Tag Archives: Angela Holder

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.

Boeing 5K (4) – 2016

April 11, 2016

A few events that led up to today made it this run particularly memorable.

First, on Thursday I went to the Long Beach Hash in San Pedro.  It was rainy and I had gastro problems.  I had to make a pit stop at a bathroom by the USS Iowa, and when I came out, most of the pack was gone.

I continued following the trail and when I got to the beer check, it looked like no one had been there.  I thought I might carry the beer to the end, because it probably wouldn’t be too heavy or really far, but it turned out to be over 3 miles and weigh over 20 pounds.  I was the last one in, but lauded for bringing in a nice surprise.

Saturday was the Seal Beach 5K/10K, which I had not planned to run.  Instead, I made plans with AREC Greg to run the Redbox to Kenyon Devore to Wilson and down to Redbox route, which he had not run before.

The first 4 miles went relatively well.  It was a bit wet and foggy out and even though we did not step in any puddles, the wetness of the bushes got us completely wet.

We tried to follow the West Fork trail instead of the Gabrielino Trail that Stephanie Harris and I ended up on last year, but somehow we made a wrong turn in a certain section and ended up backtracking DOWN Gabrielino to the cistern where you turn UP to head up Kenyon Devore.

This continued well under we reached the “waterfall crossing,” which is something I have crossed many times before.  It is a small waterfall crossing the trail… with a little water a few feet up and continuing down two to three feet below. So, not a major cataract.

Because I am usually not fleet of foot, I usually just jump across.  In all three iterations of Mt. Disappointment (50K, failed 50M, successful 50M), I have jumped across and gotten cramps when I reach the other side… so, this time, I thought, I’ll just walk across like a normal person.

I took one step on the slick rocks and my feet dropped out from under me.  No chance to swing my arms or try and regain my footing.  Just slipped straight down and hit pretty hard on my left elbow, right on the funny bone, right on another rock.

Since it was cold and wet out, I had Moeben sleeves on and they kept me from seeing if I was hurt badly or not.  A quick glance down the sleeve seemed to me that my skin was puffy and that I was bleeding a bit, but no need to alarm myself.

It took me a little bit to extricate myself from where I had fallen, because I was blocking the flow of water and I couldn’t push up on my left arm to get any leverage, and I certainly didn’t want to fall again.  I ended up sliding down the waterfall another foot or so (scraping up my leg through a branch on the ‘fall) so that I was at a spot where I could stand up without any leverage.

Once I was back on the trail, I needed to lie down for a bit because my adrenaline was pumping and I felt a bit faint.  A few runner-hikers passed through while I was lying there and offered up some Advil to deal with any pain.

Once I calmed down, Greg asked for the plan, because it was probably 6.5 miles down a technical trail back to the car, OR 3.5 miles up a meandering trail to the top and then 4 miles down a paved road to the car.  (Being stupid), I suggested we go to the top, because they might have first aid, plus it would be a smoother ride heading down on the road and better opportunities to sit down if I had issues (or to get a rescue).

At the top, they had a first aid kit, but no one who could administer anything in particular, so we headed down the road.  My arm hurt a little bit, but I generally felt fine.

When we got back to the car, Greg offered to drive.  This was probably for the best, because my arm was still bleeding and the roads were winding quite a bit.  While I can steer with one hand, it was probably for the best.

We wrapped my arm in the toilet paper we brought in case we had a bowel emergency and I also cupped my arm in a manila envelope, to keep the blood off of the upholstery.  We also had a couple of beach towels on each seat to keep them relatively dry.

Greg drove me the 90 minutes back to his house in Long Beach, and suggested that I might go to the hospital to see what the situation was.  I was reminded about my issue with my ankle in August last year where they told me to go to Urgent Care, but that it might be hours before I was seen.  It was a shade quicker in Harbor City, but I felt like I should go to the closest facility ASAP, which was in Downey, about 10 miles straight up Bellflower Blvd.

I got there and parked without too much difficulty and then went to go check in.  While waiting in line, one of the receptionists said I needed to see the nurse immediately because I “was dripping blood on the floor.”  She removed the envelope and TP and iced down my arm as best she could.

About 10 minutes later, I got in to see a doctor, priority one because my arm was still bleeding.  My pain level was not high but I did get a little woozy (probably out of concern, because I have little issue with blood or needles), so they put me in a wheelchair.

Then I was wheeled over to Radiology to be x-rayed.  It hurt a bit but I was not too concerned.  If it was broken, the pain should be so much more, right?

While I was waiting for my ride back to the Urgent Care waiting room, I sang Disney songs to the receptionist (Frozen was playing on the TV.).  One guy waiting with his girlfriend recognized me as volunteering at the Harding Hustle aid station on Santiago Peak.  Small world, and weird that he recognized me sitting down.

When the physician got back with me, he had a look of alarm on his face. He showed me the x-ray, which showed negative space at the end of my left elbow – two flakes of bone had chipped off the end, were floating around in my arm, and were not letting my blood clot.  I needed to be admitted for emergency surgery.  Bleh.

I wanted to get my arm wrapped up and go home and finish a project I had been working on for 6-8 hours on Friday. I had captioned the whole thing, but just needed to sync the last bit by 10am Sunday morning.  The chance was that I wouldn’t be able to do it, nor contact the company that I couldn’t get back to my computer (and all the work I put into it, well, I wouldn’t get paid for a partial project).

First, I was wheeled over to the E.R., which was super cold, and that was multiplied by the fact that I still had on a wet shirt, wet socks, wet shorts, and wet shoes.  Eventually, they got me some dry socks to put on.

I tried to call Greg or my parents or Laura, to let someone know I was OK.  Cell coverage non-existent.  Someone offered up a cell phone with a bar or two, and I left a message for my folks (but of course, they didn’t check the voicemail as it was some random SoCal number).

There was a possibility that they could do the surgery today, as I had not eaten or drank anything all day, even before midnight the day before, but when it got pushed forward to Sunday, they made me up a TV dinner (as the cafeteria was already closed) and finally got me admitted by around 9pm.

By then, I couldn’t dial out any calls on the room phone, but I was able to call Greg, my folks, and Laura on my rapidly dying phone, and let them all know I was OK, but having surgery tomorrow.

The bed was on the small side and to make matters worse, they had to put these leg “exercisers” on to keep my blood flowing.  They were hot and super noisy.  My feet weren’t comfortable and were on the bed control panel (which the night nurse did not like).  I had to keep my right arm at a certain angle, also, because that’s where the IVs were set.  They offered me some morphine, but the pain wasn’t that much and I would prefer not to take it as it will wreck some havoc with my GI system.

Didn’t really sleep all night.  Kept the TV on, and bugged the nurse a couple of times to go the bathroom and to reset the alarm when I moved my right arm too much.

Around 10am on Sunday morning, they finally came and told me to get ready for surgery. This involved finally taking off my running shorts and just having the hospital gown on.  I don’t really understand this, because you are not going anywhere near that area. Can’t I just leave them on?

They let me keep my glasses on, because I said that I would be nauseous with them off and it would make me feel better if I could pop them on when I came out of the anesthesia.

Besides, there was a bit of a wait (about an hour) between when I got to the O.R., and when the surgery took place.

I had a nice talk with both surgeons.  One is Dr. Maylene Glidewell, the Orthopaedic Surgeon, and she was bringing on the Trauma Surgeon, Dr. Huy “Wesley” Tran.  Dr. Glidewell is “old school” and had a way that she would do the surgery, and Dr. Tran is “new school” and has a braiding technique to bind the bone fragments in and have it look good.  I’m to have about 10 permanent pins in because the bones will not just grow back together where the fragments chipped out.

Dr. Tran and I talked a bit about running, as he recently completed his first Ironman triathlon.  He asked me what my next race was going to be.  I had hoped to do the Wild Wild West 50M, but that is only one month off, so I said I would like to run the Shadow of the Giants 50K in two months time. He said that I would probably be recovered by then.

I watched the Masters Golf tournament on a monitor until they were ready to do the surgery.  I didn’t fit really great on the operating table (no surprise), but much like my colonoscopy last year, all I remember is counting down and then waking up a few “minutes” later.

When I did come to, my arm was really sore, so they did give me a blocker to numb my entire arm.  Laura and Chuck came for an evening visit and said that they would get me home tomorrow as it is now too late to release me.  The hospital won’t let me drive myself home, someone has to come pick me up and take me, so because my car is here, two people have to drive me back.

I do get some dinner from the cafeteria and “sleep” as well as I did last night, with the leg exercisers and nurse helping me unplug so I can go the bathroom.

In the morning, after I get some breakfast, they say I can be released.  I call Chuck and of course, Laura has forgotten she is going to pick me up and gone off running or spinning or something.  Chuck doesn’t know where she went.  Oh, gosh, I want to go!

I call a few other people who might be home on a Monday morning who could connect with Chuck, and no one is really available (though Angela says she could come around noon, three hours from now).

Finally, I call Chuck and suggest that he make a big “show” of picking me up in front of the hospital, and drive me around to my car.  Since I have Bluetooth in the car, we will stay in contact the entire way back to my place, and we will totally stop if I am having any issues.  It’s literally 10 miles all on one street, so I am not really worried.

So, Chuck comes and picks me up… “I’ll drive the big man home.”  And then we drive over to my car, I put my stuff in the trunk and drive back to Long Beach without any problems.

When we get near the University, Chuck asks, “What do you want to do?”  See, it’s about 11:20 now.  I have two options:  1.  Go home and sit down for the rest of the day, or 2.  Keep driving down PCH and do the Boeing 5K and continue my streak.

Since I am going to be doing pretty much nothing for the next two weeks, I take the Boeing option.  Why end the streak when my feet are still working?

Nelson says I am probably the first person to come straight to the run from surgery.  Even though my legs and feet work just fine, it is still slow going, because I need to support my arm (also in a sling) because it hurts a bit.

On a couple of occasions, I worry that I will be able to finish, and finally, I decide to turn around… OK, it was at the 5K turnaround.

My time is 55 minutes, which is a tie for my personal worst 5K, set when I “ran” the 5K two days after running a 100-mile race.

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I may yet reach 100 consecutive Boeing 5Ks!

High Desert 50K – 2015

December 6, 2015

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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).

Twin Peaks 50M – 2015

October 17, 2015

My history with Twin Peaks goes back a few years.  In my first attempt (2012), there was a fatality on the freeway, and I started 45 minutes late.  Even though the race director said that she would give me an extra 45 minutes to finish, it took me over 8 hours for the first 25 miles, and I was not confident that I could finish the second 25 (actually 27.5 miles) in 9 hours, especially with more tough hills.  Fortunately, the race has a “wimp-out” option and I finished the 50K in 10:50.

In 2013, the race was cancelled because of the government shutdown, but resurrected as a 50K “Fat Ass” a few days later.  I tried to do the 50K (regular 8am “hot” start) and fell apart really early on, like Mile 7, and when I got to the Holy Jim section, it was all I could do to get through the 4.5 miles in 3 hours, 7 minutes.  (No, that is not a typo.)  I had to get a ride back down because I was so tired.

In 2014, I tried again, and did a bit better, but still was not able to finish the full 50M (“only” the 50K), but my time was about an hour faster.  I joked with the race director, my buddy Jessica DeLine, that if I could start extra extra extra early, maybe I could finish.  She said she might be open to me starting earlier than the early start.

I don’t know if I intended on running Twin Peaks in 2015, but in early 2015, my friend Lauren Miertschin (who I met at the finish line of the 2012 Twin Peaks), was turning 50, and expressed a desire to finish the race for her 50th birthday year.  I said that I was in, if I could convince the RD to let us start at, say, midnight. (The official early start is at 5am.)

I also somehow convinced Angela Holder to enter the race as well.  I didn’t know if she was up for a super difficult 50 Mile course as her FIRST 50 mile course, but she was certainly game to give it a try, especially if she, Lauren, and I could start extra (to the third power) early.

One thing that we intended on doing to prepare ourselves for the race was to get super familiar with the course.  Over the years, in essence, I know the course pretty well, but the purpose was to get ourselves solidly familiar with every twist and turn and come up with a strategy to get through this race.

If you read my post about the Bun Run 3M in late August, I suffered a Grade 2 Ankle Sprain trying to familiarize myself with the course.  A few days earlier, I had maybe sprained my thumbs (I know it sounds weird, but I hyper-extended them on a fall.).

Three weeks ago, Angela and I did a 23-mile training run on part of the course, mostly to see if my ankle could handle the strain (wore my ankle brace) but was super nervous on some steep single-track trail on Upper Holy Jim (25 minute miles on the downhill!).

The upshot of all this training was that I was super familiar with the course, and could tell you every hairpin turn on each section of the trail.  One thing I find in many ultras is that parts of the trail all look alike, so knowing how many turns there are, helps you to know how close you are to the next aid station.  I guess it could also be demoralizing if you are not moving that fast, but I liked knowing where I was on a particularly tough section.

As the date of the race neared, I made sure that I negotiated the opportunity for an early start, and Angela was nervous that she would not be allowed to start with me.  By this time, Lauren had decided not to run the race after all, so it would just be the two of us.  Jessica had said, “Yes, you can start early,” but had not specified a time when we could start. (Give me an inch; I’ll take a mile.)

Angela and I talked it over, trying to figure out our best strategy.  More important than the starting time, was being able to finish by the finishing time.  On the front end, it is simply knowing the course, but on the back end, it’s not making volunteers stay beyond the end, and finishing before the course closes.  It’s easier to appeal to an early start rather than an extended finish.

On Friday afternoon, I wrapped my ankle with KT tape, but it was not sticking really well, so I also wore my Neoprene ankle brace over my sock, hoping it would hold it into place, but I decided to wear all these layers anyway, just to be on the safe side.  If anything, it will provide a little extra padding, because I won’t wear my Hokas (since I sprained my ankle on this exact trail wearing them).

At about 4pm, Angela met me at my condo and we headed out to Corona to pick up our race numbers.  Traffic was BAAAD (but no fatalities).  Had a little trouble finding the hotel, but we weren’t too late to pick up our numbers (that would have been bad, since we were starting way early).

They had some pizza at the check-in, so we each had a piece and chatted with Jessica and her check-in volunteer.  I reminded them we were starting early.  Jessica tried to pin us down on what time.  I kept saying, “Really early.  Really really really early.”  Jessica said, “Four?”  (Ha ha.)  “Um… probably 2am, but we considered starting at midnight.”

I was a little worried that she might balk, but she knew that I am familiar with the course (I even volunteered to carry a roll of ribbons with me in case the course had somehow been sabotaged) and that we would have enough supplies to get by until the aid stations got set up.

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Angela and Emmett a few hours before starting Twin Peaks 50M.

We took leave of them around 8:00pm, including almost a full large pizza (not a lot of people picked up their numbers early), and then drove over to try to decide where we would “hang out” until the start.  We opted for the parking lot behind Vons.  There were, of course, all of those warning signs that said, “Customers only,” and “No overnight parking.”  We decided to go into the store, and we certainly not parking “overnight.”

Angela bought a cupcake and something to drink; I think I bought a Powerade, and then we chatted in the car for a bit.  I “napped” for a bit, but I was just running over the course in my mind (which was exhausting).

I kept getting awakened by employees cleaning up or dumping trash.  I worried that a cop would come kick us out (we were steaming up the car a bit, probably because of nervous breathing).

Around 1am, we decided to head over to the start and begin prepping ourselves to go.  The drive from Vons to the start is less than a mile, and we got a good parking spot close to the start.  There were already a few cars there, presumably people camping out near the start.

It was pretty cold outside, so I had my jacket on, as well as gloves.  I also “overdid” it on the water side, with both water bottles AND my Camelbak.  I also put a piece of duct tape with my name and number on the Camelbak, so that I could leave it at the top of Santiago along with my jacket, headlamp, and anything else I didn’t want to carry with me all day.

We both made use of the port-a-potties, where I had a tough problem getting more than one square of toilet paper at a time.  By the time we had gotten all of our ducks in a row, we had made it all the way to 1:20am.  The question was, do we go back to the now cold car and sit for another 30 minutes, or say, to heck with it, and just get going?  (I’d definitely rather have the extra 30 minutes!)  So we started, even extra earlier than the extra (x3) early start.

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The first section of trail is 6.5 miles long and 3,800 feet of elevation gain.  This is the only section where I didn’t count turns, though honestly, this entire section was in the dark and I stumbled a lot… at least I had Angela’s brighter headlamp helping me in the dark.

We had an interesting episode not long after we passed by the Korean Church.  We heard all sort of screaming and howling.  It kind of felt like a scene from Deliverance.  It made us really nervous.  We decided that it either was loud Korean churchkids, and then sound was echoing, or it was some people camping up near the Main Divide and just making a lot of noise.  We never got close to or actually saw where this noise was coming from.  We saw a few lights, so maybe it was aliens.

Our goal to the top (and the theoretical aid stations) was 2 hours.  Our pacing was based upon a 17-hour finish (which is the real time limit if you start early (5am)) and then we have a margin of 3-1/2 extra hours.  If you divide that out, you can lose about 4 minutes per mile, but the goal is not to lose much time because it is harder to make up time at the end of the race, and also it is hard to translate a time change for each section of trail, because some are astoundingly harder than other sections.  We reached the top in 2:15 (2:00 + 4 x 6.5), so by an average accounting, within the margin of error and 7 minutes to tack onto the next section.

We could see (aided by headlamp) the skeleton of the aid station, basically a table or two and some boxes of water.  I took advantage of refilling my water bottles, even though I had not consumed a lot in the cold dark.

The next 4 miles has a net gain of 100 feet, but this is really misleading, because there is a long, technical climb out from the “top” of the hill, and then a scary descent.  Especially scary because this was where I sprained my ankle… during the day.  We were doing this in the dark.  It was just a bit before 4am, still an hour before the early start.

I needed quite a bit of assistance from Angela and her light.  Although we were on a wide fire road, it seemed more like being on a steep single-track.  Several times, she was nice enough to turn around and back light my way down.  I’m very grateful, because it made it a bit easier.

We reached the West Horsethief Aid Station in 1:18 (goal 1:20), and took advantage of refilling water bottles once more.

Now, we have 4.5 miles downhill with about 2,800 feet of elevation loss.  The first section is not that bad, pretty straightforward, not a lot of steep or slippery trail, but once we exit this section, there is a really rocky section, followed by 5 long switchbacks.  All of this is single-track trail, with lots of low branches (probably not as troubling for Angela), loose gravel, and sheer drop-offs to the side.  There isn’t a chance I will miss my footing, but it’s still slow going.

Once we get to the bottom of the steepest part, there’s a gentler descent through a number of creek beds.  Angela is doing better than I am on this section, so she surges ahead.  I figure I will catch up to her on the uphill, because I do a little better on that part.

When I get out to the fire-road section, I run into my friend Christopher Ferrier (who I met at the Santa Barbara races in July).  He’s taking pictures for the race, so he runs alongside and snaps some photos (which apparently don’t come out well in early morning light).  He gets my ultratall ultrarunning experience, because he is similarly ultratall.

I get down to the Holy Jim Aid Station location in 1:43 (goal 1:25).  I can hardly believe how slow a pace I managed in this section.  I obviously had to take it slowly because of my ankle, but 25 minutes per mile, downhill?  That’s so slow!

Now begins the “fun” trek up Holy Jim Trail – 4.5 miles, 2,800 feet of elevation gain.  This is a trail I know really well.  There are 17 switchbacks before the trail starts traversing the hillside in long swatches.  The trail is also marked with 0.5 mile signposts to keep you feeling like you are a slow-poke.

I catch Angela about a mile up and continue on past her, figuring we will meet up again at the top of Santiago Peak.  We trained together on these trails, so I have confidence that she will do well.  The good news for us is that it is still early, and if it gets hot, it will be later in the day.

I get to Bear Springs, the unmanned aid station in 1:55 (goal 1:25). Now maybe you can understand how you can’t make determinations on exact pace from section to section.  This part is obviously a much tougher section, and I expected to lose more time than on a downhill section.

Also, what is funny here is that I have now been out for 7 hours and 12 minutes, and it is now 8:45am.  But I don’t feel too tired… yet.

Now the climb gets more intense.  I know, I know.  If you’ve read this far, all of the hills seem tough, but in terms of elevation gain per mile, this WAS a difficult section.  There are two mile-and-a-half sections, each with 800 feet of elevation gain.  That’s 10% gain for 3 miles!

I just keep pushing forward and slogging up the hill.  I am passed by 3 guys who are running up the hill.  Running!  And the sad thing is that all of them started at 6am.  They’ve made up a 4-1/2 hour stagger in 3 hours (basically, they are twice as fast as I am).

When I get to the top of Santiago Peak, I am craving something that is not water.  I don’t necessarily need food, but I do need flavor (flavor in my water).  And guess what?  The aid station hasn’t arrived yet.  I guess I could deal with it, but the three leaders also wouldn’t get anything either.

The radio people are there, though, and give me a granola bar, and they point out the truck making progress towards the summit.  I wait the five or so minutes until the truck gets there, but I can’t get anything until the drop bags are all unpacked… so I helped with that, AND helped set up the table and pulled out all of the food, too.  I did get my Nuun tablet and the water tasted so-0 much better!  (By the way, my average pace up the hill was 28 minutes/mile!)

On the way down, I do finally encounter Angela.  She is cutting her losses.  Her knee feels off.  I try and convince her that she should just push through it, but not only doesn’t she want to push through it, she wants my car keys, because she’ll get to the finish before me (probably).  I don’t really want to give my keys up, but if I don’t, she will be stranded without a change of clothes until I finish or quit.

We discuss a few other things.  Both of us made plans to have pacers for the latter half of the race.  The earliest you can have a pacer is Mile 31.  Art Acebedo is planning on pacing Angela from that point, then back to the bottom of Upper Holy Jim at Mile 44.  This is the worst point to start pacing, as he cannot run with us to the end (well, he can, but then I would have to somehow drive him back to his car as the base of Holy Jim where his car would be parked and I don’t have four-wheel drive).  He’ll get in a good 18 mile “run,” but Angela would be on her own for the last 8 miles.

But Angela will not be running back down Holy Jim and we don’t know if she got a message to him in time not to show up.  He MAY be my pacer for 4-5 miles.

On the other hand, I made arrangements with Aaron Sorensen (who DNFed in the first third of Santa Barbara 100M like I did) to meet me at Mile 38.  I’ve given him a time range, since it is so difficult for me to figure out exactly when I get there.  His added difficulty is that Mile 38 is at the top of Indian Truck Trail (the initial 6.5 mile climb).  They are not really offering rides to pacers (well, they were, but we didn’t find out about that option until it was too late).  So, he will have to climb 6.5 miles to meet me, and then run an additional 14.5 miles with me, but at least he will be back at his car and not need a drive anywhere.  I hope that the timing will work out, but there are a lot of “ifs,” because it was already a big imposition for him to drive to Corona from Long Beach (about 50 miles) to pace me.

So, now I head back down the steep mile-and-a-half to Upper Holy Jim (or Upper Holy Jim Parking Lot, as I call it, because it kinda resembles a parking lot).  I am passed by a couple more of the top 10 folks, and I re-encounter my photographer buddy, Chris.  I do a little better on this section.  It is downhill, but it’s really rocky and ankle-turning, but I manage 19 minute miles down the hill, and now I am on the Upper Holy Jim Trail, which I have been dreading.

It’s another mile of downhill, but the recent rains have rutted the trail quite a bit.  At parts, the single-track is narrower than the width of my foot, so even in practice, I had to walk with both feet at different heights (one foot about 18 inches higher than the other).  There are other sections where there is scree and I have to climb down backwards, or I will fall… and I also don’t want to impede the forward progress of the fast runners behind me.  In practice, this mile-long section took me 25 minutes, so I am hoping to improve upon this.

It is a struggle, but I did go down at a 22:00/mile pace (which includes a half-mile of flat leading back to Bear Springs, which is the top of Holy Jim Trail).

So now I am basically “running” everything I did earlier, but in reverse.  I am going down the tough uphills and up the tough downhills, and then I will run past the initial downhill and climb up to the top of Santiago Peak again, before heading back down.  (I am not looking forward to that climb HOURS from now.)

When I get to Holy Jim, I start encountering a number of my friends who started early.  They are about 6 miles behind me, but have the horrible climb up Santiago Peak looming.  I see my friend, Cherry Cheng, who ran with me from mile 4 to 10 in the shortened year (when I did Holy Jim in 3 hours, and she turned around after 10 miles).

I also see my friend, Ben Gaetos.   The past couple years I always see him in the same spot.  I am about a mile from the top of Santiago and he is about a mile behind me (and then I don’t see him again because I dropped down to the shorter distance).  Because I started so freakin’ early, he is about 7 miles behind me (I don’t want to tell you how much better he is doing than me, but you can make the calculation… 7 miles, 4-1/2 hours.)

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Coming towards Ben Gaetos on Holy Jim Trail.

I feel pretty good on this section, because it is almost all downhill, and I know that once I do my last traverse along the hillside, I have 17 switchbacks, and then about a mile to the aid station.  I just bound down at a comfortable pace (13:00/mile).  I am pretty excited because I made up some of the major time that I’ve lost climbing up to Santiago, and maybe preserved some time that I will lose up West Horsethief Trail next.

My halfway split (midway down Holy Jim) is close to 10 hours, which would be well slower than the pace I would need to finish in under 17 hours (the normal early start time limit), but I have given myself 20.5 hours, so I am doing OK, but maybe cutting it close.  Art isn’t here, so he must have gotten Angela’s message.

Now I get to head up West Horsethief.  Remember, this was the section that I averaged 25 minutes per mile DOWNHILL.  I also will tell you that last year, the average pace on this section UPHILL for people who finished was 20 minutes per mile.  I hope I can do something acceptable to give myself every chance to finish.

The weather is still pretty overcast and moderate, so I am hoping that I can get through most of West Horsethief before the sun re-emerges.  I get through the fire-road section and through the creek bed section well enough, but I know I will have a difficult time on the switchbacks.  I just keep moving with authority and try to not let too many people pass me.

On the entire section, I do not hear or see another living soul.  It is weird, because I was passed a bunch of times on the downhill sections.  In fact, I make it all the way to the top of the trail without being passed.  This may be because the folks behind me were moving not much faster than I was.  Also, about 3 switchbacks from the top, the sun did come out (dang) and made it that much warmer.  I didn’t do any 20 minute miles, but (strangely enough) my average UPHILL pace was 15 seconds per mile FASTER than it was this morning.

Just after I filled my water bottle, the person behind me emerged.  It was the female race leader, Deysi Osegueda.  Maybe she couldn’t catch me up the hill, but she disappeared ahead pretty quickly once we got back onto the Main Divide Fire-Trail.

The volunteers are really cheery.  While I feel concerned about my pace, they let me know that I have 7 hours to complete the final 19 miles.  Twenty minute miles.  C’mon, you can WALK this!

In order to finish, I know that I have to just run whenever possible and walk with authority on the uphills.  I do slightly better on the section back to the top of Indian Truck Trail, averaging 17:15/mile.  (Everything faster than 20:00/mile will bank time towards finishing under the time limit.)

I get to Mile 38, and no sign of my pacer.  I ask if maybe he already showed up and went on ahead, but I guess not.  No worries, because I have never used a pacer before.  So, just as I am filling my water bottles, a truck drives up and out pops my pacer.

He tells me that I told him to arrive around 3pm.  It’s 3:01 now.  What a good (and fortunate) guesstimate.  He had gone partway up the hill and then got a ride the rest of the way.

I actually have two pacers, but only one is human. The other is one of those aliens we encountered on the way up earlier… no, actually, it’s Aaron’s training partner, Lacey, his dog.  I am not great with dogs, but Lacey is helpful and not annoying. When we are alone on trail, she runs at her pace, not too far ahead of us.  When there are other runners around, Aaron leashes her and he pretty much does not have to ask twice for her to accede to his commands.

Aaron ends up being a great pacer because he helps me forget how tired I am, and also I do not have to lead the conversation.  Aaron is telling me about how he did a few laps of Barkley (the hardest 100 miler ever) and his ideas for this crazy 20 mile loop near Mt. Baldy that he wanted to call Ridgecrest (there’s another race called Ridgecrest, though).

The weather has cooled off quite a bit, since we have passed the 3 o’clock hour, and so going up the Main Divide to the top of Santiago doesn’t seem as bad the second time around.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  (On the other hand, it might be that I haven’t been carting around my Camelbak for the past 6 hours, but will pick it up at the top.)  Anyway, instead of 28 minutes per mile, I have zoomed along at a super-speedy 24:45/mile!  Woot!

At the top, we refill our water bottles, get Lacey some water, pick up my Camelbak, which has my headlamp in it, and then start to head down.  My feet do hurt quite a bit now (especially with all of the technical trail poking into my thin-soled shoes (not padded like Hokas, but less apt to make my foot fold in half).

My jog-walk down the technical trail to the Upper Holy Jim Parking Lot is about 20 minutes a mile again (though back within the acceptable range), and another 20 minute mile down the treacherous Upper Holy Jim back to the final aid station at the top of Indian Truck Trail.  The excellent news at this point is that I have approximately 4 hours for the final 6.5 miles… almost all downhill.  It going to get dark out again, but I think I will be able to manage 45 minute miles and FINISH!

Once the dusk starts settling in, I turn on my headlamp.  It’s pretty insufficient.  The batteries may be a bit drained, but super-pacer to the rescue.  He has a second hand-held small flashlight for me to use.  It is a bit awkward with me also carrying my water bottles, but is small and powerful enough that it is WAY better than my headlamp.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know the ins and outs of this section.  I do remember from previous years (because you have to go down this hill to get to the 50K finish, too) that you head downhill forever, and there’s a zillion turns and you never seem to get any closer.

The one landmark I am looking for is the Korean church, because that is less than 2 miles from the finish.  When I get there, I am absolutely giddy because I know that after 3 failed attempts and a super-early start (which made me famous or infamous – “OMG!  You’re the guy who started at 1:30am!”), I WILL finish this race.

When I see the lights of the finisher’s tent, I am actually not clear on where the finish line is, so I almost run by it.  Stupid.  Many of the recent finishers are still there (not the winners, who finished 4-1/2 hours ago) and Angela.  Thank goodness I gave her my car keys because she would have spent 7+ plus waiting for me and freezing her ass off.

Besides my motivation to finally beat this difficult course (and the early start), I also had my inspirations from my pace sheet – Angela (who despite dropping down completed her 3rd ultramarathon, the beastiest 50K possible), Stephanie Harris (who had just donated a kidney to an ailing friend), and my buddy Gilbert Barragan, Jr., who had just completed his first marathon at Long Beach.  People that you find more inspirational than yourself give you that extra boost to achieve your own goals.

My 19 hours and 1 minute time was my 3rd longest race (by time), maybe my slowest pace, but with 30,000 feet of elevation change, probably appropriate.

Not sure that I will attempt this again (unless I do an early start to help a friend finish) or maybe volunteer-slash-pace someone through the race and pay it forward, but even though I am probably the slowest “official” finisher of this race ever, all that matters to me is that I finally finished this challenging event.

Bun Run 3M – 2015

August 29, 2015

A few disasters leading up to this race.

My training for Twin Peaks 50M continues and I have had some balance issues with the Hokas on technical trail runs.

Lauren Miertschin and I went out about 2 weeks prior about to do a loop up and down West Horsethief, a trail that has a steady climb for about 2 miles, then a 15% climb over the next 2 miles.

On my way down, my feet went out under me and I went down pretty hard.  I managed to hold on to my water bottles, but my thumbs and pinkies hyperextended.  I may have sprained them…

But the real problem was 4 days later, when Angela and I went for a really early (4:45am) planned 28 mile trail practice.

Everything seemed to be OK, and then about 3 miles in, the soles of Angela’s shoes began unraveling.  So, she stopped and turned around and we planned to meet on the opposite side of the course.  I continued on to the top of Santiago Peak.  It was wonderful… no one out there whatsoever.  No bikers and few hikers (it WAS a Monday morning).

I went over along the Main Divide and headed towards the top of West Horsethief when I heard a sickening crack.  I thought I might have broken my ankle.  It hurt really bad.  I sat down for about 20 minutes, freaking out, trying to staunch the flow of adrenaline and calm down.

Since I had not seen a soul for about 20 minutes, I figured I had to get back down on my own (about 6 miles to the car) and hopefully I would run into Angela and she could help me cover the final distance to the car.

I thought I might have to crawl, but ended up being able to put a little bit of weight on my foot.  I refilled my Camelbak from the secret supply zone at the top of the trail and limped really slowly down the hill.  No sign of Angela yet.

Finally, I got down the 12 steep switchbacks and back onto the Holy Jim Road.  I spotted a roll of duct tape (what Angela was going to tape her shoes up with), so I hoped that she hadn’t gotten lost.

About a half mile out from the car, we finally connected.  She couldn’t find the trail, so she wandered around for a while.

In the car, I propped my foot up on the cooler and we filled a bag with ice to keep the swelling down.  My ankle was the size of a softball.

When I got back home, I called the advice nurse at Kaiser, and then spent a good hour on the phone trying to figure out my best bet to get an appointment.  My options were either going to Rosemead at 5pm and then waiting 2-3 hours to get in, or go to Harbor City and get in as soon as they determined my level of need.

I opted for Harbor City, because I would be in at least 3 hours earlier, or so I hoped.  It was a bit of an awkward drive, because of course, it is my right, or driving foot.  I took it really easy.  After about a 3 hour wait, I got in to see the doctor.  She sent me for an x-ray, and fortunately, it was not broken.  But, it was what they called a Grade 2 Sprain.  I think that the side of my foot folded over.  Doctor said it might take 6-8 months to heal totally and that I should take it really easy.

Dulce loaned me some RocTape, but I ended up buying some KT Tape and also finding my old ankle brace.

For 4 days, I tried to stay off my foot entirely, ice it, and keep it elevated, but I was also pretty desperate to test my ankle out and see what I could handle.

So, Saturday is the Bun Run, and worst comes to worst, I have to bail in the middle of it.  I found a book to read and figured I would just walk it comfortably.

It seemed to be OK on the flats, but on the up- or down-hill sections, I could feel some tension.  In the latter stretches, I was able to pass a few people, too.  I didn’t come in last, but it was a good 44 minutes.

For the few days after the incident, I worried that I might have a long recovery.  Now I am more confident that I may still able to do Twin Peaks in 2-1/2 months.

Summer Nights 5K (3) – 2015

August 18, 2015

Angela Holder and I have begun training for Twin Peaks 50M, doing loops on an extremely challenging trail (most of it is 10-15% grade AND technical).

My knees are bugging me a little today, but at least it is just moderately deep grass and a little bit of pavement.

Still, I want to have a good finish, with my goal being under 24:48, which is sub-8:00/mile.

My first mile (as always in this race, dominated by high schoolers, I am swept along to a faster pace) is 7:32.

This also gets me separated from the pack and a bit less crowded.

My second mile is a tad bit slower, but still sub-8:00 (7:51).

The final mile (or final 1.1) is 8:31, for a grand total of 24:00, so I did hit my goal.

Afterwards, I drove home and then walked to and from the Marina Pacifica AMC to see Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation for a matinee price.

High Desert 50K – 2014

December 7, 2014

For several years, I have been encouraging a few of my AREC friends that they certainly could do a trail 50K race… and always I hear of interest in doing so.  However, it is much like posting an event on Facebook… people like it, seem interested, say they are going, but few actually show up.  I was hearing redoubled interest, but I wouldn’t actually believe it unless I actually saw them AT the race.

Eric Villalobostold me that he signed up for the race (but ended up not going because of a hip problem).  I had heard that Jesus Rodriguez (who had run it in 2013) would be going… though he tends to be one of those gung-ho, sign-up for everything types.

A couple of gals who had interest did a “see if we would be fast enough” test run at El Moro at the beginning of November in light rain. Maria Robinson, Stephanie Harris, and Dulce Barton joined me.  I said that we would do a 9.5 mile loop… and if we could get under 3 hours, then they could do 31 miles in 10 hours. (It doesn’t divide precisely evenly, but THIS 9.5 miles is WAY worse than anything that you find in Ridgecrest.)  This was a tall order on this particular day, especially because of the mud and hills, but it could be a confidence builder IF they made it out to Ridgecrest.

Despite the mud (and stopping to take pictures of several full rainbows and double rainbows), we finished in around 2:55.  The cheap entry deadline was a few days later, and Dulce and Stephanie both signed up (plus Angela Holder, who did not make the test run with us).

The following week, Stephanie and I ventured into the Open Space Preserve and took the wrong (up) hill back… but, in the spirit of “there is no bad training,” she took it in stride saying that it will just give her more confidence with hills.

As the date loomed closer, I had still not made my plans to drive out.  Eric wasn’t sure of when he would drive out and Laura was not going to go at all.  I thought I might do what I did about 10 years ago which is drive out, and then sleep in my car at the start.  However, I contacted Stephanie to see what her plans were (and offered to sleep on the floor of the hotel room) and the other gals were OK with me driving up with and staying with them.

Meanwhile, I was having some problems – TMI alert!!!

I was very constipated, to the point at which I could not sit down without pain.  I thought maybe it might be hemorrhoids.  The sitting pain was so much that I walked to and from the doctor’s office (2 miles each way) to avoid sitting.  The diagnosis was two hemorrhoids (one internal, one external) and perhaps an anal fissure.  The recommendation to fix the issue was an extremely high fiber diet AND exercise (though I am certain that probably didn’t mean 7 hours of exercise in one go).

I took medicine and had creams to apply, but the problem did not get much better.  (At press time, I am awaiting a surgical consult and I have been dealing with this issue upward of two months.)

END of TMI section!!

On Saturday morning (December 6), the three ladies and I met at Stephanie’s house to consolidate into Angela’s car for the drive up to Ridgecrest.  We left in the early afternoon to accommodate Dulce, who was running the Venice Marina Xmas 5K AND 10K!  (Is 50K not enough?)

My special gift to the ladies were personalized laminated pace sheets.  Since none of them had ever done this distance before, I gave each two goals – the first was to finish and the second was a faster goal, which I based upon their worst-marathon-time-plus-one-hour pace (since trails slow you down a bit).  On the back, I had something inspirational for each of them (Stephanie and her kids, Dulce and her mother, and Angela (who I don’t know well enough to pull the right photo from her Facebook)’s picture of the giant yellow rubber ducky.).  For myself, I had a picture of my two little sisters (dressed in the work outfits of each other).

The drive went pretty well (save some traffic from LAX to the Hwy. 5/Hwy. 14 intersection).  I had mapped out where we might go for dinner (this place we went to a couple of different times that served Peanut Butter pizza (not as gross as it sounds)), if not at the check-in location.  (In the past, the food looked kind of crappy, which is why we went elsewhere.)

We arrived before the packet pick-up time, so we checked into the hotel.  Angela had e-mailed us earlier in the week to tell us that we were so close to the start, we could just jump out of bed and walk to the start line.  Since I had run the race 4 times before (most recently in 2012), I didn’t remember there being any hotels within 4 miles of the start.  Turns out, our hotel, was within walking distance of the packet pick-up location.  (I guess within walking distance of the start, but no one wants to walk 4-5 miles leading up to a 50K…)

A little before 6, we headed over to St. Ann’s Parish to pick up our packets.  They were efficient and the shirts were really nice.  We decided to stay and have the $8 spaghetti dinner (because it looked OK this year). A bunch of my (older) hash friends were there, including Chris Spenker.

Suddenly, Jesus showed up and “forced” most of the people in the room to pose with their numbers.  Anyway… after dinner, the ladies took a look at some of the old race shirts on sale.  While I don’t need any more shirts, it was a pretty good deal for a first-time participant. (Cotton long-sleeved shirts are nice if it is cold and you want to toss the shirt away at some point.)

We went back to the hotel and got ready for the next day.  Lights were out at 9pm (so EARLY for me).  The race starts at 7am (6am early start), but I don’t think I’ve ever slept 9 hours the night before a race (especially when I am antsy).  I did end up lying in the dark and staring into space for a few hours.  The highlight of the night was each of the three ladies waking up around 2am in succession and using the bathroom.

I woke up earlier than I needed to (except that I had to drive to the early start with them anyway), so I could use the bathroom.  I usually try to evacuate my bowels completely, but with the issues, I didn’t want to have pain all day, so I let nature take its course, applied my Lidocaine ointment, and took two Advil.  My plan was also to carry the tube of Lidocaine with me, if the pain got really bad.

It was pretty cold at the start (but not the 32 degrees in past years, maybe 40s), so I stayed inside and chatted with friends for the hour preceding the regular start.  Angela, Stephanie, Dulce, Jesus and some others left at 6am, to give themselves every opportunity to finish (Jesus should have no problem, but he was pacing a newbie himself).

I chatted with some folks I knew from other ultras, plus a hash couple that ran here last year.  I tried to find a comfortable sitting position, but that didn’t really exist.

A little after 7, we headed off into the cold.  I ran on the flats and downhills and walked the uphills.  My friend Ethan passed me early, saying I would catch him momentarily (but I didn’t think I would).  I also saw Yen Darcy… figured we would be near each other most of the race.  She gave me a little grief for going so fast, but I said I would lose it on the uphills.  I had a good pace to the first aid station at Mile 5.5, in a 10:43 pace.  (Much of this is on paved road, so that helps with the pace.)

I maintained an even pace through the second aid station at Mile 8.5.  I kept hoping that I would not catch up to the ladies soon, because that would mean that they were well ahead of the pace needed to finish.h

However, when I got to the Mile 11.0 aid station, I got there at the same time as the ladies did.  I had said that at one point, I would run with them if I caught them with about 10 miles to go.  This was a little too early for me to drop my pace, but I calculated that they were still on par to go under 9 hours (and they had 10).  Stephanie and Dulce were together and Angela (with her tights that looked like blue jeans) was a few minutes ahead of them.  They seemed happy and were having fun (which is important, especially early on).  I ran and walked with Angela for a few minutes before continuing on.

This section is fairly short (only 2.6M) and mostly flat.  Of course, when I say flat, this does not include the washboard aspect of the trail.  Mountain bikers would (and probably do) like this section, because they could do lots of little jumps.  Although cool, it gets to be quite annoying because I cannot put on any kind of speed, unless I go a bit off trail to lessen the effect of all those dips. In the distance, I can see an occasional car split the landscape.  The aid station is just before the road crossing, and the moguls end at this point, too.  Because of the flat nature, I am still maintaining a nice pace (11:32/mile).

I refill my water bottles, grab some PB&J and chips and do not waste much time.  I had been running and talking with a couple of ladies – Madonna and Clancy, but on the washboard moguls, Madonna and Clancy had surged ahead of me.  While I have no aversion to getting “chicked,” I didn’t want to waste time just hanging around.

From here, I can see the hills coming up.  I know “my ladies” will be a little annoyed with me, since I termed this race as “flat.”  Just a note on the amount of climbing and difficulty of courses:  Ultra Magazine has a scale, both for amount of climbing and for difficulty of surface.  If a race is flat and paved, then the climbing rating = 1, and the technical rating = 1.  If the elevation gain exceeds, say, 10%, then the climbing rating would probably be a 5, and if the surface is full of rocks and not that runnable, then the technical value would also be rated a 5.  The High Desert 50K is rated at 2,2… so I also rate it as “flat.”

There is some cruelty to this section as well.  Clancy (who I caught up to again) and I head straight out on the trail, but when the trail itself veers right (where we can see runners going uphill in the distance), we stay straight to add a little distance (running the two sides of the triangle, rather than the hypotenuse).  At least it is flat to this point.

Now the longer hill begins.  I have found, today, that when I am running, my rear-end problem is less annoying, but when I am walking, it irritates me severely.  So… as I am climbing this hill, I am walking in a manner that is similar to running, hoping that it will lessen the issue.  When that fails, I look a ridiculous sight, punching myself in the ass… but hey, it makes it feel better… and there are not a lot of people out here anyway.

It is a long slog to the top of the hill… at least it is not windy, as it was two years ago, swirling dirt all the way up.  At the top, a turn to the right along the ridge and then some downhill into the Mile 16.9 aid station… which is decorated for Christmas.  Because of the hill, my pace slowed to 19 minutes per mile (not bad for uphill).

Now I have 3.7 miles with a general flat to downhill slant.  I just keep on maintaining until I reach the aid station.  I am back to my around 12 minutes/mile pace.  About a half mile out from the AS, I start seeing a plethora of stuffed animals (Snoopy, Bananas in Pajamas, etc.).  The 3′ long cougar made me jump a little, though.  (The aid station volunteer said next year he would put in a speaker and roar at people.)  When I get to the aid station, Jesus is there, along with the gal he is pacing. I am almost out of the aid station, when Jesus wants me to take pictures with him, so I have to stop, turn around, and get some pictures.  If it had been just a quick stop, that’s one thing, but it was about getting the light just right, making sure I’m in the frame, etc.  I’m up for mega-pictures at the end, but not wasting a lot of time on the course.

Out of this aid station, it’s an immediate turn uphill (nothing steep, as is the case on this course), and then once I get to the top, it’s a bunch of downhill and then mostly flat to the next aid station. I end up striking up a conversation with Darrell, a pretty beefy guy doing his first ultra.  He and his fiancee split their time between Long Beach and Ridgecrest, so maybe he will run with us at AREC when he is in (our) town.  He struggles on the downhill because he recently injured his leg.

So, now into Gracie’s Mansion aid station, where they are blasting music.  This is a few tenths short of a marathon.  My overall pace is right around 13 minutes per mile.  My “A” goal is 13 minutes per mile, but I will be happy with a time under 7 hours, since it would be my fastest 50K this year.  On the other hand, I am out here enjoying myself and so I get a cupful of beer…and I am not really worrying about my time.

Now there is about 3.7 miles to the last aid station… Last Gasp.  Flash back to last night and a conversation I had with former RD Chris Rios.  He promised me that he would have a beer for me here… so I was looking forward to it.  En route, Darrell took off.  I ran a bit with Clancy before she took off as well.  I ended up having another cup of beer (a Newcastle blonde) and a quick (maybe slightly drunk) conversation with Chris.

From here to the end, it’s a run around the school and a run around the parking lot.  For the first mile of the mile-and-a-half, I ran/walked with a heavily tattooed pierced dude, who had broken his foot a few weeks earlier.  (Tough people, these ultra folks.)

For the last half mile, which is downhill on paved and then a circling of the parking lot, I probably ran at a 8:00-9:00 / mile pace and finished in 6:48.

After finishing, I saw several of my friends finish; Yen was just a few minutes behind me. I also saw a few people that I didn’t even know were there (like Jakob Herrmann – we became so much closer friends after working the SB100 event).

The timing was particularly good because the award ceremony was at 2pm, not long after I finished.  I was able to get a piece of pizza and a soda and find out if I won a door prize (NEW Gaiters!!!) and then go in and hear how fast the leaders were.  Madonna got third place in her age group.

After the awards were handed out, they gave out participation awards for people who had completed 5 or 10 Ridgecrest events.  10-time finishers got a jacket and 5-time finishers got a zip-up collar sweatshirt.  Eleven years after my first High Desert 50K, I completed my 5th event.  It is a really nice giveaway.

Now for the ladies… based upon their pace at Mile 11, I figured they would be pretty close to 9 hours.  At about 7:40 on the finish clock (or 8:40 on the early clock), I headed out backwards on the course to find the ladies and run them in.  I had every confidence that they would finish under 10 hours, but would love them to finish under 9 hours.

I only got to about a half mile out, when… Stephanie appeared.  This was somewhat surprising given that she and Dulce were a bit back of Angela at Mile 11 (and Angela has the faster marathon time)… but more probably, they stayed together all day and then whoever was feeling it at the end took off.

Stephanie was in a state of euphoria; what I LO-OVE seeing at the end of a race.  She handed me her phone so I could go directly to the finish line and snap her photo… but en route, it somehow switched to video, so I videoed her finishing.

Two minutes later, Angela finished, and 90-seconds after that, Dulce finished.  8:51, 8:53 and 8:55, respectively. I was so proud.

The best part was that they genuinely had a good time and maybe wanted to do another.  All of the initial worries – no port-a-potties, getting lost, not finishing in time – never materialized.  (Technically, there WERE no port-a-potties, but a big rock and some T.P. was close enough.)

This was my 70th ultramarathon and I had a great time, and the gals I introduced to the sport of ultramarathoning had a great time, too.