Thursday, January 27, 2011
The eighth stage of the course takes runners deeper into the canyons from the Dusty Corners aid station at Mile 38.0 to the depths of the appropriately named Last Chance at Mile 43.3.
Thanks to the following for their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project: John O'Brien (a partner at my firm and a fellow runner who ran Boston in 2010), my colleague Todd Nissenholtz, my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill Amann, longtime friends Tim and Maria Neuner (random fact of the day-Tim was friends with my wife Beth in high school in St. Louis, while Maria was one of my friends in high school in Minnesota...and both couples met independent of the other at Notre Dame) and Brian and Anne Murray. A special note of thanks to Tim, an oral surgeon in the US Army, and Brian, a pilot in the US Navy, and their lovely wives for their service and sacrifice. At Tim's request, I'm proud to be running a couple miles in honor of the men and women recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The five mile stretch from Dusty Corners to Last Chance is a jagged journey down and up and down again a few times, dropping a net of approximately 500 feet. The trail looks runnable, and there are some tall pines to provide some cover before the sun exposure and heat of the canyons ahead.
Last Chance draws its name from the ghost town not far from the aid station.
It had been a booming mining town in the late 1800s, but today is little more than an abandoned building and an historical marker. The ghost town is perched on a large drop-off overlooking the north fork of the Middle Fork of the American River.
The aid station is also the second medical checkpoint, where runners have to step on the scale to determine their weight loss or gain.
In the past, the Last Chance aid station has been run by the Stevens Creek Striders, a running club from Cupertino, California. The Striders have operated an aid station at WS since 1981, and most camp out at the site on Friday night before the race. Runners are treated to grilled cheese, among the usual buffet, and many take advantage of the "car wash," buckets of cold water and sponges for the runners to clean their dirty legs off or cool their heads.
The lead runners will enter Last Chance around 11:20 a.m. In a sign that the gap between the leaders and those chasing a silver belt buckle will continue to widen, 24 hour finishers will enter the aid station around 1:55 p.m., a twenty minute bigger gap than there had been at Dusty Corners. Thirty hour runners will enter around 4:25 p.m., with an absolute cutoff of 5:30 p.m.
It will truly be a Last Chance of sorts for the runners...the next twenty miles are known as some of the most difficult in all of the sport. Those passing on their last chance to avoid that pain by departing the Last Chance aid station will have 4 1/2 miles to Devil's Thumb and only 56.9 miles to the finish line!