Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Angeles Crest Endurance Run

I put my hands to my head.
"I can't do this"
My heart beats faster.
"Why did I tell my friends that I was going to finish in 22 hours"
"I don't even think I can finish in 26 hours"

"SHIT, I CAN'T..." an alarm goes off in one of the adjacent rooms. It snaps me out of it and I sit up. My heart starts to calm down. My mind slowly starts to clear as I prepare for a LONG day.

Derick Gallegos, Jack Rosenfeld, Kara Clark and I get into the car to get some fresh coffee. I still need to check in one last time and participate in Hal's prayer before the race begins. I feel better now as I am surrounded by friends and comrades. I walk around the start and position myself in an area that will give me the best opportunity to chase my goal.

The countdown begins and we all take off. I decide to take the opportunity to push near the front before the first steep climb to the Acorn trail. I had initially told myself that I would hike all the ups until I hit the top of Baden-Powell. Why???? because at Sean O'Brien 50 miler I talked to Tommy Neilson about how fast he hikes up the climbs and in the discussion he talked about his techniques at AC100. I finally hit the trail head to Acorn trail and saw Tommy start to run the ups; MY PLAN HAS CHANGED. I start to run the ups and hike the sections that look too steep. I pass Joe Nakamura on the way to the top of the first climb and I knew that I would see him later on since he is a strong runner. I continue my pace and decide that I will hold this pace no matter what, I just hope my crew doesn't get mad at me and tell me to slow down. All of a sudden I'm running behind Ruperto and Schulte.

uhmmm YEAH... this is definitely NOT a good sign.
I should slow down.
Noooo...Fuck it...I'm going to stick to this pace and just work harder in the end if I have to.

I hear the cheers as I run into Inspiration Aid Station. There are tons of people as I quickly scan for my crew. They hand me a bottle and send me on my way to the next aid station. I wonder what their thoughts are as I came into the aid station.

I'm not going to lie...I was super stoked to see all my friends, their smiles and hear their words of encouragement.

I run most of the section to Vincent's Gap Aid Station. I still feel good, but how I handle this next section will determine my race. If I run it too fast then I will blow up and have a horrible second half or I can give it too much respect and waste too much time. Once again I hear all the cheers and see my friends as I cross over the 2 Highway. I see my crew, they take my bottle, give me words of encouragement and put a freshly dipped in cold ass water hydration pack on my back.

I start the hike up Baden-Powell and start to eat the watermelon and nutter butter cookies that my crew gave me. I only eat half and decided to eat the rest as I get near the top. With my new plan I start to run the sections that look runnable. I get behind Andy Pearson and Shulte. FACK!!!!!! doubt starts to cross back into my mind as I should not be near these two, especially Andy. WHY?????????WHY am I behind these two and still feel like I hadn't pushed it too hard. I eventually make a risky decision to pass them in hopes that I did not regret this move later on. I continue up the climb and run into Dominic Grossman, who is either having a rough moment or I AM GOING TO FAST TOO SOON. I justify to myself that Dom is having a rough moment and pass him to continue the climb. I finally hit the top of Baden-Powell and start the long descent towards Islip Saddle Aid Station. It wasn't long before Dom came screaming past me; the back draft nearly threw my off the trail.
9 lbs down..What??

I enter Islip Saddle and walk up to the scale. I expected to be a couple pounds under, but I was shocked when the guy from the Ultra Medical Team (UMT) told me that I was 9 pounds down. My initial response was the all to typical "No Way," but  there it was in front of me. We both stared at each other, I was waiting for him to lecture me or hold me, but then Derick told me to get off the scale and get moving. I preferred Derick's response so I got off the scale put on my pack and continued.

I started the climb up Mt Williamson and had planned to take this section as I did at Baden-Powell, fortunately a friend reminded me to calm down and take it easy. He knows how to run 100's very well so of course I drop into a steady hike. Not long after I start to feel the effects of the water loss as my calves start to cramp up. I've been in this situation before so I just start to drink more water and my legs start to feel better. Rupert passes me and encourages me to keep going. I must not have looked so well at this point, but I reassured him that I had no intentions of dropping. Thankfully I had made the necessary corrections to enter Eagles Roost Aid Station feeling better.

The next section was the dreaded Cooper Canyon. I feared this section as I was told by my Coaches that it would be the hottest section of the course. Cooper canyon is exposed and the air is stagnant which leads to a HOT climate. I stopped at the last creek before the climb out into Cooper Canyon. I take my shirt off and dip it into the creek and put it back on. All of a sudden I feel this cool breeze pass by me. Today was definitely not going to be like any other AC100 race. Cooper Canyon was not hot at all. With the cool breeze I knew I could push the pace more and made it to Cloudburst unscathed.

I would have a smooth and somewhat eventful run from Cloudburst to Chilao Aid Station. During this section I would reminisce of all the training runs I previously did with my friends. I pass through three points relatively quickly and mentally prepare myself for the last major climb to Mt. Hilyer. I hit the asphalt road and my diaphragm decides to get tired; my breathing becomes labored so I decide to walk a little more. Jorge passes me and basically glides up this section. Dammit!!! I decide to pull a 1 (walk):1 (run) minute ratio, which turned to a 1:2 and a 1:3. My breathing is still labored, but at least I'm moving better.

Still 9 lbs down..BOOO!!
I coast into Chilao and  jump onto the scale hoping for a better outcome. Once again the UMT guy and I had a staring contest as I was still 9 pounds down. The good part was that I hadn't lost anymore weight, but I really needed to manage my water intake better. I made a quick shirt and shoe change for the last half. Jack put on his luna sandals and got ready to pace me to Chantry. I did question his choice, but knew he would be fine. He better be fine cause I was not going to wait for him. Ironically the only issue he had with the lunas was on the least technical, not really even technical, downhill section after Shortcut Aid Station...irony is amazing.

By now Andy and his pacer McCool caught us before the climb to Newcombs Saddle. I was actually surprised that I had been in front of Andy for this long. He did pass me at Eagles Roost, but I somehow passed him in....I don't even know when. After Newcombs I used Andy and his pacer to dictate my pace to Chantry. I did expect them to drop me, but I was somehow able to keep up. I even used Andy's pacer to decide when to eat a gel or a salt pill. Before we got near Chantry I asked Rob to remind me to start drinking my water, I was not going to be 9 pounds or more under 155. Fortunately Andy reminded me as we started the hike up to Chantry and I slowly (understatement) kill my bottle of water.

We eventually hit Chantry Aid Station which is the last time I will be weighed. I jump on the scale and it's UMT Victoria. I met her when we worked an aid station at Old Goats. She stares at me as she warns me that I am....5 pounds under weight. I internally scream with JOY, it's about f'n time I got my sh!t together. I sit down and argue (like a CHILD) with my crew who is forcing me to eat chicken noodle soup; I did not want the noodles...dammit. I eat some of the noodles so I could go with Derick and finish the last 25 miles.

I purposely asked Derick to help me with the last 25 miles. Downhill running is definitely not my greatest skill, but I have been diligently working on it. Derick sets a good rhythm on the lower winter creek trail. We ran the majority of this section and hiked all of the upper winter creek trail. I took a DEEP breath once we hit the Wilson toll road. This is it, from here to the finish is what I trained for. I am slightly bummed as this is also the section where I expect numerous runners to pass me. Derick and I try to coast down Wilson and I quickly realize that I should have been training on running downhills during the night....THIS IS SOO HARD (TWSS).  I struggle as I try to find my rhythm to Idlehour Aid Station. It feels like forever and then all of a sudden I see my friends. I'm stoked to see them and I can feel the same vibe from them. I haven't seen most in a long time so I want to stay and chat, but my desire to finish the race by now (actually RIGHT NOW) got us out and into idlehour.

There was a lot of hiking/running/hiking in this section to Sam Merrill. I feel like Andy is catching up and ask Derick if we can start running more of the ups toward Sam Merrill. Derick basically tells me to chill out and save my legs for the downs. I stick with Dericks plan and hike to Sam Merrill. That last mile to Sam Merrill feels abnormally long, as if I'm on an escalator that is going in the wrong direction. We finally hit Sam Merrill, refill our water, chat a bit and get on to the finish.

Everything hurts now and I am releasing the pain vocally. Derick keeps a formidable clip as my body struggles to keep up. He warns me of every section that I need to be careful on. I start to kick basically every rock as my legs get heavier. I want to QUIT running and start walking more, but I look forward and see the effort that Derick and my crew gave to get me here. I continue to release the pain vocally and even screaming at times.

Derick and I finally get to El Prieto trail which is one of the best signs since you are basically done. Okay..NOT really as this section just doesn't seem to end. It also has these pavers that hurt EVERYTIME I step on it. Brian Fuerst would later inform me that they are for the bikes to prevent them from rutting out the trail. My body HURTS and I feel like I can't move. We eventually hit the last section of ASPHALT. I try to remember my training in the 'Hurt Locker," I posture up and start kicking my legs back, but I feel like I am going nowhere. My friends would later tell me that we were flying into the finish line, but I totally felt like the tortoise (think Looney Tunes).

Photo by Bernard Falkin
With the help of my crew I finally made it to the finish within my goal time of 22 hours. It's amazing to think that earlier that morning I was scared to think that I could not do it. I really do owe it to Kara, Jack and Derick for keeping me up on my nutrition. I also owe my friends endless gratitude for helping me train to get ready for AC100. My friend Heidi also showed up with one of my favorite dogs; Heidi drove an hour and a half to watch me finish at 3:00 in the MORNING.

I am beyond stoked with my performance. I am also dumbfounded when I look at the people who I finished with....SERIOUSLY...never in my wildest dreams.

Jack, Me, Kara and Derick
I am still waiting for Derick's alarm to go off.

Turning RED as Hal puts me on the spot

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