This weekend was the Western States Memorial Day Training Run. Day 1 consist of 32 miles from Robinson Flat to Foresthill School. This runs would take us through the two most difficult climbs, Devil's Thumb and Michigan Bluff. The temperatures in Sacramento were to reach the upper 90's, which meant it was going to be very warm in the canyons. There are a few aid stations along the way, Dusty corner, Deadwood cemetery, Michigan Bluff and Foresthill.
I have run this year now every year for the past few years. This year just like last year I started early. My friend drove a small group of us to Robinson Flat and we started before the busses arrived. Trailmomma was very excited about this run as I was too. We arrived in Foresthill about 5:45am to check in, use the restroom, and get our gear in order. We jumped into Tina's car and off we went to Robinson Flat. This would be my first time running this section of trail as the trail has been closed due to last year's fire.
Once at Foresthill it was time to get our run on. Today's goal was time on my feet and being smart. Trailmomma and I started off and we power hiked our way to some spectacular views before descending down the single track trail. Today's run would have a lot of ascending and a lot of descending, and the name of the game was don't blow up the quads.
We arrived at Dusty Corners aid station where I refilled my hydration pack as the next section would have a good long descent and and a very tough Devil's thumb climb and it would be about 11 miles until the next aid station. I also grabbed 2 squares of PB&J and off we went. The day was warming up and I have not been able to get much heat training in.
We cruised on the fire road just focusing on the task at hand. We hit the single track and the long descent down to swinging bridge. This year due to the fire we would be crossing the river with the aid of a cable instead of the bridge as the bridge was burned in the fire. I couldn't wait to hit the bottom as the water was going to feel refreshing. I was in the lead with Trailmomma right behind me and a small group of runners about a switch back back. The trail was loose with leaves and the switch backs were pretty tight. As we continued down my foot clipped a rock and I was going down, only I saved the fall at first but then I face planted and my legs kicked up. The downhill momentum wouldn't let me save myself. I was covered in dirt, leaves everywhere, dirt in my mouth and I hear Trailmomma ask "Can I get a picture?" I shouted "NO!" got up as quickly as I could and continued on. My legs were shaky, me head hurt, and I was covered in dirt. As we continued down, I brushed the dirt off and stopped at a creek crossing to clean up and also to cool down. I was pretty frustrated with myself at this point because of the fall. As we continued down, my left knee started to hurt and my left quad was banged up a bit so the descent was taking a lot of of me.
We hit the bottom and made our way to the cable crossing. The river felt very refreshing and came up to our waist. I wasn't very excited about the climb we had coming. Devil's Thumb is a challenging climb, it is steep with a lot of switch backs. During this climb I started to really dip. My energy level plummeted, my leg strength was non existent, I had to stop numerous times, and my legs were shaking. I was in trouble and I knew it. I told Trailmomma to go ahead, but she just looked at me and said "I am good here." She knew I was hurting, she stayed with me and offered encouragement. As we climbed I ran out of water in my pack, I was dry and we still had a ways to go. This was not a good situation to be in. I kept putting on foot in front of the other. Mentally though I was in a all time low, I just wanted to be done. And when I say done I mean done for the day, not just done with this climb. I knew that I needed fuel, and that I had somehow not fueled properly in the miles earlier. I told myself that once we hit the deadwood cemetery, I would spend some time there fueling. We climbed and climbed, I stopped and climbed some more then stopped and climbed some more. We were getting closer to the top, but it just felt like the climb would never end. As we neared the top, I looked at Trailmomma and said "I am out of water." She quickly grabbed "her jugs" and offered them to me. She had 2 small bottles plus her pack, so she had plenty of water. The water tasted great. We finally hit the top of the climb and slowly made our way to the pump and the aid station. I told Trailmomma that I was done, she just chuckled and said "No you are not."
At deadwood aid station (The Pump) the volunteers filled my pack, I enjoyed 2 cups of coke, some chips, half a payday bar, some PB&J and a GU. I also grabbed some GU as the Powergels I had weren't tasting that great. We also soaked our bandannas thanked the volunteers and were on our way. I slowly started to feel better, the leg strength slowly came back and mentally I became focused. On the descent I had to take things slower as my knee was still giving me some issues. We made our way down and with each land mark I knew we were getting closer to the bottom. Once at the bottom I took in another GU as what goes down must go up. We had about a 2.5 mile climb to Michigan Bluff.
This climb I was feeling strong. I kept a nice steady clip and passed a few runners along the way. I was getting pretty excited the closer we got to the top because from there it was only 6 miles and the day would be over. We climbed and climbed and the heat in the canyons was felt by all. I took in a GU as I started to feel my energy level drop. The GU kicked in and we were moving again. We were almost to the top when we saw a runner on the side of trail not looking too well. I asked if there was anything he needed, maybe some salt. He said he didn't have any salt and Trailmomma quickly offered him 2 salt tabs. Then maybe 5 feet in front of us another runner was getting sick on the trail. I looked at him and asked him and his partner if he needed anything, a gel, salt? His running partner said she had 1 gel. He asked for some solid food, Trailmomma again came to the rescue and gave him her gluten free bar. But before we moved on I had a great idea, I looked at Trailmomma and asked "Hey, do you have any ginger chews?" She did and gave each runner a ginger chew to help settle their stomachs. They were both appreciative and as we continued on I joked with Trailmomma about how I gave her fuel away and too be sure she refilled at Michigan bluff in case I needed something. We were nearing the top and I knew. As we popped out and hit the fire road to the aid station I was excited.
We had arrived at Michigan Bluff. Here I again refilled my pack, enjoyed some chips, some coke, a PB&J and GU before we moved on. Even though we had roughly 6 miles it would be a challenging 6 miles with a scorching sun. It was warm out, we power hiked the long hills, but quickly transitioned into a run during the flats and short hills. We were both moving pretty well and that was good feeling. We hit the single track and took our time as we switch backed it down to the bottom. At the bottom we cooled off in the river before the final climb of the day. This climb would be the shortest, but very hot as it was exposed. We climbed and ran when we could. Soon we hit the paved road and it was a amazing feeling knowing we were just about back. We kept a nice power hike on Bath Road and made the left turn to the school, where we trotted in with smiles on our faces.
It was a challenging day for me in the canyons. Mentally I had a tough time staying positive, but in the end it was nice to see the perseverance and determination come through. I had many lows and I mean super lows, but I bounced back and kept moving forward. Overall it was a strong mental training run, one with many lessons I shall carry with me into TRT100. I started the day with a smile and I ended the day with a smile and that is what matters. Thanks Trailmomma for your encouragement during the lows and the laughter all day. I can't wait to go back out there.