The 40th year of this race began at the crack of dawn on Saturday, June 29, at Squaw Valley and ended at Placer High School in Auburn, CA the following day. This renowned trail foot race draws elite endurance athletes from all of the world. Our local blog contributor, Colleen Conners-Pace of Tahoe Peak Endurance (who has dolled out great tips for Ironman Lake Tahoe!) competed years ago, so we sat down with her to find out what it was like to run this incredibly popular and difficult ultra.
What year did you compete in WS100, what was your time, and what did you place?
I competed in 1980 with a time of 23:10. I placed as the 3rd woman, and at 23 years old I was the youngest. I think 250 entered, 125 finished, 66 under 24 hours, and I was 33rd overall.
How long did you train?
I began running in 1976 and ran my first marathon in '78. My first ultra was 1979 around the lake in September, then I raced the WS 100. I crewed for Cowman and others for several years prior to my run, as well as after. Crewing is what turned me onto trail and ultra distance running and the desire to run the WS 100.
What was the most enjoyable part about the race?
Being out there in the woods and the mountains, with nothing but the simplicity of shoes on your feet. Having to go from one point to another over a rugged trail. There is no way I would do an ultra that travels in loops, and/or on pavement. Challenging the body, spirit, and mind. All the support from family and friends, all the volunteers, and race officials. Knowing that I was able to accomplish this feat, was racing well and had the potential to place.
What was the most difficult part of the race for you?
When my partner, Carl Toeppner, whom I trained with–actually my coach and mentor, the biggest influence on why I was able to complete the event–had to drop out and I had to continue on my own until I picked up our pacers later. I had to run the canyons alone, and when we had trained he was always there. Of course, there were other runners were out there, but I still felt a bit apprehensive.
What is your advice to those interested in training for and racing WS100?
Train less than more and be aware of too much volume. Listen to your body. Enjoy the journey to the event. Have no expectations the first time other than to enjoy the day and finish healthy. Don't wear a watch, don't get hung up on numbers and time and … too much stress. Allow someone else monitor your progress.
How is the WS100 different from other ultras? What sets it apart as an endurance race?
It's the grand daddy of them all. It was my first, and I was one of the pioneers. I entered before there was a lottery. It started in my backyard, it was a "must-do"!