2015 Miwok 100k

We crested the top of the historic Dipsea trail towards the Cardiac Aid station, the first climb of seven big hills of the Miwok 100k. The thick morning fog did not allow much of a view, but the sun was starting to rise and gave a blue haze to brighten up the darkness. We heard bagpipes, emanating from somewhere in the fog, on top of this 1500 ft hill – surreal! Conversation wth a few runners confirmed we weren’t hallucinating – 3 miles into a 62 mile run is much too early to be hallucinating….

I ran Miwok last year, finishing in a time of 16:00:54. I missed qualifying for Western States by less than 1 minute, and was determined to improve on my crappy time. And lets face it, with fantastic, panoramic views of the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, big climbs and big descents, this race is not a bad choice to run again. With lots of work and other stress lately, it would be nice to escape to run in the beautiful mountains all day long. The last year, I got faster with lots of mile repeats and speed work. Practically PR’d at every distance, so I was optimistic I would be able to improve on my time this year. My main concern with training was not getting in any good long, hilly training runs. With a vertical of 12,000 ft gain/loss, I needed some hilly long runs, but obligations at work prevented me from getting any long runs/races in the hill country leading up to Miwok this year. I’d have to rely on my voluminous strength training, mile repeats, and oh yeah, those ridiculous 30 ft Spott’s Park hill workouts.

This year I invited two friends, pacer and crew Chris and Jamie to help me. I figured I wouldn’t need that much help, but any help could make a difference in a race this long and challenging – and it turns out that was true. Jamie has done enough of these things that I knew I would be in good hands, and Chris is a strong runner and would be easy going enough to handle me the last 13 miles, no matter how bad I might be. I met one of my Houston friends, Bill, at the start line, outside the community center at Stinson Beach. I was ridiculously anxious, and just ready to start the damn run. The RD said go (I think) and we marched up towards the start. I was situated probably in the front third or so this year, and we began the run up the famous Dipsea trail.

Not even a quarter mile in, I twist my ankle. $*&! I can’t get any luck. At least it doesn’t hurt too bad, but the worry clouds my mind for quite a while – the thought of running 62 miles with it hurting is almost too much to bear. Up the steps of the hill, we keep going, up and up. Up a switchback, I look over my shoulder and see a few hundred lamps lighting the trail below me, a fantastic view where I realize I must be in the front half. A few false summits, and eventually we reach the top with bagpipes playing somewhere in the fog as the sun first begins to rise – absolutely surreal. I know once we reached Cardiac, it’s a long downhill and down, down, down, we go.

I’m timid with my ankle, so I hold back. Other runners fly past me, taking advantage of gravity and the wide trail to open up their pace. Its still a bit dark, and I’m unsure of my footing, so I don’t want to hurt my ankle any more. We keep going down and down, and I forget how awesome it is to run downhill this long but my quads are sore down the first climb – not a good sign! A wild turkey is somewhere, and it gobbles. A woman runner nearby laughs out loud, seemingly to respond to it. The turkey answers back, and the woman laughs again. This brings a smile to my face, and eventually we reach the bottom of the hill and to the flat part to approach Muir Beach, and I lock into a solid pace on the singletrack. I keep up a good pace into Muir Beach, a quick stop, and turn around back towards Tennessee Valley. I feel strong, running 9 minute miles and trying to get in as much running before the next climb.

We reach climb # 2, and up we go. My ankle is sore on the uphill, but the pain isn’t too bad. I’m still keeping a good pace. Passing a person or two, and falling behind others, but moving well. This climb goes on and on, and just as I forget how awesome long downhills are…. I forget how long it takes to climb these hills. I look over my left shoulder at the valley, half way up the hill, and it’s worth it. We crest this hill, and time to fly back down. More gorgeous views of the lush greenery and valley below, and I can almost make out the aid station a mile or so, and a thousand feet down, below me. I look at my watch and see it’s 7:45, and my crew said they’d be there by 8. Damn, I hope they’re there.

I finish the descent, cross the road, and here my name. Yes, they’re here! (Little did I know until later that I think they made it there about 1 minute before I arrived!) I let them know how I’m doing and a random volunteer asks me if I want to tape my ankle. I pause to consider this suggestion – haven’t done this before and you’re not supposed to try anything new on race day – sure, that’s probably a good idea. Jamie and this guy help tape my ankle, while I watch, hoping I didn’t get into any Poison Oak and infect them. I get refueled, taped up, and ready to take on the next hill.

I bid my goodbyes and head up the Marincello trail, a good climb, number 3 of the day, about 13 miles in. More awesome views, Sausalito to the left, and the bay too. We crest the hill, a few rollers, and I’m feeling good – I think the tape worked! It rolls on and on, and the views of the Headlands are stunning and the views never get old. The Bridge View Aid station is next, which means the Golden Gate Bridge is near. We cross a saddle on a hill, and it’s right in front of you, with an awesome view of the bridge, bay, and San Francisco. I admire it for a second, and continue on to the Aid Station. I look at my hands, and my fingers look a little puffy – something must be wrong with my electrolytes, but otherwise I feel fine…..

I get some watermelon, coke, chips, PB&J, and try to get out of the busy aid station and down the hill. The miles roll on and on, and onto the next climb. I remember this one being long from last year, and it still is. There’s really two climbs in this one, disguised as one, and it takes what seems like forever to climb. But the weather is perfect – the wind is blowing and I feel cold. I look at my arms and see it’s red – surely not from the sun as it’s completely foggy, is it really that windy? This climb this year, I’m surrounded by other runners. I’m running strong and it’s nice to actually be near people. Last year I was so slow in the first half, and much more alone. It gives me confidence I’m running this much better, surrounded by other folks.

I make some exasperated sound near the top of this hill and a runner nearby seems relieved he isn’t the only one who’s having a hard time. They don’t seem to be doing that bad because they’re joking around and fly past me up the trail. I look to the right and a thousand feet below, but two miles ahead on the course, I see the next aid station parking lot, back at Tennessee Valley, right below me – that’s messed up!! We finish the climb, and start running back downhill on some great single track.

I meet my crew again and tell them I want them to meet me at the next one, Muir Beach. They say I’m looking good. I know any crew worth their salt has lying in their repertoire – I wonder if they are employing it here already or not. I’m a half hour ahead of my pace charts and feeling good, but I know this is not my normal Saturday run!

The next stretch to Muir Beach goes slower than expected. The descents are more technical than I remember, and I’m so conservative with my bad ankle, and some turns are twisty and tweak my ankle. Just don’t screw anything up and you might be able to finish this thing. This section is short, but seems to drag on, and finally back to another downhill to Muir Beach aid station again. Walking in, a volunteer walks directly to me before I reach the table and tells me “Hi, I just wanted to tell you your hair looks awesome!” Don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, so I must not be looking too bad.  I find Jamie and Chris, who also tell me I look good, now 30 miles into the run.  They take a picture of me and I take off out of there with an extra snack before the next big climb. I won’t see them again for probably 4 more hours or so until mile 49 at the Randall Aid station. I’m about 30 miles in, and it’s taken me 6 hrs 40 min, I’m over an hour ahead of my pace last year and starting to feel pretty good about this whole thing. I see the guy who taped my ankle and tell him it helped a lot! I was fortunate that guy was there.

The next section retraces our steps back up the Dipsea, and I know that climb sucks, so I need to run everything right up to it. The fog has cleared for now, and I look up to my left and see a huge mountain with a powerline cutout up to the top, thinking that might be our route – that’s messed up! Well, I don’t think it’s ours, but I bet ours is similar…. I run at a solid pace, feels like I’m running 9 min miles, 30+ miles into this race. I say nothing, but there’s two guys behind me, keeping up with this earnest pace. We pass a few folks, running strong on this singletrack, cross the road, and back up the famous Dipsea. We talk and thank each other for the pace and ‘company.’ Now the three of us start conversation, my first real one with any other runners today. The company up the Dipsea trail is great to help comfort the huge climb. This would be climb number 6, and most of the climbing is done after this one. I think of all the runners who’ve crossed this historic trail, in the 100 + year history of the Dipsea race and what a treat the views are at the top…… but I really just want to get to the top of the hill to the aid station and get some coke.
A clearing in the trees, and there’s the aid station up there! Ah, nothing like it. I tell them that climb was hard, and they concur, but tell me 75% of the climbing is done with for the race. I refuel again, no bananas, but still have plenty of food. I hear another turkey, and it walks up to the aid station. Time to get out of here. Now just some ‘flat’ running to Bolinas at mile ~42. It starts to get warm in this section, and it’s kind of technical in this wooded area. Lots of hikers out now – some wishing you good luck! And others who don’t want to get out of the way. The confidence with my ankle is low on these technical spots, and it takes me a while to navigate some of them, much longer than it should. I’m getting warm and starting to cramp, how can it be hot when I was just so cold? I keep on drinking, downing salt pills, trying to counteract. Eventually the trees end and it’s on to the dreaded Coastal Trail. Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean below, but the trail only is 6-8” wide in some spots, and canted to the side, which makes running difficult. It’s been cool/cold all day, but now I feel cooked! I think I’m slow, but now I still see folks just ahead of me, and no one is passing me, so everyone else must be feeling the same.

At this point the leaders are coming back the same route, so I have to step by to let them pass – more time to slow but I don’t mind that much. Eventually the Coastal Trail ends, and now some lovely single track and forested areas up to Bolinas. The temperature feels like it drops 20 degrees as the rolling hills continue on. I work through a low patch, low on calories I think, and quickly recover – can’t waste any time! I start to worry over the times – I’ve run too well the first half of this race, and it would really suck for it to unravel here. I put in a lot of training, and got 2 friends to come out here, it would be a shame not to finish. I was 30 min ahead of my pace charts, but now the time has evaporated and I try do math and calculate I’m going to be cutting it close, here on out. I reach Bolinas, refuel, and head out. I need to get back to this aid station (~ 13 miles) in 3 hours to make the cutoff. Sounds easy, right? This section isn’t bad at all, with huge redwood trees surrounding a wide trail, and gently rolling hills. I run all the flat and downhills, and hike the uphills, until the big descent that I know is coming.

The penultimate descent of the races comes and I run it, and hard! Don’t need to hold anything back on this downhill. I fly past folks down the 1.5 mile long downhill, and my quads are burning — it feels like I’m running 8 minute miles down the mountain. I finally see my friend Bill again, not more than 5 minutes from the bottom of the hill – I was worried since I hadn’t seen him since mile 2 and should have seen him on this out and back (he went on to finish an hour ahead of me…) I get to see my friends again, and we are reunited at mile 49, ~11.5 hours into the race for me, and I wonder in my mind what they spent the whole day doing while I was running. I take a break for a few, bid Jamie goodbye, and Chris and I are off – it will be nice to have some company the last few hours of this race.

We have an hour and 50 minutes to make it 6.5 miles back up the hill. This last hill, major climb #7 of the race, isn’t that steep, but it sure is steeper 50 miles in to a run! I make good hiking pace, passing a few folks, and manage very short bits of running uphill. We reach the top, and there’s not any time to waste. We make it to Bolinas, less than 10 minutes ahead of the A/S cutoff! The volunteer kicks me out of there, almost physically pushing me out of the aid station and tells me to get going – I just want some food! We have 2 hours and 8 minutes to go less than 7 miles – that too, sounds easy, right?

We roll on, and Chris tells me I’m ‘looking good’. More gorgeous views back to the Coastal Trail, but the fog is rolling in, obstructing the view of the ocean. I become reunited with the Coastal Trail, where Chris comments ‘this trail isn’t very wide’ – understatement of the century! I tell him sorry if you slide down the mountain, I’m not stopping for you! I can run some parts here well, but others not. But we keep moving on and on, what I feels like is strong but surely is slow. Soon a quick switchback which means we’re on the Matt Davis trail, and the final descent to the finish ~1800 ft below.

Down we go, and I open up the pace on the runnable parts. That soon ends with the switchbacks, which are punctuated with stairs, big ones, ones that my tired and sore quads just can’t move very quickly on. I step down the stairs, and then it’s flat, and I run. This sequence continues on and on for what seems like a dozen or so switchbacks, and there’s lots of folks passing me who aren’t held back by this technical trail like I am – all I can think is what an abomination I am descending the stairs! We hear voices, folks at the finish line hollering, but we are still 1000 ft up on this hill. Eventually the steps thankfully disappear and the switchbacks get shorter and shorter, and I see a car just below through the trees. Just a little bit further down, the trail unwinds to a straight trajectory. The footbridge! People are here, cheering volunteers, finish line cones….I cross the finish line 7 minutes before the cutoff of the 62 mile race and get my hard earned finishers award from RD Tia Bodington. Jamie asks me if I want a coke or need anything – I just want to sit down….!


2014 Review

Most miles in a year (1839). Most consistent — not really any down times due to injuries, which is the first in a few years. PRs for the 50k, 5k, 10k, half marathon. So, it was a pretty good year running wise. Got to run races in 2 states other than Texas which was nice, as well.

November saw my first ever 200+ mile (202) month, followed up with 186 for December, which would probably mean I’d be in good shape for Bandera 100k, which is only a few days away. Hopefully the weather will be good, but at least I’ve put in some good training. After Bandera, my training will focus on going back to Miwok again and trying to run it faster. At least I know what I’m getting myself into, and what areas to focus on better this time around for Miwok.

Tommyknocker 50k Race Report

I ran the Tommyknocker 50k in Woodland Park, CO over the weekend. It was my first mountain race, and as a person who lives at sea level, it was pretty epic to finish so I thought a report would be appropriate.

The race started at ~7800 ft and would top out just over 9100 ft, with ~4000 ft of elevation change. I estimate 80% of the race was above 8500 ft.  Although a larger elevation change than most 50k’s I run, I wasn’t worried about the elevation change but rather the altitude since I’ve never run that high.I normally get anxious, but I was actually really worried about this race, probably more so than any other race I’d run. Even on Friday I briefly thought about backing out of the trip. At least it would be scenic, with views of forested mountains and Pike’s Peak in the distance and a sweet relief from the summertime temperatures of Houston with a starting temperature around 50 degrees.

In the race briefing/race document, we were told we needed to wear orange, so we could stand out in the event of any bow hunters on the trail. Additionally, we were warned of potential wildlife on the trail: snakes, beavers, mountain lions, moose, elk, maybe bears. In other words, just like a normal Saturday run in Houston. Thankfully there were no bear attacks and I didn’t get shot with a bow in my @$$.

It was a ‘low key’ start, with the RD throwing a pick axe against a rock to signal the start, and the ~40 of us starting were off. It was a very slight hill, mostly flat,  so ‘flat’ that I felt like running since it was the beginning of the race. What I should be able to run at an easy 9 min pace at sea level, was taxing to run at 12-13 min pace up here, whoa. That didn’t last too long before the grade increased to where it would be foolish for me to run, and it was full on hiking mode. The terrain was nice jeep/ATV road with crushed granite (the whole course was very non-technical) and up the mountain we went. This area was mostly shaded, which made a big difference compared to being exposed in later portions of the course, but I was still sweating like crazy. I thought the lower humidity would mean less but here on this first climb my shirt was already soaked. I definitely could feel the effect of the altitude on my breathing, but after the climb topped out, I felt much better.

The first climb topped out at 8500 ft and we were treated with the first view of Pike’s Peak to the left on a beautiful partly-cloudy morning. That view alone was practically worth the run. More gently rolling hills and soon we were at the first aid station and I didn’t feel too bad. Got a few snacks and headed off on the next section. Whoops, me and another runner Jeff briefly went the wrong direction and got turned around by the volunteers.

The next section dropped down to below 8100 ft, and the downhill was great. Beautiful ATV/double track trails with forests, brooks, trees, everywhere. I felt really good this section and it was no coincidence since the altitude was lower (and wouldn’t get down this low until the very end of the race). We kept hiking and back up the mountains we went. It was probably only a ~6% grade or so, but was way too steep for me to run, especially up this high. Still, I felt good going uphill, and we continued on through the forests until we saw the next aid station in the distance, and another clearing with another fantastic view of Pike’s Peak up at 8800 ft now. This aid station had beautiful, unforgettable panoramic views, and I felt jealous of the volunteers there to enjoy it all day long. I grabbed more chips and PB&J, coke and then headed back on down the trail.

The next section was 5 miles long and rose to over 9100 feet and was probably the toughest stretch for me. None of the climbs were very big, but I just couldn’t move very fast. I could run, and by ‘run’ I mean like a 12-13 min/mile jog, for only a minute or two, before it was just too taxing and feeling light headed. Legs felt like they weighed 200 lbs and my breathing couldn’t recover. On the positive side, I felt like my hiking speed was pretty good, and I didn’t feel nearly as wasted when I was hiking. It wasn’t like I was moving that much faster when I was running anyway, lol. I also started feeling really low energy and more light headed so I didn’t want to push the pace too much. I was worried that it was due to the altitude and I didn’t want any kind of disaster up here. However, it was very mentally challenging to think if it was due to the altitude and I feel like this the rest of the day, it’s going to be real hard for me to finish and be an extremely long day. Anyway, I staggered on into the next aid station at mile 13 feeling pretty awful. I told them I didn’t feel great, and worked on getting refueled with 2 shots of ginger ale, 1 shot of coke, PB&J sandwich, several hand fulls of chips, and half a homemade cookie. The cookie seemed real good so I took an extra and stuck it in a Ziploc inside my camelbak to enjoy later in the race. I also was advised to drink ALOT more water up here, so at this point I picked up a handheld from my drop bag, so now I was carrying almost 100 oz of water for the rest of the race. The next aid station was 8 miles away, and the one after that as well, so those would be some real long stretches.

I felt a bit better heading out of that A/S, and continued on with my jog/walk pattern, especially trying to run all the little downhills. Miles 13-21 were net downhill, before a sharp downhill and steep uphill. I started to feel better, and my energy level recovered. I must have been in a big calorie deficit but felt like I was eating more than enough. Guess I need more up this high. With alot of time up here alone to think, it reminded me a lot of how these ultras are a lot like life. Lots of ups and downs, and sometimes things really really suck, but you just have to keep moving on and eventually things will improve. You meet people along the way and need help from others to finish…

The miles rolled on and then I ran into probably a dozen runners headed at me coming up the trail, saying that was the wrong way. I saw the sign 50 yards back, but apparently a disgruntled homeowner had vandalized the course markings, with some runners running up to 4 miles extra and supposedly a few of them even dropping. I’m really glad I didn’t go extra because this is more than enough for this flatlander…. I guess sometimes it pays to be slow because it didn’t add any significant distance for me. We found the right trail, and then headed down. Yes, I love the downhills. Down, down we went, finally a nice steep one to really speed up. These guys were much faster with me, but I could actually keep up with some of them on the downs. Then we bottomed out and headed right back up a steep incline, where I then set back into my own flatlander uphill hiking pace. This climb was the steepest one of the day, but I felt like I still had a good pace. At this point, I didn’t have any altitude headache, and actually felt well overall. It was still really hard, though.

The climb mercifully ended and we got to the mile 21 aid station. I was pretty spent, but not too bad all things considered. Gorged myself on coke, half a PB&J sandwich, stuck the other half in my ziplock, more ginerale, coke, handfulls of chips, refilled my camelbak and handheld, and then it was time to go. Was a nice break, and then we got a lovely downhill to run. It seemed like it was a net uphill this far so it was nice to finally make up some of the ascent.

The descent continued with some awesome switchbacks, and I came upon another runner who seemed to be struggling a bit. He said he had some IT band problem, so I hung with him for a minute, before I noticed the temperature started to drop. Then a pellet fell on the ground, and another, and then it was full on hailing, with them landing on my head, body, brim of my visor, everywhere. I attempted, uselessly, to find shelter under a tree as I retrieved my rain jacket from my pack and put it on. Dang, this is pretty crazy.  If this wasn’t good enough motivation to keep you running, I don’t know what is. This guy did ’14’ers every weekend’ so his thought was this wouldn’t last long. This kind of craziness doesn’t happen in Houston, but I couldn’t really afford to worry about it too much. The hail turned to light rain, and down the switchbacks we went. The hail/rainstorm indeed ended soon, maybe after 15-20 minutes; I guess the weather in Colorado changes quickly.  Eventually he fell back and I came on another guy. We bottomed out and were in this absolutely stunning stretch between the hills/mountains, surrounded by beautiful green trees and rocks on the mountains everywhere. The whole course was so breathtaking.


Back to the running, I was actually feeling pretty good here. That changed as we got to the steepest climb, the last big one. The worst of it was only like 300 feet or so, but we were up at like 8800 – 9000 ft. I kept up with this guy the first 100 feet, then I needed a break to take my jacket off as the rain had already stopped, which gave me a good opportunity for a breather. Got to the top of that pitch, and felt i felt totally gassed as my heart-rate was over 180 or 190, damn my heart is beating like crazy!! I decided I shouldn’t push it anymore so I was walking probably like a 20 min pace to recover, but my heart rate didn’t seem to drop very quickly. No oxygen up here!

These miles rolled on with more gently rolling hills that were just steep enough to think you could run them. On and on it went, with few runners passing by. The rain had stopped, but it was thundering all around, and I was a bit worried being up here in the mountains, it all seemed so crazy. I knew it was downhill to the next aid station, so that was a bit of relief; however, the temperature dropped again and it started raining and haling again so I had to get my jacket out again. This time the rain was much heavier and I got pretty cold. I just hoped it wouldn’t last too long because I was getting real cold and not moving that fast up here (still around 8800 ft), and getting too cold would be real hard to recover from. With the heavy rain, I decided it would be wise to put my iphone in a ziploc. This ziploc was the one previously occupied by the PB&J, so now my phone was coated in that. Oh well, a first-world problem I can deal with later, it’s probably safer than getting soaked. It was such a surreal feeling, way up here in the mountains, in the pouring rain, somehow making my way along this race.

The rain storm let up, and eventually I descended to the last aid station to cheering volunteers, but I felt pretty wasted at this point (understatement of the century), 31 miles into the race. I felt pretty calorie-deficient and knew I needed to sit down, so I did, and the wonderful volunteers helped me refuel once again. I was sick of eating all the dang gel things, so I had 3 cups of chicken broth, 1 with noodles, a few cups of coke, and more and more chips, maybe a PB&J too. I can never have too many chips or coke in an ultra, lol.  They had moonshine at this aid station, which seemed like a real great idea the day before. I still should have had one, but felt way too off to experiment with just 3.5 miles to go.

After a solid 10 minute break, I left the final aid station and knew the last section wasn’t that bad (this was the same route back as the first 3.5 miles). A few little gently rolling hills up, then all downhill the last ~ 2 miles. Took it easy up, got my last glimpse of Pike’s Peak, and then ran pretty much all the way down the hill at a real good pace. Finished in 9:06. A normal 50k here in TX takes me 6 – 6.5 hrs. This was in the mountains, and actually 3 miles longer (garmin showed 34 miles).

The RD and other finishers/volunteers clapped and handed me my finisher award. I told him it was ‘nothing like running in Houston’ and that ‘back home, we have 70 foot bridge we run.’ That generated a lot of laughter, but I think most were impressed I was able to finish that beast living down at sea level with no hills. It was very mentally challenging to finish this race (definitely one of the toughest for me ever), the altitude up that high really slows you down. I learned I can’t really run above 8800 ft. Below that, it felt almost instantly better, but above it, I couldn’t run any flat sections longer than 1-2 min. Overall, a great experience for my first mountain race and glad I didn’t generate any embarrassing carnage. If I do another one, I definitely don’t want to do one that has any prolonged sections above that high because it is just too hard to move. Otherwise, I’d need to get there early to acclimate to the altitude.

The next day, went sightseeing and pubcrawling in Golden, CO with friends. I got carded every place we went, which doesn’t seem to happen down here. Anyway, a nice weekend running/walking in the mountains, sightseeing, and drinking mircobrews.

Miwok 100k Race Report

I rolled into the Bolinas Ridge aid station at mile 20, feeling pretty awful. I found my friend Miles there as well — he told me he would be dropping at the next aid station. Damn, that sucks. One of us from Houston has to finish this, and now I’m left. 20 miles in to a 62 mile run, it was way too early to already be feeling this bad, and I suspected my nutrition was really off. If I had the option to drop there… I might have taken it, but I also knew things can always change quickly in an ultra. I dumped out the electrolyte mix from my camelbak, refilled it with just water, and opted for several shots of coke and a few handfulls of potato chips. Miles and I chatted a few more minutes, marveling in both the beauty and difficulty of the course, before he started to hike up the trail. I wanted to linger around longer, to try to recuperate and salvage my race. Another shot of coke, water, and food, and time to continue on the rest of this journey. Up and out of the aid station, I began hiking back up the beautiful trail, surrounded by huge Redwood, Cedar, fir trees all around on a soft single track trail — doesn’t get much better than that. The road to finishing the Miwok 100k continued on, but started much early than at the 5 am start line that morning…


Miwok elevation profile, as measured by my watch

Last year I had the fortune of running a 50 miler in the Marin Headlands when a couple of former Houston friends, Wim and Gerda, were gracious enough to let me crash at their place. Escaping the 100 degree heat of Houston in August was a no-brainer for the 50 degree temperature in CA and beautiful trails of the headlands. After gutting out a 14.5 hr finish, that was the hardest course I ever finished but gave me some perspective on trails I’d run. When the Miwok lottery rolled around in December… I threw my name in and then in lucky fashion, was selected. Trouble was, I had an lingering ankle injury that threw into question whether or not I’d be able to even show up at the start line for Miwok.  It took months to finally shake after cutting out my recreational volleyball.

I knew my training would have to be almost perfect to finish Miwok, with 12,000 ft of elevation gain and loss, including a few 1400 ft climbs, would be significantly harder than the 50 I did in the headlands — surviving the downhills, so my quads weren’t completely trashed, would have to be a focus of my training, a task made difficult by the fact that the biggest ‘hill’ within several hundred miles of my house is the 70 ft Kemah bridge. On top of that, at 100k (62 miles) it would be ~12 miles longer than any race I had finished. I made out a training plan of several 50k’s, and sprinkled in enough other training I thought would serve me well for the hills and mountains of the northern California coast. First was the Piney Woods 50k for endurance, then followed by some hill training with the Nueces 50k, a 26 mile training run at Bandera with friends (probably one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve ever been on…), and then the Possum Kingdom 55k 3 weeks out from Miwok. With 3 good long races with a good amount of climbing, although not near the hills I would experience at Miwok, I felt like it was a solid plan. Stack on top of that, numerous strength workouts, core workouts, weekly mile repeat workouts, and stairmaster workouts, that was about all I could do, other than have additional time to get faster and maybe try to lose some weight. I alternated long mileage weeks with high strength weeks, doing strength routines 2-4 times a week. Maybe not the fittest ever, but I felt the strongest I’ve been and came into race week injury free.  Going into the race, in my mind, I thought honestly there was probably a 50-50 shot of making the cutoffs. Nevertheless, I knew the race would be enjoyable from a scenery point of view, and the training for this race had probably been my most enjoyable training phase in years, or maybe ever.

Miles and I had the same flight out of Houston, and after landing in Oakland found a pub in Berkeley to eat lunch and trade our race strategies, concerns, and plans for the next day. Soon enough it was time to head on to our places to crash, so I headed over to Wim and Gerda’s, and headed out with Wim to the course. He would be providing live updates on ultralive.net for all the runners (some possible 4,000 data entries…) and wanted to recon the course for cell coverage. At the Bolinas A/S, we ran into RD Tia Bodington, Stan Jensen, and Glen Tachiyama setting up the goods. I felt guilty standing around, and hauled one jug of water to the A/S. They insisted I not exert any more energy, and I asked if I could trade volunteer time for additional time to the race — no luck!

Race morning started early, waking up at 2-something for a 4:15 arrival for a 5 am start. Driving was uneventful there, and checked in and got myself in order. Looked for Miles at the start, but couldn’t find him.  I joined the mass of 400+ starters near the back, and waited for the final GO to start.  Soon enough, the minutes ticked away and we started… sort of. There was ~400 runners to enter the trailhead across a short bridge, which was only about 1 body wide — consequently, it took at least a good 5 minutes to actually move 30 yards. Then up the Matt Davis trail we went. First starting flat, then increasing grade as the endless switchbacks began, rolling up and up the trail. This was the 1800 foot climb, and although nice and cool, it was quite a workout. Halfway up, I could tell my arms were already soaked. I listened to the folks in front and behind me engage in conversation, as I had my hands on my hips and climbed the mountain, switchback after switchback.

Reaching the top in almost an hour and a half, I was already quite gassed; I could tell my heart rate was high, but what else can I do. We were greeted by the sound of some wild turkey’s, likely wondering what all the fuss was about this early in the morning. Dawn had begun, letting everyone see the gorgeous trail and Pacific ocean. It also meant I could actually start running on the rolling Coastal Trail. I looked off to the side across the ocean, and saw either fog or clouds and thought internally hmm, very unlike running in Houston, looking across an ocean and being up the same level as clouds….

photo 3

view from the Coastal trail

The thing about the coastal trail, is it’s only about a “quarter track” — there was maybe 12 inches wide to run on, and most times was inclined at an angle, requiring alot of concentration for foot placement, and avoiding what I read were the gopher holes in the trail. This flat section rolled on and on while everyone was still very crowded together with no real room to pass. Then we hit the forested area at Bolinas, the trail finally opening up to some sweet single track and increasing to jeep-road width and I can get some room.

After Bolinas, we were surrounded by beautiful huge trees, flat rolling trail going on and on through the forest, until the first big downhill. The 1000 foot descent was nice and I finally saw Miles ahead of me about 5 minutes at the aid station. Volunteers checked us in by bib number at each station, and I was number 123.  I considered it a lucky number and got plenty of comments on it as the day progressed 😉 Made a quick refill on fuel and headed back up the hill, still feeling good. I noticed there wasn’t that many folks behind me… maybe 20 or so. Yikes, I know I’m going to lag behind the folks out here but didn’t think I was that far back as I thought I was going a pretty good pace for me. Just stick to my own race.

Up and up the hill we went, and I passed a few folks, and returned to the flat section, where my stomach then went south. Probably had too many electrolytes, and even 15-20 miles into the race, this course was way more intense than anything I had run in my training. Thankfully there were some absolutely gorgeous views of the trees and coastline in this area. Finally returned back to Bolinas where I ran into Miles, and chatted with him.

photo 4

beautiful, lush trees

He said his foot was bothering him, and he would be dropping. I felt pretty awful too, but wanted to recuperate, so I spent a few extra minutes loading up on coke and salty chips. I bid the volunteers farewell and started hiking back out on the trail, and within a few minutes felt energy back in my body and started feeling well. Returning to the coastal trail was quite lovely aesthetically, but I didn’t really like the narrow trail. I caught up to Miles, where we reflected on how much this was just like running around the trails in Houston on Saturday morning — uh, NOT!! Once back to the Matt Davis trail, Miles went back to the start to drop, and I continued on, hoping that big descent would finally come. The forested single-track trail continued on and on as I headed to the Cardiac aid station. Not a huge descent at first, but finally some switchback and making it to the aid station, feeling pretty good.

After here, a nice descent to a very flat, runnable section on the road. Lots of cars out, and I paced myself to not over-exert too much this early in the race (not even at 50k yet). This stretch was a bit forgettable and finally I came to the Muir Beach A/S. Another top notch A/S, and I looked at my watch and knew I needed to hustle to Tennessee valley A/S where the first cutoff would be. With a bit of motivation, I headed out and made good time up the hill, passing a few ladies on the way up and topping out. The descent going down was FUN and I felt strong. It really does suck we have no hills around here to run; running these big descents among all this scenery was a joy. I was rolling and heard footsteps behind me. “Don’t worry, I’m not a racer” I chatted with the guy for a minute, before he passed and I continued down the hill to the bustling Tennessee Valley Aid station about 18 min ahead of the first cutoff, where there must have been 100 volunteers and crew hanging out. Wow, real busy, but thankfully everything well under control and orderly. Looked around for Miles, but no joy, and then headed up the hill.

I’d run this hill in the headlands 50, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. Up and up it went, until topping out on a long stretch to near the Golden Gate Bridge.  Another fantastic panaramic view on the windy saddle near the Golden Gate Bridge.  Eventually made it the aid station, still feeling OK. Another downhill ahead and down I go, passing another lady on the downhill before another short flat section. Immediately ahead you can see the climb beginning, where I can see a good 10 runners hiking up — I must be catching up to some folks. Trouble is, now I feel really hot and tired, 45 miles into this beast. Took some jelly beans with caffeine, which restored my energy just enough, but not enough to catch up to those folks as they soon disappear from sight. Damn, that hill was pretty hard and I felt like I was baking out there on an otherwise perfect sunny day. Somewhere in this stretch I amused myself by comparing the Kemah Bridge to the elevation profile of this course and how every race I’ve done previous to this pales in comparison.  The bridge would be mere noise in the data if comparing the elevation profile of the two.  The hill eventually crested out, which means now it’s time to run down down down, back to Tennessee Valley for another cutoff, getting there about 26 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

photo 2

approaching the Bridge View A/S, just like running the Kemah Bridge.

Coming into here, I would be 48 miles in, with only 13 miles left, I knew a finish would likely be in my future since I was some 25+ minutes ahead, barring the wheels coming completely off. Gerda would be pacing me, and she found me as I ran the downhill back to the A/S. It would be nice to have some company — although leap frogging back and forth with some folks, I had carried on very little conversation or run any long stretch with folks all day. I was very glad and satisfied thus far– I could still run the downhills, and strong! At the headlands 50, my quads gave out 40 miles in. Now I’m almost 50 miles in, and all systems, legs, body, mind, still feel good — it seemed like my training had worked (for comparison, I was ~ 2 hours ahead of my finishing time from the Headlands 50 miler). That was a great feeling, the satisfaction of knowing all the training and sacrifices I made for training actually worked for this monster of a race.  Now to change shirts, refuel, and finish this thing.

The next stretch I also had run before, which first had a not-too-bad hill, followed by some more lovely views by the coast. I passed a couple more folks hiking up, then running down the hill back to Muir Beach. I was ahead of the cutoffs again, and decided to take an unnecessary bathroom break since I thought I had plenty of time. They were out of Coke, then a random person volunteered up their can. Yes! Coke was like nectar of the gods, I must have drank a few gallons of it all day. Along with a few pieces of watermelon and more chips, and I was off.

This point, my body was just tired (go figure) — tired of calculating the cutoffs, tired of running, and mentally drained. Nothing hurt too bad, just kind of ready to be done now, less than 8 miles from the finish. This stretch was back to a flat section, but I just didn’t feel like running much. We headed up the road, and back up to the trail, walking way too much, to the final climb up to the Cardiac A/S. The Boston Marathon has Heartbreak Hill, and Miwok has the Cardiac Hill, on the famous Dipsea course. This climb went on and on, and I thought it would never end. If Gerda wasn’t present, I probably would have verbally exhausted all the cuss words I had, as I was pretty tired, sore, and more than ready for this climb to end. Darkness was coming, I had run all day long, and now here I was, in this beautiful forest, just trying to get up the hill. I mistakenly thought it was ‘only’ 700 ft or so; instead it was almost double at ~1400 ft, serves me right for not studying the course a bit more.  The beauty of the surroundings escaped me, as I was just looking for the clearing in the forest to indicate the last aid station. Finally it came and I took another short break.

Leaving it we had only 2.8 miles to go, and ~35 minutes to finish under 16 hours, and this part was thankfully all downhill, 1400 ft. It started off flat, then gradually increased in grade until we got to the dang steps. I couldn’t run down these in my present state, especially at dark, and it slowed me down too much. I keep checking my watch, and trying to calculate how much is left and figure out that I am quickly running out of time to finish under 16 hours. Upon departing the steps, I took off on the rocky single track through the dark until the next switchback or more steps. This cycle continued on until finally the rough steps ended. Time keeps ticking down and I run faster and faster through the dark down this dang hill. Now I’m running faster than I had all day long it seems. A volunteer, appears almost out of nowhere along the trail and tells me the last hill is up ahead named ‘insult hill’ and that yes runner #123, you’re going to finish this race! This ‘insult’ is a cramp in my leg, so I quickly down a couple salts and charge on. I take off to the right up through a break in the trail to a road, where we discover I went off the course. Damnit! Backtrack up the trail, discover the error in navigation, precious time wasted with not much left to break 16 hours, and I’m running even faster down the hill, leaving Gerda behind me. My feet keep turning over and over, throwing caution to the wind as I descend down some more steps, where I pass two ladies. “You’re downhill running is inspiring!” I appreciate the comment but didn’t have the energy or time to reply, and just keep on running, trying to get under that time for what I thought was the official finish limit and Western State qualifying time. I’ve been going for 16 hours and it would suck not to get a finish.

A clearing from the trees, and I can see a few lights below, I still must be a hundred feet or so above ground level, so I still have a ways to go. Keep looking at my watch, and realize when the clock hit 8:58 PM and I don’t see civilization yet, I am probably not going to break 16 hrs. Eventually the downhill ends, I meet volunteers by the road who direct me to the right, back to the Fire Station where we all started the adventure at 5 am in the morning, and finish, in 16:00:54, sprinting down the mountain the last 1.5 miles. No idea where I got that energy, or why I didn’t summon it an hour or so earlier! Tia tells me to turn my headlight off and puts the finisher medal over my head — the work is done, and now I can stop running!


Training and Racing Lately….

Not much blog activity from me lately…. I sprained my ankle during the furlough in October. It was kind of nagging at first, but enough to be annoying and register as ‘not normal.’  Had to bow out of running Cactus Rose, and then after weeks of not improving, finally went to see a chiropractor.  That helped some, but not playing volleyball seems to be the main culprit. December went on and finally saw some improvement, and then in surprising luck, I got into the Miwok 100k via the lottery. Crap, now I have to heal up and train for this beast.


I ran 171 miles in January, and felt pretty solid. No ankle issues. February came around, and I ran the piney woods 50k, as a first ‘tune up’ for training. Really really flat (don’t really have a desire to run that much flat miles again…..), but nice weather although the trails were a bit choppy from some rain. Ran a 50k PR there, but rolled my ankle which was sore for a good week or so, which was a bit troubling at the time.  Followed January up with 118 miles in February, with the goal of running the Nueces 50k. Nueces is probably the hilliest course I can train on to prepare for Miwok, so seemed mandatory, even though I would be driving all the way out there solo.

Nueces started off nice and cool (reportedly in the 30’s)… but that changed pretty quickly. The course is 2 50k loops, lots of loose rock and some nice climbs.  I also have to say it was quite nice that my bed was about 50 feet from the start line… a lot less stress in the morning with extra time to spare.  First lap I felt pretty strong, and rolled in to the hallway around 3 hrs, I could feel the warmth increasing. Had I known the temperature was going to top out near 90 degrees, I would have probably altered my electrolyte intake….

Second lap started off a bit slow, but then I was rolling. I passed a handful of runners the first 5 miles or so, and was cruising, before the heat came on. Felt like I was baking out there…. So I slowed down to keep my HR under control. Spent quite a few minutes at the aid stations just dumping cold water on my head… dang it was hot!! As slow as I was moving the first few miles after the heat bonk, no one was passing me. So I figured everyone must having a tough time. Eventually folks did pass me as I spent a few minutes recovering at the aid stations, and I joined up with a couple other folks to hike it out. Any time goals were pretty much gone by this point, but I was just here for a training run anyway. This next stretch has the mile long rocky hill, followed my a nice downhill to the last short section,  easy. Unfortunately I ran out of water in this 4-5 miles stretch, really wish I would have had an extra, and I had no plans to push it too hard to make anything really bad, so I just hiked it out. I had tweaked my ankle a couple times during the race, so I was taking the downhills rather gingerly to avoid making that situation any worse as well. Finished just above 7 hrs, and was glad to be done. Honestly felt like the hardest 50k I’d run given the course and weather conditions. But I got it done, showered, and then had the LONG drive back home on the same day… If it weren’t for visiting my family, I would have stopped the 5  drive a few hours earlier…


Legs were pretty sore the first few days after Nueces… I decided I would give volleyball a shot, since my ankle was feeling good (hadn’t played at all since December). Bad idea! Was really sore afterwards, and it has lingered several days. It was more sore after that than after running 30 miles in the hill country — what gives? Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of massage and stretching, so hopefully it goes away like in December, just very frustrating to deal with. Next on the radar is a possible training run to Bandera, followed by also running the Possum Kingdom 55k, which is 3 weeks out from Miwok and gives me a nice 3 week taper. Just have to work in a lot of weight training on the legs, Kemah bridge repeats, and also a little treadmill incline hiking. Will it be enough to finish Miwok? Not so sure! But I hope so… really wish Houston had bigger hills….. After Miwok I will definitely take it easy during the summer, and focus on some strength training and sticking to short distance training. Just get me to the Miwok start line healthy !

“The Talk” / It’s not a fungus.

As ultrarunners or endurance athletes, we’ve all had this kind of conversation before.  This one for me was at the doctor’s office a little while ago, and was funny on a couple levels.


“Your toenails look like they have a fungus, that must really hurt.”

“It’s not a fungus. I run alot, and that is what happens.”

“Oh, do you run short distances, or long distances?”
“Long distances.”
“Like marathons?”

“Yeah… sort of.”
“What do you mean ‘sort of’?”
“So, last week, I ran a 50 mile race in California.”
“Fifty?? Five-zero?”
“I didn’t know the human body was capable of such a thing…”

San Francisco 50 miler Race Report

I “ran” for 50 miles in the Marin Headlands outside of San Francisco, and it took almost 15 hours so I thought I’d write a bit up on it.

On a run on Saturday with HTREx, a couple running friends, Wim and Gerda, from Houston who live in SF offered up a place to stay if I wanted a trip out (Wim would be running the 50 mi).  I knew it was going to be hilly, so I thought I would check out the race details.  Hmm… 10,000 ft of elevation change for all 50 miles… and the most I’ve done is probably half that.  There is a 16 hour cutoff (due to the fact it also was a 100 mile event)… so it seemed “doable” but needless to say, should be challenging for a flatlander like me: my only goal was to simply finish under the 16 hr cutoff.  And in hindsight, if I knew how hilly it really was, don’t know if I would have signed up, since there was no prolonged flat parts; basically running up and down hills the whole race, and not these 300 ft hills I’ve experienced in the hill country, they would be several times larger.

some hills up in here....

some hills up in here….


Additionally, the course would have views of the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate bridge, and surrounding Bay Area to add to the scenic value.  And I would get to escape the scorching temperatures down in Houston, even if only for a few days—the starting temperature was around 50 degrees, whereas the high back in Houston I’m sure was around 100.


Start line at Rodeo Beach

Start line at Rodeo Beach

Race started at rodeo beach… nice and beautiful view out to the Pacific Ocean.  It was a “low key” 50 mile/100 mile race as only about ~70 folks were signed up for both races in this 1st year event, put on by Coastal Trail Runs (awesome aid station support and course was well marked. Nice swag and definitely would consider doing another of their races again).  The race director set us off right at 7:00 am and I began the long hike as all the California speedsters blazed off past me up the first hill, I stuck to my pre-race plan of walking all the uphills, and doing my best everywhere else on the course.  The downhills are what kills your quads, and it would make no sense for me to waste my precious energy and strength running uphills (especially since I didn’t train for running them) when I hadn’t run a race like this before.

Course started off with a ~900 ft climb over about a mile and half.  Yeah, a little bit hillier than running around Houston.  I was enjoying the hiking and the getting to explore a totally new trail.  Some steps going up, and some relatively technical footing in some areas of the first section (but overall the course is not technical at all).

Came thru the Tennessee Valley aid station, got some PB&J, and headed out for the next scamper on the Coastal Trail.  Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it was pretty gorgeous, and somewhere along this section, it felt pretty awesome and  I knew I was going to have a good time, regardless of the outcome.  I got out my phone to take a picture, and saw my friend Amy had texted me a good luck message.  Some friends were all back in Texas running a race in the evening, where the starting temperature would be around 100 degrees… here it was about 50 degrees at the start…I’ll take this any day…..

Coastal Trail sweetness

Coastal Trail sweetness

Don’t remember too much about this section other than some nice singletrack and wasn’t too hilly in this section.  Then you DROPPED into the Muir Beach aid station.  Man, that was fun running down that hill, like a 400 foot drop in less than a mile, and you could see the beach and water and some houses below.  That was a pretty awesome feeling.

descending to Muir Beach... just a *little* more scenic than running repeats on the Kemah Bridge.....

descending to Muir Beach… just a *little* more scenic than running repeats on the Kemah Bridge…..

Refueled at the A/S and then began the long climb back up, up, up, in the same direction you just came, but then taking the turn up the big hill.  This was a 1000 ft climb which seemed to never end.  The fog was quite thick in this area, and I could barely see the runners in front of me.  Started feeling the effects of the hills, but throttled back the pace when I felt like it.  Finally that hill topped out and began the descent back to Tennessee Valley on what was probably the favorite stretch of trail I’ve ever run. Went from desolate and shrubbery on the top of the hill to nice forested singletrack at the bottom of the switchback.  I prefer forested areas,  so it was nice to see some trees.

Refueled again at TV then headed out another LONG climb (~900 ft) through the fog. Still was tracking by a few people, but folks were pretty sparsely spread out over the 25 mi loop course.  This hill mercifully ended eventually, which meant it was time for a TWO MILE downhill. Whoa! That was pretty awesome running down for that long.  After a while, I took a little break to conserve my energy a bit, even though my body was still feeling pretty good.  Eventually the hill bottomed out and then there was probably the only flat section leading to the next A/S.  One of the volunteers commented on my Seabrook Lucky Trails shirt (didn’t expect to find anyone with any Texas connections out here) so I chatted away a couple minutes with them (I spent WAY too much time at the A/S’s this race, but I was in no rush as my only goal was simply to finish under the 16 hour cutoff).

Headed out of there and back out to the hills.  This is about when I started feeling it, the temperature felt like it was warming up, but in hindsight, my electrolytes probably got off a bit.  Didn’t help coming from Houston where the water consumption is much higher due to the heat, but I could tell I was still sweating quite a bit (and my shirt was soaked from running through the fog all morning….).  This area is where I started seeing some of the leaders retracing there steps (the 25 mile loop was run in reverse order on the even numbered loops), so these folks were HOURS ahead of me, and looking strong.  Sure would be nice to be able to train on hills like this all the time…  Started feeling a bit of a cramp in my hamstring, so took a little salt, and relaxed the pace a bit on what seemed like another brutal hill.

Eventually I rolled into the final A/S, where I was feeling a bit rough, but OK.  Dipped a banana in table salt, and chased it with a shot of coke. The volunteers enjoyed my sour face from that experiment and one of the guys had some connection to Texas running, so we chatted a bit as I tried to stabilize.  Left there, still feeling off, and hiking down the mostly road section to the last 4 miles of the loop.  Definitely the easiest section, and mostly on the road downhill.  And oh yeah, in this section you could see the Golden Gate bridge through the fog, which was quite lovely.

nice views on the way...

nice views on the way… Who says running is boring?

Eventually I made it to the halfway point after about 6 hours 20 mins, but was feeling a bit rough. Didn’t think I had drank that much, but maybe wasn’t taking enough salt. Sat down and refueled for a bit and there was a German Guy there.  He offered me some drink which “we didn’t have in the states”. It smelled like paint thinner but I took a few sips anyway. What is this? Oh, I dunno… it’s basically pure alcohol… it will relax your stomach. <Ummm… I think I’m done with that.>  Me and German guy then began hiking out of there up to the next A/S.  Soon, I felt like my ‘second wind’ hit me, as I guess my electrolyte balances got restored and felt like a million bucks again.  Returned to the last A/S feeling a million times better, and refueled, and headed out again.

Was pleasantly surprised I was still hiking at a pretty good pace at this section.  Passed by one of the scenic overlooks of the Golden Gate Bridge and the wind was gusting pretty crazy up there.  Tried to get a nice panoramic picture, but unfortunately it didn’t come out right on my iPhone.  Said goodbye to the bridge, and headed back down the hill.  This was another 2 mile downhill!  My legs were somehow still holding up, at least it felt like they were OK.  Made up some decent time and made it back to the short flat section and refueled.

This was somewhere around mile 34 where the mental game we all experience at some point in a race transitions from “Am I going to finish?” To “Yes, I’m going to finish!!” and was feeling a bit better.  Unfortunately another 2 mile uphill, which didn’t seem that steep, but couldn’t seem to increase my hiking speed any….problem is I’ve already run 35 miles and cover 6-7,000 ft of elevation change.  A Pretty Blonde Girl glided past me up the trail, and I asked her if she wanted to run a stretch for me.  Not this year, maybe next year PBG…..

The scenic views across the valley and hills across the way continued up and up, and eventually the hill got close  topping off through the fog, which was rolling past us like a wave, where I surprisingly found one of my host’s, Gerda, waiting at the top of a mini hill.  I guess her husband was already done, and she felt like coming up here to visit.  Soon that beast of a hill topped out, and got to enjoy another long downhill on a jeep road. That one was pretty fun to run and my legs still felt relatively strong, all things considered.  Rolled back in to TV aid station, refueled, and headed back out. Gerda asked me if I wanted a pacer for 8 miles…so why not.  I am an introvert, but you are still kind of starving for human attention after running for 10 hours and barely seeing anyone.  We started hiking back out of TV up the big 1000 foot hill. I knew it would end… but it was quite tough climbing up that one.  Some sections reminded me of Ice Cream Hill, except this one was like 3 times larger and longer.   More fog, and wonderful views on the top of the hill, then the descent back to Muir Beach.  At this point, my downhill running was rather “ragged” to put it nicely.  My quads had definitely lost some strength now, and running down was a bit tougher. And actually the ones that hurt the most were some stabilizer muscles connecting to my foot that I used on the downs, that probably had never been worked that hard….


the treat for climbing up the hills....

the treat for climbing up the hills….

Took a long break at Muir Beach, and headed back up the hill.  This was some more great views of the Coastal Trail, but my “running” was pretty much over at this point.  It was slow going, but still felt good all things considered. Having to run right above the coast of the Pacific Ocean doesn’t hurt either.  Was a flat section back to the last aid station at Tennessee Valley, but I didn’t feel like running it much.  I needed a nature break and was hoping to get to the A/S in time, where we then met Wim, Gerda’s husband, who also ran the 50 and was already done.  Chatted a bit, got the fleece jacket (the swag from the race), as the sun would soon set and I was already beginning to cool off.  I think I consumed 3 cups of vegetable soup at the TV aid station, which was pretty damn good.  Got my light on, and headed back out for the last 5 mile stretch to the finish.

First climb up wasn’t too bad, and I honestly didn’t even recall this stretch from the beginning of the race some 13 hours earlier in the day.  Soon the sun set, the temperature started to drop, the grade of the hill increased, and the fog thickened.  It was almost like driving your car in the fog, except I could only really see about 5-10 feet in front of me in some sections, and was a strange feeling to be hiking up the hill, but unable to tell what’s coming ahead or where the trail even is headed!   Started seeing a few more of the dozen 100 mile runners coming back for loop 3 in this section. Man, this would be TOUGH to navigate this in the night for the 100 mile runners… I’m glad I’m not one of them. One of them asked me if I was the 100 mile leader… Uh, no, dude, hah.  Finally the hill crested out, and that was a sweet relief, although judging by my watch, I could tell we had to drop 800 feet in a mile?….. so it has to start… sometime soon… right? The last hilltop was pretty neat – pitch dark, could hear the waves from the ocean crashing against the shore below, a foghorn blowing, and seeing a lighthouse light flickering every few seconds out to the night. Pretty cool feeling.

Eventually I returned to the steps, could feel the cool condensation on the handrails as I guided my descent to the finish…and the downhill continued to drop, drop, drop.  Not too long, and then down the last set of switchbacks, you could see the finish line that I started over 14 hours earlier.  Finished in 14 hrs 43 mins, was a beautifully epic run.  As tough as the hills were, I never felt like quitting and kept it at a ‘reasonable’ pace the entire day.  Second to last, but couldn’t care less….And immediately started consuming food to replenish the 6000 calories I expended.  Definitely want to come back to the Marin Headlands…

Rocky Racoon 100 2013 038