Sunday, December 15, 2013

Western States 100 Lottery and California International Marathon

What a great weekend I had !  Ever since I heard about the Western States 100 mile endurance run, I have dreamt of being able to attend this historic event, more about that later.    Of course, there is the not so small problem of too many people want to do this race and they only accept about 400 every year.    I decided to put my name in the lottery and wouldn't you know it, I got in.  I was overjoyed when I heard my name pulled from a tumbler on Dec 7, 2013.  To top the weekend of, I participated in the California International Marathon the next day and achieved my goal of qualifying for the 2015 Boston Marathon with a time of 3:28:52.  I wanted to share with you how these two days came about for me in the hopes I can help and/or inspire other runners or runners in waiting to start dreaming big and with a bit of luck things can be accomplished.
First,  my journey to the Western States lottery began when I read the book Born to Run and they discussed the accomplishments of  Scott Jurek(El Venado), who won 7 times and Ann Trayson (La bruja) who won 14 times.   Shortly after reading the book, in the Podcast Talk Ultra, I listened to an interview of Gordy Ainsleigh  where he described how the Western States 100 came to be and the birth of modern day 100 mile trail running.
Me and Gordy Ainsleigh at the 2014 Western States lottery

If you want to read more about the race history, the long version is available here at On the Run In brief, the year was 1974 and Gordon Ainsleigh who had participated in the Tevis Cup 100 mile race previously on a horse decided to run the course when his horse became lame.   He trained for an finished the race in less than 24 hours, earning him a Silver belt buckle.  Thereafter, long distance trail running started with more participants and the event became the Western States endurance run.  Additionally, here they began the tradition of awarding belt buckles to finishers of 100 mile trail runs.  The popularity of this event has grown tremendously but the number of participants has been limited by federal laws which restrict events along the wilderness trails where the event takes place. This has necessitated use of a lottery system to allow entry to the event.  To enter the lottery, this is the last year a 50 mile finish in a qualifying time is allowed, alternatively a 100 mile finish, or a 100K finish is required to enter the lottery.  With this in mind, I initially registered for the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile race in Feb 2013.  (more detatils here Rocky Raccon Race report).  This in an "easy" 100 miler in Huntsville, Texas which I finished just under the 30 hour cutoff.  On Nov 9, I went on and registered for the lottery, fully aware that I had a very remote chance of getting in.  As it turned out, 2700 people applied for the 270 available slots for 2014.  This is after you factor in the top 10 male and female finishers from 2013, special consideration folks (3), winners from the various races in the Montrail cup, 3 members of the board and Gordy always gets an automatic entry.  The lottery is done in a live setting with everyone's name entered on a piece of paper into a large tumbler.  If you were unlucky in the draw the previous years, the name is entered as many times as  you have entered the lottery.  I had my name once and some folks had their name 4 times.  They calculated the odds for entry as shown below.

Tickets# of EntrantsProbability (%)Expected # SelectedExpected % Selected
So my chances were 6.5% to gain entry.  I made plans to go to the Sacramento Marathon back in August (more about this later) and so I happened to be there in the area that weekend.  I found out that in addition to the drawing of names, they would select 3 lottery entrants who were present at the event.  So, I decided it was worth the drive up from Sacramento on Saturday AM to try my luck.
Placer HS Auditorium  in Aubur, CA site of WS 100 Lottery

 I drove up to Auburn from Sacramento which is 40 miles away and arrived in time to put my name in a playing card which was my entry into the lottery within the lottery.  I took a seat and joined about 300 other entrants in the auditorium for the lottery. The event was broadcast live and recorded for everyone to see.  The video can be seen here (Ustream video) (my name was called 45 min. into broadcast).  They added all the names into the tumbler and had several VIPs select 20 names each.  First to go was Gordy, followed by Anne Trayson.  The person who eventually pulled my name was Kathy Perry, President of the Western States Trail Foundation and the Tevis Cup.  I was pumped and excited to hear that I had been selected as you can imagine.  I went up to the stage and got a Western States cap and had my picture taken with Kathy (my lucky charm).  At the conclusion of the program all the runners who had gotten in were photographed, about 25 of us. 
The atmosphere of the event was great and I was lucky to have been selected and been present for the selection.  Now all I have to do is train and finish this event on June 28, 2014.  
Gordy selecting first 20 lottery winners

The next day, I undertook a more recent goal and that was to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Prior to this April, I had the opportunity to train with several runners in Run El Paso who had qualified for Boston.  I researched it further and found out that for me to gain entry, I would need to be a lot faster than any of my previous marathons.  My fastest marathon had been in NY City in 2011 and it was a 4:15.  For Boston, I had to get under 3:30.  I started training in earnest in August after the San Juan Solstice 50 Miler with the Run El Paso runnners who by this time were training for St George Marathon.  My friend Lorraine was using a training plan from a book called, Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr , and Ray Moss.  
I won't go into great detail but the basic idea is running 3-4 days a week with one interval session, a long run , and a tempo run mid week.  
The morning of the race was a cold 24 degrees F in Folsom, CA and I started with the 3:30 pacer.  I felt good and the 8:00 min/mile pace was not hard.  At about mile 3, I had to stop to tie my shoe lace and ran to catch up to the pacer.  I kept going at  about 7:40 pace and could not find her.  Before long, I had caught the 3:25 pacer, so I decided that would be my new goal.  This meant a 7:50 min/mile pace which was doable except on the hills.  At about mile 14, I got rid of my gloves and arm warmers as the sun had warmed me up.  Unfortunately, at mile 20 the sun was covered by buildings and trees and wind started to pick up.  My pace slowed and I could not keep up with the pacer.  At mile 25 the 3:30 pacer caught up to me and gave me a scare.  She said she was faster than 3:30 but I just took off and wanted to make sure I was well in front of her. I finished at 3:28:52, Chip time and was thrilled to have made it under the qualifying time.  
So my goals for 2014 are to complete the Western States 100 in June.  I am also registered for the Big Bend 50K in January and the Caballo Blanco 50 miler Ultra in March.  Thanks for reading.