Training & Racing

San Diego 100 – Race Report

San Diego 100 – Race Report

Some people run 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons and marathons but for some reason unbeknown to me I have decided to run hundred mile races. I often find myself daydreaming during my long runs and I can’t ever seem to come up with a reason why I shouldn’t run hundreds except during the races themselves. I think “wow I could run a marathon and be done in 3 hours or so” but man would that hurt.

While I have signed up for a marathon I am still scared to death of running 26.2 miles on pavement so it inevitably leaves me with an urge to run 100’s. I say there is an urge to do these or maybe I just found something that seems like a good idea for months upon months of training and then I basically (for lack of a better word) shit myself during the race briefing thinking about running all day and night.

This past weekend I set out to run my third hundred mile event since August of last year. For most people one hundred in a year is enough but my wife seems to think I should run two in a calendar year so I not only signed up to run San Diego 100 this past weekend I am also registered to run Pine to Palm 100 in September (Looking for women pacers). You always hear athletes say I’m just taking things one day at a time, well that doesn’t always work when you have an anxiety problem. My mind was clear and focused until the minute the race briefing started Friday and I started to think about not just running the next day but how was I going to run Pine to Palm after running this race? Traci kept saying why are you even thinking about that, deal with that when it gets here. This race looked like any other hundred mile event on paper but it clearly wasn’t. I started looking at the topographic maps and even though I couldn’t read one to save my life they scared me to death. The Race Director Scott Mills started talking and I went from a fat burning heart rate to my heart may just jump out of my chest and land on the stage. It wasn’t normal and I’m sure Traci could see the sweat dripping down my face and the nerves increasing so we left quickly after the short briefing so I could promptly find a Xanax.

It didn’t take too long for the Xanax to kick in and control my anxiety so I could get ready for sleep. I got a couple bottles ready the night before but Traci was there and since her and my sister Jill would be crewing/pacing for me I wasn’t worried about having my other bottles made. This race didn’t start until 7am so I actually was able to sleep in until 4:30 before leaving Alpine, CA and heading to Al Bahr Lodge in Mt. Laguna. It is about a 30 minute drive but since parking was tight we figured it would be best to arrive around 6:15 which cuts down on the time I would be pacing around thinking about blowing up.

Getting ready to start

As with most ultra’s the runners gather a few minutes before the start and attempt to listen to the final instructions from the Race Director but most people cannot hear because their heart is beating in their ears or they are listening to I don’t know “Welcome to the Jungle” to pump them up to run 100 miles. I personally stand there with nervous energy making idle conversation with others and try to listen to the last minute instructions. I clearly did not hear as I will tell you at the end of the story.

I walked over gave my wife a kiss and my sister a hug and waited for the countdown. This was my sister Jill’s first trail race ever and first ultra but she has run marathons before so I briefed her ahead of time on how low key the start of these races are. I wanted to make sure she didn’t think people would be stretching, running strides and starring down there competition waiting for the gun to go off or in this case for the RD to say “go”. Jill was excited for this event and I was excited for her to experience it but I didn’t want her to think the drama was going to be thick like it is in a marathon.

We started promptly at 7am and I slowly made my way out of the gate trying to channel exactly what my friend Paulette Zillmer had told me to do for weeks now. We have been game planning this race over the last few long runs together in order to maximize my performance so there was no point in deviating from the plan right out of the gate. The only cool part of starting out front is you get to be in the picture on the website but unless you’re right up there at the end who cares how you start a hundred? I only had one mantra for the day and that was to stay consistent and strong. I started in the front quarter of runners knowing that most of the runners in front of me will eventually back off the throttle and I could make some adjustments once I get my breathing down. The first section runs through the meadows and the tall grass and narrow trails keep you from being able to pass other runners which were a blessing. I was running at 6000 feet of elevation and my breathing was slightly restricted for the first few miles but I knew a nice smooth pace would take care of that. With about a mile before the aid station we had our first downhill and I may contest that it was one of two downhill’s on the course and several runners moved out of the way to avoid the idiot in a yellow shirt running fast through the technical descent. I arrived at this aid station right on my projected time and quickly turned around and headed back out.

The mile 13.6 aid station is the last stop for crew access until mile 44 so I really needed to game plan ahead of time to figure out how I was going to handle the next few sections. I was okay with liquids carrying two bottles but there was going to be a section later that concerned me so I asked Traci to have my pack with two bottles plus two handhelds ready. I really didn’t need or want to carry my pack that far but I just kept thinking about the course profile between miles 36-44 and I figured by that time in the day it would be hot. My pack was ready to go as I arrived to the aid station with EFS mild grape, ice water, and an EFS liquid shot mixed with 21 oz. of water for 400 calories. Yumm!!

Always brightens the spirits to see the flag flying

The next few aid stations seemed to come and go rather quickly and I was making my way around this course well and feeling great at the same time. Mile 31-36 is a lollypop style loop where you do a loop and hit the same aid station twice. This aid station was in the perfect spot as it was just starting to get hot and they had ice buckets to dunk our hats in and volunteers that squeezed ice cold sponges over our heads. I absolutely loved this and needed this more than anything at the time but it did have some negative consequences.

The black flies in this section were relentless and my wet sweaty head and shirt was making me a huge target for them. My bald head was covered at all times with these annoying flies but unfortunately there was nothing I could do but run faster to try and get out of this section. About halfway through this loop my friend Andrew Heard caught up to me and we started talking about how the first part of the course had gone and decided we should work together and make these miles go by a little quicker. The first three miles of this section are rolling but mostly uphill followed by some decent downhill before coming back into the aid station. With about a mile to go Andrew said he was starting to feel a little sick and since we were moving at a pretty good pace we backed off just a touch hoping for revival at the aid station. Andrew is not one that ever complains about anything so to hear him say he wasn’t feeling well I knew the heat and humidity was getting to him a little.

We hit the aid station and saw our friends Michael Miller and Jody Chase heading out to start the same loop and Andrew again reiterated that he wasn’t doing well. We cooled off with the ice buckets again, downed some ginger ale and headed out up the dreaded asphalt road. I assumed this part of the course may last 1/4 mile or so and then we will hit trail again but instead it was 3 miles of ascent up the hot asphalt road. If this was a normal road we probably could have picked up our speed but this road felt like a 20% grade in the exposed sun. Ugh. We hiked for a mile or so trying to keep each other’s spirits up but Andrew told me to go ahead and he will catch up in a few minutes. I gave him a couple Tums and then started to power hike as fast as I could to get to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill was a blessing from the RD with a make-shift aid station with ice water, bug spray, and another cold bucket to dunk our heads in. Note to all Race Director’s this is a must have on a hundred mile course. I had started to pull away from Andrew a little at this point since his stomach wasn’t cooperating so I pushed on and ran the rolling hills until I hit the next make-shift halfway aid station before ascending another 2500 feet. They had water and Popsicles to help cool us down. This was a pretty cool item to come across before a climb to boost my spirits. I felt really good all through this climb knowing that I was going to get to see my wife and sister as soon as I made it to the aid station. It had been 5 ½ hours since I had saw them last and I was still right on my target pace which was great.

Jill cheering me on into Mile 44

Coming into mile 44 the head wind was crazy but it didn’t slow me down and as soon as I heard “come on Danek.” Always a welcome site to see family as I was greeted by family and friends for a brief stop before heading out.

I really wanted to knock out the next section quickly so I could pick up a pacer. We climbed up the ridge and ran alongside the narrow mountain path that wound beautifully through the single track for 7 miles to the next aid station. Despite the wind always being in our face this was a very runnable section of the race and it was beautiful out there.

I picked up my sister Jill at mile 51.8 for her first ever pacing duty and she was rearing to go. I came into this aid station in 9.5 hours so I was well on pace to break 22 hours. I knew the last 49 miles of the race were more difficult but I would not have guessed they would be as hard as they were. Jill and I ran for a couple miles and everything felt really comfortable until we started to run the flat section through the tall grasses. I always prefer single track running and even better if I’m surrounded by trees so I can’t see the entire trail in front of me. I don’t always like to see how far I have to go when I’m running even though I know it’s a long ways. I was trying to take GUs more often at this point but my stomach was just not cooperating. I slowed down to a walk for a few minutes to complain and I tried to walk out the stomach issues. They are inevitable but did they have to hit me in a runnable section? We had to walk most of the way to the next aid station but thankfully we were only passed up by a couple runners.

Coming into mile 59 aid station

Jill ran with me until mile 64 where I picked up Traci for her first pacing duty of the day. She had been crewing all day, making sure I was eating, drinking, and moving along and now it was her turn to push me on the trail. We started off with some rolling hills in the woods, followed by a 2 mile climb before hitting my favorite part of the course. It was pitched black, we had hit the top of the hill and caught up to David Brown and his pacer Hilario Alvarado. They said we were welcome to go by but instead we decided to run together for the next 6 miles. While we had never met before we had some friends in common and we started telling stories that made the miles click off extremely quick.

About 100 yards before the mile 72 aid station the wind picked up and I was really starting to feel the cold air. We could hear the generator at the aid station but right before it is an ankle deep creek that has to be crossed by running through it. There is absolutely no way around this crossing and the water was downright freezing. We hammered through the short creek and I made the executive decision to make a sock and shoe change. I have never done this in a race because it is tough to get compression socks off especially when they are wet but my next pacer’s boyfriend Shacky helped me get them off and put some dry ones on.

Just a little climb

I had never met my next pacer before but we had exchanged emails for a few days and talked a little so I knew a little bit about Vanessa Rodriguez but I didn’t know what she would think of me after I had ran 72 miles. I didn’t want her to get a bad impression of me since I probably looked like hell and I like to jabber about nothing when I run. We had two sections to run together and they were going to be the most challenging sections of the day. The next 15 miles is almost all uphill and into the wind. We walked most of the areas and time flew by as we talked trails, family, and ultra running. This is such a great way to meet and get to know a person that I hardly noticed the relentless climb.

With a few miles to go we started to talk about the Grand Canyon and she told me of her recent mountain lion encounter and suddenly it hit me that it was her blog that I read the day prior to going to the Canyon and it freaked me out. When things like this happen I always think to myself is this the type of person that something bad happens to? You know what I’m talking about. We all have friends who can’t escape trouble and then there are friends that you just feel safe with. I use Honey Albrecht as this example, I know if I’m with her everything will be okay even if we were to see a mountain lion, but if I’m with Jeremy Dougherty I will probably end up animal bait if I see one. Only joking Jeremy, we would die from lack of hydration first.

AZ Finishers L-R Jay Danek, Mark Cosmas, Adam Barstad, Jon Roig, Michael Miller. Not pictured Jerry Riddick and Dan Cagle.

Vanessa was great and she took me into mile 88 looking strong and really helped me from having any low moments. The rest of the race seemed to fly by and we were in and out of aid stations and before I knew it Jill and I were skipping the mile 96 aid station and we were heading to the finish line. She kept telling me that I had 3 miles to run and one mile to think about our Dad and celebrate. I always use that last mile of a race to solely think about my Dad and without fail it brings tears to my eyes every time. As we made our way to the finish Jill described the signs that I would see and then we saw the lodge. I naturally started yelling and hollering because my adventure was almost over. As we made our way close to the lodge a volunteer told us to head this way to the finish. We crossed through the flags and I made my way to the finish in 21:58:02. I was ecstatic as I had made my goal by two minutes but then I was told I was going to be DQ’d for missing the bridge. My sister and I said ha, funny. They proceeded to say we needed to go out and come back across the bridge to finish. I had no idea what they were talking about since a volunteer just told us what way to go. We ran out, saw the bridge and made the .1 mile circle and came back to the finish in 22:01:26 and went from 12th place to 13th. I wasn’t happy at all, not because of the place but because I missed my time by a minute. I learned a valuable lesson Sunday; it is not over until it is over. I really enjoyed the course, the unique flair of all the aid stations, and the swag was great at the race. This is not an easy hundred if there is such a thing but it is a fun hundred. Congratulations to all finishers!



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This post was written by:

- who has written 22 posts on Trail Running Club.


Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since he began running he has lost close to 100 pounds. On 9/23/2012 Jay finished a running streak of 923 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 9,400 miles with 975,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 15 Ultra's in honor of his Dad who passed away on 9/23/2008. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 13th OA at San Diego 100M in 22:01:26
• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2013 Race Schedule includes:
• Castle Hot Springs 22M
• Phoenix Marathon
• 3 Days of Syllamo
• Miwok 100K
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pike's Peak Marathon
* Mogollon Monster 100

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger



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