Saturday, April 9, 2011

El Dorado Creek to Michigan Bluff (Miles 52.9 to 55.7) (72 days to go!)

And...I'm back with our course tour! The delay was not the result of a lack of donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, that's for sure! As of this writing, we've raised over $7,500. That means I'm about 20 miles behind on my course tour! Special thanks to Elizabeth St. Clair, Dan and Beth Erman, Erin Bank, and Derek and Chrissie Gipson, for their donations to the WWP that sponsor this stretch of the course tour! The eleventh stage of the race takes runners from the depths of the canyon at the El Dorado Creek aid station to the heights of the small former mining town of Michigan Bluff. Undisputedly, this is one of the hardest stretches of the race, for runners climb about 1700 feet in under three miles, just miles after they climbed up Devil's Thumb only to descend into the suffocating depths of the canyon to El Dorado Creek. I wanted to find photos of the course that make it look as difficult as it really is (or so I'm told...I won't find out until my practice run in May), but unfortunately, I couldn't find any that truly captured the burn of this stretch. Of course, a lot of it has to do with the lack of air and temperatures exceeding 100 degrees! How hard is this stretch? I recall the runner I paced in 2010, Fernando, telling me that when he reached Michigan Bluff, there were runners strewn everywhere. He felt he was okay, but the medical check, just eight miles after the one at Devil's Thumb, suggested otherwise. He was instructed to take a seat and consume fluids to get his weight up. One volunteer offered him some sort of ice cream treat, and he grinned when he described how great it tasted. Michigan Bluff is a supply drop station, so runners can expect personal items to be there for them if they planned ahead. It's also open to a runner's crew, but only by shuttle. Rumors are that the shuttles, while hardworking, can cause delays for an understaffed crew. Because nearly every review of the physical state of runners at Michigan Bluff includes words like "tired" and "beaten down," the efficiency and effectiveness of one's crew plays an important part in the race. The leaders will leave Michigan Bluff around 1:45 p.m., with 24 hour runners out of there by 5:20. While poking around the web, I found this photo of my coach, Andy Jones-Wilkins, at Michigan Bluff for the 2009 running of the WSER. There are extensive videos capturing the climb up to Michigan Bluff on Youtube, but they're long and involve multiple parts. If you're that interested, search "Michigan Bluff" on Youtube and enjoy. Thirty hour runners will depart around 8:50 p.m., and the aid station closes at 9:45 p.m., which is after sunset. For runners leaving after 8 p.m., Michigan Bluff is the first opportunity for the use of a pacer. Most runners pick up a pacer at Mile 62 in Foresthill, but the race organizers, in the interest of safety, allow runners leaving this aid station at or near dusk to utilize the services of a pacer seven miles before those ahead of them. While this is a race against each other for some, it's a race against the clock for most. Only 44.5 miles to Auburn!

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