Sunday, June 30, 2013

Volunteer Report: 2013 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Welcome to Michigan Bluff
The 2013 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (aka The Super Bowl of 100 milers) was held this past weekend in extremely inhospitable conditions. The runners competed not only against the course and themselves, but also the weather as well, as it was the second hottest year since the race's inception in 1974. The Sierra Trailblazers host the Michigan Bluff aid station, and for the second year, Twirly and I spent the day at the timing table checking the runners into the sleepy remnant of a mining town. We really enjoy participating in this epic event, and at 55.7 miles, Michigan Bluff is a great place to handicap the race. In addition, the station closes at 9:45 pm, so we aren't expected to stay up all night, as do some of the stations farther down course. A 30 hour cut-off means many people will be up all night supporting the participants.

Despite addled minds, every ultra runner can associate
David got his EMT certification recently, and joined us this year as a medical volunteer. We arrived Saturday morning to already sizzling temperatures, and began setting up the station. Tables and EZ-up shade tents went up quickly, and by 11 am we were ready for the first runners, who were expected to begin arriving after 1 pm. The Trailblazers have a number of WS100 finishers in their ranks, and I enjoyed talking with a couple of them while we waited. As with most ultras, the range of participants varies from the sponsored elite competitors to the weekend warriors who hold down day jobs and raise families. The fact that Western States holds such a prestigious place in the trail running community makes it that much more impressive that the field still contains so many examples of the "everyman". Many of the volunteers were active ultra-runners, and we passed the time comparing performances and bucket-lists.

In my book, the most impressive ultra runner ever
I got a little star struck when I recognized Ann Trason, 14 time women's champion, in the crowd. I spent a moment vacillating before succumbing to my inner groupie and asking her for a picture. She graciously allowed me to snap a quick photo before continuing with preparing to pace her runner.

As the day progressed, speculation about finishing times and attrition rates occupied the airwaves, and I monitored Twitter and the web for standings and updates. Some were predicting a 20-hour winning time, which would have been unfathomable, despite the heat of the day. Commentators on the iRunFar page were going on about Karl Meltzer's request for the number 420. It seems the "Speedgoat" may be renamed the "Weedgoat", lol.

Olson in control (that's me in the green shirt),
photo by Meghan Hicks/iRunFar
Unsurprisingly, Timothy Olson was the first to arrive at Michigan Bluff. Surprisingly, he arrived at 1:28 PM. Only five minutes off his record breaking pace from 2012, we were all a bit stunned when he crested the climb out of El Dorado Creek. Eight minutes back was Hal Koerner, and it looked like the two were going to egg each other on for the rest of the day.

Only seven minutes behind were Dylan Bowman and Rob Krar, followed by Ian Sharman and Mike Morton. These top six men looked strong and comfortable. None spent much time at the station, stopping for a brief sponge bath and re-supply before trucking off towards Foresthill. 

Hal Koerner in pursuit

Rob Krar continuing to make a name

The Weedgoat doing his thing
Pam Smith was fast into Michigan Bluff
The top women were a little more spread out, and the middle of the top ten looked like they were struggling. Pam Smith was in the midst of building a sizable lead, and Nikki Kimball was beginning to chase down Amy Sproston for second place. Aliza Lapierre and Rory Bosio held off Emily Harrison, and Denise Bourassa, Cassie Scallon and Leila Degrave rounded out the top ten women to arrive in Michigan Bluff. 

Amy Sproston into MB in second place

Kimball giving chase

LaPierre and Bosio holding on
Runners steadily flowed through the station for the rest of the day, the bulk coming through after the 24 hour runner time of 5:20 PM.  Watching the condition of the racers arc from the comfortable elites to the hobbled weekend warriors racing the cut-off is one of my favorite aspects of volunteering. Like a good plot, the momentum of the field builds to a climax, and then attrition takes hold, and the medical tent swells with patients as the carnage begins. It was a case study in heat strategies: power through or let it overwhelm you.

John Vonhof performed miracles on this guy's feet

I did not want to know...
In the end, Olson and Smith would hold on to win in extremely impressive times given the conditions, and Twirly, David and I made it to the Placer Hills High School track in time to witness Pam win the women's division. Always inspirational, the Western States 100 was another learning experience. I have a qualifying race in my pocket and a signed service requirement form. I will be throwing my name in the hat for the 2014 edition.
Pam Smith wins by over 40 minutes

The Weedgoat snares a top ten

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