Race Description: 100 Mile point to point race starting at the base of Squaw Valley Ski Area through the Sierra Mountains to Auburn, CA. The run climbs approximately 18,000 feet and descents over 22,000 feet mostly on single track trail. This is the grandfather of the 100 milers that is very well organized and staffed with world class volunteers.
(The Top of the ski area looking at Lake Tahoe)
Wilderness Section: The race began at 5:00 am with clear skies and great temperatures climbing up and over Squaw Valley. Near the top of the ski area we began our first experiences with snow on the uphill (mile 3.5). After cresting the top and running about a half mile, we began a rolling section that was mainly covered in snow (I guess the total snow running for the race was about 5-7 miles).
(Backside of the ski area)
(Snow Running Video)
(Look I am running with a legend: Gordy Ainsleigh)
This year due to the snow the course was changed from the Lyon Ridge to the valley route to Talbot Creek where we had a fast moving road that skirted the west side of the French Meadows Reservoir to Duncan Canyon (mile 23.8). After Duncan, we traversed around the backside of the mountain to one of the river crossings (mile 25). The river was a nice place to cool off since the day was heating up and we were exposed due the lack of trees from the 2008 forest fire.
(The trail through the burn area)
The last few miles were up hill to Robinson Flat (mile 29.7). Robinson Flat was where my first of two drop bags was located. I took time to drink some recovery drink, fill my bladder, and pack in more GU Roctane.
The Canyons Section: This section began with about a mile of snow hiking which was good to shake out the legs and take in more solid food. Soon the snow was over and we were able to view the previous 10 miles including the French Meadows Reservoir before we dropped 1,400 feet to Millers Defeat (mile 34.4). As soon as I passed the snow I banged my toe hard against log in the trail. It did not slow me down yet!
(Beginning of the Canyons Video)
Each of the canyons was very similar with steep descents and equally steep climbs. The first was Deadwood at 2,000 feet down and 1,500 feet up to Devils Thumb (steepest). The second canyon was El Dorado at 2,600 feet down and 1,800 feet up to Michigan Bluff (mile 55.7). The next six miles was relaxing on roads as I moved into early evening as I arrived in Forest Hill (mile 62) at 7:33 pm. There I met my girlfriend and my last drop bag. I drank more recovery dink, got more Roctane, checked my lights, and weighed in with no weight loss.
(Looking down to the bottom of Deadwood)
(Bottom of Deadwood)
(El Dorado Canyon)
(Leaving Forest Hill)
My strategy in the canyon section was to have a controlled descent and leverage my climbing skills on the assents (every step of the way runners passed me on the way down and then I would lose them on the way up). I made the decision before leaving Denver to buy an Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap to protect my neck and ears from the sun. This was a very good move especially since I would dip it in cold streams and with water from the aid stations to help keep cool. When my drink alarm went off I made sure to drink even more to compensate for the heat.
The Night Section: Leaving Forest Hill was at first down hill but then seemed to traverse the canyon looking down at the American River. Soon after leaving the Dardanelles aid station (mile 65.7) it turned dark I continued to traverse along the canyon with some up and downs until Ford’s Bar (mile 73).
(View of the American River Canyon)
(Video: Beginning of the Night Run)
Roughly around midnight I made the famous Rucky Chuck River crossing (mile 78). Due to the strong river conditions the crossing was by raft instead of wading across. That was fun hopping on a raft with four other runners and being paddled across with aid stations and bright lights on both sides of the river.
The next aid station was Green Gate which was a quick 1.7 mile uphill climb. My legs were still feeling fresh and I even had aspiration of a 24 hour finish (I have been finishing strong at my recent ultras and figured the same). I arrived at Green Gate (mile 79.8) at 1:45 am and it was entertaining seeing pacers sprint down to meet their runners (in some cases the runners took off before their arrival).
The next 10 mile to Browns Bar was the loneliest of the race. I often found myself going 15-30 minutes without seeing another runner. In this period, the continued bashing of my big toes on both feet began to take a toll. Each time I tapped the end of my shoe with a rock or faced a down hill I felt as if someone was hitting my toes with a hammer. At 4:42 am I reached Brown’s Bar (mile 89.9) which was supported by the hashers and they had a keg of Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen (so tempting). I took time to add more Hydropel to my feet to prevent blisters, use the restroom in the very old outhouse, and eat some soup.
(Brown Bar Aid Station: Both Pictures)
The Finish: It was not long after leaving Brown’s Bar that sun came up and I reached the river. After another up hill (which I appreciated) I reached Highway 49 (mile 93.5). I enjoyed that aid station. For crews this is a great spot, they had breakfast cooking and there were lots of cheers for the runners. Up to this point I ran the race without pacers or crew. I was finally able to reach Kelly by phone and she decided to leave the finish area and run down to finish the race with me. She caught up with me at about mile 95 and she had endured my snails pace as we made it down the hill to No Hands Bridge (mile 96.8). From here I was once again happy knowing it was mainly up hill and I could move at a fast march. As I was looking at my watch I saw that I had a shot of finishing the race under 28 hours so when we reached Robie Point at the top of the hill and the beginning of the town (mile 98.9) I ignored the pain in my toes and ran on the streets the last 1.3 miles to the finish. Finally, I crossed the finish line at 27:53:52!
(Video of the Morning only a few mile more!)
(Little House on The Prairie Zone Past HWY49)
(Run into Kelly at mile 95)
(American River 4 miles to go)
(No Hands Bridge)
(Nearing Robie Point)
(The Tired Runners Waiting for the Awards Presentation)
Conclusion: It was a great point to point race with diverse scenery and great support. I am glad this was the first race in my 2010 Grand Slam Quest. Thank you WS 100 organizers and volunteer.