Friday, March 25, 2011

The Dark Side of the (Coyote Two) Moon

Mention a weekend away in Ojai and everyone thinks "spa". Not my friend Jody "Turtleblitz" Van Zanten and I. Our idea of a fun weekend away is hours spent out on remote trails, away from the hustle and bustle of life as Mom/Wife/Housekeeper/Accountant/Minion. Although the driving rain/hail/snow certainly exfoliated my skin beautifully and everyone knows the benefits of a good mud bath!

Coyote Two Moon is not a race, it's an experience lasting several days and one not to be missed or forgotten! Bonus/Boner minutes, costumes, nicknames (e.g. Coaster Kadell, Turtleblitz Van Zanten), staggered start times designed to have everyone finish in time for Sunday brunch. If you are a serious "gotta place top 3" racer, this is probably not for you. But if you can relax, enjoy the festivities and accept that your actual finish time will probably never be known to anyone other than yourself, then it's just perfect. It had been on my bucket list for a while and after hearing that this was potentially the last year in its present format, I decided to join Jody in the Sprint (100K) event. 3 weeks after a 100-miler, I decided that 100K with 19,000 feet of climb was going to be a sufficiently challenging recovery run.

As the big day grew near, I watched weather reports of a storm front moving in and read RD Two Moon Buffoon's comments about code misty and being prepared. Being a Twin Peaks and Chimera survivor, I have no desire to be found on the trail frozen into a popsicle. I didn't have a Goretex jacket so I  borrowed one from my good friend Speedy a.k.a. iMichelle Barton. Long sleeve shirts, half zips, tights, beanies, ski gloves - check. You name it, I packed it. I was ready for anything.
Wine tasting at Casa Barranca, Ojai

Bowling in Ventura
Friday picnic lunch

Wine tasting, bowling, picnic lunch, sing-a-long. Fun, fun, fun. What a great crowd! Big names/wannabee big names/unknowns, all enjoying the festive atmosphere and friendly competition, costumes optional, nicknames required. It was good to see old friends Badwater Dan, Carmela, Jennifer, Jack, Wilson, Tin, Donn and Jakob. Jody and I hung around to see the first group of 100-milers off at 6pm and then headed back to town for dinner. The weather looked ominous....

10am Sat start group
Our start was 10am Saturday, along with the Team Patagonia 100-mile celebs.The weather was good, trail conditions just perfect on the climb up to Ridge Road Junction A/S. This race is known for it's excellent aid stations and volunteers and that is certainly correct. A gourmet feast awaited us, prepared and served by a gaggle of characters. Jody and I exchanged the $1 scratch cards we'd carried up there for a playing card each (who knows for what purpose) and off we set.

It was windy up on the ridge. It was chilly. It was foggy. It started to snow. We laughed and commented that snow is always better than rain because you don't get so wet. Famous last words. By the time I left Rose Valley A/S, it was raining. On went the rain pants and beanie in addition to rain jacket. Jody's knee injury was bothering her on the climbs so I took off ahead. One A/S at a time I thought. Got to get to Howard Creek.

This course is either up or down on single track and road with brief sections on the rolling ridgeline fire road. I'm sure the views are spectacular on a clear day and I had been looking forward to seeing the Super Moon, but with hood up and head down, I really couldn't see anything. Crew Jean was waiting at Howard Creek A/S and I filled up on chili (new one for me!) and soy latte. Again, excellent disco-themed A/S and groovy volunteers. As I headed out, I met Lori and brother Craig. Looking at the worsening conditions, we made the decision that they would catch me at the ridge and the three of us would head back to the S/F area. Having almost frozen to death at Twin Peaks (1st 50-mile) and survived the wrath of the Chimera (3rd 100-mile) it was the best, most responsible decision. I have no desire to become a Search and Rescue statistic or be featured on "I Shouldn't Be Alive". Jody came by a few minutes later, said she'd drop at Howard Creek and would meet me back at the S/F.
What to do? Continue on or back to S/F?

With Lori on ridge

Up on the ridge the conditions were bad. Lori, Craig and I hiked back in driving snow and white-out conditions. It was super cold. It took so long to get back to Ridge Junction that we thought we'd missed a turn and gotten lost. Then we saw the glow of the campfire. What a welcome sight! Hot soup, extra layer of clothing, ski gloves - I was ready for the 5-mile descent back to the S/F. 

Again, it took FOREVER. Slip slidin' in mud, tripping on rocks, hopping across streams (I swear there were only 2 crossings on the way up but 4 on the way back!). Back to the start and the shelter of Jody's car. Hot coffee, candy and a 3-hour drive back to So Cal and my nice warm bed. Only next morning did I find out the festivities were canceled around midnight. I made it 35 miles, some made it 81 miles, no-one finished.

Fun, fun, fun. This is why we ultra running nuts do this. If it were safe and easy, we'd be bored silly and probably wouldn't show up at the start line. Add appalling weather conditions to a grueling course and we're in seventh heaven!

Kudos to Two Moon Buffoon and his merry band of volunteers. Absolutely the right call to cancel. Safety of everyone, runners and volunteers alike, must come before personal pride and winner's bragging rights. I can never thank the volunteers enough for not deserting the sinking ship and leaving us to suffer whatever fate awaited us, perhaps that predicted by the deck of cards at each A/S?

"And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear 
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
I can't think of anything to say except...
I think it's marvelous! HaHaHa!"
Brain Damage (Waters)

No comments: