Sunday, May 4, 2014

What would you expect from a race named after Sasquatch?

The first time I heard of Sasquatch Racing was when I read about the 2013 Sasquatch Scramble. It sounded fun, so I tried to sign up, but it was sold out. I was stunned - I run a lot of trail races in the area and had just heard about them; how can a new group like that manage to sell out a trail race?

Granted, sold-out trail races are becoming more and more common now days, but still - I was determined to not get shut out for the following year's version of this race.

Mrs Notthat and I signed up early for the 2014 Scramble. And we were not disappointed. Worn out and tested, but happy.

The Scramble is held at Redwood Regional Park, just outside of Oakland. It's the home of many fun races that are often among the most challenging around. But looking at the Scramble's website showed an elevation profile that was far from fierce - somehow these guys had managed to work out a tame race for this park.


This is what their website showed, along with saying there was a bit over 1100 feet of elevation gain on the course. I'm thinking trail Half PR!

But then I noticed that the French Trail was on the course. Which lead to the West Ridge Trail. And even though Stream Trail is pretty mild, you still have to do some climbing to get to Skyline Gate.

This is what my Garmin came up with for the elevation profile:

It's actually about the same as the website's, but with a bit of a different scale. And those hills felt a lot more like this second chart. (The really jagged bit in the middle is the French Trail - it has no flat and is constantly dragging you up or down.) According to my Garmin, there was a bit over 2600 feet of elevation gain; past experience has shown me that the corrected elevation values are usually within a couple hundred feet of the actual value, so I would say this race had about 2400 feet of climbing.

And no chance of a trail PR for me.

Sasquatch wears sunglasses. Who knew?
A trademark of Sasquatch races is that you will have a run-in with a Sasquatch at some point in the race. And a Honey Badger. For most, these are fun times. For Mrs Notthat, they are the stuff of nightmares since she has a fear of people in scary masks.

So it was kind of funny that we were checked in by Sassy. Mr Notthat warned him that she would not be giving him a high-five out on the course, and likely would scream a bit and run off the trail just to avoid him.

We didn't know many people at the race, but we knew Yllek (not her real name) who you may remember from our HURT adventure back in January.

Honey Badger knows the way! This was at the 5K turnaround.
After a very civil 9:15 AM Half start, the race headed out on the Stream Trail, which is really pretty mild, at least at first.

If you look really hard, you can see Mrs Notthat up ahead of me.
The trail is wonderful and pretty tame. You are climbing, but a proper runner would hardly notice it.

At the first aid station, Half runners turn left towards the French Trail/West Ridge loop while 10K runners turn right and head back to the finish.
The first aid station is at about mile 3, near the top of that first climb. And I was gaining on Mrs Notthat - she was not going up the hills quite as fast as normal and the door was open for me to beat her. (Ha ha ha - no.)

I had hoped to make it to this aid station before getting passed by any 10K runners (we had a 15 minute head start on them), but ended up getting passed by two of them. I'll take it.

"Your date with the French Trail is ready for you!"
The (Pardon My) French Trail is a bit infamous in the Bay Area. It's gorgeous and a blast. It will also eat you up - it would be interesting to know how many sprained ankles and twisted knees it's responsible for. Not as interesting, but a much bigger number, would be how many bad words have been uttered by runners as they navigated the thing.

I was keeping pace pretty well with Mrs Notthat, and even managed to pass her on a particularly steep uphill bit. She smirked a bit since she knew that every uphill has to be followed by a downhill, and she is a master of sprinting the downhills and leaving me in the dust. Still, I enjoyed this brief bit of triumph at about mile 4.

And there she goes. I didn't see her again until I finished.

Yllek joked that this race was part of her HURT 2015 training. We laughed a bit about that, but seeing this sort of thing often on the French Trail makes you realize that it really is good training for HURT.

"Which way do I go?" Arrows? What arrows?
Eventually all good things end, and we were done with the French Trail. But now we faced the big climb of the race - the West Ridge Trail. This trail is wide and relatively smooth, but it's also pretty relentlessly uphill from here.

The second aid station, near the end of the climbing.
After being in the shade for much of the race, the exposure of the West Ridge Trail took a bit of getting used to. Eventually though, we made it to a bit under mile 9 and the second aid station. At this point, there was not much climbing left - just some small rollers - and you could relax a bit knowing the worst was over.

They were happy to see me since it meant their day was almost done.
A couple of miles later, a bit less than mile 11, we were back at that first aid station. There was only about 3 miles left, and a large chunk of that was fun downhill trail.

"Hey Sassy! I like what you've done with your right hand!"
Sassy was waiting for us at the turn to a really nice downhill trail. About two miles to go now.

At the bottom of the hill the Honey Badger was ready to direct me to the finish. There is not much left now - maybe a mile and a half - but it seemed to take forever. It was mostly flat(ish) and included some pavement, but even the couple of mud puddles didn't help make this stretch go by any faster.

Finally, the finish line appeared. Mrs Notthat had beaten me by a bit over 10 minutes and my sub-3 hour finish turned into a 3:34 finish. My watch showed a distance of 13.9 miles while Mrs Notthat's showed 13.7. In either case, even taking into account that GPS tracking can be tricky with lots of highly shaded switchbacks, this was definitely an ultra Half Marathon. Combining that with the bonus climbing left me feeling pretty good about the race.

And that's about it. Half finishers get a fun medal and all runners get a nice shirt and great cookie. There is also Red Hook beer and other things to eat at the finish.

The race was a lot of fun and worth the wait to get in. It was also the third in a row that we've run with Sasquatch Racing (Honey Badger and Rattlesnake Ramble were the others), and easily the hardest. The fourth race in their series is the Bobcat Blitz, which we were told will likely be on August 3 in Huddart Park. This is the Sunday after a number of other fun races, so it will be interesting to see how this works out, but it's really hard to miss a race in that park.

And since I've done so many races there, I'll know well in advance what to expect for climbing.

A lot.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

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