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.
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.
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).