By Jaret Seiberg
On August 9 and 10, I ran the Headlands Hundred Miler, a race that is in its second year. This is a deceptively difficult race in one of my favorite parks in the United States. I finished 15th in 26:51, though about half of the runners missed a time cutoff or dropped. (Many more missed the cut off than dropped.) Results
For those who have never been to the Headlands, it is a coastal mountain range just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. These are short mountain - some may say hills until you climb them. The Headlands often are covered in fog. When you get on top of the mountain, you can be above the fog. Sometimes the fog never comes or burns off early. That is when you get incredible views. We were fortunate to have little fog until about midnight. The scenery was incredible.
The course consists of three loops. The first is a 50 mile loop that includes an out-and-back along the Bolinas Ridge. This is about 1,900 feet above sea level and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. For geologic reasons I don't pretend to understand, this area rarely has fog. So the views are always stunning.
The final two 25 mile loops use the part of the park near the Golden Gate Bridge. It also contains two of the steepest climbs, which means you get to hike/run straight up on the trail. For some reason, switch backs are nonexistent.
The run started at 7 a.m. at Rodeo Beach. About 84 100 milers and about 150 50 milers toed the line. The first 12 miles are the easiest of the race even though you either are climbing or descending. In fact, that is the name of this race. There is no such thing as flat. Essentially you go up and immediately go down.
One runs across the beach before the first climb. I confess this gets annoying as it is impossible keep sand out of the shoes. There is little reason to rush across the bridge to the beach as the course moves to a road that climbs the coastal mountain. So there is plenty of room to pass.
The weather is a real challenge. As the fog is unpredictable, it can go from hot to quite cold in a matter of minutes.
I confess that I underestimated this run. When I come to San Francisco for work, I run in the Headlands. So I was very familiar with the first 12 miles of the race. Unfortunately, those are the easiest 12 miles. The rest of the climbs are much longer and much steeper. Yet I also saw parts of the park that were stunning, especially Pirate's Cove, which has perhaps the toughest climb of the course.
I talked to a few west coast runners who have completed MMT. They all said that their Headlands time from 2007 was slower than their MMT time. I'm not sure I would argue that this run is tougher than MMT. The footing is far superior here given the paucity of rocks. Yet most of the climbs here are steeper than at MMT, which starts to take its toll on your quads and knees. The course also has its version of the Nash Rambler. Note that someone hiked in a new tire for one of the wheels.
In all, this was a well-organized event by the PCTR. The aid stations were not at MMT standards, but all had plenty of soup at night and were staffed by volunteers who would give you the shirt off their back. One could not expect more. This is definitely worth considering if you are looking for an August 100 miler.