Monday, May 17, 2010

Bishop High Sierra 20 Mile Race Report

Oh, wow, really . . . um, yeah.  This was simply a great run, my new favorite, and I feel like I've found a cool new place to be.   I think I will look back on this as a transformative event.  Yup, this was a good one.

I ate well the night before -- no clams! -- predictable but tasty pasta and salad at the pre-race dinner proving to be a much better choice.  It was an interesting crowd, these ultrarunners (the race offered distances of 20 mile, 50K, 50 mile, 100K).  I wasn't particularly sociable, but struck up a few conversations and mostly just soaked up the vibe.  I liked the vibe!

Up at 4:30, a quick bite to eat (no egg mcmuffin, but a ham and cheese thing plus a pepsi), and I'm at the start by 5:20.  Ok, here's the thing, wow -- I don't know what it was about this venue, this race, this distance, this vibe but from right here I just feel like Yay! this is the right place for me to be, here on this start line with these people doing this thing.  Even though I haven't done it yet, I know I'm going to find a home in running ultras.  This 20 miler, while not an ultra itself, is my introduction.  I'm aware of this moment.

It's a little chilly but is obviously going to be a nice sunshiny day.  The vibe is mellow, and I'm feeling pretty mellow, and that mellow feeling stays the entire day.  I know that I have no run strategy at all, and will be running by feel and won't be paying any attention to time or pace.  I have no goal at all other than to start and finish the run.  Someone says Go! and I do and looky, first goal met!  The race has started.

We run out of the campground and on to sandy fire roads, and that's pretty much my trail for the next 5 hours.  Right from the start, I'm all comfy and happy, no foot cramps no calf pain, I'm slowly running along and the scenery is some of my favorite stuff, wide vistas of high desert.

The first five miles are pretty flat, providing a great warmup.  Long about mile five, though, things start ratcheting up.  Remember the elevation profile?

It scared me.  It just looks so . . . dramatic!  oh! 2500'!  In reality, it seemed a lot more gentle.

Well, gradual anyhow.  I definitely slowed right down but kept moving up, forward, up and on.  Slowly.    I passed some people, some people passed me.  Some people passed me walking!  Walking superfast!  I tried walking some, but found I couldn't keep up my pace, and anyway running (such as it was) felt much more the comfortable thing to do.  I am so surprised to discover this!  With little determined pittypat steps I forge on ahead, up up up.

And, oh boy o boy oboy! have I told you about the best part of these ultras?  The aid stations!  Ok, so 2 weeks ago I was all gaga over the oranges at the Reno Marathon, so you can imagine how I reacted to this:

Seriously, folks, I think I spent 5 minutes at each aid station just grazing strawberries, potato chips, pineapple, watermelon! coke!  Way in the back center?  Those are chocolate-covered strawberries!  Is it wrong to want to sign up ASAP just so someone can fill my water bottle while I eat hot-off-the-griddle blueberry pancakes?!?  To hell with HammerGels, this is the kind of stuff I want to "fuel" with!!

I do manage to tear myself away from the 12 mile station, and then things go downhill.  Literally!  The long climb is over, and I am happy stretch out and lengthen my stride.  It's so nice to be in the desert, especially the desert in bloom!  Lots of little bright flowers poking out all over . . . 

A fellow runner snapped this picture of me around mile 14 . . .

. . . and I'm feeling loose and happy-like.  In fact, right about after this snapshot it gets kinda surreal as I really start getting into it.  The gentle, gradual uphill has become a gentle, gradual downhill.  I guess this could translate into a faster pace -- and it did! -- but for me, this day, it translated into my personal "holy grail" . . . effortless running.  As long as I can remember, I have had recurring dreams of running along like a horse, unconcerned with breath or muscles or effort or reason and the memory of this state is probably what propelled me through the misery of first learning how to run.  I've run like this quite a few times in the years since, but on this day on this downhill it all coalesced for a long time, and the last 8 or 9 miles flew by with me in a state of total distraction.  Or, total attention.  Effortless running, in any case, in lovely surroundings and I'm just a happy, blissed-out runner.

Another aid station (this one with popsicles!) informs me that it's 3.7 miles to the finish.  There's a crowd (train?) of about 6 runners just pulling into the station, and a woman who I have been playing leapfrog with take this as a kick in the pants and head on out of there.  I realize I've got a LOT more gas in my tank and I raise my head and lift up my elbows and just motor the last couple miles.  I pull the leapfrogging woman along with me as we drop our pace by several minutes and I run the last 5k in just over 30 minutes, which is ridiculously fast for me.  I pass another couple folks and really bound across the finish line.

I can so run a 50K.

Almost immediately after finishing, I actually pony up some $$ and get myself a 40 minute massage.  This turns out to be a fantastic idea, because this time I totally sidestep the back problems that usually follow a long run.  Either I'm getting used to these distances, or I need a massage after every run over 15 miles.  Hmmmm . . . !

Afterwards, there's even more food, cool chats and lounging about in the sun.  I finally get myself moving and drive the 4.5 hours home.  I feel great.

I continue to feel great, and think that the trails are so much easier on my notquiteso young body.  I've not suffered any undo aches or pains, nothing even close to the gimpy day I had after the marathon.  Happily, a lot of the snow has melted around home (though there is still 3 feet in the front yard) and I think it's time to get back on the trails.  Yay, yay yay!

I think I'll be taking on the next distance within the next 3-4 months.  I just can't not do it.


Stuart said...

Fan freekin' tastic, mellow vibe, mellow pace and big smile!

C'mon 50k has your name all over it!

funderson said...

love it! Your back was probably happy because you were so relaxed. The effortless running is just awesome...

Formulaic said...

I love the vibe of ultra's. So easy and nonchalant.

"Go? Sure, just go and I'll start the clock on your say so!"

Gotta love it!

Tara said...

Beautiful pics!

Massages are the best, especially after an Ultra!

.....only assuming this as I've never tried an Ultra. :)

ShirleyPerly said...

Love this race report!!

You just described exactly what many ultramarathoners have told me about their races. Mellow, low key environment and people, great aid stations and beautiful scenery. I want to do one too someday but my biggest concern is running on uneven surfaces with my stupid weak ankles. I have to say that running on hard pavement is actually safer and easier on my body than running off-road because of that :-(

Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful race experience and photos. I will for now enjoy off-road running vicariously via you!