Date: Saturday, August 16, 2014
Race: Brazen Racing’s Bear Creek, Martinez, CA
Distance: 10K Trail
Last Saturday, I ran Brazen Racing’s Bear Creek 10K Trail Race. One word to describe this race? TOUGH! This was my third trail race and probably by far the toughest!
The race was located in Briones Regional Park in Martinez, CA. The park is over 6,000 acres and features rolling hills and picturesque views. From Briones Peak, its highest point, you can see Mount Diablo and Diablo Valley to the east, the Sacramento River and Delta to the north, the East Bay hills and Mount Tamalpais to the west, and Las Trampas Wilderness to the south. It is also home to various wildlife such as deer, turkey and coyotes. I had never been to this park and was looking forward to running this course.
Getting to the park was a bit tricky because of the winding road through residential neighborhoods. Since we left early, we were able to snag parking in the dirt lots and didn’t have to walk far to the starting line. Bib pick-up was a breeze as usual. I headed to the starting line and waited for the start. Sam, Brazen Racing’s race director, gave us last-minute directions and warned us that this was a hilly course and that one could easily get lost. Oh, how I wish I had listened to that last part. More on that later!
Before I knew it, the music started and we were off! The first few yards of the course is paved but quickly becomes a fire road trail. The race started at 8:15 and I could start to feel and see the sun peeking out. My longest run prior to this race was 5 miles on a paved trail. I hoped that I would get through this race and tried to keep a good pace.
Let me tell you, this course is no joke. There were plenty of hills! I am stubborn and do not like to stop and walk during a race. I would rather run up a hill then walk. Well, this race put my ego in check with the quickness. I had been running for about a mile and a half and saw the first steep hill. Ugh. The runners ahead of me stopped and started walking. It took every ounce of me to stop and walk. It was too steep and my legs and quads were already on fire. I decided to listen to my body and walk. I glanced at my watch and decided to speed walk up the mountain and make up the time going downhill. Well, as soon as I got to the top, (great views by the way) there were more switchbacks and another hill to climb. I was getting antsy and wanted to get going. Runners all around me were walking. I decided to not worry too much about my time and enjoy the views surrounding me and make this race a fun hill workout.
The Brazen Racing community has always been awesome and supportive. I don’t like to talk much when I run but I met some friendly people during this race. These people would eventually be a lot of help when several of us veered off course!
Getting lost and going off course during a trail race is my worst fear. I’m bad enough with directions so getting lost during a race is a nightmare. It was probably during the fourth mile that I was making good time and continued following a few runners ahead of me. The course is marked with colored flags specific to the distance you are running. There are also arrows marked on the trail with flour to tell you which way you are going. I was running a section of the trail and noticed a flour arrow. I thought it looked normal and continued on going because I could see that the runner ahead of me kept going straight. I had been running for about five to seven minutes going downhill when I saw a couple of runners climb up.
“Stop, we’re going the wrong way! There aren’t any more flags up there!”
“WHAT?! What do you mean we’re going the wrong way?!” I nervously asked.
The couple behind me also stopped and we all looked at each other. Did we miss a marker? I asked if anyone had a map. (Brazen Racing provides course maps at the registration table. Note to self: Always pick one up!) Guess what? No one had one. We decided to just go back up and see if we could find the turnaround.
My heart sunk and I was frustrated that I had to make up the time finding my way back. AND since we were going downhill earlier we had to climb back up! After a few minutes, we finally saw where we were supposed to turn. We had failed to notice the colored flags on the cattle gate. That “normal” arrow I saw earlier? That was actually a curved arrow to go through the gates! I wish there had been someone to direct us.
I glanced at my watch and knew that I had to quickly make up some time. The last two miles were made up of what else? More hills. I saw the last aid station and knew that I was getting close. I picked up the pace and continued on. Little did I know that the last mile would be the hardest part. The trail quickly became single track and dark. Feeling a bit claustrophobic and exhausted, I couldn’t wait to just get this race done with! I ran through the shaded trail making sure not to slip and trip over. I also had to be careful to duck my head to avoid the branches from the trees. As if the course wasn’t challenging enough, there were steps right before the finish line! I FINALLY saw the light and sprinted through the finish line!
I glanced at my watch and tried not to feel too disappointed. I collected my medal and a few post-race goodies. We quickly left and headed back to enjoy my real reward: PANCAKES!
Official Results: This 10K course wasn’t exactly 6.2 miles. My Nike App said it was about 6.8! It probably had to do with my detour and the way the course was laid out. Anyway, I came in 10th in my age group. Not too bad considering the hilly course and the slight mishap.
Even though this race was tough and I had gotten lost, I’m glad I did it. It was an experience and has taught me to be more aware and prepared. Sometimes we zone out and fail to see a turnaround during a race. It’s always important to pay attention. Sometimes the person in front of you might be lost so always be on the lookout for trail markers.
I’ve mostly done road races and would like to do more trail races in the future! They are different from road races and I’m glad I’m signing up to do more of them. This was a challenging one and I would recommend it to anyone.
Have you ever got lost during a race? What did you do?
See you at the finish line!