Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mandatory Buckles?

As most people who read this blog are well aware, the tangible award for finishing Western States is one heckuva nifty belt buckle. In fact, it's so nifty that most (if not all) of each runner's entry fee goes to paying for said buckle. The rest of the stuff runners receive (schwag, aid station food, a sweet course, superb organization, tasty finish line breakfast, hot showers, etc) is paid for through numerous sponsor donations.

The cost to run Western States is $295 ($195 this year for 2008 runners who rolled over). That definitely seems high to me, but I understand the buckles aren't cheap (nor is anything else we receive). So I have a solution to help lower individual runners' entry fee: make the finisher's buckle an optional item. Yep, optional. I can already hear the old-timers out there gasping.

I ran WS in 2005, finished in under 24 (barely!), and proudly accepted my silver buckle from Tim Twietmeyer. I remember taking my buckle to Leavitt's Western Wear, the cool little western store in downtown Sisters, so I could find just the perfect belt to go with my buckle. I was so proud to show the cowboys in the store my buckle and even prouder when I told them the whole story behind 100 milers, Gordy, horses, buckles, etc. They were impressed, and I got my fancy brown leather belt to hold my pretty silver buckle. In fact, I'm wearing it right now. I like it so much that I wear it probably once a week. I occasionally take the WS buckle off my belt so I can wear my Hagg Lake Hall of Mud buckle. Sometimes I even put my Silver State buckle on it. There are a few others that get thrown into the rotation. But far and away, my WS buckle is the one I wear on my belt most often.

On June 28, I look forward to walking across the grass at Placer High Stadium again to be recognized for finishing WS. However, I would be just as happy to not receive a buckle. I have one. I don't really need another. Well, unless, of course, that buckle said "Champion" on it...I'll have to wait for Karl's odds to see what those chances are, though.

What I propose is for WS to have an option on the entry form that says if you want a buckle, you pay $X. If you don't want a buckle, you pay $X - $100. That's basically what all of the roll overs from last year did. Since we didn't get a buckle last year, we got a $100 break for 2009. For the lucky few who got into this year's race who weren't roll overs, they paid the full $295. So it basically sounds to me like the runner's cost for their buckle is $100, while the rest of the stuff is $195. I think that's reasonable.

Anyway, I propose the following: At the time of registration, if you want a buckle, you pay $295. If you don't, you pay $195. If you dnf, you don't get a buckle, regardless of what price you paid. If you finish, you get a buckle if you paid $295; you don't get one if you paid $195. Yeah, I'm sure there would be a few runners who didn't pay for a buckle, then would want one upon finishing. If the organizer's want to sell buckles at the award's ceremony to those finishers, I'm sure they could bump up the price to $150 for those runners who didn't plan accordingly. Or not. Organizers could just say no.

With registration for WS taking place in Octobert of the previous year, and the lottery in December, that gives race organizers plenty of time to plan for the correct number of buckles. I don't know how they figure out how many runners are going to earn silver vs. bronze every year, but they do a pretty good job of it, so I'm sure they could use the same percentages for just the smaller number of runners who pay for the buckles.

I think this is a great way to reward finishers who really want buckles, and also to reward those of us who already have way too much stuff and really don't need anymore (and we get to save some cash). I realize I could pay the full price, finish, and then just not accept my buckle. Sorry, that won't happen. I'll find some use for it. I wonder what Tim uses his 25 silvers for?

Read what new ideas my fellow geeky Western States Synchrobloggers would like to implement to improve Western States, check out their blogs:


Olga said...

Sean, you know, I am all for buckles at a 100M race. I am also all for having a choice - whether a runner wants a buckle, and a shirt, and what other things race organizers buy (vs get donated). That's a great point. One detail - I don't know about WS and would be very surprised if it's much different (a little is possible), but a buckle does not cost a $100. I should know. I just ordered 150 of them for Hood 100. Fancy. Same as Bandera 100k and Cactus Rose 100M have. Not any worse than GT100. So, while it would help runners to lower the cost, it wouldn't be that significant. I think most of the cost comes from paying fees to Forest Services, donations to said organizations and to trails on top of it, and to gifts for Rescue Teams, Medical (yes, they are volunteers, but we as RD's cut them a generous gift, because they need to survive in their organizations as well). I think the drop in price represented that more than buckle prise. BTW, while options are good, and I have 3 of those WS buckles (and one of them cute silver color), if I ever run it again - I want another one:) Yes, I am that greedy. It's a tradition. But I know Bushwhacker and Gail could care less about them in general, and especially when it's not the first time.

Craig Thornley said...

Sean, this is not unprecedented as the Tevis Cup has a similar policy and they give away a buckle that is almost identical to the WSER buckle: $100 for a finisher buckle with your application. $150 post race.

And, Olga, are the buckles you bought silver?

Peter Lubbers said...

Great point, Sean. Options are always good and this makes perfect sense, even if it was only $50. For example, I always like races that make T-shirts optional and usually opt to deduct $5 from the $25 dollar 10K race entry to go home without the non-organic cotton t-shirt of which I have too many anyway.

Olga said...

Nope, Craig, they are not. You got me here. Is it important at a race, or only at WS due to history? I guess then it's the right price.
HR100 offers buckles after you are done, at an additional cost. Obviously, if I am to be a lucky idiot to drag my ass to the finish, I am buying one!!!

saschasdad said...

Olga, I didn't say the buckles cost $100 - in fact, early in my post I said just the opposite. Most, if not all, of our $295 goes towards the buckle. I'm saying that if one opts out of the buckle, then lower the price by $100. Obviously runners still need to pay some amount to run, and I think that's reasonable. Kinda like opting out of a shirt at races.

Craig, I didn't realize that the Tevis Cup does that. Cool!! Since WS evolved from the Tevis Cup, maybe WS could evolve as far as buckles, too.

Peter, I kept this post strictly about buckles. I didn't want to start too much and talk about my 100s of cotton shirts and 100s of tech t's and my 50 hats, etc. Buckles are a good starting point.

Anonymous said...

I just gotta say, if you don't like it, don't run it. I chose not to this year. Why complain all the way the start line? Nobody is holding a gun to your head other than yourself.

saschasdad said...

You're missing the point of this synchroblog. We are all supposed to write about something we would like to see changed about WS. I never said I didn't like WS. Now stop being a drama queen.

Anonymous said...

But everyone wants to run it, why change it? I have never run it, only been on the course a couple of times, so I don't want to change something I've never done. Leave it all screwed up just the way it is so at least I have something to complain about when I decide to run it.

I am sure the race will continue to evolve.

Drama Queen? Somehow I get pictures in my mind of Richard Simmons when I think of that.

Jessica DeLine said...

Or how about *gasp* doing something other than bu buckles? *Jessica ducks*. They come out of tradition and horse racing and I know many people love them but I'm all for more practical awards and not something that will just sit in my drawer. How many runners actually wear their 100 Mile buckles? Especially the women? I haven't run a 100 miler yet but I have to say that when I do I'm not all that jazzed about getting a giant belt buckler after 30 hours on the trail...

LK said...

Actually, Olga, if you kiss the rock, the buckle is on me! :)

Craig Thornley said...

Blasphemy, Jessica! You will burn in hell for that suggestion :-) Actually, I'm one of those with a collection of buckles that do nothing except sit there and tarnish. That said, I appreciate and respect the origin and tradition of the buckle. If they did give me the choice as Sean suggests, and while I'm able, I'll continue collecting buckles.

CB, give Sean a break. $295 is a lot of money to run a race. And if you run as many races as Sean does and each one was $295 you'd have to work for a bank or have a sugar momma to fund your racing. Now, go get that first 100 mile buckle!

Anonymous said...

Craig, it costs the CB family about $8000 to run States once one calculates airfare for 5 (I pay for my pacer's expenses), rooms before, rooms after, food, I'd have to travel twice to the mountains to train prior to the race. The cost of the entry fee is the least of my concerns.

For Sean, I'll speak for him, he used to get free housing down there, not sure if he still does, no airfare, no kids, family, it's a couple tanks of gas and some food. I dunno' what does it cost for you to run States, $500 bucks? So yes the price of the buckle is 20% of the total cost for him. For me, the cost of the buckle is meaningless -- 1.25%, not because I am rich, but because they run States in California not in Iowa --That's my problem, I moved here.

Think of all the runners from Europe and other places coming to States, what do you think they will opt for the buckle rebate?

Sean may not want a buckle everytime he runs, not today, maybe 40 years from now he will regret it if he doesn't get another, or his kids will.

You got point about the number races Sean runs, likely, that's the solution for Sean's financial buckle woes and having legs rested enough to run a 100 mile race.

And no, I won't give Sean a break.

Sean, I'd focus on pulling off that first 100 that is representitive of your ability and what you put into the sport. I'd like to see that, as would a lot of people. You've got 17, 18, 19 talent at States -- I wanna see you nail this one and put that to bed. I am getting ready to run my first 100, we both know you don't want my PR to be lower than yours. You finally picked off my marathon PR.

nanv said...

FYI, CB, Sean DOES have a family.

Alison Hanks said...

Isn't choice always a good thing? And also cutting down on acquiring duplicate items/reducing metal consumption and consumption in general? As an unsponsored, poor ultrarunner, having the option of still being able to run the race you want to run and not having to work double time to afford it seems like a good thing to me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know, I've met Sean's family, very supportive, they are awesome people -- everyone of them. I doubt Sean pays for them to fly places, food and everything else -- Sascha doesn't count, I've got two dog anyways. I've got teenage daughters!!!! Gesh! Most expensive (and priceless) humans on earth!!

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