Rocky Ridge Half Marathon 2015 Race Report

When I think of the Rocky Ridge Half Marathon, I remember the words of Wesley (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts) to Prince Humperdink in the movie version of The Princess Bride.

Wrong! Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, “Dear God! What is that thing,” will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

Rocky Ridge is Brazen Racing's penultimate race in their Ultra Half Series, which basically means the course is longer than the standard half marathon distance and the climb is higher than 1700ft / 518m.  The Rocky Ridge half marathon is officially 13.7 miles / 22km and has a climb of 4000 ft/ 1219m.  There's cash prizes for the winners, but 99% of the people running this course just want the pain, and the special coaster at the end.  Ultra runner Catra Corbett showed up again with her dachshund Truman, both of whom finished a full hour ahead of me last year.  And, yes, in case you're wondering, little Truman ran the whole thing with Catra...

The race starts in Las Trampas Wilderness, located in Danville, CA.

And we're off...!

You can see the dust we were all kicking up.  The Rocky Ridge races are typically hot because summer doesn't want to let go of us just yet.

It's only mere 100m out of the starting corral before the climbing begins.

And it just keeps going on...

And on...

Past one of the encouraging course monitors...

And even higher still...

Can you see the people at the top of the ridge?

And, oh, we're still not done...

And still some more...

Finally we reach the top, about two miles into the course.  And we only gained about 1000ft / 300m!  But the view is spectacular!

And descending down the hill is a view of Mt. Diablo, where Brazen Racing's 50K race boasts an 8000ft / 2438m climb.  (Not for me, just yet.  Perhaps in 2017.)

From here we wind our way downhill for another mile or so.  And, of course, it starts to get warmer at this point.  Having learned my lesson from the Bear Creek Half Marathon, I took it easy on the downhills and just jogged, saving both my knees and my glycogen.  And it was a good idea, because look at the view!

At about the 5km point, we finally hit our first aid station.

What a relief that is!  Fresh fruit and encouraging conversation.  What more can anyone ask?  I spent a mere 30 seconds here, just to drink a cup of water, and thanking the volunteers before heading off.

We hit some nice shade as we zipped along the rolling hills.  The temps started to climb, but we couldn't feel it at this point.  It was a nice 5k or so before reaching the next aid station.

This was the aid station that got raided by a group of cows last year.  Thankfully, the cows stayed away this year.  They topped off our water bottles, stuffed our bags with extra energy gels, and sent us on our way.  Good thing too, because the worst was yet to come...

This why I consider this course harder than the Double Dipsea.  Between Aid Stations 2 & 3, you climb 1500ft / 450m.  And that's only about a 5k distance!

Can't blame these ladies for taking a break...

And higher still...

Until finally we reach the top of the ridge!

And then your heart sinks when you realize that you're about to descend into the valley floor, only to climb the ridge in the distance...

So I meandered my way back down to the valley floor, mindful of my speed and being careful on the switchbacks because the drought made the dirt really loose, not much for my shoes to grip on.

And finally we pull into the third aid station.  I made it here about 55 minutes before the cut-off.  This is actually also aid station 1 for both the 5k and 10k races.

They made sure once again to top off any bottles and give us additional fuel, because the final push is next.  

From this point we walk along a paved road for about one mile, straight up!  The heat reflecting off the road really makes things miserable.  During this walk of pain, my Sunnto recorded a temp of 94 degrees F / 34 degrees C.  And this is also the point where we once again climb about 1500ft / 450m.  I saw one fellow runner give up and she started the trek back downhill.  This hill is typically the point where most people will give up.  Since the course is a figure 8, this point is actually only a half mile from the start/finish area.

The last two times I ran this race, my legs were rebelling against me as I inched towards the top.  But this year it didn't happen, probably because I took it easy on the downhills.

Once to the top, it's an even more spectacular view!  Especially when you realize that you were just way over there on that ridge an hour ago!  Can you see the people and the cows further down the hill?

I finally pulled into the final aid station (for both the half marathon and 10k), which was at 11.2 miles / 18km.  It popped up like an oasis in the desert.  Gotta admire these aid station workers because they hiked 5k just to get out here, and then at the end of the day had to hike back.

Once clear of the aid station, it was now just a matter of surviving the rolling hills and slow downward descent back down into the valley.

But thankfully I wasn't alone during that final stretch.  A fellow runner pulled up along side me and we talked and jogged as we made our way to the finish.

4 hours 27 minutes later we both crossed the finish line.  I was only 2 minutes slower than my PR and 9 minutes faster than last year.  By then there was still lots of food remaining, ice cream, fresh fruit, and lots of water.  The free massage folks had taken off already, but I just sat down on a bench and talked with my fellow finishers.  Of course, I had to pick up both my medal and my Ultra Half Series coaster.

As the sun climbed higher overhead, we all talked about how this year's race was only slightly less painful than last year, and we questioned whether we'd come back and do it again.  Of course we would!  It will only take a few short weeks (days for some folks) to wipe the pain of this race from their memories.

Watch out, Ultra Half Series, we're coming back for more in 2016!

[Photos courtesy of Brazen Racing's volunteer photographers.]

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Comment by Robert Burpee on October 9, 2015 at 3:23am
Congratulations Jay on your effort & finish, wonderful report & great photos.
Comment by Lori Enlow on October 7, 2015 at 3:15pm
Awesome looking course aND pics! Congrats!

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