Coastal Trail Runs named this Dipsea Trail-based race the Steep Ravine trail run. However, this name is a serious misnomer. A closer and more accurate description might have been, The Really F’in Steep Trail Run, or The Awesome Views Between Gasps Run, or even The Ladder Run. The race begins at Stinson Beach, which, as the sun rises, makes a beautiful start to the morning. Immediately after the start, you reach the first part of the trail, which rapidly and quickly moves upward 1,500 feet toward the summit. During the initial climb, you start in open fields where you can look back and see Stinson Beach disappearing below you. However, you can’t enjoy the view for long as you dive into the trees, where numerous upward “ladders” rapidly bring you to the top, where Coastal Trail Runs (CTR) had the first AID station.
CTR provided “HEET” electrolyte drink, and although they are one of many organizations who provide this drink, I hate “HEET”. To me, it just tastes nasty, it doesn’t work (for me), and all I can figure is the stuff must be cheap for race directors, because why in the world would anyone want to drink this stuff? (Okay, that said, I still drink it, because it’s electrolytes, but HEET has to be the RC Cola of electrolyte drinks).
Despite my personal dislike of HEET, it is often used during races, and along those lines the snacks provided at the two on-course AID stations (one station is passed twice on the 30km run) were pretty standard, also. And I don’t care what anyone says, but a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich tastes awesome at hour three of a run.
The courses were well marked, and the descent to Muir Beach and the return trip to to the top of the summit and back down to Stinson Beach again had plenty of markers, although I did overhear a couple of runners talking about getting lost along the trails – although they quickly realized their mistake and corrected course. There was one turn along the trail I also darn near missed, but it would have been my own fault. I was too busy attempting to breathe, walk uphill, and I failed to look up. So, if I had missed the turn, it would not have been due to a lack of markers – it would have been because I was too busy dying to notice them.
I picked this race as my first race of the year because I knew it was going to be a challenge, and that it was. One glance at the elevation profile might warn a more experienced runner to the difficulty level, but unfortunately these graphs always seem to understate the real difficulty – Mostly because, sitting comfortably in front of my computer, my brain erroneously decides, “Wow, that looks like fun!”
However, several minutes in to the race I don’t think it’s “fun”, although I do tend to smile the entire time.
Steep Ravine Trail Run does also offer a few fun obstacles along the run, such as the vertical ladder you have to climb during the first five miles of the run (see the gallery for a photo). The key for the ladder is to make sure you wait for that sexy person to start up the ladder right in front of you, and the motivation to hurtle over it becomes much easier.
Overall, the course was very scenic, the trails only slightly muddy (I only fell once, which for a trial run, is pretty good), and despite having to dodge numerous hikers during the second half of the run (there is a reason these trails are popular) who were more than accommodating to the shouted warning “RUNNER!”, this race is fun, challenging, beautiful, and quite frankly a real pain in the ass for those who haven’t been training hills sufficiently. The 30km and 50km runs aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you still want a great run, great views, and some fun people to hang out with, the 7-mile and 1/2 Marathon distances are not only very doable, but less damaging to the quads (albeit just slightly).