South Tahoe’s Ryan Weibel snags victory at Castle Peak 100k
Some 114 trail runners braved the start line of the Castle Peak 100k on Saturday, Aug. 27. Only 79 ultimately crossed the finish line at Donner Memorial State Park after traversing 62 miles and climbing over 14,000 feet in the mountains surrounding Truckee.
The Castle Peak 100k is in its second year and has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging of its distance in the country. The race was created and is produced by a local non-profit running club, the Donner Party Mountain Runners.
Ryan Weibel, 43, of South Lake Tahoe, finished first overall in 11 hours, 15 minutes, 38 seconds, improving on his second-place finish last year. He was followed by Erik Schultz, 27, of Reno, in 12:16:36 and Ron Gutierrez, 49, of San Francisco, in 12:58:17.
In the women’s race, Suzanna Bon, 52, of Sonoma, prevailed with a time of 14:01:13. Elizabeth Simpson, 24, of Boulder Creek, finished second in 14:07:00, and Katie Burns, 31, of Bass Lake, rounded out the podium with a time of 14:55:52.
Just finishing the brutal course is a huge accomplishment. Other local finishers included: Geoff Quine, ninth overall; Kane Cullimore, 14th overall; Betsy Nye, seventh woman; Kate Levine, 18th woman.
‘I LOVE THIS COURSE’
The 2016 version of the race was more challenging than the original, as several steeper trails were incorporated into the course. Runners were treated to a tour of the Warren Lake Trail before summiting Basin Peak and then running the ridge to summit Castle Peak itself.
Although descending Castle Peak demands great focus and footing, traversing the back side of the Palisades in Sugar Bowl is the most technical and adrenaline-producing segment of the course.
“I was stoked with the (course) changes. I liked to climb, so the increase in elevation worked for me,” reported winner Weibel. “And the Warren Lake section is stunning. I kept having to stop to take in the views. I love this course; it’s beautiful, technical and lots of (vertical climbing) … Warren Lake is amazing, and the Palisades are so fun.”
“I didn’t have much of a low point,” continued Weibel of his 62-mile race. “I got to where I just wanted to take it easy and walk. I’d think of what Amber (my wife) would say … and if could run then I should get to it.”
Weibel’s wife, Amber, who volunteered at the race all day, is also an accomplished ultrarunner, recently posting the women’s fastest known time (unsupported) on the John Muir Trail of 4 days, 1 hour and 13 minutes.
‘CRAZY DIFFICULT RACE’
Women’s race winner Bon agreed that the course is spectacular.
“I was new to these trails and was blown away by the beauty of the area and vast views from the high points,” she said. “Then there were the Palisades; a whole new level. I’ve never been through anything like that in a race!”
Bon suffered stomach issues in the last 20 miles of the race, but pushed through to hold her lead. She was very appreciative of the “smiling, supportive volunteers.”
“They were so kind, even in my weakest, whiney moments,” Bon said.
An army of volunteers make the race a special experience for runners. For example, volunteers hiked 35 gallons of water and other aid station supplies over two and a half miles into the Devil’s Oven location. Another team prepared finish-line dinner for all the runners and volunteers. And a course-marking team flagged the 62-mile route for racers to follow.
It’s a “logistically crazy difficult race to put on and you nailed it once again,” wrote volunteer George Ruiz, who knows about putting on a great race, as he is race director of the neighboring Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs.
The logistics are complicated, especially because the course traverses many public and private lands, including the Tahoe National Forest, Donner Memorial State Park, Truckee Donner Land Trust (Donner Lake Rim Trail and Royal Gorge), Tahoe Donner Association, Sugar Bowl Resort and Cold Stream Adventures. These private land partners generously donate their resources to make the race possible.