June 30, 2012
50(?? Jim miles),
12 hours, 52 minutes
Marin Ultra Challenge 50 was just like starting a training run, except for more people, and a number to pin on. I got to Rodeo Beach at 5:30 and got my number, dropped my drop bag, and realized I couldn't find my socks. Oops! I grabbed the pair out of my drop bag. Jim Vernon gave a course overview. As we lined up in the gray mist I recognized Donald whose blog I read. The camera must add 20 pounds, as in person he's very lean.
Rodeo Beach > Coastal > SCA> Rodeo Valley Lollipop 1:48 (8.2 miles)
The gray mist stayed with us as we left the beach. I was right with the pack on Bunker Road and up Coastal Trail. Then I started walking the hill, and quickly everyone faded into the distance. I heard a patter of feet. Eldrith! I told her Congrats! on her Ultra Running Performance of the year at Headlands 100 last year. I'd seen her at races but this was the first time I said anything. What a sweet lady, and what an inspiration. She wanted to run up the hill, and there I was, dropped by a 70 year old. I didn't feel like pushing the pace. At SCA Jim was there, but no time to talk to him. In the descent back to Rodeo Beach I thought I would pass a few people on the descent, but noone was even in sight.
Rodeo Beach > Wolf Ridge >Old Springs to Tennesee Valley 1:01 (4.1 miles)
I'd left my car right by the aid station for a strategic personal aid station. I changed from my long sleeve to short sleeve and applied body glide. Did this section as I'd done so many times on training runs--the hike up Hill 88, rollers on Wolf Ridge, then the long smooth descent into TV. Again, noone in sight.
Miwok > Dias > Muir Beach 1:29 (6)
The fog was still fairly thick, but I could see the turn clearly labeled to go on Miwok (the long way) instead of Miwok cutoff (the shorter way). The map had said Miwok cutoff. Jim had said Miwok cutoff. But the ribbons said Miwok (the long way). I thought about going on cutoff. But I begrudgingly went the long way. I had hoped to break 12 hours, and I thought the quarter mile extra would throw me off. On Miwok I started to feel good and pressed the pace. I passed a guy! and cruised into Muir Beach. The aid station was a little back from the road, adding an extra .1 mile in out and back. Karen was there!
Redwood Creek> Heather Cutoff> Coastal Trail to Cardiac Aid Station 1:25 (4.5)
The sun had started to break free, and it was starting to get hot. I ran Redwood, hiked Heather, and ran Coastal where it started to flatten out as it climbed 1,300 feet. Still, I was off my 12 hour splits.
Dipsea > Stinson Beach 51:39 (3.7)
After the endless set of steps on Dipsea, I started to open up on the descent to Stinson Beach. I passed another guy! I thought the aid station would be right at Stinson Beach, but it was at the Willow Pass Trail intersection, as far up as it could be. I was beginning to fear I'd missed it. Thierry (another Endurable) saw me walking up the road and had my drop bag out neatly waiting for me. I grabbed new scoobies and applied more Body Glide. They said there was a "mini-pack" about 5 minutes ahead of me. When I looked up, I could see them on the slopes above.
Willow Pass Trail> Coastal > Matt Davis > Cardiac aid station 1:42 (5.5)
Willow Pass is a steep uphill climb of ~1,800 feet in under 2 miles. Nothing to do but do it. The day had gotten hot, so I was grateful for the shade higher up when we got into the trees. Out of nowhere, Jim Vernon appeared to take my picture! He walked with me a little. Talking to him & Eldrith were the two highlights of non-aid station sociability. Looking at my splits, this is where 12 hours slipped definitively out of reach. I'd budgeted 1:28 for this section, and I took 14 minutes more. I did start running once I hit Coastal (at a good pace) and passed Eldrith and ~3 other runners. I felt good! I felt I was in the mix! There was ~20 miles left and I felt ready for it.
Cardiac> Ben Johnson> Fern Creek> Lost> Going to the Sun > Dipsea> Deer Park 2:15 (8.8)
Where time and space lose all meaning, on the longest section between aid stations. I filled to the brim at Cardiac. I didn't bomb down Ben Johnson, but I kept a steady downhill pace. Muir Woods was jam packed with tourists. Sometimes this was great, when they cheered for me!!! Sometimes not so great, when I said "Excuse me" on Lost Trail and a hiker very slowly kept walking in front of me, blocking the trail.
When I turned to go up Fern Creek I saw a fellow runner climbing over a tree! to get to closed Alice Eastwood trail (off course!) I yelled at him to get back on course. He was very grateful. As we were climbing Lost, another runner wearing five finger shoes caught up with us--he'd taken the same wrong turn before he finally figured out the "closed trail" signs meant CLOSED. The wrong-way runner was coated in clothing--a Death Valley style hat with a veil and arm covers. I let him pass me, but then I kept him in sight and passed on Dipsea into Old Inn. I was planning to get water at Old Inn, but two runners were filling their hydration packs there. I didn't want to wait.
As I climbed Dipsea to Deer Park, an anxious woman asked "Did you see a runner with a blue shirt and a pack" Me "That's like every runner!" The crazy hat dude caught up with me there--she was looking for him. With all his distinctive clothing, she asked for a guy with a blue shirt? She narrated the course to him "After a steep climb up Dipsea, there's a scorching descent on Deer Park". him "I don't feel up to a scorching descent". But I did! I said BYE and jetted down Deer Park.
Redwood Creek Trail was as overgrown as I'd remembered. I was nervous about water, even though I had plenty. Constant forward motion…except for when I got caught behind two horse back riders. I was stuck behind them until they turned to go across the stream (horses can't use the rickety wood bridges). I would look back and see them gaining on me again, and I picked up my speed. Finally I was at Muir Beach.
Coastal Trail over Pirates Cove > Tennessee Valley 1:14 (4.3)
I arrived at Muir Beach at ~4:45, and I knew a 12 hour finish was out of reach with 8.5 tough miles to go. The volunteers said the closest runner was "5-10 minutes ahead of me". Knowing I wouldn't break 12 hours, I decided to not kill myself. The 50 wasn't my goal--Cascades 100 in August is my goal. I need to be in shape to keep training, not take 3 weeks off after wrecking myself. The wheels didn't come off, but I wasn't flying through this section. In fact, climbing Pirates Cove, a hiker passed me convincingly. Once I got to the top I thought "just like in training". I was proud I ran all the way into TV. The aid station workers were ringing cowbells, and I said "More cowbell! More cowbell!"
TV> Old Springs> Wolf Ridge> Coastal 1:03 (4.2)
As I started up Old Springs, I could hear the cowbells ringing for a runner behind me. This put a spring in my step. I even ran part of the up in Old Springs. It was a repeat of the finish of Headlands 100 where I'd dropped after 50, right down to the thick pea soup fog. I was glad it was still daylight, so I could make out the trail. About 1/2 mile from the finish, Pon (from the Endurables) passed me like a rocket. I tried to hang but I couldn't. And then there was the finish line, with Karen & Ken! I sprinted for the line in 12:52. And I got a finishers pint glass! I cheered Eldrith on as she finished--she's incredible! And I discovered from the finishers list there was a woman 3 minutes ahead of me, who I hadn't seen in the thick fog. If I'd seen someone so close on the descent, I would have tried to pass her.
Things I did well
- Packed my bag the night before
- Previewed the course on my own so I knew every turn
- Said thank you to the aid station volunteers
- Body Glide
- S-Caps every half hour, never cramped
- Constant nutrition supply
- Introduced myself to Eldrith!
Things to improve on
- I didn't break 12 hours, but this was a training race for Cascades. Could I have? I could have gotten below 12:30 if I'd pushed more. 12 hours? unsure.
- Ran out of Scoobies into Stinson Beach-carry a backup pack.
- Didn't have the right music on my iPad, used my iPhone for last section.
Thoughts on Marin 50
The volunteers were so nice and supportive.
Course was overall well marked, but I never really looked for markings.
The race shirt was a disappointment, just the ITR logo and the name of the race. I'd like a pretty design, please! However, the pint glass is very cool and looks great on my race coasters.