Thursday, November 8, 2012

Coyote Springs 100

Another week, another 100 mile race, another 4 hour flight, another rental car, another motel, rinse, repeat.  Last weekend we flew to Phoenix for Javelina and this weekend it was Las Vegas.  The Coyote Springs 100 is put together by Elemental Running and Training, a relatively young organization run by Carmella and Jimmy.  This race was held this past March but high winds, heat, and popular opinion prompted them to move the race to November and rather than wait 18 months to hold the event again they decided to do it again this year and so here we were on 4 November, ready to run another desert 100 miler.

Due to the event being so young and the decision to do the Fall version coming pretty late there were not a lot of participants.  Carmella said, at packet pickup (Fleet Feet Las Vegas), that there were 15 signed up for the 100.  At this run you can drop down and get credit for whatever distance you've run and many must have taken this option as the finishing numbers were well below 15.  There were multiple distances being run during the event but only the 50 and 100 milers started at 7am.  Here's that motley crew:

Last year's winner Jeremy is to left, Liz, Ed Ettinghausen in yellow, and Michael Miller on the right not acting his age at all.
Like at Javelina last week I only carried my camera for the first loop so most of the pics below are from that first loop.  The course consisted of 6 loops of roughly 16.7 miles.  We started down low and did two smaller loops which both entailed climbing up onto a kind of sloping mesa to a turnaround at a paved road and then descending back down and returning to the start/finish.  From the start/finish there was then a 1.5 mile flat gravel road stretch we ran to a cone and then turned around and returned on that same stretch of road.  This out and back needed to be done for all 6 loops.

Liz and I ran the first few miles together and this first pic shows Liz on a section of good flat running that took us from the start/finish to where we did the two loops climbing up to the mesa.  The light was really nice here early in the morning.

This photo shows a short switchback section that took us to the start of the two loops.  The woman in the picture is Michelle who led me astray later in the race.  More on her and her nefarious plot later in the report......

The next two pictures show a section of trail where we contour around these slopes for about a mile and a half to get to the first loop up onto the mesa.  We ended up doing this section out and back on each loop.  This trail was cut about 3 years ago and has held up well with few washouts and a pretty nice tread.

This picture is on that first of two loops where we climbed up along a ridge to the mesa.  Once on the mesa it could be a bit of a challenge to keep on the trail as it would along among the yucca, cacti and bushes because the amount of traffic that the trail has seen has not worn a clear trail.  I was a bit worried about navigating this all at night though during the day it was very well marked with pink ribbons.

In this pic Liz is on the trail and as you can see the trail is far from distinct.  My worries about night time navigation turned out to be unfounded as Jimmy went out and hung glowsticks which made navigation quite easy.  I never did get off course for more than a few feet.

I believe this pic is on the way back down from the first aid station on a very nice section of trail.  The entire course alternated between nice runnable stuff like this and more rocky, uneven and washed out stuff.

This manmade ramp is on the uphill section of the second loop and you can see a bit of a platform at the top.  Apparently prior to a severe rainstorm earlier in the year this was a continuous dirt ramp right up to the top of the boulders shown here.  We ended up having to scramble a bit at the top to get back onto the trail.

This pic shows the scramble I mentioned.  It really wasn't hard but a continuous ramp all the way up would have been nice.

This pic is on top of the mesa on the second loop.  Note the moon.  The skies were clear the entire race and the moon rose at about 10pm.  Before the moon rose it was extremely dark as we were about 60 miles north of Las Vegas in the middle of the desert.  The stars were fantastic!  Even with the moon overhead the trail was too technical and rocky for me to run without a headlamp as I did last week at Javelina.

This pic shows what the ground and soil were like.  In places where the water got a head of steam there would be washout sections like this.  There wasn't a tremendous amount of this kind of washout but late in the race going down steep sections like this with tired legs got to be tough.

After doing the two loops up onto the mesa and back we returned to the start/finish shown here.  I would estimate that there were a total of close to 5 miles of easy flat gravel road running per loop with the rest more or less technical singletrack.

This is the parking lot where everyone had to park a short walk from the start/finish.  You can see that there are not a lot of cars.  And by 2am when many had finished their runs or dropped down in distance it got down to 5 cars.....  Needless to say it got a bit lonely out there at night.

The start/finish mega-complex.  : )
Here I'm returning on my out and back from the start/finish meeting Liz.  You can see the finish line blow up thingy just below the blue water tank on the ridge.  I would use this blue tank as a marker of the finish in later loops as you could see it well before the rest of the stuff.

Here is the lonely turnaround cone being kept company by a tumbleweed.  It was always a welome sight but needed a glowstick stuck in it at night.

So that was a bit of a tour of the course and now I'll give a short recap of my run.  The first two loops went well and I felt pretty good.  There were not a lot of people out on the course but with the marathoners, half marathoners and so on it was much better during the day than at night.  Especially after Javelina this was a lonely run.  The sunset was beautiful but I knew that it led into a very long night.  Liz and I have a number of races still to do and the nights are just going to get longer.  Not fun.  As the night wore on I entered into an epic battle with the sleep monster.

I ended up drinking two 5 hour energy shots during the night, taking many caffeine pills and drinking a lot of coke.  I also had a Starbucks energy drink.  Still I had to lay down on the trail 4 different times because I got so sleepy that I couldn't walk straight.  I was actually falling asleep on my feet.  One good thing was that there were not so many people so I didn't get disturbed as I was taking these naps.

At one point rather than lie down on the trail with my head on my water bottle as a pillow, I found a place where the trail had been cut into a side hill and the angle of the hill was perfect for sitting on the trail and leaning back.  It was really comfortable and I had no time goals in this race knowing that sub 24 hours was not going to happen with the trail being as technical and me being tired.  I sat there and turned off my light and enjoyed the beautiful night sky and stars dozing off and on.  This was pretty early in the night before the moon had risen but well after it had gotten dark at about 6pm.  As I was sitting there in the dark I heard someone coming down the trail and turned on my light so as not to startle them since I was sitting right on the trail.

A woman came running up and I started to get up to get out of her way but she said "No, no don't get up I'll sit with you for a bit."  Tired and drowsy I agreed.  She introduced herself as Michelle and mentioned that she was glad to see me as she didn't like being out there alone and wanted to run with me if possible.  She said she was a great radio and had lots of stories to tell.  Sounded good to me.  After a bit I said that we should probably get going and we got up and started running down the trail.  After about 1/4 mile we approached another runner and as she approached I saw that it was Liz!  What the heck?

It didn't take me long to figure out that what I had done when I got up was run the wrong way on the trail!  This was on the out and back section going to the first loop up onto the mesa and in my disoriented state Michelle had taken advantage of me pulling me back toward the start/finish rather than continuing on to the first aid station.  (Of course, I'm kidding about nefarious Michelle.  She had no idea which way I was going when I sat down on that trail.)  So I turned around and started running back the other way with Liz.  Suddenly I realized that I didn't have a water bottle!  I told you I it was an epic battle with the sleep monster.  I had been using the bottle as a headrest while sitting down and when I got up I not only ran the wrong direction but I forgot my bottle.  Anyway, I kept an eye out and found the bottle sitting on the slope right where I had left it as a headrest.

The rest of the night was uneventful other than the stops to sleep.  Usually if I can lie down and sleep for 10 minutes I'm good to go but during this race I stopped and slept several times after getting so sleepy I couldn't walk straight.  Eventually the sun returned and I was awake again.  On the last loop I figured out that with drops in the 100 mile race I was in third place.  A guy named Shane had finished in around 22 hours and there was another guy ahead of me but I didn't know how far.  So I was running along happy with what looked to be a third place finish running down after the first aid station with one more loop up onto the mesa to the second aid station and then back to the start/finish.  At one point I glanced back and saw Ed Ettinghausen who had been at least 3/4 mile back only a few miles ago!  I have learned how strong of a runner Ed is in a number of races we've run together this year.

The only time that I have beat him was last week at Javelina and earlier in the race when I passed him he had talked about how tired he was and how he just wasn't recovering well anymore.  He's had a huge year with well over 2000 miles of racing.  I figured that he knew he was in fourth and wanted to pass me to get third.  Well, not without a fight Ed!  I was just above a technical slot canyon towards the end of the first loop off the mesa.  I pushed hard through this slot hoping to gap him so he couldn't see me and would get discouraged.  As I got down to the wash and looked back he had made up about 300 yards and was right behind me!  Yikes he must have hammered that technical stuff.

Anyway, I pushed on running steady but keeping it controlled as we still had close to ten miles of racing left.  He passed me ringing the cowbell he carried the entire races with words of encouragement. I hung right behind him but as we started the climb back up the mesa to the second aid station he gapped me a bit.  I'm not a good uphill runner so I bided my time thinking to make it up on the downhill after the aid station.  I was able to keep him in sight the whole time.  I did make up some of the ground as I bombed the downhill but eventually I saw that he was not slowing and I was tiring, not to mention having another 100 mile the next weekend, so I backed off.

Ed ended up keeping his strong pace right to the finish even passing the second place runner within a little over a mile from the finish.  Nicely done, Ed!  I ambled on in to the finish in about 27:39.  (Resulst haven't been published as I'm writing this.)  I was handed the very nice buckle and eagerly sat down to take off the hokas and put on some flip flops.  Speaking of Hokas, I've been meaning to talk them up for the las few reports but they have become my standard footwear and so keep forgetting.  I plan to write a Hoka post to talk about how these shoes have made both Liz's and my own lives so much less painful.  It was nice to sit there in the shad and wait for the rest of the runner's to finish.  Liz finished in around 28:31 as the only female finisher and thus the winner of the sweet all gold buckle.

Here we are sitting at the finish with Ethan on the left who is Ed's son and who single handedly manned the second aid station through nearly the entire race!  Thank you Ethan!  Then there's Liz with her feet up, then Ed in the yellow shirt.  On the right are Jimmy in red and Carmella with the white hat. Thank you to Carmella and Jimmy for putting this together!  The aid was good especially considering that there were not that many entries and the hot food cooked during the night was awesome.  They were cooking up hotdog, hamburgers and cheese quesadillas.  Yum.

Next up the Wild Sebastian 100 in Florida......

Race count:  Liz (31)  Scott (22)


  1. Another big congratulations to both of you! I really enjoy reading each of your race reports and look forward to the next!

  2. Just thought I'd mention that I enjoy your race reports. I'm more of a 50 mile gal, but I do have to travel around to find races, so your reports are really great for my scouting. Not to mention I admire what you and your wife are doing.

  3. Thanks again Triple F! I really enjoy the feedback. Makes writing the reports worthwhile.

    Monk, thank you too for commenting. I sometimes feel like the ultrarunning version of a food critic. : ) Hope I don't lead you astray..... And by the way, Liz and I aren't married.


  4. I really don't know how you two are doing it! Following your progress this year and seeing how you handled all the setbacks has been very inspirational. I now have no excuse not to finish ONE 100!

  5. I am running used 2 be called rock'n river in Folsom, but after I reading this article, I think I will try 2 shooting 4 this care 2014, since I am already planned Nov. 24 or imSprint race, old Rock'n River fifty, 50. Since it is young race n not in CA, registration being reasonable would increase participants. I actually LIKE MORE bright color buckle than, silver or NOT, dull silver buckle. Shinny yellow, sky blue, gold color combined would bring dozens runners who would be DIE 2 obtain such beauty looking bucket hanging on the wall or bragging 2 their friends or family members. So, I hope organizers would consider making buckle more attractive 2 serve more purpose at least several positive ways indeed. San Jose, CA, Lary Cho