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2016 WS 100 Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: John Trent, media relations, (775) 842-4871, president@wser.org

43rd WESTERN STATES 100-MILER FEATURES WIDE-OPEN MEN’S RACE, POTENTIALLY CLASSIC MATCHUP IN WOMEN’S RUN

A first-time champion will be crowned in men’s race; women’s race features defending champion Magdalena Boulet

For the first time in several years, the men’s race of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run appears to be wide open, with several of the world’s top ultra runners vying on June 25-26, 2016, to become a first-time champion. The women’s race will feature defending champion Magdalena Boulet, a former U.S. Olympic Marathon team member, who will be challenged by one of the deepest women’s fields in recent memory.

A field of more than 360 entrants from more than 30 countries, and more than 40 states will make the 43rd annual, 100.2-mile trek on Saturday morning from Squaw Valley, Calif., the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, before finishing at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif.

Western States, known as the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run, has a 30-hour time limit.

Boulet, 42, of Oakland, Calif., made her Western States debut in 2015 and despite going off course briefly early in the run, won in 19:05. The former UC-Berkeley track and cross-country standout has had a strong spring of training and racing, highlighted by her victory in the Canyons 100K (held in the iconic “Canyons” section of the Western States Trail) in May.

Boulet will be pressed by a number of strong female runners, including Kaci Lickteig of Omaha, Neb. The 29-year-old known as the “Pixie Ninja” finished second to Boulet in 2015, and posted a strong win on the mountainous Silver State 50-miler in Nevada in May. At least 20 other women have the potential of finishing in the women’s top 10, among them 55-year-old Meghan Arbogast, of Cool, Calif., who will be attempting to finish her 10th Western States – all in under 24 hours.

Another notable women’s entrant is Gunhild Swanson, 71, of Spokane Valley, Wash., who established the race’s over-60 record in 2005 in 25:40. She again made history last year with her dramatic finish, sprinting through the final 100 meters on the Placer High track with hundreds of assembled spectators screaming and cheering. Swanson finished a scant six seconds under the run’s 30-hour time limit to become the oldest female finisher in Western States history.

With two-time defending champion Rob Krar choosing not to run this year, Western States will crown a first-time champion for the first time since Krar’s first victory in 2014. The top returning runner from last year’s top 10 is Thomas Lorbanchlet, of France, who finished fifth. The field doesn’t lack talent or accomplishment, however, as among the entrants are Francois D’Haene, a former Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc (UTMB) champion who finished 14th at Western States last year; David Laney of Portland, Ore., who finished third at UTMB last year and was eighth at Western States in 2016; Sage Canaday, of Boulder, Colo., a former U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier who has excelled on the American tour of 50-mile and 100K distances; first-time 100-mile runner Jim Walmsley, of Flagstaff, Ariz., the JFK 50-mile and Sonoma 50-mile champion; and perhaps the most consistent 100-mile racer in the world in Ian Sharman, of Bend, Ore., who has placed in the top 10 at Western States for six consecutive years.

In an effort to celebrate the event, the Placer County Visitor Bureau has created two large banners which will be flying in Auburn. The group is also organizing a beer garden across from the track from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday. The finish line is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. The first male will finish sometime around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., with the first female to finish around 10 p.m.

WHAT: 43nd running of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run

WHEN: Saturday, June 25, 5 a.m. start at Squaw Valley, Calif., finish at Placer High School, Auburn, Calif. More than 360 trail runners from more than 30 countries and more than 40 states to compete.

Western States is Now Cup-Free

This year WSER is dumping the cup. In other words, aid stations will no longer provide cups for drinking. Instead, runners and pacers will need to carry their own cups, or better yet simply rely on their water bottles or hydration packs in order to drink beverages at the aid stations. Collapsible cups will be available at the WSER store for runners who may wish to purchase one before the race.

Our new cupless initiative is just one small step in our continuing effort to adopt more sustainable event practices. It will keep an estimated 21,000 disposable cups out of the waste stream and save the race approximately $900 in operation expenses each year.

WSER is also continuing to partner with Placer County and members of the Placer High School Music Boosters to recycle as much as we can. Special containers will be placed at all aid stations and throughout the finish line area to collect aluminum and plastic beverage containers, which the Boosters redeem to support student participation in Placer High School’s various music programs.

210982 - Trash & Recycling Labels-proof 4

The remainder of our race’s garbage is processed through Placer County’s One Big Bin recycling program. Placer is one of only six counties in California that operates a mixed waste Materials Recovery Facility also known as a dirty MRF which functions to separate recyclable materials from the waste stream. The MRF has enabled the county to achieve a 100% participation rate in its recycling program, and successfully diverts up to 50% of the overall materials it collects from our landfill.

Race director emeritus Greg Soderlund, a transformational figure in the history of Western States, passes away

For a man who never lost his cool, whose thin, veined hands were always steady, whose voice was gentle and understatedly calm and informed by an uncommon amount of patience and decency and who lived his life as a race director by a simple code – “Never let your runners see you sweat” – there was always one sight that made him pause and think about what would lay ahead for the runners of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

“That headwall,” Greg Soderlund once told a friend a few years ago. Soderlund held a cup of his favored Starbucks in his hand, stretched his long legs and pointed them to the nearby mountains and the majestic stone headwall rising golden in the sun-drenched morning a couple of thousand feet above the floor of Squaw Valley. Soderlund flashed one of his trademark grins, which always seemed to border on being shy, as if he was always careful, caring of how far his conversation was to pull you in. “Even with all of the training and the preparation, running Western States can become something of an abstraction.

Greg Soderlund

Greg Soderlund

“But when our runners drive to this spot for the first time, and they look up at that headwall, Western States becomes completely and surprisingly very real to them. You can see it in their faces, and read it in their eyes. For the first time since the lottery in December, they realize they’ve taken on a full challenge that, for many of them, is a challenge of a lifetime. And that’s what I try to always remember as the race director of our race. Western States has to be special. It has to be something that our runners will talk about their entire lives – a day, a night, and maybe a next day, that when they talk about it years from now, it has changed their lives forever.”

True to his word, Soderlund, who served as Western States’ race director for 13 years, from 2000-2012, with an additional year as a consultant, made each Western States he directed memorable for thousands of runners and thousands more of volunteers and race personnel.

The Run that he wished would change lives did just that.

Lives that were altered included his own.

“It’s changed my life,” Soderlund said of Western States in a 2013 interview, not long after he announced his retirement due to health considerations. “It’s been my focus for 13 ½ years.”

Soderlund, who had battled cancer for more than three years and had remained active until only the past few weeks, passed away at around 8 p.m., on Monday, April 11, with his wife, Mary, at his side at the couple’s home in Sacramento, Calif.

Soderlund was 68 years old.

John Medinger, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees, called Soderlund a “giant” in the sport.

“He was our race director for 13 years – the most unflappable RD ever,” Medinger said. “Nothing ever seemed to bother him. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. He did everything the right way – a true giant in our sport.”

Added Mo Livermore, one of the Run’s founders and the longest-serving member of the Western States Board: “It was that twinkle in his eye, and that wry grin … It made you smile, just to be around Greg. With irrepressible optimism and boundless enthusiasm for all things Western States, Greg energetically, masterfully, and carefully nurtured the growth and development of the organization at a challenging time in the race’s history, while honoring and preserving its founding principles and core values.”

As Livermore noted, it was Soderlund’s remarkable abilities of organization, tempered by the warmth of his personality, which drew others to him, galvanized the volunteer base of the Run, and set Western States on a course of unprecedented and historic growth and world-wide notoriety, firmly cementing its place on the ultra landscape as the most competitive 100-mile trail run in the world.

Under Soderlund’s direction, Western States saw its annual lottery swell to nearly 2,000 applicants from only a few hundred before he assumed his duties. Working closely with presenting sponsor Montrail, Soderlund helped Montrail develop a series of Western States qualifying races, called the Montrail Ultra Cup, which fostered greater competitive depth of the elite men’s and women’s fields, making Western States “the” first choice of the sport’s most talented trail runners. In addition, Soderlund’s tenure as race director was marked by trail maintenance efforts, volunteer numbers, sponsorships and medical research projects that all reached record levels.

Mark Falcone, a longtime Board member and also the Run’s longtime trail boss, said a Soderlund strength was the great breadth of abilities he possessed. Soderlund, Falcone said, was very involved not only in the management of the Run, but in establishing the foundation of trail work volunteers that continues to power the event today.

“The Western States Trail itself was Greg’s love,” Falcone said. “I remember in 2004 when he started the push to get Duncan Canyon open (following a devastating 2001 fire). He pulled in so many great folks and started the true collaboration of trail stewardship.

“The best part of all of this is Greg fostered this joint trail vision with the goal of preserving the forest and the event’s true route. He deserves so much credit for making this happen.”

Falcone then chuckled, recalling further when fellow Board and trail team member Donn Zea acquired the talents of an explosives expert that helped rid the trail of dangerous remnants of burned-out trees. The rather shaggy-looking explosives expert, to put it mildly, did not exactly inspire initial confidence in Soderlund, who had served in the military during Vietnam and was always impeccably dressed, in freshly pressed clothing and with a clean-shaven face.

And yet, Falcone said, Soderlund quickly found common ground with the explosives crew.

“The best part of the Duncan adventure was Donn’s Yosemite Sam Acme Explosives Crew,” Falcone said. “The look on Greg’s face when we blew up trees with, yes, dynamite, was pure boyish. Greg’s smile … a memory seared into my brain. The Western States Trail will always have his spirit.”

“I can say quite literally Greg had a wonderful impact on my life,” added Zea, who recalled it was through his work with The Forest Foundation, one of the Run’s eventual partners in an agreement that was forged with Soderlund, that brought Zea more actively into involvement with the Run. “I’ll never forget the look on his face at the 2006 lottery when, on my last of 10 draws from the Gatorade bucket, I handed him the ticket with my name on it and he gave me that Soderlund grin.

“I will miss him.”

Board member Tia Bodington first met Soderlund during the Western States Memorial Day Weekend Training Camp in 2001.

“I was camping at the group camp near Foresthill, and this guy shows up and starts to put up a tarp to protect some race gear,” said Bodington, who is also race director of one of the country’s most successful 100K’s, Miwok, in the Marin Headlands. “He was struggling to do it by himself so I wandered over to help and discovered that he was none other than the Western States RD – Greg Soderlund. We corresponded about race management periodically ever since then and I learned a lot about race directing from Greg, but that first day in 2001 is what made a huge impression on me – when all is said and done, it is the race director’s job to make sure every detail is taken care of.”

Ironically, the Run that Soderlund would help elevate initially received a pleasant “no” from him when he was asked if he would like to be a candidate to succeed the retiring Norm Klein as race director.

It was 1999, and Soderlund was already an eminently successful RD of four major northern California ultras, plus the Four Bridges half-marathon in Folsom, Calif.

“I looked at it and said, ‘No,’” Soderlund recalled in 2013. “To be fair to the other races, I knew I just didn’t have the time (for Western States).”

Eventually, though, Soderlund did become a candidate, and by early 2000 he was in charge of the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run.

“My initial impression of Greg was his incredible ability to take a 360-degree view of the Run and appropriately allocate his attention from the least complex to most complex details,” said Charles Savage, who was president of the Board when Soderlund was chosen. “There was no panic button on his dash. Greg was great with volunteers and to his credit he attracted a devoted team who would do anything to help out at the Run.”

Added Medinger, also on the Board then: “Greg was the obvious choice … the only choice, really.”

Soderlund very quickly took his role seriously.

“Somebody once said Western States is like getting married,” he said. “For six months, you wake up every morning and think about it. For six months, you go to bed each night and then you dream about it. Every day for six months, it’s the first thing and the last thing you think about. So, yes, I was feeling a lot of pressure that first year to make sure we got everything right.”

Denis Zilaff, a Western States Board member who has also been a key player in the development and success of the California International Marathon, was a friend to Soderlund for more than 25 years. He remembered Soderlund, a trained surgeon’s assistant, as someone who was exceedingly caring of all runners, of all ability levels.

“At every training run or race, Greg passed on words of wisdom,” Zilaff said. “He knew why runners get into trouble or fail to finish races and he would always caution runners about those issues. I’ve heard Greg give advice to those as experienced as (five-time Western States champion) Tim Twietmeyer as well as the person running his first ultra. This combination of organization, caring and mentoring made Greg special and set him apart from other race directors.”

For Twietmeyer, a five-time race champion, 25-time finisher and past president of the Board, Soderlund represented the perfect amalgam of scientific knowledge, insight into the human condition, and a strong spirit that even if it didn’t always find perfection, worked every day to achieve it.

Soderlund served in the Vietnam War as a surgeon’s assistant in a MASH unit and for many years was considered one of the top orthopedic surgical assistants in Sacramento. There were few crises – or seeming crises – that Soderlund hadn’t already calmly faced.

“Greg had this great balance between organization, with attention to detail, and an easy-going, calm personal style,” Twietmeyer said. “I’m sure his military background and hospital work taught him to be calm in a crisis. What glued it all together was that he was fun to work with. He had this great balance which is really remarkable.”

Twietmeyer said he always liked to tease Soderlund that as race director of the world’s best-known ultra, “Greg was earning about 45 cents an hour because he worked so endlessly at improving the event. It was all in fun, because I knew how Greg was: He’d work every hour of the day to get the race just the way he envisioned it. He told me that he obviously wasn’t in it for the pay, that his real reward was seeing the outpouring of runner elation and the genuine ‘thank you’ he’d receive as he hung the medallion onto the neck of another finisher.

“He knew by experience how finishing the race changed people’s lives and wanted to see that first-hand by being there to greet them at the finish line.”

Gary Towle, Western States’ longtime treasurer who quickly became one of Soderlund’s closest friends following Soderlund’s appointment as RD in 2000, said Soderlund was never de-railed by setbacks. This included the painful process of regular home-administered dialysis treatments over the past few years as Soderlund battled cancer. His cancer had included removal of both kidneys.

Despite the constant checks of pathology and dialysis, there was always a sense of optimism, Towle said.

“Greg was always future-oriented,” Towle said of Soderlund, who maintained a vigorous walking schedule, along with daily sets of pushups.

Soderlund recovered enough of his fitness during his illness to walk the Davis Stampede Half-Marathon in 2014. And, there was even a time where he engaged in a running duel for a mile with a landscaper who was sitting on an excruciatingly slow moving lawn mower.

“I think I got the better of him that day,” Soderlund said, chuckling. Of his cancer, Soderlund said he honestly did not have time to fill his days with negative thoughts. “I don’t give myself time,” he said. “I see all the positives.”

He was also a devoted husband. His wife of nearly 30 years, Mary, was always a key contributor to the Run, and, Soderlund often said, the perfect partner.

“She’s been my cheerleader, my advisor on business decisions – she’s got a good business head on her shoulders,” Soderlund said. “I would constantly run things by her, even before I would call the board president. There’s a lot of Mary in this race, too, though people may not realize it.”

Towle recalled that one of Soderlund’s final “good days” occurred on April 2, during the American River 50-Mile, a run that starts in Folsom and winds up the American River drainage to the Auburn Overlook, which is only a stone’s throw away from Placer High School and the finish of the Western States 100.

“I picked Greg up at his house and we went to his favorite restaurant in Auburn,” Towle said. “He wolfed down a huge breakfast and we headed for the AR 50 finish line where he visited all his running community buddies and cheered on the finishers. After the women’s winner, Devon Yanko, finished, I asked Greg if he wanted to head home. Greg said, ‘Not until Tim finishes. He should be in about 7:50.’

“Tim finished in 7:49. Greg cheered him in, and was ready to go home to rest.”

Details of a memorial service, which will likely be held in a few months, will be made available via the Western States website.

Updated Performance Rule 18 (PEDS)

For the past several months, the community of ultra runners has been actively engaged in a dialogue regarding the place of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the sport of ultrarunning.  The question of how to keep ultrarunning a clean and drug-free sport is one of the defining issues in our sport today. In an effort to address this issue, the members of the Western States Endurance Run Foundation Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to adopt the following new performance rule, now known as “Performance Rule 18.”

Performance Rule 18 reads:

“The Western States Endurance Run has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Any athlete who has been determined to have violated anti-doping rules or policies, whether enforced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), or any other national sports federation is ineligible for entry into the Western States Endurance Run.

“The Western States Endurance Run reserves the right to conduct pre- and post-competition testing for any and all performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) listed on the current WADA Prohibited List. Any athlete who refuses to submit to anti-doping controls, if selected for testing, shall be disqualified and subject to a lifetime ban from the Western States Endurance Run.”

2016 Lottery Statistics

Last updated: December 4, 2015 at 13:10 pm

There are 3510 applicants entered in the December 5, 2015 lottery for the 43rd running of the Western States Endurance Run on June 25-26, 2016 (a.k.a. the 2016 Lottery). This is a 37% increase from the previous year. Recall that we tightened the qualifying standards beginning with the 2015 lottery and saw a slight reduction of applicants.

LotteryApplcantsByYear

As described on our lottery page, each runner who enters the lottery and fails to gain entry into the Run (and otherwise doesn’t gain an entry via other means such as an aid station, sponsor, or Golden Ticket spot) will have additional tickets in the hat when entering the lottery the following year, thus improving the probability of being selected. Every lottery applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the hat where n is the number of consecutive years entering the lottery without gaining entry. That is, 1st year applicants = 1 ticket, 2nd year = 2 tickets, 3rd year = 4 tickets, 4th year = 8 tickets, 5th year = 16 tickets, 6th year = 32 tickets, 7th year = 64 tickets. 2010 was the first year we started accumulating tickets so maximum number of years for the 2016 lottery is 7, or 64 tickets.

Here is final list of 2016 lottery applicants and the pdf of the tickets that will go into the barrel.

We expect to draw 270 unique names, and have calculated the probabilities of being selected as follows:

5 folks with 64 tickets, each has a 90.8% chance of getting drawn (4.5 estimated to be drawn)
14 folks with 32 tickets, each has a 69.7% chance of getting drawn (9.8)
71 folks with 16 tickets, each has a 44.9% chance of getting drawn (31.9)
171 folks with 8 tickets, each has a 25.8% chance of getting drawn (44.1)
377 folks with 4 tickets, each has a 13.8% chance of getting drawn (52.2)
639 folks with 2 tickets, each has a 7.2% chance of getting drawn (45.9)
2233 folks with 1 ticket, each has a 3.6% chance of getting drawn (81.6)

2016 Lottery Monte Carlo Simulation

2016 Lottery Monte Carlo Simulation

The lottery will take place at the Placer HS auditorium, in Auburn, CA. We will begin introductions a little before 8:30 a.m. PST and then begin drawing names shortly thereafter. We expect to be done by 11 a.m.

As names are pulled from the hat, they will be posted at http://lottery.ultralive.net/ as close to real-time as possible. There will also be a live video feed at our Ustream channel.

Good luck to everyone.