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PCT Muir Beach 33K

Muir Beach from the Pacific Coast TrailI woke up at 4:00 am. to check the weather report in Muir Beach. I knew a storm was moving in, and I really didn’t want to do a long sloppy run. 40% chance of rain with a coastal flood warning all day. Nice. I was going to wimp out and crawl back in bed or make the 95-ml. trek to Muir Beach to run. So glad I wasn’t a wimp today.

I was amazed to see the skies clear the closer I got to San Francisco. It was cold, but not raining. What a relief. I arrived 30 minutes before the start, just enough time to get ready. I saw a friend from my running club who was carrying around a leaking bladder for a hydration pack. So I let her use my bladder which I wasn’t using today (that doesn’t sound right at all, but you know what I mean).

I checked in at the tent to find a small brown paper bag with my name scribbled on it. I knew immediately it was probably from the injured runner I had helped a month ago at the Stinson Beach run. We had exchanged some nice emails over the last few weeks and she had wanted to replace the Japanese bandana I had given her to treat her injury. She had left me a nice card, a small charm, and a new bandana wrapped in a delicate cloth pouch. I could tell she had recently picked up these items on her recent trip to Japan. Her kind gesture was entirely unnecessary, but proves once again that trail runners are a great bunch of people.

Wendell started the run at 8:30 am. sharp. I decided the Muir Beach run is the most beautiful of all the PCT events, and I have done many of them. All the PCT venues offer up incredible sights and scenery, but the way the long course is set up at Muir Beach, you are almost always looking at a stunning view.

After choking down some potatoes as I always do at the first PCT aid station, I found myself running up a long climb with a fellow runner who appeared to have cerebral palsy. I was amazed he was keeping up with me. Then he asked me where the turn was for the 17K. I told him I had no idea since I was running the 33K course. But I instantly felt terrible for him. His necessary running form looked difficult and exhausting. I think he faded at that point, but I hope he completed his run. I was truly inspired watching him tackle the course.

The first 10 miles is simply some of the best trail running I’ve ever done. I completed the first half in just under two hours so I thought I had a chance of breaking four hours. I was planning on 4 1/2 hours after taking over four hours to complete a 30K at Stinson Beach a month earlier. But I knew there were two more 1,000-ft. climbs to come.

Someone had decided to run the 50K dressed as Santa and I kept seeing him for the first 15 miles. As he passed me with a spirited “Ho, ho, ho,” I told him he had put the song, “Here Comes Santa Claus” in my head and it would not stop playing. At the end of the race it was still playing in my head. You know how annoying that can be, despite the holiday season.

The second climb from the beach includes a steep set of stairs that cannot be scaled without the handrails. The third climb really requires a chair lift. I can’t imaging anyone running the last climb, but a few mountain goats must be running it to post the sub 3-hr. times I saw at the finish. Once at the top of the last climb, I knew it was just 1.5 miles to the finish. I could see black clouds dumping rain into the Pacific Ocean, and it was headed straight for me. The pelting rain hit me just ten minutes from the finish line, so I decided to push it to the finish, crossing the line in 4:09.

All in all, I was very pleased with my effort. I had done lots of hill work in the last month to prepare, and I think it paid off. Muir Beach was a great way to cap off another banner year of racing.


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