On a hot-weather day on the Western States 100 course—where the midday heat registered 97 degrees Fahrenheit at the race’s 62-mile point and then 106 degrees at the mile-78 river crossing—winners Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) alighted fires of their own.
Jim set a new men’s course record and Courtney finished in the second-fastest time ever by a woman. In the balance of this article, we’ll break down Jim’s and Courtney’s outstanding performances as well as what else happened at the front of the men’s and women’s fields.
The iRunFar team was at the start, finish, and 16 spots along the 100-mile course! Read on for splits, quotes, early analysis, and more collated from the team’s observations. We’ve also collected additional resources in our 2018 Western States post-race roundup.
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2018 Western States 100 Men’s Race
It was a special day in the 2018 Western States 100 men’s race, with not only a stout men’s race overall, but also a new course record set by Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews). Let’s look at both storylines individually.
Jim Walmsley’s Western States 100 Course Record
This was well and truly one for the record books. Jim Walmsley set a new Western States 100 course record of 14:30:04. It behooves us to equally well and truly break down how he did it. Let’s do this.
In his pre-race interview, Jim said he was looking at a 15-hour race, meaning his plan was to run at a swift but not unheard-of-before-at-Western-States pace. At the finish line, he additionally added that his spilt sheet called for a 14:53 finish.
Jim took the first 15 miles positively chill—and according to plan, it seems—arriving to Red Star Ridge (mile 15) four minutes over course-record pace. Almost 15 miles later at the Robinson Flat aid station (mile 30), he had picked up a little steam as he was two minutes under record pace. From there, though, the plan must have gone out the window as he positively let it rip.
At Dusty Corners (mile 38), he ran through at a full 16 minutes under, gaining 14 minutes on record pace in 7.7 miles. Ahem. Did you get that? At Devil’s Thumb (mile 48), he was, again, 14 minutes under. Michigan Bluff (mile 56) 16 under. Foresthill (mile 62) 19 under. It went on like this until the Rucky Chucky river crossing (mile 78) when he passed through 26 minutes under record pace, what we believe was his maximal gap under record pace.
The iRunFar team consistently reported that Jim spent minutes at a time in the aid stations. That is, anywhere from three-to-five-minute stays were regular for him. He’d sit, take off his shoes, get iced and watered down, and feed. Regular stays of this frequency in aid are more of a European thing than an American one, so it struck us as notable. Perhaps Jim is starting yet another American ultra trend? And perhaps hidden in this strategy was the rest time which enabled him to sustain such fast running paces when he was on the trail? Interesting, certainly, and worthy of future consideration.
From the river crossing (mile 78), he began to give time back, but not so much that it ever seemed his record finish was in danger. Of course, because of his 2016 effort here, we all held our breaths when he went in the river and again when he was on his way to that crucial left turn. Jim said at the finish that he hung onto the rope whilst crossing the river and that there were two spectators awaiting him at that left turn. Just when we thought Jim’s passage was free and clear of obstacles, word came in that he was delayed by a mother black bear and her two cubs somewhere before the Pointed Rocks aid station (mile 94). Jim surprised the trio, the cubs treed themselves, and mama stayed nearby in protection. After a couple minutes, he was able to pass.
Now, finally, it was just Jim and the last few miles of the Western States Trail. When he arrived to the finish in 14:30:04, he won by a massive margin and was 16 minutes and 40 seconds under the previous course record of 14:46:44. At the finish, Jim said that getting the record hurt and that “Tim [Olson, the previous record holder,] is a bad, bad man.”
Mark it in the record books: Jim put together mind and body in near-perfect synergy to run his heart out and inspire a community of ultrarunners. I don’t know whose emotions were stronger at the finish (and perhaps around the ultrarunning world following online), Jim’s or everyone else’s. It’s a massive pleasure to see such a look of satisfaction on his face.
The Rest of the Men’s Race
After the race for the win and course record, there was still a boatload of men’s racing going on. Next, we point out the start-to-finish steady effort of France’s François D’haene (pre-race and post-race interviews) for a distinct honorable mention. François went out at nearly the front of the men’s pack, running basically the whole race in one podium position or another, and settled into his ultimate second-place position before reaching the Robinson Flat aid station (mile 30). Over and over, our team reported that essentially François never looked amazing, but never looked poorly either. He just ticked off the miles until he arrived at the finish. He would say at the finish line that the runnable, hot, and dusty miles around the Dusty Corners aid station (mile 38) were his hardest. His 15:54:53, while quite far from winner Jim Walmsley, remains an excellent finish time that sits amongst the best second-place times in the history of this race.
Last year, Mark Hammond (pre-race and post-race interviews) finished third. This year, Mark Hammond finished third. Enough said. Just kidding, there’s a lot more to say! What is really the deal with Mark? Because he doesn’t look hot or sweaty or tired in the heat of the day while racing 100 miles, I’d like to have what he’s having. Mark put himself in the back of the men’s top 10 by Red Star Ridge (mile 6), ran some 35 more miles while gently ticking off places until he was in third when we saw him at Michigan Bluff (mile 56). Our field reporters from there out frequently and independently reported on how-strong-and-somehow-not-affected-by-the-heat Mark seemed. He’s nailed it with these two third places on the international 100-mile stage, though his 16:08:59 this year was about 45 minutes faster than last year’s finish in what will likely be called by the WS 100 weather pundits similarly difficult conditions. [Update, June 25: The punditry is now in and this year was the ninth-hottest year in race history.]
It’s probably not fair to always compare guys like Ian Sharman and Jeff Browning (pre-race interview) with each other. Yes, they employ similar race tactics but, yes, they are their own human beings with their own unique takes on how to enact their similar strategies. Even still, the pair finished four-five, respectively.
My, oh my, was Ian in shape this year! You could see it early, as he was running further up in the men’s field earlier, and he looked peppy in body and confident in mind. When Ian crossed the finish line in fourth, he earned his ninth-straight top-10 men’s finish, and matched his previous best performance of fourth place in 16:20 in 2013… with a fourth place in 16:23. Mr. Consistent doesn’t even begin to precisely reflect Ian’s, ahem, precision. 2018 M7 becomes 2019 M4; see you next year!
Jeff Browning finishes Western States for the fourth time, this year taking fifth and following up on a fourth place last year and third the year before. That might sound like a descending trend on paper, but I don’t think it can be considered as such because, in actuality, a 16:45 run in this year’s weather seems like a step up on last year’s 17:32 in also-nasty conditions.
In the second half of the men’s top 10, it was Kyle “The race starts in Foresthill, right?” Pietari, who used his leg speed to surge in the very last mile to his ultimate sixth-place position. Cody Reed took seventh, and I’m not sure if he puked on the course—anyone want to let us know?—but my heart felt for Cody because his face at Foresthill (mile 62) looked like how mid-race puking can feel. Puke face or just a general 100-miles-is-a-long-way face, Cody held tough to finish seventh, a super-successful first-100-mile finish for him. Charlie Ware took eighth, looking comfortable and focused all day. Paul Giblin (post-race interview) took ninth for the second year in a row, giving himself a trio of top-10 finishes. And Kris Brown (pre-race interview) rounded out the ultimate top-10 position.
A bit further back, but incredibly impressively, 73-years-old Nick Bassett IS now the oldest Western States 100 finisher ever. He ran 29:09:42 this weekend. Ray Piva, was previously the oldest-ever Western States finisher back in 1998 at the age of 71, six days shy of his 72nd birthday.
2018 Western States 100 Men’s Results
- Jim Walmsley (Hoka One One) — 14:30:04 (Course record. Old record: Timothy Olson, 14:46:44, 2012) (pre-race, finish-line, and post-race, and interviews)
- François D’haene (Salomon) — 15:54:53 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Mark Hammond (Altra) — 16:08:59 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Ian Sharman (Altra) — 16:23:32
- Jeff Browning (Altra/Patagonia) — 16:45:29 (pre-race interview)
- Kyle Pietari (Altra) — 16:54:23
- Cody Reed (Under Armour) — 16:54:49
- Charlie Ware (Aravaipa Racing Team) — 16:59:17
- Paul Giblin (Compressport) — 17:09:39 (post-race interview)
- Kris Brown (Hoka One One/rabbit) — 17:20:09 (pre-race interview)
Check out videos of the top-three men finishing.
2018 Western States 100 Women’s Race
Australia’s Lucy Bartholomew (pre-race and post-race interviews) took the women’s race out hot! At the Escarpment (mile 3.5), the race’s high point, Lucy went over the top basically in the company of the top men. And at Duncan Canyon aid station (mile 24), she’d built an eight-minute lead over the other women. Over the course of the race’s first half, she established, held, and, then, lapsed a lead over the rest of the women’s field. She also hovered not so far from course-record pace before dropping below it and, then, finally slowing down compared to it.
As Lucy was easing off the gas, its seems that Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) was only getting warmed up. For fascinating comparison, as early as Duncan Canyon, Courtney was almost 18 minutes behind Lucy and not even in second place yet. The pass between this pair happened somewhere between the Devil’s Thumb and Michigan Bluff aid stations (miles 48 and 56). When our team saw Courtney at Foresthill (mile 62), it was clear that this race was now hers to lose.
More fun facts, at Foresthill, Courtney was 34 minutes off record pace. At the finish, she was about 40 minutes off record pace. Second-half closer anyone? When Courtney crossed the Auburn, California finish line in 17:27:00, hers became the second-fastest finish in race history, only bested by Ellie Greenwood’s 16:47:19 course record. The moniker ‘any distance, any surface’ fits Courtney perfectly, and she proved she can motor hard on the hot, dusty, flatter Western States Trail with not a trouble in the world.
Kaytlyn Gerbin (pre-race and post-race interviews), who finished fourth last year by a conservative, move-up-late strategy, went out harder this year. Where she was in the teens place-wise last year, Kaytlyn was already in the middle of things and in seventh at the Robinson Flat aid station (mile 30). Seventh at mile 30 was Kaytlyn’s version of a conservative start this year, perhaps, as a woman on an elevated running plane from one year ago. She inched up bit by bit such that she was in fourth by Foresthill (mile 62) and then second by Pointed Rocks (mile 94), the position she held through the finish. It’s official—if for some reason it already wasn’t—Kaytlyn Gerbin has gone big time.
All of that earlier discussion about Lucy slowing up and losing the lead approaching the race’s halfway point in distance, the woman held her own, crossing the line in a solid third place. This marks an outstanding 100-mile debut by an incredible young athlete already on the rise. Does it seem that the sky is the limit for Lucy, or is that just me?
Amanda Basham does it again, backing up her fourth-place finish from two years ago with another one of them this year. Like the other women who started meaning business off the line, Amanda was in the women’s top 10 for what we think must have been the whole race. Even in the day’s harshest and hottest conditions, Amanda passed us looking calm, speaking lucidly, and just in it.
Cecilia Flori, the Italian living in New Zealand who has been tearing up the Kiwi trail-ultra scene of late, ripped it up over here, too. For the first 20 or so miles, Cecilia ran outside the women’s top 10, before climbing into it by Duncan Canyon (mile 24). The rest of the race seemed to involve her running steady, moving up not only through the overall field but also in the women’s field such that she crossed the line in fifth. With Cecilia’s finish, that makes two 100-mile debuts in the women’s top five.
In the second half of the women’s top 10, we first find Stephanie Violett (pre-race interview) in sixth place, marking her fourth finish of this race and a big step back up after her difficult finish last year. In seventh place was Camelia Mayfield (pre-race interview), debuting strong in her first 100 miler after only deciding to do it after receiving a surprise Golden Ticket at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile just two months ago. Aliza Lapierre added to her collection of WS 100 finishes with an eighth place. Corrine Malcolm (post-race interview) moved up into the top 10 late and stuck it for her first finish of this race. Kate Elliott rounded out the women’s top 10, looking not-at-all tired at the finish of her first 100-mile race.
We’d be remiss not to mention that at age 60 Diana Fitzpatrick ran 23:52:56 to break Gunhild Swanson‘s previous women’s 60-69 age-group record of 25:40:29 that she set at the age of 60 in 2005. To learn more about Diana, we profiled her (and her husband Tim) last year and wrote about her attempt at setting the 60-69 age group record here.
What also has to be noted is the lack of DNFs amongst the front of both the men’s and women’s top contenders. While the race isn’t quite over at the time of this article’s publishing, it’s looking like the drop rate through the field will be on the low side of the average normal, but I’d have to guess that there were several fewer top-contender drops than in the recent half decade. [Update, June 25: 299 of 369 people finished the race, which is an 81% finish rate.]
2018 Western States 100 Women’s Results
- Courtney Dauwalter (Salomon) — 17:27:00 (pre-race, finish-line, and post-race interviews)
- Kaytlyn Gerbin (La Sportiva) — 18:40:19 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Lucy Bartholomew (Salomon) — 18:59:45 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Amanda Basham (Altra) — 19:17:59
- Cecilia Flori (Altra) — 19:42:55
- Stephanie Violett (The North Face) — 19:46:04 (pre-race interview)
- Camelia Mayfield — 19:46:57 (pre-race interview)
- Aliza Lapierre (Salomon) — 19:58:17
- Corrine Malcolm (Salomon) — 20:01:06 (post-race interview)
- Kate Elliott (rabbit) — 20:04:38
Check out video of the top-three women finishing.
We had an incredible crew who helped deliver iRunFar’s live WS 100 coverage. Thanks to Marissa Harris and Ellie Greenwood for anchoring our live-coverage team in the office throughout the race. Thanks to Josh Bergseng, Jorma Gates, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Kim Wrinkle, Casey and Levi Szesze, Steve and Darien Day, Sophia Duluk, Margaret Link, Joel Carson, Martin Nash, Alison Deacon, Wes Judd, and Leah Cox for their in-the-field, all-day-and-night volunteer hiking, running, driving, and… of course, reporting.