R/C Race Team member Owen Bradley’s report from Miwok 100k trail race

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Owen Bradley sends this trip report our way after running this 100k in California.
Photos used are copyright Glenn Tachiyama, Brett Rivers and John Medinger.

Miwok 100k — Marin Headlands, Stinson Beach, CA — 5/5/2012

According to the race veterans, the Miwok 100k course was significantly harder this year. In addition to the new start/finish location at Stinson Beach, the course route was different and included approximately 3,000 more feet of climbing. Combine this hilly course change with an unusually warm day and the result was slower times for everyone.

I take some comfort in the fact that Dave Mackey, who has won Miwok 3 of the last 5 years, ran a 9:14… which was over an hour and ten minutes slower than he ran the previous year. My original goal of running under ten hours was not achieved, since I ran 10:39, but I was only four minutes slower than my only other 100k race in Bandera, Texas on an easier course. Now, for the important stuff that occurred before I sprinted down the last 400 yards of pavement into the finish at Stinson Beach trying to catch Topher Gaylord:

Based on a friend’s recommendation, I wisely stayed in Stinson Beach for the weekend, only three blocks from the starting line. By doing this I was able to avoid the curvy Highway 1 on race morning in the dark for a 5am start. I walked down to the start and checked in around 4:30am then returned to my rental house to ready the Gu, the hand-held water bottles and a headlamp. While standing in the crowd of runners, I gave some sunscreen to a stranger, David Brown, from Texas before the race started.

The race began with an awkward loop around the beach parking lot then we climbed up Belvedere Avenue to start the wide trail up to Bolinas Ridge. The single track started after a hard left turn, which I instructed the lead pack towards.

The climb was slow with walking breaks for everyone. On the ridge we were greeted with a very narrow trail covered by knee-high grass and mole holes. This was not what I wanted to be running in the semi-darkness with my bum ankle. I took it easy and got passed by several groups of runners.

I got into more of a groove upon entering the wooded areas. After several miles and a long descent, I reached the Randall Trail station (12.6 miles). I was surprised to learn I was in 5th place. I would later find out that several of the guys in front of me, including David, got temporarily lost. David and I ran together for a while after he gave me a Roll Tide salutation. A little southern hospitality always goes a long way. We then retraced the path back to the dreaded grass path which lasted until we started the descent to the Stinson Beach fire department aid station. This was mile 26.2; I was slightly under four hours (3:57).

The rest of the race was on trails I was more familiar with, having run the Headlands 100 in August of 2010. Muir Beach was our next aid station. En route, I started running with Topher and a few other guys. We picked up the pace on a small road section on Hwy 1 after the long descent down Deer Park fire road. I climbed out of Muir Beach (mile 33.5) with Topher and we began the next 17 mile journey as a pair. Since Topher is a local, he offered insight into the race and how it was much harder than the previous year.

At the Tennessee Valley aid station (mile 38.1) I used my first ice water sponge of the day on my head. I never imagined it would be this hot at Miwok. The before and after race pictures tell a good story of the sun and heat.

Who knew that Sharpie markers could act as great sunscreen? Rock Creek was in white letters on my chest due to being sunburned everywhere else.

Topher and I pushed on to Rodeo Valley, and then Rodeo Beach with hardly any contact with other racers. It was awesome to have someone to share in the suffering. I was extremely happy to get back to Tennessee Valley (mile 50.5) where my buddy from Alabama, Marko Matic, who is temporarily living in San Francisco, was waiting to pace me in for the last 12+ miles. At this point, I got passed by Tina Lewis who ended up as the first female finisher. With a fresh bottle of water and a Nuun tablet and ice cubes down my shorts, Marko and I slowly jogged from the Tennessee Valley aid station toward Muir Beach.

We kept Tina and her pacer in sight. We were all walking the hills and jogging the rest of the time. The Coastal Fire road was littered with bikers and people out for a nice Saturday afternoon stroll. They made for a nice distraction. Marko got to experience the beauty of running in the Golden Gate National Recreation area, with some great vistas including Pirates Cove. I felt a renewed sense of energy, and flew along the long downhill to Muir Beach for the second time leaving Marko in my dust. The end was almost in sight (54.6 miles completed).

Marko and I refilled our water bottles with water and as much ice as possible. This last 7.6 mile stretch back to the finish at Stinson was going to be a challenge. It was about 2.5 miles until we hit the Deer Park fire road which was a grueling long climb (I would guess 2 miles), so we ran steady until we reached the monstrous hill. We walked it with sporadic jogging. Tina and I passed each other a few times. At this point my dream of running under ten hours was gone. I really wanted to beat my only other 100k time of 10:35 at Bandera.

We pushed on, hoping there were only a few miles left once we crested the hill. That did not seem to be the case… more trails before the final downhill. The descent down stairs made of cross ties was never-ending and took a toll on my quads. I seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace; Marko had fallen slightly behind me. He had no idea what type of terrain he had agreed to run in order to pace me. Topher caught back up to me as we neared the bottom of the decent. I could not stay with him on these tricky stairs.

I was so excited when I exited from the woods onto the pavement; I started sprinting to the finish, looking to catch Topher.

Unsuccessful, I ended up 14th overall, in a time of 10:39:19. Not bad for a difficult course. Dave Mackey won easily, as expected, but in a time of 9:14. This truly illustrates the difficulty of the course. Dave won Bandera 100k in January 2011 in a time of 8:16 so at least I am closing the gap. Poison oak is a force to be reckoned with on these trails. I am still suffering from it on my legs as I write this report ten days after the race.

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