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2014 Western States 100: Taper Chat with the Texas Dirty Dozen

Enjoy our pre-race Western States 100 chat with many of the Dirty Dozen from Texas!


Juan Escobar #173


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

I started running Marathons in 2008 and then went on to train and compete in two Ironman competitions (2010 and 2011). In December of 2011, I received as a Christmas present the book “Born to Run” and after that my goals became to start doing Ultras. I also wanted to go to run in the Copper Canyon with Caballo Blanco and run Western States which are discussed in the book. I set my first goal to run a 50 mile race and ran in Leadville at the Silver Rush 50 mile run in July of 2012 (finished in 12:04). In May of 2012, I signed up for Rocky Raccoon, and in Feb of 2013 ran Rocky Raccoon with the idea to qualify for Western States lottery and do my first 100 in an “easy” course. I was undertrained but completed RR100 in 29:30. I then did Caballo Blanco Ultra in March of 2013, Jemez 50K in May, and San Juan Solstice 50 miler in June 2013.

You played at the Caballo Blanco Copper Canyon 50M in Mexico in March for a second time. What were a couple of your strongest memories from this year’s adventure?

The experience of going to the Copper Canyon is so unique and memorable, its hard to put into words. The place and the event are very special but what makes it even more are the fellow ultra-marathoners, the Mas Locos who travel down there despite the distance and perceived danger. My favorite memory is the day before the race where me and some friends took some beers to a spot on the river for an afternoon swim. Nickedemous Holland was there briefly, I think he wanted solitude, so he went back to town. The water was the perfect temperature and the currents were a natural whirlpool. Amazing!

Why Western States? As a first-time starter (I think), what interests you in this event?

As I said, from the time I read Born to Run and also listened to Gordy Ashleigh on a Talk Ultra podcast in 2012, I wanted to participate in Western States. I qualified to get in the lottery at RR100 and got in December. My chances with 1 ticket were 6%. The race appealed to me because of the history and the greats like Anne Trayson, Scott Jureck, and many others who have done it. It is where modern 100 trail races began 40 years ago and that made me want to be a part of it.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

Animal, well my spirit name which I got at Caballo Blanco is Loro which in Spanish means parrott.


This is because I tend to talk a lot during the races. I love to chat with my fellow runners as well as volunteers at the aid stations. I typically will ask where they are from, etc. I plan on enjoying my time during this event and talk to as many people along the way that I can.

Juan’s blog –

Brian Hill #174


Western States is part of Brian’s journey towards the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning!

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

I ran my first (and only) marathon in 2008 and my first trail and ultra (Palo Duro 50K) later that year. I did 50ks for a while and finally worked up to a 50 mile where I DNF’d at mile 41 (Grasslands) in my first attempt and finally completed my first 50 mile later that year back at Palo Duro. My first 100 mile was Pony Express in the desert of western Utah in 2011 and I’ve since completed 5 races of 100 miles – mostly out west including Bryce, Leadville, and Zion.

Your Bandera 100km and Rocky 50M combo times from this Winter/Spring highlight you may be tapping into some new levels of fitness. Since Rocky 50M in February, what areas of training did you put extra emphasis on to help prepare for this unique mountain 100 and a continued journey into the ultra slam (officially complete Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100, and Wasatch Front 100 within a sub 3-month window)?

I’ve had a really good year of running which started towards the middle of last year when I changed my diet to mostly low carb. I was able to shed a lot of body fat, add muscle and get leaner and stronger. I also started working more with my trainer at the gym on high intensity interval training to get my heart rate really high so I was used to the feeling of going at maximum effort – very helpful when transitioning into mountain trails in the Rockies in the thinner air where you end up breathing harder. Since I have trained my body to burn fat, even at a higher effort I still burn fat instead of carbs so that’s helped reduce the amount of calories I need during races. The changes to diet and gym work really transformed my running and increased my confidence in my training and I started going out and really attacking the courses and believing in my legs.

My training plan for the Slam this year was to listen to my body – run long when I felt I needed to – and dial it back when I felt I had pushed it too much. Some people are great adhering to a schedule – for me it takes the fun out of running to be that regimented so I have a plan but I’m flexible. I used races as my training runs (Bandera 100k, Rocky Raccoon 50M, Cowtown 50K, Moab 100 (stopped at 85), Western States Training Camp) – put extra emphasis on legs in the gym – and had three peak weeks in April/May in the 80 – 85 mile range.

This is your first attempt at The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. The most obvious type of training is the physical, how have you approached this challenge between-the-ears?

A few thoughts on where I’m at mentally: First – I’ve been relatively healthy this year and mentally that’s a huge relief. I’m not going into Western States injured or with any tweaks and I’m not starting the Slam with any regrets on my training. There’s nothing I wish I would have changed in my preparation. Second – there is a ton of info about these races on the internet. Maps, race reports, fly overs, course descriptions, photos. Bryce and Zion were inaugural 100s where I really didn’t know what to expect – but there should not be any surprises with these races. I’ve done my homework. Third – I was able to augment reading race reports and studying the maps by actually getting out on the courses of the two races I anticipate will be the toughest – Western States and Wasatch. I ran 70 miles at the Memorial Day WS100 training runs with my pacer including all of the portion we’ll run at night. I also ran 25 miles of the Wasatch course with my pacer – all of which we will also run at night. Being on the course with my pacers and seeing the trail and discussing our game plan has been incredibly helpful and has helped my mental prep.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?


Tortoise the first portion of the course in the high country and the canyons – and hopefully I’ve saved enough to be a hare in the second half!

Jennifer Kimble #237


What is your running background and how did you get introduced to trail running?

I started running 12 years ago after my 2nd child was born to “lose baby weight.” Through the Run On! training programs, I slowly worked my way up from 20 minutes to the marathon distance. After a disappointing Boston marathon in 2009, my then- coach Mike Broderick suggested that I do something different and try trail running. My first trail run was a nine mile mid-summer night run with the North Texas Trail Runners, and I was hooked!

Why Western States? What interests you in this event?

I fell in love with this race after having the good fortune of pacing a friend for last 45 miles in 2010. Everything about it is epic, from the breathtaking scenery to the dynamic volunteers. The rich history, challenging course and of course the coveted buckle appeals to those of us who seek the ultimate adventure!

As a low-lander, what has been your approach to prepare to play in the mountains on a course with a significant amount of quad-busting downhills?

I’ve been doing stair climber/treadmill combination workouts, hill repeats out at Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve and putting in lots of strength training at the gym. My goal is be as conservative on the downhill as gravity allows.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?


My greatest intention is to be like a hawk; staying calm and focused at the task at hand, having a clear vision, and soaring effortlessly.

Daniel Murphy #282


What is your running background and and could you share a couple memories from your first trail race?

I started running about 10 years ago with the goal of getting fit and running a marathon as a “bucket-list” accomplishment. I joined a local running club (the Runner’s High Clun in Houston) as a way to train and meet new people. The club is a really fun loving and super supportive group of people that have grown to be some of my closest friends and really epitomizes what I love about the sport of running. The first few years in the club I struggled with some injuries and only ran a couple marathons. Then after about 4-5 years, something clicked and I started running lots of races and was hooked. I basically haven’t looked back since then. I ran my first ultra at the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in 2010. At that time the race was run at the same time as the 100 miler, so it had a 29 hour cut-off. I think this was a relief mentally, because I knew I had all the time I needed. I went into the race with absolutely no expectations or time goals, just the goal of finishing and trying to enjoy the experience. A friend of mine decided at the last minute to come run with me, but since pacers weren’t allowed and prior to this race the farthest he had ever run was a half marathon on the road, he just signed up for the race with no intention of finishing, just running with me for a while. We wound up running the entire race together, laughing and joking most of the way, and finishing together in just under 12 hours (he actually beat me by 1 second according to chip time – and still teases me about it)! It was an incredible experience and really did a lot to make me realize how much running ultras is about having the right attitude and breaking down your own mental barriers. We are all capable of so much more than we realize or think we are.

You knocked out a couple 50 mile Texas trail scampers three weeks apart in April. Was this part of your WS training? How did the mind and body respond?

Yes, they were definitely part of “the plan.” The first race was Hell’s Hills. I had a really rough race out there last year (cramping, dehydration, bonking, …) and came into the race this year with two goals: 1) pay better attention to hydration, effort, and nutrition so as not to let myself get into that bad of shape again 2) get a gauge of my fitness and figure out if I need to change up my training. The race went great. I wound up taking 30 minutes off of my 50 mile PR and feeling great in the days after with essentially no recovery time needed.

Then I went up to the Guadalupe Mountains for a training weekend with a great group of Austin and San Antonio runners. That was my first real exposure to running at altitude and running in the mountains, which only further fueled my passion for the sport and my excitement for Western States. We logged about 60 rugged miles over the weekend with a lot of vertical. My body still felt great and mentally I was starting to feel really confident.

The week after that, I headed out to the Brazos Bend 50 miler. The weather for Brazos Bend was going to be hot, so my plan was to take it easy, practice hydration, and get some solid mileage in on a tired body. The course there is very flat and very runnable and as soon as the race started that little competitive voice in the back of my head told me to just go for it. I figured I had nothing to lose, since I didn’t care how I did and if I wound up suffering it would be good training for States, so I started off at a pace that I knew was a bad idea. Ultimately, I was able to keep everything together, dig pretty deep, and take another 30 minutes off of my new 50 mile PR.

After that race my body finally gave up. The whole month before I felt indestructible, but for about two weeks after Brazos Bend, I felt really off, lost weight, had no motivation, and realized that I had definitely pushed too hard without any real recovery. I wound up taking it pretty easy for about three weeks, then easing back into training. Ultimately, I probably shouldn’t have done that much since I wound up having to take a few weeks off and dial back my training, right when I should have been ramping it up. I do think, however, that month was a good indication that my training up to that point was good and helped build a lot of confidence in my abilities, but definitely reinforced that rest (physical and mental) is very important.

As a Western States 100 first-time starter (I think) but not a 100 mile rookie, what about a 100 mile race interests you to take on the challenge?

I have only done one 100 mile race before, so there is still an element of the unknown there. I think that running 100 miles is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Obviously it helps to be fit, but I think it is much more about having a strategy, listening to your body, knowing when to push, dealing with things when they inevitably don’t go the way you planned, and just being determined. Everyone that runs 100 miles, even the elites, deals with all of those things (some of us just deal with them for longer). That mental challenge really appeals to me. Also, Western States is such an iconic race that the thought of being able to travel those 100 miles in the footsteps of so many others is really exciting.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

This may be a bit of a cop-out, but what I think of are our early human ancestors.

Some of them were persistence hunters that hunted by running their prey down to the point of exhaustion. The thought of them having the patience, strength, and persistence to run down an animal to the point where it literally gives up is really impressive. I like to think that somewhere deep down in my DNA there is some trace of those people and that gives me a little inspiration. So I plan on going to Squaw Valley and chasing down a cougar (belt buckle) all the way to Auburn until it “gives up” and I can capture it and put it on my belt!

Donald Zoch #391


What is your running background and what do you enjoy about trail running?

I started running after graduating from college in 2000 mainly to avoid putting on weight due to my new 9-5 desk job at a local tech company. After doing it off and on for a couple of years, I started running local 10k, 5k, then progressed to a half marathon. 2005 was my first marathon, the NYC Marathon. After 25 more marathons and a little dabbling in trail running I decided to try a 50 miler called Angel’s Staircase in WA in 2011. The race had over 13000 feet of elevation gain and was quite an initiation into the sport of trail/ultra running. I was hooked after that. WS will be my 17th ultra and my 5th 100 miler. One of my inspirations was knowing a guy who ran the Leadville 100 back in 2009 or so. At the time it just seemed insane that someone could run that far. My ultimate goal ever since I started running ultra marathons has been to run one of the major 100 milers like Leadville or Western States. I entered the lottery and got in on my second try.

I love trail running because it gives me a chance to escape. I love the rocks, the dirt, the smell of the woods and the trail, the pounding of my heart as I power up a rocky climb. It just makes me feel alive. I especially love running in the mountains.

Why Western States? As a first-time starter (I think), what interests you in this event?

I guess it appeals to me because it is the most famous 100 that there is and it is hard to get into. It was always just a no brainer to enter the lottery because I qualified.

Western States is not your first 100, what about a 100 mile race interests you to return to this challenge?

A 100 mile race is such an epic journey and such a test of one’s mental strength and spirit. Finishing a 100 mile race gives me a feeling of accomplishment and self worth and makes me feel like I can do anything in life. Each time I cross the finish line of a 100 mile race I am a different person. I am stronger, I believe in myself a little more, and nobody can ever take that away from me. With that being said it is enormously challenging to balance the training along with family life, work, and other obligations. I may not run another 100 for a while and WS is the perfect way to end a hard season of training and racing before I take a bit of a break.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

Maybe a tortoise.


I plan on moving pretty slow and being smart so that I get myself to Foresthill in the best condition possible. I ran in the training runs over Memorial Day weekend so I’m familiar with the last 70 miles of the course and how I should attack it. I hope to be running past people that went out too fast in the final miles with a smile on my face.

Paul Terranova #M8 (Rogue Running, Hoka One One, Patagonia, Team RWB)


Enjoy our audio chat with Paul!

Podcast: Download (Duration: 19:15 – 8.82 MB)

The Dirty Dozen I wasn’t able to get in contact with:

  • Shaheen Sattar #34
  • Amanda Alvarado #87
  • Rob Ham #200
  • Larry Pearson #299
  • Matthew Searfus #343
  • Eric Zipfel #390

Special thanks to Paul, Juan, Brian, Jennifer, Daniel, and Donald for sharing with the tribe and all the best to the entire Texas Dirty Dozen!

Parrot Photo: Credit Danny Chapman @

Hawk Photo: Credit Peter Massas @

Turtle Photo: Credit Audrey @

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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