Hot Days at Western States

[Author’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series leading up to this year’s Western States 100 taking place in California on June 25th.]

AJW's TaproomIt seems to happen every year. In the days leading up to the Big Dance, conversations inevitably ensue about the weather, and most specifically, the heat. This year, the 10-day forecast and the general trend all seem to suggest that we are in for a hot one next Saturday. This could all change, of course, but it’s worth keeping in mind as the excitement continues to mount toward Race Day.

The four hottest years on record, without a doubt, are 1981, 1995, 2006, and 2013. And, while there is generational difference of opinion on which one was the hottest, there is general agreement that 2006 takes the cake. That year had the perfect storm of race week course baking, a hot temperature even at the start in Squaw, and an even hotter Sunday. All that combined made it one of the lowest finishers rate years in the modern era as well as some of the slowest winning times. It was, in short, a bloodbath. And, all the finishers I know who made it to Placer High School that year, to this day, 10 years later, wear it as a badge of honor.

And so, given that it is looking like we might be facing a hot year again, here are my three pieces of advice:

  1. Keep yourself wet all day. There are many creek and river crossings on the course. Be sure to get yourself wet in every one. Even if it feels like you don’t need to do it. The wetter you are, the better you are. And, as you are preparing your crew for the race consider setting them up with an ice bucket and sponge, it’ll make a world of difference.
  2. Wear an ice bandana. You’ve seen bandanas in the old race footage from years gone by and in hot years there is nothing better than ice hanging around your neck and cold water constantly dripping down your body. Sure, you may end up chafed by the end of the day, but it will be worth it because you’ll finish and stay cool all along the way.
  3. Throw your splits out the window. So many WS runners fail to achieve their goals because they get wedded to time, whether a winning time or a buckle time or simply a finish time. The thing is, Western States usually has other things on her mind and as such the most successful “hot year” runners ignore time and pay more attention to heart rate, nutrition, and self-care.

There you have it folks, here’s hoping for a hot one! Those are always the best ones.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Maine Beer Company ZoeThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Maine Beer Company. Their Zoe is a zesty amber ale that goes great with food. Since so many of us are in the throes of 100-mile training and eating heartily a beer that pairs well with food seems to be a great choice this week.

Call for Comments

  • What was your experience running a hot race at Western States… or any other race?
  • Any tips for success?

There are 9 comments

  1. Steve Hawkins


    I have a super hot and muggy 100 coming up in August (Eastern States). I have been thinking about how to stay cool. Do WS veterans just roll up a bandana with a few cubes of ice inside, and tie around the neck? I have been thinking about what methods will be best for staying cool. One time I saw a special bandana that had a pocket sewn in it for ice, but for the life of me I cannot locate it again. Thank you.

    1. Stephen Wassather

      Hey Steve,

      Here’s what I’m using for States this year: [broken link removed]

      It has the pocket you mentioned as well as a built-in chamois that’ll stay soaked for hours. These were indispensable while crewing my girlfriend at San Diego 100 a few weeks ago.

      Best of luck!


    2. Emir

      Steve, Eastern States is another beast. Many streams crossings so same applies as above. Not dry heat so you will be wet all day regardless. There is a lot of shade at Eastern so it is mostly humidity you have to deal with and not scorching exposed areas of sun. Keep going no matter what because cutoffs are very strict. Here is the bandana you are asking about:

    3. Nick Mohoric

      In the same boat, just got word that my package of white bandanas has arrived and plan on working on my ice technique over the coming weeks. Eastern States will probably be a rough one this year.

      1. Sarah Lavender Smith

        Personally, I don’t like that ice bandana; it bugs me too much because of its thickness and feels like it’s choking me. I love a regular fabric buff around my neck, which i intend to keep wet, and hopefully ice in bra and hydration vest (putting ice in the pouch of my back) will cool my core down, along with a wet hat.

  2. Suzanne

    I just ran my first ultra with a heat index in the mid 90s… I bought the new Nathan Vapor Shadow Vest because of the new added ice pocket. The pocket allows you to stuff ice cubes the length of the pack and I stayed cool the entire race with the ice sitting on my back the whole race.

  3. Pam

    Great advice. I would add START EARLY. Don’t wait till you are hot to start cooling down, stay ahead of the game. That means start soaking down by Duncan Canyon AS and SWIM in the river at the bottom. Don’t just get wet, get soaking! (and use extra lube!) I sewed my own bandana because I also didn’t like the feel of the thick ones. Howard Nippert sells thin ice bandanas and the proceeds go to 24 hr Team USA for the World Championships (athletes are only partially supported for this event).

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