I’ve been told many times that I should try different races. That I’m in a rut. I agree that there are many races to explore and that running as many different races as possible is a worthy approach for many people. If you want to run a different set of races every year then more power to you. OK, there may be other 100s out there that are beautiful and “just as good or better than WS.” Sure, there may be other 50Ks better than McKenzie and Way Too Cool, etc. I’m not going to argue that. But when I get old – oh wait, I am old – I mean when I get really old – like in my 50s – I want to look back and see a career like Twiet’s (25 WS, 30 ARs) or Jussi Hamalainen’s (23 ACs). It’s not necessarily because I’m into streaks, but there is something comforting about doing the same races, about the same routine. You can compare your times with previous years and gauge your fitness or see the toll age is exacting. You know what kind of training you need to do to get ready. If you keep logs you know what you’ve done before, what worked, and what didn’t. If you’re happy with your performances you can do the same training or you can change the routine just to experiment – like taking up mountain biking at 46 years old. You can also create traditions and rituals, like singing karaoke at the Georgetown Hotel, or running El Dorado Canyon the day after the race. And when you’re really old you can look back at all those finishes and struggle to remember what year you held off AJW from Goat Hill or lc passed the last runner after highway 49 for a surprising win; what year it snowed or Browning was so hot and dehydrated he drank out of the creeks; what year Jurek joined us for karaoke and nailed Paint It Black or Sean gave us his monotone rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Yeah, they are beginning to get all jumbled in my mind.
When a change is made to one of my favorites, my world is rocked, and I’m naturally going to resist. That’s what happened in 2009 at Way Too Cool 50K when the race changed hands. Sure, it’s the prerogative of the race director to do whatever they want with their race. Changes were made to the course to adjust the mileage to an accurate 31 miles after the course was re-measured and found to be almost 2 miles short. While the distance was now closer to the advertised distance, it was arguably not a “better” course, just longer. In fact, it made the two-way traffic problem between ALT2 and Browns Bar worse. The potential for collisions between the fastest runners at the front of the pack with the slowest runners at the back of the pack was exacerbated. Several of us expressed our disappointment with the changes on this blog. Some of us didn’t care that the course was short as there were a couple decades of history. Others thought the accurate distance was more important than the tradition. Recall Twiet’s guest post on the subject (see post). If nothing else, it generated good discussions.
But yesterday I heard some great news: This year we will be running a new and much improved Way Too Cool 50K course. While I only got a few hours to explore it Saturday on a run after the WS lottery, I know most of the trails very well and I am excited about these changes. Mark Falcone, former WSER board member and Trail Boss, helped RD Julie Fingar design a very cool course. A course that is 31 miles. A course that eliminates the dangerous and annoying out and back between ALT and Browns Bar. A course that includes some new trail up in my hometown of Cool. A course that uses more of the Western States Trail. A course that is likely to be faster. A course that will be more spectator friendly. And a course that I am really excited about. You can read about all the details on the WTC website, but here is my synopsis:
The start is still on the road, which is good for a trail race of this size. It allows runners to spread out before going onto single track and those really fast road guys to crank out 5:30 opening miles. After a little less than two miles you turn left onto the Secret Trail, which is near the Olmstead Trail. The views from up on that side of the Olmstead Loop are fantastic on a clear day which we’ll hopefully have on March 12.
After a slight dip into Knickerbocker Canyon, we’ll wind our way around relatively flat terrain with great views, come back to the start/finish area after 8 miles and head out on the WS trail towards No Hands Bridge. Downhill lovers will enjoy the hammerfest section from the Meadow down to the Lower Quarry. We’ll be able to run down on fresh legs the way Jim Howard ran at the finish of WS in 1983 (see #1 in Ten Best WS Races). Just above No Hands Bridge we cross highway 49 at the lower quarry. We then follow the Quarry Rd (the trail the horses use in the Tevis) to Maine Bar, a “town” that used to have 10,000 people in the Gold Rush days (see #3 of WTC Trivia Contest). We continue past Ball Bearing up to the Bottom of Dead Truck trail. No, we do not climb Ball Bearing, a signature feature of the old course that really is just an eroded gully. It won’t be missed. From Dead Truck we take the trail known in my world as the Browning Shortcut (really known as the American Canyon trail). If you’ve been on the Robie to the River and back to the finish training run with me you know how much I like this trail as I like to take it on the way out (thanks for opening my world, Bronco). It crosses Hoboken and American Canyon creeks just above their confluence. It’s an uphill that is gentler than Ball Bearing, but with better tread and cool views of the creeks.
The Browning Shortcut joins the Robie Trail (the trail we use in the WS run) just short of the 3rd gate trail. We turn right on the Robie Trail and follow the WS run course through ALT and Browns Bar. At Browns Bar (89.9 miles in the WS run) the course goes left, up and over Goat Hill and finishes like the historic Way Too Cool course, with the last little hill and 1.3 miles after crossing highway 49 for the second time at the upper quarry.
So there you have it. The new refreshed Way Too Cool course. Thanks Marko, Julie, and the others who helped design this new course. We can start our 20 years of history beginning in 2011. The WTC lottery opens today (Dec 6) and closes on Dec 12. 675 names will be drawn on Dec 15th. If we’re lucky enough to be drawn we’ll see you at the race, and maybe the Georgetown Hotel for karaoke after the race or El Dorado Canyon on Sunday. I’ll be going for my 10th finish. Not sure what song I’ll sing yet. Maybe Gittin’ Jiggy Wit It again…