This was my first official half marathon (21k) race and the most grueling of any run I have ever done….Actually, I take that back. In 2004 my friends and I raced to the top of Half Dome and I made it in just over 2 hours (Sean O’Brien made it in 1:59 something but I think he was on steroids . That was a death march. This race was right behind it in difficulty. Climbs so intense that you had no choice but to slowly putt your way up, walking wouldn’t have worked. Downhills that were damn scary, especially the single tracks hugging the coastal cliffs. But despite the difficulty, the scenery was breathtaking, that is when you had breath to spare. Racing in the Marin Headlands gave me the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful countryside I could imagine….steep rolling hills, 1000ft cliffs dropping straight into the ocean, hardly any human contact (that is good and bad in a race this long), and strong surf along the coast. The elevation map below shows the extreme climbs.
I started the race out at comfortable pace with Ray Yokoi, who ended up being my main competition. We made the climb together for the first couple miles which was around 800ft above sea level. At about the 2 mile marker I decided to take off and establish my own pace. By mile 5 I had a comfortable lead but also started experiencing some hip pain. My hip flexors were still pretty tight from the week before and the huge climbs and descents weren’t helping. I decided to ease back on the pace and try to relax and enjoy the scenery. I was able to get away with this tactic until mile 8, when Ray started catching up! I put in a few good pickups until mile 10….yeah, mile 10 to 11 took me like 15 minutes, that’s how steep this damn hill was. I’m surprised they didn’t have ropes on the trail! I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a long and intense burning sensation in my legs, unbelievable and exillirating at the same time. I was happy to find the last mile to be downhill. That is until I caught Ray in my rear view barreling down on me! I managed to keep the trail running veteran at bay and got the win in a total time of 1:42. Ray was a few seconds behind.
Overall it was an amazing experience. Not something that you could do every weekend, the downhill really put a beating on my legs but nonetheless an event to put on the calendar for next year.
Check out Ray’s article here regarding the race: