Sunday, August 28, 2005

Marin Headlands 50K

Date : August 27, 2005
Location : Marin Headlands, Marin County, CA
Race : Marin Headlands 50K
Finish Time : 7:40


I woke up at 3:50 am. Made tea and ate 4 slices of sourdough bread with peanut butter and jelly. Popped a couple of Immodiums and left at 4:55 am to pick up Anil Rao from his place. We hit the road at 5:15 am and were in the Rodeo Beach parking lot by 6:10 am. It was chilly and foggy. It was a good thing I had decided to take my orange running jacket with me. I wore it almost until mile 20. I was also wearing a long-sleeved running shirt. I was carrying my Fuelbelt with a couple of bottles of Accelerade along with the bottle in my hand. I also decided to carry 8 Accel Gels in addition to salted almonds. Anil was carrying Cytomax powder along with Mojo (you folks should try these bars – just plain awesome!) bars.

Both of us were wearing gaiters.

( Gaiters prevent dirt and gravel from getting into one’s shoes.

The gun went off promptly around 7 am. The first 0.25 miles were on the beach, gravelly in places. We finally climbed 30 feet or so to run by the lagoon. Crossed the road we had driven on to get to the start and started up the Miwok Trail (the inspiration for the annual local ultra classic, the Miwok 100K). The trail went up the hillside to our left and we could see a line of runners disappearing around a corner over a hundred feet up the mountain. This was the Wolf trail. Anil and I walked as soon as the trail started climbing (just past the signs in the picture). That’s where we met the race director of my first ultra (the Quicksilver 50K), Tom O’Grady. We chatted for a bit and then Anil and I dropped back to a slower pace. This hill kept climbing for a bit more.

We then descended down the Old Springs trail to the Tennessee Valley aid station (4.0 miles). We were really good with our aid stations during the entire race – never more than 5 minutes anywhere.

I refilled my bottle with Gu2O. We started climbing Miwok again. This was one brutal climb, pretty steep at the top. That’s when my right Achilles tightened up a bit, giving me a bit of a scare. I could feel it and it was just over 5 miles into the race! I tried to stretch it a bit. In the meantime, me left hip flexor was acting up, causing tightness on the inside of my left knee. Luckily we had started to descend by now and it took some pressure off the Achilles.

Passed through a couple more aid stations (at mile 7.23 and mile 9.7) before reaching the Pantoll aid station at mile 12.3. We had to climb the Dipsea trail (famous for the Dipsea and double Dipsea Marin County yearly races, the highlight of the Marin Masochists’ J year) to get there. We reached this point 2:35 into the race. We were in for a shock. Bib number 1 came haring down the hill we were slotted to climb next, stopped for 10 seconds at the aid station, picked up something to eat and took off down the hill to our left. This was the mile 20 aid station for him. He eventually won the race in, hold your breath, 3:49 (7:23 pace), a new course record!! Holy Mother of God!!!! Anil and I were awestruck.

Left the aid station to climb a quarter mile to meet up with the Matt Davis trail. We were at 1550’. Started running down the trail and it was the most brutal trail I have run on.

What seemed like a million switchbacks and irritating steps every 20-30 feet, right where the switchbacks curved back on themselves. A picture of what the steps looked like is below.

This trail descended like this for the next 4.5 miles or so, down 1550’, to the Stinson Beach aid station. Man! Did my hip flexor and quads bother me down this brutal descent!! Just sucked it up and followed Anil all the way down. Ate potatoes with salt and a few orange slices. Topped up my running bottle once again and began the long climb back up to the top again, this time on a parallel trail called the Steep Ravine trail. Adding insult to injury, this trail had 7 trees in the path we had the duck under. Anil and I had hooked up with an Ironman lady named Chris and a guy doing his first ultra. We walked the 2.7 miles up the trail, from sea level all the way back up to 1550’. On the way we had to climb the famous ladder.

We finally reached the same aid station (mile 20 this time around) where we had seen the winner many hours earlier. We then descended along tortuous switchbacks for the next 4+ miles back down to sea level J

Finally made it to the 25 mile aid station (Muir Beach aid station). Spent about 5 minutes here, filling up one fuel belt bottle with Coke and eating potatoes and cookies. Refilled my bottle with a mixture of Lemon-Lime Gatorade and the Gu2O mentioned before. Just 6 miles left but the worst 3 climbs in the race between us and the finish. Started climbing right away, up the Coastal Trail. The views from here on out were absolutely breathtaking. A view of Muir Beach looking back down the trail behind us is below.

The Pacific Ocean on out right with boats all over. The first climb was steep and long. We started descending soon down to Pirates Cove. On the way down, we could see the Coastal trail climbing up the next mountain. That was another steep one. We then descended all the way down to what had been, many hours and a million hours ago, the first aid station in Tennessee Valley. Stocked up again on the Gu2O and started the toughest climb of the race. This climb WAS steep after the first 0.5 miles. So steep that Anil and I slid back a couple of times because of unsure footing. We finally made it to the top and ran along the ridge for another 0.5 miles before beginning the REALLY steep descent down to the finish. The view from here was worth all the pain of the hours before. A 1000' feet with a bird's eyeview of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and the surrounding countryside. WOW!

Had to control our descent using every possible means at our disposal because 0.1 miles were spent on constantly shifting rocks and shale under our feet.

Finally made it round the final corner and ran arm in arm towards the Finish.

A word about Anil: He is the strongest runner I have ever run with. He is a rock, both mentally and physically. I swear that I think of him as the Energizer bunny – wind him up and he goes on forever. Thank you for helping me through the middle miles when my blood sugar had fallen and it took 20 minutes or so for it to come back up. I’ll run with you any day, any place. You ROCK!!

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