Thursday, January 15, 2009

Suggestion to the Western States Board of Trustees

To everyone who runs Western States, or has even tried to get in to Western States, we all know this is a statistically difficult process. The WS lottery isn't quite as difficult as winning the Power Ball lottery, but at a 16% chance of getting in via the lottery in 2008, it is pretty difficult. The WS board knows this.

Other ways to get to the starting line in Squaw Valley (which, if held in Sisters, would be called Wychus Valley, as the creek formerly known as Squaw Creek is now Wychus Creek) are finishing top-10 female or male the year before, finishing top-3 female or male at one of six Montrail Ultracup qualifying races (White River 50m, Mt. Masochist 50m, JFK 50m, Way Too Cool 50k, American River 50m, and Miwok 100k), and special consideration.

Top-10 getting automatic entry next year - totally cool. Up to 36 other top runners getting in via the 6 qualifiers - also cool, as it makes an always competitive race even more competitive. This is good.

As for the special consideration option, I'm definitely all for this. I think it's a great way for other runners "whose contributions to the organization of the event have been unusual and substantial" to receive a starting bib. The board says "No special consideration will be given to athletes that would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race. Competitive athletes that feel they would greatly enhance the competitive aspect of the race have the opportunity to gain entry into WS via the Montrail Ultra Cup Series".

Okay, so last year, Scott Jurek really wanted in Western States. You know Scott, the guy who has started WS 7 times, won WS each of said 7 times, and holds the course record. Yes, that Scott. Well, last spring he came up 4 seconds short of qualifying at Way Too Cool and 4:15 short of qualifying at Miwok. Yep, that sucks. And as the WS special consideration qualifying rules are written, Scott shouldn't have received an entry into last year's race. And although he petitioned to the board to be allowed in the game, he didn't get in.

That sucks.

I mean really...the guy was basically the poster child for Western States from 1999 - 2005. Not only did he win by a convincing 44 minutes average margin each of those 7 years, but he was (and is) a great ambassador for Western States. Scott's closest margin of victory came in his last appearance...only 21 minutes seperated him from AJW. Scott's toughest victory arguably came against Dave Mackey in 2004, when Dave and Scott were basically neck-and-neck from Squaw to Foresthill. Scott put the hammer down on Cal Street and went on to the break the course record. Obviously Dave played a big role in helping Scott break the record, and Scott readily acknowledges this - he even thanked Dave at the award's ceremony.

Anyway, Scott likes to race against the best. After a couple years hiatus from Western States, he knew the best field ever assembled was going to be in Squaw in June, 2008, and he wanted to be toeing the line with that field. He was willing to put up his unblemished record against the best so he could race against the best.

Cool. Very cool.

But for some reason, the Board didn't think granting Scott special consideration was a good idea. As I don't know the real reason why, I can only guess on this, so I won't. But I will say it was lame.

Hey Western States Board of Trustees: when Scott Jurek wants in Western States, let him in! He has obviously done a lot to promote the race in many, many, many ways. It just makes sense to let him in. Same goes for Ann. If she ever decides to run WS again, let her in.

As most WS followers know, Scott was granted entry into this year's race. So, obviously the Board figured out the error of their ways...too bad it took a year. Since the race didn't happen last year, Scott not being in it obviously didn't do anything to the outcome. But nobody knew the race was going to be cancelled until race week. The point being, he shouldn't have had to wait a year. And hopefully he won't again.

I'm looking forward to toeing the line with Scott in Squaw Valley on June 27.

*This post is the first in a series of five Western States 100 synchroblogs leading up to the 2009 race. For this first one, the following four bloggers have agreed to write a post making a plea or request directly to the Western States Board of Directors. See what they have to say to the board:
* AJW writes a letter to the WS board suggesting ten course changes.
* Bryon Powell pleas for transparency and accountability.
* Craig Thornley urges the board to reconsider mandatory volunteerism.
* Scott Dunlap asks John Trent what the Western States Board of Trustees is and what they do.


Jasper Halekas said...


Totally agree that Scott should be in the race, and I'm glad he's running this year. But, what changed between last year and this? Last year, the rules didn't allow his entry, and he didn't get in. This year, as far as I know, the rules didn't change... What's up, WS board?

I posted a long rant about this on Bryon's blog, so won't repeat myself here.


Anonymous said...

sean. your link to bryon's blog isn't correct, it goes to dunlaps. good stuff here though

saschasdad said...

Thanks Jesse. Correction made.

Exactly, Jasper...what IS up with the WS board?

Matt Hart said...

well said meissner. however with ajw's blog being a joke you might loose some credibility for the whole effort. just sayin.. if you are serious, be serious.

i actually though his post was quite funny... but the other blogs that i've ready in this syncro thing are for real, his isn't.

Anonymous said...

That's the thing about subjective rules - they're subjective. How do you measure "unusual and substantial" contributions? It's completely the opinion of a committee. What they said yes to in 2009, they could easily say no to again in 2010, just as they did in 2008..

Grae Van Hooser said...

Sean, I agree with you 100%. Maybe since they let Mackey in this year dispite him turning down the auto entry last year, motivated them to be consistent in some strange way. The WS way? I was blown away when I learned a few years ago that previous winners, both male and female, were not auto entries for life. That's crazy! I feel that the bottom line is that it is a timed event, therefore a race. It's not a hike. If the board wants to make & maintain the event to be the cat's meow they all think it is, they must maintain quality standards. To me that means it is a high level endurance race and you have to have some above average ability. and that you have to train and sweat and sacrifice.- Grae

Paul Charteris said...

Sean, I agree completely. The WS Board not letting Scott in would have be like Le Tour saying to Lance Armstrong, - you shall not ride. Iam very glad they admitted Scott in 09. The presence of Scott Jurek adds a lot to the competitiveness and excitement of this years event and I am honored to be a part of this "race for the ages".

I can only summise Marco Olmo and Tsuyoshi Kaburaki got in via special consideration also?


Paul Charteris

Craig Thornley said...


Are you sure Jurek asked the board to let him into the 2008 race? Hard to blame them for not letting him in if he never asked.

saschasdad said...

Yeah, Craig. I am sure of this.

Craig Thornley said...

Hate to pester, but is the source Jurek himself?

saschasdad said...

...and a board member.

Don't worry about pestering - we all want the synchroblogs to be legitimate.

Anonymous said...

I am sure Scott asked as well. I won't say the source, but a 100% sure. I know he didn't apply under the normal process in 2008, the request was well after the fact, which may be why they didn't let him in.
I agree with Sean here, if Lance Armstrong wants to ride again let him ride, or Tiger Woods wants to golf at my country's going to happen. Also, Sean makes the point, Jurek is partly responsible for the growth in popularity of WS itself.

Simple fact is I gave my spot away and I am so fat, they were able to let two people in -- simple math....


Craig Thornley said...

Is there a big elephant in the room that is being ignored? Anybody remember the finish of the 2006 race? Not the best day for the 7-time champion or for Western States.

Grae Van Hooser said...

LB, Do you think that the board is that petty with reference to what happened in 06'? Umm, nevermind,I retract the question.

saschasdad said...

Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, knows for certain what they would have done in Scott's situation. Obviously every one of us likes to believe we would have gotten the appropriate medical attention for Brian as soon as he hit the track, but that's where it ends. We only want to believe this; we do not know for sure what we would have done. It is impossible to.

Craig Thornley said...

Grae, Sean,

What I was getting at is did that put a strain on relationships? I don't care to rehash or relive any of the details or to pass judgement. Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Scott never questioned the decision regarding Brian -- so I don't know that any bad blood was created.
He knew 2 seconds after the moment he put his hands on Brian that he was going to be DQ'd. He thought Brian just deserved to cross the finish line. He said he acted out instinct as a person with campassion, helping to Brian back up, not as an ultrarunner. He second guess'd himself a 1000 times in the days that followed. How do I know??? Because as of 4 days after the race in 2006 he said I was first person to contact him and say to him he did the right thing.
I think Scott thought he could slip into WS in a jam. I remember two years ago he was hoping if he didn't get into Hardrock, that he could still get into States if he wanted. I think that's a reasonable request. After all, NASCAR has a "Past Champion" provisonal starting position, a driver who is a past champion doesn't have to qualify for a race on time, the they can use 1 of 6 seasonal provisionals....maybe ultrarunning could learn from NASCAR.


Anonymous said...

I'm a little slow on this, I know, but I would like to point out on Scott's behalf that in his first years at WS100, the board told him repeatedly that previous winners were allowed in for life, as long as they can qualify. He trusted in their word. Furthermore, during those seven years he witnessed the board allowing top runners in up to the last minute, literally a couple of weeks prior, and was grateful for the increased competition.

Eric@URP said...

I, too, am shocked that there's no "past champion" rule. I also didn't realize there's bad blood b/c of BM's finish in 06. Bummer.
All I know is that this year is going to be epic.