Monday, December 14, 2015

Deception Pass 50km sweeping

Alas, in a sport that seems to pride itself on being inclusive, someone always is excluded. Someone, me and 1,000+ others actually, didn't get into Hardrock; 3,000+ people didn't get into Western States; this past weekend, a few individuals at the Deception Pass 50km got cut off at mile 21.

As a sweeper at Deception Pass, part of my role was to enforce the cut offs, which means excluding those people who weren't moving fast enough from finishing the race.

Why is a cut off there any different from cut offs at other races? Pretty much every race has them. Well, this cut off at mile 21 was a new one this year. Why? Because I asked for it last year.

After sweeping Deception Pass in December 2014, I lobbied Rainshadow Running for a cut off at that point on the course.  

On December 15, 2014, I wrote them via email:
"Our one thought regarding the course yesterday: publish (print out and post at the aid station) a cutoff time for finishing loop one of Hoypus. That will ensure runners come in after two laps on time and also will avoid the judgment call the aid station captain was having to make yesterday when runners wanted to go out on their second loop because they thought they had enough time to get back in before 3:15 when they clearly didn't. With a published (on web and posted at aid station) time for finishing loop one (probably about 1:40pm) it might avoid that subjective call. I hope that's useful feedback. Otherwise everything else went quite smoothly from our standpoint." 
In mid-December the sun sets at ~4:17pm (assuming its clear). When we finished sweeping at 5pm last year, in the dark, it was difficult to ensure that we stripped all course markings, picked up garbage on the course, etc. All these jobs are vitally important to make sure we do not have negative impacts in the areas where races occur, impact other trail users as well as put race permits in jeopardy.

This year, Rainshadow Running announced in their pre-race email a few days before the race that there would be a new 1:30pm cut off at mile 21; basically what I asked for after sweeping last year to ensure that sweeps were safe and able to complete our job. Rainshadow also had an existing 4pm finish-line cut off, so a midway cut would ensure that people are on pace to complete the course by that end-of-day time.

From the Rainshadow pre-race email prior to this year's race:  
8:00 AM: Race starts via the parking lot of the West Beach Shelter.

10:30 AM: Cut-off at Bowman Bay Aid Station - Runners must have left the aid station for a second time (at mile 7.3) by this time.

1:30 PM: HARD Cut-off at Cornet Bay Aid Station - Runners must have left the aid station, headed out on their second Hoypus Loop (at mile 21.4) BY 1:30 in order to continue on the course. This is of the utmost importance, and to ensure no one is finishing in the dark.

3:15 PM: Final Cut-off at Cornet Bay Aid Station - Runners must have left the aid station for a third and final time (at mile 28.2) to head toward the finish-line by this time.

4:00 PM: Cut-off at the Finish. Runners must have finished by this time to get an official finish.
Unfortunately, some people did not make that 1:30pm time and were forced to drop from the race. That stinks; I understand. Everyone who signs up for and starts a race wants to finish and I'm assuming they've done enough training to complete the course within the stated times/rules/guidelines.

The 1:30pm time is 5.5 elapsed hours (15:42/mile pace) and consistent with the 4pm finishing time (8 hours elapsed, 15:30/mile pace). This year, instead of finishing at 5pm, we swept in behind the last runner at 3:57pm, right when the finish line would officially "close".

I'm sorry if some people were upset at the new cut off time. I hope they will understand why it was implemented. It was not intended to target back-of-the-pack runners.

I am more than happy to share the "blame" as I sent the idea to Rainshadow last year as well as reminded them of my request two weeks prior to race day when I confirmed that I would again volunteer as a sweeper. I continue to stand by it as a reasonable time both for runners and volunteers. I sincerely hope that those individuals will come back to Deception, or another race, and try to finish within the stated times again. If they feel that is unreasonable, maybe they could sweep? Sweepers move at cut-off pace, don't have to pay to run the course and still get access to aid stations.

It's a good deal, and one reason why I like to do it; controversy notwithstanding.    

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