I received a message from the race director of TCT Runs inviting me to join the run at Lover’s Leap in Strawberry, California. I messaged two of my running friends who I thought might have a race credit from volunteering with TCT Runs. The I learned from Carina that they still needed volunteers to sweep – i.e. picking up the ribbons/markers. Hassan and Jerry were up to the challenge. I prefer to sweep too because I may not be up to the high elevation run.
According to Wikipedia, “Strawberry is a small unincorporated community on the South Fork American River, 3.25 miles (5 km) south-southwest of Pyramid Peak,  along U.S. Route 50 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The sign on the highway reads population 50.
The town became a popular resort in the 1850s, and a station along the Central Overland Pony Express between Yank's Station and Webster's, Sugar Loaf House Station. The site is now registered as California Historical Landmark #707. 
Strawberry is also the home of Lovers Leap climbing area. ”.
Hassan had to beg off from the trip because they were expecting their sons to come visit from the Bay area. Jerry and I chose to sweep the 18 miles because it was the mileage we needed for training this weekend.
We left very early to drive the 77.7 miles via Highway 50 to reach Strawberry, California. As expected at that time and day, the drive was a breeze. We even got to have a good breakfast at the historical 150-year old Strawberry Lodge.
The 50Mile/50K runners started at 5:30 am. While the other distances; 18 miles, 13.1 miles, 9 miles, 10K, 5K, 2 miles started at 8:30 am. We started our sweep at 9:00 am, giving a lead to the runners about 30 minutes.
From the starting line outside the Strawberry Lodge we followed the road to the trail head. Once we hit the trail it was hiking all the way up. I was short of breath because of the elevation. But it surely seemed like it was still spring here. Wildflowers were in full bloom still – lavender, yellow, white. Unlike in the low lands where they had all dried up.
From Strawberry Lodge to Negro Flat aid station was a total of 7.3 miles. Hiking up surrounded by pine trees, wildflowers, crossing many streams. The foliage was very dense at parts, the paths are not well worn. At mile 5.5 the elevation was at 7,800 ft. At mile 6.75 we hiked down to 7,000 ft. before climbing another 100 feet to Negro Flat Aid station. The medic was stationed in this aid area and we got an update from him on the status of the runners. The race course was a loop, so we had been picking up the pink trail markers up to this point. The 50-mile runners followed the loop to the right going all the way to Caples Creek and would be a total loop of 12.2 miles. As the 50 milers were still in the Caples Creek loop of the course, Jerry and I would not be able to pull the return course loop pink markers. We left the pink ribbons we had gathered at the Negro Flat Aid station and informed the medic to let the race director know that we were completing the 18-mile loop but will not be picking up the pink ribbons so that the runners still out on the course will still have their course markers. Jerry and I re-filled our water bladders with water and ate some good snacks. We also drank sodas, good for the immediate burst of sugar. Soon we were on our way to Buck Pasture a hike of 4 miles, with the highest elevation at 8,100 ft at 2.25 miles. The trail did not have the tree cover and the sun was high up. I could not wait to get to the tree line again. The views of the other peaks were breath-taking. Reaching Buck Pasture after 4 miles it was all going down now. I let gravity do its work as my legs were very heavy because they were very tired. We were startled by a movement in the forest thinking it was a bear, thankfully it turned out to be a deer. 2 miles from Buck Pasture we reached the water stop. There was just a jug of water there. I though if they were leaving a jug of water, would you not leave some snacks please? I laughed at myself. But at this point there was a dirt road and would make it possible to have an aid station here. Anyway, the next aid station is 3.3 miles away from this water station. Tired as I was I was thankful to be back at the tree line. We were on a dirt road now and an ATV passed by followed, another ATV, next a jeep and another ATV. I was so thankful to reach the Lover’s Leap Aid station and Strawberry Lodge was only 1.1 miles away. There was one Seven-up left and Jerry and I split it. We need that sugar rush now.
My legs, thighs, feet were so tired. My shoes I have concluded were too small for me. My toenails were burying into the front of the shoe specially on the descents. I stopped from time to time psyching myself to keep on going. My body just did not want to move anymore. But there is no other way to return but walk or run if I can conjure the energy to do so. But we were on a dirt road, Jerry can go get his truck and pick me up, it will be faster. Of course, I stayed silent, I needed to focus on the task, less than a mile to go. The last mile always feels like the longest mile. Just like that we were back on the road and even that seemed to take like forever. A female 50-mile runner passed us swiftly with a quick hello. Oh my, I thought she still has so much energy in her. Just like that and she was out of sight. The sight of the bridge gave me a boost and I stopped to take a photo. Finally, we were back at the start/finish line and proceeded to the tent area for some yummy snacks. 18 miles done! Elevation gain 3,500 ft. asl.
For a recovery run, I got up very early again the next day to beat the heat. I had forgotten to post my intention on our group website so for once I am going to run alone. I am quite familiar with the trails from Cavitt Junior High School that I was confident I would not get lost. Ha! I followed our usual 4-mile run which is out and back (OAB). I also did the hill repeat, pushing myself to run up the hill and take a photo on top with a good view of Folsom Lake. I ran 2-loops to make for 8miles, but with the hill repeat I could have done a total of 8.4 miles. That’s is that for this weekend – three weeks before the San Francisco Marathon! Yikes!
Link: Strawberry Lodge
Link: Lover's Leap