Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lost Sierra 50K

Just east of the Sierra crest, about an hour north of Truckee, the tiny community of Graeagle played host to the first Lost Sierra50K Trail Run. Late September is a beautiful time for a race in the mountains, and as with most days this fall, this one turned out to be especially warm, sunny, and beautiful.

I hadn’t done any real training since before Hardrock, but I’d been getting out on the trails for a bit of fun. In spite of waning fitness, I knew I wanted to check out this new race that took place on trails I’d never seen. Am I glad I did!

Katie and Annie, bundled up and ready to be the awesome support crew.

I started out in my tank top, although most people were more protected against the chilly mountain air at that hour. I knew we'd spend the first several miles climbing and that it would warm up quickly. The challenge of being cold for 10 or 15 minutes is totally manageable when compared with the irritation of having a jacket or shirt tied around my waist until the first drop bag location.

After about a half mile of road, we moved quickly to singletrack.

The climb up Mills Peak was long, about 10 miles, but it was so gradual that I could run almost the entire way. We were in the trees the whole time, steadily gaining elevation. It was quite a nice way to begin the day.

Cruising along in the early miles. (Photo courtesy of Lost Sierra 50K)

I found myself running near this friendly runner for several miles...

She was clearly a local, and dropped information now and then about the trails, and what was coming up. I was totally unfamiliar with the area, so it was helpful to run with her. Once we hit the Mills Peak summit, she blazed the downhill and I ran on alone.

Mills Peak Fire Lookout

Spectators had been telling me I was 6th woman, but apparently some of the leaders were running the 14 mile race. Once I passed through their finish line, I suddenly found myself in third. 

Based on what I could tell of the map, it looked like a challenging course. That, coupled with the fact that I'd only been getting slower in the second half of my summer, led me to a guess of finishing between 6 and 7 hours. I felt like I was more or less on target for that, and I was having a blast!

"Free your mind and your ass will follow." Mountain bikers are so funny!

The scenery up at the higher elevations was spectacular: classic high Sierra. This also meant that the trails were quite technical, and progress was slow.

I found myself running alone for the entire second half of the race. I was thrilled to find such beautiful trails, and around every corner there was another reason to stop and snap a photo.

Peter Fain on his way to the 50K win.

I made the second big climb of the race, up Mt. Elwell. This climb was much shorter, but it was also steep, technical, and warm. Still, I enjoyed the hike and the solitude.

By the time I made my final descent to the finish, I was feeling pretty beat up from the terrain. My feet were sore, and I had trouble making use of the downhill. As I dropped in elevation, the temperature rose, and I was ready to find that finish line.

It appeared quite suddenly, and with little fanfare, I crossed in 6:44. Just about what I'd expected.

It turned out my friend Camille finished right behind me, and we stood around chatting a bit and sharing thoughts on the race with Annie, who'd finished sometime before I had. Eventually we all made our way to the finish festivities (Music and beer - the important things!) which were, oddly, about a ten minute walk down the road.

Truckee represent! Me, Camille, Annie, finishing 3rd, 4th, and 2nd respectively.

We spent an hour or so after the race kicking back on the lawn, cold Sierras in hand, listening to the band. They presented some nice schwag for age group winners, and I took home a bottle of wine for taking second. This struck me as hilarious, since Annie, who won our age group, was awarded a large Sierra. I'll take the wine over beer any day, thank you! (And it turned out to be quite a good bottle of wine, too.)

And, guess who else was there to make her racing comeback?

It's Betsy! Running strong and taking the age group win. It was awesome to run with her and see her healthy and happy.

The Lost Sierra 50K was the brainchild of Reno ultrarunner David Funk, who had been running these trails and saw the potential for a great event. (He was right!) He designed the course, and then approached the race organizers of the Downiville Classic mountain bike race, who did an awesome job of putting it together. It's also a fundraiser for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and the Graeagle Fire District. I can't see how they could have done a better job of pulling off a first time event.

Lost Sierra was a wonderful race on a beautiful course. It was well marked with plenty of aid stations, and friendly volunteers. A lot of Truckee and Reno locals showed up to check out the action, which gave it a great community feel. I would definitely recommend it for next year. I know I'll be back!