Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fort Ord and gokarts?

Mrs Notthat and I were anxious to see the relatively new trails at Inside Trail Racing's inaugural Fort Ord Trail Run. Up until 1994, Fort Ord was an army base that provided basic training and easy access to Monterey Bay's beaches, where the crack army surfing team buffed up their skills.

When it was (mostly) converted to civilian use, it became the first nature preserve created for a bug (a butterfly, or so claims Wikipedia). In 2012 it became a national monument.

Another thing that made this race special was that it was my first real run since I shut down after the Coastal Crystal Springs race four weeks earlier. At that time my achilles was bugging me and I was a bit nervous heading into this event, not knowing how it would react. (I had done two three-mile runs the week before this race and all went well, but this was going to be nearly 17 rolling miles, and a great test. I hate tests.)

Note the finger of fog in the background.

The race was based out of an area next to the famous Laguna Seca Raceway. All was quiet when we got there, and it was reasonably fog-free.

Heading down to the start.
The "fog-free" bit didn't last long though, and soon you could barely make out the raceway.

This is about a mile into the race and I was still managing to keep up with these three. It didn't last long though. 
Mrs Notthat and I did the "25K" (a term loosely used to mean "shorter than the 50K"). It was a loop with a lollipop about halfway around it. There was a gentle downhill grade for the first three miles, which made for a fast start.

Loved the moss hanging from the trees.

It was foggy and cold at the start, so long distance views were nonexistent, but short distance views more than made up for it.

The first aid station was at mile 3.0, and marked the base of the lollipop stick. We would see this aid station again in 6.4 miles. Sadly, they were unable to tell me what the lollipop flavor was. ("Sandy" would have been a pretty good answer.)

Drannyl heading through some more moss infested trees.
A lot of the course was nice single-track, although there were also long stretches of gravel road and a few spots of pavement.

I did the first half of the lollipop with Drannyl (not his real name).

Lorac spending some time at the beach.
I was determined to not push it too hard, so after a bit Drannyl managed to pull away from me. Shortly after that though, Lorac (not her real name) caught up to me and we stayed together for the next few miles.

"All Day" (should be his real name) the sweeper heading out to clean up the lollipop course.
This picture shows a fresh trail that was made just a few weeks earlier by the BLM, who are now managing this park.

Originally the 25K course was to be about 14.8 miles, which would be a bit short of the 15.5 miles it should have been, but that's the way it goes in trail racing. Then the BLM moved in and condemned a few of the trails we were to use since they were too steep (trail runners are like delicate flowers that need to be protected from themselves, I guess), and instead added some new, less steep trails. The end result was that the 25K course was now long. A lot long at about 16.8 miles. And the overall elevation gain increased, although it was still modest at less than 2000 feet.

Photo by super volunteer Yrral (not his real name).
Naturally, Mrs Notthat was well ahead of me. This is her heading back into that aid station at the base of the lollipop, mile 9.4 now.

Photo by super volunteer Yrral (still not his real name).
Not so shortly later Lorac and I arrived at the aid station too (Lorac with several abandoned jackets she had picked up along the way back down the lollipop stick). You can also see that the fog has lifted, and while it wasn't really sunny, it was a lot more pleasant than earlier.

At mile 10.6 we made it to the last aid station. This was also where the 50K runners split off from us and headed off to spend quality time with horses.

That third aid station was about halfway up a long mild hill. About a mile after we left it we hit the top of that hill. And the end of my ability to keep up with Lorac, who I bid farewell as she started running down the hill, her giggles bouncing off the hills.

Most of the course was very exposed with sporadic bits of trees giving some shelter. I really liked this course, but man, it would be a bit brutal on a sunny summer day.

The final bit of the race required you to trot up a paved hill.

Ttocs (not his real name), who finished his 50K way before I finished my 25K, making sure I didn't fall apart heading up that last hill.
A bit of a surreal moment: 

Most of the 25K runners and several of the fast 50K runners had already finished and were hanging around the finish area. All of these I am barely worthy to tie their shoes.

Imagine their puzzlement when someone noticed me struggling up that last hill and started a loud synchronized "NOT THAAAT" chant. For an old, wildly out of shape guy who was nearly the dead last 25K finisher. 

I paused and considered turning around, but in the end, the finish line was too tempting and I went ahead and stumbled across the line.

One interesting thing about the last few miles of this course is that it is near the Laguna Seca racetrack, and we could hear the sounds of tightly-wound two-cycle engines screaming occasionally. And just before the end, you could actually see what was making all that noise - these tiny "superkarts" that are capable of 160 MPH.

Mrs Notthat got third in her age group, and all non-50K runners got a coffee cup.
Mrs Notthat finished in an astounding 3:27. This was less than a week from her third Full Marathon. I came dragging in with a 4:20 finish, which was pretty pathetic, but after I thought for a bit, I was really quite happy with it considering that I really didn't push myself too much since I really didn't want to re-aggravate my injury. And the best news was that it worked, and I came out of this in flying colors, injury-wise.

If all goes as planned, our next two races will be in New Zealand (a 13K and a Half Marathon, both on the south island). And then Way Too Cool becomes the main focus.

Oh man this is going to be quite a spring.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here and here.


DAK said...

So happy your achilles held up. New Zealand? When? Obviously before baseball season?

Ken Michal said...

Have a great time in New Zealand!!!

All Day!

NAC said...

South and Island should be capitalized! Show some respect!

notthatlucas said...

DAK - Tuesday evening. YIKES!

Ken - Thanks. I suspect it will be flamingo-free, sadly.

NAC - I'm not going to get out of that country alive, am I.

mary ann said...

fun post ~ Mrs. Notthat rocks!

Kerry said...

Love the chant at the end! Some people will do anything to get on your blog =)