7 has always been my lucky number, and I have never had that number as a bib ever until Coyote 2 Moon.
So I have never successfully finished a contiguous 100 mile run, why would I choose Coyote 2 Moon to be the one I try to finish? I was asked that question by most on the run. A runner would approach me and say, “ohhh, you’re the first time 100 miler.” Probably feeling sorry for me, and thinking what a bad choice for a first 100. Maybe it’s because I love the mountains and a natural desire to explore new areas. I have never been to California. Los Padres National Park just above Ojai, CA is really a fantastic area and to top it off, have you seen the belt buckle?
This is certainly not a traditional 100 miler. It's a staggered start, so different people start at different times depending on their past experiences in running 100's with similar elevation gain and their ability. When Chris Scott, the race director, asked me how long I thought I would finish, I told him 38 hours. The cutoff was 40 hours. I ended up starting with the 40 hour group, which meant we could take full advantage of the 40 hour limit. No one took this run seriously, it was just one big party going on all weekend. I started Friday at 4pm with a group of a little over a dozen runners, all of which had completed 100 milers in the past, and some really tough ones too. I met too many random runners that had completed Badwater. I was the odd one in the bunch. The next group would start at 6pm, 9pm and so on with each runner trying to finish before 8am Sunday. The fastest group started at 6am Saturday morning, 14 hours after I did!
We were off, and I took it slow from the start. My training had not gone well at all for the past two months. The entire month of February I was down with the flu which forced me to turn around on Mt. Mitchell at the BRP for a marathon finish. Up until the day of the race I had questioned my self and my ability. I had though many times to switch to the 100k, but mentally I convinced myself this was a run of a life time. It would the first year they run the Coyote 2 Moon.
START TO SISAR VALLEY (Mile 17.2)
At 4pm on Saturday it was hot and by the first aid station the volunteer looked at me and told me that I had sweat too much. My sweat rate is higher than normal, and I down more water and keep a close monitor of my electrolytes because of that. I had not focused on a certain pace, or speed, but rather just enjoying the nice day in the mountains with a bunch of other lunatics trying to do the same thing I was.
This run is not easy to follow. The easiest way to describe it is the ridge acts as the spine, and from the ridge there are 8 out and backs. I was on my out to the Sisar Valley, the first out and back on the course. From the ridge I was running downhill, and it was here I picked up my pace. I felt good and wasn't running hard, just running leisurely downhill. On my way down I passed a group of three runners. As I passed them, a guy yelled out and said I had to wear this sweaty goofy looking hat with a pin wheel attached to it. Something a clown would wear. Apparently I didn't realize that the lead male and lead female for each group must wear this goofy hat, or they get penalized on their time and risk DNF'ing even if they finish in the 40 hour time. I thought this to be odd, but played along. At this point I lead the entire 4pm group. That made me feel as if I was going out too fast, and rethought my plan and slowed down a bit. After reaching the Sisar Valley aid station I downed some calories, grabbed some warmer cloths that I had dropped and turned around to run back up what I just run down.
SISAR VALLEY TO TOPATOPA (Mile 25.8)
It was getting dark and cooling quickly. Half way up I was passed by Linda McFadden who was wearing the same goofy looking hat I was signifying that she was the lead female for the 4pm starters. I hiked up at a fast pace to keep up with her and I kept asking her questions to see if that would slow her down, but this women was tough. I learned she had completed Badwater and continued to climb the summit of Mt. Whitney, then continued to hike the John Muir Trail. For someone like me who would be happy just to finish this run, I began to be concerned again. Was I following the fast people too closely. But I kept telling myself I had 40 hours to complete this and just go with the flow. At that point we hit an aid station, and Chris and Sue were working it. Sue told me that she was planning a summit attempt at Denali later this year. Chris, the race director, said I was doing good on time. I had some quesadillas and went off to the summit of Topatopa the highest point on the run. Before I left Chris told me that I would find a deck of cards at the summit and I needed to bring a card back with me. This guy kept coming up with creative idea's that really made this run different from any I had ever done before. It was dark and I could see Linda's headlamp ahead of me, she was now clearly ahead of me. I kept running until, to my surprise, I saw Linda standing on some snow with a layer of ice that made it almost impossible to walk on without risking a nasty fall to the bottom. I attempted to get onto the snow and was able to carefully walk without slipping. Did Chris know how dangerous this was for other runners? I mean crampons were certainly called for here. I thought this was part of the game and kept hiking up ice until I reached a section of trail that kept going higher with little or no ice. Finally I could see what I thought was the summit of Topatopa and was inclined to bushwhack and grab a card and run down. No other runners were in sight, but I was leading at this point. I thought I had gained a sizable lead. No sign of Linda or any other runner. For some reason I didn't think too much about that, and kept trying to find the summit. I ended up bushwhacking up three summits at my altimeter read 6,300 feet which was close to what the summit of Topatopa is. But no deck of cards to be found, no other runners to be found. I climbed up two other summits which appeared to be higher than where I was, nothing. I realized something is really wrong, and turned around. You cant run downhill on ice, you will slip and fall right away. I had a makeshift ice axe out of a branch I broke off a tree and carefully walked down back towards the aid station. At this point psychologically I was drained. I had gone over two miles off course. Plus extra elevation I didn't need!! Arrgh!! When I hit the trail section I noticed the turn that me and Linda had missed because I could see all the headlamps climbing up the summit trail. A truck was driving towards me on the ridge and it was Chris asking where the hell I had been. Several runners had come thru the aid station, up to the summit, and all said they had not seen me at all. I told him what happened and I went back to the aid station skipping all together the summit of Topatopa. I offered my makeshift axe to Chris in exchange for a card! He accepted. I warmed up with a cup of soup, and thought that I still had plenty of time to complete this challenge.
TOPATOPA TO ROSE VALLEY (Mile 31.8)
At this point all the runners I was with were long gone and the aid station volunteers told me that I could still make it, and that to not let it affect me. Are you kidding, I was still feeling great and was planning on crossing the finish line before 8am. I kept heading North towards Rose Valley and ran this section alone. Almost all the 4pmer's had past me and several 6pmer's had passed by this point. When I got to rose valley the first time I didn't linger around, it was freezing. I later found out it was 22 degrees there. I grabbed some food and started the hike back up what I just ran down.
ROSE VALLEY TO THATCHER SCHOOL (Mile 49.4)
I was beginning to feel the discomfort at this point and remember taking my time hiking up. It was here I met with Brian Clark. Me and Brian ran together for the next two aid stations and we kept each other going. We were on our way to Thatcher School and daylight broke. On our way down Thatcher I saw three runners hiking up, they must have had a 9-10 mile lead on us at that point. We got down to Thatcher refueled and hiked back up what we just ran down.
THATCHER SCHOOL TO ROSE VALLEY (Mile 61.4)
It was hot as all get out, and I kept downing water and eating salty pretzel sticks and chips and taking an electrolyte tablet when I felt necessary. This was a true adventure for me as I have never run under two moons. I have done several all nighters, midnight marathons, and you can't beat the night running. I was not expecting the large variance in weather from night and day. The low for Friday night was 22 degrees at Rose Valley (mile marker 32 and 62). On the ridge the highs reached over 80 degrees and the sun was pounding down hard. There are no tree and very few area's with shade. Very dry area compared to my home state of North Carolina. It reminded me of the desert heat of the Grand Canyon. After getting back onto the ridge and running for a while the sign to Rose Valley appeared and the decent was steep. My feet had blistered up at the ball of my foot pretty bad and it was compounded by the next two miles of steep downhill to the bottom of Rose Valley. When I reached the aid station, I took my shoes and socks off and realized I would be spending some time here. Linda was leaving as I was coming in. She over heard me say something about blisters and kindly offered to use her blister kit, and I needed it. Gillian, a co-owner of ZombiRunner.com came to my rescue and cleaned up my feet, wrapped them up, and got me going again. The pain didn’t got away immediately, but felt much more bearable. I have to say, if it wasn’t for this blister repair, I would have DNF’ed. Thank you Gillian!!!
ROSE VALLEY TO GRIDLEY BOTTEM (Mile 721.1)
I started back up the steepest 2 miles and towards the end every bend of the trail I would tell myself was the last and the end was near. But it kept going forever. When I reached the ridge I felt relief, and began to run again. I kept going, and finally reached the Gridley top aid station. Refueled, drank a full bottle of water, and kept the quesadillas coming. They never tasted so good. I left and hiked/ran down to Gridley Bottom.
GRIDLEY BOTTEM TO COZY DELL (Mile 85.6)
I was feeling good psychologically at this point. I still had plenty of time, and just had to hike up 3,000 feet back to the ridge and run to the bottom of Cozy Dell and back and I was done. I was told that Cozy Dell was the gentlest part of the run. I had two burritos and some more food, and headed back up. On my way up I ran into another group of runners doing the 100k. I also met up with Rob who was a 9pm starter for the 100M. He looked fresh, and was leading the hike up at a good pace. I figured If I could hang with these guys I was in the clear. It seemed to take forever, but we finally made it back up to the aid station. It was dark and I had to barrow a headlamp as I forgot mine down at the aid station. I also lent out my spare to Brian. One of the greatest things about the ultra running community is that they are always happy to help someone succeed.
To my surprise out of the aid station we started hiking up when I thought we were headed down to Cozy Dell. We climbed maybe 2,000 feet then descended again down. The group I was with ran down, and I hiked slowly down at this point. My feet kept bothering me. I had to convince myself to ignore the pain and catch up with Rob. I let a faster runner pass me and I followed him for a good mile downhill fast. The pain was there, but I was ignoring it. I passed Rob and finally caught up with the 100k group I was with earlier and let the fast runner go his way. The run down Cozy Dell wasn’t so cozy for me, it was harder than I had imagined. I kept going and going and finally, I could see the lights of the aid station. It was at least a half a mile farther down. I felt like I was moving fast, but my pace was very slow. Some huge boulders showed up and I hoped a few of them here and there and finally stumbled into the aid station. They had some awesome chips and salsa here which I munched on for a while then had some soup. I was here for less than 5 min as the 100k group got back up and was out on there way. One of them had dropped here. A few other runners were sitting in chairs with blankets covering their shivering bodies.
COZY DELL TO FINISH
I knew this would be tough, but I had to climb back up what was extremely difficult to run down. My body had been trashed, and my feet swollen and blistered. I kept telling myself it was the last big climb and just to keep moving. This section I did alone. I kept moving, and hiking up as fast as I could. I was moving maybe at 2 miles per hour uphill. It took forever, but I made it back to the aid station and sat down for 10 minutes. I knew that they longer I sat that the chance of my legs working again kept getting smaller. I had refueled and waited for the next runner to show up so we could go out and tackle the last three miles of this run. It was a mile a half up hill on the ridge and another two miles back to the ranch on single track trail. I kept pushing myself to the very last minute. I crossed the finish line at exactly 6am for a 38 hour finish.
I wrapped myself in blankets and ate another burrito, soup, coffee, and started to come back to life. My body has never been so wasted before.
I was glad to have finished this beast of a run! Thank you to all the volunteers and to the people that made this event possible! Without them, none of this would have happened.
Start 0 miles
Sisar Valley 17.2 miles
Topatoap 25.8 miles
Rose Valley 31.8 miles
Thatcher School 49.4 miles
Rose Valley 61.4 miles
Gridley Bottom 72.1 miles
Cozy Dell 85.6 miles
Finish 97.1 miles
Lost for +-2 miles
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