I’m not sure where this report begins or ends. My inaugural attempt at the 100 mile distance was this past weekend. In short, it resulted in a DNF at Chilao (mile 52.8). A little more of the story (turns out a lot more compared to my usual race reports) and a couple photos below.
I checked into Wrightwood Friday morning and picked up my race bib, went through the medical check, weigh in, and blood pressure, etc. I was a nice lean (for me) 172lbs. BIB#117. Then I had a chance to connect with some friends running and supporting the event and runners. HS, CG and his family and I hit up a local eating establishment for some nourishment before the race meeting. The food was pretty good, but took a really long time since they were so slammed with the extra 150+ people milling around the small town.
The meeting was pretty relaxed. It did after all start with about 15-20 minutes or comedy/magic. After the meeting and some more socializing it was time to head to Cajon Pass to the hotel. CG, his crew Paul, and I crashed on HS’s floor. After some snacking and trail review we pinned race bibs to our shorts and probably had lights out by 9pm or so with a 3am wake up call. Unfortunately I didn’t sleep well, which was to be expected. Truth be told, I didn’t sleep well or enough all week long. I don’t think it was nerves surrounding the race so much as trying to prepare logistically as much as possible, but who knows.
The next morning we all drove to Wrightwood and got checked in. Just before 5am runners crowded underneath the start banner. Then the countdown…and finally the race was under way.
The first mile or two are paved road from the Community Center to the Acorn trail. It was light enough already that probably less than half the people were using headlamps. By the time we started up the Acorn trail the real elevation began and soon the sunrise peeked through. An hour or so later I was on the PCT where I would remain for most of my day.
I went through Inspiration Point (mile 9.3) making decent time. My goal after all was to finish, so any time against the cutoff that I could rack was bonus. I was still strong and moving well through Vincent Gap (mile 13.85). Then I started up Mt. Baden-Powell to 9000+ feet. The altitude and heat were beginning to be a challenge and something I knew I needed to keep in check.
After a climb up and down Baden-Powell I was running out of water only 8 miles into the 12 mile section. That was a big deal since I had 70 oz. leaving Vincent Gap. In the event that this occurred, I knew Little Jimmy Camp Spring was a couple miles ahead and filled up enough to drink up and get me to the next aid station.
When I dropped into Islip Saddle (mile 25.91) I would first see my crew. It was awesome hearing them cheer me into every aid station and road crossing throughout the day. This was also where I first got to see the shirts and hats that Stitch, Figgy, their little one, and Nicole were wearing which read “Team Comet”. (Comet was my trail name on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikes) I’ve got to say that was pretty awesome. I had less than 4 miles before I would see them at a road crossing so dropped my pack and took two handhelds with me. At this point I noticed I had lost time going over Baden-Powell, but expected that to happen.
Going out of Islip is a steep 2500′ climb up and over Mt. Williamson. That was nasty. It took more time and energy than I would have liked to get to Eagles Roost aid station. Thankfully Stitch hooked me up with an ice bandanna wrapped around my neck which helped keep me cool in the increasing temperature.
Next stop Eagles Roost (mile 29.98). I sat down when I got there and down a 24 oz. bottle of water before setting off my my 70 oz. pack again. At this point I knew I was starting to get dehydrated and that Cooper Canyon was ahead and rumored to be difficult with the heat. I did my best to keep up on electrolytes, but nutrition was getting tough as I couldn’t stomach the calories that I should have been taking in. I couldn’t afford to slow down much since the cutoff was looming behind me, so I had to make the best of it and push on.
Climbing out of Cooper Canyon I ran out of water again with a few miles to go before Cloudburst aid station (mile 37.54). This was also the section where it was of increasing concern that I had not peed since the climb up Baden-Powell and I was barely if at all sweating anymore. Okay, I thought. That would be dehydration. There were still several hours before nightfall when it would get cooler out, and again the cutoff pushed me on. There was no time to slow down or stop which was what my body needed to correct itself.
After another 24oz bottle at Cloudburst and a few minutes off my feet in the shade it was time to push to Three Points aid station. I would see my crew two times in between which broke it up into nice small sections. Also, there were no major climbs in between which was nice in terms of energy conservation, though with the dehydration and cramping setting in even downhills were becoming more work than would have been nice.
When I finally arrived at Three Points (mile 42.72) I was only about 30 minutes from the cutoff time. This was the last that I would see my crew and my pacer Billy was 10 miles and two aid stations down the trail. I sat down and it sank in that if the hydration situation did not turn around I would not be able to finish the race. While I spun around this fact my crew helped me switch out my socks and got me what I would need (headlamp, hydration pack, windshirt) in order to push on.
My new task was to get in and out of the next aid station, Mt. Hillyer (mile 49.08) before the cutoff so that I could leave for Chilao and get there under my own power no matter how long it took. For the first hour or so I made really good time pushing through the pain of the cramps and focused on making the aid station. The last looong stretch to Mt. Hillyer was up a winding paved road. Lousy. It felt like it would never end! But, of course, it did. I think I had not lost any time in that stretch but still had just under 4 miles to get to Chilao. I had a quick sit at Mt. Hillyer and one or two other runners that were there seemed to be suffering the same issues.
The first half mile or so is up decently steep loose traction trail. I was burning up trying to get to the top and it seemed like I was going one mile an hour. Maybe I was. When I got to the top I was able to dig deep and force a pathetic, but consistent, pace forward. The last few miles to Chilao were difficult but nice trail. There were some big boulders, a few climbs, and I saw the sunset. By the time I dropped down onto the pavement I had been using my headlamp for about 15-20 minutes and I knew I was close. Sure enough, I saw a headlamp appear in the distance headed towards me. It was my pacer Billy coming to look for me since he knew I was the only person coming through that section.
After a few minutes we were at Chilao aid station (mile 52.8) and I was in a chair. Billy and the volunteers were awesome, trying to find me anything to eat or drink that I could keep down. In the end I sipped a little water and ate a couple grapes, but that’s all that would go in. The minutes ticked by and it was 9pm. 10 minutes before the cutoff. At that point I called the race and dropped. I had given myself from Three Points to Chilao, about 10 miles, as a last last last ditch opportunity for my body to turn around and start processing fluids again. Didn’t happen. So that was the end.
Given the day I was having I was proud to have made it to Chilao, but I’m not done with Angeles Crest. As I’ve mentioned before, ultra amnesia (UA) is a powerful force. I knew before I left the last aid station that I would be back. That feeling has only grown stronger. Looking back it’s easy to think “it wasn’t that bad”. Honestly, I’m not sure what the tone of this race report reads like, but I had an awesome time and only have positive memories. I know it was challenging, but if it weren’t I would wonder why I was out there.
Another huge thank you to Figgy, Stitch, Nicole, Billy, the runners, and everyone who was out there cheering and supporting this epic event. See you in 2012 Angeles Crest.