September 11, 2010
Went up to Big Bear to run an inaugural 50K race. Their website was pretty minimal and I had never been to Big Bear before. The race started at 7am, so I left Long Beach around 4:30 in order that I get there early enough to not get lost.
Of course, there was no traffic at that hour, though there was a little bit of a traffic jam driving around the lake because a car had a blown tire (later I learned that it was a friend of Laura’s who was trying to arrive for an early start (and missed it due to the “accident”). Since I was more than an hour early for the race, nothing was set up yet, so I just tried to sleep in the car a bit (and then ended up reading my book). After a time, another driver parked in the lot came up to my car and we started a conversation. This was her FIRST 50K. Not an auspicious start with no tables or anything to suggest an event is going on.
By about 6:30, we saw some action and headed over. There were a few business booths and they were setting up a timing rig. I had a brief conversation with the RD (who had recently gone on an Everest expedition with their 12-year son (and gotten criticism for it – I wanted to tell them that my cousins went to Base Camp when they were 5 and 7 years old).), but things were somewhat hectic. We toed the line and were off.
The first few miles were on a paved (and mostly uphill) road, but then it turned to a dirt road and got steeper. About midway up the hill, we turned left and did an out-and-back. That told me how slow I was going. After the out-and-back, we continued up to the first aid station at mile 3.5. It took me 65 minutes! (note that I am above 7000′ elevation as well)
For the most part, we were at the top elevation (or at least we were not doing a lot more climbing). The trail continued upward, but there were also some downhill sections and I covered the next 2.7 miles in 23 minutes (much better).
At this point, the 50K runners were doing a double loop. We were also starting to see some other runners (30K, 15K) sprinting by us. The markings were somewhat confusing and sometimes I wasn’t sure where to go. I mean, you can follow people, but that doesn’t mean that you are going the correct way. In another 2.4 miles, I reached another aid station, with minimal supplies, including boiling hot orange slices. I never want to eat another HOT orange slice again. It’s gross. Since the course was fairly flat here, I did 24 minutes.
Now comes a fair bit of downhill and more confusing markings. I don’t think that I ever got lost, but I stopped quite a bit making sure that I did not get lost. When I reached the next aid station, I tried to ask the volunteer if I had gone the correct way, but she was busy on her cellphone commenting that a lot of runners may have missed a turn. (OK, congratulations, but you need to talk to me and help me out, please.) This 4-mile section took me close to an hour.
The next section was climbing out of the downhill part and back to the start of the loop. I was starting to feel the elevation issues and struggled on this section. One particular thing I noticed was that there was a lot of trash along the course. Not OLD trash, but trash that runners had dumped (didn’t look accidental) 500 yards outside of the aid station. I picked up about 20 pieces of wrappers, Gu containers, etc. and put them in my pocket and under my hat (under your hat is a good spot because there is ample space and it doesn’t move around a lot. I know that seems odd, but it does work.)
When I got to the aid station at the top, I gave them the trash, and commented that in most races, people are DQ’ed for littering. They said thanks for cleaning it up, but that they were going to sweep the course and pick stuff up as a matter of course.
While that is really nice of them, people should NOT be littering. Period.
I finished this difficult section in 49 minutes for about 3.4 miles.
Just out of the aid station, I encountered someone I recognized from Charlie Alewine races and that was Yolanda Holder (who was going for a world record of most marathon (plus) races run in one year). I saw her at the Love Your Heart Marathon in February, the Independence Day Marathon in July, and the Skyline 50K in August. She is a tall black lady, so it’s getting to the point where she recognizes me and is excited, because I am someone she can look up to (literally look up to). We talked briefly. She is also doing the 50K, but she started an hour before me and is a few miles ahead of me.
Before the second loop, there is an out-and-back section from this aid station of about 3 miles. I am basically walking at this point and do that in 46 minutes.
So now I am doing that lovely loop again and find myself walking/running with some guy I have never met before, Sarkis Defterdarian, probably in his 50s. We stay together for almost the entire loop. My problem, at this point, is that I am starting to chafe between my legs. I usually don’t have this problem on 50K or shorter because either it isn’t long enough for the Vaseline to wear off, OR I don’t have to stop for a potty break (and THAT usually breaks the seal on the grease (for some reason)). I think the dry air up here has accelerated the process. I am starting to walk like John Wayne or a recent horse rider. I tell Sarkis he should go on without me. This 7-mile loop section takes me 2-1/2 hours!
When I get back to the aid station, of course I am looking for some kind of grease to deal with the chafing. The best they can offer me is one small packet of sunscreen (SMALL!!!) and that really does squat (except for feel painful when put on raw-ish skin).
Now I do the 3.0 mile loop again (basically walking) in 44 minutes and then head off for the final 3 miles, which is mostly downhill.
Because of the chafing, I am not really running all that hard, and also, sections which didn’t seem all that long earlier, were endless. I am doing my best to catch up with some other runners that I saw on the out-and-back, and I do catch one runner (the one who had the flat tire on the drive up).
Once I get onto the paved part, I am basically home-free. I sprint the rest of the way in (though my net time on the 3.0 mile section is 1:20!).
My total time is 9:01:35, one of my slowest 50Ks. I think the time limit may have technically been 9 hours, but they aren’t worried about me being off. There are still 2 other runners out there (flat tire girl is about 8 minutes back). What I don’t like is that the medal has the other 2 distances on it, so it is nothing special… AND there is NOTHING at the finish line. No food, no water, no businesses. I remember them promising me a beer, and they manage to find one Michelob Ultra. (I guess that’s like having water.) Basically, everything has been taken down except for the timing rig… and they are prepping to take that down as soon as the final runner comes in, who is Lora… the gal doing her first 50K.
I talk to some of the other runners, most notably a guy who finished nearly 2 hours faster than me, and he says that when he came in, there was also nothing at the finish line. That’s disappointing. You’d think that they’d have something special for the ultramarathoners. Nope.
While I was disappointed with this first time race, it was a nice challenge to deal with the elevation. Wow. Tough. I was glad to return to sea level… the air feels so thick and beautiful down here. Don’t know if I’ll go back to Big Bear for another race (or this one). Time will tell.