Sunday, April 1, 2012

A race fit for a soggy Goonie

I've done several weather-challenged trail races, and the Brazen Lagoon Valley race ranks right up there with the best, including the epic Diablo Trails Challenge last March.


The Goonie monster for this race was too tempting for the grandkids to pass up. The race was in Vacaville (Swedish for "Always Sunny"), so we decided to drive up the day before, pick up our bibs and shirts, then spend the night in the greater Vacaville area.

When we got to Concord, we stopped into Road Runner Sports where we ran into Arabrab (not her real name, and you will see her later, much moister, on the course), who was stationed behind the male underwear mannequins (!) and in charge of packet pickup.

I've never gotten a personalized race bib before, so this was a treat. Or a trick. In any case, it made me laugh! (The wicked wind during the race ripped a lot of runner's bibs off. Mine was almost taken too, but I tucked it into my pocket before it had a chance.)

I wrote "Run Goonies Run" on the back of the van, but an overnight shower washed it off before we even made it to the race. Grandkid Second Born already has his Goonie face on.

This is what the course map looked like for this race. (Actually, it was worse than this, but poor trail conditions forced them to add in an out-and-back in place of some fragile trails.)

OK, this is what my MOTOACTV showed after the race. The thing is, as confusing as this looks, it was actually fairly easy to stay on course - there were a lot of brave volunteers stationed at key intersections that made sure everyone stayed on course.

Since I was still having knee pain and Mrs Notthat was having other leg issues, we decided to do the early start option with this group. Surely someone in here can follow a map. (Note that a couple of them were wildly optimistic and had their sunglasses. Ha ha ha ha!)

Three of us started with Hokas - it was Mrs Notthat and I's first time in a race with them. Ultra Woof started the race with hers, but changed out of them after about a half mile (the course took us past the parking lot, so it was easy to do this - weird, but easy).

The race started with us wandering around the lagoon. No monster sightings to report, although it was starting to sprinkle a bit.

We heard some yelling and could vaguely see Mrs Notthat, Ardnasac (not her real name), and Etep (not his real name) having a bit too much fun at this lonely tree.

Here is why - there was a tire swing that Mrs Notthat couldn't let pass. Ardnasac pushed her and Etep took this picture.

And this one. Something about this race brought out everyone's inner Goonie.

This was the first aid station. I can't say enough about all the volunteers that worked this race - the conditions deteriorated to the point where sane people would have run away screaming. But these volunteers are mostly trail runners, and they get it, and they are WAY stronger than normal people.

Our first muddy single-track, up the hill to the tire swing. The rain was getting a bit more steady, and the wind was really starting to whip it up a bit.

Einre (not his real name) is holding onto his hat with both hands.

This was probably the most treacherous stretch of trail on the course (although it had a lot of serious competition). At this point, it wasn't too bad since it hadn't been raining all that long and we were the first ones to go down it. On our second loop through this at the end of the race though, it was a giant luge course.

After that fun little stretch, we then looped around a really pretty spring-infested field. If you look carefully, you can see runners coming down that luge hill in the background.

A cool thing was that the field loop was shared with the 5K course, and I got to see (briefly) Weird Haired Mom and the grandkids!

Grandkid Second Born is happy to have one mile done!

The second aid station. They were a bit better protected from the wind, but not the rain.

Nire (not her...surely you get this by now) perkily directing traffic at a crucial intersection.

There were a LOT of great single-track trails on this course. Most of them, though, had dreams of being creeks, and were doing their best to be just that. By this point, maybe mile 5, it had been raining steadily for over an hour, and the trails were very slick.

Another volunteer, Ekim, directing traffic.

I had passed through this area a few minutes earlier (on my butt), and was heading onward when I heard the familiar voices of the grandkids. I looked back up the hill and there they were, a bit behind me, trying to get down this hill. This was probably the second toughest hill to navigate down, and the cool thing was that many were helping others as they struggled down it.

At the bottom was pavement (for a short stretch), but it seemed like heaven. The grandkids were not having a particularly great time at this point, but I walked with them and they seemed to get perkier once they knew they were nearly done. But there was one more hill...

It wasn't nearly as bad as the others though, and they kept up an amazingly quick pace going up it. (Note the orange sign at the bottom right - the trails in this park are not named or marked, so the Brazen Rabbit dreamed up names, such as this "Never Say Die", and made signs to help us navigate the course. More than anything though, the signs made me laugh at the clever names she dreamed up.

After that hill, it was a short dash to the finish line for them. I, on the other hand, was not quite to my halfway point. (A nice/challenging thing about this course was that you had a number of opportunities to say "UNCLE!" and be done - if you got hurt or frostbite, it was generally not hard to head to the finish line. Many smart people did that.)

An interesting note: The Brazen arch wasn't up. I'd never seen this before during a race. It turned out that, when the wind started up, the arch was keen to be the most non-aerodynamic kite ever built, and it had to be taken down before flying away.

The grandkids were congratulated by Mrs Brazen for not only finishing their 5K, but beating about 30 other people in that race! (Not to mention they both got age group medals!)

I, on the other hand, had to follow the direction of Ydna, and head back out on the trails.

This aid station was not protected from the wind, and was very challenging for the volunteers. The guy in the back is not waving - he's holding the awning down.

After wandering around some gently climbing single-track, we ended up on a gravel road; the out-and-back climb to the tower. It was here that I ran into that swinger Mrs Notthat, on her way back down from the tower. She was amazingly perky considering how cold it was.

(Interesting note that should get me many future favors: She wasn't going to take her rain gear with her. It wasn't raining at the start, and she felt it likely wouldn't be needed. I, on the other hand, had watched the weather, and told her I was going to bring it for her if she didn't take it. Needless to say, less than an hour into the race she had it on and was saved from near certain drowning.)

At the tower on top of the hill was this amazingly perky woman. She was keeping dry food in the back of her vehicle (no awning would have survived the gusts up here - the water bottles were piled on the table to keep it from blowing away).

This is why I do these races - horrific conditions and lots of chances to call it an early day, and yet these two, the previously introduced Arabrab and Ytsirhc, are practically dancing up this hill.

This was the hugest surprise of the day - Sirhc coming up the hill with a bib from a different race! He was to do a marathon in the Marin Headlands that morning, but the park service forced them to cancel it due to the foul weather. So instead of going home, he drove to this race and helped sweep the course. Just for fun. Sirhc is not quite right in the head, and we are so happy for that!

When the trails start looking good to the geese, you know things are a bit over the top.

This was another case of us passing very close to the finish line, but not really. We had gone about 11 miles and needed to go back up this tire swing hill. Which meant another trip down the luge hill.

I, along with many others I have heard from, ended up sliding down the luge hill on my butt. The water bottles on my belt were reasonably effective brakes, although they mostly just caused mud to go places where it had no business going.

In any case, I survived that hill and only had one more muddy stretch to go. It was so cool to see the perky Aluap and Ekim guiding us last few stragglers towards the finish line.

A giddy Mrs Notthat all done.

Equally giddy Arabrab and Alegna all done.

And finally me all done. (The grandkids were very impressed and envious of my mud talents.)

Of course, as soon as all the runners were in, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

After we changed out of our wet and muddy things (the grandkids did this twice since they got their second set of clothes muddy while waiting for me to finish), we headed back home. It was quite a trip!

It was an epic race. "Trailpocalypse 2012" it has been dubbed by Mr Brazen. (Be careful - Diablo Trails Challenge is still coming up and it's only April!)

The course was fun and I'd love to do it again with slightly better conditions. The volunteers were stunning - no way they can be thanked enough for what they put up with. Our Hokas did great in the mud - maybe not as grippy as more serious trail shoes, but they did fine and way better than the people I saw in road shoes. Our feet were very perky at the end (and my knees in pretty good shape, all things considered).

Thanks to Brazen for taking on the challenge of staging this race here - it was very memorable! (And a HUGE thanks for hot pizza and other goodies at the finish line!)

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see a lot more of my pictures here (WHM carried this camera with her on the 5K course) and here (my camera on the Half course).


Meghan said...

This race sounds like it was a blast!!! I'm slightly sad to have missed it, although I think I'm OK without running another wet race. Congrats on braving the mud, wind and rain! The kids look like they had fun too!

Beth said...

Wowzers!! I was thinking of you guys when I was looking through Brazen's looked fun but miserable at the same time. I loved that the final picture was of you finishing, covered in mud and soaked.
And, I have to just say that you have the most awesome wife ever! I loved the tire swing picture! (and the longer hair, looks good!)
See you guys soon, as in 3 weeks... shudder.

DAK said...

You are Hero Forever to your grandkids now. This one looks like fun, sort of, well, kind of, a little.

mary ann said...

You deserve even more medals, bibs and Hokas (not their real name, I presume) for this wretched-appearing exercise in insanity. The sleeping grandboy photo was a perfect ending and DAK is right, you and Mrs. Notthat are indeed heroes!

Mrs. Notthat said...

It sure started out as fun, but got kinda nasty as the day went on. My favorite part was the hot food from Brazen, thanks guys and getting warm and dry!

Lia said...

Sliding down the muddy trail sounds AWESOME! Kudos to all of you for braving the conditions.

Brazen Rabbit said...

It was almost as if the weather was saying "Wait for it... wait for it.... let the 5K get out there too and then we'll pulverize them all!" Great job and always awesome to see you guys! BTW, I'm stealing your rendition of the trail map. It's fabulous! :)

notthatlucas said...

Yikes! That map was a joke and NOT intended to give you ideas Brazen Rabbit!

It's funny how quickly a bit of time has made it hard to remember the truly miserable parts of this race. It was a special kind of fun that requires you to be a bit off to enjoy. Everyone who started any of the distances at this race qualifies as being a bit off. And being a Superhero (albeit a quirky one).

Chris said...

This was such a crazy insane day! So much fun and we will be talking about it forever!