This past Saturday morning, June 23rd, nearly 400 runners waited in the unusually chilly and wet weather in Squaw Valley, California, anxiously anticipating the staggering “100 mile–one day” journey ahead. No, I didn’t hit the zero button one too many times, you read it right–100 miles, on foot, running, through the Sierra Nevada mountains from Squaw Valley to Auburn. Over high peaks, along ridges, into low, blisteringly hot valleys and out again, the legendary Western States Endurance Run is steeped in history, the oldest and most renowned 100 mile race in the United States and one of the most competitive anywhere in the world. In its inception, it was a horse race until 1974 when Gordy Ansleigh’s horse went lame and he decided to attempt the course on foot. He was successful in doing so in 23:47; with that, the 100 mile foot race was born. Gordy believed in the impossible and changed the course of history in a single day, opening minds to the possibilities of human endurance and to the depth of our potential.
Among those toeing the line this year were some of the best athletes and runners on earth and a large number of Oregon residents, representing our fine state. Everyone was shocked by the conditions and blamed (or, as the case may be, thanked) the Oregonians for bringing their cold, grey weather with them. Of course, it eventually got hotter but in the end, the cooler temps overall made for the fastest times in history and, as to be expected, some of the Oregonians fared quiet well, to say the least.
It was my great honor to witness the spectacle and support two dear friends of mine: local Portland runners Yassine Diboun and Nick Triolo. Yassine is a natural athlete, a great coach, father, friend, and business owner (animalathleticsPDX.com, yassinediboun.com) and an inspiration to all who know him. I acted as Yassine’s “crew” along with our friend and strong Portland runner Joe Kleffner and his trio of amazing females (his mother, wife and daughter), and had the privilege of running the final 20 miles with him as his “pacer.” Runners in 100-mile races are allowed to use pacers in the second half of the race as to help keep them safe and sane, focused and on task as the miles stretch on and on, often through the night. Running those 20 miles with Yassine–witnessing his unwaivering drive and staggering perseverance as we ran along the dusty trails through the hot canyons, past manzanita and scrub oak, over hills of golden grass as the sun sank lower in the perfect sky–was one of the most awesome and inspiring experiences of my life. As I ran along behind and watched him working tirelessly in front of me, it was hard to fathom that level of endurance; it was truly mind-numbing to believe that those skinny legs had already propelled him 95 miles that day at a terrific pace, through the mountains, climbing over 18,000 ft. and descending 22,000 ft over the whole course. He finished in 12th place in 16 hours and 43 minutes, many years a winning time. Truly amazing and still impossible to fully grasp; a day neither he or I will ever forget. This was one of his best performances to add to his already impressive resume. Way to go Yassine!
Nick is a gifted athlete, a great friend, writer, thinker, and activist (jasminedialogues.wordpress.com.) Spending time with Nick and his extensive crew of family and friends was a highlight of the weekend. All that love and support surely contributed to his stellar performance: a finishing time of 18 hours and 50 minutes, good for 34th place among countless world-class athletes! Yet another awesome result for Nick this year after winning both the Capitol Peak 50 mile (Olympia, WA) and the MacDonald Forest 50k (Corvallis, OR) and getting 3rd at our local Forest Park 50k in Portland. Nick is one of the head organizers of Columbia Gorge Rim to Rim Against Nestle Run, a 50-mile protest run aimed at stopping Nestle from opening a water-bottling plant in Cascade Locks, Oregon (rimtorimagainstnestle.wordpress.com.)
The winner and new course-record holder Timothy Olson (timothyallenolson.wordpress.com) had the race of a lifetime, finishing in 14:44 and bringing the highest honors back home to Ashland, Oregon. It is difficult to express the magnitude of this achievement. Major congratulations Tim!
British ex-pat and Bend, Oregon resident Ian Sharman (holder of the fastest 100-mile time on US soil, 12:44! sharmanian.blogspot.com) came in 5th place in 15:54. Eugene, Oregon’s Joe Uhan (winner of the 2011 McKenzie River 50k) came in 9th in 16:13. Nice work Ian and Joe!
The women’s race was also filled with jaw-dropping talent, with Oregon women rounding out the last 3 places of the top ten. Portland’s own Amy Sproston (winner of the 2012 World IAU 100k Championships, amysproston.blogspot.com) came in 8th, Ashley Nordell of Sisters (winner of the 2012 MacDonald Forest 50k) came in 9th and Meghan Arbogast of Corvallis (4th place at the 2012 World IAU championships and an age group world record at 51 years old! runningmegleg.com) came in 10th. Amazing job out there Amy, Ashley, and Meghan!
Other Oregonians who rocked it at the 2012 Western States 100:
–Denise Bourassa, Bend 20:28
–Jerry Nowak, Medford 22:14
–Darla Askew, Bend 22:31
–Lewis Taylor, Eugene 23:09
–Gary Daubenspeck, Hood River 24:41
–Denise Burley, Portland 25:10
–Brad Putnam, Coburg 25:24
–Desiree Barnes, Ashland 26:46
–Tyler Cates, Eugene 27:06
–David Eisbernd, Salem 27:37
–C.B. Fralich, Grants Pass 28:01
–Pam Smith, Salem 28:58
–Carolyn Hennessey, Eugene 29:20
–Jim Hammond, Bend 29:58
A huge congratulations to all the runners, and to their pacers and crews. Thank you for inspiring people with your actions and showing others that anything is possible, that any feat can be achieved if we allow ourselves to attempt to unimaginable. Cheers to Gordy and all Western States runners who, by believing in themselves, show their belief in us all.