Racing the Sun at 2015 Marin Ultra Challenge 50K

Marin Ultra Challenge 50K (and 50M) meanders through some of the most amazing trails in Marin Headlands. Between Night Sweats Trail Marathon, Mt. Tam 50K and Coastal Marin 50K (twice), I think I’ve run most of these trails now. The climb up through Middle Green Gulch was probably the only new ones. In any case the Marin Ultra Challenge was indeed a challenge and perfect training ground for the Miwok 100K in just 7 weeks (gulp!). Looking at the weather, it was going to be a warm day, so my strategy was to cover as much ground as possible before it got hot.

Marin Ultra Challenge 50K

With a 3am alarm and an hour drive, got there early to get a great spot right on the waterfront and managed to get a short nap. Met Tim Thompson at the start line and he’s been killing it lately. Was running his first 50M and would go on to place 9th overall. Tim Stahler, the RD was doing the pre-race announcements and it was cool to hear that there were runners from 24 different states doing either the 50K or the 50M.

Earlier in the week I ran at Wunderlich and the run up to the Crossroads (2.8 miles, 7% grade and ~1,000ft climb) was my reference point for all of the hills. Pretty much things boiled down to how many times I was going up to the Crossroads. The other strategy that worked really well was I only looked at the lap times on my Garmin 220 (from one AS to the other) that seemed to make the miles go by.

The first 14 miles were a blur. The weather was nice and cool and I quickly stripped off my arm sleeves and head band. The half moon hanging over Rodeo Beach with the sounds of the ocean made the miles zip away. I was in a happy place, running up most hills. Dropped off my headlamp at the Tennessee Valley AS and kept pushing. I wanted to get to the Muir Beach AS (~14 miles) in 2:30 and got there at 2:18 instead. Shout out to Nate Dunn and Will along the way. The familiar climb up Miwok to Diaz Ridge. Even got a PR on this one! I was pretty hungry at the top and paused to bite into a Hummus/Olive Pita Pocket that I had made the night before. Tasted so good. On the way back to Muir Valley I was keeping good pace with a couple of runners and didn’t find out until we got to the bottom that they were part of a running group. Oh well.

  • Marin Ultra Challenge 50K Cheat Sheet
    My Cheat Sheet

Back at the Muir Beach AS in 3:32. 10ish miles to go and one last “crossroads”. Walked and hiked up Middle Green Gulch and it was starting to get warm. The single track along the ridge was so narrow and dented, was having trouble with my weak right ankle. Slow progress, but made it to Tennessee Valley in 4:30 with just 5.7 miles to go. A real shot at a sub-6:00! Filled up my 2nd soft flask with Mountain Dew and up on Marincello, the trail you love to hate. Mostly hiked until I got to the top and then began pushing. In hindsight, I was dehydrated and probably hungry, but just didn’t realize it. Gagged on a Clif Shot Gel and washed it down. Didn’t want to stop for another Pita Pocket and kept pushing. The familiar sight of Golden Gate Bridge on SCA Trail always brings a smile to my face. The cool wind on the ridge and the wonderful smell of the ocean and the fact that I could finish sub-5:45 kept me going. Sprinted down the last stretch to finish at 5:41 and 12th in age group! Strava activity reads 5,542ft elevation profile though Inside Trail says ~7,100ft. Felt like the latter.

More familiar faces at the finish line. Michael Stricklan, Mary Benson, Kelly and Rida Chow. What a great day in some of the most awesome trails in the Bay Area!

I still need to sort through my hydration strategy. I typically carry one soft flask in the back of my Salomon Hydro 5 Set, but it’s harder to get to the water and put it back. Ditto with Gels. They really do make you gag when it gets warm and you are parched. Any suggestions? As I was resting my sore legs, it dawned on me that the American River 50M is just three weeks away. Dang. Short recovery and back to business!

Did you run the Marin Ultra Challenge? How was your experience?