Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ford's Bar to Rucky Chucky Near (Miles 73.0 to 78.0) (31 days to go!)

The seventeenth stage of the Western States 100 continues the descent to the American River, from the Ford's Bar aid station to the Rucky Chucky Near station at Mile 78.

Special thanks to Jen & Steve Merschel (in honor of Steve's uncle who served in Vietnam), John Hiltz (a friend from ND who is a pilot in the Navy and dedicates his two miles to Lt. Matt Lowe, who recently was killed in a training flight and Drew Weiland, a young man taken too soon by leukemia), Kari & Josh Luehmann, Bryn Burkholder, and my coworker Jonathan Valentino for their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project that sponsor this segment of the course tour. It's also a landmark day in that donations to WWP exceeded $11,000.00 today! Thank you all!

This stretch of the course is beautiful, and it's fast. Unlike prior downhill stretches, this section is runnable. The American River runs to runners' left, and for many of us, the sun will be setting or will already have faded away for the day as we jockey for position down to the river crossing.

There isn't a lot of room in a few stretches to make passes, which led to the hilarious warning given to slower runners by the runner I paced last year as we approached: BEEP BEEP BEEP.

As you approach the river crossing, where I expect we'll find rafts waiting for us again this year due to high snow levels leading to high river levels, there is an aid station set up on the near side of the river. Runners also have to go through their eighth medical check of the day. Another aid station sits on the far side of the river, so runners should have no issue getting food and drink at the river crossing.

The river is one of the most highly anticipated sections of the course. The most popular shots of the race show runners pulling themselves along a guide rope through chesthigh waters to reach the other side. The water is ice cold, as one would expect from mountain runoff, and crystal clear. I remember looking over the side of my raft, headlamp in place on my forehead, and seeing the rocky riverbottom 8-10 feet below me.

The leaders will hit the river around 5:15 PM. 24 hour runners will arrive over five hours later, at 10:40 PM, with 30 hour pacers showing up just before dawn at 4:00 AM. The aid station closes at 5:00 AM. Over 22 miles lie ahead to the finish line.

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