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Western States 100: Winter Training

Adam Kimble and Jeff Brown, Tahoe Mountain Realty’s Athlete-in-Residence and Broker respectively, are chronicling their journeys toward the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run in June. Western States, commonly referred to as the ‘Super Bowl of Ultrarunning,’ is the oldest 100-mile trail race in the world and runs 100 miles from Olympic Valley to Auburn, CA.


Adam Kimble

The first few months of the running season are always interesting when you live in a mountainous place. Knowing that Western States lingers ahead on June 25th, I’ve started the year by getting creative with my training. For me, that means a few things:


  1. Driving to dry trails. To best simulate the trail running of the Western States trail, you have to run on the trails themselves or on something similar. For me, that usually means a weekend drive to get a quality longer trail run on some dry trails. Thankfully, the trails in Auburn (where Western States finishes) and Reno have been in great shape because of the lack of snowfall this winter.


  1. Treadmill running. While not always the most glamourous, this has been a hugely valuable option for me. It’s convenient, takes away the risk of slipping on ice or snow, and allows for accumulating vertical. An early season must to get in some more consistent workouts!


  1. Running on bike paths and roads. I’m a professional ultra-trail runner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get better on pavement! Running roads in Illinois before I moved out to Tahoe was ultimately what got me into this sport, so while I always prefer running on trails, getting out on the roads is still fun and nostalgic for me.


These options also mean that I’m undertrained heading into the first few races of the year. When you haven’t had a solid chance to regularly get out on the trails and your legs aren’t quite in mid-season form, it’s a challenging prospect to run to your potential. So, I use my February and March races as a litmus test for where my fitness is at, knowing that I will not be close to the standard I hope to achieve later in the season. This year specifically, I’ve been dealing with some minor early season injury issues, which has prevented me from getting in the ideal training quality and volume I normally aspire to. In fact, this weekend I was supposed to run a 50-mile race, but I felt that my body has been improving as of late, and I don’t want to create any setbacks now that we are under three months until Western States race day. In running as in life, there are “A” goals, and there are goals that fall below that threshold. Western States is the top priority in my running life, and I will do whatever it takes to give my best performance come June. Many years in this sport has taught me that it’s best to trust your gut and occasionally make a difficult decision to withdraw from a race you had planned to run, rather than succumbing to your competitive fire and compromising the ultimate goal. This season of running for me is all about Western States, and every decision I make leading up to race day is all about being able to perform at the highest level when it matters most!

Jeff Brown

Like Adam, spring is the beginning of a transition to a dedicated training regimen specifically for the Western States 100. After winter spent building a base of fitness largely from cross-county and back-country skiing, we are now following a daily running plan coordinated by our mutual coach Peter Fain.

This annual transition is ceremonially marked by singular weekend in March that hosts both the Great Ski Race and Way Too Cool 50k run. On this weekend, both disciplines are combined in a self-imposed suffer fest that either validates the winter’s work or reveals where additional attention should be paid.

With weekends dedicated to long runs on mountainous terrain to simulate the endless climbs into and out of the many canyons along the American River, midweek days are spent improving efficiency via interval and strength training.

The benefits of age have revealed the critical importance of other forms of body work that support this volume of training including yoga, Pilates, acupuncture, chiropractic as well as some old-fashioned physical (and mental) therapy to stay ahead of the many niggling injuries.

April will be a critical month for continuing to build endurance while introducing some specificity to ensure that running muscles are as well tuned as lung capacity. Canyons 50k, which covers much of the Western States course in reverse, will provide a solid day of very specific training at month’s end. Layering in some travel and variable weather, training will be somewhat improvisational using the techniques Adam details above.