26 June 2012

How to be an Ultra Pacer - Part 3 "Case Study"

So far we've learned much of what to expect when pacing someone, mostly through clinical analysis, hypothetical situations, and real life personal accounts sprinkled in to make it sound legitimate.  If you haven't yet, you'll need to get caught up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.  Hurry up and go do that now; we'll wait for you…whatever.

Ok, now that we all have a grasp of how unglamorous pacing truly is (travel on your own dime, taking time off work, telling a grown person when to eat, often moving at a pace that makes you feel as though time is actually going backwards, and watching your runner cross the line to loud applause, hugs, medal, buckle, and other accolades while you stand alone off to the side, soup broth stains on your shirt, picking burrs out of your socks, and wondering where you can get a beer at 4 o'clock in the morning), we can now look at a case study in the form of one's pacing duties at Western States 100 from last weekend.
Brandonali Fullerton
In fairness and to avoid any critical and/or theoretical analysis reaching the subject (runner), we will use fictitious names.  We will call our case study from this year's Western States "Brandonali Fullerton".  We'll call him Brandon Fuller for short.

Brandon contacted me to pace him after his first choice of pacer made up some lame excuse for not being able to make it.  Personally, I'm certain it was because he had paced Brandon the last two years at Leadville.  The first year, Brandon ran the first half of the race like the finish line was at 50 miles, so the last 50 took him around 20 hours.  To his credit, and his pacer's horror, he finished, averaging something like 800 meters per hour.  Last year, with all this experience (one crappily run 100 miler 12 months previous), Brandon apparently decided he could win Leadville and, in fact, was winning Leadville…for the first 1.5 miles, hitting the first aid station at mile 13 just minutes behind the leaders and about an hour ahead of his prescribed pace split.

By the time his pacer (Jay Pee Patrickonovich) picked him up at mile 50, Brandon was scraped hollow like an avocado shell and couldn't remember his wife's name.  This brings us to the exploding gels in the butt scene on Power Line (read Part 2) and eventual DNF.  

Now, as mentioned in Part 1, a DNF can save a life.  Specifically, it can save the pacer from spending the 25 hours of slow walking and subsequent planning of the perfect accidental death of the runner.  The pacer can facilitate a DNF, thus ending the suffering, saving time, saving his runner's life (from the pacer's own throat strangling hands), and hopefully allow him time to find a good Pale Ale in the nearest town.  Subtle utterances work like, "Damn, we only covered one mile in the last two hours.  We won't see the next aid station until sometime next week."  Eventually, your runner will see the light and fold his cards.  Unfortunately, when you have an inexperienced ultra runner AND a novice (read innocent and un-calloused sympathetic loser) pacer, you have ensured yourself misery until death.

So, with one barely finished 100 miler (a dime sized belt buckle) and one DNF, Brandon got his name drawn in the Western States lottery (that bitch!).  I was happy for him (in a fun I-want-to-punch-you-in-the-throat sort of way) and offered my gifted, first-rate pacing services.  Initially turned down, I scratched BF off my large group (3) of friends and deleted him from my phone's contact list.  Jay Pee came to his senses and made up some ridiculous excuse to back out of pacing Brandon at WS, like not wanting his legs to be tired for some race about 8 months later, and, low and behold, I get an email asking whether I'm free to pace the two-faced jerk.  The nerve of some people!  I happily accepted.

The months roll by with a couple of informational, detailed emails from Brandon to his crew and pacer (I never read them, so I can't tell you what they were about).  Soon, it's June 22nd, the day before the race and I text Brandon to tell him I'm on my way and will see him that morning.  We spend a little time together that day but don't really discuss the race or the pacing.  Everyone else on his crew is so wrapped up in all the important details, like what color Underoos he's going to change into after the race, that I just assume he's leaving my pacing details and plans up to me.  I didn't have the heart to tell him I had no plans other than to drag his dead carcass across the finish line before the clock hit 24 hours.
Two pacers awaiting their runners.  Gary Gellin lucked into pacing a sub 17 hour finisher, hence the reason he's dressed in running clothes ready to fly and I'm, well, not.

After standing around for about 10 hours at my designated aid station, waiting for Brandon to hurry his ass up and meet me, I changed into my running gear and started getting excited to run.  As noted in part 1 of this guide, I was hoping my excitement matched Brandon's.  That hope slowly dissolved as Brandon came into view.  His bow-legged shuffle was slow and choppy and the expression on his face looked as though he just worked a 12 hour shift at a butt sniffing factory.  He was also 15 minutes behind the splits for a 24 hour finish and we had roughly 40 miles to go.  I had my work cut out for me and knew I'd be employing all my pacing tricks to get him his undeserved silver buckle and save myself from 20 hours of torture.

Assume your runner is short on brains - you'll have more compassion for him that way.
Once we left the bubble of comfort of his family and friends, all coddling him like a lost puppy, he was all mine and I began the task of snapping him to reality:  "You're going to eat when I tell you and we're going to move fast and efficiently until we cross the line."  At first my sternness was met with whiny, "I don't care about 24 hours.  I just want to finish."  Wrong answer.  I'm as compassionate as the next guy.  Heck, I even once picked up a salt tab a fellow competitor dropped.  I ate it right in front of him, but at least I picked it up.

Every 20 minutes I'd calmly look back and tell Brandon it was time to eat.  I'd hear wrappers and disgusting sucking noises on his water tube, and I was content.  When I was a little kid, for some reason I hated taking baths.  My mom would fill the tub and I learned that I could go in the bathroom with the door closed and make splashing noises with my hand and touch parts of my hair with my wet hand to make it seem as though I'd taken a bath when, in fact, I was still grimy with the same dirt from days previous.  Eventually, my mother caught on and after losing a few patches of hair from minor child abuse, I agreed that taking a bath was the right choice.

I began to realize that Brandon was pulling the same shit on me, so I began asking him what exactly he ate.  "One Clif blok."  "Brandon, that's 25 calories.  That wouldn't give a mouse enough energy to stand up."  "Eat two more."  20 minutes later, "Brandon, time to eat."  [zipper and wrapper noises] "What'd you eat?"  "A pretzel."  "Brandon, a fucking pretzel?  You need to eat more, NOW."  This went on for a while until I started getting his food at aid stations for him, putting it in his hands and staring at him until I was content the food found his stomach.

Hwy 49 aid station.  BF left and me right.
The constant prodding to get your runner to move faster is a true art form.  You know he has a million miles on his legs and feels like shit but you also don't want to waste half your life waddling slowly through the woods, so you find the edge you can push your runner to (figuratively, for now) and keep him there without going over that edge.  Once I saw that Brandon could hike at a nice clip, I began allowing him to walk more (it was usually faster than his "running" stride).  We maintained a pace that wouldn't necessarily kill him, yet would allow me to keep my sanity.

Bribing works wonders.  I promised Brandon Ibuprofen once we reached mile 70.  Within 20 minutes he went from a slobbering, mute sloth to a jabbering speed demon.  We must have clicked off a couple 13 min miles!  I took advantage of my drug dealing and pushed him through the next hour, even having him lead us for a bit.  As I pointed out previously, pacer talking is a no-no.  Follow your runner's lead when it comes to talking.  Nobody cares about your kid's stupid little birthday party after he's been up for 18 hours and covered 75 miles.  If the runner wants to talk, that's a sign the pace can increase.  Whenever Brandon started talking about something (to which I wasn't paying attention), I would turn the pace up just a bit so it was barely noticeable but would make him stop talking.  It was like the volume on the family stereo.  If you could hear other noises in the house, you could probably turn the volume up a surgical fraction.  It was easy to tell if you had it too high because your brother or father would come into the room, kick you as you scrambled under the sofa and then snag your "Air Supply" record off the turn table, needle ripping crossways through the lovely falsetto songs (wait, did I just write that out loud?).  It's a balancing act and can be mentally draining to achieve the desired results.

I was losing the battle with Brandon, but the war was still within grasp.  I gave up on making him run.  He was shelled and I can tell when there's nothing left to give.  This is the point (around mile 94-ish) when you need to act like you have a heart, walnut-sized perhaps, but you have one.  Remind the runner of all the sacrifices he's made and how selfish he's been with his family and how it's all going to be worth it in just a few short miles.  In no time he'll be crossing the deserted finish line in the middle of the night and get a cheap belt buckle that only the biggest tool would wear in public.  Inspirational.

At the finish, the pacer typically peels off and allows the runner to act as though he ran the entire race alone, no aid, no crew, no pacer.  He crosses the line, announcer proclaims his name and accomplishment, family and friends embrace him, tears of happiness flow.  And there you are, standing alone to the side in your filth, cantaloupe juice stains on your shirt, wondering where the hell your car is parked.

Pacing is a true art form that some will never master.  It takes a certain mentality mixed with physical ability.  It basically sucks.

Brandon came back from a 15 minute deficit to finish sub 24 hours in 23:22 at Western States.  Congratulations, Brandonali.
Here's Brandon's Report

20 June 2012

How to be an Ultra Pacer - Part 2

"Will you please get up.  You're embarrassing me." 

In the intro to How to be an Ultra Pacer, we covered the wide range of emotions from ebullient anticipation, to the grinding sad reality of the lead up and preparation, to the time you finally meet your runner.  Now we'll focus on the process of pacing.  An important thing to remember going into your pacing duties is that, at one point or another (or many), you will hate your runner.  I mean like push-him-off-the-mountain in the middle of the night hate.  Like all misery and suffering in running ultras, once you anticipate and accept it, you're able to manage the emotion and situation in a somewhat sane manner without actually killing anyone.  Side note:  Your runner will undoubtedly hate you at times as well, but who cares.

Before you meet up with your runner it helps if you've been crewing for him over the first sections of the race, so you can see the gradual transformation from happy, clean, likable person, to filthy, hobbling, scratchy-voiced, grouchy shell of a human.  With any luck, you will grow a tiny seed of pity for the poor slob, which will hopefully give you at least a touch of patience.  This patience will disappear "poof" the first time you start arguing with your runner about eating.  "Time for a gel."  "I don't want anything."  "You have to eat."  "I don't want to.  It sounds gross."  "If you don't eat, you'll bonk and die."  "I don't care.  Gels are disgusting."  "I will beat you to death if you don't eat a gel…"  

This could go on for hours, until he finally eats, or until you actually kill him.  This is a good opportunity to start lying.  "If you down just one gel and some water, I won't bug you about it anymore."  This will only work for about eight gel feedings, unless your runner is really dumb.  Another embarrassing tactic is to treat your runner like a small child.  "If you finish the three gels you have before the next aid station, I'll buy you pizza and beer after the race."  This is an awesome lie for a number of reasons, the main one being that your runner will never remember you said it and he'll be so happy to be done running after the race, that he'll be throwing money around like a drunken sailor in Charleston.

Eventually, nothing will work to convince him to eat gels and you'll have to find anything he may like at aid stations and employ aid station workers to help you force your runner to eat.  "Eat the goddamn turkey sandwich, and shut the hell up.  You're doing great!"  Getting your runner angry isn't all that bad, actually.  In many cases it will serve to give him a shot of adrenaline and you'll be relishing the speedy 12 min per mile pace as your reward.  At Leadville while pacing a guy, I refused to go further until he ate a gel and drank some water.  We stood on Power Line at mile 80, two grown men arguing over eating 1 ounce of sugar.  He finally ate it and then tried to drop me by running up that bitch.  He finished in 6th place overall and all was forgotten.

How far you want to take your pacing duties is up to you.  Charming lore of the pacing world are abundant.  There was last year at Hardrock when some dope dropped his shoe off the side of an icy mountain and Scott Jaime was on the verge of giving up one of his shoes to the runner until finally risking his life by climbing down to retrieve the shoe dangling on a lower ledge.  No freakin' thanks, I say.  I'd be like, "Whoa, dude, that sucks.  If we hurry, you'll probably only lose a couple toes to frostbite."  "Now eat a gel."  Then there's that sad image of Alex Nichols squatting solemnly next to a dehydrated and soon to be DNF'd Anton at Leadville.  The image reminds me of animals that stay with their dead animal friends for days (apparently not bright enough to realize they need to move on and find a new friend, who's breathing). 

Alex Nichols wishing he was getting teeth pulled instead of squatting in the middle of nowhere.  Photo Rob O'dea
And one of my favorite stories, sadly, about the same guy I'll be pacing at WS this weekend.  He was out of it after running a poorly paced race at Leadville last year and at around mile 78 fell backwards to a sitting position.  The unfortunate part of it was that he had like ten gels in the back pockets of his shorts and they all exploded upon impact.  He now had a butt crack of sticky gels, was shivering, and couldn't remember his name.  His pacer was forced to dress the poor slob in warmer clothes on the side of the trail in the middle of the night.  They somehow crawled to the next aid station and their race was over.  That's loyalty (I would've just left him, sticky-assed and all, and jogged on into town for a beer).  I'll omit my own story at Hardrock last year.  I hear about it regularly from my heartless pacer and am still scarred by the experience.

Once in a while you'll get lucky and your runner will run a smart race, show up to meet you for your pacing duties and be in fine shape, run reasonable paces to the finish and you look like a hero for just running along with him.  This brings up the next topic of how to run with your runner.  Following or leading is a matter of taste.  I prefer the pacer to lead, both when I'm pacing and being paced.  Unfortunately, novice pacers will shoot off the front and yo-yo back and forth in front of you anywhere from two feet to two miles.  Don't do this.  You're not there for yourself; leave your ego at home.  Just because you see other runners up ahead does not mean that your runner wants to break into a 6:30 pace after 70 miles of running to catch the other poor bastard walking up ahead.  Do this to me and I'll rip your shoes off and throw them in the woods.  Stay with your runner.  

While you're staying with your runner, the thought of talking and keeping him company may cross your mind.  Let that thought cross and go away.  Your runner likely isn't in the mood to be hearing stories of your boring ass life.  Very sporadic encouragement is key.  "You're doing awesome." or "That was a good stretch you just did." Those statements uttered in a quiet voice will sink into your runner's mind and make him feel like this stupid thing he's doing might have some (albeit unknown) purpose and that he's actually doing an "ok" job of it, even if he's sucking wind at 16 min/miles.  Don't over do it, either in exuberance or frequency.  Like sex, an hour is fun, 10 hours is chaffing.

Up next in How to be an Ultra Pacer:  Part 3 - Finishing the race and salvaging any fragments left of your friendship.  And how to embellish the details to make your runner look as dumb as possible.


19 June 2012

How to be an Ultra Pacer

Part 2
Part 3
Dream pacer.  Jenn Shelton.  Photo Bad Ben's blog
With Western States 100 this weekend and Hardrock 100 just around the corner, I'll be on both sides of the rusty razor barbwire pacing fence, pacing a friend at WS and being paced by a friend at Hardrock.  So I felt it appropriate to discuss the act of pacing.

One of the most selfless acts a human can perform is pacing another person in an ultrarunning event.  Mother Teresa never paced, nor did any of the popes.  It transcends all mundane humanity and will surely secure you a ticket in heaven (I visualize heaven as an all day BBQ on the 4th of July with the majority in attendance being thin twenty year old women - you get your own heaven).

Becoming a pacer is the easy part.  With the abundance of novice (read: scared petrified) ultrarunners bravely signing up for races so far in advance that it never occurs to them that the race will actually take place until they get the final instructions letter from the race director warning them of injury, wild animals, lightning strikes, kidney failure, and, of course, running in the dark, there are plenty of pleas for pacers to be found.  This is where you come in, cape embroidered with a big "P", tautly flowing from your broad shoulders and say, "Uh, I can pace you."  The rush of relief and gratitude is palpable through the email response and you feel like you just kicked five Ninjas' asses and saved a baby from a burning yurt.

Once the emotions settle, you and your runner have to figure out a few things.  Where along the course will you start your pacing duties?  Are you in good enough shape to pace for 50 miles?  Is your runner faster than you, even with 10 hours of running on his/her legs?  Will you lead or follow your runner?  Should you talk or stay quiet (or sing TV show tunes)?  Are you prepared to give the runner all your clothes and finish the race naked in 25 degree weather?  Are you ready to simultaneously feed a gel to your runner while he's squatted with diarrhea? (I draw the line at feeding and wiping).  Can you stomach walking at 2 mph for 20 hours when your runner falls apart but is stubborn to finish? (tips on how to subliminally convince your runner he's wasting his time and should DNF coming later).

There are a lot of things to consider before you take on this seemingly simple task.  Once you figure them all out, you can forget about them because nothing will go as planned and you'll need to ad lib the pacing gig as it unfolds.  This flexibility in planning comes into play as soon as you meet your runner for the first time.  You have played and replayed the scenario of him scampering into the aid station, switching out bottles, sponge bath, eating gels, all while in full stride running at you yelling, "Let's do this!" in a college football coach voice that sends chills down your spine.  You latch on to this running machine and the two of you bolt out of the aid station and onto endless ribbons of singletrack trail with the finish line as the one gravitational force.

By the time your runner shows up you're amped up like a rabid squirrel that just shot an eight ball mixed with white heroin.  Your runner, on the other hand, looks as though he just fell off a 1,000 foot cliff onto a ten lane highway and got pummeled by speeding traffic.  Balancing this odd mixture is an art form and imperative if you want to make it twenty feet together, let alone 40 miles to the finish.

Here's Part 2 of "How to be an Ultra Pacer":  How to lie and how to not kill your runner.

Here's Part 3 of "how to be an Ultra Pacer": The Case Study


12 June 2012

San Diego 100 - Race Report

Of course, I am in the later stages of writing my guide of How to Write An Amazing Race Report, so knocking out my San Diego 100 report should be breeze. One thing I forgot to mention is that race report writing is much easier when you actually pull off a decent race - it helps you avoid the need to enhance (lie about) any short comings or weak performances. A decent race does, however, create a new concern and that is to keep the reader on your side by not sounding too proud or boastful, regardless of how much ass you kicked in the race. Anyway, let's get on with the report.
Start.  Photo Chris Price
Early with Fabrice.  Photo Brett Rivers
Right behind us, Luke Nelson, Jeff Browning, and Adam Hewey.  Photo Brett Rivers

I switched up a few things this year (beginning last fall) in my training. I also decided I wanted to stretch my self-imposed limits and not be as cautious in races. So far this year, after 12 races (6 ultras), the results have been promising. My climbing and speed have improved and, most importantly, I believe I can run faster for longer periods.  I'm basically a completely different runner than I was last year.

The nerves didn't appear until race morning. In fact, I felt so crappy the day before the race, I was already making up excuses to run slowly. For some reason, I just felt like I had the flu, achy, no energy, grumpy. Even the little 5k shake out run on Friday had me panting and loping along like I'd never run a step before. So, when I awoke at 4:26am race morning and felt great, I was relieved, to say the least.

The weather was perfect with a beautiful sunrise and we all lined up; the largest field ever for the SD100. I lined up in the front and made small talk and well wishes with other runners like Jeff Browning, Joshua Finger, Jason Perez, Larissa Polischuk, and others I don't know. While standing on the start line, I decided to change up my strategy and go out in the lead group. It turned out to be a more modest starting pace than last year when Yassine, Rod, and Dylan shot off the start and were out of sight after a mile. I popped off the line and only Fabrice Hardel was with me as we made our way to the single track. Soon, Jeff Browning and Adam Hewey swung around me and caught up to Fabrice. Luke Nelson came up behind me to round out the top 5 group we had. We entered the first aid station with Browning about 2 mins up and the rest of us four bunched together, me in 5th.

Coming into aid station 1 at 7.4 miles (61 mins into race).  Photo Brett Rivers

By the second aid station, Browning was still leading and Fabrice and I were running together in 3rd/4th and we passed Luke Nelson in the aid station. I switched up my plan and instead of changing out one hand held bottle for the other from my crew, I opted to take both with me, an on-the-fly decision that probably made the biggest difference in my race for the next 35 miles.

Coming into aid station 2 at 13.8 miles (2:00 into race)

Fabrice caught back up to me and we settled into a steady pace just under 8 min/miles. Adam Hewey seemed to be running sporadically. He'd pass us, then we'd pass him and he'd drop back, then pass us again. We were holding even pace, so I felt it was a good sign that he was wasting energy (I was wrong). Finally, Adam caught and passed us around mile 18 and began pulling away. It wasn't a commanding move but neither Fabrice or I seemed to want to hold onto him. I was fine with that silent decision since we were clipping along at a good rate already. It felt easy and in control but maybe a bit fast for a 100 miler. We went through 26.2 miles in 3:38 and hit the 50k mark at 4:31. I commented to Fabrice about our quick pace, to which he replied that he was taking it easy because it's going to be hot soon and he wanted to retain energy. He seemed content to lead us, so I basically sat on his heels from mile 14 to 35. I went from feeling confident that I could match whatever he wanted to try to feeling like I should let him go and save myself for the rest of the long day.

We hit the Pine Creek aid station at mile 31.3 where Jimmy Dean Freeman informed me that Jeff Browning was only 7-8 mins up on us in the lead and Adam Hewey only 3 mins ahead. This year I made sure to hydrate and eat for the upcoming section. I was feeling strong when Fabrice and I set out for the 5 mile lollipop loop that takes us back to Pine Creek, mile 36. During the loop, Fabrice kept commenting that he was taking it easy because of the upcoming sections and the heat and when he started walking some of the little hills I realized that he was fading a little and likely (maybe not intentionally) trying to get me to settle into his easier pace with him. I asked to come around at mile 34-35 and nudged the pace a little and ran the hills. He didn't stay with me but caught back up on a descent. Then I pushed again up the last climb back up to the aid station and that was the last I saw of him. I grabbed what I needed for the next section, the crux of the race course with over 2,400 feet of exposed climbing to the next aid station at mile 44. I put 16 minutes on Fabrice during this 8 mile section and was now in 3rd place solidly.

Frankly, the rest of the race was pretty uneventful. It was just a methodical effort of focusing on the balance of hydration and fueling. I felt confident that if I could avoid any major mistakes I'd hold off any attacks from behind.  I literally didn't see another runner in contention for 65 miles.

Rolling into Sunrise aid station, mile 51.  Photo Chris Price

Once in a while I'd get word that Adam Hewey was faltering and “looking bad” and find that I wasn't very far behind him, like 30 minutes, so I'd briefly entertain thoughts of trying to catch him but was content just to work on holding onto 3rd. On the flip side, I was getting word that Chris Sigel was lingering behind me anywhere from 25-40 mins, so that was keeping me honest in my pace.

Eat, drink, salt, repeat all day.  Paso Pacheco aid station, mile 64.2

I hit 70 miles in 12 hours 11 mins and rolled into Sweetwater aid station at mile 72 where I grabbed a long sleeve shirt, Hydrapak water vest and lights. Ben Hian directed me where to go for the next section and I was on my way into the fading light.

My stomach got pretty locked up and I felt very nauseous, which I concluded was from too much sugar and water. I only drank maybe 30 ounces for the last 6 hours of the race and I couldn't eat anything, not even favorites like soup, or chili. I managed to eat a small Clif bar around mile 80 but nothing afterwards. Without food, my energy faded a lot and I found myself going from having fun racing and running to just wanting to finish and sit still.

My new Garmin 310XT died at 18 hours (they lie when they say it has a 20 hour battery life), so I didn't really have anything to push me. I crossed the line in 19:01, took a quick, cold shower, and crawled in my sleeping bag for a couple hours.






I wore my La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0s every step of the race.  I changed socks at mile 72.  I used one hand held bottle for miles 1-14, two hand held bottles (one with water, the other with electrolyte) from 14-72, then my 35 ounce Hydrapak vest to the finish.  I wore my Rudy Project photochromatic sunglasses.  I'd also like to thank Udo's Oil for their support and amazing product.  I use it every day and am constantly stunned by how well I recover since I started using it 9 months ago.

I also need to highlight the run by a friend and guy I coach who ran his first 100 miler not even a year after running his first 50k.  He didn't want to try an easy flat 100, either.  He opted for San Diego.  It was pretty emotional for me to see him sprint across the finish line in 28:52.  I can't express how proud I am of D. Craig Young.  He's followed everything I tell him without question and trusted me.  But more importantly, he believed in himself.  I'm honored just to know him.

Me and Craig Young
Video of first aid station, Mile 7.4  Video by Darren Young
video

Video of second aid station, Mile 14  Video by Darren Young
video

07 June 2012

Race Preview - San Diego 100

So, instead of packing before I catch my flight to San Diego, I thought I'd waste some more time writing a quick preview of the race taking place this Saturday.

Like most ultras and 100 milers, the San Diego 100 has seen growth that even the most conservative investor would buy in to.  In 2001 there were eight finishers.  Now the race is sold out and even instituted a lottery for entry.

The course has also seen changes and is now quite a bit more difficult than it was a couple years ago.  Karl Meltzer owns the course record on the older, easier course with a time of 15:48 in 2006, when he ran uncontested (as usual) with a speedy Josh Brimhall coming in over an hour later.  For comparison, last year's winning time was 18:00, in a run by Dylan Bowman who fought off late charges by Yassine Diboun and Rod Bien in a tie for 2nd in 18:12.  I scampered in after suffering a poorly run race in 22:46 for 15th overall.  Dylan had already showered, had breakfast, and was planning his next race by the time I crossed the finish line.

Scott Mills, the Race Director, manages to organize one of the best races in the country by corralling veteran ultrarunners and otherwise amazing people as volunteers.  The energy and kindness at the aid stations is 2nd to none.  He also doesn't hold back on the goods, providing a bounty of quality schwag, including the sweet finisher's buckle, one for sub 24 and one for sub 32 hours.

For a report on my race there last year, go here http://footfeathers.blogspot.com/2011/06/san-diego-100-mile-race-report-tales.html
Patagonia shirt, thick embroidered sweatshirt, Injinji socks, bag, bottle, nutrition stuff, and buckle, all just for running a race.
This year the competition comes from a wide range with some short distance speed to wily veterans.  Here are some folks to watch for:

Men

Jeff Browning - Oregon
Jeff has racked up so many great races that it's difficult to highlight any particular ones.  He's known not only for his speed and work ethic but also for his tenacity.  If he's chasing you down late in a race, good luck to you.  His last 100 was in Leadville last August where he nabbed 5th place in a highly competitive field.  I believe SD's course is suited to his ability.

Dan Olmstead - Oregon
Dan's speed and 100 mile ability was last seen at Western States last June where he ran 16:45 for 11th overall.  He's had some sharp results in the 50k and 50 mile distances and looks to be on form to contend for the win this weekend.

Luke Nelson - Idaho
Luke cannot be overlooked.  He ran to a 2nd place last September at the Wasatch 100.

The pool gets cloudy after that with a few guys mixing in for top 10 potential:
Adam Hewey - Washington
Fabrice Hardel - California
Joshua Finger - Pennsylvania
Keith Knipling - Virginia
Jason Perez - California
Myself - California

Women

Shawna Thompkins - Washington
Unless Shawna runs off course and ends up in Mexico, she should take the win easily.

Larissa Polischuk - California
Should be in there for second

Michel Harman - California

The weather looks good, sunny and 80s, dipping down to 40 at night.

Live coverage should be available, check the website http://www.SanDiego100.com/.  I'm number 116.

Good luck to my buddy, D. Craig Young running his first 100!