What an incredible race last weekend at the 2010 WS 100 miler. There were lots of pre-race predictions about how the big four (Killian Jornet, Anton Krupicka, Geoff Roes, Hal Koerner) would fare. I predicted on AJW’s blog that only one of those four would finish and I expected it to be the experienced two-time defending champion Hal. I knew those other three guys were talented and accomplished runners, but I thought the pressure of the competition at WS might get to the WS virgins. Or that perhaps they’d race so hard that they’d destroy each other. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my predictions. The WS virgins rose to the challenge and competed hard all day. Both Geoff and Anton were under the old course record (15:36), finishing in 15:07 and 15:13, respectively. Killian slowed the last 20 but still ran 16:04 for third. Hal dropped at Green Gate (80 miles). All four competed hard. Awesome job, guys.
Before we get specifics about the splits the top guys ran, let’s talk about the course and the weather and how it compares to other years. Refer back to my post about historical weather and snow. The high temperature in Auburn last Saturday was 93 degrees. It was 87 in 2004 when Jurek ran 15:36 and 82 in 1997 when Morton ran 15:40. This year we used a snow route which was within .1 of a mile of the distance of the regular route. We crossed the river in rafts. The snow was soft, not frozen, and was very fast running unless you sucked at running on snow then it really wouldn’t have mattered what kind of snow we had. The snow route got us out of the snow at about 9 miles and put us at a lower elevation. It was faster running than staying on Red Star Ridge as it was a lot of jeep and gravel roads. Some have suggested that it was about 20 minutes faster. I tend to agree with that as my split to RF was about 20 minutes faster than I’ve run the last few years. There was no snow in 2004 or 1997.
So how does the 2010 snow course compare to the Star Fire course that Jurek ran 15:36 on, or to the Duncan and Deep Canyons course that Morton ran 15:40 on? Recall my Ten Best WS Races post where I described all the different courses used at WS since 1974:
There have been three distances: the “89 mile” course used from 1974 to 1979, the “93.5 mile” course used from 1980 to 1984, the “Wide World of Sports 100.2 mile” course used in 1985, and then a couple of different configurations of the “Cal St 100.2 mile” course from 1986 to present. While only those times from 1986 are considered for course records, there have been several changes to this standard “Cal St” course and it gets a little tricky comparing the times of say Morton’s course record to Jurek’s course record. From 1986 to 2001 there was the “Duncan and Deep Canyons” course where the significant Duncan Canyon was included but also some gravel roads between Robinson Flat and Last Chance via Cavanaugh Ridge and Deep Canyon. From 2002 to 2005 the “Star Fire” course was used when Duncan Canyon was closed due to the 2001 Star Fire. This course had a fast gravel road section from Red Star Ridge to Robinson Flat which cut off some mileage so to keep the mileage at 100.2 we did a loop around Little Bald Mtn on new single track, still did the Cavanaugh Ridge route through Dusty Corners but added a few more miles on single track Pucker Pt Trail to Last Chance. Finally, after much volunteer work (real and forced) to get Duncan Canyon re-opened, the current “Miller’s Defeat” course uses new trail from Robinson to Dusty Corners while still using the popular Pucker Pt trail. This has the most single track of all the courses and is arguably the best course. So how do the times compare on these three Cal St courses? My opinion, and I’ve run all three of them, is that the Star Fire course was probably the fastest, the Duncan and Deep Canyons course a little slower, and the current Miller’s Defeat course the slowest of the three. Perhaps the difference between the Star Fire and Miller’s Defeat courses is only in the 10-20 minute range, which is likely to vary between runners, but I believe there is a difference.
If I had to guess I’d say the 2010 course is comparable to the Star Fire course. I’ve heard at least one veteran of the race say they thought that the Star Fire course was faster. No doubt, though, that the times that Geoff and Anton ran are the best ever.
So how did the splits this year compare to other years? These guys cranked. Thanks to John Medinger for doing some of the research for this breakdown. The course was essentially the same from Last Chance 43.3 miles to the Finish 100.2 so we’ll start our comparison from there.
Time of day at Last Chance 43.3 miles
- Geoff, Anton, Killian 11:04 am
- Jurek (2004) 11:12 am
- Morton (1997) 11:28 am
The split from Last Chance 43.3 miles to Finish 100.2
- Geoff 9:03
- Anton 9:09
- Morton (1997) 9:12
- Jurek (2004) 9:24
Cal St split from Foresthill 62 miles to River Crossing 78 miles, often considered the crux of the race.
- Killian 2:16
- Anton 2:17
- Morton (1997) 2:18
- Geoff 2:20
- Jurek (2004) 2:26
Perhaps the most telling split is from the River 78 miles to the Finish 100.2
- Geoff 3:26
- Jurek (2004) 3:37
- Morton (1997) 3:40
- Anton 3:47
- Killian 4:38
And for the sake of comparison here are the splits for the final sprint from Highway 49 93.5 miles to Finish 100.2. Nobody has come close to Jim Howard’s crazy 56 minutes from the 1983 race when he caught and passed Jim King in the last 1/2 mile of the race but Geoff ran slightly faster than both Jurek and Morton.
- Howard (1993) :56
- Godale (2007) 1:00
- Geoff 1:02
- Jurek (2004) 1:03
- Morton (1997) 1:03
- Anton 1:07
- Killian 1:08
There are no fields in American ultrarunning even close to the depth and breadth that we see at WS each year and this year arguably may have been the best ever assembled for any American ultra. We’ll save an analysis of the depth of the field for another post. But, it isn’t difficult for me to put Geoff’s 15:07 at the 2010 Western States at the top of my Ten Best WS Races Ever.