Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Western States Training Camp

Day 1 (30.6 miles/actual 33.56 miles)- Due to a deep snow pack the planned route was changed to avoid the high country.  We were told that we would find the alternate course just as challenging as the canyons, but safer. After checking in and getting a briefing from the race director Greg about the new route we all loaded onto school buses for a short trip to the top of Driver's Flat Road.  From here we would down hill for several miles and then would proceeded to run the course from the river crossing to Foresthill (Cal Street) in reverse.  Once checking in at Foresthill we would continue to run in reverse out to Michigan Bluff and then turn around run back to Foresthill.

I started the day with Meghan Arbogast, Craig Thornley and Dan Olmstead and ran to the first aid station with Craig.  These seasoned veterans had already put in a week of training on the course and had run 50 miles the previous day.  After I grabbed a gu we parted ways and I found myself running with Riva Johnson, a fellow New Englander. We chatted for several miles and then I found myself alone.  I had hoped not to find myself in this situation with the warning of cougars, snakes and bears.

Time on the trail alone gave me time to think and be inside my head.  Also for some strange reason I thought that I smelled McDonald's french fries (to my surprise when I mentioned it to Nate Sanel that night he said he had smelt the same thing on course). The long climbs were just what I needed and just a bit over ten miles in I was treated to the one in the photo on the left.  As I plugged away at a steady pace up it I passed a few gentlemen.  On my way past, one commented "wooo there little lady, there's still a lot to come!"  I pleasantly smiled and said "yes thanks, I know. I'm just running comfortably and enjoying the day."  Within a few strides it was clear I had a new shadow, this man did not want me to be in front.  We exchanged some conversation and ran for a few miles together.  Eventually we even crossed paths with one of my pacers whom I hadn't met in person yet, which was a pleasant opportunity to put a name and face together and exchange hugs.   As I approached Cal Street I was alone and found my way to Foresthill Elementary School

As I left the aid station the volunteer's informed me that they thought I turned down Bath Road.  Despite not seeing any markers I turned down the hill and opened up my stride.  About 1/2 mile down the hill I spotted a ribbon and then nothing.  I kept running downhill, down, down, down until the end of the road.  With no ribbons and no other runners I headed back uphill and then eventually spotted "my shadow".  He got me back on course after my bonus mileage.  Again we stuck together until we made our way up a long climb towards Michigan Bluff (in the reverse direction of the actual course) and I ran away from my shadow.  I came to the top of the single track, made my way onto a dirt road that then split.  The intersection was unmarked and I took my chances and headed left.  After about a mile plus of downhill I decided that I should turn around and try the other direction.  Finally back on course I made my way to the turn around at Michigan Bluff where my shadow was refueling.  Now that I knew the course I could more comfortably run alone and see the course in the right direction.  Once I arrived back at Foresthill I was even treated to a massage which was just icing on the cake.

Day 2- (19 miles) - Day two meant running the section from Foresthill to the Rucky Chucky in the correct direction.  Instead of crossing the river like we would do on race day the training course had us ending with a three mile climb to White Oak Flat.

Not wanting to run alone again I decided to latch onto the train that the four front male runners had formed.  Within a mile the guy in front of me, Dave started chatting.  We exchanged good conversation and he offered to let me pass.  I was tempted to pass all of them since I could comfortably run the downhill at a faster pace than they were going.  Half kidding and half curious I asked Dave his thoughts about me passing everyone.  That is, if I passed them all would they then chase? Knowing that I would feel the need to continue to push the pace for the entire mileage if I did that I decided to stay put.  The group stayed in formation till the first major double track climb and then three out of the four guys went into a walk.  I passed two of them and joined the front two runners Chris and Dave.  I kept picking on Dave as I threatened to take pictures of him walking and then send them to his coach (who I will not name).  After a couple miles I let Chris and Dave go and went back to running with Dave and Skip.  They were both great company and strong runners. 

After finally reaching the aid station before the three mile climb I ate some fruit and worked on pulling out my ipod as Dave and Skip headed up the hill.  The grade varied throughout the climb, but it was all runnable.  After about two miles of soft clay road I took a right hand turn onto some single track.  Within a few minutes I passed the race director and then shortly after a guy came flying by me.  Once we I arrived at the final aid station the guy who passed me told me that the RD had told him not to get chicked. 

Once showered and full of food and Starbucks Nate Sanel and I hiked to the bottom of the highest bridge in CA (730 feet).  As we admired the bridge and snapped photos I got to see a California King snake (sweet, I am afraid of garden snakes!)  After taking pictures we started back up the switch backs and suddenly Nate and I both heard a "whoooossh" and then a "thud".  The "thud" hit a few feet from me and the "thud" was caused by a large rock that someone had dropped or thrown from above.  A very close call for both of us and it certainly dampened my spirits. 

Day 3- (22 miles) - The finish!  After riding school buses for approximately 45 minutes up steep, narrow, twisty roads we were dropped off about 2 miles above the Greengate aid station.  Once on the WS course we made our way back to the track at Placer H.S.

Today was a very special day for me as I got to run with Meghan Arbogast.  I was connected with Meghan a while back by a mutual friend.  I was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to ride stride for stride with her we got to know each other better and she explained the course we were seeing.  She is such a strong runner and better yet a strong female.  Her energy and outlook are contagious and I can't wait to see what race day holds for her. 

Above Meghan and I are standing (yes standing) on "No Hands Bridge," which is a few miles from the finish.  After refueling at an aid station on the other side we were off and running again. It was great to see the final miles of the course, especially once the trail ends and the pavement begins since there is a climb up before heading towards the track. 
With just 24 days until "go time" I am trying to stay calm and focused.  My number one goal is to finish while running my race.  The work has been done and now I need to be smart and work on all the details.  All and all the trip was nectar!

1 comment:

  1. I wish you'd taken over at the front of our train, Aliza! I hate setting the pace, and as I told you, I definitely would have given chase at whatever pace you decided to fall into! At least my identity is protected in this post! Great to meet you out you know, I'm expecting you to make some noise in a few weeks!