Thursday, December 9, 2010

Squaw Valley to Escarpment (Miles 0 to 3.5)...198 days to go!

Because of your humbling support of the Wounded Warrior Project, I'm already falling off pace on my tour of the course! I've never run the first 62 miles of the course, so I'm relying on resources like the Western States website and my memories from hours of viewing WS100 movies and even YouTube videos. With thanks to old friends Julie Price and Adam Russ and three dedicated runners I'm blessed to call friends, Mark Fallon, Lisa Tushaus, and Beth Schreader, today's post will tour the first 3 1/2 miles of the Western States Endurance Run, from the starting line at Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics to the first aid station, Escarpment, in honor of their generous donations to the Wounded Warrior Project. A special credit goes to the Western States 100 website and the Youtube users who provided the visual images here, too.

At 3:30 a.m. on the last Saturday in June, the 400 or so runners gather at the Olympic Plaza near the starting line for a complimentary breakfast. At 4 a.m., race officials start handing out bibs and confirming each runner's weight one final time for later monitoring of dehydration and other health issues that might arise along the trail. By 4:50 a.m., the runners gather near the starting line banner, not far from the commemmorative plaque placed to mark the race's history all year long. Their crews and other supporters line up along both sides of the trail leading up the mountain. With a countdown from 10, and the sun still below the horizon, the race is off at 5:00 a.m. on the dot.

The first three miles climb straight up the Squaw Valley ski slopes.
As the elevation chart shows, the starting line is at just over 6,000 feet in elevation. In these first 3 1/2 miles, the runners climb to an altitude of over 8,300 feet! It's no wonder that a lot of the runners start this race with a brisk walk rather than a run!

At the peak of this first leg, the runners will pass a monument placed by Bob Watson in 1931, seen in the picture to the right. I have no idea what it says, if anything, but I guess I'll find out someday.

The video above and word of mouth tell me that no matter how fast you are (or think you are), you should stop at the top to turn around and soak in the world around you--Lake Tahoe in the distance, the sun peaking up over the Sierra Mountains, the snow-capped mountains all around. It's supposed to be breathtaking. That's not necessarily a good thing, given that the 2,300 foot climb will probably leave even the fittest of runners short of breath! Leg One of this journey will be over before we know it. The leaders will reach the Escarpment checkpoint in about 40 minutes, while those seeking a silver belt buckle (sub-24 hour finish) will be about 15 minutes behind. The last runners will ascend this first climb, a hard day's hike for most people, in 1 hour 25 minutes.

For runners of the Western States 100, it means only 96.7 miles to the finish line!

1 comment:

  1. great video. Didnt get in WS this year but maybe next year I will see the course in person