Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Bass got Badder

Which is a good thing.

On Saturday the whole family headed over to Lake Chabot to do Brazen Racing's Bad Bass trail race. The Boy and I did the Half Marathon, and were anxious to try out the new course, and all of us wanted to see if Brazen could outdo last year's medal and shirt.

This is The Boy's second time doing this race (his third Half Marathon). You can tell how nervous and excited his is. Or maybe that's just him being a teenager.

The Boy and I were in the Half Marathon starting corral while the rest of the family waited their turn to start their 5K race. Note the innocence on Darci's face.

It wasn't always like that. Note the bib number - apparently she lived up to it.

The Boy has stopped yawning eventually and we were busy getting our game faces on.

This is a great picture of Mrs Notthat streaking back in on her 5K race.

Once she finished, Mrs Notthat went out to find Darci and run her in. Darci was not being very perky. Mrs Notthat is explaining about the It's-It ice cream at the finish line.

That worked.

Weird Haired Mom and Riley making their final push for the finish line.

OK - now on to the Half Marathon.

About a mile into the race I had to stop at a bathroom (a good thing about this course is that there are quite a few bathrooms while you are around the lake area - a weird thing about this race is that I failed to get a porta-pottie picture). I never saw The Boy again until the finish line.

Me running uphill for the camera.

I love this. You would be amazed at how many people will run right past a sign and a lot of flour arrows on the trail telling them to turn. So Brazen posted a volunteer at the sign with strict orders to not let any Half runners past him, and I'm pretty sure he was authorized to use any force necessary, including tackling, to accomplish that. (This was at the bottom of a bonus hill the Half runners got to do. The 10K runners didn't go up that bonus hill, and instead came up to this point from behind where he is standing. I'm sure things got tricky at times.)

The real hill. Many of us mortals walked up this thing. Mr 10K (on the left and the eventual 10K winner) flew past us mortals.

As usual, the aid stations were nicely stocked with everything you might want (short of a beer and a burrito, but then, I didn't actually ask for them, so who knows). This is at the top of that main hill and served as the 10K turnaround.

A nice obstacle. And there is no truth to the rumor that The Brazen Rabbit put this here just to stir things up. Probably.

A very welcome course change removed a not-as-much-fun-as-it-looks (and it didn't look fun at all) little out-and-back near the end and replaced it with an awesome stretch of single-track trail. Since the trail runs partly through a dried up creek, it's a bit doubtful that this could be used for the New Year's version of the race, but then, running through a creek can be a lot of fun (hint hint).

Darci came out to meet The Boy and run him in. He is SO happy to be so close to finishing.

He is also in a fair amount of pain at this point.

Then Darci headed back out and ran me in.

Darci said "Do that again and you'll have to run yourself in from now on." It's hard to explain this, but I was trying to do a "leap of joy" for the camera. I mostly just succeeded in frightening people (the good news is that I didn't hurt myself).

Mrs Notthat got third place in her age group, beating eight others! She is liking 5K races and it might be hard to get her back to doing Halves again.

And The Boy is now a true trail runner! He fell for the first time, although by all accounts (his), he made it look graceful and almost planned.

OK, maybe not quite a true trail runner since there was almost no blood and probably no skin left back on the trail.

The whole group at the finish line. Everyone was mostly happy (Riley got third in his age group, and a bonus medal, but Darci got fourth in hers and no bonus medal) but a bit hungry.

So Mrs Notthat suggested having lunch at a local health food restaurant.

And that's about it. The Boy and I give the new course layout two scraped elbows up! It was another great Brazen event with well marked trails, nicely stocked aid stations, and It's-It ice cream at the finish line (along with a TON of other great food). The volunteers were also great, helping to keep everything running smoothly.

And the new Bass is definitely Badder.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see a LOT more pictures from the event at Brazen's Picassa site.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wharf to Wharf to Wharf

For the second year in a row, Mrs Notthat and I participated in the perpetually sold out Wharf to Wharf race. It's a six mile race that goes from the roller coaster-infested Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to a beach in Capitola where they handed us our t-shirts.

Last year we got up at 4 AM and drove down to a parking lot where we got on a shuttle bus that took us to the start line, and at the end of the race, we stood in line for an hour to get on another shuttle bus that took us back to the parking lot. We spent more time fooling with shuttle busses than we spent actually running the race.

This year we decided to be smart and avoid the shuttle busses altogether, and even better, avoid having to get up at 4 AM - we got a hotel more or less at the halfway point of the race. The idea was to walk to the start on the morning of the race, run the race, then walk back to the hotel from the finish line.

Once we checked in on Saturday afternoon, Mrs Notthat had the great idea of trying out the walk to the start line just to see how long it would take (30 minutes).

As a bonus, we were able to scout out all the porta-potties in the start area (which were all padlocked on Saturday night, which really puzzled the tourists). We walked out on the wharf and ate a fine carb-loading dinner of fried calamari.

On Sunday morning we got up at a civilized hour, ate breakfast, and leisurely strolled to the start line, where we met up with 15,000 others that were doing this race.

There was only one person we knew for sure that was doing this race - my ex-boss Yllas (not her real name). But look at that crowd - how would we find her? We weren't even on the proper starting street but on a side street. Just as I was telling Mrs Notthat how hopeless it was going to be to find her, Mrs pointed and said "But isn't that her right there?"

It was unbelievable - she was standing about ten feet away from us. I tell you - Santa Cruz is a town where the weird is just plain normal and expected.

The big deal about this race is that the course is lined with bands. A HUGE variety of bands, including two different groups of bagpipers.

Some of the bands were pretty eclectic. Some were obviously not used to being up early on a Sunday morning.

Since Mrs Notthat and I ran most of the race this year, we were not in our normal back-of-the-pack position where the crowds of runners are fairly thinned out. Instead, we were in the middle of the pack, which was much more crowded. If you look hard, you can see the line of runners in front of us stretching around the road WAY out ahead of us.

One unique thing that happened was towards the end of the race. There was a large banner that said "Marry Me Emily" that we could see ahead of us. When we got up to it, Emily was busy getting all romantic with some guy - apparently just a minute or so before we got there, he was on his knees proposing to her. (There's no truth to the rumor that she asked him to speed it up since she had a race to run. But she should have.)

We managed to finish the race in about one hour and seven minutes (almost thirty minutes faster than last year!). The walk back to the hotel though took a bit longer.

This is an interesting race. It has two big things going against it: it's all on relatively flat pavement and 15,000 runners is quite a crowd. But it has several big things going for it: most of the 15,000 runners are out to have fun, the bands are a blast (as is Santa Cruz), it's fairly cheap ($35), and Mrs Notthat loves this race.

The "hotel in the middle" thing worked out pretty good, but next time we won't do the five mile test walk the night before the race. (We weren't the only ones that took this approach - there were a lot of people that actually walked all the way back to the start line after they finished the race.)

We had a great time. The hotel was fine, the calamari loaded our carbs (with some help from the pasta we had for dessert), and we had a nice drive up the coast in the convertible on our way home.

And we never had to touch a shuttle bus.

That's it - move along...

PS: There are a lot more pictures here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fourth fun

I know, this is very late and it's obvious that my priorities are all wrong (cute grandkid pictures are way more fun than sweaty runners) - The Blog acknowledges your concerns and deeply respects them. And thinks the true Zito showed up last night.

But back to the important bits; we started the July 4th celebration by doing exactly what our Founding Fathers hoped and dreamed we'd do - running a 5K race.

Also doing exactly what our Founding Fathers hoped and dreamed we'd do to celebrate the unfriending of the British, The Boy and the grandkid's dad Needs Cool Name both went to work. After all, people that want to celebrate the day by getting their oil changed or buying a new laptop also have rights.

Grandboy Riley asserted his right to be pushed by his mom in a stroller (and yell encouraging things to his mom like "Shouldn't you be running faster than this?"). Which left Grandgirl Darci, Weird Haired Mom (who was coming back from a leg injury and had promised her doctor that she would take it really easy, Riley's encouragement notwithstanding), Mrs Notthat, and I to do this race.

Mrs Notthat started off with Darci and then left her with me and took off after it became obvious that I was not going anywhere fast due to all the pictures I was taking.

Darci and a school friend were accosted by the media IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE!

Media Guy: "How has your race strategy gone so far?"
Darci: "I'm staying hydrated, I'm beating my mom, I haven't stepped in any horse poop, and I'm going to try REALLY hard to talk my grandpa out of going for that third lap."
Media Guy: "Offer him beer."

I love that Darci is floating in that picture.

The race required us to make three laps of the course, but I didn't know that when we started. Darci was thrilled when we saw the finish line after going for only about 15 minutes. That's when I asked someone and found out the real deal. Darci REALLY did not want to do that third lap, especially since her friend dropped out at the end of the second lap. But she sucked it up and did it, and I was SO proud of her for continuing on.

The funny bit was that, while I was selling her on the benefits of that third lap, WHM almost caught up to us. There was no way she wanted to be beat by her mom pushing a stroller, so she took off and finished strong, with almost no whining. Mrs Notthat, who had finished earlier, met us about a quarter mile from the finish and ran her the rest of the way in, beating me by several seconds.

You can see a lot more race pictures here.

The next big event on our schedule was the annual Battle of the Bands that features the Stanford and UC Davis bands making a LOT of noise and mayhem for two hours. I've gone on and on about them before, so I'm going to be gentle this time. I do like this picture though of Riley trying to work out where the batteries go in this hair brush.

For my money, the UC Davis band was more entertaining and won. Here the sax players are attacking someone from the one of the other food groups. They also did a nice thrashing of the Stanford Tree.

The Stanford band was also very good - it's always impressive that these people hang in there for two hours in the sun, enthusiastically making loud noises and doing wildly improper things with their instruments. The guy in feathers is their director.

Darci kept herself entertained by collecting escaped feathers from the apparently molting director.

Once the concert was over, it was time for kettle corn, hot dogs, and shopping.

As evening fell, Mrs Notthat, WHM, and the grandkids (who were later met by NCN once it was worked out that nobody really wanted to buy a laptop on that day after all) headed to Foster City to watch the fireworks. (The Blog was encouraged to stay home since he is not a night person and little of his grumpiness goes a long ways, or so he has been told.)

A vicious game of Uno helped pass the time.

So it was a great day all around (post-fireworks traffic being the exception). I think our Founding Fathers would have been OK with it all.

Except maybe understanding the oil changing part.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Maniac (!) goes bust

I was really bummed last year that I had to miss out on the Brazen Dirty Dozen trail race due to me having to be in Missouri playing with fireworks. This year though, no Missouri or fireworks, so the Dirty Dozen was ON!

Einre (not his real name) spent the weeks leading up to this race convincing me that I could actually go 50 miles in 12 hours. I had my doubts, but it did seem vaguely possible. So I made this sign to wear on my back during the race:

It got a LOT of comments; "I've my got money on you making it!" said one woman who actually had nothing to do with the race - MANY runners gave lots of great encouragement. But was there a chance of me not going bust? (Spoiler alert: No, not really.)

It was actually pretty good running conditions, weather-wise, outside of a brutal and relentless wind. The good part though was that the wind was often at your back or blocked by the trees.

Note the two arches; Brazen tried something new this year - in addition to the 6 and 12 hour endurance runs, they had two 10Ks and two 5Ks, each timed to get fresh runners on the course near the end of the 6 and 12 hour runs. This was a brilliant idea, although it must have caused a near meltdown for the timing company's computers, trying to keep everything sorted.

The course was a 5K loop that had some great views of the bay.

And some great trails through the woods. The hills were modest, although they tended to add up over time - after 8 hours or so they started to resemble 1000 foot cliffs.

Near the end of each lap you were greeted by the double arches and music coming from the finish line. (Naturally, it wasn't a direct shot to the finish line from here - you had to turn left and do a bootleg move to get there.)

Weird Haired Mom, who did the early 10K and late 5K (Double Dirty!), managed to skin up a knee a bit. Welcome to the cult that are trail runners!

There was an aid station at the 5K halfway point - this meant we had an aid station every 1.5 miles! This was stunningly cool.

It also meant I had ample opportunity to catch Endorphin Dude sitting around, soaking up the sunshine. He is seriously grimacing here since he saw me and my camera. Beware the paparazzi!

There were also a number of encouraging (sort of) signs around the course.

This course is on trails in Point Pinole Park that used to be a munitions testing/storage area. This is a remnant of its past. It is also something that caused me great confusion during my 9th lap - I had gone past it 8 times but had never noticed it. When I saw it on my 9th lap, I knew I was off course. I went backwards a bit, but kept seeing pink ribbons marking this as indeed the right trail. I finally just accepted that I have the observation skills of a moderately advanced shrub.

The course was actually marked very well, including this just before a turn. It's funny how, when you get tired, you can easily miss things like this. Twice I caught myself looking down and noticing flour arrows, and realized that I had nearly missed a turn. Zombie runners like me need all the help they can get.

In addition to the absurd goal of going 50 miles, I had a real goal of finishing a 50K (ten laps). As I came in towards the finish line, The Brazen Rabbit and Yrrek (not her real name either) were holding a ribbon across the finish line. Much to their horror, I stopped and took a picture of them before I continued on. The problem was the speedy Ydna (Not his - oh never mind) was coming up close on my heels and was threatening to break my ribbon, so I hustled and managed to beat him to it. I was very tired at this point, and breaking this ribbon was much harder than you would have thought.

This was a very cool moment - I could stop now and be happy, but there were still nearly four hours left in the twelve hour race. I did a bit of math and realized I could still easily break 40 miles if I could do three more laps. So I headed out for the first of those three laps.

At the end of the first of this lap, I announced that it was going to take one heck of a sales job to get me to do another lap. The Brazen Rabbit is quite a saleswomen, and paced me on my next lap.

But at the end of that lap, I was REALLY convinced I was done. I sat for a bit, then laid down. I was shivering and VERY tired. (I'm in a bit of misery here, but startled SIR Hard Core and Etep by asking them to take my picture. Then I couldn't stop laughing long enough to look as pathetic as I felt.)

In any case, this caught the attention of the medic, who came over and started trying to work out whether  a life-flight chopper needed to be radioed in. I'm sure he knew I was done, but he didn't know how determined SIR Hard Core and Etep could be.

They got me back on my feet, wrapped me in a warm towel, and got me to have a couple of cups of soup broth and a hot chocolate. Remarkably, these made me feel immensely better - the shivering stopped and my tummy seemed perky. I was still VERY tired, but after the medic asked me a few questions to prove I was reasonably lucid (What day is it? Where are you? What is up with those things on your ankles?), he reluctantly agreed to allow me to do my last lap. There was still over an hour, and even at my worst, I should be able to do a lap in plenty of time.

SIR Hard Core, who is an avid hockey player, paced me on that lap and we spent a lot of time talking about the wonders of the icing rule. Well, until all that soup and hot chocolate decided it really needed to be rejoined with nature (I am SO glad Endorphin Dude was not around with a camera for that, bloggable or not!).

But, thanks to the efforts of the very serious and noble Brazen Rabbit and SIR Hard Core, I did it. With 20 minutes or so to spare. (There was a mini-loop of 0.7 miles so that, in the last hour, we could add more miles. HAH! So not happening for me!)

OK, maybe "very serious and noble" are not exactly the right terms for these two. (But without them and Etep and an understanding medic, I would have ended with 34.1 miles.)

A great picture that Etep took - I have no idea how I found the energy to look so perky.

WHM and I with our medals. I'm MUCH tireder than I look.

Endorphin Dude joined us for a picture. He managed to get in a 50K, even with a late start. (And I think he is doing another 50K on Sunday!) I'm starting to list a bit, so WHM and I packed up and headed home.

The two medals on the left are WHM's. The one on the right is mine - the Swiss Army Knife of medals (a medal, coaster and bottle opener!).

In a typically amazing classy move, Brazen engraved all medals of people that did two or more races or the 12 hour endurance run.

And that's about it. This was a race of firsts for me:

> The first time I had to have a BM after the race started. (There were several easily accessible bathrooms, although one of them had an odor that was stunning low-flying birds at 100 feet.)

> The first time I've thrown up during or after a race.

> The first time I've gone further than a 50K or a time longer than 9 hours.

> The first time I've had pacers.

> And probably the most surprising, the first time I've qualified for joining Marathon Maniacs! Granted, it's at the lowest level possible (three marathons in 90 days or less), but this is pretty shocking for me.

So, I went bust - no 50 miles (although I'm now convinced that, with a bit more training, this would have been entirely doable), but 40.3 miles is a nice consolation prize. This event was a blast with so many talented runners putting in remarkable distances (I think the winner put in about 75 miles!). And everyone was great at encouraging the others - a fun thing about this sort of event is that you tend to see the same runners multiple times.

I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to all the volunteers that had to stand in that cold wind while we at least were able to move around and keep a bit warm; and of course, a MASSIVE thanks to everyone that pushed and cajoled me into reaching a great milestone. You were all angels and heros!

That's it - move along...

PS: I put a LOT more pictures here.