Rugged Individualist. Certified USA Triathlon Coach & NASM Personal Trainer, Men's Self Improvement Coach. President of Go Farther Sports. National Ranked Triathlete & 100 Mile Grand Slam Ultrarunner, only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Triathlon Has Tier Pricing, Ultrarunning Has Lotteries

I dabble in both ultrarunning and triathlon, probably in equal amounts now. Both sports are quite different in nature; their origins, the attitude, the atmosphere...

And the entries.

And this poses a problem for planning both types of races. My triathlon season is already set for 2019, including the big Ironman in Ireland. Ultrarunning? Well, we're finally at the eve of my fate in the UTMB lottery, and the results might finally get me to complete my schedule on the ultrarunning side...or it might not.

Let me explain. A lot of big triathlons have what they call tiered pricing. They have about 3 or 4 tiers of prices depending on how soon one enters the race. Each tier closes when a set number of athletes are registered, and then the next tier (and a more expensive price) is opened. So, if the registration opens up for Ironman Lake Placid on August 1 and I jump in a few seconds after it opens, I can probably get the Tier 1 pricing, which is the lowest price. If I wait several hours, I most likely will register under Tier 2 (probably $40 more than Tier 1). If I wait a couple of months, then it would probably be Tier 3 or even Tier 4, their most expensive price.

You can see the prices for each tier in a triathlon. But you can easily register and plan around the race because you know you're in.

Ironman embraces the tier pricing. Other triathlons have come to embrace the tier pricing system too. If it sells out, then I can easily find another race. My racing schedule can be completed quickly.

Ultrarunning, on the other hand, uses lotteries before one can register. Some of the races have a very low number of people that can enter because the course is run in sensitive environmental areas and the rangers that operate the parks set a strict limit of people for that race. Other ultras tend to embrace the lottery to try to equalize distribution in their international field. Whatever the case, large ultras tend to use the lottery to pick who enters that race.

The Western States lottery is one of the most well known. Everyone needs to wait until the first weekend of December before they know they're in or not.

And this poses a bit of a problem for one who does both triathlon and ultras. I can easily plan triathlons a year in advance, but I cannot finish the overall schedule until the ultra lotteries are drawn.

I am in the UTMB lottery that will be drawn tomorrow morning. This race happens in August, and I cannot place any other race around August or September until this lottery is settled.

If I am lucky tomorrow? Then I finally finish out my 2019 racing schedule. If not, well, I need a race to satisfy UTMB for the following year (2020), and the race that I'm looking at, the Superior another lottery. And wait and see again.

The lotteries can be maddening, and I'm currently getting to the point that I might not enter races anymore that involve a lottery. I know that ultras are getting more and more popular, so more ultras resort to the lottery system to pick their athletes.

So be it, but my patience is wearing thin. In the coming years, I know that I'll probably be reducing my exposure to these lotteries in the future. Which is sad because I really do love the sport.

But, I guess, on the optimistic side, it might make me choose a more local ultra to a large-scale ultra. So at least there is that.

My fate for UTMB will be determined tomorrow. Wish me luck!

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