Five hours and forty seven minutes. That’s how long registration for the eleventh Waldo 100K was open yesterday before filling at 160. For comparison, the 2011 race filled in 34 days. In 2009 and 2010 we filled a month or two before the August race. From 2002-2008 we did not fill and started fewer than the 125 allowed by our permit.
Yesterday was an interesting day, and I found myself bouncing around between jubilant, reminiscent, puzzled, reflective, and probably several more moods that I can’t articulate right now. Here’s how the day shook out from my perspective.
Beginning at about 6:30 am I started prepping for the opening. I double-checked the settings at UltraSignup, got the word out via social media, made some coffee, and sent an email to Asst RD Meghan telling her I think we’re ready. Her flippant response didn’t surprise me, because, frankly, a queen doesn’t have to show deference to a lord and she seldom does: “Something happening today?” Uh, yeah, your majesty, your little phone is about to squawk at you non-stop.
At 8:01 am the first email confirmation came in. Then the second, third, forth – all at 8:01am. And they kept coming and coming. There were 61 registered by 8:15am. 99 by 9:00 am. The queen sends me a text: “Gonna fill by 10!” I didn’t think so and I wrote back maybe 10 pm as I really expected the pace to drop off. The pace of entries did slow and by 11:00 am (3 hours) we had 125 registered. I tweeted that there were 35 spots left and then got on the bus and went to work (yes, I have flexible work hours). That tweet got retweeted by Devon Crosby-Helms – who has a bazillion followers – and the rate starting picking up again. Seemed like a bit of a frenzy at the end as the last spots were gobbled up.
From an RD’s perspective this is fantastic. We know exactly how many people and what their sizes are six months before the race. Makes it much easier to order supplies many months in advance, instead of waiting until close to the race, at which point there are many other details that need tending to. It makes you feel good because you have a product that is in demand. Whether that demand is due to the growth of the sport as a whole or not, we take it as a sign of success. That we must be doing some things right. But, the unfortunate consequence is that many people will not be able to run the race. That is not a good feeling, and while we have left a little wiggle room, there are already many disappointed people. Guess it’s probably good training for my next job.
Several times yesterday I found myself reflecting. Remembering the early years when entries were delivered by the snail-mailman. We would go days and sometimes weeks without an entry. When we’d finally get one we’d be so excited and I’d immediately tell Curt and Laurie who it was. I also thought about how many years we didn’t even come close to selling out. The first five years we averaged about 50 starters and we knew we had a good thing going. “Where are the runners?” we often asked ourselves. I thought about the first year when we did trail workout without chainsaws because we hadn’t gone through the certification process.
I thought about all the people who have been involved in making Waldo what it is. Those who stuck with us when others expressed concern that the race was too labor intensive. Nine aid stations, including three fully-stocked remote aid stations, for 50 runners? “You gotta change the course and make it easier,” we were told on more than occasion by people we respect. Of course, we didn’t listen. Yesterday I got – like nOrm Klein often did – emotional about all the volunteers who have been involved with Waldo. Those who believed as we did that what we had going was good and worth keeping. I often thought nOrm got it a little backwards at times when he would go on and on about the volunteers who had helped him. I remember thinking at Sunmart 50 miler a long time ago when he was up crying at the pre-race meeting as he introduced a friend who had helped him for many years, “nOrm, the race is about us, the runners, not the volunteers.” I still think the race is about the runners. We put the race on for runners not so volunteers have something to do. But, looking back at these ten years, it’s hard not to get a little emotional. I think I get what was going on with nOrm those years ago.
If you want to take a stroll down memory lane, check out the history of Waldo 100K, from our website. Below is an excerpt from the first year, 2002.
The inaugural event was not without incident. Thirty-seven bold solo runners showed up ready to test the course. At 3:30 a.m., the early starters were off. Craig attempted to radio the course marshals stationed along the way to the first aid station, but didn’t get a response. When two locals, Ken Sinclair and Bill Montgomery, both 5 a.m. relay runners, got to the Gold Lake aid station (#1), they informed race personnel that four runners had been sent off course! Familiar with the course, Bill and Ken educated the misinforming marshal so no one else would be led astray, but the damage to the first four was significant and resulted in DNFs.
Up near the Fuji Mountain aid station (#2), Craig encountered some (gasp!) hunters?!? Turns out it was opening day of deer hunting season. Fortunately, no one was shot at. It was also fortunate that Craig, having listened to his wife this time, decided not to give out an award to the first runner to finish the course wearing antlers.
Regardless of the reasons for filling up so quickly yesterday, I like what Greg Soderlund, my mentor told me yesterday, “The sport is in full stride and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.” Right you are, Greg.