Josephie and I did this race last year, a nicely run ITR event that incorporates the trail system around Rodeo beach, Miwok and Tennessee Valley area. The forecast was 50 / 70 degrees.
The 50K started at 0830. I would love an early start for this race. 0830 seems like a waste daylight and cool weather and also a beautiful part of the day.
I wasn’t going to take photos this time but it’s hard not to on such a beautiful course. I batch-reduced the photo sizes to around 200K (what you get when you click an image).
This year, the race started at Rodeo beach. Last year, the course was shifted 1.6 mi into this year’s course route due to construction issues at the beach. The start is mainly a tourist and surfing area. We parked at the Marine Mammal center about half mile away and walk to the start to avoid overloading the limited beach parking.
8K, 13.1, 20K, 30K and 50K races were available with the 50K and 30K starting together at 0830.
Prerace gathering and announcements:
50K and 30K started on time in cool, breezy and slightly foggy weather.
At about mile 1.8 we cross Bunker road and begin climbing and can see the top runners across the valley and well into the first climb. It’s a great day for running and we see many running groups and individuals as well as cyclists coming down the hill.
Around mile 3.3 we hit the first aid station. I don’t really need anything at this point but I drink the rest of my water bottle, grab some Cliff gummy chew blocks and refill my bottle.
Now we will cross a road in a quarter mile and begin some steeper climbing.
Climbing continues up to what would be the overlook for the Golden Gate, but the fog is too heavy to see much.
More winding toward Tennessee Valley brings us to a long, 1.2 mile, 8.5% downhill grade into TV aid. This is a smooth surface with light cinder like surface and descent is quick with little effort. Looking at my GPS data in retrospect I see I did about an 8 min pace here. A little more effort could easily have sped up that downhill pace but it’s really early in the race.
Now we come into the TV aid station. We will hit this three times in the 50K. Drop bags are allowed here but must be delivered and retrieved by the runner or his crew. Aid stations were very well stocked. I used my Scott Jurek with one water bottle for this race and carried about 1# of extra snacks that I never touched. One could do quite well by just running with a water bottle on this race and I saw many runners doing this.
Leaving TV, we start the Pirate’s Cove loop – beautiful coastal views with plenty of climbing.
The Pirate Cove loop is 10K and returns to the TV aid station over a section of road.
Leaving TV at 14.6 mi, we begin the 4 mile Rodeo loop, climb then descend into Rodeo beach, the start / finish. Along the way we pass a big gun that once defended the coast from a WWII bunker on this hill. It has a weight of 285,000# and fired a 16″ shell 26 miles. Click on the image and you can see the rifling in the muzzle end. This actual gun came from a retired WWII battleship but is identical to one of the pair of these that defended the coast at this site.
Now comes rapid descent to the beach, the start / finish area and the Rodeo aid station. Coming down the final stretch of road to the beach, the aid station is on the left and the start finish is 50 yards to the left.
I had left my drop bag in the wrong place at the start and it didn’t get moved to the aid station. No big deal, I just refill my bottle and jog to the start area and get a muscle milk from my bag then return quickly to begin the second loop.
My 25K split had been 3:05. I had hopes that I could do a 6 hr 50K if I was having a great day but this was pretty unlikely as I have never had a negative split second half 50K. I was, however, feeling pretty good starting the second loop. Last year I had burned myself out on the first 30K and recall walking excessively at the beginning of the second loop and ended up with a time of 6:29. My typical slow-down for a 50K second half is always way more than I expect, thus I am thinking at this point that I may be lucky just to match last year’s finish time.
On the second loop I’m running things I did not run on the second loop last year but I’m certainly slower than my first loop. The weather remains foggy and now it is windy but it has warmed just a bit. I’m starting to heat up a bit in the valley area up to the first aid station on the loop. At this point my hydration and nutrition are good and all systems are generally in good shape. I drank the 250 Kcal muscle milk drink in the first mile of this 13 mi loop. This, plus a bit of Tailwind sports drink (sports drink du jour for this race) should be all the supplemental calories I’ll take for the rest of the race. Being pretty full on Tailwind, water and muscle milk at this point since the 30K point it will be at least an hour before I can take in much of anything. And not much later than that will be the final Rodeo section and I’ll be making a maximal effort on that section and won’t want to eat or drink.
Approaching the ridge above the Golden Gate area there is an insane wind blowing fog over the ridge toward the sea. Maybe 50 mph, it seems almost dangerous but once I realize it isn’t going to blow me off the trail, I take off my hat and glasses and run on and watch the amazing weather. The high wind feels good and I’m instantly cooled off to a nice level. Once off the ridge, we enter a short segment of eucalyptus forest and the trees howl loudly in the wind. Soon I get to the long decent into TV and once again go into 8%-downhill-grade-autopilot-decent although my GPS data later tells me my pace this time has increased to 9:30 per mile. The wind has let up quite a bit. It is perhaps 20-30 mph and is now a crosswind.
Coming into TV for the last time at mile 28 we will skip the Pirate’s Cove 10K loop and go straight to the final Rodeo loop. I haven’t seen anyone who seems to be in my age group for a while. This is the point where I enjoy having some sort of distraction in the form of other runners to attempt to pass or to avoid being passed by. One female runner leaves TV just behind me and passes me on the switchbacks just after the TV horse stables. I speed up a bit but she continues to put some distance on me. I could put in a bit more effort, but with 3.5 mi to go I’m at about 85% effort and don’t think I want to go any faster just yet. If she can continue that speed at this point then I’m not going to catch her. After a few more climbs she’s no longer increasing her lead and then I think I’m closing the distance a bit. There is a group of several runners about a half mi ahead on the other side of a valley. We have been gaining on them but I don’t know if they are racers. That is another target to make before the finish. There is also a young male runner in between and he is pulling away a bit and approaching the group of runners. I pass the lady runner and continue on and catch the small group. They are not in the race. The other racer stays around 1/8 mi ahead and I think he is pulling away a bit. Now we are about 2 mi away and I look back on the turns and the gal has dropped back by about the same distance. It seems I need to focus on the racer ahead. We arrive at the next to the last uphill of the race and I come to 100 yd behind him. On the next 1/2 mi climb we are both running and I’m at 95% and he’s pulling ahead considerably. I can be pretty decent on the end race downhills so there may be some hope there.
But no, we have two sections of stairs to descend and one short, steep rocky area and it slows me down more than him. The last 3/4 mile into Rodeo beach is mostly twisty asphalt road with about a -10% grade. I finish that section and the race with about a 7 minute pace which seems like a 5 minute pace at the time but Eric, ahead of me is really hauling on this downhill.
I end up with a 6:27:32 and was really happy to break 6:30 and beat my time from last year by about 2 minutes. Eric, 33, isn’t in my age group and finishes 51 seconds ahead of me. The gal I had passed, finishes about 4.5 minutes behind me. Not that any of that matters except that it kept me moving fast on the section and on my own I probably would not have broken 6:30.
I’m 7/9 in my age group, 45/63 overall. Last year I was 2/4 in my age group and 24/51 overall. Weather was hotter last year from the start, so my roughly identical finishing time last year was probably a better performance than this year.
I used the Strava running app on my phone to track the race. It showed my actual moving time as 6:17 so that would put my aid station plus picture taking time at a total of 10 minutes (6 aid stations and maybe 50 photos). I was pleased that my aid station time was reasonable.
There are some pretty cool plants along the trails. I am always intrigued by the wild fennel that is everywhere and massive. Apparently it has become invasive. There are also flowers that look like orchids along the way.