Top contenders will battle the cold, the heat and each other this weekend.
Written by: Meghan M. Hicks
Early tomorrow morning, several hundred ultrarunners will climb the hill from the base of California’s Squaw Valley USA ski area, beginning the Western States Endurance Run, the most venerated 100-mile race in the sport.
These men and women will begin their race in ice, as they ascend to the crest of the Sierra Nevada, through feet of snow leftover from last winter’s record snowfall, then descend into the fire of the western Sierras’ hot canyons. After hours of traveling through this ice and fire, racers will finally come to rest on the red, rubber track of Placer High School in Auburn, California. Runners have 30 hours to complete the distance, but the top men will do so in about half the time.
Many of the world’s top ultrarunners will toe the line in pursuit of the champion’s title and cougar-studded trophy. While attrition is always a factor at the 100-mile distance, the race is so laden with talent that it is sure to be a near-sprint finish. In the following pages, we preview the top contenders in the men’s race.
Geoff Roes who won last year’s race and set a new course record of 15:07:04 in the process, is back to defend his title. Roes is a stud runner who has never lost at the 100-mile distance. In the past year, he’s split his time living in Colorado’s high-altitude Nederland and Juneau, AK, which purveys fast-access to snow running. Thus, Roes seems ready for the early-in-the-course ice.
Catalonian Kilian Jornet, who won the 2008 and 2009 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc and who’s the current skimo world champion, finished third at last year’s WS100. He ran in contention for the win until mile 80, where he faded in the race’s fire to finish almost an hour back from Roes. He’s back and brings his lessons learned, saying this on the Salomon Running blog, “I learned a lot… It was my first race in the U.S., and their way of trail running is completely different from Europe. The race is more rolling, faster, and the runners didn’t stop even for… 30 seconds at [aid stations]! So, it was really new for me to manage the hydration versus the warm conditions.”