On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley so I could cheer on my trail running club friends from Donner/Truckee/Lake Tahoe. The Donner Party Mountain Runners, @DPMRunners, entered in the Marin Ultra Challenge 50 mile race starting from Fort Baker in Sausalito, at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The course winded throughout the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods and Stinson Beach and coastal canyons to finally return to the start, some fifty miles later. It was a brilliantly designed, grueling course, enjoying the views that the Marin Headlands are famous for, including difficult climbs and steep descents.
Distance: 9.3 miles
Max Speed: 12 mph
Avg. Speed: 5 mph
Maximum Grade: 28%
Elevation Gain: 2,215.5 ft
Elevation Loss: 2,216.8 ft
Moving Time: 02:01:14
Moving Pace: 13:00
Ascent Time: 58:19
Descent Time: 01:02:55
Stopped Time: 01:23:56
I’m not near the class of runners my friends are, but I could do my part as a one man cheering section, running counter to the course direction. Also it gave me an opportunity to cheer on everyone who was toughing out this challenging course…So I became the “Ombudsman of Encouragement” for as many runners as I could. The course reversed itself several times so I was able to see them more than once, laughing that I seemed to be everywhere along the trail.
I parked on Panoramic Highway, between the turn-off for Muir Woods and the Dipsea Trail. A short descent on the Dipsea, I picked up the Sun Trail, which became the Redwood Trail after a mile or so. The course then turned down to the Ocean View Trail after about mile 2 (though I could’t see the ocean if I wanted to). Now switchbacking down the side of the canyon, the trail turned into the Lost Trail, then to Fern Creek, connecting with the Main Trail in the heart of the Muir Woods National Monument.
Where Fern Creek met the Main Trail, I waited for a short while, hoping to see Helen Pelster and Betsy Nye from my DPMR club. Not more than ten minutes went by, and sure enough, there they were, looking fresh like they were out for a morning jog. Got a quick good luck hug in with Helen and off they went up the hill. Iron women ….I want to be that tough someday. Think it’s gonna be a long wait.
No time to waste, I needed to head up the Ben Johnson Trail to Cardiac Hill and rejoin the Dipsea Trail and return to the Muir Woods parking area. Met a few familiar faces coming down the trail… we exchanged high fives and a few atta boys, only to meet one more time on my uphill climb on the Dipsea, back to Panoramic Highway.
All this time I haven’t mentioned my knee, which over the past few days has been somewhat sore but not distracting enough to impair my running. After several hours of running, my endorphins were pumping out full tilt…only felt a little soreness on the steep downhill along the Dipsea and Deer Park Fire Road. Now back to the Muir Woods parking area, cross the road and rejoin the trail…but not before I had to have a little fun with the race officials … I ran up from behind them and said “Am I going the right way?” They all looked at me in horror, thinking I was a poor misguided runner…Then busted out laughing, saying ,”Got ya!” They were relieved that they didn’t have to explain that someone got lost. Gave me a chance to catch my breath then head up the steep incline to the highway.
Once back at the car, my right knee was beginning to tighten up. Tried a few yoga moves to slowly stretch my muscles, but the knee kept getting tighter and swelling. Well crap, I don’t need this. I want to run in the Whiskey Hill Run next week, and this won’t help. I drove back down to Fort Baker to see if I could catch Helen and Betsy cross the finish. Waited until about 1600, then real food and an icepack were calling my name. Later I discovered that the ladies finished about 39 minutes later, having run 50 miles in 10h 39m….that would normally take me 3 days of hiking in the Sierra’s that they did in 10 hours.