I mean, yeh, it's 120 miles long, and yeh, it has 28,454 feet of climbing, but I really didn't think it was that hard, nor that scenic.
I heard afterward that in previous years the race may not been very well organized. I think all those kinks have been worked out. Pre-race meetings were simple and on-schedule, and if you read the instructions, most things were perfectly clear (except for where exactly camping was) and for whatever wasn't, the race director promptly replied to questions via e-mail. Aid stations were well-stocked and almost all volunteers new exactly what terrain was coming up and how far it was to the next station (in both km and miles).
The race basically has four huge climbs and descents, each taking 20-25 miles, plus one awful flat section of equal distance. (Read page 5 here or look at the elevation profile here.) The first climb and descent took me above treeline to the gorgeous views that I was expecting. Only you weren't above treeline for very long at all.
|Reward for the first climb|
Then I did that same basic thing (climb and drop) again, only with fewer rewards at the top. At the bottom, we crossed a river. It had a rope across it, but it didn't help (not taut enough) and wasn't necessary. We ran along the highway for a bit to a big aid station at Bonnevier at mile 41, and I thought it was pretty great that Canada spelled my name correctly.
|You spell it with one "t," eh?|
I perked up very briefly after changing shoes and socks at mile 78, but there were a few miles of highway shoulder, a few miles of decent river trail, and then a seemingly endless section of flat/rolling/circuitous overgrown mosquito-filled boringness that was awful and felt like it took me most of the second day. This section from mile 78 to mile 99 was truly unenjoyable for me. There were some really annoying PUDs in this section, but it should have been runnable, and you'd have to run this part if you wanted a good time, or to really push yourself, but I just disliked the trail so much I had no motivation to push myself to meet my 36 hour goal. I just listened to my music and trudged on through. The runners from the shorter races held concurrently passed me left and right, but thankfully there weren't that many of them.
Finally at mile 99 we started our last huge climb. After a few miles the mosquitoes went away, and we were rewarded with the excellent views that I had expected all along, but I was so annoyed by mile 99 that I put my camera in my drop bag there. People told me this section was full of "false summits" but that is not accurate. It's a ridge walk. A ridge walk with lots of ups and downs, but a great ridge walk. This is what I'd try and make the whole race like if it were up to me.
The interesting part of this climb was that I was hallucinating a little bit. Nothing major, meaning no lizard people or anything, but I did momentarily think that I saw houses and people when it was just trees and flowers. I think everyone does that occasionally (right?) I was just doing it a lot. And instead of my mind just making the straight line of a tree trunk into something sensible like a ranger cabin that doesn't actually exist, I may have seen a leprechaun jump behind a tree. Or maybe it was just a guy in a three piece suit and a bowler hat. I can't be sure.
It got dark when I was on this rolling section, and then I spent an hour or two dropping on a pretty nice grade to the finish. I wish I'd had more energy to bomb this section as is my wont, but I was pretty worn out, so I don't think I got much faster than 4mph. I finished a few minutes before 11pm, grabbed my finish line drop bag with my sleeping bag, rolled it out under a tree, and got a decent night's sleep.
|The next morning|
|PCT northern terminus, not really|
|The good example gun show|