It’s all downhill (figuratively) after you enter race
The toughest part of the Way Too Cool 50K might not be the distance, the two steep hills or the early season test of ultrarunning fitness.
More likely, it’s simply getting into the race.
The 2009 run, which begins Saturday at 8 a.m. in Cool, filled its 450 available spots in the race for 550 runners in 8 minutes, 54 seconds during online registration.
That’s faster than the 11:18 it took to fill the 2008 field and only slightly slower than the 7:33 taken to complete the 2007 field.
“It leaves hundreds of people out in the cold,” said Lee McKinley, a 47-year-old sales manager from Granite Bay who landed a spot in this year’s race.
“If you go to any fun run, one of the questions is, ‘Did you get into Cool?’ ”
What makes the race so popular?
Those who annually gather at the Cool Fire Station for the start cite a variety of reasons they’re drawn to the run:
• The scenic course, which goes through the American River Canyon and includes part of the Western States Trail, features single-track sections that add to the camaraderie and allows the rest of the field to see the front-runners coming back at them.
• The 31-mile distance and March date provide a perfect way to begin the ultrarunning season and tune up for longer events like the American River 50 (April 4) and the Western States Endurance Run (June 27-28).
• A low-key feel provides a great setting for first-time ultrarunners to move up from the marathon.
• The race’s reputation attracts a quality field, allowing participants to rub elbows with some of the sport’s top names.
“It’s my favorite race,” said Sacramento attorney Denis Zilaff, 55, who hopes to complete his 20th Cool race Saturday.
“I love Cool. … I just like the fact it’s still a small race. You usually get a lot of old-time ultrarunners out there.
“It’s a beautiful course. … It’s all on terrific trails. You get into these conga lines, 8-15 people about the same speed. You can (spend) half an hour talking and having a good time.”
McKinley said he enjoys seeing top runners in the race; this year’s field includes 2007 McKenzie River Trail Run winner Dan Olmstead, 2006 Cool champion Phil Kochik, 2007 Cool women’s winner Beverley Anderson-Abbs and 2008 Timberline Trail Marathon women’s champion Joelle Vaught.
“You get to see the lead pack going in the other direction,” McKinley said. “Because there are so many ultra runs now, I don’t see any one race with the exception of Western States that drives so many big names to it.”
McKinley also looks forward to volunteers, spectators and early finishers sitting in lawn chairs along the last half-mile of the course to root runners home.
“The cheering for that half-mile … that’s a great motivator,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Jenny Capel, a 36-year-old physical therapist from Reno, said the race is a good indicator of your fitness level.
“It can let you know,” she said with a laugh. “There’s always a good field of runners.”
Ultimately, the race tests everyone. With a 96 percent completion rate the past three years, the chance for fulfillment is high.
“I’m not fast,” said Gloria Takagishi, a 63-year-old state worker from Sacramento.
“My goal is to finish. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
And that’s a Cool feeling.