Saturday, January 22, 2011

Race-to-Driving Calculator

In light of the 2000-mile-plus distances I accumulated in the Calico 50K drive, I decided to set a formula to calculate whether or not a race is worth the expenditure. Alene N has been using a formula for years. I can't remember what her's is, but it's probably like mine.

I figure divide the driving distance (one-way) by 10, and the race distance better be equal or greater. So for a 50K distance, I better not drive more than 310 miles.
The Red Hot 55K is coming up. I'm allowed to drive 341 miles. It very barely qualifies, since the race is north of Moab and I sleep in my vehicle 1/2 mile from the start area.
The Goblin Valley 50K is too far.
Jemez Mtn 50M is well within the limit. So is the San Juan Solstice 50M.
The Silent Trails 10M race near Laramie is well beyond the limit, but 140 miles is close enough, and I hardly ever see my northern friends, and so I made a judgment-call to go beyond the rule. Since I camp and hike additionally, not to mention 1-3 miles of warm-up before the race, I actually get more than 10 miles of travel out of the weekend.

This formula has a lot to do with arguing when people insist on doing races well beyond these limits. So here's the deal...
For a 50K, I'm willing to drive 310 miles for myself, and I will pay for that much gas. If one person carpools with me, I'm willing to go 620 miles, and pay for half. And for three people, 930 miles, but still only pay for 310.
So this 2000+ mile trip to Calico, with an added excursion to Ely, NV won't be happening again, not even with four people in the car. It's just not worth it, no matter how great the race was.
If they start doing a Calico 50-miler, and I get three passengers, then it would be worth driving that far.
The Bandera 100K is 903 miles away, so I will have to have someone to carpool with to make it worth it again.

Flying is out-of-the-question, since there's no such thing as splitting the cost of one ticket, or taking turns getting frisked by TSA. Although everyone on a plane is plane-pooling together, in a sense, planes are horrendously expensive and burn so many thousands of gallons of fuel that even after factoring in per-passenger, each passenger is causing the burning of a LOT of fuel.

Yes, in spite of leaning right politically, I am a bit of an environmentalist. I've been surprised by how many ultra-runners will run through pristine wilderness, appreciating it, and complaining about wear-and-tear, litter, etc., but they think nothing of burning horrendous quantities of fuel annually driving hither-and-yon to all our races.
There's another aspect too... gluttonous cost. Sure I can "afford it", but to me there's more to the equation than pure availability of cash. There's a certain amount of, "Should I be expending quite this much on my hobbies?" It's not like my passion is working to cure cancer, or bringing about world peace. I just like to run a long way, and races allow a support system for my long runs. So the money spent on races and traveling is pretty much purely selfish. I'm not Ghandi - I will allow myself the luxury of running races, but not without limits.
To a certain extent, I have to run. Keeping your life in order is too often not a matter of being perfect. We all have flaws, and I think ultra-runners might be the extremists they are because they are "odd". Being successful - not a train-wreck - is a matter of managing your tendencies. I manage my tendencies by redirecting all my unhealthy energies into running. Since I have a lot of unhealthy tendencies, and even quite a lot of unrequited healthy ones, I redirect all this energy down the ultra-rathole, instead of becoming a bitter alcoholic, or drug addict, or anything else.
Management requires rules and limits. Even with good things, nothing is healthy without limits. (Boy am I gonna get flamed for this!)


  1. I like your calculations. I find a lot of races increasing their prices lately to levels I can't cough up. I enjoy the race scene and how it improves my running but I'm trying to lean more towards just getting out there on my own and enjoying it. Racing sometimes makes it "not fun".
    I too, have to run, so I get that completely.
    There's a fun run going on in Cali that I am so tormented over. It will cost an arm and leg (I would have to fly due to work limits) but at the same time it would take me to places I've never been.

  2. I kept track of money spent on running (including gas, shoes, food, hotel, everything I could think of) last year, and was happy to keep it under $1 a mile for the year. Think that's my race-to-money calculator. I can't use driving time because I love taking long road trips and often catch up with old friends on the trips. But I definitely agree, there's gotta be some limits.


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