Take 2. I just got three long paragraphs into my run report and hadn’t even delivered my drop bags yet. Wow, nobody’s going to read that tome. If anybody actually wants to know about the details in planning or the struggles and triumphs experienced at every mile along the route, talk to me! Instead, I’ll rely mainly on the photos I took before, during, and after the run and their captions, with a bit of text sprinkled throughout, especially as photos became more and more sparse through the later miles.
My friend Ben has had this idea for years: travel from Stanford across the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific, as much on trails as possible, linking together the region’s parks, and all in one day. Well it finally happened, and when I heard about it five weeks out, I just had to book my flights immediately and get down and join him. Ben, David, Matt, Tommy, and I gave ourselves a goal time of 15 hours to cover an estimated 45 miles. I was confident I could handle that, but was a bit nervous about us as a group trying to maintain a single pace and stay together. I knew that the other four are all stronger, fitter, and faster than I, but none had experience beyond the marathon and none but Ben had even put in long hours on their feet in recent months or practiced eating and drinking on the run (or practiced going slowly!). This would be a great test for them of the power of talent, base fitness, and group support, and a great test for me of my experience and training. Enough introduction. Enjoy the story as it unfolds below!
Everything all laid out in advance. Everything for the start on the left, drop bag for mile 16 in the middle, change of clothes/shoes and drop bag for Tom to bring at mile 25.
You know it’s going to be a great adventure when your alarm wakes you up at 1:55 in the morning. Er, night. Whatever.
Excited to get started at 2am!
Ben grabbing some breakfast at 2am.
Our starting point, “The Claw,” a fountain in the middle of campus and the regular meeting point for the Stanford Running Club.
As we waited at The Claw for Tommy to arrive, we were greeted by a very suspicious cop, seeing four guys dressed in silly clothes loitering in the center of campus at 3am Saturday night. He asked what we were doing, Ben said “going on an adventure run.” Unsure what that meant, and assuming it involved trespassing and/or disturbing the peace, he probed, “what kind of adventure run?” “We’re running to the ocean,” I said. “How far is that?” “About 45 miles.” “Oh, so you’re actually running to the ocean?” “Yeah!” Actually a very friendly guy, and a runner himself. He wished us luck and that was that.
Ready to roll!
Hey look, we’re actually getting started a few minutes early!
Quickly superseding the conversation with the cop as a great moment, one minute into the run we passed in front of Sigma Chi. Of course two bros are out front having a loud 3am conversation about how they’re going to pay the stripper…and then heckling us. We sure enjoyed that!
Quickly topping off water at mile 6, the corner of Alpine and Portola.
Matt powering up Alpine in the dark. Despite the elevation gain, we cranked through those nine miles of pavement in about 90 minutes, including water and bathroom stops.
A surprise barricade on the Alpine Trail. I will neither confirm nor deny here in public that we climbed over the barricade and carried on.
Finally into the Mid-Peninsula Open Space network, my old stomping grounds.
Ben climbing the signpost at “his favorite intersection in the world,” Alpine and Page Mill. Roughly 12 miles and 1500′ in and dawn just creeping over the horizon.
Sunrise in Monte Bello, a park that perfectly epitomizes Bay Area trail running with ribbons of buffed single-track winding along grass hills.
The gang (Tommy with camera) at Sunrise.
Running into the sunrise through Monte Bello. This is one of my favorite pictures ever!
David crossing Skyline Boulevard as we exit Monte Bello and enter Skyline Ridge Open Space.
Enjoying a nice fog hanging over Horseshoe Lake around 6 or 6:30.
Climbing a hill as the Sun finally hits us. Another one of my favorite pictures ever!
Digging into the box we’d dropped at mile 16 on Saturday. Food and water refills aplenty!
TIME TO SLOW DOWN. Sure it’s a speed limit sign, and sure it was at mile 16 not 15, but that’s close enough for me and I’ll take that advice!
Windy and cool at our mile 16 drop. I’m glad I decided to bring along my Buff as I started to chill quite a bit. I’m definitely accustomed to being in and out of a stop in a minute or two, because time not moving is time not moving, but the other guys were enjoying the break and we ended up at our drop for 16 minutes.
Matt hiking up one of the steeper climbs of the route, in Long Ridge Open Space, one of the most brutal stretches of the Horseshoe Lake 50k I ran in 2012.
We’re going that-a-way! …beautiful.
Enjoying the view from Long Ridge.
Ben, seeing the miles all laid out ahead.
Hiking as we check the map and make sure we hit the right turns on forest roads.
Making the long, grueling descent into Portola Redwoods State Park.
Crossing Slate Creek, the only unbridged stream crossing of the day, and not a drop of water on us. That was a bit disappointing if you ask me.
Entering Portola Redwoods State Park Headquarters. We expected this to be about 23 miles based on some approximate mapping. With no better measurements to go by, we defaulted to my watch, placing headquarters at 25.5 miles.
Amazing friend Tom, up early on his Sunday to meet us at HQ with plenty of food and drink. It was such a thrill rounding the bend a few miles earlier and seeing Tom running towards us to then guide us into the park and to his car. We were right on schedule at about 5.5 hours…making it 25.5 miles before 8:30am!
I was definitely frustrated by some lollygagging at Tom’s car, a whopping 26 minutes of wasted time not covering ground, but we eventually got going again and took it easy with a big 2000′ climb to greet us as we left the park. From here on I was definitely taking fewer pictures as I wasn’t feeling quite so comfortable closing down the gaps that the other guys would put on me when I’d stop for shots.
Beginning the slow slog up and out of Portola Redwoods State Park.
Soaking in our first taste of hot sunshine at the top of China Grade after an hour of climbing, ready to descend down the other side into Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
We finally join the iconic Skyline to the Sea Trail. No more turns from here on, just 15-odd miles along the S2S.
And we definitely weren’t getting lost. I was thrilled when I realized a couple weeks earlier that Coastal Trail Runs, Wendell’s wonderful company and organizers of many of my favorite races, would be holding their Skyline to the Sea Marathon and 50k on the same day. The course was marked for us and we got a big lift from cheering on all the awesome runners passing us by, and the very few that we were able to pass.
Somewhere in the miles leading up to the Big Basin Headquarters, my feet started to hurt. Not blisters, not cramps, not fasciitis, but just aching soles. It felt like I’d been running on pavement in Fivefingers, that kind of hurt. I was worried it was my new Cascadia 8s, perhaps less cushioned than the Cascadia 7s that never gave me trouble. Only after the run did I realize the likely culprit: California trails! It hadn’t rained in ages, they don’t have thick leaf and needle coverage, and the trails are all so well-buffed that this run was pretty much 50 miles on pavement. Wearing trail shoes or not, that’ll take a toll after a year of acclimating to the cushion of Washington’s soft single-track. Well, lesson learned. For terrain like that, I better start getting comfortable with long miles in my Hoka One Ones!
David enjoying his turkey sandwich at Big Basin Headquarters.
I’d had no appetite since pretty much mile 16 and had probably choked down only 700 calories in the previous 6 hours. Walking into the snack shop at Big Basin Headquarters, I saw a hummus wrap and it beckoned. Nothing but hummus in a tortilla, but boy was it exactly what I wanted, and I washed that down with a couple good pickles, refilled my water, and we were off. 23 minutes for the stop.
Berry Creek Falls. Just wonderful.
My feet were really killing me by this point. I couldn’t decide if running or walking was worse and all I wanted to do was sit down and kick my feet up, so I did. I had the guys give me two short breaks, but honestly those didn’t make any difference once I stood up again and it just slowed us all down. That’s when I decided we’d all be better off if I broke from the rest of them and built a bit of a gap. I had energy to burn and was otherwise feeling great. I ran ahead a ways and then sat and waited for them to catch up a few times.
Ben making his way down the Skyline to the Sea Trail, so close to his long-awaited goal!
With about 1.5 miles to go until the race’s finish line, I just took off running and didn’t stop, except to take the picture below. I knew I’d wait for the other guys and the finish line before heading to the beach, but all my feet wanted to do was get this run done!
Hey look! The ocean!
Approaching the marathon/50k finish, we were greeted by some extra motivation.
…and some more.
…and a whole gauntlet of friends and family (of racers) cheering, ringing cowbells, offering high-fives, and admonishing me as I stopped to take pictures just seconds from the finish line. “I’m not racing, but thanks for the support!”
…and more supporters!
…and the turn towards the finish line I didn’t dare approach. Here I sat down for five or ten minutes and cheered on the finishers as I took the load off of my feet and waited for the other guys so we could cover the quarter mile or so to the beach together.
Despite being so close to the end, people were pooped and we hiked it all the way in from the finish area to the beach. Crossing Highway 1 was our last obstacle.
Action shot as I run through the sand towards the water!
Running towards the Pacific, just seconds away!
Icing our feet for a minute or two before starting to absolutely freeze.
Ben, conqueror of one of his greatest goals! Thanks so much for having this vision, making it happen, and inviting me along for the ride! This was a tremendous accomplishment you’ll always remember.
Enjoying the finish with Ben.
The Gang at the beach. We made it, all five of us, all together, and without real incident. Incredibly impressive performance by these other guys, accomplishing so nonchalantly such an impressive feat. Well done to all, and especially to Ben for putting this all together.
My GPS track of the run. 47.2 miles in 12:35:39 (including all stops).
Altitude profile of the run based on my watch’s barometric altimeter. 7200′ gain.
All cleaned up back at Ben’s house, I figured it was as good a time as any to bust out one of my favorite and most prized shirts, the MIXC “Proud to be Awesome” shirt.