Last update April 5, 2020
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Mt. Disappointment Trail 50K / 25K is now the
2nd Saturday in July, Skyline Park, Mt. Wilson, CA, 7:00 AM Start.
App and info: Click on Angeles National Forest Trail Race above.
Mt. Disappointment... it's Gettin' Better
Our race course offers a semi-wilderness Angeles National Forest experience that includes spectacular canyon vistas and old growth forest. Many Foothill Flyers run or volunteer. The Club works the Clear Creek and West Fork aid stations. It's a great day for the club on the mountain.
Mt. Disappointment 50k Endurance
I have done about 7-8 marathons over the years, but in the past I always made the mistake of running a marathon, then taking time off and losing all the conditioning that I had gained. This year I had set a goal to run more consistently and after doing the Catalina Marathon in March and the Green Bay Marathon in May, I looked for the next challenge. I knew that the Disappointment 50k was coming up, and I figured that if the Pittsburgh Steelers can win the Super Bowl, then I can do Mt. Disappointment. While I would not have assistance from the referees (sorry Gary), I knew that there would be fellow Flyers in the race and at the aid stations to help me along.
Race day seemed a long way off when I entered, and I probably should have done more long runs in training, but I felt good at the start. There were a large number of Flyers in the race, and at the start to help register and give encouragement. At the start I tried to remember to go slow to save energy for the end, especially the long climb up Kenyon Devore. The course is beautiful, which made it easy to go at a moderate pace. The first aid station was Red Box (mile 5.7), and even though I had my Camelback I made sure to eat and drink. Clear Creek (10.8) was next, manned by a team of Foothill Flyers, who gave me encouragement and made sure I ate and drank and refilled my Camelback. Then it was a long, slow uphill to Josephine Saddle (13.3) where I filled up with water, and after a short rest Flyer Nancy Tinker and I set off for Red Box #2, about 8 miles away.
I had forgotten how tough this section of the course is, so at first I pulled ahead of Nancy, then I started running out of steam and she caught up to me. It seemed to take forever to get to Red Box which is located on the highway, and as we neared it I could hear the cars going by. Traffic never sounded so sweet as Nancy and I ran into the station together.
It took me a little over 5-1/2 hours to get to Red Box #2 (21.2) and it was already tougher than any marathon I had ever run. The volunteers refilled my Camelback and made sure that I ate and drank, while Scott Cline squirted me with water to cool me off. About that time Mark Ryne came into the station and said that he has finished other 50k's in less time than it took to get to this point. Then Nancy took off while I was putting some mole skin on a blister. As I left the station Tom O'Hara admonished me to catch Nancy, but I knew there was no way. I was already in survival mode.
I left Red Box before Mark, but he caught me about 2 miles down the road. As he went past he asked if I was considering the AC 100 next year, stating, "If you can do this, you can do AC." I don't remember what I said, but I know that what I was thinking isn't printable. Even though it was downhill to West Fork I could not make up any time. My legs were sore and I could not keep a fast pace so I walked much of this stretch. It was getting hot by this time and I drained my Camelback well before I got to West Fork.
At West Fork (25.9) I refilled my water and made sure I ate and drank. At this station I had to make a decision. I had never gone beyond 26.2 miles before, it was a hard uphill the rest of the way and if I was going to drop this was my last chance. Even though my legs were tired and sore, I felt good otherwise so I pressed on. Plus we had been given a great Brooks technical tshirt and I wanted to be able to wear it in good conscience, so I had to finish. Going uphill felt good at first, it was actually a nice change of pace after the long downhill. After about a mile however the grade became steeper and I was more exhausted. Switchback after switchback, it just kept going up and seemed like it would never end. If you have ever done Mt. Baldy, imagine running a marathon and then doing that last 2 mile stretch to the peak. At least 3 people passed me (or were they hallucinations?) the last couple of miles, where it seemed I would walk 20 feet, stop, walk 20 feet, stop, until I could hear Gary on the PA system at the finish line. As I neared the finish a bunch of Flyers were there to welcome me into the ultra club, and I mustered up the adrenaline to jog across the finish, with a time of about 9 hours and 12 minutes.
I went to greet Gary at the finish, and having read
my training report I think he was more relieved than I
was to see that I had finished in good shape. All in all a
tough race, maybe not the best choice for a first ultra,
but there were a few other first timers who finished,
including Flyer Patrick Tantrophol. Gary and his
dedicated staff of volunteers did a great job of putting
on this event, and it was big help to see all the Flyers
out on the course and at the aid stations. I think every aid station except Josephine Peak had Flyers. It was a
real encouragement to see familiar, friendly faces like
Tom and MaryAnn O'Hara, Bob and Sue Spears, Sharee
Allen, Scott Cline, Lonnie Beck, Teresa Sama, Pam
Hilliard, Karen Johnson, Jennifer Harrelson, etc. (I
hope I did not forget anyone, I probably have) at the
start, aid stations and finish. Some of these people
worked more than one station and were there from 4:00
a.m. until after the last runner came in. Special thanks
to all the volunteers, they had a much longer day than
Chuck Eberhart's Account of the 2018 Race and His First Ultra
This does not seem to be an ordinary summer in regard to heat. I hope you enjoy this write-up about the Angeles National Forest Trail Race (formerly known as Mt. Disappointment Trail Race). We were cautioned early by the esteemed RD and fellow Flyer Gary Hilliard, that this is going to be a tough race and that it is going to be hot. Both were very correct on this day! I have no idea exactly how hot it got, but it was over 100 degrees at times. Sometimes you can have a good day and sometimes not so much. My day was definitely my worst to date, but since I am writing this, it was not a DNF nor was I DFL.
The 2016 Mt. Disappointment 50K was my first Ultramarathon and if I am fit and healthy, I plan to continue running the now rebranded Angeles National Forest Trail Race (ANFTR) with 25K, 50K, and 60K options (I was registered for the 60K). My current fitness level is not where I want it to be, but it is not too bad, however, I was not accustomed to running in the heat. For the last two months, I went out for training runs in the heat, varying in distance from 4 to 14 miles, so the base training was there.
I am not sure that too many runners really do well in the heat. I can manage, but this day, the heat got the better of me. I knew going into the race that I needed to hydrate early and often, try to stay cool with ice and wet towels, and get enough calories throughout the day. In the days leading up to the race, the forecast was VERY HOT with heat index warnings.
I had a plan to hike the hills and run wherever else I could and I started out well, cruising down Mt. Wilson - Red Box Road to Eaton Saddle, watching my pace to make sure I didn’t go out too fast, and then hiking the trail to the saddle between San Gabriel Peak and Mt. Disappointment. As I approached Red Box #1, I was contemplating making the right turn and doing the 25K, knowing that I would be done long before the heat got too bad. But, I couldn’t do that, I was registered for the 60K, and I was making good time and the weather wasn’t too bad. I felt great all the way to Clear Creek and was energized after seeing and talking to the wonderful Flyers manning the aid station.
The rest of the race from here was where the difficulty set in. The climb to Josephine Saddle really wiped me out and even though I cooled off, soaked my shirt, hat, and towels, I felt very warm and wiped out as I proceeded around Strawberry Peak, down into Strawberry Meadow and climbed back up to Lawlor Saddle to eventually descend into Red Box #2. Even though a lot of this was runnable, I found myself power walking with minimal running. It was during this long, hot stretch that I had mostly made up my mind that I would be dropping to the 50K, as I was taking too long to cover the distances.
I finally made it to Red Box #2 at 1:05 PM, just inside the 1:30 PM cutoff, thinking about what I had just experienced the last 21 miles and knowing that if I continued, I still had a minimum of a 2 hour climb up Kenyon Devore (previous experience). As I sat down, trying to cool off and hydrate, and contemplating my first DNF, I started to feel better. I left at 1:20, informing them that I would be switching to the 50K, as I knew that I could not make the climb to Shortcut and the climb to Mt. Wilson before the cutoff. So, began the trek to West Fork, the hottest part of the day, but knowing that I could get food, a beer, shade, and get to see some more friends. The pleasant surprise was seeing Mark Ryne and Catherine Gallagher taking pictures of the runners.
Due to the time it took me to get to West Fork, I did not have as much time to rest and relax as I wanted to, which also did not allow me to eat (although nothing looked appetizing). With the 3:05p cutoff rapidly approaching, I grabbed my gear and headed out of West Fork to start the slog up Kenyon Devore to Mt. Wilson, where the wheels completely fell off. This was going to be the longest 5 miles of my life. This is where the fatigue, lack of nutrition, and dehydration would finally set in. I made it a little over a mile up the hill before I started to get leg cramps. I kept drinking, but I did not feel like eating, which was a mistake.
I would walk for about 5 minutes and find a rock or tree stump in the shade to rest and catch my breath. This continued until I was about one mile from the finish when Todor Trenkov came striding by to offer me food, took some of my gear to the finish, but did not tell me how bad I truly looked (he saved that for later) and said he would be back for me if I was not at the summit in one hour. I didn’t want him to have to come back for me and, I wanted to FINISHbecause by that point, I just wanted to lie down, and if the trail had a pillow, I would have, but I had to continue. The cramping continually got worse, but it hurt more to stop than to keep going, but I couldn’t keep going fast because I was exhausted. With about half a mile to go, I saw Richard coming down the trail with ice to try and cool me down, and companionship to keep me going, both of which I sorely (no pun intended) needed at that time. By this time, I could barely move with all my leg muscles cramping, but with Richard graciously carrying my pack, I was able to finish off the last half mile, wind around the pathway to the Cosmic Café, and get my finishers medal. I wanted to just lie down at that point and rest, but the legs still would not cooperate.
To wrap this up, first, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you didn’t earn your race medal. I am sure we all have a similar tale to this one, and it is DEFINITELY earned. Second, when a race goes this way, talk to others, get advice, find out what works and doesn’t work for them and then try to implement it yourself so that the next race is that much better. At my workplace, we call them Lessons Learned, so don’t be surprised if you start getting asked what works for you so that I can be better next time.
Until then, keep on training.
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