Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Honey Badger don't care 'bout no flesh wound

The Bay Area has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to trail races to choose from every weekend. A lot of that has to do with the number of amazing parks and trails we are surrounded by, but a lot of credit also has to go to there being so many people willing to put on a trail race.

Last year I heard about a trail race company called Sasquatch Racing - you have to like a race company named after a (probably) mythical creature. There was a race of theirs in the fall that we decided to try out. Sadly, I put off signing up for a week or two and when I finally got around to it, the race had sold out. Which caught me by surprise - I have been doing lots of Bay Area trail races for several years and had only just heard of this company, and they were already selling out their races?

So when their Honey Badger race came up and it fit in our schedule, I didn't hesitate quite as much and signed us up (and a few days later the race was sold out). We went into this race not really knowing what to expect, but there was a promise from them that things would be fun and a bit quirky, there would be a shirt and a medal (for the Half runners) that could be used to open your finish line beer, and that at the very least we would get to be on some great trails in China Camp State Park.

We saw this guy while walking from the road to the start/finish area. A sign this was going to be a great race.
The race had three distances: 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon. (Only the Half runners received finisher medals.) Each distance had their own start time, which was wise since most of the trails were single-track.

The RD explaining that honey badgers actually care a great deal.
There were a bit under 300 runners total, each one listening carefully as the RD went over the rules, especially the one about not drinking the beer until you actually finished your race.

Within 50 feet of starting we were all funneled onto a single-track trail.

This course has some wildly treacherous trails in places (you'll see an example in a bit) - this stretch was fairly smooth and worry-free. Which is probably why, about five minutes into this race, I took a header and ended up spending the next three hours tying not to get too much blood on the trail. (I'm continuously amazed that RDs still let me into their races.)

Any potentially confusing intersection had a volunteer there to direct traffic.

At about one mile into the race, we hit our first aid station. The aid stations had water, electrolyte, and an assortment of GU gels and chomps.

I've heard lots of words to describe a honey badger, but never "adorable!" She was hiding behind this sign and jumping out to frighten the runners. (The only things I know about honey badgers are what I learned from the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy II. Definitely not adorable.)

At about mile 1.5 we ran through a campground. This had two things going for it: Easy access to bathrooms and a few campers that got into the spirit of the race and lustily cheered us on while wiping s'more dust from their cheeks.

The Half course has two main hills, and the first one is a doozy. It's reasonably steep but wide enough so that faster people had no problem going around the carnage of us runners struggling up it.

Eventually you really do get to the top where a volunteer congratulated you and sent you on your way.

Now THAT'S a sturdy aid station table.
The second aid station was somewhere between miles 3 and 4. It had a lot of (loosely) motivational signs as you came and went, plus another honey badger.

Shortly after that aid station we met up with Sasquatch (who apparently is into mountain biking). I gave him a high-five, but Mrs Notthat has an unnatural fear of people dressed up in large furry costumes so she gave him a wide berth.

There were many places along the trail where, if you were bold enough to look up from the gnarly trail for a second, you would see some great views.

There were lots and lots of switchbacks.

The Half course is actually a long 10K loop (that the 10K runners also run) followed by a 10K lollipop, mostly on different trails. (The smooth bit of trail I fell on was covered three times by the Half runners. Sheesh.)

So as we came into the finish area, the 10K runners stayed to the left, finished their race, and headed to the Beer Table. The Half runners stayed to the right and hit aid station number three.

From here we headed up the stick of the lollipop.

And got to see some turkeys.

And some Half runners finishing up their race. (Above are the second and third place finishers.)

She was the first woman finisher, and not far behind the others.

This was the end of the stick - now to go around the loop at its top.

This is an example of how technical the trail would get in places. Most of the time the trail was pretty easy to run, but once in a while…

This loop had the second big climb, but it was much gentler going up than the other hill. On the flip side though, it had some pretty scary downhill.

The course was well marked with ribbons, flour, and a lot of these sorts of signs, which were great at making you feel comfortable that you were still on the right trail.

It's hard to believe anyone would have missed this turn. It would be harder to explain how you missed it though.
I loved this turn - this bit of downhill was not much fun (steep, deeply rutted, and lots of rocks laying around) and I was eager to get off of it and back on some single-track.

Yes it is football season.
Before long that loop was done and all I had left to do was head back down the stick.

About a mile from the finish was my fifth aid station (the third time I hit this same one). I filled up my bottle - it had been nicely cool at the start, but it was warming up now and I was slowing down.

Eventually I made it to the finish line, where Mrs Notthat and, as a complete surprise, Eilsel (not her real name) were waiting for me. (Mrs Notthat beat me by a bit over 13 minutes.)

I wore my Blerch shirt and met up with another guy with great fashion sense.

And now that I was done, I could finally have my trail rash looked at. (The shirt came out of this fine, although I don't know how - I had scrapes on my right shoulder, back, and hip in addition to what you see here.)

My daughter, Weird Haired Mom, spends a lot of her weekends providing medical support for events like this. She's swell and very competent and all that, but I was thrilled to not have to put her through fixing me up - there's no way she wouldn't have had a major giggle-fit while attending to my wounds. 

Why is that honey badger missing a shoe?
I have not the faintest idea how I ended up with bib number 1. I'm the opposite of elite, so maybe they did the numbering in the reverse order (although that wouldn't explain how Mrs Notthat got number 2). Alphabetically, I'm the middle of the pack. And I know I wasn't the first to register.

In any case I loved getting the full Alegna Yebba (not her real name, and unless you can break my secret code, this will make no sense) treatment.

The medal and shirt were great. They don't do age group awards or Mrs Notthat would have gotten second (and beaten three others!).

In the end, Sasquatch Racing seems to put on great events - everything was well organized, friendly, well marked, and fun. I'll certainly try to do more of their races (and be careful to sign up early to avoid being shut out).

Plus, I really need a picture of Sasquatch riding that bike.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


Steve Neff said...

Mr NotThat,

I was the water dude at the water station that you hit three times, and one of the times you hit it I noticed your Blerch shirt and yelled "I LIKE YOUR SHIRT" but you understandably didn't hear me. I just wanted to say I like your blog post about a race that I had a very limited view of (being relatively stationary the whole time) and that I liked your Blerch shirt. I had just seen that comic the day before and it resonated with this recovering runner (me).


mary ann said...

turkeys, deer, badgers, blood ~ what more could you ask for? Oh, and REAL bathrooms, that had to be a treat...
Love that you are Mr. #1 and Mrs. is #2, but of course it should be the other way around. 300 people, imagine so many crazies.

notthatlucas said...

Steve! Thanks so much for hanging in there at that aid station. I'm sorry I didn't hear you - the first time through I was trying to decide whether to see if you had a first aid kit (I decided to just keep going since it wasn't hurting or bleeding too badly), and the second and third time through I was just tired. (I even forgot to take a picture on the second time through!) That Oatmeal comic ( is great! I love that I'm seeing these shirts popping up more and more.

And MAS - of course Mrs Notthat should have been #1. And you forgot the bike riding Sasquatch!

Beth said...

Oh, that poor trail! It looks so pretty, I sure hope you didn't dent it!