Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Western States Lottery

The entry criteria has been a bit of a sore point with me over the last couple of years, as most of my friends know, from frequent discussions about it. But it is what it is. The first time I entered the lottery it was off of a 50-mile qualifier (North Face Endurance Challenge Madison 2009) and I happened to get picked. I had entered because I knew I had little chance of getting in and I wanted to start building up my tickets. Oops, there is that slim chance of it happening. So I went to my first States not having run a hundred before which left a big question mark over me for whether I could cover the distance in under 30 hours or not. I took a risk, potentially taking a spot in the race from someone who did have the cred to make the cutoffs. Fortunately I made it.

 Since then the lottery has gotten bigger and bigger, and only a small change to the entry criteria has been made and that was going from allowing any 50-mile or 100-mile as a qualifier to needing to run one from an approved list. Mainly this got rid of the road ultras which is a baby step. Given the availability of 100-milers I would get rid of the 50-mile qualifier (which I think at 11 hours is pretty soft) and require a 100-miler be run before you can get into the lottery. As a pie in the sky, I'd even require that whatever 100-miler is being used as the qualifier be run in a time proportionate to a 30-hour time at Western ( provides a good calculation for that).

So lets take a look at how pared down that would make our own small set of Minnesota entrants, currently standing at 33.  (I'd love to analyze the whole list of lottery entrants, but I'd need access to the raw data since I'm not going to look them all up by hand.)

33 - Current Entrants
22 - Removing those with 50-miler qualifiers (11 of them)
15 - Further removing those who's 100-miler qualifiers didn't match's relative 30-hour finish time.  I rounded my values for this up to the next hour to keep it simple.

Assuming that this rate holds across all of the 2302 entrants, applying my changes would yield some promising changes to the odds.

2302 - Current entrants
1535 - Those with 100 mile qualifiers
1046 - Those with a 'fast enough' 100 miler

Still not super odds, but way better than what we've been seeing.  Granted my 'fast enough 100-miler' qualifier might be tough to implement, but getting rid of the 50-miler would be an excellent start.  Given how hard it is go get into Western, I don't think it's out of the question for them to shoot for a 100% finish rate and gear the lottery towards ensuring that.  I think it would be very interesting to see if the finish rate changes significantly on simply requiring a 100-miler qualifier.

Cheers, and for those that do get picked on the 8th.  Train hard, and do everything you can to ensure you get that buckle.