Headlands 50k

August 25, 2012

Resigned to not running the Headlands 50k, I still wanted to be at the race. After running in the Headlands area for the first time earlier this summer I was in love with this place. I had already planned to be in town so my friend Adam and I volunteered at an aid station.

The Headlands; consisting of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument and Mt. Tamalpais State Park, is full of beautiful single track and fire roads weaving through lush rain forest alive with ferns, moss and giant trees; mountain meadows with grass and wildflowers and engulfed in fog and glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. The course consists of portions of the more well known Dipsea and Miwok trails. This event seemed like a rather low key race with only 200 spots and the race director, Tim, was very understanding with my drop. I later found out that this race is kind of the local’s race. The locals include names such as Dean Karnazes, Luanne Park; at one time Dave Mackey, the course record holder and many other good runners. With so many technical and steep trails, I can understand how such strong runners come out of this place.

Adam and I showed up at the Cardiac aid station around 9am. The race began at 8am and we were at mile 19 and 27, so it would be a little while before runners started to show up. Ana Bragga-Levaggi was our aid station chief and she immediately cracked the whip and got the station rolling. Although she was a little intimidating at first, she knew her stuff when it came to racing and had the aid station dialed. She was part of the Tamalpas race club and held eight 100 mile race buckles, all while being a mother as well. She had fire and was fun to get to know.

Race day was perfect for running. Fog saturated the whole course to point that the trees were dripping like rain. The wind would bring a chill every so often. The sun tried to peak out a couple times but for most of the day the volunteers were clothed in layers and the runners looked comfortable.

The front runners came through around 10:30am and had serious looks of determination in their eyes and mud splashed up there legs. The top three were only about 3 minutes apart as they took off towards Stinson beach and the last climb up Steep Ravine trail. By the time they came through again, third and first place runners had switched places. I loved watching the different people come through with a wide range of expressions and emotions on their faces. Some were just having a good time, some were doubled over, wobbly, wild eyed and in severe discomfort; some were out of shape but determined, some old , some young, some first timers and many veterans. Dean Karnazes came through touting he was just recovering from a little race he’d done the week before called Badwater. When he came back at mile 27, he looked as fresh as when he had started. What a machine! The last runners came through mile 19 at a little before 2:30pm, just making the cutoff.

We left the aid station before all of the last runners came through so we could check out the finish line. Only a few runners had stuck around this late in the day. Among them was a huge crew dressed in purple. They were with a health group/charity and were super stoked as their runners finished. We met the race director, Tim, who was on the bull horn and welcoming all the finishers in. He was really nice and appreciative of our help. There was also wood fired pizza and beer. We filled our bellies and headed out as the evening was growing late and cool.

I had a great time volunteering at the Headlands 50k. I liked experiencing a race from a different angle. There is such a great trail running history and community here in the Headlands. I still wished I had been running it but this just got me more excited to heal up and come back next year.

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