 Miler a few weekends ago. Lastly, when being an RD, you MUST listen to your clientel.. the runners. From what I gathered from a few friends of mine, what was a problem in 2006 or 2007, was an even BIGGER problem in 2008.

Unfortunately, our sport is going to lose an old school running event over the ignorance of a Race Director. I feel bad for my fellow runners and I feel even worse for my fellow RD's. What could have been a shining moment for our sport and a shining moment for my fellow runners has turned into a big black eye. Such a shame... Ultradisappointment is right!