June 12 1996
Saturday, June 1, 1996 I ran my first Ultra. The Shadow of the Giants 50Kin Fish Camp California. (South gate of Yosemite National Park.)
The Race Report
About one hundred and Sixty runners listened as Baz the race director talked about the course we were about to run. The time was 7:00am Saturday, June 1, 1996. The location was Fish Camp California at an altitude of 5000 feet just outside the south gate of Yosemite National Park. Baz detected this race to Dave Dixon, a friend and Ultra runner who died six weeks ago of a massive heart attack while running along the beach at Crystal Cove State Park. I knew Dave as did many of the people listening to Baz. I started running three years ago to lose a little weight and joined a running club about a year and a half ago. Dave was one of the first people in the club that I met. Everyone knew Dave. He was a walking/running party. The weather was fabulous (thanks Dave) About 65F and clear sky.
Starting at Green Meadows School Camp Ground we ran up the gravel road we drove in on. About two-hundred feet up the road we took a sharp right turn onto an old dirt fire road. This was the start of what many called the small loop. The "small loop" is a six mile loop, we ran twice. Up and up we ran (walked) about two miles. Then off the fire road onto a gravel road for about one hundred yards. Taking another right turn off the road we then ran four miles of the greatest signal track trail I have ever run. Two stream crossings (rivers, knee deep) cool your feet and legs. The trail is a narrow soft dirt single track with a few rocks and roots to keep you wide awake. It descends back into the Green Meadows School starting area. These four miles of pure trail running magic are the reward for the two mile climb at the start of the loop. Running into camp ground we came to our first aid station. It was well staffed and had plenty of fluids and food. After the aid station we repeated the "small loop."
Coming back into the camp ground a second time the aid station had been moved to accommodate the turn onto a bridge that led to the second part of the run. We had all just run half a marathon. Someone said "I don't like coming this close to my car, It is calling for me to stop and drive it back to the hotel" I was being called by the forest. It was saying "I have shown you just a peek of the magic I have in store for you John. Run on, your only seen a little of my magic."
Over the bridge onto a short stretch of signal track we come to another gravel road. Up a gentle climb for about 3 miles and the next aid station. This aid station was also well stocked and was staffed by a crew that was outstanding. Advice, encouragement and directions were all in the mix of things given at this aid station. About a mile up (yes more up hill) we turn to the left leaving the gravel road onto a peace of trail that was the hill of hills. Walking up this hill (about a mile (straight up)) I hooked up with three runners from the San Diego CA area: Kelly Thornton, Pony Walker and Michael Aguirre. We ran on and off together to the finish some times singing "oldies but goodies" hits that none of us could remember the words. At the top of the climb we were blessed with a run that was magic. "Magic" is Baz's (the race directors) word for the race and the day for almost everything, but magic is the only way to describe the next four miles. Words cannot describe this patch of Gods earth. A gentle down hill on soft pine needle covered single track. Running (yes running, like the wind) you are surrounded by real untouched high sierra old growth forest (old growth is right, about 2000 years old). I am running among trees that reach 100s of feet high. They have trunks that are as big around as a small house. These old giants are not the ones that you see in the national parks with little plaques and a trail around them that has had 10s to 100s of feet a day walk by. These works of God are just there. A little single track trail that may see 8 to 10 feet a month winds by. The pine cones these Giants have dropped to the forest floor are bigger than a football. It was a spiritual experience (Hi Dave). Leaving this patch of heaven on earth we run back onto the gravel road. About two miles down the road we come to the furthest aid station. This is at the Nelder Grove where the general public can come (drive) to see a few examples of 2000 year old Giant Sequoias. This aid station is well staffed by super support people. They have a selection of food and fluids that make you think you walked into your family's picnic, and they are supporting you as your family would. One of my running friends said she ate the strawberry of her life at this aid station (It may have been the long run, but she gushed on and on about the orgasmic strawberry experience she had at this aid station). At this aid station (mile 20) we ran a one mile trail loop in the grove. I was told before the run, this was going to be the best part. Not for me! Not that I did not love it. It was just that you could drive to this place. The old forest we just came from was mine and about 150 other runner's secret. The public will never see these giants as God made them. I did! Leaving the grove on to the gravel road and into ladybug land. These bugs are good bugs. Little red bugs that look like little red VW cars. The bugs make you think you are more of a bother to them than they to you. Hundreds of them swarming around made for a fun stretch of running. Soon we passed the last lady bug and kept climbing up and up a gravel road. Mile 24, 25, 26. Where is the top of this hill? Finally it crests right at the spot we turned to walk up the hill of hills. Wow, I know the trail from here. It's all down hill. Time to run. A mile down and we are back to the great people at the last aid station. This was the aid station we passed on the way out with all the encouragement, advice and directions. Now the directions they give are. "It's only three and a half miles to the finish" I had passed into the Ultra area going beyond the twenty-six point two mile marathon distance, and, I was running. Running strong! I came yelling and cheering across the finish line.
I did not win, I did not place, I wanted to run under 8 hours. I ran 7:54:15. I am thrilled :-)
Author: John W. Meacham
Copyright (c) 1996
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