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.


  1. Great report Dave. Makes me almost miss Marin. You should've learned from that mess we did (or didnt do, technically since I dropped and you missed a section) in Santa Cruz. At least you it to keep your $100 cup coaster from that one.
    Still, it's about the running itself and you clearly do that part well and enjoy it.

  2. Tim, nice work at hardrock and for your grand mesa 100 win. July has been good to you!

  3. Just a note, there were indeed two races going on that day but the courses do not overlap at all. Not sure how the runners at your race got 'confused'.

  4. Thanks Dave.
    There's absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your opinion on an event (or event organization). I wish someone had told me about the 'quality' of those events before I wasted my money on the entry fee. It's too bad, too, because they put on so many events. If they churned some of the profits back into them, they'd be much better off. They're incredibly lucky Brazen Racing doesn't really get into the ultra distances. Brazen's events are [many] levels above PCTR in all categories.

    Rip up UTMB. I know you can!

  5. Nice description of Boulder and Marin. Certainly some great runners at a great location, bummer about the PCTR lameness.

    Funny story on the Hookas

  6. Yep Dave, I'm with you on the lack of organization at Table Rock. A couple of helpful volunteers at key intersections would have helped a lot. Another runner and I took a wrong turn AT the second aid station (which didn't seem to be ready for us yet); they said nothing as we ran off in the the wrong direction. Lost 4 minutes there... Probably not going to do one of their races again. I will give them credit for a really nice route though, almost completely singletrack. The fee would have been worth it if the organization had matched the quality of the trails.

  7. Amen to Footfeathers/Tim about the Brazen Racing Events. I ran 4 PCTR events when I first moved to the area last year... 3 of them had some sort of issue with course markings or had some other organizational issue. I've been running Brazen events this year as I come back from injury and they are always exceptionally organized, well marked, and an overall great experience.

    Dave - If you have a review on the Stinson B I'd love to hear it. I run in the Bondi B now... was thinking of giving the Stinson a shot.

  8. Dave,

    I've heard of some issues at PCTR races in the past but I've done about 10 of their races and never had any problems whatsoever with the markings or organization at all (note, they have sponsored me by giving me free entries, but that would be useless if I didn't think their races were good). Not sure what went wrong at this one but trust me, PCTR races are one of the things I most miss about the Bay Area.

    See you at Waldo.


  9. $110? That's way more than their normal races, but I suppose it was some kind of Championship race. Normally I do their 50ks which cost around $65 - much more reasonable. And the shorter distances are way cheaper. See you at Waldo.

  10. it is nice to hear that one town has some impressive landmarks and some famous people were there.

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