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. 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?


    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. DR

    As of tonight, the Hardrock lottery has more than 1,000 entrants. I think the Board of Directors should further tighten the qualifying standards.

    Most graduate studies require completion of more than one difficult course. As a "post-graduate" run, perhaps two qualifiers should be required for those who have never started. Or maybe runners for the "First-Timers" lottery could earn one ticket for each qualifier they complete until being selected (e.g. if someone has finished 3 qualifiers, with at least one in the prior year, they would have 3 tickets).

    1. YesThatAndrea

      I don't get a ton of traction at board meetings when I suggest we require 2 qualifiers for Hardrock. But I have proposed this, so it is not that "out there" of an idea.

      The only thing you can count on is change. Hardrock used to have 5 qualifiers. FIVE. At that time it did not fill and of course there was no lottery. But things have changed: at the same time that the run got a lot more popular, the number of 100s in the world increased dramatically, and we wanted to accurately "vet" potential finishers through new qualifying races in many more locations. I guess what I'm saying is that it's a perfect storm of ultra popularity in which more and more people will be irritated each year, and that sucks.

  11. Amy

    No carbon footprint tied to a flight? Huh? There aren't a set number of planes automatically flying around the world each day. Flights and number/destination of flights are based 100% on demand. Look at the number of flights to Paris vs. Baghdad. Yes, that flight would have taken off, but it continues to take off because you paid for a seat on it.

  12. Luke Garten

    Miwok 100k is allready a lottery and it will be very hard to get into it as well because of the fire this year giving all this years races automatic entrance into next year, leaving a small window to even get into that one. TRT is now a lottery also since it sold out in a few hours this year. Rummer has it that Waldo 100k will be a lottery since it sold out so quick this year as well. You now have to win a lottery to get into THE LOTTERY. And one could only imagine race entry fees going up for the small list of races that are quilifiers.

      1. Laura

        Local runners that can't afford the travel are essentially priced out of WSER. It's sad to see the board turn its back on the local community they rely on for trail work and volunteers. They've forgotten they're roots.

  13. East Coaster

    There are certainly eastern races that could serve as suitable qualifiers for HR. Look at The Cruel Jewel for instance. North Georgia mountains, 30k of gain in the heat and humidity of the Georgia summer. I would say that it is tougher than most of the 100 milers on the qualifying list. Too much emphasis is put on altitude. In my experience, as long as a little bit of time is taken to acclimate, altitude is not any worse than an 80-90 degree day with high humidity in the South.

  14. Blake Wood

    We actually DO cut up names on little pieces of paper and draw them out of a jar. We had already finished the cutting when the photo you refer to was taken (that's my dining room, BTW).

    We could run the lottery on a computer, of course. I wrote a monte carlo routine that runs a million lotteries in a few seconds on my laptop, and use it to calculate applicant's chances in the lottery. But we choose to conduct the lottery manually because it's fun, because it provides transparency (i.e., we have several people reviewing the actual number of tickets), and because it avoids the temptation to run multiple lotteries until we get a result we like – just as you point out in your comment about Diebold and Sequoia.

  15. Blake Wood

    A number of people here have commented "the XX100 is hard enough to be a qualifier". Actually, one of our (I'm on the Board) considerations in choosing qualifiers is not that the XX100 is hard, but that it's hard in the same way that Hardrock is hard. Thus, we considered total climb, the number and size of single continuous climbs, high elevation, long times between aid stations, the potential for lethal falls, and mountain weather. Primarily (but not exclusively) to ensure that runners can do Hardrock safely and know what they're getting into.

  16. YesThatAndrea

    Pedro and Frank, I assure you that the paper slips are real. The lottery takes about 5 hours to conduct (check the timestamps on those tweets – those are real time!) and will likely be even longer this year – we just crossed 1000 applicants.

    We could easily run the lottery via computer and have it all over in a second and be statistically valid and all that, but for some reason we like the idea of literally drawing entrants. When we draw someone we know, it's exciting. Plus, we're ultrarunners, so I guess we like the tedious masochism of the process. :-)

    Andrea (the one on the HRH board)

    1. frank j and pedro

      Blake and Andrea, thanks for taking the time to respond. I apologize for my comments as I was laboring under the illusion that the lottery results were computer generated. Sorry.

  17. KenZ

    Hey Dave- I'll somewhat disagree with your disagreement. Your personal weight, and that of your luggage actually does affect the fuel usage of an aircraft, albeit admittedly small in comparison to the flight. But it's not negligible. And, I'll take you up on the basis for your argument that the flight is going to go anyway; what's one more person? Well, in that case, why ever both voting? Not gonna change the election.

    Why recycle? Why turn off the lights in your house, ever? Your personal CO2-reduction contribution for recycling for an entire year is easily blown away from one cross country flight. So, if I'm going to fly to a race, why turn the water off at the tap while brushing my teeth? It's in the noise.

    The answer to all these things is that little things do add up, including your rear in an airline seat. Of course, all that said, I fly to races. But I'm not going to kid myself that it's anything but selfish when there's a local race available.

  18. Jen

    I really don't understand the rationale of WS for selecting the "largest" domestic trail 100-milers and eliminating a number of excellent, and in some cases very challenging 100-milers from the list. As with Hardrock, some regions seem more heavily impacted than others (for example, with the elimination of Lean Horse, Heartland, Ozark Trail, and Potawatomi (and no addition of Black Hills or Mark Twain) there are now no qualifiers in South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, or Illinois). Considering that Oklahoma, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa also lack qualifiers, this leaves quite a swath of the mid-west without qualifying races, making WS even more cost-prohibitive to runners from this region since additional travel is required simply to qualify to enter the lottery.

    I do understand that these decisions are difficult and no matter what is eliminated, people will complain, but if reducing the number of lottery entries is a main objective, retaining only the largest domestic races (many of which sell out or have lotteries of their own) seems a strange approach.

  19. Laura

    WSER may have good reasons for the changes, BUT it is short sighted to entirely eliminate local qualifiers. The race was born and nurtured from the love of the local running community. We are the ones who do the trail work, man the aid stations etc. for training runs and do everything under the sun for race weekend. We are the ones rehabbing the trail and rebuilding the bridges after the fires. Most local runners with WSER dreams are not elite nor can they afford to take a crew, pacers etc. and travel. While not every volunteer would be able to qualify, local races or not, most do harbor dreams of it. Lots of the locals choose to volunteer with getting experience in mind. We are often sought after pacers at night for non local middle of the pack or back of the pack runners. Since the announcement, plenty of locals have lamented the loss and may not volunteer again. It could just be an initial reaction and given some time to process, there might be a change of heart. Remember, many of the legends are locals (Gordy, Cowman, Cathy Mason — the first woman to finish both the Tevis and WSER in one year, Twietmyer, etc.). WSER dropped Rio Del Lago in 2012 and now they've eliminated the AR50. I find it difficult to imagine that keeping just ONE local qualifier would significantly impact the lottery or the DNF rate. I know that Julie Fingar (RD for AR50, WTC50K, Dick Collins and Rio Del Lago) would be happy to host a local qualifier designed to whatever standards etc. that WSER could dream up. Losing the support of the local running community would be a tragedy. I'm blessed enough to be able to afford the travel to a qualifier. But too many locals aren't. It would be a shame for the ultra that started it all to forget its roots, its community and only focus on the elite and big dollar sponsored runners. I hope the WSER board reconsiders the elimination of all local qualifiers.

    1. Tropical John

      Locals have always been heavily represented at WS, last year there were 36 local area finishers, more than 15% of the total. Pretty impressive given the international scope of the race. Locals have a huge advantage in that each of the 31 aid stations gets an automatic spot in the race – and almost all of those spots go to local runners.

      And here’s today’s geography lesson. Local runners can qualify at Miwok (125 miles away), TRT (85 miles away), Pine to Palm (320 miles), and of course WS100 itself. And there’s three more races in southern California, less than a day’s drive away. That’s a lot of options, more than virtually any other place in the country.

      And if the locals support Rio del Lago and the likely-to-be-revamped Gold Rush 100K a bit more, these events might make the list in future years. But it would be a bit disingenuous for the Board to put Rio del Lago on the qualifying list simply because it is local, while denying similarly-sized events elsewhere.

      1. Laura

        Hi Tropical John,

        Thanks for your reply.

        While you are correct for for past races (and probably 2014), I believe the % of locals will drop dramatically in 2015. Miwok will be almost entirely filled by last year's entrants due to the fires and is already a tough lottery. TRT is a lottery too, but is probably the best local option. The aid stations tend to be organized and run by local running clubs and businesses. They do tend to send local runners; you are correct. But, they tend to make that choice based on personal reasons. My understanding is that these runners still have to qualify. So, they avoid the WSER lottery, but still need to get into a qualifying race. (I could be wrong though.) I have some judgments about keeping large attendance races that are not as tough (Rocky Raccoon ranked at 83% when measured against WSER on and dumping more comparable races that are smaller (Rio Del Lago ranked at 94%). As to the distance of the travel, there's drive time and fuel costs, the cost of lodging and food before and after the event (remember, middle of the pack to back of the pack runners run 100 miles in 24 to 30 hours)and that's just if a runner goes alone — add in crew and/or pacer(s)and the time/cost factors go way up. The local economy of the many small towns all along the trail prevent many from being able to afford the time and/or the cost. I guess I am both concerned and biased. The heartbreak I'm hearing from the local running community (themselves volunteers as well as their family, friends, crew, pacers, etc) with WSER dreams concerns me because these folks really are the backbone of WSER. I'd hate to see them pull back. I'm biased because I love newbies — their energy and excitement is infectious. They give of their time and sweat equity to WSER and the trail all year round in ways large and small. And I love the "feel" of WSER, which I attribute to it's deep roots in the local running community. One of my favorite WSER traditions is the "anyone and everyone" can run with their runner after Robie's Point. Many dreams have been realized and launched in those moments. Ours really is a sport where no one really succeeds alone. We all need those volunteers, friends, family, etc. to support us along the way. My experience in life tells me that turning away from one's roots and the foundation that launched a success usually doesn't work well. I suppose I'm saying that the local community deserves a local qualifier that is a comparable 100 miler and that WSER would be well served by adding one. I really don't see how it would impact the lottery or the quality of the runners and/or the race itself. There is no need to eliminate any other races in order to add one local qualifier. Without community, where would any of us be?

        Thanks again for your thoughts.

        1. MonkeyBoy


          Yes, ma'am! You are indeed passionate about this subject. Thank You for sharing your thoughts with the world. along these lines, would you mind clarifying exactly which norcal ultrarunning entity it is that you represent? you see, i only ask due because when you say "we" you are speaking about a fair number of folks that i find myself friendly with and a frequent guest of during my frequent sojourns into into the endurance capitol of the world. it seems some of those i do know disagree with your assessment about the depths of heartbreak you describe regarding the changes to the qualifying system. when i hear you speaking about volunteers, aid station workers, sweat equity types, as you say; i grew concerned and reached out to some of these folks within the norcal ultrarunning community who couldn't recall exactly who you were but assured me that the depths of their passion for Western States did indeed remain Intact.

          Sure was nice of Tropical John to point out some hard data about the participation of locals. Thank You for pointing out that local clubs and businessmen tend to send local runners to work the aid stations at Western States. I would expect John, like most of us, probably knew that considering he usually spends time on training weekends and race day visiting most of those aid stations along with the fact that he has been a past WS Board President and continues to be one of the most knowledgeable members of our sport that i know. Of course, he has been busy as of late with the pressing of pulpy pickings, so some details may have slipped his mind. I expect I'm wrong on that, though.

          All of this said, I do completely agree with you about the financial hardships of those small towns along the trail. Deadwood, specifically has been a sad, sad story. When the mining operations shut down, Deadwood was affected in a way in which the residents still have been unable to recover from. It has been a great shame that the economy never recovered enough to allow the remaining residents to travel to ultra's to get qualifiers despite the visitors that Western States and Tevis bring through it's town every year. However, seeing as how those few who remain reside in the cemetery at the edge of town, I expect they enjoy the frequent visitors who come through there year round while training and preparing for events probably suit them just fine and keep them from being lonely.

          Maybe I'll see you at this weekend at Rio. Enjoy your day.

  20. Laura

    Lucia I'm with you. It eliminates non-elite or sponsored local runners who are the backbone of WSER (we are the volunteers and do the trail work, etc.) and can't afford the cost of travel with a crew, pacers, etc.

  21. Laura

    They rank Rio Del Lago (local 100 miler eliminated as a qualifier) at 94% and Rocky Raccoon at 83%. What's up with that? They are NO local qualifiers anymore. :-(

    1. Luke Garten

      I agree. If WS100 wants to make 100k or 100 milers a quilifier they should increase the amount of available races. Rio Del Lago should be a qualifier as should Headlands Hundred and many more that are great local races. It is hard enough to be able to afford the entry fee into WS100 let alone needing to have to add travel expenses to make it to a qualifier.

      A simple solution. Keep all of the original qualifiers but reduce the finish time for the 50 miler to 9 hours and 13 hours for the 100k. Also bypass the Granite Chief Wilderness area and allow double the amount of runners.

  22. SRB

    Two qualifiers makes sense. What about a modified UTMB 7 point approach: 4 points for one of the races on the 2015 list, 3 points for any non-list 100, with a maximum of two races to tally 7 points? That way someone must finish one race from the new A list, but all the other quality 100s still remain relevant to get the remaining 3 points (of course finishing two races from the A list would get you there too). This might improve the odds a bit for first timers by shrinking the pool, and slightly reduce the inevitable crunch that's going to hit the popular A list 100s like Wasatch, Cascade, Bighorn and Bear.

  23. Laura

    WSER should be about the dream. The board has eliminated that dream for the local running community it relies on for trail work, volunteers, etc. By only focusing on the size of the qualifiers, they eliminated the local Rio Del Lago 100 Mile. Then deciding to drop all 50 mile as qualifiers finished off the locals. If they don't reconsider, it'll never be the same. Just ask Gordy, Cowman, Twietmyer, Cathy Mason ….

    1. Paul

      I agree with you 100% Laura, that was my first thought when I saw the changes. The only qualifiers within 300 miles of Auburn now are Miwok (lottery… I'm a 3x loser) and States. Cuyamaca will be a lottery or incredibly fast sell out next year. Local runners already seemed to be a dying breed, it'll be interesting to see how many locals are in the lottery (let alone the race) once it costs ~$500-$1000+ to get a qualifier (race fee + travel/lodging).

      1. Johnny

        It would be nice if they chose races based on low registration. In that way, it gives those races a boost in much needed popularity and might help spread runners away from races that already have a lottery and are filled to capacity.

      2. Tropical John

        Locals have always been heavily represented at WS, last year there were 36 local area finishers, more than 15% of the total. Pretty impressive given the international scope of the race. Locals have a huge advantage in that each of the 31 aid stations gets an automatic spot in the race – and almost all of those spots go to local runners.

        And here's today's geography lesson. Local runners can qualify at Miwok (125 miles away), TRT (85 miles away), Pine to Palm (320 miles), and of course WS100 itself. And there's three more races in southern California, less than a day's drive away. That's a lot of options, more than virtually any other place in the country.

        And if the locals support Rio del Lago and the likely-to-be-revamped Gold Rush 100K a bit more, these events might make the list in future years. But it would be a bit disingenuous for the Board to put Rio del Lago on the qualifying list simply because it is local, while denying similarly-sized events elsewhere.

        1. discsport1

          You posted this "geography lesson" twice while completely missing the point that all the WS qualifiers within 300 miles of Auburn (Miwok, TRT, and WS itself) are already lotteries that will become much more difficult to get into.

  24. MTP

    Don't worry by narrowing the list for both races, most the races will be forced into a lottery situation in the next couple years. I wonder if it will change the montrail cup auto entry … so now you can earn auto entry into Western States in one of the traditional races, but not be allowed to enter because the race is not a qualifying race (50 milers) A bit of a parodox.

  25. AJW

    Hey everyone, I have been in communication with Kris Kern, President of the HRH Board and will write a follow-up column for this Friday's column.

    I hope you're all enjoying some great autumnal runs, especially since we now have a bit of morning light back!

  26. UltraDad

    I feel bummed about the WS changes because it likely will make it harder for me personally, but I understand something had to be done. As a newbie ultrarunner with just one attempt at a 100 (and a DNF at mile 82) at Old Dominion, my personal goal was to run and finish that business this summer and get a buckle at OD and to then one day run WS.

    I don't have the desire to run a very specific 100 or 100K every year in the hopes that I'll win an entry, but I guess if I want WS bad enough, that's what I will have to do.

    My wife is NOT thrilled about this prospect!

  27. Jeff

    I've read all the comments and find this discussion to be a bit depressing. I feel we've lost our way, as if the race has become more important than the running. After reading this thread, I'm going to think seriously about avoiding races altogether from now on and just run wherever I want, whenever I want, with a few friends and a few crews. That's what it's all about, isn't it? I don't need a buckle. I don't need the accolades. I'm not sure if I need races at all.

  28. Richard

    I do a 100-miler just about every week… my own. They are all free and need no qualifiers. My 100's are unique, so since yours isn't similar enough, it doesn't qualify as a qualifier. I would open entries up to the general public, but, as Woody (Allen) said, "I love humanity… it's people I can't stand". So, don't bother to submit your entry to my 100's, you won't qualify and can't get in. Participation is by invitation only. My reasons for running are internal; they need no accolades or awards. And, as Marx (Groucho) said, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member".

  29. scott

    Thanks AJW for your follow up with HRH. I hope it will include a logical reasonable answer as to why they took a year away of eligibility to my HRH qualifier at Leadville this year, as well as the other Leadville finishers. As a runner and hopeful HRH applicant, I chose a race that they provided and one that had the highest elevation that I could find. I do not have any affiliation with Lifetime Fitness. I know I had no involvement that came from the negative issues of that race. I had one crew/pacer for the day. My crew/pacer did not drive a vehicle as she got rides to Outward Bound, Twin Lakes and Winfield, then paced me back. We thanked the volunteers. We tipped the locals and supported their businesses. What did i do wrong? Just looking for something rational.

    Thanks Again

  30. SEAN

    Great…now I either have to enter a lottery (good luck on that one) just to run a qualifier just to enter another lottery or I have to travel(insert big $$ here)? "Sorry kids no Disneyland this year, daddy's gonna travel to a race with the hopes of a 10% chance of qualifying when he's finished!" Sorry but mortgage payments and feeding the kids trump traveling to distant, all be it, cool places to run races. So that only leaves lotteries which are hard enough to get into. Now the less expensive local shot I had at getting in is gone. Total BS…tell me how not allowing the local races as qualifiers is gonna improve my chances? Everyone will flock to those lottery races with hopes of getting lucky only clogging up THOSE lotteries!

  31. Jen

    Well, lucky for us (ultrarunners in general), there are lots of new 100-mile races popping up all of the time. While I understand the attraction of these 2 races and would love to run WS myself, is it really that big of a deal if you can't run a particular race? There are simply far too many people who wish to run races that are best kept relatively small to preserve the experience and the natural areas. There is no way around that conflict in numbers, and no way to devise a plan that everyone would consider "fair". Rather than get upset over it, have fun checking out other 100-mile races! If you are local and it is important to you to have a race in your back yard, organize a new one!

  32. Lstomsl

    Well, we will have to agree to disagree. I do not think that the forest service would allow someone to put up a private party for 140 people with several hundred guests on public land. That is what hardrock has become. The revisions to the lottery were a bit of a joke for the legacies. Every single one got in off the wait list this year. The people who designed the lottery are rocket scientists from Los Alamos. I am pretty sure they understand probability theory. That was no accident, just intended to look good.

    They have had their reward. How much more do they need? Tney can be involved with the race without running it every single year, when almost a thousand other people don't get a chance.

  33. Rob Y

    Re: Hardrock qualifiers.

    So if the metric for a good qualifier is total amount of elevation gain would coming up with a 100 mile race (or races) that has a ton of climb (24-30k), even though it's at a relatively low elevation, still make a good qualifier? Or would a good qualifier also to have include high elevation? If it's all about the amount of climb then it should be relatively simple to just design a bruiser of a course that has a ton of climb. Think A LOT of hill repeats. Sure it may be boring as hell, strictly utilitarian but it would get the job done. Heck, I understand this point well coming from the Deep South and trying to train for Hardrock. What did I do? Well I devised a 32+ mile course that just does 8 x 4 mile out and backs for a total elevation GAIN of 12,000'. Sure it was boring, not very "scenic" but it got the job done. So I could just as easily increase the number of repeats to 25 and I'd have one hell of a 100 miler!

  34. Billy

    "I’ve done solo, unsupported adventure runs that make Wasatch seem like a hand-held walk in the park."

    I'd like to hear about that.

  35. Billy

    I applaud the board of the HR and Roger Wrublick for not crawling thru their computers and strangling this guy. Breathe Billy, breathe…………..

  36. Gzrrnnr

    Having survived Hardrock five times, I have some thoughts regarding the lottery. First, as a post-graduate run (and I definitely believe it is!), I would require two or three finishes of the selected trail 100s, not just one. If the desire is to get more finishers, then require the experience commiserate with the difficulty of HR to get to both the start and finish lines.

    Second, I think there are also more tough 100s that could be used as qualifiers (ie the Chimera in California). There are well over 100 100s in North America, and some of those are fairly difficult.

    Third, if HR is truly a post-graduate run, get rid of the pacers. Over the last ten years, pacers have become a crutch for getting to the finish in too many 100 mile trail runs, IMHO. I do not know how the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits are stated, but if it is a number of feet on the ground that includes runners and pacers, getting rid off the pacers might allow more runners, maybe 200 instead of 140. Perhaps a case can be made for allowing pacers for the over 60 runners for the second half, but there are relatively few of this age group in HR. However, having survived HR without pacers after I turned 60, I would still get rid of pacers for ALL the runners.

    Fourth, get rid of Leadville as a qualifier. I did it once and will not go back. Allowing mules to carry the racer's gear is an embarrassment to the sport. And putting 700-800+ runners on an out and back course creates incredible traffic jams on the single track trails. I know a runner going down the trail who had to step aside so much for the crowd coming up the trail, he missed the Winfield cut-off.

    Summarizing, Hardrock is an incredibly beautiful and exciting run in addition to being the toughest 100 for us mere mortals (the Barkley requires mutants to finish it…). Getting experienced, disciplined, and self-motivated runners to the start will get more to cross the finish and kiss the Rock.

    1. Steve Pero

      I agree with you on the pacer thing…I got my 3rd finish this year, at age 61, with no pacer. You would not have believed how many people asked if they could pace me the whole way (because that is allowed for us geezers) and were not happy when I said I do not want a pacer. My companions for most of the run (walk?) was Mark Heaphy and his pacer wife, Margaret ;-)

      I'd even go so far as saying how about no pacers or crew allowed! Aid stations and drop bags only to even out the playing field. Then we'll see how many are willing to tackle the San Juan mountains for 1.5-2 days…

      1. Gzrrnnr


        Congrats on getting number three. I remember the same situation about pacers at HR. Some people think everyone out there needs a pacer, for safety or whatever reason. But I go back to it is an post graduate run, and IMHO "post graduates" should not need a pacer.


  37. Nefka

    I don't think qualifying means anything about one's abilities to finish, it only affects number of lottery applicants, that for these two specific races has gone crazy and must be taken under control.

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