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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | MIGRATIONS

100 lung-busting miles

June 22, 2004|Bonnie Obremski

In 1974 Gordy Ainsleigh ran against horses and their riders in the Western States Trail Ride from Squaw Valley to Auburn. He dodged hoofs for 100 miles up and down punishing mountain terrain to finish in 23 hours and 42 minutes -- creating one of the toughest ultra races in the country. Athletes no longer chase horses, but there's no guarantee they won't eat dust at this weekend's 31st Western States Endurance Run that follows the original 1850s mining trails and climbs a total of more than 18,000 feet. "You show up at the starting line in the best shape of your life and a day later you are in Auburn in the worst shape of your life," veteran racer Andy Black says in the racer's guide. The race is limited to 369 runners (only about half finish) chosen lottery-style. Six times as many volunteers and 3,000 spectators line up to watch the event that starts at 5 a.m. Saturday in Squaw Valley and winds through Granite Chief Wilderness. Anyone who staggers back to Auburn before 11 a.m. Sunday receives an award. Top male and female finishers, who finished in less than 19 hours last year, win the Wendell Robie Cup; those who hit the finish in less than 24 hours get an engraved silver belt buckle. Ainsleigh, 57, of Meadow Vista, Calif., in front below, has finished every Western States race since 1993. He remembers when the race was more informal. "There was a lot more laughing and joking," he said, "and even pranks along the trail." Go to www.ws100.com.

-- Bonnie Obremski

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