AC100 Training Stories, Pt I

Jim O'Brien setting the course record in 1989. This iconic photo was taken by Stan Wagon, then editor of UltraRunning Magazine.

We once asked Jim O'Brien if he'd ever bonked on an Angeles Crest training run. He said "on every section".


The current gear-item to have right now is a bladder-pack. Originally designed by and for guys-n-gals who were running long distances in very hot places like Arizona, Utah and so on, where there was no water for big miles.

Look at what Jim is carrying. Nothing except for 2 small bottles. Doesn't that tell you something? He's a racer, not a freight-hauler.

[Just a thought for all the racers out there humping along in their multi-pounded vests with the petri-dish bladders...]

Training is one thing. Race day is another. People get used to carrying all that stuff. I remember Jimmy saying on each stage "carry only what you need". I know that on my first AC, my fannypack was 20lb of junk—and I wasn't carrying a Walkman!

Have a seat. I'm going to tell you a couple of stories about training on the AC100 course.

1991: One Day In the Endless Summer

I remember an especially stupid day when a marathon dick showed up at one of the official training runs. One bottle, no cap, no shirt. The day's run was Short Cut Saddle to Millard Campground. He wanted to know how come there weren't "aid stations like at Western?"; you know, chocolate-covered strawberries and all, like at the Memorial Day WS Camp. I told him that this was AC, and we did things differently——this is a DIY show. He wasn't too happy.

The descent into the West Fork was an east-west convection oven.

We got to Chantry, I refilled my bottles, and booked. Just below the Mt Wilson Toll Rd somebody says "...he's got no water".

Guess who? Yep. Everybody looks at me w/ my 4 bottles. I shared it out w/ him. It only got better. Now he's spooked. Its way hot, even in the shade.

The Upper Winter Creek Trail at that time peaked out on Manzanita Ridge. We are now in blazing, ion-pelting mid-afternoon sun. He's babbling about its 'only 9 miles to Millard'. I told him to shut the fuck up, to conserve water in the heat, and also to rein in his fear. The Toll Road contours down and west, picking up shade on the way down. Pretty soon we're down in Idle Hour. Fortunately there was water in Idle Hour Creek.

He said "its only* 5 miles to Millard now", like it was a sidewalk exercise.

"No, these are mountain miles..."

I gave him some dried apricots, put his ass in the creek to cool off, and told him to drink, and wait for the others. Then I took off.

Uncle Hal was sweep that day. This sad dick hung on to Hal's coat-tails. Later Hal told me he got to the truck and 'just laid there for at least an hour...' When Hal does that, you know its bad.

Yes, that was the summer of '91 just before my 1st AC. Another reason I credit my priors in backcountry travel and backpacking in the necessity of 'self-insert/self extract', aka Libertarianism That Matters.

1996: Make Your Plans and Pick Your Friends Carefully

My favorite bonk session was between Idle Hour and 3pts Labor Day Weekend '96.

Day 1: 40 miles
Wrightwood to Three Points. I'd made the mistake of believing Another Group Of Runners that they'd have water waiting. Only problem, I outran them. I was dry from Cloudburst to 3 pts. I got to the car, and drained a couple of jugs. Fell into my car, drove down to Chilao Campground, where I was camping out that weekend, same as the Other Group Of Runners .

Got cleaned up, made dinner, getting ready for Sunday. The Group Of Runners straggled in. Watched them eat chips and screw around, then eat in the dark. I was in bed and done. Several tried to get me to run from Chantry to Finish. Declined.

Day 2: 35 miles
Up at 0430. Gone by 0515 to 3pts. Ran to Chantry, met a friend as per pre-arrangement. Heard that somebody stood the Group Of Runners up, and they drove around trying to figure out what to do. My day—fulfilled. Their day—unbilled.

Day 3: 25 miles
Long story short: made my own plans as some guy's wife in the Group Of Runners decided she didn't want to give me a ride from Finish Line to Chantry like she agreed. Why? The queen bee of the Group Of Runners decided she wanted do an out-n-back from Chilao to the bottom of West Fork, and the rest of the group fell right in line.

I raced to a pay phone, and called my girlfriend, who gracefully agreed to meet me at the Finish Line at 05:45, to schlepp my ass to Chantry. She'd still make her 8AM tennis match. Save!

When I left Chantry I was dead meat. It had been a long weekend. By the top of Mt Wilson I started feeling better. I'd heard that Ben Hian, Tommy Nielsen and some others were somewhere behind me. I ran like hell. Saw them on Echo Mtn, took off. Never caught me. Figured it would never happen in a race, so why not?

That weekend I ran the entire course just the way I had it planned out. Best confidence builder ever. I buckled three weeks later in 23:50, paced by my coach, Jim O'Brien.


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