The OTHTC High Desert 50K: G’s First Ultramarathon

On Sunday I completed my first ultramarathon: the OTHTC High Desert 50K. While I’m still wrapping my head around the experience, I’d like to get this recap down while it’s still relatively fresh in my mind.

We arrived in Ridgecrest at 4 p.m. on Saturday. After picking up my packet (note: great pre-race goodie bag), it was off to dinner at Red Bowl, a restaurant located right across the street from the hotel. The menu was extensive and the food was great. After dinner, it was off to bed … or so I thought.

I tossed and turned, and thought most of the night. Looking back on it, I think that was one of my favorite parts of the experience … everything you think about before, during and after an event like this. It puts you in a unique frame of mind, that’s for sure.

I finally rolled out of bed at 4:15 a.m., ate a bagel, drank some coffee and water, and then headed off to the start.

Honestly, the 30 minutes prior to the start are a blur. I was pretty “in my head” at that point – second guessing myself, my training, my nutrition and anything else that could be second guessed. However, once the race began, I smiled, settled in, and most of that doubt subsided. I knew I had done all I could to prepare for the race and it was now up to me to find my way through 31 miles of the high desert.

Course Elevation Map
Course Elevation Map

Start to Hubcap (miles 0.0 – 5.5)

Felt great through here. (I know, I know … I better have, right?) It was fun because we were all packed together on the trails; everyone was chatting it up and getting loose for the day ahead.

And they're off!
And they’re off!

Hubcap to Haystack Turn-off (5.5 – 8.5)

I wasted no time at Hubcap, since I knew I would slow drastically later. There was a nice downhill before a slow, steady incline the two miles leading up to Haystack. Since this was my first ultra I didn’t want to over-do it too early, so I walked it. C had essentially gone off-roading in her Jeep and I got to see her out there, which was great! We chatted for a quick minute and I was off. I could feel the sun coming up and I wanted to get ahead of it as much as I could.

Coming up to Haystack Turn-off
Coming up to Haystack Turn-off

Haystack Turn-off to Saddle Turn-off (8.5 – 11)

Straight up. I’d looked at the elevation map prior and trained with a lot of hills, but once I saw this, I knew what I would be in for the rest of the day. I attacked it as hard as I could without over-doing it, which resulted in me being pretty wiped upon arriving at Saddle. Once there, I filled my hydration pack, ate some pretzels and Snickers and continued on.

Saddle Turn-off to Highway Crossing (11 – 13.6)

This was a nice downhill stretch that I just pounded away on; however, I don’t think I realized how much that prior uphill killed me. Once I got to Highway Crossing I took 2 Scaps, had 2 cups of Gatorade, an orange, and some little cookies. Off-roader C managed to get here, too, which was a huge boost. As I walked away from Highway Crossing, I was beginning to realize just how different this was from the races I had run in the past.

Refueling at Highway Crossing.
Refueling at Highway Crossing.

Highway Crossing to Wagon Wheel (13.6 – 16.9)

Bring on the uphill! It was good thing I ate a bit more at the previous station because I needed the fuel to get up this. More and more desert started separating each of the runners. I think everyone was starting to settle in at this point.

Nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom.

Wagon Wheel to Double Rocks (16.9 – 20.6)

I felt good coming out of Wagon Wheel and ran this one all the way in. Passed a few … got passed by a few dirtbikers who all nodded or waved as they buzzed by me, making my already glacial pace seem completely stagnant. That was fun.

Somewhere between Wagon Wheel and Double Rocks.
Somewhere between Wagon Wheel and Double Rocks.

Double Rocks to Pack Rats’ Right Hand Turn (20.6 – 22.5)

Once at Double Rocks, I took another two Scaps, washed them down with some Gatorade and went face first into the cookie tray for a while before taking on what would be that last “big” uphill of the course. I gave that climb everything I had, and it was probably my “strongest” section of course running all day. Even though I was tired, I was still moving forward.

Uphill between Double Rocks and Pack Rats'
Uphill between Double Rocks and Pack Rats’

Pack Rats’ to Gracie’s Mansion (22.5 – 25.7)

Things were quiet out on the trails now. The scenery was beautiful … and it was getting hot. I doubled my water intake and paid extra close attention to how I was feeling, which allowed me to cruise on into Gracie’s Mansion at about 12:30 … 5 ½ hours after I took off from the start. As I walked out of Gracie’s, my nerves kicked in again … I was getting into a distance I’d never run before and I had no idea how it would go.

Gracie’s Mansion to Last Turn (25.7 – 29.4)

I got a nice surprise on this leg of the journey. Remember Off-roading C? She plowed her Jeep up to mile 26 to cheer the runners on their final leg of the journey. What a great sight that was. As I got to Last Turn, I took in some Gatorade, a handful of pretzels and keep on going. I was almost there.

Coming down from Gracie's Mansion
Coming down from Gracie’s Mansion

Last Turn to Finish (31)

Slowly but surely … the finish line came into sight. What. A. Feeling. And after 6 hours and 24 minutes of running through the desert, I had done it. I had completed my first Ultramarathon.

Crossing the finish in 6:24
Crossing the finish in 6:24
My first ultra marathon - COMPLETE!
My first ultramarathon – COMPLETE!

I was very lucky to have C come with me as I chased this dream down. I was also lucky for her ability to expertly navigate the desert in her Jeep, just to catch a few glimpses of me out there.

I think that’s one thing that can often get overlooked; the support, commitment and understanding that significant others offer up while those close to them train for events like this.  So, thank you C!

Couldn't have done it without her!
Couldn’t have done it without her!

Furthermore, thank you to everyone I interacted with throughout the weekend. Everything about it was great. The course, my fellow runners, the aid stations & volunteers … it was all so, so great.

This was great practice for the San Diego 50 in January. I learned a lot about myself, my abilities and became aware of a few things I need to work on before I race again.

… I guess it’s time to get busy.


21 thoughts on “The OTHTC High Desert 50K: G’s First Ultramarathon

  1. Awesome man. Congrats on the accomplishment. More fuel for your fire I presume. As you eclipsed your prior long distances what did you have to face physically that you didn’t have in the shorter runs? Anything happen or not happen you didn’t expect?


    1. Thanks! I really appreciate it.

      Absolutely more fuel for the fire. This was my last race (and biggest) before the San Diego 50 in January.

      I won’t lie, had a bit of a “weird” feeling as I went from 26.2 onward to the end … but I was overcome by so many other emotions that I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish. We are all capable of so much more than we even realize!

      The biggest “unexpected” thing for me was the importance of properly fueling and listening to your body. I’ve got a LOT of work to do in that regard.

      How about you? Any big races or training on the horizon?

      Take care!



  2. Good job, G! Way to get that first ultra out of the way!

    I talked to Paul and he is actually organizing a training run on the 14th. If you can’t do that day, let me know and we can get something going on the 15th, which is the day you wanted.


    1. Thanks!

      It should be noted that while training I read, re-reread … and re-read your recaps. It helped a lot to ‘know what was coming”, even though the distance was a lot shorter. 🙂

      The 14th sounds great! Looking forward to seeing some of the trail!

      … what type of long runs are you running between now and then?

      Hope training, and everything else, is going well for you!


      1. Hey bud, sorry for the late reply. I check wordpress every once in a while so if you wanna add me on facebook, that would be more efficient with communication.

        My long runs planned out so far between now and then are a 20-30 miler on the course, a 50k at Cowles Mountain (going up and down 10 times), and some training on the AC100 course in LA.


      2. Awesome, just sent you an invite!

        I was thinking on going to the trail tour #2 hosted by your friend, Paul, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it yet or not.

        Keep me posted on when you go do the AC training. If you’d like company I’d love to see the trail!


  3. Wow, Greg! Congratulations! What an accomplishment. What were your thoughts on your ultra, specifically regarding signing up for more? Does it seem like a race you would like to continue to do?


    1. Thanks, Janine! 🙂

      While I will still run road races, I think I’m going to incorporate quite a few ultras into my 2014 race schedule.

      It’s a very different, peaceful and scenic experience — and I’m pretty sure I feel in love with it! 🙂


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