Thursday, September 26, 2013

The moonlight was perfect for running

Two years ago, I ran the Palo Alto Moonlight 10K race and had the thrill of running through a renegade lightning storm.

This year I talked Mrs Notthat into running it with me. And the forecast was again talking about possible showers and renegade lightning storms.

The race headquarters is on a baseball field with lots of balloons and the staple of trail races: a rock climbing wall.

The 10K course is mostly a loop and mostly on trails, although about a third of the trails are paved. (You start and finish on city streets though.)

The race starts at 8 PM when it is good and dark.

At the start, waiting to head out.
Lots of runners were wearing glowing bracelets and such, but Mrs Notthat stole the show with her halo of bright purple lights. I was surprised at how many runners had no headlamps - about a quarter of the course is lit with street lights, but once you turn towards the bay and the more remote trails, it gets pretty dark.

There was a bright moon though, and it seemed to have a knack for avoiding the clouds. Between the moon and the smooth trails (even the dirt ones), you could actually do fairly well without a light.

But I get few chances to run with a light, so I was determined to use it.

A complete surprise was finding out that my arch-nemesis, Yram (not her real name), was also running this race. She started fast, but I managed to catch her a bit before the two mile point. We ran together for a bit before I slowly started pulling away.

One fun thing about this race is that they somehow get a bunch of kids to yell and cheer and high-five the runners at several points around the course - I feed off this stuff and love it! This group was cheering at the point where we finally got to turn towards the bay and run away from the freeway we had been running along for about a mile.

At about the half way point, there was a water station with more absurdly perky volunteers. There were several times along the dark bits of the course that there were generators powering ridiculously bright lights - the thought was nice but it was really harsh to transition from the dark to the very bright and back again.

These were the mile markers (they actually looked much cooler than this picture shows).

The thing about a 10K is that it's only a bit over six miles long, and before I knew it, my race was done.

Shortly after I finished I heard them announce that Coach Wel (not his real name) was storming towards the finish line - I turned around and managed to get this shot of his finish. I had no idea he was running this, or how close he was to me!

The next big goal was cheering Yram into the finish. Mrs Notthat (who had finished significantly ahead of me, as usual) was still sporting her purple halo while she waited.

We didn't have to wait long before she came in though. It was a near thing but I managed to beat my arch-nemesis!

This race is a LOT of fun. There were about 800 10K finishers (there were two other 5K races, on mostly different trails, which meant that there were around 2000 people running altogether). We all got a very nice long-sleeved shirt (I wore those glowing things around my ankles).

Mrs Notthat and I were running a much tougher 10K the next morning (Brazen Drag n Fly) and each vowed to take this race easy to save something for the next day. I don't think either of us held to that very well, although my time turned out to be about 20 seconds slower than in 2011.

In the end, we had no lightning, showers, or werewolves to deal with.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More of a pork roast than trail hog

Mrs Notthat and I signed up for the Brazen Trail Hog Half Marathon. I was hoping to redeem myself from last year's inglorious finish, and Mrs Notthat needed this for her fourth Ultra Half in the Brazen Ultra Half series.

On game day though, both of our bodies were rebelling against us. Mrs Notthat had been fighting a weird summer cold sort of thing for the last few days and was far from top form. I woke up with a surprise pain in my lower back.

There is a point at about mile 5 where you can say "uncle" and turn your Half into a 10K, so we both decided to take a shot at the Half knowing that we had an out if things got rough.

Photo by Brazen volunteer Ettedanreb (not her real name).
Last year I wore that snout like that for the whole Half. This year I decided that that was a really bad idea. (Mrs Notthat came up with the idea of wearing it up with the frogs on my hat, which worked fine.)

I received my "I believe in the Blerch" shirt from The Oatmeal the day before this race. I know you aren't supposed to wear something new on race day, but I had to make this exception. (It was great! And there was at least one other person wearing one!)

The trails were very dusty. The temperature was pleasant when the race started, but it was very clear which meant it was going to warm up a LOT soon though.

This is the first aid station at mile 2.2. We spent most of those first two miles climbing a mild hill.

As a complete surprise, I found myself passing Weird Haired Mom! It's been a while since I've beaten her in a race - this should be great!

Aid station number two was at mile 4.1. This aid station was special since it had ice (YAY!) and we would see it a second time much later on. Ettedanreb was taking pictures as we came in. Following are the pictures she took of Mrs Notthat and I.

That guy is NOT happy Mrs Notthat is about to pass him.
Note the snout safely (and comfortably) up on the hat. I kept forgetting about it though when I went to dunk the hat at the aid stations.

A few miles out of that aid station and I was surprised to see Mrs Notthat was not too far ahead of me. Her cold was fighting her and she was having to go much slower than normal.

Most of the course is pretty exposed - primarily dusty fire roads - but this fun stretch made up for most of that.

The third aid station, about mile 8.6, had a cutoff. We managed to beat the cutoff by nearly an hour!

An alert runner spotted this tarantula crossing the trail. By the time I got to him, he was nearly to the grass and was rapidly becoming difficult to spot. He was about the size of a baseball. He did not have a bib on.

Not too long after the spider I managed to catch up to and pass Mrs Notthat and Ahtreb (not her real name). By now it was getting seriously hot. Mrs swears the heat doesn't affect her, and I believe her, but the cold definitely was. These two would pass me while I dawdled at the next aid station, but I would pass them back and end up beating both!

This is me dawdling. Getting a sponge with icy water squeezed over your head is an amazing rush when it's that hot out (mid 90s by now). This was that second aid station, but now at mile 11.1. For a normal Half that would mean there were two miles left. But this is Brazen, and they don't do many normal Half Marathons, so I still had nearly 2.5 miles to go.

With about a mile to go, I heard WHM calling out, trying to get me to stop and take more pictures.

I tried to pick up the pace a bit but it was hopeless - shortly she flew by me and ended up beating me by several minutes.

The finish line. I beat last year's time by about ten minutes. The better news was that I was feeling a lot better than I did at the end of last year. At least until I sat down and gave my back a chance to stiffen up a bit (It had not even vaguely bothered me during the race, but post-race it was not very perky).

Shortly after I finished, these two came storming in.

The great story of the day was this newly minted Half Marathoner - Amme (not her real name, being trailed by her mom Hteb, not her real name either) managed to beat the heat and the cutoff and get Amme's first Half Marathon done! So cool!

I'm pretty sure there is no believable way to explain this picture. (Note that Chewie [her real name] is being carried in that kangaroo pack that The Endorphin Dude is wearing. Chewie is the only normal one in this picture.)

And that's about it. The race was very hot, but it was a lot of fun. I would have loved having more shots at ice along the course, but other than that, everything went very well.

Other than the lack of any actual trail hogs.

Picture by Ettedanreb (of course).
Actually, not that long after I left that last aid station, this pack of wild pigs were spotted near there. I think the smell of gummy bears and GU was too much for them to resist.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Zooming at Vasona

On Labor Day, Mrs Notthat and I ran the Zoom Vasona Lake Half Marathon. This is a double out-and-back course that spends a lot of time on the paved Los Gatos Creek Trail, but also includes a fun romp over St Joseph's Hill.

"I'll let you play with this if you'll turn in your bib." Baby Coastal cracks me up!
It was delightfully cloudy but also very humid at the start.

The race has two distances: 5M and Half Marathon. The course starts with a quick dash out 2.5 miles to a turnaround.

The trail is actually pretty scenic in places. It's not quite flat, but the rolling hills are easy to deal with. While the trail is paved, there are large stretches of it that have dirt shoulders you can run on.

This is Mrs Notthat heading back from the 2.5 mile turnaround. I have no idea why she is so perky. (She spent the first part of this race trying to keep her heart rate in the aerobic range. That meant I was able to keep her in sight for a large part of the race.)

The first aid station and turnaround. Mile 2.4.
Baby Coastal tries to tackle me.
Once you get back to the general starting area, the 5M runners turn left and are done. The Half runners get their second aid station and head out on the second out-and-back leg of the course. Note that Mrs Notthat is not that far ahead of me.

Mrs Coastal was taking pictures at this point. Let's see how Mrs Notthat and I were looking:

Sheesh. I guess I need to start drinking coffee too.
YIKES! I've only gone about 5 miles! No wonder Baby Coastal tried to tackle me!

At about mile 6.5 we hit our third aid station!

Hi Acceber (not your real name)!
About a mile or so past that aid station you leave the pavement and start on the best bit of this course - a mix of hill-infested single-track and dirt fire roads. It was at about this point that it started lightly raining on us. As if the humidity hadn't made me wet enough…

You spend a lot of time climbing to the top of St Joseph's Hill, then you get to cruise down to Lexington Dam and the turnaround. As soon as Mrs Notthat hit the downhill, she decided to ignore the heart rate monitor and took off. Here she is heading back up that hill while I try not to fall before I get to the turnaround.

The turnaround was the fourth aid station, and was at mile 8.9 (WAY over halfway!) After I turned around, I never saw Mrs Notthat again - there was too much fun downhill to run (at least once you got back up that hill).

I love how this bridge is decorated by local school kids!
At the end of the dirt, you go over this fun bridge to get back on the main trail.

At mile 11.3 I was back at this aid station - the fifth aid station on this course! They were happy to see me since it meant there couldn't be too many more runners to wait for.

I paused on the way back to sweat a bit on Tom's Memorial San Jose Fit bench. I always spend a moment here and reflect on how far I've come.

Then I go behind it and drool over his Western States 100 belt buckle.

The rest of the way back was uneventful, other than getting to watch this train go by.

Baby Coastal giving me a high five. He was as stunned as I was.
Amazingly, not only did I manage to finish, but I actually finished in less than three hours!

The finish line buffet!

The medal and shirt were awesome. A huge thanks to all the volunteers and everyone that worked so hard to put on this race.

This race is always a lot of fun. It's hard enough that you know you did something, but not so hard that you spend the rest of the day limping around.

Well, actually, I did quite a bit of limping. But not as much as normal. Probably.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.