My Thoughts on New Qualifying Races for Western States and Hardrock

AJWs TaproomWestern States and Hardrock are the two most in-demand 100 milers on the American circuit. In recent years, the probability of gaining entry into either of these races through their respective lotteries has decreased to less than 10%. It is for this reason that I am quite pleased that both events have recently announced changes in the races in which runners can qualify.

For Western States, interested runners must complete one of a list of 63 races within a year beginning and ending in early November. Most of the qualifying races are 100-mile races but, in keeping with Western States tradition of providing opportunity for runners to run their first 100 at the WS100, there are several 100k races on the list of qualifiers and a few events longer than 100k and shorter than 100 miles.

For Hardrock, an event that has for years billed itself as a “post-graduate” run, a 100-mile finish has always been a prerequisite and they maintain a list of acceptable qualifiers based on their own criteria. The Hardrock organizers have announced a significant reduction in the number of qualifying races based on their standards. Among the races on their list are Angeles Crest, Wasatch, Grindstone, and UTMB. Absent from the list are long-time qualifiers Western States and Massanutten.

I believe both of these races have made excellent decisions in adjusting their qualifying races and I would argue that both races have done so for strikingly similar reasons:

1. Both events have become significantly over-subscribed. By tightening up qualifying standards, the odds of being selected will go up slightly for each event. This is a good thing as each year’s lottery leaves more and more disappointed runners on the outside looking in. As an inclusive sport, it is my hope that we will always stay true to our egalitarian roots and these changes are a nod in that direction.

2. It is important for the organizers of both events that as many runners as possible finish their races. Certainly, there are many factors that could lead to DNFs but neither Western States nor Hardrock want runners at their starting lines who aren’t adequately prepared to get to their finish lines. As such, placing more demands on qualifiers and requiring runners to prove some degree of experience is essential in increasing the number of finishers. And, in an era when many people realize participation in this races could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, placing a premium on finishing seems entirely appropriate.

3. While it may not have been the intention of the organizers of these events, I believe these changes will be excellent opportunities for other races to increase their profiles and help to incrementally grow the sport. Think, for example, of the Laurel Highlands Ultra in Pennsylvania. This event, long a staple on the East Coast regional running circuit taking place on a beautiful stretch of trail, will now likely increase in size and stature as a legitimate Western States qualifier. Or how about the Mogollon Monster, a relatively new 100 miler in northern Arizona on the same trail as the well-known and longstanding Zane Grey 50. One can imagine how, due to the fact that it is one of only a handful of Hardrock qualifiers, that this tough, desert race will grow exponentially. It is my belief that moderate growth and expansion of these grassroots-type events will be essential to the long-term success of ultrarunning in this country and I believe Western States and Hardrock believe in the importance of such growth. Making these new standards does just that.

Finally, some heads were turned when the new Hardrock standards were revealed and Western States was left off the list. As a huge supporter of both events, I have to say I think it’s a good idea to not include WS100 as a qualifier. Here’s why:

1. Western States has enough traffic heading its way today. It does not need, or perhaps want, to provide people with another incentive to run it. For people wanting to run Hardrock, there are now ample opportunities to sign up for races without lotteries in order to get a qualifier and I see no reason why Western States would or should feel slighted by being left off this list.

2. If the goal of the Hardrock qualifiers is to prepare people for running Hardrock, then not including WS100 makes sense. I’ve run Hardrock once and Western States nine times. They are entirely different beasts. Wasatch, Angeles Crest, and Grindstone are all much better acclimating races to Hardrock than Western States is. In fact, I would argue that the final 25 miles of all three of these races are among the toughest finishing stretches of any 100 milers (save Hardrock and Barkley). And, on a side note, the organizational issues of Leadville notwithstanding, I think it too, like WS100, is not a worthy Hardrock qualifier. I know it’s hard for some people to believe but the total elevation gain at Leadville is only a couple thousand feet more than Vermont. I am sorry, but that kind of vert will not prepare you for running from sea level to the top of Mount Everest and back. Simple as that.

So, there you have it, my thoughts on all the new qualifying races. What do y’all think?

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Victory DirtWolf DIPA
This week’s Beer of the Week is DirtWolf Imperial IPA from Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. If you like subtle beers, this one is not for you. The resiny hops hit you the minute it touches your lips and they don’t let up until it clears your system, if you know what I mean. :-)

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  •  Do highly oversubscribed races warrant tighter restrictions on entry? In other words, is it a detriment to races or the sport to routinely have a less than 10% chance of entry in a race?
  • If so, how best to limit the number of entrants? Making entry standards tighter time-wise? Limiting the qualification to races of more similar distances? Selecting a limited set of entry races that match the oversubscribed race’s values, thereby using the race’s influence to disseminate those values? Using markers of desire such as integral or exponential increases in ‘tickets’ upon lottery failure and sequential reapplication, increased accumulation of entry points (if a race were to expand up UTMB’s point system), or cost?
  • What creative alternatives can we come up with as a community? What about a matching system, like the one used for med students and residency programs?

A Call for Civility (from Bryon)
Many of us have highly personal, deeply held thoughts and feelings with regard to race entry, public-land use, the essence of the sport, why you participate in it, and so on. I encourage you to share your thoughts and engage in discussion. I require that you be civil, as you would with someone you were spending 20 miles on the trail with or sharing a beer with afterward. Your opinions can and should differ, but among differing opinions is plenty of room for civility, friendship, and respect.

There are 155 comments

  1. bohica

    AJW,

    I'm sure many will chime in on Western, but I'm focused in Hardrock here.

    I think the Grindstone exclusion for Hardrock is just for this past year when I believe it wasn't run due to the government shutdown. That makes sense.

    In my view, the big story is the HR 100 direct commentary on Leadville. Obviously, they are trying to send a message to Leadville and I hope Lifetime Fitness hears it.

    On the flip slide to your commentary, it will be interesting if any of the races not deemed as qualifiers will see race numbers decrease. Massanutten always sounded really cool to me, but I have to admit, it makes it less palatable to travel across the country to do it now. I'm guessing these races will become more regional in nature, but numbers will be marginally impacted.

    Still, HR 100 made the right move. The lottery numbers are so astronomical that something had to be done. I applaud the move.

    1. AJW

      Bohica, Yes, the G'Stone situation is that it was canceled this year, therefore nobody can use the 2013 race as a qualifier. It is my understanding that it will be on the qulaifiers list for the foreseeable future.

      And, I completely agree, it will be interesting to see if races that are left off the qualifying list will see a drop in demand, that certainly would help WS!

    2. CDG

      Agree with AJW's point number 3 and overall favor the adjustments made to both races. On the other hand, removing Massanutten from the Hardrock qualifiers list means that there's only one qualifier on the east coast (and Barkley – but well, that's Barkley). Surely there must be one more race on the east coast sufficient to meet the standard rather than making wannabe Hardrock entrants fly halfway across the country to qualify.

      1. Mike D.

        Hardrock now has no midwest qualifying races. Superior trail 100 is 22K of elevation gain, only 1K less than grindstone. While I agree with the concept of choosing harder qualifying races, I also think they need to consider that not everyone can afford to go out west just in an attempt to qualify.

      2. Brett

        Massanutten is a small, relatively inexpensive, beautiful, rugged, well marked, well controlled, well run race. But the altitude is in the 2,000 foot range and most of the climbs are only 1,000 to 2,000 feet in length. Put your head down for about an hour and you're over the next rise.

        Due to the small number of finishers each year (~140) and being an option on the east coast would be positives for its inclusion. I haven't done Hardrock but I did do San Juan Solstice – so its a little bit of extrapolation, but my gut tells me there is no comparison between Massanutten and Hardrock in terms of elevation and elevation gain. If you're willing to travel halfway across the country to do Hardrock, I imagine you'd be willing to travel somewhere for a qualifier too.

        I too agree with the moves by each race.

  2. Chris

    Looks like Sawtooth is getting phased out as a Hardrock qualifier as well. I was under the impression that was one of the harder 100's. Having never run it I can't say for sure but thought it had decent vert plus plenty of not so runnable terrain.

    Glad to hear both are making qualifying tougher but sorry to see so many east coast qualifiers drop off the list. Hardrock now allows 2 east coast qualifiers: Grindstone and Barkley. Can't wait to see all those Barkley finishers sign up for Hardrock. Hope they update the website to handle the extra traffic. Western States now only allows 3 Mid-Atlantic qualifiers. The lowest of any region.

    Is it just me or are us east coasters being penalized for not living near mountains?

    I get it, they're tough races, they want people to finish. They want proven runners. But, it seems to me they've made it much tougher for everyone east of the Mississippi.

    Furthermore, did WS and Hardrock just shift the low percentage of getting accepted from their race to others races? Did my chances of getting in to WS go up 10% and my chance of getting into Grindstone go down 10%? I know Grindstone hasn't filled until later in the year. I'm betting now it just got a lot harder to get into.

    And, really Hardrock, no MMT? Come on.

  3. Mike

    I think these adjustments make sense, but I've also felt that there should be some type of cap on the ability to do these races if you've participated in them say 3 or 4 times previously. more people could experience these races if you had less "legacy" runners in the system. Maybe it would focus people on being the best prepared for the race? Anyway, my 2 cents as I'm not involved with directing either race.

  4. Alex

    I'd still like to see Hardrock reserve a handful of slots for those who win qualifiers, or establish their ability through some other means. I know, I know. It's a "run". A timed run, with a winner, which sounds an awful lot like a race to me. But, oh well. It's all good. I'd also like to see Boston return to a 2:50 qualifying standard, so maybe I'm just nuts.

      1. Jesse

        That is for 2014. The new changes don't take effect until 2015. I am also curious if MUC qualifiers will have to be beyond 50 mile?

  5. Tahoe Pete

    Great article AJW I certainly agree that this is the right direction for both races and I am excited to see my chances go up for both. The only issue I had with either of the changes was the fact that hardrock dropper TRT from the list. This had me scratching my head as from what I have been told it is harder then cascade crest. TRT is also run at a higher altitude then cascade crest. I do however acknowledge that the TRT does lack any technical challenge on the course so maybe that is why. It does certainly fall under every other standard hardrock laid out. With that said TRT has all ready moved to a lottery itself so maybe they felt they like WS could move on form being a qualifier. It just probably bums me out because it is in my backyard. None the less I agree 1000% that these changes are going to help grow the sport of ultra running in a positive way. Thanks for the article.

    1. KenZ

      Well, nothing against Cascade Crest (one of my all time favorite races to date, and something EVERYONE should try and run at least once), but I wouldn't call it all that technical. Of course, I wouldn't call TRT technical either, as you point out. I'm not saying CC is easy, but saying the footing is more technical than TRT is like claiming to be the tallest pygmy on the basketball team.

      Again, LOVE both races; but if you think CC is in any way, shape, or form "technical," go run the Mogollon Monster and then let's talk.

      1. KenZ

        PS- just re-read what I wrote, and that wasn't in any way disagreeing with you Tahoe Pete, but it kinda read that way. When I wrote "you" I was referring to the general reader, not you personally!

    1. CDG

      Right, but that simply bolsters the point there ought to be at least a second east coast qualifier should a shutdown happen again. If you didn't run MMT in May, couldn't run Grindstone, and can't fly to a race, you're SOL till October 2014.

  6. Lstomsl

    I agree. It's a race operated on public land and it shouldn't be operated as a private club. That's just wrong. I'm not that familiar with WS but for hardrock at least there will inevitably be fewer legacies as time goes on. It's gonna be virtually impossible for new runners to ever get five finishes after the current legacies stop running.

    1. Spencer V

      Well, it's a race. They get to choose the qualifications. They could eventually just give a list of names, and say "this is who is running it, they've become involved enough that we want them to run". Which they do, since they give out tickets for volunteering.

      It is public land. You could go run any day you wanted. I'll go with you. Just give me a time and day.

  7. Josh

    Were the races that are on the qualifying list(s) approached by WS/HR with the proposition of accepting a place on the list(s)?

    What happens when the races that are on the qualifying list(s) become impacted . Will they then require lotteries? Or perhaps qualifying races of their own?

    1. olga

      That what the question I had. I am all for tightening the qualifiers, and I do understand that the pick for the Hardrock is thin to be legit, but for WS a 100M finish would suffice and now there are races cross-over for both lotteries that will be over-packed (and there are people who want to run those said races without the agenda of doing either WS or HR in the future, and they will be affected as well). But, for now, we can only accept and see what happens. And not hope to run, say, AC or CC, due to the increased interest (even more so than it was already) and re-direct interest to other 100's.

      1. AJW

        I know that WS and HRH review their lists constantly as this is not a set of fixed criteria. In that context, I would not be at all surprised to see new races pop up with the intent of becoming qualifiers. The organizers would need to prove to WS/HRH that they are worthy qualifiers and then the stage could be set for raising the bar for the entire sport.

        In fact, I am doing this personally as I am preparing to direct a 100K Trail Race here in Virginia in March. It's only in the conceptual stages now and certainly not ready for prime time but the challenge is fun.

        1. Greg

          Just out of curiousity, how many of the qualifying races for either event already have lotteries? I'm all about the changes but can't help but think that, especially for Hardrock, one's chances of getting in might be dependent upon getting in ANOTHER lottery. Wasatch, Angeles Crest, Cascade Crest, and probably a few others already have lotteries, right? Pine to Palm doesn't, which others don't?

          I think it is great that these changes have happened for both races. But at some point it becomes a logistical nightmare to try to ensure you can get a qualifying run in just to make it into the lottery. Furthermore, a lot of people probably don't have the financial means to travel across the country to run more than one race a year.

          But not getting into Western States or Hardrock really just means that we as ultra runners have opportunities to discover other great races. For example, I've heard a lot recently about Superior Sawtooth. Maybe I'll check that out if I can't get through those two lotteries. After all, the world does not end at either Auburn or Silverton.

          1. Lucia

            Creg, I agree. I am all for what Olga said above – it would be very helpful if any challenging 100 mile finish would qualify for Western States.

            I am from Northern CA and we are only left with hard-to-get-into-lottery Miwok and now lottery-only Tahoe; while Southern California, for example, has got three 100 races one could qualify at.

            I am all in support for having to run a hard race to qualify, of course, but so many of us have budget considerations and especially limited ability to take time off to travel.

  8. mushmouph

    special rules for legacy runners reward the people who put the race on the map by supporting it in it's infancy. why penalize them to appease those looking to check off another classic on their list?

  9. Adam

    I'm a local in Duluth, MN where Sawtooth is. It is a hard technical run and probably one of the more difficult 100's in the country. It is lacking the long climbs and mountain weather, however, and that is my bet for why HR is dropping it. I think for us lowlanders it is worthwhile going out west to run a mountain race prior to soaking up a spot in HR, where even with some solid cred a finish is very difficult.

  10. Adam

    With regards to WS, I'd have actually liked to see them drop any qualifier less than 100 miles and institute their own finish time constraints on the 100 mile qualifiers. For instance, all you have to do is finish Rocky Raccoon in its 30 hour limit to qualify for WS. I seriously doubt that anyone that does RR in over 29 hours is prepared to finish WS in under 30. RealEndurance.com provides a good comparison of races to figure out what a comparable finish time at your favorite local 100 is against WS. It says you need to run RR in about 25 hours to compare to a 30 hour WS finish.

  11. Kurt Decker

    I agree things needed to be done but It seems crazy to make it so hard to get in. Not everyone can travel all around all the time. At least WS has races all around the country on the new list.

    1. Forrest T.

      I'm with Kurt. Taking out the Superior 100 is just plain silly. That race is a beast and the decision leaves us Midwesterners who don't have deep pockets without options.

  12. AJW

    David T, I would guess that assuming Thunder Rock goes off without a hitch it could end up on the list (like Mogollon Monster did)

  13. Adam Wilcox

    I'm largely in favor of the qualifier changes, but I would have liked to see Massanutten stay. I say this as a Hardrock finisher and someone who's run Massanutten slightly slower than Wasatch in the same year.

    1. Steve Pero

      I'm also surprised Massanutten was removed. I have run (hiked?) both MMT and Hardrock a few times and MMT left me a withering noodle at the finish. With the non stop climbs, rocks and humidity it is a worthy challenge and should be added back as a qualifier. I have also run Grindstone, pacing 50 miles so saw the whole course and I actually think MMT is more difficult.

      Having been involved with Hardrock since 2000 as a runner and volunteer, I agree with all other selections…maybe this will whittle down the entrants in future years,which is close to 1000 right now for 140 entrants!

      To hear a good discussion on this by one of the HRH board members, listen here. http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/

      1. Charlie M.

        Took me 2 hours longer to finish Massanutten than Angeles Crest. Brutal course, that Mass-a-nuthin'. It is over-simplistic to judge a course by elevation gain and altitude. Massanutten is dark and brooding, humid and blister-causing, rocky and unrelenting. Angeles Crest had altitude and ruggedness, but it was expanisve and peaceful, smoother (albeit dustier), and inspiring. Yes there were massive climbs and descents, but they seemed technically easier to me than the jagged, grass- and moss-hidden, slippier rocks of Massanutten. I say keep it as a qualifier! :)

  14. Cameron

    How can you write this article and not mention Leadville as no longer a qualifier for HR?

    Leadville would by Andrea's – (HR Board member) own admission still be a qualifier if not for the horrible management and general disregard for environmental impact that we saw and subsequently discussed this year. So the disqualifying is understandable.

    Here's where the HR Board is way off. " We definitely wanted to send a statement" in regards to taking out Leadville. Okay… fine. I suppose you can be a self proclaimed graduate & prestigious run by that admission. But then to take away a year of qualifier for the runners that finished this year is LUDICROUS. Did the runners who finished this year have any idea that the race was going to be mismanaged? Has the board become so bent on sending a "Message" to Lifetime or Ken or who ever else that CLEARLY has not been listening to anything post Leadville that they would punish the runners to send this message? WAY WAY off the mark.

    The fact is that Hard Rock has no Never Started runners on the board. They never will. They are the Augusta golf course of the ultra world. Its disgusting the pathetic 35 slots they are allocating never started. Something like a 3% chance for those with one name? This is pathetic. At least western- with a much longer and richer history than HR is making attempts to see that its run does not become the impossible to get into, unobtainable race that HR is becoming- no has become. If you want to run/qualify for Western now- much like Boston you just have to train harder. Simple. HR – All you can hope for is some ridiculous 3-7% odd or 2 dozen people in front of you on the wait list being struck with lightning.

    TLDR- Western good- HR broken good ole boys club.

    1. Adam Wilcox

      Simmer down, you can still use this year's LT100 finish for this year's Hardrock lottery.

      Running a HR qualifier on a yearly basis is not that big of a deal. Keep trying and you'll get in, that's the way the lottery is structured. It's 100% fair to reward those who show a multi-year commitment to the sport and HR. Those who complain should feel lucky they have any chance at all for the instant gratification of entry on their first try.

      1. StephenJ

        You only have to finish an HR qualifier every other year.

        Not that it really matters to me, but they also dropped the qualify-by-essay option. I've got Wasatch and Bear finishes, so I'm qualified, but I've done solo, unsupported adventure runs that make Wasatch seem like a hand-held walk in the park.

  15. T.S.

    The change in standards for WS seems eminently sensible–lower the number of people in the lottery without making the qualifying races too much harder or longer. The 100k option makes sense in that way because it doesn't go all the way to requiring a previous 100-miler. But the decisions on the part of the Hardrock board seem a little more opaque. Or, perhaps, the twin goals of lowering lottery numbers and better preparing entrants doesn't sync quite as well given the whole idea of the "post-graduate run," as well as the safety concerns in the San Juans. If the HR board merely wanted to help out the lottery, it seems as though a time standard for the majority of the races (excepting Barkley, Ronda, and Plain) would make more sense than dropping a few of the more popular/accessible qualifying races. Obviously, I'm in no position to decide which races prepare an entrant to take on the beast that is the Hardrock course, and please correct me if I'm working with erroneous info, but it seems as though there is some arbitrariness in deciding which 100s are sufficiently steep/technical/unrelenting/high-altitude that they "prepare" the entrant (or, to use the rhetoric of the board, "graduate" the entrant from the U. of Easier (Sometimes Harder) Hundred Milers).

    The fact that we're debating the various races that are being phased out indicates that there's no true way to decide the relative difficulty of various courses. Perhaps at best we could categorize the qualifiers (old and new) into 3 categories: One, as hard/harder than Hardrock as defined by those who have run both (Barkley, Ronda, maybe Plain and Tor de Geants); two, in the same range, but not quite the same numbers-wise (AC, UTMB, Wasatch, etc.); and three, a definite step down from the difficulty of the bigger-vert races (Grindstone, Cascade Crest, et al.). But as the saying goes, There's no such thing as an easy hundred miler, so even making general gradations is a slippery slope. Consider, for instance, that Tommy Nielsen once said that running "well" at AC is harder than running well at Hardrock–recall Jamil Coury's miraculous potato-buritto-fueled comeback this summer, compared with Dom Grossman in the heat at AC (puking at Vincent Gap, dealing with allergies near Chilao, and more).

    In sum, it would seem counterproductive to claim because Hardrock has enormous climbs and descents and a preposterous amount of overall gain and loss, it's ineluctably harder than any other hundred stateside. WS has inferno-like heat (at times, anyhow), Superior has a crazy number of ups and downs (and more overall climb than AC!), Tahoe is at a sustained high altitude and heated up quite a lot this summer. Doubtless, a Hardrock qualifier should be a "mountain hundred" of some persuasion, but where does the board draw the line between preparing the runner and allowing for the runner to venture into the unknown when they line up in Silverton? Joe Grant, in discussing his experience at Hardrock this year, talked about the need for the unknown to lure the spirit into the hills to participate in such events. Also recall Dakota's recollections of his 2011 run: "I was amazed that it was THIS HARD!!" He had made his way through the Bear the previous fall, the lottery had treated him well, and he showed up on the day and had an amazing outing despite blowing up early and later falling down a scree slope (!). Granted, Dakota is a phenomenal athlete, but who's to say that another mostly unknown runner can't pull off a similar feat? Moreover – and I say this as a northeasterner – who's to say that Massanutten shouldn't play the same role as the Bear did for Dakota? Yes, altitude is important, as other commenters have mentioned, but it sounds as though MMT is indeed a "mountain hundred" – and a more technical trail than any that remains on the list, to boot.

    So, in sum, I would like to hear more from the Hardrock board about their thought process. I don't doubt that they understand the power that their decisions exerts on the North American ultra world in general. But I am also concerned that the desire for a more manageable lottery will change one of the essential facts of what draws people to the race, on an abstract level, in the first place: to launch off into the San Juans without convincing proof that they can make it to Ouray, Telluride, Lake City, and back within two sunrises. As Anton put it about Nolan's 14, what draws us to these immense challenges is in part that self-motivation and -confidence must come out of an inner faith that, perhaps, transcends the limitations of the rather scary +/- 33,992' statistic.

    Thanks,

    TS

  16. AJW

    Cameron, In response to your question in your first sentence I did not include the Hardrock/Leadville conflict because I did not want to incite a debate over tactics. Obviously, there is tremendous frustration with both events (for Leadville for alleged mismanagement and Hardrock for publicly criticizing said management). I this article I deliberately was intending not to fuel that debate by sticking to, what I believe, are the essential goals and objectives of the new qualifying races. And, in one of my last paragraphs I did comment a bit on Leadville as a HRH qualifier.

  17. Cody L. Custis

    What I see is the acknowledgment that trail events (in the sense of events run in Western mountains) are not comparable to events run in other parts of the country. There is a strong Western look to qualifiers for Western States, and an even stronger Western look to the Hardrock qualifiers.

    On the other hand, looking at an example event on the East coast, I look at the JFK50 qualifying standards (4:20 on a 50k for men) and realize that meeting such a standard on a trail event (in the sense of events run in Western mountains) cannot be done.

    I am quite content to see Western mountain events have Western mountain qualifying standards, as East coast races have had qualifying standards that are completely unreasonable from Western mountain events.

  18. David W

    So ther are lots of reasons to do this or that with qualifying standards. But really the boards are just picking winners and losers with the "qualifying lists." I may be wrong but I think there may actually be a big drop in participants in many long standing races that were previously qualifiers. Hope it isn't so!

  19. Mic

    I agree with Steve; MMT is a tough course that should be included as you are always goaded to move with the ups and downs. There is no time to rest and it doesn't leave you with the feeling to take a nap for even 30 minutes. Not to mention the rocks that at, say, mile 30 could leave your ankle lacerated for the next 70 miles – along with trashed and blistered feet.

    Although the bigger issue is, where is the HR lawyer or team of lawyers. The guy/gal or team that can approach the DNR or the Parks staff and cogently make the case to up the number from 140 to 400 entrants?

    With those numbers you will have more volunteers – that will "clean up" the trails. I witness an event locally every year that has 1,100 entrants and the trails are as clean as can be. Those trails are also maintained with volunteer crews – alas trail runners don't do much trail maintanence comparably.

    But yes, I still think that the number of entrants can be increased with effort and a good argument.

    Thanks for the friendly debates and thoughtful input.

    In 2030 will Hardrock still only allow 140 entrants?

    1. Cameron

      Absolutely- well put. I question ( my own opinion ) if HR wants to expand if they could. I think they like being as small/elite/ "graduate" as possible

      1. Kim

        Being a first timer to HR, in 2012, I would like to elect to keep the field at 140 people-even if that means I do not get an entry in future races.

        My HR qualifier? I am from the east. MMT for 2011,12,13. Not that I ran it for the HR qualifier, that was a bonus actually! MMT is being phased out as a qualifier.

        I think if you have not been to HR, you may not understand the ramifications to the course, or the nature of the race. I do not mean this in any disrespect, but at least, to me, once you are there, you "get it". You are part of the HR Family.

        I do not think the HRH Board of Directors are trying to keep this "elite" or small as possible.

        After reading over much of the online material, listening to Andrea on the "Elevation Trail" podcast, I do concur with the Board about the qualifiers. The Board wants you to be be safe, and able to finish HR, and to do so, is looking for races that give you the type of training you need to finish HR.

        Even though I DNF'd HR in 2012 (dropped at Grouse Gulch) afterwards I did feel like I was part of the Hardrock Family. You get on the course, you see the course. You are at the finish line. You see folks finishing. Hardrock is *hard*.

        Even though I actually *love* the MMT Trail, I can appreciate why the HRH Board has removed it as a qualifier. In these days, there are now more trail races that mimic conditions that a HR entrant will go through on race day conditions.

    2. bmj

      *In 2030 will Hardrock still only allow 140 entrants?*

      Isn't there some degree of consideration toward the relative "alpine" environment of the race? Taking 400-500 runners over the lightly used (and possibly fragile) trails of the San Juans is entirely different that 500+ runners over, say, the Laurel Highlands trail.

      I'm sure it's much easier to direct a race like HR with fewer participants, and significantly easier to manage the impact of the race.

      1. t dog

        +1

        Environmental, logistical, and safety issues lead me to believe 400 people at Hardrock is a bad idea (admittedly having never participated in the event myself).

        1. Anonymous

          The major impact of the runners at Hardrock is NOT the runners, it's the massive crews they bring for support. Cars parking all over the place, on sensitive areas, This is where the impact is noticed. More runners are possible, more crews are not.

  20. brandon

    I'm a total newbie at this long distance stuff. I ran my first (hopefully of many) 50 mile race just last month at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. I wasn't running it to qualify for WS but many runners were. I just remember thinking, wow, I don't know if running 50 miles on that terrain would have prepared me for running it again with approx 50% more gain plus tons more downhill quad pounding (as compared with WS). Maybe I'm wrong but that's my impression. Maybe the Lake Sonoma 50 but they pulled that from the list of qualifiers as well, leaving only the Miwok 100K as a local qualifier. I looked at the link provided by one other poster showing the year/year increase in WS lottery entries and I agree they should do something to stem the flow. Maybe this will help "regional" events even more by taking on more WS-possibles. Maybe after a few years there might even be more "premier" 100 mile events to compete with WS given the growth of the sport.

  21. TCat

    Another great article AJW!

    My concern is that WS and HR may be shifting the burden of "difficult to gain entry" to other races when there are significantly fewer qualifying runs.

    If not selected by the WS lottery this round, I planned to run a 50m qualifier a few hours away. Since that race has been eliminated, a 100km option is luckily available nearby but can only accommodate 140 runners and filled in less than an hour last year. This race will obviously have much more demand now so chances of entry are likely to significantly decrease for 2014. I wonder if other qualifying races will become difficult to gain access to that are WS qualifiers?

    As a back up plan, should I apply to several other races to make sure I gain entry into a qualifying race somewhere? This likely will cost extra $ and could involve distant travel.

    I'm 100% in favor of the changes made to the qualifying standards. I just hope most everyone has the opportunity to gain entry into a qualifying race each year without it being left to lottery luck or a significant $ burden.

  22. shannon

    I'm 'pro' all of the changes; who doesn't want better lottery odds?

    My question is, and I brought this up on the Ulist to no real reply, Why is HURT, which is commonly considered the second hardest 100miler out there (depending on who you talk to) being phased out?

    With 25k of up and down and serious sustained climbs with no flats to recover on, it can have serious mountain weather including mudslides and lightning, animals, extraordinarily technical terrain, exposure to 250ft-500ft cliffs, and so on.

    A very few amount of people actually finish (60ish a year), so I see no real extra load on the HR lottery there (in comparison to the 500+ finishers at LV), and fewer people enter the HURT lottery, mainly due to the seasonal timing and the general expense of getting out there.

    For the people that show the level of commitment to make the far and expensive trek out there, and all of the training to actually finish, now they have to spend again to go to -another- race to qualify. Not to mention that for the indigenous HI runners that can barely get into their own local race qualifying for HR must be maddening.

    I get it, there is no altitude component. But I know when I was at the banquet this year (even after a gorgeous weekend of running) and Stan and Jeff asked if anyone had run a 100 more difficult with the exclusion of HR, only one formidable runner who did very well mentioned Arrowhead which got a laff but was discounted for obvious reasons.

    They are quite proud of their efforts to create a, unique, exclusive, 'second-hardest-100' event that distinctly honors the environment. The sportsmanship and camaraderie amongst the alum there is unlike many events, dare I say it's closer to HR than any other.

    And for all of the hemming, hawing, and demeriting over how awful LV was, the ohana in HI should be rewarded for the care they take in their nature preserve. It is a consistently dynamic series of trails that requires very real labor to maintain. (as the landslide this year proved.)

    The HURT RD's are going to remain stoic and indifferent about all of this; everyone is mature enough to know this isn't a us-vs-them issue.

    But I'm sure there is a little damaged pride when your told your not 'graduate-y' enough anymore, and that there has been some serious SMH'ing as HR decides to put the results of their event out to pasture.

    1. Jason H

      I think you're right Shannon. HURT should be on the list. Those trails are tough tough tough. And finishing a mountain hundred at altitude one year prior has nothing to do with ability to finish HR a year later. Plenty of races on the HR list that aren't really at altitude too. I've talked to people that found HURT actually HARDER than HR. Don't know about that as I haven't run either yet (HURT this coming Jan), but I run those trails enough to know that getting around that loop five times and in one piece is an incredible thing!

  23. Alex From new haven

    I got into my first WS100 via AR50 in 2010… I knew it was ridiculous then even though I benefited from it. The distance standards needed to go up. This is a life time sport, put in a few years and races before feelin entitled to anything. Though I've been extemely lucky so far I don't expect to get into WS more than twice a decade from here on out… It's just the reality. And it's scarcity FORCES anyone who EVER wants to run it to put in EVERY year. It's the same reason there's a boom in the Grand Slam numbers: if you get into WS you "might as well" do the slam if you ever aspire to do it.

    The real pressure is for new and local races to step up their game and engender the same kind of loyalty and tradition as WS and HRH.

    Alex McDaniel

    New Haven

  24. frank j

    Since HR conducts the actual drawing in secrecy and via computer (unlike Western, Wasatch and others) these new 'standards' are illusory. To get into HR, you have to be a RD, good at schmoozing with the RD's, or someone who spends a lot of money in Silverton. Thus, if you are camping at HR, don't expect to be asked back very often. However, if you come 2-3 weeks early and run up a huge tab in one of former RD Wrublik's two hotels, the Avon and the Wyman, you will definitely be asked back.

    1. AJW

      Frank J,

      I am sure you meant this comment in jest but some may not perceive it as such. While the HRH lottery is conducted via computer, the results are made immediately available on the race website and via twitter in real time.

      And, just FYI, I am not an HRH organizer (nor WS for that matter).

      1. pedro garcia

        Thanks AJW, I should have said that it SEEMED this way to me, not that it actually was. Funny thing though, last year one of the HR people at the drawing tweeted that they were busy cutting names out of paper for the drawing, but the only picture they tweeted showed four people around computer screens. Why would they tweet they were cutting names out of paper when they weren't, just gratuitous misstatements? Also, Diebold and Sequoia have shown us the inefficacy of 'computer' generated results.

    2. FastED

      Frank J – I've never seen the lottery, been accepted through the lottery 6 times, spend two weeks (at minimum) in Silverton every year and have never stayed at the Avon or Wyman. In fact, I camp with my family most years. And last, I am the worst schmoozer on the face of the planet.

      Having said that, I get it, it's frustrating. There have been a couple years where I didn't make the start line because of being too far down on the wait list.

      I hope to see your name on the start list at some point, Frank J.

  25. TH

    Isn't there a big difference between WS where the largest 100 miles are qualifiers (number of finishers) and Hardrock where it's about difficulty or maybe more precisely about similarity of the course with Hardrock? Leaving the sustainability part and the Leadville discussion aside for a moment… Personally I like the latter much better as it's not just tightening the numbers but offering some meaning behind that, even if it introduces a lot of subjectivity on what to allow as a qualifier.

  26. tom wilson

    I like the changes. I think they will improve my odds of gaining entry, although not for 2014. I haven't spent time looking at when registration opens for the new qualifying races but hope at least some will be after the WS drawing in December (if not one of the lucky 280). Given the limited number of US races I will need to enter 2 or 3 races quickly post lottery to ensure my ticket and mitigate other life events.

    FYI, I'm looking at Laurel Highlands and Superior so please be kind and hold off entering until after 12/9 – Thanks!

  27. scott

    AJW, would you like to put your HRH shoes on for a minute and try and answer the riddle of why the 2013 Leadville finishers who apply to HRH lost a year of eligibility (actually was taken away from us), where as other 2013 finishers from phased out races get to keep their two year qualifier finish. What did I do wrong AJW? Why am I being punished?

    Thanks,

    2013 Leadville finisher and hopeful 2014 HRH lottery winner

  28. AJW

    Scott, you got me on that one. I have no idea why a qualifier would be denied ex post facto. Kind of wrong from where I sit. Have you, and others, appealed to HRH to reconsider?

    1. scott

      Thanks AJW for your reply. I will shoot them an email and see if I can get an answer. In the meantime, has anyone else heard why they have taken away a year of eligibility to apply for the HRH from my 2013 Leadville qualifying finish? I can understand them phasing out Leadville for multiple reasons. But, I have yet to understand why they have punished the HRH applicants who ran Leadville as their 2013 qualifier. Bryon, care to shed any light on this?

      1. Sandy

        Another 2013 LT100 finisher here… I don't think I did anything wrong either and would like to know why I'm loosing a year from my qualifier. That 2nd year of qualification would have come in handy since as a "never started HR" I only have 3 to 5% chance of getting in.

        Was planning on doing a few local 100s not on the Q-list next year, but now I've got to see which of the qualifiers I'm going to travel to.

  29. runner

    I think that there should be a race run on the same course as Hardrock call Colorado Rock. The entrants should total 500 and they should use paper cups at all aid stations.

    I listened to that Podcast linked too above and that Hardrock representative was insufferable. I think she giggled at the possibility of actually having runners do Volunteer hours for both Races and Trail Work. 16 hours of volunteer work; burdening other race directors to sign forms.

    A quote of hers: "I can give a snarky answer; it's our race, we can do what we want."

    I think Qualifying races should be loyal to their following and hold 75% spots for local racers.

    She actually said she doesn't care what happens with other races and they need to figure it out themselves.

    Old Dominion is a 100 mile race that was split up – and they have been 2 races throughout the years. It would work and someone can make $28,000 less $5000 for logistics and Paper cups.

    Sincerely

    1. Kim

      hey, "runner" her name is Andrea Feucht, she is on the HRH Board, and I listened to the same podcast as you. Her snarky answer was in response to a "snarky" question from Gary, one of the podcast hosts.

      Andrea has been on a few other podcasts from "Elevation Trail" so perhaps you have not heard her personality before. That might help explain giggles.

      1. runner

        Thanks for the reply, yes, I'll refer to her next time as Andrea but I also made other great points and suggestions. :)

        That's a smile, that means friendly in "Internet".

        Rumor has is some elite runners from Europe will arrive in the United States to run the Hardrock course on their own. They will be seeking "Volunteer-Ism"; I mean they will seek people to volunteer to crew them.

        They will break the record handily but it won't be recognized by the HR Board; they don't care. They also don't care to apply for the lottery again.

        My points should be considered by someone business-minded to create "Colorado Rock" and by RDs.

        This "green" idea is controlling, very controlling, it's even Romantic.

        We should be careful what we wish for as this will lead to Wilderness areas where Volunteers won't be able to drive cars and trucks up Roads or use chainsaws to clear trails.

        I'm seeing the effects of Wilderness areas already; unkempt trails – the Hunters love this – they have the places all to themselves.

        It in my humble opinion, if can have one kindly, it's very arrogant to think that we impact trails, the gigantic Earth and wildlife by way of Paper cups, footprints and even car exhaust. Leave a parcel of land alone for a short while, a decade and the Wilderness reclaims it handily. It's "walls" bad things off – as does our bodies and those of animals and it filters things like we could never.

        I want my paper cup. :)

        Not a dirty plastic cup that may give Hep A.

        1. Anonymous

          Had to bite on this one. "some elite runners from Europe will arrive in the United States to run the Hardrock course on their own"

          I'd love to see a few runners from Europe break the record "handily". But good luck, and it's a free world, so yes, they can do that as many times as they want. Get it. Hey "runner", ever been to Silverton? Don't use a paper cup, perhaps carrying your own would be a good idea, no Hep A for you that way right?

          1. Steve

            Anonymous, great to see you had to bring up the North America/Europe divide on this one -your attitude stinks and the Hep A comment is frankly disgusting. I'm certain there's a few European runners who would love a tilt at the Hardrock record. Similarly, as Rory Bosio showed North American runners can make a big splash in Europe. Hopefully you'll make a big splash in the Atlantic and sink if you try to make it over the pond.

  30. Nick T.

    I think the changes are good, but would love to see WS include the Virgil Crest 100 as a qualifier. They had the 50 mile race as a qualifier previously, but not the 100 for some reason. It's a great, and plenty tough, race. Plus another one for folks out east to get to.

    1. Greg

      Nick, not sure if it is the same, but Old Dominion 100 used to be a qualifier for Western States (it's the second oldest 100 in the country only behind WS) but no longer is. I asked the RD and was told that his request to be included as a qualifier for WS was denied due to there being fewer than 75 finishers. My guess is that Virgil Crest is probably in the same boat. Doesn't matter if it is 100 miles, well run, historic, or tough.

  31. Charlie Montana

    I believe someone previousy commented on a concern of mine, which is a scenario where the HR qualification races become popular enough to warrant lotteries of their own. Wasatch is an example. Having to go through a lottery just to get into the qualifying race for HR could be a barrier. Fortunately there are still lottery-free races on the list.

  32. Dominic

    They really need to open the list up to a few more 100s to choose from for WS. A lottery for a lottery for a lottery kind of sucks. Most of the races fill up as well. AC100 sold out in a day, etc. I think for races that previously had both 50 & 100 mile distances that both were qualifiers shouldn't have to compete with 100 only races as far as participates at the starting line. Alot of great 100s will dry up and most of us will have to do the same race every year for a ticket. Few enough people finish a 100 so opening it up to a few more races I think will not hurt the lottery.

  33. John

    Totally understand HR's desire to limit their numbers and perhaps add to the mystic by adding some "hard" runs (Barkley will surely do both, you might get one extra entrant every other year). I'm a little sad about the exclusion of HURT and that it pretty much removes the chances of the 100 or so ultra runners who live in Hawaii the chance to ever experience HR.

    Not sure what criteria was used as HURT is a small, non-profit, never sponsored, environment friendly run with 25,000 feet of climb and a 28% average finisher rate (as opposed to about 70% for HR). And international in nature, this year we have runners from Iceland, Chile, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Germany, Guam, Australia, Russia, etc., etc..

    At HURT, we have a very well defined lottery system, but still reserve a few slots for those who have never run a 100 miler before………….perhaps this is of concern to the folks at HR?

    Aloha,

    1. Jeff

      Agree that HURT seems a worthy qualifier for any 100-miler, including HR. The changes do not impact me since I have no plans to enter the HR lottery. It is running, after all, and I think they take themselves too seriously.

      UTMB could take the view that no 100 in the US save HR is a worthy qualifier …. I am glad they do not.

      As for WS, I think narrowing the list of qualifiers is a good step. They could go further if they wanted to, but trying to keep a balance of making sure folks are prepared to finish while keeping the run accessible is a worthy goal.

  34. MS

    As a hunter and a runner I really like what both races did. Every race should have a bifold existence:

    1- to preserve the environment and

    2- stay to true to what the race is all about.

    WS should be about the dream … Even if it's your first 100 … It was Gordy's … He didn't know if he could do it 40 years ago … That said if you want to live the dream go run a qualifier and hop into the lotto … I didn't get in my first try in the lotto but was persistent and did …. When you get your name called, cash in don't waste it ….

    HR should be about the struggle … You struggle to get in, struggle with training, struggle with the run. If any of the parts were easy why even do it? I've been in the lotto but never ran HR … Guess what? I'm in the lotto again … I'm going to grind my way to the start! Even if that means I have to travel … why not explore a new race to qualify even if you have to run to it? Shit …. Some crazy speedgoat dude (forgot his name) ran 2000 miles on red bull … If not I hope my kids get a chance if they so desire in 20 years because there will be trails and not roads to run on ….

    Neither race nor should any, allow what they stand for to be altered for the sake of the almighty dollar. Sorry to hear LT100 went sideways and I hope it comes back to its roots …

    1. Jeff

      Preserving the environment is relative. Flying to races leaves a huge carbon footprint, so more traveling to qualify is just more environmental damage, really. My flight to the Pyrenees has about the same footprint as my driving for the year, so even trying to leave no trace and have a limited tour has a cost.

      This is the part of the reason I think HR should get over itself.

      1. dave m

        I've heard this argument before, but I have to disagree. If you hadn't traveled to the Pyrenees the flight still would have taken place. Your presence in that airplane seat has no correlation to an increase in a carbon footprint.

        Having a couple hundred more runners and their crews traipsing over a couple of mountains at one time, though, does have a direct impact.

  35. Sebastian

    Well, to hell with both WS and HR.. They are beautiful races, but so is the terrain for most ultras, if folks feel limited in which races to run simply because they want to add WS and HR to their palmares that is kinda sad from my perspective.

    Peak Ultra VT is a tough race in a beautiful state park, running along the Outer Banks in NC, in underestimated upstate NY among many of their races, etc.. Enjoy the running, stay fit, take care of the trail and forget about all the hoopla surrounding WS and HR

  36. Sarah

    I qualified for JFK (admittedly qualification standards are relatively low with a 4h marathon for women to be A-qualified) with the intent to use JFK as a qualifier for WS in 2015. I intentionally chose JFK due to the fact that it was after 2014 qualification ended- knowing 2015 is a minimum time frame for me to be in the condition I want to be to finish WS- and have been putting in 30 miles on the JFK course every other Saturday for the past 2 months to prepare.

    As much as I was disappointed to hear that the 50 mile distance has been excluded starting in 2015, I had already registered for Burning River next August. In the case of Western States, I fully understand the reasoning behind raising the qualification standards. Though I'm from CA, I started running on the east coast and definitely want to test out an "easier" 100 miler prior to dealing with the elevation change at WS. From this newbie's standpoint, it seems like an opportunity to get the various challenges of the 100 mile distance dialed in ahead of time, though it would have been nice to have "qualified" and be "in training" (in the unlikely event I made it in on my first go at the lottery.) I guess my only real surprise is that given the popularity and difficulty of WS, why the standard wasn't raised to finishing a 100 miler.

    That said, I'm excited about the prospect of AJW's 100k in March!

  37. Viper

    AJW – no understanding of #1 – these are good moves but it sure as hell ain't going to change the odds. It's an inclusive sport yet we want to block more inexperienced runners from getting lucky in a lottery? Additionally, if we're concerned about "disappointed runners" looking from the outside in we are in for trouble. 5 years from now how many extremely talented young runners are going to be on the outside as the numbers continue to increase? decisions/changes were great, slam dunk but i don't get the arguements

  38. frank j

    FastEd, thanks for your response. I think you are the exception that proves the rule, no other campers have won the lottery as often as you have. Any other campers out there care to chime in?

    1. BBrian

      I would be very surprised if the HR board had the time or desire to search out an applicant's past lodging choices when setting up the lottery.

  39. runner

    This has been a very nice conversation for sure, thank you.

    I see that a race can do what they'd like and do so all day long but I also think other races should react accordingly or an RD start a new race on that same course. I'm sure many would sign up to run a new race on the same course as Hardrock.

    As for the environment arguments I think it's a waste of time and sometimes concerning when I think of the sanity of Enviro proponents. I knew a girl that wouldn't flush a toilet. She wouldn't flush any toilet. And when you asked whether she wanted someone else to Poop in the toilet so as to use one bowl of water for 2 separate Poops, Turds? She wouldn't answer because the goal was to not flush a toilet. Weird for sure, check her sanity.

    But she was all about being Enviro friendly.

    How about in Seatle where they told everyone to stop recycling Glass because it doesn't resale and they have too much.

    And take for instance in New York where a past mayor admitted that you can place your plastic, glass, etc in bins but they get dumped in the trash. I was told the same think by a Janitor in a super large Metro Area; he said they just throw all the neatly organized Recycle products in with the Trash.

    I get it; and I'm all for recycling and being Enviro friendly if it's logical. If it's not then leave it alone. If it cost $20 dollars to Recycle and the only profit you make is $12 dollars then that's wrong.

    I mention all this because it's apparently one of the reason that races are citing for their decision making. Secondly, I mention it because someone mentioned that Crew will park their cars on "Sensitive areas". That to me sounds like the Girl that would leave her daily Turd in the Toilet bowl for her roommate to daily see and smell.

    I doubt flowers are going extinct because cars park atop them. Please stop insulting the Earth planet and its robust seeds and animals.

    Keep up the lively discussion. Cheers

  40. Cameron

    If you think a standard 100 race below 5000 feet is a worthy qualifier, you probably do not understand well the effects of racing at 10,000+ feet. I lived in Oahu for a while, and ran many trails there. There's no comparison to the san juans. not even a little.

  41. jW

    I'm all for qualifying standards, but what bothers me is the whole subjective nature of it. Why not just say, any 100 mile race with X amount of gain and an average elevation of Y? By the new HR standards someone who wins WS in 15 hours (or leadville in 17, or TRT in 18, or HURT in 19) is not qualified but someone who finishes Bear two seconds under the cutoff is.

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