Cuyamaca 100K -- Race Report

I signed up for the Cuyamaca 100K with revenge in my heart. I signed up for the race a week after dropping out of the SD 100 with stomach issues, and I felt like I needed to get back out on some of the same trails and prove, mostly to myself, that I could finish the race.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I felt a rising sense of panic. I have been feeling burnt out for the last couple of months, and my motivation was really low. I knew that I wasn't putting in the necessary training in order to perform well and I started to self-sabotage by eating too much. In the weeks and months leading up to a race, I try to clean up my diet, but in the last couple months, I went the other way, snacking on junk throughout the day, and drinking too much at night. Luckily, I had committed to doing the San Bernardino 9 Peak Traverse, and the Ragnar Ultra; a couple of long runs that I hoped would have me trained enough to complete the 100K. Yep, that was basically my training plan.

I went into the race giving myself an out; I had no time, pace, or placing goals. I knew if I pushed too hard I would be setting myself up for failure. My goal was to simply take it easy while spending a nice day in the hills of Cuyamaca, sampling the best trails that San Diego has to offer.

Some Race Details

Co-race-directors Scott Crellin and Scott Mills did an outstanding job of organizing the race. The course was so much fun, stringing together about 62 miles of beautiful, mostly single-track trails through Cuyamaca State Park. I think I have run over 90% of the course in training and other races, but there is such a vast network of trails out there that even though the trails were somewhat familiar, the layout made them seem new.

First loop (thanks to Nena Crellin for the photo)

The course consists of three separate loops that all start and end at the same place, but don’t overlap, and I really liked the way they broke the loops up. The first loop was 31.5 miles with 5,500 feet of gain, including a trip to the top of Cuyamaca Peak. This was the longest loop and it was a psychological boost to get it done early in the day.

Loop 1
The second loop was 12.6 miles with 2,800 feet of gain. Although this was the shortest loop, there was a lot of climbing and it was a tough part of the race for me. I had one of those moments where I started to get negative, doing the math in my head and thinking about how far I still had to go, so I put in some music and the time started to go a little faster. I listened to a great podcast from the guys at Ultrarunner Podcast interviewing Sarah Lavender Smith about the Grand to Grand Ultra. Listening to her experiences in this tough stage race got me thinking about next year’s planned traverse of the John Muir Trail. Sometimes it's best not to live in the moment, and to just let the mind wander, especially when the moment sucks.

Loop 2
The third loop was 18.3 miles with 2,600 feet of gain. My friend, Paul, came out to run this one with me and it was great seeing him. My stomach, which had felt pretty good all day, started to give me trouble on this loop, and I slowed to a walk for the first section of the loop. I ate some chicken soup and drank some ginger ale at the first aid station. That helped calm everything down, and I was able to mix in some more running. It's amazing how delicious chicken soup can taste after 50 miles. I'm positive that if someone opened up a restaurant and made the patrons run 50 miles before they could eat anything, people would say it was the best food ever created in the history of food.

Loop 3
We were treated to a beautiful sunset, the kind you only get in the mountains, and I was so happy to be out there. It was a beautiful section of trail, and the view made all the pain of the day worth it. As I approached the last aid station I saw a woman walking towards us and as I got closer I realized it was my wife, who I wasn't expecting to see until the finish. I was so happy to see her smile, and a close second, to see the guy at the aid station who was waiting with another cup of warm chicken soup. The last stretch of the race went by pretty fast for me (although I'm sure Paul would disagree), as it was mostly flat and downhill and I ran as much of it as I could.

Photo:  Nena Crellin

Photo: Paul Jesse

I finished in 13:23 and in 24th place, which I was happy with.

The Mushy Part

Part of why I love long races is that for most of the day, you are out there alone, the distance is so long that people get spread out and hours can go by without seeing another person. It is during these long solo stretches that I always come back to the connections in my life, friends who are on the trail, maybe sitting and recovering in the finishing area, or covering some of the same trails I have already crossed, or helping out in aid stations. These fellow runners have become great friends.

I also thought of my sister, Sharlie, who a little more than six months out from a double lung and heart transplant, was taking part in a 32 mile bike race as I was out on the trails. I talked to her the night before both of our races, we wished each other good luck, and she was talking about her doubts and I was concerned about her. I didn't know if she could finish; I told her she could do it, and I was just impressed that she was attempting the race. I found out later that she had finished, and I am just so proud of her. At this point if she said she was going to finish Ironman, I wouldn't doubt her and I would only hope that she wouldn't drop me in training. I thought of my nephew, Ben, who also lives with Cystic Fibrosis, and just completed a difficult hospital stay, and how hard it must be at such a young age to come to a realization of the struggles that lay before him, and I know that his strength will serve him well, and he will continue to inspire people along the way.

I really want to thank the race directors and volunteers. We are so lucky to have such a strong network of trail runners in San Diego who put on amazing races, and you can tell when they come up to you at the finish line for a handshake and a hug that they are doing this because they love the trails, and want to share them with others. I want to thank Paul who gave up his Saturday night to come run 18 miles very, very slowly. I also want to thank Vi Endurance for setting me up with some great gels (I'll be doing a giveaway later this week), and USANA for keeping me healthy and injury free with a great line of supplements (especially the Omega-3, glucosamine, and digestive enzyme products). I also want to thank my race mustache and Naked Wrist Racing.

Photo: Paul Jesse

It felt great to finish this race, but not in the way revenge or redemption feels. I don't feel like I proved anything to myself or anyone else. I am grateful that I felt good and strong throughout the day, and that my nutrition worked, but all of these races are different. Different days will yield different results and I am learning to accept the day that I am given.


  1. Hey man, that 18 miles went by quick for me too. It always does when you combine great trails, beautiful scenery, and good friends!

    Thanks for having me along for part of the journey.

  2. You looked good out there! Great report on your experience. Glad I could help out a bit at the peak and again at Pedro helping you cross the road and not get run over. hahaha Can't wait to get back out on the trails with you guys!

  3. Triple loop with no overlap sounds like a great plan - I'm not much for retracing the same loop.

  4. Hey, wow, I was reading your report and fantasizing about doing this cool 100K and also curious to know more about this Ragnar thing, when out of the blue I see reference to my podcast interview. I'm so touched you listened to it and liked it! Great report, and I'm glad you included the mushy part. I'm intrigued to find out more about the JMT traverse and the Ragnar relay team. I'll have to consider this Cookamucca (sp? Cuyamacho?) for 2013.
    - Sarah

    1. Thanks, Sarah. It was a great podcast and forced me to toughen up during a low point. I kept telling myself that it wasn't like I had to wake up the next morning and run another 50 miles.

      A couple friends and I are doing a self-supported run on the John Muir Trail next year. It's 220 miles and I think we're going to try for 7 days. I'm slowly accumulating lightweight gear, and I'll probably bug you with some questions on that later.

      You should definitely try to fit in a trail race down here in SoCal. There are some good ones.


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