Monday, August 17, 2015

Answering the question; does Sasquatch get ticks?

Yes. Sasquatch does get ticks. But instead of panicking and heading to the ER, Sassy decided to make  ticks the mascot of a trail race in Huddart Park, and so the Sasquatch Tick Trailblaze was born. To prove Sassy has his heart in the right place, this event was a fundraiser for the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.

Mrs Notthat and I had signed up for the Half Marathon distance, but due to Mrs Notthat's ongoing recovery issues, she downgraded to the 10K while I stuck with the Half. In either case, we were guaranteed a course that was significantly different than any we had done in this park before.

For the Half runners, the course was a lollipop with two sticks. Both the 5K and 10K runners finished on the same trail we started out on.

Not a Canadian was also signed up for the Half distance.
One nice thing about the Sasquatch races is that they start at a relatively civilized time - the Half was set for a 9:15 start. The downside of that is that you could miss out on a nice, cool weather start.

I'm pretty sure Sassy is wanting a high five and not trying to get me to stop. And I have no explanation for the rainbow headwear - maybe that was to keep the ticks away?
But then this race had a nice surprise up its furry sleeve - an early start option for the Half runners. I had not intended to take advantage of the early start, but since I was ready to go by the 8:45 early start time, I waved goodbye to Mrs Notthat and Not a Canadian and took off.

We started as most races do here by going down the Bay Tree trail. (As a spoiler alert, we finished as no races do by coming back up this trail.)

A brave volunteer making sure we stayed on course.
After that short bit of downhill, we then started up the main climb of the course, and would keep climbing for the next five or so miles. Most of the climb wasn't steep, and there were a few breaks, but it was still pretty relentless.

Terror on the trail. And I left my chainsaw at home.
Terror on the trail of a different kind.
After trudging up Richard's Road for a bit, we turned off onto the fun Chaparral trail, which is relatively flat single-track, for a bit. There was a short bit of the this trail that had some poison oak close enough to threaten the runners. Hold this thought…

A brave volunteer where the 5K course meets up with the Half course.
An interesting thing about this race was that the 5K and 10K races finished on the same trail that the Half runners started on - the faster 5K and 10K runners would end up running against the Half runners trudging up the hill.

Now release that thought from earlier - most of the trails were wide enough to handle two-way traffic pretty easily, but then there was that narrow bit with the poison oak. My taking the early start had the bonus of giving me a 30 minute head start on all the other runners, and made it so that I blew past where the 5K runners would join the trail before any of them had made it that far.

Now, could I make it to the point where the 10K runners join the Half trail before they did?

No. Not even close. I started seeing the fast 10K runners shortly after the 5K point. This was actually pretty cool since I don't normally get to see the faster runners in a trail race, given that I'm in the back third of the pack.

And then the Half runners who did the normal start started passing me. The faster ones had gone the same distance as me, about 2.5 miles, but done it 30 minutes quicker. Yikes.

At about mile 3.5, we hit our first aid station.

A brave volunteer at the point where the 10K course joined the Half course, at the base of the loop.
Eventually, I made it to the point where the 10K runners were joining the Half course. I would guess that maybe 20 or so 10K runners made it to this point before me, but Mrs Notthat (not surprisingly, since she was supposed to be walking the course) was not one of them. From here on I would only see Half runners.

It had been really warming up on the lower bits of the course, but as we climbed, we entered a very cool and moist marine layer. Water was dripping off the branches making it feel like a light rain. This was awesome.

Brave volunteer at the top of the loop, pointing us to the turnaround.
Brave volunteer at the turnaround, and the second aid station.
The turnaround aid station was roughly the halfway point of the race. The best thing was that it also meant we had mostly downhill trails from here on, at least until we had to head back up that first trail to the finish.

Brave volunteer still being brave, pointing me to the opposite side of the loop bit.
A first for me - a momma and baby banana slug!
A brave volunteer at the point where the 10K runners joined the loop - all of them had long since been past here.

I had been wondering when Not a Canadian would pass me. I had seen her on the out-and-back to the turnaround, and I knew she was much better at downhill than me, so I figured she would catch me in no time. It was a little longer than no time, but not much.

Brave volunteer still being brave.
Pretty soon, we were done with the loop and were heading back down that trail we had come up.

Aid three, formerly known as aid one, at about mile 9.2.
Brave volunteer still being brave.
Brave volunteer not only being brave, but taking pictures!
Eventually I made it back to the bottom of that first trail, and only had about 0.7 miles to go to the finish. Uphill.

To make it easier, we had our pictures taken by Shell Jiang just before starting the climb.

Picture by Shell, a LONG time before I got there.
Picture by Shell. Of me taking her picture.
Sassy got a bit more comfortable - it was really warm out now.
Finally, the finish. And a beer. I was really missing the coolness of the top.

The above shows how trees and switchbacks can raise havoc with your GPS device - this was an out-and-back bit of the course, although the GPS makes it look like I was pretty wildly directionally challenged. Fair enough.

This race was a lot of fun. The course was well marked (there was one turn that both I and Mrs Notthat had a minor issue with) and filled with course monitors. Because we signed up early, we got a bonus buff! It was also the third Sasquatch race of the year - we have one more to do and we score a bonus belt buckle!

And it turned out to be a special race for me in another way - it was my lifetime 100th Half Marathon! Yes - that picture up there is the body of a fine-tuned athlete!


That's it - move along…

PS: Here are some more pictures I took while wandering around the course.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bad Bass not acting all that badly

Brazen's Bad Bass race is generally the same weekend as the Wharf to Wharf race, so for the past few years we have run the 10K at Bad Bass to save something for Wharf to Wharf. This year was a bit different - Mrs Notthat was still not healed enough to be running any kind of a race, let alone back-to-back races, so she skipped Bad Bass completely and promised to walk the Wharf to Wharf race.

So I decided I would walk the Wharf to Wharf with her and not worry about saving myself for that, and instead go for the Half at Bad Bass. A bonus was that it would get me one step closer to qualifying for the Brazen Ultra Half Challenge. At least I think that's a bonus.

Bad Bass is a very popular race. It has a mix of pavement, fire roads, single-track trail, and hills that are challenging, but not deadly. An attractive thing is that the Half runners get to run all the way around Lake Chabot (or Loch Chabot as it is named for this race).

One odd thing about this race is that the park does not allow amplified music or PA systems. So, for reasons that are likely not even clear to Mr Brazen, this race is blessed with bagpipes. (Look, it could have been an all accordion band, so don't roll your eyes.) And if you're going to have bagpipes, you need to have kilts, and this race has WAY more than its share of kilt-wearing runners.

A gaggle of Nguyens.

We started by heading along the edge of the lake for a bit. This is on pavement and has some mildly rolling hills.

The first aid station is at mile 1.7 - the 5K turnaround. This is where the pavement ends and the fun begins.

Just past that aid station, the Half runners take a right and start heading up our warmup hill. (The 10K runners skip the warmup hill and head straight for the Hill of Death.)

After looping around the warmup hill, we joined up with the 10K runners and made a dash to the Hill of Death.

But first, you had to survive the Bridge of Death. (The woman behind me was giggling at the bounciness. I wanted to turn and yell "don't you know that this bridge is one bounce from total collapse and sure death???" But I was too busy focussing on survival.)

If you managed to survive the bridge, you got to turn right and take on the Live Oak Hill trail.

There is not a lot of sprinting up this hill. As a bonus, it has several cruel false summits. An advantage for Half runners (well, at least for me) is that we don't have to come back down this hill. The 10K runners do though.

Climbing as far as the eye can see.

Eventually, you make it to the top of the hill, to the second aid station (mile 4.34). There was a cutoff here, but I beat it by about an hour. (Yeah, I can hardly believe it either.)

Once you leave that aid station, you are on trails that only the Half course uses, which means things get a lot less crowded. You also get to spend a lot of time wandering through the trees, which is very cool.

Well, it's very cool until you hear the gunfire. There's a firing range that we passed really close to but couldn't see. It's a bit unnerving, although I'm used to it after having had to pass by it many times before.

The third aid station is at mile 8.7, and also had a cutoff (which I beat by about 50 minutes). From here there are a few small climbs, but we mostly go downhill back to the lake.

In the winter, the Brazen NYE and NYD races around this lake are not allowed to turn left here on to the pulse-quickening single-track Columbine trail, and instead you have to stay on the relatively boring Goldenrod trail. So it had been a while since I'd made this left, and I was really looking forward to it.

Parts of the trail are steep, root-infested, and scary, but most of it is like this - just plain awesome.

Shortly after that trail we ended up back on the main fire road that runs along the lake. Lots of rolling hills from here to the finish, but all the hard stuff is done.

The fourth aid station, mile 12, has no cutoff since you are so near to the finish. By this time we are also back on pavement.

The finish area - make a left and circle around to the arch. It's all good.

It's hard to imagine a fiercer looking kilt-wearing bass.
This race is always a blast. (Quite literally a blast up around mile 6.) The conditions were perfect and I managed to finish reasonably close to my goal.

Even more amazing, Mrs Notthat kept to her promise and we successfully walked the Wharf to Wharf race the next day. (Which was a completely different kind of blast. Click here to see my pictures from that event.)

That's it - move along…

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dirty Dozen - Is the 5th time a charm?

It truly amazes me that this year was the fifth time that I've gone for 12 hours at the Brazen Dirty Dozen event. And it was going to be the fifth time that I started, determined to get to 50 miles.

History was not on my side though:

  • 2011 - 40.3 miles (and the first time I'd ever horked up on the trail, and the first time medical people looked at me with concern)
  • 2012 - 34.35 miles
  • 2013 - 40.44 miles
  • 2014 - 37.25 miles

But this year was going to be different.

For one thing, Mrs Notthat, due to her lingering injury, was not going to take part in the timed event, and instead, was going to show up in the afternoon and try out a 5K distance.

For another thing, I decided not to bring a tent. The idea of having a tent is that it provides a place to change and get out of the weather (especially if it was cold and windy). In the past, I've snuck into it and laid down for 20 minutes or so. Having a tent though adds to the setup and provides a mental challenge in that it's a place to hide out when things are not going well. This year, if things weren't going well, I was determined to work them out on the trail, and not while lying in a tent.

Nej, not her real name, was WAY too perky for this early.
I rode to Point Pinole with Not a Canadian. This meant getting to the race much earlier than normal, which I also figured meant I would have to stand around longer in the cold. It's always cold there in the morning.

Except this year. Look at how clear it was a 7AM - it was already starting to warm up a bit, and this was not good news for me.

Looping courses can be boring and monotonous. Dirty Dozen uses a 3.37 mile loop that has a bit of everything: Exposed trails along the shore, mild hills, and trails through the trees.

Last year, Brazen had managed to talk the park people into letting them use this short but great little trail in place of a short but with a nasty climb (at least it seemed nasty later in the day) bit of trail. Sadly, we had to switch back to the old trail since there was a tree down that was blocking the new trail.

This made me sad.

At least we still got to use this fun little bit of single-track trail - it was what I looked forward to on each lap.

Last year, the park people added that new bathroom (yay!). The end of the single-track trail had this "Y," and we were supposed to take the left trail. The left trail had an issue though, and that issue became increasingly less fun as the day wore on.

This picture does not do the issue justice - the trail had a quick drop of about two feet and then a sudden jump up about two feet to the top of that pavement. I managed to get through this fine, but only because I used extreme caution. I know a number of runners that opted for the right path at the "Y" - I doubt it was any shorter, but I suspect it was a bit less treacherous.

If you survived the "Y," you had a short bit of pavement (where you passed yet another set of bathrooms) and arrived at the midpoint aid station. This aid station is interesting - it seems like as short as the loop is, we don't really need an aid station here. But a lot of runners treat this as a road race and don't carry any bottles with them - they just rely on this aid station and the one at the start/finish. I'm slow enough that I have to carry a bottle with me, and had to stop here a number of times to fill it up.

My second favorite bit of the course was when we headed into the trees. Lots of shade made for some cooler running.

Once you left the trees, you had the most serious climb of the course along a very exposed hill top.

But the hill top meant you were getting close to the end of the loop. (If you look really hard, you can see the arch in the distance.)

I really can't imagine anyone making a wrong turn at this point, but just in case there was a volunteer to point out which way to go. (I got him to point in a different direction each time I came through. It amused me and made for some odd pictures.)

The festival area.
Once you pass under the arch, you are done with that lap and are officially already started on the next one. The area was lined with tents, awnings, chairs, and fun.

Some of the really smart runners ran as teams, which meant you would run a lap, then kick back for an hour or so waiting for your turn to come up again. These people smiled a LOT more than those of us in the individual category.

The last couple of years had a Clockie to motivate us late in the race. This year we had a Turkey doing Clockie duty.

One thing you could not do at this race was go hungry. There is a BBQ going all afternoon, but as a 12 hour runner, I really didn't want to pause long enough to take part in that (until I finally said "uncle" at the end). Which is why I love it when the pizzas show up.

I was using Tailwind for all my nutrition, and it was working well, but I can't resist a slice of pizza.

As the day wore on, I realized that 50 miles was not even vaguely going to happen. In fact, I started to doubt 20 miles would happen - the heat was getting to me and I was seriously slogging. But since I had no tent to hide in, I just kept going, one lap at a time.

My A goal was 50 miles, which I really do think is possible for me, but things have to really go well. My B goal was 40 miles, which I've done twice here, so I know it's possible. My C goal was a 50K (31 miles) - this is really the minimum acceptable distance for me, and I was determined to at least get that far.

It was rough, but I got there, and just in time to see Mrs Notthat finish her 5K.

She was hurting - this was a good test but it also showed she was still not nearly right yet. Seeing her though inspired me to go out for one more big lap.

The Racsos, not their real names, were guarding the entrance to the little loop.
When we get down to there only being an hour left, a small loop is opened up for us. The only miles that count are those with a completed loop, and in that last hour, it would be risky to head out on the big loop and potentially not finish it before the horn sounds. So the little loop, which is 0.6 miles, opens up for us.

I ended up doing three of the little loops before saying "uncle" and grabbing some BBQ.

Once the little loop opened, we had to make sure to go over the correct timing mat to get the proper distance credit. Hpesoj (not his real name) was there to explain which was the correct timing mat. We were tired runners by this point, so common sense was not abundant.

It's hard to believe that, after nearly 12 hours, you could have an exciting finish. But we did. A couple of runners decided to take a chance and try to get in one more little loop as the time ran down. They took off like rabbits. Here, Niwhsa, not her real name, was pushing extremely hard to got that last loop in. Racso Jr volunteered to be her rabbit, and she chased him around that loop. A couple of others also headed out for that last loop, but Niwhsa was moving the best and had the best chance of succeeding. From the start/finish area, you could see most of the little loop, and from the little loop, you could definitely hear the start/finish area, and we were all yelling and trying to explain that time was running out. Just in case the runners forgot.

In the end, Niwhsa made it by about a second, and Dyoll missed by about a second. All Day missed by about 10 seconds.

It was great once it was all over since we could relax and enjoy the food.

I ended up with 35.5 miles, which isn't bad, but not nearly what I had hoped. But given how rough the going had been early on, I'm really surprised I got that far. (For the record, the winner managed an astonishing 69.8 miles. I was 75th out of 140 runners.)

The red shows the main course - if you look closely near the green thing, you can see small red bit that shows the little loop cutoff.

This shows the start area and the little loop cutoff a bit better. You can also see that some bonus distance is put in at the start area as you wander around for food and bathrooms.

And this is the elevation chart. According to my GPS, I did a total of 1772 feet of climbing for the day, which is really pretty much insignificant (although it didn't feel so insignificant later on).

The event is a blast and offers a little bit of everything - individual timed races, team races, and 5K/10K races scattered throughout the day just to make things interesting.

I'll be back for number six next year, and the 50 mile mark will go down for sure.

Maybe. Well, at least the BBQ will go down.

That's it -move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.