Record-setting Western States 100 takes ultrarunning to ‘new level’
By Sylas Wright
Tribune News Service
Geoff Roes admitted it. The Alaska ultrarunner’s late surge past Tony Krupicka and Kilian Jornet en route to a new course record in the Western States Endurance Run on Saturday had nothing to do with strategy.
“I didn’t really have a plan,” said Roes, who smashed Scott Jurek’s 2004 record by nearly a half-hour after falling behind the pace of Krupicka and Jornet – two of the biggest names in ultrarunning, along with Roes.
Roes struggled in the canyons from miles 43 to 55 and fell about 15 minutes behind Krupicka and Jornet, who ran together until Jornet slowed his pace near the 80th mile. But after recovering during the 16-mile stretch from Foresthill to the American River crossing at mile 78 – which included a dunk in the icy water – Roes powered through on a second wind and blasted past Krupicka at the 90th mile.
He extended his lead all the way to the finish line at the Placer High School track in Auburn, where he recorded an official time of 15 hours, 7 minutes, 4 seconds. The previous record of 15:36:27 belonged to Scott Jurek.
“I got to a couple of miles before Brown’s Bar (at mile 90) and (pacer) Jenn Shelton and I were chatting, and we were moving along pretty decent … and then all of sudden Geoff and his pacer, Dave Mackey, just came blowing by us,” said Krupicka, 26, who posted a runner-up time of 15:13:53 to also eclipse the old record. “For a minute or two I was just demoralized. I was like, ‘Now that was impressive.'”
Roes said besides receiving his late burst of energy, he felt “more predator hunger” than he ever has in a race, which helped him reel in his opponents late.
“I don’t like to have a plan, especially in 100-milers, because you never stick to them anyway,” said Roes, 34, who is now a perfect 7-for-7 in winning 100-mile races. “I was right with them for 40 miles, and I’d like to say it was this big strategic move to let Tony and Kilian get out ahead, and rest for a while. But it really wasn’t a real strategic move. I felt pretty bad for a while.”
Jornet, who at 22 is a two-time champ of the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc and recordholder for completing the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail loop, finished third with a time of 16:04:49. The Western States run marked the first for him, Roes and Krupicka.
When the dust had settled, Western States Media Relations Director John Trent said the consensus was that the ultramarathon was perhaps the most competitive and entertaining in the 37-year history of the event.
“Ultrarunning kind of went to a new level on Saturday. That was something that nobody had ever seen before,” Trent said. “Three really talented runners decided to lay it all on the line, and usually when that happens one or two of them will drop out. But what was interesting is that all three of them finished, and finished really, really well.”
The top three were followed by Nick Clark (16:05:56) of Fort Collins, Colo., and Zachariah Miller (16:55:17) of Bozeman, Mont, rounding out the top five. Two-time defending champ Hal Koerner of Ashland, Ore., dropped out of the race just before the 80th mile, while Dan Barger of Soda Springs finished 10th overall with an impressive time of 17:36:34.
Bosio fourth among women
In the women’s field, first-time Western States participant Tracy Garneau, 41, of Vernon, British Columbia, took first place (20th overall) with a time of 19:01:55, while locally, 25-year-old Rory Bosio of Truckee, also a first-timer in Western States, finished fourth in 19:32:07.
Trent said Bosio’s finish (27th overall) was the highest among athletes from the Reno-Tahoe area since 1990.
“I just wanted to go out and have fun and finish the race in one piece,” said Bosio, who grew up in Tahoe City and graduated from North Tahoe High School in 2002. “I did want to finish in under 24 hours, but other than that I didn’t really have any goals.”
Bosio, who said she races ultramarathons “sporadically” to ensure she doesn’t get burned out on them, earned an automatic berth in next year’s race with her top-10 woman’s finish. She said she looks forward to it after enjoying herself in her first attempt, which went surprisingly smoothly from start to finish.
“I think the hardest part was just the mental aspect. You get to 50 miles and it’s like, ‘Crap, I have another 50 miles to go.’ So it’s more just not focusing on how many miles you have in front of you. I just kind of did it section by section at a time, and that seemed to break it down fine,” Bosio said.
Meghan Arbogast, 49, of Corvallis, Ore., finished second in 19:15, and previous three-time Western States champ Nikki Kimball, 39, of Bozeman, Mont., finished in third in 19:23.
Fast across the board
A record 328 runners of the 426 who started the race at Squaw Valley reached the finish line within the 30-hour cutoff. Of those 328, a record 123 runners finished in 24 hours or less, which beat the previous record of 106, said Trent.
Besides the sheer talent of this year’s field, Trent credited the relatively cool weather and a rerouted section of course from miles 9 to 19 for the speedy times. Even the six-mile stretch of snow in the backcountry made for some surprisingly quick running, he said.
“I think the snow was actually pretty good for footing, where you could dig in a little bit, so that helped,” he said. “And then once you got through the snow in the backcountry, the (rerouted) course from mile 9 to 19 was just a nice, easy cruise … You factor in all those things and it made for a record-setting day.”
Complete results can be found at ws100.com.
Western States by the numbers
Started: 426 runners
Finished under 30 hours: 328
Finished under 24 hours: 123
Countries represented: 21
Start line: Squaw Valley USA
Finish line: Placer High School, Auburn
Peak elevation: 8,750 feet
Total ascent: 18,090 feet
Total descent: 22,970 feet
Total distance: 100.2 miles