June 2, 2018
Back in 2012, I ran a race in Bishop as a replacement ultra when I failed to finish the Miwok 100K earlier that month. Fortunately, Martin Santos and Rafael Covarrubias were going up and we made a camping trip (of sorts) of it. That year, I had planned on doing the 100K but struggled making cutoffs the whole way and dropped down to the 50 miler.
In 2013, I returned and simply did the 50M, but in 2014, I made a concerted effort to complete the 100K, and once again, I ended up doing the 50 miler. By the way, I definitely know that completing a 50 miler is nothing to scoff at.
After 2014, there were some issues with the race continuing. Inside Trail Racing which took over the event in 2014, had problems with permitting, and so, the race disappeared, with occasional promises to return, but usually leading to naught.
When I saw that it would return in 2018, I was cautiously optimistic, because I longed to try the 100K once more, and even contacted the new RD a number of times because I didn’t want to put down money for a race that might not happen. He assured me that it was happening.
I tried (in vain) to get my same compadres from Wild Wild West to join me once again. Up until a few days before, Alan was still thinking it might be a possibility, but he wasn’t able to dump all his young kids on his wife for another long weekend away. I can’t remember at this point if Darrell running was a possibility or not, but it ended up being not.
So, I drove up on my own somewhat early on Friday. It’s about 5 hours’ drive, fairly non-descript, and I got into Bishop a little before check-in (in town) started. Since I had time to kill, I chatted it up with the check-in ladies, including Jolie who had recently moved to Bishop (and I think was running the 50K). I also chatted with some of the people checking in (most were running shorter distances than me) and I had a nice talk with John Williams (74, not the composer) who was doing the 50K.
There was an informal talk over at the start/finish, so eventually I headed over there, with the hope of just parking in the dirt lot, hanging out (maybe helping), and then sleeping in my car. I saw several people that I knew and also met various people trying out their first ultramarathon (including Eleanor from the Bay Area – my age, too).
I chatted quite a bit with the gal doing check-in named Jenny. We talked extensively about the Wild Wild West race, which both of us, and have some similar issues with – like funny information on the website, confusing pre-race talk, and zilch at the finish line, food-wise (yep, even after running 50 miles!). She said she was considering maybe working her in to maybe taking over as RD (or providing additional assistance with eventual take-over in the future as the current RD has been at it for 30+ years).
Jenny was only supposed to do check-in until a certain hour and she had other plans, so I said that I would do it until the closing time (and maybe a bit past it since I would still be here), and a few more people showed up at the last minute.
I ended up not being totally alone in the parking lot. My good friend, Linda Dewees and her husband were in their camper, so we said we’d watch out for one another. It wasn’t the best night. I did my usual thing of lying in the back seat behind the driver seat and putting my feet over the reclined front passenger seat (for maximum leg room).
The nice thing is a bathroom nearby and the wake-up call is when people start driving in and parking for their races.
It was moderately chilly when we started and headed out on the paved road, up by the campground and through, through the gate onto the dirt road and up and up and up. I hardly stopped at the first aid station (1.5 miles), because I know I’ll be up against cutoffs all day.
I won’t bore you with blow-by-blow details of the course (you can re-read my other three posts for that information, but for me, the real beginning of the race is when you get up to McGee. It’s when you finally leave the desert-y fire roads behind and get into the High Sierra and the 8000′ elevation that you don’t descend from until Mile 43.
McGee is also where the 50K turns around and where you (delicately) cross a raging creek on a wood board and then head up (and down) an extremely rocky road. At the bottom is a marshy, almost muddy road, and then a gentle ascent up to Edison Aid Station.
I had been around the same folk throughout this section (mostly older ladies since that’s who I am similar in speed to), and when we left Edison for the first loop up to the Overlook (the highest point at about 9300′), I ended up striking up a conversation with one of these ladies.
Barbara Ashe, 69, from Lotus, California, up by Placerville, by Cool. We had been in a number of races together (and also done a hell of a lot more than I have). Her pace was slightly faster than my brisk walking pace, so it gave us the ability to mostly stay together on and off all day.
From the top of the Overlook, it’s a steady downhill back to Edison and some of my best pace (16 minutes per mile!), and then heading towards Bishop Creek Lodge for the turnaround. Missing from the course this year was the giant iron pipe climb to the main road. There was still a steep climb but I missed the familiarity of the hot corrugated pipe.
As I headed up towards the high point here, I came across David Binder coming back from the turnaround (like 10 miles ahead of me at this point!). I had also seen Rafael earlier, but MUCH earlier and I think he dropped down to the 20 mile fun run. (Bummer.) I had also heard that legendary Ann Trason was walking the 50K and Dean Karnazes was somewhere ahead in the 100K. (We probably passed each other but I didn’t notice him.)
I was mostly by myself in this section (Barbara a bit ahead), but finally got to Intake 2 (first pass) in 8:04. Basically, I just did an 8-hour marathon (and almost another marathon to go).
I gutted out the next section, lots of up and down, and some paved (but mostly of the gritty paved variety), AND a single-track paralleling the road, and I was having to duck and also not lose my balance through this section.
At the Bishop Creek Lodge, I refilled my water bottles, grabbed some fresh fruit (mostly all I ate on course), and started to head out. One volunteer noted that I was less than 90 seconds in and out (impressed because it was so fast). I saw my friend Chris Harrison (mostly only see her running aid stations not running) lazing away in a chair. I cajoled her to join me, to keep moving, no sitting!
About 2 minutes out, she caught me and ended up passing me. At least I got her moving! There are cutoffs, you know.
Back to by myself for most of the trek back to Edison. When we get there, they are starting to pack up. Here’s the interesting dichotomy of this race: We have 15 hours to make the cutoff at Mile 48.5, and then we have 4 hours for the final 1.5 miles. This is because the cutoffs for 50 miles and 100K are the same, but the interim cutoffs are not applied equally for the 50 milers, so it is a little stressful.
Same situation at McGee. Barbara, Chris, and I all leave together. Barbara kicks ass on the downhills and leaves us in the dust. Chris and I are back and forth. Down to Buttermilk (packing up).
From Bishop Creek Lodge to this point, we have been traversing the course in reverse (excluding a return trip to the Overlook), but at this point, we turn off and are on a nice wide fire road with few pointy rocks piercing our feet. I notice that there is a dune buggy following us but never seems to want to pass. It’s our escort (sweep of a sort) and stays far enough back to not stir up dust.
At the Highway 168 Aid station, I know that we’re gonna be good to go, because we are at 14:15 and it’s only 2 miles to the 15 hour cutoff. Relatively certain I can do 2 miles in 45 minutes (and they won’t pull us at this point anyway).
I don’t really spend much time at the last aid station but am gutting it out to the end. Chris Harrison, too, has left me in the dust, but I end up slogging in most of it with Raffaele Gustamacchia (her last name is longer than my entire name) through the sandy waste, through the gate, through the campground, and back to the start/finish. We finish within 15 seconds of each other (hmm… similar to 2014 but no hard feelings that I came in first).
Got a little food at the finish, chatted with a teenage girl volunteer (who kept me away from the black widow spider under the table), celebrated a couple of 100K finishers (who came in one to three hours after us), and then retired to my car to get some rest before my drive back tomorrow.
Wondered how well Dave Binder did, and it turned out that he dropped out (at his pace I could have walked in the last 15 miles and finished in about 12 hours).
Didn’t sleep very well and the drive back sucked, but you know what? I love the terrain here and the challenge and if the date works out, I will be back for a fifth time in 2019.