Thursday, January 3, 2013
Brazen Racing's New Years Eve Half Marathon Review
The morning was cold and wet with a fresh batch of rain tappering off around 6am. The trails have been marinating in cloud sweat for weeks now. Just as they start to dry out it rains again. Lately it has been raining almost daily so the trails are at maximum water log capacity. Each step is a splash of mud. The only variable is how far your foot sinks in. Discerning the firm ground from the quicksand is a combo of luck & skill for sure.
The race started out on a bike path for the first mile or so which was nice. We started far enough in the back so that when we crossed the start line we were barely moving above a walk pace. Fine by me. Tom asked me about the course and what I knew of it. I studied the elevation chart a few times and remembered that this course had 1750' ft +/- of elevation gain. Tom asked where the peak of the climbing was and I knew what he meant. The high point that marks the spot where it is more downhill then uphill to the finish. "This course is not like that" I said. "The bulk of our climbing is going to be steep and early and we're gonna hit it in about a mile" I told him. "Once we reached the top of the first major climbing section you can expect the course to roll along for the middle 5 miles or so." Turns out a couple of small steep sections are hidden up there that I had not counted on but they were short lived. "The downhill lasts for quite a few miles at the end until it finally flattens out for the last mile or so. That's what you gotta stay conservative for or else that much downhill will pound the crap out of your quads" I advised. He nodded in agreement as we turned our early trot pace into a slow jog. The crowd opened up fairly quickly allowing me to run the pace I wanted and by the time we were a mile into it we were off road and I was averaging 8 minute pace. I have no idea at what point Tom and I got seperated. I wasn't looking around or thinking of anything other than the task at hand. I was focused, running strong and trying to walk that fine line between conservative and too slow. Aid station #1 was blown by like it didnt exist around mile 2 just before the monster climbing started. I was able to snag a GU gel out of a volunteers hand as I flew by. I tore it open and started in on it as the walking started. This early climbing brought on some of the only walking I did the entire day. Most people walked it accept for one tiny little girl I took note of. She was trotting her way up the hill just barely faster than the walkers but expending a tremendous amount of energy. This climbing comes in three distinct sections where it feels like you rise and level off three distinct times although it does not appear that way on elevation charts. The hill was slick with mud and searching for the best way up with the least foot slippage was a task all unto itself. The flat spots were short jogs that did not last long enough to fool me into thinking I was at the top already. By the time I got to what I thought was the top and started jogging I was spent and gratefull to be jogging rather than stair stepping up that mud wall. Activating a different set of muscles by switching from walking to jogging was all I needed to quickly get back to a decent running pace.
The race continued on for a few more miles and I picked off a few more runners but I think they were from the hikers division. I had hoped for a finish somewhere near the 2 hour mark given the elevation and winter conditions and I did just that. My finish was 37th place out of 325 and 4th in my age group. I was 4 minutes behind the 3rd place guy in my age group. Perhaps if I had known that I could have challenged him for 3rd place but as it was I did my best and am very satisfied with a 2:03:50 finish time. Eventually Mary and Tom's wife came back to the finish area and found me and moments later Tom came flyin by headed for the finish line. We immediately headed for warmer and dryer conditions, Chipotle! There's nothing like a big burrito bowl after a hard run.
Overall it was a great race and I have no complaints as is the norm when it comes to a Brazen Racing event. These folks know how to put on a race and they always have great courses that challenge even the most seasoned runners. My next race is in late January and it's another Brazen event. I wouldn't do so many events with these guys if they did a horrible job at putting on races because we are blessed in the bay area to have a choice between 2 or 3 races every weekend. If you ever wanted to try trail racing I would highly recommend a Brazen Racing event.
See you in the woods,