Maddy McCarthy’s Western States dreams hung in the balance when she stepped to the starting line of the Rio Del Lago 100 on Saturday, Nov. 5, in Granite Bay, Calif.
The lottery for the Western States Endurance Run – the original 100-miler – had opened that morning. McCarthy had qualified for the lottery during the five previous years, and each year ended without having her name drawn for an entry into the historic race.
McCarthy, 32, of Newburyport, Mass., attempted two other Western States qualifiers already this year – the Eastern States 100 in Pennsylvania in August followed by the Javelina Jundred on Oct. 29 in Arizona. Both of those efforts ended early.
“After Javelina, I was pretty sure I had no shot at keeping my Western States tickets,” McCarthy said. “And then I found out that there were two races the following weekend, Pinhoti and RDL. I emailed some friends, who basically told me I was crazy to not go for it.”
Go for it she did.
Within the course of a week, McCarthy registered for Rio Del Lago, secured a support crew and pacers, booked a flight and traveled cross-country.
“The ultra running community is amazing,” she said. “Complete strangers rallied to give me a place to stay, pace and crew for me. I left Boston not knowing a single one of the people who were going to be helping me keep my Western States dream alive, and I think that says something so completely awesome about our sport. I knew going into the race that it would be hard, but I also knew there was no way I was letting down the people who were giving up their time and energy to help someone they didn’t even know finish the race.”
This was McCarthy’s moment – and she made it count.
McCarthy put together a memorable performance on a Rio Del Lago course that featured approximately 13,500 feet of vertical gain and fittingly included a few miles that overlapped with the legendary Western States course such as a jaunt across No Hands Bridge.
Of the 208 runners who completed the race within the 30-hour time limit, McCarthy finished 12th overall and earned second-place female honors in a time of 20:01:04. Mark Hammond, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was the overall champion in 15:33:28 – the second-fastest time in course history. Cat Bradley, 22, of Boulder, Colo., finished sixth overall and was the women’s champion in 18:48:07.
While Bradley delivered a women’s course-record performance en route to the victory, McCarthy’s performance also was historically significant. She logged the sixth-fastest performance by a female on the course in the 16-year history of the event.
Her qualifier achieved, McCarthy entered the Western States lottery for the sixth time on Nov. 7. The lottery takes place Saturday, Dec. 3.
*Editor’s Note: Results are found on a variety of sites, including ultrasignup.com, UltraRunning Magazine, and official race websites. We do the best we can to find as many results as possible to report on and recognize the local ultrarunning community.