I'm happy to report I have evened the score with Miwok!
Three years ago Miwok handed me my first DNF and it stung for so many reasons. All I wanted to do was finish and get the monkey off my back. That was my first goal. And if I stuck to the game plan I knew I was capable of getting under 9 hours. My game plan was simple: start conservative, don't bomb the downhills, keep the HR in check going uphill, and let the race begin at the turnaround. Here's how the race unfolded for me:
Start - Tennessee Valley (11.9) - Started on the beach doing a little sand running and it's a mad dash to get to the single track before the masses. I just took my time because I knew the trail would eventually open up to the road going to the lighthouse. This is to be the first of 5 ~1000 ft climbs. Legs are fresh and energy is high so it's easy to go too fast. By the 3rd mile I was in a group with Phil Kochik, Topher Gaylord, and Mark Lantz. We were all climbing and descending at the same rate so it was pretty natural to stay together. Phil and I talked about life in general and it passed the time nicely. At this point the trails were pretty much dry but wondered if it would stay like this - more to come on that. As we crossed Bunker road and started our 2nd of 5 ~1000 ft climbs Mark dropped off, Topher was powering up the hills, and Phil and I were still gabbing. On the decent into Tennessee Valley Phil opened it a bit while Topher and I hung back into the aid station. I was feeling good all around.
Tennessee Valley - Pan Toll (21.7) - Phil, Topher, and myself were now joined by Graham Cooper about 1/2 mile out of the aid station. Although Graham didn't stay too long as he was running at a fast rate up the first 500 ft climb of the day. It's too bad we were shrouded in clouds all day because there were no views to be had anywhere and with this section of trail leading into Muir beach probably the most scenic, it was a shame. Basically you are running the trails 500 ft above the ocean. Poor camera guy that was perched out there must have been miserable with the cold wind and mist coming off the ocean. Trails were still relatively dry at this point but the clouds were starting to collect. After Muir beach it's about a two mile parallel of Hwy 1 on a nice flat trail. Up to this point in the race, my legs felt good climbing, my breathing was in check and now on the flat I was running at a good clip - efficiently. I soon caught back up to Phil and Graham right before the grunt up Deer Park road. THIS is the biggest climb of the race at just over 1500 ft in 2 myles. In 2006 I fell apart trying to run up this beast but this time I held it together running all the way to Pan Toll. This was a good sign, I was climbing good! But Phil was climbing even better! He gracefully danced away from me up the road. At Pan Toll I was joined by Topher and Graham. At this point, I'm a little beat from the climb but stomach and energy are good.
Pan Toll - Randall (35.6)
This is where the fun begins. This section is exposed and right about the time we hit this section the wind and rain started - horizontal rain that is! I was still trying to recover from the hill so I happily tucked in behind Topher and Graham. The wind was, for the most part, at our back/side which was good for now but on the return trip would be nasty. 6.5 myles later we arrived at Bolinas Ridge aid station and I was still trying to come around, not feeling it and just hanging on. I left the aid station with Phil and Topher. Now deep in the Muir woods we would be protected with the big trees but there was standing water all over this fire road. Dancing down the road from left to right for the next 5 myles where I started to come around a bit. To this point I had taken in 3 flasks of EFS liquid shot and 3 bottles of water + a handful of potatoes. The last 1.7 myles of this section is a steep 800 ft descent. Getting into Randall things started to turn around for me.
Randall - Pan Toll (49.5)
As I started the climb out of Randall everything started to click, I was climbing good and overall I had positive energy. At this point, Geoff Roes, Eric Grossman, Phil Kochik, and Graham Cooper were in front of me. By the top of the climb I could see Phil and Graham. For the next 5 rolling myles back to the aid station it was more dancing around the puddles. I had passed Phil who was going through a rough spot and then I caught Graham at the A.S. I turned around to find Victor Ballesteros come flying by me. If you're ever in a California race with Victor make sure you go into an aid station with him because he is a local favorite and you'll be able to feed off all the positive energy. I followed Victor's lead and matched his pace. We soon lost Graham so the two of us headed into the worst head/cross wind section, trading leads several times. I could sense when Victor couldn't lose me initially, his endorphin rush from the previous A.S. was starting to wear off so I surged a bit. I would open up a 20 second gap only for him to close it on the next hill. So back and forth we went all the way through Pan Toll. So far this is the best I felt all day. Game on!
Pan Toll - Finish (62.1)
I knew he hadn't gone over 50 myles so I was hoping to wear down his climbing ability. Going through Pan Toll I was still feeling really good. Now it was the steep descent of Deer Park road. Victor had blown through the A.S. and so I had to close a 30 second gap but I was surprised to see him going slow on the descent. Was he saving his legs? Was he baiting me to use mine? I didn't care, I felt good so I shot down to Hwy 1 and couldn't see him anymore. Going back up the Miwok trail I was really surprised at how long that climb was and this is where my mojo started to wear off. I thought it was a good sign that I didn't see Victor up the climb but by the time we got to the Hwy 1 A.S. he shot by me AGAIN! I followed him out the road for a really nasty, horizontal rainy headwind. I tried not to get right behind him because that was a huge unfair advantage with the wind so I ran right beside him until the next hill. He ran the remaining hills and I could not do it anymore. By the time we got to Tennessee Valley he was about 20 seconds in front and then we had one last 1000 ft climb. Victor shot up those hills like he was shot out of a cannon. I could not run the steeper hills anymore so slowly Victor disappeared. Victor put 8 minutes on me in the last section and closed to within 3 minutes of the winner Eric Grossman.
Despite the conditions, I couldn't have asked for a better race. I am extremely happy with my result and want to especially thank my wife who ultimately let's me do this. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by such loving family and awesome friends! Tia Boddington did an amazing job with this race! From the aid station volunteers (a huge Thank you!) to the course markings to the goody bag - all the way down to THE best post race food I have ever eaten!
Here are my splits:
Tennessee Valley - 1.31:47
Muir Beach - 2.06:51
Pan Toll - 2.55
Bolinas Ridge - 3.51:06
Randall - 4.44:54
Bolinas Ridge - 5.45:56
Pan Toll - 6.46:33
Hwy 1 - 7.34:35
Tennessee Valley - 8:07:50
Finish - 8.46:24