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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Some sand and pavement, but oh the views!

Back in 2011, Mrs Notthat and I ran the Coastal San Francisco Half Marathon (this was pre-Zoom) and loved it - the trails were interesting and the views outstanding. We wanted to run it again but conflicts kept coming up. Until this year.

It's now a Zoom race, but is still basically the same, although the start has been improved a bit.


There was trail construction going on that forced a small change to the course and routed us through the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center. Because of that, the race had to start at 7:05 so that we would not be bothering the tourists there after 10AM. This meant that everyone had to get up a bit earlier and many arrived while it was still dark.

The start line is about a quarter mile from the finish line, and since there were no taxis around, Mrs Notthat and I strolled out there just in time for the start.

Mr Coastal Zoom reiterating that we had to do two laps around the lagoon, and that five was way too many.
What I had forgotten about this race until I looked at my old race report is that it originally had you start by running away from the bridge for a bit, then turnaround and come back. That was a bit awkward since we would end up passing through the 10K start area which could cause potential congestion.

The modern version of this race now starts with two laps around the Crissy Field Lagoon (about one mile per lap). Getting loopy isn't my favorite thing, but it was a much better option than the old way of doing this.

This is looking back across the lagoon. If you have good eyes you can see runners that are WAY ahead of me.
Toddler Coastal trying to talk me into just sticking to the lagoon. 
One bonus for doing these loops was that they had a small aid station set up at what would be the finish area so you could rehydrate a bit, or more usefully, dump some jackets and such that you no longer needed now that you were warmed up.


After the two laps we were set free on the real course, headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge and past these interesting sculpture things by Mark Di Suvero (not his real… oh wait - that really is his real name!).


After climbing a small hill, we came to the construction area. And turned left to avoid it.


The race's detour took us up to bridge level, where we looped through the visitor center (that I didn't even know existed), waved at a few cars, took a few pictures, then headed back down to go under the bridge.


Passing under the bridge is an odd thrill - locals probably do this multiple times a week, but for me, this was only the second time in four years I have done this, so I took a lot of pictures. Even proper tourists told me I was dawdling too long.


The course, after the two lagoon laps (which only the Half runners had to do), is an out-and-back. This meant I would get to see all the other runners as they headed back. This guy, Saerdna (not his real name), won the 10K.


I hoped to make it to the 10K turnaround before the Half leader passed me on his way back, but I wasn't even close to there when Wehtam (not his real name, and from the UK!) blew past me.


One thing that I remembered from all those years ago was the deep sand you had to plod through to get to the first aid station. The sand was a bit damp which helped, but it was still challenging.

Htenaj (not her real name), redefining "easy open package." There may have been some bad words uttered.
The first aid station (mile 5.4 for the Half runners) was at Baker Beach. It was also the 10K turnaround point.


After leaving the aid station, we had a bit more sand and then were spit out in a residential area. This bit of the course is not my favorite, but does have a bit of charm in that, well, there is no sand. Going this direction, you are still going uphill, although it's a pretty mild climb.


After wandering around a bit through the neighborhood, we headed back to the trails and entered the Land's End area.


This area has stunning views and is a lot of fun. It's also when I started seeing some of the runners that I knew, as they had already hit the turnaround and were headed back.


The first I saw was Trebron (not his real name). Just as he was going past I realized who he was, and when I turned around, he stopped for this picture. (I hope I didn't cost him an age group award.)


Next I saw Enidualc (not her real name) dancing down the hill.


And then Nairb (not his real name either). There was one more person I was looking for, and the longer it took before I saw her, the smaller her lead was on me.


About 0.4 miles ahead of me, I finally saw Mrs Notthat. There was no way I was going to catch her, but I could try to keep her lead from growing too much.

That's the Cliff House restaurant off in the distance.
Not long after going past her I could see the Half turnaround aid station (mile 7.7) near the Sutro Baths. (A nice change is that we were not routed down to the beach and forced to climb back up to the aid station as happened the last time I ran this.)

Those are the steps we had to climb up to get to this aid station previously. The view is amazing though.
Eventually I was done admiring the view and turned around to head back.


These steps were a lot more fun when I came down them a bit earlier.


These steps were a lot more fun now than they had been earlier.

I believe Htenaj is on the phone to whoever made that package she couldn't open on my first time through.
The residential bit went very well since it was downhill going this direction. And before I knew it I was back to this sand-infested aid station (about mile 10).

No toll for runners!
After that aid station, there was a bit of wandering around, a dash under the bridge, a blast through the visitor center, and it's all downhill from here.


It's funny how, after all the hills (and my whining about them), when I finally got to the flat bit just before the finish line, I really started to struggle.


Regardless, I made it to the finish line just a bit under three hours.


Mrs Notthat had finished about 11 minutes ahead of me and had already received her first place age group award! (She ended up beating one other runner in her age group.)

The thing was that there were a lot of Half runners, and almost all were faster than me. I knew I had no chance of an age group medal.


And then I heard my name called. I had forgotten that Coastal/Zoom will change from 10-year age group intervals to 5-year intervals when there are lots of runners. I ended up with a third place medal (out of three in my age group).

I'm trying real hard not to sweat on Mrs Notthat. And she's holding a foot thing that she chose for me as my prize in a random drawing.
The medals were great, and I loved having the option of an XXL shirt!
This race was a lot of fun. Yes, there is too much pavement and too much sand, but the rest of the trails easily made up for that. And then there are the views - they were stunning as usual.

(And I'm not going to admit that the early start actually turned out to be a good thing since it meant we had more of the day left when we got home. Like for lawn mowing.)

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: This race happens again in May.