2014 Miwok 100K

Stinson Beach, CA
May 3, 2014
9:40:41, 62 miles
2nd (out of 358)


Last year I exhausted much of my travel budget to visit the French-Italian Alps where I ran the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Though I figured 2014 would need to be a year of close-to-home racing, my European experience left such an impression that I couldn’t resist signing up for at just one out-of-area ultramarathon, both as an excuse to explore new trails and mingle with another running community.

This year that race would be the Miwok 100K, a 62 mile tour of the Marin Peninsula just north of San Francisco. Miwok was first run in 1996 and, in eighteen years, has gained reputation as a “classic race” eliciting the likes of Anton Krupicka, Dakota Jones, Dave Mackay, Hal Koerner and other top talents. Nowadays, the allure of international competition and prize money elsewhere has reverted Miwok back to a low-key but still highly-regarded and well-organized event.

The race begins an hour before sunrise beside the Stinson Beach fire station where some 400 runners have gathered. Just before the gun I jog up a dark street, away from the masses, where I can hear waves lapping the shore as I draw deep breaths of thick, Pacific air, its salty taste a far cry from the thin, dry air back home. One-hundred kilometers is a strange distance and this will be my first go at it. Do I pace it like a 50 miler? Or perhaps it’s long enough to encounter the onset of some 100 miler symptoms? I finish my warm-up, rejoin the herd, and after a quick countdown we’re off.

We immediately funnel onto single-track and climb 2000 feet in just over three miles. I come into this race with a solid six week training block behind me feeling fit and more confident than usual, so I hammer the ascent to hang with the lead pack comprised of Gary Gellin, Chris Wehan and a third guy, all Californian runners who know these trails well. The four of us reach the ridge at dawn and cruise north along the esteemed Marin Coastal Trail. The ocean fog diffuses any hint of the rising sun, casting a flat light upon the sloped trail that commands acute focus and good balance while I do my best to keep the leaders in sight.

For ten miles we roll through mossy, old-growth Redwoods. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of the ocean through the massive trunks that line the soft fire trail; its vast blue expanse stretches as far as the eye can see. At the northern-most point, we drop steeply to the Randall Trailhead (mile 17) where we reverse, climb back up Randall and proceed south along the same route past all the oncoming runners. Gary and Chris hold a two minute lead and I am in a comfortable (if lonesome) third.

First Climb

Top of the first climb. (Credit: Glenn Tachiyama)

Marin Coastal Trail

Running the Marin Coastal Trail. (Credit: Glenn Tachiyama)

I reach Cardiac Hill (mile 27) still just a minute or two behind Gary (Chris has bailed, leaving me in second place) but already I sense difficulty. My hip flexors and glutes have grown tight and I’m unable to drop the descent to Muir Beach as quick as I’m capable. My stomach feels fine and I’ve stayed on top of my calories. It’s early; perhaps these are symptoms of dehydration? At Muir Beach (mile 32) I consume copious amounts of salt and water but still struggle to find a comfortable rhythm. Ultimately I admit I probably pushed the first two climbs too hard and now I’ll pay the price as I grind out the second half of the course on nagging legs.

Miwok contains seven prominent climbs ranging from 800 to 1800 feet. All are steep but runnable and five of them are encountered on the back half of the course. From Muir Beach (mile 32) to Tennessee Valley (mile 37) to Rodeo Valley (mile 42) back to Tennessee Valley (mile 49) back to Muir Beach (mile 54) I make my way over the hills trying my best to enjoy the panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean. Gary’s lead grows so I revise my goal to hold on to second. Tightness spreads through my quads, knees and calves as I descend to Muir Beach for the second time, but the cruelest climb, a 1500 foot grind back up Cardiac Hill at mile 57, still awaits.

Pirate's Cove

Running above Pirate’s Cove. (Credit: Glenn Tachiyama)

I take a moment at the aid station to fuel up and stretch out for the final eight miles, knowing I’m comfortably in second place. Wrong! As I wash down a hummus-filled tortilla and screw the lid on my handheld bottle, Jean Pommier jogs down the trail. He’s in third place, but soon I’m about to be. Oh shit! Seeing him ignites a fire beneath me and I haul ass up the road toward the final climb.

Sometimes no amount of water, salt, food or stretching has quite the same effect as the sudden realization that the race is yours to lose. Thank you, Jean, for surprising me and activating my fight-or-flight reserves. I alternate between power-hike and power-shuffle up Cardiac Hill glancing far too often over my shoulder to convince myself that I can hold Jean off. I crest the ridge, blow through the final aid station, and grit my teeth for the three mile drop to the Stinson Beach finish line while trying very hard not to eat it on one of many ugly flights of railroad-tie stairs during the descent. Amazingly, it works. I finish second in 9:40:41, a solid 40 minutes behind Gary but just three minutes ahead of Jean (who later admits he was more concerned about fourth place who was just minutes behind him).

Pace-wise running 100 kilometers is much like running 50 miles, but lends itself to the tenacious runner rather than the swift. One must push aside the desire to be done at mile 50 and tackle those last twelve miles with obstinacy. I never dug as deep as 100 miles often requires, but the Miwok 100K provides a worthy challenge nonetheless.

Thanks to Gary and Holly for being incredible hosts and providing accommodations in Mill Valley, and congrats to Gary on his victory! Finally, thanks to Tia Boddington (the race director) and all the amazing volunteers for putting on a superb event. To my Rocky Mountain cohorts: if you need an excuse to escape our crazy Colorado spring weather, visit Marin and run Miwok; you won’t regret it.


Urban Steam Coffee (Colorado Springs, CO)

Urban Steam Coffee

Coffee culture has finally percolated its way to Colorado Springs. Having grown up on the outskirts of this awkward city, situated beneath some truly impressive peaks but eternally confused by the coexistence of drum-thumping hippies, extreme recreationalists, bible-thumping preachers and the U.S military, it seemed as though progress here would never be possible with such strong, contrasting opinions.

I no longer live here, but have come to respect it more since I left in 2010. On this particular visit I had the pleasure of meeting a friend for coffee in the industrial sector just south of downtown — an area finally seeing some badly needed urban renewal — at a hip new spot named “Urban Steam.”

Don’t let the ugly blue strip-mall facade mislead you; inside you’ll find a groovy cafe that might even please even the beardiest Portland hipster. Dual bars, an open kitchen, stools and sofa chairs strewn about the paint-splattered concrete floor contained by toothpaste-colored walls decorated with snazzy art, a dozen old welding masks strung from the ceiling; these are the design considerations that give Urban Steam its character. When I close my eyes, listen to the boisterous funky tunes that fill the air and breathe the scent of Sumatran coffee drifting from the back room roaster, both competing with a sizzling panini across the room, I can almost convince myself I’m sitting in a west coast cafe.

A line-up of at least five rotating roasts brewed as pour-over only (no traditional drip here!) piques my interest and I deviate from my usual Cafe Americano. My choice proves to be a good one; the coffee I’m served is plenty hot with a simple, well-balanced taste profile featuring subtle notes of cinnamon and chocolate. I promptly order another cup upon draining the first.

A short menu of waffles and sandwiches, full liquor selection and live music equipment tucked against the north wall suggest that Urban Steam attempts to cater to a broad clientele at a wide range of hours. I would encourage coffee-seeking souls to pay Urban Steam a visit and give it a try. Catch up with an old friend or get some work done — it’s good for either. I’m simply happy to see legitimate coffee being brewed in Colorado Springs; keep it up Urban Steam!

2014 Cedro Peak 45

Tijeras, NM
April 12, 2014
6:59:37, 45 miles
1st (out of 42)


Three hours from the nearest interstate and situated amidst a playground of mountains, mesas, canyons and hills, it takes a worthy cause to venture away from Durango, Colorado in our beloved corner of southwest Colorado. April, as it turns out, provides just the excuse: mud and ice that keeps us Durangotans from enjoying our favorite high country trails. The escape? Go south!

So south to the desert we went. Last Friday a record fourteen Durango ultrarunners arrived in Albuquerque to take on the third annual Cedro Peak Ultramarathon. The event offers two distances: a 45 kilometer out-and-back and (for the gritty) a 45 mile “lollipop” on often technical single-track through rolling pinion and juniper. The latter features around 5,600 feet of climbing, a memorable stretch of power line, two summits of Cedro Peak, and a net uphill second half, all aspects making the Cedro Peak 45 tougher than one might first suspect.

After a 6:00am start, we ran the first few miles by headlamp before twilight enabled us to discard them at the first aid station. I quickly found myself out front with my good friend Jeremy Duncan (of Carbondale) and we chatted, sharing plans and dreams for the coming summer. Around mile five he paused for a pit stop and I never saw him again. What followed was a long, peaceful run in near solitude through the New Mexico desert, a chance to put forth a steady effort and iron out the early season kinks in my hydration and nutrition.

I first ran Cedro Peak two years ago in similar conditions finishing third in about 7 hours and 21 minutes. Hence, this would be a reasonable gauge of my fitness having spent five winter months since October focused on ski mountaineering (“skimo”) and only the last five weeks on running. Fortunately the transition has gone well. I managed to hammer the final five miles for a sub-7 finish and chalk up my second consecutive win (the last being at the Canyon de Chelly 55K six months ago).

The day, however, was not without imperfections: persistent cramping in my hip flexors, glutes and IT bands (perhaps not being sufficiently heat acclimated), tight laces pinching my right forefoot, and an early wrong turn resulting in some bonus mileage. That said, five years of ultrarunning have taught me patience. Perfection is illusive and mistakes will be made. How we handle and adapt to them determines our mastery of the ultramarathon distance. This race sets me up well for my spring focus: the Miwok 100K in San Francisco, just three weeks distant.

What I’m most excited for are the thirteen other Durangoans who ran commendable performances at the Cedro Peak Ultra: Brett and Missy, Jenn, Braz, Ben and Zoe, Drew, Erica, Ernie, Leah, Scott, Katherine, Steve and Martha. I never thought I’d get to share a race experience with so many hometown friends.

Does it indicate a movement? Is Durango the next ultimate trail town? Maybe so, but one thing is certain: I have a mob with whom to scheme up incredible routes and adventures through the San Juan Mountains this summer, and what could be better than that?!


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