Finding Flow At The 2014 Golden Hills Marathon

The Golden Hills Marathon is a point-to-point run from Tilden towards Lake Chabot, simultaneously sharing those trails with runners on the Dick Collins 50M. After a hectic day at work, I didn’t get to see the course profile until after dinner. Poked around Strava until I found an activity that reported an elevation gain of 4,340 ft. The longest segment between aid stations was 6.7 miles, so decided to carry my hand-held with 10 Clif Shot Gels dissolved in water. One sip (ish) per-mile, or so was the plan. Here’s my Strava activity for the run.

Golden Hills Marathon

Problem with early runs with an hour+ drive is how little sleep you really get. Got there just in time to watch the 50M runners leave with the bobbling headlamps. Beauty of the Golden Hills Marathon course is you (as a marathoner) get to see the 50M runners coming towards you with the high-fives encouraging and inspiring everyone. Hopped on the shuttle buses that took all of us to the starting line at Tilden. Silly me, didn’t realize I could bring my drop-bag that would get transported to the starting line. Stood around shivering talking with Nate Dunn and Ethan Salter (met him at the Reservoir Dogs 35K earlier this year) until it was time to go.

The 4.3 mile climb to Steam Trains AS is just up and up and up. Plenty of hiking here with fantastic views of San Pablo & Briones reservoirs. Was already starting to see the lead runners on the 50M course. A very brief stop at the AS, then nice descent down to Sibley Park AS. Said hello to Jerome Thiebaud and Bryan Weathers (doing their first 50M respectively) on this segment. When I got to the AS, saw Gordy Ainsleigh with a big gash on his forehead and blood on his face. Amazing seeing the legend there, 67 years young and running the 50 miler. It was starting to warm up now. Salt pill, coke, potato chips and began the 3.4 mile rolling hills to Skyline Gate AS. The next segment was going to be longish. Doused myself with water, refueled, took a bio break and entered French Trail where I found flow.

  • Shuttles to the starting line

Approaching three years of running, I’ve never really felt flow. Only read about it. The next 6 of the 6.7 miles were incredibly blissful. Redwood trees, soft rolling trails, almost complete shade with no sensation of running – just moving through the trails without much effort. The miles ticked away with the beeps of the Garmin. Mind went blank. No profound thoughts. It was the most amazing sensation. And of course it had to end. On the short uphill before reaching the Big Bear Staging Area, both my quads froze. They were cramping hard. Tried walking backwards up the hill and it was worse. Took my time to get to the AS. More salt pills, coke, chips. Loved the costumes and cheerfulness of all the volunteers. Mostly hiked the fully exposed, last big climb and my quads loosened up on the descent down to Bort Meadows. 1.4 miles to Clyde Wooldridge Staging area. I got this.

A few runners caught up with me here and this was probably the most time I spent on any of the AS. Filled my hand-held with coke, grabbed some potato chips and started a gentle jog on the home stretch. Had to adjust my pace in sync with the cramps until I found the rhythm. Smiled on the first sight of Lake Chabot. Almost there. Must’ve been mile 23, Jean Pommier zips past me, probably doing a 7:30 minute/mile to finish 3rd overall on the 50 miler. Was inspired and picked up my pace a little. Passed Kevin Jude and ran past the finish line at 4:48, 24th overall and 6th in my age group. For the 4,340 ft elevation profile, this one felt definitely hard and I’ll attribute it to the warmth, I guess.

The even harder part of the run was the 1 hour drive home in the car, all cramped up and nowhere to go. Going to take it nice and easy on the Coastal Marin 50K (a recovery run!) a week from now.

Did you run the Golden Hills Marathon? How was your experience?