The times, they are a changin’.
Written by: Meghan M. Hicks
As recently as five years ago, you’d find just one, maybe two or three, super fast female contenders at most ultramarathons. By perusing the annals of ultramarathon results, you’d further notice that these ladies mostly finished with good chunks of time between them, meaning that they battled the demons of themselves and the course rather than each other. But the sport is changing fast, and the 2011 Western States Endurance Run women’s entrant list, with its dozen or so elite-level runners, proves it.
This year’s top runners will cross deep snow early on in this 100-mile race, cresting the Sierra Nevada at the top of the Squaw Valley USA ski area. There’s so much more snow than usual that the course has been rerouted to avoid impassible volumes of it. Later, runners descend into a series of canyons that are notorious for holding summer heat. It’ll take the top women around 18 hours or a bit more to contend with each other, themselves, and the course before crossing the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn, CA.
Canada’s Tracy Garneau championed the 2010 WS100, and is back to defend her title. She’s got a long list of ultramarathon credentials, including a win and course record at the 2010 Hurt 100. At 42, Garneau’s a master’s runner as well, so look for her to go after both the overall and master’s win.
Oregon’s Meghan Arbogast, who turned 50 this year and who has been racing ultras for over 15 years, roared to second at the 2010 WS100 and proved that many things get better with age. Though she’s had strong finishes for years, she’s on a particular roll since last year’s race with a win at the 2010 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run and second at the 2011 Miwok 100k.
Nikki Kimball hails from Montana and is a WS100 legend. She won the race in 2004, 2006, and 2007. She also finished fourth in 2009 and third in 2010. Though Kimball fought several years of knee pain that precluded her from training at the volume needed for the win, she’s reportedly pain-free, well trained, and ready to rumble.
Ellie Greenwood, of Canada, has been on the ultramarathon scene for several years, but the world learned about her during her 2010 breakout season as well as her early 2011 results. Though she’ll debut the 100-mile distance this weekend, she’s performed beautifully at races up to 80 miles in length. As the 2010 World 100k champion, the winner of the 2011 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, and fourth at the 2011 Comrades Marathon, watch for her fast finish.