A Few Screws Short of the Hardware Store (AKA a Newbie Trains for Western States)

June 19, 2018

My first Western States 100 is right around the corner. I feel like I’m sitting on a roller coaster waiting for it to launch into motion. I know a roller coaster is going to make me scared, shake me around, cause some nausea, and come to a screeching stop with me yelling “Wow. What a ride!” I have a hunch Western States will be similar. The night before the race I’ll be scared. Climbing up and down and up and down steep canyons in the sweltering heat will probably cause some nausea. And I know the whole race experience will leave me yelling “Wow. What a ride!”


I’ve done lots of 100 mile runs before, but the Western States 100 is unlike anything else. The history of the race, the challenge of getting into the race, and the difficulty of the race course all combine to make Western States legendary. Knowing this, my training over the past few months has all been focused on being prepared to tackle this beast.

In April I ran a solo 100 miler on the deck of a cruise ship. On a track that took 16 loops to make a mile, those 1,600 loops were far from representative of the Western States elevation chart. But I’m hoping the monotony (read: stupidity) of doing something like this strengthened my mental determination. (Which is just a nice way of saying that those 1,600 loops nearly made me go certifiably crazy.)

Three weeks after that, I ran the Zion 100 in southern Utah. I expected that the Zion 100 would be better preparation physically for Western States thanks to some long, sustained climbs and descents that make your legs feel like they are being churned through a cheese grater. But it turns out that Zion was almost as mentally challenging as the cruise ship run – thanks to the Beach Boys song Kokomo getting into my head and REFUSING to get out. Kokomo on repeat for 28 hours DID make me go certifiably crazy.

I went to the official Western States Training Camp where we ran the last 70 miles of the trail over the course of three days. While I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, I also fretted about how challenging the course would be. Instead of running 70 miles over three days, I will need to try to run all 100 miles in less than 30 hours.

I’ve done lots of heat training to prepare for the sweltering furnace of the Western States 100. This involves putting on a sweatshirt and wool hat when it is 95 degrees, then going on a run. (Warning: if any neighbors see you looking like this as you run to the trailhead, it will confirm their belief that you are a few screws short of a hardware store.)

I’ve done everything I can do to prepare for this epic adventure. Every single one of the miles I’ve run has been with a pair of Injinji socks on my feet. Now all that’s left to do is hope my training has prepared me, hope that things go smoothly on race day, and hope that Kokomo doesn’t get stuck in my head for 28 hours.

-Good luck Cory Reese on your first Western States 100, remember to have fun out there!