Western States 2011 – I’m In!

Western States 100 logoAfter much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to take the plunge and enter the 2011 Western States Endurance Run. There were many reasons not to enter, but three things tipped the scales in favor of toeing the line rather than playing the part of a reporter next year. First, the sudden passing of a fellow ultrarunner reminded me that there’s no time like the present. Second, an expert reassured me that running Western States and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc are compatible in a season. Third, it’s the Western States 100!

As always, I’ve got a little more to say. First off, I’ll remind you why I considered abandoning my automatic 4-time loser entry. Next, I’ll expand upon how I came to decide to run the race. Then, I’ll wrap up with a few final thoughts.

Why I Considered Not Running Western States (and why that was silly)

The following reasons for not running Western States aren’t new. I wrote about them after I nabbed a last minute qualifying race at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 mile in October. Here they are… (followed by counterpoints in parentheses):

Bryon Powell Western States 100 2005 finish

Finishing States in 2005.

  1. In my current life, $370 is a whole heap of money. In days gone by, I wouldn’t have thought twice… but that’s changed. ($370 is still a whole heap of money, but I’ll look for support or otherwise find a way to make it happen.)
  2. Western States is crunch time at iRunFar and I don’t do well at balancing. I can imagine not wanting to slack off on coverage while I’m in Squaw Valley ahead of the race and not getting any sleep because of it. (I’ve got to learn to make room for my own running in my life.)
  3. I’m way out of shape. Yes, I just ran a 9:23 50 mile while needing to walk, but I’m along way from having a base with less than 3 months until training season. So much for aiming for Top 10. That said, if everything goes well, I can enter training season in a position to get into reasonable shape. I’d still like to hit 21 hours on the current course. (I’m healthy and running consistently. That’s a start. On the other side of the equation, Western States is no longer my focus race. I’ll train hard and aim to run well, but it’s not the big cheese. All I “need” is sub-24.”)
  4. I have no idea what my winter and spring training will look like. I’m moving to a wintry mountainous environment and might not have the option for big days in the mountains until late May. Heck, I don’t know if I’ll have any desire to run consistently through December, January, and February. (At least for the moment, I’m eager to tackle the winter on shoe, snowshoe, and Nordic ski. I’ll hit the roads and the occasional low elevation trail until April.)
  5. Closely related to the two above points, it’s almost certain that I’d be in a better position to perform well at 100 miles late next summer or early fall. I’m more certain that I could have a good base in, say, five months and I know I’m itching to run big time mountain miles once the trails melt out next summer. (I will, in fact, be focusing on racing in late August. Western States is a tune up. I’ll show up with whatever level of fitness I can muster in the next 225 days.)
  6. I’m scared. 100 miles is a long way. (Been there, done that. 100 miles will always be intimidating.)
  7. I hate the heat. I was reminded in the moderately warm conditions on Saturday that I don’t enjoy running in the heat and I realized that there are many remarkable races that are virtually assured not to have heat. (I want to race the Marathon des Sables in 2012 and balk at WS heat? Lame excuse!)

Seize the Opportunities Life Gives You
Ultrarunner and coach Mike Broderick recently passed away. For many years, Mike and I were both active members in the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. I didn’t know Mike particularly well, but he was a nice guy and who was loved by those whom he coached. (Tribute 1 & Tribute 2) Like me, Mike was a former attorney who gave it up to pursue his passion for running. In June, he ran Western States in 26 hours and change. Little more than three months later he noticed chest pains while running a marathon. Less than two months later Mike succumbed to lung cancer. In thinking of Mike, I realized that I’d hate to look back next fall thinking why didn’t I run Western States. You never know which race will be your last.

Bryon Powell Western States 100 2005

Cruising into Michigan Bluff in 2005. You never know when it'll be your day to go sub-20.

Advice from an Expert
I wouldn’t normally bug the President of a major outdoor company for running advice. However, this situation was different. I suppose that I can now share that I will do whatever I can to run UTMB next year and that it will be my focus race. I fell in love with the race last year and dream of going back to Chamonix, this time to run the race. That means that signing up for Western States would commit me to two 100 milers in the span of 2 months.

Few people know UTMB better than Mountain Hardwear/Montrail’s Topher Gaylord as he’s started the race 7 of its 8 years. As far as I know, he’s also more familiar with the WS/UTMB double than anyone else out there. Topher was kind enough to give me a few minutes and a lot of great advice. The two points of advice that ultimately convinced me to run WS next year were Topher sharing that if he had the opportunity to run both races, he would and that if he were running UTMB next year, he’d want to run Western States in preparation. I was sold.

It’s Western States, Stupid!
I almost forgot that it was the Western States 100 (!) that I had the chance to run. Western States was the first 100 miler. It was also my first 100 miler. When I was introduced to ultras, Western States was the race. It remains the premier US 100 miler. While it’s not the largest ultra or even the largest 100 in the US, it’s the most well attended ultra in North America. Sure, I’d see all my ultra friends if I was covering the race, but this means I’ll have a slew of people supporting my effort out on the course. Running the race also means catching up with a few additional friends and family members who’ll come out to crew and pace me.

Now that I’m signed up, I’m really excited by the prospect of being part of Statesmas late next June. I look forward to seeing many of you there or at the races and training runs leading up to the big dance. Ok, gotta go… only 225 days left to train!

[Two final thoughts: (1) I’m about 20 weeks behind on providing training updates. They ain’t pretty, but they’re coming. (2) Andy Jones-Wilkins, you need a new pacer next year!]

Western States 100 2004 Bryon Powell Gary Knipling

Me and Gary Knipling all tuckered out after the 2004 Western States 100.

There are 18 comments

  1. Tony Mollica

    I wasn't going to give an opinion of whether you should run Westerd States or not because I figured there was no way I could know better than you whether you should run it. However I am glad that you decided to run it! Have fun training for it!

  2. Morgan Williams

    Hi Bryon

    Sounds like the mojo is returning.

    Mine is struggling to emerge under the hideous damp and (at the moment) high winds of the British winter.

    I'm planning to enter the CCC again in 2011, if only to do the final 18kms denied me by the weather this time.

    Retiring from law is the done thing; me too. Now I work 3 days to commercialise cancer research and have time to train.

    Enjoy the training, don't push too hard too quick. Hope to bump into you in Cham.


  3. MonkeyBoy

    The Jiz has his pacing covered for 2011. I'm glad you decided to run. This will be good motivation knowing you have that ahead of you this winter. We may need you to pass along your single calf sleeve to the "scab" who's taking your place on cal st just to keep Andy from getting too confused. You know he has trouble with change.

  4. Allen

    thanks for taking the time to share these thoughts. I needed that example for my own struggles and mental conflicts of a race that I have registered for in 2011…

    Good luck and have a great time making great memories…

  5. matt lindsey

    I will be throwing in my application tonight at 12:01. Hopefully, I will be able to get in by the lottery. WS100 is one of my dream races and if I get in it will be a great year. Of course, even if I dont get in, it will be a great year. WS100 is the 100. Every ultra runner needs to run this race at least one time in their life. I haven't run it yet and I am really hoping that this is the year. If this is the year I get in, maybe we can shoot the proverbial "shit" for a few miles. Good Luck and everyone please say a prayer or whatever you want to say, and hopefully I will make the lottery. It would be a great trek from Central PA to California.

  6. grae

    Good decision RunFar!You're not supposed to be in 100 mile shape in the winter. You'll be developing a great base with xc skiing and snowshoeing and be ready to pound the downhills in the mountains come Spring. Doesn't it seem like a majority of accomplished 100 mile runners live and/or train in the mountains mostly? Do well!

  7. Peter

    Bryon, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend Mike. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike this past summer. I took the RRCA certification class in Long Island NY and he was the instructor. From my little interaction with him he was a great man and I'm saddened by his passing.

    Be strong


    Harrison NY

  8. Jason

    If you're going to be in a snowy area this winter, you'll have to take up ski mountaineering racing. Seems to work for that Killian kid who doesn't run between December and April.

  9. matt lindsey

    Good Choice Bryon, Western States is the race of them all. I am in the lottery right now and waiting patiently (well maybe) for December 4 to come around and see if I am in for 2011. Hopefully, I get in and maybe we can motivate each other for 100 miles.

  10. mayayo

    May your courage be rewarded, Bryon.

    And…may I have the chance to see you at WS & UTMB: On one hand, I do have guaranteed entry for UTMB11 already ; yet for WS 100 I have to rely on the lottery results. Cross fingers.

    As you seem to enjoy xc-ski, I am to travel up to Sweden, for Vasaloppet race, in March. 90km on the trails, sure, but no running involved :-)

    Now, having never skied xc before, I naturally shunned the first offer by my swedish buddies to join them there. But then again, "I realized that I’d hate to look back next fall thinking why didn’t I run…." Vasaloppet.

    So, learning the sport I am now. Tough job ahead, with about 100 days to go :-)

    1. Bryon Powell

      Mayayo, I hope to see you at both WS and UTMB, as well. Have fun at Vasaloppet. I'm just learning the sport and can't imagine 90k. They're starting a ski marathon in my town next year, but I can't even imagine skiing 42k in two and a half months. You're braver than I!

  11. Ray Churgovich

    Congrats Brian! I was watching the live fed, but it was like watching paint dry so I decided to go for a run. This is my second year trying to get in and I was hoping that I would have known by the time I got back home, but I can't find where the lottery results are posted.

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