Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reflections on the Western States Lottery. Again.

[For last year’s reflections…click here.]


I didn’t get in again. But I shouldn’t be surprised, the odds were stacked against me, everyone. With 4 tickets in the draw, I had ~28% chance of getting in.

This time I decided to make the journey from NC to Auburn (misplaced confidence, not the first time I have had that)– what a fun time; the room is filled with energy – big rounds of applause when a local favorite gets picked, or a 4-time loser who is in the crowd gets picked. As the names get drawn and you start realizing that there are not many spots left, you can certainly feel the energy draining out of the place. Looking forward to next year already. You can also tell that they take the integrity of the process very seriously.

Of course it was disappointing to not be selected, but it kinda is what it is, a random process, fairly done, and the probability of having my name pulled out even with 4 tickets in the hat was slim.

There were quite a few times  during the drawing (try saying that fast after a few beers), when a ticket would be pulled, and it would go like this:

RD: “Another 4 time loser”
ME: [Heart starts thumping]
RD: “From San…….”
RD: “…….Jose”
ME: “Shit”

That happened 5 times. 5 times my heart skipped a beat. There are 5 4-time losers with San as the first three letters of their town. 5 times I get ready to do a fist pump and give a large “WOOHOO!”

Seriously, what are the odds of that?? There were 37 (I think) four time losers picked – 5 of them came SanSomewhere. None of those Sans ended in Ford. Bollox.

I don’t feel as down as I did this time last year. Here is why. After the drawing – I took a walk on part of the Western States trail, I sat on a rock next to the American River and looked up at No Hands Bridge (mile 97 of the course), and started thinking how lucky I am. In the next 6 weeks or so, I will be living within 45 minutes of this spot. And then the plan came to me. Over the course of the next year, I am going to run the whole course, piece by piece. Squaw Valley, to Auburn. Why? Because I can. And I will.

Some geekery. In December 2009, my name was one of 1693 entrants. That pool of entrants has dwindled year on year. 2010, there were 500 of us that would have 2 tickets in the hat. 2011 there were 258 with three tickets, and today, there were 122 with 4.

Of those 4, there were 37 who get selected, leaving just 85 from the original 1693.  Meaning that 1608 (95%) have either got into the race, failed to qualify or lost interest.

If I was a betting man, I would guess that next year, there will be just 50-60 people with 5 tickets in the hat. Those 50 or 60, even with their 5 tickets, will still have only around a 30% chance of getting selected. It is the nature of the beast that way this particular lottery works.

Perhaps, Mr. Race Director, sir, perhaps, next December, you can clean the board  get rid of 250-300 tickets out of the drawing and let all 50-60 of us in the race. Please?
















  1. Sorry you didn't get in again, Jimbo. I really thought this was your year. I love your plan to run the course in parts over the next year. Also, beautiful photos, thank you for sharing!

  2. oh man! i am one of the other San-something residents with 4 tix in the lottery that didn't get picked on saturday! I had the same emotional roller coaster every time Greg said "4 ticket holder from San...." so it made me smile to read your blog.

    1. Wow - and there is me thinking that I must be the only "San" left :) (You may well be next year, as I will be moving away from my "San" soon). Hope you get to hear "5 time loser from San....." next year (along with my 5-time loser from Cam.....) Good luck!

  3. I'm not a 4-hatter but my jammy mate Jim got in on his first time. I hate him.