Running Tangents

Race Recap: Golden Gate Trail Run 2012


I think this is my most delayed race recap EVER, but a little thing called “vacation” got in the way. I finally have a bit of downtime (digesting Peking duck while the rest of the family is playing games), so I thought I’d write a quick recap of the Golden Gate Trail Run (5 mile) while I can still remember the thing.

Why I wanted to run this race:
The Gypsy Runner and I wanted to get one last race in before our 3-week trip to Taiwan, where we knew the hot, steamy weather would make for short runs (if at all). Plus, we had never run in the Marin Headlands before, so it would be a good chance to explore new terrain.

A typical cloudy, cool summer day in the Marin Headlands.

The elevation profileshowed a steep and steady 900 foot gain over 1.75 miles, followed by rolling downhill section, and finally flattening out in the last 1-1.5 miles. I had also heard from Mike that there were stairs in the uphill section, which did not bode well. So, my goal was to keep ~15 min/mile pace for the uphill and then pick up steam to finish in under an hour. I also wanted to finish in the top third overall and in my age group.

The elevation profile from my Garmin, which didn’t find the satellite for a while. The total elevation gain was 1001 feet.

Race Day:
We awoke bright and early (though not as early as the week before, for the Brazen Dirty Dozen) to get to the race around 7:30 for the 8:30 start. I’m glad we got there early, because this was the line for the toilets:

There were 5 porta potties and 2 real toilets, which apparently was not enough for the 500+ racers that day (126 for the 5 mile race, 229 for the half marathon, 71 for the 30K, 43 for the marathon, and 49 for the 50K). I felt sorry for the numerous runners rushing from the toilets over to the starting line, just in time for their races.  After our potty break, I decided to do a short warm-up, since it was a short race (at least in comparison with the races I’ve run recently). Plus, it was freezing for July (guessing ~ low-50’s with thick cloud cover), so I had to keep warm somehow.

view of the start

The other distances started before ours, so we could see the racers running up the hill into the fog. Before I knew it, our race was starting and I had forgotten to set my Garmin! Oops. With less than a minute before race time, I attempted to find the satellite to no avail. “Oh well, there go my mile splits,” I thought.

At the start line, I found myself near the front of the pack. I figured that if I could maintain my position going up the hill and not let too many pass me, I’d finish in the top third. Predictably, a few started out strong but started to walk in the first 5 minutes. As I passed them, I made a pact with myself to keep running for at least 15 minutes and only walk the steepest parts, which I succeeded at doing. There were indeed stairs, and some steep rocky bits, but I felt like a good portion of the uphill was runnable. I distinctly remember, however, thinking “Why am I doing this again?!” as I was huffing and puffing up a hill. Towards the top, there was a series of small, steep hills encased in fog. Every time I thought it was the pinnacle, there would be another one. At the second to last hill, the guy behind me asked, “This has got to be the last one, right?” I pointed ahead at one more hill and said, “No, I think that’s the last one.” Luckily, I was right and after that hill was more than a mile of long downhill, which was tricky in parts due to small, slippery stones.

In the last, flat section, I was alone for the most part. It was a really scenic and peaceful part of the trail and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I caught up to the small pack of runners ahead of me and managed to pass a couple of them to finish in 54:19. The Gypsy Runner, having finished in 37:57, was at the finish to cheer me on. He ran an amazing race — he was in the lead at the top of the hill, got passed by 3 runners on the downhill, and managed to come back and take 2nd place overall. We both realized that our downhill technique could use some work. If anyone has any advice on downhill form/technique/drills, please let me know! Overall, I really enjoyed this race and would be happy to run it again. I was also very happy with my splits in the last portion of the race, which were faster than my 10K pace! My one frustration was coming in only 15 seconds after #7 and #8 in my age group. D’argh!!!

FYI, my splits (Again, my Garmin had not found the satellite for the first part of the race.):

Coming in for the finish! The Gypsy Runner is also in the photo. 🙂

About the race:

The numbers:
Official results: 54:19, 4.9 miles, 11:05/mile.
9/28 AG
45/126 overall