Race Recap: Bear Creek Trail Half Marathon

Bear Creek Trail Half Medal

This is my first-ever second annual recap (read last year’s Bear Creek recap). I feel like it’s some sort of blogging milestone!

Bear Creek Trail Half Marathon

This is the fourth time I’ve run Bear Creek.

It is a hilly, tough course in Briones Regional Park and is put on by Brazen Racing, one of my favorite trail race organizers in Northern California. They put on the best and most popular trail runs around (maybe too popular, more on that later) and are known for their serious post race food spreads featuring It’s It Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Bear Creek

Pre-Race Goal

Not fall on my face. Literally.

This is the scene of the crime of my first trail run face plant two years ago. I successfully exorcized (and exercised) my face plant demons last year, but it is still admittedly on my mind.

Time wise I have no expectations. This is a tough course with lots of uphill power walking. At a certain point, time becomes irrelevant to me (even more so than usual).

Wake-Up Call

My last two races (Salt Point and Empower) both involved wake-up calls in the 4 AM hour.

In comparison, today’s 6 AM wake up call seemed downright leisurely. I actually did the math a few times to make sure I’d figured it right.

Weather

Each of my previous runnings of Bear Creek were hellishly hot – dump ice water over your head so you don’t melt hot.

We’d had a mild week in the Bay Area with heavier fog than usual for this time of year. It never got terribly hot on race day, and at times, it almost seemed downright chilly.

Porta Potty Situation

Here is the secret of Bear Creek starting area – they have porta potties set up in two places.

Few people notice the second set of porta potties, so there is no line at them until pretty close to the start.

It’s really nice while it lasts.

The Course & The Race

Bear Creek is a tough course, climbing around 2500 ft over the course of 13.5 miles. It’s part of Brazen’s ‘Ultra Half’ series for their toughest and over-long half marathons.

The best I can say for my running of this race is it was fine.

I felt fine, I did fine. Nothing remarkably amazing happened, but also nothing terrible happened.

At no time did I feel like I was dying. That’s more than I can say for some of my trail races over the years.

My finish time (around 3:10) was faster than some of my Bear Creek finishes, slower than others.

I always say the best long runs for me are Goldilocks runs, not too wonderful (or I may get cocky and over-confident), but not too terrible (I might become discouraged).

This would qualify as a Goldilocks run.

Favorite Part Of The Race

The views.

Bear Creek Trail Half

As the saying goes, the toughest climbs lead to the best views. Given all the tough climbs at Bear Creek, I think we deserved a few good views, and this course doesn’t disappoint.

It was a little hazy, but even so there were views in every direction showcasing the best views of the East Bay.

Biggest Annoyance

Kept leap frogging a girl who had an audio vest (the kind people wear for relay races when you can’t wear headphones). Her music selection was terrible.

But what really got me was that she had it set SUPER LOUD!

I knew I’d need a distraction from the endless uphills, so I had my headphones in listening to podcasts for most of the run. I could hear her music clearly when she was 200 feet behind me while I was wearing headphones.

How loud must it have been for her?

I did everything I could to put some distance between us, but try as I might, her generic synth pop haunted me for nearly 3 hours.

Least Favorite Part of the Race

Crowds.

Granted, I’m not talking about Chicago or New York Marathon crowds, but my expectations are a little different for trail runs. The organizers said this was the largest running of Bear Creek, and I believe it.

It was never unreasonable, but there was never a time when there weren’t others pretty close. In a few places, it felt almost crowded, even 10 miles in.

That’s not what I do trail runs for!

I guess I need to go further afield and do even more obscure races in even more obscure places if I want to races sans-crowds.

Would I Do This Race Again?

I’ll have to check the numbers.

I love the course, and it fits really well into the training calendar for a fall trail marathon, but if the race gets any bigger, I may have to sit it out.

Trail runs are a great way to be in nature. Doing a popular and crowded trail race begins to defeat that purpose when I have to overhear other’s conversations and WAY TOO LOUD MUSIC for the entire course.

I expect that from road races, not trail races.

Overall

I guess I just wasn’t really in the right mindset for this race.

Bear Creek Trail Half

Maybe I took for granted how tough of course it is since I’d done it several times before. I was thinking of it as just another pass at Bear Creek instead of really preparing mentally for a course that has some serious climbs.

This course is no joke. I think my preparation was a little lacking.

My Next Brazen Race

Drag-N-Fly.

Now that is a race I will not underestimate.

 

Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

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