Sunday, September 25, 2011

Getting piggy with the Trail Hog

On Saturday, over 300 runners braved the wild pig infested hills of Joseph D Grant Park outside of San Jose for Brazen's Trail Hog race.

Here is the finisher medal and the vision each of us carried out there of what to be on the lookout for.

(By the way, this may be their best finisher medal ever.) About a year and a half ago, a group of us lead by Coach Luap (not his real name) did an infamous hike in this park, and I actually managed to get a picture of real trail hogs. Not quite as fierce looking, but close enough. So I knew they existed.

This time I saw no trail hogs out there - only miles and miles of fun trails with moderate hills sprinkled in just to change things up. Sections of the course were pretty exposed, and it would get a bit warm, but with temperatures hovering around 75 degrees, it wasn't all that bad.

Most of the trails were fire roads that dodged in between nice shade trees and open fields. Mrs Notthat and Ultra Woof are enjoying the shade above. (They would get cranky if I pointed the camera at them while going up a hill - running for the camera is a rule, and doing that while going uphill is not fair. There were a LOT of wonderful Brazen photographers out there, but a lot of them were on uphill sections. However, I think they shaved a couple of minutes off my time by forcing me to run more than I would have if they hadn't been there.)

Lots of the trail looked like this. There were nice views of the surrounding hills, including Mt Hamilton, as you wandered around the course.

There was a great stretch of single-track in the second loop on the Half course.

There was a bit of climbing in that single-track stretch though.

I look like I am toast and ready for the finish line. Except this was taken before we had even reached mile 2. The course started with a hill that warmed you up quickly.

Mrs Notthat was perky all the way through this race and ended up getting 2nd place in her age group.

The Boy, as usual, took off and was way ahead of us. We heard from Weird Haired Mom though that he had started dragging at about mile 7. Then a random runner named Eicats (not her real name) caught up to him and told him to get his butt in gear. And he did. Both he and Eicats ended up winning their age groups (he beat me by nearly 20 minutes).

WHM and Ultra Woof both did the Hiker Half start. Well sort of. WHM was actually there for the 7:30 start, while the GPS-challenged Ultra Woof was touring the wilds of southern San Jose looking for this park. UW ended up catching up to WHM near the end and they finished together, with more piggy pink than anyone had bargained for.

Look, if the Brazen Rabbit writes "BACK" on the trail, who are they to ignore it (with a bit of attitude to boot).

The front of the neutral-colored shirt (HA!). I love the small race logo over the heart.

And the large one on the back.

This was a great race - a bit harder than I had expected (only a bit over 1700 feet of elevation, but for some reason it felt like a lot more); it would have been a lot worse if it had been just a day earlier though, when temperatures were 20 degrees higher.

And here's a cool thing - WHM and Ultra Woof met up with Htenaj (not her real name) at the Half Moon Bay Marathon Expo, with WHM and UW still sporting their Trail Hog bibs and medals.

Where they met runner extraordinaire Scott Jurek, who is now the proud owner of Ultra Woof's Trail Hog medal! Scott surely got a bit nervous will all this pink - he was impressed that they had done a Half in the morning and then driven to the expo. (UW is doing the HMB Marathon today.)

And that's about it. Next on the Brazen schedule is one of my arch-enemies - Rocky Ridge. Oh my. Next on my race schedule though is the flat Urban Cow Half Marathon in Sacramento - cowbell medals are really tough to pass up.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grand Old Teddy

Not long after we bought our house in 1997, we got a dog. Well, sort of a dog. More like a maniac barking machine.

Jesse loved having a dog to play with, but Belle wasn't a very sturdy dog for a rambunctious seven-year-old, and she ended up with a broken front leg.

So we started thinking about getting a bit more rugged dog, something medium sized.

A friend of Diane's had a friend that took in a stray dog that turned out to be filled with puppies. The mommy dog was just about the perfect size, so we took a chance on one of her puppies.

Diane named him Teddy because he looked like a teddy bear. He was about the same size as Belle, but was extremely clumsy. Belle spent a lot of time making it clear that this was her house, and right up until she passed away, Teddy always deferred to her in matters of food and treats and places to lay down.

We really had no idea how big he would get, but were hoping he would be about his mom's size. But he kept growing.

And growing. One thing for sure - he was plenty rugged for Jesse. And apparently, soft.

He loved being outside, especially camping.

Teddy ended up with another little boy to raise when our grandson Riley showed up. Riley loved playing with Teddy, and Teddy was amazingly patient with him.

Unfortunately, Teddy had issues around most other dogs - he had very bad social kills. He would do OK around little dogs (like Belle, and Aubri's dog Sophia, above), but get him around any medium or larger dogs and it would not go well. So our walks were mostly an exercise in finding trails with no other dogs around.

And cats were the worst. I don't know that he hated cats so much as didn't know anything about them. If he ever saw one on a walk, he would do everything he could to get at it.

But as he grew older, he finally started to mellow. I came home one evening to see him being civil with a friend's white German Shepard. It's hard to explain how stunning this was - I never would have considered even trying to introduce them, and yet, here they were sniffing each other in our living room.

When Jesse came home with his cat, we were all very nervous. Except the cat and Teddy, who were curious about each other for a bit, and then just plain didn't care.

About six months ago Teddy's hips started to go. He still had a lot of energy (at least for a little bit), still loved to go on walks, but clearly his hips were a major issue.

Worse was that he started losing control of his bowels. He would be laying there, then sit up and do his business on his way to the back door. It became a challenge when getting up in the middle of the night to keep an eye out for where you stepped. You could tell it really bugged him to leave boom-booms in the house, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Diane was amazing at keeping him on his many medications. Most of them he couldn't stand, so they had to be disguised. When she headed back east to help her sister for nearly two weeks, it became my job, and while it started out OK, it quickly went downhill. He mostly stopped eating - I began making him boiled chicken and rice and he would eat it, but not nearly as much as normal. I could get him to take his medications for the first couple of days, but then he started becoming more suspicious and would refuse to eat anything that looked good, like this Fig Newton with a pill hidden in it.

I started feeding him strips of chicken and bits of cheese by hand, and this was fine for a couple of days, but then even that stopped appealing to him. And he had gone a long time without leaving a boom-boom, which was a bit worrisome. (I would wake up in the middle of the night, and sniff the air hopefully. One time I thought I smelled something and was thrilled! But it must have just been gas.)

He never whined or acted like he was in pain, but he clearly was miserable. He would lay in the same living room spot all day. I would coax him to go outside, drink some water, and sniff around a bit, but then he would have trouble getting up the step to come back inside. I was amazed that I could actually lift him now since he had lost so much weight.

After talking with the vet, we decided it was time to take him in. This picture is from his last morning front yard visit. He looks so perky, alert, and healthy in this picture, yet he wasn't any of those things.

He did have one remaining surprise for us though - he hadn't had a bowel movement for almost a week, and we took that as a very bad sign. Granted, he wasn't eating a lot, but still something should have happened. And it did, in the vet's waiting room.

Teddy was far from perfect; his social skills kept us on edge when out in public. In a strange incident that made no sense, he bit a woman on the thigh while we were away and a friend was taking him for a walk. And he shed like nobody's business - we will be finding his hair in things for years to come.

Teddy is hugely missed. I swear I still hear him several times a day. He lived for over thirteen years, which is amazing for a dog of his size. He was never sick and was very little trouble (other than his early need to gnaw on everything and destroy anything we planted in the backyard).

We will eventually get another dog or two - Riley can't believe we haven't already done that (and is positive that he's the one to pick them out). But for now we will wait a bit. And remember the legend that was Idiot Dog Teddy for many years before becoming Old Dog Teddy.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more pictures here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sure, you could drive to the summit...

...but in what way would that be fun?

Mrs Notthat and a bunch of running friends did the Coastal Diablo trail race this morning. This had all the makings of a really tough run:

• Mt Diablo (Swedish, roughly translates to "Delightful Mountain") is known for very hot temperatures this time of year. After last weekend, we anticipated the worst. (Spoiler alert: it was actually quite pleasant in the morning. Those doing the longer distances though, almost for sure had to deal with heat.)

• There was a bit of serious climbing involved.

You go uphill for 6.6 miles. Then you turnaround and come back, going downhill for 6.6 miles. The arrows show where the aid station was. Total climbing to the summit of Mt Delightful was 3420 feet. The elevation didn't bother me so much as the relentlessness of it - I'd never done a course that wasn't a mix of up and down.

• It was the start of tarantula season.

This was a positive for me since I'm pretty sure tarantulas keep the rattlesnake population down. I never saw one, but Hteb (not her real name) alertly noticed one that her husband, Nairb (not his real name either), thought might make a wonderful pet. Hteb was able to convince him otherwise. (I love that these two each had a camera with them! More tourist runners!)

(I'm not sure whose finger that is, but it's not mine.)

• I'm a little directionally challenged this early in the morning. We are on time, heading east on 580 so that we can go north on 680. When I saw a sign saying "Nevada State Line 10 Miles", I figured I might have missed a turn. We ended up driving a bonus of 20 miles and heard the race start just as we pulled into the parking lot. So we started about 5 minutes late.

But we managed to start the race, and that's all that really mattered. Well, Mrs Notthat managed to start the race - I was stuck IN A LINE AT THE MEN'S BATHROOM! What is up with that?

It took me a while to catch up, but I finally managed to see Mrs Notthat ahead of me. She did the 4 mile race and my goal was to catch her before she hit her two mile turnaround.

I did, thanks in large part to Nad (not his...oh surely you get this by now) who lives nearby and wandered over to make fun of my gaiters, but also paced me nicely (mostly he just kept me from getting lost, and made sure I knew that Mrs Notthat was WAY ahead of me). Mrs Notthat hit the turnaround and flew back to the finish, with Nad trying to keep up.

The relentless uphill was often only a fairly moderate climb, but once in a while it threw in some steep bits just to make it interesting. This woman trains on Pikes Peak in Colorado. At the end of this race she declared it the toughest race she has ever done. (She stole my heart because she also had a camera and was taking a lot of pictures. Another running tourist!)

Surprisingly I managed to catch up to the speedy Hteb and Nairb at about mile 4 or so. This was their first trail Half Marathon - they knew it was a doozy, but it was very close to their home and, really, if I could do this race, how hard could it be? (Note that they each have their cameras out. Yay!)

Weird Haired Mom (my daughter) was at the aid station directing traffic (there were also 10 mile, Full Marathon, and 50K distances going on). The aid station was a life saver - lots of water and such, but also PBJ sandwiches, potatoes, and a lot of other good things to eat.

And another surprise - Arabrab (with a novel way to display her bib) was also at the aid station. Don't worry, she ended up soundly beating me.

Leaving that aid station there is just 1.6 more miles of climbing, and then it's all (mostly) downhill from there. How hard could another 1.6 miles of climbing be? Well, if you run across the feared Endorphin Dude, especially when he is wielding his chopstix, it can be very hard.

Actually, this bit of the course was a blast - steep at times, but pretty single-track with some mind-numbingly challenging technical bits.

Once I got to the top, I thought I saw a shortcut.

Ultra Woof talked me out of it though - some bizarre logic involving trail race etiquette and how hard it would be to scrape me off the cliff.

I like this shot of Hteb, showing her lack of fear of cliffs. And that really is what the trail looked like at this point.

Then I saw this picture and realized that I'M NOT LOOKING WHERE I'M GOING AND THERE IS A CLIFF THERE!

Of course Einre was there, steadily breaking the trail to his will as usual. And grinning from ear to ear as usual.

I don't know who this is, but it's an example of how cool the trail was here.

As soon as we hit the downhill on the return, Hteb and Nairb took off - they were in their element. I managed to make it back to the aid station just as they were leaving. WHM is showing great style in displaying the course map. I think the heat was getting to her.

There were a lot of stunning views along the course. This was very different than the golden hills of last week.

Once I finished I caught up with the others. (I told Hteb that I wasn't taking the picture until she was taking a bite of her soup, so she finally did. Sometimes it's tough to be the paparazzi.)

Mrs Notthat showing off her third place age group medal (!) and the great water bottle she won at one of the raffles they have sporadically during the race.

The race was a blast - much more fun than I had expected. The course was great and the whole thing was run very well.

And it really was a lot better than driving to the summit.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see a lot more pictures I took here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two days, two very different races

About a month ago, I decided to sign Mrs Notthat and I up for the Palo Alto Moonlight Run. It was (theoreticaly) the weekend before Brazen Drag-N-Fly and a couple of days before Mrs Notthat headed to spend some quality time with her sister in Maryland. It was perfect.

Until Ulra Woof asked what I was thinking scheduling a 10K the night before a ridiculously challenging Drag-N-Fly. I knew she was wrong, but I checked anyway, and to my horror found out she was right - I had seen the registration cut off date and thought that was the race date.

This meant Mrs Notthat was not going to be able to do the Moonlight Run (Weird Haired Mom stepped in to take her place) and I was going to be really tired for Drag-N-Fly the next day.

The Moonlight 10K race was a lot of fun - my first night race - but had a pinch of bonus excitement in the form of a lightening storm followed by a brief, but drenching rain. Cool surprise - seeing Wel (not his real name) from my old San Jose Fit world out there running (he beat me by a few seconds, and then I lost him in the crowd, sadly).

We all had a great time, including Nairb (not his real name) who faced very stiff competition and ended up getting fourth overall. (Note that Ultra Woof is also there - she's tougher than me so it wasn't quite as surprising seeing her do a race the day before a Half.)

It was nearly 11 PM before we got home and my alarm was set for 4 AM -  not a good night's sleep before such a tough race.

Note: You can see more pictures from the Moonlight race here.

Since WHM was volunteering and I was doing the Hiker Half start, we had to get there early. Very early. It was still dark and the Brazen arch wasn't up yet. This thrilled me since it meant I had a chance to help raise the arch again (trust me - the thrill of a lifetime!), but my body convinced me to make a quick stop at the bathroom first.

By the time I came out, it was up. And soon after that, a blazing sun joined it.

WHM, Yerrk, and Anaid (not their real names) were assigned the first/last aid station. This meant they had to be there very early, before us hikers made it there, and were the last to close. Note the complete lack of shade, except for that awning. And yet they were amazing and enthusiastic and encouraging and life savers - as were all the aid station volunteers wherever we went.

Heading out, this is what faced you from that first aid station. A 1000 foot near cliff.

Looking back wistfully on that aid station while part way up the cliff.

The second aid station could not set up until the Black Diamond Mines park opened their gates - I watched them pull in (I've never seen a VW microbus take corners on two wheels before) and get the table and water set up just before Ultra Woof and I arrived. Keeper the dog made it hard to leave this place. (Well, that and knowing what was ahead of us.)

The lollipop part of the Drag-N-Fly course is a lot of fun, assuming your idea of fun includes very technical single-track trails with tons of elevation. So it was more my idea of fun than UW.

We discovered this mine shaft vent that had cold air pouring out - we politely stood here for awhile letting the faster runners have plenty of room to pass us.

Seriously - this is a challenging section of trail.

Near the top of the climb was the third aid station, staffed with angels to get you hydrated, fed, and cooled off with water poured on your head. It was very hot by now.

From that aid station you head back to the second aid station at the base of the lollipop. It was mostly downhill, but there was some uphill still (naturally). And steps. Way more steps than I remembered.

A real dragonfly!

The scenery was stunning. (No, we didn't have to climb over that rock formation. But I'm sure the Brazen Rabbit tried to make it part of the course.)

I loved this part of the course. I wouldn't have minded doing a second lap, except for the intense heat and my very tired legs.

A very cool thing (literally) is this mine shaft - it's amazing how much cold air streams out of this thing. It was very hard to leave here, but I'm pretty sure it saved a number of runners that needed a bit of a cool down by this point.

We finally made it back to the second aid station, almost an hour before the cutoff. Keeper the dog congratulated us for surviving the toughest part of the course, but reminded us we still had a major hill to go up.

Far from the hardest hill on the course, but by this time, with tired legs and a relentless sun, it was very challenging.

It took a bit but finally we caught a glimpse of the first aid station again. What a great sight, although that meant we now had to climb down that cliff.

Brain freeze! As wet as I would get as these aid stations, by about 15 minutes later I would be dry again.

This picture is a classic - as one of the faster runners came through he called out to get water thrown at him. WHM was more than happy to oblige.

Ultra Woof, Nahom (not his real name), and I all managed to finish the Half, but with shockingly slow times. The Endorphin Dude, Chris Bliss, and a few others weren't quite so lucky (or were smarter) and ended up doing a long 10K.

UW and I showing off our medals. She beat me by about two minutes or so - when she smelled the finish line she took off with a burst of energy that was astonishing.

Mrs Brazen and her wonder kids seemed to enjoy the day, but were happy that it was almost over.

And then the arch came down - the last runner had come in and we could all go find some serious AC.

Most of our group hanging out at a shady table, comparing trail stories.

The shirt, medal, and bib - stunning design as always.

I survived the two races, but not by a lot. They were a lot of fun though, even with the many challenges they provided.

But believe me that I will be a LOT more careful when looking at race dates in the future.

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more pictures I took here. I will be posting more on the Brazen Picassa site later.