2010 Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run
by Marisol Martinez
AC 100 had always been simmering in the back of my mind; never forward nor back, never bubbling over, just there waiting. It’s been 4 days now since I finished AC and I can already tell that it will continue to remain there, having made a special groove in my heart and mind.
Years ago I was convinced (perhaps made to believe) that I should give it a shot. My beautiful friends Larry Mann (aka Faggio), Craig Chambers (aka Moose), and Nancy Shura-Dervin (my ultra-momma) all seemed to think I could pull it off. “You should do it, it’s for you” Craig told me with his never ending smile one night on an epic P2P run. So I decided to go for it.
Things happen. From brain tumors and radiation, to stress fractures and forest fires. Along the way, Craig passed to a more peaceful realm. I was crushed, as was everyone who knew and loved him. I limped into his memorial service that summer in 08, with a stress fracture. AC just had to wait; it was on my mind but it wasn’t important at the time.
That year I crewed at AC for some friends (Flaco, Arturo, Jose, and Rafael) as my leg healed. It was a great experience and I knew that AC would be there in '09 and as soon as I could, my training would resume.
I signed up for AC for the third time though '09 would be my first attempt. I trained really smart, both on my own and with a great group of friends, got my nutrition down, shoes, gear, whatever... I was ready. Then the station fire happened, destroying over 160,500 acres in the Angeles National Forest. Needless to say, the '09 AC 100 was cancelled but I continued to train.
On a morning run in early fall of '09 it took my friend Kristen 2 minutes to convince me to sign up for Rocky Racoon, held in February. When it arrived, I was naturally nervous, not having crew or pacers on my first hundred but being that it was well stocked with aid stations and it was a loop course I figured I’d live. Live I did and I loved it; the course was flat compared to what I’m accustomed to which isn’t necessarily a good thing but I made it out all right (25+hrs) albeit with a fractured heel spur I didn’t know I had to begin with.
After healing from that injury I continued to train with my buddies Flaco, Ben, Jay, my dear friend Mari, and also joining others for training runs along the way. Nobody knew for certain if AC would be possible this year because of all the damage to the trails caused by the fire and rain however, the tireless work of runners and volunteers paid off and AC was scheduled for August 28th, 2010.
I was nervous in the days leading up to AC. I got a phone call from Larry (Faggio) on Thursday morning before the run, assuring me there was nothing I could do at this point but to enjoy it. He also would come up with Kathy (Froggie) to meet me near the finish. Wow, what sweetness!
Later that evening my ultra-momma, Nancy called me. We talked; she told me it was finally here, asked what my plan was; told her I’d walk all the hills, even the “bumps”, start slower than I wanted to and save some gas for the end at Chantry where it all really starts in my opinion. I knew it was worth the wait, no matter what the outcome. She agreed and wished me well and told me she’d be waiting for me at Chilao medical check, with a big hug (more sweetness!). Hearing their wise and comforting voices instantly put me at ease. I slept like a baby Thursday night.
All the training had finally bubbled into a tiny frame behind my eyes on our drive to Wrightwood. My brother Chris and my boyfriend Lance would make their crewing debut and I was confident they’d be fine. I’m a vegan, 90% raw, which meant that we brought all my food for the entire run. I rarely used an aid station other than for hydration and some fruit here and there. My good friend, mentor, and training partner Adalberto (Flaco) Mendoza would pace me from Chilao to the finish.
We arrived in Wrightwood and I felt a sense of calm suddenly come over me. “Well, here we are”. We went in for the medical check; my BP was 107/68, things felt good. I would get little to no sleep Friday night, but who does?
At the start line Saturday morning, there was nervous energy. It was quiet, we were all waiting, then before we knew it, we were off toward Acorn Trail. It was quite a climb up the road through the houses. People were running, I decided to walk; it was an uphill. I followed the bobbing lights up the road and then as we curved left there was a church off to the right, tiny lights lit up around a saint, with a little alter and a place to kneel if you were so inclined. And someone was. He got off the trail, ran into the alter, kneeled and did the sign of the cross. I think I may have stopped just to watch him or maybe time stopped as I stood there. In a race like this, you need all the help you can get and if you believe you can get it, why not? Sometimes it’s as simple as believing. It was really kind of magical. I moved on, letting people pass me as I continued my steady walking pace. “The key is to get to Islip relaxed” Flaco would tell me on our training runs. I was going to follow his and Nancy’s advice to a Tee. We were still climbing, so I was still walking. Even so, I started to pass a few people. I looked up and there was a red glow in the sky; the perfect balance with the moon setting and the sun rising. Is anyone else seeing this? It was quite spectacular!
I arrived at Inspiration Point, saw Linda Dewees and her beautiful smile and then Carmela Layson (waiting for my buddy Ben Gaetos) with her infectious energy ready to send me off with a hug. I took a drink, my pack was full, and off I went toward Vincent Gap looking forward to seeing Lance and Chris. On the section leading to Vincent Gap the winds were so strong, they almost knocked me over. I continued to run steady and finally I saw the parking lot.
Vincent Gap: Flaco was there with Lance and Chris; what a guy! I Drank some chocolate hemp milk, filled my pack with water and took some electrolytes in a hand-held, swallowed a salt stick, took 2 rice crackers, and off I went. Flaco told me to keep up what I was doing, take my time, not to worry, to just save my energy and get to Islip relaxed. I took my time on the climb up Baden Powell but still managed to passed some people. I was feeling good and in my head I kept hearing Flaco “just get to Islip relaxed, ok?”. Finally after going up the 41 switchbacks (but who’s counting), I got to the top and found Larry Gassan with his camera, and his sophisticated charm, arms wide open. “Larry, look, I’m finally here, hopefully I’ll see you at the end!”. We hugged he snapped some pictures and off I went toward Islip Saddle. It was a long way down so I took it easy but here again, I passed several other runners. Finally, I saw the Islip station from above. I was still relaxed. I felt happy. I was in the moment. I cherished it, knowing that it wouldn’t last forever.
I weighed in at Islip Saddle and took a windbreaker, Chris handed me a sprouted quinoa and avocado burrito to go, as Lance put sunblock on me, I drank more hemp milk took some salt and then up to Mt. Williamson I went. “Stay steady, just like you’re doing” yelled Flaco as I left. My mantra up this climb was “steady-steady-steady”. I got to Eagle’s Roost. Lance prepped my protein drink and handed me a cold bandana, Chris filled my pack, Flaco was there each time with encouraging words, motivating me, giving me instructions and pointers; he said I looked good, to keep it up. I still felt good, but I knew there would come a time, maybe real soon, when I wasn’t feeling good anymore. I was ready for it and I knew whenever it arrived, it too would pass.
It was hot on the the road to Buckthorn and down on Cooper Canyon but it was beautiful. I passed a campground, with some campers watching quietly as I ran by, following the chalk on the ground leading to a lush trail. Flaco warned me not to take this down too quickly because I still had to get to Cloudburst Summit. I finally emerged from the canyon and headed up. Before I knew it, I heard the cheers above welcoming another runner. “Whaaaaat?” I thought, but I still felt good. I came into the aid station and saw Kristen, Ken and their son Ry, also Carmela was there, waiting for Ben who must have been right behind me. How sweet it was! I said my hello’s. I didn’t stay long at Cloudburst; I moved on toward Three Points.
This section I really liked, I was all by myself. There was no one in front that I could see, nor anyone behind. Everything was still, I crossed the road it was serene, quiet, peaceful, almost eerie, but I enjoyed the solitude. I was feeling good, felt focused, in the moment. Enjoying it as long as it lasted. There was the Three Points aid station and I heard Flaco yell out an “eeeeehhhhuuuuu!!” I came into the station, asked Lance for cranberry juice, he dug it out, asked Chris to put some stuff on my shoulder for chafing. I ate a piece of potato, had some more hemp milk with protein, filled my pack with water, took salt and took a sip of coconut water. Flaco instructed me to slowly run the entire section until I get to the road where I would walk up all the way to the Mt. Hillyer aid station; “just get to Chilao with enough energy” he insisted.
How could I still be feeling this good? Adrenaline? Beginners luck? Was I going too slow? I didn’t care, I was going to enjoy it. I was really focused and doing exactly as planned. It took a while to get to the Mt. Hillyer aid station, but finally I arrived. I saw Hal there, “Hi Marisol, there you are!” I took some water, had some orange slices and off I went, happy I’d get to see my Crew, Flaco (my pacer and mentor), and Nancy, my Ultra-momma. I passed a couple of runners on the way into Chilao. I got to the scales, announced my weight as I stepped onto it and looked up and there she was, “NANCY!” We hugged, she weighed me and sent me off to eat. I changed clothes, Flaco got ready, Lance gave me some yummy veggie soup that we had in a thermos, more salt more water, a gel to go. Off to Shortcut, and yay! I had Flaco with me!
Heading out of Chilao, Flaco said, “you’re looking strong, we’re going to walk this little uphill and then run all the way until we reach the uphill before shortcut, ok?” “Yes Flaco, I’m still feeling good, let’s go”. He told me we would probably pass a lot of runners who had pushed too hard at the beginning. So we began to chase lights; one, then another and another and on it went. We got into Shortcut, I changed my socks and had some hemp milk with protein while Lance covered my legs with ivy block. I took a burrito to go to have near Newcomb. We continued to run until we got to the bottom. I felt strong enough on the climb up to the station, our walking pace was fast, I was working but felt great. Finally we arrive running into Newcomb’s. Flaco ordered a chicken burrito to go and I took my own burrito out of my pack to eat some. We walked for a bit until we got to the bench. I told Flaco, “I’m ready, I could run, I’m still feeling good” So he continued to lead, I followed his pace. It was fast, but i was keeping up and feeling great. We passed more and more runners.
We got into Chantry, an aid station with a whimsical feel. If Chilao is like a circus, Chantry is like a wonderland; it’s enchanted and if you’re not careful, it can be mesmerizing and cause your stay to be way too long to ever want to leave. They have tons of food, a monitor hooked up to Newcomb where you can see runners on their way to Chantry. It really is special. I snapped out of it before getting hypnotized by Chantry’s allure. I stepped on the scale, my weight was normal. It hadn’t moved up nor down since I started which I took as a good sign. Lance had some more soup ready for me, Chris got my extra flashlight, I took some tums (just in case)and had my hydration pack filled.
Mile 75. This is where it all begins and where it could all end I thought. If I’m going to feel bad, it will be on this climb...this 3,100 foot climb. It was 1:25 am when we left Chantry. Flaco said we’d walk even the first flat part, to save the legs for the climb. We started at a good pace, but once we began our ascent, I started to feel some fatigue in my legs. Finally, here it was. I was no longer feeling good but I stayed calm; it’ll pass I thought, just keep moving, get to the bench and don’t look at it just keep going. I thought of Craig as I struggled; I took a gel and it did the trick, I thought of Craig some more; I started to come back, we pushed, got to Wilson Toll road just before 3:30am and arrived at the Idlehour aid station at 4:25am.
Chris Rios had the most amazing spread at Idlehour; he had everything, it was pretty cool but we didn’t stay long. We headed up before dropping down into the poison oak infested section which is actually quite beautiful. I love this climb, I was waiting for it, dreaming about it, curious as to how it would feel after 85 miles. Up and down and then another climb again, we were moving fast, we passed a group of runners, I was feeling strong again except a little pain on a tendon in my foot I had had issues with in the past. I ignored it, and turned up the volume. I thought of my friend Ben “just get to Sam Merrill, just get to Sam Merrill”. “How are you” asked Flaco as we continued to move as if on fresh legs. “My foot hurts, but let’s keep going”.
We got to Sam Merrill, I thought about taking ibuprofen but had taken one at shortcut so we left and walked the trail until it curved, exposing beautiful Altadena below. I felt alive. Flaco stopped turned back, looked at me, without a word, I nodded “Vamonos Flaco!” and we took off. At this point there was too much adrenaline in my body for me to feel any pain. I was elated, I wasn’t home yet but I was close and if I was in pain now, it didn’t matter, I didn’t feel it. We passed more runners who looked to be struggling. We got to the ruins at Echo Mountain, took the railbed and in the distance I saw a familiar figure, long hair, no shirt and behind him a silver head, it was Larry and Kathy! We all took off into Sunset Ridge trail and finally reached Millard and went passed it, no need to stop, just head home.
When we got to El Prieto Trail, it looked completely different, the bones were there, but it had changed. I wanted to look around more, explore, but that would have to wait, we pushed. When we got close to the road, I felt so many emotions, I knew Lance and Chris and my mom, brothers and sister would be at the finish, Larry and Kathy were here, Flaco was here; I thought of Craig again; I thought I would cry but I swear, if it wasn’t a hallucination, I heard Craig whisper in my ear “keep moving, you're right there”. Larry and Kathy peeled off to meet me at the finish. Flaco and I finally reached Lincoln and there it was, Loma Alta Park. We ran in, up the grass, and to the finish, we did it! Pictures and hugs and there was Larry Gassan again “I made it Larry!”
I really felt so proud of Lance and Chris. They worked super hard together to help me get it done. Flaco, of course was pivotal. Sure I trained hard and was determined and focused, but without them, I don’t think I would have felt as good as I did for as long as I did. I feel like we ran this together every step of the way. I had a good day out there. I know it won’t always be like that, but I will always cherish the feelings and the experience I had that weekend. I finished my first AC100 in 28:24 and I couldn’t be happier. My goal was simply to finish. I expected to get a little beat up, and of course I did, after all that’s why we love to do what we do, but I also wanted to finish with the desire to do it all over again, and that, I will. Back to story index page