Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Bishop High Sierra Ultras 53K Race Recap

Last weekend was the Bishop High Sierra Ultras, and I tackled the 53K (Note: Apparently the race was originally measured as a 50K, but year after year the runners were getting more than 31 miles, so the race director changed the distance to a 53K. And, shoot, since I’d never run that distance before it’d be an automatic PR {personal record} for me ;)).


But, as with all my race recaps, I’ve gotta rewind to the start and give you all the deets that led to the finisher photo.


If you’ve been around my corner of the InterWebs for a while, hopefully you know that I’m currently training for my first 100-mile race. I’m sure you can imagine, there are a lot of training miles to get your body ready to go the distance. The training plan I’m using has long back-to-back runs on the weekend (for example, this weekend I have 30 miles scheduled on Saturday and 20 miles schedules on Sunday – the point being, you're training your body to run on tired legs), so instead of running the same routes on my own week after week, I started looking for local-ish races that'd fit with my plan.

Yes, in case you were wondering, I still use an old school pencil and paper calendar to keep track of my training.

When I saw the Bishop High Sierra Ultras while I was scrolling through UltraSignUp, I wanted to chat with the hubby to get his thoughts. We love the Bishop/ Mammoth area and any reason to go is good enough for us ;). Since I had a 30-mile training run on the calendar for Saturday, the 53K (which translates to just under 33 miles) would be just about perfect-o.


Our original plan was to leave Wednesday afternoon, drive to Lone Pine for the evening, then continue to Bishop when we woke up Thursday morning and camp in Bishop till Sunday morning. I got off early from work at 3pm and went home to finish packing. We kept our eyes on the map and decided we'd shoot to leave around 7pm to avoid rush hour traffic. Well, when that time got closer, we saw the temps in Lone Pine were still in the 90s, so the hubby suggested staying home Wednesday night and leaving early Thursday morning. I'm 150% a morning person, so that option was right up my alley (especially since I had 6 miles on the schedule for Thursday morning that I’d be able to do prior to us hitting the road).

You know it's an early run when Strava still categorizes it as a "Night Run" ;)

The hubby had a call he needed to be on for work at 10am on Thursday morning, so we worked backwards to see when we'd need to leave so we could be at a Starbucks in Ridgecrest by that time (he needed reception and knew Starbucks would have Internet if he needed to hotspot in for his call). We hit the road around 5:30am and got to said coffee shop with about 5 minutes to spare. Walt and I hung in the truck while the hubby took his call and worked for about 45 minutes.

Walt didn't mind the extra snooze time...

The hubby took a half day of PTO on Thursday {and a full day on Friday}, so was working while I drove and then wrapped up everything while we were at Starbucks. He wanted to make sure he got everything done before we lost cell service.

This Starbucks seemed brand new and we were the only vehicle in the parking lot

Once the hubby could call it quits with his "real job", the McDot Crew was back on the road and ready to rock 'n' roll.

Let's do this thang!

This was a random shot I took while we were driving of the Eastern Sierras (I wasn't looking,
just pointed the phone out the window and hit the button) - didn't turn out too shabby, did it?!

We didn’t really have anything on the docket for Thursday, so when we got up to the Bishop area we thought it might be more enjoyable if we made our way to higher elevations to try and beat the heat for a bit. (Yep, the temperatures were in the 90s on Thursday, but thankfully were supposed to drop to a more "manageable range" for Friday and Saturday.) We decided on Lake Sabrina and drove up for the afternoon. The first thing we did after being in the car for 6+ hours was do our mile doggy walk. While we were perusing the area, I obviously picked up litter for my #3PieceChallenge.

It is always so sad to see how much litter is left behind from folks...

After we got the blood flowing to the legs again, it was time for the hubby to get his fishing on. (#RealTalk – The vegan in me does not love that he fishes, so I might secretly cheer for him to not catch anything, but I still try to be a loving wife and tag along to support him even if I don't love the activity.) Walt and I hung out on the shore while the hubby tossed in his line {okay, okay, he was fly-fishing and I know that isn’t the correct terminology, but it’s okay ;)}. Apparently, when he was further down the stream, he caught a trout but he had no photo evidence and I didn’t see it happen so I can’t guarantee it (just kidding, the hubby may love to tell “stories” with his creative mind, but he wouldn’t lie to me… or at least I hope ;)).

He fished, we soaked up the sun.

And the wild thing is, the pictures don't even do the beauty justice!

Eventually it was time to head to the campsite for the evening. Well, like I mentioned, it was warm, so instead of staying in Bishop, we decided to drive 30 minutes to Mammoth and stay where it was a bit cooler (because it's at higher elevation).

Once we set up camp (which takes us all of about 3 minutes to pop the top and get out our camp chair ;)) it was time to make some dinner. We went real classy and had hot dogs with kimchi. (We normally use tortillas instead of bread/ buns.)

Anyone else loving the pretzel crackers these days?! No?! Just me?! More for me I guess!

Although the temps were cooler in Mammoth, the winds started howling once the sun went down. We took that as our sign to hit the hay earlier than normal. (Usually, we love sitting by the fire and hanging out in nature, but we also are very conscious about fire safety, especially with wildfires so prevalent in Southern California, so we didn’t want to risk it.)

Did a little doggy walk before it got too dark and I'll tell you, the views didn't suck!

Hubby built a wind blocker and we kept the flames low, but once the winds started we put it out.

The spot we stayed in had a tree that came in handy for wind blockage.

When we woke up on Friday morning, we went to check out the Hot Creek Geological Area. The hubby had gone on a recent snowboarding trip and wanted to show it to me. It was pretty awesome, and we were able to knock out our one-mile doggy walk at the same time. Shoot, we didn’t even need to go to Yellowstone last year to see the geological pools.

Isn't nature cool?!

Above the thermal area the creek is cold, but below it is hot. Pretty wild!

Sometimes Walt will play along with us for the photo... not often though!

Some of the small pieces of trash I picked up on our walk.

Before we left the Mammoth area, we thought we'd go hike around Lake Mary for a bit... until we made our way up the mountain and the roads were still closed for the season. No worries, we can freestyle like the best of them, so we pulled over at Twin Lakes and walked around. We even found a Forest Chapel we had never seen before! (Too bad we don't need a wedding venue, because this would be right up our alley and seemed ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!)

How peaceful does this picture make you feel?!

It was so cool to stumble across this little zone while hiking around the lake.

The only other thing we had on the docket for Friday was to walk around Bishop to see if there was anything we “needed” in any of the local shops. (We normally aren’t trinkets and treasures type people, but we do love to buy stickers wherever we adventure.) Thankfully, for our pocketbooks, we came up empty handed ;) On the way back to our campsite in Bishop we stopped to pick up my race bib (oh yeah, this blog post is supposed to be a race recap, not a camping post, hehe).

The only picture I snapped while we were walking around town...

Apparently 357 is a type of gun, so the hubby took to calling me "The Gun" all weekend long...

The campground we were staying at in Bishop (PV Pit Campground) was literally like 5 minutes from Millpond Park where the race was starting and finishing – WHOO HOO! It was sort of like we planned it like that (although we totally didn’t ;)). 

This is a very bare minimum type campground, but we've stayed here before and it works for what we need.

After we grabbed my bib (I appreciated that I was able to opt out of a race shirt {and save $5} since most are ill-fitting), we set up our campsite. Even though it was on the warmer side (not as toasty as Thursday), we made Ramen. #AllTheCarbs

It might not look good, but it is yummy! Ramen noodles with vegan bouillon,
peas, corn, red onions, mushrooms and topped with some of the leftover kimchi. 

After we finished dinner, we had a campfire for a few minutes and then climbed into our sleeping bags for some shut eye.

The sky was a cotton candy shade of pinks and purples.

We lost the sun behind the mountains about 30 minutes before it officially set.

If you’ve been around my corner of the InterWebs for a while, you probably are aware that I don’t sleep well in general (thank you, fibromyalgia and the myriad of other health issues I deal with), but the night before a race is normally even worse. Well, it seemed like everything that could try and keep me up that night, did… The hubby’s snoring (due to the dry weather) was unreal no matter how many times I poked him, our heater alarm started going off around 1am (it sounds like a smoke detector beeping) and then we had some loud neighbors arrive to set up camp around 2am. When I looked at my phone around 3:15am I decided enough was enough and I would just get up and do some extra stretching.

I do my best not to wake the hubby and pup (I don’t want my running to be a nuisance/ inconvenience to others), and thankfully they both can sleep through most things, so I did a lot of my stretching on the foldout couch before heading to the cab to change and get ready for the race. I made sure I had everything I'd need for the race before we left the house. (#FlatCarlee photos are fun for social media, but they're also a very effective way of making sure I have what I'll need.)

This race's #FlatCarlee included: Navy Blue Lines PRO Compression SocksGunmetal Sparkle Athletic SkirtNathan VaporHowe Hydration 

The 53K was set to start at 5:25am and since it took 6 minutes to get from our campground to the park where the race was being held, I told the hubby I wanted to leave by 4:45am so we’d have time to get there, park, use the port-o-potty if I needed and get together all of my gear without having to sneak around a sleeping husband and dog. I woke the guys up at 4:40am and we were on our way within a few minutes. We pulled into the parking lot with zero issues and I was able to task the hubby with putting my bladder and soft flasks in my hydration vest while I put on my shoes and pinned on my race bib. A few minutes before the race was scheduled to begin, we walked over to the start and I got my game face on ;)

I'm ready for this!

In between the 100K and 50-mile race starts the hubby was able to snap a couple pre-race pictures for me. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so the lighting isn’t the best, but you get the idea ;) [FYI - In case you aren't familiar with trail races {vs road races}, they tend to be very low frills, which is totally fine for me, but you can see it in things like the starting line.]

"No frills" is my middle name ;)

The wind was pretty non-existent (as opposed to the previous couple of days), which made for some calm water in the ponds.

Eventually it was the 53K runners’ turn to line up. The hubby walked back toward the car and told me he would be on my left-hand side in between the start line and where we parked the truck to snap a couple pictures. I lined up towards the back of the pack (I never want to get in people’s way and I figured with my conservative start I should give the speedsters and the racers more room to run) and made sure to get my watch ready [if you read my Leona Divide 50K recap you may remember that I either forgot to start my watch or thought it was ready to go when I hit it and it wasn’t… Well, I wouldn’t make that same mistake twice… at least not within a couple weeks ;)]. Three, two, one and WE WERE OFF!

Apparently I was running so fast I was a blur... or maybe it was the bad photo quality due to the low light ;)

You can see my "humpback" [aka my hydration pack] under my jacket.

I should probably mention that on Wednesday morning I had a physical therapy appointment and discussed the game plan with my PT (I currently go to PT twice a week). She has been extremely happy with how my hamstring/ glute/ abductor muscles have been improving and gave me the green light to listen to my body for the race. I had mentioned the elevation profile (what appeared to go up for about 16 miles and then come back down for 16 miles) and she said that she would love it if I would be able to jog 8 of the first 16 miles. I sort of chuckled and told her I would give it my best shot (seeing as we were running at altitude {topping out at about 8,250 feet above sea level} and with a decent amount of elevation gain {the website said it’d be slightly over 5,000 feet of climbing} I knew it wouldn’t be “easy”, but I’d try my darndest). She reminded me that I could break up the miles (jog 2 miles, walk 2 miles and repeat) but thought doing some uphill jogging would help challenge the muscles we’ve been working on and extend their comfort range.


And since I mentioned the elevation chart, let’s discuss that briefly… It may have made me a bit nervous. You see, I do the majority of my training on the roads. I get in my miles before work (and mostly before the sun comes up), so I’ve gotta work with what I’ve got (and where both my hubby and I feel comfortable running in the dark). {This was another reason why I added trail races to my training calendar, because I knew it’d force me to hit the dirt and get in more elevation than I might on my own.} The elevation profile for the 53K looked like we were running up a mountain for the first half of the race and then back down it for the second half. I knew if push came to shove, I could always just hike the first half of the race, but I was really hoping my legs would be strong enough so I wouldn’t have to walk the whole first 16 miles. SPOILER ALERT: My body WAS strong enough and I WAS able to jog about half of the uphill miles like my PT wanted. BOOYA!


Remember how I mentioned that the temps earlier in the week were in the 90s? Well, thankfully the runners had enough pull with their weather gods because it ended up being just about near perfect running weather come race morning.

Temps starting in the 30s and ending in the 70s isn't too shabby! The air quality could've been better though...

It was in the 30s at the start, so I was thankful I threw in thin gloves and a light jacket to wear over my gear (skirt, tank and arm sleeves) until the sun woke up fully and came out to play. Note: you ALWAYS want to be prepared when you are running in the mountains because weather can really change in an instant. Not to mention, just because the sun comes up at 5:40am doesn’t mean it will make it into all of the canyons and crevices you’ll be running in – the big hills around you can cause big shadows, which stay cooler longer. Even still, watching the sunrise in the Eastern Sierras is MAGICAL!

The sky was starting to brighten within a couple miles of running.

The tips of the mountains were being bathed in sunlight.

Sunrise is one of my favorite times of the day!

I told myself I'd “run when I could, walk when I needed to”. I'd say I jogged maybe the first 5.5 miles or so (except for when I was stopping to take photos, of course ;)). Around Mile 5.5 I took my first major walk break so I could take my PROBAR BOLT chews and catch my breath. I wasn’t running fast but running at altitude is tough and it had me sucking air for sure.

I took my chews every 50-60 minutes (the distance was different due to the terrain, but I tried to keep
to a fairly consistent time table so I wouldn't go too long without calories and bonk later in the race.

The scenery everywhere we looked was stunning! I felt like I could have stopped every 100 feet or so to take another picture. There was still some snow on the mountains and some of the flowers were showing off their colors for us.


I had a couple runners comment on my enjoyment of the course. I told them that if I wasn't going to win
(and chuckled at that part of the statement) then I better enjoy as many of the steps I take as possible.

I was doing my best to chug along. I would say after the first 5.5 miles or so, the rest of my running in the first half came in spurts… I would run on the flatter parts of the uphill and power hike the steeper sections. You can’t really tell by looking at my paces that I was running, but I was throwing it in wherever I could – a half mile here, a quarter mile there.

A lot of the first half seemed to be "false flat", where it appeared it was flat but really it was uphill.

You can even still see the moon out in this picture!

There were also WATER CROSSINGS on the course! I wasn’t really expecting that. There were quite a few places where there was a decent amount of water flowing and planks were strategically placed to help folks avoid getting soaked.

I was able to pass by all of the waterholes without getting my feet wet - SCORE!

I'd say 95% of the course was exposed. I was super thankful for the cooler temperatures, especially seeing as we were out in the open for the majority of the trail. Had the weather shifted a couple days one way or the other it could’ve been a very different race. With that said, there was a small portion that had coverage and I had to snap a picture for the hubby. One of his favorite smells is warm pine and as soon as I saw the trees in the distance I knew he would’ve loved that part.

Can't you just smell them?!

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, but as you hopefully know, I’ve been doing a #3PieceChallenge for the past few months where I pick up at least three pieces of litter on my runs and walks. Obviously, I was planning on doing it during this race too, but when I read the runner handbook before the race, I got extra stoked… You see, there was a line in it that said, “Absolutely no littering. Really – it’s 2021 and we even have to mention this? Show us some extra trash you picked up out on the course and we’ll give you a prize at the finish!”. Um… they must not know who they were dealing with because I was DEFINITELY going to win a prize! {I even posted this on my Facebook page and whoever runs their social media commented and wished me luck finding trash because the trails are “so clean”…} I already had four pieces of litter in my hand before I made it to the first aid station! With that said, I rolled up to a few of the aid stations and asked the volunteers if they were willing to touch our stuff (with COVID, I know some people would prefer to not touch your gear, which I totally understand and respect). At each of the stations there were sweet angels willing to open my hydration vest (so I could save time by not taking it off) and shove in garbage. In fact, because there was a portion of the course that was an out-and-back and I went by a couple of the same aid stations multiple times, I was even given the nickname of “Trash Lady” by some of the volunteers. (FYI – I am totally fine with a trail name like that ;) I was also told I was like ‘liquid sunshine’ by someone else on the course, so it seemed like everyone wanted to hand out compliments my way that day!)


Eventually we hit the 53K turn around spot. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a grand ol’ time and wasn't wishing the race to be done or anything like that, but I was hoping that the turn around sign meant we would be getting more downhill than uphill for the rest of the race because I was ready to run again with gravity working with me rather than against me.

Thankful that the course was well marked since directions aren't my strong suit...

Normally I fuel solely with my PROBAR BOLT chews on the course, but at the turn around I grabbed a pickle spear (side note: I HATE cucumbers but LOVE pickles) and a few Red Vines from the aid station. As always, I thanked them profusely for being on the course, giving both of their time and energy to runners they have never met and may never see again.

They had a little bit of everything for us!

As I had hoped, we had a decent amount of downhill (what goes up must go down, right?). Also, the course was shaped like a lollipop, so the 53K’ers were now heading back towards everyone behind them. Some folks may not like out-and-back portions because you're doing the same thing twice, but I love seeing my fellow runners and cheering them on.

The course map from my COROS app.

After all the uphill, my legs were excited to open up and cruise for a good handful of miles. (Obviously because I was taking advantage of gravity at this point I wasn’t doing much stopping, which meant fewer photo ops - #SorryNotSorry.)

I'd say the majority of the course was very runnable (if you're adequately trained). It isn’t super technical and the trails are wide and open. One drawback, at least in my opinion, is that much of the terrain is sand. Sand is great because it's soft on impact, but it's difficult because it sucks your momentum and doesn’t give you much back in return. Another downfall was the trails are public and open to everyone during the race. This meant we were having to deal with dirt bikes and quads, off-roading trucks, people who were out for a morning hike, mountain bikers, etc. It wasn’t a huge issue, but I did have to pull off the trail at two separate points because trucks were coming through and apparently didn’t want to wait for me. I also really had to pay attention in some of the areas where the dirt bikes were flying through because with the hills you may not see each other until you were almost on top of one another. Even still, it was still pretty FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC!

You can see some of the sandy trails here.

Eventually it was time to head to the finish (all good things come to an end). I’m stoked to report that the body held up amazingly (I guess my PT really does know what she’s doing, hehe). Of course your body gets fatigued (especially with all of the climbing at altitude we were doing), but I wasn’t having any pain in my hammy, so I’m considering it a MAJOR win!

I chuckled at this sign because it felt very random to me - but very appreciated!

I forgot to mention, but while I was running, the hubby drove to Mammoth Mountain for one last snowboard session of the season (he has an annual pass so figured he'd take advantage of the resort still being open). I was sending him updates every so often with my mileage and time so he'd get an idea of when to head back to the race. Originally, we had thought I'd be done around 1:30pm (which would've been about 8 hours), but as the race went on, I could see it was going to be closer to 12:30pm. When he dropped me off, he mentioned he'd try to leave Mammoth around noon anyway, just in case our texts weren’t going through due to bad reception. I figured he’d be at the finish line around the right time even if he wasn’t getting my texts. SPOILER ALERT: They didn’t make it back in time (they got there maybe 15 minutes after I finished), but they’ve seen me do plenty of races so I didn't mind (especially since it was technically "just a training run").

33.6 miles done and dusted!!

Once I crossed the finish line I saw the race director, so after I caught my breath, I got all of the litter I picked up out of my bag to claim my prize. I went over, introduced myself and told him that I had read in the runners’ guide about picking up litter. He sort of chuckled and said something to the tune of “Oh, that’s cool. Maybe next year we will have an award for something like this.” I was a little flabbergasted. Of course, I would have picked up the trash no matter what, but I was a little bummed that they didn’t come through on their end of the bargain… Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting a $100 prize or something extravagant, but he didn’t even offer a race shirt or some other free swag… #FalseAdvertising

Obviously some of the stuff I found was not from the runners, but the bandaid, fuel tear-off
tops and medicine packages I am assuming came from folks participating in the event...

Even though there was no prize, the post-race spread was pretty great. I normally can’t eat a ton after I finish, but it was still awesome to see everything they had to offer. There was even a volunteer at the grill making people hamburgers. And I LOVED seeing washing stations set up so they could use reusable plates/ cups and avoid single use items. #MajorProps

Not sure if the reusable dishes were COVID approved, but they were environmentally friendly!

I meandered about and grabbed some chips and salsa and a cookie to munch on while I waited for the guys to show up.

I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently this cookie was decorated for Christmas!

After the hubby and pup met up with me, we snapped a couple quick photos and then hopped in the car. We decided we’d head back up to Lake Sabrina so the hubby could do a bit more fishing and I could put my feet up and relax.

Whenever you have the option, ALWAYS take the scenic route!

Since I’ve been tackling longer distances (and rehabbing scared muscles), my paces have definitely taken a nosedive, but that's okay. Maybe I’ll work on speed in the future, but for now I’m just grateful to be able to do what I love pain-free.

And, yes, I did pick my MudLOVE bracelet specifically to honor those murdered in Buffalo.

I’m usually all about the numbers, but these days the enjoyment of running is where I’m focused. Even still, I thought I’d share my stats because I might want to know them in the future when I’m looking back at this post. As of sharing this recap the results are still unofficial, but they had me as 40th of 94 runners overall, 14th female (out of 37) and 8th in my age group (30–39-year-olds). My time was 7:02:35, but what matters more to me is the time spent in God’s creation!

My watch had me with an average pace of 12:34/mile, which doesn't seem too bad all things considered.

And just in case you were wondering how we refueled after the race. We went to one of the local breweries and I had a grilled cheese sandwich with extra pickles (like I said, I love pickles) and some fries. On the drive back to the campground we stopped to fill up the gas tank (THESE PRICES SUCK!) and grabbed an ice cream sandwich for dessert – YUM!


Originally, we were planning on staying the night after the race, but once we got back to the campground the hubby threw out the idea of driving back Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. (The AC in the truck went out on the trip and we thought it might be better to drive when we'd have cooler temps.) Normally I would’ve said I wanted to stay (especially since we had already paid for our campsite), but I had another 15 miles on the calendar for Sunday and knew it’d be easier to get done (along with unpacking, laundry, etc) if we got back Saturday evening rather than Sunday afternoon.

The sun setting over the Eastern Sierras on our drive back home.

We ended up heading to Oceanside Saturday evening (but I told the hubby he’d have to drive, which was a fair trade since I drove the whole way there). Leaving Saturday night also meant we avoided the Sunday travel traffic.

It also meant I could shower the same day as the race rather than continuing to live in my filth ;)

All-in-all, the weekend was a BLAST, even if we cut it short (both on the front end and on the back end). I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I’d do this race again (and it’s not just because I’m bitter about not getting a prize for my trail clean-up ;)). I didn’t hate it and would totally be down to join a friend if they wanted to tackle the course, but I don’t think it’d be one that I would need to run a second time. It isn’t easy (most races aren’t, right?!) and although the views are gorgeous, I'd be fine with exploring more of the trails in the Bishop area with the hubby on our own instead of doing the official race.

What is your go-to post-race meal?

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