Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Western States is an American Trail Running Association corporate member.
Cool Weather and a Competitive Fields Generate Record Times at the 2019 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
The 46th annual Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run was held this past weekend, June 29-30, 2019. Western States is one of the most competitive ultramarathon events in the world and attracts the top U.S. and international ultra-trail athletes each year. Participants traverse through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California on a point-to-point course from Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA, encountering large snow fields, rugged canyon hills, and river crossings. This years race was also part of the 2019 Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of twenty world class ultrarunning events.
This year’s event included one of the most competitive women’s and men’s fields in race history. The women’s elite field included:
Courtney Dauwalter (Golden, CO), Amanda Basham (North Logan, UT), Lucy Bartholomew (Melbourne, Australia), Francesca Canepa (Morgex, Italy), Kaci Lickteig (Omaha, NE), YiOu Wang (San Anselmo, CA), Camille Herron (Warr Acres, OK) Katlyn Gerbin (Issaquah, WA), Brittany Peterson (Pocatello, ID), Addie Bracy (Boulder, CO), Clare Gallagher (Boulder, CO), Beth Pascal (Belper, England), Corrine Malcolm (San Francisco, CA) and Cecilia Flori (Hamilton, New Zealand).
The elite men’s field included:
Jim Walmsley (Flagstaff, AZ), Jared Hazen (Flagstaff, AZ), Morgan Elliot (Breckenridge, CO), Ian Sharman (Bend, OR), Paul Giblin (Paisley, England), Tom Evans (Heathfield, England), Jeff Browning (Logan, UT), Patrick Reagan (Savannah, GA), Mark Hammond (Millcreek, UT), Jimmy Elam (Salt Lake City, Utah), Ryan Sandes (Cape Town, South Africa), David Laney (Portland, OR), Jordi Gamito (La Roca, Spain), Tyler Green (Portland, OR), Matt Daniels (Boulder, CO).
The competitive fields lead many to expect record times. This year’s cooler weather conditions also aided runners chasing fast times. The Western States course is traditionally known for heat, particularly in the canyon sections of the mid to later stages of the race. Some sections have been known to reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). This year’s slightly cooler temperatures and cloud cover over the canyons kept temperatures at bay on the hottest parts of the course.
The Men’s Race:
Before the race, all eyes were on Jim Walmsely, defending champion and course record holder. Walmsley set the record of 14:30:04 last year, breaking Timothy Olson’s 2012 record of 14:46:44. Leading up to this year’s Western States, Walmsely showed incredible fitness by setting a new 50-mile world record of 4:50:08 (5:48 per mile pace) on May 4, during the 2019 Hoka One One Project Carbon X event in Sacramento, CA.
Saturday, June 29, at 5 A.M., 369 competitors departed from the start in Squaw Valley and ascended over 2,500 feet in the first 3.5 miles to the race’s highpoint, The Escarpment, elevation 8,750 feet. Walmsley and several other podium contenders, including Daniels and Hazen, held back on the initial climb while Hallvard Schjolberg from Norway, fourth place finisher at the 2018 UTMB in Chamonix, France, led the charge. Runners encountered large snow drifts throughout the first climb.
As the race descended toward Red Star Ridge aid station at mile 15.8, Walmsley took the lead. Walmsley’s roommate and training partner, Hazen, stayed in pursuit roughly 4 minutes behind. Evans, Elliot and Daniels held strong in the lead pack. Elliot unfortunately rolled an ankle near mile 40 and later withdrew.
As the race continued into the later stages, Walmsely and Hazen put significant time on the rest of the field. By the Rucky Chucky River Crossing aid station at mile 78, Walmsely and Hazen were 10 minutes apart with the nearest runner, Evans, over 30 minutes back. The rest of the top ten positions remained close. Daniels and Hammond were shortly behind Evans. Reagan, Sharman, and Browning all passed Rucky Chucky less than 20 minutes apart.
At the finish on Placer High School track, a large crowd of spectators cheered as Walmsely charged down the straightaway finishing 1st in 14:09:28, breaking the record he set last year by 21 minutes. Hazen was second top the finish in 14:26:46, breaking the previous course record by nearly 4 minutes. Evans held on to third place, finishing in 14:59:44, the fastest time ever run by a foreigner. The entire top 10 finished in under 16 hours, a first in the race’s history. Additional recognition should be given to Daniels who finished fourth in his debut 100-mile race.
The Women’s Race:
Leading up to the race, many expected defending champion, Dauwalter, to break the course record set by Ellie Greenwood in 2012. From the start up to the Escarpment, Dauwalter remained near the lead but behind Camille Herron, world record holder in the 50 mile, 100 mile, 12 hour and 24 hour. Herron was first to the top of the Escarpment, but withdraw shortly after due to hamstring issues.
As the race progressed, Dauwaulter took the lead and began to put significant time on the rest of the field. Kaci Lickteig, winner of the 2016 Western States, and Clare Gallagher, winner of the CCC 100K in Chamonix, France and top American at the 2018 Trail World Championships, gradually advanced into podium contention.
By mile 62 at Foresthill aid station Daulwalter looked strong and was on record pace. She was nearly 40 minutes ahead of second place Gallagher. Brittany Peterson pushed the pace into Foresthill to overtake Lickteig in third place.
Rucky Chucky, mile 78, was the surprising turning point of the race. Dauwalter arrived at the station noticeably limping and stopped for medical attention. She explained she was experiencing hip pain. Despite her injury, Dauwalter continued but lost significant time to Gallagher who soon took the lead. Dauwalter withdrew at Green Gate, mile 79.8.
Meanwhile, Peterson continued charging ahead, putting time on Lickteig and reeling in Gallagher. By Pointed Rocks Aid Station, mile 94.3, both Gallagher and Peterson were running side-by-side.
Coming first into the Placer High School track was Gallagher, who held off Peterson and finished with a time of 17:23:25. Her time was the second fastest on record for a woman, beating Dauwalter’s time from last year by over four minutes. Peterson finished second in 17:34:29, running the fourth fastest women’s time in race history. Lickteig rounded out the podium in third with a time of 17:55:55. This was the first time that the top three women all ran under 18 hours.
Aside from elite performance records, participation records were also broken with 319 of 369 runners crossing the finish line under the 30-hour cutoff. This set a record high finish rate of 86 percent. Awards were held Sunday afternoon at 12:30 P.M. in the grass fields of Placer High School and the famous Western States belt buckles were awarded.
See full results at: https://www.ultralive.net/ws100#tracking/leaders
See more of Tayte’s pictures from Western States on Google Photos.
Here are videos of interviews with Brittany, Walmsley and Peterson from our YouTube Channel: