Posted by: pointlenana | July 12, 2016

Santa Barbara 100 DNF – July 2016

I’m ready to put this behind me – enough perseveration on not finishing SB100 or the 2016 California Triple Crown (CTC).  Time to tell the story and what I learned, and then move on.

Two important things before I get going:

  1. After I came out of my 4 day All Santa Barbara 100, All The Time vacation, I read about a lot of bad stuff that happened in the real world.  I might have some disappointment, but I’m very lucky to have the problems I have.
  2. Some of the stuff I will talk about could be taken as criticism of the race/event.  I don’t mean it that way – it’s a fairly new race, it takes a lot of effort and persistence to get the permits/volunteers/course marking/aid station supplies/etc., and it’s easy to focus on the few % that could be better vs. the 90+% that was great.  But it’s worth talking about the stuff in case it helps participants and/or the event in future years.  I do think the info on the website could be improved easily (and already sent in feedback).

I’m not sure whether to start with lessons learned or the race story, but I’ll go with the race first.  If you just want the lessons, look for Litany of Lessons below.

I signed up for Santa Barbara 100 because a) I managed to get into Angeles Crest 100 during the 62 seconds before it filled up b) I met the San Diego 100 race director at UTMB and it seemed like his race would be great and c) one of the Santa Barbara race directors had a great idea to create the California Triple Crown – Angeles Crest, San Diego and Santa Barbara done in one summer.  Since I was already signed up for 2 of the 3, I said what the heck and signed up for Santa Barbara.  A knowledgeable friend warned me that Santa Barbara is a fairly new race and maybe not organized quite as well yet as some other races, but I figured that was ok – it would be an adventure one way or another.

Santa Barbara 100 is (doh) 100 miles, run in the mountain range just north of Santa Barbara.  The mountains are interesting/unique in that they run east-to-west vs. the typical north/south orientation (Cascades, Rockies, Sierras, Appalachian, etc.).  There’s little precipitation so they are mostly covered in scrubby chaparral.  The race course is  50 miles out/50 miles back that starts in the valley north of Santa Barbara, runs up one side of the valley, back down, up the other side, back down, up the valley, over the ridge, down almost into Santa Barbara, back up the ridge and then way way up to the high point of the ridge.  Then you turn around and do it in reverse.  With about 24000 feet of climbing, this was the second hardest race I’ve attempted (after UTMB in Europe – with 30000 feet of climbing).

sb course

The course – hopefully this matches my description above.

Besides all the climbing, this race is unusual in that it starts in the evening – 6pm.  I had done that at UTMB and it went ok, but the evening start has its challenges, e.g. more sleep-deprivation late in the race and the possibility of being out into a second night.  It didn’t seem as hard as UTMB though and it already felt like a long trip – Thursday to Sunday, so I booked a flight home Sunday afternoon thinking I’d be done well before the 36 hour/6am Sunday morning cutoff.

I flew down Thursday, settled into my Forest Service cabin not far from the race start, realized there was no cell service or wi-fi anywhere close to where I was, and drove back to Santa Barbara (6 miles as the crow flies, but 30+ minutes away by car) to eat.  Friday I woke up at my typical 6-ish time, and then tried to do nothing very diligently until it was 2-ish and time to get ready.  After waiting forever, and then some more, I drove down to the start and realized I knew basically no one – a few acquaintances but that was it.

At 4:30pm the race briefing started.  Usually the briefings are non-events, repeating stuff that I’ve read/researched or that you should know before signing up.  I’d been following the weather, and it seemed that we’d have heat during the day but fog during the night/morning.  The race director said we’d have a cool morning running/hiking to the high point – great!  I was a little surprised when he said that the hydration/drink mix would be two things I’ve never heard of (Succeed Amino and Clip 2), instead of the Gu stuff mentioned on the website.  That’s the kind of thing I really want to know before I arrived at the race, in part so I can try it and see if it works for me. (Full disclosure:  the website did mention the two other products, but seemingly in the context of pills/potions/supplements – which research says don’t help and could be bad – not hydration products.  I could have researched every word but didn’t.)  “Oh well, every race has its surprises.  I brought some Tailwind pouches and gels, I’ll be fine”.  Which I basically was.

We started at 6pm – about 80 of us, including the 12 remaining Triple Crown people.  The first 10 miles were wonderful – up a canyon, beautiful single track trail with the sun sinking toward the west, and then back down.  As we neared the top of the climb at 5 miles, someone looked back and whooped at the setting.  I felt lucky to be there.  We turned around a corner and headed down towards the first aid station.  “Great, a chance to eat and digest while I head down”.  Looking forward to the food, I rolled into the aid station and found… one bag of popcorn.  Plus water and the hydration option (Succeed Amino during the night time, because it supposedly helps with mental alertness).  Popcorn wasn’t going to do it for me so I filled my bottles and headed on.  The person I was running with commented on the slim pickins – I surmised that there was no food at all until someone asked and the volunteer pulled the popcorn out of the back of his car.  It was the first aid station and it’s reasonable not to have food – like the first aid station in White River 50.  But it would help to tell us in advance – like White River does on its website and pre-race briefing the night before and again just before the race starts.  I ate a gel and continued.

At 10 miles I arrived at the aid station with my first drop bag – most importantly lights for the night (brand new, untested Petzl Nao headlamp – what could go wrong? and a trusted Fenix flashlight – in case something went wrong).  I mixed up a bottle of Tailwind (I carried a few pouches), filled my other bottle, got my lights, and left.  2 minutes down the trail I realized I had eaten exactly nothing and considered going back.  Great, 0 for 2 in the food department.  But I was carrying gels and Tailwind so I figured I’d be ok.

The next segment – to mile 17 – was up another hill, pretty close to the cabin I was staying in, then back down to the road up the valley.  I had a great view towards the setting sun, it got dark, we descended seemingly forever.  I ate a couple of gels and drank my Tailwind and felt like I had gotten back on track with nutrition.  I still ate a fair amount when I arrived at Live/White Oak aid station.  Then it was 5 miles up a very runnable road in the dark to the next aid station/Red Gate.

Miles 22 to 27 were pretty bad.  My world narrowed down to the ~25 feet I could see in my lights.  Maybe one mile of nice runnable dirt road.  Then we hit Poison Oak Alley.  This was about 3-4 miles of overgrown trail.  In many places it was just tall grass hanging over the trail – I couldn’t see my feet and had to shuffle along hoping I wouldn’t hit a rock.  But, in a few sections we had to run 100 yards or more through poison oak hanging over the trail from both sides – it was impossible to avoid pushing against/through it.  I heard someone tell his friend, “the trail here is more of an idea than a trail”.  A couple miles in, I rounded a corner and put one foot straight into a 15 inch wide, 12 inch deep hole.  I fell hard – I’m surprised I didn’t break a leg and/or a wrist – but somehow survived.  (I talked to someone after the race who said “I saw that hole on the way back – I don’t know how I avoided it.”)  In other places I brushed up against bushes, expecting them to gently move out of the way like they do here in the Northwest.  But they were hard, sharp and unyielding – my hip or head or arm would suddenly get banged sideways.  I fell hard again, but somehow slowed myself by shoving my hands into the hard bushes beside the trail and getting some scrapes and puncture wounds in the process.  In some sections we traversed in very loose soil along steep slopes with 20-40 foot runouts underneath us ending either in sharp bushes or an even steeper dropoff.  The flatish loose-dirt trail (“idea”) in those spots was at most 8 inches wide and in a few cases it was quick “maintain forward momentum” steps across loose steep slope with no flat trail at all.  It’s an understatement when I say I was relieved to end that section and start one of the steep climbs up to Cold Springs Saddle before dropping down towards Santa Barbara.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the psych experiment.  I signed up for some research on how mental state affects people’s ability to finish these long races.  I got to wear a small recording device (basically a wristwatch) and had to answer 3 questions every 10 miles.  1) Describe what’s going on mentally. 2) How does that affect your ability to finish 3) What else is going on?  I’d love to listen to the sequence of my answers.  But at this point in the race – finished with Poison Oak Alley, heading up the climb, I was doing relatively well vs. my own time goals and the other racers.  And the night was about half done.  So I think my answers were fairly upbeat at that point.  I also jinxed myself by saying that mental and physical issues don’t affect my ability to finish because my mindset is I will finish – I’ll have problems but I will finish.

After reaching Cold Springs Saddle, I dropped down towards the lights of Santa Barbara.  It should have gotten foggy, but it wasn’t foggy where we were and I didn’t see fog below.  Instead it was just warm.  Not hot, but not cool enough (at 2am) to help me cool down.  I descended and then traversed to the Montecito aid station.  Another CTC participant rolled into the aid station and commented on his unexpected blisters (“I never get blisters.  Eewww.  That’s some gross stuff coming out.”)  Then it was a long long climb up to the ridge, the first half of a climb that is almost as big as some of the UTMB climbs.  About an hour before daybreak, my brand new headlamp (set in 12 hour battery life mode) died after 8 hours of use.  I was ok with that – my flashlight was working fine which was enough for moving slowly uphill.  As dawn approached, we could see down to a thin layer of fog hanging over Santa Barbara.  Meanwhile, it was still warm for us.   This was funny (ha ha) because I had worried about being on the ridge in the wind and getting cold.  No such luck.

At the ridge I stopped at the Romero Camuesa aid station, staffed in part by ultra legend Errol “Rocket” Jones.  I noticed that the fruit supply seemed a little scarce – I guessed that I was ~20th out of 80 runners at that point, so it didn’t make sense for anything to be scarce already but I had the sense that if I took too much of something, someone behind me would suffer.  I got my ice bandana and sleeves out, put ice in both (it’s 5:30am at this point and I’m trying to cool down) and set off toward the high point and turnaround.  Oh, I should mention that the sunrise was beautiful and I felt very lucky to be in that place at that moment – I remember talking about that to the psych experiment recorder.

From Romero Camuesa to the top/turnaround, it’s about 7 miles.  I rounded a corner and saw a road way high above me across a valley.  Thankfully the road I was on bent away in the opposite direction… except it bent back after 3 long miles uphill.  Eventually I was on that way-high road, and then it got gratuitously cruel.  I’d go up a steep climb, hit a plateau, think I was done with the climbing, then we’d go down steeply and climb again.  Rinse and repeat, for 2-3 miles.  You can’t do 24000 feet of climbing if you don’t have these “when will it end???” kinds of sections.

I reached the aid station/50 mile turnaround/high point at about 7:30 am – 13 1/2 hours into the race, and somewhat ahead of when I had expected.  Doubling that – a little optimistic, but the first half had more climbing – meant I had some chance at finishing before it got really dark again.  (Thinking about this good scenario set me up for a mental letdown several hours later – I always, always regret counting unhatched chickens during races.)  I ate some really good hash browns, drank some soda, iced up and listened to the volunteers.  “Romero Camuesa is out of fruit.”  (That’s the previous/next aid station where fruit seemed scarce.)   I asked how they got up to this high point – by the same gnarly cliff-side dirt road we ran up.  “We usually try to drive up in daylight -4WD, slowly – but there was a mix up with the gate key yesterday, and it ended up being nighttime.  It was kind of intense.”

I left after a bit, conveniently forgetting about the 2-3 miles of up/down I’d just been through, and thinking it might be a quick descent.  Hah.  After 45 minutes of having my soul crushed, the road finally headed down.  I moved along well, passed a few people, got passed by a motorcycle rider carrying a backpack of fruit down to the next aid station, and eventually arrived again at the freshly-refruited-and-now-hot Romero Camuesa (mile 57).  I ate one orange slice, lamented that I had put my dowsing water bottle in the drop bag 12 miles ahead at Cold Springs Saddle instead of this one, iced up/cooled off as much as I could, made some Tailwind and left.

A half mile out, I passed another runner who had just picked up his pacer, who was really cheerful.  “That would be really nice – company” I thought, and then put my head down.  10 minutes later, all my ice had melted and my wet cooling stuff was pretty dry.  Oh well.  I headed down the road, passed some more people, noted how well I was doing – maybe 15th out of 80 starters, way ahead of schedule.  At some point I dowsed myself with Tailwind to try to cool – clear Tailwind seemed like a better option than orange electrolyte drink.  About 1/10 of a mile before the Montecito aid station (mile 63), I caught a toe on a rock and went down hard for the 3rd time.  This was downhill at speed, so as I fell I twisted and managed to roll through the fall.  When the dust settled, I was on my back but basically ok.  I limped into “I never get blisters” aid station and plunked in a chair.  The very nice volunteer said “is it ok if I sponge you down?  It looks like something happened” – looking at all the dirt on my back from the fall.  This was the aid station stop where my drink options – usually a combination of Coke, Sprite, Ginger Ale, maybe a couple more – dwindled to one (I think Sprite).  Also the fruit was definitely sparse.  And the ice seemed limited.  And I’m only the ~15th person out of 80 to pass through on the way back.  Hmmm.  And my ice was being scooped by hand out of the drinks cooler.  “Oh well, I’m not going to die from a few germs.  I’m doing fine.”  But I was concerned about taking too much ice and left with a subset of my ideal anti-heat/icing setup .

Things started to go south in the next section, during the climb back up to Cold Springs Saddle (mile 70).  I ran into Edward (another CTC participant) around mile 66 – we’d run together earlier, he’d gotten lost/wasn’t sure he was on the right trail, and I think we were each happy to see a friendly face in the heat.  We started up the 2500 foot, 3.6 mile climb in the noon-ish heat.  I went at what seemed like an appropriate speed – dog slow – and after 30 seconds he seemed to be way ahead of me.  Then he disappeared.  All my wet stuff – arm sleeves, bandana, hat – dried up and started heating me so I pulled them off/away as much as I could and let the sunburn start.  There was no shade.  The trail got steeper.  Then the flies started swarming – I felt something on my arm, brushed a fly away, and saw a trickle of blood where it had bitten me.  I lurched upward, swatting flies away constantly, and then saw some people.  Except that when I got closer it was bushes/branches that looked like people.  Then it was cars – more bushes.  Then it was the kind of sign you’d see at the start of a trail – more bushes.  Then it was cows.  “Great, the hallucinations are starting already…”  After a very very long time, I walked into the next aid station (Cold Springs, mile 70), dragged a chair into the shade under the tent, asked for ice for my sleeves and hat, and sat down.  Within a few minutes I was surrounded by runners in the 100k event who had reached their turnaround point and were recovering in the tent.  Some excellent volunteers tended to us.  “Do you have Ginger Ale?  My stomach is off.”  “We’re out of that but we have Sprite.”  “What about Coke?”  “We only have Sprite.”  I listened to crew people give their runners bad advice.  (“You need to take sodium capsules”.)  I quietly told those runners to go by taste – if salty stuff tastes good, eat it, if not, don’t.  I sat and recovered and told myself I was done with all the big climbs.  The volunteers continued to ply me with food, drink, and ice.  I knew I had a hot afternoon ahead of me, but I was still ok timewise.  Earlier I had thought I might finish in daylight, and that seemed less likely which was depressing, but I was ok.  And I finally got into my drop bag and collected my (third) water bottle for keeping myself wet.

I set off down the hill, back towards Poison Oak Alley.  The heat was oppressive.  I walked down runnable sections, expecting to get passed by hordes of 100 mile and 100k runners.  I reached The Alley and pushed through the poison oak.  I was impressed at how far someone could fall down the loose steep sections.  I marveled at Break-A-Leg Hole.  I started drinking from my dowsing bottle because the others were dry.  I stumbled into Red Gate aid station at mile 77.  I eyed the cots.  I threw up.  I realized that it was touch-and-go whether I’d get to my next drop bag (mile 90) and lights before it got dark and lamented my decision not to put a drop bag with lights at the mile 83 aid station.  That decision seemed reasonable at the time – either I’d know at mile 70 (spare lights in a bag) that I was in trouble or I’d have plenty of time to make it to my lights at mile 90.  Wrong.

Heading down the  5 miles of dirt road back to Live/White Oak, I knew I had to run as much as possible to give myself time to get to my lights.  In spite of knowing this, I still ran for short sections and then walked for long sections.  Time slipped away.  I was seeing things.  I might have to draft behind someone with a headlamp for a little while when night fell.  I had stupidly booked my flight for 8 hours after the race cutoff.  Not only was I going to be running into night time, I was going to have to drive 2-3 hours to LAX after 2 nights with little or no sleep.

Amazingly, through those 13 miles of death march – from mile 70 to mile 83, I was passed only twice, by two 100k runners.  No one in the 100 mile race had passed me in 4 1/2 hours.  I arrived at Live/White Oak aid station at mile 83, in roughly 12th place, with 11 hours to go to 17 miles, walking just fine and even able to run some.  Seemingly everyone else was struggling as much as I was.

I sat in the aid station, contemplating my options and thinking about the tradeoffs of a 2am finish (or later).  A runner died about a year ago in a car crash driving home after a race, probably from falling asleep.  I was also concerned about getting to my lights – but someone kindly offered me a spare flashlight.  And I didn’t have any warm clothing in my drop bag – probably not a problem given that it probably wouldn’t cool off, but also one of those things that occasionally causes people to have to rescue a stupidly-unprepared person on the trails.

While I was sitting there, a few other 100 mile runners finally showed up.  One mentioned that the previous aid station/Red Gate had run out of both drinks and ice.  Another was a woman who seemed really determined.  One was Ace “I never get blisters” who offered me his flashlight and practically begged me to walk the last 17 miles with him (for my sake, not his).  It seemed unlikely I’d speed up, we seemed to be decimating the aid stations, it wasn’t cooling, and the middle-of-the-night finish seemed more and more likely.

After thinking about it for 30 minutes, I dropped out of the race and the California Triple Crown.  Missing a flight seemed like something that was solvable.  But it seemed like I could easily end up as a sleep-deprived runner stupidly driving a car – no cell service, no crew, 2 nights with no sleep, no place to stay (my campground was full and I had to check out of my cabin), 30 minutes driving to Santa Barbara after the race before I could start to figure out anything, with a less-than-functional brain.  I was very sick and roomless in Kenya once, and had 2 nights without sleep at UTMB.  I know how that goes.  It probably would have worked out, but it might not have.  Not to diminish others’ accomplishments, but SB100 and the CTC are just runs and the risk didn’t seem worth it then.  Or even now, when the DNF regret is at its worst.

Someone gave me a ride back to the start.  A couple miles down the road, I noticed the very determined woman running with her pacer back towards the aid station where I had just seen her.  I realized she had missed the turn uphill a couple hundred yards out of the aid station, and was in the process of completing 4-5 bonus miles.  When I got back to the start, I heard someone say “you need to re-mark the turn to …  there are no markers there now” and I wondered if I would have been aware enough to turn in the right place without a marker.

I went back to the cabin, washed off with Tecnu (mostly successfully, although surprisingly I have some poison oak rashes where my body was covered by my shorts), and slept.  The schedule on the website said finishers awards would be given out at 9am Sunday, so I drove back down around 8am to get my drop bags and say congrats/goodbye to a couple people.  When I arrived there were about 8 people still there and one race director was leaving for home.  I asked a runner about the awards ceremony and he said “everyone is tired and left”.  I told the other race director I had a 2pm flight and he told me I needed to hit the road right away because traffic would get bad soon.  So I left, and still struggled to stay awake while driving after a night of sleep.

As usual, I  learned more from “failure” than from my successes.  Here’s a litany of lessons:

Don’t book my flight home assuming I will finish well before the cutoff.  It’s not guaranteed I would have covered the last 17 miles, but my optimistic scheduling probably cost me the finish.  An evening flight would have given me time to sleep enough, but the next day would have been better.  All the other mistakes I made were a problem, but this one thing – not setting it up so I could easily take advantage of all the time if needed – was the critical mistake.

Evening start times create a lot of extra challenges.  It’s likely you will be out for at least part of a second night.  This means having multiple sets of lights and clothing in drop bags on the course, since it’s hard to predict when you will be where and what you will need.  I had 4 sets of lights on the course, but I didn’t have one where I really needed it.  Take advantage of all the options, just in case and especially if you don’t have a crew (see below).  The other approach is to carry everything you’ll need – as we were required to do at UTMB.  That’s hard on a hot day though, and interferes with cooling, so I think hot weather means lots of drop bags.

A side effect of needing all this stuff is that it’s easier to arrive by car than airplane – you can take everything you might need vs. having to fit it into luggage.  I know of someone who was about to punch his ticket to the Kona Ironman, except that the airline lost his luggage/gear on the way to the event.  To avoid that risk, I took everything in one carry-on.  But with weather variability and needing multiple sets of things, the carry-on was jammed and not really enough.  Next time I will pack absolute-must-haves into my carry-on and check nice-to-haves I might be able to replace in an emergency into checked luggage.  There’s still more room for things to go wrong when flying before the race than if I drove, but there’s always going to be some risk of stuff happening.

Another challenge with evening starts is that the sleep-deprivation problems start early in the race.  I knew this from UTMB and it wasn’t a surprise this time.  But it makes it likely I’ll slow more in the later miles than I might otherwise think.  Maybe it was the heat or the lack of sleep or both, but I slowed a lot (as everyone did).  It also makes it so you finish the race in worse shape.  It’s very different to run for a day and finish a little while after the sun comes up than to be up for a day, run all night and the next day and into the next night …  and then have to cope with logistics.

The evening start/hard course/36 hour time limit means that what appears to be a “one day” race really is a 5 day trip for someone flying in.  Flying in the morning of the race is risky, and you don’t want to arrive late the night before because you need sleep, so the trip in ends up happening ~36 hours before the race (I got this part right).  Then it’s a day after the cutoff before you can be sure of being functional enough to leave (oops).  A 5 day commitment for something like Western States seems totally reasonable.  4 days for Santa Barbara already seemed like a lot – I was traveling alone, I didn’t know anyone, the race activity is limited pretty much to two hours before the race through the race cutoff, I had no other reason to be there – but I should either have set aside 5 days or skipped it.

Unless you have reason to know otherwise, it’s good to plan to be more self-sufficient and less-dependent upon aid stations.  I did carry some Tailwind and gels, but not enough to make all of my own liquid nutrition.  If I had it to do over, I would have taken enough Tailwind to cover the whole race (meaning still more stuff for my luggage).  If I had run the race before, or had friends saying “the aid stations are very well stocked”, I’d go lighter.  But this is a newer race and it’s the kind of race that might run out of some things because it’s hard to get everything 100% perfect.  (I also think the race organizers were caught off guard by the relentless heat/lack of cooling fog, as we all were, so it got more grim than usual.)

One thing that would have made a huge difference with things above is having crew there for me.  With crew, I could have had all the ice I needed, headlamps when I needed them, cold drinks, moral/emotional support, and help with logistics when they became a problem.  I would have helped other runners by having my own stuff, vs. basically competing with them for things like ice and drinks.  I haven’t used crews much, and feel uneasy about causing people to traipse around after me just because I want to do a race.  I thought I didn’t have crew at UTMB – and no one followed me around – but as I sat at mile 83 contemplating dropping on Saturday, I realized Janet was there at the end of UTMB to take care of me when I was 50-hours-awake-incompetent.  I wasn’t going to have that at 2am for Santa Barbara.  I won’t do an evening start/hard/remote race without crew in the future.

I made the usual variety of mistakes during the race – forgetting to ice parts of me, not eating at an aid station, etc..  No disasters and probably comparable to my other races.  But collectively the mistakes probably cost some time and helped push me into being stressed about the after-race.  There’s always room for improvement with in-race execution of all the non-running stuff.  And some of the mistakes are probably due to the evening start/pre-planned exhaustion.

I didn’t try asking for help on the post-race logistics at the aid station.  It seems unlikely that a solution would have materialized – how do you get a sleeping person and their rental car 2+ hours down the road?  But I did mention my headlamp problem and a spare flashlight eventually appeared.  Maybe if I had spoken up about the LAX concern, something magic might have happened.  E.g. someone’s crew member drives me and my car to a drop-off in Santa Barbara, and then I pile in the crew car for a ride down the road.  It would have taken some luck and a less-exhausted person’s creativity, but as Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Finally, I think I made a big mental mistake just before the race in terms of thinking about what “finishing” meant.  I talked to a friend about this after one of his races – he had two big goals in mind for a 24 hour race, one seemed to become unachievable during the race, he focused on the other and made it, and then basically quit.  Afterwards he realized the other goal was still achievable when he quit, and he couldn’t explain quitting.  My theory is that after focusing on one exhausting goal for a long time, it’s very hard achieve that and then move the finish line/set a new goal.  If you keep the two goals in mind from the start, then you can keep going after you finish one.  It might not seem that different, but I think it’s huge mentally.  “I’m done!!!  Well, I guess I’m not…” is different than “One milestone down, one more to go.”  Back to my situation, a couple weeks before the race I projected it would take me 29+/-4 hours to finish.  Traveling after a 29 hour race wasn’t going to be awesome but it would work.  25 hours would be great.  I didn’t want to think about the consequences of a 33 hour finish – so I didn’t.  Until I had to… about 24 hours into the race when 31-33 hours seemed likely (and possibly optimistic).  After focusing on one finish line (100 miles) for days/months, the finish “line” seemed to move out suddenly – finish the run and then somehow stay awake long enough to get to LAX safely and on my plane.  I could have made that mental shift prior to the race, and if I had done that I might have done some things (arrange back-up lodging, forewarn Janet I might be calling her in a stupor asking for help, possibly even change my flight) to make it seem less daunting.

As I said, I probably learned more from not finishing than I have from the most of the races I’ve finished.


I give Santa Barbara 100 a conditional recommendation.  The race is challenging, it’s beautiful, it’s surprisingly remote for a race just a few miles from the city, the trail was well marked, the volunteers were great, and it’s reasonably well organized.  It’s a great option for people within driving distance – the logistics are easier and it’s easier to travel with the crew/support that would make a difference.  For someone like me, traveling farther, it’s a pretty significant investment of time and money – even more than I planned for, as explained above.  Given that, I’d want to weigh it against other remote races I’d like to do.   E.g. although I have unfinished business at Santa Barbara, I’m more likely to return to San Diego than Santa Barbara – no nighttime start, ample aid, no Poison Oak Alley – in other words just as much fun/challenge but easier logistics and less cost in terms of time and money before and after the race.  (I see from the interweb that my poison oak rashes should be gone in just 5-12 short days.  Yay…)  And there are plenty of great races closer to where I am, e.g. IMTUF and the Bear among others, that are even more wild and yet easier logistically.  If I were headed to Santa Barbara anyway at race time, I’d love to give it another shot.  And I might take Janet to run the first part of the trail sometime when we visit our son.

Congratulations to all who did finish, especially the CTC folks who did it 5 weeks after San Diego.  That was really tough.

On to Angeles Crest.  And the Purple Poodle Dog Bush.


6 miles from downtown Santa Barbara.






  1. Nice write up. It sounds like an experience. Sorry about the DNF. Lots to think about here.

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