Thanks for the course change feedback – here’s something else to chew on

Guest Post by Tim Twietmeyer

Hey folks, thanks for the insights on the course change question. The reason I ask is not some kind of indictment of Cool or Julie as that was a great event and we need more race directors like Julie willing to pour their heart and soul into race management (she’s also a friend). One reason I like to see what people are thinking is that WS has had a few course changes in its history. One in 85, then in 86, then 2002, then in 2006. The first two to get a 100-mile course. The third for the Star Fire damage and the last to include new trail and get the trail off some privately-held land. We try NOT to change that course and I think we have our best course right now – most amount of single-track, least amount of fireroad. It might be the slowest course due to the single-track, but certainly the best yet (IMHO).

Lot’s to chew on about courses and times and such. I’ve often wanted to see Scott Jurek and Mike Morton square-off at WS based on their course record times, Scott on the Star Fire course and Mike on the traditional course. Their times were within three minutes of each other. All I know is that I chased Mike all day in 97 and was hoping I might be able to get close to him. It became obvious that it was his day and his race when I felt pretty good about myself running a 2:32 split on Cal Loop, only to lose 14 minutes to him as he ran a 2:18. OUCH!

If the thought of running a 2:18 on Cal Loop after 100k on the trail makes you hurt while sitting on your couch, consider this – Jim Howard dropped a 56-minute split on Jim King from 49 to the finish to win in 83 (by 33 seconds). You could drop me off fresh at 49 right now and I couldn’t run a 56 to the finish. Probably the most impressive split of all time on the WS course, although the 2:18 by Morton on Cal Loop is certainly in the discussion. To put it in perspective, Morton and Jurek both ran 1:03 to the finish during their course record runs and Tom Johnson a 1:06 on his course record run. Seems that Howard’s 2:20 marathon speed came in handy after 95 miles.


  1. Wow. I didn’t know Howard cranked out a 56-minute split in 83.

    You say the two changes to the WS course in 85 and 86 were to get the course to 100 miles. What were the distances those years and how was the course measured? And why 100.2 miles and not 100.0? You know Rod Bien wants exactly 100 miles 🙂

  2. OMG, IMNERHO Twiet HTNOTH. JK. In all seriousness, those are some truly amazing splits and it really would be fun to watch two greats like Jurek and Morton duel-it-out on the course. Short of that we’ll have to make do with this year’s race, which is shaping up to be a good one!

  3. Shouldn’t be surprised at Jim’s split. In 1981, I believe, he accomplished one of the greatest trifecta’s in endurance running. He won States, Avenue of the Giant’s Marathon in 2:18, and won the National Ride and Tie, all in a six week period that summer. Rumor had it that he did 2 x mile repeats in 4:35 at the track the week after States. Twiet could probably help on this info?

  4. If I’m not mistaken, Jim ran a 2:20 at SF marathon not too long after WS in 83. If yo uwatch the video of WS in 83, you’ll see Howard wearing the zinc oxide on his lips because his horse ran him into a limb at the ride-n-tie and split his lip. Running in the snow would blister that in no-time. Jim is one of those gifted runners that could combine great road speed with trail smarts. A very rare combination. Might put Sean Crom on that list.

  5. Bruce Labelle has the same respect for Jim Howard. He ranks Jim Howard and Yiannis kouros as the two finest runners he has ever personally seen. Jim’s 2:20 marathon earned him 2nd place, I think it was exactly two weeks after Western States. According to legend, he kicked at the 20-mile mark to break up the pack but could not hold on for the win. Grae, I have heard the 2 x mile repeats in 4:35 at the track were with the Buffalo Chips Running Club. They were performed in the week between winning WSER 83 and placing second at the SF marathon.

    Cheers, Paul

  6. Oh yea, the old WS course. It was several miles short. How several? I’ll let you do the wheeling, but the old course was shorter and substantially easier. Rather than going down Cal loop, you ran the road to just past the forest service office, then turned left and generally ran past the dump and onto Todd Valley Road until you get near that church. The old trail through Todd Valley is still there. It take you out to White Oak Flat where there was a major aid station. When you left that aid station you just ran the dirt road to the river crossing. It’s probably around 12 miles total, Cal loop is 16, mostly single-track. That part of the old course was a nice rest after having gotten hammered in the canyons. Now you get hammered in the canyons, then get a chaser on Cal loop. Also, the old course was different after ALT. The old course when DOWN ball-bearing hill. Yea, that was a scream-fest as runners had their pacers run in front of them so wouldn’t gather too much momentum and end up in the river. Then it just followed the quarry road to the quarry climb. That’s also shorter and easier than the horizontal canyons from ALT to Brown’s Bar and then to the road. I’ll let you do the math.

    As for why 100.2? Not sure I need to do additional research. My speculation is that it was 100 and the the trail near Hwy 49 at the quarry got rerouted and is marginally longer and more difficult. You used to run straight up the road into the quarry and the highway crossing. Now you run left off the road and wind around, climb more, then drop onto the crossing. Also, there have been several very minor trail rehab-reroutes in the high country, the most noticable is the on about half way between Red Star and Duncan. The old trail used to go straight up over a knoll (the last tough up hill in that stretch). Now, it skirts the knoll on the left and then switches-back over the top. Probably just 100-200 yards different, but longer nonetheless. I’ll ask Greg about the 100.2, he knows everything.

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