Los Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run 2011 Part 2
ALARMS SOUNDED OFF AT 3:15 a.m.
Alarms sounded off at 3:15 a.m. and we both saved the drama of the snooze button and popped right up out of bed. As with all ultra runners, the big “TO DO” in the hours leading up to a run is insuring the calories consumed the night before get adequately deposited ideally before the run starts (always a hard feat for me). Mark and I got dressed, slopped on all of our lotions and anti-chafing lubes and went down stairs to the wonderful smell of pancakes prepared by Diane (well beyond the call of duty). Leroy left at 3 a.m. for a to Alabama so Diane was up early anyway. Mark and I added some blueberries to the pancakes and enjoyed a combination of coffee and coconut juice to compliment. We finished our breakfast about 3:45 a.m. and insured all of our remaining bags were packed in the vehicles. We planned to drive down to the start line about 4:25 a.m. which left us about 15-20 minutes to sit down and collect our pre race thoughts. It is a lonely period gathering thoughts for the days ahead while trying to keep the mentality at a “one hour at a time” pace. My thoughts kept drifting back to my pacer logistics and the unsettled nature of where they stood at current time. My pacer indicated to me that he would be at Chilao (pacer pick up spot at 52 miles) and would do whatever it took to get there. I put my trust and my confidence in him but also initiated efforts to concoct a plan B, just in case things fell through. 52 miles was a long way off so I elected to divert my attention back to the moment, choosing to grapple with this issue when I came to that intersection.
We loaded into the cars at 4:30 a.m. and drove the ¾ mile down to the Wrightwood Community Center to check in and await the pre start invocation given by Hal Winton (co-race director). When we arrived, it was a little chilly (46 degrees F) and the sun had not yet initiated its ascendance into the morning sky. It was quiet outside the community center building, but when we walked in, the runners were firmly packed into the building with chatter at full tilt. The common “nervous” smiles were all over the room and the warmth of the room felt good although I could not get too used to it. Mark and I checked in and found a place in the corner of the room to huddle, collect our thoughts and “get in the zone” as we had 15 minutes to the gun. At 4:45 a.m., Hal Winton requested we bow in prayer as he gave a nice invocation. Mark and I made one final trip to the bathroom and at 4:50 a.m. a loud voice requested we file outside and locate under the big start banner just outside the community center building for the official race start. The outside air was slightly chilly but the nerves quelled the temperature nicely. The final few minutes standing under a start banner at a 100 mile run are surreal. Your mind races through a myriad of thoughts, from the weeks and months of training leading up to this moment, to the challenges that await ahead to the hard questions that include “did I train enough”, “did I over train….never an issue for me”, “can I do this”, “what obstacles await me”, WHEN will I suffer and how long, etc.?” Mark and I got separated right before assembling under the start banner and found each other a couple of minutes before the start. We fist bumped and hugged one last time wishing each other a successful journey. I fumbled through the buttons on my watch making sure I had my 30 minute salt pill alarm adequately programmed and that my stop watch was ready at the start of the gun. At this moment, reality hit me…..this party was about to get started. I was about to embark on the biggest 100 mile journey in my life!
THE START – WRIGHTWOOD TO INSPIRATION POINT (0-9.3 MILES)
Hal Winton got on the blow horn and gave the 10 second count down to the start. The gun went off at exactly 5 a.m. followed by sirens from the local fire department that was on hand to send us off. As is the usual dynamics, Mark ran out ahead of me and I elected to gradually get my running legs in check settling comfortably into the back third of the pack. The first ¼ mile was fairly flat and I did elect to trot that section. As we made a left hand turn on to Acorn Street, we began the vertical journey out of town up to the Pacific Crest Trailhead. I immediately began walking when I hit Acorn Street (the first compliance in a master plan to conserve by power walking all of the inclines) and settled into a rhythm trying not to allow runners around me to dictate my pace. It was still quite dark and I did elect not to carry a headlamp the first 30 minutes when lighting was suspect. Rather, I aligned myself with runners carrying headlamps and borrowed some light from them to get me to sunrise. As we walked the concrete laden streets through Wrightwood climbing drastically, we passed numerous homes, some homes were pitch black giving us and our journey no mention while some locals got the coffee pots going early and situated on their decks wishing us well as we passed. One local had a bongo drum set up serenading us as we walked the initial stages of our death march. The town embraces this event and we appreciated the support both the day of the run and the days leading up to the event. I settled in behind a husband and wife team (Larry and Cherie Rich) who were engaged in one of many conversations going on early as we lumbered up the road. I elected to listen and embrace all of the stimuli going on around me trying to establish my own rhythm. Larry and Cherie were running their first 100 mile run (they picked a dozy) and were talking to another runner about their trials and tribulations training for and getting to the start line. They had an unmistakable energy and optimism about them and I believed they would both have good days based on their outlook. Little did I know that Larry and I would have a destined karma that would take us down the course leap frogging each other the entire 100 miles (more on this development later.)
As we hit the trail head signaling the beginning of dirt and rock, runners fell into a single file configuration and we all began the death march of 3.51 miles in 2,150 feet leading up to the Pacific Crest Trailhead. An undesirable realization crept into my race picture as we ascended up the trailhead traversing repeatedly over numerous switchbacks (I was groggy….I was actually tired….). What happened to the adrenaline and nervous energy that usually negates any feelings of fatigue???? Had I took a wrong turn in my taper? I was only a couple of miles into a 100 mile run and the climb was not feeling as good as it should have at this stage in the game. I elected to embrace the predicament believing it would get better. In hindsight, it was a plague that would follow me the first 75 miles of the run and within reason almost cost me my race. I remained quiet, not electing to engage in too much conversation but did zero in on a runner behind me in the congo line who would later be known as “Mr. Hoorah.” As it turns out, this guy was an eight time AC-100 finisher attempting his ninth finish. He hooted and hollered the whole way up the mountain and one of his famous lines was “RUNNABLE” as he would shout when we came to the few rolling sections on the course. He was a piece of work and we did talk many times sporadically along the course. He was running with a buddy and the goal was for them to finish together, however, his buddy became a cut off victim later in the run.
Upon arrival at the Pacific Crest Trailhead (PCT), a beautiful rolling section of trail opened up allowing us to gain some time while enjoying a nice reprieve from the relentless climbing. We came upon some ski lifts and open meadows which afforded some great views. Mother nature called (predictably) and I was relegated to my handi-wipe protocol which cost me a couple of minutes (no sweat). Some more sharp ascents coupled with some steep descents brought Inspiration Point into the visual lens and I was about to pull into the first of 19 aid stations. REALIZATION #2 horrifically became a reality that was nothing but unexplainable….I ALREADY HAD BLISTERS AND DEVELOPING HOT SPOTS ON THE HEELS OF BOTH FEET!!!!!! Dog gonnit!!!!!! This was not supposed to happen let alone by the first aid station.
I knew I had to make some foot repairs early to avoid the unthinkable. I also elected to carry a 3 liter hydro pack on this run instead of bottles as my hydration needs are immense. I had problems with my hydro pack the entire run as my hose hook up and bladder were not cooperating causing leaking and water loss which cost me fluids and ultimately I ran out of water twice while on the course (more on that later). To add to the already more than desired weight, I carried my I-Phone on the run as I made the decision to commit to video while on the course. I took out my I-Phone as I came into Inspiration Point and videoed my entrance. There to greet me was Carrie as Al had driven ahead to crew Mark at Vincent Gap. No person I know exudes more energy and optimism than Carrie. So great to see her! As I came in she whooped and hollered and had all of my needs ready to go. I sat down, took off both , cut some cover roll and some mole skin and re-patched my heel blisters. Luckily, they were accelerated hot spots at that point but no blistering had occurred….YET. I put on a fresh pair of socks, had Carrie refill my hydro-pack and insured I reloaded with more Clif Shots, etc. I was weighed at Inspiration Point and told I was about 5% down on my body fluids. The medical director told me I was in the beginning stages of dehydration. I thanked him but quietly dismissed the observation knowing my hydration was on point. I weighed in the day before in my pants and had an over inflated weight. My skin was also glistening with sweat which is an indicator that my salt to fluid intake was good. I said good bye to Carrie and trudged on down the trail to the next aid station Vincent Gap (mostly downhill). Mark was about 40-45 minutes ahead of me. (to be continued)