For my second, ever, adventure run, I signed up for the MeOw! Marathons in the Trinity National Forest, near Whiskeytown Lake. This run is inspired by the Barkley Marathons and MeOw, in turn, inspired the Euchre Bar Massacre, which I participated in last October. The idea of these runs, for those who haven’t heard, is that you carry all of your own supplies, a map, and cryptic directions that guide you to successive checkpoints. At each checkpoint, the runners remove a page from a book that corresponds to their race number. There are no aid stations (although there is a water drop). There are no sweepers or safety patrol. There often is no trail.
At Euchre Bar I learned to be better prepared for poison oak and to bring a compass and better light, so I started out with a larger pack holding more clothes and food, two head lamps, as well as said compass. It soon became too warm for this and I decided to lose the arm sleeves and the long pants at the top of the first crest.
We left camp together, but it was easy to see quickly who wanted to win this and who was hoping to finish. The wear and tear on my legs from too many races and not enough proper recovery, soon had me at the back of the pack and I watched Ginny and Eric pull away from me up the first climb.
Lorelei was right behind me and we found the “converging dry creeks” that was the first natural land mark as Alex and Gerad caught up to us. They had missed a turn and so had to find their way back.
Here is a sample of the directions from this section:
“Begin climbing cross-country by going up the small ridge or spine just east of the easterly of the two creek beds (there is another creek bed 100 yards east of here, stay west of it and east of the two conjoined creeks). Keep going up this spine in a generally SW direction. Your route is simple- always go uphill. Choosing a path path of least resistance keep going up on or near the spine. This is Spinal Tap. The Poison Oak is ubiquitous, but easy to see, Avoid as much as you can.
Cats sleep 16 to 18 hours per day.”
Yes, that was part of the directions. Mark likes to throw in interesting facts for no apparent reason.
We soon came to a parting of the ways, as Lorelei and Alex chose to go up more, while I was concerned that the new creek I saw was the one to stay west of. As it turns out, I should have stayed with them. They reached the first book 20 minutes ahead of me and I never did make up that time (almost, but that comes later). Looking back, I’m sure these are the conjoined creeks and I had some steep climbing to do, through the poison oak, to get back up to the spine.
After 2 hours and 41 minutes, and several false peaks, I finally found the first book. I thought I would be clever and set a way point on the GPS since I needed to come back to this location later. I took an extra few minutes to search for (and find) my phone, which had fallen out of my pack when I pulled out the GPS. I then took another moment to admire the view from the top of this first climb before I started planning my way down.
Scrambling, sliding, and falling down towards the Papoose Trail, I was thrilled to find something I could actually run on.
I had three miles of run-able trail and then a climb (still on run-able trail) to the falls and the second book.
As I faced Beverly Blvd, I, at first wondered why this abandoned trail was labeled as “the easiest section to get lost or hurt.” I soon found out, as the trail disappeared into an ample supply of poison oak that reached as high as my waist.
Apparently, I should have veered right, but I veered left and ended up on the wrong side of the myriad of ravines. I was pretty sure I had chosen the wrong path when I found myself belly crawling under manzanita… repeatedly. Every “trail” I found ended abruptly into thick stands of the stuff and the compass told me I was too far west and I fought through the bush, trying to get back on the proper heading.
Although I was wondering around in the bush, I never felt lost like I did at Euchre Bar last year. I never had the sense of panic (frustration, yes, but not panic). I knew which direction I needed to go and I knew I would get there.
I crossed over the correct course and found a maintenance road that took me to the water drop. In the mean time, I ate up too much time being off course and even though I had found my back to the proper course, I had missed the third book and used up too much time to make the cutoff.
It was time to call it a day! I caught a ride back to camp from the water drop and enjoyed the sunset and a cigar and a beer as I waited for my friends to come in. Lorelei and Alex came in shortly after I did. They had found book 3, but had also lost a lot of time searching. I had probably been wondering around to the west of them when they were searching for the book. Had I stayed with them, we may have all been able to finish. Gerad came in as the first finisher, but had missed the last book. Jesse Tebbutt came in first with Jesse Beck just two minutes behind. Joel had run the last two miles with his shoe untied in order to hold Jesse off.
My buddy, Starchy, from Euchre Bar, came in after shortening his plan from the double to the single. Other finishers came in throughout the night, but there were only 4 finishers of the single and 6 of the double before the time limit. My vitals were 9.95 miles and almost 2800 feet of elevation gain in 6:37.
Talking to Alex back at camp he commented that if we finished everything we started the first attempt, we would take the joy of accomplishment out of it. I added that if we finished everything we attempted the first time, we weren’t challenging ourselves.
This time I learned that I should stick with others as long as I can and I will add a topographical map to my collection. I still need to plan better and limit what I carry with me, although I don’t think the extra weight and larger pack was a real factor. I also learned the value of Tecnu!
Truth be told, I will finish one of these runs one of these days, but even if I don’t I will continue to run them as long as I am able. Until then, the elusive MeOw finish line will remain out of reach. Euchre Bar is only 5 months from today!