Even though I’m still almost a year out, I already had my first case of needing to rework my route. Since this route is on trails I run consistently, I’ve had considerable time tweaking with the route I had in mind, fine tuning it for distance, and figuring out where the aid stations would be placed.
Vehicle access is very limited on the trails I plan to use, so finding a good place to set up an aid station was a challenge. I thought I had it nailed, only to find out a section of the road I need to use is closed to all traffic (I thought it could still be used for events and limited access). So, unless I wanted to cart an entire aid station’s worth of stuff by pack mule over a few miles of rutted, gravel road it was time to go back to the map.
Thankfully, the road is not closed entirely, and I was able to reroute the course to gain access to the road without having to run more than half a mile on it. But this new aid station location came with a catch: it was much further along the course. Its new location meant I needed to add yet another aid station along the way so that runners weren’t looking at 10 unassisted miles, over potentially very hot, exposed terrain. A little more route manipulation, the addition of an out-and-back that adds a new hill climb, and voila! A new aid station is born.
All of this rework occurred as I was in the final stages of preparing my permit application to submit to the city’s Parks Department. But I’ll cover all that and more in an upcoming post…
As the idea for this race took shape in my head, I thought a lot about what options to offer for race distances. The simplest of course would be to simply pick the one distance and have the race completely focused on that. Another is to add some other, shorter options to make the race a little more inclusive, though diluted from a pure ultramarathon. There are plenty of 50 mile races that fall into either camp, but for my race I elected to go with the broader set of options. I decided to offer a half-marathon, marathon and 50 mile distance for participants to choose from.
A couple factors weighed on my decision to broaden the set of distance choices. Chico is a great town, but is most definitely not in a large, urban area so the pool of local participants is not enormous. I’m frankly not sure how many folks I’ll be able to recruit for the 50 mile option. Offering a marathon and a half-marathon will hopefully encourage some racers who might be otherwise on the fence for year one, and lead to even greater participation in the ultra distance in the years to come.
The course itself was also a consideration when looking at the distance options. The nature of the course is two loops in a “rabbit ears” arrangement, and each loop was easy to get to about 13 miles. This just calls out for the half/full/ultra combination and doesn’t require any weird modifications to a course to try and make the shorter options viable.
When everything comes together, I hope to strike a good balance between encouraging participation on the shorter distances and still making sure the race gets to shine with the 50 mile distance.
What do you think? When you have done races with single vs. multiple distance options, what do you find most appealing? I’d love to hear from you.