I've been thinking quite a bit about my racing plans for 2009. More and more I'm thinking that I really want to run Western States. Even though I qualified for Western States last year with my third place finish at Miwok, I would need to qualify again this year because I wasn't signed up to run last year's race that got cancelled due to fires. My only chance to qualify this year would be at The Miwok again because the other two qualifying races conflict with The Iditarod Invitational. I really don't want to run the Miwok again this year, but with the roster that is assembled for Western States I really don't want to miss out on it. All year I've been planning to put in for the Hardrock lottery but now I'm uncertain whether I even want to or not. I know my odds of getting into Hardrock are almost zero so it'd be a good idea to put into the lottery to increase my chances in coming years, but if I did get drawn in I think I'd be really bummed to not go to Western States. This said though it's obviously not a given that I would be able to qualify for Western again either so that plays into my decision as well.
Why such a sudden interest in Western States? It doesn't really have a whole lot to do with the race itself, but instead with the lineup of runners that are slated to toe the line there this year. This could very well be the best field of competition that I will ever have the chance to run against in a 100 miler! By my count there are over 20 guys signed up who would almost certainly fit into the top 30 or so hundred mile runners in the country right now! It's a lot easier to count the fast guys who aren't going to be there than it is to count the ones that are. Take a look at this poll that Jon Olsen has been running on his blog for several weeks now (it's in the sidebar on the right side of his blog). Of the 12 runners who have 4 votes or more only three of them are not currently on the Western States roster - Meltzer, K. Skaggs, and me. And well over half of the other runners on this informal poll are also running Western States, as well as a few more fast guys who aren't in this poll (including Jon himself). This race will be one of those rare oppurtunities in ultra running where the winner will be able to claim that on that particular day there is no one in the country who could have beaten them - especially if Kyle gets into the mix as I have to suspect he will. Now if only someone could talk Matt C. and Uli S. into running it.