Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Zooming around Quarry Lakes

So last weekend I had a stubbed toe causing me to do a short distance. This weekend's race was the pretty much flat Zoom Quarry Lakes Half Marathon, and my toe would not be a problem. And then at some point on Wednesday, I tweaked my lower back.

Before I started on my path to covering lots of miles with my legs, I used to be plagued with mostly minor back issues. The last couple of years, however, I have had very few problems, so this one caught me a bit by surprise. It's not serious, but I worried that the pounding of a Half, especially one that was about 30% on pavement, would not be kind. So I changed to the 5K. Mrs Notthat chose to move from the Half to the 10K, in part out of pity and also in part out of her having her own creaky issues.

Once again, we had excellent weather for the day.

Mr. Coastal: "How many of you picked Harvard over New Mexico?"
All distances started out at the same time.

I quickly bolted to my accustomed place at the back of the pack. (Note how low the water is in the lakes - all this nice weather is really taking a toll on our water reserves. Hopefully we will start getting some significant storms moving through. Mostly during the middle of the week though.)

About 1.5 miles into the race, the course splits, with the 10K and Half runners heading out to Niles Canyon and the 5K runners heading towards the finish.

We've done a number of races out here, but really liked that Zoom managed to work in some different trails for us to use. Above we are on the very familiar Alameda Creek Trail. The Half runners would head out on this as usual, but return on the paved trail on the other side of the creek (I didn't even know there was a trail over there).

We spent a short amount of time on that trail before hitting this aid station, which was followed by making a beeline for the finish line.

A lot of that return was on this trail that I had never been on before.

I don't do many 5K races, and am always surprised by how quickly they are done, even when you are as slow as me.

For me, an excellent 5K time is anything under 30 minutes, and I thought I surprisingly had a chance at this race, but I missed by less than a minute. Still, all things considered, this was a great result.

In fact, it was great enough that I finished third in my age group. Even better, for only the second time ever, I actually beat someone in my age group to get this!

With my medals happily clanging together, I headed back out on the course a bit to catch Mrs Notthat coming in.

And, earlier than I had expected, there she was.

Her hip was bugging her, and she was happy she did downgraded to the 10K. Still, she was moving awfully fast.

And naturally, she one-upped me and got second in her age group. (It ended up that there were only two in her age group, but I'm too much of a gentleman to bring that up.) This was, though, her official PR at the 10K distance. (There is some debate about whether the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf should count as a 10K since it's billed as a 6 mile race, which is nearly long enough.)

The Coastal family going out for a stroll through the park.
The race was a lot of fun and very well executed. The course was a lot more scenic and fun than most flat courses.

And it looks like our next race is going to be the Zoom Point Pinole Half Marathon (or 10K - we have time issues that may force us to do the shorter distance, but who can resist a shirt with a dog standing on a bench?).

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Getting in touch with my inner badger

A few days before Way Too Cool, I managed to stub the middle toe on my right foot. It hurt a bit during the WTC race - especially when going downhill. (Cleverly, WTC put most of the downhill in the first part of the race, which meant it was all riled up early on.)

So when it came time for Brazen's Badger Cove a week later, I chose to reduce the amount of downhill and signed up for the 10K distance. Mrs Notthat rolled her eyes, made a slightly off-color toe joke, and signed up for the Half Marathon.

The weather was glorious as the Half runners headed out.

This was the official Finisher Medal Prep Crew. Apparently, handling so many medals can make you a bit giddy.

There were a number of volunteers along the course taking pictures, including Weird Haired Mom and Dove the Wonder Dog.

About a mile into the race we hit our first aid station, complete with its own outhouse.

In another half mile we hit the 5K turnaround (the 5K course was an out-and-back).

Shortly after the 5K turnaround, we started doing some climbing. Which led to some nice views.

Speaking of views, there were two branches that you had to be sure to have your eyes on or else you would end up with a view involving a lot of stars and tweeting birds. (I know from previous personal experience.)

I got a huge kick out of this dog with a log in his mouth that hung with me while going up that first hill.

Still climbing and still getting great views.

Eventually I made it to the second aid station, where Drannyl (not his real name) was guarding the water jug.

Undoubtedly, this was the easiest volunteer job out there; convincing runners to take the downhill trail instead of the uphill one.

Last year, this was a very different race. There had been a lot of rain leading up to race day, so the course was a bit muddy in places.

This is that same hill this year; still steep but dry.

A filtered view of the lake.

At the end of the hill-infested loop, we are back at that first aid station again. 10K runners get to turn left and head to the finish line. Half runners get to turn right the first time they get here and go do that loop again. I was quite happy to turn left here (the toe was throbbing a fair amount by now and a second lap would have been challenging).

Photo of me stumbling to the finish by WHM.

Volunteer FourWheelBob was there to protect us, but I wasn't sure from what.

Ah. This bunch of scouts thugging it up with life vests and canoes. Thanks FWB!

So here I am, shuffling along and anxious to cross the finish line that's about 100 feet away, and see these guys impressively doing post-race planks. The chance of me doing a post-race plank is almost as high as me winning one of these races.

With about 25 feet to go, I see Mr and Mrs O'Brazen hanging in the timing tent.

Photo of nearly done airborne Mrs Notthat by WHM.

A nice thing about doing a shorter race than Mrs Notthat is that I get to finish (probably) before her.

So I went out a tiny bit and tried to pace her in.

But she wasn't having any of it, so I took a shortcut and caught her heading down the finish chute.

The race was a blast.

Try telling these two that it's not fun challenging yourself with a tough Half Marathon.

Picture by WHM.
Try telling Ettedanreb (not her real name) that storming a finish line can't be done with style. (If I tried this, especially this late in the race, I would need a medic in short order.)

It was a great race with beautiful trails that had just enough challenge in them to keep it interesting. A huge thanks to everyone that made this day possible, including all the volunteers and perky runners and log-carrying dogs.

An actual badger or two would have been nice though.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Greyhounds and rabbits - the chase was on!

With Way Too Cool breathing down my neck, I knew I needed to get a few miles in. I had never actually run the Brazen Hellyer course (the only Brazen course I had never run - I had volunteered at aid stations the last two years), so it seemed like it was time.

This is not my favorite kind of course; it's paved and pretty much flat. But it's a long out-and-back which means it's a good social course in that you get to see everyone at least once. And it's relatively close to home.

We started out with a jog around a lake.

And before we knew it, we were at the first aid station - the 5K turnaround. I do have to say that the trail is generally pretty scenic - it's also very popular with normal people too, so at times it was a bit congested.

The second aid station was where Weird Haired Mom and Grandkid Second Born were stationed.

The cone is keeping warm with a kiwi bird hat. This cone had another surprise coming in the near future.
This aid station was also the 10K turnaround.

Note that sections of the trail had some dirt single-track along the side that you could run on - this helped me a lot.
A huge surprise was that I was catching up to Mrs Notthat! And I got to watch her strip! (Well, only arm sleeves, but I'll take what I can get.)

The third aid station and I'm still keeping up with Mrs Notthat. Obviously she was not feeling right. (We had only been back from New Zealand for four days, which I'm sure had something to do with it.)

I liked this bridge until I actually got on it - it was not as stable as it looked and tended to bounce a little bit. Or a lot once I started stomping across.

You gotta love a turnaround that has its own Stop sign.
Finally the Half Marathon turnaround. This volunteer was a bit bored since nobody had tried to keep going. Yet.

I still had Mrs Notthat in my sights, but a Bad Influence named Kcirtap (not its real name) was about to catch up to her and get her moving a bit faster. Once he was done taking her picture.

The sweeper! I better step on it! (Yeah right. Although I think Mrs and the Bad Influence are still visible. Barely.)

So I'm stumbling along and I see this guy on rollerblades with a camera taking pictures of the runners. I figured him for some freak from the 80s out getting his kicks when I realized it was Mas (not his real name either), and that I was completely correct.

Eventually I made it back to the 10K turnaround where Grandkid Second Born couldn't be bothered to look up as he waved at me. He was too busy torturing that poor cone from earlier (he's got it mashed pretty good there).

When Mas came through, this is what he saw and took a picture of.

GSB decided to pretend to be a pirate and was walking around with this cone on his leg. (Exactly how many gummy bears did he eat there?)

And then a very happy sight - the Brazen Rabbit and her squeeze directing us towards the finish line.

And what a glorious sight it was.

Mrs Notthat ended up beating me, but not by all that much.

Shortly  after I finished, Grandkid First Born showed up with her friend Amme (not her real name). GFB paced her on her first 10K! Even cooler, the kids did it on their own!

And that's about it. Mrs Notthat missed a PR by less than two minutes, and I missed one by 17 seconds, which came as a total surprise to me. This course wasn't exactly great training for Way Too Cool, but it was good to get some competitive miles in.

And I ended up enjoying the race much more than I had anticipated - there was enough variety along the course to keep it interesting and it's always fun to see so many perky runners out there.

The rabbits, however, had nothing to worry about from me.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.