Mrs Notthat, Weird Haired Mom, and a bunch of race friends all did the Coastal Cinderella trail race at wonderful Joaquin Miller Park and Redwood Regional Park in the East Bay. I was familiar with most of these trails, having just done a race here last Sunday. I knew they were challenging, I knew there were hills that would humble most runners, and I knew that the rocks and roots would often rob you of being able to make up time going down the hills.
But I signed up for this race anyway, partly because the trails are wonderful, partly because there were going to be a lot of people there that I knew, but mostly because I've got the common sense of [insert the name of your favorite whipping boy, profession, or political party here]. Last weekend was a 30K, essentially one extended lap of the same course as Cinderella. For this race I chose the Marathon, which is two laps of the course. Mrs Notthat signed up for the Half and WHM for the 10K - none of these were easy courses.
The family that tapes their feet together, avoids blisters together. At least that was the hope as the morning started with all three of us taping our feet with pink Kinesio Tex. (Spoiler alert: It worked and none of us had blister issues.)
WHM, wearing her Mermaid run shirt from last weekend, getting bibbed up for her 10K. It was chilly at the start of the race, warmed up a tiny bit, then turned quite cold, then warmed up a tiny bit again with a few short bursts of filtered sunshine. But it was dry with little wind - all in all good running conditions.
No - I didn't see anyone running with glass slippers, but there were two people wearing tiaras, including Nire (not her real name - I know it's annoying but it humors me) who was celebrating her 29th birthday by running the 10K (and ended up getting second in her age group - one rough thing about doing these races is that it's hard to hide your real age once the results are posted, but trail runners generally have nothing to hide, including their moisture-wicking tiaras).
A great pre-race picture with Etep (official tiara polisher), Eiram (who finished her Half about the time I was getting to the first aid station), Yrrek (who survived the 10K), and Mrs Notthat (the only one dressed properly for the cool weather).
Of course Einre was there, but he was only able to do the Half since he had to attend a wedding later that day. He has slogged through more rain-infested races this winter than anyone should have to face in a decade.
Once in a while I would turn around to look at what I had just crawled up, and I couldn't help but be impressed. There were a lot of tough climbs and descents - almost all made treacherous by roots and rocks and slugs with mean attitudes.
This is one of my favorite runners Enitsuj (man I hope I got her name right, in a wrong way) flying along with Mrs Notthat. Note that this is within the first two miles of the start, so the smiles were still easy to break out.
The Moon Gate aid station. There were two aid stations that we sort of ping-ponged back and forth between (Marathoners hit this one four times - 50K people hit it five times). The volunteers at these aid stations were heroic - having to stand there in the cool conditions for many hours is really hard, but there was always lots of hydration and food each time we hit them.
This bench cracks me up. There are often benches like this along these trails, and I use them as cues that there is probably a view worth stopping and taking a picture of. No doubt, at one point that was true here too, but not any longer - now it has a great view of a large shrub that's ten feet in front of it. (On my second lap, I was with a woman that said she thought the bench was funny too, and had also taken a picture of it. It's not just me!)
This is an example of the downhill bits that there was no way to run down (at least for mortals). I never did see anyone fall or hobbling with a twisted ankle though, so it appears most of us treated these with a lot of respect.
The Fish Ladder aid station (and no, I didn't see a ladder made out of fish).
This is the hardest thing about these races that involve multiple loops - you see the finish line, you see a lot of people that are done, and it is really tempting to join them.
Here I am heading off to the side to change my shirt (this one was soaked with sweat), eat some soup, and head back out for my second lap.
And there was Tony the Enorphin Dude, cheering the runners in. He has been nursing an injury or else he would have been out on that Marathon course too.
I missed this (WHM took the picture), but it appears to be two of the steeds with their prince heading out to pull Cinderella's coach.
As I was out on my second lap, I ran into Einre heading in to his finish, still smiling, even after missing a turn and adding some extra distance to his Half. (I suspect that secretly he was hoping to accidentally do the Full Marathon - I know if I was facing going to a wedding, I'd be doing my best to spend as much time as possible out on the trails.)
The hugest surprise of the day was coming up on Mrs Notthat, heading the wrong way on the wrong trail. As near as we can work out, when she was about three miles from the finish, she wandered across the loop from the in-bound side to out-bound side. What would make this tricky is that, unless you were tracking the trail names closely, you would be seeing pink ribbons and assume you were going the right way. She ended up doing an Ultra-Half Marathon at around 20 miles - and the bonus miles were tough miles with lots of hills and such. We looked at our maps and figured out what seemed to be the best way for her to go, and she managed to get to the finish line without further incident.
The first time around the course I had missed the "Cinderella" sign, and wasn't sure where that part of the trail was. On my second lap, I was determined to not miss it (especially since it gave me an excuse to go a bit slower), and I managed to spot the post.
The Cinderella trail part of the course made up a small (but memorable) part of the race. It contained what was probably the worst downhill stretch of trail I've ever seen - you fall and your race is over since you likely will have broken something. I was nearly run down by an out of control bicyclist that had watched too many Evil Kenevil videos.
This picture does not nearly do this trail justice. The Race Director warned that this part of the trail was almost certainly created by an evil stepsister.
After surviving the Cinderella trail a second time, it was a short jog to the finish line. That seemed to take an hour. WHM came out to pace me in, and since there were cameras involved, I did my best impersonation of a Kenyan.
As Eiram pointed out, these trail things "run" in the family. (I'm really hoping The Boy will be able to squeeze in a few races this summer as well - it's so much fun to have everyone out there.)
I finished dead last for the Marathon (my first DLF!), which makes it all the more ironic that I won a bonus first place medal for blowing away everyone in my age group.
The race was a lot of fun. The only bad thing was that someone, between when the course was marked on Friday afternoon and the race started on Saturday morning, took down all the ribbons along a tricky stretch of the course. I had my map and was able to work out where to go, but a lot of others were not so fortunate.
I'm not sure what possesses people to do this - maybe they think it's funny, or they are bitter about having trail races in "their" park (these races pay significant money to do this - money that greatly helps to keep the park open), or maybe they thought they were cleaning up litter. Whatever the case, I'm thankful it doesn't happen very often. And I was REALLY thankful for carrying that map around.
In any case, I'm thankful that I won't be on these trails again next weekend - nearly 45 miles on them in two weeks is enough. (If everything goes right, I'll be volunteering at two different races next weekend - the sold out Coastal Horseshoe and Brazen Hellyer. I really need a weekend off.)
That's it - move along...
PS: I posted a bunch more pictures here.