JABOY's Coyote Four Play (w/ emphasis on "Play")
Hills around Ventura, CA, Feb 17-20, 2000
The JABOYs' Coyote Four Play emphasizes and exaggerates the best of ultrarunning. The JABOYs (Maria Calvert, Sook Gumpel, Mike Turon, the Chief Moron, and a special assist from Bill Key) designed a four day party, ostensibly with running as the central theme. No, this wasn't a race, though almost everyone ran hard sometime throughout the weekend, to boost training value for events later in the year. Four days of advertised distances of 7, 50, 40 and 30 miles brought 51 runners to the mountains surrounding Ventura. (Of course, advertising rarely matches reality, so debate continued through the weekend on actual distances run. Accounting for Saturday night's vote at dinner, distances below have been adjusted to appease the whiners.) Total distances may not match individual memory, in part because of Sunday's mudfest calamity of just trying to account for runners, much less record accurate distances. If anyone has specific complaints, file them with the ACLU.
Herewith, the standings. (Note: while Joe Clapper didn't run the longest distance, he DID run the official miles the fastest, for which feat he garners King Crown honors over the 4 days. A number in parentheses beside a runner's name indicates her/his Crown status for that day; "A" indicating overall winner.)
|Joe Clapper, 41, VA||128/24:11/11:20 (3,A)|
|TropicalJohn Medinger, 28, CA||137/26:29/11:30*|
|Curt Maples, 36, CA||131/26:15/12:20 (1)|
|Akabill Molmen, 56, HI||131/27:30/12:35|
|Jim Benike, 50, MN||131/28:33/13:05|
|Howard Cohen, 41, CA||120/27:03/13:30|
|Gary Knipling, 56, VA||120/27:20/13:40|
|David Strong, 54, AZ||116/27:17/14:05|
|Chuck Jones, 56, CA||113/27:37/14:45|
|Stan Jensen, 47, CA||112/25:03/13:25|
|Todd Rockman, 35, CA||110/24:39/13:25 (4)|
|Chuck Lewis, 49, CA||109/25:41/14:10|
|Bertha Marineo, 54, CA||110/25:57/14:05 (4,A)|
|Jo Ann Beine, 43, CO||107/24:56/14:00 (1)|
|Chuck Pullen, 54, CA||107/26:42/15:00|
|Nabil Khairallah, 51, ONT||105/26:42/15:00|
|Ron Hart, 43, OH||100/19:21/11:35|
|Mark McKinney, 32, CA||100/20:39/12:25|
|Richard China, 44, HI||100/21:16/12:45|
|Wini Jebian, 56, CA||92/27:05/17:40|
|Lee Jebian, 58, CA||92/27:05/17:40|
|Anstr Davidson, 54, VA||91/22:11/14:40|
|Vicky DeVita, 46, CA||89/18:55/13:25|
|Pat DeVita, 66, CA||88/25:21/17:25|
|Barbara Miller, 46, CA||87/20:34/14:40|
|Terri Hayes, 56, HI||87/21:38/14:55|
|Betsy Kapiloff, 39, NV||86/22:22/15:35|
|Dixie Madsen, 62, CA||85/19:33/13:55|
|Karen Hamilton, 45, CA||85/19:57/14:00|
|Joe Smindak, 39, OH||82/15:16/11:05|
|Michael Britt, 48, WA||82/16:22/12:00|
|Becky Wallick, 43, WA||82/17:38/12:55 (3)|
|Lorraine Lees, 41, BC||81/16:22/12:05 (2)|
|Deborah Askew, 42, CA||81/16:22/12:05 (2)|
|Colleen Dulin, 31, VA||79/18:47/14:20|
|Rick Hodges, 51, CA||78/17:14/13:15|
|Ann Grove, 58, CA||77/18:21/14:20|
|Wayne Kocher, 62, NV||77/18:21/14:20|
|Al Bogenhuber, 60, CA||73/16:40/13:40|
|Liz Hodges, 49, CA||73/17:49/14:40|
|Andrew Mitchell, 48, CA||64/15:56/14:55|
|Chris Rios, 58, CA||64/17:08/16:40|
|Leslie Nacanisi, 53, CA||63/21:01/20:00|
|Jamie Dial, 25, CA||50/ 7:44/ 9:20 (2)|
|Rick Miller, 45, CA||50/11:00/13:30|
|Randy Klassen, 47, CA||42/ 9:21/13:35|
|Femi Sonuga, 43, CA||42/10:21/14:45|
|Laurie Kahn, 38, CA||42/10:40/15:15|
|Craig Holloway, 38, CA||40/ 7:29/11:15|
|Carol Jones, 51, CA||37/13:22/21:40|
|Kathryn Sonuga, 34, CA||31/10:07/19:20|
|Chaennnon Lyons, 55, CA||28/ 8:15/17:40|
*TropicalJohn feigned illness to avoid the fun, but this represents a fairly accurate distance (including stretches lost off course) and time for dem Wundermann, had he actually brought his butt down to Ventura.
By stats, about 40% of our runners were women, and an equal percentage was born before the halfway point of the last century. Both categories ran and played commendably And "play" was the weekend's operative word, starting with the meet 'n greet warmup 7+ miles on Thursday, to whet runners' appetite for both trails and nightly dinners, and continuing through the rain-slogged picnic following Sunday's mud wrestling competition.
It's virtually impossible to concisely and comprehensively capture ALL that transpired over those few days and long miles. Rather, I'd invite you first to gaze at C4P pictures on the VHTRC website (//vhtrc.simplenet.com/fourplay), then read two lengthy accounts already published on the internet ultralist, by akabill Molmen and Rick Miller, also now accessible at that website (or ask me to send a copy). The pictures and each report offer representative hint of the breadth and variety of experiences awaiting runners each day. Slightly twisting Stan Jensen's comment, C4P added a definite social agenda that W$ and Leadville camps don't, and wove that agenda among the running miles, too. It's something you just have to "do" to fully appreciate.
How is C4P "different"? Let's start with the miles. Except for Thursday's teaser, runners could choose three different distances each day (or choose not to run officially and just grab some miles). With each course either a loop or out and back, varying distances were logistically feasible. We also were blessed by having the Ventura County Emergency Volunteer Radio people there each day, and they seemed to have as much fun as we did, while also paying close attention to accountability for all runners between stations. Offering shorter distances also meant we got folks off the mountains early enough to avoid abusing volunteers, and to get runners to dinner at a reasonable hour. Of course, the miles were accurately measured, using Intelsat imagery photos beamed down from the Mars Explorer.
The terrain. If viewing the Channel Islands from the 4,500 ft elevation ridge in Ojai (50M'er) wasn't breathtaking enough, dropping down the final, exhilarating two miles on the Ray Miller Trail in coastal Pt Mugu State Park, with the ocean literally at your feet, will remain firmly imprinted in the minds of our participants until their return next year. (Of course, these inspiring segments were necessary counterpoints to earlier expletives directed at event management for (1) arguable miscalculations in distance, (2) unwanted hills or (3) general crankiness.) Approximately 11,000 elevation gain, with only 3 major climbs, on the 50M'er. The out and back trek to the expansive view at Tri-Peaks on the 40M'er, twice passing Chamberlain's (aka Butt-Crack) Rock, and later suffering the ¼ mile insult of Cardiac Hill preceding Ray Miller. Hell Hill and Chumash on the 30M'er, the latter a seemingly endless death march up Mugu Peak, both climbs exacerbated by slippery footing from windblown rain.
Aid. Not so different, except maybe the Bailey's Irish Cream. And maybe the salmon pate (which, despite rumor of its origin, certainly rivals Spam at Idlehour!!). Beer at the bottom of Tri-Peaks. OK, normal, I guess.
Hospitality. Mexican dinner Thursday, Fresh Choice buffet Friday, Italian on Saturday, BBQ picnic Sunday, each meal with self-inflicted entertainment. Logo-stitched Patagonia Expedition Weight microfiber pullover and color coordinated hat; 3 color, front and back printed T's; logo-stitched Teva shorts/pants/overalls; all this for every entrant, irrespective of distance run. Wunnerful temps and air quality until rain Sunday (well, OK, we asked for but couldn't control THAT feature of the event). Gifts (known in other venues as "awards") distributed in an egalitarian (tho often comically biased) manner. Gifts such as other quality apparel from Patagonia, a pair of Ugg's lamb's wool lined boots, logo-stitched Teva fleece blankets, "Between the Sheets" CD by Fourplay, a set of Coyote knockers, a penguin lust T, a pig adoption, "wake the dead" radiantly colored running tights and other donated running gear, silver coyote necklace, potty noise putty, "How to Shit in the Woods" primer, Rick Miller's whanker napkin, lei's (obviously, so folks wouldn't leave without having had one), videos, a set of airline salt and pepper shakers, a rousing song of "Happy Birthday" to Betsy Kapiloff on the occasion of her big 4-0 day, and a host of other crud collected from give-away bins in the months preceding the event.
Visible Event Mgrs. In most other events, standard fare is for the RD to spend time tracking lead runners, and maybe to visit one early aid station, then return home to (hopefully) greet each finisher. The JABOYs organized their presence so that we would be at almost every station runners passed through, doubling also as scouts/sweeps to mark or clean trail. Heck, why should runners have all the fun of trail running? By being ever-present on the courses, we shared in each day's running experience. Of course, we could not have pulled off that feat without extraordinary help from a small group of volunteers. Jamie Dial helped Bill Kee carry water the 6+ miles up Gridley for that aid station (earlier rains prevented us from using vehicles to stock the station); Jamie also served as Day RD so that I could staff (and drink beer) at the A/S below Tri-Peaks. Mike's resourcefull Seabee buddies (Charlie, Hog, Jerry, Chooey, Big Daddy) were like kids with a new toy, ecstatic to help our crazy runners (and already thinking of how to improve operations for next year). Patagonia's Craig Holloway, besides being overly generous in sponsoring this fringe event, suffered through gale winds and rain at the Xrds A/S on Sunday. And Laurie Kahn brought a smile-filled exuberance to working aid stations and escorting a hypothermic radio volunteer off the rain-swept hill.
The Runners. Yes, they were different, too. This wasn't a quick strafing mission: drive to the race, run the distance, chat for a while, go home. These people came to party, both on and off the trails. Pictures give evidence of that. The growing band of Ridgecrest Rowdies (this year under the banner of "bubbas") and Chuck Pullen (Ventura's Topa Topa Yeti), with us since the beginning, have continued to add lunacy beyond what we planned. Rick and Liz Hodges, somewhat conservative players last year, let out the stops this year, Rick donning his gorilla mask on Saturday and greedily snarfing up panty trail markers on Sunday's slosh run. Gary Knipling, off his leash, let his Jack Daniels improve his otherwise rampant hormones (even Anstr complained, or was that jealousy?) At every aid station, each day, EVERY runner had reason to smile: trails were splendiferous, the challenge of running consecutive ultras was rewarding, camaraderie was contagious, it was just plain FUN !!! Period. The End? Hardly, as C4P tends to live well past the experience itself, and forms a comparative reference point on what running should be like
Coyote Fourplay through the eyes of Billy Bob (the crippled ultra dude),and Barbee May (crippled ultra dude's wife).
Welp, when we left our hometown of Ridgecrest Thursday afternoon sporting our great looking Bubba teeth we were in rare form. Seven crazy Ridgecrest runners, showed up at La Jolla Canyon in Pt. Mugu State Park to start off our 4 days of roaming the mountains and valleys of Ventura County, Chris Rios, Chuck Lewis, Andrew Mitchell, Randy Klassen, Mark McKinney, Barbee May Miller and Billy Bob (that's me) Miller. The beginning of our four play, oops I meant four day wild adventure was about to begin. We were greeted by old and new found friends followed by a seven mile warm up dinner run (Chuck & Carol Jones joined us later that evening for dinner). Dinner was great (Mexican) we all received our goodie bags with cool pull over C4P sweaters, a either a pair of shorts or suspendered shorts made by Teva and a few of Chris Scotts (he's the race director) crap including his junk mail, soap and shampoo from his past stays at some Hotels. We headed back to the Motel 6 and caught a few winks before Friday's 50 miler.
The morning was great, no wind or rain, but the first hill (10 miles up) was a bit muddy from a down pour the prior week. Mark and Chuck Jones were the Ridgecrest hero's completing the whole course,
Barbee May and Billy Bob (that's me) did 42 miles, the rest of the gang Mitch, Randy, Chris and Chuck Lewis did 32 miles and Carol enjoyed her hike through the mud. Dinner was great (Veggie place), Chris Scott gave us our offical C4P t-shirts and read out our marching orders for Saturday's 40 mile run. We drug ourselves back to Motel 6 and slept for 2 hours, or at least that's what it seemed like.
The morning was beautiful and the afternoon warmed up a bit in the canyons, but in a good kind of way. The two Chucks completed the whole enchilada, Mark did a fast 38, Barbee May did 31, Mitch and Chris did 28 and Carol did approx. 20 or so. Billy Bob (the whine bag) hobbled around the course with a map and compass circumnavigating 20 miles with a back pack full of beer [Chief Moron here: Thanks, Big Guy!!! for the beer…. (urp!!)] and a big smile on his face. The dinner for the night consisted of Italian cuisine, all runners were harassed and teased by Chris Scott (we loved it). The girls received butterfly and dragonfly things to put in their hair so they'd look real purty for Sundays 30 mile run, Billy Bob won a CD for singing the best song of the night and we all wore our C4P suspendered shorts at Chris Scott's request.
Mother nature just couldn't hold back Sunday morning, the wind and the rain was so bad that I was amazed that anyone in their right mind would show up much less run 30 miles. The two amazing Chucks kicked major butt by finishing the whole course in some fine fashion, Chris and Randy hung tough with about 9 miles and Mark, Barbee May and Billy Bob (that's me) finished in time for the party (probably covering about 2 miles in the mud, the blood and the beer), Mitch started. The party was a wet one, tarps were hung but it didn't help much and no one really seemed to mind. What a great event, Chris Scott and all of the JABOYS (Just a bunch of yahoos) took care of our every need throughout the weekend. If any of our club members are interested in next years event I'd highly recommend it. You can't beat the price, $125.00 for all the great stuff, dinner 3 nights in a different restaurant, bar-b-q on Sunday, and just about all the running you can stand, not to mention lots and lots of FUN!!!!
Friends and fellow Ultrarunners
I started this thing to tell my niece what a great weekend I had at Coyote 4 Play and here it is a week later and lots and lots of words come after this. So you have been warned. The short story is: Great Fun! Read the rest at the risk of having to be there next year.
It was great! It was soooooo much fun, just plain fun. If running to get in shape to run long didn't have intrinsic value, something like Coyote 4 Play (C4P) would make it worthwhile.
In a way it is too bad C4P is unique. The concept is fantastic.
Four days of running and partying with like-minded people who have plenty of time and energy to enjoy each other's company. Run long during the day, clean up, rest, and then meet for dinner, get involved
in participatory entertainment, child like humor, and high energy camaraderie with all the priorities kept straight. If you can't have fun, do something else.
During the day you run as much or as little as you want/can.
Nobody really gives a rip how far anyone else goes as long as s/he is cool doing it, and you gotta know ultrafunners are cool. Thursday's course was the only one without options. It was a 7.5 mile teaser that got you ready for their kind of trail, showed you magnificent vistas, and got you on the finishing miles of the Saturday and Sunday Runs.
The courses were challenging but the footing was mostly "no lookee," like flat dirt with occasional rocks. They call em trails, I call em roads. Some wide roads some very narrow roads, but mostly roads nonetheless. Arrogance is what I get for learning how to run trails in tropical rainforests with the single track surface packed with lots of hard set rocks and sneaky pointy roots. [Chief Moron here: I've run Virginia's Massanutten trails, which sound comparable to akabill's definition of "trail." The trails in Ventura ARE trails, not ROADS. Akabill, obviously you and I will have to discuss this point over several beers next year. OK, return to normal Hawaiian blather…] In four days I played pretend Superman only once. Just one more scar among the hundreds of scars near and about my knees. I'm used to launching myself forward, very fast.
Friday we caravaned North to Ojai and had a choice of 50, about 42, or about 30 something mile courses. Challenging climbs with a hard, gotta be there on time, 4:45 hr cut off at 23 miles. We went up about 5,000' the first eight miles. It was just one long up. There was plenty of time to meet the people going about your pace and talk story. It is easy to get to know people under those conditions. The veneer of civilization wears away real quick and you get to be with the unvarnished personality. Sometimes you find yourself working harder than you want to just to hear the end of a story. Sometimes personalities don't match and you back off or speed up and start talking with someone else.
After nine miles to the first aid station we went down about seven. My back started acting up then and so I slowed and hung out with my buddy Stan Jensen. At the bottom was the first gourmet aid station. They offered you anything your heart desired to eat; there also was Bailey's Irish Cream and pate. The Race Director (RD) Chris Scott was there encouraging us to partake of the offerings. He made a big point of the pate. (That night at the awards ceremony a prize was given to whomever drank the most shots of Baileys. Next the Chief Moron (Chris) asked "Who ate the pate?" Many hands went up. "Great cat food, wasn't it?" said the head Jaboy (Just Another Bunch of Yahoos). Yup, he took the label off a can of cat food and dished it up and out.)
Seven miles down and seven miles back up. I got my wind after the aid (no I did not take either the Baileys or pate) and soon Stan wasn't answering my questions any more. I headed up hard. My back wasn't bothering me now and the no lookee trail was cool. I'd catch people to talk but they were slowing and I didn't want to lose my momentum. I caught up with my HURT (Hawaiian Ultra Running Team) buddy, Richard China and he said something about the cutoff. I've never had a problem with cutoffs but this is a special event and I decided to hump it to the top. If I did not get there by 11:15 I would not be allowed to do the 50 and would have to opt for a shorter course. The cut off was so that everybody, including the volunteers, would be done in time for the 6:30 full tilt boogie down home dinner (paid for by your entry fee). I made it with ten minutes to spare.
My traveling buddies Richard and Stan were within a couple of minutes of making the cut off and were not really disappointed that they had to take a shorter course. Richard mentioned later about the long continuous ups. Hard to train for 5,000' of elevation gain when you live on an island whose highest point is about 3000'.
Because I beat the cut off I headed up the middle finger of the course that went out and back about 4 miles each way with minimal elevation gain (1,100') on mostly forest service road. It was easy, fun, great great views, and actually a rest for my quads and hams which had worked so hard so far. Ten or twelve people came back at me along the way out. Mike Turon while marking the route pointed out for me a tiny peak in the far distance and said: "head for that pointy thing." It seemed very far and was actually only a few miles. When you live on an island like Oahu your perspective is quite a bit different from those living on the mainland. I said hi to the people I knew coming back at me. The turn around was a stick marked spot in the middle of the road. I too wrote my name in the dirt at the unmanned turn around with my shoe. Others wrote theirs with predigested sports drink. On the way back I said hi to the people coming my way. The energy level was real high. A bunch had made the cutoff in the last few minutes after I got there.
Soon there was a marked turn down a narrow cliff side trail under a canopy of trees. Wonderful running, narrow, flat, and covered with a thin layer of leaves. The trail twisted in and out as it gently went down hill. I was in heaven. I had done over a marathon and felt very fresh. I came around a corner and saw Richard and Stan coming at me running hard with big smiles on their faces. We stopped, exchanged greetings and went our way. I was happy thinking they looked real good. Later they told me they, esp. Richard, had been dying but once they heard me coming they put on an act for my benefit. Fun huh? Miles later I was at the bottom of the cliff and found another full aid station They were good fun. Made up a sandwich for me and could not have been more helpful. I headed back up the hill and met fewer people coming down than I had passed at the middle turn around. Some of the smarter ones knew the course and did fewer miles and by passed another very long up. I was new to the area and just decided to do what I could do while saving lots of energy for the next two days.
I saw Maria at the top and she mocked my attitude running towards me saying: "Happy Day" and "Life is soooooo Good!". Made me smile so I got out a high pitched voice: "Maria dere you be. You da man."
Maria was running like the wind. She had been bringing supplies to aid and was carrying empty 2.5 gallon water bottles down the seven mile trail to aid. Seven miles down.
And then for me it was nine long miles over the hump and down the hill to the start/finish. What a great day. As I neared the finish I was on a cool easy country lane and I saw a guy ahead of me all dressed in black, except for the salt stains. I pushed the pedal down and passed him hard. At the time I thought I was only about a half mile from the finish. Soon I realized that it was a lot farther and my guilt about being competitive made me keep the hammer down. The last 1.5 miles were the hardest of the day. Fortunately I saved lots for Saturday and Sunday.
Stan and Richard met me at the finish line and it was a party. I mean, there was no finish line. You just shook Chris's hand and stopped your watch when you thought about it. Hit the head, grab a beer, say thanks to the volunteers, eat a bit, drink a bit. Talk with the other finishers and compare notes about the wonder of it all. Just the end of another Ultra. Not too soon you are reminded that there is time to rest, time to party, time to rest and the next day starts. Hard to get out of the ultra mode and just start slowing down. It was hard for me to switch gears but seeing Stan and Richard driving away in OUR car helped a lot.
The Friday night party was great. Sixty or seventy high energy people reloading their bodies while the Chief Moron did his comic thing. More prizes were given away and "awards" were passed out. Burger King crowns for the first finishers and very expensive Teva Blankets for the last to finish. Chris kept our priorities straight. We were there to have fun and fun was rewarded.
One aspect of my philosophy of running is that I always give stressed muscles 48 hours rest between hard runs. Because I almost always train at the edge I almost never run two days in a row. Up until C4P I had never done two stress runs in a row much less two back to back ultraruns. Knowing that the second day's route was 40 miles was heavy on my mind as I tried to sleep Friday night. I literally had no experience to rely on when I headed out the next morning. My promise to myself was that I would take it easy and go with the flow. Stan had took some of the edge off by advising me that after a couple of hours on the second day my body would get into a rhythm and it would be ok. I just needed to get over the hump and it would be normal fun after that.
We slept in until 4:30 AM and made the half-hour drive to La Jolla Canyon with plenty of time for the 6:30 AM start. I have not yet told you that the weather was COLD for us Hawaiians and WARM for the Canadians and Jim Benike from Rochester Minnesota. High 40's to low 50's is actually great running weather. You could tell where people were from by how much clothing they wore [Chief Moron here: Leslie Nacanisi of warm California earned Eskimo honors for her 4 layers/day]. Needless to say I had a long sleeve shirt, jacket and hat; others looked ready to get a tan at Waikiki Beach. I figured it would be easier to take off clothes as the day progressed than to wake up in an emergency room with tubes running through my arms, or not wake up at all due to hypothermia.
Saturday's course looked a lot easier than Friday's. No 8 mile climbs up 5,000 feet. No, the highest point was 2500 feet and that started about 22 miles in. Most of the course was below 1000' with lots of rolling terrain. Well, looks can be deceiving. First of all, most of us had done an ultramarathon of one sort or another the day before. Second the Chief Moron LIES. This 40 mile course was like the pate on Friday.
When the Chris said go I started off real slow expecting my body to not like this at all. I was very pleasantly surprised when everything worked smoothly. I let a bunch of people go as I worked into a rhythm and found in a few minutes that I felt like I felt the day before at the beginning only I was not on as steep a course. Somehow I did not trust my feelings and held back my effort. I only tried to keep Stan Jensen in sight as I watched Richard move quickly out of the canyon. Soon I was into the power walking and talking mode checking out my companions on the way up. All too soon my body was going faster than my companions' and we were looking down a switch back to see others hundreds of feet below and several minutes behind. Within fifteen minutes I passed Deborah Askew and Lorraine Lees who had raced to win the day before and almost pulled it off. They are both on the Canadian National 100k team. As it turned out they were going short on Saturday. We exchanged greetings and they encouraged me to "catch the buggahs." (Deb and I did Kalalau together during her honeymoon and had a real good time.) But I was not racing. I just wanted to put out a strong training effort and enjoy.
Soon we were on cliff sides with huge views of the ocean and Channel Islands. No lookee trails made for lots of time to check out the scenery and the rains had pretty much cleared the LA crap out of the air. Bits of time were spent with different runners as I let my body go into a flow. Pretty soon I was in a group of four with Richard, Jim Benike, and Femi Sonuga. At a flat spot in what looked like a dried up swamp they pulled over to take a group dump and I just rolled along. Ten minutes later Femi caught up with me and I met a Nigerian now living near San Francisco getting ready for his first Western States 100 Miler. As long as we were on flat ground we could run and talk but as soon (that means the rest of the day) as it got rolling I pulled away on the ups and he passed me on the downs. It was like a long distance game of leap frog, so predictable it was almost funny. Along the way Stan Jensen caught up and the three of us were like braiding hair. Stan and I run well together and we watched Femi get used to the ups and downs of being an ultrarunner.
For fifteen more miles Stan and I talked and/or ran. It seemed awful long between aid stations. It wasn't too long before I was complaining that "that wasn't four miles!" That went on all day. When we finally met up with the Chief Moron at the bottom of Three Peaks I challenged his distances. His response was "its three and a half miles up to the top then three and a half down, take three bottles." Later I checked his published distances, they totaled a round trip of five miles. The Chief Moron really knows how to add. At the party that night he had us take a vote as to how many miles we ran. Like the vote mattered. Well, I opted for 44 miles but afterwards I'm pretty well convinced that it was more than that.
The published distances had nothing to do with how good a time we had out there. The Jaboys picked a great course and the power walk to the top of Three Peaks was totally worth it. The Jaboys are so smart that everybody, 20, 30, or 40, mile runners got to the top of that peak. The view at the top was like something out of a science fiction movie and the run back down passed "butt hole" rock and "split rock" and then there was the spot of my great Superman imitation.
Stan and I had fun. We jabbered away. Because it was the only out-and-back of the day we saw lots of people and had lots of fun saying "Hi", "Aloha", "Life is good", "Happy Day", and all that stuff. Nobody, absolutely nobody, had less than a positive attitude.
It took us 53 minutes to get to the top and 35 back down. Richard was a ways behind us on the way up. When we got back to the aid station I told Chris "you are still my friend." His response was most appropriate: "I'm sorry."
Before Stan and I left his Moronness Stan again did the Engineer thing and asked how long it was to the next aid station and what was the course like. Chris named a number (bogus) and sort of coughed when he said that there was only one more climb. I think that the cough was engineered by his guardian angel who was doing her best to make sure that he does not go straight to hell the moment his heart stops beating seventy painful years from now.
Stan and I ran through the meadows together and enjoyed the views. After a while I got up a head of steam and sort of flowed away. This had nothing to do with competition, it was just going with personal flow and at this point in the run getting home seemed important. Femi was way behind us. When I was coming out of one of many stream crossings and heard footsteps behind me, I thought either Femi or Stan
had a second wind. No, it was Richard. When Richard got to the top of Three Peaks he put down the hammer and made it to the bottom in 23 minutes, a phenomenal time! So, he and I ran together at the bottom of the canyon constantly crossing the same stream. It was like doing flat land switch backs. There was some talk, mostly centered
around how "long" the course was. Richard regularly trains on back to back long days and so he knows how it feels to run tired. But, then again, with fairness to his Moronness, Richard runs on very difficult trails one day and flat roads the next so his perspective may be a bit off. (Forget the apologies to his Highness, the course was long, real long and I'm going to bring a tape measure next year to prove it.)
There was a hill before the next aid station. The hill had lots of switch backs. Lots of switch backs. Soon I could see a long line of people above and I figured all the 20, 30, and 40 milers had sort of bunched up. WRONG. Many minutes later, when the switchback ended and the trail went straight UPHILL the people turned out to be a big troup of Boy Scuts who thought it was funny to get in my way as I passed them.
Finally I was at the top and on a road downhill. My sciatica started acting up bad but I was ok about that because Chris had said there was only ONE up hill. A little way down and right in front of a side trail was a bare chested guy with a gorilla head [the wild and crazy Rick Hodges, or even wilder and crazier Sook Gumpel?], wearing plastic boobs, swinging a noise maker and pointing down hill. I could hardly walk down hill but I ran anyway eating a couple of analgesics carried for just this purpose.
At the bottom and down the road there was aid. It was much appreciated. Richard met me there and we asked about the route. They said to go down the road (we were near sea level) and make a right. 3.5 miles they said. (Bogus). Sounded good to us. CM had said only one hill. We were ready to finish.
A little run down the road a little right hand turn and then if you looked up, waaaaay up, you could see switch backs, lots of switchbacks. It had been a long day so far and after the momentary disappointment it was good to know that we only had to get over this hill and we would be home. All we had to do was a few switchbacks and then head to the finish.
At the top of the hill there was the gorilla head again only a few feet away from the road we had passed a half hour ago. The trail leveled off and went to our left. Felt good. Almost done. Just around the corner and then a nice track home. Wrong!
We went around the corner and soon saw the trail rise. I mean UP hill. Soon I was taking one step at a time pushing my body up like we were on a ladder without rungs or rails to hold on to. I don't know how I did it but I passed people going up. I had lots of nasty thoughts with WWII parallels as I approached the top and then they all faded away as I recognized the trail we had run down Thursday afternoon.
If I was water I could flow. Unfortunately I am a featherless biped and had to perambulate down the cliff. So I did the many miles more than advertised and it was great to finish! Wonderful course. Too good.
At the finish line I checked my watch, 9:16 and change for 40 published miles. The day before on a much harder course I had done 50 miles in 9:18 and change. Something was amiss. I prefer to believe that the first day actually was 50 miles. But I could be wrong.
Then there was the party! Third day, third party. Excellent Italian food. I had wondered on Thursday how the energy would change at the parties after the effort of the successive days. I was pleasantly surprised that the energy level increased every day. We got louder, happier, more of everything. Everyday we sat with a different group. Everyday we talked story. Good fun! Richard had a little wine., I had a couple of beers, Stan drove back to the motel.
I met Howard Cohen, a new ultrarunner who was totally enthused by the experience. He felt like he was ready to do a hundred. A seat away from me was one of the legends of ultrarunning Alfred Bogenhuber, aka Wolfie, maybe the most competitive person on earth, also a great guy. Over dinner I mentioned that I had nearly broken
his over 50 age group record at What, Mi-wok? in 1999. I said that couldn't possibly get in shape to go after it this year but maybe in 2001. Wolfie turned 60 last year. He smiled. Only during the next day did I realize that I had thrown down the gauntlet and had set myself up for one of the great running experiences of my life.
Sunday morning the start was set for 7 AM so we got to sleep in another half hour. As I came out of the shower I heard Richard make a loud expletive deleted sound. Baaaaddd Words. I looked out the door and it appeared that god had flushed the toilet over our heads. The much predicted rain had finally arrived. Not a warm big drop
Hawaiian style rain, a cold small stinging wind driven drop mainland rain. Baaaddd words.
Nothing to do but get ready to go. I knocked on Stan's door and warned him. We met about 6:00 and tried our best to get our spirits up. It had been soooo much fun and now the prospect of inclement weather put a real damper on our spirits.
Being Norwegian I got my stuffs together in preparation.
Fortunately I grabbed my Patagonia shell jacket for protection against the wind and a full "t" to wear over my long sleeve capilene undershirt. That saved my butt later in the day.
Richard does not suffer. He is pretty non competitive and enjoys running only just for itself. Cold rain in not an item in his recipe for fun. There was nothing we could do except get our stuffs in the car and head south looking for a break in the clouds. Good luck.
It was raining at LJC. Not a lot but as we looked up we could see a layer of very fast moving clouds under the upper rain clouds. Not a good sign. Richard checked with Chris and came back with info that the start had been delayed a half hour. The mood in the car was not upbeat. As the minutes passed the rain lessened and I started getting ready to get out there and see how it would go. Stan's ankle was bothering him from a rock bang on Friday and Richard just didn't want to be cold.
As the rain lessened we gathered in front of the RD at 7:15. He announced that because of the cold rain and mud the three scheduled courses were going to be shortened by several miles each. He then rattled off the new routes. The names meant nothing to me but I figured I'd hang out with someone who did know the way to go and get in as much as I could. The main item was that the 31 miler had been shortened to 28. Whoopee!
Chief Moron said go and a much smaller contingent than the previous three days huddled out of the camp grounds. I planned on staying with Stan but his ankle really slowed him. Within about a half mile Wolfie catches up to me and it didn't take me long to figure that he had picked up the imaginary gauntlet.
Wolfie is a very interesting guy. He's done all the tough ones and he has done them well. Of course we started talking about Hawaii where he lived for ten years and the first bunch of miles were all about condominium management. He had been a Board President and by his account had turned a building around. I'm a General Manager and was hired to do the same thing. So for a bunch of miles we told our success stories. Sometime in there Jim Benike from Rochester, Minnesota caught up and entered the conversation. The cold wind and rain sort of disappeared from our consciousness as we ran and talked. The only trouble was that sometimes the wind was so strong it blew away our words.
Then came the mud! This was not sticky mud like in the East, or slough off mud like in Hawaii, no this was slippery mud like wet ice. I had no experience with anything like this and just hoped to heaven that I did not rip out a groin muscle while trying to negotiate some of the slopes. We soon realized that no matter how much they shortened the route of the course we would be putting in lots of extra miles that day.
We were on something like a reverse course from the day
before without having to go down "cardiac." Actually we took a side route and went by where the Gorilla head had been and five miles into it came our first aid station. Everybody was in high spirits. The rain had lessened and being in a valley we were protected from the high winds. The three of us just took it easy, reloading aid and walking out of the station while we downed the cookies and Fig Newtons. For a while as we traversed the stream bed an half dozen times it seemed like it wouldn't be a bad day after all. Soon we climbed out of the canyon and ran through the meadows heading back towards Three Peaks. It was more trotting than running and our first controversy came when we got to a fork in the trail that had a line of rocks blocking one trail but ten yards past the rocks were a couple of ribbons tied to bushes. Wolfie took command and said "always follow the ribbons." What the heck, if we
were going to get lost this was as good a place as any to do it.
The conversation flowed til the next aid station on basically good if wet trail. The day seemed almost too easy. Up a thousand feet, down thousand between aid stations seemed the norm. Then we climbed 1000 but dropped only 300 as we slid into Overlook Crossroads. The climb was up "Hell Hill." At the bottom of the hill we went by a port a potty on our right. I hardly noticed it at the time as we started UP. It wasn't all that bad a climb and soon we were dropping fast into the Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) aid station.
The last bit of drop was straight down. A friend had pointed out the climb up from PCH on Thursday. He said the original trail had been worn by the Native Americans and they did not understand the concept of "switchback." I thought that was funny until Sunday when I had to negotiate the first dozen yards down the trail. Even if only three runners had already negotiated the trail on that day their steps had turned the trail into one very slippery slide. One very steep slippery slide. Within a millisecond I was grabbing for something to slow my slide and it turned out to be a cactus with long spines. Giving up on that I grabbed for bushes that came right out of the ground. Jim and Wolfie were right behind me. If this had been the Olympics I probably would have gotten an 10 for effort and -1 for style. Somehow I survived to the more rocky portions. Soon the three leaders were working their way up at us. Not really smiling a lot. It was just as steep coming up as going down.
The aid station at the bottom was fully stocked and Richard's
local friend Jim was there with a big smile. I grabbed lots of fluid and a sandwich and headed back up. I had seen shadows a couple of times that day and was thinking that except for the coming climb the rest of the day would be easy. Only nine more miles and one steep climb. I almost left my jacket at PCH. Soon I was glad that I was in front because that meant that only three guys were making mud in front of me instead of five. Wolfie and Jim were right behind but now we weren't talking all that much. The climb was straight up hundreds of feet. Got warm inside my Patagonia shell. Finally I got to the real real muddy section near the top and there were three guys looking down from the trail above at the mud slide. They had very skeptical looks on their faces and I didn't blame them as they watched my feet windmill around on the path as I tried to cut the mud for traction. I don't know what they decided to do but I never saw them again that day.
The guys directed us around a bend in the trail saying to look for the ribbons going up. The same people made the trail up this ridge as the one down below only this time there were no rocks to catch with your feet to push your way up. I saw the ribbon but no foot prints on the trail. It was only a matter of seconds for me to figure out that no one was going up that mud unless they were wearing crampons. I saw some muddy steps going up the gorse and I followed it straight up, soon making my own path to the very top. Very top. I knew it was there but could not see it.
All of a sudden as my path swung around the ridge I got hit with a hard stinging windy rain. I know 30 mph, I've been in 40 mph and this was harder than that. I grabbed my hat, dropped my face and
ducked into the wind looking pretty much like a bowling ball going up hill. Within seconds I was extremely grateful that I had left my No Fear jacket in the trunk and was wearing the Patagonia shell. The wind pushed pellets of rain was like running into a bb Gatling gun. And on up I went. There was no other choice. Wolfie and Jim were a ways down but following me up. If anybody had tried to talk the words would have been swept out to sea.
Every time I looked for the top it got farther away. Soon I was wondering if my contact lenses were safe. And up I went. I don't know why but all of a sudden I was singing. Yes, Singing! God knows what but out came a song. Now you need to know that I have a voice that will etch glass. When I sing Happy Birthday people not only move to the other side of the room they move out of State. My songs will kill a pig, make fish drown, get a goat to throw up, and yet I sang and sang a happy tune. My song turned into a giddy prayer and soon it was "Life is good! Life is good! when you are in the Church of the Holy Trail." And up I pushed into an ever stronger wind with colder and colder rain and then I was at the top and rolling along the backbone of the ridge and really running now. Rolling up and down. One hand holding my hat and the other trying to maintain a semblance of balance as I aimed my self along the wind dried path.
Soon the three of us were together again. We had forced our way up about 1,500' in less than two miles and now it was rolling down back to the Crossroad Aid station two miles away. It would have been sheer joy, and it was, until the last couple of hundred yards before the station where the road turned into a sheet of mud. Everybody who had run that day, whatever their course, had come up that road and had done for us what we had done for the three guys looking down at the PCH. I really don't know how you swim in mud going up hill but somehow we did it. Hiking poles may have been real handy or they may have been a pivot point for falling flat on your face. We three made it
though and we reloaded at the Crossroads.
We got instructions about the course and headed out. I did not pay careful enough attention and, as it turned out, neither did Wolfie or Jim. I led the way up for 40 yards and then found the cliff side trail leading into the Valley. Everyone else had been there too so it was slipping and sliding time down into the valley. If I had skis I would have
been just fine. Jim was soon right behind and a few minutes later Wolfie was there too. We were feeling good but really had to pay attention to our footing.
None too soon the trail emerged at the bottom at a crossroads. I immediately recognized the comfort station in the middle of the road and it was to our right. The main trail went right and a lesser one went left. There was a sign post identifying the trails but no other markers,
no ribbons, no rocks, no arrows, nada. No one of us had paid sufficient attention at the start of the race and we weren't absorbing what was said at the Crossroads Aid. I kept on looking at the outhouse and thinking, keep it to the right. Wolfie thought we should go to the right. We scouted around and found one fresh set of shoe prints in the mud. That should have been our first clue. There were at least three people ahead of us and none of them had feet that small.
However it came about, we went right up the wider path with the fresh foot print. Up and up and up and up. One thing we did remember was that the loop out from the Crossroads was supposed to be four miles. After going up for an hour it was clear that we were not on the four mile loop. What to do? Well, none of us guys said aloud what each of us was thinking, "We are on the wrong damn path." What could we do about it anyway? As usual I was in the lead. Soon my water bottles were getting close to empty, I had only filled two because it was only a four mile loop. As I drained my last bottle I thought, "Well if I going to be lost these are the right two guys to be lost with" and just kept on trucking. Eventually we crested and the road became very runnable and I found myself going faster and faster, either closer and closer to oblivion or closer and closer to the aid station. At that point I didn't really care.
Soon Wolfie caught up and then Jim was right there and we were putting out some steam into the cold wind. Actually it was kind of fun. Scary fun, but fun. Jim finally wondered aloud whether we were running towards the ocean or away from it. We all knew that home was by the ocean and it seemed that we were headed the wrong way. Guys will be guys and there was only one road and that's our story and we stuck to it.
Finally, and I do mean finally we approached the aid station and a guy turned around, looked at us and said: "Where the expletive have you guys been?" We tried to explain while we reloaded our bottles and then I heard another guy say you can go home four miles that way or five miles that way and when I looked up there was Wolfie slipping and sliding up hill on the five mile path.
All day long Wolfie had been the careful one at the aid stations. He'd get his bottles filled, eat some stuff and grab something to eat while walking away from aid. I was typically an in and outer walking quickly until the food was swallowed and then back into a trot. Jim went with his personal flow.
This time Wolfie is last in and first out. My bottles are just filled and I see him already a hundred yards uphill with his feet churning up more mud. I laughed out loud. We had been telling war stories all day and it was clear from early on that when the barn door opened Wolfie was going to be the first one through. So I said to myself: "What the hell, make him pay." and I took off running on the sides of my shoes as I did my best to cut through the mud. In a little while it was good running surface sliding in and out around the curves of the cliffs with little up or down. There was some mud but you could work your way around it or run on the rim of the cutaway. I could hear that Jim was not too far away as I went in and out and within a half mile I noticed Wolfie checking his rear view mirror and lengthening his stride. I didn't need to look but I was covering more ground with each step too.
Damn it this was fun. Wolfie had skipped the first two days of the event and did his best to win on the third (came in second) and now he was blasting his way home. Jim and I had done the full course each day. I had never run two, much less three, ultras on successive days and my body was responding like this was a normal course of activity.
I was thinking that as I pushed the pace and enjoyed every moment of it.
A mile later we closed on Wolfie and then I was right behind him on a narrow cliff trail. As I approached he slowed noticeably and I closed a bit too fast. He offered to let me pass and I could not help but say: "No thanks, I'm happy right here."
War stories started up again as we went in and out of mud and then we were on the familiar trail home. It was my third time down this cliff. Imperceptibly Wolfie lengthened his stride. Tiny tiny bits but the pace quickened and soon we were back to hard running. Not hard breathing but somewhere past a training pace. No more war stories. This was war. A fun war. I loved watching him do it. Finally I got into a stride that I was happy with and watched him flow away from us. As Stan said later that night, Wolfie would have gone as fast as he needed to go to make sure he finished first. All three of us knew it, and that was wonderful. That last little bit made my week.
The mud did get pretty slippery a few times down the cliff and Jim had been talking about cross country skiing on and off during the day. He remarked that he was surviving the mud because of his skiing technique. Having some of my wits about me I asked about the technique and he soon was giving me lessons about running with bended knees and how to hold my back over my ass. Worked real well. I could have slalomed right off the cliff.
Closing on the end Jim said: "Looks like we are going to finish in reverse chronological order." I said: "If you want to catch him, go ahead, I'm happy." Jim, said: "I'm happy too" and we slid on home.
Chris Scott welcomed us at the non finish line. You stopped your watch when you got to him. He wanted to know what had happened to us. It seems that we dropped off the radar screen when we made that right hand turn. After telling him how much I loved his run and how well it worked in not so terrific conditions I ran him by our course. The names meant nothing to me but I recognized the topography. When he finally got it straightened out, he said: "Do you know what you did?" Of course I didn't know what it meant to him. He said: "You ran the original course." "You did the whole 31 miles."
So what can you do but smile? The wrong turn turned out to be a right turn after all and Jim and I were the only two foreplayers who completed the entire designed course. What can you do but smile when you feel that good?
Did I tell you about the cold and the wet and the wind? I should have mentioned it. As long as we were moving and being each others company the elements were secondary to the fun of the effort.
Once we got to the BBQ zone the elements came into play. I had somehow miscalculated when I left the motel that morning and all my warm clothes were a half hour drive away. Once my body stopped working hard it stopped putting out the heat that had kept me so comfortable. I almost hardly noticed because very soon a bunch of people were taking care of me. Sook got me a beer. Jim offered me his Leadville Finishers long sleeve sweat. Stan wrapped me in his Teva blanket. Maria brought me a hamburger. And soon I was sitting on the tail gate of a wagon eating, drinking, munching, laughing and knowing in my soul that Life is good! It was raining hard and it had not warmed up and all my friends, old and brand new, were making sure Life is good!
There was an awards ceremony, under strung tarps, between two trees, with the wind and rain whipping around and making mush of Chris' words. There seemed to be lots of awards and it was hard to tell for what and it didn't matter much anyway. Everybody was happy. I mean everybody. If you weren't happy you had left already. Then it was over. Not the glow but the gathering.
The bonding experience continued into the night. Foreplayers gathered here and there, sucking on beers, eating pizzas, telling stories, being friends.
It just doesn't get any better than this.
Richard, mahalo nui loa for leading me into this wonderful weekend.
Chris, Maria, Sook, Mike, Colleen, Stan, Jim, Todd, Howard, Wolfie, Femi, Deborah, Lorraine, Wayne, Ann, Chaennnon, Vickie, Pat, Ron, Joe, Lee. Wini and everybody else who I met and whose name I can't remember: It was great!
Life is good! and keeps on getting better all the time.