Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ultra-marathon 50k (31 miles) Ridgecrest - Over The Hill Track Club (OTHTC) - 50k Personal Best (5:00:47)

Yesterday Sienna's Scott and I headed down the I395 for 5 hours, past Yosemite and Mammoth to Ridgecrest in the Mojave desert, for our first Ultra Marathon, the OTHTC 50k. Neither of us have even done a marathon before but that didn't stop us 'carb loading' on the journey down managing to cram in pizza and pasta in the space of far too few hours. We had a few beers in preparation too.

I'd done a little more training than Scott having run the Rim Trail recently. For his first ultra he aimed to try and beat 6 hours; I figured I'd try to break 5 hours though I didn't have much to base my target time on other than wishful thinking.

7am came around quickly and before we knew it, we were off and running with about 300 other people of all shapes and sizes and ages. The start was quite busy, clogged up and slow in the way that most races are. After a mile things had thinned out a bit but there was still a lot of swapping of positions going on. This meant I was overtaking quite a few people for a while. Scott was being more sensible and was sticking to a more sane pace so we split up pretty quickly.

The day started pretty cool, just above freezing I think (in fact we ran over a patch of ice on the car park). I had gloves on for perhaps as much as 10 miles.

After about 3 miles I got chatting to a lady who, like many other runners, had a bright pair of Dirty Girl gaiters on (I think her name was Kristen Farley). Actually the maker of the gaiters Chrissy, was also racing. Kristen was a former geology professor and is now a wellness coach helping to introduce people to the concept of getting fit and eating well. After a couple of miles I discovered that she was also not unfamiliar with running 100 miles races and seemed quite well known in ultra running. Wow did I feel outclassed. Pretty soon another lady joined us, Ceal Klingler, who was the race director of the Bishop ultra marathon and a very cheerful person to run with. Both women looked extremely strong and consistent so I really enjoyed running with them. One GPS measured mile was paced at 8.08 pace - WAY TOO FAST.

After about 4 miles the first lady slowed a little to talk to a friend and I carried on running with Ceal. After a while she told me she was casually aiming for 4 hours 30 pace. I had to explain that I wasn't and I worried that I was slowing her down. But Ceal wasn't super competitive and was happy running at the pace we were going at so we carried on together. At the aid stations she wasn't too keen to stop at all and because I was carrying quite a bit of water with 'Perpetuem' in it I didn't need to stop either. So we ran together, chatting for about 20 miles. Ceal is the first person I have heard express saddness at the California flag which proudly boasts a Grizzly Bear - extinct in the state for more than 50 years.

As 20 miles neared I could see Ceal was looking very strong and was starting to stride ahead of me a bit. I told her to get going but she spent some time trying to motivate me to carry on at the same pace. After another mile I really had to send her packing since I was slowing and feeling heavy and she was looking light and strong. Ultimately she beat me by 15 minutes - quite some margin.

At 20 miles I was still ahead of my virtual partner on my GPS who was pacing at 9.38 min/mile but after the next 3 miles of climbing I had dropped to .7 mile behind 'him'. On the downhill I was able to reel in the virtual partner but only very slowly. By mile 23 it looked like I would finish around 10 minutes behind the virtual partner with a time of 5:10. This was disappointing but I really didn't have the legs to eat in to the lead enough on the downhills.

As it neared 11am I was too hot with my helly hanson (smelly helly) and windproof shell on. So I had to wrestle the shell off whilst running along.

My legs were hurting by now. Early in the race my adductors felt notchy but that had faded early on. By mile 23 I had a lot of pain in the hip flexors and startings of pain in the gluts. Another couple of Ibruprophen seeemed to help a bit.

I passed the 26 mile point with nonchalance, it didnt seem very relevant today but the time looked like 4:18 or so (the GPS was under reading so perhaps it was a little faster).

I got to the last aid station and slowed for a little rest and a drink. I thought there were 3 miles to go but I noticed (late) that there was a sign saying 1.6 miles. I had 15 minutes left before the 5 hour mark and I realized I could make it so I picked up the pace a lot and shut the pain out of my mind (I was surprised how well that worled). I caught up and overtook the older guy in front of me and ploughed on. As I rounded the front of the college I had 3 minutes to get to the finishing line. I had no idea exactly where the finishing line was though so I just hussled. As I made a lap of the car park I knew I wouldn't make it but still gave it everything. I crossed the line at 5:00:47 - dammit. Fortunately there was free beer on tap to console myself with, and, in fairness I was quite pleased with my time. I was 46th overall and 15th in my age group. My GPS tells me that I burned 5,150 calories over the distance - lucky we did a lot of carb loading!

Scott came in under his target time of 6 hours and was also glad of the beer.

Here are my splits (roughly due to GPS problems):
00:08:08 0:52:32 -----10k
00:08:49 1:59:47 ----- 13 miles
00:10:12 4:17:36 ----- 26 miles
??:??:?? 5:00:47 ----- 31 miles

There is something quite nice about the ultra runner community. People were extremely friendly and chatty. The race itelf was extremely well organized with race directions some of the best I have ever seen. The route was marked with orange tape and chalk arrows. Aid stations were also very well organized and friendly and at each one they took everyone's number as they came in - very safety consious. At the end of the race we got excellent running shirts and every runner got a raffle prize - whoever had worked the sponsorship angle had done a splendid job. For our $65 entry fee we got a whole lot of stuff - even Pizza and Beer at the end!

Ceal and her husband Stacy, friendly folks.

Sienna met us after the race after a multi-hour epic drive down from San Francisco. Scott and I stiffened up a lot on the way back and were glad to have dinner in the very nice Whisky Creek Restaurant in Bishop before the last leg of our drive home. At one point on the drive back I saw Sienna brake - she later told me that a mountain lion ran out in front of her car! It's unusual but there are lots of deer around and that is the mountain lion's favourite food. Wow.

Many of the pictures on this page are from Bad Water Ben Jones the race photographer. Most excellent - huge thanks. Larger versions of some images are on his website.

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