2018 Western States 100 Men’s Preview

Drymax - 2017 Western States 100We’re excited about the 2018 Western States 100 men’s race. Are you? On the race’s 100.2-mile, point-to-point route tracing from the east side of California’s Sierra Nevada to its western foothills in the city of Auburn, a lot is undoubtedly going to happen.

In the men’s race, we have a couple men who’ve been *this close* to the win previously, gentlemen who’ve knocked on the door of the podium at least once and sometimes more than once, a few guys who’ve got outstanding Western States potential but who’ve not yet seen their best race, and some runners who on paper should have stellar days. One thing is certain amongst all this uncertainty, this race—be it the distance, the climate, the course’s downhill nature, the early altitude, or a combination of these factors and more—historically favors something in the realm of equally exerted physical talent and mental smarts.

Ahead of the race, we’ll publish interviews with some of the men’s favorites and, of course, we’ll cover the race live beginning at 5 a.m. PDT on Saturday, June 23. Stay tuned just a little longer!

A special thanks to Drymax for once again making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!

Thanks also to BUFF® and Jaybird for their support of our Western States coverage.

Be sure to check out our in-depth women’s preview to learn about the women’s race, too. For a bit more fun, you can entry our Western States prediction contest until Wednesday, June 20th.

Most Likely Contenders for the Win

Francois Dhaene - 2015 Western States 100

François D’haene

France’s François D’haene (pre-race interview) is pretty much the king of 100k-plus-distance trail ultamarathons right now. Le Roi François I. But there’s one crown he doesn’t yet have, and that’s the Western States cougar. François has finished Western States once, taking 14th in 2015 while suffering the heat in the race’s second half. He returned in 2016 and did his due diligence by training in the heat on the Western States Trail. However, he injured himself on a run not long before the race and wasn’t able to start. Now, he’s back again. Like another top male in this field, I think François’s previous non-ideal turnouts at this race are blessings, not curses. He now knows and has said what his weaknesses are, the heat and the overall running speed required for success, and he’s been training them. Do I think he can legit win WS 100? I don’t know. But if he does win, he’ll have shown a new ability in a different-for-him terrain.

Jared Hazen - 2015 Western States 100 - third

Jared Hazen

Jared Hazen has withdrawn from this year’s Western States 100 due to injury. [Updated June 19] Jared Hazen could win Western States. And if he does, a lot of people will say, “Whoa, an underdog victory!” They will be wrong. Dear world, please remember that in 2015 and at the age of 20, Jared Hazen took third at WS 100 in 15:37. And before that, he ran Western States at the age of 19 and finished 14th, so there’s this, too. And, anyway, Jared’s just a quiet guy who keeps his head down and does the work. After multiple major injuries in 2017, Jared took second at both the 2018 Way Too Cool 50k and the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. The last time Jared ran WS 100, he went out chill before moving into the middle of the top 10 at about halfway and into third position before the Rucky Chucky river crossing at mile 78. He also had energy to fight off a close, really-late-race chaser. A few more years of training and experience as well as the wisdom accrued via his 2015 podium finish: watch out 2018 Western States.

Tim Freriks

Tim Freriks (pre-race interview) could also win Western States. Tim’s had a couple of runs where he shook loose of highly competitive fields and won unchallenged, at the 2017 Transvulcania Ultramarathon and the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Those performances, I think, represent glimpses of the kind of potential Tim has in trail ultras. Tim had an injury which sidelined him for a good spell in March and April, but it appears from social media that he’s been able to put in a good, six-or-so-week training block. While it’s unlikely we’ll see Tim be able to run to his full potential and there is also the fact that he’s not run 100 miles before either, history tells us that there’s something to being a little bit fresh at the starting line of a tough 100 miler.

Jim Walmsley 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon champion sq

Jim Walmsley

At the risk of angering his fans, I’m going to call this one as directly as I ever have. Jim Walmsley (pre-race interview) has the physical talent to win Western States, but I haven’t seen him exhibit the mental approach that’s also required. At least three times we’ve seen him run too fast too early in a 100 miler and not end up running to his potential. Lest you call me a Jim naysayer, I may be a journalist, but I’m also a fan of this sport and, for the love of all things good, I want to see Jim Walmsley win Western States. Jim: put your head down, run with the lead pack, let any nonsensically fast runners go out and come back to you later, drink your drinks, eat your calories, and pour cold water on yourself as often as you can. If you’ve got loads left, or should I say when you’ve got loads left because you’ve run the first 80 miles so controlled, let it rip from Green Gate on, win this damn race, and maybe set a course record in the process.

Mario Mendoza

Mario Mendoza could also win Western States. This race is familiar territory for Mario, as he started the 2016 event, ran somewhere around the edge of the top 10 for some 40-plus miles, but dropped before the halfway point. I don’t know, but something tells me that run was more of a blessing than the curse that most people associate with DNFing. He came, saw what the race was all about, felt the heat, and ran the hills. Now, two years later, he’s got loads more experience at these long, tough ultras, and he’s perhaps far more capable of reaching his potential at something like WS 100. So far in 2018, Mario won the Bandera 100k, took third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and was sixth at the Trail World Championships. Sheesh, that’s a good year already and we’re not yet six months in.

Men’s Top-10 Material

Mark Hammond

Let’s open this section with the men who are already proven top-10 material by way of their 2017 Western States efforts. Not only did Mark Hammond (pre-race interview) run into the top 10 last year, he podiumed! In 2017, we were all surprised by his breakout run, but Mark sits in the shadows no more. Dude’ll be running with a target on his back now, perhaps especially because he exacted his podium finish with a well-meted, steady run from start to finish. He was fresh as a daisy at the finish line. Mark has raced a whole lot since last year, and his top performances have been second at the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, 12th at the 2017 TNF 50 Mile, and eighth at the 2018 Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji.

Is it almost mechanical for you at this point, Jeff Browning (pre-race interview)? These reliable, stout 100-mile performances? In 2016 and 2017, Jeff took third and fourth at Western States. Backing up that 2016 finish, Jeff turned it around and took fourth at the 2016 Hardrock 100 a couple weeks later. And since his 2017 WS 100 effort, he also won the 2017 Bear 100 Mile and the 2017 Antelope Island 100 Mile. Almost as mechanical as his reliability is his pacing consistency of starting conservatively but maintaining a steady effort all day. Does anyone want to take bets on his placement at Robinson Flat, Foresthill, and the finish? Here are mine: 19th, 13th, fifth.

Ian Sharman

Ian Sharman will start Western States hunting for his ninth-straight top-10 finish. And Ian will finish WS 100 with exactly that. I mean, it’s actually humorous for me at this point, why more people who really want to finish top 10 at WS 100 don’t shadow Ian the whole race. Just kidding, running someone else’s race is not the way to run your own best race, but, really, there is a heck ton to learn about 100-mile racing from a guy like Ian. The last three years, Ian has been seventh, sixth, and seventh again. I’m guessing that’s right about where we’ll find him this year, too. After last year’s race, he also put down his fourth win of at the 2017 Leadville Trail 100 Mile, another project of reliability he seems to be working on.

Since 2013, Jesse Haynes has finished Western States inside the top 10 four times (2016 interview). He was eighth last year. Since that performance, Jesse took sixth at the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile and won the 2017 Chimera 100 Mile. Nope, nope, nope, don’t bet against this guy and a top-10 finish, either. He did get lucky in the Hardrock 100 lottery, though, also, so perhaps he’ll take it just a bit easy given he’ll run another 100 miles four weeks later? Then again, maybe not.

What’s this, a Scottish runner who likes repeat trips to the heat of summer in California? Apparently! Paul Giblin is back for his third go at Western States. In 2016, Paul took fifth place and last year saw him cross the line in ninth. Since last year, he’s won the 2018 100 Miles of Istria in Croatia and taken fifth at the 2018 Canyons 100k.

Kyle Pietari was last year’s 10th-place finisher, and he rounds out the six men who are returning from last year’s top 10. He also finished eighth in 2016. Diehard Western States fans might recall his leg bandaged up at last year’s award ceremony. Seven miles into the race, he sprained his ankle hard, ran 93 miles on it, and still finished in the top 10. Since then, he’s had some strong runs at regional races in Utah and Colorado. I’m sure I’m not the only one curious about what Kyle can do this year with some WS 100 experience plus a healthy ankle.

Didrik Hermansen - 2017 Transgrancanaria

Didrik Hermansen

Fun and possibly forgotten trivia fact: Norway’s Didrik Hermansen took second at the 2016 Western States! What’s up with these gentlemen from cooler-weather countries coming back to suffer in the Cali heat?! Didrik’s second place at WS 100 came amidst what was a long run at the near front of the trail-ultra international-running scene in 2015 and 2016. He continues to run strong, but not quite as well—and certainly not as frequently—as he was back then. His top runs in the last year have been a 13th at the 2017 UTMB and a third place at the 2018 EcoTrail de Paris.

When you look at Kris Brown’s (pre-race interview) UltraSignup page, the ultra results start coming hot and heavy in 2015, strong running out of the gate and, then, of late with rapid improvement, namely his win of the 2017 San Diego 100 Mile, which appears to have been his first 100 miler, and his fourth place at the 2017 TNF 50 Mile. [Author’s Note: I stand corrected! Kris also ran the 2016 West Highland Way Race, which is 95 miles long and in Scotland.] I wouldn’t be surprised if Kris is one of the race’s breakout stories. He has loads of talent and trail-ultra experience at a relatively young age, and perhaps most importantly, he has already struggled and succeeded in the heat for 100 miles.

Second chances at a race like Western States are really fortuitous these days, and France’s Erik Clavery is back courtesy of another Ultra-Trail World Tour entry. Erik ran the 2017 WS 100 and finished 15th, and he did it by running fast early—in third to fifth places for much of the race’s first third—exploding somewhere around mid-race, and, then, managing to put himself back together and run it in. I can still remember how cooked he looked arriving into Foresthill last year. Erik’s got a decade of trail-ultra experience, with his greatest success in the realm of the slightly-not-so-mountainous races, so I can’t help but think the WS 100 course could be around his sweet spot. A smart race from his guy and I think he runs high 16 hours or low 17 hours, putting himself well into the top 10.

Zach Bitter

The last time Zach Bitter ran Western States was the infamous cold year of 2012 where he ran 16:53 and finished 14th. In his now eight-ish-year ultrarunning career, Zach is better known for his performances on flatter and faster terrain, including on the track. His top performances of late have included a second place at both the 2017 American River 50 Mile and the 2017 Javelina Jundred. Zach now lives and has been training in the Arizona summer heat, which should make Western States’s climate feel doable. It’s hard to figure what Zach’s max potential at WS 100 might be on a normal weather year.

This German speedster seems to be directly targeting Western States. Florian Neuschwander came to the U.S. to run the 2018 Sean O’Brien 100k in search of Golden Ticket, which he handily won. Florian has a ton of shorter-ultra-distance leg speed. Do I have it right that his 50k PR is 2:52? In 2015, he was ninth at the IAU 100k World Championships with a 6:52 effort. I think this is also Florian’s first 100-mile attempt? Florian is always one of the happiest guys out there, and attitude carries you a long way in this sport, so hopefully his attitude will carry him into this new distance.

Cody Reed

Cody Reed started ultrarunning in 2016, that year beating a bunch of fast, experienced guys at the Tamalpa Headlands 50k and doing the same again at the start of 2017 with the Way Too Cool 50k. In early 2018, he took second at the Bandera 100k to earn a Golden Ticket, and, then, second again at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Cody has loads of talent, and he’s looking for his first 100-mile finish.

Now here’s an interesting entrant, Eric Senseman. Though he’s been a strong runner over his now lengthy trail running career, he seems to be in ascendant territory with his running at present. Last fall, he won the 2017 JFK 50 Mile and a couple months ago he earned a Golden Ticket with a fourth place at the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. This will be Eric’s first 100-mile effort, but the guy seems to race as much with his mind as his body so this could turn out pretty good.

Sweden’s Johan Steene likes to run the longest, toughest stuff in ultrarunning, both on the roads and trails, and so his resume is diverse. For instance in the last couple years, he was second at the 2015 Vol-State 500k, he was a 2017 Barkley Marathons Fun Run finisher (which means he completed three laps within the time limit), and he was third at the 2017 IAU 24-Hour World Championships with 266.5k/165.6 miles run. Unfortunately, I don’t think Johan will be coming into WS 100 super fresh, as a month before race day he finished eighth at the 2018 IAU 24-Hour European Championships.

More Fast Men to Watch

  • Johnny Clemons — 3rd 2017 Pinhoti 100 Mile; 1st 2017 Cruel Jewel 100 Mile
  • John Fitzgerald — 5th 2017 Black Canyon 100k; 4th 2016 Quad Rock 50 Mile
  • Lon Freeman — 1st 2018 Canyons 100k
  • Masazumi Fujioka — 3rd 2018 and 2017 HURT 100 Mile
  • Brett Hornig — 5th 2017 Sean O’Brien 100k
  • Adam Kimble — 10th 2018 Way Too Cool 50k; 2nd 2017 Rio Del Lago 100 Mile
  • Karl Meltzer — 10th 2012 Western States; Winner of 41 career 100-mile races
  • Juan Moran — 2nd 2018 Black Canyon 100k; 4th 2017 Leadville Trail 100 Mile
  • Devon Olson — 4th 2018 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile; 1st 2017 Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile
  • Michael Owen — 2nd and 3rd at 2017 and 2016 JFK 50 Mile
  • Kenneth Ringled — 14th 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile
  • Bob Shebest — 2nd 2018 Georgia Death Race; 1st 2017 Canyons 100k; I think he has the highest upside potential of this group
  • Paul Terranova — 11th 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; 10th 2015 Western States 100 Paul Terranova won’t start the race due to injury. [Updated June 21]
  • Charlie Ware — 2nd 2018 Sean O’Brien 100k; 3rd 2017 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile; I think Charlie also has high upside potential
  • Coree Woltering — 2nd 2017 American River 50 Mile; 3rd 2017 Dunes 100 Mile

Notable Earlier Entrants not Running

  • Chris DeNucci
  • Jared Hazen
  • Andrew Miller 
  • Patrick Reagan
  • Paul Terranova
  •  Joe Uhan

Call for Comments

  • Who’s going to win Western States this year? And how do you see the race for the rest of the podium ultimately playing out?
  • Anyone fitter than we might think? Anyone we’ve not listed with a chance to crack the top 10?
  • Is anyone not running who is in this preview? Leave us comments to let us know. We’ll be updating this preview until the start of the race.
Meghan Hicks

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

There are 194 comments

  1. Peter

    Should add Adam Kimble to the list of top 10 hopefuls. Adam has lots of course time, is extremely fit and runs very smart. Gonna be a fun race

  2. Peter

    Great write up as well. I mean this field is LOADED!! It is going to be hard to nail the prediction contest this year. Obviously Francois is the most takenwted mountain runner in the field but not sure this course is mountainous enough for him. Think it goes Jim, Jared, kris, Francois butbonly time will tell. No snow on the course and as of now cooler temps is setting this up for a very fast race.

    1. Reed B

      Peter I agree about Francois. Course isn’t tough enough for him and he’s unproven in the heat. I’d also like to see Kris Brown up there. 3rd might be pushing it but I hope he pulls it off. Jim and Jared seem locks for top positions as well. I wish Tim Freriks had been healthier recently…I’d have him 2nd.

      1. Bryan Rich

        I was under the impression that Diagonale de fous featured some very hot/humid conditions on a regular basis (though I dont have data to support that). Francois is a multiple time winner there. If thats the case, then he has a fair amount of experience with heat management.

    1. Quigley

      Meghan, thanks for the great preview, but I am surprised that you completed neglected to mention the Cocino Cowboys. Has there ever been a training group of this caliber in the ultra scene? Individually, they are all talented runners, but as a group I think they are completely unstoppable I agree with Patrick that the Coconino Cowboy’s will accomplish a clean sweep, although I would put it at 1. Walmsley. 2. Hazen. 3. Feriks.

      1. Will

        A cowboy sweep is probably a stretch, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. I too am surprised to not see them mentioned as a collective. The way the 5 of them are gearing up for this race (both in terms of training and the media blitz) is closer to a rock band than a sports team. That all 5 raced their way into the field is one of the most exciting story lines of the race. Their approach to the sport, love it or hate it, is one of the most exciting developments in American ultra-running period.

      2. Meghan Hicks

        For sure there have been and are currently other training/friendship groups of high echelon trail/ultrarunners training together with regularity, some pretty well organized, some more loose, but all/most(?) without a brand/social media feed. ;) Seattle, Washington. Ashland, Oregon. Flagstaff, Arizona even before this current swell of runners. Silverton, Colorado. Boulder, Colorado. Washington, DC/northern Virginia. Bend, Oregon. Marin County, California. Los Angeles, California/close environs. Colorado/Manitou Springs, Colorado. I know I’m missing other geographies of the past and present, and this is only in the US. (Readers, feel free to chime in!)

        1. Quigley

          Thanks, Meghan! Maybe I am just a sucker for the Cocino Cowboy’s logo and slogan: “The Canyon Makes Cowboys.” But, regularly training with other elite runners definitely make a huge impact that should not be underestimated! Sarah Barker’s interview for Deadspin with the Kiwi Jake Robertson this February – after he broke an elite field to win the Houston half following years training with an elite group in Kenya- was the most interesting running piece that I have ever read: https://deadspin.com/a-decade-in-kenya-turned-two-teens-from-new-zealand-int-1822679686 With a simple life, lots of good trails, and a group of dedicated peers pushing you, amazing things are possible.

      3. SJ

        I’m not a diehard CC fan (the social media blitzing is a liiiiittle annoying) but I am intrigued by them. I think that what they’re doing is more unique than other high level trail running groups. All 5 of them (that’s quite a big number of elites – they’re all mentioned in this preview) have earned their way in via sponsor entry or golden tickets and IF their race strategy involves running as a pack and working together, it could really change the dynamics of the race, almost similar to team road bike racing. It just hard to say if their egos will allow them to do this; and if a pack strategy will work on such a long race with such high stakes. My memory could be biased but I don’t feel like we’ve seen this approach at WS before. I am definitely looking forward to seeing it all play out.

        1. Troy Windsor

          I was at Lake Sonoma & heard his dad talking about the possibility of running with the other guys to help them get the Golden Tickets. Basically he said that Jim’s take on things is ‘Once the gun goes off, it is a race’. So I doubt there is going to be a pack approach. I think anyone wanting to go with him is going to have to go fast.

  3. Andrew

    Saw online that Dean Karnazes is running. Great to see him toeing the line and still in good running health and enjoying the endeavor. While never an elite talent with pure speed, Dean brought ultrarunning into the mainstream and introduced many to the craziness. He’s a great ambassador, wish him the best!

    1. Ryan Hogan

      So glad to hear this!! I was just thinking of him on my run this morning! Wondering of if he still races anymore. I can definitely say he has inspired literally tens of thousands of people to run, get healthy and/or run trails and ultras!! I remember reading his book when I “wasn’t a runner” and was blown away. I let it sit in the back of my mind for a few more years before I decided top try running at all! Then ran my first ultra in 2014. I still read his first book from time to time. Still a great read!!

      1. John Vanderpot

        He ran a decent 100K not so far from here a few weeks ago, Bishop, finished about 14:30, I think?

        I’d been tempted to go and now regret I didn’t —

        JV

        1. Andrew

          I did see that too, would be awesome to see him crack 24 hours. Might be a stretch but without any insane weather variable, he could get it. My first intro to ultrarunning was by hearing him speak on his 50/50/50. As I learned more, I learned of the greats like Jurek, Meltzer, Twietmyer, Tony K and others, but we shall never forget about Dean and his impact!

  4. Sabine

    Yes, the PBs of Florian “Run with the Flow” Neuschwander are promising – and I find his Marathon PR of 2:20 even more impressive – as he ran that on a course with a lot of turns, bridges and some inclines. I am curious how he will perform in his first 100 Mile race.

  5. Pavlina

    This is a great article, a sort of who-is-who in ultrarunning in June 2018 :-) My bet is on Francois, if he deals with the heat. He just seems to be the most consistent over the 100 mile distance. And then a Cowboy, Jim or Jared. Good luck for everyone!

  6. b

    Agree with Francois in the top spot, the strongest 100 miler on paper and likely to run super smart. As such a strong favorite does he encourage the hail mary approach (and likely DNF rate) by those gunning for M1 or inspire people to bring their best? Can’t wait to find out. As for Jim, I suspect his training block and taper hold clues about what lessons have or have not been internalized. Looks to be a mixed bag thus far, but certainly some positive signs.

  7. RB Q

    Meghan,

    “Coree Woltering — 2nd 2017 American River 50 Mile; 3rd 2017 Dunes 100 Mile”

    Don’t forget that Coree also came a close 2nd in the Quicksilver 50K (which has more total elevation gain than AR50) literally running with Rob Krar (the winner) almost the entire way.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Totally, RB Q! We followed that race and know Coree’s great run in it. That said, I do think runners’ efforts at races 50 miles and longer are better indicators of potential performances at a 100-mile race like WS 100 and so we endeavor to note their most appropriate previous, recent races. And certainly none of these are exhaustive lists of what runners have achieved, either. If we did that, the previews would be so long that few would read them. :) Thanks for the comment!

  8. ajslk

    [email protected], I love this site so much, but then Meghan has the audacity and arrogance to suggest to Jim Walmsley some racing advice. Please keep it to yourself, Meghan, and let us know when you do anything relevant in the sport that has the whole trail world talking about you. I will say it here. Jim will crush it and you will apologize, along with all the other haters that do not understand high level ultra trail racing. Francois has had to learn and Kilian has had to learn.

    Jim, do what you do, and let the cards fall where they may.

    1. Nattu Natraj

      @ajslk,

      Ignorance is bliss! Research the intrawebs about Meghan and come back here to apologize for insulting her ultra running credentials.

      Nattu.

      1. AaronWS

        I can see Tim and Jim running together for at least the first 3rd.
        Well it be at Tim’s pace or Jim’s?
        I don’t know which one will want to be faster.
        I Imajine Tim would be more reserve, so if Jim goes with Tim, I could see a good race for the win with the 2 of them well in the mix.
        If they decide to go out at Jim’s pace???
        Just remember, most home runs are hit with 2 strikes.

    2. Ellie

      I probably should not comment here, but among many other noteworthy accomplishments. Meghan has won MdeS and completed Nolans 14 in very fast time. Also, she is a journalist in this setting, so it is her job (at which she is very good at) to display and critique the line up, whether she has ever put a pair of running shoes on or not. In this setting she is a highly accomplished ultrarunning journalist and that is what is relevant, not her running credentials. Meghan’s comments in this piece did not come across to me as audacious or arrogant. Thanks already for the super reporting on WSER this year iRunFar – I’m excited to follow more articles and interviews over the next few weeks!

    3. Jared Rose

      ajslk, if you’re going to have the audacity and arrogance to come on to Meghan’s article, insult her and tell her to keep her well researched and informed opinions to herself; at least use your real name and own the words if you believe them to be true.

    4. Nicolas

      Welcome, anonymous Jim-troll. Will you have the audacity to apologize (anonymously)? Since you seem good at making predictions, care to share your own credentials so we can make sure we should listen to you? No wonder Meghan (rightly) refrained from giving more publicity to the group that will go unnamed.

    5. Meghan Hicks

      ajslk, I knew my constructively delivered commentary would upset a few people, but didn’t expect comments in opposition to come with a personal insult. It’s okay if you and I (and others) have differing opinions and certainly okay if we debate them here, but surely we can interact civilly with each other (which is also required by our comment policy). Thanks for following it going forward and I’m happy to continue a conversation about the merits of my analysis. :)

    6. Chris

      It’s ironic that you lambast Meghan for giving Walmsley race advice, and then you do that very same thing. She included her personal predictions in a fantastic write-up with the disclaimer that they may anger some fans. That it did, clearly. But I think it’s ridiculous to take that anger out on a journalist and talented runner in her own right, who has done equally as much (albeit through different means) to promote our sport than Walmsley has.

    7. John Gardner

      Great article Meghan! I think you nailed it once again. Thanks for everything you and IRFM do to cover this great race and for ultrarunning in general. I look forward to the IRFM WSER “guess the top tens” contest.

      Your suggestions to Jim on how he could increase his chances of winning are spot on. But Jim wants a course record more than he wants a non-record setting win. His choice. Great ultra runners like you and Jim are unique, non-conforming individuals who literally enjoy going where others do not. I see your point. I see Jim’s. I respect your integrity to call it like you see it (who in their right mind would risk a chance to win Western States), and I respect Jim’s to do it his way, or no way.

    8. Trevor

      In sports, generally people like to analyze and ‘critique’ things. Its hardly being a ‘hater’. You need to get out more my dude; go for a run and cool off.

    9. Brett

      Meghan:

      I couldn’t have said it any better. The level of talent Jim Walmsley has is simply unimaginable. Its gotta be hard for someone that fast and strong to stay bored for the first 10 hours. But oh lord, if he can ever get that part down, his potential is limitless. I mean he could break the course record by over half an hour! I truly hope too that he can make it work this year.

    10. MH

      This is a preview for an ultra-stacked Western States; and, in my view gives colour on what may play out. We have no idea what is going to happen – which is amazing about life and in many ways the variables of this sport.

      Separately, with respect to Meghan, she is the only woman on the planet to complete Nolan’s trailhead to trailhead and 3rd woman to officially complete Nolan’s. There are few people who have completed the line, male or female. It’s one of the most inspiring things I have seen in this sport.

    11. Nic T

      “Jim will crush it and you will apologize, along with all the other haters that do not understand high level ultra trail racing.”

      BRB after I’m done LMFAO.

      What rock did you just crawl out from under? MH and BP are both accomplished trail, mountain and ultra runners who do this for the community out of their pure love and passion for the sport and it’s people.

      What have you done for it lately?

    12. Cary Stephens

      ajslk, who are you to make these comments? Hiding behind an anonymous identity. When you make statements as outlandish as yours, have the guts to own them. It’s called maturity.

    13. Bobby O

      Bruh, just because people talk about Donald Trump or whomever, doesn’t mean that they are the shit. Attention means nothing. Years back when Jim was just learning how to utilize his voice, he stated one of his motivational influences was Conner McGreggor, a world class shit talker. Just because people make shirts that say “STOP JIM!” and because Jim has realized that he can hype himself like any good showman.

      Like.. Dude.. Jim is nothing but hype at this distance, and to berate Meghan like that is some BS IMHO. I think that Meghan can be biased, and I’ve been fumed at some of her predictions myself. But not bowing down to the James Wimsley 100 mile band wagon hype train is one thing I won’t criticize the critique for in this case. I think she’s right. Jim might be one of the best 50k-100k runners the world has ever seen. But the hype behind his hundo performances spits in the face of what ultra is about.

      Ultra isn’t some damn 2:12 marathon. It’s a game of blood and guts. You just can’t predict anything with 100 miles, especially in the mountains.

      Sorry bruh for going hamm. But dude, c’mon.

      1. Bobby O

        My point, because my phone cut that writing all the hell up is this…

        Hype means nothing. Hyperbole is well.. hype. I’m a fucking huge Jim fan, btw. My sister is an active duty Captain for the Air Force and worked with Jim. I’m not a hater. But I don’t condone shitting on Meghan either. Like. I get it. And I know I’d be better off if I just kept my mouth shut. But man. Jim is the hype machine in Squaw.

  9. E

    You’re commenting on Meghan’s site, the one where the whole trail world talks about its sport on. Lemme drink your tears, fam.

  10. Fernando Mendoza

    Not sure about Francois to win this, he is the best in technical 100 millers with a lot of elevation, never seen him in a very fast course, I think this is Walmsley year!

  11. JoyousandSwift

    Shadowing Ian Sharman would require a runner to be able to run downhills as strong as Ian Sharman and that is something very few humans can do.

  12. WeiDe

    Florian ran a trail marathon at 28 degrees celcius in 2:29, followed that up with a solid wings for life performance and ran Germanys biggest Ultra (ca 10k participants) of 74km in 5:13hrs (it has around 2.000m climb/descending). Those runs all came in a full training week of around 200km a week. I think he will run a smart race and see him top 10 for sure. Good luck to all the runners! :-)

  13. TimI

    I love IRF, BP & MH but I thought the “advice” to Speedy Jim lacked one very important component. Yes, go out with a few others in a group, yes drink and keep cool – all great advice. Just as important though, Jim – grab the rope!!! :)

  14. Alfredo

    1st place: whoever runs the best race/has the best day/hasn’t made a bad mistake/is the toughest
    2nd place: whoever is behind 1st
    3rd place: whoever is behind the other two
    This is fun to keep up with and watch, and there are so many good runners (has there ever been a field this good?) that it’s impossible to tell. Looking forward to keeping up!

  15. Philip Knapp

    I would definitely recommend not to underestimate Florian Neuschwander from Germany. He qualified by winning the Sean O’Brien and he is by far the greatest ultra trail runner I – as a German – know :)

    1. Bernhard T

      true… never underestimate the FLOw. hi from across your southern border – an austrian ultrarunner who also thinks flo neuschwander could win.

  16. Zoe

    Didrik Hermansen recently won Ecotrail Oslo overwhelmingly in as close as Norway gets to WS100 heat (it was about 30C in the shade). Probably should be in his notable acheivements of late.

  17. Andy Mc Breen

    I would love to see Karl Meltzer get the Masters record. He has proven so many times that He can run a very smart race. Go Speedgoat !!

  18. speedgoat

    Now Andy…..:-) If it happens, that’ll be the “grand master” record. Over 50…time flies.

    And AJSLK…..Jim sets himself up for advice as Meghan has given. He knows it, he’s a great dude, and I do believe it’s his turn to win Western. I think he will, and with course conditions this year with no snow, it’s set up for him this time. Even I am hoping for cooler temps, as for me, it’s about time, not place. Cooler temps and Jim has the ability with that early fast start….assuming no blowups to run 14 hours as I know he wants to do. My first comment at each aid stations is “how’s Jim doing”? A cooler temp race will be more of a fair fight too, the heat will always present carnage for guys like Jeff Browning (who is super fit right now)

    Let’s roll people…see you on the trail…I’ll be the guy running alone. :- )

  19. Keef E

    I think the results all depend on Jim, he’ll go for the record, he’ll either get it or DNF. Francois will keep it steady and if he can stand the heat he’ll have a good shot at 1st if Jim fails, Jared Hazen could be close behind. I think the whole cowboy jamboree is good for the sport, you either love or hate them but it’s definitely entertaining.

  20. Puma

    Other than Jim, I think Hazen, Freriks, and Mendoza have the best shot at the Podium. Francois will need an absolutely perfect day to crack the top five on a course like Western States IMO. It’s going to be a great race!

  21. Mir

    François IS smart. (European Type of smart!) remember when K. Jornet came 2nd (after G. Rose)? he came back and he won WS next year or two years after. i mean, the heat is the biggest issue for him, but he is smart. he wont go for case record. i will be in Italy running Lavaredo but hopefully can get updates from twitter. here is my prediction:
    1) Jim. W,
    2) François
    3) Jared H.

    cheers, Mir

  22. Chad

    If running 14 hours is Jim’s goal then by God he should go for it. We all set goals based on our perceived abilities. For some of us it’s a BQ, for others it’s simply finishing a 5k. For Walmsley it’s 14 hours.

    I say go for it Jim! The course is clear, the weather appears favorable, and your training looks solid.

    1. Marie

      I agree! He has a similar approach as Zach Miller. Go for it from the start.. you’ll miss a few, but when you hit it, it’s going to be a home run. Who’s to say he has hasn’t had the right mental approach? If it’s right for him then it’s right. Go for it Jim!!

  23. Kerry

    Jim fans unite!
    How dare you…
    No-one tells Joom how to run!
    /Me sips cappuccino…
    #StopJoom
    Love it Meghan. CANT WAIT! Keep up the great work as always. Call it like you see it. Love to Bry-dog.

    1. Sam Bosworth

      yes indeed. Jim has guts throwing his hand back in a race that has broke him down twice when he could easily be hiding on prettier European races. Get er’ done!

  24. Bobby O

    Stellar preview, Meghan! I’m not as dialed for Browning’s first two checkpoints that you stated but my prediction is that he’ll get 6th. Cheers!

    On the low key, I really want Francois to have a punchers chance as he worked really hard a couple years back and succumbed to that ankle injury (I believe). The American’s definitely have my attention, but Francois has slowly earned his way to my favorited runner. I believe he will at least get top 3 if not command a win.

    1. sam

      If Jim blows up, which I sincerely hope that he does not – BIG fan of him and the Cowboys and their approach to things in general – I believe Francois will be right there to take the win; I don’t think Francois is fast enough to stay with Jim at Jim’s best but I think Francois is fast enough the be the 2nd man the whole way through. Either way, this years states (like last years UTMB) is going to be a supremely interesting and enjoyable event to follow!

  25. Walter

    I’m a big fan of Jim.

    But the the fact is he’s had 4 previous attempts at 100 miles and his best finish is 5th then 20th then 2 DNF’s. Is the hype justified?

    Now at the mid-distance stuff 50k-100k he’s the real deal but I’m not sure he has the mental side dialled in for the long stuff or the nutrition/stomach for that matter.

    You can run fast for 50/100k but for 100 miles you have to run smart…like last year’s Western States winner did.

      1. E

        The interesting thing is that Francois got first at that race, and here they are again on a course that Jim is certainly more well suited to than UTMB. It’s gonna be a good show!

  26. ajslk

    Sounds like I touched a nerve. I am a Patreon supporter of iRunFar.com, unlike many of you here. No one on the planet puts Nolan 14 and Marathon des Sables on the same competitive universe as UTMB and WSER. Don’t worry about it. She is entitled to her opinion, and I am entitled to mine.

    And by the way, Jim employed Meghan’s flawed racing advice at UTMB and how did it fare for him? Not what he wanted. He basically jogged with Francois and Kilian and ended up sabotaging his own race, which he has admitted. He needs to run his own race, blaze his own trail so he can keep inspiring the Zach Miller, Hayden Hawks, Sage Canaday, Tim Freriks, and Jared Hazens of the world. He is not your father or mother’s ultrarunner. He is a new breed. Embrace him because guys like him are the future.

        1. Guy

          ajsik: How can you claim that stopping and waiting for Francois and Killian was not the best strategy? Have you won UTMB?

          To quote you: ” I do question why someone thinks they can give advice when they themselves have not won Western States.”

          Suggestion: listen.

      1. ajslk

        Once she personally insulted Walmsley with, and I quote since she is not acting as a journalist in this case, no objectivity, etc., “but I haven’t seen him exhibit the mental approach that’s also required.”

        That statement is ludicrous, juvenile, and immature. One could easily say we have not seen Francois exhibit the mental approach to win Western.. or Browning or Sharman or Meltzer. She is protecting all these legacy runners and insulting the unknown to her because she does not respect his racing tactics and ability.

        Jim is the #1 Ultra Trail Runner on the planet right now ranked but ITRA. Why don’t you go and debunk them. He’s also considered #1 by many of his peers, including Kilian and Francois. This is the same mentality that would state Galen Rupp couldn’t run a marathon… then after a bronze at the Olympics, the same mindshare stated, “oh, he can’t run a FAST marathon” and when he ran 2:06 now it’s like “oh, blah blah blah.”

        When Jim wins Western States will he have suddenly developed the “mental approach” that’s required. She seems to have forgotten, as have all of you, that he flat out won the race when he went off course. We all know it. Admit it.

        Doesn’t matter. I respect his running. I don’t question his mental fortitude, but I do question why someone thinks they can give advice when they themselves have not won Western States.

        1. Taking the troll bait

          Dear ajslk… if that IS your real name

          One approach to prediction is to take the datapoints that exist, plot them in space, then extrapolate to where additional datapoints may lie, with a quantifiable degree of confidence.

          Another approach is to impute datapoints that should have been, substitute apples for oranges, claim a few theoretical datapoints as facts, then mash them into a word salad and claim to be the goddamn oracle. One of those approaches gets the wrong answer sometime. The other one is juvenile etc.

          I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.

        2. Meghan Hicks

          ajslk,

          My words about Jim Walmsley were written and edited several times. I very carefully chose them and then got some editorial help in honing them. I didn’t want them be misconstrued as critical of his intelligence but rather be seen as constructive criticism of his previous 100-mile mental ‘strategery.’ Good grief, Walmlsey is a super smart human being! I have said a lot of words over the last few years about Walmsley on this website, in the written word and during interviews with him. I invite you to search around and have a look. I’ve called him innovative. Last year before this race I said I thought he was going to crush. I’ve said that, as a fan of the sport, I am a fan of him and his efforts. I’ve said I don’t know how I think it’s going to turn out for him at a certain race. My statements about him have been all over the board, though specific to the race and other variables at hand. If you think I don’t respect his racing tactics and ability overall, you are wrong and haven’t read/listened to much I’ve said about this guy.

          Lastly, your critique of my approach here fails to acknowledge that this preview contains constructive criticism of numerous other athletes besides Walmsley, including Francois D’haene. I call things as I see them, endeavor to call them constructively, and seek to air on the side of saying more positive than negative. This is my categorial approach to race coverage.

          1. Ito

            I admire your patience and added explanation but I personally don’t think it’s necessary to defend your initial thoughts. They were clearly written from a place of warmth and respect.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      ajslk,

      I’m happy you returned to debate me on the merits of my argument, and I’m willing to put aside your personal insult of yesterday for the sake of an enjoyable debate.

      I disagree that Jim employed the strategy I suggest for him to win WS 100 this year, last year at UTMB. (To clarify, I wouldn’t suggest the same strategy on a race course like UTMB’s and for a guy with the compared-to-other-competitors strengths and weaknesses of Jim, but that’s a whole separate conversation.)

      The way I saw it, from watching Jim’s UTMB first-hand, there were (at least) three (non-fatal—he still took fifth, which is incredible!) flaws to his 2017 UTMB strategy:
      1. He didn’t do much running with the other frontrunners for the first 50k or so. He mostly ran a distance in front of them, gapping them by minutes at a time in the relatively short distances between aid stations, and then stood around waiting for them to catch up. This pulsing of pace then rest is not equal effort-wise to what the other frontrunners were doing.
      2. Jim had a problem with his nutrition strategy that manifested after 100k. I don’t exactly know what that was, but recall him saying after the race that he struggled to eat the sweet foods he was carrying. He had to slow way down, regroup for a while in an aid station, and figure out a plan b for calorie intake. I recall him talking about how Coke saved him, as he was able to get it down and it gave him energy.
      3. He had a problem with blisters. He had to stop and care for his feet several times, spending time on this that other top runners didn’t.

      My suggestion for how Jim might win WS 100 this year boils down to 3 fundamental pieces:
      1. Run for a very long time at a pace that, via much historical data, has shown to be fast for all but the best WS 100 runners in history but doable for a handful of the race’s previous best men.
      2. Take care of all the details that make and break a 100-mile race like nutrition, hydration, and adaptation to the environmental conditions at hand.
      3. Put himself in a position to use one of his comparative strengths—maintaining incredible paces on flat to very rolling trails—at the part of the race course that favors this strength.

      The end. :) So simple in theory, so difficult to actually enact, and not only the beauty of 100-mile racing, but what sets it apart and requires a unique mental approach from shorter ultra distances.

      1. Greg

        The fact that folks are legitimately upset by the mere proposition that Walmsley should consider running to win (instead of to smash the course record) shows what an icon he has already become. It also shows how passionate people are becoming about their favorite ultrarunning stars. Questioning a Jim appears to be the equivalent of challenging another person’s religious beliefs.

        I read Ms. Hicks thoughtful preview to say, “Jim can and should win, but to do so, he has to finish the race.”

        Francois is the best mountain ultra racer in the world. Western States is a trail and fire road race not a mountain race. If the faster runners all execute good races, Francois could conceivably run well and finish 6th. 1) Walmsley 2) Freriks 3) Hazen 4) Reed 5) Mendoza 6) Francois. This won’t happen, of course as guys become irrationally exuberant early in the race when they feel good. This allays the perennially slower but smarter guys to climb into the top ten.

        Meghan’s advice to a Jim should go to all of the faster runner-types who toe the line each you. For the guys on my top five list, they themselves are the only obstacles that can keep them from not finishing top ten..

    2. Brian

      What about the Tim Tollefsons of the world?

      Also, it seems like we keep hearing about this ‘new bread’ of ultra runner but 100 miles is still 100 miles and if I am not mistaken, many CR’s still stand and more ‘traditional’ mountain athletes are still winning 100 mile ultra’s all over.

      But I am big fan of all these guys, I love this sport all around, I don’t discriminate. I personally think its Walsmleys year but I think Francois will keep the pressure on him, guy is a machine and if it turns out to be a cooler race this year its going to be a spectacular race to watch.

  27. kapucino

    trust me

    1.freriks
    2.browning
    3.francois
    4.jared hanzen
    5.kris
    6.karl meltzer
    7.juan moran
    8.eric sensemen
    9.jim walmsley(blow up)
    10.cody reed

  28. Wade

    100 miles of tough trails, extreme ambient conditions, mixed with human physiology and psychology offers up too many variables for what the hell can and will go on out there come race day. Let’s not forget what can happen even in the last mile of this event !!! I Love this sport !! Meghan, Bryon, AJW, and all …. Keep up the great coverage of the Ultra world. Great work !!

  29. DG

    I may be incorrect, but from my count Jim has run four 100s (WS 16 & 17, UTMB and Diagonale des Fous).

    I don’t think it fair to compare WS with either of these other two races outside the obvious similarity, the distance. Many talented U.S. runners have had trouble at UTMB and fact that he struggled and finished, to me, is a plus.

    So, the two most relevant JW races as predictors of his 2018 success are WS 16 and 17. In 17 he should have adjusted to the conditions. However, in 16 he ran (including the detour) for nearly 96-97 miles under course record pace. He faltered not by “blowing up”, but from going off course. Two very different things in my opinion. To me, any analysis that suggests he hasn’t figured out 100’s or is going to “blow up” is a bit flawed. And further, I would argue that his consistent dominance at 100k,is more indicative of his chances at WS in 2018 than any performance at UTMB or Diagonale.

    Running 90+ miles in 2016 on record pace is figuring out 100 miles. 2016 was not a failure of pacing or strategy, it was failure of route following. So, to me, he is 1 for 2. 50%. Not too bad. Particularly for someone who lays it all out there. If he had stayed on course in 2016, this dicussion would be differant.

    Good luck to all the runners. It should be a great race.

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Indeed, Jim Walmsley’s started four 100s, and finished three of them.

      Just want to clarify some details here: In 2016 at WS 100, he ran faster than course-record pace for 78 miles, arriving to there 32 minutes under record pace. He then arrived to mile 90 at 17 minutes under record pace. So from mile 78 to when he went off course after the mile 90 aid station, he ran slower than course-record pace. Someone, somewhere in iRunFar’s article comments, has done the calcs (if anyone remembers where they are, link ’em in!), but according to those, if Walmsley had not have gone off course, and had continued at the average pace he was running post mile 78, those calcs projected that he would have still won the race and that he would have arrived to the finish just a couple minutes under record pace. Walmsley’s pacing changed dramatically starting at 22 miles to go.

      1. Brian

        I think this a good point a lot of people tend to forget. And for all anyone knows, he could have completely blown up right before the finish line al a Brian Morrison. Shit happens in 100 mile races.

        To me when people say ‘figure out the 100 mile distance’ its not just pacing, its being able to understand, plan for an execute on all the various things that can pop up during a long event. Shorter events are not always indicative of a persons ability to do such.

      2. ET

        There is no doubt that Jim is a great trail runner in races up to 100k by the wins and records he has set. But, the 100 mile distance has a different learning curve in terms of fueling oneself for the duration of race. The added 30+ miles makes eating/digesting a higher priority. In his initial 100 he first showed a lack of fuel and good judgement by trying to swim across the river. After the crossing he was losing course record time at every aid station running on fumes until he missed the well marked turn. Conditioning the stomach to digest during 100s, seems to me, to be Jim’s missing link. IMHO stress causes the
        stomach to produce more acid which in turn reduces the desire and ability to consume and process calories. So, reducing stress is critical for success in 100s. There are numerous factors that increase stress i.e. excessive speed, heat, pounding downhills, pushing uphills, dehydration, fatigue, added miles etc. Plus the brain needs sugar to function properly but trying to run longer races on sugar alone very hard to do.

      3. Cary Stephens

        As someone who studied the history of paces before and after the race and was Andrew Miller’s pacer in 2016, it wasn’t so much that Walmsley’s pacing changed in the last 22 miles, it was more that–due to the cool race conditions the year Timothy Olsen set the record–Timothy Olsen’s pace was slower (comparatively) early in the high country but really fast at the end. In other words, Walmsley needed the cushion he built up in 2016 because it was way warmer in 2016 at the end than the year TO set the record. He probably knew that going in.

        1. Jamie

          Interesting point from Cary. Regardless of whether Walmsley was objectively slowing or just slowing relatively to a speeding-up 2012 Olson, my takeaway is still that Meghan’s advice is very sound. The speed up late approach has produced the fastest times in recent history. It got Olson the record. It was also more or less Krar’s approach when he just missed the record in hotter-than-2012 conditions. And I think Roes’ 2010 CR would show the same thing (though perhaps unintentionally). Now, given how close it looks like it might have been if Walmsley had not missed the turn — a matter of minutes — it’s likely that his 2016 strategy was seriously disadvantageous. Or at least that would follow if you are one of the people who thinks Walmsley is on another level and that he is capable of 14 flat. (I’m not so sure.)

          Given Krar’s near CR performance in hot conditions using the speed-up-late approach, and Walmsley’s lack of strategic pacing in 2017, I seriously doubt Cary’s suggestion that 2016 Walmsley was intentionally creating a cushion as a strategic adjustment to the heat. That seems far fetched.

          1. Cary Stephens

            Jamie, I am certainly not going to defend Walmsley’s tactics in 2016. To this day I think there was a reason he missed the turn off of quarry road. First, he had the unfortunate loss of his pacer to lower GI issues. Second, based upon comparative paces to me and Andrew in this section (he was as fast or faster). So he was certainly not blowing up, but he may nonetheless have been digging so deep into the hurt locker that he zoned out and ran right past the turn. In other words his tactics were daring but reckless.

            Each runner has to figure out what is the best way to get from Squaw to Auburn in the least amount of time. Like golf, it is course management (and self control) that often wins the day. You are probably right that Jim may not have intentionally gone out fast to have a cushion (only he knows). Running hard from the gun seems to be the way he runs all his races (except portions of UTMB). However, unless it’s a cool day, I still think he may want to have a bit of a cushion on Olson’s time. Running in heat slows you down comparatively to cooler temps. Also, from what limited amount of course I saw, the speed-up-late approach may be more the result runnable course conditions than actually trying to save a bunch early to speed up late. All in all, I think Meghan has it about right in her advice. No argument here!!

      4. MTC

        Fun with numbers:

        Walmsley 2016 at Rucky Chucky 10:59
        Olson 2012 at Rucky Chucky 11:32
        So Walmsley was 33 min ahead of record pace at Mile 78 (vs. 30 min at Cal2 and 26 min at Green Gate)

        Walmsley 2016 at Brown’s Bar 12:57
        Olson 2012 at Brown’s Bar 13:14
        Walmsley was 17 min ahead of record pace at mile 89.5

        Walmsley gave up 16 min on record pace over 11.5 miles from the River to BB. If he had maintained the same relative pace to Olson for the last 10.7 miles, he would would given back ~15 more minutes, which would have meant breaking the record by 2 min.

        But that’s a big ‘if’. Too close to make an educated guess on the record at the finish, but Walmsley was almost certainly still faster than Olson to mile 93. DG is right that he ran under record pace to mile 93+ (i.e. got their faster than the record holder), but as Meghan says he had started to falter before that

        Source: wser.org/splits

  30. DG

    Thanks, Megan. I was going off recollection.

    Perhaps, it was a bit strong for me to say that criticism of Jim’s strategy for a race like WS is “flawed” (and I wasn’t specifically referring to you Megan, because I don’t think you were being critical). It would have better if I had used “premature.”

    In reality, his strategy (for a 100 like WS) is one for two. This year may be more of a referendum on whether he needs to re-think it or not.

    I was thinking about the Triple Crown a few moments ago. Jim is like a thoroughbred race horse. Spirited. Perhaps, a bid high strung. And when the gate opens, he goes. For competitors with shortcomings relative to the competition, the jockey might exercise a measure of restraint. Based on the length or conditions.

    I think that is what some, including Megan, are advising for Jim. Some tactical restraint. Because in some ways, Jim needs to win WS. Or should. You could argue he deserves a win. And it would be fitting for this time and place in the history of the sport and the race. So, I think that is what many want for Jim. For him to execute the best strategy to take his moment in the sun.

    But Jim really doesn’t have an obvious flaw on a course like WS. At least not that I can see. Not physically based on his performances. Mentally, he seems to have the will and the want to, the grit. His only flaw, may be one of hubris and impatience. But isn’t that what we really love about those legendary thoroughbreds. Justify taking it wire to wire at the Belmont. Secretariat winning by 31 lengths. The long galloping strides effortlessly eating up ground stride after stride. Its in their nature to go. The bit loose. Jim reminds me of that kind of thoroughbred. And isn’t there something inherently noble and enviable about a creature that has the heart and inclination to run full out until they can no more.

    I’m not trying to be a JW apologist. But I think his strategy is to be as much admired as it is cautioned. And I think that is why comments regarding him are so far ranging.

    1. chub

      First, I really agree with you about your defenses of Jim as a … “thoroughbred…” I would call him a true champion. A champion is someone who dominates, who stands head and shoulders above the competitors. Lebron and MJ are top examples in my mind. And they are often arrogant, but “it’s not bragging if it’s true” (in other words, something I love about champions is their boldness, the way they own their gift and proclaim it). So I’m down with you defending JW. Jim is a champion of sub-100 mile distances, surely, and I think many of us are hoping to see him become a champion of the 100 mile distance (let’s be real, Francois is one already). I think he’ll definitely do that on at least one day in his career, but whether or not he could make it a thing consistently who knows (and one could argue that without consistency he wouldn’t be a true champion of the distance, but I digress).

      However, I really need to disagree with you (and others) when you say that Jim’s WS 2016 strategy was a success. Going off course does not need to be a fatal error- you get your shit together, backtrack, and keep moving- but for him, it was. Something more serious went wrong within Jim that day. I think it’s kind of ludicrous that you can look at that situation (and the pics of him on the road, etc) and not concede that he blew up. He is not 1 for 2 with strategies at WS as you suggest…

      But something tells me that Jim may agree more with you than with me (because he has the heart of a champion?) and we’ll see if something sensational takes place at WS 2018.

      I’m stoked for WS, y’all!!

      1. DG

        Chub,

        You raise valid points and I can certainly understand your position. And the differing opinions expressed, by you and others, make this conversation interesting. I think we are just standing on different side with respect to what is part and parcel of strategy.

        I think he should have adjusted it last year. His failure to account for the conditions was a clear error. But many others made the same mistake last year and paid a similar price.

        As I remember it, in 2016 he went off course without really knowing for how long he had been traveling, where he was, his lead, etc. Certainly he was on his limit. But I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass for how devastingly disappointing it must have been to be so close to achieving his goal, so far into the race, and then have it slip away due to an inattentive moment. Later, I’m sure that fatigue and stiffening joints and muscles began to take hold more deeply as he stood and sat lost and dejected. Under those same circumstances, I not sure that I, or many of us, would have had the strength and determination to light the near spent fire once again and give chase for win. Some, as you, would include that lost of situational awareness as part of strategy. And perhaps it is. Did he err because his mind was momentarily wandering or because it was clouded with pace-induced fatigue. I don’t know. Or did he just not know the course well enough, which is perhaps a different issue altogether. Regardless, I’m willing to temper judgement a bit given the distance covered, energy expended and circumstances. And he did eventually finish. Perhaps not in the heroic or mythic style that we all may have wanted. That we could have all marvelled at. But he did cross the line. And that counts for something.

        J.R. Smith lost situational awareness in the recently complete NBA finals and cost his team the game. Chris Weber famously did the same thing a few decades ago. Were those mistakes the result of a flawed strategy? I think I would argue not.

        It is easy to sit back in hindsight with a known outcome, objectivity and clarity of body and mind and put a finger on where someone else made a mistake. Get yourself back together, buck up, keep moving. In my experience, those platitudes are much more difficult to execute. Zach Miller often employs a similar go-for-broke strategy and it is frequently successful, particularly in non-100 mile races. But Zach is often characterized as gutsy, courageous. Zach is in many ways beloved for this singular approach. Jim seems to be more often than not critized, lectured, or negatively judged for the same mindset.

        But the discussion is really about the effectiveness of Jim’s strategy at WS. It has been confirmed here that he was about 14-15 minutes up on course record pace at 93 miles (and slowing). If he had not gone off course, he more likely than not would have finished with the or one of the fast finishing times in WS history. I find it difficult to critize that strategy. And I honestly don’t understand the contention that JW has only demonstrated competency or excellence at 66 miles and below. 93 miles is not 66. It may not be 100, but it is not 66. And he also has a 5th place finish at UTMB under his belt to boot.

        So, I will give him the benefit of the doubt with respect to his strategy. And from my perspective, he is one for two. I don’t think it is that ludicrous a position. Regardless, we will certainly have more to go on after next Saturday.

        Thanks Bryon and Megan for all you do for this community. And again, good luck to all the competitors. It should be a great race.

        Dave G

        1. Chub

          Great reply, Dave! Again, I largely agree with you on this and I love watching Walmsley race. I think you make great points and I really appreciate your position.

          I think the only thing you said that I really feel compelled to speak about is this line – “Get yourself back together, buck up, keep moving. In my experience, those platitudes are much more difficult to execute.” I couldn’t agree more. And yet platitudes such as these are at the absolute core of ultrarunning. They pretty much define our sport. It’s a simple one (KEEP. RUNNING.), but no one can deny that it’s one of the most difficult on earth. Cheers to Walmsley for having the courage to find his limits that day (and cheers to him for his finish).

          Tangential addendum : the one thing none of us seem to mention is the glaring fact that his failure is probably bigger news than his success ever would have been. It was clearly an accident that he regrets… but sometimes I want to call it his greatest stroke of genius.

  31. skipca

    Western States, in addition to being a footrace, is an eating contest and drinking contest, even for exceptional athletes like Jim and Killian, as both have demonstrated. Even the best prepared and most genetically gifted body has a finite rate at which it can absorb intake, and that rate is unequivocally impacted by pace. And even though it’s a downhill track meet and ‘not that far’, a certain level of newly absorbed intake is required (also largely dictated by pace). Last year he overreached when it came to that two-part puzzle, with the expected result. As did many others. Probably EVERYONE at some point for some period of time. Yes, the conditions were a major factor and those conditions may not be there this year, and under the right conditions, he’s surely capable of sub 14 hours over this terrain. Still has to execute. He doesn’t need to rethink his strategy – his strategy is fine and supported by his ability….run way faster than everyone else, the whole way. He just needs to rethink his micro-tactics from time to time…eg. let HR come down just enough for the next 5 minutes to get these fluids down and in. Pretty much everyone in the race has instantaneous running mechanics which far exceed their multi-hour metabolic capacity (his differential may or may not be less than most). He knows that…everybody knows that about themselves intellectually. Knowing it and constantly and successfully accounting for it are two different things. Pretty sure all Meghan is saying is don’t outrun your belly, good advice for every one of us in the race. If ajlsk and his ilk are truly claiming someone such as Meghan (or anyone else) shouldn’t be so bold as to say such a think out loud to or about Jim, well, that’s just dumb.

  32. JT

    Curious about last year’s winner — Ryan Sandes. Not sure if I missed it skimming the article or how he could be left out of the preview. Not listed in “not running” section either. I am assuming he is not running…maybe its common knowledge. Hmmm…looks like he may be pacing Francois, does that give Francois an even bigger edge. Any confirmation (not mentioned either)? So both defending champs out this year?

    1. Bryon Powell

      While he had the option, Ryan had the option to return to this year’s Western States, he opted not to do so from the outset. Total speculation, but he dedicated many year’s to Western States, final achieved his goal, and is now exploring other adventures.

      All indications are that Ryan will pace François.

      Yes, neither 2017 champ will be returning.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Alex decided not to return to Western States this year and so he never entered this year’s race. I know he’s planning on attempting Nolan’s 14 in the near future and UTMB in August.

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