Los Olivos, California
“The fog is welcome. Hope it lingers.” I offered as small talk in the early miles. “I grew up in Lompoc. I’ve got a love hate relationship with the fog.” Was the response from the guy running next to me. On the central California coast a few miles inland and north of Santa Barbara, on an 8,000 acre ranch, several hundred ultra runners competed on a 20 mile figure eight course. I ran the 50K which was one complete figure eight, followed by a repeat of the first ten miles and finishing with an out and back to round it up to 31 miles. The other races were a ten-miler, a 100K, and a 100 miler.
The race director, Luis Escobar is a mini-celebrity in the ultra community, having been featured in the popular “Born to Run” book. A month before the race ultra legend Micah True went on a run from his hotel room in New Mexico and didn’t return. He was found a couple days later dead beside a creek. When this series of runs in California were re-dedicated to his memory I made a snap decision to go run the 50K. Rebekka and I bought plane tickets, reserved hotel rooms, rental car and made it happen.
The first loop of ten miles included runners running only ten miles. Ten or more runners spurted out in front of me for an early lead and after five miles about four more passed me. I had no idea how many of them would be running the 50K or longer. I finished the first ten miles of trail in 1:18 and saw quite a few runners who had cashed it in after 10 miles. I asked someone how many were ahead of me, but they didn’t know. A couple miles later on the second loop at the first aide station I learned that only two runners were ahead of me. One of them was running the 100K.
For the remainder of the run, over twenty miles, I ran by myself ultimately finishing second in the 50K with a time of 4:16. The final 10 mile loop was identical to the first 10 mile loop. I ran the first loop in 1:18 and the last in 1:21. The last mile, an out and back, I ran in seven minutes. The winner ran 4:02.
Along the way I saw about a dozen wild turkeys, a couple rabbits, and a recently dead cow with buzzards all over it. The cow had a dead calf half emerged from its birth canal and blood flowing from its mouth, so its death was quite recent. Eerie.