Walking with Legends of the Western States 100

Leaving the hustle and bustle of New York behind and my next step on the road to the Western States took me to San Francisco. Through a mutual contact of Ultra168 I was able to meet up with Carol LaPlant and her mushroom foraging husband Phil, in the beautiful university town of Berkeley.

For those of you back in Australia will know that Carol was the first female finisher of the iconic Coast to Kosciuszko Ultra. She is a finisher of over 150 hundred milers winning several on her way and breaking records to boot. When quizzed on her favourite race she still has a soft spot for the great Aussie race and our longest ultra.  I was able to spend the day with Carol and given the opportunity to explore the great trails around San Fran including the impressive Marin County and the iconic Dipsea Trail, which Carol held the female record for the quad version (4 out and backs !).

It didn’t take long before the conversation turned to the “Big Dance” where Carol has buckled 3 times. I asked her what the 3 golden rules to a successful States and she quickly rattled off the following:-

  1. The race doesn’t start until Foresthill at km 100, so you MUST keep your quads strong for the back section. This is also the point I will be picking up Andrew and where the role of the pacer can really help the runner to make up a load of places if they are in good shape.
  2. Determine which aid stations you will be stopping at, but DONT stop at all of them ! This is very much part of Andrew’s plan and something he practices regularly.
  3. Avoid the pre race hype and run your own race. This may sound like obvious advice, but when the worlds best descend on Squaw Valley in a few days time, it will be hard to resist those photo opportunities and becoming star struck.
As we took in all the usual tourists sights including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, The Fire Tower and the street cars making their way up some impressive hills, conversation quickly returned to WS100 and ultras in general. Her passion for the sport, her experiences of running with some of the legends of the sport including Ann Trason and Gordie Ainsleigh and her enthusiasm for the younger runners coming into the sport is burning just as strong as her on trail performances. Phil her husband and  a pretty impressive athlete in his own right is a walking encyclopaedia of facts and figures of trail ultras from around the world
Whilst Carol’s running is a little more low key at the moment she was invaluable to spend the day with, exploring the sights and sounds of San Fran, but more importantly hearing tales from the world of ultras from a living legend. Carol and Phil will be supporting Laura and myself as crew/pacer for Andrew’s attempt at the WS100 in 12 days time.
I now move onto Auburn next, which is the self proclaimed “Endurance Capital of the World” where the race finishes. I will start to explore the final stages of the trails and will be giving some course updates as the big snows continue to retreat and the trails open up. As I type, the RD for WS100 has determined that there will be course changes which will be subject to further modifications as the days count down to race start. One thing is for sure, the conditions are the same for everyone and so what will be will be !
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One thought on “Walking with Legends of the Western States 100

  1. Enjoy the run Ponkey. We all know AV has done the work (and then some) and will run his own race but sounds like he has a great crew backing him up which definitely helps. Say hi to Carol and Phil for me. whippet

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