Race: Bishop High Sierra 100k
Runner: Alan R
Race Date: 06/01/2019
Location: Start/finish at Mill Pond recreation area, Bishop California
Results: 7th OA, 2nd AG
Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/d4FUree6gX
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
Requiring a drive north or south on beautiful 395 along the Eastern Sierras, it is a beautiful place of extremes – desert, the high Sierras, weather and elevation. It is remote and beautiful with stunning views not far from the highest and lowest points in the lower 48. Add that Bishop Ultras is a smaller event and really low-key, with all proceeds benefiting Eastern Sierra SAR serving Mt. Whitney and surrounding areas, along with eastern Sierra youth outdoor opportunities for kids who have never seen the wilderness, and you feel good doing what you love by racing whichever distance you choose – 6k, 20 mile, 50k, 50 mile or 100k. And it ain’t easy. With a mile of gain from the start to the top of the first out-and-back, and 20+ miles at or above 8000 feet and a top out at 9500, sea level runners will find more than enough challenge.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
I was there for the challenge after racing there last year, so I knew what to expect. The only disappointment was no chicken noodle soup at a higher altitude aid station after enjoying it last year. It was cold and I used hot soup as my carrot to push hard to that turn around. Kinda nit-picky, I know. And that’s it. I have no other complaints.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
My old friend number 7. I took 7th at Bishop 100k last year in a smaller field, and when I realized I had fought to follow last year’s number 5 guy to 7th place this year, I was able to hold the line despite watching 20 hungry racers pass me in pursuit on the final OAB, which was a thrill and a challenge. This was after a 7th place finish at Diablo 50k two weeks before. That’s just WEIRD.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I was able to hold the line for a good finish through smart race day decisions and planning from prior experience, and I gave this race everything in order to not give up my position, through to the finish.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Be ready for an adventure. Take nothing for granted. Take calculated risks, do your homework on the course – where does altitude top out? How long can my calves sustain a running descent? How hot is the desert? How much discomfort do I want to put up with to finish? This last question is especially relevant, as 100k runners are faced with a decision at mile 50 if not committed: a sharp left turn from tungsten aid will get you a couple more thousand feet of climb in the late afternoon heat as you make your way to a silly sticker at the turn around to prove you were there. Or, you can drop down to the 50 mile and jog to the finish. But where’s the fun in taking the easier road out?
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
That I am capable of more than I expect. When I realized my position in the last 12 miles and committed, I was able to push unrelentingly to a good finish.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Starting at 4400 feet in elevation, you have to be prepared to deal with altitude whether you are acclimated or not. Some runners use Bishop as altitude training for other races like a training run. Bishop can be whatever you want.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
The desert is incredibly beautiful but the heat can wear you down . This race takes you up toward the snow and higher elevations, and the transition is subtle but noticeable. The contrast between the two is quite amazing. Snow capped peaks, streams and a lake or two, it is mostly exposed, but you are just surrounded by beauty.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
This is a tough course for above listed reasons. The weather this year was a bit extreme, so although we saw temps 20 degrees lower than last year, it was still about 90 on the way to the finish. Add that we had lightning, a drenching rain and hail, and I saw that some who did not plan for adverse conditions suffered. Mostly Jeep roads, there are multiple stream crossings, snow fields, and again altitude, all making the race an experience to remember.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Definitely professionally organized and volunteered. The folks at Edison aid, which we hit 3 times, braved lightning, rain, wind and hail to provide me what I needed to get through the higher elevation stuff. Everyone was awesome.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
The race was on hiatus for 3 years until RD Todd Vogel brought it back last year. This year provided a deeper field of about 50 100k athletes, which made it interesting and forced me to focus instead of taking my time to hang out at aid and talk with other runners. I expect next year to be a little more competitive still as the race again becomes more widely known.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Time. Take the time to get there and experience Bishop Ultras, which again is a bit out of the way. There are hotels in town, and all amenities, with Bishop being a huge outdoor- focused place not far from Death Valley and MT Whitney. I chose to stay at Brown’s Mill Pond campground again, located only a couple hundred yards from the race start – an awesome way to set the stage for the adventure, and an easy walk from the finish. Brown’s is comfortable and reasonably quiet, with hot showers and shade and a snow-fed stream that bisects the campground to provide cooler temps and the sound of water. The place was full of runners, allowing me to get to know some extraordinary people, like #4 Luke from Colorado and #5 and first female Maia from Las Vegas. As for registration, the RD accepted late entries until Tuesday before the race, which makes it easier to scramble last minute if you need to race a narrow window or race last minute; I dropped Miwok this year due to injury and gladly instead registered for Bishop 100k again.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Everything I needed. No chicken noodle soup this time, but I will be sure to change that if I can.
Weather and typical race conditions
Last year, we had temps above 100 that really tested runners. This year we had heat at lower elevations, but also hail and lightning with high wind up top – not your typical June weather. But in higher altitudes, anything can happen – be prepared for any and all conditions.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
I did two things differently this year, including using my poles to help me up at higher elevations, which really improved my pace, and I studied the forecast and finally bought a water proof layer, which totally made a difference at the higher elevations.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
The start/finish at Mill Pond Recreation Area is easy, with everything you need including a lake for the kids to swim in if it is HOT. If you camp nearby, it is easy to enjoy seeing your racer start and finish, and the race actually starts and finishes running through the campground. If you want to drive on rough Jeep roads with water crossings, you can see your racer pretty much everywhere. For the diehard fans.
How’s the Swag?
Each year the RD offers a really well made, quality commemorative mug, which is really nice; I drink coffee each morning, so I appreciate a well made mug. A good shirt, and a fired and glazed ceramic medal – not a cheap, casted metal-medal, also make the swag more unique. This race fundraises for two non-profits though, so maybe your swag is a race fee tax write-off (I don’t even know if you can do that, check with your tax professional LOL). Or, maybe it’s the deep satisfaction of helping disadvantaged kids and working really, really hard to finish a really tough event that will test your experience and will power and give you a deep sense of personal satisfaction. Whatever it is, just take your pick – and I’ll see you there in 2020.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
I just give this thing 5 out of 5. If you love extremes and the thrill of a challenge, this race is for you.