I would celebrate Memorial Day by running the final 22 miles of the Western States course. After running from Foresthill to the Rucky Chucky river crossing on the previous day (read the post here), we would cheat slightly by starting the final training run at Green Gate, which is at the top of the climb up from the river.
The previous evening I had attended the screening of footage from the 1983 Western States race, which was the closest ever finish with the top two spots being separated by just 31 seconds. The event was named JimFest due to those top two finishers being named Jim Howard and Jim King, both of whom attended the evening and answered questions about that race. On that day Jim Howard had won after trailing by more than 30 minutes before catching up within the last mile.
I met up with the same culprits as the previous day (Denise and Scott), and we caught a bus from Placer High School in Auburn out to our starting point. It was a later start, only leaving the school at 8:30AM and Denise needed to check out of her accommodation by 1:00PM. Therefore we did not have a lot of spare time so as soon as the bus stopped Denise and I hopped out the door and took off running, especially to ensure that we did not end up with too many runners ahead of us to overtake. We weren’t sure where Scott was but we knew he would be able to catch up.
The trail allowed us to maintain a really good pace due to a lot of gentle downhill and brief, runnable uphills. It was great running and we kept running past the official photographer just as he was setting up. At one point we almost missed a turnoff as we went to flow around either side of the photographer and continue on while the turnoff was actually just off to the side. Luckily the photographer pointed out the turn.
I had decided that my new Ultimate Direction hydration vest would work really well with Salomon soft flasks in place of the included hard plastic bottles, but had not yet tried that out. With a 22-mile run on the cards I decided this run would not be the perfect testing ground so instead I set off with just one of the included bottles. That was clearly a mistake since I found the hard plastic was digging into my rib cage no matter how much I adjusted the vest. I ended up carrying the bottle in my hand for the last 12 or so miles.
We crossed over Highway 49 which left us 7 miles (11 km) remaining, knowing that Jim Howard had run from there to the finish in just 56 minutes during the 1983 race. We eventually descended to No Hands Bridge and crossed over to the final aid station, where Scott finally caught up with us. Then we had the final climb into Auburn.
We climbed up the hill, reached paved roads, passed the Mile 99 sign, crossed the white bridge where Jim Howard had overtaken Jim King, and then descended down to the school to finish. We finished just outside the athletics track where we will finish on race day with half a lap. It was 12:45PM so Denise and Scott quickly headed off, while I enjoyed a fry-up breakfast and then didn’t enjoy one of the most brutal sports massages I have experienced. But it was all for a good cause, since I have a lot more running remaining in my lead up to Western States.
Before she had departed Denise had given me a great idea for the following weekend, but that story will come later. For all the details of my Memorial Day run, it can be checked out on MovesCount.com here.