Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Splashing Through the Bay Trails Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 250+ trail runners for the inaugural ZombieRunner Bay Trail Marathon/Half Marathon/5k in Palo Alto, CA. ZombieRunner and Coastal Trail Runs sponsored this new two-loop course to highlight some of the great new trails along the Bayshore, and a marathon on new trails felt like the perfect way to cap off a great season. We all got our fair share of wind and rain at this one, but it was a great time!

(Rain or shine!)

(Zombie's Gillian and Don cheer at the start)
(Kermit Cuff goes t-shirt, while the rest of us go Gore-Tex)
It had stormed most of the previous two days (hats off to those who raced on Saturday too!), and the clouds pretty much guaranteed more of the same. Wet and windy, but not too cold. My Oregonian-raised body had no problem with that forecast. Some folks opted for singlets, while others (like me) went for head-to-toe gear. As my friend Eric says, "it's easier to cool off when you're too warm than warm up when you're too cold". I had a chance to get a quick pic with Yolanda Holder, who had just broken the world record for most marathons in a calendar year. The record was 100, and today she's on #104! Bravo!!!

(Me with Yolanda Holder before her World Record 104th marathon)
At 8am, RD Wendell Doman sent us off down a small section of bike path before we hit the muddy access roads. The half marathoners set the pace up front, and we all followed on the thin lines of mud that skirt either side of the puddles. By mile 2, our bodies were spotted with dark brown mud. Such a dirty, dirty race!

(And we're off!!!)
I was a bit embarrassed to admit I had never run on the trails in this area. They are just a stones throw from my former office, how could I not see them? The surrounding wetlands are full of geese, cranes, rabbits, and more, and you feel miles away from town. I enjoyed the scenery as I paced along with Kermit Cuff, who gave me the local's low-down on all the various ways to run the network of trails. Most of it is flat and fast - such a great place for trail speedwork! Kermit was moving pretty fast, and before too long we had pulled out ahead of the pack.

(The week before, peaceful and calm, photo courtesy of Coastal Trail Runs)
As we moved quickly through the "duck aid station" (mile 3.5), it began to rain heavily and my camera took one last gasp before drowning in my soaked glove. So I worked my way up to Kermit again, who was leading the half marathon despite having just raced The North Face 50 last weekend and getting ready for the 24-Hour New Years Day run in just over a week. The geese, rabbit, and deer shot off in every direction as these two strange humans surprised them with their heavy footsteps. As we hit the second aid station (~mile 5) and went into the only hill climb on the course (a whopping 65 ft), I looked back and realized we had about two minutes on all the other runners. Kermit was flying!
(The half marathoners set the pace)
(Lots of great new - and flat! - trails)
As we descended back down into the out-and-back section, any puddle avoidance technique was quickly becoming futile. It was challenging enough the first time around, but with 500+ more footprints, it was a skating rink! It didn't dampen spirits, however, and there were plenty of high-fives going around. It's hard to stop the inner child from wanting to splash a few puddles and get muddy, especially when it's so plentiful.

(Mud-skating along the Bay path)
(Ducks enjoy the pond outside of the first aid station)
After another quick stop at the duck aid station (mile 9), we hurdled over a mile-long string of puddles before crossing a bridge and hitting the thickest mud yet. Hmmm...maybe racing flats weren't the best choice today! Most of us had made the same shoe choice mistake, so it was entertaining to watch the near-spills going on every 50-100 feet. We laughed our way through the mud, both out and back, before hitting the halfway point in 1:24:22. Victory in the half marathon for Kermit! I wished him well before I headed out on the second lap.
(Just a SMALL amount of standing water on the course)
The rain kicked in again, making the trail into a huge mud milkshake (mudshake?). I quickly slowed to 8 min/miles just to keep my balance in the slippery goo, then slowed even more when the headwind hit. It was getting laughably difficult to make forward progress. No negative split today! Ha, ha. But it still wasn't too cold and I was having a great time enjoying the views of the east bay.

(Some puddles are too big to avoid, photo courtesy of Larry Bradley)
(Rachel Grate and Audrey Cole laughed through the entire half marathon, photo courtesy of Larry Bradley)
A short section of tailwind allowed me to kick it into high gear and throw off a rooster tail of mud behind me. I gave a big thanks to the volunteers at the aid station (mile 21) for their fortitude and good spirits - I think they had the harder day! I took a look back and saw Karl Shnaitter and Frederic Garderes, both about a mile back and pushing through the wind. In retrospect, it would have been much easier if we had worked together.

The next few miles were blissfully silent. There is a peaceful stillness to the wetlands, even when the wind is howling, that can soak the body far deeper than the rain. You can witness the animals in their every day routines of scrounging, eating, foraging, and sleeping. Such a pleasant perspective on the holiday preparation madness that would follow soon after the finish line.
(Wildlife at every turn, photo courtesy of Larry Bradley)
By the time I got to the last mud section, it was clear a sub-3 hour marathon wasn't going to happen so I just loaded up on snacks and casually cruised in the last few miles. I crossed the finish in 3:04:05 for first place...a slushy-soft course record that someone can knock off next year.  Now that I've experienced this little slice of heaven, I know it is always here for a welcome mid-day romp. This is a special place to share! Trail running RD's and sponsors are the greatest gift givers. 

(Mohan Dutt brings it home in the half marathon)
My thanks to the great volunteers for braving the storm and putting on a great race. Have a happy holiday and new year, and I hope to see you again soon in 2011!

Cheers, SD


  1. Thank you Scott for another great post.
    As I told you around mile one... it's a great blog so keep it up :)

    I had a hard day, after jet-leg, my half marathon was a slow one, but still good fun to run in the rain in that beautiful trail.

  2. Been a fan of your blog for years but have never posted. Thanks for another great year of insights, stories and motiviation. Also congrats on your win, thats awesome and something to be proud of!

    Jay in Raleigh

  3. looks like quite a challenging marathon! your time was great - you were aiming for sub 3 but with the challenges, that is great time.
    104 marathons??? Good God! that is 2 per week?

  4. Looks like fun! Thanks for a great year of blogging, Scott. I'm hoping to see another great year of racing!!!

  5. I really enjoy the low-key nature of CTR runs. Maybe I'll take a shot at your time next year...hahaha

  6. Scott,

    It was quite a memorable run. You had a great race, and it was nice to meet you in the flesh.
    We will meet again next year, if your calendar allows it.

    Happy Holidays!

  7. You guys look like you're having a great time there. I appreciate such an exciting blog post - these pics truly are worth 1000 words and you guys look like you're pushing the limits. I particularly liked the duck-aid station in your pics :) This looks like a sport I could really get into.

    Jeremy Stersky

  8. Hi Scott,

    I was there too and could see you bookin' along, clearly first place.

    It was my first CTR run and I had a blast. I live nearby and run on these trails all the time so it was cool to race on them.

    It was also my first muddy/windy/rainy race..not too bad...but not going to be fast!

    Did you take all these great pictures? I took a bunch on the run and they don't look half as good.

    Happy new year!

  9. Paul - hopefully you are hooked!

    I took some of the pics, then swiped some from CTR and Larry Bradley. My camera took on too much water to last the full race.

  10. Great write up, Scott. I ran it with my friend Lynn and we had a great time. I thought the weather was fun and a nice way to mix up the last marathon of my year. Wendell and team do a great job, and I totally echo the big volunteer thank you! At least we got to run to stay warm, they had to stand there in the wind and cold weather for hours. Bless them for being out there.

  11. Thanks for the good post on this race. Looks like one I can add to my to do list for trail marathons. If you really want a challenge I encourage you to go to and come out to Kansas for some seriously intense trail running. Talk about an accomplishment.



  12. Nice job. Looked like a lot of fun. :)

  13. Thanks for posting my finish line photo! Endorphin Dude pointed it out to me!
    I've added your blog to my blogroll at


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