Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stinson Beach comes through again

The thing about Stinson beach is that it's a long ways away (well over an hour for us) and a lot of the drive is on a narrow windy road filled with road bikes, and this time, with road construction equipment.

But then you get there, see the beautiful beach, and know that, for the next few hours, you are going to be on some of the most stunning trails in California. I've done one other race out of Stinson Beach and have been dying to come back and do another. The problem with this particular Saturday was that we had to be back shortly after noon, so Mrs Notthat and I decided to do the short distance (12K that ended up being nearly a 13K - BONUS!) of the PCTR Stinson Beach trail race and be happy with that.

This was also our first race with the newly reborn PCTR and I was anxious to see how it would go. (Spoiler alert: It went great.)

Looking at the list of pre-registered runners, I saw only one name that I knew - Ffoeg (not his real name). Ffoeg cannot resist a trail run in the Marin Headlands, so it wasn't a surprise to see him here.

A great surprise was seeing Anoda (not her real name) here too! Ffoeg did the 50K, so I knew we wouldn't see him again once the race started. Anoda was doing the 25K. I doubted we would see her again since we would have to leave soon after I shuffled across the finish line, and as slow as I am, I figured I would still be able to finish my 12K before she finished her 25K. Maybe.

The race started with an enthusiastic burst up a short paved road followed by a halt on Highway 1 while we squeezed onto the actual trail.

We spent most of the first half of the race going uphill on the aptly named Steep Ravine trail. The trail wanders along a noisy creek in an amazingly lush forest.

We had a bit of rain earlier in the week, but the weather seems to have little impact here. The trail was damp, but not muddy, and while the sun was shining brightly, in here you were drenched in cool shadows.

The Steep Ravine trail is infamous for its ladder. It's not a long ladder, but it does add a fun element to the course.

Yes - the trail goes right between those two trees.

After about three miles of climbing, you come out of the woods at the Pantol Ranger Station. Normally, this is where the aid station would be, but the Park Service has decided that it added too much congestion to this area (there are a LOT of people that come out and hike these trails), so a bonus out-and-back bit was added to our 12K.

The first cool thing about the out-and-back was that it meant I would get to see how far ahead of me Mrs Notthat was. The simple answer was "not that far"- the more correct answer was "it doesn't matter since she is going to blow me away on the downhill that's next."

I love that this aid station is at the  top of Cardiac Hill.
The second cool thing about the out-and-back was that we were rewarded with some great views. The weather was stunning - completely clear with very mild temperatures.

That pink loop of ribbon on the trail marked the location of a nest full of enthusiastic wasps. It was wise to give them a wide berth.
After making it back to the Pantol area, we crossed a road and then spent some time running along a ridge that was determined to distract you with gorgeous views.

The ridge is followed by going back through that forest, this time downhill on the amazing Matt Davis trail. This trail is steeper than the Steep Ravine trail, and has many switchbacks that are infested with steps. And roots. LOTS of roots. Anyone thinking they are going to make up a lot of time blasting down this trail is likely to be surprised (and maybe a bit bloody at the finish line). I had no chance of winning, so I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.

Before long I was at the finish line and my race was done.

Mrs Notthat beat me by a little over ten minutes. She also managed to become "one with the trail" (weirdly, during a relatively flat section - not the steep meat grinder part).

Just as I'm busy patting myself on the back for not getting beat by any of the 25K runners, in came the first place man followed closely by Anoda (I ended up beating her by a whole eight minutes. Sheesh.)

If you are a trail runner and have never done a race up here, you really need to add it to your to-do list (and hope really hard that the RD is able to arrange great weather like we had). If you aren't a trail runner, you still need to get out here and spend a day on these trails. Stinson Beach is a fun little town, there is a large parking lot and many fun places to eat.

The PCTR people and volunteers were all great and the course was well marked. We had a great time and are looking forward to coming back to do a longer distance.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures from the race here.


Lia said...

Great write up! Love that trail. I'm going to need a little time before I give my money to PCTR though...

Eladril 26.2 said...

Thanks Alan for being the first Guinea Pig, it looks safe to go back in the water with PCTR. I love both Steep Ravine and it is great that they were able to Matt Davis this year. Loved your post.

Beth said...

Allen, we love Steep Ravine and Matt Davis! Such beautiful trails. Hope Mrs. is recovering from her bonding time with the dirt.

mary ann said...

"one with the trail" ~ hahahahah.
Love the pink ribboned wasp home too.
Glad you had such beautiful weather in such a glorious spot.