As a faint light began to manifest itself upon the horizon, headlights were affixed, running shoes tightened, and water bottles topped off. It was a chilly morning in January at Wilson Creek, with every breath creating a mini sauna in front of the many faces. They waited with anticipation on the starting line, as the last few people made their way down and took up stance ready to embark on an amazing adventure. After all the instructions, The National Anthem was played on a Trombone, which was not typical, but was well suiting for the non typical race that was about to begin. With the blast of a 12 gauge shotgun the race was on, and headlights danced away into the darkness. It was only 7am, well before sunrise, and the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k was underway. This is Ultra Trail Running.
The term UltraRunning is the sport of long distance running, also known as ultramarathoning. The standard definition is anything past the marathon, or 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50 kilometer distance, or 31.07 miles. Other standard distances are the 50 mile, 100 mile, 100 km, and a series of events that last for specified time periods such as 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, 48 hour, and 6 days. Ultra Trail Running is the same thing, except with primary running surface being rugged trails that usually involve large elevation gains through out the race. A great example of an Ultra Trail Race is the Western States Endurance Run.
The Western States Endurance Run, aka “Western States 100″ or “WS100,” is one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and certainly one of the most challenging.
The run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn.
Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters. Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the trail, the Western States Endurance Run differs substantially from other organized runs.
The following trailer is for “Unbreakable”, a film that follows four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners that toed the starting line at the Western States 100 in 2010. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain. I would highly suggest watching the film. It was my first introduction into the realm of Ultra Trail Running, and it was very well done.
Although The Wilson Creek Frozen 50k was not quite as intense as a 100-mile race, mother nature did not cooperate, and created for some very difficult conditions, and proved to be a good challenge even for seasoned veterans of the sport. The race started in 2011 as just a gathering of about 20 runners from the Treasure Valley. But in 2012 it became an official race with several hundred participants, and became the first of the Idaho Trail Ultra series. The main race was the 50 kilometers, but there was also a 20 and a 10 mile race. It was put on by Pickled Feet Ultra Running, which is made up of Emily Berriochoa and Davina Jackson. Both are race directors, as well as ultra runners. They did a great job organizing this event, and it would not have been made possible with out them. Also there were countless volunteers and sponsors that contributed to this successful event.
We were privileged to be a part of the event, and to be at the start of each race to capture the excitement and anticipation that hung thick in the air. It was something I have never experienced before. Even though I just had a camera in my hand, It was still an amazing feeling. It was the start of something big, and Silverline Films was there along the way to capture it all. I would not say we had it as tough as the racers for sure, but it was still a challenge to be right there along with them in the midst of the terrible weather.
We had a team of 4 guys that ran cameras, audio equipment, and rode to the tops of the mountains, and the lowest valleys to capture the essence of the race in video form. The result was a 12-minute film called Frozen First. It was the first adventure race that we filmed, but it will definitely not be our last. The entire event was amazing, and it motivated me to start running as well. Although I am a long way from running a race like this one, it is a goal that I am going to constantly strive for, putting more and more miles behind me, with races and health ahead of me.