Monday, June 20, 2011

Robie Point to Placer High School (Miles 98.9 to 100.2) (Still 5 days to go!)

You've seen this map before, in my last post about the No Hands Bridge to Robie Point. This stretch, the 25th stage of this historic race, takes runners from the trailhead at Robie Point and heading the other direction, away from the trail and into the city of Auburn, California.

Special thanks to Harry Landers, Vince Brinly and Hallie Shuffler, Deanna Marranzino, Greg Gomez, Jason Terry, Geri Virtue, Ryan and Amy Kelly, Mel Glauber, Courtney and Jim Flynn, Phil Quatrochi, Jerome and Jess Porter, Marea Hunter, and my Mom's employers Gentling Dental Office for their donations to the Wounded Warrior Project. Very special recognition to three other donors to this segment: my law school classsmate Daniel Gallegos, Kevin Allie, and the 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. All are currently serving in the military--Daniel in the Navy, Kevin in the Air Force, and the 725th Brigade is an Army airborne unit based at Fort Richardson, Alaska all made donations to be a part of my Patriot Crew!

In case you didn't notice, the list of donors outgrew my original goal of marking donations to the course in $100 mile increments. We've now raised over $12,000 together, having passed the $10,000 mark one month ago when my then 3 month old daughter Nora made the donation that put us over the goal. I'm going to have to look into freezing her credit cards before she goes to the mall! I'm grateful for everyone's support, and simply humbled by the support of those serving in our military. It is my great pleasure to dedicate my race to all of them, but in particular the wounded among them, and I thank each and every one of them for their service.

This final stretch from Robie Point is one of three spots where crew members can run alongside their runners, the others being along Bath Road into Foresthill and from the river to Greengate. I've asked Beth to join me for this final stretch, and I look forward to celebrating our achievement with her, because all ultrarunners understand that it takes a family united to reach the finish line.

The one thing that can't be seen in these photos, because I don't think they captured it, but the first quarter mile or so of this stretch is extremely steep. Runners express surprise that a paved road could bring them to a crawl, but that's exactly what happens once one emerges back into civilization.

As runners follow small painted arrows through the largely quiet streets (for most of us, anyway, since it's the middle of the night), they might be surprised to find a few residents camping out in their yards, cheering on the runners.

My eyes teared up last year as Fernando and I made our way through the town, passing one small party of race fans. As we did, they shouted out his number, which I've adopted as my own bib number this year-- "189!"--and rang a large gong in his honor. In the darkness of the night, it was a chilling commemmoration of the huge feat he was in the act of completing.

Before long, runners will come into sight of the Placer High School stadium lights glowing ahead of them. WIth a left and a quick right, runners will enter through a gate in the fence, stumble onto the track, and here their arrival announced over the loudspeaker to the spectators gathered at the finish line. There's about a 300 meter run around the track to what most of us would recognize as the traditional track finish line, and each runner's running resume is read out loud.

In 2006, Brian Morrison entered the track with his pacer, seven-time champion Scott Jurek, leading by a solid number of minutes (I think I've read as many as 15 minutes). All he had to do was run the 300 meters along the track, and he would be crowned the champion. Unfortunately, Morrison collapsed, and when it was clear that he was not going to recover, Jurek and another crew member helped him up and carried him across the finish line. In doing so, he was disqualified for receiving improper aid from a pacer or crew, and Graham Cooper was named the surprise champion when he crossed a bit later.

Each runner's crew is permitted to run along the track with them. When the straightaway is reached, crew members can step to the side if they want to let their runner cross the finish line alone. As one might imagine, each finish is a dramatic event, one that brings cheer and emotion from all present.

Here's video footage of Geoff Roes's record-setting final mile and finish last year. Notice how bright it still is--he finished in just over 15 hours, so it was only 8 PM!

Guys like Geoff Roes will finish in the 8 o'clock hour on Saturday evening. In fact, given the course alterations announced today due to snow, I wouldn't be surprised if 2011 featured the first ever 7 o'clock hour finisher. 24 hour hour finishers wanting to earn the coveted silver belt buckle must finish by 4:59:59 AM on Saturday morning, while all finishers must be done by 11:00 AM. One second over 30 hours, and a runner will not earn a bronze belt buckle given to all those who finish in the 24 to 30 hour range.

And that, my friends, is the course! Of course, as my other post today shared, they changed an early stretch. But 100.2 miles is 100.2 miles, and I can't wait to get out there and see it all!

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