Sunday, March 23, 2008
The History of the Western States 100 Ultra or "More Bullshit Than at a Rodeo"
Okay - I'm about to publish a blog questioning the world of ultrarunning....however before I do let me share you you something another blogger published about ultrarunning. Journey of 100 miles: Taking on the Western States Endurance Run: Donald Buraglio, a blogger wrote on a "Journey of 100 miles" for the Monterey Herald. A piece about the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. He said, Each year, on the last weekend in June, the world's toughest endurance runners gather in the former Olympic Village of Squaw Valley, California. Over the next 24 hours, they race each other over 100 miles of the historic Western States trail, through some of the most rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada. They climb more than 18,000 feet, and descend more than 23,000 feet while traversing deep canyons and high ridgelines before reaching the finish line in Auburn, CA. It is one of the most grueling physical and psychological challenges many of them will ever face. And this year, I'll be right there with them. The Western States Endurance Run is the most prestigious race in the burgeoning sport of ultrarunning [ME: No, Badwater is] , defined as any race longer than the 26.2-mile marathon distance. Most ultramarathons are contested on trails instead of roads, and the most common distance is 50K (31 miles). However, the number of 100-mile races across the country has gradually increased over the past several years — and every one owes its existence to the success of Western States [ME: No, that would be to Ted Corbitt - that's all who you owe your existence to, but like typical White men - you think you created the sport - you don't recognize or tip your cap to the founder of the sport - a Black man, Ted Corbitt]. If running 100 miles over unforgiving terrain through frequently ferocious weather conditions sounds crazy to you, rest assured that you're not alone. In fact, the contest was originally designed not for people, but for horses. Western States started out as the Tevis Cup, which originated when a bunch of old-time California cowboys decided to compare the toughness of their horses to legendary steeds from he days of the Pony Express. Riders who covered the 100-mile trail in a single day and night were awarded a silver belt buckle to recognize their accomplishment. For the first two decades of the Tevis Cup, the thought of anyone travelling the 100-mile trail on foot was inconceivable. [well it should be said the thought of travelling 100 miles and a hell of a lot further on trails was done and executed frequently.....by Black people escaping a slave life in the 18th and 19th Century in the U.S, - they were some of America's first UItra runners - they just did not know it at the time - this speech is little more than the usual self-aggrandizing that is standard, common & typical of ultrarunners.]. Then in 1974, a 27-year-old cowboy named Gordy Ainsleigh learned that his horse was suffering from foot problems and was too lame to attempt the ride. Ainsleigh was a bit of a maverick — so instead of dropping out of the ride, he laced up his running shoes and lined up alongside nearly 200 horses to take on the trail singlehandedly. He not only finished the course, but did so faster than the 24-hour cutoff, earning a silver buckle [ME: I've shown below]. With Ainsleigh's effort, the 100-mile trail race was born. Today, there are no fewer than 60 such races across the United States. And while some races take place at higher altitudes, and others feature greater changes in elevation, Western States remains the crown jewel among this fanatical subset of endurance events. [ME: I'll grant you that point]. What's more, it affords a select few "regular" runners — such as your author — to compete alongside the world's best. Regardless of their ability, all of the participants who meet in Squaw Valley each year realize that they are following in the footsteps of legendary champions who have gone before, while sharing the course with modern-day heroes of ultrarunning. It's an alluring combination of circumstances — to such a degree that the event struggles to manage the burden of its own popularity. Each year, an increasing number of ultrarunners clamor to enter Western States — and each year, more and more are turned away. Because the race passes through protected wilderness areas, the U.S. Forest Service limits the number of participants. And while rational folks would find it mind-boggling to hear that a 100-mile trail race has to turn people away, that's exactly what happens with this event. Consequently, Western States uses a lottery system to select applicants for the race. A portion of the slots are reserved, such as the top 10 male and female finishers from the previous year's race, runners who have unsuccessfully applied for two straight years, and a handful of sponsored athletes who are given automatic entry. Another automatic category called "pioneers" includes the now-legendary Ainsleigh, the man who started it all. Now in his 60s, he still lines up at the start line each year, and has finished the Western States course more than 20 times. In December, the lottery "winners" — honestly, that's the word we use — are notified, and immediately spend the next six months preparing for the hardest day of running they will ever encounter. They do so with equal parts excitement and overwhelming fear, knowing the challenges that await them on race day. A short list of potential dangers includes altitude sickness, treacherous snowpack in the high country, furnace-like temperatures in the lower canyons, waist- deep river crossings, wildlife encounters (mountain lion and bear sightings are not uncommon), and 10 or more hours of night running. That's in addition to all of the medical complications that can derail a runner on race day. [END]. I have got to post my take on ultrarunning as I am sick and tired of hearing this type of bullshit - framing of the race as some Herculian task from these guys. I don't know Donald Buraglio but he's very typical of the ultra scene. Note his language: "Toughest, Grueling, Psychological & Physical Challenges, Unforgiving, Ferocious, "Sounds Crazy", "Hardest day of running they will ever encounter" (NOT TRUE, especially to Badwater Ultra Runners and I can name several other races that make the WS100 look like a cakewalk - this speech is just part of the bullshit & hype of Ultrarunning - which I shall blog about shortly).
at 4:39 PM Posted by Smith