Erica had once again agreed to crew me, so we got to Bishop on Thursday evening and settled in. One great thing about the race is that it is the focus of the town for the week. Everyone knows about the races, and I was told that this is the second biggest event in Bishop behind Mule Days, which as everyone knows is THE thing to do in the Eastern Sierra. I found that the people fell all over themselves to help you and make you feel welcome. For that reason alone, I would suggest the run to anyone thinking about it. It made you feel pretty special.
After scouting the course on Friday and throwing down a couple of Erict Schat turkey sandwiches (don't miss this place if you go) it was off to the briefing dinner. As I sat down, I started chatting with the people at my table. Through the course of the conversation, I found out that two of them knew Scotty Railton. Of course they did. I swear to God . . . Then it was off for a good night's sleep before a 5 AM wakeup.
At the race start
The race course started at 4500 feet, climbed to 9500 feet, doodled around 8000 feet or so for a while, then dropped back down to 4500 feet at the 48.5 mile mark, where you could turn right down the downhill 1.5 miles for home and a 50 mile finish, or make "THE LEFT" which brought you on a 12 mile out and back over a 900 foot climb each way before the 1.5 mile home stretch to earn the 100k finish. It was fear of THE LEFT that motivated me throughout the race.
At 6 AM sharp, we were off. The race started out easy enough with sandy rollers around the base of the Tungsten Hills for about 5 miles before the climbing started in earnest. It was hard to set a good rhythm as with all the different racers out there, it was hard to settle in with a pack traveling at your speed. Coming out of the CDF aid station, where the serious climbing started, I settled into an easy rhythm of running for 2 minutes, hiking for a minute on the sustained but gentle uphill. The climb would be about 5,000 feet over the next 15 miles, so it was largely mellow, but hard to figure out whether I should be running or walking. In the end, I think I paced it pretty well for me.
View of the climb after the 5 mile mark. This grade was fairly consistent from mile 5 to mile 20. The goal of the climb is the left shoulder of the snow covered mountain to the left.
An unusually steep section of the climb. Most of the first 10 miles of the climb was fairly mellow, if rocky and consistent.
Another view of Mt. Tom, I believe, with dead tree for visual oomph.
Still climbing . . .
On the way back down. You can see where the 11 mile aid station is at the left-hand side of the fin of rock. The 5 mile aid station is close to the green fields you can see in the valley. That's a long way up!
One of the climbs going back towards the base of Edison Loop. A rare piece of singletrack trail.
Killer is overseeing the proceedings. Thanks for the help, buddy!
The run back to Edison Loop went well and after a few miles of rollers, it was off on the downhill. This section went as well as I could have hoped, and I was able to keep a relatively high speed (high for me) as I ticked off the aid stations heading back down towards THE LEFT. One thing I would change was my choice of shoes. I had essentially road shoes on thinking the road would be a lot like California fire roads down near San Diego. Nope. Very rocky and should have had real trail shoes, as the rocks slowed me up in some sections. Live and learn.
Finally, several miles past Edison, at what had been the 9 mile aid station on the way up, the course split off for a different trail down to the finish. The only major problem on the way down was another round of vomitting in response to some coke. So, no liquids for a while then either. Also, temps were increasing into the low 80's as we descended, and I was sweating profusely. I could feel the salt caked on my face, but couldn't muster the oomph to take any real food or drink for a good 10 miles or so. And my energy level suffered for it as I started to slow significantly towards the bottom of the descent. Fortunately, Erica was there at several of the aid stations with a kind word and a frozen water bottle. With nutrition problems developing and sore feet and tired legs, I started thinking about THE LEFT. Make the turn for a respectable 50 mile finish and be done with it, or suck it up and get up and over the 12 mile out and back. I came into the 48.5 mile aid station at about 12 and half hours. Here was the crux. Do I drop down or stay out for another 4 hours, 13 miles, and 2000 feet of climbing?
View up from the 168 aid station, approximately mile 46.
Coming into the aid station. You can see the white flap from my french foreign legion hat flapping in the breeze . . .
Yes! After a very brief stop, off I trudged, having made a deal with myself earlier that I could walk the whole out and back if I needed to, just so long as I sucked it up to do the distance. The climb up to the Sage Summit aid station was a bear, much longer and steeper than I expected just because I didn't know where I was going. There were a few steep long pitches, and some flats and short downs that I should have ran but didn't because I was mentally low. Finally, I saw the Sage Summit aid station down a short hill and down I went. Those guys got me picked up, filled me up with some broth and pudding (perfect!) and down I went through the infamous switchbacks to go down into the valley to pick up my poker chip. That 2 mile section went well and then another mile back to the base of the switchbacks. I ran almost all of that and was picking up momentum. So far so good.
Whew! Glad to be done!