A couple of years ago I asked Larry Gassan for training suggestions. I wanted old school ideas, nothing new fangled involving cross fit or GPS or anything other than straight up suggestions on how he trained for AC100 back in the day.
He emphasized miles, and miles on the course. He also strongly suggested running the whole thing in back-to-back-to-back days.
I never got it done that year, or the next, mostly because my skills at organizing people are minimal at best. I put the idea out there again this year, and Larry, who has been back training on the course himself, jumped on it. Next thing I knew, we had a workable plan over July 4th weekend that involved 3 days of running, 3 nights of camping, aid stations, car shuttles, and nobody but friends.
Larry and my pacer Christina headed out a day early, on Wednesday, to make sure we’d be able to score optimum campsites at Chilao. I showed up late Thursday afternoon on the 3rd. Jeanne Sloane, who is also running AC100, got there a little before I did. Christina brought Jake and Pippa, her two Ridgebacks, a couple of dogs that love the mountains. The first of 3 wonderful firepit feasts was cooked up.
Christina and I took a nice walk at sundown, and then everyone retired early to their tents. It’s amazing how our circadian rhythms lock on to sunlight and darkness when there’s not the artificial light of the city, or of computer monitors, televisions, and lamps.
Day 1: Wrightwood to 3Pts.
We drove one car out to Wrightwood. Rainer would meet us at Vincent Gap to crew the rest of the way. Christina is recovering from injury and had her dogs, so her run would not take her past Islip, but Jake and Pippa only had it in ’em to get 14 miles, to Vincent Gap. Jake runs like me: takes off in search of shade. Pippa thinks like me – get me running up in the mountains away from people and their noise, and life is perfect.
Larry’s plan was to run to Islip, maybe even to Eagle’s Roost – 26 miles on the short end, and 8,000 feet of climbing.
Rarity: thunderstorm in July. Larry and Jeanne got drenched, and then hailed on. A few miles in front of them, I was just ahead of the storm. I got huge drops of rain, just enough to cool me down, never enough to get me wet. The clouds were behind me. I stayed in the sun.
Our late start and slow p[aced first few miles meant that 43 miles of mountain running might last a bit beyond sunset, and I didn’t have a headlamp with me. Plan B: skip the section to Cloudburst and avoiding running on the road in late afternoon when there’s traffic, and then run Cloudburst to 3Pts. It cut the run short by a few miles.
Rainer joined us at the campsite. Another great firepit feast.
Day 2: 3Pts to Chantry
Poodledog bush is thick on the Silver Moccasin trail in Chilao, so we diverted onto road. Larry started at Chilao and marked the detour. Jeanne and I ran from 3Pts. Rainer crewed us through Shortcut. Marisol Martinez was spotted out and about.
We’d also seen Colin Cooley and a small group the day before, running a shorter first day. We ran into a few other friends on Baden Powell, and I heard that AC runners were all over the mountains. The entire-course-over-a-three-day-weekend is something a lot of people talk about but it seems that few if any actually do it. We’d invited a few folks to join us, and all declined.
Jeanne & me, at Newcomb’s Pass
It was hot headed down the Edison Fireroad, a 6 mile downhill that’s a little tough on the spirit. Jeanne and I ran gently, conserving strength. We kept crossing paths with a group of mountain bikers. A rattlesnake needed to be coaxed off a nice warm exposed section of the Gabrielino Trail. The rattlesnake had found a spot he liked, and it took longer than I expected to persuade him to move.
Meanwhile, Christina headed back into town with Jake and Pippa, who declared they needed a day off. She met us at Chantry. Another firepit feast, this one featuring genuine food porn that had the girls chortling like Beavis and Butthead as sausages danced in the flames.
Day 3: Chantry to finish
City people who didn’t really have a clue about camping kept us up most of the night. “Josh, anyone, where are you? Where are you?” “I’m using the bathroom” “Josh, anyone, where are you? It’s dark out here!”
We got the heat training I wanted. Down the toll road, the long exposed climb up to Sam Merrill, the dusty exposed trail down to Echo Mountain…this was a furnace. There’s no easy not-on-foot access in here (which is why the aid stations between Chantry and the finish have no crew access) so we needed to ration our water until mile 18 or so. The possibility of water down in Idlehour existed, but it wasn’t looking good and Christina got stung by yellowjackets going off trail to check. One in her calf, and another pair in her ass. The adrenalin rush came on strong and then wore off quickly on the long, hot, relentless climb, and she was spent by the time we reached Sam Merrill, as was I.
Larry and Rainer carried water for us up from Lake, along with some shade. And watermelon. All were needed. Good stuff. Colin Cooley stopped by to say hello.
Deer, deer and more deer. I hope that never gets old.
And then we were done. Hyena Hundred. 4th of July weekend. 3 nights camped at Chilao, 100 miles on the AC100 course. It was easier than I thought, but not really all that easy. Those are some tough miles. There is without question a nice psychological boost to be gained from running it, and you get to feel the course as close to all-at-once as is possible without it being race day. I was happy at how strong I felt. Most importantly, though: I cannot think of a better way to spend a long weekend than out in the mountains with good friends.