Los Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run 2011 Part 3
INSPIRATION POINT TO VINCENT GAP (13.85 MILES)
This stretch of the run was fairly tame in comparison to most course sections. The terrain was mostly rolling to down hill which afforded opportunities to stretch the legs and gather thoughts as they pertained to the next course section which would take us up to the high point on the course (Mt. Baden Powell – 9,400 feet). I had mixed emotions about this climb as I already felt tired. Climbing is usually my strong suit and I relish the climbs but for some reason not today! My newly established mantra was to ‘BE COMFORTABLE.” Don’t blow my race early on bouts of testosterone which I was having a hard time generating anyway. Fueling and hydration were good during this stretch and I found myself running with a group of runners from So Cal who all knew each other. One runner named Carmela was attempting AC-100 for the third time. I listened to the group chatter remaining quiet and I ascertained that Carmela had a smart race strategy predicting we would see each other a lot in the miles that awaited us. I pulled into Vincent Gap again taking out the I-Phone to video and went to the aid station table to refill my hydro pack. On a related note, the aid stations at AC-100 were all over the board. Some were above and beyond the call of duty and some were underwhelming. Vincent Gap was underwhelming. Aid station volunteers stood there while I fumbled with my hydro pack not offering to help me fill it initially. When they finally did ask if I needed assistance, I politely declined and finished getting my bladder back in the pack. As I headed out to the trail head to begin one of the most difficult sections of the course (Vincent Gap to Islip Saddle – 12.06 MILES BETWEEN AID!) I felt a barrage of water saturating my butt! Before I knew what happened, my hydro pack had sprung a leak and the water was gushing out of my bladder. My spare bladder was not accessible until the next aid station over 12 miles away AND Al and Carrie would not be meeting me again until Islip Saddle so I was praying my bladder was not technically damaged. I immediately stopped, took the bladder out and noticed that the hose hook up going into the bottom of the bladder came detached. I pulled the bladder out as fast as I could, shoved the hose back in the bladder and went back again to the aid station table to top off the fluids I lost. I had a rush of adrenaline come over me and admittedly I was stressed not knowing if my problem initially was fixable or if I was in dire straights. I gingerly placed the bladder back in the pack and headed out again. This cost me an extra 5 minutes. I could only hope this did not end up being the difference. I hit the trail head again, with a little more purpose this time striving to make up time I had not expected to lose. The trail got steep quick!
VINCENT GAP TO ISLIP SADDLE (25.91 MILES)
This was the stretch everyone talked about. Over 12 miles between aid stations and a 2,500 foot climb in 3.77 miles to the top of Mt. Baden Powell with a series of smaller descents and ascents to Islip Saddle. I had not yet run a marathon yet and I was being tested once again with another monumental grinder! As I took off up the steep trail I passed a multitude of vacationing hikers (all recreationists we passed on the trails over the two day run were by and large amazing…..encouraging and always yielded the right of way which was immensely appreciated). I ended up catching the group of SoCal runners that got away from me during my hydro pack complications at Vincent Gap and settled in a rhythm at the back of their line listening to stories and AC-100 insights. I was mistaken at the back of the pack for a runner that dropped back earlier in the climb and that forced me to come out of my cocoon and introduce myself. I was really quiet through the early miles in this run (unusual for me) but I appreciated being singled out as it forced me to talk and get my mind off the arduous climb that was admittedly taking its toll on me. I listened more and talked less through the summit push and we did eventually make it to the summit of Mt. Baden Powell. Hydration was good but I knew I was consuming at a rapid rate and the thought entered my mind that I may run out of fluids before I got to Islap Saddle (yikes!!!) Should I have taken those two 16 oz. handle bottles? I had three liters of water and had never consumed that much liquid in a 12 mile stretch. Welcome to my new reality (more on this in a second). At the summit the group elected to take a bathroom break and admire the vista. I decided to push on realizing my fluid levels were low and it would be advantageous for me to get to the next aid station sooner than later. While on the trail toward Islip Saddle, I made some progress on the downs and came up on a runner that I quickly recognized as Larry Rich (the energetic runner I encountered in the city streets of Wrightwood at the beginning of the run). I introduced myself (as we did not formally meet earlier on) and we immediately hit it off. Larry confirmed that he and his wife Cherie were running their first 100 mile run, lived in Monrovia, CA and had four children.
While running with Larry my hydro pack went dry. Nothing like sucking liquids only to find nothing is coming through the hose. Larry was traveling with four 16 oz. bottles and appeared to have a nice volume of liquid remaining. I would not normally ask another runner to purge their resources but I put pride aside and politely asked Larry if he had liquid to spare. He enthusiastically offered a bottle before I could get done asking my question and he essentially bottle fed me intermittently through the woods until we made it into Islap Saddle. I told him his generosity and karma would come back 10-fold later on in the run. He laughed. Although not spoken, we both realized at this point that we had a special bond and that we would be seeing each other again multiple times throughout the run to offer assistance and support. Not knowing how my pacing logistics were going to unfold, it was comforting to know there was another runner out there to provide support. Not having a pacer would be unchartered territory for me and not the recommended strategy (more on this variable later.)
I came into Islip Saddle feeling ok but not incredibly great (hoping to feel better not quite having run a marathon). Carrie and Al quickly quelled my self doubt with their energy and enthusiasm drowning out my pessimism with “Go Johnny” chants. How could a guy feel any better! I had a drop bag at Islip Saddle and they quickly got my bag full of provisions and before I knew it, I was in the pit chair with two attentive Angels waiting to attend to my every need. I felt like Jeff Gordon with the immaculate pit crew. As mentioned, Al and Carrie were so amazing in their efforts that I get emotional describing what they did for Mark and I as it was beyond what could ever be expected of a support crew. Al just kept saying “IT’S WHAT WE DO.” I reloaded with Clif Shots, started ingesting TUMS as a precautionary measure just to insure my stomach did not act up and elected not to perform any changes or foot care as my blisters were evident although things had not gotten worse. The rule of thumb is not to disrupt karma if things are feeling good. By Islip Saddle Mark was 30 plus minutes ahead of me and Al told me immediately when arriving that I had 4 minutes at this aid station and he would be sending me out. I got the feeling I was starting to get close to the cut off times. I asked Al directly if I was in danger of not making an aid station cut off and he refused to provide a direct answer only to tell me I was doing great but needed to economize my stops. I leveraged on Al’s enthusiasm, got up out of the chair, took a quick rest stop video and headed out. Next stop……Eagle’s Roost (4.07 miles).
ISLIP SADDLE TO EAGLE’S ROOST (29.98 MILES)
The next four plus miles included a sharp climb up to the summit of Mt. Williamson (1,380 feet in 1.63 miles) and a mixed dose of small descents and ascents into the bottom of Cooper Canyon. Per the thoughts and reflections of many AC-100 veterans, Cooper Canyon can be the beginning of the end for many. It is exposed and it gets progressively hotter as you get farther and farther into the canyon. Mentally knowing you have to grind out of that canyon to Cloudburst can be overwhelming, especially if a runner is not feeling well to begin with. On this section I saw many runners on the side of the trail expelling many fuels and fluids not integrating well with their stomachs. Once again, I was not feeling incredible, but I was also nailing my fluid and salt intake not to mention eating well and thus was not sick. Good omen as it got worse for many as we got into the mid to later miles. I ran into Larry again as we descended into Eagle’s Roost and he appeared to be doing well (running steady and avoiding the stomach issues like myself). When the trail intersected with Highway 2, we came upon a construction zone and were guided up the highway about a quarter mile to the aid station by a host of Cal Trans workers.
Eagle’s Roost was another underwhelming aid station with little aid station assistance. I had fun once again refilling my hydro pack and was about to run out of the aid station toward the next check point when I saw Al and Carrie (not expecting them to be at Eagle’s Roost). They hooped and hollered and once again I had an unexpectedly pleasant econo sit in the pit crew chair as they asked me all of the important questions and I did refill on some foods I was not expecting to have available to me. Al continued his push to keep me going and provided the tough love needed to get me out of the chair and back on the road. A little I-Phone video before departing.
EAGLE’S ROOST TO CLOUDBURST (37.54 MILES)
Once on the road toward Cloudburst, the course meandered on Hwy 2 for about 2.5 miles until we connected with another single track trail system. The run up the road was a little weird but it did offer a dose of civilization which helped me to recharge the mental battery knowing I would again be in the middle of no where soon. I came up again on “Mr. Hoorah” as he stopped to talk to a friend on the course. He caught me a few minutes later and we chatted briefly before he got a second wind and disappeared in the distance up the road. The road was mostly downhill with some rolling ups. I used the terrain to make some time electing to employ my 30 run steps countered with 30 walking steps. I passed a couple of runners I had been leap frogging down the course with and almost missed the turn on to the single track trail had it not been for the kind efforts of a gentleman on the course watching the run. I thanked him for his alert and continued down the dirt trail to the adventures that awaited. We ran through a camp ground with a plethora of out houses. You never have to go when the conveniences of a toilet present themselves. I could only chuckle continuing on. One of the most significant realizations awaited me randomly while ascending out of Cooper Canyon. As mentioned, I was taking cell phone video of my run through the course and thus my phone was on at all times. I was periodically coming in to cell phone range and would occasionally get the text bell or voice mail indicator motivating me to keep going knowing I had many people out there thinking of me and willing me forward. Just before the big climb out of Cooper Canyon I got a text bell and decided to check it. Regretfully, it was a text from my pacer indicating to me that he had a medical issue and had elected to abort coming down for fear of exacerbating his condition. Disappointment and anxiety were initial reactions but I choose to put the predicament aside until I got to that intersection later in the course at Chilao (pacer pick up spot).
I reminded myself to inform Al and Carrie of the news when arriving at Cloudburst so they could set their sites on recruiting a pacer at Chilao. The grind out of Cooper Canyon to Cloudburst was significant (as I was told) but for some reason I climbed strong despite the lingering effects of being tired. All I remember was putting my head down not looking ahead to the cruel inclines that awaited me. Before I knew it, I heard music and voices in the distance and as I ascended through the tree line to a cliff in the distance, I could see Al and Carrie standing on the Cliff’s edge and upon recognizing my neon orange running hat, erupted in applause encouraging me to grind the final few hundred yards into Cloudburst! As I arrived, I remembered Ling Chu’s race feedback as she indicated having felt like she used about 90% of her energy getting into Cloudburst but that she was told this is how most runners felt coming in. Just a matter of keeping the mental optimism in tact. I surely felt like most of my energies were consumed but was alive and willing to kick some more. Al and Carrie guided me to the coveted pit crew chair and I dropped like a rock into the red nylon cradle! Al indicated to me that I was holding steady on my pacing which was nice feedback to receive and that Mark was about 30+ minutes up the trail.
To know I was hanging in the vicinity of Mark was a huge dose of optimism as Mark is an incredible runner and I was not losing any time which made me feel good. Al indicated Mark was warrioring through some stomach issues and I was happy to hear he was soldiering on and not losing immense amounts of time despite the predicament. I still felt pretty good with no stomach issues. On that note, Cloudburst was nothing short of an infirmary. Looking around me I saw runners under blankets with blue lips and some drops had occurred here. To know I was getting out of my chair and continuing was a huge shot in the arm. Al continued to push the rest stop economy and after replenishing all supplies, headed out to the trail head toward the next aid station called Three Points which was about 6.2 miles in the distance. The distance between aid stations in this run really made for tough traveling conditions. Despite my one water gaffe earlier in the run, I was coming in to most aid stations with a little liquid reserve remaining. Right before I got on the trail head, I saw a runner with her eyes closed under a blanket shivering. More motivation to continue…..