Category Archives: 50K

Shadow of the Giants 50K (29.2M) – 2017

June 3, 2017

Decided to travel up for a third year and run Shadow of the Giants 50K again because it is a nice drive, nice run, and beautiful terrain.  Stephanie Harris accompanied me once again and this time, we brought a parks pass with us so we didn’t have to pay the fee to drive around Yosemite Park (Jessica Centeno was to come with us but got sick at the last moment, but thanks for the pass (and dinner!).).

We did much of what we did last year, which was look at Half Dome (more crowded), and go view Bridalveil Falls (really crowded, but we did get a parking spot where all the wheels of my car were submerged).  We couldn’t even really go up to the Falls because there was so much water coming down.

Instead, we ended up hiking a bit away from the falls, hoping to get a better view.  We kept saying, “We’ll go to the Capitan Bridge, but we never found a Capitan Bridge.”  (Hmm…)

We texted briefly with Laura and Chuck.  Thought they might join us in the park but they may have left too late to do so (and I think, planned to go afterwards).

When we got back to the Outdoor School (the staging area for the race and where we spend the night), Laura and Chuck were just arriving.  We staked out a claim in one of the cabins (don’t see the Japanese folks this year, so maybe no drama) and then headed over to the mess hall for dinner.

I had not paid for dinner but ended up with Jessica C’s dinner ticket.  The cook made two huge lasagnas (one vegetarian, one meat) and both were really good, plus some salad (which I ate a ton of).

They were showing footage of Western States stuff on the screen (something about the guy that DNF’ed (while leading at Mile 99.9) and then coming back and completing the race 10 years later with his son watching.  Then Baz talked about the race and the new race director talked about the course. Nothing special different.

At the dinner, we also saw Megan Stone and Darrell Price (from Ridgecrest).  They are running tomorrow but not staying here (nearby, though).  Tomorrow will be Megan’s first ultramarathon, so we talk the usual strategy (walk hills, drink plenty, etc.).

We go to bed relatively early (say, 9pm) and an older (55) Asian lady in our cabin is talking about starting early with Bill Dickey.  There is an early start at 6am, but they are planning to go out at 5am.  Even though Stephanie would probably be fine starting out with everyone else, it IS easier not to be at the back from the get-go and all the way to the finish.  I guess I’ll find out when they leave whether she went early or EXTRA-early!

I sleep OK, at least not stressfully and dreaming of being punched by some Japanese jerk (like last year).  I am able to roll out of bed and utilize the toilet without having to wait.  When I get back into the room, someone’s alarm is going off (for over 20 minutes).  When Laura gets back from the bathroom, we realize it’s her alarm (what alarm continues to go off for 20 minutes?!?).

We go and hang out in the mess hall awaiting the start.  I see several familiar faces – the aforementioned Megan and Darrell, Rob McNair (Legacy of this race and my buddy from HB), Tricia Keane (LAH3), and Karin Usko (Ridgecrest).  It is pretty seldom now that I go to a race without recognizing at least one person (or someone recognizing me).

Looks like it is going to be a hot day!  I am not concentrating on improving my time (by 1 second last year) but just finishing and not falling and breaking another limb.

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Race starts out and we immediately start climbing the paved road and then onto the dirt road.  Everyone passes me (pretty much) except those like me who are walking.  Running uphill is  not the answer (especially if you’ve started out at 5,000 feet already!), people!

At the top of the hill, the 20K folks veer away (pretty much everyone around me) and we start running downhill to the turnaround, where we are sometimes greeted by Baz.  I finish this 3.3M section in 49:51 (or around 15 minutes per mile).  For an added stat, I am wearing my Garmin and after the fact, it tells me what my fastest per mile pace was on any part of this section (and it says I was doing 5:24/mile at one point – maybe for a nanosecond!).

At the turnaround, we.. turn around and head back up the hill, so I am walking until I get to the top.  I have forgotten how this section goes.  Feel like you get to the top of the original hill and then it flattens out, but really, it continues climbing, and there are endless turns to the aid station (which I have marked as 3 miles away, but it is really 4.6, which is somewhat aggravating).

Because there is so much uphill, I average 15:50 per mile (8:50 fastest pace for another millisecond).

Now it does flatten out and there is a lengthy downhill section, both on paved surface and on somewhat technical surface.  At the bottom of the hill is a campground, and a water crossing.  In the past two years (of drought), this has been a mild crossing, almost possible to get across without getting your shoes wet, but this year it is considerably deeper.

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I arrive about the same time as Laura so we hold hands as we go across (more balance for her as it is waist-deep on her).  It’s super COLD!  At the other side, we are greeted by Baz, who has his usual colorful language (both by mouth and by signage) – something about ladies can cool off if they remove clothing.  His buddy, at the aid station sees me and remembers my high five with Baz at his Bluejay Campground run a few years back.

I spy the back of a truck bed and suggest that Baz can stand on that if he wants to do another high five with me.  (He scoffs at me and lovingly calls me a love-making term.)  This is a short 2 mile section which takes around 30 minutes.

Now we ascend out of the area, the uphill serving as a method of shoe draining.  Laura and I are briefly together, but I forge ahead with the knowledge that she will catch up to me at any time.

At the top of the hill, you head back down for a time, and then turn right onto a fire road and climb until you get to the aid station – a long four miles (again around 15/mile).

Here it is where we turn onto the single-track and into the woods.  I keep going back and forth with a kid in odd running clothing.  It is the sort of back and forth where I catch up and then he takes off.

Eventually, we have some conversation and he is 18 years old and when his mom decided to do this race, he and his siblings wanted to run as well (but only he was allowed to go).  Think this is his first race ever.  And his name is Zenyn, so of course, the two weirdly named guys get along.

It’s nice because neither of us is changing our own pace in order to run with the other; we just catch up, slow down, whatever is needed for our own run, and if we are together, we have a nice talk.

This section is the part where I do have to watch my step particularly, because in the past (and this year is no exception), it is technical and covered with small twigs, low-hanging branches, and varying up- and down-hill sections.

When I enter the soft dirt of the fire road, and pass by a number of parked cars and campers, I know that I am getting close to the next aid station.  This is the longest section, with 5.6 miles between aid.

I catch up to a female runner, Debbie Sexton.  She recognizes me from the Sunmart 50M. (See?)  She is also FB friends with my buddies from Sunmart (Dave, Jerry, and Gary).  We walk/run together for a while, almost until we get to the Shadow of the Giants Aid Station (another ~15 minute/mile section).

This the aid station where you can leave your stuff behind for a mile, if you want, because it is only 1.1 miles for the Shadow of the Giants loop.

I kind of hate this section because it has a lot of up and down, usually a bunch of tourists and seems to take forever, and sure enough, I do have to stop twice for tourists for photos (of the real sequoias, not me).

When I get back (16:49 per mile, see?), the aid station is totally out of water.  To rehydrate in this hot weather, at least I have some pieces of watermelon to keep me sane.  Megan is just coming into the aid station for the first time as I am leaving.

Now I exit out of this section and begin the long slow ascent back to the aid station we encountered before the turn-off into the single-track.  I catch up to an elegant black lady in a pink LASAA shirt named Egzine, but she later passes me when the angle is more to her liking.

Again, this section seems endless (4.6 miles, mostly uphill) but when I hear Russian-sounding music in the distance, I feel like I must be almost there, and I’ve maintained a 15:52/mile pace (pretty consistent on the 14-17/mile pace I have to say).

Now all that remains is 3.6 miles to the finish, with my favorite section (not just because it is at the end) which is single-track, lots of turns, climbing over logs, slipping on pine needles, and crossing a bridge.  It is also mostly downhill and most of the previous finishers will be there to applaud me in when I arrive.

Zenyn and Egzine beat me by two minutes (which is not much in the scheme of things), and I finish in 7:19:55 (about 40 minutes slower than last year), but in running downhill in the last section, I do get my total average time under 15:00/mile (14:57/mile).

Megan comes in about 5 minutes later, followed by Laura 30 minutes later.  Laura had some difficulty because there was no water at the Shadow aid station.  She ended up drinking water from a stream flowing across the road (and by stream, I mean, lightly flowing puddles). Wow, bad.

We wait basically until the last finisher comes across and that is Zenyn’s mom, 90 minutes after me.

I am pretty happy with my time given that I ran at almost identical pace to what I did one month ago at Wild Wild West 50K.  I did run 12 ultras in 12 months, but it does take its toll.

My next race should be Skyline 50K in August (but I am planning to volunteer at Harding Hustle next month).

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Wild Wild West 50K – 2017

May 6, 2017

About a week before the race, I got an offer for some (paid) race work.  Somewhat disappointed to turn it down, but excited to run the Wild Wild West race, finally, after having to skip it after breaking my elbow a month prior to this race last year.

I got a clarification on the race work and it turned out that it was going to be the following day, in Santa Clarita, which is somewhat on the way home from WWW.  It was going to be a long weekend.

It worked out for the best, then, that I hadn’t convinced anyone to carpool with me, since I don’t think they would be too keen on sleeping in my car before the race and in a Santa Clarita Mall parking lot.

This race has been going on for some time (this year is the 39th running) and yet, it still felt very fly-by-night to me.  There is little posted on their website about locations of aid stations, intermediate cutoffs, though there is a map.  They also cut off registration 4 days before the race.  I could understand wanting to order the right amount of shirts, but on the other hand, you could tell late registrations that there’s no guarantee of a medal or a t-shirt if you register after a certain date.

I called the Chamber of Commerce (who puts on the race) to try and get more details about the race before I came up.  They weren’t very helpful at all and seemed almost mad that I wanted more details.  The most I got was that a couple of the stream crossings would probably be 4-5 FEET deep because of snowmelt.  I assured them that a 5 foot water crossing would hardly concern me (though other might drown).

I tried to time my drive up on Friday so that I would arrive around the time that bibs were available (and also not hit excessive LA traffic), so I did get in around 4pm (an hour early) and it was pretty hot in Lone Pine, and I kept periodically opening the car door to let some cool air in as I napped for about an hour.

At 5pm, I went inside and picked up my bib and shirt.  Shirt was nothing to write home about, white (maybe technical, not sure).  Maybe you do an event for nearly 40 years, you don’t mess with what works for you.

I opted for their pasta feed, which involved some middle schoolers serving us some spaghetti and salad.  I chatted with various people that I may have met previously, including Karin Usko (from Ridgecrest, maker of Happy Gaiters), the Central American-slash-German gal.

I also saw that David Binder was there along with one of his kids.  We chatted briefly.  He had decided to come up last minute and try to run the race, but registration was already closed and they wouldn’t budge on that, so he was going to volunteer and then maybe spend an extra day doing some recreational stuff with his son.

When I said that I was probably going to drive to the finish and just sleep in my car, he offered to let me share his motel room.  I figured the floor was a better option than the car (having done that a few times before), but I ended up with my own bed and David and his son shared the other bed.

Even though they didn’t have to get up as early as I did, they did go to bed fairly early.  The bus to the start leaves at 4:10am! (for a 5:00am start)

I woke up at 3am, took care of my duties and then drove myself to the bus pick-up, which is a city parking lot on the right-side of Hwy. 395 (the finish will be on the left-side, pretty much across the street).  It is pitch-black and no bus here, but there are other folks here, including Chris Spenker, who is doing either the marathon or the 10M race but opting to get up to the start early (or to just start early).

We sit together on the bus and the conversation is mostly about what to expect.  I have not done this race before but I have done 1 or 2 ultras so have some advice for a guy sitting near me that is running the race with his little brother and fiancee (first ultra for all of them).

The ride is pretty much a straight uphill drive, and then a short drive on a dirt and pothole-filled road – kind of slow-going.  We arrive fairly quickly and are given the option to stay on the bus or head outside.  We stay on the bus for a bit, but can’t wait too long, as we do have about a half-mile walk to the start and don’t want a “running” start.

As I start, my general goal is to finish around 7:30 (which would be 15 minute pace), which is not too bad at elevation, either.

The beginning of the course is on a fire road and uphill, so I am not doing a lot of running, but within a few miles, we are on a single-track in sandy gravel, somewhat precipitous downhill, heading for the first water crossing.  I don’t see any ribbon marking the course around here, but there is a wooden board in the water, so this is probably where we cross.

When you step on the board, it goes under the water, but only a few inches (not waist-deep as promised), but I do have wet shoes.  The path up the other side is not clearly marked, so I do wander a bit off course before I notice people who were behind me on a marked course.

At the first aid station (4.2M), I have managed 14:14 per mile, so I am currently under my goal pace.  Sort of meager pickin’s here – some pretzels, candy, potatoes – I end up having a red vine.

The 10 miler veers off from us and there is some more climbing, and more water crossings.  Some are “risky,” but none are deep, and at least one of them had a metal bridge going across, though part of the bridge was submerged (but only a few inches).  By the next aid station 3.7 miles along the course, we split off from the 50-mile course, which is heading up to Whitney Portal.  I slowed down a bit in this section to an 18:06 pace and just slightly behind the 15:00/mile average.

At this point, we get onto a wide fire-road which is heading downhill pretty significantly.  It’s not too technical, so I can actually run, gallop, and amble down.  It is a long, long downhill.

Now you may be asking why I would comment on how long the downhill was.  No doubt most people would be ecstatic about a long downhill, but so early on, it is a bit of a detriment to my running health in this race.  I don’t want to overextend myself, get my heart-rate too high, or blow out my quads.

Yes, dear reader, there are actually points on the downhill where I am stopping and walking downhill.  It helps me readjust my pace and not go down too fast.  I am back-and-forth with the brothers and fiancee on this section.  I am a pretty good downhill runner (long legs, you know), but just try to run as consistently as possible.

It’s mostly non-technical, though the ground is pretty wet in some sections, somewhat softer, somewhat muddy.

The next aid station is at the bottom of this hill, 4.5 more miles on, and I do an average of 10:47/mile.  (If you read enough of these, that’s fairly fast in an ultra.)  I am back to being under the 15:00/mile threshold.

From this aid station, we are now entering the Alabama Hills (where apparently a number of TV and movies have been filmed).  There is some climbing (not a ton) and then a descent , and then a turn onto a single-track.  A guy just ahead of me misses that turn and has to come back up the hill to turn.  This is the shortest section between aid stations, 2.2 miles and the combo of up and down enables me to do a 13:36 pace through here.

The wind has begun to pick up a bit and I do have to hold onto my hat at points.

Now back to the fire-road, but it is getting sandier by the minute (not that fond of sand), but I’ll take sand over really technical rocky stuff any day.  In the distance, I can see a trailer with radio antennae and an aid station and a number of signs.  I think this must be the split off from the marathon.  Sure enough, that’s the case.  A somewhat slower pace section here (3.2M in 53 minutes) but most of the upcoming trail looks flat, so maybe I’ll be able to jog it.

We head off towards some rock faces.  They look like cliffs, replete with people climbing them, except they are stand=alone, probably a great place for training to rock climb.

Then a left-hand turn away from that section.  It sort of seems like we are meandering around the area of the aid station, but when I see some folks that I haven’t seen since the start, I realize this is going to be a lo-ong loop.

The heat has increased, too, so I am not really running even though it is mostly flat, because I am getting hot.  The next aid station is a mere 2.3 miles off, so I am not going super slow (not uphill pace), but another 13:45/mile section.

Ooh, another left-hand turn… maybe we are heading back to the aid station, but no, back to the right and I can see the incoming trail back to the original aid station (and again, people I haven’t seen for some time).  We actually now go out to a paved road and follow that downhill for at least a half mile.  I can see where I am going for the next aid station, but it is close to enough to “touch,” but no way to jump off the road and into where it is located.

This section seems to go on forever, but I am rewarded by the sight of Dave Binder and his son. The son is doing what I want to be doing soon, which is lounging in a chair.  It is great to see a familiar face and we chat for a little bit, but I need to keep moving if I am to stay under the 15:00/mile pace.

Now it is a short jaunt back to the original aid station.  They seem to be packing up for the day, which is weird, because there are still 50-milers out there and there is another 9 hours left in the time limit.  OK, whatever.  They are still there for me, and I am headed on the homestretch, about 4 miles from here and just about an hour to make the 7:30 time.

It’s fire-road for part of the stretch, but then we move onto a horse-trail single-track that is really substantial “rolling” hills.  I will get something going on the downhill, and that is immediately negated by the ensuing uphill.  Also, the wind picked up markedly and I have to take off my hat or it will blow away (it almost blew off twice, but I have good reflexes).  This continues for about 2 sucky miles until the final aid station next to a giant American flag (waving like crazy).

I bust out into a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as I near and chat it up with the two “elderly” gentlemen manning the station (both are my age but gray-haired).  They have limited aid, but I can taste the finish line, just over 2.5 miles away.

Out of this aid station, steep downhill and out of the wind.  My pedantic pace in the wind and hills gives me just 18 minutes to do 2.5 miles (maybe possible if it was a road race and I was fresh).  Oh, well, at least I will be close to that goal.

I know we are finishing in the park across the street from the bus pick-up (where my car is parked) and I can see the Tuttle Creek Road to my right-hand side.  I thought I had heard in the past that you ran down the road to Hwy. 395, ran a little loop around the street area to make sure you got to 31.1 miles and then finished in the park, but I think they mentioned that we are going to finish through the park (maybe along the road and then into the park?).

There is a brief point when we do get onto the paved road, but I think this is so we can cross a bridge (easier than fording every stream), because immediately after, we go right back into the dirt and then get into a wooded area (by wooded, I mostly mean twigs all over the ground) which wends its way back and forth.

The highlight is an impassable water crossing.  The most direct route is straight through, but you can avoid it entirely and I do that, not wanting to finish in totally soaked shoes (I don’t think anyone went through the water.).

It’s very sudden, but you turn a couple of corners and then pop between a gap in a fence and I’m done.  7:45:45

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There are a few people hanging out here sitting on a small gazebo stage, two people at a timing/result table, and a small food table, which has peanuts, Red Vines, and cookies (basically the same food at the aid stations) – not exactly what I have a hankering for right now.  The medal is a ceramic piece with a hole for a rope or ribbon, but they don’t actually have a rope or ribbon (later, I loop fishing line through it so I can wear it).

My plan, because of the whole working at a race tomorrow, is to try and leave by 7pm and get into Santa Clarita by 10pm (to get a few hours of sleep but not have to hang out in my car for HOURS).  It’s around 1pm now, so why not hang out and watch people finish for a while?

There is one guy sitting in a camp chair (former Ridgecrest RD Chris Rios), so I go across the street and get my chair, and he gives me some of his beer and we hang out and watch people finish.

The first people I recognize are Rafael Covarrubias (formerly of LB, now back home in Tulare) and Thomas Kuerten (a German guy I have met on a few occasions).  They are in the 50 miler and have stories how they got to the Mile 45 aid station and no one was there and there was no signage, but that they knew the course decently enough to find their way to the finish (well, not directly, but close enough – maybe 2 extra miles).

A little later, another guy comes in from the wrong direction, running south on Hwy. 395.  He says he missed a turn, ran back by the Boy Scout aid station (probably Mile 10 on the 50K course) and then ended up on Hwy. 395 at some point.  His GPS says 62 miles, so Chris and I raise a toast to the first (ever) 100K finisher.

No one is really mad, per se, but it is frustrating that a major aid station disappeared with 8+ hours to go in the race. (And I almost feel like the CoC ladies would tell us, you should have run faster, to avoid that problem.)

As it starts to get dusky, I decide to leave for Santa Clarita.  I end up not eating anything (certainly not Red Vines) and have a nice drive back  (not too much traffic, don’t get too lost).  I pull into the Santa Clarita Mall around 10:30, right next to the staging area for the race.

I double-check with a security guard who tells me I am in the right location.  I tell him I will see him in a few hours and nap lightly in my car until my call time of 1:15am.

Turns out, I am working with Stacy Embretson, former AREC member, LA Marathon RD, and ultra-runner herself.  We set up signage in the first six miles, zip-tying vinyl signs to bike racks.  Once runners go through (race starts at 4am), we remove the signs and also remove the kilometer markers until we get passed by the other support vehicle (which turns out to be around 25 kilometers).  It is a very upper-body heavy workout after a very lower-body workout yesterday, but I earned some good money and got a nice hat (and shirt) to boot.

I get home by 10:30am on Sunday and don’t know whether to sleep or what.  (I just watch TV and try to relax.)

Will I run Wild Wild West again in 2018?  Thinking about it, thinking about maybe the 50 miler, especially as 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of this race, but if I had to choose between WWW and Bishop, I would opt for Bishop because it was better run, and a bit more scenic.

Way Too Cool 50K – 2017

March 4, 2017

Drove up to Oakland yesterday and hung with my parents and sister, including going out (sort of for my birthday) to Bay Fung Tong with them.  Maybe the noodle and rice dishes serve as carbo-loading.

This morning, I have an early drive up to Cool.  I have my new car (one year old on Tuesday) instead of the rental and the weather is a bit better (though it did rain the past couple of days and I have heard that there is damage to the course and there may be detours).

I get an earlier start than last year, when I was the 10th to last car to park and had to walk 3/4 of a mile to the start (and then back afterwards).  There is the usual chaos in the parking where people can’t listen to directions.  (They have you drive the entire length of the paved road, turn around at the end and then park facing the exit direction.  There is always someone who tries a three-point turn and holds up the whole situation, because they know better.)  But anyway, I am probably less than a quarter-mile from the start line, so that makes the day a little less stressful.

At the start, I am looking for people I might recognize.  I see a few GVH folks, including Martin Sengo.  I also see Tsehay Villeza from AREC.  Last year, she got pulled from the race even though she was moving well enough to finish under the time limit (so they got her in again).  Also from AREC (though local to the Sacramento area) is Anthony Fagundes.  He is attempting his first 50K, but he has had good success with shorter trail races (the overall winner of all Xterra races he’s run this season).  I hang out a bit with his parents who have driven up to watch him run.

Today my goal is just to finish (I am not really worried about the time limit, but my fitness is not the same as it was last year.).  The importance of finishing is to reach my goal of 14 Way Too Cool finishes, on this the 28th year of competitions (I will have run half of all races.)

The fast pack take off at 8:00am and then the slower field goes off at 8:10am.  I do put myself in the front of this group so that I can get away on the trail before the crowds behind me make me nervous.  (I can get over the roots and rocks better if someone isn’t breathing down my neck.)

I make better time on the road portion and force myself to run the little uphills, though once I get to the trail, I immediately feel the need to walk and get passed by about 20 people before I reach the steeper downhill part.

The trail seems more technical than last year.  I am guessing this is due to heavier rains which expose rocks and roots more readily.  The water crossings don’t seem any more heinous, though, but there is also more standing water on the trail than the past few years.

The last mile before completing the 8-mile loop is super-wet.  It is almost all puddles and super slippery (but I do not fall).  I am happy to finish this section in 95 minutes (11:52/mile pace).

From the Start/Finish at the Cool Firehouse, we now parallel Highway 49 for a bit (this will also be the same stretch for the finish) and then work our way over to the steep, muddy, wet downhill to the crossing before the aid station on the other side of Highway 49.  Lots of people pass me here because I am nervous about falling and do not have supreme confidence on technical downhill trails.

This section is only a 5K and I am not guzzling water, but I do remember an aid station a little past the highway crossing, but… hmm…, there doesn’t seem to be an aid station here.  A port-a-potty, yes, but that generally doesn’t offer the same treats as an aid station.  Hopefully, they have not eliminated too many aid stations because it’s tough to balance water consumption if you have no idea how far you are going.  I do click off a lap on my watch so I can compare with previous years or get an idea on my (mostly) downhill pace (13:07/mile).

After going through the non-aid station, the wide fire-road parallels the American River and is fairly flat and well-graded (with a rash of puddles, of course).  I am alternating between light jogging and brisk walking for most of this section.  It’s less about being tired and more about the upcoming hills that I want to be prepared for.

As we get to the end of the fire-road section and into the more single-track route along the river, it is clear that the trail is pretty much completely washed out.  I can envision what the trail WAS, but now there is no real trail here and we wander out into the riverbed a bit and just sort of stumble through uneven sand and boulders until a semblance of a trail reappears.

A few more tough rolling hills and the next aid station materializes.  The distance was almost as much as the 8 miles on the opening loop but it seems far worse as I am 8 miles less fresh.  I guess my pace based upon what the course map says, though a 10:27/mile pace seems to have been unrealistic at this point (and my GPS says something else).

According to my pace sheet, the next aid station is in 1.5 miles, but again, there is nothing there, so another split that is a bit useless (only for comparing to last year).  The location of the aid stations also don’t exactly match up with the web page, either…

Until I get to ALT (Auburn Lake Trail) at the river crossing.  Finally, what I have and what the website has, and what my GPS states all match up.  Here’s to hoping that the rest of the aid stations are not 6 or 7 miles apart!  These first 21 miles have taken me 4:43 (or 13:24/mile).  This would put me on pace for 6:40, which would be comparable to last year, but I don’t think I am going to maintain that pace on the last few sections, especially not Goat Hill.

The trail crosses the water and then winds around the hillside forever.  In previous years, I count the number of water crossings (anything that has running water and isn’t a puddle).  In a “dry” year, there are about 50 water crossings and today, there are over 80.  Most I can easily step over (though I am cautious so that I don’t slip, fall, and break my elbow).

The key to the end of this trail is a wooden bridge water crossing that takes us to the fire-road.  There is a bit of steep uphill here before turning onto the steeper single-track up to Goat Hill.

But that was BEFORE the trail got washed out.  I can see in the distance that there is a bunch of trees and branches blocking the trail and a turn-off earlier than usual heading up the hill.  This trail is very steep (much like the old Goat Hill trail) and I am really struggling to get up the hill and getting some calf cramps which are not helping.

Alas, absolute torture awaits.  Instead of traversing the hillside and continuing up to Goat Hill Aid Station, we basically are hooking around the obstruction in the most difficult manner possible, and then going back onto the fire-road, DOWN to the fire-road, and THEN going up the Goat Hill trail.  In essence, we are climbing the horrible hill TWICE!  My pace slows to a crawl, both because of cramping and being more out of shape.

The Burma-Shave style signs don’t help my mood.  It would have been nice to warn about this change or come up with something more reasonable.  I don’t think there was any reason to carve out a steep trail.  I would as soon climb over the obstruction than climb that hill twice.

The top of the hill takes me to 26 miles in 6:22 (which is slower than I ran WTC in 2002 and I still have 5 miles to go).  Unless I can cover the last 5 miles in 25 minutes (ha!), I will have a slower time than last year.

From Goat Hill, we now proceed to the (upper) Highway 49 crossing.  This is mostly rolling hills with a net downhill, but VERY wet and several sections that are completely puddles.  On the flatter sections, I am reduced to lots of walking and I seem to go back and forth with an older gentleman (70, I think he said) who is going for his 9th finish (and of course, there are folks going for their 28th finishes).  When I cannot run, he takes off on me and I figure I will not see him again until after I finish.

I get pretty excited once I get to the highway crossing because I know I can muddle through a mile-and-a-half to the finish in under 1 hour, 15 minutes (the 8:30 time limit).  After crossing the road, I don’t stop at the aid station because the end is so close and I would rather have the time to power up the muddy waterfalls that is the trail back up to the trail paralleling Highway 49.

I walk/run for a bit with a gal who finishing her first 50K (doing great, I might add) and then shuffle/jog past a number of slowing competitors and I catch back up to my 70 year-old friend on the last stretch.  We come across the finish together (though he may have started an hour early) and I proclaim that between us we have 23 Way Too Cool finishes!

Tsehay gets her finish (yay!) – knew she could do it.  Anthony beats me by almost 4 hours (he is also 20 years younger), coming in 7th overall, but not placing in his age group! My time is 7:38:26, almost an hour slower than last year.  I’ll attribute it to my lack of running this winter and the incessant rain preventing me from getting out on the trails.

I hope to be back out at Cool next year, and I really hope that they are able to repair some of my favorite trails and eliminate the run-arounds.  I hope they also continue to be sponsored by Sufferfest beer, so I can bring a can home and split with my dad (like I have the past two years).

High Desert 50K – 2016

December 4, 2016

Angela and I drove up to Ridgecrest yesterday.  We made arrangements again with Darrell and Megan to stay at their place which is only about a mile from the start.  Laura, Dulce, and Stephanie are coming up, too, but I felt bad that we couldn’t offer them a place to stay (we just need to ask Darrell and Megan ahead of time or offer something nice).  They are in a different house than last year, but it is in the same housing tract.

We did all meet to eat together, though, which was nice.  It’s particularly cold here, so that seems to bode well that it should be colder for the race.

At the start, I have a special gift for my friend Ethan.  I cut out a laminated “5” for him to pin on, since today is his 5th Ridgecrest High Desert 50K and will get the special pullover when he finishes.

Also present Ethan’s wife, a few other hashers, and Sandy Binder (whose husband runs ultras, but I haven’t known her to do so).  I jokingly ask Sandy if she is running to win, and she enigmatically says, “Maybe.

My goals today are to try and push it harder on the flat and downhill sections and not walk as much on the uphill sections (but listen to my body).

I start by running a little bit more on the initial paved hill and up into the rolling hills section.  Once you get to this part, it tends downhill so there isn’t a reason to walk as much.  At the first aid station (soon after which the 30K and 50K part ways), I manage 50:44, a 9:12 pace.  (Extrapolating out, 9:12/mile for 31 miles would be an hour PR on the distance!)

Once the 30K diverges, there is a long section of a slight uphill.  I have had the tendency to walk all of this, so I force myself to run stretches of it.  (Note:  Forcing myself to run and running slowly are different.  Here, I am pushing the pace and not running uphill slower than I can walk.)

I go a little slower on this section, a 9:48/mile pace, but still maintain an overall sub 10:00/mile pace (5:10 still would be a big PR, but it’s way early.)

The next 2.5 miles go up a considerably longer hill, which is also more technical and it’s not practical to run much of this at all, but once I get to the top of the hill, I can start jogging/running again.  This aid station is the famous “We Love the 49ers and Christmas” aid station, except no one is wearing Niners garb.  I ask if it is because they are so bad this year, and a gal surreptitiously whispers, “Yes.”  My pace in this section is 14:00/mile (a brisk walk) and drops my overall pace to 10:27/mile (In order to PR, I would need to average 11 and change.)

Now a mostly downhill, but dense dirt section for two-and-a-half miles and I maintain the 10-and-change pace.  I have been going back and forth with a lot of the same people.  I haven’t seen Angela yet (she started early, but I am hoping not to catch her until the end, if at all) and Darrell is behind me.  I saw Laura at the beginning, but I assume she is still behind and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Ethan or Sandy (who is MAYBE in front).

The one gal that I strike up a nice conversation with is Karin Usko, who used to live in El Salvador, but she is also German, so we can speak in Spanish, English, AND German (my first three languages).  She is local to Ridgecrest and I later learn that she makes Happy Gaiters.  (I also ran really briefly with Shannon Farar-Griefer, who is the founder of the Moeben sleeves (named after her sons).)

On now to another 3-odd miles with a mostly uphill bent.  I’m not running as much on these sections.  Feeling like I will not run a PR, but I would like to at least run a comparable 50K (to Cool rather than Twin Peaks), something in the sub-6:30 range.  This is another 14:00/mile section, ballooning my average to 11:12/mile.

Leading into the penultimate aid station at Gracie’s Mansion, where I have my first half beer, the sections seem to swing between generally uphill section, or generally downhill section and I am either doing about 11-12 minutes per mile OR 15-16 minutes per mile, but at least I am keeping my overall average under 12 minutes (which equals 6:24).  I would be happy to finish with that average.

From Gracie’s to Last Gasp is 3.7 miles, with mostly downhill.  I start to press the pace again, because it IS downhill and I can run downhills (when I am not cramping… and I’m not cramping).  Former race director Christopher Rios is there and I get my second beer, though I cannot hang out there too long.  I have pulled my interim pace to 11:06 and brought my overall average down six seconds, ending an inexorable slide to worse and worse times.

If I can finish the last 1.7 miles in 15 minutes (doable, but tough at this point), I would break 6 hours for the first time in over 10 years.

Alas, it is not to be.  I finished in 6:05:14, which is my best time in 12 years, so that’s pretty awesome.  Someone mentions that I should utilize Age Grade to compare this time with my best here (5:47:06) back in 2004.  Age Grade is a comparison tool that figures out what your equivalent time is if compared to the ideal age (which I think is 25).

So, if you run a 5:47 50K at age 34, it is like running a 5:44 50K at 25 (since your ability probably doesn’t drop off that much from 25 to 34).  But, if you run a 6:05 at age 45, the Age Grade equivalent is 5:43.  So in essence, given that I have aged, my High Desert 50K is my best ever (just not my PR).  Pretty remarkable that I did so well in a year when I fractured my elbow.

Angela came in about an hour after I did (2 hours, technically), Ethan got his 5-run pullover, and Sandy did not win the race… she was the second female, though.

Twin Peaks 50K – 2016

October 15, 2016

Prior to committing to running the North Face Challenge Race in Utah, I committed to volunteering for the Twin Peaks race, as there is no race director I respect more than Jessica DeLine.  She always does her best to put on a great event, tries to get anyone who wants to get to the finish to the finish, and charges a reasonable amount for her events.

However, once I was unable to finish North Face, I still wanted to do an ultra for this time period.  I told Jessica I would like to run the 50K (and I had already volunteered earlier in the year for Harding Hustle and obtained a 50% discount), but that I would also like to volunteer before and after the event.

So, instead of just rolling up a little bit before my start at 7am, I arrived at the start at 4:30am.  I helped to set up EZ-Ups, tables, and then began checking everyone in.  I think I handed out almost every number for the 50M and 50K.

I also helped getting together supplies for the aid stations and loading them, and then I got myself ready to go.  Also joining me at the start line was Tsehay (who I helped convince drop down to the 50K), Jeffrey McKinney and Yen Darcy.  Angela Holder and Laura started earlier (for more time and to beat the heat).  I would prefer to start earlier, too, because I like to avoid the heat, too.

If we flash back to a few years ago, when the race was cancelled and then reinstated, I did a post-dawn start and only made 19 miles before I got severely overheated.

The very first hill is 6.5 miles and 2000’+ climbing.  I know I have to take it really easy.  In the beginning, I am with Yen and Tsehay, but they are actually running up the hill.  I know this course too well to be running up the hill.  If I can get to the top between 1:45 and 2:15, I will be very happy.  (1:54, awesome.)

The next section is the flattest section, with about 1000′ of climbing and 900′ of descent.  This is also the section last year where I severely twisted my ankle, so I just want to move at a respectable pace (anything under an hour for four miles).  (58 minutes, good).  I am still behind Tsehay and have not caught up to Angela (go, Angela!).

Now, the “fun” part.  This is the West Horsethief section.  I am super-familiar with this and can tell you each of the twists and turns.  Although it is significantly downhill, I know that much of it is not that run-able (more so for me because of low-hanging branches), but at least it is downhill.  My 1:16 on this section is considerably slower than the last hillier section but I make it through safely.

If you compare  my times on these first three sections to how I ran the first three sections last year, I have picked up a bit of time and am about one hour net gain at this point.

On the beginning part of Holy Jim, which is “relatively” flat, I do finally catch up with Tsehay.  She is so surprised about the difficulty of the downhill section of W. Horsethief.  She thought she would pick up all sorts of time running down the hill, but it was quite the opposite.

I told her she would have a very special celebration when she finishes the race (which is really 32.5 miles and not 31.0), because 2016 marks 32 years in the USA.  She really liked that idea.

So, now to the tough part of Holy Jim.  Three years ago, it took me 3:07 to do the 4.5 miles.  Stand alone, I have completed this section in under 2 hours.  Today, I do 1:53, but on the last scramble up to the road, I am pretty tired, and not at all ready for the next 3 miles.

I hear a familiar voice.  “C’mon, Emmett, I’m waiting for you.”  I don’t think Angela was very pleased with the expletives that ensued from my mouth, but I was in a bad mood and didn’t need encouragement.  I just wanted to get through it.  I sat down on the water bottles, drank a bunch of water, refilled my bottles and endured flies dive bombing me.  I was in the shade and they don’t venture as much into the sun, but I wasn’t about to sit in the sun.

Now, up the endless 3 miles to the summit of Santiago Peak, almost all in the sun, and almost all steep and steeper on difficult terrain.  One hour, 37 minutes.  A loss of about 10 minutes over my time last year.  (Net gain, though.)  We did get to see Laura briefly, but she is way ahead of us (because she is faster and started early).

Angela and I are still sticking together and encouraging one another.  She is going faster than I am down Upper Holy Jim, but the downhill single-track is not my greatest skill.  Still, I do better on the 3 mile section downhill than uphill (54 minutes versus 97).

On the last 6.5 miles, Angela and I mostly stay together.  I do wait with her while she takes a potty break (can’t believe they didn’t cart a port-a-potty right up to where she needed it mid-course), but after a while, her pace is a bit too slow for me, and I take off on my own.  (I do have a chance to improve upon my best course time from 4 years ago, if I press my pace a bit.)

My final time ends up being a bit slower than my up pace (surprisingly) – 1:59 – to finish in 10:34, only 10 minutes slower than my best.  (I know 10 minutes sounds like a lot, but it’s 20 seconds/mile.)

Once I am a bit more recovered, I head back a bit to meet Angela and “shepherd” her in.  I grab her hand and run in with her.  It’s a really nice moment.

For the next couple hours, I assist finishers with food and drinks, and I perform some gopher duties.  One of the most exciting moments was the finish of Randall Tolosa, who gets his first finish after 5 tries (and he didn’t start early).

Once the last finisher comes through and the drop bags come down, now I start helping with the packing up of everything – dismantling EZ-ups, tables, packing up food, etc.  As a treat, I get one of the In-N-Out Burgers they bought for the volunteers.  Even though it’s cold, it’s really good.

I get home at about midnight, so I had almost a 24-hour day.

Looking forward to next year’s event, whether I run it, volunteer at it, or both.

Skyline 50K – 2016

August 7, 2016

The race is back to Sunday again.  I liked last year when the race was on Saturday.  On the one hand, I had to run the day after I drove up, but conversely, I had a day to recover and hang out with my family on the way back.

Then again, Mom and Dad aren’t around this weekend because of Dad’s HS reunion this weekend in Southern California.  I suspect that we are passing each other in Central California.  I did, however, get to have a nice BFT dinner with my sister Marisa and our friend Shauna and watched some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (though not exactly conducive to getting a good night’s sleep before a long race).

The course this year is a bit different, having to do with some construction going on around the dam area (dam it), so we will start out in the same direction as at the Dick Collins Firetrails 50M and work our way over to Bort Meadow from a different direction.  On the map, you cannot really tell how different it will be or if it will be tougher, but if we are heading in the direction that the original Skyline Course used to end, there are some dramatic uphills that I don’t necessarily want to tackle.

For the past few years, starting with Skyline 50K 2013, I create a laminated pace sheet to carry with me and on the back side, I do some kind of dedication (starting with an inspiration to my HS friend, Brian Kelly, who unfortunately died at 42 the day before the race).  Last year, Skyline was my 100th marathon or ultra (27 mararathons, 73 ultras) so I dedicated it to the 10 people who most influenced me getting into running.

Today, I am at a different milestone – my 80th ultramarathon, so I have decided to dedicate it to eight people I met while running ultras that made a difference in my life.  (See attached PDF for the pictures.)skylinepace16

First is Ken Michal.  I met him as we passed in the dark during the Santa Barbara 100M/100K.  Later, I learned he had spent 8 hours in a port-a-pottie because the aid station blew off the mountain and it was the warmest spot available.  We have since met at many other events, and he is a pretty amazing (All Day!) athlete.

Next is Amy Dodson, who I first met at American River 50M in 2010.  She had a lung and leg removed as a teenager, so she is hard to miss.  I thought she was another one-legged athlete, Amy Palmeiro-Winters, who had run the North Face Challenge a year prior, and when I asked her if her name was Amy, who knew that there was more than one Amy with a prosthetic leg running an ultra?  We ran a few miles together, but our real great experience was at Miwok the following year when we ran together for several hours.  I received the “brunt” of good wishes as fellow competitors cheered us (her mostly) on.

Next, a pair together, Dave McCaghren and Jerry Hollingsworth, who I met perchance at the Sunmart 50M pre-race dinner.  Pretty much I sat down at a lonely table because I didn’t really know anyone from the Texas location of the race.  We ended up on the same race shuttle to, and from the race, had cocktails at the hotel post-race, and ended up breakfasting the next morning, too.  A few years later, I stayed with Jerry and a friend the night before my first (and so far, only) 100 miler, the Rocky Raccoon.

At the Santa Barbara 100M (attempt #2 where the race didn’t actually get cancelled), I got lost and then fell apart by Mile 29 (though more than 30 miles for me at that point).  When I got back to the finish (to then help out and cheer people in), I met a guy from Long Beach (that I never knew before) who had some ultra experience (including Barkley).  I haven’t (yet) given into some of his insanity, but he (and dog Lacey) were invaluable in pacing me at Twin Peaks 50M last year (my first and only pacer to date).

A few years ago at Skyline, I ran a few miles with another early starter.  She was no slow runner, just starting early because her friend was.  We are not really alike and follow different tracks in life, but I have always enjoying running and talking with her (and reading about her various trail and ultra adventures).  Meg Deverin Cheng and I met up again at the start (and finish) line today.

Two years ago, at the High Desert 50K in Ridgecrest, I ran cumulatively a few hours with Darrell Price, ten years my junior and local to Ridgecrest (and occasionally works in Long Beach, too).  Both of us are big guys (I’m taller, naturally.) so we had that to commiserate about.  Last year, I stayed with him at his house less than a mile from the Start Line, and hope to do so again this year.

Finally, Laurin Miertschin, who I met at Twin Peaks 50M my first year.  Both of us ended up doing the 50K drop down.  She has also ventured out on my hash events, and convinced me to run a number of tough local races.  I hope she gets back out there soon since she seems to be injured a lot these days.

Besides, my eight ultrabuddies motivating me to do well, I did a countdown of my 8th most favorite ultramarathons and the 8th hardest ones.  (If you are on FB, you can revisit my posts from July 29 to August 6th.)

Something different that I am doing today is wearing my GPS watch to both see where I am on the course and also, it shows me my best pace on each section.  I always have a vague idea of where I am on the course, but I also enjoy knowing EXACTLY where I am at.

The race starts out on time and they recognize the folks who have done 10+ Skylines.  This year is my 9th.  Hoping for some special giveaway next year.

As mentioned above, the course is different and we are heading towards the suspension bridge.  I wonder if it will be crowded when we get there as for Dick Collins I had to wait 2-3 minutes to cross, so I hung back a bit… but when I get there, we go, not over the bridge, but around it.  That’s kind of disappointing.  I hope to cross it en route to the finish, just because I feel like that makes the whole race for me.

After the bridge, we go to the right (in the final miles, we come from the left) and begin heading up a fairly steep road.  I have to walk this.  At the first aid station (a mere 5K from the start), I’ve done 38:37, so a pretty slow start.  GPS says that my fastest pace was 6:30 (probably a short downhill stretch).

The course continues paralleling a paved road, and crossing it a couple times.  After about 3 miles, the terrain becomes familiar and I know I am on the path to Bort Meadows.  I don’t like the trail leading there, because it is single-track and rutted, which is not great to run on.  At least it is still overcast.  Four miles more, 50-odd minutes, a much better average pace.  If I want to break 7 hours, I will need to get a better pace in soon.

From Bort to Big Bear (basically the Fish Ranch Road crossing) is around 3 miles, a mile-and-a-half of gentle uphill and a mile-and-a-half of decently steep downhill.  I am always reminded that we have to do this in reverse.  Another 38 minutes here (but that does include stopping just before the aid station to put my inserts facing forward again (they slip because my shoes don’t fit perfectly)).

Once I cross Fish Ranch Road, it’s a bunch of single-track, uphill, mostly familiar trail, but then we do take a slightly different route to get up to Skyline Gate, a more circuitous route.  It just makes the long uphill suck more.  Four more miles, 63 minutes.  It’s looking less likely that I can break 7 hours.  Yes, my total time is 3:11 and I am just about halfway there, but I know there are some sections ahead where I will definitely lose more time.

Marisa and Shauna meet me at Skyline Gate and I convince them to at least walk with me to the French Trail turn-off.  It’s nice having some familiar company.

French Trail is a steep downhill and there were a bunch of people hiking on it.  This is my best chance to make up a little bit of time, before I lose a bunch of time later (as my feet hurt more and more as the event goes on – last year, I wore the better cushioned Hokas, this year, the shoes aren’t as soft).

Unfortunately, it isn’t ALL downhill, and on the really steep uphill, I got a bit gassed out and then my feet started to hurt more than usual.  (Might be a recurrence of my plantar fasciitis.)  According to the GPS, 5.7 miles in 100 minutes (so not really picking up any time).

Now, I have the 3 mile segment, in reverse, with the steep uphill and the gentle downhill.  I am struggling more than usual on the uphill portion.  Typically, my times in either direction are comparable (within 5 minutes of each other), but I was 10 minutes off in the reverse direction.  Even on the downhill, I don’t feel like running.

From Bort Meadows, I now have over 5 miles to Honker Bay, and if I remember this section correctly, it seems like a whole lot more than 5 miles.  You essentially parallel some of the earlier trail and then there are a number of long switchbacks uphill and then a slight drop, and then more and more uphill.  I know that when I get to the treeline, well, I’m not getting any closer.  Feels closer, but never is exactly.

I am watching my GPS overall time, and at this point, I am just hoping to get to Honker Bay in under 7 hours… but officially, 7:00:09.

Now there is about 2.3 miles to the finish, and hopefully I get to have the soothing bounce of the suspension bridge to carry me through to the end.  Now I am in the sun of the day and my feet are really sore.  I am just trying to get through the last bit.  (I mean, I WILL, but it is a struggle.)

When I get to the bridge, it is disappointing that we are going around it again; I will talk to the race director.  We should be going across it at least once… that’s the best part that I look forward to.

Once across the bridge, it is paved to the finish.  I try and walk briskly on the uphills and flats and shuffle/soar on the downhill sections.  I am able to pass a few stragglers in this part, and get to the finish in 7:46:38.  Definitely one of my slowest times, though, given that it was a different course, it is a personal best on this particular course!

I can’t hang out very long at the finish line as I need to drive back to Southern California afterwards (stopping first to shower and pack up at my folks’).

Looking forward to at least 20 more ultras and to reach 100!

 

 

 

 

Shadow of the Giants 50K – 2016

June 11, 2016

Two months and two days ago, I had emergency surgery on my left elbow.  Just before I went into surgery, I talked with the Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Tran.  He had done an Ironman Triathlon, so understood about the long training runs (but I had yet to convince him to run an ultramarathon).  He asked me what my next big run was and I said that I hoped to do Shadow of the Giants 50K in two months time.  He said that with the proper recovery I would probably have no problem being able to run the race.

Flash forward to two months and one day later, and Stephanie Harris and I are driving up from Long Beach to Fish Camp.  In the car we talked about the possibility of staying an extra day and driving around Yosemite (since Stephanie had never been).  I said that I was not interested, mostly because I had said that I would try to attend my friend’s 70th birthday party on Saturday evening.  (If we went to Yosemite, I wouldn’t get back in time.)  Maybe another trip.

We got up to Fish Camp a bit early.  It’s not a big town, so there isn’t a lot to do to pass the time, and once we got to the Outdoor School/Race Start, it would just be reading, napping, and eventually sleeping.  We picked up our bibs and then decided what we would do next. Stephanie suggested that we drive into Yosemite and that she would buy me dinner.  I didn’t have a ton of gas in the car (and didn’t really want to pay the exorbitant prices within the park) but enough that we could probably see a few sites (it had been nearly 20 years since I had camped in the park with my college friends Kevin, Cecilia, and Josh just before I moved to Southern California).

She paid the entrance fee (and noted that it was good for a whole week) and coasted down into the park (saved gas).  We stopped by a vista point to look at Bridal Veil Falls.  Wow.  What a beautiful time of day.  It was a little busy because some TV cameras were there talking about President Obama flying in to survey the park later in the month (and if it would be disruptive (Yeah, I think so.)).  We were nearly hit by a car going about 20 miles per hour over the speed limit (who zooms through Yosemite?), but my new car has great brakes!

We drove down a little further, and climbed up a path at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.  Wet, but beautiful.

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We tried to figure out where the old Ahwahnee Hotel was.  The hotel is still there, but after a dispute with the old food vendor over trademarked names, the park renamed all the buildings, even though they had had the same names for 50+ years.  So, the result for us was that we didn’t know if the Yosemite Lodge was what we were looking for.  (Still not sure.)

Since we didn’t find what we wanted, I decided that we should drive back towards the entrance before it got too late (or dark), but we got caught up in a long line of cars trying to check in to their campsites, and we moved about one mile in 40 minutes.  So frustrating.

There wasn’t much to stop at where we could eat on the route back, except for the General Store about five miles from the exit.  We ended up getting cold sandwiches, plus Stephanie got some souvenirs for friends.

By the time we exited the park, it was getting dusky, so best for us to return to the Outdoor School in Fish Camp, find some bunk beds and get some sleep.

We found a nice cabin and got all settled.  I had planned to read (using my headlamp) regardless if the lights were on or off.  The lights ended up being on and off quite a bit, the primary offenders being a group of Japanese-American runners who didn’t seem to understand why the people trying to sleep in the dark would be upset with the lights coming on.  They mostly countered with, “We were here first, so we should determine when everyone goes to sleep.”  I guess, if you lack any common courtesy.

On perhaps the third time this happened, I said something like, “We’ve asked you about 20 times to not turn the lights on.”  Now while I am not an 8:30pm asleep kind of person, I try to stay with what the crowd wants.  (Back in 2011, at Javelina Jundred, my roommates went to bed at 7:00pm, so I went down to the hotel TV room and stayed there until I was ready to go to bed, rather than insisting that they follow MY sleep patterns.)

The “leader” of this group became quite irate with me (and the others in the cabin who agreed with me) and wanted us to get out of our sleeping bags and engage in fisticuffs with him.  Seriously?  He wanted us all thrown out.  We are ALL here for a race.  Why are you being such an a**hole?  I suggested he get the race director, my buddy Baz Hawley, to settle the situation.

So, Baz comes into the cabin (the light having been on this entire time with antagonistic Japanese ladies glaring at us) and tries to quell the situation.  The ringleader is being pretty unreasonable.  Baz offers a separate cabin for them to stay up as late as they want, and he keeps insisting that the rest of us move (because, remember, they were there first!).  Finally, they agree to move and start loudly getting their stuff out of the cabin.

I’m glad Baz did this.  I didn’t want to get into a fight over sleeping arrangements.  He and I have had a good rapport, and a funny memory from the 21K at Blue Jay Campground earlier this year.  He did a shortcut about a mile out from the start so he could high-five all the runners as they went by.  I offered a really high-five (so high he couldn’t jump up and hit it).  It was a funny moment between us.

So, as Baz leaves, I say to him, “High-five, Baz, high-five.”  The lead Japanese guy stops, turns to me, and says, “Had to have the last word, did you?”  Dude, I wasn’t even talking to you.  I’m talking to my buddy, Baz.

Finally, the lights go out, but it is a struggle for me to get to sleep now, because my adrenaline is thrumming, and I cannot relax.  Probably, I got 2-3 hours of real sleep, if that.

In the morning, the plan is for Stephanie to take the one hour early start, even though I do not think she will need it (but it helps for confidence to make the aid stations and not be stressed out about cutoffs).  A couple other gals in our cabin are also taking the early start so they can look out for each other.  The Japanese folks are milling around the mess hall area, still glaring at me, but I don’t really care.  I’m running my own race.

After Stephanie starts and I am waiting for my own start, I run into Rob McNair, from Huntington Beach, who I occasionally see at some ultras.  He has run every single Shadow of the Giants (30+) and even won some of them.  I always find the Legacy runners pretty cool.  We chatted about the previous night’s situation.  He was in the other cabin, but it was pretty loud, so everybody heard everything.

Baz made his usual ribald announcements and the bit (that I hate) where they make sure that everyone checked in and have their numbers and are on the course (why, why, why, do you not check in the 12 times they mentioned it prior to heading outside?).  I stand at the back, because I know once we get going, I’m not going to be running up to the front.

The course is familiar (because I ran it last year), but for some reason, I am really struggling with the elevation for the first 7 to 10 miles.  The hardest part was looking at my pace sheet and wondering WHY I am going so slowly?  Particularly hard was the opening out-and-back section, with the technical downhill and the lo-o-ng climb out of that.  I did see the same guy I ran with for a bit last year (with the wings tattoo across his back).

When I got to the water crossing (a little more substantive this year – feet had to get wet), I passed a couple of the Japanese ladies who left our cabin with the rest of our group.  Of course, when I passed them, I said, “Looking good, good job, keep up the good work,” because I had already let the situation go, and I would rather be encouraging than rude.  Hope they smiled back.

My second favorite section is from Mile 8.7 to 13.4, where we start out on a shady fire-road and then peel off into the single track that roams around all of the great sequoias (including the huge Grandfather tree).  I got on to this section just behind 3 or 4 gals all going together.  A couple of them struggled with the uphills and after a time, I achieved some separation from them.  This is when I got onto the technical downhill (not as much rocky as woody and rocky).  I was nervous about any technical downhill, because I didn’t want to reinjure my elbow with a fall.

Once I get out of this section, it’s a smooth fire-road through a camping area and a half mile or so to the Shadow of the Giants (a one-mile loop through trees).  I don’t like this section because the mile goes by so slowly, and usually there are also a number of sightseers (slightly) blocking the path.  I ran most of the section and it still took me 19 minutes.

From here, it’s the section that I walk 90%, because it is slightly uphill, and I can walk briskly faster than I can run.  What I like is that no one passes me on this section, and I can see myself getting closer to some people who are jogging or walking ahead of me.  The BEST part is that I have covered over 20 miles and still haven’t caught up to Stephanie (at Ridgecrest 50K, I caught the ladies after 10 miles).  Maybe I won’t catch her!

However, just after I turn off onto a steeper section (which will hook back to where the trail veered off into the single-track), I do catch up with Stephanie.  She is pretty proud, too, because she stayed ahead of me so long.  We will come in pretty close together, because there are probably 6 miles or so to go.  Once I pass Stephanie, I don’t see a lot of other runners.  Good ol’ no-man’s-land.

Once I begin the first bit of downhill heading towards the finish, I lose motivation to keep running (feet hurt, I’m well ahead of the cutoff, so no worries) and just walk briskly down the hill.

I am caught up by a tall guy and a short gal (in rapt conversation).  I slightly insert myself into the situation and we have a nice conversation about languages.  The tall guy is a few years younger than me and originally from Hungary with the common name of Csaba.  (While I never heard the name before, when I tried to find him on Facebook, man, there were a lot of Csabas!)  The short gal was 10 years older than me (but looked 10 years younger) was Iranian and a friend of Tam Premsrirath (and had started with the early group).

The three of stayed together until almost the final mile, and then they both slowed down through the wooded section just before the bridge crossing and the finish line.  I felt good and came in at 6:38:44.  I couldn’t remember my time from last year, but I thought I was within 10 minutes of the time, and I was well satisfied with that, given that I was only two months out from elbow surgery.

Stephanie came in 30 minutes later in 8:04:04.  With adjusting for the actual distance (29.2 rather than 31.0), her 50K time was improved by 20+ minutes.

Both of us took advantage of the showers at the finish and were well ready to head back to Long Beach not long after.  Stephanie said to me in the car that she was happy we sightsaw yesterday because she was super-sleepy in the car on the way back.

Even with an emergency bathroom stop at a gas station near LAX, we were able to get back to Long Beach and I was able to get to the 70th birthday party (and not just make a token appearance in the last five minutes).

When I got home, I double-checked my time from 2015, and discovered that my 2016 time was one second FASTER!  What a nice surprise.

A few weeks later, I had my final appointment with Dr. Tran and I reproduced a copy of my pace sheet, on which I dedicated my race to him, Dr. Glidewell (the Orthopaedic Surgeon), and Julie Oyanguren, my Occupational Therapist (who helped me with the rehab).  I didn’t have a good picture FROM the race, so when Laura, Chuck, and I did the Monrovia Truck Trail, I wore my bib to get a good action shot.

One of the nurses briefly interrupted Dr. Glidewell’s consult so we could talk (since none of my follow-ups had been with her) so I could hand her a laminated picture of thanks.  Probably not a lot of ultra-runners doing a tribute to their surgeons.  Both she and Dr. Tran really liked it.

This race also marked the final RD job of Baz Hawley.  One gal is taking over his Winter Trail Run Series and another is taking over this race.  I hope that both can continue to put on good trail events in the same spirit with which Baz always infuses them.