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[pct-l] Dump truck crashes onto trail

This story of a dump truck crashing onto the PCT struck me as worth posting 
to this list


Date:    Thu, 20 Dec 2001 13:06:46 -0800
From:    Shawn McDonald
Subject: strange happenings at ultras

Hi all:

Thanks to Paul for a great report on the San Diego 100 mile trail
race, which he organized superbly.  One thing he left out of the
report was that in addition to the crash on icy roads that Jay
Grobeson had in trying to reach Lake Morena for the start of
the race, there was also a crash of a dump truck about an hour
after the start of the race, and the vehicle ended up landing just
a short ways off the trail, at about the 50 mile point. What
happened apparently is that the dump truck was going across
a concrete bridge (under which the Pacific Crest Trail crosses)
when it spun out of control and the driver tried to regain control,
but the truck flipped over the side of the bridge, and broke
through the wooden (!) barriers on the side of the bridge. The
vehicle came to rest on the sandy creek bottom (dry now as we
have not had much rain so far this fall/winter), about 15 feet
below the bridge level.  This occured about an hour before I
drove by on my way to the start/finish to check in as a volunteer.
There were still cops there slowing down traffic when I
drove by at just after 8 a.m.  The roads were still icy since
it had rained the evening before, and then turned colder, with
temps dropping into the high 20's F.  When I left at 2 p.m. after
my aid station shift at Hwy 94, there were still several tow
trucks on/around the bridge trying to get the dump truck out
of the sand and onto solid ground.  I don't know if they managed
to extricate the dump truck, but if not, it must have made an
interesting trail marker (!) and navigation point for the 2nd half
of the run.  How many times do you get to run an ultra where
there is such an unusual man-made object in or near your path ?

I guess this occurance should not be that surprising.  Strange
events are not that rare for the Pacific Crest Trail 50 miler in
recent years.  In 1996, when I ran the 50km version, the 50 miler
runners were caught up in a thunderstorm in the upper mountainous
portion of the course, and suffered through some rough minutes of
being pelted with hail and slogging along trails with 6 inches of
water running down them.  We folks who ran the 50k were happy
to be watching the storm roll over the mountain ridge while
sitting at the finish line area (about 10 miles away as the crow
flies), enjoying a nice picnic lunch and watching the lightning flash !
The 1997 race lacked a strange event. It was the day though that local
ultrarunners Patrik Gunnarsson and Jennifer Janis met, and
they got married last August on the evening before the PCT race
at a campground near the upper sections of the course.

Then in 1998 we had cold wet weather for the race, with near freezing
temps,  heavy rain, and driving 50 miles/hour winds on the upper
sections of the course. Strangely, at the start of the race, conditions
were cool (45F), calm, and just a little mist was falling, giving
little hint to what lay ahead. Later in the day, after we had instituted

a cutoff at mile 30 such that all runners who continued past
that point would finish before sunset, the rain turned to snow and
3 inches of snow fell on the upper portions of the race route.
Christmas came about 5 weeks early that year in the mountains,
as the race was held that year the 2nd weekend in November.

For the 1999 race, changed to an August date to avoid freezing both
runners and volunteers, we had hot conditions, and a brush fire raged
near the upper sections  of the course, and caused us to revise the race

route to use the lower sections of the route, to avoid the fire. The
started about an hour into the race, and within an hour, a BIG
cloud of smoke billowed above the highest mountain ridges. By
early  afternoon that day, the fire neared within 2 miles of our upper
aid station, and that station was evacuated and runners were turned
around by sending aid station volunteer Jeff Hines running down
the trail back towards the previous aid station to "sweep" up
the runners.  Jeff was co-winner of the 100 mile race last weekend.

Then last August at the PCT race, we had a runner get a ride out of
an early aid station after dropping out of the race, but there was
confusion as to the names of the 2 runners who dropped at the same
time, and we spent a couple of hours thinking a runner was lost
off trail.  Things even progressed to the stage of the local forest
service rangers starting a search for the "lost" runner, and a
forest service helicopter flew over and near a several mile long
section of the course looking for a runner off the trail. A while
later one of the finishers of the race who had been running near
the lost runner, was able to say for sure that the lost runner had
dropped at the said aid station. The "lost" runner was probably
home by then enjoying a cold shower and nap !

Well, if you want to see some strange happenings, be sure to
come out and run the PCT 50 mile race in 2002.  The race date
has been changed to late June, in an attempt to have the race with
mild/warm temperatures, and little chance of a flood, forest
fire, or thunderstorm. This year's running with be the 24th
annual, so it is one of the oldest ultras in California.

Anyone got any stories to share about strange happenings
during ultras ? Either as a race director, participant, volunteer,
or crew ?

Shawn McDonald
San Diego

ps.  In the early years of the PCT 50, the race was held in the
winter (Feb. mostly) and a number of years was run either
with several inches of snow on the upper sections of the route,
or with snow falling from the sky. It show that ultrarunners are
hearty and have a short memory !


 From the Ultra List:
Brick Robbins                       mailto:brick@fastpack.com