Trail Run: Marin Headlands

I think it is safe to say that my husband and I are officially hooked on trail running. This past weekend we went for another trail run, or as I like to say, a ‘rike’ (run + hike…some of the ascents/descents were too steep/technical to run, so there was a fair amount of hiking as opposed to running).

This time we traveled a fair distance to the Marin Headlands. It might seem silly to drive almost two hours for a run, but we rarely get to this area and it is SO gorgeous. It’s certainly not something I would do on a regular basis, but we wanted to say that we ran in the Headlands at least once.

We started our run at Stinson Beach…a super tiny beach town about 35 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, we took the Dipsea Trail, which goes all the way from the ocean to Mill Valley if you so desire (it’s about 7 miles each way). At first the trail starts out on an exposed hill, but you quickly move into the shady redwoods. Be prepared to climb stairs. A LOT of stairs.

Rather than follow the Dipsea the entire way, we veered off on to the Ben Johnson Trail which takes you down to the Muir Woods National Monument. Pretty close to Muir Woods is Alice Eastwood Camp, just hop on to the Eastwood Trail and follow it for a mile or so. This place is pretty quiet (especially compared to Muir Woods) and there are washrooms and a nice picnic area as well as pottable water. Alice Eastwood camp is starting to climb up again from Muir Woods, and it’s neat to see how the vegetation changes so suddenly.

There are a number of trails that meet at Eastwood Camp, so you have your pick of where to go next. We took the Sierra Trail and eventually made our way to Pantoll Camp. Like Eastwood Camp, Pantoll has washrooms and pottable water, but it is pretty busy as it is right on the highway.

My husband wanted to check out the Mountain Theater – it’s a large amphitheater that was built in the 1930s. What makes it so neat is that it is built entirely out of rock. Once we climbed up top to the mountain the theater itself actually wasn’t all THAT impressive, but we were rewarded with some spectacular  panoramic views, including the ocean as well as Sausalito and San Francisco. These views are definitely worth the climb alone.

We decided to take the Matt Davis Trail back to Stinson Beach for a change of scenery from the Dipsea. As you can see in the previous photos, we were quite high up – which means there was a heck of a descent in store for us. We were pretty exhausted at this point, but luckily there was still some gorgeous scenery.

After what seemed like forever, we finally were back where we started – Stinson Beach.

In total, we went 11.91 miles. As a treat we stopped off at a Papallote in San Francisco (most amazing burritos ever), but I was so hungry and busy stuffing my face that I forgot my camera in the car. Oh well.

Month in Review: May Highlights

Note: Thanks to everyone for your suggestions on my marathon training ‘burnout’ on my last post. I decided that this week I’m taking a rest week and hopefully I’ll bounce back more eager than ever next week!

Wow, it’s June already?? May was a pretty exciting month running-wise. Some highlights from this month:

1. Highest mileage month ever!
As I get closer and closer to the SF Marathon in July, my mileage continued to climb. This month I ran a total of 137.78 miles – wow! I realize for some folks out there that isn’t that impressive, but for me it certainly is.

2. Ran >40 miles in one week.
I also hit my highest mileage week ever in May, coming in at 40.18 miles.

3. Gave trail running a try.
I finally tried out trail running – and I’m hooked! My first adventure was out to St. Joseph’s Open Space Preserve, and then two weeks later I was running up even taller hills at Joseph D. Grant County Park.

4. Hit a massive half marathon PR!
I broke my old half marathon PR by nearly 14 minutes at the Capitola Half Marathon! I didn’t have a time goal for this race, I was simply running it to get a sense for pacing the SF Marathon in July. I never thought in a million years that I would break the 2 hour mark, but I did! I finished in 1:58:55.

Here’s to an even better June!

What was your May like? Any PR’s? Races? Milestones?

Another Trail Run: Joseph D. Grant County Park

Today I went on another trail run with the husband.This time we journeyed to Joseph D. Grant County Park, a large regional park just east of San Jose in the foothills. To get there, you have to drive for 8 miles on a really windy mountain road that is popular with cyclists.

I was pretty shocked at how _abandoned_ the park was. I guess it’s a bit of a pain to get to, but there are some absolutely fantastic trails with amazing views! It was our first time going, but we are carless and there isn’t a public transportation option to the park (we are currently dog/car sitting for a friend), otherwise we would definitely be up there more often.

There are a few different trail options, so we asked a park ranger which trail was her favorite. She recommended we check out the Dutch Flat trail. The highest point of the trail is at 2457 feet, which affords some spectacular views of Santa Clara Valley.

We saw a few deer, a mama turkey with her babies, and this rude snake that wouldn’t get off of the trail. I’m not going to lie, he freaked me out:

It was my first time using my spiffy new Camelbak. I’m really happy I settled on the discontinued 70 oz Charge model – it’s the perfect size and has just the right amount of pockets for me (I had my cell, some pretzels, and a Clif bar, as well as room for a few other small things if needed). Check out what a nerdy running couple we are now with our matching packs:

Anyhoo, by the time we were done we had gone a total of 9.18 miles. I think if you just did the Dutch Flat trail you would be finished after 7.5 miles or so, but we did a couple of extra loops on other trails toward the end.

This was only my second trail run, but I think I’m hooked! Do you go on trail runs very often? Or do you prefer ‘regular’ running?

St. Joseph’s Hill: Lessons from my first trail run

I’ll preface this post by saying I’m sorry I ever complained about not having enough hills to train on for the San Francisco Marathon.

I went on my first “real” trail run today – the husband and I checked out St. Joseph’s Hill Open Space Preserve south of Los Gatos. For anyone local, it’s really easy to get there without a car, which is the primary reason we chose to go there. Both the #48 and #49 bus will drop you off really close to the Los Gatos Creek Trail  entrance on Main St. Just follow the trail for a couple of miles and boom, you’re at the hill. Easy peasy. Word of caution: fill up your water bottles at the fountain in Los Gatos – there is NO water at St. Joseph’s.

After following Los Gatos Creek Trail for 2 miles, you will hit Lexington Resevoir. There’s a parking lot with a few port-a-potties…these are the only bathrooms at St. Joseph’s so plan accordingly. From the parking lot you will see Jones Trail…with a very, very steep grade to welcome you to the Open Space Preserve.

“Let’s do this!”

What followed was probably the most enjoyable run I have ever had. The Open Space Preserve has about 4 miles of trails that go up and down all over St. Joseph’s Hill. There is a 1,285 foot elevation gain on the way to the summit. Some of the trails are quite wide and well maintained, others are little goat trails with rocks and sticks poking out all over the place, but that’s the fun of trail running!

Sure it doesn’t look steep here, but the picture is deceiving!

Here are some take-away lessons I learned during my first trail run yesterday:

1. Stop and appreciate the scenery.

I’m pretty Garmin-obsessed. At first I was constantly looking at my GPS, monitoring my pace, time, etc. But pretty early on I started looking around and noticed beautiful scenes like the one below. All concerns about maintaining a steady pace fell by the wayside. Sure, when running on a boring paved street it makes sense to be looking at all of my Garmin data. But up here on a gorgeous hill? You better believe I’m going to stop and enjoy the sights.

Great view of Silicon Valley

We even took a little ‘lunch’ break at top for refueling and to appreciate the view:

2. Bring more water/liquid than you think you will need.

Just to reiterate, there is NO water at the Open Space Preserve. On a hot sunny day like yesterday, you will absolutely go through a ton of water running up and down the trails. My husband has a spiffy new CamelBak but I just had my FuelBelt. I have the four-bottle FuelBelt which means I only had 32 oz of water with me. Not enough. On long runs in the city I just plan my route around a water fountain so I can refill. Not so easy on the trails. I think it might be time to start looking for CamelBak sales. Added bonus of the CamelBak: pouches and pockets to put snacks and things in! My little FuelBelt pouch was packed to the brim and all  had was a ClifBar and my tiny little camera.

FuelBelt was NOT enough liquid when there are no water fountains to be found

3. Bring a map!

The Open Space Preserve isn’t that big, but there are a lot of loopy trails and the signage isn’tthatgreat. We weren’t sure if we would get cell reception out there, so we took a screen capture of the trails from Google Maps and put it right on a phone so we could look at it even if we didn’t have reception. Of course, this also means that you should be able to read a map. More than once we had an “oops” moment where we got turned around and couldn’t find where we were on the map.

4. Chipotle is an awesome way to re-fuel.

I don’t think this needs further explanation.