The third day of the training weekend was a 22 mile route from near the Greengate aid station at Mile 80 to the Placer High track in Auburn where the race finishes. Three busloads of runners gathered at the high school at 8:30 for the 40 minute bus ride that involved some white-knuckle turns along a windy road over the American River. Our bus driver actually cheered when we ultimately arrived. Pre-run instructions again included a warning about mountain lions, with an added admonition to run with a partner today. As I saw at Mile 8, that warning had a reason, as I ran past a small plaque marking the nearby spot where a runner lost her life in a mountain lion attack in the mid-1990s. Of course, I found myself running alone, cougar bait, when I noticed the monument. My legs had been feeling good, but I wasn't quite fast enough to keep up with yesterday's training partner.
Much of this run was along single track trail tucked into the hillside. The sun shone brightly overhead, and temps were the warmest they'd been all weekend long. On occasion, I'd come upon a small pitch to climb, but it was a largely downhill run that pounded my quads again. I was surprised when my legs actually started responding around Mile 3, allowing me to click off a series of semi-fast miles...slower than yesterday, but faster than I thought I'd be able to do on my third straight long run (a first for me).
The photo above of the mountainside across the canyon simply doesn't do justice for the colors that popped from the slopes--greens and oranges that were spectacular to view. The trail was lush in places, with many small creeks providing water that sprouted some thick overgrowth.
The first aid station came at Mile 14, and I forgot how terrible the next climb up a rocky path was. It was one of three bigger climbs, though the final one from No Hand's Bridge at Mile 97 up to Robie's Point at Mile 99 wasn't as painful as I remembered it being during last year's pace run. The paved hills in Auburn were steeper than I remembered, and I can imagine they'll feel even worse next month. Before long the gate to the Placer High track came into view. It's hard to believe that I'll run through that gate and 3/4s of the way around the track to a finish I've dreamed of for years in just twenty-six days.
My nearly 22 mile run was done in 3:11, and I was among the first runners to the final check-in point. I waited for some new friends to arrive behind me, kept company by Tim Twietmeyer (who seemed to be EVERYWHERE this weekend). After a quick shower in the boy's lockerroom, I'm writing from the Sacramento Airport, where a Southwest flight will take me home in a few minutes.
What a weekend. In a later post, I'll write about what I think I learned about myself as a runner this weekend...but know that I'm starting to believe that big things (for me) can happen on June 25th. I've put in the time and effort. Now it's time to execute.