Who says December is the "off-season" for ultra running? Tomorrow is quite the big day for many 50 mile speedsters and Western States hopefulls (not to mention the day Nebraska and Texas play for the Big 12 Championship - Go Big Red!!). Even though the NorthFace 50 Mile Championship is 6 months apart and half the distance of the Western States 100 miler, they're two of the closest-linked ultra races in my mind.
The common bond between these two races, as I see it, is the Almighty $Dollar. Not a whole lot of prize money exists in the ultra world, so the NorthFace 50 miler series (now finishing up its 3rd year) really stands out as a big attraction for speedsters of that distance ($10,000 goes to the winner of the Championship held tomorrow in San Fransisco). As always there will be a deep and insanely talented field lining up tomorrow, and the race for the cash can be followed here.
Western States might not have any prize money, but considering it has the highest entry fee of any 100 miler (and tons of sponsorship connections), I consider it a big $$ race too. With it being the oldest (and most popular) 100 miler in the country, the desire to line up in Squaw Valley every year is shared by WAY more folks than can actually be accepted into the race. The big excitement tomorrow will be the live lottery to see which of the 1,500+ applicants get selected (about 1 in 5 will get in). Since I'm a guy who prefers to spend my money on things other than huge race fees, I've never had much interest in running Western States, but I figured what the hell this year and threw my name into the lottery for fun (at least that part is free!). The big reason for me throwing my name in the hat is that while I don't like all the fees, I do have a tremendous respect for Tradition. Having run Boston a couple times, I know first-hand what it feels like to run in the steps of so many legends, and I know doing the same at Western States one time will feel just as cool. Anyway, the lottery kicks off tomorrow at Noon EST and can be followed here. I know I won't be the only one following along!
As for my personal running news, I very much enjoyed taking 10 days off following the Horse-Shoe Trail adventure and am back in the swing of things as I ramp up for an exciting first few months of 2010. I'll join up w/ about 200 fellow VHTRC-ers next Saturday for the annual holiday-themed 50K on the Bull Run course known as the Magnus Gluteus Maximus run. You don't have to be a Latin scholar to know this is a Big Fat Ass run! I'm looking forward to hanging back in the pack and enjoying an easy run w/ friends to help ring in the Holidays!