Race Recap: Brazen Summit Rock Half Marathon

For whatever reason, I haven’t really felt like recapping this race.  I think it’s because there’s not that much to say – it was a tough race but I had fun and did the best I could.  End of story.  However, there are thoughts I had during the race that I wanted to share.  So, instead of writing a traditional mile-by-mile recap, here’s a semi-random list of observations, thoughts, and lessons learned from Summit Rock:

  • The race took place only 2 days after #HellaStorm, so there was concern about trail conditions, fallen trees, etc.  Either Sanborn Park didn’t receive that much rain, OR the ground had been primed by weeks of rain before, OR the redwoods and pines protected the trail from the rain, OR all of the above.  There were only a few muddy sections and one small fallen tree.  Very manageable overall.
  • The start was very congested.  The bottleneck came almost immediately, as ~240 halfmarathoners were forced to squeeze into a single file line on single track trails.  At one point, we were at a standstill and BT brought out her cell phone to take aselfie.  The crowd started to thin throughout the first mile, but it continued to be “cozy” for another 2-3 miles.  Because KP,JT, BT, and I weren’t concerned about racing, we started near the back, which was a mistake in retrospect.  We got stuck behind some slower folks and it was very hard to pass.  I wasn’t concerned about time, but I think it may have added at least 5 minutes to my race time.
    At the start -- the black arrow indicates where we were in the crowd.

    At the start — the black arrow indicates where we were in the crowd.

    You can see how far back we were in the crowd.

    You can see how far back we were in the crowd.  (I’ve circled our heads with magenta circles.)

  • Studying the elevation chart in advance helped me not to freak out about reaching the first aid station (1.5 miles) 30 minutes into the race, and again when I got to the 2nd aid station (3.1 miles) at 52 minutes.  I knew that there was about 1500′ of elevation gain in the first 3 miles and that it would be slow going.  Knowing where the other major climbs were helped to keep me focused.
    Coming up to the first aid station.  You can see how close together everyone is at 1.5 miles.

    Line of runners approaching the first aid station.

    Out of breath, but in good spirits.

    Out of breath, but in good spirits.

  • When my calves were already burning a mile into the climb, I remembered to put my heel down and switch to power hiking with my quads and hamstrings.  That really saved my legs.
  • My impromptu fueling strategy worked pretty well.  I took a Gu between the 1st and 2nd aid stations (at 30 min) and then another one at the turnaround (~2 hours).
  • I often used the people in front of me as pacers.  Whenever they ran, I ran, even if I didn’t feel like it.
  • Despite the climbs, there were no scenic views because we were in the thick of the forest.  However, I found the moss-covered trees and rocks to be really beautiful, not to mention the gorgeous, pine needle-covered single track trails that were so much fun to run on, especially on the downhill sections.


    I don’t usually stop to take photos during a race, but I passed this tree as I was hiking uphill, so I decided to snap a photo.

  • I noticed at about mile 10-11, when I usually start fading, that I was feeling pretty strong.  In fact, I felt mentally and physically stronger than I have ever felt during a trailhalf.  I don’t know if it was the fact that I had taken so many rest days during the week before the race, or because I had built up my aerobic base thanks to MAF training, or whether it was the coffee I drank on the way to race (which I don’t usually do), but something was different and it was good.

    This was either at mile 10 or 11.5.  Still feeling good!

    I think this was either at mile 10 or 11.5.  Still feeling good!

  • Single track trails are lovely… until they’re not.  Like I mentioned above, there was a lot of congestion early on in the race due to single track.  Luckily, I wasn’t on single track when the half marathon leaders were coming back, but there was a section when about 5 mountain bikers came through and I had to stop and move over to let them pass.  It was pretty annoying, but at least they were close together so I didn’t have to stop for too long.
  • Ultima sports drink is gross.  The one and only complaint I have against Brazen is that they use Ultima electrolyte drink at their aid stations, which has no calories and contains artificial sweeteners.  I made the mistake of grabbing a cup at the first aid station.  I took a sip and threw out the rest.
  • I didn’t wear my Garmin and I survived!  I decided to leave my Garmin at home since the GPS has never been very reliable in the redwoods, and because I wasn’t really “racing” for time anyway.  My simple Timex stopwatch was perfect.
  • The one part of the race where I was disappointed in myself was in the last mile, where I decided to walk a small hilly section.  J, the woman who had been running behind me for almost the whole 2nd half of the race, took that opportunity to keep running and leave me in the dust.  She ended up finishing about 30-45 seconds ahead of me.  Something I want to work on in the future is being a little more competitive during races and finishing strong.
  • On a positive note, Summit Rock was the longest and toughest run I had done in almost 8 months.  The fact that I was able to finish without any aches and pains (besides the normal fatigue/soreness) was a huge victory.
  • The post-race brunch at BT’s was definitely a major highlight of the day.  I had certainly worked up an appetite!

    Crossing the finish line with a smile -- my favorite way to end a race!

    Crossing the finish line with a smile! #runhappy #racehappy

Official results:
time: 3:05:15 (14:08/mile)
15/25 AG, 67/114 F, 162/241 overall

About the race:

  • Organizers: Brazen Racing
  • Distances: 5K, 10K, and half marathon.
  • Cost: Tiered pricing, depending on distance and registration date.
  • Course: Very tough.  Almost 2900′ elevation gain, and some technical sections with roots and rocks.
  • Course marking: Great.  I almost got off trail once by following 3 runners ahead of me (not the fault of poor course marking).  Luckily, a runner behind us yelled out that we were heading the wrong way.
  • Parking: Large paid lot in the park ($6).  Get there early to avoid a line and/or having to take the parking shuttle.
  • Aid stations: 5 for the half marathon, offering water, Ultima sports drink, fruit, and a large variety of salty and sweet snacks.
  • Bathrooms:  Brick-and-mortar flushing toilets near the start/finish.  No bathrooms or outhouses along the course.
  • Swag: Finisher’s medals and cute t-shirts. Free photos available from Brazen’s Picasa site.
  • Post race food and drinks: Because it was cold, there were hot drinks available as well as water and Ultima.  There were lots of pastries and savory snacks as well, and of course, It’s It ice cream sandwiches.  IMG_3618

p.s. Check out my abbreviated review of Summit Rock (and hopefully some other people’s opinions, eventually) on RaceRaves!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Race Recap
13 comments on “Race Recap: Brazen Summit Rock Half Marathon
  1. Mike says:

    Summit Rock/Trailquake sounds like a nice challenge I’d really like to tackle one of these days, just as long as I can start near the front of that pack. Those first two photos are crazy, I’ve never seen a Brazen race start out so cozy… it’s like someone yelled “FIRE!” in a crowded forest. And that caravan in your third and fourth photos is pretty telling… the toughest race starts for me are the ones where the course ascends almost immediately and you have no time to catch your second wind before the first uphill begins. Wildcat starts similarly, though it levels off more quickly.

    I’d agree that Ultima is disappointing aid-station fare… though whether it’s worse than Heed is a tough call. Aid stations = calories at a tough race like Summit Rock, so zero calorie offerings are out of the question.

    For your longest and toughest run in 8 months, I’d call Summit Rock a resounding success… and more importantly, a very promising start to next year. Congrats on making it through with minimal soreness, and here’s hoping you won’t have to use the words “clamshells” or “Jay Dicharry” in 2015!

    • Jen says:

      Yes, I’d definitely recommend starting closer to the front if you care at all about time or would be frustrated by the traffic jam. My approach to the race was very laid back, so being stuck in that caravan didn’t bother me that much. I think this was the first time I’ve ever come to a complete standstill during a race!

      And cheers to the no-clamshells-in-2015! (Fingers crossed!)

  2. Alicia Runs says:

    Oh my goodness, being at a standstill during a race would make me cRaZy!!! Nice job challenging yourself with this race and even better that you were able to get through without aches and pains, as you mentioned!

    • Jen says:

      Normally, I would’ve been more frustrated by the congestion, but I set out to just have fun for this race (thankfully) so I was more or less fine with it. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. Jan says:

    That congestion is crazy! I’m glad it evened out after awhile. Great work! Looks like a pretty course.

    • Jen says:

      The problem is that it started almost immediately with both an ascent AND single track, and it didn’t let up for miles. The upside was that I had fun talking to the other runners around me, I was almost always around 2-3 other people. And it was a very pretty coure, which helped a lot.

  4. Cathryn says:

    You may feel a bit blah about your race but there’s loads of useful information in this post for people running it in the future, so you did the running world a service 🙂 And as Mike says, you should be really chuffed with your longest and hardest run since injury and emerging unscathed.

    • Jen says:

      Ha, I actually don’t feel blah about the race, just about writing the recap. 😉 Thanks for the encouraging words – I’m very chuffed!

  5. Grace says:

    Sounds like a typical, fairly well-organised trail race! Congratulations on tackling a tough race. 🙂 I’ve only ever done trail races that had some degree of congestion. I might have helped cause some of the congestion, too 😛
    (The sugar in many sports drinks sometimes makes me queasy, so I will actually carry Nuun and rely on solids for carbs during longer races. But yeah, always check with the organisers what’s at the aid stations!)

    • Jen says:

      This was definitely the most congested race I’ve ever run, because it starts almost immediately with both single track and a climb. There was one part in the first mile where we had to climb over a fallen branch or a big root, which caused a significant traffic jam.

      As for the drinks – yeah, I understand everyone has their own preferences, but Ultima is really gross tasting, in addition to having no calories. I’d take Nuun ANY DAY over Ultima. And I should know better, having volunteered and raced with Brazen about 10 times over the last 3 years! My own fault, really. 🙂

  6. MILF Runner says:

    You are one tough cookie. Great job.

    Did someone say COOKIES???!!!!

  7. […] Sometimes, I’m eager to write a race recap, and other times, I drag my feet (or fingers, as it were). I haven’t been that motivated to write about Badger Cove for a number of reasons. For one thing, due to the park being closed from heavy rains, the race got moved from Del Valle in Livermore to Wildcat Canyon in El Sobrante. This means that all of the information from the race won’t be that useful to anyone wanting to run Badger Cove in the future. Second, it was a fairly uneventful race. I arrived, met up with DD, we ran, we went home. Third, it wasn’t a great outing for me, but that was to be expected. I felt sluggish almost the entire race. It was my second to slowest trail half marathon ever, even though the course had almost 1000 feet less elevation gain than my slowest half (Summit Rock). […]

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