After Sunday's post, I realized that I had completely neglected another piece of intrigue at Western States. While the consensus on the men's field is that it will be won by one of three runners (Hal Koerner, Geoff Roes or Anton Krupicka), the women's race is not so easily discerned - especially with last year's champion, Anita Ortiz not making it to the start this year.
There are four women whom I'd consider in the top tier of favorites, but there are definitely others not far behind.
Devon Crosby-Helms finished in 2nd place at the Miwok 100K, a little over 25 minutes behind ultra legend Kami Semick (who is not running WS), and won the JFK 50-Miler last fall. But she doesn't have a lot of experience at the 100-mile distance. Although she did win her only 100 mile race, the Vermont 100 in 2008.
Tracy Garneau, from British Columbia, Canada won the 2009 H.U.R.T. 100 in Hawaii, then shared first place with Nikki Kimball (see below) at the brutal 200-kilometer Jungle Marathon in Brazil. So while she hails from the Great White North, don't expect to see her wilt in the heat of the canyons (especially since this is expected to be a "cool" year for the race).
Nikki Kimball is a three-time Western States Champion, winning in 2004, 2006 and 2007. She competed last year but had a rough go of it and finished fourth, over two and a half hours behind the winner, Ortiz. Additionally she was Ultra Running Magazine's Female Ultra Runner of the Year three times (in 2003, 2004 and 2007) only Ann Trason has won the award more times (12).
Meghan Arbogast set a course record this year at the Mad City 100K to earn the USATF title at that distance. She ran in the top-ten last year, and although she is 49 years old she shows no signs of slowing down.
(Honorable mentions also go to Beverly Anderson-Abbs and Joelle Vaught who are certainly in the mix.)
Overall I'm putting my proverbial money on Kimball. She knows the course well, is a former champ and I think last year's disappointment was an aberration.
For more information on the top competitors check out Karl Meltzer's "odds" on his blog, or any of the Western States information at IrunFar.com.
(Also Sherpa John has some interesting interviews with some middle-to-back of the pack runners at his blog.)