Reality check: 10K might be nice and wise for 2012, but past experience shows that within a week or so I will already be thinking about how I can beat this year's time in the Half Marathon. Common sense and trail running rarely go hand in hand.
Last year, the Brazen Rocky Ridge event nearly brought me my first DNF. This course is shockingly hard. This year I was determined to tame it and finish strong.
Mrs Notthat, being wiser than me, and Hteb (not her real name) did the 10K race. The funny thing was that they both bought new trail shoes this week, and they ended up with exactly the same ones! Wearing new shoes at a trail race is a bit risky, but Mrs Notthat had been having lots of trouble with her current shoes, and it was unlikely that the new ones could be worse. So would the new shoes make these two faster? Who would finish first? And who really buys turquoise shoes on purpose anyway?
I was explaining to Htenaj (not her real name either) what the hills were going to be like. Just to humor me, she pretended to be concerned. In the end, she flew up and down them and finished with a time I can only dream about.
The course was as billed - absurdly challenging but laced with stunning views. Mt Diablo mocked us in the distance.
Much of the course was reasonably shaded, with a lot of great single-track. Granted, that single-track was either going straight up or straight down.
As usual, the course was very well marked, although I was a bit puzzled by the "Go Rocky" and the dog drawing at the 5K turnaround. (It turns out that World Famous by HBO Artac - not her real name - helped mark the course, and was running the 5K with her dog name Rocky Ridge. It's good to be a course marker!)
There were four aid stations for the Half Marathon, and they were all fantastic. But the last one was a bit special. Yes, Weird Haired Mom and her wonder dog Dove were there, but what really made it special was that there were only 2.7 miles left. And no more major hills to climb.
Dove begged me to take her with me. I probably should have since her perkiness might have rubbed off on me, as I was in desperate need of perkiness at this point.
As I was on the final stretch, I couldn't resist pausing to stand in the only real mud puddle on the course.
These two were heading back out on the course, cheering on the last few runners. I loved the emotional lift and high fives I got from them! That carried me all the way to the finish line.
The waiting ambulance was amazingly not for me, but that arch certainly was.
Mrs Notthat had been finished with her 10K for hours before I finally showed up. She's smiling because she did really well, and even more important, her feet were in great shape - the new shoes performed better than hoped!
Mrs Notthat keeps getting faster, and now she's picking the brains of others for how she can get better. Here, Nad (not his real name) is explaining that moving your feet quicker can make you go faster.
A great surprise was seeing Ultra Woof with her new dog, Spammy! Here she is teaching Spammy that standing on a table is great fun!
After I rested a bit, Ultra Woof, Spammy, and I headed back out on the course to find Einre (not his real name either). I had forgotten that it was mostly downhill to the finish, which meant that heading back out would mean going uphill. We went for a bit and then I decided it was wiser to sit and wait for them. I played fetch with Spammy (what a cool dog!) while waiting.
It was a little disconcerting that we met up with the course sweeper before Einre - he explained that Einre was coming up behind him along with one of the aid station volunteers ("the one with tattoos" he said - that didn't narrow it down very much).
It turned out to be Weird Haired Mom and Dove the Wonder Dog pacing Einre in. Einre has been doing tough race after tough race all summer long, and it finally caught up to him on this course. He had a tough time, and nearly DNFd at the same point I nearly did last year, but the sweeper talked him into finishing, and finish he did.
Which naturally led to a tasty recovery lunch at a local In-N-Out.
This was, as usual, a very tough race. I'm thrilled that I managed to finish it without all the issues I had last year, but am humbled that it still kicked my butt. In the battle of new shoes, Mrs Notthat ended up beating Hteb by a little over five minutes, and beat her time from last year by more than an hour and forty minutes, finishing in 1:21:10. I ended up beating last year's time by a bit over thirty minutes, finishing in 4:33:46.
To make things a bit more interesting, Brazen offered cash prizes for the winners. This is probably partly to blame for their being nearly twice the number of runners this year as last. Last year, Mrs and I both got third in our age groups - this year, she got 7th out of 9 and I got 9th out of 9.
Since my parents are visiting next weekend, I will be taking it off (my first non-race weekend in 10 weeks). But the following weekend has the Brazen Mt Diablo race, which is tough, but mild compared to Rocky Ridge. Thankfully.
And for those of you that worried I missed a porta-pottie picture, not to worry. I didn't take this one (world famous photographer Etep did), but it is stunning (including getting mooned by Spammy).
That's it - move along...
PS: Lots more pictures and snarky comments here.