Bishop High Sierra 50-miler

When the Bishop High Sierra Endurance Runs came under new management this year I thought, “Thank God!”  The rumors last year were that it may cease to exist. This race is a gem and losing it would be a tragedy for both the ultra community and the local community the race benefits.

My next thought was, “How much will it change?” Human nature is to resist change, but at the same time change is inevitable an constant. To survive we step out of our comfort zone and adapt. Having participated in and volunteered at Inside Trail events, I felt the trasition would be OK.

What I didn’t plan on was a sudden and complete melt-down with ten miles to go in my race. But there I was; unable to move; lying in the sage brush waiting for my mojo to return… stuck with my nausea, cramps, several dozen ants and very little shade. My get-up-n-go was long gone and far far away.

Bishop-High-Sierra-50mAs a pick-up truck came by, I assumed it might stop just to see if I was still breathing. Instead, it just lingered. The driver shut-off the engine and introduced himself. I did my best to convince Tom that I just needed a little rest and would be OK. Tom was friendly. I wasn’t feeling chatty. I learned he lived nearby, and liked to fish. He wasn’t much of a runner, but one year competed in the 20-mile fun run here in Bishop.

He inquired about my thick foamy-soled shoes. Said he preferred a minimalist shoe after reading “Born To Run.” They helped prevent injuries. Eventually he started the engine and moved on, but not before taking my photo and re-teaching himself how to send it from his device to mine.

Later on when I reached the next aid station, there was Tom! His daughter was working the aid station. I needed to sit. Another runner was there – a 70+ year-old man who, despite being mis-directed from his race course, seemed in good spirits and health (much better than me.) I was envious. His prospect of earning an age group award faded due to the detour.

There was another hept-geaman 1-1/2 hrs ahead. Awards at the BHS ultras are beautiful hand-crafted ceramic mugs and photos depicting the natural beauty of this area. They are much coveted. I got the sense there was no bitterness or blame with this runner. Shit happens. Tom’s daughter apologized to him. Not because it was her fault, but because she really cared about his race experience diminished by a volunteer’s honest mistake.

I think he was a glass 1/2 full kinda guy, just happy to be here. Besides, the misguiding volunteer was a old family friend, so “holding a grudge was not and option.” Before leaving he mentioned that he was really looking forward to a popsicle at the next aid station. It reminded of popsicles from past years.

With that thought, I convinced myself that a popsicle was exactly what I needed to start feeling good again. As I got closer, my obsession grew. I decided to have orange or maybe purple. I remembered last year I didn’t take one, but the runner ahead of me chose green (not my favorite.) That cool, sweet, hydrating treat along with gravity allowed her to cruise the final 3.7 miles to a first-place finish in the 50-miler last year.

Upon arrival at that aid station, I learned there were no popsicles!! Not this year. Sorry. :( My disappointment turned to sympathy and sadness for the older guy who had yet to hear the news.

I finished the race. I hope he did, but don’t know. Making my way to the finish at a glacial pace, I wondered if the absent popsicles symbolized change and the need to adapt… Or, does it provide an opportunity to affect change, to be a more active member of this ultra community, to make my voice heard. I do’t know. I do know that if no popsicle is my biggest complaint, then the regime change went pretty well. I hope all involved would agree.

This race is well-done and special. Thanks to Marie (former RD) and Tim (new RD) for your efforts congratulations to the winners, record breakers, PR setters and all finishers.

P.S. It was especially heartening to see Marie Boyd cheerfully wander through the finish campground, meeting with runners early Sunday morning – ater being on the course ’till just before dawn. She was pulling ribbons from the final course section. Despite her new title of RD Emeritus, the passion remains.

~Paul Sweeney


  1. says

    I promise to rectify the Popsicle situation next year! We had a couple new aid station crews this year, and I didn’t know what the “classic” item was at each station. Sounds like a lot of folks could have used, and missed those Popsicles :) Thanks for coming down for the race and for the great race report. Always great to see you. -Tim

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