Tag Archives: Darrell

Bishop High Sierra 50M – 2019

June 1, 2019

Ever since last year’s finish (which involved hustling through the course and then having 7 hours for the final 2 miles), I have been corresponding with Bishop Race Director Todd Vogel about coming up with a better set of time cutoffs for the 50M race.

I came up with my own ideas about what would be the best.  The choices included totally even splits (which don’t hold up in the dark) or more stringent cutoffs to allow for stumbling around in the dark (when one would be most tired).  I submitted a suggestion in the realm of the latter and RD Todd mostly took my time estimations (rounding up or down for more round numbers).

I was reticent about doing this race this year only because my last race (supposed to be 50M) was only a few weeks ago.  I would like to help with the race, but Bishop is a 5 hour drive, so a long way to drive to help out.  Maybe if some of my friends were interested in running the race, I could tag along… but I’m not getting many takers.  It’s funny.  I’ll say, “Hey, you will have 19 hours to finish a 50K, totally doable,” and they say, “19 hours?  Oh, No, sounds like a hard race,” even though I tell them it’s also 19 hours for the 100K.  19 hours could be hard for 100K but not for 50K, and besides, it’s a very scenic race.

Just after Wild Wild West (though I did not see the e-mail for a few weeks), Todd offered a free entry in exchange for the help I gave.  (Note:  I would like to point out that I also had cleaned up and compiled records for the entire history race, so it wasn’t just because I made a pace sheet.)  So, I was in.

On Friday, I left decently early (after morning commute) and arrived in Bishop in early afternoon.  I stopped in town for a bit and then headed over to Millpond Park to help out with packet pick-up and registration.  Mostly this involved sorting T-shirts into piles by size and gender and sort the other giveaways, as well as a fail-safe number check-in system.  Shirts are nice (maroon and gold) and the other giveaway is socks.  (There was some initial confusion.  We thought there was only two sizes, so some people turned them down, and then we found the larger sizes.  Oops.)

As I did last year, I handed out bibs and shirts until an hour past the posted time, and then worked my way over to my car for a short and uncomfortable sleep.  Millpond isn’t a campground, but I have gotten away with sleeping in my car most of the times I have done this race because I am also volunteering.  However, before I get too comfortable, Todd offers to let me sleep on a cot in one of the trailers. Since I have my own sleeping bag, this is a better option, because I can stretch out.  It’s a little cold and the cot is squeaky, but it’s much better than being in my car.

Darrell Price is there, too, volunteering.  I let him nab one of the extra sleeping bags from the trailer, because he is going up to one of the remote aid stations and it is COLD!

Even though another three weeks have passed since Wild Wild West, the snow hasn’t melted completely.  Rain (or snow) isn’t expected today but the conditions are such that part of the trail will be snowy and is not accessible by car.  This eliminates one aid station (the one at 9500′).

At 5:30am, we set off on the course, up out of Millpond, through the campground, and out the back gate into the wilds of Bishop.  My goal is only to finish.  I have stopped using the brace in the last couple of weeks and I feel okay, but don’t want to overdo it.  With a 19 hour cutoff, I can do 20 minute miles and still finish (though am hoping not to be doing 20 minute miles).

I am not by myself at this point, though I am mostly surrounded by mostly 20 milers and 50K runners who are doing their first race of this distance.

The first 20 miles of the race is a long uphill slog, and especially the first 6-7 miles are not particularly scenic, other than wondering if the path goes high enough to see snow.  I have yet to see snow on the course, but feel there is a good chance given the fact that one of the aid stations is inaccessible by car.

After about six miles, there are some interesting turns, climbing through a more green area, winding through cacti and rocks to the Junction aid station.  At this point, I am maintaining 16 minutes a mile (not bad given the climbing and elevation – ~6000′).  But it also here that the 20 milers turn off and head back down to the finish, so I am seeing fewer souls on the roads.

From Junction to McGee, an unending climb up to almost 8000′, but you know you’re getting close to the aid station when the terrain changes from unforgiving rocks and boulders to a more forested area and the trail gets a bit damp.  This is another slow section for me (due to climbing and the elevation, still).

There are three nice volunteers at this aid station and I notice that the woman there has a European accent.  I asked if she was of German descent and she said Yes.  I said, if you are still here when I get back, I will serenade you in German.  She said, “I look forward to it.”

I leave McGee and a few more 50K runners who turn around here to head back to the finish.  The far end of the aid station is a flowing river.  It’s particularly high this year due to the above normal snowfall.  There is a plank bridge in the bushes to get across.  It’s not bad, but I worry how I will fare when I start to get more tired on the way back.

The trail continues up a hill (but forested) and then down a technical fire-road into a nice valley, with stream flowing through the trail.  When I climb back out of the valley, I am close to the Edison Aid Station which I will hit three times.  I am greeted by the Ham Radio operator who I know personally (maybe has worked for NSR?).

I stop briefly here because this next section is a lot more uphill (but the top is Mile 20, the high point of the course).  I head up the trail and onto the single-track through a sort of fallen timber area.  The trail gets steeper and steeper (not runnable but easy to slowly walk up) ’til it flattens a bit at the top loop.  (This is the area where I always see people confused about the course, even though it is clearly marked.)

Even though I have categorized the trail as “flat,” I am still heading uphill.  Probably in about a half mile, the trail is blocked by a football field length section of snow.  I’m not that confident in tromping through snow for 100 yards (I struggled with 10 yards at Wild Wild West.).  In this first section, at least, it’s possible to have minimal contact with the snow, and you can see from the footprints that most people have taken this option.

Trail continues another quarter mile and then a much more unavoidable 100 yards of snow field.  I try my best to put my feet in the footsteps of those who have traversed this section before me (of course, my feet are bigger so sometimes I sink down a few feet and get cold feet).  The worst part of this section is a slight downhill part.  I hold onto a small pine as I slide down the five or so feet before continuing on to the end of this section.

In the last little bit before the top, I pass a couple of runners on their way down.  At the summit and the (former) aid station, the whole area is covered with snow (but some rocky spots where the footing is better).  It’s so weird to see all this snow, when in my four past runs here, I could see snow in the distance but there wasn’t a drop of permafrost in the actual area.

So, I have to prove that I actually climbed all the way up here, because there is no radio guy to vouch for me.  (“Yeah, trust me, I didn’t turn around at the easy earlier spot…”)  They have a plastic coffee container (like Folgers) that has a supply of animal stickers inside.  Unfortunately, it is on the ground, and also unfortunately, I am tall.  Just bending over to get the sticker causes my legs to cramp, but I do manage to get a sticker out and mount it on my bib.  To avoid further cramps, I just drop the container on the ground (plus I don’t think there’s many people behind me that will get upset that it wasn’t perfectly placed).

Now I have to turn around and cross those horrible snow fields again.  I would just like to mention here that I would rather climb up a super steep hill (like K2 in Rio del Lago 100K) than tromp across a snow field.  It’s almost as bad as running through two foot deep standing water.  It’s exhausting.

The first of the fields was the one with the short downhill section, but now I am going uphill and the tree I held onto is on the other side of the slope (and it’s not helpfully bending down to assist me).  I try to make a run for it, but end up tipping forward and landing (softly) on my knees.  Basically, I have to claw myself up the short hill and then somehow pull myself back up.

On the second field, I avoid the snow as much as possible and hug the side of the trail without getting too close to the edge.

When I get to the end of the top loop, I turn right and head along the ridge.  I always like this section because no matter how slow I feel, I always am going much faster because it is not uphill.  The one downside this time is that something is falling from the sky.  It’s not rain.  It’s not snow, I don’t think.  I can feel it, but it still is wafting down a bit.  My jacket sleeve looks like I dipped it in some risotto, and that’s what the ground looks like as well.  I am told that this is sleet.  It’s not painful or uncomfortable but slows me down a little bit.

Towards the bottom of the hill (probably a half mile from Edison Aid Station), there is another snow field, but this time, it’s on the down slope of the hill.  I take a few cautious steps on the snow, but decide it’s in my best interests to go well out of my way and go around the snow field.  I think I made the correct decision, because I didn’t fall.

The snow/rain/sleet fall begins to intensify and that pushes my pace a bit more (though my pace ends up being about the same going up the hill as going down – boo hiss).   The folks at the aid station are hunkering down.  I grab a couple of supplies and then continue on.

Out of Edison for the second time, the trail now goes up what used to be a large pipe up the hill.  At the top, the trail winds around a gated area (which smells, so probably sewer or septic-related, in the middle of nowhere) and then down onto a wide untechnical fire-road.  Downhill from here for a bit before the uphill begins again and before the trail gets more technical.

I meet a few people in this section (a large out-and-back).  It’s nice to see people again after being mostly alone for the past 5-6 miles.  At least I can see clearly now, the sleet has gone and the weather is clearing up a bit.

At the top, I can see my path downhill in the future and a few runners on the trail, but first I need to descend down to the Intake #2 aid station for the first pass.  It’s another slow-going section but I am there with plenty of time to spare with the new time guidelines.  My marathon time is around 8:40!

Now the trail passes by the lake, with a few people out fishing, and then the turn down (to the trail I saw earlier) onto the technical double-trail.  I meet a few more people returning from Bishop Creek Lodge heading back.

When I get to the bottom, I work my way over to the road and to the entrance to the campground, paved road here.  Now I cross over a small bridge and head up the “reflexology” road which connects to the paved road that goes to the Bishop Creek Lodge.  Seeing lots more people (like 5) once I get onto the road.

It would be nice if the trail just climbed up the road straight to the Lodge, but I know from experience that it goes back into the brush with very low overhanging branches so it’s a lot of ducking and staring at the ground.

When I hook back onto the road, I catch up with another runner.  Victor is in the 100K and struggling a bit, but I think he still has time to finish the 100K or at least can drop to the 50M.   We chat a little bit and walk a bit together heading up to the aid station.  When we get there, his wife and young child are there.  I hope it is for support and not for a ride back.

I refill my water bottles, grab a few bites, thank the volunteers, and head out.  Hope Victor is right behind me.  (He stops and gets a ride back.  Boo.)

Now I retrace my steps, back down the road, back into the bushes, back on the reflexology path, back across the bridge, back up the technical trail, back to the lake, and back to the Intake #2 aid station.  I tell them there might be 1-2 people behind me, but they say all those people have quit, so they are probably quite excited to pack up and go.

Now I head back up the rocky hill, back down the less rocky hill, back up to the septic acre, and back down the pipe to Edison and my third and final pass.  I am moving at about 20 minute pace and net at about 20 minute pace.  I have a nice send off from the radio guy and thank the volunteers.

Now back up the hill, back through the stream valley, back up the rocky hill, down the other side, and the careful recrossing of the stream to McGee Aid Station.

Sorry for such a terse description (you can read more detailed descriptions on prior posts) but I am totally by myself since Mile 29 at the turnaround.  The only folks I see are at the aid stations, so it is a bit lonely.

The aid station is staffed by the same folks, including the German-speaking lady.  I say they are excited to see me because they can pack up, and they nicely say they were prepared to stay the additional two hours to cutoff and they are in no hurry.  I tell the nice volunteer I am ready to live up to my promise and serenade her.  I sing one of my Mozart lieder called “An Chloe.”

The translation is something like, “When I look into your beautiful blue eyes, I see my love for you and it makes my heart beat faster.  And I hold and kiss your warm red lips.  Beautiful lady, I hold you in my arms.  My dear, I press you to my chest.  And when a dark storm is on the horizon, I sit, satisfied, next to you.”

Sort of apropos for the day.  Yes, a romantic song, but charming.  Her co-workers at the aid station don’t understand German, but she liked it.  (They liked it, too, but only because I can sing in tune.)

Just singing and having someone appreciate it helped me get through the next section all alone, back through the forested area, back into the more desolate area and back to the Buttermilk Aid Station.

Out of Buttermilk, it’s a short 1.5 miles back to the Junction Aid Station.  Even though it’s mostly downhill, it seems like I am moving slower and slower.

At Junction, the trail changes (finally) and I start to follow the path of the shorter distance runners as I am heading down to the finish.  In this section last year, we were trailed by a dune buggy/sweep along this section, which is a fire-road and a nice smattering of light sand on the top (feels good on the feet for once).  It is starting to get a little dusky here, but it’s not dark yet.  I do have my headlamp in my pocket for when it does get dark.

The light dirt path turns to a rutty trail through some insect-filled bushes (especially at night) and then eventually turns onto a washboard road.  It’s not hard going for me, but there are occasional campers’ cars passing by and I have to pull my buff over my nose to avoid the dirt.  Eventually, I see the lights of the camper demarcating the Hwy. 168 Aid Station.  (It’s about 3.5 miles to the end now, but it is extremely dark.)

They hand me a popsicle and direct me down the road.  I put on my headlamp so I can see where to go.  The first mile or so of this section is horrible as I remember, basically reflexology and feels horrible on my already blistered ground up feet.

As it gets darker and darker, the trail is increasingly more difficult to follow.  The problem is that the ribbons are not reflective and not appearing with regularity.  It’s fine when it’s light out, but it’s super difficult to know where to go.  Basically, every single intersection involves me wandering around trying to find ribbons, and then guessing which way the trail goes.  I can see where the aid station is, but it’s impossible to see which direction to go to get to that location.

When I start to hear voices (other than the usual weird ones in my head), I start to see more ribbons, so, phew, every time I see a ribbon, I know that I am still on the right path.  There is two or three plywood sections to get across the stream (bad balance but I make it).  So happy to see these folks, especially because I now have only 1.5 miles to get to the end, mostly downhill and not too confusing where to go.

The last few miles aren’t too bad, though slightly confusing for about half a mile until I get back into the campground gate.  Now I know where to go!

I get to the finish line in 16:35:01, one of my slowest 50 mile races.  (Seems weird to type that.)  With this finish, I have completed at least one 50 miler every year for 14 years.  Pretty amazing.

I watch a couple of people finish and then go over to the food area to see what they have.  They serve me a cheeseburger with fixin’s and a beer, with the burger on a real plate and the beer in a glass mug.  It tastes really good and hits the spot.

I chat for a bit with the volunteers, watch a couple runners come in, but I do need to get some sleep because I am volunteering tomorrow morning before my drive home.

At about 8am, I roust myself and get dressed, and start helping with cleaning out coolers, water jugs, plates, silverware, pots, pans, whatever got dirty and needs to be cleaned.  Then we work on packing up all the supplies.  I end up with some food items, like packages of strawberries, chips, soda, various grub that won’t last.  The remainder of the unopened leftover food is to be donated to a food bank.

I chatted a bit with the RD of ways that the race could be improved for next year, but that I think for the most part everything went extremely well.  My major contention is that there should be plentiful reflective markers from the cutoff points where the weather would be dark.  Todd agrees, so I hope to run this race again next year with less snow and more markers, but I would run through snow again.

If you have a chance to come up and try one of these races, the scenery is amazing, the cutoffs are generous (maybe even for the 100K), and the race benefits local outdoor education programs and local search and rescue.  Truly worth it.

Wild Wild West 50K – 2019

May 4, 2019

After finishing the 50 miler last year in Lone Pine (including an hour early start with Alan and Darrell), I decided to take advantage of the early entry fee and see if I couldn’t get in another completion on this beautiful and challenging course.

Alan isn’t in this year.  He has the PCT 50 miler next weekend and I don’t think his wife would look kindly on being away all day two weekends in a row.  Darrell is running also but I was unable to make arrangements vis-a-vis a formal place to stay.  I’ll probably nap in my car until the first bus drives up (last year, we drove up to the campground and started on our own).  While the race starts at 5am, there is a bus to the start at 3:45am, and the website does say you can keep your own time.  That’s our plan.

I arrive in Lone Pine super early on Friday.  Bib pickup is at 5pm, so I have 2-3 hours to kill.  I read the newspaper in the car and try to take some catnaps.  At five, I wander inside and talk with my many ultra-friends who are here, like Kim and Beth, Linda, and even Tam P. and Angela are up for the marathon.

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Tam, me, and Angela at the info meeting on Friday.

At the bib pick-up, it’s the usual confusing pre-race briefing.  I guess it gives the race some characters, but it confuses the hell out of first-timers.  They make a big deal about the fact that they are doing a different start this year so there won’t be any issues with the Tuttle Creek campground.  (Though, I guess if you are staying at the campground, you have to figure out how to get to the new start.)

After the meeting, I drive over to the parking lot across the street from the finish line, and try to get comfortable in my car for a short sleep.  It’s a little cold outside but I have my sleeping bag and I sleep diagonally across in the driver’s rear seat to the passenger front seat.  Not sure if I am actually sleeping.  I am having vivid dreams about the course.  Even though I have run this course before, I am sure that the dreams are just a generalized course (and I don’t need to wake up exhausted from previewing it).

I wake up well before 3:45am (!) and I made special sure yesterday to avoid eating much the night before because I will not have the opportunity to utilize a toilet (unless I want to squat on course).

The bus pulls into my lot around 3:35 and I grab a good seat.  The bus isn’t particularly full (maybe 1/2 to 3/4) and it is mostly first-timers who are nervous about finishing the race (though I don’t think there are many starting early).   I chat with a few people who are first-time marathoners (and one or two 50Kers).  Scary that they pick a race like this for their first.  It’s so hard.

As opposed to 2 years ago (because last year we drove ourselves to the start), the drive is a lot shorter, because we are not starting at the campground, but off the road.  It’s dark, windy, and a little cold.  This isn’t the best starting spot, because there is little space for us to congregate.  Darrell is there; I think he camped or stayed nearby and just drove to the start.  We start almost immediately.  No way we’re waiting for the 5am start.  I’ll definitely need all the time I can get, especially because I am still wearing the knee brace.

57451100_2252201981698891_9127245720967970816_nDarrell, Emmett, and John Radich at the start

So, we head off on a trail that goes off at a slight angle from the road, maybe double-track, and pitch black (dark even with headlamps).  After about 45 minutes on this trail, it pops out in the Tuttle Creek Campground (?!?).  I hope they’re cutting off a portion of the trail because they just added 5K to the course!

As usual, the path isn’t marked that well within the campground, so we wander for a little bit trying to remember which side of the campgrounds leads to the trails.  Nothing like getting lost at Mile 3 of 53.  Our misfortunes from last year helped a little bit here, including taking the left-ward path once we figured out where the trail continued.  I wish they would be clearer on the markings in this section.

Even though it’s dark, the trail seems a little more familiar, that is to say, we wander through the bushes and work our way over to the main trail and get to the first aid station.  According to the map, this is Mile 4, and look, it took me over 4 hours!  (Probably really 7.1 miles.)

We’re starting to get caught up by other runners.  This is a good opportunity for Darrell to push the pace a bit and I let a couple of runners surge by me on the water crossing section because it is slippery, hair-pin turns, and my leg is bound up a bit.  Once on the other side, a little bit of uphill, but then a long downhill fire-road run.  This second aid station is run by the Badwater race folks.  I saw the sign for 20 minutes and kept trying to guess what it said (Bad Mother?  Mar weather?).  It’s a little mosquito-y around here, as we are by a short water crossing.  I fared much better in this section, around 10-11 minutes per mile (so ACTUALLY 4 miles this time).

A change to the course this year for the marathoners (50K and 50M course still the same) is that everyone climbs up to Whitney Portal.  (The marathon course avoided that in the past.)

So now begins the long uphill slog.  This section has always been trouble for me in the past and nothing really changes this year.  It begins with a steep fire-road, leading to single-track switchbacks (gentle rises), and then a single-track hugging the hillside (with drop offs on the right).

About 5 minutes into this section, I come upon a large tree blocking the path.  I wish I had a picture to show how troubling this was (maybe three feet in diameter).  It wasn’t the case that I could throw my legs over it or climb under it.  You couldn’t edge to the right because of the drop-off.  The only choice is to use the tree to climb up the left part of the hillside, climb around the top part of the tree, and then carefully descend back down to the single-track.  This is even more difficult with the brace and my two hand-helds.  I carefully balance myself up, over the tree, throw my water bottles carefully down, and edge back onto the trail, mindful that I will have to do this again on my way back down in a few hours.

Also, I am now very out of breath and not able to move very fast up the trail.  (I mean, I am climbing up to 8400 feet.)  It’s slow going, especially on the sections where I am sorta climbing up stairs because my knees hurt.  Some people passing me, luckily not that crowded.  On this section, I see Kim Gimenez coming down.  We exchange some niceties.  Always great to see her.

When I get up to the beginning of the campground area, there is the appearance of some permafrost or snow, luckily not across the trail… yet.  Even though I am struggling with the thin air, I like this section of the trail because it is nicely built evenly spaced wooden stairs.

Now we get into the heart of the snow.  First, there is a narrow section curving around a rock and all tromping through deep snow.  Then there is a flat section that is nothing but snow.  It’s not too slippery (it’s kinda cool, though) but I do need to concentrate on where I place my feet so I don’t get cold AND wet feet.

A few minutes before I get to the aid station, the top, and the turn-around, I see Darrell.  I joke I will catch up with him soon.  This 3 mile section took me over 2 hours. Hope I do better on the way down.

On the way down, I see Linda Dewees.  She WILL catch up to me soon.  I spot a few other people who are struggling up the hill.  I started about an hour early and I see people who started on time two miles behind me and having just as much trouble summitting.

I do what I can to manage a faster speed heading down the hill, knowing that it’s going to take me a while to climb back over that tree on the way down.  It seems to be worse coming down the hill, and I am just as out of breath, even though I am heading downhill, but I do clear it and continue to the easier part of the trail (switchbacks, steep downhill), and the turn off to the back half of the trail and another mile to the aid station.

A nice comparison coming down to going up, with 1:26 for 4 miles downhill versus 2:05 for 3 miles uphill.

From here, it’s rolling hills through the Alabama Hills section.  I use my long legs to “power up” the hills as much as I can.  It’s usually pretty windy through this section.  I see few runners here and manage a sluggish 23 minutes per mile through Mile 18.

From here, it’s 4 miles to the next aid station and where I will make a decision on whether to continue on to run the 50 miler or drop to the 50K if I am not fast enough to finish under 16 hours.  Given that I am at 7 and a half hours now, it doesn’t look like a good option to continue (and I am okay with that).

I try to hustle a bit to give myself every opportunity to continue, but I reach Mile 22 in 9 hours.  There’s just no chance to run 28 MORE miles in 7 hours.  I did the math, 15 minute miles, but a lot of that would be in the dark.

So I take the turn off for the 50K, maybe a little forlorn, but I know it’s the right decision.

The trail is better marked than last year (or people didn’t mess with it) so I have fewer problems and don’t wander around in a circle coming back to the aid station and not finding the inbound trail.  I mean, now I have 7 hours left to do 9 miles.  I can get lost a little bit.

It’s fairly lonely here, because I am towards the back of the 50K runners and mostly ahead of the 50M runners.  Also, this section is a narrow single-track (here called a sheep trail) that drops down low and climbs steeply out on-and-on.  A nice lady catches up to me on this section, named Andrea Lehr.  She is feeling the same way I am on this section – it’s endless, it’s difficult, and it sucks!

As I reach each rise, it’s kinda like “Are we there yet?” and the answer continues to be, “Not yet.”  But it’s nice to have someone to get through the end of this race with.

As soon as we spot the giant American flag, I know we are getting towards the home stretch, because the flag marks the location of the final aid station.  This year, there are people here (because it’s not the tail end of the 50M) and we can chat with them a little bit.

From here, 3 miles to the end of the course, mostly downhill.  In fact, steep downhill, a little gravelly.  My feet are slipping heavily in the shoes, so my toes hurt quite a bit slamming into the front of the toe box after 9+ hours.

Now we veer over to the Whitney Portal Road and run down the road for half a mile, and then turn back onto the trail and into the back of the finishing park.  I’ve gotten a little ahead of Andrea.  I’m modified speed walking to get in as soon as possible and finish in 10 hours and 59 minutes (one of my worst 50K times, but my best 55K!).  Andrea comes in a few minutes later, but she started on time (so maybe 10:06).

The finish line is a little better than last year.  A Grocery Outlet opened up in town (which I had visited during the time between arriving and packet pick-up) and she brought some give-aways – weird flavors of Gatorade and prunes, some crackers – the usual G.O. stuff.

I hang out for a little while, but I cannot wait until the 8pm end time to see when Darrell comes across the finish line (15:09) because I am driving home afterwards and don’t want to get home too late.

Not sure if I will do this race again.  I need to find out if they are doing that extra 3 mile start, if they will mark it better, or maybe when the long-time RDs of the Chamber of Commerce retire, get new management and do things a little differently.  No slight to CoC, but after 40 years, maybe try something different.

This is my 101st ultra and I hope my slow time isn’t indicative of not being able to do ultras any more.   I’m thinking about doing Bishop in a few weeks.  I think I could do the extra 16 miles (to reach 50) in under 8 hours, so hope to give it a try.

OTHTC 50K – 2018

December 2, 2018

As long as this race doesn’t happen on Thanksgiving Weekend, I would like to continue to run it.  This is a quality event put on by a quality volunteer running club organization.  They know what runners want and they deliver, and it’s reasonably priced.  Four of my ten best 50Ks (in terms of time) have been run here, and the race is centrally located to where many of my ultra-running friends live.  It’s a great introductory event and friends like Angela Holder, Stephanie Harris, and Dulce Barton ran their first ultras here, not to mention many hasher friends.

For the past several years, I have been fortunate to stay with Darrell Price and Megan Stone in their home so close to the race start/finish.  Angela has joined me as well as Alan a couple of times.  This year, we convinced speedy Peter Yeh to join us for his first ultra (no need for an early start with this one).  Also staying at the house is John Radich, an ultra runner whose name I have seen dozens of times, but had yet to put a name to a face.

After registering and enjoying a simple pasta dinner at St. Ann’s, we retire to Megan and  Darrell’s for minimal talking before an early bed.

I created pace sheets for all my friends that are running today, which also include Rumiko (aka Yoko) running her first ultra, Aamir (aka Dr. Strange Glove), possibly also his first, and Laura and Stephanie Harris (not her first).

I see many of my favorite people and jog with some in the first few miles but generally fade off as they push along at a good pace and I do a slog.  Alan and Peter are well ahead of me, and Laura took off early.

After the first aid station, we are dusted by a truck driving along the trail for a bit (and then pulling off to provide beer support to their runners (for Rumiko and Michelle in the 30K).

There is a really nice moment about 22 miles in when Aamir and I are going at about the same pace.  A sort of extra fun moment with this is that in the past week or so, I have been trying to write alternative lyrics to Christmas songs, so I test myself by singing them to Aamir (and writing a couple more on the fly).

When we get to Wagon Wheel at Mile 25, I avail myself of a beer (because I’m not running a PR here) and at this point, Aamir pushes his pace with the intent of breaking 7 hours.

At the last aid station, of course, I enjoy another beer proffered by Chris Rios and Ruth Carter (former RD and hash friend), but don’t waste too much time so that I can finish in around 7:10.

All of us have good times, ranging from 4:45 and change for Peter up to 8:30 for Laura and Stephanie.  We enjoy some pizza, soda, and beer before hopping in the car and driving back to Southern Cal.

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John, Alan, Peter, me, and Darrell at the finish line.

I look forward to 2019 when I can finish my 10th OTHTC and get my 10 time finisher’s jacket.

4 Days

February 26, 2019

4.  Darrell Price

I met Darrell at the High Desert 50K in 2014.  I believe it was his first ultra and he was struggling a bit on the downhills (not my favorite, either) so we ran together for a few miles and had a nice chit-chat.  It turned out that he was local to Ridgecrest, but… spent about half his time in Long Beach for his work as a Geriatric Life Coach.  We became Facebook friends and resolved to meet up for some runs in Long Beach in the next year.

But, that never transpired. (Boo, hiss.)  And so, in 2015, Darrell and his fiancée, Megan Stone, invited me (and Angela Holder driving up with me) to stay with them in their house the night before the race.  This was perfect because they live about a half mile from the start line.  This repeated itself in 2016 as well, and I have gotten to know Darrell and Megan a whole lot better because of it.

In 2017, Darrell reached out to me and said that he and Megan would be running Shadow of the Giants 50K in Fish Camp.  It would be Megan’s first 50K and wondered if I could provide any advice about the course.  At the race, we talk over some of the course and I provide them with a laminated pace sheet (which always works well for me).  Megan finishes within a few minutes of me and Darrell a little further back.

Later that year, back up to Ridgecrest again to stay, but Angela is working a race in Laughlin and decides not to go, so instead, Alan comes with me.  He just met Darrell but quickly becomes great friends.  This is a testament to the kind of person Darrell is, not just his Southern charm, but his gregariousness and inspirational qualities.  (Plus, a beer or two at the finish line goes a long way to ingratiate yourself to your host.)

For 2018, we make arrangements to do the Wild Wild West 50 mile race.  Alan and I think we will probably sleep in my car (partially due to Alan getting permission to go last minute), but once we are in Lone Pine, Darrell resolves to “make it work.”  At 9pm, we sneak over to his Airbnb rental and take up all available floor space.  In the morning, the three of us drive up to the Start, park Darrell’s truck wherever seems non-illegal in the dark at 3am, and then start the race early.

Even with three brilliant minds, we can’t find the start for 45 minutes, get lost in the first half mile, and I fall and cut myself in that same span.  We mostly stay together until the first few 50M runners pass us, around dawn, and encourage each other on the climb up and down to Whitney Portal.

Alan surges way ahead, but Darrell and I are back and forth all day, and the biggest part of the adventure comes when we are in the last 5 miles.  A lady we are with is saying that she cannot find the path back, that she keeps running in circles, and we end up doing that, too.  We decide we will find the road (even though it’s probably a longer run) and take that back into town, but we end up running into the race director in her car.  She is picking up aid station tables, and she tells us that she will drop us at the correct spot (someone had messed with the markings).  It was a short drive and Darrell got stuck in the back with the tables. By the time we get to the final stretch, we are a few extra miles in, but mostly keep one another in sight and finish close together.

Of course, in December, Alan and I are back in Ridgecrest for another night with our wonderful hosts, Megan and Darrell.

Probably what I like best about Darrell is that he is a younger version of me.  Well, except for the Southern part, the engaged part, the having a kid part, and the Geriatric Life Coach part. (Ha ha.)  But what I really mean is that he is a tall, consistent, and not overly speedy ultra runner.  He is there for the accomplishment of the feat, the adventure, and to meet all of the wonderful people that our sport offers.

Wild Wild West 50M – 2018

May 5, 2018

Two years ago, I had planned on doing the 50 miler here in Lone Pine, but only a month earlier, I fell on a training run and fractured my elbow.  My recovery was not such that I could pull that off.

Last year, I decided to do the 50K up here and see how good (or badly) it would go.  Part of my reasoning also was due to the fact that Darrell Price (my buddy from Ridgecrest that I have stayed with the past few years) had done the 50M in 2016 and really struggled with it.

Anyway, the 50K went reasonably well.  That is to say that I finished it and wasn’t maimed.  I was pretty sure I would struggle with the 50M race, but I had also noted on the website that you could start whenever you wanted and let them know your time at the finish line.  Maybe start 2 hours early and build up my confidence by not being at the back the entire race.

Meanwhile, Darrell said that he was interested in doing the 50M (and starting early) and Alan Sheppard (who had done his first 50M race in Marin County (somewhat with me))last September expressed interest as well (and could start early if that was the consensus of the people he carpooled with).

Whether Alan could run it or not was left until the last minute (at WWW, this means by the Tuesday before the event), so I didn’t make any hotel plans.  Figured I would wing it as I usually do.  Our tentative plan was to sleep in the car, especially since we would need to leave for the start around 2:00 or 2:30am.  What kind of sleep would we get anyway?

Darrell was feeding me all sorts of AirBnB options, and said we might be able to stay with him at his if all 8 planets aligned.  Both Alan and I felt we might be putting him out by doing this, so the plan was to wing it.

Alan and I left Anaheim around noon and immediately hit horrible traffic on the 5, all the way to the 5/14 interchange.  That certainly didn’t bode well!

However, we made relatively good time and got up to the check-in at the school before it opened up and walked around a tad.  It was pretty hot out (like 80s and 90s).  Probably will be hot tomorrow as well.

We picked up our bibs and shirts and sat down to a pasta feed.  Talked to a few folks.  It’s the usual mix of first timers, old friends, and random people that recognize me (for some reason) that I do not know at all.

I had a short conversation with another tall guy (think he was 6’7″) but he was only doing the full marathon or the 10 miler.  (It’s okay, tall people don’t really do ultramarathons.)

The Chamber of Commerce folks gave a talk and made some announcements.  It was really the worst speaker system.  I think that the teachers in the Peanuts movies spoke more clearly.  The important part here was just making sure we could start early, where we might park, and if there were any cutoffs.  (Answers:  Yes, anywhere if you showed up well before the start, and probably not.)

We did meet up with Darrell at the check-in and he said that once he got settled in, he would text us to come over and stay.  Alan and I were still ambivalent about stressing out Darrell, and drove over to the finish line parking lot to (possibly) settle in for the night.  It was still pretty hot out (even with the doors open) so don’t know how comfortable it was gonna be.

Around 8:45, Darrell said, come over.  It’s going to work out after all.  I think the deal was that the unit was not supposed to sleep more than 3, but no one was around to double-check that.  The other couple had the “master bedroom” and were settled in, and Darrell was on the couch.  He blew up an air mattress for me and Alan was on the floor.

It was a tad more comfortable than the car.  I mean, yeah, having a toilet, way better, but, I’m sure I groaned every time I rolled over and the air mattress made all sorts of squeaky noises and I nearly rolled off every time I moved.  Okay, and the air conditioning made it comfy inside instead of hot.

I was hoping that we would leave at 2:00am, park, and then try and start by 3:00am, but I think I got up at 2:15am, and we were out the door by 3:15am.  The plan had become caravanning to the finish line and leaving my car, and then driving in Darrell’s truck to the start (and then shuttling him back after the race).

At about 3:40, we got up to the campground, which is the start area for the race.  Parking was severely limited, because, well, it’s a campground and we were not camping… but we did spot a non-campsite spot in between campsites that was off the campground road.  We felt secure enough that his car would not get towed (after all, what a horrible inconvenience for some tow truck driver and the campground wouldn’t want to tow a legit car – they wouldn’t know since we snuck in under the cover of darkness).

There were a few people stirring, getting ready for their day (whether it was the race or not).  We asked someone where the start line was and they pointed amorphously off to the left.  Darrell kept saying that he recognized where we were, but I felt, from last year, that we had to come UP some road and that bathrooms were at the top and the start was near that.  We parked at the top of the road we were on, so it didn’t make a lot of sense.

We walked for about 15 or 20 minutes before we realized that we were in a campsite loop that was next to the area where the race started, and sure enough, up a hill to bathrooms, and a sign indicating where the start line was.

So, 4:10am and we are finally on our way.

The very first intersection is maybe 20 yards after the start.  Pink ribbon at the exact middle of the intersection, neither left nor right.  Left looks like an offshoot and right looks like the main path, so, we go right.

I am looking askance (to the left), keeping track of where it goes and if we could shift over if our path is wrong (there are a few spots).  After about 5 minutes, our road essentially dead ends, so we backtrack to where I saw we could cut over.  I step to the left and my foot drops off about 3 feet and I fall forward onto my knees and hands.  Great start, buddy!

I am lightly bleeding on my knees, but I feel okay (as okay as you can feel starting off a 50M with a fall in the first 5 minutes after getting lost).

We get to the first turnoff (where the full, 50K, and 50M split off from the 10 miler) of 3.9 miles in 1:18 – 20 minute miles!  We need to be around 19 to finish, and not off to a good start, though it is super dark.

Our trail veers off into the bushes and it is a guessing game trying to figure out where it goes next.  One of us spots a pink ribbon and heads towards that.  Actually, it is pretty well marked, just hard to follow pre-sunrise.

A little bit later, we get to a spot I recognize, which is a single-track leading down to a water crossing.  I fall a little behind Darrell and Alan at this point, just because I am nervous about falling again.  When I get to the bottom, they have arranged some wooden boards so we can cross without getting wet.

Once we get to the other side, we are back onto a fire-road and we catch our first runner, Bill Dickey (78 years old) who started probably 30 minutes before us, in the 50K.  The fire-road goes downhill and I watch Alan fade off into the distance, while I chat briefly with Bill.  Darrell is also a bit ahead of me, but I have to do my own thing, can’t worry about those young short guys.

The next big intersection is where the marathon splits off from us.  Last year, it was the everybody-but-the-50M split, but this year, the 50Kers get to suffer, too, and go up to Whitney Portal.  I didn’t do this last year, so I don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure it will be tough.  I am already struggling with the elevation and I think we will go up to 8600 feet at the top.  Phew.

I have made up a little time getting to this point, but still well over the 19:00 pace I really need to finish this race.  Guess what?   Uphill ain’t going to help much.

The beginning of this section is a series of switchbacks at a slight incline, but there is a point after we do a big water crossing that the turns are more frequent and steeper (read:  climbing up on rocks).  This is super slow going for me.  As people pass me and give me encouragement, I cannot even speak out a single coherent thought, other than “uh,” or “ugh.” (Almost a breathy “thanks” at one point.)

The trail gets a little easier, slope-wise as we get into the actual camping area, with a measured out path, replete with wooden cross-hatching and signposts.   On the uphill, I am passed by David Binder and Rafael Covarrubias (dang, already made up the 50 minute stagger!).

And just after the confusing “tunnel,” Alan comes by on his way down, and says that Darrell is not that far ahead of me.  This “tunnel” is a path between two large rocks and in my addled mind, it looks like the path dead-ends, so I didn’t head in that direction and tried to figure another way up.  Once you get up to it, it’s clear that it goes through, but when you are spacey, you get paranoid.

The last bit up to the aid station is a step-bridge.  By this I mean that there are literally steps in the bridge climbing up to the aid station – it’s not just a bridge.  I can see Darrell on the other side cramming in whatever he can manage for the descent.  As I come in, he departs.  I know I’m in a time-crunch, so I eat a couple pieces of fruit and immediately turn around.  My 1:44:26 for this 4-mile section has ballooned my time to over 21 minutes a mile.  Hope I can make up some time on the path down (into thicker air).

On the walk down, both Kelly Motyka and John Hampton pass me heading up.  They both got into Western States 100M and are using this race (the 50K) as a training run for elevation.  Both look way better than me.

Some time later, Kelly passes me on the downhill section, which is slow going on the stepping-on-rocks part.  Knees still feel a bit off and I don’t want to ruin them this early.  At least when I get back onto the switchback portion, I can jog a little bit.  The bad part is that although I came down the hill MUCH faster than I went up it, I have only reduced my total pace to 20:49/mile.  Not fast enough, in other words.  At this point, I really do have to think about maybe shifting to the 50K if I cannot get my pace up.

Just after the turn back to the marathon course, John Hampton passes me.  He doesn’t look as good as Kelly, and he tells me that he threw up.  (Hmm… not sure that I’ve ever thrown up on any race.)

Now there is a fire-road section where you can see some of the other runners on the other side of the river.  There is a crossing point with a metal bridge.  Last year, this bridge was 6 inches under water, but this year, it’s a good 2 to 3 feet above the water.  Just crossing the bridge is Tam Premsrirath and Angela Holder, presumably in the marathon, because they didn’t pass me on the Whitney Portal section.

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After cresting this hill on the other side, there is a beautiful (endless) downhill section.  I like some downhill but not endless downhill because it’s hard on the joints.  I run some of it, but mostly, I am walking or skipping or galloping to get it over with.  Loads of people pass me, but they are probably in the 50K, so I’m not going to worry about it.  As I am getting to the end of the section, I spot a flag with some writing on it, like Baobab or Bellydancer.  I wonder what it says.

As I get closer, it’s the Mile 18 aid station, and the flag says “Badwater.”  That makes the most sense, even if Badwater doesn’t make any sense to me.  (Never want to walk/run 135 miles through Death Valley, nope.)  My combo walk/run is at 15:03/mile, and drops my total average pace to 19:31.  Hmm… that’s good news.  Darrell is here ahead of me and he is taking a while with the refueling, so I end up passing him.  I’m sure he’ll catch back up soon.

When the downhill ends, there’s more uphill, but not steep and not rocky, and thoroughly walkable.  I am maintaining pace with a Las Vegas music teacher/violinist named Tig (Antigone).  She walks and jogs while I walk briskly and I am enjoying the conversation.  We have favorite early music in common, like Gesualdo and Josquin des Prez (names that my followers will look up online and still go, huh?).  She has played in some shows and also teaches lessons.  This is only her second 50K and she picked a doozy.

We hit Mile 20 together and I’ve pulled back another 30 seconds per mile with my walking.  Around 22, I start to pull away as we get into the Alabama Hills and the wind.  She is pulling into the aid station as I pull out and hit 19:00 net pace for the first time since my fall at 0.001 miles.

Out of this aid station, there is sizable downhill to the 50K/50M split spot.  Looks like there is a wedding going on here today, or I am hallucinating a set of white folding chairs (or both).  Linda Dewees catches up to me and we walk/jog/talk for a bit.  I always love seeing her.  She is always so positive and encouraging (and a cool lady).

As I get closer to the 50K/50M split, I spot some of the marks for the incoming route to here, which I always find confusing, but if I make a note of it, then maybe I won’t get lost.

As I pull into Mile 26, I managed the last section at a 12:36 pace, I think thanks to jogging with Linda and my pace is at 18:16.  Now I don’t have to make that bad decision to drop back to a shorter distance!!  I can continue on.  Tig comes into the aid station as I am leaving and I wish her luck and head off on the 50M loop.

This is an extremely lonely section.  It’s very sandy and no shade whatsoever and I do not see another racer for over 2 hours.  I do see a number of mountain bikers and hikers who give me some encouragement.

The next aid station is at Mile 30 (or so) and my loping pace has brought me to 17:34 per mile.  Literally, I have walked myself back into finishing!  I spot some beers that the aid station guy has and ask for some.  He drinks half and I drink half.  It’s cold and refreshing.  He’s an older guy (late 70s, I think) and tells me about some of the cute gals that have come by (I wonder what he thought of the lady in the booty shorts that Alan later said was twerking at the aid stations…) and how it makes it all worth it.

Leaving this aid station, I am immediately heading up a giant sand dune.  The variety of two steps up, one step backwards.  Yuck.  Very draining, but at least I have a beer in me to make the pain go away somewhat.  It descends down the other side and eventually into some single track, crosses a road, and then a very confusing section through some brambles.

I see Darrell behind me and when he crosses the road, he starts up the road (Alan did this, too, apparently), but I shout back where the ribbons are.  I dropped back some of the pace here, but still under 18/mile.  The aid station is manned by two black guys, one in a fancy BMX outfit.  Think he might be a semipro BMX racer?  Nice folk.

Leaving this aid station, it widens out and I see some rock climbers, people drinking beer, a few folks with unleashed dogs.  One dog goes after me, wildly, and its owner does little to rein him in.  I was prepared to kick the dog away, even though I don’t think I could outrun an angry owner at this point.  Once I get to the fence area, the dog stops giving chase (and/or the owner gets him under control).

On the other side of the fence, it’s horse-shit heaven.  There are piles and piles of the stuff all over here.  I don’t know if it’s a depository or what, but there is a lot of it.  A little past this point, I end up backtracking a bit, probably due to another vague marking into dense mustard plants (even though it looks cooler to go into the rock area).

By the next aid station, at Mile 36, Darrell (and his merry gang) have caught up to me.  Matt and Mike have been with Darrell a bit.  We stay together somewhat, but there are points where they stop to dip bandanas in cool water or retie shoes or whatever.  I’m trying not to let that stuff slow me down, ’cause I know they’ll catch up (or not).  I’m just worried about me and staving off blisters that are slowly forming on my foot pad.

Matt passes and soars off into the distance, while Mike and Darrell are only a bit ahead of me.  They get further ahead on a section where the descent is gravelly and downhill.  I don’t like this one bit.  They are both heading out from the aid station as I am coming in.  A nice man and girl who own a ranch or restaurant up the road and have a couple of vases full of lavender… and beer.  As I am leaving the aid station, they mention that I am the first person to drink a cup of Skratch (like Gatorade), a cup of beer, and a cup of Coke at their stop!

From here, just a short 4 miles back to the 50K/50M cutoff (and then 5 to the end of the race).

There is a scramble up more of these Grape-Nuts and then a flat fire-road, then up over the hill, then down, then a jump (literally, scary!) over a creek onto a rock, and then a hairy section on seesawing shale somewhat along the highway, and zigzagging along the top of the cliff overlooking said highway.  I keep spotting Mike and Darrell in the distance and it looks like one of them has stopped for the moment.

It turns out to be Mike.  He’s 38 years old (though I thought he was older – Darrell said something later about “hard living”) and he tells me he’s never finished a 50 miler while in his 30s.  (Today’s the day, Mike.  You can do it.)  I say we just have to walk briskly through this section and we will make it.  I continue to be encouraging until I notice that he has slowed behind me.  Ohhh….kay.  Bye.

I pull into the Mile 45 aid station in 13:48.  For the official cutoff, I have 1 hour and 12 minutes for 5 miles, but because of my early start, I have 2 hours, 2 minutes.  Plenty of time (can average 24 minutes/mile and still make it; and my current overall average is at 18:25 – lost a little bit on the gravel).

Darrell is at the aid station, along with Denise, who says it is her second or third time back here, that she has been unable to find how to get to the finish, that the ribbons and arrows lead her back here again and again.

We are looking at the map (which is nothing more than a general elevation map with some mile markers on it, nothing that shows all the possible trails around here).  I say that I remember that chalked section that we have to get to (no idea where it is, but I’ll know it when I see it), and from last year, I remember the goat trails to the large American flag. We should be okay.

So, we follow the ribbons and the arrows.  I can totally see how she might have veered back to the aid station multiple times… but suddenly, we find ourselves, yep, heading back.  Denise says she doesn’t want to go through this again.  I don’t want to go through it once.

Darrell suggests that we just make a beeline for the highway and that will (eventually) get us back to the finish line.  Sounds good to me, and we are directed towards the road by some people in a camper.  A short while later, a car drives up, with “Wild Wild West Race Director” on it.  We tell her that we are lost and we are just going to take the road back.

She says that she is going to figure out what went wrong (most of it was really well labeled, in my opinion).  “Do you want to finish?”  Yeah!

“Okay,” she says.  I’ll drive the three of you back to the correct spot.  By the way, it’s a small car and I have three aid station tables in it.

I try to fold myself over one of the tables, but I can’t even get my head inside the door, so, sorry, Ds, I will take the front seat.  Denise somehow fits draped over the tables, and Darrell is lying on the tables.

It is not a long ride but there are little markings that would have led us here.  Probably sabotage (since we have heard there were problems from multiple people).  She says that she will let the people at Mile 48 know to leave stuff for us (even though it is only 5 miles to the finish).

Where she has dropped us is the start of the goat trails, which is a lot of single-track steep up and steep downhill sections.  Both Darrell and Denise are in the mood of, “If there’s one more sucky hill, I’m going to quit,” but when I spot the giant American flag, those thoughts somewhat go away.  Denise is lagging a bit behind us, but we all get into the aid station around the same time.

Because of the detour, 22 minutes a mile in this section, but still under 19/mile.  There is a cooler here with a few Gatorades, ice water, and beer.  I have some beer and Gatorade, and then begin immediately heading down the hill, just because it’s starting to get dark and I feel Darrell and Denise do not have the same downhill struggles I do.

Darrell comes by me at a pretty good clip.  I know he was complaining earlier about something.  I have been complaining for about 10 miles about blisters and the rockiness of the trail is just making it worse, but I amble/skip/gallop/walk down the hill, and try to keep Darrell in sight.

When I get to the highway (gosh, we might have done an extra 5 miles if we went this way), I know I am almost there.  It’s a short section over a bridge and then back into the “wilderness,” and through the back of the park to the front of the park and Highway 395 and the finish!

I get into the park and I am singing patriotic songs to myself, like Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.  I then notice up ahead a skunk.  Hmm…  Don’t want to get sprayed at this point.  I start singing Battle Hymn of the Republic VERY LOUDLY and it starts to skitter away.  A few verses of “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” and it keeps its distance!  Phew!

Finally, I can see the fence line and cheering/cowbell.  I cross the finish in 15:41:06 (or 14:51:24 as the official results say, even though I told them my time at the finish).  No medal or ceramic for me as they have run out, but they say they will mail one to me.

Darrell finished 7 minutes earlier and Alan, about an hour earlier.

At the finish, some of Darrell’s friends have bought us some Chinese and Thai food (spicy!) and beer.  Great that they did this, but sucky that they don’t have sandwiches or pizza or something after 15 hours of activity.

As soon as I get myself together, we get in the car to drive up and get Darrell’s car.  I make a few wrong turns, but eventually we find the start again.  Darrell thinks he might have been towed, or at a minimum, a parking ticket or fine, but we get up there and absolutely nothing done to his truck.

We drive back down and treat Darrell to dinner at Carl’s Jr.  I ate that Chinese food and wasn’t that hungry to begin with and Darrell isn’t as hungry as he thought, either.

We head back to the room, now just three of us.  Darrell has the room, I have the couch, and Alan, well (sucks for you), the floor.  My shoes stink so badly that I have to leave them outside.  Hope they will be there in the morning!  (They are.)

On our drive back on Sunday morning, Alan and I decide we will look in on the Randsburg Hash event.  (This has been going on after Wild Wild West Marathon for years, but not last year, and previously, I have had other things to do that weekend.)  We make the windy drive into hot Randsburg and most everything is closed and there are only a handful of hashers up there.  Neither of us want to do the run (for obvious reasons) but we each enjoy a beer and celebrate our race completion – 2nd 50 miler for Alan and 25th for me!

Ridgecrest High Desert 50K – 2017

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.

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).

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.

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!