November 19, 2016

Western States - The Dreaded Wait

Pre Start @ Western - The little ones

Here it is again. The dreaded wait. A space in time saturated with anticipation and anxiety. Fantasy and foreboding. But who among us is willing to ignore the hype and hullaballoo? The lights flashing, the music blasting, the sponsors spamming?

I’m talking of the Western States lottery, of course. The good ‘ol cattle call that turns us typically stoic, anti-establishment ultra runners into a stampeding herd of steer rushing for the barn door so we get our shot at the big league.

Hmmm. Western States. Is it really the “big deal” everyone talks about? Or is it another overblown media sensation. I’m down on the media right now, but that will change as soon as they pay back the $billions they made during our presidential election circus, oops, I meant cycle.

Ok, back to this post.

Western States. The original. The granddaddy. The track meet. The lottery with odds of getting in dropping each year. Why bother?

Well, like everything in life, its complicated. To run Western is to run with a cascade of fanatic volunteers, throngs of supporters and well wishers, and gobs runners staking their claim on ultra running’s most storied event. But, again, is it worth it?

My first 100 mile race was Western States. I was drawn to it for all of the above reasons. I’ve run it 3 times now. Every time vowing to return to improve my time. Every time succeeding. The last time without crew and pacers, my first stop on the way to finishing the Grand Slam.

The hardest thing about running Western States isn’t the climbs, or the heat, or the canyons, or the humidity, or the punishing downhills, or even the dreaded “mandatory” pre-race meeting bestowed on all runners by the sponsors footing a big bill. No its none of these things. The hardest thing about running Western States is making it through the labyrinthine application process that has driven the odds of a typical runner getting in down to an all time low of 4.7%.

I get it. But I hate it. There are limited slots (thanks to the forest service) and more and more people apply each year. Everyone wants a bite at the apple of the granddaddy of ultras.

So here I sit. In that space in time.

No comments: