My first international race and my first trail race happened all at once on Saturday 18 October 2014. I am over in San Francisco for a work conference and as part of the conference, a group of about 30 of us led by one lady from Houston signed up for a 7 mile trail run on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from the city starting at a place called Muir Beach. I was the lone Aussie amongst many countries represented which were Austria, Canada, China, Cyprus, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Netherlands, Peru, South Africa and of course USA.
We started the day with a 6am bus pick-up from our hotel in the dark and headed out over the Golden Gate Bridge. I had done a bike ride over the famous bridge with Emma and Holly the previous day so I had my bearings. After we got over the bridge we headed down the windy back roads through the woods – still in the dark. We arrived at a car park where we got out and then got onto a yellow school bus to take us to the start line by the beach. It wasn’t a huge crowd and there were 5 events being run at once – 7 mile, 10 mile, 20 mile, marathon and 50 klm. All of our group had registered for the 7 mile so we could keep together as much as possible.
After some quick instructions the race started at 8am sharp and we headed along a dirt trail. Around the corner and the first of many killer hills. This first hill was a 122 metre climb for the first kilometre of the race. I can honestly say that it was the toughest start to a race I have ever seen and the first time that I have ever started walking in the first kilometre of a race. After that shocker, the course settled into a windy path along the coast. The scenery was unbelievably spectacular as we ran along the top ridge. There was a steep drop along the side of the trail so it was reasonably easy going along there even though it wasn’t that hilly.
After winding up and down along the trail for about 7 kilometres the first (and only for the 7 mile race) aid station came upon us. It was very well stocked with all sorts of food, drinks and gels. After a quick pit stop I headed back down the trail for the final part of the race. We backtracked down a bit where we had been before heading up the Coyote Ridge Trail itself. Oh my God I have never seen a hill like it! It was kind of like Old School Road times 4 but with no trees. The climb over this hellish 2 kilometre segment was an impressive 225 metres. I walked most of it knowing that I just had to make it to the top and then I could take it all at a reasonable pace downhill. I passed a couple of other runners on this stretch but for the most part I didn’t see anyone on the second half of the race.
After finally climbing to the peak of the trail it was all downhill from there. Still tough going though; trying to not go too fast on the loose rocks and dirt which was still winding around a bit. The last 2.4 kilometres had an elevation drop of about 260 metres winding down before heading over a bridge and across the finish line. According to my Garmin I had run 11.4 kilometres with an elevation gain of 551 metres and finished with 1 hour and 12 minutes. I wasn’t sure of where I had ended up in the field but as I crossed over they told me I was 4th and then a little while later they called me over to let me know that I had actually come first in my age category! I found out later that the course record was 54 minutes. Impressive on that course!
After seeing everyone across the finish line, taking group pictures and sharing war stories we headed back to our hotel on the bus. Then Emma, Holly and I had some Chipotle Mexican Grill for lunch to refuel. Quirky story of the day was the fella from China who turned up wearing jeans and black business shoes. He ran the 7 miles and ended up 3rd in his age category! Would have killed it in shorts and running shoes. Definitely a great experience and very happy to come home with the bling representing Australia amongst our group and proudly wearing Striders colours!