Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience Part III

Probably one of the scariest rides I have ever been on was that school bus going down Sliger Mine Road.  The sun had already set, so it was dark.  I was sitting in the back of the packed bus which was standing room only.  All I could make out was the slight illumination of trees whipping by as we rounded what seemed like hairpin turns at 35 to 40 miles per hour.  It appeared that oncoming cars were veering quickly to the side of the road to let the bus scream past in the dark.  Finally, we arrived at the bottom of the road.    There was a giant sign in front of someone's property here making it obvious to anyone that they don't want people parking here. 

Bottom of Sliger Mine Road

From the drop off point, it would be another 15 to 20 minute walk down a rutted dirt road.  As you can see, it was already pretty dark.  I pulled out one of my flashlights and headed down with the group of crews and pacers.

Once at the bottom, it became clear why they call this aid station "Green Gate."  You can't really see much in the picture, but this is the "brown" gate I mentioned in Part I.  To the left of the gate was the "check out" part of Green Gate Aid Station.

"Green Gate" Aid Station

The time was about 9:40 p.m.  Dave was due in a little after 10 p.m.  I milled around near the gate, used the porta-potty (I don't know why, but I'm going to mention the bathroom a lot in this post), and chatted with a couple crew members.  Just before 10 p.m., a race official informed me that I could head down the road (indicating the road toward Rucky Chucky) and meet my runner.  I declined, stating that I could wait here (I had been down and up that road and didn't particularly feel like adding an extra 4 miles - 2 up a fairly steep hill).  Then she stated that the "real" aid station was about 100 yards down the road around the bend.  She also added that as a pacer I could eat the food there.  For those who are not familiar, the food at trail races is especially good and plentiful - soups, sandwiches, chips, and every kind of candy you can imagine (more on food later).  Since it had been a good 3 to 4 hours since I had eaten dinner (2 PB&J sandwiches), I decided a little food was in order.  I made the short trip down the road and decided on some hot chicken broth and chips.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Dave came up the hill into the aid station.  I almost didn't recognize him because of the darkness and the fact I forgot what color shirt he was wearing when he left Foresthill.  I welcomed him into Green Gate (79.8 mi.) where he grabbed a bite and we headed up the hill to the actual "Green Gate."  We checked out with the officials at the tent about 10:25 p.m. and headed down the trail.

This is the moment that I had been waiting a year and all day for - running in the Western States 100!

We headed down the first long hill side by side.  As we reached the bottom and the trail split away from the fire road, I took the lead.  The plan was to power walk the hills and run everything else.  The planned pace was somewhere around 13 - 15 minutes per mile.  I kept a close watch on my Garmin to make sure we were staying on a decent pace.  A couple of times Dave called up to me and said we were going too fast.  I was kind of glad for this.  While I didn't want to push Dave too hard, I didn't want to be someone who held him back either. 

A couple miles into the course, I informed Dave that I found something that I liked better than trail running - nighttime trail running!  It is amazingly cool to do.  Granted you tend to kick more rocks and roots than you do running trails in daylight and I probably wouldn't do it barefoot, but it's a totally surreal experience.  We had clear skies, so the stars were out.  All you could hear were crickets.  All you could see was blackness, shadowed ridgelines and whatever else you could make out with your headlamp and flashlights.

We took our first "pit-stop" of the night before we arrived at Auburn Lake Trails Aid Station.  It's amazing how much faster you can run when your bladder isn't full.  A little while later I noticed a fairly strong skunk smell.  This worried me a bit since there weren't exactly a lot of roads in the area for a skunk to get hit by a car. 

Over the first 5.5 miles to Auburn Lake Trails, we averaged about a 15 minute mile.  The first mile was in the 12-min range, which explains why Dave was saying I was pushing too hard.

One of the coolest things that I found at WS was coming into aid stations.  We would be running in the dark for an hour or so and then two things would catch your attention - the faint sound of generators humming and the glow of hundreds of Christmas lights strung about in the middle of the forest.  It's amazingly cool how the sight of all those brightly colored lights gives you a little lift in the middle of the night.

We arrived in Auburn Lake Trails (85.2 mi.) at about 11:25 p.m. where Dave had to undergo a medical check.  He weighed in a little lighter than the docs would have liked.  They asked him a bunch of questions to make sure he was lucid.  They told him to make sure he was drinking enough fluids and using the restroom (I made a mental note of this as well).  The docs even asked me how I was doing.  I told them I had just joined at Green Gate, so I was fine.  Dave and I had a bit to eat and refilled his bottles and we were off and running again.

Next stop - Brown's Bar (89.9 miles).
This section of the course is fairly flat.  As described in my first post, this is where Zap, RR and I had experienced FIYAH!  It was also the location where I thought we had gone wrong on the trail.

Dave decided that he would lead out this section of the trail to keep my "fresh legs" in check.  Sorry, Dave.  :)  Despite Dave not wanting me to lead at a "relatively" blistering pace, he still managed to keep us on a good steady pace.

Every mile my Garmin would chirp.

"Was that a mile?" Dave would ask.

"Yep." was my reply.
We continued to walk the hills, but quickly jumped into a run as soon as we peaked the tops.  I had to keep checking my spacing behind him, because when he thumped his toe on a rock or root, I tended to do the same.  On one particularly flat section of trail, we were moving along nicely when Dave suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.  I nearly slammed into his back.

"Did you see that?" he asked.

"See what?"



"Down there (indicating the brush below the trail).  I thought they were headlights and then I realized they were eyes."  Dave clarified.

"What was it?"  I asked.

"I think it was a skunk.  I saw a white tail."

"Well, let's not stand here then," I said, as we started out again.

Keeping in mind that Dave had been underweight at the last aid station, I kept a close eye on how often he was drinking.  I also kept track of the time since our last pit-stop.  I mentioned to him that we should be due soon for a stop.  Sometime before we hit Brown's Bar, I decided to lead by example and told him at the bottom of the next hill I was going to stop.  Funny how one person having to go pee sparks the urge in another.  Ahh, the job of a pacer. :)

Coming out of Auburn Lake, we continued a 14 - 15 minute/mile pace, but the last mile into Brown's Bar we had dropped back into the 12s.  Amazing, Dave!

When we arrived at Browns Bar, I recognized the "T" in the trail.  In my mind I thought, this is where we were supposed to turn left.  However, as we were grazing at the food table, I realized the supply trucks were blocking the trail to the left and that we would have to go to the right.  Now I was curious where the 3 of us had previously gone wrong.

Anyway, we had our fill of quesadillas, chips, and candy (I think Dave had some more broth and sandwiches) and we were off down the trail again.

Next stop - Highway 49 crossing (93.5 miles).

So, now my mind was wondering where I had gone wrong on my pre-race run.  What turn did we miss that day?  Soon Dave and I approached another "T" in the trail.  It was at this sign (this picture was taken during pre-race run).  During the run with Zap and RR, we had turned to the left.  Surely, we needed to go right (nevermind that the sign clearly states Hwy 49 crossing to the left).  Nope.  When we reached this point the trail was clearly marked with glow sticks and reflective ribbons to the left.

The first two miles out of Brown's Bar were nice - mostly downhill or flat.  We approached the river - you couldn't see it, only hear it.  However, based on my memory of the area, I knew exactly where we were.  We were just about to the fire road that leads to the Auburn Recreation Area parking lot where Hwy 49 crosses the American River and where my trio had hitched a ride two weeks ago.  Now I was truly confused.  Where was that turn we missed!  Then suddenly, about 2 miles out from the Hwy 49 Crossing, a large paint mark and glow sticks marked a small trail veering up steeply and to the left of the fire road.  I finally discovered where we had gone wrong!  I even remember seeing this little "NO Mountain Bikes" sign where the trail begins (not that you could ride a bike up this thing if you wanted to).

One of the cool things about running a race at night is that they mark the trail with glow sticks.  Sometimes they seem plentiful, other times not so much.  Dave commented several times during the night how we hadn't seen a glow stick in a while - wondering if we had missed a turn somewhere.

There is a downside to this method of marking the trail in this way.  While climbing this hill, I would take my eyes off the trail in front of me for a moment to see if I could make out the peak of the hill.  I could not make out the peak, but I would see the faint glow of one of these glow sticks above me.  Then we would reach that glow stick and then we would see another glow stick above us on the trail. We would continue uphill and I would either spot another glow stick or the flash of light of someone's headlamp.  Then we would reach that glow stick and I'd spot another one higher up still.  It seemed to never end!  At least during daylight if there is a hill you can see how far you have to go.  Running in the dark taking in only 20 feet at a time makes it a long drawn out process of reaching a peak.  As it turned out, the point where this little trail veered off to the left was the beginning of a long, 2-mile, uphill climb. 

It took us a bit of huffing and puffing, but we finally made it to the top!  After reaching the summit of the hill followed by a short down hill run, we could see the lights of CHP cars and the aid station at the Highway 49 crossing.  As we ran down the hill into the aid station, an official called our arrival over a radio followed quickly by Dave's name over the speakers.  It was now 1:45 a.m.

Hwy 49 Crossing Aid Station

Dave is the faint shadow figure in the center of the picture.

As we arrived at the crossing, we heard Dave's wife and sister cheering.  Dave had to do another medical check here.  The good news was that he had put on a few pounds since Auburn Lake and was back in the acceptable range.  After his check-up, we walked over to say hi and chat a bit with Samantha and Deb.  I told them that Dave was doing awesome.  You would never guess he had run 93.5 miles at this point.   

We went over to browse the food table.  I was picking at some chips and M&Ms.  Then I spotted some Jello cubes.  Before the race Dave had told me that nothing tastes better than chicken soup at 1 a.m.  I thought, hmm, I wonder how Jello tastes at 1 a.m.?


I wandered over to tell Dave about the Jello.  As we were walking back toward the food table, I noticed a pacer who was eyeballing the Gummi Worms and Gummi Bears.

"Look!  Gummi worms!"  he said.

"They have Jello over there," I told him.

"It's like, what do you want - crack or cocaine?"  he said.

We had a laugh and then I wandered back over to Dave who was saying good-bye to his family.  They were hoping to see us one more time at No Hands Bridge before they headed to the finish line.

As we were heading out, I noticed that after we had arrived at Hwy 49 that my Garmin battery had died.  No longer would we get the nice little chirp as every mile was checked off.
No matter we only had 6.7 miles to go!!!

There was a bit of a climb coming out of Hwy 49, but not like the hill we had just come up.  Next we had a nice dusty cruise along the top of the ridge above the highway with the giant Foresthill Bridge above us.  Finally a short descent to No Hands Bridge. 

Foresthill Bridge in daylight - Source:  WS100 website

Dave's family had managed to make it to No Hands Bridge before we arrived.  Dave took time to eat and visit while I visited the...ummm, nevermind.  Upon my return, one of the race officials joked that Dave was getting too comfortable here.  So, I told him that I'd get him out of here.  We were now 3.4 miles from the finish! 

Dave's sister with No Hands Bridge lit to the left
No Hands Bridge at night is pretty cool.  It is a gravel-covered bridge a little more than a car lane wide.  They have the entire span lit with white Christmas lights, which gives it a surreal look as you are crossing at two in the morning.

Once across the bridge, there is another nearly 2 mile climb up to Robie Point.  So, once again, we were reduced to walking as fast as we could.  About 3:20 a.m., we arrived at Robie Point.  This is where the trail running ends and you enter the city of Auburn.  We were welcomed to the Point by a race official who stated that the finish line was 1.3 miles from the lightpost at the top of the trail.

"Any more hills?" asked Dave.

"The first half mile," replied the official.  "Just follow the orange footprints."

I don't recall if Dave said anything about the hill, but I know what I was thinking.

Once on the asphalt, we realized the official wasn't kidding.  The road was as steep as any hill in San Francisco.  And after running 98.9 miles, I'm sure Dave was not pleased with another hill - I know I was done with them.  But sure enough there were orange footprints every 20 feet or so on the asphalt.

As we peaked the hill, there was a group of people camped out on their driveways.  They had strung Christmas lights across the street and were shouting, "Welcome to Auburn!!!"  So awesome!

Dave and I were back to running now with only about .7 miles left to go.  I was on the lookout for the stadium lights, but the heavy tree cover made them difficult to spot.

The roadway was flat to downhill for almost a half mile when Dave said, "Is that another hill?  That guy said no more hills!" 

Granted, it wasn't a steep hill, but it was a hill nonetheless.  At this point, Dave was unstoppable.  He didn't slow his pace he kept on running, so I did too.  We were running side by side as we reached the top of the hill.  My calves were on fire.  I can only imagine how Dave's felt.

Someone shouted, "Down this hill, across the bridge, and you're at the entrance to the stadium."

We entered the stadium and made the lap around.  I split off into the pacers chute as Dave crossed the finish line.

Dave about to cross the finish line.
Me looking on as Dave is awarded his medal

Dave with wife, Samantha, and sister, Deb

Dave and I after the finish


Dave at the Awards Ceremony later that morning

Official time - 22:38:07!  SILVER BUCKLE, BABY!

Dave, THANK YOU for allowing me the honor of being your pacer at the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run 2012.  You were incredible and inspiring!  I was just along for the ride.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience! Part II

In Part I of my WS 100 post, I had just led a couple of my BRS friends on a near 17-mile journey that put us 2 miles away from our drop car.  It was an awesome day of trail running, but it gets better!

Dave Boudreau flew out on the Wednesday before the race.  We agreed to meet up in Auburn at the Starbucks.  (Yes, the Starbucks in Auburn, again.  I don't actually drink Starbucks, but it seems to be a good location to meet if you're from out of the area.)  Dave wanted to get a look at the Rucky Chucky crossing and the Green Gate area where we would be meeting up on race day.

As he walked up to my truck, I realized that he was quite a bit taller than me.  I was mildly concerned that I might have trouble keeping up with his long-legged stride.  Then I thought again - during the race I wouldn't see him until he had run nearly 80 miles.  

Dave and I headed down to "Green Gate" and parked the car.  We headed off down the trail - a long nearly 2 mile drop to the American River.  Once at the bottom, we wandered around a large open area near the river trying to determine where the crossing would be made.  We did a little more wandering, a little bush wacking, looking at deep water, and trying to determine if there was any sign of a trail on the rugged cliff faces across the river.   Apparently, we had missed a smaller trail that branched off of the dirt fire road about quarter mile from the bottom of the hill.  Up we went, and then back down toward the river again, this time on the correct trail. We found the crossing, but the access was very overgrown with thorny blackberry bushes on our side of the river. (I don't know for sure, but I'm sure Dave was hoping that would be cleared for race day.)

Satisfied with the scouting of Rucky Chucky, we headed back up toward the car.  The temperature had risen a bit more and I was sweating profusely now.  I was glad I had brought my hydration pack instead of just my water bottle.  I was sucking the cool water down pretty steadily.  We made it back to the car and then continued down the trail from Green Gate.  We only checked out the first couple miles due to time constraints and headed back to the car again.  Even though I had just been in the area a couple weeks back, it was real now - I'd be here in a couple days running the course through the night.  SO COOL!

On the way back to my truck in Auburn, Dave and I chatted a little about race strategy.  However, we mostly just chatted about stuff other than running - kids, work, and life in general.  We parted in Auburn knowing that the next time we'd see each other would be during the race.

The night before the race, I meticulously went over my gear.  I wanted to be sure I had everything in order.  I also wanted to attempt to get some decent sleep because once I woke, it would be almost 24 hours until I slept again.

Before tucking my son in bed that night, I tried explaining what Dave was going to do and how what my part would be.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  "Tomorrow morning, before you wake up, Dave is going to start running.  Then we will wake up, eat breakfast, and go to swim practice.  Dave will still be running.  After practice, we will come home and you will get ready to go visit your cousins.  Dave will still be running.  Then I will eat lunch.  Sometime after lunch, I will start my 2 hour drive to where I will meet Dave's crew.  And Dave will still be running.  Then after you get home, eat dinner, and get ready for bed, Dave will still be running.  After you go to bed and fall asleep, I will meet up with Dave, who has been running this whole time.  Then, Dave and I will run all night.  Hopefully, we will finish before you wake up."
My son:  "Wow!  How do you do that?"

Me:  "I have no idea, but I'm going to find out."
The next morning went pretty much as described above.  I headed out to Auburn, stopped off at an REI to grab an extra Shot Bloks and a Heed packet.  I met up with Dave's wife and sister a little after 3 p.m. at the finish line at Placer High School Stadium.  We headed out to Michigan Bluff where Dave was due in about 5:30 p.m.  We drove down the long windy road into Michigan Bluff arriving about 4:30.  We set up the chairs and hung around the busy road waiting for Dave's appearance.  There were a couple of girls running up and down the road hawking fresh lemonade and cherries - quite an industrious couple of kids with a captive audience of hundreds of hot and thirsty race crews.

Me hanging around at Michigan Bluff

While we waited, I tried to lay down on a towel and nap.  Sleep wouldn't come.  I wasn't tired and frankly I was started to get amp'ed up for my entrance into the race.  It was a good thing I didn't doze off though.  Dave came running into Michigan Bluff (55.7 miles) just after 5 p.m., nearly a half hour early.  We chatted briefly as Dave switched out some of his gear and finished eating a sandwich and chicken broth.  He was looking and feeling good.

Dave arriving at Michigan Bluff walking with Crew Boudreau.
Dave and his Sis

Changing out gear.
We bid Dave farewell as he headed out from Michigan Bluff and hiked back up the short hill to the car.  We sped off toward Foresthill to meet him in another hour and a half.

Foresthill is an amazing place.  The number of people and cars just boggles the mind.  After all, this is a foot race not the NFL, NBA, or MLB.  There are so many people and crews cheering on each and every runner coming through.  I had the privilege of volunteering as a greeter at Foresthill last year guiding runners through the aid station and getting whatever food and/or drinks they needed.

We lucked out and found a place to park right near where runners enter Foresthill Aid Station.  However, we ended up setting up camp on the other end of the aid station so we could tend to Dave after he came out of the station.  While we had the time, I thought it best to change into my running clothes.  After Foresthill, I would be dropped at the Green Gate shuttle.  So, I swapped out my clothes and headed over to our little plot of land we had staked out.

In a good mood as he arrives at Foresthill Aid Station

As we were lounging around with the other crews, we heard Dave's name being announced as he entered Foresthill.  Again, Dave had surprised us by arriving about 10 minutes early!  Dave had been shaving time off his pace all morning.  He was clearly in the 22 hour finish range now.  Dave changed out the gear he needed and picked up his headlamp.  The next time we would see him would be after dark. 

Finally, the time was drawing near for me to enter the race.  We headed out of Foresthill to head toward the town of Cool and the Green Gate shuttle.  We missed a turn or something on the way to Foresthill Bridge so we ended up back in Auburn pretty quick.  No worries, because we were not really that far from everything anyway.  We headed back out on Highway 49, past the quarry at the Highway 49 crossing/aid station (where Zap, Rob and I were supposed to come out on our scouting run).  A quick stop at the gas station in Cool (along with a pit stop for me - I was fully hydrated now for the run) and we were off to the shuttle.

We pulled into the parking lot about 7:30 p.m. and I swapped out my shirt for a compression shirt and short sleeved shirt to go on top, as it was getting a little chilly now.  The ladies wished me well and headed off to eventually meet us at the Highway 49 crossing. They also told me to call if I needed anything in the time leading up to starting off on the run.

This is where things got a little dicey for me.  When we had pulled into the parking lot there was a shuttle waiting.  By the time I got my gear situated and walked over to the shuttle stop, the bus had left on a run down to the end of Sliger Mine Road.  The race official made an announcement about the bus.  The driver had been shuttling crews for 5 hours without a break and was rightfully a bit cranky.  The second bus had never materialized to relieve the load.  He asked us to be overly polite and thankful to the driver.  No problem.  Crews with runners that had left after 6 p.m. were asked to try and allow crews from 5 p.m. runners access to the bus, since it was taking about 4 hours for runners to make the trek.  Again, no problem.

The bus pulled back into the lot about 8 p.m. and offloaded all of the returning crews from the bottom of the hill.  After the last person stepped off the bus, the doors shut and the bus drove off to the other side of the parking lot and shut off its motor.

Umm. . .  excuse me???

Apparently, the driver decided it was break time.  This caused a bit of a panic among the crews and pacers that had been waiting for about a half hour already.  Crews and pacers with runners that had come through Foresthill around 5 and were not queued up to catch the next bus became almost frantic as the possibility of their runner passing through Green Gate without their crew was fast becoming a reality.

A note of clarification about Green Gate - As I have described in my previous post, Green Gate is about 10 to 15 minutes of driving a long, narrow, windy, 1 1/2 lane road.  Once at the bottom of the paved road it is a good 15 to 20 minute walk down a dusty, rocky fire road to the actual "gate".  On race day, no crew cars are allowed at the bottom of the road - there is simply no place to park.

The race officials were at a loss.  They were not sure exactly what to do.  After about 15 minutes, the race officials started shuttling pacers only down to the bottom in their personal vehicles.  Other crews started doing similar things - driving down crew members or pacers loaded down with all the gear.  They would return to the lot with the car in hopes to catch up with the crew shortly after once the bus started running again.

After the race officials had left on their second run to the bottom, it was approaching 9 p.m.  Now crews for runners who had left Foresthill at about 6:30 p.m. were getting antsy, including me.  Not long after the bus had shut down, I noticed that my cell phone had once again lost reception leaving me with no way to contact the rest of our crew.  One other pacer and I were talking about how much time we had left to get to the aid station when the bus engine roared to life.  It pulled up to the line and I was the first to hop on.

Even though I was ON the bus, I was seriously getting nervous about missing Dave at Green Gate.

Part III coming soon...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Western States 100 - 2012 Experience! - Part I

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