As an interesting science experiment, if you run the Half Marathon, you get to run it counter-clockwise in one race and clockwise in the other, giving you the chance to work out which direction is easiest. Both directions have the same amount of climbing on the same trails, although the CW direction is about 0.2 miles shorter due to how the race starts.
So, which direction is easier? Almost everyone I asked said that the CW direction (run on New Year's Day) was fastest.
I think they are wrong.
Here is the elevation chart for the New Year's Eve direction (CCW).
The largest chunk of the climbing is a steep bit early in the race. And after mile nine or so, there are no serious climbs left.
On New Year's Day (CW), the climbing is more gradual and spread out. And you have a nasty climb at mile eleven or so.
I walk the uphills and can run the downhills. Going CCW there is more downhill trail than when going CW. Real runners that can run moderate uphills will find the CW direction faster since it has fewer steep miles.
In my case, I was a bit over two minutes faster going CCW than CW, but almost everyone else was faster the other way around. Interestingly, the course records are faster going CCW than CW.
Which means I'm right. I rest my case.
NYE (almost) RaceThe NYE race was preceded by the Brazen Streaker Awards Ceremony.
First, it's worth noting that it was quite cold at the start of both of these races. Lots of frost. Some were better prepared than others to deal with it.
A Brazen Streaker is someone that participated, either as a runner or volunteer, in all 24 of their events throughout the year. This is a tough thing to do, and way back in 2010 when Brazen first came up with the idea and had 15 races in the year, they had 3 runners that managed to do this.
In 2011, those same 3 runners plus 14 others managed to participate in all 21 races. In 2012, Brazen added 2 more races, raising the bar higher, and ended up with 24 streakers. For 2013, another race was added, bringing the total to 24. And had a stunning 53 streakers.
I'm pretty sure the only way the number of streakers will go down is if Brazen throws in a race that's geographically challenging - say something in Nebraska. But even that might not be enough.
|Photo of all the streakers and an example of the framed set of medals they received; photo by Brazen volunteer.|
|Photo by Brazen volunteer.|
Eventually there actually was a race. That's Nek (not his real name) who is in injury recovery mode, using his GoPro to grab shots of the start. (That's his wife Niwhsa (not her real name) that's trying to get him with a karate chop.)
This is the picture Nek took of me taking his picture. (Yes - I've gone nearly 100 feet and have already stopped to take a picture.)
We hit our first aid station (and the end of the pavement) at about mile 1.8. As near as I can tell, The Endorphin Dude's duty at this aid station is to pick up anyone that runs into that a-frame sign.
|The actual aid station workers.|
After that aid station, we make a right and head up our first real hill. It's fairly gentle and not too long, but is great at getting you warmed up.
At the bottom of that first hill we meet up with the 10K runners (who got to skip that hill) and turn right onto the Bridge of Death.
|Runners smile when they get off this thing because they know they just cheated death.|
|"Sheesh Sirhc, not your real name, could you be a bit more obvious telling us which way to go?"|
This hill goes on forever. And ever. But it is a bit pretty and there are a few views.
|"Hey Aluap, not your real name, any pizza?"|
The next 5 miles or so are some of the best trails to be found. They are also some of the noisiest as they pass close to a shooting range where the sounds of enthusiastic gunfire serenades you.
Before you know it, you are at the third aid station, mile 9.2. There was a three hour cutoff here, but, amazingly, I was well ahead of it. Now it was time to head back to the lake.
Once you make it back to the lake you are mostly done climbing - just rolling hills are left.
Near mile 12 you end up back on pavement and heading across the dam.
|Drannyl (not his real name) didn't have pizza either.|
And then we are done! 13.4 miles covered.
I'm not sure who took these pictures of our finishes, but I couldn't resist making these GIF animations. Sorry.
|Wow - a second Endorphin Dude mention. But Grandkid Second Born and him are great buddies, so this is worth it. Probably.|
NYD RaceOnce again, it was very cold at the start.
Once we started though, things warmed up a bit. Needs Cool Name was taking pictures about a half mile out from the start. And making a LOT of enthusiastic noise to try to get us moving.
At about mile 1.3 we were at the first aid station. Shortly after this there was a short stretch of pavement that looked wet, but turned out to be icy. I didn't hear of anyone falling, but it sure looked like it could happen.
|Passing Yram, my arch-nemesis. Nice view too!|
While approaching the second aid station, I was surprised to see Kcnarf (not his real name) taking pictures!
|The picture Kcnarf took of Mrs Notthat.|
|The picture Kcnarf got of me.|
After getting our pictures taken, we arrived at the second aid station, mile 4.2. This was the top of our first real hill and was followed by some downhill.
And the trees. Amazingly though, there was no gunfire to motivate us - apparently the shooting range is closed on New Year's Day. I've done many races through here and cannot remember every hearing silence at this point.
|Aluap still at this aid station, and still pizza-free.|
It was fun dashing down this hill. Half runners never get to do this except on New Year's Day - 10K runners get to run down it, but not until they have run up it first. This feels like a free pass - like someone left the gate open!
As I approached the bottom of the hill, I saw Ydna (not his real name) busily making sure we turned the correct way. Towards the Bridge of Death.
The Bridge of Death. Heavy sigh. Aicram (not her real name) was directing traffic at the end of the bridge; 10K runners turned right and skipped that last hill, Half runners turned left and started up that last hill. That last hill is kind of amusing when going CCW and hitting it early in the race. Going CW and hitting it at about mile 10 is not nearly as amusing.
It helped that Nad (not his real name) was on the other side of that hill to direct us in the right direction. The cool thing was that that direction was towards the finish line - the less cool thing was that we were back on pavement.
|This is a great way to get welcomed into an aid station.|
A fun thing was that at about mile 12.5, Kcnarf was hanging out and taking even more pictures!
And then a tiny bit after that, NCN was able to get these pictures of Mrs Notthat approaching the finish.
|This is how Mrs Notthat storms the finish line? That looks more like how I look.|
|Ah. She was just kidding.|
|Picture by Treblig (not his real name).|
|The medals. The left one was for the (almost) NYE run and the right was for the NYD run - the middle was a bonus if you elew around both courses.|
I still think the CCW direction is faster, but I suspect I will get mostly contrary comments.
That's it - move along…
PS: You can see more of my pictures here and here.