Western States Throwback with Frank Bozanich

This post is kindly reposted from Frank Bozanich’s FaceBook page today. I’ve known Frank for a number of years and never tire of hearing his stories about the founders of our sport and of the way things were. 

We’ve interviewed him twice on the show (first here, then here, when he was inducted into the Ultrarunning Hall of Fame) and it’s probably time to have Frank back on. Here he tells the tale of Western States in its 3rd official running, followed by his breathtaking schedule of races that year.  During this time, Frank was a Marine Officer working ~12 hours each day.

A couple of volunteers, a horse trailer, a rope, and a dog.

This photo was taken 36 years at the river crossing at Rucky Chucky during the 1979 WS 100 mile. This was my first trail race and had heard about the new race in the Sierras while living in San Diego and decided to give it a go.

I went up about 2 weeks before the race to look at some of the course and was able to run from Michigan Bluff to Devils Thumb and back with Sally Edwards. This was the only portion of the course I saw before doing the race.

The start was nothing like today, went up Friday night and the was weighed and given instructions on Sat morning just prior to start. I knew I was fast and strong but had no thoughts of running to win but just to run.

This was in the days before water bottles and gels, no watches, no backpacks. We just ran and the aid stations were about 15 miles apart.

I remember getting lost a couple of times before Hodgins Cabin because of poor trail markings. I remember first aid was at Red Star and only water then next was Robinson Flat. I remember getting down and drinking water out of streams after leaving Duncan Canyon before getting to Robinson as it was warming up.

Frank and Scotty running up the Escarpment in Squaw Valley in 2012.
Frank and Scotty running up the Escarpment in Squaw Valley in 2012.

At.Robinson I was in 2nd place and grabbed a jug of water and downed lots of it before getting on the scales. Then the run began as it was heating up and the 3 major canyons were commencing. My big mistake was using my speed on the downhills and so by the time I reached Michigan Bluff my quads were trashed.

I ended up mostly walking and running the remainder of the way into Auburn finishing in 6th place in 18:36 and happy to reach the end. I said that I had my belt buckle and didn’t have to do it again and didn’t until I move to Reno in 1999. This was one of those races I did on the spur of the moment and you have to remember that I was primarily a road runner.

Following is the list of my other races for ’79:

Jan 27 RRCA National Championship 100k 1st in 6:51:20 AR

Feb 25 PA AAu 50 mile Championship 1st in 5:19:10

March 11 Oceanside, Ca 9 km in 30:30

March 25 Cataline Marathon 2nd in 2:46

April 11 San Diego 5 mile in 26:10

April 16 Boston Marathon in 2:27

April 28 San Diego 10km 2nd in 31:45

May 6 Yakima, Wash 50 mile winner in 5:18:45

May 20 Carlsbad, Ca 2 man 24 hr relay Birthday run

May 26 Carlsbad 10k 32

June 1 Huntington Beach 24 I decided at 10 am in the morning to drive up and do this race. It started at 8 pm and was doing well and had lapped Park Barner several times when I discovered that my lap counter (assigned) was not counting most my laps but socializing. I turned it into a workout and stopped the next morning.

June 17 NYC 100 mile, made the mistake of starting out fast with Don Ritchie and ended up with sore hamstring and stopped at 52 miles. We were running sub 7 min pace and Don went on to a new world record of 11hr 30 min

[ed: Less than two weeks later was the above mentioned Western States…]

After WS 100 I took some time of easy running and then on Sept 16 I ran the National 50k Championship finishing 9th in 3:03:39

Sept 23  Copper Harbor 50 mile in Michigan winning in 5:05:37. It was certified but many years later said to have been short, I would have finished in 5:17

Oct 13 I ran the 50 mile Nationals in Seattle winning in 5:32.

Thanks for putting up with is long report.

Thanks for an incredible report Frank.  

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