Monday, 25 May 2009

Western States Training Camp

States legend - Tim Twietmayer - 4 times winner and 25 times finisher

The title makes it sound rather austere – the reality is that this is a weekend where, for a small fee, you get transported to various parts of the
WS100 course and given the opportunity to run on marked trails with aid stations in-situ.

Some 350 people had signed up for this pleasure including Lynn and me. As we left the foggy, cold bay area on Friday evening we were rewarded with clear skies, temperatures in the low 80s, expansive views of the still snow-clad Sierras, great trails and some good company.

Perhaps surprisingly, many taking part are not racing at States this year; in fact, quite a few were relative newcomers to Ultra having perhaps run a 50k or two and wondering what the Western States course and a 100 miles in one day might be like.

Saturday we were bussed up to Robinson Flat to run the 32 miles to Foresthill. This is the toughest part of the course; taking in the 3 canyons and with around 5000ft climb. Recent changes mean more single track and it was great to catch up with some familiar faces from years gone by – Tim Twietmayer, veteran of 25 events and 4 times winner was there as were folk I have previously met in Hawaii and Marty who I paced at States in 2007. The hardcore folk weren’t content with the 32 miles – they ran on to the river but for us that was Sundays fare – a mostly descending section of 18 miles to the river crossing then a 3-mile uphill grind to the waiting buses.

Best bits about the weekend
  • being able to linger awhile and savour the food at the aid stations. In races I’m always trying to blow through as fast as possible; grabbing handfuls of food to force down and mostly smearing it on my face
  • chatting to plenty of newcomers to distance all with dozens of questions and a lot of enthusiasm
  • chilling out (literally) in the American River
  • missing 2 days of the Bay Area fog
  • trying out the new Vasque Transistor shoes: super light, very stable and very comfortable
No time to do this in the race!

....and then on the homeward journey I found out that Steve Birkinshaw was forced to abandon his Lake District 24 hour attempt in low cloud and steady rain. I feel for him as I know the frustration of intense preparation brought to nought by the vagaries of the British weather. Bad luck Steve and I hope you find the time and the confidence to have another go. It sounds like you had the basic speed so you gotta try!! Next up – a 34 mile long “50k race” just outside Yosemite next Saturday – running amongst the 3000 year old Redwoods.

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