Last Saturday I participated in the inaugural Inside Trail Marin Ultra Challenge, which features 50k and 50 mile distances. It took me literally half of 2012 to do my first race (due to injury), but this was a great one to chose for my first outing. Both courses, designed by Jim Vernon of the Endurables, are arguably the most aesthetic, scenic and challenging ever created in the Headlands and Mount Tamalpais region. There were only a few miles of repetition on the entire course and virtually all the my favorite trails were included. The 50 mile course also featured an ascent of the challenging Willow Camp Trail which gains nearly 2,000 ft in 2 miles from Stinson Beach topping out on lovely Bolinas Ridge. Total elevation gain for the 50 mile event was nearly 11,000 ft with no shortage of hills throughout. Inside Trail did a marvelous job organizing the event with excellent course marking and plentiful aid stations. A huge thanks goes to the volunteers for cheerfully staffing four aid stations and keeping them well-stocked. Despite the difficult course, all the runners seemed to be enjoying the day and finished in high spirits. Congrats to all the participants for tackling these challenging courses. If you haven’t tried Inside Trail yet, I highly recommend it!
The day dawned foggy and cool, but nice for running. It was great to catch up with Brett in the early miles as we traversed foggy hillsides. Heading over the Tennessee Valley and up the Miwok Trail the sun peaked through the marine layer providing a spotlight affect on the hills. The long gradual climb up to Cardiac went well and then swiftly down to Stinson Beach on the famed Dipsea Trail. Willow Camp was an arduous climb with some steep hiking sections, but the views at the top of more than compensated. Sunbeams shined through the foggy oak forest creating a surreal moment and then once above the marine layer, the fog could be seen streaming up the golden hillside from below. The single track to Pantoll and then down to Muir Woods was delightful. A little bit more hiking on the stairs of the Lost Trail was followed by a stroll by the Tourist Club (it wasn’t opened yet so no beer stop) continuing to the Sun Trail and then back down to Muir Woods. The Redwood Creek Trail was inundated in high grass and brush making it slower than expected.
Back at Muir Beach, the cumulative climbing was taking its toll and I knew the last few steep climbs were going to be arduous. While I’ve been doing some adventure runs recently in the 8-13 hour duration (see prior and future posts blog posts), I have not done long training runs with consistent running yet after my three month layoff from running due to injury (a pinched back nerve sustained after a freak accident hitting a tree on my head pre-dawn). I felt this lack of fitness as I transitioned to hiking the last climbs. Coming out of Pirates Cove I was surprised to see Gary Gellin coming in the opposite direction to run with me for the last few miles. It was great to catch up and hear about his big plans for the summer (Tahoe Rim Trail FKT attempt in mid-August) and distract me from my tired legs on the climbs. Closing in on foggy Rodeo Beach we ran down the last few flights of stairs and into the finish area for a time of 7:26. Brett Rivers finished second in a strong 8:05 and Ron Gutierrez was third in 8:38. My primary race goal today was to stay on top of hydration and nutrition for a 50 miler and I think I accomplished that with no cramping. The primary goal, however, was to enjoy the beautiful trails and gorgeous scenery of this trail running playground. Not surprisingly, this was also a success, with many thanks owed to Inside Trail, the volunteers, and Jim Vernon’s sweet course design!