Saturday, December 1, 2007

December...Western States...


This is an interesting and complex time of year for me. The big Western States lottery took place today and there are many disappointed folks. I can relate to this as I have never actually been selected to run a race via lottery. It must be excrutiating to sit through that pain! At the same time, I am also saddled with a nagging hamstring problem that is keeping me from doing what I love.

More to the point, this is the time of year that makes me think of Base Training (aforementioned injury notwithstanding!). For me, Base Training is long slow miles at aerobic pace intended to provide the foundation necessary to withstand the Canyons without hardship and stay focused going into the final "runnable" 20 miles. In this phase I never exceed 140 BPM on my Heart rate Monitor. And, in that context, this time of year is highlighted by skiing with my kids and the occasional trip to the mountains to test my mettle in the Backcountry. I'll save the Training Log for February.

And, for the Elephant in the Room, let me say I am a bit disappointed by the entrants list for Western States 2008 as it stands now. On the one hand, it is encouraging to me as it suggests a bit of an easier time getting that Top-10 finish that I compete for every year. On the other hand, as I view the Western States as the Masters' or Kentucky Derby of Ultrarunning, I wish a few more thoroughbreds had been granted admission for the 2008 Event. Don't get me wrong, the list as it stands is impressive, but if you added Meltzer, Krupicka, Halekas, Nielsen, Bien, Olsen and Freeman to that list (among many others) you might just have the Race of the Century.

I know it's not all about the Elites at this event and certainly many fast folks have crashed and burned over the years but the race and the sport are at a Crossroads and the signature event in the sport could make a strong statement in the 2008 race. To me, the Western States not only represents an event, but it stands for an ideal. It's an ideal I feel worth perpetuating.



nwgdc said...

I agree...I was really looking forward to such a great list of entrants. Congrats and be safe in the back country!

John said...

JW -
not to worry, the list does not include next spring's Montrail Ultra Cup winners, i.e., the first 3 men and women at Way Too Cool, AR and Miwok. I have it on good authority that several top runners (Skaggs bros. et al.) have hitched their stars to one of those wagons. And some of those on your list (Meltzer, Krupicka) appear not to have any interest in WS. . . turns out you have to apply to get selected!

Heal fast, and remember - it's only December.

aloha, TJ

Anton said...

I did apply. But, I suppose a MUC race or two awaits...

Jasper Halekas said...


Of course there will be some more good runners getting in this spring, but that's no guarantee of anything. As I recall, last year's qualifiers from those three races did not make much of a splash in the overall standings. Turns out running a fast Cool or AR is not really a good predictor of success at a 100. Seems like it would make a hell of a lot more sense to have some of the other major 100's as qualifiers, rather than some of the 50k's and flat 50 milers that are currently included.

Also, you have some incorrect information. Meltzer and Krupicka certainly did apply.

And I'll be pretty surprised if Kyle goes for WS unless he misses out in the Hardrock lottery. Dunno about Eric.


Michael Kanning said...

16% chance of qualifying is too little. My $0.02 on what WS should do...

1) Certainly the race is not all about the elites, but a time of 11:00 for 50 miles and 14:00 for 100K to qualify for WS are nowhere near elite times either. The main thing I would do is toughen the qualifying standards a bit to, say, 9:00/50 Mile, 11:30/100K, and 24:00/100 Mile (rather than just a finish).

2) Eliminate the "25 automatic foriegn runners rule". It's cool that WS is an international race, but it shouldn't be any easier for international runners to get in than domestic athletes.

3) Ax the current qualifier races, and replace them with other 100 mile races.

4) Eliminate the "no under-18" rule. Obviously I am very biased because my application was rejected purely on account of being 16 on race day, but it doesn't seem fair to exclude young runners if they have proved themselves in previous ultras.

Paul Charteris said...


I agree that more of the elite runners should have been given special consideration to run. I would have loved to have seen both local guys Jon Olsen and Lon Freeman on the starting list. I realize guys of this caliber have the ability to qualify via the remaining Montrail slots but it’s entirely possible they may miss out due to runners who can go all-out over these relatively shorter distances. At the same time, I do like the ideal they uphold that it is a race everyone can run provided you are fortunate enough to get picked. It is certainly a difficult conundrum for race organizers.

Michael, one of your suggestions looks like it may come true. Foreign slots may disappear in the near future.

Cheers, Paul

King Arthur said...

What are they going to do when the automatic entries exceeds their quota?
“371 of 1350 Runners selected”, leaves 979 unlucky souls not selected. I also agree with making it a little harder to get in.

swolfe said...

I have a few thoughts.

In response to qualifying for WS. I went to the races that were on the schedule where opportunity presented itself last year. Had the MUC been different and the courses been more conducive for running well in a 100 miler, I would of trained for and done those events. I agree, though, that 50K and flat 50 milers are not good measures. That said, the winner of AR last year was 2nd at WS.

I think a simple way to solve this problem is to make qualifying for WS 100 require a 100 mile race finish in order to qualify. It's as simple as that. I also think If you win one of the 100 milers that is included into the Grand Slam, you should get be offered automatic entry into WS.

Top 10 rule should stay. Top 10 at WS and you deserve to be invited back next year.

In response to eliminating the spots for euros and aussies...

OK. Then lets limit the number of californians to 100.

Seriously, though. 25 spots is not that many.

Take a stand a make a change now.

Jasper, Anton. I think both of you deserve spots in the race based on what both of you did this past year. Tahoe and Leadville wins deserve a spot on the starting line in squaw.

It's been my pleasure to offer my two cents on Tan Mitt's blogspot.

Scott Wolfe
Eugene, Oregon.

Gundy said...

This is definitely an interesting issue. I definitely agree with eliminating of the 25 automatic international entries and the needs for a 100 mile finish to apply. If you make it a 24 hour 100 miler to apply, you end up killing some of the egalitarian spirit of the race. It may not be a lot of spots, but they are spots nonetheless that could be opened to the general pool.

But the last suggestion to limit Californias to 100 seems to forget the fact that between 40%-50% of the applicants are from California, and should be treated proportionally. I know others have pointed out using other 100 milers as qualifiers, but I think we have to respect Montrail's sponsorship and realize that the sponsorship is a result of being able to tie the race into other Montrail-sponsored races.

It's always a hard line to balance, to keep the elite status the race holds by encouraging elite competition, while continuing to honor the perservering spirit of the race which the back-of-the-packer sometimes embodies much more than the "elite".

Anonymous said...

I say open up the off whoever you gotta pay off to expand the entrants limit, and let 20,000 runners hit the trails...

Ben, aka BadBen said...

I agree with the few that want to up the requirements (to at least a 100-mile finish or sub-24 100-mile finish). There are way too many "easy" 50-mile races out there to qualify on.

At WS training camp this year, half of the first day folks didn't go the 2nd day, because of blistering issues, etcetera. Many of these folks had a berth in the race. Many were actually from that area, and had no excuse not to train on the actual trails of the event. Coming from Kansas, I was amazed at the wimp-out factor of these folks.

I say, make tougher lottery entry requirements to make room for someone who actually has a good chance to finish or PR; and it would certainly help the elite field, as well.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Craig said...

I had a crazy idea I suggested to Tim Twietmeyer. Reverse the course, double the number entrants and only allow the first 369 to continue into the Granite Chief Wilderness. Maybe just reverse the course every other year since some people will probably want to run it in the traditional direction.

speedgoat said...

First, I agree with CharlieM, Open up the trail and let them run. If this bothers the FS, go to Mt. Blanc and figure out how to run a race, they handle 4000 no problem...textbook style, and that trail was not wider than WS. Actually much tougher and narrower.
As far as MUC, they messed up everything when they started this. It should be called the Soderlund Cup. (No offense to Greg at all), it has a great ring to it, and since 4 races are his, he might as well create his own Northern Cali race series and donate some RD profits back to prize money, cuz' "money brings out competition, old school tradition brings out the masses". I like that quote! Don't get me wrong without the masses we would have nothing.
Montrail buying out the spots is retarded, and let's remember is there a waiting list for this race...NO, I don't think so. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
If there is no waiting list to get in, and the FS allows 350 something runners to get in, then what is the problem? I don't think anyone has addressed this yet. I would like to know how many runners the FS actually allows to start, and if it's 350ish, then it's a big bunch of bull#%&&^$##@!!! We all know there will be a certain number of runners that have to bail for whatever reason. The wait list secures the number. And Jon Olsen and Lon Freeman are two I missed, man the list gets longer. Wahsatchspeedgoat

Paul DeWitt said...

I hate to be the voice of reason here, but the 350 number isn't bullshit (or at least not WS bull; it is the USFS that makes up the numbers); the race has to meet a certain "5 year running" average of runners. You're right that they don't know how many people won't actually show up, but in the last few years they've had more show up than expected, so they have to get that average back down. It isn't an exact science I'm sure.

Hey, here's a idea. Let a thousand people in and only the first 350 to the top of the first hill get to continue into the wilderness area!

speedgoat said...

I love that idea. 350 to the top. But there has to be some incentive, like the Speedgoat 50K. It's a small amount, but I give 100 bucks to first runner to the top of the first hill. It's a 9 mile climb with 4000' vert.
Knew the 350 was a forest service thing, we understand that, so how do they get there numbers down? only allow 300 next year? Certainly not an exact science!

Tony Lafferty said...

All..interesting discussion....There is a fine line in managing this race with limitations on how many runners can be on this course due to race permits. Second the trail running community is exploding in numbers each year. Its a great fitness activity.

There are a number of different models the WS Board and other races can choose. It is upto the board to promote and protect the integrity of the race.

Having a high quality and competitive field is high priority. Retaining and gaining sponsors is also very important. This race and others just don't happen on a shoestring budget.
There is a finite number of folks allowed on the course. Gaining permits for additional races is next to impossible.

As for qualifying, two time losers, etc...I can see a number of ways to open things up a bit.

Some initial thoughts...

1)Create a points system for the lottery where runners during the calander year submits race history info. Runner is awarded lottery tickets based on how many 100,100k 50mile races the individual runs in established times. ie...runner completes 3 races..1-100mi, 1-100k, 1-50mi...

100mile race=4tickets, 100k-2 50mile-1

2)Additionaly the volunteer service requirements can be increased or additional lottery tickets afforded runners that give back to the community. Lets not forget that giving back is very important. We all have had help from Volunteers at races. This applies to the elite runners as well.

There are many variations to this and its a good discussion.


Anonymous said...

Well written article.