Way Too Cool: The Season Opener

AJW runs the 2014 Way Too Cool 50k.

By on March 14, 2014 | Comments

AJWs Taproom“The good news about Way Too Cool is that you find out what kind of shape you’re in. And the bad news is… that you find out what kind of shape you’re in.” – Tim Twietmeyer

Back in the day, before competitive ultramarathon running became a year-round endeavor, the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, California was considered by many to be the ‘season opener’ for Northern California ultrarunning. This great little race, which celebrated it’s 25th anniversary last weekend, has historically provided local and regional runners a chance to shake off their winter rust and get an idea of their fitness going into the summer racing season.

Thanks to the Patagonia Trail Running launch of the #SufferBetter campaign, I had the opportunity to make a quick trip out west last weekend to run my eighth Cool. I had not been there in a few years and was looking forward to catching up with old friends, checking out the new course, and, alas, getting a gauge on my fitness in this early season. While the weather was quite pretty, my run was not.

Gone are the days when I flirted with four hours at this race as this year I arrived at Goat Hill, mile 26, a few minutes short of four hours only to be greeted by the ever-enthusiastic Tim Twietmeyer who joyfully told me I was a few spaces away from the top 100. Needless to say, it only went downhill from there as the inevitable early-season crampfest set in and I settled into my fate.

All that said, it was great to get out on the Western States Trail in the spring and to feel the vibe that has become so much a part of me over the years. I know not everyone understands or embraces the allure of the Western States Trail but for those of who you do, you certainly know what I am talking about.

Last weekend I had about 25 minutes of bliss that will carry me through the next three months of hard, laborious training. After completing the first eight-mile loop of the race and returning to the start/finish area, the course crosses the Cool Meadow and intersects with the Western States course, going in the race direction, at the mile 94.5 point. From here the trail makes a long, gradual descent to No Hands Bridge which is one of the iconic parts of the course. This year at Cool in this section, I found myself completely absorbed in the moment and, I must admit, I felt the magic. Again, I know there are many who may not understand or even care what I am talking about, but my hope for you is this:

Find a trail, any trail, in a place that gives you joy. Run it often. Embrace it, become one with it. Perhaps it is a place on a race course like this one or perhaps it is just an awesome trail out your backyard. Whatever and wherever it is, find joy and hope in the simple act of running that trail. I honestly wish everyone could feel the euphoria I felt in those 25 minutes last weekend. I have to believe that if everyone could do that, the world would be a better place.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

During the Way Too Cool post-race party, Big Johnny Burton gave me a recommendation I couldn’t resist, a sweet DIPA from Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado. So, when I got home I tracked down a bottle and it was good. Hercules Double IPA is a 10% ABV beer in the classic, Colorado style that has a resiny, hoppy front and a smooth finish. Thanks Johnny!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you run your season opener yet? If so, how’d it go?
  • Do you have that piece of trail like AJW describes, your happy place? Where is it and what is it like?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.