Fiyah on the WS100 Trail

Me and fellow BRS member Terry Orsi
(a.k.a boy scout with GPS whach-a-ma-callit)
If you don't know exactly where you're going, be sure to bring a GPS-type gadget with you. And if you don't have a GPS thingy you should have a boy scout in your back pocket. But if you can find a boyscout who happens to be carrying a GPS whatsit (and knows how to use it) then you're golden. 

Or at least in theory... 

I got a facebook message from our BRS chapter president, Terry Orsi, that he and another runner, Rob, were planning on running The Western States 100 trail beginning around mile 80. As soon as I read the message I was SO in. I've been wanting to run north on that trail for a while now. If I ran anything more than hundred yard sprints and tabata runs I probably would already know those trails like the back of my hand.

Looking out above the Western States Trail
But I don't.

So it was spontaneous luck that all three of us could carve away time from our families so that we could explore the canyons and single-track up near Auburn, California together.

Early last Saturday morning, we parked my car across from the quarry off of highway 49 where we expected to finish our run. We then headed over to begin our adventure at the "Green Gate" in Rob's car. The start of our run was just up the hill from the river crossing that begins the last 20 miles of the 100 mile Western States race. We figured the total distance we would be running that day was somewhere around 11-12 miles based on Terry's estimation and where we parked the car.

Stark reminder that we are only guests
in the home of wild critters.
Unexpectedly, the trail was already marked for the race (or at least that's what we thought) so we decided to follow the ribbons, which was actually a smart call. Terry would be pacing a runner for the WS100 in a couple weeks and wanted to be familiar with the trail especially since he would be running it at night.

The singletrack trail wound its way high above the river and was mostly shaded with a few stream crossings. The ground alternated between rocky hard pack and soft cushy pine needles. We stopped a few times and I helped Rob (who was mostly barefoot for this run) get his Luna Sandals out of his pack when the terrain got a little bitchy. 

I met Rob last year at the Blood, Sweat & Beers race in Auburn where he completed an 11 mile run completely barefoot on what I thought to be some pretty punishing terrain with serious hills. I was amazed when he introduced himself and told me he did it without the aid of his Lunas. Wow. The farthest I have run barefoot on trails was about 6 miles, but it was without major hills and certainly not on terrain that could tear the flesh from your bones. I have never really experienced serious hills barefoot. In fact, the thought of running hills barefoot (especially steep gravel fire roads) makes me cringe a little.

Rob - Barefoot Runner Extraordinaire
Something else I have never experienced is synchronized FIYAH! But it happened when we stopped at a trail sign around the 10-11 mile mark and Terry turned around to reveal that he had gotten in the "zone" for the last few miles. That's funny. I was in that same zone. I offered up my explanation and they both agreed. It was definitely the FIYAH! 

It was a beautiful, cool and flowy trail with a few swoopy hills. It crossed over streams and wound through forests. Every once in a while it would peek out over the river and we could see across the canyon. It just felt amazing to run.

We continued down the trail jabbering about running mojo, flow and trail fiyah all the while taking the wrong turn. 


The WRONG turn.

We had no clue. We were all caught up in talk about "the fiyah" and I was hoping to experience it again so we just kept running...

That is until we got nearly to the bottom of the canyon near the river. According to Terry's GPS thingy and the topo map in his pocket the spot where we ended up wasn't where we were supposed to be. 


"Its just over this ridge..."
So like with any good adventure story there was both good news and bad news regarding our little predicament.

The good news was that we were close to the car. 

The bad news was it was "vertical" close. We would need superpowers to clamber up the steep (and probably hip-waist-poison-oak-infested) mountain ridge in order to reach the car. It was at that point that we decided to follow a random steep trail that switch-backed its way up towards the quarry hoping it might get us closer.

It didn't.

Good thing we had a Plan B. Sorta. We decided to head down towards the river where we could hook up with the highway. The river was looking cool and tasty at that point. We were all running low on water by this time and we were really hoping that once we made it out to the highway my car would miraculously be closer. 

Apparently NOT the right trail
It wasn't.

But, at least we were closer to civilization and more importantly, people with cars. Cars with air conditioning.

So I managed to flag down a nice couple who were on their way into the vista point area that we had just come out of. I explained our situation - that we were runners and had just ran 15 miles and we had misjudged our destination and drop car location and didn't want to walk back up the canyon highway. 

The woman on the passenger side of the vehicle looked nervously at Rob's feet (he happened to be wearing his Lunas and that point) and she exclaimed quite incredulously to Rob "Did you run in those?!!!" She couldn't believe we just ran 16 miles let alone one of us ran most of it barefoot and in sandals.

At that moment the thought crossed my mind that after seeing Rob's sandals she and her husband might not believe our running story and refuse us a ride. Luckily, Terry and I happened to be wearing somewhat normal and respectable looking trail shoes. Not that Lunas aren't respectable, because they are, but to your average Joe Schmo wearing sandals for running is like wearing one of those stupid beanie hats with the propeller on top for flying.

Thankfully, they were gracious enough to give us a ride to the car.

And luckily, I had remembered my keys.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


  1. Awesome post, looks like a awesome place to run...
    love the propeller hat reference :)

  2. I'd love to check out that trail. Although we don't have to worry about mountain lions out here on the East Coast. And BTW, it looks like you were close to some U.S. Government private property, with that closed off trail. Another Area 51-perhaps?

    1. Hey Ken - Yeah. That was the quarry. I suspect there's some danger in getting too close to the mining that's going on there. No Area 51 out there, but its always interesting kayaking northwards along the river as you get closer to the state prison. I'm not a fan of getting shot so I usually heed the warning signs. Ha!


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