Posted on August 2, 2015
It has taken me awhile to come down from the mountains, triage my wounds (physical and emotional), catch up on my business and family, and finally gather the energy to resume a “normal” life. So I apologize for the late post.
First off, I can’t thank everyone enough if I live to be 110 years old. The support I received for this fundraiser was tremendous, both financially, morally, and logistically. Your donations will help numerous people get hearing aids so that they may connect with their loved ones and resume their extraordinary lives. The work of HearAid Foundation is never ending and we are just making a dent in an ocean of underserved neighbors and friends lacking the means to hear – a basic human function that most of us take for granted.
Speaking of neighbors and friends, I’d like to thank Betsy Sanz and her entire family for coming out to support the run. Betsy was the crew chief and made sure I was well supplied with food and gear during my run while her husband managed the base camp and all our kiddos. Denise and Simon Gonzales also came out with their home made burritos which fueled those long hours. Stewart Irving and Zelda Ramos came out to be my pacers but didn’t get the chance. Zelda, however, got lucky and ended up pacing the legendary celebrity runner Dean Karnazes. Duke Hong, my little brother was there to pace me through my “death march” from miles 42-50. He was instrumental in my survival as well as many others. And finally, I’d like to thank my wife for putting up with my months of insane hours of training and being an absentee husband. Despite all that, she came out to be crew my run and kept Betsy company through the wee hours of the night.
The run started Friday evening at 6pm. Excitement was in the air as celebrity runner, Dean Karnazes, joined at the last minute to put in the miles with us. When the gun went off it was hard for me to contain my excitement and not sprint down the lane. My brother put together an amazing pace chart based on his PhD calculation of duration, milage, steepness and past running records. It was mind boggling but I tried to stay as close to it as possible. It was important to not run too fast in the early miles of a 100mile run. So I kept an easy pace and walked most of the hills. The first 5 miles were all climb up to the first aid station, Buckhorn. Evening sun was still beating down and painted the canyons and valleys golden red. It was a lovely day to suffer. At Buckhorn, I was just 5 minutes behind schedule. Not too shabby. It was all downhill to the next aid station, The Falls, so I decided to test my legs. I zoomed past a dozen runners during this downhill section. After decades of mountain biking, I felt very comfortable picking lines and staying fluid. At The Falls, mile 10.2, I felt great and was energized to see my lovely crew. Like pros, they filled my water bladders and made sure I had enough food with me. I took couple bites of Simon’s burrito and grabbed my homemade rice ball spiced with rock salt and umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum). I took off and did a heel click out of happiness.
10 minutes out of The Falls, as I was enjoying my snack and sunset, I accidentally dropped the rice ball. Oh man, was I bummed!!!! This was my savory treat and I won’t get another one till mile 17.5. I soldiered on and was joined by young burly dude who’ll end up running with me for hours. Ryan was awesome. He’s a young entrepreneur who owns a marketing firm and surfs big waves for fun. We arrived at the next aid station, White Oak, together and he was happy to accept Simon’s burrito. At this point, mile 17.5, I was about 20 minutes behind schedule. No big deal. It’s a long race so I need to pace myself. Ryan and I bush-whacked and ended up chatting all the way to mile 30, Cold Spring Saddle aid station. What a fun guy.
By Cold Spring, though, I was starting to feel the exhaustion of running late into the night. At this point I was over 40 minutes behind schedule and starting to feel sleepy. I downed a cup of ramen and a couple cookies and headed into the darkness. The next 6.2 miles were a painfully steep downhill that rattled my fatigued quads followed by ridiculously steep uphills - short but heartbreakingly steep. At one point I let my guard down and tried to eat something while running downhill. The 10 seconds I let the guard down was enough to send me sliding butt first onto the ground. Triage showed only a small laceration on the left palm so I wrapped my hanky around the wound and continued. It freaked me out, though, when shortly afterwards I spotted couple pairs of red glowing eyes looking back at my shiny lights in the darkness. By the time I got to Montecito aid station at mile 36.8, I was beat and demoralized. The wound on my left palm was throbbing and I felt a complete void of energy. I shuffled the last 100 meters to the aid station at around 4:40am and all I could do was collapse on their portable hammock. The aid station crew was fantastic and made sure I got food in my system and encouraged me to keep going. After another cup of ramen, I felt my energy coming back but I was dreading the next section which was a 6 mile, 1,600 ft climb up to Romero Camuesa aid station. I texted my crew at Romero and questioned whether I’d make the cut off in time or not. They reassured me I would - darn. I was ready to throw in the towel already. However, not wanting to disappoint my crew, I grabbed my gear, zipped up my jacket, and marched on, up and up and up. Within 30 minutes the sun began to break out and I started to feel a renewed energy.
The hike up to Romero was relentless. I was less than 40 miles in but I started to see lead runners already coming back from their 50 mile turnaround mark. That meant they were over 20 miles ahead of me by this point. Mad respect for the lead runners. They were blazing and each offered cheers and encouragement as they passed by me. I was also getting passed by runners going up to Romero. First was a group of 3 young ladies - one of them, I found out later, was in route to break the world record for the most 100 milers in a year (42). Again, mad respect. Another guy passed me and I later saw him throwing up on the side of the road.
I finally reached Romero Aid Station and was happy to see my lovely wife, brother, and Betsy. They showered attention to me and made sure I had everything I needed. I changed into a new running outfit and I can’t tell you how great that felt to get out of sweaty, stinky clothes into fresh ones. My brother Duke ushered me through the rest and made sure I didn’t stick around too long. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes–clothed, fed, ice-bathed, and restocked. Thank God for my crew.
Duke and I started our trek up a wide firewood to the next aid station Lagunitas at mile 50. Immediately I realized this was going to be a death march. I spent most of my energy coming up to Romero and I had nothing left in my tank. The sun was blazing down and sapping further energy. The view of Santa Barbara coastline on one side and wilderness forest on other was spectacular but at the time I hardly noticed. Duke tried to get me to run sections that were relatively flat. I tried a few steps but could only muster a turtle-pace job. At one point he even grabbed a food pouch I was enjoying and told me I can have it back when I make it to the top of the next crest. I was demoralizing but it worked. By around mile 48 I had nothing left in me. I started to feel light headed and at times delirious. At this point there was no “running”. There was hardly any “walking” either. It was a scene straight out of Night of the Living Dead, the classic zombie flick, except those zombies were Usain Bolt compared to my amateur zombie shuffle. My spirit was dead as well as I knew that at this pace I will certainly miss the next cut off time. It was pure survival mode at this point.
About 300 meters from Lagunitas AS, the station crew spotted us and saw that I wasn’t making any progress even if I was only 300 meters away. They took pity and drove over in a pickup to spare me my misery. The Lagunitas crew was simply awesome. The guys there could have their own TV show - it was that funny. It was Beevis & Butthead meets Wayne’s World at that camp. They plopped me in a chair and served me the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life along with their comedy act. Seeing that I was safely secured at the aid station, my brother decided to run back to Romero to get some running time in. He was scheduled to run a race in Switzerland the following weekend and had wanted to use my pacing as a part of his training. Unfortunately he didn’t get any running in while pacing me. Along the way, he picked up another runner and successfully paced her back to Romero. What a stud.
Many runners had already dropped out or missed the cut off time at this point. In fact, I was the last runner to arrive at Lagunitas after making the Romero cut off time. So after my arrival the AS crew was free to pack up and drive me and 3 other runners back to Romero. The bumpy, riding dirt road trip back to Romero was an excruciating 30 minutes marked by fear of tumbling down the mountainside.
18 hours and 50 miles was all I was able to manage. Months of suffering from plantar fasciitis and taking 5 weeks off to recuperate my heel just before the race took its toll. My body simply was not properly trained for the duration and intensity of Santa Barbara 100. Just to give you a perspective, my first 50 miler was completed in 9:15. It was a road run and relatively flat. My second 50 miler was a trail run and had 11,000ft of climbing. I finished that in 12:21. Santa Barbara’s first 50 miles had 13,000 ft climbing and it took 18 hours. This was the hardest course I’ve ever experienced. Despite all that, I was still very disappointed at not completing the 100 miles. After spending 9 months focusing on this race, I had high hopes. It took awhile for me to come to terms with my disappointment, but in the end I am tremendously grateful for the experience and for all the support I received during training and at the race. This is a beautiful sport and I’m lucky to be able to enjoy it at my age of 50. I am blessed to be a part of the ultra running community as well as the HearAid community. Thank you all for your participation in my little journey.