Friday, July 27, 2012

Wharf to Wharf 2012

I run very few races on pavement, but there's one little race that Mrs Notthat REALLY loves: the Santa Cruz to Capitola Wharf to Wharf Six Mile Run (And Don't You Call This a 10K Buster!). I have to grudgingly admit that I get a kick out of it too.

We've now taken three different approaches to running this race:

In 2010, we got up at some ridiculous hour to drive down to a parking lot in downtown Santa Cruz, took a bus to the start line, ran the race, then took another bus back to the parking lot. This was not fun, although most of that was the early wake up time and the LONG wait to get on a bus to go back to the parking lot.

In 2011, we found a B&B that was more or less halfway between the start and finish, walked to the start, ran the race, then walked back to the B&B. I liked that, but the walk back at the end was a bit long and not as much fun as you might think.

• In 2012, we stayed in a motel near the start line, ran the race, then caught a ride back to the start line with Weird Haired Mom, who had managed to park her minivan near the finish the night before. This worked out well, but meant that WHM had to have someone follow her to drop off the minivan, and then had to have someone drop her off at the start on race day morning. Heroically, her father-in-law stepped in and did both things. So this method worked well, but had some overhead.

I've got no idea how we will handle this next year, but I know we will book the motel room a LOT earlier though - paying twice the going rate for the room just because of the race is absurd.

On the Saturday before the race, it was very hot in the Bay Area. We had chosen to drive down to Santa Cruz along the coast, which was a bit busy, but not bad. Until we got to Santa Cruz, where we met all the people that took the freeway into town.

We were stopped in heavy traffic on a narrow road when the unmistakable sound of a train horn blared at us. It turned out that the road we were on moonlighted as railroad tracks for the Big Trees train that brings hundreds more tourists into Santa Cruz each day. We managed to edge over and let the train go by.

Sand Sharks are dangerous and are one of the reasons I stay away from beaches.
What should have been a 10 minute drive to our motel took nearly an hour, but we finally made it, and were happy to be able to get out, do some walking around, and eat dinner.

The next morning, we slept in a bit before the 8:30 race since we were about a five minute walk from the start line. WHM was dropped off at about 8:00 and we meandered down to the massively crowded starting area.

That anemone beat me by 18 minutes.
This race is sometimes compared to the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco, but it's really far tamer than that. You see a few costumes and some assorted goofiness, but for the most part, you see a lot of people that are just out for fun, including a lot of families. (They say the roads are opened at a 15 minute/mile pace, but the race takes a LOT longer to end than that. The last finisher this year took over two and a half hours with a 26 minute/mile pace.)

Once the race started, it took us a bit over three minutes to make it to the start line. (Mrs Notthat aggressively had us start with the 7 minute/mile group.)

The race was billed as having 50 bands along the course. The definition of "band" was never made very clear though. There were a number of one-man-bands (and most of these were pretty good).

There were some two-man-bands (these guys were great - look ma; no amps!).

But mostly you had bands like this - some with young guys hoping for a gig, but most with middle-aged guys just out to have some fun and make a LOT of noise on a Sunday morning. Most of these were a blast.

And then you had this "band" - they were great and are out there every year, strumming their ukuleles to the latest AC/DC song.

 Oh yeah - the race. There were a lot of runners. Fortunately, the roads were wide and it wasn't too hard, after the first mile or so, to go at about whatever speed you wanted. I was already quite a bit behind Mrs Notthat and WHM (I had an early wardrobe malfunction that nearly caused my shorts to fall off), so I didn't stop very often to take pictures. (I still took a lot of pictures, it's just that I kept running while taking them, so a lot of them didn't come out very nicely.)

One slightly disappointing thing - they didn't have the balloon arches to run under at each mile marker like they've had in previous years. Instead, they had eight-foot stacks of balloons with the mile number on top. Not as glorious as the arches, but I think I heard there's a helium shortage so this was likely a compromise. (And it didn't dampen our enthusiasm when we saw them and knew we were one mile closer to the finish!)

I was amazed at how many runners were behind me. I ended up finishing in the top 50% this year!

Loved the percussion groups.

This was the only band on the route that played anything like country music - they were playing a bluegrassy version of a Johnny Cash song as I went by.

And then we were in Capitola and at the finish line.

Mrs Notthat beat me handily, but WHM was not in yet. Somewhere along the way I had managed to pass her and didn't even know it.

She came in drinking a beer. There were a couple of guys about a half mile from the finish passing out "adult Gatorade."

We knew of a number of people that were running this race, but in the massive crowds, we saw none of them. But then, as we were headed back to the minivan, we saw Knarf (not his real name) steaming towards the finish!

Looking back from the minivan towards the finish line.
It was a lot of fun, as usual. The weather was perfect and the bands were largely in tune. The race is capped at 15,000 runners, and there were about 12,000 official finishers. One report said that, including all the bandits that run the course without registering, they estimate that there were nearly 20,000 runners altogether.

The bands help make the race fun, but it's also all the people that turn out along the course to cheer, wave signs (almost none of them are rude), and spray water on the runners that make this a fun event.

Fittingly, on the way out of town, we had to stop for the train. Again.

That's Mrs Notthat modeling this year's shirt, which is quite nice (both her and the shirt).

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see a lot more pictures I took here.

PPS: I debated about whether to do this or not, but in the end decided to go for it. This company called MarathonFoto sent out an email before the race telling you to tell all your friends and family to not bother bringing a camera since they had the pictures covered. They had one cherry picker about a quarter mile before the finish line and they got two pictures of me. They got none of Mrs Notthat.

In any case, they are always here and it's always the same (not to mention that you end up getting a LOT of "Last chance to order pictures before we delete them and they are gone forever!" emails). I've never had a picture taken by them that was even vaguely worth considering paying the $30 they want. Until this year, when I hammed it up (a bit) and got this picture of me pretending I'm crossing the WS100 finish line. (Who am I kidding - if this was the WS100 finish line I'd likely be crawling.)

So I'm likely going to spring for this picture and just pretend it's from the end of some grueling race.

And not the end of a six mile long party.


mary ann said...

This was so fun to read ~ sooooo many people and I loved all the "band" photos and costumes. And the train, too, of course...

1stCousin said...

I look forward to seeing you finish the WS100 sometime in the near future.

Beth said...

Ha Ha Ha...I love that picture! San Fran is full of photogs, you should do a different pose for each one, i bet you'd get some money shots!!