Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Desert High 30k - Ridgecrest, CA, 12/07/2008

I found this race while doing a search on the Internet. A trail running friend of mine, Russ, had also run the course a couple of years previously and highly recommended it. Coincidentally, my aunt and uncle live in Ridgecrest, and visiting with them at the same time would be the perfect excuse to travel 13+ hours to the other end of the state for an 18+ mile run. My dad got time off to go with me, so it would also provide some much needed quality father/daughter time.

We left Thursday afternoon - hitting Santa Rosa and the Bay Area at rush hour (mental eye roll) - and made it more than halfway before I decided enough was enough and we stopped for the night. The next morning was a short 2+ hour drive to Bakersfield for an extremely brief visit with another aunt and uncle, then a 2+ hour drive over the pass to Ridgecrest. The weather, unfortunately, was absolutely beautiful Friday and Saturday, with clear skies and temps in the mid-60s. This is not weather in which I’d like to be running, especially since we were in the desert with no chance of escaping the sun. However, I was quite happy to awaken Sunday morning to overcast skies, cooler temps, and the possibility of rain. (I guess it did rain some later in the day, but I was done by then. Lucky me!)

I saw no reason for my dad to get up at 6:00 a.m. and go with me to the start; however, he and my uncle promised to be waiting for me at the end, camera in hand. With the exception of my husband being with me for my first half marathon over a year ago, this was the first time any one else from my family would be present when I finished a race. Since I had never run this course before, my best guess-timate for a finishing time was somewhere between 4 and 4 ½ hours. Finishing in 4 hours was beyond my expectations, but would thrill me to no end.

Before we started, I kept an eye out for Jennifer, aka Lifesabeach, from RunningAhead. She said she’d be wearing long white compression socks, so it was easy to spot her just outside the women’s restroom. I wasn’t exactly making a positive fashion statement myself, considering I was wearing a red short sleeve tech shirt, bright yellow Moeben sleeves, black shorts, and very pink printed gaiters. But hey, at least you could spot me easily! (At one point early in the run, I would hear comments about “trail runners attire” and how goofy it can be. Hey - I resemble that remark!) Jennifer and I spoke for a few minutes, then she went on to find her friends and I made my way to the back of the pack (about 320 runners/walkers) waiting for the start.

My uncle had gone over the topographic map with me, and we had driven out to the race site the day before. I was very happy that it looked like we would be skirting much of the taller hills as opposed to climbing them. I had done a lot of hill work in preparation for this race, and less climbing meant I should be fresher for a longer period of time. The course ended up being upward rolling, undulating hills with a consistent rise in elevation for well over three-quarters of it.

Our first climb out of the parking lot was very short, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quickly on a flat then downhill stretch. The only thing that I could see might be a problem was the sand. While it wasn’t deep, there was a lack of real firm footing, and I hadn’t done any sand running in my training. Nevertheless, with the lack of hills such as I’m used to for trail running, I had decided early I would attack this run with a little more fervor, which would hopefully provide more reward in the end.

The 5.5 mile aid station came around sooner than expected, and this was where the 50k and 30k split. This was also one of the areas that provided some excellent views of the mountain range and valley below. I have always thought the desert to be beautiful, and the day of the run was no exception.

Soon after the first aid station, I started looking for a bathroom. Being the desert, there is, shall we say, lack of convenient cover in this regard, but I soon found a large granite boulder that had no rattlesnakes or cactus in close vicinity. The only problem was I didn’t see a small bulge in the boulder and managed to rake my bare rear end along the bulge when I stood back up. Ouch!! I still have a nice scratch on my right butt cheek.

One of the things I particularly liked about this run was that there were people to run with or near almost the entire time. I played leap frog with 3 or 4, which meant I had a chance to talk to them a bit. One woman, Marcy Bozung, is married to the RD for the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, and he was running the 50k. She had a really nice easy, consistent pace that I envy. She made running looked so effortless, no matter if we were going up, down, or running on flats. I tried to keep up with her, but little by little she pulled out in front of me. However, I am proud to say she only finished 3 min. 15 secs ahead of me.

It was right around Mile 12 that the two front runners for the 50k passed me. I contemplated tripping them, but they were gracious enough to huff out a “Good work!” as they passed me, so I figured I’d go and ahead and let them be on their way. Another 3 or 4 50kers would end up passing me before I crossed the finish line.

At Mile 13, I had an instant and severe bout of nausea that stopped me dead in my tracks. I choked down about a third of a Clif bar and some fluids, and it eventually went away for the most part. Even though I had been eating a third of Clif bar every 20 minutes after the first hour, I didn’t have my usual bagel with peanut butter that morning like I always do before a long run. I think that put me behind in the calories count and was a contributing factor to the nausea. Seriously, though, I have to find something else that is easy to carry that I can eat when I have these episodes (which are more frequent than I like). I am to the point that I detest Clif bars, but continue to eat them because they are very portable and have the right amount of calories in them.

About a quarter mile before the third aid station, I started seeing Christmas ornaments in the bushes along the trail. Soon I came around a corner and what fun! There was a “Christmas tree,” more ornaments, and stuffed animals greeting the runners. This station was run by a bunch of guys who I’d say were in their 50's and 60's, and it was by far the best station. I stopped for a drink of water and one asked where I was from.

Me: “Humboldt County.” Him: “Marijuana country!” Me: “Yep.” And he nudges the guy sitting next to him. “Don’t you own land up there? Aren’t you growing something up there?” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) Me: “They just busted two guys with over 1,000 plants growing.” Him to the guy: “Isn’t that your land?” (more wink, wink, nudge, nudge) I thanked them for the great decorations and being out there and continued on my way.

At this point, I could tell we were slowly losing elevation, and there was getting to be more down and flats than up. After leaving the fourth and last aid station, there was a nice downhill section, maybe a quarter of a mile uphill climb, and the last 2+ miles was all downhill to the parking lot and finish line. Thankfully, my coach had me doing extended downhill running at the end of all my long runs, and this enabled me to virtually fly this last part of the race. I popped out around a corner and there ahead was the pavement and the parking lot. I flew right by my dad and uncle, who didn’t recognize me until I flipped them the peace sign, which meant they had to quickly scurry over the finish line. Back at the last aid station, I knew I was going to PR this course (my second 30k), but even when I hit the parking lot, I didn’t slow down (or at least tried not to) until I crossed that finish line . . . . . in 3:51:36!!! I was so happy, I could hardly contain myself. My standings were as follows:

OA: 56/102
Sex: 26/50
Age: 4/9 (actually, 10, but the last two tied)

I absolutely loved this course. If you like the desert, it would be a perfect first time 30k run. I most definitely plan on running it again next year, hopefully the 50k.


rustyboy said...

Well run and excellent report!

I discovered the same issues with "bathrooms" out there. In fact, I believe I found the same boulder that you did. Was there an upcropping of several of them?

Yes, lookit me: Talking about where to pee during a race. ALL CLASS.

See ya there next year for the 50???

Kate said...

Great job Leslie! What a confidence booster for you. So glad that you had a fun time and an excellent finish. You deserve it for all the consistency of training you do.

Dan said...

Great race report. Hard training pays off in races. Congrats on the PR!! Love the gaiters ;-)

Dan said...

If you want to talk about the Succeed drinks send me an email. ( I could also give you my cell phone #
Sorry, yes I have one but I use it responsibly ;-)

andyb said...

Great job on the PR, Leslie! An early Christmas present to yourself. :-)

Not sure how you feel about PB&J sandwiches, but they work pretty well for me (and, seemingly, a lot of others) and I have found they travel pretty well in a pack. I like to cut em up into quarters. Also, sweet potato (or yam) fries, except bake em instead of fry em. Put a bunch in a baggie, toss in a bit of salt and munch a few every now and then.

Keep up the great running. And happy holidays.