AJW’s Post-2012 Western States 100 Commentary

Andy Jones-Wilkins shares his thoughts on the 2012 Western States 100.

By on June 25, 2012 | Comments

Andy Jones-Wilkins shares his perspective and commentary on the historic 2012 Western States 100.

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Andy Jones-Wilkins Post-2012 Western States 100 Commentary Transcript

2012 Western States 100 Post Race Commentary: Andy Jones-Wilkins

iRunFar: Alright, it’s Bryon Powell and AJW here. We’ve been up for the better part of a couple of days.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (AJW): We certainly have.

iRF: It’s been a great Statesmas.

AJW: It’s been an incredible Statesmas. Incredible. Thanks a lot for letting me share it with you.

iRF: Wouldn’t have it any other way… unless, of course, you were running, but that’s next year.

AJW: Exactly.

iRF: So, if you had to give up running Western States one year, this was the year to do it.

AJW: No. To have a chance to run Western States in the rain and with 75 degrees at the river crossing, AHHHH I wish I was out there.

iRF: But, since you weren’t…

AJW: I got to watch it; and that was incredible.

iRF: Put this in perspective not just for Western States, but for our sport. What does the 2012 Western States 100, with all the course records…?

AJW: Well, as a true champion of this event, I’m thrilled for what it does for the event because the race as it unfolded in both the men’s and women’s race was, maybe it’s cliché or hyperbole in some contexts, but it was one for the ages. When you think of what Timothy Olson did in beating Geoff Roes incredible course record by 20 minutes and doing it on the original, traditional course in a way that was almost textbook, was incredible. And really, it’s the second best performance that I saw here. And that’s no disrespect to Tim and what he did, because Ellie Greenwood ran a race that I honestly, and I’ve been a fan of this event for my adult life, I didn’t think that kind of run was possible.

iRF: She rewrote the history books.

AJW: She rewrote the history books. And maybe in a Bob Beeman long jump way or… I don’t know… I don’t know what other sport comparison you might make [iRF: Roger Bannister?]… Roger Bannister, could be, because it was just astounding. She had that game face on, and it was game over for all the other women, but it was an incredible performance.

iRF: It was incredible to have those two records, and after the first half of the race, both of them weren’t in the lead at different times.

AJW: Oh, yeah! You remember, we were out there, and we only started thinking about it at Foresthill. We took the piece of paper out and we were looking at it and doing math in our head, which was kind of pretty stupid actually—two liberal arts guys doing math in our head—but we did it. And I kind of looked up at you and, “Oh, look, Tim’s 1:01 up on course record pace!” “Really? Nah.” And then Ellie’s time and we’re driving around and doing the math and, “This could beat Trason!” And you didn’t believe me!

iRF: I just wanted to make sure before we put that out there that we were all good. We were out at Devils Thumb (mile 47), and we were like, “Lizzy’s still in the lead,” wondering if/when Ellie was going to catch her. Ryan Sandes had a lead at Cal Street.

AJW: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think, with both of those pieces, Ellie at Devil’s Thumb, she came through so confidently. You know, it’s very difficult to look good at the end of that climb; and she looked good at the end of that climb. So you had a sense that she was stalking Lizzy [Hawker], and that something was going to happen there through one of the next two canyons. With Timothy, coming up there in the threesome with [Dave] Mackey and [Mike] Wolfe, they all looked… they climbed it well. They climbed it with authority. My view of it was that it was anybody’s race at that point, absolutely anybody’s race. And the fact that three guys are on the scale at the same time and their in first place, that’s unheard of at Devil’s Thumb.

iRF: And there were three guys right behind them.

AJW: There were three guys right behind them. And [Ryan] Sandes on Cal Street, the story within the story, is the Cal Streets those guys did. I think it ended up being 2:13. A 2:13 Cal Street… Morton and Anton and Kilian did 2:18, and those were kind of the seminal Cal Streets. Those guys did 2:13. I ran out to see them a couple hundred yards out, and they came through like they were just on a run in the park, and they’d run 77 miles! It was incredible!

iRF: Then we’re doing all this talking about those guys—Dave Mackey!

AJW: Yeah, well, the grand old man of Western States, now. You know that Master’s Course Record has gone from 17:17, which was Twietmeyer’s from 2001. [iRF: Something you were thinking about.] I had it in my head. Then Tsuyoshi Kaburaki coming here not once but twice to throw that down. And then this—what was it 15-18 minutes—Dave Mackey running smart all day. It was perfect Dave Mackey conditions: nice and cool, a little moisture. Watching him dismantle that course record was really inspiring to an old guy like me.

iRF: You have all these great names that were coming forth about the men’s and women’s field, but the back half of the top-10 on the men’s side were newer names or not the hallmark names of the sport. What does that mean for the sport to have just an incredible times all day, be it half the top-10? It’s fresh blood.

AJW: Yeah, it’s fresh blood. Well, I have to tell you that it’s a true confirmation that the Montrail Ultra Cup, that is now 10 years old, is working. Let’s say that; it’s working. If a significant goal in the Montrail Ultra Cup races is to encourage each other to compete and to bring together the most competitive fields, and to give those competitive fields and participants a chance to get a spot here, that’s part one that works. What we saw today is that those guys who are getting the spots here are then making them pay, they’re delivering. So whether it’s Zeke Tiernan or Dylan Bowman or Jorge Maravilla or Joe Uhan, those are four guys who wouldn’t have been here without the Montrail Ultra Cup.

iRF: And they got here through 3 or 4 different races.

AJW: Yes. And that to me, that’s a big thing for this sport. Now, I think we also shouldn’t underestimate Nick Clark’s race. Nick Clark who has been third and fourth and was third yesterday, it’s important not to ho ho ho hum, there’s another Nick Clark on the podium, because he was back and not looking that great at Devil’s Thumb. He had a second half, I don’t think it was course record pace or anything, but he was running that powerful race that says to me that that top-10 stress and tension, it’s alive and well. It was also fun for me, by the way, to run out and in a little bit with all of those guys, especially Neal Gorman, my good friend, who has M10 on his back for next year.

iRF: The new AJW.

AJW: The new AJW.

iRF: Maybe you need a couple more of those first.

AJW: And as Scott Wolfe said, 25 more pounds.

iRF: So, obviously competition, the Montrail Ultra Cup all had a part in the really amazing times yesterday, but what about the weather?

AJW: Yeah. I think the weather was the single greatest factor yesterday. While many of the runners talked about how cold it was between the start and Robinson Flat, the conditions they got to run in for the last 70 miles they may never see here again. In that way, the planets lined up for this group. While I don’t mean to suggest it undervalues the performances, they were incredible, and you take what the race day gives you. But I think any Western States veteran, myself included, given a chance to run in conditions like this, oh my gosh, you’d be drooling. At the end of the day for me personally, that was kind of the hardest thing about not being here and running this year.

iRF: So where does it go from here? I’m just thinking ahead to next year’s Western States.

AJW: Well, as we talked about in our chat on Thursday night, while I think this is a great indication of what’s going on in the sport, I think it’s also a really strong endorsement of this race as an important event, notwithstanding the competition but also because of the competition in the sport. People look at this event. People care about this event. Certainly, people have their criticisms of it, and it’s not a perfect event. There’s work to be done here. There’s a lot of energy around it. There’s a lot of excitement around it. I think what it means for the future of Western States is that you take something as noteworthy as Ann Trason’s course record being broken after 18 years and you say, “You know what? This is what’s happening in ultramarathon running right now. What does it mean?” And then you take what the answer is to what it means, and I’m not sure I have the answer, I’m not sure any one person should have the answer, and you build on that. I think as the leadership transition takes place in this event, as race directors from other events begin working with each other, as the Montrail Ultra Cup continues to evolve, as the new schedule came out today that’s going to introduce some new events, I think it will continue to be something that will hopefully be as you said in your piece last night: it unified the course record here, which I think was a really important thing to happen. We’re now moving towards unifying the sport under, perhaps, some common umbrella. But it’s going to take time.

iRF: Certainly. What different perspectives did you get on the race from not running, from being at the aid stations and around the course, but not racing? What did you see about the race?

AJW: Well, I definitely as a runner take for granted the infrastructure that goes into this thing—from the start line to the finish line to the aid stations. I’d say the highlight for me in that regard, and the most eye-opening aspect, was seeing the river crossing and seeing what goes into the creation of that opportunity that people blow through in two or three minutes. And that crew down there spends days how to make it just so for the runners year after year after year—for runners to just simply walk across a river at mile 78 in the most iconic 100 miler in the United States. So what I saw as a spectator this weekend was just something that was amazing, and as much as I have passion for this event, these people who have been aid station workers for 25 years have that same passion if not more passion. And every runner that comes through, from Tim and Ellie to Jose[lito  San Gabriel] and Chipping [Fu], they are about making the best experience for those runners. They do an incredible job here.

There it is.

iRF: Well, with 364 days… I’ll see you again.

AJW: Alright… I’ll see you, Bryon. This was a blast.

iRF: We’ll see you again at Western States.

AJW: Absolutely.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.