A little over two weeks ago though I got a call from the race director saying that the recent rains which have been putting stress on races all over California were threatening to end this event. The Forest Service pulled their approval on nearly all the trails in the area and the only options to still have a race would include a lot of road and/or a lot of loops or short out and backs. None of these options sounded too appealing, but I could tell that he really wanted to be able to pull this one off even if it were compromised because of the weather. After talking with the RD I decided that I would trust him to come up with the best course he could and give it a go, hoping that he could come up with something still pretty sweet to run. To his credit, he came up with about the most enjoyable course you could imagine without using hardly any trail. It ended up being almost all road but these were small, hilly, winding roads way up in the mountains. After just a few hours I forgot all together that we were on roads most of the day. In many ways I felt like I was running along mountain ridges up in Juneau, only difference being that instead of a goat trail, there was a small road, or jeep doubletrack running along the ridge. The scenery was as amazing as any I've ever seen for a full 100 miles.
So Friday morning I found myself at the race and ready to roll. This was to be a small race. 25 or so runners in the 100 mile. Before we set off on our journey we all gathered in a circle for a blessing led by a local Chumash Elder. This was one of my favorite parts of a really enjoyable weekend. He spoke of (among other things) running for a cause, for a cause of compassion. Compassion for the land and thus compassion for everyone since we are all part of the land. This compassion is a huge part of why I feel so drawn to running out in the mountains and through beautiful and wild places. I think a lot of us run for these reasons, but it was really cool to have this recognized and encouraged just moments before starting on our journey. This experience alone made this a wonderful and worthwhile event. I remember feeling 5 minutes into the race that I was already fully satisfied, and that I could twist my ankle right then and drop out of the race and it would all still be worth it.
But from here it just kept getting better. I got to run all day. I felt really relaxed and really content pretty much all day. I didn't run very hard, but I never really slowed down either. I took a lot of time at aid stations. Not because I needed to, but because everyone was so friendly and fun to talk with that I didn't want to leave.
There was this guy Scott who ran with me for most of the first half of the race. It was really nice to have the company for the first half and then get to run the second half on my own. I found out later that Scott had to drop at mile 91. Hopefully he's not too bummed about it because he is one of those runners who just seems to understand mountain/ultra running, even though this was his first official ultra. I think he hit the 50 mile turnaround in about 8:25, so watch out if you run up against this guy in a race.
Pretty much the only thing that went wrong for me was that I started to feel a little pain in my left calf at about mile 45. I was able to manage it for the 9 or so hours that it took me to finish from there. It never hurt too bad, but it was always nagging me a bit. It's certainly a little tender today so I might need a little extra recovery time from this race. We'll see.
Overall this event was one of the most enjoyable I have ever taken part in. There were a lot of runners that were skeptical about this race because of some of the difficulties they have had in getting to this point. I think we all started not quite knowing what to expect, but I think every runner I talked to after the race was really stoked to have been a part of this event. Robert Gilcrest (the RD) has a passion for his event and the people that take part in his event that is really rare and really special. He also has a vulnerability and rawness to his personality that makes him really enjoyable to be around. You can't help but want to see him and his event succeed. If you are interested in this event, but have not done it because it's so new and it's had a tough couple years really getting off the ground I highly recommend giving it a try. It's not going to be the most organized event you ever do (although it was actually very well organized in the areas that really matter), but it might just be one of the most enjoyable you ever do. Hopefully the weather will allow for the use of the original course next year, but even with the last minute course changes this was a hidden gem of a race. Not sure yet what my racing schedule will look like next year, but I'm certainly hoping to be able to fit this one into the mix again in the near future.