2013 Western States 100 Women’s Preview

Western States 100 logoAt the 2012 Western States 100, Ellie Greenwood’s 16 hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds on course were probably close to the smartest, strongest racing we’ve seen in the history of women’s ultrarunning. Sure, she had cool weather on her side in the second half of the race, but she also battled inclement weather in the race’s first third as well as the hyper-aggressive racing style of Lizzy Hawker and a cadre of other fit women breathing down her hydration pack. In the end, she came out the victor and new course-record holder while we all whispered around her, is she the new Ann Trason?

But with the defending champ out of this year’s race due to a stress fracture of her fibula, the pearly gates of Placer High School track heaven are open wide for a new lass to carve her name into ultrarunning’s history. Last year’s Western States Women’s Preview had something like 35 names on it, and this year’s group of top women probably has just a bit less depth. But where the group might “lack” in depth versus 2012, I think the women’s entrants list more than makes up in breadth. As we shall see, the women toeing the line at this year’s race bring with them some stellar creds.

And what I find fascinating about this group of women is that I think each and every one of them has, in addition to supreme talent, the smarts and patience to run intelligently from Squaw to Auburn. In my mind, there are seven or eight women with winning potential. Any gal’s game, this year’s WS100 is.

Editor’s Notes/Update:
We published a full 2013 Western States 100 Men’s Preview and Group Think predictions as well as the following interviews and profiles.

Last Year’s Top Ten

Obviously we know that Ellie’s out, but not because she doesn’t want to be here! Last year’s fourth and sixth respective places, Krissy Moehl and Lizzy Hawker, have chosen not to claim their F4 and F6 bibs for a 2013 return. Here are the seven she-beasts from the 2012 top ten who are back for more:

Rory Bosio - Western States 100 20112nd – Rory Bosio (18:08:06) – This 28 year old has run the WS100 three times, placing second in 2012 (post-race interview), fifth in 2011, and fourth in 2010. I can hardly wait to see what this happy-go-lucky States expert throws down this year. And, I can also hardly wait to see how she chooses to decorate her racing singlet. Since her run at States last year, she went on to finish fourth and first American at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (pre-race interviewpost-race interview), second at the 2013 Way Too Cool 50k, and fourth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Because UTMB became a weather-adjusted, 100k-ish course, Western States is still the only 100-miler she’s run. Being a hometown gal with a boat-load of course experience and her talent, she’s winner’s material this year. I don’t expect her to be an early leader, however, maybe fourth, fifth, or sixth position at Robinson Flat. But in the race’s second half, girls–and boys–beware. And, it’s possible she might be singing and dancing as she flies by you.

3rd – Aliza Lapierre (18:18:29) – Aliza’s 18:18 last year (pre-race interview) was another smartly, steadily run race, but Aliza’s running life since then has been a mixed bag. She went on to finish fourth at the 2012 Leadville 100 (pre-race interview). Just before that race, though, she injured her foot in what she thought was a minor way. She eventually had to have surgery and just returned to running this March. She ran and won the Pineland Trail 50 Mile in May and has put in only three months of training for this year’s WS100. She’s tough as nails and fit, but does she have the same set of legs as last year?

Nikki Kimball - 2012 Western States 100 - pre-race

Nikki Kimball

5th – Nikki Kimball (18:31:39) – There’s probably only one other woman in this preview who knows the Western States Trail as well as Nikki. (See Luanne Park below.) She won the race in 2004, 2006, and 2007. And, she’s run to fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and 2011, and fifth last year (pre-race interview). The 42 year old’s fastest time was 18:12 in 2007. Nikki excels at downhill running, of which we know this course has in spades. Nikki also excels as conditions decline. Case-in-point: only two men finished faster than her in 2006, the notoriously hot year. She’s run a couple 50-milers since the WS100 last year, winning The North Face Endurance Challenge Atlanta 50 Mile and finishing second at The North Face Endurance Challenge Bear Mountain 50 Mile. We know she pulled out of the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile a couple weeks before the race due to a tweaky knee. No matter what, in this, her eighth go at the race, it’s impossible to not imagine her outside of the top-ten women.

7th – Tina Lewis (19:09:49) – As of this publishing, the ever-energetic Tina is still on the entrants list, though she hasn’t run a step in a couple weeks and she’s confined to a walking boot. The 40-year-old, who seriously looks like she’s 27, has a stress reaction in one of her toes that she’s hoping will heal by race day. If she can race, she’ll likely finish in the top ten. Tina made a name for herself by earning this year’s F7 bib, and then then she cemented her name among the list of top American female ultrarunners by ousting a thick women’s field for the top spot at the 2012 Leadville 100 (ahead of Aliza Lapierre). In addition, she won the 2012 Miwok 100 and was sixth at the 2012 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship. If Tina can get and stay healthy, I think we’re just beginning to see what she’s capable of. [Update: Tina Lewis is out due to that foot injury.]

Amy Sproston8th – Amy Sproston (19:11:02) – Amy’s the reigning World 100k Champion (post-race interview with Meghan Arbogast and Pam Smith), which proves her road-running prowess. Last year, she ran near to the leaders early while falling behind late due to what she calls “quad death.” If she can keep her quadriceps in working order, a finishing time that’s equitable to her fitness would start with 18. Just four weeks out from States, she ran (and finished second but hand-in-hand with winner Meghan Arbogast) Japan’s Shibamata 100k. A road race? For a woman who doesn’t want to experience quad death again, this seems little counter-intuitive. Also this spring, Amy won the Ray Miller 50 Mile, was third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and she won the Orhangazi 80k in Turkey just one week after Lake Sonoma. They are all hilly races, though, so I think things are looking good for Amy’s legs this year.

9th – Ashley Nordell (19:26:30) – Let me begin by saying that I think Ashley will run faster this year than last year, even if hot weather dominates. Last year was her first hundred back after giving birth to her daughter, and I think she was still on the upward curve of regaining her fitness and figuring out how life with a littleun’ works. Since last year, she ran to third at the 2012 Leadville 100 (ahead of Aliza Lapierre and behind Tina Lewis), took third at the Hagg Lake 50k, and second at the Gold Rush 100k. We hear that temperatures during the Gold Rush 100k were near-records for that part of California in May, so let’s hope she’s still got some leftover heat acclimatization and tenacity from that.

Meghan Arbogast 2012 IAU 100k World Championships

10th – Meghan Arbogast (19:45:24) – Meghan, oh Meghan, where do we start with The Queen? How about the fact that this hater of cold weather survived last year’s early storm and squeaked out a 10th-place finish. Or that she’s the age 50 and older record holder for the women at States, which she earned by running 18:50:19 in 2011. (Don’t forget that this record is a mere 6 minutes, 21 seconds off the men’s age-group record. Take that, gentlemen.) Or that she won the 2013 Way Too Cool 50k, surging past Rory Bosio in the final mile or two. Or that she was fifth at the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Or that she won the Ice Age 50k in May. On an off-the-charts day for The Queen, she’s inside the top five. On a great day, she’s a top-ten shoo-in.

Other Top-Ten Possibilities with 100-Mile Experience

A runner who is back to avenge her 28 hours, 58 minutes of “adventure” on the course last year is Oregon’s Pam Smith, who gained entrance to the race via the Montrail Ultra Cup (MUC) with a win at the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile. Pam got sick during last year’s race, basically moved into an aid station for a while, and plodded along to a still-smiling finish. Pam’s run the WS100 two more times, finishing 10th in both 2010 and 2011. Her fastest time on the course is 20:40, but I think a fit Pam Smith who’s ready for States’s rigors can go under 19 hours if the weather isn’t too outlandish. And that finish, I think, would put her back in the top ten.

Joelle Vaught MontrailJoelle Vaught gained MUC entrance via a win at the 2012 Waldo 100k. She’s run the WS100 twice before, 13th and 20:59 in 2012 and 7th and 20:19 in 2010. These finishes don’t reflect Joelle’s overall ultrarunning talent, though, as she’s almost exclusively winning or on the podium of 100k or shorter races. Among her 2013 runs, she finished second at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and she recently won the Pocatello 50 Mile in 9:03, which is off-the-charts fast for that course and a 23-minute improvement on her own course record. If she could “figure out” the 100-mile distance, Joelle has the talent to finish top five among this year’s entrants.

Second place at the 2012 Waldo 100k (behind Joelle Vaught), “Endurance Capitol”/Bend, Oregon’s Denise Bourassa got into Western States with a MUC entry there. Denise has been a strong ultrarunner for years, but the last couple have seen her racing well at progressively higher-level events. In the last year or so, she won the 2012 Ice Age 50 and came second at the 2013 version, placed fifth at the Speedgoat 50k, and finished ninth at both the Chuckanut 50k and the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile this spring. She was 11th woman at the 2012 WS100, so my guess is that she’s got the eye of the tiger for a top-ten placing.

She won’t know I’ve written about her until after the race, as Jennifer Benna‘s gone off the social-media radar to keep her mind honed on her goal: a finish in the top ten. The 33-year-old mom and film-company producer dropped from last year’s race due to illness, but she’s been on the rise as an ultrarunner after her daughter’s birth in 2010. She was fourth at the 2012 Miwok 100k, seventh at the stacked 2012 Speedgoat 50k, and first at the 2013 Bandera 50k. Her most recent finish was a win at the Zion 100 in April. My take? She’s very talented but needs a perfect day to crack this year’s top ten.

100-Mile Newbies Who Will Stir the Pot

Emily Harrison - ultrarunnerEmily Harrison gained a MUC entry by taking second at the 2012 JFK 50 (post-race interview). In her debut ultra, she lost to Ellie Greenwood but she and Ellie both ran far faster than the previous course record. Since then and since accepting her MUC entry, she’s run just two more ultras, wins at the Moab Red Hot 55k and the Mormon Fat Ass 50 Mile. Her Red Hot win was another major course record in a deep field. She’s a former Division I college runner who was sixth at the 2007 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and who has a 2:32:55 marathon PR. She trained for several years of road racing with the McMillan Elite crew in Flagstaff, Arizona, where trail running began to grow on her. Additionally, she’s coached by ultra star Ian Torrence. Though I believe she has the talent, I think it’d take a special kind of day for Emily to win, as all the stars aligning in your first 100 is pretty difficult. But if there’s anyone who is setting themselves up for this, it’s Emily.

2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile - Cassie ScallonJust watching 100-mile newbies Emily Harrison and Cassie Scallon duke it out would be a great race, let alone all the other women they will be surrounded by next weekend. The Wisconsin native who now lives in the “Other Endurance Capitol,” Boulder, Colorado, Cassie earned a MUC entry by winning the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (ahead of Joelle Vaught and a bunch of other women in this preview) (post-race interview). Though the 2013 WS100 will be her debut, she was on the 2012 entrants list. She turned up in Squaw Valley to race, but got a call from her doctor asking her not to start. For the rest of the year, she was healing a pelvic stress fracture. The beginning of 2013 was good for her because, in addition to her win at Lake Sonoma, she took second at the Moab Red Hot 55k (behind Emily Harrison), fourth at Chuckanut 50k, and won the Ice Age 50 Mile in a new course record (ahead of Denise Bourassa). She just dropped from the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile two weekends ago after she fell and injured her hamstring. She intends to start States. If I knew a 100% healthy Cassie was turning up, I’d give her an equal shot at the win as Emily Harrison.

Kerrie BruxvoortColorado’s Kerrie Bruxvoort stormed into the world of ultrarunning about 15 months ago, and has run at least 14 trail races and won half of them since then. She gained entry via the MUC and a second place (behind Pam Smith) at the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile. Her most impressive performance among her outings was not a win, however; it was her second place in the 2012 Speedgoat 50k’s deep field. She’s run well at a couple gnarly 50 milers this spring, which is probably the best prep possible for someone without a 100-mile finish (she dropped from the Leadville 100 last year) and WS100 virgin. This spring, she won both the Zane Grey and Quad Rock 50 milers. Though new to ultrarunning, the 36 year old says she’s been running for about 20 years, and she has a 2:55 marathon PR. I’ll call her definite top-five material if she runs smart and patient.

More Women Who Could Make Some Top-Twenty Noise

Melanie Peters is from Michigan and 29 years old, and she gained a MUC entry by winning the Leona Divide 50 Mile in 7:30. I believe she’s run one 100-miler, the Burning River 100 last year where she finished under 21 hours and in fourth place. I don’t think this is reflective of her running talent, however, as Melanie was a University of Miami runner with PRs of 4:26:03  for 1500m and 16:44.10 for 5,000m. After college, she focused for a while on road racing, and I believe her marathon PR is 2:46:45. Melanie could very well be a rising star of ultrarunning.

Mary Churchill (née Fagan) got into States via the lottery. Though the 37 year old has been pretty busy for the last several years having two children, Mary’s major return to ultrarunning is via the Big Dance. She’s been an ultrarunner since about 2001, I believe, and her ultrarunning has coincided with road racing, too. Some of her best performances include a win at the Vermont 100 in 2007 and a second place in 2011. She has tremendous natural talent and a known ability to run 100 miles. The only question is, with a toddler and an infant at home, how has her training and recovery been going?

Canada’s Nicola Gildersleeve also got in via the ever-more-elusive lottery. She’s run the WS100 once before, a 21:40 and 11th place in 2010. Recently, Nicola won the 2012 Tarawera 100k, was 10th at the stacked 2013 Chuckanut 50k, and she won the 2013 Yakima Skyline Rim 50k in April, which has insane vertical and is a good sign for her mountain legs. She might be hungry for a top-ten spot after finishing 11th a few years back, but I’m going to call that a long shot with this year’s field.

Rhonda Claridge gained her entry from finishing second at the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100. She made noise last year when she finished second at the Hardrock 100, though she was more than 3.5 hours behind winner Darcy Africa. She lives in Ophir, Colorado, which is only a mile or two from the Hardrock course. She’s, thus, got a great set of legs for the high-altitude mountains, but probably not enough leg speed for the runner’s race that is the WS100. She’s got at least 17 podium finishes in ultramarathons to her name, so I’m certain she’ll be at States to compete hard.

Always a strong force in Cali races is Bree Lambert. She’s got at least three 100-mile wins under her belt, most recently a win at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in 2011. Since then, she’s been fourth at the 2013 Bandera 100k, eighth at the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and a win at the Quicksilver 50k in May.

Luanne Park, at 52 years old, is always tough. This year, she’s been 12th at the Way Too Cool 50k and seventh at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in 2013. She has four podium finishes at Western States to her name, with the best being second in 19:42:40 in 2004. She’s going for her 10th finish this year so I’m thinking she might be planning to finish come he££ or the high water of Rucky Chucky.

Leila Degrave gained her MUC entry from finishing third (behind Rhonda Claridge) at the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100. Based on her results on Utrasignup, this Evergreeen, Coloradan feels at home on the podium of Colorado and other regional races. Her most recent win is an 8:01 at the Collegiate Peaks 50 Mile in May, I believe. I predict a strong and steady day for Leila that lands her a top-20 spot.

Megan Hall, from Washington state, got a MUC entry by taking second at Pinhoti 100. Megan’s won maybe six or eight local-to-her ultras, but I believe States to be her first national and international-level competition. (The race doesn’t have many non-U.S. elites this year, but I call it an international-level race because the competition is equitable.) Just inside the top 20 for Megan, per chance?

54-year-old Kelly Ridgway has been running ultramarathons since many of the race’s younger entrants were in high school. She’s had some health issues in recent years, but her health and fitness seem on the upswing since the second half of 2012. This year she’s finished 14th at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and first at the Quicksilver 50 Mile. She’s run States twice, in 2004 and 2007, with her highest finish as 16th place. She’d have to run faster than the 23:42 that got her there in 2007, but I think she’s got that in her running arsenal if she’s totally “back.”

Traci Falbo is a 41 year old from Indiana with 15 wins out of 22 ultras listed on Ultrasignup. The standout performance among those was a 17:02 win at the 2012 Umstead 100. That said, she has almost no mountains-of-the-west races on her resume.

An experienced (and relatively local) runner who finished 19th woman in 22:34 last year, what will this year hold for Amber Monforte?

Notable DNSes

  • Elissa Ballas – Accepted a MUC entry from finishing third at the JFK 50 Mile. Her name is now off the entrants list, too.
  • Melanie Fryar – She accepted a MUC entry from finishing third at the Pinhoti 100, but her name is no longer on the entrants list.
  • Ellie Greenwood – As we’ve discussed, is not defending her win due to to injury.

Call for Comments

  • Who will win? Who will make the podium? Who will make a major racing breakthrough?
  • Have we missed anyone you think should be added to this preview?
  • Do you have insight into the fitness level of any of the women we’ve listed? If so, share! Likewise, let us know if any of the above will not be racing.
  • What do you think the front of the race will look like for the women? A robust “pack” through 50 miles that gets strung out in the second half? Someone who runs a la Lizzy Hawker in 2012 and far off the front? A Geoff Roes in 2010-esque late-race surge?
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 72 comments

  1. Tim Lambert

    I think it will be Rory's year, for sure.

    The only person I think you have missed is Caroline McKay from Scotland. She isn't a contender for the win, but is aiming for circa 20-21 hours and has had a great start to the season in Scotland with a recent podium place at the Hoka Highland Fling.

    1. Mike T

      Joelle also crushed the the Silver State 50 Mile course in 8:09 2 weeks prior to Pocatello, looking fresh as can be at the end. Her main concern was that she would get her 6 mile "slow" run in the next morning before the long ride back to Boise.

      I am pulling for Rory Bosio and not just because I have a crush on her. She has consistently stepped up her game at WS over the last 3 years. She is due for the win and WS is due to have a "true local" hold the title!!

  2. Dan

    If Cassie's hamstring is better, the three week forced taper might be exactly what she needed. She's raced a lot and been on fire early this year, and although the distance is new she has the talent. I hear Gary Gellin and Matt Flaherty are her pacers/crew so with experience and speed on her team I look to her to surprise the veterans.

      1. Jeff

        I agree – but I think Emily is probably getting good advice from Ian and likely won't fall into typical "100 mile rookie" pitfalls. I think Rory wins, but Emily takes a strong second.

        1. Jeff

          I think I may have just contradicted myself there… I agree that it's possible that Emily will go out too hard and fade, but I think it's just as likely she will start strong and finish strong.

          1. Pete

            Fair enough Jeff I see your point. being guided by some experienced 100 miles will go a long ways. Rory is so solid at her running and so smart I think it will behard for anyone to beat her.

      2. Joshua Finger

        I don't see her doing that, unless someone pushes it hard from the beginning. With Ellie on the sidelines, I think the pace could be very sustainable for Emily. From what I heard, she has been getting alot of miles on the course. Over training weekend, she seemed to have a great time enjoying the course, when she didn't have to slide down a switchback heading into the canyon to avoid some horses before devils thumb climb. Her doggies seemed to enjoy it too!

        1. Dylan Bowman

          I'm picking Emily as well and am very confident she won't go out too hard. Plus, she's got Mr. Torrence pacing her who knows a thing or two about pacing to victory (Hal, Jurek). Truly a wide open race, though.

          1. Pete

            I think it will be fun to watch this unfold. One has to think Emily will go out in the lead and Rory will try to close.

  3. Ian Sharman

    Like the men's field there are a lot of ways the race could go. Will the rookie speedsters be able to run slowly enough to pace 100? I think Emily Harrison could do it as she's easily the fastest and has a very experienced coach in Ian Torrence. But if she falters I think it's got to be Rory.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Even more than in the men's race, I think it'd pay for someone like Emily to sit on the top experienced person – be it, Rory or Aliza or Nikki or Amy – until Foresthill. Even if Emily wasn't feeling good at the high school, Torrence would have her feeling good at some point after that … and, well, we saw what Roes did after the river!

  4. Dean G

    I like Emily's chances too.

    Glad to hear Aliza's on the mend… She was just getting better and better last year… Don't know if she has enough time in her legs, but don't count her out.

    We all know what Rory can do… Hard to pick in this one. A wide-open race without Ellie being there…

    Could this be a two rookie year (Krar and Harrison?)

    1. Tim Lambert

      In the past, rookies havent fared well at States (forgetting Roes)- having said that, that is mainly the mens field.

      Im still sticking with Clark and Bosio. If our sport got enough publicity that I could place a bet, I would. But perhaps its a good thing its still small(ish)

        1. Anonymous

          Agreed, Ellie, that's why I caveated as men's field in general. I'm so excited by this year, I know you'll be cheering on fellow Scot, Caroline.

  5. Traci

    I'm excited to be included in the preview with such amazing women, but I am taking on the Grand Slam along with Ian Sharman and Nick Pedatella (mentioned in the men's preview). I don't know what those boys have planned, but I know I can't go balls to the wall and survive the slam :) I'm super excited to see how it plays out, as I think there are a lot of good women who can win…lots can happen in a 100 miles!

  6. Jason H

    Don't count out Megan Hall. IMO she has the strength to be a real contender for a top ten, even a top five if there is some carnage. And I'm quite sure she's been training hard. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.. I can't wait!

  7. JohnDoe

    Similar to the men's preview – no mention of the pacers which make up their TEAM. If they didn't play a crucial role in getting them to the finish line, no one would use pacers. Their times I'm sure will all be impressive nonetheless, but similar to the elite men's results, should be followed with an "*team effort". I'll wait to be really impressed by these super talented runners when they toe the line to do the whole thing solo….otherwise the finishing times are a bit deceiving


    1. Amy

      JohnDoe? I could almost guess your name, but won't. I don't actually agree. I don't love using pacers, and think they slow me down more than speed me up–I get this guilt complex for suffering in front of them and forcing them to run slowly and take walk breaks. Everyone is different, though. My pacer to the river this year has never raced on trails and never been to an ultra–so that's more of a "me wanting her to experience WS" type of pacing gig. And I am really excited for her to experience WS. And my sister, who will pace me from 49 had never run on trails until WS 2 years ago, and only runs on trails once a year–from 49 to the river. Luckily, I've been crawling both years by the time I get to her, but that's less of a pacing gig, and more an "experience in sisterly bonding through the witnessing of suffering" gig. So, you don't like pacers. Don't use one. But, at least personally, I don't think they play much of a role in determining the actual result.

      1. Ellie G

        Whilst I am not saying I either agree or disagree with the role that pacers may or may not have on finsihing times, to say that they cause results to be be 'deceiving' is rather like saying that until aid stations or a whole multitude of other assistance/ things are disallowed that the results are deceiving. There are 100 milers out there that don't allow pacers so if that's your gig then those are the races you can choose, but WS allows pacers for all so if someone choses to use a pacer then their result is not decieving, it is fully legitimate.

    2. Matt Smith

      I agree that there should be a distinction between a solo effort and one where pacers or crew aid the runner (it IS a team effort, any suggestion otherwise is just semantics – just like a pit crew in NASCAR).

      But in a race with a storied history like WS, it's hard to image starting to 'astrix' results for paced runners at this point. I always have a greater respect for those who finish without pacer or crew, but the ultra community has accepted pacers as a normal part of racing, so it's up to RDs to disallow pacers or have a a tiered award/result system.

      All that said, I can't wait to see this year's WS – it looks to be a great year for racing (pacers or not)!

      1. Deb

        I think the distinction is strictly what the race directors decide to allow. Everyone is on equal footing it is what they personally chose to do. If you don't like a pacer you can chose a different race or run your race without a pacer. To some how say one effort is better than another makes no sense to me. You have many personal choices to make in how you race such as how you are going to crew your race, or how you want to fuel during the race. One is not right or wrong it is a personal choice. I think it is important to respect everyone's personal choices as long as they are within the rules.

      2. Bryon Powell

        The following is not directed at you antagonistically, rather its just my point of view that fits into the conversation well at this point. Sorry about using your comment as a jumping off point. :-)

        I'll take the statement "it’s up to RDs to disallow pacers or have a tiered award/result system" as a stateent that RDs have the option of implementing either scenario. If that's the point, I agree. Why not have a free market of ideas and race options. However, if it's meant as an obligatory statement, I'd disagree. Should there be a tiered award system for those who don't use the aid stations if a few participants would find the experience more pure? No. We all get it – some folks don't like pacers or the concept of pacers, but as you write, "the ultra community has accepted pacers as a normal part of racing." So while it's perfectly fine for you, I, and anyone else to differently value performances on factors such as whether or not someone uses a pacer, I don't think RDs have any obligation to either change their races in opposition to the norm nor, alternately, to provide recognition for those who hinder themselves.

        Also, how do we start dividing between the benefits of aid stations, drop bags, crew, and pacers? All are aid, right? If receiving assistance is the issue, are any races up to snuff? Surely, we all interact with other runners, volunteers, etc., at any "race." Just trying to poke around and find where the lines are. To use a popular example (I hope he doesn't mind), Karl likes to run alone (and I say that affirmatively, rather than as he chooses not to use a pacer), but his crews are top notch. Does that make his performances at Hardrock any less impressive? What if he's merely got drop bags at a far off race?

  8. John Burton

    I must say, my eyebrows raised a bit when I read the line at the end of the section on Mary Churchill, "The only question is, with a toddler and an infant at home, how has her training and recovery been going?". I was about to chide Byron Powell for being sexist (as we wouldn't write a line like this about one of the male runners like Timothy Olsen for example). But then I saw that the article was written by Meghan Hicks, so I guess I can't accuse her of being sexist :)

    And yeah, my money is on Rory for the win!

    1. Meghan Hicks


      Perhaps I wrote that because Mary and I are friends and I've been "following" her adventures via Facebook of having a tiny, new baby in addition to her first child. To my knowledge, she's the momma with the youngest baby among the top entrants; maybe her youngest is about five months old?

      Let's face it, though. Being a mother to a youngun' is waaaaay different than being a father (and this is by no means putting down the huge efforts dads put into their children's lives). For women there is so much more that goes on in addition to all the life changes that are experienced by both male and female caregivers. There's pregnancy, birthing, and possible related medical procedures. And if a mom breastfeeds, that completely informs the layout of her life for the first many months of her baby's life.

      I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone or make a sexist comment about Mary. It's sooooo impressive that she's running 100 miles next weekend!

  9. Pete

    While I have never run a 100 I plan on using a pacer actually 2 for my first 100. I initially was going to go without but then decided that I thought it was in my best interest and mainly my safety for my first 100. I am not sure how using a pacer changes the fact the runner is still running a 100 miles. It isn't like the pacer is throwing the runner on their shoulders and doing a fireman carry for the runner. The runner is still putting all the effort in. To say it is less credible a person runs with a pacer seems a bit silly. With that said I will probably do my second 100 alone if the first goes well. Then again maybe I will enjoy the company and decide I do want one. Anyways enough rambling either way running a 100 miles is not easy and nothing should be taken away with or without a pacer.

  10. Cara Marrs

    Megan that is not sexist at all, and it is different being the mother at that young age. It is super impressive and a challenge to run a 100 with an infant at home, that takes dedication. I ran a 50k and 50M last year with a new baby just a few months older than hers and it was a big challenge, do-able but a challenge. Although, having a new baby in a hundred might be a benefit as you are already used to not sleeping:)

  11. Eric Schramm

    I hope Rory wins! I think she has a solid shot at the win this year. I've come to realize your outlook/attitude is an enormous factor in running, and she's the happiest, most positive person out there. I think that will carry her a long way, even if her legs give out :-)

  12. Rune

    I have a hunch Emily makes a heckuva 100 mile debut. Great talent and no doubt one of the best and most experienced runners in Ian in her corner.

    Btw – Tina Lewis is a Canadian.

    Happy trails,


  13. Matt Smith

    Hi Bryon,

    I'm glad that you posted such an eloquent reply to my half-baked comment, but I think that we all agree that the ultra scene is big enough for all sorts of racing options – pacers/not, crew/not, aid/not, etc. (see the Wakely Dam Ultra – no pacers, crew or aid allowed.)

    Whether or not an RD allows pacers is one thing – whether a runner chooses to use a pacer is another. Of course everyone has the option to run with a pacer (so there is a level playing field from a competition standpoint), but it would be interesting to see a major 100 miler offer 'bonus' prizes like 'first solo runner' or 'first runner without pacer' to acknowledge that they are running the race in a different style.

    Just like we have different awards for age groups and genders, it might be cool to highlight the different choices that runners make as they compete.

    1. Dan

      Check out Massanutten 100. They offer a solo option and have recognition for that effort. You are allowed to us pacers and the race results are not split between solo and non solo, but the effort is at least recognized.

      That said, if you use a crew/pacer I have read that it can make or break a performance, it's just another of the thousands of variables that comprises an ultra. Running is just a small part of the game.

      Thanks for bringing up Wakely Dam. I was one of 6 runners at the inaugural event. Having to be self sufficient with no aid stations, and having my water filter bust at the first use added 2 hours to my average 50k time.

      Back to the original thread, Ian Torrence will play a big part in the women's race as well as Matt Flaherty and Gary Gellin who are pacing Cassie Scallon. These decisions can be positive or negative, we will see how it pans out.

    2. Johnny

      Massanutten 100 has a solo division with a special top finisher recognition and general solo finisher prize. So there are random races out there that do that sort of thing.

    3. JohnDoe

      My suggestion/idea was simply that events where pacers are optional, the results reflect that. To me, its as important as distinguishing between Male and Female finishers. There is a big difference in whether people use aid station food or not (they all still eat something) and whether someone has a companion(s) for every step of the last 50 miles…or NOT. Solo efforts deserve that recognition, if nothing else, in the results list!

      1. Greg

        I'm not sure if anyone would know this, but I'm curious about legal ramifications regarding races without aid. Specifically, are there any 100 mile races without any sort of medical checkpoints? Are there any races where the aid station chief does not have the authority to pull a runner who is determined to be in serious physical trouble?

        What would happen if a race decided to go without any aid stations and places for runners to pick up extra stuff (e.g., drop bags) and a runner became seriously ill or, worst case scenario, died? Would the RD/race be held legally responsible for this?

        I know it is slightly different, but at JFK runners are forbidden from using headphones due to insurance issues (safety). Do most races have insurance policies? Would not having aid stations be a major obstacle to getting an insurance policy for a race?

      2. art

        while we're on the subject of hardcore v.s. soft core 100's …

        how about a race with no aid stations, no pacers, no course markings, crew and drop bag allowed one spot only, need water filter …

        Plain 100,

        My money is on Rory at WS.

      3. Ian Sharman

        I've run WS 3 times now, twice with a pacer. It's nice to have company but there's only one person pushing me to the finish and it's not the pacer – only the runner can know how hard they can dig if they have enough experience. I wouldn't make any distinction between my 3 races and having pacers didn't make things any easier, it just meant a friend got to experience the race and listen to me grunt up hills.

  14. footfeathers

    Two weeks ago I would've picked Cassie but her decision to run Cayuga still has me scratching my head and puts a chink in the armor in my view of her focus and preparation (not to mention, common sense in terms of scheduling).

    I think Rory puts it together this year and earns a tough win.

    1. Jason H

      Rory is fast and awesome, and has some experience, but Emily is faster. I couldn't predict, but that may come into play… Of course, when I run ultras I hope that the distance and toughness brings the faster guys back to me. Sometimes it works.

      Yassine also ran Cayuga. Seems too close to me, but everyone is an experiment of one.

  15. Jon Smith

    By decieving, I'm refering to the fact that results only show the one finishers name(tho person who paid to race)and don't mention the fact that he/she may have had multiple pacers for 1/2 the route. The way results are currently shown, makes it seem as though it was just the one individual running start to finish, on their own. If used, pacers make a difference – results should reflect that. If you win a 100 and everyone used pacers, thats fine (even playing field?), but if you win a 100 and didn't use pacers, while others did, that is a big difference….and that effort should be recognized in the way the results are shown.

  16. KenZ

    I don't use pacers, but do recognize that if I did my times would likely be faster. Pacers (for most people, if you choose wisely) are a performance booster. Like music, which is a performance booster for most people.

    However, in many races I think having/not having a crew may be even a bigger deal. Crew can often access aid stations where drop bags aren't allowed, thus giving a massive logistical advantage in terms of preferred nutrition type, carried load, etc. Plus I've seen well-trained crews so much like a NASCAR race where the runner zips in, sits on a chair while someone changes his socks/shoes, someone else is rubbing down the legs, someone else is changing out bottles, etc, all while I'm struggling to change out my own shoes and socks from a drop bag without getting more dirt in the new ones than I had in the old.

    But the playing field is level since all are allowed the same help if they choose to take it. I simply choose not to, and since I'll never be particularly competitive, who cares if I'm an hour slower? I don't. The cost of having a crew or pacer (getting them to the race, feeding, housing, whatever) might be one thing, but then again if money could also buy an altitude tent, five personal trainers, deep tissue massage 2x/week during training, monthly blood work, etc. Short of PEDs (and could we please not go there right now), as long as everyone is openly allowed the same advantages, you choose to run the race that you do.

    Also, I love Art's comment below about Plain 100. There are plenty of level and GRUELING playing fields out there.

  17. Lucy

    Go Rory! Will be excited to watch her once again this year – my hero.

    As far as the pacing argument, how would it be documented when, say, the runner drops the pacer because the pacer can't do the pace – as Ellie did a couple-a-few years back?

  18. Jeff

    Agree on pacers and crew.

    In most U.S. races, pacers are allowed, in Europe, not so much. In some events, pacers can even mule (e.g., Leadville). Muling and crew efficiency at rest stops seem much more of an advantage than just running with someone.

    This is not like cycling events (even double centuries) where people can draft and work together in a way a solo rider cannot. Unless I am missing something, pacers do not provide a draft in 100s.

    At the end of the day, I would favor no crews, i.e. everyone avails themselves of the same aid station fare or uses drop bags, but that is not for me to decide.

Post Your Thoughts