Third-snowiest Western States Endurance Run to challenge athletes
At least it won’t be hot for the 38th running of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run this weekend.There is a tradeoff, however andamp;#8212; snow. And lots of it. More than 400 ultrarunners from across the globe will take to the Western States Trail from Squaw Valley to Auburn on Saturday morning for one of the oldest and best-known 100-mile trail races in the world. Athletes climb total of 18,090 vertical feet and descend another 22,970 before finishing with a lap around the Placer High School track.The test of endurance is even more brutal when coupled with sweltering, triple-digit heat, which is often the case as athletes pick their way through the lower-elevation canyons. Only this year, after an epic winter that extended well into spring, about 15 miles of the historic trail is blanketed in snow, while the National Weather Service is forecasting a high temperature of only 86 degrees in Auburn both Saturday and Sunday.andamp;#8220;There’s even more snow than last year,andamp;#8221; said John Trent, who’s in his first year as president of the Western States Endurance Run. andamp;#8220;The spring just didn’t get warm enough to melt out stuff that normally would have melted by this time of year. So we’ve had to adjust a little bit.andamp;#8221;Despite all the snow at the higher elevations, Trent said the 2011 run will go down as only the third-snowiest since the event began. There was more snow in 1983 and 1995, he said.Nevertheless, the deep snowpack will be an obstacle. Even more so than last year, Trent said, when snow covered about 7 or 8 miles of the trail after a wet spring.andamp;#8220;I went for a training run on Sunday (June 19), and I was pretty surprised how deep it was,andamp;#8221; said Trent, adding that he postholed all the way to his hip on one occasion. andamp;#8220;But other than that, it was just slushy on top but not that bad.andamp;#8221;Postholing or not andamp;#8212; or slipping and sliding in the morning hours andamp;#8212; Trent said most ultrarunners would prefer the 15 miles of snow over the heat. andamp;#8220;I think if push comes to shove, they would much rather struggle and trudge along in the snow as opposed to having to run through 105-degree temperatures,andamp;#8221; he said.Due to the abundance of snow, Western States officials have re-routed the course similarly to last year. Before the 9-mile checkpoint at the Lyons Ridge aid station, runners will turn left and descend towards French Meadows Reservoir, then follow the Poppy Trail to the 20-mile mark. From there, they’ll travel along the north shoreline of French Meadows Reservoir before arriving at the Duncan Canyon aid station at mile 23.5. Due to high flows in Duncan Creek, runners will instead cross Mosquito Ridge Road. A new aid station at mile 31 will replace Robinson Flat, before athletes are split out on the traditional course at mile 35, at Miller’s Defeat.Trent said despite the altered course, Western States Endurance Run trail bosses Donn Zea and Tim Twietmeyer took painstaking efforts to ensure that it still measures out to its original distance of about 100.2 miles. He said the run also still amounts to roughly the same elevation gain and loss.
With one of the most competitive fields in the event’s history, it’s anyone’s race to win, said Race Director Greg Soderlund.andamp;#8220;This year’s race will be a challenge, that’s for certain. Last year we had our most competitive field ever, and if anything, this year’s depth at the front of the pack could be even greater,” Soderlund said. “Some years heat is the important variable, and others it’s the snow andamp;#8212; 2011 is a snow year. All our runners will have to pace themselves well early.andamp;#8221;Geoff Roes of Douglas, Alaska, returns to defend his 2010 title after crushing Scott Jurek’s previous course record last year andamp;#8212; albeit on an altered course andamp;#8212; as he finished with a time of 15 hours, 7 minutes, 4 seconds to Jurek’s previous mark of 15:36:27. That 2010 race went down as one of the most competitive ever, as Roes used a late surge to pass Tony Krupicka and Spanish running phenom Kilian Jornet en route to a thrilling, come-from-behind win. Jornet also returns to compete this year, while Krupicka dropped out with an injury. Other expected frontrunners include 2007 and 2009 champion Hal Koerner of Ashland, Ore., 2009 runner-up finisher Tsuyoshi Kaburaki of Japan and Jez Bragg of England, who was third in 2009. Nick Clark of Fort Collins, Colo., also returns after placing fourth last year. Among the women’s field, Tracy Garneau of Vernon, B.C., returns to defend her title, while other top contenders include last year’s second-place finisher, Meghan Arbogast of Corvallis, Ore., three-time women’s champion Nikki Kimball of Bozeman, Mont., and 2009 women’s champion Anita Ortiz of Eagle, Colo. Canadian Ellie Greenwood and Kami Semick of Bend, Ore., are also expected to vie for the women’s title, Trent said.And then there’s the local contingent, which features three athletes from the Tahoe area andamp;#8212; Rory Bosio and Gretchen Brugman, both of Truckee, and Alan Barichievich of South Lake Tahoe. Bosio and Brugman can both hold their own in ultrarunning events, as Bosio finished fourth among women in her first Western States Endurance Run last year.