Monday, September 3, 2012

No zooming for me

Coastal Trail Runs has created a new sister racing company - Zoom Running Events. The general idea (which I might have completely wrong) is to let CTR focus on their trademark, tendon-snapping, ridiculously tough courses, while ZRE focuses on somewhat easier courses and races more geared for new runners and road runners that are curious about trails. All finishers get a medal and the age groups are in five-year-chunks, which greatly improves the odds of someone like me getting an age group medal.

Mrs Notthat and I signed up for the Labor Day Zoom Vasona Lake event. It's a bit closer to us than most of the East Bay events, but it is largely on pavement. Two things make it desirable for me though:

A) I get to see Tom's bench (more on that later).
2) There is a nice hill on the Half course that makes up for a lot of the pavement.

Mr Coastal tries to get his brother to do the Hokey Pokey. Mrs Coastal's brother is smarter than that.
 It was very sunny and starting to heat up a bit already - a huge change from Saturday's race.

There were a lot of runner friends here, including many that were volunteering, but it was especially great to see Enidualc and Ynnad (not their real names) and Harlow. This was just before the start.

There were two distances, and everyone started at the same time: 5 miles and Half Marathon. I haven't seen the final results, but I'm pretty sure there were WAY more Half Marathoners than 5 milers.

All of the 5 mile course and most of the Half course is on paved trails, often with gravel shoulders (thankfully). You run along some lakes and Los Gatos Creek. While not exactly flat, the hills on the paved portion are very mild - even I could run them (for a while).

The course is one out-and-back for the 5 mile course, and two out-and-backs for the Half course. All runners run to the first aid station, then turnaround and head back to the start.

At the start, the 5 mile runners are done. For the Half runners, there is an aid station there followed by the second out-and-back. The thing about out-and-backs is that you get to see all the runners, whether they are ahead of you or behind you.

One runner I never saw was Mrs Notthat, which was mildly troubling. I chalked it up to me being about as observant as blindfolded bat, but it was still nagging at me. After a bit, Mrs texted me to say she ended up stopping after 5 miles due to plumbing issues.

The Tom bench.
Sort of near the white mile three marker there is this bench. (There are several other, lesser cool benches in the area, so you might have to look a bit to find this one.) I never fail to get inspired by it.

By far the coolest thing (and most unknown thing) is what is embedded in the back of it. Tom's Western States 100 buckle. You can read more about Tom and why he has a bench here. (Cool thing; I was telling some people in the finish area about this and a guy said he had seen a few people run behind the bench and touch it, but had no idea why. I REALLY feel bad that I didn't give anyone advance notice about this.)

I'm not quite half way done and the leader of the Half is very nearly done. Heavy sigh…
 More than half of the course is shaded by trees, which helped a lot with the sun.

The third aid station. We would get to see this one again on the way back.

Shortly after that third aid station we leave the paved path and get to run on some gravel, followed by some nice climbing on a fun single-track trail.

The single-track is a bit challenging, both because of roots and rocks, but also because there is two-way traffic and it gets a bit tight.

After a significant amount of climbing you finally get to the top and get a view of Lexington Reservoir.

I loved the teamwork here.
You then have to head down a steep trail to the Half turnaround.

Haiyr (not her real name) has left the aid station and is getting ready to climb that hill.
That's all well and good, but you know that once you leave that aid station, you have to climb back up that steep hill.

I'm not sure why there were rangers here; maybe it's to make sure nobody eats too many goldfish.

Ecarg must be a tough-minded angel to put up with Drannyl.
The coolest thing about this aid station was that I got to meet Drannyl's wife, Ecarg (not their real names).

Most aid stations don't need a stop sign.
Once I arrived back at aid station three (now aid station five - there were a LOT of aid stations on this course, not to mention a fair number of bathrooms), I knew I was a bit less than two miles from the finish. But I was dragging a bit. I wanted to finish in less than three hours, but that seemed unlikely at this point.

But while passing Tom's bench and touching the buckle, I found a bit more inside me and picked up the pace a tiny bit. (Trust me - it would have been really hard to measure the improvement, but I was sure it was there.)

Well, I did stop to take this picture of the geese.

And sure enough, I broke three hours. Barely.

The hat gets me lots of comments. My standard story is that I was attacked by a 30 pound badger during a Coastal race. The truth is that our idiot dog thought it looked tasty.
And I ended up getting third in my age group. Seriously.

This is not a difficult course by trail race standards (a total of 945 feet of climbing for the Half), but it is difficult by road race standards. That hill is worthy of a trail running ballad, but it's the only one, so it's bearable.

The really awesome part of all this were the runners that had done long distances on Saturday at Coyote Ridge, and then did the Half here, two days later. These people are not normal.

But then, how many trail runners are?

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

1 comment:

mary ann said...

Wow, lots of races in one weekend. Love the bench and how people would touch it as they went by. Inspiring...