The New World of Ultra-Running: The Ridgecrest 50k

Do not wait until all the conditions are perfect for you to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect. -Some Inspirational/Spiritual Dude

My close friend Morgan decided at the turn-off to run the 50k instead of the 30k! Kick-ass attitude.Who needs training? Photos credit here.

I have a 50-email conversation in my inbox with the subject ‘2011 is to Ultra-Running What 2005 Was to Double Centuries’ and after racing the Ridgecrest 50k it has already begun! Two-hundred mile cycling events (calendar) were my introduction to paying for events and eventually racing. My double century tag has over 25 posts, including the 10 I rode in 2005. These rides were an opportunity for Morgan and I to travel around California, sleep in sketchy places and spend the day on our bikes. We got obsessed and by the end of the year he raced the Furnace Creek 508 solo! Fitting that we ran our first ultra-run together.

With my friend Catra in the tattooed division…

 

Pre-Race = Awesome

I talked our crew, 5 in our car plus a few others, into camping at Wagon Wheel, which is a free BLM campground on both the Furnace Creek 508 course and the Ridgecrest 50k course. Just a 20 minute drive to the race start! After checking in and seeing a few folks we actually knew (mostly from bike events!) we headed back to Wagon Wheel to cook. I love camp cooking. Maybe it’s all the bike touring I’ve done over the past 1o years (!), but there’s something about a meal in the open that rivals what most people, if they’re lucky, make at home. We had 3 stoves and 8 people and collectively and easily together made Spicy Peanut Sauce Ramen with Broccoli and Tofu. YUM. Favorite meal of all-time? We sat around the fire eating, talking and catching up. One of the best things about getting away is the time it opens up. Creates such great memories!

 

At our Wagon Wheel campsite.

 

Race morning

One of the bargains I made in picking the campground was that I’d get up earlier than everyone else and start the coffee. 5am alarm. BUT Maxwell, Mr. AdventureSNORE himself, beat me to it! Before my alarm went off I heard the familiar hum of an MSR stove heating water….score! Thanks Max! We (somehow) got to the start not only before everyone had left, but with enough time to eat and get properly prepared. And even get nervous! We found a few more Los Angeles cyclists also at their first run and got a group photo in.

 

Team Los Angeles Cyclists!

 

Race!

I was less nervous about this than a marathon. How is that possible if the distance is longer? Trail running. Low-key. Like a fast hike. Out in the world, exploring. I ran with Morgan and Jeff’s friend Hoffman for the first 15 miles! We’d jog, run some hills, walk some hills and generally take it easy and enjoying the world around us. More experience, less exercise (maybe this should be my tagline?)

 

Mandatory Couch Hang

I split from Morgan and Hoffman around mile 15 and was feeling really good. Running the hills. Though there’s one detail I just cannot write this report without mentioning. I really had to drop a deuce. The whole time. Yeah. I assumed there’d be porto-poties at the aid stations but I was wrong…Not fun. I thought I could hold it, but then on a long downhill…..I guess it could be worse……I made it off the trail at least! No mess. Phew. You know the Ice Cube verse about feeling ten pounds lighter? That was me.

Refreshed (in a way!) I got my pace back up and was holding ten-minute miles or so. Earlier a runner exuberantly told us that the last 5 miles were downhill. But he was obviously a runner because to a cyclist 5 miles of downhill on foot is not something to celebrate! I was struggling. And for the first time of the race I went awhile without seeing anyone. It was beautiful and I was taking my time descending. Then Catra and her boyfriend caught me! They had been so supportive of me the whole run and immediately said, ‘Stay with us! We’re going to finish under 6 hours!’ So I did. And we did! The last mile was (thankfully!) not downhill but ran around the parking lot before finishing in order for everyone to get a chance to see the condition you are in.

 

Morgan’s boat shoes. Apparently the barefoot-like running shoes that cost $80 are a based on these $15 boat shoes. I’ll just say that as I write this weeks later his feet still hurt…

 

At the finish Sasha (ran the 30k- her first run race!), Max (volunteered), Jen from the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition (ran the 30k) and Jeff (first ultra, finished in just over 5 hours!) cheered me on.  I was tired and sore, but smiling and stoked. It was not a death march.

 

What I learned

1. Trail running involves serious hills- up and down! This is helpful, in my opinion. You use different muscles and it’s much less monotonous than a road run.

2. Train on hills! Duh. See above.  In ultra-cycling many people make the mistake of only doing super long rides. You have to strength train on hills. For running this means up AND down.

3. Know yourself. I know what my ‘forever’ pace is like and I rarely ran faster than that. The key to finishing your first long runs.

4. Start slow! Relax. It’s a long day. Unless you are trying to win, which in that case you shouldn’t be looking to me for advice.

5. Have fun. How do I get these events done? I know I’m out there because I want to be. Keep smiling.  Enjoy it the highs AND the lows.

 

What’s Next

January 16th Calico 50k . Another desert run. A training run for this:

February 12th Twin Peaks 50-miler. Nervous. 17,000 feet elevation gain in 50 miles. I’ve ridden much of this area when I raced the Vision Quest mountain bike race in 2009 and it turns out I actually ran some of it a few years ago.  The fear of this run is real and it’s been the kick in the butt I need to train a little harder.

 

Well, a 50k was a great last event for 2010. What a year! And 2011 looks to be something special.  Thanks for reading, happy holidays and good health to you!

7 Comments

Filed under off-road, run, travel

7 responses to “The New World of Ultra-Running: The Ridgecrest 50k

  1. F’ing awesome…much respect.

  2. If we’re calling 50k an ultra distance just because it is a little longer than the 42k of a marathon, then why isn’t the LA Marathon on your schedule, huh? Do it!

    … now I’m heading out for a run.

    • Dude! I want to. After three years in a row I’ve missed it the last two. My next marathon though I want to try to Boston qualify and I won’t be able to do that by March…
      You’re doing it? Sub-3?

      • Yeah, I hope to do sub-3 so that I’m close to other marathon time. I don’t know if I’m fast enough though – my fitness is converging on where it was last time in terms of weight, health. But in terms of speed, it’s not there yet. So it will be a hectic 2 months of preparation to get it there, and it will all come down to how fast my body adapts to faster paces.

        What’s Boston qualifying? I seem to remember that it is about 3:10 but maybe it’s a bit slower for the 30+ age group (are you in there yet?)

        You’ve got plenty of stamina now and enough distance that you have every reason to believe you can cover the distance each time. IMO, the only thing holding you back from faster times is making a serious commitment to speed . . . but I’m not familiar with your current training.

  3. You’re an inspiration Matt. So Glad to hear your first ultra was a success. I’m aiming for the Siskiyou Out and Back (http://www.siskiyououtback.com/) in Ashland this summer if you’re up for it. Also, have you checked out the Green Silence running shoe from Brooks yet? Very minimal, and I think the most “eco” running shoe available. I’ve been running with a pair for about four months and I love em. Oh, and and the risk of going on and on, have you seen this place yet: http://greenladyfoods.com/ ? It just opened in downtown Portland. Julie and I went for the “grand opening” and loved it. All vegan, lots of raw, and super friendly people. Okay man, hope to see you soon.

  4. Pingback: Calico 50k Race Report | True Love Health

  5. Pingback: Trail Run Balti | True Love Health

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