Continuing my monthly look at world ultras here’s one a little closer to home, the most prestigious Oregonian ultra, Waldo 100k. The 2012-13 Montrail Ultra Cup kicks off with this race on Saturday, August 18 and has two spots available for both men and women at Western States 2013. That’s only fitting given the Waldo race director is Craig Thornley, who becomes the Western States race director in 2013.
In its 11th year, this “old school, boutique ultra” (Craig’s words) has developed into a true northwest gem. The popularity of the race has grown with the sport, and this year the race filled to capacity in just 5 hours and 47 minutes. It’s known for great organization, enthusiastic volunteers, breathtaking views of pristine Waldo Lake, a big climb at 50 miles, unique awards, and, of course, miles and miles of forested single-track.
After setting the course record last year, Dave Mackey said, “this was the best single-track race I have run anywhere.” Having run it myself last year, it certainly has one the best courses I’ve ever seen and really showcases American trails and shows why so many ultrarunners call Oregon home. And the tourist board didn’t even pay me to say that.
The race uses a combination of popular existing trails and recovered trails that had practically disappeared due to neglect. Elevation and the amount of climbing are also important factors, with more than 11,000 feet of vertical gain and the same amount of loss. There are three major climbs of more than 2,000 feet each and two minor climbs of more than 1,000 feet. The highest point is 7,818 feet at the top of Maiden Peak (53 miles) and the lowest point is about 4,900 feet at Gold Lake (7.5 miles). Runners also get to climb Oregon’s Mt Fuji, which is impressive although not as much as its Japanese cousin.
In case you wondered if I was shortening the name, it was originally called Where’s Waldo 100k, named after a ski run at Willamette Pass Ski Area. It was appropriate for the race, too, as runners can only see Waldo Lake from the high peaks and never actually arrive there. In 2010, after nine years in existence, the race received a cease and desist order from the new owners of the trademark for the storybook character with the same name, and thus the race became the Waldo 100k.
2012 Waldo 100k Men’s Field
Many of the biggest names in Oregonian ultrarunning are lining up to make this the most competitive Waldo 100k ever, as well as a de facto Oregonian ultra championship. The course record of 9h06m is seriously at risk.
Leading the charge are the in-form, Ashland-based Tim Olson and Hal Koerner, fresh off wins at Western States 100 (post-race interview) and Hardrock 100 (post-race interview), respectively. Tim’s won the race before in 2010 in 9h25m, but his wife gave birth to their first child a week before the race. Will that mean extra inspiration or distraction? Hal will certainly run hard at a race he’s twice started, but never finished. Both men would be favorites at any ultra they turn up to.
Bend and Portland supply several other runners who also ran last year. I’ll have to include myself in the list, Ian Sharman, after second to Mackey last year and fifth at Western States 2012 followed by a course record at Mt Hood 50 last month. Bend’s Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, Ashton Eaton, will sadly not be turning up after not being quoted as saying, “I can compete all day for two days but I mainly get to sit around drinking beers between events. Non-stop running like this scares me.”
Nick Triolo and Yassine Diboun lead the Portland runners with third and fifth at Waldo 2011, respectively, then 34th and 12th at Western States 2012 after very good early season races. Nick is in the press release but not on the official entrant’s list.
Two other men are likely to challenge for the top spots. Eugene’s Joe Uhan was ninth at Western States 2012 and had several excellent runs earlier in the year, including third at Bandera 100k. Then our first non-Oregonian, Jacob Rydman, who took third at Way Too Cool 50k and American River 50 earlier this year. Plus several other fast men are included in the start list – Jesse Haynes, Chase Parnell and Tim Long.
It seems that several other top Oregonian men would have run but are instead competing at the Transrockies Run, which overlaps Waldo. Oregon-based Mo Farah and Galen Rupp have been excused from competing because they are allegedly too tired after winning all those medals in London.
2012 Waldo 100k Women’s Field
The women’s course record of 10h23m also looks to be under threat with the record holder returning. Joelle Vaught ran that time in 2009 and has consistently shown that distances around 50 miles are her domain, including wins this year at Lake Sonoma 50 (post-race interview) and Pocatello 50.
2011 second place finisher at Waldo and Montrail Ultra Cup champion, Denise Bourassa, returns after coming 11th at Western States and just missing out on automatic entry for 2013. She’ll be looking to build on her recent good form and high finishes at Speedgoat 50k (fifth) and Ice Age 50 (first) as well as earning another spot at the Big Dance.
Ray Miller 50k winner, Jen Benna, will be in the mix, along with Mountain Masochist 50 mile champion, Alison Bryant. Also, Blackhills 100k winner, Helen Lavin, and Capitol Peak 55k champ, Kathleen Egan, are both on the start list. The Koerner ultrarunning power couple will aim to take both men’s and women’s races since Carly Koerner is the last of our featured ladies.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- Who do you think will win the men’s and women’s races at this year’s Waldo 100k?
- Who else will earn a slot into next year’s Western States 100?
- Did you know that Waldo RD Craig Thornley will be taking over as RD of Western States a year earlier than the original plan, as Greg Soderland has just announced he will retire at the end of the year? (Editor’s Note: Greg, thanks for your many years of service. You handed me my first 100 miler finisher’s medal and have done so three more times since. I and many others owe you so much! – Bryon Powell)