Well, this one is for the books. This year’s C2M race is one to remember for anybody that participated. Sat night at midnight the race director cancel the race due to unsafe conditions when a blizzard and high winds. The RD had the daunting task of getting everybody down the ridge safely. Organizers and volunteers were so busy trying to keep the shivering runners warm scattered in 3 different aid stations that nobody realized I was missing, lost and desperately tying to find shelter.
Pre race activities included an evening of bowling and if you wore the best costume could earn you bonus points, the picnic had us all singing, fail to join in the fun and you earn boner points, it was amazing watching such serous runners like Karl Metltzer so relaxed bowling in a costume just days before that race. Make no mistake; the race is competitive and very challenging. The race package included great quality items such a Patagonia jacket but the majority of the items on the loot bag were useless items such a stir stick from a cheap hotel bar, last year’s calendars, or irrelevant pamphlets from places that aren’t even in the area .
I started on the M3 group; we start from slowest to fastest with the intention that everybody finishes in a 4hr window. My start time was Friday at midnight, two previous groups first as early as 6pm, while Howard drove to the start and tried to nap for a few hours, I ended up trying to relax back at the room watching my favorite novela Eva Luna .Jack and John kept me company pretending to be interested on the story line when they knew and I knew the only reason why they let me changed the channel was that Latin soap actress are easy on the eye.
Finally at 11:30 I decided to go to the start line at Thatcher School field, It had been raining already, I was dreading it for many reasons, I was hugely undertrained and the weather forecast was calling for a storm Sunday morning so while I stood there in the rain with 10 other runners in the rain waiting for our start and I was already questioning my decision. As soon as they waved us good-bye and we set off I could feel my excitement increasing and I started forgetting about the rain. I stayed behind with Mark and Ty who insisted on calling me Ramona, it was hard to see with all the fog but it helped that the road was wide enough to run chorus line like and all three head torches complimented each other. I found the course challenging in the way that is hardly ever flat, either straight up or down, but not very technical, at least not the first 50 miles. It was fun running together and howling at the moon, a C2M tradition I am told. The 10.9 mile trail to Sisar Canyon was almost without incident, 100 yards from the air station a creek had spilled over the road and form a pond right in the middle, I slipped and fell getting wet, when I arrived to the CP yelling “ my bike, where is my bike” they looked at me wondering what I was I saying, “I didn’t realized it was a triathlon, I done the swim part now I need my bike.”
Next was Topa Aid station on mile 17.2, I started falling behind, the chilly night and wet clothes where a horrible combination, again it was a steep climb ,when I arrived I was mildly hypothermic, I was really disappointed that I could potentially drop out so early, thankfully volunteers were kind, they took my clothes and dried them on the bonfire and they sat me on a warm car wrapped in a blanked, in about an hr I was ready to head out again, with drier clothes and volunteer Matt’s socks.
By the time I was on my way to Rose Valley aid station I could see how far behind I had fallen, I was about two hour behind the group I had been running with, the only good thing was that Canadian Jenn Segger who had started at 3am was smoking the course, Jann is all class, i had the pleasure of going for some Mexican dinner with her and Bruce other Canadian and talented runner.
By the time I reach Topa Aid station and 32.4 miles later the very fast 100 runners such as Karl Meltzer had reach Topa for the first time and where already on their way to Rose Valley aid station, I had started 10 hrs earlier and in no time were going to pass me. As they went by I looked disappointed said, “ what? I am not going to win it?” One of them yelled as he was passing by,” Remember to hydrate and you just might!”
Even though it was a bit warmer I was still feeling a bit cold, and by now I had trouble keeping food or drink, out of nowhere the fastest registered female runner who was wearing a hat with a propeller tap me on the shoulder, as it is a C2M tradition, the fastest and slowest runners wear the hat, I had just been passed by the fastest female making me officially the slowest female on the course so I had to wear the hat, great, the only thing worse now I though is that if I got to Ridge Junction Aid station and I found out that my high school reunion was been held there AND my high school crush was still hot and recently single.
By the time I arrived I was shivering again, I sat there wondering if this time I was going to drop out, I sat there watching the 100K runners who had started Sat morning starting to come through. Again the volunteers went out of their way to warm me up and send me on my way, a few quesadillas later I stood there shivering ready to go when Luis Escobar pronounced “ lets make a vapor barrier out of a garbage bag!” so after 40 minutes wearing a garbage bag and the propeller hat I set out again, “living the dream” I thought. The most amazing thing was that not a single one of us thought “ wait a minute, this is a bad idea, maybe she should just go home” The truth is that while I had been previously been embarrassed because I was so slow, after almost dropping I was determined to finish.
It was back to Rose Valley Aid Station, by now it was raining again, I must have been a sight when I started descending to the next aid station, “ I know” I said when they smiled when I came around “ hard to believe I am still single” by the time I left the aid station the weather started turning for the worse, I was nervous, I had lost my map when I fell on the creek so I was now relying on course markings on the course and anybody that had participated on C2M, course markings are very few. As the weather turned and night came the last two runners who were behind me passed me, two elite runners who were tracking for a record finish, as they passed me I told them that I was know for my amazing negative splits so they shouldn’t write me off as competition so easily. As they passed they told me to turn right at the top of the road and turn left at the trail marking. By the time I go to the top of the ridge it was storming and I had trouble raising my head to see where I was going. I was worry since I was going to an area that I had not gone yet and was worry about missing the turn, after an hour I decided to turn back to Ridge Junction Aid station that I was sure it was the exact opposite direction. For 4 hours I struggle with the wind and the cold, by now I was desperate to find shelter, I decided to turn back to lower ground because the wind was picking up and I was worry that it was going to blow me off the mountain, I also started to hallucinate, I am sure because of the lack of sleep and dehydration, I saw army men on winter fatigues laying on the ground ready for action, the bushes turned into beasts and fought each other, bus stations, kids jumping rope, alligators, the hallucinations were incredibly detail, also fatigue and the cold was making me sleepy so I sang hard to force my brain to wake up, sadly the first song that came to mind was The Wheels on the Bus.
What to do? I needed to make a decision, I was still safe but I couldn’t possibly wait for anybody to come and find me, I didn’t know that they had already cancelled the race but it would have been irresponsible if they had allowed the race to continue. At this point I considered calling for help, I always carry my spot satellite for emergencies and I had my cell phone but I didn’t want to endangered the lives of rescuers unless it was absolutely necessary and at this point things were still under control, plus i had absolutely no idea where i was so it was going to take longer for them to find me that for me to find shelter. it would be an incredible irony that I have been in inhospitable places for races but it will be in California where I would be saved from a winter storm.
The one thing I decided to do was to find a road, Rose Valley Aid Station was at the parking lot of the park, I knew the had dismantled the aid station because we were not scheduled to go back but I notice a couple of guys that were camping, they had stood there watching us go through the gate with amusement, I was hoping that they were still there also there was a bathroom that I could use for shelter. As I started to run downhill the snow turned into heavy rain at lower altitude I knew that if the guys were not there I was in serious trouble, there is no such a thing as i couldn't run to save my life, after running over 50 miles i had no problem running hard, if i could only do that at races!
Fortunately when I got there about 45 min later,I could see two tiny tents, it was almost 1am so they were asleep for sure. For a few seconds I thought about how ridiculous it must look, been awakened by a strange woman wearing a garbage bag and a racing bib.
I told them that I needed help, fortunately Brian and Tony turned out to be Navy officers, they recognized that they needed to act fast, as soon as a stop running I got cold quickly, in a matter of minutes I was slurring my words, the boys took matter as seriously as an official mission.I was out of my clothing again (to clarify I always wear under armor sports underwear that look like biking shorts in case I need to change on a race, but listen to your mother and always wear clean undies) Brian later told me that when I started shaking and my eye rolled back he knew it was serious. They are both trained for medical emergencies so I could not have stumbled upon better help. After a change to dry clothing, water and some food I was feeling better, fatigued but I was still hallucinating so the boys chaperoned me to the race start to notify the RD that I was safe and sound and to pick up my car, then later drove me and my car to my hotel because i was not in driving shape, I am telling you chivalry is not dead, Brian and Tony's wives are very lucky women.
I arrived to my room close to 2am and my roommates arrived about 30 min later, one by one, Harold, John and Jack were all taking turns with the stories, Harold was showing signs of hypothermia as well, apparently I talked lengthy but made little sense.
The next morning we woke up to the damage, fallen trees everywhere, most of C2M crew vehicles had to be left at the ridge, the roads disappeared on the mud slides and they called a group to volunteer to bring down a radio guy who was unable to get down by himself, I looked at my shoes quickly but Harold was not as fast as I was and ended up helping bring him down.
Overall, there were no serious injuries, amazing considering that there were about 100 participants and some of them where caught by the storm wearing nothing but shorts and singlet. There was talk of this been the last of C2M’s edition since last year weather created havoc as well, not sure I agree with that. Trail races especially ultras always carry a degree of danger, is part of the allure, if I was somebody that didn’t want that kind of risk I would sign for a road race. Besides from the incredible discomfort the fact that I managed to remain calm tells me that this is were I belong, sure there were times while I was running wild to try and find help that I thought, “damn, I need to quit doing this to myself” but I knew that that was not possible anymore, at dinner last night, sharing a bottle of wine with Harold and Jack the talked turned to races that we had done and I could feel my heart rate go up with excitement at the talk of some races that I haven’t done but are on my bucket list, they don’t call it passion for nothing.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller.