27 June 2010

The Contrast of Watching and Doing - Western States

[caption id="attachment_365" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo by Luis Escobar "][/caption]

Sports spectating is a big activity (yes, there's irony in that word under this context) in America.  I've never been much of a spectator.  Yesterday, I'm a little ashamed to admit, I spent over 14 hours solid following the updates, tweets, photos, and video of the Western States 100 mile run.  As I sat, bed left unmade, barefoot, shirtless, and hair mussed like a sweaty hillbilly, I was captivated by one of the best performances, check that, several of the best performances I've ever witnessed in sports.

You need to understand that there is no tangible prize for these people to push themselves to the point of utter depletion.  Yes, for those lucky ones who run under 24 and 30 hours, respectively, there is the coveted belt buckle.  It's a buckle, no money, not even a belt to go with it.  The majority of the runners usually don't even get a buckle.  Though I'm impressed by all 400+ runners who stepped to the start in Squaw Valley early yesterday morning, I'll point out a small selection of runners that have left me more hopeful, motivated, and inspired that I might someday do something equally as impressive.

Andy Jones Wilkins.  The man lives for Western States.  It seems to be the one selfish, guilty pleasure in an otherwise selfless, outgoing life.  I met and ran with AJW at one race last year and have been a fan (even more so) since.  If you don't like Andy, then there's something wrong with you as a person.  I also, quietly, felt that there was absolutely no chance of him repeating his impressive string of top 10 finishes this year at Western.  There were simply too many runners this year who are more talented, younger, and faster.  Andy finished 9th overall with a group of guys breathing down his neck for the chance at top 10 and a return ticket to next year's race.  I consider him one of the most consistent and focused runners in the sport.

Nick Clark.  I've watched Nick for the last couple years move from a runner in the lead pack to a race leader.  To show up at Western with the level of competition and face them with the courage and guts to finish 4th (1 min behind 3rd), left me in awe.

Rory Bosio.  This young lady runs like a veteran.  She won the women's race at Firetrail 50 mile last October.  We ran near enough to one another that I could witness how she handled the inevitable low spots of these long events and how she pulled herself up to run one of the fastest women's times at that race.  I assumed she would do well at Western but felt that would mean running any time under 24 hours and maybe getting into the top 10.  She fought and clawed her way up through the standings consistently throughout the day and finished 4th overall woman in 19:32.  At 25 she is going to be a force for a long time.

Anton Krupicka.  Talk about pressure.  This guy has as many critics as he does fans.  He needed to come to Western and race the best in the sport to solidify his standing atop the ultra field.  Running with a mixture from the heart and strategy, Anton dueled it out courageously from the start with the amazing force of Kilian Journet, finally breaking the younger runner late in the race and finishing with what would have been a new course record.  I knew he'd run fast at Western two years ago when I predicted a new record by Anton (the race was cancelled due to fires).  He came away this year with the performance he should be most proud of, even over his wins at Leadville.

Geoff Roes.  I've admired Geoff since I noticed his run in 2008 at the North Face Championship 50 miler.  He obviously wasn't intimidated by the big guns of the sport then and is showing them how it's done now.  His refreshing style of workhorse, speed, and strategy combine to make him, in this fan's mind, the best ultra runner in the world.  The man faded back over 16 minutes behind Anton and Kilian, both of whom kept up the torrid pace.  I doubt there was anyone who thought Geoff had a chance at that point to even maintain 3rd.  His run over the last 20 miles is something that must be considered one of the best finishes in any race.  15:07:04 in 100.2 miles at Western States.

Congratulations to all the runners at Western this year.  Watching you inspires me to get out there and DO.


  1. Agreed - We were screaming at a monitor - understandably not "normal, sane" behavior. We hoped for a showdown for the ages and got it on the men's and women's races. We, too, were dying for AJW to claw his way into the top ten men - talk about a guy that lives and breathes WS100! And Geoff and Tony's performances - clash of the titans. If folks don't believe those two guys have the goods now, they don't deserve to comment.

  2. Great following with you yesterday, anticipating the late surge by Mr. Roes.

    Agree on all your points. Massive theatrics. . . via a computer? Great stuff.

  3. When I e-mailed you, the lead woman had seemed to dropped from the race and I thought Rory was surely going to win. Great post on the race. Apparently Nick caught Killian and on the very final climb started throwing down these hard surges to try to drop Killian..but dropped Justin Mock (Nick's pacer). Killian fought back... amazing. All of those guys are just SICK!

  4. Hell, after running all day, you want it BAD. I'm impressed (understatement) with all of them but Kilian holding off Nick is amazing. That kid has some speed AND power.

  5. Yeah I can't wait to read Nick's report. He finished one minute back of Kilian, but looking at the results, you won't know that he took the lead on Kilian with about 2 miles to go. It was epic to see them go back and forth. After some leap frogging, Nick's massive surge to bridge the gap one last time left me dry heaving up the hill with a mile to go. Awesome stuff up there, blast to be a part of it. I'll get my report up tomorrow probably with some pics.

  6. You know there are a million stories in that race I bet.

    At one point at mile 80, the top 7 women were within 30 minutes of each other.

    There is a video on YouTube about snow at Western States and has about a minute of shots of people sliding and stumbling down the trail. At the end a lady busts on her butt as she comes by. If you look closely you'll notice she had a prosthetic leg.

    That was Amy Palmiero-Winters who finished in 27 hours with a prosthetic leg. I can't imagine running 100. I can't imagine running 100 with a prosthetic leg. I can't imagine running 100 with a prosthetic leg through all that terrain.

  7. I vote we just rename the WS100 to the Big Balls 100.

  8. Awesome post. Lots of heroes out there over the weekend.

  9. That was, indeed, an epic race. Few things can get me to tote a BlackBerry on a run, but this year's WS100 was one of 'em. Felt like a weasel checking Twitter feeds at the summits of SoBo, Bear and Green, but it was exhilarating to read the updates about Tony and Nick's races. And, man, when Roes caught 'em...

    Good meeting you Saturday night. Glad the forest critters didn't get you.

  10. Thanks JT, looks like you had a great weekend yourself.
    Nice to meet you too Jim. Sorry I cut it short but had nothing in the way of energy.
    I'm so confused with all the JPs, Jim Ps, Johns!

  11. Nice thoughtful post Tim. I agree about AJW's run. I would have to add Tracy Garneau to the list. My being 40 now I have new admiration for those who win ultras in their "mature" years.

    Now get back to the postings about bad SUV parking..

  12. Nice post. And congrats on a strong finish at the North Fork yesterday!

  13. Hey Aaron
    Thanks for the comment and congrats on northfork!
    My race was great. For 35 miles. I hit the 50k mark in 2nd at about 4:30 then all the cramping both stomach and body, so I essentially walked th last 12 miles. Tough day!