Tag Archives: Ridgecrest

High Desert 50K – 2016

December 4, 2016

Angela and I drove up to Ridgecrest yesterday.  We made arrangements again with Darrell and Megan to stay at their place which is only about a mile from the start.  Laura, Dulce, and Stephanie are coming up, too, but I felt bad that we couldn’t offer them a place to stay (we just need to ask Darrell and Megan ahead of time or offer something nice).  They are in a different house than last year, but it is in the same housing tract.

We did all meet to eat together, though, which was nice.  It’s particularly cold here, so that seems to bode well that it should be colder for the race.

At the start, I have a special gift for my friend Ethan.  I cut out a laminated “5” for him to pin on, since today is his 5th Ridgecrest High Desert 50K and will get the special pullover when he finishes.

Also present Ethan’s wife, a few other hashers, and Sandy Binder (whose husband runs ultras, but I haven’t known her to do so).  I jokingly ask Sandy if she is running to win, and she enigmatically says, “Maybe.

My goals today are to try and push it harder on the flat and downhill sections and not walk as much on the uphill sections (but listen to my body).

I start by running a little bit more on the initial paved hill and up into the rolling hills section.  Once you get to this part, it tends downhill so there isn’t a reason to walk as much.  At the first aid station (soon after which the 30K and 50K part ways), I manage 50:44, a 9:12 pace.  (Extrapolating out, 9:12/mile for 31 miles would be an hour PR on the distance!)

Once the 30K diverges, there is a long section of a slight uphill.  I have had the tendency to walk all of this, so I force myself to run stretches of it.  (Note:  Forcing myself to run and running slowly are different.  Here, I am pushing the pace and not running uphill slower than I can walk.)

I go a little slower on this section, a 9:48/mile pace, but still maintain an overall sub 10:00/mile pace (5:10 still would be a big PR, but it’s way early.)

The next 2.5 miles go up a considerably longer hill, which is also more technical and it’s not practical to run much of this at all, but once I get to the top of the hill, I can start jogging/running again.  This aid station is the famous “We Love the 49ers and Christmas” aid station, except no one is wearing Niners garb.  I ask if it is because they are so bad this year, and a gal surreptitiously whispers, “Yes.”  My pace in this section is 14:00/mile (a brisk walk) and drops my overall pace to 10:27/mile (In order to PR, I would need to average 11 and change.)

Now a mostly downhill, but dense dirt section for two-and-a-half miles and I maintain the 10-and-change pace.  I have been going back and forth with a lot of the same people.  I haven’t seen Angela yet (she started early, but I am hoping not to catch her until the end, if at all) and Darrell is behind me.  I saw Laura at the beginning, but I assume she is still behind and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Ethan or Sandy (who is MAYBE in front).

The one gal that I strike up a nice conversation with is Karin Usko, who used to live in El Salvador, but she is also German, so we can speak in Spanish, English, AND German (my first three languages).  She is local to Ridgecrest and I later learn that she makes Happy Gaiters.  (I also ran really briefly with Shannon Farar-Griefer, who is the founder of the Moeben sleeves (named after her sons).)

On now to another 3-odd miles with a mostly uphill bent.  I’m not running as much on these sections.  Feeling like I will not run a PR, but I would like to at least run a comparable 50K (to Cool rather than Twin Peaks), something in the sub-6:30 range.  This is another 14:00/mile section, ballooning my average to 11:12/mile.

Leading into the penultimate aid station at Gracie’s Mansion, where I have my first half beer, the sections seem to swing between generally uphill section, or generally downhill section and I am either doing about 11-12 minutes per mile OR 15-16 minutes per mile, but at least I am keeping my overall average under 12 minutes (which equals 6:24).  I would be happy to finish with that average.

From Gracie’s to Last Gasp is 3.7 miles, with mostly downhill.  I start to press the pace again, because it IS downhill and I can run downhills (when I am not cramping… and I’m not cramping).  Former race director Christopher Rios is there and I get my second beer, though I cannot hang out there too long.  I have pulled my interim pace to 11:06 and brought my overall average down six seconds, ending an inexorable slide to worse and worse times.

If I can finish the last 1.7 miles in 15 minutes (doable, but tough at this point), I would break 6 hours for the first time in over 10 years.

Alas, it is not to be.  I finished in 6:05:14, which is my best time in 12 years, so that’s pretty awesome.  Someone mentions that I should utilize Age Grade to compare this time with my best here (5:47:06) back in 2004.  Age Grade is a comparison tool that figures out what your equivalent time is if compared to the ideal age (which I think is 25).

So, if you run a 5:47 50K at age 34, it is like running a 5:44 50K at 25 (since your ability probably doesn’t drop off that much from 25 to 34).  But, if you run a 6:05 at age 45, the Age Grade equivalent is 5:43.  So in essence, given that I have aged, my High Desert 50K is my best ever (just not my PR).  Pretty remarkable that I did so well in a year when I fractured my elbow.

Angela came in about an hour after I did (2 hours, technically), Ethan got his 5-run pullover, and Sandy did not win the race… she was the second female, though.


High Desert 50K – 2015

December 6, 2015


Last year, I ran part of the High Desert (Ridgecrest) 50K with Darrell Price, both from Ridgecrest and Long Beach.  We became Facebook friends (as commonly happens when I run any extended portion of an ultra with someone) and communicated throughout the year.  We meant to connect when he was in Long Beach, but it never really happened.

Last year, I also was able to motivate some other AREC runners to participate in their first ultras, but only Angela Holder was back for a second go-round (at Ridgecrest, at least).  We had made tentative plans to share a motel room again, when I got a nice invitation from Darrell and his fiancee, Megan, “Come stay with us at our house, about 1 mile from the start.”  That’s the kind of offer I definitely won’t pass up!

Angela and I drove up on Saturday afternoon, checked in, got our bibs, and “dinnered” at John’s Pizza.  Of course, neither of had pizza or pasta, but opted for sandwiches and salad.

Afterwards, we drove to Darrell and Megan’s, and found out that they live about a kilometer from the start, which is just about perfect, though Angela is still concerned about the time limit and wants to start an hour early (which means, as co-carpool/conspirator, I have to drive to the start with her).

I let Angela have the bed, both because I am a gentleman, and also because the couch is probably longer and more comfortable for me.  I slept OK, though the dog was not particularly happy with me in his space.  For free accommodations, though, I can deal with it.

Early morning came far too quickly and I was off, chauffeuring Angela to the start.  I utilized the extra hour to chat it up with people that I recognized (though most of the older folk also started early).  The weather was nice and cold, and not supposed to be windy like a few years ago.  I didn’t have any particular goal in mind, other than to finish, and have a good time.

My hope for Angela was for her to improve her time and in doing so, not get caught by me at Mile 10, like last year.

Race started promptly and immediately I started walking the initial uphill and then motored as best I could on the nice downhill sections.  I briefly caught up with Ethan “Yak” Dietrich, an H3 friend, who always does quite well here.  Our banter (which doesn’t seem to change year to year) involves him taking off when I start to walk and saying, “You’ll catch up to me,” but I never do.

A few miles in, I bid farewell to the 30K runners, who set off on their own loop, and we head over to the long (but not particularly steep) climb paralleling the telephone poles.  My first 5.5 miles I covered in 55 minutes (which is 4 minutes faster than last year).  No rush, just have fun.

As I turn along the “pole-run,” I start up a conversation with a nice gal named Diana Daves.  She is friends with Andy Noise, who I met a few years ago at the Santa Barbara Endurance Race (maybe the 100K?).  He is a coach in Bakersfield, particularly for Long Distance runners.

I always enjoy run-walking with someone in an ultra, because we can motivate one another.  There are times when she takes off, because she doesn’t like to walk the uphills, and there are times when I am walking that she has to run to keep up.  We don’t stay together the whole way constantly, but we keep maintaining contact and it makes the day pass quicker (or maybe we are running faster?).

I feel a lot better than last year, but that may have to do with not having hemorrhoids (which I tell you is very unpleasant).  My early pace is very comparable to last year, with each section either a few minutes faster or slower (or exactly the same).

The one thing I am looking forward to is a swig of beer at the last aid station (Last Gasp) as promised to me pre-run by former RD Chris Rios.

What I don’t expect is a couple of swigs of beer at the Mile22.5 aid station (Boddington’s Ale) and also at Mile 25.7 (Guinness!).

By the time I get to Last Gasp, Diana and I kinda want to get to the end, but I prod her along, knowing I can catch up quickly (and knowing that I certainly will not be drinking a full beer anyway), especially seeing as it’s Sierra Nevada Christmas Ale (and the Sierra beers always do a number on me).

I do catch up with Diana.  This is the last annoying section where you run ALL the way around Cerro Coso CC, and then do a big loop around the parking lot.  I am feeling good and not cramp-y at all, and finish strong in 6:35:21, my best time of the year, by over 30 minutes, and 12 minutes better than last year.

Diana achieves a 15 minute PR!

I barely have time to go out and bring Angela in.  With the hour early start, she is only 25 minutes behind me and runs an astounding 55 minute PR.  (My guess is that excessive selfies didn’t slow her down!)

What a good way to end the year, with Ultra #76, which I dedicated to my entire family (the meaning of “76” had to do with having Thanksgiving dinner at the Spring Deer Restaurant in Hong Kong, a place I had first eaten at in 1976).

High Desert 50K – 2012

December 2, 2012

For my 12 ultramarathon in 12 months, I decided to do an old fall-back, the (Ridgecrest) High Desert 50K.  I was hoping to do this race with a few AREC friends, but two of them were not planning on driving up until after the Belmont Shore Christmas parade (late Saturday night), so my plan was to drive up by myself and spend the night in the parking lot of the start in my car (as I had done 8 years earlier – and run my 50K PR).

Fortunately, Laura called me Saturday morning (about 4 hours before I was thinking about leaving) and offered to drive.  Yes!!!

After our three hour drive up, we went and picked up our bibs and also went to eat dinner at the local Italian place (somewhat of a tradition for most of the people, since the spaghetti dinner provided by the race is EH).  We ran into a few of Laura’s friends from the Charlie Alewine races and had dinner with them.

After dinner, we made a trip to a few pharmacies to see if we could get a partial prescription refill for some medication Laura left at home.  After a bunch of promises that went nowhere (no computer connection or something), she finally gave up and we went back to the hotel.

In the morning, we drove up to the start.  The weather was chilly, but not too cold, but nonetheless, everyone was hanging out in the gymnasium rather than outside.  We saw several of our hash buddies, including Taffy Tingley, Katie Crowder, Dave Binder, Shannon, and Ethan.

The race started on time and of course, the run goes immediately uphill.  That means that I am walking up the hill (and falling behind) and then running the flats and downhills.  At the first aid station (5.5M), I am doing about a 9:55/mile pace, which I know I will not continue (otherwise, a HUGE PR for me).

For the next 5.5 miles, I see a lot of Katie (doing her first 50K) and Taffy.  They pass me numerous times on the uphills (when I am walking) and I pass them back on the other parts, but I eventually stop seeing them as they fade off behind me.  Likewise, I am ahead of Ethan for a while and then he surges ahead of me for good as well.

By Mile 11 (after a slow ascent of about 2 miles), I have dropped my pace to about 11:25/mile, and I lose an additional minute per mile in the next 5.5 miles.  I do 3 of those miles at about a 20 minute/mile pace at one point.

From 16.9 to 20.5 miles, I run mostly with a couple of different gals.  One is Tiffany Henness (from HB) who I met last night.  This might be her first 50K as well.  She is doing pretty well (and is also 10 years younger than me), but more importantly, we are having a nice conversation about ultrarunning.  She is very interested, but also has stories herself.

The other gal is Linda Dewees, a local to Ridgecrest, with whom I ran a little bit at the Bishop 50M.  She is probably 15 years older than me, a little odd (read: my kind of person).

In the "wilds" of Ridgecrest

In the “wilds” of Ridgecrest

Mile 22.5 is Grace Mansion, where I usually see Tom O’Hara (aka “See More Buns”). I have seen a few other hashers along the way, including Chris Spenker (“Undercover”) and William Lawrence (“Black & Blood”) who both started an hour early.  At this point, I deserve a beer (or more) and have a nice slug of Guinness.

As I continue, the course is very windy.  It is a bit like Big Sur in 1997, where I encountered 40-70 mph headwinds for most of the course.  Today, the winds are not that strong, but they ARE blowing the dusty trail up into my face.  Fortunately, I have my Buff and I am able to pull it up over my nose and mouth (and over my hat to keep it from blowing away).

A teensy bit windy

A teensy bit windy

From Gracie Mansion, it’s about a 5K to the next aid station, mostly uphill, and mostly windy.  I stagger (not being blown over, but it’s just awkward and not helpful) at a 15 minute/mile pace.  At the next aid station, I enjoy another beer (Waddington’s or something).  At least I am getting a little buzz on!

Now begins the downhill part (and also the psycho part) of heading back.  I keep seeing the college (where the finish line is), but it never gets particularly close.  You run behind it, around it, basically the longest possible route to get back.  There is one final aid station at Mile 29.4 (where hardly anyone stops), but of course, I stop, because I want one more beer!

I decide at this point that I am going to go for breaking 6:40 (6:30 is right out as generally I cannot run 1.7 miles in 7 minutes), and I try to press the pace.  Unfortunately, too much running and I get a few cramps… mostly due to stumbling on the downhill.

I think if it were not for the jog around the parking lot that makes up the final mileage, I might have had that time, but I finish in a respectable 6:40:17, less than a minute slower than Skyline a few months earlier… and given that I have done 12 ultramarathons this year, having a slightly slower time is totally in the realm of possibility.

Afterwards, we would normally hang out and maybe even have a beer with our hasher friends, but there is an unfortunate incident – Laura left her long-sleeved shirt and Smart Phone in the gymnasium.  One of the two items is stolen.  That effectively crushes the opportunity of doing anything but going directly back to Long Beach.  If only she had left the phone in the car (which was less than 100 yards away from the gymnasium)… Live and learn.

After 12 ultras in 12 months, my body is ready for a break.  Actually, it is something like 26 consecutive months with at least a marathon distance covered in a race (which includes a couple of DNFs).  I enjoy the ultras, but I need to be cognizant of the wear and tear on my knees.

The lottery for Way too Cool is later this month, and I might be interested still in doing the Avalon 50 miler next month.  We’ll see how I feel.

High Desert 50K – 2011

December 4, 2011

Laura and I decided that we would do Ridgecrest.  I last ran the course back in 2004 and at that time, I set my personal best for any 50K of 5:47:09.  The course is runnable, and it’s a great beginner course… and we are always encouraging others to try this event particularly.

It was pretty cold when we got out there and we registered the night before.  Yes, I signed up for an ultra the day before… but my training has been running a long race every month for about 2 years, so I think I will be OK.

We opted against eating the meal at the check-in/registration – it didn’t look all that good, but we looked up various places on Laura’s I-Phone trying to find some kind of food that we all would want.  We decided on a local Pizza joint, which had a buffet offering for about $10 plus good beers at reasonable prices (like $3.50 for a glass of Newcastle).  It seemed like THE joint as we saw Mitzi and Hwa-Ja there, too.  The buffet was acceptable, and I did try their Peanut Butter pizza.  (Odd.)

We stayed at the Heritage Inn (the host hotel) and recognized a number of regulars there.  In the morning, basically everyone heading out before dawn was a racer.  I mean, what else was going on in Ridgecrest at 7am on Sunday?

The race started out on time, though there were a handful of the older folk who started an hour early to give themselves the opportunity to finish under the time limit.  I immediately began walking all of the hills and jogging the rest of the course.  I felt pretty good and finished the first 5.5 miles at a 9:10/mile pace (like a 10K pace!).

I think the cooler temperatures helped me quite a bit, as heat is not my friend.

The second section contains a few hills, has practically no paved surfaces and a bunch of single-track.  I only slowed down to a 10 minute pace.

I don’t have a lot of notes about this race.  I guess you could refer back to a previous posting about this course… it hasn’t changed… except for the fact that we are both 7 years older.

Later into the race, I would look down at my watch and think… maybe I can finish under 6 hours (of 20-plus 50Ks, only 2 have been under 6 hours, and both were at Ridgecrest).

Most of the final miles of the course are downhill.  However, I find the end of the course CRUEL, because you can spot the finish line location (not quite see it) for 3 miles and still not get any closer.

At 29.4 miles, I was at 5 hours and 44 minutes.  In any other race, 1.7 miles in 16 minutes is not a particularly tall order… but it IS when you are coming to the end of 31 miles.  I really just got to the point where I thought, “Hmm… I think I am going to miss breaking 6 hours by a few minutes, so WHY overdo it?” and I slowed down.

I ended up finishing in 6:02:51… which is my best time in 7 years.  I’m totally happy with that.

Consider also that marathon-plus-wise, in 2011:

I ran 2 marathons.
I ran 4 50Ks.
I ran 2 50Ms.
I ran 3 100Ks.
I completed a 100M race.

So… to finish my final ultra in one of my best times, that makes for a pretty good finish to the ultra year.

I’ve decided to continue my streak, but run 12 ultras in 12 months for 2012.

Finisher's Medal

Finisher’s Medal