Four Intriguing Storylines At The 2018 Western States 100

AJW's TaproomFor the past few years, I’ve devoted some time in this space looking into intriguing storylines in advance of the Western States 100. In this year’s version, there are some stories with similar plotlines and different characters and other stories with similar characters and different plotlines. As it is every year, the 2018 Western States 100 looks to be filled with drama from the front of the field to the back of the pack. Here are four of the storylines I’ll be eagerly following:

The 70 and Over Crowd

In this year’s race, there are five runners in the 70 and over age group. This time around they all happen to be male and among them, with one exception, they each bring strong Western States pedigrees to Squaw. First, there are the two 75 year olds, Ian Maddieson and Denis Trafecanty. Ian edges out Denis by just over six weeks in age and comes into the race with 15 previous finishes dating back to his first in 1982 in a time of 20:59. His last Western States finish was in 2010 when he made the trip in 27:44. Denis comes into the race with six finishes, his first in 1995 in 25:38 and his most recent in 2011 in 29:26.

After those 75ers, there are a pair of 73 year olds toeing the line, Nick Bassett, who has 13 finishes, and Bob Becker (profile), who has zero finishes and gained entry as the second recipient of the Silver Legend Award. Finally, there is the man who started it all, 71-year-old Gordy Ainsleigh, who is arriving in Squaw seeking his 23rd finish after first running the race in 1974 in 23:50.

Here’s hoping one of these guys gets it done and if they’re going after becoming the oldest to ever finish the race, they are chasing Ray Piva, the oldest-ever Western States finisher who finished in 1998 at the age of 71, six days shy of his 72nd birthday. Visited recently by Western States Board President John Medinger, Piva at the age of 91 “still looks like he can run all day.”

Diana Fitzpatrick

In 2005, Gunhild Swanson set the current women’s 60-and-over course record of 25:40. That year was an ideal year for records and Gunhild took full advantage of it. In the subsequent 12 years, many have tried to best Gunhild and yet her record stands. In my view, the record is in jeopardy this year as four-time finisher Diana Fitzpatrick is taking dead aim at it. Diana first ran the race in 2004 and knocked out a top-10 finish in her mid-40s in 20:38. She has since followed that up with finishes in 2006 (22:51), 2010 (21:58), and 2014 (22:52). If anyone is poised to take down an age-group record, it’s Diana. Add to that excellent tune-up results at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (9:54) and Silver State 50k (5:57) and I’d say Diana is a lock not only for the record but also for the first ever 60-and-over female silver buckle.

Karl Meltzer

For over two decades, male runners over 50 have chased the elusive 50-and-over course record of legendary Western States runner Doug Latimer. Nobody in their prime, before or since, has dominated Western States quite like Doug. As such, it is only fitting that his age-group record of 18:43 still stands, all these years later. And this year, the most decorated 100-mile runner of all time, a man with his own checkered history at Western States, is coming to Squaw, sans pacer of course, to take a crack at Latimer. Here we go, Karl Meltzer, aka Mr. Speedgoat, put up or shut up! This one will be fun to watch!

The Women’s Race for the Win

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a women’s race at Western States quite like this year. We have defending champions, up and comers, and established stars. From where I sit, the winner will be one of these eight women. (But of course, I’ve been wrong before.)

The Cougars: We have four previous winners in this year’s race, Pam Smith, Stephanie Violett, Kaci Lickteig, and Cat Bradley. While it is clear that repeating at Western States is hard, one of these four could do it.

The Veterans: Meghan Laws and Aliza Lapierre know what it takes to get it done at Western States and, while neither of them have won before, they can never be taken for granted. If they are in range at the river, watch out.

The UROY Darlings: Last year’s women’s Ultrarunner of the Year balloting was clearly between two women, Camille Herron and Courtney Dauwalter. And, best of all for us, they are coming to Squaw and it is quite likely that they will animate the race from the start. Even though Camille quit last year in her debut at mile 17 and Courtney has never been there, it would be hard to bet against them in any circumstance. As such, this will be great to watch and I, for one, am thrilled to have a front-row seat.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Moonraker Brewing Company in Auburn, California. Known for their hoppy IPAs, they also have a few mellower offerings and among them my favorite is Miss Conduct Blonde Ale. This beer clearly takes day beer to a new level and is well worth a try the next time you’re in Auburn. Just hoppy enough, just buzzy enough, there’s not much not to like about this one.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What storylines, especially lesser known stories, will you be following at this year’s Western States 100?
  • How do you see the women’s race for the win panning out? And how about the balance of the women’s podium?
  • What about those age groupers, how will those races shake out?

There are 35 comments

    1. Lee

      I’m with Joe on that! Living in Australia I see a lot of Lucy racing and results… she is a gun on the trails, the harder the better, and I see her having a cracker here.

    1. Brian

      I wouldn’t be so sure (or bet the house on it). His last finish at States was five years ago in 2013 when he was the spry young age of 45. He finished that year in 18:51. Of course, a lot is determined by the conditions on race day, but I would guess most 50 year old runners are slower than they were at 45. Not saying it isn’t possible, but the odds are probably less than 50%.

      1. Speedgoat

        My only arguement on that, is that I was fully “off the couch” and had no training before it because of injury. I was rolling to finish in about 1650, until my lack of fitness really caught up with me, then I slogged to that 1851. The next time I ran, I again was off the couch when I dropped, then started the AT in 2014. Not saying my chances are better than 50%, but at least at the moment, I’m not on the couch waiting for the start. I’m actually pretty fit, more like in 2008. In 2008 is was the fire year and cancelled. Should be entertaining to say the least. I just hope at this point I can get on the start line without any issues. Only time will tell. Big respect for Latimer’s time, it won’t be easy. But,,,, 100 miles is not that far

    1. From up north

      Absolutely! My prediction is Ailsa for the win! She is so strong. Her performance at Sinister 7 100 mile race last year was amazing!

  1. Avery

    Personally, I’ve just gotten into keeping up with ultra running. I’m a fairly new runner myself. But I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jim Walmsley does this year.

  2. Sam

    Yeah cannot wait for this race. Women’s race should be incredible. Really looking forward to Jim and Francois doing battle though!

    1. Graeme

      Looking forward to following team hoka v Salomon. Will the pacers for Jim and/ or Francois get dropped? Ryan Sandes race pacer ready?

  3. Cheech and/or Chong

    Sabrina Stanley ain’t one of the 8 that can win?! Granted she was a mediocre 3rd last year…but was 145 minutes ahead of one of the pool of 8 that will be the winner this year? I need a hit of whatever it is that be toked…!!!

  4. Pete

    I know it won’t make anyone’s radar until WSER 2021 when he gets ten in a row, but Ian Sharman’s quest for #7 top 10 finish this year is an amazing work in progress.

  5. Alberto

    I was pulling for Cat Bradley to do a repeat as she was strong last year and set the FKT for R2R2R for women earlier this year. But it looks like she’s got some back issues and may not have taken enough of a break from running this past year to recover her mojo. In any case, it’ll be a fun year to keep up.

  6. Bryan Page

    I think with the competition and talent of the woman’s field, we could possibly see two of them end up in the top 10 overall.

  7. Petrus de Klerk

    I am pretty confident Lucy Bartholomew is in with a more-than-good chance of finishing at the sharp end of the field.

  8. Greg

    Tied for the top storylines I, and I think many others, will be following are:

    1. The Coconino Cowboys take over Western States. It’s 100 miles, so anything could happen, but it’d be a surprise if they didn’t have 3 of the top 5 male finishers. The course may be too runnable for Francois to contend, in which case a late surging Tim Freriks closing down on Jim Walmsley would be a Twitterific dream.

    2. The best American ultrarunner (Walmsley) vs. the current best ultrarunner in the world Francois go head to head. (Adding Killian to the field would be almost too much to handle.). Having Francois in the race means Jim will run to win, not simply to destroy the course record. This will likely keep him in check. Unlike the previous two years where he could have comfortably won the race, running conservatively for 93 miles and then blasting away from inferior runners, Jim will be forced to manage his effort to against a stronger than usual field. (Then again, Walmsley may just try to run away from the field again, in which case, he’ll shatter the course record or blow up spectacularly again.)

    Honorable mention storyline: Camille vs. Courtney. If one or both of them show up to the race without having over cooked themselves in the build up to the race, they’re clear favorites in my estimation. But, that’s a big if! If the two of them come in fresh, it’ll be ‘epic’ (as the kids say). Can Camille get herself over the first bump in one piece? Will Courtney survive the heat #MInnesotaNative?

    And….every race is better when Karl Meltzer is in it. Western States should always retain the right to add people like Speedgoat to the field if he/they want to run. If you’re listening, Western States, you should reserve 20 qualification-free spots for both female and male elites and legends. Some traditionalists may not approve, but I believe fans would love it!

    Regardless, I can’t wait for the coverage to start!

    1. Alex

      1. Three out of the top five is a very large ask. They have one really good and consistent runner in Freriks, a probably even better but less consistent one in Walmsley, and three other dudes that might have a 50 % chance of making top ten.

      2. In what world is (or what distance) Jim Walmsley the best American ultrarunner? Has to be Max King for the “short” stuff and Tim Tollefson for the 100 milers.

  9. Scotty Mlls

    Watch for great things from Nick Bassett at 73 years young. Ran lots of miles with him at the Memorial Day Training Runs this past weekend and he is dialed in. His conditioning, experience, grit and discipline should result in a terrific performance. Heck of a nice guy too!

  10. A

    I am curious to see how Zach Bitter fares, was listening to his podcast with Jeff Browning, it was good stuff. Def don’t discount Bronco Bill for the top 10, nah, more like top 6 honestly. A guy who’s been flying under the radar, but coming on strong, Devon Olson. He’ll be running in with Avery Collins the last portion, dude def goes top 10 this year. I know the hype will be Jim vs Francois, but we shall never forget to pay respect to the elder legends. Gordy, SpeedGOAT, and the 70+ plus runners, now those are some headlines worth following!

  11. Peter Broomhall

    Courtney for the win in the woman’s. I expect Corrine Malcom to go too 5 as well. Rooting for the speedgoat to pull off the record think he can. The men’s race is highly interesting as it is so stacked and maybe the deepest men’s field ever. Him will go out hard can he hold on? Excited to run myself after waiting 6 years. Yeeeeeehaaaawwwww getting so close

  12. Dan Barnett

    There is zero chance that Nick Bassett will not finish. If he does not come out as the oldest finisher ever, it will be because one of the 75 and older runners also finished. Best of luck to them all-they are an inspiration.

  13. Dave Emmons

    Proud to be crewing/pacing for Ian Maddieson this year. Going to be fun!
    I remember passing Ray Piva in 98′ going up to Michigan Bluff. I was 40 and he was kicking my tail for 50 miles! He had an amazing run in a huge snow year.

  14. Mendoza

    Hoping the Watermelon Queen, Lucy, takes it! She had had a solid 12+ months! Has Lucy completed a miler before?

    I think Jim will take it this year. I believe he has learnt a lot from his past two years and racing with Dhaene, Killian and co at UTMB last year.

    Will be a great race!

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