Saturday, January 28, 2017

It nearly felt like an ultra

First, a bit of an update on my progress since the last thing I posted.

I've run seven races, all 10Ks except one 5K and the Half Marathon last weekend that required me to write this post.

First up was my favorite San Francisco-based race, the Coastal SF race. You start in the Crissy Field area, run up the hill and under the Golden Gate Bridge, then keep going along the coast until you get to Baker beach, where the 10K turns around and heads back. (The Half goes to the Sutro Baths, which is even better.)

I've turned around and am heading back into this amazing view. The North Face Endurance Challenge is going on over in the Marin Headlands on the other side of the bridge.
The next day I joined All Day, Mrs CK, the Chicken of Success (and her keeper), and met Ajcila (not her real name) at an aid station for the North Face Endurance Challenge day two. [I just found this - Jamil and Schulyer did one of their videos at this race, and if you look closely, you can see us at the Alta aid station - All Day gave Schulyer a donut! I love that I'm in one of their videos, even if it is so brief you will not see me!]

Even for a Bay Area trail race, the aid station was a bit, ummm, colorful. And All Day is NOT a yeti.
Two weekends later we ran the 10K at the Inside Trail Woodside Ramble. All races in the Huddart/Wunderlich park area are so much fun with amazing trails and trees.

The Huddart Park trees are so fun to play around in, and the creeks were running nicely.
(It should be noted that Mrs Notthat is back to consistently beating me at these races. All is right with the world. At least that part of it.)

The next day, I ran the 5K at the Coastal Quarry Lakes race. Alert readers might remember that we had just done a race there three weeks earlier, and time traveling readers will know that we will be back here in two weeks. The trails are pretty flat, mostly gravel, and not all that interesting, other than that they wind around the various small lakes that make up Quarry Lakes. One thing in this race's favor is that it's fairly close to home.

Lakes, blue sky, and green hills. What more could you want!
Two weeks later was time for the Brazen New Years Eve/New Years Day races. This year, since New Years Day was on a Sunday, the races were one right after the other. One change was that the NYE race was held at Quarry Lakes (as opposed to its traditional location of Lake Chabot). The advantage of this was that, for the first time, the Brazen Streaker Prom could use an amplifier (which is not allowed at Lake Chabot), which made that process a bit more fun.

A bit of a rain threat for this race.
On New Years Day, we headed back to trusty old Lake Chabot. This is a very not flat 10K, so given my legs were already a bit tired, my expectations weren't very high. Which was a good thing.

Allets and her person, Ymmat (not their real names), flying down the Live Oak hill.
Two weeks later, we were signed up for the Inside Trail Pacifica Foothills race. I was looking forward to this, since I had never run a race in this area. A fierce mid-week storm though, played havoc with that goal. The park cancelled the race due to so many downed trees and flooded trails. ITR though, didn't give up, and quickly came up with an alternative location at China Camp State Park, where we had run a very wet race back in November.

China Camp State Park has some of the most fun trails around, and they actually held up really well.
It was clear on race morning, but the trails were very soggy and there were a number of trees that had to be detoured around.

And now, you are all caught up to me deciding to attempt the Half distance at the Brazen Coyote Hills race.

I had not run a double-digit mile race since my Run-De-Vous 50M race way back in the middle of August. I had not run a Half Marathon since WAY back in the middle of June! This astonished me, and I don't have a great explanation. The ankle injury certainly affected races since September, but that's still a REALLY long time between Half Marathons.

In any case, I was really happy with how the ankle had been responding to all those 10K races, and decided to upgrade to the Half at Coyote Hills. The Half there is two loops of a long 10K course, which isn't my favorite idea of a race, especially since there is a lot of pavement, but there were some fun very muddy bits that helped. The course isn't flat, but the climbing is less than some of those 10K races, so it seemed like a nice ankle test.

The course wasn't really as confusing as this makes it look.
We're trail runners. This was WAY too nice of a bus for us. I'm not sure they were able to save these busses after they hauled us muddy runners back.
One thing about this race is that you can't park anywhere near the start/finish festival area, so most end up riding a shuttle bus to the start.

My cheering squad! (And concerned race people making sure I've signed my liability release.)
I had decided the night before this race to upgrade from the 10K I had originally planned to the Half. There was a bit of a cheer since there were a lot more runners downgrading than upgrading. (It had rained a lot the day before, and was threatening again, plus it was pretty dang cold.)

My very own start line!
We had built in an arrival buffer to account for the shuttle bus, but apparently it was a pretty big buffer since there was no bus line, which meant we got to the start pretty early. Mrs Notthat pointed out that I could do an early start and reduce how long she was going to have to sit around waiting for me to finish (she ran the 10K). I missed the official 8:00 early start, but was allowed to have my very own start at about 8:20 (the real start was at 9:00).

This turned out to be a very wise decision on my part, even if it did mean I would be on my own for the first several miles.

The Emergency Backup Cone of Turnaround.
All the rain forced a minor course alteration that shortened the course a bit, so an out-and-back (only run the first loop for the Half runners, and also run by the 10K runners, but not the 5K) was added. I've got to believe this was very congested for the normal Half and 10K start - the trail isn't all that wide and it was so early the runners wouldn't have spread out much. But since I was on my own, it worked out pretty nicely!

And me without my swim fins.
That's a boardwalk we normally run on. During the drought years, it was nearly dry on the sides of the boardwalk, but wow - this was a bit extreme!

Some volunteers are more helpful than others.
In place of the boardwalk, we stayed on the paved trail/road for a bit longer than normal.

"That's the only flavor you have?" No, I didn't really say that - but I think I broke his heart since I didn't take the GU.
Before long, I was at the first aid station, about mile 1.5.

It wasn't raining then, but they did get a shower shortly after I left.
The pretty bay shoreline.
Not too long after I left that aid station, a light shower started up. It didn't last long, and once it was over, that was it - no more rain.

"Which way do I go?"
I had been looking forward to this point, where we headed out on the real out-and-back, and off the pavement.

The Endorphin Dude!
It was on this out-and-back that I finally started seeing more runners (and weirdly started passing a few). Note that the trail looks pretty good at this point since very few runners have been on it so far.

Great looking shoreline and green hills.
At the end of the out-and-back, there was the second aid station, about mile 4.5.

The really close toll booths for the Dumbarton Bridge.
Look at all that sunshine! And note the trail still looks pretty good.
Again, some volunteers are more helpful than others. (I'm pretty sure his daughter is telling him he's doing it wrong!)
It didn't take long and I was back on pavement and heading to the end of the first loop.

I'm going to talk a lot more about Kcnarf (not his real name) the paparazzi later.
After a short bit of pavement, we got to head up this fun hill on the only sort of single-track trail on the course. (Only the Half runners get to do this section.)

Don't blow away!!!
At the top of that hill, was the early leader for Volunteer of the Year - she was loud, perky, and a lot of fun! (Especially considering that it was pretty breezy and cold up on that hilltop.)

Acire (not her real name) ordering a pizza.
As you come down that hill, the trail splits. On the first lap, you stay to the left. On the second lap, you get to go right and storm the finish line.

Aid station 3, about mile 6.5.
"Which way do I go?"
For the start of the second lap, you don't do that bonus out-and-back.

"Which way do I go?" The fourth aid station, about mile 8.
The second loop was a lot like the first one, but with no rain and a lot more runners on the course. The one big difference was…

… on that dirt out-and-back. A LOT of runners had been on it (and there had been a small shower) since the last time I had been here, and it was a lot sloppier. I loved it!

Somebody is sure happy to be leaving the fifth aid station! (About mile 11.)
A milestone of sorts - just before I hit this aid station, I crossed into double-digits for the first time since August. I was tired and walking stuff I should have been running, but I wasn't having any pains (ankle or otherwise), so I was happy.

And then I looked at my watch and realized I had a realistic chance to break three hours. At the start of this race, I was thinking 3:30 would be a fine time - I was really surprised to find 3:00 in my sights. But I would have to hustle - no more walking bits I should be running.

Back to that final hill, and sub-three is still possible!
OK, so now lets talk about Kcnarf. In the above picture, he's up on that hill (in the white hat).

Once he got the shot, he sprinted back down to get a shot of runners coming up to the hill.

Then, depending on the traffic, he would bound back up that hill to get another shot of the runners. He easily did more climbing than us Half runners!

Picture by Kcnarf. I think this was on my first lap.

This time, I get to turn right!
Mrs. Notthat waiting for me to finish.
I managed to survive a pretty scary (if short) downhill sprint and crossed the finish line a bit over a minute under three hours! Wow was I tired at this point, but I was thrilled with the result.

Roving gangs of volunteers trying to get runners to eat multiple ice creams.
The shiny medal and muddy shoes.
The robot coyote shirt, medal, and bib.
Wow. What a race. I'm beyond thrilled to have come out of it without any pain and in less than three hours. The early start definitely helped (a huge thanks to Mr and Mrs Brazen for letting me do that) and the relatively good weather also pitched in. The volunteers were awesome as always (set up the day before the race was a wild task with the, umm, vigorous weather).

My plan is to try the 25K at the ITR Fort Ord next week if it all works out. It won't be as fast since it has a bit more climbing, and there's an early threat of rain that day, but it will be a nice test. And that will be followed by another shot at Ageless Wonder (a 10K in fewer minutes than your age) at the Brazen Bay Breeze.

It's fun being back to a full schedule!

That's it - move along…

PS: If you are keen to see more pictures of the above races, here they are:

Coastal San Francisco
North Face EC volunteering second day
ITR Woodside Ramble
Coastal Quarry Lakes
Brazen NYE
Brazen NYD
ITR Pacifica (China Camp Edition)
Brazen Coyote Hills