Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zooming around Angel Island

The Zoom Ayala Cove race is not exactly like your normal trail race. Oh, it has trails, and hills, and even stairs, but it's likely the only race you'll run where you get to help assemble the start/finish area about 20 minutes before the race starts.

And you have to brave the turbulent waters of San Francisco Bay on a ferry to get there.

For a flatlander like me, that boat ride was the scariest bit of the day. A nice side effect though is that, since we are at the mercy of the ferry schedule, the race starts at a reasonable time (10:50 AM). A not so nice side effect is that there is a pretty tight cutoff on the 15M distance since you have to be done before the last ferry departs.

The course consists of three five-mile loops around the island; the outer, middle, and inner loops. There are five distances to choose from; 5M (inner loop), 10M (middle and inner loops), and 15M (outer, middle, then inner loop). As it turns out, the inner loop is the hardest, the middle loop next hardest, and the paved outer loop the easiest.

All three loops provide stunning views all the way around the island - it's never dull.

The first ferry to Angel Island leaves Tiburon at 10 AM. There is a registration table set up near the dock where you can pick up your bib.

Warning: They do NOT supply dramamine. Or a proper life vest. (Supposedly the ferry has life vests for everyone, but I didn't see anyone wearing one. There ought to be a law.)

Mrs Notthat and Retep (not his real name) getting coned up.
Eventually we had to board the ferry. A unique thing is that all the start/finish stuff is stacked up near the dock, and runners just grab something as they go past. (Unless you are like me and wait to be nearly the last to get on that thing.) It's also worth noting that there are a lot of normal people getting on the ferry too. They tended to look at us like we were mildly deranged. If they only knew…

Angel Island is surprisingly close. I believe there is an event that involves swimming to/from there. None of that made me feel any better as the ferry started off.

Also note how non-sunny it looks. It was pretty cool with a cold breeze at this point, however, it did clear off a bit and get significantly warmer later on.

Race day registration, island-style!
Mr Zoom/Coastal getting the 15M runners ready to go.
Each distance has its own start time, with the 15M distance going first. I have wanted to do the 15M distance, but fear both the cutoff and that first 5M loop that is all paved.

Eventually the 10M runners got to head out. There is a nice single-track trail that you take to get to the loop that you're running. It was so lush and pretty with lots of wildflowers.

Mrs Notthat was not that far ahead of me. But it was early.

At the end of the middle loop, I was back at the start/finish area where I headed back up that single-track trail to the inner loop. The inner loop has by far the most climbing but also the best views.

Note how clear the sky is now.
Mrs Notthat flying down from the top.
The inner loop includes a short out-and-back that takes you to the top of Mt Livermore. I figured my chances of seeing Mrs Notthat here were pretty remote; I totally expected her to have long since finished this bit of the course. But then, there she was! I had a chance of catching her. Yes, it was a small chance, and mostly relied on her coming up lame or getting lost, but there was a chance!

About 20 feet before you get to this point (the top), there is a bench. There were a lot of tourist-type people hanging out there, and I had to dodge around them a bit and managed to trip on a rock as big as a grape and fall into a shrub. I have a knack of falling in races when there is nobody to see it happen, but not this time. I don't think any runners saw it, but at least a dozen normal people had some surprise entertainment.

I promised to pay for the shrub, got up, and trudged up to the top. It got really quiet as I headed back down past all these people - sadly I disappointed them by managing to stay on my feet.

There were a number of trees you had to duck under, or in this case, go around. In one case, I was jogging down a hill looking at the trail (so that I didn't trip on anything) and weirdly found myself ducking. Apparently my subconscious has eyes in the top of my head since it saw that I was about to crack myself on a low branch that my proper eyes had never even seen. I felt the bottom of the branch brush the top of my hat. Yikes! Now THAT would have been a show!

Not a Canadian with her camera ready, just in case I tripped. She knows my style well.
Both the middle and inner loops end with a mad dash down a set of stairs that are not nearly to code. But I survived them (Double-Dipsea training!) and ended up back in the dock area and just a bit from the finish.

I had hopes for around a 2 hour finish, but was fine with 2:18.

Mr Coastal was really good at not rolling his eyes as he handed me my first place award.
Age group awards are peculiar things. Both Mrs Notthat and I are in the same age group, but different sexes. Mrs Notthat got fifth (and beat one other). I finished after her but got first. And only. (But I'm not telling anyone that part.)

There is a surprisingly good cafe near the dock, so a group of us had a fine late lunch.

Laughing in the face of near-certain death.
Eventually we had to get back on the ferry. By this point I was too tired to be very nervous.

One person that loved the boat was Toddler Coastal, who kept running back and forth on the rocking deck.

This was a fun event with surprisingly great trails and unsurprisingly great views.

And if you are in the right age group, great bonus medals!

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

1 comment:

mary ann said...

I so enjoyed this report - we had passed close to Angel Island on our ferry boat trip to Larkspur last Friday and now I want to go there next. I didn't know that there was a cafe there, that sure helps.