The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run has the distinction of being the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race. The epic footrace starts in Squaw Valley, California and after runners climb about 18,000 feet and descend another 22,970 feet, finishes 100 in Auburn, California, a small town in the heart of California’s historic gold country.
Not for the everyday recreational runner.
But Steven Moore, a 51-year old facility manager for the College of Natural Sciences, is not your average runner. Moore, who played lacrosse for The University of Texas back in the late 80s, started running some of Austin’s local trail races in 2008. He built up from a 30K, to a 60K, then a 100K, and eventually in 2010, the Cactus Rose in Bandera—a 100-mile race.
By the time Moore reached the starting line of Western States last week, he had run 13 or 14 100s, and established himself as a noteworthy competitor. Due to the strict lottery-based entry process of Western States, it took Moore eight years to get into the race.
The race started on Saturday, June 29 at t 5:00 a.m. and has a 30-hour cutoff. Sub-24 finishers get a silver belt buckle.
“The weather was perfect—It got hot, but you stop at the creeks, soak your bandana, and get going again. There were some miles in the beginning that included snow. They were slippery, but helped keep you from going out to fast,” said Moore, who has a marathon PR of 2:49 and trains up to 70 miles a week.
“I had a goal of breaking the 50-plus age- group record, which has stood since 1988,” said Moore. “I qualified for the race last January, and I decided I was going to go for the record.”
The record Moore is referring to is 18 hours and 43 minutes. Moore set about breaking it in a methodical manner.
“I had some splits from a woman who ran the previous year, and I tried to emulate those,” he said.
Moore reached his first big checkpoint—Robinson Flat at mile 30 at five and a half hours, right on schedule. There his crew, which consisted of his wife Sandi running buddy Jeff Miller, helped him along with refills of Tailwind, his favorite endurance run fuel
“At Michigan Bluff, which is at mile 55, some guy shouted out that I was 30-minutes ahead of the record. But I knew I still had a lot left. People can collapse and not finish,” said Moore.
“Forest Hill is at mile 62—it’s a big deal with lots of spectators,” said Moore referring to one of the aid stations. “You come up out of the valley after battling the rocks and the heat.”
Moore knew if he could get to Forest Hill by 11 to 11-and-a-half hours, he’d have about seven and a half hours to finish. “I got to Forest Hill in around 11:14,” said Moore. “Game on. I knew I just had to finish the last 38 miles in seven and a half hours. After mile 62, the next 16 is mostly downhill. If you saved any of your quads you can lay down some good time there. My legs generally felt good.”
Moore’s friend Miller paced him from 78 miles on in.
“I had paced him last year, and he was returning the favor,” explained Moore. “It makes it more fun, and pacers are a safety factor, too—there are giant cliffs you can fall off of.
By mile 90, Moore realized he had a very good shot at the 30-year old 50-plus record. Indeed, he did, cruising home to break the record as he finished on a high-school track in Auburn in 18:14:57, 24th overall, and the first of nine Texas finishers.
“You could say I ‘smashed’ the record by 18 minutes,” said Moore. “On the other hand, 18 minutes can come and go pretty easily in the mountains.”
Reflecting back on his race, Moore talked about what it’s actually like to race 100 miles through the mountains.
“I like to strive to where I’m not thinking about anything,” he said. “All of the noise and concerns you typically thinking about go away. All you are concerned about is moving forward. It’s knowing the course, putting in the training. You have to stay positive. You can’t get doubtful. If you do, you’ll go down a black hole.”
Upcoming Races: Saturday, July 13 at 8;00 a.m., Brady’s Bridge Super Family Fund Run 5K at Old Settlers Park Lakeview Pavilion, in Round Rock. Saturday, July 20 at 6:30 a.m., the Stars and Stripes Half Marathon and 5K/10K at Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre, 1178 Kroesche Lane in New Braunfels.