Monday, December 23, 2013

Summiting the Rock for the fourth time

The Brazen Summit Rock Half Marathon is an interesting race. It's an out-and-back course where you spend the first three miles slogging up a hill, the next seven miles wandering along the ridge top (with a bonus trip to a valley just to add some more climbing), and then the last three miles heading back down that hill you slogged up a long time ago.

It's a pretty tough race largely on single-track trails that have many rocks and roots to keep you on your toes - twisted ankles are extremely common here due to the combination of trying to fly down that last three mile hill and the gnarly switchbacks.

One challenge of the course is the congestion that can occur, especially once the faster 10K runners hit their turnaround and start steaming down the hill that is full of Half, 10K, and 5K runners all still coming up the hill. I chose to avoid this issue this year by doing the early start, which meant I was well past the 10K turnaround point before any of the faster runners caught up to me.

Photo by Brazen volunteer near the 10K turnaround. Mrs Notthat (who did not do the early start) has moved to her right for the 10K runner that's heading back down.
Additionally, I was determined to reverse an disturbing trend I had established with my finish times:

2010: 3:04
2011: 3:29
2012: 3:55

My finish times have been dramatically increasing each year - I have no explanation for that other than I'm getting slower. This would be the year I would buck that trend. Maybe.

Mr Brazen getting ready to send us early starters out.
There were 14 of us taking advantage of the early start. The sun was not quite up yet and it was pretty cold, but we had the trails mostly to ourselves.

Seriously - it was cold out! (I know those of you in frostbitten states are busy rolling your eyes, but for the Bay Area, this is cold.)

A little past 1.5 miles we hit our first aid station, which was also the 5K turnaround. I forgot to ask how they got that vehicle up there - it certainly did not go up the trails we just ran up.

This has got to be the wimpiest "tree blocking the trail" that I've ever seen.

About the last mile up the hill to the 10K turnaround had very recently been attacked by a small bulldozer. In time this might turn out to be a good thing, but for this race, this stretch of trail was not much fun. The dirt was soft with many hidden rocks and roots - it was better when we came back through here later after all the 10K and proper Half runners had trampled the soft dirt down a bit.

Possibly related to this was that there were some wasp issues - a number of runners reported getting stung between the first and second aid station. I had no issues heading out, but coming back a bee landed on my neck that I was able to swat away before it could do any damage.

At a bit over 3 miles we were at the second aid station, and the 10K turnaround. I was thrilled to have made it this far without being passed by a fast Half or 10K runner.

Nhoj, not his real name, wore gloves to help with the cold. Sheesh.
I made it to about mile 5 before I got passed by the lead Half runners. (I had a one hour head start on them, but had hiked up that hill - any runners that were able to run up that hill would quickly catch me, and they did.)

Weird Haired Mom was also part of the early start. I had caught up to her at the first aid station, but she then took off. At this point she had already hit the turnaround at mile 6.55 and was flying back, about a mile ahead of me.

Yes, he really thought there was a danger I would fail to stop and turnaround. HA!
Eventually even I made it to the Half turnaround, mile 6.55, and the third aid station. I had been passed by only 20 or so Half runners by this point, so I would get to see the bulk of them as I headed back.

"Gimmie your GUs and nobody gets hurt."
As mentioned earlier, while going along the ridge, which has mild rolling hills, there is a bonus trip to a valley that adds a significant amount of climbing. There is a bypass to the valley that, if you missed the turn, would greatly ease your race. So there were volunteers to make sure that you didn't miss that turn and rob yourself of the bonus climbing.

Mrs Notthat being really fast and perky. 
One fear I had was that Mrs Notthat would catch me. When I saw her at this point, I knew I was in a bit of danger, since from here the course is more downhill than uphill, and she rocks the downhill.

I picked up my pace a bit.

Eiram, not her real name, at the junction signaling the end of the bonus climbing.

These aren't really the Summit Rocks (you have to veer off-course a bit to see them), but I think they're good enough to get at least partial credit.

It was great to make it back to that second aid station (now the fourth aid station, mile 10), mostly because it meant the rest of the race was downhill.

Picture by Brazen volunteer at that aid station.

Knowing that Mrs Notthat could show up at any time, I pushed it a bit down that hill and made it to the first aid station, now the fifth one at mile 11.5, very quickly (for me). Only a mile and a half to go!

Totally unexpectedly I managed to catch up to Ainigriv (not her real name) a bit after that aid station. I never beat her at these races (she had also used the early start) and figured she must have been really hurting (she was).

Yes, that's frost still on the trail.
I think I was ahead of her for maybe a quarter of a mile before she flew past me. (It does not look good to get beaten by me, and I've seen many runners do heroic things just to make sure that doesn't happen.)

The finish line. And I had managed to knock 7 minutes off my finish time from last year, so my main mission was accomplished. Barely.

I then went out a bit to catch Mrs Notthat as she raced towards the finish line.

It wasn't long before she flew past me.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Ecinreb (not her real name). Note how far back I am. That kid has a great finish line kick!
Picture by Brazen volunteer Ecinreb. Somebody was happy to be done.
Weird Haired Mom (who beat me handily), Mrs Notthat, and I all ready for ice cream! Really!

This was my first time out with my new Anton vest with the boob bottles. I had been really curious about these vests and finally decided to give one a try. I liked it a lot, although once I put my sweatshirt on the back, the bottles would gradually edge their way up towards my neck. The other thing I noticed was that I could really hear the water sloshing around in the bottles more than when I carried them on my waist. And lastly, I lost count of the number of times I would grab a bottle, take a drink, and try to put it back into my belt. Old habits die hard.

Mrs Notthat fainted when she found out she had won second place in her age group (and had beaten one other!).

Picture by Brazen volunteer Ecinreb, again. Once we stopped moving, it got really cold again.

The trails at this race are some of the best around. There aren't many expansive views, but I love spending all that time in the dense woods. The early start is a great way to avoid the only real issue with this race - the congestion near the 10K turnaround.

Another way is to be really fast. That way is not on my radar for the near future.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


Beth said...

Great post, Allen. Was interested to hear your input on the vest. Is it worth the $ over a Nathan vest?
Love the pic of you and Mrs getting warmed up after the race. You guys are too cute.

notthatlucas said...

Hmmm… I don't know the Nathan vest. I REALLY like the Ultimate Direction bottles, so that was a selling point of this one. The Anton is the cheaper of the three models they have, and it was the one I liked best, although it was a bit of an impulse buy. I've seen others that carry the bottles lower - obviously for a woman this would all have to be tried out for comfort. I had no chafing at all though, so I'm happy.

Wan Agus said...

Long time reader, first time commenter :)

Did you hear any cases of wasp attacks? Ake was pacing a couple of friends doing the 10K and they got stung by a bunch of angry wasps on the turnaround.

On the vests, the comparable Nathan model to UD AK is the HPL 028. I don't have either so I can't comment other than UD vest seems to be way more versatile (bungee cords, more pockets, etc.) but same weight. The 2.0 model is coming soon with the new UD branding (blue instead of red) and rumored to be Cuben fiber-free.

My wife is wearing Nathan HPL 20 but she's waiting for the UD Vesta designed for women. Michele Yates is wearing it for the TNF50 a few weeks ago.

I do have both Nathan Vapor Wrap and UD Peter Bakwin, which are comparable. The UD one is hands down my favorite. It's half the weight and way more versatile. It's also designed to hold boob bottles. You can fit a bottle in the Vapor Wrap's front pouches but the fit is too tight.

notthatlucas said...

Wan! Yes - I believe quite a few people got stung by the wasps. I was stunned to hear they were out - I really thought it was too cold for them; maybe that's what put them in such a bad mood. Diane had no issues - I suspect the 10K runners had it the worst since they went through that area when it was pretty lively. By the time we came through, they were tired.

I tried on the UD Peter B vest, and wanted to like it, but it was too tight on me. I fooled with the adjustments and never could get it to fit right, which is largely why I ended up with the Anton version.

It's amazing how many options there are for this sort of thing (and how expensive they can get - you really want to get it right the first time).