Friday, August 31, 2012

Tamalpa Runners HEADLANDS 50K Race Review

As I was running downhill to Stinson Beach on the Matt Davis Trail my foot caught an old steel peg that used to hold a wooden stair in place. I was airborne going head first towards a tree. Everything slowed down. Was this my life flashing before my eyes? If so, I wasn't seeing anything? I had time to contemplate how this was either going to end. Result A) me unconscious on the trail of the trail or B) couple broken bones. I somehow turned my body a bit and ended up giving the tree a body check (hockey style) with my left shoulder. Naturally, the tree did not budge and I let out a huge unintentional grunt as my body crumpled around the trunk of the tree. I hit the ground and began to slide down the hill. Luckily, I was still conscious and a pleasant fern lent me a hand to stop my downhill slide. I scrambled back up to the trail and up onto my feet. I ran a quick diagnostics test over my body and to my surprise everything felt in tact. I was able to carry on, amble along, hobble on downhill the hill. Eventually my hobble turned into a trot and into a real stride.

Now, let's rewind about 25 miles.... It was a fantastically foggy morning at Santos Meadow just up the road from Muir Beach. Great running weather. Everyone was shivering as they picked up their bibs, chatted it up with old and new running buddies and prepped for the 31.5 hilly (7,300' up and 7,300' down) miles that lay ahead... even Dean Karnazes was shivering. 

Off we went at 8am heading south towards San Francisco. We ran along alongside highway 1 until about where we started our first big climb out of Muir Beach. This section of trail is phenomenal. The views are exceptional and it is just flat out excellent single track along the coastal cliffs. The average pace was decent and people were cool with passing and sharing the trail. We wound our way up and down towards Rodeo Beach where we encountered the aid station 1. All of the aid stations were really well stocked and manned. The volunteers in this race were fantastic!! (Seriously, Thank you!) I was able to easily navigate each aid station which in some races can be harder than navigating the trail. Prior to the race, I armed myself with some GU Roctanes and my new favorite running fuel, PICKY BARS!!! These things are seriously awesome, dude (you'll get that joke later). They have a great carb to protein ratio (4:1 yo!), go down easily and taste good too (No Gluten sucka!). They provide excellent sustained energy (no highs and lows). I highly recommend them. I was really diligent about my fueling on this race and it paid off. I felt really good the whole time (well most of the time). 
(That's me running up out of Muir Beach.)
After the Rodeo aid station I pressed on up the Miwok trail (a trail that I train on a lot) heading north towards Mt. Tamalpais. It's always fun racing a course that you're familiar because among other things you know how to use every inch of it to your advantage. This stretch of trail is challenging but I know where I can really push myself but I tried to remember to save some energy for the last two steep technical sections. I loved flying down the Old Springs Trail into Tennessee Valley (always a fun one) where you could hear the cheers of the volunteers and spectators at the aid station. We climbed out of Tennessee Valley back on up the steep Miwok trail. For some reason this where I began to pass most of the people I passed during the race. After you make it up to the ridge it is sort of rolling hills that turn into downhill to Muir Woods where you connect with the Dipsea Trail to climb Cardiac Hill. I think knowing this part of the trail helped me push through the rolling and keep a solid but comfortable pace. Cardiac Hill took its toll on me and I was happy to reach the aid station at the top. I snagged a couple PB&J squares, chugged two cups of water, re-upped my GU brew supply and took off on this relatively flat couple of miles to the steep technical downhill section of the Matt Davis trail which takes you to Stinson Beach. I was eating my Picky Bars towards the top of most major climbs or during the rolling hill sections to recover from a climb and to fuel the larger muscles you use when going downhill. I waited to the half way point to have my first Roctane which gave me a great kick because I am not a regular coffee drinker (anymore). I had a very small cup of coffee the day before to get my digestive system used to the caffeine (this helps!). 

As I pressed on the rolling trail and was feeling really strong. I was pushing my pace, starting to play with that redline zone. The trail turned into its steep technical downhill through the trees towards Stinson Beach and I was moving with it well... or so I thought. I had a few passing conversations with fellow runners as we whipped through the turns and then BOOM! I hit the tree. I was back on my feet but moving along again at now a much slower pace. I tried to shake off the blow. I made it down to Stinson a bit rattled but moving ok. I turned back up the Dipsea trail to start the last steep technical stairy (with one 10ft ladder) ascent up Steep Ravine Trail. I really started to feel the mental affect of the crash on this part. My race mentality got knocked out of me and was laying there somewhere back up on the Matt Davis trail. With a little help from some motivating fellow ultrarunners I made it to the top of Steep Ravine in no kind of record time. At this point my back was tightening up a bit (something I have never really felt before while running so I attributed it to the "tree-check") and the feet were ready to stop. I cruised down the last 3 miles to the finish. 5:44 was my official time which I felt pretty good about considering the crash and I'm training through this race for the Dick Collins Firetrails 50. Overall, I had a fantastic day and really enjoyed running the Headlands 50K. I will be back to do it again! Thanks Tamalpa Runners!

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