Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bear Creek never gets easier

Brazen's Bear Creek Half Marathon always gets me. Way back in 2010, I ran my second trail race ever and first Half Marathon at the Winter Bear Creek race, which was a very different (and never repeated) version of this race, and I had run the summer version three times since then.

The main distinctions of the summer version has been the heat, relentless hills, and occasional rattlesnake. I always start out fine but end up pretty toasted by the end. Slightly oddly, the only time I've broken four hours at this race is that first winter version. So my goal is always to finish in less than four hours. Would this be the year?

Mrs Notthat volunteered to be the It's-It lady for this race, so staying at home and cowering in a corner was not an option.

One thing that made this a momentous day was that it was the day I replaced the frogs on my hat, which had been there since Way Too Cool in 2012 and had become unruly and fragile, with dragonflies made by Yrrek (not her real name).

I had hopes that, in place of the rude frog noises I put up with previously, these dragonflies would give me wings and help carry me up the hills. (Spoiler alert: Ha! All they did was complain about how slow I was going.)

This course can get so hot that there are volunteers with fire extinguishers in case any runners burst into flames. Thanks Yrag (not your real name)!
The Mahtal Nalc (not their real names) showed up in force with a couple of bonus runners!
Hteb (not her real name) bravely started the timer and then cheered as we stumbled by her. It is NOT true that she tried to trip me. Probably.
Eventually the race started and we were off!

"Hey Yrrek, did you know you don't have any shoes on?"
I quickly took up my traditional spot at the back of the pack.

A huge bonus was that it was overcast, and even a bit foggy as you headed up that first hill. For a bit, it was easy to pretend you were running in the Marin Headlands (if you had a good imagination).

I could hear Team Divad (not their real name) shivering as I approached the first aid station.
The first aid station was at the top of the first real hill, about mile 2.9. It was still quite cool at this point, but there were signs that it wasn't going to last.

My emergency backup arch-nemisis Drahcir (not his real name) was catching up to me quickly.
Part way down that first hill the sun started to break through.

The second aid station (mile 5.8) was the first one with a cutoff, but past history shows that it's not a cutoff that I need to worry about too much. I made it with 30 minutes to spare. Nahtanoj (not his real name, on the left) was taking pictures here, and got these of Mrs Notthat and I passing through.

After you leave that aid station, you have some nice single-track to prance through.

Note all the shade. Ha! 

After a brief stop at a well-placed outhouse, the course turns to follow a fun stretch through the trees along a dry creek, which is capped with a root-infested, chin-scraper climb that this picture does no justice.

My emergency backup arch-nemisis is just barely ahead of me.
The mile and a half or so that leads to this aid station (about mile 9.9) is not fun. It's very exposed and uphill. And once you get here, you know you're not done climbing. This aid station had the cutoff I was most worried about, but again I beat it by 30 minutes.

There is basically just a long 5K left to do, and on paper, it doesn't look too bad either, with a lot of it downhill. But past experience has taught me that it was going to be challenging. So I soaked my hat (the dragonflies had been really nagging me, so it was nice to shut them up for a bit) and headed out to finish that last hill.

Those of you with good eyes can see the next aid station way down there.
Before the race, I always look forward to this bit since it is a long downhill where I can make up some time. When I get here though, I am usually so tired that not much time gets made up.

Eventually I made it down to the fourth and final aid station, at about mile 12.2. There is a little over a mile to go from here, and it's a reasonably fun mile, but I was really beat at this point.

The last mile is mostly a nicely shaded single-track trail that normally is fairly infested with poison oak. Earlier in the week though, and couple of brave Brazen volunteers hacked the stuff back to minimize the chances of you touching it. (Nonnahs and Mas - not their real names - are rock stars!)

Sadly, they did nothing to reduce the small hills you have to also deal with along this stretch.

Above is a picture that Nej (not her real name) took of Mrs Notthat approaching the finish well ahead of me. I came through so much later that Nej had given up and went home for lunch.

But I did end up finishing, finally.

There is so much wrong going on in this picture that I don't know where to start.  
Picture by Ecinreb (not her real name).
It took some effort, but I was able to extract Mrs Notthat from the clutches of The Endorphin Dude and pose for this nice shot.

And that's about it. I failed to break four hours, again, but I did set a PR (barely) for the course. Mrs Notthat also set a PR (and beat me by a staggering 45 minutes).

This race also marked my fifth in the Brazen Ultra Half Series, which means I am now eligible for the coveted coaster medal if I can get through the Rocky Ridge race [insert involuntary shudder here].

Oh goody. [insert involuntary heavy sigh here]

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Was a hoot to see you guys, as always! Dad got such a kick out of meeting you and Mrs in person, he's read about you for so long. This was Brian's first year doing that half, said it's a doozy. The Beast's regular run is up that single track steep rooty bit, up to the lagoon. It'll turn you into a beast if run on a regular basis, lol.