2012 Western States 100 Men’s Preview

Western States 100 logoIt’s become trite, but once again, one of, if not the best 100 mile field of all time will be lining up in Squaw Valley the morning of Saturday, June 23rd. Start with the fact that every single man from last year’s Top 10 reentered this year, throw in a wicked talent infusion by way of Montrail Ultra Cup entries, and cap that off with a pair of stellar international additions and we’re talking a historic race. We’ll preview these natural groupings before sharing a few other notable entries.

[We’ve also got a preview of the stellar women’s field.]

2011 Western States 100 Top 10 Men

  1. Kilian Jornet (15:34:24 – 2011 WS time) – Kilian needs no introduction. He’s the defending Western States (interview) and TNF Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (interview) champ. He’s won the vast majority of ultras he’s ever entered. He’s the man. However, Kilian finished third at WS ’10 (interview) and third at this year’s season-opening Transvulcania ultra (interview), showing he’s beatable. He did win Zegama (interview) the week after Transvulcania, so he can still crush it, but he doesn’t appear as overwhelmingly dominant on skis or on foot as he was just 9 months ago. [Update: Kilian will not be running this year’s WS100 due to the tragic death of Stéphane Brosse while the pair were attempting a Mont Blanc ski traverse as part of Kilian’s Summits of My Life project.]
  2. Mike Wolfe (15:38:29) – Mike had one heck of a year last year, so good that he recently left his legal practice to focus on running. His most impressive performances last year were his close chase of Kilian to finish second at WS and his win at the season-closing TNF EC 50 Miler (interview). He’s run strong in a few showings this year, but has yet to have a standout performance of which he’s capable.
  3. Nick Clark (15:50:23) – Nick’s Western States (interview)/Hardrock (interview) double early last summer (third at both) is the stuff of legend. However, just last week he admitted, “My training hasn’t been optimal this year and my racing has been just okay,” but he’s not writing himself off and neither should anyone he’s chasing down.
  4. Jez Bragg - UTMB 2010

    Jez Bragg

    Jez Bragg (15:55:08) – Jez has third and fourth place finishes at Western States to his credit. He had some injury trouble through the winter before pulling himself from the IAU 100k World Championships field. He came back with a win at the UK’s Fellsman race, but dealt with adversity at the TNF 100 in Australia.

  5. Tsuyoshi Kaburaki (16:07:04) – Kaburaki set the WS masters course record of 16:52 en route to second place in 2009 and then shattered his own record with a fifth place 16:07 last year. Later in 2011, he finished seventh at UTMB and sixth at the TNF EC 50 mile. In other words, he’s darn consistent in top races.
  6. Timothy Olson (16:18:42) – Tim was the surprise of the 2011 race. Even a podium finish at States wouldn’t surprise anyone this year. However, he’s got to balance going for it with the fact that a conservative finish will bring home $5,000 for winning the Montrail Ultra Cup after wins at the Bandera 100k (interview), a pair of seconds at the Lake Sonoma (interview) and Leona Divide 50 milers, and a ninth at Ice Age 50 mile, where he was slowed by plantar fasciitis.
  7. Graham Cooper (16:34:41) – Despite winning Western States in 2006 and taking third a year later, Graham was another surprise in last year’s top ten. After 2007, he continued racing ultras, but nowhere near the level he attained in ’06 and ’07. That was, until his reemergence last June. Graham showed that his ultra resurgence has legs by taking sixth at the TNF EC 50 in December.
  8. Dave Mackey (16:36:21) – I like giving Old Man Mackey crap, mostly because I respect him so much. He’s been on top of his ultra game for the past decade with no sign of slowing down. In January, he was second in a loaded Bandera 100k field, followed that with seventh at the Chucknut 50k in March, and won Miwok for the fourth time in May. For those who discount Mackey at the 100 mile distance, remember he was second to Scott Jurek in 2004 in what was then the fastest runner-up time in WS100 history.
  9. Andy Jones-Wilkins (16:39:30) – It’s with a heavy heart that I write that AJW will be on the sidelines of this year’s race after a streak of 7 straight top-10 men’s finishes. A few weeks ago, he finally acknowledged that a knee injury would keep him out of The Dance. One small consolation? He’ll be joining the iRunFar team in covering all the action before, during, and after the race. That said, he writes, “I plan to be back stronger than ever in 2013.”
  10. Ian Sharman (16:40:19) – Racing machine/addict raced at least five ultras totaling over 270 miles (not to mention his marathon and short races) in the 2011 before running Western States. That stretch included a North American-soil-best 100 miler of 12:44 at Rocky Raccoon (interview). This year, he’s controlled his urge to race a bit better, so his fitness level isn’t as evident. However, he’s been working on his relative weakness – ascending – by running Europe’s mountains for much of the past month.

Montrail Ultra Cup Entries

Montrail Ultra CupBelow are this year’s Western States 100 competitors who gained entry via the Montrail Ultra Cup in chronological order of when each entry was earned. It’s worth noting that the only man to decline a MUC entry into Western States was Dakota Jones, who is saving himself for the Hardrock 100 three weeks later.

  • Nicholas Triolo (3rd, Waldo 100k – method of MUC entry) – Nicolas finished third to Dave Mackey and Ian Sharman at the Waldo 100k to earn his WS spot. Since then, he’s finished second at the McKenzie River Run 50k (3:54) and won both the Capital Peak 50 Mile (7:06) and McDonald Forest 50k (4:04).
  • Zeke Tiernan (1st, Run Rabbit Run 50) – Zeke won last year’s Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile, beating out Nick Clark. He also won the RRR50 as his first ultra in 2007. He’s got a second (’10) and third (’08) to his credit at the Leadville 100.
  • Ryan Burch (3rd, Run Rabbit Run 50) – Burch is always a podium contender although arguably he didn’t win a premier race in his first 6 years of ultrarunning. Last year, a restricted airway forced him to drop from Western States. This year, he might just be having his best season yet with a win at the Quad Rock 50 in May and a second at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty in early June.
  • Michael Dixon (1st, Vermont 50) – Michael has the distinction of possibly being the first New Jersey resident to make an iRunFar preview. He does so by virtue of his winning last year’s Vermont 50, which is little surprise as he’s won his seven of his last eight ultras, including a win at this year’s HAT Run 50k. Still, this will be his first 100 and his first big race out west. Can he have a better showing than his recent fifth at TNF EC 50 Mile – Bear Mountain?
  • Josh Katzman (2nd, Vermont 50) – Another East Coaster, but with a 100 miler under his belt. He was fifth at Rocky Raccoon this year in 15:35. He also came within five minutes of a respectable course record in winning the Stone Cat 50 last November.
  • David Riddle (1st, JFK 50) – Uh, David smashed the JFK 50 mile record last November (5:40:44!) and led the US contingent in placing fifth (6:45:19) at the IAU 100k World Championships in Italy in April. In other words, dude has some wheels. However, Western States will be his first 100 and he had a less than stellar run in placing fifth at the Quad Rock 50 last month, which was notably his first mountain race out West.
  • Michael Wardian - Marathon des Sables 2009

    Michael Wardian

    Michael Wardian (2nd, JFK 50) – Wardian also broke the existing JFK 50 course record last November, even if he didn’t beat Riddle. He’s not had a typical Wardian season so far. He didn’t win the Caumsett 50k (2nd) and was 37th at Comrades, although he did manage eighth at the 100k World Champs. Still, Wardian has been working on his trail running and can run with the world’s best when he’s on.

  • Joe Uhan (3rd, Bandera 100k) – A year ago, Joe finished 31st at States. (He even let a slow ginger runner beat him.) Since then, he’s been third at the Bandera 100k and fifth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile as well as logging a 3:18 50k last October. Joe Uhan might very well be this year’s Top 10 surprise.
  • Dylan Bowman (1st, Leona Divide 50) – Joe Uhan just edged out Dylan for the final MUC WS spot at Bandera, but did that deter young Dbo? Oh no! He crushed the field and a 17-year-old course record to win the Leona Divide 50 in April. Boom! For only being 26, he’s got 100 mile experience with a second (’11 17:18:59) and third (’10) at Leadville and a win at last year’s San Diego 100.
  • Jorge Maravilla (3rd, Leona Divide 50) – While behind Bowman and (just barely) Tim Olson at Leona, he was still 13+ minutes under the old course record. With his ebullient personality, he’s an instant crowd favorite in any race. His ever-positive attitude could be a huge benefit late in the race.
  • Zach Bitter (1st, Ice Age 50) – Zach ran the fastest American 50 mile time (5:26:52) in 2011. He’s also placed sixth at JFK (Nov. ’11), run a 3:03 50k (April), and, last month, won the Ice Age 50 Mile (6:05:45). That said, it’s time to add the first Western States and first 100 miler caveats.
  • Chris Kollar (2nd, Ice Age 50) – Chris is stepping up his game fast for a 26 year old with only five ultras to his credit. While he was second at Ice Age (6:14), his most impressive race might be his fourth at Chuckanut back in March (3:51:07).

International Entries

The Western States lottery system includes the following provision, “All foreign entrants not drawn in the lottery will be eligible for special consideration with the goal of achieving global representation only.” It’s that provision that resulted in the late addition of:

  • Miguel Heras - TNF EC 50 Mile 2010

    Miguel Heras

    Ryan Sandes (South Africa) – Ryan won last year’s Leadville 100 in the third fastest time ever and looks to win another US major at Western States. At one time he was best known for his efforts at self-sufficient stage races, but has excelled at single-go races this past year. Already this year, he’s won the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in course record time and the TNF 100(K) Australia. AND

  • Miguel Heras (Spain) – Miguel made his mark in the US when he won the TNF EC 50 (interview) in December 2010. We may not have heard much of him in the US since then, but won numerous important ultras since then including Transvulcania, Zugspitz, Andorra Ultra Trail, and Cavalls del Vent in 2011 and the TNF 100 – Taiwan this year. Alas, the knee injury that forced him to drop while in the thick of things late in last year’s UTMB and has continued to hamper him this year and he has just withdrawn from the Western States field.

Other Top Entries

While there are a few dozen more men running Western States that deserve a mention, here are ten more that standout. In alphabetical order:

  • Dan Barger – Dan has five WS100 finishes with two Top 10 finishes – eighth (’98) and tenth (’10) – more than a decade apart. He’s been racing, but without standout results the past two years.
  • Thomas Crawford – Thomas may only have a single 100 miler to his credit, but it was a 17:47 win at the Tahoe Rim 100 two years ago. He was 11th at the Lake Sonoma 50 this spring.
  • Yassine Diboun – Yassine is a habitual racer with always solid performances. His eighth at the Bandera and seventh at Leona Divide this year suggest he aim for the Top 20 with Top 10 being in reach if he runs the perfect race.
  • Grand Slam of Ultrarunning - Neal Gorman and Tom Green

    Neal Gorman (left)

    Neal Gorman – Neal is the current Grand Slam of Ultrarunning record holder. His 18:14 from his 2010 Slam won’t be enough for Top 10 (he was 13th that year), but as this is his primary focus, there’s a chance he could run much faster. He was third at last year’s Leadville (17:48).

  • Mark Lantz – Mark has six WS100 finishes topping out at tenth overall (ninth guy) in 18:45 in 2009. He ran 17:19 on last year’s snow course to finish 15th. Mark managed 11th (6:42) at the American River 50 this spring, which was only two minutes slower than his AR time from 2009.
  • Jon Olsen – Jon likely has more ultra wins than anyone else on this “Other” list. Most recently, he won the NorthCoast 24 with 158.53 miles logged… less than two weeks after placing seventh at the IAU 100k World Championships in 6:48. In February, he won the Rocky Road 100 in 13:14:44. Despite all that speed, he’s yet to really nail one in the mountains. (Yes, he was eighth overall at States on the hot year of 2006.) Still, he’s having the best season of his life (heck, he’d be in the hunt for ultrarunner of the year right now), so Top Ten… or even Top Five are a possibility if he’s been hitting the mountains.
  • Erik Skaden – If AJW had a doppelganger, it’d be Skaden. He’s got seven WS finishes with his first five all in the Top 10, including two seconds and a fourth place finish. He was 11th in 2010 before finishing 28th last year. Still, his American River 50 time this spring (6:26) is only two and four minutes slower than his 2006 and 2007 times, respectively, and he was Western States runner up both those years.
  • Jay Smithberger – A flat and fast guy from the Old Northwest (Ohio). He’s run 14:53 at Umstead, but Umstead is no States. His two most mountainous finishes – MMTR 50 ’09 (21st) & Wasatch ’11 (52nd) – are off his usual Top 5 finishes.
  • Lewis Taylor – Lewis has run one strong Western States (15th in 2009) with a couple not so good ones (’07 & ’11). However, he did win Way Too Cool (3:41) in 2007 and has been quite focused on this year’s States and has trained extensively with last year’s 11th place finisher, Dan Olmstead.
  • Paul Terranova – Paul has an extensive triathlon background and will be headed to Kona Ironman this year, but first he’s got a slew of 100 mile runs to tackle. He’s got a bunch of podium finishes over the past two years as he’s gotten into ultras. He doesn’t have much mountain racing experience (he finished 12th at Quad Rock last month) and this will be his first 100.

 Call for Comments

  • Who would you add to this preview?
  • Got any insight into the fitness level of anyone listed above? If so, do share. Likewise, let us if you know any of the above will not be racing.
  • Who from the Montrail Ultra Cup entries has the highest potential for this year’s race? How has the MUC affected the quality of the race field?
  • How will Ryan Sandes fare? Anyone know how Kaburaki-san has been running this year?

There are 45 comments

  1. thomas

    I wrote allready in the articke before, Kilian will run a record for the next 10 years, he is going to run I guess 14:55 or so, I guess he will win every race in USA this year where he is starting, This guy is a phenomenon, once in century runner.

    Thomas

    1. Alex from New Haven

      While it's not impossible, all the fast times of the past 2 years have been run on modified courses with mild weather (I know, I benefited both years). Times on the original course will be slower, especially if it's a hot year. But Kilian will likely still do great if he's focused for this event and ready for the heat.

      1. AJW

        14:55 would be phenomenal on the Real Course and with the potential for above average temperatures. Of course, anything can happen, but given all the variables, and, assuming it's hot, I think anything under 16 would be enough to win it.

  2. David T

    I think Kilian will be very beatable this year with very hot and dry weather forecasted for the race. In fact I would not be surprised to see him finish as far back as 3rd or 4th.

    Watch out for Ryan Sandes. Would not be suprised to see him take the win. Wolfe and Clark might also finish ahead of Kilian.

  3. STKretzmann

    I think DBo is gonna crush this! He's got a tough 100 mile win on is resume, a great showing at Leadville last summer, and has been running strong this spring. Plus, those Pearl Izumi dudes are crushing it left and right lately. I expect to see a trio of awesomely obnoxious PI jerseys in the top 10, perhaps even the top 5.

  4. Digger

    Wasn't Transvulcania Killian's 1st running race of the year, after being on skis for a couple of months? Then he goes out and wins a tough race the next week? Unless he gets hurt, the battle is for 2nd, IMO.

    Sorry to hear about my favourite beer drinking ultrarunner AJW's injury, but I'm also really looking forward to what I'm sure will be his insightful race coverage.Maybe another of his classic interviews at the finish line?

  5. Benj

    Kilian doing the mont blanc crossing tomorrow

    his legs will be nice and fresh.. I hope he can break the record like he plans to attempt

  6. Dave

    I hope kilian wins but he hasnt been doing much in the way of running since Zegama and he is doing the mount blanc crossing tomorrow. If he did take the victory it would be outstanding
    Personally i think Ryan Sandes is the one to watch

  7. Mike Bailey

    I gave some love for Neal Gorman on the other potential top 10 post for WS. He's been running fast this year, and a good deal faster than his 18:14 from 2010. Given he ran 17:48 as a flatlander at Leadville, I think he will most likely be running sub 17 at WS, and perhaps 16:30 range which has trationally landed guys in the top 10. My sleeper for the win is Tim Olson.

  8. Scott

    I think now that Kilian is acclimating back to running from skiing, he will be less likely to lose races he starts. He wasn't far behind Dakota at Transvulcania and that was one of his first runs of the year. I know I sound like another fanboy but I see him as proof/result of being raised in that environment and developing a total connection to your environment and truly loving it.

    I would liken it to how if you watch kids playing they can run forever.. Only as they grow older and get lazy do they lose that. Kilian has been able to retain that joy for movement we all have as kids. So for him this "sport" is a game like it should be for all athletes. At least that's they way it appears to me in the media I have seen of him.

    I think Western States is going to be a fast one for sure and super competitive. Ryan Sandes is tough and fast , Michael Wardian is inhuman in my opinion and possibly pull it all together that day and win it. I want to say Kilian for the win but who knows there are some fast dudes in this race!

  9. Dave

    Exactly bryon and like i said he has done very little running since Zegama as he went back onto the skis to prepare for the traverse

    It will be very interesting to see how he goes

  10. Seamus Foy

    It's great to see Josh Katzman getting a shoutout here! He's a great runner and a fellow HS English teacher in Boston. I met him at the Wapack 50 back in May and he won without much trouble on a very hilly and sometimes technical course. The complicating factor: has he finished grading final exams? Have the sauna-like Boston classrooms run him down or have they helped him acclimate?

    I just saw on Seb Montaz' facebook that Killian is still training in the Alps. That could be a mistake considering the heat at WS, especially after what happened at Transvulcania. It'll be interesting to see if that is a factor.

  11. Speedgoatkarl

    Mt.Blanc shouldn't hurt Killian, remember last year he ran across the Pyrenees, 50 miles a day or more for I think 9 days. didn't even phase him, Mt.Blanc..that's his taper week.

    1. Seamus Foy

      Lol, yeah, it's amazing! I was thinking the weather would be the issue, not the run. Doesn't it take time to acclimate to the heat?

    2. Alex from New Haven

      Karl, wasn't that Pyrenees 7 day epic 2 years ago? Notice that he didn't do any crazy adventures quite like that last year… and he won.

  12. Turd'L

    AJW,

    Seeing your name as a scratch took a little luster out of the race for me. 7 straight years clawing into the top ten is an amazing streak.

  13. AJW

    Turd'L, Thanks for the kind words. Indeed, it has been one of the great joys of my life to claw my way into the WS top-10 for the last seven years. But, alas, all good things must come to an end and this year I just have not been able to come back from injury as quickly as I had hoped. Assuming all goes according to plan, I hope to be back at the WS starting line in 2013 with one goal in mind, top-10! Until then, I am going to enjoy watching from the sidelines and being a part of the irunfar race coverage.

    1. Ice

      Girona,results from Washington race are on coolrunning.com(no idea how to link stuff here,computer noob!)Canaday ran really fast time,results from Evans mt run also on Evans website.

  14. Chris

    As long as Kilian wears a few extra layers on the Mt Blanc, he will be heat acclimated plenty, Mt Blanc gets toasty in June…

  15. Bish

    Predictions:

    1. Jornet – Salomon battle up front

    2. Sandes

    3. Wolfe-man – Stays close to Salomon

    4. Mackey

    5. Olson

    6. Tie between English speaking Euros – Bragg, Clark, Sharman

    9. Kaburaki

    10. Skaden

  16. Didier

    Horrible news: Stephane Brosse, who was attempting Mont-Blanc Traverse with Kilian, just died this afternoon at the Aiguille d'Argentière, he fell because of the breaking of a snow ridge (I hope my english is understandable) . Kilian was just a few meters back but he's safe.

  17. Dan

    Its just been announced that Kilian is not running after the tragic accident yesterday that killed his co-explorer Stephane Brosse… Some things in life are more important than running… RIP Stephane.

  18. Paul Charteris

    That is tragic news from Europe today.

    In Kilian's absence, I think Ryan Sandes will be the man to watch. However there are many very smart and very knowledgeable North American runners that know exactly how to race this course.

    A little talked about runner (although he was mentioned) that I have massive respect for is Jon Olsen. If he's fit and healthy, he has the capability to destroy a trail ultra. like this.

    Jez Bragg and Mike Wolfe should get the business done for Team North Face.

    Cheers, Paul

  19. AJW

    Tragic news from the Alps. With Kilian out this thing is truly wide open, especially with potential for heat in race day. I'm taking side-bets for the top-10 dnfs:))

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