Way Too Cool’s one hot ticket

Local season opener draws hundreds of runners of all ages, abilities
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Way Too Cool 50-kilometer endurance run doesn’t have the history of the Western States 100 or the prestige of the American River 50. But in terms of popularity, it’s tough to beat. New race directory Julie Fingar, who took over for longtime Way Too Cool organizer Greg Soderlund, had to cut off registration after the 550-person limit was reached just eight minutes after it started late last year. Fingar has added a few new twists for Saturday’s race, which begins at 8 a.m. behind the Cool Fire Station — the same site as Sunday’s wildly popular Cool Mountain Bike Race. The attraction of the race has always been the scenic course, the talented field and the chance to get an early gauge on the endurance season. “It’s in March, so that gives people enough time to use January and February to get their base miles in,” said Fingar, a five-time Western States finisher who lives in Rocklin. “People like to see where everybody’s at this time of year. People see where contenders might be for Western States, AR or Miwok. — see who the big guns are.” In reality, the 50K course (just over 31 miles) is a mere tease for the top competitors at Western States. But that doesn’t keep some of the top names in the sport from showing up year after year. “You have front-runners, middle-of-the-pack runners and your weekend warriors all in the same race, all having the same experience together,” Fingar said. “You don’t get that broad of a spectrum at most 50Ks. It’s also a great first-time ultra event.” Fingar said more than 20 percent of the field at this year’s Way Too Cool are first-time ultrarunners. Auburn’s Bill Finkbeiner is not one of those. He’s been heading to Cool each March since the race’s inception, when it was called the Cool Canyon Crawl. Finkbeiner is aiming for his 20th finish on Saturday, as are Denis Zilaff, Gloria Takagishi, Janet Pucci and Dennis Scott. Fingar said she’s hoping to make the race more festive this year. There will be a DJ playing music at the Highway 49 crossing, more signage along the course, food from Cool Deli and other prizes and activities. “Coming in as the new director, I wanted to kind of put my stamp on it,” said Fingar, who completed the Rocky Racoon 100-miler in Huntsville, Texas last month. “I think that being the eyes and ears out there, being on the trail with different types of people, you get a glimpse of what people’s expectations are for a race. We’re putting together a big spectacle and adding a lot in the fun department.”