Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Fun Marathon in Marin the title of this race report because "A Spectacular Day at the Golden Gate Headlands Trail Marathon" would have been too long.

There were a couple of reasons for picking to run this race. (1) The lady was celebrating her bachelorette party/weekend, so no coordination of plans was necessary. (2) This weekend falls exactly two weeks after Rucky Chucky and three weeks before Skyline 2 Sea, my two goal races of the spring. This would be a great carry-over long-run at a targeted 85% effort. In order to minimize any sort of possibility of running too hard or becoming too competitive, I ran naked. No, not that kind of naked...just without a watch.

You could tell right away it was going to be a glorious day. Not a cloud in the sky and comfortably cool at the start. The start area was over at Rodeo Beach, and I spent most of my pre-race time watching the surfers catch waves. I knew the course wasn't going to be easy (4,400 feet of climbing), but it was going to be gorgeous (I had run 95%+ of the course as part of the Muir Beach 33k back in December).

Rodeo Beach just before the start

There weren't a whole lot of familiar faces. Only one as a matter of fact. So as we took off and tackled our first major climb of the day, we started chatting. Turns out the suspicion was mutual even though we couldn't quite place where we had seen each other before. Anyways, talking to Nicole Duke was a joy. We share the same values and attitudes towards trail running with the only difference being that Nicole is way more experienced than me.

Start area with our first climb looming behind it. It does go further up to the right.

So, here we were floating among the wildflowers, taking in breathtaking views and enjoying a day on the trails. This is LIVING! I was feeling strong and conversation was good enough for me to change my race goal from "85%" to "stick with Nicole as long as I feel good". We were running somewhere among the leaders and kept gaining ground. By the midway point, there was only one person ahead of us (quite a few marathoners dropped out at this point...we ran two identical loops).

Nicole was determined to win the women's event and woman #2 was right behind us. So, I changed my race goal again "help Nicole win". I held on until Tennessee Valley and the start of the final climb of the day. Climbing on Marincello Trail, Nicole was about 1 minute ahead of me, woman #2 about 1 minute behind me. It was fun to be right in the middle of the action!

Terrible lighting...GREAT trail (Rodeo Valley Trail)

At the top of the climb (and second to last aid), Nicole was leaving as I was arriving and woman #2, let's call her by her real name, Karalee Morris passed me here. I had been battling cramps in my right foot and needed to take in food and salt. For much of the rest of the way I was able to watch the women's race unfold. Karalee had pulled closer on the uphill but Nicole was slowly but surely pulling away on the long downhill and flat sections over the last 6 miles.

Before long I hit the hardest part of the course: the 1/4 stretch in the deep sand at the beach. This section was draining at the halfway point, but at the end it was the sort of brutal section that makes you question the sanity of the race organizers. It was t.o.u.g.h....and I loved it. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 4:16, which was good enough for 4th place overall. Nicole had actually gotten within 30 seconds of the overall win, but a spill at the end put an end to that dream. Regardless, she ran a fantastic race! Well paced and strong throughout.

All in all, it was a perfect day on some of the most scenic trails around. And I made a new friend in the process. What more could you ask for?

(My thanks go to all the volunteers who make such perfect days possible for us).


David Ray said...

Congrats on 4th place! Sounds like you're running well. Beautiful shot of the bridge through the hills. So are you getting married soon? Did I miss that somewhere?

Dave - Atlanta Trails said...


I may or may not have mentioned it before (probably not), but I'm getting married at the end of summer.

Peter Lubbers said...

Congrats on placing so well on your "easy" run! And...great you're getting married this Summer!

Leslie's Keith said...

Great race report Dave!

Will you be at Diablo? Les and I are coming down for it...(and a couple of days in Yosemite first).


wcaitlin said...

Great running! Looks like it was a beautiful weekend down here. And, I know I tend to curse, but glad it is appreciated. See you at S2S!

Sunshine Girl said...

I *heart* the Headlands and I *heart* Yosemite! Keith and I are heading to Yosemite first and then Diablo. It will be hard to take it easy with all of those trails and scenery teasing me. I am going to be back in the area again, next month! I'm heading to Western States camp on the long weekend for some running and socializing!

bigRahn said...

Sounds great, especially for a semi-casual outing with no goals.