Bear Creek Half Marathon 8.13.11

Before the race!

Ya gotta love a race whose description on their home page is: If you are looking for a super-fast, flat, easy course to set a personal record, you are probably in the wrong place. These courses have hills. If, however, you are looking for a great time on the trails, with beautiful scenery, awesome support and unique, high-quality shirts and awards, you have come to the right place! Hikers/walkers are welcome.” 

That is code for “this course is gonna kick your butt big time!”  Yep, kicked it! It made the Dipsea look like a walk in the park. I have done the distance a few times in training, but definitely not the speed or the elevation gains. But the goal today was just to finish – there was some question along the way and it was ugly, but it got done!

The alarm was set for 430a (it was early) since we opted for the 7a start time (good thing, too)! The question was what to eat that wouldn’t upset my body.  I opted for a scrambled egg with veges and TJs European Style Bread toasted with a bit of homemade strawberry jam.  It was still dark out and I had this beautiful, almost full moon accompany me all the way to Hwy 101 where I left it in a Kodak moment above Mt. Burdell. 

Aid Station 1

 I met Caroline at Berkeley Marina since parking was limited at the start. The 7a start is for Walkers/Hikers who might go over 5.5 hours or anybody else who doesn’t care that they aren’t eligible for overall or age group awards .  I realised it had been a LONG time since I had entered a race – the Miami Half in 2007 was my last!  With maps in hand, we were joined by one runner who wanted to start early since it was 105 degrees last year. We had the first half of the course all to ourselves and it was lovely!  We made it to the top of the first climb with relative speed while running some of the downhill.  Our time at 6.5 miles was 1:47. Then things fell apart for me (I was hot – little cover now and I put on my Buff) – we were passed by the 36 year old male winner (1:36:42/ 7:32 pace and I believe a new course record).  This was remarkable to me on this course!  Around the 7 mile mark it got incredibly steep and Caroline went on ahead.  When I got to the top of this section I knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. There was a little tree ahead and I put one leg around it and held on with both hands (giving tree hugging a new dimension) as the entire course was spinning out of control and I didn’t want to fall down the ravine. I was trying not to draw attention to myself as I didn’t want to bother anyone.  Things eventually calmed down (one of the side effects of the new drug is dizziness, but I don’t think they had this in mind). I had not hit the proverbial wall, but having done it once before on the Inca Trail, I knew I was close – I had little glycogen reserve left.  

I continued “one step at a time” UP the next section and toward the third aid station just before mile 8 – this was all out in the open and it was getting HOT!  These guys were in full motion.  I did not eat at the first stations because I wasn’t sure what would work, but I needed something now.  I chose a sports drink and watermelon and a seat on the water bottles.  My legs felt like jello and I was wondering if I could call a cab and do it by not drawing attention to myself.  I sat there for quite some time with this fantasy before I continued onward with some gummy bears in my pocket.  I was hot!  I walked slowly on the uphill and ran some of the downhill.  Soon I was at the last aid station where I used the same tactic and SAT down while I munched on my watermelon.  I think I would still be sitting there if it were more than two miles to the finish.  The last half mile was hard because my Garmin told me I had already passed the 13.1 mark.  But, as we all know, courses are measured by the shortest possible route, thus the discrepancy. One of the photographers was with me during this portion and it was fun listening to him talk! There was even a creek crossing near the finish (one of my least favourite things!).  

This says it all!
Danni and Me!

Caroline was waiting for me at the finish and I was so glad to cross the line and receive my medal.  She had a grand time eating all the goodies that were there while waiting for me.  Nothing looked good to me; I opted for more sports drink.  While drinking it, I recognised a runner from my Ravelry forum, Danni, and called out her name.  It was great actually meeting somebody whose posts you had been reading for awhile. We noticed several paramedic vehicles and some fire trucks – it seems particpants were having some difficulty on the trail (I am glad I opted not to add to that!).

At the finish

 We then headed in a more direct route back to the marina.  In the car, I felt something was wrong again and couldn’t pinpoint what (in hindsight, probably just an electrolyte imbalance, but who knows since I can’t isolate anything these days).  Typically, I carbo load the week before a race and realised I had been carbo UNLOADING for months.  My alkaline diet is mostly vegetables, some fruit and a little protein (organic chicken, eggs, wild salmon).  I need to do some homework and maybe look at gluten free carb options if they are more alkaline than acidic before my next races.  Got back to my car and all I wanted to do is lie down which is what I did for about 10 minutes and I was good to go.

I called Caroline when I entered Sonoma to tell her I had made it and one of the questions she had was would you do it again.  My response was I wouldn’t ‘not’ do it- now that I know the course – I would try it again.  Probably with an early start though; we could be winning some age division awards if we started at the official time. ♥ 

The medal

My review of Brazen Races, since this was my first:  I would give them an A+!  IMO, trail races are logistically hard to produce and they seemed to have thought of everything.  Bib and chip pick up was simple. The trail was well marked with flour arrows and red ribbons.  Since we started early we were warned of one section that might be unclear (it wasn’t), but since I had a Garmin I knew where to anticipate this.  The aid stations were a runner’s delight: water, sports drink, coke, gummy bears, Gu, cookies, pretzels, chips, Skittles, bananas, watermelon, oranges, salt tablets, advil, first aid help.  They even offer to fill YOUR water bottle. (Now you know why I didn’t want to leave) Food at the finish was also plentiful even for slower finishers. The photographer who was with me on the trail told me that they are volunteers and that the photos are FREE – uploaded on the website and you can download them and use them.  I won’t even tell you how much photos cost at other races.  The only glitch was that they didn’t have my pre-ordered tech t-shirt.  But I was given another one in a larger size (no clue if it is the same one, but it is cute and I like it!) with no hassle. Results are already posted.  The cost to enter was $50.  For those of you who don’t know race prices this is 1/3 the cost of my other races this fall.  Thank you, Brazen, for all you do for your fellow solemates!

Click on this Garmin link for course map and elevation profiles, if you are interested. My overall time was 4:24:08 and moving time was 4:00:22 – guess I shouldn’t have lingered so long at the aid stations!! I have run marathons in faster times than this!  A huge shout out to Caroline whose overall time was just under 4 hours reaching the goal! 

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