Thursday, 27 December 2012

Western States 100 in 2013

The last whirlwind month has transformed all my running plans for next year. Firstly, much to my shock and excitement my name was chosen in the Western States 100 lottery. Secondly, and fortuitously, JOGLE race director Rory Coleman told me they had no choice but to cancel next year's JOGLE due to poor sign up (just 5 runners, even paying £2,200 each, does not make full back up for 860 miles worth it for the organisers). So the JOGLE is off the cards and all my training effort and energy will be going into Western States. A relief for me, mixed with disappointment of not being able to take on the JOGLE journey next year. But with the most ambitious will in the world there could have been no way to give both commitments full justice in the first 6 months of 2013, in terms of training, recovery, funds, work, other commitments etc.

And anyway, it was the phone call my Dad was waiting for! No longer does he need to worry (quite so much) about long term joint damage. And now I can safely reassure him about how much kinder the soft packed mountain trails are than hundreds of miles of tarmac.

So, to Western States! The race is 100 miles of well-maintained trail through the mountains and canyons of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California, from Squaw Valley ski resort, near Lake Tahoe, to a small town called Auburn. It will be held on 29th June next year. Originally a horse race, it was run for the first time in 1974 by Gordy Ainsleigh (whose horse was lame) leading to the concept of 100 mile races being widely adopted. It's now hugely competitive with entry through a lottery system meaning applicants who pass the entry requirements have only a 7% chance of success. I am still feeling incredibly lucky but also sorry for those UK applicants who didn't get picked.

The Western States Course Profile

I may never get the chance to run this race again so I'll be putting absolutely everything into doing my best next June. Flights are booked, crew pleas posted on forums, lists obsessively written, training plans in progress. I hope to join up with West Highland Way guys and gals for some hill training, and get out for as many mountainous hikes as humanly possible, fast-hiking up, running down, starting with the week on Knoydart over New Year. The WS course has over 22,000 feet of downhill so I need to get very comfortable to dealing with the vertical swiftly, sensibly and without injury.

Geoff Roes & Anton Krupicka running the WSER100
I am not one for idolising elite runners (they are but human!) but have to say I'm hugely excited about running (quite far behind) some of the world's fastest ultra runners. Next year will see Ellie Greenwood return to the race to defend her title - in this years Western States she became the first woman ever to run faster than 18 hours - by 50 minutes! She broke Ann Trason's course record, which previously had seemed unbeatable. The 2013 race will also see 8 of the top 2012 women return to the field, as well as male runners including Hal Koerner, who won the Hard Rock 100 this year.

One of the many downhill sections of the race
There will be some things I can't train for....California heat being one of them. Temps can reach 102 Fahrenheit (38 C) in the canyons but tend to fluctuate throughout the route, due to a chilly 5am start up in Squaw Valley. In fact temps stayed cool for most of this year's race - the second coolest of all time - leading to both male and female course records being broken. However in the history of the race this is extremely rare and many runners even turn to sauna training as part of their prep. I've been told by a couple of seasoned Western States runners that this isn't entirely necessary, what is more important is to acclimatise in the two weeks prior, so I'm heading out ten days early to get friendly with the route and the sun, spending a few days exploring either end of the trail from Auburn and Truckee.

So...if anyone fancies joining in training - or indeed a week or two of running in California - just shout. Until then, I'm looking forward to blowing the cobwebs away at the Country to Capital ultra (from Bucks to London along the Grand Union Canal) on 12th Jan, followed by the Thames Trot 50 miler (Oxford to Henley-on-Thames) in early Feb. Bring this year on!

Wishing you all a Happy Hogmanay and healthy, adventurous 2013.