One of my athletic goals in 2015 was to complete a trail running race, having done road races, triathlons, and obstacle races in the past. I accomplished this goal in May, when I participated in the Muir Woods Half Marathon and was cheered on by my parents. This race proved to be one of the most difficult races I had competed in due in large part to my lack of preparedness. I finished the course in 3.5 hours, taking 1.5 hours more than I would have taken on a road course.
The race was fairly small, with only about 100 participants doing either the 7 mile, 13.1 mile, or 26.2 mile distances. Note – anyone running the marathon distance on a tough course like this was certifiably insane!
This course starts at Stinson Beach, which is located just north of San Francisco. The road to Stinson beach is windy and one can easily get queasy. After taking off from the beach, we quickly went up, up, and up some more. The first part of the course is essentially a hike, as runners navigate narrow trails on rocks made slippery by fog and mist. Runners are also shielded from the sun by what seems like rain forest canopy – this further cools the temperature down, along with the rising altitude. During the first part of the course, I quickly realized that I had erred by not bringing 3 crucial things: 1) a long sleeve shirt 2) A water-filled CamelPak and 3) any food. I estimate that these 3 mistakes cost me up to 30 minutes in overall time, and made the experience less enjoyable as a result. And the end of a 3 mile climb, we reached a cold and windy ‘summit’ with an aid station. Unfortunately, only water was offered here, and most of us were disappointed. Deflated, I thought about going down finishing the 7 mile course. But, I decided to soldier on in the hopes that the course would become less difficult.
After this aid station, we ran downhill for another 2-3 miles. This was fun, but treacherous as it is easy to trip on rocks or roots, which I nearly did a few times! Once at the bottom, it was time to head back up. This climb isn’t as steep as the first one, and goes for another 3 miles or so. The weather warms up as it’s later in the day and the sun has come out. During the way, we hit our 2nd aid station, which offers water AND Gatorade (never have I been so happy to see Gatorade!). From here, it was another few miles to the first aid station, which never offered a feast of food options (pretzels, candy, water, Gatorade, bananas, and more!) This was the fuel we were so desperately craving, and it came not a minute too soon.
After fueling up, we ran down 3 miles back to the start. It was a tough 3 miles as our legs were weary from all the ups and downs of the previous 10 miles.
After the race, my parents and I tried an Indian / Mexican fusion restaurant (much more Indian than Mexican), which was quite tasty.
I’m glad I did this race, though cold, hungry, and miserable for most of it, and now can appreciate the challenges and benefits of of trail running.