In October I entered the lottery for the Western States 100. Over the next 15 days I watched the names roll in. I badgered every Brit I knew to throw their hat in, in total 27 did. When the entries closed there were 1500 names going for around 300 lottery places. I knew my chances were slim, however this didn't bother me too much. If I get in then great, if not then no big deal, I'll try again next year.
It is a recurring theme in ultra races nowadays. the WS100 has always been hard to get in as it is the original and most prestigious of all the 100 milers. They did previously give the "two-time losers" a guaranteed place in their third application but now it is so popular and oversubscribed that they can no longer offer that. Now it is just a straight lottery, you could wait forever.
For the first time this year the GUCR places were given out in a lottery, Comrades sold 5000 places in 7 hours, the UMTB are introducing a lottery this year, even mud baths in the south of England are selling out long before the race. It it great that the popularity of the sport is increasing. It means I get to do more different events, meet more great people and see places that I wouldn't normally. On the other hand it makes it much harder to get into the "classic" events such as the WS100.
As the draw day drew closer I was in two minds as to whether I even wanted to do it. A trip to the states is a big commitment and great cost, I would have been happy to put it off for a while. Then 5 days before I got an email that said the live draw was taking place on Saturday and will be streamed on the web. All of a sudden my feeling changed from indifference to excitement. I wanted nothing more than for my name to be drawn out. I was off the the Serpie Christmas party but was glued to my phone between 5-7 as slowly the names were added to the list.
I decided that the cost of the trip was worth it if I got in as it was so unlikely, alas it was not to be. When all the names were drawn there were only 2 Brits (one of them Ian Sharman who wanted to do this as his 100th this year). I was a bit gutted, but nothing that a skinful of hotel lager and terrible dancing wouldn't make me forget.
It did bring home the reality that getting into these events now is not just about meeting the qualification criteria and having the money posted on time. There is such a large element of chance of gaining entry in the first place that it's hard to plan what races you want to do years in the future, which is what I have been doing until now.
So, with that in mind and having already decided somehow that I am up for a trip to the States next year to do a race I may have to change my plans slightly. Badwater was going to be the cumulation of the "5 year plan" to do the hardest race in the world. In the middle of 2006 when I entered my first ultra I had decided to aim for Badwater in 2011. There is however the risk that my plans may be scuppered due to my inability to get out of a hat. To double my chances I may as well put in an entry for next year. What's the worst that can happen?