Monday, February 29, 2016

Why we all Love the Way Too Cool 50K

Frog cupcakes! Who doesn't love frog cupcakes!?

I know some of you deny it – you call it the “Way Too Crowded” and turn up your noses. You say, “I just can’t deal with the conga line,” but you still show up to spectate. You train on the course with your buddies, who are all registered to race, and discuss the prospects of Max or Varner or this-years-new-thang. You pretend otherwise, but just like the rest of us, you totally love the Way Too Cool.

Jenelle, Jamie, and Sarah keep warm before the start of the 2013 Way Too Cool.

Cool is many things to many different people. For some, it serves as an early season benchmark. Where do I stand after a winter of semi-slothdom? For others, its friendly terrain makes for perfect first-time ultra racing. Because I run Cool year after year, it works well as a measurement of my own progress as a runner over the years. For those of us from the Tahoe and Reno areas, heading down the hill the first week of March is also a springtime ritual that beckons us with warm sunshine to break from the winter chill. Because it seems that the entire NorCal ultra community turns out for this race, it is also the pinnacle of socializing this time of year, second only to summertime's Western States.

What were some of my best Cool experiences? Back in 2011, going sub-5:00 was a big deal, and I was pretty stoked to get there. Let’s not forget the shit-storm outhouse-search of 2012. Most hilarious race report ever, I’m pretty sure. There were the quivering quads of 2014 which resulted in both my course PR (4:44) and the most painful post-race leg cramping I’ve ever experienced. That’s what happens when you run hard while under-trained, friends! Last year was the I’ve-barely-trained-so-I’m-running-without-a-watch-and-pretending-I-don’t-care year. It was a pretty good strategy that garnered me a 4:50 without too much trouble.

This will be my sixth year running this iconic trail test. With that in mind, I have some highlights and tips for those of you who will be toeing the line with me on Saturday. Here are some things to enjoy and things to watch out for:

  • Newbies: Don’t go out too fast! That first paved mile gets sub-looney really easily. Take the 8-mile loop to get your legs and warm up.

  • Veterans: Go out fast! No kidding. It’s easy to get caught behind the mob. When I ran a 12 minute PR to go 4:44, I shaved 8 of those minutes off in that first 8-mile loop. Apparently I’d been taking it too conservatively.

  • Use caution on that downhill between the first aid station and the Quarry Road aid. It’s a good place to use your refined downhill technique, but it’s also a good place to blow out your quads if you hammer it too hard. I always feel like people hammer this part, and I clean them up later after mile 20.

  • Drink-up at Maine Bar. They say it’s only 4.3 miles from there to the ALT aid station, but I swear to God it’s more like 8. I can never make that distance on one bottle without running dry and cramping as a result. That stretch is the sole reason I carry two water bottles at Cool. It takes FOREVER to get to ALT.

  • After ALT though, it’s all gravy. You can spend this long, smooth, slightly downhill stretch of trail passing people like mad because you paced yourself well. Right?

  • Always run that last 1.4. It’s uphill, yes. You hurt, I know. Suck it up. The finishline will get there so much faster if you run it. It’s only 1.4 miles! Don’t stop at the aid station – just go. At the end, friends await.

Get a good night's sleep, a good parking place, and I’ll see you all bright and early on Saturday!

Cupcakes and beer with Jenelle at a Way Too Cool finish celebration