The 2012 Mt. Disappointment 50k

In reflection of the Mt. Disappointment 50k race last year, sometimes I do still feel a little guilty for leaving my teammates suffering on Edison Rd, as Alexa and I, with our experience in the heat and distance, blew past them with only one thing on our mind – Eric’s new tattoo.  But I am glad everything worked out the way that it did.  It proved my ability to coach a team of ultrarunners, it showed that I was a worthy opponent to my own coach, at least in an event like this, and it certainly built my confidence as I went on to tackle some other big goals.  That confidence is something I needed to carry me through some recent failure and help me get right back up.

“But if I had stayed with Eric last year, even if I sacrificed my own race to help him, you know he would have snaked me at the end!”

“Absolutely,’  David Adams responded weakly.  We were walking slowly up Edison Rd ourselves, only a mile from the mile 23 aid station, where Eric had to pull out last year.

“Hey kiddo,”  he said to me in a defeated voice.  “When we get to Shortcut, I think I need to drop.”

 

My last minute entry into the race this year surprised some of my teammates, but it seemed to be a positive surprise when I showed up decked out in my AB jersey, ready to once again tackle a race that had grown to define me over the past year.   I kept it a secret for a few reasons.  First I didn’t know how my lungs would feel post AC100′s  tragic performance, and I wanted the ability to not run that morning if they were in any way still bothering me, with no one being the wiser.  Second, I didn’t really want anyone from our team trying to race me.  My plan was to go out and sandbag for the first 15 miles, enjoying the experience of being on the trails again, hanging in the back of the pack but to be there as support if any of my team members ran into issues.  It felt like the right thing to do after last year.  If everyone seemed ok, then I would begin to really race on Edison Rd.

As I checked in, I saw Hal, the race director from the Angeles Crest 100.  “Oh look!”  he smiled.  “It’s my Arrogant Bastard!  I bet you didn’t feel so arrogant when you dropped at mile 30, huh?”

“Nope!”  I laughed.  “Next year I plan to show up at the start line with a shirt that says ‘Humble Bastard!”  Hal broke out into a fit of honest laughter.  I’d grown to really like him over the last few months.

We lined up 10 Bastards strong at the start line, with another ultra support Bastard, Rainer to cheer us on, and I began my race with one of my team members, Mark.  I told him I was proud of him for starting slowly and not worrying about the rest of the team.  He stayed with me until we began to approach our first climb, and then he was off.  I ran with my friend Suzy after that for almost the entire first 15, leap frogging her here and there.  She’s a really strong triathlete, sponsored by Hammer, and finished about 15 minutes in front of me the year before.  I knew by keeping her close, I was still on pace to pull off something somewhat legit if I decided to go that direction.  Each aid station I came to someone would ask me if Eric was out there racing me or if he was in front of behind.  That story had become a legend!

I passed through the Team CrossFit Academy aid station, about mile 15,  on cruise control.  Alex Campos quickly and efficiently helped me fill up my Camelbak and bottle with fluids, and I was back out on the trails, ready for the ‘real’ race to begin.   I picked a good song on my iPod and started my two mile descent that would lead to a pretty intense and exposed climb.  We crossed the creek, I cooled myself off a bit, and headed up Edison Rd. towards the Shortcut aid station.

At about the point that I had caught Eric last year, suddenly, I located the first red shirt.  At first I couldn’t tell who it was.  I jogged up to catch him and was surprised to see David Adams, one of our strongest runners.  Of course, I should know better than to be surprised by anything in that race these days!  He looked ‘ok’ but expressed some concern for having enough water.  We were still miles away from our next water stop and I didn’t have enough to offer him without getting myself into trouble.  I passed him and looked back down the trail to see him hunched over.  I began to alternate running and walking up the long climb to get to the aid station as quickly as possible.  I knew what I had to do.

Runners were laying down all over the trail as I made my way up the hill.  When I got to the water stop, I saw Bob and Hope.  A moment of moral dilemma passed over me as I thought ‘I wonder how many more teammates I can catch!’   No, Racer (said conscience), That is not what today is about.

I grabbed a gallon container of water,  filled it about halfway and began to jog back down the hill.  As soon as I saw David A, I was very glad I made the decision that I did.  He was sitting under a bush, cramping, completely out of water.  I filled his Camelbak, he drank and took some salt, and told me he could walk but needed to sit down when we got to the water stop.

When we made it up there, he sat for about half an hour.  Back up, we started to make our way for the next full aid station at mile 23.  He was making good time, even running a little, but as soon as I heard him start to breath heavy I told him to stop and walk.  The heat had risen to 105 in the hottest part of the day, and a quick sign that your body is overheating in an event like this is heavy breathing, since the heart must work overtime.

“Hey kiddo… when we get to Shortcut I think I need to drop.”

“Okay,”  I said slowly.  “You know I’ve dropped in races, and Eric dropped right here last year.  So it does happen.  But I will tell you, tomorrow you will feel really bad about it.  You will feel much better if you finish the race, even with just a minute to spare.  You can sit down for a little while when we get there and assess how you feel.  But I think we can fix this.”

David A did just that, and as he drank and ate, he began to come back to life.  There was only one other Arrogant Bastard behind us at that point, David Van Horsen.  I checked with the radio operator and was told that he should be close.

“I want to wait for DVH,”  David A said.  “Then we will all finish together.”  I nodded and looked down the trail.  In the distance was a red shirt.

“I see him!”  I smiled.  “I’m going out for him!”

I ran down the trail to meet a surprised DVH.  “David A is resting at the aid station,”  I explained.  “We want to finish together, the three of us.”

“Great!”  DVH said.

He had a seat at the aid station as well and with 14 minutes before the cut off there, I told them that we needed to go.  David A had come back to life, and could easily have left us, but he refused.  We had about an hour and a half to go 5 miles downhill and through a flat creek bed to the next aid station, which seemed to lift both of their spirits.  From my experience in these events though, I realized how close we were cutting it.  DVH could only walk due to cramping, so I kept reminding him to take his salt.  30 minutes prior to the next aid station cut off, David A had made his way there to rest and wait for us, but for DVH and I it was nowhere in sight.

“I’m going to run in front of you,”  I said to DVH.  “And you are going to chase me.  It’s going to suck, but you are going to have to do it, understood?”  I said to him.  He nodded.

I began to jog in front of him.  He was doing everything he could to keep up, I could see that.  But he simply could not move any faster.  Somehow I needed to spike his adrenaline.

“Come on!”  I yelled back at him.  “We didn’t come this far to time out at the last aid station!  You have to move faster, do you understand me?”  He didn’t acknowledge me, but his pace quickened.   Good.  It was working.

I yelled at him for the next 20 minutes as we ran down the creek bed.  With 4 minutes to spare, we made it in to the final aid station, filled up, and the three of us were out.  We now had 2 hours and 45 minutes to go 5 miles straight uphill.  I knew then and there this was not going to be easy.

David A walked ahead of us a bit as DVH continued on a steady pace.  He sat on a rock at one point telling me his muscles were just done.  “How much have you had to eat recently?”

“I just took a Perpetuum tablet,”  He told me.

“How many calories?”

“60,”  he said.

“FAIL!  What else do you have that you can eat?”

He pulled out a Gu which he ate as we walked.  Within about 15 minutes he was moving better again.

With an hour to spare, we could see the top of Mt. Wilson, seemingly so close.  DVH told me that in training it had taken him 40 minutes from this point to the finish.  He started talking about his wife and daughter who were waiting at the finish line.

“You are a celebrity right now,”  I told him.  “They are sitting there with our fellow Bastards, having word that we barely made the cut off at the last aid station but that we are together.  They are all biting their nails in anticipation as to whether or not we are going to make it.  We are giving them quite a show!”

He smiled and continued to talk about his daughter.  I kept asking him questions about her and as he talked, he started to speed up.  Damn, maybe instead of going the ‘yelling’ approach earlier I should have just gone for the ‘daughter’ approach!  We had less than 30 minutes and still had not seen the final wooden sign that would indicate we were slightly less than a mile out.

With 15 minutes till the 11 hour cut off, we rounded a corner and saw the sign, with David A waiting for us.

“No!”  DVH said.

“Yes!”  David A responded.  “We finish as a team!”

Chills ran down my spine as DVH dug deep, finding a gear he didn’t even know existed, with the knowledge that if he didn’t make it to that finish line in under 11 hours, none of us would.  David A slipped in behind me and I mouthed the words ‘Thank you,’ to him.  It was exactly the last push that DVH needed.

David A jumped in front, encouraging DVH, and we had 5 minutes to spare when we could see the parking lot, DVH’s wife and daughter excitedly cheering from the trail head.  As soon as we were visible, our teammates began to scream.  I heard the distinctive voice of Forrest yelling our Bastard battle cry “Move Move Move!!”  We still had a short climb till the finish.

“The last 11 hours of your life doesn’t matter unless you pull this off!”  I screamed at DVH.  “You have to RUN!”

The three of us took hands a few yards from the finish line, and crossed together, as a team, with a minute and a half to spare!

DVH immediately sat down, and I put my arms around him.  “I am so proud of you!”  I cried.  “And I’m so sorry I yelled at you!”

He smiled.  “It’s ok!  It worked.”

David A found me just after that and gave me a big heart felt hug.  “Thank you,”  he said.   “You were truly my angel today.”

There were a few team members left and they filled me in on the rest of the day.  Chris had finished 5th overall and 1st in his age group. Dawn had finished 2nd female overall.  Hope had placed first in her age group.  Joe had PRed by two hours.  And most importantly, the entire team had made it in, healthy, happy, with stories of great adventure to share.

I was overcome by emotion as I drove back through the Angeles National Forest on my way home.  Sometimes life has in store for you greater things than you have planned for it.  Had I not DNFed at AC, I never would have run Mt. Disappointment, and I wouldn’t trade that finish line moment yesterday for anything in the world, even a 2012 AC 100 finish.  I was so proud of each of my athletes in different ways.  Beyond my medal winners and those stated above, I was proud to see Mark and Tommie take things slowly and run smart races.  And I was proud to see Bob during the race, fighting his own demons but problem solving as he went.   Everyone learned something yesterday, and everyone succeeded in crossing the finish line.

I keep referring to last year as ‘my’ year at Mt. Disappointment, but maybe this year was ‘my’ year in a very different way.  No, I didn’t win any awards or inflict tattoos upon my friends, but I played a role in 10 team members successful completion of the toughest 50k in Southern California.  In some ways that feels even better than what happened a year ago.  So now it’s time to rest, recover and focus on my own goal:

55 Days until the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Rich August 13, 2012 at 2:05 am

Great race report. Summer I saw you running down the hill to give aid to one of your teammates. Congrats. You are a Rock Star!

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Tessa Lucero August 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Nice race report! And you are a good friend to go back with the water. That was one hell of a tough climb and a miserably hot day on Saturday.
And Silver Moccasin may be “downhill and a flat creek bed” but that blistering sun followed by multiple rocky creek crossings was enough to do many people in.

Saw you at Newcomb Saddle and if I was wearing a hat I would doff it to you. This account shows true running fellowship in action.

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Fernando Garcia August 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Great job out there, awesome team work! That was one heck of a tough run!

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Serina Ulibarri August 17, 2012 at 1:26 am

Awesome report! I was too out there running the toughest race I’ve ever ran, especially in the scorching heat! This race made the Noble Canyon 50k, Cuyamaca 50k and the Avalon 50 miler a piece of cake. Of all my placing and accomplishments, this one really, REALLY impressed my husband the most (who was there at the finish line waiting for me in the 100+ degree weather for 8 hours)!! He made me feel very proud of not giving up and finishing strong. Even though this was my toughest race so far, I did manage to come in 3rd overall for women and 1st in my division. YEAH!

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Kimberly Van Horsen August 20, 2012 at 1:27 am

Great narrative here. Thanks for telling the story we couldn’t watch and for getting our Bastard (DVH) across the line!

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