Coastal 50k Race Report

The Coastal 50k is the crown jewel of all of the Coastal Trail Run races; it’s a point-to-point from Stinson Beach to Rodeo Beach that hits all the Marin Headland highlights. It’s pretty much a “have-to” in my book from now on; even if I’m beat up next year from whatever 100-miler I’m going to do (or if I plan to do one after) I feel like I have to run this race.

Let’s get started on the report:

…so this is about the closest I’ve come to feeling like I nailed a race since last year at Dick Collins; even though I did have a rough patch (again, right at miles 22-to-25; seems to happen almost every 50k for me these days) I was able to finish very strong and (almost) hit all my goals. I had very little problem solving to do, I just wanted to put my head down and get to work.

I ran with a hydration pack which was a first in a 50k; I’m usually good with a single hand-held (and throwing another in a drop bag to pick up later in case I was getting dehydrated) but since there were no drop bags in this race, I figured I’d give the Camelbak bladder a go.

I always lose a good 5 minutes in aid stations, I’m way too chatty. I figured I’d stop at every other one and get a fill-up. This way, I could run through and say “thanks for being out here, you guys are awesome” and not lose a second. Genius!

So here’s a breakdown of my goals and how the race went within the context of all that:

Goal #1: run under 5 hours

Missed this one by 5:56; and I can only think it was that aforementioned “rough patch” between miles 22-25, right after the first Rodeo Valley aid station. I felt really good coming out of there and soon as I hit the incline my legs just couldn’t generate any power. I was doing the math on how much Vitargo and Gu I had eaten during the previous hour and thought I was okay, so I ate another Gu. After a few minutes I felt a little queasy, tried mixing some running in here and there, then about halfway up got passed by a guy I had passed back at mile 12 (I think I scared the shit out of him when I passed, too- he might have been a little bit pissed).

I figured “great, here they come” which is what happened at Skyline a month ago; one runner passes you, then it’s like a torrent of demoralization in the form of faster runners and people that didn’t go out at a silly, unsustainable pace. I watched him just bang away at the incline, disappearing into the fog towards the top of the climb.

So I took a ginger chew right there, just kind of sucked on it for about 5 minutes as I continued to work at the climb; I minute of shuffling, a minute of power-hiking. I spit it out, took another Gu and said to myself, “if I’m going to puke in a race, let it be now”. I got to the top of the climb and was able to run, it was that really cool stretch of single track on the SCA Trail, totally enveloped in fog.

I was able to bomb down the switchbacks pretty well, and started to see some of the lead runners. Of course I get passed again right at the road crossing, and a minute or so later I saw my buddy Tony coming up those same switchbacks. We high-fived, I told him he looked really strong and that gave me a temporary mental boost as I hit the paved section that winds down under the Golden Gate Bridge and few into the Fort Baker aid station.

Took a couple shots of Coke, got some Vaseline (I had some chafing under my arms from rubbing against my Ultimate Direction pack- it’s always that same damn spot!) and then flew back up that paved road, passing back that guy that had got me up the Rodeo Valley Trail climb. I knew that I had to work really hard now because this was it as far as climbs go; this is the last one, and it’s all downhill from the top.

I should also mention that I was counting runners on the way down, and I came up with 8 runners ahead of me (I never saw eventual winner and CR holder Jorge Maravilla, he was moving!) With only eight guys ahead of me, that brings me to mention my next goal:

Goal #2: run in the top 10 all day.

The best position I held was between Cardiac and Muir Beach, I had pushed up to 6th. I went out really hard on the Dipsea- I tried to keep Jorge and the other leaders within view at least until we hit Steep Ravine. I passed 2-3 runners up that and hit Pantoll at 37:26, feeling really good. My favorite stretch of trail in the entire race would be right here on Alpine to TCC, and I hit Cardiac at exactly an hour. Okay, I thought. Today could be a good day.

I passed that guy on Coast View Trail right before the switchbacks down Heather Cutoff, just flew down them. I heard a “yeah Jimmy!” from a few switchbacks above and saw Tony with the biggest smile on his face, he was feeling good and moving fast. I ran with him from the road crossing (where Heather Cutoff intersects Redwood Creek) and we ran to MB together.

He took off out of Muir Beach so I trailed him for a while until he was out of sight and pretty much ran alone for the next 10 miles. Felt good through Tennessee Valley, which presented me with my next challenge for the day.

Goal #3: run all of Marincello.

It came earlier than in a few other races (I think it comes at mile 44 at TNF & maybe mile 39 at Miwok) so I knew I’d have some pop in my legs, but I wanted to go up the Marincello climb very aggressively. Since this wasn’t a target race for the second half of the season but something I did taper for, it falls into the “B” race category which means “try out some stuff”.

I always take it way too easy up Marincello, like I’m looking forward to it so I can walk/power-hike/shuffle the 1.4 mile climb. If you’re not familiar with the Marincello climb, it’s a long but mellow hill south out of Tennessee Valley; I think they were calling it the “$10,000 Climb” because that’s where last year’s TNFEC Championship race was going to be won (and it was, with Rob Krar finding another gear to break away from Chris Vargo right here).

Anyway, I was able to complete the 1.4 mile climb in a little more than 18 minutes, which for me is pretty solid. If I can take anything away from the race it’s that I felt good powering up Marincello.

So that’s about it for goals; I wanted to go really hard in some places to see what I needed to do to get ready for TNF in December; I think along with some recent speed sessions a huge key for me is doing some harder stuff on Sunday’s runs- basically going just a tad harder on tired legs.

I see some folks on the Strava doing some progression-type runs on Sundays; I think I’m going to give that a shot. Along with my new training plan (been using Hal Koerner’s guide from his new book, make sure you check that out) which adds speed stuff on Thursday, I’m going to mix in a few progression runs- if you’re not familiar with these types of workouts, basically you’re splitting your run into two or three parts; the first half (or third) is done relatively easy, then you “progress” to a faster pace, increasing intensity and effort; ending at either marathon, 10k or 5k pace (sounds ouchy).

I’m going to do these by feel, as if I’m not too beat up after a hard Thursday plus Saturday long run. We’ll see…

Here’s the official results and a cute little pic of me turning off my watch at the finish line (dude?):

9th place overall

5th pace men’s 30-39

5:05:56 (9:48 per mile)

Garmin elevation: 6,192 feet (official elev. listed as 5,810 feet)


Hey, thanks for reading!

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6 Responses to Coastal 50k Race Report

  1. tac says:

    Congratulations on the race. That’s a lot of vertical for 5 hours, well done!

  2. A R Karthick says:

    Nice report.
    It was great meeting you guys after the race.
    You and Tony might remember me from after the race 🙂

    Learnt a lot from my first ultra.
    One thing I would be doing at TNF 50k in December is to eat frequently during the race.
    I thought 3 gels would be enough for coastal trail spaced every hour and I felt like someone had run a vacuum cleaner through my stomach on that exact Sca Trail incline where I was feeling terribly weak just walking up when Keli passed me with a power hike. (mile 22 – 25)
    I felt better after gulping whatever there was in those last 2 aid stations to the finish.
    But the experience was awesome and much better and very different than any boring road marathons.
    Great, learning experience.

    • jimmy76mac says:

      Yes I remember you, well done- you picked a monster for a first 50k!

      As far as nutrition, what’s been working for me is I try to get in about 100-150 calories every 45 minutes or so. I ran a little more intensely at Coastal so I could’ve gotten away with closer to 200 calories (probably?) Next time I’ll try to go with a little bit more.

      Could I suggest you experiment with more gels and random foods while on your long run? I’ve brought some really weird things out with me like avocado, coconut oil, black licorice, mashed sweet potatoes, peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat wraps, Nutella on tortillas, etc.It trained my stomach to digest while running.

      • A R Karthick says:

        Thanks Jimmy.
        I will try what you said.
        Coming from a road marathon experience, I am not used to taking in calories frequently.
        Never gone past 3 gels and really, my stomach didn’t want another one during the 50k race. So even though I had 6 gels in my pocket, I had only 3 as I didn’t have the courage to belt out another one 🙂
        I did do a bunch of training runs in Marin Headlands, dipsea, east peak with my colleague but we never went past 20-22 miles or over 3hrs, 30 mins.
        So never got to experience the lack of nutrition in reality.
        This was an eye-opener.
        But gels are easy to carry with just a running belt or pant pockets to shove them in.
        I have to find something that is really light on my body to carry those bars and solids for these trail runs.

  3. Pingback: Gratitude, All Year Long (and Into Next Year…) | Run JMC

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