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The 411 On The Western States 100 (Or WS100 101)

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Jun. 24, 2011
  • Updated Mar. 15, 2012 at 5:10 PM UTC

Geoff Roes (seen here leading Anton Krupicka in last year's race) is the course-record holder and the man to beat at this year's race. Photo: Luis Escobar/runnersworld.com

Race Previews

This year’s race has an outstanding women’s field and one that is much deeper and unpredictable than the men’s as far as potential winners are concerned.  Maybe that is because there are so many past winners among those who’ll be lining up  tomorrow morning, including last year’s winner, Tracy Garneau, of British Columbia; 2009 winner, Anita Ortiz, of Colorado; and Nikki Kimball, of Montana. Garneau hasn’t raced much since last year’s victory, Ortiz is coming off of knee surgery and a brush with anemia, and Kimball hasn’t shown her dominance on the WS100 course for years.

Given that, the odds makers of the sport have largely ignored the past winners and are focusing on Ellie Greenwood of Alberta, Canada and Kami Semick, of Oregon.  Ellie will be running her first 100-miler but the spry Scot who lives in Banff has been on a ferocious streak of late, winning the 2010 100k World Championships after crushing the Canadian Death Race and other trail ultras last year.  She also won the American River 50 and Chuckanut 50K earlier this year, where she set a course record and dominated.  That said, it was Semick who was the speedier of the two in last month’s Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where Semick was third and Greenwood fourth in the 89K road race.

Will runners who train on snowy terrain have an advantage this year?  If that’s the case, Greenwood may have an edge but, then again, so would Ortiz and Kimball.  Also, runners like Helen Cospolich of Colorado, Joelle Vaught from Idaho, and Aliza Lapierre from Vermont may fare well too.  It promises to be an exciting race and with other strong women in the mix like Meghan Arbogast, Amy Sportson, Monicha Ochs, Rory Bosio, Caren Spore, Sandi Nypaver or Becky Wheeler, it is somewhat wide open and will be very exciting.

While the women’s field is more of an up-for-grabs affair, the men’s race is likely to come down to a two-man show between last year’s winner and course record holder, Goeff Roes of Alaska, and Kilian Jornet of Catalonia, who ended up third last year.  Unfortunately, Anton Krupicka is injured and will not be racing tomorrow.

The “snow course” will be a bonus for both Roes and Jornet.  Roes trains a lot on snow, both in his native Alaska and in Nederland, Colorado, where he spends most of the year. Jornet is a world champion ski mountaineer and grew up skiing to school. At last year’s WS100, Jornet was sharing the lead with Krupicka for the vast majority of the race but the heat and dehydration really took its toll late and he dropped back. Jornet learned a lot from that experience and vows to stay hydrated. He says he will be taking an altered approach from last year’s strategy when he takes to the starting line tomorrow.

And that is not to say that the remainder of the men’s field isn’t impressive. It includes Nick Clark from Colorado, last year’s fourth-place finisher.  Two-time WS100 champion Hal Koerner from Oregon will also be a contender on a course he knows very well.  Dave Mackey from California is looking super fit and it would be no surprise to see this stalwart runner come across the finish line ahead of the pack.  Another serious competitor in tomorrow’s race is Ian Sharman, here from California and less-directly, the UK, after his record-breaking 100-mile performance at Rocky Raccoon in Texas. With all these stars gathered in one place, one thing is for sure: tomorrow’s show will be exciting regardless of who crosses the finish line first.

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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