Angeles Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run

September 18-19, 2004
Wrightwood, California

By Mike Campbell

Mike on the trail at Angeles CrestRunning 100 miles without stopping takes a bit of determination, endurance, hard-headedness and sure will. Having a great crew is what makes it all happen and I am fortunate enough to say that mine is the best anyone can ask for. When I approach aid stations feeling down and out of it, I always hear encouraging words like how I'm ahead of schedule or part of the leading pack, that I'm looking great and that they are proud of me. When my legs are feeling like rubber, they tell me there's no cramping and they are real loose as they massage some more heat (Bengay) into them. My hat is off to my crew chief Themar, and my son Michael, for all the support in these last 10, ultra's I've done. When I'm just trying to make it to the next aid station, they keep me focused on the finish.

Wrightwood is a pleasant little town at an elevation of 6,000 feet in the northeastern San Gabriel Mountains. They supposedly have 340 days of sunshine (the three days that we were there, not a single cloud could be seen in a perfect blue sky). There were so many picturesque sights and the panoramic views were unbelievable, but so much for running such a distance in these. There is no flat running here, it's only up and straight up these never ending climbs, then immediately descending at a much faster rate, thus wearing the heck out of your quads and shins, not to forget your toes that take a beating. In other words, a nice place for hiking and picture taking, not so much for a century run.

For all of you the time is of essence, I finished in 27 hours and 35 minutes, which was 27th out of the 83 that started. About 50 finished by 2pm on Sunday (after 33 hours). Definitely one of the harder races that I have done that will have to take a lot of convincing to attempt it again.

For the rest of you who like more details ("Mikey" stories as my wife calls them) here you go…

Angeles Crest wasn't my first choice for my third 100-mile race this year, but my crew chief Themar got married at the same time as the Wasatch Front 100. So I decided Angeles Crest would have to do. It was a great wedding, so all the best to Themar and Stacy. As I stole him away a shortly after his wedding for a luxury weekend with very little sleep, we flew out to LAX and met up with my son Michael, from Houston, Texas.

At the Avis counter, when we said we were going to Wrightwood, the man looked sort of cross-eyed at us like where in the world is that place? I said you have to know, it the one that has no traffic lights and around 2-3,000 residents. I had to resort to my trail book and we made it up there in about 90 minutes. The scenery wasn't all that great, since it was around 1 am (Pacific Time), which was 4 am back in Virginia. We settled into the Pines Motel and didn't have a problem falling to sleep.

My check-in was on Friday from 9 am until 12 pm I weighed in at 143 lbs and we went off to breakfast (three giant pancakes) at a small diner. Did I mention, "Cash only"?? So there is still a place in the world that doesn't take credit cards! Our race brief was at 2 pm, story was dry, dry and real dusty out there, no fires and all parks will be closed until winter or it rains sufficiently shortly after the completion of the race for safety precautions. We definitely wouldn't have to worry about wet feet but dehydration would be a big factor.

Scenic view at Angeles CrestI usually forget something and this time it was my E-Caps (Endurolytes), and would you expect to find some in this town? At the hardware or Harley shop, (negative). I asked the race director (a great guy) Hal Winton if they would have some salt tablets or "Succeed" on the course, and he said maybe but don't count on it. He did have a couple of packets of sodium/electrolytes, that I decided to try (mixing each packet in about three (32oz) of Gatorade, didn't want to "OD" on the sodium since I don't regularly use salt, and have stomach problems when I use Succeed.)

Around 6 pm we had a hearty supper, served by the local girl scouts all decked out in their uniforms and couldn't be more pleasant in serving us. We met Mr. & Mrs. Ulrich Kamm from Germany (about six years ago) living in the Colorado area. Mr. Kamm was a race walker and said he was shooting for 32 hours and 59 minutes.

So it was around 7:30 pm and time to pop my Unisome pills and get some sleep. 3:30 am came soon enough, but I felt well rested. As we lined up after a prayer by Hal, we were shoved off into the dark at exactly 5 am

We ran through the town of Wrightwood (around 6,000 feet) that took about two minutes, and then we climbed 2150 feet in 3.51 miles on our way to Inspiration Point. Quads warmed up real fast and felt the sweat off my face even though the temp was around 55 to 60 degrees. I was glad that a tank-top and short sleeve Coolmax were sufficient. The air was dry and even though I drank about 40oz of Gatorade before the start, I had cottonmouth big time. After the initial hike, we sped our way down to the first aid station where I met my crew at mile 9.3. I downed my first bottle of Ensure and got rid of my coolmax shirt, headlamp, and flashlight. I swapped my empty bottle of Gatorade since it would only be 4.5 miles to the next aid station.

Mostly down hill and 45 minutes later, I was at Vincent Gap. One 8oz of V8 and took two bottles of Gatorade for the next climb of 2800 feet in 3.77 miles over Mt Baden-Powell and I wouldn't see my crew for another 13.85 miles. I finished the first bottle before I got up to the top (9,399 feet) and nursed the next one going down this section that had over 41 switchbacks. We ran through the Limber Pines that are up to 2,000 years old, and the ground was soft running feeling like you could run forever on it. I made it to Islip Saddle aid station at mile 25.91 and the first medical station. Hopped on the scale and the attendant said starting weight 143, so that is where we started, well she kept moving the weight up and was all the way past 149 and the medic said he's ok (definitely not under).

I took my second bottle of Ensure and was off, with two Gatorade bottles, only 3.23 miles to next aid but 1380 feet in 1.63 miles. As we climbed up to Mt. Williamson (8,214') and a nice view of Eagle's Roost and Twin Peak, I made the aid station in a little over an hour (only about 4 miles). But, here coming up was the dreaded Cooper Canyon and about 8 miles. Here we drop to about 5,000' and then right back up to 7,000' before "Cloudburst aid station". Needless to say I was ready for another bottle of Ensure by time I arrived there.

Mike on the trail at Angeles CrestWe had two Tarahumara Indians running from state of Chihuahua, Mexico whose members' distance running skills are legendary: Some say they once hunted deer by chasing them until the animals collapsed of fatigue. Running in homemade huarache sandals.

Well I caught up with the first one here, playing tag as he was adjusting his sandal; I believe he was working on a blister. Before long I passed him up and didn't see him for the rest of the day.

Now came a bit of gentle down hill running parallel to the Angels Crest Highway and crossing at Pajarito and Glenwood, coming up to Three Points at mile 42.72. I'm alternating with my 8oz of V8 or Ensure, seems to be working and grabbing a couple chunks of watermelon now and then. The trail narrows quite frequently and you constantly keep your eyes focussed about 5 feet in front of you, most of the time the path was only one-sided, meaning that the outside edge was a sheer drop off down into the canyon below. Hitting a rock and loosening it up making it fall, you heard it falling and crashing below sometimes after you where 10 to 15 strides ahead. As I was in my own world, I saw a rock ledge off on the other mountain, looking up for a split second; the view was unbelievable, just as if you were in an Imax Theater.

Next is Mt. Hillyer at 6,300' (a 920' climb in 3.58 miles) still around 3 pm as we reached the aid station and plenty of light left. During the day I've had my shirt off, but the weather has cooperated and I believe was in the 70's most of the day, with wind (almost always from the East) that was at our backs. A quick descend to the next medical stop at Chilao (mile 52.8), steadied myself on the other scale and recorded 145 lbs, informed the Medic that I didn't especially like the earlier scale that said I had gained over 5 lbs and he confirmed that it wasn't working right.

This is where I changed by shoes (Montrail Dietz Vista) since they where feeling a little flat and I've kicked some rocks pretty hard coming down the mountain trails. As I removed my right shoe, my big toe wasn't looking very good, more like a purple plum and the nail was barely surviving. Popped a few blisters, dried off my feet, greased them up with Vaseline and new pair of socks. My backup shoes where Adidas's Respond Trail (remember getting them on sale for around $40 regular $80) but where the same size as my street shoes 9 ˝ and usually go up ˝ size for trail running, didn't think at the time it would be a problem. Well, let me tell you squeezing my swollen foot into that narrow shoe wasn't much fun. After finally getting them on, I hopped around like I was on hot coals. So I'll see how they go and if they are still a problem at the next aid station then I'll go back to the Montrail's. From Chilao to Shortcut was 6.5 miles not bad mostly down hill, nevertheless I remembered to get my flashlight cause it was dark before I reached the aid station and darkness has it way of slowing everything.

To my surprise Themar started pacing here at the 60 miles mark, now you know we don't have another crew aid station until we hit Chantry Flats at mile 75. As we started Themar ran back to get his light, and then ˝ mile down the trail, he remembered the forgotten bottle too, oh well I'll share the two of mine. We had a nice 5-mile sort of downhill jog, but then came a 1,070' climb in 2.56 miles to Newcomb's Saddle.

As we approached this aid station, asking if they had an extra bottle, we did get a 20oz empty diet coke bottle and filled it with Gatorade, with both of mine refilled, a cup of chicken soup, we where off. It would be 6.6 miles to Chantry Flats, so we alternated run/walk/jog until we made it to the aid station. This would be my last medical check and recorded 143 lbs exactly where I was the day before. I got on my Playtex glove and rubbed some Bengay deep into my leg muscles and lower back. This was it for my crew, as I would not see them until the finish, it was a bit before midnight, so I suggested they check in at the hotel in Pasadena and get some sleep since I wouldn't be finished until at least 7 or 8 am

So I'm off like Daniel Boone into the wilderness, actually I only saw about a dozen chemlites for the entire course, and mostly near the aid station, but the course was pretty consistent and I didn't get lost at all this time. Earlier I was kidding Themar since he took a tumble going 15 miles with me and I have yet to fall down. Maybe I spoke too soon, just then slipped and fell almost flat on my face, considering this happened only twice during the entire 100 miles. Now I was climbing 3,100 feet in 6.24 miles so it was real slow, and 9.02 miles to the aid station so pretty much emptied my two bottles by the time I hit Idle Hour aid station.

Since I'm carrying a bottle of Ensure, and drank one at Chantry, I opted to get two cups of soup and a cup of coke to wake me up and was off. We dropped down about a mile then made the final climb of 1,960' in 3.77 miles. After running most of the day and 80 miles it never seemed we could make it to the top of the hill at Sam Merrill. A mile and half or so before the aid station I came up on my second Tamara Indian with a pacer, he was still in his leather sandals, but had some thin socks underneath I'm sure to relieve those blisters. I kept on pumping into the aid station, and while my bottles where being refueled, I drank my last Ensure for the day, and was off.

Here is where I promised myself that since I was at mile 90 with almost all of the rest was down hill, I was going to run the entire last 10 miles. As I descended several switchbacks, heard some trotting ahead, glanced up and spotted a buck deer (tail down) getting up the trail and diving off to the right. I didn't really think I could catch him, hmmm, trying to focus just as much as possible while keeping the pace.

Thinking I'm not that far from the finish, I was passed by a fellow runner who said we had to get to Millard Campground aid station, which was 4 miles to the end. Geez, will it ever end, my watch stopped at 23 hours and 59 minutes, so I was sort of on my own figuring out what the heck my run time was. I flipped it over to the regular time and I'm adding, subtracting, maybe multiplying and using geometry trying to get the right time. So what I figured, well it's past 27, 28 and 29 hours as I hit the aid station right at the top of the hour. Oh, no, if I don't do the last four miles in an hour then I'm over 30 hours, so I picked it up at bit. Thinking you can do 20 minutes per mile walking, so that's three miles in an hour, well I'm running so should be able to do these four in that time.

Mike with crew at finishWe could see the parking lot for the Rose Bowl, JPL building with the flag on it and soon would be at Johnson Field. There were many joggers as we hit the blacktop road for the weekend jaunts, actually at a better pace than I. As I finally spotted the AC100 Banner and the tents with volunteers, a smile came to my face, and there was Michael and Themar. I crossed the line doing the last 4 miles in 35 minutes (a little over 8 ˝ minute pace) and got a picture and sat down for a cup of soup, thinking my time was in 28 hours +. Michael said no, it was 27 hours, and Themar verified with the official timer that it was 27 hours and 35 minutes.

They had two showers set up with a hot water and propane gas tank. After scrubbing forever, and getting on some clean clothes, I made it back to the tent and got a couple of pancakes, sausage and cup of hot tea and I was in heaven. Shortly after, here comes our Tarahumara Indian from Mexico, Federico Fuentes crossed the finish line in 37th place, with a time of 28:28:18.

We hobbled over to the car and went back to the hotel, where of course I couldn't sleep. We watched a little football on TV, and it's only 10 or 11 am and football is on! These West Coast dudes have it made. Just think Monday Night Football is on at 6 pm??

We returned to the picnic at Johnson's Field before 2 pm, grabbed couple of hot dogs, salad and cokes, then watched as our new friend made it in and here is the quotation of the day:

"Ulrich Kamm, 57, was the last across, collapsing in a heap and sobbing in the arms of his wife. He had made the deadline with less than five minutes to spare. Kamm turned his head, saw the finish line behind him, and complained that he had gone two yards too far."

Hal congratulated all of the racers as well as gave acknowledgement to the wonderful volunteers for another great AC-100. It was especially moving when Hal called the name of Federico Fuentes, the Tarahumara Indian from Mexico. Hal said he doesn't understand English but understands applause, which he got a standing one from all the fellow runners and volunteers. He had a wide smile and waved to all, nodding his appreciation.

As I collected my belt buckle and finished up with the trophies, I was satisfied with a job well done.

As I finish another race and story, as always, my thanks go to my running partners (lovely wife Aleka, and friend Pat), the VHTRC members, and my mother for lighting the candles and her support back home in Wisconsin.

What's next? The Marine Corps Marathon (my 52nd marathon) in October, the JFK 50 miler (my 8th) in November, and maybe try for Western States 100 next June ….

Until then, see you on the trails….thks Mike

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