[The following is an official press release issued by the Western States Endurance Run]
AUBURN, Calif. – It will be hard to top last year’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, when Geoff Roes of Alaska waged a pitched duel with Anton Krupicka and Kilian Jornet and then surged to a new men’s course record.
Yet, organizers are confident that the 38th running of the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race will more than hold its own in the competitive arena. In addition to stellar elite fields for both the men’s and women’s races, the more than 400 athletes who will gather in Squaw Valley, Calif., on race morning on June 25 will face the challenge of about 15 miles of snow running thanks to an endless spring and winter of wet weather that has left the Sierra snowpack at record levels for the month of June.
“This year’s race will be a challenge, that’s for certain,” said Greg Soderlund, race director. “Last year we had our most competitive field ever, and if anything, this year’s depth at the front of the pack could be even greater. Some years heat is the important variable, and others it’s the snow. 2011 is a snow year. All our runners will have to pace themselves well early.”
Race organizers have announced a final decision on this year’s course, which, due to the significant snow accumulation in the high country, will be re-routed before the 9-mile checkpoint at the Lyons Ridge aid station. Runners will turn left before Lyons Ridge and descend towards French Meadows Reservoir, then follow the Poppy Trail to the 20-mile mark. From there, runners will travel along the north shoreline of French Meadows Reservoir before arriving at the Duncan Canyon aid station at mile 23.5. Due to high flows in nearby Duncan Creek, runners will instead cross Mosquito Ridge Road (MRR) and run 1.5 miles on a dirt road (Red Star Road). They will then run on MRR (asphalt road) for 1.25 miles before turning onto Ed’s Bypass, a fire road, for 4.75 miles. At an intersection between Ed’s Bypass and MRR, a new aid station at mile 31 will replace Robinson Flat. Runners will then cross MRR and run down Road N43 for .25 miles before turning right on a two-mile dirt road that will allow the field to re-enter the traditional course at Miller’s Defeat at 35.3 miles. A map showing the course changes is available. Because of safety considerations, crew access will be allowed starting at Michigan Bluff at mile 55.7. Crews will be allowed at all normal crew access areas from that point on.
“Our overriding concerns are with the safety of our aid station personnel and our runners,” Soderlund said. “We need to make sure our aid station, safety and medical personnel can safely access any of our aid stations. And, it’s imperative that we ensure safe passage on the snow for our runners. We’re confident the new ‘snow route’ will help us accomplish all of these things.”
In addition to the snow, runners will have to negotiate more than 40,000 feet of climbing and descending through the Sierra and the California Gold Country in order to get to the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif. Due to the race’s partnership with Montrail and the Montrail Ultra Cup (a series of top-level ultra events held throughout the country where the top finishers earn a coveted spot in Western States), the field is as deep as it has ever been.
In the men’s race, Roes, 35, of Douglas, Alaska, returns. His run of 15:07 eclipsed Scott Jurek’s men’s course record set in 2004 of 15:36. Jornet, a 23-year-old trail running phenom from Spain, led several stretches of the race last year before slowing over the final 20 miles to finish third in 16:04. Krupicka, who finished second overall, also under the course record at 15:13, will not return this year due to injury. Other top contenders include: Nick Clark, 37, from Fort Collins, Colo., fourth in 2011 at 16:05; 2007 and 2009 champion Hal Koerner, 35, of Ashland, Ore.; Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, 42, of Japan, second-place finisher in 2009; Jez Bragg, 30, of England, third-place finisher in 2009.
In the women’s race, Tracy Garneau, 42, of Vernon, B.C., returns to defend her title. Garneau ran an even-paced and strong race in her WS debut in 2010 to win in 19:01. Second-place Meghan Arbogast, 50, of Corvallis, Ore., who ran 19:15, will challenge Garneau. Three-time women’s champion, Nikki Kimball, 40, of Bozeman, Mont., finished third in 2010 in 19:23. Also entered is 2009 women’s champion Anita Ortiz, 47, of Eagle, Colo. Ortiz was unable to defend her title in 2010 due to knee surgery. Ellie Greenwood, 32, of Canada, who won the American River (AR) 50-mile in April and AR runner-up Kami Semick, 44, of Bend, Ore., are also expected to vie for the women’s title.