Chimera 100M (2013) - Race Report
Chimera 100M took place in the Saddleback Mountains, CA, a few miles away from Lake Elsinore. Knowing part of the trails I went in with the conscious knowledge that this was not going to be an easy run, as Chimera is one of the toughest 100 miler in Southern California, on par with Angeles Crest 100. Being a rookie on the distance, I was not sure of what to expect, but I was more than eager to see how I could handle it. This year, we had the pleasure of running on a new beefed-up course, 10mi of fireroad having been replaced by 11mi of technical trails. The changes resulted in an added 1000ft to the already 22000ft elevation gain of the race. In addition Chimera is notorious for its bad weather, and as expected, the sunny +70F weather we enjoyed during the preceding week transformed into a low 40F rainy forecast on race day.
New profile of the Chimera 100M race
Sugarloaf loop (0-11mi, 1:35)
While the sun was coming out at Bluejay Campground, Steve Harvey, the race director, invited all the runners to gather on the starting line to be ready for the 6:30AM race start, and gave his final words of wisdom. It was cold and pouring rain, but I couldn’t wait to be running!
“At least it won’t be dusty” – Steve Harvey, RD –
The race started, and after half a mile a group of 4 of us had already made a gap on the rest of the field. Fabrice Hardel, the past two years winner of the event, was of course in front, and he was leading the group on what I thought was a very comfortable pace. The other runners were Igor Campos, the freshly new record holder of Cuyamaca 100km, and Jonathan Landis, who had passed me in the final 3 miles at Cuyamaca 100km. We were soon joined by Brian Peterson, winner of the gnarly Los Pinos 50km this year, and the 5 of us stayed together for the first loop of the race. This loop was the new addition of the race, 11 miles of technical trails, with some fun rolling little hills. The rain was making the trails a bit slippery, but my NB 1010v2 were doing a good job of keeping me on track. We were still going at a very casual pace, all chatting, and it felt like doing a training run with friends. The miles flew by, and we were already back to Bluejay Campground where I took off my AK pack and switched over to one handheld filled with a protein/carb mix that my crew, Pauline and Dom, had already prepared for me.
Candy Store lollipop (11-33mi, 3:36)
The next 22 miles were a big out-and-back lollipop. 11 miles down 11 miles up on a technical single track. The first 6 miles of the long downhill drove us in the middle of the forest up to Chiquita Falls Aid Station. The 5 of us were still running together, like a well oiled train, and I was feeling really good, running just behind Fabrice. After the aid station, where nobody stopped, the run opened and we could enjoy the surrounding cloudy mountainous landscape.
The Chimera Train Express, tracked by the french locomotive
We finally got to the bottom and the Candy Store Aid Station, where we could see our crew. Helped by Pauline and Dom, I unloaded some clothes and exchanged my bottles in a flash before going after Fabrice who did not even stop to refill.
Quick transition at the Candy Store AS before going after Fabrice
This is where we made a small gap on Igor, Brian and Jonathan who all stopped longer at the AS. Our lead did not last for long though, as Jonathan caught us and took off half a mile later at the beginning of the climb when Fabrice and I were on a pee stop. To be honest, I was kind of surprised by such a move this early in the race and I was eager to engage a chase but I finally changed my mind and just kept the good pace we were running at in the climb. This part was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed running it with Fabrice, exchanging turns and chatting in French. I guess this was kind of a remake of the Joe and Seb french-speaking duo earlier this year at Hardrock 100. We ran consistently, and near the top of the climb we re-passed Jonathan who had switched to a run/power-hike mode. The next couple of miles flew by, and after 5h15 and 33mi into the race, we arrived at Bluejay again. This would be the last time we see our crew before the Silverado Aid Station (mile 60) where we could also pick up our pacers.
Bluejay to Silverado, Santiago Peak #1 (33-60mi, 5:24)
The rain had stopped and I wanted to take some time at the AS to put warm clothes and change my socks. The stop ended up being way shorter than anticipated as my crew was over-energized by I don’t know what and got me dry and ready in record time! As a result, I left Bluejay 5min ahead of everybody else, feeling really good and enjoying the moment.
Formula Uno pit stop = One happy runner leading the race after 33mi
Dom ran with me until the start of the Trabuco climb, giving me some tips on how to run the next section. I ran the whole climb at constant pace and did not even stop at the AS at the top as I wanted to bank as much time as possible on Fabrice, knowing that he would be right on my heels very soon. I entered the very rocky single track of the Tracbuco trail descent and ran the 6 miles of it as smooth as I could. Technical descents are generally not where I shine, but I was pretty happy with how I handled this one. In fact, at the Holy Jim AS at the bottom I still had the same 5min lead on Fabrice. As this point, Brian was just 20min behind him.
Quick water sip at Holy Jim AS with Fabrice just 5min behind (photo by Lauren)
I quickly drank two glasses of water and took off to run one of my favorite part of the race, the Holy Jim Climb. I love long climbs, and I was excited to see how I would be able to run this one with 40mi already on my legs. As I started to climb, I recalled what Dom told me earlier, to run the first half consistently and try to make a push on the second half. The switchbacks of the beginning of the climb were a lot of fun to run on.
Enjoying some nice running in the SaddleBack Mountains
For the second half, I tried to push a bit, but I guess my legs started to feel a bit tired because I did not have the impression that I was going any faster. I was still moving well though, that was the most important. However, at 3mi of the summit of Santiago Peak, I looked back and got a glimpse of Fabrice gaining on me very rapidly. 2min later, we were running together again and we will do so until the summit. It was actually nice to have some company at the summit, because it was very cold and foggy. On the next downhill, I realized that Fabrice had better legs than me at that point, because I had to push a bit to try to stay with him. He slowly got ahead and arrived 5min before me at the Maple Spring AS (mile 53).
Maple Springs AS with Fabrice. Just happy to be here (photo by Trisha Tighe)
When I arrived at Maple Spring, he had already finished to change his shoes and was taking in some calories. The volunteers were amazing, and we even got a picture together. I quickly traded my 1010v2 for my NB 1400v2, more suited for the fireroad-like terrain of the second half of the race, and we left the AS together. I could not keep up with him in the long downhill and I had to slow down as my legs were actually giving me some real pain. I knew that my crew was waiting at the bottom, and I was sorry to make them wait so long. After what felt like eternity, I entered the road section of the last 2mi of the downhill. This downhill was really beating me, and I just wanted to be done with it. I tried to play mind games, that helped, but not that much. Finally, as I was approaching the bottom, I got the surprise to see Théo and Lola waiting for me to run with me the last couple hundreds yards before the Silverado AS. This gave me a great mental boost, and I was feeling good again! Once at the aid station, I was glad to see everybody. Christophe, Christelle, Aidan, Théo, Lola, Dom, Pauline, and even Andy who made a 10h trip from NYC just to cheer on me. I was stocked to see all my friends and this gave me even more motivation to give my best for the rest of the race. I would have loved to stay longer with them, but the clock was ticking and it was time to chase Fabrice. He had left the aid station 15min before and from what my friends told me he was looking very good, but who knows, 40mi left is still a long way and a lot can happen. In addition, I was now running with my first pacer, Dom, aka the Unicorn, and I knew he would give me all the pep talk I would need to keep me on track.
IN and OUT of the Silverado AS. Glad we got some good news at the check out!
Silverado to Corona, Santiago Peak #2 (60-85mi, 5:15)
The next section started with 2.5mi of uphill single track until the top of Bedford Peak. From there, we would have to run some rolling hills and climb up to the top of Santiago Peak again before running the long descent of Corona canyon. As the night was settling down, we enjoyed a great moonrise on the mountains. 35min into the climb we heard some cheering at the bottom, and we saw two headlamps running into the Silverado AS, probably the 3rd and 4th runners. That was the first time I had any kind of information about the runners behind me. I was alternating slow shuffle and power-hike, trying to keep my effort constant in the climb. We arrived at the aid station at the top of Bedford Peak and we got welcomed by Scott Mills. I took in some of their delicious chicken noodle soup and we took off after they told us Fabrice was only 15min ahead.
Enjoying the moonrise on our way to Bedford Peak (photo by Dom)
I did my best to run as much as I could for the next miles, and we arrived at Maple Spring for the second time of the day. Here, same routine, I took in some chicken noodle soup and we were ready to go! As we were climbing to Santiago Peak, we were cheered on by the runners going down to Silverado, it was great to see all those runners, and we even saw Erin, looking good in her second 100 miler after having finished AC100 few months ago.
Into the night at Chimera 100 (photos by Dom)
We finally tagged the top of Santiago Peak, it was cold and dark and there was no view to really enjoy, so we didn’t wasted time and started the long 12mi descent. Trust me, 73mi into a race, long descents are not that fun. I was starting to have some serious pain again in my legs, but Dom was giving me some good advices to run smoothly and limit the damages. We rapidly stopped at the Indian Truck AS (“give me more of that soup!”) and went for the last 6.5mi of the descent that I will have to climb up later with my second pacer, Christophe, once at the Corona AS. The pain in ultras is part of the game, so I was trying to keep smiling and enjoy the moment, there is nothing as great as running with friends in the mountains! At 1mi of the bottom, we crossed Fabrice who was already going up, he was still looking very good and we cheered on each others. Few minutes later, Dom and I got to the Corona AS, and I got welcomed by even more friends as Katie had also arrived to join the group.
Just 15mi left! Still smiling at Corona AS.
Corona to Finish (85-100mi, 4:29)
I left the Corona AS with Christophe and we started the climb back to the indian truck trail aid station. The climb was only a 7% grade, but I had really hard time to run it. At that point, I knew that it would be very hard to close the gap with Fabrice and I started to become worried about keeping my second place. At the bottom of the climb, I was wondering if a sub-19h finish was possible, but after the first half of the climb I was going so slow that I was wondering if a sub-20h finish was even possible. We crossed Brian who was coming down to Corona, and Christophe told me we had about 1h15 on him. We finally got to the top where we cheered on more runners coming down.
The ITT aid station!
After a quick stop at the ITT aid station, we went for the last 9mi of the race. I had done this section during a training run, but I didn’t remember how steep the remaining hills of the main divide road were. Even with all the cheering of Christophe, I was not able to move very fast and I walked most of them. My quads were burning and the downhills were not easier. We passed the horsethief AS and walked more steep hills. Finally, we got to the last AS at the top of the Trabuco Trail, and I had the surprise to see Jorge and Maria there! They told us we were just 2mi from the finish. Everything was painful, but I was very happy to be here. Christophe was still thinking that a sub-20h finish time was a realistic goal and in a final attempt to make me move faster, he told me that some French macaroons were waiting for me at the finish line and that the faster I would go, the sooner I could taste them ;) His trick didn’t have much effect on my slowness and we ended up crossing the finish line in a time of 20:19:13.
I was pumped up, all my friends were there, and they welcomed me with a Champagne shower! I couldn’t have been more happy.
Champagne shower at the finish line
Post-race celebration with friends
I’m extremely grateful to my crew and friends who all believed in me during the race. I couldn’t have done it without their support. Thank you all!
What I used during the race
- Powerbar gels (35, w/ caffeine after 60mi)
- Powerbar protein bars (5, one every 3-4h)
- Powerbar recovery drink (at each AS w/ crew)
- Ultimate Direction AK vest
- Amphipod handhelds
- The North Face Verto pro jacket
- Salomon Exo S-Lab Twinskin short
- New Balance MT1010v2 (0-53mi)
- New Balance MR1400v2 (53-100mi)
- Petzl Myo RXP
See you next year!