Results Are in From the Western States 100!

Results (6/28/09): The Western States 100 is now over and 4 Florida runners can count themselves among the finishers.

Ryan Thomas - Tampa 23:18 (56th overall)

Allen Kuhn - St. Petersburg 27:52 (133 overall)

Georganna Quarles - Duck Key 29:25 (200th overall)

Andrew Mathews - Tampa 30:37 (241 overall)

Jim McIntosh did not start and Gary Griffin dropped at 80 miles.  There is no shame in either.  Anyone who wants to criticize should run 80 miles in 22 hours in the mountains first, like Gary did, and then say something.  Also, DNFs are sometimes not voluntary at Western States.  They weigh you before and during the race and monitor your condition at aid stations.  If you drop too much weight or show signs that could indicate medical conditions they will pull you from the race.  Supposedly, they have pulled people as late as 99 miles!

The overall winners were Hal Koener in 16:24 and Anita Ortiz in 18:24.  Hal was also the winner in 2007.  Unfortunately, Gordy Ansleigh, the "father" of Western States (see below), running about his 30th or so Western States, dropped at 34 miles.

This race is mythical in nature, covering 100 miles of horse trail through the mountains.  These brave souls from Florida should all be very proud!

History (6/6/09): Have you ever heard of the Western States 100?  Actually, it has been on TV a couple of times, including in 2007.  It was one of the first of the modern ultramarathons.  However, it didn't start as a race, well at least not a human race.  It was a horse race called the Tevis Cup through the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.  In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh, an accomplished runner and previous finisher on horseback decided to compete on foot.  It is rumored that when he lined up at the start, a rider asked "Isn't this race only for animals?", to which the race director, a friend of Gordy's, replied "He is an animal" and fired the starting gun.

The rumor is that Gordy did this only because his horse went lame before the start.  However, the truth is that Gordy had been thinking about it since the previous year, when he covered over half the distance on foot, leading his horse, due to saddle sores.  He had been training hard and stashed Gatorade and food all along the course in the days before the start.

The race is a point-to-point 100 mile race with a time limit of 24 hours.  Well, 23 hours and 40 minutes after the start, Gordy emerged from the woods in the town of Auburn and finished, battered and exhausted, but with a smile on his face.  He even beat some of the horses!

The next running of the Western States 100 will occur June 27th.  It is now a humans only race, having split with the Tevis Cup soon after Gordy's inaugural running.  The starters this year will include 5 runners from Florida.  Once of them is Gary Griffin, who e-mailed me this afternoon (June 8).  He is the race director for the Tallahassee 50K and 50M.  You may know some of the other 4.  They are Allen Kuhn (St. Petersburg), Andrew Mathews (Tampa), Jim McIntosh (Orlando), Georganna Quarles (Duck Key), and Ryan Thomas (Tampa).

The course starts out next to the parking lot at Squaw Valley Ski Resort at 6,200 feet elevation.  The first 4.5 miles go straight up the lift line to Emigrant Pass at 8,750 feet.  After that nifty little climb, you only have 95.7 miles to go (the course is actually 100.2 miles), covering all kinds of terrain and conditions that range from dancing through snow in the mountains to sometimes over 100 degrees in the canyons.  With about 18,000 feet of climbing and about 23,000 feet of descent, you might say the course is a little challenging.

I have never run the race (actually it is very hard to get in, with qualifying times and even then a lottery to get a race number), however I went to the training camp in 2007.  Over the 3 day Memorial Day weekend, we ran the last 70 miles of the course.  The course is absolutely spectacular.  It is an old pony express trail through the mountains, complete with steep climbs and descents and incredible views.  Most of it is runnable, though some of the climbs at about a 20% grade are walked by most everyone.  (I also met Gordy, who continues to run it every year).

With a start at 5AM, the winner sometimes finishes by sunset.  However, most runners continue through the night and into the next day.  The cut-off is now 30 hours, meaning 11 AM on Sunday is the deadline to be counted as a finisher.

Keep these 5 brave souls from Florida and the other 440 from around the world in mind.  Hopefully all of them will finish within the cutoff.  Even if some of them don't they are very brave for trying.  They have to be in the best shape of their life to even attempt it, but in a race like this, DNF stands for "Did Nothing Fatal".  People are often pulled at 80 or 90 miles with symptoms like complete renal failure and rushed to the hospital.  Those who finish are both grateful and elated (and maybe a bit exhausted too).

Maybe next year..........

Footnote:  If you want to know more about the race, you can go to their website at: You can also keep up with the runners there on race day.  The aid stations, in spite of being only accessible by horseback in some cases, upload each runner's splits real-time.  We can also recommend the book "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner" by Dean Karnazes, which includes an incredible account of one man's experience at Western States.  It is one of my personal top 3 books of all time.

Copyright 2009 by Florida East Coast Runners and Frank Norris.  Reproduction or reprinting without written permission is illegal.

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