Saturday night was my first opportunity to run on the AC100 course and I joined 35 or so other runners in Alta Dena for this practice run. The route would cover the last quarter of the course of which some of it may be covered during the night. We all stood looking at the hills trying to second guess the weather. That day at my house some 45 miles away had gone from 50 degrees at dawn to rain to clear blue skies and 75 degrees in the afternoon. I had tried to pack for every eventuality but in the end went with CW-X ¾ tights, my Go-Run in SC shirt from Robin and my Running with Scissors arm sleeves. A bandana as I was wearing a head-torch for most of the run was the choice of headwear…I actually looked like a cross between a ballerina and a pirate! Two handhelds and my Nathan Race Vest completed my ensemble!
After some shuffling about we were broken out into cars who would drive us to the start point, we couldn’t do it ourselves as they lock the gate at the bottom of the hill! We got a short brief and without any fuss we were off. The speed demons took off and those that knew the course were asked to mark it, they did an excellent job and I didn’t loose my way once.
The first three or four miles were in rapidly dwindling sunlight, the cloud as low and it was going to get foggy as the sun set and we climbed higher. My Forerunner decided to play up and would not lock on for the first 48 minutes which left me just over three miles short in measurement, but hey; what’ev! By the time we reached the first summit we were in full on head and hand torch mode, spirits were high and we all getting to know each other. We started the run down Mt Wilson Toll Road, road is used very liberally as it is strewn with rocks, I paired up with another brit and we wild the time away chatting for the next four miles or so, we almost missed the turn back onto the single track and it was here that he ran on, he was just faster than me and then I fell over, no damage just a stupid trip! From this point we dropped lower into the canyon and the temperature got cooler as we hit the bottom and crossed a few shallow streams. Then onto the next climb I noticed that my pace was dropping off a little, the downside of being on my own and I think this is where a pacer will really help (Billy/Rachel!). I started to recognize the trail as this was where I had done my trail maintenance two weeks ago and so with the knowledge that there was probably another 2-2.5 miles of climbing to go, I set my chin and just dug in. The low cloud was being a real pain at this point and was just reflecting the light I was trying to use so I turned off my brighter hand held torch and just used my head-torch which seemed to work okay.
I popped out at the top and was greeted by the two organizers, one of which is a Park Service Officer, he had opened the gate at the bottom and made the long drive up with cookies and Mountain Dew, not wanting to be unappreciative of his efforts I partook of both, refilled one bottle with water and set off. I had about 10 miles to go and had been told it was mostly downhill.
And downhill it was, the problem was was the steps, switchbacks, and rocks so you struggled to really get into a groove and not wanting to do anything silly like roll my ankle I gingerly made my way down, I caught up with someone who was marking the trail and we ran/walked together for a couple of miles until I needed a bio break and he took off. Around this time the weather decided that we weren’t quite wet enough from the low cloud and mist and so it started to rain, not hard and not for long but enough just to make things wet all over, oh yes and I mis-read the trail and what looked like a shallow stream with pebbles was actually about 5 inches deep so I had two wet squelching feet to boot!
The trail wound its way down with some odd little ups and there were short sections on tarmac until you dropped off back into the woods, the orange glow in sky was getting brighter and finally I saw the city lights off in the distance, I had come out from under the cloud. I found myself on a tarmac road and as I rounded the bend I could see the end of it opening up onto the street, a minute later I was there and a minute after that back at my car. Shortly after the two organizers rolled up as I was getting into dry clothes and we bid our farewell.
Overall this was a great run, the weather was not so co-operative but hey that’s the mountains for you. My nutrition was good, because of the funny start time I had no dinner and I had tried not to eat anything after 4pm, (there’s a lot of poison oak and wandering around in the dark looking for a spot…well you can see where I’m going) I am also trying some new gels and they are working a treat so far. The big takeaways are travel time in the dark; I was averaging a 17:30 pace so that will help with my pace charts and that the last ten miles or so of trail are a mine-field for twisting your ankle!
No photos the one above was taken from the road and shows some of the low cloud taken from and the Garmin Connect data, MotionBased is being retired!