Western States 100 Entry Revisions Revisited – Feedback

I received a tremendous amount of great feedback from the likes of Andy Jones-Wilkins, Scotty Mills, Greg Loomis, and Olga Varlamova regarding my draft proposal for revising the current Western States entry system, which is likely to be revamped at tomorrow’s lottery. Feedback on my draft proposal can be summarized as such:

  • For better or worse, the two-timer loser rule has outlived its viability and must go;
  • Some sort of weighted ticketing system would work; and
  • The 25 automatic international entrants provision should go.

After that, there were a whole lot of great ideas, but little consensus. Here are some of the ideas:

  • There were a few calls to modify the current auto entries for the Top 10 male and female finishers from the prior year. These suggested modifications included:
    • A general reduction in the depth of placing that earned auto entries;
    • The complete elimination of Top 10 placing as an automatic entry provision; and
    • The reduction of women’s auto entries to Top 5 placings based on the much smaller size of the women’s field.
  • Regardless of modifications to the Top 10 rule, many felt the previous winners should have automatic entry for life.
  • Various ideas for weighting the number of tickets given to a particular applicant, include:
    • An extra ticket for each consecutive year for which an applicant applied but did not gain entry;
    • An extra ticket for each year within a set span of years that the applicant applied but did not gain entry;
    • An extra or extra tickets to age group winners from the previous year; and
    • Extra tickets based on the number of 100 mile races the applicant has completed.
  • Some suggested that the qualification standards be modified either by
    • Tightening the time criteria, or
    • Requiring a previous 100 mile finish.
  • Others suggested that the WSER Board be given between 20 and 50 discretionary entry slots. These slots would be used to grant entry to elite runners.
  • Based on the fact that the WSER is such a community, there were calls for applicants with at least a given number of WS buckles (aka official finishes) automatic entry. These suggestions ranged from 6 to 10 prior finishes.
  • One suggestion was to grant entry on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Another idea is that anyone who finished in a given year sit out the next year.
  • A just proposal was made to require aid station caption designees to have actually worked at the respective aid station the previous year.
  • A less serious proposal made as a potential way to cut down the number of applicants was to require entrants to run Western States to run in the buff.

While folks had their thinking caps on, they made some suggestions for the Montrail Ultra Cup, at least as far as races at which the Top 3 women and men get auto entry into States. These suggestions include:

  • Not including 50ks among the races with auto WS entries, though they might otherwise add to the series.
  • Make the auto entry races of series of tune up 50 milers, including Zane Grey, Bull Run Run, Ice Age, Mt Jemez, and American River or Leona Divide.
  • Make only 100 milers the races which result in automatic entries into WS. In particular, the other “majors” – Vermont, Hardrock, Leadville, and Wasatch – were suggested.
  • Broadening the geographic scope of the races.

Good luck to everyone in tomorrow’s lottery!

[If anyone would like direct attribution for an idea, please let me know and I’ll add it. These days, I’m erring on the side of privacy – even for thoughts that were otherwise posted publicly.]

There are 18 comments

  1. aharmer

    Evening Goat,Here are a few thoughts from a guy who has never even registered for WS, let alone finished one, so take these with a grain of salt.My first reaction was to agree completely with your take on eliminating automatic foreign slots. I don't understand this.The many ideas for a ticket system have merit. I feel as if the following system would be more fair for everybody: Automatic entry to the people with the most consecutive denials. If the longest streak of denials is 7 years, that guy gets in. Then everybody with 6 straight denials get in. Then 5, etc., until you get to the level where there are more denials than there are spots. They then lapse back into the same lottery that has become such a legendary part of the event. A ticket system that could easily leave out the people that have waited the longest doesn't seem fair to me.Tightening the qualification standards by time isn't a bad idea, but not very practical. Every 50M event is so different that would be nearly impossible. At some events half the field would qualify, where others would scarcely see any. A solution to this problem would be to organize a group of experienced runners and RD's to assign a rating to each qualifying course. For argument sake let's say you make JFK 50 the benchmark rating of 1.0. A more difficult course could have a multiplier of 0.8 attached to it. An easier course may have 1.15 or something else over 1.0. Multiply finishing times by the multiplier to get your qualifying time. I understand this is not realistic due to the amount of work involved, but I'm on a nice opinionated roll here.My final thought is regarding the discretionary slots for elites. I believe this is a great idea. They set aside spots for elite athletes that will dramatically improve the competitive nature of the event. On a specified date, any of these elite spots that are not spoken could go back into another lottery for the average folk that missed out on the first one. I probably outstayed my welcome with this one, have a good weekend!

  2. Goatalicious

    I have a solution to the WS lottery issues; run a better 100 miler. There are quite a few here in the US. How can any race that wouldn't have Todd Walker, Leigh Schmit or Karl Meltzer cosider itself a race (just checked the lottery results). WS is a fat ass with great aid stations.

  3. Anton

    Time for me to weigh in, I suppose. First, it seems like many people want WS to be a championship-type race whether the race committee likes the idea of that or not.I know that is why I want to be in the race: if I get in, there will be some solid competition to run against. MUC already calls WS it's "Championship event", so it would make sense that if they really want that to be true, they would assure the entry of more top athletes (I agree that a 50K is a horrible indicator of 100 mile fitness–see Scott J).However, I also understand the history of the event and that as many "non-top" runners should be allowed in as possible.So, here's a brainstorming pair of solutions.Either, A) Cut out all automatic entries except for holding 10-15 spots for top runners who would contribute to the championship aspect of the event (this sort of subjectivity could obviously lead to all sorts of debate and cronyism)orB) Make WS a pure lottery and get Montrail (or North Face, or whoever) to create a completely separate 100 mile trail race championship with all kinds of prize money and desire to attract the absolute top talent in the sport (sort of a la the TNF 50 yesterday).Even better (b/c I've heard that TNF has had some problems with organization/execution) let all of the established 100 mile trail races in the country bid to host the Championship race each year and let it rotate among all the top-notch races in this country (i.e. WS, VT, LT, Wasatch, Mass, RR, JJ, etc.) and have whatever hypothetical sponsor still be the title sponsor/dollar-backer of the event.Mostly, I just want to run against great competition and couldn't really care at this point whether it is on the WS course or not (although, of course, a deep tradition of history and comparison over time is part of what makes a race like WS so unique…and I can definitely appreciate that).Tony

  4. Loomdog

    I agree with Anton, the way to get the best to race one another is for a BIG sponsor to put it out there the way the Montrail Ultracup has partially tried to do (but ineffectively- too many races- too complicated- too much of it in California) and the way TNF just did with this weekends 50.Why not have a big series that units USATF, MUC, and anyone else who wants in to put on some races that are considered TRUE national championship races that quality runners actually show up to run.Maybe a 50k March. A 50 mile race in April/May and a 100 miler in June/July.I'd even go so far as to say use the current WS race course but let it just be for faster folks. Maybe a Western States for the masses with an unweighted lottery (all equal shot) on the last weekend in June and a championship WS100 held on the same course one day or one week later. Allow only 100 total runners into this biggy race. They would be only those who have placed well in the build up 50k / 50 mile or other TOP NOTCH 50 /100 milers in the last 18 months. And most importantly…. the final cut for entrants is only 6 weeks prior to race day so you can WAIT and SEE how fit someone is before excluding someone hot who has not raced. (I'd love to have seen the Skaggs brothers in last summers WS, and a Crowther that did not have to re-qualify at Miwok)

  5. Anton

    Loomdog,I mostly agree with you, but I think that splitting the races would highlight EXACTLY the point I'm trying to make about ultra running in its current state: one of the great things about running is that mid and back of the packers can line up with the champs and race together, and I think a fair amount of runners in the "citizen's race" at WS wouldn't be excited about running in a race that didn't include all of the top runners.However, overall, a split race is one I would support…I just really want a championship-style event.Finally, why not let a top runner sign up as late as 1 week before the championship race and not make them decide 6 weeks out? If you had asked me to sign up for Leadville 6 weeks out this year I wouldn't have done it because I was still injured and had been injured for 2 months…I seriously doubted my ability to be able to finish Leadville at that point, let alone win or run in the low-16s.

  6. Loomdog

    Say the race accepted 40 top females and 60 top males. You would need a bit of time for things to settle out in order to determine those top 60 guys. Waiting to the week of the race for someone the quality of you to decide to enter might bump someone closer to that 60 mark like me. People would need some time for travel/job arrangements…thus 4-6 weeks out. This assumes a run committe chooses the race entrants. If you went straight off quilification by accepting all who place in the top 5 at White River, MMTR, JFK, Sunmart, Bull Run, Zane Grey, AR, Ice Age, mt Jemez for 50's. As well as, top 5 finishers at RR, MMT, HR, LV, Wasatch, AC, ect. within the last 18 months You could easily wait until the week of the race to allow THOSE folks to enter.The later probably being the best formula yet.My friend and I are starting a new 100 in the finger lakes of NY. Maybe we should offer free entry to anyone who has ever won a trail 100 miler. Perhaps we could build it as THE championship 100.!http://www.iroquoistrails100.com/

  7. Mike Mason

    I have an idea – a little naive, perhaps, but here it is – perhaps the top runners could colaborate via some club or forum, such as a blog (irunfar, wasatchspeedgoat, etc.), to discuss/determine where the fastest will compete each year. This of course doesn't play well for races with lottery systems but there are many worthy mountain races out there, e.g. Bighorn, MMT, Leadville, Tahoe Rim, the list goes on… This approach would put the decision making in the hands of the runners and I imagine any number of RDs would LOVE being "selected" by the runners as the race of the year.

  8. Trail Goat

    harmer,I agree that there should be some was for those with the most consecutive denials to get in. Although left out of my posts on this topic, I had previously discussed with other that after a few years of a weighted ticket system you could either let in all the people with X number of consecutive denials or after the main lottery is held, do a drawing for 1, 5, 10, etc entrants starting with those with the most consecutive denials. In other words under the second idea, if the WSER Board decided on 10 secondary draft picks and there were three 6-time losers, all three 6-time losers would get in and then there would be a drawing for seven 5-time losers, with any left over tickets cascading down to the next consecutive denial level.I don't that it's realistic or necessary to have a race multiplier for WS qualification. You'd still have people game the multipliers. Besides, every single region of the country could set up a fastest possible 50 miler be it on roads or a track. Yes, it would suck, but there is nothing preventing that from occurring now. Best to leave a single qualifying standard that lets many folks qualify at which race they choose while some will seek out the fastest 50 mile course in order to qualify.As far as I know there has been a long standing "competitors exemption" under which elites could put their accomplishments on the WS entry form and the Board had the discretion to let them in. I think the current ideas revolve around setting a certain number of slots for this purpose and making the picks transparent.

  9. Anton

    Mike,I had the same exact thought today after some correspondence with Karl M (who also was not selected by the WS Lottery…and he was planning on doing the grand slam this year).That is, I was thinking, "hmmm…all the top guys want to race each other…we should all just agree to go find a suitable 100 mile course, bring our crews, and duke it out." No prize money, no sponsorships, no aid stations, basically a championship race in the style of the Fat-Ass races with the only entry fee being to split the cost of the keg at the finish line. I'm sure more than a few entities (TR and UR magazine, mid- and back-of-the-pack ultra runners, the general ultra running fan) would be more than interested in the results…tony

  10. Trail Goat

    Goatalicious,While there is much frustration among both those who did and did not get into WS 2008 about the fact that many top notch ultrarunners didn't get in, it's a bit of a stretch to call it a fat ass. At the moment it would be a long shot to say that any other 100 in 2008 will have a better men's field than States… that is unless some of the big dogs decide to do what really needs to be done – create or run a true 100 mile championship race. From Anton's comment below, it looks like that might already be happening.

  11. Trail Goat

    Anton and Loomis, I like the idea of a true 100 championship. There have been multiple attempts to create such a championship, but for one reason or another they have all failed. Loomis, There's no way you could split up WS into two races. Only one race is grandfathered through Granite Chief Wilderness Area.

  12. Trail Goat

    Mason,Nice idea with having top runners coordinate on running a particular 100. The biggest issue I see with this is that if the discussion is in a public form, I suspect that many other runners might also attempt to enter that race. While ideally all the coordinating top runners would enter the first day entry opened, it's quite possible that there could be more entries than slots on that day… and at a race where there is no tie-breaker system in place, those runners would be left to the whimsy of the RD. I suppose those runners could approach the RD ahead of time and reserve a set number of slots for particular runners or "top" runners in general. While some RDs would say no, I'm sure some would jump at the chance to have Anton, Meltzer, Mason, Hart et al. throw down at their race.

  13. mike mason

    Goat-Seeing the names "Tony, Meltzer, Mason, Hart, et al" kind of reminds me of one of those standardized test questions whereby one must eliminate the one that does not belong. Thanks for the nice gesture!Mike

  14. Trail Goat

    Mason,Sure, all those other guys are fast, but you're the only guy I've seen rise from the dead. Seriously, your run at CCC '06 was the effort of a champion – I'll never forget it! I hope to watch first hand when you kick some European derierre next August.Goat

  15. "Sherpa" J

    I would add this.. They set up 50 Jugs… one representing each of the 50 states. Everyone who enters the lottery is placed in their respective states bucket. ONE name from each state is chosen.. then all names from the 50 buckets are dumped into ONE bucket to continue with the rest fo the names.

  16. mario

    mike,You are a bad man. I would not pick you as the guy that doesnt belong, even if my Princeton admission depended on it. I didnt make MMT because work was too busy. See you guys at Big Horn.

  17. Jay Greenfield

    Great idea Tony. But maybe a couple of kegs for the spectators too. Good luck this weekend. I just finished my third 100 miler(middle pack) and am amazed how fast you guys can cover that distance. Happy trails, brother!

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