Wow – I’m not sure where to start.Western States ( was a ton of fun with some pain on top to make the good parts even better. Pictures are up on picasa , in the embedded slide show, and a few are on this page. WS is a grand-daddy of ultras – entrance is capped and unless you are an elite runner or a very special person you need to get in through the lottery – something I somehow managed to stumble through back in December. The run starts in Squaw Valley – a nice ski resort near Lake Tahoe. It then heads across the mountains on old mining and horse trails to the small town of Aubern, CA. The total elevation gain is just over 18,000ft and the loss is over 22,000ft. Lot’s of climbing and quad busting descents! It used to be a 100m horserace with the goal of finishing under 24 hours and it was first run by Gordon Ainsleigh in 1974 when his horse turned up lame for the second year in a row.

Made with Slideshow Embed ToolIt was my first 100m and my first all night run. I finished  in 26:57 and I couldn’t be happier as my goal was just to finish before the 30hr cutoff. There were a lot of unknowns going into the run – almost every measurement for WS (be it mileage, elevation, elevation change, temperature changes etc) was more than double anything I had encountered before. This contributed to a really poor night of sleep on Friday night but I hit the trails Saturday at 5:00am and  finished at 7:57am the next morning on the high school track in Auburn, CA.The course was beautiful and I got to see the sun brighten the night twice during a run which was surreal. We had a lot of snow with an official trail re-route near the beginning – but there were still miles of snow fields and wet streams to run through near the beginning when we were over 8k feet.  While there was definitely some heat. the canyons were tolerable and a lot of people talked about how lucky we were. For the most part I had a pretty consistent pace. Breaking 24h crossed my mind but I didn’t want to push my luck especially because there were some really big climbs during the first half.  I think I went through most aid stations in a few minutes or less – mostly grabbing food and water and electrolytes.

I sat down three times, twice for a few minutes to work on my feet and once for about 10 minutes to drink/eat at a medical-check in because my weight had dropped a little too much. But overall I hydrated well. Running through the dark with headlamps on, occasional voices and animals in the night, and a stretch of crazy single track with signicant exposure off one side of the trail was surreal! The people at the aid stations were simple amazing – it was like high-class valet service (except for the generator and party lights and grilled cheese). I didn’t hallucinate and I never felt dead-tired but I did drag my feet some between 80-95 until I got a second wind.  Some of this was due to Eric Barnes yelling  up the trail “Wolpin, I’m on your ass!” around 94m, and a little later Pablo said something like “You could finish the race now.” I couldn’t understand why he was suggesting I quit and then realized he meant to just dig in. We started bombing down a couple miles of single track toward  ‘No Hands Bridge’ before climbing up the other side and running through a bit of town to the finish.  I loved that they had footprints painted on the road, each step leading to the finish. We ran all-out around the final 200 yards of the track.  The last 6.5 miles were mapped with my watch. There is a short video on you tube of the finish.

Almost all of it was fun. I didn’t lose any toe-nails, but then I don’t have many left to lose.* My quads got really beat up and walking after the race on Sunday was tough. It’s never taken me that long to negotiate a parking lot or a curb but things have progressive gotten better since and I’m starting to think ‘What next?’.

Much thanks to Pablo Cabrera who paced me from Forest Hills (62m) through the dark and the light to the finish on the high school track in Auburn. His encouragement and reminders to eat and drink and not dawdle were key and we had some good conversations and funny observations to share throughout the night and early morning. A big thanks to Shawn Leonard for giving me a ride down and back. And thanks for all the messages, positive vibes, and drop bag suprises from friends and family 🙂

It was humbling to see Gordy cross the finish line for what something like his 23rd time. And Amy Palmiero-Winters kicked ass becoming the first amputee to finish the race in 28:43. Congrats to the male and female winners Geoff Roes (15:07)  and Tracy Garneau (19:01) whose times seem unbelievable.


A huge congrats to everyone else who ran, it was great to see old and new friends from the Seattle area on the trail – their ultra experience is something else: Francis Agboton and Glen Mangiantini shared a room with me in Squaw Valley. Francis made it through with a stress facture in one of his legs. Glen seemed to have memorized the course during his successful 2009 finish and shared a lot of good tips.  Eric Barnes was paced by Steve Stoyles. I also saw Van Pigtails on the course and at the finish, and also Holly Chittenden (who gave me good tips a few weeks earlier when we met on the Raineer to Ruston 50m) and Charlie Crissman who joined us for dinner on Thursday and gave me good advice at Starbucks Friday morning. Scotty Railton was a DNS due to an injury (bummer!) but it was great to break bread with him and Rich as well; and to see them at some of the aid stations (memorably Robinson Flat, Michigan Bluff and the finish). Glen Tachiyama also joined us for dinner Thurs- I’ve seen him taking pictures during many runs but never had the opportunity to sit and talk – so that was nice. I met some new people during the run including locals Karyn Hoffman (rumor has it that I lent her some underwear but it was a water bottle!) and Charlie Jones already had multiple finishes, and exchanged many hellos with John Holt from Woodstock, NY along the course.

Selected pics from my Picasa Album

At the start – 38hrs to go…

Francis heading toward Emigrant Pass from Squaw Valley, sun rising behind us..maybe 4m in…

Feeling pumped around 55m at Michigan Bluff. First town.


Catching up with Eric Barnes at Rucky Chucky Far Side (~78.1m)

Final uphill and then a nice flat run through town, ~99m with Pablo

Auburn High School Finish Line 100.2m 🙂


* Cankles not enough? Check out this toenail after a descent from Stok Kangri in the Indian Himalayas last summer (not for the squeamish)

2 thoughts on “Western States 100m (June 26-27, 2010)

  1. Seth – Nice report on a great effort! Let’s see … first 100, no prior course knowledge, no serious problems with puking, toenails, etc., admittedly somewhat undertrained – not bad. You beat me by a bit less than 2 hours and yet you managed to stop to take a bunch of cool pictures along the way!
    The picture of Francis is at just before 4 miles, mere inches below the high point of the whole race – is that me just beyond Francis in that pic?

    Again, congratulations on a great effort and strong finish!

  2. Hey Glen,

    Thanks – I think things came together. And they worked out for all of us which is great. Thanks again for the tips. Congrats to you too!

    I’ll fix the caption on the pic to read 4m instead of 2m, it did seem a bit further than that. And yes…that is you. Sorry I didn’t take more pictures – I had it turned off for a good portion of the day to save batteries.

    That was fun!

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