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…..
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)
A Race “That Just Happens”
A Journal by John DeGregory
There is not an easy 100 mile endurance run anywhere on the planet! This was to be my third 100 mile run and to ask the question why would take a short manifesto to answer. When my good friend and ultra running companion Mark Barichievich and I signed up for this run in December of last year, we hardly knew what we were signing up for, although we did know this was not going to be your run of the mill 100. As with any 100, the hardest part are the months and miles leading up to the big finale..staying healthy, balancing the training with other more important life commitments and just hoping to have an opportunity to tow the line to take yourself to the brink in a 30+ hour ordeal that asks you quit all too often while you entertain the notion, hoping your soul can take over your body in an exorcism that will get you to that coveted finish line.
The Angeles Crest 100 has nearly a 30 year history but it hardly has the press or receives the accolades that other 100 mile runs garner annually. This is the majestic wonderment and beauty of this race. It is administered by people who seek not fortune or fame but who affectionately love nature, adore community and want people to spiritually connect with the outdoors at the highest of levels through the passion of ultra running. It is a race that asks the very question…”Only you know if you should be here…..only you know if you can run 100 miles.” That question is the essence of the vibe and the culture that is Angeles Crest. The course is a point to point journey starting in a little mountain town called Wrightwood (pop. 5,400) located in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California at just under 6,000 feet elevation. The course meanders through the spine of the San Gabriel Mountains and eventually ends in Alta Loma at a wonderful little community park called Loma Alta. The run historically ended in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl with a ceremonial lap around the football field until a few years ago.
Mark and I arrived in Wrightwood, CA on Thursday, July 21st at dusk after a long day of travel and having gotten lost. Ironically (and quite randomly) I have relatives that live in Wrightwood approximately three fourths of a mile from the start line, so it made for some convenient and personable accommodations. Diane and Leroy Jenkins were quite the hosts feeding us and making us feel right at home. We could not have had a better pre-race headquarters. Diane took us on a driving tour of Wrightwood the evening we arrived and showed us (among other things) the first mile of the race which goes vertically through town up to the trail head that would eventually take us to the famed Pacific Crest Trail (of which a lot of the run in on). After seeing the first mile of the course, our fears were realized understanding quite literally how vertical this course is. The Angeles Crest 100 has nearly 22,000 feet of climbing and over 26,000 feet of descent. You are either climbing or descending the entire 100 miles with very little flat or rolling surfaces. The recovery and transition processes ended up being extremely difficult on this course with the undulating terrain.
On Friday morning July 22nd (the day before the race), Mark and I awoke about 7:15 a.m. and sauntered down stairs for some breakfast with Diane and Leroy. We had a nice bowl of Oatmeal with some coffee and water and headed down to the Wrightwood Community Center (race headquarters) for the official race check in and medical check which included taking your pre-race weight (I tipped the scales at 198 lbs. not thinking to weigh in per my race day but instead had pants on and a few other items that took me to a higher weight class). My blood pressure was surprisingly 164/79. The numbers don’t lie (I was nervous)! The medical team was not concerned with my stats and in fact did not even query me on any health related or medical history questions. This will come in to play shortly. After our weigh ins, Mark and I proceeded to look over the swag that was for sale and purchased Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run shirts for our crew and pacers. Al and Carrie Barichievich (Mark’s brother and sister in law) were coming down from South Lake Tahoe to pace Mark and crew for both of us. David Smith was coming down from Napa to pace me. We then proceeded to mingle in the rustic community center building for a short time and then placed our course drop bags outside in the designated locations. I had six drop bags for the course hoping worse case I had more than I needed. It is always difficult when not having run a course before to know exactly what aid stations to select for drop bag placement, however, I had some incredible feedback from Ling Chu who ran and successfully completed Angeles Crest last year and her feedback on the course and details associated with the run were amazing and incredibly accurate per what I would soon experience myself.
On a side note, Mark overheard a conversation between Ken Hamada (race director) and a runner from Colorado. The runner indicated to Ken that he had flown out from Colorado a month and a half ago to scout the course and run particular sections to familiarize himself with the terrain. He indicated to Ken that he took a wrong turn on his training run and was concerned that the course was not going to be adequately marked. Ken (being a quiet, unassuming guy) calmly told the gentleman that the course would be marked. The runner dove back into his diatribe of concerns and Ken again reiterated that the course would be marked and said “We have been doing this race for nearly 30 years and it JUST HAPPENS.” In hindsight, this really was the essence of Angeles Crest…not sweating the small details while believing things will somehow come together. I also spoke with Ken briefly and asked him what the historical play out has been on getting a pacer at Chilao Flat (52 miles) as my own pacer logistics were confirmed in theory but uncertain logistically going into race day. Ken informed me that historically pacers have been available for runners needing them at Chilao Flat but of course could not guarantee it. The common scenario is that pacers sometimes get stranded at Chilao Flat waiting for runners that drop at earlier aid stations on the course. Appreciating the odds, I thanked Ken and decided to inform Al just in case my pacer was not able to make it last minute. I figured Al could inquire at Chilao (as needed) about a pacer in the hope that, if needed, I could have an emergency one lined up if mine could not make it.
Once our drop bags were in place, Mark and I decided to get off our feet and drive up to the first aid station on the course called Inspiration Point which is 9.5 miles into the run. It is about a five mile drive from downtown Wrightwood. Inspiration Point has an incredible view due West of the entire Los Angeles Basin and the afternoon we were there, we saw an incredible marine layer mixing with the all to common SoCal smog which together looked like a nuclear concoction hanging in the atmosphere. Made being higher up that much more desirable. Before heading back to Wrightwood we ascertained where the course meandered from Inspiration Point and took stock in Mt. Baden Powell in the distance which represents the highest elevation on the course at 9,400 feet and would be the second major climb in the run. We ran into a local cyclist eating a Clif Mojo Bar and I could not help but I-Phone video him in a short social media plug for Clif Bar, Inc. Always nice to see people fueling with Clif Bar.
We made our way back to Wrightwood and stopped by Leroy and Diane’s for some lunch prior to returning to the Wrightwood Community Center for the pre-race meeting. The pre-race meeting is one of the significant realities that the run is here and that you will soon be lining up at the start line to put your best foot forward. The pre-race meeting was true to the culture of Angeles Crest, brief in content but compelling in approach. The essence of this run became crystal clear as Mark and I listened to every word being spoken. The medical director took the microphone and informed the runners that medical aid and resources would be available along the course but that it would be at the runner’s discretion to utilize medical materials and attend to their own medical needs. The medical team was assuming no liability for runner safety and would advise cautiously on medical recourse. We were informed that there would be three mandatory weigh ins along the course but that the medical team WOULD NOT PULL A RUNNER for hydration and body weight issues, only advise that they drink more or less pending the predicament. This announcement was met with a rousing applause from the majority of the runners. A uniquely different medical approach than in most runs as we have become versed in the medical teams controlling our fate when it comes to runner medical safety. Ken Hamada again addressed the course marking issue and indicated that last year’s race introduced two new aid station captains that did not coordinate effectively on the course markings between their two aid stations resulting in some runner hell as a number of front runners went off course. He indicated that this year’s race would also have two new aid station captains and although he was confident the course would be adequately marked between their two aid stations, he could not guarantee it and predicted there might be some minor runner hell. Once again, we were reminded that this race “just happens.” After the major announcements, Mark and I elected to skip a non-mandatory course slide show and returned to Leroy and Diane’s to meet Al and Carrie Barichievich (Mark’s brother and sister in law) who graciously volunteered to come down from South Lake Tahoe to crew for Mark and I and pace Mark. In the final analysis, Al and Carrie were the reason Mark and I survived on the Angeles Crest course. They were remarkable beyond what can adequately be described (more later on their legendary contributions).
Al and Carrie arrived about 4:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon and we enjoyed some conversation and relaxation on Leroy and Diane’s patio before heading over to the Grizzly Café for dinner where we were meeting another buddy (Dan Burke) running Angeles Crest and his crew including Suzie Lister (a long time friend and fellow ultra runner who was pacing Dan from Chilao to Chantry Flat). We had a great dinner complete with a plethora of laughs as we ventured into the world of Facebook not quite believing some of the photos posted on a couple of ultra runner accounts (I’ll leave it at that). The veggie burger, fries and garden salad went down nicely as I did deviate from my usual pre race pasta fuel. We wrapped up dinner close to 7 p.m. and headed back to Leroy and Diane’s to finalize our pre race strategy and get to bed early as our 3 a.m. wake up call was going to come quickly.
When back at Leroy and Diane’s, Mark and I sat down with Al and Carrie and reviewed the crewing, pacing and general run logistics for the next two days. Since the run is a point to point course and the race organizers do not offer shuttle service or transportation back to the finish line after the race, we had to find a way to get one of our vehicles to the finish line. We were short in personnel (originally had four people scheduled to pace and crew Mark and I) which would have allowed us to drive two vehicles down the course. As we only had Al and Carrie and my pacer (who had not arrived yet as of race eve) Al and Carrie amazingly agreed to drive our vehicle down to the finish line race morning (after we started the run) and would then drive back up the course to start crewing for us at Inspiration Point! A novel feat in and of itself. I will never forget Al saying “IT’S WHAT WE DO.” He indicated him and Carrie were there to insure we finished at all costs. Nothing made me feel better or more confident knowing we had that kind of dedication to our cause. They are both such amazing people! It showed ten-fold over the next 48 hours! After our pre race chat and a couple of chocolate chip cookies, Mark and I headed for bed. We set our alarms for 3:15 a.m. and read for a little while before drifting off to sleep.