What a great weekend. I flew into San Diego Thursday, and was picked up by my old section leader Will Carr. He plays in the Marine Band at MCRD San Diego. Spent Thursday & Friday relaxing and eating large amounts of food.
Pre-race briefing on Friday afternoon, rekindling old aquaintances, friends, and new ones. I had a big steak dinner on Friday night, and hit the rack at an early 7:45. I was up at 3:45 AM the next morning, raring and ready to run for 24+ hours. I went into the race with expectations of a 26-27 hour finish. Will & I arrived to Camp Cuyamaca at 5:15 AM. Did my typical pre-race rituals, then really just tried to relax a little before the start. I don’t think I ate a big enough breakfast. Got the start, and charged ahead like I always like to do. The first section is this rolling terrain, with a gradual uphill. Lot of burnt trees, which gave this neat atmosphere to the area. Arrived at Sunrise Highway in 1:04, a bit faster than I had planned. Norm Haines was helping out here, so I said hello and continued my race. The next section takes you along the PCT for a few miles, and was characterized by impressive views and gratuitous amounts of wind.
It was really windy, and reports I have already heard from the other runners is that it became very chilly as the night wore on. But I wasn’t concerned at that tiem about it. The 1st 20 miles went by extremely fast, and I finished it in sub 3:30. This was more than a 1/2 hour faster than I had anticipated, and had me worried that I was running too fast. The cool weather though was having a good effect on my performance, so I decided to stay with it. The 2nd loop is much more hilly, and offers large amounts of burnt-out forest. the smaller growth had come back though, so I found it to be a neat environment to run through. after you come to the start/finish line at mile 20, the trail is a long uphill to the Paso Pichaco campground. I ran along this very pretty stream and was generally just having a good time. A lot of the 1st 50 miles I was running with Linda Barton, and she kept me in good company. A good easy downhill from Paso to the Big Bend aid station, with some very pretty meadows, easy trails, and a nice run along Lake Cuyamaca. From Big Bend (mile 30.6) however, you have a long grinding uphill to the top of Middle Peak, about 5800′. This was a long section to complete. It is a somewhat technical downhill for 3 miles, and then a bit of a grinding uphill to the Milk Ranch aid station (36.2 mi). I was really settling into a groove and having a good time. There was quesadilla and guacamole which tasted just incredible. From Milk Ranch you have a bit of an uphill, but the course is a general downhill to Sweetwater Bridge. It was a fun section. After you hit Sweetwater, you have the longest stretch without aid on the course, 7.6 miles. the 1st half is uphill, and the last half is downhill. There was some great scenery here, and I was happy to be closing in on the halfway mark. I
arrived at it in 10 hr, 30 min, right on the dot. I had been feeling great, and sat down for a little rest. My shoes filled up with large amounts of dust, so I dumped them and changed my socks. I passed Linda Barton, and she wasn’t doing well. I offered some encouraging words, and continued on. Jess Mullen caught up, and I ran with her and her pacer for many miles. I arrived back at Sunrise Hwy, excited that I had made it back in sunlight. I set a goal for myself to make it to 100K before dark, and it looked like it was going to happen. Upon entering the PCT for round 2, the wind picked up again. It was rather ferocious all day, as well as the night time again. I did my best just to gut it out and make it to the aid station as quick as possible. I hit my 1st major low during this section, and was bonking due to my voracious appetite and serious need for some calories. At Big Bend (62.6 miles) I had a large meal, got soem rest, and was charged up for the return to the start/finish line. The run back is very easy, and is a very soft dirt road with large amounts of dust. I arrived back, mile 70, in 15:30. I grabbed the rest of my cold weather gear from my cooler, had a hearty meal, and took off on the last loop of the race. I did the math, and I realized that if the rest of the race went well, I would be close to a 24-25 hour finish. I tried not to let my hopes get up too high, but it was an incentive to moving with a sense of urgency. The climb to Paso Pichaco was much more difficult this time around. I tripped over many rocks, the branches pulled on my arms and legs, my world became a spot of light from my headlamp. I was failing miserably, jsut doing what I could to keep on moving. Then all of a sudden I had cell reception. A great call from Dad, which really pumped me up ater 70+ miles. I took some NoDoz, and in a few minutes was feeling great again. Night time pace can be demoralizing, but I knew I was strong and could keep moving. After some more great food and support at the Paso Pichaco aid (75.3 mi), I was ready to start kicking the course in the butt. I had a weird out-0f-body experience, but that dissipated after a while and I was good again. Then I was lost. I don’t know how long I was off course, but I was at the horse farm that I seen during the 1st time around, and knew I was off course. No headlamps or glowsticks to show the way, so I wandered around for a bit trying to find my way back. Then I saw a bobbing headlamp and I was so happy to get back on track. It was Derek Blaylock from Utah. He wasn’t doing so well and was having a hard time moving forward. I tried to cheer him up but it didn’t seem to work. I ran on. Ah, the turning point of the race. Big Bend aid, mile 80.4. This is where I caught up with Paul Escola and Nick Hollon. I would run the rest of the race with them. The folks at the aid station warned of cold wind and rain at the top of Middle peak, so I prepared for the cold. Lots of hot food warmed me up, and the three of us were on our way. Nick is a brutal pacer. We powerwalked hard up the climb, and the weather delivered the predicted outcast. The rain wasn’t bad though. Then I see 2 headlamps coming down the road, in the wrong direction. This guy dropped at 83 miles! I felt bad, but knew I couldn’t suffer the same fate. We arrived at the top, and the weather wasn’t too horrible, so I don’t know what the problem was. We ran quick downhill, excited to get to Milk Ranch. Got some more great food, and not taking too much time. It was 2:30 AM. We realized that if we pushed hard, a sub-24 hour finish might be possible. I have to explain what “fast pace” is like at this mileage. Walking uphill is 16-17 minutes a mile, hard running is 11 minutes a mile. 4.5 MPH tops. I pushed to keep up with Nick & Paul, but it was tough. We were really moving. The moon came out, and we had a beautiful night sky to run with. This really pumped me up. Arrived at Sweetwater Bridge (92.4 mi), grabbed a couple of quick morsels, and was pumped for the finish. We left at 3:50 AM. Many people take 2-2 1/2 hours for this last section, but I knew I had to do it even faster to guarantee a sub-24 hour finish. We were running very hard, and I was breathing like I usually do on a 5K! My legs were jello, and I felt like death all over. Everything hurts after 90 miles. The sky started to light up, and birds were chirping. Sunlight is not your friend when you are trying for a time like I wanted, so I pushed the pace even more. Nick & Paul fell behind a bit, because he was having some trouble with steep downhills. I had a few gnarly ankle rolls the last few miles, which really hurt, but I tried to ignore them. When I saw the Camp, I hollered with delight. Many stream crossings the I simply blasted through, wanting the fastest time possible. I came across with a phenominal 23:37:04, and am now the proud owner of a silver SD 100 belt buckle. Thanks to Scottie Mills and all the great volunteers, it was a wonderful race.