For the past few years, I’ve devoted some time in this space looking into intriguing storylines in advance of the Western States 100. In this year’s version, there are some stories with similar plotlines and different characters and other stories with similar characters and different plotlines. As it is every year, the 2018 Western States 100 looks to be filled with drama from the front of the field to the back of the pack. Here are four of the storylines I’ll be eagerly following:
The 70 and Over Crowd
In this year’s race, there are five runners in the 70 and over age group. This time around they all happen to be male and among them, with one exception, they each bring strong Western States pedigrees to Squaw. First, there are the two 75 year olds, Ian Maddieson and Denis Trafecanty. Ian edges out Denis by just over six weeks in age and comes into the race with 15 previous finishes dating back to his first in 1982 in a time of 20:59. His last Western States finish was in 2010 when he made the trip in 27:44. Denis comes into the race with six finishes, his first in 1995 in 25:38 and his most recent in 2011 in 29:26.
After those 75ers, there are a pair of 73 year olds toeing the line, Nick Bassett, who has 13 finishes, and Bob Becker (profile), who has zero finishes and gained entry as the second recipient of the Silver Legend Award. Finally, there is the man who started it all, 71-year-old Gordy Ainsleigh, who is arriving in Squaw seeking his 23rd finish after first running the race in 1974 in 23:50.
Here’s hoping one of these guys gets it done and if they’re going after becoming the oldest to ever finish the race, they are chasing Ray Piva, the oldest-ever Western States finisher who finished in 1998 at the age of 71, six days shy of his 72nd birthday. Visited recently by Western States Board President John Medinger, Piva at the age of 91 “still looks like he can run all day.”
In 2005, Gunhild Swanson set the current women’s 60-and-over course record of 25:40. That year was an ideal year for records and Gunhild took full advantage of it. In the subsequent 12 years, many have tried to best Gunhild and yet her record stands. In my view, the record is in jeopardy this year as four-time finisher Diana Fitzpatrick is taking dead aim at it. Diana first ran the race in 2004 and knocked out a top-10 finish in her mid-40s in 20:38. She has since followed that up with finishes in 2006 (22:51), 2010 (21:58), and 2014 (22:52). If anyone is poised to take down an age-group record, it’s Diana. Add to that excellent tune-up results at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile (9:54) and Silver State 50k (5:57) and I’d say Diana is a lock not only for the record but also for the first ever 60-and-over female silver buckle.
For over two decades, male runners over 50 have chased the elusive 50-and-over course record of legendary Western States runner Doug Latimer. Nobody in their prime, before or since, has dominated Western States quite like Doug. As such, it is only fitting that his age-group record of 18:43 still stands, all these years later. And this year, the most decorated 100-mile runner of all time, a man with his own checkered history at Western States, is coming to Squaw, sans pacer of course, to take a crack at Latimer. Here we go, Karl Meltzer, aka Mr. Speedgoat, put up or shut up! This one will be fun to watch!
The Women’s Race for the Win
I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a women’s race at Western States quite like this year. We have defending champions, up and comers, and established stars. From where I sit, the winner will be one of these eight women. (But of course, I’ve been wrong before.)
The Cougars: We have four previous winners in this year’s race, Pam Smith, Stephanie Violett, Kaci Lickteig, and Cat Bradley. While it is clear that repeating at Western States is hard, one of these four could do it.
The Veterans: Meghan Laws and Aliza Lapierre know what it takes to get it done at Western States and, while neither of them have won before, they can never be taken for granted. If they are in range at the river, watch out.
The UROY Darlings: Last year’s women’s Ultrarunner of the Year balloting was clearly between two women, Camille Herron and Courtney Dauwalter. And, best of all for us, they are coming to Squaw and it is quite likely that they will animate the race from the start. Even though Camille quit last year in her debut at mile 17 and Courtney has never been there, it would be hard to bet against them in any circumstance. As such, this will be great to watch and I, for one, am thrilled to have a front-row seat.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Moonraker Brewing Company in Auburn, California. Known for their hoppy IPAs, they also have a few mellower offerings and among them my favorite is Miss Conduct Blonde Ale. This beer clearly takes day beer to a new level and is well worth a try the next time you’re in Auburn. Just hoppy enough, just buzzy enough, there’s not much not to like about this one.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What storylines, especially lesser known stories, will you be following at this year’s Western States 100?
- How do you see the women’s race for the win panning out? And how about the balance of the women’s podium?
- What about those age groupers, how will those races shake out?