Western States 100 – Timothy Olson and Pam Smith Reign
Western States 100 2013 Recap
by Patrick Reed
Touted as “the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race” by its own website – wser.org – the world-renowned ultra showdown, the 2013 Western States 100, launched at 5 a.m. Saturday, June 29th, from Squaw Valley, California. Over the course of the next 18 hours, new history was forged as course-record holder Timothy Olson repeated his victory of last year (in a time of 15:17:27), and a fresh face to ultra lore, Pam Smith, ran away from the competition in 18:37:21.
The 100.2 mile race vaults up some 18,000 feet and drops over 23,000 feet as runners strive for the finish line at Auburn, CA. There, the final push is a lap around Auburn High School’s colorful all-weather track. En route to this famed finish line “Runners experience the majestic high country beauty of Emigrant Pass and the Granite Chief Wilderness, the crucible of the canyons of the California gold country, a memorable crossing of the ice-cold waters of the main stem of the Middle Fork of the American River, and, during the latter stages, the historic reddish-brown-colored trails that led gold-seeking prospectors and homesteading pilgrims alike to the welcoming arms of Auburn.” (wser.com) When runners finally step onto the track, where the legendary champion efforts of Scott Jurek and Ann Trayson (7-time and 14-time winners of the race, respectively) mix with the folklore of dissolutions like that of Brian Morrison – who collapsed on the track just 300 meters from the victory, they realize fully that the grand glory of ultra running is not secured until the tape is broken.
As with most every event on the ultra runner’s calendar, the natural beauty of the course and the sheer challenge of the day promised an unrivaled introspection and an exciting and memorable race for Western States competitors. This trailer from the ultra cult classic film “Unbreakable” gives you a fuller taste of the course.
This year, the race was going to be GOOD — on both the men’s and women’s sides. With Olson’s jaw-dropping course-record performance of a year ago (shattering Geoff Roes’ previous record of 15:07:04 in a blazing 14:46:44 on a perfect weather day) and with a stacked field on both sides, the day was destined for epic. Several side stories added to the anticipation of race morning. Mike Morton was returning to the course 16 years after he established the men’s course record. Considered a major threat for the top of the podium, Morton’s year has been near-perfect with victories at the Badwater 135 (just 2 minutes shy of the CR there) and an American record of 172.457 miles in the 24 hour event. That’s an astounding 8:21 mile pace for 24 straight hours! Yeah, he’s a threat…
In another intriguing story, Karl Meltzer – aka “Speedgoat” – who has no less than 35 100-mile victories in his resume, was making his Western States debut. Add to these legend’s stories a posse including, but not limited to, Dylan Bowman, Rob Krar, Nick Clark, and Dave Mackey (all 4 of which were top-ten finishers in 2012) and it was clear that anything might happen in the 100 mile race. Lots of contenders were ready to lay down their best bets.
On the women’s side, things were similarly hot. With last year’s record-setting queen Ellie Greenwood out due to a stress fracture of her fibula, the opportunity for a new name to be etched into ultra-running history abounded. 2012’s runner-up Rory Bosio was certainly a returning contender as were Aliza Lapierre, who was 3rd last year. Veteran Nikki Kimball – 3-time winner of the race, ultra newby Emily Harrison, and a host of others were all clearly in the hunt, too.
In the week prior to the race, it became clear that 2012’s blissful cool weather – perfect for PR’s and CR’s – was not to be in 2013. Instead, it was looking to be one of the hottest races on record — and indeed ended up being logged into the books as the 2nd hottest day in the history of the race. Nevertheless, the consensus amongst runners was that everyone had to deal with the same weather… so, bring it on!
In the end, it seemed that Olson would repeat. Gaining 10 minutes on Krar and Morton by mile 90, it looked that Olson’s speed and desire was not to be outdone. Krar did close in the final miles, but the collegiate miler could not make up enough ground in the end and his 100-mile debut found him 5 minutes shy of ultimate glory. Still, Olson’s exclamation at the finish showed his awe of the runner-up: “This is his first 100!” Morton arrived only minutes later for a master’s record 15:45, only 5 minutes slower than his course record of nearly 2 decades ago. What a race!
Pam Smith was the surprise of the day. Though twice before a top-10 finisher at the race, she bettered her last year’s time by an unthinkable 10 hours in claiming the top tier on the podium. Smith ran smart throughout and realized her ultra dream. Congratulations!
What can possibly be in the works for Western States 2014?! I can hardly wait:)