Sunday, August 2, 2020

2020 PA MUT Grand Prix: it's a wrap! Down that is.

It's going to come as a relief for quite a few local runners who lobbied for it, a disappointment for others: we are concluding and terminating this year's USA Track & Field Pacific Association Mountain Ultra Trail running Grand Prix (sorry for the mouthful acronyms)! This microscopic corona virus continues its ravage, especially here in California, and challenging the self-discipline of our American way of life, or lack thereof in too many places. Some people call it a monster; it's impact on our society surely shows in the numbers and the fact it touches everything. And, our world being so connected, everybody. In multiple waves.

Although a few good news keep emerging with regard to progress in treating patients for instance, or how many infected end up being asymptomatic, every step forward comes with two or three backward ones, like the multiple hot spots created by the social isolation fatigue of younger generations in particular. With that, and in particular the potential 2-week transmission lag, it's impossible to build any reasonable or consistent trend, neither long term nor even short term.

In the case of our Grand Prix, we solely rely on Race Directors. Some of you, runners, had asked the Pacific Association to intervene but, apart from passing the guidelines issued by our National USATF governing body, it was up to these valorous RDs to decide on the fate of their events. Sincere thanks to all these RDs who had to endure so much trouble, incertitude, stress, financial burden, either to keep their event up, postpone or eventually cancel them.

All that being said, we still had a Grand Prix a week ago, at least for individuals. Our LDR (Long Distance Committee) virtually met on Sunday July 12, and here are the resolutions which I brought forward and were all voted:
  1. With Skyline 50K being postponed from August 4 to September 26, that created a scoring conflict with Dick Collins Firetrail 50-mile. We agreed that individuals could score in either one.
  2. One of the most pressing requests from the team captains was that we canceled at least the team competition, to avoid peer pressure (runners feeling obliged to run for their teammates). Since we had canceled the team scoring for the mid March Pioneer Spirit 50-mile Trail Nationals anyway, the cancellation of that part of the Grand Prix was voted at that meeting.
  3. From the initial 17 scoring opportunities for the whole year, that left us with 4 more on top of the 4 we had in the winter, enough to have a meaningful Grand Prix. As a matter of fact, we agreed that, even if 2 of these scoring opportunities vanished, we could still proceed with 6 scores. That meant that we set an automatic cancellation of the Grand Prix as soon as 3 events were canceled.
Well, fast forward 2 weeks and...
  1. Last Friday, Adam Ray from Scena Performance had the regret to email us about the cancellation of SkyFire, that is both Skyline and Firetrails. 2 races but one scoring opportunity down.
  2. On Saturday, the Quicksilver RDs, Pierre-Yves Couteau and Loren Lewis, emails all the registrants to Quicksilver 100K that they had to cancel that race too, in October. Minus 2!
  3. On Sunday, Steve Jaber and Anil Rao, RDs for Ruth Anderson Memorial Runs 50K and 50-mile, let me know they were cancelling as well.
We were still in July and, like that, in the midst of a new wave of Covid-19 cases in South California in particular, the Grand Prix was shut down. Not a pleasant decision but such an insignificant one compared to the case of reopening school and businesses of course! Or making both ends and surviving for tens of millions of Americans, and many more around the globe.

Ironically, with ultra race registrations starting so early in the year, some as early as September, August had become the time we had to plan most of the next Grand Prix season. Given the current situation, I trust nobody is going to pressure me on that planning, this year. We can't even plan a race for this Fall, we can barely figure out if the situation is going to get worse or better with the flu (!) season. We can only pray that we'll get to some new normal sometimes in 2021. But when?

I've interacted a lot with Race Directors, from those who have lost their business income with this pandemic, to those who were volunteering to help our ultra community by perpetuating race traditions. I'll keep this communication channel active to be ready to plan 2021 as the current fog and incertitude dissipates.

By concluding and terminating, in the introduction, I mean cancelling in terms of overall year end scoring. I still asked our GP Scorer, Nakia, to bring back the scores as they were after 4 events, for the sake of recognizing those who participated through last Winter.

Speaking of recognition, the 2019 Age Group Champions will keep their race discount benefit through 2021. But there won't be prize money or plaques, even based on the first 4 2020 events; and likely no PA banquet either.

If, despite this lack of competition, you are in top shape, kudos for your intrinsic self-motivation! If you are missing our opportunities to meet at these races, hope you still considered leveraging virtual races and challenges, while keeping physical distance. If you have been injured or even caught the virus (I heard of a few and I think I got it too), enjoy this time off competition to rebuild and come back stronger.

Oh, and it it feels safe enough by early December, let's all show up at PCTR's The Ridge event which was on our Grand Prix calendar and got moved from June to December 5, OK?

We all look forward to physically reuniting in the not too distant future, stay safe, healthy and sane in the meantime!