Black Mountain Brouhaha:
Much Ado About Nothing

Day 1, Sunday, with Nicole (20-29 years)

As Nicole and I drove up Page Mill Road, the weather was cool and somewhat foggy. Surprisingly, as we moved higher, the fog disappeared and clear skies and bright sunshine became the order of the day. We started from the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve parking lot and headed down towards Canyon Trail. Nicole is a marathon runner and I was struggling to keep up with her even on level ground. As we started up Bella Vista Trail, I just had to try to slow her down by exchanging daypacks ... and it worked. She now was carrying my 15-pound pack and I was carrying her 16-ounce water bottle. Even though I could have kept up with her without exchanging packs, I didn't want to get burned out on the first day. Over the years, I have learned that I can do a 20-mile hike with 4,000 foot elevation gain and not be too tired the next day. However, if I am forced to do the same hike at a pace a tad faster than normal, my muscles and joints rebel the next day. Old age does have the advantage of experience, provided one learns from it. In the Big Sur International Marathon that Nicole ran last year, of the first five male finishers, four were in their thirties and only one in his twenties. Of the first five female finishers, three were in their forties and two in their twenties. In the longer and harder "ultra" races, experience plays an even bigger part.

Western States 100

The Western States Endurance Run is one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and certainly one of the most challenging.

The run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4.5 miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet for a total elevation gain of 17,000 feet and descending 23,000 feet before reaching Auburn. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory. Still, amazingly, the run is so popular that entry is by a lottery among those who meet the stringent qualifying criteria.

There is a time limit of 30 hours, and in 2004, 92 out of a total of 370 starters failed to finish the run in the allotted time. But the most interesting statistic is the fact there were only 10 finishers under 30, whereas there were 12 finishers over 60.

Dinesh, with his arm around Nicole's shoulder, on the Black Mountain summit

"Hey, Nicole, didn't you say you like guys your height?"
"Yes, but I already have a grandfather."