Peggy entered the Castle Peak Aid Station late in the race with her daughter. They headed up to the Peak on a trail that had some moderate exposure. It was very windy that day up on top and many runners took as much as 2 hours to complete the 2 mile loop back to our aid station. Many runners warned of the winds and exposure and cautioned those who were afraid of heights. Peggy was one of those runners with an extreme fear of heights. It took her more than 2.5 hours to complete the loop. There was no cut off at our aid station and she really wanted to try to finish. Abbey Murray and I were the sweeps and would need to follow her down. We all had our doubts that she would get to the Van Norden aid station 11.5 miles away by the cut off, but Peggy was enthusiastic and determined to try.
Well, she crushed it. Really. She ran easily on the downhills and flats and hiked strong on the uphills. It took Abbey and I about 3 miles to catch her after she left Castle Peak! The flagging was minimal so we didn't stop very much to pull it. That was great.
That section of trail is indeed a mind sap not to mention technical. There is one steep down hill section that is nothing but huge stairs and loose boulders and rock. But very beautiful and Abbey and I loved the newness of it for both of us.
Our finish that night with Peggy was dramatic. Abbey and I closely watched the time and our GPSs to see if she would be able to make the 7:30 pm cut off at Van Norden aid station.
By 6:00 pm we thought that she could do it.
Around 6:30 pm we had a doable distance left for the hour to get to 7:30 pm. We called out encouragement to her and she motored along with few breaks.
We watched our GPS and saw that we had only about 0.4 left to reach the 11.5 miles of distance needed to get to the aid station. We were excited for Peggy and amazed she had done it.
Then we exited the single track on to road where other folks were waiting. We thought she was there. It was 7:17 pm. Peggy was informed that there was still about 1.5 miles to go!!! Despite our GPS saying nearly 11 miles had been run, we were not done!
Peggy cheerfully smiled and said, no, she wasn't going to be running a 10 minute mile at this point to make the 7:30 cut off time. She thanked us for the encouragement and we all ran together to her last aid station for the day where Rhonda (her daughter) greeted us with some other friends.
Peggy's amazing enthusiasm and self-confidence taught me a profound lesson - ultrarunners are amazing people and athletes and I cannot judge a book by its cover. Peggy's real fear of heights on the Castle Peak loop was what had her be so slow, not her fitness for the course. She demonstrated that with the guts of only an experienced ultrarunner to run that 12 miles down to van Norden on 40 mile legs.
Abbey and I drove to the finish and watched Derek Benefield and Jason Riddle finish around 9 pm. They looked great, of course, and were so proud of their run. The finish line was at a campsite in the Donner state park campground. Abbey and I spend a while trying to find it, but eventually we did. Helen was personally handing swag bags to each finisher as they crossed the line and a few family and friends were there.
A fabulous inaugural event for the Donner Party Mountain runners. Congratulations!