Pacific Coast Trail Runs put on a great event at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands on Saturday, March 21. The weather was overcast and cool but perfect to run in.
Shan Riggs and his wife Abby picked up Kortney and me in Northbeach and we carpooled up to the start right over the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco. Right away I bumped into Will Gotthardt and Caitlin Smith and it was great to chat it up for a bit and congratulate them on their very strong runs at Way Too Cool just a week earlier. Like many of us in the SF Bay Area, I’ve looked up to Will’s running and race finishes while getting into trail running myself and tried to squeeze as many tips out of him that I could before heading over to finish getting ready, thanks Will!
The 50K and 30K runners lined up at the start and we all took off right at 8:30. We headed out of Rodeo Beach on Coastal Trail and I settled in right behind Jason Reed, Caitlin, Will, and a couple of the 30K speedsters. I chatted with Caitlin and Will for a couple minutes about upcoming race plans while setting a strong early pace. The pace was faster than I knew was capable of for the duration of the race, especially with my level of conditioning (lack of) over the last several weeks, but I wanted to clear out of the mass of runners at the start and not get stuck behind groups of people once we hit the steps on our way up Coastal to Wolf Ridge and Miwok Trails. The front runners continued at their strong pace while I settled into my groove and began to closely listen to my body and pay attention to some of the different running and rock climbing pains that I had been dealing with over the last month.
As we started the descent down Old Springs Trail to Tennessee Valley the familiar voice of Shan Riggs came up from behind. “What the hell are you doing back here” Shan jokingly said. Shan was setting a pretty steady pace and running with him shot some early energy back into my head. We continued to run within 10 seconds of one another (close enough to talk some junk and share some laughs) for the next 6 miles while we did a loop from Tennessey Valley out to Pirates Cove (thus the name of the race) and back. Shan’s speedwork for the Boston Marathon in a couple weeks was really paying off as he seemed to pick up a strong pace instantly after some tough, technical climbs.
Jim Vernon and Joel from The Endurables were at the Tennessee Valley aid station by the time we returned from the Pirates Cove loop (about 17K into the race). It was a great boost of energy before starting the all-too-familiar 1.5 mile climb out of Tennessee Valley on the Marincello Trail. Jim mentioned that I should pick up the pace and catch up to Nathan Yanko who was just a minute or so ahead, not racing but out for some final light trail training before the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile that he is running next weekend. I just laughed that there was no way I could catch up to Nathan even if I was the one with a head start.
The first climb up Marincello was fine and I knew that once at the top I would not be far from SCA Trail which is one of my favorite streatches in the headlands. Whenever I am on SCA I always feel I can kick it up a notch and it makes me think I’m mountain biking on some fun, fast single-track. The last 6K after SCA was some good downhill and I cruised back to Rodeo Beach 30K into the race feeling somewhat out of shape but still ready to push on for the last 20K. I dropped my belt with Kortney (thanks!) and quickly refueled at the aid station before making my way back up Coastal.
The climb and steps leading from Coastal to Wolf Ridge/Miwok really kicked my ass the second time around and they did a good job of reminding me that I should train better and run more than 10 miles total in the three weeks before a race like Pirates Cove! I just tried to focus on the positive and think how lucky I was to be out racing after the knee and foot issues that I had been dealing with since going too hard back to back after the Woodside 50K and Montana de Oro 50K in February and from really pushing it and taking some big falls while climbing the week before the Pirates Cove race. I kept the headphones off for the entire race as I was really focused on listening to my body and wanted to spend some running time thinking and figuring out a gameplan for training to get ready for the Tahoe Rim 100 in July.
Rick Gaston passed me sometime shortly after the Coastal steps and looked to be running really strong. We chatted for 30 seconds which helped with some energy and then zoom he was off crushing a downhill (on his way to a course PR, way to go!). I cuised back into Tennessee Valley but the second trip up Maricello came all too quick. I tried to throw down as many Cliff Shots, pretzels, and and anything else with salt at the Tennessee Valley aid station the last trip through. I topped off my water as I didn’t plan on making a stop at the Conzelman aid station 3 miles before the finish.
I recovered pretty quick after the Marincello climb (very slow pace up), and felt a strong burst of energy by the time I reached SCA again. I hammered out SCA and the Coastal down hills back to the flats leading to Rodeo Beach. I caught one runner and could see two others ahead but we all seemed to be kicking it up to the finish. I crossed the line pretty shot at 4:45.24, good enough for 8th overall and first in my division (lucky for me this time all the guys that ran faster were over 30!).
I chatted with my buddies from The Endurables and thanked Wendell from PCTR for another great race. Shan said he finished 4th overall at 4:28.19 so I was pumped to hear that he ran so well with the Boston Marathon just around the corner. I was most stoked to hear that Caitlin Smith won the race outright and set a new course record in 4:09.57, followed closely by Will Gotthardt in second and Jason Reed in third. Way to go Caitlin and Will, especially just a week after Way Too Cool 50K! Caitlin is now 3 for 3 in 50K ultra-distance races, all of which took place in the last 4 weeks, wow! No doubt she is inspiring a lot of runners, both female and male, with her performances in these recent ultras.
A big thanks to Sarah and Wendell from Pacific Coast Trail Runs and to all of their race volunteers who helped to make the race such a success. Also a big thanks to Kortney and Abby, The Endurables, and everyone who came out to cheer and support the runners of all distances!
Full Pirates Cove 50K Race Results: Click Here
Pacific Coast Trail Runs Race Website: Click Here
Caitlin Smith’s Pirates Cove 50K Recap: Click Here
Rick Gaston’s Pirates Cove 50K Recap: Click Here
Victoria Folks’ Pirates Cove 50K Recap: Click Here
Alan Geraldi’s Pirates Cove 50K Photos: Click Here