I ran the Golden Hills Trail Marathon in 2008 and 2007 so I was familiar with this excellent event, but there is nothing wrong with continuing a good thing! In 2007, this race was a breakthrough run in which I established a course record and ran strong throughout. In 2008, I was able to better my course record by 2.5 minutes, but not without considerable effort. Fortunately, I was able to come back this year and improve my course record by another 1:20, finishing in 3:15:34.The weather on this day was perfect with foggy conditions for the first 5 miles yielding to sunny skies and pleasant temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s.
This course is not easy with nearly constant up and down in the first 19 miles, and a good portion of it is steep and rugged. The last 7 miles are very favorable for opening up the stride, but I have found it difficult to have much gas left at this point after all the previous climbing. As I mentioned previously, this course also has fabulous variety, from sweeping views of the SF Bay Area and Mount Diablo to lush redwood forest along the challenging French Trail. It really is the grand point-to-point tour of the East Bay Hills regional park system. Race directors Ann Trason and Carl Andersen do a fantastic job organizing this event. One of my favorite parts is the post-race BBQ party with burgers and hot dogs to order, soups, and a dessert table with pies, gelato, cookies, and other sweets. All the participants seemed to be very happy to enjoy a great picnic with fellow runners and family on a gorgeous fall day.
Second place in the Marathon was 54-year-old Mark Richtman in 3:38. Mark has a long history of great performances at major trail ultras, including a third place finish at Western States in 2002. Third place was Joe Kelso in 3:39. The Firetrails 50 mile is run in conjunction with the Golden Hills Trail Marathon, doing an out-and-back to the marathon starting point, but minus the 1,400+ feet of steep and challenging elevation gain on the French Trail single track (the 50 miler uses the gradual/flat Stream trail fire road instead). New Bay Area resident Dave Mackey ran an amazing 6:30:34 narrowly missing Carl Andersen’s 6:26:42 from 1994. Former Firetrails champions Chikara Omine (6:47) and Victor Ballesteros (7:02) came in second and third respectively. Julie Young was the first female in the marathon in 3:54:01 and Rory Bosio took the women’s 50 mile race in 7:54:33.
In the week leading up to the run I was dealing with a number of aches, soreness, and general physical tiredness. I ran easy on Thursday and Friday which allowed those issues to improve. During the race, I continued to feel a bit tired and slightly offbeat but felt good enough to match my splits from last year and pick it up a bit in the end to lower my course record from last year. Even prior to Golden Hills, I was planning on taking a few weeks easy after the run and I still plan on doing that.
Congratulations to all the participants and a big thanks to the race directors and awesome volunteers at the aid stations and picnic!