This race has been around since 2011 and takes place along the (entirely paved) Coyote Creek Trail near Hellyer Park and Velodrome. It's put on by Brazen Racing, a company that does a series of over 20 races annually throughout the Bay Area. Most of their runs are known for having giant hills, but Hellyer is a relatively flat course (less than 300’ of elevation). I had done this race one before, completing the Half Marathon in 2014. Three fun facts about the 2014 race – Katie was also at that race (we wouldn’t meet for another two + years), I set my half marathon PR (1:35:33), and I also broke my pelvis when I slipped and fell on a metal plate at the turnaround. The course has changed slightly eliminating the section where I injured myself. It was formerly a straight up out and back, and now, you kind of start in the middle, do an out and back in one direction, then do an out and back in the other direction, and then return to the finish.
Katie and I arrived a little less than an hour before the 8:40 horn for the half. Like all Brazen events, it was super well organized, and we each had our packets within a couple minutes of arriving. There is an Alice in Wonderland theme to the race, and quite a few of the race organizers and a couple runners were dressed in theme.
Coming into the race, I didn’t expect to come remotely close to a PR, but was shooting to run right around an 8:00/mile pace. My run training was very inconsistent over the winter, so I wanted to avoid self-sabotage by way of unrealistic expectations. The half marathon runners lined up, the horn sounds, and we take off. The start was on the road, and there was a hill down to the trail head. I started off a little faster than planned (7:33/mi). Once on the trail, I tried to establish a nice rhythm and let the miles pass. The first turnaround was at about mile 4 and runners passed by the starting area at around mile 8. My splits for these 7 miles were 8:01, 7:54, 7:55, 7:54, 7:59, 8:07, and 8:14. By this time, my legs were feeling pretty tight and heavy, and I could tell my stride shortening, and Jon’s voice popped in my head, questioning the wisdom of the 125 mile bike ride I had done the day prior.
We proceeded the other way down the creek trail, and circumnavigated the Lake at Hellyer Park. The course continued out another mile or so. My split times continued to grow in length – 8:12, 8:23, 8:47. The course then turned around for about a 2.5 mile run back to the finish. At this turnaround, I could see the competition behind me and that folks were gaining, so I tried to pick it up/not slow down anymore. Mile 12 ticked off in 8:35. The final section of the course was back up the 50’ hill onto the street. As I approached the finishing chute, I saw Katie, who informed me that someone was sprinting towards me. During my race, she did the 10K. I tried to kick it as best I could, but his foot crossed the plane of the finish just before me. The guy who passed me ran into 3rd place in our 35-39 AG, leaving me off the podium. When I looked at the results later, he actually had beaten me by 8 seconds as he had started a little later than I did. My final time was 1:45:55.
When it was all said and done, I would have like to have paced myself more evenly, as slowing down at the end was both painful and frustrating. But the course was nice, weather was perfect, and overall I had a lovely day with Katie. You couldn’t tell from these pictures though: