Sunday, December 09, 2012

Coyote Ridge 55K

Today Beat and I headed out to Muir Beach for the Coyote Ridge 50K, to run for fun. Because this is what we like to do for fun — gather with a few hundred of our (maybe not quite) best friends and take a whole day to run in beautiful locales and savor endorphin buzzes and little paper cups of defizzed Coke. Fifty kilometers is a great distance — long enough to be a challenge, but short enough that I feel relatively strong the whole time and it never has to devolve into a slog.

The Coyote Ridge 50K was actually my tenth of 2012 (I am counting the Diablo Marathon in this list because that race was as hard as any 50K I've run this year, but technically only 28.5 miles.) Add the seven I ran from December 2010 to December 2011, and that's seventeen 50Ks in my ~two years of being a runner. You'd think I had this distance figured out by now, but it seems like there's always something to trip me up (usually literally; it is trail running after all.) Someday I'll fully race a 50K and perhaps everything will go perfectly. Until then, I do have fun.

Coyote Ridge is a tough one, with 7,200 feet of climbing racked up during hands-on-knees-worthy grades, with a few flat sections. My plan was to keep a moderate pace and just enjoy the day — not kill myself like I did at Mount Tam last month. As it turned out, this was not my day for luck, per say, but it was a fantastic day for taking photos:

Beat look uncharacteristically intense at the chilly starting line — with dabs of sunscreen on his face.

Over-the-shoulder candid shot of the excitement of mile one.

It seems you can't pull a camera out and spend thirty seconds shooting from the side of a trail without someone asking you if they can take your photo ... at least where I fall in the pack.

Ah, I do enjoy a good sun flare.

Descending into Tennessee Valley.

Climbing out of Tennessee Valley. There's actually a lot more singletrack on this course than these pictures make it appear. Whenever we were on singletrack, I was usually too busy negotiating rocks, mud, wet leaves, steps, or a combination of all four, to pull out my camera.

The mist on the ridge had an ethereal effect.

An enchanted eucalyptus forest.

View of the big city.

And then the ocean. This photo was taken a good ten miles after the last one. My camera didn't come out for a while again because, as I was descending the Coastal Trail into Rodeo Valley, I started chatting with a woman from Sacramento who was in the race, and two guys who probably weren't (in other words, just out for a run.) We crossed onto the pavement and kept running west on the road until we reached Rodeo Lagoon. At that point I knew we missed the turnoff and went too far, because the aid station was up on the ridge and the Lagoon was on the other side of a three-mile section we hadn't seen. I called out to the woman, who by that point was about thirty feet ahead, but I don't think she heard me (or perhaps pretended not to.) No matter. If I turned around and ran back the way we came, I'd eventually see the pink ribbons of the trail cut-off. I ran a mile and a half back up the road with no sign of ribbons, and started to feel deeply confused. I make the worse kind of lost person, because I tend to get slightly panicked and lose much of my capacity for sense and reason. I *should* have just backtracked to the point of the trail where I last saw ribbons, but instead I became convinced of a parallel reality where all the ribbons are gone and how will I ever find the right way that is the only way for me to make it back to Muir Beach alive? I wasn't really that panicked, but I definitely didn't want to log my first-ever 50K DNF on account of getting lost. So I turned around again and jogged back to the Coastal Trail, where I found a veritable Christmas tree of pink ribbons pointing to a turn up another trail that never even touched the road. Whoops.

The volunteers at the next aid station confirmed I had run three bonus miles. Oh well. That just meant I had longer to stay out enjoying this beautiful day. The next seven miles were rough as the course followed a steep series of rolling trails and I developed a harsh case of IT band tightness. I slowed my pace because I figured if I already added 35-45 minutes to my finishing time while running aimlessly back and forth across Rodeo Valley, there was no need to kill myself.

And I nearly kept that promise. I took this self portrait at mile 29, I was the homestretch, IT bands unlocked, running fine, feeling strong, and then, less than two minutes later, this happened:

Full header. Yeah, maybe my feet were dragging a bit, and maybe I was looking around at the scenery rather than at the ground. I didn't even feel my foot catch that rock, and I was halfway to the dirt before I realized what was happening. Those few inches weren't enough to catch the fall, so the whole right side of my body hit the hard rocky trail, including my face. I jammed my right pinkie finger into a rock and thought I dislocated the middle knuckle (I didn't, but it hurts a lot.) Scraped and bruised my leg, hip, and shoulder, and ripped my shirt. Angry. I was also holding my camera in my right hand. That's probably why I jammed my finger so hard, because I was gripping the camera until the last millisecond and let go too late to save my hand. I didn't even realize the power was on, but it must have been, because it took this photo sometime during the tumble. I spent several minutes tonight trying to figure out what this could possibly be. I can't find these numbers on any of the clothing I was wearing. It's almost as though the camera took a picture of itself, in a fifth-dimensional Twilight Zone way, as I was falling to the ground. Although I wish I'd brought my good camera for this run, it's best I didn't. The Sony CyberShot DSC may have its (many) limitations, but it can take a beating.

A minute later, some of the blood trickling from my forehead was getting into my eye, so I decided to wipe my face with a Wet Wipe. Sting. I grabbed another photo where I stopped, and it turned out to be my favorite of the day, because the sky is so dramatic and the light is rich (it was, after all, sorta late in the afternoon by this point.) Also, the disheveled appearance and new dirt on my shoulder strap tell a story of a day well spent.

Alas, two miles later, all the endorphins wore off, and my punishment was to spend the "bonus" miles of 31 to 34 in pain, mostly in my hand, but also in my bruised leg whenever the trail trended downhill. Blah. But if you cut out the last 5K, and really I should to make it an even 50K, Coyote Ridge was great fun.

**I also wrote a new post for Half Past Done about the Bryce 100, a new 100-mile run near Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, slated for next May. 


  1. I thought of you this morning Jill, I encountered "snain" on my bike ride. I have to say, I miss your Alaska biking adventures, I even printed your blog! Hope you'll be pain free soon.

  2. I just googled 1/28 and it spit out Genesis 1:28:

    "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

    So maybe God is saying, you go girl, like, totally dominate! Kick some fish butt! Outrun some fowl!

    And, eat lots of fruit.

    1/28 might also be a lens ratio.

  3. It would be just like God to send a hurty, cryptic message when a simple text would do.

    But, 1/28 is clearly a fraction denoting division whereas Gen 1:28 clearly orders multiplication.

    No, Jill's camera captured some sort of metaphysical captcha.

    God is just trying to figure out if she's human, given her superhuman feats of endurance.

  4. Jill wept.

    Maybe this is a cautionary parable against leaving the narrow path (single track) for the wide road that leads to destruction (road racing).


  5. Beat wearing a very cool "Tors Des Geants" wind vest - way to go!!!

  6. Once when I was showshoeing I fell (on a flat trail, of course) while holding my camera. I let go of the camera as I fell and put out my hands to absorb some of the impact. My forehead ended up landing right at the same spot the camera did. The result was a damaged camera and a bleeding forehead. I couldn't even dress the wound, because I was solo and didn't have a mirror. It was that incident which inspired me to start carrying a small mirror in my first aid kit, in fact.

  7. crazy how all those 50ks add up. 17 is an impressive number for a snowbiker.


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