Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Double infinity is not how long it took...

...but it sure felt that way.

On Saturday, Mrs Notthat and I took part in the Brazen Summit Rock trail race outside of Saratoga in the Santa Cruz mountains. Brazen doesn't do that many trail races in this part of the Bay Area, so it's a real treat when one shows up.

But wow, this is a tough course that has a way of sneaking up on you.

There are three races (5K, 10K, and Half Marathon); all out-and-backs on the same trails, with each longer distance going out a bit farther. The trails are amazing - mostly single-track through a thick forest.

The catch is that the 5K and 10K runners spend the first half of the race going steadily uphill until they reach the turnaround, where they get to head back down that switchback-infested hill.

After struggling to get up the hill, it's very tempting to take off and try to make up for lost time going back down it, however the trail has a lot of roots and rocks that can trip you up - there were a number of mildly to moderately twisted and sprained ankles and such by the time the runners hit the finish line. Almost everyone either got tripped up or stumbled several times.

The Half Marathon also headed up that hill, then turned right, and headed through a valley just to add a bit more of an elevation challenge.

Mrs Notthat and I signed up for the Half Marathon, however, Mrs Notthat was in no condition to be doing a race at all, let alone a challenging Half, since she was in the middle of a fierce battle with a raging cold. So she grudgingly downgraded to the 5K and promised to take it easy. (Spoiler alert: HA!)

She says she only stuck herself once while putting this bib on.

Mrs and I gave each other a hug just before I took off with the other Half runners. (The 5K didn't start for another 30 minutes, so she headed over to the coffee pot and got a bit more hydrated.)

One nice surprise was seeing Probably Not a Canadian out on the course cheering us runners on (she was running the 5K and so had some time to kill). She helpfully yelled at me to start running. I responded by not making a rude gesture.

Weird Haired Mom came out and took pictures at the 5K turnaround. This is about 1.5 miles and nearly 700 feet of climbing into the race. This is not a 5K for the faint of heart.

Picture by Alameda Ted
Here I am reaching the 10K turnaround point, a bit over three miles and 1500 feet of climbing into the race. 10K runners are rejoicing since it's all downhill for them from here. Half runners still have about 1400 feet of climbing to go, although the long, relentless climb is pretty much over.

The trail along the top of the ridge really showed the effects of last week's wind storm. It was covered in small spruce (fir? redwood? palm?) tree branches, giving a festive feel while making the rocks and roots just a bit harder to see. Ahead of me is my arch nemesis - Yram (not her real name), keeping up a strong pace. Would she beat me yet again?

Sometimes the branches on the trail were actually whole trees - talking with the Brazen Rabbit (who marked the trail the day before), she had to do a fair amount of work just to clear enough space for us to get through. Even at that, it felt like we were in one of those made-for-TVobstacle races at times.

I would walk up to one of these obstructions and carefully step over, around, or through it. Others just took a flying leap, so to speak.

Finally, after nearly two hours (!) and to the comforting (?) sound of gunfire, I reached the Half turnaround at about 6.6 miles. (There is a shooting range across the road, and it was filled with enthusiastic customers.) Unlike the 5K and 10K races, hitting the turnaround for the Half did not mean it was all downhill from here - we still had that valley to go through, and about 500 more feet of climbing.

One thing about this kind of race, there are a LOT of negative splits (where runners cover the second half of the race faster than the first half). And I was no different, taking a little less than one and a half hours to get back to the finish line.

Picture by Jonathan
I was quite happy to be finished. (Note my sideways "88" bib. Double infinity! And you math guys can save your flames; I know you can't really double infinity, but if the timing company could figure out how to enter that into their computer, that's the time I should have gotten.)

I finished in 3:29:44, and really don't know how I managed to do this same race in 3:04:11 last year. But enough about me - what about the "clinging to her deathbed so she's going to take it easy" Mrs Notthat?

Picture by Jonathan
There she is (in teal, or whatever that color is in the center) "taking it easy" on her way out.

Picture by Jonathan
And here she is "taking it easy" on her way back to the finish line. She ended up second in her age group at 42:34!

It's not easy to get this many Brazen people to stand still long enough for a picture (or to get a picture of Mr Brazen when he isn't thoughtfully stroking that impressive bushy thing on his face, trying to work out how to make the race more challenging next year).

For those keeping score, I ended up passing arch nemesis Yram just before the turnaround and beat her, but not by much. For those that need to know, from left to right, you have Yram, Mrs Notthat, Brazen Rabbit, Mrs Brazen, Mr Brazen, and Yrrek (not her real name and not a whiner, no matter what I said elsewhere).

I love this - Mas, who often is the sweeper, ran this race and finished an hour or so before me. He was rewarded by getting to push Brazen First and Second Born in the stroller. "Come on Mas! Daddy would push me much faster up that hill! Let's do it again!" explained First Born.

Note the deer off to the right. I was amazed at how unconcerned they were about all the people, the music, and the general mayhem going on. I suspect they were hoping for leftover It's-It ice cream bars.

I love this type of trail, but it is not without its issues. The faster runners coming back down the hill at a breakneck (fortunately, not literally) pace had to contend with getting past the slower runners still heading up the hill, and the trail was often too narrow for this to happen easily. (An advantage of being a slower Half runner was that I had none of these issues when I was coming down that hill. I could go as fast as I wanted. Which was usually just a bit above a slow jog.)

The other issue is that upon reaching the top of the hill you are not rewarded with sweeping views, as is the case in most of the East Bay races - instead, you are rewarded with views of more trees. Which is fine by me - I love running through forests like this and get just as much of a reward looking at trees the whole way.

A huge thanks to all the volunteers, the Brazen people, and all the runners that made this such a fine and fun event.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more of my pictures here, and a BUNCH more pictures from the prolific volunteer paparazzi here.


DAK said...

I love the photo of Mrs. That in the forest -- underneath the photo it says "photo by Jonathan."

notthatlucas said...

Well, Jonathan (a regular photographer at these events) took the picture - I was probably still wandering up the hill at this point.

Most of the pictures in these blog posts are ones that I've taken, but a few are ones that I've downloaded from Brazen's Picassa site. It just occurred to me recently that I should probably mention which are which. (In general, if it's blurry I probably took it; if it's nice, someone else took it.)

And Mrs Notthat was very focussed on finishing. It turns out that she's WAY more competitive than I am (which surprised both of us).

mary ann said...

I had no previous knowledge of the negative split, so this provided some good information. Those trails do NOT tempt me. You are both amazing. Did I miss the Ferry Building run a week or so ago or were the bathrooms too sophisticated to warrant a post?

Claudine said...

Looove the reports! One of my goals for 2012 is to *not* shy away from trail runs, steep hills or not, and esp if Brazen puts them on. Congratulations to you and Mrs Notthat on finishing strong!

notthatlucas said...

MAS: I didn't do a real post about the Ferry Building race, but did post a bunch of pictures to FB. I'll send you a link.

Claudine: You and Danny will love trail races and end up looking forward to the hills, stream crossings, and mud! (It was pretty wild seeing the two of you on Sunday in GGPark!)