June 25-26, 2022 (Generally the last weekend in June)
Olympic Valley, CA to Auburn, CA
$410.00 plus service fee
UNBREAKABLE: The Western States 100 - Feature Film - Limited Release
FOUND ON 49 | THE STORY OF JIM WALMSLEY
LIFE IN A DAY | The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
The Golden Hour Finishers | 2021 Western States Endurance Run - WS100
What is The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run?
Western States (often just “States”) is the oldest running 100 mile trail race in the world with origins dating back to the Tevis Cup horse race. Back in 1974, an adventurous horseman and runner named Gordy Ainsleigh started the race on foot, alongside the horses, and finished in 23:42:00, proving a human could finish the race in less than 24 hours. Pedestrian entries have increased each year thereafter.
As any participant or volunteer will attest, no amount of hyperbole can do justice to this world class event. It is a bucket list race for many runners, even including athletes who run, and then attempt to return every single year. Watch the Unbreakable documentary or any number of other short films and try not to get inspired!
1500 runners and their crews gather for the pre-race meeting. Photo by Zandy Mangold
Befitting a mountain race, Western States serves hills for breakfast, starting with a 2,550’ ascent from the Olympic Valley ski lodge to Emigrant Pass at 9006”. From there, at the peak altitude of the course, runners then traverse about 30 miles of undulating single track while enjoying spectacular views of the high country.
After the Robinson Flat aid station at mile 30.3, the terrain is significantly less technical, and more runnable, if runners have energy left in their legs after the rigorous first third. At this lower altitude, temperatures will only rise, ranging from 80 - 100F+ until the finish.
The Forrest Hill aid station at mile 62 is one of the most famous checkpoints and consists of a paved road through the charming town of Forrest Hill. The competitors, who have just climbed out of one of the notoriously scorching hot canyons, are showered with deafening support from the army of crews and volunteers.
After stuffing ice under hats, jog bras, and arm sleeves, the next major goal is the The 79.2 mile Rucky Chucky checkpoint at the American River. Here, runners get some relief from the heat as they wade through ice cold water to the opposite bank while holding onto a rope - most of the time.
After the river crossing, the course is quite runnable, yet most athletes with the exception of some of the elite runners, are in survival mode at this point and combine running and hiking to the finish in Auburn. A coveted silver buckle awaits those who finish in sub-24 hours and a bronze buckle is awarded to sub-30 hour finishers. Runners have 30 hours to complete the course and each year brings incredible drama as runners attempt to realize their dream before the golden hour cut off.
The Western States Lottery - How to get into Western States 100
The easiest way to nab a spot in the race is to simply finish in the top 10. Top 10 finishers gain automatic entry into next year’s race. Western States legends Ian Sharman and Ann Trason have 10 and 14 consecutive top ten finishes, respectively. Another guaranteed entry for elite runners is to finish first or second in a Golden Ticket race. If first or second place finishers turn down the Golden Ticket, it then goes to the next highest finisher and so on.
Other hopeful runners will need to run a Western States sanctioned qualifying race and then enter the annual lottery. A high school senior has better odds of acceptance into an Ivy League school than a runner bidding for their first Western States entry. That said, with each consecutive year that a runner qualifies for the lottery, their odds of entry increase. A small number of athletes enter via spots saved for volunteers, sponsorships and special considerations.
Race Preparation - How to train for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
If you are lucky enough to “win the lottery”, you want to give yourself the best shot at finishing a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’ll need to train specifically for this beast of a race.
1) Train for the downhills. Your quadriceps will take a beating thanks to the 23,000’ of descent and without bullet proof leg muscles you’ll risk a DNF. Similar to the much shorter Boston Marathon, strengthening your quadriceps can make or break your race. A gradual, but significant build up of downhill trail running is the most effective way to prepare your quads. How To Run Downhill | Downhill Running Technique Explained
2) Train for the uphills. Fit runners can handle a significant amount of ascent thanks to regular training, but to run your best time at Western States, you will also need to be an adept uphill runner or hiker. To wit, 2021 Champion Jim Walmsley suffered from an IT band injury leading up to the race which limited his ability to train for downhills, so instead of his normal training regime, he focused more than usual on uphill training and was still able to run the 4th fastest time in history.
3) Train for the heat. Heat training and learning heat management techniques are essential for the scorching hot segments of the race. In 2016 Ryan Sandes withdrew from the race due to GI issues, and took advantage of his unfortunate DNF to observe how other runners dealt with the heat.
“After my DNF, I went back out on the course and I watched how the leaders used ice hats to keep cool, as well as how they managed their effort in order to deal with the extreme temperatures.” The next year, the South African runner came from behind to win the race while famously sporting a shower cap looking ice hat.
4) Prepare for the unexpected. As with any ultramarathon, any number of challenges can arise, and even with the incredible support system at Western States, things might still not go to plan. How you react, will determine your race experience. For example, in 2016, Chaski’s own Coach Devon Yanko was in the hunt for the lead, but was “thrown off when my crew wasn’t where I expected them to be and I made mistakes because of it which affected my outcome.”
5) Acclimate to the altitude. If traveling from sea level, try to arrive as far in advance as possible. While it takes about three weeks for your red blood cells to fully adapt, any extra time at altitude leading up to the race will enhance your performance.
A high altitude running camp during training can be an advantage as it will at least help you gain comfort above sea level even if adaptations don’t stick. A high altitude sleeping tent is a costly, but effective way to adapt while living at sea level.
How do you fuel for a 100 mile race?
For such a demanding race, it is crucial to consume sufficient calories and hydration throughout the duration of the event. While specific amounts and choices vary per individual, general parameters can be applied.
Athletes will generally want to consume approximately 200-400 calories per hour along with 16 - 32 oz of hydration with electrolytes. Testing fueling and hydration during training is the best way to dial in your specific needs. Research the fueling options offered by the race and test the same products while in training.
Why Run Western States?
Top -10 finisher Kris Brown explains the unique appeal of States, “It’s not the hardest course, nor the most scenic, and I see the same people at other races throughout the year, but somehow we all agree to invest ourselves in this particular event, and when you're standing on that start line you feel something very different from other races. Ours is a young sport with a limited history, but to the extent that we have sacred traditions, Western States is the most important one.”
— Zandy Mangold
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