San Diego 100 Race Report
Now, before we get into the race report, I cannot possibly start without sharing our experience at the Melting Pot in Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. Before the race, we spent 3-days in Gaslamp Quarter resting, shopping, and site seeing. One late night I decided that I wanted dessert (yes everyone, this was MY idea!!) so we went next door to the Melting Pot. This was our first time visiting a Melting Pot and it was AWESOME! Not just the food, but the service and our waitress. She asked what brought us to town and Elizabeth mentioned the crazy 100-mile race that I would be doing in the mountain. After we finished, our waitress brought me something special!Nestled near Julian, California along the shores of Lake Cuyamaca you will find a premier mountain race tucked into a secluded mountain resort that is home to some of the US’s best apple pies. The San Diego 100 course takes you along the Lake Cuyamaca Trails, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Mt Laguna, Noble Canyon, and along the Pacific Crest Trail with over 14k’ of climbing. The community of Julian and the surrounding areas is absolutely amazing. Small boutiques and shops now occupy the historic buildings along Main Street with small mom-and-pop restaurants conveniently located into the side streets.
Living in Central Texas, all of my vert training was limited to 1/4 mile hill repeats, treadmill climbing, and strength training. While making the hour-long drive from San Diego to Lake Cuyamaca it quickly became evident that I was going to new heights as the elevation on my watch slowly climbed from 77′ in San Diego to the 4600′ at the start line. While still not a lot of elevation compared to other races, there was elevation compared to Central Texas.
[/caption]Thursday night when we arrived at the Airbnb I meticulously went through my drop-bags and race plan yet again. Having registered for the Solo Division, this planning was going to be key to my success. The solo division means that you do not have a crew or pacers and rely solely on your drop bags and race aid stations. This also means you can’t have spectators at any of the aid stations on the course. There are benefits for everyone. Solo runners reduce the traffic in the parks and out to remote aid stations thus also allowing more athletes to participate in SD100 and solo finishers also receive a special buckle identifying them as completing the solo division.
[/caption]After months of training and preparation, that time had finally come. It was time for my first 100 miles race! Friday morning at 4:00am my wife and I made our way to the start line. The parking was extremely well organized and they had volunteers ensuring that everything went smoothly. I stood at the start line recalling my goals, training, the advice that I had received from my coach Karen Kantor, and countless stories from those who had run before me. Before I knew it, Scotty Mills began the countdown 10 seconds remaining; 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1.
To avoid the conga line at the start of the race as we went across the field and into the single track, I moved to position myself far enough up front. I wasn’t racing, but I also didn’t want to spend my first few miles walking as there would be plenty of opportunity for that later in the race. As we left the grassy field, I turned around to see the long line of runners walking. All I could do was smile and head off into the woodline and enjoy the single track.
There were 14 well-stocked aid stations along the course with splits ranging from 3.6 miles to 9 miles. The aid stations were located in such a way that the race was very manageable even running solo without a crew. As part of my preparations, I had planned to have drop bags roughly every 20mi with the additional essentials I -may- need or want along the way.
The first 7.5 miles to Paso Picacho aid station you experience first hand a sliver of damage that came from the 2003 Cedar Fire as you run through the charred remains of tall pines. Oddly enough (okay, perhaps not really odd for me), it was on this first 7.5im where I fell twice! There is a small stream that you have to cross on the way to Paso Picacho. I watched the runners ahead of me gracefully step onto the rocks and make it across the stream water and mud free! Then there is me. I lost my balance on the first step and my foot dropped straight into the stream. Then, when trying to step out I missed the next rock completely and sank down into the mud. I can say this, at least I stayed upright! Upright that is until I made it into Paso Picacho! As I made it across the Aid Station I tripped over a sandbag and down I went! So, in the first 7.5 miles, I fell and got wet!! At least I checked that box early! Now I could happily head off to Chambers Aid Station.
As the temperatures begin to rise, you get your first taste of the increased heat that you will be subjected through during the day. After leaving Chambers Aid Station you break away from the slight tree cover and into the fields of open rollers as you enter Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on the way to Sunrise Aid Station at mile 21. Next is the part of the race I have been waiting for! You leave Sunrise Aid Station and quickly jump on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). While there were many aspects of the race I was looking forward too, I was really excited to have a chance to run along the PCT for a few miles. This section of the course, from Sunrise 1 to Pioneer Mail 1, has the most amazing views on the course. There are times that you are running adjacent to cliffs and sharp descents that drop 100s of feet down to the valley below as you run along large boulders and rock faces. Looking across the valley at the neighboring mountains you get a sense of how small you really are. This is also the section that you find a lot of race photographers, including Howie Stern, who caught an epic picture of me tripping (next to one of those cliffs!). Even though the heat index at this point was hitting high 90s, I was trapped in the ambiance of the race and mountains to really take notice. You will jump on this section of the course once again as you come into Pioneer Mail 2 around mile 84.
From Pioneer Mail 1 you drop back down into the valley on the way to Pine Creek Aid Station (mile 36.2) for the first of your big climbs. Ahead of you is a 7.5-mile climb through Noble Canyon that will take you into Penny Pines 1. Aside from the views along the PCT, this was one of my most favorite sections. While there are a lot of areas where you are exposed to the heat, there was also a fair number of switchbacks through large trees and small streams. A lot of this sections reminded me of running along trails in Ruidoso, NM.
Upon reaching the top of Nobles Canyon, you then have some rollers as you prepare for the final big descent and climb of the race. From Red-Tailed Roost at Mile 55, you have a 16 mile stretch of the longest descent and ascent of the course as you climb down and out of Cibbets Flat Aid Station (mile 64). This section, while runnable in most places, also has its fair share of technical sections, switchbacks, narrow single track, and a lot of overgrown bushes. With this being an out-and-back section, there are a lot of cases where you will be sharing the trail with other runners coming or going from Cibbets Flat. After climbing out of Cibbets Flat you make it back to Dale’s Kitchen. While there are special treats at Sunrise Aid Station, Dale’s Kitchen was my absolute favorite Aid Station along the course. This Aid Station was the start of the final stretch back to Lake Cuyamaca. The last few aid stations take you back through familiar territory as you get to traverse the PCT sections in reverse as you check off the miles through Penny Pines 2, Pioneer Mail 2, and finally Sunrise 2. The last 9 miles of the course from Sunrise 2 back to Lake Cuyamaca are made up of gentle rollers as you close the distance towards that final grassy hill leading to the finish line. There was a surprise along the trail just 2.4 mi from the finish. There was an impromptu aid station setup with nothing more than a cooler and water. It is what was inside the cooler that made this stop a MUST! They had FREEZER POPS! That Freezer Pop was absolutely perfect!
[/caption]Thirty hours prior to this moment, I and 267 other runners were running along this exact same trail preparing for what challenges waited ahead. Now, from nearly two miles away I can hear the cheers from across Lake Cuyamaca as some of the 116 finishers of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run make their final push up the small grassy hill to the finish line.
As I made my final push up that small grassy hill, it was my turn. While there was a shiny new buckle waiting for me at the finish line, what I received surpassed any buckle I could have received. First, let me explain something. My wife HATES sweat! In the years I have been running, there is ONE single time where she ever gave me a hug and that was after finishing the Livestrong Half Marathon, my first race EVER in 2012! When I ran across the finish line, my amazing wife Elizabeth ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me how proud she was of me. At that moment, we could have gone home and I would have been perfectly content and satisfied with that single hug being all that I took away from the race. Mind you, that was at that moment; shortly thereafter I had a shiny new SD 100 Solo buckle in my hand, tons of amazing race swag, and memories that I would never forget.
[/caption]This truly was a perfect race for me and I owe that all to Karen Kantor (my coach) and my wife Elizabeth. I went into this race in far better condition than I had been for any race. We began preparing for THIS race well before registration opened in January. We even had the Airbnb reserved before registration opened. It was time for me to tackle the 100-mile distance and I wanted to do it at San Diego 100! I have paced or crewed so many others on their 100-mile journies and was well aware of the pains and demons they encountered later in the race. Not having a crew or pacer for this race I even prepared for those demons that would creep into my head. Thanks to another Texas runner, Ed Brown, I was turned on to audiobooks a few months prior. I have been listening to audiobooks on nearly all of my runs and have REALLY enjoyed it. I would get completely lost in the book and never think about the run or the lows I would encounter. There was never a time during San Diego 100 that I -needed- those audiobooks. In fact, I never even turned my MP3 player on! I did wear an Airpod for most of the race just in case, but my MP3 player ended the race with 100% battery. My spirits were so high the entire race. I enjoyed every single mile of this race. Whether that was running across the Anza-Borrego desert, climbing up Noble Canyon, or taking in the views along the PCT, I was in a new and exciting world and embraced it all! I did have a good friend on speed dial just in case things went south. I paced her on her first 100mi finish and she was there for me, any time of the day or night, to have a stern talk with any demons that crept in! Like the MP3, it too went unused! Not only were my spirits high the entire race, I felt great. I could feel the work being done to my legs from all the elevation changes, but my body really felt amazing from start to finish.
Much of this race’s success was the result of the gear that took me through the entire 100 miles. While the aid stations were fairly close and I could have run this with handhelds, I decided to use my Orange Mud Endurance Pack 2.0. Of all the Orange Mud packs, this pack is my favorite and the lightest and most versatile pack (in my opinion). While the pack comes with a 2L bladder and ability to also carry 2x 600ml soft flasks, I opted for a 1L bladder instead. I wanted the additional storage room for items I may need along the way, but I didn’t want to carry the additional 1L of Tailwind. This change allowed me to carry approximately 73 oz of Tailwind with me during the race. In addition to the fluid, I also always had a Bearded Brothers bar on me to stay on top of calorie intake during longer splits that I would replenish at my drop bags. Looking back, carrying less than this would have been problematic. While running from Pioneer Mail 1 to Pine Creek I used nearly all of my 73 oz due to the high heat index and exposure!
[/caption]Now for the magic! I wore Xoskin Compression Shorts and Xotoes (which will be released soon) and I could not be more excited and happier with the results! Many of you will understand this and relate to this oh too well. My shower after the race was pain-free and I didn’t use any lube!!!
The part I want to share is my experience with the Xotoes! I’ve been wear-testing the new Xoskin Toe-socks for about 2-mo now and I committed to putting them to the test at SD100! Now, to provide some upfront info. I have been wearing Injinjis for about 4 years religiously so I am very accustomed to toe-socks. Even my dress socks for work are toe-socks. In the past, I would lather up my toes with Trail Toes (or some other lube) and most times my feet left the races intact.
Well, Friday morning I took a chance. Someone mentioned “you don’t need Trail Toes” so I listened. Friday morning I slid my foot into the Xotoes and set out up the mountains for SD100. 100 Miles later I peeled them off my feet and was beyond excited at the results. For those that don’t have experience with this course, it is rocky, sandy, 3 small water crossings, and 14k of vert. Let me say that the Xotoes performed absolutely perfect! The photo of my foot is about 30 minutes after finishing the race (I had to shower first). Everyone has seen those horrific pictures of feet after races, let alone after 100mi. I had absolutely ZERO hot spots or blisters anywhere on my feet and that is after 100mi of sand and rocks EVERYWHERE! (Next time I will use gaters!). Now to touch on the water crossings! Every other sock I have worn gets that ‘sloshing’ feeling once they get wet. My feet felt dry the entire race, even with the water crossings!!! If you haven’t had a chance to wear the new Xotoes, don’t hesitate when they are made available! These socks are serious game changers! Personally, I would not change a thing! I love these socks!! I mean look at this foot! This definitely doesn’t look like a foot that went through 3 water crossings and 100 miles in a single pair of shoes and socks!
There was unfortunately one period during the race that I was pretty upset. I depended 100% on my drop-bags that I had staged at mile 21, 43.8, 64, and 80.3. While the aid stations were fully stocked with amazing volunteers, my drop bags had the items that would keep ME going. The drop bags at mile 43.8 and 64 were the most critical bags in this race because these two bags would contain my headlamps and items necessary for the dropping night temperatures. At mile 43.8 I picked up a Nathan handheld light and a light jacket. While I didn’t need them at the moment, I would need them before hitting Cibbets Flat at mile 64. This handheld didn’t have the life to take me through the entire night and was only used as a stopgap. Mile 64 would have my Ay-Up headlamp that would light up the entire mountain (seriously, this headlamp is AMAZING) and would last 8-hrs. Cibbets Flat was going to be my longest stop. Here I was going to come out of my singlet and put a shirt on, grab a buff, light jacket, and my headlamp. This was going to provide everything I needed to battle the lower temps during the night as well as a headlamp bright enough to allow me to make up some time during the night. This is where things went south. I came into the Aid Station and my drop bag wasn’t there. The volunteers looked EVERYWHERE for it. We even went through all of the boxes in the area looking. Without my headlamp, I wouldn’t be able to make it the 20mi out to mile 80.3 where I had yet another headlamp staged. At this point, the only option I had was to accept where things were and go as far as I could until my handheld light died. I knew it would give me approximately 5 hours of burn time on high and I have already used the handheld for about 2-hours. I knew the math and even using the light on low would be a stretch to get me to sunrise. Luckily, the aid station captain (I wish I knew his name to personally thank him) gave me a headlamp to use. While this was only about a 150-lumen headlamp (compared to the 800 I was going to use), it provided enough light to get me out of Cibbets Flat and back on my way. I have the absolute crappiest of vision at night and rely on my bright headlamps so this headlamp, while allowed me to continue on, it was at a much slower pace than I had planned. As I was preparing to leave Cibbets I sent Liz a message on what had happened and it put her into action. Mind you, this all took place at 2:30 am! For those that know Elizabeth, she does NOT wake up early. Her biggest concern during this race was my wellbeing. She is passionate and when it comes to taking care of me, she is VERY passionate. Rightfully so, my last mountain race 2 Franklin Mountains 50k, my race ended spending time in the hospital for what the doctors initially thoguht was a stroke! Unbeknown to me, she jumped out of bed and went straight to the Start/Finish line to figure out what happened and there were, from what I heard, some heated talks about my bag, where it was, and what happened. While I didn’t have a ‘crew’ on the course, I knew she had my back! So what happened to my bag? At the start line, she was told that I put it in the wrong location and put it in a different aid station box. This is completely possible and in most cases, if the table was reversed, I would say the same thing. In this case, I don’t believe that. Between my OCD and eidetic memory (to a certain degree) I am confident my bag was in the correct location. Not only did I repack my drop bags countless times before getting there, I even put my bags in their correct box several times at the start line. As I mentioned, running Solo, these drop bags were my lifeline on the course. We had arrived early at packet pickup and my bags were placed in the box well before most of the people arrived at the start line on Thursday. The bottom line is something happened that my drop bag didn’t make it to Cibbets Flat. Either I did put it in the wrong box (which could very well have happened), people were rummaging through the boxes and accidentally put my bag back in the wrong box (also possible), or since I arrived so early the boxes were moved and my box was no longer ‘Cibbets Flat’ (which is also possible). I actually think the third scenario is the correct one. The only reason I say that (think back to my eidetic memory) is there was a large space between the Cibbets Flat row of boxes and Red-Tailed Roost boxes (which is where my drop bag inadvertently went). The most viable scenario I have is the gap was closed up and in doing so my row (since I was the only bag there at the time) became the Red-Tailed Roost boxes. Either way, it happened. While at the time I was pretty upset, it was the amazing volunteers that provided me with what I needed to get out of Cibbets Flat and continue on this amazing ride! Luckily the temps didn’t get that low and I was able to stay warm enough with my singlet and light jacket! I couldn’t be happier knowing that I have an amazing wife who spent multiple hours in the middle of the night to try and get me taken care of! Despite the drop-bag mix-up, I would do it again in a heartbeat! I absolutely loved the race.
[/caption]Whether it is your first 100-mile race or 100th. San Diego 100 should be on the top of your must-do races! Scott Mills and the army of 250 volunteers do a phenomenal job organizing this amazing event!
I want to personally thank my amazing wife Elizabeth, Karen Kantor, Tailwind Nutrition, Xoskin, Bearded Brothers, Goodr, and the amazing team from Orange Mud! This was not only my first 100-mile race, but my first ultra representing the Orange Mud Dirt Unit Elite Team! It was an honor to represent the very products I love and have used for years and look forward to many more opportunities in the years to come to race for such an amazing product!
A week after the race, during an easy group run, a friend of mine asked ‘What would you have done differently in your training and race?’ You know, thinking about it more, I would not have changed a thing. Despite the one drop-bag hickup that occurred during the race, there is nothing I would have changed. I had an amazing experience and my training and fitness was exactly where it needed to be thanks to my amazing coach. A lot of sacrifices went into the preparing for this race and Elizabeth was super supportive along the way. I know this distance scared her (rightfully so) and I know she wasn’t a fan when we initially talked about this. I am nearly certain someone talked to her prior to the race because the closer we got, the more excited she became for the race too! So what would I change? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I know, I got lucky with this race! 🙂
- Habanero Hundred – Aug 18-19 – (Crew/Pacer)
- Colorado Crossing – Sept 15-16 – (50 mile)
- Mission Tejas – Oct 27 – (???)
- Franklin Mountain Trail Run – Nov 9-11 – (50k, 10k)
- Brazos Bend 100 – Dec 8-9 – (100 mi)
Until next time my friends!
Random Photos:e-1096″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0386.jpg?w=604″ alt=”” width=”385″ height=”289″ /> Pre-race photo with some of the Orange Mud folks (Missing Summer!) PC: Steve Acciarito m wp-image-1104″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0384.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Steve Acciarito caught a strange shot of me at Meadows AS (~50mi) -image-1098″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_0385.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Quick photo with Steve Acciarito at Meadows AS mage-1094″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_3439.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Photo along a section of the PCT. 85-90 miles. ge-1093″ src=”https://johnstasulli.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_6002.jpg?w=225″ alt=”” width=”225″ height=”300″ /> Overlooking Lake Cuyamaca and the Start Line from the Airbnb