Saturday, October 11, 2014

Striding the Stevens Creek Half

For 12 years, a guy named Steve (his real name) put on a 50K trail race called the Stevens Creek 50K (neither the creek nor the race were named after him, I think). The race was a challenging course with lots of climbing on some of the best trails in the Bay Area, located in several mid-peninsula open space districts along Skyline Blvd. It also was a fundraiser the for the local branch of the Audubon Society.

Yes - this race was for the birds.

For this year though, he passed the reigns over to the Stevens Creek Striders running group. They were determined to keep the race's old school feel and bird ties, but to also grow it a bit. To help with that, they added 30K and Half Marathon options, which opened this event to Mrs Notthat and I.

The course was filled with variety. I guess you could technically say it was a point-to-point course since the start and finish were not at the same place, but no shuttle busses were required. There were two out-and-back bits that were fun since I got to see many of the other Half runners several times. The course was also the last bit of the 50K course, and we got to see some of the faster 50K runners heading out during a stretch of trail that we shared with them.

By no means was this a flat course, with about 2600 feet of climbing for the Half, but for the most part, the hills were pretty manageable.

Thgiwd, not his real name, pointing the way to the finish area before the race started.  It made sense at the time.
The race is a bit infamous for being hot. Heat was not an issue today though, with a ridiculously enthusiastic marine layer determined to keep things cool. This totally made my day.

The RD asking why it took me so long to get from the finish area to the start area. 
Since this was the first year for the Half distance, the numbers were kept low at 25 runners.

Mr Notthat, Einnob, and Nosila (not their real names, but picture them with dripping sponges and shoving ice at sweaty runners and you might recognize them)
A cool thing was that three of those Half runners were veterans of the WSER100 Last Chance Car Wash.

The race started with an uphill climb.

The trails were really amazing. The fog hid the long-range views, but the trees and rocks and such more than made up for that.

How does that not fall on me as I go by?

As we started down that first hill, a paparazzi was hanging out taking our pictures.

Picture by volunteer - blinding smile by Mrs Notthat.
Picture by volunteer - goofy pose by me.

On the out-and-back bit before the first aid station and the turnaround, I saw this group heading back having WAY too much fun.

And then a bit further I ran into Mrs Notthat. We were both struggling to keep our glasses dry enough to be useful - the mist was aggressively keeping them perpetually fogged over.

Yggep, not her real name, is relieved to see I'm still moving and haven't gotten lost. Yet.
Eventually I made it to the first aid station, mile 5, and the Half turnaround.

You didn't need much imagination to picture these trees trying to grab you has you went by.

I had not been looking forward to this bit - the bonus out-and-back needed to get us up to the Half mileage. Not only had the volunteer rode his bike out here (both to make sure the Half runners made this turn and that the 50K runners didn't make it), but he had brought water. Since this is such a hot race. Ha!

From here, the trail headed down significantly, which is normally a good thing, but in this case just meant that we would have to come back up that hill. And resume going up the hill we had already been climbing.

I did get to see this group and Mrs Notthat again though, so it wasn't all bad.

The volunteer at the turnaround had also carried a bunch of water with him. His task was to make sure no Half runners got past him and to mark their arms to prove that they had done this bit of the course. Except his marker was no match for everyone's sweat, and had pretty much stopped working.

Seriously - how cool are these trails!
The propeller obviously gave him an unfair advantage. I want one.
During that short stretch where we shared the course with the 50K runners, we got to see a few of them heading out to do what we had just done (minus the cruel second out-and-back bit). This guy ended up winning the 50K.

Don't fall don't fall don't fall…

Eventually I made it down to Horseshoe Lake and knew the end was near. I also knew that there were still a few more small hills to manage though.

Like the mean one that you had to go up to get to the finish line.

Picture by volunteer of me pretending to storm up that last hill.

A cool thing about this race is that, instead of traditional race shirts, they gave us non-traditional buffs. I've been assured that these things are wildly useful and versatile, and I've watched a movie on how to easily convert it from one function to another, but it's going to take some serious practice for me to master this (and not be at risk of strangulation).

This event was a blast! The volunteers were fantastic and the course was beyond cool (and the cool weather helped make it even cooler).

Thanks to Stevens Creek Striders and Original Steve for putting on such a great event and opening it up to us shorter distance runners.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

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