When I arrived at the first "official" training run for Western States, I could only breathe a sigh of relief. Just 24 hours earlier, I was slogging 5 miles on a treadmill in Cleveland – where it was 14 below zero outside. Oh its good to back in California.
Today’s run was the first of a series of training runs organized by the Western States race. It covered the last 20 miles of the 100 mile course, with one key difference: on race day this portion of the run is at night and in the dark. We started just above the green gate aid station. The first half of the run was rolling single track, very runable, with several stream crossings. There well over a hundred runners so we got bogged down a bit in places. What I found spectacular was the views along this course—awe inspiring canyons, towering rock walls, majestic green hills, and the ever present American River. I’m very pleased to have run this during daylight because I won’t be seeing – or enjoying – the splendor come race day.
Up next was what I hope is a prelude to race day – the aid station. Is it Thanksgiving today? My god, I’ve never seen such a spread! These people know how to please. M&Ms, PB&Js, Paydays, Bananas, Brownies, Oreos, GU, Succeed, GU20, watermelon, pretzels, strawberries. Need I say more? I grabbed as much as I could hold in my two hands and kept walking, eating as I went.
We were well into the second half of this 20 mile run and I started to realize what I am in for come race day. I had only run some 13 miles at this point. My hamstrings were sore, and my shoulders tight. We came to highway 49 crossing, and then a gradual uphill for a couple of miles, a brief flat section, then the decent onto No Hands Bridge. This marks mile 97 on the WS course, and the beginning of the final climb to the finish. I pushed on thinking that if I’m sore now after only running 17 miles, how the hell am I going to feel after running 97 miles? Note to self: keep training, you still have four months.
Finally I crested the top of the last hill and came to the finish at the sacred track at Placer High School. Waiting for us was more food, including bacon, eggs and pancakes. I woofed down a some goods then realized I had to get to the airport to fly home. With no shower or change of clothes in the cards, had to jump in my rental car a little sweaty. Thus completes a very fun and enlightening run that will, no doubt, keep my expectations in check.