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."



Hank Dart said...

Great write up, AJW. It was quite a scene at Cozy Dell, getting to see all the carnage unfold in slow motion. Fantastic distillation from Roch.

Scotty K. said...

I can't believe you're giving yourself a DNF for that race - at least according to the 2011 race schedule at the top of your blog.

Love the pics you posted...certainly reminds me of the joy I feel when running and being out in the mountains, even under what others may think of as pretty crappy circumstances. Hope I can maintain that joy about my running, or about anything, the way that you have.

Scott Dunlap said...

Wow, that's nuts!

I agree with Scotty K - cancelled is more appropriate than DNF.


Justin Monast said...

Chris defiantly puts on a great race. I had the pleasure of going up Cozy Dell before the race was canceled lucky for me, but I could see how it got worst later in the night. Great right up BTW, next time I’ll have the gumption to come up and say high since I was in your 10am start group 100K.

Speedgoat Karl said...

feels like a DNF.. I contemplated dropping at Sisar after the yucca incident. Guess that would have been a real DNF.

Nobody won this one.

and I came home with a swollen IT band.

RunSueRun said...

Nice recap AJW! We did not DNF and nobody "won", but note that I *did* make it farther on the course than you and the other Big Dogs - 81 vs. 67 miles. Just sayin'.


(Okay, so maybe the 10-hour head start had something to do with that.)

Seriously, it was great to have all you guys at the event. Thanks for coming back!

Now back to sorting stinky drop bags. Everything is still wet!

Gravityh said...

Great report. If you live for adventure runs and semi controlled epics, this was a run not to miss By the time I got back to the top of Nordhoff peak in the driving snow I was ready to call it a day but knew Chris would be at Gridley top with words of encouragement to keep trucking and I had to counter that with some excuse like " I am so cold I can't remember your name". Well. The race was called and AJ that was no DNF. This deserves another category: DFF. Damn f-in freezing See ya out there.

Morgan said...

AJW, reminds me of events in Chamonix last August; except for me over 1,000 pairs of feet had churned up the course before I passed through!

That transition from being out fighting the elements to "civilisation" is pretty weird; you straight into a car, us straight onto a bus and Cham-bound.

Keep going back to the well.