And that's just what I did, and things couldn't have gone better.
Our 3:00pm start group consisted of eight preordained subjects and two who had missed their noon start. Things quickly spread out on the first 3400 foot climb to Ridge Junction, with Brian, Kevin, and Dan Waddle leading the charge. Trying to keep to my pre-race watchwords of "sodium, fluids, and patience," I took the first climb very easy, eating and drinking and talking with Kona triathlete, Andi Ramer. About halfway up, we crossed into some coastal low-clouds/fog, which we'd contend with on and off through the race. Nearing the ridge, we burst back into the sun, above the fog, and I found myself alone. Andi had dropped back a bit, and Meredith and Jonathon Stewart had gapped me.
Along the ridge and down the steep decent to the Rose Valley aid station (mile 12) I padded out the miles in the warm afternoon sun. About halfway down the decent, Brian and Kevin were hiking fast up the climb, both looking good. At the AS, I quickly filled bottles and started up the climb for the trip over to the Howard Creek AS (mile 18). Aside from passing Jonathon near the top (who'd been having stomach issues from early on), it was pretty much a solo venture. I hit the top of the ridge and made my way over to the singletrack down to Howard Creek. Although I'd been eating and drinking regularly, my stomach wasn't too interested in food on the decent, but I popped an extra S-Cap, and from there on out, my stomach could not have felt better.
I hit Howard Creek in about 4:15 in the twilight, saw my dad (who was volunteering), grabbed some food and my headlamp, and headed up the climb not too far behind Dan and Meredith. We climbed together for a while, then Meredith gapped up us. Near the top, I passed Dan (who would make a strong reappearance in the wee hours) and made my way to the first of three visits to the Gridley Top AS. The fog was pretty thick at times, making white out conditions with my headlamp, but the flashlight worked fine.
At Gridley Top, RD, Chris Scott, was in full Holstein Cow costume, lifting spirits and holding court. Since I wasn't lagging too far behind, Meredith waited a bit for me so that together we could find the tricky left turn on the foggy ridge that led down to the Cozy Dell AS (mile 30). We'd run together from here to the finish.
As we made our way over to the long decent to Cozy Dell, we began to cross paths with the 100m/100k runners from other start groups, which lifted the spirits. To that point, it'd been a pretty lonely affair.
Meredith seemed to be feeling a bit more spry than I, so I was happy to follow her lead down the decent, which wasn't too technical, save the bottom part which was pretty rocky. As we would for the next nine hours, we had a great time talking about pretty much anything that came to mind. We saw Kevin once more looking strong on the climb, as we made our way down.
Gridley Top (mile 38), then down to the Gridley Bottom AS (mile 44) to get fueled up for the final climb up to Gridley Top (mile 50) and the top of the ridge. Now many hours into things, I was feeling really good. My stomach felt better than it had at mile 12; I'd been eating regularly (PB&J, Cliff Bars for the first half; gels and water here on out), taking 1 - 2 S-Caps per hour, and I really never had any dips in energy.
After catching up to Meredith on the Gridley Bottom climb (she always blazed out of the aids faster than I did), I took the lead. Her gluts and hamstrings had started to tighten up on the second half and things in that late hour just became a bit tedious, so we had periods of silent slogging up to our final visit to Gridley Top . Near the top, Dan reappeared looking fresh as he blazed by us for a really strong finish.
At Gridley Top (mile 50), we had some broth, put on our jackets and gloves to tackle the cold, windy ridge, and made our way to the last aid station seven miles away. Knowing the end was in sight, we kept chatting, walking the ups, jogging the levels and downs and passing a lot of our fellow runners from earlier start groups. At the final AS with only five miles of down left, we picked things up a bit, then picked our way down the four mile, steep and rocky decent to the finish at Thacher School. After losing the trail a couple times near the creek crossings at the bottom, we came in to the start/finish area in first light and, in an unexpectedly cruel and unusual gift from the RD, had to do an unannounced lap around the lacrosse field before being allowed to finish. Meredith picked things up. Luckily I could respond, and, as agreed, we crossed the line together, tied for 4th in 15:47, with Meredith top woman. Kevin, already sleeping, had come through first in 13:10.
Of course, with "bonus" and "boner" minutes applied by the RD, "official" results differ from the clock time and placings (official results). Meredith, with her spirited entrance into aid stations, running prowess, and general great character, vaulted into third place overall, while my meager bonus minutes dropped me two places to sixth.
It's hard to imagine things going any better for me at Coyote, especially with all the unknowns at the outset. I ate well; drank well (peed four times); and just generally felt great throughout, even if the last downs were a bit tiring.
Chris Scott does an unparalleled job of suffusing such difficult races with a sense of camaraderie and fun, and he truly does put together one hell of an ultra under the warm So Cal sun.
See my other C2M postings.
(Start, Finish, and Cozy Dell photos courtesy of Bob MacGillivray/DryMax