Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Miwok 100k

This past weekend I ran the Miwok 100k Trail Race.  As far as I'm concerned there's hardly a better place to run than the Marin Headlands.  Unlike when I last ran this race two years ago, the weather was perfect and the views - of San Francisco, the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Mt Tam, Point Reyes - were stunning.  There were many moments during the run I regretted not carrying a camera.  I shouldn't worry though -- I'm lucky to be able to run here whenever I want.  In fact the start line is just a ten-minute drive from my apartment over the Golden Gate Bridge.

3-D view of the course

I had checked my training log the night before the race and realized that this race would be my longest run since I ran the Western States 100 nearly two years ago.  It would also be my last big training run leading up to Comrades at the end of the month.  I had decided not to taper for Miwok, since it wasn't my primary goal race.  This meant I wasn't as fresh going in as I might have been, but I thought it would be interesting to see how I'd do under the circumstances.

Elevation profile of Miwok course

After a very early morning check-in and some time chatting and mingling with friends, the race started on the beach at Rodeo Lagoon in the dark.  The first stretch requires a bit of a sprint from the start, since the course quickly funnels onto a narrow single track trail, and if you get caught in the back you can get stuck behind a lot of people (I think there were around 400 runners this year).  Of course over a 62-mile race you'll have plenty of time to regain whatever ground you lost though, so I'm not sure it's that big a deal.

Coming into the first aid station (photo by Randy Katz)
The course starts with a 7 mile loop that includes a run up Conzelman Road, with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in the distance, and a descent down the Coastal fire road  towards the start.  It was nice to be familiar with a lot of the trails from previous races and from my regular Thursday morning pre-dawn trail runs with my fellow Ninjas.  I ran with Joel Lanz for much of this first loop.  The pace was quick, but it didn't feel like much effort.  Once we made it back to Rodeo Beach Joel took off and I never saw him again until the turnaround coming up Randall Trail.  He'd go on to finish for than an hour ahead of me.  Maybe in our second head-to-head matchup I'll be able to give him more of a run for his money.

Climbing Coastal Trail (photo by Brett Rivers)

The course next climbed up from Rodeo Beach, over and down to Tennessee Valley,  then up to Coyote Ridge and down the eponymous Miwok Trail to Hwy 1 near Muir Woods.  Then the longest climb of the course starts up Deer Park Fire Road.  At this point I had just caught up to Victor Ballesteros.  Victor was coming back from injury, otherwise he'd likely have been much further ahead of me.  It was nice to have some company during this stretch (basically a 1,200 foot climb over less than three miles).  I stuck with Victor and managed to run the entire way.  Had I been alone I'm certain I would have walked at least some of it.  Victor was feeling a twinge in his calf and decided to drop later in the race.  I'm sorry he didn't have quite the race he was hoping for, but was glad I got to run with him for a while and I'm sure he'll be back strong soon.

Next I passed through the Pantoll aid station, where I stuffed my face with food and continued on my way.  The next section is rolling along a long, high ridge without any big climbs or descents.  This section has some great views of the Pacific, which are nice on a clear day like this one, but the trail is also on the side of a slangy hill and the footing is not very good.  It's also pretty overgrown in parts.  This was not my favorite section.

Departing Pantoll Aid station (photo by Brett Rivers)
At this point I was running with Stuart Short, who was doing the race for the first time and would go on to crush the race finishing in 11th place, but for the time being was content to just coast behind me.  After a while I realized there was another runner coming up quickly behind us.  I stole a look backwards and said to Stuart, "looks like we're about to get caught by Elvis."  Sure enough, a runner in a full-on Elvis costume was blazing along the trail.  As I stepped aside to let him pass he nimbly leapt over a log and with a word of thanks was on his way.  It was local phenom Ian Sharman.  Sadly, this is the third race in a row he has beaten me this year, and two of those times he's done so now while wearing a silly costume (you may remember he dressed as Spiderman when he beat me at the Napa Marathon in March, and set a world record in the process.)  He'll be running Comrades later this month too.  I can already predict he'll finish at least an hour ahead of me there (probably more, actually).  At any rate, it was good to see him having so much fun at Miwok, and I know his Elvis costume brought a lot of smiles to the volunteers, spectators, and other runners.

I reached the Bolinas Ridge aid station (mile 26.7) in a few minutes over four hours.  This was a low point for me during the race.  I was slowing down and my stomach was starting to feel a bit queasy.  I remember something similar happening to me at the exact same point in the race when I ran two years ago.  Must be some bad voodoo for me in that spot.  Nevertheless, keep moving forward, right?

I was about 31 miles into the race when the first lead runners came past me in the other direction - a tight pack running together comprised of Dave Mackey, Mike Wolfe, Hal Koerner, and Dakota Jones.  Very impressive to see.  The entire middle section of the race is a long out-and-back, so you get to see basically everyone else in the race at some point, which is fun and a good chance to say hi and offer some words of encouragement to friends when you see them.  It also meant I was getting close to the turnaround.  Soon I had reached the left hand turn down the Randall Trail to the turnaround point.  As I started down Nathan Yanko and Joel were just finishing the climb back up, still looking pretty fresh.

After the turnaround I started to feel better.  I got a nice push from Jimmy Dean Freeman and his pacer when they caught up to me just after my return visit to the Bolinas aid station.  Jimmy was putting out his usual energy and helping motivate everyone he came across on the course.  After running with me a couple miles Jimmy kicked up the pace, and he sped off after his sub-10hr finish goal, which he got achieved (and then some.)

Not too much notable happened for the rest of the race.  I continued to feel relatively good but saw few other runners.  I passed through Muir Beach, Pirates' Cove, Tennessee Valley (again), up and over to Rodeo Valley and the finish line by the YMCA.  I rolled in for a finish in 10hrs 8min (34th place) - a PR by more than half an hour.  Secretly I had been hoping to finish under 10 hours, but I'm not complaining.  I was happy just to have finished, and although I'm definitely still sore now a few days later, I feel like I'll be good to resume training and then tapering for Comrades, which is really my goal race for the first half of this year anyway.

When I run this one again I might try it with a pacer - I think that might help in the later miles.  I'd also focus on spending less time in aid stations - having a crew might help in this.  Doing a few more long runs in training and actually tapering for the race would probably help too.

Dave Mackey (who holds the course record for this race) got the win in 8:03, followed by Mike Wolfe, Hal, and Dakota not far behind.  Pam Smith won the women's race in 9:39, followed by Meghan Arbogast and Krissy Moehl (who just set a Grand Canyon R2R2R record with Devon a few weeks ago).  I was chatting with the women's fourth place finisher Amy Sproston after the race and learned that she'll be running Comrades later this month too.  Nice to know I'll have some American company there.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the finish, socializing and enjoying the post-race barbecue.  It was super cold and windy, but I got to see a few exciting finishes, including Clare Abram who finished just under 11hrs (10:59) and Larissa Polischuk just under 11 1/2hrs (11:29).  Congrats to everyone who finished on Saturday!

Thanks to race director Tia Bodington for putting on another quality event, and for maintaining the tradition of the Miwok Trail Ale beer for the finishers.

Complete finisher's results here:

GPS data from my watch:

Finally, someone shot this pretty cool video of the race leaders during the race, give it a watch here:


Anonymous said...

Congrats and thanks for writing the blog. It's fun to read about your Miwok experience. Can't wait to read about Comrades.

Scott Dunlap said...

Looks like fun! Have a great time at Comrades...