Wednesday, 22 June 2011

San Diego 100-Miler Race Report-- 2011

San Diego 100-Miler Race Report-- 2011

A few months ago I decided that I wanted to run my next 100-miler in San Diego based on the location, the timing of the event, and the popularity of the race. I also had the plan to simultaneously raise money and awareness for the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp-- an organization that I am affiliated with that helps students and adults with disabilities. You can learn more about that whole mission by clicking HERE. When I initially met with Terri Taylor, the Communications Director for the camp, she asked me what goals I had in mind for the run. I told her that I wanted to raise a certain amount of money to help financially incapable students, and that I wanted to win (it is after all a foot race!). She later on told me that she thought that was awesome. Fast forward a couple months, over $3,000 in donations, and lots of solid training I showed up at the starting line in the mountains at 6,000 feet-- an hour east of San Diego, CA.

(Moments after the start...Dylan Bowman in yellow, me in center, Rod Bien on right--Photo by Brett Rivers)

I didn't tell many people about it but about a week before the race I was having some Achilles tendon pain. I had some anxiety about the whole situation but tried to stay calm, do some self-care techniques, and I got some work done on it such as acupuncture and massage. By race day I was feeling great but still had some apprehension about running 100 miles on a possibly compromised tendon that you can't really run without!  My acupuncturist in Portland Ruth Oclander gave me a small piece of advice that stuck in my mind throughout the week and the race. She told me to imagine a bright white light (which signifies healing) around my tendon any time I feel a slight twinge, or if someone asks me about it, or just in general thoughts or anxiety about the issue.

The first few miles when you are rested, tapered, and well-trained just seem so easy. I effortlessly glided into the first aid station in first place after running alongside some deer through some gorgeous early morning single track.

(Cruising into Aid Station #1 at mile 7.3 all far so good! photo Devon Crosby-Helms)

During this time I thought I felt a couple little possible "blips on the radar" regarding my tendon but really focused on staying loose, relaxed, and the white light imagery. When I saw my wife Erica at the next aid station she emphatically asked, "is your leg ok!?"  I told her that I felt it a tiny bit but that I thought I'd be okay. It was much of the same through absolute picture perfect trails until mile 23 and by now I knew that I was in the zone and was going to finish this baby! Erica passed a bottle of Perpetuum to me and I gave her and baby Farah a quick kiss and I strolled out of the aid station still leading the way.

The course was much more exposed, rocky, and technical than I expected and the sun was rising higher with the temperature with not a cloud in the sky. In the next section I could look back down the valley a bit as it twisted around and climbed and I would periodically get a visual on second place Coloradoan Dylan Bowman. At one point he gave me a fist pump in the air which I took as "we were both rockin' out". He was probably about five minutes behind me at this point.

At around mile 30-ish we dropped down into a canyon where we were supposed to run a five-ish mile loop back to the same aid station before climbing out a couple miles up a steep paved road. Honestly this was one of the most difficult parts of the race for me. I was extremely hot and everyone was greeted (attacked) by swarms of gnats or flies on roids. I tried everything including taking my shirt off and swinging it around my head like a helicopter, and tying my shirt around my head like a bonnet. They were relentless all the way to the top of the paved road where they finally tired out a bit.  I was so thankful for that and for the lady with a cooler full of popsicles! I kept pluggin' along toward the 50-ish mile aid station still in the lead with Dylan a few minutes back.

When I came into the half-way point aid station my new neighbor and buddy Jason Hill helped me re-stock my pockets and mixed up another bottle for me quickly which was a huge help. I was definitely feeling the heat at this point but Jason, with his South African accent, encouraged me to keep killin' it! I badly wanted to take my shoes off and dump out the sand and tiny rocks and particles out of my Inov-8 X-talon 212's but kept the forward progress.

At the Stonewall Mine Aid Station they told me that I would be ascending the steep Stonewall Peak and then I would be descending the other side. I was also told by Kim Gaylord (who helped me so kindly throughout the race) that Rod Bien was puking and that her husband Topher was having a rough time as well. I knew Dylan wasn't too far back and despite my fatigue I felt really good about how I power hiked and ran this section. It was this point in the race where I was starting to draw on things like the campers from the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. I thought about how we once took a bunch of students on a vertical one-mile hike up from Timberline Lodge to Silcox Lodge, and how they all persevered despite issues I can't even imagine dealing with on a regular basis. I was sweating profusely and the sun was beating down on me and the dusty exposed mountain. I knew I had to be getting close to the top and came to a "Y" in the trail where I was almost sure it said "Straight Ahead".  I kept powering up...running...hiking...grunting....sighing a little....until I thought, "I haven't seen a ribbon in a few minutes". Then I saw some people up at the platform at the top overlooking the vast land.  "That must be where I go down the other side, right?" I asked a hiker heading up the same way if there was a way down the other side and she said, "not unless you're a rock climber". I panicked at this point.  "I'm off course!" I started scrambling all over the place and heading back down the trail toward my competition...something that you never want to be doing in a race!

I finally, which felt like forever, got back to the "Y" and realized that this is where I was supposed to descend. As I came across a couple hikers I asked if a guy in a yellow jersey came running past and they confirmed that Dylan had passed about 10-minutes prior.  I was so pissed at myself and I just didn't have a ton of energy to muster at this point.  I let gravity take me down to Paso Pichacho aid station at mile 64 where I was told by Kim and others that Dylan left seven minutes prior to me arriving confused about the whole situation. I needed calories, caffeine, and the incessant encouragement and motivation wasn't doing anything for me. My attitude was just kind of deflated but I got out of there relatively quickly and I knew that there was still a lot of race left.  I made sure I didn't try any surges to soon in order not to burn out at one of the toughest times of a 100-mile race.

The miles seemed to just drag on at this point but finally the temperatures were starting to drop a little and we were in some shaded trails. I eventually made it to to grab my night gear and was getting regular  updates from people that Dylan was consistently between 7-10 minutes ahead. After I donned my headlamp it became a different race...the trails are different and you just seem to get into a different frame of mind.  You realize that you've been running hard since early in the morning and now, on one of the longest days of the year, you are running in the night! It's a crazy place to be mentally, physically, sometimes just want to say, "I'm done...I can't do it anymore...I'm feet hurt, etc. etc." but you have to stop the chatter and just keep pushing through. I thought again about the campers at Mt. Hood, their parents, and how much I want to finish this run for them...and for myself.

I came into the mile 80 aid station and stared at all the food and could not imagine eating any of it. My digestive system was just shocked and nothing appealed to me...I think I choked down a Powerbar and a potato and another gel and disappeared back into the darkness. I had passed the only relay team who were honoring their friend who passed away and I felt that I was just on my own for the rest of the run/hike. Honestly I just felt fine with taking second place and was focused on beating my prior best 100-mile time of 18:53...but didn't rule out the idea of something happening to Dylan and me still winning.  I kept looking back every once in a while to see a couple head lamps off in the distance behind me and I just thought it was the two relay guys. Another hour passed and the lights were getting closer and I could hear their voices. I thought, "wow these guys are really moving pretty well!"  As they approached me from behind around mile 87 I moved off the trail and said, "Strong work guys!"  Then as I shined my light on the first runner I see a Patatgonia shirt and Rod Bien's face!  I thought I saw a ghost!  I yelled, "You're back!"....Rod yells to me, "I'm back from the dead!" and scurries past me with his pacer David Easa.  I was so shocked and yet again deflated at that same time and I wondered if there were more runners reeling me in as well.

Despite this unexpected pass by Bien it really energized me and I picked up the pace to try and latch on the back of those two. There were like 30 mph winds up on the Pacific Crest Trail and we were approaching the 87.5 mile aid station. Then something happened that completely took me off guard.  When I entered the lighted aid station I was yelling out my number and that I needed water and then I see Rod standing there looking at me.  He turns to me and says to me right as I enter, "Hey Yassine...Do you just wanna finish this thing up together?" I think we both were pretty fried literally and figuratively from running 15 hours and what we had to endure throughout the day and without hesitation I said, "Let's do this".  Rod introduced me to David and we kept powering onward as we got some cheers from the aid station volunteers.  I was shocked again when Rod encouraged me to hang with them after I suggested them pushing on without me. I just didn't seem to have the same pep in my step as Rod was showing but I dug deep. Eventually the three of us started getting into some decent running grooves and the human contact helped me immensely.

There was much more light on the trails from all of our headlamps and we got to know each other.  Conversation is kind of strange at mile 90---you are just completely raw nerves....your brain doesn't work as's cold, windy, you grunt, cuss, piss, fall, etc. etc.  There were also periods of silence or negativity (mostly from me and occasionally from David) but Rod stayed positive and led us toward the finish.  A 100-miler is so difficult to articulate and so is this experience of camaraderie I experienced with Rod and David.  Instead of separately working against each other we worked together in a race against the clock abandoning the notion of placement, etc. It's kind of strange that Rod and I are both living in Oregon  and we actually never met in person prior to this race.  Like Rod said, "This is a cool bond that we will always share."

We finally made it into the finish line area with big smiles on our faces crossing together, tied for 2nd overall, with a time of 18 hours and 12 minutes...a personal best for Rod and myself!  Race Director Scott Mills put a medal around our neck and we were so happy to be finished with the 10th annual San Diego 100-miler! It is such an amazing, indescribable feeling that you get from crossing that line.  I am still trying to process it seems like a dream...almost a blur...but it definitely happened and I learned a lot during this race. This run had so much meaning behind it not only for the charity fundraiser for the camp but for a lesson in not giving up and sportsmanship. 100-milers are a trip for sure!  Thanks Rod and David...I'll always remember that....Big thanks to Scott Mills, all the volunteers and workers...and to my wife Erica and daughter Farah for being such troopers.  I also want to thank everyone that donated toward the camp and made the whole weekend such a huge success.

Results---Photos---Stories, etc. from the San Diego 100-miler can be seen HERE

Thank you to my sponsors that fuel me and help make my life and training so much easier:  Inov-8, Udo's Oil, Drymax Socks...I really appreciate it!

Congrats to Krissy Moehl and Dylan Bowman who ran such killer races both taking the win...and to everyone else that endured the race (which was much more difficult than I expected!)

See Rod's race report HERE and his pacer David Easa's report on "Sportsmanship" HERE

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