And neither were the nearly 800 runners that showed up the morning after several days of hard rain passed through the area, leaving the course for the inaugural Brazen Badger Cove trail race a bit muddy. The Half Marathon course was significantly altered from its original trails since there was no practical way to get supplies to one of the aid stations, so we ended up running two laps of the challenging 10K loop that included a bonus, decidedly not flat, out-and-back section.
As trail runners, most of us were eager for a bit of mud action. The fact that it didn't rain and there was no wind added to the pre-race excitement.
I had a LOT of running friends at this race - most of this group were taking advantage of the early start, hoping that having the first shot at the mud would give them an advantage. (Spoiler alert: It didn't.) Some in this group were also keen to set their inner badger free.
Shortly after I started with the rest of the Half Marathon runners, we came upon this tragic rock slide. Since it had apparently not damaged anyone, the race was allowed to continue.
We started by following the Del Valle Lake shoreline. I'd never been here before, but judging by the facilities they have to support large crowds, it was easy to imagine this area being very crowded on a normal summer, or even spring Saturday. Today, however, after all that rain and the threat of more, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
This was the first aid station. The Half runners ended up passing through it (and its strategically useful outhouse) three times.
The 5K runners mostly stayed out of the hills, but they weren't able to avoid the mud.
Surprisingly, with all the rain we had, the mud was not as slippery as expected. Instead it was more like peanut butter, only stickier (and likely not as tasty).
A short single-track section with two head-banging trees.
Not all of the course was muddy - there were a number of long stretches that were fairly solid gravel fire roads. And not all of the course was uphill - it just seemed that way. Note the second aid station off in the distance.
We spent a lot of time on mildly rolling trails along the top of the ridge. These provided great views, although the thought of how hot these trails must be in the summer made me glad this race was in March.
The bonus out-and-back for the Half runners. This was a bit less than six tenths of a mile out, but included more hills which made it feel a lot longer.
As an added bit of torture, you could see the lake and the starting area and hear Mr Brazen calling out the finisher names from up here. Sadly, we were still a long ways from done. (And yes, my Way Too Cool frog hat made an appearance. I explained that the frogs were badger food.)
This brave volunteer stood here most of the day, making sure none of the Half runners went too far before turning around on the out-and-back bit. She was VERY popular and a most welcome sight.
Pictures really do not do justice to how challenging bits of this course were to run. This was a particularly nasty bit that, when looking at this picture, does not look all that bad. It was.
Our first lap of the 10K loop was nearly done by this point, with the lake (which turned green in honor of the day) back in view. And so was Werdna (not his real name), who I had been hoping to catch.
And then we were at that first aid station again. The 10K runners (and directionally challenged Half runners, cough, Mrs Notthat, cough cough) turned left here and headed for the finish line. The Half runners turned right for another shot at the loop. Alert readers will pick out Werdna's back (I really did catch him), Reffinej's front (not her real name, making sure everyone is hydrated), and Way Too Cool Nad and Charliedog (off to the right).
The second lap was actually a bit easier than the first lap since all the Half and 10K runners had pounded paths through the mud, except for this short stretch that refused to give up trying to suck the shoes off your feet.
Finally - the finish line. I was pretty slow for this race, and was fighting some knee issues off and on, so this was far from a PR. But it was great to finish this race and get my hands on some post-race cocoa.
All of these runners finished well before me, including my arch nemesis Yram (not her real name, on the left, gloating over my sound trouncing).
Another group picture, this time with The Endorphin Badger (who finally finished after wandering aimlessly through the parking lot - his inner badger seems to be directionally challenged).
And then in came Einre (not his real name) who had the honor being handed his medal by Brazen First Born (who is digging through the medal tub, looking for just the right medal to give him).
The race was a blast - lots of fun friends and a bunch of runners all out for some fun in slightly less than ideal conditions. I'd have loved to run the original course (theoretically this modified course had slightly less elevation gain than the original course, but that's a bit hard for me to believe), but this was a pretty good compromise.
The aid stations were almost as great as all the volunteers manning them, bravely coming out on a day that could have had some dodgy weather. There were also the great volunteers that were strategically placed to ensure everyone stayed on course. And of course, the Brazen Rabbit, who had to go out very early in the morning and completely replace the flour markings that the rain had washed away overnight.
And especially thanks to Mrs and Mr Brazen for putting on a great event! Ultra Woof took this picture, where Mr Brazen is explaining that, while badgers look cute and cuddly, you shouldn't try to share your GU packet with one.
That's it - move along...
PS: Here's a link to some other pictures I took.