From the mountain-running circuit in the early 2000s to ultrarunning the next decade, Anita Ortiz has dominated. But how does the school-teaching, 47-year-old mother of four do it?
Photo by David Clifford
It was not just that Tim Twietmeyer did not expect Anita Ortiz to be leading the 2009 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. That would have been forgivable. It was that Twietmeyer had never even heard of Anita Ortiz until she broke away.
He will be the first to admit he does not follow the sport religiously, despite winning Western States five times and finishing it 25 times. But he is still heavily involved with the event, and knows the contenders every year. Somehow, Ortiz had eluded his radar.
Twietmeyer saw Ortiz in person three times during the race, and each time his awe—and bewilderment—grew. Finally, someone relayed a short bio on the tiny blonde with the intense stare: First-time 100-miler from the alpine desert of Eagle, Colorado. Forty-five years old. Ex-mountain runner.
Twietmeyer knows enough to expect surprises at Western States, but the 2009 women's field was stacked, and included Krissy Moehl, who had run the race in 2005 as part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and paced it numerous times, three-time runner-up Bev Anderson-Abbs and defending champion, Nikki Kimball (three-time winner). Ortiz didn't care. She dropped them all.
"She made it look, I don't want to say easy, but she was pulling away from the field," Twietmeyer recalls. "We were wondering if she could keep it up."
Ortiz won by more than an hour, running the fifth-fastest women's time ever: 18:24:17. And she did it despite getting lost twice in two hours with two different pacers, adding an estimated 25 to 30 minutes to her odyssey. Moehl finished second, Anderson-Abbs took third and, ending her reign at Western States, Kimball settled for fourth. A number of people called Ortiz's win the top performance of 2009, including Kami Semick, who was named Runner of the Year by UltraRunning magazine that year. "You don't expect a first-timer to just roll in and dominate," Twietmeyer said.