It's a lovely trail following a fun creek - kind of amazing considering how urban the area actually is. Since a lot of it parallels the freeway, you do get a bit of traffic noise in places, but for large chunks, it is pleasant. Maybe too pleasant, since it is very popular and tends to get crowded, especially with over-caffeinated bike riders that love to take advantage of the smooth pavement and fun curves.
So I wasn't all that eager to do today's Coastal Zombie Runner Vasona Lake Half Marathon. But then Weird Haired Mom signed up, and then The Boy was able to do it, so we all headed down to Vasona Lake for the morning.
By the time we got there, there were quite a few people already hanging around.
We found a few others that we frequently run with and managed this before-the-race group photo. Note that everyone is smiling - it actually stayed this way for the whole morning (well, except for when climbing That Hill).
Enirehtak the Canadian (not her real name or nationality, but it's fun to wind her up) and The Boy are demonstrating the kind of trail that made up a bit more than half of the course today - nicely paved (although you could often find dirt shoulders to run on) with rolling hills and nice lake or creek views.
The Half Marathon ended up having five aid stations - the longest distance you could go without hitting one was 2.4 miles! Each had great volunteers and lots of good things to eat and drink.
There were lots of pretty views like this.
One of the other things that convinced me to do this race was a chance to visit my favorite bench in the world (although to be honest, I haven't actually seen every bench in the world, yet) - the bench put in to honor Tom Kaisersatt, who started the San Jose Fit group. On the back of it, where absolutely nobody ever sees it, is his Western States 100 Endurance Run belt buckle. I love looking at this thing and remembering how cool and encouraging he was to us slow people, and how much he loved trail races.
Another cool thing is this massive mural underneath an overpass, not long after you leave the pavement and hit the real trails. Ultra Woof is demonstrating its interactive nature. (In the three years I've been going by this thing, I've always wondered about the steps that appear to lead to the hut, but actually take you to a cement wall. Leave it to UW to work out how to use these things.)
There was a too short stretch of great single-track trail that we got to go up and down. Here, Eirolav (not her real name either, and I'm not going to try to make fun of her nationality, but she is moving to So Cal, so there ought to be something in there to make fun of) slowed down just a tad so that I could get this picture of her.
The course was two out-and-backs. I knew I would see The Boy at some point and be able to judge how far ahead of me he was and whether I could catch him. When I saw him here, with WAY too much energy and WAY earlier than I thought I would see him, I knew that catching him was WAY out of the question.
WHM and UW however were comfortably behind me, so I knew I wouldn't be the dead last finisher. (Close, but not quite.) Here they are pretending to be running up That Hill - as soon as they heard the shutter they stopped and spent five minutes gasping for air. (Of course I'm kidding! It was more like ten minutes.)
There were a LOT of soggy dogs along the trail. I stopped and watched this amazing dog jump in the water, snatch this ball, then swim to this set of stairs and climb back up, only to start barking, demanding to do it all over again.
Eventually I managed to get close to the finish line and was met by The Boy (who had finished in 2:18 or so, and took second place in his age group!). He took this moving picture.
Here I am triumphantly crossing the finish line in a little over 3:06 - not a great time, but considering that I walked almost all of the paved bits, well, still not a great time.
Once I finished, we headed back out to find WHM and UW. Once they showed up, I pointed the camera at them and they ran nearly all the way to the finish line, ending up with a sub-four hour time.
And that's about it. It was a wonderful time and perfect weather (although it was starting to get pretty warm by the time we left). It was great to see so many friends out there.
But here's the cool thing - WHM was only signed up to do the 5 mile race. When UW started making noises that she was going to stop after 5 miles too, WHM decided to go ahead and "pace" her and make her do the Half. The thing is, WHM did her first Half just last weekend, and she did not come to this race expecting to do another one.
But she did it, and better yet, had fun doing it (even with That Hill). And she is now qualified to join Half Fanatics, which is a goal she didn't expect to attain until sometime in October. Amazing.
A HUGE thanks to Coastal and all the great volunteers for putting on a great event and hanging around for us slower people. Everyone had a blast.
And we didn't have to get soggy to do it.
That's it - move along....
PS: You can see some more pictures I took here.