December 6, 2015
Last year, I ran part of the High Desert (Ridgecrest) 50K with Darrell Price, both from Ridgecrest and Long Beach. We became Facebook friends (as commonly happens when I run any extended portion of an ultra with someone) and communicated throughout the year. We meant to connect when he was in Long Beach, but it never really happened.
Last year, I also was able to motivate some other AREC runners to participate in their first ultras, but only Angela Holder was back for a second go-round (at Ridgecrest, at least). We had made tentative plans to share a motel room again, when I got a nice invitation from Darrell and his fiancee, Megan, “Come stay with us at our house, about 1 mile from the start.” That’s the kind of offer I definitely won’t pass up!
Angela and I drove up on Saturday afternoon, checked in, got our bibs, and “dinnered” at John’s Pizza. Of course, neither of had pizza or pasta, but opted for sandwiches and salad.
Afterwards, we drove to Darrell and Megan’s, and found out that they live about a kilometer from the start, which is just about perfect, though Angela is still concerned about the time limit and wants to start an hour early (which means, as co-carpool/conspirator, I have to drive to the start with her).
I let Angela have the bed, both because I am a gentleman, and also because the couch is probably longer and more comfortable for me. I slept OK, though the dog was not particularly happy with me in his space. For free accommodations, though, I can deal with it.
Early morning came far too quickly and I was off, chauffeuring Angela to the start. I utilized the extra hour to chat it up with people that I recognized (though most of the older folk also started early). The weather was nice and cold, and not supposed to be windy like a few years ago. I didn’t have any particular goal in mind, other than to finish, and have a good time.
My hope for Angela was for her to improve her time and in doing so, not get caught by me at Mile 10, like last year.
Race started promptly and immediately I started walking the initial uphill and then motored as best I could on the nice downhill sections. I briefly caught up with Ethan “Yak” Dietrich, an H3 friend, who always does quite well here. Our banter (which doesn’t seem to change year to year) involves him taking off when I start to walk and saying, “You’ll catch up to me,” but I never do.
A few miles in, I bid farewell to the 30K runners, who set off on their own loop, and we head over to the long (but not particularly steep) climb paralleling the telephone poles. My first 5.5 miles I covered in 55 minutes (which is 4 minutes faster than last year). No rush, just have fun.
As I turn along the “pole-run,” I start up a conversation with a nice gal named Diana Daves. She is friends with Andy Noise, who I met a few years ago at the Santa Barbara Endurance Race (maybe the 100K?). He is a coach in Bakersfield, particularly for Long Distance runners.
I always enjoy run-walking with someone in an ultra, because we can motivate one another. There are times when she takes off, because she doesn’t like to walk the uphills, and there are times when I am walking that she has to run to keep up. We don’t stay together the whole way constantly, but we keep maintaining contact and it makes the day pass quicker (or maybe we are running faster?).
I feel a lot better than last year, but that may have to do with not having hemorrhoids (which I tell you is very unpleasant). My early pace is very comparable to last year, with each section either a few minutes faster or slower (or exactly the same).
The one thing I am looking forward to is a swig of beer at the last aid station (Last Gasp) as promised to me pre-run by former RD Chris Rios.
What I don’t expect is a couple of swigs of beer at the Mile22.5 aid station (Boddington’s Ale) and also at Mile 25.7 (Guinness!).
By the time I get to Last Gasp, Diana and I kinda want to get to the end, but I prod her along, knowing I can catch up quickly (and knowing that I certainly will not be drinking a full beer anyway), especially seeing as it’s Sierra Nevada Christmas Ale (and the Sierra beers always do a number on me).
I do catch up with Diana. This is the last annoying section where you run ALL the way around Cerro Coso CC, and then do a big loop around the parking lot. I am feeling good and not cramp-y at all, and finish strong in 6:35:21, my best time of the year, by over 30 minutes, and 12 minutes better than last year.
Diana achieves a 15 minute PR!
I barely have time to go out and bring Angela in. With the hour early start, she is only 25 minutes behind me and runs an astounding 55 minute PR. (My guess is that excessive selfies didn’t slow her down!)
What a good way to end the year, with Ultra #76, which I dedicated to my entire family (the meaning of “76” had to do with having Thanksgiving dinner at the Spring Deer Restaurant in Hong Kong, a place I had first eaten at in 1976).