I grew up in the Sacramento River Delta and as a young boy I would stare out over the vineyards to the snow-capped outline of the Sierras. I thought to myself, that is where I need to go. Escape from all that bothered me in my childhood. I was introduced to exploring the mountains at a young age and I have always felt that this is my home. Not where I sleep every night, but where my soul is fulfilled. What better way to replenish my tank, than to run 100k on a brand new course, designed just for that purpose. To give the runner a journey that transcends mileage, elevation, pace or a PR. A journey that rejuvenates what it means to overcome hardships and experience awe-inspiring views. The Castle Peak 100k is a spectacular trip destined to give each runner their own personal version of traveling through the historic and scenic trails of Truckee/Donner.
The Friday evening briefing gave us all a chance to get caught up on the latest details. At 4am the shuttles took us out to Stampede Reservoir and the 5am start. It was warm and fuzzy, so many friends about to set out on a journey that had yet to be completed by anyone.
The first 10 miles roll gently to the Donner Picnic grounds at Hwy 89. I went out maybe too fast and so I decided it was time to back off. Chris Cloyd, Ryan Weibel and Jace Ives were pulling away as I was power hiking up the Animal. After a moderate ankle roll on a short descent, I started to doubt myself. Dropping from 2nd to 8th place by the Wendin Way aid station (mile 25), I was thinking “I don’t think I have enough fight left to get through”. A quick massage to my aching back and things started to feel better.
Climbing up to Summit Lake I was caught by Roxanne Woodhouse and we pushed each other up to Castle Pass. Peter Fain was just below the aid station and gave me a great pep talk, “you know the climb to Castle Peak, go get it”. I chugged a can of coke and an s-cap and put my head down. The wind was howling up high and I was feeling better as I summited. I passed a guy on the way down but needed George Ruiz’s blister expertise before leaving his oasis (miles 34-37). It worked great and didn’t bother me from there.
My first time through the “hole in the ground” section was good even with a hard fall. I bruised some ribs and my knee but nothing to end the day. A few mountain bikers kept leap-frogging with me and so I pushed hard for about 7 miles but couldn’t shake them and they finally pulled off to have lunch. It felt great to see new trail and experience this section with eyes wide open.
As I reached the Van Norden (mile 46) aid station, my back was still not great but medical team worked me over, I had a couple shots of IPA and picked up my all star pace team of Ann Mae Flynn and k9 hero Foscoe. We took off to the storied Palisades (mile 49) section. Steep climbing followed by steeper exposed rocky cliff band. The views for so many miles of this course are amazing. This section adds a whole new layer of excitement that is unique to this event. I passed 2 more runners by the time I summited Mt Lincoln. Now in 4th, the hunt was on.
A steep and loose descent followed by one last climb to Mt Judah and then 10 miles of downhill to the finish. Anna Mae kept me focused on the task, “jog it out”. You can’t argue with that, jogging is easy right?
We pushed as hard as possible over historic Roller pass and down on a tricky single track that is not well travelled. You can almost hear the settlers and their wagon trains ascending the other way. With 5.7 miles to go at the upper Coldstream aid (mile 56), they told us 3rd place just left about 5 minutes ago. Refill the pack, another s-cap and coke and out of there. About 3 miles later we spotted Chris Cloyd and he spotted us. Crap, I was so tired but ironically ran my fastest mile trying to catch him. I just wanted to cruise in and see my kids at the finish and have a cold beer. But Anna Mae lit a fire. We covered some gap and got maybe 200 yards within catching Chris and a 3rd place but he battled back and pulled away. We pushed each other in a friendly dash to the finish. One I will not forget.
As we got to 300 yards of the finish at Donner State Park, my kids were there to run in with me. As we crossed the line in 12:44 and a hard earned 4th place, I hugged Chris and everyone I could. What a great way to experience my first 100k and the inaugural Castle Peak 100k, rugged, scenic, and amazing.
The DPMR race crew and volunteers were amazing. Peter Fain is a villain you have to love even though you want to curse him, the course delivered on all fronts. Helen Pelster is a master of every small detail that goes in to pulling off a race for the first time. My first 100k, the first time finishing with my kids, and the first Castle Peak 100k have me wanting more. See you next year if you are Unafraid.