Western States 100 Preview & Brendan Davies Interview

In a little over a week, the World’s most famous 100 mile run takes place over on the West Coast of the US – The Western States 100.

So why’s some little Aussie backwater website featuring a preview on this race? Well for starters this little Aussie backwater’s biggest audience actually resides in the US (yep Australia, you’re second right now!), so it seems that quite a few of you over in the States actually quite like what we do and what we write about. So thank-you for that.

Secondly, it’s the first time in whenever that we have some runners of the Antipodean nature lining up that could feasibly make that all important top ten placing and an automatic entry into the race next year. That being a messors B. Davies (AUS) and V. Amrstrong (NZ) in the mens and the lovely Beth Cardelli (AUS) in the ladies. A mention to Dave Eadie from Australia who’ll also be running.

We’re not going to pretend to know all and sundry about all of the runners or indeed focus on all of the contenders, instead focus on a few ‘high-rollers’, before having our own Brendan Davies offer up some of his thoughts on this prep and the race.

Brendan will be at his first WSER100 run
Brendan will be at his first WSER100 run

The good news is that there’s a very serious and healthy dose of overseas runners leading the charge too. The advent of the UTWT and WSER100 being part of that however is a good thing, in that it’s opening the race up somewhat to us ‘foreigners’. I like this. (I’d like it even more if I was successful in the lottery next year!). But back to business…

In the ladies…

The ladies look to be a two-horse race between the two ladies that finished first and second last year, Pam Smith and Nikki Kimball. Pam was a somewhat surprising winner last year for some, but seems to be in great form leading into this race with a sub 8 hour 100kms at the rather appropriately named ‘Mad City’ 100kms. Nikki on the other hand is a former three-time champ at this race and has had an excellent year to date, winning the marathon des sables 7-day stage race.

Then there’s the unstoppable Meghan Arbogast, who at 52 years old is still running rings around most of the ladies half her age. She’s a seven-time finisher at this race and also has the US 100km champs win to her name with victory at Bandera.

Pam winning WSER100 last year (Photo Credit - Gear Junkie)
Pam winning WSER100 last year (Photo Credit – Gear Junkie)

Finally another major challenger to the two ladies up front is Stephanie Howe, but somewhat unproven over the 100 mile distance with this being her debut performance. She has the speed however with a win at last year’s Speedgoat 50kms against a stacked field and then second place at UROC too – if she gets it together on race day, serious contender.

The leading men

The obvious standout for male champion has to be Rob Krar. What hasn’t he done in the last 12 months on the trails? He was second in his debut run here last year, plus he won the Red Hot Moab 55k, Leona Divide 50 and TNF 50 San Francisco. Firm favourite in our view.

Then there’s Miguel Heras. A highly-talented ultra-runner from the shores of Spain and a guy who knows a thing or two about putting his body on the line and winning or at least a podium place. Indeed, if you take a look at his record, the guy has never been off the podium in any ultra he’s finished. Serious threat to Krar if he can keep himself together.

Ryan at Western States - photo from Emma Garrard
Ryan at Western States – photo from Emma Garrard

One of the local favourites here in Australia is South African runner, Ryan Sandes – a former winner of TNF100 down under and a man who keeps on putting in performance after performance. His list of achievements is far too long to mention here, except that he has form on this course having finished second to Tim Olson a few years back. Ryan generally starts pretty quietly and goes about his business, finishing very strongly. Keep an eye out for him in the last 20 miles as he makes his move. On top of this, he’s a really good guy too. Good luck Ryan.

One of my favourite runners on the ultra scene is Brit, Nick Clark. He for me represents everything that’s good about ultra running. Strong as an ox and just gets on with the job. He’s known as a bit of a bridesmaid at this event, finishing third twice here. Has he got what it takes to win? Who knows… however one thing you do know with Nick is that he will always be right there or thereabouts to take the wings from under your feet if you falter. Great each way bet.

Dylan Bowman is another runner that’s constantly improving whenever he runs 100 miles. Finishing fifth last year at States, he also bagged a top ten spot at Transgrancanaria this year too. He’s one of those runners for whom a podium place is a genuine possibility.

Finally, we turn our attention to one of our Aussie hopefuls, Brendan Davies. We caught up with Brendan a few days ago to gather his thoughts and feelings ahead of a race he’s been dreaming about for years. Brendan is a machine and if he gets it right, I genuinely believe he’s in with a shout of a top ten place in this race. Here’s his thoughts leading into race day next week.

How has the prep been? You’ve been (and looked) very sensible and solid in the lead up – Have you got the right balance in your training?

The preparation has been great. Honestly, when I backward mapped my year from Western States I knew deep down that it was a big ask; both physically and mentally. It’s basically been a five month phased build up, with the goal of getting to the big one in peak shape and mentally rested. I think the balance has been just about right. I made sure I didn’t place any big expectations on myself in the lead in races as they all had a specific purpose for States. I’ve looked after myself, made sure I dealt with the niggles and thankfully I’m now as fit and healthy as ever and ready to go.

Just briefly outline the type of training you’ve been doing to get yourself ready for the big one.

I started my endurance phase in early February and have gradually built up the weekly miles from there. Mid March I introduced more focus on strength and lastly over the last month I’ve been working on the speed and downhill conditioning. All through the period I’ve raced big races as KPI’s of my training progress, which have been invaluable. Don’t get me wrong, I raced them all hard and to win, but without putting any pressure on myself and knowing they were part of a journey to States has freed me mentally to go into the race without any big goals and avoided the big comedown post race. As such, it’s been easy just to get back straight into my training.

How are you going to deal with the heat? Is it an issue for you?

It’s an issue for sure, but of course like any environmental condition, you can mitigate the damage with good management. Mentally I’ve been reminding myself of the lessons I learnt at the Great North Walk 100 miler last year in the heat. That day was a disappointment but everything happens for a reason. Also, I’ve taken a lot of wise advice from past States runners in Australia like Marcus Warner, Sean Greenhill and Beth Cardelli, as well as those that have crewed there like Brian Cardelli and a few of my American friends. I’m planning to utilise many cooling methods during the race such as ice bandannas, dipping myself in the streams and rivers and that kind of thing.

Brendan has had some great results at UTMF - let's hope he can convert it to WSER100 (Photo credit Nadine Davies)
Brendan has had some great results at UTMF – let’s hope he can convert it to WSER100 (Photo credit Nadine Davies)

Where do you think you’re at  or this race? It’s a huge chance to see how you’re going to fare against some of the world’s best runners.

I can only control what I do –  run to my plan mile by mile, be proactive about potential issues and minimise the problems if and when they occur. If I do this, whatever my place is at the end, well I’ll have to be happy with it. Honestly though, it’s such a stacked field with so many top 10 contenders, and 30 guys don’t fit into 10. But one thing about 100 milers is that anything can happen. We saw what happened at UTMF this year and States has the reputation of being a killing machine! My first goal is to finish the race with a new Australian best time, from then on, who knows!

I know you’ve been focused on this race for a number of years, what does it feel like to be actually there and involved… What’s the atmosphere like?

While I was in San Francisco I got to meet up with a gang from the San Francisco Running Company Shop which included States runners Jorge Maravilla, Dylan Bowman and Brett Rivers. There were posters of Tim Olsen, Ellie Greenwood and a Cougar winning trophy that was on loan from Ann Trason (she could just about rent out one to every running shop in California!).

It just reinforced what I already knew, but had only sensed before, that this is THE RACE in the US and you could sense the excitement in the chat on the run. For me, it’s like a dream actually being here. Ever since I heard about Western States through guys like Andrew Vize and watched Unbreakable and read about it in books like Born to Run, it’s been at the top of my bucket list. But not just to run, but to be competitive in.

It’s the one big trail ultra that suits my strengths as a runner like no other. After two unsuccessful lottery draws I was beginning to think that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to run this while I was still at the top of my game as an athlete. But thanks to Ultra Trail World Tour, and some good results last year, the opportunity came. It’s very special and a privilege to be here part of it. I’m excited but also a little scared too. It’s been great being here running the course with Beth Cardelli; having her around has reduced a lot of the apprehension and helped me start to visualise how my run might look.

Being out on the trail has given me a buzz of excitement and a dose of the usual centeredness that being on beautiful trails brings me. In the final week I know I’ll have to manage myself; finding the right balance between being around the excited energy of the hype and space for myself such as getting away from Squaw Valley and doing some sightseeing with my wife Nadine.

The sense of history has reminded me that like every other competitor, I am just a mere blip in the past and future involvement of this iconic race, and of the amazing location it is embedded in. It’s also really refreshing to see how the entire community and agencies work together in a seemingly cooperative manner to make this the best experience possible for everyone. The amount of volunteers, aid stations, detail and pride in the race that each community has is amazing.

Good luck to Brendan and all runners. The best coverage for race day will be from the folks at irunfar, however we’ll aim to bring you what we can from our little backwater too 🙂

Like our articles? Take a second to support Ultra168 on Patreon from as little as $1 a month!

6 thoughts on “Western States 100 Preview & Brendan Davies Interview

  1. I like Emily Harrison for the women’s race. 7th on debut last year, she has been crushing it this year, including a CR at Lake Somoma.

  2. My personal view is that there is no ‘Aussie record’ – simply the fastest male and female from Australia over the course. That stands with Mike Le Roux.

Leave a Reply