Thursday, January 7, 2010

Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon (Miles 16.0 to 23.8) 169 days to go!

Week One of training is coming to a close with a 15 mile run tomorrow and 10 miles on Sunday. I had a fantastic week of running, including my first trip to the track (yes, I'll be doing speed intervals for a 100 mile race) since September and a hard night of hill running last night that left me sucking for air. This was a big week, too, because I booked a flight for the Memorial Day Weekend Training Camp along the course--32 miles on Saturday, and 20 each on Sunday and Monday--and reserved a hotel room in Auburn so my crew and I would have a place to shower after I cross the finish line before 5 a.m. on Sunday, June 26...not to mention a place for Baby Silker, who will arrive in plus or minus 7 weeks, to rest!

And of course, thanks to so many people's generosity, I needed to update the course tour today!

The fourth stage of the Western States course takes runners from Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon. Special thanks to my little brother Matthew and his lovely wife Megan, my parents Dave and Teresa Silker, Megan's parents Brian and Carrie Hetzler and her brother Lucas, my brother-in-law Jack Sheehan and his wife Alicia, Elizabeth Cunnane, Rabeh Soofi, Jeff Wittich, Tom DeLuca, and Randy Blake for their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project that sponsored this section of the course tour. To meet my goal of $100 per mile for 100 miles, a total goal of $10,000, every donation, no matter the size, matters. Please visit my Wounded Warrior Project donation page at to make a tax-deductible donation online or to print a copy of the offline donation sheet for mailing to the WWP.

At 7.8 miles, the Red Star Ridge to Duncan Canyon route is the longest stretch between aid stations. As the elevation profile shows, it is a net downhill, though not without a steady series of ups and downs before a final descent into Duncan Canyon, where the elevation drops approximate 900 feet in a little over 1 1/2 miles.

Much of this stretch appears to be single track dirt and rock trail.

The eye-opening part of this stage is the sight of burned out trees. There was a devastating fire in the area in 2001 that led to a course re-routing from 2002 to 2005 due to the destruction to Duncan Canyon.

I'm not sure where it was located, but a fire wrecked havoc on the race in 2008 as well. After several thousand (yes, thousand) lightning strikes started several hundred forest fires in northern California in June 2008, the race organizers were left with no choice but to cancel the 2008 race. There was no guarantee that the fires themselves wouldn't endanger runners, and the air quality was so poor, at over 10 times worse than what is considered a high level of air pollution, that even the fittest of athletes would have been at risk. The decision was made only three days before the race, with a hope that a miracle would prevent the only cancellation in the three decades old race. No miracle occurred, and the 400 entrants in the 2008 WS100 were given automatic entries into the 2009 or 2010 events.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of this section is that Duncan Canyon is the first station where there is crew access. Each runner can designate one vehicle to access the Duncan Canyon aid station. Don't get me wrong...the aid station volunteers are amazing, but the sight of friends and family is a beautiful sight for sore eyes (and legs). Nearly one quarter of the way into the race, and I'll finally have someone there who loves me enough to touch my dirty socks!

The lead runners will arrive at Duncan Canyon around 8:30 a.m., about 3 1/2 hours after the starting gun. 24 hour runners will arrive 80 minutes later, around 9:50 a.m, while 30 hour runners will arrive at 11:05 a.m. The aid station officially closes at noon, seven hours after the race first started. Traditionally, most of the runners make it out of the Duncan Canyon aid station, only 76.4 miles between them and a belt buckle.

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