WS Raises Fee

With the opening of registration for the last of the two-time losers today, can’t help but notice some of the changes for WS 100 which is less than ten months away.

First, the entry fee has been raised from $295 to $370.  Remember we asked on this blog last year what the consequences of a $500 fee would be.  We’re getting closer to knowing the answer.

Second, the lottery sign up period has been pushed back by a couple of weeks to November 13 through November 27.  When your name is pulled at the Dec 4 lottery, your credit card will be immediately billed.  Remember last year that the lottery was too far away from the sign up so no credit card info was retained.  Not so this year.  Putting your name in the bucket this year is going to be much more committing.

Third, it looks like your qualifying race will also need to be completed before entering the lottery  since the qualification period ends on Nov 6.  No tire-kickers this year!

I applaud these changes as they should increase the barrier to entry and reduce the number of names in the big electronic GUBrew bucket.  Now, if the qualification standards could just be tightened a little bit more.  750 in the lottery pool would be much better for the race and for the runners than the 1687 of last year.  While there will still probably be more than 1000 in the bucket, it shouldn’t be a repeat of last year’s lottery.  WSER, you done good.

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  1. Craig, you would have gotten points for classing up this blog by putting in the classic supply and demand graphs from Econ 101 (S1D1, S2D2 and the prices) and predicting how many entrants would put in. Maybe you could find someone to bet with!

    • @whitetrash, I need to cool it with the bets for awhile. Still feeling the $1000 check I just had to write to GOATS in YOUR name! That’s a big check for a part-time worker. But really, what is $75 more for a race of WS caliber, and considering all the other costs of getting to and staying in Squaw and Auburn. It probably won’t put much of a dent in demand. Sure, people are going to complain about the price but how many will really not sign up because of the extra $75? 25 people? 50? 100? Probably more like 10. I don’t know.

  2. Wow, a 25% price hike year to year is pretty significant, especially with an already expensive starting point. If it’s about keeping the riff raff out and raising barriers to entry, why not make the entry a cool grand? There’s increasing barriers to entry so that only those prepared and committed to racing are in the lottery, but surely there has to be a commitment to keeping the race inclusive and affordable as well. $375 is by no means chump change – at least not to me (and I’m sure plenty of others).

    Maybe the race committee needs to work their sponsors a little harder, not pay the RD quite as much ($45k in ’08, $43k in ’07 – according to 990 filing), offer a no-buckle option (just under $30k in award costs in ’08, $52k in ’07), and not keep so much cash on hand ($185k in assets in ’08). I’m not in the business of race directing, and of course have no idea how costs are looking for 2011, but damn, a 25% price hike.

    The other thing that needs to be considered is that other races may well be taking their pricing cues from WS. If the ‘premier’ event is charging $375, then all of a sudden $250 doesn’t seem so unreasonable. It’s all good and well throwing out comments like “what’s another $75,” but to those of limited means it is significant, especially when you consider the three bills additional on top.

    And, BTW Craig, I think you do a great job in keeping your Waldo race fees reasonable. Maybe when you have time you could offer a tutorial on keeping race costs under control, rather than dismissing as trivial a fee hike equivalent to 80% the cost of your event alone.

    • @Nick Clark, It is a significant increase when compared to the fee last year (25%), but when compared to all the other costs of travel, lodging, crew and pacer costs, etc, it really isn’t that large of an increase. I don’t know the specifics of the costs for the 2011 event nor do I have any other insider information, but I applaud WS for at least increasing the barriers instead of lowering them which has been the trend the last few years (easier qualifications, no monetary commitment or proof of qualification at sign-up, online registration to simplify the process, etc). I am sensitive to keeping the race inclusive and affordable but having 1687 people in your lottery is not good for the event. Raising the fees is a simple first step in reducing that number, along with the other changes listed above. Changing the entry requirements will take some time and it would not have been possible for the 2011 race without changing the rules retroactively.

      BTW, why don’t you come run Waldo next year? We haven’t set our price yet, but we’d like to keep it at $100 or below – sponsors are the best way to keep costs low. Oh, and get someone like Alan Abbs on your team. People just throw money at him.

  3. “but when compared to all the other costs of travel, lodging, crew and pacer costs, etc, it really isn’t that large of an increase.”

    That’s as may be, but it still doesn’t justify a 25% entry fee hike.

    I too applaud the measures taken to make the chances of getting in through the lottery a little more realistic, and it would appear that the board has listened to discussions that have gone on here or elsewhere in making those non-financial adjustments that you list. My gripe pure and simple is with cost. I’m sure there are all kinds of justifications as to why the race is so expensive, but I sincerely hope that it isn’t a simple supply and demand calculation – WSER is after all a not-for-profit foundation.

    I’d love to do Waldo, Craig, and maybe I will next year, but with race costs the way they are these days I can probably only afford one trip out west…

  4. Wow Nick, those are interesting numbers. Having your cash position equal the yearly revenue from the entries is a bit strange. Conservative, yes. Overly conservative, perhaps. It is interesting to see the size of the award cost. Again, almost a third of the entry fees. Your point to make them optional might make some sense. After one or two buckles what is the need. Incremental value of the third, fifth or tenth one might be very low to most people.
    I’m a bit surprised at Craig for not being somewhat disturbed at the price hike. If sponsors are the best way to keep costs low, why does WS need to have such a high priced race? Granted, they do a great job, sparing no expense, but at close to $400 one wonders. In these economic times, I don’t know of anything that has increased in price 25%. For the race we direct, we’ve been spending time looking at ways to lower the cost of the race rather than simply reflecting price hikes to the runners. One wonders if the Board is looking at ways to take costs out, or better yet, reflect direct costs as options to the runners (t-shirt, award, etc.) rather than keeping the status quo.
    When was the last price hike, and what was the amount?

  5. Wow, it sure is disturbing, and I am surprised that a price hike is presented as to lower the lottery pool – how about tightening the qualifying standards, like they were at some point even in my memory, and who knows what were they before? That would be truly about the “pool”, and not division by who can or can not afford to come over. And I have to agree on the fact that other races take note – I remember I fought tooth and nail to have a fee of $150 for Hood, and yes, we didn’t have silver buckles, but you get the idea – neither do Grand Teton or others. Bear is still very reasonable. But even RDL spiked theirs high 9I have to go and look over others, but seems everybody is making money on explosion of ultrarunning these days to one extent or another). Oh, and you’re probably right that the price rise won’t affect THAT much – see Badwater. From $300 to $800 (and rumor is more next year) – and still a lottery, and this is with another few grands for self-support and crew. So, is it really what we need to see? I would agree that park’s fees get higher and RD’s need to make up the difference. But not by $75/person.
    And, Nick – thanks for all of the info.

  6. Part of the problem with last years lottery was a combination of all the runner backlog from the 2008 cancellation and the ease in registering for the lottery without any financial commitment. This year, the number of lottery entrants will naturally decrease with that partially resolved pent up demand from the prior year. An 25% increase may not seem that significant, but when there’s two in the family who qualify, it makes $740 in entry fees for one race hard to stomach. Yes, I realize I’m the outlier. On principle alone, the increase causes me to question whether, or not, I will apply–thoughts that I never imagined would cros my mind. Even before I had run a qualifier a few years ago, I considered the qualifying standards to be soft. Especially, considering the reputation of WS. Yes, that does exclude the field and possibly the spirit of what WS is all about. But, increasing the entry fee is exclusionary, as well.

  7. One of the reasons I love running is that it is not an elitist event. You need the basics, shoes (arguable), a pair of shorts, a sports bra (depending), and maybe a water bottle. You don’t need expensive gear to participate. Running is a sport the entire world can participate in (ok, cultural and security issues aside). It’s what has always turned me off about triathlons–the gear-heavy side, which at some level includes some and excludes others, and leads certain events to become elitist–think yachting and golf. Yes, there is a cost to putting on a race and entry fees should cover that cost. But ultras don’t need to become elitist, which is where these fee increases are taking us.

    Why do we need to limit the # of lottery entrants? So that those who feel entitled to run the event can? Huge lottery, a few get in, what’s the problem? Those that don’t get in run one of the other great races out there.

      • @Craig, the feel of the lottery? big deal. people are going to be disappointed. move on. most do, and just enter another 100. the field this past year didn’t seem affected by the increased number of participants in the lottery or the heartbreak that incurred. A record-breaking 123 finished under 24 hours. and many of those who didn’t get in were out to support the race by crewing, pacing and/or volunteering.

        i’m more disappointed that the price seems exorbitant. i have an automatic entry and my race entry was paid for by the kind folks at waldo. but entering is not an easy choice for me. yes, i will most likely enter, but i haven’t yet hit the “signup now” button on ultrasignup because i don’t like the precedent that WS is starting. i can’t believe that it is the price of the buckle that is driving the price up to almost double of what other quality races charge (Wasatch $175, MMT $150, San Diego $185) who manage to give buckles and maintain reasonable entry fees. i would gladly forgo a buckle, because i am not a huge fan, but that is currently not an option.

  8. Come on you guys…California is in a bad way economically. Even a race director needs to make enough for retirement. Kidding aside…whether the amount is $370 or $375 or $500, it is still a better deal than most races. I just did a half marathon that cost me $90. Many of them are getting out of control with their entry fees. I say go back to just having bananas and water at the aid stations and quit the fluff. Optional buckles is an excellent idea. We’ll probably see the forest service charging entry fees for crew to access aid stations.

    @Nick – any idea what the forest service makes off the race?

      • @Nick Clark, Nick- from an earlier comment of yours, about coming out to Waldo, if you come out I’ll arrange a place for you to stay. There- we just made it harder for you to say no!

        And on the subject of forest service fees, in general (and I don’t know anything how it applies to WS) BLM and the USFS charge $5 per entrant or 5% of the gross from an event. At least, that’s for an event that starts and ends on a single day, in a distinct unit of land. When you think about WS and how much space is tied up for the racers and volunteers, and the fact that it goes through wilderness by special permission, that’s not a bad deal. For a race I’m involved in locally, we get a lot more time from our local land managers than we pay them in fees.

        • @whitetrash, Wow, thanks! So let me get this straight: friendly race folk willing to find out-of-state runners a place to stay, low entry fess, and the opportunity to cover costs through a healthy prize purse. WS offers none of those – sure makes it seem like a no-brainer.

          However, WS is by far the highest visibility 100-mile race in the country (really the only reason the faster guys and gals want to run there); offers a well-managed race (as do countless others around the country); beautiful scenery (ditto); history; lots of hoopla and pageantry (which I found to be more hype than reality); extremely well managed and staffed aid stations (testimony to the NoCA trail running community); and the best race-tracking site in the business (hands down).

          To be honest, if I weren’t looking to test myself against the best 100-milers in the country, it would be a huge no-brainer for me to skip out on WS now that it’s crossed off the list, but of course I want to come back next year and see if I can’t finish a little closer to or maybe beat a couple of the poster boys of the sport. Sure would help if WS recognized the added visibility/sponsor dollars the competition brought to their race by having/allowing Montrail (or another sponsor) put up a (sanctioned) prize purse.

          I dunno, one to mull over through the winter, I guess.

          On usage fees, while not FS land, the county here in Fort Collins charges a local trail marathon, that I am tangentially involved with, $10 per runner, or $2,500. So yes, on that comp too WS seems like they’re getting a great deal. That said, WSER puts a lot of time and cash additional to the permit fees into the trails, so I’d say both parties are well served by the arrangement.

  9. I must correct SLF regarding at least one of his observations. The cash position Nick mentions, $185,000 is pretty understandable. The cashflow of most races has cash coming in six to eight months before expenditures begin. It would make total sense that WS has cash that high at year end–Jan, Feb.

    Since buckles don’t change from year to year, how about runners that don’t want or need anymore, simply not take them on Sunday afternoon. Just hand them back. If enough people do it, it would have a meaningful affect on the cost. Better yet, those that have a drawer full could return them.

  10. HAVE TIMES CHANGED! I race directed for many years. Not sure, I ever needed $5,000, 6 months before a race to get things moving. I think I may have started up the McDonald Forest with about $150 of my own money. I printed flyers and bought some stamps. Yes, there was a time when flyers were printed and some were mailed out, others dropped off at running stores.

    Eventually, I would receive a few early entries. I then could start paying any Forest fees required and pay for insurance. As more fees arrived, I could maybe start the purchase of the hand made pottery mugs a tradition of the MAC races, etc.

    Now, with all the computer technology and the insanity of races filling up 4-5 months ahead of time, race directors have it much easier concerning budgeting out expenses and paying some bills early.

    For example, several of the northern California races (States, American River, Way Too Cool and Miwok) fill up months ahead of time. Race directors, with that kind of product or service can raise the fees, because they know they will still fill their races. These races and a few others, that have a cult following, in my opinion, seem to be setting the standard for how races should be managed or priced.

    Ultra Signup has even helped make that easier. Now, I have no ill feelings about Ultra Signup or these races, but, it’s like if you think you may want to run a race in 2011, you need to start entering very soon.

    States has this policy that they register maybe 425 runners, with a limit of maybe 375 from the Forest Service. Based on experience usually only 375 start. Therefore, they do not go over their limit. Why do all races have to start following this example?

    When I race directed, I really did appreciate those runners who may have signed up 4 months before the race, but I always had a return policy of at least 75% of the fee, if they notified me 2-4 weeks before the race that they could not run. Last year I entered Wasatch. I have been dealing with some injuries for the past 20 months. I was able to notify Wasatch in early August that I was injured and could not run. They sent back $125 of my entry fee.

    When a runner contacted me in my race directing days, it only took me a few minutes to right out check and mail some rebate to them. Hell, if I was sitting on $185,000, the least I could do a month before a race is return some funds to an injured runner.

    I don’t plan to run many more races, if any. I’m tired of entering races 4-6 months before the start day, especially 50K’s, get injured and know 3 months before the race, that I cannot race, but have no way of getting a partial refund.

    Check out the DNS lists, they are getting huge.

    Oh well! I’m old, you guys are all young. It’s your scene now. If I thought my fees for races that I paid for, but could not run were all going to some good cause, maybe medical marijuana research, so maybe in my old age, I could get some pain relief, no problem. :))

    Off to Whitefish for some hiking in Glacier.

    I love this sport, but it’s changing!


    • @grae, From Nick citing WSER 990 filings, to Amy blaspheming, to Rob talking to himself, to Clem suggesting races fund Medical marijuana research, to you looking for your tie-die shirts, this sure has been an interesting thread. BTW, did you get that package I sent you?

      • Yes. I sent you an email to your U of O address last week. Have you checked it recently? Confirm with me if you received it. I sent it through my new Droid X. Dam, I can’t figure this thing out. I thought I was so hip with this thing. I’m an old man. I’m confused. Where am I?

      • Also, did you ever receive those pics I took of you @ States 07′. The one where you are running through Foresthill searching the ground for pennies. Either that or it’s the Foresthill “death stare” ?

      • @Craig, If the 2011 WS shirt is tie-dye with a big cannabis leaf incorporated into the logo, maybe the race could pick up Cypress Hill as a sponsor and Dr. Dre’s posse could host a “Chronic” aid station at 78 miles – it would really make “walking it in from the River” a more enjoyable experience.

  11. To me, its all supply and demand. If you want to make a statement, don’t enter the race. There sure are a ton of amazing 100 milers to choose from these days. A few years ago, there was talk of a bunch of the top ultrarunners boycotting WS and choosing a different race. The fact is WS has a ton of people trying to get in and there won’t be any changes unless people stop signing up. I’m with Craig. For me, its expensive, but its worth it. For all the time off work, money on gear, hotels, gas, etc. the price on my first priority race isn’t going to deter me from entering. When it hits a point where I don’t think its acceptable, then I won’t enter and I’ll find a race that makes more financial sense for me. I would save hundreds and hundreds of dollars by entering Cascade Crest (which is closer to home and camping) each year rather than trying for WS.
    I like the new conditions on getting into States and hopefully more people will be realistic on whether they should be on the starting line if they have had to plunk down their cash in December. Just my two cents. All interesting and thought provoking comments!

  12. I like the idea of bringing the signup period and the lottery closer together and needing your qualifying run completed ahead of time but that’s where my enthusiasm ends. If the race entry fee needs to be increased by an outrageous percentage every few years now because of the cost of putting on a world class event so be it, but this notion of using rapidly escalating fees to try and deter people from entering the lottery is bogus (and I doubt it’s going to work). Extrapolating out WS is on its way to becoming a financially elitist activity…the Mt. Everest of trail 100s. Those with the most expendable income will be the ones toeing the line…not necessarily the ones with the most devotion and psych for the sport.
    I’ll put up the difference in last years and this years entry fees in a bet that the number of lottery entrants on Dec. 4, 2010 is equal to or greater than last year.

      • @Craig, LB, just to keep the spirit of philanthropic betting alive we could say that the bet winner has to donate the $75 to the dirtbag trail runner of their choice who works PT in order to train FT. I, like you, have never worked FT year-round, but, apparently I, unlike you, sympathize with those who choose to live on a shoestring budget to pursue their passions in lieu of chasing after financial wealth.
        (Imagine how many more yellow buckles I would have if I had been working FT all these years :0)

        PS- How many days a week do you work? You should be allowed to place one charitable bet per year for each day of the average week you bring home the bacon, even if it’s just bacon bits like they have at all-you-can-eat salad bars.

        • @Koz, now I’ve been labeled as someone who doesn’t sympathize with those who choose to live on a shoestring budget? Wow. My right-wing friends will love this.

          I don’t have set hours and can do a lot of my work remotely as long as I have my computer (and read my email as Grae is concerned about). I get paid .5 FTE. Suffice to say, the $1000 check I wrote to GOATS in Alan’s name was a significant chunk of change for this household.

          I have discipline. NO BETTING. NO BETTING. NO BETTING.

          • @Craig, Craig, in the words of SLF at the MB training camp, “the more we fun on you the more it means we like you.” 🙂 I would never label you as anything, except maybe a ‘very entertaining and inspiring training partner.” Just tryin’ to call you out and get the bet rollin’ because that would be more fun than having to admire you for your ‘discipline.’ 🙂

            • @The Seed, Here’s an idea that Monkeyboy and I were discussing last night. We might be able to pitch this to WS and actually get this implemented if the cost of the entry fee truly is a burden to some runners. A fund is setup through sponsorship (or donations from runners) that would be used to help runners who are in financial need. Runners could apply to the get all or part of their entry fee reimbursed, assuming they can prove that they can’t afford the fee. I would think that if the runner has sponsorship elsewhere then they wouldn’t be eligible. I bet Alan Abbs could procure the funds to make this happen. Maybe SLF or Rob Cain would be willing to administer it. It could also be more general than just WS. I have my doubts that there are many people that would actually qualify, but maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

              • @Craig, Craig, I think I can’t really tell if you’re serious or not 🙂 Beyond that, although I think it’s a cool idea I can’t imagine it actually ever becoming a reality, at least not through WS or any other race management. But what do I know? 🙂 How would it be determined what is and isn’t a financial burden? It’s all relative. Although I technically have lived most years of my adult life on an income flirting with the poverty level even the 2011 entry fee isn’t out of my range because I’ve learned how to live inexpensively…and still feel like a king I might add.
                It’s quite possible that the entry fee might be more of a burden to someone with a middle class income but with a mortgage in the ‘burbs, 2 kids with lots of costly activities, an all organic diet, a maxed out credit card and a garage full of motorized toys(for the training off-season) requiring registration fees and insurance. But then who’s fault is that?
                I guess my point is that, if it ever comes to fruition, I think Rob Cain or SLF should definitely be in charge…
                Oh, and if you keep betting with Whitetrash he’s going to have no trouble “procuring.”

  13. Wow, I like what Amy said. I don’t like the thought that the price is dictated by supply and demand. Are races about making money? Really? I do think the race has the right to charge what is needed to cover costs, and I have to admit that I have no idea what that entails.

    I also like the idea of people giving back their buckles to make a statement, since a reduced fee for no buckle is not currently an option. I don’t have a WS buckle, so I couldn’t imagine returning my first if I earned one, but I do have two buckles from TRT, and I have to admit that the second one feels a little silly.

    I was hesitating with my finger over the “register” button over at UltraSignup, but then I realized that for someone like me, who lives 15 minutes from the starting line and has plenty of local friends who can pace/crew, the cost is ultimately probably less than a race like Waldo, where I had additional expenses of travel and lodging. So I guess I’ll be at States this year, but I do feel a little uncomfortable with the elitist implications of these kinds of fees in our sport. I guess I’d better run the race now before it gets out of my price range!

    • @Gretchen, I’m not sure I’d agree that races that make money are elitist. There are, and will likely continue to be, a full spectrum of races from the big for-profit events like WTC, Leadville, AR, etc to the medium races that are fund raisers like all of the Oregon Trail Series races, to the free Fat Asses. Whether we like it or not, with demand as crazy as it is right now, there will be more people out trying to make a profit. If they have a good product and people are willing to sign-up and run them, is that elitist? Find the races that suite your preference in terms of money, product, for-profit or cause, and sign up for them (I’d say run them but you might not get picked in their lottery). Totally your choice.

      As for WSER, yeah lots of people will whine about this price increase, but WSER does a tremendous amount of work on trail preservation and restoration. Yeah, a lot of the early work was done by the horse people and yes they force us to volunteer, but it is a service to all of us that I personally am very grateful for. We get to run from Squaw Valley to Auburn on a continuous trail. How many different land owners/managers are involved to make that happen? They also provide the best product of any ultra I’ve ever experienced. The number of people in the different communities that devote themselves to helping runners get to the finish line is just staggering. The passion they have for the event is amazing. Sure, the RD is paid, but it is a HUGE job and he is entitled to make a living, too. Is that elitist?

  14. Hmm, you know it never really occurred to me that there really are races out there to make money-basically a business. Seems obvious I guess, but there you go. I apparently need the obvious pointed out to me. I still can’t help feeling like an increase in price just because you can get it isn’t necessarily right, but of course if you’re running a business then it only makes sense. I’m just uncomfortable with moving in a direction that discriminates based on income level. But I guess that’s life to some extent. There are already races out there I can’t afford and would love to do. I accept the fact that I’ll never be able to do them. I’d hate to see Western States fall onto that list, but maybe that’s the way it’s going. Okay.

    And don’t get me wrong. I definitely think the RD should get paid well, and I don’t even think the figure quoted is much of a salary given the cost of living in California. And I agree with you that they put on an amazing race, far beyond the caliber that I’ve seen anywhere else, (although I’ve never been at any other hundred-milers with nearly that many entrants). As I said in my first comment, I think the race should certainly charge what is needed to cover their costs. Maybe that amount is $370. I really don’t know.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion, Craig!

    • @Gretchen, Isn’t WS a non-profit? That’s where these capitalism/supply and demand arguments don’t work for me. WS is not a business out to make a profit. As a non profit any surplus funds would need to be used to further pursue its goals. If the $370 is what is needed to put on the event, and provide financial support to the various organizations that WS supports, great, but the question of supply and demand seems a bit irrelevant here.

      • @amy, Right. So I guess the question is, what is the reason behind the increase? I can only give Western States the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s totally necessary, but such a big jump is hard to make sense out of. If, as Craig suggested in the body of this post, it was an increase primarily to act as a barrier, to keep more people out of the lottery, then it doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure we need such barriers (after all, the lottery itself is a barrier, and one that doesn’t discriminate) and if we do, I don’t like to see them drawn along financial lines.

      • @amy, I never studied business, and, except for a couple years of consulting, I have made all my money by working for somebody else or by investing money that I (and my wife) earned and saved. I do the work, get the check, save, invest. I am not privy to the WSER board discussions regarding this price increase so I cannot, have not, and will not speak to their motivations until I know what they are. But to suggest that supply and demand does not apply to non-profits doesn’t make any sense to me.

        I will only give you my opinion based on race directing Waldo for the past 9 years. We operate it as a DBA. The net proceeds of the event go to the Willamette Pass Ski Patrol, a subunit of the National Ski Patrol which is a federally chartered nonprofit. Not sure how you want to technically classify us, but we are a not for profit race.

        Because the ski patrol is the beneficiary we get the venue and all that comes with it for free. We get probably 100 volunteers including five aid station captains and our medical coordinator from ski patrollers or their family members or friends. Because we do a significant amount of trail work the FS waives the gross revenue fee. Because it is a “ski patrol event” other groups such as the backcountry patrol and EMR help, too. Because of very generous cash sponsorships including Sunsweet, the City of Oakridge, Montrail, and other generous product sponsors such as Sporthill and Patagonia, we have been able to write checks to the ski patrol each year in the total sum of about $31,000 (not counting this year). The first 6 years of the race we did not fill to capacity and the early years we wrote $1500 and $1800 checks to the patrol – not a whole lot of money for the amount of work that we put into the race. [The patrol has generally had a budget of about $10,000 to $15,000 a year with the other major fund raiser an annual ski swap.] The last two years the donation has totaled $7500 annually. This year is looking to be the same or slightly higher.

        The first years when the patrol didn’t get large donations we had many people suggest to us that it wasn’t worth the work for that little money. Just the amount of labor required to staff and get supplies into our three remote aid stations alone was worth way more than the total donations in the early years. I agreed, but we couldn’t justify an increase in entry fee because demand wasn’t high enough. I believed that if we kept working hard to put on a great event the demand will increase. It has. Now that we have filled the past three years we have definitely considered raising the entry fee – to make more money. This money would either go to buying tools like chainsaws (Curt and I both use our own personal saws right now) or to increase the value of the event to runners (more schwag, pre-race dinner, etc) or to give a bigger donation to the ski patrol. We have not increased our price because of the generous sponsorship dollars and because demand is not that great [I do think we could have been $100 the last two years and not affected demand]. If that goes away and demand is still high to fill to capacity, we will likely look at an increase in the entry fee to keep the ski patrol happy which makes all the other pieces work.

        Now, if demand were so high that we had 1687 people vying for our 125 starter spots and we could increase the price of the entry fee that we could double our net proceeds, would we do it? Would people complain that we’re greedy? Sounds like it.

        I personally get a whole lot more out of putting on Waldo than just the monetary aspect, but making a profit is necessary for the event to work. While it may not be the only driving force, supply and demand is definitely in the equation.

  15. Well, since no one else is gonna say it, here it is: the increased cost difference for putting on this race, or any race, from year to year should be covered by the DNS’ers and DNF’ers. Afterall one of the common threads of this blog discussion has been the need to weed out folks who aren’t serious about the race. This method would have way more of a direct correlation than “expendable income for racing.” Heck some folks sign up for races less than a month away and still don’t make it to the starting line…kind of a charitable donation. And, in the name of fairness, we could come up with an equation for cost distribution that factors in at what point each DNF’er DNF’ed.(A DNS’er would really be screwed financially.) Of course this might have the added effect of drastically increasing finishing percentages which, in turn, might add to a race’s ego, hence, “justifying” even more price increases. And around and around we go…

  16. There is nothing that is NOT elitist about running in organized events. If someone has the means, the time, the energy it takes even show up for an ultra, they are probably not working-class-factory-time-card-punching-hacks. Every sport has its price, and most of the world’s population cannot afford the luxury of shoes, water bottle, sports bra, or the time. Only in such an affluent country can we bitch and moan about price increases on our extra-curricular, self indulgent, energy consuming passion.

    We have the luxury of saying “It’s all about choice.”

    • @Meghan, As if any human being that ever existed ever had a choice as to what country they were born in and what circumstances they were born into…seems like a fairly ridiculous way of judging people and what they do with their lives. I guess your argument means that anyone living above hand-to-mouth, subsistence standards is “elitist.”
      I’d rather do something positive, engaging and, hopefully, inspiring to others, and help people along the way when the opportunities present themselves than sit around and feel ashamed of being randomly born into an affluent country while criticizing others for being passionate about a “self-indulgent” activity. In one way or another everything in life is somewhat self-indulgent. Even altruistic behavior can be argued to have selfish roots: it makes you feel good to help someone which is a benefit to you, and acknowledging that shouldn’t be a negative thing. It’s hardwired.
      It may seem trivial in light of other worldly issues to be discussing the cost of one random race or to be running ultras in general but it doesn’t make it any less important in the eyes of people who care about the sport and where it’s going and to those who are inspired either by participating or watching.
      If push came to shove I’d be more concerned about my family and friends and the issues/activities that have become important to me in my life as a result of fate, circumstance and experience than I would be about random people and events…does that make me “elitist” about my own life? I think it makes me human.
      Humans at their core are self-centered; it’s a species survival mechanism that is rarely over-ridden except in extraordinary circumstances but fortunately it doesn’t preclude the ability to have empathy and help others born into less fortunate circumstances. It doesn’t even preclude runners helping other runners in the heat of their own self-indulgent competitions to the potential detriment of their own race. Imagine that from such selfish beings!
      Whether we’re talking about running, corporations, affluent or developing countries, name it, there will always be those who never see past themselves, those who give back more than they take and the majority of the people will fall somewhere in the middle.
      Is the person who works just enough to get by so as to have the time to pursue their true passion “elitist?”
      Was Bill Rodgers “elitist” because he put as much energy into training for the Boston Marathon as he did into teaching?
      As for the luxury of shoes, the Tarahumara came to the States to race, were given shoes, and promptly discarded them in favor of their homemade sandals… the “luxury of shoes” is only a matter of “affluent” perspective. We wear them in the States from the day we’re born so we assume anyone without shoes is in desperate need of them.
      A lot of cultures and tribes we might be tempted to consider even more destitute versions of “working-class-factory-time-card-punching-hacks” still have the time and energy for celebrating life in song and dance. Wow, suddenly that sounds very elitist and organized running-like.
      You’re right…it is all about choice; after we factor in a constellation of random circumstances that each and every one of us is born into without any say in the matter.

      • @Seed – I agree with everything you say. It’s the bitching and moaning that get me down. I believe it is a privilege to have the opportunity to run in events and I am willing to pay the price to folks doing the brunt of the work and making it possible for me to be self-indulgent. I am a very trusting individual and believe that the WS board has good reasons for their price increase. And it bothers me that every time a price increase occurs it will happen again. Where’s the gratitude?

        • @Meghan, Maybe the WS board should do a Wendys-style commercial replacing ‘the beef’ with ‘the gratitude.’ 🙂 You’re probably right-I don’t know any of the WS board members very well but I know enough about most of them to know that they are all classy individuals who love the sport and want to make it a great, life-enhancing experience for all involved. Unless you’ve been a RD yourself it’s probably hard to truly understand what’s involved. Maybe THAT should be a requirement instead of trail work 🙂
          I still think the use of the phrase “self-indulgent” is mis-placed though; and here’s one reason why. Several years ago I worked for Inyo County where I live in Bishop on the Lower Owens River Project for a few winters doing grunt chainsaw work removing salt cedar from the river channel. I thought seeing LA DWP re-watering the decades-long dry river channel and the natural habitat being at least partially restored would be the most rewarding part of the 2 year work experience. It wasn’t.
          One of the guys I worked with was an ex-gang banger, ex-miner, boozer, drug-dealer, you-name-it who came from a gnarly background and was severely overweight. By the time I met him he had long lost everything hindering from his past except the weight. I was training for States at the time and was constantly sprinting off on our lunch breaks to squeeze in runs, talking about running adventures from my days off and sometimes taking extra time off work for running-related events. We got along great at work but I don’t remember him saying much about my running.
          After I left the job for good I only saw him occassionally in town but noticed that he was losing more and more weight. He would ask me questions about training, nutrition, etc. He entered a local 10K, then a 20-miler and next thing I knew he was talking to me excitedly about doing the High Sierra 50K. I couldn’t believe it. When I met him a few years earlier he must have been close to 300 pounds. Sure enough the following spring I got to talk to him at the finish line after his first 50K finish.
          A few years later his brother came into Sage To Summit where I work and when the topic of Carlos’s running came up he said, “You know, you’re the reason that Carlos took up running. He was totally inspired by you.” I was blown away and I’ll never forget that. I was just being myself, doing what makes me tick, FOR MY OWN PERSONAL SATISFACTION…you just never know.

  17. I hope they do not up the standards for WS. I for one am a back of the pack, slow, old guy who does his best. I will never be fast. But I have a dream of running this race someday. If the time standards were upped I would never have even a chance of doing this race. Just because someone is faster than me should they have more of a right to be in this race? We already have the top 10 ten finisher gets in. And many runners who finish certain Ultras near the top get a WS entry. I understand that this race is becoming a top tier race even though it is not the hardest 100 miler by any means. But please don’t take away my goal or that of many others.

    • @Bret Henry, when they combined the road and trail and age groups into one standard for 50 miles and 100K, IMHO, they made them too easy. We covered all sorts of suggestions last year on this blog, but one simple possibility is to toughen the standards for the individual 50 mile and 100K and age grade them like they used to. That would eliminate those that go to a race like, pardon me, Autumn Leaves 50 miler and run 10:59, for their only ultra and then expect to do well at States. Age grading would also give a break to older folks who may not be as fast at the shorter distances but can get the job done at 100 miles. I have never advocated getting rid of the three 50 mile finishes in under 12 hours in one year. That gives people a chance that may not be as fast but if they can run 3 fifties in a year…

      I have lots of slow friends who are also very tough. For me, it’s more a matter of showing a dedication and ability to run 100 miles in the mountains and heat than how fast one is.

      • @Craig, oh and thanks for the comment. Please continue to comment when we discuss things like qualifying standards. Seems like the slower folks are often hesitant to jump in and contribute. You have a Waldo finisher hat so you definitely have some cred with me 🙂

  18. @Craig – I beg to differ with you regarding qualifying. The only time I ran a distance further than a 50K was to qualify for States and yet I was still able to finish 5th woman 2 years in a row. My times for those qualifying runs were not always fast. I think it is good to require individuals to qualify for States, but I don’t think it always makes a difference as to the ability of the runner.

    Don’t even get me started on “the slower folks are often hesitant to jump in and contribute” comment.

  19. A little late to the thread here, but a quick question:
    Do RDs ever charge an application fee? Seems like $25 to get into the lottery is not unreasonable and would raise a ton of extra money ($40k with 1600 applicants)–assuming budget issues is the reason for the fee hike.

    • @Joe Kleffner, I’ve not heard of any races that do this, but it is interesting to crunch the numbers. Like you calculated, 1600 entrants at $25 is $40,000. 425 selected in the lottery at $75 per entrant is $31,875. The problem is they don’t know how many they’re going to get in the lottery so $40,000 is not guaranteed. They do know how many they’ll accept in the lottery so the $31,875 is guaranteed – well, unless there is a sudden decrease in demand and they don’t get 425 that want to run the race. But it seems like an idea worth considering.

  20. Racers should consider that the biggest benefactor of an event like this, is the stores, manufacturer and all other sport related industry distributor.

    Generally speaking, they value a 5,000 dollar ad in a well known magazine but do not value an event.Consequently event promoter Including race director have to finance their operation from entry fee.

    A 45,000 dollars ticket to organised a race of this magnitude is not in any way obsene or out of line.This is actually the going rate for a professional race director

    The future of big races will have big price tag. Get used to it, as long as the industry is not willing to chip in by putting some cash out to help pay the operating cost such as race director salary, insurance, volunteers, safety personel etc…

    Racing is now a product of consumption just like going to a restaurant. If you do cannot afford to eat at the French Laundry in Ca, the restaurant industry just like the racing industry has a lots of options to match your budget.

  21. Craig, I know you’ll love this one from the UTMB newsletter. You know I love to pull the chain. Here’s what States could do to solve all the problems… should they?


    For 2011, we guarantee one place (with a limit of a maximum of 50 places) to any runner who, directly or through a donor of his choice, donates 2000 € to one of the associations which we support.
    The process will be as follows:
    – The donor will pay the chosen association 2000€ to reserve a place in the race of his/her choice and will send to the address and phone number of the runner, the chosen race, and the association that we support.
    – The charitable association will inform the Ultra-Trail by mail of the donation given and the runner’s name and date of birth.
    – The runner may then join his chosen race, so long as he has the necessary qualifying points.
    The donations must be given by June 30th, 2011 at the latest. The donor may on no account reclaim any part of his donation. As from the moment that the runner is registered, he is subject to the same race regulations as the other runners including the cancellation of his registration. He will be reimbursed a variable amount according to the date of cancellation (see the race regulations). He can however leave his the place with another runner who will then have to register.”

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