Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Burton Creek Trail Run - Race Report

Pre-Race
Website
Great website the Big Blue Adventure folks have. Wealth of information about each of their events - maps, descriptions, all sorts of stuff. I found it easy to use, maybe because I'd used it before, but some of my friends found the navigation confusing.

One thing about it, though - it needs to be proofread, badly. Especially the FAQ section.

Sign-up
Simple, easy sign-up from the event website. Confirmation email, and a race update email a day or two before the race.

Expo/Packet Pickup
Packet pickup morning of the race at their giant event trailer. Had to fill out an extra waiver - not sure why that couldn't have been handled as part of the sign-up, but whatever.

Goodie Bag
Pretty simple - a bunch of advertising, a gel and some sunscreen.

T-shirt
Pretty nice tech shirt with the Big Blue Adventure logo front and a list of the trail run series on the back. Grey for men, pink for women. Ran a bit small, but I think it was just an "athletic" cut.

Race
Start area/restrooms
The start area was at the Tahoe Cross County Ski Area. Could have had a bit more parking, but it was fine. With all the infrastructure - finish line, race trailer, tents for bbq, Merrell display, etc. it all looked pretty festive. Restrooms were inside the Cross Country center's building - stunk up pretty good before the race. Glad there was plenty of toilet paper.

Briefing
Over the PA system, nice and loud. Not too complicated, basically follow the markings and watch for volunteers.

Start
Countdown start. The first mile or so of the course sure could have been wider - it was pretty crowded there for a while.

Course Markings
The course was pretty well marked, although the loopiness of it confused me once or twice. The signage was little white signs with blue arrows. I did miss one on a turnoff from a road to a trail, but caught myself pretty quick. If I do more of the races in this series, I'll know what to look for now...

Volunteers
There were a decent number of friendly people out volunteering.

Aid Stations
Because there was a marathon out on the same course, the aid stations for the half were pretty well stocked with gels, candy, water and sports drink. Almost ultra-style - nice.

Finish Line
Downhill to the finish, on some bark chip stuff - kind of unsure on the footing there. Didn't seem to be anyone around until I got all the way through the chute, but that's probably because I was coming in at a weird time - way after the 5K, 10K and half fast people, but before the marathon winners.

Post-Race
Snacks
Awesome. Burgers, sausages, chips and choice of microbrews. Hit. The. Spot.

Results
This was kind of confused. Seemed to take forever for the results, and then there seemed to be inconsistencies between what the reported the day of the race and what ended up on the results page on the website. Thankfully, the Merrell rep was there distracting us with playing games of cornhole for swag.

Awards
The Big Blue Adventure guys give out pint glasses for age group places. They have for a long time, too - I have one from probably 2002, when I did one of their adventure races in downtown Reno.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Burton Creek Trail Run - Another TLD race

Somehow it worked out that Team Library Dork was able to come together again this weekend - for the Burton Creek Trail Runs up at Lake Tahoe. This event is put on by Big Blue Adventure, and is part of their trail running series (they also do triatlhons and adventure races.) Although this wasn't a huge race, it sure was set up pretty well - with an inflatable finish line, fancy registration trailer with PA system, and lots of signage. Lots of races, too - there was a 5K, 10K, half and full marathons. I opted for the half; the other members of TLD went for the 10K.

Now, I had planned on running in a new pair of shoes - some Hi-Tecs I had picked up on closeout from REI. I had done a 4-miler the day before in them, and liked the way they felt - if anything, it was hard to get the speed lacing system tight enough. Sure enough, as I gave them a tug to tighten them up, the thin lace pulled right through one of the eyelets. Unfixable, and making the shoes useless to run in.

Fortunately, the Big Blue Events are sponsored by Merrell, and they had a tent there with a whole bunch of demo shoes. Their awesome rep Ashley very kindly set me up with a pair of the CT Converges to run in - brand new pair, pulled the tags right off. They felt a little snug, but I think that was more the thick trail socks I had on than anything else. After a few minutes in them, they felt ready to go. Nice and springy-new, too. Here's what they looked like before the race:



We had a little briefing, moved to the start area, and were off. The first half mile or so was a bit crowded, but eventually it thinned out as we climbed. And wow, was there some climbing. I can't imagine how this course didn't finish higher than it started - it felt like there was a lot more uphill than downhill. But the elevation profile says different:



The Big Blue Adventure folks seem to like loopy courses (from looking at the other maps on their site) and this was no exception. The half was pretty well marked - there were one or two places where I almost missed a turn when I didn't have anyone in sight in front of me, but managed to stay on course. Apparently there was a bit more confusion on the 5K/10K course. Here's what the half looked like:



That hill at about mile ten was a killer. Walked most of that; only got passed by one person. How he was running up it, I'm not sure.

I was watching my average speed on my watch, and figured I'd finish just over two hours. At the last aid station, though, they surprised me by saying I was only about half a mile from the finish. I pushed the last downhill section and finished in 1:55 something - and the distance on my GPS was 12.45 miles. Pretty short for a half, but oh well...

Now there was lots of waiting around for the results. We had some pretty good BBQ food, burgers and sausages, and shared a Dogfish Head Burton Baton in honor of the Burton Creek Run:



Played some cornhole as part of a contest at the Merrell booth. Here's Hannah taking a turn:



And finally they had some results ready. It turned out, for the first time ever, all of us got an age group award. (I'm usually the weak link, being in a tough age group.) Thanks to 5-year age groups, a lot of different races, and a small field. Anyway, Chris had won the 10K overall, Amber and Dave both got AG seconds, and I took a 3rd in mine. I now have a 3rd place pint glass to match the one that I got from Big Blue back at the Silver Sage Adventure Race in Reno way back in 2003. (?)





So here we are - bunch of goofballs...



We finished out the day with a quick soak in the very chilly Lake Tahoe, then a trip to Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee for lunch and beers. Then an aggravating drive through construction back to Reno, and some couch time to watch the US Open for me.

(I had forgotten my camera, so thanks to Dave for all the pics.)

Results have been posted. This page lists me as 2nd place AG finisher, 23rd overall. Hmmm. Wonder what happened there? I've still got the 3rd place glass...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Race Report - Fitch Mountain Footrace

Pre-Race
Website
The website for the Fitch Mountain Footrace was kind of hard to find. The Healdsburg Kiwanis site had a pritable PDF to mail-in, but no link to online registration. Google also gave results from active.com, theschedule.com and allsportcentral.com, which is where the online registration was actually done. I guess they've switched sites a few times in the last 5 or so years, but it did make it kind of confusing.

Sign-up
Once I found the right place to sign up, registration went pretty smoothly - confirmation email, etc.

Expo/Packet Pickup
No expo, packet pickup was race day.

Goodie Bag
Nope, fairly small race, so no swag bag.

T-shirt
Plain white cotton, no tech shirt options. Choice between short and long sleeve shirts, which was nice. Shirt artwork looked to be done by elementary school students, which isn't really my favorite look.

Lady at the bib/shirt pickup table looked at my registration, saw the "M" (for Male) and tried to give me a size medium shirt. I'm 6'4", 215 lbs. Not a medium. I showed her where it said "XL." Thought that was funny.

Race
Start area/restrooms
There were three portapotties near the central park where the packet pickup was, this seemed sufficient. Actual race start was a block away, this seemed to work just fine. Everyone filed over to the start line obediently.

Briefing
The race briefing was done by someone without any amplification or megaphone. I was twenty feet away from him and didn't hear a word.

Start
Starters pistol got everyone moving. Nice, wide city streets for a few blocks to let everyone funnel down and spread out.

Course Markings
Pretty well marked, although the course was fairly obvious and didn't really need markings. Especially with so many -

Volunteers
There were volunteers everywhere. I'm guessing these were from the local Kiwanis, who were putting the race on. Almost every intersection and tiny side street had someone stationed at it. I tried to smile and say hi a few times, but didn't get a lot of reactions.

Aid Stations
This was a downside. The only water station on the 10K course was at about mile 5. On a hot day, this was a little late. Someone had set up their own water station as well, at mile 5.5, so there were two in a row near the end - plus a guy hosing people with a garden hose. A fellow runner overheard people who had run the course in years previous asking where the water station that was usually at mile three was, so I'm not sure what happened. Thankfully, much of the middle part of the course was in shade, which helped.

Finish Line
Lovely downhill-ish finish - turn a corner and have about two blocks to sprint. Perfect distance. One weird thing - the finish line was set up with a small pothole on one side of it, right on the line. After I finished, I waited with my camera for some friends, and watched a woman step in the pothole, twist her ankle and fall down. They then put a cone over it, but - not the ideal spot to wet up the finish.

Post-Race
Snacks
Cooler of water bottles and about 40 bananas. I was one of the lucky few to get a banana. Fortunately, there are bakeries and breakfast places lining the park that the finish and awards were at...

Results
They got the awards posted very quickly, both at the event and on the website. Pretty impressed there.

Awards
I got my standard fourth in age group, so I didn't get one of the AG ribbons. A friend was the overall winner, though, and was given a card and specifically told to take it to the table set up by a local running store to claim a free pair of shoes. The guy at the table, though, told him it was a card to mail in and get a pair from the company (a pair of which he already had.) Little disappointing miscommunication there.

Race Reports

The few times I've been able to chat with a race director after a run, I've been impressed with how interested they are in getting good feedback about their event. Was the course marked well, how do the t-shirts look, etc. Because of this, I've decided to start including a "Race Report" about runs that I do - hopefully on e of the RDs will see it and appreciate it. If not, oh well - at least I'll have a running record of my opinion as to what to do or not to do when putting on a race.

(I think I'm a pretty good person to do this, by the way. I generally come away from races pretty happy, and am not terribly critical. If there is an obvious deficiency somewhere, I'll mention it, but hopefully without being a jerk about it.)

I'll start with last weekend's race, the Fitch Mountain Footrace in Healdsburg, CA.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fitch Mountain Footrace - TLD Field Trip

It's been hard to find Sunday races where we can get all of Team Library Dork together, so when Chris suggested that we all trek over to Healdsburg for a race and some brewery visits, we jumped at the chance. Chris and I headed out Saturday afternoon, Amber and Dave followed that evening. A stop at the Vacaville outlets didn't yield a new running hat for me, despite looking at Nike, Adidas, and UnderArmour. The New Balance store, though, had some pretty good deals on shoes, and I ended up with a pair of 903s. We also ran into a couple other runners from Reno that Chris knew, who were on their way to the Dipsea, and weirdly staying in the same hotel as we were in San Rafael. We joined them for dinner at a San Rafael pizzeria. Amber and Dave showed up (after stopping at Gretchen's party in Truckee, lucky...) and we tried to get some rest, looking to an early morning.

We had a little drive to the race, so got out of there early Sunday morning -



and got to Healdsburg in time to check in and get a little warm-up in. (And some dog-petting time for Chris.)



The 3K and 10K runs started at the same time - the start was a little confusing, but got sorted out in about a block. We ran through a residential neighborhood of Healdsburg -



then up a pretty significant hill (I walked a couple short stretches) and around Fitch Mountain, then back to town. I swear I took a few pictures along here, but there was nothing on my camera, so I'm not sure what happened there. Have to make do with a map:



Despite the heat and a strange lack of water on the course, I was able to put a good finish on, and beat my 50:00 goal with 47:50. I somehow missed Dave coming through, despite sitting by the finish with my camera waiting for him, but did catch Amber -



We cooled off, waited for the awards (Chris won the 3K), and did some monkeying around -





Until it was lunchtime. The Bear Republic Brewery was right there in Healdsburg, and we sampled their offerings.





It was back to the hotel for a swim, shower, naps, then off to Santa Rosa that evening for sour beers and jalapeno pizza at Russian River Brewing:



(Thanks for driving, Amber...)

Monday morning we headed out to look for some trails near our hotel in San Rafael - ended up at China Camp State Park. Once we got some climbing out of the way, there were some great trails there. We did about 4 miles, good enough to keep loose in the car later.







(And thanks for the pictures there, Chris -)

After a quick swim, we checked out of our hotel and made the short trip to Marin Brewing for lunch. Not as many beers to try there, but some interesting fruity ones.





A very successful weekend of running and beer tasting. Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reno/Tahoe Odyssey 2010

For the last few years, I've (kind of half-heartedly) been trying to find a place on a Reno'Tahoe Odyssey relay team, with no luck. It always seemed like either I couldn't get enough people interested, or spots I thought I had on other teams fell through. This year, though I was able to hook up through the Odyssey website's bulleting board with a local team that needed a runner.

My team was called "Running From The Law," and was made up mostly of people from the court system downtown and county law enforcement. There were also a few late fill-ins like myself. Here's a start line photo, complete with our "convict" outfits:



(Of course, even to get to the start line takes an incredible amount of planning. Thanks to our team captain, Alexa, who did a great job pulling it all together, and to all the other team members, who were just awesome.)

They do a staggered start for the race, but we were in one of the bigger groups at 11:00. I think there were almost 20 teams starting then. Here they go -






















I was in Van Two, so after the start, we had a few hours before we had to be at the first van exchange. We had a bite to eat, picked up a couple more team members, and made our way up to Hirschdale to wait for the first van. Before too long, we were on the road.

Our decorated van:



One of the exchanges, noting the time on the team clipboard:



A nice bike path section by Lake Tahoe:



And the team at the second van exchange, near Homewood:



It started getting dark after this, and Van Two made our way to South Lake for a bite to eat and an attempt at some sleep. Before long, though, we had to get up for our second legs, which I didn't really get any pictures of. Up and over Kingsbury, down through Genoa to Carson City, and an early-morning handoff to Van One at the Wal Mart there. Then on to the Carson Nugget for a disappointing breakfast, and up to Virginia City to wait for our last section.

This is about the point that the really fast teams (which started later than we did) started passing us. Pretty cool to see them blowing by like it was nothing...

We took over in Carson City, Climbed the last couple sections to the top of Geiger, then bombed down into town. I took over near Double R, and ran along the southeast quadrant of McCarran to the river, where I handed off to our last runner and collapsed in the van. Glad to be done, we all reconvened at Idlewild Park to get in costume again and run the last bit home en masse.

We mugged for the camera a bit:


And then we pretty much split up and headed for home. After the sleepless night and all the running, I took about 4 naps that afternoon and slept well the whole of Saturday night.

Running From The Law ended up finishing 33rd out of 163 teams - a pretty good showing, I thought! That made us 10th in the Open Men's division (we didn't have quite enough girls on the team to qualify for "Mixed.") But really, it was about getting out there, getting it done, and having a good time doing it. I think we all accomplished that. Thanks, everyone, for letting me run with you. It was well worth it.