Coyote 4 Play - February 19-22, 2004
More Fun than You Can Stand
Thursday: The Teaser Run and BJ’sDon and I had been looking forward to Coyote 4 Play ever since last May, when we found out it was definitely on again. For the past couple years, there were threats of never holding it again. We have attended this event every year since 2001. Our first time, we didn't know what to expect and took the expectation of full mileage very seriously. The format was (and is this year) four days of running: 7 miles, 50 miles, 40 miles, and a 50K. There are also options for shorter distances by taking different routes. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday start and finish in Point Mugu State Park. Friday's run is on trails in mountains in Ojai. Each night after the run, everyone gets together for food and entertainment. I guess it's like running camp, but not so serious.
We left Thursday morning and drove down highway 101 to Oxnard. We never know how long the drive will take. It is always quicker than we expect. The run started at 2:30. We arrived at around 1:00 pm. The drive only took 5 hours! We checked into the Best Western Oxnard. This hotel has been used by C4P almost every time we’ve been down here.
In the park, a new thing was that we had to pay $3.00 for parking. I didn’t mind because parks always need more money. It was fun saying hi to everyone. Hugs all around. I hugged Howard and he gave us our “goodie” bags. We noted the famous people who had turned up. We would get to meet them later. The task at hand was to get our butts up the hill and around the mountain for a 7 mile run. The course goes up La Jolla Canyon, veers to the right, up along the ridge for a little ways, and then down the Ray Miller Trail. Chris Scott, the fearless leader, gave us directions that we should just keep turning right, and if we turned left we were stupid.
It had rained during the week. The trails were soft but not sloppy (yet). Don ran ahead of me. I had to pause when the trail opened up after going through the trees and undergrowth. The view to the left was the big valley that we would be running through on Saturday and Sunday. I was happy to be out there again. Up the trail I could see Don was running with Ann Grove. Wayne had caught up to me and we were chatting away. Ann and Wayne are a great running couple. I am impressed with their light-footedness on the trail. We caught up to Don, and then Ann and Wayne continued on while I slowed down. We finally came down the Ray Miller. It is difficult the first day because it is so tempting to just fly the trail, but we all know that many more miles are in store, so just take it easy. As we returned to the parking lot, other runners who had finished yelled for me to beat Don, so I grabbed his arm and passed him at the last second. Maybe that is a problem with this weekend--people will do whatever anyone tells them to do. After hanging around some more, we realized we better go get ready for dinner. We were talking with Mike, and Sook, who we found out is older than she looks. We figured her for somewhere around 30. I won’t tell how old she really is. She looks awesome for her age.
BJ’s Brewery was the venue. We got to meet the famous people: Blake Wood, Dave Horton, and all the regulars from the run, some of whom we hadn’t seen since last time. It was nice to get reacquainted. We all helped ourselves to heaps of pasta and settled in for speeches.
Chris gave out his selection of starting night awards. Part of it was just to make fun of the people who had added creative artwork to their entry forms (by request or demand). He found an award for me, since I had protested the name of our bowling team (the Secessionists??) and demanded to be called the Zombies, he gave me a shirt that said “Bite Me” for whining. Lee and Wini joined us. Lee had hurt his back before Coyote and was moving slowly. They are joyous runners. C4P is all about the people. Akabill and Blake Wood were taking pictures. So was Don. Akabill was getting carried away though. He just couldn’t sit down. Blake Wood was awarded the Blood Cloaking Device coveralls for being the only one to “draw blood” on the course. He happily put it on.
The last part of the night was when Bill Kee had to tell us about the course for the next day. It was a slightly different route from last year. The long course was 50 miles, then there were choices that would get you anywhere from 30 to 47 miles. Chris was blabbing about Topo Topo and how everyone should go up there. That was a new section. Bill had hand-drawn a map that he stuck up on the wall. He explained the course in detail, including what was not the course. Chris rolled his eyes and made motions for Bill to get on with it.
We left knowing we needed more food, plus food for the next day. We bought a bunch of junk: Red Bull, diet Coke, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Bugles, Cheetos, and a Slurpee.
Friday: The 50 Mile Day (for some) and Talent Night (for some)We decided to get up early so that we would have time for breakfast at Denny’s. I don’t know why, but Chris insists on getting out to the Ojai course by driving as a caravan from Denny’s. I guess he wants breakfast. Don had eggs, sausage, and hash browns. I had French toast and a little coffee. Rick and Barb had their breakfast.
It was a lot of cars going up Highway 33 at 5:00 am. The run was scheduled to start at 6:15. We took a nap after we got to the parking. We were roused at 6:09. Oops. We quickly assembled ourselves. The trail goes up from Cozy Dell and around to the right. It seemed mostly uphill. I paused to sort things out, drop in some eye drops, and re-tie shoes, and carried on. I think I was bringing up the rear. The course turns to go down to the bottom of Gridley, where Chris had an aid station, and then the course comes back up. On this out and back I saw various people, including Don. When I made it to the bottom, I refilled my water bottles and headed out. After a ways Don came back past me again, returning to the aid station. He had forgotten his water, but I think they were all happy to see him again.
The climb to the top of Gridley is long. Don was faster than I was. I felt slow. Bill van Antwerp and two women (Cheri and Lynn) were behind me. They started singing whatever they could think of, “row row row your boat,” “happy trails,” “don’t fence me in,” and later, “singing in the rain” (when it started to rain a little). The weather was not great but at least it wasn’t pouring on us. Finally, we made it to the top and the next aid station. These guys were well-stocked. We continued on a fire road that goes along the ridge for 6 miles to the next aid station.
Ann and Wayne were a little ways ahead of us. The weather was very cold. I wondered if I was dressed warmly enough. I had little gloves, shorts, a long sleeve top, and a rain jacket, a hat and ear warmer band. Ann and Wayne decided it was too cold and turned around. I was jealous. But it did warm up along the ridge. By the time I got to Bill’s aid station, I had forgotten all about the cold. Bill had a fire going. He made tortillas with little smokies in them. We headed out again on the fire road. The temperature wasn’t bad, but I was sure white stuff was coming down from the sky. Yes it definitely was. Don, it’s snowing. It seemed magical, swirling around us and barely sticking on the ground. I tried seeing how much I could catch on my tongue. Not enough.
The fire road rolled along and eventually we came to Maria’s aid station. They looked cold. We then turned around to go back the way we came. It seemed uphill on the way back even though it was all uphill the other way. We were happy to see Bill’s fire again. He made us wonderful burritos. It would have been nice to stay, but we carried on. The longer we stopped, the longer it took to warm up again. We took the same fire road back to the aid station at the Top o’ Gridley. This time they had busted out the venison sausage. I think it was Charlie who said, “you go girl” when I reached in for some. Then we realized they had grilled cheese sandwiches, and, oh, that was heaven. I couldn’t have asked for anything more at an aid station.
The rest of the way back was not much farther (7 or 9 miles?) and still beautiful and still not that late. At the finish, we got to have great cheese and jalapeno quesadillas and I was happy to discover Diet Coke in the cooler. With all the great food at the aid stations, we barely touched the Hammer Gel we had been carrying with us.
We showered quickly and dressed again to head out for talent night. The venue was Sandy’s and the food was Mexican. Somebody pondered, why would they feed ultrarunners beans? For talent, the Canadians did translations of some common terms from American to Canadian to French to Dutch (or something like Dutch). Joe Clapper showed us his beer gut along with a stand up routine. The two trail singing ladies got their ponies and sang “happy trails” to us. Barb found a partner to twirl batons with her, to Chris’ favorite tune of “Night Fever.” Blake awarded the Blood Cloaking Device coveralls to akabill. There was additional accompanying paraphernalia, including a gnarly rooted stick and Blake’s toenail on a trail ribbon. What a memento for aka! Don got a special award for partaking of various beverages at the bottom of Gridley aid station. I was so proud. Most people laughed so hard that night that their cheeks hurt. From what I heard, this was the theme of the whole weekend--the sorest muscles afterwards were the laughing ones! After dinner, we bought munchie food to take back to the room and breakfast burritos for the next day. I wondered how far Don would want to run. I didn’t want excessive running to cut into the fun!
Saturday, the 40 mile day and bowling (Yeaaah!)Saturday, we started off really sloooow. I don’t mean just Don and me. I mean everyone. The course went up La Jolla Canyon and to the left around Mugu Peak. I had to make a bunch of adjustments and found myself running last. I found two people at the intersection where we had turned right on Thursday. “Where are you going?” I asked. They were taking the short way home, straight over to Ray Miller. They were smart. But I went left like I was supposed to. After more eye drops and some pain, I was finally sorted out in time for the great gradual downhill around the peak. Beautiful trail. Then we cut through the valley in the tall grass. I saw Pat Devita up ahead. When I passed her, she said she was determined to get out to Butt Crack rock. I also passed Dave, a calm runner who always has a slight smile on his face.
When I came to the fire road leading up to the cross roads, there was Don, hanging out. I hadn’t expected him to wait at all, figuring he would do 40 miles and I didn’t want to spend that much time out there. But the good news was that Don would get me to go down Guadalasco instead of short cutting it down Hell Hill. While Hell Hill goes pretty much straight down, Guadalasco goes up to the ridge and then comes down on great switchbacks. In warmer weather, there would be tons of mountain bikers out there. We didn’t see any, not until we were heading up the Coyote trail. I had a vague memory of this section from last year, that maybe there was an unpleasant surprise. Don had missed this part last year, so he was asking questions. I said that the trail had a lot of uphill and then just when you thought you were done and heading down, it went uphill again. Ha ha. We caught up to some mountain bikers on one of the steepest parts. When they saw us coming they tried getting on their bikes, but they just sort of fell over as we ran past. Then we had to keep up a good pace so they wouldn’t pass us. We found their friends waiting for them on the next ridge. “Oh you’ve embarrassed our friends.” They were laughing. We told them a little about all the running and they were amazed that we had run so far and that we just cruised past their buddies.
When we reached Sook and Maria’s aid station, they were packing up, but happy to get out stuff again so we could finish off the Coke and cookies. It would be less for them to take back. They lied to us about being at 18 miles and then we headed off. This was where the long and short route split. They directed us toward the shorter course, since it was getting late in the day. I remembered parts of this route. We went past a house with a dog that looked aggressive but didn’t bark. The trails wound around and then went up.
The aid station was at the bottom of the trail that goes up to Butt Crack rock. We started chugging Coke and eating whatever we could find. I figured there must be something going on in that little tent--yes, Sook and Maria might have lied about the distance, but they did not lie about the promise of grilled cheese sandwiches. Just as we were about to put in our order (Krissy and Rob were ahead of us), Chris started yelling about people having sandwiches before Butt Crack. Not allowed! You have to go up and down the trail first. Then when you got back you were allowed. So we ran off. Chris said we should just go to Butt Crack and not to the top. Don wanted to go to the top, a total of 3 miles up. Chris thought about it and said we probably had enough time before he had to pack up. I was looking at him--what was that look? Sort of a grimace I guess. Don was behind me and asked if I was smiling. We compromised on the distance and agreed that he could go up as fast as he liked, I’d take it easy, and when I met him on his way down that’s where I could turn around. That way we wouldn’t lose time to my slower pace and I could save my energy.
The trail beyond Butt Crack was kind of neat, maybe because it was less traveled. The bushes had grown tall and the terrain was varied. We made it back down in time to get our grilled cheese sandwich, made by Brandon. We got the last one! Next we headed out on the old Boney trail to go through the valley and over to the canyon. At first it all seemed familiar. We found Lee and Wini out on the ridge top. They had the “vibrators” from the goodie bags with them. They had hiked up a shorter route so they could see some scenery and the runners. We continued on. The trail crisscrossed a dry creek a bunch of times. I remembered this from our first Coyote, but not from the year before. Somehow I had an image of just running through grass and down a hill and then coming to the canyon. Eventually, we hit the fire road, where there were trail markings, and realized that last year we must have gone the wrong way.
As we trotted down the fire road, we had the option of taking a right turn up Fireline (aka the Overlook trail), or continuing straight. Going right would add 2 miles. We continued straight. Laura and Glenn came down the Fireline trail only a few yards in front of us. We made fun of them for running all that and only making about 5 yards of progress. Laura said she had wanted to jump from the top of Fireline to the final hill, which was really close. We walked to the aid station. The volunteers were happy to see us, I think because their job was almost done. After the aid station we took a right turn to head straight up to Cardiac, a very steep climb. We were lucky it hadn’t been raining much. I had imagined with all the earlier rain there would just be a pile of bodies that had slipped down the hill after attempting it. You almost have to use your hands to get up, it’s that steep. Don said how it’s so much easier when it’s not in hot weather--it doesn’t seem bad at all. Yeah right. But once up Cardiac, you get to run down Ray Miller, which is usually fun, but guess what? Yes, the rains had affected this trail. There were some areas of slippy sloppy stuff. It wasn’t terrible though. We’ve certainly run on worse. But it wasn’t sweet Ray Miller anymore.
Because we’d cut out a little mileage, we finished with time to spare. That meant we could head to the hotel Jacuzzi. I wasn’t too sure about how great it would be in the pouring rain, which had just started, but it was worth a try. Right after we had finished our run, we had more special food from Bill. He was cranking out soft tacos with all kinds of fixins’ and while you waited there were little smokies for appetizers, specially spiced. It was the best food ever, once again. When we got to the Jacuzzi, Laura was already there and the water was hot. We got her to talk about GU for a while. (Her dad is the inventor.) She has a lot of faith in it, which is cool to hear. We stayed in the tub a while. It was great.
Finally we had to go get ready for bowling. Yes, bowling is more mandatory than the running at C4P. We had our special bowling shirts, too. People had nicknames on their shirts. Lee and Wini were on our team again this year, plus another fellow Californian named Chris. Since Lee had hurt his back though, we got Jerry as a substitute bowler. Jerry and Chris were both good bowlers, and seemed to be on their way to throwing strikes. But then I took my shirt off to show my special ZombieRunner jog bra. It was supposed to distract the other team, but I think instead it threw off our own team. And my own bowling just stayed gutter ball bad. Lisa “Sweetness” on the other team said, “Oh yeah?” and took off her top to show a black tank top. Then a couple of the guys took their tops off. I think if the place had been warmer, we might have had a better ripple effect through all the bowling lanes. Tropical John got a strike from taking his shirt off. My plan really backfired. Oh well. We finished not last (not first either) and went over to the room where the food was.
We got pizza and settled down for Chris’ presentation of awards. There were special prizes for bowling and there was the passing of the BCD coveralls. Luis entertained us with his story about the mini bull testosterone award, which he cherished as the highest honor (no one has one of these, this is the highest honor, hell, they pass out those Western States cougars left and right, look there’s Scott, you’ve got, what five of those things?) but Luis had to pass it on to Luanne, who had somehow out-testosteroned him. He got a crock pot to make up for it, and ran around with it like it was the World Cup trophy. The new people got the best stuff, as they should. There was a selection of nice Patagonia stuff on the table for them. Chris said that’s to sucker them, ah, convince them to come back next year.
On our way back to the room we went to another convenience store and bought our selection of junk food. I got my Twinkies that I’d been craving since the bottom of Gridley. We bought a breakfast burrito and Hot Pocket for the morning. Then we watched some TV.
Sunday, sadly the last daySunday morning’s weather looked doubtful. It had rained all night and still looked bad. We gathered up lots of clothes and headed out with our breakfast. Well, it wasn’t that bad, I guess. We had to go up the not so sweet Ray Miller for this run. After the long very gradual climb, we went around the ridge and down a great switchback. Since I’d made a pit stop, I ran really fast (so I thought) to try and catch people on the downhill. But I didn’t. There was a mini aid station/check point and then we were on the route we came out on the day before, crisscrossing the dry creek. The trail was sheltered and went by fast. We caught up to two guys who were just standing talking. One of them said he was thinking about going back because he thought he had a stress fracture in his foot. He’d had one before. I talked to him a little bit, since I was a little concerned about my leg, too. We went on, while Cheri and Lynn (the singing ladies) caught up and talked to them. We heard Lynn telling him to get his butt going on the trail because she’d been running with a broken toe all week. So don’t be a cry baby.
Then we were on the exposed areas running through the grass and up to the ridge. I was in a bad mood. Don told me to say something uplifting. “At least it’s not cold.” It was pouring on us, and the trails were mushy. And uphill. When the trail turned downhill, I felt a bit better, but it was even more sloppy. I told Don, “This trail is ASS.” It doesn’t suck ass, it is ass. That made both of us laugh. Then we skidded our way down to where Maria and Sook were waiting with aid under a tarp. Standing in the rain has to be worse than running in it. We had a little discussion about the remaining route. The long way would be up Guadalasco, which is a bunch of switchbacks, or there was a shortcut straight up Hell Hill. I knew which way I’d rather go, but I figured Don would want the long course. Boy was I wrong! He was heading straight for Hell Hill. Right on. Maria and Sook eventually passed us, with packs on their backs containing all the aid station stuff.
At the top was Bill and Craig's crossroads aid station. Bill was happy with the little fire he’d built and Craig just looked worried. Bill offered smoked oysters and we got really excited. He said we were his favorite customers. He also found some mini-alcohols. The aid stations at C4P are very special. Our plan was then to head over to Ray Miller. Craig pointed out that there was a way that was shorter and would avoid sloppy Ray. We could continue straight ahead and then veer left to return through La Jolla Canyon. That was the way Sook and Maria were going. It sounded good to us. That meant we’d be done early enough to go back to the hotel and shower and then come back for the party, BBQ, and fun. I liked that idea better than running around for a long time and then not having a way to keep warm afterwards. We dilly dallied through the canyon and finished our run. We were offered burgers right away and scarfed them down before leaving. Some people were done already, but I think most were still out there. We took off to the hotel.
When we returned a lot more runners were finished. The weather had cleared--it was even partly sunny. We hung out for a while talking with everyone. We got to see the long-running hardcore people come in, including Blake Wood, who was running fast. Chris told him to take a lap around the parking lot, so he did. Ultrarunners really will do anything you tell them. We laughed a lot. Then as things were winding down, we talked about The Stick, a massage device that Don and I sell. I just so happened to have some in my car. We sold four. The Little Stick is compact so it was perfect for anyone who flew in. Then we got quiet. We heard this odd noise, which we all realized was coyotes howling. I’d seen the scat out there but not the animals. It sounded magical.
Later we were meeting at Yolanda's, a Mexican restaurant. We had enough time to go to the Jacuzzi beforehand. Jerry was there too. After a short soak we went off to dinner. Eventually we found the rest of the group and hung out laughing and eating. To finish off the night, we went back to the Jacuzzi (again!) and laughed some more. We were already talking about next year.
The next day Don and I were hungry for some tri-tip (after sleeping in pretty late). There was a place close to the hotel that seemed like it could be good. It was! Mitch and Terry went there too, just coincidence. She said it was the best. Food tastes great after running so much. Then we searched for a strawberry stand, because Oxnard is the strawberry capital of the world, or at least of California. We bought a flat of strawberries, which looked great and made the car smell great for the whole drive home. And wouldn’t you know it, the weather was beautiful that day.
As we drove home we talked about how great C4P was, and that we were already looking forward to next year. We started making up courses for putting on a local C4P. We wanted to expand the tradition!
Pictures are courtesy of Don Lundell. He has many more!
|Email me||© 2004 Gillian Robinson|