From Heaven Through Hell Then Back On Track: Western States Recap 2017

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To put it lightly, Altra Endurance Team athlete and head coach at Sharman Ultra, Ian Sharman knows the Western States course. He posted to Instagram:

“That was the toughest #WS100 I’ve ever run. Thanks for all the support and this ice and fire year tested us all to the absolute max (hence the slower times!)”

Check out Ian Sharman’s Instagram here.

The 44th running of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run took place June 24th-25th and ran from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA. Covering 100.2 miles climbing more than 18,000 feet and descending almost 23,000 feet. While this race will always be tough (it’s 100 miles!), this year was one of the toughest. Record snowfall in Squaw meant that runners hit snow roughly 2 miles into the course and ran on that snow for about 2 miles before reaching Emigrant Pass, the highest point on the course. Running on snow fatigued runners’ muscles early on and in a different way, many were already exhausted by the time they ran through mile 4 as they crested the mountain.

As predicted, Jim Walmsley set a blazing pace from the get-go and came through 4 miles ahead of the rest of the field. Unfortunately, his record-setting pace early on in the race coupled with extreme heat in the canyons eventually lead to a crushing DNF right before the iconic Rucky Chucky River crossing (mile 78). Another disappointing year for this ambitious athlete.

Two recurring themes throughout the race were patience and experience, and those who took their time and enjoyed the journey, ended up on top. Ryan Sandes of Cape Town, ZAF had about a 15 minute lead at mile 78 and never let that lead go. He went on to win in a time of 16:19:37, and 23 year old Cat Bradley from Boulder, CO won the women’s race with a time of 19:31:30.

Team Altra had 12 finishers with 6 of the elites placing in the top ten for men and women, respectively. Jeff Browning finished with a time of 17:32:17. At Devil’s Thumb (mile 47), he was in 17th place, but with his patience, experience, and calm demeanor, he gradually moved up through the ranks for his strong 4th place finish. Browning’s post race tweet sums up this year’s race perfectly:

“#WS100 always throws it at you…this year we faced snow, mud, and heat. And with perseverance, finally the joy of crossing the finish line with my 3 kids for M4 for my 27th hundred mile finish. Back again in 2018. Giddyup and #seeyouinsquaw.”

Ian Sharman finished seventh with a time of 17:42:07, continuing his streak of consecutive top ten finishes and becoming the first person ever to earn eight consecutive top 10 finishes overall at Western States, the most from the first attempt at the race and with no DNFs. The difficulty of the conditions this year were even more apparent when he reported running “20 minutes slower than last year for the first 10 miles, showing that the terrain was a lot tougher.” Just behind Ian, fellow Altra Endurance teammate, Jesse Haynes, came in eighth place with a 17:44:23 finish. Haynes is the most humble guy you will ever meet and, for him, it is all about the journey, not the glory. His mantra for the race was “take it easy”, a perfect example of patience and experience. After spraining his ankle early in the race, Kyle Pietari snagged the tenth spot in an impressive, gritty finish with a time of 18:11:43. In his words:

“I sprained my ankle before mile 7. Running 93 more miles on a painful sprain was tough, but the challenging conditions on the course slowed everyone else down, making it possible for me to still finish in the top-ten!”

Kyle Pietari

Two Altra Fit4Her female elites finished in the top ten as well. Altra’s top finisher was Nicole Kalogeropoulos, who pulled off being the 6th female and 25th overall with a time of 21:00:52. Nicole lives and trains in heat and commented that, “Living in Dallas, I don’t get as much of an opportunity as I would like to train at elevation, so I wanted to focus on my potential advantage of running well in the heat.” Well, it looks like that worked out for her, judging by the fact that her infectious smile was still there to greet the crowd as she crossed the finish line. Meghan Laws, formerly Arbogast also known as “The Queen”, placed 9th for women and was the second 50+ year old finisher at 21:57:09. This was Meghan’s 11th time finishing in the top ten females at Western States. She truly is The Queen of this course and ultrarunning in general. Dana Anderson got to be the 20th female at her first Western States and only second 100-mile race after her Javelina Jundred win last fall, while Maggie Guterl pushed hard through a tough day and was right behind her taking the 25th female spot.

Western States 100-Mile Edunrance Run

Other notable finishes from Team Altra included Altra Ambassador Jeff Ball, a Golden Ticket winner from Bandera 100k, who placed 50th and completed his first 100 mile race ever, while fellow Altra Ambassador Travis McWhorter placed 230th at his first Western States with a nail biting time of 29:33:34. Two of Altra’s international athletes, Katsutoshi Saijo from Japan and Thomas Lorblanchet from France, completed the course as well. Saijo finished in 51st place with Lorblanchet right behind him at 55th place.

The icing on the cake was “the golden hour”, that magical time between 29 and 30 hours, the official cutoff for the race. This year 61 year old, Karen Bonnett-Natraj, beat the clock with 6 seconds to spare, crossing the line in 29:59:51. The cheer from the crowd was louder for her than the overall winner of the race. The dedicated support from family, friends, sponsors, volunteers, and spectators throughout the race was overwhelming; each and every runner was supported and recognized whether they ran for 16 hours or 30 hours. Altra is proud to a part of the unbelievable community and culture surrounding this historic event and we cannot wait to see what Western States 2018 has in store. #seeyouinsquaw2018

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