Cool is in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 20 miles from Sacramento, near the American river, in a gold mining area. It was a stagecoach stop during the gold rush. It’s a really pretty area and there are tons of trails to hike, and swimming and fishing in the river to be had.
We arrived in Cool before 6 am. We got a great parking spot, thanks to the early departure, and went to pick up our bibs etc. I was there with two other people, one who was running and another who had not signed up, but was going to wear the bib (without chip) of a friend and run with the other friend for a while. It was pretty cold so we stayed in the car to keep warm until the start. Once the sun came out, we got ready to go. This race has so many people that there is a wave start. I was in wave one, which started at 8 am.
The race started and we were all running in a pack. There were so many people; we could not really run any faster or slower; we just had to scoot along with everyone else. I stopped for a pit stop and then caught back up to my friends. The first mile was on a paved road and then it turned into a single track. The single track was brutal, as there really was no room to pass. I was going at about a 10 minute mile, which was slower than I wanted to go, especially since it was fairly flat.
Around mile 3, we went through our first water crossing for the day. It would not be the last. It had rained the week before and the creeks were running full, and the trail was very, very muddy. Everyone was slipping and sliding around and trying to avoid the really big, slippery sections, but it was difficult. The single track loop lasted for about 8 miles, then we looped back around to the start.
The next loop started out kind of flat, then there was a downhill section leading down to the river, where we ran along the river for a while. My legs were getting tired, as by this time, I had been running for a while. This course was so far the flattest trail race I had ever run. Usually there are some ups and some downs, which give you a chance to regroup a bit and regain your strength, but this was flat our running for a really long time. Until about mile 15, I was running about an 8:30 pace.
At mile 15, we started up a hill and my pace slowed to about 10 minutes, then as the hill got steeper, it became 13 minutes, then 16 minutes. Around mile 15, I also started to have to use the restroom, but I thought that at the next aid station there would be a portapotty. There wasn’t, so I waited until the next one. Still nothing. By mile 26 or so, I was bursting. I would have just pulled over and gone in the bushes, but there was poison oak everywhere! Around mile 20, the hill stopped and the course flattened out a bit. It was rolling up and down a little, but was still pretty runnable the whole time. My legs were pretty tired by this point and I started to slow to about a 12 minute pace. The only reason I was even keeping it that fast was because I really had to use the bathroom!
I crossed the finish at 5:12 and ran straight to the portapotties, do not pass go, do not collect $200! Afterward, I went back to the race expo, where there was recovery drink, pizza, and the famous frog cupcake! The day had turned out really nice and it was really great to just sit in the sun and eat pizza. I hung out for a while and chatted with some of the other racers.
The verdict? I don’t think I would do this race again. The sheer number of people is a turn off. It feels commercial. I didn’t really like the big expo full of people trying to sell things after the race. However, the shirt is great and the food afterward was pretty good. The location is good and if you are brave, you can even go for a dip in the river afterward. Also, I feel that it would be a great race for your first 50k. Its well organized and there is not too much elevation gain and it’s almost like a road race feel in a trail-like setting.
Also, unless you are super fast, it is really hard to place in this race! I was number 11 in my age group, 203/1026 overall, and 41/422 in my gender. The number one guy finished in 3:16; the number one girl finished in 3:53.
Have you ever been to gold rush country? Do you like it when a race has a big expo? What is your favorite treat after a workout?