Posted by: pointlenana | June 7, 2016

San Diego 100 – June 3 2016

Well, I understand now why finish times at San Diego are about the same as at Western States, even though the San Diego course looks easier on paper.

First though, the event itself is of exceptional quality.  Pick any one aspect – volunteers, aid stations, trail marking, course design, live tracking, swag, you name it – it was great.  To have everything be great like that was pretty amazing.  Thank you to all the people who made the race possible.  The runners only finish these events because there is a very large cast of people supporting them from way before the start to way after the finish.

A lot happens during 100 103 miles.  Here’s what I still remember.

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I got new Dirty Girl gaiters for this race, trying to capture how I felt about the hot forecast.

Before the start:  I got up early, before my alarm went off, and arrived at the race at 4:30am just in time to get one of the last Solo Runner parking spots very near the start.  I got my bib, put it on, sat in the car for a little while, got restless, and got out.  I said hi to race director Scott Mills, who probably had had almost 0 sleep and yet was still perky and upbeat.  I talked to other people I knew who were running – Jess and Charlie from Seattle, and Bob who paced me at Western States last year.  Bob has had some stellar runs recently – e.g. he set an American age group record for 200k a few weeks ago – and told me that his body was pretty beat up so he might drop out early in the race if things weren’t great.  I milled around with other people doing the California Triple Crown (San Diego 100, Santa Barbara 100, Angeles Crest 100 – all in about 2 months) while we waited to get a Team CTC picture taken.  I listened to Scott Mills warn us about the forecast – “record heat”.  (Scott said after the race that the heat index hit 108 degrees at one point and was above 100 for most of the day.)  And at 6am we started our 100 mile journey.

Start (0 miles) to Sunrise (21 miles):  I spent the first few hours figuring things out. How hot is it really?  How fast should I go to keep my heart rate where I want it?  Does that effort feel easy or hard?  How is my clothing working?  Do my shoes feel ok or do I need to re-lace them?  The temperature felt comfortable for the first 15 minutes, but then it felt warm and within a couple hours it felt really warm.  Everything else seemed ok.

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This captures the first 20 miles or so.  We started to the right of the picture, wound around and up the tall peak (Stonewall), back around the trees in the middle distance on the right, along the grassy ridge in the middle of the picture, and then traversed along the ridge on the left.  No, there was not a lot of shade to be found.

My strategy for dealing with heat was acclimating as much as possible beforehand (sitting in a very hot sauna and running on warm sunny afternoons with way too much clothing on – including gloves), and then active cooling during the race.  Active cooling meant wearing a non-intuitive amount of clothing – tight sleeves on my arms and a bandana around my neck – and keeping those things wet.  I wore a compression shirt so that evaporation off the shirt would happen next to my body and cool me, vs. a loose-fitting shirt that wouldn’t cool as much.  (Some people swear by cotton for that situation, because it clings and cools.  It’s worked for me on short runs but I’ve been too skittish to try it in a big race.)  I also covered myself with as much ice as possible, under my hat, down my arm sleeves, in the back pocket of my runners vest, and inside of the special ice bandana on my neck which has holes so it can be filled.  I had not tried the arm sleeves before but they were awesome.  Filling them with ice was painful every time, for about 90 seconds, as my arms and hands would go almost numb.  But then I had 30-45 minutes of pleasantly cool arms and cool blood flowing back into my core.  Once the ice melted I’d spray the sleeves with my water bottle, and even if the water was warm, after a minute or so it would start evaporating and my arms felt cool.  It helped that there was some wind and almost no humidity.

The last part of active cooling was filling one water bottle only with ice – no water.  Ultra legend Pam Reed explained to me at Western States last year that leaving an aid station with ice water is dumb (like I felt as she explained this to me) because you still end up with warm water really quickly.  With only ice, you get less water volume, but you can drink the (cold) water off as the ice melts, cool off, and have truly cold water for quite a while.  I carried three bottles – one on my vest with ice, a second one on my vest filled with Tailwind (like Gatorade but much better), and a handheld with only water for keeping my sleeves and bandana wet.

My first aid station stop was a mess – I didn’t have the bottle system down yet and I was fiddling with the bandana as I arrived.  Instead of slowing down and getting it right, I sped through and ended up leaving with icy Tailwind which was too dilute to count as nutrition but too liquidy to stay cool, two bottles of water, no ice, and very little food in me.  Fortunately, it wasn’t really hot yet, and I carry gels in part for situations where something goes wrong.  I learned from that aid station, and got it right the next time and for the rest of the race.

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Climbing up the west side of Stonewall, enjoying the last shade I’d see for a while. (Thanks to PaksitPhotos)

Before the race began, Scott told us that 252 of us were starting.  Looking at UltraLive tracking afterwards, I was the 112th runner at first aid station, and 80th at the third.  Even as the day was getting really warm, my heart rate was great, my pace felt comfortable, and my heat management seemed to be working.

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Somewhere near the Sunrise aid station (again, PaksitPhotos).

 

Sunrise (21 miles) to Penny Pines 1 (43.8):  About 40 miles of SD100 are on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  After leaving Sunrise, we got our first taste of the PCT, which traverses along the escarpment above Anza Borrego desert.  The trail runs essentially parallel to the Sunrise Highway – access for aid stations and crew – really close at times to an occasional car, but usually a ways away and feeling pretty remote.  The trail itself rolls up and down along the edge of the multi-thousand foot drop to the desert floor, and does an amazing amount of winding around as it follow the crest and the ridges dropping from the crest.  It’s a mix of smooth trail and rockier sections that are runnable (in daylight) but tricky.  I did those ~7 miles in the late morning and it was truly hot by then.  It was beautiful though, I felt good, and I was putting miles behind me at decent pace.

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Somewhere between Sunrise and Pioneer Mail.  The PCT runs along the edge of the plateau, just before those ridges drop to the desert below.

We turned off the PCT at the Pioneer Mail aid station.  Before the race I had studied the course a fair amount but still imagined a number of things completely wrong.  I had this sense that Pioneer Mail would be an old cabin in the woods. It turned out to be a road sign marking a small parking lot next to the Sunrise Highway, with access to the PCT.  The four pictures below were taken at a spot near Pioneer Mail, standing on the trail and scanning (clockwise) from north to east to south.  The trail was particularly wide here, I guess because it crosses the very end of a road/viewpoint.

After Pioneer Mail, we set off on 14 miles of almost-loop,  essentially dropping down one side of a ridge and coming back up on the other side of the ridge through Noble Canyon.  Scott had warned that Noble Canyon would be hard – during the hottest part of a very hot day, and the longest steepest climb of the course.  The descent towards Noble Canyon had a longish section of rocky trail – a combination of baseball-sized loose rocks to stumble on, and partially-buried rocks to trip over.  On paper before the race, that section looked fast but it wasn’t in real life – which was a preview of things to come.  On the other hand, going up Noble Canyon was easier/better than I expected – it wasn’t steep like the Western States canyons, it was the first section of the San Diego course that had some shade, and there was even a creek to dip my hat and sleeves in.

I came out of Noble Canyon feeling ok but maybe a little hot, a little dehydrated, and a little under-fueled.  I sat in a chair at the next aid station for a few minutes, ate, downed 3 Otter Pops, and left feeling a little better.   I also thought that since the next leg was shorter – only 5 flattish miles vs. the 7-8 uphill miles of previous section – I’d have a chance to cool down, digest, and generally let my body recover.  Between Sunrise and Penny Pines 1, I had moved all the way from 80th to 42th in the race.

Penny Pines 1 (mile 43.8) to Dale’s Kitchen (mile 56.3):

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The trails were occasionally wonderfully smooth.

So much for the idea of recovering.  I ran 3 “bonus” miles during the race, due to not one or even two, but three mistakes .  The first happened about a mile out of Penny Pines.  I came out of some trees, saw a beautiful meadow stretching way out ahead, and started to follow a runner down through trees along the left side of the beautiful meadow.  Unfortunately, I did not look about 60 degrees to my right and see the race markings headed towards the right side of the meadow.  (This page has a photo of the meadow and in the route picture I can even see where I missed the turn – at the top left I followed the red line down the meadow, instead of making a right turn.)  A while later I caught up to the runner ahead, noticed he wasn’t wearing a race bib, and then realized I hadn’t seen a trail marker for a while.  Like the typical optimist trail runner, I went a little further hoping that a marker would save my bacon, and then accepted reality.  I turned around and ran almost a mile back to the correct turn.  Shortly before I got there I encountered another SD100 runner coming towards me, making the same mistake.  I turned him around and we were back on course.  Although my detour cost me at least 20 minutes, it didn’t bother me that much – Magdalena Boulet and Gunhild Swanson both ran bonus miles at Western States last year, so it sometimes happens to the best even when the markings are great (as they were in San Diego).  You just have to keep going.  UltraLive says I dropped from 42nd to 57nd at the next aid station – even though I was running mostly on my own, the runners were still pretty tightly grouped, with 15 runners in those 2 extra miles I ran.

 

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The Land Of Missed Turns.  I was told there was some rain recently, which brought us a lot of wildflowers.

And then, after the next aid station, it happened again.  Another realization that I hadn’t seen a marker, running a little further, hoping, and turning around with a sigh.  Less than a quarter mile back to the correct turn, so only 1/2 mile and 5 to 10 more wasted minutes.  As mistakes go, this was pretty minor but it bothered me because it was the 2nd one in as many legs and the missed marking seemed pretty obvious when I got back to it.  I took it as a sign that I was more hot/dehydrated/under-fueled than I realized.  I vowed to catch-up for real at Red Tail Roost…

 

…Which turned out to be a water-only aid station. I had noticed this odd setup before the race – an aid station at Red Tail Roost and then another one 1.3 miles further at Dale’s Kitchen.  I probably missed this in the pre-race information, but I overheard a volunteer explain why at Red Tail Roost.  Dale’s Kitchen is the main aid station, used twice along the course, but is hard for crews to get to (down a very dusty slow dirt road).  Red Tail Roost is a great place for crews to meet their runners – large parking lot, picnic tables, bathrooms.  But with another aid station a short distance away for solo runners, there is no reason to put a fully-stocked aid station at a stop intended mostly for people with crews.  The reason made sense and by that point, with more practice than I really wanted, I was moving through the 5 stages of race grief from denial to acceptance in about 3 seconds. “So, ok, no food here, I need to go another 1.3 miles to get food.  Let’s go.”

Even though there was no food, I did stop to try to get a small rock out of my shoe or sock – I fumbled with the gaiter, (Volunteer after watching me for a bit: “Do you need some help with that?”), wrestled the shoe off, dumped a quarter pound of fine black dirt out of the shoe but didn’t see a small rock, pried the once-yellow-now-black sock off, dumped more dirt out of that, and then reversed it all.

I reset my focus on the fully-stocked aid station 1.3 miles down the road.  A quarter mile later I felt the same small rock again.  By moving my foot around, I was able to select between four positions for the rock – jabbing the side of my big toe, irritating the space between my big toe and next toe over, stabbing underneath the ball of my foot, or some mystery space where I couldn’t feel it.  I selected “mystery space” and continued on, but after the accumulation of setbacks small and tiny, I couldn’t muster more than a steady walk on the very runnable dirt road.  Eventually I arrived at Dale’s Kitchen/mile 56.3.  At this point I was in 56th place – holding pretty steady after my first big wrong turn.

Dale’s Kitchen (mile 56.3) to Cibbet’s Flat to Dale’s Kitchen (mile 71.7):  Dale’s Kitchen was The Critical Aid Station for me and most everyone.  From Dale’s Kitchen, you continue on the PCT down a long ridgeline, and eventually take a short detour down a fire road to the Cibbet’s Flat aid station.  Then you turn around and hike back up.  It’s comical how different my hopes for this section were from reality.  Even though I carried a cheat sheet showing it was almost 16 miles round trip, I was convinced it was about 14.  I figured the round trip would take about 3 hours – it took more than 5.  I had hoped to do most of the downhill portion in the daylight, so running would be easier – it got dark about 10 minutes after I started down.  I assumed it would be runnable (“It’s the big famous PCT, it’s downhill, it must be runnable”) but there were lots of stones to stumble and trip on and I walked huge portions in both directions.

Besides the misplaced optimism, I also made (at least) two mistakes when I passed through Dale’s Kitchen the first time.  For reasons that made sense for about 2 minutes while I was sitting in the aid station, I picked up my headlamp (which I knew I’d need soon) but decided I could pick up my handheld flashlight on the return trip.  I like to run with both a headlamp and a flashlight because the headlamp doesn’t bounce around and the flashlight is brighter and does a better job of highlighting things I can trip on.  But I chose not to get my flashlight yet.  Essentially my reasoning was “In order to have a couple ounces less in my hand and save a few seconds, I’ll give up vast chunks of time because I can’t see as well as I need to in order to run.”  If I ever give sage advice, please ignore me.

Mistake number 2 was taking off my Seven Hills cap and ice bandana and putting them in my drop bag instead of my pack.  I also left my handheld water bottle for body dowsing.  At that point I thought I’d still finish within an hour or two of sunrise, it was getting dark and cooling down and I was relieved to have survived the day’s heat.  “I’m done with this stuff!”  My mistake became clear about 7 hours later in the middle of the night, when I realized that I would be finishing the race in the next day’s sun and heat, with no sun hat and maybe not enough water.  Oh and in hindsight, mistake number 3 at Dale’s Kitchen was not collecting the hat and bottle again on the return trip when I knew I was going much slower than expected.  (But I did collect my flashlight!).

In spite of the mistakes, my first stop at Dale’s Kitchen was great.  I finally had a chance to catch-up/recover – eat, drink, cool down.  I poured in 3 cups of the world’s best tomato soup, sat for a few minutes, pondered the contents of my drop bag, and pulled myself together in prep for the last 44 miles.

During the out-and-back to Cibbet’s Flat, I saw every single runner left in the race.  I passed the leader (Nate Jaqua) about 5 minutes after I left the aid station, and I passed the last runners coming down shortly before I got back up to Dale’s Kitchen.  Michael Wardian was towards the front – he is a friendly, enthusiastic person but he did not look happy at that moment in time.  Possibly this is because it was almost dark, he didn’t have his headlamp, and he had at least a mile left up the hill.  Roger Levesque (he and Nate are former Seattle Sounders, Nate won the race, and Roger finished ninth in his first 100 mile race) told me he had the same headlamp problem.  Like me, he’d been overly-optimistic about how quickly he’d handle the out-and-back, he didn’t collect his headlamp before heading down, and darkness descended on him long before he got back to Dale’s Kitchen.  He said he spent about an hour picking his way in darkness, by feel, over the last couple miles of rocky trail up the hill.

Besides getting my one-and-only chance to see the fast people, it was also a chance to see how other friends were doing.  It was a little tricky – as I approached a runner coming the other way, we’d each look briefly (“do I know this person?”) and then avert our head/headlamp so we didn’t blind the other person.  It was usually just enough to spot people.  Charlie and Jess weren’t too far behind and seemed ok.  I didn’t see Bob anywhere – I figured at that point that he’d probably had to drop due to too much recent racing.

Going downhill took forever.  Once it got dark, I discovered that I was unable to run.  I’d try to run, stumble over things 2 or 3 times in 15 seconds, give up and settle back into a walk.  After that happened several times, I found I couldn’t run even when the trail was smooth.  I’d try and after 20 seconds my brain was so fatigued (“This is a BAD idea, we shouldn’t be doing this”) that it made my legs feel exhausted and I was back to walking.  For those who know of this, I think it was Noakes’ Central Governor idea in action where the brain protects itself by creating a sense of physical fatigue that you can’t overcome consciously.

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The PCT in all its gory, um, glory.  This is why I couldn’t run in the dark.  Tripping is a one foot thing, but falling is a two foot thing – one foot has a problem and if you can’t land the second foot somewhere stable you go down.  There’s nowhere stable here to land a second foot.  There were relatively smooth sections, occasionally even long ones, but in the dark you never know when you’ll suddenly find yourself in a stretch like this.  Thus, 30 miles of mostly-walking through the night.  Contrast this with Western States, where the last 38 miles – run in darkness by most of us – are like that smooth trail in the picture further above.

Going uphill back to Dale’s Kitchen took forever also, but only about 20 minutes more than the downhill portion. When I got back to Dale’s Kitchen, UltraLive tracking shows I had moved up a few spots to 53rd – even though I’d lost a couple more places on the downhill.

Dale’s Kitchen to Pioneer Mail 2 (mile 84.3):  I left Dale’s Kitchen for the second time feeling optimistic.  I had restocked on tomato soup.    The last big climb was behind me.  I had my flashlight now also, and would have enough visibility to run.  I had about 20 miles of PCT ahead of me, so no worrying about getting lost.

For a short distance, the optimism seemed appropriate.  The trail was a little uphill, I walked along at a good clip, and I seemed to be catching up to a weird green light ahead.  But then I hit a downhill stretch, tried running, tripped a lot, felt my exhausted quads again, and went back to a walk.  I caught the green light a short while later – it turned out to be an unusual light on the back of a runner’s pack.  We were told the next aid station was only 3 miles away (3.6 actually) and I was doubtful that I could pass the person and stay ahead of him without a high risk of landing on my face, so I hung back and we chatted a little for a mile or two until the next aid station.  We arrived there, I ate and refilled and set off alone moving a little faster again (still walking though, not running).

Time and miles passed, and then I realized I hadn’t seen a course marker in a while.  “Uh-oh.  Did I miss a turn?  Are there even other trails out there?  How often would the PCT have a marker?”  I continued on a for a bit, no marker. A bit further, no marker.  “&^%$!  I can’t believe I missed a turn for the 3rd time”.  I turned around dejected, walked back up the trail for a quarter mile, looked very careful high and low on both sides of the trail for a marker and saw none.  Just then, my green-lighted friend (aka Daniel according to UltraLive) showed up – he’d run the trail 2 weeks before, and was convinced that we were on the correct path.  So I turned around and followed him down.  Neither of us saw a marker in the section I had retraced, but shortly after that we did find a small red flag two inches off the ground on a small plant.  Another ~10 minutes lost due to route-finding, although objectively I did the right thing by turning back – keeping a small problem from becoming a big disaster.  And this never would have happened without my earlier errors lingering in the back of my mind.

Daniel mentioned that his light batteries were dying and his spares were at the next aid station, so I hung back with him.  A few people scooted past us and I was tempted to follow them, but after Daniel had helped me I didn’t want to leave him in a situation where he was navigating without light.  We continued on to Penny Pines 2, and UltraLive tells me that when we arrived I had worked my way backwards from 53rd at Dale’s Kitchen to 61st place at Penny Pines 2.  Daniel went to get his drop bag and batteries, I refilled my bottles and set off.  Time and miles passed, and I rolled into Pioneer Mail 2 at about 5am just as the sky was getting light.

Pioneer Mail 2 to Finish (mile 100.5): When I left Pioneer Mail 2, I had 16 miles to go, with about 3 hours of decent temperatures ahead.  I figured I was going about 3 1/2 miles per hour, which meant I was going to be in the heat again for an hour or two, with no sun hat.  This realization made me very unhappy. I had celebrated being done with the heat the night before, and had a pretty visceral reaction to the possibility of another unplanned hot morning.  As I trudged up the small hill from the aid station (the 4 Pioneer Mail pictures above show that hill), I did some pace math – if I could speed up to 4 mph/15 minute miles, I could be done around 9am – not great but a lot better than 10am.  That would be about 27 hours for the race.  Then I remembered that my best time for 100 miles was at Western States last year – I couldn’t remember exactly but it was something like 26:56.  So it was set – I would try to avoid most of the heat by aiming for a small 100 mile PR.  But that meant I had to run a little more than I had for the last 9 hours.

Two wonderful things happened as I topped out on the climb and rounded a bend.  First, the sun popped up over a mountain to the east, shining through a small cloud in the distance and casting everything in a pinkish-purple light.  Look at the SD100 photo at UltraSignup, and imagine the rocks a little more pinkish-purple – it was spectacular and I felt really lucky to be there.  Second, I found that being able to see meant being able to run.  Yes, my legs still felt tired, but my brain could cope and I could run for more than 15 seconds at a time.  The trail was rolling and there were still uphills to walk, but the downhills and flats went at a slow-but-steady run.  Even the slight uphills seemed runnable.

I rounded a bend and, for the first time in a long time, saw someone ahead of me.  I passed him a short while later, then saw two more and passed them.  Miles ticked away, and eventually I turned off the PCT, ran a couple hundred yards, and arrived at Sunrise 2 a little before 7am.

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The remains of the Sunrise Aid Station, a day after the race.  It was very well stocked.  E.g. note the two green guys at the corner of the trailer, used to warn drivers: “Slow people – with very bad judgment – crossing the road”.

Aside from eating a little and making sure my 2 bottles were full for the last 9 hot miles, my main goal at Sunrise was getting sunscreen.  I smeared it all over my face, neck, arms, and the large hairless spot on my head, and took off.  When I left, I had about 125 minutes to travel 9 miles to beat my PR.  That’s a bit faster than 4 miles hour/14 minute miles, and I hadn’t traveled that fast in about 60 miles.  But I felt good, and tried to run for several minutes at a time while keeping any walking to a minute or less.  The first mile took 11 minutes – I picked up some time.  The second mile also took 11 minutes – a little more time banked.  After each mile I’d recalculate – 103 minutes to go 7 miles, that’s just under 15 minute miles, etc..  Things looked good but I worried about a sudden epic collapse due to heat or something else, so I kept moving.  I passed more people, including one of the Triple Crown people I’d met – he said something like “You’ve gotta be kidding me” as I trotted by.

Shortly further on, I saw a commotion in the dirt road ahead of me – 6 people or so, moving funny, taking pictures, and doing something not at all recognizable to me from a distance.  As I neared them, someone ran very quickly for a short distance while screaming, and a guy turned to me and said “watch out, run on the right side, there’s a rattlesnake on the left”.  I was on a mission at that point and wasn’t going to let possible death interfere with getting out of the heat, so I motored on through (on the right side).  As I passed, I looked to the left and saw the largest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen – about two inches in diameter, several feet long – all coiled up and looking pretty lethal.  I saw one of the race people driving in shortly after, mentioned the snake, and thankfully didn’t hear of any DNF’s due to snakebite.

The fun thing about pace math is that if you are going faster than the goal pace, the math gets more and more favorable over time.  I went from needing to run 14 minute miles at the beginning, to something like 17 minute miles 4 miles out – walking pace – to being able to crawl the rest of the way and make it.  I was getting hot in the last mile or two, and after hours of my heart rate being really low, it was climbing again, so I walked a little bit extra to make sure I didn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The last mile or so of the race is a bit of a cruel joke – you see the finish close by but have to run way around a reedy marsh to get to it, and then there’s a short steep hill just before the finish.  It passed quickly though and then I was across the line.  Official time 26:38:04, 46th place, 4th guy in my old guys age group. 100 mile PR by about 16 minutes (turns out that my memory was off – it was 26:54 last June not the 26:56 I was thinking as I did pace math).  And the one thing I really cared about – I finished before it got really hot again.

Someone asked me if I ran the time I wanted to.  It turns out that’s a complicated question:  No, I didn’t go under 24 hours like I thought was possible when the forecast was cool.  Yes, I did hit the goal I set well into the race when I understood the terrain, heat, etc..  And finally, who cares – it was a challenging and ultimately successful (long) day spent outside in a beautiful place, with many many people taking care of all of us.  I was lucky to get to be there.

After I finished, race director Scott Mills got me a hat and dragged me out of the sun.  Some nice people (police or maybe fire department?) looked at a couple minor blisters on my feet and put band aids on.  I got my finisher swag.  I talked with Bob, who had in fact DNF’d to avoid serious damage to his tired body.  I sat with Roger and Nate – 9th and 1st place respectively – and we applauded as other people finished.  I watched time pass – 9:30, 10, 10:30 – and thought of Charlie and Jess and everyone still out there suffering through a second day of heat.  I listened as the race organizers repeatedly sent someone to purchase and deliver more ice for the impromptu aid station they set up in the middle of the last section.  I ate a little bit.  I eventually found my drop bag with my spare shoes -for some reason I did not think to leave after-race shoes at the finish, so I was dependent upon the drop bag reappearing unless I wanted to put my dirt-filled race shoes back on.  I happily watched Charlie (~11am) and then Jess (~noon) cross the line and get out of the heat.  I talked to them for a bit and we all congratulated each other for doing something pretty hard.  And then it was done – I headed back to my hotel, washed a thick coat of trail dust off my legs, and took a nap.

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This is what happens when you run on a dusty trail with ice constantly melting on your upper body – a black epoxy forms on your lower legs.

According to UltraLive, 252 people started, 137 finished, and 125 people dropped out during the race.  Scott Mills said the finish rate is typically around 72%.  With the heat this year, it was about 54%.  The course records are 15:48 (men) and 19:32 (woman) although the course changed significantly this year so comparisons are at best sketchy.  That said, this year the winning man’s (aka Nate’s) time was 19:15 and the woman’s time was 22:00 (run by someone who also won two years ago with a 20:08).  The heat was significant- and the race organizers and volunteers did an amazing job helping us deal with it.  Thank you.

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Just a portion of the race swag.  I know I’m forgetting stuff, but here’s a list.  Pre-race swag: The shoe bag at the top left, an OrangeMud water bottle, Injinji socks, nutritional samples.  Raffle swag I won (odds were pretty good of winning something):  High Desert Drop bag plus 2 more pairs of Injinji socks.  Finishers swag:  The gray hoody, the red/gray bag in the middle, the huge medal, a belt buckle, the mug, the hat.  Plus I bought a warm hat and a bottle opener before I knew how much stuff we’d get.  I had to pack a bunch of stuff into the new red/gray bag and check my wheelie on the flight home.  I need exactly 0 of this stuff and it’s not why I do these events, but now I’ll be a walking advertisement for the race.

California Triple Crown Update:  Of the 20 of us doing the CTC, 8 DNF’d at San Diego, leaving 12 of us with a chance to complete all three races (San Diego, Santa Barbara, Angeles Crest).  Before the race started I met Ray Sanchez, the CTC entrant with a stellar ultra resume – the person I guessed would “win” (although anyone who finishes all three wins in my opinion, or even finishes one of these hard races).  He’s a multiple-time Badwater finisher (~135 miles in Death Valley in July heat), has done enough races that I know only a catastrophe will prevent him from finishing, and he’s fast enough to win races occasionally. Leaving Ray for a moment – and this will make sense when we return to him – I recently saw an article about David Laney and UTMB, in which David Laney likens marathons to very hard math problems and ultras to boxing matches.  (“Just keep getting punched in the face and you’re ok”).  Back to Ray Sanchez – I was talking to him about heat acclimation and he said, “I used to be a boxer…”.

Ray is currently in first, the person I voted for (Ray was a last minute entrant and I had already voted) is in second, and after passing a handful of CTC entrants in the last 16 miles, I’m in 3rd.  That said, I am pretty sure I am the only person paying attention to standings.  Most of us are recovering, happy to finish or getting over the disappointment of not finishing, and trying not to remember that we get to do this again in a month.

Bonus cool thing totally unrelated to SD100: The San Diego RnR Marathon happened to be on Sunday, the morning before my flight home from SD100.  I was waiting in the airport buying tea, and the person next to me looked familiar.

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Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan, who won the RnR Half-Marathon by running a 40 second PR, and who very graciously let the strange star-struck guy take a picture with her even though her hands were full.  This is the runner equivalent of running into Steph Curry or LeBron James if you are a basketball fan.

 


Responses

  1. Amazing, Mark. I begin reading your race reports and I think to myself, “I really need to do one of these sometime,” but then I continue reading and think about how wimpy I am. Well done, congratulations on battling through some hellish conditions, not to mention being in third place in the CTC standings after the first race! Now…recover!!

    • The trick is to persist in spite of wimpiness. I think most people out there started in a place of “I could never ever do something that hard and crazy.”

  2. I’m delighted you did not experience DEATH BY RATTLESNAKE. Great report, glad you did it so I could read about it from the comfort of my office.

    • I’m delighted also. Agree also on the comfort of offices – reading your comment from one now.

  3. Mark, Congrats on SD100 finish last weekend. A pretty tough day but perseverance pays off. I’m a volunteer with theDogPound Sunrise 1&2 aid station. Glad we could be of service to all of you and provide some encouragement and nutrition. -Joey

    • Thank you so much for being out there for us. I was tempted to knock on the doors of the trailers Sunday morning but I thought people might be getting some well-deserved sleep. Or out for some well-deserved hiking/running. It’s a beautiful place – amazing how little civilization we ran through in 100 miles.

  4. Fantastic write-up Mark! You should submit it to Athlete IQ for that $100 Altra coupon. I was the last runner you passed about 4 miles from the finish. I had just finished telling my pacing buddy how amazed I was at not having encountered a single snake, when we turned the corner and saw that big ole rattler!

    It was my third SD and the toughest by far due to the heat. It is gratifying to hear how it ranks from a WS finisher’s perspective, since many under-appreciate the difficulty of the course.

    I also had sub-24 ambitions which went out the door with the forecast. It wasn’t a pretty performance, but just crossing the finish line was a beautiful thing this time around.

    Best of luck with your Triple Crown ambition, hopefully the worse is behind you!

    -Joe Seeley

    • Thanks for the good wishes, and congratulations on your finish! I can see why you’ve done that multiple times. I really liked that race, heat and all. The heat was just a thing to get through. But the course is beautiful and the people involved are awesome. I see you have more runs planned also – good luck with those!


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