Marc was gunning for a podium spot but there was plenty of competition that were going to try to keep him out. Among the contenders were Dave Mackey-pretty much an ultra legend, Jeff Browning-the returning course record holder, Rod Bien, Brett Rivers, Nickademus Hollon, Jonathan Gunderson, and probably some others I am forgetting about. The race had some serious runners in it.
Marc was being crewed by his wonderful wife Libby and a bunch of friends, and I was to pace him from Sunrise aid station at mile 51 to the finish. The factor that everyone was fearing come race day was the high temperatures. We were warned that it was going to be the hottest day of the year and that people would have to give extra respect to managing the heat of the day during the race.
|The pretty couple right before the start of the race.|
|Bunch of crazies getting ready for an insane adventure.|
|Marc on the PCT at about 22 miles in.|
|The views from the PCT.|
|Views on the climb up to Stonewall Peak.|
We were cruising when we came upon a fork in the trail. Generally these forks are very well marked as to which way you should go. The issue with this fork was that you go out one direction, but come back from the other direction, meaning that there were trail flags on either side of the intersection. Very confusing. Marc knew the course because he had traveled there several weeks back and checked it all out himself with a series of training runs. He said we should go right, so thats what we did.
We reached the Stonewall Mine aid station at mile 60-ish and Scott Mills, the race director, was there waiting to pounce on Marc. He asked about the ambiguous intersection, and Marc confirmed that it was indeed not very well marked. It turns out that Dave Mackey, who was leading the race by a comfortable margin at the time, had taken the wrong fork. Scott was considering allowing Mackey to run the loop clockwise(as opposed to all of the other runners who had to run it counter-clockwise). In the end it was decided to disqualify Mackey. So he was out.
We left Stonewall and started the climb up to Stonewall Peak. It was a pretty tough climb with the heat and miles piled up and we hiked most of it. As we were getting ready to head down the other side of the the peak Marc started to complain about back spasms. He never had these pains before, and the rest of his body was in relatively ok order, but the spasms were wreaking havoc. Several times on the way down he had to stop and try to stretch out, or catch his breath, or whatever because he was having a tough time breathing. The pace was pretty slow too because of the steepness and added pressure on his back every time you hop down the trail.
We rolled into the Paso Picacho aid station at mile 66-ish, and explained the situation to the med person there. There was some useless advice given, we were serviced, and then we were off.
Next was a little climb and then a nice rolling downhill section where I jumped in front and we pumped up the pace a little as the sun was going down and the temps were getting more manageable. Marc seemed to loosen up during this stretch, or at least get into enough of a groove that he was able to deal with the back pain.
|Some fun trails!|
Sunrise aid station was a party. Lights everywhere, music blaring, people going in all directions... As we were heading back to finish the race, there were still runners just reaching the aid station for the first time as their mile 51. Being mile 80 for us, Marc was doing pretty good. We got filled up, Marc dropped one of his bottles and picked up a working flashlight and we headed back onto the PCT. The early going was pretty slow. At this point in the race a runner is pretty lucky if they can eat anything and have it do some good for them. Marc was able to take in some calories at sunrise, but it wasn't riding too well and he was pretty nauseous. We kept plugging along and little bit by little bit he started going faster and faster. At some point we were cruising the climbs pretty good. It was about 10 pm and Marc went berserk. He was just flying... Someone at Sunrise had told him that 4th place was only 25 minutes behind him. We also knew that Brett Rivers was a little over half an hour ahead. Whatever the motivation, he let it loose. I was just hanging on.
We had a quick stop at Pioneer Mail and kept cruising along the PCT. Shortly after the aid station though, Marc's flashlight went out. What are the chances? Two lights in one race? That is why you always have backups for backups... And in this case I was the backup again. We settled into our old one-light groove, but it wasn't exactly optimal for Marc, especially considering the slightly more technical nature of the PCT. It was all I could do to concentrate on keeping the light in a position that would keep Marc on his feet, all the while trying to keep pace with crazy man. When we rolled into Penny Pines at mile 91 I was toast. I handed Marc my flashlight and told him I would just hold him back at this point. He should just go out and keep doing what he was doing. He asked if I was sure, and then he was off into the night. He ended up running the whole next climb, a task that I know I was not up for.
I headed back to the finish line with the crew, got a quick shower, and then waited as the finishers were coming in. Jeff Browning won for the second year in a row, finishing in 16:59, about half an hour slower than his course record, but amazing considering this years conditions. Brett Rivers held on to second place, running an incredible race and finishing in 17:23. Marc came through at 18:06, almost two hours ahead of the 4th place finisher. Scott Mills had quoted the stat that since he took over as race director for the San Diego 100, the finishing rate had continued to climb to where last year it was in the mid 70% of the field finishing the race. This years conditions proved to be rather challenging to the runners and less than 50% of the starters finished the race. Pretty brutal.
I would say that Marc ran a tactically sound race. He endured the heat of the day and still had enough in him to hammer it when the temperatures got better. He definitely proved that he is tough with the performance at the San Diego 100.