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.