After having his streak of seven-straight men’s top-ten finishes at the Western States 100 broken by injury last year, Andy Jones-Wilkins is back to race in 2013. Before talking about his own chances to regain a spot in the top ten, in the following interview AJW talks about both the men’s and women’s fields in this year’s race.
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Andy Jones-Wilkins Pre-2013 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here on the Tuesday before Western States 100 with [Andy Jones-Wilkins]. AJW, how is it going?
Andy Jones-Wilkins: It’s going great, Bryon. Merry Statesmas!
iRF: Merry Statesmas. It’s coming upon us quick this year.
Jones-Wilkins: Yes, it is. Strange, weird weather here in Squaw Valley, too, with the rain pouring down. It should change quickly.
iRF: Yes, two full days of deluge and then the heat turns back up.
iRF: Hot and dry, but not dusty.
Jones-Wilkins: Yeah, it might keep the dust down and hopefully no fires.
iRF: Yes, I was worried about that 2-3 weeks ago.
Jones-Wilkins: Definitely, definitely.
iRF: This year is an exciting race as always. Women’s field—a lot of depth there, a lot of potential winners.
Jones-Wilkins: Absolutely. I mean, we’re all going to miss Ellie Greenwood, obviously. It’s great that she is going to be here and be part of the festivities. Packed field. We’ve got to think of Rory Bosio who was second place finisher last year—could be a local winner [from Soda Springs, CA].
iRF: That hasn’t happened since Tim Twietmeyer? Oh, Ann Trason!
Jones-Wilkins: That’s right. It’s been awhile since they’ve had a local winner. The Oregon crew—Amy Sproston, Meghan Arbogast. Other runners from last year—Aliza LaPierre, Nikki Kimball (a perennial top-10’er here). This would be her 8th consecutive top-10 female finish for Nikki if she gets there this year. That’s just quite a record. And then some newcomers that could be very interesting. Cassie Scallon has just been hammering the 50 milers although got a little injury earlier in the month in New York state. Emily Harrison: who I ran with a little bit over the winter, who is a UVA grad and has spent some time in Virginia and is training under the guide of Ian Torrence. It could be an interesting mix of the old-timers and the newbies in the women’s race.
iRF: She and Kerri Bruxvoort have the least experience of those who have top-5 potential in the women’s field. You’ve run with Emily. How do you think she’ll react to making the 100 mile debut and her fourth ultra?
Jones-Wilkins: It is. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. Having run with her a couple times, she’s been soaking in the information about the race and the distance. I think she has the humility coming into the event knowing that 100 miles is a heck of a lot longer than 50. Like I said, there’s so much unknown past 60-70 miles that you really don’t know until you know. I think she’ll learn a lot about herself. We’ll learn a lot about her as with the other newcomers in the race. There’s quite an interesting storyline there between the grizzled veterans in that women’s field and the newcomers.
iRF: On the men’s side?
Jones-Wilkins: Well, we’ve got to start with the defending champion, Timothy Olson. He went from that sixth place in 2011 to the victory stand last year. We followed along literally chasing him down. He kept getting faster as the race went along after he got that gap on Ryan Sandes after the river crossing. I’ve got to have him as the favorite.
Then, I really see basically three categories of guys battling it out this year. First, the experienced guys from last year’s top-10 like the guys who came in from the Ultra Cup (Joe Uhan, Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla), Ian Sharman is a perennial top ten, Nick Clark who just seems to be tough as tough can be year after year in this thing. Then there’s the group who are the grizzled veterans and past champions whether you’re talking about Hal Koerner, the great storyline with Mike Morton, Karl Meltzer making his debut. It’s been a long time since Karl has been able to be in this event. We’re thrilled to have him here. There are others I’m sure I’m forgetting about. Then, there’s this batch of newcomers highlighted by Cameron Clayton and Rob Krar. There’s a great deal of unknown with those two guys, but there’s no doubt they have the foot speed and the desire and willingness to put it out there. So there are those three batches of guys and the potential for a very hot race day—it could be really interesting and hard to pick a winner.
If I were to say one thing, thought, and one thing I think could happen, it could be a lot like 2009 where someone breaks away and in that year it was Hal. Then you had this pack really close together (Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Kevin Sullivan, Jasper Halekas, Jez Bragg) and they were just bunched together. From sixth all the way back to 16th there was a long spread after that. I could see something similar happening not knowing who the cast of characters are, but interestingly enough, the high in Auburn that year was 99 degrees. It could be interesting.
iRF: Current forecasted high for the day. You have a lot of experience around the back of that top ten. Who do you think for 8, 9, 10?
Jones-Wilkins: Oh gosh, the interesting thing about it every year is that race within the race for eighth through 14th.
iRF: Do you see any surprises in there?
Jones-Wilkins: I think it would be hard to surprise in the top ten this year to be honest. I think the depth going in between 17-20, I think it would be tough to see someone sneaking in there. If there are a couple of folks that no one is talking about that could surprise, you could have Dan Barger who has been at it for a long time who squeezed into the top ten a few years back. You could have Paul Terranova who can handle the heat, no doubt about it, and certainly has the chops to run in just about any conditions. Another newcomer I forgot, a local who sucks up course knowledge maybe as much as I do, Jacob Rydman. I think he’s got his eyes set on a real fast time, and if he gives it a go and can hold it together, he can get into that top ten as well.
iRF: Back on the women’s side—you sort of said on the men’s side that Timothy is the favorite—I’ll pin you down and ask who do you think is going to win the women’s race? I haven’t seen your picks yet for the prediction contest.
Jones-Wilkins: I went with Rory as someone who has moved her way up. I saw her run and blow past me at the Lake Sonoma 50. She runs with such a great attitude and such a great spirit about her… she respects the race. I think it’s her time. But any faltering and any great push from the newcomers like Cassie or Emily or the grizzled vets like Meghan or Nikki, it could be a really, really interesting back and forth there in that women’s race.
iRF: Now onto you, AJW. You had seven straight top-ten finishes. You had to miss the race due to injury last year. If we were to race today when it’s 65 and raining, you don’t have a shot at the top ten quite frankly. However…
Jones-Wilkins: No, I don’t have a shot at the top ten.
iRF: However, if it’s close to 100 degrees high in Auburn and close to 110-115 in the canyons, do you think you can break that top ten realistically?
Jones-Wilkins: I’m trying really hard not to think about it. I’m working hard and talking hard to my family about having realistic expectations. The tougher the conditions are, the better chance I have of squeaking around the edges of top ten. I’m going to run my race and see what the day brings. I’m going to run assertively from Lyons Ridge to Robinson’s Flat. I’m going to hammer the downhills past Miller’s Defeat and through Dusty Corners and around Pucker Point and down to the Swinging Bridge, and then I’ll take stock. I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question, but if I were to make the top ten this year I’d say it would be the best effort I’ve ever put in at Western States. It was brutal last year to miss the race. I loved hanging out with you and loved following the race.
By the way, I do look forward to a post-Western States career where I can support Craig [Thornley] as a volunteer and work with you as part of the race coverage. I am going to stop after ten. It was hard missing last year. The emotion of coming back to running and slogging through a nine-hour-plus 50 miler back in Virginia just to get a qualifier and then building up my fitness through some hilarious 50 milers at Ray Miller and Lake Sonoma where I just got my butt kicked… you know, from Lake Sonoma until now I’ve been focused, 80-90 miles per week, getting in the miles, taking care of the vertical. I’m as prepared as a 45-year-old guy can be to put in my best shot. As I’ve said to anybody, if I roll into Highway 49 and I’m in 11th or 12th place and I pick up my son Logan to pace me in, we’ll be pushing hard and keeping an eye out for those headlamps.
iRF: Gotcha. In the back of your mind it has to be finishing. This is number nine, so you get an automatic entry next year if you can finish.
Jones-Wilkins: This is number nine. If I can finish then I get an automatic entry. Craig Thornley has told me that this is my one shot. I really do not want to screw that up. I want to come back for number 10 in 2014 and call it a career here at Western States. It will be a great day here on Saturday. It always is. I think it will be that much sweeter this year because it’s 24 months in the making.
iRF: We’ve got to go hit the sauna and go for a run so we can figure out what the handicap is between you and me.
Jones-Wilkins: Indeed we do.
iRF: Looking at the splits before and the differences—it’s been about 2 hours or 2:20?
In Unison: I think it’s going to be a little closer this year. (laughing)
Jones-Wilkins: Let’s plan on an interview on Sunday where I’m asking the questions. How about that?
iRF: Sounds good.
Jones-Wilkins and iRF: Merry Statesmas!