Wednesday, October 24, 2012

All this for a coaster?

The Brazen Rocky Ridge Half Marathon had nearly beaten me twice already. The last time, I swore I would join the wise runners and stick to the 10K distance.

Fortunately I will never have to figure out how to get one of these to fit in my car.
But Brazen knows marketing, and it knows the appeal of bonus hardware. So it came up with the Brazen Ultra Half Series. You only had to run four of their tougher Half Marathons (out of nine scheduled - I ran all of them but got a DNF at Drag 'n' Fly) and finish the Rocky Ridge Half, and you would get a bonus coaster to commemorate the accomplishment. Faster runners were also in the running for cash prizes, in the form of those huge checks that give banks nightmares.

So both Mrs Notthat and I signed up for the Rocky Ridge Half, but decided to do the early start to give us plenty of time to finish. (One of us ended up needing that extra time; the other is awesome.)

The Rocky Ridge Half course is memorable for a number of reasons: it's beautiful, has lots of great views, and has nearly 4000 feet of climbing. On this day, it had another thing going for it; weird fog/low clouds sticking their noses in random places.

"Tree Over" or "Over Tree"? I know of one rebel runner that actually crawled under the tree. Ytsirhc (not her real name) is not good at playing by the rules. 

At one point, I was faced with this - a vicious man-eating cow standing in the middle of the trail. As I was working up the nerve to try and sneak past her, two much faster sacrificial runners flew past me. They didn't have much meat on their bones though, plus they were fast and would be hard to catch, so the cow kept her steely gaze on me. So I slowly made my way up to her, whispering how much I loved  chicken. Somehow it worked, and I was able to continue on with the race.

The best parts of the course are spent in the trees, with the trees often actually becoming a part of the course. Cool temperatures made even the exposed bits of course quite pleasant (not counting the fact that they were almost always up a steep hill).

Mas (not his real name) is often the course sweeper, so seeing him come up behind you can be a bit alarming. But today he was not Mas the Sweeper. He wasn't even Mas - he ran as Pete the Awesome. Very few people knew that at the time, and it wasn't until well after the race when I was busy memorizing the results that I realized he had run with Pete's bib. Awesome is not a big enough word to describe this.

"Get up! You're killing the asphalt!" Only Occor (not his real name) would choose to take a nap at this point.
At mile 9.45 there was an 11:45 cutoff. Mile 9.45 is also where the last hill starts, with a long climb on pavement. I easily made the cutoff, thanks to my early start, and as it turned out, I would have made it (barely) even with the normal start.
Mt Diablo in the distance with the hills that make up the first two-thirds of the course in the foreground.
Up to this point, the weather had been perfect. Even when you were in the sunshine, it was cool enough to not be a bother. As we approached the top of that last hill though, the coolness was taken to an extreme as we entered the clouds.

Photo by Brazen volunteer Michael.
This was Mrs Notthat's first time on this course. All she had heard for weeks was how hard this course was. All she did during the race was fly!

Photo by Brazen volunteer Michael.
This is something you will rarely see - K-Dub and I running neck and neck this close to the end of a race. I must point out though that there are two pretty good reasons for this: I had an hour head start and  K-Dub had ran a 50 mile race a week earlier. Shortly after this picture was taken, she was out of sight and leaving me way behind. Like normal.

Photo by frostbitten volunteer at the fourth aid station.
Photo by frostbitten volunteer at the fourth aid station.
About the only thing Mrs Notthat and I had in common during this race is that we both arrived at the last aid station, mile 11.2, with our glasses in our hands. I've done nearly 90 races, some of which were very rain infested, and this is the first time I had to remove my glasses to be able to see where I was going.

The heroes at the fourth aid station. It was not nearly as pleasant out as this picture makes it look.
All along the ridge at the top of that last hill we had to run through a thick, ridiculously moist and windy fog. I was cold and soaked, but I got to keep moving. The volunteers at this aid station had to stand up there for hours, and then had to hike back out since their were no proper roads around there.

Coach Luap (not his real name) finishing just ahead of me. He was great on this course and had to be restrained from going out for another lap.
Finally, after over five hours (!), I made it to the finish line. Mrs Notthat had beaten me by well over an hour. I actually ended up with the longest finishing time of all the Half runners (several finished after me, but with shorter times since they did the normal start). DLF with an asterisk.

And I'm fine with that. This is a race that you just want to finish - the time is irrelevant (unless you've got your eyes on one of those huge checks).

The medal and shirt for this race were very cool, as normal. (There were also firecat tattoos handed out that many of the runners wore throughout the day.) And of course, there was the coaster. Ten pounds of fierceness that should have come with a warning label.

The back of the shirt shows the elevation charts. Note that their scale is adjusted for each distance, but still - those are some nasty elevation profiles.

I love that the coaster is challenging to use; miss by a tiny bit when setting your beer on it and the can will end up with numerous puncture wounds.

While looking at the coaster's teeth, it occurred to me that they actually matched the course's elevation profiles. I have since confirmed that that was indeed the intention. Way too much fun!

So I have survived my third Rocky Ridge Half Marathon. And posted my worst time ever. The odd thing was that I felt better at the end of this race than I did at either of the previous two (and WAY better than at the end of the two road Half Marathons I did the previous weeks) - I started the race determined to take my time and to enjoy it, and I was quite successful at that.

Last year I said that I was going to do the 10K this year. I now know better; I know that, as mean and torturous as this course is, it needs to be done.

So here's to next year.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see many more of my general pictures here. Because I ended up getting passed by nearly every Half runner, I was able to get pictures of most of them (yes, I'm the dork that took highly unflattering pictures of you as you climbed those hills). They are posted here.

PPS: Here is a link to the Ballad of Rocky Ridge thing I did before the race. I was FAR too kind to the race in that song. Thanks to Mr and Mrs Brazen for allowing me to do this race in spite of this thing.


mary ann said...

good for the both of you ~ Mrs. Notthat looks like she could run the damn thing one more time. Mr., not so much...

loger barreros said...

I went for a bike ride that day :)