Friday, December 25, 2015

The forrest was with me (the hills, on the other hand…)

Brazen Racing's Summit Rock trail race is interesting:

  • A nice bonus for us is that it's fairly close. 
  • Another huge bonus is that it's in a park that's rarely used for trail races. (Brazen has this one and its eviler twin Trailquake here, on some of the best trails around.) 
  • It's in early December, so heat isn't an issue. (Frostbite, however…)
  • About 70% of the trails are fairly technical single-track. This race always causes more than its fair share of ankle injuries and falls.
  • It's the second toughest* 10K Brazen puts on (only Trailquake is harder).
  • It's the fourth toughest* 5K (only Rocky Ridge, Trailquake, and Wildcat are harder).
  • It's the fifth toughest* Half (Double Dipsea, Rocky Ridge, Bear Creek, and Trailquake are harder).

* Based strictly on elevation gain. Heat can make less climbing feel harder, so your MMV.

Simplified course map and the elevation chart for the outbound direction.
The course is an out-and-back, which means lots of two-way traffic on what are often narrow, windy trails. After they reach the turnaround, the lead 5K and 10K runners end up barreling down that hill with the challenge of navigating both the switchbacks and the other runners (and there were a LOT of other runners at this sold out race).

For that reason, my favorite distance here is the Half Marathon, and my favorite starting time is the early start. This allows me to get most of the way up that long climb to the 10K turnaround before any of the faster runners even start, which means I won't be in their way. (I still eventually get passed by the faster Half runners, but by then we are pretty spread out and on trails that are easier to share.)

Mrs Notthat and The Dublin Kid, who appears to be a bit hat-challenged.
The only problem with the early start, is that it's early. Mrs. Notthat was walking the 5K, which started 90 minutes after I started, so she had some time to kill, and keeping warm was going to be tough.

There were 31 of us that took advantage of the early start. About 100 yards from the start I spied these two taking pictures. (Well, Nahtanoj, not his real name, was holding the camera. Adirf, not her real name, was a bit horrified that I was already looking worn out.

Picture by Nahtanoj. 
OK, maybe not so much worn out, but in well over my head.

About a quarter of a mile later, I came upon Nosaj (not his real name), also taking pictures. Why did he look so shocked?

Picture by Nosaj. Blur effect by the extreme lack of light.
Amazingly, I was a blur! (OK, it was dark enough that a banana slug would look like a blur. But still, I don't think I've ever been captured in such a way before.)

"Which way do I go?" (Pay no attention to that flour arrow on the ground.)
For the first half a mile or so, there are several trail possibilities, so very patient volunteers are standing by to guide us.

"Which way do I go?" "This way, go you must." You don't question Yoda.

Eventually, you end up on the trail that takes you up to the top of the hill. It's not steep, but the climb never ends. We had had a fair amount of rain in the days leading up to the race, but the trails were mostly unaffected, other than being softened up a bit.

At about mile 1.5, we reached the first aid station and the 5K turnaround. And another picture opportunity!

Picture by Yllom (not her real name). My speed is gone and I'm no longer blurry.
From here, it's another 1.5 miles or so to the 10K turnaround, and the top of the hill (more or less). At about mile 2.3 or so, I felt something caressing my ankle. Before I could work out what it was, I felt the stinger of a yellow jacket or two. (It turned out I wasn't alone, and that there was another spot, earlier in the course, where many others got stung, including Mrs Notthat.)

After fighting off the bee, I made my way up to the 10K turnaround, about mile 3.1, and another photo op!

Picture by volunteer. I wasn't moving fast, but my hands were - there was food to be eaten!
At this point, we were at the top of the ridge, and there was a very cold breeze (made colder due to my sweat-soaked shirt). The good part was that most of the climbing was now done and I could move a bit faster, with the fear of frostbite providing some incentive.

A sample of the trail. Don't let the sunshine fool you - it was cold out there.
I forgot to ask Sirhc, not his real name, which way to go. 
Another photo op! "Hi Leahcim! Not your real name!"
Picture by Leahcim.
The third aid station, about mile 6.5, was announced by a series of threatening, pirate-based signs.

Followed by fierce pirates.

Followed by a fierce, ummm, Olaf? At least that explained the cold.

The Half turnaround was a very welcome sight. Now we got to head back along the ridge to where we could go back down the hill and out of the icy breeze.

I think those are the "Summit Rocks." 

The second, now fourth aid station, mile 9.9, and the start of a nice long downhill and a chance to warm up.

The first, now fifth aid station, mile 11.5. And I had no bee issues getting here!

"Which way do I go?"

Somewhere around that last aid station, Nwad (not her real name - she's the one taunting me with her finisher medal in this shot) blew past me. By the time I got down to her squeeze, she had not only finished, but hiked back up to his spot. Well played Nwad, well played. For his part, Yoda Knarf (not his real name either) was determined to confuse me. (He failed, but barely.)

The finish line. Finally.
I was happy to be done. I had hoped for a 3:30 time, but was happy with being a bit under 4:00. I had some minor Achilles pain (which foreshadowed the pain I had a week later at a flat 10K) and my legs were exhausted from all the climbing (during which they spent a lot of time reminding me that they were not used to climbing), but I was otherwise OK.

Bits of the medal even glow in the dark, making it impossible to sleep with.

For obscure reasons that had something to do with a space documentary that was being released a few days after the race, there was a distinct Star Wars vibe to the race. There were half a dozen Wookies, several Darths, and a lot of light sabers out on the course.  The owl that's the race mascot seemed a bit more full of the Force than normal.

An adorable, scarf-wearing Darth and an adorable Chewie ran the race. Picture by Nahtanoj.
Oh my. Yes, these are highly trained, seriously motivated, talented trail runners. Picture by Nahtanoj.
I had a lot of fun at this race. Yes, it was a bit cold up on top, but there were so many fun people around. I got to hang and catch up with Enaid (not her real name) for a chunk of the ridge bit. I spent most of the race chasing Dyoll (not his real name) but failed to catch him at the end (he beat me by 18 seconds).

Here's to hoping the forrest is always with me.

That's it- move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


mary ann said...

Can't miss those gloves! Good job again...

Lia said...

Yellowjackets - whoa! For some reason I would think cold weather would deter them or...put them to sleep or something. Great photos and write up as usual, I haven't done this one, looks fun!