Saturday, August 10, 2013

Angeles Crest 100 race report: What a difference 22 years makes

My "100 miles in a day" buckle...YAY!
Last weekend I ran the Angeles Crest 100 for the second time after a 22 year hiatus from the race.   The race was everything I had hoped it would be:  Unlike in 1991, this time I ran strong the whole way through and finished uninjured.  The run was ecstatic, a dream come true:  I ran all day and all night long from Wrightwood to Pasadena and I was still running strong as I dropped down off the front range  into the lights of LA.  I fulfilled a 23 year old goal by Buckling with a finish time of 23:13;  and beyond expectations, I placed 7'th overall and won the Bronze Rhino, what other races call the master's division race of 40 and over.

 The week since the race has passed swiftly:  I've gone to work, gotten things done;  I have run and done some recovery walks.  All this is  radically different from the first time I ran this race in 1991 at age 25.  For two days after that race, which I finished in 28:34, I lay on the couch on the ground floor of the two story apartment I shared with my then girlfriend, now wife,  Stephanie, with a pee bottle setting next to the couch.  I had finished, but it was ugly:  I had joints swollen the size of grapefruit and it took me weeks to recover despite having trained hard at 100 miles per week.

This time it was different. What a difference 22 years makes!

But lets start at the beginning.

Last year I volunteered to help Steve Klenk  set up  the finish  area and then headed up to  Chilao to watch the fun and help out.  There I ran into co-race-director Ken Hamada, who asked me where I had been for the last 21 years and why hadn’t I been back?  “Work & family” I replied, and Ken just shook his head and said “Hey, you’re still a young man, you should think about doing this thing while you still can”.   I privately told myself “no way” as I had become too injury prone.  It was all I could do to run 30 miles per week without blowing out a calf.  I headed back down to Pasadena, got some sleep and then headed back to the finish on Sunday morning with my son.   Maybe because I was wearing my ’91 finishers 
in 2012 handing my pal John his finishers shirt
shirt, Steve asked me to be  the finish line greeter (the guy who greets the finishers and gives them their finisher's T-shirts)  and so  I was there when the last three finishers made it in just under the wire before 2:00pm and I cried tears of joy with them.  Run this again? Why not try.  I signed myself up for the 2013 race and started training.  And after a year of learning how to run again from scratch, about minimalist running to save my knees and how to prevent and rehab calf injuries, I found myself on Aug 1 having completed a 6 week training cycle of about 490 miles, tapered and ready to run.

Pre Race Drama:
I took off from work that Thursday before the race so that I could be  leisurely about packing up and get out to Wrightwood on a relaxed schedule --to avoid the stress of having to hurry to pack my family up and get to the medical check-in at Wrightwood on Friday morning.  I’d reserved a triple at the Best Western in Cajon Pass for my family and I-  same hotel Steph and I stayed at in 1991.  In addition, I’d reserved a single for Friday night in case my crew chief  Dale  and his son wanted to crash there.    

We left Pasadena around 5pm and drove up HWY 2 for a last look at the course and to show Steph the positions of the checkpoints.  We stopped at Newcomb’s Ranch restaurant for dinner, just before it closed and thankfully just in time to prevent kids’ meltdowns.  We made it up to  Mt Baden Powell by sunset and I was delighted to show the kids and Steph just how beautiful this place was that I had run just the last Sunday and was going to be running over again in a couple of days.  All was proceeding smoothly on plan and I felt very self-satisfied, if a bit irritable with the kids’ backseat bickering.  We got to the hotel, got our gear moved to the room; went to bed all on schedule.... and then I stared at  the ceiling all night unable to sleep, thinking about the race and work, the kids and everything in between... realizing all the while that if I didn’t sleep I was jeapardising my  race.  Visions of my 1991 slog up the Manzanita Ridge struggling to stay awake weren’t helping matters a bit.  Around 6 am I pulled out my old ipod nano, put on an Eckardt Tolle audio book, and finally started to zonk out.  I awoke around 8 am completely strung out.  Holy crap.

Off to the medical check in.  I clearly recall that in 1991 my blood pressure came in at 150/80 and the EMT who was taking my pulse asked me whether I had actually trained for the race.-- I was THAT nervous.  This year the b.p. was 101/60 even with an elevated pulse of 70 due to the  race jitters, and  the EMT congratulated me on my good health.  I  bought AC100 hats for my crew and said hello to Ken, who was completely exhausted,  and Uncle Hal, then got the hell out of there as the race vibe was making me nervous.   I drove the family back to the hotel for lunch and then the kids hopped in the pool.  I stayed out as a shingles outbreak the week before hadn’t yet cleared up.  Ah middle age!  Dale went off for a mountain ride on his road bike; I left the kids under Steph’s watchful eye and headed off for  the trail briefing.   There, in a standing-room-only crowd, I ran into a few friends I had made on the trail maintenance day.  One guy, a top contender in this years’ race,  asked me how I was doing.   “I feel OK”,  I lied, but then confessed “but I could really use some sleep”.  Putting his arm on my shoulders he replied “Me too,  but don’t worry,  you’ll be OK”.   I thought to myself, maybe, but man I gotta get some sleep tonight or I am just screwed.

Back to the hotel.  I finished my race preparations, laid out my race day clothes and gear in the spare hotel room as Dale had decided to camp at Mormon Rocks.   I talked with Dale and Steph about their roles; Dale’s job was to kick my ass out of aid stations when I got too friendly, Steph’s was to take care of the kids and help them be part of the race.   Then race goals:   While I was targeting Bon’s splits from her 22 hour finish in 2007,  my primary goal was to finish without permanent injury, death or disability;  that I felt I could buckle if I had a good day and if the Trail God smiled on me.   “Whoa! how ‘bout a little positive thinking here?” Dale chided.   “Hey, just sayin’...its a long run.”    

I wanted to chill out so Steph and Dale took the kids out to eat while I made a call to an old ultra friend that I needed to talk to,  and then sat in the dark room trying to collect myself.  Steph brought me back a monstrous take-out linguine;  I ate half and couldn’t finish the rest, I was nervous and in particular  very anxious about getting to sleep due to ...pre-race anxiety;  despite being already tired enough to feel myself coming  unglued -- of course all this is just self fulfilling.    

 At 7pm or so I lay down and Steph tried to get me to sleep by reading the Wikipidia article on the geology of the Grand Canyon.  It just wasn’t working.    My mind was racing and I was utterly frustrated at my inability to settle down despite my exhaustion.   I was looking at the   prospect of blowing a perfect opportunity with all the factors in place for a good run:  Training, cool weather, crew;  but here I was choking on pre-race anxiety.    I cut Steph off at the Vishnu Schist  and started talking about how I felt about the race and a bunch of other stuff.   Steph just listened non judgementally and eventually I settled down feeling cleansed.   She stepped out to look in on the kids and that was the last I remembered until I woke up at 1am. 

As a side note folks,  if you want to run a good ultra,  it helps to choose your spouse well.   I am often amazed at how fantastically lucky I have been in the fact that this woman agreed to marry me 21 years ago.  That people like me manage to be picked by the very best women in the world never ceases to amaze.  Steph’s listening skills  saved me that night, and saved my race.

When I awoke at 1am I felt refreshed and hungry.  I dug the leftover linguine out of the fridge and gobbled it down thinking, “Perfect! I’ll have time to digest this before the race”. Then I lay down again  and gave thanks, but I never quite got back  to sleep.  I’d set my watch alarm for 3am;  I got up ahead of it and got some coffee, ate my ritual pre-race banana and a bottle of Ensure with chia seeds  mixed in for symbolic power, and a pre-race vitamin pack from Succeed.   I met Dale outside as he was starting to  fill up race bottles.

Off to the start. Bathroom lines weren’t too bad and we got a few pre-race pix.  I powered up my GPS a few minutes before the start but it wasn’t locking the satellites, sitting as we were in the shadow of the Blue Ridge.  And then at last,  it was time to run!
Steph and I at the start, waiting for the race to begin

The Run:

I took off relatively fast as I didn’t want to get stuck in the conga-line marching single file up the Blue Ridge.  Up Acorn Trail I ran until the grade steepened and I started walking. As at Leona I found that my uphill walking pace was faster than my compadres’ that were running the grade.  We hit the trail and I steadily marched up.  Sunrise was a spectacular  palette and I momentarily regretted my decision not to carry an iphone or camera, it was so beautiful I teared up.  Up we went and finally I got the GPS to lock.  As expected at this stage in the race I felt fine and was moving well although my heels were hurting.  This had bugged me off and on through the high mileage phase of my running and I had hoped that the rest over the last few days before the race, coupled with hamstring and calf stretches I had been doing,  would allow it to quiet down; but no joy.

I ran through Inspiration Point (mile 9) without stopping and dropped my light with Dale.  He was covering solo as Steph had taken the kids back to get breakfast and pack up the room.  By Vincent Gap (mile 14) the heel pain was surprisingly still bugging me so I decided to switch from the Merrell Ascend Gloves to the Skecher GoBionic Trails for the climb up Mt Baden Powell.  My hope was that the GoBionics in 4mm drop mode would take some stress off the achilles attachments;  this plus the cushier ride I thought might help the heels settle down.  Dale looked askance at me for screwing around with gear like this but he got me fueled up for the long leg from Vincent gap to Islip Saddle (mile 26).
Me, dicking around with my shoes at Vincent Gap; oldest son and my daughter crewing

The climb  up Baden Powell is a long 2800 ft slog up to 9300 feet elevation;  I just relaxed and patiently settled into the hike.   After the race I checked the time -  it took me 1:12 which was  much slower than I had done it in training (1:05).  I saw Larry Gassan up at the Wadron Tree taking photos, and was glad to drop into a run along the ridge from the AC100 highpoint.  I felt fine and was grateful for the long pants I was wearing which kept the buckthorn overgrowing the trail from tearing up my legs.  The high trail follows a runnable contour past Mt. Burnham, Mt. Troop and Mt. Hawkins-  this is a lovely section of trail.  Running along I vaulted over a downed 3’ log - I felt so great.  After a while I developed a mild headache and a cough;  passing the turnoff for Little Jimmy I ran past a line of Asian hikers who all stood aside off the trail;  I was very relieved as I swung north around a ridge and Islip Saddle (mile 25) hued into sight.   I charged down off the ridge, crossed the highway and weighed in at 156lbs,  just 1 pound down.

My whole family was waiting;  I came in right on Suzanne Bon’s split as planned and I downed another Ensure with the symbolic Chia seeds and reloaded the water bottles.  I commented on the fact that my toes were getting a bit banged up in the Skechers-  the toe box is a bit tall in these shoes-  but Dale told me to get my butt on the trail and quit worrying the gear.  Check.   Off I went up Mt Williamson.  I remembered from 1991 that this climb was surprisingly long so I settled myself in for a long climb.  Up and up the sun exposed trail I went and passed a  couple guys, one of whom was having stomach problems.  It was extremely bright out and I was glad to be wearing my long white dress shirt, visor and sunglasses.  At last I crested and dropped down the other side. The trail down off Williamson was breathtaking.  I recall as I ran through a section of granite spires  thinking that it was really a very good thing afterall  that I had left my camera as certainly I would have lost a lot of time snapping shots of all the utterly fantastic scenery. It was just  gorgeous.  

Down to Kratka ridge and across the highway;  up another slope and then contouring along overlooking Hwy 2, I reached Eagles’ Roost (mile 30).  There I met my crew and reloaded.   At this point the race course runs on  highway 2 for about 3 miles due to  an area closure to protect the western yellow spotted frog.  For 0.8 mile the road ascends a gentle grade-  To my surprise I felt fine as I ran up it and made time on the guy up  ahead of me.  Cresting the highpoint I began the 2 mile downslope run.  I stopped a couple times to loosen the laces in my right shoe.  To keep my toes from banging the front of Skechers I had had  to tighten the laces but  on the right foot, the tendons on the top of my foot were beginning to get irritated.  Finally I reached the turnoff to Buckhorn camp and picked up the Burkhardt Trail. It was fabulous and as I descended into Cooper Canyon it became wooded and shady.   Crossing the creek and contouring along the stream the trail finally started to ascend.  

At this point I started to notice that my lungs were really sore and I was having a bit of trouble catching my breath.  By the time I reached the PCT which led up out of Cooper Canyon I was not feeling well at all, it really hurt to inhale and I was starved for air.  Nothing fun about that! I saw on my GPS that the elevation was around 5700 feet and I just couldn’t remember the elevation at Cloudburst Summit -  was it 7800 ft?   Man, did I have to climb up 2000 ft in this heat with my lungs this sore?  As I slogged up the grade in my misery, Tia passed me running as light as a wood elf on a spring morning in the Shire.  I remember thinking, "How can anyone look so fresh and be so gawdarned tough?"  I kept slogging and finally, Cloudburst Summit hewed into sight and thank God, it was only at 7000 ft, not 7800ft as I had misremembered.  My brother had hiked down a bit and asked what I needed-  “A complete overhaul” I replied but I couldn’t be more specific than that...the way I was feeling, unable to catch my breath or inhale deeply, I was having a  hard time seeing how I was going to make it to Pasadena, given that I was only 1/3 of the way into the race!  I was starting to think that a drop was inevitable.  I just had no power.
Running into Cloudburst Summit looking a whole lot better than I felt

As I rounded into the aid station (mile 37.5) the whole crew was there.  Dale washed my head down with ice water and rubbed it into my hair and shirt, it felt fantastic.  “I have two problems guys” I announced, “My feet are killing me but the big problem is that I just can’t catch my breath”.  I asked for an acetaminophen and a caffein tablet to deal with the foot pain; and thinking that the breathing problem might be due to smog, I asked for 500mgs of vitamin C and 400 iu of vitamin E.  “Thats all I can do for the lungs I guess”.  My brother mused “Wish we had some guaifenesin, that might help”.  Wait!  I had tossed a bottle of guaifenesin tablets - an over-the-counter expectorate, designed to loosen up mucous in the lungs-  into my first aid kit for the race, as I had had a dry cough the week before the race! My eldest son dug the bottle out and Joe directed me to take 2 tablets.  I sat down, took the legs off my Columbia pants as the trail for the next 20 miles was clear- and switched out the Skechers for my Merrell Ascend Gloves.   Up and out of the aid station I crossed the highway and started in on the gentle 5 mile descent to Three Points. 

Within a couple miles I was hacking out a lot of phlegm and feeling better.  While my feet still hurt, the toes weren’t being banged and the top of my feet felt fine in the Merrells.  I caught up with one fella who  was working through a rough patch and after making sure he didn’t need anything, I carried on.  I was feeling terrific.  I caught one more guy just before coming into Three Points (mile 42.7) and was excited to meet my crew as well as a co-worker,  Jonathan, who had ridden his motorcycle up for the day.  I was feeling great and was just amazed at the fact that I had come back from the death spiral I felt I was in at Cloudburst Summit.  There I had felt ready for a pine box;  here I felt that I had been resurrected.  Whether it was the lower elevation, the guaifenesin or what, I was back in the race.
Dale soaking me down with ice water at Three-Points. 

Heading out of Three-Points feeling strong
After Dale soaked my head with ice water again   I   reloaded,  and trotted out of the aid station with Brad, one of the friends I had made on the AC  trail maintenance crew.  Together we tore down the gentle grade to Sulphur Springs, chatting about our pace targets and how fun it was to be running so fast as we reeled in a couple more guys.  We were targeting the same race splits, although I told him “I’m just focussing on one section at a time, and I’ll let the Trail God sort out what to do with it”.  Hitting the blacktop heading to Mt Hillyer we caught  up with Tia.  Soon after,  I parted company from the two of them as I was feeling strong on the uphill.

As I reached Rosenita Saddle (mile 49) the aid station crew called out my name and one checkpoint guy asked, “So, did you really do this the last time in 1991?” “Yep,  its been a long time coming, I have some unfinished business!”  He laughed knowingly, told me I was looking strong and helped me with my bottles -- and off I ran to the summit pitch.

Cresting out, I  dropped down  into the weird managerie of  twisted rock formations that is  Horseflats, one of the top bouldering sites anywhere.  It was like mogul skiing, absolutely surreal and fantastic.  I’d explored this area last summer looking for good climbing sites for my son’s boy scout troop.  I passed a group of climbers and then rounded a corner and much to my surprise passed Jorge.  “You need anything?” I asked.  “Just a new pair of legs” the champion called back.  I ran on, sobered by the reminder that the AC course can level even the greatest runners.  Tearing on down the trail I passed my boys’ favorite rappelling spot, Romeo Void, and  I started to notice that the right IT band was getting painful.  This structure had blown up in 1991, and produced ultimately such an excruciating pain that I was reduced to a walk for the last 35 miles of the run.  My right calf also gave me a couple electric jolts as I cruised down this section.  I took a calcium carbonate chewable and a salt stick capsule and ran on.  I hit the road and jogged into Chilao, Mile 52.8,  at 4:15, just a few minutes off Bon’s splits. My weight was 2 pounds down-  just right.  Dale soaked my head with ice water again, popped open a can of Progresso chicken & rice soup which I drank cold.   I sat down to put the legs back on my Columbia pants in anticipation of the poodle dog bush overgrowing the trail between Chilao and Charleton.  I popped an acetaminophen and a caffeine tablet,  and  off   I went.  

While I was screwing around with all this I think Tia and her pacer passed me.   I cruised to Charleton and hit the ridge overlooking shortcut  far below with Mt Wilson off in the distance.  Down the sandy freefall I ran, being careful to rein in it.  My IT band was hurting and I very clearly recalled bombing down this ridge trail in 1991 with my pal Winston, stoned on endorphins, and destroying my quads and IT band in the process.  Finally  the trail bottomed out and I ran along the stream at the canyon bottom being careful to breath through my mouth.  Again, ghosts of the past:  In 1991 as Winston and I crossed the stream I inhaled a fly and proceeded to puke my guts out all over Winston’s shoes.  Ah, where do we find such friends?   That barf of undigested mango-plex probably saved my water-logged self that day (I’d been gaining weight during the race in 1991) but I was in no mind to repeat that unpleasant experience.  With some relief I started the uphill walk to Shortcut Saddle, congratulating myself that I had run the gauntlet that is Shortcut without puking this time.
Heading into Shortcut

Arriving at Shortcut  Saddle (Mile 59.3) my crew gave me one more Ensure and I  ate a popsicle.  At this point the thought of Gu Brew and Gu fizzy tablets was making me sick  so I asked for  a Coke and switched to filling my bottles with  diluted coke plus salt.  I drank down an Ensure and  Dale told me to get after it;   time to show some grit and get ‘er done.  Check.  I lurched into motion,   feeling like I had zombie legs with no knees, crossed the highway and started the long 5 mile drop down the fireroad to the West Fork -  but my legs were just shot!  Jose and his pacer quickly overhauled me and I just couldn’t respond.  The miles wended away on the downhill  and I marveled at the late afternoon beauty of the canyon I was dropping into.  There wasn’t a soul in sight.  I hit the stream crossing looking forward to the hike up to Newcomb’s Saddle to rest the quads.  I picked up steam and walked fast up the 2.5  mile grade, and towards the top I passed a young runner who was cashed after having run Hardrock  three weeks before.  In short order I  topped out and started running the trail into the check point.  It was still light and my legs were back-  I felt solid!  The guys at the checkpoint (mile 68) told me I was in the top ten at that point and one of the firefighters smiled and said “go get ‘em-  old guys rule!”  I drank some broth and some coke, got out my light and headed down into Santa Anita Canyon with the sun setting and the sky taking on the colors of  a rare steak.  It was gorgeous.   I couldn’t believe I’d reached Santa Anita canyon in the daylight.
At Newcomb's, photo by Gerry Walsh (I believe), by UAV

As I hit the technical trail I felt myself picking up strength and speed and my legs felt recharged.  As the 7 miles down into Chantry progressed, It occurred to me that while I was still hurting, the pain  just didn’t seem to matter and while I was running along precipices my every footfall was perfectly placed like I was being guided down the canyon in the dark.  I felt supercharged and in a flow state like I haven’t experienced in some years, and it was heartbreakingly magnificent.

I hit the climb up into the checkpoint at Chantry, Mile 74.55,  and there was my wife Steph and family, Dale,  my brother Joel, Joe my pacer,  and Richard and Rod, two pals from my son’s scout troop.  Hugs all around and then my 5 year old son gave me a cup of soup to drink while my 7 year old daughter went to get me a coke.  Thank you God, life doesn’t get better than this,  I thought. Dale helped me get changed into a dry capilene shirt; I donned a running pack to carry  a windbreaker, a warm hat and gloves and a couple of spare lights; more hugs and then off Joe and I  went into the night to the Upper Wintercreek trailhead.  I left the checkpoint at 9:34pm leaving over 7 hours to buckle.   I put it out of my mind but it was clear at this point that provided I didn’t blow up I could buckle.  
Hitting the trail with  Joe, the best pacer ever, out of Chantry

Brad and his pacer Ryan had caught me while I was getting fixed up at Chantry and had left the checkpoint ahead of me. Joe and I let them go, they were moving well, and we settled into an easy run/walk up the Wintercreek trail, making good time until we hit Hoegees.  At this point the trail leaves the stream and heads more aggressively up towards the toll road for a 2500 ft climb.  We settled into a steady powerwalk and slowly made time, catching another runner about midway up. As we neared the top I took another caffeine tablet and an acetaminophen thinking I would need these as we approached the witching hour;  soon we reached the Winton bypass. I was extremely grateful for the AC100 crews that put this in 1999.  I clearly recall the struggle I had in 1991 to climb the ridge trail, at 16% grade,  in the witching hours, as my strength and will were at their lowest ebb.   It had been the most difficult thing I had ever done in my young life up to that point.

Finally we hit the toll road, about mile 80, catching Brad and Ryan at the same  time.  After greetings and mutual checking in to make sure everyone was OK, Joe and I took off down the toll road and made good time cruising the 10% downgrade hitting  the Idlehour checkpoint (mile 84) just shy of midnight.  Reloading on Coke, we headed into the single track for the initial 1/2 mile uphill grade,   crested the ridge and began  the steep drop into Idlehour.  Like a runaway train we cruised the single track,  a free fall approaching 15-20% downslope at times, and caught Jose and his pacer.   Feeling  strong we hit the canyon bottom and started running the trail upstream.  Seeing a glow in the woods ahead we rounded a corner and heard “Pete! is that you!”   Backlit by the homey glow of a campfire three figures emerged from the woods who turned out to be none other than my compadres Al, Troy and Joel from  work-  these good friends had hiked in on Saturday to camp at Idlehour to watch the race!  “You look great Pete! How are you feeling?”  “I feeling F&*^ing great”  I replied.  “Thanks for coming out to see this guys-  gotta run!” and off we went.

Joe and I made good time up canyon and started the steep switchbacks on the west slope.  Periodically Joe reminded me to drink and eat.   Topping out we hit the downhill to the creek and ducked under the big log that Angela and I had dug out on trail day so we didn’t have to duck down too far.  Across the creek and we began the 2 mile climb up to Sam Merrill checkpoint (mile 89.25).   Rolling in there we reloaded on coke and Gu, and broke out the spare lights for the descent down Sam Merrill. 

I took point heading into the Sam Merrill single track.  After a mile or so contouring around to the west the trail rounds a point and descends kamakaze style down the front face to Echo Mountain.  To both our surprise I gave Joe his money’s worth as we raced down the single track, trying  hard not to look at the spectacular view of the  LA basin set before us lest I miss a switchback and take the fast way down.  I felt so strong cruising down the face!  It  didn’t even bother me when I kicked a rock good and hard and I  felt the bigtoe nail lift.  Just keep on running.

Reaching Echo Mountain we started up the gentle grade towards   the Mt Lowe railway bed and to my joy I found I was still able to run this.  Then to the Sunset Trail and another kamikaze descent into Millard Canyon.  Running through overgrown grass I was once again glad to be wearing long pants and a long shirt and it occurred to me it was getting hard to see the trail with the overgrowth blocking the flashlight beam.   As were were running the final descent into Millard my watch alarm went off -  3:02am -- I hadn’t reset it from Saturday morning-  and for the first time, doing the math,  I really believed we could make it in before the 24 hour cut-off.   Into the checkpoint (mile 95.8) at 3:09 and Joe pulled out a laminated card he’d made and said “Pete,  the cutoff time to leave here and still buckle is 4am. You could walk it in from here if you had to and still make it”.   I believed him but still feared what could happen on the El Prieto.  The last time I’d been in El Prieto it was on a mountain bike with my oldest son;  he had wanted to see the route and so I obliged and  we had rerouted our return on a ride up Brown Mountain from the Arroyo.  All had been well until I found myself flying ass-end over tea-kettle, somehow jumping clear as my bike tumbled downslope, and I’d landed on the front tire bending it pretty severely.  But on this night, with Joe in the lead we safely retraced that route moving surely, and I found myself thinking, “...this ain’t so bad!”  Soon we saw lights below and it became clear we were overtaking another runner.  We encountered a race official who said something about destroyed course markings, but we pressed on without any trouble.  Hitting the pavement Joe started to take off and I imagined myself on a tether being dragged by him;  we hit the cut path out of the Arroyo over to Altadena Drive and Lincoln.  I couldn’t believe it, we had done it!  Rounding a corner we cruised along in front of Loma Alta Park until an official waived us in and there it was-- the finish line!  We ran it in and oh my God, we had done it, 23:13, I had buckled, and there was Steph running up to hug me, and then  there was Dale and Joe and Rod.    
Photo:  From AC100 website

With my wife Steph at the finish...Thank you!
With my great friend Dale at the finish, best crew chief ever

I’m deeply moved as I write this.  Its hard to describe the elation I felt that morning and feel now. To have experienced the grace of running all day and all night with power, to have felt myself growing stronger as the run progressed, was a mind blowing, ecstatic experience.  My language fails me when I try to describe it and I just start laughing and tears well up.  A friend of mind who also ran well confessed to the same feeling so I am sure I am not alone in this.  

My friends and family came out and supported me whole heartedly and I am so grateful.  Dozens of people followed my run on facebook and the AC100 live site and as one friend put it on Facebook during the race,  "... probably more people than Pete knows are out there propagating positive waves".      I am so grateful to my crew Chief Dale who busted his ass all day to help me; to Joe for pacing and keeping me fed, hydrated and safe through the night; to my wife Steph for leapfrogging  me across the whole San Gabriel range to not only support me but to enable our kids to do so, to my children for their support; to my brother Joel, friends Richard and Rod, Al, Troy, Joel and Jonathan for coming out to show their support-  thank you all! And thank you to all the AC100 staff and amazing group of people that made the whole thing possible.

 After chatting a  bit at the finish and putting on some dry clothes, I went to the tent where my kids were sleeping and tried to get some shut-eye before sun-up.  I couldn’t sleep because I just hurt too badly.  After sunrise I got up and had omelettes with my son and my brother, we packed up and chilled out and then returned for the awards ceremony.  Someone asked me if I’d be running next year.  I told him I needed a decent interval to think about it.

The family vote was unanimous.  I signed up for the 2014 race on Tuesday.

Appendix 1:  Race nutitrion and meds

I am adding a few notes before I forget on what I ate and drank during the race and what meds I used and why.

What I ate and drank:

Friday night-  Linguine and to bed at 8pm;

  • Pre-race:
    • Woke at 1am and finished half the linguine dinner left over from Friday night.
    • 3am:  1 bottle of Ensure-plus (350Cal version) with a tablespoon of chia seeds and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast mixed in  (it worked at Leona Divide and worked at AC100); 
    • Succeed pre-race vitamin pack.
    •  Drank Succeed Clip 2 until the race.
  • Race drinks  & electrolytes:
    • I carried typically 1x 21oz bottle of Gu Brew, one bottle of ice water for spraying my head and shoulders;  and 1-2 bottle of water with Gu fizz tablets- electrolytes but no sugar depending on the segment mileage. This regimen lasted up to mile 60 after which I switched out the Gu products for dilute Coke w/ salt.  I typically drank 2 bottles every hour or so.  I did NOT carry or drink Clip-2 during the race outside of checkpoints.  It tends to foam up when carried/shaken and fill my stomach with suds until I blerp it up.
    • Weigh-ins:  I was 1 pound down at Vincent Gap (25 miles), 2 pounds down at Chilao, and 2 pounds down at Chantry.  This is just about right.  I didn't pee much but I did pee a bit every 2-3 hours  throughout the day.
    • Electrolytes:  Typically took 1 S-cap or 1 Salt Stick cap every hour during the day, to supplement the fizz tabs which are a bit light on sodium (only 300mg).  The electrolyte caps are keyed to my drinking unless I feel muscle twinges.  
    • One three occasions that I recall I took 1 tums chewable calcium carbonate antacid:  Once during the Baden Powell- Islip Saddle leg;  once at Horseflats, once rolling down the north side of Shortcut, all due to concerns over muscle tightness or incipient cramping.  I would typically take these with a salt stick cap  which has Ca and Mg, to be on the safe side.
  • Food & supplements/meds:  Virtually all liquid.
    • Drank 1 bottle of ensure-plus (350 cal) with  chia seeds at mile 25
    • At Mile 37 Cloudburst Summit, I took one 200 mg caffiene tab, one acetaminophen tablet, 2 x 400mg guaifenesin tablets for lung congestion.  Also drank a cup of Clip-2 and sone briny cranberry juice.  500 mg chewable vitamin C and 400 iu of vitamin E in an attempt to address the lung inflammation I was experiencing due possibly to smog.
    • Mile 42, Three-Points:  I ate  half a Cliff bar and a Gu.
    • At Chilao (Mile 52) - 1 can of Progressso Chicken & rice soup, drunk cold;  plus one Ensure.  One acetaminophen and one guaifenesin tablet.  500 mg vitamin C.
    • Shortcut:  one popsickle, one Ensure-250; stopped taking electrolyte fizz tablets and Gu Brew.  Switched to drinking  a mix of 1 part coke, 2 parts water, plus 1/4 tsp salt into 21 oz bottle for the rest of the race:  No more fake-fruit-flavored beverages.
    • Newcomb:  Mile 67- More soup, some banana;  1 acetaminophen & 1 caffeine tab
    • Chantry, Mile 75:  Can of soup;  1 bottle of ensure; coke.
    • Top of Mt Wilson climb, Mile 80, 1 acetaminophen, 1 caffeine tab
  • Sam Merrill,   mile 89, 1 Gu, 1 acetaminophen & 1 caffeine tab
Notes on the OTC meds:  Disclaimer-  Every runner needs to make his/her own informed choice as the whether and what meds to use,  I do not recommend what I did here summarized below, I simply state it as "this is what I did and this was the result".

Caffeine:  I took this  to rev myself up when I was having breathing difficulty during the day section and experiencing low energy and foot pain; then I took one tab roughly every 3-4 hours starting at sundown to stay alert in the night sections.  I took less caffeine in the race than I typically drink as coffee during a workday.  The caffeine definitely seemed to help me and I never struggled with wakefulness as I had in 1991.  Note that I did test the caffeine tablets in training to be certain that my stomach could tolerate them.

Guaifenisen:  As noted in my race report, I took this over the counter expectorant at Cloudburst Summit because my lungs were clogged and I was having a hard time catching my breath, my lungs hurt due to smog or pollen or the high altitude segment over 9000 ft Mt. Baden Powell or whatever.  It seemed to work since within 20-30 minutes of taking the guafenesin I coughed up a lot of phlegm and started feeling better.  I took one more guaifenisen at Chilao before entering the poodle dog overgrown section.

Why did I  take acetaminophen (aka tylenol)?

First:   I carried no  NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and there was none in my crew first aid kit.   I know that NSAIDs are highly dangerous due to their role in magnifying the effect of ADH and contributing to hyponatremia and rhabdomyolysis.   Acetaminophen is not an NSAID contrary to what some recent books and articles on  ultrarunning state.    In fact, research has been done which specifically exonerates acetaminophen from contributing to hyponatremia  (for example see the guidelines here: ) and furthermore, recent research suggests that acetaminophen may have a protective effect against Rhabdo: (;  So I carried a few acetaminophen tablets in my running pack and in the crew kit, deeming it as a safer analgesic if I needed one.  Because my feet were hurting from mile 13 through Mile 37, I took one, not two, as a trial.  My feet stopped hurting, or rather, the hurt in my feet stopped bothering me and thereby affecting my demeanor and my gait.  So I stuck with it because it seemed to be working.  I stayed below the max dose (2 tabs every 6 hours, max 8 tabs in 24 hrs)  by taking no more than 1 tab every 3-4 hrs;  total of 5 tabs during the race.   Exceeding the max dose of acetaminphen is a bad idea due to the danger of liver damage.  

Appendix 2:  Splits


  1. Great race report and once again, great job! What a comeback :)
    You make me want to do one of these, thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Congratulations on a great job! Loved to read about the race ups and downs! With age grows some wisdom about training and knowing your body! Good to hear your account!

  3. Great job Pete. I was working the Shortcut aid station and remember you coming in thinking what is this guy doing wearing long pants. Know I know. I also ran my first AC100 in 1991 but dropped at Chantry due to an injury. That made for extra motivation when I finished in 1992. Congratulations on a great run and nice race report.

    1. Thanks all of you for the nice comments. Its very motivating to me.

      Regarding the pants: Uncle Hal saw me a few times race day and hollered "You're the only person out here dressed for the poddle dog bush!" Truth is I've gotten used to running in the long pants and used to not getting itchy when I run through grass - let along poison oak and poodle dog bush (!). I must say that the Chilao to Shortcut segment did seem more clear on race day than it had previously in training. But the guys that ran through that with bare legs and arms...yipes!

  4. Inspiring account. Curious how you would rate the Bionic trail vs. Merrell Ascend?

    1. Thank you for the comment! Regarding your question about the rating of the Gobionic Trail vs the Ascend Glove: I give the nod to the Ascend Glove, for these reasons: 1) I prefer a lower profile shoe without much cushion and the Ascend has a very minimalist feel. 2) on very steep downhill trail, my feet tend to slide forward in the GoBionic Trails so that I need to lace tightly, which is uncomfortable on my top of feet. The Gobionic Trails have an exceptional large toe box- not only wide but also unusually tall, and I think this is the source of this problem.

      Nonetheless the Gobionic Trail is an excellent shoe and I've been running in my pair a lot since the AC100. After the race my feet were pretty battered and I appreciated the cushier ride of the Gobionics. The issue with the foot sliding/ tight lacing is not an issue on the trails I run during the week.

      The Ascend glove is the most comfortable fit I have found for my feet. Even so I think the heel is a bit too tight. I suspect Merrell has thought about this issue- a look at the old Pace Glove shows they had a stretchy gather at the heel. I am currently running in a pair of Ascend Gloves which I have cut vertically at the heel, all the way down to the rubber base, to prevent pressure on my achilles tendons, which have been a bit tender since the AC100. I wish the shoe had the heel of the old Pace glove! Nothing is perfect. I am glad I have both in my arsenal but If I had to pick one it would be the Acend Glove.

    2. Thanks Pete for the reply; really appreciate all your inputs :) Happy Feet!!