Western States Announces Changes

AJW's Raptoom LogoSince becoming the Western States 100 Race Director in January, Craig Thornley has been barraged with questions about his race. In the midst of all of these questions one theme has clearly emerged, the race has gotten too easy. Many who contacted Craig in the weeks following his appointment implored him to implement changes that would once again make it a difficult race. Critics have argued for years that the race is simply too easy and, as a result, it is now perceived as “just another 100 miler.” So, in a surprise announcement during a brief press meeting at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee where Thornley was spending the weekend crewing for friends at the Barkley Marathons, Thornley revealed three changes to be implemented for the 2013 running of the Western States 100:

[Editor’s Note: April Fools!]

1. Race Direction Will Be Reversed – To increase the difficulty of the course, Thornley has made the decision to run the race from Placer High School to Squaw Valley. This will increase the overall elevation gain to 23,000 feet and remove the stigma that has long dogged the race as being “all downhill.” Former Board President and 25-time finisher Tim Twietmeyer applauded the change, “I have been saying for years that we should change the direction of the race. The views will be prettier, the running more challenging, and the natural amphitheater finishing area in Squaw Valley will be the most spectacular in the sport.”

2. Three Aid Stations Will Be Provided – Critics of Western States have long complained that the race is more like a 100-mile long buffet than an endurance event. And, while the Western States aid stations are legendary, there are simply too many of them. Western States Board Member and Ultrarunning magazine publisher John Medinger says, “Back when I was running ultras in the 1930’s and 40’s we didn’t have any aid stations. We were much more self-sufficient than and that made us stronger.” Thornley noted that the aid stations for the 2013 event will be at the Rucky Chucky River Crossing (Mile 22), Michigan Bluff (Mile 45), and Robinson Flat (Mile 70). Crews will be allowed at all aid stations and pacers can pick up their runners at Robinson Flat.

3. 24-Hour Hard Cutoff Will Be in Effect – In order to help the event return to its glory days, Thornley is implementing a 24-hour cutoff for all runners. As Gordy Ainsleigh has repeatedly said, “The race is meant to be run in 24 hours. If it takes you longer than that it simply should not count as a finish.” Thornley acknowledges that this will be a challenging cutoff for many runners to meet but says, “These days, there are 100-mile races just about every weekend. If all you want to do is finish a 100-miler my suggestion is to sign up for one of those. Western States is and always will be the grandaddy of all ultras and the re-establishment of the 24-hour cutoff will make it so.

Certainly, these changes are not without their detractors and Thornley is undoubtedly prepared to respond individually to each and every critic, as soon as he finds his way back from Tennessee!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from the SisterHood Brewery in Springfield, OR. Lord Balls Grog, their limited edition bourbon barrel coffee stout, is on tap just one week a year and is so good you’ll need to drink it with a spoon (after checking your email, tweeting your whereabouts, and counting up your Facebook friends).

There are 45 comments

  1. Cory

    Wonder what it would be like to swap the directions each year, similar to what Comrades does… up on the evens, down on the odds.

  2. Marcus

    sounds great to me – 24h with 23000ft up. that's quite a number.

    considering only half of the crowd finishing in 24h in 2012 on the regular course… this is going to be a very special race!

    only downpoint: it doesn't seem fair to announce the changes for this year after everyone has signed up with the conditions before.

  3. Adam

    As one of this years pacers for last year's M9 (Olive Oil Joe), having never been to WS, and living in the flat-lands of Iowa … let's just say you about made me shat myself with this….

    Happy 'Fools Day!

  4. David

    This was extremely exciting until I realized the date.

    Now I am disappointed… Someone should make a Western States 2.0 race!

  5. Tropical John

    Western States was indeed much harder back in the 1930s and 1940s when I ran it. First of all, you have to remember that the earth's crust was still cooling back then. So there were places in the canyons where you had to dodge the molten lava, which of couse added to everyone's time. And then there were the dinosaurs (and I'm not just talking about Gene Thibeault, Dan Williams or the Rocket). Oh sure, you could throw your Aunt Jemima bottle at 'em to keep them at bay, but then you didn't have any water to drink. You couldn't drink from the creeks back then because they were still "primordial soup", chock full of amphibious critters trying their damndest to grow legs. . .

  6. James Adams

    Ha ha.

    You could have said that pacers will be banned too but then everyone would have immediately thought it was a joke since it is impossible to finish the WS100 without pacers :)

    1. Dmitry

      it is possible to finish any race without pacers -:) in Europe they have pacers disallowed on tough races like Ehunmilak or TdG. and any year there are some people finishing Hardrock without pacers.

  7. Dean G

    Gotta love an April Fools that leaves the reader thinking, "I kinda wish that were true"… AJW, that Tim quote was perfection, especially about finishing in the Natural Amphitheater of Squaw…

    Flip the direction, boys and girls, and then let's see about people calling it 'an easy race'.

  8. Evan

    well played! What's funny is that I was thinking about running the race course in reverse anyway, maybe even on the same day as WS100. Anti-States, anyone?

  9. larry gassan

    You left out the part about carrying Ebonite bowling balls and blazing hibachis—which have been "de rigor mortis" here in certain hallowed SoCal ultras since the last century.

    "Mr Trail Safety"

      1. StephenJ

        No pacers = Advantage Meltzer. If they disallowed pacers they'd have to take away your Hokas to even the playing field.

  10. Alex Mares

    Had a mini-heart attack. I was figuring out a pace chart for AR50 so totally fell for it…..jerk. totally got me :)

  11. Caleb Wilson

    This may be an April Fools joke, but honestly, I think with the exception of running the course backwards and only 3 aid stations, a hard 24HR cut-off would be a great change.

  12. Jack Meyer

    I think running the course in the reverse direction would be outstanding for the race! And only three aid stations would make it a throw back to the way things used to be years ago. There are to many aid stations at WS100. Half of them could easily be cut out. Makes the runner have to be more reliable on themselves, and not get pampered every four or five miles. And as far as the 24 hour cutoff, well if it is ran in the reverse direction, I think 30 hours would be good, just to give more runners a chance to finish. Good April Fools stuff! :)

  13. Fabrice

    No WS 100 want to look like a race that mountain runners would take for he challenge instead of going there for a summer show off… If this stand I am in or 2014…

  14. Sports Basement

    I already had a training plan ready and was enlisting training partners. So the Freudian question would be: Why do running Ultras make us so gullible, and what stage of life were we lacking in? Hmmmmm… Discuss. ;-)

  15. Adrian

    I can't believe I fell for it.

    Reversing the course and cutting down the time totally made sense.

    Having only 3 aid stations seemed crazy, and yet I still fell for it.

    Nice job.

  16. KenZ

    Sounds like there's enough interest for a "Reverse Western" Fat Ass. Three unmanned drop points should be sufficient, if Plain 100 gets by with one. Or perhaps a bit easier would be a two day 50m-50m stage race Fat Ass. That would allow everyone to hang/camp out together on Friday and Sat night, and would also allow for the time for drop car shuttles. Just sayin'.

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