FUN. What a fun day. On November 14 a bunch of friends and I headed up to Muir Beach for Pacific Coast Trail Runs’ Muir Beach 50k. There were several reasons I was excited for this race, but the two main ones were 1.) the course was on a lot of familiar trails that I run on nearly every week, however it linked up several of my favorite hard climbs in the headlands, and 2.) I had a lot of friends that would be out running one of the 4 distances to choose from.
Going into the race I just planned on running at a comfortable race pace so that I would hopefully have some legs at the end for picking up to the finish. I had raced the Stinson Beach Trail Marathon the weekend before and ran hard so for Muir Beach I wanted to avoid quickly hammering my legs and being out of gas for some of the last climbs. Will G. provided some good race beta during a Thursday morning run, saying that 3 hours was a good number to aim at for the first 33k. Too far blow 3 hours and I would risk running out of energy by the end.
It was awesome to see a lot of familiar faces at the start. All distances (50k, 33k, 17k, 11k) started together. I knew that guys running the shorter distances were going to go out hard and there was absolutely no way that I was going to get caught up in that. The fun thing about MB50k is that you begin climbing from the start, and with 7100′+ of climbing in the 50k there is plenty more once you complete the first climb. From the start I settled into a comfortable pace, running with my high school French teacher Todd (Mr. O) who was entered in the 17k. It was great catching up with Mr. O for a bit. I continued on into Tennessee Valley, up Marincello Trail, working my way over to Alta and then SCA.
Shortly after hopping onto SCA I saw the familiar faces of Nathan Yanko, Devon Crosby-Helms, and Caitlin Smith, all of whom were out running together on a long training run. Hmm.. I thought to myself, a typical day on trail in the headlands, but I’ll need to pick up the pace and catch up to them! Sure enough I was able to and it was great running with some friends for a few minutes before I hopped over to the trail (Upper Fishermans?) that connects to Conzelman Road. The aid station at Conzelman was the first that I stopped at to quickly top off my water bottle. The guys said they thought I was in 2nd in the 50k which sounded right as I was certain that Will G. was ahead of me and was setting a strong pace. I made my way down to Rodeo Beach, continuing on to the big climb up Coastal to Wolfback Ridge.
I continued on down to and through Tennessee Valley, and when I finally reached Fox Trail there were still some 17k runners suffering their way up the climb. I made my up before descending back down into Muir Beach to round out the first 33k. A mile before the 33k finish I ran into Caitlin again as she was out logging miles on the North Face 50 course in prep for that race. I also saw Will G. coming up as I was heading down, and I was now certain that I was in 2nd. I believe I ran the first 33k in ~2:54 which was just under an 8:30 pace. I was right on track and feeling great. Will G. was 7-8 minutes ahead at that time if my memory serves me correct.
For the next 17k I just tried to keep my head down on the climbs and grind through them and on to faster, more runnable grades. I’m sure I was pretty slow up Marincello the second time, but it was good practice for running up it on tired legs as it sits at mile 44 of the North Face 50 Mile course. While on Marincello I could see Will G. pretty far ahead. However, I somehow gained some good time as I saw him again as I started making my way up to the radio tower to head down Miwok/Old Springs and back to Tennessee Valley. At the bottom of Old Springs I caught site of Will again. I thought to myself “man I think I’m gaining on him” and timed how long it took me to reach the point that I saw him at.
90 seconds back.. I was only about 90 seconds back, “holy crap” I thought to myself. I kept a good pace as I now had someone to focus on in my sights, and caught up to Will at the start of our second and final climb up Fox. “What the hell?!” I said to Will as soon as I was in talking distance. “Ah man,” Will responded, “I think I tweaked something in my leg.” I was really bummed to hear that and it was about the worst possible news to hear on the day. We talked for a minute and congratulated one another and then I slowly pulled away heading up Fox. Once at the top I absolutely hammered the downhill, as I still was not comfortable knowing that Will was still somewhere close behind.
I gave a yell as I crossed the finish and couldn’t believe I managed to pull off the win. I crossed in 4:30.21 which I think might be the second fastest time so far on the course, although it is definitely far back from Lon Freeman’s 4:07.40 CR that he ran in ‘06. It was great seeing some friends right at the finish. I chatted with Gary Gellin (33k winner) for a couple minutes, cheering for Will as he came through. Sure enough Will did tweak something so I grabbed him a drink out of the cooler and we chatted about the race while walking back to the cars.
After grabbing some layers and some food I headed back to the finish to cheer on more runners as they crossed the finish line. It was great to see so many friends from The Endurables as well as others that I have met this year while running races. As the 9th and 10th place runners came through I started cheering really loud. My buddy Randy, the asshole (I say that with love) that got me to run my first marathon in July-2008 when I though running was crazy, was now crossing the finish line of his first 50k. And right behind Randy was our buddy Kevin from The Endurables. Shortly thereafter Larissa came through and it was classic seeing her reaction when she found out I won. I am pretty sure she kicked and punched me while shouting “no way!” with a huge smile on her face.
I owe a huge thanks to Sarah and Wendell from PCTR, Mike Popov, and all of the great PCTR volunteers for making the race possible. Congrats to all runners at all distances. Muir Beach has more climbing than most other PCTR races, so good job conquering the many hills and steeps. Congrats to Gary Gellin, Joel Lanz, and my buddy Zach Landman for running three strong, sub 2:40 times in the 33k. Also congrats to Larissa’s sisters Andrea and Elena as well as their friends for having fun out on the 11k. Hopefully the trail running seed has been planted. Will G. thanks for the pre-race beta and all of the encouragement during and post-race. I hope your ass heals soon so that we can log some dang miles! Randy way to go on rocking your first 50k, and thanks again for getting me into running. Everyone from The Endurables, great job out at Muir Beach, your training is going great! And Larissa congrats on running strong as 3rd female, race #2 in your crazy schedule of running 4 races in 5 weeks (a trail marathon, a 50k, the Quad Dipsea, a 50 Mile). At least you are taking 2 weeks off from racing after the 50 mile
The Muir Beach 50k website can be found HERE
Full Results can be found HERE