Friday, March 27, 2009

The Coyote Two Moon party

Jean Pommier wrote a poem last week. Inspired by me was his confession. It was an acrostic. So I decided to honor his act with an acrostic of my own, a double one (the first letters AND the last letters of the lines, when read top to bottom, spell something).

C oyote Two Moon! What a race!! It has now become a fa V
O ne that I want to do at least once mor E
Y ou could not tell from how low I set the ba R
O usted at 75 miles, high on the ridge above serene Oja I
T ook 28 hours and Chris Scott's, the RD, dictum to end it al L
E nough said he! This is the end of your Coyote Two Moon part Y

T opa, steep and icy, was hard. I wish I were as surefooted as Bamb I
W ith the day's dawning, my run was reduced to a tro T
O n ahead, the occasional rapidly moving figure of Andy Kumeda 'S

M ade up some time running down the long Cozy Dell Stretc H
O n the way up I slowed terribly. Turned off my Petzl Tikk A
O n the side of the trail I rested. Gosh! The Finish was so faaaaa R
N ot wanting to quit, I got up, trudged on until "No mas" I was tol D

My race photos

My party began on Thursday, Mar 12, as part of the bowling team. I flew into Burbank on an early flight, picked up the rental car and drove down up to Ojai. I was safely ensconced in the Capri Hotel, just past the main Ojai strip, by 2 p.m. After having made my drop bags, I left to go explore the town and grab some coffee and supplies from the grocery store.

I left around 5:30 p.m. to head to Ventura and the bowling alley. I was part of a team that consisted of Nancy Warren, Diane Vlach, Deen, Carol Cuminale and Bob. I met so many friends there - Nattu, Zombie G, DC, Dave Combs, Cindy Goh, Georgeanna Quarles to name a few. I am a pretty lousy bowler and it was a wonder I even made it past 50!

Dinner was pretty much a few pizza slices and a couple of beers. Sleep was easy to come by that night and I slept like a baby.

Friday dawned warm and sunny. What an exciting day it was going to be! The mistakes I made will be ones I will rectify next year (if Chris lets me have a shot at it again) - I stopped eating solid food after lunch. As a result, I started the race with low blood sugar (despite an Ensure for dinner and one 30 minutes before the Start at 9 p.m.). The other one was to select 38 hours as my Finish time. I should have gone for the Full Monty of 40 Mooning hours. :)

(Race briefing around 1:00 p.m.)

It was a bit cold at the start but we all soon warmed up. Nancy Warren was BEHIND me for quite a few miles. Catra Corbett and Linda McFadden soon disappeared ahead, climbing at a pretty impressive speed. I was followed for the whole climb by Dennis Drey. He and I had connected in the 2008 Lean Horse 100M and we talked about this and that on the way up. A few hundred yards from the top of the 4 mile climb, my phone rang, for the first of many times in the race. I gave my friend a status update and put it back in my fanny pack for we were about to begin the long descent down to the first AS - Sisar Canyon.

Dennis and I split up for a bit. I caught up with Nancy, who had passed me on the climb, and we enjoyed a conversation all the way down to Sisar. It was quickly in and out from there.

I stepped into a stream almost right after leaving the AS. The wet feet were soon forgotten as I met 2 other runners. One of them had flown in from London to run the race. Ken and I talked about the UK and my upcoming Thames Ring Ultra all the way up to the gate. There was still a long climb to get to the Lions Cyn AS. Ken took off soon after the gate and I trudged on alone. At one point, I sat down on the trail to look at the stars, enjoy the silence and let my heartbeats settle. It was soon after this that I passed Linda McFadden whom I found lying on the trail. She said she was OK and that a known heart problem had surfaced. What a trooper! More about her later.

A bit further up I was passed by George Ruiz, co-RD of the TRT 50M/100M race, and Brian Wyatt.

I had eventually reached the Lion Cyn AS. The captain was Luis Escobar.

(Luis Escobar)

He offered me a grilled cheese sandwich and coffee. I hesitated a bit. It had been half a grilled cheese sandwich that had created stomach problems for me around mile 72 in the 2008 Lean Horse 100M. I was hungry so I threw caution to the winds and gobbled one down. It was delicious and I promptly asked for another. Other runners were coming in either on their way up to Topa or on their way down to Rose Creek. I must have spent 10-15 minutes in the AS before heading up the climb. The initial 0.5 miles were not very steep. What freaked me out were the lights of the runners ahead of me. The lights were ABOVE my head, almost in a vertical line up!! I knew that the total climb to the top was about 2 miles. I also remembered that the ascent was about 1300-1500 feet. That bespoke of a 13-15% climb!

Those numbers were confirmed just a bit later with the slopes I soon encountered. I came upon the first snow of the race up this climb. There were stretches of the trail that were totally covered in snow, one side to the other and I had to navigate real gingerly given the tenuous hold my road shoes provided.

I had to stop a few more times on this climb to slow my heartbeats. A couple of hundred yards from the top, during one of my rest breaks, Linda Dewees passed me. She was looking strong and I admired the way she was negotiating the snow and the steep climb.

I duly reached the top. Got my card from the pack there (we had been instructed to do so in the race briefing and in the Lions Cyn AS). Turned off my headlamp. Took off my ear warmers. Not very cold. Nary a breeze. Utter silence. What a beautiful way to connect to my beloved Earth.

Reluctantly I eventually got up and started the hoary descent down the slippery snow. The phone rang again. It was about 3 a.m. now and the caller was a friend who had gotten up to get a drink of water and instantly wondered how I was doing. Ergo the call.

I met Steve Ansell and Beat Jegerlehner about 0.5 miles from the AS. They looked happy and upbeat. Steve remarked that the entire way up to Topa had been covered in snow last year!

(Steve Ansell and Beat Jegerlehner)

I got back to the Lions Cyn AS, ate a couple more slices of grilled cheese, got a bit more coffee and started off on the trek down to Rose Creek. Some of the sections I encountered on this descent were across scree with unsure footing. I went across these sections with my heart in my mouth, fully realizing that I would be allowed a look at the drop on the way back many hours later.

Fred Ecks caught up with me and eventually passed me with about a mile to go to the AS. It had gotten bitterly cold by now. I was looking forward to the AS and warming up for a bit.

The AS was eventually reached at 6:30 a.m. Jakob Hermann (he finished in 36 hrs. last year - wow!) was there as was Dan Marinsik. Dan had gotten lost for almost 2.5 hours (he had started at 6 p.m. on Friday) and was dropping in the AS since he was on 40+ hrs. pace. Wise decision. I sat there for a bit. Got some cheese quesadilla slices and a shot of Jack Daniels! I replenished my bottle of Cytomax with some powder from my drop bag and had my water bottle topped up. Rose Creek was at 26.7 miles so my marathon had taken 9.5 hrs!

I left at 7 a.m. to begin the long trudge up to Lion Cyn and Luis Escobar's delicious grilled cheese fare. I got some pictures of the scree sections here. I was alone for most of the climb and it was a wonderful trek up. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and lovely vistas, I felt like I was being given therapy for the soul. :)

Some more coffee and sandwiches it was in the AS. Chrissie Weiss, of Dirty Girl gaiters fame, was sitting there. I left after spending 10 minutes or so with the food. The sun was nice and warm by now.

I started the descent and soon got into a groove. I did a combination of walking and some running here. Soon I was reduced to just a walk, a fast trot. I just could not bring myself to run at this stage. This run-apathy lasted for many, many hours. I made my way back to the gate from where we had made the descent to the Sisar AS the previous night and started the long climb back up to the Ridge Junction AS.

As I was passing the top of the Horn Canyon climb (the first climb that we 100 milers had made the previous evening), I saw a familiar figure join me on the trail - Donn Ozaki.

(Donn Ozaki)

We had become friends in the 2008 Dick Collin's 50 mile race and we instantly fell into the familiar groove again. He had deliberately chosen to be slow in order to let his friend, Laura who was starting 2 hours after him, catch up. They had planned to run the 100K race together. I spent a good 15 minutes here eating quesadillas and regrouping my forces. I set out alone and 8-9 minutes into it I realized I had left my jacket behind in the AS. I turned around and promptly saw Donn running towards me. He was kind enough to speed up back to the AS and bring me the jacket. We were passed by Luis and his team in their pickup. They had closed the Lions Cyn AS and were planning to camp for the night about a quarter mile away from the Ridge Junction AS.

Donn and I spent the next few miles togehter, running when we could or when I felt like it and walking most of it. We soon neared the turnoff leading down to the Rose Valley AS. The initial descent was very steep and the views were gorgeous! We ran/walked into the AS. I had a change of clothes here but decided to stay with what I had started the race with - biking shorts length tights over which I had worn shorts over which I had long tights. I ran the entire race in this. I never felt even a bit uncomfortable.

I spent another 10 minutes or so schmoozing here. This is where I met Karen Hanke and Melissa. Carol Cuminale was here too. Linda McFadden was here. She had, inconceivably, made it this far! She finally called it a day there.

I seem to have run this race in some sort of a daze for I forgot both my water bottles in this AS. I realized this 0.25 miles back uo the long climb so I had to hurry back, get the bottles and start the climb over again. I caught up with and passed Georgeanna here. The top was eventually reached and we made the right turn to take us along the ridge to the turnoff leading down to Howard Creek. It was here that I started running. Not just running but running fast. The slope was gentle and the footing assured. I passed a few runners here and reached the Howard Creek AS.

I must have spent at least 20-25 minutes here, most of it answering the call of Nature. I changed out of my shirt here into a fresh one and headed out again to climb back up to the ridge. Ernesto Matal Sol was with me on and off up the climb. We soon made the right turn on the ridge and the Gridley Top AS soon came into view.

Chris Scott was here as was my friend, Carmela Layson. She, Jakob Hermann and I had run our first 100M race in the 2006 Rio Del Lago 100M. She handed me some soup and some quesadillas. I quickly left this AS to make the long trek down to Cozy Dell.

The fog had started to roll in when I had reached the ridge from the climb up from Rose Valley and it was to become a factor here. My headlamp could not pierce the fog. It was hard going to get to the turnoff leading down to Cozy Dell. I said Hi to Catra going the other way to the AS. Good for her! She is one strong runner and I admire her very much. Always good humored and helpful.

The fog seemd to thin as I descended. A lot of the 100M & 100K runners were on their way up. I met most of them - Fred Ecks, Ken, Steve Ansell, Beat and many others. Beat gave me an idea of what to expect. It did not sound very good.

Once I had gone past the narrow trail and found myself on a wider path, I let my legs fly. It felt wonderful to feel the muscles working in concert and generating more heat than they had in many hours. :)

The headlamp experience here was funny. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or just an overactive imagination but I seemd to feel, all along this section, that there were homes around me. Melissa and Karen passed me going the other way and Melissa told me about the really bad section coming up and cautioned me to watch my footing.

That section was truly one from Hell! Gosh. Bad footing all along and it had to be negotiated in the dark. I eventually found the Aid Station. Sat down on a chair, ate a few quesadillas, drank some soup. Giles Barbeau's wife helped me here. Thank you very much!

I left the AS to begin the lousy climb up to Gridley Top. My race came apart 30 minutes up the climb. I made a left turn (I remembered it from the trip down) and kept walking up this long winding road with many wide switchbacks. For the life of me I could not remember this section from the trip down! I looked around in vain for markings. After deciding that I was off course, I ran DOWN for almost 0.5-0.7 miles before meeting up with a 100K runner. He assured me that I was on the right trail.

I know what happened here. The section where I had let my legs fly was this very section. On the way down I had not realized I was descending! I had felt the trail to be flat so I was expecting a flat section on the way up! Having gone for a few miles without a flat section appearing, I had assumed that I was lost and there went my adrenaline and everything else.

I slowed down terribly on the single track trail. I had to stop a few times once more to let my heartbeats settle. I kept looking at my watch. 12:15 a.m. 12:25 a.m. Where the heck is the top so that I can then start the climb up and then down to Gridley Top? It took a long time in coming.

Once there, I quickly switched to my hand light since the fog was still a problem. I finally made it into Gridley Top at 1:30 a.m. (28.5 hrs. into the race). An hour before this, with my pace slowing a lot and my mind starting to give up, I talked to myself and reminded myself of the DNF in the 2008 TRT 100M (at mile 67). I realized that I was in that same mental territory again.

This is where I felt proud - I was NOT going to quit. THEY would have to yank me from the race. If they let me leave an AS, I would crawl out but I refused to stop. That decision made, I instantly felt good. I had regained some of my old tenacious self and self-respect

Carmela promptly informed me that Chris had asked me to head home. This was C2M speak for "Your race has ended". Get your butt off the mountain by following the same route the rest are following - 7 miles to the Ridge Junction AS and then 5 miles down to Thacher School.

I sat there for 2 hours trying to sleep. It was bitterly cold again and those 2 hours were spent in vain. I heard a woman come in around 3:20 a.m. asking for help to get into her breeches. I found that amusing. I finally left the AS at 3:30 a.m. after mustering up enough fortitude to brave the insidious cold.

A ways up the trail, right after passing the turnoff leading down to Howard Creek, I could hear snatches of a conversation between a male and female runner. Very soon they caught up with me and I put in a few words about what the girl was talking about. The male runner soon sped up and disappeared while the girl, Andi Ramer, and I trudged on. She was the runner who had asked for help to get into her breeches. We soon got around to talking about her accomplishments (multiple Ironman races with a PB of 10:20. Wow!!). Andi and I had the greatest time the next 6 miles down to the Finish.

It got even colder around 6:15 a.m. or so. Andi and I decided to run up a short climb just before the Ridge Junction AS and that helped warm us up a lot. Christine Miller rolled into the AS with us followed by Linda Dewees a bit later. Good for Linda! She was on her way to a great finish!!

Andi and I eventually made it down to Thacher School and the Finish area festivities. I reconnected with a lot of my friends here. Most of them looked tired but proud of their accomplishments. Rightly so!

It was back to the hotel for me and then on to lunch. This is where I bumped into John Brooks and his friend Candace. We had a nice lunch. I talked while they listened!!

I went to bed early that night after a 6 p.m. massage in order to get up early and make it to Burbank for my 11:00 a.m. flight to San Jose.

The race is fantastic. The entire experience is one of fun. It is a very hard race but definitely a goal that is achievable with some hill training.

Chris Scott and his volunteers were, undoubtedly, the best I have ever seen in any race. They had stuff out and into your hands before you could say Coyote Two Moon!! Thank you all for letting me party for so long.

Until next year.


anil said...

Great job out there Rajeev, the course sounded extremely tough and the pattern of race makes it even more intriguing.. pictures are awesome! Goodluck for next one.

Anonymous said...

well, of course you'll just have to return to avenge your dnf. all those descents/ascents will be waiting for you...

two moon buffoon

George said...

Nice report Rajeev it brought me right back to the fun but brutal night/day/night/day...

Martin said...

Was great to meet you this week Rajeev, didn't know you're the poetic runner ;-)
good luck on your next race !!!!