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September 21, 2018

New Race for the GYAS in 2019 - It's a doozy! Nah... it's a BHAG!

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Not all running goals are the same, but they're still running goals



Big Hairy Audacious Goal


What's your BHAG for life? 


We will have a new Ultra in 2019 that might be a good fit.


There's something you gotta have in life.  I've attended a number of conferences on economic development, leadership, team building, and so on.  They are usually fun, if for no other reason than I could get out of Dodge for a bit and BS with the other Montana econ development guys over beers.  From the conferences, I would generally try to get at least one take-away, one idea that I could use later.  One year it was a BHAG.


A BHAG is short for big, hairy, audacious goal.  Something totally crazy stupid.  Maybe it's something that no one has tried before.  The reason no one has tried it is because it's a totally crazy stupid idea.   It's not just out of the box.  It's an idea that is out of the box, off the table, out the door, and a couple states away.


Actually, there are a lot of them around.  Elon Musk has a few.  Nike had one last year in Italy.   Eliud Kipchoge had one last weekend.  I've had a bunch in my life, but nothing like those guys.  And that's the beauty of a BHAG.  Each one is unique and each one is often relevant only to the individual who came up with it.  It could be setting a personal best time for the marathon and in doing so setting a new world record like Kipchoge did at the Berlin Marathon.  It could also be finishing a 5K without having to walk.  It's all relative. 

So what's your BHAG for life?


The Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS) was a BHAG of sorts.  Maybe not too crazy, but definitely stupid.  Who the hell was going to run races at 9,000 feet above sea level?  More people than I thought.  If one of the GYAS races was a BHAG for anyone reading this newsletter, I am honored.


A criteria that I have for the GYAS is to create races that are as unique as possible.  The initial argument for launching the Madison Marathon was that marathons overall were potentially becoming the same.  The distance is the same - 26.2 miles or 42K - and so race directors and host communities have to create routes that ideally distinguish their marathon from others.   This can be tough, especially for urban races since they are usually run on city streets and city streets can look the same.  Thus, the demand for races that are different, maybe weird, and remarkable in some aspect so they cannot be easily replicated elsewhere (e.g. toughness, beauty, location, remoteness, elevation, etc ...).   This edges the race a bit closer to BHAG territory which means more runners will sign up. 


In this spirit and to throw out a BHAG for the running community, I am proposing two new races for the GYAS in 2019.  The idea comes from Matt A, a TBA from Colorado.  Matt completed the Madison Trifecta this year.  This past August, when all the TBAs were hanging out and talking about how bad-assy they were, Matt said that the route on the Gravelly Range was not really that much different than Leadville, Colorado.  I have not been to Leadville so I don't know, but I appreciated the comparison.     


The conversation made me think up another race for the GYAS.  An Ultra.  A 50K.  Two races, actually.  One up.  One down.  The same route on the same day so runners have to choose.  Do they run up or do they run down?





















At sea level in Montana



















Above sea level  (and almost to Heaven) in Montana



Madison Ultra Up


This race could become the BHAG of BHAGs.  50K pretty much straight up.  The race will start on the shores of the Madison River near Varney Bridge.   The runners will go up the same road - the Call Road - to the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest.  This is the same route that the shuttle buses use for the Madison and Big Sky Marathon.  The route will have less than one mile of paved road at the beginning and then it's all gravel road.  Once in the National Forest, the runners will be on the Gravelly Range Road.  The route re-traces both the Big Sky and Madison Marathon routes.  Runners will pass the Madison Marathon turn-around point, the Big Sky Marathon starting line, and Clover Meadows (the finish line for the Madison).   The finish line will be at Monument Ridge, the highest point on the Gravelly Range Road at 9,587 feet.  


I have yet to Garmin the total elevation gain, but just using maps you can get a ballpark figure.  The Madison River at Varney Bridge is about 5,000 feet.  Corey Hardy, the TBA in the photo above, is about six foot in height and he's jumping near a sign that says he's 9,587 feet above the oceans.  There's a couple flat spots and maybe even a slight downhill here and there, but it's kinda all uphill. Let's just round it off and say you're looking at a race with a 4,600 foot vertical gain.  Now, that's a BHAG.



Madison Ultra Down


This race could become the BHAG of downhill races.  50K pretty much straight down.  Though I considered making the runners ride bicycles to the starting line, it would take too much time.  So, the down runners will be shuttled up the mountain to the Monument Ridge sign and then they start the race.  They reverse course and go down the Gravelly Range Road, out of the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, wind down the switchbacks of the Call Road, cross the Bar 7 Ranch, and head for the magical waters of the Madison River at Varney Bridge.  This is where your striving race director caught that monster 25-inch brown trout in the photo above.   


This is sea level for us.  Since even the somewhat flat spots are leaning downhill and there's hardly any uphills, you're pretty much looking at a 4,600 foot net drop over 50 kilometers.   The finish line will be within spitting distance of the Madison River so be sure to pack your fly rod in your car.  See if you can catch a bigger trout than your race director.  Or, you can just soak your feet in the river while having a beer. 


So we have two proposed ultra races on the same day and using the same route.  One starts at the bottom.  The other starts at the top.   The runners run towards each other.  This gives them a chance to high five each other during the race.  If they want to, it gives the Madison Ultra Up runners an opportunity to trash talk the Madison Ultra Down runners.   If the down runners can think of something clever to say, go for it. 


This BHAG still needs to be permitted, but I'll do my best on that issue.  I've a proposed date though.   It will be Sunday, July 7.  This is the day after the 8th Annual Madison Duathlon which will be re-scheduled to Saturday, July 6.  Yep, another double GYAS weekend. 


Another piece of the logistics is that the Madison Ultra Up runners will begin around 5 or 6 AM.  Shortly after they start, the Madison Ultra Down runners will board the shuttles and head up the hill.  It will take about two hours to get to the top and then they will start.  The aid stations (stand-alones, volunteer-manned, and mobile) will be spread out evenly along the 50K route to help runners going in both directions.  I estimate that around one-third of the route will be in cell phone range.   This Ultra, just like all the GYAS races, will be LIMITED SUPPORT.  We're talking BHAG territory.  These ain't no pansy-ass city ultras.


So that's one of my BHAGs for 2019.  What I would like from all of you is your answers and thoughts to three questions.  You can just reply to this newsletter.  I would love to hear from you.


  1. What do you think of this idea?

  2. Would you consider doing the race next year?

  3. Which race would you choose?  Madison Ultra Up or Madison Ultra Down?


Happy Autumn Everyone!  Thanks for a wonderful Summer in Montana. I can't wait to see you all next year.  This newsletter will continue.  I got more BHAGs to share.


Stay Happy, Healthy, and Always Keep Running Forward with BHAGs in your life.





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The John Colter Club

The John Colter Club is a members-only club for athletes who are or have been:

  1. An inaugural athlete in one of the six GYAS races. 

  2. Earned a podium finish (top three) in the overall men and women's category of any GYAS race. 

  3. Are a three-time returnee to a GYAS race. 


We want to recognize those who went first, those who finished well, and those who just keep coming back.  For a membership fee of $30 per year and immense bragging rights for getting in, members receive the following:

  1. personalized water bottle with the GYAS logo, your name, and the club's name. 

  2. Early access.  Members get to sign up for the GYAS races before the March 1 opening. 

  3. discount of 15 percent off the entry fee of the race you sign up for. 


Do the math and you can figure out that your $30 comes back to you pretty quick.   If you qualify and if you want to join an exclusive club of athletes named after Montana's most famous total bad ass, send me an email.  Tell me how you qualify.  I'll confirm it all and send you the application. 

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