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2011 Western States 100: Our Oklahoma Trail Runner

Oklahoma State Flag - Placed over the shield, symbols of peace - the peace pipe and olive branch.

Henry Bickerstaff will be The Man for the state of Oklahoma at this year’s Western States 100. Henry is the only athlete making the journey from the Sooner State.

Henry has been enjoying the running life for that last 20 years and went to the ultra-side six years ago. After finishing his first 100 last year…at Western States…Henry is back for another adventure on the Western States Trail.

Once again, Henry was gracious in answering a few questions about his upcoming journey.


Henry Bickerstaff #104

Henry cruising along the snow route at the 2010 Western States 100.

[EB] Last year was your first Western States adventure and you were able to win the lottery for a second year in a row. What’s your secret? Rabbit’s Foot? Cash under the table?

Last year I was extremely lucky to be selected in the lottery the first time I entered. Even though the Forest Service has allowed the race to increase the number of participants for three years to cycle through those that did not get to run in 2008 due to the fire, the odds are still low. Actually, I was not selected in the lottery last December. I won one of the three slots given away through the raffle at the pre-race meeting last June. Therefore, as I toed the line last year, I knew that all I had to do was to finish and meet my service requirement to run this year. The raffle raises money to help preserve the trail.

[EB] The reasons an athlete returns to a specific trail race can vary for everyone. Why are you heading back to the start line in Squaw Valley, California?

The biggest reason is that I won the raffle and the free entry it provides. Who would not want to run it again? Running Western States is magical. I would presume it is the same for those that want to run Boston every year or go to Kona for Ironman. It is the race to do. There are races that are certainly more difficult but no one else can claim the mystical draw of being the first.

[EB] You looked to have had a fun filled Spring season that included Cross Timbers, TRC Post Oak Lodge, Grasslands, and the recently held War Eagle TailTwister. How is the body and mind feeling one week out from the Western States 100?

The mind is good and very much prepared. I tried to race a little more this year than last in my preparation mainly to be on the trails more. There are no trails out here in northwest Oklahoma but plenty of dirt and gravel roads. In addition to your list, I also ran 38 miles of the Rockin K 50 two weeks after Grasslands and Western States training runs over Memorial Day weekend. At almost 57, the body could have a few less aches and pains but that is why mental preparation is so important.

[EB] What did a typical training week look like during your peak training? (weekly mileage, longest run, any back-to-back long runs?, weights/core, etc)

During a typical two-week training period, I would run about 80 miles. It might be a 50/30 or a 60/20 two week period. If I were not racing, then I would try to get in a 25 to 30 miles long run every other week. In addition to the running I would set the treadmill at 15% grade and walk for an hour once per week, do pilates three times per week and do a swim and sauna three times per week. Except for the weeks following a race I will do some mile repeats with one-minute rest intervals to push my aerobic threshold.

[EB] Did you do any Western States specific weight training?

Last year I did weight training to strengthen my quads for the downhill running. I did not find it as effective as I would have liked. I am blessed that my kids did triathlons growing up and I own a Computrainer for biking. Once per week I would ride hills in the big chain ring, standing up with a low cadence. At least for me, this has added strength to my quads and downhill running is less painful. Pilates has added a lot of core strength and made my hips and legs a lot more flexible.

[EB] During the course of 100 miles the stomach can develop its own personality and require some adaption to make it happy. With that being said, what is your start-line fueling strategy? Sports nutrition? Regular Food such as bananas, etc.? Combination?

I have never really had any stomach problems in the past. Nevertheless, I always carry some ginger chews just in case. They provide a breakfast of oatmeal, bagels and fruit so that is what I will have race morning. During the race I will stick with gels, bananas, coke when I need some quick energy or a Pay Day and of course my favorite PBJ. At Western States they use strawberry and not grape jelly that is a little bit of an adjustment for me.

[EB] With one year of Western States experience under your belt, are there any lessons learned from last year that you plan to integrate into this year’s adventure?

The biggest lesson I learned from last year is not to drink too much sports drink and take too much sodium. By mile 85 my weight had gone from 163 to 172. The medical staff was very concerned about the nine pounds I had gained and made me lose some weight before continuing. It is extremely difficult to start running again after running 85 miles and then sitting for an hour in the cold air at 2 AM. I definitely will avoid that situation this year. This year I will be drinking mostly water and taking S-caps for electrolyte replacement. This has worked well for the races I have done this year.

[EB] Fun bonus question: Last year you chose the turtle as the animal that best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States? Which animal would you choose this year?

Photo: Courtesy siwild @

This year I would choose to be a gazelle. If you are not fast look fast.

Best of luck to Henry in his upcoming weekend adventure!

Special thanks to Henry for sharing with us and to the Endurance Buzz community for submitting athlete questions.

To see the complete list of athlete profiles so far, check out the 2011 Western States 100 TALON Athletes article.

Twitter TALON race coverage – I will be providing Twitter updates for all of our TALON athletes throughout the day. Simply,follow Endurance Buzz on Twitter.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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