As race day neared I knew my training hadn’t been ideal for the relentless rolling (but runnable) hills of Miwok as I’d been averaging a steep 15000-20000ft of gain a week, Hardrock-esque numbers. But the Miwok 100k would still be a great gauge of my fitness, on how my legs handled pounding the downhills, it would be a chance to visit family and of course the opportunity to run a beautiful variety of terrain in the Marin Headlands. So I hopped on a plane headed for my fifth state in 2014 (Washington, Utah, Mississippi, Massachusetts, now California). For me the day before the race is usually mellow, avoiding as much hoopla as possible; a stroll on the beach with my parents, dinner in Bolinas, a little race planning, then trying to get to bed early.
The alarm buzzed at 3:50AM, I quickly tossed on my clothes, scarfed down two poptarts and off we drove to the race start at Stinson Beach. The start was abuzz with hundreds of runners, exchanging pleasantries, but for me being the outsider it was nice to just sit back and take it all in. I briefly met up with Brendan, wished him good luck, and before I knew it we were packed in at the start line nervously awaiting the word. Then off we went, 10 full strides and stop….we’d bottle necked at a single track bridge, so much for a fast start. Once over the bridge I settled into a pretty casual climbing pace as we ascended the narrow Matt Davis trail in the pre-dawn hours. We finally broke treeline and banked left onto the coastal trail for the long ‘out and back’ section to the Randall TH. The narrow single track was somewhat frustrating, as I found myself walking on flat terrain numerous times as people slowly tiptoed across the slanted and tricky trail, but I just kept reminding myself I wasn’t there to race, but to enjoy the day and to test my legs, patients.
The single track finally widened onto the Bolinas Ridge fire road at the first AS, so I was able to stride out a bit more, picking off a dozen or so runners pretty quickly. As another runner, Jesse, and I cruised down the fire road, I found myself just staring up at the tree tops of the immense redwoods as the fog and first rays of sunlight percolated through the branches. I half expected to see ewoks just sitting on the side of the trail, but no luck today. Jesse and I opened it up on the downhill, I’d guess we were probably hitting 7min pace at some points, but it felt good to just run and the lungs were taking in the dense sea level air without issue. I met up with my parents at the Randall AS (mm13), grabbed a few Vfuel gels, some water, and took off running back up the hill. I realized this was a bit ambitious so I settled into a more conservative walk/jog mix, cheering on all the other runners now coming counter flow to me, and boy were there a lot of them.
From the Randall TH to Cardiac (mm20) was by far my favorite seven miles of the race; giant redwoods shrouded in fog giving way to open grassy hillsides with ocean views and a few dense stands of mossy hardwoods for variety. I felt like a kid in a candy store, a new sweet view with each turn, and I definitely let out a few “Weeeee’s” along the way. (just for you Amanda JHS). After reaching the Cardiac AS I took the governor off and again let the legs flow down the Deer Park fire road, settling into a more conservative trot along the flat paved section (due to trail closures) before reaching Muir Beach (mm31.5).
Muir Beach was bustling with a mix of runners, crews and the daily tourist enjoying the sand and waves. I again met up with my parents, quickly resupplied my Vfuel stock, then was headed back up Middle Green Gulch enroute to Tennessee Valley. I could feel a little fatigue building in my legs, so to stay true to my original goal I reigned in the pace, alternating jogging and walking the climb before once again bombing down into Tennessee Valley. The day was warming up and over the next 20miles we’d be fully exposed to the sun, so when the aid station volunteers offered to sponge me down I answered with an emphatic YES! It felt so good to get the salt off (I get pretty crusty on warm days). As I circumnavigated the Marin headlands, view of the Pacific on one side, Bay on the other and Golden Gate Bridge/San Francisco to the South I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of terrain and views we’d experienced already.
Passed the Bridge View AS (mm41) I could feel the sun taking its toll and knew I needed to both cool off and to drink a little more as I climbed from the Rodeo Lagoon back up to the ridge. As I passed through Tennessee Valley for the 2nd time (mm49), I sank to my low point of the day, struggling my way around the gently rolling terrain above Pirate’s Cove and down to Muir Beach #2 (mm53). Here I took some extra water and salt caps, and spent a moment sponging myself off. I didn’t realize how big a hole I’d dug myself into until I began to jog my way up the sunny windless paved section, my head began to spin, my balance went and I had to sit down several times along the road and on the Deer Park fire road just to regroup. When this began I took two S-caps, and chugged half my water, now all I could do was keep toughing it out one step at a time and hope that would rebalance me.
8-10 runners passed me by while I plodded on up the hill, but I was in no state to push back…yet. With about half a mile to the AS the rehydration finally kicked in, my mental faculties and balance returned and off I went jogging up the fire road and into the Cardiac AS (mm58). I was back to ‘normal’, so after a quick refill decided it was time to finish strong, despite my 7mile crash and burn that had cost me 30-40min and 8 places. I pushed the legs down the Dipsea trail, bounding down the stairs and eventually came flying out the trailhead making one last turn before hitting the finish line. That may have been one of the strongest ultra finishes I’ve ever had (all 3 miles of it), and my legs had a surprising amount of pop left, a good omen with Hardrock looming big in July.
In all my Miwok race may not have been perfect, but it was exactly what I was looking for and what I needed. A beautiful day on some spectacular trails, tons of views, met some great new people, learned some lessons, and enjoyed almost every minute of it (being dizzy wasn’t fun). This was my first crack at the 100km distance, and I must say I really like it. A good hard all day effort, but in the end there is still time to share the afternoon with your fellow runners, enjoy a beer, eat dinner and go to bed. As I write this four days after the race my legs are feeling good and ready to hit the trails for five weeks of intensive Hardrock training….. starting next week. These tune up races, a race where one doesn’t try to run themselves into the ground, are great prepration for an upcoming big dance. Summer is on its way and I couldn’t be more excited for high mountain vistas, thin air and sharing the trails with all my friends. Special thanks to Vfuel endurance for fueling me through a bonk free day and Hind performance clothing for outfitting me for all my adventures. Run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.
A little photo/video slideshow from my run at Miwok.