Heading back to San Diego was serving two purposes: (1) Visiting some old friends in San Diego and (2) running a mountainous single track at altitude against some pretty talented “mountain goats”. When we had lived in the area 7 years ago, I never took advantage of all the terrain that Southern California had to offer. Only once had I run up a true mountain with 5000’ vertical gain over 10 miles with my then training partner (Marty Ellison). I still remember that day, starting at the base of Nate Harrison Grade, Marty and I climbed Palomar Mountain in 85 minutes and descended in 60 minutes. Living in Southeastern Pennsylvania, this terrain is non-existent. The best the area has is 750ft of cumulative gain over a 3.9 mile loop within Valley Forge National Park. So…that mountainous single track at altitude was going to present a significant challenge.
We arrived in San Diego on Thursday, 2 days prior to race day and set up “camp” at the Orchard Hill Country Inn in Julian. Two days wasn’t going to be enough to adjust to the altitude difference between Phoenixville, PA (200ft above sea level) and the Laguna Mountains (4000-6000ft above sea level) however, I would have to make the best of it. Luckily, I assembled the best crew for this event.
The San Diego 100 Miler covers ~20,000 ft of elevation gain on rugged single track through the Cleveland National Forest. If you should know anything about the San Diego 100 course, you should know that you will be exposed to the strong San Diego sun for more than 12 hours and staying hydrated will be a key factor to success.
On the starting line, I lined up behind Jeff Browning, Luke Nelson, and Adam Hewey with Tim Long on my right. It would be a challenge keeping pace with these talented runners, especially on their type of course.