Monday, March 21, 2011

Coyote Two Moon

One of the great ultra events on the circuit, in my opinion, is the Coyote Two Moon 100 in Ojai, CA. It is more than a race, in fact, it's more than just about anything. Held on the full moon every March, this irreverent event is put on with extraordinary dexterity by Chris Scott and his wife Sue Johnston, as well as literally hundreds of loyal volunteers who return year after year to join in the collective merriment.

The 2011 edition also presented an opportunity for the good folks at Patagonia, located in nearby Ventura, CA, to stage their first athlete summit meeting. This iconic outdoor equipment and apparel company, that has supported my running for the past three years, is now making a serious push into the trail footwear business and this gathering gave the runners on the team a chance to get involved on the grass roots level. We spent a day and a half with Patagonia designers and marketers and along the way enjoyed great food and wonderful support. We also had a great sun-drenched run on the Thursday before the race on the world famous Ray Miller Trail out of Point Mugu.

Then, on Friday, following a raucous evening of bowling at Ventura Lanes, the pre-race festivities began in earnest which included, sadly enough, a performance by the "Patagonia UltraRunning Team Glee Club" led by Roch Horton. It was a fitting way to conclude our team summit and get us ready for the run.

I ended up being placed in the final 100 mile start group which included Karl Meltzer, Ty Draney, Justin Angle, Brian Polley, Jared Campbell, and Jeff Browning. With a crew like that, I knew we'd have fun. We started, innocently enoug, at 10am on Saturday morning and began our first climb. It was a nice little cruiser up to the Ridge which was, benignly, quite pleasant at the time. From there we headed across the Ridge and down the Road to the Sisar Canyon Aid Station before beginning the 7 mile, 4800 foot climb up to the top of Topa Topa. Toward the summit we got our first glimpse of things to come as the snow started falling and the temperatures started dropping. A quick descent off this high point of the course broght us out to Rose Valley where we all grabbed more clothes and began the third ascent of the Ridge.

Topping out at Ridge Junction Aid Station was outstanding especially given the fact that the Aid Station guys had fresh-grilled tri-tip ready for me to munch on as I made my way across to the Chip and Seal Road and the subsequent second descent to Rose Valley. At this point things seemed OK. Sure it was cold, wet and snowy, but not yet sketchy. That would change quickly.

I grabbed a headlamp at the bottom and started the nasty climb back up to the Ridge (Ascent #4) as it was getting dark. The snow picked up at this point as did the wind. By the time I got to the cut-off leading me to Howard Creek my ears were filled with snow and my hands were frozen. But, no worries, I knew Blake Wood awaited at the bottom and he would have great food and a nice warm tent. He did, but, it didn't matter. Things were now quickly deteriorating.

I made my way back up the climb and somehow got across the Ridge to Gridley Top. There Chris was waiting with his clipboard and his pig hat and, I must admit, he was not his usual jovial self. Sue came in at this point and sat down next to me. She looked over at me and as only a hardened ultra veteran can say, said to me, "This sucks." Pause. "But, because of you, we can't drop."


I grabbed a bunch of clothes from my good friend and Aid Station Captain Luis Escobar and began the trip down to Cozy Dell where I knew my training partner and crew Hank Dart would be waiting for me with gels, espresso, and good cheer. On the way down the extent of the carnage became clear to me and I began to think about what it would take to finish this thing. The last mile or so before the Aid Station I encountered some of the worst mud of the day and I must say I was wondering how I could possibly get back up this thing.

By the time I got to Cozy Dell it appeared that die had been cast and as Ty, Jared and I stood there stuffing our pockets with gels and our faces with food the call came in that the race had been cancelled. And, just like that, we got into the cars and drove away.

At breakfast the next morning we were re-living the epic night and Roch pulled out the quote of the week,"

"Guys," he said, "Let's remember that it's nights like last night that remind us why we do this."


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mountain Life

As readers of this blog know, my family and I are getting ready to leave our beautiful mountain home here in Idaho in the next few months to take on a new adventure in Virginia. I had a couple things I wanted to do before we left and I did one of those things today.

You see, there are not many places in the world where 3200 vertical feet of snow and mountain loveliness lurks outside your door. But here in Sun Valley it does. So, today, I set out to run up and down the Mountain in the morning and then ski the Mountain (top to bottom) five times in the afternoon. It took a bit of logistics but I got it done.

My alarm woke me up at 4:30am and I gulped my coffee while strapping on my YakTraks. I ran from my house to the base of the mountain and then climbed the 3200 feet in just over an hour. After warming my hands in the mountaintop lodge I descended the mountain and went off to work. It took me until lunch to thaw out!

Then, at around 3pm I made it over to the hill and skied my butt off. An hour or so later I had gone up and down those same 3200 feet five times (up on a lift, down on my skis) and my adventure was over. Indeed, it was good times all around.

I guess now it's time to get ready for Coyote 2 Moon and whatever else the Spring has in store. As my mom always says, "We only live once!"