Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zooming around Angel Island

The Zoom Ayala Cove race is not exactly like your normal trail race. Oh, it has trails, and hills, and even stairs, but it's likely the only race you'll run where you get to help assemble the start/finish area about 20 minutes before the race starts.

And you have to brave the turbulent waters of San Francisco Bay on a ferry to get there.

For a flatlander like me, that boat ride was the scariest bit of the day. A nice side effect though is that, since we are at the mercy of the ferry schedule, the race starts at a reasonable time (10:50 AM). A not so nice side effect is that there is a pretty tight cutoff on the 15M distance since you have to be done before the last ferry departs.

The course consists of three five-mile loops around the island; the outer, middle, and inner loops. There are five distances to choose from; 5M (inner loop), 10M (middle and inner loops), and 15M (outer, middle, then inner loop). As it turns out, the inner loop is the hardest, the middle loop next hardest, and the paved outer loop the easiest.

All three loops provide stunning views all the way around the island - it's never dull.


The first ferry to Angel Island leaves Tiburon at 10 AM. There is a registration table set up near the dock where you can pick up your bib.

Warning: They do NOT supply dramamine. Or a proper life vest. (Supposedly the ferry has life vests for everyone, but I didn't see anyone wearing one. There ought to be a law.)

Mrs Notthat and Retep (not his real name) getting coned up.
Eventually we had to board the ferry. A unique thing is that all the start/finish stuff is stacked up near the dock, and runners just grab something as they go past. (Unless you are like me and wait to be nearly the last to get on that thing.) It's also worth noting that there are a lot of normal people getting on the ferry too. They tended to look at us like we were mildly deranged. If they only knew…


Angel Island is surprisingly close. I believe there is an event that involves swimming to/from there. None of that made me feel any better as the ferry started off.

Also note how non-sunny it looks. It was pretty cool with a cold breeze at this point, however, it did clear off a bit and get significantly warmer later on.

Race day registration, island-style!
Mr Zoom/Coastal getting the 15M runners ready to go.
Each distance has its own start time, with the 15M distance going first. I have wanted to do the 15M distance, but fear both the cutoff and that first 5M loop that is all paved.


Eventually the 10M runners got to head out. There is a nice single-track trail that you take to get to the loop that you're running. It was so lush and pretty with lots of wildflowers.


Mrs Notthat was not that far ahead of me. But it was early.


At the end of the middle loop, I was back at the start/finish area where I headed back up that single-track trail to the inner loop. The inner loop has by far the most climbing but also the best views.

Note how clear the sky is now.
Mrs Notthat flying down from the top.
The inner loop includes a short out-and-back that takes you to the top of Mt Livermore. I figured my chances of seeing Mrs Notthat here were pretty remote; I totally expected her to have long since finished this bit of the course. But then, there she was! I had a chance of catching her. Yes, it was a small chance, and mostly relied on her coming up lame or getting lost, but there was a chance!


About 20 feet before you get to this point (the top), there is a bench. There were a lot of tourist-type people hanging out there, and I had to dodge around them a bit and managed to trip on a rock as big as a grape and fall into a shrub. I have a knack of falling in races when there is nobody to see it happen, but not this time. I don't think any runners saw it, but at least a dozen normal people had some surprise entertainment.

I promised to pay for the shrub, got up, and trudged up to the top. It got really quiet as I headed back down past all these people - sadly I disappointed them by managing to stay on my feet.


There were a number of trees you had to duck under, or in this case, go around. In one case, I was jogging down a hill looking at the trail (so that I didn't trip on anything) and weirdly found myself ducking. Apparently my subconscious has eyes in the top of my head since it saw that I was about to crack myself on a low branch that my proper eyes had never even seen. I felt the bottom of the branch brush the top of my hat. Yikes! Now THAT would have been a show!

Not a Canadian with her camera ready, just in case I tripped. She knows my style well.
Both the middle and inner loops end with a mad dash down a set of stairs that are not nearly to code. But I survived them (Double-Dipsea training!) and ended up back in the dock area and just a bit from the finish.


I had hopes for around a 2 hour finish, but was fine with 2:18.

Mr Coastal was really good at not rolling his eyes as he handed me my first place award.
Age group awards are peculiar things. Both Mrs Notthat and I are in the same age group, but different sexes. Mrs Notthat got fifth (and beat one other). I finished after her but got first. And only. (But I'm not telling anyone that part.)


There is a surprisingly good cafe near the dock, so a group of us had a fine late lunch.

Laughing in the face of near-certain death.
Eventually we had to get back on the ferry. By this point I was too tired to be very nervous.


One person that loved the boat was Toddler Coastal, who kept running back and forth on the rocking deck.


This was a fun event with surprisingly great trails and unsurprisingly great views.

And if you are in the right age group, great bonus medals!

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Grandkids and puddles at the Annadel Half Marathon

Programming Note: I just looked - it's been a month and a half since my last post. That's absurd. I'm going to try to fix that.

A bit less than a year ago, the Weird Haired Mom family moved to Charlie Brown-infested Santa Rosa. For whatever reason, Mrs Notthat and I had not managed to make a trip up there to see the new joint yet. So WHM made us sign up for the Annadel Half Marathon (she knows the way to our travel hearts) which would finally get us up there.

And it worked!

Mrs Notthat and Rasta Chuck!
Mrs Notthat and I drove up the day before the race and picked up our race bibs and shirts. From there we headed to the Casa de WHM.

The gecko-filled Casa de WHM.


Above is Grandkid First Born and her gecko. I have failed as a grandpa since I can't remember its name ("lemonade" is in there somewhere).


And here is Grandkid Second Born with his gecko (I think "speedy" is in its name somewhere). The grandkids had an awfully hard time understanding why I didn't want to pet these things, but they didn't let that stop them from trying.

After a delightful Thai dinner ("anything's fine with me, but I don't eat spicy the night before a race" is what I intended - and was then served the hottest seafood dish I've ever had), we headed to the motel to prepare for the next day's race.

If you haven't heard, California is in a serious drought. It is aggressively shattering records. The odd thing is that we have been getting a lot of rain recently - it rained most of the day before the race.

You could fairly easily dodge most of the puddles, but why?
The sun shone, well, not exactly brightly, but at least dryly on race day. However, the trails were very moist.

The course was a lollipop, but the all-day sucker kind with a tiny stick and a huge candy bit. The mile long stick bit was about half paved and half gravel road/lake.


About half a mile into the stick I saw this sign - I loved it! The funny thing was that I had decided to wear my Blerch shirt for this race. (If you don't know what a Blerch is, you need to read this. Then find a case of delightful purple beverages.)

A tiny bit later on the trail I saw this sign:


I then knew who had put up the signs. I didn't know when (it turned out they put them up about an hour before the race started), but I was wildly impressed.


The above aid station was at the end of the stick - once we left here, we were on a large loop. And on fine single-track trails.


And I mean FINE single-track trails! The race's website had mentioned the trails were a bit technical, and they certainly delivered. The trails weren't always rock-infested baby creeks, but the best ones were.


The course was quite well marked, but just to make sure, there were volunteers at most of the trail intersections to point you in the right direction. I would ask them "which way do I go" and they would look at me like I was a bit dense, then see me point the camera at them. I love these shots!




They could have just said "follow the rocks."

It was hard to not turn around and stomp through this a couple more times.

The aid stations had the normal perky volunteers, hydration stuff, and chewy blocks of goodness.


Which way? (It occurred to me later than I should have asked them to point in different directions.)

The course was not flat, but the modest 1350 feet of climbing was hard to miss. And, again, these trails were just amazing.



Most of the aid stations were not easily accessible, so the volunteers had to run or bike in. (I assume the supplies just magically appeared.)


This guy, whose name I found out later was Cram (not his real name), was standing at the top of the biggest climb and was very enthusiastically cheering on the runners. "It's all downhill from here!" he cried. (Shortly after passing him we had to climb a bit of a hill, but it was small and it really was mostly downhill from here.)

I could not talk the ranger into renting me his ATV.
I want what they had for breakfast.
As I was "running" down the hill, I kept hearing what sounded like a group of over-caffeinated cheerleaders up ahead of me. I kept expecting to get a pom-pom thrown at me at some aid station that I was almost at, but the aid station seemed to keep moving.

And then I caught up with these four amazingly perky women. They were having WAY too much fun - I loved it!


Shortly after this aid station, someone who may or may not have been involved with the race wrestled my camera from me and took this picture.

Yes. That's a fine-tuned athlete.

Eventually I made it back to the stick, and halfway down it I came across WHM, GFB, and GSB (now lizard-free!). WHM said a lot more runners got her Vulcan-based sign ("Run Long and Prosper") than the Blerch sign, but everyone loved the grandkid's sign ("Hurry. We are tired & dirty.").

It was great to see them there, and it was swell that the grandkids got out of the huge puddle off to the side long enough to enthusiastically wave that sign at me. (HA!)

One last "which way do I go?"
The race finished with a mad dash (at least it was a dash in my mind) across a grass field.

The finish line! I made it!
Kind of a fun thing (if you are really bored) is that you can go to this website, enter "Lucas" in the search field, select one of us, the Video tab, and then watch a movie of us finishing.


Mrs Notthat beat me (no surprise) but only by a bit over three minutes. But that was long enough for her to fill a plate with pasta and start chowing down.

I grabbed my post-race beer and plate of pasta, then basked in the glow of the sun.

That's not a tan.

This was a very cool race! I loved the trails, the organization, the shirts, and the fun medals. I would easily recommend this race to others - just beware that it sold out (400 runner cap) about a week before the race, so you shouldn't dawdle.

And be sure to watch out for geckos - they aren't as cuddly as they look.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

31K turns out to be easier than 31M

When we were over with Aynwat (not her real name) at HURT, the fact that our 31st anniversary was coming up somehow leaked out, and Aynwat, who was getting ready to run 100 of the toughest miles in any race anywhere (and thus was not exactly a neutral observer), pointed out that a 50K has 31 miles.

So naturally, we needed to run a 50K for our anniversary.

The actual day fell on a Tuesday, and since very few races start on a Tuesday, we looked for a race on the weekend before or after that date. The Saturday after had two candidates: The Coastal Montara Mountain 50K, with about 6700 feet of climbing (YIKES!), or the ITR Lake Chabot 50K, with a much more manageable 4200 feet of climbing (still a lot of YIKES there).

Even though we had done three races at Lake Chabot in the last two months, we chose the easier route and to do a fourth there. As the date approached though, it became more apparent that I was not going to actually be up to a 50K, so we struck on the brilliant idea of a 31K (the ITR 30K distance plus a bonus 1K to round it off).

Important Note: I took a LOT of pictures of a LOT of friends out at this race. I would love to put them all in this post, but these things are too long as they are, so I am going to try to restrain myself. Instead, I'll include the link here that you can use to see all those pictures. This is still going to be a long post though.

Nairb, not his real name, getting his bib from Haras, not her real name. They both whipped me good, not that that is saying much.
Unlike the last time we were here, the sun was shining and there was actually a chance it would get a bit warm during the race (it did).

Artac, not her real name, holding Namurt, not his real name, with Mrs Notthat while being expertly photobombed by Knarf, not his real name either.
This race had the chance to be a first for me - my first time being wienered. Artac and Namurt were running the Half Marathon. Since I was running the 30K, it actually wasn't technically possible for me to get beaten by a wiener dog, but since we shared the same start time and trails for the first nine miles, it was a race to where the trails split. And since Namurt had previously shown signs of hating The Bridge of Death as much as me, I thought maybe I had a chance. (Spoiler alert: I had no chance. Not a sliver. I was soundly wienered.)


I snuck out in front of the start line to get a quick picture of the masses. The race had sold out and it was a large crowd of 50K, 30K, and Half runners basking in the sun and raring to go.


It really was a beautiful and calm day. It was fun to be able to see so many runners so far ahead of me.

The Bridge of Death.
Note that nice dry path that runs alongside the Bridge of Death. I think that's what trail runners should be on. (Granted, after all this rain we have had lately, that's likely under a foot of water now, but still…)


The fun thing about the IRT Lake Chabot course is that most of it is on trails that were not used by the previous three races. This meant some new lakeshore views.


My arch-nemesis, Yram (not her real name), was running the Half, so I was trying the same tactic as with Namurt in trying to beat her to the nine mile split. I was slowly catching up to her.

Blue ribbons mean don't go that way. Naturally we would have to take the uphill trail. Naturally.

Lake Chabot's water level is quite low, but it still looks really pretty.


Finally, at about mile 5.6, I made it to the first aid station.

Those two rocks must have one heck of an agent to get the naming rights like that.
From there we head up to the wildly appropriately named Two Rocks campground. Somewhere in here I managed to pass my arch-nemesis, and figured I was going to have no trouble beating her to the split. I even toyed with the idea of slowing down to let her catch up so that a last minute sprint would beat her there, and she would have to watch.


And then I heard her taunting me as I stumbled up a hill that she was practically skipping up. She blew past me. I tried to keep up but there was no hope. She was well out of sight when I finally made it to the Half/30K trail split.

The second aid station, about mile 10.
So I licked my wounds and headed out on the orange loop, which promised some significant climbing.

Part of the significant climbing. This would have been nearly impassable two weeks ago in the rain.
"Hi mom!"
A fun thing about this race was that it was being webcast live by Ultra Sports Live TV. They had cameras set up at three points on the course, and this was the first one, thankfully just as we were starting back down the hill. (You can watch video of the race, as well as interviews of the winners at their website. So cool!)


After a fun downhill bit we joined back up with the Half course and hit our third aid station at mile 14.3. At this point we were back on familiar ground, and it was about four miles to the finish.

"Hi dad!"
This aid station also had the second camera of the race, "manned" by the delightful Enibas and Irual (not their real names). I forget the dog's name, but he (she?) made a point of never looking at me when I tried to take a picture.


One thing that ITR does at some races where it works out is to put up a "1 mile to go" sign, which is a great idea. Unless someone decides it would be funny to move it out further. Apparently this sign had been steadily migrating out on the course - at this point there were still nearly two miles to go.


And finally the finish line! I had thought if I had a great day I might break four hours, but more realistic was breaking 4:30. I ended up just barely breaking five hours - this race was really hard on me for some reason.

And, as I mentioned way back in the beginning, my race wasn't actually over yet.

Ydna (not his real name) at the last of the video cameras.
These two are a riot at these trail races. If you are having a bad day, just hang around them for a bit. Nerak, on the right,  was the Dead Last Finisher, and won that horse's butt trophy. And she also won her age group, so she also got a first place medal! Her sister Eibbed was much faster and got neither. Age groups can be cruel and fantastic!

Mrs Notthat had finished her 30K a LONG time ago, and was pretty well rested by the time I finally showed up. So, with a burger in her hand, we headed out to get that last 1K in. It was fun spending some time with Mrs Notthat wandering along the trail without a timer breathing down our back.


When we got back, Mr ITR surprised us with a cake! (OK, technically he only surprised me since Mrs Notthat already knew about this. She had contacted him a few days earlier to ask if it would be OK for her to bring a cake, and Mr ITR had to admit that the cake had already been handled.)

Mr ITR did a fine job adding all the words, and even managed to spell them right. I forgot to ask what flavor of GU he used.
Picture by Eibbed. Mrs Notthat was really nervous about this - I don't remember whose idea this was, but it was not something we actually did at our wedding.

This race was tougher than I thought it would be, but was still a lot of fun. There were so many friends there that the kilometers just flew by. Having that cake at the end was very special (in part because I felt obligated to eat several pieces, completely guilt free).

In any case, I survived the 31 milestone and am happy that for next year, the number 32 has nothing I can think of to relate to it.

Only a crazy person would want to do a 32K.

That's it - move along…

PS: Here is that link again if you want to see more of my pictures from the day.