So another month has come and gone. Time is surely flying and school is almost out for the summer. One thing that remains constant however, is my LOVE for the Western State Trail!
No, I am not running Western States 100 this year but like I have in 2010 (recap here), 2014 (recap here), 2015 (recap here) AND 2016 (recap here) I DID run one of the training days on Memorial Day Weekend this year! One of my FAVORITE days of the year!
Pigeon and had the pleasure of having Miss P and Not Chris join us (at least for the start) of our WS Training Run adventure. Pigeon and I always go into this run looking to create some laughter and enjoy the day on some of our favorite trails.
This year, Not Chris wanted to join us as he is quickly getting the ultra bug after his run at Ruck a Chuck back in March. He was totally smitten with all things Western States before having even stepped foot into the Canyons … this was his first time running in the Western States Canyons and they did not disappoint!
With our non-drought very wet winter, the start of the training run had to be altered quite a bit to deal with the still heavy snow residing at Robinson Flat.
We were lucky enough to get a ride from Not Chris’s lovely wife so as to avoid taking the bus from Foresthill (with 300 other amazing runners). This made our start a tad bit easier as we had to really navigate over some heavy snow covered areas.
We basically had to run an extra 4 miles because the car couldn’t even make it to the Robinson Flat camp ground starting area. We just accepted it and did our best not to fall down. I think in total, we probably ran about 7 or 8 miles on snow before actually getting to the Western States Trail (we had to run a side route because the snow was so bad).
Once we were on dirt though, we started to get into a groove. I felt a little bad for Not Chris because of our detour at the start, he missed all the amazing views including Pucker Point. I guess he’ll just have to join us again next year! 😉
As usual, I had a little tummy trouble at the start. I am not sure what it is about this training run but I struggle for the first few miles every single year! Ah well. Luckily I am used to it by now and I know that it eventually sorts itself out and truth be told, it isn’t enough for me to lose any excitement about this day.
There were these giant pine cones at the start of the trail (see above photo) and my kids are obsessed with collecting them. I snapped this pic to send to them. I got scolded for not carrying this thing the entire day. 🙂
The four us just ran and chatted most of the time. Easing into the day, trying to find our groove. Pigeon and I shared past stories from our previous runs with Miss P and Not Chris.
Soon we hit the descent down towards Swinging Bridge. Miss P and Not Chris enjoyed this section and took off. I was content to just go easy and enjoy my day.
We regrouped at Swinging Bridge and introduced Not Chris to the infamous Devil’s Thumb!
As we started our climb, a lot of the elite runners from the bus had caught us and were beginning to pass us on our way up the Thumb which is always pretty cool.
Not Chris took off. I was a little worried about him going up and out too fast. I had warned him that there are 36 switch backs to Devil’s Thumb. I love this climb, I always have. It was also beginning to get warm which can really make this climb harder the higher up you get. I eventually lost sight of Not Chris.
When I made it to the top of Devil’s I didn’t see Not Chris. I had assumed that he had followed Miss P to the aid-station which wasn’t too far off and that he must have been in need of fuel after that climb. I was bummed he wasn’t at the top though because I wanted to make sure that he actually SAW the thumb rock, the reason this climb is named what it is. I am a nerd like that. 🙂 Sadly, he missed the rock but he was in need of fuel so I get it. Again, I guess we’ll have to take him back out there some day. 🙂
I took a seat at the top of Devil’s and waited for Pigeon to arrive. As I sat there, Magda Boulet reached the top, smiled at me and asked if I was “ok” and if I needed anything. Super sweet! I assured her that I was fine and that I was just waiting for a friend. I LOVE how sweet all ultra runners are, no matter their level or status. Magda is one runner who I adore and follow. I hope she kicks butt at States this year!
Pigeon and I found Not Chris at the Pump aid-station with cheeks full of food like a squirrel! 🙂 He had a smile on his face and I think was having one helluva day so far.
We left the aid-station and made our way down to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon, another fun downhill section. I love this section of trail and Pigeon knows it. During our Canyons 100k training runs, I would blow this section up and today was no exception. I took off and caught up to Not Chris and Miss P.
At the bottom, we dunked our bandannas and hats in the cold river to tried to cool off before the climb up to Michigan Bluff.
Not Chris and I climbed up to Michigan Bluff together. We were in a pack with some guys just making conversation. Not Chris moved from in front of me to behind me. About two minutes later I hear, “I need a pep talk.” 🙂
He had hit his wall as so many others have on this very climb. Three miles up is tough in the heat. Luckily we had just reached a clearing that gave us the most spectacular view.
I made him stop, “Look at that. Not many people in this world will see this view. Just soak it in. We’re in no rush.”
We made it to Michigan Bluff and made a beeline for the aid-station.
I knew Pigeon would understand where we were when she crested the hill off the trail. Not Chris needed some fuel. I needed a refill and we were both eager to stand in some shade after that climb.
After the aid-station, we regrouped and then made our way down the road. We were all in good spirits knowing that we had about 6 miles left on the day. I knew the next section was pretty sunny and less exciting since it’s just a dirt road essentially. The real fun would not begin until we started the descent down Volcano and hit the creek crossing.
This is the same creek crossing from my Canyons 100k run four weeks earlier. It was way less crowded and the water way less strong. The two ropes were still there though.
Not Chris and I were busy dunking ourselves into the cool creek when Pigeon made her way down. Nothing like a refreshing stream to cool you off before you climb out of another canyon!
I forgot just how much trail there was from the crossing until we hit Bath Road. I think Not Chris was expecting to get out of the stream and hit the road for our final climb. Oops. 🙂
I could sense he was tired but his adrenaline and excitement was prevailing. We waited for Pigeon at the gate and we all hiked up Bath Road together.
We ran together down Foresthill Road until we reached the school and had our wristband’s officially cut. We were done! Not Chris had not only run his very first Western States Training Run, he had also just ran 33 miles for the first time for FUN in a non-race situation! 🙂 He had only run one 50k prior to this day (Ruck-A-Chuck – which is a race on the other portion of the WS Trail). He’s official now, he’s one of us. Running 33 miles for the pure the fun of it? Yup, he’s smitten.
No matter what I do or what I run prior to this weekend each year, whether it was Quicksilver 100k last year, or Canyons 100k this year – I somehow find the energy and enthusiasm to still enjoy this day.
There is just something so innately special and magical about this trail, about this race. I am looking forward to June 24th and watching many friends have their adventures, their dreams, their goals unfold in 24 to 30 hours at The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.