Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Only Took Us Two Years to Finish These Races - Brazen New Year's Eve / Brazen New Year's Day Half Marathons

We've heard about Brazen Racing, our friends have done Brazen races, there is even a Brazen race held in our backyard at Quarry Lakes every year. But it wasn't until we needed to do some trail training for Antarctica that we signed up for our first Brazen race – Brazen New Year’s Eve Half Marathon on December 28 (our last race of 2013 – Honest!). We were quickly roped into signing up for the companion race Brazen New Year’s Day Half Marathon so that we could earn that all important bonus medal. After all, it’s really all about the bling even though we’re running out of places to put all of our race medals.

We’re very happy to report that our first Brazen experience from registration to completion of the second race was a very positive experience. For an organization that hosts 24 races in a year, many that sell out, we shouldn't be all that surprised that they know what they’re doing. The website is informative and helpful. Once you register, Brazen kept us up-to-date with a series of emails on the particulars about race day.
We picked up bibs early at Fleet Feet in Pleasant Hill Thursday and dropped more money on Antarctica gear and Allied Medal holders. Race packets and shirts for both races were lined up all around the store so it was really convenient to get everything at once. Brazen also has race day pick up at Lake Chabot as well as race-day registration if the event has not sold out.  

Race morning was chilly by California standards - high 30's, warming into the mid 50's, but the Lake facilities were more than enough for the small race. Come early if you want to park in the lot ($5 fee) or park free on the street and warm up a little on the walk in. Sweat check was very efficient to shed extra layers.

Deja Vu! New Years Eve and New Years Day. Ron needs to do something about the wrinkles, but Susan looks fabulous as always.
Count down with a megaphone (honoring park rules) set us off on what would be quite a hilly adventure. The New Year’s Eve race circumnavigated Lake Chabot counter clockwise with the equivalent of approximately 250 flights of stairs. The New Year’s Day race took us around Lake Chabot clockwise on the same course.
The weather was ideal for a winter race. No rain (although the Bay Area desperately needs rain) and  the temperature at 7:30 am was 39F. Those in shorts and t-shirts were chilly at the start, however, those of us in long tights and multiple long sleeve tops got hot after climbing a few hills and had to start shedding layers with temperatures climbing into the 50’s.
The small field size ensured that the trails were not overcrowded. Those needing up to 4.5 hours to tackle the challenging course could take advantage of an early 7:30 am Hiker Start (note that Hikers must reach mile 9.16 by 11:30 am). The regular half marathon started at 8:30 am followed by the 10K at 8:55 am the 5K at 9:10 am. This comfortably spaced out the participants on the narrow trails. Quite of few of our future Team in Training kids (Taj and Teo and the Ladrillonos) cleaned up on the 5K medals!

Some unique sounds entertained us on the race course. Unlike Rock ‘n’ Roll races with bands every mile, Lake Chabot is forest land that is peacefully quiet and serene (other than mid-way through the course where you hear repeated gunshots from the Chabot Gun Club shooting range). You also pass the Lake Chabot Golf Course where golfers were also enjoying the sunny winter day. The only other human made sound came from the racers who every time they looked up, they groaned because all they saw was another hill to climb.

For us road racers, the hills were a welcome change from the constant pounding of pavement. Walkers have to be particularly careful to pick up their feet more than usual to avoid tripping over sticks along the trail but we like to think we have a particular advantage climbing with the hill technique we've developed. Runners enjoy the down hills and the soft trail. This led to the typical sea saw passing of nearby participants for long stretches of the trail. At times, we were alone on the trail with no one in sight ahead or behind us. Fortunately, the course markings were very clear with color-coded tape for each race distance hung from nearby branches and on the ground. Mile markers were clearly color coded with double anchored flags (a different color for each race distance). Flour was used to mark arrows signaling the correct direction and blocking off side paths so that you didn't make a wrong turn accidentally. These course markings were on par with those marked by Coach Rudy for our TNT training – Rudy’s renown for having the best course markings in all of the land.
Top left: A hill. One of many. Top Right. Lake overlook - this may now be my favorite woodlands half!
Bottom Left: Katrina on the rickety bridge (NYD). Bottom Right: Jasmine and Zara near mile 10 on NYD.
The Wolf Pack was out in force this week!
The water stops were well placed (at the top of hills) and were well staffed with at least a half a dozen volunteers. If you volunteer for a Brazen race, your next Brazen race entry is discounted (and sometimes free). Not only does this help racers afford more races, this also means that the volunteers are race savvy and participant friendly. Water stop supplies were well stocked including pretzels, oranges, Gu, Jelly Bellies, water, and Ultima. Participants tended to congregate for a few minutes at each water stop relishing the opportunity to take a quick break, say hi to friends and fellow participants, and everyone generally looked like they were have a good time.

Speaking of good times and leaving lasting positive impressions, Brazen had It’s-It ice cream sandwiches at the finish in four flavors (vanilla, chocolate, cappuccino, and mint). I’m not sure if we were more excited about the large race medal or the It’s It ice cream sandwich – it’s kind of a tie! We had heard that it was easy to eat the equivalent of your body weight at the end of Brazen races and now we know why. Even though we finished within the last hour of the race, there was still plenty of food available including Dixie cups filled with pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, carrot cake, red velvet cake, birthday cake, and M&M’s. There was popcorn, bagels, Nutella, peanut butter, etc. We didn't get in our protein after the race but we certainly got our 200 calories in and then some plus a sugar rush.

Not shown: 4 styrofoam coolers full of It's-It Ice Cream Sandwiches. *drrroollllllll*

Brazen also provides pictures free of charge. Though they are not indexed by bib number, they're in time order so you can actually see a short stop motion clip of yourself at various points at the race. Complete albums found here.

Would we do a Brazen race again? It depends. Some of the more difficult steep races are probably not going on the bucket list right away but some of the flatter more scenic races might creep into our race schedule in the next few years. The Quarry Turkey Half goes along the Alameda Creek Trail where we usually train, so we'll definitely add that (and the Nitro Turkey in Sunol) to our list around Thanksgiving. We’d definitely look forward to volunteering at a future Brazen race; it looked like a lot of fun! Kudos to Brazen race organizers. We were impressed all around and would definitely recommend this race series to anyone at all levels and any distances.
Deja Vu... again?  Thanks to Lance Null and Belinda Agamaite for taking the pics!

The Brazen New Year's Eve and Brazen New Year's Day offer half marathon, 10K and 5K distances. You get the same medal for completing any one of the three distances. There were 415 participants on NYE (median half marathon finish time 2:34) and 388 on NYD (median 2:32). Results are posted here: New Year's Eve Results, New Year's Day Results

The course was modified slightly between races this year. New Year's Eve was posted as a 13.36 mile race (though Ron had it exactly at 13.1) and New Year's Day was 13.17, eliminating a small loop near the start/finish. Both Susan and Ron had a much faster time for the second race, but it probably had more to do with the slopes than the change in distance.

Registration fees are very reasonable ($43 for the 5K to $65 for the Half) with discounts if you sign up before mid November. Brazen does a great job of honoring the "Streakers" - people who participate in all 24 races in the year by racing or volunteering. The shadow box below holds all of the 24 medals plus a bunch of double-race 'connectors'. Picture here on their Facebook page of Streaker Tuan Ha.

Weather (2013): Chilly for California. Both races started in the high 30's and warmed to the mid 50's by the 11:30 finish time. There wasn't a cloud in the sky on either day.

We had to take off early after New Year's Day to join our neighbors who've been wanting us to join them at Golden Gate Fields for the last 15 years. Our $20 starting stake lasted us for 6 races and we walked away with only losing $8 (plus $2 to tip the valet). We ate more than our fair share at the buffet.

Bonus note: Corrigan Sports 10-Miler/5K Series will hold their first race in Foster City on January 12th, 2014. Completing this and the other two races in Marin County (May 25th) and Santa Clara County (August 24th) earns a bonus medal. The last price increase is on January 6th, but you can get a $5 discount if you use CARINO in the coupon code for registration. Ron plans to use it as a taper for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona the following week. Hope to see you there!

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