In one of my favorite songs, there is a line "and all I have is gratitude to offer you." This is the best line to describe my weekend at Coyote 2 Moon 100K.
There is just so much to be thankful for. C2M is a run that is not joking around. Over 19000 ft of climbing in 100K, and some of the climbs mean some serious business. But signing up for a race like this you really kind of know what you are getting yourself into before you ever start.
A few things that made me a little nervous:- My start group! I was placed in the final start wave at 3pm. This was meant for the fastest 100K runners with the intention that we would catch up to the other packs. I didn't know who was in the group but I felt like I didn't belong. It scared me...
- My start time! 3pm meant that about 10hours of my race would be through the night. Wait, isn't this why I don't run 100-milers? I am ok on the lack of sleep, but didn't know if I would slow down a ton because of the long hours through the night. Our solid night run (thanks Mike and Henry, again) made me feel better about my night running pace, but still.
- Have I done too much? I have really been on overdrive with work (thankfully) and training/racing since February. I was a little worried that I was going to go into the race too tired from too much. A little late to do anything about it.
- Always a challenge...was I ready to push and do well? It is always such an unknown...
Henry and I headed to Ojai California fairly incident-free on Friday. We got in right in time for registration and packet pick-up. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I am a HUGE creature of habit. Yes, we can call that rigid. So you can imgine my reaction to being handed a rainbow beanie with a propeller on top to WEAR for the race. Apparently, it is like a leader jersey, ha ha. That would take a little bit of getting used to...100K with a wool beanie on?
Also at the start/finish, I got to meet Bob, the head of Drymax, and his wife Charity. Right from the beginning I was completely blown away. I mean they were THERE! They were super involved with meeting all the runners and getting them set-up with socks. I got to visit briefly and he generously got me all set. Even another reason to be so proud to represent Drymax this year! (Read more about me being on the Drymax team here) I got to share tons of hellos and hugs with friends from all over. I just love coming to races in California :) I am sure races are like this elsewhere, but I have really been made to feel at home with the community here, and I am so absolutely hooked.
After departing, I went to the Ojai fresh market for tasty dinner and food for breakfast/lunch for Saturday. I also got some wonderful fresh pumpkin bread to take home to Paul and some other snacks, AND plenty of drinks. I then walked around town and bought a few gifts. (The town was three blocks long) From there I went back to the room, Best Western Ojai...awesome place! Quiet evening and bad tv, fun times :)
I woke up WAY too early for an all night event, and WAY too antsy. I got dressed and went for a 20 minute super easy jog. I totally get it that I was about to be running 100K later that day, but the sitting and eating, and sitting and eating was going to get the best of me if I didn't get out. My legs and body were happy to get some fresh air and movement. The neighborhood was nice and quiet.
As a 3pm start was a bit of a challenge nutrition-wise, I opted for a large turkey sandwich and salty crackers that would be filling and easy to stomach early, and then have a banana and usual pre-run fare closer to start time. I had been training a number of times eating and then either running within an hour in the afternoon or hitting the hill repeats to see how the sandwich would go. I trusted the plan and felt good, but not stuffed.
Around 10AM, I picked Henry up and dropped him and my drop bags off at the start. Afterward, I got to spend some good time visiting with Bob and was so excited to hear all of the great things Drymax has in store and to really get a good pulse on what a wonderful support and great person he is. It really makes me proud to stand behind such a solid company and good people...and, no, this isn't just a plug for Drymax (you will see this all come to life below).
Before I knew it, and before I drove Paul COMPLETELY crazy (I think he was begging for me to be in an earlier start group, due to me calling out of boredom) it was time to get ready to start. There were 10 of us starting in the K5, final 100K, start group. Andi, the other lady, was from San Diego and might have been more bubbly than I was. There was Dan, the man deemed to wear the other beanie. Jonathan was there, a guy I had run some miles with last year. And then of people I could identify, there was Kevin, the man who had won Rocky Raccoon 50-miler. In my head I had settled on the fact that I would be pulling up the rear of the group.
FINALLY, it was time to GO! The first climb was my absolute low of the day. I ran/powerhiked it, but something was wrong with my right ankle. The pain was horrible. I said nothing of it, and made small talk with Jonathan. At one point, he reminded me to drink and then did it again, and I didn't know if I could take 60 miles of someone reminding me to hydrate... We reached the ridge and were finally on a runable area. I needed to stretch out my legs and see what was going on with my ankle. Jonathan stayed in tow. We came through the first aid station, and hit the ridge for 5ish miles. Finally my ankle was loosening up, not happy but ok. I picked up the pace a bit, and Jonathan stayed with me. He said at one point that he was going to be sick, and I said great just not around me. He stopped for a moment and I heard him get sick, and then he sprinted back up to me. He, then, proceeded to vomit while insisting on continuing to run with me. SERIOUSLY!! I could not shake this guy, and I couldn't believe this was happening. WHY would you feel the need to vomit and continue running, especially right next to someone. I will never understand that. I didn't want to ruin my run and totally take off, and I didn't want to be behind someone vomiting so I just let the madness continue. I noticed another guy a bit behind, and just kept wondering what in the world he must have been thinking. We made the turn down to Rose Valley, and I knew my biggest hope was my ability to climb this steepest climb back out with enough purpose to escape the vomiting wonder. I hit Rose Valley, which was about 12 miles and felt fantastic. I had told Jonathan that I was going to put my music on for the climb, and I took off. I climbed with huge determination. I thought of my stepmill inspiration (you know who you are) on this climb and dug in deep. It was a blast. I passed Dan, and he thought I was a bit crazy. Fun times!
I got to the top feeling great, free, and on my own. I was thrilled for the ridge section to stretch out my legs and run. It seemed so much more runable than last year. My ankle pain was far removed from my head, and before I knew it I was heading down to Howard Creek and mile 18. I saw Kevin as he was heading up and he cheered for me...so supportive! I also saw some of the other runners from other waves heading up. I guess I would catch a few afterall... I reached Howard Creek to the cheering of Bob and Charity. Charity had my drop bag ready to go, and Bob was taking pictures. I felt like a superstar! It also helped that I felt really good too :) I grabbed my stuff for the night, and off I went. (Jamie - did you notice the shirt I wore for the night!) What fun!!
Dan had pulled into the aid station right with me, and we started the climb out together. He was having a little trouble getting going, and we attributed it to the entire week he had taken off...just a little stale. Hopefully he would get more spring in his step later. One guy who felt fantastic, and seemed to be sticking near us was a guy I would come to know later, Hank. I pulled a bit in front of them on the climb and then back on the ridge. Once the sun went down and it was foggy, I got a little nervous about making a wrong turn. I was a little slow just figuring my way. It was as I entered the party of Gridley Top (an aid station we would see three times) that Hank caught me. I was thrilled to have another pair of eyes watching the way. At the aid station, there was tons of play and fun times with Sue and Chris egging me on (and a "borrowed" sign saying: road closure for the Austin Marathon...they had borrowed it when they had been in Austin a few weeks earlier and now it was on top of a mountain. I just love the funness of this race) Anyway, Hank and I took off on the 1 mile climb and then 7 mile decent to Cozy Dell. We seemed to be fairly well matched pace-wise, and he was so awesome. We talked and talked. He had actually gone to play putt-putt with his kids before the start of the race (and I thought I was crazy for my 20 min jog). It was on the way down that we really got to see a ton of people from the earlier waves. I saw Moogy and Mason, who were running the 100-miler. I saw Henry, Karen, Melissa, Steve, and so many more. At that point, Hank must have been thinking I was so odd for knowing everyone on the darn course. But, cheering on the others definitely made the time pass quickly. We arrived to the bottom and Bob and Charity were there to support again. Are you kidding me??? They were/are that amazing. I think it was about 10pm or so, and they were all about being out there. I was just in shock. I hope I acted as thrilled as I really really was to see them. I grabbed my stuff and headed out, knowing/hoping Hank would catch back up to me for the loooong climb back up. I just wanted to move forward and eat. He caught back up to me and we forged upward. WOW, I don't remember this climb back out being such a challenge. It just continued upward...
Finally we got to the top, and were able to get our running legs about us again. We hit the aid station at GT (gridley top), and Karen and crew were there. Something had happened to Karen's light, and so I offered her my spare. We dug around and got it out of my pack. I was thrilled to take the moment to help. And then off Hank and I went to descend almost 6 miles. It was a blast!! We caught Henry about 5 min down, and then just kept going. It reminded me of the descent we had taken on our night run a few weeks back, but 6 miles vs. 1 mile. I don't know if Hank was having as much fun, but he stayed with me and played along. Again, we hit the bottom grabbed what we needed and were off! Last looong up, and home free...well kind of. It was during this climb back out that I realized that my rear-end was crazy sore. I just wasn't able to move as fast up as before, and my funtimes spirit was fading. Hank would pull away a little and I would have to power myself to get back to him (I will have to leave it to his race report whether he would slow for me or I was actually speeding up to catch back up). And what seemed like FOREVER later we got back to the aid station.
I realize running math is it's own beast, but I was sooo on the floor saddened to realize that we had 7.7 miles on the ridge before the 5 miles down to the finish. BOO! We headed out to what felt like a freezing chill. We decided to put on our jackets for the first time...might as well use some of the stuff we had been carrying for 40 miles. I tried to let Hank leave me in my sad no butt/hamstrings state, but he wouldn't go (I didn't want him to go, but I didn't want to ruin the end of his race either). Everytime the ground would go slightly downhill I would run, and definitely ran tremendously more on this section with him leading the charge. My flashlight was fading and so was I. He knew it, we didn't talk much about, we just ran.
We got to the final aid station and I knew I needed to change batteries in my light for the final descent as it was the rockiest. Thank goodness for this decision, as I would have never gotten down in the dark without the change. We ran, talked a little, cursed a rock or two, lost our way twice, and finally emerged from the woods. As we approached the field, everyone was cheering but cheering that we needed to AROUND the field to the finish...full loop around. I dropped my pack and picked up the pace. Hank laughed at my 400 repeat pace, but I was so ready to be done running it was worth the sprint. And then it was done...15:4ish (I stopped my watch after we stood for a bit)! Bob and Charity were at the finish for pics and hugs...so amazing!
After cleaning up and returning to the finish, I got to see Henry finish!! Woohoo! Then shortly after, Kevin returned from his clean-up and nap, nice. He had been cheering us on at each up and down passing so it was fun to catch-up standing still. He is an incredible runner, seemingly very calm and patient, and I am excited to see what's in store for that talent at Western States...watch out!
Over 15 hours:
- So thankful for my health! My ankle pain is mysterious and pretty much gone now!
- So thankful for my supportive husband!
- So thankful for Bob and Charity and Drymax (no sock change, no blisters, once the dirt was off it didn't even look like I had run!)
- So thankful to Chris and Sue and their creativity and team for such an awesome race!
- So thankful for my friends and their support. Thanks for getting me to the start and for making me feel so special about my finish!
- So thankful for old friends and their success on such an epic adventure
- So thankful for so many friendly faces on the course
- So VERY thankful for a companion for 35 miles and so many hours. What a gift to be well matched for so long, and then for your generosity to slow to pull me along! Thank you Hank!! What a great person, and what an honor to get to meet your wife and family at the finish...although I think the kids will prefer Disneyland to the finish of C2M :)
All I have is gratitude! Amen for a wonderful run, and hopefully a quick recovery...the flight home was painful to put it mildly.