Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Table Rock 25K..on the greatest trails Marin has to offer!

You may ask. Where the heck is this Table Rock?

Marin is much like the " Boulder" of California, without towering flatirons, world-class rock canyons like Eldorado State Park, and knobs of skinny teens pulling plastic in the multiple competing rock-climbing gyms within two blocks of each other. No, Marin is famous for much else, like the home of James Hetfield (Metallica), the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and grassy, mild hills and green canyons sloping down to the sea at famed Muir, Rodeo, Bolinas, and Stinson Beaches. It is directly above, about 500 vertical, the latter lovely beach of Stinson where Table Rock resides. As you come screaming down the wooden and rocky steps off the 1600 foot descent of the Headlands in the Table Rock 25K, you may not even know that you were treading the rock itself, as it is tucked in the thick Northern woods, with a small sign indicating its huge presence.

I had an excellent time racing this La Sportiva Cup race. If it weren't for the Cup, which I am not participating in, this would have been a low-key, locals-only race. The only other PCTR race I ran was in 2009 in santa Cruz, which was a very simple affair, with vague markings and maps, and I got off course only to realize it as I drove away after the finish. This year, the gun went off in the fog, and as the leaders blazed a hypoxic start, I settled into 7th place as we started the 200' climb up the Dipsea trail and turned off onto the real 1400' climb of Steep Ravine trail. I started to reel in runners right away, and could only knew ID a couple of the runners near me, like Justin Morejohn and Jason Bryant. One other runner just ahead of me was wearing the Brand New Hoka One One Stinson B model, a very appropriate shoe to match this race, and a shoe that even I hadn't received yet ('til today.. the runner who raced in them reported top notch performance and he'd just bought them the day before).
I gradually picked some runners off as we climbed the famed actual steep ladder of the ravine, and came out to Pan Toll just ahead of three other runners and in 4th place overall. I love this climb; always wet, dark , ducking heads under large fallen redwoods, and hypoxia. I thought I may have gone out too hard, but still felt real strong and as we started the mellow grade down towards Heather cut off trail, I felt instantly like I could run the hard pace all day. But that said, I knew the only way to win this race was if the top three came back to me.
The first real junction was a maze of flagging, an I took a wrong turn down the Dipsea trail. Luckily for me, Jason and Justin were just behind me and yelled down into the trees at me to come back up. I came back up to find myself in 7th place, and blazed down into the fog of Heather Cut-Off towards Muir Beach.
I passed made up the three lost positions pretty quickly, and hit the flat Redwood trail loveliness halfway point and saw La Sportiva Cup leader Ryan Woods just ahead. Back up the Deer Park Rd/Dipsea trail to Pan Toll, I kept seeing Ryan just ahead, but just couldn't accelerate to get closer to him. Past Pan Toll aid stations again, the singletrack gently contoured up into pea-soup fog and wind, which is pervasive at the 1600 foot level for much of the year. Finally as we turned down the Matt Davis trail final descent, I saw Matt, but I also hoped to see the two leaders just ahead of him. I quickly passed Matt as we started down the best trail in Marin..IMO.. ripped around the slick wood step and rock corners, over the Table Rock, and into Stinson town to a mellow finish only 100 meters from the beach. I worked hard for that 3rd place, and was happy to have it.
The first two guys I had never met, but was duly impressed by their performances. Jared Scott ( who lives on the Grand Canyon rim at 7000 ft) and Matt Byrne ( who lives in the polar-opposite Scranton, PA) put on a mountain runners' clinic. Awesome! Google these guys to see some stellar resumes. I found out from Jared post-race that he holds the new Grand Canyon one-way record (3:07), while I hold the GC round trip record (7 hours). Trail Runner mag's Ashley Arnold finished tops by 9 minutes over her sister, Cynthia. Many top runners flew out for this series run.

Bryon Powell's write up here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WS wrap-up

I'd written a report last week on my wife's macbook pro, only to delete it due to not knowing the keyboard shortcuts on a mac. Here's a brief recap and Galen Burrell's photography, with Hoka One One founder Nicolas Mermoud joining me for a section of the Foresthill streets.

Lessons learned..

*Altitude.. WS isn’t considered a high altitude race, but 6000 feet felt like 14000 feet this year! Compared to 2009 when I lived in Colorado, I was sucking pond water this year as we climbed out of Squaw Valley. In 2009 it was easy to crest the top of Squaw at 8500 feet in first place; this year I was in about 15th with significantly more effort.

*Recovery: My spring season was too packed with victories :) to perform top notch at WS. Live and learn, gotta push the envelope, living life on the edge, etc, all that. That said, I can’t wait to race again later this summer!

*Hoka One One: I am so happy I sported the Bondi B the whole race. The Bondi B rocked the snow, as I came out of the snow in first to promptly lose about 15 minutes on a misflagged turn to Talbot Creek campground (ten more yellow flags led me across a waist high stream crossing leading into the Granite Chief wilderness...I wonder if other racers took this turn?) Anyway, the Bondi’s gripped the snow, cushioned the descents, and performed just as well as hey did at AR 50 and Miwok.

*Crew: My crew was stellar, as were the aid stations and volunteers. But I found it completely unnecessary to have crew until Michigan Bluff (mile 55) and would have been fine until Foresthill or the river going solo using only aid station resources. As known I thought I would struggle with GI issues but this didn’t materialize this year. I learned that simple is best for my racing and the transfer from fueling in sub 100 k races works fine to my rare 100 mile race. Of course I can say this given the cool temps this year and may be “eating” my words in the future.

*Props to Montrail for putting on the 2011 Montrail Cup (and 2010, 2009, 2008..) Of course I am happy about this because I won the series and some money which I sorely needed. I know some may not like to hear it but if it weren’t for my sponsors I would not have raced this year; I simply would have had to get a part-time job on top of school to support my family.

When I won the 2004 Cup I received a crystal vase presented at the Mountain Masochist 50, which still holds the flowers I bring home daily to my wife (or weekly.. maybe). I am guessing Montrail president Topher Gaylord has a iridium razor he just hasn't got around to mailing just yet.

*Have an excellent summer!