|Map taken from AC100 Website|
Originally I was going to name this race report the obituary. Around mile 45 I had declared I was never going to run again. My soul was crushed with no longer any sort of ambition to continue on the course. There are always bleak moments when covering a long distance. This was the lowest moment I have ever entered mentally. A lot of the race is having the mental ability to take on those adverse times when the body wants to quit. Physically, I made a mistake that sent me down that mental spiral. Here is my recap as I saw it unfold. The names are real and so are the events no innocence will be spared, now we begin the our journey of events.......
Start to Inspiration Point (5:00am-7:13am) 9.3 miles
With the enthusiasm of all the runners we start the climb up out of the town of Wrightwood. It is a warm morning filled with conversation about this & that. The first nine miles is a climb that grows as the sun rises. Both of my calves are tightening up and yearn to be stretched out. With the climb becoming insidious that moment never happens until the summit. About halfway up I look out to see the sun breaking over the horizon in a haze of pink. Now on top I pass a small area with some scattered tents. Picking up the pace my calves are feeling loose and smile grows across my face. Passing a ski lift I laugh about how ironic it is that most of the ultras I run have a ski lift associated on them, but I never get a ride. Drinking is right on schedule as I finish the second bottle and begin to see the first aid station in the distance. The cheering excites me and I want to join the party. Coming in I quickly refill the bottles, grab a lot of fresh fruit and thank the volunteers for making it all possible.
|Photo taken from AC100 Website|
Inspiration Point to Vincent Gap (7:13am-8:08am) 4.5 miles/13.85 miles
This section continues the almost flat runnable feel so I make the most of it while stay conservative. A lot moments through here I look out to the mountains taking the views. Having this as a daily playground would only exist in my dreams for now. The challenge of the mountains far outweighs the speed of a road run in my mind. This is where you realize a few miles can humble the best to walk. Good for all of us though this specific section of the course remains flat with a quick drop into the next aid station so no walking is required here. Dropping into the aid station I fill the four bottles I have for the long trek ahead. Again I stuff my mouth with fresh fruit and grab a few potatoes for the trail.
Vincent Gap to Islip Saddle (8:12am-11:35am) 12.06 miles/25.91 miles
41 switchbacks is the word on how to get to the summit of Mt Baden-Powell, basically a 2500' climb in 3.77 miles. The calves are feeling good and I pass hikers and a few runners as I make my way to the top. In the final third of the climb I begin to notice my heart rate is pounding in my throat. A deep beat that I can actually count my heart rate. I begin to take some breaks to reel back before a bonk hits me to soon. Finally, I make the what I think is the top only to climb briefly again and again and again.
The forestation changes a lot from the top of the mountain along the way to the next aid station. I run when possible and begin to walk more frequently on the ups. Anytime the course dips I respond back with a quicker pace. Around the 20th mile I sense my foot is unfolding. Checking for snakes and other various reptiles I sit on a rock to clean my foot, pop the blister and bandage up. Once that is resolved I hustle down the trail to make up a bit of loss time. Now there appears to be more downhill running than uphill in the final portion of this section. Suddenly, the girl in front of me drops off as the trail breaks. She slides down the slide of the mountain for a few feet until she can dig into the earth and secure a hold. I stop to reach down and pull her back up on to the trail. We run the next few miles together as she tells me this is her second attempt at the AC100. Last year she covered 60 miles of the course and is looking to complete it this year (she came in just under the 33 hour cut-off). Again you can see the aid station in the distance and feel the excitement as we approach. Preparing mentally so I don't waste time I know I need two bottle refilled, 600 calories and some ice to cool down my body. The first step is to weigh-in though. On the scale I posted almost 172 lbs down just over 2 lbs from my start weight of 174 lbs. I know what I need to do is eat more during the walk periods to adjust for the loss. Next, I get the bottles refilled, eat some food and enjoy a Coke then out I go on the course.
Islip Saddle to Eagle Roost (11:38am-12:56pm) 4.07 miles/29.98 miles
Starting with the climb I now realize I forgot the ice and my body is feeling overheated. The climb up Mt Willamson feels like a trek to Hell but in the opposite direction. Occasionally there are spots of shade and I pause to try to cool off and lower my heart rate. These brief stops seem to be only wasting time because once back in the open sun all is loss. Climb, climb, climb I go to the top just wishing for a chance of a cool breeze and the ability to once again run. The trade-off was once again enjoying the views and finding that positive feeling. Mentally, I am doing good and making forward progress as needed. Physically, the day is not looking as planned. Now over the mountain I start the run down the backside working the soft switchbacks. Reaching the aid station it is once again back on routine.
Eagle Roost to Cloudburst (1:01pm-3:31pm) 7.56miles/37.54 miles
Down the road for a few miles I told to go and I follow the others ahead of me. My feet should be moving at this point, but are disagreeing with that notion. I opt to run every other road post to make some sort of progress. Another runner named Jack catches me towards the end of the road section and briefs me on what is ahead. He even breaks it down to me in distance between major course sections. First we hit the campground at the bottom of the Cooper Canyon and jumped on to the trail. Quickly, I noticed there were no markings and panic started to set into mind. Looking back Jack was right there cheering me forward while reassuring me it was the right course. Along the trail we ran crossing the stream at the bottom of canyon twice before making the first short climb back out. A bit later we reach an intersection and he explains that this new this year and will be a climb. I stop to fix my foot for the second time while Jack makes his way to Cloudburst. From here another runner named Will picks me up to guide me on the climb to the aid station. It feels like forever but in my mind I know it will be a long day and it can be done. Reaching the aid station I finally remember after all this time to get ice. I feel like I have the energy while sitting in the aid station to make some progress over the next section that is "very runnable." Refueled I make my way across the road and on to the trail.
Cloudburst to Three Points (3:38pm-4:59) 5.18 miles/42.72 miles
From here I cross the road and head down a jeep trail. It is a nice runnable section but yet I am still not running at a solid pace. Everything just was not moving even though I thought I was moving. I can't recall much of this area for some reason and when I reached the aid station I thought I had covered 49 miles which at 5:00 pm gave me one hour to reach Chialo. That all unfolded as I was informed that I had just reached 42 miles. How was I going to cover 10 miles in one hour? Now the threat of cut-offs slapped me straight across the face. All those breaks to slow down my heart rate had culminated in a huge time pool. Even it was a flat road and I had fresh feet I was not going to cover that distance in that time. So I needed to make the most and push myself on to the next aid station.
Three Points to Mount Hillayer (5:11pm-7:11pm) 6.36 miles/49.08 miles
Right out of the aid station I start to feel the pressure of the cut-off. Thinking I was at mile 47 then being told it was only mile 42 I see I am way off schedule. Within a minutes I notice the smell of the poddledog bush then the site of it close to the trail. There isn't much climbing in the beginning of this section. A lot of soft trail wrapping around corner after corner. Having some fresh feet now would have been ideal in picking up the pace. Runner after runner pass me knowing they too are at risk for missing a critical cut-off at any given moment. It seems about halfway through this section I reach a road that will climb all the way to the Mount Hillayer aid station. The road spent a lot of time listening to me hash out how much I wish I would never run again if just someone could pick me up and drive me to the top to quit. Sadly, I made it to the top by the power of my own abilities. I took a seat and enjoyed some chicken noodle soup and conversation. Hoping for a change to occur on the way to Chialo I place my feet on the trail and push forward.
Mount Hillayer to Chialo (7:29pm-8:53pm) 3.72miles/52.80 miles
Leaving the aid station it was a slight gradual climb then started the plunge down the boulder strewn to a camp ground. Again I just cant get in motion on the downhill with the throbbing in my right foot. I glance out to the horizon to see the moon starting to rise over the mountains in a sea of color. A brief moment of warmth fills me knowing that part of the race is about taking in the beauty. With another short stint I make my way to the final downhill of switchbacks which will eventually drop me on to a paved road that will roll into Chialo. A minutes before making the road I am now forced to turn on my headlamp. My eyes adjust to night running, but with the technical feel of the trail I opt to make no more mistakes. Coming into the aid station I call out my bib # then take my place on the scale for a weigh in. Tipping the scales at 173 lbs and a bit puts me just under the previous day weigh-in of 174 lbs. Made up some ground from Islip and feel good internally. From Islip I really focused on eating more food because the sections in between aid stations were taking me so long to traverse. In addition, I would eat several more hundreds of calories on the trail to supplement my caloric needs.
Turning to a volunteer I am informed that I have ten minutes to leave and get to Shortcut Saddle. Knowing that the last section of 3.4 miles took me 1 1/2 hours and the blisters on my right foot multiplying I drop from the race. The pain in my foot is a miserable feeling, but the feeling inside my spirit aches even more knowing the run is over today.
Made some new friends, got to see some of the most amazing trails in the Angeles National Forest, was reunited with friends from past runs and learned a bit more about myself. It is always hard to shake off a DNF, but knowing I will come back and finish the course comforts me for the time being. Giving up and not returning would hurt even more knowing that I truly would feel I could not complete it. Having ran some courses with tough climbs, some at higher elevations and some in hot conditions this race served me the trifecta on this day. I will be returning to run the entire course and will cherish the buckle when I do.