Days two and three of Western States Training Camp cover Foresthill to the river, and Green Gate to the finish line. Roughly 20 miles each, they felt like shakeout jogs compared to the long run from Robinson Flat to Foresthill. During the race, these legs will be run in the dark.
Torrey, who paced me at AR50, joined me from Foresthill to the river for a daylight preview of this stretch. He will pace me for this leg during the race. Affectionately known as California Street, or Cal Loop, the 16 miles from Foresthill to Rucky-Chucky (near) descend to river level with over a dozen climbs sprinkled in, mixing up the runnable trail. Almost smack in the middle is "six-minute hill". During the day on Sunday, this dirt road climb was excruciatingly exposed. Torrey reminded me that it would be dark when we see it during the race. I got to check in with Ann again, as she was crewing the Cal 2 aid station during the training run. Later, she told me she was impressed by how calm and focused I was when she saw me those first two days. Despite building anxiety about the overall distance, I do feel very comfortable on the course, and I found these short sections relatively easy to tackle.
As Torrey and I reached river-level and the shade of the riparian zone, the humidity shot up. Near the now-defunct Sandy Bottom Aid Station, it was hot and muggy. The river flowed tantalizingly close but offered no relief. Runners up and down the trail complained of low energy and sluggishness. Arriving at the river crossing, temps hovered near 90 degrees. It could be up to 20 degrees hotter on race day.
We replenished at the aid station and soaked in the cool water of the Middle Fork American. It was fun the chat up other runners and compare notes on the almost 50 miles of trail we had covered in the past 30 hours. It took a while before we were ready to tackle the 2.5 mile climb to Drivers Flat Staging Area, our finish line for the day.
Memorial Day Monday saw the final stretch of trail, capping off the 70+ mile weekend. David will pace me for this stretch, but was returning from injury and could not join me. As I descended Sliger Mine Road to Green Gate, I fell in with John Nagel, whom I had met near Miller's Defeat on the first day. We ran together for a few miles, chatting about Juneau, Alaska, his home. Of course, we covered his relationship with Geoff Rose, Geoff's training camps and a search and rescue effort underway in Juneau. A local runner had been missing for a few days. John runs quite a bit faster than I, but I figured I would survive. I was able to hold up my end of the conversation as we clipped off 8 minute miles. I also justified the fast early pace because I wanted to simulate weary legs for this home stretch. Hammering the downhill, plus the previous two days' efforts, gave me a look at what that might feel like.
I met a few folks along the way, like Bay Area runner Starchy Grant, whose name I knew but had never met. I also ran with Katie DeSplinter for a few miles. Katie was coming off a win at the Bishop High Sierra 50 miler the weekend before. Overall, I felt good about the pace I was able to achieve and the company I was able to keep for this final day of training camp. I know the Western States Trail from American Canyon to Auburn fairly well form previous training runs and local races like American Canyon 50k and Way Too Cool 50k.
Overall, this three day event was very satisfying. Now that I know more of the course, this race makes that much more sense to me. Thrilling views, fantastic single track, daunting canyons, what more could one ask for? I feel honored to be able to run Western States as my first 100 miler. My confidence is high. I will finish the distance. As Tim Tweitmeyer says: it is me and the mountains against the clock.