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2011 Western States 100: Our Texas Trail Runners

Similar to 2010, Texas has the largest posse of TALON trail runners registered for the 100 mile dirt dance at Western States. Ten athletes from The Lonestar State were lucky or fast enough to be invited but all will not be racing due to injury or other factors.

Texas State Flag - In 1993 the official flag description was created. Up until 1993 manufactured Texas state flags varied in color and dimensions.

One of the athletes ready to begin the weekend adventure is Ryan Beard. The initial warm-up-the-legs ~2000 foot climb out of Squaw Valley will be Ryan’s first. Steve Bernhardt is also toeing the starting line but Steve will have one year of Western States experience under his belt.

Here is a fun little Q&A with Ryan and Steve.


Ryan Beard #94

[EB] What is your running background and how long have you been playing in the world of trail/ultra running?

I ran my first marathon in 1996 while I attending Harding University.  I started running ultras in 2008 and am always looking for the challenge.  This will be my first Western States.

[EB] This Spring you ran the Syllamo 50km in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. I believe this was your first go at this event. What did you think of it?

I really enjoyed the Syllamo 50K race.  It was more challenging than I thought it would be.  After racing The Arkansas Traveller 100 last year, I didn’t expect to have such a large elevation change in a 50K.  Steve Kirk knows how to make a challenging race.

[EB] How is the body and mind feeling one week out from the Western States 100?

I feel good and relaxed one week out from Western States 100.  I did an easy eight miler this morning in the hills around me just to keep myself loose.  I feel more prepared for this race than I have ever felt before a race.  I’m more worried about what to pack for the trip than about race day.  I’m sure I’ll be nervous at the start line, though.

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

During my peak training I was putting in about 70-80 miles a week, mostly on hilly trails around Austin, Texas.  About two years ago I moved my family so that we could leave our back door and be on the best running trails in Texas.  I did back-to-back long runs on the weekends, with 25 miles on trails on the first day and about 20 miles in the hills the next day.  I also did several days of 35+ miles. I tried to do a lot of hill work in preparation for Western States.  I also lifted weights 2-3 times per week.

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

For Western States, I lifted legs (leg extensions, one-leg squats, hamstring curls, etc.) about every three days.  This was new to me, but I was advised by several Western States alumni to add this to my training.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised how the weight training has improved my recovery time and reduced injury.  It will remain part of my training from here out.

[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 been blessed with a strong stomach.  I can eat anything and be fine, but I don’t like to change things up too much from a normal day.  Race morning I plan to have a combination of carbs, protein and fruit.  Most likely I’ll eat a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  I don’t like a big breakfast, because I typically eat a lot during the course of the race.

[EB] Besides the finish, what specific section of the course are you most looking forward to running or experiencing?

Besides the finish, I am most looking forward to the Rucky Chucky river crossing.  We are crossing in rafts this year because of the snow melt.  I am looking forward to this, not because of the water crossing, but I know with only 21 miles to go, I’m going to finish, even if I have to death march it.  I also know that my beautiful wife will be pacing me from this point to the end.  It’s motivating to have something nice to follow.

[EB] Fun bonus question: Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

Photo: Courtesy Harlequeen @

The animal that best describes how I am planning to race Western States would be a raccoon for two reasons.  First, I run mostly at night and typically run faster at night.  Secondly, I want to be like the raccoon that is eating my garden.  No matter how many barriers, obstacles and live traps I put in his way, he always gets his goal, my food.  This morning before my run, I went out to see if I had anything in the live trap I set with apples the night before.  The trap was sprung, the apples were gone and there was no raccoon in sight, amazing.  That’s how persistent I want to be.

Steve Bernhardt #96

Steve and family before the 2010 Western States 100.

[EB] You ran in Western States last year and was able to win the lottery for a second year in a row. What’s your secret? Rabbit’s Foot? Cash under the table?

2011 will be my second Western States 100 after being fortunate two years in a row to get selected in the December lottery. I had attempted in the past to get in through the bi-annual raffles without any luck. Funny, I’m usually the guy in the room who is the one left out when they select 99 names out of 100 possible people to win a prize.

[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?

I have always loved the mystique of the Western States 100. After having traveled twice to the race in the past to crew/pace I knew I had to experience the trail. I love mountain races as I think they fit my running style best, and the historic feeling you get when on the trail is really something special. Also, when you are on site the energy is electric and having the opportunity to interact with the legends like Gordy, Cowman, Tweitmeyer, and other past winners it’s amazing. I would love nothing better than getting my 1,000 mile WS buckle.

[EB] Last Spring you ran two 50 milers within four weeks (early April and early May) prior to Western States. This Spring you ran Hell’s Hills 50 mile (beginning of April) and Leona Divide 50 mile (end of April). I see pattern here. :) Is this part of your Western States master training plan or are you simply running a couple races?

I have always felt doing long training runs, particularly solo, beyond 30 miles is tough. While planning for Western States last year I decided it was best to run four 50 mile races as part of my training build-up to ensure I was battle hardened. One good 50 miler in my opinion is worth a lot more than say a back-to-back 30/20 because it challenges your mental toughness, fueling plan, and gets you into that fatigue zone that anything less cannot duplicate. This year I only ran three 50’s (Rocky Raccoon, Hell’s Hills, Leona Divide) but threw in three marathons, one trail, as well as 75 miles over the Memorial Day Weekend on the Western States trail. I would have liked to done another 50 or possibly a 100k but I got a late start with my training this year due to a lingering injury.

[EB] How is the body and mind feeling one week out from the Western States 100?

I feel great for the first time in quite a while. I have a sciatic nerve problem in my left leg that has haunted me since last October. Some of my 50’s earlier this year were long, slow death marches because I was running on one leg. I received some treatments on it and it helped so I really started to run well since Leona Divide in late April. More importantly I’m mentally tougher and even more determined than last year so I’m ready to get going.

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

Last year I did more weight training than I did this year. My personal and business schedule was much more flexible in 2010 so I just didn’t have the time to hit the gym as much this time around. I’m hoping a lot more miles on rugged, hot Texas trails this year will prove to make up the difference.

[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?

Fueling has always been a big focus for me as I have learned the hard way I need more calories than most. Fortunately I have an iron stomach and can handle just about anything on the run. Last year the day before the race I had a big, greasy burger for lunch and meaty pasta for dinner. I plan to do the same thing this year as it worked. During the race I’ll rely heavily on gels (GU & GU Roctane). I do the usual boiled potatoes, broth, fruit, animal crackers, and pretzels at the aid stations to get something of substance in my stomach. I may play with Honey Milk a little, used ensure last year and it worked fine. My crew will have turkey sandwiches with avocado on-hand. I would love some fatty and salty quiche, it worked miracles at Leona Divide. For hydration I will use the GU Brew on the course and supplement with coconut water and 50/50 coke and water later in the day.

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

Last year with all of the running in the snow and stream crossings my feet were wet most of the day. Around mile 65-70 my feet started to blister badly on the bottoms. This cost me a huge amount of time as it slowed me down substantially and required long aid station breaks to tape my feet up. This year the snow and water on the trail will be the same or worse. I plan to pre-tape and use Hydropel to try and keep my feet in one piece. I will also do shoe and sock changes at crew stops. My worst moment on the course last year was the climb up Devil’s Thumb, it crushed me. This time around I plan to down a coke before the climb in order to get some quick and cheap energy to get up that beast. Lastly, since I have run the full course, as well as trained on it twice, I have a better sense for the trail, particularly the last 70 miles. I’m confident this better understanding of what is ahead and knowing what the opportunities and threats are I’ll run a smarter and more effective race. I ran 27:27:28 last year and feel if I can get through the early snow well, motor through the Canyons a little quicker than last, keep my feet together, and fuel properly so I can run strong on the back-half of the course I believe I have a good shot at getting in under the magical 24 hour mark. If not, it’s finish at all costs. The bronze buckle is pretty cool too.

[EB] Fun bonus question: Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

Photo: Courtesy http2007 @

I guess I would have to say some type of hard headed beast that can get moving when they want to like a rhinoceros. Here’s why. Last year once my feet went numb I was able to finally get moving again at a decent pace. My pacer then did a great job setting goals and helped me dial-in other runners. From Green Gate at mile 80 to the finish we passed 34 runners, not one runner passed us. We reeled in 17 runners in the last 6.5 miles. Once I can smell the barn I usually can find something in the gas tank and put up with just about anything to get to the finish.

Other Texas Athletes

  • Michael Adams #76 – Mike offered to share his photos with the region. You can check out some of his photos on the Endurance Buzz Facebook page.
  • Jennifer Evans #175
  • Jay Freeman #106 – I believe is racing.
  • Marla Hendricks #214 – I believe is racing.
  • Gary Horn #225
  • Elizabeth Howard #401 – Liza is in an air-cast so she is out but did make the trip out to be part of the experience. Liza also participated in a special discussion panel with studs of the sport (part 1 photos, part 2, the experience – shared as only Liza can).
  • John Powers #314
  • Pat Shannon #348

Good luck to all the Texas athletes lacing them up tomorrow morning in Squaw Valley!

Special thanks to Ryan and Steve for sharing with the Endurance Buzz community.

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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