38 Days to WSER: Marin Headlands and Tamalpais State Park

I had planned to run the Marin Headlands and Tamalpais State Park over two days, and had mapped out roughly 26 km runs for each area. Then my Marin Headlands plans didn’t turn out as anticipated (and as blogged here). Therefore I came up with a new plan. I would rise early, complete my Marin Headlands loop, head to Sausalito for some brunch, and then make my way to Tamalpais for a shorter 11 km loop.

After struggling to follow my planned route along the Coastal Trail the previous evening I had no problems following it just one morning later. As it turns out there is a trail closer to the coast than the Coastal Trail and it was simply a matter of actually following the signs along the well-marked trail. While not the actual reason (I actually felt untroubled from my long flight across the Pacific Ocean), I will put the previous evening’s mis-direction down to jet lag.

After some running along tar at the beginning of the trail it soon turned into enjoyable single track with plenty of ascent and descent from cliff to cliff, and amazing views. I soon found myself descending into Muir Beach, a trail-head with a number of trail options that would allow me to head inland for my return journey. I had taken my new Ultimate Direction pack with me, but had brought along two 240 ml Salomon soft flasks rather than the larger, included hard plastic bottles. I was expecting to refill water along the route, and as I reached the Muir Beach car-park I saw a large wooden toilet block. Following the signs around the side of the wooden facade I was surprised to find that it was simply a barricade behind which there was only some portable toilets. With no running water in sight, I set off from the car-park thinking that I would need to ration my remaining water.

Marin Headlands Coastal Trail
The Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

I headed back out of the car-park and made my way to the start of the Diaz Ridge Trail, which I expected to provide a challenging climb based on its name and the fact that I was starting from sea level. I was not disappointed and I rapidly climbed up to the ridge before traversing along its top. I made my onto the Miwok Trail (which hosts a major 100 km race), which would take me all the way back to my starting point. I started taking small sips of my water and setting distances after which I would allow myself a next sip. Eventually the trail took me back onto the road, and a short run back to my car. I reached my car, enjoyed some warm but very refreshing water, and then drove into Sausalito for a well earned brunch.

Run number one turned out at just over 28 km with over 1200 metres of ascent. You can check out the stats, maps, graphs and bar charts on MovesCount.com here.

Following brunch I drove out to Tamalpais State Park for my second run of the day. I enjoyed a great drive along shaded, windy roads down to Stinson Beach for my starting point. I choose to start the loop at sea level so that I would start with the climb and then end with the descent. I started on the well-known Dipsea Trail (the Dipsea Race along this trail is the oldest cross-country trail running event in the United States) before turning onto the Steep Ravine Trail, which I shouldn’t have to mention was steep and followed a ravine. The climbing felt very slow, but it was a stunning trek alongside running water and even involved climbing a ladder alongside a waterfall.

When I reached the end of the trail I crossed the road I had taken down to the beach and made my way onto the Matt Davis Trail. The trail traversed the hill, providing some great coastal views before commencing the descent back to the beach. It was a fantastic technical single trail descent with plenty of rocks, roots and switchbacks. I have often found that the speed of my trail running is relative to my enjoyment of the trail, and in this case I was running very fast. I reached the end of the trail and knew that I had given my quads a severe working.

My second run ended up covering just over 10 km but did manage to include over 500 metres of ascent. The details can be seen on MovesCount.com here.

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