While now it seems there is a 100-mile race almost every weekend, not too long ago there were just five 100-mile races in the United States. There were the two original races, Old Dominion and Western States, and then two other Grand Slam of Ultrarunning races started shortly thereafter, the Leadville Trail 100 and the Wasatch Front 100. A year after the Slam was established, a fifth upstart race emerged in the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles, California, the Angeles Crest 100. This weekend, for the 28th time, the AC100 will be held with over 180 runners attempting the arduous journey from Wrightwood to Altadena.
Angeles Crest has remained true to its roots over the past three decades as it has no lottery, very few sponsors, and a classic old-school vibe. Directed by Hal Winton and Ken Hamada for over 20 years, the AC100 has a strong sense of identity and an endearing resistance to change. As it was my first 100-mile race back in 2000, Angeles Crest will always hold a special place in my heart.
For years the race was held in late September or early October and served as the final race in the Last Great Race Series. In recent years, however, in an attempt to avoid the fall fire season in Southern California, the race has been held in early August, placing it smack dab in the middle of the Last Great Race Series. Over the past decade the women’s course record has been broken several times most recently last year by Oregonian Pam Smith. Yet, amazingly, the men’s record has clearly stood the test of time as Jim O’Brien’s extraordinary time of 17:35 has been the standard since 1989. Many runners have taken a shot at Jim’s record with none even getting within an hour of it. Who knows, maybe this year will be the year?
The Angeles Crest course, as well, has remained largely unchanged over the years. Running for much of the race in an east-to-west direction, paralleling the Angeles Crest Highway, the AC100 is wonderfully ‘crew friendly.’ Only an occasional small re-route due to environmental issues has changed this classic, mountainous, point-to-point course in the last few years. That and the finish are the only material changes in nearly three decades of racing.
Once again, this year’s race is shaping up to be a classic battle between Southern California stalwarts and out-of-town interlopers. The online web coverage of the race is always excellent as the HAM radio team at AC has been covering the race for years. So, for all of you running the race, crewing and pacing, or just following along…
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Taproom favorite SweetWater Brewing Company. The other day I finally got my hands on their Hop Hash Double IPA and it was outstanding. Much milder and more drinkable than many other DIPAs, it was quite lovely at the end of a long, hot summer day.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run the AC100 or are you running it this year?
- If so, what aspects of the race’s course, community, and history do you really like?