The 100-mile Western States Endurance Run starts in less than 36 hours. A few of my running buddies will be among the 415 entrants in this most prestigious, most hyped ultra. This post is a bit of humor and inspiration for them—and for anyone else running, crewing or following the event.
A couple of years ago, I heard Tim Twietmeyer speak at the Road Runners Club of America convention, and somebody asked him, “What was the most unusual thing ever to happen to you during the Western States 100?”
For those unfamiliar with the legendary Tim Twietmeyer, he has run Western States 25 times, each time under 24 hours, and won it five times while he dominated the sport in the 1990s. He remains actively involved as a longtime leader on the Western States Board of Directors (currently serving as vice president).
Here’s Tim’s answer that I recorded:
“1995 was probably the year of fire and ice at Western States. There was a lot of hype because the Tarahumara Indians were there that year, and it was the largest snow pack in, I dunno, 50 years or something. There was going to be 24 miles of snow at the start, and then it was gonna be 107 degrees at the race on Saturday and 109 on Sunday.
To make a long story short, we get to Highway 49, which is 93 miles into the event, and I’ve got a three- or four-minute lead on Ann Trason, and the Tarahumara Indian is right behind her, so we’re 1 – 2 – 3 within shouting distance of each other. And you know, when you’ve already gone 24 miles in the snow and another 70 in what turns out to be an almost unrunnable environment, all you really want to do is stop.
I’m going down this really narrow section of the trail that’s since been fixed, but you get in this trough that’s like a luge run on the trail, and once you’re in there, you’re in there. And my pacer is with me, and I’m just running fast as I can—I’m thinking, Ann’s right behind me, and she’s chasing me and the Tarahumara is chasing her, and we’ve been running for about an hour and a half or two hours without our flashlights so nobody knows where we are. You don’t want anybody behind you to know where you are, or where your pacer is—so we’re just in stealth mode.
And then I get around this turn, and there’s this skunk sitting right in the middle of the trail, ready to spray me.
So, I’m thinking, “God, I got like a three-minute lead here; how am I gonna move on from this? If Ann shows up, she’s gonna go right on by.” My pacer goes, “We can’t stop—let’s get some rocks and throw them at him.” And I basically told him, “Hey, I’ve been running for, like, 95 miles, and I stink worse than this skunk. I’m just gonna plow right on ahead.”
So I’d go forward, and the skunk would go forward, and I’d go forward, and he’d go forward, and then finally he moved off the trail. And it wasn’t probably even a hundred yards after that, that I tripped on a rock and fell on the trail, and at that point I wasn’t sure I was gonna get up.
We ended up going on the rest of the way. I ended up winning the race by a few minutes [in 18:34:58], Ann was right behind me [finishing in 18:40:01], and the Tarahumara [Gabriel Bautista] was right behind her [in 18:46:43]—the closest 1 – 2 – 3 finish in Western States history.”
So there you go—to everyone out there on the trail this Saturday from Squaw Valley to Auburn, don’t get skunked! Best of luck to everyone running it, especially those whom I’ll be cheering for and following virtually through the live webcast: Graham Cooper, Hal Koerner, David La Duc, Bryon Powell, Caren Spore, Marc Dube, Calvin Wong, Lisa Henson, Tia Bodington, Gretchen Brugman, Jamie Frink and Rick Gaston.