Saturday, July 14, 2012

RUNDown: 2012 Golden Gate Trail Marathon (#15)

I got up at 6am and drove up to SF..on the way picked up a guy carpooling from there to the race site at Rodeo Beach / Fort Cronkhite. It was foggy as expected so the temps were cool, which is good. 

The parking situation was a bit of a mess when we got there, as I knew it would be when the final email pre-race let us know there would be 500 runners there !  Normally we'd have been able to park up close ('cause we had two runners in the car)  but that lot was already full so I dropped off my friend and drove back .75 of a mile and then walked to the start. My start was at 8:15am so I had enough time...barely.  I debated taking my jacket, decided to take it and wrap it up around my waist...just in case.

I got to the registration desk, got my bib, shirt and a hat (I liked my other CTR hat so much I decided to get a lime green one too 8).  Quandry: what to do with the loot? Walk 1.5 miles to put in the car? Um. No.

They had sharpie markers and plastic bags, so I just bagged the stuff, labeled it with my name and number and tied it to a BBQ in the race central area. You could also put it with the drop bags. This worked out fine.

james of runnersbug
I got to the start with a couple of minutes to spare and started looking around for James, a blogger I follow over at RunnersBug

Eventually he found me first and we said hello ...James is probably the 4th blogger I've met face-to-face. He and his family had been vacationing for a while in CA from MD and was doing this marathon just before flying back home the night after the race. 

He told me he'd had some achilles issues and I could see he had wrapped it.... his plan was to have no plan....just see how it went. I knew CTR keeps their courses open for  hikers too so James would have no problem with cutoff times etc but I was worried he might have to drop after the half if that foot bugged him....this was NOT an easy race and James had not done any trail marathons before. I will find out how it went and post an update here. 

(UPDATE: the foot was not a problem and James finished in 6:44:59! Way to go on a first hilly trail marathon!)

We only had about two minutes and then it was 3...2..1. go!  Ok so right off the bat you are climbing, climbing, climbing. Unlike San Lorenzo, it's not mega steep, some halfers were even running it. But I was of course power-walking. There was a bit of congestion but not too bad really. 

Let me remind you of the profile for this race.  (When doing trail running ITS ALL ABOUT THE ELEVATION PROFILE (and the DIFFICULTY of the FOOTING)), here is the half marathon profile, I show you that because the marathon is two loops of this:

The terrain of this course can be summarized thusly: This first hill climbs about 800' in 1.5 miles, then you gradually drop your way down 600', then back up 600', then you have some fairly wonderful single track that dithers up and down and then does mostly down to the finish. 

There is 500' more climbing that San Lorenzo, but it all comes in the first half of the loop. This means on the second loop you are done with the mega climbing when hit the wall after mile 20.  This is good.

< We now interrupt this RR so I can get some food. I decided I was RAVENOUS and went and had a burger, fries and two Lagunitas IPA drafts (that's for you, Jamoosh). This was at the counter...which i very much recommend.>

So, up the 600' climb we went:

Still foggy out there so not problems with the heat. The biggest problem I had is when we got into the cloudbase my glasses got tons of misting on them and I kept having to wipe them with my fingers. When you are running on rough terrain you NEED binocular vision so you can see WTF is going on. Eventually at the aid station I got a paper towel and cleaned them off.

Down to the second aid station and then up the second climb. The second big climb was a fire road that had probably the same slope as the average of the first slope, but this was graded for trucks so it was dead-nuts-the-same.  I power walked it for quite a while (as did most, only a few really strong runners were not walking. (splits 5,6,7)

Eric Monroe on the misty trail..
Eventually we crested this climb and then did some trails up high until we ran into this misty  Eucalyptus forest it was very cool, Avatar-like. Thats a picture of Eric Monroe on the trail...

I was cruising on this part.  You can see in the splits that 8,9,10,11,12,13 (see below if you want) were faster..with some 9:xx paces even on the downhill stretches. It was not too steep (mostly) and so you could truck along at a good pace.

A nice guy that was passing me when I was taking a pic asked if he could take a pic of me:

I hit the half marathon in 2:37 or so, yes I know you are saying  "WHAT? are shooting for sub 6 with even paces and you did WHAT?". What can I say? The course was easier than San Lorenzo. ..I walked every single uphill and did not blast the downhills and that's where I ended up. 8/

So, loop 2. This is the time I LOVE in these trail races. The halfers are long gone, it's just you and the die-hards. Often, you are on the trail and there is NOBODY in sight, ahead or behind.
There's just the single track, the wind blowing the foggy mist up the hills and over you, and the occasional revealed vistas...magical.

Climbing the first big hill, I was a fair amount slower, instead of 17:00 and 14:00 m/m I did 19:30 and 15:20... I need more muscle and less flab, i.e. a higher power to weight ratio to do better on long climbs.

At the Eucalyptus grove the fog had lifted some and so the photo is a bit different:

The red shirt on the person in this photo was a Marathon Maniac shirt, I pulled even and struck up a conversation. Eventually the very slight accent ran a bell and a looked at her face. I had met her in the hotel shuttle to the Airport at the Eugene marathon. She's a 50 stater and this I guess was her CA marathon.

She took a photo of me with my camera a bit later. It was still foggy but the ceiling was a big higher so we got some better views.

The last 5 miles went pretty fast. Not a huge slog since it's a big net downhill. Perversely you almost wish for uphill after a while to get a change of pace on the muscle use. During this stretch I noticed my right hip (the funky one) was feeling a bit sore and tight and so I worked at changing my stride, foot angle, etc to make it feel better...seemed to work ok and now after the fact it feels ok. 

The last two splits (25,26) are all downhill or flat and on a road for part of the time. I had been eyeing my pace way back at mile 16-20 and knew I would probably hit a 5:45 or so, but I had really made an effort to keep up the pace on the downs as best I could.  I pushed hard.. I had not been keeping track of other folks in my age group in the marathon, but I knew they were out there ;)

As I came around the sign for the finish I sprinted the last 100 yds and punched my watch.

5:39:25!  Mission accomplished....well under 6 hours. 

Funny how I can feel so proud of an effort that is 1:45 slower than my road marathon PR.  Comparing road marathons and trail marathons is like comparing the Indy 500 with the Baja 1000 car races.

 My half split doubled is 5:14, so I'm 25 minutes slower in the second half...sigh. Ah well....balancing out a trail marathon is one hell of a lot harder than a road marathon.

As I mentioned before, there were 5 of us in the 50-59 age group and I came in third.  So more bling 8).  

Overall place 23 / 43.

Full photos here.

Here's the splits, more data anon. My cadence sensor seems to need a new battery so no data there, oh well:

2012-07-14 Sat, Golden Gate Trail Marathon
SplitMiles  Pace    HR% WHRCadElev+Elev-YPB


  1. WOW!! Congratulations, Sir - you nailed it with lots of room to spare!

    I love the sense of accomplishment on races like these. Our races were similar in that respect...lots of walking but the reward still very warm! Definitely a different feel than any road race I've done.

    You done good; you deserve to be ravenous and taking breaks from blogging to eat :).

  2. Congrats on smashing your goal! By the photos, it looks like you were having fun

  3. This was a tough course. It was good to finally meet a fellow running blogger. Thanks for mentioning and linking to my blog. Congrats on the sub 6er and 3rd place! Oh, and the foot, it hasn't bothered me since before the race. I had NO issues other than fatigue, thankfully!

    1. These trail runs are tough for sure, a-yup. One needs strength more than speed.

      Glad the foot was a non-issue. Hope the trip home wasn't too bad and that everybody enjoyed the vacation!

  4. Nice age group win. Looks hard.

  5. Thanks again for the ride and congrats on your strong finish! It's always a pleasure to chat with an experienced runner, and I definitely did enjoy trail running, so might end up doing more of it.

  6. Congratulations! And I thought Madrid was hilly :-)

    I can't wait to try this kind of thing myself...

  7. Way to go Paul...that is an excellent time and it seems like you've weathered the effort well. This sounds like a lot of fun, and I look forward to doing something similar one day myself. Very inspiring you are.

  8. Nice recap and congrats on a really nice finish time for this course!

  9. What a great time, congrats! That elevation looked rough. I love the misty photos on the trail, it looks beautiful. And I HATE when glasses fog up! I started running in contacts because of it, but even my sunglasses fogged up at Big Sur and it was salty smudge from the air.

  10. Wow. You stomped your goal!!

    The profile is a little scary for a gal like me...but the photos are spectacular. I think I would like to do this course as a trail run and not a race. It is gorgeous.

    Congrats on the AG placement!

  11. Just read this in prep for running the same marathon coming up this year! Congrats on the awesome finish & thanks for the pictures and report! I'm really looking forward to this one!


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