The mixed emotions experienced and observed at the WS lottery were draining today. When someone from the audience was picked, you could see the joy and excitement on their faces whether it was their first time running the race or their 8th time. It’s fun to see. While observing this on others I was also going through a range of emotions myself. Early I was optimistic and sure the person pressing the buckle that told the computer to spit out another name would pick one of my friends or me. Later, like when ten out-of-state non-attendees were selected in a row, and the crowd was seemingly detached from the process, bored in fact, I was bummed and didn’t feel like anything good was going to happen. As Monkeyboy said, he went “from being very anxious to feeling very desperate.”
The lottery is a bizarre human experience. The anticipation in the days and hours before are intense. Even though the probability of getting selected today was less than 20%, before the drawing we’re all full of hope. Hell, Monkeyboy, Laurie and I drove 500 miles to attend. Will our names get called? Why not? We have the same chances as everybody else. Just looking around at the 200+ people in the audience before the start you could see the hope. At the end, even after the lottery within the lottery, there were about 100 people in attendance that left disappointed. Those who were selected were obviously excited and wanted to share their jubilance, but with so many around them that didn’t get selected, many of them friends, that jubilance must be tempered. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of excitement and disappointment. Probably not unlike the end of a 100 miler when those that ran well are near those who DNFed or otherwise had bad races.
This year the process was a little different than years past. Instead of a GUBrew bucket with pieces of paper with names on them, the WS lottery entered the hi-tech world with a big screen TV, several computers, a second screen with a projector connected to yet another computer, a video camera with streaming video to those watching from home, and a silver belt buckle that functioned as the button connected to, yep, a computer. Similar to years past members from the audience were asked by RD Greg Soderlund to come up and press the buckle five times. After Twiet and Julie Fingar, I was the third person asked to come up and I just about broke the whole thing by pushing too hard (I took the opportunity to practice my CPR). One of the five I picked was Pam Smith from Oregon.
Other than the process, the lottery felt a little different this year. My wife commented afterward that with all the gadgetry, “There was more emphasis on the technology. They lost the human element.” I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, but it did feel less intimate in some respects. Instead of the board of directors sitting at the table in front of the audience, it was mostly computers. Another difference was that it seemed to be more cutthroat today among the entrants. Perhaps it was because the odds of being selected were so low. While in the past, when Californians not present would get picked, there was geniune and loud cheering. This year, the crowd seemed subdued. It was almost like a jealously. Crap, they called somebody other than me. With 1500 people vying for 270 spots, it might be inevitable. When it is 1000 going for 400 it hasn’t felt as cutthroat. It’s been more like a celebration. Today, it felt more edgy. Sure, there are always going to be people who are disappointed. That, we can’t change. But, we can change how many people are disappointed by having fewer people in the bucket.
So what about me personally? I really enjoyed sitting next to Gordy and Dr Lind and listening to both tell stories about the old days, even though it did not improve my chances. I did not get my name called. But, Sunsweet is a sponsor of WS so we have a spot. The tentative plan by our leader Alan Abbs before the lottery was to give the spot to the person on the team with the highest finish from 2009 that didn’t get selected in the lottery. You may recall, Lewis Taylor passed me just before highway 49 and finished 19 minutes in front me (read his report). He ran awesome and I was so proud of him after he got lost on his first try and finished a disappointing 22 hours. Since he didn’t get picked today either, the Sunsweet spot should be his. When we chatted on the phone after the 270 names had been picked, he said it was no question who should get the spot. There was no way he was going to run if I wasn’t in the race. I started crying. He said he wouldn’t be an ultrarunner or know anything about WS if it wasn’t for me. That was powerful and with all the other emotions of the day, I just lost it. He knows how much this race means to me and while he also loves the race and obviously wants to run it, he could not take the spot. Thank you, Lewis. You are a man of character.
Congrats to those who got selected, especially to my guys Tbag, Splits Monologue, and Glender. Sorry to the many more who are disappointed. Hopefully, you can look for the positives and find something else to do on race day to share the experience of running the greatest ultra on the planet.
How did it go for you?