Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rocky Ridge ultra half trail race review

My race stats according to Suunto.

A view from North Eagle Peak
Brazen Racing really shows you what they are all about with this race, STEEP hills! I had never run in the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness before but I looked at the elevation profile of this 13.75 mile "ultra" half marathon and knew it was going to be very difficult. Just shy of 4000' of elevation gain. To put that in perspective you would have to run to the top of the Empire State building over 2 1/2 times to cover this much elevation gain. I've run much longer races with the same elevation gain so this shorter race is going to be very vertical.



Lookin for a last good-bye from my wife.
The day was a little on the cold side which usually makes for great running. The parking at Las Trampas is very limited and my wife wanted to sign up for the 10k when we got there so we knew we had to get their early. Brazen had coffee brewed, hot chocolate and music pumpin when we arrived. Getting Mary signed up and getting both our bibs and tech t-shirts was super easy. While waiting for the race to start we waited in the porto potty line. Clearly not enough were ordered. As the half marathon racers lined up in the corral I had to leave the slow moving line or get left behind. I hoped that the "gotta go" feeling would subside as I made my way down the trail.

The first mile was a false up and was perfect for warming up slow. I cant stand it when a race starts out climbing steep in the first 100 yds. The course started to climb at mile 1 and reached its first peak at mile 2. Spectacular views that are great on a foggy morning. The fog settles in the valleys and you run above it in the morning sun. The fog is amazing to look down on, a rare trail treat.
The next 4 miles from 2 to 6 was downhill which left you feeling pretty beat up. At the bottom the terrain turns up sharply. This the first of 2 really un-runnable climbs and this one lasts for almost 2 1/2 miles. It starts just after 6 miles, tops out and does a small drop at mile 7.5 and then shoots skyward at a steeper incline till around 8.5 miles. From this "peak" you are again looking down on thicker fog in the valleys below but you are enveloped in a light fog traveling along a narrow single track with steep drop offs left AND right. If you slipped off the trail and plunged into the fog below would you fall for 20 ft or 1000 ft? I don't know. Freaky. This was the first time I ran past a tree raining water down on the ground without rain being in the air. Fog condensates into huge drops on the leaves of a lone tree up on that ridge. Under the canopy of that tree it was like being in a steady rain and the ground turned to mud just in the canopy area of the tree. Freaky.

Rockin the uphill hike around mile 9.5
From 8.5 to 9.5 the course turns downhill sharply. It was a welcome relief but I had lost a considerable amount of strength in my legs and couldn't "let go" down the hills as I had been. I had not studied this course map or elevation chart so I figured we were far enough into this race and the last climb was hard enough and high enough that we must have a net downhill from here on out. Imagine my relief when we started descending and then my horror when just after 9.5 the elevation turned up just as it had before. This was a paved path that had my hands on my knees pushing them down as I walked bent over at the waist absolutely dying from exhaustion. This climb lasted about 1 mile and brought us back up to a very fog enshrouded  trail that traveled along a ridge for about a mile and a half.

Miles 10.5 to 12 were like running on another planet. The fog was thicker, the trail undulated less then ever and the wind blew a bit stronger. The fog condensed on everything it could and the wind made you a running rain thrower. The occasional tree rained down on it's own roots. The bill on my visor had a steady stream of water flinging off to my left. This cold environment is where the "gotta go" feeling I had hoped to get rid of reared its ugly head. I jumped off the trail 15 ft and added to the water of the native plants. A runner ran down the trail behind me moments later. He must have been 30 seconds behind me. I had no idea. He had no idea that he just passed me as I was severely obscured by the fog.

From mile 12 down the trail drops into the welcome sunshine. As the trail gets closer to the finish line it gets steeper and steeper and alot of runners, myself included, come running through the shoot at an incredible rate and run out of slow down room before having to stop abruptly. For the 3rd and most severe time of the day I held back a rebellious stomach. It happened at the first aid station when I stopped for a salt pill. The salt pill had nothing to do with it. The rapid heart beat and massive energy output coming down for a few moments took me out of my flow and made me ill for the next 5 or 10 minutes. At another aid station when I chugged too much water all at once I turned my stomach and really had to fight the urge to spew. Now at the end of the race, surrounded by delicious post race snacks I find myself unable to refuel or rehydrate for fear of what may happen.

My wife hugged me at the finish line and I immediately noticed she was wearing 2 medals and she told me she was 3rd in her age group for the 10k! That is awesome. Such an amazing accomplishment especially on a course that was so intense. We hung out at the finish line trying to take small bites of this and that and wait for the next sheet of results to be posted so I can see my stats before we go. Brazen has some of the most incredible pre and post race food offerings of any race I have run. I wanted 1 of each cake, cookie, pie, brownie, fruit, bagel etc etc that I saw.

 At the results ceremony we watched the race winners and the series winners accept their checks. For the race the male winner was Galen Burrell of Mill Valley with 1:38:49. The female winner was Hope Krause of San Francisco at 1:59:55. For the series Ivan Medina took top honors for the men and Caitlin Smith for the women. The results for when I crossed the line were posted. I came in 67th out of 171 in a time of 2:46:40. That put me 9th out of 17 in my age group. After seeing this and snapping a few pics in front of the age group winners banner we headed for home. Despite being sick to my stomach and slightly slower than what I wanted I was really happy and satisfied with my efforts, the race in general and of course my wife's amazing age group place. Brazen Racing puts on really great events and my wife and I are probably going to run the vast majority of all of their events in 2013. If you have not ran a Brazen event come out and see for yourself.