Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lamentations of a TTL

It’s a funny thing, that fleeting feeling that is desire. It is currently fighting a tough battle with inertia, but I know that eventually desire will win out. It just needs something to cling to. Yes, I am still musing on my dedication (or lack thereof) to running.

Earlier this month I realized that long term running goals were dancing around inside my head. Instead of trying to motivate myself to get back into things right then, I kept thinking about next year. Apparently my transformation into an ultrarunner is complete; I am only able to think long-term.

So I clicked around on some of my favorite running sites and blogs, as I was apt to do back when I was actually running and stuff. I wanted to peruse the latest news on the Western States site, and I ran across the Two Time Loser list.

Now I have to admit, it’s pretty exciting to see your name listed on the Western States site, for whatever reason. Sure, it wasn’t nearly like being listed as a winner in the lottery, but seeing my name on the screen definitely got my brain firing and my latent running muscles twitching.

Suddenly, I was writing training plans in my head, scanning the list for familiar names and wondering how the winter weather would treat my long runs. Apparently a goal race that is 9 months away, and requires as much time spent training, is exactly what I need for motivation.

To be sure, I knew my chances of getting into Western States in 2009 were pretty close to zero. On the other hand, there were essentially two lists of people who could be on the line next June: The 2008 start list, and the TTL list. For almost anyone else, your chances really were zero. That did make me feel kind of special.

If you’re scratching your head right now and asking, what the heck is a TTL, and why would anyone want to be one? don’t worry too much about it. TTL’s are a dying breed. In the past, if a runner qualified for Western States and failed to get selected in the lottery for two years in a row (making you a Two Time Loser) then you were granted automatic entry into the following year’s race. However, the race committee announced last year that they were abandoning the rule because, well, there were just too many of us. In fact, the TTL list right now is 252 names long. After the 2008 runners notified the RD of their intention to run, (or not to run) there were only 54 spots left for TTL’s for 2009.

I'm a TTL! Are you a TTL too?

Last week, winning TTL's (is that an oxymoron?) were sent an email, and It hardly came as a shock when I didn't get one. Like many of you, I’m getting used to losing the WS lottery. I’m still a TTL, it just stands for Three Time Loser now.

The current rules state that I am guaranteed an entry into the race in either 2010 or 2011. I will just have to continue to extend that ultra mindset of thinking long term.

In the meantime, I’m looking at some shorter term goals, including pondering my race schedule for next season. I’m definitely interested in the 100K distance, and I’m pretty sure I am not going to run a 100 mile race this year. I’m thinking about a few shorter races (like marathons) and maybe a couple triathlons. The only thing I’ve committed to so far is the Surf City Marathon in February.

Several years ago I swore off road marathons (with the exception of Tahoe) so it is a wonder to me why this race interests me. Maybe I just needed a change of pace—literally. This course is flat and at sea level, so it stands to reason that I should run a decent time. I’m not yet sure exactly what that time should be; I want to see how my training goes. I do, however, plan to push the speed work in my training. I hope to have an established time goal by Christmas.

The “enter a race” method of motivating myself seems to have done the trick anyway. I somehow managed to run 6 days this week! I’m also taking the wise approach and incorporating strength training, which I have been too lazy to do in the last several years. It feels good to be sore though!

As far as other races, I’m considering many of the standard NorCal ultras for the spring and summer. If you have any race suggestions, please post them! Also, if you have links to your race reports for those races, post those too!

I’m enjoying this time filled with possibility: Letting my brain explore all the potential races and allowing all these thoughts to fill me with excitement about running. After an extended break, I'm finally sick of being lazy.

Happy Fall, and here’s wishing everyone the best of race dreams for 2009.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Definitions of a Winner: Nike Women's Marathon Changes Results After Bad Publicity

Last Sunday, the Nike Women's Marathon took place in San Francisco, California. With about 20,000 women participating, they raised more than $18 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. They also raised a lot of eyebrows when they awarded first place to a runner who did not run the fastest time.

As with many big road races, the Nike event had a separate category for the elite women racers, and they started 20 minutes ahead of the rest of the runners. As it turned out, the fastest time (2:55) was run by Arien O'Connell, who was not registered in the elite category. She ran a 12 minute PR, to beat the fastest elite woman by about 11 minutes. You can read a detailed article in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

In the wake of all the bad publicity, Nike has since changed their tune, and decided to award O'Connell with the same prize received by the elite winner. There are some good articles on this here and here. She still is not the winner, and it strikes me as very odd. 2:55 is frankly not that fast for a wining time in a large road race. I'm assuming it was a somewhat slow course, but still, it makes perfect sense to me that a runner who has never broken 3 hours before would not register herself as an elite.

The original argument was that the elite women couldn't adjust their race plan to truly compete against O'Connell, since she was farther back in the race. I can see the point, but I can't imagine that the "winner," who ran 3:06, was really going to run 12 minutes faster. Who knows. Clearly the way this race is set up needs to be changed. Maybe the categories defining "elite" should be made clear. Maybe there should not be a 20 minute head start for these runners.

In its odd attempt to award two winners, Nike still looks like the corporate bad guy, and USATF looks like the road racing bureaucracy that it really is.