The Canyons Endurance Run 100k

Last Saturday was a big deal for me. I won the Canyons 100k. I finished top ten overall (8th to be exact) in a stout men’s field, close to an hour after the male winner, Bob Shebest. What I’m even more proud of is my time. I completed all 63 miles of that course in 11:32:16, just under Magdalena Boulet’s 2015 time. *The only faster time is Magdalena’s course record set on a rainy day in 2016; the kind of day where untouchable course records are set, a comfortable 55 degrees and misting.*

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Photo by Molly Nugget

On April 29th I didn’t have such good fortune. I fought for that 11:32 tooth and nail in a blistering 85 degrees at Foresthill (and God only knows what it was towards Rucky Chucky). I smiled, I laughed, and I cheered on my fellow runners. But it wasn’t all highs. During the race I let out an involuntary scream of frustration at mile 45, having been without water for over an hour and still miles away from the Rucky Chucky aid station. However, I fought through it.

Not only did I fight during the race, but also every damn day leading up to it, balancing a full time job as a teacher, the heartbreak of getting laid off, training in the dead of winter in below zero temperatures. My commitment put strain on my relationships and at times my own wellbeing. I made sacrifices. The Canyons 100k 2017 was a reflection of that. It was years of hard work coming together. I had a breakthrough performance, and yeah, you can bet I’m proud.

When I crossed the finish line Sean Garbutt and Molly Nugget, two of my closest friends, greeted me. Hugged me. Told me how bad I smelled.

I sat down on the pavement, unable to move and overcome with happiness.

The race director, Chaz, brought me a big ol’ trophy and an awesome new backpack. I told him how hard the course had been and how excited I was to use my new backpack. I’ve wanted to start commuting to work on my bike, but have needed a backpack large enough to fit my lunchbox, running gear, work clothes, and the crafts for my kindergarten class. I mean, what a functional and fortuitous prize!

18199061_538927982944214_3888789879364080997_nStill stuck to the pavement just feet away from the finish, I called my partner and number one fan, Ryan, who couldn’t be there that day. However, Ryan was there to see the work I put in everyday. The commitment I made to sleep and recovery. My sacrifice of our precious couch time so I could go to bed early, and that 4 AM alarm would sting a little less. During those winter months, I barely saw him, which was hard for the both of us. Nevertheless, I could hear how happy Ryan was for me as I spoke to him on the phone. Still unable to stand, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude.

But wasn’t someone supposed to be announcing the finishers? That was someone’s job. The first woman came through the finish, me. Molly tried to get the attention of the crowd to watch as I broke the tape. The 2nd and 3rd place women came through shortly after, and still only a few friends cheering. Jenny Capel and Annie Rutledge just podium-ed at The Canyons Endurance Run 100k. Holy crap, what a feat! But for some reason, the women didn’t get the same race day attention as the men. Why had the announcer felt that it was only necessary to stay for the men’s top three finishers? I understand he was likely just a volunteer, but I knew that guy. He’s an important dude in the sport! One with a voice! Was he so uninterested in the women’s race that he couldn’t stay one hour longer?

Honestly, when I was down at the finish line, I couldn’t care less. What an amazing day that had been! The moment was mine and I was nothing but grateful to have been a part of such an amazing event. But on Monday morning when the excitement had settled, I got a Facebook message from a friend. It was a link to a popular website, which recaps some of the major races in trail running. I scrolled through in anticipation, looking for my name but only found a recap of the men’s 100k and 50k races. A congrats to Bob Shebest and Cole Watson written by the same guy who should have been responsible for announcing both male and female races on Saturday. The women’s 50k champion, Jena Benna left unrecognized after months of build up and winning a well-executed race. Or were there not two winners? Did we compete in an all men’s race?

I was angry. I sent the article to my coach and complained to Ryan about the complete disregard for the women’s race. I talked to my boss, a wonderful woman who is only a fan of the sport because she is a fan of me, who then commented on his site on my behalf (and without my permission). Something I was too afraid to do. I couldn’t call this guy out. He’s a big deal in the sport. He is the media for trail running.

But isn’t that exactly why I should call him out?

Founder of Trail Sister’s, Gina Lucrezi published an article last week on irunfar.com titled Women’s Verses Men’s Pay in Trail and Ultra Running. It not only brought light to the differences in pay, but also highlighted the roots of gender inequality in the sport. Today, the cause that stands out to me is “fear of rocking the boat.” As Gina states, very few women speak out publicly regarding the inequality they face in the sport. It IS scary. I’m scared out of my mind publishing this! But what would be worse would be to sit back and do nothing about the unequal media coverage I, and the other women competitors, have experienced.

Would female athletes get paid the same as their male counterparts if the media gave them adequate coverage? Would basketball fans be more likely to watch a WNBA game if it were equally as advertised and promoted with the same enthusiasm as men’s games?

One could say it all starts with equal media coverage. How can fans of a sport get equally excited about female professionals if all the hype is around men’s athletics? How can fans follow the women’s race if there is no coverage of them? If women’s athletics aren’t covered in the same depth as men’s then OF COURSE women wont bring in the same kind of revenue to the companies that sponsor the athletes!

Covering women’s events less gives those who sponsor professional athletes an excuse to pay women less.

The media is the voice of this sport and it is the responsibility of the media to cover both the men and the women’s race equally. Yes, it is true that The Canyons 100k was not the most important race of the season, and one may argue because of that coverage doesn’t have to be too extensive. Fair enough. But as a leader and voice in trail running it is my opinion that you cannot cover a men’s race, and leave the women’s race unspoken for. That sends the message that one race is more important than the other. It is responsibility of the media to use its voice within the sport to work towards mending unfair practices in ultra running.

This sounds like a whole lot of complaining and I don’t want to be that person who complains about nothing. Rocking the boat is not typically my style and believe it or not, I like flying under the radar. Anyone who knows me understands that I’m generally a quiet person who just loves mountain sports, going to bed early, reading and watching The Office with Ryan. That’s my comfort zone, no boat rocking here. But like I said, it is the media’s responsibility to include both male and female athletes in their coverage, and it is my responsibility to speak up about it when I feel mistreated as a female athlete.

I have a voice and a platform, and from here on out I intend to use them for the sake of equality for future women runners.

That’s not to say we, as a sport haven’t made major strides towards gender equality. In fact, I think that trail and ultra running as a whole could set an amazing example to the sports industry. We are part of a sport where women compete with the men, and it is recognized. Admittedly, even media coverage is pretty equal in most cases. Other leaders in ultra running coverage such as irunfar.com did recognize my performance and more importantly, all of the notable performances from the weekend.

But it takes every runner and every voice to make the difference.

I would like to note that this is not in any way a reflection of my experience at The Canyons Endurance Runs 100k. I loved every second of that race. The course, the volunteers, the aid stations, and the race director, Chaz, were nothing but absolutely wonderful and all excited about the women’s race. I cannot emphasize enough how lucky I feel to have been a small part of such a special day, (thank you Chaz!!!!).

I also don’t think that anyone is intending to cover one gender more than the other in this sport. But it is negligence that I believe has to be pointed out. So I hope this a friendly reminder that even a short, two-paragraph recap of a race is not complete without congratulating both the men and women participants.

It’s a small, but important, step towards gender equality in all sports. We can set the example.

Quick thanks to my title sponsor Salomon Running, who supports me with shoes, gear, race entries and kindness through the good and the bad. I feel so honored to represent a company who sees value in supporting athletes of both genders. In fact, Salomon is dedicating all of this month to women in trail and ultra-running. Go us for setting a good example for fans and athletes alike!

*Not in any way taking ANYTHING away from Magda’s 2016 performance. She is a friend, a hero, and I was thinking about how impressive that 10:58 was ALL DAY. Furthermore, this is not a piece to brag or say I’m better than anyone else in the sport. I have so much respect for this community and the people who contribute to it.

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32 Comments Add yours

  1. Heather says:

    I love this and feel a connection to all of your words. I have written a bit on this topic myself (link below)
    You are brave and inspiring xo

    Like

  2. eric schranz says:

    Cat, I really wish you would have reached out to me before posting this. My email is widely available on my site and I could have explained my personal situation and reasons for having to get home. Let’s talk. Thanks.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Riley says:

      Whether or not you had a reason to go home isn’t the issue. It’s that it was okay to have an announcer who had to leave before any women finished and that no one seemed to notice or care. Maybe you were only scheduled to work a 12-hr shift, but an announcer should have been scheduled to cover the female finishers if there was an announcer set up for the top males. I’m not saying you are to blame at all, but it should be acknowledged that women are unfairly under-represented and I appreciate Cat speaking up for us, even if it makes things a little awkward for some people. The inconvenience of feeling awkward is less than the inconvenience of gender inequality.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. earthclare says:

    CAT SPEAKS IMPORTANT TRUTHS ONCE AGAIN!!! THAT IS SO MESSED UP!! Thank you for sharing, Kitty.

    Like

  4. The Winged Ling says:

    Congratulations​ on the big W. Sorry to hear the misfortune, but that doesn’t take away from your accomplishment! Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You rock! Thanks for this honest piece.. I can imagine your fear in posting it, and I admire your courage. It needs to be talked about more or nothing will change. Major congrats for both the race and the post. =)

    Like

  6. Myles Smythe says:

    We were out filming on the course all day and you always had such a big smile. Even when you stated you weren’t feeling well after Rucky Chucky you were still running strong. Congrats on your great race. It’s definitely time to smash the patriarchy.

    Like

  7. Jack Meyer says:

    Cat, I am proud of you for being a voice and speaking out! Everyone needs to sound their voice when it is needed. I agree with you, every finisher, or at least the top 3 or 10 female and male finishers should have been announced. Congratulations to you for the win, and speaking your voice!
    Jack Meyer,
    Foresthill, CA.

    Like

  8. Congratulations on your hard earned victory! I understand the issue you eloquently express, believe me, I do. You need not apologize for “complaining,” especially when you are shedding light on equality in every way for women runners everywhere. Good for you. A woman after my heart! Keep up your good work.

    Like

  9. Kelly says:

    I want to let you know what an inspiration you were to me out on that course. I had the pleasure of seeing you on my way down the thumb as you were almost back up to the top, and again as we both came into the Cal 2 aid station; me for the first time and you for the second time as you set off for the last 8 miles of the race. You were so sweet and still smiling in both instances and cheering on other runners and telling us that we were doing a great job. Like you, my trail sister and I had a stellar race. We PR’d by 1 hour and 24 mins, on a day that was brutally hot and unrelenting. It still hasn’t sunken in what we achieved out there. And while our race isn’t newsworthy, I was disappointed that we didn’t see anything posted about you and your win for days after. I wanted to learn about the woman that went out and killed it out there with a smile on her face. It was amazing to be able to witness her determination, yet cool and collected self, as she was seemingly floating along the trail. I hope that even though it is quite disappointing how different the winners were showcased, especially as you crossed the finish line, that you are beyond proud of your accomplishment and know that so many of us women who were out there too are so very proud of you and will be looking forward to witnessing your greatness in the future. All the best!

    Like

  10. Ellie Verdi says:

    Cat I was out there and saw you sailing over the trail twice. I was running with two other teachers and we were filled with awe and inspiration watching you. Our day proved very long but we distracted ourselves many times wondering what your time was, who you were and how much you prepared.

    You and the other top women in the races deserved an announcement and photo op. I am glad you wrote this. A huge congratulations!!

    Like

  11. Cat, I think you’re absolutely right and shouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind and heart. I don’t know the circumstances behind Eric leaving early, or for his unfortunate omission of the women’s finishes in his news recap, but had I known of his absence at the moment during the race, I would have jumped on that mic in a heartbeat (as I have been known to do) ;-). We hope you truly enjoy using your new KODIAK. Your accomplishment is amazing.

    Like

  12. Well said Cat. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

  13. Cat, hi
    You are strong and brave to write and post this. Because there really was a problem. As a volunteer, I noticed that the fifth man can in completely unrecorded. I don’t think that anyone even posted his time. However, I don’t blame Eric as I believe he was only announcer for the 50K, not the 100K. And it was a long hot day out there for the volunteers and announcers too.
    But you raise an important issue and let’s get some traction on it.

    Like

  14. Eli says:

    Congrats on your race. Well-written, thoughtful post. Thank you for writing this

    Like

  15. Ron says:

    So they didn’t announce your name. Big deal. Enjoy your win and stop being petty

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I actually won a small local race a couple weeks ago and the exact same thing happened, in fact it wasn’t until 5 minutes later that the announcer even realized I had finished and was in fact first place. Small peanuts, but I was also really mad and gave them some attitude about it during the awards ceremony. Keep rocking the boat. And huge congrats!

    Like

  17. Chaz Sheya says:

    I want you to know how sorry I am for being so damn unaware and downright complacent of the inequality given to the ladies. I know you don’t blame me on a personal level, but as the RD the blame falls squarely on my back. I will make it known that we do value ALL runners and Podiums, not just the mens. We will have someone in charge of social media, post race photos and media coverage to insure this never happens again at my races. Thanks again for your honesty and courage, you are a true Champion.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Leslie Ames says:

    First – CONGRATULATIONS! Second – Thank you to Chaz for acknowledging Cat’s concerns. When reading articles, perusing the ‘net, I have always been very aware of the inequality of the coverage in general. Many articles give a blow-by-blow of the men’s race, then sprinkle in a couple of sentences about the women. Everyone out there – front, mid, back – works their butt off to even be able to run the race. I look forward to a time when men and women are given equal coverage – no matter the sport. In the meantime, thank you for being willing to take the leap to help bring this issue out into the open. And again – Congratulations!!

    Like

  19. I hate to be the downer here, but you are in the wrong sport if you are expecting people to call out your name at the finish line, even if you won. More times than not, I have seen top 3 finishers (men) cross the finish line without even the race director present. This sport is an awful spectator sport, second only to scuba diving. There are no bands playing, crowds of spectators, news crews, closed down public roads, etc., just people enjoying the trails. Before social media, no one even knew who won races until ultrarunning magazine had the result listed 6 months later. My point is that expectations should be kept very low, else you will be disappointed.

    I realize you were referring to a gender imbalance, but I do not see that. In fact, I was there and more people (throughout the day) were interested in the woman’s race than the men’s race. This sport is filled with quality people and strong athletes regardless of their gender.

    Being a volunteer of the sport is a thankless job. More people should get involved. Eric sacrificed his entire day to help at the race. Should we read into the reason why he did not stay till the last person come through? I don’t think so, Eric is a good guy and cannot imagine him leaving because he was not interested in the women’s race. The dude was likely spent.

    You rocked it and I wish I had stuck around to see you break the tape, but I could barely handle waiting for the 50k winner. Waiting at the finish for runners is the true endurance sport and worthy of an MC shout out.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Jen Hammond says:

    I find the women’s race to be the most exhilarating… It’s often so close and suspenseful! Not knowing the atmosphere of Canyons 100k, I would believe, no matter how awesome the RD was, there should have been some clear expectations from the RD for the announcer. I’m a slow runner, so never get my name called. I once did at Volcanic 50 by the Go Beyond crew, at 11:15 hours! You bring up evergreen points about women and men in general, but in the world of Ultra, I believe it’s each RDs duty to manage all aspects of the race, especially this one. If you don’t place importance on the female podium winners as you do the men, then it’s blatant, no matter how you shake a stick at it.

    I appreciate your talent. Wish I could fly like you!

    Like

  21. careycuprisin says:

    Congratulations on a great race! I’m personally very happy that you wrote this up and published it. As you said “But it takes every runner and every voice to make the difference.” I agree entirely.

    Like

  22. tomah says:

    You have made a fool of yourself. Congratulations

    Like

  23. Leopold says:

    You keep calling it the “men’s race”. That race is in fact the “humans race”. Had you finished in the Top 3 of the “men’s race” you would have been recognized.

    Here’s the thing. You finished first as a Female. But to most spectators, you were the 8th human they saw cross the finish line. You want gender equality, but by “equality” you mean you want to be treated different, to your benefit, based on your gender.

    Equality is that all humans are equal and compete on a level playing field. If genetics predisposes males to always win then males always win.

    The crux of the matter is that men’s basketball, or men’s running is not the issue. Humans want to see the best that Humans can do. Most humans don’t truly care about race, creed or gender when it comes to performance.

    If women performed at a greater level than men then that is what would get coverage. You know this to be true. If women were running 2hr marathons or jumping higher in basketball, that is what would be getting the air time and column space.

    What you are asking for is preferential treatment based on your gender. That even if another human, who happens to be male and worked just as hard as you, and committed just as much of their life to training, performs better than you that you should get to usurp the attention he might have received onto yourself purely based on your gender.

    You want equality? That is not equality. Performance alone should be why a human is recognized.

    Like

  24. Nelson says:

    Having read this, and then Eric’s response in his site, I can only say that I’m with Cat.

    And that I won’t be following URP from now on. I won’t give traffic or podcast downloads to a site that doesn’t take responsibility or have a professional standard according to its relevant position in the MUT community.

    Related to this, volunteering isn’t just a chance to be part of an event, is first and foremost a responsibility towards the people who’ve dedicated months of their lives to train and prepare. Being a volunteer doesn’t make anyone unaccountable.

    Like

  25. Benjamin says:

    First of congratulations on the race. I ran the 100k as well and both times you passed me on the out and backs you were so stoked and your energy levels were high and you inspired me to keep pushing.

    Thank you for writing this and please don’t be silent. Call people out. That’s there only way change happens.

    I’m going to share your post. Thank you for writing it and sharing your thoughts and emotions.

    Like

  26. Ryan Goodman says:

    I think you’ve picked an unfair target to direct your frustrations and there’s another side to every story. Not that this isn’t an important issue, but…

    Like

  27. Cat,
    Congrats! Thanks for sharing what it takes to get there. I take for granted and this elite, fast runners just have some talent or gift I do not.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. I really appreciate what you shared. This is a growing sport that is gaining in popularity. Now is the time to address this. Your voice is important. Please keep speaking up.

    Like

  28. rnypaver1 says:

    Beautifully and strongly written from a beautiful and strong woman!

    Like

  29. Reblogged this on The Life Work Blog and commented:
    A story of the struggle for recognition among women in sport.

    Like

  30. Cheering for your victory, as well as for your choice to step up and say something about your experience.

    Like

  31. evandjuni says:

    Love to hear about bad ass women being bad ass. Your amazing. keep it coming

    Like

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