I dont believe I have ever started marking a course 5 days prior to a race. Yet, on Monday I was sitting on site for the J&J trail race, putting together marking packs with flags, signs, posts, and what all. Granted, Chris didn't plan on us actually getting on course too early this Tuesday, but we were there. Chris and I were certainly on que and had been for months, but Jonathon was a recent addition and a another welcome surprise was Kyle. With Kyle supplying an ATV to mule for the trail work, I made some suggestions that Chris agreed had some sense, and we went with it. We put together a standard marking kit for Chris, Jonathon, and Kyle, while I would work from the mule. We loaded an ice chest with cold drinks, extra stakes, signs, caution rolls, and such, so they only needed to carry the minimum and reload intermittently where I could find them. Knowing the property well, I figured I could find them when I needed to. I'ld mark the intersections they'd hike through, as well as the windmill section, which they would not pass through. It would save them time at these intersections which I could do instead of them.
We started at 7am. The boys drove a truck over to the Wall Aid Station to start from there, leaving the truck, and marking over the suspension bridge, up the Gorilla Trail, over the top and into the back valley. The idea being they would do the biggest and furthest away loop first. I drove the mule to the windmill, marked the middle section they'd not see, and waited for them to get to the fenceline intersection. Once they'd gone thru, I went back to the windmill and marked from there down to the Prospector Cabin Aid Station. I knew I had the time, so I also went down the long hill to mark that section and each of the turns as well. From there, I drove down into the back valley where I followed the old jeep road through to the other side of the property where I knew they'd drop into the valley, then sat down to wait.
My timing was good. I could hear their voices well above as they dropped down, took a short break to sit and drink some cold drinks, before they head out. I marked everything between there and the first leg up, then head over to mark the next connector leg, then drive up a bit to find them. I gave them a ride back down and over to the next one, head out to mark the jeep road section and connectors to the final leg up. I wasn't sure exactly where they were popping out, so I sat again and waited for them. Once done, I haul them over to the final leg up, then mark the final descent over to the climb up to Prospector as well as most of the climb. When they get there, they decide to hike up as I drive around up out of the valley. Marked and done, the next section as well, having already done it earlier, so we simply need to drive out now, marking as we go down to the Texas Ais Station, with me and the boys all aboard the ATV. By the time we get to Texas Aid, its lunch time so we decide to take a break back at our rooms. Kyle needs to get back to work also.
After lunch we drive back over to Texas Aid, where all three of us head up Bear Trail on foot. I carry two rolls of caution tape and use it liberally for this nasty yoyo of a route through mesquite and rock. Once we top out on the ridge, I run back to the mule while they keep going with their kits to mark from here to the Wall. Back at the mule, I drive around though camp and back up the other side where I connect them just down from the Windmill. They climb in and we mark from the mule down to Lisa Lane. The course goes back off road here again, so they again hoof it, while I mark this short section connecting Armadillo Trail. I'm just getting done when they arrive, take Armadillo around and gone. I leave the mule, walk to the bottom of the hill where Armadillo ends to mark the climb back up. Back on top, I mark this top and then mark down along the cliff trail towards Wall, where they meet me coming up. Having connected and completed this section, they head back to the truck where they left it tis morning. The ATV is on top, so I head up to fetch it. Done for the day, having marked the big outer loop and the middle loop. Its only Tuesday and we've marked the lion's share of the course already. Its getting on toward dark and good to be done. I'm exhausted and dont take long to eat a quiet dinner before bed.
Wednesday morning, we start at 8am. I go down early to sort out what we have left and get it ready for the day. This is when I discover we're pretty low on flags and stakes. I get the kit ready for Chris and Jonathon to get started for the start loop from Pavillion to Texas, while I make ready to do the last 1.5mi section of the 100km/50mi. Problem is, I have no stakes and not that many flags. Chris sends me over to find the storage unit in the maintenance area for the sticks before he leaves. I find the storage, remember the combination, but cant find any sticks that are not already loaded with signs. So, I go mark with what I have, which is no stakes and few flags. It actually goes better than expected, using trees and caution flag with strategically placed ribbons and I get it done, all but 50 yards leading to the final road crossing. At this point, I drive up to find the boys at the intersection where the zip line ends. I wait for a bit, get bored and start towards them with what little marking kit I have left. I get a good ways but finally run completely out, so I stop and head back to the mule. I still cant stand to sit and wait, so I drive back to the rooms, find Krissy and asked her if the has and fresh flags under construction. She had only a few, but has no reflective material on them. So, I go back to my same spot on the hill and wait for them again. When they arrive, I'm sleeping on the back seat.
After a short break, Chris decides to head off alone with the kit. He has enough to mark from here to Texas Aid, while Jonathon and I head back with a small part of the kit to mark the river section from the Zip-line stairs back to Texas. Its lunchtime so we take a short lunch break first and then work from the mule, mark the river and back towards Chris as he arrives at the Texas Aid. We're almost done but for a few minor points, which we go immediately to get done. We finish the few points I had left undone down at the amphitheater by the road crossing and the new bike cut that allowed us to bypass the big suspension bridge. Then we drive over to put up the Texas Aid station as well as all the chutes and signs for going in and coming out. The last bit is to drive over and finish putting up the Wall Aid Station and we're done for the day. Again, I have a quiet dinner and some time with a fat book written by an old Russian. We need to create the shoots and routes for all finishers across the fields and to pound in all the pins and posts related to that as well as the starting chute. Chris wants to let that be til Friday, so I have a pretty easy day coming up while the boys go off to take acre of all the other crap they have yet to do not related to course marking. Friday, I finish what Chris started with the final chutes. He laid them out and I finish off the final touches and that was it for the working side of my weekend.
I intend on running the 25km Saturday morning with Joyce and two of my daughters, Erica & Sonia, and also Kristen, a training buddy of Erica's. We watch the 100km runners head out Friday night at 8pm, and they look none too happy about it. Almost seems surreal with subdued mood in the dark. Its enough to send me off to bed to got a bit of shut-eye, then meet the girls in the morning.
I suppose they all thought I knew the way best, or more likely they all just defer to me for our initial effort level. as they all line up beside or behind me. Lots of chattering with us and quite a few others early on. That backs off a bit when we hit the first incline. A half mile past that, we turn again onto a new section of nothing more than rock scramble that shakes up the entire pack. Not much more than a slow climb til we top out and head right before spinning back down again. I tend to push these rough and tumbles, so I'm surprised to see all of them follow my leed, which for the first time separates us out from the herd. Now, its just me, Kristen, Erica, Sonia, and Joyce. After a good bit of easy roll, we start the next climb up the narrow Texas trail. We make great time with not much more than an easy push. The top end bends out onto a long ledge of rocks, where Erica busts herself good with cuts and blood. After we sort her out, Sonia, Kristen, and Joyce lead out, while Erica and I fall behind. Doesn't take long before they gap us. We can hear them but only catch glimpses now and again onn around and down into the Texas aid station. After a refill, the same trend continues except in this case, they disappear, leaving Erica and I on our own.
This section is the nastiest and gnarliest of the entire course, over rock and root, ducking and bending, as we crawl up and slide down for awhile before tumping into an old jeep road. The road aint flat, strait, or smooth, but its still a hell of a lot easier than what we just did. It tilts up for awhile, levels for a moment, then tilts down a little, and then a lot. We slide off the right side into a skinny trace of trail that goes out a long way and then comes back a long way just under, such that we do see the girls again as they pass under in the other direction. And then we do it again on another longer out and back. Joyce has been holding Erica's water bottle since Texas Aid, and she tells us she's going to drop it, so that after a bit, we come up on it, so that Erica can have her water bottle again. The next climb is short but very steep, back up to the overlook before dropping over the cliff down to the Wall Aid down by the river.
Joyce and the girls are waiting when we come in. I ask them not wait for us. Erica and I are taking our time. She's still a little shook up from her fall. By the time we refill and go, they're gone, not to be seen again til the finish. The next climb is so long and nasty, we call it The Gorilla. It begins in the river bottom, crosses a suspension bridge, then UP, and keeps going UP for awhile. Gorilla follows the property fenceline, over rock and ledge, for a mile or more to the top. We can see the landmark windmill just ahead and I have plans when I get there, so I run on ahead of Erica.
The windmill is a working pump which fills a large concrete container full of fresh cold ground water. Its been set up as a swimming area, with boardwalk, stairs, and floats. I had this in mind when I was course marking, thinking it would be fun to soak myself when I got here in the race. While the others have gone on ahead and Erica in not so much of a hurry, its a perfect opportunity for me to do just that. I peel off shoes and socks and leap in. I only have a few minutes though, with Erica coming on and passing by, so I hop out and get my shoes & socks back on, then race after her.
A long rolling downhill is next on the easiest jeep road on course. The road rolls through a couple of big rollers near the bottom. The last one rises directly into the Texas Aid we passed through much earlier from a different angle. We get through pretty quick and then on down to the river again where we cross over on some big river rocks. Coming back across on a plastic floating bridge equipped with a slide its too much for me to ignore, so I climb up and slide into the river. I dont bother with my shoes and socks this time, and didn't really need to at the windmill either, but I hadn't thought about it at the time. One more easy climb up the stairs and into the finish where the girls have been waiting for quite a while. Turns out, Sonia and Kristen never stopped pushing, and Joyce bounced between our two groups too many times to catch back up again, but the three of them did finish a good while infront of Erica and I, who come in side by side to cross the finish. Made for a nice photo too