Monday, July 25, 2011

Race Report- Golden Gate Trail Runs

As you may have read in my previous post, I ran this event as my first trail marathon, well, my first marathon ever actually. I have been a mix of excited and nervous ever since I signed up for the event about 12 weeks ago. The run didn't disappoint, but wasn't exactly as picturesque as it could have been. The famous San Francisco fog was present and thick the entire time.

The run started at 8:15 for the marathon and half marathon distance. I would rather have had my own start for the marathon distance, but with only about 45 of us, it wasn't feasible. I arrived at 6:45 because I got a ride with Dave of Golden Trails Blog because he was volunteering at the Conzelman aid station. Because I arrived so early, I offered to help at the beginning, so Wendell of Coastal Trail Runs suited me up in a reflective jacket and an orange flag to help park cars.  After helping out I got my bib and safety pins. Nothing else was given to me, which is a really nice relief, I don't need a bag full of coupons and race announcements, I have the Internet for that.
Pre-race Portrait
As we lined up for the start I realized I would again have to deal with my least favorite part of trail running: too many people on a small trail. It seems to be worse as the distances get shorter, i.e. Elementary school kids sprinting off at the beginning of a 5k only to die about 300 yards in to the single track. Luckily, the trail didn't narrow for quite a while, so it wasn't too bad. But there were about 250 half marathoners, and a 300 person start is a lot for a trail run.

At 8:15 am, Wendell gave the start command and we were off. The first 1.5 miles of the run was basically a climb straight up, a full 900 ft. As an Indiana trail native, I've never seen climbs this long, and I wasn't able to find any that could replicate this during my training. I stuck to my plan of hiking up most of it. There were runners around me that were jogging up, but I was basically keeping up with them, so I didn't feel bad about losing spots, after all, I knew this would be a test on my body and mind, not against others.
The middle third of the first climb

With that said, I was still doing pretty decent on the climb and I was keeping my heart rate +/- 170 bpm. Which is good, because at mile 4 there was another 1.5 mile climb of 800 ft. I actually thought this one was a harder climb because it was the exact same grade the while time, no small up or down, just long. It had three false tops as well, where you think you are at the top, but aren't. After that second climb, the run picked up. I saw Dave at the second aid station. His greeting and delicious soggy goldfish crackers really picked me up and I took off down the gentle hill toward the finish. Of course, there was one more climb, but it seemed like a piece of cake in comparison to the previous two. I came in after the first lap with a 10:35 min/mile pace and I was really happy about it. I didn't have a specific time goal, but a sub 5 hr finish would be fantastic.
Near the top of the Tennessee Valley Climb

I returned back to the start/finish area and replenished my water and Gu stores.  I headed back out on the course. I left all the half marathoners behind and from this point on I only saw 6 runners. A couple took a wrong turn on the first half of their 30k, and a couple passed me as they were running to victory in the 50k. Those guys were smoking the course!

To date, my longest run was 20 miles. 20.6 miles I looked at my watch and got really happy. I knew I could make it! Then, 1 mile later I had my first leg cramp. I immediately finished my electrolyte drink and filled up another. I was coming up in the final aid station and grabbed some pretzels.
Foggy and Wet - Top of Tennessee Valley Climb
I had to stop a few times to get stretched out, let another marathoners pass me, but it was the right thing to do. As soon as I tried to run faster, my hamstrings would tighten up and my running form would disintegrate. It didn't matter though, I wad within 4 miles of the finish. I was finishing, and I had 55 minutes to do it and still finish under 5 hours. I made it, with a total time of 4:41:10, 12th overall and second in my age group. Hooray!!

I'm going to leave you with a few more photos, but I'm already looking for my next race!
The Finish!

Miwok Trail!

Rodeo Beach from the middle third of the first climb

Great views!

Amazing single track

Running into a cloud

Don't fall

1.5 miles of up after the 1st aid station

More single track - looks like a rainforest

The wind was blowing between 25 and 30 mph up here.


  1. Nice pictures and a great report. Well done on the first marathon finish!

  2. Congratulations on your first marathon. If you're looking to make the jump to an ultra for your next race, check out the Stump Jump 50k in Chattanooga. Great race. I'm heading back there this year seeking some redemption from my DNF last October.

  3. Really strong performance for your first trail run. I'm not surprised you thought Marincello was harder. It's one of the most infamous climbs in the area. The problem is that it's just shallow enough where you shouldn't hike much of it. This is exactly were Geoff Roess was passed by Heras in the NF50 Championships last year. You're in good company there.

    Anyways, nice to meet you and hope to see you back out here soon! (Miwok? NF50?)

  4. Coby - Thanks!
    Dan - It felt great, and thanks for letting me know! I read up on it and have decided to make it my first ultra!
    Dave - Thanks for the support! I'd love to come back. Coby (above) is running the SF marathon this weekend!