Mrs Notthat and I did the Brazen Bear Creek Half Marathon. This was her first Half Marathon since the Turkey Trail Half in Colorado in June, and she picked a doozy.
Here's how someone who is only barely fit to do these sorts of races should NOT spend the day before the race - standing in the sun for three hours judging people trying to catch water balloons from this catapult.
The company I work at had their corporate games, and the timing was not good for me. However, while my legs were a bit tired on Saturday morning, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. (Spoiler alert: It was.)
Sorry - I need to get the porta-pottie picture out of the way. Notice all the sunshine - it was heavily overcast around the bay, which gave me some hope of cool weather at least for the first part of the race. But once we crossed into the part of the East Bay where the race was being held, there was nothing but bright sunshine. Mrs Notthat rejoiced!
Just before the race. Mrs Notthat asked me to smile. I need to work on that.
Mrs Notthat started out fast. I was a bit worried that she had maybe forgotten how long a Half is, and how much climbing we would be doing, but was thrilled to see her moving along so well.
Mrs Notthat was the only runner with walking sticks, and she took a bit of heat for that. She sure liked them on the uphills like this though. The race started with mostly uphill for the first 2.9 miles. And it was all mostly exposed like this - even though it was only 8:30 or so, it was getting hot already. That aid station you see at the top of the hill marked the start of a long downhill. Yay! (Or so I thought at the time.)
Mrs didn't even pause at the aid station - she was feeling great and loved being so far ahead of me. Plus this was a nice long downhill stretch, and she does well on these.
Unfortunately, not long after I took this, I saw her coming back up the hill. It turned out that she had lost her iPod somewhere between the aid station and about two-thirds of the way down the hill. (Her playlist had ended at about the aid station and she didn't go to restart it until she was near the bottom of the hill, which is when she noticed that her ear buds were dangling.) This left a LONG uphill stretch where the iPod could be - so we both headed back up the hill to look for it. I made it all the way back to the aid station, but no luck.
So we headed back down the hill. And just like that she had gone from an unstoppable sprite to a tired, unmotivated runner with sore feet. After a bit she grudgingly agreed to try my Shuffle, which has maybe 20% songs she really likes, 20% songs she will sit through, and 60% songs she could not possibly hit the skip button fast enough to avoid. But it was better than nothing, and her mood picked up a bit.
That didn't makes the hills any easier though.
Because we lost so much time going back up that hill searching for the iPod, we ended up in last place. Once the Shuffle was pressed into service though, we started making up ground and passed Einre (not his real name) a little bit before the next aid station. (Note that we were finally in some shady areas at this point. This course had a lot of very exposed sections, but also a lot of nicely forested sections.)
At the second aid station (5.8 miles), Mrs Notthat's iPod was there waiting for her! I loved that it was making better time around the course than we were! (And a HUGE thanks to whoever found it and dropped it off there - you made Mrs' day!)
This totally picked up Mrs Notthat's spirits and she charged up the hill out of that aid station.
There was a very nice stretch of trail along a mostly dried up creek. I had managed to pass Mrs Notthat - I think the reality of this being a Half was starting to set in (this was about 7 miles into the race - a bit over half way).
The nice trail ended with a stunningly difficult uphill stretch.
We had been seeing a lot of soggy dogs coming down the hill, and once we finally got to the top, we could see why - there was a great little pond that the dogs would swim around in, trying to catch a couple of ducks that were having a great time teasing the slow dogs. (It's hard to see, but that's a duck being "chased" by two dogs.)
It was very hot by this time. To make matters worse, all the excitement of the iPod saga led me to forget to fill up my water bottles. Mrs Notthat ran out at about mile 8 or so, so I gave her the rest of my water (I still had some Nuun in my other bottle) and headed out to get to the next aid station at mile 9.9.
As I was going along a dirt road, I heard a horn honk at me. I couldn't believe some rancher or tourist was out there harassing us runners, so I turned and glared and saw the unofficial Brazen Mobile driving up to the aid station. I'm not sure why they were there, but I know they picked up at least one struggling runner - it was hot and dry and if you weren't watching your hydration, you were going to be in trouble at this point.
In any case, I got a quick cool down with a sponge on the head, filled my bottles, and headed back down the hill to catch up to Mrs who I knew would be really needing some water by this time. The two of us then headed up to the aid station and filled our bottles and enjoyed the shade for a bit.
There was only a 5K left to do - 5Ks are easy! Yeah right - we were both tired and ready to be done. But a bit over three more miles certainly seemed doable. Barely.
Mrs Notthat headed out first, and almost immediately we heard a sound that you never want to hear - a rattle followed by a startled yelp. Mrs had come very close to stepping on a less than pleased rattlesnake.
It was a bit ironic that it was so close to the aid station - I suspect it was hoping to get relief from the heat as well. Lots of pictures were taken (from a nice, safe distance) and it posed politely through all of them. After it grew bored, it slithered off to the right and was gone.
I had scientifically worked out that, after that aid station, it would be mostly downhill to the finish line. I told this to Mrs Notthat, and she believed me. We then spent the next mile climbing a lot of small hills, which by this time, felt like mountains. She stopped talking to me. There were two things that were true though: There was another aid station at mile 12 and there was only a mile to go after that - we were actually going to finally finish this thing!
If you get a chance to run a race behind Mrs, do it. She is very entertaining and creative in how she keeps herself moving. Here she is airing out her pits. I thought she was trying to scare the snakes away. (We did see a second rattler later on. Who knows how many we missed.)
A cruel tease. That's the 12 mile aid station, but it's still about a mile away. Thankfully it was all downhill though.
The two of us triumphantly making it to mile 12! ("Run for the camera" I yelled. Once the camera was put down though, the running stopped.)
Me giving myself a sponge shower. These were amazingly effective at cooling me off for a bit - I would also get my hat wet but was amazed at how quickly it would dry out. Mrs Notthat declined to let me squeeze a sponge over her. I don't get it either.
In addition to the sponge shower, I was remarkably sweaty. When Nyleve (not her real name - a volunteer photographer who had been at this aid station since the early morning) asked to get a picture of the two of us, Mrs made it very clear that I was NOT to touch her. Again, I don't get it either.
Shortly after we left that station we came upon an outhouse. Remarkably, I actually needed to use it (that's never happened this late in a Half Marathon before - I had been taking saltsticks and I think they helped me a LOT during this hot race). Mrs could smell the finish line, so she took off and I didn't see her again.
I did manage to hear Einre at the aid station asking how far ahead of him we were, so I knew he was close. So once I left the odor-filled comfort of the outhouse, I tried to make some good time, and possibly catch Mrs (HA!).
The trail was fantastic at this point - nice single track with rolling hills. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poison oak in those shrubs. And apparently earlier in the day, a lot of bees. (The medic at the finish line had spent a lot of time rinsing off people's legs to remove the poison oak and treating bee stings, not to mention the dehydration issues which resulted in one person leaving in an ambulance.)
Just before the finish line, you go down a set of stairs, cross a creek (that actually had water in it!), and go up a second set of stairs. Many people worked hard to not get wet while crossing this creek, but I loved the cold water on my tired feet. I stood there for as long as I dared, fearing that Einre would start down the stairs and pass me.
But I still managed to beat him by a couple of minutes.
This was an odd race. It was my second worst time in a Half Marathon, but the backtracking had a lot to do with that. It would have been interesting to see how this would have gone without the distraction of the lost iPod - I suspect the toughness of this course would have caught up with Mrs Notthat eventually, but she still would have had a respectable finishing time.
As it was, we were both thrilled to have finished at all.
And survived, bite free! (No bees, bears, or rattlesnakes got us!)
That's it - move along...
PS: You can see a lot more pictures here and here (sorry for some confusion in them - there were some irritating upload issues).