Dr. Bob Lind, pioneering medical director and key figure in history of Western States, passes away at age 81

Dr. Robert Lind, founding board member, medical director emeritus and a towering figure in the history of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, passed away on March 2.

Lind, who had been battling cancer, was 81.

“Bob was a genuinely kind and enthusiastic man,” said John Medinger, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees. “He contributed hugely to the advancement of medical knowledge of endurance running, and encouraged hundreds of distressed runners to make it to the finish line. An old-school doctor, he famously said that he’d examine a runner and make a determination by ‘looking into his eyes to see if his soul had separated from his body.’

“He was a huge part of the Western States family. It’s hard to imagine the race without him.”

As Medinger indicated, Lind’s influence on the Run was profound.

Lind’s association with Western States began in August 1974, when a family friend, runner and Tevis Cup competitor Gordy Ainsleigh ran the 100-mile distance of the Tevis Cup from Squaw Valley to Auburn in under 24 hours. Lind, a physician from Roseville, Calif., had served as the medical director for the riders of the Tevis Cup. He was on hand throughout the day and night to monitor Ainsleigh’s physical condition.

Over the next three decades, until his retirement in 2006, Lind would serve as Western States’ medical director, meticulously recording vital signs and other medical data on lined sheets that after each Run, he stored in his garage at his home in Roseville. The data have since become a living medical record of the Run. Lind’s medical assistance for a race field that grew from three finishers in 1977 to a federally mandated limit of 369 runners over the final two decades of his tenure, has often been credited for the Run’s increasingly high finish rates.

Western States runners through the years took Lind’s sagacious advice on fueling and pacing to heart. They would quote verbatim the understatedly thoughtful instructions Lind would deliver during the run’s pre-race briefing in Squaw Valley.

Finish 1986 (3)

Five-time Western States champion, 25-time Run finisher and board member Tim Twietmeyer recalled listening to Lind in the spring of 1980 during a Western States clinic at the old State Theatre in Auburn, Calif.

“The race folks talked about the event and Doc Lind talked about the medical implications of trying to run 100 miles,” Twietmeyer said. “We then went for a 20-mile run from Green Gate to the finish, and I got destroyed. The one phrase he used that day and continued to use over the years was, ‘A pint’s a pound the world around.’ How could I ever forget that? His point was that as your weight goes down during the race you’re losing fluids and you need to pay attention to that so that it doesn’t go too low … once too low it’s hard to get back to something normal.

“The old doctor adage, ‘if you listen to your patient long enough they’ll soon tell you what’s wrong with them’ held true for me with Dr. Lind, only it was more like, ‘if you listened to Dr. Lind enough he’d soon tell you the secrets to finishing Western States.’”

Twietmeyer, whose association with the Run goes back 36 years, said that in all that time, he never saw Lind lose his temper, or grow short with any crew, volunteer or runner. Twietmeyer said Lind had a Dr. Welby-like patience with all he encountered.

“I’ve never seen him flustered,” Twietmeyer said. “I actually had him as my personal physician for a bit and that was one of his endearing qualities; he was soft-spoken but really knew what he was talking about. He’d occasionally stump me when he’d start dropping a mitochondria or two into the conversation, but that gave me a reason to do some homework on that when our conversation was over.”

Twietmeyer took a long pause, then added, “Dr. Lind was one of the Western States originals. The event wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”

Lind, a board member from 1977-2006, was the driving force behind the development of Western States’ medical research program, which is universally considered the most successful and influential of any medical research program associated with a race in the sport of ultra running.

Lind encouraged exercise physiologists and human performance researchers from throughout the country to visit California each June to conduct studies that have since provided the foundational knowledge, key performance breakthroughs and innovative ways of understanding how the body withstands the physiological stresses of 100-mile runs. Lind has long been credited with creating numerous medical protocols that continue to be considered best practices by ultra events worldwide.

Some of the earliest research studies concerning the physiology of endurance running can be found at Western States, starting with a 1980 study (published in 1981 in the New England Journal of Medicine) conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Walter Bortz of Stanford University.

western states 2003 Dr Lind

According to Bortz, it was Lind’s inquisitive and collaborative nature that helped pave the way for his research team, and others that were soon to follow. Lind welcomed them all to conduct studies in Western States’ special “outdoor laboratory.”

“Bob Lind was incredibly generous in his support and encouragement of medical researchers from throughout the world … he always made them feel welcome, and made sure their work was given the respect it deserved at Western States,” Bortz recalled in an interview several years ago. “Without Bob Lind, there would not have been this impressive body of medical research that has been conducted at Western States. Bob set the stage, and he did so in the most collaborative and encouraging manner possible.”

And then there was the shotgun. Lind had grown up on a farm in Iowa. He had taught his sons, Paul and Kurt, to safely handle the family’s single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun. Before every Western States, Lind would take two shotgun shells, and with the precision of a jeweler, he’d carefully stencil on the shell’s casing the inscription, “WS 100,” followed by the date of that year’s run. Then, when race morning would arrive for Western States’ runners, Lind, at 5 a.m., would discharge his shotgun into the chilled Squaw Valley air, sending the runners officially off.

ShotgunShells

Lind performed his starter’s duty like clockwork, throughout his association with Western States, including for the final time on the morning of June 27, 2015. Weakened because of his cancer treatments and steadied by Paul and Kurt, a smiling Lind fired his 20-gauge into the air to start the 2015 edition of the Run.

Paul, who finished the 2015 Run in under 24 hours in honor of his father, said later that the shotgun start of each Western States was a major moment for his otherwise low-key father, as well as for the entire Lind family.

“Starting a race like Western States with a whistle or a horn just wasn’t appropriate,” Paul said. “You need to start a race like Western States in a special way. It’s a very sacred thing.

“With the shotgun, we’ve kept it in the family.”

IMG_0071

It was this sense of family that many individuals who met Lind over the years felt. It was most notable in his presence, when Lind would engage in long, deep and meaningful conversations about the lore of the run, as well as the secrets of Western States success he had unearthed as medical director.

Mo Livermore, one of the founders of the Western States Endurance Run organization, recalled that in August of 1977, as 14 runners from four states wandered around the edge of the old horse pasture at Squaw Valley waiting for the Friday briefing to begin before the very first “Western States Endurance Run”, it was Lind, yellow legal pad in hand upon which to record the runners’ weight and vital signs, who greeted her with a welcoming grin.

“From that first hello, Bob was always so kind and considerate,” Livermore recalled. “His first question to me was, ‘Well, what should we check the runners for?’ I was a 25-year-old endurance rider with no medical background who had been asked to just help out as a timer for the event; he was an eminent physician who was now asking me to be on his team. Bob waited patiently for my answer, listening intently as I stammered nervously, drawing on the full extent of my medical knowledge, which at the time had only to do with horses, ‘Uh, pulse and respiration?’”

Livermore added that Lind’s impact on the Run went far beyond medical assistance. She said it was Lind’s empathetic nature and his genuine interest and care for all the people he met, that made him special.

“Bob’s wisdom and perspective, combined with his gentle manner, guided all of us who were part of that first Run safely through the wild unknown, setting the stage for the creation of a permanent event,” she said. “Bob became a founding member of the Western Sates Endurance Run Foundation Board, leading the development of the medical teams which have helped ensure the safety of runners throughout the decades. He was fascinated by the challenge of running the Western States Trail, and his interest, skills, and spirit empowered countless runners to push away their demons to reach a successful finish. It was Bob’s beaming smile and persistent, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer encouragement that helped me out of a lounge chair at the 70-mile point after sleeping for more than two hours, effectively launching me down the trail for a finish. That buckle is one of thousands which shines with Bob’s light.”

The Lind family, in a statement, added: “Our Dad was above all a compassionate humanitarian, for all the runners, finishers, non-finishers, crews, aid station folks and volunteers, and always sought to advocate human health, welfare and well-being.”

Lind, as many indicated, was an important psychological presence for the Run. He had said in an interview in 1980 that running Western States was not exactly normal behavior – though physiologically, running 100 miles over demanding mountain terrain was entirely doable. Fueling, hydration, pacing, cooling the inner core of the body through external application of ice and the consumption of cold fluid, never over-exerting to the point of exhaustion, were central entry points in Lind’s understanding of the stresses Western States’ runners faced.

Context, both medically and psychologically, he believed, was everything. What was perhaps not considered normal behavior on a neighborhood street in Roseville could be considered entirely normal on the fourth Saturday of every June on the Western States Trail.

“You’re pushing human endurance beyond the point where anybody knows what the hell is happening,” Lind told People Magazine in 1980, explaining why he felt it was important to monitor blood pressure, pulse, and urine throughout the Run’s then five medical checkpoints. “If you went into a hospital and had these tests done, every one (of Western States’ entrants) would be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit.”

By the mid-1980s, Lind, with his proven experience of treating endurance runners under the extreme duress of heat, elevation, and rugged terrain, was considered one of the leading voices of physiological performance in the world.

He was an early proponent of heat training – “The difference in salt loss can be tenfold or more between people who are acclimated to the heat and those who are not,” Lind was quoted in the best-selling “Runner’s Handbook” in 1986. Lind also loved his home remedies, which included novel ideas such as eating potato chips and ice as way to ward off low sodium levels at the end of races. “The salt and ice in the mouth form a solution of concentrated salt,” Lind told the Chicago Tribune in one interview. “It’s as good a technique as we’ve found for preventing low sodium levels in a large number of athletes.”

Lind, though a medical practitioner by profession, often expressed his admiration of the runners of Western States in poetic, almost mystical terms. When he spoke of WS runners, his words would become elegant, and rich with imagery, like a last wash of daylight.

“For the runners who finish in more than 24 hours but in less than 30 hours, you have two suns to work through, which can present significant metabolic problems if you are not careful,” he once said. “It’s interesting to note, however, that with the second sunrise can come renewed hope and motivation. Western States runners are often very optimistic people by nature. Our runners, perhaps more than any other runners on the planet, clearly understand that a second sunrise can mean a rebirth and a renewed chance for success.

“The second sunrise is a powerful psychological tool. We realize that with rebirth, with renewal, there is still time to get to the finish. The spirit sometimes can find ways to inform and soothe the body. It’s a fascinating process to witness. Even as a doctor, I am always moved by the way our runners handle such moments.”

Lind is survived by sons, Paul, a two-time Western States finisher, of Challis, Idaho, and Kurt, of Turlock, Calif., as well as four grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life for Bob will be held at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Saturday, April 23rd, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Western States Endurance Run Foundation, “in honor of Bob Lind, M.D.” for the preservation, maintenance, and improvement of the Western States Trail. (WSER, 8300 Niessen Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628).

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.

 

Altra Named Exclusive Footwear Sponsor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Craig Thornley, WS 100 race director, rd@wser.org. and
Colleen Logan, VP Marketing, clogan@iconfitness.com

ALTRA NAMED EXCLUSIVE FOOTWEAR SPONSOR OF WESTERN STATES 100

The world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race announces partnership with Altra Footwear

AUBURN, Calif. – Altra Footwear has been named the exclusive footwear sponsor of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, Western States 100 President John Medinger announced today. Altra is also the sponsor of the Altra 6K Uphill Challenge, beginning at the Western States start line and ending at High Camp. The Challenge takes place at 10 am on Friday, June 24 and is free and open to all.

“Over the course of the past several months, we talked to several footwear companies about their vision for a partnership with our Run,” Medinger said. “It became increasingly apparent, in our discussions with Altra Footwear Co-Founders Jeremy Howlett and Brian Beckstead, that Altra has a compelling vision for a partnership that we feel will immensely benefit our Run, the runners who come from across the globe to run our race, and the Western States community of friends and volunteers who have an incredible personal investment in what we do.

“Altra is a company that is clearly on a rapid and exciting trajectory. They are a company of high ethical grounding that appeals to all ability levels. And, they have a keen eye for where the sport is headed. They really do ‘get’ what we stand for as an organization, and they’ve made it very clear that our partnership will not only benefit our Run, but the sport in general.

“We are incredibly pleased to announce this partnership.”

Altra, which is located in Utah, traces its roots back to the work of founder Golden Harper, Beckstead and Howlett, who began experimenting with a better performing shoe which they named “ZeroDrop™” – the name refers to the lack of differential between the shoe’s heel and forefoot area. The shoe is also known for its distinctive FootShape™ toebox instead of the constrictive V-shaped toe box of virtually every other brand of running shoes.

“Altra Running and Western States Endurance Run are a natural combination, because we are both true pioneers in our respective fields,” said Brian Beckstead, Altra co-founder and VP of sales. “Western States invented the ultra-running race with the first ever 100-mile race in 1974. Altra pioneered running shoe design with a roomy foot-shaped toe box and a zero drop platform.”

Altra’s first – and only – product in their first line of shoes won “Best Debut” by Runner’s World in March 2012 and “Editor’s Pick for Most Innovative” by Competitor magazine in September 2011

When the line expanded to trail running shoes, the Altra Lone Peak was named “Editor’s Choice” by Runner’s World. Most recently, in Spring 2015, the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe won Editor’s Choice from both Runner’s World and Trail Runner. In Fall 2015, Altra Lone Peak Neoshell won “Best Weatherproof” from Competitor magazine, “Best Trail Running Shoes of 2015” from Men’s Journal and was selected for the Summer Gear Guide by Outside magazine.

The shoe’s unique Foot-Shaped toe box was an immediate hit with the ultra-running community, who necessarily spend continuous hours on their feet.

At the 2015 Western States 100, Altra shot to third place in the official shoe count at 16% of all finishers and 16% of all sub-24 finishers. In just a little more than 4 years, Altra has catapulted to the third largest trail shoe brand in the Run Specialty channel and now has 3 of the top 10 selling shoes in the industry, according to research from NPD.

“Ultra runners really appreciate Altra’s FootShape Toebox.  It allows your toes to spread out which provides a relaxing comfortable place for your feet to be and provides a stable base over rocky terrain.  At Mile 87 it’s particularly effective!” said Beckstead, who completed UTMB, Ultra Trail Mount Blanc in August in Chamonix, then two weeks later ran the Wasatch 100 in less than 30 hours.

The Western States 100-Mile Endurance run, first held in 1974, is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run. Held on the last weekend in June in Squaw Valley, Calif., Western States brings together runners from around the globe and from all 50 states for what is considered the world’s most competitive 100-mile race.

2015 Runner Survey Results

Here are the results of the independent WSER Runner Survey from the June 27-28, 2015 race, conducted by ultralive.net.

All runners have to go through check-in the day before the race in Squaw Valley and the survey team was positioned at the entrance of the check-in. Participation was completely voluntary and 94% of starters took some extra time to answer the 10 questions. We were able to correlate the data to finish times to make the analysis even more interesting.

Survey Questions

The runners were asked the following questions:

  • 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
  • Lighting system
  • Did they pay for coaching services?

For 2015 edition of the WSER, there were 371 official starters, 254 finishers (68.5%) in under 30 hours, and 96 finishing (25.9%) under 24 hours for the coveted Silver Buckle.

The survey had 349 participants (94% of the entrants) including nearly all of the elite runners. Of the survey participants 238 finished (68.2%) and 90 finished in under 24 hours (25.8%).

Note: All graphs show numbers related to runners who participated in the survey and finished the race in under 30 hours.

Finish Hour

For sub 24 hour finishers, 28 out of 90 (31.1%) finished in the 23rd hour of the race to get a silver buckle. In the last two hours of the race, there were 81 (34%) finishers. The busiest times on the track are between 4-5 AM and 9-11 AM on Sunday morning. The graphs show the distribution of finishers by hour (14 hours to 29 hours). The first graph shows the average number of years running ultras compared to finishing time. The data implies that the number of years of experience does not correlate to a faster or slower finish time. The second graph shows the number of runners utilizing a crew or pacer compared to finishing time. Of the survey participants, 21 finished without a crew (8.8%) and 29 finished without a pacer (12.2%). And 10 (4.2%) hardcore participants finished without a crew and pacer. And finally, 3 of the 10 “screwed” runners earned a Silver Buckle.

 

survey_2015_finish_hour
survey_2015_crew_pacer

Shoes

For the second year in a row Hoka was the dominant shoe for all finishers regardless of the group. For the sub 24 hour finishers, Altra took over second place after not even being on the radar in last year’s survey. Again, Brooks was a strong second when you look at the overall finishers.

 

survey_2015_shoes

survey_2015_shoes_sub24

Socks

Injinji was the clear choice for both the overall and sub 24 groups. Drymax was again second in both groups as well. The “others” category is quite large and might mean people need to pay attention to what they wear on their feet.

 

survey_2015_sock

survey_2015_sock_sub24

Paid Coaching Services

It seems there are a lot of ultrarunning coaching services out there yet very few WSER finishers use them. Maybe because a lot of the coaches actually ran the race this year. Or ultrarunners are an independent bunch and don’t like a training schedule. The percentage was even lower than last year (2014 – 20.3% had a coach)

 

survey_2015_paid_coaching

survey_2015_paid_coaching_sub24

Lighting

For the second year in a row, Petzl was the favorite light brand for runners finishing the race.

This year only the first 5 finishers (sub 16 hours) ran without the assistance of lights as compared to 9 in 2014.

And we are pretty sure Rob Krar didn’t even pack a headlamp again.

survey_2015_lighting

survey_2015_lighting_sub24

Packs

Ultimate Direction dominated as the choice of pack for both sub 24 hour and overall finishers. For the faster runners (sub 24), the Salomon pack was second favorite and Nathan was third. This order flip-flopped for the overall finishers.

survey_2015_pack

survey_2015_pack_sub24

Data Accuracy

  • 371 runners started the 2015 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 = 349 athletes though individual questions may vary if athlete did not answer or know answer
  • Most graphs reflect data from the group of athletes who completed the race (238 in the survey finished)

 

Credits

Many thanks to the ultralive.net survey team: Kara Teklinski, Monique Winkler and Emily Yu.

Graphs and comments by Ted Knudsen.