On a cool day in Cool, California, Jim Walmsley broke the Western States record for the second time in two years. Shaving 21 minutes off his record-setting 2018 pace in the 100-mile race through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains trails, Walmsley clocked in at 14:09:28. More amazing still is that he wasn’t alone in breaking the 2018 record time. His fellow racer Jared Hazen finished well under the prior record in 14:26:46.
Walmsley and Hazen share more than close race times. Not only do they train together in Flagstaff, Arizona, they’re housemates as well.
“Jared and I live together so there’ll be a lot of trash talking at home,” said Walmsley in a post-race interview at the finish line on Auburn’s Placer High School’s track.
Walmsley said he felt like he earned his victory. “I guess I just had good luck today,” Walmsley said. “I’ve been here four years in a row and this is the first time the temps actually went down.”
At 24, Hazen is five years Walmsley’s junior and pushed Walmsley from behind but knew Walmsley was always 8 to 10 minutes ahead.
“I knew Jim wasn’t going to lay down and die,” recounted Hazen. “We elevate each other. We train very hard and take it very seriously.”
Hazen added: “If you can make the first 30 miles of the States course, the last 70 miles are pretty smooth.”
Though no record was set in the women’s race, it was ultimately more dramatic than the men. The early leader, 2018 winner Courtney Dauwalter, dropped out at mile 79 with a leg injury after leading by more than a half hour and well under course record pace. Then, with only six miles left in the race, Clare Gallagher and Brittany Peterson wound up running neck and neck.
Stomach issues, forced Gallagher to stop eating at mile 80 and was running scared after Peterson caught her at mile 94, where she had dropped from the race two years earlier. She reported that she “didn’t stop at the aid station and just ran like crazy from there.” Her time was the second fastest women’s time in the storied race’s history.
“This is for the Arctic,” yelled Gallagher at her finish line interview. The always-energetic Gallagher had recently returned from Alaska, where she promoted an upcoming Congressional vote to preserve refuge lands. She encouraged everyone to reach out to their representatives and was just happy to get to the start line healthy after her trip.
The morning after her close second-place finish and her first Western States, Peterson left everything she had out on the course and didn’t have any regrets. She didn’t suffer too many low points during her race but that her stomach wouldn’t let her go as hard as she wanted to on the climbs later in the course.
One of the more emotional stories of this year’s Western States was Ladia Albertson-Junkan’s running her first 100-miler, fueled by the memory of her best friend and past University of Minnesota teammate, Gabriel “Gabe” Grunewald, who died on June 11 after a 10-year battle with cancer.
Albertson-Junkans told her race support crew at an aid station about half way into the race, “I was feeling nauseous out there but then I started thinking about what Gabe had been through these past months. Then I balled for a while and moved forward.”