Monday, June 13, 2011

What a difference a week and 1000 miles makes

Last week Mrs Notthat and I slogged through a cold, wet Half Marathon in the Bay Area. So this week we went for something completely different - the GECKO Turkey Track Trail Race just outside of my old hometown of Pagosa Springs Colorado (motto: "Yes, the hot springs are supposed to smell like that").

The buildup to this race started like this:

I did my elbow and both knees in while on a training run on Tuesday when I fell on a relatively smooth, flat, gravel road. I just wanted to heal enough that the Race Director, Mr GECKO, wouldn't be alarmed when he saw me on packet pickup day. Mrs Notthat was fighting a nasty heal blister and was concerned about whether she would be able to run at all.

In any case, we flew into Denver on Wednesday and drove down to Pagosa.

The day before the race, we headed over to pick up our packets, and all went well. Mrs Notthat even bought a pair of heel-blister friendly Go Lite sandals for after the race.

We really did not know what to expect on race day. We were told there were about 200 runners registered - I was amazed at how well they were able to squeeze that many cars into the two parking lots and still have room for runners to mill around, stretch, and wonder whether they had enough time to get in the porta-pottie line (there were only two) or pretend to be a bear and wander off into the woods.

The other thing that made us a bit nervous was that they had changed the course a bit about a week earlier (to move the starting line so that they could accommodate the large number of runners). Past experience has shown that, last minute course changes can lead to issues on the trail with marking and such. But we both had maps and Mr GECKO had promised all was well marked (spoiler alert: it was).

And then the race started and we were off in a cloud of dust! (This was a nice change from last week.) As you can see, it was very clear and perfect weather conditions. The smoke from the Arizona wildfire that had been in the area earlier in the week was mostly gone.

There was a short stretch of gravel road - the rest of the time was on some of the most fun trails I've ever been on.

This puddle made even the gravel road a bit of fun. (No, I didn't splash through it since I didn't want to spend the rest of the race with wet shoes. Granted, it is so dry in Colorado that they probably would have dried out in less than a mile.)

I stayed with Mrs Notthat (who did the Half - she is in white back there a bit) until we hit this single-track, where I said my goodbyes (I think the exact words were "The Blog wins!"), and took off.

The only other muddy bit. I did manage to stomp through this.

There were lots of aid stations set up evenly around the course. They had lots of good things to eat and drink and always tracked your bib number. This particular one we hit at 4.8 miles and 8.3 miles.

The course was pretty well marked (my only issue was a small bit of bonus trail late in the race when I was tired, and it really had nothing to do with the markings), however, this stretch was a bit unnerving since there really didn't appear to be a trail at all! The wet spring caused the grass to be extra perky and try to take over the trail. Fortunately, I am slow and had the benefit of being able to see where previous runners had gone (plus there were a LOT of ribbons on this stretch that really helped). I'm just glad I wasn't one of the first to have to work this out.

This was something I hadn't seen before - using ribbon to block a trail to indicate a turn, which worked well. (Sam, the frequent Brazen Racing sweeper, likes this idea since he wouldn't have to carry a broom to erase the flour marking that they normally use.)

This was the third aid station, at mile 13.3. I was still feeling good at this point, and based on my time, thought I had a shot at finishing in under 6 hours (my real goal was 7 hours once I accounted for the altitude).

This was the 4th and 5th aid station (miles 17.5 and 21.5). My first time here I was doing OK, but was resigned to mostly walking the rest. The dreams of sub-6 hours went away, but I was fine with that. (The woman in white said "You take pictures during the race?" "I'm more of a tourist than runner" I told her. I did a 5K without a camera once and I felt like I was crippled - the camera gives me lots of opportunities to stop and rest a bit while taking a picture of a flower, bug, or cow pie.)

The course had 1836 feet of elevation gain, but most of it was very gentle. This short stretch, however, was far from gentle. At this point, around 23 miles or so, I was struggling. The altitude and heat had caught up to me.

The race people wisely put up a bonus aid station at the 25 mile point. Only one more mile to go, but I was seriously dragging. These two angels were great at getting me back to thinking I could do this and still maybe even beat my original 7 hour goal.

About a 1/4 mile from the finish I was met by Mrs Notthat and nephew Blailand, who came out to get me to the finish line. I couldn't talk either of them into carrying me, so I wobbled my way in.

Here Blailand is amazed at how dorky I can be, even when I'm this close to keeling over.

This was so cool! I've never had this done before, and it was really fun - I got to break through a finishing ribbon!

While I sat on a cooler and tried to get some air in my lungs, my brother (in red) kept trying to get my spirits up ("You look like hell!" he said a couple of times). Blailand, in the meantime, was thinking, "If this old fat guy can do this race, I should be able to too." (The plan now is for him to do the Half next year with us.)

This family drove up from Texas and all did the Full Marathon. At the post-race party, the two kids, ages 8 and 11, both got extremely cool bonus trophies for just plain being amazing!

The one funny bit was that Mrs Notthat, who had never fallen in a race before (and she's done a lot of them in very fall-friendly conditions), fell TWICE! Her knees now look like mine.

One of my legs after I took my shoes and socks off. It was a tiny bit dusty out there - a massive change from last weekend.

The shirt, bib, and medal (which is made by the grade school kids who get all the proceeds from these events for outdoor programs).

This event was fantastic! It was well run and the people, especially all the volunteers, were great. The course was filled with great trails and had only a mild elevation gain, which made it perfect for a sea-level challenged person like me. The patience that the GECKO people had for even the slow people really made me feel good.

Mrs Notthat was a bit concerned about staying on the trail (a bad experience a few races ago is going to be hard to shake), but not only did she have no issues, she set a PR for a Half (3:06). I did not break 7 hours, winding up at 7:06 (and not even dead last!).

Our plan is to come back and do this again next year, and try to drag a few more people out from California with us, plus get Blailand and maybe a few other cousins/nephews/friends to join in.

You can see a lot more pictures from the day here.

That's it - move along...


D. West Davies said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Beth said...

Nice job to both of you! You need to come up with a good story to tell about why the both of you are so beat up! Bear attack kids think I have fought off several cougars : )

Rob Shoots said...

Great to have shared the trail and the town with you and yours. See you back in Pagosa Springs for the Devil Mountain Ultra this fall . . .

Brazen Rabbit said...

Awesome job! And tell Mrs. Notthat that finally falling on the trail means that she's been accepted by the powers-that-be for trail running! You guys are the best!

mary ann said...

You are both amazing, especially with the wounds. Great job and post!

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