Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mt Tam 30k Trail Race 2015 by

Graphic: Inside Trail Racing held it's annual Mt Tam Trail Run  in mid November and I signed up for the 30k as a fitness test en route to a spring marathon PR attempt. I took Friday off work and made a day out of our trip to Stinson by stopping off at cool places to have fun with the kids. I rented the Sandpiper Cottage for the weekend in Stinson Beach and loved it. I got a good nights rest and had a home cooked breakfast when I woke up and everything I needed to have a great race morning was with me at the cottage. No rushing around, no early morning driving, no chance of forgetting any gear. I walked 100 yards out of my front door and arrived just after 8am to the start line feeling pumped and ready to take on this challenge.

I met up with my friend Tom who coincidentally was going to be running this same race with 2 of his other friends Andrew and Raf and we all 4 lined up at the very back of the pack. 30K & 50K runners started together at 8:30. Half marathoners and 10k runners would start a half hour later. After a few race announcements we were off and running up Arenal Ave. I highly recommend putting a lot of slower people in front of you if you have a tendency, as I do, to start out too fast. The course turns onto the Dipsea Trail and then the Steep Ravine Trail as you make your way up the mountain. It is narrow and technical for a lot of this climbing and it is steep as the name eludes. Passing is not easy and therefore I found it comfortable to settle into a conservative pace that paid dividends in the final miles. Raf & Andrew shot out ahead of Tom & I but within a mile or so I was past Andrew and Tom but had no sight of Raf. I wasn't trying to pass. I wasn't even really trying to race anyone but myself. It's just that they were familiar people in similar physical condition to me so I could use them to tell if I was hustling or lagging. At this point I was hustling but not too hard.

 At the top of the climbing runners cruise by the Pantoll parking lot and run out to the 1st aid station called Cardiac, so named for the inevitable event that will take place upon climbing up to this location. I made it up to and through that aid station in just under 45 mins. That's a long time to cover 3.7 miles but not bad considering the elevation. Next we will run down the other side of the mountain and then circum-navigate the base and climb back up on yet another face of the mountain.

Cardiac Aid Station
 Leaving the first aid station is downhill for the most part for a long ways. At first you pick up a tremendous amount of speed because the trail allows for it. A little ways into this section and that speed becomes very dangerous with the technical nature of the trail. The jagged rocks grow out of the ground larger and larger as you descend and the roots just seem to be a worm pile covering a rain washed gully of a trail. Some runners were reduced to a walk trying to find their footing while others, like the group I was in, flew downhill at a super scary pace. We were literally leaping from foot to foot, flying left to right and falling almost uncontrollably down this long winding stretch. Around the 5.5 mile mark I caught a toe that sent me flying into a dirt embankment in a spectacular crash that scared the hell out of me. I knew the nano-second it was happening that I could not recover my footing, I could not control my fall and I could not really brace for impact. I knew in that flash that I was going to break my collar bone or at least dislocate my right shoulder upon slamming it into the dirt wall in front of me. I slammed as predicted and scrambled to my feet in the aftershock. My right side was scraped and dirty but no broken bones, no dislocated shoulders. Apparently my left hand took the brunt of the force and bent my pinky and ring finger back at the first joint so far that they stayed there. The underside of the two fingers ripped open and blood ran through dirt covered hands to make a mud river down my wrist immediately. I saw bones and chunks of stuff poking out of the skin and thought, I just broke my fingers!!!! Angry at the thought of a DNF I grabbed my half frozen water bottles and started squirting the water with force all over my hand as I trotted/ walked down the trail. It hurt like hell but I noticed that it was not bone sticking out of my fingers. I grabbed the fingers and started to manually move them to see if they were indeed broken and POP. They fell back into their joints and felt a bit better. I wiggled them ever so slightly. Not broken was my conclusion. I wasn't positive but I was fairly certain they were just cut very deeply from being folded backwards against very jagged rocks that did not produce nice clean slices. Andrew came running by and wished me luck with the problem. I fell in behind him and did a descent jog for the next four miles or so until the aid station at mile 10.  In the second section climbing up Lost Trail in Muir Woods is steep but fairly short lived and so is the uphill that comes just after crossing Muir Woods Rd. The real challenge is in all that technical downhill leading into Muir Woods.

Me on the Coast View Trail 2012
 At the 2nd aid station I immediately asked for medical tape and gauze. A medical kit was handed to me and I was told that I was welcome to look for it in there. With my one usable hand I did just that and found none. I settled for knuckle band aids piled one on top of the other until the cuts on both fingers were essentially wrapped. This took longer than I wanted and Andrew was long gone by the time I left that aid station. The next section between AS2 & AS3 is rolling and runnable for the first half but upon crossing the road again be prepared for hell. The Heather Cut Off picks up just beyond a horse pasture and it climbs back up the mountain via switchbacks that never end. Most runners are reduced to a walk/ trot on this section and this is where I could see way up above me was Andrew. By the time I reached the top of the switchbacks I was cramping in my quads quite a bit. The Coast View Trail takes you up the rest of the way after the switchbacks and it gains a ton of elevation too but without the benefit of switchbacks. It is a daunting task to keep moving forward.

 I reached the top and ran passed the Cardiac Aid Station just as Andrew was leaving. I passed by with an urgency to get this race over with. I could smell the finish line from 3 miles out and I wanted this to be done so I hustled down the Dipsea Trail as fast as I could. Most of this trail is made up of very steep stairs made out of old rail road ties cut into the hillside. The wood is rotted and the dirt is eroding and the footing is treacherous. All I could think about was falling again and what that would feel like. Talk about paranoia!!! I made it down the quad pounding stairs and struggled to run the rolling hills that started my morning off. I crossed the finish line in 4:03:59. VERY close to my predicted goal. Raf was 10 minutes ahead of me and apparently he fell too or he would have come in even faster. Andrew was right on my heels with a 4:10 finish and Tom was soon to follow with a fast finish and an oddly fresh look on his face. I think we all felt good about our performances that day!!!

Good as new!!!
 I soaked my blood and dirt covered cuts in a water cup to loosen up the dried mixture while I calmed down and regained homeostasis. I finally ventured over to the medics who provided me with Iodine, gauze and good medical tape. I got myself squared away and then checked out the results board (see here). I was 77th out of 125 racers that finished, 14th out of 23 in my age group. Not impressive stats but as a first step on my road back to the marathon I couldn't be happier. Inside Trail put on a great race. The course was well marked, the aid stations had enough volunteers even though I know they were looking for volunteers during the week proceeding the race. I would highly recommend this race to anyone who has yet to run it. It has beautiful single track, stunning views some really nice mellow sections and an event organizer who knows what their doing. I ran the 50k at this event in 2012 and it was spectacular then as well. I don't think I have ever been disappointed in an ITR race and this is no exception. If I'm not committed otherwise, I will be back next year!

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