My friends who are also doing the race don't arrive until Monday and we agreed to check out the last section of the course (purportedly one of the most difficult) together. So, I looked for another section for my solo preview today. I chose the third section labeled Bonnevier. It was accessible right off the highway and starts about 41 miles or so into the race. With a 10am start time, that puts it squarely into the night hours for my pace. This would give me a chance to see some of it in the day and also give me some familiarity with trail that I'll be doing just as fatigue and sleepiness become part of the race experience.
The first 2-1/2 miles are on a forest service road and mostly (almost*) all climbing. Then you take a sharp left off the road and onto trail that narrows down to singletrack in the next 1/2 mile.
This is "real deal" singletrack. In fact, with the significant overgrowth in parts, the path nearly disappears altogether. I would venture that this trail sees less traffic than even the least visited trails in most of California's mountains.
The trail was quite good. Beneath the overgrowth there were a few roots, but it was not super technical. There weren't many rocks nor downed trees across the trail. This last, apparently, due to the heroic effort by some volunteers. In numerous places along the trail there was evidence of recently cut trees that would have lain cross the trail. The area is quite ripe with downed trees.
The other thing that made the trail pretty mellow was the ease of navigation. The GPX track I downloaded (and Harry edited) was excellent, but almost completely unnecessary. The course was already marked and the markings were beyond superb. Almost excessive, even. If this section is any indication, if I don't see a ribbon for more than 2 minutes, I should turn around and go back.
Overall, the climb was not especially steep, accumulating just under 2000ft in the first 4-1/2 miles before dropping down a bit and climbing another 1200ft before I turned around after about 10 miles. Of course, that's on fresh legs in the middle of the day. We'll see what story those legs tell in the middle of the night after 40+ miles that include two of the biggest climbs on the course.
The views from up top were quite wonderful. However, the vast majority of the miles I did were completely contained within a thick forest with little in the way of grand vistas. I guess that's appropriate for a section that I'll be starting at night.
Overall, I took it pretty easy, treating it more as a hike than a run. Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty much incapable of not running downhill, but even on the downhills I kept it constrained and conservative. Keeping things easy a week before the race was obviously part of it. However, I was also running solo and I was the only person on the trail. In fact, after leaving the road, I didn't see another single human being in the 5 hours I was out there. Amazing to be just 10 miles from the road and feel completely isolated.