Sunday, May 03, 2009

Me Watch Miwok

After Coyote Two Moons, where she was first woman in the 100K, Meredith and I were talking about our upcoming races and she through out the idea of pacing her at Miwok. I'd just finished a miserable race and so didn't give it much serious thought at the time. However, later, via email, she brought it up again and I let her know that due to my family schedule it would have to be a last minute decision. She was totally fine with me just showing up if I could since she wasn't planning for a pacer, but would be very happy to have me "kick her ass up the final climbs" (her words) in order to help attain her hopes of a PR on this course. With less than a week before the race, my schedule opened up and I let her know I would be there for at least the final 13 miles from Pantoll, but would try to get all the way to Bolinas for the full 20 miles. I was excited to be part of this race having run it the last two years, but didn't get in this time due to its popularity now requiring a lottery.

The term "trail carnage" is well known to ultrarunners and usually applies to a situation where a large number of runners drop from a race due to unexpectedly extreme conditions. Here in California it is commonly due to hot weather especially if we have an early-season heat wave. Diablo 50 is the traditional season opener for hot races and, from all reports, this year was no different. However, as the Miwok 100K rolled around two weeks later, the weather gods seemed to have something a bit different in store. A storm was rolling in to Northern California and set to hit on the very weekend of the race. As I headed up to Pantoll with Victoria, another pacer, in my Jeep, the rain continued to pick up. Standing around in the parking lot, it was clear the runners were going get drenched. In fact, we saw a few drop right then and there as the weather took its toll. It turned out not to be that cold at the start so many were unprepared for the much tougher conditions further out on the course. Meredith came in looking strong. However, I was a bit worried as she also looked cold having worn just a tank up to this point and not having a jacket with her at all. She grabbed a long-sleeved shirt and headed out on the ridge. I told her we were still looking for a ride, but were still hoping to be at Bolinas.

We managed to catch a ride with the crew of a runner that Victoria knew and headed out to Bolinas in a nice heated SUV. We had been joking about the impropriety of pacers coming down with hypothermia before they even start their duties. We were happy that our new friends had no problem letting us hang out inside the car after arriving at our destination. The rain was still coming down quite hard and this aid station looked to be in the middle of a growing swamp. A little after 11am I decided to step outside and see what was up. The leaders should have gone through on their return trip and Meredith should be heading out to towards turnaround 7 miles away. I figured I could get some idea how things were going before there were too many runners heading in both directions.

No sooner did I step up to the aid station than I heard a voice calling my name. I knew a lot of people at this race so I wasn't sure if it was someone running, crewing or volunteering. I looked around and then I saw her. Burried beneath a wool cap and blankets was Meredith looking cold and defeated. To make a long story short, she had come through Bolinas, but couldn't stop shivering from the cold. Somewhere along the muddy fireroad she realized that continuing would be putting herself at risk and wisely returned to the aid station. There was a guy sitting next to her covered in an emergency space blanket. We found a volunteer to give us a ride back to Pantoll where my Jeep was parked. We got in the car and were joined by a third runner.

Even with the heat blasting in a crowded car Meredith was still having trouble warming up, but her spirits started to lift a bit. I teased her that the problem being her 0% body fat. She was really just kicking herself for lack of planning; she knew the decision to drop was the right one. After a little while conversation began to flow and I asked if she knew who was leading the race. Meredith said that it was Geoff Roes from Alaska. At that, the guy sitting next to her leaned over and, in a voice both tired and hoarse, said "No, I'm not." A very awkward silence ensued.

We both felt terrible. I don't know if it was so much that we were embarassed for not knowing who he was or if we just felt bad that we'd put him in the situation of feeling the need to explain. We offered condolences, but tried not to pry. Geoff, however, was more than gracious and launched into his story of what had happened. Being an Alaskan, it certainly wasn't the weather that brought him down, but rather stomach issues. You can read the full account on his blog now as I don't know that I could do it justice. In the end, Geoff's would just be one story among many as this day would end early for people in the front, middle and back of the running pack.

Eventually we made it back to Pantoll. Meredith and the other guy (afraid I can't recall his name) hopped in my Jeep to head to Rodeo. Geoff hooked up with his crew. We arrived at the start/finish and awaited runners coming in. I told Tia, the RD, that she had an extra volunteer if she needed me. With that, I was immediately sent off to Starbucks to buy a big container of hot coffee for the deluge of freezing runners who would soon be coming into the finish area. Results have been posted online. Eric Grossman from Virginia came in first then local runner Victor Balesteros and then Scott Jaime from Colorado. On the women's side, it was Kami Semick taking her 4th win at this race though this time she took the lead with less than 2 miles to go. Anita Ortiz of Colorado came in second woman and then local phenom Caitlin Smith took 3rd in her first effort at this distance. She is definitely one to watch.

The rest of the day was spent watching runners come in and chatting with friends. I made another run to Starbucks for another 2.5 gallons of coffee as the first went rather quickly. With around 50 no-shows at the start and a DNF number that topped 60, this was one of the lowest finisher rates in Miwok history. There were a lot of very cold, wet runners at the finish, but also plenty of smiling faces on all was said and done. Miwok is one of the classics in the California ultra scene and I was happy to be a part of it no matter what role I got to play. Congrats to everyone who was out there on Saturday.

1 comment:

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Good title! I was one of those well enough endowed with body fat to be in no danger of hypothermia or shivering, but the cold and sloppy conditions slowed me down anyway. What a disappointment. I think I should have known better- if anyplace is going to be stormy, it would be the Headlands. Should have prepared for it better.

Glad you got to be part of the experience anyhow.