Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Boy whips me again. And it never gets old.

The Boy and I signed up on Friday for Sunday's PCTR Sequoia 20K trail race. I know that's cutting it close, but I wasn't sure I should do a race since my right heel has been bothering me and I was pretty sure these would be the perfect trails to REALLY aggravate it.

But on Friday afternoon when I asked The Boy if he was interested in a "scenic" (code word for "difficult and treacherous") 20K and he agreed, I had to sign us up. I've done races on these trails twice already this year, here and here. I love these trails for their challenge and beauty. But after today, I could swear someone has added some bonus hills that weren't there before.

I knew the day was going to be a bit abnormal when the vehicle we parked behind turned out to have these two in it - Nimsaj and Latsyrc (not their real names). They also did the 20K race.

And there is Nerak (not her real name either), alertly listening to the pre-race instructions that mostly consisted of "follow the pink ribbons, don't pet the snakes, and don't eat the yellow snow." (The RD did ask if anyone couldn't tell the difference between pink and orange ribbons. As it turns out, there is a good chance that The Boy can't - he's pretty color blind. "I'll be right behind you" he told me. HA! I lost sight of him in the first mile and never saw him again. Once a race starts, he's off like a shot!)

Mud! There were a surprising number of muddy spots, most easy to avoid (if your brain is wired that way, which I suspect very few trail runners are - I saw a LOT of foot prints in the mud, right next to mine).

This was my first race with this new rugged camera that I'm hoping will have a longer life than the other cameras I've carried with me on these races. Unfortunately, I need to learn how to use it, and am really aggravated this picture came out so bad. Last May, Weird Haired Mom had seen this dog leading the pony through the meadow at the start line. And then, here they are, on the same trail that we were running on! So cool - how many people can say they've shared a trail with a dog and his pet pony?

The first aid station. This was about 3 miles into the race, and the next aid station (which is actually a return to this one) won't be for a bit over seven hill- and occasionally sun-infested miles. The RD in his pre-race talk stressed to make sure you filled up your water bottles here. I filled mine to the brim and thought about carrying some extra water in my cupped hands - I'm a tiny bit paranoid about running out of fluids.

A sun-infested stretch of trail. Not as flat as it looks (seriously - you were almost always going up a hill or down a hill).

I made it back to the aid station (adorably named "Moon Gate"), and now have a bit over two miles to go to the finish line. My heel was screaming at this point (wow am I glad I didn't sign up for a longer race), my legs were shot, but other than that I was feeling good.

And then the Cinderella Trail, designed by her ugly step-sisters no doubt, reared its ugly head. This is a bit of downhill trail that has bits that are so treacherous even that dog and his pet pony would never tread on them.

I keep trying to get a picture that does justice to this bit of trail, but they never do. Falling here would not end well.

And then, just like that, there is the finish line. Since I was the last of the group to finish, I got a nice cheer as I approached the finish line (although I'm not so sure "What took you so long?" is the most encouraging cheer I've ever gotten).

Nimsaj and Latsyrc trying hard to convince the RD that it wasn't a huge mistake to let me do the race.

Ahhhh - after-race chili! This stuff tastes great at the end of a cold winter race, and surprisingly, still tastes good at the end of a warm summer race.

After a bit of a wait, the 20K results were updated and The Boy ended up getting second place in his age group, missing first place by a tiny bit over a minute! He did amazing, and finished 15 minutes ahead of me.

These trails are a blast and the weather was fine (although I'm sure it got a bit hot by the time some of the 50K people were heading to the finish line).

"Scenic" indeed!

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more pictures here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

No bears, but still exciting!

Mrs Notthat and I did the Brazen Bear Creek Half Marathon. This was her first Half Marathon since the Turkey Trail Half in Colorado in June, and she picked a doozy.

Here's how someone who is only barely fit to do these sorts of races should NOT spend the day before the race - standing in the sun for three hours judging people trying to catch water balloons from this catapult.

The company I work at had their corporate games, and the timing was not good for me. However, while my legs were a bit tired on Saturday morning, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. (Spoiler alert: It was.)

Sorry - I need to get the porta-pottie picture out of the way. Notice all the sunshine - it was heavily overcast around the bay, which gave me some hope of cool weather at least for the first part of the race. But once we crossed into the part of the East Bay where the race was being held, there was nothing but bright sunshine. Mrs Notthat rejoiced!

Just before the race. Mrs Notthat asked me to smile. I need to work on that.

Mrs Notthat started out fast. I was a bit worried that she had maybe forgotten how long a Half is, and how much climbing we would be doing, but was thrilled to see her moving along so well.

Mrs Notthat was the only runner with walking sticks, and she took a bit of heat for that. She sure liked them on the uphills like this though. The race started with mostly uphill for the first 2.9 miles. And it was all mostly exposed like this - even though it was only 8:30 or so, it was getting hot already. That aid station you see at the top of the hill marked the start of a long downhill. Yay! (Or so I thought at the time.)

Mrs didn't even pause at the aid station - she was feeling great and loved being so far ahead of me. Plus this was a nice long downhill stretch, and she does well on these.

Unfortunately, not long after I took this, I saw her coming back up the hill. It turned out that she had lost her iPod somewhere between the aid station and about two-thirds of the way down the hill. (Her playlist had ended at about the aid station and she didn't go to restart it until she was near the bottom of the hill, which is when she noticed that her ear buds were dangling.) This left a LONG uphill stretch where the iPod could be - so we both headed back up the hill to look for it. I made it all the way back to the aid station, but no luck.

So we headed back down the hill. And just like that she had gone from an unstoppable sprite to a tired, unmotivated runner with sore feet. After a bit she grudgingly agreed to try my Shuffle, which has maybe 20% songs she really likes, 20% songs she will sit through, and 60% songs she could not possibly hit the skip button fast enough to avoid. But it was better than nothing, and her mood picked up a bit.

That didn't makes the hills any easier though.

Because we lost so much time going back up that hill searching for the iPod, we ended up in last place. Once the Shuffle was pressed into service though, we started making up ground and passed Einre (not his real name) a little bit before the next aid station. (Note that we were finally in some shady areas at this point. This course had a lot of very exposed sections, but also a lot of nicely forested sections.)

At the second aid station (5.8 miles), Mrs Notthat's iPod was there waiting for her! I loved that it was making better time around the course than we were! (And a HUGE thanks to whoever found it and dropped it off there - you made Mrs' day!)

This totally picked up Mrs Notthat's spirits and she charged up the hill out of that aid station.

There was a very nice stretch of trail along a mostly dried up creek. I had managed to pass Mrs Notthat - I think the reality of this being a Half was starting to set in (this was about 7 miles into the race - a bit over half way).

The nice trail ended with a stunningly difficult uphill stretch.

We had been seeing a lot of soggy dogs coming down the hill, and once we finally got to the top, we could see why - there was a great little pond that the dogs would swim around in, trying to catch a couple of ducks that were having a great time teasing the slow dogs. (It's hard to see, but that's a duck being "chased" by two dogs.)

It was very hot by this time. To make matters worse, all the excitement of the iPod saga led me to forget to fill up my water bottles. Mrs Notthat ran out at about mile 8 or so, so I gave her the rest of my water (I still had some Nuun in my other bottle) and headed out to get to the next aid station at mile 9.9.

As I was going along a dirt road, I heard a horn honk at me. I couldn't believe some rancher or tourist was out there harassing us runners, so I turned and glared and saw the unofficial Brazen Mobile driving up to the aid station. I'm not sure why they were there, but I know they picked up at least one struggling runner - it was hot and dry and if you weren't watching your hydration, you were going to be in trouble at this point.

In any case, I got a quick cool down with a sponge on the head, filled my bottles, and headed back down the hill to catch up to Mrs who I knew would be really needing some water by this time. The two of us then headed up to the aid station and filled our bottles and enjoyed the shade for a bit.

There was only a 5K left to do - 5Ks are easy! Yeah right - we were both tired and ready to be done. But a bit over three more miles certainly seemed doable. Barely.

Mrs Notthat headed out first, and almost immediately we heard a sound that you never want to hear - a rattle followed by a startled yelp. Mrs had come very close to stepping on a less than pleased rattlesnake.

It was a bit ironic that it was so close to the aid station - I suspect it was hoping to get relief from the heat as well. Lots of pictures were taken (from a nice, safe distance) and it posed politely through all of them. After it grew bored, it slithered off to the right and was gone.

I had scientifically worked out that, after that aid station, it would be mostly downhill to the finish line. I told this to Mrs Notthat, and she believed me. We then spent the next mile climbing a lot of small hills, which by this time, felt like mountains. She stopped talking to me. There were two things that were true though: There was another aid station at mile 12 and there was only a mile to go after that - we were actually going to finally finish this thing!

If you get a chance to run a race behind Mrs, do it. She is very entertaining and creative in how she keeps herself moving. Here she is airing out her pits. I thought she was trying to scare the snakes away. (We did see a second rattler later on. Who knows how many we missed.)

A cruel tease. That's the 12 mile aid station, but it's still about a mile away. Thankfully it was all downhill though.

The two of us triumphantly making it to mile 12! ("Run for the camera" I yelled. Once the camera was put down though, the running stopped.)

Me giving myself a sponge shower. These were amazingly effective at cooling me off for a bit - I would also get my hat wet but was amazed at how quickly it would dry out. Mrs Notthat declined to let me squeeze a sponge over her. I don't get it either.

In addition to the sponge shower, I was remarkably sweaty. When Nyleve (not her real name - a volunteer photographer who had been at this aid station since the early morning) asked to get a picture of the two of us, Mrs made it very clear that I was NOT to touch her. Again, I don't get it either.

Shortly after we left that station we came upon an outhouse. Remarkably, I actually needed to use it (that's never happened this late in a Half Marathon before - I had been taking saltsticks and I think they helped me a LOT during this hot race). Mrs could smell the finish line, so she took off and I didn't see her again.

I did manage to hear Einre at the aid station asking how far ahead of him we were, so I knew he was close. So once I left the odor-filled comfort of the outhouse, I tried to make some good time, and possibly catch Mrs (HA!).

The trail was fantastic at this point - nice single track with rolling hills. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poison oak in those shrubs. And apparently earlier in the day, a lot of bees. (The medic at the finish line had spent a lot of time rinsing off people's legs to remove the poison oak and treating bee stings, not to mention the dehydration issues which resulted in one person leaving in an ambulance.)

Just before the finish line, you go down a set of stairs, cross a creek (that actually had water in it!), and go up a second set of stairs. Many people worked hard to not get wet while crossing this creek, but I loved the cold water on my tired feet. I stood there for as long as I dared, fearing that Einre would start down the stairs and pass me.

But I still managed to beat him by a couple of minutes.

This was an odd race. It was my second worst time in a Half Marathon, but the backtracking had a lot to do with that. It would have been interesting to see how this would have gone without the distraction of the lost iPod - I suspect the toughness of this course would have caught up with Mrs Notthat eventually, but she still would have had a respectable finishing time.

As it was, we were both thrilled to have finished at all.

And survived, bite free! (No bees, bears, or rattlesnakes got us!)

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see a lot more pictures here and here (sorry for some confusion in them - there were some irritating upload issues).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Of course SF would have a progressive marathon

First, I go through great lengths to avoid driving up to San Francisco. So for me to head up there two days in a row, and to have to find parking three times, it's going to take something special.

I am generally not interested in big city marathons - I don't like dealing with the huge crowds and my knees aren't fond of pavement. So I had no interest in signing up for the San Francisco Marathon.

But Weird Haired Mom found out about the progressive marathon option, where you put in 23.1 miles towards your marathon on your own, keeping a log of how you accumulated that mileage, and then you finish your marathon by doing the 5K race on SF Marathon day. So Mrs Notthat, WHM, and the grandkids all signed up for this.

The Saturday before the race had three items on its agenda: The Brazen Bad Bass trail race (already written up here), the SF Marathon Expo (where you pick up your bibs, timing chips, and shirts), and the Marathon Maniac's carbo load dinner.

One of my goals was to finally meet Mad Hatter Fancy Pants, an amazing runner that symbolizes all that is good about this sport, either at the Expo or at the dinner. But how would I spot him?

Well, that wasn't hard - he was standing at the front door to the Expo holding his trademark sign. (He holds this up a short distance from the marathon's start line, and once everyone has started, he runs back to the start, starts his race, then spreads his encouragement around as he surges towards the finish line, where, once he crosses the finish line, he heads back out a bit and shows the back of this sign, which says "WOOT! You're almost there!")

I doubted I would see anyone else I knew at the Expo - The Endorphin Dude had spent the previous day there and surely would be too worn out to show up for a second day. I should have known better, as I almost immediately ran into him and a number of other Maniacs (Ellehcim, who is an even fresher Maniac than me, a cape-less The ED, Einahpets, who you should never assign the task of finding someone to take a picture too, Nahom, and The Blog - none of these are their real names).

Once you got your bibs, shirts, timing strips, and such, you get to spend some quality time in a shopping area. Mrs Notthat and WHM spent a LOT of time in here. While standing outside of the area, patiently waiting, I noticed the "WTH" and thought that was a bit odd for a marathon. Then I noticed it stood for "Worth the Hurt," the official motto of this year's race. Still, a bit odd.

So I was hanging around, again waiting patiently for Mrs and WHM to exhaust all the shopping opportunities the Expo presented, when I heard my name called out. Coworker Sukram (not his real name) and his squeeze were there! I had no idea he was a runner, and it turns out that was for a good reason - he isn't. But his darling is. (Hopefully she can do something about that LA shirt he's wearing. Like maybe burn it.)

Finally the Expo hall started closing down, so we headed over to Buca di Beppos for the Maniac dinner. The whole group of us posed for a picture with Chris Bliss, Ultra Woof, The ED (with his cape!), and Einahpets (who weirdly was able to find someone to take this picture with little effort).

Dinner was a blast, but the biggest surprise was finding out there really is a Mrs Einre - this woman must be one of the most patient wives ever (although she also probably doesn't mind getting Einre out of the house each weekend so she can have some peace and quiet).

That guy in the back is Trab Ossay - the Chief Running Officer of Runner's World magazine and an amazing runner. He is like the Hugh Heffner of running. A big deal. He came by the dinner and posed for an huge number of pictures, but the coolest thing was grandboy Riley horning in on the action. (He most likely didn't even know Trab was there - he LOVES The Endorphin Dude.) In any case, when Riley gets older and is training for the 2020 Olympics, he will have this picture to look back on, and proudly say "IN YOUR FACE ENDORPHIN DUDE!" (He has beaten The ED several times now.)

The next morning, Needs Cool Name drove the runners up to the city and stayed around to take a few pictures.

I forget this guy's name but we all know him as "that guy from Arkansas" - he spent the summer as an intern in the area and we saw him at a bunch of races.

That's the Bay Bridge in the background with WHM and the perky grandkids doing their second 5K race of the weekend.

I love that Darci is running on the rough center area rather than the smooth street. That kid's a born trail runner.

Mrs Notthat set a new PR for a 5K. (The runners got these great long sleeve gray tech shirts, which is why you see so many people in gray.)

A friend of Darci was also at the race. Here she is getting ready to participate in the Tossing Riley contest.

And that's about it. I drove in to pick the runners up (and found free parking!) and watch a lot of people finish the various other races going on. We knew quite a few people doing this race, but managed to miss almost all of them finishing (I think there were about 50,000 runners total - it was a bit of a madhouse there).

After reading various race reports and looking at pictures, I'm now seriously rethinking whether I want to do this race. Maybe 2012?

That's it - move along...