With a race as long and challenging as the Western States Endurance Run, it is hard to strip it down to the essential kernel of a story that everyone should know.
Every single runner, finisher and non-finisher alike, has a compelling story to tell–about the race itself or the long journey that brought them to the starting line at Squaw Valley.
An astonishing field was assembled, the weather was perfect for running fast times, and records were destroyed.
Records were smashed.
No one had ever run under 15-hours before and yet Timothy Olson, of Ashland Oregon, managed to finish in 14:46–an average of 8:52 per mile for 100 miles. Rick Sandes, of Cape Town, South Africa, finished in 15:03, which was also under the existing course record of 15:07, set by Goeff Roes in 2010.
While the men were celebrating their new course record, Ellie Greenwood, a Scot living in Banff, Alberta, was still off in the night, carving up some history of her own. By the time Greenwood hit the track, she’d shaved a full 50 minutes off an 18-year-old course record set by the legendary Ann Trason.
Until Greenwood’s 16:47 finish, many people felt Trason’s 17:37 record was untouchable.
Impressively, within a minute of crossing the finish line and hugging supporters, Greenwood was steered to a chair near the edge of the track where she sipped on a bottle of water and gave a remarkably coherent, and lengthy, post-race interview with Andy Jones-Wilkins.
Additionally, Novato’s Dave Mackey, 42, took nearly 15-minutes off the masters course record set in 2011 by Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, with a finish time of 15:53.
Early leaders faded.
At the start, Switzerland’s Lizzy Hawker took off hard and after 20-miles led the women’s field by approximately 20-minutes. Greenwood let her go and then, like a rubber band snapping back, shot past Hawker by the time they got to Eldorado Creek (52.9 miles).
By the end of the race, Hawker had slipped back down to 6th place.
Rory Bosio, of Soda Springs, running a smart and careful race, turned in a spectacular time of 18:08 and earned 2nd place in the process.
Vermont’s Aliza Lapierre finished in 18:18 for third place honors.
So deep was the field, that you needed to be under 20 hours to be in the top-10 of the women.
By Duncan Canyon (23 miles), the lead pack was made up of Mike Wolfe, Dylan Bowman, and Zeke Tiernan. A couple minutes back was the chase pack made up of Dave Mackey, Nick Clark, and Tim Olson. Another couple minutes back were Ryan Sandes and Ian Sharman.
By the time they all hit the track, Wolfe had faded to 19th place, while Olson, Sandes, and Clark had pulled up into the 1,2, and 3 slots.
Mackey, Sharman, and Tiernan held on for 4th, 5th and 6th.
The weather was strange.
The Western States 100, run on the first Saturday of Summer, is supposed to be hot. The typical range of temperatures for this race is usually between uncomfortably warm and blazing.
This year’s freakishly cool weather left aid station volunteers shivering and runners getting pounded with sleet in the high country and flirting with hypothermia.
I spent the day working at the Devil’s Thumb aid station and never took off my knit cap. Bizarre–and probably a significant factor in the high number of sub-24 hour finishes this year.
Top Local Runners.
The top local finisher was Gold River’s Mark Lantz, 46, who was the 3rd place masters runner and 19th overall with a 17:50 finish.
The top local woman was, depending on how you define “local”, either Rory Bosio of Soda Springs, who finished 2nd woman in 18:08, or Jennifer Pfeifer of El Dorado, who was 15th woman with a time of 21:31.
Complete results are here.