Road closures, stream crossings, zero visibility fog, mud, snow, awesome volunteers and runners. That about sums up my second go round with the Old Goat. For slightly more detail keep reading.
The plan was to stay with family the night before the race to save an hour of the drive that it takes to get down to the campground where the race starts/finishes. That didn’t work out due to lane closures caused by recent storms. The good news is that instead I slept in my own bed the night before the race. The bad news is I had to get up at 3:15am.
I arrived on time thanks to no one being on the road so early, then got checked in and listened to Steve the RDs pre-race instructions which mostly consisted of warnings not to get lost and to carry course directions. Oh also that there were stream crossings and you would be getting wet.
Out on the course I met some cool people and saw familiar faces (Brian, Ryan, team Orange guy, Ben, Deborah, and others…) and traded a few stories. The creek crossings were there but the two that were questionable had people there to make sure your tired legs got to the other side safely. Before I knew it the first loop of 21 miles was done and I was a bit ahead of my projected time. I knew, however, that this was merely time in the bank that I would be spending on the 7.5 mile 4000 foot continuous climb up to Santiago Peak. Also the last mile or so to the top was rumored to be covered in snow. I was happy to have brought gloves and a windshirt as without them it would have been a bad scene.
The rumors of snow on Santiago were true. Also, the aid station at the peak was no exception to the rule in that it was staffed with amazing volunteers and even a guy that played the harmonica as you arrived. A few miles down from the peak was the second stop at the Bear Springs station, last shot at the drop bag, and only 10.5 miles to the finish. I ate a couple of medjool dates from my bag, grabbed some gels and water and was on my way for the home stretch.
The last leg, as it got darker out, also got cooler and much harder to see with the fog rolling in. I heard that later on several people were pulled from the course for safety reasons since it was wet, 40 degrees at best, and dark out. Even with a headlamp it was hard to tell where you were going much less follow course ribbons.
After the last aid station someone came running by. I told him nice job and he said, “No, I’m a volunteer running back to the finish. But you’re doing great.” Then he ran about 15 feet in front of me, looked at his GPS watch, then repeatedly pointed at the ground and said “it’s one mile to the finish from right here!” I thought it was at least 2 miles, so after hearing that news did what anyone would have done and ran mile 50 faster than any of the previous 49.
I crossed the line in around 12:26 ish which is about 45 minutes faster than last year. At the finish line I got my cool finishers medal (picture below) and a couple bowls of delicious vegan chili. It will probably be a couple days before the official results are posted. Also, I’ll update this post with pictures of the race itself if I manage to dig some up from other sources.
Besides understandably worked over quads I’m in good shape and injury free. My feet held up really well despite being wet for all but about an hour of the race, and my stomach behaved as I made adjustments to keep it happy throughout the run.
All said and done it was a really long, really rewarding day. Thanks to ultra amnesia I was already looking forward to running again the moment I crossed the finish line. Many profound rewards come upon of running ultras, but in my experience 99% of this cannot be expressed in words. There are those of you who know what I’m talking about, and those who need to hit the trails!
A final thank you to the other runners, familiar faces, race volunteers, director, and everyone who made the race a success. Special thanks to my awesome wife who supports my endurance addiction.