Speedgoat is the monicker of Karl Meltzer in the Ultra Running Community. He is an elite mountain trail ultrarunner and has the distinction of winning the most number of 100-Mile Ultra Running Events, a record of 36 Championship Awards and had been awarded the Ultrarunner of the Year. He is the Race Organizer and Director of the famous Speedgoat 50K Ultra Trail Run and other Vertical Trail Races in Snowbird, Utah. He also one of the most sought after Ultra Running Coaches. He is the first elite ultra runner in the USA who used and introduced the shoe brand HOKA ONE ONE and the rest is history. It is fitting that the shoe company honors him with a specific trail shoe model that speaks about the man. Thus, HOKA One One users around the world are excited to have a hand on the said shoes.
Attempts To Get The Shoes
As a one of his clients to his Coaching Services and having met him personally in last year’s edition of the Speedgoat 50K Trail Run (which I didn’t finish due to strict cut-off time at Mile 20), I sent him a request if I could buy directly to the shoe company of the earlier production of the shoes on the later part of May this year as I could see and read shoe reviews on the Internet about the shoes. I think my request was relayed by him to the company but I did not hear any response from them. So, I waited for the announced release to the distributors and sports stores on the first week of July but only to get the news that the release date will be sometime in August.
On the last week of July, I monitored almost everyday the availability of the shoes by visiting the Website of the HOKA ONE ONE (HOO). The availability of the shoes at Running Warehouse for my particular shoe size was scheduled on the 3rd week of August and then to September and lately to October this year. My patience bear fruit on the last few days of July when I got a “green light” with the advise that my shoe size and model is “On Stock” on the On Line Sales of Hoka One One. I immediately ordered one pair and the shoes was delivered after two days. I paid $140 + $12 (Sales Tax), with a total amount of $152.00 with Free Shipping Fee.
Finally, I was able to realize what I posted in our Facebook’s HOO Philippine Club Group Page three months ago, “I will be the first one to have this kind of shoes in this Club”.
Actual Review & Observations
Color Combination——The first thing that will attract ones attention is the combination of colors of the shoes. Yes, they are the colors of Red Bull (silver, red, and blue), one of the Sponsors of Karl’s Runs and Races and the usual colors of the Shoe Brand HOKA ONE ONE—-blue & yellow. The other Speedgoat model has the colors, red, black and blue! If you are not attracted with the name of the shoe model, then for sure, you will be attracted with the striking color-combination of the shoes. Most of the runners that I know have the impulse to buy any kind of running shoes due to the striking color combination.
Shoe Laces Holes——Obviously, these are the holes where one has to insert the shoe laces. As compared to the other HOO Shoes, this is the only model that has 5 holes, all the rest have 6 holes in one shoe. If you are not using the last uppermost hole of the Speedgoat (where it is used to lock the shoes with the foot), the shoes has only 4 holes! It means that it is easier and faster to tighten and tie the shoes and also to untie and remove the shoes from the foot. If you have the habit of changing your wet socks with dry ones in the Aid Stations in an ultra running event, the time on untying and tying your shoes would mean a lot if you are trying to catch up with those tight intermediate cut-off times in the different Checkpoints along the race route. Since I am always on the back of the pack in every race, this is a big advantage and useful for me!
From Flat to Round & Light Shoe Laces——Earlier model of this shoes have those flat shoe laces, the same shoe laces on my HOO Challenger ATR and I was surprised to see that my shoes have those rounded shoe laces which are smaller/thinner in size as compared to those rounded shoe laces of my old HOO Stinson EVO. I have observed that the rounded shoe laces have an average length as compared to the longer flat shoe laces of the Challenger ATR. Those flat shoe laces have the tendency to get longer and longer as the shoe is being used for more mileages. It appears that Speedgoat’s shoe laces will remain with their present length and size.
Observation about 1/2 size Bigger——In almost all those blogs and reviews that I’ve read from their sponsored elite athletes, they stated that the shoes is 1/2 size bigger. However, when I used them with my slightly thicker Drymax Trail Socks, I am surprised that they fit exactly with my feet with a little allowance (1/2 inch) from the tip of my big toes. This is exactly the same fit that I’ve experienced with my HOO Stinson Evo which I consider as my best road racing and training shoes so far. With the use of the regular Drymax socks, I have observed that there is more room for my forefoot and toes to splay on the toe box area of the shoes. It felt like I was using my Altra shoes! If it is too roomy for my feet if I use the ultra thin & light Drymax socks, I might try to use the additional insole of my HOO Challenger ATR (The Challenger ATR has two inserts/insole in each shoe). With my experience in using the HOO, I simply tighten the shoe laces more to prevent my feet and toes to be moving unnecessarily while I am running or hiking. After running with them for almost 100 kilometers (62 miles), I could feel that the shoes had stretched a little for more space for my toes and forefoot.
Thickness of Sole——All the shoe models of HOO have thick soles that is why they are fondly called as maximalist running shoes. However, this model is an exact copy of their Rapa-Nui 2 model which is also designed as a trail shoes. The Rapa-Nui has a stack height of 33 mm on the Heel portion and 28 mm on the Forefoot section. The 5mm difference, popularly known as “heel-to-toe drop”, gives a feeling of “rockered forefoot” which according to the HOO designers and engineers provide a more efficient gait, better running form and faster “heel-to-toe” transition of the foot during running. Whatever that statement means, I assume that it will make a runner faster by some milliseconds! The Speedgoat’s sole thickness has a stacked height of 34 mm on the heel and 29 mm, maintaining a difference of 5 mm, that looks to be deceivingly thicker than the Rapa-Nui 2 model. The bottom-line is that this shoe, just like the other HOO models, the thick soles will give you the best comfort to your feet on your runs on the road, as well as, along the trails whether they are technical or not. And to be more specific, I find more efficiency in running with all the HOO models when I land my foot deliberately with the heel first and letting it roll towards the forefoot. With the Speedgoat, I feel more cushion and comfort most specially in the downhill running as the “rocker” effect in ones gait is more pronounced and experienced. In ultra running distances, such comfort will give an edge to the runner for more sustained strength on the legs during the day and night running. And did I tell you that you have faster recovery after an ultra race if you used a Hoka One One Shoes? Well, it’s true!
Metagrip VIBRAM Outsole——From the HOO Bondi B, Bondi Speed, Stinson EVO, Huaka, and Challenger ATR (the shoe models that I’ve used for the past 5 years of running), the common denominator as a weakness of these models is the durability of their outsoles. After running for the first 100 kilometers of each of these models, you can already see a significant “wear and tear” on their outsoles which I never experienced from the other trail shoes in my arsenal. But the Speedgoat is some sort of a Redemption Shoe for all HOO “addicts” and loyal customers as they are fitted with the Metagrip VIBRAM Outsole. After running on single track trails, rocky trails, and fire roads for almost 100 kilometers, I could not see any signs of “wear and tear” from the Vibram outsole which is a big improvement from my old and ‘soon-to-be” retired other HOO models in my arsenal. This is the MOST significant feature and advantage of this model from the other trail shoes of HOO——the durability of the outsoles of the shoes!
Cushioned Tongue——Not only for being cushioned but they are also a little longer but does not affect ones efficiency in running and would not cause any abrasion on the front part of the ankle. One would notice that there are TWO slots on the tongue where the shoe laces coming from holes #2 and #3 would pass. I have observed that these slots would maintain the position of the tongue while on the run giving more comfort on the top part of the foot. Most of my trail shoes have only one slot on their tongues and after every run, I would observe that the tongue have the tendency to slide towards the outer side of the foot/shoes and this movement allows the tendency for the debris from the trail to get inside the shoes. I was even more surprised when I did not experience any small particles from the trail getting inside these shoes. I guess, it is time for me not to use gaiters for this shoes!
Cushioned Upper Part of Heel Counter——This is the yellow-colored portion at the heel counter of the shoes. I’ve noticed a big difference of this part of the shoes when compared to my HOO Challenger ATR as the Speedgoat has a more pronounced cushion that would be flashed closer and tight to the Achilles tendon and both sides of the ankles. I’ve observed that my Achilles tendon sits comfortably on the shoes even if I have the shoe laces tighten to the max.
Light and Porous Material On Its Uppers——Have I told you that this is one of the lightest shoes of HOO? Actually, it is the third lightest HOO model in my arsenal being the Challenger as the lightest and the Huaka as the 2nd lightest. The shoes has a weight of 9.7 ounces despite the fact that it has a Vibram outsole and more cushioned tongue. The light and porous material on its Uppers contributed to the lighter weight of the shoes. It also gives more breathability to the feet where air would enter in these porous holes during the run most especially in hot and humid conditions. However, in water/stream crossings, water would easily get inside making the the socks and lining of the shoes wet and damp but with the continuous pounding of the feet, these water would easily exit through these porous holes! Through my past experiences in running in the lahar areas and rivers in the Mt Pinatubo 50K Trail Run and Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile and Marathon Trail Races, these shoes would not prevent those abrasive lahar from entering the shoes. Did I say dust entering the shoes? Yes, the dust would enter through these porous holes and it is advisable not to use white socks in them. Surprisingly, there is also a Drymax “Speedgoat” Trail Socks available in the market that would match the goods looks and functional capability of the shoes and they come in black/gray color!
Thickness of the Lugs and Lug Pattern——Yes, the lugs on the outsole are thicker than any of the HOO trail shoes that I have and they are 5 mm thick! This is almost the same thickness of the outsole lugs of my Salomon Sense 3 (Soft Ground) and Inov-8 Roclites (but, they are NOT Vibram outsoles!). However, most significant improvement and advantage of the HOO Speedgoat from these other shoes is the pattern on how they are positioned on the outsole. The pattern of lugs on the sole would show a figure of number 8, as seen from the top view. The figure 8 is the space in-between the array of lugs and it looks like a loop course where the heel portion has a cave or depression on it. According to the designers and engineers at HOO, such pattern would result to a feeling of running with a “fully independent suspension system” (like a 4 X 4 truck) on the different parts of the outsole when running in a technical terrain or trail. It means that if you stepped on a root or rock, the specific part of outsole that contacts with the object will be the only one that compresses while the rest of the outsole remains without any deformation. I suspect that the “cave” or significant depression on the heel would allow better ride and cushioned feeling for those “supinator and pronator” runners.
Having been a HOO user for the past five years, I would say that this particular model will be my racing and training shoes for my ultra trail running events in the future. Everything is almost perfect with regards to its Comfort, Speed, Security of Fit, Durability, Agility and Responsiveness and Protection to the Feet. I could not see any major flaw or anything to be corrected or improved on the shoes without compromising its light weight and perfect fit on my feet.
After mentioning those significant changes and improvements on the shoes plus the fact that I have logged almost 100 kilometers (62 miles) with these shoes (to include 10+ miles on the paved road), the question is, “Will I highly recommend these shoes to everybody for them to buy as their trail running shoes?” Yes, of course! I am now in the process of ordering my 2nd pair of the Speedgoat (Red & Black Model) through the Running Warehouse website! So far, this is the best HOO trail shoes model in the market right now.
As Karl Meltzer would say, “100 Miles Is Not That Far”, and I would add to say, “100 Miles Is Not That Far With The Speedgoat Shoes On Your Feet!”
Two years ago, I donated my New Balance 902 thinking that it was the cause of my Achilles tendon pains not knowing that I was already attacked with gout. Since then, I never bought New Balance as my running shoes. Instead, I used ASICS for my training and competitive road races.
In almost two years, I’ve started reading the blogs of famous trail ultra runners and I shifted slowly to trail running. I started to buy trail shoes and apparel from The North Face/Patagonia and I was satisfied with their performance. I have two Arnuvas; one Hedgehog; one Single Track; and one new Sentinel (courtesy of July Oconer). However, in almost all my trail runs to the “Brown Mountain”, I’ve been using the lightweight Adidas Osweego and Adizeros (Mana & Adios) and I did not have any problems with them on their traction and thin soles. Using these lightweight Adidas Adizeros for the past months gave me the confidence to try more “minimalist” trail shoes.
I had the chance to buy the popular New Balance MT 100 from Zombie Runner when I ran the Headlands 50 last July 2010 but I hesitated due to the fact that I suspected that a newer version is coming out soon. Reading from the blog of Anton Krupicka, he mentioned that he was invited and made a trip to the Corporate Office of New Balance for a meeting with their Research & Development Division and I suspected that there must be a significant importance to such meeting.
I personally guess that this new version or improvement of the New Balance MT 100 (trail shoes used by Anton Krupicka in his Miwok 100 and WS 100 this year) is the product of such meeting or for a more “minimalist” shoes to be released soon.
Well, I could not compare between the NB MT 100 from the latest NB MT 101 as I have not seen intently and used the MT 100. But I am sure that this is the improved version of the “minimalist” trail shoes that is available from New Balance. This could also be the answer of New Balance to the popularity of shoes that mimics barefoot running which is becoming popular for the past two years.
Anyway, I am still trying to find a place where I could “break-in” this new toy. Definitely, it will be a choice between the Bataan/Mariveles or the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges. We will see how these shoes will perform in our mountain trails.
For those who are interested to purchase this trail shoes, you can visit the website of Zombie Runner or wait for early next year for its availability in our local New Balance Stores. At www.zombierunner.com, all the things you need to “play” and run in mountain trails are called “toys”.
7:00 AM July 17, 2010 @ Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Recreation Area, San Francisco, California
Having experienced finishing a 50K Trail Run at Bulldog 50K two years ago, I was already planning to experience a 50-mile run or 100K trail run in any of the trail races in California. Mt Disappointment 50-Mile or Lake Tahoe 50-Mile Runs were my choices but they did not materialize due to schedule problems. After this year’s BDM 102, I decided to train for the 34th MILO Marathon Manila Elimination and plan to immediately proceed to the US to use my newly renewed US Visa which is good for another 10 years. So, the choice was to register for the PCTR Headlands 50-Mile Run, barely two weeks after the July 4th MILO Marathon. Lake Tahoe 50-Mile Run’s registration was already closed as early as March this year. I paid Eighty Dollars ($80.00) for the said run and my participation was sealed!
Plan & Objective
The plan is to be able to build-up ultra distance runs in the United States in the 50K, 50-mile, and 100K runs for record purposes so as to be able to qualify to join a 100-mile mountain trail runs in the future. I guess, Boston Marathon Qualifying plans is put on hold while I am trying my best to focus on ultra trail runs and make a 100-mile run as one of the most important items in my “bucket list”. It is like saying that for a President of the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) to be credible and example to its members, he should be able to, at least, finish a 100-mile mountain trail race. Unlike those “clowns” who head our sports federations who could not even practice their sports they are leading. How can you expect these “clowns” to lead and win for us some medals in the Olympics if they could not even feel how our elite athletes train with their blood, sweat, and tears? I rest my case!
Basically, my preparation for this race was geared towards my training for the 34th MILO Marathon Manila Eliminations. But two months before the marathon race, I tried to start training towards the “Brown Mountain” and looked for trails to run into. It started with once a week routine until I was able to do twice and then three times a week. I was satisfied how my legs adjusted to the rigors of mountain trail running for those months. Such trail running made me stronger and faster as validated during my oval track interval runs two weeks before the marathon race day where I was able to register an average pace in my Yasso 800s workout at 3:45 mins which could be translated to 3:45 hours in a marathon race. But the environmental condition with severe hot temperature and humid condition on race day derailed my plans and target time to finish the marathon race within the finish time I desired . But knowing that I will be running in a colder place with an average temperature of 12-14 degrees Centigrade or 54-60 degrees Fahrenheit, I know my training for the marathon and for the 50-mile run was still intact. My MILO Marathon became as my tempo run for this 50-miler run!
The most basic thing to do in a ultra trail run is to recon the actual route by running into it. So, two days after my arrival in the US, I went to the Marin Headlands for the first time and tried to trace the route with a piece of paper where I wrote the description and directions of the race. I was alone running on those rocky, hard & sun-baked, and dusty trails until I was able to run a distance of almost 16 miles/25 kilometers. However, I realized I was lost but I was glad I was able to cover such distance and have a feel of the environment and my bearing in the said area. After reaching the Tennessee Valley Trailhead, I went into the Miwok Trail instead of turning left, running along an asphalt road towards the Tennessee Valley Beach. I went on a reverse mode of the race until I reached the asphalt road of Tennessee Valley Road after coming down from the Coyote Ridge Trail and the Coastal Dirt Trail. From there, I saw a single track trail which was full of bushes that goes to a steep uphill directly towards the Wolfe Ridge Trail and from here I was back to the Coastal Trail and back where I started at the Parking Lot of Rodeo Beach. I enjoyed bushwhacking along that steep one-track trail but I had to stop once in awhile to see the different colors of flowers from the wild plants along the trail.
On this recon run, I was using my TNF Hedgehog BOA shoes which was very good in my downhill runs in steep and rocky portions of the trails but they are heavier and bulkier than my TNF Arnuva 50 BOA. Aside from using my white long-sleeved Patagonia Shirt, I was also wearing my Jeju Ultramarathon windbreaker as my outside garment. I was wearing my 9-Trail Patagonia Shorts where I stocked 3 Natural Valley Crunch Bars and 3 GUs inside its zippered pockets. It was windy and cold during my first recon run. It took me more time to brisk walk and take pictures as I was astounded and impressed on the scenery of the place whenever I was on top and along the ridges of the mountains!
It took me 4 hours to finish this recon run and familiarization of the place. I was surprised that only my shirt and bandanas were damped with my sweat and had never reached my shorts and my legs. I was surprised also that I did not feel any sore or pain on my legs for those immediate adjustments on the running surface I was used to. It appears that the weather condition plays a lot in determining the outcome of the race to evey runner.
After some recovery runs and the usual road runs to maintain my fitness level for about 4 days, I was back again at the Marin Headlands for another recon run with the objective to run the remaining trails where the race will go through. Actually, I was successful in tracing all the trails until I completed the whole loop of the original 25-mile route of the race which I completed in almost 6 hours to include those pit stops, photo-ops, and brisk walking. I finished at the Rodeo Beach Bridge instead of coming back from where I started. Instead of wearing a windbreaker, I decided to wear a long-sleeved technical shirt and my TNF running shorts which are thin and light. At this point, I knew I have acclimatized already with the weather condition of the place.
On this 2nd recon run, I took some easy time to see the scenery most especially when I was at the peak of the Marincello Trail. The views are amazing to behold and they are priceless! Once I reached the SCA Trail, the views of the Golden Gate, Vista Point and the whole of San Francisco Bay was also nice that it took me some time to freeze and look around the views all around me! However, the wind coming from the sea was so strong that I tried my best to go against it as I passed along the SCA Trail. After the Rodeo Valley Trail, it was another “bushswacking” experience when I finally ran along the single-track of Conzelman Trail until I reached the Bunker Road and went into the Lagoon Trail up to the sands of Rodeo Beach. I was able to run the whole one loop of the old course which is equivalent to 25 miles!
Few days before D-Day, I received an e-mail from the Race Organizer about the change of the race route and I wonder why the route did not reach the end at the Rodea Beach passing along the SCA and Conzelman Trails. I wonder where the rest of the trails will pass through after these trails were not available and indicated at the new map directions. But I was confident that the race route will finally end up with the correct distance of 50 miles. (Note: Runners who were equipped with Garmin watch would say after the race that the actual distance covered by all the 50-mile runners was 52.3 miles!)
I was at the Starting Area at least one hour before the scheduled start at 7:00 AM. The Rodeo Beach was windy and cold and I saw a number of runners lining up in two lines to get their race bibs. One line is for the 50-miler and the other one was for the marathon trail distance run. The processing of runners at the assembly area/starting line was very simple and you don’t see see any signages or tarpaulins that indicate that there is a race to be held at the Marin Headlands. All you have to do is give your name, the staff look for your name in a master list where your race number is listed and then give your race number and then pick at least 4 pieces of safety pin in a small box placed on top of the table and you are done! No envelops, no race singlet, no piece of paper for instructions/maps/rules & regulations, and nothing fancy! Very simple but efficient.
After fixing my things and pinning my race bib on my trail shorts, I had some photo-ops with the rest of the runners lining up and busy doing their own things and the happenings at the assembly area. I was expecting to see some Filipino faces among the crowd but I could see some Chinese, Latino-looking ladies, and most are “whites”. What I see as very common to everybody are the smiles on the faces of each runner and they seem to be relaxed and composed. You don’t hear any loud conversation or thrash talks except for the loud sounds coming from the waves of the sea! I did not see anybody who was doing their warm-up jog or stretching. After some photo-ops, I opted to get inside the car to prevent myself from freezing from the cold wind coming from the sea.
In a short notice the Race Director holding a bullhorn announced to the crowd that the race will start in ten minutes and he asked all the runners to gather at the starting line which was indicated with only two orange cones placed on each side of the road. Immediately the RD explained the route and gave some reasons why the race route will not be passing and ending along the Rodeo Beach because of some constructions along the trails and asphalted roads at the area. The marathon distance runners would first run along the asphalted roads of Marin Headlands before going up towards the Coastal Trail and will do only one loop of the course. But for us on the 50-mile run, we will be going directly to the Coastal Trail but have to do two loops of the course.
The first trail that you hit once your run from the Starting Line is the Coastail Trail where it is a mixture of asphalt road, single trail road, and winding stairs of big rocks and wood/small logs. It has a distance of almost 3.2 kilometers and it ascends to about 900-1,000 feet at its peak. This is the first trail that will test the early effort of the runner whether he wants to be sucked up with the pace of the stronger runners or be conservative to brisk walk up to the peak. The flats are limited to the bunkers at Battery Townsley and its dark tunnel which is about 100 yards!
The race started at exactly 7:00 AM with a simple countdown from 10 to zero and a command of “GO”. From where I was standing at the back of the runners, I started to brisk walk while the faster runners started to jog and run up to the peak of the first mountain of the Coastal Trail. As I looked on my back, I could see that I was one of the few who were lagging behind. The race strategy was to brisk walk on the steep uphill portions and slowly jog or run on the peak flats and downhill parts of the route. Runners formed a single-file along the rocky one-track trails and along the winding wooden stairs of Coastal Trail. Once I reached the peak of Coastal Trail, the runners created some distance with one another. The route goes to the Wolfe Ridge Trail which is a descending route made of hard/sun-baked trail and some portions of loose soil mixed with small rocks. I was using my TNF Arnuva 50 BOA which I know it has the traction that could hold me from getting any slide or fall on the dowhill run. The descending Wolfe Ridge Trail has a distance of 1.2 kilometers and it seems to be short but on your way back to the Coastal Trail, this part of the route is often considered as “hardest and killer” part before you finish one loop or finish the race.
Wolfe Ridge Trail & Old Springs Trail
Wolfe Ridge Trail is a descending trail from the peak of the Coastal Trail. Some parts of it are too steep that you should control your footing as you might slide from the steep nature of the trail. However, on our way back to complete one loop, this part is the hardest part of the course. If you are good in downhill running this part is where you could gain some speed to even up your brisk walking towards the peak. The trail is about 1.2 kilometers before entering to a small portion of Miwok Trail. The small portion of Miwok Trail is relatively flat until it reaches the intersection towards the Old Springs Trail.
The Old Springs Trail is memorable with only two things that I observed along the route—the wooden bridges or wooden planks along the trail and there is a part where there is a continuous flow of water from a small pipe with two plastic pales full of water. The trail has some switchbacks and has a general flat course until it goes downhill towards the Miwok Livery where horses could be rented for horseback riding along the differet trails of Marin Headlands. The trail ends at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead where the 1st Aid Station is located. This AS will be the busiest AS for the whole race as each of the 50-mile runners has to pass it for six (6) times! I reached the Tennessee Valley Trail Head AS in 52:30 minutes. I had my Nathan bottle refilled with sports drinks and grabbed some cuts of beef jerky and went to the Rest Room to pee.
In about 3 minutes, I was back on the road, running along the asphalted road of Tennessee Valley Road going to the beach. I popped out my 1st GU and started to eat one bar of Nature Valley Crunch Bar. After almost 2 kilometers, I turned right towards the Coastal Dirt Road and run for another kilometer before it splits to the Pirates Cove Trail. This part is another uphill climb where I could see the tougher runners still running towards the peak of a trail. As we reached the peak of the Pirates Cove Trail, we started to descend towards another short stairs that has woods as stoppers and later leveled up into a one-track trail where all the runners started to “bushswhack” those shrubs and grasses that cover the trail. I learned that I was already running along the Coastal Dirt Trail which is already a part of the Pacific Coast Trail that connects up to the boundary of Oregon for another 480+ miles. We descended towards the Muir Beach Fire Gate where the 2nd Aid Station was located. At this point, I was at the 7.9-mile point of the race and had my Nathan Bottle refilled with sports drinks. After eating some slice of beer jerky and stashing another cut in my pocket, I started to run back uphill to the Coastal Dirt Trail which finally connects to the Coyote Ridge Trail.
At every Aid Station I made sure to eat some slices of beer jerky because I know it is a source of protein and salt. A slice of beef jerky would stay long in my mouth as if it is a “bubble gum’ and use my sports drinks to wash it away from my mouth to my throat. Before reaching the peak of the Coyote Ridge Trail, I was at the back, about 3 feet away, from two runners and I was able to hear what they were talking about. One runner is from Texas who is a triathlete and the other one is from one of the cities of California. We were brisk walking and they were asking each other what is the cut-off time and then suddenly both of them turned their heads on me. I told them that the cut-off time is 15 hours and I later joined their conversation. We introduced each other and found out that we are all first-timers for the 50-mile race! One of our conversations went this way:
Tall Guy (From California): Are you from San Francisco?
Bald Runner: No, I am from the Philippines!
Short Guy (From Texas): Did you come here for this race?
BR: No, I have a business deal here in California to negotiate. (Liar!)
Tall Guy: I am….. ( forgot the name and the Texan guy also gave his name)…What is your name?
BR: Just call me the Bald Runner. In my country, the runners there call me BR…Bald Runner!
In unison the two guys removed their running caps from their heads to show that they are also bald!
Tall Guy: We are the Bald Runner Trio!!!
And all of us laughed. But these guys are younger than me by at least 15 years!
We ran together on the wide portions of Coyote Ridge Trail and ran on a single file along the Miwok Trail Cut-Off until we were back to the Tennessee Valley Aid Station. I separated from them as I went to the Rest Room to pee (for the 2nd time). When I went out of the Rest Room, as I approached the Aid Station, I saw Rick Gaston and shouted his name and he was surprised to see me. While talking to him and having some photo-ops, I had my bottle refilled with sports drinks. I had another chance to eat some melon and water melon dipped with salt and stashed some beef jerky into my pockets. After refilling my bottle, it was time to go again and left Rick at the AS.
The Tall & Short Guys were left behind at the AS as I went to run on the next trail which is Marincello Trail. I started to brisk walk for the entire trail which has a distance of 2.3 kilometers and has a total ascent of almost 900 feet. Halfway along this trail, I joined a lady runner who is about my age as she was jogging uphill while I was brisk walking.
Lady Runner: Look at the incoming runner, he is the one leadig the race. ( We were meeting the top runners on their downhill run towards AS #1)
BR: Wow! He’s fast and very young!
Lady Runner: Are you running the 50-miler?
Lady Runner: You are crazy!
BR: Yes, I am crazy, the same with the other 50-mile runners. How about you?
Lady Runner: I am running the marathon and after one loop and I am done. You are fast in your walking.
BR: Ok..Thanks..good luck! (I was able to pass her as she started to brisk walk)
And I went ahead of her by making my brisk walk faster. In a few minutes of continous brisk walking, I reached the peak of Marincello Trail and in a few meters, it meets Bobcat Trail. I started to run again as soon as it flattened at Marincello Trail and all the way along the Bobcat Trail which is almost a steady and gradual downhill towards the Rodeo Valley Trail. As I turned left at the Rodeo Valley Trail, the trail was still flat until I veered right as I crossed a small wooden bridge towards the 3rd Aid Station. It was another chance to refill my bottle with sports drinks and popped out my 2nd GU. The 3rd AS was the turn-around point and it was time to go uphill to Bobcat Trail. I had more time to brisk walk along Bobcat Trail until I reached the peak of Marincello Trail. It was a fast run downhill along Marincello Trail until I reached the Tennessee Valley Aid Station for the 3rd time. At this point I am supposed to have run 21 miles and I still have 4 miles to go to reach the starting area for my first loop.
There was no problem running along the ascending portions of the Old Springs Trail and the flatter portions of Miwok Trail but the challenge was to reach the top of the Wolfe Ridge Trail as it is the steepest portion of my way back to the Coastal Trail and Hill #88. From the peak of the Coastal Trail everything was downhill and I was able to complete my first loop in 5:38+ hours.
At the starting area I ate one serving of oatmeal, boiled egg, fried slice of SPAM, one piece of Choc-Nut, and drank ice-cold Gatorade. I refilled my stash of GU Gels in my pockets to include my supply of Crunch Bars. I changed my Dry Max socks with another type of running socks with the same brand. I spent almost 10 minutes in the process and I feel that I can finish another loop for a sub-12-hour finish.
I left the Starting Line for my second loop with a prevailing elapsed time of 5:48+. I made a plan to finish the whole race in less than 12 hours and try to be faster in brisk walking in uphill climbs and faster running in the downhill parts of the course. I was already alone in going up to the Coastal Trail and made some steady progress in reaching its peak. Running along the descending parts of Wolfe Ridge Trail had been easy and comfortable and soon enough, I was able to reach the Old Springs Trail.
I had to stop at the Tenessee Valley Trailhead for another pit stop at its Aid Station before going to the Coastal Dirt Trail. As I ran along the asphalted road of Tennessee Valley Trail, I was able to pass one of male runner who was busy eating some food while he was brisk walking. As I turned right to the Coastal Dirt Trail Road, I was greeted by a family of four who were hiking down the trail and I greeted them with a hand wave, a smile, and a greetings of “Good Afternoon”. As I went up the Coyote Ridge Trail towards the Muir Beach, I joined an old ultrarunner whom they call as “Buzz” and a young runner who was wearing cotton shorts and shirts. The two “white” runners were talking about some topics related to the Western States 100-Mile Run and I listened to them intently. It appeared that the older runner were giving some advise to the younger runner on how to finish the WS 100 Race. I was able to pick up some good advises while I was listening to their conversation. I also joined in their conversation by telling them that I have plans of training for the WS 100 in the future and I told them that I need more exposure in ultrarunning events in the USA.
Along the Coastal Dirt Trail, two tall “white” runners tried to overtake us and we let them pass us. However, as we reached the downhill part that goes to the Muir Beach Fire Gate and AS #2, I increased my pace and left “Buzz” and the younger runner and later, was able to overtake the two tall guys whom we gave some room for them to pass us at the single-track trails of Coastal Dirt Trail. As soon as I reached the AS #2, I requested the volunteers to have my bottle filled up with sports drinks; picked-up some melon cuts and dipped them to a plate of salt; and drank some cups of Coke! I did not spend so much time at the AS and left the place immediately. While I was going up towards the Coyote Ridge Trail, I met “Buzz”, the young cotton-dressed runner, and the two tall guys who were going to AS #2.
I maintained my brisk walking on the steep portions of the Coyote Ridge Trail until it levelled off towards the Miwok Trail Cut-Off. From here, I was already alone where I could not see anybody infront and not minding who is trailing me on my back. As I was about to finish running along the Miwok Trail, I saw two ladies infront of me. I recharged at the Tenessee Valley Trailhead AS with Seven-Up with slice of melon dipped in salt and refilled my bottle.
As I charged to the uphill climb of Marincello Trail, the two ladies were ahead of me by 5 meters. I tried to increase my pace in brisk walking but I was surprised that I could not gain some distance to get nearer to them and try to engage some conversation with them. I was thinking if my pace in brisk walking was too slow as I tried my best to increase the turn-over of my feet on the ground. The truth is that, these two ladies gained another 5 meters distance from me. Before we reached the peak of Marincello Trail, the two ladies were already leading me with about 10 meters!
I made my move and ran the downhill part of Bobcat Trail and passed the two ladies and gained a distance from them. I was able to overtake one or two runners along the Bobcat Trail but more runners were already going back to the finish line as I met them going up along Bobcat Trail. Before reaching the Rodeo Valley Trail, I stopped by on the side of the road and looked for some cover for me to pee. While relieving myself, I saw a guy who passed me and he was looking at me. He must be trailing me and making me as his “target”!
After relieving myself, I immediately resumed my running and tried to overtake the guy. I finally caught him while he was eating and refilling his bottles at the AS #3. I did my “rituals” at the AS and immediately left the place after asking the volunteers on the remaining distance before we could reach the finish line. The old lady at the AS told me that I still have 8 miles to go—4 miles up to the Tennessee Valley Trailhead AS and another 4 miles towards the Finish Line.
I mentally computed my target time of arrival or finish as I had 9:45+ hour elapsed time when I reached the AS #3. I told to myself that I can finish 8 miles (12+kilometers) in two hours and I was confident that I could finish the race in less than 12 hours. I told to myself also to keep on moving but I had to slow down once I feel any pain on my legs. Having made my goal to finish the remaining miles in the race in two hours, I immediately left the AS ahead of the guy who passed me while I was relieving myself.
I really ran hard on the uphill climb of Bobcat Trail but have to revert back to brisk walking on the steeper portions of the said trail. As soon as I reached the peak of Marincello Trail, I saw a lady runner about 500 meters slowly running down the trail. I increased my pace on my downhill surge and was able to overtake her and made a considerable distance from her. But I need to refill my bottles with sports drinks that I decided to visit the Tennessee Valley Trailhead AS for the last time.
It was a quick stop but when I was running towards the uphill portion of the Old Springs Trail, the lady runner whom I overtook at the downhill part of Marincello Trail was already ahead of me by 10 meters. From the Old Springs Trail and Wolfe Ridge Trail, it was “cat and mouse” run between the two of us as I trailed her on those trails. The guy who overtook me while I was peeing at the Bobcat Trail was also on my tail trying to gain distance over me about 500 meters behind me at the Old Springs Trail. The lady runner ahead of me was “pressured” and I think she got tired while I tried to “push” her pace on the difficult parts of the Wolfe Ridge Trail.
Before I reached the highest peak of the Coastal Trail, the lady runner, made a hand signal to pass her and another group of three runners allowed me to pass them, too! I was still strong and my legs did not give me any problems as I reached the highest peak of the Coastal Trail and the last problem is to be able to run those winding wooden stairs and rocky one-track trail without any fall or misstep before reaching the Battery Townsley tunnels and the downhill asphalted road towards the finish line.
While running down the asphalted road of the Coastal Trail, nobody was trailing me and made an easy run towards the Finish Line. I crossed the finish line in 12:10:36 hours and I was happy to finish the race. I ranked #56 among the 90 finishers from the 126 starters. I was ranked #6 in my age category and I was very happy to have finished the race without any “issues” during the race and any injury! I was not able to attain my objective of finishing the race in less than 12 hours but I was happy and contented on the overall result of my capability to run such a challenging mountain trail run.
I can only say that I had fun and good memories in this run. There is really a different kind of enjoyment and satisfaction that I felt during and after finishing the race. Even though the race was long, hard, and very challenging, there is something in ultra mountain trail running that keeps you coming back for more in order to test your ability in endurance and find out what you are made of. This is the feeling that I could not get from finishing marathon and lesser-distance races along the roads. I could not express the feelings and the emotions that I have gone through with my runs along the mountain trails of Marin Headlands.
I guess, I need to prepare and train some more and experience the good feelings and experience in mountain trail running. Hopefully, 2011 MIWOK 100K would be the next one.
(Note: If you reached this part and read the whole Race Report, you have finished one of my “ultra posts” in this blog. It is just fair that you finished reading this post in 15 minutes or more while it took me 12+ hours to finish the race and another 10 days to write and edit this post. I hope you enjoyed my story on the said race.)
This post is not meant to pressure or give jitters to all the solo runners of this weekend’s TNF 100 Clark Sacobia. I just want to inform everybody that TNF 100 Australia which was held last 16-17 May 2009 at the World Heritage Blue Mountain National Park in Leura, Australia (1 1/2 hours from Sydney, Australia) had published its results and feedbacks about the race in their official website. How I wished the TNF 100 Sacobia Website would be as comprehensive as the TNF 100 Australia. Please browse at http://www.thenorthface.com.au/100/ for the profile of runners, results, race information, and gallery of pictures of competitors.
In last week’s TNF Australia results, the Solo Men’s 100K Run was won by Andrew Lee with a time of 10:20:51 hours, breaking the a new record by 2 minutes from Andrew Komar’s time last year. In the Solo Ladies’ 100K Run, Julie Quinn finished the race in 12:13:45 hours, setting a new record time by shaving 32 minutes from last year’s time of Heather Logie.
Dean Karnazes finished the Solo Men’s 100K Run in 14:42:56 hours and ranked #39 for the top overall category after arriving in Australia on Friday night before the race started on Saturday morning.
There were 333 runners in the Solo 100K Run and 31 teams in the relay run. Out of the 333 runners, there are no reports in the website on the number of DNF runners, however, in the “General Discussion” page, there were comments from solo 100K runners who did not finish the race.
To all the TNF 100 Sacobia Solo and Relay Runners, good luck and wishing you all the best!!!
My best wishes and prayers will also go to the members of the Elite Team Bald Runner Solo Runners and Team Relay!!!
Last Monday afternoon, I did a speed run around the neighborhood covering at least two blocks and this session was an impulsive action on my part just to test if I still have some speed on my legs. It had been months that I did not have this kind of speed drill due to the fact that I concentrated much on my endurance for the San Francisco Marathon and lately, for my first ultramarathon trail run this Saturday. The streets in the neighborhood is relatively flat with some ascending portions and I thought I could make some sprints along the sidewalk. And I did!
One loop has an average distance of 850 meters as my GF 305 registers 845 to 870 meters on those repetition runs I did. I was surprised to see that I averaged 4:30 minutes per kilometer on my pace for the whole speed session. I did eight (8) repetitions of the loop with at least 200-300-meter recovery runs in between reps. I was happy and surprised that I still have that speed with my legs and I guess, I am becoming faster with my average speed. Continue reading “5 Days Before Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run”→
Practice Run And Orientation Tour At The Bulldog Trail Run Route (9:30 AM-2:15 PM 26 July 2008)
According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese Strategist, that if you know yourself and you don’t know the enemy, you are are not sure to win in every battle you fight; but if you don’t know yourself and you know the enemy, in every battle you incur some casualties and “lapses” and chances of winning the battle will be costly; but if you know yourself and you know the enemy, in every battle you are sure to be victorious!
Since I am a warrior runner, I should be able to know the enemy and be able to conquer it victoriously. Knowing myself as capable and ready to run my first ultra trail run (hopefully), I have to know the enemy, the Bulldog Trail Course. So, this morning, my son and I went to the Malibu Creek State Park and orient myself with the trail and route of the race.
My son is very efficient on locating places, using the Internet to get from Point A to Point B, and driving to any place where I would want to go. So, we woke up at 7:00 AM of Saturday, took our breakfast, changed to our running gear, and prepared our water supply and we were out of the house before 8:00 AM. We took the CA Highway 110 South and then took the Interstate Highway 10 West towards Pacific Coast Highway (CA Highway 1) and later reached the City of Malibu. We passed by the famous Pepperdine University and we were on our way going east towards the mountains. In a few minutes, we were in Las Virgenes Road towards the entrance of the Malibu Creek State Park.
We paid $ 8.00 for our entrance and parking fee to the said park. It was almost 9:00 AM when we entered the park. We prepared our water supply and tried to look on the map at the park the trails we are going to take as part of the Bulldog Trail Run. It took us sometime to orient ourselves but with the help of one of the Park Rangers (an old guy) and explaining our route in detail, we were able to get some basic information about the trail routes in the park. I’ve observed that there were hikers and mountain bikers preparing to enter the trails around the park.
Since this was our first time to run on a trail in California, I told my son that we came here to the park to orient myself and have a feeling on how to run trails and we’ll make this run as a tour of the place where we have to stop for a while to take some pictures of the surroundings and the route. Once we hit the trailhead of Crags Road, we started our slow run. I was surprised that the wide road became narrower, only to find out that we were actually running on the rocky portions of the Malibu Creek without any water. And then the trail would become wider as a dirt road but the elevation is slowly increasing. We continued to slowly run at the Crags Road until we reached the intersection with Bulldog Trail Road, which was turning to the left. We stopped briefly on this part to take some pictures.
This is the rocky part of the trail along the Malibu Creek without any water. I could just imagine all the runners lined-up along this narrow trail during race day.
This is where the start of most of the trail going up to the highest peak of the mountain.
This part is the intersection of Crags Road and Bulldog Road which is about 4 kilometers away from the Starting area.
From the intersection of Bulldog & Crags, the trail road becomes higher and higher in its elevation and the heat of the sun was already hitting us. I think the temperature in the area was already at 85-87 degrees Fahrenheit and we started to sweat and breath heavily while jogging. We continued our slow run along the way and stopping by places where I want my pictures to be taken by my son. Sometimes we had to stop when there are intersections along the way and most of the time we take the wrong trail and we had to go back to the bigger trail or “fire road”. The first 6-8 kilometers from the Crags-Bulldog Trail intersection were uphill and it was really hard for me as this was my first time to run an uphill climb with such a long distance! At this point we met two mountain bikers who just stopped for some rest and another mountain biker whom we met at a higher elevation along a curve which surprised me and gave him the left side of the road which he appreciated by saying “Thank you”.
Running on trails in California made my throat very dry in almost every 100-200 meters running uphill and I have to take a sip of water from my water jug. It was my first time to experience such situation. In the Philippines, I could run 12 kilometers without drinking any water but running trails here is entirely a different experience. I hope I will be able to acclimatize with more practice runs on the said route.
This is another portion going to the peak of the mountain through the Bulldog Trail and at the top of the road was where I met a mountain biker whom I gave more way on my left as he curved down the trail.
What I liked about my first trail run in the mountains here in California (except my previous training runs at Griffith Park and Mt Hollywood) was the view of the surroundings—different rock formations in different colors; the view from atop the mountains with the sight of the Pacific Ocean in the west and mountains/vast lands and communities saddled on top and on the sides of the mountains in the east, north & south; the clean air that I breath even if it was hot; and the refreshing wind coming from the Pacific Ocean.
My new M Arnuva 50 Boa Trail Shoes from The North Face was very versatile and responsive during my trail run most especially during the downhill part of the course. It gave me the much-needed traction on the road to prevent me from sliding on the ground.
At the end of the Bulldog Trail, we started to brisk walk and slowly jog until we reached the Corral Canyon Trail where we saw two white guys riding on two big horses going towards us. We had to give way to these horsemen and they uttered words of encouragement for making up to the peak of Bulldog Trail. This is what I liked when I ran for my first time in this trail—ALL The People you meet along the trail would greet you (Good Morning/Good Afternoon or say Hi!) and smile at you. We had to do the same too to other people we met along the way.
These are the directional signs along the intersection of each trail along the route. In between such trails, seldom you could see directional signs and there were times that we got lost along the way.
On our way going down the Corral Canyon Road, we met a family and kids on mountain bikes going to the peak of the mountain (about ten persons). The last kid (12-14 years old boy) of the biking group just dropped his bike and just stopped and stand on the trail while the other kid was shouting at him to continue to carry/push the bike up to the peak of the mountain. I was smiling while I was passing this kid who was almost crying and full of sweat because of being tired or due the effect of the heat.
A pose at the TV “Star Trek” shooting location.
My son, John, ran the whole one-half of the entire loop without his shirt and he was “sunburned”.
The Corral Canyon Road was not all downhill ride as there were other uphill roads and we had to walk again. We went through rock formations which according to my son were used as filming locations of the TV series “Star Trek”. We took some pictures and we saw a couple walking ahead of us who was familiar with the trail. We even saw an Oriental woman (Japanese or Korean) whom we tried to ask for directions but she did not understand us! Anyway, we just followed the wider trail road and started alternately walking and jogging. I had to pee at Kilometer # 16.
This was part of the Corral Canyon Trail-Backbone Trail which was going uphill where three other guys running the trail overtook us.
At the middle of the stretch of the Corral Canyon Road, two big guys who were consistently running overtook us and after a couple of hundred meters another one passed by us and we could see them running farther from us. We just maintained our brisk walking and I was getting worried because our water supply was about to be gone. I had only one-half full of my water jug (half-liter full) with almost 10 kilometers back to the base camp and my son had the same water supply on his water bottle.
This pose was taken at the peak of the Corral Canyon Trail /Backbone Trail before we ran downhill towards the Las Virgenes Road. The background is the Pacific Ocean and we were about 8 kilometers aways from the Finish Line.
When we reached the downhill portion of the route, I started to run and just let the weight of my body carry my feet along the route. My pace became faster and faster until I was able to overtake the last guy who overtook us. I realized that using a specific trail shoes is a must in this kind of situation. An ordinary running shoes could not hold the feet and body in a downhill trail with all the loose rocks and soil on the ground and I can say that running shoes lack the traction needed to prevent from having a slip or slide along the route. My fast downhill pace made me overshoot to the direction of a small trail that leads to a narrow Tapia Trail and I ended to a secured gate of a Water Reclamation Facility ( Water Filtration Facility) at Tapia Camp which is a Restricted Area. I have to go uphill for about 100 meters to reach the detour trail and waited for my son who was having a problem with his shoes (he was using a Nike cross-training shoes which he used for his alternate training).
While waiting for my son on a shaded portion of the trail, the white big guy whom I overtook was about to run the wrong way when I told him that he has to take the trail where I was standing. The guy stopped by where I was waiting for my son and we had a brief chat. I found out that he is with a group of runners from Simi Valley who will be running the Bulldog 25K Trail Run and it is his first time to run along the 25-K loop. He told me that there is another guy from his group who is at the back and he is trying to wait for him. Anyway, it was nice talking to him and his name is “Bob”. I told him about this blog! Later, I saw him and his running mates/friemds at the parking lot of the camp after finishing my tour of the Bulldog Trail Run route.
At the end of the Corral Canyon Trail, we met two guys in backpacks going up the trail. We also saw a Restroom and stopped there to refuel ourselves with our water supply. We got lost on this part of the route and we decided to run along the Las Virgenes Road until we hit the entrance of the Malibu Creek State Park which was another 2 1/2 miles of brisk walking and jogging as this paved and busy road was going uphill. We learned later on the map that we should had followed the single trail that goes up towards the mountain for another distance, the same distance as the one we took along the Las Virgenes Road, before the trail ends at the Parking Area of the camp.
My last pose at the entrance of the Malibu Creek State Park before we ended our practice run.
We ran & walked along the Bulldog Trail 25K route of about 25.5 kilometers in 4:45:40 hours with an accumulated ascent of 4,593.6 feet (1,392 meters) and descent of 4,217.4 feet (1,278 meters). Our run started at an elevation of 600 feet (182 meters) and reached the highest peak of 2,528 feet (766 meters).
My practice run and orientation tour of the Bulldog Trail was a nice experience and a good feel of “knowing the enemy”. I will be back on the next weekend after the San Francisco Marathon for another practice run and be able to hopefully simulate the race with more consistent running, lesser brisk walking and more water to carry.
I am beginning to love trail running in the mountains!
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