Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lots of ridges, not so many coyotes

The Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are home to an amazing number of great trails with stunning views. And hills. A LOT of hills. Some day I'm going to do a trail race here that doesn't involve a ton of climbing (if that's even possible). Saturday wasn't that day though.

The Coastal Coyote Ridge trail run is based out of Muir Beach, which is surrounded by a lot of hills, naturally. My normal approach to these races is to choose the distance that lets me cover the most trails without repeating, and for this race, the 20 mile course would be the correct answer. But it's been a couple of weeks since I've done any meaningful running, so I wisely chose to do the 10 mile course.

I tend to obsess over elevation charts. Five distances were offered - I was not surprised that the distance I chose ended up with the most climbing per mile:

7 miles @ 1900 feet = 271 feet/mile
10 miles @ 2740 feet = 274 feet/mile
20 miles @ 4390 feet = 219.5 feet/mile
27 miles @ 6290 feet = 233 feet/mile
31 miles @ 7130 feet = 230 feet/mile

Yes - you 20 mile runners should congratulate yourselves on choosing the "easier" course.

The Parks people require the runners to park outside the main area, saving the parking spaces for the normal people that visit the beach (and there are a LOT of normal people that visit this beach). So the runners got to bond while riding a school bus to the start area. I can still hear "The Wheels on the Bus" throbbing in my brain.

"Hey Mr Coastal. Will there be bacon?" (Mildly inside joke.)
We lined up on the bridge that served as both the start and finish chute while Mr. Coastal provided last minute tips, most involving explaining how green is the new yellow, or something like that.

The race starts with several hundred feet of level ground before you start climbing the first hill. We were maybe half a mile into the race and already the start area looked way below us.

Another half a mile and Muir Beach is rapidly disappearing.

Once you get to the top of that first hill, you get to cruise down the other side of it. Your joy is tempered by your view, though, of the next hill and the long line of runners heading up it. (At least that's the case if you are in the back of the pack like me.)

That second hill is wicked.

But after you get over it you get to float down to the first aid station in Tennessee Valley. For those running the 7 mile course, they turn around and head back. For the rest of us, we keep on going, naturally, up a hill.

I managed to catch newly minted Marathon Maniac Haiyr (not her real name) and we spent a bit of time going up the hill together. At about the time the hill ends, the 10 mile turn appears. Haiyr is both pointing at her new cool visor and at the trail I now have to take…

… the uphill trail that disappears into the clouds.

Eventually I made it to the top of that hill and enjoyed some nice downhill single-track.

That's the second aid station (for the 10 mile course) - the same one that I had visited a few miles ago.

Leaving that aid station, there were less than three miles left to go. I can't explain why that last three miles felt more like six, although there is a small chance that the evil, snarky hill we had to climb had something to do with it.

Once you finally get to the top of that hill though, it was all downhill to the finish.

Before today, Leinad (not his real name) had never raced further than 22 miles. Today he won the Full Marathon. And set a new course record. (Actually, he was not alone in setting a course record since all course records fell today. My favorite was the women's 50K record that fell to a woman named Tennessee - her real name - from Brooklyn NY.)

Trail runners are a serious lot.
There were a lot of great stories today. Like the two people that missed the 10 mile turn and ended up doing a 20 mile race, and were smiling about it. And the runner that hurt her knee and, while limping in to finish the first 20 miles of her Full Marathon, started wondering if she still had enough time to go out and get that last seven miles. And Haiyr, who ended up the dead last finisher, but hung in there to finish one of the toughest Full Marathons around. Marathon Maniac indeed!

The weather was perfect with a marine layer that hung around all day and kept things cool, although it muted what were normally stunning views. And all the volunteers that supported the runners all day were awesome.

It was great.

Next up is the Zoom Vasona Lake Half Marathon and then next Saturday, the Brazen Drag 'n' Fly.


That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: Saturday was National Bacon Day. Aid station bacon would be awesome. Maybe.


mary ann said...

Man, those are some hills ~ good thing it wasn't hot too...

Anonymous said...

Nice write up! Thanks for the pics from the run. I was too busy running to carry a camera so your efforts captured things nicely.

Penny Macphail said...

Great write up thank you for posting it, and beautiful pictures. Would you mind me sharing a few of them in my running blog? - Well done on your run! I hope you are coming to Diablo to capture the Tarantulas

notthatlucas said...

Penny - help yourself (and to the others that I link to at the end). I hadn't seen your blog before - I have to start following it since it lists lots of races and such I've done.