Thoughts on Lottery Weekend

AJW writes about two major ultramarathon lotteries.

By on November 30, 2018 | Comments

AJW's TaproomTomorrow, for much of the day, the eyes of the ultramarathon world will be focused on Auburn, California and Los Alamos, New Mexico for the two most competitive lotteries of the season, the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100. The summer plans of over 8,000 people hang in the balance as runners from around the world test the odds of getting into one of these two iconic American races.

What will then ensue, after the lotteries are over, is the now-familiar refrain of frustration and disappointment coming from the massive number of people (over 90% of the applicants to both races) who will be left to wait at least another year for entry into these wildly popular events. The frustration will range from ‘aw shucks’ bad luck to downright visceral anger at the seeming injustice of it all. And, at the end of the day, it will leave thousands of people feeling left out and bitter.

I admit it, I am one of the lucky ones. Having entered the sport of ultrarunning prior to its current explosive growth, I have had the honor of running Western States 10 times and Hardrock twice, once in each direction. I have had the privilege of enjoying these hallowed trails multiple times with hundreds of fellow competitors over a decade and a half. I can say with certainty, in fact, that those 12 days were some of the most rewarding of my life and I am so happy I got to experience them. As such, I say to all those who need to wait another year (or two or 10), do it, it’s totally worth it.

Now, I know there will be some out there who will say, “What could possibly be so great about a race that it’s worth waiting 10 years to do?” And, in some ways, I understand that sentiment. But, as one of the lucky ones, I am here to tell you that if you do wait it out you will not be disappointed. Western States and Hardrock are really that good.

Also, in the meantime, I urge everyone who may be disappointed to not shy away from getting involved in the races or participating in some of the other activities around them. Both races are always looking for volunteers and the opportunity to see these iconic events from the ‘other side’ can be an invaluable learning experience. You could also sign up for the three-day Western States Training Camp over Memorial Day weekend. For a very modest fee, you can run the final 70 miles of the Western States course with fully staffed aid stations and sharing the trail with many Western States veterans who are a wealth of information and stories. At Hardrock, you can join the course-marking party in the weeks before the race or even run your own ‘Softrock’ as many people do the week before the race, covering the part of or the entire course over a three- or four-day period.

This is all to say, for those of us who will be licking the wounds of disappointment on Saturday–and there will be thousands of us–don’t lose hope. Instead, take those lemons and turn them into lemonade. Find a way to enjoy the events from a different perspective, and then, when the time comes and your name is finally drawn, jump in fully with both feet and a head held high.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is a delicious Oatmeal Stout from Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, California. Their Velvet Merkin Oatmeal Stout is truly incredible. Aged in bourbon barrels for over a year, and released each October, this rich milk-chocolate-and-coffee-flavored stout is smooth and creamy and truly one of the best versions of this popular variety I’ve ever had.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are you entered into one or both of Saturday’s lotteries? If so, which one and how many tickets do you have?
  • What coping mechanisms have you brainstormed or back-up adventure and racing plans do you have if your name isn’t chosen?
  • For those who have been lucky enough to run a race that’s difficult to enter, do you think the wait was ‘worth it?’
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.