Since 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!
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).