2019 WS Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

SNOW YEAR? NOT QUITE … AT THE 2019 WESTERN STATES ENDURANCE RUN

Women’s champion Dauwalter and men’s champion Walmsley to defend titles against talented fields

The talk since the beginning of 2019 has been whether or not the Western States Endurance Run would be dramatically impacted by what seemed to be an endless Sierra winter. Although snow levels reached as much as 188 percent of normal earlier this spring, Race Director Craig Thornley reported earlier this week that the 46th running of the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race would not be using a re-routed or altered “snow course.” In fact, Thornley said, much of the snow from May had receded considerably for this year’s event, which starts on Saturday at 5 a.m. in Squaw Valley, Calif. The 100.2-mile event finishes at Placer High School in Auburn.

“There will be snow on the course, but the impact is going to be minimal compared to the way things looked during our Memorial Day Weekend training runs,” Thornley said. “We’ve had years where the snow was continuous for the first 25 to 30 miles of the course. That definitely won’t be the case this year.”

Based on reports from last weekend’s final trail maintenance work party, runners will encounter snow approximately four miles into the course for two miles, then in intermittent patches through Robinson Flat aid station at mile 30. Other than that, Thornley said the course is in “excellent” shape. Given a weather forecast that looks favorable on Saturday  – the National Weather Service is calling for a high of 78 for the 62-mile mark in Foresthill, California – this year’s race is shaping up to highly competitive.

“Both fields are deep, talented and should be exciting to watch,” Thornley said, noting that both men’s course record holder, 2018 champion Jim Walmsley of Flagstaff, Ariz., as well as 2018 women’s champion, Courtney Dauwalter of Golden, Colo., are back to defend their titles. “Jim and Courtney are running really well,” Thornley said, alluding to the world record for 50 miles on the roads Walmsley set earlier this spring in Sacramento, as well as Dauwalter’s dominant win at the Tarawera 100K in New Zealand in February. “Jim and Courtney are going to be challenged by a number of really talented runners from around the world, though. It should be a great race.”

Other top female entrants include 2018 runner-up, Kaytlyn Gerbin, of Issaquah, Wash., as well as third-place women’s finisher Lucy Bartholomew, of Melbourne, Australia, and fourth-place finisher Amanda Basham of North Logan, Utah. 2018 men’s third-place finisher Mark Hammond of Millcreek, Utah, along with fourth-place finisher Ian Sharman of Bend, Ore. (shooting for his 10th straight Top-10 finish) and fifth-place finisher and 2018 Hardrock 100 champion Jeff Browning of Logan, Utah, lead the men’s contenders.

This year’s Race will be one of the more internationally flavored events in recent memory, with 80 foreign-born entrants from more than 25 countries.

WSER will also feature a runner who is visually impaired, Kyle Robidoux, from Roxbury, Mass., as well as an amputee runner, Dave Mackey, of Boulder, Colo., who finished second overall in 2004 to Scott Jurek. Mackey will be vying to become the first amputee athlete to finish the race since Amy Palmiero Winters in 2010. Scott Mills, 68, of Oceanside, California, will attempt to become just the seventh runner in Western States history to finish the race 20 times or more.

2019 WSER will also feature a rare finish line scene. Due to Placer High School football field artificial turf installation, the iconic finish on the Placer High track will be run in a reverse direction. Runners will enter the LeFebvre Stadium gates and then run their final 250 meters on the track in a clockwise direction, which is a different direction than past years. Race organizers will utilize a large grassy area west of the traditional finish line for all Race activities, operations, and camping.

WHAT: 46th running of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run

WHEN: Saturday, June 29, 5 a.m. start at Squaw Valley, Calif., finish at Placer High School, Auburn, Calif. Western States Endurance Run: https://www.wser.org

WSER/WSTF Volunteer Steward Program Announcement

The Western States Endurance Run Foundation (WSERF, organizer of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run) and Western States Trail Foundation (WSTF, organizer of the Tevis Cup), in partnership with the American River Ranger District and Truckee Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), wish to announce the creation and implementation of a new model to maintain and improve the trail(s) used by both events.  The new Volunteer Steward Program, modeled after successful approaches used to maintain the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail, will rely on relatively small well-trained and highly committed groups of volunteers to maintain and improve the Western States and Tevis Trail system.

Although the courses for the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup vary in certain areas, they share the same trail over the majority of their 100 mile reach.  Both organizations have a long history with respect to use of the trail system, and have individually and in partnership built and maintained much of the trail that exists today.  Therefore it makes sense to draw from the resources of both organizations to create a focused and efficient system for trail maintenance and improvement.

This new system of trail management will be lead by John Catts (WSER finisher and volunteer, and equestrian), with support from Nicole Wertz (Tevis Trail Manager).  To facilitate trail management, the Western States trail system has been segregated into eight Trail Sections.  Each Trail Section has a designated Trail Section Lead, and these Section Leads are currently in the process of assembling their respective Trail Section Teams.  With a defined management structure and designated Section Leads our goal is to work closely with the USFS and ASRA to identify trail maintenance needs, and work with the USFS and ASRA to both maintain the trails and plan and implement special projects.

The Trail Sections and Trail Section Leads are as follows:

  • Robie Equestrian Park to Watson Monument – Jim Mather
  • Watson Monument to Red Star Ridge Aid Station – Craig Thornley
  • Red Star Ridge Aid Station to Robinson Flat – Kynan Matz
  • Robinson Flat to Pacific Slab Mine – Mark Falcone
  • Pacific Slab Mine to Foresthill – Chaz Sheya
  • Foresthill to Rucky Chucky/ Poverty Bar – Tim & Austin Twietmeyer
  • Rucky Chucky to Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road – Jay Marsh
  • Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road to Finish Lines – Kassandra DiMaggio & Andy Mayo

  Although a number of our Section Leads have current chain saw and first aid (with CPR) certification, we have set up training classes to keep our Section Leads and their core team members current with their training, and to provide training for those not yet certified. We have encouraged our Section Leads to participate in trail crew leadership workshops.  With a higher level of training and skill our Trail Section Teams should be able to more efficiently respond to trail related issues, and help plan and implement both regular maintenance and special projects over a greater portion of the year. 

With respect to entrants selected to participate in the Western States Endurance Run, and their mandatory volunteer requirement, the WSERF and WSTF want to continue to encourage participants to give back to our community, so the volunteer requirement will remain in effect.  Although there may be fewer opportunities to fulfill an 8-hour volunteer requirement on the Western States Trail system, there will likely be a one or two trail work opportunities each year that will be advertised on the WSER (wser.org) and Tevis Cup (teviscup.org) webpages.  These events will likely be special projects where we need greater numbers of people to move or place materials.  We will still organize the Robinson Flat Trail Work Campout and Celebration (June 21/22, 2019) to complete trail work in the High Country in advance of WSER and the Tevis Cup. And you are encouraged to join one of our Trail Section Teams by contacting a Section Lead or John Catts (trails@wser.org).

In addition there are many other opportunities to help our trail community, by volunteering your time to either do trail work or work an aid station or vet check (see the WSER and Tevis volunteer pages).  As an example The Canyons Endurance Run has already planned local trail work days on April 13/14, May 11/12, and July 6/7, with signup at ultrasignup. Because this is a shift in how the WSER and Tevis Cup trails have been maintained in the past (a handful of core individuals and a number of large volunteer days), it will take some time to optimize our new Volunteer Steward Program. So please feel free to join a team, provide constructive feedback, or participate in our Robinson Flat Campout to learn how you can help.

2019 Lottery Statistics

Last updated: November 30, 2018 at 9:21 am

The 2019 race lottery will be held on December 1, 2018 in front of a live audience at the Placer High School auditorium in Auburn, CA beginning at 8:30 a.m. PST. We expect to be done by 11:00 a.m. As names are pulled from the hat, they will be posted at https://www.ultralive.net/lottery as close to real-time as possible. There will also be a live video feed on our Facebook Page.

Demand for the race continues to increase as we have seen a 19% increase in the number of applicants for the 2019 lottery. There are 5862 applicants. This compares to 4909 in 2018 and 4248 in 2017.

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 Altra 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. The maximum number of years for the 2019 lottery is once again 7, or 64 tickets.

You can view the 2019 applicants and their ticket counts and pdf of the 20,119 tickets that will be printed, cut and then put into the barrel.

As we began in 2017, we are using a wait list model instead of overbooking like we had for decades to get the target 369 starters which is the number we are legally allowed to run through the Granite Chief Wilderness. 104 of those 369 are automatic entrants. 262 will be drawn in the lottery. The final three entrants to get to 369 will be drawn from those in the audience. We will also draw an additional 50 names for the ordered wait list. The probabilities for being selected as one of the 262 in the lottery or 50 on the wait list (312) are as follows:

  • 30 runners with 64 tickets, each has a 67.3% chance of getting drawn (18.1 estimated to be drawn in lottery + 2.1 estimated to be drawn for wait list)
  • 95 runners with 32 tickets, each has a 42.8% chance of getting drawn (35.1 + 5.6)
  • 191 runners with 16 tickets, each has a 24.4% chance of getting drawn (39.3 + 7.3)
  • 455 runners with 8 tickets, each has a 13.1% chance of getting drawn (49.6 + 9.8)
  • 697 runners with 4 tickets, each has a 6.8% chance of getting drawn (39.0 + 8.1)
  • 1281 runners with 2 tickets, each has a 3.4% chance of getting drawn (36.4 + 7.6)
  • 3113 runners with 1 ticket, each has a 1.7% chance of getting drawn (44.5 + 9.5)

So what are the chances of getting into the race if you are selected for the wait list? In 2018 the last person to get a spot on the starting line was drawn 36th on the wait list, in 2017 the 39th person got in. Here is data for the 2018 and 2017 wait lists including when each runner was offered a spot.

Good luck to all.

2018 Runner Survey Results

Here are the results of the independent Western States Endurance Run (WSER) Runner Survey from the June 23-24, 2018 race, conducted by ultralive.net.

WSER runner registration takes place in Squaw Valley Friday before race day and 2018 allowed for another year of the ultralive survey team to be in position. Runners are happy to participate while they wait in line for check-in providing us a 95% participation rate of the 369 starters.

Here are the surveys from 201420152016, and 2017.

Survey Questions

The runners were asked the following questions. Data was recorded by bib number allowing us to correlate the responses to finish times to make the analysis even more interesting. All data however is compiled and reported anonymously:

  • Number of 100’s completed
  • Number of years running ultras
  • Will they use a crew?
  • Will they use a pacer?
  • Did they attend the Memorial weekend training camp
  • Shoe brand
  • Sock brand
  • Pack type/brand
  • Lighting brand
  • Did they pay for coaching services?
  • A few questions about lodging for the race to share with host sites

This year’s race was the 9th hottest on record but that fact did not seem to impact the runners. Of the 369 starters we saw 299 finishers (81%) under 30 hours of which 123 (33.3%) finished under the coveted 24 hour mark for a Silver Buckle.

A total of 284 of the 299 finshers (95%) are in the survey.

Note: All graphs show numbers related to runners who participated in the survey and finished the race. DNS and DNF are not included in the final graphs.

Finish Hour

For sub 24 hour finishers completing the survey, 43 out of 123 (35%) finished in the 23rd hour of the race to get a silver buckle (compared to 36.2% in 2017 with only 69 Silver Buckles). In the last two hours of the race, there were 101 (40%) finishers. The busiest times on the track are typically between 4-5 AM and 9-11 AM on Sunday morning and 2018 proved no different. The graphs show the distribution of finishers by hour (14 hours to 29 hours).

Despite the heat in this year’s race, the finish rate of 81% is much higher than last year’s 67.2%.
An interesting data point for this year is that only “experienced” runners had a DNF – at least one 100 completed and over a year of ultrarunning.

Shoes

This is the fifth year Hoka was the most popular shoe (34.9%) for all finishers with Altra staying in second place with 23.2%. Salomon (10.9%) again was ahead of Brooks (6.0%) which was the second most popular shoe just three years ago (2015). The rankings remained the same for the top 3 most popular shoes with the sub-24 hour finishers as well. We acknowledge some runners did plan to change shoes during the race and may have changed to a different brand so we asked that they provide the brand they planned to start the race wearing.

Socks

Injinji was just barely the favorite over Drymax for the most popular sock choice for finishers. And it was Drymax ahead by sixteen over Injinji for the sub-24 hour finishers. The “other” category was quite large this year and runners seem to like a large variety of socks.

Paid Coaching Services

A little over a quarter of the runners use a paid coaching service for both the overall and sub-24 hour finishers. And from the data it seems that using a coach does not decrease the chance of a DNF compared to the finishers.

Memorial Weekend Training Camp

The training camp held on Memorial Weekend is a great weekend to get on the course for those running, supporting or spectating the race. Only a third of the runners in the survey attended the camp. However, attending camp does not seem to decrease the chance of a DNF as 38% of the runners who did not complete the race were at the training camp.

Lighting

Petzl’s remains the favorite light brand for all runners regardless of finish time (sub or over-24 hour) with Black Diamond second again. Only one runner was able to complete the course without a light – Jim Walmsley (and he did have a Petzl just in case!)


Packs

Salomon was the top choice for all runners (sub 24 and overall) with Ultimate Direction and Nathan in second and third. Not everyone chooses and pack and 38 responded to the survey saying they would only use handheld bottles for the race.


Crew and Pacer

The use of a crew and/or pacer are personal preference during a 100-mile race but may be more popular at WS – what are your thoughts? The following chart shows the correlation of using a pacer or crew to finish hour.


Special recognition should go to the 18 runners in the survey with no crew and no pacer. Five of them managed to finish in less than 24 hours to earn a well deserved silver buckle.

Data Accuracy

369 runners started the 2018 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Ultralive.net team surveyed a majority of those runners through the registration process at Squaw Final survey reflects N = 353 (95.6%) athletes though individual questions may vary if athlete did not answer or know answer. And also note that this analysis was done by amateur statisticians and inspired by the Ironman “bike survey” in Kona.

Credits

The team would like to thank all of the runners who took time to talk with us and answer these questions. Many thanks to the ultralive.net survey team: Kara Teklinski, Emily Yu and Jessi Goldstein.

Any feedback or insights are welcome!

Western States Radio Communications

This article originally appeared in the 2018 WSER Race Program and was written by Joe Steinmetz, WSER Ham Radio Coordinator

One of the most challenging aspects of the Western States Endurance Run is its rugged, remote trails, most dating back to the Gold Rush era. As much as these trails pose a challenge for the runners, they also provide a challenge for communications and the team of volunteers responsible for tracking them.

In today’s connected world, we can take communications for granted.  However, there is little or no cell coverage at most of the 21 aid stations that span the 100 miles of the Western States Endurance Run. Where there is limited cell phone coverage, network congestion can make reliable communication problematic, which can hinder any emergency operation that may be required.

Because of this, the Western States Endurance Run has always relied heavily on HAM radio communications for the safety and well-being of the runners, crews and volunteers. HAM radio is also used to track the location and time of runners along the course.

There are 369 runners (and their associated crews) and over 1500 volunteers along the Western States course. Of the 1500 volunteers, there are roughly 100 HAM radio operators.  You will find the “HAMs” spread out along the course: as radio-equipped sweep runners, aid-station radio operators, and “Net Control” at the finish.  They all play an important role in ensuring every runner’s safety.

Net Control: Net Control is the nerve center of all race logistics, communication, and webcast. Race management is on station for the entire event, and they work closely with the HAM radio operators to track all runners’ status and ensure access to emergency services  to anyone along the course, if needed.  At any time, there can be as many as 20 people inside Net Control efficiently coordinating the status of all runners on course.

Net Control (credit: Laurie Thornley)

Aid Stations: All aid stations, except the last two, have dedicated radio operators providing voice communications back to Net Control.  These HAMs use voice communications to communicate runner bib numbers and times, logistics related to evacuation or supplies, and most importantly any emergency communications.

Because there is no power at most aid stations, all radio communications must be done “off the grid”. So, you may see radio setups connected to car batteries, solar panels, or small generators. Because some of the locations are so remote, large antennas at heights of 35 feet may be required to reliably get a signal back to Net Control. The figure below shows the radio tent, antenna and equipment at Lyon Ridge for a typical remote site.

Lyon Ridge (credit: David Nishikawa)

Sweep Runners: Sweep runners ensure all runners are accounted for between aid stations. Each sweep team has at least two radio-equipped sweeps that can communicate with Net Control along the trail.  In this way, Net Control can quickly be notified of any runners requiring medical assistance or evacuation.

Two Sweep Runners (credit: Megan Barkve)

Repeaters: Linking all of these HAMs together is complex. Repeaters must be used by HAM radio operators along the race course as well as by Net Control for all voice communication. Repeaters are used to “relay” communication for one location to another. The Western States Endurance Run uses approximately 12 different HAM radio repeater systems to provide adequate coverage as runners spread out along the course. The repeaters are generally located on various mountain-tops. They are owned by HAM radio organizations and are provided to special events such as the Western States as a public service. The repeaters allow multiple aid stations to be active with communications simultaneously. They are used strategically based on their location relative to the location of the aid stations to ensure the best possible signal.

Voice Repeater

 

In some strategic locations, it may also be necessary to temporarily place a “portable-repeater” to ensure reliable communication for our sweep runners. These “portable-repeaters” will link in to other repeaters to reliably form a network of robust coverage throughout the course. The following figure shows how a portable repeater solves problems for the race.

Portable Repeater

WinLink: Voice communications are just part of  the Western States communication infrastructure.  It use to be quite tedious and error prone to verbally communicate runner numbers and arrival times at every aid station. To solve this problem, the Western States Endurance Run makes use of a technology called “WinLink 2000”. This technology essentially allows you to send an email over the radio consisting of a list of runner bib numbers and arrival times.  As amazing as this technology is, the speeds are still very slow at 1200 baud (remember dial up modems?) This is because of the complexity of reliably sending digital “data” over amateur radio. Despite the slow speed, because of the improvements in accuracy, WinLink can be used to communicate a runners status from the most remote location with minimal delay.

Rucky Chucky Radio/Winlink Setup (credit: Steve Tjonpiangi)

Digipeaters: WinLink equipped aid stations don’t use voice repeaters to get their emails back to Net Control. Instead they must find a particular “route” through various “nodes” before ultimately finding a suitable “gateway” to deliver the email to the internet. In some cases, there are gateways that can be directly accessed from an aid station. In other cases a message must “hop” from one node to another before finally being able to access the internet through a gateway. The ability to “hop” from one node to another is accomplished using a Digipeater or a KA-node. These are simply “digital-repeaters”, just like the voice counterparts, but optimized for digital traffic. Some are located on high mountain-tops, just like the voice repeaters, while others are temporarily placed in a strategic locations just for the race.

Hot Spots: There are just a couple of aid stations with reliable access to cell phone data networks. At these aid stations the runner bib numbers and arrival times are transmitted directly into the webcast database.

Keeping runners, crews and volunteers safe is our #1 priority. We are very appreciative of all the HAM radio volunteers as well as the local HAM radio community for making valuable radio infrastructure available to Western States Endurance Run.