Tag Archives: Linda Dewees

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!