In order to get into the race, runners must submit proof of having volunteered for trail maintenance. Pretty standard stuff for an ultra. I was scheduled to work on Sunday, so I drove out on Saturday. Dropped off the dogs at the kennel and headed straight to the park. Got there around 5:30 PM and figured I’d have a chance to get some miles in before dark…
So I parked at “Cayuse Flats”. Got out, geared up, and discovered my headlamp was fucked. My amazing, beloved LED Lenser H14 was pooched. Actually, it “worked”… it just wouldn’t turn off. Turns out battery acid had leaked into the smart bits and was short-circuiting something or other. So the battery housing was getting really hot, really quickly. I didn’t need this thing exploding a burning hole into the back of my skull, so I reluctantly grabbed my little Black Diamond headlamp, and took off.
I started with the short section from Cayuse Flats, a minor aid station, towards “Cascade”, which is a major aid station, with crew access. This is a tiny leg, 6.9 km on my Garmin (6 km in the race guide) and, for the most part, flat and runnable. A few ups and downs, but not too bad. Though it will seem bad, after having just ran the endless descent from Heather Trail on race day.
Anywho, it’s nice. It’s actually a horse trail, with hitching posts along the way. Kinda cool. Beautiful single track, and the highway is down below, so you cannot get lost.
Much of the trail is really nice smooth single track, like most of the rest of the 120 miles!
Hitting Cascade takes no time at all, even at “race pace”. I was there in 0:50 from Cayuse Flats, versus 1:05 for Hassan and 1:12 for Nicola. Perhaps a bit fast, but we’ll see. The distance on my Garmin was about 6 km, versus 7 in the race guide.
This is kindof an exciting point the race, because up until now you really feel like you’ve been running away from the finish line! But now you turn South (-West), and you’re really starting to make some progress towards home. You’re 125 km into the race, at this point! Only a marathon, and a half-marathon, and a 10k to go! Practically there.
At Cascade the trail does this weird little detour in the woods for just a few yards before spitting you out right onto the highway. Then you have to run 3 km along the road, before turning left into “Sumallo Grove”.
Now you are running on some actually flat terrain. Is this is the first real flat ground since the start of the race? In any case, when I ran it, it was flat, and it was fast. If you have anything left in the tank, you can make some really nice time through here.
Dead flat, single track, hard packed (or flat mud, anyway) and nowhere to get lost. Hard to beat that. The river is to your right, looking incredibly refreshing. Good times.
Now, at this point it was definitely getting dark out. My little camping headlamp, whose batteries were perhaps 50 years old, was for emergencies only.
I looked at my watch and it was almost 9 PM! But I didn’t wanna turn back without learning something: I was hoping to find the next “junction” for the trail, which (I thought) was “Delacey Campground”. So I ran for a bit further.
Finally reached this campground (just flat dirt by the river, really) and reluctantly turned back, and basically sprinted for home. I was running without lights, in full-on Amble Mode, and getting worried. There was a wide open, rocky section, and I knew that would be where I got lost, if anywhere. Luckily I found it, got through it, and the rest was cake.
Unfortunately, by the time I hit the highway, I was a zombie. I just wanted to be done. I was so tired, I could barely run. The thought of stumbling through that trail to Cayuse Flats for another 2 hours in the dark, by the dim-ass light of this tiny little headlamp, filled me with dread. No thanks. I took three or four steps into the trail to test it out, said “Fuck that,” and did the next worst thing, which is go back and run the entire way along the highway!
My little headlamp may have kept the transport trucks off me, but it was pretty sketchy. Pitch black, blinded by oncoming cars and trucks doing 100, with no meaningful shoulder to run on. Ugh. And that run home felt endless. I mean, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten there yet. I actually turned on the “back to start” feature. “Did I somehow miss it!?” … Nope – still 2 km to go. Fuuuuuck!
So my super enjoyable run turned into a death march. Thankfully, I did survive, my truck was not stolen or broken into, and after a delicous meal of nuts, cheese, and salami, I fell asleep in the back. God I wish I had an SUV.