Second, you will have stomach issues.
January 29, 2015 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Andy Jones-Wilkins writes A Letter to the 2012 Western States 100 Runners
Now, while you’re out there running, even though you’ll be enjoying what is forecast to be the coolest day the race has seen since 1997, remember that things can, and likely will, go wrong out there. With that in mind, here are a couple of last minute pieces of advice: First, try not to blame your pacers or crew for your mistakes. I’ve seen it happen often and it is true that sometimes crews and pacers actually forget who the runner is but remember, it’s “autopsies without blame” out there. The goal is finishing and anything that is said or done on Western States weekend, especially after about 6:00 pm Saturday night, should be quickly and completely forgotten.
posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, that's another level of ultramarathon:
The Western States Endurance Run, known commonly as the Western States 100, is a 100-mile (161 km) ultramarathon that takes place on trails in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains annually on the last full weekend of June. The race starts at the base of the Squaw Valley ski resort and finishes at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California. The terrain is quite rugged, frequently with snow on the ground at the highest passes, and hot temperatures in the low valleys near the end of the course. Runners ascend a cumulative total of 18,090 feet (5500 m) and descend a total of 22,970 feet (7000 m) on mountain trails before reaching the finish. Because of the length of the race, the race begins at 5 a.m. and continues through the day and into the night. Runners finishing before the 30-hour overall time limit for the race receive a commemorative bronze belt buckle, while runners finishing in under 24 hours receive a silver belt buckle.
I was going to joke about no gold buckles because they're tacky, and no one does much better than 24 hours, but last year the fastest run was under 15 hours, which means you'd be averaging 6 2/3 mph.

For geographic context, here's a hasty Google Maps link that simply connects the Squaw Valley ski resort with the Placer High School via whatever Google knows as a walkable route.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:57 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ultramarathoning is not a sport that I'd recommend to anyone, but for those of us who are driven to do this kind of thing, WS100 is the race we dream about. Except for the handful of"elite" athletes who win spots in various feeder races, entrants are selected by lottery... and that lottery has gotten crazy hard to get into, even with the entry requirement of having to run a previous fairly difficult 100 miler.

I ran the WS100 in 2010... had a very different race than the folks in the front of the pack who were featured in Unbreakable. That said, it was an amazing experience... pretty fucking intense. Here's my race report.
posted by ph00dz at 4:21 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

For geographic context, here's a hasty Google Maps link that simply connects the Squaw Valley ski resort with the Placer High School via whatever Google knows as a walkable route.

There's also the map on the Western States site.

Man, Western States, Leadville, UTMB - I couldn't even imagine doing these. But funnily, I'd start Hard Rock, or even Nolans 14 in a heartbeat. It's the running part I'm weary of, and not the distance.
posted by alex_skazat at 6:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Phoodz-you're amazing! Thanks for sharing that.
posted by purenitrous at 8:46 AM on January 30, 2015

How do people train for these kind of races? Even training for a marathon is hard because you need hours of time just to get close to the full distance. Do they just make the leap from 26.2 to 100 miles and suffer the first few attempts?
posted by smackfu at 9:12 AM on January 30, 2015

Oh, man. I have a friend who did the 2013 Western States. She had being doing ultra marathons with her boyfriend just to keep him company, and she lotteried in that year (he still hasn't, much to his dismay). She moved in with family in Arizona for 6 months ahead of time so she wouldn't be doing crazy mileage in the inhospitable winter, and she finished in just over 27 hours because she is a badass. And kind of ruined her body in the process of the whole thing, honestly.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:15 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Smackfu... really, training is just lots and lots of running. For me, the progression went something like:
1) Ran a bunch of marathons somewhat competitively... like, good enough to get into Boston.
2) Ran Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon (50-ish miles with 10,000 ft of climbing / descent). Then learn to do it overnight after a full day at work without sleeping.
3) Did a bunch of really, really hard 50 milers, including the infamous Zane Grey 50.
4) Did my first 100. (Javalina Jundred, for whatever it's worth... a weird little race here in PHX.)

Approaching a 100 mile run is a lot different than doing a marathon... more and more, I've been encountering people who do very long trail runs but have never done a conventional street marathon. Although they're both running races, they're totally different disciplines in a lot of ways... Back in the day, I could bang out a 3:06 marathon, but that meant keeping the pedal to the metal the whole time, so to speak. (I'm nowhere near that fast now.) Over the summer, I finally ran a sub-24 hour 100 miler... that's a much slower pace, much closer to a fast hike than a run. The idea is something like, "run all the flats and downhills, then hike all the uphills." Success at long distances takes real patience: in an ideal world you're in the best shape of your life when you show up to the start line of a race, so you can always go a lot faster at the beginning, only to pay a terrible price 18 hours later.

To prepare for something like the WS100, it takes total commitment. You have to get used to running in the dark after being up all day, sucking down tons and tons of calories via Gu or whatever else works, and learning to deal with huge uphills and extremely punishing downhills as well as dubious technical and slippery terrain. Generally speaking, when preparing for a 100 miler, I'm up every morning to run and either run / rock climb / swim every evening. Weekends are back-to-back 3 or 4 hour runs with a series of 8-ish hour adventures at monthly intervals leading up the event itself. It's not expensive and doesn't require much in the way of special gear, but it does take a lot of time.

Of course, at the end of the day, this is all pretty ridiculous and difficult to justify, but it's a great community filled with amazing people.
posted by ph00dz at 12:14 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

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