May 23, 2011

Bishop High Sierra 100k - Having Trust

When Rob M and I arrived Friday evening in Bishop for the pre race dinner I quickly made a beeline to the beer garden that was serving up free local brew for runners. The restaurant was buzzing with runners chomping on pasta and garlic bread.  But when I lifted the clear plastic cup and pulled on the silvery spout,  a loud, hissing sound nearly knocked me off my feet.  The keg was already dead!

The Bishop High Sierra 100k is the first 100k I’ve ever run. Aside from its connection to So Cal Ultra Series, I chose this race because of its difficulty and reputation for old school charm. With two kegs killed before our arrival, the charm had warn off and the difficulty had begun!

We started Saturday morning under clear skies with the prospect of thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon.  I’ve never seen lightning during a race, and I was looking forward to some fireworks to keep my adrenalin flowing.  Even though lightening didn’t appear, the course didn’t disappoint. We climbed along a sandy and rock strewn trail for 15 miles and over several snow drifts until we reached the Overlook turnaround at 9’400’.  Here runners were required to grab a hole punch dangling from a post to mark their race number as proof they made the distance.

Surrounded by the majestic peaks of the eastern Sierra, we continued along mostly fire roads for another 18 miles at an elevation between 7’500’ and 8’500’.  At this altitude I chose to ratchet things down a little and save some energy for the miles ahead. Even though my watch was set to ring every 45 minutes to remind me to eat, I wasn’t getting enough calories, probably due to the extra effort needed to run at altitude. I devoured some chicken burritos at the Intake 2 aid station at mile 26.5, and washed it all down with Gingerale.  Man that tasted good.

Then I remember being passed by another runner on a climb around mile 29. I reminded him we weren’t even half way.  His double take said it all.  As the miles ticked away, my confidence continued to grow. I decided to hold back until mile 35 when we began the long 15 mile descent back down to Bishop. Again, I said to myself knowledge is patience, and patience pays dividends in this sport.

It dawned on me during the race that getting through the last portion of an ultra is more about trust than your god given talent. It's about the trust you have that the pain will eventually fade, and better moments are sometimes just around the corner. It's also knowing that this trust is constantly being tested, because sometimes even greater difficulties are around the corner.  But you keep moving forward, despite the challenges, and eventually you get through them.

When I reached Sage Summit aid station at mile 52, my trust was redeemed.  From here I could see the turnaround some 1,000 feet below. I knew I had to run down and back up 1,000’ of switchbacks, but I also knew that once I made the final climb, it was just over 5 miles to the finish and all down hill.  So after several more shots of Gingerale, I descended into the valley below and turned to make my way back up this stairway to the sky.  The Sierras were gleaming by this time, and the sun’s rays  were piercing through the clouds and highlighting the valley below.  Before I knew it I was making my final steps to the finish line.  My final time was 11 hours and 38 minutes, 4th overall and 2nd age group.

Another day at the office as Rob M would say.

13 comments:

Jamie Frink said...

It was great to meet you at the finish line. Great job out there!!

Will said...

Thanks Jamie. Great to meet you as well and congrats on a great race. Go get your title back next year! Like you say, tough courses rock!

Ric Munoz said...

Congrats on the 4th place finish, Will -- well done! I was only 7 hours and 36 minutes behind you. (It didn't help that I ran the Born to Run 100-k last Saturday.)

You mentioned that Bino might be joining you this weekend. I looked for him but I couldn't locate him. Bino and I ran the '99 Coeur d'Alene Marathon together back when I was fast and he wasn't as fast as he is today (my time then 3:01 and Bino's was 3:36). Please give Bino my regards the next time you see him. And get him to run the 100-K with you next year!

Will said...

Ric, Bino flaked on us this trip. Great job out there getting to the finish line. That is what counts the most!

EricG said...

Great job Will. Keep it up! E

shannon said...

Awesome finish, Will! I imagine the air (more specifically, oxygen) is mighty sparse at 9400 feet, but the panoramic views of the peaks of the eastern Sierra must have been spectacular and well worth the challenge.

Do you ever get headaches from running at altitude?

Will said...

Shannon, funny you should ask. I had a slight headache for several hours during this race. I suspected it was the altitude, and sure enough it faded as I got to lower elevations. thanks for the comments.

Rachel said...

wow, congrats, will! sounds like your patience certainly paid off : )

Justin Watson said...

Will. After meeting you a few yrs back and talking ironman and ultras you sparked the ultra bug in me. I ve ran a few 50's and a 100 this yr. I still keep up with you on here. Have you see Running With The Devil 50 miler? Its in NV in 2 weeks. This is my next one. Since we get no heat training in Irvine and OC im sure my temp gauge will stay in the Red. anyways keep up the strong work.

ericsteeves1980gmail said...

Cool! I can see you have a good race there. It seems so fun to be there. Hopefully, I could join you guys I am getting bored here in my house. linden method

alexjackson1976gmail said...

Great share! I think its really fun to go in Bishop High Sierra. I will talk my friends about it. This is so exciting! Xtreme NO

Timothy said...

Amazing article. I will share it on social networks and my friends would like this really. Does Phen375 really work

Shoaib said...

Well congratulations bro :) I hope to see more successes from you soon. Phen375