Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yes, we really are in a drought

Let's go back to February 2014. California was in a record-breaking drought. No rain meant we were stuck with really great trail running conditions throughout the winter.

Then the Sasquatch Rattlesnake Ramble popped up on the schedule.

And it rained like crazy.

Fast forward to February 2015. California is still in a record breaking drought. The lack of rain has meant another winter of really great trail running conditions.

Then the Sasquatch Rattlesnake Ramble popped up on the schedule. Again.

And it rained like crazy. Again.

RD leading a chorus of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
About 20 minutes before the start of the race, the rain stopped. Since it wasn't cold out, it was kind of nice, in a moist way.

Mrs Notthat, who is much smarter than me, chose to run the 10K instead of the Half Marathon. The sad part of that was that I would not see her again until I finished, WAY after she finished.

My poncho-wearing arch-nemesis in my sights.
The first and last mile and a half or so of the race was on pavement.

A surprise was that my arch-nemesis, Yram (not her real name), was also running the Half. I managed to pass her early in the race, but I knew better than to get to too cocky. Not that that stopped me.

"Which way do I go?"
A really nice thing about Sasquatch races is they often have volunteers at any major turns that a runner might miss. In this case, the pavement continues on, but the course takes a right and gives us our first taste of the muddy trails.

Ack - I've been passed by my arch-nemesis!
The trails were very wet, but were for the most part remarkably solid. There was no clumping of mud on your shoes or all that much slipping around.

As normal, the course was well marked (outside of one short stretch that some vandals had hit, leaving behind the stubs of the ribbons), and if you looked hard, you could even still see the flour markings.

One thing that's awesome about running just after a rain is the way the woods smell. A large chunk of this course is in eucalyptus trees, and they smelled heavenly.

They're smiling because they know when I get there, their day must be nearly done.
A bit after mile four we hit the first aid station. By this time we were getting hit with occasional showers, but it was still not too bad.

While getting my bottle filled, I looked back and saw my arch-nemesis quickly approaching. We had passed each other several times so far, and she looked determined to pass me again. I tried to bribe the volunteers to trip her or something to slow her down, but they just laughed. So I took off.

Another brave volunteer making sure we stayed on course.
By this time we were starting to get hit with stronger showers that hung around a bit longer. The puddles were growing and the trail was getting a bit more slippery, but it was still not that bad out.

Kind of a funny thing - way back when we were still several miles from the shooting range, we could hear LOTS of enthusiastic gunfire. But as the rain picked up, and we got closer, the enthusiasm seemed to peter out a bit, and by the time we were close, it was actually fairly quiet. (Granted, this would only have been true for those of us at the back of the pack.)

ACK! A Sasquatch! In rainboots!
You will always see "Sassy" somewhere on the course. I was pretty sure the rain wouldn't scare Sassy away, but I was starting to wonder. But there she was at the second aid station, about mile eight.

As you can see, it was seriously raining at this point. Which was a bit of a problem since we were about to tackle the part of the course that I was dreading the most; the steep downhill bits of the Live Oak trail.

I don't really like running down this trail when it's dry, at least the steeper bits, but with a heavy rain falling, it was like a giant slip-n-slide. I really took my time going down this and managed to (barely) stay on my feet, but this slowed me down a lot. Someone with reasonable skiing skills could have fairly easily just slid down this hill.

One thing worth mentioning about this trail is that it was the same trail the 10K runners had to run on, only they had to both go up it and then go back down it. Granted they got to do that before the rain really got started, but it was still a mess and would have been challenging for them.

Another very soggy course guide volunteer.
Eventually I got to the bottom of that hill in one piece. I knew what lay ahead, but, after all I had been through coming down that hill, the Bridge of Death did not scare me.

I figured the bridge would at least me mud-free, but it actually had a fair amount of mud on it making it pretty slick after all.

"Which way do I go?"
At the end of the bridge, the 10K runners take a shortcut and head to the finish, while the Half runners take a long cut and go up one more hill.

That rock is not supposed to be there.

About halfway up that hill, the rain got serious. It flat poured. The trails turned into shallow streams.

"Are you keeping hydrated?"
Around mile 10.5 we hit the third aid station. This was the top of that last hill. The downhill from here is very runnable, even when muddy, and I was really looking forward to it.

A few days earlier, that creek along the side of the trail would have been mostly dry. I had never seen it this full before - you could have easily taken a kayak down it. The trail/stream was dumping huge amounts of rain into it.

This is that creek passing under the pavement.
At the bottom of the hill we got back on pavement. The rain let up a bit but was still pretty steady.

It didn't matter - the finish line was coming up fast!

And then it was all over. The rain stopped a bit before I crossed the line, and while I was completely soaked, I wasn't feeling chilled at all.

So I took advantage of the post-race adult beverage. Or two.

And then headed back out to find my arch-nemesis. I may have taunted her a bit, but I was also envying her poncho.

Mrs Notthat had finished her 10K hours ago, changed into dry clothes, and spent a lot of time in the van waiting for me to finish. Once I came in, she came down to cheer in Yram.

The fun thing about finishing the Half was that I got a great snake-based medal.
This ranks in the top three as far as the most moist races I've ever done. The odd thing is that it may not even be in the top ten as far as races with sloppy trails; it was amazing how well most of the trails held up, even in the pouring rain. Other than the Live Oak Slip-n-Slide, there were few real issues. I wasn't mud-caked or even very dirty, granted that last dump of rain would have taken care of any of that.

The normal course for this race (which I'm not sure has ever been used) is pretty mild for a trail Half Marathon, with only about 850 feet of climbing. The rangers at this park are very protective of their trails though, so they insist on using an alternative "inclement weather" course when the conditions are dodgy. The inclement weather course is not quite as mild, with about 1700 feet of climbing. (The 10K runners also ended up with a more challenging race, going from 290 feet of climbing to 650 feet of climbing.)

Regardless, the race was a blast and I'm really glad I stuck with the Half distance.

But next time, I'm not forgetting my snorkel at home.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures from the race here.


mary ann said...

rain and rifles - just not very appealing to me, but I like the report and always the photos

Nafets said...

I thought some of the paths look familiar, then the BOD gave it away, and I knew I have been there before. Nice report, as always.