Friday, March 21, 2014

Badger Cove race report 2014

Badger Cove is part of the "Ultra Series"
This is race number 4  out of 13 in Brazen Racing's Ultra Half Series. When I realized that 10 races' remained and 5 were required to qualify for the championship race I felt like I needed to get going on this 2014 goal. Ever since running the Drag-N-Fly half and  Rocky Ridge half in 2012 I have wanted to take a crack at the series. Not that I have a chance at a podium but just for the challenge of the runs and to find out how well I could do over a cumulative series. I'm hoping to finish in the top 10 of the series. What is an Ultra Half Marathon? According to the Brazen website its a little longer than 13.1 miles but according to the website "What really makes them "ultra", however is the serious ascents and descents and variety of tough trails you have to run to finish them." Sounds perfect to me!

Badger Cove 2014 early in the morning.
Badger Cove takes place at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore. It's a long drive from just about anywhere but well worth the trip. When I stepped out of my truck at 7:15 in the morning I could see the tents in the distance and hear bagpipe rock music pumping from some speakers. That'll pump you up like a scene from Braveheart! I quickly signed my waiver and traded it for a race bib. The line for the porto-pottys was fast because Brazen brought in quite a few. Love it!

 Right after getting settled in I ran into Jennifer and Julianne from the Dethrone Distance Runners group in the Peninsula. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out Jennifer was running the half while Julianne was running the 10k. They are both strong runners. I ran the Crystal Springs Half with Julianne back in the fall and about that same time Jennifer was crushing my half PR. I intended to race this to my best ability and I'm not certain that will be enough to beat Jennifer. Perhaps I can pace off her and get pulled into a faster time.

Badger Cove has 2250' ft of elevation gain.
 Jennifer & I walked to the back of  what would be the lead pack and waited for the 8 am gun, which went off right on the dot according to my watch. We shot out at a fast pace. The course starts on pavement and switches to dirt about a quarter mile or so into the run. The first 2 miles roll over some decent little hills so we bounced between 7:30 & 8:30 pace. Just as I thought, Jennifer flew past me in less than a mile of this race. I figured somewhere down the trail I'll hook in behind her and see if I could keep pace. The next mile and a half is really steep. So steep that I was forced to walk the first really big hill. I didn't think it was smart to put out too much effort in the first of what will be two laps up & down this hill. 50 yards ahead of me Jennifer had the same strategy. I power hiked to get up next to her and soon after we crested this brutal beast. We started running again and within minutes we were climbing, but not as steep this time. I kept running this time and gained back some lost ground on the runners I started out with.

Badger Cove course map
 At about 3.5 miles you come into aid station #2. Aid station #1 was at the 1 mile mark but nobody stopped. I certainly didn't nor did I stop at aid station #2. About a half mile later the course splits left for an out & back section that drops for a half mile and climbs for another half mile. I hit the turn around and running straight back down the trail I had just traveled revealed the 2 minute lead I had over Jennifer. We high five'd  as I was headed back to the big loop once again. Shortly after rejoining the main loop the course turns downhill sharply. The hill was so steep that people were standing sideways and side stepping to get down the slope. The best I could manage was a hyper fast stutter hop that nearly had me flipping end over end. The climb back up is short but by far the steepest of the entire run. For the 2nd time I was forced to walk. A few people could not make it to the top without stopping and standing still for a moment. This was a quad burner that rivals your worst nightmare. Another bomb downhill to grind your quads into hamburger and you are back at the mile 1 aid station and about to start loop #2.

 The aid station was jam packed with runners from all distances and I didn't want it to slow me down so I ran on by. I turned right and the 10k runners turned left heading for the finish. The 2nd loop is basically flat for the first mile and then the all to familiar climbing begins again. I tried to bob and weave around the other runners for that first mile to take advantage of the flat. When the trail splits and starts to climb the 5k runners turn around.

Having just run this loop I knew what to expect and I knew when to push it and when to conserve. This meant I ran more and walked less. I was hoping for a sub 2 hour finish but as I started the climbing my average pace was 9:30 and I knew I wasn't running a negative split so sub 2 is out. Once again I walked a bit of the first big hill and then ran past aid station #2. I felt strong going through the out and back which again revealed that Jennifer was still just 2 minutes back. The crazy downhill from earlier had almost everybody walking down it this time around. I tried to do some short choppy hops that seemed to get me down fairly fast and again I felt like I could topple end over end. The crazy steep uphill on the other side was unbearable. I stopped about half way up and just stood their for a moment trying to build up some strength. It dawned on me that it is rare for a hill to be so steep that you have to take a breather half way up! This course deserves the "Ultra" title for sure.

I knew that was the last significant climb and at the bottom of the next section I would turn left at the aid station and head for the finish just like the 10k runners had done earlier. I turned up what little power output I could muster and bombed down the last hill. The last mile back to the finish is fairly flat with some very slight rises in the terrain that felt much worse then what they really were. When I exited the dirt fire road and got back onto the paved section I knew I was very close. I could here the announcer in the background calling out the names of the runners in front of me. That seemed to go on for about 14 weeks until it was finally my turn to be announced and cross the quit line.

 The results of the race are published here. I came in at 2:11:02 which was 10th in my age group and 79th overall out of 279 finishers. Big props to Nick Scalfone (1:22:55) and Andrea Kramer (1:44:08) for taking the Men's & Women's overall. Nick's time is absolutely unimaginable. It is a new course record and one that will likely stand for a very long time. That is a road half marathon time not an ultra trail half time. I also want to give a shout out to a stand out runner I kept seeing all morning long, Sharlet Gilbert. She was the first place winner in the female 60- 64 age group with a blistering fast 1:55:31. That's absolutely my goal in life! To pull fast times regardless of age. So inspirational!!!!

The Ultra Series is ranked according to average time back. In this race I came in about 48 minutes behind the winner. My next race in the series will be the Diablo Trails Challenge and my time back on that one will be averaged against this one and so on and so on until I get the best average time back of 5 races in the series. I'm hoping to decrease that average obviously but Diablo is suppose to be even more challenging than this one so who knows.