I’m in Wrightwood. Checked in for the race and hanging at the start line with the other crazy people. Race meeting in a few hours, then not a whole lot between me and the 5am start. Hopefully some sleep in there.
A couple Saturday’s ago I took the final step in the process to being “qualified” to run Angeles Crest this July. The Old Goat was my qualifying race, the entry fee was paid long ago, all that remained was the eight hours of trail work on the AC course. Twenty or so volunteers met up and headed out under the direction of Hal Winton cove race director and selected their tools of choice which we would use to preen the trails which we will run.
It was a great time and fun to meet new people and see familiar faces. The real fun began when the trail work was done and Chris, Howie, Bob and I headed out for a training run from Chantry (mile 75 of the course) to the finish line. We started in the last of the daylight and finished up around 1 AM.
Since then I also got in a solid 6 hour solo run and the next day 4 hours with pacer and friend Billy, as well as an awesome adventure in the Mineral King area of the Sierra with Nicole, Figgy, Stitch, and Pace.
With no more big runs training or otherwise between now and race day, the tapering has officially started…
This past weekend Stitch and I took in some of the trails outside of Wrightwood, CA. This was a great location for a couple of reasons: we got to play in snow on Mount Baden-Powell (9300 ft), half of the 24 mile or so loop was on the PCT, a chunk of miles are also part of the Angeles Crest course that I’ll be running at the end of July.
It’s a great time of year to be hiking in that area also because we ran into several current year PCT thru-hikers. We had a good time chatting with hikers in the midst of their epic adventure.
Below are a few photos of our trip.
I mentioned a little while back that I had a outdoor/trail/adventure announcement that I would be making in the near future. A few of you already know this, but it’s time to go public.
I am running the 24th annual Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run on July 23, 2011.
My registration is paid, the Old Goat 50 was a qualifying race, all that is left is the mandatory 8 hours of trail work on the course itself. That will take place in the next month or so.
Course Description (with my comments):
From Wrightwood to Pasadena. 100 miles includes 90 miles of trails and 8 miles of dirt road in the Angeles National Forest including portions of the Pacific Crest Trail (approximately 45 miles from what I can tell, nice), and 2 miles of paved road. The race starts on Park Street in downtown Wrightwood and finishes at Johnson’s Field in Pasadena. There is a 21,610 ft. accumulative elevation gain, 26,700 ft. accumulative loss, resulting in a 48,310 feet total elevation change (ouch, that’s a lot!). The highest point is Mt. Balden-Powell at the 9,210 ft. level. The cutoff to complete the 100 miles is 33 hours (that means you run all day, all night, and into the next day if need be…).
There you have it.
Training updates and all that stuff to follow…
The Born to Run 50k. It had been three weeks since I ran Sycamore Canyon 50k. Three weeks before that was the Old Goat 50 miler. I didn’t run a ton of miles in between races, but did start doing some core/strength training. I think this helped out quite a bit in terms of having fresh legs and strong form.
I stayed the night at Hone’s house to save an extra hour in the car the morning of the race. The Price’s picked us up at 3:30am for the nearly two hour drive up to Los Olivos. The race took place on a private cattle ranch up there and started at 6am.
A lot of people camped at the ranch the night before to avoid the early drive and to hang out the night before. I saw a couple of familiar faces and met some cool new people throughout the day. It’s always a good crew hanging out at ultras.
The trail itself was good and wide at the start of the race, so there was no long train of people that you felt stuck in the middle of at the wrong running pace. For the 50k I would run a 10 mile loop back to the start/finish, a second (different) 10 mile loop again to the start/finish, the first loop again…then an out and back for the extra mile or so to make the distance.
The pre-race instructions were classic. They went something like “The first loop you will follow the pink markers. They will always be on your left, but sometimes they will not. Then you will follow the yellow ribbons. They will always be on your left. Sometimes you will see both pink and yellow ribbons. Follow the color of your loop, and never follow the blue ribbons.” On three hours of sleep and with the sun barely rising as this was explained, I hoped that I wouldn’t end up miles off course tangled in barbed wire fence somewhere. Thankfully this did not happen and it was pretty easy to follow.
I got off to a comfortable start, knowing that there was a good chance I would run a decent time if I ran consistent and strong. The course had only about 3500 feet of climbing (a couple thousand less than any other race I have run…therefore technically easier). It was also friendly terrain, meaning that the footing was mostly flat and solid.
The first loop was uneventful and went by quickly. The weather was good and the running was smooth. It was kind of nice to know that most of my last 10 miles would be that loop again since it was easy and scenic. The next 10 miles had some pretty ridges and more green hills all around. When I hit the start/finish aid station for the second time I was feeling strong.
A few miles into the final loop, I knew I had a good shot at a PR time (personal record). I figured if I continued at the same effort and accounted for slowing down a little since it was getting later in the race and my legs were feeling heavier, I could still finish around 5:30-5:45. Previously I had not gone under 6 hours in a 50k. A few miles later I thought I had slowed down quite a bit and was likely going to the 5:45ish time and was happy with it. Somehow, however, I convinced my body to keep pace and crossed the finish at 5:11 and change. I was surprised and pleased.
For those of you who read the book Born to Run – Caballo Blanco and Barefoot Ted ran, and the race director Luis Escobar “el Coyote” was there dressed in a chicken suit for the early morning at least.
Recovery has been excellent, as it was for the previous races this year. I credit this in part to the ice bath I took when I got home, but more so to paying attention to my nutrition (day to day with training as well as during recovery from races). I’m getting a good strong base from which to do some good fun things on trails the remainder of the year…but that’s for another post.
Born to Run is a bestselling book by Christopher McDougall. From the Amazon description “…McDougall sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong.” If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. You don’t need to be a runner to enjoy the story.
In related news, I got a text a few days ago from a friend saying I should run the Born to Run ultra this weekend. It didn’t take much convincing, so I’ll be heading up to East Creek Ranch in Los Olivos with Evan and Chris to run the 50k. They are both running the 100k (there is also a 100 mile division).
Race report to follow…
The good old Sycamore Canyon 50k. My last race, the Old Goat was nearly a month previous, and so this was more of a long training run than anything. There is always something to be learned in a race, today would be no exception. Sycamore was my first ultramarathon in 2009. I ran it again last year, and this would be my third go at it. I started the race after seeing a couple of familiar faces (Evan and Emil among others) and lots of eager runners.
I found out about 15 miles in that the people I was running with were 30k runners. It became obvious when they were charging three miles out for the next aid station, which for them was the finish line. I still felt good, but that meant I was probably too fast off the start. This point was highlighted when I got done with the first 30k and it had gotten quite hot out and I was caked with salt. I hadn’t been keeping up with my electrolytes and knew I would pay the price sooner than later. A nice surprise was that Nicole had finished running the 18k and set a PR by 5 min. then waited to see me at the aid station.
Muddy from a rare water crossing and mentally taxed, I knew it was going to get really uncomfortable at this point, but summoned up the will power to head back out for the final loop. After the flat fire road, it was a slow climb up the steep single track. Gradually I came back to life and felt decent. I didn’t see much of anyone on that last loop. I had to wonder if I was dead last because I could not understand how no one was passing me. Eventually I saw a few other people climbing up the Ray Miller trail as I headed down to what was my last aid station. I made it back out of the canyon and by the time I hit the last few miles of downhill I was able to stretch my legs a bit and move pretty well. It was a respectable enough finish given the amount of power hiking I was reduced to on the climbs (6:40ish?). Post race I commented to the race director Sarah that the last 20k was a character run. It was valuable in that the next time it gets rough, I know I can push through. As long as there is a next run, there is always a next time. As they say in ultras “it never always gets worse”. Breaking through to the other side is always a good feeling. After relaxing at the finish line and sipping on a recovery drink I made my way home and spend the rest of the day eating ridiculous amounts of food and relaxing. I also took an ice bath which I partially credit to my speedy recovery as I am feeling no ill effects from the race.
Perhaps all of this could have been summed up as follows. On Saturday I met some friends out for a run. It was a beautiful day in the mountains with a nice ocean breeze and views. The end.
There are a few additional photos at the bottom of the Old Goat race report.
Nicole and I are going to ADZPCTKO at the end of the month to hang out with past, current, and aspiring PCT hikers.
I’m running the Sycamore Canyon 50k next weekend, Nicole is running the 18k. I haven’t run much since the Goat so it will be more of a training run and chance to see trails and friends.
I have an A race planned for later in the summer. I’ll announce that soon…(that is supposed to be suspenseful)
Road closures, stream crossings, zero visibility fog, mud, snow, awesome volunteers and runners. That about sums up my second go round with the Old Goat. For slightly more detail keep reading.
The plan was to stay with family the night before the race to save an hour of the drive that it takes to get down to the campground where the race starts/finishes. That didn’t work out due to lane closures caused by recent storms. The good news is that instead I slept in my own bed the night before the race. The bad news is I had to get up at 3:15am.
I arrived on time thanks to no one being on the road so early, then got checked in and listened to Steve the RDs pre-race instructions which mostly consisted of warnings not to get lost and to carry course directions. Oh also that there were stream crossings and you would be getting wet.
Out on the course I met some cool people and saw familiar faces (Brian, Ryan, team Orange guy, Ben, Deborah, and others…) and traded a few stories. The creek crossings were there but the two that were questionable had people there to make sure your tired legs got to the other side safely. Before I knew it the first loop of 21 miles was done and I was a bit ahead of my projected time. I knew, however, that this was merely time in the bank that I would be spending on the 7.5 mile 4000 foot continuous climb up to Santiago Peak. Also the last mile or so to the top was rumored to be covered in snow. I was happy to have brought gloves and a windshirt as without them it would have been a bad scene.
The rumors of snow on Santiago were true. Also, the aid station at the peak was no exception to the rule in that it was staffed with amazing volunteers and even a guy that played the harmonica as you arrived. A few miles down from the peak was the second stop at the Bear Springs station, last shot at the drop bag, and only 10.5 miles to the finish. I ate a couple of medjool dates from my bag, grabbed some gels and water and was on my way for the home stretch.
The last leg, as it got darker out, also got cooler and much harder to see with the fog rolling in. I heard that later on several people were pulled from the course for safety reasons since it was wet, 40 degrees at best, and dark out. Even with a headlamp it was hard to tell where you were going much less follow course ribbons.
After the last aid station someone came running by. I told him nice job and he said, “No, I’m a volunteer running back to the finish. But you’re doing great.” Then he ran about 15 feet in front of me, looked at his GPS watch, then repeatedly pointed at the ground and said “it’s one mile to the finish from right here!” I thought it was at least 2 miles, so after hearing that news did what anyone would have done and ran mile 50 faster than any of the previous 49.
I crossed the line in around 12:26 ish which is about 45 minutes faster than last year. At the finish line I got my cool finishers medal (picture below) and a couple bowls of delicious vegan chili. It will probably be a couple days before the official results are posted. Also, I’ll update this post with pictures of the race itself if I manage to dig some up from other sources.
Besides understandably worked over quads I’m in good shape and injury free. My feet held up really well despite being wet for all but about an hour of the race, and my stomach behaved as I made adjustments to keep it happy throughout the run.
All said and done it was a really long, really rewarding day. Thanks to ultra amnesia I was already looking forward to running again the moment I crossed the finish line. Many profound rewards come upon of running ultras, but in my experience 99% of this cannot be expressed in words. There are those of you who know what I’m talking about, and those who need to hit the trails!
A final thank you to the other runners, familiar faces, race volunteers, director, and everyone who made the race a success. Special thanks to my awesome wife who supports my endurance addiction.