The Western States Endurance Run has it all!
Heat, mountains, snow, distance will challenge you on your way to the finish line.
How to prepare for this?
Top Tips from Western States 100 finishers;
how to train for and finish a challenging Trail Race like this.
Keep it simple
“Reducing the complexity of a training program enhances the overall preparatory experience for me and promotes consistency, which I believe to be the single most important element in any serious training program.” – Anton Krupicka
Less is more
“I improved my running endurance dramatically and achieved a PR for mountain 100-milers as a result of running 20 miles a week. Book end that with even 50-mile splits and a faster 500m row time and you’ve really got something.” – Steve Crane
Find the right fit
“The right shoe may not prevent injury, but the wrong shoe can certainly lead to injury. …
I experienced excruciating pain as my toes jammed repeatedly against the front of my shoe on the downhills. … I ended up borrowing a knife at an aid station and cutting off the front part of my shoe to make running sandals..”
Hal Koerner about his first Western States in 2001 in Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon, from 50K to 100 Miles and Beyond.
Read more about the right trail running gear.
Hit the trails
“Imagine going out for a road run where things constantly dashed out onto the pavement in front of you. That’s a bit what trail running can be like. …
Training on trails to race on trails is important, because you want dodging obstacles on the ground to be second nature so you can focus on other elements of the race.” – Sarah Dasher
Focus on the downside
According to WS100 Race Director Norm Klein 80% of the people who drop out of Western States do so because of quads trashed by the downhills.
George Beinhorn, veteran (ultra)runner, did some research on how to train for the WS100 downhills.
Based on 30 responses to his question, he concludes:
“Anything that strengthens your UPPER quads will help. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that training on uphills will help you (at all!) on the downhills. It won’t.
The consensus: do wall sits, ride a bike very hard, do weight work for lower body (get the advice of a trained coach to find out what to do for the upper quads), and do a lot of hard downhill running.”
Scott Jurek famously trained for his first Western States Endurance Run in the frigid northern reaches—and low-lying elevation—of the upper Midwest. (He won that race, then the six Western States that followed.)
Countless runners from all over the country train for and complete races in conditions far different than those of their “home” trails, and many even compete at a high level.
Train the quadriceps with eccentric overload, jump and run down fast on a mountain, hill or bridge. Trail Runner Magazine explains how.
Walk up those hills aggressively
“Don’t stroll, but walk like you mean it.” – Dick Collins
Heat it up
Train in the heat, run with excess clothing or build a dry sauna routine:
“Try many things to determine what works best for you. You also need to know the red flag symptoms to avoid some disastrous consequences. Heat management skills are crucial for the success and safety of all endurance athletes.” – Jimmy Dean Freeman
Strengthen your core
“Don’t try an ultra without adding strength training (i.e. weights) to your training regimen.
Lower Body is important, but so is upper body (it will help keep you running straight after many hours) and, most important, core strength.” – Jose Suarez
Take a break
“I always try and take one day off a week. Leading up to Western States I did hit some 10-day stretches between days off but those were rare.”
“Respect the recovery after one, and rest before the next.” – Rob Krar
Taper your way to race day
“Sometimes running your best is about not running at all, or at least knowing when not to run yet having the faith in the running you have already done in the months leading up to a big race.” – Ellie Greenwood
Don’t care about the outcome, care about the journey. Have fun!
“If you focus on the experience, the end results take care of themselves.” – Jason Robillard
Run your own race
“Get ready for the hype and stick to your game plan.” – Ian Torrence
Keep it cool
”I wore a cotton T-shirt because it holds moisture closer to your body. I also took all nine of my water bottles and froze them half with ice and filled the rest with water, so that the bottles themselves would keep me cool. I put ice everywhere I could put it. I splashed in every stream and river crossing. I made sure that I was soaking wet and got my body temperature down so that my running wasn’t affected by the heat.” – Pam Smith
Go with the snow
“I won’t fight the snow, because the snow will always win. I will go with the flow on the snow. I will observe and learn what strides and tactics are efficient and which are not. I’ll stick to the former and avoid the latter.” – Byron Powell
Be light headed
How to run in the dark?
“A comfortable and easily adjustable headlamp is a great starting point. If you pass on a headlamp, you’re likely to find yourself wishing you hadn’t when the sun sets quicker than you thought it would.
I’ve tried waist and handheld lighting, but nothing beats the simplicity and hands-free convenience of a headlamp.” – Rob Krar
Read more about the right trail running gear.
“Consider Timing: To prevent a drop in blood glucose, which correlates with fatigue, you need to start early and fuel often.
Within 20 to 30 minutes of beginning a race I take my first gel. This is so important!” – Stephanie Howe
Your crew is your bonus
“It’s generally up to the runner to tell their crew everything the crew needs to know. I’d generally advise to not rely too heavily on the crew and use them as a bonus, so that if something goes wrong (a flat tire etc), the runner isn’t screwed, especially mentally, from the crew not being there.” – Ian Sharman
Enjoy the unknown
“Finishing is not a guaranteed thing.
When the dust settles at the end of a race, I never seem to know why on certain days it makes sense to keep pushing on through just about anything, and on other days it makes sense to stop. I just know that this uncertainty and unpredictability is one of my favorite things about racing.” – Geoff Roes, was record time winner in 2010 with 15:07:04, but Did Not Finish (DNF) in 2011.
More tips and advice how to train and get ready for the WSER:
WSER participant guide
WSER training advice for Western States
Training runs offered by WSER
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