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Western States course taking a detour

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Organizers of the Western States Endurance run figured 100 miles with more than 40,000 feet of climbing and descending in conditions ranging from cold darkness to blazing canyons was enough to challenge the brave participants. The 2011 Western States 100 will avoid the deep, dangerous snow high in the Sierra Nevada as officials announced an alternate course for a second straight year. “Our overriding concerns are with the safety of our aid station personnel and our runners,” race director Greg Soderlund said in a statement Monday. “We need to make sure our aid station, safety and medical personnel can safely access any of our aid stations. And, it’s imperative that we ensure safe passage on the snow for our runners. We’re confident the new ‘snow route’ will help us accomplish all of these things.” More than 400 runners will depart Squaw Valley at 5 a.m. Saturday. They will not see their crews again until the 55-mile mark at Michigan Bluff. Lyon Ridge, Red Star Ridge and the popular Robinson Flat aid stations will all be bypassed this year as the runners will essentially follow the middle fork of the American River to French Meadows before re-joining the Western States Trail at the Mosquito Ridge aid station. The runners will back track toward Robinson Flat on a loop that will make up for the lost mileage due to the course changes. After passing through the Miller’s Defeat aid station at mile 35, the runners will resume the regular Western States course. This year’s race will still be far from snow-free. The first 15 miles will feature heavy snow on the course due to record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, including several late spring storms. The 2011 Western States field features defending men’s champion and course record holder Geoff Roes. He surged from third place to first place over the final 20 miles last year and shattered Scott Jurek’s course record, clocking in at 15 hours, 7 minutes. Reigning women’s champion Tracy Garneau is also back to defend her title. “This year’s race will be a challenge, that’s for certain,” Soderlund said. “Last year we had our most competitive field ever, and if anything, this year’s depth at the front of the pack could be even greater. Some years heat is the important variable, and others it’s the snow. 2011 is a snow year. All our runners will have to pace themselves well early.”