The 2016 Angeles Crest 100 Mile, Men's race preview (live tracking Saturday is available at www.ac100.com/live )
The wilderness exemptions have dried up with the new Forest Service supervisor and increased scrutiny of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, leaving the race flatter and more paved through its tough 26-49 mile section. From my experience running the course, I admit it is 30 minutes (+/- 15 min) faster that before, but also hotter than before. Temperatures are looking favorable with highs around 79-85, which puts a reasonable winning time in the 17-19 hour range. Races in the San Gabes are full of character, so no guarantees are ever given. The race for the win generally starts between Shortcut and Chantry Flats (miles 59-74), so pay attention to the feed around 2pm!
Jorge Pacheco has finished AC 9 times, won it 4 times, and DNF'd 4 times. To put a trend line on the 48 year old Jorge and predict his 2016 race is impossible when you look at his solid training and race results this year. Generally though, he is guaranteed to win if he is leading and feeling well at Chantry (mi 74)
Guillaume Calmettes has 1 finish and 1 DNF under his belt, but they don't tell the full story of this champion in the making. In 2014 his quad cramped and tore so badly that he had to limp the last 11 miles downhill in 4 hours to a 22:43, taking away a rightful sub-20 finish and possible win. In 2015 he mysteriously developed kidney problems at mi 45, and limped to a DNF at 59. Those events pale in comparison to the raw number of good long runs the 32 year old has completed for the race, and his ability to find bottomless energy deep within his adrenal glands. He is a favorite to win if he can find ways to ease back when the adrenaline is pumping too hard.
Ruperto Romero is a 9 time, sub24 finisher with 1 win and zero DNF's. Most out of town folks are surprised to not know of him each year, but the locals know the 52 year old "Speedy Gonzalez" as a humble and determined competitor that uses his small size and infrequent racing well to be able to lay out epic finishes year after year. He is a favorite to win as a former 2014 champion.
Jerry Garcia is a 38 year badass National Forest Firefighter (former hotshot) that is a second generation ultra runner (Dad, Manuel Garcia also ran AC in 2003). The local folks in the San Gabriel mountains have seen some great training and racing from Jerry in the 50k-50mi distance, and his first 100mi at Chimera last year was a learning experience over 22:29hours. That said, Jerry would be tough to bet against if he is leading at Sam Merrill, mile 89. He'll have to execute a cautious and calculated race to get there first.
Joel Frost-Tift is making his 100 mile debut at AC, which is a tough race to start with. Undeterred, he's been training on the course all year, putting in hard miles covered in jackets and extra water. His 1:08/2:26 times in the half/marathon should make his pace of the paced and fireroad sections unmatched, but the rest of the field will be gunning for a technical blood bath over the last 25, where PR's will be about as useful as a microwave.
Your's Truly, Dominic Grossman has ran 4 sub 24 finishes, enjoyed 2 wins, and no DNF's. The year started off moderately well at Avalon 50, then suffered a scare in adrenal fatigue at Lake Sonoma, before some hamstring issues came up after high mileage/high heat training in June. The Mt. Disappointment 50k put those worries to rest after my PT cleared out tightness in my sitbone and allowed me to race pain free and fast. The result is I know what not to do at AC, and am primed for a 18-20 hour finish. This race is the best I've felt all year in terms of optimism and general fitness. I locate my true north in the San Gabes, and the race is my favorite place to run hard.