Leading up to this year’s Western States 100 we caught with the second-, third-, fifth-, and seventh-place ladies from 2012: Rory Bosio, Aliza Lapierre, Nikki Kimball, and Tina Lewis. Rory tells us about her favorite parts of the Western States 100; Aliza lays it out there on what’s happened to her foot in the last year; Nikki talks about getting the most out of herself after a series of injuries; and Tina says she’s still hopeful that her foot injury won’t keep her out of the race. [Editor’s Note: Tina’s foot injury will keep her from racing after all.]
[For more on the top women in this year’s Western States, check out our full women’s preview along with interviews with Amy Sproston, Ashley Nordell, and Meghan Arbogast as well as Cassie Scallon and Kerrie Bruxvoort.]
iRunFar: You were second last year. That’s phenomenal and very difficult to top. What’s your mental approach to this year’s race?
Bosio: I have a natural excitement about Western States so I find myself thinking more about logistics (i.e., what to put in my drop bags) rather than thinking about how I will mentally get through the race or feeling a sense of dread. I guess that’s an avoidance behavior, but racing is more enjoyable for me when my brain doesn’t get in the way.
iRunFar: You are trademark-ly happy when you race. And you’ve said before that, if you aren’t happy, you employ a fake-it-until-you-make-it tactic until you miraculously are happy. You also decorated the heck out of your TNF singlet last year. Can we expect more of the same this year? What will be on your jersey? Where will you be smiling most?
Bosio: Puff painting and bedazzling things from bikes to jerseys is my creative outlet so I will do something. I’m like a hawk; I like shiny bright things so probably some rare gemstones and high-quality, neon puff paint. Hmmm, as to the smiling, I’m always happy when I see my crew or get to dunk in the river. I also enjoy popsicles. If the aid stations had Itzakadoozies (Check ‘em out, they’re the best popsicles ever. That’s right, ever.), my head might explode from joy. One can hope…
iRunFar: Each year the women’s field at WS100 gets deeper and the racing, thus, becomes more intense. It’s so important to “run your own race” at the 100-mile distance, though. How will you battle this dichotomy on race day?
Bosio: I’m a pacifist so I don’t go to battle much. I avoid looking at start lists. That helps. Also, this might be entirely a false perception on my part, but the race doesn’t seem cutthroat to me in terms of competition. I’m oblivious to certain things, so I could be wrong, but I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with other racers, male or female, out there. No Tanya Hardings to be found. Throwback! Holla’!
iRunFar: You rounded out the ladies’ podium last year, running an 18:18 in phenomenal racing conditions. You were also in phenomenal shape. A lot has happened since then, a fourth place at Leadville, a major foot injury and surgery, the recovery comeback. Can you talk about your injury? What was it? What happened in surgery? Did you cross train like a mad woman when you were injured? How has your return to running been?
Lapierre: I think I was in decent shape last year for Western and had good races leading up. My plan was to use WS100 as a stepping-stone for Leadville. Thinking back, I think I hurt my foot in one of the runs on [the Leadville] course prior to race day and then continued to run on it for a few months afterwards. I convinced myself that I had landed incorrectly on my foot and bruised it, so I iced, stretched, and babied it. With no relief, I went to my physical therapist and because the pain wasn’t keeping me from running, both he and I perceived it was okay to continue to run. So I did. Finally, around Thanksgiving I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in one of my sesamoid bones in my left foot. The coaches at Champlain Valley Crossfit found plenty of ways to help me stay in shape and redefined what I thought I was capable of.
Six weeks in a walking boot and I was 99 percent convinced I was back in the game as I sat in the doctor’s office getting x-rays. I was truly shocked to learn that, according to the images, I had made little to no progress. After more trips to the doctors, I was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, which meant the bone would have to be removed because it was decaying. I had to wait over a month for surgery so I ran as much as I could without having it impact my gait. In a way, each run was bittersweet. In February, the pesky bone came out as they made an incision on the outside of my big toe. After I woke up from surgery, the doctor showed my husband and I the small, decaying bone, which also had a transverse crack, a bone flap, and fragments hanging off it.
My doctor assured me that I should no longer let pain be my guide as he contemplated how I could have been running on a bone that badly mangled. I was ordered to sit on my butt for three weeks with my foot up and it was about five weeks before I could start doing cardio and running again. At the end of March, I put in a week or two of slow running focusing on my foot strike and finding my balance. Then in April, I started building mileage and it happened pretty quickly as I still had the desire to be back at Western States.
iRunFar: When I think of you, I think of quiet power. You just kind of do your own thing, but you don’t say much or make a fuss about it. This seems to be a naturally good approach to running 100 miles. Do you see this as a quality for this distance and this pace, too?
Lapierre: Thanks Meghan, quiet power, I like that. I try to do my own thing, because if I don’t, I find myself in trouble. I am a firm believer that what works for one person may not work for another and we all need to run our own races. I think in general I am a quiet person and I know that I often lack confidence so my shyness just flows into the way I run. I am oftentimes scared to put myself out there. I get so nervous about everything from flying to the race, to the social scene, to what I will eat when I am away from home, but it all is worth it when I find my calm when running. Ultimately, I think that the ultrarunning world works for me because sometimes you are alone with the mountains and sometimes you are with others and if you don’t talk it doesn’t really matter.
iRunFar: The women’s competition is pretty fierce this year even though the returning champion is out due to injury. What’s your take on how this race will go down? Who might go out hard? Who do you expect to make a late surge? Can you guess the podium?
Lapierre: The ladies are friendly, but, yes, fierce. First off, big holler to Ellie who I hope is mending well; she has certainly set the bar high for our sport and I am grateful for that. I think that the heat is going to play a factor in this year’s race. With that being said, I believe that patience and self-monitoring is going to be key. I think Tina, Cassie, and Rory will be the early leaders for the women. Meghan, Amy, Pam, Kerrie, and Denise are going to be forces for sure and Nikki is phenomenal on the downhills. Can I guess the podium? To be honest, it is going to depend on who can stay/get healthy between now and the start of the race. I would like to see Salomon go 1, 2, 3, but no matter what, everyone out there is amazing whether they podium or not.
iRunFar: You’ve had a big year since your fifth at the 2012 WS100. Namely you ran the Long Trail in Vermont. Also, I know you’ve been battling some niggles of late, maybe something from a fall you took? So there have been some ups and downs. Can you give us a synopsis of where you’re at now, a couple weeks out from WS100?
Kimball: Not so many niggles, just three ski-related nasties. Since last October, I’ve had an inguinal hernia repair (followed by a mandatory six weeks of house arrest). As I started to return to a decent level of training, I crashed skiing and sustained a small fracture of my patella, which I allowed to heal completely (another six weeks), prior to surgery on that knee to clean up residual damage from the fall. In my fourteen years of racing ultras, I’ve rarely had any injury. Then, in the past year I just couldn’t manage to stay on my feet. The really good news is that I am mechanically sound and quite rested. The bad news is that WS100 is going to really hurt this year given my less-than-ideal fitness.
iRunFar: You’re a hell-fire when you’re on fire. We’ve seen that Nikki all over the WS100 course and throughout your running career. When things get tough, you get tougher. Is this the MO you’re bringing to the 2013 edition of the race?
Kimball: Despite having done no heat training this year, I am hoping for hot, rough conditions. I think nasty heat might favor experience over fitness. For the past two months, I’ve simply been grateful to be able to run again. But as WS100 nears, I’m starting to feel some competitive urges. I cannot help that, it’s just who I am, especially when this particular race comes around.
iRunFar: If you have your best-imaginable day out there in a couple weekends, what will it look like? Can you paint us a brief picture?
Kimball: I’m not really sure. I’d love to be super strong in the last 40 miles, and I hope that the base I have from over three decades of endurance racing (skiing, cycling, and running) will allow me to fight for a solid finish. I’ve never gone into an ultra this unsure of my physical capacity. I could struggle with lack of training, or I could shine on my return from the first sustained rest I’ve taken in 20 years. Given that, I hope that for the first time in my eight WS100 starts, I will put no pressure on myself to perform. I want to arrive smiling and healthy (if quite tired) in Auburn. I will run to the best of my ability, and that is the most I can do in terms of assuring a good result.
[Editor’s Note: On Monday, Tina Lewis informed us that she will not be running Western States this year.]
iRunFar: You’ve had a big year since your seventh place/19:09 at WS100 last year. You won Leadville and became a member of the Salomon team. This has seemingly led to some fascinating travels/adventures of late, Moab and China, as examples. It sounds like a whirlwind; has it felt like that, too? If you could sum up the last year of your life, what has it looked like to you?
Lewis: It has been an absolute blast! I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to experience such an exciting adventure, traveling to incredible places, having lifetime experiences, and meeting some amazing and inspiring people! Salomon is truly a welcoming, fun-loving family!
iRunFar: Your race last year, were you satisfied with how it went down? What kinds of expectations have you set up for yourself for this year? Are you comparably fit, more fit, less fit?
Lewis: Last year was my first time racing WS100 and, with the talented women’s field, I was happy with the outcome. I feel more experienced and possibly more fit so I would like to perform better and have more fun! I have been sidelined for three weeks now from an injury, but I’m trying to maintain my fitness by biking so I am unsure how that will pan out.
iRunFar: You’re wearing an air cast on your foot. What’s going on with you, health-wise, and is it affecting your planning and preparations for Western States?
Lewis: Yes, unfortunately I have an injury. After getting out of my jetlagged China coma, I was bombing downhill on a technical trail (my favorite thing to do!) and landed hard on a rock. I was able to run back to my car, but unable to walk the next day. The MRI reveals a “stress reaction” (pre-stress fracture) to my third metatarsal and some soft-tissue swelling.
At this point, I am unable to run but happy to be able to bike pain-free. I am optimistic that I will toe the line, but perhaps I am being unrealistic. Time will tell. I am just trying to stay positive and put my energy into other things, including being on the bike again and spending more time with friends. Hope to see you in Squaw!