Stinson Beach Trail Marathon
Nov 7 2009
60 degrees and sunny
Travel went well, I felt OK but a little sluggish as I hadn’t done much since Denver Marathon on Oct. 18. I planned to go out and run my own race, estimating a 3:30 would be a pretty good day on this course. The course started at the beach, with marathoners starting 10 minutes before 25km runners, and the 7 mile runners 10 minutes after them. The course consisted of a base 7 mile loop. Marathoners and 25 km runners then added an 8 mile loop in Muir Woods before rejoining the 7 mile course. Marathoners added an additional 5 mile out and back closer to the finish.
Immediatley the we started climbing. I was quickly in the front group with about 4 other guys. The climb was steady and runnable and I went at what felt like a sustainable pace, with a heart rate of around 165 bpm. One guy went off the front and I let him go, I figured if he could keep that pace up I wouldn’t beat him, not really expecting to see him again. I ran solo in second place for the next 3 miles. The course continued climbing on a wooded trail beside a small brook. It was humid but cool as I crossed many foot bridges, and eventually a 10 foot ladder! There were a few times where I wondered if I had gone off course as course marking was pretty minimal. The third place guy caught me just before the ladder and assured me we were on the right trail. I ran with Adrian for the next few miles, talking about running and Life. Adrian is a software analyst for Adobe working in San Francisco, his wife is an attorney. He had run the 25 km the prior year and knows the course. This proved fateful. We ran through the Pan Toll aid station at about 3 miles into the course in around 30 minutes. We started descending into Muir Woods, a gradual descent, quite smoothe, so we were flying. After a few switchbacks with me leading the way we blew by a sharp right turn. Luckily Adrian realized our mistake only 100 or so feet down the wrong trail (after ducking under some low hanging trees and jumping over others). We turned around and I decided to stay behind Adrian until we finished the loop in Muir Woods so as not to risk a wrong turn. We ran along, talking, and making good time. The trail was lined by gorgeous redwoods, very shady and beautiful. After a 4 mile descent we started climbing again, this would be a 4 mile climb taking us back to the Pan Toll aid station. On the climb I took the lead because I felt good climbing. Eventually I heard a voice and footsteps behind us. I thought this meant that we had been running too slowly and someone was catching up so I made the decision on a steep switchback section to make a move and drop Adrian, and hopefully avoid being overtaken by the other runners. I pushed my HR up to 170 bpm (much higher than I could maintain at altitude) and put some time on Adrian. With every switchback I could tell that I was gaining time. Eventually Adrian was gone, but I still heard footsteps. One of the 25km runners had made up the 10 minute stagger and caught me at 9. He said I was flying and told me he was running the 25km and that I should go with him. I was already pushing pretty hard, but I decided to go with him. I picked up the pace and stuck on him on a gradual downhill section, but once the course started climbing again I let him go to preserve some energy for the rest of the race.
My quads were burning on the uphill leading up to the aid station at mile 11, 1:30 into the race. When I got there I started passing runners in the 7 mile race and a Boyscout troop who had chosen today to hike this narrow trail. Runners and hikers alike responded to my requests of “excuse me” and “on your left” and I descended without impedance. I felt good descending, felt like I was solidly in second place and happy with that. At mile 13 the marathon course split to run a 5 mile out and back along a ridge. I was half way done with the race and my time was 1:43ish, on pace for my 3:30 goal. According to the course profile this was supposed to be a flat out and back. As soon as I turned on the Coastal Trail I saw the lone runner ahead of me. This was a boost as I didn’t expect to see him again. The Coastal trail was tough, it was surprisingly hilly, slanted to the downill side, narrow, and overgrown with grass. I wanted to hang back a little bit and recover while maintaining an even distance behind first place, and then make a big move to pass later in the race. But as luck would have it he looked over his shoulder and saw me coming, so I decided to catch up to him and run with him for a while. We ran and talked for a bit before I decided to pass him and try to drop him. I put in a little surge, hoping to distance myself and lead the last 10 miles of the race. After putting in this effort and getting a small gap I took another wrong turn and ran up a hill missing a sharp right. Luckily my competitor yelled to me and I turned around. My wrong turn put me back in second place and I worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to regain first, but I quickly started gaining ground. I was back in the lead by the aid station at mile 17, in a time of about 2 hours. from there it was 1.5 miles out to the turnaround and I tried to push the pace to lengthen my lead as much as possible before reversing direction and meeting my chasers head on. Upon turning around at 2:15 I calculated I had about a 1 minute lead. I ran another 5 minutes before seeing third place. The trail was gradually going uphill. My quads were really burning, I walked some of the steeper parts and this provided enough of a break for me to continue running.
I blew past the last aid station at mile 20 at 2:24, started to see more folks coming toward me. Oncoming runners were great! They shouted words of encouragement and yeilded the trail to me. I tried to give some encouragmenet to all. I chanced a look back a few times and saw no one behind me. When I got back to the main trail I had about 4 miles of downhill to go. I was confident that no one would catch me on a downhill, unless I fell or something.
I reemerged on the Matt Davis Trail, mile 22 (I thought) at 2:40 or so. I figured I’d run the last 4 miles conservatively, stay safe and win. As I started descending I immediately started passing 25km runners. One yelled, 2.5 miles to go when I went by. If there were in fact only 2.5 miles to go I could break the course record (2:58 I think). I hammered down the Matt Davis Trail, a technical mix of switchbacks and wooden steps, Tarzan swinging around corners. The 25km runners were also great about yeilding. They heard me coming because I was grunting and making primal noises to ease the pain in my legs as I flew downhill.When 2:58 passed I thought how cool it would be to break 3 hours on a hard trail marathon and kept pushing. Eventually I emerged at beach level on the road. I had no idea how far it was to the finish so I kept running fast, finally crossing the finish line in 3:04:57. What a great feeling!
I started the race with 100oz of fluids (60 water and 40 concentrated 1st endurance drink) I finished with 40 Oz (30 water, 10 drink). Meaning I consumed about 400 calories and 60oz during the race. I was unable to eat much of my Hammer Gel flask because it wouldn’t come out when I squeezed it (DIA security took my 1st endurance gel flasks and the local bike shop in Mill Valley only carried Hammer Gel). All in all, I raced smart, I was surprised at how hard I was able to push for the duration of the event. It was awesome!