9 July 2016. 13 large loops, 4 small loops. Official distance: 46.21 miles
How to begin talking about my first ultra, our first 50k, our first 40-miler, and definitely our first time running a race around a loop, within a set period? Now, nearly 2
weeks months later, it seems kind of blurry and far away, taken over by our John Muir Trail preparations and actual trip.
I’d always wanted to participate in this event, having heard of the all-day fun, the camaraderie, and craziness.
The Brazen Dirty Dozen is a time, not distance-delimited race. Runners have the option of choosing between 6 hours or 12 hours, and running for as long/ as far as they can within those set times. There are hardly any requirements. One can run long for as long as they wish, and rest for as little as they wish. Some folks use it to run a set distance – say – a half marathon, or a full marathon. Many of the 12-hour folks definitely gun for 50 miles.
The course consists of a 3.37-mile loop in Point Pinole park in Richmond. During the last hour of the 6 or 12, a small loop near the start/finish area of .67 miles opens up so runners have a better chance of completing more miles rather than being stuck out in the middle of the larger loop when the clock runs out.
There are shorter options for that day as well, 5ks and 10ks both in the morning and in the evening. Some runners often opt for a combination of 2 of the shorter races: one in the morning, and one in the evening.
We signed up back in April, as part of another point in exploring the possibility of accomplishing a 50-miler in the Marin Headlands.
Going into this event, I really didn’t have any strong goals except to finish my first 50k, and DD definitely wanted to make it to 40. 50 was going to be a big stretch, but possibly doable for both of us.
I thought about trying a set schedule of run/ walk, but didn’t really do much beyond give it a fleeting thought.The week up to the race, we were caught up with John Muir Trail prep, and I didn’t give the event further musings beyond paying attention to the excited posts in the Be Bold, Be Brazen Facebook group and thinking about what additional food/ gear we may want to bring with us (change of clothing, salty chips, Tailwind sportdrink).
We were definitely bringing and setting up a tent. Many participants do, and it affords a space to stash gear, change clothing, tend to blisters, freshen up, and also possibly take a breather if one is so inclined.
In addition, DD also really wanted to bring Harlow. Point Pinole was the site of our first 5k with Brazen, and we had brought her then. So it was a little appropriate for her to be at our first attempt at an ultra. Because we didn’t think she would have a tolerance for hanging around all day, and we knew she probably wouldn’t want to accompany us on all our loops, we were lucky to have friends who were willing to drive out to pick her up around noon and bring her back to the city. We nonetheless set up the tent so she would have a place to hang out in the shade, on her regular bed, or at least on a padded closed-cell pad.
We left around 5:20am and managed to get to the park right at 6am. While DD put up the tent, I went to retrieve our bibs and hoodies.
It was fun to see all the others setting up. We introduced ourselves to both the couple to our right (she was aiming for 50 miles; he was there to offer moral support), and to the woman on our left. We were all doing the 12-hour option.
DD, Harlow and I started off together. I eventually ran on ahead and completed my first lap ahead of DD and the pup. However, I saw that DD had left Harlow at the end of my 2nd lap and so I took her along with me for my 3rd. I got several comments that Harlow was actually helping to slow my pace down.
I eventually ended up waiting for DD before the start of our 5th lap. We had managed 10 miles in just a little over 2 hours and seemed to be on track to hitting 40 miles comfortably (10 before 10am; 20 before 12noon).
When we returned from our 5th lap we found Harlow resting comfortably under our neighbor’s canopy. He had noticed that despite the tent and her bed in the tent, Harlow was primarily lying in the sun. It appears he managed to coax her under his tent onto a soft comforter and brought over her water bowl as well. So that lifted another load of our minds – that Harlow was lying in the shade with a kind friend who was giving her attention.
Carlos and Sofia showed up around 1 to pick up Harlow. By then, we had been averaging around 50-55 minutes a loop, usually finishing a loop in 45 minutes, but taking time to use the porta potties, or pause and eat at the aid stations, or stopping at our tent for some small gear change or adjustment. Heat rose into the afternoon, our bodies fatigued, and our overall pace grew slower. What saved us were strong breezes and winds all throughout the day, growing stronger into the afternoon. That, and the shady bits of the course.
We had been peeking at the all-day BBQ stand starting around noon, but the line was always so long. The 6-hour runners finished around 1pm, and the line stretched out for a while. Somewhere around 2:30pm DD spotted that there was one solitary soul waiting for BBQ, and we quickly hustled over. DD got a plate of pulled pork and potato salad; I asked for Brisket, potato salad and coleslaw. I barely got any of it down, but what I was able to consume (fats, complex carbs, protein), seemed to help our energy levels, considering that we had been moving fairly constantly for 7.5 hours.
Even prior to the BBQ, we had been doing ok so far with drinking our own Tailwind and snacking at Aid Stations. I took mostly Gu, potato chips, a packet of apple sauce, an occasional piece of watermelon and… a revelation this first time: magic pickle juice. On one of our loops we passed the only aid station in the middle of the course, strategically placed near 3 park toilet facilities. DD had spied a huge pickle jar, half-filled with loch-ness green pickle juice. And that was the start of our love affair with the stuff. DD swears he drank a quart of it all told. I – I was ok with the occasional half-cup from the aid station. It was delicious, briny, salty, vinegary goodness, and I swear, it made our legs hurt less, almost instantaneously. A group of runners was also giving away free pickles all day, so DD and I helped ourselves to a couple of those as we came through “base camp.” For the most part most of the food (except for the Gu and Tailwind) ended being somewhat of an experiment but I thankfully did not have any tummy problems. I think the fact that we were just not running too hard and the course was definitely fairly flat probably helped stave away GI issues, thankfully.
In the end, we managed 13 big loops and 4 of the small loops , bringing our official mileage to 46.21. Keeping Garmin on the whole day yielded ~47 miles, which included our small detours for potty, aid station and BBQ breaks.
Our mileage broke down as follows:
- 1-10 miles: 2:03:54
- 10-20 miles: 2:28:09
- 20-30 miles: 2:37:34
- 30-40 miles: 2:54:54
- 40-46.21 miles: 1:50:13
Although I brought 2 other changes of running clothing, I ended up just changing my socks. DD put on 2 other different shirts as well as changed his socks twice and shoes once. He ended up with a blister anyway. Around the same time we took a bit of a longer break for BBQ, I took the time to wipe down my dirty legs and feet, wipe away some of the grime and salt and sticky sunblock from my arms and face, change my socks, and reapply sunblock.That seemed to help with the relentless sun that shone for most of the day.
The course overall was great for a loop. It’s got varied terrain that included sections of exposed shoreline right next to the water, and some nice shadier sections through Eucalyptus and other trees. My least favourite section, ironically enough, was the segment running back into the chute under the Brazen arches, signaling the completion of a full loop. It was so bumpy and uneven, and pock-marked with numerous gopher holes. Here you had the pay the most attention, and here, at the end of the day, aches and pains are magnified by its lumpiness. The course ran through terrain that was different enough that I began looking forward to certain segments: the nice and flat section under the Eucalyptus; the breezy, shaded section after that first hill; the shady pass by the Aid Station, once you were clear of the downwind toilet smells …
Constant activity in the heat (though the temperatures really could have been worse), does odd things with the body. My fingers were fat and swollen after 4 hours; and towards the end of the race another runner wondered if I was either drinking too much or too little, and perhaps my salts were depleted (hyponatremia). Although I felt generally fine, and thought I was getting my fair share of salts (through potato chips, Gu and pickle juice), I asked for a salt tab anyway.
After the race the swelling had definitely gone down by the time I reached home. And it seems that swollen hands is not an unusual thing while running in the heat.
My legs definitely felt tired and sore by the end of the day. Interestingly enough, I discovered that running sideways was not painful as running forward, and gave it a go during the last half-hour of the race.
The party-like atmosphere and the support and good cheer from other runners was definitely awesome. Brazen definitely seems to bring out the nicest/most generous in people.
Our friends the Allen and Diane were there, completing a 10k and 5k in the morning and in the evening.
We finally got to meet Clockie, the mascot, whose outfit that year was pretty spectacular. Clockie would roam the course and hand out the occasional taunt and hi-fives.
The last few minutes were definitely exciting as the 2 women in the lead were neck-a-neck and being paced and encouraged by numerous shouting, exhorting Brazenites.
Suddenly, it was over, and the last runners streamed/ stumbled over the finish line looking exhilirated, exhausted, relieved; last calls went out for BBQ, and dozens milled about the results tent, looking at numbers…
We broke down our tent and made our way slowly to our car, wearing the now-much needed race-swag hoodies since the sun was going down and the wind continued to pick up. We’ll probably be back next year.