Thursday, August 6, 2015

AC 100 Race Report

At 3:30 am my phone alarm went off. Snooze! "I think I can afford nine more minutes." After the second time, I put my clothes on and wondered around aimlessly waiting for Peter to wake up next door so I could bum some coffee. A few trips to the toilet and it was 4:45 already: time to head to the start. Time to eat a gel, and so it begins. "Just a casual fun run for the first part": the last thing I remember Chris saying to me before I toed the line.

This year during the time leading up to my races I did my best to detach myself from the hype and nervousness of the race start, and I think I did my best so far before AC. Going up the Acorn Trail I settled in behind Guillaume, turned off my headlamp and enjoyed the morning air. The sunrise was as beautiful as ever and I stayed light hearted as we moved toward Inspiration Point. Cheers at the first aid did their best to over excite me, but I made sure to stop, see the faces of my crew and cruise on.

Photo: Mandy Wong
Vincet Gap came and went. Up Baden Powell. Past Larry: Click Click. Along the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains. At Windy Gap I stopped for a second and admired the beauty. Down hill, catch up to Guillaume methodically moving forward, trip going down to Little Jimmy Spring and on to Islip.  Up towards Mt. Williamson. I had determined to hike this climb, but  quickly decided that a little fox trot would be much more efficient. Caught up to Guillaume again and let him set the pace all the way to Eagle's Roost. I tripped and fell one more time before arriving to the aid.

Photo: Dom Grossman
After ER aid station I was a little bummed knowing that the technical mountainous terrain was over until I made it home to the front range. Nonetheless, I did my best to focus on the beauty of the Berkhart Trail and Cooper Canyon and stay present, we still had a ways to go. The cruiser miles from Cloudburst to Three Points did not come as easily as I had hoped, and I knew the struggle to stay present with my tired legs was beginning.

At Three Points I plugged in the music and trotted on.  After a few miles I passed Guillaume relieving himself in the bushes, and for the miles following I fully expected him to catch back up.  I made it to the pavement with no sign of my friend, and worked to give a relaxed steady effort as the heat radiated off the gradual incline up to Mt Hillier. Through the aid, up and past the boulders, and down to Chilao. I overheated a bit in the last couple miles before the aid and had to take a few minutes at Chilao to regroup.

Photo: Ulysses Chan
On the way to Shortcut, someone really cranked up the heater and I wilted a bit in the stagnate canyon air. Mike Carson caught back up to me as I arrived at Shortcut Saddle, and I had take a few minutes again to regroup (maybe I should have heat trained after all).   From shortcut to Newcombs I really fell apart. As I shuffled my slow ass down the fire road I could see Mike Carson and his pacer easily putting miles between us. At the bottom I bathed in the dead smelling water and began the hike up. I knew I was moving slow and after trying to put back a bunch of calories I stopped all together to puke them out on the side of the road. The rest of the climb was fairly lackluster, as I lost my determination to stay present, and agonized over the time it was taking me to make it to the next aid station.

I arrived at Newcombs, sat, drank four cups of sprite, filled my bottle with soda and accepted that I would be slowly shuffling for the rest of the race. Miles down rocky trails, slow, wondering where Mike and his pacer were. Down at the bottom people cheered and told me he passed 15 or 20 minutes prior. At Chantry flats someone told me Guillaume was having kidney problems and had dropped. "Shit," I thought. I had hoped someone behind me might give Mike a run for his money on the last 25, and now it looked like we were all going to shuffle to the finish in our respective places.

Hiking out of the Aid with Chris he assured me that the 27 minute lead was nothing and that we would surely catch Mike. "Thanks for the encouragement," I thought, "but not today." Nonetheless, I tried my best to answer his calling for me to fox trot the flatter sections and hike the steeper ones. By the time we arrived at the climb on winter creek he had somehow convinced me that I was good at charging uphill and I proceeded to give the climb everything I had: hands on the knees hiking the steeps and shuffling the more gradual sections. Down the toll road, the rocks reminded me how beat up I felt, eventually we made it to Idlehour. At the aid they told me Mike was only 12 minutes ahead. This information apparently fired Chris up, but all I could think was now I had to really charge the climb out of Idlehour, damn it! My beat up legs shuffled down into the depths of the canyon, brushed through some poison oak, and began up the other side. As I began the climb, I remembered how much I love this place, this special canyon, the surrounding peaks, my home trails, and something switched: my focus came back, and under the constant encouragement of Chris I proceeded to run as much of the climb as I could. Near the second creek crossing I looked and saw the headlamps of Mike and his pacer. Fired up, I let out a low growl and pushed on. Up and out of the canyon, arrived at the aid station and awkwardly noticed Mike was there too!

A few sips of redbull, restock on fruits, and soda in my bottle. "Chris, I'm heading out." "I'll catch up," he said. As we made our way along the backside of the Sam Merrel Trail Chris reminded me of something I knew very well. "No one knows these trails better than you do. These are your home." With adrenaline pumping we came around the corner and saw Mike's headlamps only 50 feet ahead of us. All the pain in my quads disappeared and I knew I was going to be able to hammer this downhill. Right then, I stopped. "Fuck!" I said. "Whats up, why are you stopping?" I looked down at my cramping legs and for a brief moment thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I quickly drank some water and massaged out my leg and the cramp subsided. I picked back up and in a few switch backs caught up to Mike. In full excitement I turned it on to get by him with authority and proceeded to slip and fall only ten feet after we'd passed him. My water bottle went flying, my calf cramped up, but I quickly picked myself up and hurried on. I excitedly hammered the rest of the downhill, ignoring Chris' admonitions to calm down. "Never!" I thought. I was having too much fun. The Sunset Trail came and I worked hard to hammer that decent too as the adrenaline wore off and the pain returned to my legs.  Quickly through Millard aid. Still working hard on the small climb on Brown Mountain Rd, down El Prieto, and on to the pavement. Chris told me we should probably get some insurance, so I ran that out as hard as I could, thinking Mike could be right on my heels. Ran the last mini climb up to Altadena Dr. "Might as well leave it all out there," I thought.  And on to the road. Here, on the road, was the first time I let myself think that I could win. Half a mile later I crossed the finish line at 19:46.

The day went as well as I could have hoped. Except for a low point in the middle I was able to stay present all day. I am proud of myself for pushing the last section so hard in an attempt to emulate Chris' final push at Hardrock this year. For my first finished 100 miler (I dropped at mile 60 last year), I am amazed at the ability to find energy and motivation long after I thought was possible for me. If for nothing else, the personal self discovery made the day worthwhile (the trophy was an added bonus!).

Thanks to:
My Crew: Jess (Crew Chief Extroardinaire), Chris (Super Pacer), Elissa (Mrs. Levelheaded), My Mom (no title needed). All of my friends who came out to see me at different times. Guillaume - you ran fearlessly and elegantly when I could see you. Mike Carson - You were steady all day. Thanks for giving me something to chase after in the last 25. :-) Run With Us running store in Pasadena - you've been so supportive of me all year. Hammer Nutrition - Heed and Perpetuem kept me motoring all day.

Julbo Eyewear: Blast and Stunt sunglasses where (as always) perfect choices.
Petzl Nao Headlamp: I wouldn't endorse this borrowed headlamp, but it was f'ing amazing! So bright, I didn't ever think about it being dark. Thanks Greg for letting me borrow it.
Simple Hydration bottle keeping me handsfree for most of the day.
Some Huakas, drymax soxk, and Strider Pro shorts round out the garb.


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Erik. I saw you finish and you looked amazing.