Man vs Horse - 50Mile race
Taken from the RAF Athletics website:
When Flt Lt Jo Murray deployed on Ex HIGH RIDER 16 with 41 (R) Test and Evaluation Squadron to China Lake, California at the start of September, she knew it would be a great opportunity to get some longer distance running under her belt. A quick search of the Internet and she was soon Facebook friends with a whole host of the friendliest locos from the Ridgecrest and Indian Wells Valley running club, Over The Hill Track Club (OTHTC). Day 3 in the USA and she was running thousands of feet up the Pacific Coast Trail amongst the Joshua trees and feeling on top of the world. With Ridgecrest being approximately 2,300 ft above sea level, and many of the local runs being well above this, it became a perfect training ground for hills, distance and altitude.
Adopted by the club and pretty much going native, Jo ran most days and also became a regular Wednesday club night runner. These Wednesday night runs have been hosted by ultra runners Eric and his wife, Jo, for over twenty years. Come rain or shine, and even on Christmas Day, club members meet here for a run around 'Mikey's', an undulating course over the Radamacher Hills. The views, as the blazing sun is setting over Ridgecrest in the fall and lighting up the desert in a spectrum of purples, pinks, blues, greens, reds and oranges, are simply breathtaking. What's most special, however, is the people. Like hosts Eric and Jo, this gathering of humble ultra runners have been there, run it and got the t-shirt...many times over! These guys and gals have more 100 miler races under their belts than hot dinners. They know Badwater and the Western States...the stuff of dreams and legend! How could Jo say no when they challenged her to run the 50k Man vs Horse Race on Oct 9 with them?
Encouraged by OTHTC, Jo ran the Beavertail Half Marathon first, a rocky, hilly trail race, and came in third overall and first female. After a second lap for fun, and to make it up to a marathon, followed by a 21 mile hike/run the next day with some of her favorite locos, the 50 MILE Man vs Horse was starting to seem within grasp...
So, at 0630 on Sunday 9 Oct, Jo jogged off with a handful of ultra runners from the bottom of the Indian Wells Valley. Decked in a borrowed Nathan pack, union flag bandana and garmin from Karin Usko, her SoCal best friend and the race do-director, the long journey began. Having never run more than 32 miles before, and having never run in the midday desert sun, the plan was to stick to a steady 5 miles per hour and take on as much fluid, salt and food as possible. Luckily, incredibly well stocked aid stations, complete with everything from friendly, helpful volunteers to potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches, crisps, carbopro capsules, candies, cookies, bananas, grapes, oranges (you name it, they had it and Jo ate it) lined the course every 5-6 miles, with water stations every few miles also. There was a nine mile climb at one point, and over 6000ft of elevation gain throughout with temperatures up to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It wasn't easy but there was plenty of support...
Flt Lt Tim Nettleton, the 41 (R) Sqn Engineering Officer, had successfully completed the ten mile Man vs Horse race that morning too. Beating six horses and coming a very respectable fifth in his age group, Tim was 21st overall out of a strong field of 96. After a burger and a nap (what??!) he selflessly joined Jo for her last ten miles and jogged in with her. Fifty miles of desert hills (with only two snakes) was suddenly over. The finishing time was 10hr 20, third overall and first female. Swag included 24 bottles of the famous Indian Wells beer, the prestigious Man vs Horse belt buckle and bottle opener medal, plus more free beer (because you can never have enough, right?!) Oh, and the t-shirt of course, that's a keeper to wear to the next Wednesday night Mikey's run.
The running adventures will continue for Jo, with plenty more trail races and hikes around this magical desert bubble with the locos lined up until her return to RAF Coningsby at the end of November. And when not running, there are mules and dirt bikes to ride!
Eco-Extreme Trail Run Half Marathon – Ventura, California
Taken from the RAF athletics website:
This 100% non-profit race takes place annually on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, run by the Sheriff’s Rescue Unit and supported by Ojai Search and Rescue.
Flt Lt Jo Murray, accompanied by 9 others from 41 (R) Test and Evaluation Squadron who are currently deployed on Ex HIGH RIDER 16-4, made her way to Santa Barbara the day before this prestigious and special race. RDML Corey, Commander Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, had disappointingly injured his arm in the weeks leading up to the race and kindly transferred his bib number to Jo. Although it was just Jo racing, the others from the Sqn took the opportunity to conduct some FD in this beautiful part of the world.
After a gentle jog down to the beach, followed by a quiet and cultured evening on the Santa Barbara pier, race day began with an early 3:45am alarm clock! Leaving her colleagues sleeping soundly, Jo drove down to Ventura harbour to gather in the morning darkness with over a hundred other trail runners for the ferry to Santa Cruz Island. Once on the ferry, Jo sat quietly and listened to the chatter of experienced runners, feeling very much outclassed and out of her depth. Looking around, all the girls were half her size and definitely much more gazelle-like!
Still, making plenty of friends on the 90 minute transfer and enjoying the cool temperatures, Jo stood at the start line in anticipation of a fun trail run ahead. Then the countdown and suddenly everything changed. The fierce sun made an immediate and unwelcome appearance, the track just went up and up and up...a gazelle overtook her after ¾ of a mile and Jo found herself down to 2nd place female. Looking over her shoulder, the 3rd place female was roughly 10 seconds behind and probably could be kept at arm’s length...though nothing was certain. Gazelle #1, however, was pulling away and this scenic trail run suddenly became a tunnel vision fight to the death. The first 2.7 miles were up a steep dirt path, gaining approx. 1300 feet in elevation. The trail then became a single track wilderness ridgeline trail and the rocks more difficult to negotiate. The pace was relentless and pressurised, the trail either up or painful down, the sun beating down –a real slog and quite a shock to be working so hard. At the 6 ¾ mile point, Jo managed to overtake Gazelle and hold the lead as they wound around the hills and topping out at 1425ft. There was no time to admire the stunning views of the Pacific – another time maybe but not today. At mile 10, Jo stopped to throw a few cups of water over her head – still not quite acclimatised to the Californian heat. Gazelle used this opportunity to catch up to just a second behind. Pounding down the very steep trail at sub 6 min miles, Jo and Gazelle fought tooth and nail for a clear lead over the next two painful miles (27 % gradient!). Unfortunately, Gazelle eked into first place with less than a mile to go, put on the after burners and took the win with an impressive and well-deserved 18 second lead.
What a race...and it wasn’t even over. Gazelle fancied doing a few extra miles on top of the half marathon and, of course, Jo couldn’t lose face. 4.5 miles of 8:30 pace was not an ideal recovery run...but it was soon over and Jo was then free to spend the next 3 hours eating delicious fresh tuna wraps, pumpkin muffins, chocolate chip cookies and sipping champagne. Everyone was super friendly and some even mentioned the super-scenic Ray Miller 50k/50mile trail run coming up nearby at Point Magu in just 4 weeks time. Thinking how lovely the Man vs Horse 50 miler was a fortnight ago, Jo signed up to the Ray Miller 50 miler without a second thought. This probably wasn’t Jo’s best decision as, after surprised comments from her Californian ultra friends, a quick Google revealed that this is one SERIOUS trail race. So, in 4 weeks, Jo will take on 50 miles of ‘rolling’ Santa Barbara hills, with roughly 14,000ft of ascent and descent...what could possibly go wrong? The adventures just never seem to end!
Updates and news direct from the Committee