Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 running all done!

2011 was a big running year for Mrs Notthat and I - it was the first year that we both participated in a lot of races and got a bit serious (I can hear you roll your eyes) about the trails.

So when I started adding up the race stats from 2012, I wasn't sure how it would compare.

Not bad, for me, and YOWZA for Mrs Notthat.

I'm blaming my min/mile increase on the additional elevation, but I think I know better than that. Meanwhile, look at Mrs Notthat's stats:

Those are all huge increases, and in her case, the min/mile increase really is due to the large elevation increase as she took on longer and tougher trail races. As a bit more proof of Mrs Notthat's massive improvement this year, she set PRs at three distances (I set none).

One number that is a bit of a surprise, given that we each did several races that the other didn't do, is that we both ran 44 races this year. Even more bizarre is that we have both done 99 races lifetime - Brazen's New Years Day will be number 100 for both of us!

This is what my haul of finisher medals ended up looking like for 2012:

This was also the year of running with props. The arrow-through-the-head thing got a lot of use.

And of course, there was the sun for CIM.

Diane's haul is also very nice, including a feather boa and tiara. She's not so much into props. Yet.

I would have a hard time picking out a favorite race from last year; Way Too Cool stands out, Brazen's Lagoon Valley will never be forgotten, Coastal's Crystal Springs in January will always stand out since it was the first time I met Pete, and ITR's Santa Cruz with the river crossing was a blast.

I have no idea which ones Mrs Notthat would choose, but I would choose the absurdly moist California International Marathon. She had no desire to do another Marathon, but peer pressure mounted and she was convinced that this was an "easy" one with a net downhill and on-course entertainment. Who knew that the entertainment would be watching runners do the backstroke through the greater Sacramento area. She was in pain and well within her rights to stop, but she hung in there and not only finished, she broke six hours and set a PR!

(I think my most inspiring non-Mrs Notthat moment would also come from that race, watching Eilsel [not her real name], who had also been convinced that this was an easy Marathon, show incredible determination and guts to successfully finish her first Marathon. Totally awesome and inspiring!)

Back in 2011, I came up with a way to display the medals and such, but it was only good for three years, and by the end of 2012, it was maxed out.

So I took over more wall space, spread out a bit, and am now good for three more years. Medals are the kind of thing that are nice when you get them, but then what do you do with them? These mostly just hang around and gather dust. But while redoing this wall, I got to go through them all again, and that brought back a ton of fun memories.

How will 2013 work out? There are three things that are planned that will certainly make the first half of the year pretty special.

  • In February we will celebrate our 30th anniversary by going to New Zealand, where we will get to do a couple of trail races if all goes as planned. At the very least we will get to wander around some great trails.
  • As we were sitting at home, drying out from CIM, Mrs Notthat stunned me by asking me to put her name into the Way Too Cool lottery. She had never before shown any interest in an Ultra Marathon, so I put her name in so fast she had no chance to rethink it. So early March will also be special. (And hopefully, if it goes well, I'll talk her into doing a race on the Skyline to the Sea trail. And then who knows what might be next!)
  • Kcirtap (not his real name) has managed to talk us into attacking the Grand Canyon in May. Not the rim-to-rim-to-rim thing he did last year, but a rim-to-river-and-back thing.
And who knows what the second half of 2013 will bring. One thing's for sure though, we will be spending a LOT of time with our extended running family on many race adventures.

Sadly, props will likely be involved.

That's it - move along…

Friday, December 28, 2012

Run like a dirty geezer!

At the beginning of 2010, Mrs Notthat and I started getting more serious about doing trail races. We also started to get serious about hating to stop and dig trail debris such as pebbles, sticks, and small critters out of our shoes.

A visit to our local Zombie Runner store fixed that problem. At the time they carried a nice selection of Running Funky gaiters. While Mrs Notthat opted for black (yawn), I chose these.

The colors were much perkier when new. They really set off my eyes.
These things were fantastic at keeping things from getting into my shoes, plus they kept the mud and various prickly things from turning my shoelaces into a fussy mess.

But it turns out that you can wear out your gaiters, and these needed to be retired. Unfortunately, Zombie Runner stopped carrying any but the most basic colors (black), and I despaired. Weird Haired Mom found a bunch on clearance at a RoadRunner store, so I ended up with a pair of bright blue (which went with nothing I had) and pink camouflage (which also went with nothing I had, but made it harder for others to see my feet and work out how slow they really moved).

Earlier this year WHM and the grandkids surprised Mrs Notthat and I with some custom gaiters.

I loved these and wore them a lot, but then the paint she used started to have issues, and so I stopped wearing them since I wanted to keep them whole.

So now I was back to wearing my uninspiring ones. If I wanted a bit of style, I would have to order my next pair online. Eirrac (not her real name) had told me about Dirty Girl gaiters, so I took a chance and Googled them (you can get a lot of, ummmm, interesting hits if you type this a bit wrong).

A cool thing is that they turn the profits back into the running community. A cooler thing is that they have a great selection of styles available, and a number of them were on sale.

A sad thing was that I was unable to place an order - every time I tried I kept getting told I had left out something important. So I sent them an email on Saturday the 22nd explaining the issue, and on Sunday morning I got a response that their webmaster goddess was being naughty and that the issue had been fixed (mostly their words, not mine). Included in the email was a coupon code I could use for my trouble.

And on Sunday evening I placed the order and all was well. I thanked them for the coupon code but didn't use it since it wasn't really that much trouble and I liked that the profits were being used for noble purposes. (PLEASE don't tell Mrs Notthat about this. She has never met a coupon code she didn't like and would be horrified to hear that I did this, noble or not.)

On Monday the 24th I got a shipment notice. I had high hopes of getting these in time for my race on Saturday the 29th, but had doubts due to the holidays.

Mrs Notthat didn't want any at first, but then she saw the blue lightening ones and picked them. The other two pair are mine. They seem like nice neutral colors that will go with any shoes.
On Wednesday the 26th they arrived! And they were stunning! (And included enough velcro to outfit a small army of shoes, which Mrs Notthat and I seem to have.) There was also an iron-on patch that Mrs is going to attach to her backpack. (I love the tagline "Run like a dirty girl!" More appropriate for me would be "Run like a dirty geezer!")

And then I got a notice that they had applied my coupon code anyway, and I was getting a refund. (Mrs Notthat - you can stop muttering rude things under your breath now.)

I've already managed to get one pair covered in mud, and will likely get the second pair even more muddy on Saturday. These things are great, and I can't stress enough how valuable they are when running on trails (unless you like the break you get when you have to stop and dig stuff out of your shoes).

And who can't use a bit of fashion on the trails? Thanks to Dirty Girl Gaiters I will be starting the new year if fine style!

That's it - move along…

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rambling near Woodside

We love doing races that are close to us here on the Peninsula. Last weekend we had Summit Rock just outside of Saratoga, and this weekend we had an embarrassment of local trail running riches: Zoom/Coastal's Bay Trail (which I've run the last two years and has my Marathon PR) and ITR's Woodside Ramble. In the end, we just couldn't turn away the glory that are the single-track trails out of Huddart Park, so Mrs Notthat and I chose to do the Half Marathon there. (In a couple of weeks we'll be doing Coastal's Crystal Springs 22 miler out of there. There's also a PCTR race out of there in between.)

Mrs Notthat had somewhere she needed to be at 1:00, and showing up in her running outfit would not be OK. Since the race started at 8:30 that meant if I finished in three and a half hours (which sounded about right for me) we should be able to leave the park around noon and make it in time.

Except that our race didn't start until 9:00. (Note to self: Look at the website a bit more carefully next time. And not just at elevation charts and course maps.) That meant my three and a half hour finish would be a half hour too long. I considered dropping to a shorter distance, but decided to take the risk and shoot for a three hour finish. That would mean taking far fewer pictures, spending less time at the aid stations, and, well, just plain moving faster than I have been lately.

"You're afraid of banana slugs and want us to protect you from them?"  
KDub is going to hate me for this picture, but I get a kick out of trying to think up what sort of request would cause her to make such a caring, empathetic face.

KBacon on the other hand is looking forward to her day at an aid station, keeping track of who's been naughty and nice.

An action shot of Mr ITR.

It was really cold (our car said 35 as we drove up) before the race, but it doesn't take long to warm up once the race starts. You have two choices: take off your bonus layers before the race starts and be extra cold for a few minutes (which is what I do), or keep your bonus layers on and remove them once you warm up during the race (the Mrs Notthat strategy).

I was pushing pretty hard and keeping Mrs Notthat more or less in sight when she stopped and started peeling off her jacket. Nehpets (not his real name) happened to be with Mrs at that point, and volunteered to help her stow it in her backpack. When I caught up to them, I had two choices: I could be noble and stop and relieve Nehpets of his jacket-stuffing duties, or I could be non-noble and blow past both of them and revel in the rare occurrence of me being ahead of them.

As that picture shows, I chose to be non-noble. I even cackled a bit as I went by.

If you look carefully you can see runners facing different directions as they go up the switchbacks.
She passed me back a few feet later though, so my revelry was very short-lived. This course starts with a bit of downhill, then you spend the next four or five miles heading steadily uphill. It's not steep, but it never seems to end.

For the Half course, this was our only tree issue. Many went over it like this guy is doing, which turned out to be not nearly as easy as it looks. Once he got over, he told me that if he had it to do over again, he'd go around the right end instead, so that's what I did.

Eventually you really do make it to the top of that hill and see the pink flamingos signaling that an aid station is near.

Half runners head out from this aid station on a short out-and-back and then you see it again. These two were great and even had festive Thanksgiving or Labor Day music playing in the background.

The blur on the left Mrs Notthat. The guy coming up the hill on the right is volunteer Mas (not his real name) who was taking pictures and being perky. I tried to trip him as I passed him.
I was still a bit behind Mrs Notthat, but was making pretty good time. From that aid station though, the course is largely downhill, and Mrs thrives on downhill. I was a bit shocked though when after a few miles I caught sight of her not all that far ahead.

I got so close at one point she even managed to get a picture of me! Alas, I think this startled her bit (or she decided she was bored toying with me) and she took off and I never saw her again until the finish.

There are many races run on these trails, but ITR is the only one* that has a Half Marathon course. (Coastal is the only one with a Marathon distance. All of them have a 50K distance though). To get the Half distance right, and to change things up a bit, they take you to the finish line in a completely different way than the others; instead of finishing on that easy (but kind of paved) road they take you onto some nice trails.

The problem is that the trails make you do some more climbing. I stood for a second at an intersection looking longingly at the main trail heading downhill, decked out in blue ribbons (which is their code for  "None Shall Pass") and apprehensively at the uphill trail cheerfully decked out in yellow ribbons. I figured I had a bit less than a mile to go and just under 15 minutes to cover it to break three hours.

But I was gassed.

I wound up missing the three hour mark by a bit over three minutes. Mrs Notthat beat me by only 94 seconds - I had no idea I was so close to her. (Mrs got first and beat two others in her wildly unpopular age group while I got eighth in my wildly popular one.)

It was a fun event with lots of friends, but it was sad to have to dash off right after I finished. (Mrs Notthat made it to her thing, but barely and without the benefit of a shower. I think the odor of a freshly sweaty runner beats all the perfumes hands down, but that might just be me.)

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: Since Mrs Notthat and I both got into Way Too Cool, and I am determined to beat Brazen's Diablo 50K, and we are also planning on a possible attack of the Grand Canyon in May, I have recently started doing some real midweek training. That probably had more to do with me keeping up with Mrs than anything else (although I'm still thinking she was showing me at least a bit of pity).

PPPS: Since the 50K and 35K races started at 8:30, I went down the trail a tiny bit and shot a video of them as they all flew by. You can see it here.

*Late breaking bulletin - Coastal's Crystal Springs race (Jan 5th) now has a Half Marathon distance! Very cool!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Summit Rock 2012 - the owl is still irritated

This was the third time for Mrs Notthat and I to run the Brazen Summit Rock trail race. It's reasonably close to us and Brazen's only race in the Santa Cruz mountains, so we always jump at the chance to be there.

Brazen does a different race in June, Trailquake, out of this same park. Both races have similar elevation profiles, but they are pretty different from each other:

  • Summit Rock is one long out-and-back. Since most of the trails are single-track, this can lead to some congestion, especially if you are a faster runner trying to win. For me though, it means I get to see all the other Half runners at some point.
  • Trailquake is a bit loopish at the start/finish with two out-and-back sections, shaped like a "T," in the middle. This means I get to see other Half runners twice and the fast runners have far less congestion. But the climb up the hill is tougher.

I overheard several people that were surprised at how different the two courses were. More commonly heard though was "this hill has GOT to end, right?"

Photo by a brave Brazen volunteer. The Endorphin Dude was trash talking. Mrs Notthat wasn't buying it.
It was dry but very cold (I saw that eye-roll you guys in the truly cold states) at the start. Everyone was happy when we finally were able to start up the hill.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Alameda Det (not his real name).
Mrs Notthat was still pretty bundled up about a half mile into the race. Note that Sprite (waving in green) is the opposite of bundled up. (See later pictures for a far less bundled up Mrs Notthat.)

There had been a significant storm come through the area the previous weekend, so there were a few obstacles along the trail.

I had hoped to make it to the 5K aid station/turnaround before being passed by any of the 10K runners (who started 15 minutes after us). I failed, and was passed by three of them. I also ended up spending a bit more time at the aid station than was prudent since the grandkids were there and had many exciting tales to tell me ("Grandma is WAY ahead of you. Why are you so slow? Do you like my leaf sculpture? Grandkid Second Born's a doofus." "No I'm not! Grandkid First Born's a doofus!")

The first three miles of the course are largely spent going uphill on nice, not too steep single-track trails that were in great shape (other than the occasional hurdle). You get very few expansive views on this course, but if you like trees, this is the perfect course for you.

Once you reach the 10K aid station/turnaround you are almost to the end of your big climb. It is a joyous time. Except for seeing all the smiling 10K runners that are halfway done and now get to lope down the hill to the finish. The Half runners are only about a quarter into their race.

After this point the Half course generally follows Skyline Road along the ridge top, with a nasty valley tossed in that has just enough climbing to make sure you don't get too cocky while looking ahead to flying down that big hill.

Brazen volunteer Kcnarf (not his real name) snapping pictures of happy Half runners that are  halfway done.
You know you are getting close to the Half aid station/turnaround when you start hearing gunfire (from the nearby shooting range, although it's more fun to picture the aid station volunteers firing warning shots to ensure the runners turnaround and don't keep going past them).

The picture Kcnarf took of me taking a picture of him.
The picture Kcnarf took of Mrs Notthat much earlier. She wasn't enjoying this race at all. 
Ekim and Aluap (not their real names) smiling because seeing me means they are almost done.
The firearm-free volunteers at the Half aid station/turnaround reported that they had no trouble convincing runners to turn around.

I took this picture of Chris Bliss near a large rock that I decided was the namesake of Summit Rock.

This is back at the 10K turnaround. By this time a breeze had picked up along the ridge, and it was quite cold. While I got to head back down the hill (and out of the wind), these frostbitten volunteers had to still hang out here for a bit longer. A little over three miles to go for me.

Near the 5K turnaround and I was ambushed by the grandkids again. Grandkid Second Born desperately wanted me to ask for a GU out of that box he was holding. The box actually had a vicious newt in it. They then showed me a scorpion they had found. At that point they ran out of scary things to show me, so I continued making my way down the hill.

The Big Wind volunteered at the finish line food table. The ice cream was surprisingly popular.
Eventually I made it to the finish line, continuing an alarming trend of finishing at least 15 minutes slower than my previous time running the race. To my horror, it turned out that I had lost my timing tag somewhere along the course.

Fortunately Mr Brazen took pity on me and did not make me go back out and find it, and the timing company used a method to record my time that would make even the Swiss blush with pride.

As usual, this race was a blast and the owl mascot still looked irritated. There were many running friends there and a great time was had by all. 

Except maybe The Endorphin Dude, who ended up getting chicked by Mrs Notthat.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swimming the CIM

Back in 2010, I talked Mrs Notthat into running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon.

She said one was enough and swore she would never do another one. And she kept to that for a year or so until someone managed to talk her into the California International Marathon (CIM) that goes from Folsom  to Sacramento. The main selling point; it's a net-downhill course. The elevation chart makes it look like you are running down a ski slope, when in reality, you are only losing about 13 feet per mile - a flight of stairs when you are used to trails with serious elevation.

Another selling point is that there is a lot of entertainment along the course. Or there would have been if this had been a normal year. One slightly worrying thing was that there was a six hour course limit - after that, the course is opened to cars, the aid stations and course markers disappear, and you are on your own.

And the biggest worrying thing were the weather reports. The Bay Area was dealing with a massive influx of tropical moisture - pictures of people in kayaks on city streets had become common. Stories from the North Face Endurance Challenge, the first day of which was on Saturday, were filled with words like "epic," knee-deep mud," and "scuba gear would help." The unnerving aspect of this was how the weather experts were saying that the real storm was not set to hit until early Sunday morning.

CIM was on city streets though, so mud would not be an issue, and a little rain can't be that bad, can it?

Weird Haired Mom had also been talked into running this race, so the three of us headed up to Sacramento on Saturday with the plan that I would provide crewing support while the two of them ran the race. (I try REAL hard to avoid running on pavement.)

I had a secret weapon that I hoped would lead to a dry day - a pretend sun on a stick. How could that possibly fail?

The first stop was at the expo. Mrs Notthat loves these expos, especially when it's getting late on the last day, since the venders are just wanting to get rid of stuff.

The Endorphin Dude wanted the Queen of Hearts. WHM got exactly the card she wanted (which were used for dinner delivery purposes).
We headed over to the Marathon Maniac's carbo load dinner then off to our motel.

This is a point-to-point race, and is set up for the runners to stay in downtown Sacramento and ride a shuttle bus up to the start. The race starts at 7:00, and the shuttles start running at 5:00. Since I was crewing, we chose to stay out near the start in Roseville so that I would be able to drop them off, and we could sleep an extra hour.

Except there wasn't much sleeping going on. We heard the news just before bedtime that the second day of the NFEC had been cancelled due to the storm that was approaching. For the first time, the thought entered my mind that they could actually cancel this race too.

And then, a bit after midnight, the storm hit. The wind pounded our room's windows and the trees were really taking a beating.

When we got up at 5:00, the first thing I did was go to the CIM website to make sure the race was still on, and it was. So we packed up and headed to the start line. It was a bit of a madhouse the closer we got, but it worked out fairly well and I was able to drop them off in plenty of time for the race.

Photo by World Famous Retep (not his real name).  That's WHM with the water wings and a perkiness overload.
While they waited for the race to start, I drove to a spot at about mile three where I hoped to see everyone go by.

Another photo by World Famous Retep.
It was raining steadily when the race started, but switched to a higher gear shortly after that. I gave up trying to get any kind of pictures under those conditions, and instead focussed on holding up my soaking wet pretend sun, clanging my cow bell, and yelling out swimming tips.

After all of the runners went past me at mile 3, I moved on to about mile 10. That's when the rain REALLY started coming down.

That's World Famous Retep wearing a stylish shower cap and trash bag.
Driving was becoming very difficult - I didn't know the area and many streets were flooded. So I decided to try for one more stop at about mile 18. It was at this point, four hours after the start of the race, that the rain finally let up a bit and I could start taking pictures again.

The water wings likely saved her life. Or at least made a few people giggle.
I was a bit surprised to see WHM ahead of Mrs Notthat. WHM explained that Mrs was struggling with some pain issues and likely would stop once she got to me. The cool thing though was that, in spite of the conditions, WHM had a reasonable chance to beat the six hour cutoff!

Once Mrs Notthat, escorted by a shockingly pink Haiyr (not her real name), showed up though, she was looking great and had no intention of stopping. The rain had stopped and the sun was even peeking out a bit, both of which helped raise everyone's mood.

I hung around until the roads opened up and then headed to the finish area.

WHM just a quarter mile from being done in well under six hours.
It was a blast seeing the runners, most of them for the fourth time, so close to being done with this ridiculously challenging "easy" Marathon.

A huge surprise was seeing Mrs Notthat, dressed for a summer dash, come flying in, also under the six hour cutoff!

Me, with my powerful pretend sun, in front of the state capital building. In the sunshine!

The best story of the day, however, belonged to this woman, Eilsel (not her real name). This has been a big year for her, with a number of running "firsts," and this was to be her first Marathon.

As I was at various points along the course, I kept seeing busses loaded with runners that had had enough and dropped from the race. And who could blame them? Most of these runners were used to running on dry roads in good conditions - this race had become something out of an episode of Survivor. Nire (not her real name) told me that there were more "creek" crossings in this race than at Brazen's spring Diablo trail race. You really had to be careful since the road striping and especially the manhole covers were very slick.

I had seen Eilsel at mile 3, and while she was looking good, I could see that the conditions were taking a bit of a toll. A quick hug and she was on her way. I didn't see her though at my next two stops, and assumed she had wisely decided to say "uncle" and call it a day.

But then I talked to her squeeze and found out she was still on the course and determined to finish. I felt bad for doubting her - she's a veteran of tough trail races and is far from a road race princess. So I went out a bit and caught up to her. And then had trouble keeping up with her. The roads had been opened and the aid stations closed for about the whole last half of her race, but she had stuck with it (fortunately she had a course map, since there were no longer any markings).

And she finished (DLF!) and the CIM people were still there to give her her finisher's medal. (Click here to see a video of her finish.)

This was an amazing day. I'm sure there were a few more no shows than normal (there were 8000 registered runners and a bit over 6500 finishers, with a lot of drops a long the way), but everyone who finished this race is a certified Rock Star. I loved that I got to see so many friends finish this race - the finish area was like a party; everyone was so happy to see some blue sky and sunshine after such a grueling morning.

The most amazing thing though was that, once we got home, I mentioned to Mrs WHM that the Way Too Cool lottery was opening and I wasn't sure I wanted to put my name in. And she said she wanted to put her name in too.

She swears she is done with road Marathons (I don't believe her since I know she has her eyes on the 2014 San Francisco Marathon), but is open to some trail ones, which is very exciting.

Which also means I need to up my game. Yikes!

That's it - move along...

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.