Thursday, 17 December 2009

Chimera 100 - The Race That DNF'd

We know only too well here in Scotland that we're all at the mercy of the weather sometimes, but it's not what you expect when you go to "sunny" California! So, when the Chimera 100 was hit with a freaky rain storm it was like being back at home again.

Relaxing in the psychedelic van in some typical Californian sun

The rain started on Friday afternoon and by Saturday morning the mist was so thick at the start line that it had to be delayed until daylight as you couldn't see more than two feet in front of you with your headtorch beam.

At 6.30am we finally got going and took off at a good fast pace. The first 9 miles followed a singletrack loop and then returned past the start line and continued onto sandy "truck trails" up into the mountains. Top US runner Karl Meltzer had taken the lead and myself and Dominic Grossman were not far behind as we climbed up into the Saddleback mountains. The rain had been torrential and had soaked through my waterproof and the wind was blasting which meant it was getting difficult to maintain body heat on some of the more exposed sections. After about 15 miles my legs were getting so cold because my leggings were soaked through that I ditched them at an aid station and took the chance of running in just shorts hoping that I might be warmer that way. It was much better and by the time I got to the Trabuco Peak aid station I was feeling like I was getting into my stride, for me the weather was perfect! The aid tent was taking a battering though and I made some comment about hoping it would still be there when we passed on the way back. We continued on with Dominic disappearing out of sight for a while and when I reached the next aid station at Santiago Peak, which was about 5500 feet up, he was sitting in a chair with a blanket wrapped around him not looking too good at all. I filled my bottle, ate a small potato and grabbed a couple of gels then got straight out of there before I got too comfortable. The tent up there was taking a real battering too and I was glad when the trail became a bit more sheltered as it descended to the next aid at Maple Springs. When I got there the two girls had their hands full trying to keep the water out and the tent on the ground but did a great job in making sure I had what I needed and getting me turned around quickly. I asked how far ahead Karl was and was told about 5 minutes and that he was having problems with the cold and had had to go into one of the cars for a few minutes to get warm again. This perked me up a bit, I certainly felt the cold but felt, literally, at home in these conditions and started to think that once we got back up high again I might have a bit of an advantage.
The next section was a long descent down to Silverado Canyon and the last few miles were on a great, rocky single-track which I hammered down at a good pace, the more technical terrain taking my mind off the battering my quads were taking. I reached the aid station, had a few crisps and topped up my drink then headed on up the next section, at 45 miles, which began with 3 miles of tarmac road. I was hating this section, the road was gradually climbing up and at each corner I was expecting to see the track but it took ages to come. I was reduced to walking a few times, being so uninspired by the terrain and I wondered if I was heading into a bad patch. Soon though I was back on the trail winding up into the mountains and I was running hard again, this is more like it, I was starting to feel like I was really coming onto my game and hoping I might catch sight of Karl in front soon. Then a runner appeared coming towards me, "it's done" he shouted "the race has been called off". My heart sank, I decided to keep pushing on to the next aid station to see if it was true but a few minutes later Karl appeared with a couple of other guys and confirmed the race had been abandoned.

                                                             The Trabuco Peak aid station before and after

It was a massive disappointment to say the least but the right thing to do. It turned out that two aid stations had been destroyed by the wind and the safety of the runners could no longer be guaranteed, so that was that.

It's a strange feeling sitting here a few days later. I'm obviously disappointed but it's not like I had an injury or got sick and DNF'd, it just feels like I've got some unfinished business with a US 100 miler somewhere, sometime...

So, in finishing off I'd just like to publicly thank the organisers and all the volunteers at Chimera for looking after us and working into the night to make sure everyone was safe, hopefully I might get a chance to go back and do this race again... who knows...