Home > The Scene

Marianne Hogan on Western States: “absolutely all it’s hyped up to be”

Fellow Canadian Reid Coolsaet also recaps his Western States debut

Photo by: Instagram/wser

Marianne Hogan‘s third-place finish at the recent Western States 100 was an amazing accomplishment, not only because it was her first time tackling one of the hardest races on the planet: in mid-March, Hogan had suffered a serious injury, dislocating a bone in her left ankle.

“The months leading up to the race were not perfect preparation, but I did the best I could,” Hogan, 32, who calls Montreal home, told us when we caught up with her during her recovery week. “Eventually, things got better, and I was able to get back in the trails and work on elevation gain-loss. I came to Auburn [Cali.] for the Western States training camp, and it was very very fun and useful,” she adds. Hogan remained in California until race day, which she says helped her prepare.

Hogan with crew and pacers Photo: Western States

Hogan reports that she loved everything about her WSER experience. “It’s absolutely all it’s hyped up to be,” she says. She emphasized the training camp as being a key part of race prep. “I very much enjoyed the WS training camp, in which community is built.” She seems to have taken the challenges every runner faces on this course in stride and thrived through it all. Her favourite parts of the race include, “sharing very intense moments with the other athletes at the start line, chatting as we went up the escarpment, meeting with my crew at some very key points of the race.”

Keely Henninger, Katie Asmuth, Marianne Hogan. Photo: Austin Meyers

Hogan did face some issues during the race, but her navigation of them may be what makes her such a strong endurance athlete. “In the two weeks leading to the race, I tweaked something in my back that caused me a lot of pain. It was really OK for me to go downhill, but going uphill was pretty painful. So I took it very easy on the uphill and used the downhills to move efficiently,” she says.

She mentions that she also dealt with some serious nausea early on. “I started feeling quite sick a little bit past Robinson Flat, quite early in the race. The miles following Robinson Flat all the way to Last Chance [aid station] were incredibly difficult. I didn’t know what was going on, but my stomach was expanding like crazy, and I felt sick.” Once she arrived at Last Chance, Hogan attempted to eat a peanut butter sandwich and, as she tells it: “I ensued to projectile throw up everything that was in my stomach and immediately felt 1,000 times better. The only thing is, I had depleted myself of absolutely everything I had consumed since the beginning of the run.”

Photo: Instagram/Mike Monagle

Calories can make or break a race for an ultrarunner, and true to Hogan’s smooth style, she simply noted that she needed to get food in, and continued. “It took me a while to be able to replenish what I had lost, but I kept moving on slowly but surely, until I made it to my crew again at Michigan Bluff. They were waiting for me with a sandwich, and that sandwich most certainly saved my race. I immediately regained some energy and was able to start moving at a decent speed again. That is when I started gaining back terrain.” Hogan refers to the steady movement she made through the ranks of the women during the race, from around eighth place into third at the finish, with a time of 18:05:48.

Photo: Rob Steger

According to iRunFar, Hogan had the most pumped-up crew station at Forest Hill, with “the biggest party going on. Like the biggest crew, the most rambunctiousness and excitedness.” Hogan explains that she did have a very large crew, who helped her immensely: “I had three pacers: my very good friends Olivier Gagnon and Thomas Duhamel, and my brother, Philippe Hogan. My crew included my brother, François Hogan, my sister-in-law Marie-Pierre Bérubé, my sister Catherine Hogan, my brother-in-law Viktor Alexy, both of my parents and my good friend Brent Abbott. They helped me so much with their incredibly positive attitudes and high spirits at all times during the race. It was so great to see them at numerous aid stations–they made the biggest difference in the world,” Hogan says.

Hogan’s mindset kept her going through the lows of the race. “It was really hard and devastating to feel so sick from so early on in the race. I just kept reminding myself that no matter what was going on, I had to keep moving forward as best I could at that moment. And when I finally threw up, I immediately felt better,” she says. Her favourite food throughout the event? “NAAK bars waffles! They always go down so easily,” she enthuses.

What’s up next for this enthusiastic and talented ultrarunner? “UTMB  (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) in August! It’s gonna come up quick,” she says. We’ll certainly be cheering Hogan on as she takes embarks on her next challenge.

For our post-race interview with second-place finisher Ailsa MacDonald, click here.

Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet makes his 100-mile debut at Western States

Olympian Reid Coolsaet is not new to high-performance racing, but he is fairly new to the ultrarunning world. The former marathoner and two-time Olympian made the shift to running ultras at last year’s Quebec Mega Trail 110K race, which he won, despite missing a turn and running an extra 10 kilometres. He finished 17th at this year’s Western States, in 19:27:03, and we caught up with him to hear about his first 100-miler.

Photo: Vasily Samoylov

How did you prepare for not only your first 100-miler but also such an iconically challenging race as WSER?

I tried to get in longer runs than I ever had, and also some back-to-back long runs. I didn’t get in the training I was hoping to, because of health issues (COVID-19 and cellulitis) but my training was consistent enough. On top of that, I used the sauna a lot in the final few weeks.

Did things go as planned? 

Things pretty much went as planned. I was hoping to be able to run the whole way, except the steep hills, but I didn’t have the legs past 125 kilometres. From my experience at Black Canyon 100K and Canyons 100K this year, I kind of felt that 100 miles was going to be too long for me, and it was. It wasn’t a surprise I fell apart at the end. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, but I just wasn’t “there” yet.

Photo: Vasily Samoylov

Any unexpected challenges that you had to troubleshoot?

Nothing really surprised me. I had lots of great advice going into the race, especially from both Glen Redpath and Rob Krar.

The first few hours were a highlight, because I felt very relaxed and I was running with other athletes the whole time. The views were absolutely amazing, and the trails were fun and it wasn’t blazing hot. Seeing my family at Forest Hill and the atmosphere there was a good lift 100 kilometres into the race.

What was hardest? How did you get through it?

The last 30 kilometres were the hardest part. To get through it, I slowed down drastically to reduce the risk of injury or a massive blow-up.

Did you have a great crew/pacers out there with you?

My crew and pacers did an amazing job. Tom, Alex and Adam were clutch crewing and Cal [Neff] and Jordan did a great job pacing. They all made a huge difference, not only technically but also by lifting my spirits.

Photo: Alex MacLean

What’s next? 

I’m not racing anything over 80 kilometres for the rest of the year. My next race is Whistler Alpine Meadows 50K in September. I was very excited and curious about Western States but I’m more motivated for my upcoming races.