Posted by: pointlenana | May 12, 2014

Miwok 100k – May 3, 2014

(There is a nice RR (with photos) from Obtuse of the Runners World forums here, and a nice article on the race in TrailRunner here.)

The Miwok 100k is a trail race in the Marin County headlands, just north of San Francisco.  Starting in Stinson Beach, it’s 61+ miles of single track and fire roads, with lots of up and down (~13,000 feet of each).  I tried to run it last year but due to fire danger it was shortened to a 60k in the few hours before the race started.  RD Tia Bodington pulled off a miracle by holding any race under the circumstances, and it was a fun day.  I wanted to try the whole thing though so I returned this year.

I went into this race well-trained but a little tired.  On the plus side, I’ve been running a lot ever since I was accepted in the UTMB lottery earlier this year.  On the negative side, I had run a lot in the weeks prior to Miwok – a PR marathon race in early March, a 50k mid-Mar, and 3 for-fun marathons during April.  Throw in some long training weeks and I didn’t really have much of a taper for what would be the 2nd longest race I’ve done (2nd to Cascade Crest Classic 100 last year).

My goals:  C) Have a good day, do some training for UTMB, and finish B) Qualify for the WS100 lottery without stress by finishing well before the 16 hour cutoff A) Finish in under 14 hours.

On that A goal, I’ve had a very hard time predicting my ultra times.  Usually I look at each leg, estimate the up and down, estimate the up and down paces, do the math to figure out best and worst cases for each leg, add them up, and then pick a time based on the best and worst cases.  For Miwok this resulted in 12:56 best case and 14:45 worst case (worst case is always a bad day with a DNF so 14:45 is not really worst case).  My results seem to skew more to worst case than best case – downhills turn out to be steep and technical, uphills longer and slower, etc. – so 14 hours seemed like a good A goal.

My friend Jeff from Seattle was running as well, so Jeff, Janet (aka my wife) and I flew down Friday.  Our friends Maureen and John very generously let us stay with them again in a house just a 10 minute walk from the start.

Saturday morning we woke up around 3am.  With marathons there is usually enough time to eat and move things through the system.  A 5am start is just too early for that but fortunately a minute or two in the Port-eau-Pot doesn’t matter much in an ultra.  Jeff and I got to the start area around 4:30, got our bibs and then lost each other.  I stood in a portapotty line for 3 minutes before realizing I would never get through the line in time.  I bailed and then walked around looking for Jeff.  Along the way I found “Obtuse” from the Runners World thread and we greeted each other.  I also saw Eldrith Gosney but figured she didn’t want to be greeting admirers before a race so I left her alone.

Start to Bolinas Ridge:  Jeff and I found each other as people went to stand at the start.  I was only slightly cold in my t-shirt and sun hat, so I figured it would be a warm-ish day (for someone from Seattle) but thankfully the forecast wasn’t for hot.  With very little fanfare we were off and ran hard… for about 25 feet.  Then we stopped to funnel 450 people onto a trail wide enough for 1 that immediately started up to the Mt. Tam ridge.  There may have been a few fast people at the front running, but most of us walked and everyone got 20+ minute readings for their first mile.

We started with headlamps in darkness, and walked slowly up the hill like that for a couple miles, but gradually it got light.  And gradually it leveled out.  Finally, after about 30-40 minutes, we were mostly running along a narrow track in the grass high on the slopes of Mt. Tam.  Footing was ok – I’ve seen better and seen worse – and the terrain was rolling and runnable.  It was hard to pass and people mostly stayed where they were, except for a few who worked hard passing in the deep grass next to the trail to gain, uh, 0 net seconds when we caught up to them again in a few minutes.

Some sections of the trail were on steep hillsides – a narrow trail cutting across a steep slope where a trip might result in a serious tumble down through the grass.  I grew up cardboard-sliding on those hills as a kid though and maybe for that reason I never felt exposed.

Eventually the trail took us to the edge of Ridgecrest – the road along the Mt. Tam flanks that is famous for being the most photographed road in the world (think car ads with the car winding through bends in a beautiful place near the ocean).  Oh, yeah, I should mention that the views were of grasslands, woods, Stinson Beach below, the Mt. Tam peaks above, and the Pacific Ocean.  Pretty decent.  We ran in the woods near Ridgecrest and into the first aid station.  I refilled my bottle, ate a bit, and left again.

Total Distance:  6.3 miles Elapsed time:  1:41  Overall Pace:  ~16.0/mile

Bolinas Ridge to Randall: By now the trail had changed from single track to a wider path/fireroad through the woods.  Jeff and I were pretty close to each other – he’s much better on the down and I’m a little better on the up – so we mostly ran this part together.  This was pretty nice – occasional openings with views, decent trail surface, enough twists and rollers to make it interesting but nothing that was hard.  I had been told the last couple miles down to Randall were steep, but they were quite runnable.  At Randall I invested in a portapotty break, ate, refilled and left.  Dean Karnazes was signed up this year and I expected to see him either ahead of me or behind at this turnaround, but didn’t see him going up or coming down and I later heard he was a DNS for some reason.

Total Distance: 12.9 miles  Elapsed Time: 2:47  Overall Pace: ~12:50/mile

 Randall to Bolinas Ridge to Cardiac: The first 26 miles of Miwok are essentially an out-and-back, with a turn near the end of the and-back to take us off towards the southern portion of the course.  I speed-walked up the road from Randall, eventually caught Jeff again, and ran with Jeff and “Bearded Dave” (as Jeff dubbed him) on and off all the way to Cardiac.  It was nice to run back along all the single track that we had run in the darkness earlier – I finally got to see the spectacular views.  After about a marathon, we crossed the main road at Pantoll, wound through the woods, and popped out at the Cardiac aid station.  Refill, eat, get going.

Total Distance: 26.5 miles  Elapsed Time: 5:30  Overall Pace: ~12:25/mile

Cardiac to Muir Beach: This 5 mile section starts with a long downhill and finishes along the road from Muir Woods to Muir Beach.  Last year I let loose down the hill (and paid for it later in the race).  This year, I already had 26 miles on my legs and was smarter than last year.  I still moved along, but this time I aimed for easy pace and got to the bottom before I started thinking “when will this end???”

The road section was the only trail issue the whole day – there is a trail that parallels the road but much of it was closed for trailwork so unlike last year (when it was all trail) this year about half was on the road itself.  There wasn’t much traffic though so it was fairly pleasant and it’s always fun to have a short section where I don’t have to think about footing.  The trail was also nice, although I did manage to lose my balance during one stream crossing on trees/branches and came away with a water-logged shoe.  There was also one bridge that has weak supports or something so it set up into a standing wave as I ran across it – very disconcerting.

Eventually we turned into the Muir Beach area, ran past Green Gulch Farm, down to the beach, across a bridge, and into the aid station.  At this point I was still mostly eating pb&j, humus tortillas, and fruit.

Total Distance: 31.5 miles  Elapsed Time: 6:25  Overall Pace: ~12:15/mile

Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley:  We exited from Muir Beach back onto the trail we had run into, but this time turned into Green Gulch Farm, ran through it (beautiful beds of chard and kale along the trail), and started up the hill to the ridge between Tennessee Valley and southern Mill Valley.  The hill is kind of cruel but I was actually looking forward to a walking break after all the running from before Cardiac all the way to Muir Beach.  I walked, walked, walked and finally the grade eased enough so I could start running again.

A couple miles prior to Tennessee Valley I realized my chafing prevention had been inadequate, and for the last mile or so my mind was pretty focused on another packet of chamois butter that was waiting for me in my drop bag.  Chamois butter has been my go-to anti-chafe for all my long runs – I rub it into the seams of my shorts liner and apply it liberally to my body.  I’ve had no problems in my 50 milers or even Cascade Crest.  I’m not sure what happened this time but I rolled into Tennessee Valley with a legs-wide gait.

Arriving at the aid station, I headed straight for the drop bags.  As I found my bag, our friends Cam and Paul appeared – we haven’t really seen them for a couple years but they made the trek out to greet me.  I sort of said hi, then stumbled off with the lube to do things that would probably get me arrested in most public spaces.  Re-lubed I walked back over to say hi again.  As I talked to them, I realized that the sweat/lube combo had ignited a small fire in my crotch, so (somewhat distracted) I said goodbye to them and headed off.  Hopefully they walked to the beach or something to make their trip worthwhile.

Total Distance: 36.5 miles  Elapsed Time: 7:33 Overall Pace: ~12:25/mile

Tennessee Valley to Bridgeview: Thankfully, the lube consumed all available fuel within a few minutes and my crotch fire went out shortly out of the aid station.  The next section is a long walk up the Monticello fire road on top of the ridge between the ocean and Sausalito.  I remembered this section as being painful last year, and it did not disappoint.  Uphill forever, walking as fast as I could.  Occasionally I’d see someone break into a trot for a short distance and then give up again.  Eventually the grade mellowed and we all started running more, through a eucalyptus grove and then back out to the ridge.  Along the way I got great views of my childhood home in Tiburon – I couldn’t quite see the house but I could see the valley we lived in and the hills I ran around on as a kid.

On the ridge we stayed high and gradually worked our way south towards the Golden Gate Bridge.  A west wind was blowing pretty well, and shortly before the Bridgeview aid station we had to crest the ridge and head up some stairs.  The trail had guard ropes on either side and I was glad for them because the wind blew me sideways a couple times.  The challenging wind was offset by spectacular views of SF, the bridge, and the bay.

Total Distance: 41 miles  Elapsed Time: 8:36 Overall Pace: ~12:35/mile

Bridgeview to Tennessee Valley:  The titles of the leg make this look like an out-and-back, but it’s a really big lollipop.  From Bridgeview we ran down a long runnable road towards Rodeo Beach, then turned back up the valley below the road and worked our way up a long hill to the ridge we had just run along.  We reversed our tracks for a while and then again turned off on a different path into Rodeo Beach.  Somewhere along this leg my right shin started hurting a little bit.  Not badly but I noticed it, and a week after the race I’m still noticing it.  Bummer…   I’m guessing it was the huge amount of up and down and/or the distance.  The downhill into the aid station was a little challenging as a result, and I was glad to get back to the flats at Tennessee Valley.  I meant to relube at the aid station but forgot.  Jeff’s brother Dan was waiting to pace Jeff – I said hi and Jeff showed up as I was pulling out.

I was starting to do pace math and figured I had about 13 miles left.  At a fading 15min/mile pace, that was 3.25 hours, putting me into the finish around 13:30, which would be a great finish relative to my 14 hour goal.

Total Distance: 48.5 miles  Elapsed Time: 10:12 Overall Pace: ~12:35/mile

Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach:  This is some people’s favorite section.  Last year I hated it.  This year it was fun.  From TV, we headed down a paved road towards the ocean and then turned off towards Pirates Cove on a fire road.  After a long-ish, very steep uphill, we crested the ridge and began the plunge to Pirates Cove.  This is a steep downhill – 20% grade? – with lots of stairs, running straight down along a narrow ridge towards the ocean.  Although my eyes were mostly glued to my footing, occasionally I’d look up slightly and see azure ocean, white waves crashing around dark rocks in the water, and grassy green hillsides around me.  Gorgeous.  Again, I hated it last year because it seemed dangerous and I was tired.  I guess I’ve run enough hills since then because the descent was over quickly and suddenly we were turning inland again to run back up the valley below the ridge.

Ascending up from the valley to the next ridge reminded me of some CA bike rides I’ve done – riding up one impossibly-steep grade while looking over at the hillside across the valley and seeing cyclists struggling further up the climb.  Same thing this time, only with runners.  I knew Glenn Tachiyama would be taking photos somewhere around here – I guessed the ridge crest correctly and managed to be running when he got me.  Another downhill into the aid station with a slightly achy shin, and across the bridge into the aid station.  This time I remembered to lube and made no pretense about privacy – I got a handful of the Vaseline cream, turned away from the table, shoved my hand in my shorts, and took care of things.  Once again, a fire started up fairly quickly, warming my first few steps on the next leg.

The pace math now told me I’d finish around 13:10 – 8 miles left, 15 minute miles.

Total Distance: 53 miles  Elapsed Time: 11:10 Overall Pace: ~12:35/mile

Climbing out from Pirates Cove.  You can see the trail in the top left, although it continues down the ridge and gets steeper.  Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Climbing out from Pirates Cove. You can see the trail in the top left, although it continues down the ridge and gets steeper. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

Muir Beach to Cardiac: This leg was a reverse of the earlier leg, with a gentle uphill along the road and a very cruel hill up to Cardiac.  This was endless last year and I wasn’t looking forward to it this year.  First though, we had to find our way to the hill.  Running along the road, several of us missed a turn off the road onto the trail and ended up running an extra minute or two on the road before turning around.  I eyed a very steep drop down the bank to the creek and a bushwhack through the woods to the trail, but made the prudent decision to follow the road back to the trail.  As we got to the turn, Jeff and Dan showed up and set off ahead of me.  We ran, and gradually they pulled away from me a bit.  I figured I’d catch up on the hill, and this is the one section where I faded a bit and starting having ultra “I don’t really care” brain.

I made it to the start of the hill around 11:43 elapsed time.  I guessed it would take me an hour to get through the 2.5 uphill miles and maybe 30 minutes to get down, so 13:10-13:15 still seemed likely.  I did want to catch up to Jeff and Dan though, and put a gap on them on the uphill so that maybe we could finish together.  If I was far enough through the downhill before they caught me, maybe they’d take pity on me vs. bolting ahead.   So I pushed along, expecting to walk 25 minute miles.  As I walked though, I was seeing paces of 18 minutes/mile on my watch, and although the watch wasn’t really reliable in the woods, and I got through the first mile around 12 hours elapsed.  “Hmmm…  1.5 miles at 20 minutes/mile, plus 30 minutes down, that’s about 13 hours.  I have a chance of breaking 13 hours!”  I kept pushing and I started running the sections where the grade eased a bit.

Jeff and I both remembered that the aid station came shortly after passing through a band of trees high up the climb.  Unfortunately, there are about 6 bands of trees up there.  After several false summits/tree bands, I finally popped out and saw the aid station up ahead.  I emptied my bottled immediately, took the top off, headed to the table, had them half fill it with Coke, and was out in about 10 seconds, right around 12:23.  I knew I had a bit less than 3 miles, but I also remembered steep downs with lots of stairs, and a few ups.  37 minutes might be enough but it might not be, depending upon how I fared on the stairs.

Total Distance: 58 miles  Elapsed Time: 12:23 Overall Pace: ~12:45/mile

Cardiac to Finish: I ran all the flats hard (for someone who had already travelled 58 miles) and took some chances on the stairs – trotting down them vs. picking my way down like last year.  I figured my watch would probably read at least 3.2 miles before I finished – it had been reading long all day – but again I didn’t really know for sure.

About 2/3 of the way down, there is one last notable up – which I’ve since learned is referred to as Insult Hill.  I got there, looked at my watch, sighed, went into speed walk mode and got up the best I could.  Thankfully it was pretty short.

I was never really confident of my time until about 3 minutes to the finish.  I must have heard the finish area or the road or something, but suddenly I realized I had made it – unless I took a big spill.  So I eased up very slightly, made it down to pavement, then ran hard past Janet and into the finish area with the clock reading something in the 12:56 range.  Cool!  That was certainly better than expected – I never imagined that my 12:56 “best case” prediction was a real possibility.

I had been expecting Jeff and Dan to catch me all the way down and now I expected them to finish seconds after me.  It turns out Jeff took a tumble somewhere near the end, so he showed up a few minute later somewhat worse for the wear.  Ironically, he’s running fine a week later while I’m still hobbled.

Total Distance: 61+ miles  Elapsed Time: 12:56 Overall Pace: ~12:40/mile


This is a great race.  No famous elites but a pretty awesome masters runner set a new course record this year, it was very well organized, and people seemed to have fun.

I believe high mileage in training is the main reason for my good day.  I never had to resort to my usual ultra run/walk.   I ran the flats and downs, and was even up to run some of the ups at the end.

I have to figure out the chafing issue.  I’ve used bike anti-chafe before and it has always worked fine.  Maybe I just have to reapply it more often.

The most worrisome thing for me is the shin.  Almost a week later it’s still not perfect.  Cascade Crest had more climb/descent, but I moved much more slowly and blisters kept me from running fast on the downs at the end.  UTMB will have a LOT more hills and I can’t end up with shin splints (hopefully that’s all it is) at the 45 mile mark.  I’ve started all the shin pre/re-hab exercises and hopefully next time it will be different.

Thank you to the race organizers and volunteers for a fun day.


  1. […] second full race (the first year, the race was shortened to 60k due to fire danger).  I wrote a long race report last year, and it was basically the same race so I’ll keep this focused on so-called […]

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