Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lake Chabot with the New Kids on the Block

Saturday was all set to be our first Pacifica-based trail race. When that race was postponed, there was another trail race on the same day that was an obvious replacement, although it was Lake Chabot-based, and we had just done a couple of New Years races out of there a short time ago.

Looking at the course maps showed that, while the ITR Lake Chabot race would use same paved sections at the start and finish, the bits in between would be significantly different. So we signed up and ran into this vicious-looking gang of trail runners as we headed to the check-in area.

Etep (on the left, and not his real name) has the punk trail running attitude down.  (Actually, I'm just REALLY good at taking pictures are the wrong time, but I love how it looks like he is overflowing with attitude.) Like me, these four were doing the 30K distance. Unlike me, they would finish well before noon.

These two need to work on their punk trail running attitudes. Llib (not his real name) was  going for his first 50K with this race. And he still managed to smile. His much saner wife Eilsel (not his...oh surely you get this by now) did the 10K (and ended up having more adventure than all of us).

Ytsirhc (on the left) and Mrs Notthat (dressed for snow, on the right) both did the Half Marathon. Irual (in the middle) said she was the volunteer flamingo wrangler, which I took to mean she had had WAY too much caffeine this morning.

Mrs Notthat was fighting a mean cold and intended to downgrade to the 10K. But once we got to the registration table, her competitive juices (which make my competitive juices look weaker than water, if that's possible) kicked in and she stayed in the Half. She said she would take it easy. (I had a good laugh over that.)

This was Inside Trail Racing's second official race. I've got to believe it's not easy for a new trail race company to get started in this area - there are already a number of great trail race companies putting on a LOT of great trail races. Selfishly, I love this since on most weekends I get a choice of races to run. But are there enough runners to keep all these races going? Judging by their turnout for this race, with a bit over 200 finishers, it looks like there might be.

These are the 50K, 30K, and Half runners getting their last minute instructions before being sent on our way.

Photo by ITR volunteer paparazzi

Here I am flying, almost half a mile into the race. And in dead last (as normal).

Once the pavement ended and the bridge was crossed we came to this intersection. That harmless-looking trail is what I have taken in the six previous races I have done out of Lake Chabot. And it is far from harmless, leading to a long, often steep climb that provides a real test of your resolve to finish the race.

But today, we ignored that trail and continued meandering along the lake shore for a bit. We still had to climb that hill, but on a gentler trail.

One last look at the lake before we head up through the eucalyptus forrest.

Or the forrest heads down to us. This tree crossing was actually a bit more challenging than it looks, at least for me. Most crawled under the tree, but I chose to go over it, and nearly slid down it as it was higher than I thought (and I was MUCH less graceful than I hoped).

These were all new trails for me, and I loved them. Some really great single-track through the woods.

When I got to the first of the aid stations, I was shocked to see Mrs Notthat there. I had figured she would have been a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me by now, but apparently she really was taking her time, sort of. When she saw me, she gave me a few encouraging words ("You look awful! Are you taking your salt?") and took off. I never saw her again until the finish.

As we left that aid station, there was a sign saying that Two Rocks was straight ahead! Never having been here before, Ytsirhc and I bubbled over with excitement, picturing some sort of amazing geologic formation was just minutes away.

And then we got there.

In case you missed them, these are the Two Rocks.

As you can see, Ytsirhc is a ham. As you can also see, the weather was wonderful - cool, sunny, slight breeze. There has been little rain this winter, but just enough that we are finally seeing things green up a bit. The trails were almost completely mud-free.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, while these trails were new to me, they still took you near a shooting range which serenaded you with alarmingly enthusiastic gunfire. For some reason, most runners sped up a bit during this stretch.

The second aid station was on the bonus loop that the 30K and 50K runners had to do. The aid stations were all great with everything you could want (short of a horse rental or burrito bar), but this one, run by Kcirtap and Kcnarf at 10 miles was most welcome. (I had worked with Kcnarf the weekend before at a Bay Breeze aid station.)

Heading out of this aid station, we were warned that there would be a bit of a climb, and we weren't disappointed.

We weren't warned about the treacherous creek crossing though. This is Nosyerg from the Florida Keys who kindly helped me get through this danger and the upcoming cliff we had to climb.

Once we got to the top though, the views were stunning.

The only place I had any kind of an issue on the trails was when we showed up at this horse-infested barn. Nosyerg and I both missed the turn and were guided back to the right trail by this cowpoke. (This added maybe 100 feet to our race, making this an ultra 30K, right?)

Photo by ITR volunteer paparazzi

Meanwhile, while we were talking to the horse lady, Mrs Notthat was steaming across the dam and heading to the finish line, doing MUCH better than either of us had expected.

Photo by ITR volunteer paparazzi
Ytsirhc and her finished at nearly the same time, with Mrs Notthat getting second in her age group! Her reward was a LONG wait for me to finish.

Meanwhile, Nosyerg and I made it to the third aid station, about 4 miles from the finish. One of the best things about this aid station was that it meant there was little serious climbing left to do - we would shortly be back on pavement (sigh) and be smelling the finish line. Nosyerg had a greater sense of smell than me, and took off at this point. (His wife was doing the 50K and he was determined to finish his 30K before she finished. He did.)

The lake finally reappeared!

And I finally found a tiny bit of mud to stand in! (You could easily go around this puddle, but why?)

With the marina in sight, it was time to pick up the pace and finish strong. I chose to start tapering and take more pictures and talk to the fishermen lining the shore. (I didn't talk to a single person that caught a fish.)

The finish line!

Photo by nationally renowned Etep

And here I am heading to the finish, being paced by a flock of pink flamingos (who, as you can see, easily beat me).

Mrs Notthat and I relaxing while waiting for Llib to come in. His wife had this great iPhone app that precisely tracked him around the course, although since it often showed him wildly out of place, such as approaching the Oregon border or in the middle of San Francisco Bay, it was of dubious accuracy.

In spite of that, soon Llib was charging by the flamingos and crossing the finish line, and our group was all done.

The shirt was great, as was the age group medal that Mrs Notthat won.

The race was a lot of fun, and I really liked the new trails we ran on. The trails were marked reasonably well, although there were times I started to wonder when I wouldn't see a ribbon for a while. The intersections were all nicely marked, and it's likely if I had been paying better attention, even the issue at the horse barn wouldn't have been an issue.

The 10K out-and-back race was apparently the victim of vandalism, with many runners not knowing where to turn - some adding significant extra distance while some just turned around at the first sign of confusion. 

That was the biggest blemish on an otherwise fine race. Good aid stations, good finish line food, great weather, lots of free pictures to download, and a fun overall flamingo-based atmosphere made this event a blast.

And it was a great final race for me with Way Too Cool coming up in two weeks. Yikes!

That's it- move along...

PS: I've got a bunch more pictures here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pansy Day 2012

Note: For those of you new to the Pansy Day concept, it occurs once a year on our wedding anniversary. A coworker of mine (Hi Blogmaid!) started calling our anniversary "Pansy Day" because, for the two weeks or so leading up to it, I was desperate to find anything that had a pansy on it, since that is Mrs Notthat's favorite flower. I bought a LOT of weird things (and a few nice ones) with pansies on them. Pansy Day has since grown into an event involving the whole family, and not nearly so many pansies. 

We had a bit of a full house. The Big Wind (The Boy's sweetie) drove down, along with her dog Sophia. Of course the grandkids and their parents were here.

Kaya enjoyed a bit of attention before the festivities got started.

The Boy has never outgrown his "play with the package the gift came in" phase. The Big Wind is thinking "I can fix that. I hope."

The dogs came out of this with a LOT of new chew toys. I got a lot of new books to read. Mrs Notthat got tickets to some 40's musical or other. But the coolest thing to me were these custom gaiters that Weird Haired Mom and the grandkids made for us.

Note the "Ø Whining" thing from my days at San Jose Fit and "Not that Lucas" on this side.

And the DSE theme "Start slowly & taper off!" and my Marathon Maniac number on the other side. So cool!

This is a second pair I got: the left was done by Grandkid First Born and the right by Grandkid Second Born. First Born drew a complicated story involving a farmer that was upset because lightening ruined his watermelons (next picture) and all he has left are grapes.

These are the other side, and you can see the lightening bolts striking the watermelons on the right.

These were made for Mrs Notthat. I don't remember the story surrounding them. It's likely gruesome though. You'll have to guess which side was done by which grandkid.

The obvious concern is what will happen if we actually wear these. I'm going to try out my flame ones in a 30K tomorrow, so we'll see. These are too cool to just leave on the shelf.

And Mrs Notthat got me this huge 26.2 oval. I'm planning to have a lot of fun with it (it has that kind of adhesive like a sticky note, that can be lifted off and used again and again).

And that's about it. Well, except for a picture of the two people that made Pansy Day an official day.

Twenty nine years of pure wedded bliss.


That's it - move along...

PS: Yes, next year will be a problem. Anniversaries that end in "0" or "5" are big deals. I failed to come through on number 25, and I cannot fail for 30. Oh dear....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Gate wasn't very Golden

After doing reasonably well at the Coastal Crystal Springs Marathon last month, I figured the Coastal Golden Gate Marathon would be go reasonably well too, so I signed up. When I got my bib, I was doubly perky about the race...

The musically inclined will note that this is "A" - obviously this meant I was going to be bringing my "A" game. (Ultra Woof pointed out that this was also "double death" and she was stunned I survived.)

Weird Haired Mom volunteered at the race and had to be there by 6:30, which meant that we qualified as a carpool and we were early enough to get an excellent parking place. (Parking was really the only negative about this race - the Park Rangers really make Coastal jump through hoops for this event.)

WHM's first task was trying to explain the hoops to the runners showing up for the race. Well, when she wasn't posing for the camera.

There were a LOT of Marathon Maniacs at the race. And one massively furry Hoover.

More Maniacs waiting for the start of the race. Everything was damp, and it wasn't very warm, but it was pretty good running weather at the start.

These are all the Full and Half Marathoners getting last minute race instructions. (I think the hands are in response to Mr Coastal's question "How many of you could use one more potty break?") One thing Mr Coastal made clear was that, for the Full Marathoners that had to do two laps of the Half course, we would not get credit for a Half Marathon if we stopped after the first lap. This is to help remove that temptation (and tempting it always is for this kind of race).

Our first task is going up that hill in the background, which is just a warmup for the real climb that comes after it.

Going up the real hill involved these steps (and others, plus some steep bits of normal trail). This course had a lot of climbing and a mix of trail types, but it was in great shape considering it had just rained a bit earlier in the week. (I did hear that the Orange loop, which the 30K and 50K people did, had some really muddy bits. You could tell which runners did that loop since they had very mud-spattered legs.)

This is at the first aid station, 4.1 miles, at the bottom of that first killer hill. There were a LOT of volunteers out here, and they were all perky and encouraging. And hopefully warmly dressed - the cool weather might have been good for running in, but uncomfortable when standing around slinging water at runners.

Most of the course was exposed, with only a few brief encounters with trees. This meant you almost always had great views.

Like this one of Sausalito.

And this one of the Golden Gate Bridge towers and San Francisco.

This was the most muddy stretch we faced. I tried to talk these runners into splashing through the water, but they were wise and ignored me. So I had to do it myself.

The second aid station, mile 8.6, where WHM was working. One of the best things about this aid station is that, other than a small hill, the course was downhill from here.

WHM wanted to take my picture as I waddled into the station, but told me to at least pretend to be running. I was doing OK at this point, but was starting to feel unnaturally tired. My hope was that the downhill bit would recharge me.

To do the Full Marathon, you had to do the Half Marathon twice. I always fear these races since it can be REALLY tempting to stop after the first lap. This was my fourth Coastal Marathon where I faced this challenge, and I had passed the test each previous time (including once at the very similar Coastal Cinderella Marathon).

But this time was different - I had spent the last couple of miles arguing fiercely in my mind about whether I should continue or stop. I wasn't injured or sick, but my legs were stunningly tired. It was like trying to run in a swimming pool - they really were dead. This totally surprised me - the only other time I've felt like this was after going 34 miles at a 12 hour race; but I had only gone 13.1 miles.

While standing there trying to work out what to do, The Walking Diva came powering through. As always, she was perky and looked fresh and not at all like she had just done a difficult Half. She hardly paused before heading back up that monster hill for her second lap. Between her example and Mr Coastal pointing out that I could take nearly six hours to finish my second lap and still beat their cutoff, I decided to grab my jacket and head back out. (The wind had picked up and it was very chilly, especially since I was not moving very fast at this point.)

After getting about halfway up that first hill, I realized that it wasn't going to work - there was no way I was going to be able to finish this race. I turned around and started back down, but kept passing by other runners heading up the hill - so I decided to head back up the hill again and at least make it to the first aid station (which would be mile 17.2). I could probably get a ride back to the start from them.

When I hit these stairs again, I paused and reconsidered, but chose to keep going up. VERY slowly, but up.

Once I finally got to the top of the hill (it took about 2 hours to go 2.5 miles), I was hit by an inspiration - rather than going the 1.5 miles to the aid station, I could take the 5 mile course trail back to the start. It was an extra mile, but it was all downhill or flat, and meant I wouldn't have to try to get a ride from the aid station volunteers.

As I was strolling down this trail I came upon a mother and daughter heading up it. The little girl was walking through this mud puddle. I stopped to talk to the mother while the girl made a half dozen laps back and forth through this puddle, wearing canvas tennis shoes. "That's a trail runner in the making!" I said. The coolest thing was that the mother wasn't even slightly bothered by her girl doing this. Awesome.

Once I got to the first parking area, I ran into Htenaj (not her real name) who was heading out to sweep the Orange loop and had just dropped off Ultra Woof at her car. I talked Ultra Woof into driving me up to the second aid station where WHM was still waiting for me (and her) to come through. (UW had also had a bit of a rough time and called it quits after the first Half loop - the last time she did this race she left lots of bits of her skin and such on the trail, and was still healing from these injuries.)

Shortly after we arrived at the aid station, The Walking Diva showed up. I swear she looked as fresh and perky after a really tough 21.7 miles as when she started. It would not have surprised me if she asked whether it would be OK to do another lap when she got to the finish line. Stunning.

So what happened to me? I'm not sure. Maybe I started too fast (I see you guys rolling your eyes!). I was making pretty good time (for me) all the way up to the end of my first Half loop, wandering in at about three hours and twelve minutes.

But I had been able to do little training during the weeks leading up to this race - just some weekend stuff, which is a really bad thing with this sort of race coming up, and I think this was the main cause of my issue. I was very tired and cold, but not in pain. (I had been taking salt caps and keeping very hydrated while sweating profusely, as normal, for that first loop, and my shirt was soaked. When the wind kicked up it really chilled me. I was wishing I had brought dry shirt to change into at the halfway point, but at least I had a jacket stashed that I could put on.)

I managed to go about 18 miles and climb 3430 feet. I'm happy that I attempted that second loop, even though every logical bone in my body said to not push it. It might be that if I had gone on to that aid station and just took a 30 minute time out, I might have recovered enough to keep going, but my guess was that taking a 30 minute time out would have finished me totally for the day. I've been doing races for two years now and this was only my second DNF (the first was Brazen Diablo 50K last spring), so I really don't feel too bad about how this worked out.

I liked this race and will likely give it another try. Other than the parking issues (you have to carpool and get there really early to remove that stress), it was great - in between foggy periods you had stunning views. I like the Coastal Steep Ravine trails a bit better though, since there is more of a mix of forrest and exposed trails (plus no parking issues). Both races are worth doing and should be on your calendar.

This was a great training run and a good eye opener. I've got four weeks until Way Too Cool 50K and I'm going to make them useful. Nothing dramatic, but a bit more effort, especially during the mid-week days.

I want that frog cupcake.

That's it - move along...

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