Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bad Bass 2014 race recap

Race #5 for me in Brazen Racings Ultra Half Series was the Bad Bass at Lake Chabot in sunny Castro Valley this past Saturday. Up to this point I am in 41st place in the series with an average time back of 57:40. That means I am finishing these races, on average, 57 minutes behind the 1st place finisher. I would like to bring that down (obviously) and this race might be the one to do that with. I say that because of all of the races in the series so far I think this one is the most runnable with the least amount of steep vert. My goal for this race is sub 2 hour for 2 reasons. First of all that time will only be about 30 minutes behind the leader based on previous race results. My second reason is because I ran this course on New Years Eve 2012 and got a 2:03:00, just missing the highly coveted sub 2 hour mark. I want revenge on that shortcoming!

Lake Chabot on a hot July morning
The morning stated out on the warm side and the temps went up from there. The official forecast for the day was a high of 83 and a low of 62 but it felt a lot hotter on the exposed trails. The half marathon started promptly at 8am and the 10k and 5k races started a half hour later. My previous knowledge of the course reminded me that the first mile and a half to two miles are on paved paths that have a bit of a roll to them. Then comes the climbing. The race director warned us in the pre-race announcements of the hill at the 3 mile marker but forgot about the warm up hill at mile 2 that is much harder than it appears to be on paper. The race director also said that there was nothing like that 3 mile climb anywhere else out on the course " won't it be nice to get most of your hard climbing out of the way early in the race?" No. I remember it differently and the elevation chart confirms it. Around mile 8 a climb begins that may not be as steep or as long but being in the second half of the race with tired legs I can assure you, it is plenty tough. I knew not to celebrate until the downhill around mile 9 and once I start seeing the lake on my left and the trail turns back to paved path, that's when you are in the final stretch of the race. Throw down everything you have left in the tank!
1790' that feels like 2500'

I'm in the center with the black & white visor trying to hustle!
My game plan was set, the air horn blasted off in concert with the ever present Celtic marching music and I shot out at a brisk pace to take full advantage of this easy running in the beginning. I averaged 7:20 pace for the paved path section which for me is the top end of my sustainable running. I noticed a group of guys around me that all seemed to be around my age and all of us having roughly the same pace. The remarkable thing is that we stayed within seconds of each other for the entire race from start to finish! How weird, especially for a trail race. We did get passed early on by Sharlet Gilbert. She's 63 years young and smoking fast! She beat all of us by nearly 6 minutes. This is the second race I have taken notice of her passing me by effortlessly. It's the most inspirational sight to see and humbling all at the same time.

The 2 mile "small" hill and 3 mile big hill came next. My pace slowed to 10:00 pace for the first hill and became a power hiking 15:00 pace on the second hill. This is where Jason pulled ahead of the rest of us. I don't know the "rest of us's" names but I do remember Jason from the Wildcat Canyon Race. In that article I wrote  "I heard a voice say "How'd it go out there?" It was the guy I had been racing with/ against all morning. His name was Jason and what an exceptionally nice guy to talk to. He seemed filled with positive vibes and a cheerful spirit. We chatted for a bit and I congratulated him on beating me and he informed me that I actually beat him. I had no idea but I guess at some point I went past and bested him by just a few minutes. That's awesome but it does not prove anything. I'm convinced Jason is the better runner just based on his uphill performance. I could get him on a downhill maybe but he had me on the uphills all day long." As true today as it was a few months ago. He ended up beating me by 1:26. That's awesome! I was one of the last guys going up that hill from the little racing pack we unknowingly created. Those guys passed me early on the way up and it wasn't until we crested the hill that I caught back up.

 I also caught back up to a female runner (that I highly respect but will not name) coming out of the aid station atop that big hill. Unfortunately when we were 100 yds outside of the aid station she threw down her Dixie cup in the weeds on the side of the trail! I was stunned. That is trail racing etiquette #1. NO LITTERING. I wanted to say something but couldn't. I was both too afraid of being offensive and too shocked to know how to respond properly. She ran on ahead with her speedy self and I cruised along the rolling hills averaging 8:30 to 9:00 pace for the most part. I traded places with a few of "the guys" a couple times and two of them stayed ahead of me from around mile 6 on.

I felt pretty good coming into what I knew to be the last big hill climb of the race around mile 8. I tried to keep a slow and steady pace but finally succumbed to the power hiking pace of 13:30. The two guys that were fairly close behind eventually caught up and passed me for what I thought was the last time. I was wrong. I crested that hill and began the decent back down to lake level at a very fast 7:30 pace. I passed one of the two guys who had got me on the uphill pretty quickly. A half mile later I caught up to the other guy and as I passed him I said in the most humble of tones "hey man, I'm gonna come around your left and squeeze on by. Thanks so much. Great race man, really great race!" I said this, in this way, because it felt right to give this guy some respect. He was giving it his all and he was a worthy competitor. I was certain I would beat him and I just wanted him to know I respected his efforts. I eventually made it back down to the paved bike path and I was feeling strong. I was at mile 10ish at this point and I tried to zone out and keep a steady pace for the final 3 miles. The best I could hold was 8:45 pace but that turned out to be fairly decent. The two guys that had passed me 6 miles ago were lined up one after the other and only separated by 15 seconds or so. I ended up passing them both right before the final aid station at the 12 mile mark.

Dying down the finish shoot at 7:40 pace
Normally I wouldn't stop at such a critical point in the race but I was overheating and needed the cold water these aid stations were serving up. That is another point that should be made clear about this race. I ran through twice as much water as I normally would. Between drinking and dumping it over my head I ran through 2 bottles and 4 or 5 Dixie cups worth. I stopped at 2 aid stations for a solid minute when normally I would maybe breeze through 1 aid station VERY quickly if at all. When I left this aid station I heard one of those guys coming into the area and I swallowed my heart! If they were anything like me they would see me and blow through that aid station and get right on my heels for a gut check finish. He didn't but I thought he did and I ran like hell!!!

I came out of that aid station with a purpose thinking that dude was hot on my heels. It wasn't until a slight upward corner came that gave me a peek behind me that I realized he was not a threat. I kept the fire stoked as best I could and crossed the finish line in 2:06:17. I had missed my goal by 6 minutes but I finished 8th in my age group and 46th out of 275 finishers. I was very happy with that. The winner for the men, Nick Scalfone, came in 41 minutes ahead of me at 1:25:14. That is almost exactly 1 minute away from Lon Freeman's record. The female winner, Felice Kelly came in at 1:39:31 which places her in the top 10 overall. 
Another great race put on by Brazen Racing. I think for the price you get an excellent value for your money but that price will likely increase in the future if we don't get a grip on this trail littering business. I saw 2 more Dixie cups on the paved path in the last miles of the race. Disgraceful and unacceptable. It is common (but still uncool) to throw your cup on the ground NEAR THE AID STATION at a road race but not at a trail race and NOT well away from the aid station. That's just sloppy and we all need to set a good example for those who maybe new to trail racing.

Next up for me is the Bobcat Blitz at Huddart Park in Woodside on the following weekend (8/3/14). See you out there!