Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Green Gate to Auburn Lake Trails (Miles 79.8 to 85.2) (18 days to go!)

The twentieth stage departs Green Gate for Auburn Lake Trails over 5 miles down the trail. It's one of the longer stretches between aid stations, something exhausted runners will notice at this point in the race.

Special thanks to Mike Lynch, Beth's grandparents Mom and Dada, Cory McDevitt (who is practically a local to the race), and a stellar trio of running friends Tom Menner, John Mullaney, and Ken Killingbeck for their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project that sponsor this segment of the course tour! Cory's donation is in honor of her sister and brother-in-law, Captains Molly and Ben Peterson of the United States Air Force. Thank you all!

The elevation chart looks more difficult than this section really is. A lot of it is runnable, though there are some twists and turns and even a few creek crossings.

By this time, runners have likely spread out along the course, and two-by-two, a competitor and his/her pacer will travel the single track through the thick woods.

For the first time, the river is to the runners' right. Far off in the distance, in the still of the night, it is possible to hear the faint rumble of the highway, a sign that our terrain is fast approaching civilization.

This stretch of trail is cut into the side of a steep mountain. This section features three threats to runners-mountain lions, bears, and snakes, though sightings of any of the three will be rare on race day. Since it's now dark for the majority of the runners, the trail is lit by a string of glowsticks set out every 50-100 yards to guide us all in the right direction. We also all are required to wear headlamps or carry a flashligh (or both) to see the path. A switchback like this can easily be missed by a runner not paying attention.

I remember my surprise when we entered the ALT aid station: a huge campfire roared in the middle of parked cars. My runner, like all of the others, had to weigh in at the medical check point, and we soon walked over to the fire, where busy volunteers brought both of us soup broth and watermelon (what a combination!). It's a drop bag spot, and since Fernando did not have a crew, he shuffled through his bag for a few items. It was the middle of the night, and the temptation to take a seat and even take a nap was high. With a little urging, we were back on our way.

The lead runners will depart this huge campground of an aid station around 6:35 PM, with the 24 hour runners making a post-midnight departure for the first time at 12:50 AM. 30 hour runners will have the sun overhead at 6:30 AM when they leave, and the aid station closes for breakfast at 7 AM. Runners have exactly 15 miles to the finish line in Auburn.

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