Monday, February 10, 2014

Golden Gate trail race

48 hours before the Saturday afternoon race, I convinced two of my running buddies that it would be a great training run to run the 30k option of the Coastal Trails Golden Gate trail race, even though a huge storm front was on its way. What a better way to train for a 50k than to do a 30k in a storm.

We three had a blast. The Golden Gate trail race in February uses one of my favorite training routes. Adding some wind and rain would spice it up, make it EPIC. We would feel the extremes that crash ships into Pirates Cove, cling to the cliff face with sideways rain battering the eucalyptus trees, and cower from the sound to the wind in the trees, screaming at us from above.

The start of the race is at Rodeo Beach, and follows the coastal trail clockwise, up to the WWII bunkers. Then the route heads down Wolf ridge (I would recommend a quick detour to the top of Hill 88 to see the creepy abandoned military base), with a short sprint on Miwok. Then the race heads down Old Springs, one of my very favorite runs. On a sunny day you can see the Pacific Ocean, rolling hills, raptors flying above looking for snacks.

Then the race dips down into Tennessee Valley, where it then takes Fox trail counter clockwise to Pirates Cove. This is when the storm hit us. The ran and fog hid all other runners from us, and since one of my running buddies did not know the route, we made a plan to stay somewhat together. No man left behind!

The route down to Pirates Cove was now a flood, and a slick mudslide. This section of single track is a bit isolated, so caution on a sunny day is recommended. On a stormy day, well, double caution. But this section is why I recommend the 30k (or the 50k). The marathon and the half do not get to see this EPIC piece of trail.

On the return the three of us trudged up Marincello trail, a section of trail I hate, because on a sunny day it's where mountain bikes bomb down a wide fire trail, and I am trudging up a 15% grade in the sun, baking. But now, in a storm, Marincello is amazing; the trees screaming so loudly I cannot here my trail mates. And only four super crazy cyclists out there, probably cycle crossers. Nutters!

Bombing down the SCA trail was unreal. The wind was pushing me against the hill, the rain coming down in sheets. I could not see a single other runner out there. The marathoners and half marathoners had finished two hours earlier - we were alone out there except for a handful of slow 50k runners. We were DFL - dead fucking last.

As soon as we hit Conzelman road the weather started to clear up. We finally saw an aid station - a lone volunteer with a Tupperware of mixed crackers, soaking wet. The evidence was everywhere - a hurricane had hit the poor aid station, goldfish were scattered all over the trail and hill. We all had hydration packs with snacks, so we just thanked the poor wet volunteer for being there.

We finished in 5:15:00 - DFL!!! Epic is the only word for a run/hike in a winter storm.

Location:Marin Headlands

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