After leaving the delights of the Auburn trails and after a solid training block, Andrew, Laura and I headed to race central in Squaw Valley. The drive finally whetted the appetite for what is to come in the early stages of the race as we climbed through stunning alpine scenery with majestic snow topped peaks.
According to the history books the High Sierra recorded an average of 65 feet of snow this year, just off the 1951 record of 67 feet. So it was not a surprise to arrive at our accommodation to the news the course had been changed to a completely new snow route for 2011. This information was the final piece required in the well laid plans Andrew has been working towards all year. Once we reviewed and reforecast his splits based on the new course, coupled with some interesting thoughts and ideas on his race day strategy, Andrew was finally able to relax and is set to enjoy the last few days of inactivity.
It must be said that Squaw is very quiet at the moment, except for the 1000 odd cheerleaders in town for a competition and the shrills went even higher today when a group of male lacrosse players hit the village. Talk about the potential for a perfect storm, and the teachers were going frantic!
This lull before all the hype and hoopla of the race briefings and media circus that will unfold later this week has allowed me to get in some addition training by myself, which will allow me to focus on my upcoming ultra at the beginning of July, when I will be a guest of Team Salomon at the Kilian’s Classik in the Pyrenees in Europe. This will be an exciting trip for me as it gives me a chance to put into practice a fairly reasonable training block over the last few months. The small feat of pacing Andrew for 62 kms on Saturday afternoon/evening will also be a good test for me and solid time on the feet on some cracking trail.
Today I made two accents (early AM and late PM) to the highest point on this years race, Emigrant Pass. The route took me up the guts of the ski resort from 6200ft to 8800 ft in aprox 6 kms. The first part of the climb was on the service road used by the ski patrols and this was devoid of snow, but within 3kms I hit a 1+ metre deep snow bank, and I quickly knew that this would be the end of dry warm feet for the next 90 minutes.
The climb went on and on but the good news is the increase in altitude brought me no significant discomfort. Whether this is attributed to the amount of time I have spent at Sydney Altitude Training, or the increase in training volume I have been doing, or just the mesmerising views from the peaks willing me on I cannot tell. The great thing about trail running is that you are rewarded for your uphill efforts with great down hilling. The cruise back into the village at Squaw was fantastic. It was even better the second time round when I started to see a few of this years competitors getting in some light training runs high up on the mountain.
Over the next 2 days I will continue to run easy with a couple of light days on Thursday and Friday as my version of a taper for Saturday. Andrew will finalise his drop bag strategy as the new course does throw up a few new logistical challenges, especially for those runners reliant over the years on regular pampering at aid stations by their crew, something that may be a little bit more difficult this year!