NIELSEN REPEATS AND JOHNSTONS SECOND WIN
AT FIFTEENTH ANNUAL ANGELES CREST 100, September 30, 2000
by: Hal Winton and Ken Hamada
The Fifteenth Annual Angeles Crest 100 had many challenges we have come to expect putting on a 100-mile endurance event. Run off and mud from vegetation lost to a fire caused a nearly year long closure of the Santa Anita Ave access road to Chantry Flat Checkpoint. The structural integrity of a small footbridge that is required to access the Idlehour Trail at Idlehour Checkpoint was questioned. An unusually large amount of trees, heavy brush and poison oak needed to be removed from the trails.
Fortunately, the road to Chantry Flats was opened two weeks before the race and the footbridge was considered safe for foot traffic well before the race. With a lot of last minute effort from the AC 100 Trail Volunteers and other volunteer groups, the course was finally ready for the race. A lot of credit goes to the USFS and in particular the District Ranger Terry Ellis, for his understanding, cooperation and assistance required to put on an event the size and magnitude of a 100 mile trail event, which traverses the Angeles National Forest. Our sincere gratitude goes out to Mr. Ellis and his staff who made it possible to overcome all the forest related and trailhead access problems this year.
With a break in the hot weather, we were finally ready. The weather on the last Saturday of September has been favorable almost every year. One year, rain from Hurricane Nora stopped a major forest fire that burned near Wrightwood and threatened the race. Although it wasnt that hot this year and the humidity seemed very low, runners that were not well hydrated had difficulties. Many experienced runners did not finish. However, the majority of runners did do well this year. Our normal finish rate is around 59%. This year the finish rate was 65% (108 out of 166 starters). Front runners do avoid some of the midday heat because they pass through Cooper Canyon and the Sulfur Springs area earlier than most during the race. However, they pay their dues later for their fast pace when they approach the later sections and begin to feel it as they leave Chantry Flats. Chantry Flats is where the race essentially begins.
Tom Nielsen won his second straight race when Scott Jurek slowed before mid way and eventually withdrew. Jennifer Johnston captured her second win, having won two years ago, after Suzanne Brana withdrew at Chilao Flats. Scott was eligible for the Grizzly Award for the second year in a row. The Grizzly Award is for the first overall runner to win both WS100 and AC100 in the same year. Tom placed 3rd at WS100 last year and second this year behind Scott, so their competition has been keen. However, Scott while running Hardrock 100 soon after WS100 experienced leg soreness and withdrew from that race. He said it had been a long hard year. Scott is the only runner to ever attempt the grueling task of winning WS100 and AC100 in the same year.
With Scott out of the competition it looked like Tom might be able to win handily but the surprising Kaname Sakurai from Japan kept pushing Tom by running all the hills. Kaname improved his time from two years ago by 3 _ hours and his wife Hiroe by two hours. Kaname is one of the three to break Eric Cliftons record at Badwater 135 in July of this year. He is also a top contender in the bicycle Race Across America which he has ridden in several times. After AC100 he will be riding in the Furnace Creek Inn 508-bicycle event. When asked how Kaname is running so well, Hiroe responded, " He run lots miles and he is crazy". Kaname stayed close to Tom until Chantry Flats, when Tom pulled away to an hour plus difference, finishing just a minute off his PR of last year. Kaname held off Hans Put by about 3 minutes. Hans had placed second at Hardrock 100 in July of this year. Hans might have done even better, if he had not done Hardrock 100. In 1997 Tom Nielsen placed seventh at Hardrock 100 and subsequently did not overtake 50 year old Tarahumara Chacrito Gonzalez. Hardrock 100 is a difficult "stepping stone" to AC100!
Last year we created two Ten Point Buck Awards for the 2nd and 3rd overall finisher if they did not receive a Bronze Award. In 1995, under 30 year age runner Gabriel Flores placed second and did not receive the proper recognition that he deserved. The Ten Point Buck Award was created to fill that void.
The first seven finishers all received Bronze Awards this year. The first seven Bronze Awards went to: Tom Nielsen (41) the 18-75 Ram Award, Kaname Sakuria (35) the 30-75 Cougar Award, Hans Put (39) the 35-75 Arabian Stallion Award, Guillermo Madina (26) Ten Point Buck Award, Adeberto Mendoza (48) the 40-75 Rhino Award, Carlos Banderas (50) the 45-75 Eight Point Buck Award and Derrick Carr (39) the other Ten Point Buck Award. Jussi Hamalainen in 12th place, the only person to beat 24 hours in all fifteen races, captured the 50-75 Buffalo Award. He also received a navy blue AC100 cap with 1500 embroidered on the back for his 15 straight 100-mile finishes. Garry Curry also received the 1500 cap for his 15 straight finishes. All winners receive a navy blue AC100 cap with their award embroidered on the back. The overall male and female winners receive caps with Top Gun embroidered on the back.
Seventeen runners received a Solid Sterling Silver Buckle for their sub 24 hour finishes. The Bronze Second Sunrise Buckle was created to encourage runners who miss 24 hours and are challenged to finish before the second sunrise at 25:47. After that all finishers received a Bronze 33-hour Buckle. All finishers are sent a traditional commemorative plaque with their name and finish time engraved on a stainless steel plate which is mounted on a solid walnut plaque in the weeks following the race.
Jennifer Johnston from Michigan won the womens race. She trains on the course a lot every year. When Suzanne Brana withdrew at Chilao Flats (53 miles) while leading, Jennifer was not challenged as she had been in the past. Last year Suzanne won both WS100 and AC100 in the same year which has never been done before. This year with a promotion and the increased pressure from her work, her training for both 100s suffered. She struggled to finish at WS100 and had to withdraw from AC100. Instead of struggling again at AC100 she withdrew halfway in the run and was able to cheer on her friend Tom Nielsen at Chantry Flats (75 miles) and help him celebrate his second straight victory at AC100.
There is often too much emphasis given to the heroics of winning at all costs. Many runners having a bad day wisely withdraw for very good reasons as Suzanne did. Wisdom is the better part of valor. We hope we can all be supportive to runners who must make these hard decisions.
After years of watching front runners at 100-mile races train and race very hard in order to win, it is clear that many top runners have a number of good years and often withdraw from racing when their results start to decline. Another way to obtain good results might be to plan a deliberate sabbatical every few years with intentional lower performances and training, in order to increase the number of competitive years in their careers. Probably this approach happens more often than we think under the reason offered of being injured. We then refer to the results as a "comeback".
The Canadian women did very well this year. Monica Scholz (33) from Ontario, Canada ran a lot 100s this year and captured the womens 30-75 Cougar Award. She also completed the Last Great Race, six 100s in one year. Another Canadian from British Columbia, Catherine Mather (42) earned the womens 40-75 Rhino Award. Of the three women over 50 years age, one was injured and did not start and the other two including Dixie Madsen, who holds eleven American records for the 60-64 womens age division, did not finish.
Ernesto and Inez Robles continue to support the Tarahumara Indians at AC100. This years runners were: Juan Herrara, the long standing record holder of the Leadville Trail 100 and newcomer Rafael Sanches. Martimiano Cervantes was taking a year off and came to pace. Gabriel Bautista and Madera Herrara were back in Copper Canyon this year dealing with conflicts and injuries. Juan lead the race through the first checkpoint, Inspiration Point, but fell off the pace after that, finishing in 25:37 to earn the last Second Sunrise Buckle. Juan had a very serious accident severely damaging a knee, after his record run at Leadville 100, which limits his competitiveness.
When we performed the medical checks on Friday in Wrightwood, the two Tarhumara Indians had the lowest blood pressure and pulse readings of all the runners entered in the race. This seems to be an indication of their unique lifestyle and conditioning. They appear to demonstrate an unusual calmness prior to and during competition. In contrast many other runners had blood pressure readings indicating the excitement of participating in an event of this magnitude. About one half the field were new at this years race.
A long list of runners have multiple finishes of AC100 and a number added one more finish this year in pursuit of the Bronze Awards for ten finishes. An Eagle Award is for ten straight finishes and an Elk Award is for ten finishes with no time limit. The following runners having finished this year have 5 or more finishes:
Fifteen finishes: Jussi Hamalainen (straight and all under 24 hours) and Gary Curry (straight); Nine Finishes: Steve Harris; Eight Finishes: George Velasco (straight) and Gary Wright, Seven Finishes: Bill Harns, Vince Pedroia (straight); Six Finishes: Duke Bartoo (straight), Tom Nielsen, Jack Nosco, Mike Palmer and Bill Ramsey (straight); Five Finishes: Carlos Banderas, Rick Kelley (straight), Todd Leigh, Bob Ulloa and Stan Zychowski. The list is longer when considering those who did not finish or were not entered this year. Rick Hodges and Hans Dieter-Weisshaar completed the, Last Great Race (six 100s in one year) and Four Western 100s (four 100s in one year).
We had a lot of water, ice and fresh fruits during the hot sections of the race and chicken noodle soup in the cooler section of the race. Most of the late night Wilderness Checkpoints made a special effort to bring up the moral of tired runners late in the race. At Chantry Flats (where the big final push of the race begins), it was a small well-lit city as pacers and crew waited for their runners to arrive. We watched and talked to runners on closed circuit television at Chantry as they arrived at Newcomb Saddle.
There are hundreds of volunteers that you will never see on race day, who maintain trails all year around and the HAM radio communication operators that monitor the runners position during the race using both voice and packet data communication system.
The HAM organization lead by John Minger and Steve Woo performed an amazing task this year. Normally the HAM headquarters is based at the finish area in Johnson Field. One of the HAMs who has access to a vacant office 7 miles South of the Angeles Forest set up several computer servers/communication equipment that could "see" half dozen repeaters that we placed high in the mountain inorder to improve our "line of sight" to the six repeaters. The astounding thing was data through put was 3 to 4 times faster than it has been. We did not have to "relay" the data this year. With good crisp knowledge on the runners location, we are better able to manage the race and solve problems before they happened, bringing our limited resources into the critical path much sooner.
We also added a "field" telephone line into the finish area at Johnson Field so we were able to "download" race information in real time. As we get more foreign runners their friend at home can follow the race at it happens with access to digital pictures and instant results. The Johnson Field communication team is lead by David Bassett.
The finish area has gone through major development at Johnson Field. Johnson Field is a grassy field surrounded by trees along the perimeter. We have two enclosed hot water field showers for all runners and volunteers. We increased the capacity of the propane tank to take care of every ones need. The shower facility was developed by Phil Auzenne who couldn't bear to watch runners take the traditional cold garden hose shower
We have mobile field kitchens lead by Leonard Klenk and Mark Bowers which serves breakfast and lunch all day Saturday and Sunday for both runners and volunteers. Then we serve the main course after the race is finished. The dining area is completely covered so that runners and volunteers can sit in the shade in the afternoon during the picnic and the awards ceremony.
We have been building and directing this event for fifteen years. Most Race Directors move on after ten years because of the stress involved in putting on a race of this magnitude. In order to help us with one of the most demanding aspects of putting on the race, beginning next year we will require eight hours of trail work that will be required prior to running the race. For those living in Southern California, the eight hours of trail work must be performed on the AC100 course. Details will be in the application.
Next years race: The Sixteenth Annual Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run will be on the last Saturday of September: September 29, 2001.