Hello Muddah Hello Faddah (A letter home from camp)

Dear Mom and Dad,

It has been nearly 20 years since I last went away to summer camp, but I am glad that I found one for adults.  Some things are different and some things are the same from 1993 when I was at Jameson Ranch Camp for two weeks.

The differences:

  • Indoor showers at WS Camp–thanks to the hotel room
  • Indoor sleeping at WS Camp–see note above
  • Beer at WS Camp
  • Facebook/iPhones/WiFi at WS Camp–wow technology has come a long way

The similarities:

  • Playing outside all day in the dirt
  • Meeting many new people
  • Shooting–well at JRC there was archery to participate in and at WS we heard several shotgun blasts near Devil’s Thumb

Day 1 of camp started out cold.  A lot colder than I expected or packed for, but fortunately Thomas let me borrow his jacket.  We met at Forresthill Elementary School and took a school bus to Robinson Flat.  There was snow there!  And then we had to hike up to Little Bald Mountain, in the snow.  The first couple of miles were fitting–since it was Memorial Day weekend, it felt like we were stuck in traffic.  Once we peaked around 7,000′ and started descending, the snow started to thin–by the time we dropped below 6,000′ the snow was completely gone.

I already knew it was going to be a long day and weekend–as it was only one week after Born To Run 100K.  The slow first few miles in the snow didn’t help.  We eventually got to the first aid station of the day (about 8 miles in), and it was amazing!  It felt like an aid station from an actual race (and all aid stations over the three day weekend were fully stocked).  Since it was not a race, I decided to try some things that I don’t normally try at aid stations: Rice Krispy treats and gold fish–both were winners in my book.

After leaving the first aid station and heading into the canyons, I made the decision to back off.  Running down the canyons were painful and I knew hiking back up would be tough.  I decided to conquer the canyons with Erin (it would also be good practice for me, since I was scheduled to pace her at San Diego 100).  Before hiking out of Devil’s Thumb, Erin realized she lost her camera, so we searched for about 5 minutes in the immediate area before deciding to go on without it.  Erin and I power hiked Devil’s Thumb, which gains about 1,600 feet in 1.5 miles.  We were passing many people and never got passed on the way up.  Erin and I had a similar plan for the hike to Michigan Bluff, but we got slightly separated and I made it into the aid station about 30 seconds before she did.  Helen’s entire crew and friends all regrouped at Michigan Bluff and proceeded together for most of the final 5 miles of the day.  We lucked out with the weather, as the canyons never warmed up and it was relatively cool the entire day; I even had to put my jacket back on when I got to Michigan Bluff.

Along the final segment, our group encountered Carilyn Johnson, an elite runner who took second at BTR 100K the week before.  I had only previously met her via the Twit-a-sphere, but when we started talking she was as friendly as she was online.  At the same time that we met her, in person, she also happened upon her pacer for States (another person she had only met online before).  For the next few miles, going into the final Canyon of the day, our even larger group had a fun time talking.  But the group really spread out over the final climb.  We got to Baths Road mostly together, but spread out even more when Andee and I decided to run every step from Baths to end of the first day–it felt like the end of American River 50, where I was forced into a walk on an easier section of trail but was able to finish strong running a road uphill to the end.  At last, we had finished the first 50KM of camp, and it had only taken us 7 hours and 40 minutes.  Exhausting!

That night we had a large group of Coyotes and friends meet at the Auburn Ale House.  We had previously discovered the Auburn Ale House thanks to Eric from URP, who had taken us there after showing us the trail section of the American River course back in February.  The place was packed and there was a slight drizzle outside, but we are Ultrarunners.  They found a large table for us outside (with a slight awning).  We may have been the only people out there but at least we got seated and could finally drink.  Their Imperial IPA was a great way to end day one of camp.

Day 2 of camp started out with more pain–and in new areas.  Instead of my right leg hurting (as it was during and since Born To Run), it was now my left knee.  Fortunately the pain subsided as soon as we got off the pavement and got onto the trails.  I ran with Helen the entire way.  It was really good to run with her, to get a good feel of her strengths and weaknesses–she is a strong climber and really good at steep downhills.  Helen can also move–we averaged under 12 minutes/mile for the day for the 16 miles of the Western States course–and that included not stopping my watch at the aid station.  At the aid station at Peachstone (8.7 into the run) I told Helen to go ahead as I needed a bathroom break.  I sprinted down the trails to catch her–it took a lot of effort to catch up to her and I was flying for nearly 3/4 of mile to do so.  For the first half of the day’s run, we had a nice Coyote train going, as Craig (our Canadian Coyote) joined me, Helen and Andee.  Day 2 was a lot warmer than day 1, but we lucked out with some cool breezes throughout the day.

The best part of the day was our 30 minute detour into the American River.  I didn’t go fully in, but Katie did peer pressure me (it didn’t take much) to at least get a majority of my body wet.  We ended the running segment of the day with a 3-mile hike up to White Oak Flat–not part of the WS course.  The Coyote train re-emerged and we picked up Katie, June and Thomas (our Alameda Coyote).  At one point I was toying with Thomas as he tried to run up part of the hill and I was able to power hike stride for stride with him.  But then I decided to seriously run the final 1.5 miles or so–after it mostly leveled off.  I was partially pushed/pulled by a new friend we made at the river, Mike.  He had the same American River 50 shirt on that I was wearing.  It was a good workout at the end of day 2.  After Katie got to the top, she turned into a human finishing line for all of our friends–they had to slap her hand to finish.  Katie’s energy level is amazing, and it was good to have around towards the end of the run.  When Helen saw Katie’s finish line, and a guy ahead of her, she made a move to successfully Chick him.  After finishing we had to wait around nearly an hour to catch a bus back to our cars.  When we got back to the hotel, we said bye to our friends who were headed home after the second day.

The night portion of our day included Pizza at Old Town Pizza–yum!–and then a panel at the community center including 5 people who have completed the race 5 times or more–one of them had 21 finishes.  The panel was a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to be.  It was focused and well organized and led–it stayed on topic and on schedule.

Day 3 started out slow as Helen and I were the last to start because her GPS watch could not find a signal.  At the trail briefing that morning we were warned to use the bathroom before leaving for Green Gate, as the first mile was in “Dueling Banjo” territory.  They said there will be a yellow pee line down the trail–sure enough, a mile into the run there was some yellow tape across the trail and tons of runners on the side of the trail making nature their bathroom.  Shortly after both Helen and I separated to relieve ourselves.  I waited for a bit but it seemed like everyone had passed.  I called out Helen’s name and did not get a response.  So I assumed she passed me while I was off trail.  So I started to pick up the pace to try to catch Helen.  I would speed up and then get into a long train of runners before slowly moving through the train and speeding up to the next train.  I was going a lot faster than I had planned trying to catch Helen and I was starting to tire out.  Eventually I got a train and looked a few people up and June was there.  I decided it would be better for both me and June to run together, at least until the first aid station, which was over twelve miles from the start–this was the longest between any aid station all weekend.  

The runners started to spread out more, so June and I were running together for a while when we caught two other runners.  We started talking and as soon as we mentioned Helen’s name, she shows up from behind us.  All this time, I thought she was ahead of me.  The three of us stick together through the aid station at Quarry Road.  Helen and I take off after that for the final 8 miles.  But first we washed off with a second application of Technu–the first 12 miles of the day were like running through a jungle of Poison Oak.  The Poison Oak was at times head high and covering the single track trail.  I applied Technu three times that day: before the run, at mile 12, and after my shower.  This is the section of trail that I get to pace Helen during the race–but it will be in the dark.

The two significant climbs of the day were after the first aid station.  Fortunately for me, my legs seemed to have gotten stronger (and recovered from BTR) as the weekend went on; I was on the verge of not running day 2 or 3 after a very rough first day.  Even with my legs recovering well, I still walked a majority of the final two climbs with Helen.  Leaving Quarry was a slow hike up to Highway 49 on a single track.  The trail was beautiful, but since it was the end of a long three-day weekend, it seemed like the trail (and the climb) would not end.  Eventually we started to hear cars, which reminded me of what the expert panel said the night before: that the best sound is hearing the cars at Highway 49 since you are so isolated from vehicular traffic before then.  After crossing Highway 49, we knew we were in the home stretch, with about 6 miles left:a nice descent to No Hands and the final climb into Auburn.  For some reason, Helen and I were under the impression that once we got onto the road for the final mile, it would all be downhill.  Sure enough, it was still up for most of the way, with it eventually leveling off and descending to Placer High.  At the very end, Helen saw a guy a little bit ahead of us and tried to pick up the pace to “Chick him.”

What a perfect way to end a long holiday weekend.  Spending the early afternoon covered in dirt and dried sweat, eating some really good aid station food.  At the end of each day of camp, the final aid stations each had their own specialties: day 1 was grilled cheese (I don’t know how I missed this); day 2 was hot dogs (I decided to skip); and day 3 was breakfast (eggs, potatoes, etc.).  Once June finished and we took some final Coyote photos for the weekend, it was time to head back to the hotel to clean-off (and apply more Technu) and head home.

Hopefully, I will be attending Camp more often in the coming years.

Love,

Jack

I know this post is a little late, but at least I got it posted before Western States Weekend.  Also, Carilyn has dropped out of States due to an ongoing foot issue since BTR weekend.  

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One Response to Hello Muddah Hello Faddah (A letter home from camp)

  1. Erica Jameson says:

    Thanks for remembering us! The Jamesons

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