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.