December 3, 2017
If it’s the first weekend in December, then it’s Ridgecrest time! Today is my 8th Ridgecrest 50K. I had some of my best results here – actual 50K PR in 2004, and last year I did a personal best age grade time. Besides the Over the Hill Track Club putting on a great event, it’s also a race with temperate hills and temperate weather.
For the past few years, I have been fortunate to be able to stay with my friends Darrell and Megan (who live less than a mile from the start). I met Darrell and we ran together a few years ago at this race and forged a friendship. (He also spends a fair amount in Long Beach, but we always seem to miss each other – and no, I’m not hanging out in Ridgecrest at those times.)
Angela was supposed to come up and stay as well, but she is working a race in Laughlin on Saturday and is not sure that she will make it. I hope that she does not miss out just because she’s a little tired.
So, there’s an extra space for someone and that would be Alan. We drove up together early afternoon on Saturday and arrived at the church in Ridgecrest where we check in pretty close to when they opened up packet pick-up. Many of the usual suspects are there including a number of Foothill and Long Beach H3 folks.
One of my good ultra running buddies (we seem to travel in the same circles), Linda Dewees, is helping with check-in, and Karin Usko is selling her Happy Gaiters. There is the usual nice tech shirt and a lot of available past year shirts and hats to clothe Alan and his family for years to come.
We decided to partake in the pasta feed at the church (the pizza place we always used to go to has had spotty service (new ownership?) the past couple years) to support the church or the high school or something. It’s a chance to catch up with friends and wait for Darrell and/or Megan to come pick up their bibs, so we can head over to their house.
I have a nice extended talk with the former race director (who took over from Chris Rios) Terry Mitchell. It was of the ilk that younger people need to step in to keep the races/clubs/running activities going. I think it helps to have a good system in place, too.
By the time they arrive, Angela has said definitively that she is not coming, but we pretend that we never got that message and send her messages that we will see her in the morning. I have my usual spot in my sleeping bag on the long couch and am awakened once or twice by the dog and/or cat sitting on me. (Oh, well.)
In the morning, I feel OK, but I am fairly certain that I cannot duplicate my 6:05 from last year. My knees and back feel one more year creakier (and not in a good way). I am just hoping that Alan won’t finish 3 hours ahead of me (and not be able to call his wife because I have the car keys)!
We set off into the cold and as soon as we hit the hills, I don’t do my usual walking, just because it’s a shorter section and it’s probably better to get away from the crowds… so then a mile later, when the downhill starts, I can just relax, though I do a little walking when I get to the road, just because I can walk a little more briskly uphill on paved than on trails. I get to the first aid in 50 minutes, so about 11 minutes a mile.
I don’t really stop, but make the turn and run as much as I can, kinda alternating between walking and running (isn’t every race that way?) but also using various people that pass me as pacers.
To a certain extent, it works. The way I can tell that I am doing better is that people who I expect will pass me do not pass me until much later than usual. I almost got through two aid stations before Yak (aka Ethan) passes me, so either I am doing better, or he is suffering from “aging,” too.
I even impress myself at the Highway Crossing because I was able to run a goodly portion of the washboard section (which is murder on the knees, by the way).
Once the Highway is crossed, the trail veers sort of off the beaten path. You can see other runners going up a steep hill but it’s away from where you are (I think this adds on needed distance or something.). It’s at this point that the wind really picks up. It’s not like a few years ago where dust was swirling but it’s a preventative wind, so therefore, annoying.
Once I get to Gracie’s Mansion (Mile 25.7), it’s abundantly clear that I am not going to be very close to 6 hours this year since I am not at all confident that I can do 5.5 miles in 27 minutes.
What is more pleasing to me, however, is that I see some beers at the aid station. What could be more pleasing (and full of needed carbohydrates) than beer. I should tell you that technically, this is my second beer, because I did have a cupful at the previous aid station (maybe what prevented me from doing 6 hours – ha ha).
In this last section, I am joined by Linda Dewees. The best part about running with her is that she’s endlessly upbeat (in the most delightful way). We stayed together almost all the way to the final aid station at 29.4 miles. (She was just leaving as I pulled in.)
The aforementioned past past race director Chris Rios is here (as usual) with his cooler of ice-cold beer. Since I am not trying to break any records (and feel reasonably assured that Mrs. Sheppard will not get too P.O.’ed) I opt for an entire beer and just enjoy myself.
I enjoy the last mile and a half and even that dreaded trip around the parking lot and finish in 6:50, which is my best 50K time for the year (even including Shadow of the Giants which is at least a mile shorter).
Alan’s been done for less than an hour and Darrell comes in only about 10 minutes later. We drink some beer, share some beer, and leave the rest of the beer with Darrell (since he has the shortest drive home).
That’s it on the ultras this year – 9 was an awful lot – but I really enjoy the trekking, the trails, and the camaraderie. A week or so ago, I signed up for 3 ultras for next year (to save $) and all of them are 50 miles or longer, so I have my work cut out for me.