Sunday, January 29, 2012

No coyotes, but glorious weather and lots of runners

Brazen's Coyote Hills trail race is very close to home, which makes it irresistible. Apparently, it is irresistible to a lot of other runners too since the 5K and 10K distances both sold out - in the end there were 1205 total finishers.

We showed up a little over an hour before the start, but were not even close to getting a close parking spot. Not a Canadian wisely showed up a LOT before us (more than two hours before race start) and not only got a close parking spot, but also captured this great picture of the sun rising over the porta-potties.

346 runners finished the Half Marathon distance, and almost all of them are in front of me here, just before the start.

After a short bit on some pavement, we veered off onto the wooden trail across the wetlands.

A large part of the course follows the water's edge. It was calm, sunny, and really nice along the water, which is not normal - not in January. Those brown hills should be a bright green by now - we are really in need of our winter rain.

There were a LOT of water fowl to look at as you cruised along the largely paved trail.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Teddy 
Mrs Notthat was well ahead of me and flying along.

Picture by Brazen volunteer Teddy
 I wasn't in last place, but I wasn't far from it.

One of the fun things about this course is a fairly long out-and-back section where you get to see the runners that are ahead of and behind you. In this case, I had hit the turnaround and was heading back out when I saw Weird Haired Mom. She looked good, but it turned out she didn't feel good. Her legs were really hurting and she ended up cutting her half short, and wisely did the 10K instead.

Yrrek (not her real name), wisely chose to do the 10K from the start. She also looked good, although she was hard to spot with nearly normal hair.

To do the Half Marathon, you do two laps around the course. At this point I'm a little over a mile from finishing my first lap. Esoj (not his real name) has nearly caught up with me, except he is on his second lap! It was humbling to get passed by a number of Half runners that finished their two laps in less time than it took me to finish my first lap. But then, if I had been faster, I wouldn't have gotten this great picture of a smiling Esoj!

If you do the 5K or 10K courses, you end up with a few gentle hills, but other than some bits of gravel and the wooden trail, it's largely like a road course (without cars). But if you do the Half course, you get a bonus reminder that you're really doing a trail race. It's not long, but it's a blast.

At the end of my first lap, I could see and hear the finish line off to the right, but knew it wasn't for me. I refilled my bottle and headed out again.

Back out on the wooden bit of trail. There were a LOT of volunteer photographers along the course - I lost track of how many times my picture was taken (I started to get a bit tired of having to keep sucking in my gut so often!).

There were three aid stations, but two of them we hit twice, making for five aid stations altogether. They were all staffed with fun volunteers and lots of food and water and laughs and cheers.

When I hit the out-and-back bit again, I wasn't sure whether I would see Mrs Notthat or not - I figured there would be a good chance she was far enough ahead of me that she was already done with it. But to my surprise and joy, she hadn't finished it and was only about 20 minutes ahead of me. And looking awesome as usual.

The other aid station we hit twice was run by the Tri-Valley Tri Club, which had a number of clever signs as you approached them. Like this one (that sadly took me a while to get).

This was my favorite.

I declared them the best aid station ever. Then they told me I had to continue another 20 feet and go around the cone. Make that the second best aid station ever. Then they offered to pace me around that cone. OK, back to best aid station ever.

Heading back out from there I came across Einre (not his real name either), who was looking good and going very steady, as normal.

This is the point where the Half course splits up. The first time through I had to veer to the left and go do that second lap. The second time through you get to veer right and end up at the finish line. I thought it would be funny to pretend to decide to do a third lap, but the kid standing in the trail looked very serious about not letting me do that, plus the Brazen Rabbit was there and I knew she'd chase me down and force me to finish. So I headed to the right and finished the race.

Here's the other thing about this area - I knew the two photographers and their dog Harlow, but somehow never realized it was them taking the pictures. I'm not at my brightest towards the end of a race. Or at the beginning, for that matter.

Pictures by Brazen Volunteer Claudine RL Co
You should be able to click the above picture to see a bigger version of it - it shows Mrs Notthat flying, just barely under control, down the hill. (The second picture is the best, with her nearly a foot in the air!) The funny bit is that Mrs made Harlow the dog a bit nervous as she charged down that hill the second time - Harlow actually barked some advice along the lines of "WATCH OUT FOR THAT SHRUB!"

Pictures by Brazen Volunteer Claudine RL Co

And then there is me, carefully placing each foot and watching for hidden rocks and roots that I have a knack of tripping over. Harlow mooned me.

Mrs Notthat ended up setting a PR, which is amazing since this is not exactly a flat course, plus it's a bit long.

I ended up finishing in under three hours, but nearly twenty minutes slower than last year (and nearly twenty minutes after Mrs Notthat). They still gave me a finisher's medal, so I was happy.

A group picture with a very nervous NAC (#148), worrying that I am doing something embarrassing while standing behind her. Of course I was - it's funny that Sirhc (on the right, not his real name) had the same idea.

Chris Bliss, who did the Hiker start, walked the course and finished strong and perky (although with sore feet).

And that's about it. It was a great event with a great shirt and medal. The course could use a few more hills and a bit less pavement, but the water views are great and the wooden trail over the wetland bits is fun (although in places the water looked dodgy). The weather was spectacularly clear and nice.

I will likely be volunteering at the next two Brazen events (Bay Breeze and Hellyer) since they are both flatter than this one (which also makes them very popular).

Which means I should be early enough to get my own sunrise over the porta-potties pictures.

That's it - move along...

PS: Here is a link to a bunch more pictures I took.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's not a sprint - it's a quarter marathon!

Late last year we found out that, for family reasons, we were going to be making a weekend trip to Marysville (or is it Linda or Olivehurst - definitely not Yuba City, I think) in the middle of January. Mrs Notthat gave me that look and didn't have to say anything; I just started looking to see what races might be happening that weekend in that area.

I'd heard of Chico (is that where the Bad News Bears played? I remember them wearing "Chico Bail Bonds" uniforms) and was thrilled to find it was less than an hour from where we would be staying in the Quad City Metroplex, because I KNEW I had to run a race named Frost or Fog. Especially if that race had the unique distance of a Quarter Marathon!

I had run a tough trail Marathon out of Woodside the previous weekend, which also made this relatively easy distance attractive.

So Friday morning we headed north for the packet pickup.

Packet pickup at Fleet Feet in downtown Chico went great, although that poster in the background was a bit humbling. I had no idea how many people would be at this race, but if that was from last year's event, I was going to be in trouble.

We woke up to frost!

And on the way to Chico we saw fog (sort of)! Frost AND Fog!

Here's the bridge from the background picture at packet pickup - it's funny how things look different in person. We will finish by crossing this bridge.

Mrs Notthat and I with our game faces on. It was quite cool (the car said 32 when we left the Quad City Metroplex area, but I think by now it was nearly up to 40.)

Mrs Notthat is trying to tell me something with this pose, but I'm not sure what it was. This is all the Quarter Marathoners lined up at the start.

This picture, from the Frost or Fog Facebook site, shows Mrs Notthat charging out while, only ten feet beyond the starting line, I've already been passed.

The course is sort of an upside down lollipop - there's a loop at the start/finish with an out-and-back stick in the middle. I expected a lot of pavement, but was thrilled to find out at least half of the course was either on dirt single-track trails or gravel roads (that in some places became quite technical to try to run on due to the rocks and such sticking up). There were some mild hills - just enough to keep it interesting. And it was pretty.

Some time was spent on these paved trails. The "Stay Left" thing really threw me - every bone in my body screamed to get on the right, but I'll take it that there are good reasons to do this.

This is the first aid station and the 5K turnaround (about mile 2). I had only been passed by about 6 or so 5K runners by the time I got here - they started 10 minutes after us. The aid stations were filled with friendly volunteers cheering you on and making sure you were hydrated.

Yes, this was pavement, but running through these trees made it all worth it.

Once on the stick part of the lollipop, I started seeing the faster Quarter Marathon runners coming back from the turnaround. And then I saw this 7-year-old flying down the course! She was SO cool and even inspired me to pick up the pace (for a little bit anyway).

And then Mrs Notthat came back past me. Perky but oddly headphoneless. (It turns out that iPods are almost magical, but you still have to charge them once in a while.)

I finally reached the turnaround and the second aid station. (I swear the volunteers must think I'm a lunatic for stopping to take their pictures like this. But they truly are stars and deserve to have their picture taken! Plus I need the rest.)

Eventually I found my way to the bridge and the finish line. There was much rejoicing that they didn't have to go looking for me.

This was a great race and a lot of fun! It was a bit of a fluke that we ended up doing it, but we are going to try for another fluke or two this summer for more of the Under the Sun events.

The course was well marked and I loved that they had mile markers. The aid stations were friendly and it turned out we had three of them for what was really an ultra 10K. There were 435 finishers between the three races (5K walking, 5K running, and Quarter Marathon).

And unlike the guy in the logo with the pink earmuffs, we managed to stay plenty warm. And the raspberry granola cake at the finish line was amazing!

That's it - move along...

PS: Here is a link to more pictures that I took.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wandering around the Bayfront Salt Ranch

A few weeks ago, Mrs Notthat and I (minus the dogs, since Kaya was still under doctor's orders to "keep calm" - ha ha ha ha) took the grandkids out to the Bayfront Park Salt Ranch to do some poking around. Mrs Notthat had brought them here before and they were anxious to see the Tire Graveyard again.

You can park so that you can get to the Salt Ranch reasonably quickly and easily, or you can park so that you have to walk a bit to get there. Naturally, we chose the latter. You have to go up a hill out of the parking lot and Grandkid Second Born, showing some spunk, ran all the way up that hill.

From where we parked, there are some reasonably direct trails to the Salt Ranch, but Mrs Notthat used her skills to make sure some bonus distance and hills were added as we meandered through the park to the shore.

This place always amazes me - the salt-encrusted shoreline looks exactly like it is ice-encrusted.

This whole area is used to harvest sea salt, with canals to let in water, which is then allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the salt. Most of these salt evaporation areas are being eliminated since the land is too attractive to developers that feel we have too few strip malls, golf courses, and condos.

I had never wandered around out this far before, and it was pretty cool.

Grandkid Second Born found a dinosaur skeleton, likely some sort of meat eater that ended up with too much sodium in its diet.

In the background you can see the hills of Bayfront Park, which is a fun little park with a lot of trails and small hills to train on. It was somewhere about this point that, weirdly, the kids started finding golfballs.

Grandkid First Born staring into the majestic depths of a salt canyon. Looking for golfballs.

As we were headed back to the car, Second Born spotted a bench to rest on. So did I. It's not my fault the bench wasn't long enough for all of us.

The pain and suffering I have to go through.

They then tried to show me how to properly share the bench. I still don't get it.

It's not like First Born was willing to share this rock.

If you live on the mid-pennisula and have never been to Bayfront Park, you should give it a shot. It's not big, and it's all built over a landfill (the kids get a kick out of it randomly belching from the many gas relief valves scattered around). There are a lot of fun rock formations and nice trails.

But we will have to go back and try harder to find the Tire Graveyard - somehow we missed it this time.

That's it - move along...