Saturday, January 28, 2012

Coastal Trail Runs Steep Ravine 30k

We started on road and had a few road crossings before we hit the trail.

There was so much beautiful forest like this. We ran along a creek for a while, this was the first of the two major climbs. There was a lot of ducking under trees like the one above.
There were a lot of bridges like this. The sign is an advisory that there is a 10 ft ladder .8 miles ahead. We crossed a lot of these sort of bridges, and every now and then there would be a special bridge that would have missing boards and totally freak me out. We also learned if there's a sign that says "No Horses", and you both run across the bridge at the same time, it bounces up and down wildly and makes you freak out and scream.

There were a lot of steps, these are stone, some were wood.
Above is the awesome ladder!
eventually you come out of the woods to the first aid station. You are mostly downhill or flat from here to the second major climb.

So this is how I carried one water and one Gatorade bottle. It worked out perfectly during the race. The only noticeable negative thing is that after a while they got heavy. After 4 hrs, my left side was shot from my neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. It wasn't' painful, just sore. More on the hand later.....
We went down those switchbacks, but not up them.
Almost to the turn around at Muir Beach.

Muir Beach aid station, one I will remember for the rest of my trail running life. Do you remember which aid station of which race you ate your first salty potato?? Life changing : )
this pic is for NTL....there was a lot of mud, but the good kind, not Diablo mud. It was nice and splashy and fun to run through!
Ok, so now we have started the last brutal climb back up to Cardiac aid station.

This was the most technical trail we have ever ran during a race. Between the roots, stone stairs, wood stairs, bridges, ladder, mud...
and then there were sections of perfectly smooth, soft, wide, tree covered trail
We have just went through the last aid station before the finish, now it's all down hill to the finish, oh...except for Insult Hill.
We could not have had a better day or better conditions, it was just amazing out there!

This is my freaked out downhill running face.
So many stairs and my knees no longer wanted to bend. I was yelling, hooting, and hollering my way down these, and there were many many many more than what you see here.
We are cresting the last hill, we finish at Stinson Beach down there.
And now we are obviously finished, I'm trying to get the white patches of dried salt to show on camera, the blotchy white skin is salt.
and this is me tonight giving my knees some love.
And that is what happens to your hand when you make it carry 2 water bottles for 18 miles. My hand felt tired from gripping the straps while we were running, but I had no idea anything was going on on the back of my hand. You can't tell there's a swollen circle under that bruise, but it's there.

This course is tough!! The elevation is insane, both the inclines and declines are very tough. The stairs....make it even tougher. The trail varies from fire road, to very rocky single track, to very rooty single track, to very muddy single track, to very narrow (like one foot at a time) single track.

This course is stunningly beautiful!! Whether you are high in the exposed grass land w/ocean and Mt views, or running under the canopy of Redwoods along a stream and fern covered rock walls, it is just stunning. The Marin Headlands and Mt Tamalpais have such a vast trail system that is so varied in terrain. It really is a special place.

Reasons not to run this course - if you have bad knees, ankles, or a stairs phobia, this is not the trail for you. If you are prone to falling, not for you. Not only is there more than the usual amount of opportunities to fall, but because this could be a dangerous course to fall off the trail on. If you are a trail runner who likes to be out there alone, this is not the race for you. There are several out and back sections, plus shared parts of the course. We started with the 50kers, but the full and half marathon and 7 milers all started after us. This meant a lot of tree hugging on the narrow single track to let the fast leaders of each of the other distances pass. It also meant tree hugging when they were heading back to the finish and we were heading out still. The section of trail that is closest to Muir Woods had quite a few hikers on it, many foreign visitors who were a bit annoyed w/being asked to let runners pass. Also, the upper Dipsea trail had many hikers as well. I would suspect this was due to the strange winter we are having and had it not been sunny blue skies and in the 60's there would not have been nearly the amount of people out on the trails that there was today, so it's probably not normally an issue.

The Coastal trail running crowd is, in my opinion which means nothing, a much more beastly group than most. Everyone looked hard core today, and they were. For me, that was a bit intimidating. It was a bit mentally tough for me to know that while we were making way better time than I had hoped for, we seemed to be either DL (dead last) or 2cd to DL the entire time. There were not many hikers that we saw (doing the race, anyway), mostly all serious runners. So depending on what sort of crowd you are comfortable's something to consider. I will say everyone was very friendly and willing to chat if you started a conversation.

And that about wraps it up. It was indeed an epic day out there. I will start uploading the rest of the beautiful pictures here as soon as I hit "publish post".


  1. I love this - it brings back a LOT of memories. It is REALLY hard to get good pictures when you are in the dark of the woods - I got very few that were usable.

    I'm a bit surprised you had so much mud, but they probably got a lot more rain there than we did here (we had none today). I was a bit sad that the Muir Beach aid station wasn't on the beach, so I took a side trip to it. And ended up with sand in my shoes. Sigh...

    The stairs to the finish are REALLY challenging. I went very slow down them. As I remember, most of the non-racers on the trail were actually pretty nice about making room for the runners, although you always have a few that cant stand any inconvenience.

    As far as the Coastal (and PCTR for that matter) running crowd, you do get a more serious group, although I've always found that there were back of the packers that were fun. The event is less like a party than Brazen events, but they are cheaper and really do a pretty good job.

    I wish I had been able to do this race again this year - I really need to get Diane up there for a race. Thanks for posting all this so fast!

  2. I used to be in the xc team when I was an exchange student...I wanna start running again but we don't have those beautiful trails here, I live in a big town =(

  3. Elle, thanks for stopping by!
    We are very fortunate to live where we do and so many amazing trails to explore. we have not always lived here, and that makes us even more grateful! We have only been running for about 4 years, so we have lots of exploring to do still!

  4. Allen - while we had a great, amazing, stunning, fun day out there, and we needed to get this type of course under our legs for Diablo.....I was really missing my Brazen comforts, both the people, atmosphere, and medal. No fault of Coastal, they put on a great run and I have no complaint about anything race's just different.

    We tucked in behind 2 "more mature" ladies who had been out there a few times. One of them stopped and squinted, looking off into the woods, then says, "There it is!! look, it's the penis tree!!" While I refrained from taking a picture, it was what she said. So there were indeed a few "fun" back of the packers!