Wednesday, October 6, 2010
What is One Hundred Miles:
• One Inch equals 100 miles on some maps….
• Long island is 100 miles long
• If the average adult stride is 2-2.5 ft. it would take between 210000 and 260000 strides to walk 100 miles
• 425 laps around a standard soccer field = 100 miles
• Approx 1,034,449 one dollar bills laid in a row
• Ruth’s and Mantle’s 500 ft. homeruns would have to be hit over and over 1056 times; that’s over 60 games worth of total swings (not just one swing per game) and they’d all have to be home runs!!.
Mind blowing to say the least and yes a little ADHD writing on my part; but hey I just ran 100 miles, I did it! And yes I’m still in denial.
As I ran around the Parking lot to the finish line running to the sounds of cheers and encouragement from all of my friends I instinctively jumped symbolic of the first moon landing over the finish line landing solidly with both feet and smiling …. Just smiling; it was symbolic enough to stick the landing. It was an epic test for me, one that I had attempted twice already and with this one…the landing stuck.
But first let’s rewind 30 hrs and change, yeah that’s right….30 hrs and change.
Prepared?, I was, prepared as anyone, any average person, any average person with a wife 3 kids and a crazy job could ever be. I packed and I packed again, I hit the local sports store enough times to list its running inventory backwards in alphabetical order! Many times I’d gone back there searching for that one missing item I needed…but I didn’t know what or where it was.. ( Ha Ha ) (crazy unstable laugh).
I had approached the start line of a 100 mile race twice before and with each it had gone unaccomplished, but there had been progression. This time I had checked off all the mental requirements and I now truly felt physically ready to complete my first 100 mile trail run.
At least I thought my strategy this time was brilliant!, I’ve been a victim of over excitement during my recent races and this time I had a plan to slow myself down, weight….yeah that’s right, I’m just going to fill my hydration pack up with stuff! (another crazy unstable laugh), fast forward to race start: I’m lugging around my pack and two water bottles, defending my decision to my fellow runners as I slowly begin to reconsider my crazed strategy……3,2,1 too late now; and I stride off the start line. My Garmin is my Judge, the pack is my penalty I think as run along the pavement to the beginning of the single track trailhead….
The San Juan loop from Blue Jay Campground is just spectacular, with its wide variety of scenery and soft single tracks I glide down the trails and through the tall trees. I begin to sink into a comfortable pace to fit my target of 13.5 M/H but it’s not easy, I just can’t seem to slow down that much I’ll be content with 11’s for now . . . maybe 10’s…. I’m trying.
As I continue my run downhill its gets technical with boulders appearing amongst the mix of underbrush, I begin passing people slowly but consistently; I feel comfortable, not straining at all….so I continue. By the 10 mile mark I’m running in 6th place and as I continue to the 20 mile mark and complete my uphill portion of San Juan and back into Blue jay I’m still in 6th. At Blue jay we the opportunity to pass by our vehicles, it’s here that you can have a brief reprieve by stopping by your car, exchanging gear or refilling if you have that ability; it’s also here that I had a chance to forego my extra weight and continue on with only two handhelds. Strangely though I had begun to feel comfortable with the weight and the continued adjustments to the pack, for some reason the distractions were keeping my mind off the strain of the run so I chose to keep the pack for now (it was still morning, still cool and I still have that crazed laugh).
The path from Blue jay toward the Main Divide is fairly commonplace if you’ve run any previous trail runs through this area, it briefly winds itself around some campgrounds using a walking trail and spills out onto a paved incline that leads up to the entrance to the Main Divide Road then on and up to the Trabuco Aid station. As I traveled up the exposed Main Divide I was alone, working my way to the Trabuco Aid station I was now in 5th place and was at least an hour ahead of my projected pace chart; way to fast I thought. Bottles filled, I continued on….down Trabuco Road and toward the Shaded Holy Jim Aid station. It’s hard to believe that in the area of Trabuco Mesa a 60 foot whale skeleton was found and sea life was everywhere…..and now toward Trabuco canyon 70,000,000 years ago lived a huge abundance of shellfish. Man..shaking my head, Just a few of the many crazy thoughts allowed to enter your mind while running.
Trabuco is a beautiful road but it comes at a price, the journey is often very rocky , not boulder rocky but Trail shoe rock guard testing rocky. The road morphs from trees and shade to shale and sun then back again only to be rewarded at the lower portions by a soft and fern laden runner happy trail; I was glad to share this portion with my friend and experienced 100 miler Bill Ramsey whom I had also shared a journey I’ll never forget when we ran the Grand Canyons R2R2R together last October. He was looking as strong as ever and quite lean lately, must be that new homemade beer diet.
We ran into the Holy Jim Aid Station together; geared up and continued on the out and back to see another friend Baz Holly who is manning an aid station at the turn around. To the buzzing of remote control planes we approached Baz’z familiar aid station trailer and were joyfully greeted! It’s my good mate Larry! And our discussions continue…, it seems almost as if I wasn’t even in the midst of a 100 miler; I feel comfortable here and if there was a beer around I’d just sit down and hang out (Ha Ha), but alas, my journey continues as I head out again to meet the grueling but beautiful Holy Jim Trail and Santiago Peak leg of my run.
Beyond the Holy Jim Aid station up the trail I run into a few hikers and spectators all asking what we’re up to … I tell them about the 100 mile race and leave them wide eyed and stunned as they wish me well, standing in the middle of the trail… man, I hope they come out of it before they get run over by some wild mountain biker.
Holy Jim is yet another beautiful trail that runs up from the valley and can either link back to the main divide toward Santiago Peak or you can follow it toward Holy Jim Falls which during the wet season can be a nice getaway from the norm, but today isn’t the norm…not hardly. The falls named after "Cussin' Jim" Smith or “Holy Jim" as he was renamed reach upward into the sky ……Another bit of history marks this place: the last wild California Grizzly -- an old bear named "the honey thief" -- was killed at the mouth of Trabuco Canyon after robbing beehives here in 1907. But for us its all the way up to Santiago Peak towards Maple Springs and Silverado Canyon and that’s only the halfway point. I catch up again with Bill Ramsey midway up Holy Jim and we both ascend toward the Top and the Santiago Aid Station; and man I was looking forward to some cold ice water.
The most amazing thing for me at this race was the support, Steve Harvey and his crew of accomplished trail runners have organized this race to its finest detail. My local club the SoCal Trail Headz were a force here along with The Bad Rats, Team InknBurn members and their Maple Springs Aid Station…everyone was amazing!
By the time I reached Santiago Aid Station I was overheated, with my heavy pack I had managed to climb both San Juan, Trabuco , Holy Jim and now Santiago and it was slowly having its effects, I was fatigued and knew why…..the heat was in summer conditions the sun had forgotten that its now fall and was beginning to blaze, without cover on these trails it could easily overcome those that aren’t prepared. It was a far cry from last year, my first attempt at 100 miles when the wind was howling, water was everywhere and when I spotted rain flowing upward alongside the Main Divide road. So here at the aid station I sat, and sat….with a hat filled with ice cubes I sat and drank, talking with friends and volunteers I felt myself come back, revived and soon I was ready again to go. As that time had passed I watched as others that were behind me caught up and with still 50 miles to go it was here that I found it.. contentment, keep your flow, race your pace, if it happens to be your day and the flow is good; then you’ll do well, if not, you’ll still finish and be content; and from this point forward….all was good. Once I reached the top of Santiago Peak I knew there was a large downhill from here, rocky dusty and exposed but still Downhill!. My legs were beaten at this point they just hadn’t found their second wind yet so I took the downhill easy knowing that Maple Springs Aid was just around the next corner….wait, maybe the next corner…the next? As I continued on I was greeted by Keith Swiatkowski and Micheal Campion they were both running side by side and hot on the tail of the 100k leader, with a quick hello and good luck they were gone…then with a few turns later I saw the tents set up along the divide at four corners and the top of Santiago road and with I smile I drove on. As I repositioned my pack, I knew that would be the last I’d see of it for some time good riddance, so much for the “Great Idea” of controlling my race speed in the beginning with weight. I took a long drink of warm water and trotted down the last section into Maple Springs to cheers and friends again!
Charlie Nickel had it set up, he was like the favorite uncle at the family BBQ during Forth of July …the one you like to hang out with, singing laughing and cooking up everything you can imagine!...as I waited there I heard requests for anything form hamburgers, cup of noodles to bacon…..and couldn’t resist so I indulged in some noodles (mostly liquid) . This was the Drop bags Station and I was looking forward to switching my shoes out and getting into a clean shirt, after a quick switch and once last drink of my soup I was off again dawning my headlamp for the upcoming nights run.
The Santiago downhill seemed to go on forever, I was moving at a quicker pace now and seemed to gain strength from the cooler air and darkness. After endless turns the dirt road turned to asphalt, at first it’s a relief from the rock consistency of the fire roads but then it growls at you and bites into your joints and hips as you run, 57 miles of dirt, then this……”just grind it out” I said; you’ve got a pacer waiting for you.
So there I was off my feet at the Santiago Aid Station, great company….great food, just chewing on a turkey and cheese roll getting a leg massage. Could stay here forever chatting with runners, some of which won’t be continuing on tonight; tough decision but safe, the road ahead up the switchback “Motorway” and out to the distant Weather dome in Blackstar is a tough one, it’s a 14 mile out and back and that’s after the “Motorway” climb. Its location’s very remote and any chance of a quick return should you decide to DNF is just a dream….. dreammmm dreammm…. Wait! I’ve gotta get outta here, getting to comfortable! So with my new teammate David Colwick I stepped back out into the darkness and continued up the dreaded motorway.
Somewhere around halfway up we’re greeted by eyes….big eyes…., out here you don’t really see them looking back at you so often. I hesitate and confirm with my pacer, “ upper right, in the bushes, ….are those eyes…” we cautiously continue up the single track, framing the eyes in our beams the whole way. As we came to a clearing in the brush I was able to identify our mysterious fan, a fox….sigh. Very cool, don’t see many of them out here when I run; and a lot better than the alternative. A short time later we’re greeted by another runner and pacer who had decided to DNF before they got too far, another runner down?, I’d seen quite a few of them drop and wasn’t sure where I stood anymore as far as position. When we arrived at the top of the motorway we were greeted by Scott Mills and company, they all made me feel at home and injected more “I can do this” into my veins via support and tomato soup…yum.
Back on my feet I was now running toward Black star canyon out-and–back, this was to be one of the hardest points for me hills are non-stop and by the time we reach the Weather dome I’m feeling fatigued but motivated, it’s been a long ride so far and it’s a beautiful night, the only thing I could have wished for was a moonless night full of stars. For now though I’m content with the flickering of the city lights far down below, so many people in deep REM, comfortably sleeping in their beds……they have no idea. (smile)
I spend 10 minutes at the Black star aid station, taking weight off my feet and feeling my body pounding in retaliation.
Once up, we run out from aid station and back towards Bedford and Scott Mills aid station, (as quick as possible) anything to get out of this dreaded loop. I’m feeling stronger now as we emerge from Black star and after a moments break on the cot we continue on to Bedford and our return to Santiago peak and the finish line.
We quickly pass Bedford peak and in the darkness the very oldest known exposed surface in the area, a drab cloak of ancient rock hanging on the brushy shoulders of Bedford Peak, called the "Bedford Formation". This 150,000,000 year-old outcropping, which straddles Orange and Riverside Counties, was brand new right in the middle of the reign of dinosaurs..very cool.
Our travels back from this point on were pretty consistent…run when you can, and walk to save your body. I had been feeling off for the last 25 miles and still couldn’t shake it but I was committed to finish and my stomach was just gonna have to deal with it. I felt good from here on out running into the aid stations and David was a great sport talking without any response from me; listening to him kept my mind off the pain and although at times I wanted to participate; I just couldn’t…I just hoped that he would understand.
We ran on and enjoyed the sunrise over the san jacinto mountain range, soaking in what we had accomplished so far. Time really wasn’t relative anymore as our consistent movement just began eating up miles and before I knew it we had crossed Santiago Peak and were now mid-way along the Main divide and close to finishing.
So close to being done, all that built up pain and fatigue my mind had been trying to block was ready to be handed back off to me physically , now I felt every rock that I had pounded over the last 95 miles, felt every hill…….I had to lay down and take the weight off….I’d look around as I ran for smooth areas, shady and cool that would suit me, a large flat cool rock would be great; if I could just convince David to let me lay there for awhile….
The shady spot came and David gracefully complied, he had been running all night with me and I’m sure a small break sounded reasonable; even though we were so close to closing the book on this race.
I laid down and again felt the pounding throughout my body, close my eyes and let the fatigue release with each pounding wave…it felt so good not to move… a few cars filled with friends came by, concerned for me just laying there they continued as David ushered them on after a brief explanation. Feeling sort of stupid just laying there I decided that we needed to just wrap this up, a cool couch sounds better than the soft trail dirt anyway; although it did feel pretty good….then again I’m sure that anything feels better than spending countless hours running a 100 mile trail race!
As we rounded the last peak at the Trabuco aid station I was happy to see Keira Henninger, all smiles and dancing around….I gave her a hug , looked at her and she must’ve saw it in my eyes….”you don’t need any more water, your good to go….you just wanna get off this damn mountain don’t ya” she said. With a nod I said “Hell yes” turned and started to run down the Main Divide to the finish line.
I ran hard all the way down, the pain had gone, I was set on just one thing now and it was right here, as I reached the finish line I jumped in the air and landed two feet together, like a moon landing, or a gymnast that knows they had given all they had, contentment and success. Everyone has tests and challenges that they face through their lives, we live from day to day and do what we can. For me, I carry this for myself, not a badge to brag about but a stepping stone.. a support to keep me strong in the face of the future; knowing that I did what I thought once I could not do.
It’s very early, geez did I even get to sleep?, I roll over to hit the button on my alarm and a wave of depression hits me…..1:45am! Are you kidding me! And being a good little running soldier I roll out of bed and prepare to head out the door with my gear.
Gary Hilliard had warned us time and time again about the detours heading to Mt.Wilson the start point of this year’s Mt. Disappointment endurance race; so time and time again I reviewed my pre-race time plan to see if I could squeeze a minute more sleep to no avail; early to a race is ok but late just plain sucks…
We arrived earlier than expected but the time seemed to pass very quickly and before we knew it the race was about to start. This year we had to park in an overflow parking area set aside from the main parking which was now being used as a staging area for helicopter landings and communication line repair work that was required due to the devastating wild fire last year. Luckily the food and sitting areas along with the bathroom hadn’t been burnt and were now useable for the race; hey!, we will take what we get.
At the start we assembled, energy in the air and friends all around we waited for good ole’ Gary and his loudspeaker to fill us in with the details in his own special way. He had done a lot this year for the race and the forestry service and every word deserved to be heard.
With my previous military experience I along with a few others marked the start of the race and we were off just like that!.... The beginning of the race as with last year began on asphalt and downhill on Mt.Wilson Road which is a temptation for most to just plain haul ass…and they did! As I passed a runner he commented how fast the pace was and complimented my friend Michelle at her speed. “you have to run your own race here, don’t get caught up with the pace” I said, brushing away my own advice as I pushed downhill averaging from medium 6’s to low 7’s.
As I grinded out the pavement portion of the downhill I came upon the first Check station/Aid station at Redbox, last year we turned left here into the beautiful forest; this year it was a sharp right along Redbox road the dirt fire road which continues its journey downward towards Westfork which holds the distinction as being the halfway mark as well as the last station before the dreaded Kenyon Devore uphill. Rounding a turn on Redbox Rd I caught a glimpse of Michelle Barton ahead of me, we ran alongside each other down the fire roads, past the line workers who all looked on and offered support and through the ravaged hillsides. We jumped over streams and bounded along as if on a typical relaxing training run listening to our various jumble of dare to be hip songs on our MP3s, the Westfork aid station greeted us with even more amazing people as we filled our bottles; the uphill were coming and Michelle was eager to get going, she was gone before I knew it to continue her own journey.
I pushed up the fire roads with the speed of a gazelle…..ok maybe a water logged elephant ha ha… and before long was passed by Sada Crawford, she looked strong and steady, I was taking in calories as she passed and shortly ahead she too was doing the same so I’ll take credit for her win due to the importance of the reminder of caloric intake prior to the hills we were about face…no...ok, I tried. At the top of the fire road at Newcomb we take a quick turn off the road which gets me excited thinking it’s back to the single tracks again!!! Nope, just another smaller fire road, the downhill of this section felt good, shaking my quads up and giving me a break from the uphill. At the Newcomb aid station I was told that I was now behind around 6 guys and two girls but with the big uphill’s coming I was going to just enjoy that while it lasted. I asked if that was the big long climb that I just ran up and the volunteer laughed, hmm..not sure at that point if I was trying to joke or not; but I laughed too…..sighed and kept running.
I read a lot about running uphill’s, maybe cause I need work on that portion of my running, lactic acid, quick small steps…..bla bla…I need an escalator!, that’s what I need! The long uphill had begun and it was the misleading type, not just a continuous grade; it had teeth. At some points it was considerably steeper than others but it just continued on and on. I realized that my initial quad pounding debut to this new course was now catching up to me..Dang!, I’m such a sucker for a downhill… and I began to slow, content with just forward progress.
Then they came, one after another, all my friends Mike Campian, Rudy Montoya, Mark Dorman and of course Keithski. “What’s up man”, “How ya doin?” “Good, Good, Great, Good” I said one after another; because I was, and I felt good, I did..I swear, crazy I know; that aside from just seeing my INKnBURN teammates and friends of course.
Ahead in the opposite direction I was happy to see Andy Kumeda, Todd Hiskey, Wendy Barth, Sharon Pevsner, and Marisa Wilment running strong on their own training run down from Newcomb; so many friends way out here…I love this sport!
There was a point mid way along the Edison uphill that I looked up and saw a trail ahead of me, it looked as if it carried up along the communication line poles at an incredible angle, super steep and then carried back down and around…. “There’s no way that’s the trail, is that the saddle” I thought as I strained to see movement of runners struggling up that impossible hill, but couldn’t see any. I continued to run, trying to verify the upcoming trail, in full denial of what I saw. Then I looked up and saw it, the next aid station, perched high on the trail ahead of me to the left above some sharp switchbacks…the trail I had seen earlier was only the maintenance road for the poles themselves, relieved I ran on…I don’t have any climbing ropes with me anyways.
I saw both Charlie Nickels of INKnBURN and Badwater Ben near the top of Newcomb taking photos of the runners and with a few readjustments and a large smile I picked up the pace as I approached them for my glamour shots; I was still smiling as I continued to the Aid station on shortcut.
The Foothill flyers were hosting this aid station and they did a great job, they were friendly and I was greeted immediately; man I love ultra aid stations and all the great volunteers in this sport. With bottle filled, some watermelon, soda and gummies I was gone “44 out” I said as I jogged away.
The trek back from the 21 mile mark was interesting, until now I haven’t seen too much actual trail – in fact, it had been all fire road, I was excited to set my Brooks onto some good trail I then turned off the fire road with a child’s anticipation.
As I’m running down the hillside in Shortcut Canyon I’m reminded of the desert, the soft dirt beneath my feet, the downhill feels good and my pace increases as I weave back and forth dodging the underbrush and plants that extend over the trail, the trail is thin and I’m constantly looking out for the one plant that will trip me and send me over the edge into the canyon. With the devastating wildfires clearing the vegetation, the rain took advantage and ripped the hillsides apart covering the existing trails with muddy landslides and debris… it was here that I could seem to appreciate the extreme work that was done to allow us to run. The cut out trails were just wide enough to run and I could feel my feet in some spots moving it downward there were a few areas here that seemed to sweep you away causing you to high step quickly to avoid skiing down the steep hill – rocks and dirt in tow. Like an army of heavy pavement rollers today’s runners were toughening up this new trail for future hikers and runners alike and that made me feel good.
Although we’ve been following the river, we now enter the river bed itself, strewn with rocks and boulders. The trail here seems to evaporate and it’s now an adventure run as you attempt to spot the next flag or calk mark ahead, seeking out footprints of those before you or movement ahead of you to help guide you along.
Before long you find yourself at the last aid station, you refill your bottles, take in some energy and cool yourself down, ahhh! Many people were tempted here but many were stronger than I, the ice devil got me, he sat me down and poured ice water over my head; covered me with his icy hand towels and I was trapped in his web! I don’t know how much time passed, seconds, minutes, hours…. It took a few runners and Greg Hardesty and his ultra lady, the beautiful Marla Hernandez to pull me out of his trance. “gotta go!” I said as I broke free from his grasp and began to run up towards the finish line; one crazy hill to go…
The last stage was a blur, I remember last year hitting the wall here and was happy that it didn’t happen. I worked my way up to the finish on Mt.Wilson spotting Dean Dobberteen driving home, he’s a stud runner and honestly a great guy, after a brief congratulations to each other I was off to cheers from friends and another Mt.Disappointment finish. I’ve learned a lot since last year’s run at Mt.Disappointment but this year’s lesson wasn’t worth the price….fires suck and those that are irresponsible with or cause them suck even more!
The environment, the wilderness, the trails, the volunteers, the line workers..they don’t deserve what the fire has left them. Its compassion and teamwork, it’s those that are willing to sweat and sacrifice their own time for the benefit of others that I want to thank personally for the opportunity that you gave me to run this race once more.
And a special thanks to Gary Hilliard the gladiator behind this race resurrection – amazing job my friend, it won’t be forgotten.