It was dark and stormy night...Wait. Wrong story.
it was a hot and dry canyon with limited aid stations and formidable ridgelines to climb...
In all seriousness, now: Some of you may have heard about us potentially or actually disqualifying runners who did not carry the mandatory 40-oz of water while they were running the Yakima Skyline Rim 50k and Yakima Skyline Rim 25k courses this past weekend, and so we want to explain the situation fully, in the hope that we can wholly avoid this situation in the future.
After the top runners finished the 25k on Sunday, we were notified that the men's winner may not have been carrying the 40 ounces of mandatory water during the race. We verified this with the runner in question and then chose to disqualify him, as the rules about the mandatory water requirement were clearly stated on the race website, on UltraSignup before registration went live, and in the pre-race email sent out to all runners and volunteers the week of the race(s).
After making that decision, we then received reports from multiple sources that some other runners may not been carrying enough water, during both the 50k and the 25k. Lots of runners, in fact. We began investigating, looking at all of the race photographs we had access to, and seeking clarification from a few specific runners about the water they were (or were not) carrying. We quickly ran into problems, though, for several reasons.
First, not all hydration packs, bottles, or soft flasks are created equal, and it was quickly clear that it was going to be visually impossible to tell just how much water many runners were carrying, even when it looks like they have packs and/or more than a single bottle. Second, even when runners were just carrying water bottles, it was frequently hard to tell the size of those bottles, and/or easy to tell that a lot of runners' second (or third) bottles were small enough that they wouldn't have necessarily met the 40-ounce water requirement.
All of these variables made it extremely difficult to tell just how much water everyone was carrying during the race. Nearly everyone was clearly carrying at least 20 oz, but many runners appeared to be carrying somewhere between 20 - 40 oz, depending on the size/capacities of their respective bottles and/or packs.
This put us in a tough spot, as we'd already disqualified the first-place 25k runner for not carrying enough water, but what we quickly realized is that if we were going to apply that strict 40-ounce disqualification standard to one runner (who mistakenly thought he didn't have to carry 40 ounces because he thought he saw other people not carrying 40 ounces the day previous), in all fairness we should be applying that standard to every single runner that started each of the races. That, in turn, led us to the realization that we'd end up needing to disqualify a large portion of the race field for both the 50k and the 25k, as it seems many runners took the 40-oz requirement less than literally, and carried somewhere between 20 - 40 oz. To enforce the rule stringently this year, we would also need to contact nearly every single runner to individually ask them if they were carrying the required amount of water, and trust everyone to (hopefully) tell us the truth.
We don't think any of our runners would be intentionally dishonest, but that's not a position we wanted to put anyone in, when we firmly believe that none of the runners who carried less than the 40 ounces of water required did so maliciously. Instead, they might not have done the actual math, and/or assumed we cared more about two bottles (and/or a bottle and a pack), vs. the actual amount of water they were carrying. In many cases, they also just assumed that they wouldn't need that much water, based on their usual training and/or history of racing.
Because we didn't check folks' bottles/packs at check-in, and because there was clearly widespread confusion about the requirement, and enforcement of the requirement, and because we don't believe the 25k winner's result was unfairly gleaned by not carrying an additional bottle, we are reinstating the original 25k men's winner, and will not be disqualifying any runners in either the 50k or the 25k based on how much water they were or were not carrying.
Rest assured we're learning from all of this, and have already made decisions about how we will better and more uniformly enforce this rule next year. (Which will include race-staff and volunteers checking bottles/water levels at race check-in, spot checks along the course, and a final check at the finish-line.)
Please understand: The 40-ounce rule exists solely and importantly for runner safety. Last year one runner became so badly dehydrated that he was no longer able to keep moving as a result of full body cramping. Dehydration has been a serious issue on this course in past years, and we wanted to help keep you - our runners - safe. Fortunately, the runner that needed to be rescued last year cramped up on the jeep road section of the course, and so we were able to get someone in to get him, but had this happened anywhere else on the course, it could have been a much larger problem, and one we hope to wholly avoid in the future.
We know runners need a lot of water to finish this sort of course safely, which was one of the reasons we added an additional water-only aid station to the course that wasn't part of the course last year. We take runners' safety even more seriously than we take having fun before, during, and after our races, which is the biggest reason why this 40-oz water requirement is really, really important to us.
We're grateful that there were not any major dehydration or injury issues this year, despite it being hotter this year than in several previous years. Despite not having 100% compliance with the 40 oz water requirement, in a sense the rule accomplished what it was created to do: It kept most runners from becoming dangerously dehydrated.
But please let this also be a warning for Yakima next year: We will most definitely be checking everyone's water capacity at check-in, and we won't be lenient or issuing any warnings if runners aren't carrying the required 40 ounces of water during the race, for whatever reason.
And a gallons of gratitude to everyone who DID follow the letter of the water-law for the Yakima courses. We really appreciate it! (And so do the countless hydrated cells in your body!)
Thanks, as always, for being awesome trail runners, volunteers, and Rainshadow supporters. We appreciate ya'll, and are already excited to watch you guys rock that crazy tough Yakima course again next year.
Next up: Cap Peak 50m/55k on Sunday! If anyone lives in/around Olympia (and/or just fancies a trip to Capitol Forest this weekend) and would be down for some volunteering, please let us know! We have a few spots at a few aid stations we're still looking to fill, + some finish-line & clean-up spots we'd love help with! You can respond to this email, or better yet: Send a new email to our volunteer coordinators with the subject line "I'm awesome! And want to volunteer at Cap Peak!" to info@RainshadowRunning.com.
Thanks for reading, and hope the rest of your spring is fantastic!