I had great memories of the Golden Hills Trail Marathon from last year so it was an easy decision to return this year. The marathon course does a grand tour of the East Bay Regional Parks traveling through Tilden, Sibley, Huckleberry, Redwood, and Lake Chabot Regional Parks. There is ample hill climbing on the route with elevation gain totaling over 5,800 feet. My favorite part of this point-to-point course is the variety: from sweeping views of San Francisco to lush redwood forest, the course passes through virtually all of the Bay Area ecosystems. The race is also very well organized by ultrarunning legends Ann Trason and Carl Andersen with great aid stations and a delicious post-race BBQ!
I knew beating my time from 2007 wouldn’t be easy, but with excellent fall weather and a dry course (as opposed to the muddy spots experienced last year), I was confident about improving the time. I ended up feeling pretty good along the course and finished first in 3:16:53, bettering my course record from last year by 2.5 minutes. I used the Fireblades again and they worked out great!
The first 4 miles of the course climbs 1,500+ ft to Vollmer Peak where commanding 360 degree views of the entire Bay Area are seen. It was a crisp fall day and I felt like I could reach out and touch San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The scenery then changes to chapparal and hardwood forests for a stretch of ups and downs. The course passes through Skyline Gate at mile 11 and shortly thereafter plunges into the redwoods and the challenging French Trail which is much harder to negotiate after 13 miles of hilly running! After the single-track in the redwoods, the course goes back out into the chapparal and hardwood forests and one last tough climb on the MacDonald Trail. The rest of way is mainly downhill to Lake Chabot. I felt pretty good reaching the last aid station at Bass Cove with 3 miles to go, but struggled a little with the hills just before reaching the dam. When I hit the pavement on the other side of the dam I was able to pick it up and finish well for the last mile.
The Golden Hills Trail Marathon is run in conjunction with the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 mile which does an out-and-back from Lake Chabot (minus the French Trail section). Hal Koerner was the winner of the 50 mile in 6:43:42 and Darcie Gorman was the first female in 8:16:05. The top female in the marathon was Caren Spore, missing the female record by just three seconds, coming in at 3:49:13.
Congratulations to all the runners in both events and thanks to the organizers and volunteers for an awesome day on the trails!