Intriguing Storylines At The 2015 Western States 100: Part 1

AJWs TaproomWith Western States a month away, it’s time to devote these pages to the Big Dance. While I remain guilty of a certain obsessiveness about the event, I simply can’t help myself. When Memorial Day comes and goes, my attention is drawn inexorably to that iconic run from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California.

In this context, I am going to devote the next two columns to intriguing story lines going into this year’s race. This week I’ll focus on three stories from the men’s side and next week three stories from the women’s side. And, owing to the fact that there will be much prognostication over the next few weeks about who might win and why, I will not look into those questions but will rather leave that to others.

So, without further ado, here are three men to watch at this year’s race:

Gordy Ainsleigh
The Founder of the Run is returning once again. However, this year he has done so by running a qualifying race at the Javelina Jundred last fall and successfully completing two tune-up races, the Way Too Cool 50k and the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, this spring. By all accounts, 67-year-old Gordy seems on track for what would be his 24th finish and first since 2007. Clearly, Gordy is primed and focused on getting the job done this year. And, if he does in fact get the finish, he will be the first person to successfully finish Western States in five different decades.

Ian Sharman
Known as a prolific racer at a wide range of distances, Ian has, over the years, proven to have tremendous versatility on both the trails and the roads. Currently, the man with the longest top-10 streak at Western States, Ian has, since his first time at the WS100 in 2010, finished in the top 10. Going for his sixth consecutive top 10 will be no small feat for Ian as it seems the competition has continued to get stiffer with each passing year. Since 2010, 34 different men have finished in the top 10 and Ian has been there every time. All indications are that he is on track to finish #6 where he has the last five.

Gary Knipling
One of the most storied age-group records at Western States is Ray Piva’s 28:09 which he ran as a 71 year old in 1998. This year, 71-year-old Virginian Gary Knipling is seeking to break Piva’s record. Over the past few years, Knipling has had strong finishes at Massanutten and Grindstone and seems poised to make a run at 28:09. If experience, desire, and a sense of humor or necessary attributes to 100-mile success, then Gary should have no problem making his way from Squaw to Auburn.

While Western States always seems to bring out the best in people, it also clearly rewards experience and smarts as much as just about any other race. For Gordy, Ian, and Gary, they’ll benefit from both as they seek to etch their names into the record books.

#seeyouinsquaw

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Firestone Brewing Company Easy Jack IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, California. Their newly released Easy Jack IPA is a new take on the popular session IPA variety. 4.5% ABV and 50 IBUs it is gentle on the body yet bursting with hoppy flavors. Maintaining much of the resiny nature of their Double Jack, Easy Jack does the job with half the alcohol. Needless to say, a great post run choice!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you seen Gordy, Ian, or Gary in training for Western States this year? What can you add to their preparatory stories?
  • Are there more stories we should know about other runners at this year’s Western States? Let us know if you think the community should be following another runner’s unique story!

There are 12 comments

  1. VTZeke

    Hi Meghan, My lady and I had the 'pleasure' of pacing Gary Knipling to his 18th finish at a hot & sunny, then thunder-stormy, Massanutten just two weeks ago. He looked strong the entire way, especially after a 17-minute nap at the 78 mile aid station. We had all we could do to keep up with him on the infrequent smooth downhill segments.
    I paced Gary at the 2006 WSER, when it was blazing hot and snow-choked. Got him to Auburn in 28:32, on the first leg of the Grand Slam, as he and his son Keith went on to become the first father-son duo to complete it.
    In three weeks Gary and we and about 37 other VA Happy Trails Running Club members will be tackling Big Horn. Gary dropped down from the 50 Mile to the 50K when he was accepted into Western, which happens just one week later.

  2. sharmanian

    I wonder how many other people will ever finish any 100-miler (never mind the same one) for five consecutive decades…or non-consecutive ones :)

    Having just run the training weekend on the course I am probably the most excited I've ever been for Western States, including seeing what happens with the Magda v Steph showdown.

  3. TropicalJohn

    Also in this vein, a shout out to Gunhild Swanson of Spokane Valley, Washington. In 2005, Swanson set a women’s 60-69 age group record of 25:40 that still stands. This year she will attempt to become the first 70-year-old woman to finish Western States. Don’t bet against her! – she finished Javelina 100 last fall.

    1. ajoneswilkins

      measinb I may not have been clear enough in my introduction but part 2, which will come out on Friday, is about 4 intriguing story lines on the women's side. Sorry I was not more explicit about that.

  4. @PatrickKrott

    That's so awesome that Gordy is in such great shape this year! I ran WS in 2013, and I was behind him about 5 miles into the race. I said "Gordy, I'll just follow you" and he said "well, you won't get lost, but you might be late". I passed him shortly thereafter! His legs are freaking MASSIVE. Like tree trunks.

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