New Hardrock 100 Lottery Procedures

AJWs TaproomIn the midst of all of the indicators suggesting tremendous growth in the sport of ultramarathon running these days, there is perhaps none greater than the increase in the use of lotteries by race organizers to determine runner selection. And, of those race lotteries, the two that have seen the greatest increase in traffic in the past five years are the lotteries for the Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100. That is why it is noteworthy that, just last week, the Hardrock 100 Board of Directors announced significant changes in their lottery selection procedures, which will go into effect with the 2013 run.

Interestingly enough, of all of the 100 milers out there, Hardrock is one event that started all those years ago as a truly low-key, no frills, mountain run that, at the time, race organizers wondered if anyone could even finish. Little did they know that within 20 years the likelihood of starting the race (much less finishing it) could be as low as 10%. Hence, the new lottery procedures:

In essence, with the new procedures, the Hardrock race organizers have attempted to make the race more accessible to first-time Hardrockers. As many in the ultra community know, Hardrock has long prided itself in being an event that rewards and honors history. As such, multiple time finishers, known in Hardrock parlance as “veterans” or “Hardrockers” have, for many years, been able to bypass the lottery. In the old system, if you finished five times you were in for life. The new system does not guarantee that. Rather, in the new system there will actually be three separate lotteries; one for veterans, one for first-timers, and one for everyone else. It is the Board’s expressed desire in making these changes to open up the race to more runners by clearly stating that the “ideal mix of runners would be 25% veterans, 25% first timers and 50% everyone else.” So, given that several of the race organizers are, quite literally, rocket scientists, they ran the numbers and determined that the best way to get to this ideal mix is to conduct three lotteries giving 35 spots to veterans, 35 spots to first timers, and 70 spots to everyone else. As is customary, waiting lists will be maintained for each of the three lotteries and a runner will be credited with a DNS if they are on the wait list at the time of the race and will therefore gain additional tickets in subsequent years.

I applaud the Hardrock 100 organizers for making this change. Too often I have seen event organizers who are, for whatever reason, unwilling or unable to adapt their events to changing times. As such, their events run the risk of becoming tired, stale, and possibly, even, irrelavent. In my experience, there is no reason to use the “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” excuse when trying to create the best experience possible for the participant. And, frankly, I think this holds true for schools, churches, businesses, and other institutions as well as running events. The fact that this forward-looking board would take the time and energy to create a system that clearly aligns with their mission is outstanding and, to me, not surprising. After all, this is an ultramarathon event we are talking about here and it’s been my experience in running ultras that if you are not willing or able to adapt, change, and evolve in the course of a race or a training run you will inevitably have a negative experience. In fact, it could be argued that the ability and discipline to adapt on the fly and readjust standards and expectations in the midst of flux is one of the greatest skills we can learn through running. Certainly, the Hardrock 100 Board of Directors has done just that!

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Leinenkugel's Summer ShandyThis week’s Beer of the Week is from a classic old-school brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is a rich weiss beer mixed with a touch of lemonade. One or two of these, served ice cold, can get you through even the most intense summer heat wave!

Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What do you think of the changes to the Hardrock lottery procedure?

There are 59 comments

  1. OldGoat

    Want to enjoy a "truly low-key, no frills mountain run"? Consider the HarderRock 100. Same course, same 48 hour time limit. You do not pay $250, you do not need permission from the King and his court of jesters. You do not get pampered at 13 aid stations and you do not get a $.50 finisher's poster. Bottom line; do not use the lottery as an excuse for not enjoying a fantastic romp through the San Juan mountains!

    1. Jon

      I see your point, OldGoat, but I must say that Hardrock is one of the very very few ultra events for which I would be willing to pay an entry fee- Its becoming increasingly difficult to find a trail race that doesn't throw you into a contrived, loopy, outandbacky course riddled with jeep roads and demoralizing road stretches, which is certainly why I am inclined to stand with you, OldGoat, in favor of the fun run.

      Regarding the lottery procedures, however, I think they've got a system that will, hopefully, become the standard for lotteries in other races.

      1. Darthrunner

        If the alternate route between Oscar Pass and Telluride (as per last year) is a permanent change then the total of jeep road on the Hardrock course is nearly 25%.

        1. Speedgoatkarl

          jeep roads in the san juans are not ordinary jeep roads, they are rough and nasty, at least most of em'. Camp Bird and Sherman roads are buffed, the rest are not, not even going into grouse, lots of ankle busters for some folks. Not to mention, they are at 12,000', doesn't matter what you run on up that high. :-)

  2. Jeff Faulkner

    This is excellent news. Year by year my itch to run Hardrock 100 gets worst. It's almost as bad as my itch to run WS100 now.

    And I agree with AJW – kudos to the event management team for making some desperately needed changes. Perhaps this system can be adapted to other races that are increasingly difficult to get into.

  3. art

    well it definitley is rocket science and will take me a while to figure out just how much of an improvement it really is for first timers.

    and I'm still in the dark concerning why certain individuals run a race 25 times (WS & HR) while others go wanting.

    but I'm not the race organizer, just potential fodder for the course.

    1. Jeff Faulkner

      art, he did mention why this happens. It's the old "we want to reward our loyal customers" scheme coupled with "this is how we've been doing for 300 years, why fix what isn't broken" routine. Hopefully this will provide the impetus for other races mired in similar philosophies to make some necessary changes.

  4. olga

    Great changes, just wish they were announced a few months ago, so those who are now in need of a new qualifier had time to plan for one instead of something else:)

  5. Mike Hinterberg

    Good changes.

    "Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is a rich lager mixed with a touch of lemonade. "

    Summer Shandy is very much a wheat beer, in line with their famous Berry and Honey weiss.

  6. Jon Allen

    So there will really be 3 wait lists, not just 1? Meaning the number 5 guy on the first timer's wait list will get in only if 5 first timers drop? If so, that really will guarantee 25/50/25% starters.

    On an unrelated topic- say, Bryon, when are we going to see the results for the WS100 guessing contest?

    1. AJW

      Jon, yes, there will be three wait lists. Only potential glitch there will be if one of the three categories fills up and exhausts the wait list for that pool. Not likely to happen but they have a plan for that just in case.

  7. Cody L. Custis

    To be fair, the Hardrock 100 at least requires 100 mile mountain races to qualify as an entrant, unlike another race famous for having an unfair lottery system, which allows qualification on road and loop 50 milers.

    1. Jason

      Agreed. During one of Bryon's interviews with AJW before WS, I think I remember a comment that WS should require a 100 mile finish before being eligible for the lottery. With the increasing difficulty of getting in to these "top tier" events, I see nothing wrong with thinning the lottery pool.

      FTR, I'm saying this as someone who has met the qualifications but not yet completed a 100 miler, and will not enter the WS lotto until I do (hopefully within the next year!).

  8. Stack

    Good for hardrock and I hope it works out… If not then it sounds like they are open to try different things,which should be applauded.

    Speaking of applauding… Great beer choice! I haven't met a leinenkugel beer I haven't liked. I was blown away the first time I had the sunset wheat… who thinks to put coriander in a beer?

    1. MikeC AK

      Coriander is pretty common in Belgiun style wheat beers. When I was making beer, a Belgiun with Orange rinds and Coriander added to the wurt was always a favorite. Also make sure you put an orange slice in your frosty mug for maximum enjoyment!



      1. Stack

        Good to know about coriander… I homebrew but haven't tried that myself.

        As far as the orange slice… write or wrong, I was told the origin of this was that back when weissbier was invented all beers were cloudy and they needed a way to distinquish the difference between a bar full of pints of this and the other beer so they took lemons, oranges or whatever fruit they had laying around and cut off a piece to put on the glass to differentiate and once the patron got their glass they simply chucked the fruit aside. Of course I won't deny that adding an orange (or lemon) changes the flavor and can compliment. When I was in Germany one particular bar the patrons and bartenders swore by rubbing the lemon around the rim of the glass then tossing it out.

  9. KenZ

    Well, I'm certainly happy to hear it, as I'll be a first time applicant for next year….

    That said, while I haven't been in this sport that long, it does seem to me that there are some decent to fantastic, hard races out there that don't have the gigantic wait lists. Granted, not as hard as Hardrock, but if you want great scenery, mountains, and fun…. there's the Bear (on my list), Fat Dog 100 (also on my list at a whopping 120 miles), Bighorn, etc. If you can stomach a figure 8 or some out and backs, you throw in San Diego, Chimera, and I'm sure many others. Don't forget Wasatch for some pain management potential. And don't forget some of the older classic hard runs like Plain 100, Superior 100, blah blah blah. Several new ones on the scene look interesting too, like Mogollon Monster.

    There's good stuff out there that is not named WS or Hardrock, so if you don't get picked, the season of fun is still a go.

  10. Tim

    Any exemptions for past winners or defending champs?

    Can (and do) they make exeptions for multi year winners and/or course record holders?

    1. Stack

      I would hope so… No matter what the race I think it's nice if someone has chance to return the following year to defend their title if they win a race. Same thing with course records.

      Although since I didn't see 5-10% for elite in those percentages, they may not have reserved any spots

      1. Stack

        Just read the hardrock site and this clears part of that up…

        "The previous year's winners will continue to bypass the lottery, but they will count against the lottery pool they would have been in."

        1. Speedgoatkarl

          my only two cents is I think previous winners of any year should be allowed, and I know that sounds bad, but to win a big race, have won it, and can't get in, eh….. worth about a penny. :-)

          1. Chris

            A good race is fun to watch or follow online, but there are only 140 spots in HR each year, unless or until that increases, which it could, but only by a bit (used to be 125, if I recall correctly). I believe, based on conversations I've had with HR board members in the past, that while they are pleased to honor defending champions with a guaranteed entry the next year, they do not value a faster finisher over a slower one. I would be very surprised if they ever made a change that guaranteed spots to elites or past champions at the expense of the rest of us.

            1. Speedgoatkarl

              I don't expect them to make a change, but bottom line, it is a "race", not a run. if it were a "run", no times would be recorded no? and there would not be a "winners trophy".

              I known I'm a little off subject..sorry. :-) it's so different in Europe, we in America have pacers to help us "finish", and we don't necessarily respect fast times or champions, in Europe they still recognize all finishers the same, but embrace the crazy nuts who do these races fast.

              It's all good, I have 6 finishes…..

              I do think also that the 2 dnf rule is in effect for those folks, like myself with 6 finishes. Needless to say, I better finish this year, or I"m in the lottery pool and I may never run HR again…the year before I was a puss, last year I got hurt…pressure's on. :-)

  11. Gerell

    Summer Shandy is a good pick…We here in the Folsom,Ca area refer to it as the,"Fruity Pebbles" beer. FYI Andy, when you're back in the area you might want to visit the wonderful bar Mandares in Folsom. It steers clear of mainstream beers and instead offers great brews from around the world.

  12. OOJ

    Good post! Nice to see some forward thinking put to action. It'll be interesting to see exactly how it gets executed. Also, I wonder how they decided that "25-25-50" was the ideal division. Did they analyze previous years? If so, were the "on" years (close to that divide) deemed "good" and the off years, bad? Or are they simply going "Gaussian" with the bell curve?

    Leinie's: Being a Wisco native, I have a love-hate relationship with them. When it comes to beer (or anything else), I think if it's from "far away", it must be good…

    Leinie's beer is generally not very good: the standard lager and red are serviceable; their nut brown outright bad. They get a lot of mileage from their "fruit beers": honey wiess, berry wiess (which, when mixed 50/50, makes an excellent cocktail…if you're a 20-something, power-drinking Wisconsinite). The sunset wheat tastes like hot dog water.

    Summer Shandy is my sister's favorite: again, shockingly fruity; a step up from Mike's Lemonade?

    Two alternate brew recommendations up the same alleys:

    1.) New Glarus…anything ( The best regional brewery in Wisconsin.

    2.) Big Sky Summer Honey ( Real, refreshing beer; a light honey taste.

  13. Sandy

    A question on the definition of 'DNS' and the Waitlist for those 'first timers' who have never run HR; only the first 100 applicants who are not selected are actually listed on the Waitlist. Are all of the people who applied and either didn't get in or listed on the official Waitlist still considered as 'DNS'? I sure hope so…

    1. Chris Twiggs

      Yes, Sandy. Anyone who applied for the run but didn't start, whether he or she made it to the wait list or not, is credited with a DNS for the purposes of the following year's lottery.

  14. Chris

    Anyone know if volunteers at this years race will still get an extra lottery ticket for next years race, like they have in years past (if I remember right)?

  15. Andy Hewat

    These changes strike a great balance to make it fairer across the board. It must be tough for the 5+ time finishers to lose their auto entry status. And it would be a shame if long time veterans like Kirk Apt or Blake Woods for example, missed out. Or Karl, I can feel the sentiment of his 2 cents worth.

    Chris, my understanding is that vols only get an extra ticket if you do both trail work days or are an aid station captain.

    1. Chris Twiggs

      That's right, Andy. The HR board is very shy about giving out those extra tickets. The ways you mentioned are pretty much the only ways. However, with the new service requirement, there is still an incentive to work an aid station.

      As for Kirk or Blake missing out, the "veteran" lottery will still be weighted, so Kirk will have the best odds of getting in next year, and Blake's odds will be better than anyone who gets his or her 5th finish this year, etc.

      Another notable change is that veterans with 2 consecutive DNF's (starting this year) will be kicked out of that category and into the "everyone else" lottery.

      1. Andy Hewat

        Pity there couldn't still be a guaranteed 'veteran' category at a higher level, although I note that it was only pushed up to 5 years from 3 years a few years ago so I guess there is a limit to this type of adjustment. Still it will continue to get tougher for runners to get to the higher completion rates with increasing pressure on entries so a 7 or even 10 year trigger point would be a good compromise. The long time veterans definitely add to the character of the race and quality of the experience for other entrants.

        The 2 x DNF rule is a fair addition. And the service requirement a good inclusion.

        1. Chris Twiggs

          When the requirement for automatic entry was 3 finishes, it required those 3 finishes to be within the previous 5 years, in effect weeding out those who got finishes long ago but not recently. The change to 5 lifetime favored those who had a long association with the race but hadn't finished in many years. I would have loved to see the two requirements combined: automatic status for those with 5 finishes so long as they don't dnf more than 2x in 3 years. This is almost what happened, since 2 dnf's will kick them out of the category, but there is no longer any guarantee. I long for and am working toward the coveted 10yr finisher status, but now there is a chance I won't ever get there.

          How about an exemption for those from exotic locals like Florida and Australia? (wink)

  16. Wyatt Hornsby

    Add my name to the list of people who like what Hardrock has done. Now let's hope Western States does something just as creative to make the race a bit more accessible. Some say WS should do away with the 50-mile qualifier, but if they do that then "easier" 100s like Rocky Raccoon are going to be flooded with people wanting to qualify for the big dance. Ultimately, there's no easy solution, but it looks like Hardrock has come close to it.

    1. Chris Twiggs

      Upping the qualifier at WS to 100 miles would be a good way to spread the wealth to other 100s while decreasing the chance that under-qualified runners will DNF.

  17. KenZ

    In response to Wyatt, I suppose one could do what HR does, and insist on that 100 being a mountain 100 from a particular (albeit short) list, or have to have a cumulative "Terrain + Surface" rating of, I dunno, 7 where terrain and surface are the grades given to a race in Ultrarunning Magazine's calendar. Or, they could simply parrot UTMB's qualifier list, which ensures at least one hard hundred and a handful of 50s, or an "easy 100" and some hard 50s. Personally, I kinda like UTMB's approach for Western States, because I think that actually would ensure higher finish rates, since one would have to have finished 2-3 races.

    Chris, I would be curious to see what the finisher rates are for WS based on the qualifying runs. Do those who've "only" run a 50 miler actually DNF more than those with a single 100 miler under their belt? Does anyone have that info (here's looking at you AJW)? Isn't it possible that 50 miler qualifiers also go out more conservatively and don't blow up as much? I'm totally speculating here of course…

    1. Lucy GK

      I agree theoretically that running the WS is a privilege to be earned, but at the same time, it is so expensive sometimes to run 100 mile races, especially if there isn't one in the area – all the travel, cost, time off work involved in running a 100 mile race as a pre-qualifier would make it cost prohibitive for some – especially if you’d have to do it several years to get into the lottery.

      Plus, look at last (and this year’s) female winner – Ellie wouldn’t have been able to run it last year if a prior 100 miler was a requirement.

  18. Chris Twiggs

    It would be interesting to see those numbers, though I can't predict what they would show. Obviously the HR board thinks there is an advantage to having another 100 under one's belt buckle. Perhaps the "spread the wealth" angle is the best one to take. There are so many excellent events out there, with more added every year.

    1. KenZ

      Yeah, good point on the 'spread the wealth,' especially in light of AJW's note on DNF rates being roughly equal regardless of qualifier type.

      I've made my peace with the very real chance of never being able to do WS. But good on HR for changing the app process, I DEFINITELY want to do HR, way more than WS, but I can't seem to articulate why. Perhaps it's the ridiculously rugged mountain experience.

  19. AJW

    As far as the 100 miler prerequisite for WS is concerned, Craig Thornley ran the numbers this past winter (before this Year's 81% finishing rate) and there is a roughly equal chance of dnf'ing with or without previous 100 miler experience. That said, it is my opinion that WS would do well to implement a 100 mile prerequisite. Many, of course, disagree with this. Interestingly, the number of first time finishers has been growing rapidly at WS in the past five years. On possible reason for this, and this is complete speculation, is that because it is so difficult to get into the race runners are viewing it as their one shot and perhaps running with a bit more determination to finish.

  20. ken gordon

    One more addition to the new process is that for every 5 years volunteer credit along with your pin a lottery ticket will be given to a qualified applicant.

  21. Blake

    An extra lottery ticket for service has only been given in the past to aid station captains and people who put in two days of trail work at the organized event the week before the run. Starting in 2013, an extra lottery ticket will also be given for each five years of volunteering at Hardrock. There will also be some tickets available for those clearing the course following the run.

  22. Anonymous

    Why not look at the MMT100 lottery system, everybody who signs up gets a random number. Then on a certain day noted on the website they take the last digits from the stock exchange and if that day it closed up or down. They start with that number and go in what ever direction it closed in, count 150 places or how ever many can enter and those people are in. Cant get much more fair then that.

  23. Ryan

    I would agree with that statement, AJW. Barring broken bones or being forced to quit there was no way in hell I wasn't finishing WS.

  24. SRanney

    It’s always hard to divine somebody else’s thought process, but the pattern I see is that the new qualifiers moves away from the lottery system. Throwing out Leadville, Barkley, and the overseas races, only 2 of the 11 remaining qualifiers have lotteries, while four of the five that are being phased out have lotteries (TRT is moving to a lottery for 2014). It looks like the HR board is saying that the races that are popular enough to need a lottery don’t need the added benefit of being an HR qualifier, and at the same time limiting the number of people who qualify to keep the HR lottery within a reasonable number instead of the thousands who apply to WS.

    And let’s not take ourselves too seriously. If you don’t get into HR (or WS), there are a ton of hard races out there that you can do on the cheap. Go run Plain for $90, or DRTE 100 for $100, or do an FKT for the price of a couple of boxes of GU. If you’re looking for a challenge and don’t hit HR, and can’t afford to travel, go do Nolan’s 14 or some other adventure. WS is in my backyard, and I’d like to do that and HR as much as anybody, but I know that eventually I’ll get into both and in the meantime I have this opportunity to sample all these awesome races on the qualifier lists. I’m looking forward to seeing Bighorn, or Wasatch, or Mogollon, or any of these other races that I probably wouldn't be doing if I was simply able to apply and get into HR every year.

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