Never Bet Against The Angeles Crest 100

Scott Jurek, leading in 1999 at Chilao (51mi). Tom Nielsen was gaining on him.
This post concerns the 2000 and 2001 AC100 races. In the course of reviewing the facts, I'd realized that I had merged two races together. Thanks to chats with Jennifer Johnston and Tom Nielsen, I got straightened out. The story is more interesting that way. 

1999: Prequel

Scott Jurek and Tom Nielsen had locked horns at AC in 1999. Everything was ducky up until Chantry, when Mr Murphy starts dropping wrenches in the gears. Tommy caught Ian Torrence on Mt Wilson [79mi give or take], and then Jurek at Idle Hour. Idle Hour. 81 miles, in a Dark Hole in the side of a mountain. That is a hard place to get served. 

I think this was pre-packet radio days, and Ham-radio transmissions sometimes got lost or delayed bouncing off the canyons. There are 2 additional checkpoints, but nobody is quite sure where he is. 

Or it seemed that way then. David Emmons, who was manning the Millard Aid Station commented after I posted originally:

That sure brings back memories.  I was the captain at Millard the time Tommy passed Scott at Idlehour.  The radio transmissions between Sam Merrill and Millard were very clear.  "Runner race number 1 was in the lead" "new race leader". When I saw lights coming down Sunset I let out a SooWee! and was answered back.  It indeed was Tommy.  After he left Millard, we tried to tell the finish line that there was new race leader because the packet was messed up.  The radio transmissions were right out of the Blazing Saddles "Sheriff's Near" scene.  We were saying race number 1 was the new leader and finish line kept responding with first runner is in?  "No, race number 1 is through" we restated, "first runner through" was the reply!  We finally gave up and figured they would sort it out when they saw Tommy at the finish line.  So frustrating then but really funny now.  Ahh the memories of late nights at Millard.
A.C. is a wild beast and doesn't care who you are or what you have done in the past.  She will chew you up and spit out the battered remains. I especially love it when the big guns come and crack off a squibb.  A.C., she doesn't care, she just keeps coming at you like a merciless foe.  They come every year and Jim's record endures!  Wish I had been around for that performance.  Missed it by 2 years.
Now its the finish line. Leah sees bobbing flashlights, and she runs out calling "Scott? Scott??" 

Tommy, ever the gentleman says "..uh, no. Its Tommy"

2000: Light-years From Home

Start of the 2000 AC100, Scott Jurek second from left.
In 2000 Jurek had just won Western States for the second time, and it was widely assumed that all he had to do was show up at AC and that was that. He arrived, accompanied by Betty Ulin, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer, shooting for a planned story on him.  

Scott & Leah Jurek, Richard Fisher, Ian Torrence, and Larry Gassan. Photo by Geri Kilgariff.
I was crewing my friend Andy Roth that year, and we'd all camped out at the upper SE corner of the grade-school the night before the race. It was Jurek, Ian Torrence, Andy along with respective wives, friends, crew and fun-hogs. 

Ian Torrence, Scott Jurek
The PI photog was star-struck by Jurek, and he's a handsome subject, for sure. It was all "Chariots of FIre" for her. Jurek was his usual detached self, not rude or anything like that, but not in the prank and fun zone like the rest of us. But she clearly thought we were a bunch of clowns who Didn't Take Things Seriously Like We Should Have, Because Its A Hundred Miles.

The race unspools, and of course everything is looking swell through Eagle's Roost (31miles). Tom Nielsen later recalled:
"Scott dropped out in 2000. He got passed by Kaname Sakurai in Cooper Canyon, then I passed him just after Cloudburst. Then Kaname and I battled it out for awhile until I started to put him away from Chantry to the finish, again with Dana (Taylor)'s awesome pacing expertise."


The P-I photog was a very unhappy camper at the finish line the next morning. Her story had evaporated overnight. 

Scott Jurek wound up getting his head handed to him. He came back in 2001 but dropped again, saving his considerable mojo for Western States. He proceeded to notch up wins until 2005, when he announced he was not a 2006 contender. Jurek's 15:36:27 2004 course record stood until 2010, when Geoff Roes broke it with his 15:07:04.

The exposure and career opportunities afforded by his States wins outstripped anything he might have acquired down here.  

2001: Nobody's Immune

It's always fun on the training run. Tom Cheese, Guillermo Medina, Ken Gregorich, Ann Trason,
TBD, and Mark Marcelli on the far right. Just out of Chantry Flats, August 2001.

Nielsen came back to defend his 2000 win. Ann Trason came down to have a go at the course, as this was one of the legacy 100s she had never raced.

Ann Trason was easily leading the women's field at the 2001 Race. She was an hour ahead of Jennifer Johnston, and the other women trailed behind further. Trason was looking good coming into Chilao (50 miles).
Ann Trason, 1st woman into Chilao Flats (50 miles). AC100, 2001.

But within 3 miles, something starts happening. She had started into Short Cut Canyon, and the vibe has changed. I'd seen Ann run at Leadville in '94 (magnificent), Western in '99 (a very cranky customer at Michigan Bluff—55 miles). But this was different. At Short Cut Saddle, Trason emerges, and is looking shocked. Carl literally matches her stride for stride, and catches her bottle. 

Ann Trason and pacer Carl Andersen, entering Short Cut Canyon.
Ann Trason at Short Cut Saddle (59 miles) when I saw the unthinkable—she was starting to have a very bad day.  
Trason getting iced down. She dropped at Chantry.
By the time Trason arrived at Chantry, her race was done, and she dropped. In the meantime, Jennifer Johnston and Jana Gustman had been toiling an hour back. Johnston was not particularly happy with her performance that day, and had been venting to Jana that when she got to Chantry she'd pull the DNF lever and drop. All that changed when she topped out, and saw Trason in the chair, not looking good. She said "Fuck it, I'm gone!" and made speed up the mountain. She won it in 25:11:24, with Jana in second at 25:55:24.

Jana Gustman and Jennifer Johnston,
2nd & 1st women,  2001 AC100

Meanwhile, both Jurek and Nielsen were having their own bad days. Jurek dropped, as did Tommy. The field was now open for Jorge Pacheco to take his first AC100 win in 19:05.
Scott Jurek discussing his options with Kent Holder. Leah Jurek to the left. He dropped shortly afterwards.
Tom Nielsen at Short Cut Saddle (59 miles) getting ready to drop. His race was not going well, and he was done.
Suzanne Brana (far right) had won both WS100 and AC100 in 1999.


Anonymous said…
This is a fabulous post, I enjoyed it immensely! AC just keeps on coming on...
Anonymous said…
Fuck yah Larry. Love the post
Great report Larry! I attended that training run in August and met my idol Ann Trason. I ran that day wearing a big straw hat and when I came across the finish line on race day, Ann said "there's the lady in the floppy hat"! Such a thrill for me to make it all the way that year! NSD
Eric Kajiwara said…
Great post Larry. It's a shame the runners this year won't be able to experience the full Monty. Your post brought back good and bad memories.

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