What a wonderful weekend for a long run around Truckee! I drove my truck over to Sugar Bowl on Friday to sign a couple of acknowledgements about the course being difficult/dangerous and enjoy the company of the lovely DPMR group. We left my truck there at the finish so I could run to it at my leisure the next day… there’s just something nice about running to something. I got a ride home with Alex and made my first avocado maki rolls with coconut rice for the race the next day. My plan was to use those to balance the electrolyte I assumed I would guzzle during the race. This simple diet had really worked well at Angeles Crest a few weeks ago and I was excited to try it on a more challenging course prior to heading over to UTMB.
Race day began with a short jog over to the start from neighboring Prosser. It was warmer than previous CP race mornings… no gloves needed, so I thought the day might see temps of 90F or above. To my surprise and delight, nothing but wonderful breezes all day! I got to the starting line approximately 15 minutes before the start and was handed my bib along with a tracking device resembling something a felon on house arrest might wear. For some reason, this excited me and for the first time in my race history, I was warmed up and ready to go!
We were sent off out of the campground and into the darkness perfectly on time with brightly lit guides stationed along the route easily keeping us on course. The approach we took to the Animal was excellent – no sudden bottlenecks – and the dust was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. I wore my buff on my face for a bit until we got to the trail and settled in for the climb with minimal passing. The sunrise over Prosser was beautiful, causing many around me to gasp and take photos. I struggled with the urge to pull out my camera but managed to keep going.
Around the summit we started to settle in and feel like a group that were likely to be together throughout the day. Hellos and some encouragements were exchanged just before the descent into the first aid station. I came into it and immediately got to work on the electrolytes. Taking off with a mouth-full of bloks, I headed down the hill and then up the trail into some very agitated bees. Thankfully there was someone yelling for us to just run away from them, so I did that and then removed the ones that were still stuck to me. It was only two weeks ago that I had been stung in the left buttcheek at mile 1 of the Marlette 50k, so being stung on the legs and back at nearly mile 12 seemed like an improvement.
Down into Euer Valley we went and were quickly received by more wonderful volunteers. I guzzled more electrolytes and was on my way. We took a lovely singletrack up onto one of the smaller ridge lines that gave beautiful views of the valley followed by a fun descent back down into it and across to the climb up to the next aid station and friends from Redd Antler! We chatted briefly – too briefly! – and I was on my way savoring this recent memory of them all the way up and over Hawk Peak. This climb is where last year’s race became difficult and I was relieved that this year it felt much shorter and easier! Heading toward the ridge, I had a feeling I would be seeing course markings on the new section of trail I had seen a few weeks earlier and sure enough there they were! I was running pretty much by myself at this point and went down the hill that was followed by a fairly short climb right back up to the ridge we could have just stayed on. -_- I laughed at the lazy thoughts I was having during an event I had chosen to run again for like the 4th time or something. Once over the ridge I had a nice relaxed downhill into Johnson Canyon. The streams were still flowing over the trail and I grabbed some delicious cold water with my highflow filter so I wouldn’t come into the aid station hot.
I came into Johnson Canyon aid with just about an hour before cutoff – exactly where I wanted to be. There were many familiar faces in the aid station and I felt pretty good. Already hydrated and cool, I put on some more sunscreen, drank a couple bottles of electrolyte, grabbed some gels and blocks, met some nice volunteers and quickly left. I hiked/ran up to Summit Lake while the calories settled in my stomach. The next aid station came quickly there on the lake’s shore and I took the opportunity to grab some more calories before climbing up to Frog Lake Overlook and heading down into the valley behind Castle Peak all the while looking forward to the cold water and wildflowers I had yet to experience this year. I was not disappointed! I ran over to the little “waterfall” which is usually a trickle at this time and found it gushing. I got into it to cool off and drank straight from it then quickly hiked and jogged up to Devil’s Oven feeling completely fresh and ready for the strong breeze that was sure to be up on the ridge between Basin and Castle. Once up on the ridge I texted my pacer Miriam and started thinking about not keeping her waiting too long at Norden.
I quickly hiked up Castle Peak and then descended down trying to mimic the way I had seen students at the Donner Ski Ranch do their hill repeats on it – aiming for the solid rocks and bouncing back and forth between them. I passed some runners who joined me down to the next aid station where I was really happy to see familiar faces and see all the great food offerings. George gave me some salted avocado off the blade of his knife and it was perfect. I headed up the third peak and was pleased at how much shorter it was than last year! 🙂
If anyone would ask me which section of the course that I dislike the most, it’s Hole in the Ground. It’s usually hot, painfully rolling for a MTB, long, dusty, and layered with memories of other runners hating on it during past races. This year, it was fine. It was actually fine. I sat down at some flowing water and worked on leaving a happy memory there while I cooled off. The aid station at the midway point gets better each year and this year was the best so far! This aid station went from warm water on the back of a truck to a full cookout campsite with delicious ice cold beverages. What a transformation! I drank some deliciously cold electrolyte and headed down to Norden.
Coming into Norden and crossing the tracks, there was Miriam! She saw me first because I didn’t have my glasses on, so I was just thinking “how do these people know my name?”… I was also a little tired and my brain was slowing down. I was ready to climb through the Palisades using my arms, not my legs. I used the restroom while eating a bar (these Joje bars are pretty good! I like the white chocolate and the lemon blueberry… not really the other flavors while running… anyways I had 2 of them during this race and wished I had 3, but I digress…). I saw a bunch of striders and they sent me off smiling.
We took the less direct route to the Palisades, as you do during this race, and made it there approximately as the sun was setting, but we still did it in the dark. That’s where things got really slow. We got stuck behind people who seemed to have forgotten what a rope was. Miriam was scrambling without ropes in the name of not taking resources from runners or something like that. We completed the section in what might have been the slowest time of all the years I’ve done it and then ran happily over Judah and down to the finish line, where there were chaise lounges waiting! Those, plus the volunteers running burritos to the lounge area were brilliant additions! It’s now the Wednesday following the race as I write this and I am feeling fully recovered and ready to run UTMB this Friday, so mission accomplished! 🙂
Castle Peak 2019 was awesome and it just gets better every year!