The Excitement Of The 2018 Golden Ticket Series

AJW's TaproomWhen the calendar rolls from March to April each year, I become excited about the upcoming drama at the Western States 100. Dating back to the years when I ran the race, this time of year has always filled me with hope and promise for what is to come in northern California on the fourth Saturday in June. This year, the Golden Ticket Races have been wonderfully dramatic and have set the stage for another exciting race from Squaw Valley to Auburn later this summer.

Due to the cancellation of the Gorge Waterfalls 100k as a result of devastating wildfires last summer, this year’s Golden Ticket race series features five races rather than six. With four of those races now in the books and the hyper-competitive Lake Sonoma 50 Mile still left on the calendar, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the first four races in the series and highlight the six runners emerging out of those races that I believe have the best chance to make a splash at the 2018 Western States.

First, on the women’s side, Camille Herron, winner of the Bandera 100k, must feel as though she has something to prove at Western States this year. After being pummeled by the snow and mud in the high country in 2017, she was forced to drop out at mile 17. Given that, one can only imagine that the fire burns hot for her to have a better showing at WS100 in 2018 and her ticket gives her that opportunity.

Next up we have Courtney Dauwalter, winner of the Sean O’Brien 100k and runner up to Herron on the 2017 UltraRunning Magazine (North American) Ultrarunner of the Year voting. Dauwalter’s win at the Sean O’Brien 100k allowed her to set her sights firmly on a strong performance at WS100 and given the fact that she has faced some criticism for not having won against stiff competition in the past, the 2018 WS100 gives her a chance to prove those critics wrong.

Thirdly, we have Georgia Death Race winner Aliza Lapierre. A four-time top-10 finisher at Western States, Aliza is no stranger to the crucible of competition. And, I believe, her year away from the race, combined with a couple of gut-wrenching DNFs at WS100, make her hungrier than ever.

On the men’s side, Bandera 100k winner Mario Mendoza has to be considered a strong contender at WS100 after his commanding win and his steady-as-he-goes approach to training and racing. Especially after going off course and missing a shot at a Golden Ticket at the 2017 Bandera, one can only imagine that Mendoza is running with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

Tim Freriks cruised to a businesslike win at the Black Canyon 100k, which paves the way for his 100-mile debut at Western States. The 2017 winner at The North Face 50 Mile and Transvulcania, it would be foolish to overlook Freriks as a Western States favorite, but, he’s never run 100 miles, so there’s that.

And then there is Andrew Miller, winner of the 2018 Georgia Death Race and the 2016 Western States champion. After a year of injury challenges, Miller is back and at the age of 22, it’s hard to think of him as a seasoned veteran, but he is, and he’s clearly ready to make a run at his second cougar come June.

So there you have it, my top-six Golden Ticket runners to watch at the Western States 100. What are your thoughts? What other Golden Ticket winners have a shot at cracking the top 10 at this year’s Big Dance? It’s gonna’ be another fun year for sure.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton, New Hampshire. Their Baltic Porter just caught my fancy last month and it is a sweeter, smoother take on this increasingly popular variety. Tasty, not boozy, and velvety soft, the Smuttynose Baltic Porter is well worth your time.

There are 13 comments

  1. Luke

    Andrew Miller would also be justified in running with a chip on his shoulder since his WS win is treated as a footnote to Walmsley’s run.

    1. AJW

      Perhaps you’re right but Andrew has the cougar and Jim does not (yet). So I am sure he’ll just do his usual thing and kick ass!

      1. Jamie

        Seems like a chip on your shoulder could start to chafe and turn debilitating over the course of 100 miles. ;) Probably better just to come in positive and motivated.

  2. b

    I’m going to bump darkhorse Ailsa Macdonald as someone with real potential.

    She checks the box for speed. Marathon PR of 2:44 and recently finished F1 and 2nd overall at Black Canyons 100k with a new CR in 8:53 and 25min ahead of F2 Courtney Dauwalter.

    She’s had success and shown resilience and at the100 mile distance. Won her first 100miler outright at Sinister 7 in ~18:55 on a tough mountainous course (20k’ of vert at 5-8k’ elev). Her win was in the context of just an 18% finishing rate last year, largely due to heat.

    And perhaps most importantly, her head seems like it’s in the right place to outwit the Western States Killing Machine (https://www.irunfar.com/2014/06/the-western-states-killing-machine-part-one.html). There’s a great interview with her on Ultrarunner podcast from a few weeks back. Ailsa came across as super level headed, someone who appreciates the key fundamentals (pacing, fueling, footcare, heat management) and has a solid growth mindset about racing. Relatively new to trail ultras but lots of road and Ironman experience.

    As the front of the field attrits between Foresthill and Cal 2 I expect her to be within striking distance of something big.

  3. J. S.

    I’m very interested to see what Florian Neuschwander (SOB 100k winner) can do. He crushed a very difficult course (13k of climbing) on a brutally hot day. I think that will play at WS.

  4. Kent

    Tim Freriks is one of my favorite runners and I will root for him pretty much above anyone else. But looking at his Strava comments, it seems he has been dealing with some IT band issues, among others, since BC100. Unlike some of his competition in WS100, his full time job is unrelated to running and requires him on his feet all the time. He’s securing his life beyond pro running. While pro running. Very admirable, but also a double edged sword.

    Anyways, thanks AJW!

  5. L.B.

    Florian Neuschwander has to be a hands down favorite. The SOB is a brutal course and his strava profile training looks brutal as well. Just can’t see anyone beating him.

  6. Trevor

    Neuschwander’s superior German running power vill make these inferior dummkopf American runners look so puny, oh mein gott

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