Friday, February 14, 2014

Do rattlesnakes swim?

Mrs Notthat and I enjoyed the Sasquatch Racing Honey Badger race so much that we automatically signed up for the Rattlesnake Ramble race. The Rattlesnake Ramble was at Lake Chabot, where we have run many races, but this one was to use some trails that we had rarely been on before - some single-track trails that almost never get used for races.

And then, on the Thursday before the race, we got an email saying that they had to change the course due to the expected storm that was to hit us over the weekend. Honestly I wasn't surprised - I know other races have tried to use those trails and been forced to change if there was any chance it might be moist out.

The new course turned out to be very similar to the Brazen New Year's Day race - a clockwise loop around the lake on fire roads. In addition to losing out on the single-track trails, we ended up with nearly double the climbing. (The 10K course had a similar change; the 5K race was unchanged since it was all on pavement.)


On Friday night the weather professionals were giddy with forecasts of epic rain, so Mrs Notthat and I showed up prepared for just about anything (short of carrying an inflatable raft).

We arrived to a very light drizzle, and even that soon gave up altogether.

It was cloudy, but there was little wind and it really wasn't that cold. I'm not saying that a sunscreen booth would have been busy, but I've been at summer races with worse weather.

Mr Sasquatch giving pre-race instructions, mostly about how rattlesnakes are not good swimmers.
I wasn't sure how many runners to expect at the race - I'm sure the weather forecast kept some runners away - but there was a pretty good crowd all ready to go by the civilized start time of 9:15AM.


We started with about a mile and a half of pavement along the lake.

A honey badger threatening runners with a rattlesnake if they chose not to head up the hill.
Right after crossing the dam, we left the pavement and started up the first real hill.


The fire roads for the first part of the race were really in pretty good shape, for the most part.


There were a few scattered puddles, but they were easy to avoid.

I told them there were only a couple of runners behind me. A dance routine broke out.
The first aid station was at about mile 4.2. The weather was still dry and a bit cool, so I grabbed some GU Chomps and kept on going.


One great thing about this race was that they had absurdly enthusiastic volunteers at many of the big intersections.


A fun thing about these trails is that we spend a lot of time among the eucalyptus trees, which helps distract you from the rolling hills.


One difference on this course is that we wandered what sounded like a LOT closer to the firing range than normal. Apparently the threat of a bit of rain did not dampen people's enthusiasm for making lots of noise.

I asked her to make this look like miserable duty, but she still made volunteering look fun!
Eventually I got to the second aid station, about mile 7.8, and the start of a long downhill stretch. This was also the 10K race's turnaround point, although most of the 10K runners had long since finished their race.

OK, she wasn't actually at a trail intersection, but she still made sure I knew which trail to go on.
This downhill stretch, mostly on the infamous Live Oak trail, can get a bit sloppy when it rains. It also has some steep bits that, even when dry, can be a bit challenging to run down.


Since it hadn't been raining for a bit, the mud was very sticky and quickly added multiple pounds of bonus weight to your feet. Fortunately there were just a few stretches that were like this. Also fortunately we only had to go down this bit - the 10K runners had to both climb up this and go back down it.


Eventually I made it down the hill, remarkably without falling, and made the turn to the only bit of this course that terrifies me.


The Bridge of Death. With what appeared to be a Bridge Troll guarding the exit. And just to add to the spookiness, it started to rain a bit.

The Bridge Troll was fierce, but I'd rather take my chances high-fiving him than going back across that bridge. 
Mrs Notthat is terrified of people in masks, and she nearly chose to run back the other way rather than risk trying to get past this guy.

At this point, the 10K runners turned right and ran the rolling, mostly paved hills to the finish line. The Half runners, though, turned left and headed up their last real hill. And by now (a bit over 9 miles), the rain was getting a bit more serious.

This volunteer was congratulating us once we made it to the top of the hill.
The rain made the trails a bit sloppier, but they were still pretty solid.

I think he's telling me there's two more miles to go.
The third aid station, about mile 9.8, signaled the start of a fairly long downhill stretch that is fun to run since it's not that steep. The rain made it pretty slippery, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared.

I loved that these swans got out of the water to avoid getting wet in the rain. Or something like that.
At the bottom of the hill we were back on pavement and slogging along the lake in a fairly heavy rain.


And before I knew it (HA!), I was at the finish line.


It was great to be done. It still wasn't all that cold or windy, but by this point I was completely soaked and ready to change into some dry clothes. (Mrs Notthat had come in a bit over 11 minutes ahead of me.)

The very nice shirt, the medal/bottle opener that the Half runners received, a rattlesnake cookie, and the beers that had been iced earlier.
The race was a blast, even with the soaking that we got towards the end. The funny thing though, was that if you ran the 5K, 10K, or a moderately quick Half, you stayed dry; it was only us slower Half runners that ended up getting caught in the rain. (Well, and all the volunteers and other race people.)

Something I find interesting - there were three distances (5K, 10K, and Half) and, by a significant amount, the Half had the most runners. I would have guessed that a lot of people that signed up for the Half would have dropped to a shorter distance because of the predicted weather, but it doesn't appear that happened.

In most races I've run, the shorter distances usually have more runners than the longer distances, so why didn't this race work out that way? I suspect one thing that affected this is that only the Half distance runners received a finisher medal.

Bling is a surprisingly effective motivator.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: This was the first real test of my new waterproof camera, and I loved that I didn't have to worry about it.

PPPS: Those of you that ran the Coastal Golden Gate race have my sympathies. Compared to what you faced, we had a sunny summer day. It's amazing the difference 20 miles can make.

1 comment:

Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson said...

Hi! I met Diane on Saturdays' Zombie Runner Golden Gate trail race. It was fun talking with her and we were both wearing Nathan packs. Great to find a blog that covers the trail races with great pics!