On October 18, in Foresthill, I ran the 30k distance of the Overlook Endurance Runs, which is organized by 14-time Western States 100 champion Ann Trason. This event was highly recommended to me by a friend who ran the inaugural race last year as good training for my first 50k in December at The North Face Endurance Challenge. The course follows the Western States Trail along the middle fork of the American River from Drivers Flat to American River Canyon Overlook Park. The opportunity to run such a storied stretch of trail was one of the big draws for me to enter this event. A few changes were made for the 2015 installment, such as replacing the 100k distance with the 30k and pushing the runs back to October from September.
As I boarded the shuttle to the start, I was glad to see Mone’ Haen, and we caught up about DPMR goings on (news flash: new race shirts coming!) during the ride to the start. We had both battled various ailments that had impeded our training during recent weeks and were of the opinion that we would be taking it easy during the race. The weather was in the upper 50s, and visibility was low due to thick morning fog. However, once the gun went off and we started a two mile descent down to the river and the first aid station at Rucky Chucky, the sun broke through, and the temperature quickly started to climb into the mid to upper sixties. As I had run but one other race at this distance, I found the weather and the general downhill progression for most of the course to be extremely advantageous.
My first 30k was the Auburn Ski Club’s Sierra Crest 30k on August 8, 2015, which entails 3,493k feet in elevation gain. By comparison, the Overlook 30k offers 2,310 feet in elevation gain, depending upon whose Strava data you like. As mentioned, the course is largely downhill with rolling terrain and minor climbing for 13 miles until you reach No Hands Bridge, from which point it rises approximately four and a quarter miles to the finish.
As the course started with a long down hill, the pack spread out quickly, and I settled into a comfortable pace. After the first aid station I found myself running alone or in small groups of 30k and 50k competitors. Aside from the occasional mountain biker or hiker and the drone of not too distant dirt bikes, we largely had the trail to ourselves for the first 12 miles, which left me plenty of time to admire the beauty of the course. October just may be the perfect month to run this section of the Western States Trail as it is still dry (no shock given the drought), and temperatures are comfortable. The most unique aspect of the run was the Poverty Bar river crossing with Gordy Ainsleigh himself there to clip runners onto the cable. That was a moment that I’ll fondly recall for quite some time. The most challenging section was the climb up to Overlook Park after No Hands Bridge.
In retrospect, I should’ve done a better job on calorie intake earlier in the race, but as temperatures were comfortable, I hadn’t consumed as much Tailwind-fortified water as I had planned. As a result, the four and a quarter uphill miles to the finish were something of a challenge that was made more difficult by temps that had warmed significantly since the start of the race. By this point, I was running alone with no one in sight ahead or behind me, and I found myself occasionally losing focus as I struggled a bit to note the markers to ensure that I remained on course. I was buoyed by the encouraging comments of “You’re almost there!” and “Beer ahead!” from hikers as the finish neared, and I “broke the tape” at 3:06:05, which was good enough for 12th overall, sixth male, and fifth in my age group. There were 102 registrants for the 30k distance (80 of whom finished), and 169 50k runners.
Mone’ ran a great race with a time of 3:35:33, which was well under her injury-influenced 4 hour goal. Most importantly, she was healthy at the finish, which leaves her in good shape to tackle the California International Marathon in December. DPMR was also represented by Andy Pasternak and JoAnn Ellero, who completed the 50k distance. Ann congratulated each finisher with a hug, handshake or high five and posed for pictures with many runners. It was clear that many participants were drawn to this event by their friendship with and/or admiration for her. While I had to leave fairly quickly in order to catch my son’s baseball game, many runners lingered in the sunshine to enjoy the extensive post-race victuals, cheer for finishers, and chat about their upcoming adventures.
Overall, I found the run to be quite enjoyable. Highlights included running on the Western States Trail, the Poverty Bar river crossing, four well-supplied aid stations approximately every 3.7 miles on the course, outstanding volunteers, and running an event put on by the legendary Ann Trason. I highly recommend the Overlook Endurance Runs for anyone seeking a mid-October race next year.