Sunday, January 29, 2012

No coyotes, but glorious weather and lots of runners

Brazen's Coyote Hills trail race is very close to home, which makes it irresistible. Apparently, it is irresistible to a lot of other runners too since the 5K and 10K distances both sold out - in the end there were 1205 total finishers.

We showed up a little over an hour before the start, but were not even close to getting a close parking spot. Not a Canadian wisely showed up a LOT before us (more than two hours before race start) and not only got a close parking spot, but also captured this great picture of the sun rising over the porta-potties.

346 runners finished the Half Marathon distance, and almost all of them are in front of me here, just before the start.

After a short bit on some pavement, we veered off onto the wooden trail across the wetlands.

A large part of the course follows the water's edge. It was calm, sunny, and really nice along the water, which is not normal - not in January. Those brown hills should be a bright green by now - we are really in need of our winter rain.

There were a LOT of water fowl to look at as you cruised along the largely paved trail.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Teddy 
Mrs Notthat was well ahead of me and flying along.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Teddy
 I wasn't in last place, but I wasn't far from it.

One of the fun things about this course is a fairly long out-and-back section where you get to see the runners that are ahead of and behind you. In this case, I had hit the turnaround and was heading back out when I saw Weird Haired Mom. She looked good, but it turned out she didn't feel good. Her legs were really hurting and she ended up cutting her half short, and wisely did the 10K instead.

Yrrek (not her real name), wisely chose to do the 10K from the start. She also looked good, although she was hard to spot with nearly normal hair.

To do the Half Marathon, you do two laps around the course. At this point I'm a little over a mile from finishing my first lap. Esoj (not his real name) has nearly caught up with me, except he is on his second lap! It was humbling to get passed by a number of Half runners that finished their two laps in less time than it took me to finish my first lap. But then, if I had been faster, I wouldn't have gotten this great picture of a smiling Esoj!

If you do the 5K or 10K courses, you end up with a few gentle hills, but other than some bits of gravel and the wooden trail, it's largely like a road course (without cars). But if you do the Half course, you get a bonus reminder that you're really doing a trail race. It's not long, but it's a blast.

At the end of my first lap, I could see and hear the finish line off to the right, but knew it wasn't for me. I refilled my bottle and headed out again.

Back out on the wooden bit of trail. There were a LOT of volunteer photographers along the course - I lost track of how many times my picture was taken (I started to get a bit tired of having to keep sucking in my gut so often!).

There were three aid stations, but two of them we hit twice, making for five aid stations altogether. They were all staffed with fun volunteers and lots of food and water and laughs and cheers.

When I hit the out-and-back bit again, I wasn't sure whether I would see Mrs Notthat or not - I figured there would be a good chance she was far enough ahead of me that she was already done with it. But to my surprise and joy, she hadn't finished it and was only about 20 minutes ahead of me. And looking awesome as usual.

The other aid station we hit twice was run by the Tri-Valley Tri Club, which had a number of clever signs as you approached them. Like this one (that sadly took me a while to get).

This was my favorite.

I declared them the best aid station ever. Then they told me I had to continue another 20 feet and go around the cone. Make that the second best aid station ever. Then they offered to pace me around that cone. OK, back to best aid station ever.

Heading back out from there I came across Einre (not his real name either), who was looking good and going very steady, as normal.

This is the point where the Half course splits up. The first time through I had to veer to the left and go do that second lap. The second time through you get to veer right and end up at the finish line. I thought it would be funny to pretend to decide to do a third lap, but the kid standing in the trail looked very serious about not letting me do that, plus the Brazen Rabbit was there and I knew she'd chase me down and force me to finish. So I headed to the right and finished the race.

Here's the other thing about this area - I knew the two photographers and their dog Harlow, but somehow never realized it was them taking the pictures. I'm not at my brightest towards the end of a race. Or at the beginning, for that matter.

Pictures by Brazen Volunteer Claudine RL Co
You should be able to click the above picture to see a bigger version of it - it shows Mrs Notthat flying, just barely under control, down the hill. (The second picture is the best, with her nearly a foot in the air!) The funny bit is that Mrs made Harlow the dog a bit nervous as she charged down that hill the second time - Harlow actually barked some advice along the lines of "WATCH OUT FOR THAT SHRUB!"

Pictures by Brazen Volunteer Claudine RL Co

And then there is me, carefully placing each foot and watching for hidden rocks and roots that I have a knack of tripping over. Harlow mooned me.

Mrs Notthat ended up setting a PR, which is amazing since this is not exactly a flat course, plus it's a bit long.

I ended up finishing in under three hours, but nearly twenty minutes slower than last year (and nearly twenty minutes after Mrs Notthat). They still gave me a finisher's medal, so I was happy.

A group picture with a very nervous NAC (#148), worrying that I am doing something embarrassing while standing behind her. Of course I was - it's funny that Sirhc (on the right, not his real name) had the same idea.

Chris Bliss, who did the Hiker start, walked the course and finished strong and perky (although with sore feet).

And that's about it. It was a great event with a great shirt and medal. The course could use a few more hills and a bit less pavement, but the water views are great and the wooden trail over the wetland bits is fun (although in places the water looked dodgy). The weather was spectacularly clear and nice.

I will likely be volunteering at the next two Brazen events (Bay Breeze and Hellyer) since they are both flatter than this one (which also makes them very popular).

Which means I should be early enough to get my own sunrise over the porta-potties pictures.

That's it - move along...

PS: Here is a link to a bunch more pictures I took.


Claudine said...

I will see you at Bay Breeze, Allen! I'm not as tough as you and Mrs. Notthat, therefore choosing the nice, safe, flatter courses. BUT, it is on my list to do a Brazen race this year with hills that frighten me. (Perhaps start with a 10k first, though...). Perhaps Diablo? Or Wildcat?

Beth said...

Looks like you guys had a blast! I love the picture strips of the two of you, Mrs. is looking very serious about charging down that hill!
Love the black shirts, too. While I'm at it..I love the medal, too.

mary ann said...

This is great ~ what a beautiful day. I'm always inspired too by the volunteers who are there to support you. Good job, everyone!

Meghan said...

I love running there! It looked like a beautiful day. Watching all the birds in the water is one of my favorite parts too! Great job out there on Saturday!

Franck Bossuwe said...

Great job Allen! I will be there to cheer you up at Bay Breeze since I volunteer this time. For coyotes, there are some in the area. I spotted one a few times on the north part of the Alameda Creek trail in the direction of the Bay but only on very early runs.