Chimera 2018 is finished. First we thought there would be no Chimera ‘18. The fires burned through much of the course. And then just about 6 weeks out, RD Steve Harvey got approval for a revised course – “The Candy Store Loop”, 5 loops for 100 miles (approximately). Difficult course, perhaps not as difficult as the previous Chimera courses, but difficult indeed (and what 100 miles wouldn’t be?). On a good day, when I am fit and have lots of miles on my belt, it takes me 6 hours to complete a slightly longer version of this loop (my version is 21 miles). Conceivably, it could take me 30 hours to finish five loops, but there’s no way that I would be able to keep the 6 hour pace after the first loop. The cut-off for Chimera 2018 was 34 hours. There were very few 100 mile finishers (7 completed).
The course: Start in lower Blue Jay campgrounds and run up Old San Juan Trail near the outhouses at the top of the road -- from there, quickly cut left to San Juan Trail. Run San Juan Trail past the Chiquita trailhead and turn left at The Viejo Tie, then turn right at Chiquita Trail and take that to San Juan Loop to the left to end up at the parking lot across the street from the candy store on Ortega Highway (Ortega Oaks Candy Store). The way back is the same, except runners take the other half of San Juan Loop back to Chiquita.
Friday afternoon Chris, myself and Ace (a Wisconsin who was camping with his wife and baby, volunteered on the spot, and remained with us until the end) hiked out to Chiquita Falls with the remaining gear: a small table, two sleeping bags, a lightweight tent, lanterns, extra batteries, glow sticks and other essentials. I must mention that the terrain to Chiquita Falls is technical and difficult in places. The last three-quarters of half mile coming back into camp is the most difficult with a terrible incline (or great incline, depending on how you look at it). We were all really pushing the pace Friday afternoon, having left the camp a little after 3:00 pm. We got caught by darkness with about a mile remaining which was not a bad thing. But I wasn’t sure if my text had gone through to my husband saying where I was when he arrived and I was not back. The company was delightful. I hardly had to talk at all, instead listening to interesting tales, occasionally chuckling and feeling glad to be out on the trails even though I hadn’t felt like going out originally. The sunset was striking -- set against pinkish-orange wispy clouds. We could see the ocean from of the higher points. And that transition period between light and dark was eerily beautiful. The weather was still and the weather and growing colder. Eventually, I had to switch on my headlamp (which I held in my hand because it was too dark to figure out the adjustments -- and I didn’t want to stop because we were on THE MOVE).
Back at camp at 5:40 pm, I had dinner with my husband and two of our boys. Then I worked on setting up the start/finish line for registration early the next morning. I finally lay down to sleep at about midnight, and it seemed that I did not sleep a single wink the whole 5 hours that I lay there. I wore a long sleeve thermal shirt, flannel pajama pants, socks, a knit a beanie, and zipped all the way in my sleeping bag, I still froze. Damn was it cold! I could hear the zombies panting outside my tent.
I was happy to bounce up Saturday morning when my alarm rang out at 5:00 am. It meant that I could move around and get warm. Volunteers were already busy checking in runners at the registration table. Whitney had packed up and was at The Candy Store. Mike E., Noel S., and Steve’s daughter Kate were directing parking along Long Canyon Road. Chris and Bill were down at the start line, ready to head out to Chiquita Falls for the next 24+ hours. And the Hailey, Christine and her friend were ready to hike out to the San Juan Trail aid station. All of the stations would have at least three shift changes, except for Chiquita Falls which would not change shifts until Sunday morning at 7:30 am.
Saturday (11/17) early morning check-in:Chris & Bill getting ready to head out to Chiquita Falls:Part of the Blue Jay AS morning crew:
Chimera 2018 Aid Stations:
- Blue Jay (located at start/finish line in lower Blue Jay Campgrounds off of Ortega Highway)
- Chiquita/San Juan Junction (around 2.4 miles on first trip for the runners).
- Chiquita Falls (about mile 6)
- Candy Store (mile 10)
Once race day arrived, my job was actually much easier compared to prior years when I needed to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs on The Main Divide. This year, the weeks leading up were much tougher (stashing water, clearing the trail). But this year, race day was much easier for me. I made sure I was down at the start line to greet shift changes, draw up maps, go over things with the volunteers, and coordinate equipment drop off. The Blue Jay station was so well-staffed though, that after I showed the various shifts where everything was, the station was up and running without me. Head chef was Steve’s daughter Kate (her vegan chili, burgers and tomato basil soup were superb).
At the homestead:Freezing our asses off Saturday night (11/17):
So, were there mishaps in the volunteer coordination and logistics? Of course there were. There always is. Maps can be drawn, but under darkness, or other conditions (like cold!) turns are missed, directives are forgotten. But no mishap was detrimental, and in the long run, everything worked out great, and the volunteers went above and beyond (again and again). Case in point: the so-called Chiquita/San Juan Junction aid station was set-up at the wrong location -- it was actually short quite a bit, and nowhere really near Chiquita Trail. I think the best thing about this error was that the volunteers got to be in a much more comfortable area (especially during the cold of night) because of its close location and tree coverage. And I did not learn of this until Sunday afternoon. Ignorance is bliss. There was nothing to fix, the runners found their way, and the volunteers got a much cozier location.
But the poor guys at Chiquita. We had radio contact with them, and on 3 occasions they were told that hamburgers from the grill were on the way. All 3 times, they were delivered to the wrong aid station (which was also in the wrong location). And then, the replacement crew (bless their hearts!) got lost on the way to Chiquita (I drew maps, I did, but I don’t think anyone looked at them.) When I heard that the Chiquita Falls replacements hadn’t showed up by 8am, I grew quite concerned, but later learned that the two volunteers figured it out and made it. Whew! Chris and Bill finally made it back to the start line from 24+ hours at Chiquita Falls. And the first thing that Chris joked was that he had lost all faith in humanity (being told on 3 occasions that burgers were on their way out to them, only to never arrive!). To top that off, it got damn cold out there deep in the valley -- Chris claimed that the sleeping bags we hiked out the day prior saved their lives! I can imagine how cold it was. We all froze that night at the start/finish line. Really, it was damn cold! (About 39 degrees at the candy store, and I believe we were probably colder).
Todd V with Chris and Bill, & Ace between them (after returning from Chiquita Falls):
As usual, the help we received from volunteers was immeasurable. They put in countless hours in sometimes uncomfortable circumstances. It was just more of “what can we do to get it done?”
It really does take a village to get this race done. In no particular order (except RD Steve and wife, Annie, are first), here is a pretty complete list of the actors who put Chimera 2018 on the books:
Steve and Annie Harvey, Ace and Shannon, Mike E, Noel S, Cat O (& spouse), Yen D, Tom and Minerva B, Tom T, Kat, Christine H (& friend), Hailey A, Joyce L (& four friends), Walt H, Stefan B, Chris D, Bill H, Rob N, Jessica, Whitney S, Leon, Ryan B, Chris F, Tracy K, Nancy I, Dave T, Colleen S (& 2 friends), Todd V, LT, Jean, Laura, Kate, Lexi (& hubby), Lucas M, Leonard Z, Victor, Mark, AND AT MININUM TEN MORE! (I wish that I had everyone’s names)
Looks like I have a little time off for now. Happy Thanksgiving!