Minutes from the 2020 USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Running Council Meetings

The 2020 USA Track & Field’s (USATF) Annual Meeting was 100% virtual and took place December 4th and 5th.

In attendance for all, or part of the meetings over the two days: Nancy Hobbs, Meghan Canfield, Richard Bolt, Michelle Merlis, Melissa DeVaughn Hall, DeAnte’ Brown, Addie Bracy, Morgan Kennedy, Terry Sudrla, Scott Richards, Robert Goyen, Andy Martin, James Peterson, Ryan Elsbernd, George Leaf, Joe Jurczyk, , Lauren Siegel, Lin Gentling, Paul Kirsch, Edward Neighbour, Carl Crook, Mary Onken, Mickey Piscitelli, Jean Pommier, Trisha Steidl, Jennifer James, Marrissa Harris, Jessica Stanford, Steve Taylor, Michael Scott, Vin Lananna, Jim Estes, Phillip Greenwald, Gene Dykes, Camille Herron, Andy Carr, Kim Keenan-Kirkpatrick, Tyler Noble, Kimberly Sims, Robin Jefferis, Duffy Mahoney, Fred Finke, Zack Raubuck, Terry Lovely, and Shioma Obemeata (Sho), Albert Davis, Alex Cuozzo, Andy Crawford, Christopher English, Christopher Rinaldi, Connie Martin, Dan Pierce, David Katz, David Lapierre, David Wright, Dustin Williams, Earsene Andrews, Gary Morgan, Janelle Branch, Joe Sarver, Joel Royal Pearson, Joyce Welch, Justin Waters, Karen Sersen, Katie Burnett, Louis Vazquez, Lydia McGranahan, Matthew Chestnut, Michael Daney, Mike Blackmore, Peter Maksimow, Sara Brist, Stephen Foss, Tina Breen, Veronica Rodriguez-Butler, Zakia Hayward (we had approx. 48 participants for each daily session).

Meeting called to order by Nancy Hobbs, chairperson at 1:02 p.m. EST. Meghan Canfield serving as acting secretary.

We will have guests coming at various times during the meetings and they will have an opportunity to speak and we can ask questions. Agenda will be covered, but the order of items may change due to timing of guests into the meeting.

Minutes from the 2019 USATF MUT Meetings – pulled up on the screen and as well, they are in the document library.

Motion to approve the minutes (noting published date updated to 2019) – Richard Bolt motioned to approve, seconded by Melissa Paul. No discussion. Need to fix the date written on the minutes to 2019.

At 1:10 – nominations for chair and vice chair.

Dan Pierce from Org services to oversee nominations.

In 2019 Nancy Hobbs presents awards to Camille Herron, Grayson Murphy and Meghan Laws.

Nominations for Chair and Vice Chair (4 year terms)

Richard Bolt nominated Nancy Hobbs, Melissa Paul seconded.

Lin Gentling nominated Meghan Canfield for vice chair, Richard Bolt seconded.

Motion to elect both by acclimation. Many in the chat room said yes, and no “nos.” Approved.

Nancy and Meghan spoke about their goals for MUT and their vision. For the next four years, continue to lobby for full funding for USATF national teams in the MUT family; due to budget cuts, host maximum of 8 championships in 2021 (we have two confirmed so far for 2021 – USATF 100 Mile Road Championships in February and USATF 50km Road Championships in March) and be creative to have other events involved as selection races for the various teams; continue partnerships and collaboration with other organizations nationally to share ideas – Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), American Trail Running Association (ATRA), US Trail Running Conference, Collegiate Running Association (CRA); internationally – International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), International Trail Running Association (ITRA), World Athletics (WA); keep communications lines open; and welcome support from our constituents on various task forces and team selection committees throughout the year.

Nancy thanked Howard for his 8 years of service as Vice Chair.

Budget

Nancy noted that much of the 2020 budget was unspent (no teams and limited championships), but the funds don’t roll over. She stated that budget cuts for 2021 would be in place across the organization. Duffy Mahoney (liaison to the committee) will be in the meeting later regarding the budget for next year.

Anti-Doping Tests

We used 16 out of 18 last year. At Moab Trail Marathon we had 8 tests. The final two tests were scheduled for the 100 Mile Trail Championships, but the event had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Nancy posted some pictures from championships that were held.

Rules

Phil Greenwald. Maximum heel thickness is going to be the biggest one – 40 mm maximum based on a men’s size 8 for (road) ultras, unlimited for mountain and trail (WMRA). For longer track events (probably 5k on up), 40 mm, same as road events. This is pending change from 25 mm.

Next rule – Rule 6 – challenged by Camille Herron to allow point-to-point courses for records, has been rejected by rules committee.

Rule 54 – disagreement at the moment – course validation for records. For an open record, very strict – level a or b certifier, need to be watching. But for ultra – reduce the requirement. It hasn’t been decided. The rules committee will be discussing tomorrow. Andy Carr (records) will be there.

USATF President Vin Lananna at the 2017 USATF Mountain Running Championships.

USATF President Report

Vin Lananna joined the meeting and spoke of the struggle due to COVID, civil unrest, etc. Message: Let’s play offense. Build sports brand value. Tremendous opportunity for growth. The strategic plan is offense. Draws on diversity of communities. Put discipline back into the organization. Accolades to Nancy. The plan is a living document. We can create principles to adhere to.

We have the opportunity from 2022 and LA hosting Olympics in 2028, but we need to work together to bring things forward. We are doing a very good job. Strategic objectives – room for everyone – diversity is our strength.

Nancy: Can we showcase a MUT event at a T and F event?
Vin: Seems possible – need to make a good understanding of what MUT is/does. Come up with something specific that could coincide with the trials for example. The NCAA is also a good opportunity. They have been in Eugene a number of years.

Nancy: Also partnering with collegiate running association. Had hoped to do something in Oregon last season before pandemic caused event cancellation.
Vin: Anything to grow our brand. Learned a lot by actually going to the Cranmore Mountain Race in New Hampshire.

Nancy: Spoke of others who have been to some MUT events and it really matters, not only to the athletes and race directors, but to provide an understanding of our disciplines. Once you’re there you see it and get a different appreciation for it. Important to get the realization out to more USATF members. Maybe allow for one-day USATF membership as an option. One of the things to grow membership is to show benefits beyond a medal.
Vin: Need to get people to WANT to join USATF. Most important thing about USATF strategic plan– it has to be executable. We want the membership to OWN it. If anyone has ideas of the value associated with USATF please forward to him.

Nancy – welcomed Vin to stay
Vin – gave accolades to the organizers of the virtual conference.

Operations – Nancy thanked executive committee members for their support and service throughout the past year. Secretary Maria Dalzot, Roy Pirrung, Vice Chair Howard Nippert, David Fuentes, Nancy Hobbs, Richard Bolt, Hayley Pollack, Meghan Canfield, Addie Bracy, Michael Wardian, Eric Blake, Max King, Brandy Erholtz, Joe Jurcyzk.

USATF Liaison to Mountain Ultra Trail

Duffy Mahoney. Budget report: Duffy said, “Nancy is a pitbull on protecting funds.” Notified we were cut 30% across the board except for athletes. He and Nancy walked through it at length twice. Reworked the budgets to keep funds for teams as best possible. The overall budget only went down 13 percent, with international teams seeing a decrease of about $1000 per team. Budget for travel kits went to the international teams budget so that isn’t part of our budget and thus saved funds.

Nancy: Concurred on the budget discussions. She fought hard to keep as much funding as possible. Drug testing is a separate budget. How many for next year – 16? We would like to see the number of tests go upward or at least maintain. Duffy will check with Chris Quetant (in the National Office) and will report back.
Duffy will continue as our liaison from the National Office for 2021.

Social media and marketing

Richard Bolt: Articles posted on trailrunning.com to push stories about the races. Meghan took the editorial role for usaultrarunning.com. How can we keep the USATF website better updated for national team qualifications, national championships, etc. It isn’t really fluid right now.

Nancy – to find articles and details for MUT, it should simply mean to click on usatf.org and go to MUT, and look there. We need to get the USATF website more current and user friendly. When the website was updated, we lost some historic data and links. We need to work to get our information up on the usatf.org site in a timely manner.

Richard – we don’t have edit access to the USATF website so it’s out of our hands. So that is why we created the other websites to showcase our activities. This has been successful in getting out the word on our events and selections for teams.

Tyler Noble – thinks it will get simpler to put things on the calendar – if you do have another site to link out to – we may be able to do that from USATF.

Richard – We need to keep the rules available and easily accessible. Meghan spoke of the usaultraunning.com site. Richard also mentioned that American Trail Running Association (ATRA) hired a videographer to produce content for ATRA’s YouTube account.

Records

Andy Carr report: Thanks to Howard Nippert for his service and thanks to Meghan for putting together the website with the records. Andy has sent the new records in for updating including USATF LDR records.

One of the rules to be in effect 2021 is that MUT will ratify records set in events beyond the marathon distance. Currently the respective LDR divisions – men’s women’s or master’s – are the sport committees to approve records beyond the marathon distance. A current discussion is regarding pending LDR records – the biggest discussion we’ve had since September has been the 48-hour performance of Marissa Lazik – an issue with pacing to be addressed. At the records meeting later today Andy will be presenting the information and then a vote will be held by the records committee and then forwarded to women’s LDR.

Highlights: Zach Bitter 12 hour approved. CJ Albertson 50 km record (on the track). Others waiting for course approval. Everything else slated to be approved.

Nancy asked if Andy could provide the procedure for records.

Andy – new records are pending to start with. Then the steps -measure the course. If the course is good, it can be approved. With Marisa’s it has to do with pacing issues. After discussion, a recommendation that it will be pushed back to LDR women’s division. This already happened, then it got pushed back to the records committee. The 3 choices – accept, reject, defer and revisited next year. Next year MUT will oversee if it is deferred. It will live as a noteworthy performance with an asterisk if it doesn’t become a ratified record.

A question about a grievance – whether it would go to LDR committee. Tyler said it’s a legal question outside his purview and something that can be followed up with our liaison.

Andy will have a records report from the records committee meeting later.

Eric LiPuma winning the 2018 USATF 50K Road Championships at Caumsett State Park.

National Championships

Joe Jurczyk – championships chair.

Nancy suggestion for 2021 is to have selection races that don’t have to be championship races – if we have 8 championship races in 2021 (based on the budget) – we can find some other creative ways to showcase events and featuring selection races is one way to accomplish this.
Joe – 2020 – lots of cancellations due to the pandemic – this year we had 4.

For 2021 we have 2 bids accepted (long term for two years). Caumsett will host the 50km Road Championships on March 7, and Jackpot will host the 100 Mile Road Championships on February 12. Joe put out a link to the form that has to be filled out for bids. Criteria looked at: history, RD experience, calendar for conflicts, break things up regionally, look at prize money, extras given to participants or top athletes coming in. Budgets are smaller, but can offer homestays. Get bids in as soon as possible so we can review through the executive committee and get more events on the calendar. The international calendar is not all in place yet.

Nancy – Tim Yanacheck is submitting his bid for the 2021 100k Road Championships (as it was cancelled in 2020), and Joe has received interest to bid from the Birkie Trail Running Festival (September) for the trail half marathon championships and the Moab Trail Marathon (November) for the marathon trail running championships.

Richard organized a task force to name a new mountain championship – Skyrunning has copyrighted Vertical K, so the task was to come up with a new name – and some loose definitions – USATF Vertical Mountain championships, format is uphill only. Different from the other mountain events, with specific distances and vert gains. Following what the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) is staging – long distance, a vk-style event, and a short distance classic race.

  • USATF Vertical Mountain Running Championships (under 4 miles, 2000′ to 4000′, uphill only)
  • USATF Mountain Running Championships (6 to 8 miles, 3000′ to 4000′, uphill or up/down)
  • USATF Long Distance Mountain Running Championships (13 to 26 miles, 5000′ or more, uphill or up/down)

For 2021 WMRA – uncertainty of where and when the combined mountain and trail world championships will be held (November sometime), so our selection criteria is uncertain for now. Selection process will be determined and approved by the executive committee.

Nancy – we can reach out beyond the executive committee to have individuals be on a selection committee or a task force. This is most helpful when choosing a team. We should know in a week the details of the venue/date for World Combined Trail Mountain Championships.

Richard – funding is also an issue at WMRA events. He asked this question – what the funding structure would be at the 2021 championships – at the recent WMRA Congress Meeting as he was the USA delegate on November 28. It was stated that the information would come in the first weeks of January.

Joe – answering question on the shortest distance for a trail championship – 10k is the shortest we’ve had so far. Calendar is also pretty dynamic – it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the calendar as it is constantly being updated.

Nancy – Caumsett 50K may change venues related to COVID restrictions and Lin Gentling, the liaison to the event, is working with the race director to keep up on the venue.

Another point about the WMRA – from the congress meeting – international opportunities – the masters, world cup, etc., which Richard talked about. (www.wmra.info)

Richard – WMRA is more than 35 years old – WMRA trophy for many years was changed to WMRA Championships and now includes classic and long distance on the program and also a World Cup working with 12 events. World Athletics is working with the WMRA, ITRA, and IAU to collaborate on the 2021 championships (mountain and trail). There is also a WMRA/WMA World Masters Mountain Running Championships in 2021 in Telfes, Austria. The WMRA also stages a youth event – International U18 Mountain Running Cup – for athletes ages 16-17, which has grown in scope over the years. In 2021 the event will be in England on July 24. WMRA is introducing a ranking system in 2021, a project in the works for the past two years.

In 2022 the WMRA/WMA World Masters Mountain Running Championships will be in Ireland.

International Association of Ultrarunners

Lin provided a report on the IAU: All 2020 world championship races cancelled. Did a virtual event – 36-40 nations participated. For 2021 – 2 World Championships on the calendar – 24 Hour World Championships in Romania on May 22. Status unknown given COVID. Secondly, the 50km World Road Championships in Chinese Taipei on October 31 – probably will occur. In 2023 the 24 hour is Dec 2 in Chinese Taipei.

Nancy gave accolades to Lin for her liaison work in 2020!!
The 24 hour team selection is online.

The 50k selection criteria will be posted as soon as possible.

Joe Gray leads the 2013 USATF Mountain Running Championships at Mt. Cranmore. Photo by Joe Viger.

Poll conducted by WMRA

Shout out to Joe Gray – Greatest Mountain Running Athlete of all Time – GOAT – a friendly poll conducted by the WMRA in 2020 to increase community interaction while the pandemic going on and cancelling races. Andrea Mayr was the women’s GOAT.

Motion to recess by Jennifer James and a second from Mickey Piscitelli.

Second Meeting – December 5, 2020

Nancy opened second session at 10:02 EST.

Athletes Advisory Council (AAC)

Addie Bracy from AAC – not much to report yet. There have been elections of some new members, technical difficulties so not much to report.

Awards

Nancy – Runner of the Year awards were not presented this year due to lack of events, but should return in 2021. The winners of championships were included in the annual report which is in the documents library.

US Trail Running Conference

The US Trail Running Conference is a great place to learn more about our disciplines and interact with peers. The 2021 conference is planned for October (most likely 27-30), in Fayetteville, AR, and registration due to open January 1.

Youth/Junior Competition

Report on the U18 competition in Italy from 2019 and overall report on the program. In 2019, the US Girls Team won the bronze medal. Selection is through a resume process. Good chance to experience mountain running . Girls and boys run with separate starts to feature each. There are younger groups as well that often run in area open races.

Richard – comments – the US sent a team the past few years, but started out with just one athlete in 2014. Increased interest past 4 years. There is a selection committee of coaches at all levels – thought of as a feeder system. Cross country athletes or youth from areas where trail running is pervasive are good candidate areas. This event provides youth experience in an international event. It is great for these young athletes to learn to be ambassadors at all levels and is a wonderful cultural experience.

Paul Kirsch comments – the Junior Mountain Running program is growing – word of mouth, plus a feeder system with coaches Paul has gotten to know over the years. The competitive level is rising every year. Some of the juniors have gone on to run for the senior team. Collegiate level coaches are encouraging freshman runners to get experience in their redshirt frosh year. USMRT.com is where the applications live.

Richard and Paul talked about how the young athletes themselves promote the program to their friends to help it grow. Senior athletes are great for feeder information and mentoring the youth.

Courses for Mountain Running

Paul described how the courses are chosen for the national races that mimic the courses where the world champs are going to be held. There is a mountain running series in New England. The NE Association has often staged the USATF Mountain Running Championships and the courses are designed to emulate the courses to be experienced at the World Championships. By doing this, it provides the athletes a chance to do well at home before going to worlds.

Team USA at the 2019 NACAC Mountain Running Championships.

NACAC Mountain Running Championships

Nancy NACAC Mountain Running Championships are slated for Canada in 2021 – team selection based on past performance at world championships, NACAC, or national championships and the selection often includes juniors. No funding besides uniforms as it is a regional competition. It might grow to be more of a PanAm competition in time.

Snow Running

Richard on snow running – not part of MUT – other countries have snow running as part of the running organizations in other countries. Need to be able to sanction events – for insurance, liability. But there is an exclusion for snowshoeing in USATF insurance. Didn’t have enough interest in MUT officials to pick it up. Snow running has been the term used to describe the activity that could be done with snow shoes, or snow running device (screws on shoes, etc.) Any advancement on this initiative will be provided in future reports.

LDR Division Report

Mike Scott LDR division chair. MUT had more championships than any other committees in LDR this year due to the pandemic. Our events trend more toward options to social distance. Hoping to return to “normal” competition by second quarter 2021. Spoke about race directors not having income last year. MUT was less impacted so LDR can go on the momentum of MUT. LDR is lacking bids for their championship runs.

Championship Experiences

Michelle Merlis (Adirondack Association) – has competed as a MUT athlete at Montage half marathon in 2019 – her first MUT championship. She liked that the trails were technical. She has competed in the New England mountain circuit. Hopes to participate in more MUT races. Trail running is one of the only events happening right now and this may be an opportunity to grow the sport.

Gene Dykes – his experience as a MUT athlete – loves the longer races and wonders if there will be an international offering for masters (see Telfes, Austria link above for the WMRA/WMA Mountain Running Championships). *There has been initial discussion by the WMRA to add a longer distance mountain running event for masters.

Rob Goyen – speaking on championship races – really important – brings a new user group into USATF pool. One of his races is now a Western States Endurance Run qualifier, due to the popularity as a championship race to increase his numbers. Great way to educate the population about USATF.

Robin Jefferis – for the half marathon trail championships 2019 – lots of runners in the mid-Atlantic region. Goal was 50 runners – got 54 – and over 90+ USATF runners. Race championships can boost membership for your associations. Pretzel City Sports has a great series in the mid-Atlantic region.

LDR Division Representative to the USATF Board of Directors

Jim Estes – 20-year USATF veteran – both as an employee in the national office and a volunteer. Spoke of his experience being around the MUT community. New role is LDR Rep to the USATF Board of Directors – using a different perspective from his past paid positions. Looking to work together with all constituencies to make progress on the board level. Very open to emails, phone calls, if there are any questions for Jim (estesjima@gmail.com).

Rules

Phil Greenwald – Rules. If a rule isn’t approved, it can be tabled and even though it is an L &L year in 2021, could bring tabled rules up for discussion and for action. Bona fide latest language for a competition – bona fide is being left out. Use English language definition. No competition, no record. Shoes rule – accept the 40 mm be allowed for 50k – should get worked in. Competition is going to be left up to the discretion of the council as to whether it was a competition or a time trial.

Camille’s question – on 3 to start – Phil’s answer – not a current rule – in the rule book.
Phil – draft rule about competition no record shall be set unless it is in compliance with the rules. If it is deemed not a competition, then no record. If there is a question, look it up in the dictionary and decide if it follows the definition. This is for the entire sport. Still some ambiguity.

FKTs and Plogging

Fastest Known Times, FKTs. Peter Maksimow – spoke about FKTs. It’s about challenging yourself. Nancy asked him about trail maintenance and sustainability. Peter and Plogging – Swedish word for picking up while running – basically picking up trash while running to dispose of responsibly. Encourages people to pick up just one piece of trash every time you run. Raises awareness of the environment. He has a group the Pikes Peak Ploggers. Good way to get in on people’s minds to clean up the trails.

IAU

Lin Gentling on IAU labeled races – IAU endorses labeling as this group doesn’t recognize a race without it. Measurements are for World Athletics agreements. Races are then recognized for each federation. The financial impact -3 standards based on times from qualifying races. The A standard gets more money. The label is free – you have to submit a request. There is one for Trail in IAU – no time standards for trails. All championship races in the US please get the label. As to the 100km team selection. It is ambiguous right now with no date or location set up yet for the 2022 World Championships. Standards likely similar – using an 18-month window. The 24 hour World Championships are in the odd year, 100k in even years.

Team Leadership

Lin’s experience as a team leader provided a thank you to Terry and Sho (from the National Office who were our moderators for the call) – great at getting us outfitted! Team manager is very critical role – liaison between the athletes and USATF and the LOC. Travel plans, special needs, athlete is the reason we exist. For the 100km, team staff – all work together – team co-leaders and team doctor – but all have equal role in taking care of the athletes. Every athlete will have support doing the race. Very creative planning to assist all the athletes. We are there for the athletes to support them to do their very best.

Richard – experience as a team leader – underscores much of what Lin says. WMRC team leader for many years for trail and mountain running championships. A year-round role. Richard echoed Lin’s comments. Challenging and rewarding.

Paul – focus on the junior athletes – 8 athletes (and they come with 16 parents – some who travel with the youth) – arranging travel plans – more challenging with younger athletes. Handling the logistics. On drug testing – (Therapeutic Use Exemption) TUE – make sure those are submitted in a timely manner – be sure athletes are aware of them.

Lin noted that team leaders also know the rules of competition so they are able to file a protest if an athlete is seen breaking rules during the event.

Terry – on SafeSport – update every year. No new changes to it. Everyone has to be SafeSport certified to be a team staff member.

Addie – speaking as an athlete – really enjoys the support at all levels – emotional and logistical.

Camille – USATF PanAm games vs ultra running team – spoke of the passion in the team leaders.

Meghan spoke of good team staff for the 100k and experiences as an athlete. She is now transitioning to a team staff member and will be on the USATF 50km Road staff for the 2021 World 50km Championships.

Peter Maksimow – also grateful for attending the world champs events on both classic mountain and long distance mountain teams.

Gene Dykes – asked about being part of a master national team? Nancy said yes, masters’ team can compete at the WMRA/WMA World Mountain Running Championships – race with your age group – 3 to make up a “team” in the age group. Anyone can participate in the masters from ages 35-79. There is no qualification at present.
Peter talked about his experience as a masters’ athlete racing in Austria – you just race those in your age group. Smaller groups. Still get an international flavor.

Lin commented – WMA is often at World 100k Road Championships.

Collegiate Running Association

Collegiate Running Association (CRA) – founded 2015 to provide more running opportunities for collegiate athletes. One of the great benefits is the partnership with the USATF Mountain Championships – brings more athletes in.

Paul Kirsch spoke about the CRA – really great to get more athletes to try mountain running. Post collegiate running is not always on the table, but this allows them to make an international team through mountain and trail running.

Association Success

Jean Pommier – USATF Pacific Association has 17 grand prix events. Grand prix was canceled in 2020. Resumed the planning for now – probably start in May. Second half of 2021 will have races every weekend.

Motion to adjourn by George Leaf, second by Richard Bolt.

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