Thursday, July 4, 2013

A soggy hot dog

I have wanted to do the Coastal San Lorenzo race ever since I saw a picture from it a few years ago. River crossings excite me and this one looked special - deep enough to need a rope to hold on to as you cross. Not to mention that the Santa Cruz Mountains have some of the best trails around.

Mrs Notthat was still under Dr's orders to take it a bit easy, which was fine by her since she is not a fan of river crossings, so she did the (nearly) river-free 10K, while I ran the Half Marathon.

Curious about how high the river is?
The course starts in Santa Cruz, and street parking was not much of an issue.

Mrs Notthat and Nerak (not her real name) soaking in the start-line sun.

The course made a short loop around the park to allow the runners to sort themselves out a bit before heading up the narrow trail. At the end of the loop, Baby Coastal asked whether I knew how to swim. That kid is wise beyond his years.

A warm up for the real river crossing. This was the worst that the 10K runners faced.
The race started with an uphill that was intermittently pretty steep, but then had some nice rolling trails.

After about 2.5 miles, we started down to Highway 9, where the 10K runners turn around. I had hopes of getting here before any of the 10K runners, but failed that by a fairly wide margin (we had a 15 minute head start).

See the person on the other side to the left a bit? That's where I ended up climbing out. Eventually. Also, the following series of pictures were taken by the volunteer sitting on the far side.
All the longer distances crossed that highway and continued a fun downhill to the river. I was a bit surprised at how congested the river crossing was - lots of people taking off their shoes and otherwise preparing to ford the river.

The first time I ever faced this sort of thing, I took my shoes off, crossed, put my shoes on, went a short bit longer, and went through the process again. What I learned is that your feet and socks end up wet no matter what you do, so the next crossing I just left them on.

It turned out that the benefits of leaving the shoes on WAY outweighed the benefits of taking them off - I loved not having to worry about slicing my foot open on some submerged sharp thing, not hassling with trying to dry off my feet before putting the socks and shoes back on, and not losing all the time it takes to do all that. And the real surprise was that the shoes and socks dried out pretty fast. (The shoes did get very dirty with the trail dust sticking to them, so there is that, but clean trail running shoes are nothing to be proud of and a sure sign you are not doing it right.)

So I bolted past all the runners taking their shoes off and joined the line along the rope.

The very slowly moving line.

Then I saw a guy go out around the line and skip the rope.

All pictures by a Coastal volunteer that I owe a bunch - these are awesome!
I've fallen many times in a race, but this is the first time I remember falling into a river. It was actually quite refreshing (if you look at the other pictures taken from this crossing, you see quite a few runners purposely jumping in and getting soaked just to cool off). The only sad thing was that the camera in my hand was done - the rest of the pictures are from my iPhone (which was safely in a plastic bag during this adventure).

Coming out of that crossing is a very steep climb that seems to go on forever. Eventually you really do make it to the top and get to charge downhill to a reasonably flat bit of trail that takes you into Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is where the Half turnaround lurks.

The Half course is an out-and-back, which meant I had all that to go through again - the killer hill, the river crossing, the pretend river crossing; everything.

I'm heading down to the river crossing while Ynnep (not her real name) is RUNNING up that steep hill after her third crossing.
I had been wondering if I would be passed by any of the Full Marathon runners (who ran the Half course twice). The answer was yes, but not by much.

I had been looking forward to seeing Ynnep heading out for her second lap. I even imagined the horror/thrill it would be to cross the river at the same time as her (we would likely both end up in the water, one way or the other). But she was faster than that and met me as I was coming down to the river. This meant I was only about three miles ahead of her, which seriously motivated me to get a move on or else she would end up passing me. (Fortunately, she's a bit of a tourist too, got distracted talking to some other tourists about the wonders of the banana slug, and lost a bit of time.)

The river crossing was much less congested this time, and I was much more determined to not fall in. The volunteer paparazzi however was hoping for a reprise. But I made it across without incident (barely).

Picture by Coastal volunteer. Note how deep that spot was behind me. The ribbon lied a bit.
Picture by Coastal volunteer. Note the plastic-bagged phone in my hand. And I'm pretty sure I had nothing to do with that guy trying to drown himself behind me. Probably. 
Note: If you are curious and have a bit of time, go look through the pictures taken at this crossing. I find them fascinating and very entertaining - most have huge smiles and are really enjoying it while a few are seemingly fearing for their lives. The current was not strong, but the rocks were slippery. I know of one water bottle that got swept away, but that's about it.

After the crossing there is a fairly long, but mostly gentle uphill climb. There were bits of the trail that bicycles were allowed on, and the riders were mostly courteous and sometimes fun. This one particular narrow stretch was a bit crowded though.

And before I knew it (HA! I so knew it), there was the finish line. Where a rousing chorus of "NOT-THAT" almost made me decide to do the Full Marathon after all. After I stood there for a bit, the cheer died down and I snuck across the line.

Ynnep and I had a contest for most disturbing hat. She won.

Mrs Notthat won third in her age group and managed to cross the pretend river without incident. I managed to win a random drawing and now have a delightful pair of Coastal socks that can't wait to be dragged through a river.

The race was a blast, and all I had hoped for. There was a bit of congestion in places on the single-track, especially when the faster 10K runners started coming back at us, but also with some bikes. Nothing serious though, and the trails were very nice (even that mean hill outside the river) and made for a great event.

I'll be back again next year. With a life vest this time.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


Beth said...

I love the whole series of you crossing the first time and seeing the complete fall, from start to finish, in what seems like slow motion. Priceless!
Also, looking at those pictures, I am shocked at how many people took their socks and shoes off!
Looks like a blast, though, with or without shoes.

Jodi W. Brown said...
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Jodi W. Brown said...
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