Summer is finally here and so is arguably the most anticipated ultramarathon in North America, the 49th Western States Endurance Run. As with all the Golden Ticket races on the calendar, UltraRunning doesn’t just prognosticate on who might take the title, we talked with the contenders to get a sense of how their build-ups went, gather insight into their thoughts and feelings, as well as what they’re most looking forward to on race day.
The aforementioned Bowman of Freetrail advised us of some thrilling news earlier this week: “I’m excited to share my passion for the pro race with the community and engage fans with over $2,500 in prizes on the line. We just upgraded the runner profiles to include their Strava, Instagram, and UTMB index score to give fans even more info with which to inform their picks!” Make your top ten Freetrail Fantasy runner picks for both the women’s and men’s races before the start of the race on Saturday morning for your chance to win big.
Let’s jump right into what the athletes are saying about their thoughts and feelings heading into Saturday’s 100-mile showdown.
Lucy Bartholomew from Melbourne, Australia, a two-time finisher of the race, including a podium in 2018, said, “My build had some ups and downs, but after enduring some big lockdowns in Australia, I was grateful to ride it all and have a race and travel on the horizon. I’m feeling very fortunate, uninjured and stoked about having the privilege to have this route to Auburn. I’m looking forward to putting a bib on for the first time in a long time and enjoying the amazing community, beautiful trails, highs and lows of ultrarunning.”
Ailsa MacDonald of Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, who finished 13th in 2018 said, “My build went well. I’m taking a longer taper than normal, and my body is feeling pretty good. Mentally I feel stronger than ever. I’ve been waiting to run this race for 2.5 years now, so I’m pretty excited the time has finally arrived. I’m looking forward to running a smarter race than I did in 2018. I just want to finish feeling good.”
Hailing from Montereal, Québec, Canada, Marianne Hogan punched her ticket by winning the Bandera 100k in January. She told us, “The build to WS was very enjoyable and good. It was interrupted in March due to a pretty serious ankle injury, but I was able to bounce back fairly quickly, and I can’t wait to line up on Saturday for a good day out on the trails with such amazing competitors. It will be my first 100-miler, and I am so excited to try it out. I’m especially thankful to have my entire family and some close friends come out to pace and crew me. It’s lining up to be a memorable day.”
Coming from Beatrice, Zimbabwe, but based in California during recent months, Emily Hawgood, 7th at last year’s race, is feeling stoked, “Every part of training was awesome. I am really excited. It’s fun to step up and be proud of what I’ve put into the bank under the guidance of my incredible coaches. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the Western States Trail this year. We’ve had some incredible bonding time and the magic every step brings, just makes me giddy with excitement.”
UltraRunning Magazine contributor and two-time, top-10 finisher Erika Hoagland of Fairfax, California, said, “I’m having all the feels about Western States right now…excited, nervous, anxious, stoked, ready, not ready. My crew bags and drop bags are packed and the months of training are done. All that’s left is to step up to the starting line and see what the day brings.”
Recent URM Podcast guest and Portland, Oregon, resident Keely Henninger was 9th last year and had this to say, “My training build for States this year went pretty picture perfect, with a lot of consistent mileage, downhill running and long runs on the course for confidence. But we all know that what really matters is how we put that fitness to the test on race day. I feel so fortunate and grateful to toe the line again and I am excited to experience the contagious energy of Western States and compete against some of the best and inspiring athletes in the sport.”
Allison Baca from Golden, Colorado, is running her first 100-miler after getting in via the lottery in December and echoed the enthusiasm, “I’m so excited to race my first 100-miler, albeit a bit nervous. I can’t wait to be in the thick of the race and to see my family and so many friends out there along the way. I have been imagining running that loop around the track for so long now and will do my best to make it a reality on Saturday.”
The 2016 WS champion, seven-time finisher, and last year’s F10 from Omaha, Nebraska, Kaci Lickteig said, “I am feeling so grateful to be healthy enough to be on the Western States start line Saturday. It’s been the least amount of training I’ve had building up to Western States or any 100-miler I’ve done. So, I am looking forward to this new challenge and embracing every step of the way. I have a feeling I’ll be making many new trail friends along with reconnecting with old ones. I am going to be celebrating every mile as a triumph of the year I’ve overcome. No matter what, I am going to make it a wonderful day out there.”
Leah Yingling of Salt Lake City, Utah, snagged one of the few remaining Golden Ticket at April’s Canyons 100k, but has a plethora of experience at the 100-mile distance. She said, “My main goals after Canyons were to recover fully and enjoy all aspects of the short build back. I feel rested and ready to push myself alongside some very incredible women.”
Katie Asmuth, the 2021 #8 UltraRunner of the Year and F5 from Western States last year based in Mammoth Lakes, California, said, “I had a solid block from January to March, and raced Sean O’Brien 30k and Black Canyons 60k. April was a down month with a nerve niggle, and then came back with 6 weeks with the most mileage I’ve ever had in a block. I raced High Bishop Sierra 55k, which gave me confidence that the nerve flare had subsided. Felt great the next week after Western States training camp too. With the big block, sauna, and altitude, I’m feeling confident and ready to rock. Looking forward to feeling fresh at Green Gate and seeing my kids at Foresthill!
Moving over to the men’s race, coming from Mammoth Lakes, California, Rod Farvard DNF’d in the 2021 Western States 100, but, like Yingling, punched his ticket in April. He told us, “I can’t wait, man. The build felt shorter than normal for me given that Canyons was so close to States, but definitely felt very dialed. I had about five big and specific weeks before starting the taper. Top 10 has been a goal of mine for a long time now, and I can’t believe I’m a few days away from giving it a shot. Unfortunately, I’m recovering from sickness right now and not feeling the hottest, but I hope to be good to go by Saturday. I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the controllables right now. I’m sleeping a lot and definitely prioritizing recovery a lot more than I would’ve without getting sick. There’s nothing I can change at this point, so I’m just excited to see what my body can do and see how strong my mind is. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere and being immersed in the greatest celebration this community has to offer. It will be an amazing experience regardless of the result, but I am dreaming of a very big result, too.”
Ashland, Oregon, runner Brett Hornig said, “Yeah, it’s going to be a great day out there. Training for CIM in December was the perfect pre-States training block. That’s allowed me to maintain some efficiency and speed through the actual WSER block these past few months. I peaked out around 12 hours of volume and approximately 10-12k vert for May. I’m healthy, feeling fresh and ready to go. Honestly, I’m looking forward so much to just going on a long run. Also looking forward to seeing all the friends I’ve made over the years along the course.”
Local runner Adam Kimble, hailing from Tahoe City, California, finished 13th in 2018 and is poised to crack the top 10 this year despite some bumps along the way, “The build for Western States wasn’t how I drew it up last year, because I’ve been dealing with a lower back strain since January. But I’m feeling fit, energized and ready to compete hard on Saturday. I’m most looking forward to seeing so many running friends and family out on the course at our annual gathering that always takes place the last weekend in June.”
Trevor Fuchs out of Salt Lake City, Utah, has found tremendous success at the distance, and has recently dealt with some health issues, but is ready, “I put in a training block that I can say I’m proud of. My volume was a little lower than I would normally prefer, but it was supplemented with a lot of cycling and strength work. While the health issues have been improving, I’m still not quite super confident going in on Saturday. My fitness feels it’s where it needs to be though, so I’m really excited to show up and explore my current limits. Regardless of how my race goes, I’m really looking forward to gathering with the community and sharing the trails with some amazing runners and volunteers.”
Jeff Colt of Carbondale, Colorado, was 3rd at the Black Canyon 100k and just recovered from COVID in time to race, “My spring has been full of adventure runs focusing on long, sustained downhills paired with some skiing and some long bike rides. Training has been really fun and up until getting COVID last week, I felt a fitness bearing what I imagine is my aerobic capacity. When I got sick, I had to tell myself, “The hay is in the barn” – it’s what my high school cross country coach, Jim Eakin, used to say when all the training was there. I’ve been resting a lot and prioritizing sleep so on Saturday, I can line up at my dream race, surrounded by the best competition in our sport, supported by my family and close friends with the hopes of making something special happen. As it is with ultrarunning, special is a guarantee and I know if first and foremost I’m proud of the person I am on Saturday, it will have been a success.”
A finish line local from Folsom, California, who finished 3rd in October at the Javelina Jundred and one to watch out for, is Cole Watson, “I’m very excited to participate in this historic event. That dirt is truly hallowed ground. More so, as a local, I can’t wait to see all the members of this community I’ve been fortunate enough to become acquainted with over the last several years. I’m hoping their smiles and cheers will be that much more kindling for the fire to carry on. I feel like I balanced my training really well since Javelina. I didn’t need to do huge long runs, just a lot of consistent moderate ones. I’ve been fortunate to have had my fair share of heat exposure and I think I’ve done about all I can do at this point. I’ve been hungry as a bear since Memorial (Day) weekend. Only thing left to do is toe the line and see what the day gives us.”
Adam Peterman, the 2021 #8 UltraRunner of the Year and 2022 Canyons 100k champion based in Missoula, Montana, told us, “Fortunately after Canyons I was able to get in five good weeks of volume for States. I honestly don’t know what to expect with this being my first 100-miler, but I’m excited to give it my best shot on Saturday. I have an amazing crew and I’m ready to battle until the very end.”
Cody Lind from Challis, Idaho, finished 4th last year and said, “The build-up for Western States this year has been very consistent with solid, high-quality training. The amount of memories created within this race are endless, but it takes it to the next level when you have the opportunity to toe the line at Western States. It’s bound to be a very high-level race with so many incredible athletes from the time the shotgun goes off, through the high country, to the hot canyons and into the trails of Auburn.”
Your 2022 Black Canyon 100k runner-up, Scott Traer, representing Woburn, Massachusetts, (but spending most of his time in the Phoenix, Arizona, area) mentioned intense heat adaptations, “The training went flawlessly. I took a couple weeks off after Black Canyon 100k. Mid-March, I started with two blocks of threshold training followed by two blocks of endurance training. Almost all of my endurance training the past six weeks was done in the middle of the day in Phoenix with temps of 100-plus degrees. These temps allowed me to test out various cooling strategies and prepare my gut for the fluid intake needed for long, hot racing. I’ve got a strategy for race day. I won’t be anywhere near the front to start but I’m planning on closing. Shake and bake baby.”
Tyler Fox, our lone Wyoming representative out of Lander, scored his Golden Ticket at January’s Bandera 100k, and told us, “The build for Western States has been better than expected. My wife, Ellie, and I had our first baby girl on March 31, and my wife has worked overtime to let me keep a pretty normal training schedule (she also jumped back into her career a month after Sally was born and is just a total badass). I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones while running on 100 miles of trail I have never seen before.”
Reid Coolsaet from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has tempered expectations for his first 100-miler, “My training was pretty average. I had a couple of health hiccups (COVID and then cellulitis), but in between had some solid training. I’ve been feeling good for the past month. Things are clicking at the right time. I’m really excited to run my first 100-miler and honored to be lining up at Western States.”
The 2021 #3 UltraRunner of the Year Arlen Glick of Massillon, Ohio, won four 100-milers last year, including the Javelina Jundred Golden Ticket race. “I am so pumped about the race. My build-up went surprisingly flawless after getting the worst injury of my career during the Jackpot Ultra. I had to take four weeks off and I was very concerned it would impact my build-up for States. At first, it was tough building from ground zero, but looking back it was probably the best thing that could have happened. After two years of practically injury-free racing, I definitely think it was time for a break. As I got into the peak phase of training, I was putting in much higher volume and almost double the vert of any training block before. But to my surprise, I felt better and more rested than usual, I definitely think this will set me up for a good performance on race day. I believe spending a week on course at training camp was a huge benefit. I am really happy with where I am at and feeling very relaxed. It’s hard to say what I’m looking forward to the most simply because it all looks like so much fun.”
Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Alex Nichols was 2nd in 2017 and 10th at Western States last year. He told us, “My training block leading up to Western States has been really solid. I’ve felt stronger than previous years and I think I’m coming into this year’s race with a better understanding of the course. I think that will make a big difference on race day.”
2021 #4 UltraRunner of the Year and 2nd place at last year’s Western States, Portland, Oregon’s Tyler Green said, “I’m really happy with my training leading up to the race. Nothing was eye-popping, but I consistently put in the specific work needed to run well at Western States. My strength training program has me feeling structurally sound as well. I’ve never had a bad run on the Western States course, and I love every part of the course for different reasons. Is it possible to look forward to the full 100-mile journey? I am. And I feel excellent—a nice balance of electric excitement and dropper calm.”
About a dozen other athletes didn’t respond to a request for a comment.
Further UltraRunning Calendar highlights for this first full weekend of summer include the Black Hills 100 in Sturgis, South Dakota, starting on Friday, June 24, the San Juan Solstice 50-miler in Lake City, Colorado, the Catamount Ultra 50k in Stowe, Vermont, the Bears Ears Ultras 50k/50-mile in Monticello, Utah, the Night Train 50k in Farmville, Virginia, and the Manitou’s Revenge 54-miler in Windham, New York, all on Saturday, June 25.
What’s Up in Ultra in your area this weekend and who are your picks for Western States? Leave all the details below in our comments section.