John Catts, WSER and Tevis Trail Manager

In September of 2022 the Mosquito Fire burned 16 miles of the Western States Trail. Some areas burned extremely hot and in these areas there was very little organic matter left on the ground. Other areas did not burn as hot or burned in a mosaic pattern with some areas minimally affected. 

Before the fire was fully out, and continuing until early snow prevented further access, our partners with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), as well as CalFire, traversed the affected stretches of the Western States Trail and felled hazard trees. After the hazard trees were felled and bucked (cut into smaller sections and removed from the trail), our attention turned to erosion control and tread repair.  With little to no organic matter left in the upper soil horizon erosion occurs at a much faster rate, particularly when large rainfall events (like this winter) occur. As a result the main drainages and many previously insignificant drainages carried large amounts of water, rock, and soil downhill onto the trail, and in some locations erosion in some drainages undermined the trail.

In spite of weather-related constraints, we have made significant progress repairing damages caused by both the Mosquito Fire and once in a decade storms. Below is a summary of progress made to the trail on lands managed by ASRA and the USFS, as well as a description of a more complicated type of project (tread armoring), performed for several drainages in Eldorado Canyon (USFS).

Auburn State Recreation Area

ASRA has a sizable and qualified trail team that maintains its trails. Before the fire ASRA was committed to spending time and effort to re-bench the California Street Section of the Western States Trail this year.  To assist in this effort ASRA enlisted the services of the California Conservation Corps (CCC, Auburn office). Re-benching, using a trail machine (and by hand where trail machine access is not possible), involves removal of adjacent vegetation, and re-contouring the trail tread by removing sluff from the uphill side, removing any outboard berm, and creating a wide trail tread that has a 5% outboard slope, so water will sheet flow onto and off the trail and not down the trail. This allows us to shift the footprint of the trail created by years of use to the middle of the bench, which is much safer for animals and people. ASRA started this process with the CCC Crew and have been moving from Rucky Chucky towards Ford Bar, have taken a break due to weather, but will be back working eastward on May 3rd.

Meanwhile, on the 3.5 miles of the Western States Trail that burned in the Mosquito Fire (Dardanelles Creek to Patent Road Fire Break), our Trail Team spent the past 2 weekends repairing fire and storm damage. We cut what little vegetation remained within the trail corridor, removed eroded soil and rock from the trail tread, and to the extent possible with hand tools re-benched the trail. We also added erosion control features (waterbars) and repaired a few drainages. Photo #A is a completed stretch of trail, and Photo #B shows installation of a waterbar. Although the 3.5 miles of trail in ASRA that was burned in the Mosquito Fire is clear from obstructions and offers safe passage, there are still a few projects we need to complete, and the trail is still closed between Patent Road Fire Break and Dardanelles Creek.

Photo #A a completed stretch of trail
Photo #B installation of a waterbar

Tahoe National Forest, American River Ranger District

As containment of the Mosquito Fire reached 100% the USFS was busy felling hazard trees in Eldorado Canyon and along Deadwood Ridge, which in most places burned very hot. The American River Ranger District Trail Team relied on federal Burned Area Emergency Restoration (BAER) funds to continue working in Eldorado Canyon through the fall and winter as weather permitted.  Significant progress had been made restoring the trail in Eldorado Canyon.  Activities include installation of erosional controls (mostly water bars), removal of eroded soil and rock from the trail, removal of large stumps from the trail corridor from hazard tree felling or other fallen trees, repair of historic retaining walls, and repair of the trail at drainages.

With funding from WSER & Tevis, a trail team from Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) joined the USFS Trail Team to help with this effort. SBTS spent much of February in Eldorado Canyon, left when the weather was unsuitable, but will be back in late March or early April. The WSER & Tevis Trail Team, provided assistance on volunteer days in December 2022 and January 2023, and plan to get back into Eldorado Canyon in April.  As the snow melts and access via Deadwood Road is available SBTS and our volunteer team will move east to Deadwood Ridge, and down to Swinging Bridge (the eastern extent of the burn on the Western States Trail). From there it’s business as usual to clear the remainder of the trail prior to our events (OK, there might be a bit more work this year with the deep snowpack).

Come join us on volunteer work days in April, May (to be posted soon) and June (https://www.wser.org/volunteering/trail-stewardship/).

A reminder that the Western States Trail from Michigan Bluff to Last Chance is still closed, as is Mosquito Ridge Road.

Tread Armoring Project

Many of the techniques we used to control erosion are visible to the trail user (log water bars, rock water bars, waddle, swales), but some methods used to control erosion and restore the trail tread are not immediately obvious to the trail user. Therefore, we thought it would be informative to describe, and show through photographs, a more complicated and labor-intensive type of trail project, tread armoring.

In drainages where erosion has caused the trail tread to be narrowed and weakened the potential repairs include construction of retaining walls or tread armoring. In Eldorado Canyon re-routing a trail is not an option, because side slopes are often extremely steep, and the historical designation of the trail prevents re-routing without extensive studies and analysis. On the east side of Eldorado Canyon several of the badly eroded drainages had ample large rock available, and tread armoring was the preferred restoration technique.

Photo #1 drainage before

Photo #1 shows the condition of a drainage before the project was started. Note the quantity of rock that had been transported down the barren slope.

Photo #2 drainage after removal of debris

Photo #2 depicts the same drainage, from the opposite side, following removal of debris from the trail tread. Note the deeply incised drainage above & below the trail and narrowed and unstable trail tread.

The next steps in the repair are to quarry suitable rock and excavate the trail tread to provide a stable base on which quarried rock will be placed. Large rocks of uniform thickness with flat surfaces are located and are transported to the site using rock slings, or if the rock is above or below the repair site lowered by hand or a grip hoist with a sling and moved with rock bars (Photo #3) or lifted up onto the trail with a grip hoist and rock bars.

Photo #3 griphoist

Photo #4 shows the excavation of the trail tread to create a stable base for the placement of quarried rock. Since the downhill edge of the trail tread in the drainage was eroded and undermined, we excavated into the uphill side of the drainage, creating a gentle curve to the trail alignment, to make adequate room for the required tread width.

Photo #4 excavation of the trail tread

Finding the best large rock, to be placed on the outboard side in the middle of the drainage, is key (Photo #5).  Within the trail teams there are often calls for “get a bigger rock”. When set, this stone needs to be stable or the underlying soil needs to be further removed to be stable, without the use of shims (so it stays stable over time). Other rocks will be placed carefully next to this keystone to lock into this main rock and each needs to be adjusted to be stable by turning, flipping, or selectively removing soil beneath it until it is stable.  Photo #6 shows the final placement of these large rocks at this specific site.  It also shows that to create long lasting stability and prevent erosion, the space between all these rocks was filled with crush (smaller pieces of rock created by breaking up shaley rock with a small sledge hammer).

Photo #5 outboard rock placement
Photo #6 filling with crush

When all the interstitial space between rocks has been filled with crush, soil can be placed on top. For longevity and safety its best to either place large rock on the outboard edge to keep users off the outboard edge, and if possible outboard barrier rock can be set deeply into the outboard edge of the tread. Photo #7 shows the armoring repair nearing completion.

Photo #7 armoring nearing completion

With the trail armored where a drainage crosses, any new material eroded onto the trail is easily removed.

So the next time you see a stretch of trail that looks like this, know there is a solid base beneath your feet (or your horses feet or wheels) and that a lot of work went into it.

2022 Runner Survey Results

Here are the results of the independent Western States Endurance Run (WSER) Runner Survey from the June 25-26, 2022 race, conducted by ultralive.net.

WSER runner registration takes place in Olympic Valley Friday before race day and 2022 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 383 starters.

Here are the surveys from 20142015201620172018, and 2019.

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
  • Watch brand
  • Did they pay for coaching services?
  • A few questions about lodging for the race to share with host sites

This year’s race saw 11 women finish in the top 30 runners overall, with the “top 10’s” of both women and men all under 20 hours. Of the 383 starters we saw 305 finishers (79.6%) under 30 hours of which 101 (26.4%) finished under the coveted 24 hour mark for a Silver Buckle.

A total of 290 of the 305 finshers (95.1%) 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, 40 out of 93 (55%) finished in the 23rd hour of the race to get a silver buckle. In the last two hours of the race, there were 117 (38%) finishers. The busiest times on the track are typically between 4-5 AM and 9-11 AM on Sunday morning and 2022 proved no different.

The graphs show the distribution of finishers by hour (15 hours to 29 hours), distribution of finishers by completed 100 mile races, and distribution of finishers by year of running ultras. Interestingly, many of the finishers over 24 hours have finished more than ten 100 mile races and have been running ultras over 10 years.

The hot temperatures in this year’s race definitely attributed to the finish rate of 79.6%.


Again Hoka was the most popular shoe (42.8%) for all finishers with Altra in second place with 19.7% and Salomon in third (8.3%). The rankings switched for second and third place with the sub-24 hour finishers. 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.


Injinji was just barely the favorite over Drymax for the most popular sock choice for finishers. And it was Drymax 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

31% of the runners use a paid coaching service overall. Sub-24 hour finishers were slightly less likely to use a coach. And as a continuing trend, 48% of the DNF runners used a coaching service.

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 40% of the runners who did not complete the race were at the training camp.


Petzl’s remains the favorite light brand for all runners regardless of finish time (sub or over-24 hour) with Black Diamond second again.


Salomon was the top choice for all runners (sub 24 and overall). For sub 24 finishers, Nathan edged out Ultimate Direction for second place.


Garmin was the most popular watch overall in the survey. However, for the sub 24 finishers Coros was the most popular watch. Suunto was the third most popular in both categories.

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. The following chart shows the correlation of using a pacer or crew to finish hour. In the overall survey, almost everyone (98%) planned on using a pacer.

Data Accuracy

383 runners started the 2022 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run

Ultralive.net team surveyed a majority of those runners through the registration process at Olympic Valley Final survey reflects N = 364 (95.1%) 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.


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 David Canfield.

Any feedback or insights are welcome!

2023 Lottery Statistics

Last updated: December 2, 2022 at 9:20 am

The 2023 race lottery will be held on December 3, 2022 in front of a live audience at the Placer High School auditorium in Auburn, CA beginning at 8:00 a.m. PST. We expect to be done by 11:00 a.m. As names are randomly selected, they will be posted at https://lottery.wser.org in real-time. There will also be a live video coverage of the lottery on our Youtube Channel beginning at 7:30 a.m. PST.

Each applicant ran a qualifying race of 100k or longer within the last year to be eligible to enter. Some have done so for many years. 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 HOKA 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 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, and so on. The maximum number of years for the 2023 lottery is 9 years or 256 tickets.

You can view the final 2023 applicants and their ticket counts.

After the cancellation in 2020 and then starting fewer than our allowed 369 starters in 2021, the US Forest Service is allowing us to start 380 runners in 2023. As we began in 2017, we are using a wait list model instead of overbooking like we had for decades to get the target number of starters which is the number we are legally allowed to run through the Granite Chief Wilderness. 106 of those 380 are automatic entrants resulting in 274 lottery spots. 271 of those will be selected in the lottery proper. The final three entrants to get to 380 will be selected from those in the audience. We will also select an additional 75 names for the ordered wait list. The probabilities of being selected as one of the 274 in the lottery or 75 on the wait list (349) are as follows:

  • 5 runners 256 tickets, each has a 92.4% chance of getting selected
  • 37 runners with 128 tickets, each has a 72.5 %
  • 127 runners with 64 tickets, each has a 47.6 %
  • 232 runners with 32 tickets, each has a 27.6%
  • 374 runners with 16 tickets, each has a 14.9 %
  • 525 runners with 8 tickets, each has a 7.7 %
  • 731 runners with 4 tickets, each has a 3.9 %
  • 1578 runners with 2 tickets, each has a 2.0%
  • 3560 runners with 1 ticket, each has a 1.0 %

So what are the chances of getting into the race if you are selected for the wait list? In 2022 we exhausted a wait list of 75. In 2021 we exhausted the wait list of 50 which was rolled over from 2020. In 2019 the last person to get a spot on the starting line was selected 31st. In 2018 the 36th person on the list got in, in 2017 the 39th person got in. All the historical data from the wait lists can be found here.

Good luck to all.

Mosquito Fire Assessment

On September 6, 2022, the Mosquito fire started at Oxbow Dam. The fire quickly spread uphill towards Michigan Bluff and Foresthill. As of today the fire is 95% contained and has burned over 76,000 acres. 78 structures were destroyed, many in the Michigan Bluff area.

Regarding the Western States Trail the easternmost extent affected by the fire is near Swinging Bridge (mile ~46 on the course) and the westernmost extent affected is the Patent Road Fire Break (5.7 miles west of Foresthill, or mile ~68 on course). While this is a total of about 22 miles of trail, the trail through Volcano Canyon and Foresthill was not inside the burn perimeter, and therefore only about 16 miles of the trail were directly impacted by the fire.

With respect to post-fire restoration we will be working with three land agencies/owners: US Forest Service (USFS) from Swinging Bridge to Bath Rd, a private land owner from Foresthill to just before Cal-1, and Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) for the westernmost 3 miles to the Patent Road Fire Break.

Mosquito fire with WS Trail – WSER

Good news:

  • The Last Chance Townsite and aid station location was not burned
  • Pacific Slab Bridge was not affected
  • The Swinging Bridge was unburned
  • The Deadwood Pump is fully operational
  • The El Dorado Creek bridge was unburned
  • Michigan Bluff homes where the aid station is survived

Some parts of the trail where the fire burned hot show much more damage to the vegetation while other parts show much less or little damage. In areas that burned hot, the vegetation holding soil in place was removed and as a result the soil will erode more quickly and undermine the stability root systems for trees causing them to fall.  Areas where the fire did not burn as hot will be less prone to these negative effects, but will still experience significant soil erosion, tree mortality, and hazard trees. Mitigation of hazard trees and soil erosion that will occur when the winter rains start falling are the two big priorities. 

Soil Burn Severity Map – USFS

Damage repair from fire suppression activities has already begun (wide fire breaks are being either fully or if needed in the future partially restored, and water diversion features created). In addition some emergency stabilization activities (e.g., felling of hazard trees) has already begun. Emergency stabilization and long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts will continue through the winter and spring, and may continue for up to 5 years.  With respect to federal lands a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team has already been assembled, is performing a rapid assessment to determine the scope of the Emergency Stabilization that is required, estimate costs required to perform this work, and apply for BAER Funding. Additional funding for Long-Term  Recovery and Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) may be available to assist in long-term recovery efforts. With regard to the State of California the Governors Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has been engaged, and provides a range of State Recovery Resources. In addition Placer County will help private land owners with removal of debris and hazardous materials, and removal of hazard trees.

This is not the first fire to impact the WS trail. The most recent fires were the Star Fire of 2001 and the American Fire of 2013.

The Western States Trail Foundation, Western States Endurance Run Foundation, and The Canyons Endurance Runs will be working with the agencies and owners to get the trail ready for our events in 2023. Trail work days are still TBD. We will share the info when it is created.

Tahoe National Forest, American River Ranger District lands are closed to the public until December 31, 2022, so there is no recreational trail access. ASRA has closed the fire affected area, from the Patent Road Fire Break east to Foresthill, until further notice.

For more info on the fire see: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8398/

El Dorado Creek Bridge – USFS

Michigan Bluff side of El Dorado Canyon – Carol Hewitt

Top of Cal St – WSER

View of Wortons Market from Cal St – WSER

Hot burn on Cal St

Cal-1 Aid Station – WSER

Dardanelles Fire Break – WSER

Trail near western edge of fire – WSER


Emily Kraus and Megan Roche have been named Medical Research Directors for the Western States Endurance Run, WSER President Diana Fitzpatrick announced.

Kraus and Roche succeed John Diana, who had served as Medical Research Director for WSER since 2016.

“Emily and Megan both bring impeccable professional credentials as well as a deep understanding of our sport to their new post,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have always viewed our medical research director position as one that needs to constantly evolve as runners in the sport increasingly turn to science-based information for the best practices in enhancing human performance. With Emily and Megan, we have two individuals who have proven track records in understanding the value of collaborative approaches in research, catalyzing that research and making it available for the betterment of the running community.

“They are both incredibly dynamic individuals who we feel will help take our medical research effort to the next level. I wish to thank Dr. John Diana for his incredible record of service to WSER over the past few years. Dr. Diana brought his own personal brand of collegiality, professional sense of collaboration and a strong sense of cohesiveness to our medical research effort. We are extremely grateful for all of the work he did in furthering our research agenda.”

Added WSER Medical Director Andy Pasternak: “Emily and Megan have all of the professional experience and personal qualities necessary to lead WSER’s medical research enterprise. Their insight into what the position needs to do in the coming years is very exciting. They truly wish to see our medical research endeavors continue the impactful legacy that has already been established by our previous medical research directors, while also positioning our future research studies so that they can help re-define how science-based discovery and translational research is being used to further our sport.”

Kraus is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine. She received her M.D. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2012 and her B.S. in Nutrition Science from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 2008. She has produced more than 20 peer-reviewed original research papers on a variety of topics. In 2018-2020, she served as principal investigator for a study at Western States on “Genetic and Serologic Determinants of Bone Health in Ultramarathoners,” which was renewed for further study in 2021.

Roche is the Research Lead for the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine Program as well as Research Lead for FASTR (Female Athlete Science and Translational Research). She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She received her M.D. from Stanford University School of Medicine in 2018, earned her M.M.S. in Management from Duke University in 2013 and her B.S. in Neuroscience from Duke in 2012. Her more than a dozen research publications include studies on bone stress and mental health of athletes, among many others.

For more than 40 years, medical research activity has played an important role at the Western States Endurance Run. WSER’s late Medical Director Dr. Robert Lind welcomed and encouraged researchers from throughout the country and the world to come to WSER and study its runners. One of the earliest studies that established the connection between the body’s release of endorphins and physical activity was conducted at WSER in 1981 by Dr. Walter Bortz of Stanford University. Since 2006, more than 80 research publications or abstracts in human performance have been produced by researchers from throughout the world based on studies conducted on WSER runners.