Awesome: Hardrock takes a stand against UTMB charging races to be qualifiers. Nathan writes a great piece for NYT that covers PED testing at ultramarathon events–specifically Western States. I've heard both sides of this discussion: Do bear bells ...
I love trail films. Documentaries, life stories, action shots, drone footage, long race recaps. I love them. The Miller v Hawks film from North Face? I’m sure I’ve seen it 100 times, and that’s not an exaggeration.
The trail films of the last few years remind me of Warren Miller ski films and indie surf and skate films from the 80s that really put the viewer in action and allowed to live the life of a stud athlete through the lens of a camera. I love them and don’t want them to stop.
I’m also a strident Libertarian and believe in freedom of the press. Public lands belong to us, and our right to use them shall not be abridged. Tell me that cameras aren’t allowed at a public facility, police activity (from a safe distance), or in open space, and I’ll lose my mind.
But. I’ve also got to be honest and clear about how the number of cameras are distracting from the spirit of the sport and jeopardizing fair outcomes. So, does this make me a hypocrite by consuming (and promoting) a product I want to see limited and regulated? It might, but for the good of the sport, follow along and let’s hash this out together.
The Current Problem
This is perhaps the least important–not to mention the most subjective–of my points, but for a sport that’s inextricably tied to nature, it’s important: The number of camera people and film crews is a distraction from the natural aspects and beauty of this sport. There’s something serene and majestic about seeing a human prance over single track or down a street during a race. The fluidity of stride and the loneliness of the runner–there she is, alone, ready for another 40 miles–is something most of us appreciate about this silly sport. The problem? That environment and scene is abruptly disrupted by groups of cameras surrounding the athletes. Again, this is a subjective problem and often understandably ignored by people not at the race themselves.
Real Potential Problems
With the increase of camera crews comes some potential problems. I assume some of these have occurred already and been dealt with, but I couldn’t find any examples during my cursory search. Any insights or examples would be great.
Tripping up. With so many camera people out there (again, it’s relative, but the potential for error in our sport is higher than road running), someone’s gonna get hurt. A cameraperson is going to trip up the athlete they’re shooting, trip up another athlete in the race, or wipe out because of a collision with a spectator, volunteers, crew, or amateur photographer and cause all sorts of hell. How will race management handle the situation? How would the news today be different if a videographer tripped up Jim at Michigan Bluff and took him out of the race? What if someone shooting the YiOu/Cat battle through Foresthill had tripped up one of the women while the other ran off to Cal Street?
Aggression and Entitlement. This bothered me a tremendous amount: I overheard a group of videographers/photographers in Squaw talking about “smacking them (amateur photographers) out of the way” because “they weren’t shooting for anyone.” This sort of attitude is exactly what we don’t need in this sport and will lead to fights and violence. Come on, people. I know most of the videographers in the industry (Billy, Jamil, Myke, Ethan, Derrick, Matt, JB) and it wasn’t any of them making the threatening statements.
Pacing. When a team of camerapeople are shooting a runner for nearly the entirety of the race, there’s an awfully good argument that that partnership constitutes pacing. Having someone there for encouragement or for course directions is not allowed outside of official pacing duties, and when there’s money, prestige, and win bonuses on the line, rules have gotta be followed. Press credentials state that media can’t assist, mule, or help the runner, but there’s a lot of gray area that’s often inadvertently abused.
This has to be a talking point, as since JB Benna’s Unbreakable in 2010, the number of trail films has increased exponentially. I’ll say it again: I watch them, I love them, and I don’t want them to stop, but multiple outfits shooting the same footage about the same runner (in this example, Jim Walmsley) seems ridiculous. As Nick D. pointed out in the URP comment section,
What’s annoying about film crews is now anytime we see a film…we see other guys filming in it…and vice versa, which just looks ridiculous at some point.
We’ll get to the “should they be allowed to?” question in just a sec.
Again, drone footage is an awesome advancement in film footage. What a cool perspective to have a shot of the runner close up, then pulled way back overhead to see the terrain and the other competitor in hot pursuit. Love it.
Only problem is, I hate the drones themselves, and I know I’m not alone. Whether it’s the obnoxious buzzzzzzzzzzzing of the rotors or the thought of getting filmed without my knowledge, I really wish they weren’t there at our events. If a pistol were handy and I was a better shot, shooting drones out of the sky would take over as my number one hobby. Again, another issue that’s only bothersome to those actually at the events.
Laws for drones differ between recreational and commercial users, and when we’re dealing with MUT films and their huge budgets (sarcasm alert), those lines are often blurred. Some pilots are allowed to fly over crowds, some are not, all depending on the license (or lack thereof) and the size of the aircraft. I’ve seen in person an octocopter with a large DSLR fall out of the sky and smack down on the beach–it didn’t land, it fell and burst into a thousand pieces. Luckily no one was injured, but that was sheer luck–it was a summer day and kids were running around all over the place. Imagine standing on Placer High infield, waiting for you runner to finish Western and a 50 pound spinning weight fell from 400′ up in the air and knocked you out. Not good.
What To Do About It and Why These Ideas Will Not Work
Well, there’s not much we can do, but I’ve done my best to come up with some scenarios:
Race directors can write rules and SOPs for media coverage. You can’t be on this section of trail, you have to keep X distance, only one cameraperson allowed per runner…but the huge majority of those will be trumped by the 1st Amendment and the fact we’re on public lands. Again, major feelings of hypocrisy here.
If a cameraperson trips up another athlete while shooting his/her subject, that subject could be disqualified. Fair? Not exactly. The problem is is that many of the videographers are shooting multiple runners at a time and it would be wildly inappropriate and unfair to DQ the lot of them.
RDs enact rules that state if a cameraperson is running with a competitor for X amount of time, then that would constitute pacing and then the athlete would be DQed. But then we wouldn’t get great videos (sometimes paid for by race sponsors) and besides, the athlete may not even want the camera there in the first place.
Athletes tune down the action by asking friends/filmmakers to coordinate so 4 people aren’t shooting the same footage. Problem with that is that it may jeopardize films from being made, which are often part of the marketing (and pay) for the athlete.
Create barriers and ask media to follow them. Media is kept behind red ropes during movie premieres, why couldn’t we have areas during races that are for runners only? No media, no crew, just the runner. The problem? See the entitled group mentioned above and guess whether or not they’d follow the rules.
Conclusion (There Aren’t Any)
So are you like me? Do you feel like a hypocrite for loving the videos, but disliking the process and the distractions caused by the cameras and drones? Is there a solution to all of this?
What will happen—what should happen–if there are collisions and accidents on the course caused by media, either pro or amateur?
Can Race Directors influence or enact some sort of rules to curtail the amount of cameras on the course?
Again, a plea to my filmmaker brothers and sisters and the scores of amateur videographers making videos of these races on shoestring budgets: Please keep making your films. Their popularity is testament to the awesome storytellng and technicality of what you all do, but let’s find a way to make the cameras less distracting while also working to make sure we don’t have problems with safety and rules in the future. Is this possible? I have no idea but maybe an open discussion will gin up some ideas.
Ack! Runner gets crazy pus-filled sacs on legs from sunburn (or a rash?) during an ultramarathon in England. 30 C is only 86 F, so sun doesn’t seem likely. Of course, my mind goes immediately to: But did she pop them?
Full ultramarathon and trail running results from this weekend. Don’t overlook what happened at Lake Saroma in Japan over the weekend. Tatsuya Itagaki finished with a superb time of 6:14:18 (6:01 min/ mi), only 45 seconds off of Takahiro Sunada’s current road WR (6:13:33) set in 1998.
Quick and random thoughts on Western States Endurance Run 2017:
“You ran in 2017? And you finished? Nice work.” will be a refrain heard for years to come. Those were tough conditions out there, reflected by the 33% drop rate.
Kaci Lickteig is one tough woman. When she came through the finish at 24:02, she was absolutely broken. I’ll bet she learned more yesterday than she learned during her win. I also got to see the bond between she and coach Koop and how each handled her performance. Huge respect for both of them.
From my perspective, there are significantly more families at the race then in years past. Not sure what’s been causing it, but it’s awesome to see kids anxious to get autographs from their favorite runners (kid strutting around Foresthill with his Ryan Sandes hat like he was a boss) and watch the race with real excitement. A very good sign for the future of this ridiculous sport.
Cat Bradley ran probably the smartest race of the day, and also showed real toughness in her battle with YiOu after Foresthill. She certainly earned that win.
The women really toughed it out for the finishes: Emily, Stephanie (Violett and Case), Maggie and Sarah. None of them had great days out there, but they all finished. Nice!
Mackey was working an aid station and apparently had a pretty low DNF rate. Imagine complaining about leg pain to Dave and trying to quit the race.
Tim and Ellie’s records are freaking stout.
Best looking runner thru Foresthill was Alex Nichols. He looked fresh and ready to rock…a lot more than Jim and Ryan. I really thought he was going to chase down Ryan for the win.
I’m pretty sure Mocko blew all of his energy making this video a few days before the race.
Ryan Sandes ran a patient and smart race and toughed it out. Bravo!
At around 29:30, a gentleman came through the gate about to enter the track. He was late 50s, early 60s and had been running all day. His wife was holding his hand, and he was sobbing. Absolutely broken down sobbing as he placed his foot on the track and made his way around to the finish. This is powerful stuff.
I slept on a chair lift (Shirley Lane Express) on Friday night up near the Escarpment. Definitely better than hiking up the hill at 3am. On Saturday night I slept for an hour on the track while watching all the runners come in. Sunday night I slept in my bed. Hard.
Apparently the early aid stations were overwhelmed with the number of people not making cutoffs and ran out of transport vehicles. The snow in the high country was pretty nuts.
I was there when Gordy gave his spot to waitlister #39 John Fegyveresi on Friday afternoon. “Fegy” is a Barkley finisher (2012), traveled from Vermont to Squaw, and was in tears when he found out he’d been running. Well done Gordy. That was awesome.
It’s a testament to the race organizers/volunteers when the RD can compete in the event and the day runs smoothly. Well done.
I won! Put my money where my predictions were and won about $100, even beating out a past WS winner. Boom!
Sharman and Browning are beasts. Give those guys any conditions, any weather, tough competition, and they’re both going to persevere. Same with Meghan Arbogast….they’ve got something special.
Sorry about the lack of repertoire with the Alphorn on Saturday. I lost my mouthpiece and am severely limited in range right now.
The drug testing was a bit underwhelming. A pickup truck with a camper shell? I don’t know, at least make it look more serious.
Cameras and film crews. I’m writing a longer piece about the number of crews on the course and what I think the future looks like.
50 mile WR holder Bruce Fordyce robbed at gunpoint: “Two men inside the car then pointed guns at me. One got out and began kicking me. They took my takkies (running shoes), which were old and smelled of old cheese, so they are more than welcome to them.”
AJW and I met up on Friday for our beer exchange. Plenty of hops and barleys changed hands.
The Ultra Mindset Academy eCourse is an 8-week distance learning course developed by Travis Macy, M.Ed, professional endurance athlete, author, speaker, and coach. Also: he’s completed 130 ultra distance events in 17 countries!
What does it include?
For the $385 tuition fee:
A 30-minute, one-on-one phone call with Travis at the beginning of the course
Assignments that include reading, written reflections, journaling, meditating, and videos
Interviews with top athletes, mental performance coaches, and nutritionists
Trav’s Office Hours (Note: I was unable to attend these due to scheduling conflicts)
Ongoing membership to the Ultra Mindset Facebook Group
What do you get?
In Travis’ own words:
A lasting, resilient, positive mindset that will motivate you for training and get you to the finish line in races
Mastery of evidence-based mindset principles that can be applied to life beyond athletics, including work, parenting, and relationships
Synergy for success through genuine relationships with like-minded peers and a leading expert on mindset and endurance racing
How is it organized?
My course began on April 21st with the arrival of my first email. For me, this was a Friday but you can sync the course to begin on any day. Travis’ course is designed in a way to maximize your productivity and efficacy, while taking into consideration family, work, school, and other commitments you might have going on in your life. Curriculum is delivered to your inbox six days per week, with the first email of the week introducing the new unit. For example, my first email looked like this:
Each one of these chapter introduction emails included a video (usually filmed from an inspiring location like Travis’ backyard mountains in Evergreen, Colorado, on an afternoon mountain bike ride along singletrack, or on a hike in the Alps…the videos are motivating enough on their own!). Along with reading the corresponding chapter in Travis’ book, The Ultra Mindset, additional reading by authors like author and marketer Ryan Holiday, mental performance coach, Meg Waldron, and other high-performing scientists, coaches, and writers, was recommended. Each day I was allotted a different activity, challenge, or meditation. For example, one week I was asked to imagine the best version of myself by creating a business card with the values and ideals I hold in high regard; another week I was asked to think about three negative thoughts that enter my mind during a race, then turn them into something positive.
Another day I watched a motivational talk by ultra runner Krissy Moehl, then engaged with fellow Ultra Mindset Academy participants in a Facebook discussion about what it means to “be a wannabe.” To conclude the week, I journaled, watched another, more in-depth interview with Krissy Moehl, then was challenged to have a conversation with someone who I want to be like, for one reason or another (hence the chapter “Be a Wannabe.”) Some weeks included units with longer journaling activities or questions, while others provided the option of workouts, like this one:
While the course is designed to take roughly 20 minutes each day, Travis welcomes participants to work on their own time. I found the time estimation to be pretty accurate, with some days taking longer because of workouts or challenges. Emails came in at roughly the same time, which meant that after the first few days, I learned to schedule the arrival of the email with an open time to immediately work on the material. That said, I think it’s entirely possible to lump a few days together. This might benefit those with very tight weekday schedules.
Additionally, Travis offers weekly conference calls where participants are encouraged to join in to ask questions or bring up concerns. I admit that I was not able to attend these meetings due to time conflicts, but the Ultra Mindset Academy does have a growing community, connected through the Facebook group. I interacted with roughly 5 other Ultra Mindset participants during any given week, with participants progressing at various stages.
What happened over the course of 8 weeks?
Beyond the course work that was accomplished over these past two months (which totaled 26 single-space pages of notes, journaling, and answers to big questions like “what have been my biggest accomplishments and failures, and how did ego help or hurt me?” and “does pursuing [blank] endeavor align with your true self and higher purpose?”), I was able to add a plethora of books to my nightstand. I’m a big reader, but Travis still opened me up to the world of stoicism (check out any of Ryan Holiday’s books, which will lead you to reading Seneca’s Meditations) thanks to book recommendations and weekly interviews, often featuring incredibly inspiring athletes.
What is the Ultra Mindset Academy eCourse doing right?
The content is thorough, well-researched, and creative. The daily emails serve as a reminder to stay consistent with the course, and Travis’ enthusiasm for coaching is extremely evident in the near-daily videos that pose questions and challenges. Travis acknowledges that changing your mindset isn’t a quick fix, but that it takes hard work and dedication. The athlete and performance coach interviews (“movie nights”) are interesting and informative, and Travis has started to build a community in the Ultra Mindset Facebook Group. As a bonus, membership is ongoing, meaning you can still ask questions and interacts with others even after the course has ended.
What could be improved upon?
The initial phone call is a terrific way to start off the course strong, but I imagine that those who don’t purchase additional one-on-one calls (like me) might feel a bit lost at times. A short check-in phone call at the halfway mark, and then perhaps one at the end, might make the course feel more conclusive and allow for greater reflection on what was accomplished over the 8 weeks. Watching past Ultra Mindset Academy participants interact with athletes like Rebecca Rusch, for example, during pre-recorded interview was great–but also made me feel as though I came on at the wrong time. I would have loved the opportunity to chat with at least one outside athlete, mental performance coach, or nutritionist.
Do I now have an Ultra Mindset?
In short: not yet. But, with time, I think it’s something that I’ll be able to develop. I have noticed my outlook on both general life stressors and racing change–take my last race, for example. The 33-mile event started the day after I finished the course, and I was excited to practice the skills I had learned at a race. But by mile three, it was clear that my body had other plans. I was nauseous, dizzy, breathing too hard, tripping all over the trail, experiencing major cramps, and was genuinely fearful of what completing all 33 miles of the course might mean for my body. For several hours I considered what it would mean to drop. What would everyone think of me?Would I be a wuss for dropping out of a race? Having just finished the last chapter of the Ultra Mindset Academy course, “Never Quit…Except When You Should Quit,” I thought about the material we had covered and the exercises I had done. Rather than have concern for external sources, I needed to look at my personal reasons for dropping. Quitting meant saving my health for what could have been a potentially very dangerous situation, so I dropped.
After the race, I expected to feel guilty. I felt crummy for a few hours, and sad that I had missed out on the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful course, but once we finally descended from altitude and I had eaten a good meal, my decision felt right. Thanks to Travis’ course, I had made a decision that was best for me that day, rather than continuing on simply for any imagined external sources.
I’ve also continued a habit that I picked up during the course. Travis urges participants to find one challenge over 8 week period that they can foster and develop. For me, this was journaling, although other challenges might include waking up early each morning to fit in a workout, having more patience with your children, or staying focused at work. With encouragement, I stuck to the challenge and successfully journaled daily. This has helped me to feel calmer and more at peace, even though life hasn’t slowed down, and I’m proud to say that I’ve continued the habit past the end of the course.
Overall, this course is absolutely worth the time, effort, and cost. Travis is a patient coach and the content is well-planned and filled with resources. Take the time to check out what it offers, as anyone looking to inch away from a negative mindset into one that will serve your career–whether that’s in your racing, your job, your schoolwork, or your relationships–can benefit by putting in the work.
Big thank you to Travis for letting me check out the course!