Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mt Tam steps it up. And down.

I know that I was just here, two weeks ago, with Mrs Notthat running the PCTR Stinson Beach race. But we could only do the short distance due to time constraints, which makes coming back so soon to run the ITR Mt Tam race (which uses some of the same trails) perfectly reasonable.

Mrs Nothat is busy teasing cabana boys on a beach in Mexico, so sadly she missed out on this opportunity to see some of the best trails in the Bay Area. I signed up for the 30K since it covered almost all of the race's trails with few repeats. It would be the longest distance I had done since Rocky Ridge, so I had some concern (well founded, it turned out) about how I would do, but I also knew I would have all the time I needed to get it done.

Enibas (not her real name) is offering to help the ITR Owl grab the bullhorn from All Day. Trail racing can get complicated.
All Day had been up most of the night marking the trails (this area suffers from frequent vandalism when courses are marked the day before a race, so marking it the night before the race seemed like a good idea). All Day was also running the 50K event today. All of which caused alarm when he grabbed the bullhorn and began explaining how he had started naming the ribbons at about 1 AM (but found determining their sex to be challenging).

Photo by ITR volunteer, very early in the race. That woman beat me by over one and a half hours.
There were several photographers along the course, and I can't resist being a dork in front of them. The ironic bit is that shortly after this picture was taken, I was making that face for real when I, along with a few others, were attacked by a number of agitated yellow jackets. I got stung twice in one calf and had a third bee desperately trying to sting my gloved (fortunately) left hand. The good news was that the bees apparently mellowed quickly (this is Marin County after all) and didn't bother many other runners.

The Steep Ravine trail is glorious. I've said it before, but it's worth saying again - you really must do a race out of Stinson Beach at some point if you have never tried it before. It is challenging but well worth it.

Enibas on the infamous ladder. I was trying hard to keep up with her so that I could get more pictures with real runners in them (usually I'm so far behind it's just me and maybe a lost tourist or two).

Enibas making her way through the tall trees. I just plain love this trail.

The 50K and 30K runners started at 8:30, with the Half Marathon and 10K runners starting at 9:00. I had a goal of making it to the first aid station (Cardiac Hill, mile 3.7) without being passed by any of the later start runners.


I started getting passed at about mile 2.5. Here Asil (not her real name) smiled and waved as she blew past, on her way to a great 10K finish (first woman, fourth overall).

The Cardiac Hill aid station is fun because, when you reach it, you know you've got some downhill ahead of you. All runners, except the 10K runners, would see this aid station at least twice (50K runners hit it four times).

One part of the race I was really looking forward to was the loop through the Muir Woods National Monument. The trails in and out of that place were awesome.

As you can see it was a wonderful day. Cool, but sunny with no wind or fog at all. The course had us cross through one end of the park's tourist area, climb a tough hill, then come back down and cross the other end of the park.

I was amazed at the number of cars fighting for a parking space there. Muir Woods is a great place to visit, but it was still reasonably early and I wouldn't have thought it would be so busy. I learned later that this was Free National Parks Day, which led to a massive number of cheapskates trying to cram into the park at the same time.

I had a great time smiling as I dodged the cars through a parking lot and got back on a trail.

About as "no frills" as a bridge can be.

A bit after leaving that parking lot I arrived at the second aid station, Deer Park. This was mile 10.1 for me. That guy in the yellow, Roel (not his real name), is on his way to winning the 50K. He has run 24.2 miles in the amount of time it took me to get here. Wow.

(Parking note: The right side of this approach to Muir Woods was packed with parked cars. The volunteers at this aid station kept getting blamed for holding a race on a free parks day and taking up all these parking spaces. In real life, they had taken up two - the one with the awning and one for their vehicle. The people in cars had a hard time grasping the fact that the race was based out of Stinson Beach. "But that's not even close to here!" No kidding.)

Not long after I left the aid station I was passed by the second place 50K runner. After that, it was a bit of time before I was passed again.

The trail goes right across this field, then starts up that hill on the left. K-Dub ended up getting flattened here by a dog whose moronic owner thought it would be fun to throw the ball out in front of K-Dub.
When you leave Deer Park, you have a reasonably flat stretch for a mile or two. It's hard to enjoy it though since you know you have a serious climb coming up.

While going up the hill in the below picture, these turkey buzzards kept flying over my head. I was ready to defend the frogs on my hat to the death if it came down to it. Which would probably suit the buzzards just fine. They were huge!

We came up that switchback-infested trail. The odd thing was that I kind of liked it - it was a bit tedious  but the switchbacks meant the trail wasn't very steep, which is what was mattering at that point to my tired legs.

Blue ribbons indicate a trail is out of bounds. All Day was a bit punchy towards the end of his course marking in the wee hours of the morning and decided this table was out of bounds too. (Too bad because I could have used a nice sit about now.)

Flamingos! That can only mean one thing…

… the Cardiac Hill aid station is near! The three runners you see here are all heading out to finish their 20K loop for their 50K race. For me though, I only had 2.9 miles left, and it was mostly downhill. I had very little energy left, but I still left here with a bit of spring in my step (which sprang out after a few hundred yards).

The view of San Francisco from shortly after that aid station. Stunning.

I've been on bits of the infamous Dipsea trail before. It is known for having a lot of steps and a lot of climbing. There is a very popular race on the trail that sounds fun, and there are double and quad versions of the race that must be twice and four times as much fun. Now that I've been on more of the trail I'm thinking the good old fashioned single version might be the only one I'd have a chance of surviving.

Going down these steps while you are tired is much harder than it sounds. Coming back up them would be even harder.

In any case, I eventually managed to get down those steps, broke free of the forest, and spied Stinson Beach. There is still a ways to go, but it's close enough that my pace picked up. (At least it did in my mind.)

And then there was the finish line. Finally.

I love these trails - great variety with everything you could possibly want, as long as you don't want boring, flat, paved roads. 

This is the elevation chart my GPS device showed me after the race. Not a lot of flat there.

I was the dead last 30K finisher (by a significant amount). And I was happy with that. While I was tired, and could still feel the stings from the yellow jackets, I was in pretty good shape. (Better than one of my Hokas, which had a part of its sole separate from the rest of the shoe about 13 miles into this race. Shouldn't these things have lasted more than 350 miles?)

There were a lot of running friends that took part in this race, and all did well - even K-Dub, once she was able to determine that most of her important body parts were still working after being clocked by that poodle, managed a big smile at the finish.

(Man. I'm really going to regret that poodle crack.)

That's it - move along…

PS: Click here to see more of my pictures.


mary ann said...

Wow, that is a beautiful area and I'm sorry about the yellow jackets, but it was good of you to protect the other runners.

Beth said...

Love, Love, Love those trails and the pictures!
Bees, not so much!

ken michal said...

"Let's see... Pink is for girls, blue is for boys, orange... um... ah... oh heck, they can follow the flamingos!!" ;)

Thanks for the great writeup, Allen!! Sorry to hear about the bees! At least they weren't poodles!!

All Day!

pesya said...

I was one of the 10k runners and i have to say what a beautiful ride. I'll have to do the 30k next year. I heard about the poodle attack through the grapevine. Hope she's doing better!