What a weekend! Western States Training Camp wooed me in and then kicked my butt. Okay, actually my feet, but you get the point.
After packing like I was heading off to climb Everest, I left LA early Friday morning and made the seven hour drive up to Auburn. It is not a difficult drive – mostly on I-5 – but it is pretty boring. I made it through Sacramento early enough to miss the mass Friday-before-a-holiday-exodus, and was in Auburn by 2:30 and happily checked into my hotel.
My first order of business for this trip was to make a beeline over to the Auburn Running Company.
Even though I hadn’t really eaten much all day, new shoes from this legendary store took precedence over my stomach. While I may not be much of a trail runner, I had always wanted to visit the store I had been hearing about for so many years. It’s one of those running stores that gets mentioned in a lot of race reports and blogs, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about – plus I needed to get some new Montrails, which are hard to come by in LA.
From the minute I walked into the store, I felt like I was an old friend. Everyone greeted me like I was their favorite customer, and it wasn’t long before we were chatting about shoes, races, training, and retiring to Auburn. I loved every minute of it. Unlike in many running stores, everyone in there seemed to be really into running. You could tell that the owners, and the employee, really love to run – and that makes it a lot more fun to buy shoes. Even though I found what I needed in five minutes, I stayed to chat for another thirty. Funnily enough, my salesperson asked me my name and then told me my pacer had just left! These people really do get to know their customers!
After my wonderful shopping experience, I headed over to La Trevi for something to eat.
I was starving! The waiter seemed a little taken aback when I ordered a steak with wilted spinach and a side plate of pasta marinara at 3;30 in the afternoon. He had to openly stifle a grin when I asked for more bread after polishing off an entire basket, but then very diplomatically complimented me on my big appetite. I laughed and told him about my day and what I had planned for the weekend. He was a good sport, and an excellent waiter, and did not openly mock me.
Back at the hotel, I got my gear ready for the next day – hydration vest, bottles, shot blocks (trying something new), PayDays (just in case), gloves, jacket, and bandana. The weather was very iffy, so we were told to be prepared for anything – and they were right. The next morning, after a scary hour-long ride up the mountain on a school bus, we arrived at the start of the run in a Winter Wonderland.
Coming from hot SoCal, this was So Cool! Off the buses, and off we went, slipping and sliding along the trail. The first day was to cover miles 30 – 62 of the course. I didn’t know it when I started, but this is supposed to be the most difficult section of the race.
As we wound along the trail, we all chatted about where we were from, etc. It was so fun getting to meet and chat with so many new people. At about Mile 3, the guy behind me, and I, put together that he had been listening to my podcast on Trail Runner Nation about Pacing on his way to the run that morning (small world!), and in an instant, a friendship was born. Richard and I ended up running the entire 32 miles together and had a great time, helping each other through the low sections and entertaining each other during the rest.Richard running up a hill in front of me
The course itself was stunning. Honestly, I can say I don’t think I have ever run in a more beautiful setting.
For me, the only downside was all the descending and climbing required in this section of the course. I knew my feet were not fully recovered from Born to Run 100k, but I had no idea how messed up they really were, or how much descending and climbing we were actually going to have to do on this 32 mile run. It turned out that this section has the most descents and climbs of the entire course. We descended from 6700 ft. to 2800 ft., then back up to 4100 ft., and back down to 1800 ft., much of it on steep singletrack. By the last 3 miles, I could hardly run. Every step felt like I was running on broken glass, and my left foot was throbbing on the top, as well. I knew I was in trouble for the rest of the runs planned for the weekend.
Luckily, I was able to finish (which was good because there was really no place to drop) with Richard’s help and the serendipitous meeting in the last 3 miles of every person I had been seeking out during the run. After the last aid station, a group of us headed out together. Two of the runners were discussing their friend Helen. I asked, “Are y’all talking about Helen Wu?”
“Yes, do you know her?”
“Yes,” I said. ”I’ve been trying to find her for 26 miles!”
Just then, Helen ran up behind us to join her friends. After some excited hellos all around, I found out that the guy I had been talking to was a Twitter friend, Jack Rosenfeld, and Helen’s pacer. We had run BTR 100k together, but had never met. We all chatted like old friends, my mind gratefully off my feet for the moment.
And then, “Are you Carilyn Johnson?”
“Yes,” I said to another runner in our new little group.
“Well, I’m Eric. I’m YOUR pacer. And I’ve been looking for YOU for 26 miles!”
Wow! What are the odds that the only 3 people I knew out of 750 people would all be running together when we ran into them in the last 6 miles. So fun! We had a great time running and talking about Western States strategy. If not for the energy, I don’t think I could have made it into the finish. It was a wonderful end to a very painful run
By night, it was clear that my running was done for the weekend. My feet were so swollen that Hubs said it looked like I had Trench Foot (gross, huh?). I ended up ordering a big hamburger from room service and going to sleep with ice on my feet at 7:00. My weekend was over, and it was back to LA the next morning.
Even though I only got in 32 miles of running, it was worth every minute of the trip. I loved the course, loved the people, and loved the adventure. I haven’t been able to run a step since, but I’m healing up and getting ready for a once-in-a-lifetime race adventure. The weekend did what it was supposed to do – get me ready and excited for the Western States 100 experience!
What did you do this past weekend?