Monday, July 30, 2012

Angeles Crest 100

Not only do you get a belt buckle, but they give you a beautiful plaque with the course layout and elevation with your name and time.
 In 2008 I had completed a few marathons and was introduced into this “ultrarunning” world when a co-worker, Victor Zamudio, asked me to come be on his crew for Angeles Crest 100. I was introduced to Patrick Ackley and had the honor of assisting both athletes in completing this race. I was bitten by the “hundo” bug and was totally intrigued while watching their incredible accomplishment.
This map that Vic created in 2008 had been on my wall in my cube for 3 years.

  I sign up for AC100 the next year and there was a fire that consumes a large section of the course and they have no choice but to cancel the 2009 running. This was a total blessing in disguise, for me at least, because I really don’t think I would have finished AC if it would have been my first hundo. Different things happen in my life and I finally am able to run the race this year.

Vic and Pat agree to crew for me on this run. Vic grew up just a couple hours south of the race and has family there in LA. They graciously let us stay with them Thursday night due to the three of us getting into LAX late. Friday morning we visit with the Zamudio family a little bit and then it is off to Wrightwood, to the race start for me to check in.

After the check-in and race briefing, we handle some last minute things and check in at the hotel for me to relax. Vic and Pat are very big on relaxing as much as possible the day before since the race will take so much out of you. Soon it is time for bed and I sleep as best I can, which usually isn’t that good.
Mr. Ackley at the start the day before the race.

 Alarm goes off at 3 am and I start getting ready. We pack and are at the race start line with time to spare. Soon they gather all the runners together under the start banner. The fire truck siren is goes off and we start running. We run out of Wrightwood and work our way to the Acorn trail. This gets your attention due to it being an almost 3 mile climb to get up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I see my guys at the first AS and I am doing alright. I will see them in another 4.5 miles.

At Vincent Gap is where you start climbing, 2500 feet in 3.8 miles on Mt. Baden Powell and reach the highest altitude point of the race of 9400 feet above sea level. Back in 2009, I had done a training run where I went to this high point twice and did not have an issue with altitude sickness. That training day was surprisingly colder than I expected. I wasn’t so lucky this time, per se. By the time I got to the top it had warmed up and I believe this impacted me with my stomach being upset. My plan was to start eating real food at this point, I ate half a ham and cheese sandwich and shortly after that it quickly exited my body. I got scared! I have watched friends of mine not be able to finish a race due to the inability to keep food down.

Looking back on this now, I realized I put a lot of stress on myself about this race. This was a race I had been looking forward to for 3 years. Vic and Pat had given of their time to help me and I didn’t want to let them down. I somewhat broke into survival mode. I knew that I had been just fine earlier eating vanilla GU’s, so that is what I went back to. I even stopped moving completely while I ate the GU’s just to make sure that I didn’t get sick or choke on them and throw them up also.

I get into Islip Saddle AS. This is a medical checkpoint. At AC100 ever 25 miles, they make you get on scales to make sure that you haven’t lost too much weight. I check out fine, but I noticed a “hot spot” (blister forming) on my left heel and Vic tapes me up perfectly and sends me on my way.

Things are going along ok, but it is really starting to heat up. I remember a runner having a small thermometer on his pack and he states that it is over 90. When I leave Eagles Roost, I make a pretty stupid mistake. I forget to pack my GU’s in my running pack and unfortunately this is a long stretch, about 8 miles, before I get to the next AS. Since it is now the hottest part of the day and I have no food, my only thought is to slow down and conserve energy. I know that if I can get through this section, my crew will be able to put me back together. I found out later that I had come into that AS with only 30 minutes before the cut off. They get me taken care of and I am back out on the course pretty quick.

 As the race goes on I am still fighting stomach issue and not being able to eat real food. I don’t even have a desire for it at all and this is totally odd for me. At every hundo I have run in the past, I have eaten an entire steak during the race! I LOVE STEAK, but not today. I am still scared that at some point I am going to run out of energy and be done. I get quite with the guys or sound like a winey, 5 yrs old girl asking her parents not to have to eat the healthy food. I so hated this, but I felt like if I did start throwing up, that it just wouldn’t stop and my day would be over.

The focus turns to me getting to mile 52, Chilao AS so that Vic can then start pacing me. Another lesson learned, don’t let people you don’t know tape your feet in a race! I had come in just a couple minutes early then my crew had expected and I didn’t see them. At this AS they had volunteers to wash and treat your feet if needed. I knew some things were going on with my feet, so I got them cleaned and someone started treating my blisters. I didn’t want to cause a problem or seem ungrateful, but I didn’t think their tape job would work. It did last me to the next AS, then Vic had to redo everything. It is always good to have someone on your crew that knows how to treat your feet and you trust them.

The wonderful volunteer in the chair to the right gave me batteries for my headlamp when my died. Such great people are around these ultra races!
 Vic does a great job of pacing me. We talk about all different things and he rewards me when I run and before long we are at mile 75, Chantry Flats, and it is Mr. Ackley’s duty to take over on the last 25 miles. One thing that messes with runners minds is the fact that when you leave Chantry Flats, you will not see your crew till the finish line. If you do decide to drop out, I am not sure what they have to do to get you out of there besides maybe having to wait till the AS closes. It is also known that the last 25 miles are view just as hard or harder as the first 25, so leaving Chantry Flats is dedication to the finish.
The next section of this race, the climb to Mt. Wilson is just BRUTAL!! 4.5 miles of almost constant uphill with an incline that is servre that I have to put my hands on my thighs to push down to climb this thing. I know that having 75+ miles on my legs and being tired can skew my view, but this had to be one of the hardest climbs I have ever done in a hundo. This climb was harder that the 2nd major climb on Baden –Powell! Just insane!! I state that I don’t know how I am going to get through this climb and yet another one at the end. Pat has me stay in the moment. Don’t worry about 10 miles down the trail, stay here and think positive!

 Pat was kind enough that he gave me all the vanilla GU’s that he had since that’s all that seemed to work for me. But it got to the point where we had run out of vanilla favor. Real food was still not appealing at all. I was scared of trying new flavors of the GU’s stuff, but I didn’t have a choice. The GU Chomps seemed to work and I was able to keep them down.

This is not an angry face but one of more of not trying throw up what I am eating.
 It is so amazing how long a mile stretches out at the end of these hundred milers. I just working so hard to move a decent pace and get to the next AS, but they seemed to never get there. Somewhere in this section all the blisters on my feet that I have built all race long just seem to at the height of getting my attention. I know at times I look like some old man hobbling down the trail. I know that I sound like a whiny, little kid, but Pat just continues the positive thoughts focus to get me down the trail.

We get past the last AS and are heading to the finish line. I am in front of Pat and we come around a corner to find a 4 foot long rattlesnake slowly moving across the trail. I get Pat to look to make sure I am not hallucinating. I am have done that before in hundo. Mr. Rattlesnake takes a minute, then we are able to past without issue.

 Coming out of the mountains and up on to the street is surreal for me. I have pictures of pacing Pat on that exact street and 4 years earlier, it is now reversed. I have no words to fully describe what it meant to me to see that park and finish line. I crossed the finish line and shook Hal’s hand, one of the RD’s. Thanked God for letting me get through this event and accomplish it. Hugged Vic and Pat and thanked them for their help.
One of the RD's, Hal Winston shaking all the finishers hands.
I know that it is very manly, but I got emotional at the end. Completing something that I had been working on for so long went deep into my soul.

Angeles Crest 100 is a great race. The RD’s and volunteers where just outstanding, just like I remembered them from 2008 and one of the reasons of getting in this wonderful sport. The goodness of humanity.


  1. I'm proud of you Phil. You are a constant inspiration to me in all that you do!

  2. Congratulations, great story. Thanks for sharing! Still sounds horrible though:)

  3. No need to feel bad about feeling whiny! You should have heard Pat at Pac Rim 24 hour run! We have all been there and I would hope are patient enough to understand. Sounds like you got through it with much strength and an overall positive attitude! Good Work!

  4. Great job Phil!! I am so glad you got through it. We were following you all day.

  5. are truly an inspiration to me! Who knew over 30 years ago when we ran around the campground that you'd be running through mountains and forests as a 40 year old man and inspiring me to do the same?!?! Can't wait to see what the future holds!