Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Honey Badger Half Marathon this weekendat China Camp State Park

A FB post from Matt Forsman, Race Director for Sasquatch Racing:

We're a mere FOUR days away from blazing the trails at China Camp State Park at San Rafael with Honey Badger! Have you signed up yet? If not, do so soon......we're perilously close to capacity for the race!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brazen's Ultra Half Series offers up more prize money in 2015.

New Prize Money in the 2015 Masters Division

Brazen Racing just recently wrapped up the 2014 Ultra Half Series and two weeks later started in on the 2015 series. In between those two events they announced a new sponsor for 2015, Aerobic Monster Coaching. With their support the prize purse has been increased to $10,500. That is $1000, $500 and $250 for both Male and Female overall winners. It also means a new Masters (40+) division and 1st, 2nd and 3rd in those categories will receive the same $1000, $500 and $250, just like the regular series.

 The series is growing in scope as well. In 2014 Brazen took over the management of the quad crushing Double Dipsea Race from the Dolphin South End Runners, the oldest Bay Area running group and one of the oldest running groups in the United States. The Double Dipsea is a perfect fit for the Ultra Half Series as it is a little longer than a half marathon and much more difficult than a regular race. Brazen also added a 2nd run at Mt Diablo called the Trail Adventure Half in November. The Tarantula Run, originally managed by the Contra Costa Water District, is now under Brazen's management and is also a part of the Ultra Half Series. 

 That brings the total to 16 races in the series but you only have to run 5 of them and the Championship race at Rocky Ridge to be a finisher. 

 For those who are unfamiliar with this series the scoring is based on your cumulative time back. The series winner will be that runner with the lowest "time back" for their five best races, plus the Rocky Ridge Half Marathon. "Time back" is the amount of time a runner is behind the overall male or female winner. The lower the total amount of time, the higher the runner will rank. The winner of each race will have the lowest "time back" for that race, which is 0.

Monday, October 20, 2014

November 2014 Trail Racing Calendar for the San Francisco Bay Area

Saturday, November 1st

Sunday, November 2nd

Saturday, November 8th

Saturday, November 15th

Thursday, November 27th

  • Nitro Turkey- 10k, 5k, Little Turkey's Race- Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Pinole
  • Zoom Turkey Trot- 5k, 10k, Half Marathon- Hellyer County Park , San Jose

Saturday, November 29th

  • Quarry Turkey- 5k, 10k, Half & Little Turkey's Race- Quarry Lake Recreational Area, Fremont
  • Quad Dipsea- Mill Valley SOLD OUT!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rocky Ridge Ultra Half Marathon Championship 2014 race report

Starting arch for the Rocky Ridge
Brazen Racing's Rocky Ridge Championship was held on Saturday, October 4th  at the Las Trampas Wilderness on the outskirts of San Ramon. Up for grabs was $1,000 for 1st Place, $500 for 2nd place and $250 for 3rd place. Rocky Ridge is also the Championship Race for the Ultra Half Marathon Series that has been taking place all year long. The podium in the series also has $1,000, $500 & $250 cash prizes and if you are lucky enough to take a podium on the day and in the final series standings you walk with both checks! That makes it a possible $2k payday for the top 4 guys in the series Nick Scalfone, Harlan Lopez (+3:43), Lon Freeman (+3:53) & Selvin Henriquez (+4:53). Three of these four will definitely walk with the Ultra Series money but they will most certainly be challenged for the regular championship money by the top talent that always shows up. Guys like Leor Pantilat, Galen Burrel, Alex Varner & Sergio Reyes show up on race day and set course records not to mention earning a nice payday!

Hilarious picture from Not THAT Lucas's blog

#45 rockin the devil horns
 One of the first articles I ever wrote (and it shows) was on the Rocky Ridge 2012, my first exposure to the race. The course is widely accepted as the most difficult half marathon in all of the Bay Area with 4,000 feet of climbing and a slightly longer 13.7 miles. When I ran this race I could not believe it was as difficult as it was. I distinctly remember being under educated on the course elevation profile so that when the third big climb of the day came late in the race I did an insane giggle as I walked up the massive incline ahead of me all the while thinking about the sadistic mind of the person who designed this route. Since writing that article I've written about a lot of tough courses on this blog because I have an affinity for them but this race stands in a league of it's own. This race is the mile for mile toughest race in the Bay Area.

 The course record is held by Team Nike Trail Elite runner Alex Varner at 1:33:27. My first and only time running this course yielded a 2:46:40 which was 9th in my age group. I'm hoping to beat that time but I have my doubts going into the race because of the extreme weather differences. In 2012 it was very cool, foggy, misty and almost rainy at the top of the ridge. Today is likely to break heat records at the forecasted 95°.

I arrived at the race at 7am. There is not a lot of parking available at Las Trampas so if you have kids like me you will want to get there early. If its all the same to you then park near the corner of Bollinger Canyon & Crow Canyon and take the shuttle. Bib pick up was quick & easy but the porto potty lines were long. For a race of this magnitude I would suggest a few more. My wife, toddler son and our tiny Maltese Billy all came along this morning to cheer me on. They got themselves set up with chairs and toys and such as I made my way over to the starting corral. After a roaring rendition of Happy Birthday for Frank the Tank on his 80th birthday we got a few race announcements of the usual sort from Sam and the countdown commenced.

I started in the mid pack with the goal of running very conservatively for the first flat section so that I could run the first big climb rather than walk it like I know most will. My plan worked and about half way up that first big beast runners started walking and I passed on by. It was a tough climb but not so bad that it wasn't worth the energy expense. On the other side you have a quick drop and a rise and then it is all down hill (sort of ) for the next 4 miles or so. My downhill seemed to be in good condition, lucky for me. Sometimes you can't take all that body weight loading up on your quad so you lean back and slow down. But if your legs feel solid like petrified tree stumps then you can mash downhill at wicked speeds so long as you don't out run your feet and eat rocks. I flew past aid station #1 around the 3 mile mark and kept up a fairly decent pace all the way to the bottom of this downhill stretch where aid station #2 was setup.

 I did a quick bottle refill and grabbed a GU since I had already eaten the Sports Beans I had brought. I did a slow jog out of that aid station as I tore the GU package open and took a taste. Immediately my stomach went sour so I put my refuel plans on hold. Some of the steepest sections of the course are here between miles 6 and 8.5. Most of it can not be run and as you climb higher and higher into the sky the trail turns steeper and steeper until forward motion becomes really tough. About half way up this climb I took a big squeeze of that GU pack I had been holding and my stomach protested even louder than before. I spit out the GU and tried like hell not to vomit. I didn't let loose but I did start weaving back and forth like a drunk and for a moment I thought I might pass out. The sun was blasting down on us by this point and I was in a bad place. This is where I started to see people standing and sitting on the side of the trail looking absolutely vacant and well overcooked. I was about to be one of them. Passers-by would ask the weary "you okay?" and inevitably they would half-heartedly murmur "all good" or something like that but I never saw them rejoin the hiking procession up the hill. Accept one particularly fit looking female who had been killing it all day long. She passed me by early in the race and was cranking out some energy the last time I saw her. Now she's on the side of the trail looking like death. I passed by and asked if her and the guy next to her were okay and she immediately fell in line behind me as the guy stayed put and answered "all good!" in a much to cheerful voice. This particular section has a double top summit that will break your spirit. When you finally break over what you think is the summit and start heading downhill it doesn't last much more than a quarter mile or so and then turns back uphill sharply. This is just heartbreaking but the upside is that the climb is only 1/2 mile long and then the real descent starts. I felt better in my stomach by the time I got to the top and I could not wait to get to a trash can to throw away that GU packet.

 The downhill between 8.5 miles and 9.5 miles is some of the steepest quad shredding descents of the day. Too bad I couldn't let my legs go like earlier.  They were just to beat up and so I had to do a shuffling hopping kind of gait to get down the hill. At the bottom is a short rolling hill section that ends at an aid station.

I quickly refilled my bottles at this aid station but decided not to grab any more sugar products. This aid station marks the beginning of the long paved path to the top of rocky ridge. From points all along the bottom of this very steep incline you can see your final destination way off in the distance with tiny little people marching along high into the sky. I was absolutely sure their was no way I was going to be able to walk up this hill. Nobody had the legs to run it and most people, myself included struggled just to slowly walk to the top of this ridge. One creative fellow walked a zig zag pattern back & forth on the paved path to lessen the steepness of the climb even though he increased his distance by a mile or more. When you finally reach that tiny place way up in the sky that you've been aiming at for the past half hour, the course levels off and you stay up on that ridge for about a mile and a half. This is the most welcome relief I have ever felt in a race. It is not exactly flat but the hills are manageable up there and around half way across the ridge, just after the 11 mile marker is the final aid station.

I came into this last aid station running on fumes. It is 2.7 miles to the finish and almost all downhill from here. I refilled my bottles and took a big sponge on the head and walked out of this aid station with another runner I had seen many times throughout the year, Jason Ngai. I met Jason at Wildcat and ever since then I have noticed that we always finish relatively close to one another. He has won a few and I have won a few. Now we are in the finale walking out of the last aid station together and neither of us look like we want to run up this little hill we were starting out on. Once we crested that hill the race was on. I opened up my stride on the downhill and gained ground on the few runners I could see up ahead of me. The course had another brief but steep uphill that most seemed to be walking. I didn't walk it. My strategy was to push hard and see who followed. Nobody ran up with me and I got right on the heels of two other guys in front of me. The course turned down sharply and I hammered it the best I could to gain some distance on the group behind me. When the course turned up again it was sharp and once again we were all forced to walk. I reached the top still holding my lead on the few guys I had just passed. It was all downhill from here but I was exhausted. I had nothing left. I tried running scared knowing that quite a few guys were just a few seconds behind but I couldn't do it. My quads couldn't take the massive pounding that would be required on a steep hill like this. I had to shuffle and break down the hill and yet try to go as fast as possible. Just as the hill began to bottom out I heard a runner say to me "Come on lets run it in!!!" Immediately I got hit with a surge of adrenaline that resulted in the fastest 50 yard sprint I have ever run and just edging out the mystery voice runner. We high five'd and both said "That was awesome!!!" as we came through the back end of the finish area. That surge of energy flipped my stomach and I aimed for the fence line immediately. I lost what little I had in me and then within a few minutes felt fine enough to go find my family.

 Just when I spun around my wife and son were coming up to congratulate me on such  a dramatic finish. I made my way over to a chair my wife had set up and within a few minutes I chatted with the mystery runner who turned out to be Steve Long. Steve said he had been tracking me for a while and "was able to pass all of those guys but you. I could have passed you at the finish but that didn't seem right so I warned you." That was super cool of him and I told him so. He certainly didn't have to warn me and I think it speaks volumes about the trail community when runners show each other some sportsmanship like this. My wife was kind enough to grab me an It's It ice cream sandwich and a water bottle refill. So I sat and regathered my marbles for a bit as I waited for the results pages to be updated on the display boards.

My finishing time was 3:00:22. Almost 14 minutes slower than my 2012 time. Overall I finished 72nd out of 198 finishers. That is 13th in my age group out of 33. The overall winner was David Roche at 1:39:51 which gave me a time back of 1:20:30. Even though I did not beat my 2012 time and I finished well behind the winner I somehow managed to move up in the Series Final Standings from 31st place to 24th out of 68 finishers. Not exactly the results I hoped for but given the effort I put into all of this I am happy just to have finished as well as I did. I don't know if I'm going to do this again in 2015 (the season starts this Saturday with the Tarantula Run) as I have my eyes set on a few road marathons and perhaps a step up to the 50 mile? Not sure about that one yet. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Halloween themed runs across the Bay Area

People run in costumes all year round. I've seen girls were tutu skirts and fairy wings without a holiday to celebrate at almost every single race I have ever entered. The pink gorilla runs Bay to Breakers every year and Brazen Racing seems to have attracted some kind of "troll" type character that shows up to all of the races. Why do these people do it? I suppose we will find out in about 4 weeks when all of the Halloween themed runs come around and we get all dressed up to join in the fun. Perhaps those of us who choose not to wear costumes on a regular basis will realize what fun we have been missing out on with all of our seriousness wrapped up in singlets and split seams. Halloween may open up the flood gates of costumed runners and the ubiquitous pink gorilla might suddenly cease to be such a stand out! Who knows what all of this costumed running will lead to, if anything? Only way to find out is to grab a good get-up and sign up for one of these races coming up. Perhaps you will love it and you may become known as "The Hunchback of San Francisco", who shows up to every race!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Drag-N-Fly half marathon race report 2014

Brazen Racing has some interestingly named races that all tie into their respective event site in one way or another. Drag-N-Fly's connection to the event remains a mystery to me. I heard one person say it was meant to describe the course where you drag your ass up one side and fly down the other side. Over and over again. My wife saw a few Dragonfly's out on the course and thought that might be it. Perhaps. But I think they got creative with the initials D.N.F. because they knew the course was crazy.
 This race is said to have 3000' ft of elevation gain over 13.5 miles worth of very exposed trails during the bay areas warmest time of year. I know people who have attempted this race without really being aware of how tough it was and ended up dropping. In 2012, just a week before I started, my wife and I ran this race unaware of it's difficult reputation. I remember finishing in 2:33:00 and being absolutely trashed. Ever since then I have spoke of  it as a"top 5 toughest races I have ever run" and that includes 50k's and marathons.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Attention Trail Runners: We need your help with a very worthy cause.

If you are from the south bay or are an avid trail runner chances are you have heard of (Troys California Trail Runs) because of their massively popular races that are held down that way. TCT holds races all over Northern California but a good portion of those runs are located in the greater San Jose area parks. TCT has a race coming up next month being held at the Almaden Quicksilver Park that is appropriately named "Well Water for Africa Adventure Race". In road racing it is very common for races to benefit designated charities but you don't see that as much in the trail racing and this is our chance to run one for a cause.