Monday, August 08, 2016

AC 100

I finally ran Angeles Crest 100. It's close, and it's been around for a long time, so it's a bit unclear why I hadn't run it before. Maybe because I don't like Southern California very much? More likely because several years ago they moved the date from late September to early August to try and beat fire season (and instead guarantee that it will be uncomfortably hot). Also, the race director has some very poor policies that clearly seem like they're designed to maximize profit--the race signup takes place the day after the previous year's race, with no refunds, no waitlist, and almost no experience requirement for signing up. All these lead to a very high (something like a one-third) do not start ratio, and a very high do not finish ratio as well. Do not starts=free money!

To make matters worse, this year the race was kicked out of the Pleasant View Ridge wilderness. Part of Angeles National Forest was turned into wilderness in 2009. Commercial events such as races cannot go through federally designated wilderness areas, just like you can't drive in a wilderness or graze sheep or cattle in a wilderness. However, some activities are allowed to be grandfathered in. Western States 100 is grandfathered in to Granite Chief Wilderness. Cattle grazing is grandfathered into Mokelumne Wilderness. As far as I can tell, these decisions are regulatory not statutory.

For the last several years, the race has been allowed to continue to use wilderness. (On foot only. It's not like anyone was driving on trails or anything like that.) However, President Obama designated much of the San Gabriel range as the San Gabriel National Monument in October 2014. This year, the Forest Service decided that because of the added protections as a Monument, the race could no longer cross designated wilderness. The race has been on much the same course for the last 25+ years, which traverses the San Gabriel range from east (Wrightwood) to west (Altadena), paralleling Highway 2 and using a significant portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. As you can see from the map, for some stretches, the only thing that's not wilderness is the Highway 2 corridor. As a result, the race was re-routed and consisted of around 10 or 11 miles of pavement.

As an aside, I blame the Pacific Crest Trail Association for this. I can't confirm that they're the reason that the Forest Service changed their minds, but I do know that last year when the PCTA announced their ridiculous blanket anti-trail-race policy, they were very upset about Angeles Crest 100 going through the wilderness and actively working to have the Forest Service deny/alter the race permit, and the PCTA has a lot of influence with the Forest Service. Frankly, I think the PCTA's policy is completely absurd, and if they're going to focus on ending long-held activities in newly designated wilderness areas, instead of focusing on races that send a couple hundred people on foot across well-established trails once a year (and also require 8 hours of trail work from every participant!) they should focus on cattle grazing.

[PCTA contact] [Forest Service PCT contact][Angeles NF contact]

OK, now that I've complained a lot, here are some photos.



Miles of Highway 2 shoulder. Thanks for nothing, PCTA.

The race was hot but fun. The first thirty miles are nice high country, which reminded me that it's not that I don't like southern California, it's that I only like the parts that are above 7,000' or within a mile of the ocean. The pavement was awful, but I wore Hokas that handled it reasonably well (but caused other problems). I ran miles 52-75 with Nano and 75-100 with Marshall. It was great to catch up with Nano, and Marshall knew exactly what to do: tell me stories! (And boy, does he have some colorful ones). My time wasn't great (29:25) but I wasn't really pushing it. This was my first 100 in 11 months, which for me is a long time, so I didn't know what sort of shape I was in. I moved up 20+ positions in the second half of the race, and ran the last 5 very strong, so I feel good about it.

Gear-wise, I made the mistake of trying out a cotton shirt. That's been the rage lately ever since Pam Smith did it in Western States and won, so I thought it might feel good in hot weather. The first shirt I tried had seems which chafed. The second shirt I wore worked fine from mile 10 to mile 75, but then when it got cool and the moisture stopped evaporating, it was a gross clammy chafing mess that really started irritating me. I went shirtless for 5 miles, but that's terrible with a pack on. Luckily Marshall didn't mind wearing his long-sleeve and I finished in his Icebreaker wool tank top.

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