The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or fly fishing but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Squaw Peak Course Update

The course is in great condition!  On Friday, I started at mile 2 and ran to mile 26.  The snow has melted quickly, however there is one major problem.  An avalanche slide path at mile 8 is not going anywhere.  It was 7-8 ft high and 30 ft wide.  This means the Rock Canyon Aid Station (#3, 10.4) must move back over two miles.  It shouldn't be too big of a problem since the Horse Mtn Aid Station (#4, 16) looks accessible.  There will be 8 tough miles between those aid stations though.  Most of the snow I encountered will undoubtedly melt away and there should be a dry shoulder for most of the way.  The bushwhack section will be a mud hole and the mile before Horse Mtn there are several steep and tricky slide paths that will not melt away.

Once to Horse Mtn Aid #4 it's all clear as you make your way downhill into Hobble Creek.  Unless you're like me and forget to pack your flashlight.  Coming down the mountain at 10:00 pm without a light sucks!  I also wish I had brought a camera to take some pictures.  Oh well.  As I neared the asphalt without crashing I was relieved.  That is until I looked up at a light post 100 meters before the asphalt and turfed it hard.  A couple of scratches with a damaged ego but I was fine.  I reached mile 26 in a time of 4 hrs and 43 minutes having run 24 miles and feeling quite strong!

Less than 10 hours later I found myself where I left off at mile 26.  The first couple of miles were slow as I warmed up but by Sheep Creek I was feeling great.  The course is so green right now and the trail is perfect.  The rivers will be crossable and the mud minimal.  For some reason I always smile when I get to Little Valley.  Whether training or on race day there is something about it.  Maybe it's the perfect technical bomber downhill into Little Valley, or the subtle realization that your not going to die, or maybe it really is just a gorgeous area.  Either way I enjoy Little Valley.  

Surprisingly I really enjoy that first climb as well.  Interestingly it looks like there has been a flash flood up there.  The river is much more channeled making it easier to cross with the surrounding ravine washed out in several places.  There are plenty of downed tree and twigs which the trail crew will have a heck of a time clearing out.  I kicked and grabbed as many as I could but there is a lot.  None of which create a problem until you get to the North side of Bald Knoll.  Along with several slide paths and snow patches, there are several major downed trees that will create a problem for the trail crew and on race day.  Once you make the turn south down to Berryport Pass the trail is clear to Bozung Hill.  This is where I turned around but Bozung Hill did not look like it had much snow.  I was shocked at how little was on the mountain.

I had pushed the pace the whole way up and now I decided not to pound my legs by taking the way back nice and easy.  It was a perfect run.  There was a nice cloud cover the whole way and the last 45 minutes there was even a nice drizzle of rain which I loved.  It was great seeing Phil Lowry out on the course as well.  I finished the 24 miles in 5 hours and 15 minutes.  It was fantastic!  It got me very excited for the race in two weeks.

I finished this week totaling 69 miles 100% trails with 15000 ft of elevation gain.  I feel great.  With a two week taper I should be ready to go come race day.  I hope everyone else is as excited as myself!


Matthew said...

Thanks for the course update. Great to hear that most of the snow will be gone. Would like to scout out from AS8 to AS9 but need directions into Little Valley. If you have directions, it would be greatly appreciated if you could post them as a reply.


Brian Beckstead said...


Getting to Little Valley is a bit tough unless you have 4-wheel drive. There are several river crossings and a rough road. I've done it in my old Toyota Rav4 but it was tough.

These are not the best directions but here goes: Drive to Wallsburg. About a mile SW out of down town Wallsburg on the main road is a new house with a tennis court and a huge barn. TURN RIGHT. It's the only major right turn after you leave Wallsburg. This does an S-curve heading SE then meets up with another road (a more difficult route). Soon the road turns to dirt maintaining a SSE direction for 7-10 miles (I can't remember how far). The roads gets rougher and after several stream crossings it opens up into a meadow where you will see a coral off to your left. 1/2 mile later at a large fork is AS8. The race comes down the one fork and goes up the other fork.

Note that John Bozung is leading a run/trail crew from AS8 to AS9 this Saturday morning in which case you can probably carpool up with him.

Steve Hooper said...

Hey Brain,

Thanks for the update. Looking forward to having you kick my butt in 8 days!


dave holt said...

Brain, thanks for the course update. I have been pretty nervous coming into this my first real Ultra and on such an intimidating course. So it is nice to read about it from a veteran - although I don't know if it is helping me keep calm or not!

dave holt said...

I was just making fun of my good buddy Steven for writing BRAIN, and I noticed I did the same thing! I am an idiot - sorry... Brian!

Matthew said...

Thanks for the directions, big help!!

Jeff said...

I was on the training / trail clearing run this last weekend, so I could probably add some more details. Hopefully John or somebody more familiar with place names could add to this for you, though.

We started at Little Valley. We cleared out most of the major trees over the trail (except for a few right at ground level that were too big to move -- we pruned them back so they are easily navigated). The only exception is a giant tree at about mile 37. It was so huge in trunk diameter that we just had to cut the trail up and around (in) the tree's root "crater".

The snow conditions were great -- allowing for a traverse(on snow) instead of another climb on that last hill / ridge before the Windy Pass area. (After Bozung Hill?) There was a bit of snow on the downhill stuff still, until you get out of the avalanche gully below Windy Pass. Then just a few patches of mud after every snow encroachment.

Over all, though, trail conditions are good.

And, so are John's cougar stories. :)

See you at Aid Station 8. I hope you have a great race!

Brian Beckstead said...

Matthew- Glad the directions were correct and helpful!

Dave- I'm sure you'll do fine especially from what I hear about you!

Jeff- I'm glad option 1 worked out for you. Thanks for helping clear trail and for the update. See you at AS8.