Saturday, February 26, 2011

No snow, but sunshine and great trails make up for it

I promised myself I would not do a race this weekend - I've got some work piling up and it's been a while since the grass has been mowed.

But then the weather guys started drizzling in their drawers over the possibility of snow at sea level on Friday night. How could I sit at home and miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime snow-covered trail race? So I signed up for the 20K race at the PCTR Redwood Park event today.

Well, the weather guys were wrong - there was no snow on the Oakland hills this morning. Instead we were treated to ridiculously clear skies (for a while, anyway) and wonderful trails that had just the right amount of mud and puddles.

It was very frosty when I got there. My car said it was 32 degrees. Standing in the sun though, it felt a lot more like 34 degrees.

A lot of people showed up for the race. This was amazing given how bad the forecast had been earlier in the week. Trail runners are hardy, and maybe a bit nuts.

Of course, Einre (not his real name) was there. He had done a marathon last Saturday in a very cold steady rain, and that didn't phase him. No way the threat of snow would worry him.

And Eiram (also not her real name) was there as well. Both her and Einre did the 30K. My goal was to finish my 20K before Eiram finished her 30K, but I didn't envy my chances.

The 10K course had to be altered a bit to save some muddy trails from the runners. This meant there was an interesting bit near the start where the longer runners and the 10K runners were on the same trail, but going in opposite directions. The cool thing was that this became an impromptu high-five line.

Very early in the race we started up a long, muddy hill. It was great!

Some parts of the course were seriously muddy. The good thing though was that this was not the kind of mud that clumps onto your shoes, adding ten pounds to each step. It was very wet and slippery. My Montrails loved it!

The aid station at just about the halfway point. This was a great break.

One of my favorite signs. And it did not disappoint.

There were a number of small creeks that followed or crossed the trail, but one of them also had this nice little waterfall.

The 20K finished with a fantastic stretch of single-track trail. In places, it was challenging and I can't imagine people running on it, but it was a huge blast!

This is the aid station for those doing the 30K and 50K races. The finish line for me is a few feet past this.

And there it is! Hot chili and lots of other snacks were waiting for me. But would Eiram also be there? I looked around and didn't see her, so I ate my chili and headed back out to greet (but not taunt - never would I do that!) her.

And here she comes! I was proud that she resisted spending a few quality minutes with that playground behind her.

And not far behind her came Einre, finishing the 20K leg of his 30K race.

This is what you like to see after a good trail race. (Fortunately, Mrs Notthat was not home when I got home, since she would have had a bit of an issue with me tromping around in my muddy shoes.)

The shirt and my bib.

This was an excellent event - great trails, great weather (even without the snow - I did see a woman at the finish line with goosebumps the size of frozen peas on the back of her legs though; it was a bit chilly out there), and a fun time.

I'm not sure what's next for me - there's a race out of Pacifica next weekend. And of course the grass still needs to be mowed.

Thats it - move along...

PS: You can see a lot more pictures I took around the course here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A toothless 39 Step anniversary

Finally - a post with no pictures of sweaty runners or stunning views. You're welcome.

I came home from work the other day to see this. The grandkids had picked a bunch of oxalis (a weed that has taken over our garden, at least until we get around to trying to pretend to take the garden back) and used a bunch of rocks to create this. "It's a nest" Mrs Notthat explained to me. "Why is it shaped like a foot?" I asked. "It's probably a dinosaur. Or train."

Completely unrelated (probably), Darci lost her third tooth. She was quite proud of this.

Completely unrelated (probably), this happened on Valentine's Day. Here she is going through her goody bag.

Weird Haired Mom is helping Riley go through his goody box from his preschool.

Also completely unrelated, Friday was Mrs Notthat's and The Blog's 28th anniversary. Here, Mrs Notthat is putting on my ring at a very low-key ceremony with Ydna (not his real name) as the Best Man and DUUAAAANNN, Mrs' sister, as the Best Woman.

Wow. It would be interesting to re-stage this picture today. I wouldn't be recognizable, but Mrs has not changed at all. (Well, her glasses are much more stylish now. But that's about it.)

Friday night Mrs and I went to a nice dinner at The Fish Market in Palo Alto, then headed down to Mountain View to see The 39 Steps - a spoof of sorts of the Hitchcock movie. It has a lot of silly bits (Yay!), but what was cool was that the 20 or so characters in the play are played by these four people; often they would be playing multiple characters on the stage at the same time. You can read Plotnik's review to get a better idea of what was going on, but it really was goofy fun.

And that's about it for now. This afternoon we do Pansy Day (thank you Blogmaid for that name) - an anniversary gift thing that involves the whole family. It will be a bloggable event with even more non-trail related pictures.

And for those that like the trail-related pictures, The Blog will resume its normal broadcast schedule soon. Hopefully next weekend. Unless snow shoes are required, which is weirdly entirely possible.

That's it - move along...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Staying hydrated wasn't much of an issue

Weird Haired Mom and I volunteered at the moist Brazen Bay Breeze race today.

WHM worked the registration table and so was around the start/finish line. Veteran Breeze runners will note that the arch was not on the grass as usual, mostly because the grass was deceptively soggy, and after what happened at the Lake Chabot New Years run, they wisely chose to put it over the less soggy trail.

WHM and Brazen Hussy Eiram (not her real name) pretending to enjoy the rain. (Actually, I think BH Eiram does enjoy it.)

A decidedly fuzzy looking Mr Brazen. Like the new look! I failed to get Mrs Brazen's opinion though.

Here is the first aid station (for 10K and Half Marathon runners) making its way out to the 1.5 mile marker, along with volunteers Evets and Werdna (not their real names). Note that it looks like the sun is shining. (Also note that you cannot see the coastal mountains that should be visible off to the left.)

The sun bravely making a (brief) showing.

The aid station is set up and ready to go. This was the calm before the storm (both literally, with the rain that was coming, and figuratively, with the hundreds of runners thundering towards us).

Walking Ynnod powering along the trail.

There was a short period of time where a rainbow appeared over the finish line. The pot of gold was filled with It's-It ice cream bars. (We could have made a killing selling hot chocolate or coffee at this aid station.)

We now fast forward to the end of the race. The course was an out-and-back which means that while our aid station was the first one up, it was also the last one down. We didn't know how many runners were still out there when Ahtreb showed up. She was our favorite runner since she told us there were no more runners behind her.

It took little time to take down the aid station, although that meant loading up that cart and pushing it back to the start/finish area. (We had a lot of left over water - go figure - that ended up getting a nice 5K out-and-back ride.)

A tired and wet, but happy me back at the start/finish area.

BH Eiram finding a dry place to hide. (Actually, she was nobly searching for shirts for us volunteers that didn't make it back before things had been packed away.)

And that's about it. Yes, it was cold and wet standing at that aid station handing out water and sports drink, but it was still a blast catching a buzz from the many enthusiastic runners going by. Most were perky and having a good time in spite of (and for a few weirdos, because of) the weather. It wasn't a muddy course, although there was some puddle avoidance you had to do, plus one of the bridges was particularly slippery and caused several runners to fall.

And now it's time to focus all my thoughts to a dry Brazen Mt Diablo race next month. For those with short memories, here is what it was like back in November. It is almost guaranteed to be better this time. Certainly the creeks will be higher!

That's it - move along...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

They got the "Steep" part right

I did the Coastal Trail Runs Steep Ravine 30K race this morning. The scenery and trails and views were stunning! My performance was less than stunning, but I finished without falling (a minor miracle!) or otherwise getting hurt.

The race started and finished at Stinson Beach. This was at 7:30 AM, so the beach was mostly deserted, but still gorgeous.

Einre (not his real name) attentively listening to pre-race instructions. There were actually four races: 7 miles, Half Marathon, 30K, and for the brave, a 50K. There were about 250 runners total.

The start and end of the trail was like this, following a creek through lush woods.

Sorry for the blurriness, but I wanted to show the ladder we had to climb. Steep indeed!

We were told there was no mud (except at the start/finish area), which disappointed my shoes. But there did turn out to be short stretches of mud after all, and my shoes rejoiced!

There were a LOT of trees across the trail, and some had been there for a while. My guess is that it's the park's policy to let nature do its thing. In any case, they added a bit of variety to the race.

I finally made it to the top of the first hill, which is where the first aid station was. The aid stations were great, with lots of choices and helpful volunteers to fill your water bottle and provide helpful advice like "Go fast but don't get lost!"

It's only early February, but don't tell the hills and wildflowers that it's not time for spring.

From the top of that hill, we headed down to Muir Beach. Yes, we ran those switchbacks.

The sun was shining for this part of the trail, and it felt really good. (The weather for this race was fantastic! No wind, cool but not cold, and very clear so you could see the views.)

As if the steep trails and roots and rocks and such was not enough, we had to watch out for horse poop.

I knew that Eiram (not her real name) was doing the 30K as well, but I had not seen her at the start line. There was a short out-and-back section as we got closer to Muir Beach, and I really hoped to see her on it somewhere, but feared she would have already flown through it. But then, there she was! I apologize to her for costing her a few seconds, but I love this picture.

I finally made it to the Muir Beach aid station.

They didn't actually make us run out onto the beach, but I wanted to get a picture of it anyway, so I wandered out a few feet.

Heading back out on the out-and-back section, I found Einre, showing a bit of trail rash (but still being his normal perky self). There was a section of the trail with lots of loose rocks and ruts that made getting good footing a bit tricky, especially for those running at that point. I know of at least four people that ate it in that area.

After leaving Muir Beach, we had a bit of reasonably flat trails and then a harsh hill climb. The reward for getting to the top of that hill was getting back to that first aid station again. I was SO happy to see them!

The finish line is down there somewhere. I knew I was getting close (ish) when I could start hearing the waves hitting the shore. (It turns out that sound must have been traveling pretty good - it took forever to actually make it to the finish line.)

The Dipsea Trail is infamous for these steps. 688 of them. Heading down them I felt (and looked) like a really old man - my calves were cramping a bit so I really took it easy on them.

Finally I made it to the finish line. (A nice touch was just before you got here, you had to run along Highway 1 for a bit. There was a restaurant with patio seating, and they cheered like maniacs as I stumbled by - it was a great lift!)

The shirt and my bib.

This was a great race that was well marked (I only had one place where I was a bit confused, but that was my error, although there were several stretches where I would start to wonder if I had missed a turn, only to finally see a very reassuring ribbon) and supported (hot soup at the finish was great!).

I put a bunch more pictures here.

Thanks to the Coastal Trail Runs people for putting on this great event!

That's it - move along...