On Race Management
1. Registration—Every runner must apply and register at Ultra SignUp, at least 8 months before Race Day. The deadline of application is approximately 6 months before Race Day. (Note: It is a good motivation to follow a 24-week training program for this ultra trail event). The last day of application was on December 1, 2010. All runner-applicants must go through a lottery to be able to cover the maximum number of runners allowed for the race to 446 only. The final list of accepted runners (through lottery) are published at Ultra SignUp effective on December 10, 2010. The registration fee of $ 155.00 is immediately credited from the runner’s Credit Card once he/she is accepted . Few weeks from race day, each runner is designated with a Race Number. Most of the runners can redeem their Race Packet/Bib within the period of at least one hour before the Start of the race.
2. Maturity of the Race—The 2011 Race is the 16th edition of the event as it started in 1996. I am sure through the years, the Race Management, to include the Prizes and “give-aways”/schwag, had improved with the presence of corporate sponsors. According to Rick Gaston, Miwok 100 had built its reputation as the “prime” ultra trail run at the Marin Headlands during the spring season. The other trail race that is also popular and has one of the best reputation in terms of race management and attendance of top elite athletes in the Marin Headlands is the TNF 50-Mile Championship on the 1st weekend of December every year. Maturity goes with the proper planning and preparation of the event as seen by the favorable feedback from the runners after the race. As one of the volunteers, I was impressed on the cooperation and unity among the members of the group.
3. Volunteer System—The involvement of the volunteers was impressive. The leadership of the Race Director in orchestrating all the jobs of all the committees involved speaks well of the excellent organization, planning, and professionalism of everybody. I was able to feel the “bayanihan” atmosphere among the volunteers. Each of the volunteers had specific job to perform and they are expert and knowledgeable of what to do. I am not surprised about this because all the volunteers are ultra marathoners themselves! The volunteers at the different Aid Stations made sure that each runner was attended through all their needs, from cheering, filling their hydration bottles, serving them with food and even locating and giving them their drop bags.
4. Prizes, Schwag, and Montrail Cup Series—If I joined the race, finishing the distance within the prescribed cut-off time would be the most defining “prize” for me. Those schwag/give-aways are just souvenirs or evidence to prove that I was part of the race. However, for the top elite runners, what is important to them was to earn points as this race was part of the annual Montrail Cup Series where a runner joins at least four (4) ultra trail races of the said series and the runner with the highest points will be awarded a cash prize of $ 5,000.00. For this year, the Miwok Race started to award $ 500.00 for the Champion.
5. Simplicity—Trail Running events are not evaluated in terms of bright lights, lots of tarpaulins and banners, loud speakers with blaring disco music, Emcees with nice English pronunciation, leading a prayer and singing the National Anthem, arches, marshals and security personnel at the Start/Assembly Area. They are evaluated by the simplicity of the event. Trail running is the purest form of running event where the scenery, degree of difficulty, and the camaraderie of the participants and the volunteers count most. The event lacked the things that I mentioned previously. Also, there are no distance markers along the route as the location of the Aid Stations serves as the distance markers for everybody. I did not even see water cups filled with water or sports drinks on the tables available in the different aid stations. What I saw were water pitchers being used to fill-up the hydration bladders and bottles of runners who need water or sports drinks. The route was marked with pink-colored ribbons tied on the shrubs, trees, grasses, and trail posts; and the paved road had pink-colored adhesive tape with an arrow-directional sign. What impressed me most was the fact that the race started on time!
On the Runners
1. Hydration System—Out of the top ten finishers whom I personally observed at the Starting Line up to the Pan Toll Aid Station and at the finish line, it was only Ian Sharman aka Elvis Presley (#10) who was running with a shoulder hydration pack (TNF Enduro BOA Hydration Tack). I did not see Hal Koerner holding or sporting a hydration system throughout the race. All the remaining top 8 runners were holding a hydration bottle on either one of their hands during the race. On the mid-pack and the sweeper groups, most of them use hydration backpacks (Camelbak & Nathan) and some with hydration belts with at least two bottles of 20-ounces each in liquid capacity.
2. Running Shorts—It was only Hal Koerner who was using a compression shorts and the rest of the top 8 runners were using the regular running shorts which are the split and v-notch type. I would suspect that their running shorts must have a lot of pockets where they can stow their gels, endurance powders, Vitamin I, and Clif Bloks. Or else, they have their respective support crew waiting for them in every Aid Station to provide them with their necessary nutrition and hydration needs. I did not recall if I saw any of the men among the participants using long compression tights.
3. Body Structure—Dave Mackey, Mike Wolfe, Hal Koerner, and Dakota Jones are tall and have muscular bodies. Which is translated to longer legs and ultimately, longer strides when they run. Their longer and strong legs could withstand their momentum in maintaining a running form on the inclines/uphills of the route. With such body structures, you could just imagine how fast these guys would run on the downhills. As for Ian Sharman, he has an average body size of a runner who happens to be an inch or two taller than me and leaner than the top 4 runners but I was able to discover why he was able to beat Tony Krupicka at this year’s Rocky Raccoon—he has a very fast, quick and light leg turn-over in an ultra race! Personally, I can predict that Ian Sharman will be this year’s Champion in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run even with the presence of Kilian Jornet Burgada.
4. Running Shoes—I was surprised to see Dave Mackey using a weird-looking trail shoes (Hoka One One) which he used in his past 1st place trail running events. This is an opposite view of the minimalist approach of some of the elite trail running athletes. I was more surprised when I saw Mike Wolfe, a TNF model & endorser, to be using a New Balance MT 101 Trail Shoes! On the other hand, Hal Koerner was using a NIKE Lunaracer which is considered a road racing flat shoes!
5. Stop or Pass On Aid Stations—Elite athletes do not stop at Aid Stations if they have support crew waiting for them to hand them what they need from one Aid Station to another. For those who who don’t have any support crew, they stop to refill their hydration bottle/s or packs with the needed fluids and grab some gels or foods offered on the tables. A few yards from the Aid Station, the runners would remove the lid/cover of their bottles and as soon as they reach the Aid Station, the runner would simply extend his/her arm to the volunteers who would refill such bottle using a water pitcher. Sometimes, they just grab canned soda drinks and drink the contents while they are running. You will be surprised how they would stow their empty cans and empty gel packs in their running shorts up to the next aid station where trash bins are located. Runners are strictly following the rule of not littering their trash on the trails or else they will be disqualified. As for the mid-pack and sweepers, stopping on the Aid Station is a must for re-supply and rest purposes as long as they are within the cut-off time of arrival on such Aid Station.
6. “Fanny” Packs or Belt Bags—These bags worn as belt could be seen on the picture above where the two lady runners are using. If a runner is using hand-held water bottles and using running shorts with small pockets, these “fanny” belt packs which are light, flat and snugged to the body are good running accessory for an ultra trail runner where he/she could stow a cellphone/camera, cash, keys, sports gels, sports mix, salt tablets, Vitamin I, and sports bars/food.
7. Arm Sleeves & Calf Sleeves—It is reasonable that the runners would use arm sleeves because of the cold temperature but I could see that most of the runners were using calf sleeves, to include the lady runners. In my experience, I believe in the use of these calf sleeves during my workout and during my recovery. I am presently using the Zensha Compression Calf Sleeves during my long runs while a tighter 2XU Compression Calf Sleeves are used during my recovery periods.
8. Using of “Wires”—The top 4 male and female runners were not using any “wires” to their ears. I believe that these elite runners are well-focused and sharp on the task at hand during the race. In the Race Reports of these elite athletes, they could hear the steps, breathing, and sounds of the environment. These top runners would maintain conversation among themselves on wider trails. Instead of listening to music, these runners listen to their footsteps on the trails; they listen how their competitors’ breathing in order to find out if they are still strong or exhausted; and listen to the steps of the runner ahead and behind them. On single-track trails, there is a need to communicate to the runner ahead of you if you intend to pass and it would be inappropriate if a runner to be passed is using some “wires” with some loud music being played on his earphones and could hardly hear the verbal warning from the runner behind him.
Lastly, Tia Bodington (RD) sent me an e-mail 2 days after the event expressing her thanks for being a part of the Volunteer Group of the event. She called me as one of the members of the “Miwok 100 Traffic Czars”. Sweet!
One thought on “Insights & Observations @ 2011 Miwok 100”
Great observations BR. If I may, some notes on your notes.
1. I personally don’t use packs because they take longer to refill and I never know how much I have left. With bottles I can also customize my hydration. To each his own though, some folks can’t to have weight in their hands.
2. Usually runners here don’t use long compression tights unless it’s cold. I always wondered why runners in PI used them when it’s so warm over there. Although the compression sock thing is quite the rage these days.
3. I think Ian is a great runner and really a nice guy too. He races a lot too though. Last year when he was in the top 10 of Western, he came in already having run Miwok, Comrades and several 50ks, winning at least one that I know of. Then again many of the elites also either race a lot or put in a lot of miles.
5. Runners here are pretty good about the trash thing. Usually the veterans are. Road racers tend to litter more but then they catch on.
7. My friend Walter swears by the calf sleeves to help keep Poison Oak out.
8. The music thing is an ongoing debate. Karl Meltzer listens to music when he runs and you and I know how a monster runner he is. I actually use only one earphone and the compromise has worked for me. Every time I get new earphones I cut the right one off. Two disconnects me from my environment. One gives me a boost when I need it but rarely will I ever listen to music the entire time I’m running. Music is the soundtrack to my adventure and not a crutch to get me through a run.
Misc. notes. On the picture you have of runners running with open bottles, I’m friend with all but #29 is Carly Varner – Hal Koerner’s wife. Must be nice to have a partner who also runs ultras.