Castle Peak 100K
So I have this friend, her name is Helen. She’s an awesome runner, super nice person, and great to chat with on and off the trail. She approaches me in May when she’s picking up her bib for the Silver State 50/50 and I’m volunteering at packet pick up. She says to me, “What are you doing in August?” I of course reply, “Not sure, what do you have in mind?” Well turns out she’s putting on a little trail event called Castle Peak 100K and I should come check it out. I promise to check it out. Well, this happens to be my birthday weekend and the girls and I go for a glass of wine (or 3) and the subject of Castle Peak comes up.
Well, as we all know, wine and Ultrasignup don’t (or do depending on how you look at it) mix and next thing I know, I wake up the next morning with a registration confirmation sitting in my inbox to remind me of my wine induced deeds of the last evening….crap. Time to start training again.
Just coming off Zion 100, I was in shape physically, but mentally tired of the training routine. But luckily Helen puts on a First Class event and offers training runs with the Donner Party Mountain Runners both on the course and off the course to help us all get into and stay into Castle Peak shape. I start to notice that there is an emerging pattern when I tell people that I’m actually in Castle Peak, not just out for the training runs. Consensus of responses, “Oh, wow, I’m not THAT crazy”….Uh OH, what have I gotten myself into? 14,600 feet of climbing and almost 65 miles, that’s what. Really time to step it up. From what I understand, it will be mostly hiking up and running down. Time to work on my power hike, my favorite tool in the tool box!
Fast forward 3 months, we are at packet pick up. I literally feel like an amateur that has somehow gotten into the Olympics, there are buff women and chiseled thighs everywhere. Uh oh again. Luckily I’m surrounded by friends as usual and they all have confidence that I’ll be fine, and I’ve learned to trust my friends.
We’re camping at Donner Lake campground (where the finish will be), so it’ll at least be easy on the back end. We settle into the campsite after finding some dinner and pray for sleep.
Kaycee has offered to drive us to the start line so we don’t have to hassle with the bus/shuttle so we get to sleep in just a touch, I don’t know where I’d be without you girl! The parking lot is filled with runners, and next thing you know the gun goes off and off we go. Good thing my headlamp dies one mile in….grrrrr…at least dawn in breaking and I can fumble my way through the trail, at least it is a beautiful single track that isn’t too technical. The sun finally comes up and I am so grateful to be able to see! My friend Ruth and I have made an agreement to stick together at least until Van Norden when she picks up her pacer, so we move along as an evenly matched pair and find the random conversations on the trail that makes the trail the best place to be really. I find the most amazing people and conversations shared on the trail with best friends or total strangers the like. Through the picnic area and the first aid station, we’re welcomed warmly by Helen the race director, and I get to both simultaneously curse and thank her for suggesting this race to me that fateful day at Silver State. Up the Animal and down to the next aid station where my girl Kaycee is waiting with her pup Nightly for some kisses (from the pup) and hugs from my girl!
All smiles at mile 16? Perfect! (Except not sure what I’m doing with my face there….oh well!)
Off and running towards Castle Peak in the distance, man that is going to be one big climb! We hook up with a new friend for the hike and climb and chat away the miles up and over the ski area and down through the next couple aid stations. We check into the Castle Peak aid station where we run into some friends and running pals that are graciously volunteering their time to check us in and out of the Castle Peak climb. All smiles as we make our way up to the top. Now if you’ve hiked this area, it’s not really a “running” sort of trail, more like a “don’t get blown off this treacherous trail to our death” sort of trail. Make it to the top, grab out card from the ammo box and carefully head back down to the aid station. More hugs from friends, some Coke and a couple handfuls of snacks and we’re on our way!
Ruth is battling some blisters, but we’ve gotta move at a good pace, the cutoffs are starting to creep up on us. It is a long way both distance and mentally to Van Norden, but we finally come out of the single track to the road and make our way over I-80 to Van Norden. As we’re making our way to the overpass, something orange and rather large comes bolting out of the bushes, and my ultra riddled brain thinks, “shit a tiger!” but alas, it was just a tomcat to come and say hi. I get some pets and a couple leg rubs and we’re on our way.
Rolling into Van Norden I drop Ruth with her husband and her pacer for some foot care, some food, and hopefully a second wind. I get a hug and a kiss from my husband and a lots of but wiggles and kisses from my pup as a warm welcome to Van Norden and mile 46.
Michael and Lilly walk with me about a mile or so down the dirt road as I eat anything and everything that I was possibly able to stuff into my greedy little hands in the aid station. Ready to tackle The Palisades. This is the first time that I’ve been past this distance without a pacer, and all I can think is that if I keep moving and put my music on nothing can stop me. I make it up to the top of ridge at Sugar Bowl and head towards The Palasades. As I approach the entrance there is a small aid station with water and Cuties that I stop and chat with for a couple as they check me into The Palisades. These were some of the most amazing volunteers, they packed all the water and snacks into the aid station on their backs. My hat off to them for sure. Here’s a picture borrowed from the Castle Peak 100K Facebook page showing these amazing guys (and gals). They hauled 35 gallons of water up to the Crow’s Nest.
Entering The Palisades, I start to think, this is a no joke kind of terrain, I shoulda trained for this by rock climbing more…. Another borrowed picture from the Castle Peak 100K Facebook page:
All I could think is, “keep moving, keep moving, keep moving” and I barrel through The Palisades with no problem and am even starting to feel pretty good. Down and around, up another peak, then a long downhill grind to the finish line. It is dark, approaching 11pm, the frogs are out, the air is cool, and I CAN NOT wait to see that finish line. I start to hear some people and see some lights and I’m home-free! Finished with 45 minutes to spare before the cut off. Now I just pray that Ruth and Kaycee are not too far behind me. Another hug from Helen and a big hug and a kiss from my amazing husband who’s been waiting at the finish line for quite some time now…and of course some more butt wiggles and kisses from the pup!!
Ruth finished with time to spare and we gorge ourselves on home cooked finish line food and I grab a plate of cookies and head back to the campsite. Thank goodness for coin op showers and Terapaks of wine, Ruth and I hit the showers before bed.
All in all, another one in the books, a beautiful belt to show for it, and endless memories of the ups and downs. Thanks for the amazing suggestion and for putting on a first class race event Helen! If you want to check it out and run it for yourself, visit their Facebook page on the link below!