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Williston Woman Finishes Fourth In 100-Mile California Endurance Run

Byron Powell
Aliza Lapierre, right, crosses the finish line with a member of her support crew at the 2015 Western States Endurance Run.

A Vermont athlete is celebrating her top-five finish in a prestigious 100-mile trail running race. Aliza Lapierre, 35, of Williston, was the fourth female finisher in the Western States Endurance Run last weekend, a footrace that covers 100.2 miles of steep terrain in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, completing the course in 19 hours, 43 minutes and 22 seconds.

This was Lapierre’s fourth time finishing Western States. “I was happy to have the opportunity to go back this year,” Lapierre wrote in an email after the race.

She missed the 2014 Western States due to a broken bone in her foot, but felt ready for this year's competition. “I trained hard and was excited," Lapierre says. But she was nervous, too. "Both the men's and the women's fields were highly competitive so I was eager to see how my fitness stacked up."

In the early miles, Lapierre was running in eighth place and says she wanted to keep an easy pace to save her strength for the final 20-30 miles of the race. Around mile 35, she started running with the eventual second-place finisher, Kaci Lickteig, 28, of Omaha, Nebraska. “We had a blast running together and encouraged each other during the highs and lows.”

The literal highs and lows are unrelenting as runners climb more than 18,000 feet of elevation and descend nearly 23,000 feetover the course of the 100-mile race. Lapierre was solidly in third place around mile 70, with a good lead over Lickteig in fourth place, when the metaphorical lows kicked in. “My stomach was no longer on board,” says Lapierre.

"I knew I had to dig deep and fight. I was just feeling frustration because I still had a lot of energy in my legs and wanted so badly for my stomach to come around and settle." - Aliza Lapierre

“I had to stop dead and spend some time throwing up. I could only move as fast as my stomach would allow and [I] couldn't eat or drink,” she says.

The runners had been on the course since before dawn, and by now the sun had set with Lickteig and fifth-place runner Emma Roca, 41, of Tallo, Spain, closing the gap behind Lapierre. “We could see their headlamps gaining ground on us and then Kaci went flying past like she was fresh as could be,” says Lapierre. She was able to pick up her pace enough to prevent Roco from also passing her. “I knew I had to dig deep and fight. I was just feeling frustration because I still had a lot of energy in my legs and wanted so badly for my stomach to come around and settle.”

She settled her stomach enough to finish in fourth place. Lapierre crossed the finish line just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, 38 minutes behind first-place finisher Magdalena Boulet, 41, of Oakland, Ca.

Lapierre credits a large team for helping her through. “I can say with no doubt that without all of the support from my sponsors, friends, family and complete strangers I could not do what I do. It truly is a team effort,” she wrote in a post on Facebook after the race. In reflecting on running a distance that is beyond the comprehension of most people, Lapierre says she’s happy to have shared time on the trail with runners like Lickteig and Roca. “I am very blessed and grateful.”

Lapierre will next race in September at Ultra Trail Mount Fuji in Japan as part of the Ultra Trail World Tour.

Top 5 Female Finishers:

  1.  Magdalena Boulet, 41, Oakland, CA: 19:05:21
  2. Kaci Lickteig, 28, Omaha, NE: 19:20:31
  3. Stephanie Howe, 31, Bend, OR: 19:32:58
  4. Aliza Lapierre, 35, Williston, VT: 19:43:22
  5. Emma Roca, 41, Tallo, Spain: 20:12:00
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