*Like almost all of Brazen’s races, the distances are the closest approximation to conventional road races. This course, we were told, was 6.61 miles.
Why I wanted to run this race:
Ever since running the Bad Bass race last year, the Gypsy Runner and I have wanted to run another Brazen race. We accrued race credits from volunteering at the Dirty Dozen Race in July, qualifying us for free registration. I also thought a trail 10K would be just the thing to motivate me to get back into shape after vacation, in case I needed a jump start. (Turns out that I didn’t, but it didn’t hurt either.) And, as with almost all of the trail races I’ve run, I’m always excited to explore new parks and trails… and what better way to do it than through a supported race?
– To run strong and not get killed by the 941 feet of elevation gain, 600+ feet of which was in the one span of ~1 mile.
– To place in my age group. I knew this was possible, since the winning times in my age group were historically within reach (10:30-11 minute/mile paces).
I woke up feeling pretty groggy, as I wasn’t used to the early race day alarm. (How quickly things change! It wasn’t that long ago when I had a race every month, if not every few weekends.) We went through our usual routine of eating breakfast, getting dressed, driving to the race, using the bathrooms, and picking up our bibs. The Gypsy Runner went to trade in his tech t-shirt for a cotton one, which I followed suit. He switched shirts because he prefers cotton; I switched because I got a bright yellow tech t-shirt that I knew that I would never wear. Fortunately, the cotton t-shirt was a dark gray v-neck in a flattering women’s cut — it’s definitely something that I’ll wear often.
By 7:45 a.m., it was already ~65 degrees and very sunny. Needless to say, I did not need my warm-up hoodie! With very little shade around, I had a feeling that this was going to one of the hotter races I’ve run in California. (I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve become completely spoiled when it comes to running weather. Seriously, I don’t know how you people in hotter climates do it.) I decided that I better run with both my hat and my sunglasses, something I don’t usually like to do. The other danger? “Gopher holes” at the start and finish areas, possibly dug by the biggest gophers no one has ever seen. Seriously — these holes/cracks were huge! We were warned to watch our step and not to roll our ankles. Now that would certainly be a horrible way to begin the race!
I ran into Mike and Katie as I was warming up. Mike was running the half marathon and Katie the 5K. With Mike’s race starting in 5-10 minutes, we didn’t have much time to chat, though they found the Gypsy Runner and got this very glamorous photo taken of them pre-race (and pre-sweat, grime, etc.):
I was intent on doing a longer warm-up than I usually do, since my experience recently has been that my first mile is super slow. Unfortunately, given the gopher holes and time limitations, I only warmed up for about 0.25 miles. Oh well, better than nothing, I guess.
Even though my goal was to place in my age group, I started out conservatively, due to the hills and the heat. About a quarter mile in, I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I must have pushed the start/stop button twice because it was not going. D’OH. This is the second race in the row where I haven’t started my Garmin on time. I didn’t have much time to fret about that, because the first big hill was just ahead. I was happy with myself that I ran through it, however slowly.
It flattened out for a short distance and then I hit the steep part of the big hill. I thought about running up to one of the turns (about halfway up), but I quickly realized that I would move much faster and expend less energy by speed hiking. I joined the lady in a blue shirt next to me as we hiked as quickly as possible, taking large steps up the hill. We exchanged (very) brief pleasantries and enjoyed the view from such great heights before she edged ahead and took a small lead as we reached the apex. I was pleasantly surprised that I was already at the downhill portion — my recollection of the elevation profile was that the hill was supposed to be much longer. Boy, was I was happy to be wrong!
Oh, so I never explained why this race is called Drag-N-Fly. It’s because your drag your butt up the hill and then you fly down. Haha. And so I began the flight down the hill, which was really fun. It’s the kind of downhill that is actually runnable, especially since I had taken to the strategy of running a tight S-curve down the steepest portions. I found that I had much better control this way, and I even managed to pass the lady in blue in this section.
Even though it was pretty challenging, I really liked this part of the course, which I think is called the Old Homestead Loop. The scenery was nice and the trails were even/level and had a thin layer of soft dust/sand. Once we hooked up with the 5K course, the trail was mostly cracked mud with less pretty scenery. The cool part was that as I came around to the end of mile 4, I could hear them announce the 4th place finisher for the 10K. It wasn’t the Gypsy Runner, and I didn’t hear his name in the top 10 before I went out of hearing distance. I wondered to myself how he did, hoping that he had finished in the top 3.
This last section was the most psychologically challenging. After the high of flying down that extended downhill, I was annoyed about the change in terrain and scenery. Disappointingly, I walked up a couple of easy hills because I felt tired. When I got to the 6 mile point, at which we crossed the Lagoon, I wanted so badly to be done. I even wished that I was doing a long, easy training run rather than this race. But I reasoned with myself that I only had half a mile to go, which meant ~5 minutes or less. I decided to keep up with the runners around me and pushed forward. When I saw the flags lining the finishing chute, I picked up my speed and tried to catch up to the woman in front of me. I almost succeeded, finishing 1 second behind her. It turned out that she was another Jen from Oakland too, which was cool. After crossing the finish line, we congratulated each other. Then, I was awarded with a finisher medal and met with congrats and high fives from the Gypsy Runner and Katie.
One of the great things about the Gypsy Runner is that he always congratulates me first and asks me how I feel. Then after I give him a briefing (let’s face it, sometimes it’s not so brief), I finally ask how he did, and inevitably, he kicked some serious butt and is super humble about it. So, when I found out that he came in at 49:52, good for third overall, I could not be happier for him. It was a tough race at the front — the first place finisher came in at 44:07, a blistering 6:40 pace, setting the new course record. In fact, there were multiple course records set that day.
Katie accomplished her goal of beating 35:00 by 2 whole seconds — 34:58 for 3.27 miles! Mike did great too, finishing the half marathon (13.56 miles, 2718′ elevation gain!!) in 2:10:54, good enough for 13th overall and 2nd in his age group. Great job everyone!
What about me, you ask? Well first, let me give you the (incomplete) Garmin stats that I have:
I was elated to find out that my time of 1:14:45 was good enough for 2nd place in my age group! Woohoo!! I was super excited because Brazen just made new age group medals that are very cool, and I was looking forward to getting the medal with two fingers (which is also my signature pose). The Gypsy Runner and I collected our medals, ate a bunch of food, and chatted with Mike and Katie.
As we walked to the car, I got a call from Katie. Apparently, there was a mix up with the first place finisher in my age group — she was actually a 5K runner, which meant that I won my age group!! I could hardly believe it, mostly because I didn’t think I ran my best race, not to mention that I finished 58th out of 160 racers. However, I felt better about my victory after I found out that there were 25 women in my age group, making it the most populous age group, and that I finished in the top 3rd of women overall. So even though I did not initially feel like I deserved to win my age group, I will now (still humbly, however) claim my victory.
About the race:
- Organizers: Brazen Racing
- Cost: 10K starts at $34 for early registration and goes up by $5 with each deadline. Tech t-shirts cost extra.
- Distance: 6.61 miles
- Parking: 2 large lots after the pay kiosk ($5). You can also park for free at the small lot near the entrance (when you first turn into the park) which is probably ~0.5-0.75 miles away from the start/finish.
- Aid stations: At ~1.75 miles and ~4.7 miles. Water and Ultima electrolyte drinks.
- Course marking: Excellent. Ribbons were clearly placed, flour markings were also very clear.
- Bathrooms: Plenty! It seemed like there were porta potties and wooden outhouse-style bathrooms everywhere you looked. Lines moved quickly.
- Swag: There was a small bag of coupons and samples to take as you wish. Medals to the first 3 finishers in each age group. No medals for overall winners.
- Misc.: I love Brazen races. They are impeccably organized with a fun atmosphere. The course was well-marked, the unofficial results were posted almost instantly (with the official results posted online in the early evening after the race), the medals and t-shirts are attractive, the food was great, and the pictures were posted online very quickly and are free to download. In a word: awesome!
Offical time: 1:14:45 (11:19/mile)