The Headlands 50k is 6,400 feet (according to Garmin; the website said it was 7,300) of climbing and is on firetrails and single trails and encompasses many of the classics (the Dipsea, Matt Davis, Miwok and Coastal trails, to name a few) of the area.
It starts near Muir Beach and the morning of the race was foggy and cool. Driving there, you take the windy road and it’s slow going, creeping down toward the ocean without being able to see more than a couple car lengths in front of you. The race is put on by one of the local running teams and the organization of it was very good. It was a figure eight race, so we would end up back where we started.
My goal was to finish in around 6 hours, as this was less gain that Ohlone (8000 ft) where I finished in 6:30 and more than Skyline (5000 ft) where I finished in 5:09. Based on elevation, I was hoping to come in right in between the two. I would be happy if it were closer to the 5 hour mark than the 6, but would not mind anything in between.
We started on time and as always, went straight up. From Muir Beach, we went on a firetrail to the Coastal trail, which winds around the outside of the cliffs right near the water.
I made a friend as we were speed walking up the first hill and we hung together for a while, chatting. However, I tend to be faster on the uphills than the down, so I took off without her after a while, in order to keep my pace going. We wound down to Tennesee Valley and then back up the hill again, which was a trail I hadn’t tried before, so it was a new adventure! After that, the trail went down to Rodeo Beach and my new friend caught back up to me. She was way faster than me on the downhills come to find out. We made it to the first aid station, where a random guy told us we were females number 7 and 8 overall.
From that aid station, she and I stuck together, keeping each other going. She would lead on the downhills and I would lead on the uphills. We arrived back at Tennesee Valley aid station (AS) together and her husband told me to keep her in line, even though I was struggling to catch up to her half the time. She had the cutest little family, three kids, the husband, the dog…the perfect cheering team! We didn’t stay long at the AS, maybe 30 seconds, before heading back up the hill.
This was the big one. In the elevation profile, there were a few smaller climbs and then two very large ones in the last third of the race, which is generally where I have problems.
We climbed and climbed and climbed. Then we got to another aid station and I stopped to get some lube and all of a sudden my friend was gone. I hustled up to try to catch her. Once we reached the top of the hill, the way down was awesome. It’s on a trail called the Matt Davis, which is covered with ferns and in the middle of a mossy forest. It’s really pretty. However, we were not the only ones who thought so; there were a TON of hikers! I have to say, this race would be better if we did this section earlier, when there are less people.
At the bottom of this hill is Stinson Beach. By this time, I was starting to get tired, which didn’t bode well for the next section. From there, we headed back up the famous Dipsea trail to another trail called the Steep Ravine. This trail was also very beautiful, but was also full of hikers. It also lived up to it’s name; it was steep. Luckily some new friends were spectating from this trail and they gave me some words of encouragement as I chugged up the trail.
Once we got to the top of the second big hill, I would like to say it got easier, but downhill is not really my friend. However, I was (still!) trying to catch up to my friend and thought maybe I still had a chance, so I skipped the last aid station at the top of the hill and headed down toward the finish. The last few miles consisted of switchback after switchback and it was brutal. I probably got passed by about 15 people in this section, which really bummed me out. However, I could not move any faster!
I finally got to the bottom and gave it my all to pass ONE guy right before the finish. Yes! That really made up for all the ones who had passed me before. I finished in 5 hours and 55 minutes, just under my goal of 6 hours.
My new running friend beat me by 7 minutes! When I went up to talk to her after the race, she said that she had thought I was ahead of her the entire time and had been trying to catch up to me. Man, she was fast!
This was not my best finish. I usually end up in the top quarter overall; it was not so this time. However, it was pretty interesting to see what my splits were at the aid stations. Actually, I guess that there were not as many people passing me at the end as it seemed!
11.5 miles — 85th
19.5 miles — 71st
24.1 miles — 58th
27.7 miles — 59th
Finish — 62/181
Age group: 4/15
After the race there was pizza; it was so good! I also enjoyed an after race beer and had a great time hanging out, shooting the breeze with new friends, ie people who passed me or who I passed along the way. All in all, it was a great day on some of my favorite trails!
Do you have a favorite trail nearby? Or maybe just a place you like to go on the weekends?