#341 Chimera 100 2014 - Race Report

Chimera 100 - Buckle #26 earned! This 100 is subtitled "The Beast" and although its not in the ultra tough category of the likes of Hardrock, Bear, Wasatch etc it's just a tick back. Was supposed to have 20000' of up but a forest fire rendered part of the course unusable and the new route was up to over 23000' of climb (and descent!) and only goes up to about 6000' so enough to make me puff like a steam train but not high enough to cause any worries. To put this in perspective for UK readers that's about 8 times Beachy Head Marathon, or SDW100, NDW100 & TP100 combined. We started off with 24 miles or so on tight single track which was pretty gnarly and followed that with another 22 mile out and back on a different gnarly single track, was cold first thing, but roasting in the afternoon and in an act of stunning daftness I managed to take so long to finish the second leg that it was nigh on pitch black (was a 13.5 hour night) luckily I caught up with the legend that is Ed Ettinghausen and he lent me a back up torch to get us back to base.

With this 100 the game is simply to get out at 46 miles on to the main and final 54 mile loop (which has a couple of out and backs too) and managed that OK to get out in to the night. Now several people had mentioned that the loop part was far more straightforward and all the gnarly stuff was mostly done. That was a lie! I think they may have forgotten the 15000/16000' of climb... including a 5000' ascent in the 50s and a 4000' climb in the 80s, which would be bad enough on fresh legs and nice terrain but on rocky stuff and tired legs they took a while shall we say!

Overall really pretty pleased with 30:44, that really was my best effort on the day, was hot in the day, chilly (and really windy) in the night and really wasted very little time and had a serious effort in the 70s and 80s to get to sub 30:00 but my legs just simply couldn't drive me up that 4000' climb at much more than sloth pace! Toughest bit though was the terrain, the single track was gnarly and tight (about 60%) and the fire roads were rocky (about 35%) there was a few miles of tarmac that was brilliant! So that's three in a row done and dusted (and 4 in 5 weeks with Winter 100 too), doing them progressively harder was tough but glad that I did that. Nothing long now till after Christmas!


So the last part of my autumn 2014 trip to the US came around with Chimera 100, it was one of those events that I wasn't really sold on, not totally my cup of tea as being a pretty tough one, but with no sense of journey attached to it (being essentially 4 out and backs with a connecting loop - not a million miles from Winter 100), not being terribly keen on the buckle (I discovered a new one is in the works) and being the toughest of the three (I'd rather have the tough one first!) but logistically was ideal being less than an hour from my cousin who lives in Irvine and near to Los Angeles where my flight would be leaving from. So I signed up with some reservations as the web site isn't the best and couldn't find out as much detail as I would typically like.

This was amplified about a month before the event when it was announced that there would be a course change due to forest fires, adding another few thousand feet of gain. The maps of the route were of the "topo" variety which if you have them A0 size are probably useable but at the supplied 1:55000 scale not great at all and useless for actual use in the wild, there were no GPX tracks and the official instructions were to follow the turn by turn directions (LDWA style!) but the course would be well marked.

The problem with turn by turn instructions is that they are useless if you don't know exactly where you are "San Juan Loop Intersection" and you take a left here, is fine if you know you are there. But at 2am in the morning am I 0.4 miles from the last instruction or 0.6? Fine if you know the area if not they're OK to a degree but I have no intention of relying on them (I at no point saw anyone with them).

Next the trail markings, again fine if done well and there is more than one method of marking the route, it's all too easy to miss a bit of ribbon or for some kind soul to tear it down or even worse re-tie it somewhere else (this happened!) so I made up my own GPX routes, I wasn't overly happy with them (especially as at times they were as much as 0.4 of a mile out when I know I was on the correct path, I must check what was wrong with those, the map, the course route or me! This exercise as it turns out proved invaluable in the night, not for the first time either. Note to RDs reading this, make GPX traces of routes available, the more people who know where they are going the better! I don't believe in maps, instructions or markings, I believe in GPS! (And for those RDs who's stock excuse is that batteries die, I believe in more than one GPS device! lol)

So since Rio Del Lago I had driven around in an awful lot of traffic it seemed around the San Francisco area, went to see a concert (to really get me in Californian time) some shopping and sight seeing and then driven down via Runners Warehouse to pick up four new pairs of identical Hokas to Los Angeles to stay with my cousin Mark and his wife Lucy (thanks again guys!)

There was a pre-race packet pick up but as there was no official briefing there and you had to come what may pick up your actual race number in the morning that seemed pointless so didn't bother with that. A 0300 alarm call and was soon on my way out to the Saddleback Mountains which are to the east of the Los Angeles area for the 0600 start. (Another note to RDs make the start time obvious would you please! I swear blind I could not see it on the web site or the pre-race instructions, only place I could find it was on the aid station opening and closing times!) (And another note to RDs please make it clear to the yard where we're suppose to be going, Blue Jay campground for example is reached up a bumpy old road in the middle of nowhere at 0415 in the morning, it's not vast, but I bet its a mile by half a mile area.

Now I guessed where the start line was (now if I'd had a GPX trace supplied I'd know to the yard!) so had an idea, and was in a little convoy of other pilgrims, who met another little convoy of pilgrims, none of which it transpires knew EXACTLY where we were going, were we on the right road, was it behind us, was it in front? On a road 8 feet wide on the side of a mountain! OK it all worked out in the end, and to be fair, everything worked out in the end, but things could have been clearer. Got parked up and wandered off to get my number.


Now I was sorted was rather happier and even more sorted at the large variety of large muffins on offer at the base camp, so munched on one of those whilst waiting for the little queue to get my number, shirt and mug (and a "thing" that I may never find out what it is for, like a tiny pop up bin, I should have asked, oh well) (oh and when I was packing after the race I found the muffin case in my pocket, I'd lugged that bloody wrapper around for 100 miles! Maybe "lugged" is a bit of an overstatement for a bit of paper)

Another area where giving precise information is useful was the parking permits, you have to pay for parking, fair enough, the race instructions say you need two, one for each day (I doubted I would be doing sub 18 hours!), but the girl handing them out said you only needed one, and they were $5. Did I have correct change as she didn't have any? Which was fine of course, but say in the race instructions that they're $5. Yes I could probably have found out somewhere on some website what it was but couldn't on a two minute search so I actually made sure I had $10, $5 and 5 x $1 bills to match any permutation!

The race start was 0600 and sun up was 0628, the race instructions said that you'd need a light at first so I had my little $1 torch with me still so thought again I'd use that and chuck it rather than take the head torch for the first 24 miles. (although the instructions did say you could drop them off at the turnaround so just 12 miles, but didn't fancy that option either, I like as much as possible for things to be in my sphere of control. If my light goes astray I am a DNF) As it turned out the first half a mile or more were on road so by the time you hit the trail it was already three quarters light so I just left the torch on the hood of my car as I passed it as was totally fine light wise.

Number sorted and go back to the car to have a doze as have half an hour to kill, I wander back to the start line about 0545 rather surprised to find that there is a briefing in mid flow, I must have missed that in the pre-race instructions too. Now had I known exactly where the start line was I could have done some research and known that there were toilets about 200 yards from the car, but had missed those in the convoy whilst we parked so got in the queue at the start which took ages, and ages and then its like do I start, or go to the loo, so in the end the loo wins and I am off a minute or two late.

But a nice little bit of tarmac and after I weave my way through the crews I find Ed Ettinghausen and have a 30 second catch up whilst we march up the hill and then I wish him well and off we go! No matter what the course holds my plan is always to go as quick as I can for as long as I can!

Now the first leg was a 24 mile out and back and now knew I'd be passing the car on the way back so hadn't bothered with a pack (or any drop bags for that matter either) so just had my water bottle, plan was knock out the first two legs (46 miles) in the light, switch to the night gear and head off in to the gloom. At the top of a little rise we all turn right and hit the single track of the Hot Springs out and back, I just settled in to the conga line as it was pretty tight and just trotted along quite happily at 10/11/12 pace or so and just watched my footing, was a million trip hazards, but runnable if you were paying attention OK. I knew the first part was basically a 2000' or so descent and then of course a 2000' climb on the way back, so if I was banking time then probably the first 12 miles was my only likely opportunity.

I did OK here, it is funny how sometimes you get stuck around the same runners, I had my iPod with me but hadn't put it on so that I could hear folk wanting to get past as there were next to no easy passing places and this one guy I just could not shake off, seriously for about the first 20 miles I heard him say ten times at least to different folk "well I'm really not trained for this at all, I've only done two 100 milers already this year... me...me...me..." When he came up behind me he said "Oh I see you've got a marathon shirt on" and I replied I was trying to intimidate people with my running resume, apparently you're not supposed to do that and only wear 100 mile shirts at 100 mile races, I'm not quite sure he understood irony or my sense of humour. But my the tenth time I heard his story I'd rather lost mine a bit, seriously I couldn't shake him and Americans reading this will probably not understand the English reference to "Loud American" if you want to find an example I think he walks around in a San Diego 100 shirt! lol I was tempted to play my "well I'm not trained either, I've only done two 100 milers already this month" trump card, but resisted.

So the sun comes up and its really all rather nice, out in the mountains, nice down slope, sun rise, bit of haze for nice "mist effects" if I had a camera with me and the good news is that the plantlife doesn't appear to be that spiky like at Javalina as I'd already brushed up against three thousand bits of foliage. Was especially nice before the main zig zag down to the aid station (which you could see about 3 miles away below you, well it was about 1500' below, I did consider the real direct route!) as you could see runners all over the place on the different zigs and sometimes on the zags as well.

So I reckon I enjoyed about 9 miles of this race...And then the fun starts as its obviously the China Town annual mountain bike festival by the looks of it as there seem to be a few Asian chaps on mountain bikes. Now when we're running down and they're pushing their bikes or going at 1.5 miles an hour whilst their legs are going 75 miles an hour (seriously guys, just get off and push!) it was a pain as your combined speed is fairly glacial so you can find somewhere to get out of the way or vice versa as the trail is pretty tight. On the way down I reckon I passed a dozen bikes, not too bad, on the way back up it had to be 100! Now the problem with the way back up is that gravity it their friend and he's the ex-wife to me and there were times when these guys physically couldn't stop! The trail was pretty sandy between the rocks and these guys just slid in places. Now to be fair they were all real friendly, encouraging and many times waited for me if they had a better little stop to hang out in whilst I passed but a few times it was a real quick hop out of the way and that meant bushes or rocks and some bushes were a bit spiky and in some places I am not getting out the way as its a fairly serious drop down if you're not on the trail (not like vertical but you wouldn't want to be falling off and seeing how long it took for you to stop!) so that was all a bit less fun than it could have been. You'd have thought with the permits for these things and "Health & Safety" that it wouldn't have been unreasonable to close off the trail to bikes for 4 hours, there are loads of alternatives, perhaps its especially good for mountain bikes or something, they can have it the other 364 days of the year!

So basically my time is spent looking at my feet, avoiding the other runners going the other way and the bloody mountain bikers, I did manage to stay upright I am pleased to report! When we started it was really pretty cold so had on a short sleeved base layer and a long sleeved shirt, but by the time it's up hill I'm pretty warm so regretting that a bit, but then glad I hadn't bother with a pack (what all these guys were doing lugging their full gear about I can't imagine, there were some real sweaty backs around!).

Whilst Chimera has a lot of elevation gain it does have the advantage of not being at altitude. The base at Blue Jay is about 3200' and the highest point is just under 6000' so enough to make me puff on the hills even more than usual but not like when you're up at 7000'/8000'+ like at Bear when it becomes quite an issue.The first decent climb was actually the lowest so probably did my best at it, not least as only had 12 miles on my legs, but it was a slog, and this was the easy one. Looking at the course profile there are only basically four climbs (never ever ever believe course profiles, there were more like 400! lol) and was glad to get this first one out of the way whilst the day was still quite cool (and handily the steep bit was mainly in shadow, in fact calling it steep is a bit much, although there is a LOT of climb, its mostly of the long relentless type, not much was "you are kidding me" steep grade.)

The first leg took a shade over 6 hours and back at the car I lose my shirt and base layer and stick on a short sleeve shirt, did consider not bothering with a shirt but glad I did stick one on in the end as was getting mildly chilly by the time I'd be back at the car at mile 46.Right 5.5 hours or so to do the next 22 miles, half of which would be downhill and I made a mistake here, firstly I clean forgot to pick up the $1 torch "just in case" and secondly just never occurred to me I would be so slow that it would be pitch dark by the time I got back to the car so not a thought of night gear! Anyway... off I toddle and by now the field is well spread out and I soon discover that the Candyland Loop is a bit more tricky than Hot Springs, more larger rocks requiring more careful foot placement and one or two places where its a real big step down or up and holding on to trees and other rocks. The two leaders pass me depressingly early, they must be 12 miles ahead at least. Different class.

Now dear readers I want to recite to you a little parable. I come to a junction on the trail and there are two markings on it to the right, slightly unusual in that there are usually ones before, on and after the junction. As usual I'm living on my GPS trace, but I'm not having the most faith in my line as its off, and has been for miles but I am sure I am on the right trail and my line is in the right area and going the right way. So all is good, and all is good, and all is good and I'm starting to think, been a while since I've seen anyone, those guys up front are class but they're not world class and when I last saw them there were a bunch of guys up front and a girl or two and where are those markers, not seen one for ages. So I kind of slow down and start looking for markers really closely and am not seeing any and nobody is coming the other way, and nobody in front, nobody behind. Trace is off by a bit and at least going in the correct direction and not seen any places that I could go wrong, I think. Should I go back? Wait? Or just carry on, I put faith in GPS and toddle along. It's 1.2 miles later and I finally see a marker and a pilgrim coming the other way. Phew! Now many, many, many hours later at mile 98 in fact there is a girl on the course walking along being very enthusiastic and I say something to her and we chat for a while as she walks with me and I recognise her from the race, she'd DNF'd. Transpires some kind soul had pulled up the markings and in fact then tied a few at the junction in the wrong direction and half a dozen or so of the leaders had all gone that way and eventually gone up to six miles astray and all DNF'd (one of them actually then went back and correctly marked the course, thank you!). Now the turn by turn instructions do clearly say "Bottom of Viejo Tie" - Turn right. So the RD says hey guys, I told you to follow the turn by turn instructions. But how do you know you're at the bottom for starters? What or where is Viejo Tie? Who is running at 8:00 pace on rocky terrain reading instructions and remaining upright! The moral of the story. GPS is your friend. I live on my line at ultras and it wouldn't be the last time it proved useful.

But anyway now happier I was going the right way I was beginning to get concerned about the speed I was going at, or lack of it, I felt my effort levels were good, but the terrain was mostly just clag, the legs weren't the freshest and my right ankle was tweaking a bit shall we say. There were more walk breaks than there should have been maybe but anything I should have been running I was but time was leaking and all those runnable downs would be tougher on the way back. More rocks and twists and turns but at least the saving grace was only about half a dozen mountain bikes! I worked out that with the sun down at 16:54 that I'd have about 2.5 hours for the climb out, only about 1250' or so overall. So decent effort Traviss and you should be good. But with the legs getting ever more tired and the rocks seemingly to have grown since I came down it was becoming a struggle to beat the sun. Not least as got cramp for the first time ever at a race, trying to get my leg over a fallen tree (which reading back is making me chuckle!)

It was getting really, really murky by the time I had the very good fortune to spot a runner ahead who proved to be Ed! Double bonus as he had light and whilst I could possibly have made it without a torch it might not have been upright and Ed very kindly offered me his spare torch which helped no end and spent a couple of miles shooting the breeze with Ed which was great. Ed really is a giant of the sport both in stature and spirit and is one of these guys who is happy to endlessly share his vast knowledge of running and ultra running and he may not quite realise it but I've learned lots and lots from him, he thinks we're chatting but really I am just picking his brain and for all his passed on knowledge I am extremely grateful. Perhaps the most modest chap on the planet too. I owe him a beer or crateful!

Back at base I switch to night mode, now the weather forecast I'd seen for the surrounding areas had been pretty benign as couldn't find one for the actual place we were at and it had been chillier than I thought at the start so stuck on one long sleeve shirt, stuck another in my pack and put my mid-weight Boston jacket on, took a hat, buff and gloves too for good measure. Back at the aid station I was pretty hungry and thirsty and my thoughts of the race improved no end when they had ice cold cans of diet coke and nice big burgers. I chugged back one can in about three mouthfuls and stood around drinking another eating a burger chatting with Ed when the little voice in my head said get on with it, eat and walk. With this race the only danger was here, 46 miles in, 12+ hours on the feet, get out the bloody aid station and then you have to finish as otherwise you're in the middle of nowhere! So off I plod laden down with a half eaten burger and another of the yummy big muffins in my pocket for dessert. I do wonder sometimes out of context what I look like, can of coke and a water bottle in one hand, burger and muffin in the other, meandering out in to a freezing night in a pair of shorts. I do wonder if the folks at the BAA would want their "Boston" jacket back as somehow I don't think they had that image in mind when they set the standards for the Boston Marathon!

Now several folk had commented on how the first part of Chimera was the tough bit, as that's where the bulk of the single track is and the rest is all fire roads. Ed included and he knows what he's talking about. Usually. He did admit at the finish it was rockier and hillier than he remembered! So the first 1000' climb up to Trabuco wasn't THAT bad as did include a few hundred yards of tarmac and I was occupied in stuffing my face, now I don't want to give anyone the impression that I don't take things too seriously, but what would you fancy after burgers, muffins and a 1000' climb? Nice cold beer? Some aid stations are better than others and these guys had an ice cold can of Bud Light. It was brilliant for about 15 seconds! Which was how long the can lasted!

Hang on, what's this, a 2000' descent on bloody single track? Was supposed to be all fire roads? I'm not sure it was all single track but an awful lot of it was and crime as it was to walk much of it my night running is so hopeless in clag and I suspect much more running and I'd have been flat on my face. Sometimes its best not knowing what's around you. I stopped for a wee and just looked down and realised I was weeing in to some chasm and I couldn't see the bottom of it with my headtorch and my that looks a steep drop! Oh and little green lights on the trail? Don't investigate, they have major league spiders in California!

The bottom finally arrives and the bottom of Holy Jim trail is reached and the next bit is the bitch, the best part of a 5000' ascent and they'd ran out of coke, wasn't impressed as was getting sleepy (my stock routine at every aid station at just about every ultra is fill water bottle(s), two or three cups of coke and eat something/anything but get some calories in). Now one thing I had noticed was that the markings whilst advertised as being "3 minutes average running time apart on single tracks and 5 minutes on Truck Trails" weren't (well unless they were using Usain Bolt minutes) now to be fair, most times when you're on the right trail, there is nowhere else to go, so perhaps overkill to mark things unless at a junction but on this climb up I didn't notice a single marking, I knew I was on the right trail but there were a few places where it wasn't 100% certain where to go in the dark, I expect in the light its obvious, but there were a few areas where I am standing there thinking, where has the trail gone? Or is that the trail? It's the middle of the night and I've been going for 16 hours kind of thing and probably not thinking straight too which doesn't help either and the dreadful thought of "is that an airplane or is that light I can see in the stratosphere a head torch from a runner?" It was a runner.

So the least said about that climb the better but there weren't too many sub 10:00 miles going up it shall we say and several days later I pop out near the top on to lovely fire road (and that in fact was the end of the single track thankfully) the rest was on fire roads, real rough ones in places, but still better than rocky single track. The next section was about 16 miles out and back with a detour up Modjeska Peak, had no idea how high that was as cunningly left off the elevation profile and obviously no RD would make up a couple of miles on re-routed course by sending runners on 70 mile legs up that sodding big black blob blacking out the stars over there. Yeah!

Oh and mustn't forget to pick up the tongue depressor at the next aid station (Maple Springs) to put in the jar at the top to prove you'd done the climb. Felt I did a fairly decent effort firstly up and then down to Maple Springs but the wind had really picked up and was getting actually quite cold, firstly the buff went on as a hat, then the gloves, the zip got done up on the jacket and eventually even the beanie hat came out. Someone said that it was forecast to gust up to 60mph! Where was that on my forecasts?! The pain was that the fire roads were sandy between the rocky bits (which mostly were quite small, one, two, three inch type size) so you could usually traipse over them with impunity in Hokas, until about this stage when the feet are getting sore (and would get REALLY sore by the finish) but the sand/dust would blow all over the place with a gust of wind, not nice and there were a few 4WD vehicles on the roads too throwing up a nice little dust storm of their own from time to time too to add to the fun.

Felt a bit sorry for the volunteers at the Maple Springs aid station as exposed and was freezing, did have a five minute sit down as needed to get junk out my shoes, even with gaitors the odd grain gets in and could feel something in one of them so best get rid of it than regret it for 30 miles! I warmed up a bit and helped myself to the goodies on offer, mainly crisps and turkey slices for no other reason than that's what I fancied but didn't stay too long as didn't want to get snug and made sure I sat furthest from the heater, there were several other pilgrims in there who had the look of settling in for the night with blankets and they never passed me so I suspect DNFs. The aid station people knew nothing about the tongue depressors and one guy even said that he wasn't sure that folk were going up to the peak after all, ho, ho, bloody ho.

So uplifted at the thought of that I plod off back up the way I'd come to the bottom of Modjeska Peak trail, I had recalled a bunch of guys sitting around on the way down and thought that was nice of them to be cheering runners on in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, probably a crew. I wondered if they had beer. Turns out they were the Modjeska Peak checkers, turn left, go to the top. Would actually be on an honour system. I'd be a liar if the thought didn't occur to me to sod this for a game of soldiers and turn back half way up as nobody would ever know, but plod up the ~*!*** climb I did, it was the big peak, oddly at the top I found a chap laying down, seemingly writhing in pain on the floor, I checked on him and he was actually trying to get his shoe back on, he couldn't bend over properly by that stage and that was the best method apparently!

I did waste two minutes here as I turned my light out to look at the stars (it was BLACK up there) as you could not only see these huge star fields but the Saddleback Mountains are a sea of blackness in an ocean of light that is the Los Angeles metropolis, I bet you could see a billion lights below and a million stars above. Sometimes its not about the times on the results. And I'm never going back up that climb again! lol

Time I got back to Bear Springs its all looking a bit windswept and packed up, some one says the race might be abandoned if the wind gets any stronger. I have to say I didn't think it was too bad, but I was at Martello Day One, I didn't see anyone get blown over here! I had about 4000' of down now so I decided I best get a move on as this was the highest point on the course and the next aid station was only a couple of miles away or so and downhill. So off I trot, now we reach the a junction where we'd come up the Holy Jim trail earlier and I meet a girl who is certain we go back down it, and its a steep downhill and the markings really are not clear, there is a chalk line thing which has had a good few footsteps so could be anything, my trace is off but its splitting around here and I absolutely do not recall anywhere on the that trail up that it split to an aid station or the possible location of an aid station. One girl goes off down the trail, I don't follow. Another pilgrim comes along, then another and we search for markings, none of us have the turn by turn print outs. We can't see any tape, any tape torn down or any more chalk markings, I'm not going down that sodding trail again so I go with the GPS split and the other pilgrims come with me and two hundred yards up the trail someone finds a chalk mark, probably been driven over a few times but looks promising and after a bit further my trace is locked on again so we're good. Phew!

Indian Truck Trail arrives, a 14 mile out and back, 7 miles nicely downhill on probably the best bit of "road" on the course in many places, few little ups but on good legs you'd be pounding down here like a nutcase. I'd been going pretty well but my time had drifted and now sub 30:00 was looking doubtful but I decided that I would run this downhill as best as I possibly could to try and regain some time and as luck would have it found a "pacer" in another runner and her pacer and we leapfrogged one another down this hill, the lights came back on and for once this late in the game the miles actually tick over really quite quickly, some loud music, caffeine and I bet I may even have done some 13 minute miles! It'll be interesting to see the Garmin data as I felt I was going flat out at maximum effort and it FELT like about 7 minute pace, but I bet a big pile of cookies that it was marginally slower than that! This is what makes me laugh at those who scoff at GPS devices and we should all run on feel and all that sort of rubbish, pure running and stuff. I've run miles on feel that I would bet £1000 were done at 8 minute effort and yet somehow ended up taking 14 minutes, effort and results not always equal!

So the maximum effort I'd say lasted six of the seven miles, at the bottom it was oddly calm (they were wondering what the fuss was about with the wind!) and warm, in fact the weather was kind of odd, in the sun and no breeze, blimey its hot, in the shade and the breeze in your face it's zip up and chilly! Time I finally reached the aid station I decided it was time to feel a bit sick as can't be doing a 100 without a bit of that, had been OK mostly till this point, had some stomach pain when I ran at times, but nothing major,but now felt like a proper throw up, so ate a bunch of grapes and got on with it. The problem now with really lovely downhills on out and backs? Ah yes, you guessed correctly.

It was a sod of a climb back up again and I simply did not have the drive in my legs to propel me upwards at any kind of pace. 25/23/22/24 minute miles I think, and that was good effort. I just could not go quicker. It was only up to about 4500' so can't even blame the altitude, yes enough to make me puff more than normal but nothing much, just didn't have it in the legs.

And that was the end of the sub 30 idea (you got a different buckle for that, always a warning on a course when they hand out special buckles for sub 30s!) but I was at least pleased that I'd made a decent effort. I rewarded myself with more grapes at the top and suspect more crisps as didn't feel so rough at the top. Unfortunately it wasn't the top, a final steep bit up to the Horsethief aid station. But Horsethief was mile 90.8 so game over by then, just one more final climb. Or so I thought! By now I'd kind of fallen in with an Irish chap called Alan who lived locally now for 30+ years but still had the accent and another chap called Kurt and we leapfrogged one another till the end of the race really. It was Alan's 5th Chimera and he received a special hoody at the end, I have lots of hoodies, funky as it is I was already done with these hills!

The last 10 miles or so were all a bit of a struggle really, bit of a march, bit of a run, ok, plodding sore feet avoiding rocky bits 14 minute pace imitation of running. Just seemed to be one little hill after another, and I thought we'd done all the up! 23000' is a lot of up, and it wasn't all in the major climbs! Oh and if Saturday morning was mountain bike day then Sunday morning was dirt bike day, did rather spoil the ambience when they tore past! Did actually pass some runners in the last few miles three or four possibly though hard to tell sometimes who is a runner and who is a pacer, so was making better progress than some.

Final aid station, the steep descent wasn't much fun as my feet were seriously sore now. Incredibly I'd pretty much avoided any foot stubbings the whole way on a rocky course and about mile 99, whack! Ouch that was painful and to add insult to injury was about 20 feet from the tarmac at the bottom! The tarmac felt like silk after 50+ miles of rocky stuff, didn't last for long unfortunately as a tiny bit of single track to the finish. Alan did offer to run in together but I refused point blank to run up the final 50 yards so he trotted off and I followed a few seconds afterwards having retired from 100s once again!

A nice catch up at the finish for a while with Ed (he'd just missed on the sub 30 buckle too), I was feeling fairly sick but they had cold cans of diet coke still so had a couple of those and then everything was forgiven when Steve the RD produce a bottle of cold Miller Lite for me, I swear blind the best beer I've ever had, if I didn't have to drive I would gladly have paid $100 for the rest of the six pack! Had a few crisps but just couldn't face the finish line burgers, which was a shame as I really fancied them on the one hand, but my stomach disagreed with me on the other! Was really nice clapping in a few pilgrims and shooting the breeze with Ed and others floating about, finish lines of 100 milers are nice places to be. Eventually I tore myself away as a little bit of a drive and was still feeling alert, I then got about a quarter of a mile on the drive home and came over all sleepy so had to stop for a doze!

Took a few hours for the sickness to pass, which is often the way but then Mark and Lucy (after running me a bath etc) very kindly drove me to the Cheesecake Factory where I devoured four sliders (which being American size were basically four burgers), a farmhouse omlette, toast, potato things and I went for Smores Cheesecake and to be honest they were pretty lucky to escape with their cheesecake intact! lol Headed off to a bar afterwards and had pineapple cider, yummy, was in bed five minutes after we got back to the apartment and woke up nine hours later!

Things I Learnt

  • Aside from getting the lighting wrong after the Candyland loop otherwise I executed a pretty solid effort, hydration, eating, navigation all pretty much went OK in variable conditions on pretty tired legs. Unlike Rio Del Lago I really had no DNF thoughts, in fact I think my first thought about that was at the finish when it occurred to me that it hadn't really ever crossed my mind.
  • GPS, GPS, GPS.
  • Sometimes its not about the buckles, the medals or the times. It's about being king of the world on top of a mountain, in utter darkness in a sea of night, looking at an ocean of stars and cities of light. Thinking, yeah, you got this one.
  • And other times its sitting at finish lines in sunshine, drinking a cold beer and thinking, yeah, you earned this one.

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