Hal Koerner and Anita Ortiz Win the 2009 WS100
After being canceled last year because of California forest fires, the 2009 Western States 100 Endurance Run is back on what was one of the most impressive ultramarthon fields in years. The WS100 is considered the starting point of the whole ultra running racing scene and it’s still one of the toughest and most prestigious ultra trail races you can participate in (if you’re lucky enought with the lottery). The event is run along the Western States Trail form Squaw Valley to Auburn, a 100 miles of remote territory following the original trails used by miners in the 1850’s. Between medical personnel, river-crossing aides, trail sweepers and communications personnel, more than 1,500 volunteers help out, many of them in the 25 checkpoints along the course.
The bets were on
With a competitive list of runners not seen in years, bets popped up over several sites. One of the first to poll his blog readers was Andrew Jones-Wilkins, resulting in Jurek, Koerner, Mackey and Krupicka outstading in the top 4 positions. Karl Meltzer wrote his usual race odds, betting also on Jurek, Mackey and Koerner in the men, and Kimball, Moehl and Ortiz in the women. iRunFar.com had also a great prediction contest with 175 participants and the following results (top names first): Jurek, Koerner, Mackey, on the men’s race and Kimball, Moehl, Anderson-Abbs on the women side. On his Mountain running blog Buzz Burrell also made his picks with Jurek and Mackey on top of the list. Most of the predictions for the men’s master division winner were for Jones-Wilkins and for Italian Olmo on the over 60 category.
5.00 AM on Saturday around 400 runners (there were a bunch of DNS) lined up to face the endurance test. Cool temps that would rise up to triple digits during the day. Expectations of top positions for some, of winning the sub-24hrs silver buckle for others and hopes of just finishing for many of them.
5 minutes after the start, the top 40 runners went off course. Nothing that would decisively affect the final results. Quickly, the favorites took the lead: at Red Star Ridge station (mile 16) Dave Mackey and Hal Koerner were running together (a partnership that would last many miles) and Scott Jurek came in right after. Canadian Gary Robbins was the unexpected 4th placed, spot he would keep for quite some miles. “I will leave it all out there and am already certain and confident that I could not have done anything further to prepare for this event”, said Gary in a pre-race interview.
First abandonments started around mile 23. A few of the top runners dind’t step the start line ( Anton Krupicka, Max king or Mike Wolfe) and around 70 would not make it into half the race. But the first shock of the day was to see seven-time champion Scott Jurek dropping at Devils Thumb around 8.00 PM PST. While Mackey and Koerner emerged from the canyon looking strong, the seven-time champion, who had not run Western States since 2005, dropped 47.8 miles into the race. He simply stated “I went to the well, and the well was dry”.
On the women’s side, Anita Ortiz was the leader early on. She pulled into the Michigan Bluff aid station (55.7 miles) only an hour behing the overall leaders. Beverly Anderson-Abbs was about 15 minutes behind Ortiz, and Nikki Kimball more than an hour away.
After Michigan Bluff aid station, Koerner opened up a 19-minute lead by the time he reached Foresthill 6.3 miles later. A 9:25 pace Mackey couldn’t follow. “I got a pump off of all the people,” he said, “I just tried to harness all that energy and go.” This effort would prove good enough to make Koerner winner of the WS100 for second year in a row (race cancelled in 2008). His time: 16:24.
Mackey dropped out near mile 78 and the second place turned into a brutal duel between Japanese Tsuyoshi Kaburagi and Great Britain’s Jez Bragg. Bragg pushed a 10:00 pace for the last 15 miles, but that came 2 minutes short. Kaburagi crossed the finish line second in 16:52. “We passed three people between No Hands (Bridge) and here,” said Bragg, “I would bet our splits at the end were some of the quickest ever, because I was properly flying.”
The 45-year-old mother of four from Eagle, Colo. , Anita Ortiz, kept her lead through the entire race and clocked a time of 18:24. Krissy Moehl was in second place while Anderson-Abbs trailed in third, with a time of 19:26 and 19:53 respectively. Three-time women’s champion and favorite for the women’s victory Nikki Kimball finished 4th in 20:55.
Along the way, many runners had to call it a day before reaching Auburn. Among them, ultrarunning most known face, Dean Karnazes (mile 62), Italian best endurance runner Marco Olmo (mile 62), Hiroki Ishikawa (mile 34), Chikara Omine (mile 62) or France’s top mountain runner Laval Benoit (mile 55).
Preliminary results can be found here.
The race takes place in such a inaccessible trail that normal media coverage is complicated. A live webcast coverage of this year’s run was set up by the organization at webcast.ws100.com, which had some server issues due to the massive follow of ultrarunning fans. The other great option to get the updates was through twitter, where volunteers, pacers and fans posted news and photos before anyone else.
To wrap up the race report, a list of links to articles on this year’s Western States 100 (I’ll be updating as more info is published on different media):
- 2009 Western States Showdown: Runner’s World interviews Nikki Kimball, Krissy Moehl, Scott Jurek and Dave Mackey
- Interview with Gary Robbins: pre-race article.
- Interview with Scott Jurek: pre-race article.
- Once is not enough for Western winner: race report.
- Gordy Ainsleigh, Bib No. 0: the man who started it all about htis year’s race.
- Tim Daly, Lance Gilbert, Thomas Williams: Folsom locals profiled
- Rocklin’s Semanski prepares for Western States
- Ultramarathoner Karl Hoagland loves challenge
- Western States race makes registers ring: an economic look at WS100
- Pre-race interviews by Matt Hart: Hal Koerner, Jasper Halekas, Scott Dunlap,…
- Vail Valley’s Ortiz conquers Western States 100: post-race comments by Anita Ortiz
- Kimball: ‘The most important race of my life’: the story behind Nikki’s race