Coyote Ridge, 2013

(What happened to the reports for weeks 39-42, you ask? Frankly not much was happening and I just didn't have an inspiration to write. My pedantic self will have to live with this hole in my running autobiography ;-).

Last Sunday I had the Coyote Ridge 50K race coming up. I was looking forward to this race for two reasons. Firstly, I run the same course last year, so finally I would have a benchmark to compare against (comparing between different 50K races is tricky, as different routes and elevation gains can make quite a difference). Secondly, this was supposed to be my test for the Chimera 100 miler. Two weeks before I ended up not running the Diablo trail run, as my ankle did not feel 100% and I didn't want to risk another injury. So Coyote Ridge, mere 4 weeks before Chimera, was my last chance to do a test run and see whether I can face the daemon.

My training leading up to this race wasn't ideal, so my goals were modest. The main goal, and one that I promised myself to meet if I were to run the Chimera, was just to finish without getting injured in a reasonable time (reasonable here being below 6 hours). I was hoping to better my result from the previous year but that wasn't as clearly defined a goal as I initially thought. You see, last year I finished in 5:57:42, but I got lost on the way and ended up doing at least 2K extra. Which means that if I didn't my time would be closer to 5:40 and that seemed like a good goal to aim for. Another complication was that the course was a bit different this year.

As usual I could not sleep before the race, tossing and turning in bed for hours. I got up around 5am and at this time of the year it was not only pitch dark outside but also pretty cold. The drive went pretty smoothly and I ended up being there 1 hour before the race, just as I planned -- possibly the first time ever when that happened :D. I took my time registering, taking care of morning business and... still had some time to kill so I ended up reading a book for a bit ;).

Finally it was time to get to the start line. By that time the dark was receding but it was still freezingly cold and stripping down to a t-shirt and shorts was challanging. But it got better shortly after we took off.

Around 2K into the race I saw a marathon runner huffing and puffing as if he was fighting for his life. I was walking the hills and he was trying to run them and yet we were repeatedly overtaking each other. Every time I was passing him I felt like telling him to take it easy; that the race has only started. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that without sounding patronizing. I guess this is a lesson that we all need to learn on our own. But I suspected that the guy would be in a lot of trouble later during the race and wouldn’t be surprised if he DNF’ed (after the race I checked: he did finish, although slower than I did the 50K; still I have nothing but respect for him as I’m sure the end must have been a nightmare for him).

The race consisted of a 20 mile loop and then a repeat of a smaller loop of approximately 10 miles. For a long time I was going at a great pace but, inevitably, the crisis came. It came relatively early, before the end of the first big loop. And then at the end of that loop my leg suddenly hurt like hell; as if I was stung by a giant mosquito. My hand instinctively went to that spot and a second later it was my hand hurting too. At that point I saw what was up: I was stung (twice) by a bee. I really don't know what I did to deserve that but it certainly wasn't enjoyable.

From then on it was mostly business as usual. I was running out of fuel and was just trying to survive till the end. Shortly after the beginning of the first lap I was overtaken by a guy who then sped onwards in, what I thought, was wrong direction. I shouted to him but he seemed confident he was going the right way and continued. Now I was faced with a dilemma. Should I follow him or go "my way"? Admittedly I don't have the best track record when it comes to navigation during races so going after him seemed to be a safe bet; so I went my way ;). Almost immediately I started regretting that decision as I was imagining discovering that I got lost yet again, just like last year... but not this time. I was right, he was wrong.

Shortly afterwards I started having a minor knee problem. It wasn't too bad so all it did was to slow me down even further; or perhaps just giving me an excuse to do so ;). Survival mode from then on. I finished in 5:45, 7th overall (out of 25 finishers so nothing to be proud of ;). As always I was much slower on the second part of the race. What gave me little consolation was that this happens even to the best guys out there, as it happened this time to a fellow Googler, Robert, who's regularly winning those events (not this time though).

So I guess I kinda passed the test for the 100-miler. Am I ready, though? Time will tell :). Still a couple of weeks left to squeeze in some last hours of training :).

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