|Alpine Loop in |
This year I've come with others, a pack I'm so pleased to be able to call my friends, mentors, and comrades. We successfully scored an amazing deal at Greak Peak Ski Resort, in a kick-arse two room suite with 4 beds, a balcony, kitchen (duh.. for beer), and enough space to comfortably fit 8 runners with all their gear in tow. Johnny R and wife Diana came with spirits high and ready to party (oh yea, and also run... 100mi and 50mi respectively), while Vinny Cap and wife Nicole came ready to tackle the 100mi and 50mi. Jessi Kennedy was a last minute addition to our crew, which was awesome because she came with not only good brew, but cookies for all! We also had Elaine Abercrombie for the 50k, and another friend of Vinny's joining the crew for a fun filled weekend on the mountain. It was a great group that managed to keep such a fun and energetic atmosphere despite the mountain looming outside our hotel window. After our pasta dinner, we all retreated to the hotel bar, where we seemed to take over a birthday party crowding the area. Not to worry, after Johnny started talking about toenails falling off and pooping in the woods, we (without complaint) scored a nice large area to ourselves near the corner of the bar (Thanks Johnny!!) We enjoyed ourselves for a drink or two before heading back to our room for another beer or two and preparation for the morning ahead. The night felt young, but the time was almost midnight and for what lied ahead, we all quickly settled into sleepy time.
It wasn't even 4am when one by one alarms started sounding, urging groggy and sleepy runners out of our comfy sleeping arrangements and into the brisk darkness of morning. We all gathered our gear and made way to Hope Lake start, where we enjoyed complementary breakfast goodies and coffee. It was still dark at the start, as we all took our places near the beginning. With a snap of a horn by race director Ian Golden we all were off. We smoothly ran around the big beautiful lake, across a small foot bridge, around a nice paved path, and into the darkness of the woods. I settled into a slow pace with Johnny R and Diana as we made our way to Gravel Pit aka aid station 1. The first few miles are relatively runnable (for the experienced) with a few nice rolling hills that I so delightfully took the opportunity to walk. Not too far in, the sun began to rise, and the pack started to thin. Several runners, had the misfortune of running into an in-ground bee hive, and took a few stings as bonus from the mountain. Fortunately for me, Johnny was directing traffic around the site... so in being one of the trailing runners near the back, I was spared any stings!
After leaving Aid station 1 and heading through the woods to Alpine (aid station 2), Diana and I bid Johnny goodbye as we vowed to stick together and run so that he could zip off to try his hand at finishing 100 miles at Virgil Crest. We took it slow, Diana powered up the up hills, forcing me to keep tempo with her, while I bombed the down hills, forcing her to keep up with me. We were a great pair in that respect. It was nice having someone to run with me (usually, I keep to myself near the tail and randomly find new friends to share a miles with here and there along the course). This time it was different, we were a team.
|Looking down from midway up Alpine|
From here we started off towards Rock Pile Aid station. This section of course has its moments. Sometimes it's very runnable, with beautiful pine needle forest flooring, and then at other times its plagued with rocks, roots, and climbs needing ropes to assist runners up and down. For the most part, I was pleased I had my partner in crime with me, and we made the best of the section by joking, eating jolly ranchers, and taking snapshots of ourselves along the way. In all honestly, I remembered this section a lot harder the previous year, and was thrilled I was still moving with such ease.
At rock pile, I quickly found my drop bag, grabbed some snacks, and we set off to our far aid station, Daily Hollow. Diana was quickly fading and already talking about dropping at miles 25. She was losing her mojo and talking her into sticking it out was getting harder and harder. The climbs to Daisy Hollow didn't make it any easier to convince her to keep on going. With less than a half mile to the aid station, I left Diana in an attempt to get my aid and get out, since I knew the last 25 miles I'd now be alone, and be slower, and soon be heading into the darkness of night again.
She did end up dropping at Daily Hollow, and I soon bid her goodbye as well as I head back towards Rock Pile. I moved pretty well still, more walking here and there, but for the most part I was still capable of running all the flat sections. My spirits were still high, and I knew I now had to move it on my own willpower if I wanted to finish this race. I had made it to hell (mile 25)... now it was time to make it back (to mile 50). I showed up back at Rock Pile, again with time on the clock, and was more than elated. Last year, at this point, I was toast... done... finished. This year, I was still moving, feeling good (for 30ish miles) and pressing on! I grabbed some ibuprofen, thanked the aid volunteers for their hard work, and zipped down the trail back towards Lift House. The miles were a bit slower, and I sung songs to myself to keep happy. Eventually I made it to Lift House, and boy was I glad!
Lift house in reverse around Alpine loop didn't seem as horrific as the first time around. I made it to the crest just as the sun started to duck behind the mountain, and quickly descended back to Lift House just as darkness officially took over. My cutoff cushion was getting stretched thin, so I hurried as fast as I could back out of the aid station and towards the road, where I would in total darkness, alone, make my way up the hill and back to the trail. Elaine caught me in her car, lighting the road for a brief moment, before she said farewell to me as I slowly disappeared into the woods. Later I would find out that she was afraid for me as I disappeared into the pitch black woods, fearing I would get eaten by a bear or lost in the woods. Truth be told.. so was I.
I think I ran a bit faster this section back to Gravel pit because I was scared of being alone in the woods. The creeks and pops of the branches below my feet, and the echoes of distant "things" in the woods scared me into keeping the pace up! Every now and then the trail would briefly light up with the headlamp of another runner (a hundred miler starting loop two), and then the darkness would return. I had never run trail at night, so this experience was new and exciting, yet at the same time eerie and lonely.
|Carl & I at the finish|