The Miwok 100k is an iconic trail race in the Marin Headlands. For me, Marin is a great place to race – and of the few races I have done, half of them have been in Marin. I love running in the Marin Headlands for a few reasons: The trails are generally smooth and well graded, the views are amazing, it is generally cool with a nice sea breeze, the hills are large and plentiful, and the scenery varies dramatically from lush forest with ferns and moss to rugged sea cliffs and manzanita. The Miwok follows some of the same trails as the North Face 50 mile race that I did in December, but is 12 miles longer and has much more history and personality.
On this particular day, I was feeling strong and well trained, and while I didn’t want to go out too hard I also didn’t want to get stuck behind a bunch of slow people going up the infamous Dipsea trail. So I made my way to the front of the pack just before the start, and ran with a fast group of 5 or 6 for the first few miles up to the Cardiac aid station. Arriving with the dawn to the sound of bagpipes piercing the fog and mist was an unexpectedly magical experience.
I ran a smart but aggressive pace, running more of the hills than I usually do but saving some energy for the second half. As I approached the confusing junction near the Bobcat trail I was very happy to see my good friend Brian Daly directing traffic, keeping the runners on track. Brian was injured this year but has run Miwok a number of times in the past and was volunteering instead of running this one. It gave me a nice boost to see a friendly face on the trail and I cruised down towards the next aid station.
As I reached Tennessee Valley for the second time at mile 26, I realized I had just run one of my fastest Marathon times and was still feeling good with “only” 36 miles to go. I changed into a dry shirt, evaluated the sky, left my rain jacket in my drop bag, and pressed on. Leaving Muir Beach, at about the halfway point, I was passed by Bree Lambert, who ended up finishing 2nd Female and 21st overall. Apparently she’s kind of a big deal but I was strategically hiking up the hills to save energy, so I let her go.
Right as I topped out at Cardiac, at mile 35.5, the weather turned from sunny to blowing cold wind and rain. I put on my Houdini wind jacket (definitely not waterproof) and pressed on. I was surprised how many runners had no jacket; the weather forecast was unstable and when it turned it got pretty uncomfortable for those with no protection. There were lots of people running with just a T-shirt or Sports Bra – or no shirt at all – and looking pretty miserable. It was wet and windy for the rest of the race – apparently a lot of people dropped due to the weather and/or inadequate clothing. With my jacket on, I was wet but warm, which made a huge difference.
After the second pass through Cardiac, the race was basically a muddy, wet, and windy 14 miles out to Bolinas Ridge and the Randall turnaround, followed by 13 miles back to Bolinas and then down to the finishe line at Stinson Beach. It was windy and rainy nearly the entire time, although the rain did let up as I approached the lower elevation section near the Randall aid station turnaround. With my shoes (and everything else) already soaked, I ran through numerous puddles that were 6 inches deep, and 20-50 feet long, covering the entire trail. It was kind of fun to just plow through the mud and water rather than try to stay dry.
Coming down the long windy hill to the Randall turnaround, the rain stopped and the trail was smooth and fast. This was probably my favorite section of the course and I flew down it, grateful for the respite from the wind and rain and mud.
As I was changing into a dry shirt at Randall I heard a familiar voice – Nico Raffo was there waiting to pace his friend on the last 13 miles and he was telling me how great I was doing – this was another nice pick-me-up! I felt good after the long cruiser downhill and took off hiking fast up the hill back towards Bolinas. Shortly I was passed by Nico and his friend, but I kept to my strategy of hiking the big hills and going harder on the downs.
My strategy seemed to work, as I started passing people on the rolling hills going back into Bolinas. Unfortunately I had to stop to poop there – so I lost a few minutes at the aid station porta-potty. I then re-passed a few runners on the way back towards Stinson Beach, which confused a couple of them. Eventually I passed Nico and his friend, as well as a few more runners on the long, fun, final downhill to Stinson Beach.
In the end I finished in 11:33:22, for 44th place out of 288 finishers. I think there were about 400 people who started but quite a few dropped due to the weather conditions. This was my best race experience so far – in addition to the amazing course and scenery, it was well organized and well marked, and I had probably my best race performance to date. It was fun to push hard and have to deal with some adverse weather conditions, but I was well prepared, ran a smart race, and managed to stay warm and in control. My friend Jack Hsueh did well also, finishing in just over 12 hours. It was great to hang out at the finish line with Jack, Brian, Nico and a few other friendly faces. I’m not sure if I’ll do this race again, but I would highly recommend it due to the amazing course and excellent organization.