4 days after we got married, #TeamNakamura headed up to the Angeles National Forest so Sean could run his 3rd 100 mile race in 2 months. The AC100 is a race that literally sells out in about 10 minutes and it opens the day after the race finishes the year before. Sean was lucky enough to get in last year after pacing the last 48 miles.
When we picked our wedding day, we knew that meant a tough July, with the TRT100 the week before, SF Marathon the day before and then AC100 a few days later.
So we drove up to Wrightwood on Friday, I was working in the car while Sean drove 🙂 because we had to be there by noon for him to check-in and turn in his drop bags. Then there was a mandatory meeting at 2pm. Again, I was working while at the meeting, on my cell phone.
This race was really strict about crew cars, only allowing one per runner, which meant that I would have to get his pacer and bring her back to the the aid station to meet up with him.
They have had a huge issue with spectator & crew cars at this race in the past and were very insistent that there only be one car per runner. Even in the runner book it said the future of the race depended on it. They even give solo runners an advantage to sign up an hour earlier than the crewed/paced runners. I believe that if they could have all solo runners that would be the preference.
The race started at the Wrightwood community center at 5:00am on Saturday but they wanted the runners to check in around 4:00a which meant we had to get up at around 2:45am in order to get ready and drive to Wrightwood since we were staying about 20 minutes away in Hesperia.
Once there we discovered that it wasn’t as cold as normal that morning, so Sean decided to just go in his T-shirt instead of with a long sleeve on. I took some pre-race photos and then they were off.
Because they are trying to have more solo runners at this race, there are a lot of aid stations. 19 to be exact. 11 of them had crew access including the start & finish. It’s really an easy race to crew for the first 59 miles since you just take the 2 all the way. The second half of the race only has one crew access point at mile 75 and it took about 40 minutes to get to from mile 59.
The first aid station was at Inspiration Point (mile 9.3). When I got there, the sun was just barely coming up, but when the runners started coming, it was starting to get hot. I talked with a few other people for a bit while waiting for Sean. I saw his pacer Tim from TRT and our friend Kat’s boyfriend, who I hung out with for most of the day.
Parking at this aid station was really easy, there were 2 large parking lots right near the aid station.
The best thing about ultra races is that you start to see the same people and it feels a bit like a family. Everyone is cheering for everyone and it’s not necessarily about being fast, it’s about the accomplishment!
Sean came in relatively soon after the leaders, I got a photo or 2 of him and then he was off.
The next aid station, Vincent Gap was only about 4 miles away (13.9 miles) so it wasn’t going to take them too long to get there. Here too there were 2 relatively large parking lots near the aid station, and I was lucky to get one of the spots right near the aid station. It was here that Sean asked for our extra water bottle because it was about 12 miles to the 3rd aid station and had a huge climb. I got a photo and then he was off.
Next up was Islip Saddle (25.9 miles) – I headed over, parked about 3/4 of a mile from the aid station. If I had been there before I would have know that there were a lot of spots really close to the aid station that were still available. At this point it was getting hot, so I grabbed some water, some snacks and my chair. I ended up hanging out with Matt and a bunch of runners/race volunteers from the SD100. I enjoyed hanging out with them and learned a bit more about the race since they had all run it in the past, with Angela Shartel, actually having the course record for about a year.
This part of the race was actually pretty cool because you could see them come down a series of switchbacks on their way to the aid station. When Sean finally got down, I was taking a video of him and all of a sudden he turned back to talk to someone. Turns out he passed a runner about 1.4 miles out that was out of water, sitting on the side of the trail. He was really concerned about this person and was telling the officials. When he made it to the aid station, we got him another Ensure, filled his bottles, hat, buff and his Camelbak bladder with ice. He was really hot so we just tried to keep him as cool as possible. And then off he went.
I wanted to stay to see how Kat was doing but I wasn’t sure how long it would take Sean to get the next aid station, Eagles Roost, (29.9 miles). I got super lucky parking wise at this spot. I was coming up and the volunteer was like are you here for the race and let me just pull in right next to the aid station. I didn’t have too long to wait and then there was Sean. He really wanted ensure, but there were no drop bags at this location. They didn’t have a lot of ice at this location so I tried to get him as much as I could but they didn’t prepare well at this aid station.
Funny enough, it was at this stop that 5-6 sports cars came by, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and a fancy BMW. After the runner’s leave this aid station they are on the road for about 2 miles before heading back on to the trails. As I was driving to the next aid station, they came up behind me, I pulled over as soon as I could because I didn’t want to be leading cars like that ;)! I’m not a huge fan of driving in the mountains to begin with and that would have been uber stressful.
At next aid station, Cloudburst (37.5 miles) I got super lucky and got a spot right above where the runners would come up. I had some more snacks sitting in the passengers side seat chatting with Matt. Kat was doing great, she had a few mishaps before mile 25 but she was feeling a lot better after 29 miles. We waited a few hours at this aid station, but when Sean got there, again we got him iced up and ready to go.
When I left him at this aid station, I had to go down the mountain to Altadena to pick up Giselle, Sean’s pacer. I had thought that I would be there to pick her up around 2pm but it ended up being closer to 3:30p when I finally made it down the mountain and to the finish line to pick her up. Talk about stressful, first, driving on mountain roads, which seemed to go on forever, with no cell signal and I was hungry.
I finally got down the mountain and I picked Giselle up and I hit up Panera for some dinner before we headed back up the mountain. Poor Giselle was feeling pretty nauseous as we went up the mountain. I too had a headache, but that was because I was hungry & hot. I felt kind of bad, because I was driving a bit faster than I normally would because I was super stressed out about us not making it to Chilao (mile 52) in time to meet Sean.
When we finally got up the mountain, we saw Chilao Rd and thought to turn down that road to follow to the visitors center. We ended up getting totally lost and coming up the back of the aid station. Fortunately we weren’t the only ones who came up the wrong way, but it was super stressful. We ended up being there a bit before 5pm and Sean didn’t come in until around 6:30p. Thank goodness, I was so worried we would be late.
He came in, it was still light out and he figured that they would make it to the next aid station before the sun went down around 8:20p so I had his night gear and head lamp and would take it to him at the next aid station. He was looking good, but definitely starting to slow down a bit, compared to his last 2 races, so I offered to pace him the last 25 miles if he felt like he needed someone after Giselle left. I told her that if it came to that, I’d give her the keys and she could take my car back down the mountain. After I offered, I realized that we didn’t really have any extra bottles and while Sean had brought 2 packs, I’d have to use regular water bottles to fuel. I was a bit nervous about that, but I could have totally made it work.
They headed off and then I headed to the next aid station at mile 59. I ran into our friend Vanessa again and we cheered on the other runners. It started to get dark and I was starting to get worried because they didn’t have their headlamps. Finally they came up, and I was super relieved to see them. Again he wanted an Ensure, but there weren’t drop bags at this station. I gave him his headlamp, he changed shirts and gave him some warmer clothes, just in case it got cold, which it really didn’t and then they were off again.
Like I mentioned before, the next aid station, Chantry Flats was about 40 minutes away. Vanessa came with me and we made our way slowly down the mountain. I think I pulled over about a 1/2 dozen times because I wanted to be able to go as slowly as I wanted down the mountain. We stopped at a gas station when we finally made it down so I could get some Starbucks Double Shots for Sean. Vanessa was going to be pacing another girl too so she got some supplies as well.
We headed to Chantry Flats, which is down the 210 about 8 miles before we headed up another steep mountain. This one made me extremely nervous (if you know me, you know I have a horrible fear of heights and I’m not a fan of driving in the mountains) because we were on the edge of the mountain (or so it seemed) and it was really dark. Finally we made it up and managed to get an awesome parking spot. We got our gear ready, I wanted to be prepared in case Sean needed me, and then it was time for a quick nap. I’m always worried I’m going to miss him, so while I figured he wouldn’t be there until closer to 1am I wanted to be prepared in case. We set our alarms for 11:45p and tried to sleep.
We got up and made our way to the aid station, where they had all sorts of TVs set up. I saw Matt and he was like did you check the screens? It was there that I saw that Sean & Giselle had just left the last aid about 35 minutes before, so we had a bit of a wait. They also had TV’s and video set up so you could see the runner’s at the last aid station. We saw Kat and chatted with her for a few minutes before she and her pacer headed out.
Finally after a bit of waiting, we saw Sean & Giselle! At this point I could tell he was really getting tired. I gave him another Ensure, filled his bottle with Monster, added the double shots to his pack and watched him eat some pasta. I again offered to take him the rest of the way, but he was like that’s a lot to ask and pretty much said he was good on his own. In hindsight, I totally should have gone with him, even if I wasn’t confident on my ability, he could have used the company, although I probably couldn’t have driven home after the race if I had.
I let him go and then we waited for Kat to come in not too long after. We cheered her on and then Giselle and another pacer who needed to get back to the finish headed down the mountain. By the time we finally got there I was exhausted. I dropped them off, parked, got my sleeping bag and set my alarm for 7am. There was a street light right in front of me so I actually used my Buff USA half buff as an eye mask to block out the light. It worked pretty good too.
When my alarm went off, I felt a bit disoriented and I was sooo hot. I ended up heading down to McDonald’s so I could use the bathroom, but in my contacts and get some coffee. I admit, I did get an egg white sandwich on an english muffin. I haven’t eaten McDonalds in a very long time, but I needed to eat something and really this wasn’t that bad.
Then back to the finish line I went. It was hot out! By the time I got back, I was so hot, I was down to my shorts & tank that I had been wearing the whole weekend. I went to the finish line and just hung out there for a while waiting for Sean. I must have checked the tracking site at least a hundred times, trying to see if he made it the next aid station.
And then he made it to the last aid station, which was only 4.7 miles to the finish. I was hoping he would make in time to be under 31 hours since it would be pretty close. as 31 hours came and went, I was getting worried, I kept thinking he should be here soon, just that it was so hot, that could be causing him trouble. After just a little bit, I decided to head over towards the road to see if I could see him. And there he was coming up the last little hill to the finish. I ran down, dumped half my water on his back and then ran with him for a few minutes until we crossed the street, then I ran ahead so I could get a video of him finishing.
Photo by Tim Hendricks
And then it was done, he was finished. And photographer Andre Blumberg got the best photo of Sean at the finish, it’s a look of pure joy & it is literally just as he finished.
They gave Sean his finisher’s shirt, he was exhausted and starving by this point, as evidenced in the photo :).
They had hamburgers for the finishers and the Alta Loma park opened the pool showers to the runners so they could wash off before the awards ceremony at 2:30p. Note, you do not receive your buckle or plaque until the awards ceremony. The nice thing is that they do the awards in reverse, so the later you finish, the earlier you get your award. The negative is that it takes a really long time to go through all the awards and they started late. I was at the end of my patience by that point and it wasn’t a lot of fun to sit through.
But we did and then it was over and we were on our way home. As we were walking to the car, the sleep deprived Sean said that he didn’t intend to register for 2016…well needless to say, we’ll be back in Wrightwood next year to race once again!