If You Go to San Francisco … - Page 2
Boulet, for one, recognized that her road-running background was both an asset and a liability on the course, which mixes several flat, runnable sections with several thousand feet of vertical gain and loss. “I was very grateful to see some of the flat sections,” she says. “Going into this race I believed the elevation gain was playing to my strengths because I love running uphill, but my weaknesses are the downhills, which I haven’t learned how to run aggressively.”
She would utilize those climbs and flat sections to finish second among women in 7:31:12, 10 minutes behind Littleton, Colorado’s Michele Yates, who has won trail races at every distance from 10K to 100 miles. Vargo was third overall, in 6:33:33, behind Flagstaff, Arizona’s Rob Krar and former University of Colorado runner Cameron Clayton.
Michele Yates on her way to winning the women's race. Photo by Galen Burrell
“I’ve been trying to run the most competitive races, because that’s the only way you’re going to get faster,” says Vargo, who improved 14 places from his 2012 finish. “If you tackle these races where the next guy is an hour behind you, then what’s the point? You can’t possibly push yourself hard unless you have people around you pushing you harder.”
TNF San Francisco embodies the infusion of fast, road-and-track-type talent into ultrarunning. Besides Boulet, Krar was a middle-distance specialist in college who subsequently dominated at shorter trail events before recently making the foray into ultras, while Boulder’s Sage Canaday, who was widely expected to compete for the win but withdrew due to illness, is a 2:16 marathoner who has won a slew of 50K to 100K races this year. And they have to contend with seasoned mountain runners like Jones (who was also felled by the flu—he finished an admirable 98th in 9:40:14), 2011 winner Mike Wolfe, of Missoula, Montana, and two-time winner Miguel Heras of Spain. It has made the event an exciting one to predict, follow and dissect.
Follow the Money
The race's sizeable prize purse and scenic setting combine to attract highly competitive fields.
Jones says that the prize money and the beauty of the course have “a snowballing effect and a positive feedback loop that helps the race grow and makes it exciting each year.”
Boulet says she expects participation in ultras (and trail races in general) to continue to increase in both quantity and quality as the sport grows more visible and race organization reflects increased demand—each trend, perhaps, fueling the other.
“I think [trail running] is becoming a lot more attractive because people are putting more resources into races, and bringing more prize money,” she says. “People realize it doesn’t matter whether you race on the roads or the track, because a lot of us spend a lot of time on the trail no matter what we’re training for. You’ve been putting in all this time and the transition is pretty easy.”
The strength of TNF’s race organization, according to Jones, is capitalizing on that diverse passion to create a world-class event.
“TNF doesn’t call itself the world championship—they just go out and make it a world championship,” he says. “They just get all the fastest runners to come out and compete for more money than anyone else in the sport.”