My Report from the 2021 COVID Canyons 100k Run
Epic Endurance Events
Saturday, April 24th, 2021
Auburn Overlook to China Wall
16:39:34 (168th out of 247 finishers, 82 DNFs)
The course this year for Canyons 100k Run was very tough, which makes it hard to really have a favorite part. Running along the Northside of the American River was a new experience. This section of the trail gave some very different vantage points of the river, and the trails were very runnable most of the way from Auburn to Drivers Flat.
In addition, I always like the section of the Western States trail running from Rucky Chucky to Foresthill. There is a large variety in the vegetation and terrain, making it easy to be distracted from the long miles and steady climb up to Foresthill.
Can I share my two least favorite parts of the course? The 5.5-mile Deadwood Cemetery loop was tough. After running 45 miles to this point, the loop was rolling hills that just ate away at my motivation. If I was running on fresher legs, I don’t think it would have been that bad, but much of it was a hike and an effort to conserve energy for the final 11 miles.
My second least favorite part was the final 11 miles from Deadwood Cemetery to China Wall. After leaving the aid station, the trail plunged 1700+ feet over a couple of miles back down to El Dorado Creek, then climbed 2500+ feet over the next 8 miles to the finish. After crossing the bridge at El Dorado Creek, the trail took a steep grade for a decent distance. Then, we found ourselves on a ridgeline with a continual climb that seemed never to end.
I think part of what made the final 16 miles of the race so difficult for me was the fatigue effect of having running FOURmidable 35k the weekend before.
The Canyons 100k Run is normally a double out-n-back course starting and finishing in Foresthill, CA. However, due to COVID restrictions, the course was altered to essentially a point-to-point race starting at Auburn Overlook and finishing at China Wall. I spent more time than normal for this particular event planning out my hydration, nutrition, and drop bags. To that end, I feel like I stayed on schedule with fluid and calorie intake all day. I averaged at least 200-250 calories per hour in the form of Huma Gels, GU Stroopwafels, turkey bacon, Clif Bars, and cheese quesadillas. I also kept up with approximately 20-30 fluid ounces of water per hour, which kept me peeing regularly right up and through the finish line.
My energy levels struggled toward the end of the race, but again that was the 84 miles of racing and 20k of vertical in less than six days playing its part more than anything else. Until the final climb, I kept a positive approach to the race and stayed out of the dark mental spots that can so easily crop up during an ultramarathon. When my main time goals for the day became unrealistic, I focused on the fact that this was all just training for the Western States 100.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the runners and volunteers throughout the race. It is something I think we have all missed over the last 1.5 years. If it wasn’t for the volunteers at Deadwood Cemetery, I might have dropped after the 5.5-mile loop. They were all full of energy and encouragement to find the strength to keep moving forward, even if it was slow.
It really depends on what type, of course, the race director decides to go with in the future. If they repeat this near-point-to-point course, then I would recommend that you really practice running lots of elevation gain on tired legs. Most of the climbing in this year’s Canyons 100k Run came after mile 33.5 (Foresthill), making for a unique challenge.
If they return to the normal course, you still have lots of climbing to do, but to me, it is easier. The canyons and large amounts of climbing come in the first 30 miles. After you leave Foresthill the second time, it’s practically all downhill to Rucky Chucky. On returning to Foresthill, the only difficult climbs are into the Cal2 aid station and the final 3 mile climb up to the finish.
I would not run a race the weekend before! Well, maybe not. It depends on what I’m ultimately training for. With the Western States 100 on the schedule for the end of June, doing these back-to-back races was a great opportunity to push my limits and test my strategies.
In regards to course knowledge for this point-to-point course.
- Don’t run too fast the first 33.5 miles. From the start to Foresthill, there were only 2-3 climbs that forced runners to slow down or hike. I think many runners, myself included, took these opening miles too quickly and expended valuable energy for climbing in the second half of the race.
- Don’t waste time in aid stations that have no crew support. I’m always big on moving through aid stations as quickly as possible. Unless there is something major that needs to be addressed (blister, injury, etc.), get what you need and get out! If you will spend time in an aid station, do it when you have the best possible source for support and motivation, your crew!
- Run when you can, hike when you can’t! While many went too fast the first half of this year’s race, you do need to run when the course lets you run. Find a pace that is conversational and that you feel you could hold all day. Then, relax on the climbs and settle into a hiking pace that doesn’t spike your heart rate or energy expenditure.
The 2021 Canyons 100k course was very scenic from start to finish! Covering 62 miles of trail allowed for a larger than normal variety of terrain, vegetation, and amazing views.
Canyons 100k Run is an extremely tough race! Be prepared for long climbs and descents on any route that includes the Western States Trail.
For the most part, yes, this race is organized and well run. However, there seems to be a trend of lack of supplies at aid stations from year to year. I heard reports of the CAL-2 aid station (mile 25) running out of water shortly after passing through. After going 8.5 miles with no aid, runners came into this aid station and were then expected to go another 8.5 miles to Foresthill with no aid. That’s just poor planning and an unfortunate end to probably many peoples’ day.
The Aid Station – Trails and Ales volunteers at Michigan Bluff were high energy! And the volunteers at Deadwood made some amazing cheese quesadillas. I was also very fortunate to have two amazing volunteers at the finish line help me through the 2.5-hour wait to get a shuttle bus ride out of there.
Again, all in all, the race was well organized, but there are definitely areas of improvement around aid stations and post-race support that could be improved, especially if they are going to do a point-to-point race again in the future.
It’s a Westerns States 100 Golden Ticket race, so yes, the competition is top-notch if that is what you are there. If you’re not there for the podium, you’ll still encounter lots of competitive but super-friendly and supportive runners along the trails!
The race does typically sell out fast, so I would register early if you want in.
When I ran Canyons 100k Run in 2019, we drove up the morning and returned the same day. That was too much stress for me for one day. For the 2021 race, I drove up Friday night and stayed in a hotel in nearby Roseville. Since I did not finish until 9:40 PM and did not get back to my car until 1:30 AM, I was very thankful for the hotel on Saturday night. There are many places to stay, so I would recommend taking advantage of this if you don’t like to feel rushed or constantly on the go pre-and post-race.
Due to pandemic restrictions, crewing was tough this year. In normal years, crewing is very easy to do from Foresthill, Michigan Bluff, and Rucky-a-Chucky (on foot). And pacers are normally allowed over the second half of the race, which can significantly help your morale on the long climbs.
All the aid stations are your normal ultramarathon food and drink. Every aid station had GU gels, stroopwafels, and electrolyte drinks available. There was more substantial food at Foresthill and Deadwood, which helped get the sustainable calories when needed. As already mentioned, make sure you plan your hydration and nutrition because there are several long stretches without aid.
We got fortunate with the 2021 Canyons 100k Run. Temperatures topped out in the mid-60s, and much of the day, we had overcast skies. The last 11 miles were a bit cold at 5,000 feet above sea level, which I didn’t properly account for in my attire. In past years, high temperatures typically reach the 70s and 80s with moderate humidity levels.
I made use of all drop bag locations for this year’s Canyons 100k. Mostly stuffed with personal nutrition, my bags were located at Foresthill, Deadwood, and the finish line. There were several 8-10 mile stretches with no aid stations, so make sure you are carrying plenty of fluids and calories to keep you going. We were lucky to have cooler temperatures this year, but you can expect the afternoon to get quite warm and balmy in most years. Also, know where you expect to be on the course at sunset and plan accordingly with a headlamp and backup batteries!
This year was tough, but even on the normal Canyons 100k course, spectating is limited. Family and friends could easily see runners at the Auburn Overlook (start), Foresthill, Michigan Bluff, and finish. With a bit more work on their part, spectators could also check in on the race at Drivers Flat.
Be prepared NOT to receive a finisher’s medal after grinding through 100-kilometers. I’m not complaining, but I know it catches some people off guard. You will get a nice Canyons 100k Run leather belt, which is meant to be used to showcase your 100-miler belt buckle of choice (if you have one). In addition, for 2021, the race kept up with handing out other quality swag items. Each finisher received a trucker hat, t-shirt, and custom-printed Buff.
Overall I would give this race 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this race for anyone looking for time on the Western States Trail or preparing for a mountainous race. Be prepared to support yourself with drop bags or crew as the aid stations seem to have supply issues.
I have a handful of tough training weeks on the schedule to finish preparing for the 2021 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run on June 26-27.