Friday, August 5, 2011

2011 Angeles Crest Re-Cap

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Press On - Calvin Coolidge

You'll find this quote in the AC race book, and by the end of the race you'll understand a little bit better what Calvin was talking about.  I can't believe that the race is over.  I am nearly moved to tears just thinking about my experience over the weekend.  Every inspirational quote, everything that my coach Jimmy Dean has told me, everything that I've read about ultra-running, everything that I believe about the human will, everything that I wanted to confirm this weekend was confirmed.  I am content.  I am so utterly content.

Almost exactly a year ago I ran the San Francisco Marathon.  That was my second marathon, and training for it was when I discovered the Coyotes.  Garrett from Top-to-Top had suggested I run with them to get some hill training in since SF is so hilly.  Well, since then I have gone from novice to very experienced novice.  I have run another marathon, 2 50k races, a 50 mile race and now one of the most difficult 100 mile mountain races in the country.  Holy Shit, Dude!  Definitely not the traditional approach, but what a RIDE it's been.  My Aunt Sue gave me a copy of Born to Run last year.  It could've been for my birthday, or maybe just as a kind gesture when I was getting into running.  Not important why.  Reading about all of the trail running and the incredible feats in that book inspired me.  The combination of this book and of running with the Coyotes lead me down this path, and since I began it has been such an amazing journey.  I still can't believe I ran 100 miles.

I saw Jimmy last year up in San Francisco at the Marathon expo (Kate was running - she ended up being 3rd woman) and he said good luck in the race.  After the race was over he congratulated me, I knew I had a lot to learn and wanted to improve my running.  As soon as I got back to LA I contacted him about training.  Although I had improved my time over LA I wanted to do more and better.  As I hung with the Coyotes more, I became FB friends with Dom and Katie and some other Coyotes who were running 100s, and started reading blogs and such.  Well, I guess that is when I started "drinking the kool-aid" as Jimmy calls it.  I ran Bulldog 50k and a week later watched Jorge and Dom finish AC in the middle of the night.  After that, I decided that I wanted to run 100 miles.  Since then, every running step I have taken has been for the purpose of moving towards that goal.  I have had a FUCKING BLAST.  If you read this blog, you know how many wonderful things in my life have come out of my discovery of this sport and of the Coyotes.  I have developed such close friendships.  I have fallen in love with a beautiful lady.  I have fallen in love with the trails.  I mean JEEZ.  What more could I ask for?  For your role in my development as a runner and for creating this group, JIMMY DEAN, thank you!  Thank you so much!

So all of that said, take into account the weight of this race for me.  This has been my dream for almost a year.  An AMAZING year that I've this race on my mind.  For weeks leading up to this race I dreamed about it every night.  When I ran this race, for the first time in forever I was actually living the dream.  Living the ACTUAL dream.  This was IT.  IT was happening.  I can't remember wanting anything this bad, ever, and I can't remember working towards one thing this much for so long with so much focus.  The thing is, it didn't feel like work a lot of the time, because I was imagining the race when I was in the pool or on the bike.  Imagining myself flying through the mountain trails, my feet lightly caressing the single track trails as I climbed and descended over the peaks and through the canyons.  And when I ran this race last weekend, that's what I did (at least it felt that way).  For most of the race.  And when it hurt, which it did, A LOT, I remembered those day dreams and those projections and those hours I spent in the pool and on the bike toiling away to give my body the strength that I needed to live my dream.  This was one of the most MAGICAL experiences that I have ever ENDURED.  If that makes sense.

Basically, I have learned that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything that you want to accomplish if you are willing to work hard.  If you are determined.  If you are persistent.  If you BELIEVE in YOURSELF, OTHERS will BELIEVE in you too.  When I thank Jimmy and give him the credit he deserves for creating the inspiration and support group that I had to help me achieve my dream, he tells me that I am giving him too much credit.  That I did this myself, and that he just BELIEVED in me.  Well, however it went down, it went down.  I can't believe I did it. 

I'm going to break this race report up, because it will likely be longer than most will want/care to read.  First, I want to thank everybody.
Annie running 50 Miles.

ANNIE  - My wonderful, beautiful, loving and supportive girlfriend.  You helped me so much to prepare for this race.  You encouraged me and helped me get over my stress fracture.  You inspired me with your gutsy run at Leona.  You helped me so much to make sure I was on top of everything going in to this race so I didn't have anything to worry about once we got to Wrightwood.  You were the light at the end of my tunnel when I wasn't feeling good and your beautiful smile was so welcoming at every aid station.  You inspired me to be tough.

BEV - What an outstanding crew chief.  You made sure the right decisions were made and I felt so comfortable all day knowing you were in charge.  The ice in my wristbands kept me cool and I felt like every aid station you made sure I got what I needed.  You knew when to pamper me and knew when to send me out.  You did a great job and were so encouraging and supportive.  You made me feel great about the race I was running all day.  Thank you so much for your time and your leadership.  Your experience was invaluable.   If you hadn't kicked me out of Shortcut and Chantry, I would've stayed longer, guaranteed.

Mama with my niece Yasmine
MAMA - Thank you so much for coming out to see my race.  I love you so much, and to see you here at the aid stations gave me a reason to run strong and to be the strong person you taught me how to be.  I am so thankful for my life and for everything that I have, and you made it all possible.  Your love and support is what got me here in the first place.  Thank you for everything.

PEDRO - I couldn't wait to get to Chilao and run with you.  Thank you so much for helping me stay positive and for your encouragement on those climbs.  Running down that hill with you was so much fun and when you brought the race into perspective for me when we were climbing up Shortcut it game me something to be proud of and feel good about at a time when I was hot and not feeling so good about moving.  Thank you for running with me even though you were sick.  You really helped me stay focused and positive.

CRISPIN - Dude, thanks for helping me push it and remember to be tough.  Thank you for keeping my goals in sight and for pointing out the positives when I was so frustrated about my stomach.  Also, we crushed that climb from the creek up.  Seriously.  We crushed it, dude.  I was hoping we could make it to Chantry in 3 hours from Shortcut, and although my gut didn't let us, you helped me run strong even when I knew I wouldn't make it there by 10.  You inspired me to run that section from Newcomb to Chantry hard, and that really got my spirits up again.  Thank you so much.  The last .83 miles that my watch recorded on our section was at 8:25 pace.  Not bad for mile 75.  Thanks again buddy!

Silver Buckle at States for a tough-ass Mofo.
KEV - I knew that you would be the guy for the last 25.  Your kindness and your incredible attentiveness to my food/water/salt needs was ridiculous.  You were comforting but kept me moving, and you helped me remain strong and focused through the night.  I had confidence in you from the moment we walked out of Chantry, and you paced me like the great person I knew you were.  You put my needs before yours the entire time, and your selflessness inspired and inspires me regularly.  Thank you so much Kev.  You helped make this race so special.  I'm so happy to have had you there for those last 26 to share those moments.  How exciting and wonderful that was.

NICOLE -  Thank you so much for picking up my Mom and letting her stay with you!  That was so awesome and thoughtful and so helpful!  It really helped me out to not have to wait until later to get moving and I got a great night's sleep on Thursday because of that.  Thank you also for being so supportive out there!  CRMFR style.  REALLY AWESOME.

True Grit.
BROMAN-  You have been such a great training partner and friend over the last 8 months.  Thanks for dreaming with me and for encouraging me.  If we hadn't met I don't think I would've been nearly as ready for this race or been so comfortable in those mountains.  Those first few runs up Mt. Lowe set the tone for my training and having you there with me for the first 38 miles of this race made the time fly by like we knew it would.  I look forward to hundreds more miles with you, and I am so inspired by your will to keep going until you couldn't go any more.  I bet you crush the next one.

Jimmy at AC.  Way ahead of me.
JIMMY - Again, dude.  Couldn't have done it without you.

There are so many more people who I would like to thank for their help and their inspiration, but it would take forever.  Basically, if you've ever been encouraging of my running or of my exercising or of my path in general, thank you.  I couldn't be happier, and if you've been involved in my life then you're partially to blame!  Now on to the details of the run: 

The whole week before the race I tried to get all of my things together.  I had spoken with my crew and made a list of things I needed.  I had counted how many gels I would need and what food I should bring.  I made a list of the splits for 24 hour, 27 hour and 33 hour times.  I made a detailed race plan and sent it to my crew.  I dreamed at night about the race.  Sometimes good dreams, sometimes bad.  Always strange.  I tried to get as much sleep as possible.

Bev and Kate Martini Freeman (Mustaches.)
Coyotes and T.U.R.P.
Hooligans.  Sausage and real Mustaches.
I had booked a 3 bedroom cabin up in Wrightwood through a woman named Babs.  I guess that the Freemans had her info from somebody they knew - possibly Tom Nielsen or Andy Kumeda.  Anyway, I'd booked the cabin a few weeks before the race and the week before was trying to get logistics figured out still about when people would come up.  Bev was able to get Friday off, and Crispin and Kev took the day off as well.  Annie and I were planning on driving up Thursday night, and Nicole St. Jean (amazing friend) helped me out SO SO SO MUCH by offering to pick up my mom at the airport Thursday night and give her a place to stay so that I could get up to WW with Annie and get some sleep.  Two nights before a race is the most important night of sleep, so it was so helpful to me that I could get in a lot of hours.  Thank You, Nicole!

So I couldn't really take my mind off the race at all.  At work or ever.  Thursday came so quickly and I had everything packed and organized and Annie had gone to the stores we needed to get everything I didn't have time to get.  I'd gotten all of the gear I needed and all that was left to do was get up to WW to get ready to run.  After work Thursday I went to Annie's to load up the car.  Annie walked Tommy and Daniel came by to say hi to Annie and arrange the Tommy swap before we left.  We hit the road at about 7:30 PM and traffic was awful.  We ended up stopping in Culver City at Chipotle for a delicious burrito bowl and a beer on the way up, and arrived and settled at the cabin by 930.  Bev, Kev and Crispin showed up a little later and I headed off to sleep around 11 or 12.  I slept like a baby, and woke up at 9 the next day to texts from Broman and Jimmy inviting us to breakfast.  We headed to the Grizzly and grubbed it up before heading over to medical check in.  That went by super fast and I grabbed some batteries at the store before returning home to get my drop bag.  After dropping my bag off we grabbed some pizza for dinner and posed for a group photo for the beer buckle challenge before I returned home to do my official pack/gear check and go to sleep.

The next morning we woke up at 3 AM and I got ready to go and had some coffee.  We got to the community center around 415 and I tried to go to the bathroom before the start, to no avail.  We milled about and joked around.  Everybody's crews were there and there were so many Coyotes!  It was like Thursday morning but inside and even more exciting.  I tried not to think about the race and to live in the moment, occasionally checking my watch and adjusting my shoes and posing for a few pictures.  We all bowed our heads and Hal said a prayer (during which Annie made a "That's what she said" joke.  I know.  She rocks.) and we headed outside to the starting line.  I couldn't really believe it was happening, but I felt as prepared as ever.  The whole week I'd been a little worried about my left hip acting up during the race, so that was a little in my mind, but I remained focused and got ready.
Dark O' Clock.

There were so many friends there, and the energy was incredible.  Broman and I had talked before the race and agreed that the best strategy was to run really easy until at least Cloudburst, and then we could make up some time.  We planned on staying together as much as we could, and when someone shouted GO then we did just that.  We made our way up the streets to Acorn Rd sans headlamps, and began our hike up the road at a brisk and manageable pace.  We were passing people, but both Broman and I have a good power hike so we remained comfortable and joked and were so excited.

This is my mom's first ultra-experience...  The look says it all.
Let's start already.
We reached the Acorn trail right behind Katie "Panda" DeSplinter and didn't pass her until we were pretty close to the top.  When we reached the top of the ridge we very comfortably made our way towards Inspiration Point.  We were sticking to the plan and having a blast.  We both wore GoPro camera's on chest harnesses and filmed as we went along.  As I was unable to poop before the race, my stomach felt like it was ready to go and so I planned on using the bathroom at IP.  We cruised into IP on 24 hr pace.

Mmmmm.  Chips for Breafast!
When I'd run this section of the course with Jimmy, I had imagined this moment.  How it would feel running my first hundred.  How excited I would be to see Annie and my mom and the rest of my crew at the aid stations.  This added even more excitement as I ran into the aid station and everybody else's crews were there too.  There was so much energy and cheering and everything was going right to plan.  Annie and Bev had my food and salt all ready for the next section.  I ate some chips and a CRMFR and went to the bathroom.  Broman went too, and then we moved on down the trail.  We were still making good time as we ran towards Vincent Gap.  I had a little bit of an energy lull but was still excited and happy, and Broman and I talked about how happy we were to be finally running AC and how great it was that we were together.  I told him about the next sections of trail and we seamlessly glided through the pines down toward VG.  The feeilng at VG was similar to IP, and we tried to make quick time getting through the station.  Lots of cheering and energy, and we were both feeling great.
Nothing looks appetizing.

We left the aid station and began the bitch of a climb up Badden-Powell.  It wasn't as hard as I'd remembered with Jimmy and we passed one or two runners on the way up.  We were both positive and encouraging of each other, and we looked forward to reaching the top so we could start the beautiful run along the ridgeline.  We were joking around a lot and talking about how we were feeling. I tried to remain in the moment and take in the gorgeous scenery.  It felt like we were part of something special.  I was a little bit worried about my right foot, my plantar was kind of sore, but I tried not to let it bother me and chalked it up to normal wear and tear of the body.  I told Broman that I may change shoes as early as Islip to keep my feet from getting too tired (the Peregrines are more of a minimal shoe).  I had a pair of Lunar Glide 3's waiting with my crew.  When we reached the top we saw Gareth there taking pictures (thanks Gareth!) and I pointed out the tree that I humped on my run with Jimmy.  We made our way along the ridge line patiently, and passed a guy throwing up against a tree.  The altitude can seriously affect some people's ability to digest food.  I pointed out the place where Keira had made her wrong turn in 2010, and we talked about how nice it would be to fill up our bottles and rinse off a little at Littly Jimmy Spring.  The spring is a mile or two before the checkpoint, and is a nice place to count down to during this stretch of the race, as it is the longest stretch without aid or seeing your crew.  The time was moving by pretty quickly and we were on pretty good pace.  We were running relaxed and in sync, and even seemed to have our bladders on the same page as we stopped to pee simultaneously.  A guy ran up on us peeing and Broman said "we are on the same menstrual cycle too, in case you were wondering." which got a laugh.  There were lots of TWSS jokes in there, but I don't recall any off the top of my head.  It was definitely a light mood though, and we were more and more excited to see our crews as we made our way down toward the end of the first marathon and first medical check in.  When we reached Little Jimmy, Broman had just run out of water and I was excited to dip my headband in the cold mountain spring.  I filled up my handheld too, and Broman drank a whole bottle before we pushed on.  My stomach had been turning for the last few miles and I was also excited to take a poop at Islip, in addition to longing to hear the cheers of people as we zigzagged down towards the highway.  We made great time the last mile or so on the way down, and my legs felt more and more fresh the closer to the aid station we got.  As expected, there was hooting, hollering and howling as we descended and crossed the highway.
Bromance falls upon Islip Saddle, Mile 26

Annie making things easier.
Annie was waiting there for me so she could take my pack and I could get weighed in quickly.  I gave it to her and hit the scales at exactly the same weight as when I started, which is ideal.  I headed straight to the restroom to let my stomach do it's thing, and did my best but didn't feel like it was completely successful.  Either way, I had to keep moving and Broman was waiting so I ran back to the towel Annie had layed out and my crew iced me up (my wrists, Annie's white hat, etc) and gave me my two handhelds.  I ate some chips and some reeses pieces and drank a little coke, and ate some chips as Broman and I began the climb up Williamson.  We were both starting to feel tired, and I started feeling the effects of the heat and altitude a lot during this climb.  The sun was baking us, and I felt like we were moving really fast, but I didn't want to slow us down.  This sort of went against what Broman and I had planned, since we were going to go easy for the first 40 miles, but I figured I should just hang in there and things would turn around.  When we got to the top, we both felt tired.  I suggested that we give each other a hug, so we did just that, and then slowly began the descent down towards Eagle's Roost.  This is a very steep descent, and my legs were shaking as we walked a bit to get our legs back.  When we felt like we could run we started running down, and both of us began feeling better as we descended.  By the time we got down to the road we knew we were close to Eagle's Roost and seeing the crew again.  Kev, Crispin and Pedro were all there howling and rooting us on and that boosted my spirits a lot.  I actually felt pretty good coming in to Eagle's Roost.

My crew had a chair set up and were ready with everything I had asked for.  I ran into the bathroom and slipped on my compression shorts to handle some chaffing that was going on.  I put on my Lunar Glide 3's and my new Skull gaiters that Annie got for me, and they loaded me up with ice again.  This time they gave me Kev's ice hat from Western States that actually has a neck flap in the back that you can put tons of ice in.  Needless to say, I was Iced out.  I ate a couple of bites of solid food and then me and Broman continued down Highway 2 towards Cloudburst.  At this point my legs were feeling kind of tired.  We ran into Sean O'Brien and Michael Murphy and talked to them for a bit.  Sean's back was hurting him and Michael was feeling alright.  We ran with Michael for a while but I was struggling to keep up, as we were running up a gradual grade.  I felt tired, my legs felt tired, and I just wanted to get back on the trails.  My legs felt kind of tight, and my feet were starting to hurt.  I knew that if I could just make it back to the single track trail down into Cooper Canyon it would be steep enough and technical so I could use my body weight to carry me along and the technical stuff would ease my mind.  Broman was experiencing a major energy lull also, and wasn't able to run the downs very comfortably either, so I went on.  I needed to feel better and when we hit the single track I just needed to let it go.  I ran down to the bottom of the Canyon and then started the climb up.

Climbing up Cooper Canyon was supposed to be the low point of the day, or at least I had expected it to be, but my crew did such a great job of icing me down that I felt pretty good.  I was climbing pretty well, and didn't really feel like I was 35 miles in.  I kept pushing along up the hill and passed someone as I continued climbing.  I even ran some of the gradual parts.  My stomach turned over again but I had remember that there was a bathroom at the Cooper Campground so when I got there I wrote a note in the sand for Broman and ducked in to take care of business again.  I must not have been too far ahead of him, as I was only inside for a few minutes and when I came out Broman was passing by.  I walked with him for a bit and gave a little moral support, but his spirits were already up and he was still just not able to get any energy from the food he was eating.  He told me to go ahead so I continued climbing pretty quickly out of the canyon.  I passed another couple of people on the way up, and was so excited to reach the top of the climb.  I knew that my crew would be waiting, and that since I was feeling good I would be able to stick to the plan and run the next few sections well.  I could hear the aid station as I got closer, and I picked it up to a jog as I made my way out of the canyon.  This is when I started feeling GREAT.  The cheers from all of the Coyotes there and seeing my crew made me feel SO SO SO GOOD.  They were amped and I was almost moved to tears coming out of the canyon.  I sat down for a moment and had some food and reported about Broman.  I put on my headphones and as soon as I could get up to go I did.

To Be Continued