Sunday, December 9, 2012

Western States 100

I first learned about the Western States 100 as a senior in high school when my cross country coach, Earl Towner, was training for it. I knew about Earl's big crazy runs on the trails around Southern California. I knew that he was an ultra runner. The training and events that Earl did intrigued me as a new runner. When Earl talked about Western States, I was quickly pulled in to the draw of the challenge of running 100 miles through the Sierras from Squaw Valley to Auburn. At 17 years old having never run more than 8 miles, I knew that I wanted to run that race.
I continued running after the cross country season that year and ran my first marathon in April in Los Angeles. Earl ran with me and we finished in 3:14.  I went to college in Santa Cruz that fall and I fell even more in love with running trails. I ran a few more marathons and some trail races and spent hundreds of wonderful hours running along the coast and through the redwoods of central California. After college, back in So. Cal. I kept running and got involved with A Snail's Pace Running Club where I learned about higher mileage training and met a few ultra runners. In 2003, I ran my first ultra in Ridgecrest, CA at the High Desert 50K. It was tougher than I had anticipated and I struggled through the final 6 miles, but I loved the whole experience and the culture of ultra running. I was hooked.
In 2006, I moved to Fort Collins, CO and started running with the Fort Collins Trail Runners. With the FCTRs I learned about running mountains and I learned the joy and freedom of spending a whole day out running trails in the Rockies. In 2008 I ran the San Juan Solstice 50, my first mountain ultra, and it was certainly the hardest thing I'd ever done. It took me over 15 hours (well over the WS qualifying time) and it was beautiful and painful and awesome. I went to Steamboat that fall for the Run Rabbit Run 50 and took a couple hours off my time. The following summer I ran the Big Horn 50 in WY in 12:30, once again improving my 50 mile time, but still missing the 11 hour Western States qualifying requirement. In August of 2009 I ran the Lean Horse 100 in South Dakota. I finished (26:43) and this qualified me to put my name in the Western States Lottery for the 2010 race.
I didn't get in, but I watched with excitement as my friends Nick, Pete and Eric trained to run it. I sat at my computer on an off that day in June hitting refresh and watching the race unfold. Maddie and I held our breath as Nick and Killian battled it out for third. Maddie loved seeing Alastair run with his dad across finish on the track in Auburn. I told her she couldrun with me on that track when I go to Western States.
That July, I went to the Grand Mesa 100, but dropped after 60 miles after a frustrating race of getting lost and very tired. My first DNF was painful for lots of reasons, one of them was I was without a qualifier for the 2011 Western States lottery.  I corrected this by going back to South Dakota in August and running 23:16 at Lean Horse. I entered the lottery again (this time with 2 tickets), but again I didn't get in.
In 2011 I ran the Leadville 100, but timed out at Fish Hatchery (mile 76.5). It was another tough DNF, but I still had a WS qualifier from the Big Horn 50 that June. I registered for Leadville again in November (unfinished business) and I put my name in the lottery again for Western States 2012. On the 2nd Saturday in December of 2011, I got back to Nick's house after a tough, snowy 26 miles on the Chubby Cheeks course to find out that I had not been chosen . . . but my good friend Mike had. I immediately asked if be needed a pacer. He did and plans were made to travel to Tahoe in June.
The Western States experience was pretty amazing. From the beauty of the course to the race organization it was great. I ran with Mike from Forest Hill to the finish (40 miles) and loved it all. In addition to having a great time running with Mike and enjoying all of Statesmas (Christmas for ultrarunners), I was very fortunate to share crewing duties with Mike and Jessica's friend Nora. That weekend at Western States was the beginning of what has become a relationship that has exceeded all my dreams of happiness, love and joy.
I went back to Leadville in August and thanks to my amazing crew and pacers, I finished (race report is coming). I have taken a bit of a break from serious running (and blogging) since Leadville, but the WS dream never faded.
A couple weeks ago I put my name in for the lottery again. This time I had 4 tickets giving me a 28% chance to take one of the less than 270 spots open for the 2013 race. Yesterday, after a full morning at the ice rink with Maddie and a very late start at the Chub, just glad to get out for a few miles on the trails, I ran in to Mindy coming up the trail with news of a FB post by the Honey Badger congratulating me on my name being pulled. I decided not to celebrate until I saw the list for myself, but the hope carried me the last couple miles back to Nick's. Eric's smartphone confirmed that I had finally been chosen to run the Western States 100. So I am on my way to the race I've been thinking about for over 20 years. Training starts today. June 29 is just around the corner and I'll be ready.


  1. Very psyched for you Alex! A long road but I'm sure you'll do better now at WS than if you got in earlier. Let's share some training miles along the way.

  2. Congratulations on being selected. Now the real work (fun) begins. Bill and Ann

  3. Alex, this is awesome!! Inspiring that you have been so focused on this goal for so long. Now you'll be taking Nora back as YOUR crew!