Sunday, May 29, 2011

Riley knows how to fill his week

Here was Riley on Wednesday.

Long time readers will remember that there was a period when Riley was in the hospital quite a bit. He has asthma that gets triggered by viruses, and for a stretch there, it was triggered A LOT.

But it's been well over a year since the last trigger, and it was a little bit of a surprise that on Wednesday, he was back in. (It was a bit comforting, sort of, that most of the people there didn't know him - for a while there they considered naming a room after him.)

Here, him and his mom, Weird Haired Mom, are showing off the balloon "animals" I made to amuse him. Alert readers will have already figured out what actually cured him, sitting on the tray to the left - BBQ Pringles. They fix just about everything.

But could they fix him to the point where he could do a 5K race on Saturday?

He was released on Friday, and here he is on a sculpture on the shores of Oakland's Lake Merritt on Saturday morning, waiting for the race to start. (Darci and him were troubled that there was no clear answer to the  question, "What is this sculpture supposed to be?" "Fun" turned out to be an unsatisfactory answer.)

For those keeping track, this picture shows way number 1281 that a little brother can aggravate his big sister - holding the porta-pottie door open while she is using it is pure genius. (OK, taking a picture of this happening goes on another list - way number 635 that grandpa can embarrass his grandkids.)

We were at Lake Merritt for the Healing Hearts: Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention 5K race. Yes - an event that combines something I love (running races) with something that is going to be VERY uncomfortable to make jokes about.

Fortunately, the event started with a warmup that was largely based on doing The Hokey Pokey, which got the uncomfortable bit out of the way early. (Actually, this went over well. Note that Riley, the kid with the white hood on, is still busy putting his right-hand-in while the others are already putting their left-hands-in. I suspect this was another attempt to aggravate his sister, but she didn't notice, so I don't think it counts.)

Most of the race was on sidewalks or paved trails, but there were some sections with dirt and puddles, which of course, I prefer by a LARGE margin.

There was an aid station at about the halfway point. Since I was drafting off the guy in yellow, and since he didn't stop at the aid station, I didn't stop there either. (He would end up beating me by about 53 seconds - I paused to take a picture and was not able to ever catch up again. He is more than 20 years older than me and would have flat out embarrassed me if we had done another lap. I am in awe.)

I managed to finish a few minutes before Mrs Notthat - she was awesome! (She also ended up with a few blisters though. The Hokey Pokey woman gave her some great ideas about how to avoid them in the future.)

WHM and the grandkids were walking the 5K (WHM has a leg issue and Riley just got out of the hospital - just in case you have a really short memory). Darci, however, had no reason to not run, so she found someone to go with and took off. When I showed up, this poor woman was quite relieved. "That girl can TALK!"

So I headed in with Darci, and once she saw the finish line, she took off.

A few minutes later, WHM and Riley showed up. There were joyous hugs all around.

Here are all of us at the end of the race. We all wore t-shirts honoring the memory of Mrs Notthat's older sister.

There was this great climbing tree that I assumed would entertain the grandkids for at least an hour. Not a chance - no way to compete with what was just a short walk away...

Fairyland! WHM and the grandkids went in while Mrs Notthat and I walked another lap around the lake.

Fairyland was apparently a blast (at least if you were a little kid).

And that's about it. The race was well done (timing chips, an aid station, and of course the Hokey Pokey), the lake was great, the $19 eggs Mrs Notthat had while we were taking our second lap were apparently really good, and of course, what could beat Fairyland?

Well, maybe not having to post any more hospital pictures.

That's it - move along...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slinging water at Hellyer

As if working an aid station at Horseshoe Lake wasn't enough fun, I doubled my pleasure by working an aid station at Brazen's Hellyer event. What was going to make this extra fun was that Mrs Notthat and Weird Haired Mom, her squeeze Needs Cool Name, and the two grandkids were all going to participate and I would see them at my aid station.

A bonus fun thing was that Tnarg (not his real name), who has gone with us on a number of hikes, was also going to be there for his first taste of Brazen racing. And of course, there would be a LOT of other familiar faces I would see throughout the day.

I've never arrived at a Brazen race when the arch was not already up - it's the landmark I use to know I'm in the right place. Apparently the generator they use is not a morning person, and was balking at trying to be productive so early in the morning - fortunately Mr Brazen was able to convince it to start working, and within minutes, the arch was up.

The excellently cool bit was that I got to be the one to pull it up! (OK, it's a fairly trivial task that my granddaughter could do, but it was AWESOME none-the-less! Never mind prize money - let the winner of the next race be the official Arch Puller Upper!)

Apparently my reputation preceded me, and the people I was supposed to work the aid station with failed to show in time. So Mrs Brazen grabbed the first people she could find, Ydnic and her delightful kids Nosaj and Anwahs (none of their real names), and we were off.

We quickly found the right spot and before you knew it, we were up and ready to go.

The first really cool surprise of the day was Nna turning up! Mrs Notthat had told me she was going to be there, but I had forgotten that, so was very pleasantly surprised to see her.

One thing that didn't surprise me was Mrs Notthat being in the thick of things. It used to be that she would show up when things had quieted down and all the runners had been through. But not any more - now she is one of those runners in the middle of the pack, pushing, shoving, biting, and pinching her way to a PR.

This picture is interesting for a couple of reasons: 1) Mrs Notthat forgot her water bottle and so relied on the aid stations. Her 6.1 mile run had three aid stations - that's a LOT! 2) The guy ahead of her has a serious drinking problem. (Actually, it was pretty warm and a number of runners dumped water on their heads, but I love this picture and that I caught it by total accident.)

Then came Ynnod, who I had not seen in a long time, leading Ahtreb, who I had also not seen in a long time. Both did the Half Marathon course in stunning fashion.

Finally WHM and Darci showed up (I really got a kick out of making everyone go around that cone, like we were the Race Police and would strip anyone of a medal that failed to do that - Ydnic was very diligent about enforcing that rule, and even better, I'm pretty sure no 10K people got past us and ended up doing an ultra 10K). Darci was very perky at this time - it was her first 10K and she did really well. (Even better, she mentioned that she wished it was a dirt trail! That's MY grandkid!)

A bit later NCN and Riley showed up. Riley was not quite as perky and would have gladly been done at any point. But he did stick it out and finish, which is fantastic.

In theory, Endorphin Dude and Ultra Woof were also going to do this 10K, but after them getting lost the previous day, and having had both of the grandkids already come through the turnaround, I had given up on them showing up.

And then there they were. I was stunned.

This was the first time this family had worked at an aid station (they normally help out at the start/finish line doing a variety of jobs), but they were superstars! There was only one near collision with a runner (there were times when we had a LOT of people showing up at once, and the heat meant they were all thirsty). Anwahs managed to bravely rescue a lady bug that wandered onto the trail (and made up for it by trying to see how many gummy bears she could shove in Nosaj's ear without him noticing - three). At this point there were not many runners left on the trail, and we were waiting for the sweeper to come through.

Mas the Sweeper, festooned with his pink ribbons of glory! We took down the aid station, packed everything into our cars, and headed back to the finish line.

We got there just in time to see Madman Einre coming up on the finish line. He did a Full Marathon the previous day and a Half Marathon in this race. No way a normal person thinks like that. He's so cool!

This is Brazen First Born, helping move the water around in the truck, making sure that everyone keeps well hydrated. (Or maybe she was looking for bugs.) Whatever - I loved watching her keep busy with these water jugs.

The arch came down and it was time to put it away. However, these two skinny guys were not enough to squeeze all the air out. So I put down my camera, and within 10 seconds, there wasn't a drop of air left in that thing.

This is everyone that drove down with Mrs Notthat to this event. Tnarg, on the left, won second place in his age group! He is now officially addicted. Darci and Riley both won first in their age groups (Darci ran in with Mrs Notthat and was cheered loudly the whole way - the finish contained a small victory lap that gave people time to cheer and encourage you as you came in). WHM managed to not aggravate her damaged leg with this event. NCN should have gotten a bonus medal for getting Riley to the finish line.

Later on I saw this picture. The theme of the race was that it was a flat and fast paved course (which should explain why I didn't do it), with a rabbit being chased by greyhounds as the logo. Brazen Hussy Eiram played the part of the rabbit and led out the fast runners (in this case, the guy on the right who is absurdly fast and has a knack for winning these 10K events, Nairb) on her bike.

It was a great day with perfect weather and lots of fun. A huge thanks to everyone that worked so hard to put this event together - it's so great to see so many people with such a wide variety of body types and levels of inner-rabbittness out taking on these events and having fun with it while pushing themselves to finish strong.

That's it - move along...

PS: I've got a few more pictures posted here.

Slinging water at Horseshoe Lake

Weird Haired Mom and I volunteered at Coastal's Horseshoe Lake trail run. Mrs Notthat and I had talked about doing this event, but while we dithered about, it ended up selling out - people like these trails along the peninsula's Skyline Ridge area.

So the next best thing (and it really is almost as fun as running in the event), was volunteering.

While WHM spent the morning registering runners, I spent it with Yrral (not his real name) fitting a LOT of cars into the parking lot.

I knew Einre (not his real name either) was going to be there, and sure enough, here he is all bibbed up and ready to go.

This picture sort of shows how many cars we were able to fit into that lot before lining them up along the side of the road. An interesting thing that I should not be saying out loud and SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED AS NORMAL is that, the later you showed up, the closer you got to park the start/finish area.

Of course, you had to actually show up to be able to take advantage of parking of any sort.

I knew of three people that were going to be there running the race: Einre, Endorphin Dude, and Ultra Woof. It turned out there was a bonus person I knew that showed up, but I never saw her and she never saw me. I did manage to get this picture of Enirehtak (130) as she streaked off of the starting line, but it was a total accident, and I didn't know it until much later.

Once the cars were parked and the runners registered, WHM and I set up the pass-through aid station.

The main course was an out-and-back Half Marathon. As the Half runners came in, we had to keep them moving through to the finish line, which wasn't always easy since we had lots of good stuff at our little buffet.

As the Full Marathon and 50K runners came in, we would fill their water bottles, store their bonus clothes (it really warmed up a lot - all this sunshine seemed to catch a few people, like me, by surprise), and send them back out for their second lap.

The one odd thing was that nobody had seen Endorphin Dude or Ultra Woof. This hawk was circling for hours trying to locate them. (EDude has been fighting a knee injury, so he wasn't going to do the Full as planned anyway, but they had planned to be there to do what they could. I mean, who would pass on a chance for race food and camera opportunities?)

This is just past our aid station - the finish line. And soup!

Waiting for runners. Plus, there were a couple of running groupies that were hanging around, waiting for their squeezes to come through the area.

Still no sign of EDude or UWoof, so we sent out the coyotes to track them down.

Einre finishing his first lap. He did the Full Marathon (and then a Half Marathon the next day - the guy is not right in the head, but in a really good and fun way).

Another trail running groupie. Actually, one of the women waiting has a tradition of taking pictures of her guy finishing races with this gnome making a guest appearance. It was odd and fun to see this thing, which got moved around a lot, showing up in a variety of places.

The groupies turned out to be paparazzi.

Just before our aid station, there was this creek crossing of sorts. I loved how this bird took advantage of it in between runners.

One bonus of volunteering at the race was that I got this great, subtly-colored running hat! (Honestly, this will come in handy when search and rescue people come looking for me at some future race.) In this picture I am all ready to cheer on EDude and UWoof, but it was not to be. Apparently their Google gave them bad directions to the place, and they ended up a bit lost somewhere just south of Oregon.

And that's about it. I like working aid stations at events like this since the runners are almost always fabulous and all about having fun. Time goes by pretty quickly (well, OK - there can be some lulls in the action, but you need them to recharge yourself and to perform a bit of Quality Assurance testing on various aid station goodies).

Plus I now get a free race in the future. I haven't figured out what that might be yet though (I have a hard time looking more than a couple of weeks ahead), but there are a number of attractive races to choose from. And thanks to all the Coastal Trail Run people for making this fun and providing everything we needed.

I can vouch for the quality of WAY too much of the aid station food.

That's it - move along...

Friday, May 20, 2011

I should have bought a lottery ticket

To be clear, I don't run trail races for profit. So far this year I have already spent almost as much entering trail races as I did in all of last year. While the amount sounds large at first, when you spread it out over five months and consider that this is my primary form of weekend entertainment, it's not that bad (about the same as going to a few concerts - or one big one with some aging band from the 70s making yet another farewell tour - and 2 or 3 movies a month). And compared to some other outdoor activities, the equipment is fairly cheap (but I need to be a bit strong when it comes to shoes - I've spent more on running shoes in the last year than on all my shoes combined in the previous decade).

And then one free race comes along and completely changes the equation.

Where I work, they hold a walking/running event for the company on Bike to Work day. (I'm sure this makes sense to someone - the possible thinking is that we've already got a lot of sweating, musky-smelling bike riders in the offices, why not combine them with a bunch of sweating, musky-smelling runners.)

The Cupertino event drew over 2000 participants.

We were divided into two groups: 3K walkers and 5K runners.

This is my cricket-playing buddy Mit (not his real name) and I before the race. He is recovering from a knee injury and would be taking it easy in this race. (He only beat me by around five minutes this time.)

This is Samoht (not his real name either), who took the previous picture. He had never run a 5K before. He only beat me by 3 seconds. (I had to talk him into doing this race - we both had a LOT of work to do which made this a bit of a luxury. "It'll only take 30 minutes and we'll be done" I promised.)

Two things happened:

1) My camera's lens quit working. I normally take a lot of pictures while doing this sort of thing, and was really bummed about this.

2) I managed to finish in less than 30 minutes, which stunned me.

Others have pointed out that thing number 1 might have something to do with thing number 2. I choose to scoff at that notion, although there's probably something to it. Maybe.

In any case, there is a raffle after everyone is done, and I usually hang around just in case someone I know wins something. But like I said, we had a lot of work to do, so Samoht and I headed back to our offices while the 3K walkers were still coming in.

Then I got an email congratulating me on winning the grand prize. I took it as a joke, but then an iChat from someone else showed up. And actual people started stopping by my office to congratulate me.

And it turned out to be true - I won the grand prize of a 13" MacBook Air. (Important note: This had nothing to do with my running skills - it was a completely random drawing. I do not intend to put this thing with all my other race medals.)

Alert readers will notice the water bottle sitting next to it - I was trying to introduce the two of them to each other. The computer was understandably nervous about having water so close, friendly or not.

And here's the kicker - earlier that morning I had spent a bit of time trying to pick out a laptop for my parents - I'm determined to inflict Facebook on them when I go back to Colorado for that Pagosa Turkey Track trail race in June. This one should do fine.

Wow. Just, wow.

Completely unrelated (other than me surviving shows my lucky streak is still alive),  I went out on Wednesday and was nearly attacked by this fierce snake. I hate snakes, but I had to admit this one was kind of cute (and tiny - as skinny as a pencil and about a foot long). In any case, it inspired me to run a bit uphill to put some distance between me and it.

Only to be faced with this thing. It's not obvious when looking at the pictures, but this lizard was a lot bigger than that snake. It could eat that snake and still have room for dessert, and I'm sure it had its eyes on me. In a sinister voice, it calmly said "Go ahead punk - take your best shot." 

I've never made it to the top of that particular hill as fast as I did that afternoon.

And that's about it. I have no races this weekend, but am volunteering at two of them (volunteer at a race and you get a free entry into a later race - a great deal that helps keep the costs in line, although finding races that I don't mind not running is not that easy).

That's it - move along...