This is a race that has somewhat been on my bucket list. Shaun and Ram were going to run it because they both had entries roll over from 2020. I was able to sign up the first day they opened registration this year. Many people that are training for Western States use Canyons 100K for a training run as it takes place on some of the same trails. Due to COVID restrictions the race organizers decided to make an alternative route which was a point to point with more climbing than descending! They decided to use this route for the race and I thought it would be better than the original which was a double out and back. Anyway, there is more than 14,600 feet of climbing in this 100K and most of it takes place in the second half of the race! I was unsure if I could make the cutoffs and it was a bit of a concern since I was unable to make the cutoffs at Sean O' Brien but that was a different race all together. I was also a bit worried that the weather was going to be hot for the race since we had some early season heat that week but we lucked out and it cooled down just in time. A cloudy 60 degree day was just what the Dr. ordered as I do not fare well in the heat. We arrived in Auburn, CA the day before and picked up some Chipotle burritos along with some subway subs for our pre race meals.
The week before the race California had lifted some of the restrictions on group gatherings. The race organizers were able to do a mass start versus having us go out in waves. I think it was the first mass start for any races in the US since the COVID shutdowns. It was a great atmosphere on race morning as everyone was able to gather together again as a community. It's been a long time since we were able to do that. We got checked in for the race and pinned on our bibs. Then we officially started, Shaun and Ram shot off the start like cannons! The first couple miles on single track trail in a herd of people was kind of annoying because I was running through a cloud of dust. I used my facemask not because of COVID rather to filter out some of the dust I was breathing. After awhile the packs started to thin out and I was able to get into a groove. The cooler weather, the scenic Auburn trails, and being in an official race again just gave me a great feeling. I ran into Shaun after the first aid station and we talked for a little while and then got separated again. There were a few climbs in the first half of the race but it was mostly rolling terrain along the river and on single track trails. I was definitely in a groove as I was running most of the time and my overall pace was decent.
I started to get tired as I was doing a climb up to the half way point in the race at Foresthill when Jim Walmsley, one of the best trail runners in the world, came bombing down the hill as he was out doing a training run. It was really cool to see him out there and he was cheering on the runners which was awesome to see. That gave me a bit of a boost to get up to the aid station. My drop bag was here at the half way point. It was my only drop bag of the day so I took my time at this aid station and made sure I had everything I needed before leaving to tackle the second half of the race. At the other aid stations I was only stopping long enough to fill my water, grab some snacks, and get out. I don't think I spent more than 2 minutes at any aid station until Foresthill. I thought that would improve my overall time and ensure that I would make cutoffs. I was at the half way point a few hours under cutoff so it became evident that time would not going to be an issue. I wanted to make sure I finished under 19 hours to get the Western States qualifier.
After leaving Foresthill I navigated to the next aid station which is Michigan Bluff. From there we shuffled downhill for a few miles and then had a monster climb up to the next aid station Deadwood. I started feeling the strain on that climb. I was happy to get to Deadwood and I thought we had an eight mile loop to do from there. I saw Ram at the aid station as he was just getting done with his loop and he was absolutely crushing it! He was starting to get cold and wanted to get out of the aid station and start moving again to stay warm. Before I set out on that loop an aid station volunteer told me it was only five miles and not eight! I was definitely pumped about that and it was rolling terrain with some epic views of the canyons and surrounding areas. I was struggling pretty bad on this loop as I was in a shuffle a little and walk a little routine. Finally as I got back to Deadwood and was under the impression I had eight more miles to the finish. The aid station volunteer told me I have a two mile downhill and then a nine mile climb to the finish. I did some math with my foggy exhausted brain and realized that is eleven miles total and not eight. Ugh, well I guess that would explain the three less miles from the previous loop. Oh well, I thought, at least I am on my way to the finish line.
It hurt going down the two mile downhill which was pretty steep. I was still doing my shuffle walk routine. At the bottom there was a big tree which crashed into the bridge. After crossing the bridge there was a really steep climb for about a mile or two. I had to take a few rest breaks on that climb! After that it was a gradual climb with some rolling sections along the rim of a canyon. It got dark but I saw some cool views before the light completely faded. My headlamp died with less than two miles to go. I was having a hard time changing the batteries when some other runners came up and helped me out with some light so I could see what I was doing! I stayed near them for the rest of the way to the finish line at China Wall Staging Area. With a quarter mile to go I could hear people cheering and this gave me the end of race boost to run across the finish line. I was so happy to be done and get my post race burrito! I sat around the fire and relaxed while waiting for Shaun to come in. It was nice just hanging out with other runners. There were really good vibes going around as the trail and ultra community is like no other.