Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunny Smiles At The 2015 Marin Ultra Challenge 25k

It was a postcard-worthy sunny morning in Sausalito, CA, as I lined up with 350+ runners for Inside Trail Racing's Marin Ultra Challenge 25k last Saturday. We have had many of these perfect California weekends lately (sorry Bostonians), but I still feel like each one should be cherished. My lingering chest cold forced a kick-down from the planned 50k here (I missed my alarm too), but a casual 25k sounded like a great way to honor the day.

(Amazing day...can you see the GG Bridge?)
Not that there is such a thing as a casual 25k when you race in the Marin Headlands. This area is home to many of the fastest trail runners in the world, so it was no surprise when folks like Dylan Bowman (fresh off his win at the Tarawera 100k in New Zealand, clocked 660k vertical on Strava last year), Galen Burrell (31 min 10k runner and Pikes Peak Marathon champion), inov-8 teammate Gary Gellin (winner of Miwok 100k, Way Too Cool 50k, and more), the ever-fast Victor Ballesteros, and Chris Wehan (2:41 at Redding Marathon this year) all show up for a "tune up" race and chance to notch a CR on this recently added distance. The big guns are here to defend their turf!

(Uh, AG podium for me when these guys show up!)

(The big guns - Dylan Bowman and Galen Burrell)

( she running the 50k?)
Race Director Tim Stahler (and his delightful daughter) gave us some last minute tips for this ultra-half-marathon (ha, ha), and then sent us off under the Golden Gate bridge and into the hills.  Before I even hit the single track, Galen Burrell, Dylan Bowman, Gary Gellin, and Thomas Sanchez were out of sight, clocking sub-6 minute miles UP the hill. Novato's Tyler Stewart hung right in with the front men, so Ashley Relf picked her way through the runners to keep her in sight.

(On your mark, get set....)


(Under the bridge first)

(The hills begin!)

(Muppet-faced selfie)
I cruised along with a GoPro-clad runner from France, who was having the time of his life charging down the hills towards the beach after finishing the first of three big climbs (mile 4). My legs felt great, but my lungs refused to do anything but an aerobic pace (grrr), so I took it easy and took in the views. Oceans, cliffs, the GG Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, eucalyptus-lined single track...I wonder if it's possible to ever get tired to this beauty.

(O'er the hills)

(Volunteers rule!)
(I so hope the French guy finds this photo...he was awesome)

Each section brought back memories of my first trail marathon here in 2004, where I had learned the term "ultra marathon" for the first time from a pre-fame Dean Karnazes, who also frequents this area for training. Jorge Maravilla came by giving high fives, and I got updates on Matthew Laye (2014 USATF 100-mile Champion) and Bob Shebest (MUC 50m CR holder) duking it out for the 50k. Yeah...just a little bit of talent in the area. ;-)

(Jorge spreads some love)

(Dan hits the switchbacks)

(Oh, yeah...the STAIRS!)
I had a long gap with no runners in sight, but plenty of cheering hikers, dogs, and mountain bikers ensuring I stayed on course. The heat was in the 80's as I cranked into the last climb (mile 10), and the sweat started to pour. This was going to be a tough day for the 50k/50m runners!

As I leaned into the final descent, my jaw agape at the views, I stopped for some hikers blocking the trail and soon realized they were helping a fallen runner. It was Dylan Bowman, and although he looked uninjured, he was definitely in some sort of dehydration/bonk delirium pain cave.

(DBo is down! Note - I waited to add this to the blog post until DBo did it first)
The hikers had picked him up off the trail and called 911 since they couldn't get him to respond. Within a few seconds of trying to help, it was clear they had made the right call. I hung out until the medics came, finding relief in seeing Galen Burrell charging back up the hill to help our friend, and passing the medics in the process, no less.

I cruised in the last mile, crossing the finish in 2:17 for 19th place (2:09 of running), and with the other runners we quickly pieced together what had happened with Dylan (we soon got word he was recovering and was going to be fine). Galen Burrell had won the race (1:39, new CR), with Gary Gellin (1:47) and Thomas Sanchez (1:48) completing the podium. Tyler Stewart (2:02, new CR) led the Women from start to finish, with Ashley Relf (2:08) and Sarah Evans (2:24) rocking the podium. Bob Shebest (3:55) had won the 50k, and was already chilling at the finish with Matthew Laye (4:16, 2nd in the 50k), Eric Schranz, and many supporters. We had some delicious treats, cheered on the other finishers, and caught up on each other's upcoming races. So good to hang!

(Great swag!)

(Fastest M45-49 around)
I headed back over the GG Bridge, windows rolled down, soaking in the ocean air and loving every minute. Nothing replenishes the soul like a good trail run on a perfect day, and knowing you made the best of it. Thanks, Inside Trail Racing and your volunteers for making it so easy!


  1. Wow - That's really scary about Dylan, but it kind of shows that issues can happen to the best of us. Congrats on a top 20 finish in a deep group; when you start listing all the Bay Area talent in these races like that it's really amazing!

  2. Terrible about Dylan. I'm glad I saw this - the paramedics were huddled around him when I passed and I was unable to deduce what had happened. Very troubling!

    Thanks for the race report!


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