Tag Archives: Linda Dewees

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.

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.

5 Days

February 25, 2019

5.  Linda Dewees

I met Linda in 2012 at the Bishop High Sierra Ultras.  This was serendipity because the only reason I ran Bishop was my DNF earlier that month at Miwok.  Linda was hanging back of the pack (due to injury) and once I found out she was from Ridgecrest (or nearby Inyokern), I felt like I had met someone who ran in the same circles as I did.

Later that year, I encountered her at the High Desert 50K and we got to run most of the last few miles together, a happy reunion at a much shorter race.

Probably our best two encounters occurred last year in two races in two consecutive months in the California High Sierras, Wild Wild West 50M and Bishop High Sierra 50M.

At Wild Wild West, Linda caught up to me in the Alabama Hills section (I started early) and stayed with me for a few miles.  What I like about running with Linda is that she is very upbeat and positive (but in a subtle, rather than rah-rah, way) and always really excited to see me.  I ended up jogging for a bit with her (I had been walking) just because I like hanging out with her, before she turned it up (and went on to finish the 50K, while I slogged out the 50M).

At Bishop, we met up at the late check-in at the Start/Finish line.  I was biding my time, hoping no one would say anything about me sleeping in my car here.  I said something to the effect of, don’t tell on me, and then Linda mentioned that she and her husband were sleeping in their truck camper (so we could “hang” together).  Great minds think alike!

In the actual race, we also did get to run together a little bit and finished within an hour of each other (in the scheme of a 50M, that’s about a minute a mile difference), and then spent another night hanging out in the parking lot before parting early Sunday morning and heading back south.

I always love seeing Linda at races because I know that her infectious positive attitude will motivate me to run with her.  I know this isn’t anything special specific to me, because I also see the camaraderie and joy she brings to lots of my ultra running friends.  I’m glad that there are people like Linda to make the ultra running experience that much better.

Bishop 50M – 2018

June 2, 2018

Back in 2012, I ran a race in Bishop as a replacement ultra when I failed to finish the Miwok 100K earlier that month.  Fortunately, Martin Santos and Rafael Covarrubias were going up and we made a camping trip (of sorts) of it.  That year, I had planned on doing the 100K but struggled making cutoffs the whole way and dropped down to the 50 miler.

In 2013, I returned and simply did the 50M, but in 2014, I made a concerted effort to complete the 100K, and once again, I ended up doing the 50 miler.  By the way, I definitely know that completing a 50 miler is nothing to scoff at.

After 2014, there were some issues with the race continuing.  Inside Trail Racing which took over the event in 2014, had problems with permitting, and so, the race disappeared, with occasional promises to return, but usually leading to naught.

When I saw that it would return in 2018, I was cautiously optimistic, because I longed to try the 100K once more, and even contacted the new RD a number of times because I didn’t want to put down money for a race that might not happen.  He assured me that it was happening.

I tried (in vain) to get my same compadres from Wild Wild West to join me once again.  Up until a few days before, Alan was still thinking it might be a possibility, but he wasn’t able to dump all his young kids on his wife for another long weekend away.  I can’t remember at this point if Darrell running was a possibility or not, but it ended up being not.

So, I drove up on my own somewhat early on Friday.  It’s about 5 hours’ drive, fairly non-descript, and I got into Bishop a little before check-in (in town) started.  Since I had time to kill, I chatted it up with the check-in ladies, including Jolie who had recently moved to Bishop (and I think was running the 50K).  I also chatted with some of the people checking in (most were running shorter distances than me) and I had a nice talk with John Williams (74, not the composer) who was doing the 50K.

There was an informal talk over at the start/finish, so eventually I headed over there, with the hope of just parking in the dirt lot, hanging out (maybe helping), and then sleeping in my car.  I saw several people that I knew and also met various people trying out their first ultramarathon (including Eleanor from the Bay Area – my age, too).

I chatted quite a bit with the gal doing check-in named Jenny.  We talked extensively about the Wild Wild West race, which both of us, and have some similar issues with – like funny information on the website, confusing pre-race talk, and zilch at the finish line, food-wise (yep, even after running 50 miles!).  She said she was considering maybe working her in to maybe taking over as RD (or providing additional assistance with eventual take-over in the future as the current RD has been at it for 30+ years).

Jenny was only supposed to do check-in until a certain hour and she had other plans, so I said that I would do it until the closing time (and maybe a bit past it since I would still be here), and a few more people showed up at the last minute.

I ended up not being totally alone in the parking lot.  My good friend, Linda Dewees and her husband were in their camper, so we said we’d watch out for one another.  It wasn’t the best night.  I did my usual thing of lying in the back seat behind the driver seat and putting my feet over the reclined front passenger seat (for maximum leg room).

The nice thing is a bathroom nearby and the wake-up call is when people start driving in and parking for their races.

It was moderately chilly when we started and headed out on the paved road, up by the campground and through, through the gate onto the dirt road and up and up and up.  I hardly stopped at the first aid station (1.5 miles), because I know I’ll be up against cutoffs all day.

I won’t bore you with blow-by-blow details of the course (you can re-read my other three posts for that information, but for me, the real beginning of the race is when you get up to McGee.  It’s when you finally leave the desert-y fire roads behind and get into the High Sierra and the 8000′ elevation that you don’t descend from until Mile 43.

McGee is also where the 50K turns around and where you (delicately) cross a raging creek on a wood board and then head up (and down) an extremely rocky road.  At the bottom is a marshy, almost muddy road, and then a gentle ascent up to Edison Aid Station.

I had been around the same folk throughout this section (mostly older ladies since that’s who I am similar in speed to), and when we left Edison for the first loop up to the Overlook (the highest point at about 9300′), I ended up striking up a conversation with one of these ladies.

Barbara Ashe, 69, from Lotus, California, up by Placerville, by Cool.  We had been in a number of races together (and also done a hell of a lot more than I have).  Her pace was slightly faster than my brisk walking pace, so it gave us the ability to mostly stay together on and off all day.

From the top of the Overlook, it’s a steady downhill back to Edison and some of my best pace (16 minutes per mile!), and then heading towards Bishop Creek Lodge for the turnaround.  Missing from the course this year was the giant iron pipe climb to the main road.  There was still a steep climb but I missed the familiarity of the hot corrugated pipe.

As I headed up towards the high point here, I came across David Binder coming back from the turnaround (like 10 miles ahead of me at this point!).  I had also seen Rafael earlier, but MUCH earlier and I think he dropped down to the 20 mile fun run.  (Bummer.)  I had also heard that legendary Ann Trason was walking the 50K and Dean Karnazes was somewhere ahead in the 100K.  (We probably passed each other but I didn’t notice him.)

I was mostly by myself in this section (Barbara a bit ahead), but finally got to Intake 2 (first pass) in 8:04.  Basically, I just did an 8-hour marathon (and almost another marathon to go).

I gutted out the next section, lots of up and down, and some paved (but mostly of the gritty paved variety), AND a single-track paralleling the road, and I was having to duck and also not lose my balance through this section.

At the Bishop Creek Lodge, I refilled my water bottles, grabbed some fresh fruit (mostly all I ate on course), and started to head out.  One volunteer noted that I was less than 90 seconds in and out (impressed because it was so fast).  I saw my friend Chris Harrison (mostly only see her running aid stations not running) lazing away in a chair.  I cajoled her to join me, to keep moving, no sitting!

About 2 minutes out, she caught me and ended up passing me.  At least I got her moving!  There are cutoffs, you know.

Back to by myself for most of the trek back to Edison.  When we get there, they are starting to pack up.  Here’s the interesting dichotomy of this race:  We have 15 hours to make the cutoff  at Mile 48.5, and then we have 4 hours for the final 1.5 miles.  This is because the cutoffs for 50 miles and 100K are the same, but the interim cutoffs are not applied equally for the 50 milers, so it is a little stressful.

Same situation at McGee.  Barbara, Chris, and I all leave together.  Barbara kicks ass on the downhills and leaves us in the dust.  Chris and I are back and forth.  Down to Buttermilk (packing up).

From Bishop Creek Lodge to this point, we have been traversing the course in reverse (excluding a return trip to the Overlook), but at this point, we turn off and are on a nice wide fire road with few pointy rocks piercing our feet.  I notice that there is a dune buggy following us but never seems to want to pass.  It’s our escort (sweep of a sort) and stays far enough back to not stir up dust.

At the Highway 168 Aid station, I know that we’re gonna be good to go, because we are at 14:15 and it’s only 2 miles to the 15 hour cutoff.  Relatively certain I can do 2 miles in 45 minutes (and they won’t pull us at this point anyway).

I don’t really spend much time at the last aid station but am gutting it out to the end.  Chris Harrison, too, has left me in the dust, but I end up slogging in most of it with Raffaele Gustamacchia (her last name is longer than my entire name) through the sandy waste, through the gate, through the campground, and back to the start/finish.  We finish within 15 seconds of each other (hmm… similar to 2014 but no hard feelings that I came in first).

Got a little food at the finish, chatted with a teenage girl volunteer (who kept me away from the black widow spider under the table), celebrated a couple of 100K finishers (who came in one to three hours after us), and then retired to my car to get some rest before my drive back tomorrow.

Wondered how well Dave Binder did, and it turned out that he dropped out (at his pace I could have walked in the last 15 miles and finished in about 12 hours).

Didn’t sleep very well and the drive back sucked, but you know what?  I love the terrain here and the challenge and if the date works out, I will be back for a fifth time in 2019.

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.


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.

Avalon 50M – 2017

January 7, 2017

Excited to be heading to Catalina Island once more to run the Avalon 50M, my fifth time!

I’ve heard that if you complete the race 5 times, you get a special plaque, so I have made plans to stay an extra night for the banquet.  Most of my friends are not staying over, but an AREC guy that I have run with on a few occasions has said that I can stay at his mom and stepdad’s place on Saturday night.

Looking forward to seeing a bunch of my ultra friends, the beautiful island (hope the weather cooperates), and to be inspired by Legacy finisher Hal Winton (curious as to when he will be starting this year).  I also look forward to see who will be on my boat ride over.  Laura and Angela took an earlier boat over, but I don’t usually like to walk around a lot prior to running 50 miles.

I do my usual trick of riding the Long Beach bus from up the street all the way to Catalina Landing and packing super light (as in book to read, string backpack, lightweight jacket, and water bottles).  I think I definitely freak people out, especially when they have suitcases and I have not much.

Once at the terminal, I spot Kathryn Buchan-Varden, who I met last year, who is both a hasher and a 14-time Avalon finisher.  She is good friends with my friend, Darcie, who used to run with AREC and who I stayed with last year at her home in Utah when I attempted the disastrous North Face Challenge 50 miler.  She is hanging out in the restaurant with a couple of her Sacramento-area friends (she lives in Arizona now but did spend some time in Northern California).  Her friend Teresa will run the 50K tomorrow (a newly added distance to compel friends to run or old-timers to continue running) for her first 50K.  We are telling her all about the course (trying to set her mind at ease).

One thing that comes out in conversation is that Teresa did her Plastic Surgery residency at UC Davis in 1996.  I worked as an Administrative Assistant for Plastic Surgery Division at UC Davis Med School from October 1994 to December 1995. So… we weren’t there at the same time, but we do know a lot of the same people and she gave me some updates on doctors who were no longer there (left or died).  Small world!

Darcie, her sister, and son, Logan, showed up not longer afterwards.  Kathryn and Darcie’s family made arrangements to rent a house for the  weekend.  (Might be a good idea if I go again next year.)  I enjoy hanging with them, so we all ride the boat together.

When we get to Avalon,  I stick with them because I will be meeting up with Angela and Stephanie later, and we are just having some nice conversations.  Hanging with Kathryn and Darcie just means going and picking up the house key, getting stuff set up in the house, going to Vons to pick up some supplies (“Mini-Vons”), and just biding time until the site opens up for bib pick-up.

The usual suspects are handing out bibs and shirts and collecting money (pretty much all my old-timey hasher buddies) and I do notice, at this time, that my name is misspelled on the bib.  I hope that this doesn’t mean that they won’t have a plaque for me at the banquet!

I do hang around for a while just waiting for Stephanie and Angela to show up (after all, they are my roommates for tonight and I don’t want a repeat of last year’s sneaking into someone’s room because I couldn’t find someone).  I spot all sorts of friends in the queue, including Laura and Beth.  Lots of people recognize me… for some reason.

I do find the gals (phew) and Laura is with them as well.  Seems that her hotel fell through or closed, and so she is also staying with us.  Going to be a tight fit.  They have already eaten, and the restaurant that we like is currently closed, so I wander around a bit trying to find something to my liking that is reasonably priced.  Down the street from the bib pick-up at the Metropole Hotel is a new-ish Panini restaurant.  It’s deserted but the food inside looks good and the cook is juicing a zillion carrots so I get some dinner.

I hike up the street to the hotel and we have to go in staggered because really only 2 people are supposed to be in the room.  It’s a small room with a single twin bed inside.  I am 100% on the floor with Stephanie, and Laura and Angela are in the bed.

As we are settling in, Angela gets a call from Alan that he is on the last boat and will not make it in time for bib pick-up, so could I go down and pick it up for him?

Ugh.  So, I hike back down the hill, and explain that I am picking up a bib and shirt for another runner.  This turns out not to be a problem… except for the fact that I picked up a 50M shirt (and he’s doing the 50K) and I didn’t pick up his banquet ticket.  I cart his stuff back up the hill and leave it at the front desk for him to pick up when he arrives later.

Now finally we can settle in for a restive night’s sleep (Hope nobody has to go the bathroom as they will have to step over me to do so.).

I wake up before Angela and Laura’s alarm goes off at 1:30am (they are planning to start at 2) and they are a little sluggish to say the least, but do get out the door in time to meet Yen Darcy a little before 2am at the pier.

Since I am not starting until 4am and Stephanie until 5am (an early 50K start), we take the opportunity to utilize the bed for 2 hours.  Ah, blissful nap.

A little before 4am, I stumble down to the pier for the early start.  There is a good group of people here, including Kathryn.  I am surprised to see her, but like me, just likes to be on the safe side, in case there are any problems with the day, especially the expected rain.

As we start off down the street (or UP the street, since there is a slight incline), it does start to rain lightly, enough to blur my vision through my misty glasses.

We sidle around the locked turnstile into the Wrigley Gardens and then make sure that we go the correct direction at the crossroads (Dang!  Third year in a row where I went the wrong direction!)  14-time finisher Kathryn doesn’t go the right way, either.  We don’t waste a lot of time, but it’s just annoying.

Because it’s mostly uphill, slightly muddy, I am just walking and Kathryn takes off.  I don’t have any great expectation for the day, only to finish under 13 hours or close to it.  I would love to have another sub-12 hour finish, but I’ll just have to see how the day goes.

Once I get up by the radio towers, we turn and head downhill.  It’s late enough that the gate is open and I don’t have to climb through the awkward hole in the center.  The bad part is that the sun has not come up yet so it’s impossible to see that you are running through a mud puddle until you are in said puddle.  I do my best to look for brief reflections from the moon and my headlamp and avoid most of them.

When I get to Haypress, the aid station is pretty much set up.  I grab a couple orange slices and some water and continue moving.  The uphill section took me 98 minutes for 5.4 miles (18 minute pace) and if I want to finish under 12 hours, I need to be around 14:30 pace.

The course is pretty much back to normal this year; we are not doing an out-and-back course, but will run by the Airport again and by the houses with the vineyards that are just before Little Harbor.

I do a little better on the road up to the airport (even though there is still a lot of uphill and I am in the pre-dawn dusky light that is hard to run in without tripping), managing 11:13/mile (and a net pace of 14:27 – pretty close to the goal time).

From the airport, there is a lot of downhill (not in the dark this year).  It is runnable but pretty windy.  I do my best to keep running as much as possible.  At the bottom, you go through the small neighborhood.  This year, there is a bunch of construction, so the ground is harshly graded, and the little hill by the vineyards seems steeper than usual.

This is also one of the longer stretches of trail between aid stations (5.6 miles) and good or bad, you can see where you are headed, but it seems to take forever.  I pass by the 50K turnaround, which is just before you head down the hill into Little Harbor.  This is a bummer, because Little Harbor (and the Wacko Cafe) is one of the best aid stations you will ever reach.  (“It’s just over there, but I’m not going to do an extra mile downhill and back to go there.”)

From the point of the turn-around, you can start to spot Little Harbor Aid Station, but there is quite a bit of downhill on fire-roads that stretch out for quite a ways.  When you finally get to the Port-A-Potties, you are virtually there.

My Foothill Hasher friend, First to Go Down is doing the number check-in.  I am really excited to see her, because it’s always great to see a friend.  I am also excited because I am going to leave my string backpack here until I come back in several miles.  I am continuing on a good pace, maintaining 12:14/mile (netting 13:39, totally on pace for sub-12:00).

Leaving Little Harbor is a bit difficult because the entire trail is under water, meaning we have to off-road a bit to get around the super-puddle.  I’m hoping that the trail becomes more clay and that will be less muddy.  Otherwise, this upcoming uphill section is going to be awful.

Since the rain has been stopped for a few hours, some of the trail is drying out, but the footing is pretty limited because certain parts are more slippery.  Midway up the hill is a firefighter truck and the occupant is advising runners to walk or watch their steps because a mistake could end their races.  I concur.  The footing is treacherous, so I walk or lightly jog as flat-footed as possible.

Once I crest the top, it’s downhill into Two Harbors.  I am passed here by the lead female runner and 5 minutes later by Gisele Schaaf (in her first 50 miler).  Second overall would be pretty cool for Gisele in her debut.

This section is technically the longest section between aid stations, except that you do pass by the aid station on your first pass and then come back 2 miles later (so on the charts, it’s 7.4 miles between aid, but really it’s 5.4 and then 2.0).  My first year here I didn’t realize that and so thought was running really well, but actually, I clicked the split 3 miles too early!

I grab a cup of Coke, but don’t really stop outbound and then head to the out-and-back to the isthmus.  This is full of puddles as well, but also where I get to see almost everyone.  Laura, Angela, and Yen are headed back as I head out.  I spot Ben Gaetos (who I stayed with last year) and I stop for a picture.

I see Gisele again.  By my calculations, she is about 8 minutes behind the leader.  I tell her the time gap and she asks me, “How does she look?”  I want to say something encouraging like, “She’s falling apart!  You’ve got this!” but I am honest in saying that she looked really good and it will be quite a battle to catch up.

I finally get to the turn-around (I HATE this section – endless and slightly uphill.), and start heading back.  I see Beth (from the hash) and Linda Dewees (my buddy from Bishop and Ridgecrest).  I jog the best I can back to the aid station, but I am just feeling sluggish and not fast.  I get to Mile 26.0 in 6:30 (or a section pace of 18:14 and a net pace of 15:00 – darn!).

Now I start the climb back out of Two Harbors.  Even though the hill is steep, I prefer this kind of hill to the slow death inclines I just went through.  This is also the section where you don’t see a lot of people coming down the hill – these are the people that will struggle to make the cut-offs the rest of the way (and will possibly be leapfrogged forward by van).

I feel like I made good time going up the hill and passed a number of people who can’t walk as fast or have stubby little legs.  On the downhill, of course, I am being passed left and right by pretty much everyone.  Most folks have headphones on, so I can’t get in any decent conversations.

One gal just blows by me, though when she does, one of her gloves that is tucked into her Camelbak flies out.  I yell to her, but obviously, she can’t hear me; otherwise, we would have chatted.  I stop and pick up her glove and try to run it to her, but I cannot muster enough energy to run that fast.  I do get the next person to pass me to run it up to her.  (Hope she didn’t MEAN to do that.)

It’s quite windy on the downhill and I am not getting a lot of running in.  It’s quite annoying, because if I am just walking, that will definitely affect my ability to finish under 12 hours.  At least the ground is no longer slippery mud, but it is stiff adobe.  Each has their pros and cons.  Soft mud would feel good right about now, but I do have my Hokas for the extra padding at least.

I get back to Little Harbor in 1:43 (a 15:50 pace and now slowed back over 15 minutes per mile net pace).  Looks unlikely that I will break 12 hours now.

I edge around the puddle and go retrieve my string backpack so I will have it when I get back to the finish.  Since we are now into the latter half of the race (mileage here is 32.5), aid stations are offering various bonuses to the runners.

Here I get a nice mimosa (mostly orange juice per my request) and I decide that I would like to play one of their games this time.  The choices are cattle roping and horseshoes.  I don’t think I would be any good at (stationary plastic cow) roping, but I can throw stuff, so I do try the horseshoes.

I have to have them handed to me because I can’t bend all the way over, and the best I can muster is getting one within a horseshoe’s length of the post.  Still, it was fun to try.

Now I head out of Little Harbor, and it’s back on that aforementioned winding, endless fire-road (now uphill instead of downhill).  A bison has been spotted nearby the aid station – close enough to see, far away enough to not be dangerous.  Cool wilderness.

I spot Beth behind me but she hasn’t caught me yet.  She must be struggling a bit, too (though she did start an hour after me, so I can’t be too excited).  When I finally climb out of Little Harbor and get by the 50K turn-around Aid Station, we turn in a different direction and head downhill briefly, but pretty much immediately start heading uphill again.

When it finally flattens out (but it really is a slow uphill climb), that means that I am getting close to Eagle’s Nest Aid Station (and more fun?).  I pass Hal Winton just before I get into the aid station.  He looks pretty spry for an 85 year-old runner (but he did start about 12 hours before me) and he gives me a nice strong handshake.

I go back and forth between several people.  Someone runs past me, I walk past them when they fade.  I think it’s gratifying for me and annoying for them.  There are a few that I thought were far ahead of me that I essentially catch up to at Eagle’s Nest.

I managed a 14:06 average pace on this section, so I reward myself with half of a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and a chunk of buffalo burger.  Mmm.

Now I got some more uphill to the Pumphouse Hill Aid Station.  My feet are really hurting, most notably on the tops of my feet.  I stop to try and adjust my shoes.  When I loosen the laces, I realize that I had tied them so tight, the tongue was pinching my foot (the Hoka tongue is flat and can pinch unlike most other shoe tongues).  Once I loosened it, it felt bad for a while because I have a blood blister on the tops of my feet and it hurts!  But it started to feel better after a while. (This may be my last go-round with the Hokas because they have caused me all types of problems.)

I just keep walking and walking, walking and walking.  Right around the Bald Eagle Preserve, I walk for a while with a Chinese guy who is walking also.  We have a nice conversation and the good news is that I may see him at other races because he is local – Jeff Liu.  Soon enough, he becomes bored with the pedantic pace and starts jogging.  Bye.  (I may well still catch him up later, though.)

Despite the uphill and all walking, I do get to the Pumphouse AS in a 15:38 pace and am maintaining a close to 15:00/mile pace for the race.  I know there is the paved downhill section coming up in a few miles, but I don’t feel like I have the same gumption to break 12:00 as I did a few years ago (when I thought I would get a non-finish if I didn’t finish under 12:00).

This last bit of trail up to the top is quite steep and it is all I can do to just maintain a comfortable walking pace.  I can see Jeff, but cannot catch him.

Now it is a mostly downhill section on paved road back to Haypress Aid Station (but no puddles and not in the dark).  As it has been in the past, the aid station is abandoned but there is still some water containers available for refilling water bottles if necessary.  I don’t really stop so I can continue any forward downhill momentum I have.

My first year here, I got to Haypress in 11:03 and felt I wouldn’t break 12:00 unless I really pushed the pace downhill, but I did manage to do the last 4 miles in 39 minutes.  Today, I am here in 11:22.  I don’t feel like I have 39 minutes in me, and even then, I would not break 12 hours.  I think I should just do what I can do.  (That’s always the best anyway.)

The part leading up to the downhill is uphill anyway and I don’t have anything left for that.  And, once I get onto the downhill, I simply don’t feel like running at all.  The angle’s gonna have to be more sufficiently downhill for me to do that.

I catch up with another runner who started earlier than me and we walk and talk together for a bit.  He pushes his pace a little bit so we can continue talking.  I guess I’m not going too slow.

But when I start getting a little momentum going, I do end up starting to run and leaving him in the dust.  I start recognizing landmarks and all of it is on a significant downhill slope, especially that last downhill before I run along the promenade to the finish.

I’m definitely not breaking 12 hours, but if I push it a bit, I can break 12:20, and I do so in 12:19:41, triumphantly holding up my open palm, signifying my 5th Avalon 50 miler finish.


I waited around for awhile and watched people finish, but eventually, I walked with Alan down to his folks’ place and had a nice shower before we headed out to the Banquet.

So, Alan’s stepdad drove us to the banquet which was located on the other side of the Casino.  I guess it would have been a nice scenic walk, but I didn’t feel like a nice scenic walk anymore.

The banquet food was excellent, lots of good choices, and plentiful fruit and water.  They played a slide show that had pictures from THIS year, and then the various speakers talked about the history of the race and people that inspired them, plus announced the top fundraisers (who get free entries and boat rides and more).

Now, they announced, the five-year, the ten-year, and the fifteen-year award winners.  They said they had a lot of plaques that had not ever been distributed, so they were going to read all those names.  I heard names of people who died some time ago (of whom I had no idea that they ran 5 Avalon 50s) and people who are no longer running, but I didn’t hear my name.

As for Kathryn, finishing her 15th, they announced that she would receive her 10th plaque (which I think she received 4 years ago).  So, a bit of a mess.  I was told that I would receive my plaque by mail sometime in the future (a few weeks later), so I assume that she got her jacket then, also.  Although I enjoyed the banquet, I went specifically to receive my plaque, but no one received their plaque for 2017, so I was a bit annoyed.

Alan tried to call his stepdad for a ride back but there was no cellphone coverage, so we walked until we got back into range.  And it was a nice scenic walk until the truck-let found us and I was ready to sit down again.

I ended up sleeping in the recliner, a throwback to when I first moved to Long Beach and spent most nights sleeping in my recliner.  I was quite comfortable, because I am used to that kind of night’s rest.

In the morning, we managed to get up in time for the Photo.  I had seen the photo, but figured they took the picture before I could manage to finish.  Truth is, they take the photo on the following morning, and only once was I actually there the next day (but slept in or didn’t know about it).15875624_1250049418374881_5425234147263662081_o

Kathryn and I have plans to keep running Avalon 50M until I receive my 15th finish jacket.  By then, I will be 60 years old!  Here’s to hoping that my body will still be able to handle ultras until then!

Bishop High Sierra 50M – 2013

May 18, 2013

After last year’s difficulty in completing the 100K here, I decided I would go again, but “just” run the 50 mile race because that’s what I ended up running anyway.  Once again, Martin Santos and Rafael Covarrubias were along, plus Laura came up to try the 50 miler as well.

The additional drive to come do this race was due to the fact that the 20-year Race Director, Marie Boyd, was “retiring” from putting on the race after this year.

We enjoyed the ‘usual’ pre-race dinner at Whiskey Creek, with spaghetti, Caesar salad, garlic bread, beer, and carrot cake.  It was nice seeing a bunch of old friends and meeting new ones.  I saw my buddy Linda Dewees (who ran with me a bit last year) and Beiyi and Dan Wilson (who I met at Rocky Raccoon 100M two years ago, but live more local to me than Texas).

Laura found a discounted motel in town while I camped out on the floor of Martin and Rafael’s room.  It was a sight better than camping, but I still didn’t sleep particularly well.  In general, I have a hard time getting to sleep if there are any distractions (while camping there shouldn’t be any, except being around noisy neighbors).

The temperature at the start was a tiny bit chilly (necessary) but not cold.  I would prefer it be downright cold, but generally, a May race doesn’t have arctic temperatures.  My plan for the race was just to keep my own pace and improve upon my time from last year (given that the time limit is 15 hours and my time last year was 17:24, as long as I finish, it should be a sure thing).

One of the great things about this race is that the longest you go without an aid station is 4.1 miles.  So, technically, I probably only need one water bottle (except I use the carrier on them to store Advil, electrolyte pills and rock salt), but it is always nice to have two.

The first section of the trail is a mere 1.4 miles, where we run on a paved road for part and then enter into the deep sand trail and heading uphill.  There’s probably nothing I like less than running on deep sand, because I sink into it, the sand pours into my shoes (despite having gaiters on), and I can’t get any traction. (Later:  Why I LOVE running in deep sand)

For the most part, I am doing my power walking (not that over-exaggerated crap you see novices doing; just quick turnover and utilizing my long legs) and trying not to overexert myself at elevation.  Immediately, Laura, Martin and Rafael disappear into the distance.

Secreted into my hand-held water bottle (Basically, I have a strap around it that allows me to hold onto the bottle without gripping it tightly the entire time, and the strap “mechanism” has a zip-up pouch on it.  By “secreted,” I mean that there is a gap between the strap material and the bottle itself.) is my laminated pace sheet.  On it, I have the name of the aid stations, their distance along the course, the elevation change from the last aid station, my goal time, my “To Finish” (under the time limit) time, and any time cut-offs.  If I start falling behind on my “to finish time,” I can accelerate (a bit) before it is too late.

Aid station 1 is Tungsten, and as I said, 1.4 miles in.  I come in around 23 minutes, which is 4 minutes ahead of my “to finish” time.  Ideally, if I can pack on 1-2 minutes per mile, then I will never be up against the time cutoffs… ideally.

Tungsten aid station is not a typical aid station.  I state this because what they supply is extremely limited, and also because I do not need to stop.  No point to waste time when both of my water bottles are still full and we have only just started the run!

The next section takes us to the Junction aid station.  The climb starts in earnest now.  We started at about 4400 feet elevation, and every section from here to Mile 20 has a net elevation gain of at least 400 feet, up to 1400 feet.

The beginning of this section is still in semi-loose sand.  On the plus side, there is a little bit of downhill.  Trails can have a net elevation gain, but still have a bit of descent, which is the case here.  Since it is still early going, I let loose and run comfortably down the hill.  As the race moves on, I will probably not run down hills with as much abandon as I do here.  I briefly catch up to Laura on this section.

Once the downhill ends, the uphill is pretty relentless. I am also out of the deep sand, and the ground is more hard-packed dirt and also has a number of large rocks jutting out on the fire-road.  I need to watch out and make sure that I do not trip and do not walk excessively on those surfaces, because it will accelerate my foot soreness.

CDF Camp aid station is mid-hill and also marks the approximate spot where the 100K runners will turn-around after climbing over the hill next to us.  This is the spot (on the latter stages of the 100K) that I did not reach last year.  I certainly will not reach this spot THIS year because I am doing the shorter distance and do not have to come to this point half a day from now.  Yay!  Only 50 miles today!

The total distance is now about 5.7 miles and I am still maintaining a slight advantage over my “to finish” time.  My “goal” time is fading fast.  To put this in perspective, I set my goal time as finishing in around 12 hours, or about 15 minutes per mile.  So, succinctly, while I am still slightly ahead of 15 minutes per mile overall, I just did a section with half of it downhill in a 14:30 pace. I will lose all of that gain with 14.5 more miles of solid uphill.

This next section is the longest section without aid, as I mentioned, 4.1 miles.  Ideally, I would like to do this section in an hour, but that is probably not realistic.  The ground is getting harder, the grade steeper, and the elevation higher.  I do a lot of this section with Marilyn, a young-looking gal who is close in pace to me.  I am surprised to learn that she has college-aged kids.  (Technically, I am old enough to have college-aged kids even though I do not feel I am THAT old.)  It is nice to have someone to have a breathy (due to lack of air, not titillation) conversation with.

As I reach Junction aid station (Mile 9.8), I have come to the end of this one-way section.  From now on, I will see runners coming towards me almost the entire time (unless I fall into last place).  My overall pace has dropped to about 16 minute miles with this long and uphill rocky section.  From this aid station, I can also see where I will be returning later today.  Some of the people are coming into the aid station and heading out in a different direction – the 20-miler race leaders.

Following this longest section without aid is now the shortest section between aid stations – 1.5 miles.

Lots of fun uphill!

Lots of fun uphill!

I have probably mentioned in earlier posts about what sort of fare one finds at aid stations.  Generally, I do not find myself eating a whole lot during any ultras.  While this may seem surprising, for the most part, it is best not to introduce any kind of sustenance that upsets your stomach or produces adverse effects on your body.

In some earlier events (before I discovered the wonder of Succeed! S Caps (electrolyte pills taken every hour)), I ‘liked’ to eat potatoes that had been dipped in salt, or delicious Coke with a spoonful of salt.  You probably cannot tell, but I do not ingest much salt on a regular basis, so finding ways to ingest more during the race (yecch) was my only recourse.

For the most part, I like some fruit – like watermelon, pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, sometimes oranges – occasionally Clif Blox, a PB&J quarter, some kind of chewy candy (Jelly Bellies or Gummis), and occasionally more substantial food.

One of the offerings at Junction AS (aid station) was chocolate-covered strawberries.  While that may seem a wonderful treat – the combination of fruit AND something sweet – I am allergic to chocolate.  However, plain strawberries DID hit the spot!

Anyway, back to the race.

This 1.5 miles was a little bit more of the rocky fire-road (two-way traffic as previously stated), with a off-road turn-off by a fenced off septic treatment area (basically just a fenced off section with signage – bizarro).  This next AS is called Buttermilk and will later be the 3rd intermediary cutoff during the race.  It is also where they have a timing mat and my friend Jean Ho is maintaining the timing system.

At this aid station, they are making fresh blueberry pancakes.  While that seems pretty cool and it is somewhat ‘breakfast time,’ I don’t think I can ingest anything so solid now or at any point in the event.

Despite the shortness of the section, I have not accelerated up the hill and am still losing time towards my goal time, but am still 5-10 minutes ahead of “to finish” time.  I would be contented with maintaining between 18 and 20 minutes per mile which is my approximate pace at this point.

This next section is 3.7 miles between aid stations.  I am starting to see the 50K race leaders heading back, which is pretty impressive.  Translated, I have completed 12 miles, and they have covered 22.5 miles.  Hmm… maybe that is just a sad statement on my part.

I am continuing on more rocky fire road uphill at around a 7% gradient.  However, I am extremely pleased when the ground surface changes to a more forgiving surface – fewer rocks, more dirt and even a few large puddle crossings – and an abundance of shade provided by beautiful birch trees.  I remember from last year that once I get into the trees, it is less than a mile to the McGee AS and the stream crossing.  Also, at 15.0 miles, I am just about 1/3 done, but with the toughest part of the race because from now until I get back to this aid station, the race will be above 8000 feet elevation!  I continue to maintain at a reasonable rate, just over 20 minutes per mile.

The “stream crossing,” as I remember the warning from last year has a ‘secret’ bridge to the side.  I suspect that in the past, runners had to wade through knee-deep water, but instead we cross two attached boards across a narrower section of the creek.  While it is better than wading through water, after 15 miles of uphill hiking, my balance is a little off and I feel nervous that I might topple off into the water.  I make it across, though.

From here to Edison AS, there is 2.4 miles.  Probably a half mile of this is solid uphill in the sun, followed by 3/4 mile of downhill on an extremely rocky technical fire road.  I would like to run with abandon like I did earlier, but there are two many sharp rocks in the middle of the trail (and I am struggling with the elevation).

At the bottom of this hill, I get more of the softer dirt (with puddle/stream crossings).  The last part of this section is a 1.5 mile up-and-down.  Of all of the hills, it is probably the least unpleasant so far.  (Trust me, this is high praise.)

Edison AS is where my drop bag is because we hit this location three times, and if there is anything that I might want, I will have access to it three times.  Because of the couple of downhill parts in the last section, I accelerate to 18:20/mile.

What I also like about this aid station is that they are renowned for their hand-cranked vanilla ice cream.  This is something I would not normally indulge in during a race (because it will most likely cause flatulence), but it is hand-made and hits the spot on a hot day.  They are working on it, so I will most likely partake on my second or third trip here.

The other item of significance at this point is that the first pass-through at Edison is the first time cutoff of the day.  We have 6-1/2 hours to cover 17.4 miles.  In terms of finishing the 50 miler, the time is fairly excessive (because the other cutoffs are at a faster net pace), but understand that this location is also the turnaround for the 50K, so it reflects THEIR finishing time.

My goal for cutoffs in general is not to miss them, but I would like to be well ahead of each cutoff, so that I do not have to overexert when I am super-tired.  For the record, I am 1 hour and 25 minutes ahead of the cutoff!

Now for the absolute most difficult section of the trail – the steepest slope and the highest location.  It is a staggering 3 miles to the Overlook AS at 9400 feet, with almost 500 feet of gain PER mile (close to 10% grade).  Complicating things further is that there are fallen trees blocking the trail (to either go around or climb over).  On the plus side, the scenery is amazing!  There is a 360 degree view of the snow-capped mountains.  I wonder (as I did last year) if I will get high enough where there will be snow on the trail.  Last year, the permafrost was probably another 500 feet above us, but I have heard stories of people sloshing through snow at this point or sliding down on their butt (I probably wouldn’t do that knowing how rocky this trail is).

I have low-ish expectations on this section given the difficulty, but when I reach the top, I have maintained 21 minutes per mile.  At the top, I run into Laura.  She is just a bit ahead of me and is having some stomach issues (as she tends to do at ultras, elevation or no).  There is no permafrost to enjoy.

Now I have 3 miles downhill back to Edison AS.  There is a half mile of out-and-back and then the downhill route is slightly different than the uphill route (though both are the same distance).

On this section, I experience an interesting “time dilation.”  For the last 4-5 years, I have made it a practice to take a swig from my water bottle every 10 minutes without fail (sometimes 5 minutes if it is very hot or very hilly).  This ensures that I stay at least moderately hydrated.  When I am walking uphill, the 10-minute time frame shoots by very quickly.  It seems that every time I look down at my watch, another 10 minutes have passed by.

However, now that I am jogging downhill, I feel like I am looking at my watch just as much, but only 1-2 minutes pass with each glance.  So, in conclusion, when I am walking (or running) slowly, time goes by quickly; and when I am running (or jogging) faster, time goes by slowly.  Weird.

Back at Edison AS, I have done a “speedy” 3 miles at 16:00/mile pace.  I take the opportunity to put on another layer of Vaseline on my nether regions (I think it dried out and I don’t want to get more chafed.) and slurp down a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Now I head off in a different direction, which is a steep uphill along a pipe.  Literally, the trail is on top of the pipe.  Once at the top of this hill, there is a very short steep drop to the main trail, which moves flat for a few hundred yards and then a gentle downhill for a quarter mile.

I remember this section from last year for being totally unshaded and also for having some miserable uphill sections.  After the downhill, there is a half-mile of very slight uphill through a bunch of burned out trees, but then it turns to the left and begins climbing.  As I begin my climb, I am seeing several of the 100K and 50M racers on their way back.  Right here is David Binder, my hash friend formerly of LA and now of Oakland.  He is looking strong and he also offers me some encouragement.  (Dang!  He is 8 miles ahead of me at this point.)

Once I get to the top of this horrible hill, it is about a mile of steep and super-technical (nowhere to step but on rocks) to the bottom, followed by a short flat section with a sign that says “No Dumping.”  (Makes me think about finding a Port-a-Potty, even though I don’t need it.)

This dumps me out to a road, a dart across, and then a steep (but loose dirt, yay!) drop to the Intake 2 AS, which is located at 26.0 miles.  With the elevation and some more steep uphill, I am still doing about 19 minutes per mile.

Intake 2 is basically alongside a man-made lake, where I find several groups fishing.  This is one of the totally flat sections of the course, and also where I have just passed halfway and also where I am going to reach the marathon point on the course.

There is some significance here.  If you figure that for every 3.6 days (or 3.65) that 1% of the year has passed, or 0.01, then since my birthday on March 7, 72 days have passed.  So, today I am 42.2 years old.  A marathon is 42.2 Kilometers.  I have just covered my exact age in kilometers (in the past 8 hours).  Hopefully, later today, I will cover my age in miles (plus 7.8 to grow on).

Once I pass the marathon point, the trail begins to descend again.  At first, it is on pavement.  Later, it is more of that awful rocky surface.  Looking up above me, I can see the trail I was on earlier and looking down, I can see the campground that seemed so far away.  (Dang.  I am going to have to climb back up that hill!)  Coming up in the other direction is Rafael.  I think that I would see Martin just behind him (because I saw them practically together on an earlier crossover section).  Martin was about 10 minutes behind.  (Later, he said he stopped for a bathroom break.)

Through the campground, there is more pavement and then a bridge crossing over a stream.  An actual bridge with handrails, not some planks.  Now some more uphill.  First, it is the rocky trail, and then it is “paved” trail.  I put the paved in quotes because it is the worst kind of paved.  It’s like the construction company started to pave the path and then didn’t have enough cement, so they grabbed a bunch of rocks and threw it into the mix.  All I can think is ‘Thank Goodness I am not barefoot or in those toe shoes,’ ‘cuz that would hurt.

The trail eventually becomes dirt (and rocks) again and pops out on a road.  I cross the road and head uphill on the opposite side of the street (facing traffic).  It hurts because pavement doesn’t feel great in trail shoes (or after covering 28+ miles).  About halfway up this road, the trail turns to the left and follows a single-track trail for a half mile before reconnecting to the road and continuing uphill.

Finally, I spot an American flag on the opposite side of the street and know that I have reached the Bishop Creek Lodge AS and Mile 29.  The last section I averaged 18 minutes per mile, and also my net average pace is 18 minutes per mile.  This bodes a bit poorly because if I can maintain this pace (and I am barely over halfway), then I will finish in 14 hours.  This means I only have an additional 2 minutes per mile spare time to finish in under 15 hours.

I grab some light sustenance and head out immediately back down the road, back on the single-track, back on the road (again), cross the road and begin heading up the hill.  Near the top I encounter Laura, putting her about 20 minutes behind me (while we were virtually together about 5 miles ago).  I encourage her to keep keeping on, but I am concerned about her pace (especially because I am concerned about my own pace).

My paranoia pays off and I cover the same section back to Intake 2 AS 5 minutes faster than outbound.  This also means that I have made the second intermediary time cutoff.  I had needed to reach this point in 10 hours and 15 minutes and my time is 9:31 (or 44 minutes ahead).  While I was almost 90 minutes ahead before, remember that the first cutoff was overly generous to cover the 50K runners, so I guess I am doing OK.

Laura continues to struggle, and in the end, she comes in a little behind the cutoff time and does not finish… and unlike me last year, she is unable to convince the RD that in completing 32 miles of the course, she could get a 50K finishing time (since she technically finished 50K).

I head out of the aid station, up across the road, and up the hellish, rocky hill.  The full heat of the day is upon me and I am struggling to get any kind of pace up the hill.

To make matters worse, it is not a out-and-back section. When I get back to the point where the top of the pipe connected, the trail continues straight and circles around back to Edison AS.  In fact, I come across a spot where there is a sign that says “Wrong Way Runner Out-and-Back Point.”  This is a “penalty” lap for runners who disregard the signage and run back down the pipe path.  I think you would have to be pretty dense to ignore the signs, but according to the volunteers, several people have run the penalty lap.  (Technically, it is not a penalty, but just enough distance to get the runner back to the correct distance.)

With the heat and the hills, I lose back some of the advantage I regained from Bishop Creek Lodge to Intake 2.  Twenty-one minutes per mile!  I grab some more ice cream (more like soft serve in this heat) and begin the trek back to McGee.  On the plus side, every section from this point to the end has a net elevation loss, and I will be below 8000 feet soon.

I am at the point in the race where I am not doing much running at all, mostly because my feet hurt a lot and running is not as controlled as walking.  If I run, I can inadvertently step on a sharp rock and make my feet hurt even more.  So I make the most of my long legs and racewalk (ish) through this entire section.

When I get to McGee AS, I’ve covered the section in 17:12, and my net pace is just a little over 18 minute miles.  They are in the process of packing up the aid station.  That always makes me nervous, especially because this is not a cutoff point, and they shouldn’t be truly working on packing up until probably an hour before the cutoff (which would be 19 minutes per mile to cover the next section of 3.7 miles).  They are doing it TWO hours before the cutoff time.

Now, as I’ve alluded to, from McGee AS to Buttermilk, it’s 3.7 miles, and the cutoff time is 13 hours.  I’m not terribly worried about the time at this point, but the message from the McGee folks put an extra hitch in my step to make sure I don’t miss that cutoff.

This is, again, the reverse trail I covered earlier, through the birch trails and then back to the rocky steep downhill surface (1400’ drop).  My feet are sore, but good enough that I am able to skip/gallop down the hill.  This allows me to push the pace a bit without causing extra pain.  I arrive at the aid station in 12 hours 13 minutes (or 47 minutes ahead of the cutoff).  I am still not in the mood for blueberry pancakes.

From McGee AS to Junction, it is a mere 1.5 miles.  The first section is that lovely deep soft sand that I have come to love.  It’s like walking on a pillow.  I love soft sand.  (See earlier in the post about my so-called hatred of deep sand.)  The surface (coupled with a little bit of downhill) allows me to maintain around a 15-minute per mile pace and push my overall pace down to .under 17:45/mile.

At Junction AS, I have now reached the point where I depart from the out-and-back section and begin to head back on the “new” part of the trail.  This section is another long section (relatively… 3.7 miles), with another net loss of about 800 feet, putting me below 6000 feet.  Based upon the difficulty in breathing at high elevation, the air should be dense and thick at this point… OK, not so much.

On the plus side, the temperature has dropped a bit and there is more mountain shade as I am nearing the 7 o’clock hour.  The surface is less rocky and less technical, and thus is easier to navigate on sore feet.

Eventually, the trail pops out on to a HUGE wide fire-road (maybe twice as wide as anything I have been on previously).  It is a little on the “bumpy” side.  I think some kind of NASA tractor left divots on it (just kidding).  At the end of this fire road is Highway 168 and the next aid station at Mile 46.4.  Almost there!  I’m still maintaining around 15 minute miles and reducing my net pace.  I’m feeling better and better about finishing under the time limit.  I have one more time cutoff – the finish line – and I have almost 90 minutes to cover 3.7 miles.

There is one more aid station before the end called Tungsten 2.  This is basically the same aid station we passed by at Mile 1.5, but a little further up the hill, for the reason that the 100K runners will turn left and go up the mountain, and the rest of us turn right and go to the finish (instead of having the 100K runners backtrack 200 yards down the hill so that they don’t have to move the AS).

Most of the trail between Highway 168 and Tungsten 2 is a double-track EXTREMELY technical downhill section.  I try to do my gallop/skip technique as best I can.  Other than bettering my time from last year, I don’t need to overdo it.

When I get almost to the aid station, I realize I have forgotten about the water crossing.  There is no bridge here to avoid getting my feet wet.  It is about 10 feet across and ankle deep.  On the plus side, I am almost at the finish line.  Better yet, as I shout out loud, “I am in the 50 miler, and I am not doing that damn left hand turn uphill!!!”  I am really excited about that.  Maybe if I am in better shape one day, I will attempt the 100K, but I think I need to be much faster in order to have plenty of time to finish the last 12 miles (mostly in the dark).

In continuing to maintain around 15 minutes per mile, I now have 57 minutes to cover 1.5 miles.  No more rocky technical trail to deal with, just deep sand and a paved road.  It is a little after 8pm, but not yet dark enough to require a headlamp.  Of course, I have carried my headlamp with me all day in my back pocket.  Nice, though, to not need it!

I finish strong, with yet another 15 minute/mile section and finish in 14:27:42, almost 3 hours faster than last year (which included 2 hours at the aid station and a harrowing truck ride down the mountain).

Rafael has finished the 100K about 20 minutes BEFORE I came in, and Martin finishes about 20 minutes after I did.  Laura is already there, nursing her ego (because it is always hard to miss a cutoff and not finish the race).

I got a semi-hot hamburger, a beer and maybe 5 flavored coconut waters as my post-race “meal.”  We headed back to our hotels and then tried to sleep.  Everyone was pretty sore and restless.  It is hard to be tired, yet not able to sleep.  Basically, every time I rolled over, I woke up.

In the morning, we went for breakfast and then stopped by Schat’s Bakkery [sic], a Dutch landmark bakery in Bishop.  I think Rafael had promised someone that he was going to pick up something there.  Since I bake stuff on my own, I generally don’t buy (or eat) a lot of bread.

While it was a long drive (5 hours) back, we rehashed our respective days.  Once again, all had a good time (relatively speaking) and I would like to come back again if someone new takes over the race.  I suspect that Rafael and Martin will do the Born to Run Ultra which will probably be held the same weekend (but I have never been that wild about loop courses).

After 11 years of doing ultras, I have completed seventeen (17) 50 mile races… and that’s quite an accomplishment!