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.


  1. Aaaaah, yes....race dreams.

    It's that time of year. I need to get myself some goals for 2009 pronto presto. Coyote Two Moons looks just my style....laid back, low key and old school. Plus, they bowl. Who can resist??
    Oh yeah - and no lists, waiting lists, TTL lists or any of that crap. Just show up and run!!

    Hope all is well! Shouldn't you be fantasizing about tele-turns, soon??


  2. I had to laugh (at myself) after reading that marathons are short distances to you! You give us shorter-distance runners hope. :) As for race tips, I'll be looking here for those~

    Glad you found some long-term inspiration!

  3. Hey Gretchen,

    I feel your pain r.e. the TTL thing. I know that living in Northern california, the whole Western States thing looms really large on the horizon every year and tends to dominate the entire season. Pick a race that really really excites you - and go for it.

    For what it's worth, I am organizing a trail ultra here in New Zealand for March 09. It'll be very scenic - and no two-time loser lists :-)

    Cheers, Paul

  4. Sorry the lottery didn't work for you. The best consolation is knowing that so many other great races are out there waiting for you to find them. And WS will always be there to return to (unless, of course, it is cancelled due to smoke, but that almost NEVER happens ...)

    Have fun with the marathon training. In some ways, running a fast marathon is even harder than an ultra. The change of pace might be good for you.

  5. Hey Gretchen, so good to hear from you. Glad to hear you're getting the "bug" again. My year turned into kind of a "wash" with this stress fracture so I'm eagerly planning out next year too.

    Good luck finding some fun races to excite you. It's funny how some races just call out to be done.

  6. Hello fellow Three Time Loser....yaarrghhh. I hate this constant rejection from the WS committee. I'm almost over it...almost.

    Ooo so many good ultras here in NorCal. You can't go wrong with any of them. My personal favorites for the Spring/Summer ; Mt. Diablo 50-miler, Miwok 100k, Quicksilver 50-miler and Ohlone 50k. PCTR has a great new 50k that is being moved to the Spring because of problems with bees and yellow jackets - Skyline to the Sea 50k. If you like downhill and lots of it, you'll like this one. You start inland in the Santa Cruz mountains and run the Skyline trail to the Ocean.

  7. Yessss! Gretchen's finally back at it! I know exactly how you feel, when your body tells you that it's time to get your fat ass off the couch again. In so many ways it's the most exciting part of the season!

    Here's my suggestion, since you asked: If (when) you qualify for Boston, run it!