Thursday, February 6, 2014

San Gabriel Mountains revisited

I ran into this report of my first mountain race. written before I started my blog.
Thought you might enjoy it. One thing I left out was how they ran out of water at the finish. It was really hot that day too. I had to settle for canned tea.
I returned to these trail in 2013 when I paced Lalo at Angeles Crest

Mt Disappointment 50K  Endurance RunMt. Wilson, CA
11 August 2007

by Tony Maldonado
It was a cool crisp morning on Mt Wilson in the Angeles National Forest north of L.A. The temperature was 62 degrees with a slight breeze. The beautiful sight of  downtown Los Angeles  down below was short lived  as clouds moved in and blanketed the city.

At the starting line I talked to some of the other runners. George from San Diego was attempting his first 50 miler, Mike from Huntington Beach, and  Rennee from Santa Monica were there for the fun. Barefoot Ted was also there.

The race began with a 3 mile descent on a paved road before hitting the trails. The southern California area has had only 3 inches of rain all year, thus the trails were dry and dusty. The dust being kicked up by the runners  rivaled the smog of L.A. I was wishing for the mud I had become accustomed to in San Antonio.

At mile 4 a runner pulled of to the side holding his right hamstring. I asked if he was OK. He said “yes, it’s only a cramp”. Not a good sign at mile 4.

As I reached the first checkpoint I decided not to stop since I felt good and still had enough water. The trail became shady and more wooded at this point.

I met another local runner and we talked and paced each other for the next 10 miles. He asked about Sunmart, but lost interest after I told him the course is flat.

At the second checkpoint it was time to refill my two bottles and take in some fuel. The first climb followed.

Barefoot Ted passed us on the approach to the third checkpoint at the top of the climb. His feet were fine he said, but he was having stomach problems.

By this time the temperature had risen and  I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat. Although it was getting hot, there was no humidity. Here in Texas I am reminded to drink by the perspiration caused by our high humidity. With no humidity it is easy to forget to drink.

 The trail now became more difficult as it wound around the mountains. There were long stretches where the trail was only about 12 to 18 inches wide with tight switchbacks. It was very dry and Sandy in some parts. I found myself leaning into the mountain side. There were drops of several hundred feet with nothing to hold on to if you were to slide off the trail. A tree about 4 feet in diameter and 40 feet long had fallen across the trail. I watched as runners ahead of me stepped on a knot on the tree and pushed themselves over. Me? I straddled that puppy and slid over to the other side. The trail widened again and ahead some mountain bikers were taking a break. One of them noticed my shirt and yelled out, “ all right Hill Country.” “Are you near Bandera?”

“yes” I replied “right down the road”

 “great place “ he said.

Approaching the fourth checkpoint at mile 21 I was not feeling good. My legs were strong but my heart and lungs were not providing help. Was it poor training? Was it the great L.A. Mexican food I had been eating the past two days? Or was it the elevation? Yeah, that’s it! It’s the elevation.

I drank plenty of water, ate peanut butter on crackers, oranges and watermelon. Filled my two bottles and looked forward to the next 5 downhill miles.

I found the downhill not as pleasant as I had hoped. Some sections were very steep. Not knowing the trail I was being cautious and my quads and mid back were taking a beating. At 5 hrs 10 min. I had covered 26 miles. Not bad I thought, only five to go.  Little did I know, the last 5 miles would take 2 hrs 14 minutes to complete.

At the last checkpoint a runner had decided he had had enough and dropped. Others sat to contemplate the final ascent. 5 miles and 2600 ft to go. Again I drank plenty of water and took in some fuel, filled up my bottles with water and headed out for the final climb to the finish.

The climb was gradual for the next two miles, then it seemed to go straight up. Again there were very narrow stretches and tight switchbacks. Now my legs did not want to play anymore. The good thing though was the shade provided by the tall pines. I don’t mind being passed, but it seemed like I was being caught and passed by the whole field. In some spots it was difficult to let runners get by, so I had to move faster than I wanted to. Two runners (walkers at this point) ahead were struggling and were low on water, as was I. The guy with the camelback was completely out! He took a drink from the others bottle. They decided to rest. I couldn’t. I was afraid it would be more difficult to start again. Help was sent to these guys from a finisher who had noticed them struggling.

With ? mile to go and the trail still ascending sharply, I ran out of water. A runner/walker passed me and we began talking as he paced me up the mountain. I thanked him as we finally reached the top. But wait! The finish line was still 50 yards up to the visitors center. One more climb, just to make sure.

1 comment:

Lalo said...

Awesome to read! Part of me wishes I had signed up for AC again but oh well. It will be there in the years to come and there are other beautiful races out there. But it sure was an awesome experience made even better by having my 2 best friends at my side. Another run together is long overdue.