Thursday, September 21, 2006

Above The Clouds - the Angeles Crest 100 Race Recap!

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
-T. S. Eliot

MAY OF 2005- I dreamed up the most epic athletic endeavor of my life after meeting Dean. Many of you probably know where this is going, but for those of you who don't know who "Dean" is, he is THE Ultramarathon Man, a regular human who regularly stretches what is possible not only for himself, but for humanity, by completing super-human acts of endurance. I emceed an event for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at Niketown in Beverly Hills which was to be a recruitment event for the 2nd Annual Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Not only did I get to meet Dean and pick his brain, but I got to meet his parents
too. I was moved by how real he was (in person). The net result of us meeting is that I have been sparked on a wild new journey. I read his book and was enamored of the idea of running the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the original 100-mile trail run. I resolved to do whatever I needed to do in order to qualify for and apply for entry. Over the next 6-months, I trained for and completed my first double-marathon on trails. I needed an 11-hour finishing time. I ran a 9:28. I placed 1st of runners in their 20's. I was also second to last in that age group. I remember that miles 40-54 of that race were the most complete and all-encompassing pain I have ever known. I was looking forward to the challenge of ONE-HUNDRED. I didn't get selected in the Western States lottery, and I resolved to compete in the Angeles Crest 100-Miler in SoCal. The training for "AC" officially kicked off in mid-May after recovering from the Boston Marathon and built to a exhausting crescendo in late August of 125-miles in a week. I averaged 90-mile weeks over the summer and climbed up over 100+ miles about 4 different times. I was running 10-14 times per week, sometimes 3 or 4 times in a single day. I would do 2 or 3 LONG trail runs a week, sometimes with friends Matt, Rad, Travis, Lukas, Diane, Zach and others, sometimes all alone for 5-6 hours on a Saturday afternoon. I trained through 100+ degree heat. I trained through the night. I'd run on a full stomach, an empty-growling stomach, I'd even eat WHILE I ran sometimes. It was training that I believed would prepare me for ANYTHING. Well, it did prepare me for ALMOST anything...

SEPTEMBER OF 2006 - Race day arrived.

The loneliness of the long distance runner is well documented, and the time leading up to the start of the race was somewhat lonely. There were a ton of people around me and supporting me, but I knew I was going to have to run, walk, hike and crawl for the better part of ONE day on my own, where my race and film crew could sit down whenever they wanted, they could relax, take a nap if needed, eat a real dinner, etc. At the same time, it was SO amazing to have everyone there that was there: my fiancée Kate, my mom, my close friends Nick and Gareth, honored teammates and families Virginia & Van, Melanie & Dan, Vivian & Bruce, as well as other film and support crew, Ryan, Patrick and Rich. The photo to the left was a strong representation of how isolated I felt, yet I was excited to begin the EPIC journey...

I started the run/hike/walk/crawl slowly and patiently. When the gun went off, I didn’t begin
running until sometime after the first mountain climb, maybe an hour or so into the race. At one point, I was literally in 111th place, as even one of the last crazy Germans went running past me. I didn’t care. I wanted to SOAK up the experience. The first mountain climb was fun. There were centipedes of athletes snaking up the mountain… a centi-snake, if you will. The groups were 5-20 people long, and there were a dozen or so of them, not including the front runners. I would chit-chat with people, get their name, hometown, and some of their story (is this your first 100, first AC, how many have you done, etc.). A VERY high percentage of them knew who I was from the day before when we were at the race briefing, I talked a little about the film we were making. During the race, everyone was SO gracious and kind. “Are you Jimmy making the film? It’s such a good thing you are doing! I want one!” There were at least THREE Jimmy’s in the race, and at one point about 32-miles into it, we were back-to-back-to-back in race order! "Up top" the first mountain, I began running into a 40-45 mile an hour BONE CHILLING headwind. But it was SO breathtakingly beautiful. I was up along the ridge of Mountain High Ski Resort looking at Mt. Baldy (Mt. San Antonio), Mt. Baden-Powell and numerous other peaks and valleys. I was swallowed up by the vastness of it all.


It was so great to come into the first checkpoint! I was in 34th position coming into "Inspiration Point". Coming out of the first checkpoint, I was feeling like I still needed to “warm up” since I only ran in freezing winds, but I didn’t feel bad. Coming into checkpoint 2, I still had not warmed up, MORE bone chilling winds had me freezing (in spite of the fact I had two shirts on, one long sleeve, and gloves) and all of my muscles felt stiff and tired. This was at MILE 13. I was aware I had not “warmed up” and I was almost confused by it. I didn’t feel right.

I then moved into the longest section of the day (without aid), up and over Mt. Baden-Powell (9,399 ft.). The first 3.6 miles of this 13-mile section was climbing 2,800 ft. in 41 switchbacks. This part downright SUCKED.

The only thing I liked about it was looking out across the plains of the Mojave Desert and still hearing Kate, and the film crew relay messages back and forth as they drove 80-miles around the mountains to get back to me at Mile 26. I don’t quite understand how I was still in walkie-talkie-range, but I was. This 13 mile section of the course took me 3+ hours, and it was 3+ hours of MISERY. I really couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the view at all. I was TRYING to eat and I could BARELY choke down half a peanut butter sandwich.

Luckily I WAS staying pretty hydrated, sort of. I came into Mile 26 at Islip Saddle a bit bewildered. I was 3 lbs. down (160.5 from 163.5) but just felt horrible. I imagine it was one of two things… I had either caught a flu bug at the end of last week (Wed or Thu), or I was suffering from “altitude sickness”. My WHOLE BODY was off. It was one of those nightmares come true where you prepare for a race FOR A LONG TIME (18-months for me) and race day just doesn’t line up with your picture-perfect training. So, at the Mile 26-checkpoint, I was confused and somewhat bewildered… “I thought I would feel somewhat good for at least half of this race”… nope.

I put a wind breaker on for Mt. Williamson and suffered through another 1,380+ ft. climb (in 1.63 miles) and on the way back down that stretched out my legs a bit. By the time I got to Mile 30, pretty much EVERYTHING hurt. Both my rear and hips were sore and tight, my lower right shin was stabbing pain (worst shin splint I have ever had), my IT Bands were sore and tight and borderline inflamed at my knees, my hamstrings hurt on the climbs up the mountains, my calves were painfully tight, and my shoulders, especially my left upper back between my shoulder-blade and spine were killing me.


I came into the Mile 30 checkpoint and emotionally broke down. I believed I COULD finish, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do 70.8 more miles in this kind of pain. I thought I might feel better than this later, but knew the type of pains I was having wouldn’t disappear all together. I was completely defeated and discouraged. Kate, my buddy Gareth, my mom, and our friend Ryan all did ALL they could to cheer me and help me feel better. They made me feel “well enough” to give the next 8-mile section a shot. I came out of "Eagle's Roost" in 67th position overall. During the next section, I ran “normally” for the first time in the day. I still felt ALL of the pain, but I found my stride within the discomfort. I was pretty sure I wasn’t altering my gait (consistently) which would have been my indication to STOP so I didn’t cause a major overcompensation injury. But dear God it hurt. Around Mile 35 I made a choice… “I am pretty sure ALL of this is going to hurt the rest of the day. I am going to run 65+ miles in pain and nothing short of a broken leg is going to stop me.”

When I came into the Mile 38 checkpoint, everyone immediately noticed my emotional turn-around and commented on it. They were ALL relieved to see me smiling and joking again. My plan the rest of the day was to take 10-20 minute breaks and work on eating and maintaining my well-being (getting massages, talking to my friends and mom to ease the discomfort), normally, the aid station breaks would be 3-7 minutes long, typically around 5-minutes. I didn’t care about time anymore. I didn’t care if I finished last. From that point forward, the Aid Station officials and HAM operators (the people radioing in time and position) would ask me if I was dropping when I had been in the car for about 15-minutes. That was typically my signal to get up and GO. The next section was the FINAL section of the course I did not already know from training.
I had done EVERYTHING from Mile 43 to Mile 100.8 at least twice, sometimes backwards and forward. This was what got me through Miles 38 – 43, which seemingly took FOREVER. I knew I’d have a mental boost of KNOWING the rest of the course.

At Mile 43, I knew I was a mere 10-miles from a BIG group of friends and family AND my first opportunity to run WITH one of those friends. Matt Armstrong was to be my first (of three) pacer(s), a support position implemented by most ultra-marathon race directors to help ensure the safety of the participants. Thinking of Matt (and my friends) carried me through, up and over Mt. Hilyer. I was SO excited to see everyone, and to be "more than halfway done". In spite of my pain, I began to have fun (in some sick, twisted, disconnected from my body sorta-way). On the way out of the "Three Points" checkpoint, that little devil Kate was on the radio talking to Nick (Diablo) and Gareth (G-Money) about the awesome HOT, real dinner they were about to get to sit down to enjoy. GRRRRRRR. I turned my walkie-talkie off, I couldn't take it. I had been surviving thus far on PB&J, Gatorade, water, pretzels, Red Bull, Coke, and chicken-noodle soup. Climbing up Mt. Hilyer I met Jack Chang, a 46-year old Ironman triathlete who was also attempting his first 100-miler. He and I had a good laugh as we were literally walking backwards up the road climbing this mountain. Walking backwards spelled the discomfort of walking (or hiking or running) forward, as it was switching up the muscle groups. We were laughing heartily at the sight of each other, still moving forward on the course but only looking where we had already been. We did this for the better part of 15-30 minutes of the climb and were joined by Mike Landa at the aid station near the top. Mike had attempted this race one year prior, but had pulled out about one-third of the way into the race. He was determined to finish this year, and EVERYONE who knew his story was pulling for him. I was always excited to see him, as I was inspired by his fierce determination. I left Jack and Mike after that aid station, I realized it'd be my LAST true alone time in the race.


I came into Chilao laughing at my pain. It was awesome to see some of my friends I had not yet seen that day. Matt was eager to get going. I was in no hurry. I sat down for the better part of 20-minutes and ate and chatted away. Vivian Hartman massaged my legs, Greg Minter advised me on all things (he is a 3-time finisher of the Badwater-135), my mom and Kate fetched water, food, and I changed shoes and socks. It was getting dark. This was to be the last checkpoint I would see in the light of day. After saying my good-byes again, Matt and I were off. We ran the next 7-miles disguised as heat-seeking missles. In the next 7-miles, we caught and passed 12-runners. At the halfway point, I was in 66th position overall, coming into the Shortcut Saddle checkpoint, I was in 54th overall. The rest of the evening was spent relentlessly running "to be done." The harder and faster I ran, the sooner the misery would end. Anything to keep you moving forward, right!?


Matt walks up to Jeff (my second pacer) and says something to the effect of, "buckle up, buttercup". Miles 53-60 were an incredible confidence boost. Kate was now worried I was running too fast and that I wouldn't have enough left to get over the last two looming and ominous mountain climbs in the final marathon of the course. Kate whispers to Jeff, "slow him down a bit" and poor Jeff has the yin-and-yang of knowing I'm now chomping at the bit of the "second sunrise" buckle (for those who beat the sun coming up the 2nd time) and the fear of all that if I continue on my frenzied pace, I will not only slow down, but I'll fail to finish. After some more chatter, Jeff and I are off. Off into the beauty and deadly quiet of the night we went. Jeff and I maintained that blistering pace for the first 8.5 miles of 15 miles. Position jumped from 54th overall to 44th. Jeff kept commenting on how strong I looked. I felt mentally strong but physically chewed up. It was a mind-over-matter game now, if I didn't mind (the pain), it didn't matter (how much it hurt). We hit the Newcomb's Pass checkpoint and I heard people screaming my name, but I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Then I turned around to see a TV monitor and Kate and many of the SGV crew were on it yelling to get my attention. Then I realized that the BRIGHT LIGHT right next to the TV was a video camera, and we were essentially video-conferenced in. I had my walkie-talkie most of the day, but I had left it at the last checkpoint, so this was a really welcome sight. I was now about a 10k away from the final marathon of the course. This is where our pace really slowed, I began to fight sleep-depravation symptoms, and I fell for the first (and only) time in the 100-mile trek. Dropping into the canyons between Newcomb's Pass and Chantry Flats (the three-quarter mark) was eerie. It was beyond PITCH black darkness. It was so dark, it seemed to swallow up the lights on our heads and in our hands. At one point I lost my pacer, Jeff, and stood still in the rustling darkness for what seemed like 3-minutes waiting for Jeff to catch up. He had turned his ankle. Luckily, we were SO close now, maybe 1-2 miles left in this section. We hiked up out of the canyon into Chantry Flats. 74.5 miles down, 26.3 to go...


In the last 6+ miles I had passed a few people, and Jeff and I had been passed by a few. I was in 43rd position heading into the final marathon. I spent a solid half-an-hour at Chantry hangin with friends. Vivian and Bruce had fired up the BBQ! Kate had arranged for a massage to get me going on my final marathon. Diane Isaacs (pacer # 3) was eager and ready to go. The table was SET for a memorable final section. Due to the rugged terrain and inaccessable nature of the final 26+ miles of mountain, there was NO point from here to before the finish where my crew could get to me. We set out for the most grueling climb of the day, up-and-over Mt. Wilson via the Wintercreek Trail. It was to be around a 6-mile climb that would take the better part of 1-hour, 45-minutes. This is where things truly began to unravel. At points in the climb, I was blacking out, my vision would completely go black. I couldn't walk in a straight line to save my life. Diane took the lead and began to push the pace, (likley) in an attempt to get me up and over this mountain sooner rather than later, or it may swallow me whole. I began to want to nap. JUST lay down in the dirt and doze off. This would have been the end of me as well, as my body temp. would plummet. Diane pleaded with me to keep going. Up top, the most amazing thing happened, literally the moment we began our run back down the other side of Mt. Wilson, I came alive. I went from half-asleep to fully invigorated. Diane couldn't believe how much stronger I was now running. We caught and passed a few more athletes. Coming into the Idlehour Trail checkpoint, we had moved from 43rd to 36th position and were still driving forward. At the Idlehour trailhead, we bumped into Jeff Stein, who was visibly exhausted. I asked him how he was and he said, "not that great, but I'm going to finish!" Jeff had done the all-night training run with us, and I was inspired by him as well. We pushed onward. After dipping down into the Idlehour Campground, in more pure darkness, we began our FINAL major climb, yet another 90-minute ascent up Mt. Lowe towards the Sam Merrill trailhead and checkpoint. I began to see people. I thought on more than one occasion that I saw the aid station / checkpoint. I was so relieved when we made it to the top, as I knew that in the final 11-miles, 9 of them were either downhill or flat. Two minor 1-mile inclines remained. Diane and I blazed down the mountain. Between the Sam Merrill Trail and the Millard Campground (6.5 miles) we caught another 5-athletes. It became a game. When we arrived at the FINAL aid station at the Millard Campground, I wanted to stay for breakfast. They had doughnuts and coffee!!! I resisted the temptation. Diane and I made the final 1-mile climb out of Millard and began to FLY down one of my favorite trails, the El Prieto Canyon trail. It is a 2-mile drop, rollercoaster style, to lower Brown Mountain Road which was about 1.5 miles from the finish line. I began to get radio signals via walkie-talkie from my crew who anxiously awaited my arrival. I couldn't get there fast enough. I think I may have jammed my BIG toe about 7 times in the last 5 miles. OUCH. I did it so many times that Diane didn't think twice when I screamed at an imaginary person in a tree who I thought (really) was going to shoot us. She thought I was just getting ornery due to all the toe stubbing. Maybe the pain was causing the hallucinations? We hit Lower Brown Mountain Road and the excitement built. WHERE DID ALL THIS ENERGY COME FROM??? I was 99-miles into a 100.8-mile race! We were almost done!!!


Diane and I streamed toward the finish line. It seemed we were running 6-minute miles, but was probably closer to 7-something. I peeled off layer after layer of clothing, threw aside my pack, dropped everything. We were REALLY here! 26-hours and 27-minutes after I began my journey in Wrightwood, I was here in Pasadena. GROUP HUGS!!!! Holy smokes, it was REALLY over!!!

WE just completed a 100.8-mile race!!!! I say WE because there was NO way I could have done it without ALL of the incredible support I received. There are SOME runners who did the whole race on their own, had their gear, food and fluid in "drop bags" dispersed throughout the course, then proceeded to run 100+ miles with NO crew or pacers. That's insane. I would have quit if it weren't for all of my friends and family being there. I believe that ALL of you now know about the cause. Just in case you didn't, I ran this 100-mile trek of insanity in honor of Sophie Hartman; a delightful 12-year-old-girl we lost a little more than one year ago (10/14/05) to leukemia. Sophie's mom and dad (Vivian & Bruce) both came out to the start and finish of the race and pretty much saw me at as many checkpoints as they could manage (Miles 13, 53 & 74 were particularly memorable). Other honoree's who came out included Van & Virginia Garner, Melanie Fastrup, and I also ran for the honoree's of other friends and fellow runners (every person who donated $100 or more could name someone else for me to run in honor of). A FEW of these people included Fred Akers, Jill Hemmer, Audrey Duffy, Monica Trent, Laura Povinelli, Nina Boluarte, Jeff Carroll, and many more who will be named, honored, and recognized in our upcoming AC100 Coffee Table Book. For those of you who wanted to donate and have not done so yet, you can do so here, there are still a few spots left for bios of honorees in the coffee table book ------>

To put in perspective EXACTLY HOW MUCH ALL of you helped...
*111 people started the race in Wrightwood
*30 people who started, failed to finish
*Every participant made it through the first marathon (and over Mt. Baden-Powell)
*Between Mile 26 & 53, 16 people dropped
*Coming out of the checkpoint at Mile 53, I was in 66th place overall (out of approximately 95 still in the race)
*I finished 27th overall of 81 finishers
*I / WE passed 33 people in nearly 48 miles
*6 people in front of us dropped out
*I completed the first 53.1 miles “fresh?” in 13-hours, 52-minutes (15:40 per mile)
*I completed the last 47.7 miles “less-than-fresh!” in 12-hours, 36-minutes (15:50 per mile)
*To me, this is a negative split considering there is MORE climbing in the 2nd half of the race and I was falling asleep in the last 26 miles!!!
*To others, it’s an even-paced-effort, in what is typically a progressively slower-and-slower pace throughout as 100 miles takes its toll on the body
*I fell ONE time, one!
*I jammed my left BIG toe about 8-times, and it was my biggest race INJURY… the toenail is mostly OFF, and I bled through my sock

The $1,000 question: Will I do it again? You bet I will. I will be running 100-mile trail races AT LEAST until we've found a cure for blood-cancers.

I leave you with one final, parting thought...

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: 'WOW!! What a ride!'”
-said by a running buddy of Dean Karnazes, from the book ULTRAMARATHON MAN


Thursday, August 31, 2006

What I learned this summer...

I was running today (BIG SURPRISE) and I was reminiscing about the days of my youth, as we looked toward September with promise and wonder... what was that NEXT grade going to look like?

3rd Grade... I'm a BIG kid now!

6th Grade... B.K.O.C.

7th Grade... Junior High,


9th Grade... High School Freshman!

SENIOR YEAR... will I actually graduate??? LOL

One of the things I
remember is the "What I learned this summer" essay most English teachers made you write. I don't remember particularly liking English class, or even that essay, but since I had such an unusual summer, I felt compelled to remember it today...


*I learned that my body follows my mind, if I BELIEVE I can, I can
*I learned that I LOVE Peanut Butter & Jelly on WONDER BREAD and CHOCOLAT
E MILK maybe even mor e today than in elementary school
*I learned that the people in my life respond to extraordinary challenges, and as long
as I keep taking them on myself, I shall inspire others to do the same
*I learned that I am in love with the woman of my dreams, she loves me, and our adventure together winds wildly down an adventurous trail that has me more and more excited to be with her every day, sometimes, even the tough days
*I learned I am a quick healer (maybe by necessity)
*I learned soaking running shirts in bleach and NOT full
y rinsing them clean leads to a very interesting problem... sweat turning to bleach causing scorched skin blistering and hives... OUCH
*I learned that when you duck to avoid one big tree branch, look UP first to see if there is another behind it... OUCH
*I learned that in the Santa Monica & San Gabriel Mountains, I am a guest of rattlesnakes, black bears, mountain lions and other somewhat dangerous creatures, and that at least in the case of ONE black bear and TWO rattlesnakes, they are more afraid of me than I am of them (and I AM AFRAID... LOL), and I learned that I sho uld remember that I am a guest in their home, not the other way around... now THAT would be really scary
learned that I have a whole community (actually multiple communities) full of dream-chasers and inspiring, extraordinary people who passionately PUSH ME to be the best I can be in every area of my life
*I learned that there is NO shortage of HELP out there if you aren't afraid to ask for it
*I learned I can both be an arrogant asshole and a humble servant and that finding a balance between the two (closer to humble servant) is one of my ongoing lifelong goals and challenges
*I learned (yet again) that I have the most amazing family. My sisters (Sarah & Mary) are two of my best friends, my brothers-in-law LOVE and take care of these two important women and I LOVE my three nieces!!!

My dad and my mom are amazing, they don't feel the same way about each other, but they do ALL they can to support us three. I love my baby-bro Daniel, he's already a TEEN-AGER and an amazing athlete. My mom's boyfriend Clay rules and my step-mom Denise is amazing. Blessed, am I. And that's just my immediate family, my extended family is a CAST of characters up to adventures and greatness

*I learned that both phy sical and emotional wounds heal with time, and a courageous spirit can get you through pretty much anything
*I learned (over and over) that I love seeing people succeed. I do not begrudge ANYONE success, unless their success is earned by diminishing others (even that has its price, and the karmic reaper will come to collect his debts sooner or later)
*I learned that most of the people in my life who barely know me think I'm a manic, somewhat psychotic, running-nutcase. Hyper-caffeinated and obnoxious (they are right)
*I learned that most of the people on my "inner-circle" who know me well think I'm crazy, reckless, lovable, demanding, forgetful, and hard to keep still (they are also right)
*I learned that I can fully accept and claim responsibility for who I have become, and for who I still strive to be. I learned that I love who that person is. I look in the mirror and smile... what adventures shall I unearth tomorrow???
*I learned that achieving high school weight is a LOT more fun SUFFERING through running and training for ultra-endurance than it is suffering through some stupid

fad-diet (or other eating disorder). Okay, I don't know that FOR SURE, as I never got to my HS weight through not eating or an eating disorder, but I IMAGINE that is the case
*I learned that excessive PIZZA-consumption prior to nearly 16-miles of downhill running, prior to 26-miles of running over 2-m
ountains, is NOT a great strategy for ME for a settled s tomach... but I also learned that had I to do it over again, I'd still eat the pizza
*I learned that some can handle my forgetful nature, and others are really turned off by it. The latter makes me sad, and I strive to be more organized everyday!!! (see, I'm making a list HERE so I don't FORGET!!!)
*I learned that I love nearly ALL runners and endurance athletes, but ESPECIALLY those who RUN. In fact, I can ONLY think of one "so-called" runner who's energy and persona I can do without
*I learned that gossip is SO poisonous, and LISTENING to it is worse than doing the gossiping yourself, you enable the poison and have the gossiper believe it's okay
*I learned that we have some beautiful, surreal nature-scape around the City of Angels. Both the Santa Monica Mountains & San Gabriel Mountains are breathtaking
*I learned that I know NOTHING in the grand scheme of things
*I learned (again) that I talk too much, and listen too little
*I learned (through reading someone's MySpace profile) that there are TWO distinct types of people who will HATE me in my lifetime... people who are envious and people who are just stupid. The stupid people might like me somewhere down the road as they aren't committed to anything really, and the envious will always envy, they have to live with that poison everyday... just let it go and BE yourself
*I learned that 120 miles per week is not only doable, but if you keep your focus on REST (seems oxymoronic), you will achieve NEW fitness heights by listening to your body... this ultimately led to new Personal Bests / Records in the 1500-meters (metric mile) and Half Marathon (minus another 3:30!)... next, a 100-mile trail race, assuming I finish (I would NEVER assume this), a new personal best in distance and time continuously running
*I learned I have a lot to offer both those I love (family, friends, runners and walkers) and those I do not know (if they are open to it)
*I learned that training for a 100-mile trail race and filming a documentary about it is maybe the biggest undertaking I've ever taken on, and that for my next trick... well, WHO KNOWS what's next anyway!?!?!?
*I learned that the more I run, the more nature I see, the more spiritual I become...
*I learned (again) that I LOVE my life

~Jimmy Dean Freeman
August 31st, 2006

- 100-miles-in-one-day, the Angeles Crest 100-Mile Application


Sunday, May 21, 2006

the WHIRLWIND week that keeps on going...

Sometimes you look at 5-year cycles of life, and looking back (or forward if you could) your life is unrecognizable to you. You are on a completely different path with a completely different outlook and direction. You know new people. You might even have a different job, or alternate career. Life moves SO fast sometimes. Well, sometimes that cycle seems to happen a bit faster. For me, 5-days. From 5-days ago until now... wow. First off, our documentary about my training for the Angeles Crest 100-mile Endurance Run went from a really good idea, to FILMING. Not only is it filming, we have a working title (which just may stick permanently): Above The Clouds: the Angeles Crest 100 Documentary (see above photo and you'll understand why), a website (, the Angeles Crest 100 race director has pledged his support, Dean Karnazes has agreed to be interviewed and be IN the film (if you don't know who Dean is, check out and watch the Letterman clip), and tonight I bumped into one of the filmmakers of Running On The Sun: The Badwater 135, one of the films we discussed standing on the shoulders of in putting our project together.

Kate and I just flew back in from San Francisco, where we BLAZED the Bay To Breakers 12k. Out of 40,000 who registered (and I estimate 35,000 who officially finished), I placed 110th overall and I was the 98th male to cross the line. I blew my previous 12k PR out of the water by about 10-minutes and ran a crazy 2-minute negative split for a finishing time of 46:32. Kate looked beautiful in her peacock costume. LOL I went back out looking for Kate and MISSED her FLYING by me. About 20-minutes after she had apparently finished, I asked a Red Cross volunteer, "have you seen a peacock go by?" to which he laughed, "YEAH! That was ONE FAST PEACOCK!!!" We finally met back up, Kate BROKE an hour and finished in 612th place, but I'm NOT sure which place for females (yet). But she did SO WELL!!! For now... I am WIPED OUT... time to sleep! More on both of these things later... I am ABOVE THE CLOUDS at the moment...

Monday, May 08, 2006

the pure JOY of OT Playoff Hockey!

Ahhhhhh, playoff hockey is back. First time in TWO long years. The JOY of PLAYOFF HOCKEY is OVERTIME. There is nothing like it in ANY other sport. SUDDEN-DEATH OVERTIME PLAYOFF HOCKEY. Tonight, we were getting ready to watch the San Jose Sharks (GOOOO SHARKS!!!) host the Edmonton Oilers in Game 2 of Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and OLN had coverage of the New Jersey Devils - Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils and Hurricanes were locked in a 1-1 tie for the entire 3rd period and we were excited for OT, but not completely thrilled since the coverage for that game would overlap our Sharks game. Then, with 21 seconds left in the 3rd Period, the Devils SCORE!!!! Game OVER! NO, THE GAME IS NOT OVER YET... with 21 ticks left, Carolina elects to pull their goaltender for the final 21 ticks AND the ensuing faceoff. Two of the top faceoff guys in the NHL, Brind'Amour vs. Elias. Elias WINS the draw for the Devils, but dumps it way back into his own zone and 6 Hurricanes go to a FRENZIED forecheck. With 3.0 seconds left on the clock, Carolina TIES the game! Pandamonium!!!

We were EXCITED then we realized... NOOOOOOO, the Sharks game won't come on until OT is done! No! Now, somebody must WIN in the first 5-min of OT, ANYBODY, PLEASE SCORE!!!

Carolina answers our cry... 3-min into it...



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run RECAP - 53.2 miler

WARNING – this is the longest race I’ve ever run and the following is the longest race report I’ve ever written. To read this takes some endurance, so proceed at your own discretion…

To ALL those who’ve supported me along this long training & racing journey:
Here is the long-awaited and oft-requested “race-report” email on my Sierra Nevada 53.2-mile Endurance Run which I completed on September 24th… this is one of my signature LONG-WINDED e-mails complete with links to video and photos. If you are at work, or don’t wish to spend 15-minutes reading an email (right-now) then simply save or delete this message… for those of you who have demanded I send this (ASAP), enjoy… I hope it provides as much inspiration as you need, as you all have inspired me SO much.

Where do I start!? The first question nearly EVERYONE has asked is “why?” Well, actually, it’s been “DEAR GOD, why would you do that to yourself?” But we’ll simply start with the “why” part…

THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND MY INSPIRATION TO RUN A DOUBLE-MARATHON ON TRAILS, the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run… a 5-min, 12-second preview video link follows...

*If you have trouble downloading the video, or you don’t have “Real Player”, you can check out a different Western States 100 video. Or if you just want to SEE MORE! This second video utilizes “Windows Media Player” or other default players by clicking the following link

The Sierra Nevada Endurance Run
was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, hands down. That is the simplest way for me to sum it up. I have been through a lot in my life, from family turmoil in adolescence, to many marathons, even the emotional pain of physical injury, but that all paled in comparison to a double-marathon on trails, with elevation-change of 10,000 feet spread out over nearly 53.3-miles. Not only was the course “mountainous-trails” but it was 80% highly technical single-track trails (meaning nearly one-foot-in-front-of-the-other look out for rocks, roots, dips, holes, and LEDGES that could lead to a serious spill, cut, gash, or fall). Lucky for me, the Granite Bay-Folsom-Auburn area of California is some BEAUTIFUL country. The weather couldn’t have been much better than it was. I got to watch the sun rise, enjoyed breathtaking views of Folsom Lake and the American River. I pretended I was on a 53+ mile wilderness hike and I just couldn’t resist the pure joy of running most of it. The community of ultra-runners is much like the marathon community, only far more intimate and personal, considering how tightly knit marathoners are that is a BIG statement. There are SO many stories I’d like to share with you, but you know that if I got going on too many of them, this would be a short novel and a 2-hour read! For now, I’ll stick to the basics…

Sierra Nevada Endurance Run Start TO Rattlesnake Bar (Miles 0–12)
The race was to start at 6:00am. I got up at 3:45am and made my traditional “qualifying-race” meal of chocolate chip pancakes and Peet’s Kenyan coffee! After stuffing myself with as many chocolate-chip pancakes as I could get down, we were off to the starting-line. I stayed at my sister Mary’s house in Rocklin, a mere 8-miles from the start of the race in Granite Bay (which is near Folsom Lake). A very funny coincidence, the starting-line of the Sierra Nevada Endurance run was literally only a few miles up the road from the starting-line of the California International Marathon (near the Folsom Dam), where I qualified for the Boston Marathon only 10 months ago! There’s some great mojo for me up there near Folsom! The gun went off right on schedule, and nearly 150 athletes started off on their long journeys… among us were the participants of three races, the Sierra Nevada Endurance Run Relay (a 2-person relay), my race (the 53.2 mile run) and the Rio Del Lago 100-miler. Yes, there are people crazier than moi! I would need a 10-hour- 45-minute FINISH today if I were to qualify for the Western States (the Boston Marathon of ultra-trail-marathons). It was nearly pitch-black when the gun went off to begin the race, so I stayed close to many runners with headlamps on, and I walked the better part of the first couple of miles. The trail was marked with PINK ribbons and glo-sticks, it was chilly, pleasantly cool air in the mid-50’s, which topped out around 79-degrees later that day, simply DREAM-like weather for this area, this time of year. I lost myself in the predawn views of Folsom Lake. I even forgot at times that I was a participant in a RACE, as I stopped aside the trail and started snapping photos of the lake with my cell-phone’s digital camera! Then, I started running to find a good (2-bar) signal on my cell phone so I could picture-mail them to Kate’s cell phone so my family could see these breath-taking sights!!! I had my phone in the air, my arm fully extended as I waited for pictures to upload, and as crazy as these people are, most looked at me like I was from Mars as I ignored the fact that there was a race happening. When I finally arrived at the first “crew-point” to meet my dad, my baby-sister and brother-in-law, and my fabulous fiancée Kate, I was only slightly behind my targeted pace of 12-miles in 2-hours. They all laughed at me sending photos and text messages! I was nearly a quarter of the way through the race, and I was excited to see what else was in store for me! I gobbled down another chocolate-chip pancake and ran after a couple of older gentlemen (Bill & Dana) who I had ran the last mile or two with, and told my family I’d see them at the next checkpoint.

Rattlesnake Bar TO Auburn Dam Overlook (Miles 12–23)
As I started the second-leg of my quest, I wondered to myself if “Rattlesnake Bar” was named because of a high-concentration of RATTLESNAKES!!! Yikes!! I used to have nightmares as a child of snakes “getting me”, so running this particular portion of the course (which was ALL single track trails with the brush on both sides of the trail grazing my legs at ALL times) a bit creepy. I think I did sub-7-minute miles for a stretch there! When I caught running buddies Bill & Dana, they politely asked me if I’d like them to step-aside so I could pass and I playfully requested that they block me for as long as they could. I told them that I was a neophyte and rookie to the ultra-running community, and that this was my FIRST time venturing past the 26.2 mile distance that has captivated my imagination and soul for the past 5 years. Both guys laughed and smiled and took me under their wing. It was unbelievable, did I EVER run into the RIGHT guys at the RIGHT time! Little did I know, the accomplishments these two guys have amassed, it made me realize yet again how blessed I truly am, and that yet again an angel had led me to THIS race at THIS particular time. These two would serve as my guides for nearly 15-22 miles of the experience! Bill (49) was one of THREE individuals last year (along with Dean Karnazes) to run the WINTER Western States 100. As if Western States wasn’t hard enough, Dean, 5-time winner Tim Twietmeyer, and Bill had run the storied race in January, when around HALF of it was covered in snow! On top of that, Bill had completed 22-consecutive-years of the Leadville 100-mile race, a race as difficult (in terrain) as the Western States, but at a MUCH HIGHER altitude! The Western States has a HIGH altitude of 8,700 ft, and 38,000 ft of net elevation change VS Leadvilles LOW altitude of 9,200 ft (HIGH of 12,600 ft) and a net elevation change around 31,000 ft. They both commented that they were pacing themselves for a 10-hour finish, which I knew would give me some “grace-time” should I melt down in the second half on-way to my necessary 10-hour, 45-minute qualifying time. I told them both of my dream to run the Western States before my 31st birthday which basically gives me until June of 2007 to do so. Dana informed me that not only had both he and Bill WON this race (Sierra Nevada), but he was personally on the 4-person “special considerations” committee that admits athletes into Western States. After telling him of my quest for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and of Sophie Hartmann, he gently assured me that this would NOT get me into the Western States. I fired back, “well, I’ll just have to send you photos of my UCLA co-ed race crew” to which he replied, laughing, “that WILL convince three of the four of us!” That was the LAST we spoke of the Western States until after the race. The LAST thing I wanted to do was be a pest for a couple of hours HURTING my chances to get in. I may be IN a lottery for 350 slots with 1,000-2,000 other people, but it couldn’t hurt to have met Dana when I did. Bill, Dana and I stayed together as we ascended “Cardiac Hill,” between 2-3 miles of vertical climbing that was the most significant uphill of the day, nearly 1,500 ft up. Atop Cardiac, it was a very flat, pleasant few miles to the Auburn Dam Overlook where I got to see my mom for the first time today! She took it upon herself to make sure Kate was taking care of herself while Kate was race-crew-captain for me! The two were an awesome pair. I munched down half a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, had a handful of pretzels, and refilled my bottles with water and Gatorade. ONWARD to No Hands Bridge!

Auburn Dam Overlook TO No Hands Bridge and BACK (Miles 23–31)
In the previous section of running, I had taken a nasty fall where I JAMMED my middle toe on my left foot. Not to long after that, Bill bailed, and Dana joked that he was next. He was! At the top of Cardiac Hill, he took the worst spill of the three of us, falling and hitting his hip hard, and scraping up his palms. Dana had trouble getting into a running rhythm after that, and as we left the Auburn Dam Overlook, he fell back. Before Bill and I knew it, he was nowhere to be seen (or heard). We stopped and yelled back for him, but someone else answered back. Hmmm. As experienced as Dana was, Bill mused that he’d be fine and we should continue on, as we’d likely see him again at No Hands Bridge. Bill informed me we were just about to cross a magical threshold, onto the last few miles of the Western States 100 course! I was giddy that on our way back, I’d be running the last few miles of the course in the same direction as in my current “dream” race. Granted, if the DREAM goes as planned, I’ll be running this section in pitch black darkness aided by a headlamp, as I will strive to finish in under 24-hours, or sometime between 3am-5am. It was between Auburn Dam Overlook and No Hands that runners began flying by in the other direction! Bill and I began to count… there’s the RACE LEADER! 2nd place. 3. 4, 5, 6, 7, first girl at 8! 9, 10, 11, 12… we were ALMOST to No Hands, which we could see in the distance… 13, 14… Bill and I were in 15th place together when we reached the turn-around point. It was now 10:40am and I was 4-hours, 40-minutes into my Western States qualifying quest! At Mile 27, I had 6-hours to complete the final marathon, which was more downhill than up on the way back the EXACT same way we came up. We had about 600 ft to climb in the next 2-miles to get back to the highest point in the race, but I was ENERGIZED! As we made our way back over the bridge, Dana emerged from the trees running with another guy, smiling and looking great. He let us know he was feeling GREAT again and he just had to make a necessary “pit-stop” in the bushes. He said, “I’ll catch YOU, Bill, later. Jimmy, have a GREAT race and I hope to see you at the finish!” Bill and I stayed stride for stride together all the way back to the Auburn Dam Overlook as he told me stories about the many people in the race that passed us, he seemed to know EACH ONE personally!!! When we finally arrived back at the crew point, Kate was eagerly awaiting. This was the point in the race that “pacers” entered the picture. A member of your race-crew could be designated a pacer, and run the last 21+ miles with you to make sure you didn’t get lost, delirious, hurt, or plain pass out. I was feeling PRETTY good considering I had just run a 50k (31 miles) on trails, and I was with Bill. So I told Kate that she wouldn’t be joining me. I knew she had HER big qualifying race (for Boston) in 21-days (the Long Beach Marathon), and in front of us was the DOWNSIDE of Cardiac Hill, and another 23 miles of pounding. While Bill and I refueled, Dana caught up to us. I introduced them both to Kate and my mom, and this HUGE mountain-man looking guy walked up and said HI. Bill and Dana introduced me… Gordy – Jimmy… Jimmy – Gordy! I darted them a look, and they both nodded. This was Gordon Ainsleigh! THE man credited with starting the 100-mile trail run craze by running what is NOW the Western States course in a race VS horses!!! I couldn’t believe it. The FOUR of us took a photo, and it was quite possibly one of only a couple photos where I’m laughing (or even smiling). You’ll see that picture (and more) in a post-email photo-slide-show that my mom put together. I grabbed another half-PB&J and ran after Bill and Dana, who were already jogging away. There was ONLY one more crew-point left between me and the finish, a mere 23 miles to go.

Auburn Dam Overlook TO Rattlesnake Bar (Miles 31–42)
Dana, Bill and I worked our way back towards “Cardiac Hill” and in the back of my mind, I knew that would likely be the last couple of miles we were together. Dana was feeling better, Bill was telling me of his notorious bad endings to this race, and both of them were asking me when I would FLY away, and I think Dana was slightly annoyed that I called my friend Sara to see where she was (she was driving up from Davis to hang with Kate and my mom and cheer me on). I think Dana called me a “whippersnapper” and said “okay, THAT’S IT!” When we hit the Cardiac Hill decent, I began to open it up. There was a split-second when I took my eyes off the trail to see how Bill was doing, and I lost my footing and slipped OVER the ledge… WHOA!!! I scrambled to grab hold of something, and JUST caught myself. As Bill caught me he gave me a very relaxed, “nice recovery!” and “good thing you didn’t fall, I was going to have to report you for cutting the course.” We both laughed, but adrenaline was coursing through my veins. Couple that with the fact that my competitive self was beginning to surface… I was in 15th place with 20 miles to go!!! Could I crack the top 10??? I said to Bill, “Have a GREAT race, see you soon!” and I bolted. The next 9 miles were a back-and-forth between bliss and exhaustion. I was beginning to labor. I caught my first runner! He politely stepped out of the way as I flew by at around a 7:30-per-mile pace. I tried to speed up, or at least maintain pace to hold off any attempt by him to stay with me. Before even slowing down, I had caught another runner! I was now in lucky 13th place! I thought of my dearest Kate, who’s birthday and favorite number is 13. I was now only 6 or 7 miles from Kate at the next crew station. On my way there, I caught two more runners and was now in 11th place! I saw a sign stating that I was now LESS than a mile from Rattlesnake Bar. Only 8-10 minutes until I’m there, right? I got lost!!!! There were these “off-roading” driving paths that crisscrossed a FEW intersecting horse/hiking paths, and I was exhausted and borderline delirious. I started around a corner, and saw the crew point, but I also realized if I walked up to the crew-point from the wrong direction, I could be disqualified for cutting the course (or at least going off-course). I had SO MUCH TIME to finish in under 10-hours, 45-minutes, as my time was NOW at 7-hours, 15-minutes. I had 3-hours, 30-minutes to cover the final 12-miles. I backtracked about a quarter mile until I found the trail again and came back to the crew station ON COURSE. I was frustrated, exhausted, aching, and READY to be done. Kate bounced around like an eager puppy dog wanting to be let out. She let me know that she had found out it was OKAY for her to “pace me” from the 12-mile point in. I agreed to letting her come, deeply relieved that I’d have someone with me for those final TOUGH miles.

Rattlesnake Bar TO Twin Rocks (Miles 42–49.2)
As Kate followed me into the final major phase of the race, my mom YELLED after her, “remember, you CAN’T TOUCH HIM!!!” The rules of the race stipulated that a pacer could NOT act as “race crew” in between crew points. This means she couldn’t help me up a hill, give me anything to drink, she couldn’t even give me an Advil or carry my water bottles for me. She playfully smile back… who, me??? Kate ran right on my heels for miles. It was a gently rolling 7+ miles to the last aid station at Twin Rocks. We passed a guy who (with his pacer) had been kicked by a horse, and REFUSED aid. He was VERY disappointed to be passed by Kate and I, as he was proud of his top 10 positioning. We sped up to drop him. I was ACHING, throbbing, and in agonizing pain at this point, but we pressed the pace anyway. We caught the guy in 9th, who was doing fine, but his PACER was hurting and apparently was ill-prepared for a hilly-mountainous 21 miles. As we passed them by, the pacer was sitting on a rock with his shoes off, and the 9th place guy looked bewildered. We pressed on. I was in 9th place and I prized the idea of being in the single-digits! But EVERYTHING hurt. We got to Twin Rocks after what seemed like HOURS. I had 4.1 miles left. As we finished filling our bottles with ice, Gatorade, and water, the guy who was previously in 9th, now 10th came FLYING around the corner to the Twin Rocks aid station. He looked fresh, strong, relaxed. I was toast. But I couldn’t let him know. We hurriedly left and it was my goal to RUN the rest of the way.

Twin Rocks TO the FINISH (Miles 49.2–53.28+)
As we started (fast), we clipped away between 8-9 minute miles (I think). I kept thinking about 10th place, I thought MAYBE I could run hard enough to catch the NEXT person, so if Mr. 10 caught me, I’d still be in the top 9! lol Things started cramping. Kate commented on some turkeys, and I pleaded with her for no more talking. Everything was irritating me at that point. With about 2 miles left, we caught the next person, the girl leading the women’s race! She nervously asked Kate if she was in the double-marathon, Kate smiled and said, “don’t worry honey, I’m just a pacer.” We almost got lost a few more times as we looked down each of the long forks in the path for the pink ribbons tied to tree branches. The last 2-3 miles took FOREVER. We came out of some trees and over the next set of trees I saw what looked like a school building. I literally thought I might be hallucinating. That COULDN’T be the end. Must have been another school. Then we came up on THE field where I started… I was 200-yards from being DONE! I picked it up to 6:00-mile pace! I stared at the finish line in disbelief. My mom, sister, brother-in-law, and baby-niece all cheered me along the final 30-yards. 9-hours, 28-minutes, 19-seconds later, I was done, and totally spent. I was filthy, bleeding (from a fall in the last few miles) from my thumb, I had scrapes and scratches all over my legs that were coated in dirt, and I could barely walk. I had finished in 8th place, and as they put the stickers on the finisher’s board, it turns out I was also the first person between the age of 18-29, taking 1st place for my “age group.” A woman approached me and asked what she could get for me, and the best-sounding thing I could think of was Red Bull on ice! I drank the two best Red Bull’s I’ve ever had, and I didn’t really care for Red Bull (UNTIL NOW!). We headed back to the hotel, and I had the BEST 15-min ice bath I’ve EVER experienced. It reduced my deep-aching-pain by about 80%. After cleaning up we went to Islands for burgers, and Mary talked them into letting us into a private party and giving us FREE dinner with appetizers!!! After dinner, Kate and I went out with our friend Sara to a bar for drinks. We got home at 1:30am, and 22-hours after waking up, and 54-ish miles later, the day was done! I can not WAIT to do it again! My mom almost immediately emailed us a photo-slideshow of the day…

Here is a list of people I am GRATEFUL to, and whom without, I could NOT have done this:

  1. Kate “the GREAT” Martini – my love and crew chief, who supported me through every training day, and every step of the double-marathon
  2. My family who has supported me ENDLESSLY, been behind me no-matter-what I do... my mom, dad, sisters (Mary & Sarah), brothers-in-law (Stan & Reuben), and cute-as-heck-nieces (Alexis, McKenna & Gabrielle)
  3. Sophie & Vivian Hartman – the inspiration to endure ANY pain and continue to fight on… Sophie continues to fight her fight at the UCLA Med Center, her 2nd bout with leukemia, and I am inspired by ALL the other SURVIVORS (Alex, Virginia, Van, Kendall, Melanie, Jeff, Audrey, and so many more)
  4. My grandparents – the memories of James & Margaret Freeman moves me to this day, they are my role-models and idols, my example of living a life about love and family, passion and commitment
  5. The Team In Training San Gabriel Valley Marathon Team – seeing such amazing people put themselves on the line, doing something they previously thought they could not do, and quite possibly still don’t fully believe they can do, both FUNDRAISING to make a difference in the lives of others and pushing their own physical limits, I am SO blessed to be in the presence of these angels constantly… I LOVE these people with all that I have
  6. My incredibly supportive friends, training partners, and (now fellow) ultra-marathoners who’ve provided advice, support, and motivation… Sara, Travis, Emily, Greg, Murray, Katie, Amber, Teresa, Theresa, Marnie, Gareth, Gionne, Archie, Sonia, Yoshi, Neil, there are SO many I’ve failed to mention, but who played a crucial role in supporting my quest

I shall find out on Saturday, December 3rd, if I have been selected (by lottery) to participate in this year’s Western States, which shall take place on June 24th-25th, 2006. If I do NOT get selected for Western States, I plan to complete the Angeles Crest 100-mile Endurance Run (in the San Gabriel back country) from Wrightwood to Pasadena mid-late next September, 2006...