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Western States a big challenge

To finish the 100-mile run from Squaw Valley to Auburn is exhilarating
By: Matt Long
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The task of preparing to run 100 miles is daunting. The satisfaction having finished is even better. Six local runners will compete in the 37th annual Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, which begins Friday in Squaw Valley south of Truckee and ends Saturday at Placer High in Auburn. The run follows rough terrain, usually accessible only by hikers, horses and helicopters. Once athletes reach Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750), they follow the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850s, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn. Runners are expected to complete the 100 miles in 30 hours. Folsom’s Erik Skaden, Jamie Frink, Charley Jones and Karyn Hoffman and El Dorado Hills’ Marty Hoffman and John Nichols will participate in the race. For Skaden, he will attempt to finish his sixth Western States run. In 2006 and 2007, Skaden, 38, was the runner-up in the race. His best finishing time is 16 hours and 36 minutes. This year his goal is to finish in 18 hours. “In the sixth months leading up to the race, I’m running 100 miles a week with some cycling mixed in too,” Skaden said. “The training is definitely harder than the race. Anyone who trains to finish the race will tell you that. The race isn’t so bad compared to the training.” Skaden, who is an endurance runner for the health and fitness benefits, enjoys running through the gold mining towns of Last Chance and Michigan Bluff during the race, which are around the halfway point of the race. His least favorite part of the race is the heat . “It’s usually the worst between the 60 and 80-mile mark,” Skaden said. “The heat in the lower elevations is brutal.” Frink, 37, completed her first Western States last year and is excited to do it again this year. “My motivation is the personal challenge; it’s amazing to be able to run 100 miles,” Frink said. “Plus, I love being outdoors and in the mountains. It’s hard to single out the best part of the race. Last year I loved every minute of it. The countdown at the start is pretty exciting and hitting the track at Placer High, realizing what you have accomplished is pretty amazing as well.” Last year Frink, a mother of two kids under 10, finished in 23 hours and 37 minutes. Her goal this year is to equal that performance. Marty Hoffman will be competing in his 10th 100-mile race and fourth Western States run. As an experienced runner, Hoffman, 54, has an interesting perspective on the race. “My motivation to do this is the challenge,” Hoffman said. “It also reminds me that most other things in life aren’t so hard. After I finish I feel pretty good about what I accomplished and am appreciative of all the folks who played a role in allowing me to do this.” One common trait of all the participants is the love of a challenge. Jones, 38, also loves the competition against the course and his mind. “My motivation for doing Western States is that it’s a paramount challenge and being challenged makes life significantly more interesting,” Jones said. Jones also said his favorite part of the race is about two-thirds of the way through when he gets to Foresthill. “The best part is rolling into Foresthill and seeing family and friends because it’s been many hours of running by myself while navigating my own company, the altitude, the canyons, the heat and the exhaustion,” Jones said. “It gives me a much needed boost.” Unlike the others, Nichols, 45, enjoys running in the canyons. “Although it’s the most difficult section of the course, it’s during this stretch that I usually begin to pick up the pace and start harvesting the training investment of the preceding six months.” For Nichols, he finds a stretch close to the end the hardest. “There is a mile long stretch from Quarry Road at about mile 92 to the Highway 49 crossing at mile 93,” Nichols explains. “It’s uphill, rocky, and seems to take forever. I’m drained at this point. Once you reach Highway 49, you’re on the home stretch. However, the climb from Quarry Road to Highway 49 seems to be where I’m having to reconstruct the courage to do what is required to secure a good finish.” Nichols will be looking to complete his sixth Western States run. Though his best time is 20 hours and 46 minutes, his goal this year is to finish in less than 24 hours. “I feel I’m better prepared than when I ran 20:46, but I had a perfect day that day,” Nichols said. “I can’t plan for that again.” For Karyn Hoffman, 47, her favorite part of the race is the scenery. She’s completed the race three times and her fastest time is 26 hours and 26 minutes. Her goal this year? “Just finish and enjoy the ride,” Hoffman said.