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Tahoe Nugget #115:

Western States Endurance Run
June 24, 2007

The 34th annual Western States Endurance Run (WSER), one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and probably the most challenging running competition in the West, was held this weekend. Come on you say, how tough can it be? The slogan says it all: "100 miles — One Day." And that's only the distance. This 100-mile foot race is conducted along the Western States Trail, a grueling trek over high elevation, mountainous topography from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California. Most of the trail passes through remote territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters.

The race is always held on Saturday of the last weekend in June. The runners take off at 5:00 a.m. from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) and quickly ascend to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4 miles. From Emigrant Pass the route follows the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850s. After the competitors enter the rugged country west of the Sierra Crest, they must climb another 15,540 vertical feet and descend 22,970 feet before reaching the finish line in Auburn. It is common for racers to slog through snowdrifts in the upper elevations of the Sierra before they descend into the 100 degree heat of Auburn.

This year's winner was Hal Koerner, a 31-year-old ultra-marathon runner from Ashland, Oregon, who finished with a time of 16 hours, 12 minutes, and 16 seconds. Nikki Kimball, a 36-year-old racer from Bozeman, Montana, was the first woman to finish. Kimball's time was 18:12:38. For those of us of a certain vintage, it's inspiring to know that 46-year-old Tracy Vincent Moore from El Cajon, California, hammered out the course in just 18:9:12. I'm not congratulating him for beating the top woman competitor by less than 3 minutes, I'm honoring him for entering this brutal event as a 46 year old! The current record in the men's division is 15 hours, 36 minutes and 27 seconds set by Scott Jurek in 2004. Ann Trason holds the women's title from 1994 with a time of 17:37:51. (Ann Trason has been the fastest woman in the annual race 14 times since 1989.)

The Western States Endurance Run is one of the key events that has helped Auburn, California, earn the title of "Endurance Capital of the World." Another major "ultra" event is the Tevis Cup. If you think a 100-mile footrace is a bit too much to handle, on July 28, the 53rd running of the Tevis Cup will be held on the same Western States Trail. This competition features riders on horseback, but don't let that fool you. After competing in the Tevis Cup race in 1962, rider Alexander Mackay-Smith said, "Participation in the Tevis Cup Ride requires a degree of courage and fitness on the part of both horse and rider which is fully comparable to the speed and endurance test of the Olympic Games Three Day [equestrian] Event." It's interesting to note that women have won the Tevis Cup 51% of the time.

Photo #1: This banner says it all.
Photo #2: A squirrel's view of Squaw Valley and the first ascent of the race
Photo #3: Topography profile
Photo #4: Trail entrance off of Highway 89 near Squaw Valley

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