Western States finish line

3 GU Athletes Getting Ready for Western States

Anticipation is building for this year's Western States 100, which goes off at the crack of dawn June 26. We're excited to return as the exclusive performance nutrition sponsor of this iconic ultra race, and we'll be out in full force fueling athletes as they tackle the challenge.

WHAT IS WESTERN STATES? It's the world's oldest 100-mile trail race! First run in 1974, it's become legendary for gorgeous scenery, grueling conditions and dramatic finishes. The route covers 100 miles of geologically diverse Sierra Nevada trails from Olympic Valley down to the iconic track finish in Auburn, California, offering runners several ways to feel completely breathless: high country elevation, scenic vistas, a frigid river crossing, and searing heat in the canyons.

WHEN IS IT RUN? The last weekend in June, which this year falls on the 26th-27th.

PRIZES? WHAT DO THEY WIN? Overall male and female winners receive the Western States Cougar Trophy. Sub 24-hour finishers take home the coveted silver belt buckle, while sub 30-hour finishers receive a bronze buckle.

LET'S MEET SOME GU ATHLETES! We caught up with 3 runners on their preparation, lessons learned from past races, and advice to share.

 Patrick Reagan

Patrick Reagan, Savannah GA

Previous results: 2019 (8th)

What have you learned about training for WS100?
Prepare your body and mind to complete the distance by preparing specifically for the course. Try not to overdo the training in the final 20 days before the race.

What's your fueling strategy?
My plan for Western States in 2021 is to consume solely GU products, fresh fruit, and potato chips. I will alter the form factor throughout the day to make sure to not get tired of consuming one particular flavor or type of food. My plan is to consume 300 calories of GU product per hour (primarily Roctane Energy Drink and Stoopwafels) and 50-100 calories of fruit, totalling 350-400 calories total per hour.

Have you had an "aha" moment at States?
My first year of running States, I ran very patiently through the high country (Mile 0-23) and ran slightly more aggressively at the halfway point after cresting Devil's Thumb. In the final stages of the race, I moved from 22nd position to 8th by managing my energy stores efficiently.


Camelia Mayfield

Camelia Mayfield, Bend OR

Previous results: 2018 (7th)  and 2019 (5th)

What have you learned about training for WS100?
Be realistic about how much training you can fit into your life! Training for 100 miles is all about maximizing time on your feet so tailor your training plan around other work/life obligations. I always have had success with doing 50-mile or 50k “training races” leading up to the 100-mile race to help keep me excited and force some recovery weeks. 
What's your fueling strategy?
I carry 2 bottles pretty much the whole race- 1 of ice water and 1 of Roctane drink. I have 1 GU gel or 1 serving of chews an hour, as well as some solid food from aid stations. I LOVE chips and boiled potatoes dipped in salt to supplement my GU calories. I’ve also had success with BCAAs to help keep mental clarity. The popsicle at the top of Devils Thumb is a must. 
Have you had an "aha" moment at States?
My “Aha” moment usually comes at Michigan Bluff, about 55 miles in. This is when the race starts to unravel for a lot of runners so if you can stay controlled and feeling good through that point you can get some momentum passing people in the second half of the race (even though you still have a long way to go!)

My other “aha” moment usually comes when I start to realize negative thoughts are creeping in, usually a sign I need calories. I get in some quick fuel with a favorite GU flavor (mine is Salted Caramel) and it’s amazing how quickly my mood and mindset improve. 

Any final thoughts to share?
Never let one setback influence your race. There are a lot of opportunities to turn a race around, especially over the 100-mile distance. Don’t doubt your ability to problem-solve on the trail. If you are going into the race with a little injury (and most people do, even pros!) make sure you have a PT or doctor you trust who can tell you if it’s safe to run and what sort of pain is okay to run through. Things are going to hurt when you run 100 miles, but knowing what is “okay” pain is helpful.

Mike Wardian

Michael Wardian, Arlington VA

Previous results: 2009 (15th), 2015 (22nd), 2017 (47th)

What have you learned about training for WS100?
I think the biggest thing I've learned is you have to train your stomach and get used to fueling for long periods of time in all conditions: hot, cold, humid, rain...know what you can eat and when, or at least have a plan on what you are hoping to eat. Be fluid but determined to keep fueling; it is the best way to have the day you want.

The other thing I've learned is to have a HUGE WHY. Know why you are out there. I even write it on my arm sometimes as it reminds me when things are tough. You've got to know why are you are doing what you are doing.

The last thing is never decide to drop out or quit while going uphill. This has saved more than one race I have been in. Things do turn around when you can run and the trail or course flattens out.

What's your fueling strategy?
100-miler fueling, especially mountain 100-miler fueling, is a bit different from every other race distance, especially if the conditions are hot as Western States tends to be.

I like to be committed to a fueling plan but also flexible if my stomach starts to feel off.

The first few hours I want to remind myself to eat and drink as I will have breakfast still in my stomach and the pace should be slow so I will not be super hungry or thirsty and that is ok. I just trickle in the calories. I even sometimes set a fueling alarm on my Polar watch to remind me to eat/drink. I usually don't need the alarm because I have already eaten but sometimes I forget or don't want to and it reminds me I should. I set the alarm for every 30 mins or, if it's hot, maybe 20 mins but I feel like 30 mins is pretty solid amount of time and I can get in some food/drink at that interval.

I like to try for one GU Energy Gel per hour for the first 4-5 hours and augment that with liquid calories. I fill two 14-18oz Nathan Soft Bottles, one with straight water and one with GU Roctane Energy Drink or something with calories like coconut water, and after 50 miles maybe soda like Coke or ginger ale but I want dedicated sports fuel for as long as possible.

Have you had an "aha" moment at States?
I've definitely had a few "aha moments."  The first time I did Western States, I wanted to quit going up "Devil's Thumb" and I thought, "no wonder they call it that." It doesn't look so terrible on the map but when you are there it definitely feels terrible. I kept telling myself just "get to the river crossing" at mile 78 and you can quit. Of course, once I got to the river, there was no way I was quitting but it helped and got me along the trail.

The next few times I did Western States, I really enjoyed getting to the track and I wanted to run the fastest time ever for 400 meters. I doubt I did but that was my motivation.

Any final thoughts to share?
I think the best words of wisdom that I can share are to ask yourself "Why not today?" and remind yourself to "Be Relentless" and of course "Stay After It." We are all capable of so much more than we think we are. Also, "Embrace the Suck."

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