Here we were, in the middle of the night, running through the dark forest by the light of headlamps and small flashlights unable to see much beyond 20 feet. The only sounds were footfalls and chirping crickets...
I wanted to write this post a couple weeks back announcing that I was running as a pacer at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, but I think there is something about being an athlete and having a superstitious nature. Leading up to the AR50 I blogged extensively about my experience and wound up with my first DNF. So, I kept my mouth shut on the blogs and only told the people around me about my upcoming event.
So, now here's my story. . .
Prior to the AR50 run, my plan for the summer was AR50, pace at WS100 from Foresthill, and finish the summer with a repeat of the Skyline 50K for a new PR. With the achilles injury at AR50 and the unknown recovery period, I was very skeptical and almost heartbroken at the thought of my summer racing plans being shot to pieces. After 6 weeks of rest and recovery and a slightly more than gradual return to running, things were beginning to look up. My achilles, while tight, was not hurting anymore. I was quickly increasing my long runs from 2 - 3 miles to 8+ miles. I had lost some but not too much of my endurance.
With AR50 in the past, I began looking toward the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. Last year I volunteered at Foresthill (mile 62) and finally got to meet Jason Robillard after chatting with him through email and the barefoot running forums. I had hoped last year to pace a runner, but thought wiser of it. This year, I was determined to pace someone. However, knowing that I was no longer at the peak of my training I knew I could not do a Foresthill to Finish 38-mile pacing run. So, I kept an eye out on the WS100 website for a runner looking for a pacer from Green Gate to the Finish (20.5 miles).
After about a week of checking in on the site, a runner from New Hampshire, David Boudreau, popped up looking for a pacer from Green Gate to the finish (20.5 miles). After a couple of emails, Dave decided to take me on as his pacer. Dave sent me his pacing schedule and other relevant information. (I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one who makes out detailed pacing schedules down to the exact minute and for several pace times.)
Since Dave was looking for someone with WS course experience (and I had none), I told him that I would head up to Auburn and scout out a portion of the course after Green Gate. So, along with BRS runners Zapmamak and Running Romeo, we planned a spontaneous trip to the Western States course one Saturday morning a couple weeks ago. (You can read Zap's version of our adventure here on her blog Running Naked on Sharp Pointy Stuff - remember you can't believe everything you read.)
We met up at a Starbucks in Auburn and headed out down highway 49 to drop Zap's car along the roadside for the ride back to the start. Then we headed out into the middle of nowhere down Sliger Mine Road - a long windy little more than 1 1/2 lane paved road. Once at the end of that road, we bumped our way down another mile or so of rutted dirt road to Green Gate - actually a brown gate.
Off we headed down the trail. Rob, aka Running Romeo, was wearing his Lunas while Zap an I were in Merrells. The first few miles were a bit hilly. Since we were fresh, we were able to run most of the smaller hills with some walking on the steeper ones. We made it to Auburn Lake Trails without too much difficulty. However, one of the straps on Rob's Lunas snapped so he decided to go barefoot for a while.
Most of the trail was marked in advance of the WS race with yellow Montrail ribbons, which turned out to be a big help. At Auburn Lake Trails we ran into a 3 road split. We all had a different idea of which way we should go. After consulting the map and a couple of attempts down the wrong trail/road, we decided on the furthest right path. This is where Zap said my Boy Scout skills and sense of direction came in handy. We were quickly rewarded with a yellow ribbon on the far side of the clearing.
From here, we moved out quickly down the trail. This section to Brown's Bar was FAST! The trail was relatively flat with some mild rollers. We moved along the edge of the river canyon weaving our way in and out of the hills but basically on the same elevation.
|The Beautiful American River Canyon Area|
Along the way we came upon 2 deer. The first was at the bottom of a small gorge. I asked if anyone was up for some persistence hunting. A little later, we came right up on a young buck walking across the trail in front of us. He eyeballed us for a few minutes as he continued up the hill. We walked quietly past admiring him and how close we were.
We continued down the trail... A short while later we paused for some pictures at a nice clearing along the side of the canyon. As we chatted, someone noticed a nice little rock bench marked with a plaque in memory of a woman killed by a mountain lion in this area. Hmmm, nice thought - we're not really alone out here.
|Running Romeo and I|
|Zapmamak and I|
Upon arriving at Brown's Bar, Rob commented that we just saw the power of the FIYAH (for those of you who know Zap). At this section of the trail, it comes to a "T" and we quickly moved to the right without really looking. This would be the point that we thought we had gone wrong (more on that later in Part II - the race).
Down another section of trail put us along a wide fire road next to the American River. As we got closer to a recreation area along the river, I realized we could see the Foresthill Bridge and the bridge on Highway 49 that parallels No Hands Bridge. The problem is that the trail/road we were on headed almost directly towards this point. That was not where we were supposed to be headed - considering that Zap's car was further down the 49.
We reached the recreation area and walked down a steep hill to the right at the fork. After discussing the situation, we realized we should probably take the left fork. Back up that steep hill. Oh wait, the fork to the left also goes up a very, very, long, steep hill too. We continued up several switchbacks for over a mile before coming upon a nice NO TRESPASSING sign and a fence across the road. This probably wouldn't have mattered because beyond the fence looked like an impassable wall of rock. Back down we went...
We made it back to the highway only to realize our car was about 2 miles up the narrow highway with cars zipping by. Fortunately for Rob and I, Zap is a friendly looking young lady and was able to flag down a large SUV with a nice elderly couple driving. They were able to drop us back at our car.
All in all, an awesome day of running! Oh, yeah, if you read Zap's account...I did tell her we were running 10 - 13 miles. Turned out to be 16.7 miles according to Rob's phone app.
Part II coming soon . . . Pacing at Western States