After a not so great experience at Speedgoat 50k I wasn’t really amped to jump into another skyrace and blow myself up. I wimped out and decided to sign up for the 26k instead. BUT, after I had a great race at the Silver State 50k by getting my nutrition and hydration dialed in I then started to wish that I had actually signed up for the longer course. Anyway, the venue was primo. There were tons of pro runners at the event as well as a lot of venders and overall jubilee which made for a great buzzing ambiance.
So the morning of the race as we lined up I found myself standing right next to local mountain goat Chris Cloyd. I didn’t really know anyone else at the event and my overall mindset was simply to have a fun time, run hard but I wasn’t emotionally connected to having a perfectly executed race. Good or bad , I was there for the experience. As the gun went off a tight group of five runners formed as we climbed and zig zagged across the mountain run up Squaw Valley. After a couple miles the single track opened up to to the service road briefly before diving back into the forest. I pushed here a little bit hoping to form a gap but before I knew it I found myself questioning whether I had gone the right way. A few seconds my efforts were thwarted as the group was back together. Little did I know this was going to be the theme for the rest of the race.
The terrain on the course itself was absolutely amazing. It was a constant up/down, winding, muddy, rocky, dusty and surprisingly snowy. This was the first race I’ve run that had such a tight pack for so long. I guess the reason the group stayed so tight was because we constantly lost the course. I wouldn’t say it was poorly marked because there were markers all over the place. I just dont think they were at the parts of the course that needed them most. Also the course seemed like it rarely followed obvious trails so it was easy to lose course over rocks or technical descents. Either way, none of us really got too lost but instead our leads would quickly disappear if any of us tried to drop the rest of the group.
It was a wild race with about 20% of it on snow. It felt to me all out. If you weren’t bombing the technical descents at full throttle you would be left by the pack. It was interesting to see how different runners had different skills. Some could climb with great fitness while others dominated on snowy descents.
Near the end of the race with about two miles to go I found myself at the back of the lead group in sixth place. The last climb had started to zap the last of my full throttle speed and I was slowing on the climbs. The group finally broke apart. I did start drinking and taking in some gels just before that luckily. I started making my way down the last longish technical descent and was simply hoping to not get passed again, but apparently others were starting crack a bit more than me. This was the perfect reminder to never give up, even when it looks like the race is going bad. I cruised by a few guys who had just dropped me about a mile ago. They both appeared to be suffering from cramping or something. One of them was standing dead still stretching his quad. This twist of fortune gave me a little adrenaline surge and I knew if I ran hard I would make the podium. I put a decent amount of time on the individuals I passed and happily finished 3rd overall.
All in all it was a fun day and a great event. I’m confident they will fix the course marking for next year which will make this a must-do race in the coming years.