Saturday, June 19, 2010

San Diego 100-Mile

Back in the San Diego 100!

You know what's great about a 100-mile race. After the first mile you are back down to the double digits. 100 is a daunting number but you are not there long, what I tell myself at the start of these long races.

The San Diego 100-mile has gone through several course changes and they unveiled a new one for 2010. I ran last years race and while there are no "easy" hundreds there are ones that have less challenging courses. The previous San Diego course I would classify as a less challenging course compared to the other 100-mile ultras that I have completed. It was mostly rollers with two big climbs and it was a loop course. Once you completed the first 50 you knew what the next 50 would be. Total elevation gain was less than 13,000 ft and the trails were hardly technical, on top of that we had cool weather which played to my strengths. I had my fastest 100-mile time here last year.

I did my homework. I studied the maps and memorized the elevation profile. I read all the pre-race instructions and poured through the race website. I knew they added more climbing almost up to 16,000 ft which was within my capabilities and comfort level. In my mind I imagined a course much like last years with just more climbing. It turned out to be a bit far from the truth.

Race morning at the lodge.

With Katelyn in the lodge.

Friends at the starting line.

RD Scott Mills giving us our last minute instructions.

The front line. Good to see tireless RD Julie Fingar racing and not working a race, RD of Way Too Cool 50k and the American River 50-Mile - female runner in the center, in white singlet.

The new San Diego 100-Mile started at the Al Bahr campground in Mt. Laguna which was further northeast than the old race headquarters at Camp Cuyamaca, higher too at 6,000 ft. elevation. My ears were popping driving up to race registration. The campground itself reminded me of the set up at Umstead 100-mile in North Carolina. It had a nice lodge complete with a fireplace. There were showers, bathrooms and cabins in the campgrounds. Quite an improvement from what I experienced at the previous site. Friday's race registration was followed by the race briefing and dinner. We were back Saturday morning by 6:30AM to check in and receive our last minute instructions before the gun went off at 7AM. The atmosphere was your usual mixture of apprehension and excitement. 149 runners would start, just one shy of the 150 limit.

Picture 1
Under 16,000 ft. of total climbing but it sure felt more than that.

Miles 1-25
Since I memorized the elevation profile I divided up the race based on the terrain and not the aid stations. The first quarter of the race were rolling like the old course, no big climbs or downhills. Olga mentioned that the air was a bit thin. I don't have a hard time with anything below 7,000 ft. but I had no doubt it was affecting me regardless of what I was perceiving. For one thing my heart rate was a bit on the high side and I had to work harder at going slow. I actually stepped off the trail a couple of times to let people pass until I fell in line with runners who were running at the pace I needed to run in.

Miles 26-31
The course takes a downhill here all the way to the lowest point of the course at 3800 ft. at the 50k mark. I looked forward to the downhill but this section turned out to be rocky. Now usually I'm sure footed, a bit of a mountain goat. In fact until this race I don't remember the last time I fell. Well before the marathon mark I had already fallen twice and they were good, ground thumping ones. The first one I actually had some air time. I know this because while in mid-air and when time went into slow motion, I had enough time to guide my landing. Slammed my right pinky nicely though and it was swollen and sore for the rest of the run. Served me right for sticking it out like I was having tea at some garden party. The second was one of those sudden ones where the next time I blinked I was eye level with grass. So by the time I got this rocky section I was very, very cautious. When all was said and done I had fallen three times and stumbled at least seven. Ninny goat coming through! I arrived at the Pine Creek aid station at mile 31.3 a little dinged up and feeling like I already ran 50 miles.

Miles 32-36
Up, over and around. From Pine Creek we basically did a short loop. On the elevation profile it looks like a quick up and down. It was here where it started to get hot for me. It was only on the low 70's but we were exposed. I was thankful for my heat training because I was still able to move well but I was starting to really feel it. I made the decision to back off the pace at least until the temps start to cool. The evenings have been cold from what I heard with some wind. I prayed for those winds for the early afternoon.

Miles 37-46
It was good to see Pine Creek again but I knew that at least the next 10 miles would be another rolling uphill, what I didn't know was that it would start off steep on an asphalt road. It was ridiculous, up and up we went on this road. It made me laugh it was so sadistic. Two dirt bikes passing by didn't help things as I envied the riders speed and ease up the hill. When we got to the top we entered the trails again and continued to climb. After the asphalt road the trails were a relief. As I came into the Pioneer Mail aid station at mile 44.1 I had started to feel pretty good. Ric Muñoz was there helping with traffic and gave me a good cheer. I also heard a couple of "go Tamalpa" which was quite cool. I could have been done at this point though a fact that I grudgingly admitted. The day seemed long and I felt like I've already ran a 100k. Leaving Pioneer Mail however I would be treated to a section of the course that reminded me a lot of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. We were running past large rocks to our left with an amazing view of a valley to our right. This would continue for a few miles and was my favorite section.

Miles 47-60
These were the miles where I felt my strongest during the entire run. It was a nice rolling gentle downhill which allowed me to get into a nice groove. It got cooler as the afternoon progressed and I felt my strength revive with the cooler temperatures. As I passed 50 miles I got a huge mental boost knowing that I was now on the second half. Pulling into the Sunrise aid station at mile 51.3 was such a cause for internal celebration. George Velasco and Jeanette Quintana came to help me out with my drop bag and offered to help with whatever else I needed. I sorely missed not having my pal Jessica as my crew but friends filled in nicely. My drop bag here consisted of my backup shoes, backup light and a can of Red Bull - in case I wanted that extra kick. I decided to pick up my light because the next aid station at mile 58.9 has no drop bag access and I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the 64.2 aid station where I had my night pack complete with my main set of lights before the sun went down. Two people offered to pace but I declined. I was committed to running this solo and because I didn't really know them. The second half of a 100-mile is a heck of a time and place to get to know someone new. I left with a stomach full of Red Bull which gave me quite a kick and I motored out of there in good speed. Mile 60 had us at the base of another steep climb, this time up switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. When you are not familiar with a course, it all seems so huge and expansive.

Missed having Jess out there. Dedicated crew makes drop bags unnecessary. I did not miss having a pacer but I missed having a crew. You have access to your gear at more points along the course and refueling is so much faster with whatever nutrition and hydration you need already prepared before you hit an aid station.

Miles 61-71
Up and up we went, up these nicely maintained, beautiful switchbacks. I started to hurt again, started to get tired but the beauty of the place wasn't lost on me. As soon as we got to the top we came down just as quickly. I wasn't able to really take advantage of the ensuing downhill but was glad for it because I knew the Paso Picacho aid station at mile 64.2 wasn't far from the bottom of the downhill. 10 minutes out of the aid station it got too dark to run without a light and I was thankful I had picked up my backup light back at Sunrise aid station. It was shortly after leaving this aid station where I fell into the mud pit. On an uphill I encountered a muddy section that extended the width of the trail. I tip toed on the right side, lost my balance and ended up in the middle. Trying to extricate myself I sunk deep on both legs and one arm. By the time I got out my legs were heavy with mud and the shoes were soaked. The socks had mud inside of them and felt nasty. I was thankful that I had brought extra socks and an extra pair of shoes, unfortunately I had to travel another 15 miles before we looped back to Sunrise aid station where I had them. Shortly after this we entered a section of trail that was overgrown. It was hard to see the ground underneath which turned out to be rocky. I kept stumbling and kicking rocks so I played it safe and fast walked the entire section instead of running, it was quite a test for the ankles too.

At Paso Picacho aid station. Just picked up my Nathan pack and lights. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bernard.

It didn't look so bad 15 miles later, back at Sunrise aid station, mile 80. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bernard.

Changing socks and shoes. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bernard.

Miles 72-94
This section was one rolling uphill from 4000 ft back to 6000 ft for about 22 miles and since it's a rolling climb by the time you are done you've climbed more than 2,000 ft. It wasn't that bad considering we had 22 miles to do it but a climb is a climb and a pain in the butt when all you want is to cross the finish line as fast as possible. It also occurs in the last quarter of the race which I thought was a nice touch. I bet it messed with people's splits, certainly did with mine. Rolling into the 80-mile station was heaven, under a marathon now! Jonathan Bernard and Jeanette Quintana was there helping me with my shoe change. Jon was in the race, pulled out because of back issues, then stuck around helping crew for friends the rest of the event. I felt new with fresh socks and shoes and would eat the only solid food I would take the entire race - some chicken noodle soup and peanuts. I left feeling great and by the time I rolled back into Penny Pines aid station for the second time at mile 91.5 I was back in my groove and grinning ear to ear. My pace had dropped to 4 miles an hour which felt painfully slow but my spirits were up and I knew that I had a very good chance of at least finishing under 24 hours. Felt so good to be down to the single digits.

95 to the Finish
From here it was a rolling downhill to the finish and I was pretty spent by the time I got here but was determined to finish strong. At last year's race I lost the battle for a sub-20 hour finish the last 7 miles. I wasn't able to keep it together all the way to the end and I was determined not to let that happen this year. On my way to the last aid station, Rat Hole at mile 96.2, I was passed and was passed again before leaving. It surely sucked. I hate getting passed so late in the game but it was what it was. The going was pretty smooth from here on out. The shower I had been dreaming about was near and the anticipation was killing me. About a mile from the finish I spotted two more runners closing and pushed real hard to stay ahead this time. I made it with a whole lot of effort, that final quarter mile through the campgrounds took forever. Every minute where you are not where you want to be is an eternity. One of the two runners right behind turned out to be fellow San Francisco runner Brian Myers who had himself a great race.

Coming in for my finish. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bernard.

Getting my finisher's shirt, medal and buckle while Ysabel, Brian Myer's wife, takes a photo. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bernard.

Brian Myers and I flanking race director Scott Mills. Every time I saw Scott he was busy working, a whirlwind of energy at the finish. Towards the end he was picking up after everyone like a parent at a kids party. Furthermore had he been able to run his own race he would have made it to the finish line way before us, putting us youngsters to shame. Photo courtesy of Brian Myers.

Felt great to finish as you can imagine. Hung around the lodge's fireplace at first then slowly and painfully got myself organized and headed to the showers. I was quite stiff and sore but as I continued to move around I felt better, even standing around helped. I wanted to nap in the car for at least an hour or so but it was hard with all the cheering and clapping so I gave up on the idea and just stayed up watching people finish, chatting with friends and taking pictures. It was even warmer on Sunday, felt for the folks who had to endure the heat for a second day.Aside from the Redbull I had used caffeinated gels to keep me awake during the night and the particular brand that I use always makes me nauseous. Time to give those up for good. Dry heaving in the car after the shower was probably my lowest moment of the weekend! 90 of us would end up finishing with 59 drops. I'm surprised at the number of drops and some of them happened in the first 50 miles.

Olga Varlamova, showered, feet bandaged and out like a light in the middle of the walkway with no sunscreen. 25 hour finish 4 weeks after finishing the highly technical Massanutten 100-mile. That's Olga.

Katelyn Benton coming in.

Finishing together.

Let's not forget the selfless crew and pacers out there, Jimmy Dean and Daniel of the SoCal Coyotes.

While I wasn't as strong and fast physically I was on top of my game mentally and I believe that made the difference between a strong and positive race rather than a dismal sorry one. I never really felt in sync for the entire run and I know I'm faster than my 23:23:29 finish but I'm thankful I held together as I did. I'm quite happy about my sub-24 hour finish and something I can take forward to September for the Pine to Palm 100-Mile. Five weeks before San Diego I had that over-training thing and while I bounced back from it just in time for the race it had taken it's toll. Training those last weeks leading up to San Diego were lackluster and I wasn't fully recovered from the exhaustion and fatigue by the time the race came around, just recovered enough. So for this summer in preparation for P2P I'll take it easy on the racing and just focus on training.

My second time in San Diego marks my 10th 100-mile finish. I'm 10 for 10. Here's for more to come and hopefully most of them will be sub-24's.

Race Notes
• Great RD and staff
• Great volunteers
• Great race venue complete with shower facilities
• Course gets warm to hot during the day, cool to cold at night
• Exposed
• Feels more hilly than the elevation profile suggests
• Has some nice/frustrating technical sections
• Starts at 6,000 ft.
• You hit some aid stations twice but not a multiple loop course
• Amazing views
• Long miles between some of the aid stations (a concern if it gets really hot)
• Cool schwag: two shirts, a medal, a buckle and a bag

Click here for the photoset.


  1. As usual, a fantastic report! Congrats on going 10 for 10! I'm hoping to hit 10 for 10 with a Badwater finish in a few weeks. Time for us to figure out another pacing adventure!

  2. Congrats on a great race Rick. You are a rockstar! Recover well and look forward to running with you again soon. Or maybe we can plan a post WS cake eating party :) and burritos and pizza and.....

  3. congrats, rick. you've done it again! 10 for 10 is an amazing accomplishment. rest & recover well.

  4. "Every minute where you are not where you want to be is an eternity." I LOVE this. So true. You are really a strong runner, all this hard training and hanging out with fast dudes pays off. very impressive. I now remember where the mud was, couldn't figure out first time you mentioned. This is where I actually felt good. Did fall as well, later on a single track downhill. Congrats on #10! That is big, Rick. As for elevation, I bet it's more, Scotty says it's more. If you calculate from AS chart on the website and add on all pluses (or, add on all minuses, since it's a loop anyway), you'd come to 18440 (or -18558, yeah, I know). You look very happy during a shoe change:) Good to see you, man. Pine to Palm, huh? Crap, that's, like, less than 3 months! I am shivering already:)

  5. Congrats on a great performace! (And now I can put name with a face, something I was unable to do at the finish line)

  6. Great report, kudos for making in through the lows and the highs!

    10:10 'nuff said!

  7. Wow sub 24 hours! Congratulations. Enjoy your victory. Rest and recover well. You deserve it.

  8. Thanks for the comprehensive report, Rick! And congratulations on the sensational 10-for-10 streak. It's a testament to your dedicated training regimen that you turn in such consistent (and FAST) finishing times.

    The photos were, as per usual, excellent. The close-ups of your muddied legs accentuated that ordeal very well. And thanks for mentioning me in paragraph 8. It's always fun to volunteer, especially at such a great event as the SD 100!

  9. Well done, Rick - and thanks for the great report. No worries about the time; we all know that's secondary to just getting the job done. You're one of the best around at working your way through even when you're not feeling well or conditions aren't what you expected. Keep up the great work for your P2P training this summer!

  10. Great job out there again- and great report. I look forward to seeing you at future runs and around the city.

  11. 10 for 10 is pretty awesome! Congrats!

    The hubs is registered for P2P, so maybe I'll see you there!

  12. Congrats on a great performance, and thanks for the great report! You look so cheerful in the pictures. The course sounds deceptively difficult.


  13. Way to go, Rick! Considering the whopping elevation total and coming off of overtraining, you did great. Great reports and pics, too, as usual. Like the inclusion of all the mental ups and downs in your stories. Good luck with the next 100 (wow--another one in the same season!) and thanks again for my pic at Redwood Park. Ann

  14. Feel like running with you, pare... while reading your recap. Great job!

  15. Great recap, as always. I hope to see you soon!

  16. Thank you for the detailed race report...I'm doing some research for this year's upcoming San Diego 100...and your report helped immensely. Nice run last ... way to break 24! I think I just saw you down at Miwok a few weeks ago...We'll have to meet in person one of these days! Happy Trails...Yassine

  17. Great Yassine! I will be back again this year, this time to pace and crew a friend running his first 100. There's also a good number of SF Bay Area folks who are doing the race. I was at Miwok, another great race and you guys had great weather.
    See you at SD.