Leor Pantilat - Stinson Beach 25K

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stinson Beach 25K

By Leor Pantilat


I ran the 18th Annual Stinson Beach 25k yesterday by Enviro-Sports. The course contains the best collection of single track in Mount Tamalpais State Park and Muir Woods National Monument located just to the north of San Francisco. Aside from the first mile on the Dipsea Trail, I have never run most of these trails so there was something new around every corner.  There is also no shortage of elevation gain with 3,400 feet of up. However, the big story was the weather conditions, which were some of the worst I have ever raced in - torrential wind-driven rains, almost zero visibility, and trails that turned into streams. The weather sensor on the middle peak of Mount Tamalpais recorded 4.35 inches of rain on Saturday! At least it wasn't that cold...  Despite all this, I had a great time and look forward to running this course in the future (preferably when drier ;)

Photo of the ladder on Steep Ravine by Jane Huber from www.bahiker.com
The ladder in Steep Ravine; photo by Jane Huber from www.bahiker.com

The race starts at sea level, literally, in the sands of Stinson Beach. Almost immediately, the ascent begins up the legendary Dipsea Trail and then Steep Ravine, which is aptly named. The single track in this redwood-filled ravine is delightful with rock staircases, roots, ducking under trees, and even a slippery ladder. Aside for slowing down on the slick bridges and ladder, the conditions were still ok and I made my way up to Pantoll 1,500 feet above the Stinson Beach in decent time. From Pantoll, more single track runs deep into Muir Woods National Monument losing much of the gained elevation. This is another beautiful stretch of trail with towering redwood forest.

It was in the depths of the old growth redwoods near the main tourist loop about 7 miles into the race that the storm began in earnst with strong winds, heavy rain, and white-out conditions in the open areas. The remainder of the course was an obstacle course of branches, water, and mud. One section of trail on an exposed ridge was particularly brutal and the descent back down to Stinson Beach was treacherous with water running over wooden steps that were already slick!

Despite the inclement weather, I had a lot of fun in the gorgeous redwoods and the conditions added an extra challenge. I ran 1:51:00 coming in first place. It was also nice to shower off all the mud at Stinson Beach and chat with other runners. Congrats to the runners and volunteers for braving the conditions!

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