Posted by: pointlenana | June 28, 2016

The Climb To Devil’s Thumb – Western States Part 12

This post is mostly an excuse to link to my GoPro movie of the climb up from Deadwood Canyon to the Devil’s Thumb aid station.  There’s a longer one on YouTube – 45 minutes long if you want a step-by-step view, with no sound.  Mine is about 5 minutes, featuring some heavy breathing (on the way down towards the climb!) and Music courtesy of the YouTube audio library (for people who don’t want to steal from musicians).  I filmed this Saturday morning before we volunteered.  Enjoy:  Climb To Devil’s Thumb

Some things about the climb, especially during the race:  1600 feet of climb in about 1.6 miles.  This happens 47 miles into the race, and there are three ways to experience the climb:

  1. Be an elite and hit the climb between 11:35am (this year – woah…) and about 2pm.  The climb will be pretty warm but the real problem you’ll have is that you’ve been running hard for 6-8 hours, you probably arrive hot and near-redlined from a very fast 16 mile downhill trip from Robinson Flat (thinking you are managing your race well), and then you hit this wall.  Because you are an elite and care about your place, you are going to push up the hill to create space or catch up.  Kaboom for all-too-many of these folks, although they often manage to struggle on for another 20 miles before disaster finally strikes.
  2. Be a mid-packer (like me).  You are in luck!  You get to climb this during the hottest part of the afternoon.  There is 0 air movement in the canyon, and the sun’s had a chance to work all day so the temps are going to be 10-15 degrees warmer than what the weather map shows nearby.  Think 95 during a cool year and 105-110 some years.  Fun!  Unless you’ve been through something like this before, you are in for a very new and unwelcome way of experiencing life.
  3. Be towards the back.  Good news – it will be slightly cooler as you climb.  Bad news – you are probably chasing cutoffs.  Oh, and the mosquitoes are out now.  I talked to one guy at the finish this year who said one year he was driven up the climb because every time he stopped to throw up, the mosquitoes would swarm him.

Pick your poison.

I think the people who do well in this race either live there and know the course really well, or have run it before.  Most people (myself included) underestimate how challenging it is to manage the first 60 miles in a way that doesn’t destroy you.  There’s a good article by Joe Uhan (one of the medical people Janet worked with on Saturday) about this: The Western States Killing Machine.  But I read that before my race and I still needed to experience it to understand it.


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